A new year. New resolutions. Here are five ideas to consider to help improve your financial health in the upcoming year.
- Save more for retirement. Plan for the future by feathering your retirement nest egg. For instance, you can contribute up to $20,500 to a 401(k) account in 2022, plus another $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older. Plus, your company may provide matching contributions up to a stated percentage of compensation. And you can supplement this account with contributions to IRAs and/or other qualified plans.
- Update your estate plan. Now is a good time to review your will and make any necessary adjustments. For example, your will may need to be updated due to births, deaths, marriages or divorces in the family or other changes in your personal circumstances. Also review trust documents, powers of attorney (POAs) and healthcare directives or create new ones to facilitate your estate plan.
- Rebalance your portfolio. Due to the volatility of equity markets, it’s easy for a portfolio to lose balance against your investment objectives. To bring things back to where you want, review your investments periodically and reallocate funds to reflect your main objectives, risk tolerance, and other personal preferences. This will put you in a better position to handle the ups and downs of the markets.
- Review, consolidate, and lower debt levels. One sure-fire method for improving your financial health is to spend less and save more. Start by chipping away at any existing debts. This may mean giving up some luxuries, but it’s generally well worth it in the long run. Pay extra attention to debts with high interest charges like credit card debt. If possible, consider consolidating several of these debts into one or two obligations if you can lower your interest rate in the process.
- Contingency planning. No one can foresee every twist and turn that 2022 will take. To avoid potential financial hardship, look to improve your emergency fund by setting aside enough funds to pay for six months or more of your expenses in case of events like a job loss or a severe health issue.
These five tips can help you thrive in 2022!
There’s good news for your retirement accounts in 2022! The IRS recently announced that you can contribute more pre-tax money to several retirement plans in 2022. Take a look at the following contribution limits for several of the more popular retirement plans:
What You Can Do
- Look for your retirement savings plan from the table and note the annual savings limit of the plan. If you are 50 years or older, add the catch-up amount to your potential savings total.
- Make adjustments to your employer provided retirement savings plan as soon as possible in 2022 to adjust your contribution amount.
- Double check to ensure you are taking full advantage of any employee matching contributions into your account.
- Use this time to review and re-balance your investment choices as appropriate for your situation.
- Set up new accounts for a spouse and/or dependents. Enable them to take advantage of the higher limits, too.
- Consider IRAs. Many employees maintain employer-provided plans without realizing they could also establish a traditional or Roth IRA. Use this time to review your situation and see if these additional accounts might benefit you or someone else in your family.
- Review contributions to other tax-advantaged plans, including flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs).
Now is a great time to make 2022 a year to remember for retirement savings!
There are always moves you can make to reduce your taxable income. Some of these tax-saving moves, however, must be completed by December 31. Here are several to consider:
- Tax loss harvesting. If you own stock in a taxable account that is not in a tax-deferred retirement plan, you can sell your underperforming stocks by December 31 and use these losses to reduce any taxable capital gains. If your net capital losses exceed your gains, you can even net up to $3,000 against other income such as wages. Losses over $3,000 can be used in future years. Just be sure you do not repurchase the same stock within 30 days, or the loss will be deferred.
- Take a peek at your estimated 2022 income. If you have appreciated assets that you plan on selling in the near future, estimate your 2022 taxable income and compare it to your 2021 taxable income. If your 2022 income looks like it may be significantly higher than 2021, you may be able to sell your appreciated assets in 2021 to take advantage of a lower tax rate. The opposite also holds true. If your estimated 2022 taxable income looks like it may be significantly lower than your 2021 taxable income, lower tax rates may apply if you wait to sell your assets in 2022.
- Max out pre-tax retirement savings. The deadline to contribute to a 401(k) plan and be able to reduce your taxable income on your 2021 tax return is December 31. See if you can earmark a little more money from each of your paychecks through the end of the year to transfer into your retirement savings accounts. For 2021, you can contribute up to $19,500 to a 401(k), plus another $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older. Even better, you have until April 18, 2022, to contribute to a traditional IRA and be able to reduce your taxable income on your 2021 tax return.
