Colorado Secure Savings Mandate – What you need to know

What business owners need to know about Colorado Secure Savings Act

 

In 2020 Colorado passed the Colorado Secure Savings Program. This law mandates that small business owners enroll in a state-run retirement savings plan. The pilot program is launching in October 2022 and employers throughout Colorado will be required to comply starting in 2023.

The purpose of this mandate is to increase access to retirement savings for workers in Colorado. The Colorado Secure Savings Act mandates that qualifying employers provide an employer sponsored individual plan. The cost of this program will be funded through auto payroll deductions.

In general, this seems like it will have positive benefits for employees. However, it may create additional burdens for employers and may in fact limit employees’ options. Here is what small business owners need to know about the Colorado Mandated Small Business Retirement Plan.

 

Who needs to comply:

 

The Colorado General Assembly states that you, as an employer,  will be required to implement this program if: 

  • You have five or more employees
  • Have been in business for two or more years
  • Don’t have an existing qualifying plan 

Companies already offering 401ks or other qualified savings plans are not required to use the Colorado Secure Savings Program. The law states that employers with less than 5 employees or who have not yet been in business for 2 years will not be required to participate. However, they will have the option to offer the program to their employees.

 

What needs to be done:

 

While there is limited guidance at the moment from the State of Colorado, employers will be required to offer auto enrollment and facilitate payroll deductions into the program. 

Upon enrollment, employees will opt into the default savings rate for Colorado Secure Savings, which is 5% of their gross pay. Beyond this, deferral rates may vary depending on how much you want to save each year. In addition, age, marital status, and income play a role in the amount that employees can contribute.

However, employees will be able to change their contribution amount or opt-out if desired.

As it is written so far, employers will have 14 days to send employees’ contributions to the program administrator. The program oversight will be done by the board of the Colorado Secure Savings Program. The board is currently chaired by the Colorado State Treasurer. This board will be making a process for withholding employees’ wages and remitting withheld amounts into their Colorado Secure Savings account. It’s not yet clear if the program will offer any integrations with payroll providers to facilitate the timely deposit of contributions.

 

Penalties for noncompliance:

 

Fines can be costly.  For non-compliance, fines will be $100.00 per employee per year and can ratchet up to $5000.00 annually. The compliance period is one year after implementation. 

However, they do state they plan to create a grant program to incentivize compliance. Yet no further details have been released.  The good news is it’s really easy to comply by setting up a 401k plan or another qualified plan in advance. Keep reading on to find out how.

 

General Concerns:

 

There is little to no guarantee of the level of quality or support that will be available to business owners from the state in implementing and managing the Colorado Secure Savings Program. The government has not released any real guidelines. There are some basics, but how is still very undefined. 

Further, if a company offers the state-run plan many of their higher income employees will be excluded. Employees with a Modified Adjusted Gross Income of more than $139,000 or $206,000 married filing jointly cannot participate.

As we wait for more details it’s not a bad idea to consider all the various plan options available to you and your company.

 

State Sponsored vs Employer Sponsored

 

There are a handful of states that currently have state mandated plans in place. California, Oregon, and New York are a few for instance. State sponsored plans have pros and cons, which business owners should carefully weigh. On one hand, government-mandated plans are generally a cheap solution with few fiduciary implications. On the other, these plans tend to be inflexible, one-size-fits-all. Plus they come with potential government penalties.

 

State sponsored retirement plans:

 

  • Roth IRA Investment structure (after-tax)
  • The state board selects investments
  • Annual Salary Deferral Limit $6,000 (Extra $1,000 catch-up if over 50) as of 2022
  • The plan will “travel with” people if they change jobs or leave the state
  • Excludes higher income employees
  • No employer contributions 
  • No federal tax credits for employers
  • Creates a significant burden for the employer

 

As an alternative, an employer sponsored 401k or other qualified plans may be a better option than having the state do it for you. A common misconception is that employer sponsored plans are expensive. However, that simply isn’t the case. Many plans are now being tailored for smaller companies. Plus, the IRS gives tax credits to firms with fewer than 100 employees for some ordinary and necessary costs of starting an employer sponsored plan. 

 

Employer Sponsored 401K plans:

 

  • Allow an employee to make contributions either before or after-tax, depending on plan options
  • Wide range of investments at various levels of risk chosen by the employer or by an advisor
  • Employee may direct their own investments
  • Higher Annual Salary Deferral Limit 
  • No employee income limits
  • Allows for employer contributions
  • Federal tax credits for the employer for start-up and admin costs and employee education

 

In addition, offering an employer sponsored plan to your employees may increase your company’s competitiveness in the job market. It could also help you retain valuable staff. Plus, you and other company leaders can participate. 

If you work with a payroll services provider, the software can easily and automatically transfer employees’ funds, making the procedure effortless. Additionally, private plans typically come with the support of financial advisors. Moreover, a financial advisor can help regarding plan types and how best to implement them for your business.

Clearly, adding a 401k or other qualified plans to your company’s benefits package has strategic advantages. Yet, by not providing your employees with a retirement plan, you risk having the state impose one. 

 

Do State-Run Plans Even Work?

 

Time will tell. However, Oregon, the first state to legally mandate a retirement plan, has pretty dismal enrollment numbers. Since its inception in 2018, only 114 thousand workers have enrolled out of a potential of over 1 million total. 

Using Oregon again as an example, there are a lot of restrictions. First, the percentage contribution is fixed. Second, the employee’s first $1,000 gets put into a stabilization fund that since its inception has earned 1.52% per annum, or basically 0%,  Or less after factoring in inflation. Finally,  if and when they have more than $1,000 invested, they must decide between a fund that is a mixture of stocks and bonds and one that is invested entirely with the State Street Equity 500 Index Fund. (03/31/2022

By comparison, in the private sector, there are multiple low-cost, exchange traded funds, most of which averaged an annual return of over 10% during the most recent 10 year period. Some would argue that directing employees away from these superior investment products arguably does a disservice to the employees.

 

Sample Administrative Duties

 

Further, Oregon has demonstrated what a significant burden the plan can be on employees. Here is a shortlist of employer duties that Colorado will likely have as well.

