Tips From Donna Wesban Monthly January 2019

Wishing you good times, good cheer
and a memorable new year.
Know Your Mutual Funds
Almost 100 million Americans, representing about 44% of U.S. households, owned mutual funds in 2018. Saving for retirement was the primary goal for 73% of investors; other goals included saving for college or a house, building an emergency fund, or providing current income. 1
Mutual funds offer a convenient way to participate in a broad range of market activity that would be difficult for most investors to achieve by purchasing individual securities. With almost 8,000 funds available on the U.S. market, you should be able to find appropriate investments to pursue your goals. 2 However, it's important to periodically examine the mix of funds you hold.
If you are approaching retirement or already retired, this may be a good time to assess the risk level and growth potential of your funds, along with any other investments in your portfolio. Keep in mind that even though it is generally wise to reduce risk as you near retirement, you may also need to pursue long-term growth opportunities.
The following overview describes some basic types of funds in rough order of risk, from lowest to highest. Investments seeking to achieve higher returns also carry an increased level of risk.
Money market funds invest in short-term debt investments such as commercial paper and certificates of deposit and are typically used as a cash alternative. Although a money market fund attempts to maintain a stable $1 share price, you can lose money by investing in such a fund. Money market funds are neither insured nor guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency.
Municipal bond funds generally offer income that is free of federal income tax and may be free of state income tax if the bonds in the fund were issued from your state. Although interest income from municipal bond funds may be tax exempt, any capital gains are subject to tax. Income for some investors may be subject to state and local taxes and the federal alternative minimum tax.
Income funds concentrate their portfolios on bonds, Treasury securities, and other income-oriented securities, and may also include stocks that have a history of paying high dividends.
Balanced funds, hybrid funds, and growth and income funds seek the middle ground between growth funds and income funds. They include a mix of stocks and bonds and seek to combine moderate growth potential with modest income.
Growth funds invest in the stock of companies with a high potential for appreciation but low emphasis on income. They are more volatile than many types of funds.
Global funds invest in a combination of domestic and foreign securities. International funds invest primarily in foreign stock and bond markets, sometimes in specific regions or countries. There are increased risks associated with international investing, including differences in financial reporting, currency exchange risk, economic and political risk unique to a specific country, and greater share price volatility.
Sector funds invest almost exclusively in a particular industry or sector of the economy. Although they offer greater appreciation potential, the volatility and risk level are also higher because they are less diversified.
Aggressive growth funds aim for maximum growth. They typically distribute little income, have very high growth potential, tend to be more volatile, and are considered to be very high risk.
Bond funds (including funds that contain both stocks and bonds) are subject to the interest rate, inflation, and credit risks associated with the underlying bonds in the fund. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall, which can adversely affect a bond fund's performance. U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. Dividends are not guaranteed.
Asset allocation and diversification are methods used to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss. Mutual fund shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.
Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.
1-2) Investment Company Institute, 2018
Key Retirement and Tax Numbers for 2019
Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces cost-of-living adjustments that affect contribution limits for retirement plans and various tax deduction, exclusion, exemption, and threshold amounts. Here are a few of the key adjustments for 2019.
Employer retirement plans
  • Employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans can defer up to $19,000 in compensation in 2019 (up from $18,500 in 2018); employees age 50 and older can defer up to an additional $6,000 in 2019 (the same as in 2018).
  • Employees participating in a SIMPLE retirement plan can defer up to $13,000 in 2019 (up from $12,500 in 2018), and employees age 50 and older can defer up to an additional $3,000 in 2019 (the same as in 2018).
IRAs
The combined annual limit on contributions to traditional and Roth IRAs increased to $6,000 in 2019 (up from $5,500 in 2018), with individuals age 50 and older able to contribute an additional $1,000. For individuals who are covered by a workplace retirement plan, the deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for the following modified adjusted gross income (AGI) ranges:
2018 2019 Single/head of household (HOH) $63,000 - $73,000 $64,000 - $74,000 Married filing jointly (MFJ) $101,000 - $121,000 $103,000 - $123,000 Married filing separately (MFS) $0 - $10,000 $0 - $10,000 The 2019 phaseout range is $193,000 - $203,000 (up from $189,000 - $199,000 in 2018) when the individual making the IRA contribution is not covered by a workplace retirement plan but is filing jointly with a spouse who is covered.
The modified AGI phaseout ranges for individuals to make contributions to a Roth IRA are:
2018 2019 Single/HOH $120,000 - $135,000 $122,000 - $137,000 MFJ $189,000 - $199,000 $193,000 - $203,000 MFS $0 - $10,000 $0 - $10,000
Estate and gift tax
  • The annual gift tax exclusion for 2019 is $15,000, the same as in 2018.
  • The gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount for 2019 is $11,400,000, up from $11,180,000 in 2018.
Kiddie tax
Under the kiddie tax rules, unearned income above $2,200 in 2019 (up from $2,100 in 2018) is taxed using the trust and estate income tax brackets. The kiddie tax rules apply to: (1) those under age 18, (2) those age 18 whose earned income doesn't exceed one-half of their support, and (3) those ages 19 to 23 who are full-time students and whose earned income doesn't exceed one-half of their support.
Standard deduction
2018 2019 Single $12,000 $12,200 HOH $18,000 $18,350 MFJ $24,000 $24,400 MFS $12,000 $12,200 The additional standard deduction amount for the blind or aged (age 65 or older) in 2019 is $1,650 (up from $1,600 in 2018) for single/HOH or $1,300 (the same as in 2018) for all other filing statuses. Special rules apply if you can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.
Alternative minimum tax (AMT)
2018 2019 Maximum AMT exemption amount Single/HOH $70,300 $71,700 MFJ $109,400 $111,700 MFS $54,700 $55,850 Exemption phaseout threshold Single/HOH $500,000 $510,300 MFJ $1,000,000 $1,020,600 MFS $500,000 $510,300 26% rate on AMTI* up to this amount, 28% rate on AMTI above this amount MFS $95,550 $97,400 All others $191,100 $194,800 *Alternative minimum taxable income
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