Minimizing Lifetime Taxes with Roth Conversions in Early Retirement

Minimizing Lifetime Taxes with Roth Conversions in Early Retirement

 

Minimizing Lifetime Taxes with Roth Conversions in Early Retirement

Moving into retirement is an exciting opportunity to live fully. It can be a time to travel, explore new hobbies, or spend time with grandchildren.

For many, this period at the start of retirement can also be an opportunity to provide additional financial security—and minimize lifetime taxes—by making partial Roth conversions.

 

The Retirement “Tax Valley”

Many retirees will be in a lower tax bracket early in retirement than they were just before retirement while they’re still working—or than they will be in later in retirement. To understand why, consider Jim and Susan (both age 61) who recently retired.

While working, Jim and Susan had a combined household income of $250,000. This put them right in the middle of the 24% tax bracket for a married couple. At retirement, Jim and Susan have the following assets:

  • $1 million (Jim’s IRA)
  • $1 million (Susan’s IRA)
  • $100,000 (Jim’s Roth IRA)
  • $500,000 (Taxable account – with a $300,000 cost basis)
  • $300,000 (Cash savings in bank accounts and CDs)
  • $800,000 (House – No Mortgage)

Jim and Susan will also have the following income in retirement:

  • $50,000 (Jim’s annual pension – starting at age 65)
  • $30,000 (Susan’s annual pension – starting at age 65)
  • $40,000 (Jim’s annual Social Security – Starting at age 70)
  • $35,000 (Susan’s annual Social Security – Starting at age 70)

 

In addition to that income, Jim and Susan will each have to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) out of their IRAs starting at age 72. Assuming they don’t make withdrawals from the IRA between now and age 72, and that the accounts grow at 7% annually over the next 11 years, they would each be worth about $2.1 million by age 72. They would each have an RMD of about $76,650 the year they turn 72 ($2,100,000 / 27.4).

This would potentially give them a taxable income at age 72 of about $308,300 from pensions, Social Security, and their RMDs. This puts them back at the top of the 24% tax bracket, and they could easily move up to the 32% tax bracket or higher.

However, in their first years of retirement, they could basically have no taxable income if they are using cash savings and the taxable investment account to fund their goals if they choose to do so. Is it a smart idea to minimize taxes this much during these early retirement years?

 

Strategic Roth Conversions Early in Retirement

Let’s say that Jim and Susan would have $0 taxable income in early retirement. Their modest interest, dividend, and realized capital gain income is offset by their $25,900 standard deduction.

If they each convert $65,000 annually from their IRA to their Roth accounts ($130,000 total), they will initially pay tax on that conversion primarily at the 10% and 12% rates, with just a little being taxed in the 22% bracket each year.

If they do this each year until age 72 when their RMD begins, they would have about $1,079,000 in each IRA, assuming 7% annual returns. This would reduce their initial RMD at age 72 by about half. Their taxable income at age 72 would be reduced by about $74,500 and their tax liability by about $17,880 since they were in the 24% tax bracket.

Much of the earlier conversions each year would have been taxed at 10% or 12% rates, resulting in less overall tax being paid during their lifetimes.

 

Protection Against Rising Tax Rates

The example above shows the benefits of Jim’s and Susan’s Roth conversions, assuming tax rates stay the same. If 10 years from now, tax rates on higher earners increase, they will have less income being taxed at those higher levels due to the smaller IRA balances and smaller RMDs.

They would also have about $1,000,000 in each Roth IRA by age 72, assuming a 7% rate of growth. This can be withdrawn tax-free if additional money is needed. This is always a benefit but especially so in a world where overall tax rates are higher.

 

Roth Conversions to Take Advantage of a Market Decline

In addition to the benefit of taking Roth conversions when in lower tax brackets, Jim and Susan can take advantage of market declines to make strategic Roth conversions.

Say a market decline in the first six months of the year produces the following negative returns:

-2% (Bonds)

-10% (Large US stocks)

-15% (Large international stocks)

-20% (Small US stocks, small international stocks, emerging market stocks)

This becomes a great opportunity for Jim and Susan to strategically move some of the small US, small international, and emerging market stocks from the IRA to the Roth accounts. Assuming the investments recover as expected, Jim and Susan can pay tax on the conversion when the prices are down and enjoy a significant tax-free recovery after the investments are in the Roth account.

 

Additional Factors to Consider

There are several other factors for Jim and Susan to consider when making Roth conversions early in retirement.

