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Accumulating Funds for Short-Term Goals

Stock market volatility in 2020 has clearly reinforced at least one important investing principle: Short-term goals typically require a conservative investment approach. If your portfolio loses 20% of its value due to a temporary event, it would require a 25% gain just to regain that loss. This could take months or even years to achieve.

So how should you strive to accumulate funds for a short-term goal, such as a wedding or a down payment on a home? First, you’ll need to define “short term,” and then select appropriate vehicles for your money.

Investing time periods are usually expressed in general terms. Long term is typically considered 15 years or longer; midterm is between five and 15 years; and short term is generally five or fewer years.

The basic guidelines of investing apply to short-term goals just as they do for longer-term goals. When determining your investment mix, three factors come into play — your goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. While all three factors are important, your risk tolerance — or ability to withstand losses while pursuing your goals — may warrant careful consideration.

Example: Say you’re trying to save $50,000 for a down payment on your first home. You’d like to achieve that goal in three years. As you’re approaching your target, the market suddenly drops and your portfolio loses 10% of its value. How concerned would you feel? Would you be able to make up that loss from another source without risking other financial goals? Or might you be able to delay buying your new home until you could recoup your loss?

These are the types of questions you should consider before you decide where to put those short-term dollars. If your time frame is not flexible or you would not be able to make up a loss, an appropriate choice may be lower-risk, conservative vehicles. Examples include standard savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and conservative mutual funds. Although these vehicles typically earn lower returns than higher-risk investments, a disciplined (and automated) saving habit combined with a realistic goal and time horizon can help you stay on course.

The FDIC insures CDs and savings accounts, which generally provide a fixed rate of return, up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured institution.
All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.
Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.
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Five Investment Tasks to Tackle by Year-End

Market turbulence in 2020 may have wreaked havoc on your investment goals for the year. It probably also highlighted the importance of periodically reviewing your investment portfolio to determine whether adjustments are needed to keep it on track. Now is a good time to take on these five year-end investment tasks.

1. Evaluate Your Investment Portfolio

To identify potential changes to your investment strategy, consider the following questions when reviewing your portfolio:

How did your investments perform during the year? Did they outperform, match, or underperform your expectations?

  • What factor(s) caused your portfolio to perform the way it did?
  • Were there any consistencies or anomalies compared to past performance?
  • Does money need to be redirected in order to pursue your short-term and long-term goals?
  • Is your portfolio adequately diversified, and does your existing asset allocation still make sense?

2. Take Stock of Your Emergency Fund

When you are confronted with an unexpected expense or loss of income, your emergency fund can serve as a financial safety net and help prevent you from withdrawing from your investment accounts or being forced to pause your contributions. If you haven’t established a cash reserve, or if the one you have is inadequate, consider how you might build up your cash reserves. A good way to fund your account is to earmark a percentage of your paycheck each pay period. You could also save more by reducing your discretionary spending or directing investment earnings to your emergency account.

3. Consider Rebalancing

A year-end review of your overall portfolio can help you determine whether your asset allocation is balanced and in line with your time horizon and goals. If one type of investment performed well during the year, it could represent a greater percentage of your portfolio than you initially wanted. As a result, you might consider selling some of it and using that money to buy other types of investments to rebalance your portfolio. The process of rebalancing typically involves buying and selling securities to restore your portfolio to your targeted asset allocation based on your risk tolerance, investment objectives, and time frame. For example, you might sell some securities in an overweighted asset class and use the proceeds to purchase assets in an underweighted asset class; of course, this could result in a tax liability. Year-End Investment Checklist Remember that asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee a profit or protect against loss; they are methods to help manage investment risk. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful.

4. Use Losses to Help Offset Gains

If you have taxable investments that have lost money and that you want to sell for strategic reasons, consider selling shares before the end of the year to recognize a tax loss on your return. Tax losses, in turn, could be used to offset any tax gains. If you have a net loss after offsetting any tax gains, you can deduct up to $3,000 of losses ($1,500 if married filing separately). If your loss exceeds the $3,000/$1,500 limit, it can be carried over to later tax years. When attempting to realize a tax loss, remember the wash-sale rule, which applies when you sell a security at a loss and repurchase the same security within 30 days of the sale. When this happens, the loss is disallowed for tax purposes.

5. Set Goals for the New Year

After your year-end investment review, you might resolve to increase contributions to an IRA, an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or a college fund in 2021. With a fresh perspective on where you stand, you may be able to make choices next year that could potentially benefit your investment portfolio over the long term.

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Is It Time to Think About Tax-Free Income?

Federal and state governments have spent extraordinary sums in response to the economic toll inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. At some point, it is likely that governments will look for ways to increase revenue to compensate for this spending and increase income taxes as a result. That’s why it might be a good time to think about ways to help reduce your taxable income. Here are three potential sources of tax-free income to consider.

Roth IRA

Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars — you don’t receive a tax deduction for money you put into a Roth IRA. Not only does the Roth IRA offer tax-deferred growth, but qualified Roth distributions including earnings are not subject to income taxation. And the tax-free treatment of distributions applies to beneficiaries who may inherit your Roth IRA.

Municipal Bonds

Municipal, or tax-exempt, bonds are issued by state and local governments to supplement tax revenues and to finance projects. Interest from municipal bonds is usually exempt from federal income tax. Also, municipal bond interest from a given state generally isn’t taxed by governmental bodies within that state, though state and local governments typically do tax interest on bonds issued by other states.

Health Savings Accounts

A health savings account (HSA) lets you set aside tax-deductible or pre-tax dollars to cover health-care and medical costs that your insurance doesn’t pay. HSA funds accumulate tax-deferred, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free. While an HSA is intended to pay for current medical and related expenses, you don’t necessarily have to seek reimbursement now. You can hold your HSA until retirement then reimburses yourself for all the medical expenses you paid over the years with tax-free HSA distributions — money you can use any way you’d like. Be sure to keep receipts for medical expenses you incurred.

Municipal bonds are subject to the uncertainties associated with any fixed-income security, including interest rate risk, credit risk, and reinvestment risk. Bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original cost. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk. Some municipal bond interest could be subject to the federal and state alternative minimum tax. Tax-exempt interest is included in determining if a portion of any Social Security benefit you receive is taxable. Because municipal bonds tend to have lower yields than other bonds, the tax benefits tend to accrue to individuals with the highest tax burdens. HSA funds can be withdrawn free of federal income tax and penalties provided the money is spent on qualified health-care expenses. Depending upon the state, HSA contributions and earnings may or may not be subject to state taxes. You cannot establish or contribute to an HSA unless you are enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP). To qualify for the tax-free and penalty-free withdrawal of earnings, a Roth IRA must meet the five-year holding requirement and the distribution must take place after age 59½ or due to the owner’s death, disability, or a first-time home purchase (up to a $ 10,000-lifetime maximum). All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful. Page

 

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Working in Retirement?

In 2020, 74% of workers said they expected to work for pay after retiring from their regular jobs, but only 27% of retirees said they had actually done so. This large gap between expectation and reality has been fairly consistent in surveys over the past 20 years, and there is no reason to expect it will change.

So it may be unwise to place too much emphasis on income from work in your retirement strategy. Most retirees who worked for pay reported positive reasons for doing so; however, there were negative reasons as well.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2020 (2019 data used for chart, multiple responses allowed)
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