Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

ETFs VS. Mutual Funds: What Are They & Why Use Both?

A blend of using both ETFs and mutual funds is beneficial for many reasons as each provides its own special advantages.
Mutual Funds are managed by investors who use the invested cash to purchase the holdings in the fund. Often there are fees and expenses that must be paid and the capital gain distributions are passed down to the investors. This is called an "in cash transaction". With this, all taxable capital gains are spread amongst all investors in the fund. When you purchase a mutual fund you are transacting directly with the fund and those trade just once per day after market close with all investors getting the same share price. The uniform treatment of mutual funds is the reason you never see ETFs in company 401k plans as regulations deemed employees must get the same share price & costs.
When ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) are purchased, the money goes to the market maker, not a fund manager. The market maker then buys the securities the ETF manager allocates for that ETF. This is called an "in kind transaction". This type transaction is advantageous tax-wise as the ETF manager can exchange shares to the market marker without creating capital gains. ETFs are traded like regular stocks during the market hours. Their prices change during the day based on the supply and demand. Buying an ETF intraday could be better if prices are lower than at the close of the market. As well, when purchasing ETFs there is no minimum investment amount, whereas with a mutual fund there may be a minimum monetary investment required.
As your advisors we determine in what scenario it is best to use a mutual fund or ETFs in your accounts. For example, we might use an ETF in a taxable account to mitigate capital gains and a mutual fund in an IRA. Conversely, we might choose to use a mutual fund when superior investment strategies or fund managers are not offered as an ETF. While both have tradeoffs, using both ETFs and mutual funds can be a useful long term strategy.
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Capital Gains 2021

This year, large capital gains on mutual funds are expected. Usually when the market performs very well, higher capital gain distributions can be predicted. Capital gains are created through buy and sell activity during the year within the mutual fund's holdings. That activity creates capital gains which must be paid out to the mutual fund holders. Capital gain distributions are generally paid once a calendar year, usually in December.

For example, if you own mutual fund XYZ, and the fund holds Amazon stock at a gain and the fund manager needs to trim some of the Amazon holding, this will produce a capital gain. Your portion of the gain will be distributed to you as cash or shares reinvested. Often, fund managers start selling and buying in the portfolio to rebalance the fund.

Overall, these gains are good as they are either paid in cash or reinvested and you get more shares. However, if it is held in a taxable account, there will be taxes owed on the gain unless there are losses that can be netted. If the funds are in a qualified, tax deferred account such as an IRA or 401(k), your capital gains distributions will have no taxable impact.

You will notice many daily fluctuations. When the gain is paid, the fund will drop in value by the same percentage as the gain paid. The next day, the value of the fund will rebound.

Asset Planning advisors will be monitoring the gains and using tax loss harvesting to offset the tax liability as much as possible, if any.

If the shares were held over one year: you owe taxes at the lower, more favorable capital gains rate (0%, 15%, or 20% depending on your income tax bracket).

If the shares were held for less than one year: you owe the short-term capital gains rate which is the same as your marginal tax rate (10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, or 37% depending on your income tax bracket).

Please refer to the table for the average capital gain expected for the different Morningstar fund categories.

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Proposition 19 Passed in California

If you or a family member have an inherited property in California or expect one in the future, you would benefit from the information found in California’s newly passed Proposition 19, “The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act”.

Previous laws such as Proposition 13 allowed homeowners who were disabled or over the age of 55 to transfer their property tax basis one time to a new home under the condition of their replacement residence being valued equal or less than the original home. Furthermore, children could inherit their parents and grandparents properties and keep the same tax basis. However, with Proposition 19 the child must use the home as a primary residence to keep the same property tax basis. The added benefit of the new law is seniors, disabled, and those affected by wildfire and other natural disasters can transfer property tax basis to a home even if it is more expensive than their current residence. As well, property tax transfer may be done up to three times. It is important to note that if you buy a more expensive property, the transfer is prorated, meaning there will be a calculation to adjust the basis .

These rules will not affect transfers of property occurring before February 15, 2021. If you or someone you know is planning on passing a property, it is recommended you consult your tax professional soon. Note that when you pass the property, you also pass the unrealized gain in the property since it is considered a gift as opposed to inherited properties where the realized gain is removed since the cost basis is updated at death. The lifetime gift limit is above $11 million, so it may not be as large of an issue for most.

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API Featured in a NerdWallet Article

Erin Nelsen, a CFP with Asset Planning contributed to an article written on the NerdWallet website about the increase in people doing home improvements during the lockdown period. The article discusses the benefits and limitations for different forms of payment for home renovations/improvements. 

 

To read the NerdWallet article, "How to Finance for a Home Remodel without Tapping Your Equity", please click here. 

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Enjoy Your Labor Day!

Our office will be closed on Monday, September 8th in observance of Labor Day.

We will resume our normal hours on Tuesday, September 9th.

We hope you enjoy your Labor Day!

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Happy 4th of July!

4th of July

In observance of 4th of July, our office will be closed Friday, July 3rd.

We will resume normal business hours on Monday, July 6th.

Wishing all of our clients a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!

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The CARES Act and HEROES Act: What They Mean For Student Loans

The CARES Act suspended interest and payments for most student loans until September 30, 2020. This means that you will not be charged any interest or have to make your payments during that time. If you are fortunate enough to be able to continue to be able to make your student loan payments, you may want to do so. Any payments that you make now will be applied directly to the principal. If you had your student loan payments set up on autopay, these have all been suspended and no payments will be processed until September 30, 2020. You will need to pay your student loan payments directly each month.

