Why Unrealized Gains/Losses Isn’t the Best Way to Look at Performance

When trying to figure out your own performance, it’s common to look at your unrealized gain and loss first on your statement (Charles Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade). The problem with trying to evaluate performance based upon the gain and loss column alone is that it doesn’t reflect your total return and the impact of rebalancing.

Rebalancing entails selling assets that have grown beyond your target and buying assets that have fallen below your target, meaning, selling overvalued securities to buy undervalued securities. When rebalancing occurs, the assets sold likely had a large unrealized gain. Once sold, that gain is wiped out and the proceeds are re-invested in an asset that may show an unrealized loss or a much smaller gain. Rebalancing helps avoid your portfolio drifting too far from your target allocation of stocks, bonds and specialized investments to reduce your risk if the stock market were to decline. Furthermore, rebalancing takes advantage of the shift over time in which assets are in or out of favor.

Total return takes into consideration changes in the price of the asset (unrealized gain/loss), dividends, interest and capital gains distributions received. For many investments, such as more income focused mutual funds, most of the return comes from the components of total return that are not reflected in the unrealized gain or loss column on the statement. Below is the formula to calculate total return. read more…

Carter & Carter Wealth Strategies Joins Us as New Merriman Office in Eugene, Oregon

On July 1, 2017 we welcomed Carter & Carter Wealth Strategies to the Merriman team, continuing to expand our Pacific Northwest presence with a new Merriman office in Eugene, Oregon. We work with clients across the country, and are now able to provide in-person service from this location as well as our Seattle and Spokane, Washington offices.

The Carter & Carter team, led by Charlene Carter and Jenny Hector, has long provided a similar comprehensive wealth management service and shares Merriman’s commitment to serving in the best interest of our clients.

“We are excited to welcome the Carter & Carter team. Together, we will draw on our decades of experience in wealth management to enhance our combined client service offering,” – Jeremy Burger, Merriman CEO

For more information, click here to read an article on the merger, published in Eugene’s local newspaper, the Register-Guard.

Ask Merriman: SIPC Coverage

Q: Brokerage houses have additional insurance that covers certain events relative to my deposit. Should I be concerned when the funds on deposit at a major brokerage exceed the insurance limits?

Let’s assume this refers to SIPC coverage brokerage firms use. While loosely similar to the more familiar FDIC insurance to cover bank deposits, SIPC insurance is much more limited in scope.

Essentially, SIPC insurance provides coverage from loss due to the brokerage firm going out of business. It provides up to $500,000 of protection on securities and up to $250,000 in cash in excess of what is recovered. It does not provide coverage from a decline in the value of investments.

To help visualize an example of when SIPC would come into play, let’s use an example of a $5 million client account:

· Assume the brokerage firm fails, resulting in $5 billion of client claims on assets.

· Assume 90% of clients’ assets ($4.5 billion) are recovered. The actual historical recovery rate is 98.7% according to SIPC.

· The client in this example holding $5 million in SIPC eligible assets would receive $4.5 million from recovered assets and $500,000 from SIPC. The loss to the $5 million client account would be zero.

It’s exceedingly rare for a client to be entitled to recover damages under SIPC and not be made whole because of the $500,000 limit.

Also, most large brokerage firms purchase “excess of SIPC” insurance, which insures clients for any losses above the $500,000 limit.

Ultimately, clients do not need to be concerned when funds at a brokerage exceed the coverage limits.

More detailed information about SIPC coverage can be found here.


 

Do you have a question about investments, taxes, retirement or insurance? Send it to “Ask Merriman” and one of our financial advisors will help you find an answer.

How to report a backdoor Roth IRA contribution on your taxes

In practice, the process of making a backdoor Roth IRA contribution is straightforward, but the documentation and reporting at tax time may be confusing. Whether you work with a professional tax preparer, use tax software such as TurboTax or complete your taxes by hand, understanding the mechanics of the money movements can help ensure you file your taxes correctly.

Let’s say you make a contribution to your Traditional IRA. If your income is too high to qualify for a deduction for the IRA contribution, the contribution is considered non-deductible. Your advisor doesn’t let the custodian (such as Charles Schwab, Fidelity or TD Ameritrade) know whether the contribution is deductible – you report it at tax time on IRS form 8606, Nondeductible IRAs. You use the form to keep track of basis in your Traditional IRA, and basis in this sense means after-tax contributions, to make sure you don’t pay tax on those exact dollars twice.

