To Keep or Not to Keep: A Guide to Common Records-Retention Questions

Presented by Robert Blakely CFP®, AIF®, ChFC

Living in an increasingly paperless world has its benefits, but when it comes to records retention, does it make a difference? Sure, digital recordkeeping on the cloud means more storage space, easy access, and less vulnerability to inadvertent destruction. But the questions of what to keep and for how long feel just as confusing as ever.

Keep or Toss. Whether your files are physical or electronic, the same principles and time frames for record retention apply. Below, we review some rules of thumb to consider for a few common financial documents. Keep in mind, though, this list is not exhaustive, and professional responsibilities and potential liability risks may vary.

ATM receipts, deposit slips, and credit card receipts. In general, you don’t need to hold onto monthly financial statements after you verified your transactions—that is unless statements include tax-related information. Also keep in mind that if you dispute a transaction included in a statement, in most cases, you have 60 days from the statement date. Beyond 60 days, the bank may be alleviated of liability associated with the charge—so you may be on your own to try to get your money back.

Paycheck stubs. Once you receive your annual W-2, it’s usually not necessary to retain your paystubs for the prior year. You may want to keep your year-end stub if it includes any tax-related information not reported on your W-2, however. Additionally, if you anticipate a life event in the near future that will require proof of recent income—applying for a home loan, for example—then plan to hang onto pay stubs from at least the past two months.

Tax returns. Determining when to purge tax returns usually depends on how long the IRS has to contest a given year’s return. In most cases, it’s a period of three years—assuming tax returns are filed properly and do not contain any knowingly fraudulent information. The time frame can extend up to six years for severely underreported income, and there’s no time limit for the IRS to contest fraudulent returns. The same timing applies to the supporting documentation used in preparing a tax return, so you should also retain the financial and tax documentation—investment statements showing gains or losses and evidence of charitable contributions, for example—pertinent to the corresponding year’s return. If you’re unsure how long you should keep a specific tax return and accompanying paperwork, be sure to check with your accountant. Additionally, the IRS offers some useful information on time limitations that apply to retaining tax returns.

Old 401(k) statements. Once you’ve confirmed your contributions are recorded accurately, there’s little need to keep each quarterly or monthly statement. It may be a good idea to keep each annual summary until the account is no longer active, however.

Estate planning documents. Although there’s usually no distinction about whether records need to be retained in paper or digital form, there are certain instances where it’s essential to have original legal documentation with the “wet” signature. This requirement holds true for estate planning documents. In most circumstances, a court will only accept a decedent’s original last will and testament—a copy will not suffice. If you’re unable to produce the original, the court may presume it doesn’t exist, deeming the copy invalid. It’s possible there are legal avenues you can pursue to get the court to accept a photocopy of a will, but this could prove to be a costly and stressful process.

Get Organized and Be Sure to Shred. A good records-filing system is key to helping you maintain and easily access important documents. If you’re storing things digitally, you can retain much more than any filing cabinet could hold, making it easy to take a more liberal approach to what you save. Keep in mind, the retention guidelines for many documents aren’t clear-cut. When you’re unsure, start by assessing what purpose the document may serve in the future. And it’s always important to consult the appropriate financial, tax, or legal professional for advice on specific records. Finally, remember when it comes to materials that include personal information, if you’re not keeping it, then you should be shredding it.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

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Blakely Financial, Inc. is located at 1022 Hutton Lane Suite 109 High Point, NC 27262 and can be reached at 336.885.2530.

Securities and Advisory Services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products and services offered through CES Insurance Agency or Blakely Financial, Inc.

© 2021 Commonwealth Financial Network®

The American Jobs Plan and Proposed Tax Policy

Presented by The Blakely Financial Team

On March 31, 2021, President Biden introduced the American Jobs Plan, a proposal designed to improve the country’s aging infrastructure. In total, the plan will invest more than $2 trillion over the next decade. The specific provisions of the proposal will likely change prior to making its way to Congress and will face steep opposition from Republican lawmakers. While it’s unclear if the plan will pass or in what form, the following is a high-level summary of what we know so far, based on the White House Fact Sheet.

Major Components
Infrastructure and transportation. A total of $650 billion will be invested into infrastructure at home. This will include clean drinking water, high-speed broadband internet, electrical infrastructure, affordable housing, public schools, learning centers, and community colleges. It will also be put toward modernizing Veterans Affairs hospitals. In addition, the plan will put $621 billion into transportation infrastructure with the goal of repairing bridges and roads; modernizing public transit; improving rail service, ports, waterways, and airports; and increasing use of electric vehicles.

American manufacturing. Biden also plans to invest a total of $580 billion in American manufacturing and small business, research and development, and workforce development.

