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Taxation of Investments

August 12, 2019

It’s nice to own stocks, bonds, and other investments. Nice, that is, until it’s time to fill out your federal income tax return. At that point, you may be left scratching your head. Just how do you report your investments and how are they taxed?

Is it ordinary income or a capital gain?

To determine how an investment vehicle is taxed in a given year, first ask yourself what went on with the investment that year. Did it generate interest income? If so, the income is probably considered ordinary. Did you sell the investment? If so, a capital gain or loss is probably involved. (Certain investments can generate both ordinary income and capital gain income, but we won’t get into that here.)

If you receive dividend income, it may be taxed either at ordinary income tax rates or at the rates that apply to long-term capital gain income. Dividends paid to an individual shareholder from a domestic corporation or qualified foreign corporation are generally taxed at the same rates that apply to long-term capital gains. Long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0 percent, 15 percent, and 20 percent depending on your taxable income. (Some types of capital gains may be taxed as high as 25 percent or 28 percent.) The actual process of calculating tax on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is extremely complicated and depends on the amount of your net capital gains and qualified dividends and your taxable income. But special rules and exclusions apply, and some dividends (such as those from money market mutual funds) continue to be treated as ordinary income.

The distinction between ordinary income and capital gain income is important because different tax rates may apply and different reporting procedures may be involved. Here are some of the things you need to know.

Categorizing your ordinary income

Investments often produce ordinary income. Examples of ordinary income include interest and rent. Many investments — including savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, annuities, bonds, and some preferred stock — can generate ordinary income. Ordinary income is taxed at ordinary (as opposed to capital gains) tax rates.

But not all ordinary income is taxable — and even if it is taxable, it may not be taxed immediately. If you receive ordinary income, the income can be categorized as taxable, tax exempt, or tax deferred.

  • Taxable income: This is income that’s not tax exempt or tax deferred. If you receive ordinary taxable income from your investments, you’ll report it on your federal income tax return. In some cases, you may have to detail your investments and income on Schedule B.
  • Tax-exempt income: This is income that’s free from federal and/or state income tax, depending on the type of investment vehicle and the state of issue. Municipal bonds and U.S. securities are typical examples of investments that can generate tax-exempt income.
  • Tax-deferred income: This is income whose taxation is postponed until some point in the future. For example, with a 401(k) retirement plan, earnings are reinvested and taxed only when you take money out of the plan. The income earned in the 401(k) plan is tax deferred.

A quick word about ordinary losses: It’s possible for an investment to generate an ordinary loss, rather than ordinary income. In general, ordinary losses reduce ordinary income.

Understanding what basis means

Let’s move on to what happens when you sell an investment vehicle. Before getting into capital gains and losses, though, you need to understand an important term — basis. Generally speaking, basis refers to the amount of your investment in an asset. To calculate the capital gain or loss when you sell or exchange an asset, you must know how to determine both your initial basis and adjusted basis in the asset.

First, initial basis. Usually, your initial basis equals your cost — what you paid for the asset. For example, if you purchased one share of stock for $10,000, your initial basis in the stock is $10,000. However, your initial basis can differ from the cost if you did not purchase an asset but rather received it as a gift or inheritance, or in a tax-free exchange.

Next, adjusted basis. Your initial basis in an asset can increase or decrease over time in certain circumstances. For example, if you buy a house for $100,000, your initial basis in the house will be $100,000. If you later improve your home by installing a $5,000 deck, your adjusted basis in the house may be $105,000. You should be aware of which items increase the basis of your asset, and which items decrease the basis of your asset. See IRS Publication 551 for details.

Calculating your capital gain or loss

If you sell stocks, bonds, or other capital assets, you’ll end up with a capital gain or loss. Special capital gains tax rates may apply. These rates may be lower than ordinary income tax rates.

Basically, capital gain (or loss) equals the amount that you realize on the sale of your asset (i.e., the amount of cash and/or the value of any property you receive) less your adjusted basis in the asset. If you sell an asset for more than your adjusted basis in the asset, you’ll have a capital gain. For example, assume you had an adjusted basis in stock of $10,000. If you sell the stock for $15,000, your capital gain will be $5,000. If you sell an asset for less than your adjusted basis in the asset, you’ll have a capital loss. For example, assume you had an adjusted basis in stock of $10,000. If you sell the stock for $8,000, your capital loss will be $2,000.

