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4 Tax Saving Strategies for Clients

The 2019 tax season is here, and while many Americans are still focused on figuring out their 2018 taxes, it is never too early to plan for 2019. Below are four tax tips that could be useful to your clients, whether they are trying to maximize a refund or minimize what they owe.

Contribute to a Retirement Plan

Contributing to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), 401(k) or other type retirement plan is a great way to reduce taxable income for clients. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows individuals to contribute up to $6,000 (increased from $5,500 in 2018) per year to an IRA and up to $19,000 into a 401(k). If your client is age 50 or older, they can contribute up to $7,000 per year into an IRA and $25,000 into a 401(k). These contributions are tax-deferred, so they can be deducted from your client’s taxable income. Keep in mind individuals can only contribute to an IRA if they have earned income, though the IRS does allow a working spouse to contribute to an IRA on behalf of a nonworking spouse. There are contribution limits if your client is already contributing to another retirement plan like a 401(k), and there is usually a 10 percent penalty if the money is taken prior to age 59½. Individuals cannot make IRA contributions after age 70½. Individuals have until April 15, 2019 to contribute to an IRA for tax year 2018 and April 15, 2020 for tax year 2019.

Harvest Tax Losses

Losing money on investments is never the goal, but if your clients have losses in 2019, they can be used to offset gains for the year. If you have greater realized capital losses than gains, you can also use up to $3,000 per year to offset ordinary income. Any losses greater than $3,000 can be carried over to future years. While tax loss harvesting is a useful tool to offset short- and long-term gains and reduce taxable income, make sure your clients understand which investments they are planning to sell and what impact the sale will have on their portfolio and investment goals. If they decide to implement this strategy, it is also important to understand the IRS wash-sale rule, which prohibits investors from deducting losses from sales or trades and then rebuying the security or a substantially identical stock or security within 30 days of the sale.

Maximize Medical Expenses

Beginning in 2019, taxpayers can deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of their adjusted gross income. Deductible qualified medical expenses include, but are not limited to, medical treatments, surgery, preventative care, prescriptions and dental and vision care. If your client decides to deduct medical expenses, they will not be able to take the standard deduction, so it is important to understand they should only claim the medical expenses deduction if it is greater than the standard deduction. For 2019, the standard deduction is $12,200 for single a single person and $24,400 for a married couple.

Make a Charitable Contribution

Individuals may be able to donate or gift up to 60 percent of their adjusted gross income and receive a tax deduction. There are several ways to see tax benefits from donating to charity. Individuals who are age 70½ must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their IRAs and 401(k) plans each year. These distributions generally count as taxable income, but if a distribution is donated as a qualified charitable distribution and paid directly to a qualified charity, the individual can avoid paying taxes on the RMD. Another way to maximize the benefits of donating to charity is to donate appreciated stock. If your client has a stock that has appreciated over time, they will have to pay taxes on that growth when they sell the stock, even if they donate the proceeds to charity. By donating the stock directly to a charity, they can avoid paying the capital gains on the stock, they can still take the deduction, and the charity will receive the full value of the donation.

Dennis Culver is a paraplanner with Insight Wealth Strategies.

 

Insight Wealth Strategies, LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Insight Wealth Strategies, LLC and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Insight Wealth Strategies, LLC unless a client service agreement is in place.


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Best of 2018: Advisers: Recognize Your Walk-Away Moment

Editor’s note: This is the last of our top blog posts of 2018. Sometimes you have to fire a client. John Anderson of SEI Advisor Network gives our readers some tips on how to recognize that walk-away moment. A version of this post appeared on SEI’s blog Practically Speaking. You can find it here

In business—as in life—the lessons are often in the mistakes we make. But sometimes the better knowledge is seeing the mistake coming and avoiding it altogether. A routine exercise for business owners is the “what worked” and “what didn’t work” review of their practice. For many advisers, when considering the “didn’t work” part of the equation, the overriding theme is “I knew better but…”

Here are a few scenarios:

  • Adviser A: Had a client ask him to manage half of his assets, while the client self-managed the other half.
  • Adviser B: Built his practice with farmers and ranchers, then found himself working with two ultra-wealthy clients that were taking all his time.
  • Adviser C: Was amazed when he got a call from an $80 million lottery winner. He was managing only $35 million at the time.

Each of these advisers got to a point where either they were fired or they fired the client. On paper, or with the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to say they should have never taken on the client. But how do you prepare yourself if you’ve taken on a client who’s not a good fit? What can you do to identify your walk away moment?

Why Walk Away? Two Sides of a Bad Relationship

Each scenario was a challenge for the adviser who was involved—a challenge that upset their business. It is easy to see the adviser’s side of the bad relationship, what we often miss is the other side. The effects it has on the office:

1) Staff. The staff has to deal with major interruptions that an ill-fitting client brings to the table. Requests that are outside of normal process and procedures take time to learn and process. It drags down efficiency and because it is new, opens up potential for mistakes

2) Marketing and client relationship management. Time spent on ill-fitting clients takes away from marketing and new client acquisition for many advisers. What could the adviser be doing better with his/her time?

3) Revenue. For the adviser who lives in an AUM world, we know that with planning, onboarding, etc., the revenue earned is backloaded over time. In other words, the time you spend upfront with a client is earned back over the years from the advisory fees. A short-term relationship typically does not pay for itself

Avoiding in the First Place

One of the challenges for most advisers is to understand their target. I have often written that creating a persona or an avatar of your ideal client as the way to specialize your practice, and to focus on a niche. Some advisers however, are not ready for that level of specialization and a few may not go that deep. No matter where you come down on identifying the ideal client, I think it always starts with a few things:

  • What is the target? Simply stated, in the broadest terms possible, everyone in the “class” of people that you want to work with. The class could be the type of business that you find most interesting such as legacy planning or income planning or it could be retirees in general etc.
  • What is the ideal? Again, in broadest terms, what do they value or what will they value from your relationship?
  • What is the deal breaker? What will they not value, or what would cause you to walk away?

Note: Each of these is a subset of the others. The “deal breaker” is a subset of your ideal clients; the ideal clients are a subset of the target. Knowing the deal breaker before they walk in the door makes it easy to say no, or to direct them to someone else that can fit their needs.

What Happened Next

The client fired Adviser A (above) after a year. The client’s reasoning, “I know you outperformed me but I just can’t give up managing my own assets. I guess I’m not much of a delegator.” All of Adviser A’s pre-work, planning and effort was wasted.

Adviser B terminated his relationship with the ultra-high-net-worth clients. He found them a home with another adviser that had a more investment-focused service model. The staff was thrilled to go back to their type of clients—ones who appreciated planning and were less demanding.

Adviser C could not compete with the constant second-guessing by competitors and family members trying to get a foothold into the $80 million lottery winner’s life. Every waking moment was spent defending and babysitting the assets and the client. He gladly went back to his recently ignored book right after the new client fired him.

We all know when something does not feel right. Maybe we should be prepared beforehand, in writing, so we are more prepared to walk away when it doesn’t.

John Anderson

John Anderson is the managing director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network. He is responsible for all programs focused on helping financial advisers grow their businesses, create efficiencies in their operations and differentiate their practices. He is also the author of SEI’s practice management blog, Practically Speaking.


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Best of 2018: Things You Shouldn’t Say to Grieving Clients

Editor’s note: Until the end of the year we will be publishing the top blog posts of 2018. This post is about what not to say to your grieving clients, which I wrote shortly after my dad passed away in July and I witnessed how our parents’ financial adviser was a shining example of how to interact with a client’s family after a death. 

The unthinkable happened this year.

My dad died.

We’re still living this nightmare that started when he got sick. Oftentimes, kind‐hearted well‐wishers unknowingly make it worse with the things they say, but my parents’ financial adviser is not one of those people.

I remember Mr. Vincent Rogers since I was a little girl. I was frightened of him for a long time simply because when my parents took out life insurance policies on us when I was 9, I was terrified to have blood drawn and I blamed Rogers for my fear.

Rogers was not just a financial adviser, he was also a friend to my dad, as he relayed to me when he paid his respects at my dad’s funeral.

“Do you remember me?” he asked.

“Of course,” I responded before thanking him for joining our family to celebrate our dad’s life.

“Your dad was my great friend,” he told me.

He relayed a story about how when he was a young newlywed, my dad made his wife (who was from Colombia and at the time spoke limited English) feel comfortable because he spoke in Spanish to her. Oftentimes, Rogers said, my dad and he had philosophical conversations about life and marriage. He told me that he will miss my dad—and I could tell he meant it.

There is one guarantee in this life and that is death. Given that fact, there is a very high chance that your clients are going to experience the loss of a loved one in the course of your working with them.

A time of loss is also a time of heightened sensitivity. Understandably, it’s stressful to approach a grieving person for fear of saying the wrong thing. Death in a family can cause your clients to cut out their own family members, and if you say something offensive to them, they just might cut you out too.

Clients might hold you to a higher standard when it comes to communication skills, and especially during a time of loss. Avoid being offensive by steering clear of the following phrases:

“I can’t even imagine.” Andrea Raynor, hospice chaplain, writes in her book The Alphabet of Grief: Words to Help in Times of Sorrow, that this is one of the more hurtful things to say to clients who are grieving. She said that this is like telling your client that their situation is so horrifying that you can’t even picture yourself going through it.

“I know how you feel.” None of us know how each other feels, really, and especially not during a time of loss. We’ve all lost someone, so if you are trying to say you know how they feel because you too have lost someone, then tell them the specific story while also clarifying that you understand that we all grieve and feel differently.

A friend, who’d also lost her father not too long ago, reached out and instead of saying, “I know how you feel,” she shared a specific story of how she has coped with losing her dad.

“It gets better when you realize he’s always with you,” she told me. This has been incredibly comforting, and I think of it every day.

“I’m so sorry.” Amy Florian told the Wall Street Journal that your clients will likely hear this phrase thousands of times and it will likely not have any impact by the time you say it. She’s right. This phrase could open the door to a negative situation, also, Florian noted, like the client responding with “Not half as sorry as I am.” Instead, she adds, share a memory of their loved one if you knew them, the way Rogers did with me.

“Everything happens for a reason.” This is another one best avoided, David Kessler, author and lecturer on death and dying, told the Wall Street Journal.

“When you’re in deep grief, you don’t care about any reasons,” he said in the article titled, “What Not to Say to a Grieving Client.”

He advises to simply let your client talk. Allow for extra time for your meeting with them with the expectation that they’ll need more time to tell their story.

These are the four phrases that have been triggers for me, and upon further research I found them on several lists of what not to say to clients who are grieving. Simply avoid these phrases altogether, opting for an authentic, heartfelt story of your clients’ loved one. You’re not going to make them feel better, but you could avoid making them feel worse.

One last bit of advice: check in on your clients. They’re probably not OK one month, two months, even a year after their loved one’s death. You reaching out just to see how they are will mean the world to them.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.