  • Submit an employee census annually
  • Track eligibility status for all employees
  • Provide enrollment packets to all employees 30 days after date of hire
  • Plus, track whether each employee has opted in or out
  • If an employee doesn’t opt out within 30 days,  set up 5% payroll deduction
  • Manually auto escalate all employees annually unless they’ve opted out
  • Repeat auto enroll process annually for all employees who have opted out
  • 6 month look-back for auto escalation:
    • Track if the employee has been participating for 6 months with no auto escalation
    • Provide 60-day notice  if they do not opt-out again
  • Hold open enrollment
  • Auto-enroll anybody who hasn’t been participating for at least 1 year

It’s too early to know whether state run programs work. After all, Saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. As an employer, it is important to weigh all options. 

 

What Are Alternatives to the Colorado Secure Savings Program?

 

If you do not already have an existing plan, and you are skeptical about a government mandated plan, you can always make your own employer sponsored plan. Bonfire Financial has many 401k, Simple IRA, and SEP IRA options. We provide affordable, hassle-free solutions that will reduce the administrative burden. 

 

Colorado Secure Savings vs Retirement Plan with Bonfire Financial

State Run Retirement Plan vs 401k

How can my business establish its own retirement plan?

 

Above all, retirement plans don’t have to be expensive or difficult to manage. In light of Colorado’s rollout of the Secure Savings Plan, we are offering small business owners and employers a free, no obligation call with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to help answer all your questions. We can help you create a better, more efficient retirement plan that is tailored to you and your employee’s specific needs. We are local in Colorado Springs and are here to help with all your retirement plan needs. 

Schedule a Call

10 Mistakes to avoid with your Roth IRA

Roth IRA Mistakes

 

An individual retirement account (IRA), specifically a Roth IRA, is a great option to save for retirement.  However, there are a handful of common Roth IRA mistakes people make. 

One of the great things about a Roth IRA is that while contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax-deductible when you make them, the distributions can grow tax-free. Unlike a traditional IRA which is tax-deductible, you’ll have to pay taxes on them at your income tax rate.

Currently, a Roth IRA contribution allows investors to save up to $6,000 an additional $1,000 if over 50 years into an account that will forever be tax-free. That means if you started a Roth IRA when you were 18 years old, and you’re now 55, every single dollar including the gains are tax-free. Peter Thiel, a hedge fund manager, turned his Roth IRA into a 6 Billion Dollar tax-free account. Maybe you won’t end up with that much in a Roth IRA, but any amount that is not taxed by Uncle Sam, the better. 

Many pre-retirees want to find more ways to save for retirement. They also want to make sure they are setting themselves up for a better tax situation when they start taking money out of their accounts. A Roth IRA allows married couples over 50, to add an additional $14,000 ($7,000 each) per year, helping them build a tax-free nest egg. 

However, there are several common mistakes we see that cause people major tax issues or nullify their contributions. Below are the most common mistakes we find and how to avoid them

 

Mistake #1 – Contributing When You Don’t Qualify

 

The government wants people to save, however, they don’t want them to be able to save too much. As such, you can earn too much to contribute to a Roth IRA. Whether you’re eligible is determined by your modified adjusted gross income. Plus the income limits for Roth IRAs are adjusted periodically by the IRS. As such Roth IRA mistakes can be made. 

Find the current Roth IRA Contribution Limits can be found here. 

If you make contributions when you don’t qualify, it’s considered an excess contribution. The IRS will charge a tax penalty on the excess amount for each year it stays in your account.

 

How to avoid it:

 

If you’re close to the income limits, one way to avoid the extra tax penalty is to wait until you’re about to file your taxes. Then you can see how much if anything you can contribute. You have until the day your taxes are due to fund a Roth IRA. This way, you avoid making the mistake of contributing more than the allowable maximum. Plus, helps to avoid paying unexpected penalties. 

 

Mistake #2 – Funding more than one Roth IRA

 

Let’s say you fund a Roth IRA with Bonfire Financial, and also open another Roth IRA at Vanguard, for example, you cannot contribute $6,000 to each Roth IRA. The Roth IRA contribution maximum limit of $6,000 ($7,000 if over 50) if based on an aggregate limit. If you contribute more than you’re allowed to your Roth IRA, you’ll face the same excise tax penalties on those extra funds.

 

How to avoid it:

 

To avoid this problem, be sure to watch and manage the total amount of contributions in all of your Roth IRA accounts. If you do accidentally put in too much, you can make a withdrawal without penalty as long as it is before the tax filing deadline. You also have to withdraw any interest earned.

 

Mistake #3 – Not Funding your spouse’s Roth IRA

 

While your contributions to a Roth IRA are limited by the amount of money you’ve earned in a given year, there is an exception. Your spouse!  Even if your spouse has no earned income, they can still contribute to their own Roth IRA via the Spousal Roth IRA. You must be legally married and file a joint return to make this work.

 

How to avoid it:

 

By using a Spousal IRA, you can double up on your Roth IRA contributions. You can save an extra $7,000 per year in tax-free dollars if over 50 years old. 

Keep in mind that IRAs are individual accounts. As such, a Spousal Roth IRA is not a joint account. Rather, you each have your own IRA—but just one spouse funds them both.

 

Mistake #4 – Too large of a Roth Conversion 

 

Roth conversions are a good tool to use to make your future earnings tax-free and avoid RMDs in the future.  How these conversions work is by moving pre-existing funds in your traditional IRA or traditional 401K into a Roth or Roth 401k. The amount of money that is converted or moved from one account to the other will be taxable at whatever your current income tax bracket is.

One problem that can happen is that if you are close to the next income bracket and you convert funds over to a Roth, some of the conversion could be taxed at a higher rate. It pushes you into the next income bracket.   These conversions cannot be reversed. So, if you are not working with an advisor and your tax professional you can inadvertently pay more taxes than you need to.  

 

How to avoid it:

 

If you have large IRAs or 401k and would like to convert into a Roth, it is best to watch your income brackets and convert an amount of money that would fill your current income tax bracket but not spill over into the next.  It is best to use this strategy over multiple years.