Schedule D of your income tax return is where you’ll calculate your short-term and long-term capital gains and losses, and figure the tax due, if any. You’ll need to know not only your adjusted basis and the amount realized from each sale, but also your holding period, your taxable income, and the type of asset(s) involved. See IRS Publication 544 for details.

  • Holding period: Generally, the holding period refers to how long you owned an asset. A capital gain is classified as short term if the asset was held for a year or less, and long term if the asset was held for more than one year. The tax rates applied to long-term capital gain income are generally lower than those applied to short-term capital gain income. Short-term capital gains are taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income.
  • Taxable income: Long-term capital gains and qualified dividends are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0%, 15%, and 20% depending on your taxable income. (Some types of capital gains may be taxed as high as 25 percent or 28 percent.) The actual process of calculating tax on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is extremely complicated and depends on the amount of your net capital gains and qualified dividends and your taxable income.
  • Type of asset: The type of asset that you sell will dictate the capital gain rate that applies, and possibly the steps that you should take to calculate the capital gain (or loss). For instance, the sale of an antique is taxed at the maximum tax rate of 28 percent even if you held the antique for more than 12 months.

Using capital losses to reduce your tax liability

You can use capital losses from one investment to reduce the capital gains from other investments. You can also use a capital loss against up to $3,000 of ordinary income this year ($1,500 for married persons filing separately). Losses not used this year can offset future capital gains. Schedule D of your federal income tax return can lead you through this process.

New Medicare contribution tax on unearned income may apply

High-income individuals may be subject to a 3.8 percent Medicare contribution tax on unearned income (the tax, which first took effect in 2013, is also imposed on estates and trusts, although slightly different rules apply). The tax is equal to 3.8 percent of the lesser of:

•Your net investment income (generally, net income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties and rents, and capital gains, as well as income from a business that is considered a passive activity), or
•The amount of your modified adjusted gross income that exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing a joint federal income tax return, $125,000 if married filing a separate return)

So, effectively, you’re subject to the additional 3.8 percent tax only if your adjusted gross income exceeds the dollar thresholds listed above. It’s worth noting that interest on tax-exempt bonds is not considered net investment income for purposes of the additional tax. Qualified retirement plan and IRA distributions are also not considered investment income.

Getting help when things get too complicated

The sales of some assets are more difficult to calculate and report than others, so you may need to consult an IRS publication or other tax references to properly calculate your capital gain or loss. Also, remember that you can always seek the assistance of an accountant or other tax professional.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of  The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

The Retirement Group is a Registered Investment Advisor not affiliated with  FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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Income Tax Tips: Business Insurance

August 12, 2019

Insurance serves many purposes for a business. You’ll need insurance to protect your business from property damage, personal injury suits, and other forms of financial loss. In addition, you may want to provide your employees with certain types of insurance (e.g., group health and life insurance) to attract and retain them. One of the issues you’ll face as a business owner involves the tax treatment of business-related insurance. Just what can you deduct, and how do you handle insurance reimbursements? Here’s an overview of what you should know.

Your business may be able to deduct insurance premiums paid

A business can deduct certain business expenses that it has properly paid. To be deductible, business expenses must be both ordinary (i.e., common and accepted in your field of business) and necessary (i.e., appropriate and helpful for your business). Your company may be able to deduct–as a business expense–insurance premiums paid for a variety of coverages. These include:

  • Fire, theft, flood, or other casualty insurance
  • Employee group medical insurance
  • Life insurance provided for the benefit of employees
  • Business liability insurance
  • Professional malpractice insurance
  • Business interruption insurance (pays for lost profits in certain cases if your business is shut down)
  • Auto and other vehicle insurance used for business (unless the standard mileage rate is used to figure car expenses)
  • Credit insurance (covers losses from unpaid debts)

However, if your business is the beneficiary of a life insurance policy (either directly or indirectly), it can’t deduct the life insurance premiums it pays on behalf of an owner, employee, or any person who has a financial interest in the business. This also applies to split dollar life insurance coverage on key employees–the business can’t deduct the premiums.

