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Jordan R. Hadfield

A Neglected Tax-Saving Strategy: Qualified Charitable Distributions

By | 2020, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

There are two types of people who complain about paying taxes, men and women. We all recognize the importance of taxes, but Gerald Barzan said it best, “Taxation with representation ain’t so hot either.” Yes, tax evasion is illegal, but tax avoidance…that’s wisdom. Tax avoidance should also be a financial advisor’s specialty. This is precisely why I’m so surprised by the number of financial and tax professionals who are unfamiliar with, or do not utilize, the Qualified Charitable Distribution.

The Qualified Charitable Distribution, or QCD, is a powerful tax savings strategy available to individuals age 70.5 and older who donate to 501(c)(3) organizations. Examples of 501(c)(3) organizations include religious, educational, and scientific organizations, public charities, and private foundations.

When you take a distribution from a tax-deferred retirement account, the distribution will be taxed at your marginal tax rate. However, if the distribution is from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and is sent directly to a 501(c)(3) organization, it qualifies as a QCD and becomes tax-free.

For example, Elliott has a required minimum distribution from her IRA of $3,000. Her tax rate is 20% federal and 5% state. Elliott plans to donate $3,000 to a 501(c)(3) organization this year. If Elliott takes the $3,000 distribution and pays the tax, she’ll receive $2,250 from her IRA. When she makes her $3,000 donation, she will be $750 short.

However, Elliott has a wise financial advisor who tells her about the QCD. So, she sends her $3,000 IRA distribution directly to the charity, and Elliott doesn’t pay tax on the distribution at all. Elliott’s required minimum distribution is satisfied for the year, she donates the desired $3,000 to charity, and her wise financial advisor saved her $750 in taxes.

Every year, we educate financial and tax professionals regarding the QCD and how to report it on the form 1040. Too often, we see it reported incorrectly. If you make a QCD and do not report it accurately, you won’t receive the benefit. If Elliott or her CPA doesn’t understand how to report her $3,000 QCD, she’ll pay an extra $750 to the IRS, and the QCD won’t save her anything.

On tax form 1040, line 4a asks for “IRA distributions,” and line 4b asks for the “taxable amount” as shown below.

Elliott took a $3,000 distribution from her IRA and will write $3,000 on line 4a. She will then subtract her QCD amount from 4a and write the balance on line 4b. In Elliott’s case, she will write $0 on line 4b, and no tax will be due from her IRA distribution. A tax penny saved is a tax-free penny earned.

Please help us get the word out regarding the Qualified Charitable Distribution. If you, your CPA, or your friends have questions about QCDs or other tax-saving strategies, please contact us. Tax planning is our specialty, and tax avoidance is the goal.

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The Congruity of the Annuity

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Too often we have people come into our office after having just attended a free dinner that preceded the purchase of an annuity. “A guaranteed return with no downside risk” is what they believe they now own. That sounds great. I would purchase that too. However, it isn’t until after a lengthy conversation that they begin to understand how their annuity truly works.

An annuity can be a great financial product if it is congruent with the overall portfolio. There are times we use annuities to accomplish specific objectives and are pleased with how they perform in these situations. The problem we often see with the annuity is not the product itself, but how it is used. In other words, the ambiguity of the annuity can lead to incongruity, and the solution could require some ingenuity.

Annuities can be complicated. If you are considering an annuity, make sure you understand how it fits into your financial plan…and also its policies, fees, expenses, commissions, terms, benefits, exclusions, riders, investment options, and waiting periods. Due to their complexity, they can be easy to misuse, which can create significant financial problems.

An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company. There are three main types of annuities: fixed, indexed, and variable. Each type has its own objectives and fits into a financial plan differently. Each type also carries its own expenses, level of risk, and earning potential. Even within their individual types, they can vary greatly depending on the insurance company that issues them.

Annuities can be expensive. The average annuity costs approximately 3% per year. It is important to understand that there are often expenses you don’t see. Unfortunately, too many salesmen do not clearly explain the costs, nor how they are applied. I have seen annuities advertised with “No Fees!” In truth, however, these same annuities carry large expenses.

