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We're Invested

Retirement, investments, financial planning for every stage of life—learn about it all here at Invested,
a blog from your Wealth Management Advisors at Kirtland Financial Services.


Savings Retirement

By investing for retirement through your employer-sponsored plan, you are helping to manage a critically important financial risk: the chance that you will outlive your money. But choosing to participate is just one step in your financial risk management strategy. You also need to manage risk within your account to help it stay on track. Following are steps to consider.


Familiarize yourself with the different types of risk


All investments, even the most conservative, come with different types of risk. Understanding these risks will help you make educated choices in your retirement savings plan mix. Here are just a few.
 
  • Market risk: The risk that your investment could lose value due to falling prices caused by outside forces, such as economic factors or political and national events (e.g., elections or natural disasters). Stocks are typically most susceptible to market risk, although bonds and other investments can be affected as well.
  • Interest rate risk: The risk that an investment's value will fall due to rising interest rates. This type of risk is most associated with bonds, as bond prices typically fall when interest rates rise, and vice versa. But often stocks also react to changing interest rates.
  • Inflation risk: The chance that your investments will not keep pace with inflation, or the rising cost of living. Investing too conservatively may put your investment dollars at risk of losing their purchasing power.
  • Liquidity risk: This is the risk of not being able to quickly sell or cash-in your investment if you need access to the money.
  • Risks associated with international investing: Currency fluctuations, political upheavals, unstable economies, additional taxes--these are just some of the special risks associated with investing outside the United States.


Know your personal risk tolerance


How much risk are you willing to take to pursue your savings goal? Gauging your personal risk tolerance--or your ability to endure losses in your account due to swings in the market--is an important step in your risk management strategy. Because all investments involve some level of risk, it's important to be aware of how much volatility you can comfortably withstand before you select investments.

One way to do this is to reflect on a series of questions, which may include the following:
 
  • How much do you need to accumulate to potentially provide for a comfortable retirement? The more you need to save, the more risk you may need to take in pursuit of that goal.
  • How well would you sleep at night knowing your investments dropped 5%? 10%? 20%? Would you flee to "safer" options? Ride out the dip to strive for longer-term returns? Or maybe even view the downturn as a good opportunity to buy more shares at a value price?
  • How much time do you have until you will need the money? Typically, the longer your time horizon, the more you may be able to hold steady during short-term downturns in pursuit of longer- term goals--and the more risk you may be able to assume.
  • Do you have savings and investments outside your employer plan, including an easily accessed emergency savings account with at least six months worth of living expenses? Having a safety net set aside may allow you to feel more confident about taking on risk in your retirement portfolio.
Your plan's educational materials may offer worksheets and other tools to help you gauge your own risk tolerance. Such materials typically ask a series of questions similar to those above, and then generate a score based on your answers that may help guide you toward a mix of investments that may be appropriate for your situation.


Develop a target asset allocation


Once you understand your risk tolerance, the next step is to develop an asset allocation mix that is suitable for your investment goal while taking your risk tolerance into consideration.

Asset allocation is the process of dividing your investment dollars among the various asset categories offered in your plan, typically stocks, bonds, and cash/stable value investments. Generally, the more tolerant you are of investment risk, the more you may be able to invest in stocks. On the other hand, if you are more risk averse, you may want to invest a larger portion of your portfolio in conservative investments, such as high-grade bonds or cash.

Your time horizon will also help you determine your risk tolerance and asset allocation. If you're a young investor with a hardy tolerance for risk, you might choose an allocation with a high concentration of stocks because you may be able to ride out short-term swings in the value of your portfolio in pursuit of your long-term goals. On the other hand, if retirement is less than 10 years away and you can't afford to risk losing money, your allocation might lean more toward bonds and cash investments. (However, consider that within the bond asset class, there are many different varieties to choose from that are suitable for different risk profiles.)


Be sure to diversify


All investors--whether aggressive, conservative, or somewhere in the middle--can potentially benefit from diversification, which means not putting all your eggs in one basket. Holding a mix of different investments may help your portfolio balance out gains and losses. The principle is that when one investment loses value, another may be holding steady or gaining (although there are no guarantees).

Let's look at the previous examples. Although the young investor may choose to put a large chunk of her retirement account in stocks, she should still consider putting some of the money into bonds and possibly cash to help balance any losses that may occur in the stock portion. Even within the stock allocation, she may want to diversify among different types of stocks, such as domestic, international, growth, and value stocks, to reap any potential gains from each type.

What about more conservative investors, such as those nearing or in retirement? Even for these individuals it is generally advisable to include at least some stock investments in their portfolios to help assets keep pace with the rising cost of living. When a portfolio is invested too conservatively, inflation can slowly erode its purchasing power.


Understanding dollar cost averaging


Your employer-sponsored plan also helps you manage risk automatically through a process called dollar cost averaging (DCA). When you contribute to your plan, chances are you contribute an equal dollar amount each pay period, and that money is then used to purchase shares of the investments you have selected. This process--investing a fixed dollar amount at regular intervals--is DCA. As the prices of the investments you purchase rise and fall over time, you take advantage of the swings by buying fewer shares when prices are high and more shares when prices are low--in essence, following the old investing adage to "buy low." After a period of time, the average cost you pay for the shares you accumulate may be lower than if you had purchased all the shares in one lump sum.

Remember that DCA involves continuous investment in securities regardless of their price. As you think about the potential benefits of DCA, you should also consider your ability to make purchases through extended periods of low or falling prices.


Perform regular maintenance


Although it's generally not necessary to review your retirement portfolio too frequently (e.g., every day or even every week), it is advisable to monitor it at least once per year and as major events occur in your life. During these reviews, you'll want to determine if your risk tolerance has changed and check your asset allocation to determine whether it's still on track. You may want to rebalance--or shift some money from one type of investment to another--to bring your allocation back in line with your original target, presuming it still suits your situation. Or you may want to make other changes in your portfolio to keep it in line with your changing circumstances. Such regular maintenance is critical to help manage risk in your portfolio.

When developing a plan to manage risk, it may also help to seek the advice of a financial professional. An experienced professional can help take emotion out of the equation so that you may make clear, rational decisions.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!
 
All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Investments offering a higher potential rate of return also involve a higher level of risk.

Asset allocation, diversification, and dollar cost averaging are methods used to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against a loss.

There is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve your investment results.

Savings Retirement

A chocolate cake. Pasta. A pancake. They're all very different, but they generally involve flour, eggs, and perhaps a liquid. Depending on how much of each ingredient you use, you can get very different outcomes. The same is true of your investments. Balancing a portfolio means combining various types of investments using a recipe that's appropriate for you.
 