What happens if your business property is damaged, destroyed, or stolen?

If your business suffers a property-related loss, you should read your business insurance policy carefully to find out what is and isn’t covered. Your policy should explain the types of property coverages, list the specific perils that your business is insured against (e.g., damage caused by fire, theft, and hail), describe the exclusions from coverage (e.g., damage caused by a flood or earthquake), and detail any conditions you must meet for coverage to apply.

In many cases, your business insurance policy will reimburse your business for a given loss. Sometimes, though, you’ll be only partially reimbursed or not compensated at all. In such cases, your business may be entitled to some tax relief. In general, a reasonable insurance reimbursement is not taxable. If you receive reimbursements, subtract them from your total loss. The unreimbursed portion of your loss may be deductible. But if the amount of your reimbursement exceeds the loss, you may have to report taxable income (see a tax professional for exceptions to this rule).

If your business property is damaged or destroyed in an accident, by an act of nature (e.g., storm), or through theft or vandalism, and your policy does not completely reimburse your business for the loss, your business may be entitled to claim a casualty loss tax deduction. (A casualty is direct damage, destruction, or loss of property resulting from an identifiable event that is sudden, unexpected, or unusual.)

Calculating the amount of your casualty or theft loss deduction

If there’s a casualty loss, a company can deduct 100 percent of the loss against business income (assuming there’s no insurance reimbursement). To compute a business casualty loss deduction, you’ve got to know three things:

  • The decrease in the fair market value (FMV) of the property as a result of the loss
  • Your adjusted basis in the property before the casualty or theft (adjusted basis is usually the property’s original cost, plus the cost of improvements, minus depreciation)
  • The amount of the insurance reimbursement that you receive (or the salvage value)

If your property was damaged but not destroyed, the casualty loss equals the decrease in the property’s FMV as a result of the damage, minus any insurance reimbursements. If your property was completely destroyed, ignore the FMV and compare the adjusted basis of the property before the incident to the insurance reimbursement. You can deduct the amount by which the adjusted basis exceeds the insurance reimbursement.

Remember, if your property is covered by insurance, an insurance claim must be filed; otherwise, the casualty loss deduction is not allowed. Use IRS Form 4684 to calculate and report all casualty losses or gains.

Handling other types of business insurance proceeds

Business interruption insurance pays for lost profits if your business is shut down due to a fire or other covered cause. You should report any insurance proceeds as ordinary income. Any credit insurance proceeds should also be reported as ordinary income.

What if you’re self-employed?

If you own your own business, you can also deduct most ordinary and necessary business expenses against business income. However, different rules may apply if you’re self-employed and your business provides group insurance benefits to its employees. Although a business can generally deduct the cost of group insurance premiums, you may be unable to deduct those insurance premiums that benefit you personally. Alternatively, your deduction may be limited. This is true even if you provide similar benefits to your employees and are able to deduct the cost of those benefits.

For example, assume you are a sole proprietor and maintain a group health employee benefit plan. Your business deducts the costs associated with the plan. However, any expenditures (e.g., premiums) made for your own benefit are generally not deductible as a business expense. You can get around this, though, if your spouse is an employee of your business, participates in the group health plan, and covers you under a family plan.

If you’re self-employed and can’t deduct your health insurance premiums and other medical costs as a business expense, you may qualify for the self-employed health insurance deduction. This deduction enables you to deduct 100 percent of the cost of health insurance that you provide for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. If some of your health insurance premiums do not qualify for the self-employed health insurance deduction, you may still be able to deduct them on Schedule A of your Form 1040, assuming that you itemize and meet all other requirements. (The definition of self-employed for this purpose includes sole proprietors, partners, and owners of more than 2 percent of an S corporation.)

