Financial Planning

Spring Clean Your Finances

Spring is an ideal time to roll up your sleeves and get to work on the clutter and dusty piles you might have accumulated over the winter. And while you might automatically turn to spring cleaning your home or office, consider that this season is also an ideal time to take a look at your finances to make sure you’re on track for the rest of the year.

Here are some ways you can spruce up your finances this season:

Double Check Your Withholdings

We’re deep into tax season, and whether you’re the type to finish your taxes early, file on Tax Day, April 15th, or file for an extension, it’s never too late to think about how to save money next year. After all, it’s the money that you earn and taxes that you pay during this calendar year that’ll affect your numbers when you go to file in 2020.

This year, with taxpayers feeling the impacts of the new tax law for the first time, it’s especially important to take a look at your withholdings. You may find it necessary to make adjustments in order to set aside the right amount for the rest of the year so that you can avoid unpleasant surprises next tax season.

Tidy Up Your Budget

Around the beginning of the year, it’s not uncommon for people to resolve to make this the year that they make a budget and stick to it. How about you?

If you started off the year with intentions to get your finances on track with a new budget, are you making progress toward that goal? If not, consider adjustments that you can make. Maybe there are some places you can save a little more. Or maybe you’re not spending as much in one area as you thought you would and you can allocate that money to another line item.

Remember, you don’t have to set aside your good intentions just because you might have gotten off track. A step toward budget correction is always a step in the right direction.

Review Your Accounts

While you’re sifting through papers in your home office, take some time to look through information related to your family’s accounts. From savings accounts to retirement accounts, take stock of the assets you have and make note of any accounts that need attention.

Depending on life changes you may have had during the past year, you may want to pay special attention to account changes that have the potential to benefit you in the coming year.

Put Your Financial Plan Together

If you haven’t done so already, spring is the perfect time to get your financial plan together. This time of year, you’re probably already aware of your financial status, thanks to the mandatory review you go through at tax time.

It’s only natural to take advantage of that awareness – and the fact that your financial info is likely sitting somewhere convenient for you to access – and make time to meet with a financial advisor to make a plan for the future. An advisor will help you to determine your values and take steps to work toward your desired financial future.

Or maybe you already have a financial plan in place and simply need a yearly tune-up. If you haven’t already, put a meeting on the calendar and sit down with your advisor to review your plan and make any necessary adjustments.

If you’re ready to tidy up your finances and shine up your portfolio call or email us to set an appointment.

Important Disclosures:

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

Common Misconceptions About Sustainable Investing

As investors continue to grow more aware of sustainable investing, there are a greater number of discussions happening around the topic.

Understandably, investors want to know as much as they can before making any investment decisions, but that can be challenging when truths are hard to discern from common assumptions. As with any topic in the realm of investing, it’s important to dig beneath the surface to separate fact from fiction.

If you’re curious about sustainable investing, read on to learn the truths behind some prevailing misconceptions.

Misconception #1: Sustainable Investing Isn’t Real Investing; It’s Just for People who Like to Feel Good About Themselves

Some investors are concerned that sustainable investing isn’t quite the same as traditional investing. After all, what could be wrong with the traditional system? How could viewing investments sustainably really make a difference?

Even though the idea of sustainable investing might bring images of popular green brands or alternative lifestyles to mind, sustainably-minded investing doesn’t have to be in opposition to other investment methods. Instead, what sustainable investing offers is a values-based way for investors to evaluate their portfolios and make shifts that align with their financial aspirations, as well as their personal code of ethics.

Depending on the investor’s goals and resources, sustainable investments might fit well into portfolios where other companies would not. And just because an investor chooses to consider sustainable investments for a portion of their portfolio, doesn’t mean that they have to rework everything. Every investor has different needs and should work to find a unique balance of that works for them.

Misconception #2: I Need to Choose Between Sustainability and Returns

Another common misconception about sustainable investing is that investors need to sacrifice returns in order to invest in brands that are truly sustainable. As it turns out, it’s possible for a company to be both sustainable and deliver potential similar returns over time.

A financial advisor can help you analyze your investment options for sustainability and other metrics important to portfolio design. This is why a close relationship with your advisor and transparency about your values and aspirations is so important in your investment conversations.

Misconception #3: Sustainable Investing is Just a Fad

There is a certain assumption that the conversation surrounding sustainable investing is just a fad. After all, sustainability in everyday life, from communities banning plastic straws to discussions over global conservation, is a trendy topic.

