RE: 2017

Personal financial planning is an ongoing process.? The good news is that financially speaking, 2016 was another really good year. The stock markets are once again at all time highs.? Same can be said for many real estate markets around the country.? And interest rates remain near historic lows.

Hello 2017.? Who knows how financially friendly this year will be – especially with Trump taking over the Presidency later this month. For that reason, here are some prudent steps you can take to keep your personal finances moving on the right track:

  • REset your retirement savings:? Most people find it easier to?max out their retirement contributions by budgeting a set amount each month.? Instruct your employer to withhold $1,500 per month for your 401(k) or 403(b) plan to ensure that you hit the max of $18,000 in 2017.? Are you self-employed?? If so, you can sock away up to $54,000 next year into a SEP, Keogh or Solo 401(k), which equals $4,500 per month.? And if you’ll be 50 or older by December 31st, the maximum 2017 contribution jumps to $24,000 for 401(k) and 403(b) salary deferrals and $60.000 for Solo 401(k)’s.
  • REfinance your home mortgage:? Back in 2012, my wife and I locked in a fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.875% with no points.? While mortgage rates may no longer be quite that low, according to our go to mortgage guru Bob Cahill of Leader Bank, there are still a variety of low-rate mortgage products currently available to people looking to purchase a new home or refinance an existing mortgage.
  • REduce your personal debt: Over time, people and businesses seem to have forgotten that any money borrowed needs to be repaid.? Remember, leverage equals risk.? Make 2017 a year to pay down some of your personal debt.? Perhaps you can delay the purchase of a new car, scale down your awesome vacation, or settle for a 60 inch flat screen TV.? (You should still take a vacation with family and friends though.)
  • REvise your savings and debt reduction goals: Take a few minutes to set new savings goals including how much you?d like to put away towards your retirement, a child?s education, and/or the down payment on a home, and also to reset how much you plan to pay down your student loans, personal debt, and home mortgage.?
  • REbalance your investment portfolio:?? Warren Buffet said it best by stating, “A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”? During 2016, the stock market once again posted substantial gains and the markets are at all time highs.? By rebalancing your portfolio to its original or updated asset allocation, you lock in gains from the sectors that performed the best and move money into sectors that underperformed and soon enough might be poised to catch up.
  • REcalculate how much your retirement savings will be worth when you retire: With the market indexes at all time highs, now’s a great time to take a look at how much buying power you can expect to have upon retiring.
  • REvisit your life and disability insurance needs: As you move through your career and your life, your disability insuranceneeds change. Give some thought to how much of these insurances you need versus how much you currently get through your employer?s benefit package and how much coverage you’ve already purchased for your personal policies.?
  • REsolve errors on your credit report:? Each year, you?re entitled to three free credit reports, so there?s no excuse to not look at this important financial report annually, especially since errors are not uncommon.? Order your free report at?

Questions about financial planning steps you should take for 2017? Please check out our Directory of Financial Advisors to find a professional familiar with the financial planning issues that affect you and your colleagues.

You can also listen to a radio interview I had with Boston radio personality George Knight a few years back on this topic.

Summer Weddings Mean Tax Changes

Summer wedding? Congrats!

Make sure to review these IRS tips on the tax issues that come along with marriage, too!

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2014:

Taxes may not be high on your summer wedding plan checklist. But you should be aware of the tax issues that come along with marriage. Here are some basic tips that can help keep those issues to a minimum:

  • Name change. ?The names and Social Security numbers on your tax return must match your Social Security Administration records. If you change your name, report it to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get the form on, by calling 800-772-1213 or from your local SSA office.
  • Change tax withholding. ?A change in your marital status means you must give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. If you and your spouse both work, your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at to help you complete a new Form W-4. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information.
  • Changes in circumstances. ?If you receive advance payment of the premium tax credit in 2014, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance payments of the premium tax credit provide financial assistance to help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.
  • Address change. ?Let the IRS know if your address changes. To do that, file Form 8822, Change of Address, with the IRS. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service. You can ask them online at to forward your mail. You may also report the change at your local post office.
  • Change in filing status. ?If you?re married as of Dec. 31, that?s your marital status for the whole year for tax purposes. You and your spouse can choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly or separately each year. You may want to figure the tax both ways to find out which status results in the lowest tax.Note for same-sex married couples: If you are legally married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage, you generally must file as married on your federal tax return. This is true even if you and your spouse later live in a state or country that does not recognize same-sex marriage. See for more information on this topic.


Checklist to Cut your 2013 Tax Bill

It’s not too late to cut your 2013 tax bill.? Prior to Dec. 31st:

  • ?Increase your 401(k) and 403(b) contributions if you haven’t been contributing at the maximum rate all year.? This year you can put away up to $17,500 ($23,000 if 50 or older) into your 401(k) or 403(b) plan.? If you?re self-employed, consider setting up a Solo 401(k) by 12/31.
  • Take a look at your withholdings and instruct your employer to withhold additional taxes if you haven?t had enough taxes withheld during the year and might get hit with an underpayment penalty.
  • Consider selling your non-retirement investments that have decreased in value since your capital losses can offset other capital gains realized during the year (including from your mutual funds), and then can be used to offset up to $3,000 of wages and other income.
  • Send in your January 2014 mortgage payment early enough so it will be processed prior to 12/31/13.? By sending in your payment a few weeks early, you can deduct the interest portion of that payment a full year earlier.
  • Clean out your closets and donate your clothing and household items to a charitable organization since “non-cash” contributions are deductible if you itemize.? Don?t forget to get a receipt. And make sure to make a list of the donated items, including each item?s condition since only donations of clothing and household items in “good condition or better” qualify for a deduction.
  • For gifts of money, making your donation by credit card before December 31st allows you to deduct the donation on this year’s return, even if you don’t pay your credit card bill until 2014.? And you always have the option of donating appreciated investments to charities. You get to claim your donation based on the value of the assets donated, without paying any capital gains taxes on the appreciation.
  • Pre-pay your projected state tax shortfall if you’ll be itemizing your deductions and won?t be subject to the alternative minimum tax.
  • Pre-pay or pay off your medical bills if your total medical expenses exceed 7.5% of your income and you itemize.