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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.

All Posts > Investments

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.

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.

Investments Retirement Estate Planning

Investment planning during retirement is not the same as investing for retirement and, in many ways, is more complicated.

Your working years are your saving years. With luck, your income increases from year to year as you receive promotions and/or pay raises; those increases offer some protection against rising costs caused by inflation. While you're working, your retirement objective generally is to grow retirement savings as much as possible, and investments that offer higher potential reward in exchange for greater potential for volatility and/or loss are often the focus for those retirement savings.

When you retire, on the other hand, spending rather than saving becomes your focus. Your sources of income may include Social Security, employer pensions, personal savings and assets, and perhaps some income from working part-time. Typically, a retiree's objective is to derive sufficient income to maintain a chosen lifestyle and to make assets last as long as necessary.

This can be a tricky balancing act. Uncertainty abounds--you don't know how long you'll live or whether rates of return will meet your expectations. If your income is fixed, inflation could erode its purchasing power over time, which may cause you to invade principal to meet day-to-day expenses. Or, your retirement plan may require that you make minimum withdrawals in excess of your needs, depleting your resources and triggering taxes unnecessarily. Further, your ability to tolerate risk is lessened--you have less time to recover from losses, and you may feel less secure about your finances in general.

How, then, should you manage your investments during retirement given the above complications? The answer is different for everyone. You should tailor your plans to your own unique circumstances, and you may want to consult a financial planning professional for advice.

The following discusses two important factors you should consider: (1) withdrawing income from retirement assets, and (2) balancing safety with growth.
 

Choosing a sustainable withdrawal rate

A key factor that determines whether your assets will last for your entire lifetime is the rate at which you withdraw funds. The more you withdraw, the greater the likelihood you'll exhaust your resources too soon. On the other hand, if you withdraw too little, you may have to struggle to meet expenses; also, you could end up with assets in your estate, part of which may go to the government in taxes. It is vital that you estimate an appropriate withdrawal rate for your circumstances, and determine whether you should adjust your lifestyle and/or estate plan.

Your withdrawal rate is typically expressed as a percentage of your overall assets, even though withdrawals may represent earnings, principal, or some combination of the two. For example, if you have $700,000 in assets and decide a 4 percent withdrawal rate is appropriate, the portfolio would need to earn $28,000 a year if you intend to withdraw only earnings; alternatively, you might set it up to earn $14,000 in interest and take the remaining $14,000 from the principal. An appropriate and sustainable withdrawal rate depends on many factors including the value of your current assets, your expected rate of return, your life expectancy, your risk tolerance, whether you adjust for inflation, how much your expenses are expected to be, and whether you want some assets left over for your heirs.

Fortunately, you don't have to make a wild guess. Studies have tackled this issue, resulting in the creation of tables and calculators that can provide you with a range of rates that have some probability of success. However, you'll probably need some expert help to ensure that this important decision is made carefully.
 

Withdrawing first from taxable, tax-deferred, or tax-free accounts

Many retirees have assets in various types of accounts--taxable, tax-deferred (e.g., traditional IRAs), and tax-free (e.g., Roth IRAs). Given a choice, which type of account should you withdraw from first? The answer--it depends.

Caution: Roth IRA earnings are generally free from federal income tax if certain conditions are met but may not be free from state income tax.

 

Retirees who will not have an estate

For retirees who do not intend to leave assets to beneficiaries, the answer is simple in theory: Withdraw money from a taxable account first, then a tax-deferred account, and lastly, a tax-free account. This will provide for the greatest growth potential due to the power of compounding.

In practice, however, your choices, to some extent, may be directed by tax rules. Retirement accounts, other than Roth IRAs, have minimum withdrawal requirements. In general, you must begin withdrawing from these accounts by April 1 of the year following the year you turn age 72. Failure to do so can result in a 50 percent excise tax imposed on the amount by which the required minimum distribution exceeds the distribution you actually take.


Retirees who will have an estate

For retirees who intend to leave assets to beneficiaries, the analysis is more complicated. You need to coordinate your retirement plan with your estate plan.

If you have appreciated or rapidly appreciating assets, it may be more advantageous for you to withdraw from tax-deferred and tax-free accounts first. This is because these accounts will not receive a step-up in basis at your death, as many of your other assets will, and your heirs could face a larger than necessary tax liability.