When it comes to sustainability in business, there is reason to believe that the practice of sustainable investing is here to stay. A big part of this is that sustainable investing isn’t actually a new concept; it’s just receiving a little more attention as sustainable practices are gaining more popularity in the public eye and businesses are dedicating more resources to sustainability.

Misconception #4: Sustainable Investing Holds Businesses to Certain Moral Standards

It used to be that ethically-minded investing naturally excluded certain “sin” industries, like tobacco and alcohol. But today’s sustainable investing is less about making a moral statement by withholding investments from “bad” companies and more about what a company is doing to make the world a better place.

Companies don’t have to adhere to a certain set of morals to be considered sustainable. And investors can choose brands that align with their values, even if the companies themselves might get an eye roll from an older family member.

If you’d like to learn more about how sustainability investing might work for your portfolio please call or email us today.

Should I Rollover a Dormant 401(k)

When you’re looking through your investments, you may come across accounts that you don’t quite know what to do with anymore. Sometimes, these are older investments from past employer plans or ones that simply got lost in the shuffle as you reprioritized your savings plan at one point or another.

If you have a dormant account from a previous employer, you may be wondering what you should do with it.

First, Understand Your Options

A plan participant leaving an employer typically has four options (and may engage in a combination of these options), each choice offering advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Leave the money in his/her former employer’s plan, if permitted;
  2. Roll over the assets to his/her new employer’s plan, if one is available and rollovers are permitted;
  3. Roll over to an IRA;
  4. Cash out the account value.

Here are some things to consider as you work through your decision process.

Are You Getting What You Need from Your Plan?

The first thing you should determine is whether you’re getting what you need out of your 401(k). If the plan is well managed and meets your needs, then keep it. If the plan isn’t well-managed or meeting your needs, you may want to consider rolling your assets over into an active 401(k) or IRA.

Do You Want the Option to Contribute to the Plan?

If you want to make future contributions, you’ll want to roll over the assets to a new 401(k) or IRA, since you can’t contribute to a dormant account.

Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible in the contribution year, with current income tax due at withdrawal. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax in addition to current income tax.

Do You Have a Loan Against Your 401(k)?

You may want to leave your assets alone if you have a loan against your 401(k). Should you withdraw your assets, your loan will be paid off immediately but you may be stuck with taxes and an added 10% penalty.

Does Your 401(k) Hold Company Stock?

If your 401(k) is has a company stock component, you may be better off to take advantage of the Net Unrealized Benefit and roll the stock into a taxable brokerage account to avoid tax penalties.

Now, Consider Your Age:

Your age may impact your withdrawal options, due to certain penalties involved with removing 401(k) funds prematurely. However, even if you fall along the younger end of the spectrum, you still have options for releasing your funds from a dormant 401(k), should you choose this route.

Are You Under 59.5 and Want to Take Advantage of Your 401(k) Funds?

If you choose this option, you’ll incur a 10% penalty on withdrawal. Instead of paying this fee, consider whether one of the following situations might suit you better:

  • Take a Loan – While you can’t take a loan from a dormant 401(k), you can convert your funds to an active 401(k) and take a loan from that account.
  • Hardship Withdrawal – This is another option that’s available through an active 401(k), rather than a dormant one. Depending on your circumstances and what you require the funds for, you may qualify for a hardship withdrawal from your funds if you roll them over to an active 401(k).
  • Rollover to an IRA – And of course, you can roll your 401(k) funds into an IRA and take withdrawals from that account when you need them. Your income will be taxable as regular income, but you may still incur a 10% penalty.

Are You Over 59.5 and Want to Take Advantage of Your 401(k) Funds?

If you are over 59.5, you can withdraw funds from your dormant 401(k) and they’ll be taxed as normal income. You won’t need to worry about incurring the 10% penalty.

Did You Leave Your Employer at Age 55?

If you left the employer through whom you acquired the now-dormant 401(k) at age 55, you may want to consider leaving the account alone for the time being, as you may qualify for a “separation from service distribution” payout penalty-free.

Some Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of variables that come into play when considering what to do with a dormant 401(k). If you have questions about your retirement accounts or are curious about your retirement investment options email or call Jacob Sturgill.

Navigating the Path to Financial Success

Plotting a path toward your financial future can seem fairly straightforward: you set your goals, build a portfolio, and wait for your investments to grow. However, making progress with your plan, as with making progress in most parts of life, is hardly a linear process.

