Asset Planning, Inc Blog

The latest from the team.

Mortgage Referral



Mortgage rates recently hit an all time low & if you haven't already refinanced your mortgage, now might be the time to do so. We have found a new mortgage resource that is very professional, timely, and offers competitive rates. If you would like a referral, please feel free to contact us.
 

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Social Security Statements Online

Last year, to reduce costs, the Social Security Administration (SSA) stopped mailing annual paper statements to anyone under age 60. These statements are a great tool to use for retirement planning. The statements provide a history of your annual earnings and estimates of your social security benefits at various retirement ages, along with estimates for disability and survivor benefits.

Last week, the SSA added the ability to access your Social Security statements online. Here is the website to start the process to access your statement:
http://www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement/

I recommend that you review this at least once a year to make sure that your income is recorded accurately in the Social Security database. Your future monthly benefit is based on your average earnings over your lifetime. If your earnings are incorrect, your benefit will most likely be wrong.

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Financial Planning Magazine Online

Discusses the impact of proposed regulation for the financial services profession in Financial Planning Magazine.Click Here to read the full article we are featured in. 

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Financial Planning Magazine-April Issue

Follow this link, to read Sandy's feature in this month's Financial Planning Magazine. The print edition of the article Opportunistic Retirement Investing has pictures from the photo shoot the magazine did of Sandy at our office.
 

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Retirement Contributions for 2012

Changes for retirement contributions beginning in 2012:

  • 401k, 403b, & 457 maximum employee contributions increase to $17,000 per year. The catch up contribution for those age 50 and above remains at $5,500 per year.
  • IRA contributions remain unchanged at $5,000 plus $1,000 catch up per year for those age 50 and above.
  • Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) phase outs increase for those that can deduct IRA contributions and still participate in a qualified retirement plan (QRP). All Fliers (except Married filing Separately) that don't participate in a QRP can deduct IRA contributions from their taxes regardless of AGI. Those participating in a QRP can only deduct IRA contributions if AGI is under $58,000 for Single Filers and $92,000 for Married Filing Joint. Partial deductions are allowed for fliers with AGI between $58,000-68,000(Single) and $92,000-110,000 (MFJ). For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a QRP but his or her spouse is, the deduction is phased out between $173,000-183,000 (MFJ). Remember if you make a deductible IRA contribution, always keep track of your basis by filing a 8606 with your tax return.
  • You can make a full Roth IRA contribution if your AGI is under $110,000 (Single) or $173,000 (MFJ). Partial contributions are allowed for fliers with AGI between $110,000-$125,000 (Single) and $173,000-$183,000 (MFJ).


 

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Protecting your online accounts from hackers

Many of us today enjoy the convenience of managing our finances via the world wide web. I personally enjoy the ease of record keeping, bill pay, and lack of trips to the bank that online banking, and the like, has brought. However, every benefit has it's cost. In the case of online account maintenance, the biggest potential cost is identity & monetary theft from hackers. One of the greatest protections from this risk is choosing a password that is difficult for a hacker to guess. Mashable Tech published a good article on the top 25 most vulnerable passwords of 2011 as well as tips on choosing a secure one. Click on this link to read the full article.

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Social Security and Medicare changes for 2012

For the first time since 2009, social security recipients will get a 3.6% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).  The COLA adjustment will also affect other areas:

  1. The maximum amount of earnings subject to the social security tax will increase from $106,800 to $110,100.
  2. The minimum amount a worker must earn to qualify for a quarter of coverage under social security is $1,130.
  3. The amount a social security recipient can earn before having to forfeit social security benefits is increased to $14,640.  This only applies to people that are receiving benefits before their “Full Retirement Age” (FRA) and are also receiving wages.  For example, if you started to receive benefits at age 62 and your FRA is 66, you cannot earn more than $14,640 in wages without being penalized.  The income limit does not apply to investment or pension earnings.

 

Medicare also just announced their premium adjustments for 2012.  The new premium for part B will be $99.90/month.

  1. If you were on Medicare in 2008, your premium was frozen at $96.40, due to a law that freezes part B premiums in years that there are no COLA increases if you also receive social security.
  2. If you started Medicare in 2009 – 2011, the premium was $115.40, so the premium will be reduced to $99.90 for those recipients.
  3. Medicare premiums are higher for recipients that have Adjusted Gross Incomes of more than $85,000 for single and $170,000 for married taxpayers.  Those premium adjustments have not been announced yet.

Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and Medicare Advantage enrollment runs until December 7th this year, which is earlier than in previous years when enrollment ran until the end of the year.  A great resource to help you decide is on the medicare website:

www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan

You just need to provide information about your prescription drugs and you will see what each plan in your area will cost in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

 

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Top Wealth Manager

 Top_Wealth_ManagersAugust 2011- Asset Planning, Inc. is recognized in Advisor One's Top Wealth Manager report. The survey captures the largest and most successful independent wealth management firms – those that are owned and operated by advisors themselves. For 2010, Asset Planning Inc. experiences 20% growth in asset under management (AUM) compared to a12.8% return on the S&P and 18% average growth among peers. To view the rankings click here. 

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Time is running out for tax planning on IRAs inherited last year

Normally, heirs get to take distributions from inherited IRAs over their lifetimes. But if just one beneficiary of the account isn't an individual person, the IRA has to be distributed within 5 years for all beneficiaries. The problem can occur when a decedent names a charity or college as one of the beneficiaries. Tax Planning Tip: The IRS allows the individual beneficiaries to take distributions over their lifetime (enjoying tax free earnings growth) as long as the charity, school, etc. is paid off by September 30 of the year following the death of the IRA owner.

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Market Correction not Crisis

As many of you know, the markets have been turbulent, to say the least, followed by a sharp decline yesterday and a sharp rebound today. Though we understand such volatility is unsettling to all of us, we are seeing many indicators that this is an emotional panic driven sell off and not the beginning of a new bear market.

Probably the biggest indicator that the markets are acting irrational is yesterday's market movements where in wake of a US Debt downgrade people sold out of stocks and US treasuries rallied. The exact opposite should have happened, especially given reports of robust corporations earnings and cash surpluses.

Though there is some concern with our less than expected GDP numbers, true recession signs are nonexistent. Furthermore, while the European Union's debt problems are a big one, we must not lose sight of the fact that the growth economies of the world are becoming more significant to global GDP than Europe. We are not in the double dip recession camp and feel the S&P will end positive for the year.

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