- Make cash charitable contributions. If you’re like 90% of all taxpayers, you get no tax benefit from charitable contributions because you don’t itemize your personal deductions. On your 2021 tax return, however, you may contribute up to $300 in cash to a qualified charity and deduct the amount whether or not you itemize your deductions. Married taxpayers who file jointly may contribute $600. You can make your contribution by check, credit card, or debit card. Remember that this above-the-line deduction is for cash contributions only. It does not apply to non-cash contributions.
- Bunch deductions so you can itemize. Are your personal deductions near the amount of the standard deduction for 2021: $12,550 for singles, $18,800 for head of household and $25,100 for married filing jointly? If so, consider bunching your personal deductions into 2021 so you can itemize this year. For most, the easiest way is to bunch two years of charitable contributions into a single year. These can include gifts of appreciated stock where you get to deduct the fair market value without paying capital gains tax.
Now is the time to begin tax planning for your 2021 return. Here are some ideas:
- Contribute to retirement accounts. Tally up all your 2021 contributions to retirement accounts so far, and estimate how much more you can stash away between now and December 31. So, consider investing in an IRA or increase your contributions to your employer-provided retirement plans. Remember, you can reduce your 2021 taxable income by as much as $19,500 by contributing to a retirement account such as a 401(k). If you’re age 50 or older, you can reduce your taxable income by up to $26,000!
- Contribute directly to a charity. If you don’t have enough qualified expenses in order to itemize your deductions, you can still donate to your favorite charity and cut your tax bill. For 2021, you can reduce your taxable income by up to $300 if you’re single and $600 if you’re married by donating to your favorite charity.
- Consider a donor-advised fund. With a 2021 standard deduction of $12,550 if you’re single and $25,100 if you’re married, you may not be able to claim your charitable donations as a tax deduction if the total of your annual donations is below these dollar amounts. As an alternative, consider donating multiple years-worth of contributions to a donor-advised fund if you have the available cash so you can exceed the standard deduction this year. Then make your cash contributions from the donor-advised fund to your favorite charities over the next three years.
- Increase daycare expenses. If you and/or your spouse work and have children in daycare, or have an adult that you care for, consider using a daycare so you and a spouse can both work. This is because there is a larger tax break in 2021. If you have one qualifying dependent, you can spend up to $8,000 in daycare expenses while cutting your tax bill by $4,000. If you have more than one qualifying dependent, you can spend up to $16,000 in daycare expenses while cutting your tax bill by $8,000. To receive the full tax credit, your adjusted gross income must not exceed $125,000.
- Contribute to an FSA or an HSA. Interested in paying medical and dental expenses with pre-tax dollars? Then read on…If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), you can contribute up to $2,750 in 2021. This allows you to pay for medical expenses in pre-tax dollars! Even better, unspent funds in an FSA can now be rolled from 2021 to 2022. And if you have a health savings account (HSA), you can contribute up to $3,600 if you’re single and $7,200 if you’re married. So, add up all your contributions to your FSA or HSA so far in 2021 and see how much more you can contribute between now and December 31.
Tax and financial planning is a year-round proposition. In fact, you can benefit personally from a continuous, 12-month rolling forecast, much like a business does.
What is a rolling forecast?
Rolling forecasts let you continuously plan with a constant number of periods 12 months into the future. For example, on January 1, you would plan what your financial picture looks like each month through January 1 of the following year. When February 1 rolls around, you would then drop the beginning month and add a forecast month at the end of the 12-month period. In this case, you add February of the next year into your 12-month forecast.
The month you add at the end of the 12 months uses the finished month as a starting point. You then make adjustments based on what you think might happen one year from now. For example, if you know you are going to get a raise at the end of the year, your next-year February forecast would reflect this change.
How to take advantage of a rolling forecast
By doing tax and financial planning in rolling 12-month increments, you may find yourself in position to cash in on tax- and money-saving opportunities within the next 12 months. Here are several strategies to consider:
- Plan your personal budget. Will you need to put a new roof on your house? How about getting a new vehicle? Do you need to start saving for your kids’ college education? A rolling 12-month forecast can help you plan for these expenses throughout the year.