However, this may not always be the best strategy. For example, if you intend to leave your entire estate to your spouse, it may be better to withdraw from taxable accounts first. This is because spouses are given preferential tax treatment with regard to retirement plans. As a beneficiary of a traditional IRA or retirement plan, a surviving spouse can roll over retirement plan funds to his or her own IRA or retirement plan, or, in some cases, may continue the deceased spouse's plan as his or her own. The funds in the plan continue to grow tax deferred, and distributions need not begin until the spouse's own required beginning date.

For retirees who have a "stretch" IRA, you may want to take advantage of your ability to defer taxes over a number of generations.

Tip: Retirees in this situation should consult a qualified estate planning attorney who has some expertise with regard to retirement plan assets.
 

Balancing safety and growth

When you retire, you generally stop receiving income from wages, a salary, or other work-related activity and start relying on your assets for income. To ensure a consistent and reliable flow of income for your lifetime, you must provide some stability for your principal. This is why retirees typically shift at least a portion of their investment portfolio to more stable income-producing investments, and this makes a great deal of sense.

Unfortunately, stability comes with a price-reduced growth potential and erosion of value due to inflation. Stability at the expense of growth can be a critical mistake for some retirees. On the other hand, if you invest too heavily in growth investments, your risk is heightened, and you may be forced to sell during a downturn in the market should you need more income. Retirees must find a way to strike a reasonable balance between stability and growth.

One solution may be the "two bucket" approach. To implement this, you would determine your sustainable withdrawal rate (see above), and then reallocate a portion of your portfolio to fixed income investments (e.g., certificates of deposit and bonds) that will provide you with sufficient income for a predetermined number of years. You would then reallocate the balance of your portfolio to growth investments (e.g., stocks) that you can use to replenish that income "bucket" over time.

The fixed income portion of your portfolio should be able to provide you with enough income (together with any other income you may receive, such as Social Security and required minimum distributions from retirement plans) to meet your expenses so you won't have to liquidate investments in the growth portion of your portfolio at a time when they may be down. This can help you ride out fluctuations in the market, and sell only when you think a sale is advantageous.

Be sure that your fixed income investments will provide you with income when you'll need it. One way to accomplish this is by laddering. For example, if you're investing in bonds, instead of investing the entire amount in one issue that matures on a certain date, spread your investment over several issues with staggered maturity dates (e.g., one year, two years, three years). As each bond matures, reinvest the principal to maintain the pattern.

As for the growth portion of your investment portfolio, common investing principles still apply:
  • Diversify your holdings
  • Invest on a tax-deferred or tax-free basis if possible
  • Monitor your portfolio and reallocate assets when appropriate

Caution: For retirees investing in bonds, don't assume that individual bonds and bond funds are the same type of investment. Bond funds do not offer the two key characteristics offered by bonds: (1) income from bond funds is not fixed--dividends change depending on the bonds the funds has bought and sold as well as the prevailing interest rate, and (2) a bond fund does not have an obligation to return principal to you when bonds within the fund mature. Additionally, the risk associated with bond funds varies depending on the bonds held within the fund at any given time, whereas the risk associated with individual bonds generally decreases over time as a bond nears its maturity date (assuming the issuer's financial situation doesn't deteriorate). Finally, fees and charges associated with bond funds reduce returns. Even so, you may still find bond funds attractive because of their convenience. Just be sure you understand the differences between bond funds and individual bonds before you invest.

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

Just what you need, right? One more time-consuming task to be taken care of between now and the end of the year. But taking a little time out from the holiday chores to make some strategic saving and investing decisions before December 31 can affect not only your long-term ability to meet your financial goals but also the amount of taxes you'll owe next April.
 

Look at the forest, not just the trees

The first step in your year-end investment planning process should be a review of your overall portfolio. That review can tell you whether you need to rebalance. If one type of investment has done well — for example, large-cap stocks — it might now represent a greater percentage of your portfolio than you originally intended. To rebalance, you would sell some of that asset class and use that money to buy other types of investments to bring your overall allocation back to an appropriate balance. Your overall review should also help you decide whether that rebalancing should be done before or after December 31 for tax reasons.

