Michele Clark
Clark Hourly Financial Planning - Chesterfield, MO Advisor
1415 Elbridge Payne Road, Suite 255
Chesterfield, MO 63017 USA
Work 636.264.0732
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Coffee with Michele and Friends February 2017

February 1st, 2017

Come to the Community Room at Kaldi’s in Chesterfield with your financial planning and life and disability insurance questions and enjoy a cup of coffee with CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional Michele Clark and David Walsh Investment Advisor Representative.

There is no prepared presentation, just a casual conversation in a small group environment; your opportunity to pick our brains.  Feel free to invite family or friends who could benefit from an hour with us.  Open to registered attendees only, due to the size of the room.  RSVP at our website Clark Hourly Financial Planning and Investment Management RSVP or call 636-264-0732.

During tax season, Jan will be tending to her tax clients so I will be inviting a variety of other professionals to sit in with me during my coffee events. You may have questions about how features on old cash value life insurance policies work or how to think through how much life insurance you really should have.  Or questions about disability insurance when you have a large portion of your income from variable compensation. Or you might have a special needs child or grandchild and need to learn how to provide care for their lifetime.

Or maybe you just really like pastries and coffee.  We would love to see you.

Financial Planning and Life and Disability Insurance Questions Answered

Coffee with Michele and Friends
Kaldi’s Coffee Chesterfield
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
10:30 am to 11:30 am

RSVP Information

RSVP at our website Clark Hourly Financial Planning and Investment Management RSVP or call 636-264-0732.

Kaldi’s Coffee Chesterfield address and map

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Financial Records: What to Keep, Where to Keep, and How Long

February 1st, 2017

Keeping your financial records organized is an important part of managing your personal finances.  Whether it’s a paid personal property tax receipt or a W-2 to correct a conflict with Social Security records, there may be times when you need to locate a financial record or document–and you’ll need to locate it quickly.

By taking the time to declutter and organize your financial records, you’ll be able to find what you need when you need it.

What financial documents should you keep?

If you tend to keep stuff because you “might need it someday,” your desk or home office is probably overflowing with nonessential documents. One of the first steps in determining what records to keep is to ask yourself, “Why do I need to keep this?”

Documents you should keep are likely to be those that are difficult to obtain, such as:

  • Tax returns
  • Legal contracts
  • Insurance claims
  • Proof of identity

On the other hand, if you have documents and records that are easily duplicated elsewhere, such as online phone bills and credit-card statements, you probably do not need to keep paper copies of the same information.

How long should you keep your financial records?

Generally, a good rule of thumb is to keep financial records and documents only as long as necessary. For example, you may want to keep ATM and credit-card receipts only temporarily, until you’ve reconciled them with your bank and/or credit-card statement. On the other hand, if a document is legal in nature and/or difficult to replace, you’ll want to keep it for a longer period or even indefinitely.

Some financial records may have more specific timetables. For example, the IRS generally recommends that taxpayers keep federal tax returns and supporting documents for a minimum of three years up to seven years after the date of filing. Certain circumstances may even warrant keeping your tax records indefinitely.

Keep in mind that if you purchased an investment in a taxable account, you will need to have proof of what you paid for that investment, including reinvested capital gains and dividends. The investment companies are required to supply that information for purchases as of January 2012 and after. Before that date they may or may not have it. Do not throw away old investment statements and confirmations of trades before that date for taxable accounts.

Listed below are some recommendations on how long to keep specific documents:

Records to keep for one year or less:

  • Bank or credit union statements (that do not contain information used for tax returns)
  • Credit-card statements (that do not contain information used for tax returns)
  • Utility bills

Records to keep for more than a year:

  • Tax returns and supporting documentation
  • Mortgage contracts
  • Property appraisals
  • Annual retirement and investment statements
  • Receipts for major purchases and home improvements

Records to keep indefinitely:

  • Birth, death, and marriage certificates
  • Adoption records
  • Citizenship and military discharge papers
  • Social Security card

Keep in mind that the above recommendations are general guidelines, and your personal circumstances may warrant keeping these documents for shorter or longer periods of time.

Out with the old, in with the new

An easy way to prevent paperwork from piling up is to remember the phrase “out with the old, in with the new.” For example, when you receive this year’s auto insurance policy, discard the one from last year. In addition, review your files at least once a year to keep your filing system on the right track.

Finally, when you are ready to get rid of certain records and documents, don’t just throw them in the garbage. To protect sensitive information, you should invest in a good quality cross cut shredder to destroy your documents, especially if they contain Social Security numbers, account numbers, or other personal information.

Additionally, you should verify information in your documents, for example pull your credit report and verify that the information contained in it is correct compared to your other documents such as credit card statements. When you look at your Social Security Benefit Statement annually, verify that the earnings history is correct versus your W-2 information.

Where should you keep your financial records?

You could go the traditional route and use a simple set of labeled folders in a file drawer. More important documents should be kept in a fire-resistant file cabinet, safe, or safe-deposit box.

If space is tight and you need to reduce clutter, you might consider electronic storage for some of your financial records. You can save copies of online documents or scan documents and convert them to electronic form. You’ll want to keep backup copies on a portable storage device or hard drive and make sure that your computer files are secure.

You could also use a cloud storage service that encrypts your uploaded information and stores it remotely. If you use cloud storage, make sure to use a reliable company that has a good reputation and offers automatic backup and technical support.

Once you’ve found a place to keep your records, it may be helpful to organize and store them according to specific categories (e.g., banking, insurance, proof of identity), which will make it even easier to access what you might need.

Please note that if you have elected electronic statements with your investment firms, they send you an email notice that your statement has been created and the electronic version is ready for download. They are expecting you to pull up your statement and print it or save an electronic version. Brokerage firms will make an electronic version available to you for a certain period of time ranging from a few years to ten years depending on the firm. After that period they will not have the statement for you. Keep in mind that for taxable investments they were not required to keep track of cost basis information before 2012, although some did.

Tax Preparation Documents

Consider creating a central location to collect the documents, such as 1099s and W-2, needed to prepare your tax return so that as they arrive at the beginning of the year you have one place to collect them, making the task of tax preparation easier. This location can be used throughout the year to collect copies of receipts for donations and major home improvements.

Consider creating a personal document locator

Another option for organizing your financial records is to create a personal document locator, which is simply a detailed list of where you have stored your financial records. This list can be helpful whenever you are trying to locate a specific document and can also assist your loved ones in locating your financial records in the event of an emergency. Typically, a personal document locator, kept in a very secure location, will include the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Personal contacts (e.g., attorney, tax preparer, financial advisor)
  • Online accounts with username and passwords
  • List of specific locations of important documents (e.g., home, office, safe)

Keeping your financial records organized will reap long term rewards in time saved and peace of mind for years to come.

Portions of this blog post are from an article prepared by Broadridge Investor Communications Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2017  But, I just had to add my own two cents!

 

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Tax Planning Ideas for Year End 2016

December 20th, 2016

December 31, the window of opportunity for many tax-saving moves closes.  So it’s important to evaluate your tax situation now, while there’s still time to affect your bottom line for the 2016 tax year.

Timing is everything

Consider any opportunities you have to defer income to 2017. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus, or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may allow you to postpone paying tax on the income until next year. If there’s a chance that you’ll be in a lower income tax bracket next year, deferring income could mean paying less tax on the income as well.

Similarly, consider ways to accelerate deductions into 2016. If you itemize deductions, you might accelerate some deductible expenses like medical expenses, qualifying interest, or state and local taxes by making payments before year-end. Or you might consider making next year’s charitable contribution this year instead.

Sometimes, however, it may make sense to take the opposite approach — accelerating income into 2016 and postponing deductible expenses to 2017. That might be the case, for example, if you can project that you’ll be in a higher tax bracket in 2017; paying taxes this year instead of next might be outweighed by the fact that the income would be taxed at a higher rate next year.

Factor in the AMT

Make sure that you factor in the alternative minimum tax (AMT). If you’re subject to the AMT, traditional year-end maneuvers, like deferring income and accelerating deductions, can have a negative effect. That’s because the AMT — essentially a separate, parallel income tax with its own rates and rules — effectively disallows a number of itemized deductions. For example, if you’re subject to the AMT in 2016, prepaying 2017 state and local taxes won’t help your 2016 tax situation, but could hurt your 2017 bottom line.

Special concerns for higher-income individuals

The top marginal tax rate (39.6%) applies if your taxable income exceeds $415,050 in 2016 ($466,950 if married filing jointly, $233,475 if married filing separately, $441,000 if head of household). And if your taxable income places you in the top 39.6% tax bracket, a maximum 20% tax rate on long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends also generally applies (individuals with lower taxable incomes are generally subject to a top rate of 15%).

If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is more than $259,400 ($311,300 if married filing jointly, $155,650 if married filing separately, $285,350 if head of household), your personal and dependency exemptions may be phased out for 2016 and your itemized deductions may be limited. If your AGI is above this threshold, be sure you understand the impact before accelerating or deferring deductible expenses.

Additionally, a 3.8% net investment income tax (unearned income Medicare contribution tax) may apply to some or all of your net investment income if your modified AGI exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly, $125,000 if married filing separately).

High-income individuals are subject to an additional 0.9% Medicare (hospital insurance) payroll tax on wages exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly or $125,000 if married filing separately).

IRAs and retirement plans

Take full advantage of tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicles. Traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k) plans allow you to contribute funds on a deductible (if you qualify) or pre-tax basis, reducing your 2016 taxable income. Contributions to a Roth IRA (assuming you meet the income requirements) or a Roth 401(k) aren’t deductible or made with pre-tax dollars, so there’s no tax benefit for 2016, but qualified Roth distributions are completely free from federal income tax, which can make these retirement savings vehicles appealing.

For 2016, you can contribute up to $18,000 to a 401(k) plan ($24,000 if you’re age 50 or older) and up to $5,500 to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older). The window to make 2016 contributions to an employer plan typically closes at the end of the year, while you generally have until the April tax return filing deadline to make 2016 IRA contributions.

Roth conversions

Year-end is a good time to evaluate whether it makes sense to convert a tax-deferred savings vehicle like a traditional IRA or a 401(k) account to a Roth account. When you convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, or a traditional 401(k) account to a Roth 401(k) account, the converted funds are generally subject to federal income tax in the year that you make the conversion (except to the extent that the funds represent nondeductible after-tax contributions). If a Roth conversion does make sense, you’ll want to give some thought to the timing of the conversion. For example, if you believe that you’ll be in a better tax situation this year than next (e.g., you would pay tax on the converted funds at a lower rate this year), you might think about acting now rather than waiting. (Whether a Roth conversion is appropriate for you depends on many factors, including your current and projected future income tax rates.)

If you convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA and it turns out to be the wrong decision (things don’t go the way you planned and you realize that you would have been better off waiting to convert), you can recharacterize (i.e., “undo”) the conversion. You’ll generally have until October 16, 2017, to recharacterize a 2016 Roth IRA conversion — effectively treating the conversion as if it never happened for federal income tax purposes. You can’t undo an in-plan Roth 401(k) conversion, however.

Changes to note

If you didn’t have qualifying health insurance coverage in 2016, you are generally responsible for the “individual shared responsibility payment” (unless you qualified for an exemption). The maximum individual shared responsibility payment for 2016 increased to 2.5% of household income with a family maximum of $2,085 for 2016, up from 2% of household income for 2015. After 2016, the individual shared responsibility payment will be based on the 2016 dollar amounts, adjusted for inflation.

Since 2013, individuals who itemize deductions on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040 have been able to deduct unreimbursed medical expenses to the extent that the total expenses exceed 10% of AGI. However, a lower 7.5% AGI threshold has applied to those age 65 or older (the lower threshold applied if either you or your spouse turned age 65 before the end of the taxable year). Starting in 2017, the 10% threshold will apply to all individuals, regardless of age. This is something that you may want to factor in if you’re considering accelerating (or delaying) deductible medical expenses.

Expiring provisions

Legislation signed into law in December 2015 retroactively extended a host of popular tax provisions — frequently referred to as “tax extenders” — that had already expired. Many of the tax extender provisions were made permanent, but others were only temporarily extended. The following provisions are among those scheduled to expire at the end of 2016.

  • Above-the-line deduction for qualified higher-education expenses
  • Ability to deduct qualified mortgage insurance premiums as deductible interest on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040
  • Ability to exclude from income amounts resulting from the forgiveness of debt on a qualified principal residence
  • Nonbusiness energy property credit, which allowed individuals to offset some of the cost of energy-efficient qualified home improvements (subject to a $500 lifetime cap)

Talk to a professional

When it comes to year-end tax planning, there’s always a lot to think about. A tax professional can help you evaluate your situation, keep you apprised of any legislative changes, and determine whether any year-end moves make sense for you.

Article Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016

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Coffee with Michele and Jan December 2016

November 9th, 2016

Come to the Community Room at Kaldi’s in Chesterfield with your financial planning and tax questions and enjoy a cup of coffee with CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional Michele Clark and Jan Roberg Enrolled Agent.

There is no prepared presentation, just a casual conversation in a small group environment; your opportunity to pick our brains.  Feel free to invite family or friends who could benefit from an hour with us.  Open to registered attendees only, due to the size of the room.

Financial Planning and Tax Questions Answered

Coffee with Michele and Jan
Kaldi’s Coffee Chesterfield
Wednesday December 7, 2016
10:30 am to 11:30 am

RSVP Information

RSVP online Clark Hourly Financial Planning and Investment Management RSVP or call 636-264-0732.  Space is limited.

Kaldi’s Coffee Chesterfield address and map

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2017 IRA and Retirement Plan Limits Announced

November 8th, 2016

The 2017 figures have been announced for IRA and employer plan contribution limits.

IRA contribution limits

  • The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA in 2017 is $5,500 (or 100% of your earned income, which ever is less), unchanged from 2016.
  • The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older remains at $1,000. (You can contribute to both a traditional and Roth IRA in 2017, but your total contributions can’t exceed these annual limits.)

Traditional IRA deduction limits for 2017

The income limits for determining the deductibility of traditional IRA contributions in 2017 have increased.

  • If your filing status is single or head of household, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution up to $5,500 in 2017 if your MAGI is $62,000 or less (up from $61,000 in 2016).
  • If you’re married and filing a joint return, you can fully deduct up to $5,500 in 2017 if your MAGI is $99,000 or less (up from $98,000 in 2016).
  • And if you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, and you file a joint return, you can fully deduct up to $5,500 in 2017 if your MAGI is $186,000 or less (up from $184,000 in 2016).
If your 2017 federal income tax filing status is: Your IRA deduction is limited if your MAGI is between: Your deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household $62,000 and $72,000 $72,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)* $99,000 and $119,000 (combined) $119,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately $0 and $10,000 $10,000 or more

*If you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your MAGI is $186,000 to $196,000, and eliminated if your MAGI exceeds $196,000.

Roth IRA contribution limits for 2017

The income limits for determining how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA have also increased for 2017.

  • If your filing status is single or head of household, you can contribute the full $5,500 to a Roth IRA in 2017 if your MAGI is $118,000 or less (up from $117,000 in 2016).
  • And if you’re married and filing a joint return, you can make a full contribution in 2017 if your MAGI is $186,000 or less (up from $184,000 in 2016). (Again, contributions can’t exceed 100% of your earned income.)
If your 2017 federal income tax filing status is: Your Roth IRA contribution is limited if your MAGI is: You cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household More than $118,000 but less than $133,000 $133,000 or more
Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) More than $186,000 but less than $196,000 (combined) $196,000 or more (combined)
Married filing separately More than $0 but less than $10,000 $10,000 or more

Employer retirement plans

  • Most of the significant employer retirement plan limits for 2017 remain unchanged from 2016.
  • The maximum amount you can contribute (your “elective deferrals”) to a 401(k) plan in 2017 is $18,000. This limit also applies to 403(b), 457(b), and SAR-SEP plans, as well as the Federal Thrift Plan.
  • If you’re age 50 or older, you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 to these plans in 2017. [Special catch-up limits apply to certain participants in 403(b) and 457(b) plans.]
  • If you participate in more than one retirement plan, your total elective deferrals can’t exceed the annual limit ($18,000 in 2017 plus any applicable catch-up contribution). Deferrals to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, SIMPLE plans, and SAR-SEPs are included in this aggregate limit, but deferrals to Section 457(b) plans are not. For example, if you participate in both a 403(b) plan and a 457(b) plan, you can defer the full dollar limit to each plan—a total of $36,000 in 2017 (plus any catch-up contributions).
  • The amount you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) plan in 2017 is $12,500, and the catch-up limit for those age 50 or older remains at $3,000.
Plan type: Annual dollar limit: Catch-up limit:
401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b), SAR-SEP, Federal Thrift Plan $18,000 $6,000
SIMPLE plans $12,500 $3,000

Note: Contributions can’t exceed 100% of your income.

  • The maximum amount that can be allocated to your account in a defined contribution plan [for example, a 401(k) plan or profit-sharing plan] in 2017 is $54,000, up from $53,000 in 2016, plus age 50 catch-up contributions. (This includes both your contributions and your employer’s contributions. Special rules apply if your employer sponsors more than one retirement plan.)
  • Finally, the maximum amount of compensation that can be taken into account in determining benefits for most plans in 2017 is $270,000 (up from $265,000 in 2016), and the dollar threshold for determining highly compensated employees (when 2017 is the look-back year) is $120,000, unchanged from 2016.

Based on an article Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016

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All written content on this site is for information purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of Clark Hourly Financial Planning, LLC, unless otherwise specifically cited. Material presented is believed to be from reliable sources and no representations are made by our firm as to another parties' informational accuracy or completeness. All information or ideas provided should be discussed in detail with an adviser, accountant or legal counsel prior to implementation.

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