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Do I Have Enough to Sell My Business?

As a business owner, you’ve spent your life’s work growing your business, taking care of employees, managing your product or service, and looking after your people. Now, you may be getting to a point where your spouse tells you you work too much. Or perhaps you’re watching the clock more than you used to, counting down the minutes until you can head home and unplug from your “boss” responsibilities.

Whatever your reasoning, if you’re starting to ask questions like, “Do I have enough to sell?” and “Will that be enough?” then it’s time to focus on you for a change.

Why Business Owners Need Specialized Financial Planning

Business owners face a unique set of financial challenges and opportunities. Whether you are a small business owner or running a large corporation, the following considerations are critical:

  • Maximizing tax efficiency
  • Choosing the most appropriate retirement account type
  • Evaluating your retirement account options
  • Managing 401(k) and pension investments
  • Considering a defined benefit plan, i.e., “pension”
  • Aligning company benefits offerings with company goals

Our team specializes in helping business owners handle these and other issues while they’re still working. During those years, we help you work through proper planning techniques to diversify your assets, reduce risk, optimize your taxes, and offer competitive benefits. All of these steps help streamline and strengthen your business at the time — but they also set you up for a successful transition into retirement or your next business opportunity.

When you do get to the point of exiting, we help you bring all of this planning together into one critical decision: whether or not you have what you need to move on from your business and into your ideal retirement, whatever that looks like for you. 

Creating a Dream Retirement

At Warren Street, we’ve helped many business owner clients over the years answer the “Do I have enough to sell?” question and develop their exit strategies accordingly. 

If you choose to work with us during your own exit process, we’ll play a key role on your professional team alongside your attorney. While your attorney looks after the legal structure of the deal, we’ll handle related asset management and tax mitigation. For example, if you’re involved in an all-cash sale with multiple payments coming in the next few years, we will discuss tax deferral opportunities to add into your transition plan. Or, if you’re struggling with a go/no-go decision, we’ll conduct scenario planning to help you make an informed choice based on your current financial situation, projected future state, and personal goals.

No matter where you are in the exit planning process, we can help evaluate your current assets, investments, estate planning, and legacy goals, so you can make a clear and confident decision on what next steps are right for you.

If this sounds like you and you’re a current Warren Street client, please mention your interest to your Lead Advisor! Or, if you’re not a client but are interested in learning how we can help, schedule a complimentary introductory call with us. We hope to hear from you and look forward to exploring how we can make your post-exit dreams a reality.

Cary Facer

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.

3 Financial Best Practices for Year-End 2023

Scan the financial headlines these days, and you’ll see plenty of potential action items vying for your year-end attention. Some may be particular to 2023. Others are timeless traditions. Here are our three favorite items worth tending to as 2024 approaches… plus a thoughtful reflection on how to make the most of the remaining year.  

1. Bolster Your Cash Reserves

With some high yield savings options currently offering ~5%+ annual interest rates, your fallow cash is finally able to earn a nice little bit while it sits. Sweet! Two thoughts here: 

Mind Where You’ve Stashed Your Cash: If your cash savings is still sitting in low- or no-interest accounts, consider taking advantage of the attractive rates available in other options. If you’re unsure where to start, we can help you figure out whether a high yield savings account, a CD, or treasury bonds may make sense for you. Your cash savings typically includes money you intend to spend within the next year or two, as well as your emergency, “rainy day” reserves.

Put Your Cash in Context: While current rates across many accounts are appealing, don’t let this distract you from your greater investment goals. Even at today’s higher rates, your cash reserves are eventually expected to lose their spending power in the face of inflation. Today’s rates don’t eliminate this issue … remember, inflation is also on the high side, so that 5% isn’t as amazing as it may seem. Once you have your cash stashed in those high-interest savings accounts, you’re likely better off allocating your remaining assets into your investment portfolio—and leaving the dollars there for pursuing your long game.  

