Social Security Increases Benefits by 2.80% for 2019

A 30-second read by Nicholas Scheibner:  Social Security will begin increasing payments beginning in January of 2019. 

Why did this happen – because October 11th is the date when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its report of inflation. Social Security uses the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) as their measure of inflation. 

Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is Social Security’s term for inflation. Social Security uses the CPI-W to determine if an adjustment is needed to Social Security benefits. 

(Note: Social Security benefits do not go lower if inflation decreases)

You can read the official press release from Social Security here: https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/2018/#10-2018-1

Contact your Baron Team for more information on social security benefits.

Things to Consider If You Have Over-Contributed to an IRA

A 60-second read by Victor Cannillo:

#1 – We highly recommend you hire a Certified Public Accountant to help you resolve the issue.

Here are some points to consider:

  • There are limitations on the total amount that may be contributed to an IRA. Currently, it’s the greater of either $5,500 ($6,500 if the person is 50 or older) or your taxable compensation for the year.

  • The IRS considers each individual person to have a single IRA.  The maximum contribution limits apply to all of your IRA accounts.  If you have more than one IRA account open, you can contribute to one account or all of your accounts as long as the total contributions meet the yearly limit.

  • If there are excess contributions to your IRAs, there is an annual additional 6% tax penalty (paid with the filing of Form 5329) on those excess contributions until you withdraw them from your account.

  • Normally, if the excess contribution for the tax year is withdrawn with any related earnings before the tax return deadline (including extensions), you are not subject to the 6% additional tax. Also the earnings on the excess IRA contributions as determined by the custodian will be subject to tax for the year the excess contribution was made. Those earnings are also subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty if the person’s age is under 59 and a half for the year of the contribution.

  • You will need to consult a Certified Public Accountant to determine what tax returns need to be filed.

If you have more specific questions on this matter, we recommend speaking with a tax professional.

For any other questions, please reach out to your Baron Team.

5 Financial Actions to Consider at Year-End – 2017 version

A 90-second read by Anthony Benante:  What 5 things should you be thinking about at the end of the year when it comes to your finances?

1. Review your personal budget and commit to a savings plan for 2018

a. On January 1, write down the balance in your checking account. Do this on the first of the month for the next three months. After you incorporate your income for the period, as well as take note of any cash withdrawals from other accounts, you can get a general sense of what your monthly spending is.

b. We work directly with our clients at Baron to help understand how their budget and all of their financial assets work together.  If you would like a budget sheet (either electronic or hard-copy), let us know. 

2. Review your long-term investment strategy

a. Is the long-term strategy in place for you still right for your specific circumstance? Are you going to be making any large purchases coming up in the New Year? Are you thinking about revisiting your risk tolerance – becoming more aggressive or conservative?

b. At Baron, we use a customized approach to design client portfolios.  We not only consider potential return, but also risk, as well as how the investments complement each other.  Having a long-term investment strategy is critical for investing success and provides a guide for when markets act unexpectedly or make a major directional move.

3. Rebalance your investment accounts

a. Rebalancing brings the portfolio into alignment with the original target weights of each asset class. It also helps to reduce long-term portfolio volatility.

b. Client portfolios at Baron are rebalanced on a contingent basis.  This means the actual holdings are regularly compared to the recommended strategy.  Triggers are in place to help identify when investments deviate too far from strategy and trades are placed. This keeps client portfolios close to their strategy.  Most individuals do not follow this disciplined approach. 

4. Review your tax situation for the year and take advantage of tax trading in your investment accounts, if possible

a. Understanding how your investments may impact your tax circumstance is important.  The last trading day for 2017 is Friday December 29th.  That is the last day you can make any changes to your portfolio for your 2017 tax return.

b. Throughout the year, we review Baron clients’ tax situations and see if any strategic trades can be made to help reduce tax burdens.  As year-end approaches, we look to minimize tax impacts when possible.  However, our main focus is adhering to portfolio strategy, while minimizing taxes when possible.

c. A new tax  bill has been passed and there will be changes for 2018.  Check in with your accountant or tax preparer to see if they recommend any changes prior to year-end or to your tax plan for 2018.

5. If you are 70 ½ or older, or if you have inherited a tax-deferred account, make sure you understand how required minimum distributions (RMDs) apply to you

a. If either of the above applies to you, you will need to take an RMD.  Contact your advisor or custodian to help understand the amount and how to take your RMD.  It is important to take your required minimum distribution in order to prevent any penalties from the IRS.

b. At Baron, we advise our clients on the timing, the structure (lump sum or regular distributions throughout the year) and the correct dollar amount needed to be withdrawn from retirement accounts requiring RMDs.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Baron Financial Group team.

 

An Overview of myRA

Editor’s Note: As of July, 2017, the Treasury Department has announced that the myRA program will no longer continue.  For more information,  read our update to this post.

A 45-second read by Victoria Cannillo: You have most likely heard of a Roth IRA or a Traditional IRA, but what about myRA? myRA was introduced in 2014 as an option for people who don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan or other retirement savings options. According to the myRA website, you can contribute up to $5,500/year into the account ($6,500/year for those older than 50). Once the account reaches an account balance of $15,000, or when the account is 30 years old, the savings will be transferred or rolled-over into a private-sector Roth IRA.

For 2016, the maximum income allowable to participate in the program was $132,000 for single-tax filers and $193,000 for couples filing together. Read more specifics about the program, here.

Some pros and cons of myRA to consider:

Pros:

  • No cost to open an account and no fees
  • Flexible contribution amounts (a traditional IRA has a $1,000 minimum)
  • Investments are backed by the United States Treasury
  • Tax benefits are similar to a Roth IRA, such as earning interest tax-free

Cons:

  • There is only one investment option – a treasury bond (accounts are invested solely in Government Savings Bonds)
  • Once the account balance reaches $15,000, it stops accumulating interest, so your maximum for savings is limited
  • Doesn’t seem to offer many long-term options at this time

Reach out to your Baron team if you want help in understanding what kind of IRA would be best for you.

Not all CDs are the same…

A 90-second read by Anthony Benante: When investing in a Certificate of Deposit (CD), you may have more options than you think.  You can purchase a CD at a local bank or you can purchase CDs in your investment accounts (such as a taxable account, IRA or Roth IRA, etc.).  These are typically known as Brokered CDs.  Even though the CDs you get from the bank and the CDs in your investment accounts are called Certificates of Deposit, you should know that there are differences.  In either case, we would recommend that the CDs you invest in are fully covered by FDIC insurance.  If you would like to learn more about FDIC insurance coverage, feel free to ask us or you can go online to www.fdic.gov.

Purchasing CDs from your local bank: If you were to purchase a CD from a local bank that is FDIC insured, you would receive interest and would get your principal investment at maturity. If you receive regular statements, the value of your CD would most likely never change because it is not tradeable.  If for some reason you wanted access to your funds prior to maturity, you would most likely be subject to a penalty, such as 90 days’ worth of interest (but this should be verified individually). Other factors to consider are that local banks can offer “teaser rates” (rates higher than the market) for CDs to attract deposits, but those rates may not be available after your CD matures.  Unless you want to consistently move your money from institution to institution, using time and effort, you will be subject to the rates being offered only by your bank.

Continue reading “Not all CDs are the same…”