Does your vision of retirement align with the facts? Here are some noteworthy financial and lifestyle facts about life after 50 that might surprise you.
Up to 85% of a retiree’s Social Security income can be taxed. Some retirees are taken aback when they discover this. In addition to the Internal Revenue Service, 13 states levy taxes on some or all Social Security retirement benefits: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia. (It is worth mentioning that the I.R.S. offers free tax advice to people 60 and older through its Tax Counseling for the Elderly program.)
Retirees get a slightly larger standard deduction on their federal taxes. Actually, this is true for all taxpayers aged 65 and older, whether they are retired or not. Right now, the standard deduction for an individual taxpayer in this age bracket is $13,600, compared to $12,000 for those 64 or younger.
Retirees can still use IRAs to save for retirement. There is no age limit for contributing to a Roth IRA, just an inflation-adjusted income limit. So, a retiree can keep directing money into a Roth IRA for life, provided they are not earning too much. In fact, a senior can potentially contribute to a traditional IRA until the year they turn 70½.
A significant percentage of retirees are carrying education and mortgage debt. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau says that throughout the U.S., the population of borrowers aged 60 and older who have outstanding student loans grew by at least 20% in every state between 2012 and 2017. In more than half of the 50 states, the increase was 45% or greater. Generations ago, seniors who lived in a home often owned it, free and clear; in this decade, that has not always been so. The Federal Reserve’s recent Survey of Consumer Finance found that more than a third of those aged 65-74 have outstanding home loans; nearly a quarter of Americans who are 75 and older are in the same situation.
As retirement continues, seniors become less credit dependent. GoBankingRates says that only slightly more than a quarter of Americans over age 75 have any credit card debt, compared to 42% of those aged 65-74.
About one in three seniors who live independently also live alone. In fact, the Institute on Aging notes that nearly half of women older than age 75 are on their own. Compared to male seniors, female seniors are nearly twice as likely to live without a spouse, partner, family member, or roommate.
Around 64% of women say that they have no “Plan B” if forced to retire early. That is, they would have to completely readjust and reassess their vision of retirement, and redetermine their sources of retirement income. The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies learned this from its latest survey of more than 6,300 U.S. workers.
Few older Americans budget for travel expenses. While retirees certainly love to travel, Merril Lynch found that roughly two-thirds of people aged 50 and older admitted that they had never earmarked funds for their trips, and only 10% said they had planned their vacations extensively.
What financial facts should you consider as you retire? What monetary realities might you need to acknowledge as your retirement progresses from one phase to the next? The reality of retirement may surprise you. If you have not met with a financial professional about your retirement savings and income needs, you may wish to do so. When it comes to retirement, the more information you have, the better.
We hope you had a wonderful holiday season. Whether you reached your personal goals in 2018, faced challenges, or are looking for a 2019 reboot, let's take a moment to hit on the key themes from the past year.
Flashback. Before we get started, let's reflect back one year ago as we left 2017 and began 2018. To jog your memory, 2017 was an excellent year for stock markets. In the U.S., the S&P 500 had increased more than 19% and global markets fared even better. Perhaps the most remarkable element of the 2017 stock market though was the unprecedented lack of volatility. The entire year, at no point did the S&P 500 have an intra-year drop of more than 2.8%.
To give you some perspective on this, between 1998-2017, the average intra-year stock market pullback was 15.6% (Charles Schwab, Investing Insights, Oct. 2018).
Volatility Strikes Back. So January 2018 began on a firm footing, building on highs in the wake of tax reform, low interest rates, low inflation and strong corporate profit growth. If stocks rise or fall on the fundamentals (and they usually do), the outlook was quite favorable as the year began.
However, while we will always believe no one can consistently time the peaks and valleys of the market, when there’s too much good news priced into stocks, any disappointment can create volatility.
A spike in Treasury bond yields tripped up bullish sentiment early in 2018. President Trump’s decision to level the playing field of international trade created uncertainty in the first half. Then, investors decided trade wasn’t important—until they decided late in the year that it was.
Another bout of selling began in October and the decline accelerated in December. Several factors contributed to the weakness, including fears that continued rate hikes by the Fed might stifle economic activity in 2019 and quash profit growth.
We’re also experiencing heightened uncertainty brought on by the ongoing trade war with China. In addition, key tech stocks (in particular, the FANG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) that had been market leaders for several years lost their mojo and pulled on the major averages.
As the year came to a close, the peak-to-trough decline in the S&P 500 Index totaled 19.8% (St. Louis Federal Reserve thru 12.24.18). We exceeded the long-term average annual peak-to-trough drawdown by 4 percentage points. Still, we’re just shy of the 20% threshold, which is the commonly accepted definition of a bear market.
If Christmas Eve marks the bottom of the sell-off, it won’t be the first time we’ve had a steep correction that side-stepped a bear market. We witnessed similar declines in 2011 and 1998. In both cases, a profit-crushing recession was avoided.
But let us offer a little bit of perspective. The Q4 (quarter four) decline may have been unsettling. Nevertheless, the total decline in the S&P 500, including reinvested dividends, amounted to just over 4% (S&P Dow Jones Indexes) for calendar year 2018.
Overseas stocks fared quite a bit worse, as the global economy shifted into a lower gear earlier in the year, and trade tensions, which are more likely to rattle foreign economies, added to woes.
Many in their 20s and 30s don't even blink at a stock market decline. In fact, these can be some of the best times for younger investors (and if you have more than 10 years before retirement, we'd classify you as a younger investor) to be scooping up more shares at discounted prices.
Take note of this if you fit that description and consider your mindset. If you're still decades out from retirement and maintain a long-term time horizon, the near bear market declines we've recently seen shouldn't scare you, they should excite you. This is especially true if you have 401(k) and Roth IRA contributions on autopilot. By purchasing shares at a fixed interval every month, you take advantage of a strategy called dollar-cost averaging, which allows you to purchase a greater number of shares over time.
As we age though, we can't take such a sanguine view, and a more conservative mix of investments becomes paramount. Though we are unlikely to match major market indexes on the way up, we can still anticipate longer-term appreciation and sleep at night when the unpredictable market sell-offs materialize.
