Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

FSA Eligible Items on Amazon

There is now a whole section of Flexible Spending Account eligible items available on Amazon. In case you don't know what an FSA is, it is an account that you put pre-tax money into that you use to pay out-of-pocket health care costs with. The limit per person each year is $2,650 and most plans require that you use up that amount each year. Even though there is a limit of $2,650 a year you are not required to contribute that much. You can estimate what you think you spend per year and only contribute that amount. People use their FSA accounts to pay for copays, deductibles and prescriptions but there is a lot of over the counter products that meet the eligibility requirements ranging from blood pressure testers all the way to sunscreen and lotion.

Most of the time FSA owners will pay for these out of pocket expenses and then submit a claim form to be reimbursed but there is another option. You can now request a debit card for your FSA and pay directly for these expenses using that card. If you would like to order from Amazon, you would enter your FSA credit card information and select that card as your form of payment. When I was looking on Amazon I simply searched for FSA eligible items and was amazed at all of the products that were available and that I would be able to use for my family on a daily basis. This is a great way to use up the funds in your FSA account.

If you do not have a Flexible Spending Account, it may be something to look into. Not all employers offer them, but it doesn't hurt to ask your human resources department. Remember whatever you do contribute will reduce your taxable income because the contributions are made pre-tax. It's really a great way to pay for your out-of-pocket health care costs.

When googling FSA eligible products, I noticed that there were a lot of other stores that offer them as well. I just love the convenience and delivery options of Amazon, especially if you're a Prime member.

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Earned Income and Social Security Tax

We came across an article on InvestmentNews.com written by Mary Beth Franklin. It gives a great explanation as well as examples and limits on how Social Security benefits are taxed if you are planning on working while collecting social security. Definitely worth a read if you have any income from other sources while collecting Social Security.

 

Click here to read the full article

 

 

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IRA & 401k Contributions Increase for 2019

2019 annual contribution limits for eligible tax filers:

401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $18,500 to $19,000.

IRA contributions increased from $5,500 to $6,000 per year. The age 50+ catch-up contribution limit remains at $1,000.

Tax deduction and Income limitations for 2019:

Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. (If neither the taxpayer nor their spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phase-outs of the deduction do not apply.) Here are the phase-out ranges for 2019:

If single or joint married taxpayers are not covered by a work retirement plan, they may fully deduct traditional IRA contributions. Other tax filers may partially or fully deduct contributions if they meet the below exceptions:

  • Single taxpayers covered by a work retirement plan, can fully deduct if modified Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is below $64,000. A partial deduction is allowed if modified AGI is between $64,000 to $74,000
  •  Married Joint taxpayers, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, can fully deduct if modified AGI is below $103,000. A partial deduction is allowed if modified AGI is between $103,000 to $123,000
  • Married Joint taxpayers, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is not covered by a workplace retirement plan, but the other spouse is, can fully deduct if modified AGI is below $193,000. A partial deduction is allowed if modified AGI is between $193,000 to $203,000

The Modified AGI phase-out range for Roth IRA contributions is $122,000 to $137,000 for singles and heads of household, $193,000-203,000 for married couples filing jointly.

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2019 Medicare and Social Security Changes

Medicare just released the new premiums, deductibles and coinsurance amounts for 2019.

The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $135.50 for 2019, an increase of $1.50 from $134 in 2018.

The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries is $185 in 2019, an increase of $2 from the annual deductible $183 in 2018.

If your modified adjusted gross income as reported on your IRS tax return from 2 years ago is above a certain amount, you'll pay the standard premium amount and an Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA)

Here is a chart for reference

Medicare Premium Chart 2019

Social Security announced that in 2019 there will be a 2.8% Cost of Living Adjustment(COLA).

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Trump's Proposes to Extend RMD Age

President Trump issued an executive order directing the Treasury Department to extend the age for required minimum distributions from retirement accounts. Currently the age is 70 1/2. His reasoning is that people are working and living longer. This can be good news for some of our clients who don't necessarily need to take the withdrawals at 70 1/2. Here is an articles from Forbes with some pros and cons to the proposed change.

