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Scan the financial headlines these days, and you’ll see plenty of potential action items vying for your attention. Some may be particular to 2023. Others are timeless traditions. If your wealth were a garden, which actions would deserve your attention? Here are our four favorite items worth tending to as 2024 approaches.

  1. Feed Your Cash Reserves

With basic savings accounts currently offering about 5% annual interest rates, your cash is finally able to earn a nice little bit while it sits.

Mind Where You’ve Stashed Your Cash: If your spending money is still sitting in low- or no-interest accounts, consider taking advantage of the attractive rates available in basic money market accounts, short-term CDs, or online high yield FDIC savings accounts. Your cash savings typically includes money you intend to spend within the next year or so, as well as your emergency, “rainy day” reserves.

Put Your Cash in Context: While current rates on many savings vehicles are appealing, don’t let this distract you from your greater investment goals. Once you’ve got your cash stashed in those high-interest savings accounts, we believe you’re better off allocating your remaining cash into your investment portfolio and allowing those dollars to appreciate for your long-term goals.

  1. Prune Your Portfolio

While we don’t advocate using your investment reserves to chase money market rates, there are still plenty of other actions you can take to maintain a tidy portfolio mix.

Rebalance: In 2023, relatively strong year-to-date stock returns may warrant rebalancing back to plan, especially if you can do so within your tax-sheltered accounts.

Relocate: With your annual earnings coming into focus, you may wish to shift some of your investments from taxable to tax-sheltered accounts, such as traditional or Roth IRAs, HSAs, and 529 College Savings Plans. For many of these, you have until April 15, 2024 to make your 2023 contributions. But you don’t have to wait if the assets are available today.

Revise: As you rebalance, relocate, or add new cash to your portfolio, you may also consider changes to your long-term goals. Have any of your priorities changed?

Redirect: Year-end can also be a great time to redirect excess wealth toward personal or charitable giving. Whether directly or through a Donor Advised Fund, you can donate highly appreciated investments out of your taxable accounts and into worthy causes. You stand to reduce current and future taxes, and your recipients get to put the assets to work right away.

  1. Train Those Taxes

Speaking of taxes, there are always plenty of ways to manage your current and future tax burdens.

RMDs and QCDs: Retirees and IRA inheritors should continue making any Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) out of their IRAs and similar tax-sheltered accounts. If you’re charitably inclined, and 70 ½ or older, you may prefer to make a year-end Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD), to offset or potentially eliminate your RMD burden.

Harvesting Losses … and Gains: Depending on market conditions and your own portfolio, there may still be opportunities to perform some tax-loss harvesting in 2023, to offset current or future taxable gains from your account. As long as long-term capital gains rates remain in the relatively low range of 0%–20%, tax-gain harvesting might be of interest as well. Work with your financial planning team to determine what makes sense for you.

Keeping an Eye on the 2025 Sunset: Nobody can predict what the future holds. But if Congress does not act, a number of tax-friendly 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provisions are set to sunset on December 31, 2025. If they do, we might experience higher ordinary income and capital gains tax rates after that. Let’s be clear: a lot could change before then. However, if it’s in your overall best interests to engage in various taxable transactions anyway, 2023 may be a relatively tax-friendly year in which to complete them. Examples include doing a Roth conversion, harvesting long-term capital gains, taking extra retirement plan withdrawals, exercising taxable stock options, gifting to loved ones, and more.

4. Weed Out Your To-Do List

This year, we’re intentionally keeping our list of year-end financial best practices on the short side. Not for lack of ideas, mind you; there are plenty more we could cover.

But consider these words of wisdom from Atomic Habits author James Clear:

“Instead of asking yourself, ‘What should I do first?’ Try asking, ‘What should I neglect first?’ Trim, edit, cull. Make space for better performance.”

— JamesClear.com

Let’s combine Clear’s tip with sentiments from a Farnam Street piece, “How to Think Better.” Here, a Stanford University study has suggested that multitasking may not only make it harder for us to do our best thinking, it may impair our efforts.

