All the Financial Advice you will need on an Index Card

Rule #1 – Strive to save 10% to 20% of your Income

Rule # 2 – Pay your Credit Card Balance In-Full every month

Rule #3 – Max Out your 401(k) and/or other Tax-Advantaged Savings Accounts

Rule #4 – Never Buy Individual Stocks (unless your portfolio is in excess of $1.5 mil.)

Rule #5 – Buy inexpensive, well-diversified Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s)

Rule #6 – Make your Financial Advisor commit to the Fiduciary Standard

Rule #7 – Buy a Home when you are financially ready

Rule #8 – Have four times (4X’s) your monthly cash outflow in an emergency money-market account

Rule #9 – Insurance-make sure you are protected – manage the risks you cannot sustain yourself

Rule#10 – Don’t Forget the Index Card

Why the U.S. Might Be Less Affected by a Trade War

Provided by Bill Coscioni, CFP®, CPA

 A trade war does seem to be getting underway. Investors around the world see headwinds arising from newly enacted and planned tariffs, headwinds that could potentially exert a drag on global growth (and stock markets). How badly could these trade disputes hurt the American economy? Perhaps not as dramatically as some journalists and analysts warn.

Our business sector may be impacted most. Undeniably, tariffs on imported goods raise costs for manufacturers. Costlier imports may reduce business confidence, and less confidence implies less capital investment. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which regularly surveys firms to learn their plans for the next six months, learned in July that businesses anticipate investing less and hiring fewer employees during the second half of the year. The survey’s index for future activity fell in July for the fourth month in a row. (Perhaps the outlook is not quite as negative as the Philadelphia Fed reports: a recent National Federation of Independent Business survey indicates that most companies have relatively stable spending plans for the near term.)

  Fortunately, the U.S. economy is domestically driven. Consumer spending is its anchor: household purchases make up about two-thirds of it. Our economy is fairly “closed” compared to the economies of some of our key trading partners and rivals. Last year, trade accounted for just 27% of our gross domestic product. In contrast, it represented 37% of gross domestic product for China, 64% of growth for Canada, 78% of GDP for Mexico, and 87% of GDP for Germany.

     Our stock markets have held up well so far. The trade spat between the U.S. and China cast some gloom over Wall Street during the second-quarter earnings season, yet the S&P 500 neared an all-time peak in early August.

 All this tariff talk has helped the dollar. Between February 7 and August 7, the U.S. Dollar Index rose 5.4%. A stronger greenback does potentially hurt U.S. exports and corporate earnings, and in the past, the impact has been felt notably in the energy, materials, and tech sectors.

       As always, the future comes with question marks; however, I believe there is a better than 50/50 chance that the current and planned tariffs will ultimately translate into fairer trade deals which will benefit all parties and have a positive global impact.

Bill Coscioni

WealthCare/Financial Planners LLC

910 Dougherty Rd.

Aiken, SC 29803


Should Couples Combine Their Finances?

Some couples elect to consolidate their personal finances, while others largely keep their financial lives separate. What choice might suit your household?

The first question is: how do you and your partner view money matters? If you feel it will be best to handle your bills and plan for your goals as a team, then combining your finances may naturally follow.

A team approach has its merits. A joint checking account is one potential first step: a decision representing a commitment to a unified financial life. When you go “all in” on this team approach, most of your incomes go into this joint account, and the money within the account pays all (or nearly all) of your shared or individual bills. This is a simple and clear approach to adopt, especially if your salaries are similar.

You need not merge your finances entirely. That individual checking or savings account you have had all these years? You can retain it – you will want to, for there are some things you will want to spend money on that your spouse or partner will not. Sustaining these accounts is relatively easy: month after month, a set amount can be transferred from the joint account to the older, individual accounts.

You may want separate financial accounts. Some couples want to pay household bills 50/50 per partner or spouse, and some partners and spouses agree to pay bills in proportion to their individual earnings. That can also work.

 This may have to change over time. Eventually, one spouse or partner may begin to earn much more than the other. Or, maybe only one spouse or partner works for a while. In such circumstances, splitting expenses pro rata may feel unfair to one party. It may also impact decision making – one spouse or partner might think they have more “clout” in a financial decision than the other.