Read Here

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Gap Insurance

We've come to the realization that not everyone knows what gap insurance is and why it may be a good idea to get it when purchasing a brand new car. Gap insurance is an insurance policy you buy to cover the amount your insurance company will pay out vs. the amount you owe on your car loan, in the case of an accident where your car is totaled. This is an important coverage to consider especially if you are purchasing a brand new car. Car values drop drastically once you drive the vehicle off the lot. By not purchasing the gap insurance you run the risk of owing a lot more than what the car is worth after an insurance payout. That means you would either have to pay off the loan balance yourself or roll it into another vehicle loan which would most likely leave you upside down. Definitely not a good place to be in. Here is an article, written by Joshua Caucutt from Money Crashers, that goes into further detail about gap insurance, how to get it and helps you decide if you need it.

https://www.moneycrashers.com/gap-insurance-cars-worth-it/

Have a great weekend!

Melani

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Deadline for 2017 IRA Contributions

The deadline for getting your 2017 IRA contributions to us is Wednesday, April 11th. Tax season is an extremely busy time so the sooner you get these in the better. Feel free to stop by the office anytime from 8am-4pm to drop them off.

Have a great weekend!

Melani

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Free Document Back Up

Even though tax season is is behind us you may still be going through important documents or filing them away. We thought now was a good time to let you know that we offer free document back up for our clients. We will take your important documents, scan them, keep them in your electronic client file here and also save them to a password protected flash drive for you to keep. We're always sending out reminders of the importance of having your documents in a safe place and backed up in case of a fire or other emergency and now it's easier than ever to get it done with this free service.

Examples of items you may want to have scanned are; birth certificates, medical records, insurance policies, bank and investment account information, identification cards etc.

Having this USB drive with you while traveling could be especially useful if there is an emergency while you're away from home.

If you would like to take advantage of this offer, feel free to give me a call to set up a time to drop your documents off.

Have a great weekend!

Melani

 

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Facebook Privacy Update

There's been a lot of recent reports on how much information Facebook really has on you and it is scary. When is the last time you looked to see how many of your apps are connected to your Facebook profile? Even if youre not using the app anymore, once you grant them permission to your Facebook profile they will continue to collect your data, including your friends list, pictures, browsing history etc, until you revoke their access.

We found a really good article on CNBC that gives you a step-by-step guide on how to check your privacy settings, see who has access to your information and how to remove them. Follow the link below to check it out.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/20/how-to-see-which-facebook-apps-have-access-to-your-data.html

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Time for a Financial Checkup

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the start of a new year, most people start to look ahead and like the idea of a fresh start. Take advantage of this motivation by applying it to your finances as well and giving yourself a financial checkup.  Yes, I know that taking a good hard look at your finances is not always something that you look forward to. But being realistic about your current financial situation, making some goals and putting an action plan together will put you on the right track to having a successful retirement with less to worry about and more time to enjoy yourself.

I found an article in the December 2017/January 2018 edition of AARP magazine written by Michelle V. Rafter, that outlines some steps to get you started on your financial check up journey. Check it out by clicking the link below.

https://www.aarp.org/money/credit-loans-debt/info-2017/financial-checkup.html

May 2018 be your most financially fit year ever!

Samantha

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Tax Reform: Summary of Changes

President Trump signed the tax reform bill this morning. Most provisions are set to take effect in 2018, but many of those are also set to expire or sunset in 2025. Here's a summary of what we think are the major changes that will affect our clients. We will have a more in-depth analysis and summary in our year end newsletter.