For more information, speak with a tax professional.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of  The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

The Retirement Group is a Registered Investment Advisor not affiliated with  FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.
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Income Tax Planning and 529 Plans

August 9, 2019

IncomeThe income tax benefits offered by 529 plans make these plans attractive to parents (and others) who are saving for college or K-12 tuition. Qualified withdrawals from a 529 plan are tax free at the federal level, and some states also offer tax breaks to their residents. It’s important to evaluate the federal and state tax consequences of plan withdrawals and contributions before you invest in a 529 plan.

Federal income tax treatment of qualified withdrawals

There are two types of 529 plans — savings plans and prepaid tuition plans. The federal income tax treatment of these plans is identical. Your contributions accumulate tax deferred, which means that you don’t pay income taxes on the earnings each year. Then, if you withdraw funds to pay the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses, the earnings portion of your withdrawal is free from federal income tax. This feature presents a significant opportunity to help you accumulate funds for college.

Qualified education expenses for 529 savings plans include the full cost of tuition, fees, room and board, books, equipment, and computers for college and graduate school, plus K-12 tuition expenses for enrollment at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school up to $10,000 per year.

Qualified education expenses for 529 prepaid tuition plans generally include tuition and fees for college only (not graduate school) at the colleges that participate in the plan.

State income tax treatment of qualified withdrawals

States differ in the 529 plan tax benefits they offer to their residents. For example, some states may offer no tax benefits, while others may exempt earnings on qualified withdrawals from state income tax and/or offer a deduction for contributions. However, keep in mind that states may limit their tax benefits to individuals who participate in the in-state 529 plan.

You should look to your own state’s laws to determine the income tax treatment of contributions and withdrawals. In general, you won’t be required to pay income taxes to another state simply because you opened a 529 account in that state. But you’ll probably be taxed in your state of residency on the earnings distributed by your 529 plan (whatever state sponsored it) if the withdrawal in not used to pay the beneficiary’s qualified educations expenses.

529 account owners who are interested in making K-12 contributions or withdrawals should understand their state’s rules regarding how K-12 funds will be treated for tax purposes. States may not follow the federal tax treatment.

Income tax treatment of nonqualified withdrawals (federal and state)

If you make a nonqualified withdrawal (i.e., one not used for qualified education expenses), the earnings portion of the distribution will usually be taxable on your federal (and probably state) income tax return in the year of the distribution. The earnings are usually taxed at the rate of the person who receives the distribution (known as the distributee). In most cases, the account owner will be the distributee. Some plans specify who the distributee is, while others may allow you (as the account owner) to determine the recipient of a nonqualified withdrawal.

You’ll also pay a federal 10% penalty on the earnings portion of the nonqualified withdrawal. There are a couple of exceptions, though. The penalty is generally waived if you terminate the 529 account because the beneficiary has died or become disabled, or if you withdraw funds not needed for college because the beneficiary has received a scholarship. A state penalty may also apply.

Deducting your contributions to a 529 plan

Unfortunately, you can’t claim a federal income tax deduction for your contributions to a 529 plan. Depending on where you live, though, you may qualify for a deduction on your state income tax return. A number of states offer a state income tax deduction for contributions to a 529 plan. Again, keep in mind that most states let you claim an income tax deduction on your state tax return only if you contribute to your own state’s 529 plan.

Many states that offer a deduction for contributions impose a deduction cap, or limitation, on the amount of the deduction. For example, if you contribute $10,000 to your child’s 529 plan this year, your state might allow you to deduct only $4,000 on your state income tax return. Check the details of your 529 plan and the tax laws of your state to learn whether your state imposes a deduction cap.

Also, if you’re planning to claim a state income tax deduction for your contributions, you should learn whether your state applies income recapture rules to 529 plans. Income recapture means that deductions allowed in one year may be required to be reported as taxable income if you make a nonqualified withdrawal from the 529 plan in a later year. Again, check the laws of your state for details.

Coordination with Coverdell account and education tax credits

You can fund a Coverdell education savings account and a 529 account in the same year for the same beneficiary without triggering a penalty.

