Financial Planning Archives | Integrated Retirement Advisors

7 Tips to Resolve Financial Issues Between Couples

No matter how long you have been together, financial issues can wreak havoc on a committed relationship. According to Investopedia, some of the top money issues between partners include money/personality style clashes, debt, personal spending, children, and extended family differences.

When couples don’t agree about spending and saving habits, it can lead to stress, arguments and resentment. Here are seven ways you can address financial issues positively, preferably before they arise.

  1. Understand Your Money Styles

Think of some extreme examples of money styles in your circle. Like your friend, the foodie, who won’t touch a bottle of wine that costs less than $75. Your sister who constantly surfs Amazon with boxes showing up at the doorstep day and night. Your mom who washes aluminum foil, folds and reuses it. And your stepdad who always insists on buying everything for the grandkids, fixing his own 30-year-old car, and keeping his handwritten savings ledger to the penny.

Everyone has a money style, and it’s helpful to talk about it without any name-calling or labeling involved. Understanding your partner’s spending habits often involves a deep-dive into money fears, scarcity memories and childhood traumas. Empathizing with your partner while freeing yourselves from negative patterns can be done if you work together. The most important thing is to come up with a spending plan that works for both of you, and hold yourselves accountable to work the plan together.

It’s also very important to check any power plays that may be happening at the conscious or subconscious level. The biggest money-earner shouldn’t think they have the largest say or the only right to dictate how the money gets spent; a marriage should be equally balanced. The partner who earns less and the partner who earns more both need to cooperate as a team to create a spending plan that’s fair for both of them.

So, check your ego at the door. It’s true that money is power, and few things build resentment faster than being made to feel inferior. The person earning more should take great care to act with empathy while taking care of their own needs reasonably rather than selfishly.

  1. Decide How to Divvy Up Bills…and Save for Future Goals

There are several ways to pay the bills. You can both put all your earnings in a joint account and pay everything out of that. You can divide bills based on a percentage of your earnings. Or you can split bills down the middle and keep the rest of your own earnings for yourselves.

Once you have decided how the bills get paid, you need to devise a plan for saving for your long-term goals—like purchasing a home or securing your retirement. Remember that you need to work closely together as life changes arise—such as one of you losing a job, cutting back on hours to care for a parent, or one of you becoming disabled. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that contingency plans are always advisable. Putting together a financial plan for your future is a great first step toward a financially healthy future.

  1. Create Personal Spending Allowances…That Stay Personal

Having some personal money that’s designated just for you each month can really help how you feel about your relationship. It can also help avoid relationship-ruining behavior like “financial infidelity,” when one spouse hides money or purchases from the other. The personal spending allowance gives each partner the chance to spend their money however they wish, no questions asked—including gifts to each other, a new pair of shoes, or coffee every day on the way to the office. In most cases, the personal monthly spending allowance amount should be equal for both of you so that resentments can’t arise.

  1. Compromise on Spending for Children and Family Members

On average, it costs $233,610 to raise a child to age 18, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That doesn’t include expenses for grown children, helping them with the purchase of cars or homes, or funding other (expensive) needs that might arise for them.

Furthermore, spending related to the extended family on both sides can also be tricky, especially as your expectations can be very different from your spouse’s when it comes to helping family members out or getting involved with costly family vacations or activities.

Addressing these discretionary expenses and agreeing on them before to committing to children or other family members is critical.

  1. Face and Eliminate Undesirable Debt

Some debt may be necessary or even advisable depending on your tax situation, for instance, some people need or want a mortgage interest write-off. Other debt should be paid off following a plan that you both agree upon—be it credit card, car loan or student loan debt.

In most states, debts brought into a marriage stay with the person who incurred them and are not extended to a spouse, but debts incurred together after marriage are owed by both spouses. Debts incurred individually married are still owed by the individual, with the exception of child care, housing, and food, which are all considered joint debt no matter what.

There are nine states where all debts (and property) are shared after marriage regardless of individual or joint account status. These states include Arizona, California, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin. In these states you are not liable for most of your spouse’s debt that was incurred before marriage, but any debt incurred after the wedding is automatically shared—even when applied for individually.

Both partners should have an honest discussion about curtailing bad spending or financial habits. Couples should also employ a strategy to pay off debt—such as paying off the higher-interest debt first or paying off the smallest loans first (the snowball method).

