How much can you contribute this year? In 2018, you have another chance to max out your retirement accounts. Here is a rundown of yearly contribution limits for the popular retirement savings vehicles. IRAs. The 2018 limits are the same as in 2016: $5,500 for IRA owners who will be 49 and younger this year and $6,500 for IRA owners who will be 50 or older this year. These limits apply to both Roth and traditional IRAs.1 What if you own multiple IRAs? This $5,500/$6,500 limit applies to your total IRA contributions for a calendar year. So, for example, should

The U.S. might soon impose tariffs on certain imports. What if America taxes imported aluminum and steel? If it does, will other countries impose taxes in response, and what might that mean for the U.S. economy?    Conversations about tariffs and trade wars have been prevalent in the news stream lately. If a trade war does begin in 2018, it is worth considering the potential implications. In the scenario that could unfold, excise taxes would be placed on imported goods or materials sold to consumers or used by industries in America. These taxes would encourage retailers and manufacturers to buy such

INFLATION SUDDENLY INTENSIFIES The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5% in January, its greatest month-over-month advance since January 2017. Core inflation (minus food and energy prices) increased 0.3%, marking the largest monthly gain in almost 13 years.1    RETAIL SALES PACE SLOWS Contradicting perceptions that the economy might be overheating, retail purchases fell 0.3% in January. Minus car buying, retail sales would have been unchanged for a second straight month, as a Department of Commerce revision rendered the previously announced December gain flat.2   DEVELOPERS BUILT MORE IN JANUARY Groundbreaking increased 9.7% last month, according to a Census Bureau report. The first

THE YEAR IN BRIEF History will remember 2017 as a terrific year for equities. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 25.08%, practically doubling its 2016 gain. Major tax reforms were passed in Congress, reshaping some of the fundamentals of the Internal Revenue Code. Bitcoin soared to dizzying heights, alarming some economists who saw a bubble ready to burst. While terrorism, devastating storms, and threats of war seized the headlines, the year was calm on Wall Street – nothing seemed to rattle institutional investors much, certainly not enough to cause a correction. Gold, oil, and other key commodities were up for

What standbys did tax reforms eliminate?   Are the days of itemizing over? Not quite, but now that H.R. 1 (popularly called the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act) is the law, all kinds of itemized federal tax deductions have vanished.   Early drafts of H.R. 1 left only two itemized deductions in the Internal Revenue Code – one for home loan interest, the other for charitable donations. The final bill left many more standing, but plenty of others fell. Here is a partial list of the itemized deductions unavailable this year.1 Moving expenses. Last year, you could deduct such costs if

LANDMARK FEDERAL TAX CHANGES SLATED FOR 2018 Congress passed the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act last week, and President Trump signed the bill into law on Friday. The new legislation authorizes major changes to the Internal Revenue Code. On January 1, 2018, the corporate tax rate will be reduced to 21%, most pass-through businesses will be allowed to claim a 20% deduction on earnings, the estate tax exemption will double, the individual standard deduction will rise to $12,000, and personal exemptions will disappear. At the start of 2019, the health insurance requirement for individuals set by the Affordable Care Act

Take these financial lessons to heart. You have a chance to manage your money better than previous generations have. Some crucial financial steps may help you do just that.     Live below your means and refrain from living on margin. How much do you save per month? Generations ago, Americans routinely saved 10% or more of what they made, either depositing those savings or investing them. This kind of thriftiness is still found elsewhere in the world. Today, the average euro area household saves more than 12% of its earnings, and the current personal savings rate in Mexico is 20.6%.1

ANOTHER MONTH OF SOLID HIRING According to the Department of Labor, the U.S. workforce gained 228,000 more jobs than it lost during November. Annualized wage growth improved from 2.5% to 2.7%. The headline jobless rate held at 4.1% last month, while the U-6 rate, that includes the underemployed, ticked up a tenth of a percent to 8.0%. Even though October’s net job gain was revised down to 244,000, October-November 2017 represents the best two-month hiring period in more than a year.1,2   ISM INDEX MISSES EXPECTATIONS The Institute for Supply Management’s gauge of service sector activity fell 2.7 points to a

THE MONTH IN BRIEF In November, the S&P 500 gained 2.81% and advanced for a thirteenth straight month – an unprecedented milestone in the index’s long history. Consumer confidence and investor confidence were both abundant, as further evidence arrived that the economy was growing at an impressive rate. Solid fundamental indicators, upbeat earnings announcements, and hopes for 2018 tax cuts motivated stock gains in the U.S.; though many foreign benchmarks slumped. Oil took steps toward $60. Home sales picked up after a late-summer lull. Wall Street anticipated a year-end rate hike from the Federal Reserve.1,2    DOMESTIC ECONOMIC HEALTH Consumers

The notion that we separate from work in our sixties may have to go. An executive transitions into a consulting role at age 62 and stops working altogether at 65; then, he becomes a buyer for a church network at 69. A corporate IT professional decides to conclude her career at age 58; she serves as a city council member in her sixties, then opens an art studio at 70. Are these people retired? Not by the old definition of the word. Our definition of “retirement” is changing. Retirement is now a time of activity and opportunity.    Generations ago,

As the recovery lengthens further, this is a natural question to ask. This decade has brought a long economic rebound to many parts of America. As 2017 ebbs into 2018, some of the statistics regarding this comeback are truly impressive: *Payrolls have grown, month after month, for more than seven years. *The jobless rate is lower than it has been for more than a decade. *Business activity in the service sector has not contracted since the summer of 2009. *The economy just grew 3% or more in back-to-back quarters, a feat unseen since 2014.1,2     In the big picture, the American

YEARLY INFLATION BACK AT 2.0% Consumer costs ticked up just 0.1% in October, according to the Department of Labor. The marginal monthly gain left the annualized increase in the headline Consumer Price Index at 2.0%, down from 2.2% a month earlier. The core CPI has risen 1.8% in 12 months. Gasoline prices influenced the October headline number: they fell 2.4% in October after a 13.1% September leap.1   RETAIL SALES BEAT EXPECTATIONS Analysts surveyed by MarketWatch thought retail sales would be flat for October after their huge surge in September. That was not so. They surprised to the upside with a

Information for those giving, receiving, and organizing. Have you donated money to a crowdfunding campaign this year? You probably have. You may be wondering how the Internal Revenue Service treats these donations. Do the common tax rules apply?  The I.R.S. may or may not define such donations as charitable contributions. It depends not only on who the crowdfunding is for, but also who has organized the campaign. A donation to a qualified non-profit organization – a 501(c)(3) – is tax deductible if it is properly documented and itemized on Schedule A. Donations to crowdsourcing efforts administered by 501(c)(3)s are, likewise,

Our increased longevity poses a retirement planning challenge. Some of us may retire at 65 and live to 100 or 105. Advances in health care may make this a strong possibility. The corresponding question is: will we outlive our money?   More people are spending more of their lives in retirement. According to the actuaries at Social Security, today’s 65-year-olds have roughly a 25% chance of living into their nineties, and about one in ten will live to 100 or longer. Clearly, this puts a strain on Social Security. When it first sent out retirement benefits in 1940, the average life

Here are some things you might want to do before saying goodbye to 2017.  What has changed for you in 2017? Did you start a new job or leave a job behind? Did you retire? Did you start a family? If notable changes occurred in your personal or professional life, then you will want to review your finances before this year ends and 2018 begins.    Even if your 2017 has been relatively uneventful, the end of the year is still a good time to get cracking and see where you can plan to save some taxes and/or build a little

CONSUMER SENTIMENT INDEX DECLINES The University of Michigan’s monthly gauge of U.S. household sentiment fell to 97.8 in its initial November edition; analysts polled by Bloomberg estimated it would tick up to 100.8. While the 2.9-point dip from its final October level was the largest drop in a year, the index remained near a 13-year peak. Sixty percent of the consumers surveyed felt that stocks would rise in 2018.1    Q3 Earnings: A LOOK AT THE SCORECARD As of Friday, 87% of S&P 500 companies had reported third-quarter earnings. An analysis from Zacks Investment Research reveals that 73% have topped

Resist the temptation. Your future self will thank you. Retirement accounts are not bank accounts. Nor should they be treated as such. When retirement funds are drawn down, they impede the progress of retirement planning, even if the money is later restored. In a financial crush, a retirement account may seem like a great source of funds. It is often much larger than a savings account; it is technically not a liquid asset, but it can easily be mistaken for one. The central problem is this: when you take a loan or an early distribution from an IRA or a

What is in it? What could its changes mean for you, if they become law? Major changes may be ahead for federal tax law. At the start of November, House Republicans rolled out their plan for sweeping tax reforms. Negotiations may greatly alter the content of the bill, but here are the proposed adjustments, and who may and may not benefit from them if they become law. The corporate tax rate would fall from 35% to 20%. Wall Street would cheer this development, perhaps with a significant rally. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations would also see their top tax

The little things independent contractors should do before April. Do you freelance or run a business on the side? You have a complicated tax situation, all stemming from one fact – when you earn a paycheck, taxes are not immediately taken out of it. Many freelancers are caught off-guard when tax season arrives. They are stunned to realize how much tax they owe. If you would rather not be one of them, pay attention to these details. You should have all your 1099-MISC forms in hand by early February. If you earned more than $600 working for an employer during