You can also claim an education tax credit (American Opportunity credit or Lifetime Learning credit) in the same year you withdraw funds from a 529 plan to pay for qualified education expenses. But your 529 plan withdrawal will not be completely tax free on your federal income tax return if it’s used to cover the same education expenses that you are using to qualify for an education credit. (When calculating the amount of your qualified education expenses for purposes of your 529 withdrawal, you’ll have to reduce your qualified expenses figure by any expenses used to compute the education tax credit.)

Note: Before investing in a 529 plan, please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully. The official disclosure statements and applicable prospectuses – which contain this and other information about the investment options, underlying investments, and investment company – can be obtained by contacting your financial professional. You should read these materials carefully before investing. As with other investments, there are generally fees and expenses associated with participation in a 529 plan. There is also the risk that the investments may lose money or not perform well enough to cover college costs as anticipated. Investment earnings accumulate on a tax-deferred basis, and withdrawals are tax-free as long as they are used for qualified higher-education expenses. For withdrawals not used for qualified higher-education expenses, earnings may be subject to taxation as ordinary income and possibly a 10% federal income tax penalty. The tax implications of a 529 plan should be discussed with your legal and/or tax advisors because they can vary significantly from state to state. Also be aware that most states offer their own 529 plans, which may provide advantages and benefits exclusively for their residents and taxpayers. These other state benefits may include financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of  The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

The Retirement Group is a Registered Investment Advisor not affiliated with  FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.
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Understanding IRA’s

August 9, 2019

UnderAn individual retirement arrangement (IRA) is a personal savings plan that offers specific tax benefits. IRAs are one of the most powerful retirement savings tools available to you. Even if you’re contributing to a 401(k) or other plan at work, you might also consider investing in an IRA.

What types of IRAs are available?

The two major types of IRAs are traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Both allow you to contribute as much as $6,000 in 2019 (up from $5,500 in 2018). You must have at least as much taxable compensation as the amount of your IRA contribution. But if you are married filing jointly, your spouse can also contribute to an IRA, even if he or she has little or no taxable compensation, as long as your combined compensation is at least equal to your total contributions. The law also allows taxpayers age 50 and older to make additional “catch-up” contributions. These folks can contribute up to $7,000 in 2019 (up from $6,500 in 2018).

Both traditional and Roth IRAs feature tax-sheltered growth of earnings. And both give you a wide range of investment choices. However, there are important differences between these two types of IRAs. You must understand these differences before you can choose the type of IRA that’s best for you.

Note: Special rules apply to certain reservists and national guardsmen called to active duty after September 11, 2001.

Learn the rules for traditional IRAs

Practically anyone can open and contribute to a traditional IRA. The only requirements are that you must have taxable compensation and be under age 70½. You can contribute the maximum allowed each year as long as your taxable compensation for the year is at least that amount. If your taxable compensation for the year is below the maximum contribution allowed, you can contribute only up to the amount that you earned.

Your contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible on your federal income tax return. This is important because tax-deductible (pre-tax) contributions lower your taxable income for the year, saving you money in taxes. If neither you nor your spouse is covered by a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan, you can generally deduct the full amount of your annual contribution. If one of you is covered by such a plan, your ability to deduct your contributions depends on your annual income (modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI) and your income tax filing status:

For 2019, if you are covered by a retirement plan at work, and:

• Your filing status is single or head of household, and your MAGI is $64,000 or less, your traditional IRA contribution is fully deductible. Your deduction is reduced if your MAGI is more than $64,000 and less than $74,000, and you can’t deduct your contribution at all if your MAGI is $74,000 or more.
• Your filing status is married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er), and your MAGI is $103,000 or less, your traditional IRA contribution is fully deductible. Your deduction is reduced if your MAGI is more than $103,000 and less than $123,000, and you can’t deduct your contribution at all if your MAGI is $123,000 or more.
• Your filing status is married filing separately, your traditional IRA deduction is reduced if your MAGI is less than $10,000, and you can’t deduct your contribution at all if your MAGI is $10,000 or more.

For 2019, if you are not covered by a retirement plan at work, but your spouse is, and you file a joint tax return, your traditional IRA contribution is fully deductible if your MAGI is $193,000 or less. Your deduction is reduced if your MAGI is more than $193,000 and less than $203,000, and you can’t deduct your contribution at all if your MAGI is $203,000 or more.