- Plan your healthcare expenses. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) for healthcare or dependent care expenses, forecast the amount you should contribute for the calendar year. Although unused FSA amounts are normally forfeited at year-end, your employer may permit a 12-month grace period (up from 2½ months) for 2021. This means that you could potentially roll over your entire unused FSA balance from 2021 to 2022. Your forecast can help you see the impact of this change.
- Plan your contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA). When an HSA is paired with a high-deductible health insurance plan, you can take distributions to pay qualified healthcare expenses without owing any tax on the payouts. For 2021, the contribution limit is $3,600 for an individual and $7,200 for family coverage. In this case, you can forecast an increase in contributions and double-check to ensure you have enough money on hand to pay future bills.
- Plan your estimated tax payments. This is often significant for self-employed individuals and retirees with investment earnings. The quarterly due dates for paying federal and state tax liabilities are April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year (or the next business day if the deadline falls on a holiday or weekend). So, if your personal income is seeing a recovery from the pandemic, your rolling forecast will show this and allow you to plan for the estimated tax payments.
- Plan your retirement contributions. If you participate in your company’s 401(k) plan, you can defer up to $19,500 to your account in 2021 ($26,000 if you’re 50 or over). Contributions and earnings compound tax-deferred. As the year winds down, you might boost your deferral to save even more for retirement.
While initially setting up a rolling 12-month forecast can be a bit of a pain, once established, it is pretty easy to keep up-to-date as you are simply rolling forward last month into the future. A well-planned system can often be the first sign of future challenges or potential windfalls!
No one likes surprises from the IRS, but they do occasionally happen. Here are some examples of unpleasant tax situations you could find yourself in and what to do about them.
- An expected refund turns into a tax payment. Nothing may be more deflating than expecting to get a nice tax refund and instead being met with the reality that you actually owe the IRS more money.
What you can do: Run an estimated tax return and see if you may be in for a surprise. If so, adjust how much federal income tax is withheld from your paycheck for the balance of the year. Consult with your company’s human resources department to figure out how to make the necessary adjustments for the future. If you’re self-employed, examine if you need to increase your estimated tax payments due in January, April, June and September.
- Getting a letter from the IRS. Official tax forms such as W-2s and 1099s are mailed to both you and the IRS. If the figures on your income tax return do not match those in the hands of the IRS, you will get a letter from the IRS saying that you’re being audited. These audits are now done by mail and are commonly known as correspondence audits. The IRS assumes their figures are correct and will demand payment for the taxes you owe on the amount of income you omitted on your tax return.
What you can do: Assuming you already know you received all your 1099s and W-2s and confirmed their accuracy, verify the information in the IRS letter with your records. Believe it or not, the IRS sometimes makes mistakes! It is always best to ask for help in how to correspond and make your payments in a timely fashion, if they are justified.
- Getting a tax bill for an emergency retirement distribution. Due to the pandemic, you can withdraw money from retirement accounts in 2020 without getting a 10% early withdrawal penalty, but you’ll still have to pay income taxes on the amount withdrawn. If you don’t plan for this extra tax you will be surprised with an additional tax bill. And you may still get an underpayment penalty bill from the IRS because you did not withhold enough during the year. You may also still receive an early withdrawal penalty in error because the IRS is still scrambling to update their systems with all of this year’s tax relief changes.
What you can do: Set aside a percentage of your distribution for taxes. Your account administrator may withhold funds automatically for you when you request the withdrawal, so check your statements. Your review should be for both federal and any state tax obligations. If the withholding is not sufficient, consider sending in an estimated tax payment. And if you are charged a withdrawal penalty, ask for help to correspond with the IRS to get this charge reversed.
No one likes surprises when filing their taxes. With a little planning now, you can reduce the chance of having a surprise hit your tax return later.
Suppose you’re switching jobs if you were furloughed because of the pandemic or you’re simply searching for greener pastures. If you have a 401(k) from your soon-to-be former employer, you must decide what to do with your retirement account when you leave. Here are your four options:
- Leave the money in your previous employer’s pension plan.
