Year End Financial Planning for 2014

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1 Year End Financial Planning for 2014 As we near the end of 2014 and begin preparing for 2015, it is important to reflect on the changes we have experienced over the last year. Life s milestones can range from the birth of a child or grandchild to inching one year closer to retirement, but it s important to be mindful of those events as they relate to your financial plan. Wherever you are on the road to planning for your financial future, Mariner Wealth Advisors is here to support you. At Mariner, we believe that now is the ideal time of year to re-evaluate your financial plan, taking into consideration the potential impact of any life changes on your long-term goals. We re also here to help you proactively plan for upcoming changes in legislation, tax guidelines and your own financial situation. As you plan for 2015 and beyond, we hope that you will keep us informed of any major life changes you ve experienced so we can work with you to adjust your financial plan accordingly. Here, we identify some considerations to keep in mind as you plan for the future. Make the Most of Your Retirement Contributions In 2014 and 2015, individuals can contribute up to $5,500 to an individual retirement account (IRA). Those who reach age 50 before the end of the year can contribute an additional $1,000 in catch-up contributions. This year s 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plan contribution limits are $17,500, with a catch-up option of up to an additional $5,500 for individuals age 50 and older. In 2015, these limits increase to $18,000, with a $6,000 catch-up allowance. MARINER WEALTH ADVISORS Page 1

2 While the IRS allows 2014 IRA contributions through April 15, 2015, it s important to remember that the earlier in the year a contribution is made, the longer that contribution has to generate tax-deferred earnings. In addition, contributing to your IRA earlier in the year may provide an opportunity to make an extra contribution during the life of your IRA. For example, if you contribute early in 2015 and each year going forward (rather than waiting until the end of the year), you may have a chance to make one extra contribution prior to reaching age 70 ½. For someone who is age 30 with an assumed earnings rate of 6%, contributing at the beginning of each year could mean an extra $29,000 at retirement. For someone age 45, it could mean an extra $12,000 of savings. Required Minimum Distributions If you turned 70 ½ years old in 2014, it s time to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your tax-deferred retirement accounts, including IRAs and 401(k)s. RMDs must be distributed each year by December 31. Your wealth advisor or tax professional can help you understand the minimum amount that must be distributed. Remember that Roth IRAs are not subject to RMDs, as those accounts are funded with after-tax dollars. Medicare Open Enrollment For current Medicare recipients, the Medicare open enrollment period for 2015 spans from October 15, 2014, to December 7, Therefore, if you have had any changes to your health or medications in the last year, now is the time to evaluate the most appropriate Medicare coverage and make those changes. Medicare plans can also change from year to year, in regard to what they cost and cover. So, it s a good idea to review your current coverage, even if your own needs have not changed. It s also important to note that if you are within three months of turning 65, the window for your initial Medicare enrollment period has opened and will remain open for seven months. Also, each state has a State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) offering free one-on-one counseling for Medicare recipients and their families. The website can direct you to each state s SHIP program and contact information. Individuals can also visit for customized information related to Medicare. Year-End Gains and Losses Many investors see the end of the year as an opportunity to gauge the potential tax consequences of any investment gains or losses incurred over the last 12 months. Typically, investors examine realized gains in order to calculate the investment losses they could take to offset related taxes. However, before making any decisions, it is important to consult with your wealth advisor and tax professional to gain an understanding of all potential outcomes. MARINER WEALTH ADVISORS Page 2

3 Charitable Planning For many people, the end of the year is a time to give thanks for life s blessings. As a way to show thanks and help those who are less fortunate, many contribute to charitable organizations. From a financial planning standpoint, charitable planning offers a great opportunity to reduce one s tax liability for the year. An important consideration when planning contributions is whether to donate cash or appreciated securities. By donating appreciated securities, an investor can avoid capital gains on that long-held security, which increases the value of the donation compared to selling the stock, paying the capital gains tax and, then, giving the cash proceeds to charity. Should you wish to make a year-end charitable contribution, but are unsure of the particular charity you would like to support, you many consider establishing a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). Funding a DAF before year-end would allow you the tax benefit of making the contribution in 2014 with the flexibility of delaying the decision of which causes to support until Congratulations! Start Saving According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average student now graduates from college with $28,186 in student loan debt. Assuming current 6% annual growth rates in college tuition, the cost of sending a child born in 2014 to a four-year public college is projected to cost over $200,000. If there were any babies born in your family this year, one of the best gifts you can give to both the child and the parent is the start of a 529 college savings plan. 529s are among the most popular methods to save for college, as they provide tax-free qualified withdrawals for college-related expenses that grow in a tax-deferred account. In addition, many states offer income tax incentives through either credits to or deductions from your state income tax. As of 2014, contributions also qualify for gift tax benefits, so individuals can contribute $14,000 ($28,000 for married, filing jointly) annually without incurring a gift tax. There is also an option to front load a plan for up to five years worth of contributions with individuals giving $70,000 ($140,000 if married/filing jointly), without incurring gift taxes. For students filing applications for federal student aid, it s important to note that financial contributions from parents are not counted as student income. Contributions from anyone else, including a contribution from a grandparent to a 529 plan, are counted as student income and may reduce the amount of financial aid a student would otherwise qualify for based on the income and assets claimed by the student and his or her parents as part of the financial aid filing process. As a result, grandparents may consider contributing to the parent s 529 plan or, at least, be aware of the impact their contributions may have on the student s eligibility for federal financial aid. Different states have different rules regarding ownership and tax treatment of 529 plans, so it is important to work with your wealth advisor to ensure you understand your state s plan. Annual Insurance Review The end of the year is an excellent time to review your insurance portfolio. Whether your policies are related to disability, long-term care or life insurance, it s important to review these policies on an ongoing basis. Through the review process, your advisor can confirm that your ownership and beneficiary designations are consistent with the objectives of your financial plan. As tax laws MARINER WEALTH ADVISORS Page 3

