Optimizing Your Wealth: End-of-Year Planning

Ken Hargreaves, CFP®, AIF®, AWMA®, CRPC®
The end of the year is nearly here, and while you may be focused on spending time with family and friends, holiday shopping, and vacation, your finances need your attention too. By taking the time to sort out your finances now, before the end of the year, you’ll be better able to proactively adapt to changing circumstances and laws rather than simply react when filing your taxes.
  • Important Deadlines: Many tax-saving tactics must be executed by December 31st. 
  • Tax Management: Whether it’s through charitable giving, gift giving, or retirement plan contributions, end-of-year planning is crucial for managing your tax brackets and maximizing tax efficiency.
  • Strategies for Business Owners: Business owners have unique opportunities for tax planning at the end of the year, from deferring income to accelerating expenses.

Investment Strategies

Has the investing landscape changed since your last financial plan review? Or perhaps your life circumstances or goals have shifted. Either way, year-end is an ideal time to reassess your plan and portfolio, making necessary adjustments or contributions.

Portfolio Rebalancing

Markets fall, and markets rise – this is absolutely normal. However, your asset allocation will begin to skew with the tides of the market as some sectors grow or shrink faster than others. You may need to buy or sell assets to correct this drift. By selling winning assets, you’re buying low and selling high, which is always a great practice. By selling losing securities, you have a chance to reduce your overall tax obligation via tax-loss harvesting.

Retirement Contributions & Distributions

Have you contributed as much as possible to your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as an IRA, Roth IRA, 401(K), and Roth 401(K)? Strategic contributions can help you manage your tax brackets throughout your lifetime. You can also use contributions to help realign your portfolio as necessary.

If you’re a business owner, be sure to look into maximizing your company’s contributions to your 401(K), SEP, or SIMPLE plan for a deduction.

After carefully reviewing your finances, you may want to consider converting tax-deferred funds into post-tax funds via a Roth conversion. This tactic cannot wait until the usual tax deadline. Instead, all conversions must be completed by December 31st, so it would behoove an individual considering a Roth conversion to review and begin the process sooner rather than later.

If you are over 73 years old, you’ll have to remove funds from your non-Roth retirement accounts as part of the necessary Required Minimum Withdrawals (RMDs) required by the IRS. The assets you’ll likely have to sell and the tax you incur from the withdrawal will also affect your tax and investment strategy.

Changing Tax Brackets

The IRS recently announced changes to tax brackets for 2024; while the bracket percentages aren’t changing, the dollar amount associated with each bracket is.
Since you may fall into a new tax bracket in 2024, you may want to reevaluate your investment and tax planning strategies ahead of time to ensure they remain aligned with your objectives.

Estate Planning

With the Tax Cut and Job Act expiring at the end of 2025, barring any legislative changes, estate tax exclusion limits are set to halve. Fortunately, there are several strategies to mitigate your estate and annual tax burden.

Gift Giving

One excellent method of reducing your estate is to simply gift it away. A gift can be in the form of cash, investments, real estate, an interest in your business, or even artwork, amongst other things. You can give away up to $17,000 in 2023 to whomever you like, but you have to do it before December 31st for it to count.

If you give away more than $17,000 to an individual, you may be able to use the excess amount against your lifetime gift exclusion amount, which currently stands at $12.92 million. The gift tax exemption amount is also set to halve after TCJA expires, so it may be savvy to gift away as much as possible before the exemption limit is reduced.

Charitable Giving

Like gift giving, you can give away your wealth as a series of charitable contributions. And also, just like gift giving, the deadline to make a qualified contribution is December 31st. While there are many ways to give to charity, we won’t cover them all here. However, it’s worth noting that these methods often offer greater flexibility and can cater to a wider range of charitable goals and financial needs compared to traditional gifting.

Depending on the kind of donation and charity, you can deduct up to 60% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) as long as you donate cash and the organization is classified as a qualified organization by the IRS.

Other forms of non-cash donations have different limitations, such as property or investments. Additionally, unlike gift giving, which allows you to donate up to the limit to as many individuals as you like, all donations are cumulative for the year, regardless of the number of charities you donate to. Basically, you can’t donate 50% of your AGI to two different organizations and expect a 100% deduction.

However, if your contributions go over the limit, you may be able to carry over your deductions into future years.

Business Owner Strategies

Besides maximizing retirement plan contributions, business owners have plenty of opportunities to lower their taxable income by year’s end.

Deferring Income

If you anticipate being in a higher tax bracket this year, it may be beneficial to delay some income until the next fiscal year. This could involve postponing year-end billing or deferring bonuses until after December 31st. By pushing this income into the next tax year, you can potentially reduce your current year’s tax liability.

Accelerating Expenses

Conversely, consider accelerating expenses into the current year to reduce taxable income. This could mean making necessary equipment purchases, stocking up on supplies, or prepaying expenses like rent or insurance premiums.

Updating Succession Plans

Life changes like marriages, births, or divorces can significantly affect your business succession plan. It’s crucial to review and possibly adjust your plan to accommodate new family members or changes in business structure, ownership, or management roles. Additionally, these adjustments may provide tax planning opportunities. 

It’s also a good time to update your will, reassess designated successors, or reconsider the structure of ownership shares, to ensure that your tax strategy aligns with these changes.

In Conclusion

As the year draws to a close, now is the pivotal moment for Floridians to ensure their wealth management strategies precisely align with upcoming tax brackets and estate law changes. Proactive year-end financial planning, from retirement contributions to strategic gifting, can significantly and positively impact your overall financial health. 

Ready to optimize your financial strategy for the year’s end? At WealthGen Advisors, we specialize in crafting bespoke strategies that cater to the unique needs of those heading into retirement, current retirees, and business owners in Sarasota. You can schedule a consultation by clicking the button below.

Disclosures

Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment or strategy will be suitable or profitable for a client’s portfolio. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author/presenter as of the date of publication and are subject to change and do not constitute personalized investment advice.

A professional advisor should be consulted before implementing any investment strategy. WealthGen Advisors does not represent, warranty, or imply that the services or methods of analysis employed by the Firm can or will predict future results, successfully identify market tops or bottoms, or insulate clients from losses due to market corrections or declines. Investments are subject to market risks and potential loss of principal invested, and all investment strategies likewise have the potential for profit or loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Please note: While we strive to provide accurate and helpful information, we are not Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). The information in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as tax advice. It is crucial to consult with a CPA or tax professional to discuss you

Author

  • Ken Hargreaves, CFP®, AIF®, AWMA®, CRPC®

    A Florida native, and full-time Sarasota resident, Ken founded WealthGen Advisors, LLC after spending more than fourteen years in the financial advisory industry. Ken holds multiple industry designations, as well as a master's degree in Financial Planning. Prior to founding WealthGen Advisors, Ken spent almost a decade in New York and then Texas as Vice President at The Capital Group, a $2T global investment manager serving institutional clients and pension funds.

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