Financial Planning Briefings
Building and preserving wealth begins with a plan! Financial planning is at the heart of what we do here at MPCA. We're using this page to provide you access to the content we create to educate you and those around you on key topics that we hope you find timely, informative, and value-adding. Consume it and share it! Check back regularly, as we'll keep adding more - and please don't hesitate to request a topic that you'd like to see addressed here!
Tapping into your home equity (Understanding HELOCs)
With more homeowners sitting on substantial equity while feeling "trapped" by rising interest rates, many are choosing to remodel or simply desire to use their equity to meet liquidity needs. HELOCs (Home Equity Lines of Credit) can be a great resource for responsible borrowers. Here, we'll try to give you a better understanding of what they are, how they work, and when they should be used (and when they should be avoided).
What's up with that Washington Long-term Care tax?
After garnering a ton of airtime in the latter half of 2021, this novel payroll tax and LTC benefit has faded from discussion. It's still a thing, though, and we are taking a look here at the delays and program design changes that were enacted by the Legislature and Governor earlier this year. These changes are significant, and so we encourage you to take a few minutes to read up and learn more.
Capital Gains & Selling Your Home
With housing prices rapidly appreciating, more sellers are faced with the potential of owing capital gains taxes upon sale. While paying taxes inherently means you made money, which is never a bad thing - it's also never a bad thing to mindfully avoid paying taxes if you don't have to. In this piece, we look at ways to minimize your capital gains tax exposure when planning to sell your home.
Don't give another dollar...of cash!!!
Tis the season…for giving! Yes, we all like to receive – but I know many of you find even more joy in giving. While you may already be busy buying those gifts for under the Christmas tree (with all of the horror stories of backordered items, we wouldn’t blame you) – we’re going to talk today about charitable giving. This is the time of year where we find ourselves at many charity galas and receiving innumerable year-end giving pleas from our favorite organizations, and we want to help you think about how to show your financial generosity in the most powerful and tax-friendly ways.
Saving for College (or Trade School)
Let’s start by stating the obvious. College is expensive. Let’s continue by pointing out another truth. Saving for college can be a challenge. Finally, let’s make clear another less obvious (or accepted) reality. College is not for everyone. Of course, you don’t know whether that’s the case for your little one (whether it’s your kid or your grandkid) when they are still filling diapers and sucking their thumb. Thankfully, every option we are going to present has built-in flexibility that should make it such that you can save confidently, even when you are not confident of what the future holds for your loved one.
Do you need a Revocable Living Trust?
A Revocable Living Trust is one of two traditional ways that you can choose to anchor your estate plan, the other being a Last Will and Testament (“Will”). Hopefully all of you have one or both of these in place, though we know there are some that do not. Regardless, it’s important to know the difference, whether you are just getting docs put in place or are reviewing docs that have collected dust after being drafted a decade ago. In this piece, we'll explore what a RLT is and whether it makes sense for you.
Taking Control of What's Yours - Options for your 401(k) when you change jobs
$1.65 trillion! By some estimates, that is how much is sitting in left behind employer-sponsored retirement plans (e.g. 401k). While these funds remain the property of the account owner, these languishing accounts can mean diminished returns, wasteful fees, and, of course, the loss of unclaimed retirement money. This bulletin takes a look at the options you have to take control of these assets as you continue to build wealth towards retirement.
The Washington State Long-Term Care Trust Act (An Update)
Did you know there's a new payroll tax coming to Washington in 2022? Yes, if you are a W2 employee in the state of WA, 0.58% of your gross pay will soon go to pay for a state-run long-term care insurance program, unless you choose to opt-out. Explore this piece as you decide whether opting-out or remaining in is best for you. Not a W2 employee? You still may want to read - as there are potential implications for you as well.
Understanding Capital Gains (Part 2 of 3)
In this second installment of a three part series, we look at the mechanics of capital gain taxes. We try to help you understand how they are calculated, particularly in relation to taxes on ordinary income. Understanding this can help unlock significant tax planning opportunities.
Understanding Capital Gains (Part 1 of 3)
In this first installment of a three part series, we look at the basics of capital gain taxes. We try to help you understand what these taxes are and why capital gains historically have received preferential treatment. We also look at the recent proposal to raise capital gains tax rates at the federal level and the impact this change could have on financial markets.
Managing Cash in a Low Rate Environment
We all know that having a reasonable cash reserve is critical to any financial picture. However, in an ultra low rate environment like we are muddling through right now, holding cash can be challenging and many are looking for "something better" than what their traditional checking/savings account can offer. In this piece, we'll look at how to view cash and the options that exist to enhance yields, as well as the trade-offs that exist as you pursue other options across the spectrum.
