March 2017 Market Update Video

Since February was a record-breaking month for the economy, Josh and I decided we wanted to try to break a record of our own. Watch our video to find out how we did!

Also in this month’s video, we’ll discuss some of the major headlines that influenced markets in February — and provide insight into what these developments could mean for you as an investor.

If you have any questions about your portfolio after viewing this video, please give us a call at 419-425-2400, or send us an email. We would love to talk with you.

Tips for Tax Deduction and Credit Planning

Tax season is in full swing — and the federal filing deadline is fewer than two months away on Tuesday, April 18. As you prepare to file your taxes, we want to help you make the most of your available credits and deductions. After all, every dollar you do not spend on taxes is one you can potentially invest toward your financial future. So, we’ve compiled tips for tax deduction and credit planning, with information on who is eligible and how you could possibly benefit.

Understanding Available Credits

Each tax credit you qualify for will directly reduce your tax payments. The IRS offers two kinds of credits: refundable and nonrefundable. With refundable credits, you can receive a refund, even if you owe less than the credit amount. On the other hand, nonrefundable credits offer a refund amount up to your tax liability.

Knowing which tax credits you qualify for can significantly reduce the amount of taxes you owe — and possibly even result in a refund. The IRS has a number of credits for individual taxpayers, but here is a list of common ones you could qualify for:

  • Earned-Income Tax Credit: For households with low- to moderate-income.
    The income limits can fluctuate, and many more people qualify for this credit than may realize it. In fact, 25% of eligible taxpayers do not claim this credit — which can be over $6,000 per household.
  •  Child and Dependent Care Credit: For households who pay for childcare.
    If you have dependent children and pay for childcare, you may qualify for credits up to $6,000, depending on your adjusted gross income (AGI).
  • Credit for the Elderly or Disabled: For taxpayers 65 and older, or those on permanent disability who meet income requirements.
    This credit starts at $3,750 and goes as high as $7,500. So, if you fit the age or disability restrictions, researching your eligibility is well worth the effort.
  •  Lifetime Learning Credit: For households paying for education.
    This credit can provide you up to $2,000 toward qualified tuition and enrollment fees. To be eligible, you must have a modified AGI less than $130,000 as a married couple or $65,000 as an individual.
  • Premium Tax Credit: For households that purchased health insurance through a federal or state marketplace.
    This credit helps people cover the cost of premiums for insurance they purchase through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Depending on your income and other personal details, you may be able to receive a premium tax credit if you, your spouse, or your dependent purchased an eligible health insurance plan.

 Planning Your Deductions

Deductions help reduce your taxable income, thereby hopefully lowering your tax liabilities. Between itemized and standard deductions, taxpayers claimed nearly $2 trillion in the most recently tracked year. That’s a lot of money! But, chances are, many people miss eligible deductions and still pay more in taxes than they need to.

Remember, when you use the standard deduction, you can likely claim a higher deduction if you or your spouse has a qualifying vision impairment or a birthday on January 2, 1952, or earlier.

If you itemize your deductions, you are likely familiar with the opportunities to write off your home mortgage interest, tuition fees, and charitable contributions. But here are a more few deductions you may be eligible to take, depending on your circumstances:

  • State Sales Tax: Mostly for households who don’t pay state or local income tax.
    If you only pay federal income taxes, you may be able to deduct your state sales tax on your federal return. This deduction is especially helpful if you made a large, taxable purchase in 2016, such as a car.
  • Business Travel Expenses: For taxpayers who have unreimbursed work travel.
    If you paid for travel to conferences, meetings, or other work obligations, you may be able to deduct your expenses. The list of potentially deductible items goes beyond transportation and lodging to include dry cleaning, meals, business calls, and more.
  • Student Loan Interest: For households paying student loan debt.
    If you currently pay student loan debt, you may be able to deduct interest, depending on your income and specific circumstances. Deductions can be up to $2,500 for student loan interest — and you are allowed to claim this deduction even if you don’t itemize deductions on your tax return.
  • Sale of Your Home: For households who profited from selling their main home in 2016.
    If you sold your primary residence last year and earned a profit, you may qualify to claim this exclusion. If you qualify, you can exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income – or up to $500,000 if you file taxes jointly with your spouse.