1. Reductions in individual tax rates. The bill retains the current structure of seven investor tax brackets, but lowers five of them. It also includes the sunset provision, meaning it's a temporary arrangement from 2018 to 2025.
Here's the breakdown of the new vs. current marginal tax rates:

Current Marginal Tax Rate

Proposed Marginal Tax Rate

Income Level (Single Filers)

Income Level (Couples Filing Jointly)

10%

10%

$0 -- $9,525

$0 -- $19,050

15%

12%

$9,525 -- $38,700

$19,050 -- $77,400

25%

22%

$38,700 -- $82,500

$77,400 -- $165,000

28%

24%

$82,500 -- $157,500

$165,000 -- $315,000

33%

32%

$157,500 -- $200,000

$315,000 -- $400,000

35%

35%

$200,000 -- $500,000

$400,000 -- $600,000

39.60%

37%

$500,000 and up

$600,000 and up

2. Reduction in corporate tax rate to a maximum rate of 21% (a reduction from 35%). Also, corporate income earned abroad and brought back to the United States will be taxed between 8 and 15.5%, instead of the current 35%. These are permanent reductions.

3. Standard Deductions increasing nearly 90%. For married couples filing jointly, the standard deduction rises to $24,000 from $12,700; for single filers, it moves to $12,000 from $6,350.

4. Additional changes to Itemized Deductions. These vary, and some might be more impactful than others.

  • Personal exemption ending, but child tax credit increasing. The bill ends the personal exemption of $4,050 for you, your spouse, and your dependents; it doubles the child tax credit to $2,000 per dependent child under age 17.
  • Limits to state and local taxes ("SALT"). Under the bill, you may only deduct up to $10,000 in state and local taxes, including sales, income, and property taxes. This deduction was not previously subject to limitation.
  • Caps on mortgage interest. The bill allows mortgage interest deductions for current homeowners, but caps the interest deduction at $750,000 in mortgage debt for homes bought in 2018 and beyond, down from the $1 million limit in place now. It eliminates deductions for interest on home-equity loans, as well as deductions for moving expenses and employer-provided expense reimbursements (except for members of the military).
  • Expands medical deductions. Current law allows for deduction of medical expenses over 10% of adjusted gross income (AGI). The bill lowers the threshold to 7.5%.

5. Changes to estate planning.  The bill doubles the estate tax exemption to $10 million, but it's also indexed for inflation after 2011. The bill also calls for doubling the value threshold on the 40% levy on estates worth nearly $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples. The estate tax exemption also has the sunset provision, meaning that the bill calls for a reversion back to current exemption amounts in 2026.

6. Charitable deductions. Although the current tax deductions stay in place, the doubling of the standard deduction to $24,000 essentially raises the threshold on deductibility. Taxpayers will have to itemize donations to get the benefit.

      From all of us at Asset Planning, Inc. we wish you a wonderful Holiday Season!


*Asset Planning, Inc. does not provide tax advice. We suggest clients consult with a tax-planning professional with regards to their personal circumstances.

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Credit Freeze

It seems like everyday we are hearing about yet another major company being hacked and our personal information getting exposed. It's frightening to think of all the harm that could come from a criminal using that information to wreck havoc on your finances. If you haven't done so already, putting a freeze on your credit is something that you should strongly consider. A credit freeze restricts companies from seeing your credit report which would prevent them from opening new accounts in your name. If you want to open a new account or apply for a loan you will have to call and have the credit freeze lifted to do so. This may seem like an inconvenience but it's definitely better than trying to clean up the financial mess that fraudulent activity creates.

To place a freeze on your credit you will have to contact the credit reporting agencies directly at the numbers below:

Equifax 800-349-9960

Experian 888-397-3742

TransUnion 888-909-8872

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Grab and Go Folder

With the recent hurricanes we thought it was a good time to send out a reminder about keeping an emergency folder with important details such as account numbers and passwords. We like to call this your "Grab and Go folder". Here is a list of information you should have in the folder.

