New Proposed Tax Laws

The House recently released a nearly 900-page proposed bill that would make major changes to current tax laws. The bill is intended in large part to help pay for both the Biden Administration’s budget and infrastructure stimulus bill.

It’s important to keep in mind that the provisions and changes outlined below are by no means settled. Changes can (and likely will) still be made as the Senate ratifies the bill; however, the remainder of this article should give readers a good idea of the most significant provisions.

Income Tax Rates are Rising

The increase in the top income tax rate is probably the most talked about proposed change in the bill, bringing it up from 37 percent to 39.6 percent. The top marginal rate would apply to single filers with taxable income over $400,000, heads of household over $425,000 and married filing jointly taxpayers making over $450,000. The impact starts with income earned on Jan. 1, 2022, and after.

Capital Gains

The highest capital gains rate would increase from 20 percent to 25 percent and apply to qualified dividends. The increase is effective on gains made from sales that happen on or after Sept. 13, 2021, but any gains from sales incurred before or that result from binding contracts executed before this date fall under the old rate. For example, gains received post-Sept. 13, 2021, under an installment sale entered on Aug. 31, 2021, would be subject to the old 20 percent rate.

Expansion of the Net Investment Income Tax

The bill also would redefine net investment income (NIIT) to include any income earned in the ordinary course of business. Currently, the 3.8 percent NIIT surcharge applies only to passive income. The NIIT is applied to single taxpayers with more than $400,000 in taxable income and joint filers with over $500,000, and would start Jan. 1, 2022.

New 3 Percent Surcharge on High Income Individuals

Starting after Dec. 31, 2021, a new 3 percent tax will be placed on Adjusted Gross Incomes (AGI) over $5 million ($2.5 million if married filing separately).

Small Business Tax Increases

Under the bill, the current 21 percent flat corporate (C-Corporation) tax rate would change to a three-tiered system. The structure would tax net income at 18 percent up to $400,000; 21 percent from $401,000 to $5 million; and 26 percent on net income over $5 million.

Other Miscellaneous Changes

As you can imagine in an 881-page bill, there are only so many changes that can be covered in this article, but here is a smattering of miscellaneous provisions.

  • Crypto currencies would become subject to the constructive and wash sale rules (like most marketable securities such as stocks) starting Jan. 1, 2022. This means that if you are holding a position at a loss, you have until the end of 2021 to harvest the loss and immediately buy back in.
  • IRAs will no longer be allowed to invest in an entity where the IRA owner has a 10 percent or greater ownership interest (down from the current 50 percent threshold) or if the IRA owner is an officer of the entity.
  • $80 million is earmarked for the IRS to step up enforcement and audit more taxpayers.
  • Smokers will feel the pain as the bill also doubles the excise taxes on cigarettes, small cigars and roll-your-own tobacco.

Conclusion

Remember that this is only the House version of the bill, and nothing is final. Also remember that Democrats control the House, and the Senate is split 50/50 with the Democratic VP as the tiebreaker. As a result, while there will be changes, the major provisions outlined above will likely be in the final law in some form or another.

How Businesses Can Help Employees Improve their Skills

Based upon a recent McKinsey Global Survey, nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) of management and above level respondents affirmed they are currently, or within the upcoming five years, dealing with the skill gap among their employees. With the vast majority of businesses experiencing or forecasting a skills-gap, how can they close or reduce this challenge?

Due to the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” as the World Economic Forum (WEF) explains, the best scenario it sees is 54 percent of workers requiring “reskilling and upskilling by 2022.” However, the WEF points out that 3 in 10 workers susceptible to occupation disruption due to advancements in applied science obtained additional training in 2018.

It’s important to clarify the differences between re-skilling and up-skilling. Re-skilling is where workers who are displaced by industries becoming obsolete, such as coal miners, are forced to retrain for a new career, such as coding, teaching, etc. Up-skilling, in contrast, involves building and staying current in one’s field – a programmer learning the newest programming language or a marketing manager learning the latest search engine optimization (SEO) techniques.