When purchasing individual health insurance in retirement before Medicare begins, retirees may qualify for subsidies to reduce the cost of their premiums based on their taxable income. In Jim and Susan’s case, they have retiree healthcare from their employer that doesn’t qualify for tax subsidies, so this is not a factor.

Once Medicare Part B benefits start at age 65, there is an additional IRMAA premium cost when taxable income increases beyond a certain level. In 2022, this additional premium begins when income is above $182,000 for a married couple.

For retirees who expect to have money at the end to leave to an heir, Roth conversions can be an important part of an estate plan, as leaving Roth assets to heirs are significantly more valuable than leaving traditional IRA money to heirs.

 

Conclusion

While they won’t be a perfect solution for everyone, for the right families, Roth conversions early in retirement can be a powerful tool to minimize taxes over your lifetime and maximize overall expected wealth.

This can be one more tool to ensure the ability to make the most of retirement and really live fully!

 

 

 

Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source.  Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. As always please remember investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital and past performance does not guarantee future returns; please seek advice from a licensed professional.

 

 

Security Tips When Choosing a New Home

Security Tips When Choosing a New Home

 

Property crime is much more rampant in the US than violent crime. If you’re moving homes, you need to ensure that where you’re moving to is a safe area and take every precaution to avoid a break-in.

This post will discuss the top security investments you can make when moving to a new residence and the best security features to look for in a new house. Keep these considerations in mind, and you will find yourself safe and content in your new home.

 

Top Security Considerations When Choosing Your New Home

When we move house, we often look for open spaces with large windows and plenty of natural light. However, what we forget to look for is one of the essential features of a new home—security. You deserve to feel safe in your new home, so security must be a priority when making your decision about where to live.

 

Security Perimeters and Gates

Securing your personal property is crucial, but it can also be beneficial to secure your land from intruders. You might consider looking for a gated community with on-site security staff to ensure your safety. If that’s out of your budget, look for a home with a secure perimeter, such as trees and fencing bordering the garden. This will prevent intruders from gaining access. You should also invest in a gated driveway to ensure no unauthorized vehicles can enter your property.

 

Access Control

One of the essential features of home security is access control. Using keys for your doors leaves you vulnerable—a motivated intruder could easily pick a lock. If you wish to secure your home and have more convenience in your daily comings and goings, you should invest in access control door locks.

Touchless access control systems can operate without a key; simply use your mobile device to enter. You don’t have to take your mobile phone out of your pocket, either. Waving your hand in front of your access reader will trigger remote communication via WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular communication with your mobile device.

Modern touchless access control solutions can also be cloud-based, enabling you to operate your security system remotely. If you’re out of the house, you can view your security information and lock your doors using a mobile application or cloud-based control center. No longer will you have to cope with the sinking feeling that you’ve forgotten to lock your door upon leaving the house. You can conveniently check the status of your doors and lock them from anywhere.

If you’re moving to an apartment complex, access control can have the following benefits:

  • Convenient entry – You can enter your building with your hands full and enter quickly. The triple-unlock feature uses three methods of communication to ensure first-time entry. Enter your dwelling rapidly without standing outside the apartment complex in a vulnerable situation.
  • Remote operation – If you get locked out of your apartment building, you can quickly contact your building manager, who will be able to unlock your door remotely without the need to visit the building in person.
  • One credential for all doors – You can enter your building and your apartment with a single credential, saving time and providing convenience.

 

Security Cameras

If a crime occurs on your property, you need a security camera system to provide evidence in an investigation. If your security cameras are displayed visibly, this could deter criminals from attempting to enter the property.

If you’re looking for a streamlined, multi-purpose security tool, you might consider investing in a doorbell camera or video intercom reader. The device comes with built-in touchless access control and high-definition video. So, if someone enters your property without permission, you will have clear visibility of their face and identity.

Doorbell cameras are also helpful in preventing parcel theft. If a stranger comes to your door to take your parcels, they will be deterred when they see that you have a doorbell camera, which will help to keep your packages safe.

 

Mobile Alerts and Alarm Systems

Any home security system is not complete without an alarm system. Cloud-based motion sensors will alert you to any activity on your property when you’re not home. If you receive a security alert on your phone while you’re out of the house, you can act swiftly and call the police to detain the intruder. Mobile alerts allow you to maintain consistent awareness of your home’s security, even when you’re out and about.