The recently passed HEROES Act extends the suspension of interest and payments until September 30, 2021. It also expands the break to all federal student loans. In addition, the HEROES Act will cancel out $10,000 of student loan debt for federal and private loans. Though the HEROES Act has passed it still needs to go through the senate for negotiations. Expect the final legislation sometime in the fall.

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Mortgage Rates Hit Historic Lows

Mortgage rates hit historic lows today. I am in the process of refinancing my own home mortgage and thought I'd share how I go about shopping for rates. http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/ is the website I check to get an idea of what the lowest zero cost rates are in the marketplace. Mortgage News Daily publishes a daily mortgage rate survey collected from various loan orginators.  Today's survey shows 3.04% for 30 year, 2.67% for 15 year, 2.75% for FHA 30 year, and 4.18% for Jumbo 30 year. Then I look at various websites online to see who is advertising rates at or below what Mortgage News Daily survey shows. I find Bank Rate, Zillow, Nerd Wallet, & Mortgage News Daily are the best website to comparision shop. I'll submit about 3 requests online to get quotes. I usually pick the loan orginator that is the cheapest and most responsive. Please feel free to reach out to me if you want the contact information of the loan agent I'm using.  

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Record Retention: Keep it or Toss it

After your taxes are complete it is always a good idea to go through your records and organize what you should keep and what you can get rid of.

How long to keep records is a combination of judgment and state and federal statutes of limitations. Since federal tax returns can generally be audited for up to three years after filing and up to six years if the IRS suspects underreported income, it’s wise to keep tax records at least seven years after a return is filed. Requirements for records kept electronically are the same as for paper records. Many records can easily be kept on-line now and downloaded and to your computer, external drive or cloud account.

Records Retention Guideline # 1: Some items should never be thrown out

This is because these items would be hard to replace and you may be asked to provide them later in life. I suggest storing these “permanent records” in an expanding file or wallet – preferably in a fire safe box:

  • Income tax returns: if the return is uncomplicated then you only need to keep it for 7 years.
  • Important correspondence.
  • Legal documents.
  • Vital records (birth/death/marriage/divorce/adoption etc.).
  • Retirement and pension records.
  • Year-end investment statements.
    • If the investments are transferred to another account make sure the cost basis has transferred over correctly.
    • IRA non-deductible contributions (Form 8606).
  • Will and Trust documents.
  • Records of paid mortgages and other loans.

Records Retention Guideline # 2: Everything Else

You should retain these records according to the following guidelines:

  • Home purchase documents – Ownership period + 7 years.
    • Property records/builder contracts/home improvement receipts (keep until property is sold – needed for taxes)
  • Car purchase and sale records (keep until car is sold + 3 years).
  • Insurance policies (keep for life of policy).
    • If policy is changed to another company make sure that you keep the files together.
  • Sales receipts (keep for life of warranty or life of the item on large purchases).
  • Warranties and instructions (keep for life of product).
  • Medical bills – keep for 3 years or longer if there are any reimbursement questions.
  • No need to keep monthly statements for credit cards, bank statements, utilities, etc. if you receive a year end recap or are able to go online and view up to 3 years of statements.
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CARES Act Stimulus Summary

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. This is a $2 trillion emergency fiscal stimulus package to help reduce the economic damage caused by the virus and “stay at home” policies. The following is a summary of the main provisions for individuals.

Recovery Rebates:

  • The CARES Act provides for recovery rebate checks of up to $1,200 for individuals with adjusted gross income (“AGI”) up to $75,000 ($2,400 for joint filers with AGI up to $150,000) plus an additional $500 for each child under the age of 17 for US taxpayers through an advance refundable tax credit against 2020 income taxes. There is a phase out of the rebate, which causes a $50 reduction in the rebate for every $1,000 of AGI above these thresholds. For example, individuals with no children having an AGI of more than $99,000 and married couples with no children filing jointly having an AGI of more than $198,000 would be phased out completely and receive no recovery rebate check. The advanced payment of the recovery rebates will be based on the AGI reported on tax returns filed for 2019, and if no such tax return has been filed for 2019, the AGI reported on the 2018 filed tax returns will be used.
    • The rebate check will be sent directly to the bank account on file with the IRS for your 2019 or 2018 tax return. If the account is closed or there is no account on-file then a check will be mailed.
    • You can receive the rebate if you are retired and receive social security or a pension as long as your AGI is within the limits listed above.

Retirement Accounts:

  • Required Minimum Distributions are waived in 2020 for all retirement type accounts (401K, 403B, 457, IRA and Beneficiary IRAs). If you already took part or all of the RMD you might have the option of returning them except for beneficiary IRA distributions.
    • We are waiting to hear more details on the charitable contributions that are paid with RMD funds and we will be in contact with those clients that make charitable contributions from their RMDs to let them know their options for 2020.
  • Individuals under age 59 ½, may take coronavirus-related distributions from qualified retirement plans (IRA, 401K) of up to $100,000 without the distributions being subject to the 10% early distribution tax. The distributions are still subject to federal income tax, but the tax owed can be spread over three years.
    • In order to get these favorable terms, you will have to prove that you were adversely affected by the coronavirus.

Unemployment:

  • Regular unemployment payments, which are about 55% of your normal pay are increased by $600 per week for a maximum of 4 months. The benefit period is also extended by 13 weeks. It is normally 26 weeks maximum in California, so it can now go to 39 weeks.

There are also several small business and self-employed benefits provided by the CARES Act. We recommend that you discuss with your accountant or business manager the different options and if you should apply and take advantage of them.

Hope you are staying safe, sane, and healthy!

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