So Many Options! - How to prioritize savings for greatest tax efficiency
Simply saving money is by far the most important step in building a long-term financial foundation. However, you can do even better by saving in the right places. That said, the options can be overwhelming and fraught with rules that are difficult to navigate. This piece looks at a baseline way to think about prioritizing your long-term savings to maximize tax-efficiency, while always recognizing the importance of building a plan that meets YOUR needs.
Refinancing a Mortgage
With interest rates at record lows, incomes seemingly stabilized, and house prices through the roof – we have fielded more than a few questions about refinancing. Does it make sense? What does the process look like? Already, we have helped many clients answer these questions, with a large share of these then proceeding to complete a refi. As rates have continued their march downward, more of you are likely (or should be) considering a refi, so today we will take a closer look at what should be considered as you think about this.
Published: March 2021
The Red File - Getting Organized for the Unforeseen
We consider ourselves to be pretty fun here at Madison Park. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, though we take our work very seriously. While we all like to focus on the fun and enjoyable topics like making money, growing our net worth, taking vacations, buying your dream home, giving to your favorite charity, etc. – sometimes we also have to take the time to have the hard conversations. Very few clients we know love it when we start talking about estate planning, as it is inherently involves talking about death (though it’s certainly about more than that!). However, these conversations need to happen, as when they are done right, they can help honor life – with the added benefit of saving significant amounts of money, time, and heartache for those you love.
Published: February 2021
New Year Tax Planning
Contrary to much belief, your tax picture for 2020 was not finalized on December 31, 2020. Yes, there were certain things that had to be done by that date to prove worthwhile for 2020 (e.g., charitable giving, 401(k) contributions), but there is still a myriad of things you can do to help:
- Reduce your upcoming tax bill for 2020
- Improve your tax situation throughout 2021
Published: January 2021
Taking IRA Distributions
You’ve saved diligently for years, invested with a long-term mindsight, and waited. Waited for that retirement account to go from simply an asset on a balance sheet to an income provider. Whether you are just 59-1/2 and first eligible to take funds (voluntarily) or are 72 and of age to be required to take funds, we want you to know your options so that you can continue to make the most of this important account. Let’s look at a few key considerations.
Published: January 2021
Qualified Charitable Distributions
Let’s look at a way that retirees can be generous with their money while also significantly reducing their tax burden in retirement. This is through the use of Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD). From my experience, this is an often misunderstood and underutilized tool. My goal here to help educate retirees on this powerful method of giving and tax savings, so that they can continue their legacy of generosity in a tax-friendly manner in retirement.
Published: January 2021
Reporting Backdoor Roth Contributions
Because of your high income, you were deemed ineligible to make a contribution directly to your Roth IRA. However, you still got money into that account via the “backdoor.” This method is a loophole that has been recognized and actually fully endorsed by the IRS that allows higher earners to still contribute to a Roth IRA, albeit with a few more steps and complications along the way. The added steps don’t end once the funds finally land in the Roth IRA, as they extend to tax time as well. The briefing is intended to illustrate how to properly report this transaction on your taxes.
Published: January 2021
Planning Opportunities in Challenging Markets
With Q1 now behind us – at least in calendar terms, it might take longer psychologically – we thought it might be a good chance to take a collective deep breath and look at the opportunities presented by the turmoil that existed over the past few weeks. It’s crazy to think that the markets were hitting all-time highs just six weeks ago, and that we’ve since entered a bear market and a subsequent bull market (at least on the Dow). This level of turmoil can easily leave us feeling helpless. Thankfully, if we take a step back, we can see that this downturn actually presents us with some financial planning opportunities that we can leverage to improve your financial picture over the long-term, in some cases quite dramatically.
Published: April 2020
Health Savings Accounts + Open Enrollment
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas…those are the dates most of us are starting to look towards in the months ahead. However, another important set of dates comes at us later this week. Running from November 1 – December 15, it’s the annual ‘Open Enrollment’ season for health insurance. This is the yearly period when people can enroll in a health insurance plan without certain special triggering events (that would make you eligible at other times in the year). In addition to new enrollments, it is the time when employers will update their plans – leaving you with the need to consider and choose your coverage for 2020. Whether you access health insurance through your employer or the individual markets, one thing you should consider during this open enrollment period is whether an HSA-eligible plan is right for you.
Published: April 2019
Married - Now What?
Congratulations! Whether you just said “I do” or are simply preparing to do so, you know that marriage is an incredible gift and we share with you in your excitement. You may also hear that it is a ton of work. That is true. While this work is most often filled with joy, there are also tedious elements to it – like the legal and financial ins-and-outs of joining your lives together. To help make the “un-fun” a little more enjoyable and understandable, we have put together this guide to the intricacies of “becoming one” from a legal and financial perspective.
Published: June 2019