Health care. A total of $400 billion will be put toward expanding access to quality, affordable care for the elderly and people with disabilities, with the goal of also creating new jobs and increasing pay, benefits, and opportunities for caregivers.

Corporate tax rate. The corporate tax rate will be increased from 21 percent to 28 percent.

Global minimum tax. The global minimum tax for U.S. multinational corporations will be increased from 10.5 percent to 21 percent.

Large corporations. The plan proposes a 15 percent minimum tax on the income large corporations use to report profits to investors.

The IRS. Funding to the IRS will be increased to help ramp up its enforcement of tax policies (i.e., audits) with corporations.

Big-Picture Tax Proposals
While the American Jobs Plan proposes several tax changes specifically targeting corporations, Biden also discussed other tax changes during his campaign that would more directly affect individuals. These changes, which the administration may seek to implement in future legislation, could include the following:

  • Implement payroll taxes on wages greater than $400,000 (Taxpayers would not be subject to the tax between the social security wage cap [currently $142,800] and $400,000.)
  • Increase the long-term capital gains rate to 39.6 percent for taxpayers earning more than $1 million
  • Raise the top marginal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent
  • Tax unrealized gains for individuals whose income exceeds a specified threshold
  • Eliminate the step up in basis rules applicable to inherited assets
  • Reduce the exclusion amount for federal estate and gift taxes (currently $11.7 million per individual)
  • Increase the child tax credit and expand eligibility for child and dependent care tax credit
  • Substitute a tax credit for tax deduction for retirement plan contributions
  • Provide tax relief for student debt (There are multiple proposals for how this may be implemented.)
  • Eliminate the qualified business income tax deduction for pass-through business owners
  • Eliminate 1031 exchanges for certain taxpayers whose income exceeds a specified threshold

Please note: These are informal proposals and are likely to change if incorporated into a bill. If they become law, you will be affected only if the rulings are specific to your financial situation. As always, we will continue to monitor the situation and will be there to help you navigate any future changes.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

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Blakely Financial, Inc. is located at 1022 Hutton Lane Suite 109 High Point, NC 27262 and can be reached at 336.885.2530. Securities and Advisory Services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products and services offered through CES Insurance Agency or Blakely Financial, Inc.

© 2021 Commonwealth Financial Network®

Traditional IRA Vs. Roth IRA: Choosing the Best Fit

Traditional IRA Vs. Roth IRA: Choosing the Best Fit
Presented by EMILY PROMISE CFP®, AIF®, APMA®, CRPC®

IRAs are a type of savings account designed to help you put money away for retirement in a tax-advantaged way. Two of the most common types are traditional and Roth IRAs. How do you know which one you should invest in? There are several factors to consider, so let’s take a closer look at their similarities and differences to help you choose the best fit.

The similarities between traditional and Roth IRAs include the following:

  • Contribution limits: Total annual contributions to your traditional and Roth IRAs combined cannot exceed $6,000 if you are younger than 50 or $7,000 if you are age 50 or older.
  • Contribution deadline: The deadline is the same as your tax return filing deadline (not including extensions).
  • Withdrawals: You can withdraw money at any time, but distributions may be subject to tax and penalty. For traditional IRAs, withdrawals prior to age 59½ may be subject to a 10 percent premature withdrawal penalty, unless an exception applies. For Roth IRAs, withdrawals of the principal are tax and penalty-free. If you are younger than 59½ and have had the account for less than five years, however, you may have to pay taxes and/or a penalty on any earnings withdrawn.
  • Rollovers: Direct rollovers are accepted from outside qualified retirement plans (i.e., 401(k)s), and they may be taxable.

There are, however, some key differences between these account types, as summarized below:

  • Traditional IRAs
    • Contributions may be tax-deductible, depending on your income level.
    • Contributions grow tax-deferred, meaning you pay taxes only when you withdraw the money.
    • You must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) at age 72*.
  • Roth IRAs
    • Not everyone is eligible to contribute; income restrictions apply.
    • Contributions are not tax-deductible. But distributions are tax-free if the account has been open for at least five years and the account owner is age 59½ or has qualified for an early withdrawal exception.
    • Roth IRAs do not have RMDs.

There are a lot of details to take into consideration before deciding on which account you would like to open, and it’s important to be well-informed before making a decision. If you have further questions regarding either type of IRA and which one would be best for you, we welcome you to contact us.

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other expert advice we can provide towards your financial well-being.

EMILY PROMISE is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Ln., Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262 and can be reached at (336) 885-2530.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Prepared by Commonwealth Financial Network®

 

*If you turned age 70½ before January 1, 2020, then you must begin taking RMDs at age 70½.

