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2017 e-Pocket Tax Tables

Posted on February 1, 2017 at 9:43 am by Washington Financial Group

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Making & Keeping Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on January 24, 2017 at 11:13 am by Washington Financial Group

How will your money habits change in 2017? What decisions or behaviors might help your personal finances, your retirement prospects, or your net worth?

Each year presents a “clean slate,” so as one year ebbs into another, it is natural to think about what you might do (or do differently) in the 12 months ahead.

Financially speaking, what New Year’s resolutions might you want to make for 2017 – and what can you do to stick by such resolutions as 2017 unfolds?

Strive to maximize your 2017 retirement plan contributions. Contribution limits are set at $18,000 for 401(k)s, 403(b)s, most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan; if you will be 50 or older in 2017, you can make an additional catch-up contribution of up to $6,000 to those accounts. The 2017 limit on IRA contributions is $5,500, and $6,500 if you will be 50 or older at some point in the year. (If your household income is in the six-figure range, you may not be able to make a full 2017 contribution to a Roth IRA.)1

Under 40? Set up automatic contributions to retirement & investment accounts. There are two excellent reasons for doing this.

One, time is on your side – in fact, time may be the greatest ally you have when it comes to succeeding as a retirement saver and an investor. An early start means more years of compounding for your invested assets. It also gives you more time to recover from a market downturn – a 60-year-old may not have such a luxury, but a 35-year-old certainly does.

Two, scheduling regular account contributions makes saving for retirement a given in your life – month after month, year after year. You can contribute without having to think about it, and without having to wait months or years to amass a lump sum. Those two factors can become barriers for people who fail to automate their retirement saving and investing.

Can you review & reduce your debt? Look at your debts, one by one. You may be able to renegotiate the terms of loans and interest rates with lenders and credit card firms. See if you can cut down the number of debts you have – either attack the one with the highest interest rate first or the smallest balance first, then repeat with the remaining debts.

Rebalance your portfolio. If you have rebalanced recently, great. Many investors go years without rebalancing, which can be problematic if you own too much in a declining sector.

See if you can solidify some retirement variables. Accumulating assets for retirement is great; doing so with a planned retirement age and an estimated retirement budget is even better. The older you get, the less hazy those variables start to become. See if you can define the “when” of retirement this year – that may make the “how” and “how much” clearer as well.

The same applies to college planning. If your child has now reached his or her teens, see if you can get a ballpark figure on the cost of attending local and out-of-state colleges. Even better, inquire about their financial aid packages and any relevant scholarships and grants. If you have college savings built up, you can work with those numbers and determine how those savings need to grow in the next few years.

How do you keep New Year’s resolutions from faltering? Often, New Year’s resolutions fail because there is only an end in mind – a clear goal, but no concrete steps toward realizing it.

Mapping out the incremental steps can make the goal seem more achievable. So, can visualizing the goal – something as simple as a written or calendared daily or weekly reminder may reinforce your commitment to it. Two New York University psychology professors, Gabriele Oettingen and Peter Gollwitzer, have developed what they call the “WOOP” strategy for achievement. Its four steps: pinpoint a challenging objective that can be met; think about the best result that could come from trying to reach the goal; identify any obstacles in your way; and distinguish the “if-then” positive steps you could take that would help you realize it.2

Financial new year’s resolutions tend to boil down to a common goal – the goal of paying yourself first. That means saving and investing money for your future rather than paying your creditors or buying expensive consumer items bound to depreciate. Think ahead – five, ten, or even twenty or thirty years ahead – and make this the year to plan to accomplish money goals, both big and small.


 

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C001-S003-making-ira-and-401-k-contributions-in-2017.html [11/7/16]

2 – usatoday.com/story/money/2016/12/20/five-doable-strategies-financial-success-2017/95521556/ [12/20/16]

How Will the Fed’s Decision to Raise Interest Rates Impact the Markets?

