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Disabled Couples Navigate Red Tape On Way to Altar

Posted On: January 20, 2020

People suffering from disabilities always have to work harder at the most simplest things in life as a result of their disabilities.  What is criminal is when government and society put extra road blocks in their way to make normal paths to happiness difficult.  This is an inspirational article about a couple that would not take "no" for an answer and are trying to fight for a better way for other disabled couples to find happiness through marriage and not lose their disability benefits as a result. 

This should be a lesson to us all and it should be a lesson to legislators that they need to make a change.

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Rita Price The Columbus Dispatch & Courtney Hergesheimer The Columbus Dispatch.

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Changes In the Law Regarding IRAs That May Change Estate Planning

Posted On: January 13, 2020

2020 Has Seen Changes In The Law Regarding IRA's

The maximum age for required minimum distributions from IRAs was raised from 70½ to April 1st of the year after you turn 72.  It also changed how long a distributees who inherits and IRAs may keep the funds in an IRA.  Now it is mandatory to have the account liquidated within 10 years of the death of the decedent:  no longer the lifetime of the distribute.  These are changes that may change estate planning.

The SECURE Act:

  • Repeals the maximum age for traditional IRA contributions, which is currently 70½.
  • Increases the required minimum distribution (RMD) age for retirement accounts to 72 (up from 70½).
  • Allows long-term, part-time workers to participate in 401(k) plans.
  • Offers more options for lifetime income strategies.
  • Permits parents to withdraw up to $5,000 from retirement accounts penalty-free within a year of birth or adoption for qualified expenses.
  • Allows parents to withdraw up to $10,000 from 529 plans to repay student loans.

As part of a larger government spending package, which was signed into law on December 20, 2019, Congress included provisions from the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. The act includes many common-sense, long-overdue reforms that could make saving for retirement easier and more accessible for many Americans.

The important retirement legislation reflects policy changes to defined contribution plans (such as 401(k)s), defined benefit pension plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and 529 college savings accounts. Most provisions in the law go into effect on January 1, 2020.

Here's a summary of key provisions of the SECURE Act:

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) now begin at age 72

  • Americans are working longer and will no longer be required to withdraw assets from IRAs and 401(k)s at age 70½.
  • RMDs now begin at age 72 for individuals who turn 70½ in the calendar year 2020.
  • If you turned age 70½ in 2019 and have already begun taking your RMDs, you should generally continue to take your RMDs. The IRS may provide further guidance on this point, so you might want to speak with your tax advisor regarding any 2020 distributions.

Next step: If you are turning 70½ in 2020 and had planned on taking an RMD, you may want to work with your financial advisor to reconsider your withdrawal plans.

You can make IRA contributions beyond age 70½

  • As Americans live longer, an increasing number are continuing to work past their traditional retirement age.
  • Under the act, you can continue to contribute to your traditional IRA past age 70½ as long as you are still working. That means the rules for traditional IRAs will align more closely with 401(k) plans and Roth IRAs.

Next step: Work with your financial advisor to determine your retirement readiness, how long you plan to work, and when you expect to start withdrawing from your retirement savings. This change doesn't apply for tax year 2019, as it will begin for tax year 2020 contributions. You can make your tax year 2020 contribution up until April 15, 2021.

Long-term, part-time workers will be able to join their company's 401(k) plan

  • Up until now, if you worked less than 1,000 hours per year, you were generally ineligible to participate in your company's 401(k) plan.
  • Except in the case of collectively bargained plans, the law now requires employers maintaining a 401(k) plan to offer one to any employee who worked more than 1,000 hours in one year, or 500 hours over 3 consecutive years.

Next step: If you work part-time and haven't been eligible to participate in a 401(k) to date, ask your employer or HR department how and when you can enroll.

Inherited IRA distributions generally must now be taken within 10 years

  • Previously, if you inherited an IRA or 401(k), you could "stretch" your distributions and tax payments out over your single life expectancy. Many people have used "stretch" IRAs and 401(k)s as reliable income sources.
  • Now, for IRAs inherited from original owners who have passed away on or after January 1, 2020, the new law requires many beneficiaries to withdraw assets from an inherited IRA or 401(k) plan within 10 years following the death of the account holder.
  • Exceptions to the 10-year rule include assets left to a surviving spouse, a minor child, a disabled or chronically ill beneficiary, and beneficiaries who are less than 10 years younger than the original IRA owner or 401(k) participant.

Next step: If you have an IRA that you planned to leave to beneficiaries based on prior rules, consider working with your tax advisor or estate planning attorney, as this change may require you to reevaluate your retirement and estate planning strategies. If you're a beneficiary of an inherited IRA or 401(k) and the original owner passed away prior to January 1, 2020, you don't need to make any changes.