You should start your financial planning journey with an end goal (or goals) in mind and an idea of how you’re going to achieve it. Then you’ll work backward to fill in the gaps and create a guidepath for that journey.

Expect the Unexpected

On paper, the path from where you are to where you want to be will look and feel like a straight line. But in reality, over time and with life changes like a new job or a cross-country move, the path is going to lose its crisp clarity.

Some portions of the path will experience high highs, like when the market is booming or you get an amazing promotion and raise at work. And some of the portions will take a seeming nosedive as you experience losses like unemployment or the death of a spouse. At these times, it will look like your portfolio has moved away from where you think it needs to be to achieve your financial goals.

It can be hard to avoid the euphoria that comes with experiencing the high points or the fear that comes with the low ones. But it’s during these times that you need to remember that your overall financial journey shouldn’t be measured by where you are during a single portion of that journey.

Trust Your Navigation

Think of how you travel when you take a road trip. Sometimes, your GPS updates in transit and takes you around bodies of water, road construction, or traffic accidents as driving conditions change. While this new route or detour may not have been planned, trusting the guidance still gets you where you want to go.

In reality, a straight line between where you are today and where you hope to be in the future likely doesn’t even exist. Change will be constant. Some of it, like how much you save, how much you spend, and how you react to different situations, will be in your control. Many things will happen that will be beyond your control and you’re going to possibly need to make adjustments to get to where you’re going.

Even if the path doesn’t stray far from what you expect, you’re inevitably going to have to stop for gas (or a charge!) at some point – you just don’t know where or when.

Find a Trustworthy Guide

When navigating your financial journey, your financial advisor can act as your personal GPS, steering you around unavoidable hurdles, like laws and regulations that impact your investments the same way that natural bodies of water dictate where roadways travel. Your advisor should be able to read the road ahead well enough to know when to steer you clear of the traffic accidents or road construction that unexpectedly pop up to block your way.

Instead of insisting on the mythical straight path, embrace the ups and downs as you travel your financial journey. Focus more on the destination and less on your current position on the path. Before you know it, you might be closer to your goals than you ever thought possible.

To learn more about plotting your financial journey contact Jacob Sturgill.

Ask Aaron: Are Annuities Bad?

When it comes to researching your investment options, you’ll find a plethora of choices and lots of chatter about what the “best” investment options are. Among this chatter, you’ll no doubt hear the amazing benefits of annuities as investments. You may be thinking: “are annuities a good investment for me?

On the other side of the spectrum, you might have friends or family members who have had poor experiences with investments in annuities and are quick to tell anyone who will listen. Their stories aren’t unique, as sadly there are many investors who have been hurt by overzealous salespeople, disadvantageous contract terms or a lack of understanding of what is one of the most complex investment products available.

So which is it? Are annuities bad? Or are they all they’re cracked up to be?

Let’s take a deeper look…

What is an Annuity?

First things first, let’s look at what an annuity is. An annuity is an agreement between an insurance company and an investor that includes a stream of regular payments. However, all annuities are not created equal, and it’s imperative to make investment decisions with your eyes wide open before you ever sign on the dotted line.

Who Offers Annuities?

Annuities are investment contracts offered by insurance companies. Insurance companies are able to offer certain guarantees that other financial institutions might not be able to offer such as death benefits, income benefits, or crediting benefits, also called riders.

On the outside, this seems like an appealing proposition. But if you come across an agent who seems to pressure clients toward one type of product or company, you might want to steer clear. Someone with a certain product to sell may not have much more in mind than selling as many of those products as possible in order to earn a commission, even though those products may not truly be best for their clients.

Perks of Annuities as an Investment

There are certainly perks to annuities as investments. After all, they’re still a popular investment vehicle for long-term investing.

The biggest perks to investing in annuities are the accompanying tax deferral and other possible guarantees. Many annuities are paid out in consistent, recurring amounts, which is very appealing to individuals looking to set up a consistent stream of income or obtain some type of certainty.

Downsides of Annuities as an Investment

On the flip side, annuities are often not the best investment choice. While they may come with a guaranteed return and other appealing incentives, there are almost always strings attached.

Unseen internal costs or penalties and long surrender schedules can impact your bottom line significantly. Depending upon the specifics of an annuity contract, the payout might not end up as all it’s cracked up to be. And if you’re already committed to an annuity, removing your funds could prove challenging and expensive.