If your home does experience a break-in, you need to know how to respond. You must protect the valuable and priceless items in your home, and educating yourself on how to respond to a break-in is the best way to ensure your safety and protect your possessions.

 

Summary

You deserve a beautiful home in the area you desire. You also deserve to feel safe at home and not fall victim to a property crime. When choosing your new home, consider investing in a house with a secure perimeter. You should also look into security technologies that protect your dwelling from intruders and notify you of any security alerts when you’re out of the house.

 

 

Written Exclusively for Merriman.com by Madison Smith

Madison Smith is a personal and home finance expert at BestCompany.com. She works to help others make positive financial stride in their lives by providing expert insight on anything from credit card debt to home-buying tips.

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable; however, Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source.  Merriman does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such.

 

Spring Document Cleaning

Spring Document Cleaning

It’s spring, which means it’s time for some spring cleaning—and this spring’s focus is paperwork. I don’t know about you, but I don’t love paperwork. I’ve spent years working toward zero paper, and I’m now finally down to a handful of documents. I’ll share some tips below so you can minimize your paperwork, too!

Document delivery

If you’re tired of getting statements for your accounts or bills in the mail, try signing up for e-delivery instead. This will help save time and energy opening and sorting mail and having to dispose of it as well. Don’t forget to proactively visit the proper websites to check those statements and pay those bills.

Document retention

We all know we need to hang onto certain tax, asset, and legal documentation, but sometimes the specifics can be tough to remember. Here’s a quick list of the most common situations where you’ll need to keep documentation. Please see this checklist for a detailed list.

Income tax returns

Keep at least three years of state and federal tax returns and supporting documentation on file. Supporting documentation includes records that prove any income, deductions (including medical expenses), or credits claimed (W-2, 1099, end-of-year statements from banks and investment accounts). Depending on the state (like CA), you may need to keep tax returns for longer than three years. If you think you forgot to report income and it’s more than 25% of your gross income, keep six years of tax returns. If you are claiming a loss for worthless securities or bad debt deduction, keep records for seven years.

Investment accounts or bank accounts

Consider keeping the most current statements on file and the end-of-year statement until you complete your tax return.

Retirement accounts

Consider keeping documentation on any contributions, withdrawals, and conversions. If you made non-deductible traditional IRA contributions, keep Form 8606 until the account is fully withdrawn to track cost basis.

Debt (student loans, mortgage)

Keep the loan documents until the loan is paid off. Once the loan is paid off, keep documentation proving that the loan has been paid in full.
Property (automobiles, real estate). Consider keeping any deeds, titles, settlement statements, or bills of sale until you sell the property. Keep documentation showing purchase-related fees that were capitalized until you sell the property.

Home improvements

Keep any receipts related to home improvements as they may be used to substantiate any adjustments to the cost basis for your property.
Insurance policies. Keep the most current policies on file.

Estate plan

Keep a copy of your Will, Trust(s), Powers of Attorney (General and Healthcare), Living Will or Healthcare Directive, and beneficiary designations on file, and store the originals in a safe place.

Document storage

To reduce your paperwork, try storing these must-keep documents on your secure personal computer. Of course, with this storage method, it’s important to back up your electronic files and have firewall protection.

Document disposal

Please remember to shred any documentation that contains sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security numbers or account numbers. A personal shredder should do the trick and will be less expensive in the long run if you’re disposing of documents each year.

Password organization

How are you currently storing and keeping track of your passwords? I recommend using a cloud-based password manager like LastPass where you can store all your passwords in one place and only need to remember the “master” password to access them. LastPass has a random password generator to help you create complex passwords that are more difficult to hack. LastPass also offers two-factor authentication and doesn’t allow your “master” password to be reset to keep your account secure.

Digitize your photos

Does your paperwork include old family photos you’ve been meaning to digitize? Try sending them to a digitizing service like Legacy Box where they’ll scan and save them to a thumb drive, DVD, or the cloud. Legacy Box works with tapes and films, too. While this service may seem pricey, it might be worth paying someone to digitize those photos as they are priceless memories and should be backed up sooner rather than later in case something happens to the physical copies.

Inform your family

Make sure your family knows where you keep your documents and what your “master” password is in case something happens to you. This is especially important for estate planning documents. Having these conversations ahead of time will help alleviate the stress on your loved ones of not knowing what to do or where to find things.