Small-business owners can receive a tax credit for starting a retirement plan, up to $5,000

  • The new law provides a start-up retirement plan credit for smaller employers of $250 per non-highly compensated employees eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan at work (minimum credit of $500 and maximum credit of $5,000).
  • This credit would apply to small employers with up to 100 employees over a 3-year period beginning after December 31, 2019 and applies to SEP, SIMPLE, 401(k), and profit sharing types of plans.
  • If the retirement plan includes automatic enrollment, an additional credit of up to $500 is now available.

Next step: If you're a small-business owner and have not yet established a retirement plan for your employees, consider taking advantage of the new credit to establish a retirement plan.

Small-business owners will find it easier to join together to offer defined contribution retirement plans

  • The new law facilitates the adoption of open multiple employer plans (MEPs) by allowing completely unrelated employers to participate in an MEP and eliminates the IRS's "one bad apple" rule, which stipulates that all employers participating in an MEP may face adverse tax consequences if one employer fails to satisfy the tax qualification rules for the MEP.
  • Roughly half of private-sector workers in the US still don't have access to a retirement plan through their employer. Open MEPs can help deliver low-cost, high-quality retirement plans for millions of small business workers.

Next step: If you're a small-business owner and have not yet established a retirement plan or would like to make changes to your plan that may make it easier to implement, consider taking advantage of the new law by joining a multiple employer plan, which will be available in 2021. If you're a small-business employee whose employer is currently unable to offer a plan, consider letting your employer know about this new opportunity.

You can withdraw up to $5,000 per parent penalty-free from your retirement plan upon the birth or adoption of a child

  • The new law permits an individual to take a "qualified birth or adoption distribution" of up to $5,000 from an applicable defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k) or an IRA.
  • The 10% early withdrawal penalty will not apply to these withdrawals, and you can repay them as a rollover contribution to an applicable eligible defined contribution plan or IRA.

Next step: Consider taking advantage of this provision if you do not have ample personal savings to fully fund the birth or adoption of a child.

529 funds can now be used to pay down student loan debt, up to $10,000

  • In some cases, families have money remaining in their college savings plans after their student graduates. Now, they can use a 529 savings account to pay up to $10,000 in student debt over the course of the student's lifetime.
  • Under the new law, a 529 plan may also be used to pay for certain apprenticeship programs.

Next step: If your family's 529 plans have money left over after you pay for college expenses, consider using the remaining money to help pay off student loans.

There are other changes that could impact workplace retirement savings plans. The SECURE Act:

  • Encourages retirement saving by raising the cap for auto enrollment contributions in employer-sponsored retirement plans from 10% of pay to 15%. So if your plan at work provides auto enrollment, the amount withheld for your retirement savings could go up every year until you're contributing 15% of your pay to your retirement savings plan.
  • Allows "lifetime income investment" to be distributed from your workplace retirement plan. The retirement income options would be portable. So, if you left your job, you could roll over this lifetime income investment to another 401(k) or IRA.
  • Increases transparency into retirement income with "lifetime income disclosure statements." These statements would show how much money you could potentially receive each month if your total 401(k) balance were used to purchase an annuity. This disclosure would allow you and your financial advisor to better gauge what your potential income would be throughout retirement.
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The LGBTQ Rights We Gained—and Then Lost—This Decade

Posted On: January 05, 2020

As we look at the end of last year and the end of a decade, this article really gives a good perspective and highlights many points with respect to the LGBTQ Community and the rights we have gained and lost over this past decade.  It is definitely a good read and highlights some of the significant things that have happened over this past decade.  It also gives us pause, to know that so many rights have been lost that took so long to obtain.  There is a lot of work ahead of us in the decade to come.

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Lisa Needham of Rewire News & Getty Images

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Want a Happy Relationship? The World's 'Most Comprehensive Study' Says It Comes Down to Just 1 Thing

Posted On: December 24, 2019

Many studies show that having a good primary relationship with a significant other or spouse is one of the best ways to achieve happiness. 

A massive University research project described as the most comprehensive study of marriage happiness to date, says that there is a single fact or characteristic that has an impact on whether relationships are good enough and whether the people in them will ultimately be happy or frustrated.

We often think of things that are important for relationships as compatibility, growth, sexual attraction, intelligence, wisdom or shared values.  However, this study found that the single attribute is KINDNESS.  The study included combing through data of 2,500 long term married couples together twenty (20) years or more to boil this down to this one characteristic. 

The research found that people being happier in their relationship also reported that they had higher levels of agreeableness (be considerate and kind to others) and lower levels of emotional instability (a person who worries a lot).  Surprisingly, whether couples had common interests or similar personalities did not have much effect at all on happiness.  Instead of looking for what you may consider to be true compatibility, the bigger and maybe smarter question is, is the person you are dating nice or do they have a lot of anxiety?  It is those attributes that appear to matter more.