What happens when you start taking money from your traditional IRA? Any portion of a distribution that represents deductible contributions is subject to income tax because those contributions were not taxed when you made them. Any portion that represents investment earnings is also subject to income tax because those earnings were not previously taxed either. Only the portion that represents nondeductible, after-tax contributions (if any) is not subject to income tax. In addition to income tax, you may have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under age 59½, unless you meet one of the exceptions. You must aggregate all of your traditional IRAs — other than inherited IRAs — when calculating the tax consequences of a distribution.

If you wish to defer taxes, you can leave your funds in the traditional IRA, but only until April 1 of the year following the year you reach age 70½. That’s when you have to take your first required minimum distribution from the IRA. After that, you must take a distribution by the end of every calendar year until you die or your funds are exhausted. The annual distribution amounts are based on a standard life expectancy table. You can always withdraw more than you’re required to in any year. However, if you withdraw less, you’ll be hit with a 50% penalty on the difference between the required minimum and the amount you actually withdraw.

Learn the rules for Roth IRAs

Not everyone can set up a Roth IRA. Even if you can, you may not qualify to take full advantage of it. The first requirement is that you must have taxable compensation. If your taxable compensation in 2019 is at least $6,000, you may be able to contribute the full amount. But it gets more complicated. Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA in any year depends on your MAGI and your income tax filing status:

•If your filing status is single or head of household, and your MAGI for 2019 is $122,000 or less, you can make a full contribution to your Roth IRA. Your Roth IRA contribution is reduced if your MAGI is more than $122,000 and less than $137,000, and you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA at all if your MAGI is $137,000 or more.
•If your filing status is married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er), and your MAGI for 2019 is $193,000 or less, you can make a full contribution to your Roth IRA. Your Roth IRA contribution is reduced if your MAGI is more than $193,000 and less than $203,000, and you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA at all if your MAGI is $203,000 or more.
•If your filing status is married filing separately, your Roth IRA contribution is reduced if your MAGI is less than $10,000, and you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA at all if your MAGI is $10,000 or more.

Your contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible. You can invest only after-tax dollars in a Roth IRA. The good news is that if you meet certain conditions, your withdrawals from a Roth IRA will be completely income tax free, including both contributions and investment earnings. To be eligible for these qualifying distributions, you must meet a five-year holding period requirement. In addition, one of the following must apply:

  • You have reached age 59½ by the time of the withdrawal
  • The withdrawal is made because of disability
  • The withdrawal is made to pay first-time home-buyer expenses ($10,000 lifetime limit)
  • The withdrawal is made by your beneficiary or estate after your death

Qualified distributions will also avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty. This ability to withdraw your funds with no taxes or penalties is a key strength of the Roth IRA. And remember, even nonqualified distributions will be taxed (and possibly penalized) only on the investment earnings portion of the distribution, and then only to the extent that your distribution exceeds the total amount of all contributions that you have made. You must aggregate all of your Roth IRAs — other than inherited Roth IRAs — when calculating the tax consequences of a distribution.

Another advantage of the Roth IRA is that there are no required distributions after age 70½ or at any time during your life. You can put off taking distributions until you really need the income. Or, you can leave the entire balance to your beneficiary without ever taking a single distribution. Also, as long as you have taxable compensation and qualify, you can keep contributing to a Roth IRA after age 70½.

Choose the right IRA for you

Assuming you qualify to use both, which type of IRA is best for you? Sometimes the choice is easy. The Roth IRA will probably be a more effective tool if you don’t qualify for tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA. However, if you can deduct your traditional IRA contributions, the choice is more difficult. The Roth IRA may very well make more sense if you want to minimize taxes during retirement and preserve assets for your beneficiaries. But a traditional deductible IRA may be a better tool if you want to lower your yearly tax bill while you’re still working (and probably in a higher tax bracket than you’ll be in after you retire). A financial professional or tax advisor can help you pick the right type of IRA for you.