“The best way to improve your ability to think is to spend large chunks of time thinking. … Good decision-makers understand a simple truth: you can’t make good decisions without good thinking, and good thinking requires time.”

— Farnam Street

In short, how do you really want to spend the rest of your year? Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, why not pick your favorite, most applicable best practice out of our short list of favorites? Take the time to think it through. Maybe save the rest for some other time.

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It’s hard to believe that 2023 is already coming to an end. Now is the perfect time to look at different aspects of your financial life to make sure that you are heading in the right direction. Financial planning can seem a bit overwhelming, but our team is here to walk you through it.

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Whether you’re a working professional who dreams of building a legacy of memories for your children, or a Baby Boomer approaching retirement, eager for a retreat that will draw your friends and family near, the second home trend has its appeal.

A second home looks different for everyone – it may be a house in Ocean City, a cabin set on a lake in Maine, or a peaceful retreat in the countryside. But no matter what it looks like, the big-picture questions are the same: Is it a smart investment? How should it figure into your long-term financial goals and retirement plan? How do you weigh the financial investment with the time and emotional investment?

Here are a few benefits and considerations to keep in mind when evaluating whether investing in a second home is right for you:

Turnkey convenience, tailored to your taste and needs

When you have a second home, you can pick up and go with little to no notice – no reservation required. When you arrive, you’re home – no need to settle in and no chance of being disappointed if your rental doesn’t match the pictures from the online ad. The home is decorated to your specific style and taste, with the amenities that you value and enjoy. Plus, all your vacation clothes, linens and recreational items are in one place and ready for use. Another added benefit is the opportunity to invest in your own equipment – whether it’s camping gear, beach chairs, kayaks, etc. – that you can enjoy year after year.

Immediate return with potential long-term value

At the point of purchase, there is immediate value in the utility of the home. To help offset maintenance and upkeep costs, you can choose to rent out the house. But, keep in mind that managing a rental takes time and resources and that you will need to fit yourself into the rental schedule. In the long-term, the house may serve as a retirement residence. Or, if you monitor the market and sell when conditions are favorable, you can aim to make a profit.

A place to make memories and build your legacy

A second home is more of an emotional investment than traditional investments, such as stocks or bonds. Whether you have a young and growing family or you’re nearing retirement, a second home can serve as a gathering place for family and friends – a place to retreat, discover new hobbies and passions, start traditions and make lifelong memories. Establishing a secondary residence also gives you the opportunity to build new friendships and community outside of your hometown. For many families, the sentimental value attached to a vacation home far exceeds its financial value.

Maintenance and upkeep costs

There are carrying costs associated with a second home, including taxes, insurance, utility bills, and general maintenance. As the owner, you are responsible when something goes wrong – whether it’s a broken window, leaky roof, or liability from an injury on the property. Some homeowners will hire a management company to clean and maintain the grounds, particularly if they plan to rent out the property – however, this additional cost can cut into revenue. Homeowner insurance rates and mortgage financing terms also tend to be higher and more restrictive.

Reduced flexibility to travel and experience new places

Keep in mind that if you’re paying a mortgage and taxes on a second home, you’re probably going to spend most of your vacation time there. To make the most of your investment, you may feel compelled to visit your vacation home as often as possible, foregoing other options. Plus, the associated costs may start to cut into your budget to travel elsewhere. If you like to explore new places and go somewhere different every summer, tying yourself down to one destination might not be the most strategic move.

Financial risk and tax complexities

As with any investment, there is financial risk involved in owning a second home. Real estate is illiquid – there’s no predicting what the economic climate will be in 20-30 years and whether conditions will be favorable to sell. Before you decide to buy a second home, consult with a trusted financial advisor to evaluate your options. A financial planner can conduct an overall cost-benefit analysis and help gauge the impact of the purchase on your long-term financial security and retirement plan. You should also consult with a CPA to evaluate the tax implications, weighing factors such as expected use and revenue from rent.