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

 

To Exercise or Not to Exercise: What to Do When You Have Options in a Private Company

To Exercise or Not to Exercise: What to Do When You Have Options in a Private Company

 

Working for a startup or a smaller private company can be exciting. You may be creating cutting-edge technology or providing services or products that will fill a need within an industry. It also means you may have the opportunity to become a significant stakeholder in your company before a single share of stock has been sold to the public. If you’ve been granted options in a private company, you may be asking yourself, “Is the potential reward of exercising my options worth the risk?”

This answer is a complicated, nuanced one that will depend on each individual and the company’s circumstances. That being said, I’ve done my best to distill some of the most important lessons learned in helping clients navigate whether to exercise options in their company while it is still private.

 

Never invest more than you’re willing to lose.

Your company is doing great things and you strongly believe that you’re moving in the right direction. You wouldn’t have chosen to take the risk of working for this company if you didn’t believe so. The inconvenient truth is that so many bright, promising startups or private companies fail each year. A lot of this has nothing to do with the company itself but is simply the result of factors outside its control—like the general market conditions at the time the company was anticipating raising another round of funding.

Before your company goes public or has a liquidity event, there isn’t a readily available market for you to sell any of the shares you received when you exercised. Until your company has actually gone public, there is a reasonable risk the shares you hold from exercising could be worth nothing. Companies are also taking longer and longer to reach a point at which they are ready to go public or IPO. You must go in with an expectation that you could be waiting 10 or more years for the opportunity to sell your shares in the open market. If the possibility of losing 100% of your investment makes your palms sweat, you likely will want to wait until your company is actually public before you exercise your options.

 

Do take on an amount of risk appropriate for your situation.

It is important to understand the risks and the worst-case scenario of exercising options in a company that is not yet public. On the flipside, exercising options in a private company can have tremendous outcomes for those who were able to buy in at an earlier stage. Before deciding how much to exercise in your company while it is still private, first take a look at your list of financial goals and priorities:

  • Do you have a sufficient emergency fund of at least three to six months of expenses set aside in cash in a savings or checking account?
  • Are you maximizing savings into the retirement accounts available to you? Have you evaluated whether you’re on track to meet your target retirement date with your current rate of contributions?
  • Are you saving enough for other major goals like your kids’ future college expenses?

If you can say yes to all these questions and are willing to accept the risk, then by all means, allocate a certain portion of your income or savings toward exercising options in your company. It is almost always much less expensive to exercise options while your company is still private than after it has gone public. This is because the valuation (409a) while the company is private is usually much lower than the price at which the company will be valued once it is public. A significant increase in valuation will mean a much larger tax bill per option that is exercised.

 

Understand the tax consequences.

Options are complicated. The type of options you receive will dictate your exercise strategy and the resulting tax implications. You cannot simply look at the cost to exercise as your total cost to purchase shares in your company. It is important to be aware of your company’s most recent 409a valuation, which will determine the amount of income you are recognizing each time you exercise an option. You will be paying tax on income for shares you still cannot sell and may not have an open market for anytime soon. Exercising stock options without fully understanding the tax impact could mean receiving a surprise tax bill and not having enough cash set aside to cover it.

If you exercise Non-Qualified Stock Options (NSOs), your company will withhold 22% of the income recognized for federal taxes. This may or may not be enough to cover your total tax liability for the exercising depending on the amount and makeup of your other income. You’ll want to estimate the additional taxes you may owe due to the exercise of NSOs and make estimated tax payments or set aside enough funds to cover the tax liability when you file.

If you exercise Incentive Stock Options (ISOs), your company will not withhold any amount for federal taxes, and you will be expected to cover the entire tax liability through estimated tax payments. Incentive Stock Options can also create what is called Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which is complicated to calculate and track on an ongoing basis.

 

Ask for help.

There are certain projects in my home I’m willing to tackle and certain projects I’m more than happy to hand off to professionals. Paint the guest room? No problem. Rewire and update the electrical in my kitchen? You better believe I’m leaving that entirely up to the capable hands of a licensed electrician.

When we talk about options, and especially options in a private company, we are entering a territory where the DIY approach can fail you miserably. Employ the help of a finance or tax professional who has expertise and experience navigating private company stock option strategy. You don’t want to be in the position of wondering why you have tax bills that are much higher than what you were expecting or realize that failing to file a form by a certain deadline is going to cost you thousands of dollars in the future. A qualified professional can help you determine the appropriate amount of risk to take, given your current financial situation and goals, while providing peace of mind that there are no major tax surprises on the horizon.

Is your company the next Apple? I have no idea. What I do know is that the future rarely plays out exactly how you expect it will, for better or for worse. All we can do is make our best calculated bet with the information and resources we have at the time. After that, all that’s left to do is embrace the adventure.

 

 

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes only are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The information presented here has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable; however, Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

 

A Guide to Average Home Maintenance Costs

A Guide to Average Home Maintenance Costs

 

Purchasing a new home involves a great deal of money, especially if you remain in the same house for years. To keep your home systems and appliances functioning smoothly, you also need to spend money on maintenance. This blog will help you understand the average home maintenance costs and how you can reduce them significantly.

 

What Is the Average Home Maintenance Cost?

According to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders in 2019, the typical cost of minor repairs and regular maintenance is $950 per year. This amount is based on the average single-family house and is subject to change based on several factors. For instance, the cost does not include expensive repairs and maintenance of items like the roof, swimming pool, HVAC, and other significant home features. Additional factors that can swing the cost of maintenance include the location of your house, the area of your house (in square feet), and the size of your family.

 

How Much Should You Budget for Home Maintenance?

A general rule of thumb states that you should keep 1% of your house value as a fund for general maintenance. For instance, if your house costs $500,000, then you should be prepared to pay up to $5,000 for maintenance. However, recent trends indicate that a growing number of homeowners are keeping aside up to 4% of their house value in their maintenance fund.

Another method, the square footage rule, states that you should keep $1 per square foot of your house for maintenance. Thus, for a 3000-square-foot property, you can expect $3,000 for maintenance. However, this method does not factor in the age, location, or the condition of your house.

 

What Are the Activities Included in Maintenance Costs

At times, people get confused between repair costs and maintenance costs. Maintenance of your house includes activities to keep your house clean and maintained. It also includes activities that allow seamless functioning of your appliances and home systems. Wondering what these are? Here’s a list of few of them:

 

  1. Cleaning the home deck or patio
  2. Lawn services
  3. Sidewalk and driveway maintenance
  4. Cleaning the gutters and vents
  5. Servicing your HVAC
  6. Maintaining faucets and sinks
  7. Maintaining the central heating system
  8. Lubricating garage door springs
  9. Pest control and inspection
  10. Regular maintenance of kitchen appliances

 

These maintenance activities are not very costly and can be managed using maintenance savings. However, the house itself might need repairs. Repair costs for fixing roofs, HVAC, structural defects, water heater, and the like can quickly add up. The excess of your maintenance funds can be used for these emergency fixes.

You can also assess the repair costs and set aside some money for such unexpected expenses. Alternatively, you could purchase a home warranty plan that covers these repairs and replacements of home systems and appliances. Check out the best home warranty companies offering reliable services. Your home deserves the best!

 

 

Conclusion

When you buy a house, don’t just consider the down payment, taxes, and renovation costs. Also include the annual maintenance costs. These are recurring charges you need to pay along with your house. There is no definitive range or rule that can exactly anticipate how much you might have to spend, so do what you can to be as prepared as possible.

 

 

Written exclusively for Merriman.com by Sophie Williams.
Sophie Williams is a professional content marketer. She leverages analytical skills from a STEM degree to give an edge to her passion for writing. She is always thinking about how to produce engaging content for her readers. She enjoys finding ways to minimize her living costs and help other struggling homeowners with the same. She also loves writing long rants on books and movies.

 

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. All opinions expressed in this article constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of this article and are subject to change with notice. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

Is Now the Right Time to Buy a Home?

Is Now the Right Time to Buy a Home?

 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it seems that Americans have been clamoring over one another to achieve a core component of the American dream: homeownership. And this phenomenon isn’t surprising; people have spent more time at home than ever before, and the obstacles to buying have dropped significantly. I’ve been asked more and more by my clients whether now is the right time for them to buy.

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not a cut-and-dry yes or no. Homeownership is a commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and there are multiple items to consider before making a decision.

 

Interest Rates

When I speak with potential homebuyers, one of the top reasons they feel an urgency to buy now is due to historically low interest rates. And they are not wrong. As shown in the below chart, 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates in the past year have been at their lowest ever since Freddie Mac began tracking them in 1971.