Carve Out Skill-Improvement Time Blocks

Even for companies that strive to provide their employees with flexible time for a work-life balance, it doesn’t always guarantee companies foster a culture of self-improvement and upskilling. When personal, professional and/or global crises occur, there’s not always time for employees to learn new computer programs or the latest programming language. However, by providing employees with a few hours a week dedicated to professional development, businesses give employees the opportunity to up-skill, leading to more satisfied employees, along with limited strain on the budget.

Arrange Worker-Guided Study Groups

When it comes to learning a new skill, according to Degreed via Harvad Business Review (HBR), workers will go to their peers 55 percent of the time, second only to reaching out to their supervisor for guidance, when looking to up-skill.

Few businesses are known to have developed a system for peer-to-peer learning in the workplace. According to McKinsey, “Learning & Development officers” reported businesses letting their employees put their skills into practice to develop additional skills, along with holding academic-type instruction and “experiential learning” for developing role competency. When it comes to structured peer-to-peer learning, fewer than 50 percent of businesses have anything established. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed responded that there’s no system established to facilitate skills development opportunities between co-workers.

From HBR’s “The Expertise Economy,” one reason that peer-to-peer learning is not the first choice for employee learning is due to a common belief that those who are proficient at a particular skill often exist outside the organization, such as a paid training consultant. This belief also is reinforced due to external educational experiences normally condensed into a single session, compared to smaller and more frequent in-house sessions.

HBR argues that peer-to-peer learning leverages the business’ internal expertise more effectively. If more experienced employees share their expertise with less seasoned co-workers to increase their skills, it can be very productive. In fact, HBR lays out a four-point plan for peer-to-peer learning to maximize employee up-skilling.

By using HBR’s “Learning Loop,” businesses can help employees learn new skills and knowledge through four steps:

  1. Employees obtain new information.
  2. After assimilating the new information, they practice implementing the new information.
  3. After it’s been applied, they obtain feedback on the application.
  4. The employee then reflects on what has been learned to further assimilate the new information.

While this program must be tailored to every organization, it shows that by taking a personal approach to up-skilling employees and building on their existing knowledge and skill sets, peer-to-peer learning can be one effective approach to helping employers and their employees close the skills gap.

Sources

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/skills-jobs-investing-in-people-inclusive-growth/

https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/Organization/Our%20Insights/Beyond%20hiring%20How%20companies%20are%20reskilling%20to%20address%20talent%20gaps/Beyond-hiring-How-companies-are-reskilling.ashx

https://hbr.org/2018/11/how-to-help-your-employees-learn-from-each-other

Strategies for Paying Off Student Loans

Today, 70 percent of college students graduate with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt. The average payment is nearly $400 a month and will take about 20 years to pay off. On an individual level, paying off high debt can delay hopes of saving to buy a house, start a family, launch a business or invest for retirement.

On a broader level, the national burden of student debt could impact America’s economic future. When young adults are unable to afford home ownership, that reduces spending on all types of consumer products that accompany home buying. It also reduces property taxes used to support local resources and reduces the insurance pool of property owners used to help repair and rebuild homes after extreme weather crises.

Whether you’re a graduate or the relative of a graduate in this situation, it’s worth considering various strategies to help pay off this debt. After all, it may be better – for both your offspring and the country’s GDP – to financially help them out now rather than later via a larger inheritance.

High Interest and Consolidation Considerations

The strategic way to approach student debt is to focus on paying off high-interest loans first. This generally includes private loans and any others with variable interest rates that may increase over time. Be aware that with federal student loans, there are different types and the borrower is permitted to switch to a different payment plan that better suits his needs over time. Another option is to consolidate student loans. However, if sometime in the future federal student loans are forgiven, your student could miss out on that by transferring or consolidating to a privately held loan.

