2022 has been a difficult and trying year for stock and bond indexes in both emerging and developed markets. We are on pace to post the first double-digit loss in the major US markets since 2008. After a run of 13 years, it is understandable for investors to want to close their eyes and wait for the storm to pass. However, in times of market runoffs, it is important to review your finances and check the boxes on year-end tasks to ensure you are well-positioned for when the markets rebound. Here is our list of things to consider as we come to the end.
Employer-Sponsored Accounts such as 401(k) and 403(b)
The maximum contribution amount for these respective accounts is $20,500, with an additional catch-up contribution limit of $6,500 for individuals aged 50 or older. We are advocates of trying to contribute the maximum amount to these accounts every year. However, if your budget doesn’t allow for that level of contribution, we encourage you to contribute at least enough to receive your full company match, if that is offered. As we look forward to 2023, the IRS recently announced that the contribution limits for employer-sponsored retirement plans are going up. You may want to review your contribution amounts and adjust for January payrolls if your goal is to maximize funding your retirement plan contributions.
For Roth IRA and traditional IRA accounts, the maximum contribution amount is $6,000, with an additional $1,000 allowed if you are age 50 or older. Bear in mind that IRA accounts do have income restrictions so it is important to work with your financial advisor or tax preparer to determine if you are eligible to contribute in 2022. Assuming you are eligible, these accounts can be quite tax advantageous for your overall financial situation.
529 College Savings Plans
For 529 plans, contribution amounts are tied to annual/lifetime gifting limits. The gift limit for 2022 is $16,000. However, there is a provision that allows for five years of gifting to be given in one year so long as it is accounted for. Should you decide to contribute more than $16,000 in 2022, we would recommend that you work with your tax professional to ensure that you are properly documenting the gift. The deadline for 529 contributions is December 31, 2022. The owners of a 529 account receive tax benefits on the growth of the investment account and may also receive state tax benefits depending on each state plan.
Health Savings Accounts (HSA) & Flex Spending Accounts (FSA)
Depending on your employer’s benefits package, you may be eligible for an HSA or FSA account. Both of these respective plans offer generous tax benefits, but the two plans have significant differences. Here is a great side-by-side comparison of the two plans.
These plans will not be offered to everyone and have restrictions for use. I would encourage you to check with your employer to see if these accounts are an option.
TAX AND ESTATE PLANNING
Tax Loss Harvesting
If there is a silver lining to this year’s market sell-off, it is the opportunity to harvest tax losses. Investors have until year-end to realize capital losses by selling poorly performing investments. Losses can be used to offset capital gains and reduce your tax liability. Tax loss harvesting requires careful consideration and awareness of certain restrictions (such as the wash sale rule), but if done correctly, it can be a powerful way to defer taxable gains. In addition to offsetting taxable gains, the IRS allows investors to deduct up to $3,000 worth of unused losses against their income tax liability. Any remaining unused losses can be carried forward indefinitely to be used in future tax years.
Gifts and Charitable Donations
Charitable donations are another common way of reducing taxable income. Taxpayers can claim a deduction of up 30% of adjusted gross income (AGI) for charitable gifts of non-cash assets, and up to 60% of AGI for gifts of cash (note that the temporary provisions allowing deductions up to 100% no longer apply in 2022). While charitable donations have fallen out of favor somewhat in recent years due to increased standard deductions amounts, there may still be opportunities for tax-efficient gifting, such as donating highly appreciated assets or making a qualified charitable distribution (gifting from an IRA).
Those looking to manage their exposure to gift and inheritance tax also have until December 31 to make use of the annual gift exclusion amount. For 2022, a taxpayer can give up to $16,000 to as many people as they wish without reducing their lifetime gift and estate tax allowance.
For some, 2022 may present a good opportunity to convert some money to Roth. If your income has reduced significantly you may have an opportunity to convert money to Roth at a lower tax bracket than you have been in years past. Once the money is in the Roth bucket, it can grow tax-free. There are many factors at play to determine if a Roth conversion makes sense, some of which include the following: 1) income received year-to-date, 2) capital gains/dividends/interest from investments, and 3) projected future tax brackets. Before making a decision, coordinate a discussion with your accountant and financial advisor (sometimes a quick three-way can be very impactful!). If a Roth Conversion is part of your strategy for the 2022 tax year, it must be completed by 12/31/22.
The closing out of a year provides a great opportunity for us to take stock of the events of that year and determine if any changes need to be made. Beneficiary designations are often overlooked as our lives change. Marriages, divorces, children growing from minors to adults, and individuals passing away all represent significant events and will likely warrant changes to the beneficiaries listed on our retirement accounts, life insurance, and estate plans. We recommend reviewing your beneficiary designations on an annual basis unless you have major changes in your life.
Another overlooked area of a sound financial plan is insurance coverage and their respective coverage amounts. We should review our personal insurance coverage yearly as our assets and liabilities change. If we complete a major improvement to our home or experience significant real estate appreciation, there may be a gap in our homeowner’s coverage. It is our recommendation to work with your insurance professional to better understand the replacement coverage in your homeowner’s insurance policy. You may also be overexposed to personal liability if your net worth has grown significantly through market gains or company stock options for example. This is where a personal umbrella policy can help to pass some of the liability risk to the insurance company.
We are happy to discuss any of these items in greater detail and how they may apply to your specific situation. The end of a calendar year can become hectic with holidays, gatherings with friends and family, and ringing in a new year. Taking the time now to review your financial situation and checking a few of these items off of your list will help you start 2023 off on the right foot.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nate Condon is one of the co-founders and managing partners of Walkner Condon Financial Advisors. He is a fee-only, fiduciary financial advisor who works with clients locally in Madison and around the country.