College Funding Options

You can plan to meet the costs through a variety of methods.

How can you cover your child’s future college costs? Saving early (and often) may be the key for most families. Here are some college savings vehicles to consider.

529 college savings plans. Offered by states and some educational institutions, these plans let you save up to $15,000 per year for your child’s college costs without having to file an I.R.S. gift tax return. A married couple can contribute up to $30,000 per year. (An individual or couple’s annual contribution to a 529 plan cannot exceed the yearly gift tax exclusion set by the Internal Revenue Service.) You can even frontload a 529 plan with up to $75,000 in initial contributions per plan beneficiary – up to five years of gifts in one year – without triggering gift taxes.1,2 529 plans commonly feature equity investment options that you may use to try and grow your college savings. You can even participate in 529 plans offered by other states, which may be advantageous if your student wants to go to college in another part of the country. (More than 30 states offer some form of tax deduction for 529 plan contributions.)1,2

Earnings of 529 plans are exempt from federal tax and generally exempt from state tax when withdrawn, so long as they are used to pay for qualified education expenses of the plan beneficiary. If your child doesn’t want to go to college, you can change the beneficiary to another child in your family. You can even roll over distributions from a 529 plan into another 529 plan established for the same beneficiary (or another family member) without tax consequences.Grandparents can start a 529 plan (or other college savings vehicle) just like parents can. In fact, anyone can set up a 529 plan on behalf of anyone. You can even establish one for yourself.1These plans now have greater flexibility. Thanks to the federal tax reforms passed in 2017, up to $10,000 of 529 plan funds per year may now be used to pay qualified K-12 tuition costs.2,3 

Coverdell ESAs. Single filers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $95,000 or less and joint filers with MAGI of $190,000 or less can pour up to $2,000 annually into these accounts, which typically offer more investment options than 529 plans. (Phase-outs apply above those MAGI levels.) Money saved and invested in a Coverdell ESA can be used for college or K-12 education expenses.3

Contributions to Coverdell ESAs aren’t tax deductible, but the accounts enjoy tax-deferred growth, and withdrawals are tax free, so long as they are used for qualified education expenses. Contributions may be made until the account beneficiary turns 18. The money must be withdrawn when the beneficiary turns 30, or taxes and penalties will occur. Money from a Coverdell ESA may even be rolled over into a 529 plan.3,4

UGMA & UTMA accounts. These all-purpose savings and investment accounts are often used to save for college. They take the form of a trust. When you put money in the trust, you are making an irrevocable gift to your child. You manage the trust assets until your child reaches the age when the trust terminates (i.e., adulthood). At that point, your child can use the UGMA or UTMA funds to pay for college; however, once that age is reached, your child can also use the money to pay for anything else.5

Whole life insurance. If you have a permanent life insurance policy with cash value, you can take a loan from (or even cash out) the policy to meet college costs. Should you fail to repay the loan balance, obviously, the policy’s death benefit will be lower.6,7

Did you know that the value of a life insurance policy is not factored into a student’s financial aid calculation? If only that were true for college savings funds.6

Imagine your child graduating from college, debt free. With the right kind of college planning, that may happen. Contact our PFG Private Wealth Management professionals here to learn about these saving methods and others.

Citations.
1 – irs.gov/newsroom/529-plans-questions-and-answers [2/20/18]
2 – cnbc.com/2017/12/29/tax-bill-529-plan-provision-helps-families-save-on-school-costs-taxes.html [12/29/17]
3 – forbes.com/sites/katiepf/2018/04/13/yes-the-coverdell-esa-still-exists-and-heres-why-you-should-care [4/13/18]
4 – irs.gov/taxtopics/tc310 [3/1/18]
5 – finaid.org/savings/ugma.phtml [5/8/18]
6 – collegemadesimple.com/whole-life-insurance-vs-529-college-savings-plans/ [5/9/18]
7 – marketwatch.com/story/a-529-roth-ira-insurance-whats-best-for-college-savings-2017-03-22 [5/13/17]
PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (“RIA Firm”) is a registered investment adviser located in Tampa, FL. PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC may only transact business in those states in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. 
Accordingly, the publication of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC’s online material should not be construed by any consumer and/or prospective client as PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC’s solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation.
This information is provided for information purposes only.  Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy.  This material and information are not intended to provide investment, tax, or legal advice.
Insurance products and services are offered and sold through Perry Financial Group and individually licensed and appointed insurance agents.
For more information, click here.

Bad Money Habits to Break in 2018

Do bad money habits constrain your financial progress? Many people fall into the same financial behavior patterns year after year. If you sometimes succumb to these financial tendencies, the New Year is as good an occasion as any to alter your behavior.

#1: Lending money to family & friends. You may know someone who has lent a few thousand to a sister or brother, a few hundred to an old buddy, and so on. Generosity is a virtue, but personal loans can easily transform into personal financial losses for the lender. If you must loan money to a friend or family member, mention that you will charge interest and set a repayment plan with deadlines. Better yet, don’t do it at all. If your friends or relatives can’t learn to budget, why should you bail them out?

#2: Spending more than you make. Living beyond your means, living on margin, whatever you wish to call it, it is a path toward significant debt. Wealth is seldom made by buying possessions; today’s flashy material items may become the garage sale junk of 2027. That doesn’t stop people from racking up consumer debts: a 2017 study conducted by NerdWallet determined that the average U.S. household carries $15,654 in credit card debt alone.1

#3: Saving little or nothing. Good savers build emergency funds, have money to invest and compound, and leave the stress of living paycheck-to-paycheck behind. If you can’t put extra money away, there is another way to get some: a second job. Even working 15-20 hours more per week could make a big difference. The problem of saving too little is far too common: at the end of 2017, the Department of Commerce found the U.S. personal savings rate at 2.9%, a low unseen since 2007.2

#4: Living without a budget. You may make enough money that you don’t feel you need to budget. In truth, few of us are really that wealthy. In calculating a budget, you may find opportunities for savings and detect wasteful spending.

#5: Frivolous spending. Advertisers can make us feel as if we have sudden needs; needs we must respond to, needs that can only be met via the purchase of a product. See their ploys for what they are. Think twice before spending impulsively.

#6: Not using cash often enough. No one can deny that the world runs on credit, but that doesn’t mean your household should. Pay with cash as often as your budget allows.

#7: Gambling. Remember when people had to go to Atlantic City or Nevada to play blackjack or slots? Today, behemoth casinos are as common as major airports; most metro areas seem to have one or be within an hour’s drive of one. If you don’t like smoke and crowds, you can always play the lottery. There are many glamorous ways to lose money while having “fun.” The bottom line: losing money is not fun. It takes willpower to stop gambling. If an addiction has overruled your willpower, seek help.

#8: Inadequate financial literacy. Is the financial world boring? To many people, it is. The Wall Street Journal is not exactly Rolling Stone, and The Economist is hardly light reading. You don’t have to start there, however: great, readable, and even entertaining websites filled with useful financial information abound. Reading an article per day on these websites could help you greatly increase your financial understanding if you feel it is lacking.

#9: Not contributing to IRAs or workplace retirement plans. Even with all the complaints about 401(k)s and the low annual limits on traditional and Roth IRA contributions, these retirement savings vehicles offer you remarkable wealth-building opportunities. The earlier you contribute to them, the better; the more you contribute to them, the more compounding of those invested assets you may potentially realize.

#10: Do It Yourself (DIY) retirement planning. Those who plan for retirement without the help of professionals leave themselves open to abrupt, emotional investing mistakes and tax and estate planning oversights. Another common tendency is to vastly underestimate the amount of money needed for the future. Few people have the time to amass the knowledge and skill set possessed by a financial services professional with years of experience. Instead of flirting with trial and error, see a professional for insight.

If you lack a financial plan, contact our trusted PFG Private Wealth financial professionals here to get started. Consulting with a professional may make all the difference.  

 

Citations.
1 -.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2017/12/12/five-things-you-need-to-know-today-and-why-were.html [12/12/17]
2 – reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy/strong-u-s-consumer-business-spending-bolster-growth-picture-idUSKBN1EG1J2 [12/22/17]
PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC (“RIA Firm”) is a registered investment adviser located in Tampa, FL. PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC may only transact business in those states in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. 
Accordingly, the publication of PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC’s online material should not be construed by any consumer and/or prospective client as PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC’s solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation.
This information is provided for information purposes only.  Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy.  This material and information are not intended to provide investment, tax, or legal advice.
Insurance products and services are offered and sold through Perry Financial Group and individually licensed and appointed insurance agents.
For more information, click here.

Why You Want a Retirement Plan in Writing

 

When it comes to retirement, defining a written strategy may help you assess just what you need to do.

Many people save and invest vaguely for the future. They know they need to accumulate money for retirement, but when it comes to how much they will need or how they will do it, they are not quite sure. They will “wing it,” hope for the best, and see how it goes. How do they know they are really contributing enough to their retirement accounts? Would they feel less anxious about the future if they had a written plan?

Make no mistake, a written retirement plan sharpens your focus. It can refine dreams into goals and express a strategy to pursue them. According to a Charles Schwab study, just 24% of Americans plan their financial futures according to a written strategy. Here is why you should join their ranks, if you are not yet among them.1,2

You can figure out the “when” of retirement planning. When do you think you will retire and start drawing income from your taxable and tax-advantaged accounts? At what age do you anticipate you will start to collect Social Security? How long do you think you will live? No, you cannot precisely know the answers to these questions at this point – but you can make reasonable assumptions. Your assumptions may be altered, it is true – but a good retirement plan is an evolving document, one that can be revised with changing times.

You can set a target monthly or annual savings rate. Once you have considered some of the “whens,” you can move on to “how.” Assuming a conservative rate of return on your invested assets, you can specify how much to defer into retirement accounts.

You can decide on a risk tolerance and an investment mix that agrees with it. Ultimately, you will invest in a way that a) makes sense for your objectives and b) makes you comfortable. The investment mix that you decide on today may not be the one you will favor ten years from now or even three years from now. Regular portfolio reviews should complement the stated investment approach.

You can think about ways to get more retirement income instead of less. Tax reduction should be part of your retirement strategy. Think about the possibility of part of your Social Security income being taxed. Think about tax on your Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRAs and employee retirement plan. What could you do to manage, or even minimize, the income and capital gains taxes ahead of you?

You can tackle the medical expense question. That is, how will you fund the medical care that you will inevitably need to greater or lesser degree someday? Should you assign part of your savings to a special account or form of insurance for that purpose? Retiring before 65 may mean paying for some private health insurance in the years before Medicare eligibility.

You can think about your legacy. While a retirement plan should not be equated with an estate plan, the very fact of planning for your later years does make you think about some things: where you want your money to go when you are gone; your endgame for your company or professional practice; whether part of your accumulated wealth should go to causes or charities.

A written plan promotes confidence and a degree of control. A 2017 Wells Fargo/Gallup survey determined that those with written retirement plans were nearly twice as confident of having sufficient retirement income in the future, compared to those with no written plan.3

If you lack a written retirement plan, contact our trusted PFG Private Wealth financial professionals here to get started. Writing it all down may make a difference in planning for your second act.  


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.  

Investment advisory services offered through PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. 

Citations.
1 – kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T023-C032-S014-do-you-have-a-written-financial-plan.html [10/25/17]
2 – aboutschwab.com/images/uploads/inline/Charles_Schwab-Modern_Wealth_Index-findings_deck.pdf [6/17]
3 – time.com/money/4860595/how-to-retire-wealthy/ [7/18/17]

News by the Numbers

Five noteworthy figures from the previous week

$60 billion
The amount of Chinese imports to the U.S. that may soon face tariffs.

Following up on the newly imposed excise taxes for imported aluminum and steel, the Trump administration plans a second round of taxes on as much as $60 billion worth of Chinese goods heading to the U.S. The list of specific products subject to the tariffs may not be finalized until May.

Source: Washington Post

 

3
Consecutive months that new home sales have fallen.

Economists surveyed by Reuters expected a 4.4% rise in sales for February, not the 0.6% decline that the Census Bureau announced Friday. At $326,800, the median price of a new home last month was 9.7% higher than it was a year earlier.

Source: Reuters

 

197,000
Net monthly job growth since the Federal Reserve began tightening at the end of 2015.

The central bank has gradually increased the benchmark interest rate with the belief that the economy is strong enough to tolerate such policy change. The economic gains recorded since then have affirmed the Fed’s view.

Source: New York Times

 

62%
The percentage of Americans unaware that the Fed raised interest rates in 2017.

Conducting a survey on behalf of personal finance website NerdWallet, the Harris Poll garnered this result; they surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults who were at least 18 years old.

Source: Detroit Free Press

 

4.75%
The new prime lending rate at most major banks.

This was 4.5% prior to last week’s Federal Reserve interest rate move. The prime loan rate rises or falls in step with changes in the federal funds rate, and it is the base rate that banks use to set interest rates on short-term commercial and consumer loans.

Source: Business Insider

 

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: 529 Plans Expanded

In December 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax-cut package, became law. College students and their parents dodged a major bullet with the legislation, as initial drafts of the bill included the elimination of Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the student loan interest deduction. Also on the table in early drafts of the bill was the taxation of tuition waivers, which are used primarily by graduate students and employees of higher-education institutions. In the end, none of these provisions made it into the final legislation. What did make the final cut was the expanded use of 529 plans.

Expansion of 529 plans to allow K-12 expenses

Under the new law, the definition of a 529 plan “qualified education expense” has been expanded to include K-12 expenses. Starting in 2018, annual withdrawals of up to $10,000 per student can be made from a 529 college savings plan account for tuition expenses in connection with enrollment at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school (excluding home schooling). Such withdrawals are now tax-free at the federal level.

At the state level, roughly 20 states and the District of Columbia automatically update their state legislation to align with federal 529 legislation, but the remaining states will need to take legislative action to include K-12 expenses as a qualified education expense and, if applicable, extend other state tax benefits to K-12 expenses; for example a deduction for K-12 contributions.

529 account owners who are interested in making K-12 contributions or withdrawals should understand their state’s rules regarding how K-12 funds will be treated for tax purposes. In addition, account owners should check with the 529 plan administrator to determine whether a K-12 withdrawal request should be made payable to the account owner, the beneficiary, or the K-12 institution. It’s likely that 529 plans will further refine their rules to accommodate the K-12 expansion and communicate these rules to existing account owners.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the new 529 Plan provisions.

 

PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser.  Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities product, service or investment strategy.  Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.