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Be Empowered: Why Women Should Learn About Finances

Be Empowered: Why Women Should Learn About Finances

Consider this scenario of a couple. Jane is a successful surgeon who makes good money. Her husband, John, comes from an affluent family and has considerable wealth to his name, but all of it is held in a trust. The couple, for many years, lives off Jane’s salary because it’s plenty to cover their living expenses. Life goes on, and this setup works well for the couple for some time.

But then Jane and John get divorced, at which time John makes a claim for alimony. The court views it as a valid claim because the couple has been living on Jane’s earnings all those years. To make matters worse, because of the way that John’s trust is titled, that portion of his wealth is essentially untouchable in the divorce proceedings. Jane is caught completely off guard. She is forced to wonder whether she will have enough wealth to support her vision for retirement while also supporting her children and parents.

 

Far too often, women find themselves in unfortunate financial situations like this, partly due to not having been more prepared or empowered to manage their personal wealth. These situations continue to arise even as women constitute a significant and growing economic force. A recent Boston Consulting Group study found that women control a third of the world’s wealth — about $70 trillion as of 2019 — and are amassing wealth at a faster clip than men, outpacing the growth of the overall global wealth market.1

 

While all women should expect to be solely responsible for their financial well-being at some point in their lifetimes, many women feel underprepared to manage their financial wellness for a variety of reasons.

 

Potential causes of financial under-empowerment

 

 

A key reason that many women may not feel fully engaged in managing their finances might be the origin of the relationships that a male/female couple has with their financial professionals.

 

 

When it comes to married women, relationships with the financial advisor, the attorney and the CPA are often initiated by the husband. Women are often outsiders to these already-formed relationships. This can cause women to feel that they aren’t the top priority, or worse yet, that they aren’t even part of the team.

 

 

Division of labor in the household is another potential issue. Although they often handle the day-to-day financial matters, most married women are not similarly involved in the larger, more macro, financial matters such as financial planning and investing. While division of labor is typical of any household, dividing up financial matters this way might jeopardize the couple’s — and more likely the woman’s — financial future.

 

 

Potential consequences of not being fully engaged

 

 

When women aren’t fully engaged in the larger financial discussions, they run the risk of being isolated from important information and decisions regarding their financial futures. The consequences can be significant, particularly when women find themselves “suddenly single.”

 

 

Life events such as a divorce and the sudden death of a spouse can lead to very difficult situations without the right preparation. For example, a widow may face liquidity or cash-flow challenges that can undermine her ability to maintain her current lifestyle, especially if wealth is tied up in private businesses, real estate or other illiquid assets. Family discord, losing out on a fair share of a business, and hefty legal and tax bills can exacerbate these issues.

 

 

Simply put, individuals — and especially women — can’t afford not to take control of their wealth and financial resources. Thankfully, there are several ways to address this.

 

 

Three steps toward greater financial empowerment

 

1. Establish and build the necessary relationships. It is critical that you know — and are known by — your financial professional and other professionals involved in managing your wealth. This may require a deliberate effort to build or even start a relationship with the financial professional. You can begin by joining the meetings and calls that, in the past, your spouse may have attended alone.

 

It may even make sense to set up individual time with your financial professional for a one-on-one conversation without your spouse present. This isn’t meant as a time for telling secrets or undercutting your spouse, but rather as a safe environment and opportunity to discuss things from your perspective, ask questions on your own terms and get to know your advisor.

 

 

2. Know the fundamentals and ask the right questions. Before you can feel fully engaged about upcoming decisions, you need to understand the fundamentals of your financial plan and investment strategy. This is important for everyone in a financial professional-client relationship, but especially for individuals who may be looking for a way to get up to speed.

 

Women often find themselves in situations where they need to take action to ensure that their financial rights are protected and their obligations and risks are limited appropriately. But they need to feel comfortable to ask questions.

 

Sometimes it is hard to know what questions to ask your financial professional. Start by asking to see an overview of your accounts. Ask the advisor to explain any terms that are unfamiliar to you. Go to the library or go online and take some time to learn the basics and research the right questions to ask.

 

 

3. Normalize the financial conversation. Many women may feel a stigma about discussing financial topics, and “money talk” is often viewed as a social taboo. Unfortunately, this may contribute to a woman’s hesitation to take initiative with financial matters. One way to overcome this stigma is by talking about these issues more regularly. Sharing your experiences with people you trust can help you feel more empowered and ready to engage — and your friends and family members will likely benefit from the conversation, too.

 

 

Women may underestimate the significant and growing economic force that they represent given the massive amount of wealth that will shift to women over the coming decades. Perhaps this is part of the reason that many women feel underprepared to manage their own finances, especially when thrust into more of a leadership role due to the death of a spouse or a divorce. But most women will end up in control of their own finances at some point in life. Now is the time to begin preparing for this role.

 

 

By focusing on building relationships, asking the right questions and normalizing the financial conversation, women can begin to take greater control of their financial futures.

 

 

1. Boston Consulting Group. From 2016 to 2019, women gained wealth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1%, versus 4.1% for men and 4.7% for the overall wealth pool. From 2019 to 2023, women are expected to gain wealth at a CAGR of 7.2%, versus 5.2% for men and 5.8% for the overall wealth market. The global wealth market size is expected to reach $271 trillion by 2023.

Are you on track for retirement?

Making sure you will be ready for retirement can be overwhelming. Funding your retirement accounts over the years is a critical part of your journey to the retirement of your dreams. An experienced Financial Advisor can help you navigate the complexities of investment management. Talk to a Financial Advisor>

Dream. Plan. Do.

Platt Wealth Management offers financial plans to answer your important financial questions. Where are you? Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Our four-step financial planning process is designed to be a road map to get you where you want to go while providing flexibility to adapt to changes along the route. We offer stand alone plans or full wealth management plans that include our investment management services. Give us a call today to set up a complimentary review. 619-255-9554.

Retirement Account Tax Changes for 2021

Retirement Account Tax Changes for 2021

Every year brings new tax rules and updates, so it’s important to take a quick look at retirement tax changes for 2021. Find out about possible tax increases. Manage your tax liability by using your retirement accounts and other tax deductions. 

Tax Changes for Standard Tax Deductions

 

The standard deductions increase slightly due to inflation adjustments, to $12,550 for single filers and $25,100 for married filing jointly. Thanks to the TCJA, you’re still limited to only $10,000 in state and local tax deductions.

While the tax rates remain the same as the previous year, the good news is that the income brackets have been adjusted slightly upward compared to 2020. The top rate of 37% applies to singles making over $523,600 and joint filers with incomes over $628,300. 

Capital gains tax income brackets have also been revised upwards, with 0% tax liability for singles making up to $40,400 and MFJ up to $80,800. The top rate of 20% is levied on singles with an income of $445,850 and joint filers earning at least $501,600.

Similarly, their hasn’t been much tax change to the retirement account and contribution landscape for 2021. Unfortunately, there were no inflation adjustments in contribution amounts to your employer retirement plan compared to last year. 

However, the income levels at which phasing out and eliminating deductible or Roth contributions to an IRA increased slightly for 2021. This increase is good news for anyone who may be interested in allocating funds to an IRA in addition to maximizing their employer plan.

 

Required Minimum Distributions Tax Changes (RMDs)

 

You don’t have to start taking RMDs from a qualified retirement account until the year you turn 72. As a reminder, you’ll have RMDs from your employer retirement plan, including Roth 401(k), but not from your Roth IRA.

You can still delay taking your first distribution until April 15 of the following year, but after that, you must take your RMDs by December 31 each year. If you delay your first year’s RMD, you’ll have two to satisfy the year you turn 73. For that reason, we usually don’t recommend it, but you may have a unique situation in which delaying your first RMD would benefit you tax-wise.

The government waived 2020 RMDs due to the coronavirus. Unless there’s a different announcement, the requirements are back in force for 2021, erasing those tax changes in 2020.

However, you can potentially avoid paying the income taxes on an IRA by using a Qualified Charitable Distribution. Withdrawals from your Traditional IRA up to $100,000 that are contributed to a qualified charity are tax-free. The funds must go directly to the organization without making a pit stop at your bank account along the way, and a QCD can’t be used on a 401(k) or employer plan.

 

IRA contributions and other tax changes

 

If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, you can contribute up to $6,000 in either a Traditional or Roth IRA. There is an additional catch-up of $1,000 for those age 50 and older. While their may not be many tax changes, you can change your contributions if you are not maximizing those now.

If your employer does have a retirement plan, whether or not you choose to take part in it, your ability to make a deductible Traditional IRA contribution or Roth IRA contribution is capped at certain income limits. 

Remember, however, that you can always kick in nondeductible Traditional IRA funds up to the contribution limits. You’ll need to keep good records of what is deductible and what is not for determining the tax status of withdrawals later.

  • Deductible Traditional contributions
    • Begin to phase out at incomes of $66,000 if filing single/$105,000 for married filing jointly (for the person covered by an employer plan).
    • Not allowed at incomes over $76,000 single/$125,000 married filing jointly.
    • Begin to phase out at $198,000 for married filing jointly for the person who is not covered by an employer but whose spouse is) and not allowed above earnings of $208,000.
  • Roth IRA contributions
    • The maximum contribution is permitted for singles whose income is less than $125,000 and those married filing jointly with income less than $198,000.
    • Contributions decline as incomes rise and reach zero for singles making at least $140,000 and couples filing jointly above $208,000.
  • Married filing separate
    • Whether contributing to a Traditional IRA or a Roth, an income of over $10,000 prevents IRA contributions if employer plans cover you.

 

No tax changes on contributions to employer retirement plans (other than SEP/SIMPLE IRAs)

 

If you have a 401(k), 403(b), 457, or Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), your salary deferral contribution limit remains at $19,500. Workers over age 50 can also add a $6,500 catch-up for a total of $26,000.

However, some plans don’t limit you to just the salary deferral and employer match. The total annual 401(k) contribution limit is $58,000 for those under 50 and $64,500 over 50. Potentially, if your plan allows, you can then add after-tax money to your 401(k) plan on top of your match and salary deferral. If you’re unsure, ask HR or the third-party administrator (TPA) on the plan.

We explained in an earlier post how this works, but here’s a shorter version for illustrative purposes. Suppose you’re under age 50, so you set aside the maximum of $19,500. Your employer adds a $2,500 match, so you have contributed a total of $22,000. If the plan allows, potentially, you could add in another $36,000 after-tax, which would grow tax-deferred inside the 401(k). 

After-tax contributions into your employer plan can later be rolled into a Roth IRA, in what’s known as a Backdoor or Mega Roth. Investors who, because of their income, cannot contribute to a Roth IRA may find this technique valuable. So while there are not many tax changes, you can open new accounts or structure your retirement accounts to maximize you tax savings.

 

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

 

While these aren’t technically retirement accounts, you can use HSAs to bolster your nest egg. Unlike flex savings accounts or FSAs, they roll over from year to year. If you don’t use them for medical expenses, you can save them later, and the money grows tax-deferred.

These limits apply to the total contribution; that is, employer + employee, not employee alone. There’s also a slight difference in the $1,000 catch-up provision compared to what you find on retirement plans because the additional allowance is for workers age 55 and older.

  • Self only 
    • $3,600 contribution limit
    • $1,400 minimum deductible
    • $7,000 out-of-pocket maximum
  • Family plan 
    • $7,200 contribution limit
    • $2,800 minimum deductible
    • $14,000 maximum out-of-pocket

Want to talk about how to maximize your tax savings and what accounts you should set up to reduce your tax liability? Feel free to give us a call at (619)255-9554 or send us an email to set up an appointment.

 

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Are you on track for retirement?

Making sure you will be ready for retirement can be overwhelming. Funding your retirement accounts over the years is a critical part of your journey to the retirement of your dreams. An experienced Financial Advisor can help you navigate the complexities of investment management. Talk to a Financial Advisor>

Dream. Plan. Do.

Platt Wealth Management offers financial plans to answer your important financial questions. Where are you? Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Our four-step financial planning process is designed to be a road map to get you where you want to go while providing flexibility to adapt to changes along the route. We offer stand alone plans or full wealth management plans that include our investment management services. Give us a call today to set up a complimentary review. 619-255-9554.

Should I be worried about inflation?

Should I be worried about inflation?

Many investors want to know if there are good reasons now to be worried about inflation. Inflation, which is the trend of prices over time to rise, hasn’t reared its ugly head too much so far in the 21st century. In fact, during the coronavirus pandemic, some sectors experienced deflation instead.

However, some Americans still recall the 1970s, with runaway inflation but without a strong economy (stagflation). Inflation has been less of an issue since Congress added monitoring inflation as part of the Federal Reserve’s mission, in addition to “full” employment.
But as you know, past performance is no guarantee of future results!

 

Why some economists are worried about inflation

To help Americans return to work after the pandemic and keep small businesses afloat, the current administration passed a stimulus bill. Some, though not all, economists are worried that the effects of the stimulus, plus the expected higher performance of the economy in the near future, in addition to continued “loose” monetary policy designed to encourage demand, could cause prices to soar.

You might recall that inflation is often described as “too many dollars chasing too few goods.” The stimulus plus loose money provides more dollars. Yet it remains to be seen whether there will be too few goods.

Rising prices are one thing and not necessarily a problem in and of themselves. The issue is when paychecks don’t grow along with inflation. When consumer grocery bills are more expensive, but their wages have stayed the same, inflation creates a problem that’s both financial and political.

It may be worth noting that in inflation-adjusted terms, workers have about the same purchasing power on average as they did forty years ago, even though productivity has risen. What wage gains we’ve seen are mostly to employees in the top wage tier, according to Pew Research. If wages don’t match inflation, workers will be relatively poorer than they were in the 1970s.

In addition, bond yields have gone up recently, which is often a sign that investors expect inflation. This attitude is often a self-fulfilling prophecy: because investors are concerned about it, inflation starts to rise.

 

Inflation isn’t as simple as it may seem

You’re probably familiar with the term permabear, a person constantly prophesying stock market drops and economic recessions. Similarly, there’s a group of economists who frequently warn of impending inflation, who perhaps should be referred to as permainflators.

Inflation is commonly presumed to increase as employment increases, which is how it worked in the 20th century. However, the US hasn’t experienced inflation during the past few unemployment events, including the Great Recession and the coronavirus pandemic.

Although people generally understand what is meant by inflation, measuring it is a bit trickier. Most models use a “basket” of consumables and calculate the price changes on the basket on an ongoing basis.

One of the more well-known measures is the CPI or Consumer Price Index. It has some quirks, including out-of-pocket medical expenses, but no changes in what Medicare is charged (which would increase the bills for seniors on the plan).

Another issue lies with the quality measurement. When telephone providers began offering unlimited data services, CPI dropped due to the assumption that people would get more for their money. But very few people actually saw their phone bills decrease.

The Fed measures things differently by viewing what businesses are selling through the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) index. This calculation captures behavior changes due to price shifts. For example, it will reflect more people buying oranges when apple prices go up. It also takes Medicare into account when looking at health care expenses.

Core inflation is the term used when food and energy are removed from the baskets. Their prices fluctuate with the weather, oil supply, and other factors that aren’t relevant to inflation.
It’s not at all clear why inflation has remained so low this century, even with fluctuations in employment that would typically increase and decrease it. Also, although inflation, in general, remains low, some sectors such as healthcare and housing have experienced significant increases. Before the pandemic, inflation in services was generally higher than inflation for goods.

 

If inflation has such adverse effects, why are people worried about its opposite, deflation?

Not all inflation is bad. As in medicine, it’s the dose that makes the poison. Note that the Fed’s target is 2% inflation, not zero.

Out-of-control inflation, when wages can’t keep up with rising prices, is problematic. Consumers can’t afford to consume, which means more firms go out of business, employing fewer workers.

On the other hand, a modest amount is an indicator of a good economy. It’s great for homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages, for example. Higher inflation brings with it higher interest rates, which also gives the Fed room to cut rates in a recession.

Decreasing prices may sound good at first, but they’re a signal of a weak economy. Deflation means that debts get more expensive, and that’s bad for nations with a lot of debt. It’s also bad for economies that have workers with a lot of debt too. The US doesn’t need deflation right now.

 

But what if we turn into Argentina? Or Venezuela? Or the US in the 1970s?

Argentina is a country with hyperinflation run amok. Restaurants write their menu prices on stickers to update as their supply of food becomes more expensive. There’s no point in saving in Argentinian pesos. Hyperinflation is a key driver for many Argentinians to enter the cryptocurrency market, to varying degrees of success. Other victims of runaway inflation include Venezuela today and the US fifty years ago.

Can it happen here, to the US in the 21st century? Technically, yes, it’s possible. However, it’s unlikely. The financial system has changed quite a bit since the 1970s. None of the three countries above had a strong central bank (the Fed) dedicated to managing inflation the way it does today, for one thing.

 

Long story short for worries about inflation?

There are both short-term and long-term dynamics in play right now. The pandemic is short-term, and no one knows what will happen when we slowly resume normal activities.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, previously the Federal Reserve chair, has said that employees out of the workforce are a much more significant threat than inflation. That’s why she agrees with spending money on the stimulus.

If inflation starts heating up, today’s Fed has ways to cool it down. Including raising interest rates. Savers would be happy with higher rates since they’d earn more than they currently do.
We can’t say inflation is gone for good. Or that no one needs to worry about inflation at all. But at the same time, it’s unlikely that the US will suddenly be in an Argentina-like situation. Right now, focusing on getting people back to work after the pandemic is a higher priority.

Would you like to discuss how your portfolio will hedge against inflation in the long term? Feel free to give us a call at (619)255-9554 or send us an email to set up an appointment.

    Speak to an Advisor

     

    Would you like to discuss how your portfolio will hedge against inflation in the long term? Feel free to give us a call at (619)255-9554 or send us an email to set up an appointment.

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    Platt Wealth Management is a fee-only advisor helping clients acheive their financial goals. We offer customized financial advice, financial planning and investment management. If you would like to learn more about our services or get in touch for a consultation to review your current portfolio please give us a call. 619.255.9554. We provide stand alone scenario based financial plans for a flat fee, retainer based and assets based investment management or a combination of both for full wealth management services.

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