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Hilltop Market Update 4th Quarter 2018

Ben Yeager and Rusty Eriksen provide a summary view of our investment committee’s latest research, sharing our thoughts on market volatility, interest rates and international markets.

Personal Finance 101 – Income Taxes Made Easy … Well, Easier

Personal Finance 101 – Income Taxes Made Easy … Well, Easier
By: Brittany Mollica As a young professional, you may think you’re too busy to learn how your tax return works. Whether you’re new to adulting and filing on your own for the first time or you’ve been filing for a few years and want to actually understand it this time, you don’t need to be intimidated by the 1040. In this post we will give you an overview of Form 1040, explaining the different sections of the form while also giving you some tips so that filing your taxes can be as smooth and painless as possible. Note that all guidelines and numbers included in this article are based on 2018 rules. Section 1: This should be the easiest part – listing your personal information. In this section, you identify yourself, your spouse (if married) and your dependents (if you have any) as well as select your filing status: Single - Fairly self-explanatory. Your household is just you – no spouse or dependents. Married Filing Jointly - This filing status combines ...

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Should You Increase This Year’s Tax Bill? The Case for a Roth Conversion

Should You Increase This Year’s Tax Bill? The Case for a Roth Conversion
By: Chris Hostetler With a long-term view of tax planning, the goal is to reduce tax payments over time, not necessarily this year. It might actually make sense to pay a little extra now if it means you can save more money later. One of the best ways to do this is with a Roth conversion. To understand this strategy, you have to be clear on the different tax treatment between the two main types of IRAs: Traditional IRA – contributions are generally tax deductible, and then growth is tax deferred. You pay taxes when you take money out through a distribution. You can usually begin taking distributions after age 59 ½, but you MUST begin taking yearly Required Minimum Distributions at age 70 ½. Roth IRA – you get NO tax deduction for your contributions. But the account grows tax free, and you can take distributions tax free. Furthermore, you never have to take Required Minimum Distributions during your lifetime – you’re welcome to leave these tax-free funds to yo ...

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Florence is Coming. Be Prepared.

Florence is Coming. Be Prepared.
By Chris Hostetler You've got your water, bread and flashlights ready to go, but what about the documents you may need in case of an emergency? I never recommend panicking, but a little preparation now can save you headaches later. Avoid the paper chase by using our handy document checklist. Natural Disaster Document Checklist Insurance Homeowner's Insurance Policy & Policy Number Flood Insurance Policy & Policy Number Contact Information for Your Insurance Agent Inventory of Valuable Household Goods (including receipts if you have them) Investments Stock and Bond Certificates Financial Account Numbers General Tax Records Birth Certificates Passport Copy of Driver's License Copy of Credit Card(s) Family Contact Information for Important People Sentimental Documents (diploma, certificate, photographs, etc.) It is best practice to keep these documents in a waterproof container and in a central location that ...

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Personal Finance 101 - Building Your Emergency Fund

Personal Finance 101 - Building Your Emergency Fund
By: Brittany Mollica When we meet a new client, one of the first financial planning topics we review is a cash reserve – money set aside in savings as an emergency fund. Why? The reason your cash reserve is so important: you can never predict when your car is going to break down, when you might lose your job or when you’ll need to take a trip to Urgent Care. These surprise expenses can be costly, and you don’t want to be forced to withdraw from your retirement accounts or take on credit card debt just to pay the bills.  How? It’s often best to set up an emergency fund separate from your regular checking account. You will want to keep this money in a savings or money market fund, which will pay you a slightly higher interest rate than your checking. These types of accounts are very liquid, meaning you can access the money at any time, and you won’t have to worry about losing value in the stock market.  How Much? Generally speaking, you will want to have at le ...

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Hilltop Market Update 3rd Quarter 2018

  Hilltop Market Update, August 2018 Video Transcript Dave:    Hello, and welcome to Hilltop Wealth Advisors’ 3rd Quarterly Investment Review and Outlook.  I’m David Wise, and with me today is Chris Hostetler. Chris:    Hi, Dave. Dave:    Thanks for joining me, Chris. To start off, Chris, could you highlight a few of the items really driving the markets year-to-date? Chris:    Certainly.  You know, we have to acknowledge the trade war talk and all of that tension that permeates the national consciousness. It is a threat to the economy, it’s a threat to the markets, and that’s something we’re not going to lose sight of.  That being said, there are a lot of other things that we think we need to pay attention to.  Most importantly, the US economy is in a pretty strong place right now. We see continued growth and we see still a very low probability of recession this year, a ...

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Estate Planning - What I Learned From My Grandfather After His Death

Estate Planning - What I Learned From My Grandfather After His Death

Executing the documents is just the beginning.  Where most people fall short is the implementation, which can be easily overlooked. Read our helpful tips for making the most of your estate plan and following through with your plan.

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Bunching Your Charitable Gifts Could Save You on Taxes - Decoding the Tax Law

Bunching Your Charitable Gifts Could Save You on Taxes - Decoding the Tax Law
By: Chris Hostetler Under the new tax code, fewer people will likely claim charitable gifts as itemized deductions.  This is because the standard deduction has been raised and will automatically cover more taxpayers.  It remains to be seen whether this will have a noticeable impact on the total amount that Americans give to charity – I hope that Americans will continue to be as generous as they have been historically, regardless of the tax code. But at the very least, the new tax code may mean you need a new strategy for giving. Depending on your personal tax situation, you might want to consider “bunching”: making two years’ worth of gifts in one year. This strategy could work if you make substantial gifts but still land just below your standard deduction threshold. To understand why this could make sense now, it’s important to first understand one of the basic principles of tax planning in the US.  You can reduce your taxable income using the higher of: ...

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5 Quick Personal Finance Tips for Recent Graduates

5 Quick Personal Finance Tips for Recent Graduates
By: Brittany Mollica You’ve finally gotten your degree and landed your first adult job – congrats! Entering the “real world” can be overwhelming; between starting a new job, navigating a new city and making new friends, dedicating time to think about your financial situation might be low on the priority list. However, the sooner you can take a proactive approach to your personal finance, the better. As a recent college graduate myself (Go Heels!) and a Certified Financial PlannerTM professional, I can affirm that these 5 quick tips will help you get started in the right direction: Read your employee benefits handbook – While it may be tempting to just skim through the details of your employee benefits, it is extremely rewarding to have a good understanding of your benefits. For example – how many days of paid vacation do you get? Are you allowed to take extra time off to go volunteer? Does your employer match your contributions to your 401(k) plan? Do they off ...

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Changes You Need to Know – Decoding the Tax Law

Changes You Need to Know – Decoding the Tax Law
By: Chris Hostetler You know the income tax code has changed for 2018, and you may have a vague idea of the impact to your situation.  Most taxpayers are getting offsetting doses of positive and negative adjustments, and it is time to start thinking about some of the details and the planning implications. To help our clients start thinking about their personal situations, we hosted an educational event a few weeks ago to highlight some of the major changes in the new tax code.  In today’s post, we have a brief recap of the presentation for those who weren’t able to join us.  (This will also help those who attended but were too focused on the appetizers and mint juleps to pay attention.) First off, much thanks to our presenter, Tyler De Haan, Director of Retirement Services at Principal Financial Group.  Tyler compiled and presented this information at our request. And to get the ever-important caveat out of the way – we are NOT tax advisors or CPAs.  We e ...

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