Employer Assistance Programs

In recognition of student loan debt as both a personnel and national concern, many employers are starting to offer repayment assistance programs – even to parents paying off parent student loans. It’s important to inquire whether or not an employer offers this benefit, as they are not always promoted – especially to current workers. However, these programs have become more appealing to companies since passage of the CARES Act, which extended pre-tax employer-provided educational assistance for up to $5,250 per employee, per year through 2025

Another program that some companies have introduced is the ability for employees to convert the cash value of unused paid-time-off (PTO) toward their student loan payments. In other words, if a worker is not able to use all of his accrued paid vacation days in a given year, he can request the employer contribute that income toward his student loan debt.

College Savings Plans

Each state sponsors a Section 529 college savings and investment plan, which feature tax-deferred growth and tax-free withdrawals when used to pay for qualified education expenses.

In 2019, as part of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, Congress included a provision that permits up to $10,000 (a lifetime cap, per each beneficiary) from 529 College Savings Plans to be used to repay student loans. For example, if a family has three college students, the parents may withdraw up to $30,000 to help pay off that debt from their 529 account(s). Note that a 529 account owner can change the 529 plan beneficiary at any time without tax consequences.

Be aware, however, if 529 college funds are used to make principal and interest payments on a qualified student loan, that student loan interest cannot be claimed as a deduction on their tax return.

7 Ways to Save for a Home Down Payment

So you want to save for a down payment for your dream house, but you aren’t sure how to get there. It might even feel overwhelming. But take heart, here are some tried and true methods that you can start today that will help you save sooner than you think.

Save a Fixed Amount Monthly

This is super easy, but first you need to figure out how much of a down payment you want to make. Remember, the higher your down payment, the lower your loan and monthly mortgage payment will be. With that said, put this amount on auto draft and deposit it into your savings account. Once you get used to this, you won’t miss it. Never use this savings for any other purpose except your down payment. Keep your eyes on the prize and stay the course.

Lower Your Expenses

If you don’t have a budget, make one. Review how much you’re spending on necessary items like rent, utilities and food. Also look at how much you’re spending on discretionary things, like going out to eat, subscriptions to magazines, driving instead of walking, etc. You might also evaluate how much those short-term indulgences mean to you. Only you can decide, but if you stick to a budget and start saving, the dream of a down payment can become a reality.

Skip Vacations For a Year

This one might be hard to swallow. However, if you save the money you’d otherwise spend on your vacation, you can make a significant contribution toward your down payment. If skipping a vacation is out of the question, try a staycation; or at least drive or take a bus or train to someplace near you that won’t cost an arm and a leg, like a natural park, an area lake or even, if you’re lucky enough to live near one, a beach. With every decision you make to delay gratification and focus on your long-term goal of home ownership, you’ll be more likely to stay on track.

Reduce Your High Interest Rate Debt

Credit card interest rates can really eat into the amount of money you are trying to save. If you can pay them off, do so – and start with the one that’s the highest. When you’ve paid it off, close the account and move on to the next one. You can also apply for a card with a temporary 0% interest rate (for maybe 15 months) and transfer your other balances to this one card. Good options include Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, Discover it Balance Transfer and Citi Double Cash Card.

Borrow From Your Retirement Plan

If you want to expedite getting into a house and are comfortable doing this, the look for penalty-free withdrawals from your retirement plan. Many company-sponsored 401(k) or profit-sharing plans allow you to borrow against your nest egg to purchase a home. Just ask your HR or payroll department.

Sell Some of Your Investments

While this option might not be instantly appealing, think of this as a way to move some of your current investments into another – your house. Once you’ve moved in and are paying your mortgage, you’ll be building equity. As your house increases in value, so does your investment.

Look Into Down Payment Assistance

Yes, this is a thing! There are organizations that might be able to help you, like the Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service and the Veterans Administration. Another source is your local housing authority.

These are a few options to help you move toward a down payment. But no matter what you choose, don’t wait. Get started today. This way, you’ll be packing up and moving in no time.