Diversification: Having Your Eggs In Different Baskets

Diversification: Having Your Eggs in Different Baskets

Presented by ROBERT BLAKELY, CFP®, AIF®, CHFC®

We have all heard the saying, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” which was coined in the early 1600s in Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes. When investing, particularly for long-term goals, there are two concepts you will likely hear about over and over again — diversification and asset allocation. Diversification is the art of not putting all your eggs in one basket and helps limit exposure to loss in any one investment or one type of investment. Asset allocation provides a blueprint to help guide your investment decisions. Understanding how the two work can help you put together a portfolio that targets your specific needs and keeps those eggs in different baskets.

After over 25 years in business at Blakely Financial, our team has seen the long-term benefits of diversification and firmly believe the following will help you in your long-term financial goals.

One way to lower your risk without sacrificing return potential is to spread your money out more widely. Diversification refers to the process of investing in a number of different investments to help manage risk. The theory is that if some investments in your portfolio decline in value, others may rise or hold steady.

For example, say you wanted to invest in stocks. Rather than investing in just domestic stocks, you could diversify your portfolio by investing in foreign stocks as well. Or you could choose to include the stocks of different size companies (small-cap, mid-cap, and/or large-cap stocks).

If your primary objective is to invest in bonds for income, you could choose both government and corporate bonds to potentially take advantage of their different risk/return profiles. You might also choose bonds of different maturities, because long-term bonds tend to react more dramatically to changes in interest rates than short-term bonds. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall.

Choosing different baskets for those ‘eggs’ is the key.

Asset allocation: Investing strategically

The second part of successful long-term investing is asset allocation. Asset allocation is a strategic approach to diversifying your portfolio among different asset classes that seeks to pursue the highest potential return within a certain level of risk. After carefully considering your investment goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance, you would then invest different percentages of your portfolio in targeted asset classes to pursue your goals. A careful analysis of these three personal factors can help you make strategic choices that are suitable for your needs.

Generally speaking, a large accumulation goal, a high tolerance for risk, and a long time horizon would typically translate into a more aggressive strategy and therefore a higher allocation to stock/growth investments. One example of an aggressive strategy is 70% stocks, 20% bonds, and 10% cash.

The opposite is also true: A small accumulation goal (or one geared more toward generating income), a low tolerance for risk, and a shorter time horizon might require a more conservative approach. An example of a more conservative, income-oriented strategy is 50% bonds, 30% stocks, and 20% cash.

Mutual funds and ETFs for Diversification

Because mutual funds and ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) invest in a mix of securities chosen by a fund manager to pursue the fund’s stated objective, they can offer a certain level of “built-in” diversification. For this reason, mutual funds and ETFs may be an appropriate choice for most investors and their portfolios. Including a variety of mutual funds or ETFs with different objectives and securities in your portfolio will help diversify your holdings that much more. You can also select a combination of mutual funds to achieve your portfolio’s targeted asset allocation.

If you have accounts spread over multiple brokerage firms, think about consolidating.  If you don’t have significant amounts of time, knowledge or desire to complete the research required for proper diversification, consider contacting a financial planning firm to assist with the decision process for proper diversification. Work with your chosen advisor to determine what steps need to be taken and if there are any exceptions to transferability.  We cannot stress this enough for investors at or nearing retirement.

Rebalance to stay on target

Over time, an asset allocation can shift simply due to changing market performance. For example, in years when the stock market performs particularly well, a portfolio may become over-weighted in stocks. Or in years when bonds outperform, they may end up comprising a larger-than-desired percentage of the portfolio. In these situations, a little rebalancing may be in order.

There are two ways to rebalance. The first is by simply selling securities in the over-weighted asset class and directing the proceeds into the underweighted ones. The second method is by directing new investments into the underweighted asset class until the desired allocation is achieved.

Keep in mind that selling securities can result in a taxable event unless they are held in a tax-advantaged account, such as an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA so make sure you plan accordingly and consult with your financial advisor with any questions.

By planning appropriately and diversifying your portfolio with a specific asset allocation based on your investment objectives, you can pursue your financial planning goals with more confidence. And just remember, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other expert advice we can provide towards your financial well-being.

ROBERT BLAKELY, CFP® is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Ln., Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262. He is the founder and president of Blakely Financial, Inc.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Diversification and asset allocation programs do not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets, and cannot guarantee that any objective or goal will be achieved.

Plan For A Vacation Day

Presented by EMILY PROMISE CFP®, AIF®, APMA®, CRPC®

Most of us are dealing with frigid temperatures, snow and ice but are probably dreaming of white sandy beaches, sunshine and perhaps a fruity drink with an umbrella in it.  It definitely is a great time to begin to plan for vacation! Here are some simple ways you can prepare for that getaway to ensure you enjoy it to the fullest when the time comes.

