Tax Law Changes Due to COVID-19

Many U.S. citizens have been subjected to financial and other difficulties due to the pandemic. In March, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department issued an extension of time for filing, and paying, income taxes for individuals. The good news is that you have until July 15, 2020, to file your 2019 individual income tax returns and pay your taxes. Even better news is that you will not be penalized for filing the returns and paying your taxes after April 15, 2020, which is the original legal due date. This exception for the filing date is only applicable to this year due to the disruption in the economy and the “safer at home” implementation protocol for reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Confusion arises when you are one of the taxpayers required to make estimated tax payments to resolve your tax liability. For example, the typical estimated tax payment schedule would be April 15, 2020, June 15, 2020, September 15, 2020 and January 15, 2021. The confusion arises when the original due date for your 2019 return has been extended beyond the payment date for your second quarterly estimated tax payment. To reconcile this quandary, the IRS changed the order of the required estimated tax payments to be as follows: 1st quarter – July 15, 2020; 2nd quarter – July 15, 2020; 3rd quarter – September 15, 2020; and 4th quarter – January 15, 2021. 

Additional time to file returns and pay taxes is an anomaly for U.S. tax filers. Typically, an extension of time would be requested by filing a Form 4868 with the IRS on or before April 15. Consequently, if additional time is needed to complete and file your 2019 returns beyond the extended due date of July 15, you must file a Form 4868 to request additional time to file until October 15, 2020. Remember, the tax you owe for 2019 must be paid by July 15, 2020, or additional penalties and interest may be incurred. To alleviate these onerous penalties and interest, remit your estimated amount owed with your filing of Form 4868.

For those of us that are charitably minded but lack the required level of expenses that qualify for itemizing deductions on our individual return, the IRS is allowing an “above-the-line” deduction of $300 for qualified charitable contributions. My philosophy is to support my favorite qualified exempt organizations despite the ability to deduct the contribution. The pandemic has dealt a cruel blow to the finances of many exempt organizations during a time the need is much greater than anticipated. Take advantage of this opportunity to provide support for our citizens in need of these services and deduct up to $300 without itemizing your deductions for your 2020 income tax returns.

Individuals who wish to be generous in their contributions to exempt organizations can donate even more than the previously law allowed in 2020. Under prior law, the limit for cash donations was increased from 50% to 60% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. The CARES Act suspends the limit of 60% and allows you to contribute 100% of your adjusted gross income to qualified exempt organizations. This provision of law was intended to help the funding shortfalls of the exempt organizations during the pandemic. The suspension applies to cash contributions only (of course, a check or other forms of cash will suffice) and not to contributions of property. Let’s support these organizations that provide a substantial service to our communities!

Lastly, join me in taking the necessary actions to eliminate or thwart the spread of the virus. Each of us has a responsibility in our community to do our part. Adhere to the three “W’s”: Wear a mask, Wait for six feet in distance between you and others in small gatherings to avoid close contact and Wash your hands. All people, including our friends in other countries, should care for one another and work together to rid our world of this deadly virus.

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Financial Literacy: The Key to Successful Kids

One of the wisest statements made about planning for the future can be found in an ancient Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” This is a philosophy that is applicable to your finances. 

Our schools are bombarded with challenges in teaching students the important lessons to equip them for life – algebra, science, English, literature, etc. I firmly believe this list of important lesson should include financial literacy. Starting to understand and apply financial concepts at an early age will empower the children to initiate better habits that will ultimately give our communities and country a better financial future.

Financial literacy is a term we use for the subject of financial planning concepts and the act of securing one’s future in a comfortable and confident manner. By initiating such subjects as savings, investing, budgeting, taxes, credit, and other vital areas of life at ages as early as 10, you are setting your child up for success in their future. Too often children are in college or after before they realize what they don’t know. This is on us! As parents, not only should we be responsible for the physical, cognitive and emotional well being of our children but we should include their financial understanding as well. 

An area to start a child’s understanding of financial matters is teaching them the value of planning for tomorrow. If a child desires a certain toy or game, ask them how they would pay for the game. Does your child have responsibilities around the house that teaches them that all family members must share in the household duties? If so, perhaps you could negotiate an allowance or “hourly rate” for completing their chores. However, to continue the lesson of financial responsibility, you will save one-half or more of their earnings each week in a savings account. I have often learned with my own children that items purchased with their earnings are cared for much better than those items given them.

Teaching children about the use of banks and proper credit are good starting positions for them understanding these institutions. When I was a very young boy, my parents took me to meet their banker. I was in awe at the marble floors, high ceilings and when he showed me the vault – WOW! I knew at that moment that I wanted to be involved in the finance in some form. But the words of John Gillson, my parent’s banker, still ring clearly in my mind to this day – “Take care of your credit and it will take care of you.” What Mr. Gillson actually meant was that one should only use credit when absolutely necessary and, in the manner, needed to bridge the short-term cash flow needs of the person.

It is critical that our children understand the importance of finance in their lives. The best future you could help them achieve begins with a basic understanding of the impact finance has on their lives and how to appropriately utilize financial concepts to help them live life to its fullest. For additional resources about teaching children about financial concepts, view our Compass Capital Management Videos. Until next time, I’ll see you on the golf course!

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How Long to Keep Tax Records?

If you are like most individuals, you have a drawer in your home or a box in the garage that contains all of your tax returns and supporting information from 1987. It is the sacred box of “all things to defend myself from the IRS”. Today, I am providing you some guidance that will help you clean out that drawer or box as well as relieve your mind from future inquires of taxing agencies.

There is no other word that strikes fear in the hearts of citizens worse than “Internal Revenue Service”. You go to mailbox and open it with a smile hoping that Ed McMahon has sent you the winning ticket to a sweepstakes only to find an ominous envelope from the IRS. Before opening the envelope, your mind races through a myriad of circumstances and outcomes. Survival instincts fire in your brain that you should seek a lawyer or CPA, transfer assets to other relatives or some other ridiculous plan to counter the attack by this federal agency.

Would you believe that most correspondence from the IRS is clerical in nature? The complicated system of revenue collection in the United States does not process without mistakes. A few years ago, one of our new clients came to the office, looking white as a sheet, and holding a rather large, white envelope. Her introduction omitted pleasantries and she immediately initiated her case of fearing the IRS and now “I will lose my house!” After speaking with her for a few minutes, providing a nice cold drink of water, and opening the envelope to read its contents, we disclosed some good news to her. She didn’t owe the government any money, she was actually receiving a refund. She looked at me with her eyes as big as silver dollars and exclaimed, “What?” Her previous tax returns, prepared by someone else, had omitted one of her estimated tax payments and she was receiving a refund of almost $21,000. 

The moral of this story is that many citizens do not understand the role, authority and power of the IRS. This agency is one of the most powerful of our government. However, in my 33-year career of interacting with the IRS, I have experienced very few instances where I was treated unfairly or unprofessionally.

Maintaining proper and complete records of your financial transactions reported on your tax returns is critical to good outcomes. The statute of limitations for most individual income tax returns is three years from the date you filed your return or two years from the date you paid the tax owed. This means that any of your individual income tax return forms can be destroyed or scanned to electronic storage. You should keep all records to document income, expenses, gains and losses from the three years’ of returns so that you may properly defend your tax returns should you be selected for audit. Wow! That sounds like a sinister word – audit.

Certain documents should be retained indefinitely such as property deeds, birth certificates, gift tax transactions, stock certificates, bonds, and marriage licenses. Most of these documents can be reclaimed but the process is rather time consuming.

The key to a pleasant and happy life is to understand the role government plays in our lives. Too often myths and speculation rule our minds when the actual facts are much less menacing. If you receive a notice from any taxing agency, contact your CPA or tax preparer to determine the appropriate response. As citizens, you have appeals rights, amendment capabilities and other actions you can take to mitigate or eliminate your tax matter.

If you have a question about filing your individual income tax returns, click this link for information that may be helpful. Until next week, stay safe and well.

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Why Saving For The Future Matters?

Forty-one percent of Americans believe they would be able to cover a $1,000 emergency with savings, according to a survey conducted by BankRate in January, 2020. The chickens certainly came home to roost with the COVID-19 pandemic! The more disturbing findings of the survey were that 37% of the respondents would use their credit card to resolve the emergency. The lack of savings in the United States has reached critical stages for most families. To prepare your family for inevitable times of critical cash flow emergencies, I am providing you a proven strategy that will provide you with the confidence to weather emergencies in the future.

Some of the most common “emergencies” to strike families are automobile mechanical damages, large appliance failures, emergency medical care and loss of employment. Just one of these instances could spell disaster for your family without adequate savings to mitigate the disruption. During the pandemic, too many people have felt the anxious feeling of unemployment and wondering how their family will survive. Luckily, for many, the state and federal unemployment programs have been far richer in benefits than otherwise could have been. With the temporary additional federal unemployment benefit of $600, some individuals have “earned” more cash flow while being unemployed than experienced from their actual job. 

First, review your expenditures currently experienced by your family and choose one item of lesser importance to you from the list. This is the item that will no longer be purchased and the funds previously spent for this item will be automatically drafted each month from your checking account to your savings account. What this process does is take away the resistance of human nature to change by asking your financial institution to do the hard work for you. How this is accomplished is by visiting (or calling) your bank and asking them to perform an ACH (automated clearing house) transaction for you in a specific amount on the same date each month. Once you have adjusted your mindset to the alleviation of this item, choose the next least desired item on your list and continue this process until your family’s budget reflects only those expenditures that truly provide your family enjoyment. The ultimate goal of the process of saving for your future is to maintain 90 to 120 days of living expenses in a liquid account in case (and they always do) an emergency strikes your family. 

Second, if you are capable, consider seeking a part-time job or side gig. During the summer months you may have an opportunity to work in the evenings or weekends performing odd jobs or lawn work to increase your cash savings. This seasonal employment activity is an excellent method of increasing your cash reserves but may also tempt you to increase your lifestyle. This is where discipline must be exerted. Let’s say you earned an additional $200 in a week on your evening job. If you deposit these funds in your bank account, ask your bank to transfer them to your savings account instead of leaving them in your checking account. By performing this transfer your account will appear as though you have the same amount as always but your savings account will be increasing for your family’s safety. Any incremental increase in income, such as a bonus from your employer, should be treated in a similar manner.

Lastly, you may have accumulated assets which you no longer use such as additional lawn equipment, stored furniture, etc. Why not sell these items and place the proceeds in your family’s emergency fund? You may be surprised what someone will pay for a used piece of equipment!

The key to providing confidence and security for your family is the consistent monitoring of expenditures coupled with a mindset toward saving. Your bank most likely has an app for your phone that you can access with a couple of clicks. The challenge is to forgo looking at the increasing savings account everyday thinking it is available to you for a family vacation or new TV. No, this money is for the next emergency to strike your family. You will be glad you were disciplined and can face the next catastrophe with greater security.

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Planning for the Future

“There is nothing certain in life but death and taxes.” This is my paraphrase of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789. Imagine the tax rates imposed by the King of England in the days of the colonies and those assessed by our nation, The United States of America, to fund its services today. Our government budget continues to swell with the costs of programs administered by the U.S. Government to serve our citizens and their needs caused by an international pandemic.

A review of the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2021 is typically analyzed by those of us in the financial planning profession to determine where priorities will lie for the administration and Congress. Our government is bigger than any corporation I can think of in sheer number of employees or economic impact on the world. Now, this article is not judging the government’s function or disfunction. The purpose of this article is to provide you an understanding of the enormity of our government and comparison of the type of budgeting to that of a typical family.

One of the primary areas addressed by this budget is the outlook or vision of the administration. Like our government, we individuals should have a written plan for the future. Unlike our government, we are not allowed to print money to fund our own operations. (Well, we can’t print money legally.) You and I must work within the means we generate through our efforts or investments to provide for our housing, food, healthcare and other necessities of life. What has happened to many Americans is a microcosm of what is happening in our government services – borrowing to continue operations in the manner we wish versus that we can afford.

As of September, 2019, the average family in America owed credit card debt in the amount of $6,849 (according to a December 2, 2019 article by Erin El Issa published in Nerdwallet). The cause of most credit card debt is a lack of budgeting and controlled spending. Too often we seek immediate gratification instead of saving for a particular object. By disciplining yourself to only seek debt for the necessities in life such as a home or automobile, you may avoid a tremendous amount of hardship for your family’s cash flow burden. 

The U.S. Government currently owes a debt balance, and it changes by the second, of more than $24,000,000,000,000. How do we pay for a debt this large? First, we must think about revenues. Currently, the U.S. Marginal Income Tax Rates for individuals consists of rates ranging from 10% to 37%. Our system of taxation is known as a progressive tax system – the more you earn in taxable income the higher your marginal tax rate. Sounds simple, right?

Based on a recent report, in 2018 the U.S. Government relied on individual income taxes as the primary source of tax revenue. Our citizens contributed 40.72% of the total revenue needed to support services! Let’s take a quiz. If the costs of government functions and services are rising, what is the most obvious form of taxation that will eventually need to rise to pay for the services in a balanced budget? You guessed correctly if you said “personal income taxes”.

The goal of each family should be to plan for their future, care for the members of the family and serve their fellow man. Our country is the greatest on the planet. We could help sustain our greatness for all mankind by exercising a few simple disciplines in our spending and plan for the future. Another of my favorite quotes attributed to Benjamin Franklin will guide us to a better future – “A penny saved is a penny earned.”


Monday is a holiday when we recognize those who served our country – our servicemen and servicewomen of the armed forces. Those celebrated this Memorial Day made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and liberties we now enjoy in the United States of America. To these celebrated heroes I simply, reverently and respectfully, say, “Thank you”. 

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A Brighter Day Is Coming

The pandemic initiated a change in our community that has brought momentous and abrupt disruption to life as we know, or knew, it. I can remember the simple task of driving to one of my favorite restaurants, sitting down and enjoying a great meal. I fondly recall the waitstaff and their smiles while they served me multiple glasses of sweet tea… Oh! I think I was dreaming just now.

Good news for everyone reading this column – life will return to normal soon. But what does “normal” mean? This simple term once understood by all of us will be redefined in the near future. As the government mandates guidelines to safely open our communities, states and nation, there comes to mind the one variable that can’t, or won’t, be controlled by an edict – our citizens. Will we have the confidence to sit in a crowded restaurant or enjoy a theatre without the somber thought of illness lurking in our memory? I say YES!

One of the most important lessons to learn about capitalism is that this form of an economy works when transactions are being negotiated and labor performed. While businesses continue to define their approach to safely returning to their pre-pandemic routines and functions, a product must be created and sold to a buyer that is willing to part with an asset, their hard-earned cash.

I predict, with great confidence, that our country will return to its former greatness as the world’s best economy. The question as to how long this process will take is the difficult one. To make progress in opening our economy you should remember the traits of our grand tradition. Think about the five characteristics of capitalism: 1) economic freedom; 2) voluntary exchange; 3) private property rights; 4) profit motive and 5) competition. 

Economic freedom is the primary driver of entrepreneurism. We have choices in how we wish to live our lives. “The harder I work, the luckier I get” is often quoted as the basis for the American Dream. Each of us can control our destiny but it takes hard work, dedication and a willingness to accept risk. Currently, our economy is suffering due to a lack of activity caused by an invisible creation of risk. However, we will return to a vibrant economy because of the love of freedom by men like Alexander Graham Bell who desired to speak with others across miles of terrain, Thomas Edison whose inquisitive mind desiderated to light the world with the flip of a switch and Benjamin Franklin who curiously sought to understand electricity and its effects on tangible objects. These men were considered pioneers of their day. Laughed at and mocked by the citizenry because of their unique and unorthodox attempts to conquer unknown areas of life only to see themselves ordained as great men of invention when the world gasped at the benefits afforded our civilization by their creations.

The characteristic of our capitalistic economy that has been the basis for commerce, since the days of pharaoh, is profit motive. In marketplaces across the globe, people gathered to exchange goods and services for the sole purpose of creating income and lifestyle for themselves. In the modern era we continue to seek a profit on the goods we create and sell while retaining the control of our own destinies. It is important to note that our economy is based on this premise and this one characteristic will be the hinge in which our country swings forward from this pandemic.

To truly bring our economy back to the state we appreciated before COVID-19, we must embrace competition. In our state, our primary source of revenues was gross production taxes from oil and gas drilling activities. We are a resilient people that have experienced this type of contraction in our state economy many times before. To revitalize our economy, we must initiate action and take ourselves to the marketplace. I am not telling you to spend your money, I am asking you to invest in the future of our state. Not only do we require investment from private individuals to resuscitate our economy, we must establish an efficient transaction base for the free exchange of ideas and goods. Today is the day to bring a concerted effort of our citizens to the capitalistic economy. To do so in a safe, yet productive, manner would be a catalyst to bringing back the days we so flippantly took for granted prior to the pandemic. Just look overhead, the sun is rising on a new day in the land of paradise that I affectionately refer to as the “Greatest State in the Union”, my home, Oklahoma!

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IRA Law Changes That Affect You Now!

If you are receiving required minimum distributions from an IRA, you may have an opportunity to lower your tax burden for 2020! The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes a waiver for required minimum distributions for 2020. This provides immediate relief to taxpayers who were being forced to pay tax on the distribution but had no economic need. Another reasoning for this provision of the Act was to allow investors to retain their investments within their IRAs during a time our economy was contracting. Further, the required minimum distribution is based on the balance of the account at December 31, 2019. The markets were much higher than they are currently. The waiver applies to traditional and Roth inherited IRAs, too.

To provide immediate tax reduction, individuals under the age of 59½, who need funds to continue their lifestyle, may receive up to $100,000 of IRA premature distributions in 2020 and the 10% penalty for early distribution will be waived. However, the distribution is taxable. Good news for these individuals is that the tax due on the distributions may be evenly spread over three (3) tax years to be repaid.

If you are in the process of preparing and filing your 2019 individual income tax returns, you may contribute to your 2019 IRA up to July 15, 2020. This contribution would normally be allowed only to the date of April 15. By providing taxpayers the opportunity to build additional cash flow for their households, the extension of time to fund an IRA may allow investors to open or fund an IRA that otherwise would not be feasible.

Limits for IRA contributions for 2019 remain at $6,000 for Roth and Traditional IRAs. For those age 50 or older, an additional “catch-up” contribution of $1,000 is allowed. If you or your spouse, as married filing joint tax filers, wish to contribute to an IRA for 2019, your modified adjusted gross income must be $103,000 or less. If you are a single filer, your modified adjusted gross income must be $63,000 or less to contribute the full amount allowed in a Traditional or Roth IRA. The limit for IRA contributions for the 2020 tax year are the same as those in 2019.

Earnings limits for contributions to an IRA, while participating in an employer plan, are increased to $65,000 for single filers and $104,000 for married filing joint filers. The preceding amounts of modified adjusted gross income allow the taxpayer(s) to fully deduct their IRA contributions.

Lastly, one of the better changes to the IRA rules, for 2020, is the allowance of contributions to an IRA by individuals older than 70½. There is no age limit to make contributions to a Traditional or Roth IRA in 2020. This is a big bonus for many individuals who are savers. A tax deduction that you get to keep in your own account!?!? Welcome to the crazy world of taxation in the United States. See you on the golf course! 

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Strategies for Using Your Stimulus Check

Have we secretly transported to another universe? We can’t sit in a restaurant and eat dinner. We can’t attend a movie theatre. We can’t even visit our friends. All of these changes in life because of one thing – a virus. Have we experienced a paradigm shift in our lifestyle in the United States? I say NO WAY!

The United States Treasury has begun the process of issuing stimulus payments to qualified American citizens. Checks and direct deposit payments started crediting the checking and savings accounts of my fellow countrymen earlier this week. Most of us will receive a benefit of $1,200, some will receive a lesser amount and others will receive nothing. What do you do with this sudden inflow of money?

One of the most basic strategies of using your stimulus benefit is to establish a plan that addresses your most critical needs. For example, if you are in need of shelter, food or medicine, you should utilize the funds for these purposes. What if your mortgage is a federally-backed loan (such as FHA loans)? You may be granted payment relief for 6 – 12 months! If you are renting, perhaps your landlord will allow you to defer a month or two so that you can focus on the more important matter of your health. Any medicines you may require to maintain your health would be the focus for using your stimulus check.

If your basic living needs are met, you should consider saving the stimulus funds to enhance your emergency funds. It is vital that you maintain a minimum of 60 – 90 days of living expenses in a readily available account for emergencies. Guess what? The current pandemic we are living through is one of the emergencies for which this fund would be utilized! By maintaining access to funds that will allow you to live your life as you desire, at least for a period of time despite the ever-changing world around you, is both comforting and empowering. To know that your lifestyle can continue through times of struggle gives you the mental confidence to meet other challenges that may arise in life.

Let’s assume that you accumulated ample savings in your emergency fund. You may wish to review your debts and pay down, or even better pay off, certain high interest debts such as credit cards. I am not a big fan of credit cards due to the ease of abuse of such unsecured credit that allows individuals to live beyond their means. The phrase my father often tells me come to mind pertaining to credit cards – “give a man enough rope and he will hang himself”. During times of economic distress, many credit card companies will lower your interest rate for a period of time, if you contact them, and have been making your payments consistently and on time. Once the card is paid in full, place it in a zip-lock bag, then place the bag in a plastic container of water. Next, place the container in your freezer. This will require some effort on your part to free the card from the ice causing you to expend energy and time thinking about the use of the card.

Should you have none of the above needs, consider yourself a lucky person! The use of your stimulus benefit could be a very positive act such as contributing to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for a tax deduction. By saving for your future with an IRA, you will be preparing for the future in a bold way. Your needs are met today, for the next 90 days and for your future!

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Relief is on the Way!

These are truly unprecedented times for us as Americans! As businesses deal with the disruption, the U.S. Treasury has designed a few programs to help our citizens with relief. This article will be part one of a two-part series on the various methods and programs for individuals and businesses to seek relief. We will focus on individual relief provisions in this first article.

No doubt that you have heard many acronyms and strange titles assigned to laws passed by Congress but this one may be the most unique. CARES Act is the short name for the Caronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Whew! That is a mouthful. The primary purpose of this bill is to enhance our economy by infusing capital into the hands of citizens and businesses to continue to weather this difficulty. President Trump signed the bill into law on March 27, 2020.

Many of you will be receiving a stimulus check in the amount of $1,200 for each individual and $500 for each child under the age of 17. To receive these funds, you must have filed a tax return for 2018. If you haven’t filed a return for 2018, it is highly recommended that you do so promptly to qualify for this nontaxable benefit payment. For those who filed their 2019 returns before the pandemic worsened in the United States, your 2019 return will be utilized for purposes of qualifying for the stimulus benefit payment.

To qualify for the $1,200 payment, a phase-out, or disqualifying level of income is between $75,000 to $99,000 as an individual or $150,000 to $198,000 as a joint filer. If you did not file a return for 2018 because your income was lower than the filing requirement and you are a Social Security Benefits beneficiary, you will not need to file any returns and the information from SSA will be used to determine your benefit payment qualifications. Many questions exist about the qualifications of the recipients’ income in 2020, which is the year the stimulus payment is received. As an experienced CPA with a Masters in Tax, I expect those individuals that received the stimulus payment based on income reported in 2018, in other words have not filed their 2019 returns, and exceed the income limits for 2020, will not be required to repay the compulsory stimulus payments. We will continue to monitor IRS guidance on this issue.

Typically, a taxpayer would be required to report distributions from an employer retirement plan when received with the resulting tax and premature distribution penalty, if applicable, assessed on their income tax returns. However, for those individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, who receive a distribution from their 401(k)-plan account, the 10% penalty is waived on early withdrawals up to $100,000. The withdrawal will be taxable but the tax associated with the withdrawal will be spread over a three-year period. 

If you own an IRA and were subject to required minimum distributions, you may elect forgo your distribution for 2020 and not be subject to a penalty. This waiver applies even if you were not impacted by the pandemic. This is an excellent planning point and may save retirees unnecessary income taxes at a time our economy is in recovery.

Charities have been stricken particularly hard during this economic halt experienced in our country. To address the issue of revenue loss for these types of organizations, Congress included a provision in the bill that allows individuals to deduct “above-the-line” contribution of a total $300 or less made to qualified charities. To determine the qualified status of a charity, you may find the list of approved charities at the IRS website (irs.gov).

For those individuals who claim itemized deductions on their returns, the limitations for qualified charitable contributions has been increased to allow unlimited deductions in individuals. Another income tax planning point would be to consider charitable contributions more earnestly in 2020 than prior years. You may experience considerable tax savings!

It is critical that you be proactive in the process for applying for additional aid, if needed. This is the time to reach out to your neighbors and check on the welfare of the more senior members of our community. Many families may weather the financial storm but the emotional toll of self-isolation and social distancing may be far worse. Send a note to a friend, place a call to a neighbor for no other reason than sharing a discussion about something positive. This is what makes our nation so exceptional – caring for those who may be suffering worse than you.

Be safe and stay well. We will get through this challenge and become a better community in the process. 

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Perspective is the Key

These truly are challenging times for everyone! One of the most important actions you can take as you consider the current impact on your life is to remain calm. Sure. You have heard everyone tell you to be calm but it is one of the most important foundations of thinking clearly about situations in which you have not control to change.

On February 19, 2020, our economy began a slow down that quickly picked up speed causing a (18.21%) return year-to-date through March 26, 2020. To many of us this precipitous drop in the broad index was felt like an earthquake to our retirement accounts! This is where investors, particular those retiring in the next two years, must find a place of perspective. 

Lets painfully look back to the market turbulence of the last major correction and reflect on the perspective gained from that period compared to today. In 2008, the S&P 500 fell (37.00%) within a period of ten weeks. Comparing the two periods of negative returns in the index gives us a moment of relief. 

When advising our clients to take certain actions to protect their retirement assets, we believe simple steps can be implemented that will yield significant results. The first step is your mindset about investing. Many investors believed the long bull run markets could provide significant returns on their investments but got caught with too much exposure in their portfolios. You should act on those activities you can control – diversification, quality of the investments, timing for retirement election and establishing a level of risk that allows you to sleep at night. 

One of the most important steps of our proprietary process for guiding clients through retirement is to assess their true feelings about risk. The second step is to determine what their ultimate objectives for their investments will be. With these two factors we can develop a portfolio of long-term perspective that considers market contractions and expansions without compromising the investor’s time of retirement.

I have visited with individuals who were surprised by the recent market contraction and will now postpone their retirement plans. This is not the way they wanted to start their next phase of life. Take steps today to seek out the opinion of a specialist in retirement planning to give you confidence that your plan can weather any financial storm you may face. Perspective is the key to success! Are you sleeping well? 

Here is the secret formula to sleeping well tonight: This too will pass. If you are age 50 and above, this is not your first experience with market contractions. Through some miracle, you have survived many market contractions dating back to the 70’s and 80’s. The difference among these markets is that you most likely have more invested at this stage of life than you did in your teens and twenties. More at risk, the more you are concerned about risk. Tomorrow is a new day. Live your life abundantly for today.

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