Note: You can have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA, but your total annual contribution to all of the IRAs that you own cannot be more than $6,000 for 2019 ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older).

Know your options for transferring your funds

You can move funds from an IRA to the same type of IRA with a different institution (e.g., traditional to traditional, Roth to Roth). No taxes or penalty will be imposed if you arrange for the old IRA trustee to transfer your funds directly to the new IRA trustee. The other option is to have your funds distributed to you first and then roll them over to the new IRA trustee yourself. You’ll still avoid taxes and the penalty as long as you complete the rollover within 60 days from the date you receive the funds.

You may also be able to convert funds from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. This decision is complicated, however, so be sure to consult a tax advisor. He or she can help you weigh the benefits of shifting funds against the tax consequences and other drawbacks.

Note: The IRS has the authority to waive the 60-day rule for rollovers under certain limited circumstances, such as proven hardship.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of  The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

The Retirement Group is a Registered Investment Advisor not affiliated with  FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.
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Mutual Fund Basics

August 8, 2019

A mutual fund pools the money of many investors to purchase securities. The fund’s manager buys securities to pursue a stated investment strategy. By investing in the fund, you’ll own a piece of the total portfolio of securities, which could be anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of stocks. This provides you with a convenient way to obtain instant diversification that would be harder to achieve on your own.

Types of mutual funds

There are many mutual funds to choose from. The two most common types are stock mutual funds and bond mutual funds. A stock fund invests in common stocks issued by U.S. and/or international companies. Funds are often named and classified according to investment style or objective, which can be stated in various ways. For example, some stock mutual funds buy stocks in companies believed to have potential for long-term growth in share price. Other stock mutual funds look for current income by focusing on companies that pay dividends. Sector funds buy stocks in a particular sector, such as technology or health care. Still other mutual funds may purchase stocks based on the size of the company (e.g., stocks of large, mid-size, or small companies).

Although the name of a stock mutual fund generally offers insight into its investment style and objective, it is important not to rely on the name alone in determining whether a particular fund is what you want. The fund prospectus is like an owner’s manual and contains information about the kind of investment style that the manager(s) employ, and the kinds of stocks that the fund will buy.

Note: Before investing in any mutual fund, carefully consider its investment objectives, risks, fees, and expenses, which are discussed in the prospectus available from the fund. Read the prospectus carefully before investing.

A bond fund is made up of debt instruments that governments or corporations issue to raise capital. They are designed to provide investors with interest income in the form of regularly scheduled dividends. If you bought individual bonds, you would need to concern yourself with their maturity dates and the reinvestment of your funds. Buying shares of a bond fund relieves you of these concerns; the fund manager handles them for you.

Bond funds are primarily classified according to the issuers of the bonds in the fund’s portfolio and/or to the term of the bonds. For example, municipal bond funds buy bonds issued by municipalities. The income from these is free from federal tax (however, a portion of the income may be subject to the federal alternative minimum tax) and may be free from state and local taxes. Similarly, some funds invest only in U.S. Treasury debt instruments (e.g., bonds, bills, and notes) or high-grade (or low-grade) corporate bonds. Some bond funds, from all types of issuers, limit themselves to bonds maturing in the short, intermediate, or long term. Bond funds are subject to the same inflation, interest-rate, and credit risks associated with their underlying bonds. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund’s performance.

There are other types of mutual funds that you will encounter. Funds that invest in both stocks and bonds (or stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives) are often known as balanced funds. A money market fund buys extremely short-term debt instruments and is often used as a place to put cash, short term, until it is needed elsewhere. (Though a money market fund attempts to maintain a $1 per share value, there is no guarantee it will always do so, and it is possible to lose money investing in a money market fund.) Index funds attempt to duplicate a standardized, broad-based index such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) stock index or Moody’s bond index by holding a portfolio of the same securities used by the index in an attempt to match the index’s performance as closely as possible.

What are the benefits of investing in a mutual fund?

Diversification: Most mutual funds own dozens or even hundreds of securities. The managers often spread the fund’s assets over more than one type of investment (e.g., both stocks and bonds, or stocks from a variety of industries). This exposes you to less potential risk than buying just a few individual securities. If some of the fund’s holdings perform poorly, they may be offset by others doing well (though diversification cannot guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss).