 

Mistake #5 – Not doing a Backdoor Roth

 

Many of our clients have incomes that are above or well above the Roth IRA income phaseout.  Yet they and their spouses are funding their Roth IRA’s $7,000 each year. How? 

By using a strategy called the Backdoor Roth Conversion. A Backdoor Roth Conversion is done by funding an empty IRA up to $7,000 from your bank and then immediately converting the IRA dollars into the Roth IRA. In this way, you are funding a traditional IRA and not-deducting from your income, also known as a nondeductible IRA contribution, and then converting into the Roth IRA, which is allowed regardless of income. In this strategy, you indirectly fund the Roth IRA and can continue to do this every year going forward.

 

How to avoid it:

 

If you make too much money to contribute directly to a Roth IRA, consider doing a Backdoor Roth. There are some drawbacks to converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Since the money you put into your traditional IRA was pre-tax, you’ll need to pay income tax on it when you do the conversion. It’s possible that this additional income could even bump you up into a higher tax bracket. We highly recommend talking to a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ about implementing this strategy. 

 

Mistake #6 – Doing a Backdoor Roth with Money in an IRA

 

One mistake we often see is someone funding a backdoor Roth IRA while concurrently having pre-tax dollars in other IRA accounts. The reason this is a problem is that the IRS looks at all accounts. And due to the “Pro-rata Rule” treats them as one. You cannot simply just choose to move after-tax dollars into a Roth IRA.

You have to calculate the amount of money that can be moved into a Roth without paying taxes by dividing the amount of after-tax dollars by the total amount of money in all your  IRA accounts. 

 

How to avoid it:

 

A way to avoid this common pitfall is to account for all IRAs. (SEP IRAs, Simple IRAs, and or traditional IRAs)This will help know whether you can contribute without triggering the Pro-rata rule. You could also convert all pre-tax dollars at once. Or, another option would be to roll your IRA money into a 401k so that you no longer have any money in an IRA.  

 

Mistake #7 -Not properly investing the money

 

One common mistake we see investors make is that they believe the Roth IRA is an investment when it is simply an account. Just because you contribute to a Roth IRA doesn’t mean it is invested automatically.

It is not enough just to open an account. You have to go into the account and select investments and manage them. If you just contribute to a Roth IRA without selecting an investment in the account, it could be just sitting in cash! 

 

How to avoid it:

 

Invest the money in your Roth IRA. If you are unsure of a good investment strategy, schedule a meeting with one of our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals. We can help make sure your Roth IRA is invested correctly for you based on your goals,  time horizon, and risk tolerance. 

 

Mistake #8 -Not optimizing your Roth Dollars 

 

Oftentimes, we see Roth IRA investors using allocations that are very conservative. Or they match other allocations in their 401(k). This is a massive oversight and not planning for a proper tax allocation strategy. A Roth IRA should be managed more aggressively than your other accounts so that you can take full advantage of the tax-free benefit. 

 

How to avoid it:

 

Leave the conservative allocation to the after-tax and tax-deferred accounts.  A Roth IRA should be as aggressive as you are willing and capable of doing. One advantage of  IRAs over 401k plans is that, while most 401k plans have limited investment options, IRAs offer the opportunity to put your money in many types of stocks and other investments.

 

Mistake #9 – Forgetting to name Beneficiaries

 

It’s important to name a primary and contingent beneficiary for your IRA accounts. Otherwise, if something happens to you, your estate will have to go through probate. And that can take more time, cost more money, and cause a lot of inconveniences.

 

How to avoid it:

 

Name your beneficiaries and be sure to review them periodically and make any changes or updates. This is especially important in the case of divorce. We see a lot of issues arise because a divorce decree won’t prevent a former spouse from getting your assets if he or she is still listed as a beneficiary on those assets. 

 

Mistake #10 -Not having a CFP® Manage your investment and tax strategy

 

There are many nuances to opening and maintaining a Roth IRA. The investments, the tax strategies, and the timing of contributions can all make or break your account’s tax-free status. This potentially could cost you additional taxes and penalties. 

 

How to avoid it

 

Work with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to help you set up, and maintain your Roth IRA.  They can help plan for an effective retirement and tax strategy. Having a professional help you with your retirement accounts and other complicated retirement plan strategies can potentially help you avoid expensive Roth IRA mistakes.

 

To Sum it Up- Don’t make these Common Roth IRA Mistakes

 

Roth IRAs can provide a lot of great retirement benefits, but they can also be complicated. There are a lot of common mistakes with a Roth IRA. It is important to pay attention to all the regulations and rules to help you avoid these common mistakes.

Have questions about your Roth IRA? Give us a call! We are local in Colorado Spring but help clients all over the nation. We are happy to help. 

10 actionable ways to cut taxes now and in the future

HOW TO CUT TAXES NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

 

If you just wrote a big check to the IRS, you may be wondering how you can prepare now to cut your taxes next April. We’ve got you covered. Luckily, there are several legal ways to reduce the amount of tax you pay each year that don’t just include adjusting your withholding.  Here are 10, practical and actionable, ways to help you cut your next tax bill and those in the future.

 

1. UTILIZE YOUR RMD FOR YOUR CHARITABLE GIVING

 

If you are 72 or older, donating your Required Minim Distribution (RMD) to a qualified charity is a great way to reduce your tax burden. These donations are considered a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) and will not be taxed up to $100,000 per account owner.

Note: The Secure Act raised the RMD age for some taxpayers to 72, but didn’t raise the QCD age from 70 1/2. 

A qualified charitable distribution can satisfy all or part of the amount of your RMD from your IRA. For example, if your required minimum distribution was $10,000, and you made a $5,000 qualified charitable distribution, you would only have to withdraw another $5,000 to satisfy your required minimum distribution.

The more you donate in this way, the more you can exclude and cut from your taxable income This is extremely helpful since RMDs are ordinary taxable income that will often push retirees into a higher tax bracket. 

Qualified charitable donations are a great way to use up your RMD if you are planning to give to charity. However, keep in mind that it must be a check sent directly from an IRA to the charity, it is not a charitable deduction per IRS rules. 

Schwab allows you to have a checkbook on your IRA that allows you to write such checks directly from your IRA. Be aware, that all donations need to be sent/cashed by 12/31 of the tax filing year. 