Also, make sure your asset allocation is still appropriate for your time horizon and goals. You might consider being a bit more aggressive if you're not meeting your financial targets, or more conservative if you're getting closer to retirement. If you want greater diversification, you might consider adding an asset class that tends to react to market conditions differently than your existing investments do. Or you might look into an investment that you have avoided in the past because of its high valuation if it's now selling at a more attractive price. Diversification and asset allocation don't guarantee a profit or insure against a possible loss, of course, but they're worth reviewing at least once a year.
 

Know when to hold 'em

When contemplating a change in your portfolio, don't forget to consider how long you've owned each investment. Assets held for a year or less generate short-term capital gains, which are taxed as ordinary income. Depending on your tax bracket, your ordinary income tax rate could be much higher than the long-term capital gains rate, which applies to the sale of assets held for more than a year. For example, as of tax year 2020, the top marginal tax rate is 37%, which applies to any annual taxable income over $518,400 ($622,050 for married individuals filing jointly). By contrast, long-term capital gains are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0%, 15%, and 20% depending on your taxable income. (Long-term gains on collectibles are different; those are taxed at 28%.)

Your holding period can also affect the treatment of qualified stock dividends, which are taxed at the more favorable long-term capital gains rates. You must have held the stock at least 61 days within the 121-day period that starts 60 days before the stock's ex-dividend date; preferred stock must be held for 91 days within a 181-day window. The lower rate also depends on when and whether your shares were hedged or optioned.
 

Make lemonade from lemons

Now is the time to consider the tax consequences of any capital gains or losses you've experienced this year. Though tax considerations shouldn't be the primary driver of your investing decisions, there are steps you can take before the end of the year to minimize any tax impact of your investing decisions.

If you have realized capital gains from selling securities at a profit (congratulations!) and you have no tax losses carried forward from previous years, you can sell losing positions to avoid being taxed on some or all of those gains. Any losses over and above the amount of your gains can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 for a married person filing separately) or carried forward to reduce your taxes in future years. Selling losing positions for the tax benefit they will provide next April is a common financial practice known as "harvesting your losses."

Example: You sold stock in ABC company this year for $2,500 more than you paid when you bought it four years ago. You decide to sell the XYZ stock that you bought six years ago because it seems unlikely to regain the $20,000 you paid for it. You sell your XYZ shares at a $7,000 loss. You offset your $2,500 capital gain, offset $3,000 of ordinary income tax this year, and carry forward the remaining $1,500 to be applied in future tax years.
 

Time any trades appropriately

If you're selling to harvest losses in a stock or mutual fund and intend to repurchase the same security, make sure you wait at least 31 days before buying it again. Otherwise, the trade is considered a "wash sale," and the tax loss will be disallowed. The wash sale rule also applies if you buy an option on the stock, sell it short, or buy it through your spouse within 30 days before or after the sale.

If you have unrealized losses that you want to capture but still believe in a specific investment, there are a couple of strategies you might think about. If you want to sell but don't want to be out of the market for even a short period, you could sell your position at a loss, then buy a similar exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in the same asset class or industry. Or you could double your holdings, then sell your original shares at a loss after 31 days. You'd end up with the same position, but would have captured the tax loss.

If you're buying a mutual fund or an ETF in a taxable account, find out when it will distribute any dividends or capital gains. Consider delaying your purchase until after that date, which often is near year-end. If you buy just before the distribution, you'll owe taxes this year on that money, even if your own shares haven't appreciated. And if you plan to sell a fund anyway, you may help reduce taxes by selling before the distribution date.

Note: Before buying a mutual fund or ETF, don't forget to consider carefully its investment objectives, risks, fees, and expenses, which can be found in the prospectus available from the fund. Read the prospectus carefully before investing.
 

Know where to hold 'em

Think about which investments make sense to hold in a tax-advantaged account and which might be better for taxable accounts. For example, it's generally not a good idea to hold tax-free investments, such as municipal bonds, in a tax-deferred account (e.g., a 401(k), IRA, or SEP). Doing so provides no additional tax advantage to compensate you for tax-free investments' typically lower returns. And doing so generally turns that tax-free income into income that's taxable at ordinary income tax rates when you withdraw it from the retirement account. Similarly, if you have mutual funds that trade actively and therefore generate a lot of short-term capital gains, it may make sense to hold them in a tax-advantaged account to defer taxes on those gains, which can occur even if the fund itself has a loss. Finally, when deciding where to hold specific investments, keep in mind that distributions from a tax-deferred retirement plan don't qualify for the lower tax rate on capital gains and dividends.
 