Sources

https://www.bbt.com/education-center/articles/top-10-ways-to-save-down-payment.html

https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/balance-transfer?gclid=Cj0KCQjwtMCKBhDAARIsAG-2Eu8NmKerM3dO4cPjC0KvMCj_S3HPjJ_r4ge6MV50wWiQf51VLK4HOwUaAncZEALw_wcB

Enhancing Agency Budget Transparency, Opportunities to Study Science and Environmental Protections

Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021 (S 272) – This bill mandates that federal agencies must make budget justification materials publicly available online. The Office of Management and Budget will be required to publish details regarding the agencies that submit budget justification materials to Congress and dates the materials are posted online, along with links to the materials. The bill was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on Feb. 8, passed in the Senate and the House on Aug. 23 and is awaiting enactment by the president.

National Science Foundation for the Future Act (HR 2225) – Introduced by Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX) on March 26, the bill authorizes appropriations for the National Science Foundation for fiscal years 2022 through 2026. It is designed to assess opportunities and award grants for Pre-K through 12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, including computer science and STEM education research. The legislation passed in the House on June 28 and is in the Senate for consideration.

Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act (S 273) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Feb. 8. The purpose of the legislation is to prohibit the use of large-scale gillnets with a mesh size of 14 inches or greater. Gillnets are used for driftnet fishing, in which nets with panels of webbing are placed in the water and allowed to drift with the currents and winds to passively catch fish by entangling them in the webbing. Presently, gillnets are limited in size to less than 2.5 kilometers in length. However, the bill will not go into effect within the U.S. exclusive economic zone for five years in order for the Department of Commerce to facilitate the phase out of large-scale driftnet fishing and promote the adoption of alternative practices to minimize the incidental catch of living marine resources. Furthermore, the bill authorizes the Commerce Dept. to award grants to program participants. The bill passed in the Senate on Sept. 14 and is currently under consideration in the House.

PFAS Action Act of 2021 (HR 2467) – This legislation would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit the use of and designate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) as hazardous substances. These are manmade materials used in a variety of products, such as nonstick cookware and weatherproof clothing, that may have adverse human health effects. The legislation would classify PFAS under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, which in turn would require appropriate remediation of those substances released into the environment. This bill was introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) on April 13. It is currently in the Senate after passing in the House on July 21.

Divided Families Reunification Act(HR 826) – This bill directs the State Department to make regular reports to Congress on its work with South Korea to reunite Korean Americans with family in North Korea. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) on Feb. 4 and passed in the House on July 19. It is currently under consideration in the Senate.

Pass-through Entity Tax (PTET)

Finally some great news for the taxpayers!!!
New York State has passed a law and the IRS has issued regulations that allow for the deduction of SALT taxes at the entity level. This will allow taxpayers to pay the tax due on income from Pass Through Entities (Partnerships, LLC’s and S Corporations) and thus reduce their federal income tax liability. At a time where expected federal tax hikes are coming this is an excellent opportunity to mitigate some of that projected increase in taxes.
This election MUST be made annually by the taxpayer. Your tax professional is not and can not be authorized to make the election on your behalf. However, please notify your WZ accountant if you make the election.
This is a new law and the guidelines have only recently been provided by NYS. The election due dates and important items of note are as follows:
  • For the calendar tax year beginning January 1, 2021 and ending December 31, 2021 the election MUST be made by October 15, 2021 (no extensions are available)
  • For the calendar tax year beginning January 1, 2022 and ending December 31, 2022 the election MUST be made by March 15, 2022 (no extensions are available)
  • Once the election is made it is irrevocable for that tax year.
  • Any estimated tax payments for the current tax year ending December 31, 2021 must be paid by December 31, to be deducted if you are a cash basis taxpayer.
  • For tax year ended 2022 quarterly estimates will be required and due on March 15, June 15, September 15 and December 15.
To see the step by step instructions to guide you through the process of setting up a user account (if you currently do not have one) and making the election for the current tax year 2021 please see  PTET Election Instructions
Please note, this election is optional. The decision whether to make the election is up to the entity, through its owners. The actual signing and submission of the election must be done by a duly authorized officer of the company.
The Partners and Team at WZ are available to answer any questions and assist in the process. We will also advise you on tax planning options and assist in quantifying the savings.
Please be advised that any time spent is not included in your current engagement and or retainer and you will incur additional fees at our standard billing rates.
Best regards,
WZ Partners

Tax Breaks for Helping Relatives

Tax Breaks for Helping RelativesIt’s not uncommon for adult children or siblings to act as caregivers for family members or give them financial assistance for medical or long-term care needs. The problem is that all too often those providing the help don’t take advantage of the tax benefits.

Types of Care

Caregiving happens through many different avenues. For example, family members might pay for services that their elderly parents need, such as housekeeping, meal preparation, or nursing care. Outside the home, they may pay for all or a portion of the cost of an assisted living facility.

In other circumstances, individuals could directly provide the care instead of paying for it. This could happen in either the home of the person giving the care or in the home of the person receiving the care. They might also support the relative’s daily living expenses by paying for groceries, utilities or other essentials.

Assessing the Tax Breaks Available

Step one is to figure out if the person receiving care qualifies as a dependent on the caregiver’s tax return. While there are no longer personal or dependent exemptions, qualifying as a dependent opens the door to deduct medical expenses and other medical-related tax breaks. Let’s look at an example to understand the details better.

Dependent Test

Under our scenario, we have Rob taking care of his mother, Laura. Rob is allowed to claim Laura as a dependent if a set of tests are met. First, Laura’s gross income must be less than $4,300 in 2021. While this might seem low, note that tax-exempt interest and Social Security benefits are usually not included.

Second, Rob needs to provide the majority of Laura’s support in the calendar year. “Support” includes basic necessities such as clothes, a place to live, medical expenses, and transportation. In cases where the cared-for relative lives with the taxpayer, they are able to use the equivalent rental value of the housing provided. Given the broad definition of support, it’s often not too hard to meet this test – but make sure to keep diligent records, tracking the amount spent versus the dependent’s total support costs. You can always plan some extra payments near year-end to bump yourself over the 50 percent threshold.

Third, Laura needs to be a United States citizen.

Fourth, the location of the dependent matters. In the case of relatives such as parents, stepparents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and aunts and uncles, these persons can be considered a dependent even if they do not live with you. This means you can be helping them to live in their own house or care facility.

Fifth, Laura cannot jointly file a return with any other taxpayer.

Brothers and Sisters

What happens if you and some of your siblings split the support of a parent? It’s easy to see how in this case no one will meet the majority support test.

In the case of multiple support providers, someone can still claim the person as a dependent as long as all the supporting siblings agree on who makes the claim, and they file an IRS Form 2120, Multiple Support Declaration noting it.

Each Form 2120 signer must contribute at least 10 percent support for the year. The siblings can rotate who claims the deduction or keep it the same each year.

Why Dependency Matters

Given that the personal and dependent exemptions have been eliminated, you might wonder what all the fuss is about the person being cared-for qualifying as a dependent. Well, the answer is the taxpayer who can claim the dependent is the one who can itemize the dependent’s medical expenses as well.

Medical Expense Tax Benefit

The potential benefit comes when Rob is able to add his mother’s medical expenses to those of the rest his family. This can allow him to take a larger medical expense deduction when he itemizes expenses on his tax return. Remember that in order to benefit from any itemized deductions, the total of all itemized deductions must exceed the standard deduction.

Indirect medical costs also can be deducted, but only if the person cared-for qualifies as a dependent. Mileage costs for providing transportation to medical appointments and treatments are deductible. In 2021, this expense is deductible at $0.16 per mile.

How and Why to Develop a Bring-Your-Own-Device Policy

Bring-Your-Own-Device PolicyWith the internet available for essentially all employees and remote work becoming a part of more businesses’ operations, developing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy is almost necessary to help employees be more productive and safe while working. Research shows there are many reasons why businesses should develop the right type of BYOD policy.

According to Intel and Dell, 61 percent of Gen Y and 50 percent of workers 30 and older think the electronic devices they use at home are more capable in completing tasks in their everyday life compared to their work devices.