Posted on December 16, 2016 at 10:31 am by Washington Financial Group

The Federal Reserve’s (Fed) policy-making arm, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), raised its target for the federal funds rate by 0.25% (25 basis points) yesterday as expected at the conclusion of its two-day meeting. By raising this key overnight borrowing rate, the Fed raised interest rates for the first time in 2016, and for just the second time since the Great Recession (the last time the Fed raised rates was December 2015). The Fed raised rates because it believes economic growth has picked up and should continue without the added support of very low interest rates. Although market participants largely expected this outcome, the big story in yesterday’s meeting is that the FOMC now expects to raise rates three times in 2017. At the September 2016 FOMC meeting, the Fed expected just two hikes in 2017, and the market and the Fed were aligned on that assessment before yesterday.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized, “Our decision to raise rates…[can] certainly be understood as a reflection of the confidence we have in the progress the economy has made and our judgment that that progress will continue and the economy has proven to be remarkably resilient. So it is a vote of confidence in the economy.”

Yesterday’s rate hike was well telegraphed, and the fed funds futures market had been pricing in a nearly 100% chance of a hike for some time. Though the potential for some bond market volatility in the short term exists, we don’t expect another broad-based bond sell-off (or a corresponding quick rise in rates) given that markets have had plenty of time to digest the possibility of a rate hike.

For the stock market, this decision is potentially positive as well. Stocks have historically done well during periods of rising but low interest rates, as higher rates tend to be accompanied by improving expectations for economic growth. We are encouraged by LPL Research’s recent review of 23 periods of rising rates, during which the S&P 500 rose 83% of the time.* Yet, rate hikes also reaffirm that we are in the mid-to-late stage of the economic cycle. In this part of the cycle, we can expect additional equity market volatility.

Now that a rate hike has occurred, many of us have questions about the pace of future rate hikes. The FOMC noted that it expects the pace of rate hikes to be gradual and that any future hikes will be data dependent and not on a preset course. Fed Chair Janet Yellen confirmed this strategy during her post-meeting press conference. And our view remains that the economy, labor market, and inflation will track to—or perhaps just above—the Fed’s forecasts for 2017, suggesting at least two 25 basis point hikes in 2017 are likely and quite possibly three.

Yesterday’s rate hike reaffirms that we are returning to a more typical economic environment, which is a welcome change from the environment we have lived in since the Great Recession. And although we have seen another change in Fed policy, what shouldn’t change is our commitment to the long-term investment goals that may ultimately be our blueprint for success.


 

 

 

*See Weekly Market Commentary: Can’t Stocks and Bond Yields Just Get Along? (December 12, 2016)

The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the branch of the Federal Reserve Board that determines the direction of monetary policy. The eleven-person FOMC is composed of the seven-member board of governors, and the five Federal Reserve Bank presidents. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York serves continuously, while the presidents of the other regional Federal Reserve Banks rotate their service in one-year terms.

This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

To the extent you are receiving investment advice from a separately registered independent investment advisor, please note that LPL Financial LLC is not an affiliate of and makes no representation with respect to such entity.

Not FDIC/NCUA Insured | Not Bank/Credit Union Guaranteed | May Lose Value | Not Guaranteed by any Government Agency | Not a Bank/Credit Union Deposit

Securities and Advisory services offered through LPL Financial LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor

Member FINRA/SIPC

Tracking #1-564272 (Exp. 12/17)

Characteristics of the Millionaire Next Door

Posted on November 1, 2016 at 12:35 pm by Washington Financial Group

Just how many millionaires does America have? By the latest estimation of Spectrem Group, a research firm studying affluent and high net worth investors, it has more than ever before. In 2015, the U.S. had 10.4 million households with assets of $1 million or greater, aside from their homes. That represents a 3% increase from 2014. Impressively, 1.2 million of those households were worth between $5 million and $25 million.1

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How did these people become rich? Did they come from money? In most cases, the answer is no. The 2016 edition of U.S. Trust’s Insights on Wealth and Worth survey shares characteristics of nearly 700 Americans with $3 million or more in investable assets. Seventy-seven percent of the survey respondents reported growing up in middle class or working class households. A slight majority (52%) said that the bulk of their wealth came from earned income; 32% credited investing.2