Some Important Things to Remember about Annuities

The most important thing to remember when it comes to annuities is that there is no single financial product that’s best for every investor. For some investors, certain annuities might be an ideal choice. For other investors, those same annuities might be a costly mistake.

And some annuities might be terrible investments, period – even for the most likely candidate. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Your individual financial situation is an essential driver behind which investments are the best for your portfolio. Instead of a sales pitch, you deserve a personalized recommendation based on an objective review of your specific situation.

At Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group, we take the time to get to know you personally before ever making recommendations for specific financial products. Are you curious about whether annuities are right for you? Reach out and schedule a consultation today!

Disclaimer: Fixed and Variable annuities are suitable for long-term investing, such as retirement investing. Gains from tax-deferred investments are taxable as ordinary income upon withdrawal. Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company. Withdrawals made prior to age 59 1⁄2 are subject to a 10% IRS penalty tax and surrender charges may apply. Variable annuities are subject to market risk and may lose value. Riders are additional guarantee options that are available to an annuity or life insurance contract holder. While some riders are part of an existing contract, many others may carry additional fees, charges and restrictions, and the policy holder should review their contract carefully before purchasing. Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

Risky Business: Understanding Your Risk Tolerance and Why it Matters

An important aspect of planning your investment portfolio is balancing your risk and payout potential to help you work toward your ideal financial future.

After all, you aren’t going to grow your wealth if you keep it hidden beneath your mattress in case of a rainy day, right? However, you don’t have to swing to the other extreme and rely exclusively on high-risk investments either.

Finding a happy medium will make you more comfortable with your portfolio and should help you feel in control of your future financial prospects. The first step to achieving this balance is finding your personal risk tolerance level.

So, what is risk? According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) “Risk is any uncertainty with respect to your investments that has the potential to negatively affect your financial welfare”. The uncertainty associated with future returns and the volatility of securities prices can cause investors to make emotionally-charged decisions and either sell too early or invest too conservatively (or too aggressively). Managing risk helps you stick to your investment plan and is key to good long-term investment results.

What is Risk Tolerance?

Investopedia defines risk tolerance as “the degree of variability in investment returns that an investor is willing to withstand”. Human beings are all risk tolerant to a certain degree, but everyone’s own level of risk tolerance varies. There are multiple factors that contribute to your personal level of risk tolerance, including:

  • What is time frame for achieving your investment goals?
  • How much have you already saved? Are you currently saving?
  • How much will you need to spend? How long do you need your funds to last?
  • Think about past experiences. (Here’s an easy test: If you find yourself constantly afraid of the next market crash, it may be the case that your balance of risky and less risky assets is not appropriate for you.)

In general, we tend to shy away from risk. In fact, we’re likely to be more than twice as concerned about avoiding loss than we are about achieving potential gains. This is known as loss aversion in behavioral finance.

Investing in the equity and bond markets is inherently risky. As an investor, you shouldn’t take more risk than you need to, are able to, or are comfortable with. Successful investing often means sticking with an investment plan that experiences both good times and bad times.

Balance Your Portfolio

Once you’re aware of your personal comfort zone and ideal level of risk tolerance, you are better prepared to build your portfolio. Sometimes, investors find that their portfolios are full of investments that are skewed toward more or less risk than they’re personally comfortable carrying.

If you suspect that your portfolio is imbalanced, talk to your advisor about how you can make adjustments to align your portfolio with your risk tolerance level. Here are some of the ways you can stay on top of the level of risk your portfolio contains:

  • Analyze investment risk and return relationships
  • Diversify your investments
  • Stay on top of economic trends and developments that can impact investments

Be Realistic

As you consider your risk tolerance, you do need to continue to approach your financial plan with a measure of realism. There is some unavoidable amount of risk that’s necessary to growing your investments to achieve your future financial goals.

If you have a particularly hard time coping with the requisite risk associated with building and managing your portfolio, talk to your financial advisor about how to find confidence and ways that you can minimize risks along the way. A trustworthy advisor should be able to guide you to the right investments for your lifestyle and can give you pointers on avoiding emotional investment decisions that could sidetrack your progress.

To learn more about how personalized financial advice can help you find the right balance in your investment portfolio email or call Jacob Sturgill today.

