Tips From Donna Wesban Monthly August 2018

Tips From Donna Wesban Monthly August 2018
Trading Basics, Retirement Strategy, Home Ownership
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Wesban Monthly

August 2018

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Buying and Selling: Trading Basics

The New York Stock Exchange Group averaged more than 5.7 million trades per day in 2017, with an average of almost 1.5 billion shares changing hands.1 Many of these trades are more complex than most investors need to consider, but it may be helpful to understand some basic terms and types of trades.

Bid and ask - The bid price is the maximum a buyer is willing to pay for a security. The ask price is the minimum a seller is willing to accept. The difference between them, called the spread, may be as low as a penny for the stock of a large well-known company, but wider for a smaller, more obscure company.

Market order - An order to buy or sell a security immediately at the best available price (though there is no price guarantee). A market order generally will execute at or near the current bid price for a sell order, or the ask price for a buy order. However, the last-traded price, typically the price you see listed on an exchange, is not necessarily the price at which a market order will be executed.

The following order types do not guarantee that the trade will be executed. They typically allow the investor to set a time limit that may range from a day to a year.

Limit order - An order to buy or sell a security at a specific price or better. For example, if an investor wants to purchase shares of XYZ stock for no more than $10 per share, the investor could submit a buy limit order for $10 and the order will execute only if the price of XYZ stock is $10 or lower. If the investor wants to sell at a price of at least $20 per share, a sell limit order for $20 would execute only at a price of $20 or higher.

Stop order (or stop-loss order) - An order to buy or sell a security once the price reaches a specified level, known as the stop price. Investors generally use a sell stop order to limit a loss or protect a profit on a stock they own.

For example, if you own shares of XYZ security that are currently trading at $50 per share, and are concerned about holding the shares in a declining market, you could set a stop-loss order at $48 per share. If the share price declines to $48, your shares would sell at the next market price, which would typically be a little below $48 if the market decline is gradual. However, if trading is interrupted or there are large changes overnight, you could end up selling at a lower price than anticipated.

Stop-limit order - An order to buy or sell a security once the price reaches the stop price, as long as the trading price is at a specified limit price or better. This helps protect against the possibility of a stop order triggering a trade at an unwanted price. To use the example above, you could set a stop price for XYZ shares at $48 per share and a limit at $47 a share. The order would execute when the share price falls to $48 but only as long as it remains above $47.

All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.

1 New York Stock Exchange, 2017

Building Confidence in Your Strategy for Retirement

Each year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) conducts its Retirement Confidence Survey to assess both worker and retiree confidence in financial aspects of retirement. In 2018, as in years past, retirees expressed a higher level of confidence than today's workers (perhaps because "retirement" is less of an abstract concept to those actually living it). However, worker confidence seems to be on the rise, while retiree confidence is on the decline. A deeper dive into the research reveals lessons and tips that can help you build your own retirement planning confidence.

Create a foundation of predictable sources of income

Workers surveyed expect to rely less on traditional sources of guaranteed income - a defined benefit pension plan and Social Security - than today's retirees. More than 40% of retirees say that a traditional pension plan provides them with a major source of income, and 66% say that Social Security is a primary source. Yet just one-third of today's workers expect either a pension or Social Security to play a big role.

Understand how Social Security works. Although nearly half of today's workers say they have considered how their Social Security claiming age could affect their benefit amount, the median age at which they plan to claim benefits is 65. Moreover, less than a quarter of respondents say they determined their future claiming age with benefit maximization in mind. Why does this matter? It's because the vast majority of today's workers won't be able to collect their full Social Security retirement benefit until sometime between age 66 and 67, depending on their year of birth. Claiming earlier than that results in a permanently reduced benefit amount. To help ensure you make the most of your Social Security benefits, take the time to understand the ramifications of different claiming ages and strategies before making any final decisions.

Consider creating your own "pension" income. Eight in 10 workers in the EBRI survey hope to use their defined contribution plan assets [e.g., 401(k) or 403(b)] to purchase a product that will provide a guaranteed stream of income during retirement. Depending on individual circumstances, this could be a wise move. To help provide yourself with a steady stream of income, you might consider annuitizing a portion of your retirement plan assets or purchasing an immediate annuity, a contract that promises to pay you a steady stream of income for a fixed period of time or for life in exchange for a lump-sum payment.1

When combined with your Social Security benefits, the payments received from an immediate annuity can help ensure that your everyday "fixed" expenses are covered. Any additional assets can then be earmarked for future growth potental and "extras," such as travel and entertainment.

Pay attention to your health - and health-care costs

Health. The EBRI survey revealed a correlation between health and retirement planning confidence. For example, 60% of today's workers who are confident in their retirement prospects also report being in good or excellent health, while only a little more than a quarter of those who are not confident report similar levels of health. Moreover, 46% of retirees who say they are confident also say they are in good health, compared with just 14% of those who are not confident.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward: Healthy habits may pay off in healthy levels of confidence. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise, get enough sleep, and take steps to minimize stress. And don't skip important preventive checkups and lab tests. Keep in mind that even the most diligent savings strategies can be thrown off track by unexpected medical costs.

Health-care costs. The percentage of retirees who are at least somewhat confident that they will have enough money to cover medical expenses in retirement has dropped from 77% in 2017 to 70% in 2018. And four out of 10 retirees say that health-care expenses are at least somewhat higher than they expected. However, retirees who have estimated their health-care costs (39% of respondents) are more likely to say their expenses are about what they expected them to be. On the other hand, just 19% of workers have calculated how much they will need to cover their health expenses in retirement.

If you have not yet thought about how much of your retirement income may be consumed by health-care costs, now may be the time to start doing so. Having at least a general idea of what your medical expenses might be will help you more accurately project your overall retirement savings goal.

Tax Benefits of Homeownership After Tax Reform

Buying a home can be a major expenditure. Fortunately, federal tax benefits are still available, even after recent tax reform legislation, to help make homeownership more affordable. There may also be tax benefits under state law.

Mortgage interest deduction

One of the most important tax benefits of owning a home is that you may be able to deduct the mortgage interest you pay. If you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, you can deduct the interest on a loan secured by your home and used to buy, build, or substantially improve your home. For loans incurred before December 16, 2017, up to $1 million of such "home acquisition debt" ($500,000 if married filing separately) qualifies for the interest deduction. For loans incurred after December 15, 2017, the limit is $750,000 ($375,000 if married filing separately).

This interest deduction is also still available for home equity loans or lines of credit used to buy, build, or substantially improve your home. [Prior to 2018, a separate deduction was available for interest on home equity loans or lines of credit of up to $100,000 ($50,000 if married filing separately) used for any other purpose.]

Deduction for real estate property taxes

If you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, you can generally deduct real estate taxes you pay on property that you own. However, for 2018 to 2025, you can deduct a total of only $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately) of your state and local taxes each year (including income taxes and real estate taxes). For alternative minimum tax purposes, however, no deduction is allowed for state and local taxes, including property taxes.

Points and closing costs

When you take out a loan to buy a home, or when you refinance an existing loan on your home, you'll probably be charged closing costs. These may include points, as well as attorney's fees, recording fees, title search fees, appraisal fees, and loan or document preparation and processing fees. Points are typically charged to reduce the interest rate for the loan.

When you buy your main home, you may be able to deduct points in full in the year you pay them if you itemize deductions and meet certain requirements. You may even be able to deduct points that the seller pays for you.

Refinanced loans are treated differently. Generally, points that you pay on a refinanced loan are not deductible in full in the year you pay them. Instead, they're deducted ratably over the life of the loan. In other words, you can deduct a certain portion of the points each year. If the loan is used to make improvements to your principal residence, however, you may be able to deduct the points in full in the year paid.

Otherwise, closing costs are nondeductible. But they can increase the tax basis of your home, which in turn can lower your taxable gain when you sell the property.

Home improvements

Home improvements (unless medically required) are nondeductible. Improvements, though, can increase the tax basis of your home, which in turn can lower your taxable gain when you sell the property.

Capital gain exclusion

If you sell your principal residence at a loss, you can't deduct the loss on your tax return. If you sell your principal residence at a gain, you may be able to exclude some or all of the gain from federal income tax.

Capital gain (or loss) on the sale of your principal residence equals the sale price of your home minus your adjusted basis in the property. Your adjusted basis is typically the cost of the property (i.e., what you paid for it initially) plus amounts paid for capital improvements.

If you meet all requirements, you can exclude from federal income tax up to $250,000 ($500,000 if you're married and file a joint return) of any capital gain that results from the sale of your principal residence. Anything over those limits may be subject to tax (at favorable long-term capital gains tax rates). In general, this exclusion can be used only once every two years. To qualify for the exclusion, you must have owned and used the home as your principal residence for a total of two out of the five years before the sale.

What if you fail to meet the two-out-of-five-year rule or you used the capital gain exclusion within the past two years with respect to a different principal residence? You may still be able to exclude part of your gain if your home sale was due to a change in place of employment, health reasons, or certain other unforeseen circumstances. In such a case, exclusion of the gain may be prorated.

Other considerations

It's important to note that special rules apply in a number of circumstances, including situations in which you maintain a home office for tax purposes or otherwise use your home for business or rental purposes.

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Disclaimer: The information in this e-mail or any social media site associated with Wesban Financial Consultants, P.C. is meant to provide general educational information and is not a substitute for legal, accounting, or financial advice for any particular case, situation, or person
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Donna Gordon

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