Getting an appropriate mix


The combination of investments you choose can be as important as your specific investments. The mix of various asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives, accounts for most of the ups and downs of a portfolio's returns.

There's another reason to think about the mix of investments in your portfolio. Each type of investment has specific strengths and weaknesses that enable it to play a specific role in your overall investing strategy. Some investments may be chosen for their growth potential. Others may provide regular income. Still others may offer safety or simply serve as a temporary place to park your money. And some investments even try to fill more than one role. Because you probably have multiple needs and desires, you need some combination of investment types.

Balancing how much of each you should include is one of your most important tasks as an investor. That balance between growth, income, and safety is called your asset allocation, and it can help you manage the level and type of risks you face.
 

Balancing risk and return


Ideally, you should strive for an overall combination of investments that minimizes the risk you take in trying to achieve a targeted rate of return. This often means balancing more conservative investments against others that are designed to provide a higher return but that also involve more risk. For example, let's say you want to get a 7.5% return on your money. Your financial professional tells you that in the past, stock market returns have averaged about 10% annually, and bonds roughly 5%. One way to try to achieve your 7.5% return would be by choosing a 50-50 mix of
stocks and bonds. It might not work out that way, of course. This is only a hypothetical illustration, not a real portfolio, and there's no guarantee that either stocks or bonds will perform as they have in the past. But asset allocation gives you a place to start.

Someone living on a fixed income, whose priority is having a regular stream of money coming in, will probably need a very different asset allocation than a young, well-to-do working professional whose priority is saving for a retirement that's 30 years away. Many publications feature model investment portfolios that recommend generic asset allocations based on an investor's age. These can help jump-start your thinking about how to divide up your investments. However, because they're based on averages and hypothetical situations, they shouldn't be seen as definitive. Your asset allocation is — or should be — as unique as you are. Even if two people are the same age and have similar incomes, they may have very different needs and goals. You should make sure your asset allocation is tailored to your individual circumstances.


Many ways to diversify


When financial professionals refer to asset allocation, they're usually talking about overall classes: stocks, bonds, and cash or cash alternatives. However, there are others that also can be used to complement the major asset classes once you've got those basics covered. They include real estate and alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, metals, or collectibles.

Even within an asset class, consider how your assets are allocated. For example, if you're investing in stocks, you could allocate a certain amount to large-cap stocks and a different percentage to stocks of smaller companies. Or you might allocate based on geography, putting some money in U.S. stocks and some in foreign companies. Bond investments might be allocated by various maturities, with some money in bonds that mature quickly and some in longer-term bonds. Or you might favor tax- free bonds over taxable ones, depending on your tax status and the type of account in which the bonds are held.


Asset allocation strategies


There are various approaches to calculating an asset allocation that makes sense for you. The most popular approach is to look at what you're investing for and how long you have to reach each goal. Those goals get balanced against your need for money to live on. The more secure your immediate income and the longer you have to pursue your investing goals, the more aggressively you might be able to invest for them. Your asset allocation might have a greater percentage of stocks than either bonds or cash, for example. Or you might be in the opposite situation. If you're stretched financially and would have to tap your investments in an emergency, you'll need to balance that fact against your longer-term goals. In addition to establishing an emergency fund, you may need to invest more conservatively than you might otherwise want to. Some investors believe in shifting their assets among asset classes based on which types of investments they expect will do well or poorly in the near term. However, this approach, called "market timing," is extremely difficult even for experienced investors. If you're determined to try this, you should probably get some expert advice — and recognize that no one really knows where markets are headed. Some people try to match market returns with an overall "core" strategy for most of their portfolio. They then put a smaller portion in very targeted investments that may behave very differently from those in the core and provide greater overall diversification. These often are asset classes that an investor thinks could benefit from more active management.

Just as you allocate your assets in an overall portfolio, you can also allocate assets for a specific goal. For example, you might have one asset allocation for retirement savings and another for college tuition bills. A retired professional with a conservative overall portfolio might still be
comfortable investing more aggressively with money intended to be a grandchild's inheritance. Someone who has taken the risk of starting a business might decide to be more conservative with his or her personal portfolio.


Things to think about

 
  • Don't forget about the impact of inflation on your savings. As time goes by, your money will probably buy less and less unless your portfolio at least keeps pace with the inflation rate. Even if you think of yourself as a conservative investor, your asset allocation should take long-term inflation into account.
  • Your asset allocation should balance your financial goals with your emotional needs. If the way your money is invested keeps you awake worrying at night, you may need to rethink your investing goals and whether the strategy you're pursuing is worth the lost sleep.
  • Your tax status might affect your asset allocation, though your decisions shouldn't be based solely on tax concerns.
Even if your asset allocation was right for you when you chose it, it may not be appropriate for you now. It should change as your circumstances do and as new ways to invest are introduced. A piece of clothing you wore 10 years ago may not fit now; you just might need to update your asset allocation, too.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!
 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional.

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

Investments Retirement

More women are working and taking charge of their own retirement planning than ever before. What does retirement mean to you? Do you dream of traveling? Pursuing a hobby? Volunteering your time, or starting a new career or business? Simply enjoying more time with your grandchildren? Whatever your goal, you'll need a retirement income plan that's designed to support the retirement lifestyle that you envision, and minimize the risk that you'll outlive your savings.
 

When will you retire?


Establishing a target age is important, because when you retire will significantly affect how much you need to save. For example, if you retire early at age 55 as opposed to waiting until age 67, you'll shorten the time you have to accumulate funds by 12 years, and you'll increase the number of years that you'll be living off of your retirement savings. Also consider:
 
  • The longer you delay retirement, the longer you can build up tax- deferred funds in your IRAs and employer-sponsored plans such as 401(k)s, or accrue benefits in a traditional pension plan if you're lucky enough to be covered by one.
  • Medicare generally doesn't start until you're 65. Does your employer provide post-retirement medical benefits? Are you eligible for the coverage if you retire early? Do you have health insurance coverage through your spouse's employer? If not, you may have to look into COBRA or a private individual policy — which could be expensive.
  • You can begin receiving your Social Security retirement benefit as early as age 62. However, your benefit may be 25% to 30% less than if you waited until full retirement age. Conversely, if you delay retirement past full retirement age, you may be able to increase your Social Security retirement benefit.
  • If you work part-time during retirement, you'll be earning money and relying less on your retirement savings, leaving more of your savings to potentially grow for the future (and you may also have access to affordable health care).
  • If you're married, and you and your spouse are both employed and nearing retirement age, think about staggering your retirements. If one spouse is earning significantly more than the other, then it usually makes sense for that spouse to continue to work in order to maximize current income and ease the financial transition into retirement.


How long will retirement last?


