With a new year before us, now is a perfect opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to revamp your financial plan, increase your savings, and strategically plan for the future. At Comprehensive Advisor, we firmly believe that, even though the new year has already begun, it’s never too late to kick-start your financial plan for 2024. Use this guide to assess every aspect of your strategy so you embark on the new year with a sense of confidence and a strong financial foundation.
You may want to consider maxing out your retirement contributions for 2023 prior to April 15th of 2024. Many employers offer retirement plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457s, which allow you to contribute up to $22,500 annually for 2023 ($23,000 for 2024).
These contributions are automatically deducted from your paycheck and won’t show up as part of your annual income, so the more you can optimize your contributions during the year, the less taxable income you will have. If you still haven’t maxed out your contributions with salary deferrals, consider making additional contributions prior to April 15th. With this strategy, you can defer taxes until your retirement years when you could potentially be in a lower tax bracket.
Contributing to a traditional IRA is another strategy to reduce your AGI if your income is within certain limits. By contributing pre-tax funds, you can effectively reduce your current-year tax liability, but you will owe tax on both the contributions and the account growth when you withdraw the funds in retirement. The 2023 contribution limit for traditional IRAs is $6,500 with additional $1,000 catch-up contributions for individuals over the age of 50. ($7,000 for 2024 plus the catch-up). Contributions can be made until April 15th, 2024 for the 2023 tax year so there’s still time to utilize this strategy. If you’ve already optimized your 2023 contributions, start contributing for the 2024 tax year.
Starting in 2023, the rules around required minimum distributions (RMDs) have changed again thanks to SECURE 2.0. If you turn 72 after December 31, 2022, your RMD age will be increased to 73. If you turn 74 after December 31, 2032, your RMD age will be 75. If you are subject to RMDs in 2023, the sooner you understand the rules around your distribution, the better. Though we are barely into the new year, you don’t want to be caught off guard come December 31. Depending on what age you are required to start taking distributions (70 ½, 72, 73, or 75), you could face a 25% – 50% penalty on missed distributions.
If you don’t need your RMD money to live on, consider donating the funds to a worthy cause, which could also lessen your tax burden for the year. To calculate your RMD, use one of the IRS worksheets.
Now is the time to ensure that you have enough money set aside in your emergency fund or create a plan to build this up over the next year. An adequate emergency fund should cover 3-6 months of necessary living expenses, including mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, etc.
With all stock market uncertainty and recession fears, many experts have suggested maintaining a larger emergency fund, closer to 6-12 months of expenses. If you’re single, or your household only has one source of income, consider saving on the higher end of this scale to make sure you’re covered in the event of a job loss or reduction in income.
However much you save, be sure this money is held in a highly liquid account. It needs to be readily available and easily accessible, but it should also be in an account that offers a competitive interest rate so you don’t lose out on potential growth.
The word “budget” seems to have a negative connotation; many people think that if you budget, you’re broke. Budgeting actually gives you permission to spend and is a simple way to keep track of your expenses and be aware of how much you’re actually saving each month. If one of your goals for the new year is to improve your cash flow and make better financial decisions, creating and maintaining a budget is a great place to start.
If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, consider contributing to a health savings account (HSA) in 2024. HSAs offer triple tax savings. Contributions are tax-deductible, earnings grow tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free if used to pay for medical expenses.
The 2023 IRS contribution limits for HSAs are $3,850 for individuals and $7,750 for families ($4,150 and $8,300 in 2024). If you are 55 or older, you may also be able to make catch-up contributions of $1,000 per year.
The beginning of the year is a great time to review your workplace benefits and update your coverage levels if need be. If you had a major change to your family structure in 2023, like a birth, marriage, or divorce, now’s the time to update your 2024 health, dental, and vision insurance. Many employers also offer group life insurance which can be a great addition to any private coverage you may have.
Your employer may also offer a health care flexible spending account, which allows you to set aside pre-tax money for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses. In 2023, you can contribute up to $3,050 (increased to $3,200 in 2024).
Unlike HSAs, FSAs do not require that you participate in a high-deductible health plan, but they are not as versatile either. For instance, HSAs allow you to carry over any unused funds to the next plan year, whereas FSAs only allow you to carry over up to $610. Generally speaking, if you do not have access to an HSA, then contributing to an FSA is likely a good idea.
The new year is also a great time to assess your insurance needs, review your coverages, and update designated beneficiaries to reflect your current financial situation. For example, if you paid off debt, you may not need as much life insurance coverage since your family’s liabilities have decreased. You might also want to evaluate your need for other types of insurance, such as long-term care or disability insurance.
Donating to charity doesn’t have to wait until the holiday season. In fact, charitable gifting is a great tax strategy to incorporate throughout the year.
Annual gifts to qualified charitable organizations may be deemed an eligible itemized deduction and can be a great way to give back at the end of the year while also minimizing your tax bill. With the higher standard deduction, you’ll need to make sure your total itemized deductions for the year exceed $13,950 for an individual filer, and $27,700 for married filing jointly (increased to $14,600 and $29,200 in 2024). If your deductions fall below this amount, consider bunching your giving or doing several years’ worth of giving in one year.
Donor-advised funds are another option that allow you to contribute a lump sum all at once and then distribute those funds to various charities over several years. With this strategy, you can itemize deductions when you make the initial contribution and then take the standard deduction in the following years, allowing you to make the most out of your donation tax-wise.
If you have children or grandchildren in your life, contributing to a 529 savings plan is an excellent way to jump-start their college savings in the new year.
This type of educational savings plan was created so that families can receive tax benefits for saving toward qualified higher-education expenses. After-tax money is invested in a 529 plan where it grows tax-free. When the money is later taken out for qualified expenses, there are no federal taxes due.
In 2023, you can give up to $17,000 (or $34,000 if gift-splitting with a spouse) per 529 account gift-tax-free (increasing to $18,000 in 2024). There’s also a special election that allows you to give 5 years’ worth of contributions as a lump sum, meaning you could give up to $85,000 (or $170,000 if gift-splitting) entirely gift-tax-free!
Roth IRAs are an attractive savings vehicle for many reasons, including no required minimum distributions (RMDs), tax-free withdrawals after age 59½, and the ability to pass wealth tax-free to your heirs. Unfortunately, Roth IRAs have income restrictions, and you may not be able to open an account outright if you are above certain limits.
To get around this threshold, consider a Roth conversion. Using this strategy, you will pay tax on money contributed to a traditional IRA, thereby converting it into a Roth. If you believe you will earn less income in 2024, or your traditional IRA balance has taken a hit due to recent market volatility, a Roth conversion may be a great opportunity for your specific situation. Converting to a Roth also allows your money to grow tax-free for as long as you’d like.
* Please remember that converting an employer plan account to a Roth IRA is a taxable event. Increased taxable income from the Roth IRA conversion may have several consequences. Be sure to consult with a qualified tax advisor before making any decisions regarding your IRA.
Tax-loss harvesting involves selling investments at a loss in order to offset the gains in your portfolio. By realizing a capital loss, you are able to counterbalance the taxes owed on capital gains. The investments that are sold are usually replaced with similar securities in order to maintain the desired asset allocation and expected return.
Given continued market volatility throughout 2023, this can be a great way to make the most out of a losing situation by using an investment loss to offset your tax liability. Even though the deadline for this to count toward the 2023 tax year has passed, there may be an opportunity to revisit this strategy in 2024. Talk with your advisor about potentially harvesting your losses and if it makes sense for you.
The beginning of the year is also a great time to review your asset allocation strategy and incorporate ESG and impact investing if desired. Given the dramatic market volatility and historic levels of inflation over the last year, it’s crucial to evaluate your investments and make sure your portfolio is properly diversified in 2024. It should also be tailored to your specific risk tolerance level, ensuring you earn enough returns to keep up with inflation but you’re not overexposing yourself to risk.
If you are interested in using your funds to support environmental, social, or governmental issues (ESG), you can also consider impact investing as a way to earn returns while also promoting change on causes you care about.
If you had any major life events happen in 2023, like a birth of a child, marriage, divorce, or a death in the family, make sure you review your beneficiary designations for 2024. There are several assets, including retirement accounts, bank accounts, and life insurance policies, that are distributed based on beneficiary designation and not the terms of your will. If you have an updated will but an outdated beneficiary listed on one of these accounts, there is a chance your assets will not pass according to your wishes.
Similarly, it’s important to review your estate planning documents, including your last will and testament, any powers of attorney, living wills, and/or trust documents. The new year is always a good time to take another look at these documents or start drafting them if you don’t already have them in place.
If you’re looking to reduce your taxable estate in 2024, consider making gifts up to the annual exclusion amount. Individuals can give to each recipient (and to an unlimited number of recipients) up to $18,000 and married couples can give up to $34,000 without triggering gift tax. Not only that, but the beneficiary of your gift will not have to report it as income. This is a great way to spread your wealth amongst family and friends.
As you begin the process of implementing your New Year’s resolutions, consider adding “evaluating my financial plan” to the list. Remember, you don’t have to tackle it on your own. Our team at Comprehensive Advisor is committed to offering professional support, education, and well-informed guidance so you can work towards feeling confident in your financial future. Each client is different; you need a financial plan as unique as you.
Interested in learning more? Email us at info@ComprehensiveAdvisor.com or call (760) 813-2125. We look forward to helping you start the new year on the right foot!
About Our Advisors
Brett Gottlieb is the founder of Comprehensive Advisor and a financial advisor with nearly two decades of industry experience. He graduated from California State University-Chico with two bachelor’s degrees, in business administration and economics, and is Life Insurance licensed in several states. He is passionate about guiding his clients on retirement income planning, helping each client pursue their specific retirement goals, and defending the assets his clients have worked so hard to achieve. Brett is a California native and currently resides in San Elijo Hills with his beautiful wife and three children.
Our team of qualified professionals have experience in the financial service industry, and our advisors hail from some of the largest independent broker/dealers and banking institutions in the country. They have dedicated their professional careers to creating personalized financial solutions for individuals and families who seek successful retirement planning and currently offer investment advisory services through AE Wealth Management, LLC. Our advisors take a common-sense approach to the planning process and work with clients to create a retirement road map to help ensure their assets are protected and they receive the income needed to enjoy their future. Based in Carlsbad, California, they work with clients throughout San Diego County and beyond. Learn more by connecting with Brett on LinkedIn or email them at info@ComprehensiveAdvisor.com.
Investment advisory products and services made available through AE Wealth Management, LLC (AEWM), a Registered Investment Advisor. C.A. Financial & Insurance Services, CA Ins. Lic. #6000262. This material is intended to provide general information and is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. Any references to protection benefits, safety, security, lifetime income, etc., generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products. Insurance and annuity product guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Neither the firm nor its agents or representatives may give tax or legal advice. Individuals should consult with a qualified professional for guidance before making any purchasing decisions. 2138140 – 01/24
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