It appears most of these individuals benefited not from silver spoons in their mouths, but from taking a particular outlook on life and following sound financial principles. U.S. Trust asked these multi-millionaires to state the three values that were most emphasized to them by their parents. The top answers? Educational achievement, financial discipline, and the importance of working.2

Is education the first step toward wealth? There may be a strong correlation. Ninety percent of those polled in a recent BMO Private Bank millionaire survey said that they had earned college degrees. (The National Center for Education Statistics notes that in 2015, only 36% of Americans aged 25-29 were college graduates.)3

Interestingly, a lasting marriage may also help. Studies from Ohio State University and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) both conclude that married people end up economically better off by the time they retire than singles who have never married. In fact, NBER finds that, on average, married people will have ten times the assets of single people by the start of retirement. Divorce, on the other hand, often wrecks finances. The OSU study found that the average divorced person loses 77% of the wealth he or she had while married.3

Many of the multi-millionaires in the U.S. Trust study got off to an early start. On average, they began saving money at 14; held their first job at 15; and invested in equities by the time they were 25.2

Many of them have invested conventionally. Eighty-three percent of those polled by U.S. Trust credited buy-and-hold investment strategies for part of their wealth. Eighty-nine percent reported that equities and debt instruments had generated most of their portfolio gains.2

Many of these millionaires keep a close eye on taxes & risk. Fifty-five percent agreed with the statement that it is “more important to minimize the impact of taxes when making investment decisions than it is to pursue the highest possible returns regardless of the tax consequences.” In a similar vein, 60% said that lessening their risk exposure is important, even if they end up with less yield as a consequence.2

Are these people mostly entrepreneurs? No. The aforementioned Spectrem Group survey found that millionaires and multi-millionaires come from all kinds of career fields. The most commonly cited occupations? Manager (16%), professional (15%), and educator (13%).4 

Here is one last detail that is certainly worth noting. According to Spectrem Group, 78% of millionaires turn to financial professionals for help managing their investments.4


 

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 – cnbc.com/2016/03/07/record-number-of-millionaires-living-in-the-us.html [3/7/16]

2 – forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2016/05/23/the-6-most-important-wealth-building-lessons-from-multi-millionaires/ [5/23/16]

3 – businessinsider.com/ap-liz-weston-secrets-of-next-door-millionaires-2016-8 [8/22/16]

4 – cnbc.com/2016/05/05/are-you-a-millionaire-in-the-making.html [5/5/16]

Will Baby Boomers Ever Truly Retire?

Posted on October 18, 2016 at 12:53 pm by Washington Financial Group

Baby boomers realize that their retirements may not unfold like those of their parents. New survey data from The Pew Charitable Trusts highlights how perceptions of retirement have changed for this generation. A majority of boomers expect to work in their sixties and seventies, and that expectation may reflect their desire for engagement rather than any economic desperation.

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Instead of an “endless Saturday,” the future may include some 8-to-5. Pew asked heads of 7,000 U.S. households how they envisioned retirement and also added survey responses from focus groups in Phoenix, Orlando and Boston. Just 26% of respondents felt their retirements would be work-free. A slight majority (53%) told Pew they would probably work in some context in the next act of their lives, possibly at a different type of job; 21% said they had no intention to retire at all.1

Working longer may help boomers settle debts. A study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute in January (Debt of the Elderly and Near Elderly, 1992-2013) shows a 2.0% increase in the percentage of indebted households in the U.S. headed by breadwinners 55 and older from 2010-13 (reaching 65.4% at the end of that period). EBRI says median indebtedness for such households hit $47,900 in 2013 compared to $17,879 in 1992. It notes that larger mortgage balances have been a major factor in this.1

Debts aside, some people just like to work. Those presently on the job expect to stay in the workforce longer than their parents did. Additional EBRI data affirms this – last year, 33% of U.S. workers believed that they would leave their careers after age 65. That compares to just 11% in 1991.2

How many boomers will manage to work past 65? This is one of the major unknowns in retirement planning today. We are watching a reasonably healthy generation age into seniority, one that can access more knowledge about being healthy than ever before – yet obesity rates have climbed even as advances have been made in treating so many illnesses.