The same can be said of accounts that hold college savings, especially if the beneficiary is in college and doesn’t have the time to recover from a sharp dip in stocks. For those in the most conservative portfolios, the drop in the major market averages had little impact on your overall net worth.
Our recommendations are based on many different factors, including risk aversion. It’s rarely profitable to make decisions based on current market sentiment (i.e., panic selling or euphoria that sends us chasing the latest trends).
What’s in store for 2019
While 2018 began with unbridled optimism, caution quickly entered the picture and most major U.S. indexes had their first downturn since 2008.
In 2019, we have the mirror image. There is no shortage of cautious sentiment. But the fragrance that’s in the air today doesn’t always determine market direction throughout the year. As we’ve seen, markets can be unpredictable as investors try to anticipate events that may impact the economy and corporate profits.
Discerning Market Trends. We've always found it interesting that some analysts hope to discern trends from various calendar-like indicators. We’ve just entered a new year, and typically the so-called January barometer gets some play in that arena. Loosely defined, some say that how January performs sets the tone for the rest of the year.
Of course, if stocks perform well in January, the bulls already have a leg up on the bears. Throw in reinvested dividends and a natural upward bias in stocks, and it helps explain why a positive January usually results in a positive year.
But, that wasn’t the case for 2018. And by the same token, 2016’s weak start didn’t carry over into the rest of the year.
Then, there was this October 4th article in the Wall Street Journal: “Midterms Are a Boon for Stocks—No Matter Who Wins.” On average, the months of October, November and December have been the top-performing months during any year that included a midterm election (1962-2014). In 2018, though, there was a failure to launch.
While there’s still time left on the calendar, history indicates that Year 2 Q4-Year 3 Q2 is regularly the best three-quarter performance period of the 16-quarter cycle that begins just after a president has been elected or reelected. That’s using data on the performance of the Dow going back to 1896.
Finally, we could hang our hat on one other midterm indicator. That is, the S&P 500 has finished in positive territory in every post 12-month midterm period since 1950.
We say “could” because, while reviewing past election-year patterns to gain useful insights can be interesting (or nerdy depending on your perspective), we must stress this doesn't substitute for a well-thought-out plan that takes unexpected detours into account.
Table 1: Key Index Returns
Source: Wall Street Journal, MSCI.com, Morningstar
YTD returns: Dec 29, 2017-Dec 31, 2018
**in US dollars
We know that stocks can be unpredictable over a shorter period, and sell-offs are normal. And they aren’t pleasant. But we take precautions to minimize volatility and, more importantly, keep you on track toward your long-term financial goals.
We came across a recent piece by LPL Research that highlighted this. They found that the S&P 500 has lost an average of 31% every five years since WWII. Yet, the index has registered an annual advance 75% of the time (Macrotrends) and almost 80% when dividends are reinvested (NYU Stern School of Business Stock/Bond Returns).
Further, the S&P 500 has averaged an annual advance of nearly 10% since the late 1920s (CNBC/Investopedia).
During up markets and down markets, we like to stress the importance of your investment plan and the progress you're making toward your financial goals.
Stocks will hit small bumps in the road, and occasionally hit a major pothole, but the long-term data highlight that stocks have easily outperformed bonds, T-bills, CDs, and inflation.
As Warren Buffett opined a couple of years ago, “It’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start.” (Investment U, Motley Fool).
We trust you’ve found this review to be educational and helpful. As always, we're humbled to be in a position to serve and provide financial advice and guidance for each and every one of our clients. If you have questions or would like to discuss any matters above, please feel free to give us a call.
As 2019 gets underway, we want to wish you and your loved ones a happy and prosperous new year!
Gary Blom & Michael Howell
The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of SCF Securities, Inc. or any SCF-related entity.
This research material has been prepared by Horsesmouth
How much could a college education cost in the 2030s? You may want to take a deep breath and sit down before reading the next paragraph.
A MassMutual analysis projects that four years of tuition, room, and board at a private college will cost nearly $369,000 in 2031. An article at CNBC offers a slightly cheaper estimate, putting the total expense at $303,000 for a freshman setting foot on campus in 2036. (Today, the cost of four years at a private university is less than half that.) How about the price tag for four years of tuition, room, and board at a public university in that year? The same CNBC article says that it may reach $184,000.
Even today, finding enough money to pay for college can be an enormous challenge. There are obvious ways to counter the cost: a student can work full time and apply much of the income toward school, or assume student loans. Fortunately, there are other ways – ways that you may want to explore if you do not want your child to take a hard-scrabble path through school or get soaked with debt.
Ideally, you use money you never have to repay. Grants and scholarships are more plentiful than many students (and parents) realize, and some go begging for applicants. Grants are based on need; scholarships, on merit. Grants can be issued incrementally or in lump sums to a student; most are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, which is why it is so crucial to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early. A school accepting your student will evaluate your student’s FAFSA, then send an award letter detailing his or her eligibility for federal and state grants. As for scholarships, there are literally millions of them. Sallie Mae provides a convenient online search tool to explore more than 5 million such awards, and you can use it to drill down to opportunities that are strong possibilities for your student.
Through a 529 plan, you can invest to meet future college costs. 529 plans come in two varieties, and both varieties have common tax advantages. 529 plan earnings are exempt from federal income tax, and 529 plan assets may be withdrawn, tax free, so long as the money pays for qualified education expenses. While there are no federal tax breaks linked to 529 plan contributions, more than 30 states offer state income tax deductions or credits for them.
Some 529 plans are prepaid tuition plans, giving you the potential to prepay up to 100% of your student’s future tuition at a public university within your state (most of these plans do not pay for housing costs). You may be able to convert a prepaid tuition plan so that the assets can be used to pay tuition at an out-of-state university or private college. (There is also the Private College 529 Plan, which 250+ private colleges and universities collectively support.)
The great majority of 529 plans are college savings plans, analogous to Roth IRAs. In a college savings plan, you can direct your contributions into equity investments, which offer you the possibility of tax-advantaged growth and compounding. (If the investments perform badly, your college fund may shrink.)
You may choose to fund a 529 plan account incrementally or with a lump sum. States put different limits on the amount of money that a 529 account can hold, but six-figure balances are often permissible. You can invest in any state’s 529 plan and pay for higher education expenses with 529 plan assets at any qualified U.S. college or university.