It is also important to understand that annuities are illiquid. This means you can’t access most, if not all, of the money in your annuity without surrender charges for a significant period (usually 7-10 years). Annuities are long-term investment contracts and you’ll pay hefty fees if you take your money out too soon.

Again, we believe annuities are great at doing what annuities do. It just isn’t often we meet with people who have a need for them. If you are wondering whether an annuity is right for you, come and see us. We will always be upfront and honest about the cost and structure of the products we sell. If an annuity does make sense in your financial plan, we’ll help make sure you purchase the most appropriate and cost-efficient annuity for you.

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Are You Retired and Have a 401(k)? Read This!

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

As financial advisors, our job is to help clients create wealth. Most people expect us to accomplish this through market investments. Although that does play an important role, advice regarding financial decisions outside of the market can often amount to significant savings and wealth creation. The topic covered here is one that has amounted to significant savings for many of our clients. If you are currently retired or are approaching retirement and have a 401(k), this article is for you.

When talking about financial planning, there are two main phases of life: the accumulation phase (pre-retirement) and the distribution phase (post-retirement). The 401(k) is a fantastic savings vehicle for those in the accumulation phase. If you are currently working, a 401(k) is great! Employers often contribute to this type of account by way of a company match or profit-sharing because the 401(k) annual contribution limit is higher than that of other retirement accounts. Plus, paycheck deductions make saving easy.

If you are already retired, a 401(k) has some weaknesses that you should be aware of. The cost associated with these may be a lot more than you realize.

• When you take a distribution from a 401(k), you do not have the ability to choose which assets you sell. A distribution will require selling from all investments equally. This is a huge disadvantage as you may be forced to sell from the wrong investment at the wrong time. Proper distribution planning requires one to analyze the individual investments and sell those that make sense based on current market conditions and performance expectations. Unfortunately, the 401(k) does not give you this ability.

• If you have Roth 401(k) contributions, you will be forced to take a distribution at age 70.5. This can have large negative consequences to both future tax-free earnings and your ability to pass on wealth tax free. Roth IRA accounts will not force a distribution regardless of age.

• If you are over age 70.5 and donate to 501(c)(3) organizations, you cannot take advantage of a great tax-savings strategy called a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). The tax savings from QCD’s can be thousands of dollars every year. Examples of qualified organizations are churches, universities, humane societies, hospitals, etc.

In many cases, we recommend that clients roll their 401(k)’s into IRA’s at retirement. An IRA is a much better retirement distribution vehicle given its flexibility and its greater selection of investment options. It also does not suffer from the weaknesses mentioned above. 401(k) rollovers are tax-free and easy.

We work hard to ensure our clients make good financial decisions. Often, small changes have a large impact. We have seen investors greatly benefit from a 401(k) rollover. If you have a 401(k) that you can’t contribute to due to separation of service or retirement, we highly recommend you meet with us to discuss if a rollover is in your best interest.

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The Recession Obsession

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Over the last 18 months, I have heard more, read more, and been asked more about recession than any other financial topic. Many people were scarred by the great recession of 2008, and fear similar suffering may be coming. I understand the concern, but is this recession obsession helping investors reach their financial goals, or is it inadvertently hurting portfolio returns?

Misbehavior motivated by fear of downturn is far more costly than the downturns themselves, and that includes the great recession of 2008. When it comes to investing, we are truly our own worst enemy.

The economy cycles through phases of growth, peak, recession, and trough. Then it repeats. On average, a recession comes every 5.6 years and lasts 11 months.

Too much of a good thing?
Economic positives often turn into financial imbalances that are so excessive they need to be corrected (tech stocks in 2000, housing in 2008). When balance is restored, business and people should get back to normal and economic growth will turn positive again. This makes recessions, in hindsight, like relatively small speed bumps on the economic highway.

When is our fear of recession damaging?
The recession obsession can cause investors to try to avoid losses by sitting on the sidelines. Nobody knows when the market will drop or how far it will fall. Likewise, the upward bounces catch those sitting out by surprise. That’s why the best days in the market typically follow large pullbacks.