Working past 65 probably means easing into part-time work – and not every employer permits such transitions for full-time employees. The federal government now has a training program in which FTEs can make such a transition while training new workers and some larger companies do allow phased retirements, but this is not exactly the norm.3

Working less than a 40-hour week may also negatively impact a worker’s retirement account and employer-sponsored health care coverage. EBRI finds that only about a third of small firms let part-time employees stay on their health plans; even fewer than half of large employers (200 or more workers) do. The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies says part-time workers get to participate in 401(k) plans at only half of the companies that sponsor them.3

Boomers who work after 65 have to keep an eye on Medicare and Social Security. They will qualify for Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) at 65, but they should sign up for Part B (doctor visits) within the appropriate enrollment window and either a Part C plan or Medigap coverage plus Medicare Part D.3

Believe it or not, company size also influences when Medicare coverage starts for some 65-year-olds. Medicare will become the primary insurance for employees at firms with less than 20 workers when they turn 65, even if that company sponsors a health plan. At firms with 20 or more workers, the workplace health plan takes precedence over Medicare coverage, with 65-year-olds maintaining their eligibility for that employer-sponsored health coverage provided they work sufficient hours. Boomers who work for these larger employers may sign up for Part A and then enroll in Part B and optionally a Part C plan or Part D with Medigap coverage within eight months of retiring – they do not have to wait for the next open enrollment period.3

Prior to age 66, federal retirement benefits may be lessened if retirement income tops certain limits. In 2015, if you are 62-65 and receive Social Security, $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $2 that you earn above $15,720. If you receive Social Security and turn 66, this year, then $1 of your benefits will be withheld for every $3 that you earn above $41,880.4

Social Security income may also be taxed above the program’s “combined income” threshold. (“Combined income” is defined as adjusted gross income + non-taxable interest + 50% of Social Security benefits.) Single filers with combined incomes from $25,000-34,000 may have to pay federal income tax on up to 50% of their Social Security benefits in 2015, and that also applies to joint filers with combined incomes of $32,000-44,000. Single filers with combined incomes above $34,000 and joint filers whose combined incomes top $44,000 may have to pay federal income tax on up to 85% of their Social Security benefits.5

Are boomers really the retiring type? Given the amazing accomplishments and vitality of the baby boom generation, a wave of boomers working past 65 seems more like a probability than a possibility. Life is still exciting; there is so much more to be done.


 

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/only-one-quarter-of-americans-plan-to-retire-2015-02-26 [2/26/15]

2 – usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/brooks/2015/02/17/baby-boomer-retire/23168003/ [2/17/15]

3 – tinyurl.com/qdm5ddq [3/4/15]

4 – forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2014/10/22/social-security-benefits-rising-1-7-for-2015-top-tax-up-just-1-3/ [10/22/14]

5 – ssa.gov/planners/taxes.htm [3/4/15]

Updating Your Estate Plan

Posted on September 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm by Washington Financial Group

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An estate plan has three objectives. The first goal is to preserve your accumulated wealth. The second goal is to express who will receive your assets after your death. The third goal is to state who will make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you cannot.

Over time, your feelings about these objectives may change. You may want to name a new executor or health care agent. You may rethink how you want your wealth distributed.

This is why it is so vital to review your estate plan. Over ten or twenty years, your health, wealth, and outlook on life may change profoundly. The key is to recognize the life events that may call for an update.

Have you just married or divorced? If so, your estate plan will absolutely need revision. For that matter, some, or all, of your will may now be legally invalid. (Some state laws strike down existing wills when a person is married or divorced.) If your children or grandchildren marry or divorce, that also calls for an estate plan review.1

Has there been a loss or serious illness within your family? If so, your named executor or health care agent may have to be changed. If one family member has now become physically or financially dependent on you, that too may be an occasion for a second look at the plan.

Has your net worth risen or declined substantially since the plan was first implemented? If you have become much wealthier in the past five or ten years (or much less wealthy), that circumstance may have altered your vision of how you want your assets distributed at your death. Maybe you want to give more (or less) to charity or your heirs. A large inheritance can also prompt you to rethink your wealth protection and wealth transfer strategy.