4 continuously change, maintaining proper ownership of your life insurance is critical to ensuring that potential proceeds from life insurance death benefits are impacting your beneficiaries as intended. With the prolonged low-interest rate environment, maintaining proper oversight of cash values within policies is critical to ensuring those policies remain properly funded. For term life insurance policies, your advisor can assist you with monitoring renewal periods and researching alternative coverage options. Whether your goal is to replace income or pass wealth to the next generation, an insurance review can provide peace of mind. Kiddie Tax Enacted as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the kiddie tax refers to the amount of unearned income (interest, dividends and capital gains) that can be charged at a child s tax rate relative to his or her parents tax rate. This tax applies to children under the age of 19 and college students under the age of 24. In 2014, the amount used to reduce the net unearned income reported on a child s tax return subject to the kiddie tax is $1,000. For 2014, the first $1,000 will be offset by the standard deduction, while the next $1,000 of unearned income will be charged at the child s tax rate. Any amount over $2,000 of unearned income for the child will be taxed at the parents tax rate. It s Never too Early to Plan for Retirement If your kids earned money working this year, they may consider contributing to a Roth IRA. Regardless of whether the job was lawn service, babysitting or working part-time, in 2014, your child can contribute the lesser of his or her earned income for the year, or $5,500, to a Roth IRA. This provides a great opportunity to teach kids about saving and investing concepts, while also offering you a tax incentive if you re a small business owner who employed your child. If your business is run as a sole proprietorship, hiring your child under the age of 18 as a part-time employee can make sense from a tax standpoint. For kids under 18, income is exempt from Federal Unemployment taxes, Medicare and Social Security, and your child s income can be deducted as a business expense. Year-End Gifting One of the benefits of the American Taxpayer Relief Act is that it provides certainty and permanence to the federal estate and gift tax system. This allows individuals to plan more effectively when it comes to determining an amount they would like to give over time. For 2014, the annual gift tax exclusion allows an individual to give up to $14,000 ($28,000 for married couples) gift tax-free and without counting toward the individual lifetime exclusion. Individuals will have until December 31, 2014, to make annual gifting elections. MARINER WEALTH ADVISORS Page 4

5 I Do.Need to Review My Estate Plan Often, in the excitement of celebrating a new marriage, certain estate planning considerations are overlooked. Drafting new wills and durable powers of attorneys is a critical first step for any newly married couple as they establish an estate plan. If it is a second marriage, special attention should be given to planning for blended families. Additionally, if one of your children recently married, it can be beneficial to re-examine your beneficiary designations to confirm that assets are being directed in the manner intended. You may also want to review your estate distribution plan along with any creditor protection language, in case your children receive an inheritance and, In terms of generational estate planning, it s important to check your estate documents to ensure that they contain language that covers after-born children. This ensures that any children in your family not initially named within your estate planning documents will be included in the transfer of assets at your death. Don t Forget About Your FSA Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) provide participants with an important tax advantage that can help pay health care and dependent care expenses on a pre-tax basis. However, these accounts often operate on a use it or lose it basis. If you contribute to an FSA, be sure to review your account to ensure you are on track to use all of the contributions you have made to it throughout the year. At Mariner Wealth Advisors, we are here to help navigate a wide variety of challenges in planning for your financial future. Should you have any questions regarding year-end financial planning, or your overall financial plan, please don t hesitate to contact your wealth advisor at or MARINER WEALTH ADVISORS Page 5

6 Mariner Wealth Advisors is an independent, national wealth advisory firm that provides unbiased financial advice focused on meeting client needs. Mariner s expert wealth advisory teams help clients achieve and maintain financial peace of mind preserving the wealth they have created and building a legacy for future generations of family and business leaders. Mariner Wealth Advisors, LLC ( MWA ) is an SEC registered investment adviser with its principal place of business in the State of Kansas. MWA and its representatives are in compliance with the current registration and notice filing requirements imposed upon registered investment advisers by those states in which such registration or notice filing is required. MWA may only transact business in those states in which it is notice filed, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from notice filing requirements. Any subsequent, direct communication by MWA with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides. For information pertaining to the registration status of MWA, please contact MWA or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure web site ( sec.gov). For additional information about MWA, including fees and services, send for our Disclosure Brochure using the contact information herein. Please read the Disclosure Brochure carefully before you invest or send money. This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information and is not intended to be legal, tax or investment advice. Nothing herein should be relied upon as such. The views expressed are for commentary purposes only and do not take into account any individual personal, financial, or tax considerations. There is no guarantee that any claims made will come to pass. MARINER WEALTH ADVISORS Page 6

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