  • Assets: checking and investment accounts, private business interests, location of safety deposit boxes, annuities, individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s, trust agreements, real estate, vehicles, collectibles 
  • Liabilities: credit cards, mortgages, car payments, cell phone bills, other recurring bills
  • Social media/online accounts: passwords and login information for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Amazon, PayPal, eBay, Netflix, Hulu, iCloud or other cloud storage accounts, online photo storage accounts 
  • Miscellaneous subscriptions/memberships: airline rewards programs, Sam’s, BJ’s or Costco memberships, toll tag accounts, magazines, newspapers 
  • Insurance: life insurance, long-term care, disability, home, auto 
  • Home maintenance: water, gas, electricity, telephone, alarm, lawn care, cable television, Internet service 
  • Medical: medical conditions, medications, emergency contacts 
  • Personal: burial/cremation preferences, funeral plans, pre-paid funeral expenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates, Social Security card 
  • Key contacts: financial and legal advisors, doctors, family members, close friends

No one likes to think that something bad will happen to them but it's always good to be prepared in case it does.

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Budgeting Apps

One thing we’re always telling our clients is how important it is to create a budget and to track their spending. Understanding how busy life is and how different things come up we realize this may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, technology is on our side these days and there are a ton of new budgeting apps that help you keep track of all of this. I scoured the internet looking for recommendations on the best budget apps. These are the ones I found to be on many of the top lists; Mint, You Need A Budget, Level Money and Albert Budget App. Over the next couple weeks I am going to personally try each of them out and review them based on user friendliness, effectiveness and overall experience. In the meantime, I have included the links to each website below where you can find additional information on how each one works.

Mint- https://www.mint.com

You Need A Budget- https://www.youneedabudget.com

Albert- https://meetalbert.com

Level Money- https://www.levelmoney.com

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Melani

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Sandy was Quoted in Financial Planning Magazine

Financial Planning Magazine reached out to Sandy to get her reaction to President Trump's proposed tax cuts for businesses and the elimination of certain deductions. This is what she had to say. You can read the full article here: http://www.financial-planning.com/list/rias-support-trump-tax-cuts-for-businesses

Sandys quote on Trumps tax cut in Financial Planning Magazine

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My Social Security Account

In an effort to go green, the Social Security Administration is now only mailing Social Security statements to workers 60 years old and over who are not receiving Social Security benefits. They do however offer a convenient online service that allows you to access your benefit information, earnings records and statements as well as complete a number of other services with the Social Security Administration. You will need to create a My Social Security Account to do so. I have included some instructions taken directly from their site to set up your account along with some detailed information on the benefits of using their online services.

Go to https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount

Click on Sign In or Create Account

My Social Security Account 2

What does a my Social Security account let me do?

If you do not receive benefits, you can:

  • new Request a replacement Social Security card if you meet certain requirements;
  • new Check the status of your application or appeal.
  • Get your Social Security Statement, to review:
    • Estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits;
    • Your earnings once a year to verify the amounts that we posted are correct; and
    • The estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.
  • Get a benefit verification letter stating that:
    • You never received Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare; or
    • You received benefits in the past, but do not currently receive them. (The letter will include the date your benefits stopped and how much you received that year.); or
    • You applied for benefits but haven’t received an answer yet.

If you receive benefits or have Medicare, you can:

Thank you for Going Green!

 

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A Recent Survey Suggests You Can Save Money by Making One Simple Call

Most people assume that things such as, annual fees, interest rates and late fees are non-negotiable when it comes to credit cards. A new survey from creditcards.com is showing us that this is not the case. In most circumstances all you have to do is call your credit card company and ask. The survey asked 952 American cardholders and the majority received what they asked for. The problem is that hardly anyone asks.

Here are the results from cardholders who asked:

  • 87 percent received a late payment fee waiver.
  • 69 percent got a lower interest rate.
  • 89 percent received a higher credit limit.
  • 82 percent had their annual fee waived or reduced.

If you are looking for ways to reduce or eliminate fees on your credit card it doesn’t hurt to call and ask. The worst they can say is no. This can save you lots of money in the long run, if you carry balances on your cards, so it’s definitely worth a call.