Have you changed your mind about what your wealth should accomplish? Today, you may view your wealth differently than you did when you were younger. New purposes may have emerged for it – new roles that it can play. Following through on those thoughts may lead you to reconsider aspects of your estate plan.

Have your executors or trustees changed their mind about their roles? If they are no longer interested in shouldering those responsibilities, no longer alive, or no longer of sound mind or reputable character, it is revision time.

Have you retired, moved to another state, or bought or sold real estate? All of these events call for an estate plan check-up.

The first step in revising an estate plan is to update essential documents. Not just your will or your trust, but also your financial power of attorney and health care proxy. Review all the names: your executor; your trustee; your health care agent. Changes in your personal (and even your business) relationships may call for alterations to those choices.

The second step is to review your risk management. Does language in your will need revision? Does a trust created years ago need to be modified or replaced? Do new estate planning vehicles need to enter the picture in order to help you adequately transfer wealth, counter estate taxes, or endow charities?

What about your life insurance? Do beneficiary forms of life insurance policies need updating? Is corporate-owned life insurance coverage you once counted on now absent? Will policy payouts be sufficient enough to help your loved ones address financial issues after your death?

The third step is to make sure your assets are in sync with your plan. For example, if you have a revocable trust, have you transferred ownership of all the assets that are supposed to go into it? Have you acquired new assets that need to be “poured in?”

If you are married and it appears certain that your estate will be taxed, you may want to own some assets and have your spouse own others. Yes, the federal estate tax exemption is portable, so any unused estate tax and gift tax exemption is allowed to pass to a surviving spouse. At the state level, though, there are different rules. So if all assets are in your spouse’s name and your home state levies an estate tax, that scenario may mean higher estate taxes for your heirs than if those assets were alternately owned by either you or your spouse.2

Even if nothing major happens in your life, review your plan every five years or so. While your life may be uneventful over five years, tax law, the financial markets, and business climates may change significantly. Those kinds of shifts can impact your estate planning strategy.


 

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – 360financialliteracy.org/Topics/Retirement-Planning/Estate-Planning-Basics/How-often-do-I-need-to-review-my-estate-plan [8/4/16]
2 – time.com/money/4187332/estate-planning-checkup-items-review/ [1/20/16]

Long-Term Investment Truths

Posted on September 13, 2016 at 8:16 am by Washington Financial Group

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You learn lessons as you invest in pursuit of long-run goals. Some of these lessons are conveyed and reinforced when you begin saving for retirement, and others you glean along the way.

First & foremost, you learn to shut out much of the “noise.” News outlets take the temperature of global markets five days a week (and even on the weekends), and fundamental indicators serve as barometers of the economy each month. The longer you invest, the more you learn to ride through the turbulence caused by all the breaking news alerts and short-term statistical variations. While the day trader sells or buys in reaction to immediate economic or market news, the buy-and-hold investor waits for selloffs, corrections and bear markets to pass.

You learn how much volatility you can stomach. Volatility (also known as market risk) is measured in shorthand as the standard deviation for the S&P 500. Across 1926-2014, the yearly total return for the S&P averaged 10.2%. If you want to be very casual about it, you could simply say that stocks go up about 10% a year – but that discounts some pronounced volatility. The S&P had a standard deviation of 20.2 from its mean total return in this time frame, which means that if you add or subtract 20.2 from 10.2, you get the range of the index’s yearly total return that could be expected 67% of the time. So in any given year from 1926-2014, there was a 67% chance that the yearly total return of the S&P might vary from +30.4% to -10.0%. Some investors dislike putting up with that kind of volatility, others more or less embrace it.1

You learn why liquidity matters. The older you get, the more you appreciate being able to quickly access your money. A family emergency might require you to tap into your investment accounts. An early retirement might prompt you to withdraw from retirement funds sooner than you anticipate. If you have a fair amount of your savings in illiquid investments, you have a problem – those dollars are “locked up” and you cannot access those assets without paying penalties. In a similar vein, there are some investments that are harder to sell than others.

Should you misgauge your need for liquidity, you can end up selling at the wrong time as a consequence. It hurts to let go of an investment when the expected gain is high and the Price-to-Earnings ratio is low.