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Conrad Siegel’s Tracy Burke, CFP®, ChFC® and Catherine Azeles, CFP®, RICP® share an overview of the investment world. Together, they take a look at what the market did during the last quarter, what we can expect moving forward, and what this all means for you.

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So, what’s up with the U.S. debt ceiling? As potential threats loom large, we’re seeing articles in abundance, explaining where we’re at, how we got here, and what to expect next.

We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t share in your frustration over the maddening lack of resolution to date. It’s stressful to watch huge, consequential events unfolding, over which we have no control. And who needs more stress in their life?

Which is why we encourage you to think of your investments as a bright spot of relief in an otherwise unmanageable world. In the face of everything we cannot control, the one place you can call your own shots is within your well-structured, globally diversified investment portfolio. And here’s more good news: As an investor, you don’t really need to know that much about the real-time details of the debt ceiling negotiations. Instead, as with any other breaking news, a healthy degree of arm’s length disinterest will likely serve you best, especially if you might otherwise respond to the current fever pitch of news that’s news because it’s in the news.

To illustrate, let’s consider what we believe to be your most advisable investment strategy under various outcomes. With history as our guide, it is perhaps reasonable to expect today’s political brinksmanship-as-usual will lead to some form of resolution, probably arriving at the last possible moment. Then what? Likely, the “fix” will be partial and imperfect, and the hand-wringing will continue apace over the next challenges inherent in the latest “kick the can” legislation. The talking points might shift, but markets will remain as volatile and unpredictable as ever. In this likely scenario, we would advise …

Staying invested in your carefully constructed, globally diversified investment portfolio, structured for your personal financial goals and risk tolerances.

What if negotiations in Washington fail? What if we experience U.S. credit rating downgrades, debt defaults, and unpaid Social Security benefits (to name a few of the uglier possibilities)? In a worst-case scenario, the U.S. dollar could lose its global currency status, a position it’s held since before most of us were born. What then?

If a worse- or worst-case scenario occurs, our efficient financial markets would once again respond by pricing in the good, bad, and ugly news well before we can successfully trade on it. Global diversification would be as important, if not more critical. Selling in a panic as markets adjust to the worsening news would remain as ill-advised as ever. In other words, your advisable course would remain …

Staying invested in your carefully constructed, globally diversified investment portfolio, structured for your personal financial goals and risk tolerances.

Last, and probably least likely, what if Washington defies our doubts, and achieves a happy and timely debt ceiling resolution, with little to no harm done? Hey, anything is possible. In this best-case scenario, the breaking news would be better than most of us expect, so markets would likely respond at least briefly with better-than-expected returns, rewarding us for staying put. At the same time, just in case the next bit of news were to disappoint, or even be less exciting than expected, we’d want to temper any concentrated market exposures by, you guessed it …

Staying invested in your carefully constructed, globally diversified investment portfolio, structured for your personal financial goals and risk tolerances.

We would be happy to offer more insights and analysis about the debt ceiling if you are interested in learning more. We’re also here to review your portfolio mix any time your personal circumstances may warrant a change. Otherwise, guess what we would advise you to do while the debt crisis continues? If you’re not sure, please give us a call. We always enjoy hearing from you.

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Whether your kids or grandkids are 4, 14, or 24, teaching them about money is one of the most important gifts you can give them. Good money skills last a lifetime. Budgeting, prioritizing savings, living within your means, long-term investing, are all skills that we can teach. Obviously, the application of these skills will differ based on the child’s age, but it is best to start when they are young.

If we teach them our values and principles about money today, they will be well positioned to succeed in the future.

Younger kids tend to live in the moment, with little consideration of the future. Encourage them to save a portion of each cash gift with an eye on the future. Show them how a savings plan can help them obtain a more expensive or treasured item in the future.

For teenagers with a job, help them understand their paycheck. Explain FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act is a United States federal payroll contribution directed towards both employees and employers to fund Social Security and Medicare—federal programs that provide benefits for retirees, people with disabilities, and children of deceased workers). To help them get started with savings, offer to make a matching Roth contribution if they are willing to save some of their hard earned pay.

