Author: Chris Blackmon, CFP®, CPA

What is the SECURE Act and does it matter to me?

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (“SECURE”) Act was signed into law on December 20, 2019.  With all of the discussion in the news around the political uncertainty, impeachment, and the looming trade war, one of the largest changes to retirement savings laws in recent years was passed with very little fanfare.  However, some of the changes will be significant.  I have tried to highlight what may impact the majority of our clients and readers.

The Act has a lot of positives such as simplifying rules and making 401k plans potentially available to more workers, pushing back the RMD age, and allowing contributions to IRAs past age 70.  The negative impact I see is the elimination of the stretch IRA which is a clear move by the government to raise tax revenues by forcing money out of inherited IRAs sooner.  I will discuss in more detail below, but this should be a time to review beneficiaries and discuss whether any change in your legacy planning should be made in response to the new laws. What do you need to pay attention to?

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Asking the Right Questions

People say the only bad questions are the ones you don’t ask. That can be true, and asking bad questions likely won’t hurt you, but it is more important to ask the “Right” questions. In the last year, I met with a potential client who asked me a question I want to share with you. After some “get to know you chat” he asked me, “So, how are your results?” to which I responded, “Very high.” I could see the confusion on his face, so I just waited. As I will explain later, this had nothing to do with guaranteeing results.

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Are you Paying More Than You Need in Taxes?

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, which became effective for tax years starting in 2018, significantly impacted many taxpayers. The change impacting the most taxpayers was the enhanced standard deduction and loss of many itemized deductions. Tax forms were also presented differently making it difficult for taxpayers who reviewed their returns in detail to compare year-to-year. While there were many changes, there are still some important tax savings strategies that may help you pay less in taxes. Which ones apply to your situation?  Ask yourself the following questions…

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Financial Planning for Myself

As you know from my previous blog, I recently bought a new house (more house, bigger mortgage.) Also, my amazing wife Julie, and I, just had our second daughter, Elizabeth (another girl, another college, another wedding, more dresses and purses.) Since I don’t want to be guilty of planning better for my clients than my own family, I thought this was the ideal time to take a look at some of the plans I have in place for my family.

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Focusing on Results that Matter

Recently, my wife and I bought a new house.  She fell in love with it immediately and could see us raising our girls in the house, how could I say no?  But of course, there were financial matters to consider.  So, the planner in me immediately went to my budget spreadsheet to “crunch the numbers” and determine if we could afford it.  We have both been blessed in our careers and while this new home is a stretch to the budget, the answer is yes, we can afford our dream home.  So we decided to move forward. Now just the minor details of negotiating the purchase of the new home and selling our old home.

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The New Tax Bill: Tallying the Results

“How did the new tax bill affect me?” was the question on everyone’s minds this tax season, and for good reason. Even though this was touted as the greatest simplification of the tax code in my lifetime, I didn’t notice any reduction in time spent preparing returns. Those of you who reviewed your returns in detail noticed that the schedules look drastically different although contain all the same information. The short answer for many is that it didn’t materially change your overall tax liability. The outliers fell into one of a few buckets…

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