We all hope to live to an old age, but a longer life means that you'll have even more years of retirement to fund. The problem is particularly acute for women, who generally live longer than men. To guard against the risk of outliving your savings, you'll need to estimate your life expectancy. You can use government statistics, life insurance tables, or life expectancy calculators to get a reasonable estimate of how long you'll live. Experts base these estimates on your age, gender, race, health, lifestyle, occupation, and family history. But remember, these are just estimates. There's no way to predict how long you'll actually live, but with life expectancies on the rise, it's probably best to assume you'll live longer than you expect.


Project your retirement expenses


Once you know when your retirement will likely start, how long it may last, and the type of retirement lifestyle you want, it's time to estimate the amount of money you'll need to make it all happen. One of the biggest retirement planning mistakes you can make is to underestimate the amount you'll need to save by the time you retire. It's often repeated that you'll need 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income after you retire. However, the problem with this approach is that it doesn't account for your specific situation.

Focus on your actual expenses today and think about whether they'll stay the same, increase, decrease, or even disappear by the time you retire. While some expenses may disappear, like a mortgage or costs for commuting to and from work, other expenses, such as health care and insurance, may increase as you age. If travel or hobby activities are going to be part of your retirement, be sure to factor in these costs as well. And don't forget to take into account the potential impact of inflation and taxes.


Identify your sources of income


Once you have an idea of your retirement income needs, your next step is to assess how prepared you (or you and your spouse) are to meet those needs. In other words, what sources of retirement income will be available to you? Your employer may offer a traditional pension that will pay you monthly benefits. In addition, you can likely count on Social Security to provide a portion of your retirement income. Other sources of retirement income may include a 401(k) or other retirement plan, IRAs, annuities, and other investments. The amount of income you receive from those sources will depend on the amount you invest, the rate of investment return, and other factors. Finally, if you plan to work during retirement, your earnings will be another source of income.

When you compare your projected expenses to your anticipated sources of retirement income, you may find that you won't have enough income to meet your needs and goals. Closing this difference, or "gap," is an important part of your retirement income plan. In general, if you face a shortfall, you'll have five options: save more now, delay retirement or work during retirement, try to increase the earnings on your retirement assets, find new sources of retirement income, or plan to spend less during retirement.


Transitioning into retirement


Even after that special day comes, you'll still have work to do. You'll need to carefully manage your assets so that your retirement savings will last as long as you need them to.
 
  • Review your portfolio regularly. Traditional wisdom holds that retirees should value the safety of their principal above all else. For this reason, some people shift their investment portfolio to fixed income investments, such as bonds and money market accounts, as they enter retirement. The problem with this approach is that you'll effectively lose purchasing power if the return on your investments doesn't keep up with inflation. While it generally makes sense for your portfolio to become progressively more conservative as you grow older, it may be wise to consider maintaining at least a portion in growth investments.
  • Spend wisely. You want to be careful not to spend too much too soon. This can be a great temptation, particularly early in retirement. A good guideline is to make sure your annual withdrawal rate isn't greater than 4% to 6% of your portfolio. (The appropriate percentage for you will depend on a number of factors, including the length of your payout period and your portfolio's asset allocation.) Remember that if you whittle away your principal too quickly, you may not be able to earn enough on the remaining principal to carry you through the later years.
  • Understand your retirement plan distribution options. Most pension plans pay benefits in the form of an annuity. If you're married, you generally must choose between a higher retirement benefit that ends when your spouse dies, or a smaller benefit that continues in whole or in part to the surviving spouse. A financial professional can help you with this difficult, but important, decision.
  • Consider which assets to use first. For many retirees, the answer is simple in theory: withdraw money from taxable accounts first, then tax-deferred accounts, and lastly, tax-free accounts. By using your tax-favored accounts last and avoiding taxes as long as possible, you'll keep more of your retirement dollars working for you. However, this approach isn't right for everyone. And don't forget to plan for required distributions. You must generally begin taking minimum distributions from employer retirement plans and traditional IRAs when you reach age 72, whether you need them or not. Plan to spend these dollars first in retirement.
  • Consider purchasing an immediate annuity. Annuities are able to offer something unique — a guaranteed income stream for the rest of your life or for the combined lives of you and your spouse (although that guarantee is subject to the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the issuer). The obvious advantage in the context of retirement income planning is that you can use an annuity to lock in a predictable annual income stream, not subject to investment risk, that you can't outlive.*

Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to retirement income planning. A Kirtland Financial Services professional can review your circumstances, help you sort through your options, and help develop a plan that's right for you.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!
 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional.

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

* Generally, annuity contracts have fees and expenses, limitations, exclusions, holding periods, termination provisions, and terms for keeping the annuity in force. Most annuities have surrender charges that are assessed if the contract owner surrenders the annuity.

Retirement


What is retirement planning?

Retirement planning involves an analysis of the various choices you can make today to help provide for your financial future. To make appropriate choices, you need to predict-- as well as you can--your future economic circumstances. You'll also need to establish your post-retirement goals. When you've determined how much of an income stream you'll probably require in the future, you'll be in a position to make wise choices now about income, saving, investments, and employer-sponsored or other retirement plans.

Of course, you need to tailor your retirement planning to your own unique circumstances--planning methods may be different for employees and executives than for business owners. And no matter who you are, you'll probably want to gain some familiarity with the Social Security system, with post-retirement health care insurance coverage, including Medicare and long-term care (LTC) insurance. For some people, retirement may be an eagerly anticipated event, an opportunity to enjoy so many things that working may have precluded--travel, hobbies, and more family time. For other people, even the word "retirement" may conjure up feelings of fear or dread, particularly for those employees who work without the benefit of pension or other retirement plans. And newspaper stories predicting the collapse of the Social Security system can certainly compound anxiety. Whether you are financially comfortable or are of limited means, however, retirement planning is possible and can help you take control of your own future.
 

How can you determine your retirement income needs?

To determine your retirement income needs, you'll want to evaluate your present circumstances--your income, your expenses, your assets, and your debts. Next, you'll need to think about your future circumstances. There are four main sources for your retirement income: Social Security, pensions or other retirement vehicles, your investment portfolio, and savings. If you predict that your current income will not provide you with your desired retirement lifestyle, there are certain steps you can take now to help change your circumstances.

You'll want to think about your future sources of income, but also about where you'll live. Will you continue to live in your current home, for instance, or will you move to a condominium or retirement community? And if your employer typically provides early retirement packages to its employees, you'll need to know how to evaluate such packages from a number of perspectives.
 

How do you save for retirement?

Learning how to save for retirement is imperative. There are a number of retirement vehicles available, including traditional and Roth IRAs, employer-sponsored retirement plans, nonqualified deferred compensation plans, stock plans, and commercial annuities. Proper retirement planning requires an understanding of the workings of these tools.