QCDs can offer big tax savings, as tax rates on regular income are usually the highest. Regardless of the tax benefits, designating this income for charity is a great way to begin or expand your giving and support the causes you care most about. 

 

2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TAX LOST HARVESTING 

 

There is always a silver lining, right? For market downturns, that silver lining is tax-loss harvesting. With tax-loss harvesting, you can use your loss to cut your tax liability and better position your portfolio going forward.

Here is how it works, in its simplest form:

  • First, sell an investment that is losing money and underperforming. 
  • Next, use that loss to reduce your taxable capital gains and potentially offset up to $3,000 of your ordinary income for the tax year. (Any amount over $3,000 can be carried forward to future tax years to offset income down the road).
  • Last, reinvest the money from the sale into a different investment that better meets your investment needs and asset-allocation strategy.

This allows you to free up cash for new investment and mitigate a tax consequence.  

As with anything tax-related, there are limitations. Please note that tax loss harvesting isn’t useful in retirement accounts because you can’t deduct the losses in a tax-deferred account. Additionally,  there are restrictions on using specific types of losses to offset certain gains. A long-term loss would first be applied to a long-term gain, and a short-term loss would be applied to a short-term gain. You also must be careful not to violate the IRS rule against buying a “substantially identical” investment within 30 days.

The best way to maximize the value of tax-loss harvesting is to incorporate it into your year-round tax planning and investing strategy. We always recommend talking to a professional about your specific situation. 

 

3.  FUND HSA OR FSA 

 

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) allow pre-tax dollars to be set aside for medical, vision, and dental expenses, thus reducing your overall taxable income. Each has its own benefits.

An HSA is triple tax-advantaged, which means:

  • Contributions are made with pre-tax dollars 
  • It grows tax-free (you can invest your contributions and earn interest) 
  • Can be used tax-free for eligible expenses (

Another great thing about an HSA is that you can keep it forever. Funds roll over and never expire. On the other hand, an FSA is a “use or lose it” type of account. However, an FSA is still a good option because it is funded before tax and comes out tax-free. FSA are employer-sponsored so there is often less involved with enrolling and setting up the plan. As such self-employed filers are ineligible to open able to open an FSA. 

Regardless of which plan you have, both HSAs and FSAs are good options to help cut and reduce your taxable income.  

 

CONTRIBUTE TO A PRE-TAX RETIREMENT ACCOUNT TO CUT TAXES NOW

 

Contributing to a retirement plan may be one of the simplest ways to slash what you own to the IRS. Whether a 401k or an IRA, (learn the differences here), both offer tax savings. 

 

4. MAX OUT  YOUR 401K

 

If your employer offers a 401k, maximize it. To realize benefits on your next tax bill, contribute to a Traditional 401k rather than a Roth 401k. Traditional 401k contributions will reduce your taxable salary, another great way to cut your tax bill.

 

5. CONTRIBUTE TO A TRADITIONAL IRA

 

Additionally, if you are below the income limits, you can also contribute to a Traditional IRA. They are tax-deferred, meaning that you don’t have to pay tax on any interest or other gains the account earns until you withdraw the money. Contributions to a Traditional IRA are often tax-deductible. However, if you do have a 401k or any other employer-sponsored plan, your income will determine how much of your contribution you can deduct.

 

6. CONSIDER A CASH BALANCE PLAN

 

If you are a business owner or solopreneur and have a high income, consider a cash balance plan. A Cash Balance plan is a type of retirement plan that allows for a large amount of money to go in tax-deferred and grows tax-deferred. It is a great option for owners looking for larger tax deductions and accelerated retirement savings.

Cash Balance contributions are age-dependent. The older the participant is,  the higher the contribution can be. It can be an extra $60k to over $300k (based on age and income ) on top of combined 401k/ profit-sharing contributions. 

An attractive feature of a cash balance plan is that the company offering the benefit can take an above-the-line tax deduction on contributions. Above-the-line deductions are great for tax savings because they reduce income dollar for dollar.

 

CONTRIBUTE TO AN AFTER-TAX RETIREMENT ACCOUNT TO CUT TAXES IN THE FUTURE

 

While a 401k, Traditional IRA, and Cash Balance Plan can help curb taxes in the near term, we also recommend planning for future tax implications to help you cut your tax bill for years to come. Roth IRAs are retirement accounts that are made up of your AFTER-tax contributions, however, they offer tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals. 

 

7. GROW TAX-FREE WITH A ROTH IRA 

 

Again, Roth IRA contributions are after-tax, so you can not deduct your contributions. Nevertheless, your distribution will be tax-free and penalty-free at age 59 ½  Something your future self will thank you for! Another benefit is that a Roth IRA isn’t subject to RMD requirements either. 

Your Roth IRA contribution limits are based on your filing status and income.

There are definitely some potential tax savings here, especially for those just starting out. It makes sense to pay taxes on the money you contribute now, rather than later, when your tax rate may be higher.

 

8. RUMINATE ON A  BACKDOOR ROTH

 

A Backdoor Roth allows people with high incomes to fund a Roth, despite IRS income limits, and reap its tax benefits. Could it be right for you?

In short, you open a traditional IRA, make non-deductible (taxable) contributions to it, then move that Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA and enjoy the tax-free growth. 

It is important to note that you can not have any money currently in an IRA, SIMPLE IRA, or SEP-IRA to make this work properly.  There are more complexities involved in setting this up, and we recommend talking with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.

 

9. ROTH CONVERSION

 

A Roth Conversion involves the transfer of existing retirement assets from a traditional, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA, or from a defined-contribution plan such as a 401k, into a Roth IRA.

You’ll have to pay income tax on the money you convert now (at your current tax rate), but you’ll be able to take tax-free withdrawals from the Roth account in the years to come

You can also use market downturns as an opportunity to do a Roth Conversion. If your IRA goes down in value because of market fluctuations, you could convert the account to a Roth, which allows you to pay a  smaller amount of taxes because the account is down in value. Then you’ll have the money in a Roth when the market recovers, which would then be tax-free.