  1. Set a Budget You Can Both Live With

One of the best ways to keep in sync with your partner when it comes to finances is to have a budget as part of your overall financial plan. The budget includes your household bills, your personal spending allowance, your debt-paying strategy, and your monthly budget for long-term goals like retirement.

  1. Communicate Honestly

Lack of communication is the source of many marital issues, and talking regularly, honestly, and without judgment is where the hard work of marriage comes in. Some couples may even find it helpful to actually schedule a time once a month or once a quarter to revisit short- and long-term goals with each other, and meet at least once a year to discuss objectives with their financial advisor.

Don’t talk about things when you’re tired, angry or have had too much to drink—organize and adhere to clearheaded discussions for success. Honest communication can help you both face and conquer the financial challenges of life, changing course and adjusting along the way.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to review your finances together as a couple, call us! You can reach Nahum Daniels at Integrated Retirement Advisors at (203) 322-9122.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/09/marriage-killing-money-issues.asp

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/01/13/cost-raising-child

https://www.kiplinger.com/personal-finance/602036/a-marriage-starter-plan-for-finances-even-if-youre-late-to-the-party

https://www.marriage.com/advice/finance/how-to-overcome-financial-conflict/#:~:text=Married%20couples%20fighting%20over%20financial,couples%20fail%20to%20do%20so.

Your Annual Financial To-Do List

Things you can do for your future as the year unfolds.

What financial, business, or life priorities do you need to address for the coming year? Now is an excellent time to think about the investing, saving, or budgeting methods you could employ toward specific objectives, from building your retirement fund to managing your taxes. You have plenty of choices. Here are a few ideas to consider:

 

Can you contribute more to your retirement plans this year? In 2021, the contribution limit for a Roth or traditional individual retirement account (IRA) is expected to remain at $6,000 ($7,000 for those making “catch-up” contributions). Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) may affect how much you can put into a Roth IRA. With a traditional IRA, you can contribute if you (or your spouse if filing jointly) have taxable compensation, but income limits are one factor in determining whether the contribution is tax-deductible.

Remember, withdrawals from traditional IRAs are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty starting again in 2021 because the CARES Act ends December 31, 2020. Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement and occur after age 59½ to qualify for tax-exempt and penalty-free withdrawal. Tax-free and penalty-free withdrawals from Roth IRAs can also be taken under certain other circumstances, such as a result of the owner’s death.

Keep in mind, this article is for informational purposes only, and not a replacement for real-life advice. Also, tax rules are constantly changing, and there is no guarantee that the tax landscape will remain the same in years ahead.

 

Make a charitable gift. You can claim the deduction on your tax return, provided you follow the Internal Review Service (I.R.S.) guidelines and itemize your deductions with Schedule A. The paper trail is important here. If you give cash, you should consider documenting it. Some contributions can be demonstrated by a bank record, payroll deduction record, credit card statement, or written communication from the charity with the date and amount. Incidentally, the I.R.S. does not equate a pledge with a donation. If you pledge $2,000 to a charity this year but only end up gifting $500, you can only deduct $500.  You must write the check or make the gift using a credit card by the end of December.

These are hypothetical examples and are not a replacement for real-life advice. Make certain to consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional before modifying your record-keeping approach or your strategy for making charitable gifts.

 

See if you can take a home office deduction for your small business. If you are a small-business owner, you may want to investigate this. You may be able to write off expenses linked to the portion of your home used to conduct your business. Using your home office as a business expense involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. Before moving forward, consider working with a professional who is familiar with home-based businesses.

  

Open an HSA. A Health Savings Account (HSA) works a bit like your workplace retirement account. There are also some HSA rules and limitations to consider. You are limited to a $3,600 contribution for 2021 if you are single; $7,200 if you have a spouse or family. Those limits jump by a $1,000 “catch-up” limit for each person in the household over age 55.

If you spend your HSA funds for non-medical expenses before age 65, you may be required to pay ordinary income tax as well as a 20% penalty. After age 65, you may be required to pay ordinary income taxes on HSA funds used for nonmedical expenses. HSA contributions are exempt from federal income tax; however, they are not exempt from state taxes in certain states.

 

Review your withholding status. Should it be adjusted due to any of the following factors?

* You tend to pay the federal or state government at the end of each year.

* You tend to get a federal tax refund each year.

* You recently married or divorced.

* You have a new job, and your earnings have been adjusted.

These are general guidelines and are not a replacement for real-life advice. Make certain to consult your tax, human resources, or accounting professional before modifying your withholding status.

 

Did you get married in 2020? If so, it may be an excellent time to consider reviewing the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts and other assets. The same goes for your insurance coverage. If you are preparing to have a new last name in 2021, you may want to get a new Social Security card. Additionally, retirement accounts may need to be revised or adjusted?

 

Consider the tax impact of any upcoming transactions. Are you planning to sell any real estate this year? Are you starting a business? Might any commissions or bonuses come your way in 2021? Do you anticipate selling an investment that is held outside of a tax-deferred account?

 

If you are retired and in your 70s, remember your RMDs. In other words, Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from retirement accounts. Under the SECURE ACT, in most circumstances, once you reach age 72, you must begin taking RMDs from most types of these accounts.

 

Vow to focus on your overall health and practice sound financial habits in 2021. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from professionals who understand your individual situation. Give us a call if you would like to discuss. You can reach Integrated Retirement Advisors in Stamford, Connecticut at (203) 322-9122.

 

Sources:

https://thefinancebuff.com/401k-403b-ira-contribution-limits.html

https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/iras/articles/what-is-the-secure-act

https://www.irs.gov/publications/p590b

https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumers/2020/11/22/these-tax-laws-charitable-donations-were-changed-help-pandemic/6295115002/

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/tax/09/self-employed-tax-deductions.asp

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/082914/rules-having-health-savings-account-hsa.asp#:~:text=You%20can%20only%20open%20and,as%20a%20catch%2Dup%20contribution.

https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2020/11/29/10-tax-tips-to-take-by-year-end/

 

2021 Limits for IRAs, 401(k)s and More

Numbers to know for the new year.

On October 26, the Treasury Department released the 2021 adjusted figures for retirement account savings. Although these adjustments won’t bring any major changes, there are some minor elements to note.

 

401(k)s. The salary deferral amount for 401(k)s remains the same at $19,500, while the catch-up amount of $6,500 also remains unchanged.

However, the overall limit for these plans will increase from $57,000 to $58,000 in 2021. This limit applies if your employer allows after-tax contributions to your 401(k). It’s an overall cap, including your $19,500 (pretax or Roth in any combination) salary deferrals plus any employer contributions (but not catch-up contributions).

 

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA). The limit on annual contributions remains at $6,000 for 2021, and the catch-up contribution limit is also unchanged at $1,000. This total includes traditional IRA (pre-tax) and Roth IRA accounts or a combination.

 

Deductible IRA Contributions. Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either the taxpayer or his or her spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income.

For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $66,000 to $76,000, up from $65,000 to $75,000. For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $105,000 to $125,000, up from $104,000 to $124,000.

 

Roth IRAs. Roth IRA account holders will experience some slightly beneficial changes. In 2021, the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) phase-out range will be $198,000 to $208,000 for couples filing jointly. This will be an increase from the 2020 range of $196,000 to $206,000. For those who file as single or as head of household, the income phase-out range has also increased. The new range for 2021 will be $125,000 to $140,000, up from the current range of $124,000 to $139,000.

 

QLACs. The dollar limit on the amount of your IRA or 401(k) you can invest in a qualified longevity annuity contract is still $135,000 for 2021.

 

Although these modest increases won’t impact many, it’s natural to have questions anytime the financial landscape changes. If you’re curious about any of the above, please call Nahum Daniels at Integrated Retirement Advisors at (203) 322-9122.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/income-ranges-for-determining-ira-eligibility-change-for-2021

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2020/10/26/irs-announces-2021-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more/?sh=5d6a21f215f8

 

10 Reasons You Need a Financial Plan

October is Financial Planning Month which serves as a useful, annual checkpoint to make sure you are on track to meet your financial goals. A written, up-to-date financial plan encompasses not only investments, but risk management solutions, tax reduction strategies and estate planning.

Here are 10 reasons you need a financial plan:

  1. To have one comprehensive document to address your finances.

Financial planning provides one summary location for everything related to your family’s financial life. From your budget, to your savings, to your investments, to your retirement, a financial plan helps you consider your finances in a holistic manner, and gives you one central place to see everything at a glance.

  1. To ensure your investments are in line with your current short- and long-term goals.

A financial plan includes short-term goals like buying a house and long-term goals like saving for retirement, as well as everything in between. As your goals change through time, your financial plan is a living document that should get updated with your advisor on at least an annual basis.