You learn the merits of rebalancing your portfolio. To the neophyte investor, rebalancing when the market is hot may seem illogical. If your portfolio is disproportionately weighted in equities, is that a problem? It could be.

Across a sustained bull market, it is common to see your level of risk rise parallel to your return. When equities return more than other asset classes, they end up representing an increasingly large percentage of your portfolio’s total assets. Correspondingly, your cash allocation shrinks as well.

The closer you get to retirement, the less risk you will likely want to assume. Even if you are strongly committed to growth investing, approaching retirement while taking on more risk than you feel comfortable with is problematic, as is approaching retirement with an inadequate cash position. Rebalancing a portfolio restores the original asset allocation, realigning it with your long-term risk tolerance and investment strategy. It may seem counterproductive to sell “winners” and buy “losers” as an effect of rebalancing, but as you do so, remember that you are also saying goodbye to some assets that may have peaked while saying hello to others that you may be buying at the right time.

You learn not to get too attached to certain types of investments. Sometimes an investor will succumb to familiarity bias, which is the rejection of diversification for familiar investments. Why does he or she have 13% of the portfolio invested in just two Dow components? The investor just likes what those firms stand for, or has worked for them. The inherent problem is that the performance of those companies exerts a measurable influence on the overall portfolio performance.

Sometimes you see people invest heavily in sectors that include their own industry or career field. An investor works for an oil company, so he or she gets heavily into the energy sector. When energy companies go through a rough patch, that investor’s portfolio may be in for a rough ride. Correspondingly, that investor has less capacity to tolerate stock market risk than a faculty surgeon at a university hospital, a federal prosecutor, or someone else whose career field or industry will be less buffeted by the winds of economic change.

You learn to be patient. Even if you prefer a tactical asset allocation strategy over the standard buy-and-hold approach, time teaches you how quickly the markets rebound from downturns and why you should stay invested even through systemic shocks. The pursuit of your long-term financial objectives should not falter – your future and your quality of life may depend on realizing them.


 

 

 

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification and Asset Allocation do not protect against market risk.

Standard deviation is a historical measure of returns relative to the average annual return. A higher number indicates higher overall volatility.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations:

1 – fc.standardandpoors.com/sites/client/generic/axa/axa4/Article.vm?topic=5991&siteContent=8088 [6/4/15]

What Will the Election Do to the Market?

Posted on September 7, 2016 at 7:30 am by Washington Financial Group

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Wall Street has had a rather calm summer. How about fall? Will volatility increase before and after Election Day?

So far, the market is performing roughly in line with historical patterns. In 19 of the prior 22 presidential election years, the S&P 500 advanced from June through October. The median gain for the index during that 5-month period: 4.1%.¹

During those 22 election years, the S&P averaged a gain of 1.5% in June, 1.9% in July, and 3.0% in August. This year, the S&P rose 0.1% in June and rallied 3.6% in July; it was down -0.12% in August. The slight loss in August broke a streak of five straight monthly advances.²

In past election years, July & August have been the most volatile months. The yearly standard deviation for the S&P averaged 18.6% during the past 22 election years, but volatility averaged 28.8% in July and 30.3% in August of those 22 years. (These July and August numbers, however, are a bit distorted as a result of the wild market turbulence of 1932. In that year, the S&P gained 55.7%.)¹

Whoever wins the election, the status quo will likely remain on Capitol Hill. As a Morgan Stanley report commented in July, “Current evidence suggests the U.S. elections in November won’t yield outcomes that substantially change market fundamentals.” Morgan Stanley analysts foresee Clinton winning the election and Republicans retaining their majority in the House of Representatives. In that scenario, Clinton wins, but her administration has difficulty enacting any of its planned reforms.³

If the Republicans lose control of the House or Trump wins, Wall Street could see some pronounced short-term volatility, which is also an outcome that could possibly affect market fundamentals. Even if one candidate or the other wins by a landslide, their most ambitious proposals may never get off the ground. As Morgan Stanley asserts, “attempts by Clinton or Trump to exercise transformative power domestically will be stunted” by a lack of support in Congress.³

Should stocks roller coaster before or after Election Day, keep calm. Any disturbance may be short-term, and your investing and retirement saving effort is decidedly long-term. The election is a big event, but earnings, central bank monetary policy, and macroeconomic factors may have a much bigger impact on the markets this fall.