While there is no predicting what the tax brackets and tax rates will be in the future, if taxes go up by the time you retire, converting a traditional IRA and taking the tax hit now rather than later could make sense in the long run.

 

10. PAY ATTENTION TO THE CALENDAR

 

Lastly, from a tax perspective, there is a big difference between December 31 and January 1st. While some things, such as IRA contributions can be made up until the filing deadline, many must be done during the tax year, like qualified charitable distribution.

It is important to plan as far in advance as possible to help minimize your taxes. We recommend meeting with a tax professional and your financial advisor throughout the year.

 

The key to lowering your tax bill is to plan ahead and cut your tax liability in a way that makes sense for you.  It’s impossible to know what regulations, changes, and updates will go into effect during any given tax season, but rest assured that we’ll be here to help you plan. Schedule a free consultation call with one of our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals today! 

Until then, take these tips to heart and remember that reducing your taxes isn’t an impossible task.

6 important things to do when turning 65 – A Retirement Checklist 

Turning 65 – A Retirement Checklist

 

Are your turning 65 soon? Turning 65 is a major milestone and pivotal age for your retirement planning. Not only is this an important age for government programs like Medicare and Social Security, but it’s also a perfect time to check other parts of your financial plan, particularly if you’re about to retire. Here are 6 important things to do as you get closer to your 65th birthday to make sure this year and the many years that follow are amazing!

 

  1. Prepare for Medicare
  2. Consider Long Term Care Insurance
  3. Review your Social Security Benefits
  4. Review Retirement Accounts
  5. Update Estate Planning Documents
  6. Get Tax Breaks

 


1. Prepare for Medicare

 

Medicare is the most common form of health care coverage for older Americans. The program has been in existence since 1965 and provides a way for seniors to have their health needs taken care of after they retire from the workforce.

 

What is Medicare?

 

Medicare is basically the federal government’s health insurance program for people 65 or older (or younger with disabilities). Medicare is primarily funded by payroll taxes paid by most employees, employers, and people who are self-employed. Funds are paid through the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund held by the U.S. Treasury.

 

When can I enroll in Medicare?

 

Starting 3 months before the month you turn 65, you are eligible to enroll in Medicare, you can also sign up during your birthday month and the three months following your 65th birthday. Essentially, you have a seven-month window to sign up for Medicare. Be mindful of your timing and enrollment because Medicare charges several late-enrollment penalties.

 

What does Medicare cover?

 

Medicare benefits vary depending on the enrollment plan you choose. Medicare is made up of four enrollment plans:  Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D.

 

Here is a quick breakdown of the four parts of Medicare:

 

Medicare Part A: Know as the Original Medicare, Part A covers inpatient hospital care, home health, nursing, and hospice care. Part A is typically paired with Medicare Part B.

Medicare Part B: Still considered part of the Original Medicare, Part B helps cover doctor’s visits, lab work, diagnostic and preventative care, and mental health. It does not include dental and vision benefits.

Medicare Part C: This option offers traditional Medicare coverage but includes more coverage for routine healthcare that you use every day, routine dental care, vision care, and hearing. Plus, it covers wellness programs and fitness memberships. Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage and is a form of private insurance. Note that you will not be automatically enrolled in these benefits.

Medicare Part D: Medicare Part D is a stand-alone plan provided through private insurers that covers the costs of prescription drugs.  Most people will need Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Even if you’re fortunate enough to be in good health now, you may need significant prescription drugs in the future.

Age 65 Medicare

 

While Medicare is great it’s not going to cover all your medical expenses. You’ll still be responsible for co-payments and deductibles just like on your employer’s health plan, and they can add up quickly.

To offset these expenses, a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance policy could be a good option as well. Medigap is offered by private insurance companies and covers such as co-payments, deductibles, and health care if you travel outside the U.S.

 

How can I enroll in Medicare?

 

For most people, applying for Medicare is a straightforward process. If you already receive retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you’ll be signed up automatically for Part A and Part B.

If you aren’t receiving retirement benefits, and you don’t have health coverage through an employer or spouse’s employer, you will need to apply for Medicare during your 7-month enrollment window.

You can sign up for Medicare online, by phone, or in-person at a Social Security office.

Please note that if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or health insurance based on current employment, you may want to ask your HR office or insurance company how signing up for Medicare will affect you.

 

2. Consider Long Term Care Insurance

 

Another prudent thing to do when you are turning 65 is to consider your long-term care insurance options before retirement.

 

What is long-term care insurance?

 

The goal of long-term care is to help you maintain your daily life as you age. It helps to provide care if you are unable to perform daily activities on your own. It can include care in your home, nursing home, or assisted living facility.  The need for long-term care may result from unforeseen illnesses, accidents, and other chronic conditions associated with aging.

Medicare often does not provide long-term care coverage, so it is a good idea to factor this additional coverage in.

 

Why do I need long-term care insurance?

 

While it may be hard to imagine needing long-term care now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care service in their lifetime.

Unfortunately, long-term care coverage is often hindsight, only thinking about it once it is needed. Planning for it now can help you access better quality care quickly when you need it and help you and your family avoid costly claims.

 

How do I get long-term care insurance?

 

First, talk with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ about whether long-term care insurance makes sense for you. Coverage can be complex and expensive. A good Financial Advisor can help guide you to a plan that is right for you.

Most people buy their long-term care insurance through a financial advisor, however, some states offer State Partnership Programs and more employers are offering long-term care as a voluntary benefit.

It is important to start shopping before you would need coverage. While you can’t predict the future, if you wait until you are well into retirement and already having medical issues, you may be turned down or the premiums may be too high to make it a feasible option.

 

3. Review your Social Security Benefits

 

If you haven’t yet started to collect Social Security, your 65th birthday is a great time to review your social security strategy to help you maximize your benefits.

 

Age 65 Social Security

 

When can I take Social Security?

 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers the full retirement age is 66 if you were born from 1943 to 1954. The full retirement age increases gradually if you were born from 1955 to 1960 until it reaches 67. For anyone born in 1960 or later, full retirement benefits are payable at age 67.

In deciding when to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, you need to consider your personal situation.

 

How can I maximize my Social Security Benefit?