Professional money management: When you buy shares in an actively managed mutual fund, part of what you pay for is the fund manager’s expertise. The manager analyzes hundreds of securities (both current and contemplated holdings) and makes decisions on what and when to buy and sell.

Small investment amounts: Depending on fund rules, you can open an account and make subsequent contributions with a very small initial investment. You can even set up automatic investments through a transfer of funds from your bank account.

Liquidity: You can convert your mutual fund investment into cash (i.e., redeem your shares) by making a request to the fund company in writing, over the phone, or on the Internet on any business day.

Of course, mutual funds are not guaranteed investments. The price of all mutual fund shares can change daily, and you’ll receive the current value of your shares when you sell — which may be more or less than you paid. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investing strategy will be successful.

Choosing a fund

Choosing a mutual fund to invest in requires more than picking a fund from the Top 10 list of the best past performers. Choosing a mutual fund requires careful thinking about numerous factors. The most important of these to consider include your investment objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon.

Spend some time considering these factors, then do as much research as you can. Many financial magazines and web sites are good sources of information to use in an initial screen for suitable mutual funds. Review the fund prospectus. It provides a great deal of information that you’ll want to know about the fund, such as the fund’s investment objective and style, and the fund’s expenses. To get a prospectus, contact the mutual fund company directly, or go on-line to the company’s website to download one.

Sales charge and other costs

All mutual funds have expenses that investors must pay for, but the sales charge, or load, is probably the most significant and varied among funds. These sales charges are generally paid as commissions to stockbrokers, financial advisors, and insurance agents. The sales charge may be deducted at the time you purchase shares of the mutual fund (front-end load), leaving less to work for you, or it may be charged at the point of redemption (back-end load). Some mutual funds, known as no-load funds, have no sales charges.

Pay attention to a mutual fund’s other fees and expenses, as well. Look at a fund’s expense ratio, which is calculated by dividing the fund’s annual expenses by the fund’s average net assets. Expenses affect a fund’s net return. The higher the expense ratio, the less money is being put to work for you.

Turnover ratio

Portfolio turnover reflects the value of a fund’s trades during a year compared to the total value of its assets, and is often used as an indicator of how actively a fund manager trades. If the value of a fund’s trades equals that of its entire portfolio, its turnover ratio would be 100 percent.

Aggressively managed funds generally have higher portfolio turnover ratios than do conservative funds, which buy and hold for the long term. High turnover generally adds to the expenses of a fund because of the brokerage commissions paid for each transaction.

More important, however, is that when the fund sells stock at a gain, the gain must be distributed to shareholders. You will then be liable for income tax on your portion of the gain, even if the gain was reinvested, and even if your fund’s share value actually decreased that year.

A tax-efficient approach minimizes the tax impact of its trades by implementing strategies such as offsetting gains by selling other stocks at a loss, or holding stocks for long periods. Note that if you own a mutual fund in an individual retirement account (IRA) or a qualified retirement plan at work (e.g., a 401(k)), tax efficiency is not as important. This is because no tax is immediately paid on realized gains in these retirement accounts and plans; tax is deferred until the money is withdrawn.

Past performance

Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, a fund’s track record over the past 3, 5, and 10 years is certainly worth considering. How does it compare with its peers — funds with similar risk and investment strategies? Apples-to-apples comparisons of funds are difficult, so a variety of broad market indexes are used as comparison benchmarks. For example, the S&P 500 is often used as a proxy for the U.S. stock market as a whole. Examine how well the fund that you are looking at has performed in both good and bad years relative to the most appropriate benchmark index.

Fund managers

One of the advantages of purchasing shares in an actively managed mutual fund is professional money management. The past performance of the fund is a reflection of the fund manager’s ability to effectively manage its assets. You should research the current manager’s history with the fund; was the fund’s performance his or her achievement? If the fund has a new manager, make sure that individual’s investment style matches your expectations.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of  The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

The Retirement Group is a Registered Investment Advisor not affiliated with  FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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