Begin by estimating your costs

To begin planning your vacation, you will need to research your desired destination. This will give you a better understanding of how much the trip will cost. Take everything into account including identifying the average hotel rate. Factor in transportation costs and determine how much you will spend on food and entertainment. Do not forget to budget in a little extra for emergencies, such as a flat tire or parking charges. Once you gather all your costs, you will see just how much you will need to go on vacation.

Create a realistic budget

Vacations are meant to be fun and relaxing, so do not go into debt going on one. Create a realistic budget that everyone can agree upon. Identify where you can cut costs. Maybe for lunch one day you pack sandwiches for your family instead of eating at a local café or chose to self-park instead of valet. Identifying where you can free up money will help keep costs down and will allow you to enjoy yourself during the trip and when you get back home!

Open a vacation savings account

Opening a separate savings account dedicated to vacations is a great opportunity to put money away for that special trip. Each week deposit a decided amount and do not pull the money out until the time comes to take that vacation. Fifty to one hundred dollars a week will build up in no time and you will end up with a nice chuck of change to vacation with. Though it may not be enough to cover the entire cost of your vacation, it will certainly help with your budget.

Identify expenses that drain your pocket now

Do you really need that $5 cup of coffee every morning before work? Buy the same brand of coffee and make it at home. Try cutting back on unnecessary expenses and we promise you will not miss them. Take those dollars you save and put them in your vacation account. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much your vacation budget grows once you cut out those unnecessary purchases.

Do some extra planning ahead of time

Before arriving at your vacation spot, plan your stay. Is there a tourist spot that you would like to visit? Or a well-known restaurant that you are dying to try? Look up coupons for that area on-line or call the local travel center to see if they have any discount deals available. This will prepare you ahead of the trip and save you a couple of dollars in the process.

There is always a ‘Staycation’ Option

Of course, if money is tight, or you prefer the comfort of your own bed, you do not have to travel anywhere to relax. Plan a ‘staycation’. Turn off your phone and become a tourist in your own town. Visit museums. Go to local parks. Pack a picnic lunch and a blanket and go out into your backyard for a fun dinner under the stars. Get creative and you might even enjoy being able to just relax at home without worrying about a budget.

No matter where you might go for your getaway, remember that budgeting is always a good idea and planning ahead takes the stress out of travel.

Stay warm this winter while enjoying planning for your upcoming vacation and always remember to consult with your financial advisor to work towards your travel dreams and goals as well as your financial future.

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other expert advice we can provide towards your financial well-being.

EMILY PROMISE, CFP® is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Ln., Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262 and can be reached at (336) 885-2530.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Financial Wellness In The New Year

Financial Wellness In The New Year

Presented by STEPHEN LAFRANCE, CFP®, MBA

With the new year comes all sorts of resolutions and goal setting. It is great to vow to lose weight, eat healthier, spend more time with your family, etc. but have you taken inventory of your finances and your financial goals? Many of us have probably overspent during the holidays and it is time to get ahold of our financial health and resolve to get our finances in check.

Achieving money–related balance and financial wellness isn’t necessarily about investing a set dollar amount or your ability to pay for something expensive without flinching. It is much broader. It is about getting your entire house in order. It can be as simple as chatting about starting your travel fund, saving $20 a month or whether or not your company offers a 401(k) match. Financial independence affords us the opportunity to live the life that we want. It is about developing a healthy relationship with money and feeling a sense of control over short-term obligations while working toward those long-term goals.

An essential first step towards financial wellness is actively talking about your finances. That is not to say you have to divulge personal details about your savings and debt to your whole group of friends, but choosing a mentor or meeting with a financial advisor to put together an action plan can help.

Here are some tips to help get you on the path to financial wellness.

  • Develop goals and identify priorities.
  • Assess your current assets and resources.
  • Identify any barriers to achieving your goals. If you have student debt or large balances on credit cards, tackle these. Work with a credit counselor to consolidate your debt and make it more manageable to pay off.
  • Incorporate strategies into your plan like brewing your own coffee and foregoing that $3 cup from the local chain coffee shop. It’s amazing how small steps add up fast.
  • Put your plan into action. Start saving more for your retirement. Even if it is increasing your contribution to your 401(k) by just 1% each year, the long-term benefit of this will surprise you.
  • Consider looking into long term care insurance. We are all living longer, and according to the statistics, more than 70 percent of Americans will require some sort of care in their later years. Talk to your financial advisor today and see which LTC coverage is best for you.
  • Monitor your progress, evaluate where you are and adjust your plan as necessary.

Good planning and consulting with a financial advisor can take some stress out of your life and get you on the path to financial wellness today!

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM to see what other financial tips we can provide towards your financial well-being.

STEPHEN LAFRANCE, CFP®,MBA is a financial advisor with BLAKELY FINANCIAL, INC. located at 1022 Hutton Ln., Suite 109, High Point, NC 27262. 336-885-2530.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.