You Should Have a Password Manager

A 2015 Dashland blog post noted that the average American has 130 online accounts, and prudent security would suggest that each of these have a unique, strong password.

The Benefits of a Digital Estate Planning Organizer

Most of our clients have made estate plans to dispose of their tangible property after they are gone. Today, however, most people also have a good deal of intangible property to deal with -- things like online accounts for banking, payment, retail, social media, email, and even for our websites and blogs.

Organize Your Documents

We all have dozens of important personal documents.   We may access some routinely, others once in a while, and others perhaps not for years.  Yet it’s important for us – and for others we designate – to know where these documents reside.  Are they in a safe deposit box?  A file drawer?  The household safe?

Review Your Retirement Plan

Asset allocation in retirement plans:  Year-end is a good time to review your investment asset allocation in your reitrement plan vis-a-vis your risk tolerance.  Are you being too conservative or too aggressive?  Be sure you are comfortable with your current exposure level.

Consider IRA Conversion

Before the  end of the calendar year, you may want to consider converting an IRA, especially if there has been a change in your household income.  For example, if your income is lower in the current tax year, you may want to consider a full or partial conversion of your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA to allow those funds to grow tax-free.  The calculations to make such a decision can be complicated.  You have to consider all of your retirement accounts, conversion tax, and "run the the numbers" to make an informed decision as to whether a conversion makes sense for

Some Final Thoughts on Year-End Strategies

Beware of tax-bracket creep:  If your income last year was close to moving to a higher bracket and it hasn't changed significantly, you may find yourself in a higher bracket this year because of indexing.  This could make the various tax-reduction strategies even more important to you.

Medical Insurance Plans and Medical Expenses

If you are participating in a high-deductible medical insurance plan, consider making the maximum contribution into your Health Savings Account.  HSAs can help pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses and, if not used, HSAs contributions and interest can grow and accumulate tax deferred. Any contributions and earnings you withdraw will be tax free if used to pay qualified medical expenses in your retirement, but keep in mind you'll pay a 20% penalty and income taxes if the money is withdrawn and used for nonqualified expenses.

More Ways to Address Income Tax Issues

Continuing to focus on tax-related matters as the end of the year approaches, here are a few more things to consider:

College 529 Plans:  If you have established a New York State College 529 account, remember that funding in a tax year is deductible on NYS taxes up to $10,000 for a married couple and $5,000 for an individual.  Other sates also provide tax reductions for 529 plans and you may contact our office to learn more about these.

Required Minimum Distributions

People over age 70 ½ who have retirement plans are required to take minimum distributions each year. If someone does not need this extra amount, it can be donated directly from the IRA to a qualified charity.

Donor-advised funds.

Instead of making a gift to a single charity, some might perfer to make a gift that supports multiple charities.  The mechanism for doing so is called a donor-advised fund, which is basically a simplified version of a private foundation.  First, you establish a donor-advised fund that invests your donations as aggressively or conservatively as you wish.  You can then suggest qualified charities to receive distributions from the account.  Your donation to the fund is tax-deductible.