How the 2020 Coronavirus related legislation can affect your tax deductions

The CARES Act and the 2020 year-end coronavirus relief bill had a lot built into them.  As we start the 2020 tax return season, here are a few items affecting individual taxpayers that we feel are most relevant: Certain charitable contributions deductible by non-itemizers Many who take the standard deduction, which became more popular after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 raised the standard deduction amounts, will be able to deduct $300 in 2020 for all taxpayers and $600 in 2021 for married couples filing jointly. This means that if you made a cash contribution directly to a 501(c)(3) you will be able to reduce your taxable income by up to $300 in 2020 and $600 in 2021. It is important to note that the contribution must be in cash, check, or credit card, and it must go directly to the charity and not a donor advised fund or 509(a)...

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Prepare for Landing: A retirement readiness analogy-visualizing retirement

In my previous blog, I used our common airline flight experience as a retirement readiness analogy.  In the last fifteen minutes before landing, the flight attendant will make an announcement describing a number of key tasks that need to be done to ready the plane for landing and we can liken this to the five years (give or take) prior to retirement.  I outlined five high priority preretirement tasks.  In this article lets focus on the first:  Visualizing retirement in detail. During our early career years, we can prepare for retirement readiness, but often our notion of retirement is understandably vague.  With so many elements of our future life yet unknown, it’s reasonable to simply save and invest a percentage of our salary for our future.  If we do attempt to calculate our retirement needs, most calculators will assume a broad retirement income objective such as 70% of our current income. But...

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Portfolio Construction, Mutual Fund Selection and Apple Pies

We sometimes are asked why we might use a mutual fund rather than an ETF in the portfolios we build for our clients and why we are willing to pay a trading fee to buy that fund when an ETF can be bought for free? There is actually a process for how we arrive at that important decision. That process starts with the mix of investments we use to create a portfolio. Since the industry likes to use pie charts to help clients visualize their portfolios, I am going to use the analogy of baking a pie to help explain why we use certain investments. The finished pie is your portfolio, the recipe is the model we follow, and the ingredients are the various investments. The ingredients we use to build a portfolio are called asset classes. A sample of some of these asset classes are: Large and small company stocks, Growth...

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Top 3 Mistakes Millionaire Investors Make

Earlier this year DeVere Group conducted an interesting survey of 752 investors who have over $1 million in investable assets. Investable assets, such as stocks and bonds, are those which can be converted to cash relatively easily and they exclude physical assets like real estate. The survey asked these affluent investors what their biggest investing mistakes were before they started working with a financial professional. Here is what they found: Top 3 Results:  Leaning too heavily on historic investment returns (38%)  Not seeking professional financial advice (35%)  Failure to adequately diversify investment portfolio (21%) We have seen these same mistakes negatively impact many investors who are trying to reach their financial goals. It would not be difficult to argue that almost all investors have battled with one or more of these mistakes at some point in their lives. Let’s take a quick dive into each of the three results mentioned above to...

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IRS Change Will Decrease RMDs Beginning in 2022

It might feel like whenever the IRS makes a change, your taxes seemingly always increase. A recent change, however, will lower the minimum amount the IRS requires you to withdraw from your retirement accounts. In other words, the IRS lowered Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). An RMD is the amount the U.S. government requires an individual to withdraw from their traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans upon reaching age 72 (it used to be 70 ½ prior to 2020). RMDs are calculated using the account balance at year end and the account holder’s age, which corresponds with an official “distribution period” that the IRS sets based on average life expectancy. Over time, medical and technological advancements have increased the average life expectancy of an adult. In order to account for increased life expectancy, the IRS has adjusted RMDs so that it will take longer to draw down retirement accounts. What does this mean?...

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“Nobody Knows Nothing”

A few years ago Ally Bank ran a commercial with the noble prize winning economist Thomas Sargent. In the commercial he is on a regally-decorated stage being interviewed. The interviewer asks him whether he knows what interest rates will be in two years. His response is a simple, unemotional “no.” At which point a woman enters the stage and says “if he can’t no one can.” [embed]https://youtu.be/Khn1ZqysON0[/embed] This commercial is making the point that when it comes to predicting financial markets “nobody knows nothing.”  If any year proves this, it is 2020. Who would have thought that COVID-19 would have shut down the economy, resulting in a 30% decline in the US stock market? Who could have predicted its subsequent rebound to new highs a few months later? Then there was the fear of the election and its effect on the markets, still, things moved in a positive direction. The election reminded me...

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Updated Covid-19 Protocols – NYS Orange Zone

On Wednesday, November 18, Governor Cuomo announced that parts of Western New York will move to an ORANGE zone due to rising coronavirus cases in the region. Although we will continue to offer in-person meetings, we are anticipating that the region will move to RED in the coming days or weeks. If the region moves to RED, we will no longer offer in-person meetings in our Amherst or Hamburg offices. In anticipation of this change, we highly recommend you schedule Zoom or phone meetings with your advisor, instead of traditional office visits. Clients can use the same tools they have used during the pandemic to schedule these meetings (client portal, calendar links from advisors, calling our office to schedule). To protect the health and safety of all visitors to our offices, we continue to follow our Covid-19 protocols for in-person meetings. All visitors and employees are required to wear a...

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