Be selective about selling shares

If you own a stock, fund, or ETF and decide to unload some shares, you may be able to maximize your tax advantage. For a mutual fund, the most common way to calculate cost basis is to use the average cost per share. However, you can also request that specific shares be sold — for example, those bought at a certain price. Which shares you choose depends on whether you want to book capital losses to offset gains, or keep gains to a minimum to reduce the tax bite. (This only applies to shares held in a taxable account.) Be aware that you must use the same method when you sell the rest of those shares.

Example: You have invested periodically in a stock for five years, paying various prices, and now want to sell some shares. To help reduce the capital gains tax you'll pay on them, you could decide to sell the least profitable shares, perhaps those that were only slightly lower when purchased. Or if you wanted losses to offset capital gains, you could specify shares bought above the current price.

Depending on when you bought a specific security, your broker may calculate your cost basis for you, and will typically designate a default method to be used. For stocks, the default method is likely to be FIFO ("first in, first out"); the first shares purchased are considered the first shares sold. As noted above, most mutual fund companies use the average cost per share as your default cost basis. With bonds, the default method amortizes any bond premium over the time you own the bond. You must notify your broker if you want to use a method other than the default.

Need some help making year-end investing decisions? Kirtland Financial Services specializes in helping create comprehensive, personalized financial plans, including potential investments. Make an appointment 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

A successful investor maximizes gain and minimizes loss. Though there can be no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful, and all investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, here are six basic principles that may help you invest more successfully.
 

Long-term compounding can help your nest egg grow

It's the "rolling snowball" effect. Put simply, compounding pays you earnings on your reinvested earnings. The longer you leave your money at work for you, the more exciting the numbers get. For example, imagine an investment of $10,000 at an annual rate of return of 8 percent. In 20 years, assuming no withdrawals, your $10,000 investment would grow to $46,610. In 25 years, it would grow to $68,485, a 47 percent gain over the 20-year figure. After 30 years, your account would total $100,627. (Of course, this is a hypothetical example that does not reflect the performance of any specific investment.)

This simple example also assumes that no taxes are paid along the way, so all money stays invested. That would be the case in a tax-deferred individual retirement account or qualified retirement plan. The compounded earnings of deferred tax dollars are the main reason experts recommend fully funding all tax-advantaged retirement accounts and plans available to you.

While you should review your portfolio on a regular basis, the point is that money left alone in an investment offers the potential of a significant return over time. With time on your side, you don't have to go for investment "home runs" in order to be successful.
 

Endure short-term pain for long-term gain

Riding out market volatility sounds simple, doesn't it? But what if you've invested $10,000 in the stock market and the price of the stock drops like a stone one day? On paper, you've lost a bundle, offsetting the value of compounding you're trying to achieve. It's tough to stand pat.

There's no denying it — the financial marketplace can be volatile. Still, it's important to remember two things. First, the longer you stay with a diversified portfolio of investments, the more likely you are to reduce your risk and improve your opportunities for gain. Though past performance doesn't guarantee future results, the long-term direction of the stock market has historically been up. Take your time horizon into account when establishing your investment game plan. For assets you'll use soon, you may not have the time to wait out the market and should consider investments designed to protect your principal. Conversely, think long-term for goals that are many years away.

Second, during any given period of market or economic turmoil, some asset categories and some individual investments historically have been less volatile than others. Bond price swings, for example, have generally been less dramatic than stock prices. Though diversification alone cannot guarantee a profit or ensure against the possibility of loss, you can minimize your risk somewhat by diversifying your holdings among various classes of assets, as well as different types of assets within each class.

Spread your wealth through asset allocation

Asset allocation is the process by which you spread your dollars over several categories of investments, usually referred to as asset classes. The three most common asset classes are stocks, bonds, and cash or cash alternatives such as money market funds. You'll also see the term "asset classes" used to refer to subcategories, such as aggressive growth stocks, long-term growth stocks, international stocks, government bonds (U.S., state, and local), high quality corporate bonds, low-quality corporate bonds, and tax-free municipal bonds. A basic asset allocation would likely include at least stocks, bonds (or mutual funds of stocks and bonds), and cash or cash alternatives.