Because the opportunities to reduce your tax liabilities are vast, and these credits and deductions are only the beginning, it is best to consult with your tax preparer or a qualified tax professional. Various factors in your unique financial life will guide what options are available to you. If you have questions or would like to learn more about how you can make the most of your 2016 federal taxes, we are happy to talk. Send us an email, or give us a call at (419) 425-2400. We can also connect you with qualified tax professionals, should you seek further support.

February 2017 Market Update Video

 

In this month’s video, Josh will discuss some of the major headlines that influenced markets in January — and provide some insight into what these developments could mean for you as an advisor.

If you have any questions or concerns after watching this video, please get in touch with us. We would love to talk to you. You can give us a call at (419) 425-2400, or send us an email.

Thank you for watching!

6 Tax Filing Errors to Avoid

The dawn of 2017 brings opportunities to create new resolutions or plans for the next 12 months — and also marks the beginning of tax season. While tax day on April 18th can seem far off, this year’s deadline will be here before you know it.

As you start the process of gathering your tax documents and completing your return, we want to provide a reminder of common filing errors to look out for. Whether you hire a professional or go it alone, avoiding these mistakes can help ensure your taxes are correct and prevent unnecessary delay or feedback from the IRS.

Tax Filing Errors to Avoid

 1. Having incorrect or missing Social Security Numbers

The IRS processes millions of tax returns each year, and they need correct identifying information in order to address yours correctly. Transposing numbers when writing your Social Security Number (SSN) or accidentally recording your spouse’s or children’s SSN incorrectly is easy when you’re writing or typing quickly. Before you submit your taxes, check each SSN against the Social Security card to make sure the numbers are accurate.

2. Choosing the wrong filing status

Your filing status determines many aspects of your tax responsibilities — from your standard deduction to applicable credits. So, ensuring you select the right option is crucial. Because you may be eligible for more than one filing status, this year’s best choice could be different than in the past. To explore which filing status is right, visit https://www.irs.gov/uac/what-is-my-filing-status and complete a five-minute survey to determine which choice fits your circumstances and will result in the lowest tax liabilities.

3. Not addressing life changes

Life is full of transitions, and many of them affect your tax liabilities. When you begin to work on your taxes or meet with your tax preparer, identify any changes that impact your financial life. Marriage, divorce, and house buying are common life events to address, but the list extends much further:

  • Do you have a child who started daycare?
  • Did a parent move in with you?
  • Did you turn a spare room into a home office?

Take an inventory of your life in 2016 and look for changes that could matter to your taxes.

4. Missing or miscalculating charitable donations

Contributing to nonprofits is a powerful way to promote your values — and lower your tax bill. So, make sure you receive the greatest benefit by capturing all of your charitable donations in 2016. Gather your records for all donations to qualified, tax-exempt organizations, including:

  • Cash
  • Tax-deductible event tickets
  • Clothing
  • Household goods
  • And more

*Remember:

When calculating your donations, use the fair-market value (what someone would pay for the item now) not your original purchase price.

5. Making typos

Tax returns are long and filled with data — especially if you have other forms or worksheets to complete along with your standard Form 1040. Each entry creates an opportunity to make a mistake. Before filing your return, comb through your answers and cross-reference to make sure you or your tax preparer has:

  • Spelled each name correctly
  • Input the right numbers from each form
  • Listed your bank account numbers correctly if you’re using direct deposit

6. Filing by mail

Completing hard copies of your tax documents and sending them by mail is still a valid option, but the IRS recommends you file electronically. The e-file system will often find common errors in your return and reject it for you to correct them — so you can fix any mistakes now rather than experiencing potential filing delays with a paper return.

Few people enjoy doing their taxes, but if you take the time to slow down and avoid these filing errors, you can help simplify your experience and keep Uncle Sam off your back.

If you have any questions about your financial life or would like advice on finding the right tax professional, give us a call at (419) 425-2400, or send us email. We are here to help!

January 2017 Monthly Market Update Video

Happy New Year! We hope that you had a wonderful holiday season, and feel ready to take on the new year.

In this month’s video, we’ll discuss some of the major headlines that influenced markets in December — and provide insight in  to what these developments could mean for you as an investor.

If you have any questions or concerns after watching this video, send us an email, or give us a call at 419-425-2400. We would love to talk with you.

17 Financial Resolutions for 2017

financial-resolutions-blog-imageAs the end of 2016 approaches, now is the time to start thinking about how you will make 2017 fulfilling and fruitful for you and your loved ones. For more than 4,000 years, many people have celebrated the start of their new year by making promises to change their behavior or improve themselves. And it’s no wonder why: While New Year’s resolutions can be hard to keep, they may also make you more than 10 times more likely to achieve your goals than if you hadn’t made a resolution at all!

So, no matter what you hope to accomplish next year and beyond, here are 17 financial resolutions to help make 2017 healthy, happy, and successful:

1. Create emergency savings

Life is full of unexpected emergencies, and having extra cash on hand can help keep a serious illness, home repair, or other sudden financial need from derailing your finances. Prepare for unpredictable expenses by putting aside six to eight months of expenses in an easily accessible cash-equivalent account.

2. Make a monthly budget and stick to it

Budgets may sound like a lot of unnecessary work, especially if you’re financially comfortable. But if you’re not tracking your spending, you may be surprised by how quickly it adds up — and which expenses are costing you the most. As 2017 begins, set a budget and work on sticking to it for three months. Track your performance and revise the budget, as needed. Don’t aim for perfection; instead, try for incremental improvement.

3. Save more for the future

Creating a disciplined savings strategy is an important way to stay on track for your retirement and other goals. We recommend keeping separate “buckets” of savings for short-, medium-, and long-term goals, and leveraging tax-advantaged accounts where possible. Let us know if you’d like help saving for specific goals so that we can help ensure you have the right strategy for your needs and timeline.

4. Make retirement plan contributions regularly instead of all at once

Even if you’re diligently saving, you may be among the 71% of Americans who haven’t put aside enough money for retirement. One key change you can make is to take advantage of time in the market. Instead of waiting until the last minute to make your annual contributions, give your money more time to grow by making automatic contributions to your accounts every month.

5. Maximize your retirement-plan contributions

Tax-managed retirement accounts are one of the most powerful ways to save for a more comfortable retirement, because they allow you to control your tax liabilities today — while accumulating assets for the future. Make the most of these accounts by contributing as much as you can each tax year. We usually recommend maxing out employer-sponsored plans first to take advantage of any matching contributions your employer may offer. Give us a call if you need help understanding your retirement account options.

6. Pay down high-interest debt

Did you know that 54% of Americans believe they will never pay off their debts? Don’t let high-interest debt keep you from getting ahead financially. If you’re carrying a significant amount of debt, make paying it down a top priority this year. Contact us, and we’ll help you create a strategy for managing your expenses and paying off your debt.

7. Set goals for the future and work with a professional to help you achieve them

From our experience, people who set goals for themselves and create strategies to pursue them are much more likely to see success. We’re here to help you and your family define exactly what you hope to accomplish in 2017 and beyond — and then build a strategy to achieve your objectives.

8. Create a powerful legacy for the world

We believe that a rich life involves more than financial success and a comfortable lifestyle. Whether you want to leave something to your loved ones or support causes you care about, take time to address the legacy you’d like to leave.

9. Review your estate planning and legal documents

Your core legal documents need regular reviews to ensure they keep up with any changes in your life. If a few years have passed since you looked at your documents, dust them off and make sure that they still represent your wishes. And if you seek more guidance on your estate plan, will, or other legal needs, we can connect you to thorough resources and helpful advice.

10. Review the beneficiaries of your financial accounts and insurance policies

As life changes, you need to periodically review and update your account beneficiaries. Since beneficiary provisions are independent of your will or other estate provisions, keeping them current is critical. Contact us for assistance with gathering account documents and making any needed updates.

11. Stay on top of your health

Healthcare is a major expense for most Americans, especially if serious illness strikes. Take steps to protect your wellbeing by building a healthy lifestyle and prioritizing preventive care.

12. Protect your credit and identity

Identity theft and financial fraud are serious threats that can compromise your financial wellbeing. Protect yourself by reviewing financial statements and bills carefully for unauthorized activity. Regularly update your passwords for all financial accounts and always shred any sensitive documents before you dispose of them. Check your credit report for free each year at www.annualcreditreport.com.

13. Review your tax strategies for potential savings

Every dollar you save in taxes is one that you can reinvest in your current lifestyle or future goals. But, recent tax-law updates mean that your tax burden may have changed — or even increased. Give us a call to discuss tax strategies that may help you reduce your tax liabilities.

14. Involve your children and grandchildren in your finances

Fostering financial wisdom is a powerful way to help your children and grandchildren build a solid, stable life — and help ensure you’re able to pass on your values and wealth in the future. Rather than keeping your finances private from your loved ones, we recommend including them in conversations about your goals and priorities. We also invite you to bring them to our next meeting. We’ll help them understand how we work together and what their roles and responsibilities may be in the future.

15. Schedule times to discuss finances with your spouse

If you (or your spouse) rarely get involved in the family finances, now is the time to start. Work together to make financial decisions and make sure that each of you understands the overall game plan for your finances. At minimum, make sure that your spouse knows how to access financial accounts and understands your wishes.

16. Identify your goals for 2017

Determine exactly what you hope to accomplish in 2017. Whether you want to earn more money, go on a wonderful vacation, or spend more time with your family, take a moment now to write down your goals. To increase the odds of achieving these goals, consider sharing them with a friend and providing regular updates on your progress.

17. Keep your financial resolutions

Just 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions — but by making your goals simple, specific, and actionable, you can increase your chances of being among this select group. Instead of saying: “I will save more for the future in 2017,” say: “I will contribute $4,500 to my retirement accounts by December 31, 2017,” or “I will pay off $2,000 of credit card debt by April 15.”

As 2016 draws to a close, we would like to once again thank you for the trust and confidence you’ve placed in our firm. We are sincerely grateful for the privilege and opportunity to serve you today and for years to come.

If you have questions about your future or would like some support in keeping your financial resolutions, we are here to help. Please call us any time at 419.425.2400. Together, let’s make 2017 a success!

Footnotes, disclosures, and sources:
These are the views of Hixon Zuercher Capital Management, and should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named representative nor the Investment Advisor gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please consult your financial advisor for further information.

 

 

December 2016 Market Update Video

In this month’s update, I will discuss the major headlines that influenced the markets in November, and provide insights on what these developments mean for you as an investor.

If you have any questions or concerns, or want to discuss your portfolio, please give us a call at (419) 425-2400, or send us an email. We would love to talk with you.

“Why Does Britain Love Tea So Much?” – August 2016 Market Update Video

In this video, I discuss major events that occurred in July and their impact on the economy and investors. We also discovered that Josh is the king of dad jokes.

When it comes to investing, you are better off ignoring politics and paying attention to the business activity around you. I am grateful to be living in a great country where the future is always better than the past. It’s important for investors to remember that the White House does not drive the direction of the markets over the long term. It’s the great companies of the United States, like Marathon Petroleum Corporation, that drive business activity and, ultimately, stock prices higher over the long term.

Send us an email or give us a call if you have any questions or concerns you would like to discuss with us.

Hixon Zuercher May 2015 Monthly Video Update

Hixon Zuercher April 2015 Monthly Video Update