My view as a tax professional and financial planner is many marital difficulties have roots in financial issues.  Selecting a financial discipline (Joint, single or hybrid) that is mutually agreed upon may help to avoid some conflicts in the future.  Keep in mind that financial decisions are not “One & Done” arrangements; they should be flexible and subject to modifications as you mature in your relationships and careers.  Consulting with a financial planner can assist you in navigating your financial plans and goals.

Bill Coscioni, CFP®, CPA

WealthCare/Financial Planners, LLC

910 Dougherty Rd.

Aiken, SC 29803


When Will the Current Business Cycle Peak?

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.

In the big picture, the American economy is booming. These statistics, and others, are so noteworthy that analysts are asking: when will the business cycle peak? Has it already peaked? Or are we experiencing a remarkably great exception to the norm?

Any investor must recognize two indisputable facts. One, expansions eventually give way to recessions. Two, bull markets are punctuated by bear markets. The question is when we will see the next recession, the next bear market, or both.

All business cycles have four phases. The first phase – expansion – is often the longest. It is characterized by two phenomena: a bull market and annualized GDP of 2% or greater. This expansion culminates at a peak, which is phase two. The peak is characterized by irrational exuberance on Wall Street, economic growth of 3% or more, a distinct acceleration of consumer prices, and the emergence of asset bubbles.

Then – perhaps, imperceptibly – supply begins to exceed demand. Fundamental indicators begin to weaken; yet, the economy still grows – just not at the pace it previously did. Then, the growth diminishes altogether, and the business cycle enters phase three – contraction. GDP goes negative for two or more successive quarters, which defines a recession. Corporate earnings take a major hit, depressing investors. Equities enter a bear market. Finally, things come to a trough – a bottom. On Wall Street, institutional investors reach a point of capitulation – a moment when they decide there is more potential upside than downside to stocks. Investors and consumers start to become less pessimistic. Suddenly, supply has to keep up with demand again. Things brighten, and a new business cycle begins.

 How will we know precisely when the business cycle has peaked? Without seeing the future, we cannot know. We can make an educated guess based on fundamental economic indicators and earnings, but we will really only know looking back.

How can we prepare for the later phases of this current business cycle? Some healthy skepticism and some diversification may help. Investors who tend to get burned the most in an economic downturn (or bear market) are those who have fallen in love with one sector or one asset class. Their portfolios have become unbalanced, perhaps just because of the gains seen in the bull market.

Some investors opt for active portfolio management in recognition of business cycles, and their heavy influence on stock market cycles. Others choose to buy and hold, feeling that it is all too easy to mistime cycles while getting in and out of this or that investment class.

We have enjoyed a great bull run, and a new wave of prosperity has pulled many metro areas out of economic doldrums. At some point, times will get tougher. Whether you decide the appropriate response is to ride a downturn out or react quickly to it, a discussion with your trusted financial professional is a wise move.

Bill Coscioni, CFP®, CPA

WealthCare/Financial Planners, LLC

910 Dougherty Rd.

Aiken, SC 29803



End-of-the-Year Money Moves

 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 more wealth.

Do you practice tax-loss harvesting? That is the art of taking capital losses (selling securities worth less than what you first paid for them) to offset your short-term capital gains. If you fall into one of the upper tax brackets, you might want to consider this move, which directly lowers your taxable income. It should be made with the guidance of a financial professional you trust.

In fact, you could even take it a step further. Consider that up to $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains can be deducted from ordinary income, and any remaining capital losses above that can be carried forward to offset capital gains in upcoming years.

  Do you itemize deductions? If you do, great. Now would be a good time to get the receipts and assorted paperwork together. Besides a possible mortgage interest deduction, you might be able to take a state sales tax deduction, a student loan interest deduction, a military-related deduction, a deduction for the amount of estate tax paid on inherited IRA assets, an energy-saving deduction – there are so many deductions you can potentially claim, and now is the time to meet with your tax professional to strategize how to claim as many as you can.

 Could you ramp up 401(k) or 403(b) contributions? Contribution to these retirement plans lower your yearly gross income. If you lower your gross income enough, you might be able to qualify for other tax credits or breaks available to those under certain income limits. Note that contributions to Roth 401(k)s and Roth 403(b)s are made with after-tax rather than pre-tax dollars, so contributions to those accounts are not deductible and will not lower your taxable income for the year. They will, however, help to strengthen your retirement savings.

