Why Wealth Management Starts Now

Managing Wealth is Complicated, Right?

Not when you have a solid team. Wealth management is a lifelong process that helps your money work for you. Whether you’re putting away money from your first job, exploring investment options, putting kids through college, or retiring, you can help your money work for you during every life stage. 

At Evensky Katz, we believe that when you break wealth management into easy to navigate categories, you can get a better feel for where you are and what decisions you need to make: 

  • Integrated wealth management at every life stage (link to section)
  • Making taxes work for you (link to section)
  • Retirement planning strategies (link to section)
  • Estate planning starts now (link to section)


What is Wealth Management?

Wealth management manages your money now, so you can plan for the present and future. Wealth management traditionally combines multiple financial related services: financial planning, investment advisory services, and investment product availability to create an adaptable portfolio that serves you. Wealth management differs from traditional financial planning because plans are always bespoke and designed to fit your individual needs. Because wealth management is an ongoing process that changes and adapts to your life circumstances, it’s vital to have a team of experts (link to team profiles on launchpad) working on your behalf.

Integrated Wealth Management at Every Life Stage

Wealth management is a practice you can start at any life stage. And you should be working toward your future right now. So, whether you're trying to figure out how to start saving and maximizing a 401k at your first job or how to handle unexpected life circumstances, smart wealth management can always serve you. 

Weighing Benefits at Your First Job

Your first salaried job always feels like a step towards independence and a door to new adventures. But, before you say yes, consider the benefits offered. Employment stats reveal that less than 10% of private sector companies offer pension plans, and just under 50% offer 401(k). So, finding an employer who facilities saving for your future will set you up for long term success. Make sure to ask about retirement benefits at your next job interview.

Questions to Ask About Job Benefits

Knowing the right questions to ask about your job offer's benefits package is key. So, we've created a guide that starts with these three questions:

  • What type of retirement plan is available?
  • Will your retirement income be taxable or tax-free?
  • Does the company make a matching contribution?

We go beyond what to ask and give you the information you need to decide if the company is serving you with their retirement plan. But, job benefits to consider go beyond retirement plans. You might also weight quality of life benefits, like time off and wellness reimbursements, executive benefits for later promotions, and health insurance plans.

Leveraging Your First Job for Financial Success

You first job is the perfect time to set up a budget that lets you enjoy the now and takes care of your future. Saving from your first job opens the door to buying a home, saving for future children's college expenses, and setting you up to meet your financial goals

Budgets Help You Say Yes More Often

Budgets often get painted as too much work, not fun, and limiting. The truth is budgets let you say yes with less guilt. Budgets help you track what you spend, be purposeful with your money, stay out of excessive debt, and set aside money for hobbies, eating out, and fun spending. Your basic budget should include:

Considering a 529 College Savings Account

529 Savings Accounts can be used for more than a child's college expenses. 529s can be used by spouses for higher education or for a child's private school expenses during the K-12 years. Every 529 has different requirements by state, so make sure to do the research to make sure your 529 is working for you.

2018 tax law was amended to allow tax-free distributions of up to $10,000 per year from a 529 plan for elementary and high school costs. This means you can get the tax benefits of a 529 while saving for private school tuition. And not only is the distribution tax-free, each spouse can contribute $15,000 toward a gift tax exclusion. 

Bottomline: 529s are a smart option to save for education expenses.

When the Worst Happens

Wealth management should go beyond a budget and expected expenses. An effective wealth management team should help you adapt to unforeseen life events, like divorce or unexpected death.

Managing Financial Assets During a Divorce

Like any unexpected life event, to stay financially healthy during and after a divorce, you'll need to reassess budgets and savings goals. Depending on your family situation, you may be providing spousal alimony. Expenses for two households is more expensive than expenses for two households. Create a budget for both household expenditures and look at selling or liquidating any assets, like vacation homes, you can no longer afford. Consider involving both parties lawyers in any discussions on property and asset division. Divorce is an event you can recover financially from.

Finances of an Unexpected Death

Death, especially the unexpected, is hard on families. And the finances of death can be more complex during a time when the day-to-day is already difficult. What helping clients through this time has shown us is you can take simple steps now to make things easier for your family. 

Emergency planning is as simple is making sure you have an updated will, storing digital logins and passwords, thinking through funeral or memorial plans, and keeping life insurance policies up to date. For a complete guide, consider our fillable PDF or ebook.

Take the time to take care of you family now.

Making Taxes Work for You

Wealth management should always take your unique tax situation into account. Whether you're single and looking for ways to maximize non-taxable contributions or savings, or supporting a family and striking the balance between current financial needs and maximizing tax savings, financial management tools are crucial.

Converting Deductible IRAs to Roth IRAs

After a change to tax law in 2017, you can no longer undo an IRA conversion. This means before you take advantage of the tax benefits of converting to a Roth IRA, make sure it's the right choice for your current financial situation. 

A Roth conversion is taking funds from a regular IRA account, paying taxes on the income since the funds are pretax, then moving them to a Roth account. The funds grow tax-free in the IRA account, and since the taxes were already paid, you owe no taxes when you withdraw the funds. Consider our smart tax strategies for Roth IRAs:

  • Convert regular IRAs to Roth IRAs while in a lower tax bracket
  • Convert regular IRAs to Roth IRAs before a move from a low tax state to a high tax state

Tax Savvy Ways to Support a Nonprofit

Charitable giving is a savvy tax benefit that supports organizations and causes important to you. One of the biggest questions for any nonprofit donation is how to gift the funds. Two tax smart ways we recommend gifting to nonprofits are:

  • Appreciated securities
  • Gifting from an IRA

Both of these options maximize tax benefits by keeping you and the nonprofit from paying taxes on the gift amount. 

How a SEP IRA Helps You Save On Your Side Hustle Income

The side hustle has become a major part of the modern economy. Whether you turn a hobby into a successful e-commerce store or work another job on weekends, make sure you’re choosing smart ways to save and minimize taxes.

If you have a side gig or are self-employed, you can take advantage of the SEP IRA option to increase your overall retirement savings. SEP IRAs are limited to employer contributions, but if you're self-employed you are the employer and employee. SEP IRAs have higher contribution limits than traditional IRAs.

Zero Balance Filing vs a Big Return

Every spring you'll start to see ads and marketing campaigns featuring ways to spend your tax return. And while this is one way to handle taxes, we recommend working with an accountant to make that money availableto you throughout the year with zero balance filing. Freeing up the money you would have seen in your refund means more opportunities to invest, contribute toward matching funds, or just enjoy life.

The first step toward a zero balance tax return is reviewing your W-4 form with your employer alongside the withholding tables to help best determine your income tax load. Once you're sure you've chosen the right number of allowances, a tax professional can look at your portfolio and earnings to help get you closer to a zero balance.

Imagine how your money can be working for you all year!

Retirement Planning Strategies

1 in 3 Americans close to retirement have less than 25k saved, but estimates put a comfortable retirement costing a minimum of one million dollars. Retirement security, or the lack thereof is a big issue in the United States. But, you can start planning, at any stage of life, to work towards a secure retirement. Our experts have advice and recommendations from how much you need to retire to whether or not Bitcoin is a good choice for your portfolio.

How Much Should You Save to Retire

How much should you save? The simple answer is: as much as you can afford to save. And there's no one right number. The amount you need to retire will depend on your lifestyle, current spending, and how much income you'll have in retirement. We recommend working with a financial planner to answer the following question and then creating a retirement goal to work toward.

  • How much of your current income will you need to live comfortably each year in retirement?

We can't predict the future, but a diverse portfolio and careful planning go a long way. And, if your employer offers a workplace retirement plan, count yourself fortunate and sign up!

How the SECURE Act Impacts Your Retirement Plan

The SECURE Act, signed into law in 2020, works with good wealth management practices to help Americans better prepare for retirement. The SECURE (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) Act affects how retirees contribute and distribute IRAs. It also changes penalties for using IRAs for major life events.

IRAs and the SECURE Act 

Prior to 2020, retirement plan users needed to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs at 70.5 and were capped on how long they could continue contributing to IRAs. This new legislation recognizes that many Americans are still working at 70.5 and pushes the RMD to 72. It also allows traditional IRA users to make contributions indefinitely. This allows late retirees to continue getting the tax benefits of IRA contributions. 

And for those using traditional or Roth IRAs as wealth management tools, it lets users use IRAs to fund specific life events penalty free. Life events include:

  • Up to $5,000 fo birth/adoption expenses
  • Up to $10,000 for repayment of student loans

These SECURE Act changes may shape how you use your money now and in the future, so make sure to consult with your financial planner or wealth management firm (link to contact page) to make sure you're making the best decisions for your finances!

Plan for Tax and Penalty Free Earnings From Your Roth IRA

Planning ahead for retirement lets you make best use of Roth IRAs. The key to avoiding extra taxes and penalties when using Roth IRAs as a retirement strategy is knowing the rules around contribution, conversions, and earnings. All three of these areas are government regulated.


Definition

Contribution

The amount you contribute to your Roth IRA

Conversion

Amount you had in a traditional IRA, paid taxes on, and converted to a Roth IRA

Earnings

The amount you've made on investments from contributions and conversions over time


Limits

Contribution

  • Limits change annually, contact your tax professional for exact amount
  • Generally a larger amount is allowed if you're over 50

Conversion

  • Five Year Rule: Each conversions needs to sit for five years after it was made to be used penalty free
  • Clock is to year conversion was made, not actual date

Earnings

  • Five Year Rule: Each conversions needs to sit for five years after it was made to be used penalty free
  • Clock is to year conversion was made, not actual date


Tax and Penalty Information

Contribution

Not taxed and no penalties for contributing

Conversion

Can withdraw after five years or turning 59.5 or for death or disability or to purchase first home*

  • *Use for first home is only up to $10,000

Earnings

Need to meet at least two conditions: five year rule AND turning 59.5 or for death or disability or to purchase first home*


Plan for the Stage of Life You're In

Retirement is never as far away as we think it is, so we recommend taking stock of where you are, especially on these nine birthdays, and being open to new investment opportunities.

Are Bonds a Good Investment

While bonds have lost popularity over time, we still see them in portfolios. And if you invest in the right bonds, early enough they've a less risky portfolio item than some other investments. Bonds are a complementary wealth management investment if they're made while you're young enough for them to fully mature.

Do All Reverse Mortgages End in Foreclosure

The easy answer is no. Reverse mortgages are a viable part of a retirement strategy if you pay taxes on time and clearly understand the terms and conditions. Since the 2009 housing crisis, reverse mortgages have been labeled as predatory. Bad lending practices did take advantage of people who should not have qualified in the first place. But, if you qualify, a reverse mortgage allows you access to the wealth locked in your home equity. Reverse mortgages are usually reserved for applicants 62 and over with enough equity paid into their home. 

Is Bitcoin a Smart Investment

Bitcoin concept was developed to create a new type of currency shielded from devaluation and dilution by government monetary policy. Only small amounts are being released, as coins are “mined.” The mining process gets more complex as computer algorithms are solved, which slows down the creation of additional coins over time, and ultimately controls the supply.

As with any investment, do the research, talk to your wealth management team (link to contact form), and decide if it's worth the risk for your portfolio. For bitcoin, we recommend analyzing the following areas:

  • Volatility and financial risk
  • Technology and security risk
  • Tax issues

Will COVID-19 Affect My Retirement

COVID-19's impacts have gone beyond basic health. With social distancing, people staying in, and cut working hours leading to less disposable income financial impacts have gone hand-in-hand with rising case numbers. Because of changes from the CARES Act, there are ways you can continue to protect your retirement.

CARES Act Retirement Planning Changes

Due to added financial stress from COVID-19, the CARES act waives RMD (required after 72) for 2020. Waiving this RMD means you can avoid withdrawing from IRAs and Roth IRAs, leaving money impacted by unpredictable markets to settle. While we aren't completely certain, it doesn’t look like RMDs will have to made up for in 2021. We recommend continuing to connect with your investment manager and accounting professional track any RMD changes going into 2021.

The CARES Act also has a Corona Related Distribution(CRD). $100,000 of CRDs can be placed back into an individual’s retirement account all at once or over a 3-year period. If individuals want to keep the distribution, they can spread the income over the next 3 years to lower the tax bite. Current guidelines for qualifying all revolve around an individual’s family contracting or business being impacted by the virus. Once again, meeting with an accountant or investment manager will help you get any support you need and qualify for.

Our best advice is be patient, the economy will eventually recover. The key is to not panic and continue making wise choices!

Estate Planning Starts Now

Estate planning is part of every life stage. Whether you're approaching retirement and considering your financial legacy or making sure you've done the work to take care of your loved ones if the worst happens, estate planning is a lifelong process.

Strategies to Leave Your Heirs Tax Free

Consider how you're gifting money to your heirs and steps you can take to minimize taxes. Leaving money to heirs via a Roth IRA can helpful, especially if you have high-income children. Taking mandatory distributions out of a traditional inherited IRA can potentially move heirs into a higher tax bracket. This is especially important to note now that the SECURE Act has changed the distribution rules from inherited IRAs. A Roth IRAs distribution and earnings rules can offset tax and penalties for heirs. 

Leaving a Financial Legacy

Depending on your wealth or charitable interests, you might consider gifting money to your alma mater, a charity you regularly support, or a nonprofit that aligns with your values. Before making a gift, meet with a CPA or financial planner to decide what type of gift works best for you and your beneficiary.

Tax Smart Types of Charitable Gifts

All financial gifts are not created equal. While charitable organizations are glad to receive unencumbered funds, a simple cash donation can leave nonprofits or charities paying unexpected taxes. When planning your estate, take the time to consider options beyond a simple bequest.

  • Appreciated securities - When you gift dividends of your of stocks, you avoid paying a large capital gains tax and public charities don't have to pay taxes—a win/win!
  • Gift from IRA - Much like appreciated securities, gifting from an IRA minimizes the tax burden; neither you or the charity pay taxes and the it meets your requirement of a RMD.

We also recommend meeting with your financial advisor to consider private foundations and donor advised funds as form of charitable giving.

Top Five Ways to Simplify Financial Gifts for Family

The stress and grief associated with death rarely bring out the best in people. One of the biggest issues we see is lack of prior communication between deceased and beneficiary. We know that not every family situation lends itself to equal division of finances and property, so consider the following top five ways to simplify a stressful time:

  1. Decide when you want to share your future financial plans
  2. Openly communicate with all impacted children and grandchildren
  3. Make sure gifts make sense
  4. Consider tax implications
  5. Involve necessary professionals

Even with complex family dynamics, your will doesn't have to be a source of division for your family. Take the time now to plan and communicate with your loved ones!

Plan Ahead to Support Your Family

For most of our lives, death seems far away. And yet, we all know that death can come unexpectedly. Death, no matter if it's the result of a long illness or a tragic accident, leaves families reeling. Choose to organize your assets and requests now to help your family during unimaginable circumstances.

Use a Family Organizer

We see families struggling with the same issue, a loved one passes away and their finances, legal documents, and necessary information are next to impossible to find. This added stress can exacerbate difficult family dynamics and delay the disbursement of much needed funds, like life insurance. We recommend using our family organizer now to protect your family if the worst happens. 

Include Your Financial Planner in Estate Planning

Financial planners and wealth management firms have access to knowledge and resources that families don't have. Keeping your financial advisor in the loop on where to find important documents, gift amounts in your will, and where to find logins and passwords for media and software accounts is another way you can choose to take care of your family.

Don't leave it too late. Include estate planning in your next financial planning meeting. 

Wealth Management Matters

A big part of wealth management is taking the long view before it's too late. Take the time now to use your employee benefits wisely, save for college before you have children, and consider how you want to spend your retirement years. And while a wealth management firm can help you with all these steps, you have to do your part. Never expect any firm to have all the answers and always do your own research. We always advise clients to:

  • Stay up to date on finances and policies
  • Ask for regular updates from your wealth manager
  • Make changes to estate wishes and policies after major life events

Your wealth is your own! Always have an active role in it's management!

How to Choose the Right Wealth Management Team

Choosing the right people is always important, especially when it comes to ensuring your financial future. We have three top recommendations: 

  1. Find a fiduciary
  2. Know the cost
  3. Choose expertise

Find a Fiduciary

Fiduciaries are legally obligated by the SEC to put your interests first. With a fiduciary, your portfolio goals are prioritized over incentivized products. Know that financial advisors and investments firms that are not fiduciaries may earn a commissions for recommending certain investment products.

Know the Cost

Some firms charge an annual rate, some charge based on assets under management, and some build the fees into the stock and bond transactions. None of these are inherently unfair as long as you know exactly how the advisor is getting paid, whether the fees are reasonable, and what their duty is to you.

At our firm (link to contact form) there are no commissions involved and fees are paid directly to the fund companies. There are small transaction fees paid directly to the custodian. We are paid only by our clients, who receive a bill each quarter with the calculation and amount of those fees. 

Choose Expertise

Many wealth management firms use historical data to create processes and recommendations for investments. We choose to follow the theories of Nobel laureate Harry Markowitz

The first stage starts with observations and experience and ends with beliefs about the future performances of available securities.

We develop forward-looking estimates for the returns, risk, and relative movement of the investments we consider for our portfolios. Our estimates take into consideration the past, current market environment, and expectations regarding future changes.

Choosing Evensky Katz (link to contact form) is choosing expertise.

If you're looking for a wealth management firm to help you build the future you've dreamed of, look no further than Evensky Katz!

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