In addition, your personal investment planning can help you on the road toward your retirement goals. The sooner you start, the longer you'll have to accumulate funds for retirement.

You'll want to understand the taxation of your retirement and investment vehicles. This is especially important since the enactment of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (2003 Tax Act). The 2003 Tax Act reduced the capital gains tax rates and the tax rates of certain dividends, making the decision to allocate assets inside or outside a retirement plan more crucial.

Finally, you may want to learn strategies for handling the competing demands of educating your children and retiring.
 

What should you know about distributions from IRAs and other retirement plans?

Effective retirement planning involves not only an awareness of the types of savings vehicles available, but also an understanding of taking distributions from these vehicles. In particular, you should be familiar with the income tax ramifications of distributions (including a possible 10 percent premature distribution penalty tax for distributions made prior to age 59 1/2). You may be interested in knowing whether you can borrow money from your retirement plan, whether it is better to receive your retirement money in one lump sum or in monthly checks, and whether you can roll your retirement plan balance into an IRA.

In addition, you may be concerned about naming one or more beneficiaries for your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan. What are the tax implications? What about required minimum distributions from the plan after you reach age 70 1/2?
 

What if you are an executive or business owner?

A number of additional retirement planning tools are often available for executives, such as nonqualified deferred compensation plans offered by employers to their key employees. If you're an executive, you should realize that nonqualified plans and stock plans can be valuable tools for retirement planning. You should understand the mechanics of the special benefits afforded by your employer, including the tax implications for you.

If you are a business owner, on the other hand, you have some special retirement planning concerns of your own. In particular, you may want to plan for the succession of your business to family members or to others. You may also want to know which retirement plans are best suited to your form of business.
 

How do Social Security and other government benefits programs impact retirement planning?

If you're planning for retirement, you should also consider the Social Security income (if any) you'll be receiving in the future. In fact, it is possible for you to estimate your Social Security benefits ahead of time. You may want to check your Social Security record periodically to ensure that you have met the eligibility requirements and that your information is accurate and complete.

You'll also want to become familiar with ways to optimize your Social Security benefits and minimize their taxation. The timing of your receipt of benefits can be important, as can the impact of post-retirement employment. Other governmental programs should also be considered when planning for retirement.

In particular, you should review the topics of Medicare and Medicaid. You should know what Medicare does and does not cover and what other health care options are available to you. How expensive are these governmental and supplemental health programs? What are the eligibility requirements? Medicaid planning can be particularly important for people of modest means. You should know the Medicaid eligibility requirements, the penalties for transferring assets inappropriately, and the various strategies available for protecting assets. In addition, you should become familiar with the specific methods of protecting your personal residence and the extent to which your state can impose liens on your property and pursue recovery remedies after your death. If you are planning for your post-retirement years, you should also gain some familiarity with long-term care insurance, nursing homes, retirement communities, assisted living, and other housing options for elders.
 

Do government employees have special retirement concerns?

If you work for the federal government, a state government, a railroad, or if you are in the military, your retirement benefits may be subject to special rules. You should know how your retirement plan works, what distribution rules apply, how your survivors can benefit, how your plan may be integrated with Social Security, and what tax rules apply.

Ready to navigate your retirement journey? Start making plans today! Kirtland Financial Services is here to help.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!
 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional.

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

Investments

Anyone can look good during a bull market. Smart investors are prepared to weather the inevitable rough patches, and even the best aren't successful all the time. When the market goes off the tracks, knowing why you originally made a specific investment can help you evaluate whether those reasons still hold, regardless of what the overall market is doing.

If you no longer want to hold an investment, you could take a tax loss, if that's a possibility. Selling locks in any losses on an investment, but it also generates cash that can be used to purchase other investments that may be available at an appealing discount. Sound research might turn up buying opportunities on stocks that have dropped for reasons that have nothing to do with the company's fundamentals. In a down market, most stocks are available at lower prices, but some are better bargains than others.

There also are other ways to reap some benefit from a down market. If the value of your IRA or 401(k) has dropped dramatically, you likely won't be able to harvest a tax benefit from those losses, because taxes generally aren't owed on those accounts until the money is withdrawn. However, if you've considered converting a tax-deferred plan to a Roth IRA, a lower account balance might make a conversion more attractive. Though the conversion would trigger income taxes in the year of the conversion, the tax would be calculated on the reduced value of your account. With some expert help, you can determine whether and when such a conversion might be advantageous.

A volatile market is never easy to endure, but learning from it can better prepare you and your portfolio to weather and take advantage of the market's ups and downs.

For more information on these strategies, contact us. We're here to help.

All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.

Although there is no assurance that working with a financial professional will improve investment results, a professional can evaluate your objectives and available resources and help you consider appropriate long-term financial strategies.

To qualify for the tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings (and assets converted to a Roth), Roth IRA distributions must meet a five-year holding requirement, and the distribution must take place after age 59 1/2 (with some exceptions). Under current tax law, if all conditions are met, the account will incur no further income tax liability for the rest of the owner's lifetime or for the lifetime of the owner's heirs, regardless of how much growth the account experiences.


Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!
 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional.

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

Investments Retirement

When it comes to planning for your retirement income, it's easy to overlook some of the common factors that can affect how much you'll have available to spend. If you don't consider how your retirement income can be impacted by investment risk, inflation risk, catastrophic illness or long- term care, and taxes, you may not be able to enjoy the retirement you envision.
 

Investment risk

Different types of investments carry with them different risks. Sound retirement income planning involves understanding these risks and how they can influence your available income in retirement.

Investment or market risk is the risk that fluctuations in the securities market may result in the reduction and/or depletion of the value of your retirement savings. If you need to withdraw from your investments to supplement your retirement income, two important factors in determining how long your investments will last are the amount of the withdrawals you take and the growth and/or earnings your investments experience. You might base the anticipated rate of return of your investments on the presumption that market fluctuations will average out over time, and estimate how long your savings will last based on an anticipated, average rate of return.

Unfortunately, the market doesn't always generate positive returns. Sometimes there are periods lasting for a few years or longer when the market provides negative returns. During these periods, constant withdrawals from your savings combined with prolonged negative market returns can result in the depletion of your savings far sooner than planned.

Reinvestment risk is the risk that proceeds available for reinvestment must be reinvested at an interest rate that's lower than the rate of the instrument that generated the proceeds. This could mean that you have to reinvest at a lower rate of return, or take on additional risk to achieve the same level of return. This type of risk is often associated with fixed interest savings instruments such as bonds or bank certificates of deposit. When the instrument matures, comparable instruments may not be paying the same return or a better return as the matured investment.

Interest rate risk occurs when interest rates rise and the prices of some existing investments drop. For example, during periods of rising interest rates, newer bond issues will likely yield higher coupon rates than older bonds issued during periods of lower interest rates, thus decreasing the market value of the older bonds. You also might see the market value of some stocks and mutual funds drop due to interest rate hikes because some investors will shift their money from these stocks and mutual funds to lower-risk fixed investments paying higher interest rates compared to prior years.
 

Inflation risk

Inflation is the risk that the purchasing power of a dollar will decline over time, due to the rising cost of goods and services. If inflation runs at its historical long term average of about 3%, the purchasing power of a given sum of money will be cut in half in 23 years. If it jumps to 4%, the purchasing power is cut in half in 18 years.

A simple example illustrates the impact of inflation on retirement income. Assuming a consistent annual inflation rate of 3%, and excluding taxes and investment returns in general, if $50,000 satisfies your retirement income needs this year, you'll need $51,500 of income next year to meet the same income needs. In 10 years, you'll need about $67,195 to equal the purchasing power of $50,000 this year. Therefore, to outpace inflation, you should try to have some strategy in place that allows your income stream to grow throughout retirement.

(The following hypothetical example is for illustrative purposes only and assumes a 3% annual rate of inflation without considering fees, expenses, and taxes. It does not reflect the performance of any particular investment.)
 

Equivalent Purchasing Power of $50,000 at 3% Inflation


 

Long-term care expenses

Long-term care may be needed when physical or mental disabilities impair your capacity to perform everyday basic tasks. As life expectancies increase, so does the potential need for long- term care.

Paying for long-term care can have a significant impact on retirement income and savings, especially for the healthy spouse. While not everyone needs long-term care during their lives, ignoring the possibility of such care and failing to plan for it can leave you or your spouse with little or no income or savings if such care is needed. Even if you decide to buy long-term care insurance, don't forget to factor the premium cost into your retirement income needs.

A complete statement of coverage, including exclusions, exceptions, and limitations, is found only in the long-term care policy. It should be noted that carriers have the discretion to raise their rates and remove their products from the marketplace.
 

The costs of catastrophic care

As the number of employers providing retirement health-care benefits dwindles and the cost of medical care continues to spiral upward, planning for catastrophic health-care costs in retirement is becoming more important. If you recently retired from a job that provided health insurance, you may not fully appreciate how much health care really costs.

Despite the availability of Medicare coverage, you'll likely have to pay for additional health-related expenses out-of-pocket. You may have to pay the rising premium costs of Medicare optional Part B coverage (which helps pay for outpatient services) and/or Part D prescription drug coverage. You may also want to buy supplemental Medigap insurance, which is used to pay Medicare deductibles and co-payments and to provide protection against catastrophic expenses that either exceed Medicare benefits or are not covered by Medicare at all. Otherwise, you may need to cover Medicare deductibles, co-payments, and other costs out-of-pocket.
 

Taxes

The effect of taxes on your retirement savings and income is an often overlooked but significant aspect of retirement income planning. Taxes can eat into your income, significantly reducing the amount you have available to spend in retirement.

It's important to understand how your investments are taxed. Some income, like interest, is taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Other income, like long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends, currently benefit from special--generally lower--maximum tax rates. Some specific investments, like certain municipal bonds,1 generate income that is exempt from federal income tax altogether. You should understand how the income generated by your investments is taxed, so that you can factor the tax into your overall projection.

Taxes can impact your available retirement income, especially if a significant portion of your savings and/or income comes from tax-qualified accounts such as pensions, 401(k)s, and traditional IRAs, since most, if not all, of the income from these accounts is subject to income taxes. Understanding the tax consequences of these investments is important when making retirement income projections.
 

Have you planned for these factors?

When planning for your retirement, consider these common factors that can affect your income and savings. While many of these same issues can affect your income during your working years, you may not notice their influence because you're not depending on your savings as a major source of income. However, investment risk, inflation, taxes, and health-related expenses can greatly affect your retirement income.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!
 
1 Interest earned on tax-free municipal bonds is generally exempt from state tax if the bond was issued in the state in which you reside, as well as from federal income tax (though earnings on certain private activity bonds may be subject to regular federal income tax or to the alternative minimum tax). But if purchased as part of a tax-exempt municipal money market or bond mutual fund, any capital gains earned by the fund are subject to tax, just as any capital gains from selling an individual bond are.

Note also that tax-exempt interest is included in determining if a portion of any Social Security benefit you receive is taxable.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional.

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

Taxes Investments

Many IRA and retirement plan limits are indexed for inflation each year. While some of the limits remain unchanged for 2021, other key numbers have increased.
 

IRA contribution limits

 
The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA in 2021 is $6,000 (or 100% of your earned income, if less), unchanged from 2020. The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older remains $1,000. You can contribute to both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA in 2021, but your total contributions cannot exceed these annual limits.
 

Income limits for deducting traditional IRA contributions

 
If you (or if you're married, both you and your spouse) are not covered by an employer retirement plan, your contributions to a traditional IRA are generally fully tax deductible. If you're married, filing jointly, and you're not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is between $198,000 and $208,000 (up from $196,000 and $206,000 in 2020), and eliminated if your MAGI is $208,000 or more (up from $206,000 in 2020).
 
For those who are covered by an employer plan, deductibility depends on your income and filing status.
 
If your 2021 federal income tax filing status is: Your IRA deduction is limited if your MAGI is between: Your deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household $66,000 and $76,000  $76,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) $105,000 and $125,000 (combined) $125,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately $0 and $10,000 $10,000 or more

If your filing status is single or head of household, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) in 2021 if your MAGI is $66,000 or less (up from $65,000 in 2020). If you're married and filing a joint return, you can fully deduct up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) if your MAGI is $105,000 or less (up from $104,000 in 2020).
 

Income limits for contributing to a Roth IRA

 
The income limits for determining how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA have also increased.
 
If your 2021 federal income tax filing status is: Your Roth IRA contribution is limited if your MAGI is: You cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household More than $125,000 but less than $140,000 $140,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) More than $198,000 but less than $208,000 (combined) $208,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately More than $0 but less than $10,000 $10,000 or more

If your filing status is single or head of household, you can contribute the full $6,000 ($7,000 if you are age 50 or older) to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is $125,000 or less (up from $124,000 in 2020). And if you're married and filing a joint return, you can make a full contribution if your MAGI is $198,000 or less (up from $196,000 in 2020). Again, contributions can't exceed 100% of your earned income.
 

Employer retirement plan limits

 
Most of the significant employer retirement plan limits for 2021 remain unchanged from 2020. The
maximum amount you can contribute (your "elective deferrals") to a 401(k) plan remains $19,500 in 2021. This limit also applies to 403(b) and 457(b) plans, as well as the Federal Thrift Plan. If you're age 50 or older, you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $6,500 to these plans in 2021. [Special catch-up limits apply to certain participants in 403(b) and 457(b) plans.]
 