2. Polish 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. For this, it’s prudent to perform an annual review of how your investments are growing. Year-end is as good a milestone as any for this activity. For example, you can: 

Rebalance: In 2023, year-to-date stock returns may warrant rebalancing back to plan, especially if you can do so within your tax-sheltered accounts. If you are an existing Warren Street client, this is already being handled on your behalf.

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 next April 15, 2024 to make your 2023 contributions. But you don’t have to wait if the assets are available today, and it otherwise makes tax-wise sense. 

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. 

3. Minimize Your Taxes

Speaking of taxes, there are always plenty of ways to manage your current and lifetime tax burdens—especially as your financial numbers and various tax-related deadlines come into focus toward year-end. For example:

RMDs and QCDs: Retirees and IRA inheritors should continue making any obligatory Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) out of their IRAs and similar tax-sheltered accounts. With the 2022 Secure Act 2.0, the penalty for missing an RMD will no longer exceed 25% of any underpayment, rather than the former 50%. But even 25% is a painful penalty if you miss the December 31 deadline. If you’re charitably inclined, 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 tax-planning team to determine what makes sense for you. If you are an existing Warren Street client, we will automatically tax loss harvest for you.

How else can we help you tend to your 2023 plans and till the soil for 2024? Please be in touch for additional ideas and best-practice advice. 

Cary Facer

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.

Why We Believe Social Security Will Endure

In planning for retirement, one topic is often top of mind: whether or not Social Security will still be around when we retire.

As we covered in a related post, When Should You Take Your Social Security, most of us have been paying into the program our entire working life. We’re counting on receiving some of that money back in retirement. 

But then there are those headlines, warning us that the Social Security trust fund is set to run dry around 2034. 

Does this mean you should grab what you can, as soon as you’re able? Let’s explain why we agree with Social Security specialist Mary Beth Franklin, who suggests the following: 

“While there may be good reasons to file for reduced Social Security benefits early, claiming Social Security prematurely out of fear is a bit like selling stocks in a down market: All you’ve guaranteed is that you’ve locked in a loss. And if future benefit cuts did materialize, the benefits of those who claimed as soon as possible would be reduced even further.” 

— Mary Beth Franklin, InvestmentNews

Still, Social Security Will Likely Change 

While we don’t expect Social Security to go bust, we do expect it will need to change in the years ahead. As its trustees have reported:

“Social Security is not sustainable over the long term at current benefit and tax rates … [and] trust fund reserves will be depleted by 2034.”

But let’s unpack this statement. First, “depleted” does not mean the Social Security Administration is going to turn out the lights and go home. It means it could run out of trust fund reserves by then, which are used to top off the total amount spent on Social Security benefits. There are still payroll taxes and other sources to cover more than 77% of the program’s payouts. So, worst case, if we did nothing but wait for the reserves to run out, we’d be forced to make hard choices about an approximate 23% shortfall starting around 2034.  

Admittedly, Social Security is between a rock and a hard place. Nobody wants to lose benefits they’ve been counting on or spend significantly more to maintain the status quo. But if we don’t do something to shore up the program’s reserves, our options will likely only worsen. 

In this context, the political will to reform Social Security seems strong, and bipartisan. As Buckingham Strategic Partners retirement planning specialist Jeffrey Levine has observed

“My gut sense is that practically no politician in America would ultimately be happy having to explain to voters why they let Social Security collapse on their watch … That’s not a great message to have to bring to voters, especially older voters who show up at the polls in the greatest numbers.”

As members of Congress wrangle over the “best” (or least abhorrent) solutions for their constituents, they have been submitting proposals behind the scenes, and the Social Security Administration has been weighing in on the estimated effect for each. 

Time will tell which proposals become legislated action, but the range of possibilities essentially falls into two broad categories: We can pay more in, or we can take less out. Most likely, we’ll need to do a bit of both. 