  1. To ensure you’re not spending too much money each month—to have adequate cash flow.

A realistic budget is very important to keeping you on track with your goals. This doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of little luxuries—it just means that those are already built into in the plan so you don’t overspend.

  1. To ensure you’re saving enough money, in the right places, including adequate reserves.

As many of us have learned during the pandemic, having adequate emergency funds is important. That amount varies from person to person, and your advisor can help you define the amount you have saved for emergencies, and help you find the right strategies to use so that your savings are liquid and accessible when you need funds.

  1. To ensure your retirement is on track.

Making sure your retirement funds are invested for best performance while matching your risk tolerance and time horizon to retirement is one part of making sure your retirement is on track. Another part is making decisions about your desired retirement lifestyle and the corresponding monthly budget you will need later. These retirement lifestyle decisions can change throughout your working career, but should get more solid as you get from five to 10 years away from retiring.

  1. To put and keep adequate protection in place against risks—like health, disability, accidental death and liability.

Providing for your family’s financial security is an important part of the financial planning process, as is assessing other risks you may face such as liability from lawsuits. Having the proper insurance coverage in place can protect your whole family. And today’s policy designs mean you may be able to cover multiple risks with fewer policies—and may even be able to enjoy “living benefits” while providing death benefit protection for your family members.

  1. To address and have a plan in place for your estate.

Everyone needs an estate plan. A will allows you to spell out your final wishes, such as listing recipients of each of your possessions and designating minor children’s guardians. A trust can bypass probate court, saving money and keeping things private while easily transferring wealth. Health care directives and powers of attorney are critical should you become incapacitated. When creating your estate plan, your ideal team should include an estate attorney, your financial advisor and your tax professional.

  1. To help you manage changes.

A financial plan includes all its various parts and pieces so that you can quickly see what needs updating when life changes happen. Remember, the beneficiaries you list on your individual insurance policies and your retirement accounts (like 401(k)s) take precedence over what is in your estate planning documents. Too many people have had their ex-spouses receive money because they forgot to update all documents properly.

  1. To help you mitigate taxes.

It’s truly not how much you have; it’s how much you get to keep. Tax reduction strategies can help you annually, but your advisor can also help you look further ahead to reduce taxes later, such as during retirement. Remember, all the money you have saved in accounts like 401(k)s are pre-tax dollars—you will have to pay ordinary income tax on that money when you withdraw it, which you have to do starting at age 72. Making a plan for taxation can help.

  1. To help enhance your peace of mind.

Reducing stress and sleeping more soundly may be the best reason of all to have a financial plan in place.

 

If you would like to create, update or review your financial plan, please call Nahum Daniels at Integrated Retirement Advisors at (203) 322-9122.

 

Pros and Cons of Borrowing from your 401k Plan account

 

The advisability of taking a loan from a 401k plan account is always a facts-and-circumstances determination. And like any tax-related decision that affects retirement success, it can get very complicated. So my first advice to anyone seriously contemplating this move is to get professional help from an accountant and/or financial advisor.  Questions like these make it a good idea to have one or the other to turn to.

 

  1. Perceived financial urgency is the reason most people resort to their pre-tax 401k savings. Needing money for an emergency or an economic opportunity seen as time-sensitive, with no other resources conveniently available, is the driving motivation for most people.  It’s almost always better to use after-tax savings for such contingencies, but if there aren’t enough—or any—the situation leaves little choice. The first proposition to test is whether the perception of urgency matches reality.

 

  1. The biggest advantages of using the 401k account include relative ease of access ( if the plan’s provisions even permit loans usually up to half the vested balance with a max of $50,000, it’s not a given although most do) and interest rates of prime plus one (tough to beat at a bank or on a credit card balance!). Borrowers can also find solace in the idea that they are paying interest to themselves.

 

  1. The reality of the loan’s full potential effects are more complicated. The regulatory five-year payback terms have to be honored; if the loan defaults income taxes become payable on the unpaid balance and if the borrower is under 59-1/2 at the time of default a 10% premature withdrawal penalty can take an additional bite. If you change employer or get laid off during the five-year payback, the loan balance becomes fully payable within 60 days.  And even when the terms of the payback are fully honored, you’re using newly-earned after-tax dollars to repay a loan of pre-tax money that you will be taxed on AGAIN when you withdraw the funds in retirement. In other words, you’re turning tax-deductible dollars into doubly-taxed dollars (surprise!) so you should have a really compelling reason to do it.  Not to say they don’t sometimes come into play.