- Roll over the money to your new employer’s pension plan.
- Roll over the money into an IRA.
- Take the money and run.
So, which of these options should you choose? Here are some things to consider as you think about what to do with your 401(k) account:
Keep the borrowing option open. If you want to borrow money from your employer-sponsored 401(k) account in the future, consider rolling the money into your new employer’s 401(k) plan. While you can borrow money out of your 401(k), that option is not allowed with an IRA. And if you leave your 401(k) at a former employer, they often will not let you borrow funds if you are not currently employed.
Take the money. This year may be the best time to make a withdrawal from a retirement account. In a normal year, when you make an early withdrawal from a retirement account, you owe income taxes on the amount of the distribution plus a 10% early withdrawal penalty. In 2020, this 10% penalty has been suspended. So while you’ll still pay taxes on the distribution, you may be able to avoid the early withdrawal penalty.
Invest the money. While it might be tempting to borrow or take an early distribution from your retirement account, you’ll also be depleting future earnings intended for your retirement years. So, consider whether you truly need the money now to pay for an emergency or if you’re ok leaving it in your 401(k).
Whatever you decide, it is always best to transfer the funds directly from one retirement account to another. This direct transfer eliminates the possibility of your fund movement being characterized as a distribution subject to income tax. If in doubt, ask your financial advisor for help.
Here are several new tax laws passed this year to consider as you start planning your 2020 tax obligation.
- Make up to $300 of charitable contributions. For the 2020 tax year only, an above-the-line deduction of $300 is available to all Americans who want to make a charitable contribution. You can donate to more than one charity, but the total amount of contributions must be $300 or less to be able to take an above-the-line deduction. While you will still need to itemize your deductions if you want a tax break for donations greater than $300, this above-the-line deduction for $300 or less helps alleviate the elimination of the charitable deduction for most taxpayers. (NOTE: $300 is the maximum above-the-line deduction per tax return, regardless of filing status.)
What you need to do. Donate $300 to your favorite charitable organization(s) by December 31, 2020. You must receive a written acknowledgment from the charitable organization(s) to which you made the $300 contribution before filing your 2020 tax return.
- Donate up to 100% of your income. The normal contribution limit of 60% of your income is suspended for 2020, allowing you to contribute as much of your income as you want to various charities.
What you need to do. While only a tax break for a few taxpayers, this initiative is meant to help struggling charities during the pandemic. If you are considering additional giving, you must make your charitable contributions by December 31, 2020. Remember to obtain written acknowledgment from each charity you made a donation to before filing your 2020 tax return.
- Use retirement savings to pay for birth or adoption expenses. Adding a child to your family is very expensive. To help with these costs, you can now cash out up to $5,000 per parent from your retirement accounts to pay for birth and/or adoption expenses. While the withdrawal won’t be hit with the 10% early withdrawal penalty, you’ll still have to pay income taxes.
What you need to do. Consult your financial advisor or benefits coordinator to find out how to withdraw the funds from your retirement accounts. Since this withdrawal will deplete your retirement savings, first consider whether you have other sources of cash to cover expenses.
- No age limit for contributing to IRAs. You can now contribute to an IRA regardless of your age as long as you have earned income. The old rule prevented you from contributing to an IRA past age 70½. The IRA contribution limit for 2020 is $6,000 if you’re under age 50 and $7,000 if you’re over age 50.
What you need to do. Consider getting a part-time job or doing some consulting work if you project that you won’t have earned income by the end of 2020. You can then use this earned income to fund your traditional or Roth IRA.
As part of your 2020 planning, now is the time to review funding your retirement accounts. By establishing your contribution goals at the beginning of each year, the financial impact of saving for your future should be more manageable. Here are annual contribution limits:
If you have not already done so, please consider:
- Reviewing and adjusting your periodic contributions to your retirement savings accounts to take full advantage of the tax advantaged limits
- Setting up new accounts for a spouse or dependent(s)
- Using this time to review the status of your retirement plan
- Reviewing contributions to other tax-advantaged plans including flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts