Year-End Planning Checklist

2020 has been a strange year for all of us, and although some financial planning deadlines have been modified due to the CARES Act, most 12/31 deadlines remain in place.  Below are items we are considering as we wrap up the year with our clients.  Should you have questions about whether or how any of the items below apply to you, please reach out to us as we will be happy to assist.  

 2020 Year-End Planning Items with 12/31 Deadline

  1. Maxing out 401(k) contributions:  Employees can contribute up to $19,500 (plus $6,500 extra for those over 50), into their 401(k)s for 2020.   If you have not yet contributed the maximum amount and your cash flow allows, consider increasing your contributions now to reach the maximum contribution amount prior to year end.  
  1. 401(k) Matching:  If your company offers a 401(k) match, it makes sense to take advantage of the full match opportunity every year.  If you have not received the full match for 2020, let us review your company’s 401(k) plan rules to determine if you can contribute enough to receive the full 2020 match before year end.  
  1. Charitable Giving for 2020:  There are some additional charitable deductions this year as part of the CARES Act.  There is a $300 deduction for taxpayers who don’t itemize, and for clients interested in large donations, taxpayers can deduct up to 100% of their adjusted gross income (up from 60%) for cash donations made to public charities. For clients with taxable accounts, we frequently recommend donating appreciated securities instead of cash via a donor-advised fund (DAF).  This strategy works well when a taxpayer has highly appreciated securities in taxable accounts, and/or in a year when income is higher allowing a client to benefit from a larger charitable deduction.  
  1. Gifting:  The annual gift exclusion amount for 2020 is $15,000 per taxpayer to each recipient.  (Married couples can give $30k.)  Make your annual gifts prior to 12/31 if you haven’t already!  
  1. Tax Loss/Gain Harvesting:  At Warren Street, we employ a continuous monitoring of client accounts for tax loss harvesting opportunities.  Similarly, if a client is experiencing a particularly low tax year, it may be the right time to strategically harvest capital gains.  
  1. Roth Conversions:  Although market downturns are not fun, they can certainly provide an opportunity for strategic Roth Conversions.  This is an annual planning item that we analyze for every Warren Street client.  
  1. LLC / Entity Formation:  If you are in the process of business entity formation for 2020, you may need to have your documents signed and filed prior to the end of the calendar year.  

If you have any questions about the above checklist or any other year-end planning questions, please feel free to reach out to your trusted wealth advisor. We are here to help!

Emily Balmages, CFP®, CRTP

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents 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 document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

What is a Roth Conversion?

What is a Roth Conversion?

According to Investopedia, “a Roth IRA conversion is a reportable movement of assets from a Traditional IRA, SEP or SIMPLE IRA to a Roth IRA, which is a taxable event. A Roth conversion can be advantageous for individuals with large traditional IRA accounts who expect their future tax bills to stay at the same level or grow at the time they plan to start withdrawing from their tax-advantaged account, as a Roth IRA allows for tax-free withdrawals of qualified distributions.”

To simplify this down, you are taking assets from a qualified account, such as the traditional IRA,  paying the income taxes owed on the amount now, and moving them into a Roth IRA to capitalize on the tax-free income on eligible withdrawals.

Why would someone do this?

If someone feels that their tax liability is going to increase in the future, this provides a way for tax diversification. For example, if you are in a low tax bracket currently and have a large sum of your assets in qualified accounts, then it may make sense to convert the funds assuming you have the cash on hand to cover the tax liability.

Taking advantage of your low tax basis now (maybe even specific to the most recent tax reform) could allow you to control your RMDs (required minimum distributions) in the future or allow you to leave money more efficiently to your heirs, especially if your income tax rate is lower than theirs.

Who would be someone that would want to do this?

There are a couple different scenarios that this strategy might be useful in.

One is a retiree who is going to have no earned income and has plenty of assets for a successful retirement. If their asset base is large enough to not worry about income, chances are they may run into Required Minimum Distributions in the future. To control this, they could convert money now and limit their tax exposure during the RMD years. Additionally, if they plan to leave money to their heirs, this is an opportunity to leave it for them income tax-free.

A second scenario might include someone who is not in retirement, but perhaps they had a lower than normal income year, has a long time horizon until retirement, and has qualified assets they would rather have in a Roth. In our “younger than retirement age” scenario, their financial plan might dictate they would retire prior to the 59.5 age mark. This conversion would allow them to tap into their basis before 59.5.

In all instances, if someone has qualified assets, a lower than normal current tax environment, and the cash to complete the conversion, then it is something to be considered for financial planning purposes.

Additionally, there are some nuanced rules regarding how long someone must wait to access these funds known as the “5-year rule”. You can learn more about the finer details around that issue here:

How does one convert their traditional IRA funds to Roth?

This can be a tricky process since timelines and amounts might need to be tracked for the “5-year rule”, so we recommend speaking with your personal financial planner and/or accountant to make sure that this might be a good fit for you and your plan.

Overall, the Roth conversion can be a good strategy assuming that all the important variables line up in regards to tax rates, timing, and cash on hand. However, a Roth conversion should be considered on a case-by-case basis and may not be right for everyone. With it being a tricky strategy to execute, make sure you consult your financial advisor or account for a smooth process.

Cary Warren Facer, Partner Emeritus

Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. The information contained herein does not involve the rendering of personalized investment advice but is limited to the dissemination of general information. A professional advisor should be consulted before implementing any of the strategies or options presented. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Warren Street Wealth Advisors are not Certified Public Accountants and all tax-related matters should be vetted and acted on with your personal tax counsel.