Some families use Roth IRA assets to pay for college. A Roth IRA gives you a degree of flexibility that a 529 plan does not. Suppose your child does not go to college. (While this may seem highly improbable, some young adults do start successful careers without a college education.) In that event, you still have a Roth IRA: a tax-favored retirement savings account with the potential for tax-free withdrawals.
A Roth IRA is not a perfect college savings vehicle, however. First, the annual contribution limit is low compared to a 529 plan. Second, while you may withdraw an amount equal to your contributions without penalty at any time of life, a Roth IRA’s earnings represent taxable income when withdrawn. Third, while Roth IRA assets are not countable assets on the FAFSA, tax-free Roth IRA contributions, once withdrawn, still amount to untaxed income for your student (i.e., the Roth IRA beneficiary), and they lower a student’s eligibility for need-based aid.
Going to college should not mean going into debt. Would you like to plan, save, and invest to reduce or avoid that consequence? Then talk with a financial professional who is well versed in college planning. The variety of options available may pleasantly surprise you.
Retirement is undeniably a major life and financial transition. Even so, baby boomers can run the risk of growing nonchalant about some of the financial challenges that retirement poses, for not all are immediately obvious. In looking forward to their “second acts,” boomers may overlook a few matters that a thorough retirement strategy needs to address.
RMDs. The Internal Revenue Service directs seniors to withdraw money from qualified retirement accounts after age 70½. This class of accounts includes traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans. These drawdowns are officially termed Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).
Taxes. Speaking of RMDs, the income from an RMD is fully taxable and cannot be rolled over into a Roth IRA. The income is certainly a plus, but it may also send a retiree into a higher income tax bracket for the year.
Retirement does not necessarily imply reduced taxes. While people may earn less in retirement than they once did, many forms of income are taxable: RMDs; investment income and dividends; most pensions; even a portion of Social Security income depending on a taxpayer’s total income and filing status. Of course, once a mortgage is paid off, a retiree loses the chance to take the significant mortgage interest deduction.
Health care costs. Those who retire in reasonably good health may not be inclined to think about health care crises, but they could occur sooner rather than later – and they could be costly. As Forbes notes, five esteemed economists recently published a white paper called The Lifetime Medical Spending of Retirees; their analysis found that between age 70 and death, the average American senior pays $122,000 for medical care, much of it from personal savings. Five percent of this demographic contends with out-of-pocket medical bills exceeding $300,000. Medicines? The “donut hole” in Medicare still exists, and annually, there are retirees who pay thousands of dollars of their own money for needed drugs.
Eldercare needs. Those who live longer or face health complications will probably need some long-term care. According to a study from the Department of Health and Human Services, the average American who turned 65 in 2015 could end up paying $138,000 in total long-term care costs. Long-term care insurance is expensive, though, and can be difficult to obtain.
One other end-of-life expense many retirees overlook: funeral and burial costs. Pre-planning to address this expense may help surviving spouses and children.
Rising consumer prices. Since 1968, consumer inflation has averaged around 4% a year. Does that sound bearable? At a glance, maybe it does. Over time, however, 4% inflation can really do some damage to purchasing power. In 20 years, continued 4% inflation would make today’s dollar worth $0.46. Retirees would be wise to invest in a way that gives them the potential to keep up with increasing consumer costs.
As part of your preparation for retirement, give these matters some thought. Enjoy the here and now, but recognize the potential for these factors to impact your financial future.
Things you can do for your future as the year unfolds
What financial, business, or life priorities do you need to address for 2019? Now is a good time to think about the investing, saving, or budgeting methods you could employ toward specific objectives, from building your retirement fund to lowering your taxes. You have plenty of options. Here are a few that might prove convenient.
Can you contribute more to your retirement plans this year?
In 2019, the yearly contribution limit for a Roth or traditional IRA rises to $6,000 ($7,000 for those making “catch-up” contributions). Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) may affect how much you can put into a Roth IRA: singles and heads of household with MAGI above $137,000 and joint filers with MAGI above $203,000 cannot make 2019 Roth contributions.1
For tax year 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 to 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans, with a $6,000 catch-up contribution allowed if you are age 50 or older. If you are self-employed, you may want to look into whether you can establish and fund a solo 401(k) before the end of 2019; as employer contributions may also be made to solo 401(k)s, you may direct up to $56,000 into one of those plans.1
Your retirement plan contribution could help your tax picture. If you won’t turn 70½ in 2019 and you participate in a traditional qualified retirement plan or have a traditional IRA, you can cut your taxable income through a contribution. Should you be in the new 24% federal tax bracket, you can save $1,440 in taxes as a byproduct of a $6,000 traditional IRA contribution.2
What are the income limits on deducting traditional IRA contributions? If you participate in a workplace retirement plan, the 2019 MAGI phase-out ranges are $64,000-$74,000 for singles and heads of households, $103,000-$123,000 for joint filers when the spouse making IRA contributions is covered by a workplace retirement plan, and $193,000-$203,000 for an IRA contributor not covered by a workplace retirement plan, but married to someone who is.1
Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457 plans are funded with after-tax dollars, so you may not take an immediate federal tax deduction for your contributions to them. The upside is that if you follow I.R.S. rules, the account assets may eventually be withdrawn tax free.3
Your tax year 2019 contribution to a Roth or traditional IRA may be made as late as the 2020 federal tax deadline – and, for that matter, you can make a 2018 IRA contribution as late as April 15, 2019, which is the deadline for filing your 2018 federal return. There is no merit in waiting until April of the successive year, however, since delaying a contribution only delays tax-advantaged compounding of those dollars.1,3
Should you go Roth in 2019?
You might be considering that if you only have a traditional IRA. This is no snap decision; the Internal Revenue Service no longer gives you a chance to undo it, and the tax impact of the conversion must be weighed versus the potential future benefits. If you are a high earner, you should know that income phase-out limits may affect your chance to make Roth IRA contributions. For 2019, phase-outs kick in at $193,000 for joint filers and $122,000 for single filers and heads of household. Should your income prevent you from contributing to a Roth IRA at all, you still have the chance to contribute to a traditional IRA in 2019 and go Roth later.1,4
Incidentally, a footnote: distributions from certain qualified retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, are not subject to the 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) affecting single/joint filers with MAGIs over $200,000/$250,000. If your MAGI does surpass these thresholds, then dividends, royalties, the taxable part of non-qualified annuity income, taxable interest, passive income (such as partnership and rental income), and net capital gains from the sale of real estate and investments are subject to that surtax. (Please note that the NIIT threshold is just $125,000 for spouses who choose to file their federal taxes separately.)5
Consult a tax or financial professional before you make any IRA moves to see how those changes may affect your overall financial picture. If you have a large, traditional IRA, the projected tax resulting from a Roth conversion may make you think twice.
What else should you consider in 2019?
There are other things you may want to do or review.
Make charitable gifts. The individual standard deduction rises to $12,000 in 2019, so there will be less incentive to itemize deductions for many taxpayers – but charitable donations are still deductible if they are itemized. If you plan to gift more than $12,000 to qualified charities and non-profits in 2019, remember that the paper trail is important.6
If you give cash, you need to document it. Even small contributions need to be demonstrated by a bank record or a written communication from the charity with the date and amount. Incidentally, the I.R.S. does not equate a pledge with a donation. You must contribute to a qualified charity to claim a federal charitable tax deduction. Incidentally, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lifted the ceiling on the amount of cash you can give to a charity per year – you can now gift up to 60% of your adjusted gross income in cash per year, rather than 50%.6,7
What if you gift appreciated securities? If you have owned them for more than a year, you will be in line to take a deduction for 100% of their fair market value and avoid capital gains tax that would have resulted from simply selling the investment and donating the proceeds. The non-profit organization gets the full amount of the gift, and you can claim a deduction of up to 30% of your adjusted gross income.8
Does the value of your gift exceed $250? It may, and if you gift that amount or larger to a qualified charitable organization, you should ask that charity or non-profit group for a receipt. You should always request a receipt for a cash gift, no matter how large or small the amount.8
If you aren’t sure if an organization is eligible to receive charitable gifts, check it out at irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check.
Open an HSA. If you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, you may set up and fund a Health Savings Account in 2019. You can make fully tax-deductible HSA contributions of up to $3,500 (singles) or $7,000 (families); catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 are permitted for those 55 or older. HSA assets grow tax deferred, and withdrawals from these accounts are tax free if used to pay for qualified health care expenses.9
Practice tax-loss harvesting. By selling depreciated shares in a taxable investment account, you can offset capital gains or up to $3,000 in regular income ($1,500 is the annual limit for married couples who file separately). In fact, you may use this tactic to offset all your total capital gains for a given tax year. Losses that exceed the $3,000 yearly limit may be rolled over into 2020 (and future tax years) to offset ordinary income or capital gains again.10
Pay attention to asset location. Tax-efficient asset location is an ignored fundamental of investing. Broadly speaking, your least tax-efficient securities should go in pre-tax accounts, and your most tax-efficient securities should be held in taxable accounts.
Review your withholding status. You may have updated it last year when the I.R.S. introduced new withholding tables; you may want to adjust for 2019 due to any of the following factors.
* You tend to pay a great deal of income tax each year.
* You tend to get a big federal tax refund each year.
* You recently married or divorced.
* A family member recently passed away.
* You have a new job, and you are earning much more than you previously did.
* You started a business venture or became self-employed.
Are you marrying in 2019? If so, why not review the beneficiaries of your workplace retirement plan account, your IRA, and other assets? In light of your marriage, you may want to make changes to the relevant beneficiary forms. The same goes for your insurance coverage. If you will have a new last name in 2019, you will need a new Social Security card. Additionally, the two of you, no doubt, have individual retirement saving and investment strategies. Will they need to be revised or adjusted once you are married?
Are you coming home from active duty? If so, go ahead and check the status of your credit and the state of any tax and legal proceedings that might have been preempted by your orders. Make sure any employee health insurance is still in place. Revoke any power of attorney you may have granted to another person.
Consider the tax impact of any upcoming transactions. Are you planning to sell (or buy) real estate next year? How about a business? Do you think you might exercise a stock option in the coming months? Might any large commissions or bonuses come your way in 2019? Do you anticipate selling an investment that is held outside of a tax-deferred account? Any of these actions might significantly impact your 2019 taxes.
If you are retired and older than 70½, remember your year-end RMD. Retirees over age 70½ must begin taking Required Minimum Distributions from traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs by December 31 of each year. The I.R.S. penalty for failing to take an RMD equals 50% of the RMD amount that is not withdrawn.4,11
If you turned 70½ in 2018, you can postpone your initial RMD from an account until April 1, 2019. All subsequent RMDs must be taken by December 31 of the calendar year to which the RMD applies. The downside of delaying your 2018 RMD into 2019 is that you will have to take two RMDs in 2019, with both RMDs being taxable events. You will have to make your 2018 tax year RMD by April 1, 2019, and then take your 2019 tax year RMD by December 31, 2019.11
Plan your RMDs wisely. If you do so, you may end up limiting or avoiding possible taxes on your Social Security income. Some Social Security recipients don’t know about the “provisional income” rule – if your adjusted gross income, plus any non-taxable interest income you earn, plus 50% of your Social Security benefits surpasses a certain level, then some Social Security benefits become taxable. Social Security benefits start to be taxed at provisional income levels of $32,000 for joint filers and $25,000 for single filers.11
Lastly, should you make 13 mortgage payments in 2019? There may be some merit to making a January 2020 mortgage payment in December 2019. If you have a fixed-rate loan, a lump-sum payment can reduce the principal and the total interest paid on it by that much more.
Talk with a qualified financial or tax professional today. Vow to focus on being healthy and wealthy in 2019.
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.
1 - forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2018/11/01/irs-announces-2019-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more [11/1/18]
2 - irs.com/articles/2018-federal-tax-rates-personal-exemptions-and-standard-deductions [11/2/17]
3 - irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [7/10/18]
4 - forbes.com/sites/bobcarlson/2018/10/26/7-ira-strategies-for-year-end-2018/ [10/26/18]
5 - irs.gov/newsroom/questions-and-answers-on-the-net-investment-income-tax [6/18/18]
6 - crainsdetroit.com/philanthropy/what-donors-need-know-about-tax-reform [10/21/18]
7 - thebalance.com/tax-deduction-for-charity-donations-3192983 [7/25/18]
8 - schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/charitable-donations-the-basics-of-giving [7/2/18]
9 - kiplinger.com/article/insurance/T027-C001-S003-health-savings-account-limits-for-2019.html [8/28/18]
10 - schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/reap-benefits-tax-loss-harvesting-to-lower-your-tax-bill [10/7/18]
11 - fool.com/retirement/2018/01/29/5-things-to-consider-before-tapping-your-retiremen.aspx [1/29/18]
September 15th marked an ominous anniversary. Ten years prior, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, sparking a financial crisis that engulfed the global economy.
Lehman’s failure could easily be described as a “systemic event.” That’s financial jargon for an event that triggers severe financial instability and sends shockwaves through the economy.
Economically, we’ve recovered from the downturn. Unemployment is low, and GDP is above pre-crisis levels. Major U.S. market indexes have topped pre-recession highs, but the crisis left an indelible mark on investors. For some, the scars remain.
While today’s bull market pushes higher, some investors fear a repeat. You see it every time the market experiences a correction, or a decline of at least 10%. One day, we believe the memory of the crisis will recede. It may take another downturn that doesn’t lead to severe losses, but we believe it will eventually fade.
Can it happen again?
We cannot unequivocally say “Never.”
Gone are the days when a borrower need only a pulse to obtain a mortgage. Whether you blame it on the banks or blame it on borrowers, too many folks jumped into or were placed into loans they couldn’t afford or didn’t understand.
Today, banks are much better capitalized than in 2007. The major banks have a much bigger cushion to absorb loan losses. And underwriting standards for home loans are more realistic.
During the Fed’s quarterly press conference, Fed Chief Jerome Powell was asked about financial conditions.
Powell, said, “The single biggest thing I think that we learned was the importance of maintaining the stability of the financial system.” It’s something “that was missing” back then.
“We've put in place many, many initiatives to strengthen the financial system through higher capital, and better regulation, more transparency, central clearing, margins on unclear derivatives, all kinds of things like that, which are meant to strengthen the financial system,” Powell said.
These measures won’t prevent another recession, and systemic risks haven’t completely abated, but the financial system is in a much better position to withstand a shock than it was in 2008.
It’s not about timing the market. It’s about time in the market, diversification, and the balance between riskier assets (such as stocks) that have long-term potential for appreciation, versus safer, less volatile assets that are less likely to appreciate.
Headlines can create short-term volatility. We saw that earlier this year, and we’ve seen it at various times in recent years. But patient investors who stuck with a disciplined approach were rewarded. Longer term, stocks historically have had an upward bias.
While heading to the safety of cash during volatility may bring short-term comfort, opting for the sidelines can have long-term costs.
According to a recent Fidelity study, “Investors who stayed in the markets (during 2008) saw their account balances—which reflected the impact of their investment choices and contributions—grow 147%” between Q4 2008 and the end of 2015.
“That's twice the average 74% return for those who moved out of stocks and into cash during the fourth quarter of 2008 or first quarter of 2009.” Even worse, over 25% who sold out of stocks during that downturn never got back into the market.
Yes, the safety of cash during volatility may bring short-term comfort but opting for the sidelines can have long-term costs.
The opposite is also true. Don’t become overconfident when stocks are surging. Some folks feel an aura of invincibility and are tempted to take on too much risk.
That gets them into trouble, too.
Remember, the markets have absorbed many shocks over the decades since the Great Depression. Though getting out may feel better and bring short-term relief, rarely does it produce lasting long-term wealth.
By Michael Howell
In recent months, you may have read articles highlighting some new and improved benefits to the popular 529 college savings program as a result of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Specifically, the new tax law has expanded the use of 529 plans, allowing for up to $10,000 per year to be used to pay for tuition at elementary or secondary private and religious schools.
At first glance, this expanded flexibility is welcome news. After all, more versatility in most cases is a good thing. Except upon deeper inspection of the changes, the updates are of less value than most people think, especially for those of us living in California (keep reading).
A Quick Primer on 529 Plans
As a quick primer (or reminder) of how 529 plans work, the core benefit of the program is it allows owners to invest money using after-tax dollars toward future education expenses and capture tax-deferred growth. Fast forward to when education expenses come due, and withdrawals are tax-free so long as they're used to pay for qualified education expenses as per the IRS.
In other words, you can avoid paying tax on the growth portion of your 529, meaning less money going to Uncle Sam and more money going toward helping your student pay for education expenses.
Why the Change Matters
Prior to the new tax law, 529 assets could only be used to pay for college and higher education expenses. In my interactions with parents and grandparents planning for the future, this restricted usage of 529 assets is often one of the primary deterrents to a would-be 529 investor utilizing the program to save for college expenses. In these case, the driving concern is usually over the potential of a student deciding to skip college altogether and the money becoming subject to taxes and penalties.
So on the whole, expanding the flexibility of the program by allowing withdrawals to pay for K-12 expenses is undoubtedly an improvement, if ever so slight.
The bigger question is whether you should use 529 assets to pay for K-12 expenses?
A few words of caution…
The Funds Can Only Be Used to Pay for K-12 Tuition
You'll notice in the above primer on 529 plans that I mentioned 529 withdrawals are tax-free so long as they're used to pay for qualified education expenses.
Per the federal guidelines, the definition of a qualified education expense now depends on whether your 529 funds are used to pay for college or private K-12 expenditures. If the withdrawal is made to pay for a college bill, qualified expenses include tuition, room and board, books/supplies, and specific technology items like computers. In contrast, withdrawals related to K-12 costs are only applicable toward tuition.
As small as this difference may seem, it's significant enough to get someone in trouble. That means no using 529 assets to pay for your high school student's computer, books, or charging them rent for the privilege of living under your roof (as tempting as that may be)!
In This World, Nothing is Certain but Death & California State Taxes
Remember how I mentioned that 529 withdrawals are tax-free if they're considered qualified education expenses? Well, they're only tax-free if we're talking about federal tax and if the state you reside in follows the same federal guidelines.
Unfortunately for Californians, if a parent withdraws money out of a 529 plan to pay for K-12 expenses, it will be considered a non-qualified distribution for California tax purposes. Without getting too technical here, this means that a portion of any 529 distributions used to pay for K-12 expenses would still be tax-free for federal tax purposes, but would be considered "taxable earnings" for California state tax purposes. Also, the taxable portion of any non-qualified 529 distributions would be subject to a premature 2.5% withdrawal penalty in California.
When the purpose of putting money away in a 529 in the first place is for the tax-advantaged growth potential, this should be a deal breaker for most Californians, at least for now. Should Sacramento decide to update and adopt the federal guidelines at a later date, this would make the benefit worth considering.
Consider the Trade-Off
Lastly, consider the trade-off of using 529 assets to pay for secondary or high school expenses. At its most practical level, dollars used to pay for private K-12 schooling will mean fewer dollars available to help pay for college expenses. Not to mention, dollars withdrawn early from a 529 are no longer invested and compounding over time, which means less money for college and a lower tax benefit.
Remember the primary tax benefit of a 529 plan is tax-free growth. A 529 plan with an investment held for 3-5 years has far less growth potential than an investment held for 15-20 years. So any tax benefit that would come from using 529 funds to cover private K-12 expenses would be negligible at best because the investments just aren't given as much time to compound and grow.
This is why investing early in a 529 plan when a child is a baby makes so much sense. An investment timeline spanning nearly two decades can allow for a more aggressive investment plan. The longer the assets remain in the plan, the higher the growth potential and tax benefit over time.
So in this advisor's opinion – if paying for private school is important to you, you're better off utilizing your cash flow and other means to pay for tuition expenses.
If you're using a 529 plan to save for college—my advice is to save early, save often, and hear the whispered words of wisdom in Paul McCartney and "Let it Be!"
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.
Urban legends, urban myths, and the latest that’s on everyone’s lips–fake news. Whatever you call it, in our age of information, claims of dubious repute can go viral in minutes. Anyone with a computer can start a blog and offer up opinions on just about any subject, whether he or she is an authority or not. Sources? Who needs sources?
Alright, please excuse the sarcasm, but hopefully you know where we're going.
When it comes to retirement, there are plenty of misleading thoughts, opinions and fake news floating around out there. With that in mind, we'd like to clear up some misconceptions that surround the retirement years.
Myth #1: I’ll never see a penny of the money I put into Social Security.
If we had a nickel for every time we've heard someone utter that phrase, we'd have a lot of nickels. Sadly, if a 40-something says he is confident he will receive monthly checks, he sets himself up for ridicule among his contemporaries.
We wouldn’t disagree with the hypothesis that young people getting started in the workforce will receive a low return on contributions into Social Security, but this is a completely different argument.
Contrary to popular assertions, Social Security is not on the verge of bankruptcy, and we fully believe even those who are many years from retirement will be collecting monthly benefits when it’s their turn.
According to the 2017 annual report from the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees, Social Security “has collected roughly $19.9 trillion and paid out $17.1 trillion,” in its storied 82-year history, “leaving asset reserves of more than $2.8 trillion at the end of 2016 in its two trust funds.”
As an ever-larger number of baby boomers continue to retire and collect benefits, the trustees expect the trust funds to be depleted by 2034.
Thereafter, expected-tax-income receipts are projected to be sufficient to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits. Put another way, recipients of Social Security would receive about a 25% cut in benefits, if no changes are made to the current structure.
Of course, these are simply projections and much will depend on economic growth, job creation, and wages. Yet, it’s a far cry from, “I won’t see a penny of Social Security.”
We suspect that politicians will eventually settle on some type of compromise that will extend the life of the current system, but it may take a catalyst event that would generate enough political pressure for this to happen.
That said, we recognize that timing and strategies that can be implemented for Social Security may be complex. If you have questions, please give us a call or shoot us an email. We would be happy to discuss your options with you.
Myth #2: The stock market is too risky.
There’s no question about it, the bear markets that followed the dot.com bubble and the 2008 financial crisis were unprecedented in that we saw two steep declines in less than 10 years.
Made fearful by what they see as too much risk, millennials have shied away from stocks, according to a Bankrate survey. There has always been a degree of risk in stocks, even with a fully diversified portfolio. Yet, a well-diversified portfolio is akin to a stake in the U.S. and global economy. Moreover, the U.S. and global economy has been expanding for many decades and history tells us it will likely be bigger in 10 or 20 years.
When it comes to investing in stocks, the only resistance we typically come across is from folks who haven’t seriously entertained the idea before. We listen to their concerns, and answer with an array of factual data that’s not designed to win an argument, but simply to educate. When you have all the facts, then you can make an educated decision about what's best for you.
Myth #3: Medicare will handle all my health care needs in retirement.
If only Medicare did cover everything. But then, the cost to finance it would be much higher.
Medicare doesn’t cover the full cost of skilled nursing or rehabilitative care, according to AARP. Yes, the first 20 days of a stay in a nursing home is covered, but you’ll pay over $160 per day for days 21 through 100. And Medicare doesn’t cover stays past 100 days.
You may be paying out of pocket for personal care assistance, too. The same holds true for miscellaneous hospital costs, routine eye exams, hearing, foot and dental care.
Myth #4: Why save today when you can start tomorrow—there’s plenty of time.
This section is designed for millennials and those who are just beginning their journey in the workforce. There’s no better day to begin saving than today and we can’t stress this enough!
Here's a simple example:
Source: JP Morgan Asset Management
This is a hypothetical example and is not representative of any specific investment. Your results may vary.
In other words, Susan begins 10 years earlier than Bill, saves 20 years less than Bill, and saves $100,000 less than Bill, but winds up with $61,329 more.
For every parent or grandparent reading this, we encourage you to forward this powerful example to your kids and grandkids that are near or have already entered the workforce. It's a teachable opportunity with a simple lesson: The sooner you begin; the better off you may be as you approach retirement.
Take full advantage of your company’s retirement program. If your company doesn’t have a savings plan, there are many simple ways that you can get started. Feel free to reach out to us and we can assist.
Myth #5: Retirement is easy.
Many look forward to the day when they will no longer prepare for Monday mornings at the office. For those who face the work challenges that crop up daily, retirement may seem like a welcome oasis in the distance.
But that oasis sometimes turns out to be a mirage. Often, the transition from decades of working to retirement isn’t so simple.
For a better retirement, set goals, and not simply financial ones. Can you transition to part-time in your job? Consider part-time employment or consulting. It will ease the transition, keep you busy, and extend your savings.
Volunteer with your local church or local community organizations. Look for groups with similar interests. You’ll not only derive an enormous amount of satisfaction from helping others, but you’ll meet like-minded folks and make new friends.
Try something new. Keep up any exercise routines—and it's never too late to start a new one. Check with your doctor, who will be happy to prescribe a fitness plan that’s suited to you.
Have you ever considered taking a class? How about writing a book or mentoring someone young? Expanding your knowledge or sharing your ideas can be quite fulfilling. We've heard of retirees writing books and personal autobiographies for their kids – talk about a legacy!
The most important thing you can do to make retirement enjoyable is to stay active and keep your mind and body sharp.
This research material has been prepared by Horsesmouth
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk. International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors.
By Michael Howell
This last October, 2017 marked the 30 year anniversary of what famously became dubbed, Black Monday. For those unfamiliar with what took place on October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by a then-record 508 points—a 22% decline in a single day.
Thirty years later, we look at a very different market as we begin 2018. This market has been anything but volatile and the secular bull market we're currently in now pushes into its ninth year with the last significant market pullback taking place in late 2015-early 2016.
Let's acknowledge this market for what it is. Times are good!
But what about when they're not? We all know the axiom, "What goes up, must come down." If you think rationally, you may be observing this market wondering: How long can we expect this to last?
Even though it's Winter at the time of this writing (and cold outside), from a market standpoint we're figuratively sitting in the sun lounging about on a nice boat in clear waters, and most of us are enjoying this market for what it is. For these reasons, we feel now is a great time to examine where we are in the business cycle and look back on history to draw lessons from days when waters weren't so smooth. Doing so helps us to better prepare for the next storm that inevitably passes.
We begin with today's forecast.
Even as we stand today, many market forecasters are predicting sunny weather going into 2018. American corporations reported strong profits in 2017 and the outlook may be getting better. Many onerous government regulations have been rolled back under the Trump administration, tax cuts have now been passed, economic growth has been accelerating, interest rates (though rising) still remain low, and strong corporate earnings continue to support rising stock prices.
Despite being in the ninth year of this economic recovery out of the Great Recession, if corporate earnings continue to impress, it is very possible for the market to continue rising further.
BUT – we all know the day will come when this market makes a turn. In fact, it's inevitable. Ironic as it may seem, market downturns are a healthy and necessary part of the business cycle. When markets rise, it causes demand for products and services to increase, which in time causes inflation to ensue. Practically speaking, inflation makes every dollar you own less valuable as the prices of homes, cars, and various goods you purchase increases relative to your net income.
To illustrate, can you remember what gas prices were back in the day? Some of you may remember when gas prices were less than 50 cents a gallon. If you do, that means you lived through the 1970's when gas prices were last at this level. It also means you remember when disco, station wagons and 8-tracks were a thing! Of course the days of 50 cents per gallon of gasoline are long behind us, but in the big picture, what matters is price inflation relative to growth in your wages and investments. In other words, if the costs of goods like gasoline or food begins increasing at a rate that’s faster than the growth of your wages or investments (and the same holds true for your friends and neighbors), our economy has a problem.
This is why the business cycle is important – it ultimately helps keep various market forces in check. For those reasons, it's necessary to understand how the cycle revolves.
How does the business cycle keep market forces in check?
In every business cycle, what inevitably happens is the economy over-expands and eventually reaches a peak, where consumers develop a lesser appetite (or ability) for spending and borrowing. When this occurs, demand for products and goods decreases and sets the stage for the economy and market to contract.
This period of contraction typically reduces inflation, affords consumers and businesses opportunities to repay debt, and helps stimulate greater demand for goods once again – which then begins a new business cycle for the next leg. Though the cycle expands and contracts, historically the contractions set the stage for another leg higher.
Where are we in the current cycle?
Overall, we've moved into the maturing phases of the current expansion, but we're still experiencing some areas of recovery. According to LPL Financial Research, we currently sit in a business cycle that has displayed elements of multiple stages all at the same time.
Source: LPL Financial Research Outlook 2018 Chartbook
One of the remarkable elements of the economic growth we've seen over the last eight years is that the primary driver of economic growth was largely dictated by the actions of the Federal Reserve through extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy (via quantitative easing). Through this period, our economy and markets have certainly grown, but the rate of growth has been slow in comparison to prior economic expansions. Today, these forces are no longer as influential and the forces that have historically supported economic and market growth, such as deregulation, infrastructure investment, and entrepreneurial risk taking have moved into the driver's seat.
What does the business cycle have to do with my investment portfolio?
As we've stated in multiple writings, over time, stock markets will follow where corporate earnings lead. Stocks are shares of ownership in businesses, and since businesses expand and contract through these cycles, any ownership you have in stocks will see its price action expand and contract along this cycle. More importantly, it's these contractions or downturns that ultimately create the conditions necessary for the market to move into its next leg of growth.
In a way, think of it similarly to a forest fire. Though destructive, fires are also a natural and healthy part of an ecosystem. Its fire that kills off dead trees and decaying matter in the forest, and the ashes add nutrients back into the soil to support new growth.
Those of us Californians know we can't control the dry wind and periodic drought conditions that occur in our state. Similarly, it behooves us as investors to recognize we can't control the expansion and contractions of the business cycle—we can only control our behavior along the ride as we go through them.
Back to Black Monday
Taking us back to where we started, Black Monday was a terrifying day for many investors. You can even watch old news footage to get a feel for the sentiment on October 19, 1987. Nobody had ever seen a 22% drop in the stock market in a single day, and it caused widespread panic and selling of stock shares. On that day, more than 595 million shares were traded (the prior record was 302 million). To give you a comparison, the crash that occurred on Tuesday, October 24, 1929 (dubbed Black Tuesday) that preceded the Great Depression dropped only 13%. Needless to say, many felt like the sky was falling and pandemonium ensued. Many people wanted nothing to do with the stock market at that point and sold off the investments they held.
What caused the market to drop so significantly? Various reasons have been cited, but the consensus reporting on the 1987 crash was that it occurred as a result of a combination of forces: Exacerbated selling activity, ill-equipped computer trading systems, a weak dollar, inflation, the trade deficit, and Middle East conflict.
Putting it all in perspective.
Oppenheimer Funds did an analysis of someone receiving a $100,000 inheritance and investing it in the U.S. market on the eve of the crash. After Monday's 22% decline, the investment would have dropped in value to $77,420. However, by the following October 20th of 1988, the investment would have once again grown and surpassed $100,000 and 30 years later (today), would be worth more than $2.1 million.
Putting it in visual form and to scale, the 1987 Black Monday crash looks like a blip on the radar from where we are today.
In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased more than 1,400% since that day 30 years ago. When looking at a mountain chart like this, it's clear a long-term perspective is essential and necessary for us to make wise investment decisions. Even so, we don't minimize the risks involved with stocks, particularly for those nearing retirement. Why? Because it takes time to recover from downturns.
For example, if someone had an investment that declined 50% in value, a 50% gain would not bring the portfolio back to break-even—rather a 100% gain would be needed to get the portfolio back to where it started. Historically, this recovery can take several years, time a pre-retiree or retiree may not have to wait.
Four Lessons to be Learned from Turbulent Markets
1. Recognize that pursuing a successful outcome in investing has more to do with our behavior than the return on our investments. We are, human, after all. When markets are rising, the human response is to have a high tolerance for taking risk. When markets turn south and stocks are tanking, the emotional response is to sell everything and go to cash. Unfortunately, these knee-jerk reactions rarely result in positive outcomes and time after time, we've historically seen markets go through the cycle and lead on to another leg of recovery.
2. View your investments in mutual funds, ETF's, stocks and bonds similarly to how you view ownership in a home—as an asset. Picture owning a home that's worth $400,000 today, but the following year changes in value to $350,000 due to a downturn in the real estate market. Though you're probably not happy about it, you likely don't look at your circumstances thinking you lost $50,000. After all, you don't lose $50,000 in this scenario unless you were to sell your home.
Yet for many, the opposite mentality is true with their investments in stocks. If the same $50,000 drop in value were to occur in a person's stock or mutual fund portfolio, many would claim they had lost $50,000. Remember, the only time you take a loss is when you sell your investment, and if you can wait on touching your investment dollars for enough time to give the market a chance to recover, the best decision is often to sit tight.
3. Be realistic about your investment risk tolerance. We recognize the advice to sit tight in circumstances similar to the above might not sit well for the retiree or soon-to-be retiree, but that's only if they're invested in a portfolio that's too volatile and aggressive for their needs. A mixed portfolio of stocks and bonds can help weather these inevitable storms and allow for enough principal growth in the portfolio to last a 20-30 year retirement.
Similarly, if you claim to have a high tolerance for risk in rising markets (because you want to maximize your returns), this means you also need to tolerate the downside during recessionary periods of the cycle. Trying to time when to be in the market and when to be out is attempted by many, but is difficult to accomplish consistently. Be realistic about how much risk you can really tolerate.
4. A financial plan will help you respond to turbulent markets rationally instead of emotionally. When you see your overall financial picture at a 30,000 foot level, your perspective changes. Depending on what you want your financial future to look like and what season of life you're in, a good financial plan will help you make wise decisions. For the retiree, it will help you draw income from the resources you have more efficiently. For the working family, it will help you see if you're on pace to maintain a similar standard of living for a future retirement.
Seeing your financial life at this level helps you balance saving for the future and spending on the present. It helps you know if you need to be saving more, but also can help you determine what rate of return you need on your investments to experience the financial future you'd like to see.
Remember, financial planning is not a science—rather it is a fluid activity. From saving money for the future, managing life after the loss of a family member, living out your retirement, and all of the life events in-between, we're here to help guide our clients through these decisions.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
WHY SOME PEOPLE PAY FULL PRICE FOR COLLEGE
Most people don't pay full price for college. If you've read any prior College Focus Newsletters or watched any of the workshops, you may already be aware of this.
But an analysis of data collected from the U.S. Department of Education provides insight into who pays full price for college and who doesn't. Nationally, only 25% of freshmen and 38% of all undergraduates pay the full sticker price.
At state universities, only 29% of freshmen pay full price while just 14% of freshmen at private colleges do. The students most likely pay the sticker price for their bachelor's degrees attend these types of universities:
Students who are more likely to skip paying full price attend these institutions:
Below is an analysis conducted by Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of Cappex, a popular college admission website. Kantrowitz's analysis shows that the more selective the college is, the more likely students are to pay full price. You can see this phenomenon in his chart below:
The most elite research universities with their extremely high rejection rates can charge full price to wealthy students without depressing their applications. Many high-income parents will also pay full price (willingly or not) if their students get into elite trophy schools. And that’s true even though the price of a bachelor's degree at some of the most coveted universities has no reached $300,000!
Universities in this exclusive category include:
It's possible many of the schools like the ones above could double or triple their price and would still have no trouble attracting more than enough applicants.
It's the same story with the most elite liberal arts colleges that are also perched at the top of their U.S. News & Work Report category. Despite having less visibility than their highly ranked research university peers, the highest ranked liberal arts colleges don't provide any merit scholarships:
While none of the above-mentioned schools so far provide merit scholarships, the most elite colleges and universities tend to provide the very best need-based aid for students. The challenge, of course, is getting admitted to these institutions.
Application: If you are a parent unlikely to qualify for need-based aid due to your income and assets, you can expect to pay full sticker price if your child is interested in schools similar to those mentioned above. If this is a concern, it may worth exploring excellent, but lesser known smaller colleges that can offer merit scholarships for your student. Similarly, if your student is likely to qualify for need-based aid and is gifted academically, know that aid is often readily available at these schools if your student is admitted.
Q: In filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), it asks you to report untaxed income. I'm confused by what this means?
A: This is a common area of confusion for many parents. Here are major sources of untaxed income that must be reported on the financial aid applications:
You also many have other items come out of your paycheck that you would not include in the above as untaxed income. For example, medical insurance premiums are not considered untaxed income.
This research material has been prepared by Horsesmouth
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.