In Perspectives

With the holiday season kicking off and 2019 drawing to a close, the Crestwood team is working hard reviewing client portfolios and financial plans to help ensure our clients are well-positioned for the coming year.

With the benefit of our expertise, here are 10 opportunities we would encourage everyone to consider, to help make sure they’re ready to head into 2020 feeling confident about their financial health: 

  1. Review 401k and IRA contributions. Maximizing the amount you contribute takes full advantage of available tax deductions and employer matching contributions. Check your asset allocation and investment selection.  In 2019, the maximum 401k contribution is $19,000.  Savers age 50 and older have an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution.  The maximum IRA contribution is $6,000.  Age 50 and older an additional $1,000.     
  2. Take your Required Minimum Distribution. If you don’t take your RMD from accounts that require it, you could be subject to penalties and taxes.
  3. Consider opportunities to maximize charitable donations.  The 2018 Tax Act doubled the standard deduction and imposed a new $10,000 cap on state, local, and property taxes (SALT). Fewer taxpayers benefit from itemizing their tax deductions, which includes cash gifts to qualified charities. Due to these changes, several strategies have become viable to help ensure charitably inclined individuals still get a tax benefit from their gifts.  Consider these options rather than cash:
    1. Funding a charitable gift fund and ‘bunch’ donations for several years in one tax year to reap the additional tax benefit when you exceed the standard deduction and itemize on your tax return.  
    2. Donating appreciated securities instead of cash.
    3. Gifting from your retirement accounts to meet required minimum distributions (QCD) and avoid income taxes.
  4. Review tax losses.  Consider harvesting losses or gains depending on your tax profile.
  5. Consider a Roth conversion. If you’re unable to contribute to a Roth IRA directly because you don’t qualify, you may benefit from contributing to a Traditional IRA, then converting the funds to a Roth IRA.  Alternatively, if you anticipate benefitting from a lower tax bracket this year this could be an opportunity to convert pre-tax retirement savings to a Roth.
  6. Check your Health Savings Account (HSA) to confirm you have maximized your contributions for 2020.  Also, if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) review your remaining balance. If your employer plan does not allow rolling money over into the next year, make sure you spend the balance on qualified expenses so you don’t lose out.
  7. Review current tax withholdings and consider making an estimated tax payment if needed.  The new tax law went in effect in 2018 and the withholding tables have changed.  To avoid an underpayment penalty, taxpayers generally need to pay at least 90% of the total tax owed for the year or 110% of last year’s tax liability (if their adjusted gross income is over $150,000).
  8. Consider timing of anticipated 529 withdrawals as calendar year qualified expenses must align to calendar year 529 plan withdrawals.  Many colleges have bills due in December or January.
  9. Consider refinancing mortgages or student loans.  Check your rates against current lending rates as interest rates have fallen this year.
  10. Order a free credit report each year from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to confirm your credit score doesn’t offer any surprises. You can do so for free through annualcreditreport.com.

At Crestwood, we make it a priority to address these issues with our clients throughout the year.  However, we recognize that clients’ circumstances are constantly evolving and it’s worth double-checking any last-minute to-dos.  

If you’re feeling worried about the work ahead of you and tempted to set aside your checklist until the last week of December, please don’t! Many year-end planning opportunities have firm deadlines and acting now can help ensure you don’t miss opportunities. 

Please contact us if you have any questions about your current circumstances.  We welcome the opportunity to speak with you and review any open items together.  

The information provided above is general in nature and is not intended to represent specific investment or professional advice. No client or prospective client should assume that the above information serves as the receipt of, or a substitute for, personalized individual advice from Crestwood Advisors Group, LLC which can only be provided through a formal advisory relationship.

Clients of the firm who have specific questions should contact their Wealth Manager. All other inquiries, including a potential advisory relationship, should be directed to info@crestwoodadvisors.com.

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