 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – cnbc.com/2016/06/03/history-shows-stocks-rally-during-presidential-elections.html [6/3/16]
2 – money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/ [8/25/16]
3 – money.cnn.com/2016/07/13/investing/donald-trump-stock-market/ [7/13/16]

The Trump & Clinton Tax Plans

Posted on August 30, 2016 at 8:54 am by Washington Financial Group

Seemingly every presidential candidate offers a plan for tax reform. You can add Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to that long list. Here is a look at their plans, and the key reforms to federal tax law that might result if they were enacted.

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Donald Trump revised his tax plan this summer. The latest plan put forth by Trump and his advisors contains the key features of the one introduced last year.

Under Trump’s plan, the standard deduction would rise. It would rise from the current level of $6,300 to $25,000 for single filers. Joint filers could claim a $50,000 standard deduction. (The GOP plan proposes respective standard deductions of $12,000 and $24,000.) Instead of seven federal income tax rates, there would just be three – 12%, 25%, and 33%. (In his original tax reform blueprint, the rates were 10%, 20%, and 25%.)1

The estate tax would vanish entirely under Trump’s plan. Taxes on capital gains and dividends would top out at 20%.2,3

Trump wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. The new lower rate would apply to partnerships, LLCs, and S corps as well as C corps. (With a proposed corporate tax ceiling of 15% and a proposed individual tax ceiling of 33%, some economists have wondered if a Trump presidency might generate a wave of individuals incorporating themselves.) Full expensing would also be allowed for business investments under Trump’s plan.1

Notably, Trump’s reforms would do away with the deferral of taxes on foreign profits. As it stands now, corporate taxes on foreign profits are deferred until overseas affiliates repatriate them. It can take years for those inbound dividends to arrive. The Trump plan would tax domestic and foreign profits on the same current-year basis.1

Trump has also publicly spoken of greater tax relief for families raising children. This would likely not be an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Credit, but something new – either a deduction, a credit, or an exclusion. Given the high standard deductions that would be offered if Trump’s tax plan becomes law, higher-income households might be most interested in such an expanded child care deduction. If the Trump plan applies a child care deduction to payroll taxes rather than income taxes, many lower-income households could, theoretically, claim it. Less payroll tax revenue would mean less revenue for some key government programs.1

Hillary Clinton’s tax plan would lower some taxes & raise others. As the non-partisan Tax Policy Center has noted, only around 5% of Americans would see any real change to their taxes under the Clinton reforms – but the richest Americans would pay higher income taxes under her plan. Clinton’s corporate tax reforms would encourage firms to do more business in America, while her estate tax reforms could prompt changes in wealth transfer planning for some families.2,3

High-earning households could see marginal rates rise. Under Clinton’s plan, taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes greater than $5 million would pay a 4% surtax, effectively setting their marginal tax rate at 43.6%. Anyone earning more than $1 million would face an effective tax rate of 30%. Investors would have to buy and hold for longer intervals to take advantage of long-term capital gains tax rates. The current long-term rate of 20% would only apply if an investor owned an investment for six years; in preceding years, it would be incrementally higher.2,3,4

The federal estate tax would also rise to 45% through Clinton’s reforms. The current $5.45 million individual exemption would be reduced to $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples).2

Clinton’s plan would adjust corporate taxation. U.S. firms would find it harder to make tax inversions, whereby they merge with an overseas competitor and move their headquarters to another country to exploit that nation’s lower corporate tax rate. Earnings stripping – in which U.S. affiliates of multinational corporations “strip” profits from their stateside taxable income and send them to overseas parent companies in pursuit of tax savings – would cease. Companies would also face limits on deducting interest payments on their debt. While she has talked of a tax on the biggest financial institutions, Clinton has also expressed a desire to make the process of estimating, filing, and paying taxes less involved for small business owners.2,3

Like Trump, Clinton wants tax relief for families. She wants a new kind of tax credit for child care; the details have yet to emerge at this writing.2

These plans have one destination. That is Congress, and there is no telling how many or how few of these reforms may become law if Clinton or Trump are elected.


