9 Year End Tax Tips for Investors

Blake Street

Blake Street
Chartered Financial Analyst
Certified Financial Planner®
Founding Partner & CIO  
Warren Street Wealth Advisors

I know, I know, you’d rather be thinking about the holidays than taxes. Consider us
The Grinch for even bringing this up, however, the timing is important. As the years draws to a close it is important that you consider year end tax planning before 2017 strikes our calendars.

Here are the some of the biggest items for consideration for an investor before year end:

1) Changes to the tax code?

There were no significant changes to tax law from 2015 to 2016, prepare for much of the same for your 2016 filing.

2) Don’t forget your RMDs (Required Minimum Distribution)

If you’re over age 70 ½, make sure you take your required minimum distribution (RMD) by December 31st. Investors who turned 70 ½ this year can defer their 2016 RMD until April 1st of next year, but that will mean taking two RMDs next year. Investors who turned 70 ½ last year and deferred their 2015 RMD to 2016 need to make sure they take their 2016 RMD by December 31st. Important to note: RMDs apply to most retirement accounts, not just IRAs; 401(k)s and even Roth 401(k)s are subject to RMDs.

3) Max out your IRAs

If you are eligible, be sure to max out your IRA when you can. An individual can contribute up to $5,500 per year, or $6,500 if over the age of 50. These contributions can be on a tax deferred basis or after-tax basis (ROTH IRA) depending on your personal goals and objectives.

The truth is you can cut these checks all the way up until the time you file your taxes, but as like I to say to myself, “save early, save often.”

4) Consider a ROTH conversion

If you think you’re in a lower tax bracket now then you will be in the future, and you’ve got most your assets in pre-tax buckets like a 401(k) or an IRA, it may pay to consider converting some of those assets to a ROTH IRA. The ROTH IRA grows and can be withdrawn from tax free after age 59 ½. Converting assets to a ROTH may create a tax bill today for future savings, so be aware.

One wonderful perk of a conversion is the fact that you can undo it should the terms or tax implications look unfavorable before you file. This is called recharacterization. You’re eligible to recharacterize the conversion all the way up until the time you file, including extensions.

Consider converting small portions over a long period of time when your tax scenario makes sense.

5) Make the Most of your Charitable Giving

Charitable contributions are usually deductible up to 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). If you have a habit of being charitable, might as well get credit for the deduction. If you plan to give, consider doing it in years when you need the tax break. Also, if you’re at the limit for giving, consider delaying gifts until your deduct limit clears out next year.

One other strategy we like to see considered is gifting highly appreciated securities. You can deduct the market value of the securities subject to your deduction limit, and avoid the capital gains taxes you would have been exposed to should have sold the securities in your name.

If you’re curious for a ballpark figure on what you can deduct, you can see your AGI on Page 1, Box 37 of your 1040, also known as your tax return.

6) Consider Qualified Charitable Distributions

Two bullet points for charity, we can’t be The Grinch! Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) are a wonderful part of the tax code that allows you take distributions from your IRA and send directly to a charity of your choice, tax free.

The best part, QCDs don’t count as income, but do count against your RMDs. QCDs will also reduce your adjusted gross income and could reduce your Medicare Part B premiums, in addition to reducing the amount of your Social Security benefits that are taxable.

7) Gifts to Non-charitable Interests

I know, sometimes your loved ones feel like charity, but if you’ve got any large gifts planned to grandkids, children, or whomever, timing matters. You’re able to gift $14,000 to any individual each year without any gift tax implications. You and your spouse can gift that amount separately to the same person for a total of $28,000.

These gift amounts are a great way to reduce your taxable estate or even fund your wishes in your lifetime without getting into messy gift and estate tax issues. One additional creative idea, you’re able to gift five years worth of gift limits into a 529 plan in a single year, so in this case, $70,000. One asterisk, you can’t gift to this person again for five years. We see folks use this technique if they want to fund large portions of someone’s advanced education while reducing their taxable estate at a faster rate.

8) Tax Loss Harvest

This is something we do on behalf of our clients, but if you manage outside assets on your own, consider booking some of your losses. We all have some, don’t be shy. Losses can be used to offset capital gains generated within your portfolio, carried forward to future years, or even a small portion used to reduce taxable income. One great idea when harvesting losses is trying to replicate your exposure of what you sold, so that you’re not sitting in cash waiting for the IRS 30-day wash sale rule to pass to buy back the original security. If it sounds complicated, let us show you how we do it for our clients.

9) Take Your Gains

To add some intrigue after the last bullet point, it’s equally as important to harvest your gains at the appropriate time. Depending on your income level, you could pay as low as 0% in long term capital gains tax rates. It makes sense to know in what years you’ll fall below this income threshold so that you can pay as little taxes as possible.


RMD? IRA? What are these things exactly? If you need help navigating your financial picture, contact us  and schedule a free consultation.


Blake Street is a Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer of Warren Street Wealth Advisors. Blake graduated from California State University, Fullerton in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Finance, and  he is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP™) and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

Disclosure: Blake Street is an Investment Advisor Representative of Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. The information posted here represents his opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional.  Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.



Do Women Face Greater Retirement Challenges than Men?

Do Women Face Greater Retirement Challenges Than Men?
If so, how can they plan to meet those challenges?
Provided by Joe Occhipinti

A new study has raised eyebrows about the retirement prospects of women. It comes from the National Institute on Retirement Security, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization based in Washington, D.C. Studying 2012 U.S. Census data, NRIS found that women aged 65 and older had 26% less income than their male peers. Looking at Vanguard’s 2014 fact set on its retirement plans, NRIS learned that the median retirement account balance for women was 34% less than that of men.¹

Alarming numbers? Certainly. Two other statistics in the NRIS report are even more troubling. One, a woman 65 or older is 80% more likely to be impoverished than a man of that age. Two, the incidence of poverty is three times as great for a woman as it is for a man by age 75.¹²  

Why are women so challenged to retire comfortably? You can cite a number of factors that can potentially impact a woman’s retirement prospects and retirement experience. A woman may spend less time in the workforce during her life than a man due to childrearing and caregiving needs, with a corresponding interruption in both wages and workplace retirement plan participation. A divorce can hugely alter a woman’s finances and financial outlook. As women live longer on average than men, they face slightly greater longevity risk – the risk of eventually outliving retirement savings.

There is also the gender wage gap, narrowing, but still evident. As American Association of University Women research notes, the average female worker earned 79 cents for every dollar a male worker did in 2014 (in 1974, the ratio was 59 cents to every dollar).

What can women do to respond to these financial challenges? Several steps are worth taking.  

Invest early & consistently. Women should realize that, on average, they may need more years of retirement income than men. Social Security will not provide all the money they need, and,  in the future, it may not even pay out as much as it does today. Accumulated retirement savings will need to be tapped as an income stream. So saving and investing regularly through IRAs and workplace retirement accounts is vital, the earlier the better. So is getting the employer match, if one is offered. Catch-up contributions after 50 should also be a goal.

Consider Roth IRAs & HSAs. Imagine having a source of tax-free retirement income. Imagine having a healthcare fund that allows tax-free withdrawals. A Roth IRA can potentially provide the former; a Health Savings Account, the latter. An HSA is even funded with pre-tax dollars, as opposed to a Roth IRA, which is funded with after-tax dollars – so an HSA owner can potentially get tax-deductible contributions as well as tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals.4

IRS rules must be followed to get these tax perks, but they are not hard to abide by. A Roth IRA need be owned for only five tax years before tax-free withdrawals may be taken (the owner does need to be older than age 59½ at that time). Those who make too much money to contribute to a Roth IRA can still convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. HSAs have to be used in conjunction with high-deductible health plans, and HSA savings must be withdrawn to pay for qualified health expenses in order to be tax-exempt. One intriguing HSA detail worth remembering: after attaining age 65 or Medicare eligibility, an HSA owner can withdraw HSA funds for non-medical expenses (these types of withdrawals are characterized as taxable income). That fact has prompted some journalists to label HSAs “backdoor IRAs.”4,5

Work longer in pursuit of greater monthly Social Security benefits. Staying in the workforce even one or two years longer means one or two years less of retirement to fund, and for each year a woman refrains from filing for Social Security after age 62, her monthly Social Security benefit rises by about 8%.6

Social Security also pays the same monthly benefit to men and women at the same age – unlike the typical privately funded income contract, which may pay a woman of a certain age less than her male counterpart as the payments are calculated using gender-based actuarial tables.7  

Find a method to fund eldercare. Many women are going to outlive their spouses, perhaps by a decade or longer. Their deaths (and the deaths of their spouses) may not be sudden. While many women may not eventually need months of rehabilitation, in-home care, or hospice care, many other women will.

Today, financially aware women are planning to meet retirement challenges. They are conferring with financial advisors in recognition of those tests – and they are strategizing to take greater control over their financial futures.

Joe Occhipinti may be reached at 714.823.3328 or




This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.


1 – [3/1/16]
2 – [3/18/16]
3 – [6/8/16]
4 – [1/1/16]
5 – [1/29/16]
6 – [5/29/16]
7 – [6/16/16]