More people are concerned about their financial future: 4 steps to protect yours
(BPT) - Finances are consistently a top concern for many Americans, with “saving money” a top-10 most common New Year’s resolution. This year, Americans are more concerned than ever before due to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
USE Credit Union reported that more than 75% of non-transactional calls received since the start of the pandemic were from members concerned about their financial future, citing economic hardship as the primary reason for concern. The economy and job market remain in a state of constant flux, which is causing many families to worry about their ability to pay an unexpected bill, continue to pay off student loans, mortgages or credit card debt, or save money for the future.
“Saving money is more than just putting spare change into a coffee can, or simply ordering takeout less often,” said Jeff Schroeder, vice president and chief product officer at Mercury Insurance. “Sure, those things can add up over time, but people may find that their greatest savings can come from taking a look at the necessary expenses they pay for every month, such as insurance.”
Schroeder recommends these four tips to help protect your finances in the coming year:
1) Check your auto insurance coverages. There’s no reason to pay for more coverage than you need, but being underinsured can leave you exposed. “The cost of repairs after a collision has grown in recent years, as a result of more crossovers and SUVs on the road, and more technologically advanced vehicles,” said Schroeder. “Beyond paying for more expensive repairs if your insurance doesn’t cover it, if you’re underinsured, you may also be responsible for paying out of pocket for medical bills, which could potentially devastate savings for a down payment on a house, your child’s college tuition or a future vacation. It’s vitally important to make sure you have the right amount of auto insurance coverage to protect against unforeseen events.”
2) Know what your homeowners insurance covers. First and foremost, be sure to read your policy so you’re clear about what it does and doesn’t cover. It’s a good idea to check in with your insurance agent each year to ensure you have adequate coverage, especially if you’ve made renovations, own collectible or valuable items, or live in an area that’s prone to flooding or earthquakes, as standard homeowners insurance policies typically don’t cover these situations. Also, maintain a home inventory to make sure to have an accurate record of your belongings and property.
3) Be aware of potential gaps in coverage. A standard homeowners insurance policy often doesn’t cover mechanical failures to your home’s appliances, HVAC or other essential systems, nor does it cover a break to service lines on your property that supply your home with electricity, gas or sewer functions. In either of these scenarios, this means you would be responsible for writing a big check to a repair company or having to purchase a pricy replacement. However, adding home systems protection and service line protection endorsements can help provide coverage for costly repairs and replacements, saving money and your peace of mind. Pennies spent now can save you thousands of dollars later.
4) Regularly shop for the best coverage and price. Insurance prices can vary significantly from company to company, so it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to see if you’re getting a good deal. Shop around at least once a year — making sure to look for the exact same coverage limits — to see if you can find a more affordable rate.
“Often, regional insurers like Mercury Insurance are more attuned to their policyholders' needs and can offer better rates,” Schroeder added.
The most effective way to make sure your finances are minimally impacted by insurance costs this year is to speak to an independent insurance agent. They can help make sure you have the proper amount and type of coverage to keep yourself, your family and property protected.
With the increasing likelihood that Social Security and Medicare benefits may be reduced in the future, it’s more important than ever to use every technique available to maximize your retirement savings. These three outside-the-box strategies could make an enormous difference in your retirement readiness. The sooner you start, the more you may save.
(BPT) - Individuals who rushed to prepay property taxes after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may have saved some money in 2018 — but that’s pennies compared to the long-term tax savings taxpayers should take advantage of before the TCJA’s individual tax provisions are expected to expire in 2026, according to Robert Fishbein, vice president and corporate counsel at Prudential Financial.
Also expected to expire in 2026? According to trustees for Social Security, that’s when Medicare’s main trust fund will run out of money. With the increasing likelihood that Social Security and Medicare benefits may be reduced in the future, it’s more important than ever to use every technique available to maximize your retirement savings.
Three outside-the-box strategies could make an enormous difference in your retirement readiness. The sooner you start, the more you may save.
Fund an HSA for retirement health care
Estimates suggest even a healthy 65-year-old couple will need at least $275,000 to cover retirement health care costs. A Health Savings Account, or HSA, provides a way to save that money without paying a dime in taxes. An HSA account is available to individuals enrolled in a high deductible health insurance plan.
First, these individuals can fund their HSA through a tax-deductible contribution or pre-tax payroll deduction. Second, any interest and investment gains are tax-free. Finally, the funds can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses— a triple tax advantage over a traditional savings account.
The best part? There is no requirement to use HSA funds in the year of contribution, which means funds can grow on a tax-favored basis for future health care expense needs.
For 2018, family contribution limits are $6,900, or $7,900 if you are 55 or older, and those amounts are indexed for inflation in future years. If you start contributing the maximum even as late as age 55, and earn 3 percent per year, you could have more than $90,000 to pay for your retirement health care by age 65. If you start contributing the maximum as early as age 40, you could have saved almost $270,000. These funds will continue to grow tax-free in retirement until you need them.
If you don’t use HSA funds in full before you die, excess funds are subject to income tax, but will be otherwise available for your heirs.
Consider a Roth IRA conversion
The typical dogma says that converting an IRA or traditional 401(k) to a Roth IRA does not make sense if you expect your tax rate in retirement to be lower than at the time of conversion. However, lesser known benefits of a Roth IRA may make it worthwhile to have at least part of your retirement assets in Roth IRA form.
Start with no required minimum distributions. With a Roth you aren’t forced to draw down your funds once you attain age 70½ and can continue to benefit from the tax-free growth, thereby maximizing the after-tax funds eventually available for you or your heirs.
Another significant benefit of a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) is tax diversification. For example, you may choose to take taxable distributions up to a certain amount and then tax-free distributions to avoid a higher income tax bracket.
If you are a high-income taxpayer, Roth IRA distributions are not considered income when determining thresholds for increased Medicare premium charges or the 3.8 percent income tax surcharge on investment gain. If your income is more modest, Roth IRA distributions are not considered income when determining whether you are subject to income tax on Social Security benefits.
If anything, a conversion is more attractive now since you have an opportunity to convert and pay income tax with marginal rates that are generally lower than under prior law. Since individual tax law changes are temporary and tax rates will revert to the former higher amounts starting in 2026, you have an eight-year window to benefit from lower rates.
Make “backdoor” Roth IRA contributions
The tax law prescribes income limits so high-income individuals may not make a direct contribution to a Roth IRA. However, there are no income limits on converting traditional IRA funds to a Roth IRA.
Any person under age 70.5 who has earned income by year-end can make an IRA contribution. While income limits may prevent you from making a pre-tax contribution, you can make this contribution even if you have fully funded a 401(k) or another employer plan.
Once you have made your contribution to a traditional IRA, simply convert that amount to your Roth IRA. As long as this is your only traditional IRA and you have made an after-tax contribution, then an immediate conversion will have converted a tax-deferred asset into a potentially tax-free asset. If you have multiple IRAs, the IRAs are aggregated to determine how much is taxable upon conversion.
While we spend much time on our investment strategies to help gain an extra percentage or two of investment yield, these tax planning strategies can be a more reliable way of maximizing your after-tax retirement income and wealth for your family — no matter how Social Security and Medicare turn out.
Prudential Financial, its affiliates, and their financial professionals do not render tax or legal advice. Please consult with your tax and legal advisors regarding your personal circumstances.
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