November 10, 2022 | Vanguard Perspective
Keep clients on track with our year-end planning checklist
As the year draws to a close, it's a great time to meet with clients to review and evaluate how the past several months have gone. Especially with 2022 serving as a stark reminder of why so many investors seek a trusted advisor to help them navigate their financial journeys. With extreme market turbulence and economic uncertainty ruling the day, now is the time for you to help clients assess portfolio allocations, tend to health care tasks, and plan for tax-advantaged distribution and contribution deadlines.
As you and your clients assess the current year and prepare for the one ahead, refer to our year-end checklist of tasks and considerations around:
- Portfolio assessment.
- Health care planning.
- Charitable giving.
Year-end financial planning checklist
1. Portfolio assessment
While you've put together a thoughtful financial plan designed to weather such turbulent markets, now is a great time to really demonstrate the value of that plan and prepare clients for success in the year ahead. When markets are on a roller coaster, its critical to have conversations with clients about a number of portfolio and plan-optimization approaches, or if simply staying the course is the best option.
And down markets afford clients a chance to redeploy their capital in ways that, potentially, could more efficiently advance them toward achieving their financial goals.
Clean-up topics to review with clients
- Consider rebalancing to keep allocations in line with targets established to reach client goals.
- Reevaluate risk tolerance.
- Review active versus passive holdings.
- Review high-cost versus low-cost holdings.
- Address concentrated equity positions.
- Review funds for tax efficiency.
- Review accounts; possibly rebalance to original policy asset location.
- Evaluate the merits of a Roth conversion.
- Review plan for those approaching retirement to confirm if adjustments are needed to get back on track.
- Discuss withdrawal order from taxable and tax-advantaged accounts.
- Discuss strategies for spending in retirement.
- Review clients’ liquidity buffer.
2. Health care planning
Empower your clients to make informed decisions about health care while helping them plan for health care costs alongside their retirement planning.
Health savings account (HSA). Are clients enrolled in an HSA as part of an eligible high-deductible health plan taking advantage of the potential triple tax benefit by investing their contributions? Are they properly prioritizing their contributions among their HSA and other investing accounts?
Medicare. Are clients near the eligibility age of 65 for receiving Medicare insurance benefits? If so, you should ask them about their plans for enrolling before their 65th birthday—lifelong premium penalties may apply if they sign up after turning 65.
If clients already participate in Medicare, are their current coverage elections—including those for prescription drugs—still adequate and appropriate? (Each year, Medicare's October 15–December 7 open enrollment period for current enrollees offers a chance to make changes.)
3. Charitable giving
A successful charitable giving plan involves three elements, determining: when to give, what to give, and how to give. All three work together, and each affects the other. An advisor can help balance the elements in a way that helps optimize the donor's overall gifting strategy.
Standard deductions increased. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the standard deduction available to taxpayers increased substantially. For the 2022 tax year, it is $12,950 (for persons filing individually) or $25,900 (for persons who are married and filing jointly). Other deductions less than those amounts were eliminated or rendered moot under the act.
Accelerated giving. One work-around is for taxpayers to accelerate their charitable giving—taxpayers can roll several years' worth of contributions into one, in order to exceed the higher standard deductions brought into force by the 2017 Tax Act.
For instance, a donor-advised fund (DAF)—such as the options offered by Vanguard Charitable1—allows a donor to make a large, tax-deductible gift in one year and then regulate its disbursement over ensuing years. Meanwhile, the dollars have the potential to grow tax-exempt in the account.
Qualified charitable donations (QCDs). QCDs allow individuals aged 70½ and older to give traditional IRA funds to charity rather than taking them as IRS-mandated required minimum distributions (RMDs). In so doing, up to $100,000 of the traditional IRA funds may be exempt from taxes. It's worth noting that donor-advised funds, however, currently cannot accept QCDs.
Retirement accounts. You can remind clients that generally, the deadline for making 2022 contributions to 401(k) accounts is December 31, depending on their employer's retirement investing plan; (the IRS, however, permits contributions to retirement accounts until the filing deadline—which, depending on your plan, is either by year-end or by the tax filing deadline of April 15, 2023.
529 plans. Most states set December 31 as the deadline—for state tax benefit purposes—for contributions to 529 education accounts, although six states (Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wisconsin) set deadlines of April 15 of the following year.
Remember the people behind the portfolios
By any measure, the extended uncertainty of the past couple of years has proven challenging. Your year-end check-in with clients serves as a valuable touchpoint. Clients want to know that you’re helping to efficiently grow their wealth. But it’s especially important to hear out other concerns clients may express:
- They may feel exhausted after nearly three years of living and coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
- They might be dealing with, or at least worried about, rising rates, inflation, and recession fears.
- They may have concerns about how other issues—the ones in news headlines or more personal ones—could affect their well-being and their ability to reach financial and life goals.
It's times like these when your role as a listener first, and emotional circuit breaker second, can deliver tremendous value and build trust. The Vanguard Advisor's Alpha® framework is built around providing you with the tools to help unlock your value to clients, communicate that value to them, and strengthen client relationships.
1 Founded by Vanguard in 1997 as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, Vanguard Charitable strongly aligns with Vanguard's principled investment philosophy and believes in the importance of long-term, strategic charitable planning through a donor-advised fund. Although Vanguard provides certain investment management and administrative services to Vanguard Charitable pursuant to a service agreement, Vanguard Charitable is not a program or activity of Vanguard. A majority of Vanguard Charitable's trustees are independent of Vanguard.
- All investing is subject to risk, including possible loss of principal. Be aware that fluctuations in the financial markets and other factors may cause declines in the value of your account. There is no guarantee that any particular asset allocation or mix of funds will meet your investment objectives or provide you with a given level of income.
- Withdrawals from a Roth IRA are tax free if you are over age 59½ and have held the account for at least five years; withdrawals taken prior to age 59½ or five years may be subject to ordinary income tax or a 10% federal penalty tax, or both. (A separate five-year period applies for each conversion and begins on the first day of the year in which the conversion contribution is made).
- The information contained herein does not constitute tax advice, and cannot be used by any person to avoid tax penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Each person should consult an independent tax advisor about his/her individual situation before investing in any fund or ETF.