If you want a tax break and want to help a nonprofit, this may be a good move.
Have you ever wanted to make a major charitable gift? Would you like a significant federal tax break in acknowledgment of that gift? If so, an IRA charitable rollover might be a good option.
If you are age 70½ or older and have one or more traditional IRAs, you may want to explore the potential of this tax provision. In the language of federal tax law, it is called a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) – a direct transfer of up to $100,000 in IRA assets to a qualified charity.
An IRA charitable rollover may help you lower your adjusted gross income (AGI). That may be a goal in your tax strategy, especially if your AGI is large enough to position you for increased Medicare premiums, greater taxation of your Social Security benefits, or exposure to the 3.8% investment income tax and the Medicare surtax.
Up to $100,000 may be excluded from your gross income during the year in which you make the gift. The gifted amount also counts toward your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).
By the way, this $100,000 annual QCD limit is per individual taxpayer. If you are married, you and your spouse may gift up to $200,000 in a year through IRA charitable rollovers. Imagine lowering your household’s AGI by as much as $200,000 in a tax year.
The Internal Revenue Service will not let you claim the amount of a QCD as a deduction on Schedule A. (That would amount to a double tax break.)
You need not be rich to do this. When many people first learn about the IRA charitable rollover, they think it is only for multimillionaires. That is a misconception. Even if you do not think of yourself as wealthy, a QCD could prove a significant element in your tax strategy.
How does it work? Logistically speaking, an IRA charitable rollover has to unfold in a certain way. The custodian or trustee overseeing your IRA must either make the gift to the charity for you or give you a check made payable to the charity for the amount of the gift.
Do not simply take a distribution from your IRA and then write a check to the charity. That does not qualify as a QCD. If you make this mistake, the money you have taken out of your IRA will simply be included in your gross income for the year, and you may not even be able to claim a charitable contribution deduction for your efforts.
An IRA owner must be age 70½ or older to do this; the gifted assets must come from an IRA, or multiple IRAs, and are subject to RMD rules. (SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs are ineligible if an employer contribution has been made for the particular year.)
The charity or nonprofit involved must pass muster with the I.R.S. It must be a public charity eligible for charitable contribution deductions; that is, it must qualify as 501(c)(3) eligible. It cannot be a donor-advised fund or a private foundation. The charity should provide you with a letter of acknowledgement of your gift, for federal tax purposes. If that letter is not quickly sent to you, be firm in requesting it. It should state that you have received no gift, reward, or benefit from the charity in exchange for your contribution.
If you pledge a donation to a qualified charity or nonprofit, an IRA charitable rollover can be used to satisfy your pledge.
This tax break has been a boon to charities and IRA owners alike. Correctly performed, a charitable IRA rollover may help to lessen tax issues while benefiting qualified nonprofit organizations.
A look at where stocks were in 2009 and how they have performed since.
Where were you on March 9, 2009? Do you remember the headwinds hitting Wall Street then? When the closing bell rang at the New York Stock Exchange that Monday afternoon, it marked the end of another down day for equities. Just hours earlier, the Wall Street Journal had asked: “How Low Can Stocks Go?”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index answered that question by sinking to 676.53, even with mergers and acquisitions making headlines. The index was under 700 for the first time since 1996. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled to a closing low of 6,547.05.2
To quote Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It was the bottom of the bear market – and it was also the best time, in a generation, to buy stocks.
The next day, a rally began. Buoyed by news of one major bank announcing a return to profitability and another stating it would refrain from further government bailouts, the Dow rose 597 points for the week ending on March 16, 2009. On March 26, the Dow settled at 7,924.56, more than 20% above its March 9 settlement. The bull market was back.
This bull market would make all kinds of history. In fact, it would become the longest bull market in history – at least by one measure.
While the last 10-plus years have seen some big ups and downs for the benchmark S&P 500, the index has never closed more than 20% below a recent peak in that span, meaning the current bull market is more than 10 years old.
Ten years later (at the close on Friday, March 8, 2019), the S&P 500 had risen 305.5% from that low. The Dow had gained 288.7%.
How about the Nasdaq Composite? 483.94%. (As you look at these impressive numbers, remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.)
Those gains did not come without turbulence, and stocks in no way turned into a “sure thing.” The risk inherent in the market is still substantial along with the potential for loss. The lesson this long bull market has taught is simply that the bad times in the stock market are worth enduring. Good times may replace those bad times more swiftly than anyone can anticipate.
An emergency fund may help alleviate the stress associated with a financial crisis.
Have you ever had one of those months? The water heater stops heating, the dishwasher stops washing, and your family ends up on a first-name basis with the nurse at urgent care. Then, as you’re driving to work, giving yourself your best, “You can make it!” pep talk, you see smoke seeping out from under your hood.
Bad things happen to the best of us, and instead of conveniently spacing themselves out, they almost always come in waves. The important thing is to have a financial life preserver, in the form of an emergency cash fund, at the ready.