 

Turning 65 might raise questions about how to maximize your Social Security befits in retirement. Rightfully so. Receiving benefits early can reduce your payments, however, the flip side is also true. If you’re still working or have savings that will allow you to wait a while on receiving benefits, your eventual payments will be higher. Your benefits can stand to grow 8% a year if you delay until age 70. Plus, cost of living adjustments (COLA) will also be included in that increase.

In addition to delaying receiving your benefits, it is important to make sure all your years of work have been counted. SSA calculates your benefits based on the 35 years in which you earn the most. If you haven’t clocked in 35 years, or the SSA doesn’t have those years recorded, it could hurt you.

Be sure to create a “My Social Security” account and check to make sure your work history is accurately depicted. It is wise to download and check your social security statement annually and update personal information as needed.

Another potential boost in your benefit can come from claiming spousal payments.  If you were married for at least 10 years, you can claim Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record.

Everyone’s financial situation is different, but it can be helpful to have a plan for how you’re going to approach Social Security before you turn 65.

 

4. Review Retirement Accounts

 

Even if you are not planning to retire soon, now (and every quarter for that matter) is a good time to check in on your retirement accounts. Is your portfolio allocated in a way that lines up with your target retirement date? When is the last time you met with your financial advisor? Do you need to catch up a little?  Do you have a plan for your Required Minimum Distributions?

Meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ can help you evaluate your risk tolerance in comparison to your retirement goals, make sure your investments are aligned to help you retire when you want, and make a plan for you to maintain the lifestyle you want in retirement.

A financial advisor can also help with planning for 401(k) catch-up contributions, RMDs, early withdrawals, or completing a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA.

A big hurdle as retirement approaches is often all the homework you have to do. Penalties, enrollments, coverage gaps, deadlines, etc. A great financial advisor can help guide you through this process.

If you are wondering how to find a great financial advisor, we have put a simple guide here. Or, we would love for you to schedule an appointment now to meet with one of our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERs™.

 

5. Update Estate Planning Documents

 

The next item on the retirement checklist of important things to do when Turning 65 is to get your estate planning documents and legal ducks in a row. If you do not yet have an estate plan, will, medical directive, or financial power of attorney, it is time to get those in order. It is not too late! If you do have them, take some time to update them.

Have you had recent changes in personal circumstances? Do you need to update beneficiaries? Reviewing your plan at regular intervals, in addition to major life events, will help ensure that your assets and legacy are passed on in accordance with your wishes and that your beneficiaries receive their benefits as smoothly as possible.

Further, it is also a good idea to take inventory and organize all your financial documents. Keep a list of all your accounts (banking and investment), insurance, and estate documents as well as key contact information in a safe place. Make note of any safety deposit boxes you have. Keeping all this info organized and in one place will be a big help to your loved ones during a difficult time.

You’ll feel great knowing that you and your family are prepared

 

6. Get Tax Breaks

 

Finally, don’t let medicare be the only gift to you when you turn 65. Starting in the year you turn 65, you qualify for a larger standard deduction when you file your federal income tax return. You may also qualify for extra state or local tax breaks at age 65.

Many states also offer senior property tax exemptions as well. For example, in Colorado for those who qualify, 50 percent of the first $200,000 of the actual value of the applicant’s primary residence is exempted. Check with your local tax assessor to see what property tax breaks may be available to you.

 

Bonus – Turning 65 Birthday Advice

 

Relax and enjoy it. As much as turning 65 is a time to plan for retirement, it is also a time to celebrate.

If you plan to indulge in a much-deserved tropical getaway or a quick trip to visit your grandchildren, you may be able to take advantage of new travel discounts. Delta, American, and United Airlines all offer senior discounts on selected flights. Additionally, many hotels, car rental companies, and cruise lines all also offer senior discounts. So treat yourself!

Happy 65th! Cheers to many more!

 

United Airline Layoffs. What to do if you are laid off.

United Airline Layoffs

 

Economic downturns often hit the airline industry harder than most. Once again, the airline industry has been grounded by the pandemic and the corresponding economic conditions. As such, layoffs are looming.  United Airlines announced it will be laying off thousands of employees, estimated to be 36,000 by October 1, 2020. Additionally, United Airlines said the jobs of more than 14,000 employees are at risk when federal aid expires in the spring of 2021. These layoffs could affect everyone from customer service employees, flight attendants, to pilots. Many other airliners may follow suit.

The fallout from 9/11 and the impact of the 2008 Financial Crisis took the airline industry roughly 2-3 years to recover. It is hard to say how long the coronavirus impact will last or how it will all turn out.

If you are worried you might be one of the airline employees to be laid off or already have been, there are many concerns you may have.  From how to pay bills, to how long will this last, to how to keep medical insurance and benefits… the list goes on.

 

What should I do if I am laid off?

 

We have put together some tips, ideas, and strategies to help you get through this tough situation. 

 

Covering your living expenses

 

Being able to cover your living is by far the most important question and concern.  There are a number of strategies to help navigate this and there are also some new provisions from the CARES ACT that can help if you are a United Airline employee who has had to face the layoffs. 

 

Your emergency fund

 

An emergency fund is a savings account or separate account that is set aside for when the unexpected happens, like being laid off.  We recommend that our clients have 3-6 months of their monthly expenses saved in this kind of account. The goal is to use this money to pay for your mortgage, food, etc.  It is designed to help you bridge the gap of unemployment to your next job or getting rehired when things recover.  

One often-overlooked task is once you are employed again to refill your emergency fund. This account can help you in a tough situation but be sure to replenish it to ensure it is there for the next time something unexpected comes up. 

If you do not have an emergency fund in place, read on for some other ideas that can help. 

 

Claiming unemployment

 

If you received a WARN, it is important to start planning ahead now. You can now qualify for weekly unemployment payments from the state in which you worked.  Many people fly out of a hub that is different from the state that they live in. When applying for unemployment, use the state that you work out of. Selecting reason for unemployment: “Coronavirus” can streamline the paperwork process. A quick Google search of your state and unemployment will land you on the right page. Look for “.gov” in the address. The CARES Act is adding $600 per week into unemployment checks but is set to end on July 31st. This may be extended as the impact of the virus continues. 

 

Mortgage Forbearance

 

Mortgage Forbearance means you can postpone your mortgage payment temporarily. For 180 days you can request a forbearance from your mortgage lender. If granted it means you will not have to pay your mortgage for about 6 months.  However, this is not mortgage forgiveness. You still owe the full amount and interest still accrues on the months you do not pay.  You will need to work out the details and repayment plan with your lender as each situation is different.  Per the CARES Act, no additional fees or penalties will be applied if you require forbearance.

 

Retirement Account Withdrawals

 

Taking a distribution or withdrawal from your 401(k) should be a last resort. The money in your 401(k) is meant for your retirement. However, with the intensity and impact of the United Airline layoffs caused by COVID-19, the CARES Act has set up many relief options.

Traditionally, you could not access your retirement account before the age of 59 1/2 without having to pay a 10% penalty and income tax.  The CARES Act has waived this 10% penalty.  Since all retirement accounts (Roths excluded) are funded with pre-tax dollars and the income tax is normally due in the year of a distribution. 

The CARES act has allowed distribution in 2020 up to $100,000 be taken out and the taxes are due over the next 3 years. For example, if you take out $90,000 from your retirement account, you will have to pay tax on $30,000 in 2020, $30,000 in 2021, and $30,000 in 2022. That is much better than having to pay all $90,000 in 2020. The money will come out of your account’s investments pro-rata, so if you have half your money in large-cap stocks and half in small-cap stocks, the money will be sold in them equally to fund the distribution.

Reach out to your 401(k) provider Charles Schwab or Fidelity for details.

 

401(k) Loan

 

Taking a loan from your 401(k) is not a good idea because you will be taxed on the distribution, and you will have to repay the loan. There could potentially be many more downsides to taking a loan rather than just distributing the money.  If you are furloughed or leave the plan, you will be subjected to a faster repayment schedule.

If you take out a loan, you will be taxed on the loan amount, plus you will have to use after-tax dollars to pay back the loan. In the grand scheme of things, once you repay the 401(k) loan, you will still be subjected to income tax when you take the money out when you retire. So you will be taxed TWICE on the money, instead of just at the distribution.

 

Miscellaneous Items

 

Many car manufacturers are offering payment deferrals during this time. If you are unable to make payments comfortably on your car, be sure to reach out to your car’s manufacturer finance department to discuss payment options. Many newer cars (2018 or newer) will have more generous payment options than older vehicles.

Also, a voluntary separation could be a good idea if you are close to retirement. The benefits of the United Airlines Retirement Health Account (RHA) can help you pay for medical insurance. 

 

What about my  Benefits if I am laid off??

 

United Airline layoffs are hard enough, luckily you can retain certain benefits. For instance, health insurance, RHA, and you’re retirement accounts can still provide you benefits.

 

Health Insurance

 

COBRA is a government bill that lets you keep your medical insurance with your company for up to 3 years. You will have the same coverage and plan, except you will have to pay 100% of the premium (plus a 2% premium for administration costs for a total of 102%) Look at your most recent pay stub to see how much you and your employer were paying for medical insurance.

 

Retirement Health Account

 

Your Retirement Health Account (RHA) is a unique account granted directly to United from a private letter ruling with the IRS. The RHA is used to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses and health insurance premiums when retired, furloughed, or separated from service. The RHA can also be used to pay for your COBRA premiums. Click here for more details on how to use your RHA.

 

401(k) and Retirement Investments

 

There are some options you can choose to do with your 401(k) when you have faced a layoff.

  1. You can keep it with the company.  Nothing will change as you will have the same investment options and access.
  2. You can withdraw the money, as we mentioned above.  However, this is not the best action to take if it can be avoided.
  3. You can roll your money into an IRA.  There are no taxes on this move, and it can give you more investment options and control of your money.

Our preference is to roll your 401(k) over into an IRA so that you have better access to your account while avoiding the administration and investment fees from United, Fidelity, or Charles Schwab. We can build you a custom portfolio based on your needs and our custom investment research for a fee typically lower than your Fidelity and Charles Schwab 401(k) options.

Our expertise is working with pilots and aircrew in providing them the best investments through our relationship with Charles Schwab. Leveraging our partnership with Charles Schwab we can build you a custom portfolio in your PCRA.

 

What’s Next?

 

We can help you navigate one of the most difficult times the airline industry has ever faced, and that is really saying a lot! We work with many pilots, crew members, and their families and help them prepare for a successful retirement and reach their financial and life goals.

Bonfire Financial is a fiduciary, fee-only,  financial advisor.  We have a staff of Certified Financial Planners™ that specialize in helping United Airline Employees and Pilots.

As a United Airline or major airline employee, we would like to offer you a free consultation to help answer any questions you may have and help you get a game plan in place. Scheduled your call now. 

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3 Questions to ask before making any financial decision

 

Whether it is hiring a financial advisor, picking a mutual fund, or refinancing your mortgage it is a good idea to ask a lot of questions when it comes to your money. However, if you only ask a few, here are our top 3 questions to ask before making any financial decision.

 

What is the investment philosophy?

 

Make sure to ask yourself if the investment makes sense to you. It may be great for 99% of the population but is it a fit for you and your current situation. Does it match up with your risk tolerance and timeline?  Really take the time to contemplate this.  Further, do you understand it? Or is it too complex? Understanding this will help move you forward in a meaningful way.

 

Do I trust the person giving the advice or offering the investment?

 

Simply put, what is your gut telling you about who is behind this. What is the person’s credibility and credentials? Was it your cousin Eddie spouting off a stock tip at the family reunion? Or a longtime friend and financial advisor who has been in the industry for years? It may seem like a no-brainer to ask this question, but it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the hype of the product and the potential returns.

A quick way to tell if an advisor truly has your best interest in mind is if they are CFP® (Certified Financial Planner)- learn more on that here, but in short, it means they are a true fiduciary and must have your best interest in mind regardless of commissions. Trust is so important, don’t take it lightly.

 

What is the downside risk, and can I afford it?

 

What can you stand to lose? Sure, look at what the potential of the investment is, but don’t ignore the risk. Make sure the amount you invest matches your risk tolerance. The old saying stands true here- “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket.”  Before you make an investment decision know the risks.