 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 – taxanalysts.org/tax-analysts-blog/trump-s-tax-plan-version-20/2016/08/12/194511 [8/12/16]

2 – nytimes.com/2016/08/13/upshot/how-hillary-clinton-and-donald-trump-differ-on-taxes.html [8/13/16]

3 – cbsnews.com/news/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-taxes-presidential-campaign-2016/ [8/3/16]

4 – fool.com/investing/2016/06/19/how-would-hillary-clinton-change-your-taxes.aspx [6/19/16]

When Is Social Security Income Taxable?

Posted on August 24, 2016 at 10:18 am by Washington Financial Group

Your Social Security income could be taxed. That may seem unfair, or unfathomable. Regardless of how you feel about it, it is a possibility.

Seniors have had to contend with this possibility since 1984. Social Security benefits became taxable above certain yearly income thresholds in that year. Frustratingly for retirees, these income thresholds have been left at the same levels for 32 years.1

Those frozen income limits have exposed many more people to the tax over time. In 1984, just 8% of Social Security recipients had total incomes high enough to trigger the tax. In contrast, the Social Security Administration estimates that 52% of households receiving benefits in 2015 had to claim some of those benefits as taxable income.1

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Only part of your Social Security income may be taxable, not all of it. Two factors come into play here: your filing status and your combined income.

Social Security defines your combined income as the sum of your adjusted gross income, any non-taxable interest earned, and 50% of your Social Security benefit income. (Your combined income is actually a form of modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI.)2

Single filers with a combined income from $25,000-$34,000 and joint filers with combined incomes from $32,000-$44,000 may have up to 50% of their Social Security benefits taxed.2

Single filers whose combined income tops $34,000 and joint filers with combined incomes above $44,000 may see up to 85% of their Social Security benefits taxed.2

What if you are married and file separately? No income threshold applies. Your benefits will likely be taxed no matter how much you earn or how much Social Security you receive.2

You may be able to estimate these taxes in advance. You can use an online calculator (a Google search will lead you to a few such tools), or the worksheet in IRS Publication 915.2

You can even have these taxes withheld from your Social Security income. You can choose either 7%, 10%, 15%, or 25% withholding per payment. Another alternative is to make estimated tax payments per quarter, like a business owner does.2

Did you know that 13 states also tax Social Security payments? North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Vermont use the exact same formula as the federal government to calculate the degree to which your Social Security benefits may be taxable. Nine other states use more lenient formulas: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Utah.2

What can you do if it appears your benefits will be taxed? You could explore a few options to try and lessen or avoid the tax hit, but keep in mind that if your combined income is far greater than the $34,000 single filer and $44,000 joint filer thresholds, your chances of averting tax on Social Security income are slim. If your combined income is reasonably near the respective upper threshold, though, some moves might help.

If you have a number of income-generating investments, you could opt to try and revise your portfolio, so that less income and tax-exempt interest are produced annually.

A charitable IRA gift may be a good idea. You can make one if you are 70½ or older in the year of the donation. You can endow a qualified charity with as much as $100,000 in a single year this way. The amount of the gift may be used to fully or partly satisfy your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD), and the amount will not be counted in your adjusted gross income.3

You could withdraw more retirement income from Roth accounts. Distributions from Roth IRAs and Roth workplace retirement plan accounts are tax-exempt as long as you are age 59½ or older and have held the account for at least five tax years.4

Will the income limits linked to taxation of Social Security benefits ever be raised? Retirees can only hope so, but with more baby boomers becoming eligible for Social Security, the IRS and the Treasury stand to receive greater tax revenue with the current limits in place.


  

 

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 – ssa.gov/policy/docs/issuepapers/ip2015-02.html [12/15]

2 – fool.com/retirement/general/2016/04/30/is-social-security-taxable.aspx [4/30/16]

3 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T051-C001-S003-how-to-limit-taxes-on-social-security-benefits.html [7/16]

4 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-on-designated-roth-accounts [1/26/16]