When Congress passed the recent $1.5 trillion tax bill (The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or TCJA), it triggered the first comprehensive revamp of the U.S. tax code in more than three decades. As we prepare to file our 2018 tax returns, Americans will feel the effects of this legislation for the first time. For most, the effects will be positive. In fact, 80% of Americans will see their taxes drop. However, not all the news is good. There will be inevitable surprises as 2018 taxes are filed with one particularly nasty “gotcha” that will likely catch many taxpayers off guard.
Atlanta Financial Blog
Nine for ‘19: Financial Steps You Should Take Now
With the start of a new year, most of us begin making plans in all aspects of our lives for the year ahead – and beyond. One area we should consider is financial well-being —not only our tax outlook, but also investment and retirement strategies, property and personal insurance coverage, and more.
Here is a helpful list of actions you can take now that will cultivate a more fruitful 2019.
- Locate and Organize Important Documents: It’s the start of a new year and there is no better way to begin than by organizing your files and streamlining your documents. Having all your financial documents from 2018 organized and ready for review with your financial advisor and tax professional will make tax season much more efficient and less stressful.
- Review Tax Withholding and Payments: Make sure to address this with your tax professional. The new tax law enacted in 2018 was very comprehensive. If you end up with a refund for the year (or if you owe money to the IRS), make sure to review your tax withholding to ensure your 2019 withholding levels are set properly to avoid tax season surprises.
- Evaluate Retirement Plan Contributions: The start of the year is a great time to explore new investment opportunities through employer-sponsored plans or changes to employer-match contribution criteria or percentages. For those with a 401k, 2019 contribution limits are now $500 higher than 2018 levels, allowing you to save up to $19,000. Participants aged 50 or older are still eligible to save an additional $6,000 in “catch up” contributions.
- Examine Retirement Account Allocations: If your employer-sponsored retirement accounts are not set to automatically rebalance, determine whether adjustments are appropriate, and whether you want to adjust your risk profile. If automatic rebalancing is available and you have not signed up for it, consider adding that to your account to ensure this happens every year without any action required by you. Given recent market volatility, this is especially important now.
- Assess Gifting Strategies: In 2018, the annual gift exclusion to individuals increased to $15,000 and remains the same in 2019. Charitable gifting still remains a wonderful way to help charities of your choices while getting a tax deduction for doing so. It is also possible to gift appreciated assets to individuals or charities which gets the value of those assets to the desired party without having to pay capital gains taxes to do so. If you are making regular gifts to children or others, now is a good time to evaluate your 2019 gifiting strategy.
- Explore Education Funding: With the passage of the new tax bill last year, 529 plans are now more attractive than ever. Funds in these plans may now be used to fund K-12 private or religious school expenses, up to $10,000 per year. Also, families can roll 529 funds over to ABLE accounts, which offer tax advantages for those with disabilities. As always, funds held in 529 plans are outside of your estate for estate tax purposes. (Please see my related blog post on 529s.)
- Evaluate Your Housing Situation: Have you been thinking about moving but are concerned about doing so now because of recent interest rate increases? Remember that mortgage rates are still at very low levels but may not stay there much longer. While you don’t want prevailing interest rates to drive this kind of important decision, it may be prudent to make a decision now rather than continuing to wait.
- Check Insurance Coverage: Has your home increased in value, or have you acquired art or other valuables that make an insurance coverage increase appropriate? Have you gotten married, retired, had a child, or experienced any other major life change? Any of these events may necessitate a reevaluation of insurance coverage, from property and casualty coverage to life and disability plans.
- Don’t Forget Your Dreams: As you are adjusting your allocations and examining and organizing your documents, don’t forget to consider upcoming goals or plans that may affect your financial strategy. Even if your bank balances are sizeable enough to give you discretionary freedom, it’s always a good idea to account for major upcoming expenditures to determine if you should build your balances further to accomplish your financial dreams and goals for 2019.
At AFA, we are always ready to help you evaluate your specific situation and strategize with you to help you achieve your goals. To discuss these or any other considerations, please give us a call at 770-261-5380. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2019!
I was recently asked by a cousin during a New Year’s Day lunch conversation, “If you had to name the one key to starting a good financial plan at my age, what would it be?” My reply came without hesitation – “Margin.”
To provide context as to how the question arose, he and his wife are in their late 20’s. They married fairly young, have already survived some incredibly difficult life events together, purchased their first home, adopted two dogs, and are now expecting their first child. He understands the value of a dollar, the meaning of hard work, and is, quite frankly, one of the most principled men I know. So, what he was really asking was simply this: If we are looking to REALLY start getting our act together financially, and begin to put ourselves on a path to build wealth, where should we start? By the look on his face, my cousin was expecting something quite different in response, but quickly caught on to what I meant as we continued to chat.
As your parents age, they will probably need more help from you. But it may be difficult to provide the help they need, especially if they’re experiencing financial trouble.
Money can be a sensitive subject to discuss, but you’ll need to talk to your parents about it in order to get to the root of their problems and come up with a solution. Before you start the conversation, consider the following four scenarios as signs that your parents might be experiencing financial challenges, and how you can make things easier for them.
When planning for retirement, it’s important to consider a wide variety of factors. One of the most important is health and its associated costs. Thinking about your future health and the rising cost of health care can help you better plan for retirement in terms of both your finances and overall well-being. This quiz can help you assess your current knowledge of health and health-care costs in retirement.