Since 1980, investors that stayed in the market 99.9 percent of the time and missed only the best five days would have missed out on a massive 35 percent! Increase the best days missed to just ten, and returns are cut in half!

What about the best days? Since 1998, six of the ten best days occurred within two weeks of the ten worst days. Thinking you can get one while avoiding the other is not reasonable.

As we enter the 11th year of the current economic expansion, it is helpful to know that some of the strongest market increases have occurred during the late stages of the cycle.

Those who avoid the market under the pretense of protection inadvertently keep themselves from receiving that potential growth. Investors who stay fully invested through entire cycles, including recessions, experience greater growth.

The best advice I can give, for your portfolio and your sanity, is to create a financial plan that works for you. Stick to that plan and don’t worry too much about economic cycles. The financial plans we create for clients account for pullbacks, downturns, and recessions. Although every year in the market won’t be positive, your long-term outlook will be.

(Secret recession tip: After the stock market has dropped significantly, it’s usually better to buy than to sell; think of it as a long-term buying opportunity.)

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2019 Outlook: Patience Will Pay Off

By | 2019, Newsletter | No Comments

“The stock market is a device for transferring money from the impatient to the patient.”

This statement by Warren Buffett is educational and relevant today. When markets move downward, investors become uncomfortable. But during recessionary times, investors may panic. Companies pull back, people lose jobs, and stock declines can become sharp.

The U.S. is now late in that cycle, meaning we are coming closer to the end of a growth period. But if we look at the big picture, how damaging are recessions? How often do they occur? And how should investors handle them?

Since 1950, the average expansion lasted 67 months (5.6 years) and had an average GDP growth of 24 percent. The current expansionary period is one of the longest in history, currently 10 years in length. But it has also had one of the slowest average growth rates and is still far from the largest in total growth. Capital Group believes this has prevented the major imbalances that cause recessions from materializing. However, they do admit that the risk of recession will continue to grow until its inevitable arrival.

The average recession has lasted only 11 months and had a GDP decline of 1.8 percent. The contrast, as you can see in the graph provided, is immense. Yet the fear that those relatively small declines bring is often greater than their positive counterpart. The truth is, opportunities are developing in declining markets, and the strongest rallies are generally found right after a recession.

The general rule is this: Stay invested. Those who deviate from their financial plans are those who Warren Buffett calls “impatient investors.” If you stick with your plan, the odds of success will greatly be in your favor and the money transferring from the impatient will be to you, the patient investor.

Presented by Max McQuiston (American Funds) at the Just for Women conference. Recap by Jordan R. Hadfield.

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Deceitful Guise of Financial Demise

By | 2019, Money Moxie | No Comments

Grace Groner was born in Lake County, Illinois, in 1909. She was orphaned at the age of twelve. Although she lived to be 100 years old, Grace never married or had children. Most of her life was lived in a small one-bedroom cottage. She shopped at rummage sales and never owned a car. She worked her entire career as a secretary, earning a modest income.

When Grace Groner passed away in 2010, she left over $7 million dollars to a foundation established for the benefit of students at Lake Forest College. How did she become so wealthy? She invested in stocks at a young age, reinvested her dividends, and stayed invested so compounding interest could work its magic.

Richard Fuscone was an ambitious man. He received an education at Harvard and the University of Chicago. He then went on to become a vice chairman for Merrill Lynch. He was so successful in the investment industry that he retired at the age of 40 to pursue other interests.
Richard owned two homes, one of which carried a mortgage of $66,000 a month. Richard Fuscone declared bankruptcy in the same year Grace Groner donated millions to charity.
Richard had a top-shelf education and an impressive background in finance. Grace had neither. How is that possible?

The answer is behavioral finance. Financial knowledge does not prevent bad financial decisions. Richard had an expert understanding of how markets and investments work, but behavioral finance is an entirely different animal, one he did not understand.

We, as wealth managers, are often judged by our investment management. However, that is only part of our service. The financial and behavioral advice we offer can make a more significant economic impact than people realize.

We work hard to ensure sound financial decisions are made and protect against bad ones, which are not always obvious and are usually made unknowingly.

We wouldn’t suggest one live like Grace, but we certainly wouldn’t recommend one live like Richard, who might have saved millions with a behavioral financial advisor and some quality advice.

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Market Fear and a New Approach

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments
A sad businessman stands on a red decreasing arrow while another man runs up a green upwards arrow. Corporate ladder. Competition rules. Winners and losers.

The Dow is down 600 points! The S&P falls 7 percent! Five straight days of market decline! Sell! Sell! Sell!

During times of volatility, we see headlines like this on the news, read them on the Internet, and hear them on the radio. But before we buy the fear and sell the stock, let’s take a step back.

The most obvious fact about the stock market is this: Buy low and sell high. This gem of information is simple to understand and promises positive returns. Yet, it is during tough times that investors often forget what they know is best. Instead of buying low and selling high, investors often buy fear and sell stock.

A focus on negative market movement can cause worry, even panic. This leads investors to act irrationally and break the second rule of investing, which is: Don’t let emotion overpower logic.

Times of smooth appreciation are the exception and not the rule. In fact, 2017 was the first year in history that the S&P index closed higher every month. Volatility is the norm. Sometimes markets are up. Sometimes they’re down. Historically, the long-term trend, is up.

The average annualized return on the S&P 500 since its beginning in 1928 is approximately 10 percent. This means that those who stayed invested in diversified portfolios long-term made money.

Despite all the positive statistics I could type, watching your investment accounts decline is scary. Maybe the key to investment comfort (and success) is not a change in investments, but a change in paradigm.

My advice is this: Hire a qualified financial advisor whom you trust. Then shift your focus from market performance (something you can’t control) to your financial goals (something you can control).

When we create a plan for a client, we base it on their goals. Goal-based investing puts the emphasis on the objective, not the performance. This offers advantages.

First, it gives us a target. When we know what we’re aiming for, it becomes much easier to determine the probability of success. Changes we need to make to improve the likelihood of success also come into focus.

Second, it can produce higher returns. Focusing on the goals rather than the short-term performance can reduce emotional overreactions to market volatility. It also decreases the temptation to chase high returns, which often leads to poor performance.

Third, it brings stability and creates confidence in your financial future. Knowing you’re on track to meet your goals brings comfort regardless of which direction the market is moving.

I believe goal-based investing is a favorable approach to planning for your future. It will also consider your current financial situation, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Make sure to meet with your financial advisor regularly to review your goals and update your financial plan.

Before you buy the fear and sell the stock, please call us. We would love to talk more about goal-based investing and how it can benefit you.

*Data from public sources. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is widely considered to represent the overall U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author.

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You Can Contribute More to Your Retirement in 2019

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Good news is coming for those looking to max out their retirement plans. In 2019, the contribution limits will be raised on most retirement accounts. This opens the door to higher tax deductions, more tax-deferred growth, and better savings ratios.

Employee contribution limits for the 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans will be raised to $19,000 annually. For those individuals age 50 and older, an extra $6,000 contribution is allowed. The ceiling on SIMPLEs climbs to $13,000 with an additional $3,000 for those 50 and older. Both traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs will jump to a $6,000 annual limit with a $1,000 extra contribution for those born before 1970.

Deduction phaseouts for traditional IRAs of active plan participants will also start at higher levels in 2019, from adjusted gross incomes of $103,000 – $123,000 for married couples filing jointly and $64,000 – $74,000 for single filers. Roth IRA AGI phaseouts will increase to $193,000 – $203,000 for couples and $122,000 – $137,000 for individuals.

If you have questions about how these changes can impact your financial plan, please call us to schedule a review with one of our Wealth Managers.

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What is the Risk of being too Conservative

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

Are your conservative investments at risk? What about the cash you are keeping in your savings account or in the safe downstairs? “No,” you might be thinking, “I keep cash because it’s safe.” If these are your thoughts, I have some bad news. In an effort to avoid risk, you could be taking on a different kind of risk. I’m talking about inflation risk and it’s a silent killer that preys on the innocent.

Inflation can cause damage too small to be seen until it’s too large to be avoided. And the more conservative the investment, the greater the risk. “But wait,” you might be saying, “I thought conservative investments were safer and risk increased only as I invested more aggressively.” That is generally true with market risk, but it does change when considering inflation risk.