Important Disclosures:
There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

References:
Investopedia on risk tolerance
Finra.org on reality investment risk

What to Expect After Your First Visit With Your Financial Advisor

Financial Planning - Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group

The first meeting with your financial advisor is a starting point meant to clarify your values, current financial situation, and long-term goals. It should form the basis of a transparent, symbiotic relationship where the advisor helps develop a plan that links where you are today with where you anticipate wanting to be in the future and helps you make course corrections to keep you on track as things change along the way.

It’s what happens after your first visit with your financial advisor that sets the course for your future investment strategy and goal setting. Here’s what you should expect to happen after that initial discovery meeting.

Receive a Personalized Financial Recommendation

After your discovery meeting, your financial advisor will synthesize the information you provided and work to develop a financial recommendation that makes sense for your lifestyle and goals. Likely, your advisor will identify a few possible investment routes for you to choose from.

The information shared in your first meeting will give your advisor the inputs necessary to develop a personalized investment plan for you. Just because one investment style works well for other investors or you’re interested in a popular retirement plan doesn’t necessarily make it the right fit for your lifestyle and goals. Your financial advisor should be able to help you understand why certain investment options are better for you specifically.

Choose a Financial Path and Make a Commitment

After you receive your financial recommendation, you’re well on your way to the path that is best for your lifestyle and goals. And remember, your financial advisor should be able to assist you with decisions and implementation each step of the way. If you have questions or concerns, your advisor can point you toward answers that’ll make your decision process go more smoothly.

When you’ve settled on a recommended plan, your advisor can give you the guidance you need to put that plan into action. This include working through initial steps to set up your portfolio, as well as putting checks in place to keep track of your progress.

Keep in Touch with Your Financial Advisor

Once you’ve chosen a financial plan to follow, you’ll continue to work closely with your advisor to stay up-to-date on your investments and make changes to your portfolio, when necessary. Even if you and your advisor agree on a plan at the outset, it may not be appropriate for you over time. And there’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s to be expected that you’ll need to change course once or twice along the way.

It’s important to stay in touch with your advisor through regular communication and maintenance meetings. This way you can stay on top of your portfolio and make updates as needed.

If you’re looking for a personalized financial recommendation to inspire your financial future, contact Jacob Sturgill.

What to Expect from Your First Meeting with Your Financial Advisor

So, you’re ready to meet with a financial advisor! You’re ready to sort out your finances and take positive steps to make solid financial decisions for your future. Whatever your goals, you know that working with a professional can help you progress toward them in a balanced way that aligns your values with your investment decisions.

Maybe you’ve got a meeting on the books or you’re getting ready to pick up the phone and make that call to schedule one, but you wonder: what is this meeting going to be like?

Read on to learn more about what you should expect from your first meeting with your financial advisor, as well as what you should bring along to that appointment.

The Purpose of a Discovery Meeting

Your first meeting – or discovery meeting – will lay the groundwork for your relationship with your financial advisor going forward. Of course, you are meeting with your advisor to get financial advice, but it’s important that you and your advisor are on the same page before they can offer that advice.

After all, building an investment portfolio certainly isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. There’s no one formula that works well for all investors at all points in time.

Your advisor needs to know who you are as a person (or couple, if you’re seeking counsel with your spouse), what your values are and how your finances play into your long-term personal goals. After all, you ideally want to use your finances to fuel something, whether that’s your retirement, estate or anything else.

What You Should Bring to Your Discovery Meeting

At your discovery meeting, your financial advisor will ask you specific questions about your money, both to learn where you are now and where you’d like to be. This may be a tough conversation, especially since money isn’t often a topic for everyday discussion.

One of the most important things to bring to your discovery meeting is an open mind. Establishing a working relationship with your advisor requires transparency and openness in order for you to get the most out of your recommendations going forward.

You also want to bring a summary of your finances and holdings in order to give your financial advisor something to work with. Of course, these don’t tell the whole story and you will want to bring along a summary – even just a verbal one – of your goals and ideals as well. Again, the purpose here is to give your financial advisor a big picture view of your situation specifically.

What Your Financial Advisor Should Bring to Your Discovery Meeting

Since the purpose of your discovery meeting is to establish a relationship with your financial advisor, you should expect your advisor to bring a few things to the table as well.

Most importantly, your financial advisor should listen carefully throughout your conversation to gauge your goals and values, and to get to know you better. After all, you’ll be working together on important financial decisions going forward. It’s imperative that your financial advisor does their best to get to know you before stepping in to offer advice and recommendations.

