Are you ready for a long retirement?

Following is a great article on funding a long retirement:

We typically plan for our clients to live until age 100.   An interesting fact from the article, the average life expectancy for a 65-year-old male rose from 84.7 in 1950 to 87.8 in 2010 and average life expectancy for 65-year-old woman rose from 86.6 in 1950 to 89.7 in 2010.

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Year-End Charitable Giving

With the holiday season upon us and the end of the year approaching, we pause to give thanks for our blessings and the people in our lives. It is also a time when charitable giving often comes to mind. The tax benefits associated with charitable giving could potentially enhance your ability to give and should be considered as part of your year-end tax planning.

Assume you are considering making a charitable gift equal to the sum of $1,000 plus the income taxes you save with the charitable deduction. With a 28% tax rate, you might be able to give $1,389 to charity ($1,389 x 28% = $389 taxes saved). On the other hand, with a 35% tax rate, you might be able to give $1,538 to charity ($1,538 x 35% = $538 taxes saved).

A word of caution

Be sure to deal with recognized charities and be wary of charities with similar sounding names. It is common for scam artists to impersonate charities using bogus websites and through contact involving emails, telephone, social media, and in-person solicitations. Check out the charity on the IRS website,, using the Exempt Organizations Select Check search tool. And don’t send cash; contribute by check or credit card.

Tax deduction for charitable gifts

If you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, you can generally deduct your gifts to qualified charities. However, the amount of your deduction may be limited to certain percentages of your adjusted gross income (AGI). For example, your deduction for gifts of cash to public charities is generally limited to 50% of your AGI for the year, and other gifts to charity may be limited to 30% or 20% of your AGI. Charitable deductions that exceed the AGI limits may generally be carried over and deducted over the next five years, subject to the income percentage limits in those years. Your overall itemized deductions may also be limited based on your AGI.

Make sure you retain proper substantiation of your charitable contribution for your deduction. In order to claim a charitable deduction for any contribution of cash, a check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a record of such contributions through a bank record (such as a cancelled check, a bank or credit union statement, or a credit card statement) or a written communication (such as a receipt or letter) from the charity showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution. If you claim a charitable deduction for any contribution of $250 or more, you must substantiate the contribution with a contemporaneous written acknowledgment of the contribution from the charity. If you make any noncash contributions, there are additional requirements.

Year-end tax planning

When making charitable gifts at the end of a year, it is generally useful to include them as part of your year-end tax planning. Typically, you have a certain amount of control over the timing of income and expenses. You generally want to time your recognition of income so that it will be taxed at the lowest rate possible, and time your deductible expenses so they can be claimed in years when you are in a higher tax bracket.

For example, if you expect that you will be in a higher tax bracket next year, it may make sense to wait and make the charitable contribution in January so that you can take the deduction next year when the deduction results in a greater tax benefit. Or you might shift the charitable contribution, along with other deductions, into a year when your itemized deductions would be greater than the standard deduction amount. And if the income percentage limits above are a concern in one year, you might consider ways to shift income into that year or shift deductions out of that year, so that a larger charitable deduction is available for that year. A tax professional can help you evaluate your individual tax situation.



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Rising Rates: The Fed Takes Next Step Toward Normal

On December 14, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) voted unanimously to raise the federal funds rate by 0.25% — to a range of 0.50% to 0.75%. This was the second increase since December 2008, when the benchmark rate was lowered to a near-zero level (0% to 0.25%) during the Great Recession.1

The rate hike was widely anticipated by investors, and the only element of surprise was a change in the forecast for the federal funds rate. The median projection for the end of 2017 is 1.4%, up from 1.1% in September, which suggests that Fed officials now expect three additional rate increases in 2017 instead of two.2

As the financial markets priced in the prospect of an extra rate hike, the yield on two-year Treasuries surged to its highest level since August 2009. The 10-year Treasury yield climbed to 2.523%, the highest level in more than two years and a full percentage point higher than the record low in early July 2016.3(Bond yields typically rise as prices fall.) The S&P 500 index declined 0.8% on the day of the Fed’s decision, but recovered quickly and rose 0.4% the following day.4-5

The December rate hike reflects the committee’s growing confidence in the health of the U.S. economy, but it’s also likely to push up borrowing costs for households and businesses.

Central Bank Influence

The Federal Reserve and the FOMC operate under a dual mandate to conduct monetary policies that foster maximum employment and price stability. The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other overnight within the Federal Reserve system. It serves as a benchmark for many short-term rates set by banks.

Adjusting the federal funds rate is one way the central bank can influence short-term interest rates, economic growth, and inflation. The Fed has been tasked with loosening monetary policy early enough to keep inflation from flaring up, but not so quickly as to reverse economic progress or upset financial markets.