Although many people agree that an emergency fund is an important resource, they’re not sure how much to save or where to keep the money. Others wonder how they can find any extra cash to sock away. One recent survey found that 29% of Americans lack any emergency savings whatsoever.
How Much Money? When starting an emergency fund, you’ll want to set a target amount. But how much is enough? Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. The ideal amount for your emergency fund may depend on your financial situation and lifestyle. For example, if you own your home or provide for a number of dependents, you may be more likely to face financial emergencies. And if the crisis you face is a job loss or injury that affects your income, you may need to depend on your emergency fund for an extended period of time.
Coming Up with Cash. If saving several months of income seems an unreasonable goal, don’t despair. Start with a more modest target, such as saving $1,000. Build your savings at regular intervals, a bit at a time. It may help to treat the transaction like a bill you pay each month. Consider setting up an automatic monthly transfer to make self-discipline a matter of course. You may want to consider paying off any credit card debt before you begin saving.
Once you see your savings begin to build, you may be tempted to use the account for something other than an emergency. Try to budget and prepare separately for bigger expenses you know are coming. Keep your emergency money separate from your checking account so that it’s harder to dip into.
Where Do I Put It? An emergency fund should be easily accessible, which is why many people choose traditional bank savings accounts. Savings accounts typically offer modest rates of return. Certificates of Deposit may provide slightly higher returns than savings accounts, but your money will be locked away until the CD matures, which could be several months to several years.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures bank accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution in principal and interest. CDs are time deposits offered by banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions. CDs offer a slightly higher return than a traditional bank savings account, but they also may require a higher amount of deposit. If you sell before the CD reaches maturity, you may be subject to penalties.
Some individuals turn to money market accounts for their emergency savings. Money market funds are considered low-risk securities, but they’re not backed by the federal government like CDs, so it is possible to lose money. Depending on your particular goals and the amount you have saved, some combination of lower-risk investments may be your best choice.
Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund. Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus.
Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.
The only thing you can know about unexpected expenses is that they’re coming – for everyone. But having an emergency fund may help alleviate the stress and worry associated with a financial crisis. If your emergency savings are not where they should be, consider taking steps today to create a cushion for the future.
If you are between 40 & 60, beware of these financial blunders & assumptions.
Mistakes happen, even for people who have some life experience under their belt. That said, your retirement strategy is one area of life where you want to avoid having some fundamental misconceptions. These errors and suppositions are worth examining, as you do not want to succumb to them. See if you notice any of these behaviors or assumptions creeping into your financial life.
Do you think you need to invest with more risk? If you are behind on retirement saving, you may find yourself wishing for a “silver bullet” investment or wishing you could allocate more of your portfolio to today’s hottest sectors or asset classes, so you can “catch up.” This impulse could backfire. The closer you get to retirement age, the fewer years you have to recoup investment losses. As you age, the argument for diversification and dialing down risk in your portfolio gets stronger and stronger. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.
Have you made saving for retirement a secondary priority? It should be a top priority, even if it becomes secondary for a while, due to fate or bad luck. Some families put saving for college first, saving for mom and dad’s retirement second. Remember that college students can apply for financial aid, but retirees cannot. Building college savings ahead of your own retirement savings may leave your young adult children well-funded for the near future, but you ill-prepared for your own.
Has paying off your home loan taken priority over paying off other debts? Owning your home free and clear is a great goal, but if that is what being debt free means to you, you may end up saddled with crippling consumer debt on the way toward that long-term objective. In late 2018, the average American household carried more than $6,900 in credit card debt alone. It is usually better to attack credit card debt first, thereby freeing up money you can use to invest, save for retirement, build a rainy day fund – and yes, pay the mortgage.
Have you taken a loan from your workplace retirement plan? If you’ve taken this step, consider the following. One, you are drawing down your retirement savings – invested assets, which would otherwise have the capability to grow and compound. Two, you will probably repay the loan via deductions from your paycheck, cutting into your take-home pay. Three, you will probably have to repay the full amount within five years – a term that may not be long as you would like. Four, if you are fired or quit, the entire loan amount will likely have to be paid back by a deadline specified in your plan. Five, if you cannot pay the entire amount back and you are younger than 59½, the I.R.S. will characterize the unsettled portion of the loan as a premature distribution from a qualified retirement plan – fully taxable income subject to early withdrawal penalties.
Do you assume that your peak earning years are straight ahead? Conventional wisdom says that your yearly earnings reach a peak sometime during your mid- to late-fifties, but this is not always the case. Those who work in physically rigorous occupations may see their earnings plateau after age 50 – or even, age 40.
Is your emergency fund now too small? It should be growing gradually to suit your household, and nowadays your household may need much greater cash reserves in a crisis than it once did. If you have no real emergency fund, do what you can now to build one, so you don’t have to resort to a predatory lender for expensive money.
Watch out for these midlife money errors & assumptions. Some are all too casually made. A review of your investment and retirement savings efforts may help you recognize and steer clear of them.