The amount you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) remains $13,500 in 2021, and the catch-up limit for those age 50 or older remains $3,000.
 
Plan Type: Annual Dollar Limit: Cath-Up Limit:
401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b), Federal Thrift Plan $19,500 $6,500
SIMPLE plans $13,500 $3,000

Note: Contributions can't exceed 100% of your income.
 
If you participate in more than one retirement plan, your total elective deferrals can't exceed the annual limit ($19,500 in 2021 plus any applicable catch-up contributions). Deferrals to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and SIMPLE plans are included in this aggregate limit, but deferrals to Section 457(b) plans are not. For example, if you participate in both a 403(b) plan and a 457(b) plan, you can defer the full dollar limit to each plan — a total of $39,000 in 2021 (plus any catch-up contributions).
 
The maximum amount that can be allocated to your account in a defined contribution plan [for example, a 401(k) plan or profit-sharing plan] in 2021 is $58,000 (up from $57,000 in 2020) plus age 50 or older catch-up contributions. This includes both your contributions and your employer's contributions. Special rules apply if your employer sponsors more than one retirement plan.
 
Finally, the maximum amount of compensation that can be taken into account in determining benefits for most plans in 2021 is $290,000 (up from $285,000 in 2020), and the dollar threshold for determining highly compensated employees (when 2021 is the look-back year) remains $130,000 (unchanged from 2020).
 
How will IRA and retirement plan limits affect your plans? Kirtland Financial Services can help you navigate these rules.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!

 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Taxes Investments

It's nice to own stocks, bonds, and other investments. Nice, that is, until it's time to fill out your federal income tax return. At that point, you may be left scratching your head. Just how do you report your investments and how are they taxed?
 

Is it ordinary income or a capital gain?

 
To determine how an investment vehicle is taxed in a given year, first ask yourself what went on with the investment that year. Did it generate interest income? If so, the income is probably considered ordinary. Did you sell the investment? If so, a capital gain or loss is probably involved. (Certain investments can generate both ordinary income and capital gain income, but we won't get into that here.)
 
If you receive dividend income, it may be taxed either at ordinary income tax rates or at the rates that apply to long-term capital gain income. Dividends paid to an individual shareholder from a domestic corporation or qualified foreign corporation are generally taxed at the same rates that apply to long-term capital gains. Long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0 percent, 15 percent, and 20 percent depending on your taxable income. (Some types of capital gains may be taxed as high as 25 percent or 28 percent.) The actual process of calculating tax on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is extremely complicated and depends on the amount of your net capital gains and qualified dividends and your taxable income. But special rules and exclusions apply, and some dividends (such as those from money market mutual funds) continue to be treated as ordinary income.
 
The distinction between ordinary income and capital gain income is important because different tax rates may apply and different reporting procedures may be involved. Here are some of the things you need to know.
 

Categorizing your ordinary income

 
Investments often produce ordinary income. Examples of ordinary income include interest and rent. Many investments — including savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, annuities, bonds, and some preferred stock — can generate ordinary income. Ordinary income is taxed at ordinary (as opposed to capital gains) tax rates.
 
But not all ordinary income is taxable — and even if it is taxable, it may not be taxed immediately. If you receive ordinary income, the income can be categorized as taxable, tax exempt, or tax deferred.
 
  • Taxable income: This is income that's not tax exempt or tax deferred. If you receive ordinary taxable income from your investments, you'll report it on your federal income tax return. In some cases, you may have to detail your investments and income on Schedule B.
  • Tax-exempt income: This is income that's free from federal and/or state income tax, depending on the type of investment vehicle and the state of issue. Municipal bonds and U.S. securities are typical examples of investments that can generate tax-exempt income.
  • Tax-deferred income: This is income whose taxation is postponed until some point in the future. For example, with a 401(k) retirement plan, earnings are reinvested and taxed only when you take money out of the plan. The income earned in the 401(k) plan is tax deferred.
 
A quick word about ordinary losses: It's possible for an investment to generate an ordinary loss, rather than ordinary income. In general, ordinary losses reduce ordinary income.
 

Understanding what basis means

 
Let's move on to what happens when you sell an investment vehicle. Before getting into capital gains and losses, though, you need to understand an important term — basis. Generally speaking, basis refers to the amount of your investment in an asset. To calculate the capital gain or loss when you sell or exchange an asset, you must know how to determine both your initial basis and adjusted basis in the asset.
 
First, initial basis. Usually, your initial basis equals your cost — what you paid for the asset. For example, if you purchased one share of stock for $10,000, your initial basis in the stock is $10,000. However, your initial basis can differ from the cost if you did not purchase an asset but rather received it as a gift or inheritance, or in a tax-free exchange.
 
Next, adjusted basis. Your initial basis in an asset can increase or decrease over time in certain circumstances. For example, if you buy a house for $100,000, your initial basis in the house will be $100,000. If you later improve your home by installing a $5,000 deck, your adjusted basis in the house may be $105,000. You should be aware of which items increase the basis of your asset, and which items decrease the basis of your asset. See IRS Publication 551 for details.
 

Calculating your capital gain or loss

 
If you sell stocks, bonds, or other capital assets, you'll end up with a capital gain or loss. Special capital gains tax rates may apply. These rates may be lower than ordinary income tax rates.
 
Basically, capital gain (or loss) equals the amount that you realize on the sale of your asset (i.e., the amount of cash and/or the value of any property you receive) less your adjusted basis in the asset. If you sell an asset for more than your adjusted basis in the asset, you'll have a capital gain. For example, assume you had an adjusted basis in stock of $10,000. If you sell the stock for $15,000, your capital gain will be $5,000. If you sell an asset for less than your adjusted basis in the asset, you'll have a capital loss. For example, assume you had an adjusted basis in stock of $10,000. If you sell the stock for $8,000, your capital loss will be $2,000.
 
Schedule D of your income tax return is where you'll calculate your short-term and long-term capital gains and losses, and figure the tax due, if any. You'll need to know not only your adjusted basis and the amount realized from each sale, but also your holding period, your taxable income, and the type of asset(s) involved. See IRS Publication 544 for details.
 
  • Holding period: Generally, the holding period refers to how long you owned an asset. A capital gain is classified as short term if the asset was held for a year or less, and long term if the asset was held for more than one year. The tax rates applied to long-term capital gain income are generally lower than those applied to short-term capital gain income. Short-term capital gains are taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income.
  • Taxable income: Long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0%, 15%, and 20% depending on your taxable income. (Some types of capital gains may be taxed as high as 25 percent or 28 percent.) The actual process of calculating tax on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is extremely complicated and depends on the amount of your net capital gains and qualified dividends and your taxable income.
  • Type of asset: The type of asset that you sell will dictate the capital gain rate that applies, and possibly the steps that you should take to calculate the capital gain (or loss). For instance, the sale of an antique is taxed at the maximum tax rate of 28 percent even if you held the antique for more than 12 months.
 