Second Time Around

A lot has happened since December 2015, when the stock market cheered the Fed’s first rate increase since the financial crisis. At the time, the Fed projected four rate hikes by the end of 2016, but tightening was put on hold when GDP growth and inflation were slow to materialize. A number of outside risks, including a weak global economy and uncertainty surrounding the June Brexit vote, threatened to dampen U.S. GDP growth in the first half of 2016.6

The Fed’s most recent statement acknowledged that “the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace since midyear.”7 Unemployment fell to 4.6% in November, a nine-year low, and GDP growth improved to 3.2% in the third quarter.8-9

Inflation is still below the Fed’s 2% target but has started to firm in recent months. According to the Fed’s preferred measure, personal consumption expenditures (PCE), prices rose at a 1.4% annual rate through October, and core PCE (which excludes volatile food and energy prices) rose at a 1.7% rate.10

What About Investments?

When interest rates rise, the value of outstanding bonds typically falls. Longer-term bonds tend to fluctuate more than those with shorter maturities, because investors may be reluctant to tie up their money if they anticipate higher yields in the future. Bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original value, but if a bond is held to maturity, the owner suffers no loss of principal unless the issuer defaults.

Equities may also be affected by rising rates, though not as directly as bonds. Stock prices are closely tied to earnings growth, so many corporations stand to benefit from a more robust economy. On the other hand, companies that rely heavily on borrowing will likely face higher costs, which could affect their profits.

Considerations for Consumers

The prime rate, which commercial banks charge their best customers, is typically tied to the federal funds rate. Though actual rates can vary widely, small-business loans, adjustable rate mortgages, home equity lines of credit, auto loans, credit cards, and other forms of consumer credit are often linked to the prime rate, so the rates on these types of loans may increase with the federal funds rate. Fed rate hikes may also put some upward pressure on interest rates for new fixed rate home mortgages.

Although rising interest rates make it more expensive for consumers and businesses to borrow, retirees and others who seek income could eventually benefit from higher yields.

The FOMC expects economic conditions to “warrant only gradual increases,” but future Fed policies will depend on global financial developments, economic data, and growth projections. If inflation rises more or less than expected, rate adjustments will likely follow suit.

The financial markets could continue to react to Fed policies, but that doesn’t mean you should do the same. As always, it’s important to maintain a long-term perspective and make sound investment decisions based on your own financial goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

The return and principal value of stocks fluctuate with market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

1-2, 7) Federal Reserve, 2016
3-6) The Wall Street Journal, December 14-15, 2016
8) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
9-10) U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2016


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How Much Do You Need For Retirement

Most people wonder how much they need to save for retirement.   We calculate a custom target for our clients.   Following is an interesting article that has some general targets:

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What Will You Pay for Medicare in 2017?

What Will You Pay for Medicare in 2017?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has     announced that in 2017, most Medicare beneficiaries (about 70%) will pay $109     per month on average for Medicare Part B. This is up from the $104.90 monthly     Part B premium that has been in effect since 2013.

If you fall into this group, you face only a modest Part B     premium increase in 2017 because your Part B premium is deducted from your     Social Security benefit, and you will be receiving only a small Social Security     cost-of-living increase next year (0.3%). Due to a provision in the Social     Security Act called the “hold harmless” rule, Medicare premiums for existing     beneficiaries can’t increase faster than their Social Security benefits.     Because your Medicare premium increase is based on your actual Social Security     benefit, you may pay more or less than the $109 average premium. The Social     Security Administration (SSA) will tell you the exact amount of your Part B     premium in 2017.

Approximately 30% of Medicare beneficiaries are not subject     to this provision, and may pay substantially more for Medicare Part B. You fall     into this group if:

  • You enroll in Part B for the first time in 2017.
  • You don’t get Social Security benefits.
  • You have Medicare and Medicaid, and Medicaid pays your
  • Your modified adjusted gross income as reported on your federal income tax return from two years ago is above a certain amount.*

The table below shows the Part B premium you’ll pay next     year if you’re in this group.

Beneficiaries who file an individual       income tax return with income that is: Beneficiaries who file a joint       income tax return with income that is: Beneficiaries who file an income       tax return as married filing separately with income that is: Monthly       premium in 2016: Monthly premium in 2017:
$85,000 or less $170,000 or       less $85,000 or less $121.80 $134
Above $85,000 up to       $107,000 Above $170,000 up to       $214,000 N/A $170.50 $187.50
Above $107,000 up to       $160,000 Above $214,000 up to       $320,000 N/A $243.60 $267.90
Above $160,000 up to       $214,000 Above $320,000 up to $428,000 Above $85,000 up to       $129,000 $316.70 $348.30
Above $214,000 Above       $428,000 Above $129,000 $389.80 $428.60


*Beneficiaries with higher incomes have paid higher Medicare     Part B premiums since 2007. To determine if you’re subject to income-related     premiums, the SSA uses the most recent federal tax return provided by the IRS.     Generally, the tax return you filed in 2016 (based on 2015 income) will be used     to determine if you will pay an income-related premium in 2017. You can contact     the SSA at (800) 772-1213 if you have new information to report that might     change the determination and lower your premium (you lost your job and your     income has gone down or you’ve filed an amended income tax return, for     example).

Changes to other Medicare costs

Other Medicare Part A and Part B costs will change in 2017,     including the following:

  • The annual Medicare Part B deductible for Original Medicare will be $183, up from $166 in 2016.
  • The monthly Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) premium for those who need to buy coverage will cost up to $413, up from $411 in 2016.     However, most people don’t pay a premium for Medicare Part A.
  • The Medicare Part A deductible for inpatient hospitalization will be $1,316, up from $1,288 in 2016. Beneficiaries will pay     an additional daily co-insurance amount of $329 for days 61 through 90, up from     $322 in 2016, and $658 for stays beyond 90 days, up from $644 in 2016.
  • Beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities will pay a daily co-insurance amount of $164.50 for days 21 through 100 in a benefit     period, up from $161 in 2016.

To view the Medicare fact sheet announcing these and other figures, visit

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Year End Tax Tips

It is time to make some year end tax planning moves.    Following is an article with some tips that I think will help most people.

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Retirement Crisis

Most people find investing “complex and confusing.”   They also “don’t know what to do to prepare for retirement.”   This is what we help our clients figure out.

When planning for retirement, it is important to try to find your target.

  1. When do you want to retire?
  2. What do you want to do for retirement?
  3. How much do you need for retirement?

Following is a great article about the retirement crisis.

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Early Returns: How U.S. Markets Reacted to the Presidential Election

On November 8, 2016, Republican candidate Donald J. Trump won a closely contested election for president of the United States.

Late on election night, when it became evident that Trump was likely to win despite consistently trailing in the polls, foreign markets went into a deep dive.1 Many observers expected a similar reaction when the U.S. stock market opened on November 9, but after an initial drop, the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and NASDAQ rose throughout the day, and all three indexes closed up more than 1%.2 Although this was unexpected after the late-night surprise, it actually continued a two-day upsurge that began when Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was expected to win the election.3

The market was mixed but steady the following day, November 10, with the Dow again up more than 1%, a small increase in the broader S&P 500, and a moderate decline in the NASDAQ, which tends to be more volatile due to its inclusion of smaller, technology-driven companies. On November 11, the NASDAQ recovered its loss, the Dow was slightly higher, and the S&P 500 was slightly lower — not unusual after a week of rising stock prices.4

On the other hand, bond prices fell steeply the day after the election, and the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which rises as prices fall, jumped more than 2% for the day. This, too, was a surprise because Treasuries are generally seen as a safe haven in times of uncertainty. But on the day after the election, investors were more interested in selling Treasuries than buying them.5 The Treasury sell-off continued on November 10.6 (Bond markets were closed on November 11 in honor of Veterans Day.)

The conciliatory tone of Trump’s acceptance speech, Clinton’s concession speech, and remarks by President Obama all indicate there will be an orderly transfer of power, which may have helped calm the markets. Here are some additional implications that might be drawn from the initial market reaction.

First, although the Trump presidency was unexpected and his economic policies are untested, rising stock prices suggest that investors may be optimistic that his promised pro-business agenda could help continue the upward market trend of the last few years. Investors like clarity and consistency, and the fact that the same party will control the White House and Congress might create a more productive and predictable working relationship.7 At the same time, fundamental differences between the president-elect and the Republican Congress suggest that any changes may be more measured than originally anticipated.8

Second, in this initial transition stage, money flowing out of Treasuries suggests that bond investors may see a Trump presidency as leading to higher inflation and higher interest rates due to a combination of more protective trade policies and heavier government borrowing in order to fund infrastructure spending and reduce taxes for individuals and corporations. Declining bond prices might also reflect a belief that the Federal Reserve may raise rates at its December meeting despite the political surprise.9

Of course, these are just first impressions, and there could be many market ups and downs as investors try to understand what the new president’s policies might be, how much support they may have from Congress, and how they might affect the broader economy. Moreover, government policy and political debate are only two of many factors that can create market volatility.

Is the U.S. economy strong enough to withstand any headwinds that arise from a changing administration? That remains to be seen, but fundamental economic indicators have been solid, and overreacting to political events is unwise. The most stable approach in changing times is generally to maintain a well-diversified portfolio using a strategy appropriate for your time frame, personal goals, and risk tolerance.

Diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss. The principal value of stocks and bonds may fluctuate with market conditions. Stocks, when sold, and bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original cost. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest.

The performance of an unmanaged index is not indicative of the performance of any specific investment. Individuals cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results; actual results will vary.

Investing internationally carries additional risks such as differences in financial reporting, currency exchange risk, as well as economic and political risk unique to the specific country. This may result in greater share price volatility.

1) CNNMoney, November 9, 2016

2, 5, 7) MarketWatch, November 9, 2016

3-4) Yahoo! Finance, November 11, 2016

6) MarketWatch, November 10, 2016

8) The New York Times, November 9, 2016

9), November 9, 2016

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Retirement and Facebook

I don’t use facebook very much, but I can understand seeing your friends on vacation would make you want to go as well.  This article looks at this situation in depth.    I really like the do’s and don’ts listed at the end of the article.    Be happy with what you have and be happy for your friends.

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Retirement Tips

There are a lot of great tips in this article.    The ability to donate money using your RMD is an opportunity a lot of retirees miss.

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