After you make the non-deductible IRA contribution, it’s converted, i.e., transferred from your Traditional IRA to your Roth IRA account. From that point on, those dollars are now Roth IRA assets and aren’t subject to future tax on earnings. If the conversion is never made, you’ll have basis, i.e., after-tax contributions in your Traditional IRA that you’ll need IRS form 8606 to keep track of. This ensures you aren’t subject to income taxes on withdrawals of that basis in the future, such as in retirement.

Around tax-time, you’ll receive a 1099-R from your custodian showing the distribution from your Traditional IRA that was converted to your Roth IRA the previous year. After tax time, closer to May, you’ll receive an information reporting Form 5498 that shows the contribution you made to the Traditional IRA, and the amount that was converted to Roth IRA for purposes of reconciliation and recordkeeping.

Let’s walk through the reporting process for a backdoor Roth IRA. read more…

Things to Remember Around Tax Time if You’ve Made a Qualified Charitable Distribution

Form 1099-R is issued around tax time to report distributions you took during the previous year from a retirement account. Among other things, this form tells you and the IRS how much was withdrawn in total, how much of the distribution was taxable and whether there was any withholding for federal and state income taxes.

For those who gave part or all of their required minimum distribution directly to charity through making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD), this amount is still included in the taxable portion of your total distribution on form 1099-R. As you’ll see, the QCD is included in your gross distribution (box 1) and taxable amount (box 2a); however, the box for “taxable amount not determined” (box 2b) will be checked. Whether you work with a professional tax preparer, use software like TurboTax or prepare your own taxes by hand, it can be easy to forget that the QCD portion of your distribution should not be included in your taxable income on your tax return. It’s important to keep a record of any QCDs made during the year and hold on to the receipts or letters that you receive from the charities confirming receipt of the funds. read more…

Ask Merriman: Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)

Q: I turned 70 ½ in 2016, but waited until March 2017 to take my first required minimum distribution (RMD). I planned to wait until 2018 to take my next distribution. Am I understanding correctly that I must take the second RMD in 2017, too?

You are only allowed to delay your RMD the first year you take it. You can delay as late at April 1 of the year after you turn 70 ½.

In every subsequent year, the RMD must be completed by December 31 of that year. If you delay taking your RMD the first year, it means you will have to take two RMDs in your second year.


 

Q: Are Roth accounts subject to an annual required minimum distribution (RMD)? I thought only traditional retirement accounts were, but I’ve been hearing differently.

Roth IRAs are not subject to an annual RMD. However, if your employer offers a Roth 401(k), that is subject to annual RMDs upon reaching age 70 ½.

Fortunately, if you want to avoid taking distributions, it’s possible to complete a rollover from the Roth 401(k) to the Roth IRA. This should allow you to avoid having to take an annual RMD from your Roth money.


 

Q: Do the required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs that become effective in the year I turn  70 ½ apply only to IRAs, or do they also apply to 401(k)s? More specifically, if I am still working full time, does the RMD requirement apply to my 401(k)?

If you’re still working when you turn 70 ½, you may not need to take an RMD from the 401(k) at your current employer if the following conditions are met:

  • You’re employed throughout the entire year
  • You own no more than 5% of the company
  • You participate in a plan that allows you to delay RMDs

You must take your first RMD from the 401(k) the year you retire. In that year, you have until April 1 of the following year to take the distribution. However, if you delay, you‘ll end up taking two RMDs the second year.

The RMDs that become effective the year you turn 70 ½ still apply to all traditional IRAs, and all other 401(k)s and Roth 401(k)s.


 

Q: If I decide to give my RMD to my church, do I need to give the entire withdrawal amount required by the IRS, or can I just give a portion and keep the rest for other living expenses?

You don’t need to give the entire RMD amount to your church (or any charity) to complete a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). The QCD can be less than or more than the RMD, up to a $100,000 limit per taxpayer per year.

A taxpayer with a $19,480 RMD in 2017 could certainly make a $5,000 QCD, and take the rest as a regular distribution for living expenses.

The key points to remember when completing the qualified charitable distribution from an IRA to a charity are that the IRA owner must:

  • Already be age 70 ½ on the date of distribution.
  • Submit a distribution form to the IRA custodian requesting that the check be made payable directly to the charity.
  • Ensure that no tax withholding is being made from the QCD to the charity.
  • Send the check directly to the charity, or to the IRA owner to be forwarded along to the charity.

 

Do you have a question about investments, taxes, retirement or insurance? Send it to “Ask Merriman” and one of our financial advisors will help you find an answer.

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