Frost & Sullivan found that connected handheld technology helps employees, making them about one-third more productive and reducing their average workday by 58 minutes.

A BYOD policy simply means that companies permit their workers to use their own smart devices to perform job-related tasks. It can be beneficial for a company, especially a smaller one; but it’s important to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages before implementing one.

Advantages

One of the most obvious reasons for a business to develop and implement a BYOD policy is due to the proliferation of technology. Along with saving employers money by not having to provide a work device, there is no need to provide costly training on how to use the device. A 2016 Pew Research survey determined that 77 percent of U.S. adults have a smartphone. For those ages 18 to 29, more than 9 in 10 (92 percent) own a smartphone. In 2021, even more adults likely have at least one smartphone.

Potential Drawbacks/Legal Considerations

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, there’s a significant portion of smartphone users with less-than-ideal security habits. For example, 28 percent of respondents don’t secure their phone with a screen lock or similar features. Forty percent said they update their apps or phone’s operating system only when it’s convenient for them. Less common, but equally alarming: Between 10 percent and 14 percent of respondents never update their phone’s operating system or apps.

Without a proper system setup there are more security risks, including reduced or compromised company privacy and a lack of basic digital literacy among employees. Mobile Device Management software can help monitor, secure, and partition personal and business files in a dedicated area, providing more confidence when permitting employees to BYOD.

Other considerations for a BYOD policy might include prohibiting employees from downloading unauthorized apps; performing local back-ups of company data; disallowing syncing to other personal devices; not allowing modifications to hardware/software beyond routine installations; and not using unsecured internet networks.

Depending on how employees are classified by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for overtime compensation, businesses may be liable for overtime wages if non-exempt employees perform their duties outside the office. If non-exempt employees perform duties beyond “40 hours of work in a work week,” as the U.S. Department of Labor outlines, businesses could be liable for additional wages paid if they use their device for work-related tasks.

While each company has its own needs and unique workforce, crafting a BYOD policy that increases productivity while maintaining security and privacy can give businesses a competitive edge.

Sources

https://i.dell.com/sites/content/business/solutions/whitepapers/it/Documents/intel-imr-consumerization-wp_it.pdf

https://insights.samsung.com/2016/08/03/employees-say-smartphones-boost-productivity-by-34-percent-frost-sullivan-research/

Record shares of Americans now own smartphones, have home broadband

Many smartphone owners don’t take steps to secure their devices

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa

What is a Net Zero Economy?

Net Zero Economy

President Biden re-entered the United States in the Paris Agreement. This is an international treaty first signed in 2015 in which countries around the globe committed to mitigating climate change. Specifically, the goal of the Paris Accord is to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This objective would generate what is called a net zero global economy, which means creating a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount of greenhouse gasses removed from the atmosphere. The main engine that places carbon back into the soil is healthy vegetation that grows all years round, these are called cover crops and reforestation. You can help by using the Ecosia search engine. 

The initial benchmark is to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2070. However, accomplishing these lofty goals will require a remarkable transformation of the global economy and global farming practices.

A way to measure global warming is through “temperature alignment” – a forward-looking benchmark that compares the level of emissions today against the potential for reducing them by a certain date in the future. The measure can be applied to a specific business, government, or investment portfolio.

For investors, global greening provides an opportunity to invest in companies positioning for a future net zero economy. After all, it’s important to recognize that climate risk represents substantial investment risk. Companies that prepare for the transition to sustainable energy sources will be able to deliver long-term returns, while those that do not could become obsolete.

If Net Zero is your path consider the following steps to align your investment allocation with the goals of a net zero economy. For example:

  • Reduce your exposure to high-carbon emitters and companies not making forward-looking commitments to transform to the net zero economy.
  • Prioritize investment decisions based on companies actively reducing reliance on fossil fuels and meeting science-based targets.
  • Target specific sustainable sectors (e.g., clean energy, green bonds) based on your asset allocation strategy – and diversify investments among those holdings.
  • Monitor ongoing research and available data to measure temperature alignment to ensure your issuers and investments are meeting published transition plans. This benchmark should be reviewed with the same rigor as traditional financial data.

The United States and the entire world have a choice to reduce the global. However, the effort also offers an opportunity to invest in climate innovation. The future will bring the survival of the fittest, is your portfolio ready.

How to Catch Up on Your Retirement

How to Catch Up on Your RetirementIf you’re 40 or 50 and aren’t where you’d like to be in terms of saving for retirement, don’t despair. You can remedy this situation. And since people are living well into their 80s and 90s, it’s never too late to start. Here are a few things you can do.

Max Out Your 401(k)

This could be a game-changer. Stuart Ritter, a certified financial planner with T. Rowe Price, recommends that you save at least 15 percent of your income for retirement, including the amount your employer matches. If your company is contributing 3 percent, then you should save 12 percent. If you can’t go this high, then increase the amount by 2 percent each year. So, if you’re saving 3 percent this year, bump it up to 5 percent, then 7 percent, and so on. If you’re under 50, try to hit the $19,500 limit. After you turn 50, you can increase your annual savings to $6,500 on top of this $19,500 limit. Note: You have to be 59 ½ to withdraw money without any penalties. However, the early withdrawal penalty doesn’t apply if you’re 55 or older in the year you leave your employer. All this to say that the sooner you start doing this, the more you will save and the more you’ll have down the road.

Contribute to a Roth IRA

With this product, you can grow your money on a tax-deferred basis. For instance, if you’re 40 and invest $6,000 each year at an 8 percent return, then by the time you’re 65 you’ll have more than $473,726. Even if you wait until you’re 50 and save 6k a year, using the same rate of return, you’ll save as much as $175,946 by the time you’re 65. However, there are some income limitations. If you’re single and your modified adjusted gross income is more than $125,000, your contribution limit is reduced. If you’re single and make over $140k, you can’t contribute. Michelle Buonincontri, a certified financial planner, says that the beauty of Roth IRAs are that they allow for tax-free compounding. Further, when withdrawal rules are followed, the withdrawals, including the earnings, will be tax-free. And when you’re in the withdrawal phase, it can minimize taxable income, which can add up and help your money last longer during retirement.

Take Advantage of Your Deductions

Not everyone takes standard deductions. That’s why if you have a significant amount of mortgage interest, deductible taxes, charitable donations, and business-related expenses that your employer doesn’t reimburse you for, you’ll most likely want to itemize your deductions. Talk to your CPA and figure out whether this is a good plan for you. Then start saving your receipts and keeping good records. As you get closer to retirement and if money is tight, remember: it’s not what you make, but what you save that makes the difference.

Don’t Forget About Home Equity

While home equity probably shouldn’t be used as your main source of income when you’re retired, it’s a viable solution. Retirees might consider borrowing against it to fund living expenses. In fact, you can use a home equity line (HELOC) to draw from when needed. Other options include selling, downsizing, and either living off the equity or investing it. But before you sell, you should consider tax consequences. Married homeowners who file a joint tax return can make up to $500k without owing taxes on capital gains. If you’re single, the cap is $250,000.

Get Disability Coverage

The reason for this is simple: to protect yourself and at least a portion of your income and retirement savings in a worst-case scenario. It is always a good idea to have a contingency plan.

Consider Your Cash Value Policies

This is a last resort, but again, a good option, especially if the original need for your insurance policy is no longer there. However, before you do anything or access its cash value, consult your tax advisor or insurance professional first.

No matter what your situation is, you can save for your future. All you have to do is begin now and take it one day at a time.

Sources

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/08/catch-up.asp

https://www.kiplinger.com/retirement/retirement-planning/602191/401k-contribution-limits-for-2021

https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/401ks/articles/how-to-take-advantage-of-401-k-catch-up-contributions#:~:text=The%20401(k)%20Catch%2DUp%20Contribution%20Limit%20for%202021&text=Once%20you%20turn%2050%2C%20you,temporarily%20shield%20from%20income%20tax