According to inflationdata.com, inflation has historically averaged just over 3%. This means on average a dollar will buy 3% less than it did 12 months earlier. A product that costs $100 dollars today will cost over $2,000 dollars 100 years from now. When my father was young, a candy bar cost 5 cents. I remember paying 50 cents as a child. Today, a candy bar is $1.25. That’s inflation.

If our money is not earning at least the rate of annual inflation, our purchasing power is decreasing. My father could’ve bought almost 20 candy bars with a dollar when he was young. With the same dollar, a child today couldn’t even buy one.

As you can see in the Risk vs. Reward graph I’ve provided, the more aggressive the investment, the greater the potential should be for gain, especially over long periods of time. However, I want to call your attention to the left side of the graph, the conservative side. This side of the graph shows little to no risk being taken and yet there is a loss. That is the risk of being too conservative. This loss isn’t a loss of principal, but a loss of purchasing power.

Keeping up with inflation should be an investor’s number one goal, and some conservative investments struggle to do that. Conservative investments do serve an important purpose and are a great choice for short term goals and emergency funds. But if your goal is long-term, adding a little more risk may actually reduce inflation risk. Investing in a diversified portfolio that includes stock market and bond market risk may help protect you from inflation risk.

A real area of concern for inflation risk is in retirement. If these investors don’t keep up with inflation, they could risk living longer than their money. At a 3.5% inflation rate, the cost of goods will double every 20 years. This means an 85 year-old couple who keep their investments in cash will have half the purchasing power they did when they retired at 65. Although the principal amount would be the same, it would be like a 50% loss. That is a risk I hate to see investors take.

For more information on inflation risk, market risk, and the risks taken in your current portfolio, please call us and schedule an appointment. We would love to answer any questions you have and help you to reduce unnecessary risk.

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Smedley Financial’s New Advisors

By | 2018, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

We are pleased to introduce two new advisors at Smedley Financial, Jordan Hadfield, and Leah Nelson. In our search for new advisors, we focused on people who had an in-depth education in all facets of financial planning and advising and demonstrated a high level of integrity. We were fortunate to find two amazing individuals with these sought-after qualities. If you have not had the opportunity to meet them yet, we hope you will over the next several months.

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Jordan Hadfield

On May 27th, 2012, I climbed into the right seat of a small aircraft next to a student pilot and took off down the runway. I was flying a Diamond DA20, and this trip was taking me from Provo to Lake Havasu to Catalina Island then up the coast to San Francisco and over to Lake Tahoe before heading back home. We flew low and slow, trying to take in the changing scenery and beautiful landscapes.

I was well on my way to becoming a professional pilot and hoped to land a full-time job flying very soon. That plan changed when I met my beautiful wife and realized a career in aviation would require constantly flying away from what matters most to me, my family. I now have two amazing boys and a little girl who rule my world. I have a bachelor’s degree in Personal Financial Planning from Utah Valley University and I am working towards my Certified Financial Planner® designation. Although I miss flying, I couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing now.

I used to chart my way across the United States and experience the freedom of flying. I now chart investments and retirement accounts to bring financial freedom to others. I find both activities to be exciting, but the latter gives me a sense of gratification that flying never did. I’m also a drummer. I love photography. And I work as a professional skydiver.

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Leah Nelson

For my whole life, I have watched many people around me struggle and make bad financial decisions. Seeing this inspired me to make the decision to become a financial advisor.

I graduated from Utah Valley University with a bachelor’s degree in Personal Financial Planning and successfully passed my Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) exam.

I want to be on the client’s side helping them make good financial decisions to lessen the stress they feel because of their finances. I have always had a desire to serve people, and I’m glad I’ve chosen the financial services industry to help people reach some of their most important life goals.

In my free time, I am involved in musical theater. Music is one of my favorite things, and I enjoy passing the time by playing the piano, ukulele, or singing. I also love traveling. I’m lucky to have a sister that is willing to be my travel buddy! I love spending time with my family as well. They are fun to be around, and I love seeing what silly thing my nephew will do next. I am so excited to be part of Smedley Financial!

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