Possible Ways to Pay More In

To name a few ways to replenish Social Security’s reserves, Congress could: 

  1. Raise the cap on wages subject to Social Security tax: As of 2023, earnings beyond $160,200 per year are not subject to Social Security tax. There’s been talk of increasing this cap, eliminating it entirely, or reinstating it for income beyond certain high-water marks.
  1. Increase the Social Security tax rate for some or all workers: Currently, employers and employees each pay in 6.2% of their wages, for a total 12.4% up to the aforementioned wage cap. (This does not include an additional Medicare tax, which is not subject to the wage cap.) As cited in a September 2022 University of Maryland School of Public Policy report, “73% (Republicans 70%, Democrats 78%) favored increasing the payroll tax from 6.2 to 6.5%.” 
  1. Increase the tax on Social Security payouts, and direct those funds back into the program: Currently, if your “combined income” exceeds $44,000 on a joint return ($34,000 on an individual return), up to 85% of your Social Security benefit is taxable, as described here. Anything is possible, but taxing retirees more heavily seems less politically palatable than some of the other options. 
  1. Identify new funding sources: For example, one recent bipartisan proposal would establish a dedicated “sovereign-wealth fund,” seeded with government loans. Presumably, it would be structured like an endowment fund, with an investment time horizon of forever. In theory, its returns could augment more conservatively invested Social Security trust fund reserves. Other proposals have explored a range of potential new taxes aimed at filling the gap. 

Options for Taking Less Out

We could also cut back on Social Security spending. Some of the possibilities here include:

  1. Reducing benefits: Payouts could be cut across the board, or current bipartisan conversations seem focused on curtailing wealthier retirees’ benefits. 
  1. Extending the full retirement age: There are proposals to extend the full retirement age for everyone, or at least for younger workers. This would effectively reduce lifetime payouts received, no matter when you start drawing benefits. 
  1. Tinkering with COLAs: There are also bipartisan conversations about replacing the benchmark used to calculate the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA), which might lower these annual adjustments in some years. 

These are just a few of the possibilities. Some would impact everyone. Others are aimed at higher earners and/or more affluent Americans. It’s anybody’s guess which proposals make it through the political gamut, or what form they will take if they do. 

Should You Take Your Social Security Early? 

So, given the uncertainties of the day, should you start drawing benefits sooner than you otherwise would? An objective risk/reward analysis helps guide the way. 

Many investors feel “safer” taking their Social Security as soon as possible, to avoid losing what seems like a bird in the hand. However, the appeal of this approach is often fueled by deep-seated loss aversion. Academic insights suggest we dislike the thought of losing money about twice as much as we enjoy the prospect of receiving more of it. Thus, we tend to cringe more over a potential loss of promised benefits than we factor in the substantial rewards we stand to gain by waiting. Put another way: 

You’re not reducing your financial risks by taking Social Security early. You’re only changing which risks you’re taking. In exchange for an earlier and more assured payout, you’re also accepting a permanent, cumulative cut to your ongoing benefits. 

If this still seems like a fair trade-off, consider that Social Security is one of the few sources of retirement income ideally structured to offset three of retirement’s greatest risks: 

  1. Life expectancy risk: In an annuity-like fashion, Social Security is structured to continue paying out, no matter how long you and your spouse live. 
  2. Inflation risk: The payouts are adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation. 
  3. Market risk: Even in bear markets, Social Security keeps paying, with no drop in benefits.  

In short, if you are willing and able to wait a few extra years to receive a permanently higher payout, you can expect to better manage all three of these very real retirement risks over time. 

This is not to say everyone should wait until their Full Retirement Age or longer to start taking Social Security. When is the best time for you and your spouse to start drawing benefits? Rather than hinging the decision on uncontrollable unknowns, we recommend using your personal circumstances as your greatest guide. Consider the retirement risks that most directly apply to you and yours, and chart your course accordingly. 

But you don’t have to go it alone. Please be in touch if we can assist you with your Social Security planning, or with any other questions you may have as you prepare for your ideal retirement.

Emily Balmages, CFP®

Director of Financial Planning, 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.

When Should You Take Your Social Security?

Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the 1935 Social Security Act, most Americans have pondered this critical question as they approach retirement: 

“When should I (or we) start taking my (or our) Social Security?”

And yet, the “right” answer to this common query remains as elusive as ever. It depends on a wide array of personal variables, including how the unknowable future plays out. 

No wonder many families find themselves in a quandary when it comes to taking their Social Security benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how to find the right balance for you.

Social Security Planning: A Balancing Act

For Social Security planning purposes, you reach full retirement age (FRA) between ages 66–67, depending on the year you were born. However, you can generally begin drawing Social Security benefits as early as age 62 (with the lowest available monthly starting payments) or as late as age 70 (for the highest available monthly starting payments). 

Retirees are often advised to wait at least until their full retirement age, if not until age 70 to begin taking Social Security. In raw dollars, waiting to take your Social Security often works out to be the best deal for many families. Plus, these days, many of us choose to work well into our 60s, 70s, and beyond. Some analyses have even factored in the cost of spending down other assets while you wait, rather than using them for continued investment growth. The conclusion is the same. 

However, you’re not “many families.” You’re your family. Your personal and practical circumstances may mean this general rule of thumb won’t point to your best choice. Following are some of the most common factors that may influence whether to start taking Social Security sooner or later. 

  • Alternative Income Sources: First, and perhaps most obviously, if you have few or no alternative income sources once your paychecks stop, you may not have the luxury of waiting. You may need to start taking Social Security as soon as possible. 
  • Life Expectancy: If you’re considering the benefits of waiting until age 70 to take Social Security, remember that this strategy assumes you live to at least the average age someone your age and gender is likely to reach. Even if you can afford to wait, you’ll want to factor in whether your health, lifestyle, and family history justify doing so. 
  • Estate Planning: Have you placed a high or low priority on leaving as much as possible to your heirs and/or favorite charities after you pass? Your preferences here may influence how, and from where you’ll spend down your inheritable estate, which in turn may influence the timing of your Social Security enrollment. 
  • Employment: How likely is it you’ll keep working until your FRA? Once you reach it, you can collect full Social Security benefits, even if you’re still working. But until then, your earnings may reduce your Social Security benefits.
  • Marital Status: If you’re married, one of you has probably paid in more to Social Security. One is likely to live longer. You may retire at different times, and your ages probably differ. All these factors can complicate the equation. You’ll want to consider the timing, rules, and outcomes under various scenarios—such as when and whether to take Social Security as an earner, the spouse of an earner, the widow or widower of an earner, or an ex-spouse of an earner—while also factoring in whether you and/or your spouse are still working prior to your FRAs, as described above. Ideal start dates for one scenario may not be ideal for another. 
  • Other Circumstances: Beyond your marital status, there are other factors that may influence your timing decisions if they apply to you—such as if you’re a business owner, you live abroad, you qualify for Social Security Disability, or your children qualify for Social Security benefits under your account. 
  • Income Taxes: We find many pre-retirees don’t realize that up to 85% of their Social Security income may be taxable. Your annual Social Security income also figures into your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI), which can push you past thresholds for incurring Medicare surcharges (beginning at age 65, based on your MAGI from two years prior). Bottom line, broad tax planning may influence your timing as well. 

Degrees of Control 

Clearly, there’s a lot to think about when deciding when to start taking Social Security. Whether you’re going it alone or with a financial planner, here’s one piece of advice that should help: 

Control what you can. Let go of what you can’t.

What do we mean by that? There are many known factors you can include in your Social Security planning. You know your marital status. You can access your Social Security account and/or use a calculator to estimate your benefits. You can make educated guesses about your life expectancy, how long you’ll work, and so on. Also, if you’ve delayed taking Social Security past your FRA, you may be able to change your mind … to a point. You can file to collect up to six months of retroactive benefits if you end up needing the income sooner than planned. 

You can use all of this planning information and more to make reasonable assumptions and timely decisions about when to take your Social Security. 

After that, we recommend going easy on yourself if (or more realistically, when) some of your plans don’t go as planned. Come what may, you’ve done your best. Instead of channeling energy into regretting good decisions, use it to make judicious adjustments whenever new assumptions arise. By consistently focusing on what we know rather than what we hope or fear, we remain best positioned to shift course as warranted in the face of adversity. 

Whether you’re planning to file for Social Security or you’re already drawing it, we appreciate the opportunity to help you and your family make good choices about when, and how to manage your available options. We hope you’ll contact us today to learn more.

Cary Facer

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.

Five Financial Best Practices for Year-End 2022

To say the least, there has been plenty of political, financial, and economic action this year — from rising interest rates to elevated inflation to ongoing market turmoil. 

How will all the excitement translate into annual performance in our investment portfolios? The answer remains to be seen. But, while we wait to find out, here are five action items worth tending to before 2022 is a wrap. 

  1. Revisit Your Cash Reserves

Where is your cash stashed these days? After years of offering essentially zero interest in money markets, savings accounts, and similar platforms, some banks are now offering higher interest rates to savers. 

Shop around: If you have significant cash saved up, now may be a good time to compare rates on cash accounts. We can help if you need guidance exploring the options.

  1. Put Your Money to Work

If you’re sitting on more cash than you need in your emergency reserve, you may be able to put it to even better use under current conditions. Consider the following:

Lighten your debt load: Carrying high-interest debt is a threat to your financial well-being, especially in times of rising rates. Consider paying off credit card balances or other debts. Avoid accruing new debt during the holiday season. 

Invest: Reach out to your lead advisor to determine what your opportunities are to put some cash to work in the markets.

  1. Make Some Smooth Tax-Planning Moves 

Another way to save more money is to pay less in taxes. Here are a couple of year-end ideas: 

It’s still harvest season: Market downturns often present opportunities to engage in tax-loss harvesting by selling taxable shares at a loss, and promptly reinvesting the proceeds in a similar (but not identical) fund. You can then use the losses to offset taxable gains, without significantly altering your investment mix. If you have a non-retirement brokerage account with us, we’ve already been doing this on your behalf.

Maximize tax opportunities: Make sure you are taking advantage of your 401(k) and other tax-deferred investment opportunities. With only a few paychecks left in 2022,  you’ll want to make sure your contributions are optimized.

  1. Check Up on Your Healthcare Coverage 

As year-end approaches, make sure you and your family have made the most of your healthcare coverage. Take a moment to examine all your benefits. For example, if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), have you funded it for the year? If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), have you spent any balance you cannot carry forward? If you’ve already met your annual deductible, are there additional covered expenses worth incurring before the meter resets in 2023? If you’re eligible for free annual wellness exams or other benefits, have you used them?   

  1. Get Set for 2023 

Why wait for 2023 to start anew? Year-end can be an ideal time to take stock of where you stand and consider what you’d like to achieve in the year ahead.  

Audit your household interests: What has changed, and what hasn’t? Have you shifted careers or decided to retire? Added new hobbies or encountered personal setbacks? How might these and other significant life events alter your ideal investment allocations, cash-flow requirements, insurance coverage, or estate plan?

How Can We Help?

How else can we help you wrap 2022 and position you and your loved ones for the year ahead? 

Whether it’s helping you manage your investment portfolio, optimizing your tax planning, considering your cash reserves, weighing insurance offerings, or assessing any other components that contribute to your financial well-being, we stand ready to assist — today, and through the years ahead. 

Cary Facer

Wealth Advisors, 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 Custom Indexing, and Is It Right for Me?

If you’ve ever felt that mutual funds and ETFs don’t give you enough control over the individual stocks you want to invest in — or don’t want to invest in — you’re not alone.

Clients over the years have shared with us that they want to own individual stocks. However, one of the hidden benefits of owning individual stocks are the after-tax returns generated through tax-loss harvesting. You may ask, “why are we hearing about this now?” Well, the reality is the technology did not exist.

The Freedom of Custom Indexing

We have good news: with the addition of Warren Street’s new custom indexing platform, you now have the ability to “custom index” — in other words, set the parameters on the exact types of stocks you’d like to invest your money.

Unlike ETFs and mutual funds that only offer pre-packaged asset mixes, custom indexing lets you personalize your investments to your individual values, preferences, and goals. Custom indexes are implemented through separately managed accounts (SMA), which allow you to directly own a mix of individual securities rather than indirectly owning positions through shares of funds and ETFs.

This can be an especially helpful option for individuals who may want to:

  • Reduce concentrated stock risk (e.g., employer stock)
  • Custom-build a portfolio to support ESG stocks
  • Offset embedded gains with cash or tradable securities
  • Invest in an individual stock portfolio with factor tilt

If custom indexing is a good fit for you, your advisor will discuss your goals, preferences, risk tolerance, and tax positioning. Then, he or she will help you design your custom portfolio from scratch, based on considerations such as asset allocation, factors, tax-loss harvesting, and values-based screens.

Ideal Clients for Custom Indexing

While custom indexing offers you some great advantages in selecting individual stocks, it only really benefits clients that meet certain account levels and qualifications, due to tax and expense considerations.

Ideal clients for custom indexing generally include those with:

  • At least $500,000 in a taxable, non-retirement account
  • Recurring cash contributions
  • A high-income tax bracket (Fed/State)
  • Preferred individual stock exposure over funds

Through direct indexing, custom indexing can replicate broad market exposure by investing in the underlying positions of an index fund or ETF. This helps us efficiently manage your taxes (if you meet the above qualifications) and gives you virtually infinite portfolio customization capabilities.

Interested in learning more? For a full deep-dive into our custom indexing platform, check out the attachment linked below. And feel free to reach out to your lead advisor if you think you might be a good fit!

Blake Street, CFA, CFP®

Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer, 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.

Six Financial Best Practices for Year-End 2021

Believe it or not, another year has rounded third base, and is dashing toward home plate. That said, there’s still time to make a few good plays in 2021, while positioning yourself to score more in the year ahead. Here are six financial best practices for the record books.

1. Keep Your Eye on the Ball. While there are always distracting trading temptations, it seems as if 2021 has had more than its fair share of them. Remember the January excitement over GameStop and its ilk? That frenzy was soon followed by “SPAC-Man” Chamath Palihapitiya, tweeting out “Shooters shoot” to his disciples, as SPACs started flying every which way. Tradeable memes and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) became a thing around then too, followed by the pursuit of fluffy little dogecoins.

Our Best-Practice Advice: Instead of swinging at fast fads, we encourage you to lean into the returns our resilient global markets are expected to deliver over time. As always, this means looking past the wild throws and building a low-cost, globally diversified portfolio, tailored for your personal financial goals and risk tolerances. Isn’t that your aim to begin with?

2. Revisit Your Saving and Spending. COVID changed a lot of things, including our saving and spending patterns. Stimulus and unemployment checks offered cash flow relief for many families. Business owners received generous loans. Moratoriums on paying off college debt or being penalized for dipping into retirement savings helped as well. Retirees were permitted to skip taking Required Minimum Distributions (which is NOT the case in 2021).

Our Best-Practice Advice: As these and similar relief programs wind down, now is an excellent time to recalibrate your own financial plans. If you borrowed from your future self by withdrawing from or not adding to your retirement reserves, please establish a disciplined schedule for paying yourself back. If you became accustomed to spending less on items you used to think you couldn’t live without, try directing those former expenditures to restoring your retirement and rainy-day funds. Work with a financial planner to assess other ways your budgeting may benefit from a fresh take. Every little bit counts!

3. Watch for Fund Distributions. Even as we’ve continued to weather the pandemic storm, our forward-looking, global markets have been delivering relatively strong returns year-to-date for many foreign/U.S. stock funds. That’s good news, but it also means mutual funds’ capital gain distributions may be on the high side this year. Capital gain distributions typically occur in early December, based on the fund’s underlying year-to-date trading activities through October. For funds in your tax-sheltered accounts, the distributions aren’t taxable in the year incurred, but they are for funds held in your taxable accounts.

Our Best-Practice Advice: Taxable distributions aside, staying put to earn all potential market returns is the more important determinant in our buy-and-hold approach. With that said, in your taxable accounts only, if you don’t have compelling reasons to buy into a fund just before its distribution date, you may want to wait until afterward. On the flip side, if you are planning to sell a fund anyway—or you were planning to donate a highly appreciated fund to charity—doing so prior to its distribution date might spare you some taxable gains.

4. Consider Tax Gain Harvesting. Along with relatively strong year-to-date market performance, many Americans are also benefiting from historically lower capital gain and income tax rates that may or may not last. Often, taxpayers view each tax season in isolation, seeking to minimize taxes owed that year. We prefer to view tax planning as a way to reduce your lifetime tax bill. Of course, we can’t know what your future taxes will be. But it can sometimes make good, big-picture sense to intentionally generate taxable income in years when tax rates seem favorable.

Our Best-Practice Advice: If you have “room” to take some taxable capital gains this year—and if it actually makes sense for you to take them—you may want to consider working with your tax planning team to do so. 

5. Seize the Day on Your Charitable Giving. Unlike many other pandemic-inspired tax breaks, several charitable-giving incentives still apply for 2021, but may not moving forward. This includes the ability for single/joint filers to deduct up to $300/$600 in cash contributions to qualified charities, even if they’re already taking the standard deduction on their tax return. If you’re so inclined, you also can still donate up to 100% of your AGI to qualified charities.

Our Best-Practice Advice: Charitable giving remains another timeless tactic for offsetting taxable capital gains you may want or need to report, as well as any other extra taxable income you may be incurring. And charitable organizations need our contributions as sorely as ever. So, if you’re charitably inclined, you may as well make the most of your generosity by pairing it with your 2021 tax planning.

6. Plan Ahead for Estate Planning. Holiday shoppers may not be the only ones facing supply chain shortages this year. Estate planning attorneys, CPAs, and similar planning professionals may also be in shorter supply toward year-end and beyond. In addition to the usual year-end crunch, many such service providers have been extra busy responding to a “COVID estate planning boom,” as well as to the fast-paced action in Washington.

Our Best-Practice Advice: If you’ve been thinking about revisiting your estate or tax planning activities, know that the process may take longer than usual. Especially if you’re planning for changes that are up against a hard deadline (such as year-end or April 15th), you’ll benefit yourself by giving your attorney, accountant, and others the time they need to do their best work for you. High-end estate planning in particular is best approached as a months-long, if not years-long process.

How else can we help you wrap 2021 and position yourself and your wealth for the year ahead? As always, we stand ready to assist!

Cary Facer

Founder and 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.

Have You Heard of the “Mega Backdoor Roth IRA”?

Chances are if you are reading this, you’re already at least somewhat familiar with a Roth IRA. While the contribution limit will vary over time, in 2019 the limit is $6,000, plus an additional $1,000 catch up contribution for individuals over the age of 50. This limit is per individual, allowing married couples to contribute up to a maximum of $12,000-$14,000 depending on their age. Direct contributions to a Roth IRA also have an income phase-out limit that you’ll need to be aware of, which starts at $122,000 for single filers and $193,000 for joint filers.

What if I told you there was a way to contribute to a Roth IRA well beyond these limits, regardless of your income level? At some employers, you can.

The typical “backdoor Roth IRA” is a strategy for individuals to contribute to a Roth IRA that are over the income phase-out limitation for a direct contribution. This can be beneficial for many people, but still caps your contributions at only $6,000 or $7,000 per year. In some cases, your 401(k) may allow the ability to contribute on an “after-tax” basis, which opens up a world of possibilities for additional Roth contributions.

Roth contributions are contributed on an after-tax basis(meaning no current tax deduction), but earnings grow tax-free as long as you meet all the withdrawal eligibility rules set by the IRS. This means you must be at least age 59 ½ and meet the IRS’ “5 year rule” at the time of withdrawal.

An “after-tax” contribution works similar to a Roth contribution, but the taxation differs slightly. A pure after-tax contribution also provides no current tax deduction, but earnings associated with the money grow only tax-deferred and are later taxable at ordinary income rates upon distribution. As you can see, Roth dollars are generally more valuable than pure after-tax dollars.

The good news is, there is a fairly easy way to convert your pure after-tax dollars into Roth dollars so that all earnings grow tax-free. Once you hit the $19,000(plus $6,000 catch up for individuals over the age of 50) annual limit for your pre-tax and/or Roth contributions into your 401(k), you will want to begin contributing on an after-tax basis.

Pure after-tax contributions are not subject to the typical annual contribution limit of $19,000 or $25,000. Instead, they are capped at an overall 401(k) contribution limit of $56,000 or $62,000. This overall limit includes all of your pre-tax, Roth, employer matching, and after-tax contributions combined. In other words, if you make $100,000 per year and are under the age of 50, your pre-tax/Roth contributions are $19,000, your employer match is $6,000, and your maximum after-tax contributions are $31,000. ($56,000 – 19,000 – 6,000 match = $31,000 of remaining after-tax contribution ability). This additional $31,000 could then be rolled into a Roth IRA, allowing for the “mega backdoor Roth” contribution. This means you can potentially get up to $37,000 per year into a Roth IRA!

There is one caveat to this however. When you convert your after-tax contributions to a Roth IRA, any earnings that are associated with the after-tax contributions that enter the Roth IRA will be taxable. If you contributed $10,000 after-tax and that money has since grown to $12,000, you will pay tax on the $2,000 should you put the full $12,000 into the Roth IRA. This can be circumvented by removing only the pure after-tax contributions(basis) and leaving account earnings in the 401(k) account to grow tax-deferred and be withdrawn at a later date. For this reason, the sooner you can get the money from the after-tax 401(k) to the Roth IRA, the sooner your money will be growing for you tax-free. Once the money is in the Roth IRA, you are open to the entire world of investing beyond what is offered in the 401(k) plan. You have the ability to have the money invested in mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, bonds, and with the oversight of professional management should you choose.

This is a great savings strategy for individuals who are looking to increase the amount of their retirement savings and want to do so in a tax-advantaged way. For individuals who have the excess cash flow and budgetary means of doing so, the “mega backdoor Roth” is a no brainer. While this strategy can be complex, once initially set up the ongoing maintenance is minimal. Warren Street Wealth Advisors is here to assist and facilitate after-tax contributions, conversions to Roth accounts, and the underlying investment management. For individuals looking to take advantage of this huge tax savings opportunity, be sure to contact us for help getting this strategy implemented for your situation. Please bear in mind this strategy is only applicable to individuals who are already maximizing their current pre-tax or Roth contributions in the 401(k).

If you have any questions on the strategy or investments and tax planning in general, be sure to reach out and contact us as we are happy to help. As with nearly everything financial planning, specific rules and details will need to be implemented on a case by case basis, so be sure to contact us with the specifics of your case.

Justin D. Rucci, CFP®

Wealth Advisor

Warren Street Wealth Advisors

 

Justin D. Rucci, CFP® is an Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. Investing involves the risk of loss of principal. Justin D. Rucci, CFP® is not a CPA or accountant and the information contained herein is considered for general educational purposes. Please seek a qualified tax opinion or discuss with your financial advisor as nothing in this publication is considered personal actionable advice.

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: https://www.kitces.com/blog/understanding-the-two-5-year-rules-for-roth-ira-contributions-and-conversions/

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, Founding Partner

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.