Using capital losses to reduce your tax liability

 
You can use capital losses from one investment to reduce the capital gains from other investments. You can also use a capital loss against up to $3,000 of ordinary income this year ($1,500 for married persons filing separately). Losses not used this year can offset future capital gains. Schedule D of your federal income tax return can lead you through this process.
 

New Medicare contribution tax on unearned income may apply
 

High-income individuals may be subject to a 3.8 percent Medicare contribution tax on unearned income (the tax, which first took effect in 2013, is also imposed on estates and trusts, although slightly different rules apply). The tax is equal to 3.8 percent of the
lesser of:
 
  • Your net investment income (generally, net income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents, and capital gains, as well as income from a business that is considered a passive activity), or
  • The amount of your modified adjusted gross income that exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing a joint federal income tax return, $125,000 if married filing a separate return)
 
So, effectively, you're subject to the additional 3.8 percent tax only if your adjusted gross income exceeds the dollar thresholds listed above. It's worth noting that interest on tax-exempt bonds is not considered net investment income for purposes of the additional tax. Qualified retirement plan and IRA distributions are also not considered investment income.
 

Getting help when things get too complicated

 
The sales of some assets are more difficult to calculate and report than others, so you may need to consult an IRS publication or other tax references to properly calculate your capital gain or loss. Also, remember that you can always seek the assistance of an accountant or other tax professional.
 
The tax implications for investments can seem complicated. Kirtland Financial Services specializes in helping you incorporate these implications into your plans.

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!

 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

Taxes Investments Retirement

Investment planning can be important for several reasons. However, any discussion of investment planning is incomplete without a thorough understanding of the applicable income tax ramifications. Tax planning can help you reduce the tax cost of your investments. Once you’ve created an investment plan to work toward your various financial goals, you should take advantage of the tax rules to ensure that your maximize the after-tax return on your investments. In other words, your goal is to select tax-favorable investments that are consistent with your overall investment plan.
 
In order to engage in investment tax planning, you need to understand how investments are taxed (including the concepts of capital gain income and ordinary income) and how to compare different investment vehicles. You also need to know how your own tax situation (i.e., your tax bracket, holding period, and tax basis) affects the taxation of your capital assets.
 
Caution: Investment choices should not be based on tax considerations alone, but should be based on several factors including your time horizons and risk tolerance.
 
Caution: Starting in 2013, a new 3.8 percent unearned income Medicare contribution tax will be imposed on the investment income of high-income individuals (generally, married individuals filing jointly with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) exceeding $250,000, married individuals filing separately with MAGI exceeding $125,000, and single individuals with MAGI exceeding $200,000).
 

How does investment tax planning work?

Similar investments may carry substantially different tax costs. It is important to identify the differences and evaluate the costs. Consider the following points:
 
Investment earnings are taxed in different ways
 
Myriad investment vehicles are available to you. For instance, you can invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market funds, real estate, commodities, or your own business. Investment earnings are taxed in many different ways. Consequently, some investments earn less after tax than others. By taking advantage of these differences, you may save money. In addition, your tax savings can preserve your investments and, as a result, enhance future investment growth.
 
Investment tax planning can maximize your wealth
 
Tax investment planning involves maximizing the after-tax return on your investments. This is beneficial because the wealth that remains after you pay your taxes is ultimately more important to you than the value of your investments. It's the after-tax payout that enables you to finance a home, a child's education, a vacation, or your retirement. Thus, one goal of investment tax planning is to maximize future wealth. To do so, you need to know a little bit about taxes. In particular, you need to know the following:
 
  • How your investments are taxed
  • The before- and after-tax rates of return on your investments
  • How to compare investments in light of after-tax return
 

How are your investments taxed?

In order to understand how investments are taxed, you first need to become familiar with the following basic concepts:
 
  • Capital gains and losses
  • Qualified dividends
  • Ordinary (investment) income
  • Investment expenses
  • Tax-exempt income
  • Tax-deferred income
 
Capital gains and losses
 
While you hold a capital asset (e.g., your home, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, collectibles), you will not pay taxes on any increase in value. However, when you sell or exchange the asset, you will realize a capital gain (if you sell it for a profit) or loss (if you sell for less than the asset's cost). If you sell an asset after only a year or less, you will have a short-term capital gain. Short-term capital gains are taxed at ordinary income tax rates (i.e., your marginal income tax rate). If you own an asset for more than a year before you sell it, you will have a long-term capital gain.
 
Long-term capital gains tax rates are generally more favorable than ordinary income tax rates. Currently, the highest ordinary income tax rate is 37 percent whereas the highest long-term capital gains tax rate (for most assets) is 20 percent. That's a difference of 17 percent. Thus, holding an asset for long-term growth is a tax-saving strategy.
 
Tip: Long-term capital gains are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0 percent, 15 percent, and 20 percent depending on your taxable income. (Some types of capital gains may be taxed as high as 25 percent or 28 percent.) The actual process of calculating tax on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is extremely complicated and depends on the amount of your net capital gains and qualified dividends and your taxable income.
 
You may offset capital gains with capital losses (short-term losses against short-term gains and long-term losses against long-term gains). If you have more losses than gains in a given year, you may offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 if married filing separately). Any remaining losses can be carried forward into future tax years. Thus, timing losses to offset gains is a tax-saving investment strategy.
 
Tip: You may also elect to include net capital gains from property held for investment as ordinary (investment) income. If you do so, such income will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates, not capital gains tax rates. This may be advantageous if you don't have capital losses, but do have investment interest expenses. Investment interest expense may only be deducted to the extent of investment income (though it can also be carried forward to future years). This election must be specifically made--if you do not make the election, the IRS will classify the income as capital gain income.
 
Capital gain is computed by subtracting the sale price from the asset's basis. Basis is your cost and includes the price you paid for the assets plus the cost of capital improvements. The higher your basis, the smaller your capital gain and the smaller your tax liability. Thus, you should keep careful records of the basis of an asset. This is especially important if you buy shares of stock in the same company at different times and different prices. This will allow you to control the tax consequences by picking particular shares to sell or hold.
 
Tip: If you want to sell an asset now but defer the recognition of the gain until later tax years, you may be able to arrange an installment sale with the buyer (but not for stocks or bonds). That way, you report and pay tax on the income as you receive it.