If you thought it was challenging explaining good money habits to teenagers, just wait until they are in college and have everything figured out. They will be out on their own for the first time with little money and lots of spending opportunities. College students are flooded with credit card solicitations. Credit cards can be useful in an emergency or to help build a credit history, but they can easily lead to overspending. This is a good time to discuss credit cards and avoiding high interest debt.

As your young adult starts their career, make sure they prioritize savings from the start. Encourage the establishment of an emergency fund and contributions to a retirement account. Their lifestyle will adjust to their take home pay. As bonuses and pay increase, so should their commitment to savings. Show them how slow and steady savings grows over 40 years.. According to Einstein, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

What should we tell them about investing?… focus on the long-term, stay invested through all market cycles, and own a low-cost diversified portfolio.

We frequently field questions about this topic and have many resources to share. If this involves an adult family member, please feel free to make an introduction to us. If you would like additional advice and guidance, please reach out, we are here to help.

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Who doesn’t enjoy tying up year-end loose ends? The original SECURE Act was signed into law on December 20th 2019. Its “sequel,” the SECURE 2.0 Act, was similarly enacted at year-end on December 29th 2022.

Both pieces of legislation seek to reform how Americans prepare for retirement while juggling current spending needs. How, when, or will each of us retire? How can government incentives, regulations, and safety nets help more people safely do so—or at least not get in the way?

These are questions we’ve been asking as a nation for decades, across shifting socioeconomic climates. Throughout, a hard truth remains:

Employers and the government play a role in helping you save for and spend in retirement, but much of the preparation ultimately falls on you.

That’s America for you. The good news is, you get to call your own shots. The bad news is, you have to. Neither the original SECURE Act nor SECURE 2.0 has fundamentally changed this reality. SECURE 2.0 has, however, added far more motivational carrots than punishing sticks. Its guiding goal is right there in the name: Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE). Following is an overview of its key components.

Note: Implementation for each SECURE 2.0 provision varies from being effective immediately, to ramping up in future years. Many of its newest programs won’t effectively roll out until 2024 or later, giving us time to plan. We’ve noted with each provision when it’s slated to take effect.

Below are a few provisions that may have an impact on your future financial planning:

  • Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) pushed back in 2023 (Age 73 if born between 1951-1959, Age 75 if born in 1960 or after)
  • Elimination of RMDs for Roth accounts within employer-sponsored plans in 2024
  • Employers may deposit matching or profit-sharing contributions to Roth accounts, which would be taxable to employee in year of contribution in 2023
  • High wage earners (wages in excess of $145,000 in previous calendar year) will be required to use Roth account for catch-up contributions in employer-sponsored plans, which would be taxable to employee in year of contribution (beginning 2024)
  • 529-to-Roth IRA transfers – may be able to move unused 529 plan money into Roth IRA –subject to numerous restrictions and limits in 2024
  • Post-death option for surviving spouse beneficiary to delay RMDs until when deceased spouse would have reached RMD age – only applies if younger spouse pre-deceases older spouse in 2024
  • IRA catch-up contribution limit ($1,000) indexed for inflation starting in 2024
  • Increased employer-plan catch-up contributions when in 60’s – catch-up contribution limits will be higher (at least $10,000 and inflation adjusted) for those ages 60, 61, 62, and 63, starting in 2025
  • New QCD rules which start in 2024 include:
  • Maximum annual amount of $100,000 indexed to inflation
  • One-time $50,000 QCD allowed to charitable trust/charitable gift annuity

How else can we help you incorporate SECURE 2.0 Act updates into your personal financial plans? The landscape is filled with rabbit holes down which we did not venture in this article, with caveats and conditions to be explored. And there are a few provisions we didn’t touch on here. As such, before you proceed, we hope you’ll consult with us or others (such as your accountant or estate planning attorney) to discuss the details specific to you.

Come what may in the years ahead, we look forward to serving as your guide through the ever-evolving field of retirement planning. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today with your questions and comments.

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