So what if you are already in a long term relationship?  Relationships are made of an infinite number of small interactions, and if a couple can be conscious of those interactions and be active listeners with empathy, expressing warmth and interest to one’s spouse or partner, can make a significant difference, even if the dance of your relationship is well established.  It doesn’t mean you cannot wake up and change how you interact with one another.  If we can all respond to our partner with interest and warmth, even if we cannot do that all time, then show that we are interested in hearing about it but may not be able to listen to the issue at a particular moment.  When we make a misstep or mistake as we will all do, own up to it and recognize it and apologize for it.  

Again, being kind and nurturing to a partner and the multitude of simple acts of kindness can go an incredibly long way. 

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Bill Murphy, Jr., of Inc. and Getty Images.

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10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Posted On: December 22, 2019

End of life or estate planning is about getting plans in place to manage risks at the end of your life and beyond. And while it might be uncomfortable to discuss or plan for the end, everyone knows that no one will live forever. Sometimes it takes a significant event like a health scare to shake us from our procrastination. Don’t wait for life to happen to you, though. You want to make sure all you have worked hard for goes to the people you want it to go to and lastly you don’t want it going to the State!

10 Things to Remember

  1. Make a Plan.
  2. Update as life and plans change and new blessings come into your life 😊
  3. Plan for disability and long-term care.
  4. If estate taxes are applicable make sure they are accounted for.
  5. Make sure ownership of personal as well as real property are properly titled and MAKE SURE beneficiaries are correct and properly named and updated overtime as things in life are always changing.
  6. Understand and know what your liquidity is.
  7. Consider tax impact of income taxes for you and your beneficiaries.
  8. If you have minor children, are they provided for financially?  Have a plan.  Who will care for them?  Who will take care of their finances?  Does not have to be the same person!
  9. If you are leaving a gift to a charity or an organization, church, temple, or any nonprofit, make sure you have the required information so the gift will be honored.
  10. Make sure you are aware of beneficiaries on retirement assets and know the impact.

Selected excerpt(s) and linked article courtesy of Jamie P. Hopkins, Director of Retirement Research at Kiplinger.
Selected photo(s) courtesy of Getty Images.

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Can CNY Christian Adoption Agency Exclude Gays, Unmarried Couples? NY Law Faces High-Profile Court Test

Posted On: December 09, 2019

To piggy back off of last week's post, NY now has its own hot profile case on the LGBTQ adoption issue.

A Syracuse Christian adoption agency says it doesn't take gay or unmarried couples as adoptive parents because it's not "in the best interests of children." New York has said New Hope Family Services will face closure if it doesn't comply with the state's anti-discrimination law.

New York in 2013 issued new regulations to adoption agencies, prohibiting them from discriminating against applicants who sought their services. The anti-discrimination rules covered everything from race to religion, sexual orientation to marital status. In the fall of 2018, after New York’s anti-discrimination regulations had been on the books for a few years, New York’s Office of Child and Family Services came to Syracuse for a routine inspection of New Hope. Thereafter OCFS told New Hope it would have to comply with state regulations. It would have to begin placing children with same-sex and unmarried couples. New Hope refused on religious grounds and OCFS made it clear in subsequent emails and letters it was delivering an ultimatum: Change the policy of not accepting certain couples, or shut down. New Hope filed suit and its case is now on appeal. New York says New Hope isn’t forced to do anything. The state insists that New Hope can always stop participating in public adoptions. But if it wants to continue this work, it simply must cooperate and follow the state’s rules.  Here, the law is concerned not only with New Hope’s religious freedom and discrimination against prospective adoptive parents -- but adoption is a heavily regulated process, in which a child’s rights and future is also at stake.

The New York attorney general, defending the state, also argues the case is different because adoption is conduct, not speech.

Selected excerpt(s), photo and linked article courtesy of Julie McMahon of Syracuse.com

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Michigan Adoption Agencies Can Turn Away LGBTQ Couples, Judge Rules

Posted On: December 02, 2019

I've been meaning to post this important ruling...

Religious-based adoption agencies that contract with Michigan will be allowed to refuse to place children in LGBTQ homes under a preliminary injunction.

"Today's ruling requires the state to put the individual religious beliefs of foster care agencies ahead of the welfare of children," said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project. "This will not facilitate foster and adoptive placements for children in need. Instead, it will allow agencies to turn away same-sex foster parents who are able to provide supportive and loving homes for these children."

Selected excerpt(s) courtesy of The Associated Press.  Selected photo courtesy of Rebecca Cook / Reuters file

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