Additionally, your financial advisor will work with you determine how often you should meet after your initial meeting. Remember, you’re establishing a working relationship, not simply having an initial meeting just to get a folder full of recommendations.

Are you ready to get a better understanding of your finances? Set up a discovery meeting today!

Important Disclosures:

Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, member FINRA/SIPC.

Year End Checklist

Checklist - Puckett and Sturgill Financial Group

Review Investments and Tax Time Strategy

As you look ahead, you want to ensure that your investments and tax strategy are in order so that you can reap the benefits of your hard financial work over the past year. Changes made before the end of the year can impact your final numbers when it comes time to file your taxes, so pay close attention to the details as you work through each of your investments. Here are some practical steps you can take:

Consider ways to offset capital gains

Review potential tax loss harvest opportunities (assets that have declined in value during the year)

Be mindful of wash sale penalties – wait for at least 31 days to buy back sold holdings for a loss
Look for ways to offset capital gains elsewhere in your portfolio or ordinary income (up to $3,000 per year)

 

Purchasing mutual fund shares in nonqualified accounts before year end may mean paying capital gains taxes on brand new investments
Are you selling your primary residence? Remember the allowable exclusion of $500,000 ($250,000 not married) of the gain on home sale
Remember that the 3.8% investment income surtax applies to the lesser of net investment income or the excess of modified adjusted gross income over $200,000 (individual) or $250,000 (married, filing jointly)
Bear in mind that a 20% capital gains tax applies to individuals filing in the highest tax bracket

Look for ways to defer or reduce income

Make note of your projected marginal tax rate
Look for ways to defer year-end payouts, including:

Bonuses
Capital gain property sales

 

Boost W-2 withholdings if necessary
Accelerate deductions
Check for deductions from fully funded education savings accounts
Use municipal bonds for federal and state (if applicable) tax-exempt income
Look for ways to bunch itemized deductions

Review Your Retirement Plan

Your retirement strategy is an important part of your overall financial plan. And while you may not be looking to retire anytime soon, you want to make sure you avoid small problems that could turn into glaring issues later on down the road. Tweak investments that don’t quite work for you and ask your financial advisor which opportunities are right for your portfolio. With careful attention to your retirement plan, you can look forward to your best financial future.

Review your IRA(s):

Maximize contributions to eligible accounts
Increase retirement contributions, if possible

 

If you fall into a low income tax bracket, consider converting from Traditional to Roth IRA

This can be a good option for when you have a low income year but anticipate a higher income in future years
Main benefit: future growth from Roth will likely be distributed tax-free

 

Learn more about collecting Social Security benefits
Review Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) opportunities for employer stock options
If you are 50 or older:

Look into catch up contributions for IRA and certain retirement plans
Avoid IRA/retirement plan distributions prior to age 59 ½ to avoid a possible 10% early withdrawal tax penalty

 

If you are 70 ½ or older, take your RMD
Do you have a new job? A plan participant leaving an employer typically has four options (and may engage in a combination of these options), each choice offering advantages and disadvantages.

Leave the money in his/her former employer’s plan, if permitted;
Roll over the assets to his/her new employer’s plan, if one is available and rollovers are permitted;
Roll over to an IRA; or
Cash out the account value

Employ a Financial Gifting Strategy

The holidays and other celebrations often signal open hearts and open wallets, especially in terms of financial gifts. Whether you’re gifting to family members as a holiday treat or as a wedding surprise, you can take advantage of these gifts when it comes time to plan your tax strategy. And if you donate to charity, you may be eligible for even greater savings. Don’t let another holiday season escape without learning the best ways to strategize your financial gifting.

Gifting to family

Gifts under $15,000/individual are federal tax-free
Put will and trust items in order to take advantage of both estate and income tax deductions
Invest in 529 accounts – up to $70,000 at one time

Gifting to others (including charitable donations)

Cash gifts to charity automatically qualify as income tax deductions
Consider gifting stock to qualifying charities
If you’re older than 70 ½ , take note of your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) and plan charitable giving accordingly; you may be eligible to donate up to $100,000 and qualify for favorable tax deductions
Look into establishing a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) or private foundation for a cause you care about and receive further advantages:

Immediate tax deductions
Establish a framework for donor gifting over time

 

Consider bunching other charitable donations through the following vehicles:

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT)
Charitable Remainder Trust (CRUT)
Charitable Lead Trust (CLT)

Check in with Your Estate

Estate planning is an essential part of planning for your financial future. Whether you’ve got a game plan in place or want to get started with setting things in order, use the end of year review to assess your estate. You’ll also want to take time to account for any life changes that may impact your estate.