Source: https://www.macrotrends.net/2604/30-year-fixed-mortgage-rate-chart

 

While some may think that saving 1% on their mortgage rate isn’t a big deal, the truth is that it adds up quickly. Let’s say a homebuyer is comparing two 30-year fixed mortgages for a $500,000 loan amount, one with an interest rate of 3.0% and the other with an interest rate of 4.0%. At first glance, the monthly payments may not look too different: $2,108 per month for the 3.0% loan and $2,387 per month for the 4.0% loan. However, over the course of 30 years, this difference adds up. Over the life of the loan, the 3.0% rate will cost $258,887 in interest paid. Alternatively, the 4.0% rate loan will cost $359,348 in interest. That’s a difference of over $100,000 in interest paid over 30 years!

I certainly understand the concern as it relates to interest rates: How long will the rates stay this low? Since most lenders will not allow you to lock in your rate prior to your offer being accepted on a home, homebuyers are feeling the pressure to buy as quickly as possible. On March 16th, 2022, the Federal Reserve announced its first rate increase since 2018 of 0.25%, with additional interest rates increases on the horizon. While some may take this as a sign to buy a home as soon as possible, it’s important to keep in mind that the Federal Reserve is not required to raise interest rates, and there is still a possibility that they could change course.

 

Down Payment

For many homebuyers, the question of how much cash they should put toward their down payment is often top of the list. Historically, most buyers have targeted a down payment of 20% of the purchase price. Why? you may ask. Lenders have discouraged homebuyers from putting down less than 20% as it reduces the lender’s risk in case the homebuyer stops paying their mortgage.

To encourage buyers to put down at least 20% of the purchase price, most lenders charge Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) to those who do not meet the threshold. The average range for PMI can cost between 0.58% to 1.86% of the original loan amount per year, depending on the homebuyer’s down payment, loan amount, and credit score.2 To put this in dollar terms, if a homebuyer had a $500,000 mortgage and was subject to a 1.00% PMI rate, it would cost them an additional $417 per month.

Though PMI is clearly a cost to be mindful of, recent years have shown more buyers opting to put less than 20% down. From 2017 to 2020, 33.6% of 30-year mortgages carried PMI. This is a sizable increase compared to the share of PMI mortgages from 2011 to 2016 at 25.5%.2

It is also important to keep in mind that a homeowner is not obligated to pay PMI for the life of their mortgage. Once their equity in the home is over 20%, the homeowner can work with their lender to have the PMI cost removed. Equity ownership in a home is not just linked to the amount paid, though. If a homebuyer purchased a home for $500,000 and the home appreciated in value to $550,000, they will have an additional 9% in equity compared to where they started.

Why should someone take out a mortgage with PMI? One of the top reasons is to maintain enough cash in emergency savings. Once the home purchase closes, the buyer is responsible for all maintenance costs—emergency or otherwise. If one must choose between paying PMI and having a sufficient emergency fund, I will almost always recommend prioritizing the emergency fund. Having enough cash on hand to support unexpected costs serves as the foundation (pun intended) for all prudent financial plans.

 

Competition

From speaking with your friends or listening to the news, you may think that everyone has bought a house in the past two years. Your intuition isn’t completely off-base; data from the US Census shows that homebuying peaked at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021.

Source: https://www.census.gov/construction/nrs/index.html > Current Press Release (Full Report and Tables)

The increase in homebuying in recent history has unsurprisingly led to increased competition and sales prices. According to Redfin, in July 2021, the average home sold for over 102% of the list price.3 This was the height of sale-price-to-list-price ratios since the beginning of 2020. More recently, January 2022 has started off with the average house selling for 100.3% of the list price.

While this is a promising sign that competition has slowed down from its height, the housing market is still quite competitive. This often leaves homebuyers feeling the pressure to make a quick decision and offer over the asking price.

 

Conclusion

In addition to the factors mentioned thus far, there are other considerations to keep in mind when purchasing a home. Do you intend to live in the house for at least five years? Do you have enough cash outside of your emergency fund to pay for routine and unexpected maintenance? Are you ready for the responsibility that comes with owning a home? If not, maybe renting a house is a better option for you.

At the end of the day, choosing to buy a home is a significant financial decision that impacts many facets of your life. If you are left wondering where a home fits into your financial plan, our advisors at Merriman is happy to help you assess your options. Additionally, if you are a first-time homebuyer, please check out our Guide to the Homebuying Process.

 

Sources:
1 https://www.wsj.com/articles/fed-minutes-reflect-growing-unease-over-high-inflation-11641409628
2 https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/104503/mortgage-insurance-data-at-a-glance-2021.pdf
3https://www.redfin.com/news/housing-market-update-inventory-falls-below-500000/

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable; however, Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.