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Reasons Why People Put Off Saving for Retirement

Retiring comfortably is a dream for most people. Unfortunately a lot of people are not adequately saving for their retirement or, even scarier; they are not saving at all. What is preventing them from saving? Usually it’s a mind block that gets in the way. Retirement seems too far off to think of or it’s uncomfortable to talk about. Here are a few reasons that most people delay saving and some tips to overcome these excuses.

Paying off debt and paying for current living expenses - With a lot of people burdened with a mound of student debt after college and paying for current living expenses, the idea of putting anything extra towards retirement savings can seem daunting. While it is important to pay off your debt it is also important to save for your future. Even the smallest amount that you can spare is better than nothing at all.

Instant Gratification- Spending money on items or trips that you want to go on now is highly more satisfying then putting money into a retirement account that you can’t touch for a long time. Sure everyone loves a new purse or a shiny new set of golf clubs. But one thing to ask yourself; are these items worth my future financial security?

Unsure of where to start- A big reason people put off saving for retirement is that they do not know how to get started. There are also many online resources that offer retirement calculators and tips to guide you through the process. You can also contact a financial advisor to help you assess your retirement needs and set up a customized plan to get you started on the right track to a successful retirement.

Procrastination- The mindset of “I’ll do it tomorrow” and then never actually doing it can be one of the biggest disadvantages off all to your retirement savings. Most people do not understand the concept of compounding interest when it comes to savings. Basically, the sooner you start saving, your principal will not only earn interest but over time you’ll earn interest on top of previous years interest and therefore the compounding effect can be huge. If you put off starting to save until you are in your 30s instead of starting in your 20s your money will miss a decade of compounding. The end result is you will have to save significantly more money every month to get to your desired retirement goals then if you had started earlier. The easiest way to get started is through your company if they offer a 401k plan or by setting up an IRA account. With both of these options you can have contributions set up to automatically come out of your paycheck or account. The less you have to think about it the more likely it is that you will do it.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of excuses that people make as to why they can’t save for retirement. The sooner you get started, no matter how much you start with, the better. When you get ready to retire you will not regret taking those first steps you made to invest in yourself and your future.

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Reminder: 2016 IRA Contributions

We wanted to send out a reminder that it's not too late to contribute to your IRA accounts for 2016 as long as you are still working and have not yet met your contribution limit. The IRS deadline for contributions is April 18, 2017. Please give us a call if you would like to make a contribution or have any questions.

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Emergency Information Folder

We talk to clients everyday about how important estate planning is and how they should have a trust in place to ensure that their wishes are met after they pass away or become incapacitated. While having a trust set up is great it doesn’t really provide all of the details necessary for a spouse or loved one to take care of the day to day tasks of wrapping up your affairs. It is a really good idea to create an information folder that provides the pertinent details such as account numbers and passwords. This is also valuable to have in case of an emergency such as a car accident or house fire. You can grab this folder and go. Here is a list of information you should have in the folder.

• Assets: checking and investment accounts, private business interests, location of safety deposit boxes, annuities, individual retirement accounts and 401(k)s, trust agreements, real estate, vehicles, collectibles

• Liabilities: credit cards, mortgages, car payments, cell phone bills, other recurring bills • Social media/online accounts: passwords and login information for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Amazon, PayPal, eBay, Netflix, Hulu, iCloud or other cloud storage accounts, online photo storage accounts

• Miscellaneous subscriptions/memberships: airline rewards programs, Sam’s, BJ’s or Costco memberships, toll tag accounts, magazines, newspapers • Insurance: life insurance, long-term care, disability, home, auto

• Home maintenance: water, gas, electricity, telephone, alarm, lawn care, cable television, Internet service • Medical: medical conditions, medications, emergency contacts

• Personal: burial/cremation preferences, funeral plans, pre-paid funeral expenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates, Social Security card

• Key contacts: financial and legal advisors, doctors, family members, close friends

Each person’s folder will require different information but this is a good start and you can customize it as needed. It also may be a good idea to keep a copy of this information in a folder in your email account, that way you only need to have one password to give out and everything is backed up by the cloud.

(This list was compiled from an article on wealthmanagement.com)

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