Double check your beneficiary designations and update them if necessary
Check trust funding
Review trustee and agent appointments
Evaluate provisions of powers of attorney and healthcare directives
Ensure that you fully understand all documentation

Wrap it up and Look Ahead

Periodic financial checkups – including your year-end review – keep you in control of your finances and leave the guesswork out of managing your financial goals. As you look through your investments, retirement plans and gifting strategies, you can evaluate what needs tweaking and set yourself up to take advantage of new opportunities. Sit down with your financial advisor to take a full-picture view at your portfolio and make sure you have solid understanding of your financial position moving forward.

Send the following investment and capital gains information to your accountant to receive an accurate year-end tax assessment:

Income types you had during the year: salary, interest, dividends, short- and long-term investment gains, Social Security income, IRA withdrawals
Your Medicare tax responsibility (if applicable)
Plan for estimated taxes

 

Evaluate your HSA contributions and other healthcare expenses
Confirm FSA expenditures for the year
Check your credit reports, taking particular note of any suspicious activity

Federal law entitles you to free credit reports from nationwide reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) every 12 months at your request

 

Review 529 contribution amounts
Discuss major life events with your advisor, including:

Family changes (marriage, birth, death)
Job and income changes
Significant one-time purchases
Retirement or plans to retire
Concentrated positions you need to address

 

Check that your objectives, risk tolerance and preferences are in order

Sit down with financial advisor Jacob Sturgill to ensure you have a solid understanding of your financial position

Important Disclosures:

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation.

The Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment may change.

LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Portfolio on Purpose

Behavior Gap Illustration - Puckett & Sturgill Financial Group

When you look at your investment portfolio, do you know why you own what you own?

  • Does it look like the picture on the left, an eclectic mix of things accumulated over the years?
    OR
  • Does it resemble the picture on the right, with each piece intentional, organized, structured, well thought out?

 

If you’re like many people, your portfolio looks more like a collection – it has a little bit of everything in it. These bits and pieces might include inheritance, something you invested in after read about it (or saw it on TV, heard a tidbit from co worker), last years hot performer, and so forth.

In a purposefully designed portfolio, each piece of your portfolio should work together. The goal is not to beat “the market” (after all, what is the market anyway?), but for each piece to work in unison to achieve your goals.

Because your investments will eventually be used for something, you may believe the logical thing to do is start with viewing your investments in isolation. But you run the risk of hurting yourself in the long run.

Instead of viewing your investments myopically, it’s important to see the whole picture. You want to look at your investments as a means to an end, rather than the end in and of themselves.

Sounds easy enough.. How do we do it? First, start with end in mind.

DO: Prioritize Your Ideal Financial Future (Clarify Goals)

  • Give yourself permission to take your best guess at your financial goals. For example, your favorite artist, movie, etc has likely changed throughout your life. Your idea today of your financial future may be different than what you ultimately end up prioritizing.
  • If you start with a desired end point, it becomes easy to work backward to figure out what you need to do for your financial portfolio today.
  • This can be very challenging. How do you know what is important to you? “They” say the checkbook and the calendar never lie. Start with your daily reality today and work from there.

DO: Develop a Plan

  • Set realistic expectations for your portfolio performance.
    • How much do you think you will need?
    • How much can you reasonably save?
    • When do you need your money? (i.e. what is your time-frame?)
    • What rate of return do you need?
  • While market performance is important, market performance should not be the ultimate goal – achieving your desired financial state should be.

DO: Find the Investments that Fit Your Plan

  • Revisit your portfolio periodically (at least annually) and make smaller changes to it over time.
  • If you know where you are going, it’s easier to know what it is going to take to get there. Think of going on a road trip; you know you’ll need to gas up at some point – but you probably don’t know which exit you’ll actually need to stop at!

Choose a Financial Advisor Who can Help

We are all human. Life happens. Things change.

There are always going to be things that seem like better options or bigger risks in the market. Sometimes it seems like one of these factors could jeopardize everything and you may be tempted to make changes.

Blind spots are, by their very definition, things we cannot see. A trusted advisor, like Jocob Sturgill, can help you clearly define your goals, set realistic expectations, sidestep common investment mistakes, and build intentional investment portfolios.

Contact Jacob Sturgill

Important Disclosures:

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal.