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529 Plan, What is that?

 

College Savings

 

In 1996 the Small Business Job Protection Act created 529 Plans, also known as “qualified tuition plans”. This account which allows taxpayers a tax advantaged way to save for education expenses allocated for a designated beneficiary, after 22 years, may be the account that most know nothing about.

According to a recent survey by Edward Jones, only 29% of Americans are even aware that 529 plans are available as an education savings vehicle. One would think this is a scary statistic, but even more frightening is that only 13% of families used 529 plans in 2016-2017, according to a2017 Sallie Mae Report. This is quite a staggering statistic, considering the rising debt being incurred by college students.

When you think about the enormous costs of sending your children to school, which according to theCollege Board is $46,950 for the average private four-year school, you would think that more people would be using all tools available to them to save for college. The 529 savings account can be an excellent tool to begin to save for this lofty expense. The monies saved for your respective beneficiary grows tax free as long as you use it for higher education. Keep in mind that the recently passed Tax Cuts & Jobs Act has added provisions that may allow you to also use these funds for K-12 expenses. You will want to check with your individual state, as your 529 plan may not follow the new tax law.

There is a struggle for most people to balance saving for college and for retirement at the same time. This is a fine balance that needs the attention of proper planning. Although you will not be able to borrow money for retirement, you will be able to do so for college, and you will want to have a plan in place to address both. Not having money in place for your children’s education may have an impact on your retirement down the road, but at the same time, overfunding your college savings at the expense of your retirement accounts will do the same.

The key here is to have a strategy in place that will allow you to save for both. Just like we advise clients to start saving for retirement early, it works the same way for education too. The more money you save for college early on, the less money you will have to add later on because you will benefit from the concept of compounding.

Think about it; if you start working after leaving school and start funding your retirement right away, you will be in a position to lower your retirement contributions when you have children and be able to start allocating the difference to their college funds. Depending on how many children you have and what your goals are for supporting their education, you may be able to shift this strategy back by the time your child is ten years old. Getting caught with a child at the age of eighteen and having nothing allocated for college education will, in most cases, place a strain on your financial situation.

529 plans can be a vital tool in your education funding savings strategy. I think it is disheartening that this tool is not well known and very much underused. It is vital to engage a fiduciary advisor as early on in your life as you can. This relationship will provide you with an advisor that can be in a position to guide you, advise you, and see you through the planning of your life to make sure you are financially prepared for all of the events ahead of you. This will be a relationship that will guide you through the financial ups and downs of the lives of you and your family. The goal is to make sure you are aware of the options that exist and the best ways available for you and your family to save for your financial futures.

Mitlin Financial assists our clients in addressing their college funding needs. We are here to help you instill these concepts within your own family. Feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone in your family needs assistance in getting started on their plan today.

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

Tax Planning Is a Year Round Concern

 Tax Planning Is A Year Round Concern

 

Income tax planning is something you need to be aware of year-round and should continuously evaluate.  Although your tax returns are not due until April 15th each year, without extensions, it is important to make sure you are aware of your tax situation all year.  Decisions made over the course of the year that have a financial impact could hinder or improve your tax liability and a little extra work during the year can save you hours of review and alleviate your tax burden too.

When it comes to taxes, it is important to have the right financial team in place. You need to have your wealth management firm, CPA and other advisors on the same page working in your best interest. While you are in the process of, or shortly after, filing your most recent tax return there are several things you can review to make sure you are making the most tax efficient use of your investable assets.

One of the easiest ways for you to alleviate your income tax burden would be to take advantage of investment accounts that can provide a tax deduction. It is easy to see from your previous year’s W-2 how much you took advantage of your company’s retirement plan, be sure to read2019 IRS Limits Affecting Qualified Plans and IRA’s for specific limits. It may make sense for you to consider increasing your contributions in order to lower your income tax liability and concurrently help you increase your retirement savings. Should your company not have a 401(k) or company retirement plan be sure to explore the possibility of using an IRA in a similar manner.

Utilizing different types of retirement savings vehicles would make sense too. It is important for you to understand that all of the money that is being saved on a tax-deferred basis towards retirement will be taxable in the future when you withdraw it. It may make sense for you to utilize a Roth 401(k) option, if available, or a Roth IRA which would enable access to funds in retirement that would not be taxable. By taking advantage of both forms of savings, it will allow you flexibility down the road to have more control over your income taxes.

In addition to retirement accounts, it is also important to have investment accounts that will allow you access to your money at any time without penalty, unlike most of the retirement accounts mentioned thus far. Investment accounts can generate different forms of taxable income, such as dividend income, short term capital gains and long-term capital gains, and you should have a basic understanding of what they are and how they work. Simple things like holding investments for at least 12 months and one day will turn a short term capital gain into a long one, which can mean a significant tax savings. Have you ever sold an investment only a few days prior to the one-year mark only to pay short term capital gains instead of long term, when there was no imminent need to sell? Mutual Funds should be reviewed carefully as they can produce taxable income and capital gains. It is especially important to know when mutual funds will be distributing their capital gains. We have seen clients purchase funds in early November, only to receive a significant capital gain distribution after only owning it for a few weeks. In these cases, it may make sense to wait to make the purchase or purchase an equivalent investment that has no distribution scheduled.

You will also want to make sure that you have the right investments in the right accounts. It would be ideal for you to place investments that would have the highest tax implications in your tax deferred accounts. Simply placing the highest income producing investments or those you plan to hold short term in the most ideal accounts could save you quite a bit in taxes. When making investments, it is best to place them in the type of account that will help your tax situation based upon their propensity to produce taxable income.

Lastly, you should be reviewing your accounts on an annual basis, around November, to see if there are any opportunities to harvest tax losses. As the end of the year approaches it is important to see if there are ways to mitigate your income tax liability for the year. We know most people do not necessarily like taking losses, but many times it will make sense to take the loss and reduce your tax liability. Should you feel really convicted about the holding, you can always double up the position thirty plus days before the end of the year and on day thirty one sell the initial lot for the loss. This will provide you the opportunity to capture the loss and still own the position, while participating in the upside potential of the holding.

This type of planning is how we assist our clients regularly. In many cases we will coordinate with their CPA to make sure everyone is on the same page and the portfolio changes will indeed be of help to the client. Having an open dialogue between your financial team is important to make sure everything is being done to put you in the best position possible.

Please feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone you know has encountered tax issues with regards to their investments or simply does not feel their CPA and advisor are on the same page. We look forward to helping you, and them, make the decision that is best for all.

 

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.

What you should know about Investment Accounts, Capital Gains, Income

 What you should know about Investment Accounts Capital Gains and Income

Investing is a complicated topic that many do not fully understand and they rely on their advisors to assist them through the process of investing and becoming retirement ready. Taxes are an area that cause significant confusion and the fact that they have a tendency to change over time adds to the confusion.

Taxes on investment accounts can come in several forms and we will discuss some of the most common types along with strategies to help you over time. We touched on this topic in a recent article,Tax Planning Is A Year Round Concern, and we will expand on it here.

Income from investments can come in several forms, such as dividends and interest. The best type of income, especially for high net worth clients, is tax free income. This income will not be taxed, assuming it is tax free on both the Federal and State level. There are investments that will pay tax free income that will only be federally tax free and it is important to be aware of this, especially if you live in a State that has a high income tax bracket. The majority of interest and dividends will be taxed as ordinary income, unless they are a qualified dividend. This will typically be your highest taxed form of income generated from your investments. In these cases, unless you are in need of this income to live on or are in low tax bracket, it would make the most sense to try and place these types of assets in a qualified account. This would allow you to own the asset and not pay taxes on the income.

Capital gains are another consideration when it comes to taxes on investments. These types of gains are broken down into short term, less than twelve months, and long term, longer that twelve months. Depending on your income, the taxes owed could vary widely. The higher the tax bracket you are in, the larger the difference. Short term capital gains are taxed as ordinary income and will be taxed at your normal tax bracket. However, if you hold the asset for twelve months and a day the capital gain becomes long term providing a maximum tax of twenty percent (depending on your income tax bracket) on the Federal return, plus the State tax owed. This could amount to a significant difference in tax and you will want to make sure you are holding assets, if you can, for the long term in order to maximize your tax position. In the instance that you are looking to purchase an investment with the intention of only holding it on a short term basis, we would recommend placing this asset in a Qualified account and avoid the capital gain altogether.

We know that clients do not like to take losses, but sometimes it makes sense for you to bite the bullet. We recommend that you, along with your advisor, review your portfolio each November to evaluate gains and losses for the year. Long term and short term gains and losses will net out each year and you can develop a picture of what your capital gains will be for the year. Based upon the review, it may make a lot of sense to sell an asset at a loss and negate some of your overall capital gain. At times, we have seen clients that understand they need to do this in order to mitigate their tax liability, but at the same time are still confident the asset will work out long term. In these cases, you can double up the position thirty plus days before the end of the year and on day thirty one, in order to avoid a wash sale, sell the initial lot for the loss. This will provide you with the opportunity to capture the loss and still own the position, while participating in the upside potential of the holding.

Planning like this is an important aspect of working with the right advisory team. This type of review should take place with you, your wealth advisor and your CPA annually to make sure things are being done in your best interest. It is key to have your CPA and wealth management firm on the same page with a good working relationship. This is why we always look to build relationships with our clients’ tax advisors. Please feel free to contact us, Mitlin Financial, at (844) 4-MITLIN x12 if you or someone you know has encountered tax issues with regards to their investments, has questions about how taxes like these will affect them or simply does not feel their CPA and advisor are on the same page. We look forward to helping you, and them, make the decision that is best for all. 

This article represents the opinion of Mitlin Financial Inc. It should not be construed as providing investment, legal and/or tax advice.