Are you thinking of gifting? How about donating to a charity or some other kind of 501(c)(3) non-profit organization before 2017 ends? In most cases, these gifts are partly tax deductible. You must itemize deductions using Schedule A to claim a deduction for a charitable gift.

If you donate appreciated securities you have owned for at least a year, you can take a charitable deduction for their fair market value and forgo the capital gains tax hit that would result from their sale. If you pour some money into a 529 college savings plan on behalf of a child in 2017, you may be able to claim a partial state income tax deduction (depending on the state).

 Of course, you can also reduce the value of your taxable estate with a gift or two. The federal gift tax exclusion is $14,000 for 2017. So, as an individual, you can gift up to $14,000 to as many people as you wish this year. A married couple can gift up to $28,000 to as many people as they desire in 2017. Unfortunately, the I.R.S. prohibits a current-year income tax deduction for the value of a non-charitable gift. (Note that the gift tax exclusion rises to $15,000 in 2018.)

While we’re on the topic of estate planning, why not take a moment to review the beneficiary designations for your IRA, your life insurance policy, and workplace retirement plan? If you haven’t reviewed them for a decade or more (which is all too common), double-check to see that these assets will go where you want them to go should you pass away. Lastly, look at your will to see that it remains valid and up-to-date.

Should you convert all or part of a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA? You will be withdrawing money from that traditional IRA someday, and those withdrawals will equal taxable income. Withdrawals from a Roth IRA you own are not taxed during your lifetime, assuming you follow the rules. Translation: tax savings tomorrow. Before you go Roth, you do need to make sure you have the money to pay taxes on the conversion amount. If you go Roth this year and change your mind, the I.R.S. gives you until October 15, 2018 to undo the conversion.

 Can you take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit? The AOTC allows individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less (and joint filers with MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income) of $160,000 or less) a chance to claim a credit of up to $2,500 for qualified college expenses. Phase-outs kick in above those MAGI levels.

What can you do before they ring in the New Year? Talk with a financial or tax professional now rather than in February or March. Little year-end moves might help you improve your short-term and long-term financial situation.

Bill Coscioni, CFP®, CPA

WealthCare/Financial Planners, LLC

910 Dougherty Rd.

Aiken, SC 29803




How much should you save at 30, 40, 50 & 60?

How Much Should You Save By Age 30, 40, 50, or 60?

Provided by Bill Coscioni, CFP®, CPA

 It is agreed that the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. The big question on the minds of many savers, however, is: “How am I doing?” This article will show you some rough milestones to try and reach. (Keep in mind that you may need to save more or less than these amounts based on your objectives and lifestyle and income needs.)

 At age 30, can you have the equivalent of a year’s salary saved? Some 30-year-olds have the equivalent of a year’s salary in debt, it is true; the thing is, you can probably manage debt and save and invest to build wealth simultaneously. One way to plan to reach this goal is to save (and invest) about a fifth of your after-tax income beginning at age 25. That assumes you start at 25 with no savings; if you start saving and investing earlier, the goal may be easier to attain.

 At age 40, will your savings be triple that of your yearly earnings? The average American currently saves about 3.5% of his or her income. Can you save 3.5% of what you earn at 25 or 30 and build a six-figure retirement fund by your 40th birthday? Perhaps, if you are an absolute investing wizard or start your career with a salary north of $100,000. Otherwise, saving and investing 10-15% of what you earn annually will be crucial in planning to reach this goal.

When you are 50, will your savings be about six times your salary? Slow and steady saving and investing could get you there, but building up $250,000 or more in retirement money can be a challenge given factors like child-rearing, divorce, periodic unemployment, or health concerns. One response is to adjust your discretionary spending habits, if life allows.

At 60, will your savings equal eight or nine times what you earn annually? Amassing $500,000 or more in retirement assets should be a priority. Even if you have not managed this, other resources can help you generate retirement income in the years ahead: you will have Social Security benefits coming your way and possibly home equity or executive compensation or business proceeds to make your financial future more promising.

Saving and investing 10-15% of your annual pay merits serious consideration. Through recurring contributions to tax-deferred retirement savings accounts, you can make saving and investing a regular process. Your future self may thank you 


Bill Coscioni, CFP®, CPA

WealthCare/Financial Planners, LLC

910 Dougherty Rd.

Aiken, SC 29803




The Pros & Cons of Roth IRA Conversions

If you own a traditional IRA, perhaps you have thought about converting it to a Roth IRA. Going Roth makes sense for some traditional IRA owners, but not all.

Why go Roth? There is an assumption behind every Roth IRA conversion – a belief that income tax rates will be higher in future years than they are today. If you think that will happen, then you may be compelled to go Roth. After all, once you are age 59½ and have owned a Roth IRA for five years (i.e., once five calendar years have passed), withdrawals of the earnings from the IRA are tax free. You can withdraw Roth IRA contributions tax free and penalty free at any time.

Additionally, you never have to make mandatory withdrawals from a Roth IRA, and you are allowed to make contributions to a Roth IRA as long as you live.

For 2017, the contribution limits are $133,000 for single filers and $196,000 for joint filers and qualifying widow(er)s, with phase-outs respectively kicking in at $118,000 and $186,000. (These numbers represent modified adjusted gross income.)

While you may make too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, anyone may convert a traditional IRA to a Roth. Imagine never having to draw down your IRA each year. Imagine having a reservoir of tax-free income for retirement (provided you follow I.R.S. rules). Imagine the possibility of those assets passing tax free to your heirs. Sounds great, right? It certainly does – but the question is: can you handle the taxes that would result from a Roth conversion?

 Why not go Roth? Two reasons: the tax hit could be substantial, and time may not be on your side.

 A Roth IRA conversion is a taxable event. When you convert a traditional IRA (which is funded with pre-tax dollars) into a Roth IRA (which is funded with after-tax dollars), all the pre-tax contributions and earnings for the former traditional IRA become taxable. When you add the taxable income from the conversion into your total for a given year, you could find yourself in a higher tax bracket.  As a “General Rule”, if you pay the tax due on the conversion with non-Traditional IRA funds, the math will usually look more favorable and the time to re-coop the tax cost will be much shorter.

If you are nearing retirement age, going Roth may not be worth it. If you convert a sizable, traditional IRA to a Roth when you are in your fifties or sixties, it could take a decade (or longer) for the IRA to recapture the dollars lost to taxes on the conversion. Model scenarios considering “what ifs” should be mapped out.

In many respects, the earlier in life you convert a regular IRA to a Roth, the better. Your income should rise as you get older; you will likely finish your career in a higher tax bracket than you were in when you were first employed. Those conditions relate to a key argument for going Roth: it is better to pay taxes on IRA contributions today than on IRA withdrawals tomorrow.

On the other hand, since many retirees have lower income levels than their end salaries, they may retire to a lower tax rate. That is a key argument against Roth conversion.

If you aren’t sure which argument to believe, it may be reassuring to know that you can go Roth without converting your whole IRA.

You could do a partial conversion. Is your traditional IRA sizable? You could make multiple partial Roth conversions over time. This could be a good idea if you are in one of the lower tax brackets and like to itemize deductions.

 You could even undo the conversion. It is possible to “recharacterize” (that is, reverse) Roth IRA conversions. If a newly minted Roth IRA loses value due to poor market performance, you may want to do it. The I.R.S. gives you until October 15 of the year following the initial conversion to “reconvert’’ the Roth back into a traditional IRA and avoid the related tax liability.

  You could “have it both ways.” As no one can fully predict the future of American taxation, some people contribute to both Roth and traditional IRAs – figuring that they can be at least “half right” regardless of whether taxes increase or decrease.

If you do go Roth, your heirs might receive a tax-free inheritance. Lastly, Roth IRAs can prove to be very useful estate planning tools. If I.R.S. rules are followed, Roth IRA heirs may end up with a tax-free inheritance, paid out either annually or as a lump sum. In contrast, distributions of inherited assets from a traditional IRA are routinely taxed.

Bill Coscioni, CFP®, CPA

WealthCare/Financial Planners, LLC

910 Dougherty Rd.

Aiken, SC 29803