Short and simple, those are the top 3 questions to ask before making any financial decision!

Are you considering an investment and aren’t sure if it is right for you? Asked these questions and are still unsure? We are here to help…just give us a call.

 

4 Reasons to Hire a CFP ®

4 Reasons to Hire a CFP ®

 

Managing your finances can be difficult and time-consuming. However, finding someone to handle your finances can be just as challenging. Want a tip to make it easier? Hire A CFP ®.

People often ask us what is a CFP ®, how are they different from other financial advisors, and the reasons to hire a CFP ®. We are going to be breaking all that down for you today.

 

What Is a CFP® Professional?

 

First, it’s more than just an acronym. Unlike some designations that are worth little more than the paper they’re printed on, the CFP ® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™) designation is one of the most esteemed financial certificates around.  Each CFP ® is held to an extremely high standard and requires an immense amount of work. Typically nine months to two years of study.

In the US there are only 81,109 CFPs ® and only 2,274 in the state of Colorado, according to the CFP® Board professional demographics.  The exam itself is a grueling 7-hour test that assesses the financial advisor’s ability to apply principles of financial planning. It covers all areas of insurance, investments, income taxes, retirement, estate planning, ethics and conduct, and financial plan development, among many other skills.

Beyond the test, there is so much more that goes into the certification. We have condensed it down to the top 4 Reasons to Hire a CFP®.

 

4 Reasons to Hire a CFP ®

 

  1. Fiduciary Standard
  2. Ethics Code:
  3. Fitness Standards:
  4. Experienced Life-Long Learners

 

1. Fiduciary Standard:

Currently, the SEC has NO uniform fiduciary standard that applies to all financial professionals who provide personalized investment advice. This means there is no oversight to protect consumers and clients from paying excessive commissions or receiving substandard performance. Consumers are exposed to even greater and unnecessary risks from products that may be deemed suitable (more on that here) for them but are inferior to other available options and not necessarily in their best interests.

The CFP ® Board has a Code and Fiduciary Standards that require CFP ® professionals to act in the best interest of the client at all times when providing financial advice. So, as a CFP ®, we have a legal requirement to act in your best interest, all the time. In addition to this standard, Bonfire Financial is also a Registered Investment Advisor which furthers this obligation.

 

2. Ethics Code:

All CFP ® practitioners agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct, known as CFP ® Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, that sets forth ethical responsibilities to the public and clients. This ensures we act with honesty, integrity, competence, diligence, and offer services objectively.

It’s a pledge to protect the confidentiality of all client information, avoid or disclose and manage conflicts of interest and always act in the client’s best interests.

 

3. Fitness Standards:

Further, the CFP ® Board has also established specific character and fitness standards for the CFP ® certification. This ensures that an individual’s prior conduct would not reflect adversely upon the profession or the CFP ® certification marks. This helps you know that if you hire a CFP ® you won’t find out later that they have:

    • A felony conviction for theft, embezzlement, or other financially-based crimes.
    • A felony conviction for tax fraud or other tax-related crimes.
    • Revocation of a financial license (e.g. registered securities representative, broker/dealer, insurance, investment advisor).
    • A felony conviction for any degree of murder or rape.
    • A conviction for any other violent crime within the last five years.
    • A felony conviction for non-violent crimes (including perjury) within the last five years.
    • Personal or business bankruptcies.

 

4. Experienced Life-Long Learners:

CFP ® professionals are required to complete 3 years of experience related to delivering financial planning services to clients. They also must have a bachelor’s degree prior to earning the right to be a CFP ®. This real-life experience means that CFP ® professionals have practical financial planning knowledge. They can truly help you create a realistic financial plan that fits your individual needs.

Once certified, CFP ® professionals are required to maintain technical competence and fulfill ethical obligations. Every two years, they must complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education to stay current with developments in the financial planning profession and better serve clients.

Need more reasons to hire a CFP ®? We’d love to answer any other questions on what it means to have a CFP ® working for you, feel free to contact us.

At Bonfire Financial we pride ourselves on having a team of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERs™.

 

4 Reasons to Hire a CFP

 

Why Bonfire Financial?

The story behind the name.

 

A BONFIRE IS A FIRE OF CELEBRATION.

As I look back on my life some of the best memories and conversations have happened sitting around the fire.  I have been pumped up at a homecoming bonfire. Inspired by having deep conversations with friends about the future around the fire. I have felt close to my family on camping trips roasting marshmallows on the fire, and I have felt at peace sitting at a fire and staring at the stars.  Fire is life and all of these are moments are cherished.

 

Life is meant to be experienced.

 

That sounds good an all but I am a financial advisor and what does that have to do with financial advising?

I say everything!  Or at least it should.  Money is a vehicle to those experiences and the time to enjoy those moments.  The more money you have, the more experiences you can afford to have with your family and friends. You can give more to the causes you care about. The more peace of mind you can have.

 

I wanted to create a company that focused on that outcome, not just dollar figures.

 

Everyone has different goals and dreams and how they want to spend their life. What Bonfire Financial does is focuses on those and comes up with solutions to meet them as efficiently and as quickly as possible. My hope is that our clients will enjoy even more moments sitting around the proverbial bonfire celebrating their lives.

In the many years I have spent in the financial industry I have seen that most financial companies only focus on the bottom line. They priorities their shareholders’ value.  This means that the decisions made about the company are not necessarily about how to add more value to the client. They are often about how to improve the share price.  A good share price is nice but it comes at the expense of the client, and the employees of the company.

 

So why is Bonfire Financial different?

 

We created Bonfire Financial as a fee only registered investment advisory firm (RIA) so that we could be true fiduciaries to our clients. Further, all of our advisors are CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERs™  As such, we must do what’s in the best interest of our clients at all times.  In effect, putting our client first, which is where we think they should be. We have a belief that if we add more value to our clients than anyone else, not only will they be happy, the company will thrive.

So, as a constant reminder of these philosophies we came up with a name that reminds us to focus on the client’s outcome everyday so that hopefully soon we will all be sitting around the fire celebrating!

All the best,

Brian

President & CEO | Bonfire Financial

 

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