 

  1. Savers who withdraw money from their 401k accounts are also losing exposure to the long-term return potential of stocks and bonds. Depending on the investor’s time horizon, that could impose a tangible opportunity cost, especially on younger plan participants who can theoretically better tolerate market volatility.  The long-term impact of reduced returns can have a devastating impact on accumulation objectives. As they say, investing success isn’t based on “timing” the market but “time in” the market.  Missing exposure to a bull-market phase of a full market cycle can leave a long-lasting deficit the full effects of which won’t be apparent until actual retirement.

 

  1. Tax rates are always changing and are very unpredictable. Logically, you want to contribute to your employer plan when tax rates are high, to legally avoid them, and withdraw the money you’ve accumulated when tax rates are low, to end up with more spendable income. The current tax regime has lowered tax rates for most Americans.  Who knows what the rates will be decades in future.  The best general advice may be not to rock the boat unless the urgency you perceive is very real and you have no alternative.

Is Everyone in Westchester Rich? Westchester Magazine

 

Local Certified Financial Planner practitioner Nahum Daniels echoes the sentiment: “The statistics tell the story: A large number of people living in Westchester earn relatively high incomes and enjoy higher net worths, but not everyone would be considered ‘rich.’ You can still live well in Westchester without being rich. Can you do it on a budget? You can.”

Read the full story here: http://www.westchestermagazine.com/Westchester-Magazine/January-2019/Is-Everyone-in-Westchester-Rich/ 

Going Where the Research Leads

 

By Nahum Daniels, CFP®, RICP®

 

As a client-facing financial advisor (FA), I view myself as an intermediary whose job it is to communicate in the form of sound, actionable advice the latest findings in academic research and retirement theory unearthed at the institutes and centers of retirement studies. As for my pedigree, I’m a product of The American College of Financial Planning located in Bryn Mar, PA, where I earned its Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) designation. Amidst the hundreds of thousands of FA’s in the USA today, there are only 6,000 graduates of this relatively new program, with another 4,000 or so currently enrolled.

I can humbly report that, developed and taught by some of America’s most respected retirement experts, the RICP curriculum is non-trivial. As a CFP practitioner who has specialized in retirement planning for going on two decades, I felt I needed to earn and maintain the designation if only to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I certainly owed that to my clients and any members of the public who could fall within hearing distance or reading range.

In August 2015, Wade Pfau, PhD/CFA, professor of retirement income in the PhD program at The American College, published the results of a quantitative analysis he painstakingly performed comparing immediate annuities to bond funds in retiree nest eggs. It was entitled: Why Bond Funds Don’t Belong in Retirement Portfolios. Pfau’s findings challenge one of Wall Street’s most fundamental dicta: that bonds provide ballast to a balanced portfolio and should therefore comprise 40% to 60% of a retirement portfolio. Instead, Pfau announced that a classic insurance product, the immediate annuity, is a more efficient, higher yielding and far more reliable alternative. Therefore, he concluded, the retirement nest egg should be invested in a combination of income annuities and stocks!

Building on those findings in a paper presented at the 2018 Actuarial Research Conference, Michael Finke PhD, Dean of The American College, presented the results of a study he conducted with David Blanchett PhD, Head of Retirement Research at Morningstar Investment Management, that calculated the increased stock exposure rendered “prudent” in a retirement portfolio thanks to the guaranteed income provided by insurance in the form of an immediate annuity.

Preconceived investment notions were further challenged in January 2018 when Roger Ibbotson PhD, Yale Professor Emeritus of Finance and the world’s leading authority on asset class performance from 1926 to present, announced the results of a study he conducted on the Fixed Index Annuity (FIA), a relatively new insurance product that helps preserve retirement assets from market losses while linking them to those same markets to capture a share of their upside potential. The FIA, Ibbotson reported, could out-perform bonds, especially in rising-rate environments like the one we’re in, and should be considered, he recommended, as an alternative for bonds in de-risking retirement portfolios.

If you’ve read my book, you know I recommend the FIA serve as the anchor of your nest egg’s “stable core” and that balancing a retirement portfolio today means combining insurance and securities—and not just stocks and bonds—in suitable proportion. Now you know the identity of some of my intellectual antecedents and why I’m proud to bring their message to you. I urge you to heed it.