Qualified dividends

Qualified dividends are dividends received during the tax year by an individual shareholder from a domestic corporation or a qualified foreign corporation. Such dividends are taxable at the same rates that apply to long-term capital gains. This tax treatment applies to both regular tax and the alternative minimum tax.
 
Eligible dividends include dividends received directly from a domestic corporation or a qualified foreign corporation as well as qualified dividends passed through to investors by stock mutual funds, other regulated investment companies, partnerships, or real estate investment trusts (REITs). Thus, it may be advantageous to invest in vehicles that pay qualified dividends, especially if you need current income.
 
Distributions from tax-deferred vehicles, such as IRAs, retirement plans, annuities, and Coverdell education savings plans, do not qualify even if the funds represent dividends from stock. Thus, holding investments that pay qualified dividends within a tax-deferred plan may no longer be desirable.
 
Tip: Though qualified dividends are taxed at long-term capital gains tax rates, they cannot be offset by capital losses. However, as with capital gains, you can elect to include these dividends in investment income. If you do so, such income will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates, not capital gains tax rates. This may be advantageous if you have investment interest expenses in excess of investment income. Investment interest expense may only be deducted to the extent of investment income (though it can also be carried forward to future years). This election must be specifically made--if you do not make the election, the IRS will classify the income as net capital gain.
 
Ordinary (investment) income
 

Ordinary investment income consists of any investment income that is not capital gain income, qualified dividends, or tax-exempt income, and is taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Investment income is generated by investment property such as bonds and bond mutual funds. Examples of ordinary investment income include interest and dividends that are actually interest (and therefore don't qualify for taxation at long-term capital gains tax rates).

Generally, ordinary income tax treatment is not as favorable as long-term capital gains tax treatment.

Investment expenses

If you borrow money to buy investment property, you probably pay investment interest. Investment interest may be used to offset investment income only. Excess investment interest may be carried forward to future years.
 
Passive income and losses
 
A passive activity is an investment in a business in which you are not an active participant. Rental real estate and limited partnerships are two common examples. Income generated by a passive activity and gain from the sale or exchange of a passive activity is included in passive income and taxed at ordinary income tax rates. Generally, losses from passive activities may offset income from passive activities only--they cannot be used to offset ordinary income or capital gain income. However, excess losses in a given year can be carried forward into future tax years.
 
Tax-exempt income
 
There are a number of tax-exempt investment vehicles. One of the more common vehicles is the municipal bond. Usually, interest paid on municipal bonds is not subject to federal or state tax (at least not in the state of issue). When deciding whether to invest in taxable bonds or tax-exempt bonds, it is important to compare the after-tax rate of return on municipals with that on taxable bonds with similar risk.
 
Caution: While the interest on municipal bonds is tax exempt, capital gains tax may be imposed when you sell the bonds.
 
Caution: The interest on U.S. Government bonds is not exempt from federal income tax. However, the interest on federal securities is tax exempt at the state level.
 
Tip: Roth IRAs, although technically vehicles for holding investments and not truly investments themselves, should be discussed under the heading of tax-exempt income. A Roth IRA is a vehicle in which you can invest a limited amount of money each year for
retirement and certain other limited purposes (assuming that you satisfy certain criteria including adjusted gross income (AGI) limits). The income and gains on the account are not taxed at all as long as you follow all applicable rules. Be aware, though, that if all applicable rules are not followed, withdrawals will not only be subject to tax, they may also be subject to a penalty. Tax-free growth is clearly one of the most powerful investment tools available for creating wealth. However, you must use after-tax dollars
to make the initial investment and subsequent contributions. No IRA deduction is allowed for contributions to Roth IRAs.
 
Tax-deferred income
 
Tax-deferred investments produce earnings that are not taxed until withdrawn. These earnings are reinvested and continue to fuel investment growth. This is one of the most powerful investment tools available. First, there is a time-value of money advantage.
The longer you can keep the money in your own pocket and out of the hands of the IRS, the greater the potential benefit will be to you. Second, since our income tax rates are progressive, you may find yourself in a lower tax bracket in the year the earnings are
finally taxed. If so, the actual amount of tax paid on those investment earnings will be less. On the other hand, if you find yourself in a higher tax bracket in the year the earnings are finally taxed, the amount of tax paid on the earnings will be higher (assuming all else is equal).
 
Caution: Many retirement vehicles are designed to provide tax-deferred growth. The downside of this benefit is that all distributions from the retirement plan are taxed at ordinary income rates rather than at capital gains rates. This can result in potentially higher taxation in light of the progressively higher ordinary income tax rates.
 

What are before- and after-tax rates of return?

To compare investments, you must understand before- and after-tax rates of return. Ultimately, you want to compare the after-tax rate of returns on similar investments. The rate of return is the ratio of the annual amount an investment earns compared to the cost of the investment. Thus, if an investment cost you $10 and earned $1, the rate of return is 10 percent.
 
Before-tax rate of return
 
The before-tax rate of return is the annual market-rate of return. For example, a $10 bond that pays $1 per year in interest and is sold for $10 earns a 10 percent before-tax rate of return.
 
After-tax rate of return
 
The after-tax rate of return is the ratio of the after-tax income and gain to the amount invested. With the exception of tax-free investments, this rate is always lower than the before-tax or market rate of return. What do you need to know to compute the after-tax rate of return? Generally, you need to know the following:
 
  • What is the tax treatment of your investments (ordinary income, capital gains, tax exempt, tax deferred)?
  • What is your tax situation (your marginal tax rate, your holding periods, whether you’re invested in tax-deferred retirement accounts)?
 

How do you comparison shop for investments?

Comparison shopping for investments allows you to compare the after-tax return on two similar investments. In order to effectively make this assessment, you must consider two other issues:
 
  • Tax classification of the investment
  • Your tax situation
 
Tax treatment of the investment
 
You need to know whether the investment vehicle generates capital gains, ordinary income, tax-free, or tax-deferred income. There are two components to the after-tax rate of return: the portion attributable to earnings (such as interest) and the amount derived from a subsequent sale. You also need to know whether any capital gains will be treated as long-term or short-term capital gains.
 
Special rules can apply to certain kinds of investments such as wash sales, qualifying small business stock, short sales, installment sales, like-kind exchanges, and others. In addition, you may wish to know about market discount rules, anti-conversion rules, and tax shelters.
 
Your tax treatment
 
Your investment tax situation depends on several factors. In particular, you'll need to know the adjusted tax basis of your capital assets, the sale price of the assets, the holding period, the amount of the capital gain or loss, the amount of your ordinary
investment income or losses, and your marginal tax bracket.
 
Kirtland Financial Services specializes in helping you understand tax implications of investment decisions. Make your first appointment for free!

Get started with Kirtland Financial Services today!
 
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional. LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.

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