There are two main reasons why asset allocation is important. First, the mix of asset classes you own is a large factor — some say the biggest factor by far — in determining your overall investment portfolio performance. In other words, the basic decision about how to divide your money between stocks, bonds, and cash can be more important than your subsequent choice of specific investments.

Second, by dividing your investment dollars among asset classes that do not respond to the same market forces in the same way at the same time, you can help minimize the effects of market volatility while maximizing your chances of return in the long term. Ideally, if your investments in one class are performing poorly, assets in another class may be doing better. Any gains in the latter can help offset the losses in the former and help minimize their overall impact on your portfolio.
 

Consider your time horizon in your investment choices

In choosing an asset allocation, you'll need to consider how quickly you might need to convert an investment into cash without loss of principal (your initial investment). Generally speaking, the sooner you'll need your money, the wiser it is to keep it in investments whose prices remain relatively stable. You want to avoid a situation, for example, where you need to use money quickly that is tied up in an investment whose price is currently down.
Therefore, your investment choices should take into account how soon you're planning to use your money. If you'll need the money within the next one to three years, you may want to consider keeping it in a money market fund or other cash alternative whose aim is to protect your initial investment.

Your rate of return may be lower than that possible with more volatile investments such as stocks, but you'll breathe easier knowing that the principal you invested is relatively safe and quickly available, without concern over market conditions on a given day. Conversely, if you have a longtime horizon — for example, if you're investing for a retirement that's many years away — you may be able to invest a greater percentage of your assets in something that might have more dramatic price changes but that might also have greater potential for long-term growth.

Note: Before investing in a mutual fund, consider its investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses, all of which are outlined in the prospectus, available from the fund. Consider the information carefully before investing. Remember that an investment in a money market fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporate or any other government agency. Although the fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the fund.
 

Dollar cost averaging: investing consistently and often

Dollar cost averaging is a method of accumulating shares of an investment by purchasing a fixed dollar amount at regularly scheduled intervals over an extended time. When the price is high, your fixed-dollar investment buys less; when prices are low, the same dollar investment will buy more shares. A regular, fixed-dollar investment should result in a lower average price per share than you would get buying a fixed number of shares at each investment interval. A workplace savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan that deducts the same amount from each paycheck and invests it through the plan, is one of the most well-known examples of dollar cost averaging in action.

Remember that, just as with any investment strategy, dollar cost averaging can't guarantee you a profit or protect you against a loss if the market is declining. To maximize the potential effects of dollar cost averaging, you should also assess your ability to keep investing even when the market is down.

An alternative to dollar cost averaging would be trying to "time the market," in an effort to predict how the price of the shares will fluctuate in the months ahead so you can make your full investment at the absolute lowest point. However, market timing is generally unprofitable guesswork. The discipline of regular investing is a much more manageable strategy, and it has the added benefit of automating the process.
 

Buy and hold, don't buy and forget

Unless you plan to rely on luck, your portfolio's long-term success will depend on periodically reviewing it. Maybe economic conditions have changed the prospects for a particular investment or an entire asset class. Also, your circumstances change over time, and your asset allocation will need to reflect those changes. For example, as you get closer to retirement, you might decide to increase your allocation to less volatile investments, or those that can provide a steady stream of income.

Another reason for periodic portfolio review: your various investments will likely appreciate at different rates, which will alter your asset allocation without any action on your part. For example, if you initially decided on an 80 percent to 20 percent mix of stock investments to bond investments, you might find that after several years the total value of your portfolio has become divided 88 percent to 12 percent (conversely, if stocks haven't done well, you might have a 70-30 ratio of stocks to bonds in this hypothetical example). You need to review your portfolio periodically to see if you need to return to your original allocation.

To rebalance your portfolio, you would buy more of the asset class that's lower than desired, possibly using some of the proceeds of the asset class that is now larger than you intended. Or you could retain your existing allocation but shift future investments into an asset class that you want to build up over time. But if you don't review your holdings periodically, you won't know whether a change is needed. Many people choose a specific date each year to do an annual review.

No two people’s investment situations are the same. Kirtland Financial Services offers a personalized, comprehensive look at your investment strategy.

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