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Blog Headline: Focus on the Fundamentals

During the past several weeks, we’ve seen news headlines dominated by everything from extreme weather to heightened geopolitical risks, with speculation on policy changes in the U.S. an ongoing hot topic. With so many events competing for our attention, how do we know where to focus?

As investors, it’s important that as we acknowledge the impact of these worldwide events, we remember to separate our personal sentiment from our investment strategy. This can be easier said than done, which is why it’s important to rely on trusted economic and market indicators to guide us in the right direction. In other words, focus on fundamentals. The fundamental backdrop for the economy and markets continues to look solid, indicating that the market should be able to weather the ups and downs brought on by the dizzying news flow. Earnings estimates remain strong and economic indicators suggest that the potential for a recession this year or next remains low—both of which reduce the odds that a small correction turns into a big one.

The Federal Reserve (Fed) is another consistent source of guidance on the economy. Although the Fed chose not to raise rates for the third time in 2017 at its September policy meeting, the meeting was not without action. The Fed announced that it would begin gradually shrinking its balance sheet, as expected, withdrawing some of the trillions of dollars it invested in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Perhaps more importantly, however, the announcement reflects the Fed’s confidence that economic growth and low unemployment will continue. Further supporting this position, the Fed indicated that a December rate increase is still likely.

When assessing this positive economic and market data, it’s important to consider the U.S. political environment. LPL Research maintains its view that the potential for fiscal stimulus remains and that we may see a tax deal out of Washington, D.C. early next year. This view does seem to be in the minority, however, and political divisions in Washington could impede a reduction in tax rates—corporate or individual (or both). Because consensus expectations for a tax agreement have declined, it does lessen the chance that stocks would fall sharply if a deal is not passed.
Against this generally favorable backdrop, the stock market has continued its steady advance—going 10 months since the last 3% decline. While the market environment is positive, we should watch for a potential pullback. It’s healthy for a market to experience small declines, as a way to refresh and set up the next move higher. But be mindful that pullbacks can often be accompanied by potentially unnerving headlines, which is why it’s important to be prepared for them and remember the fundamentals. Based on the current environment, LPL Research notes that pullbacks can be viewed as opportunities to buy stocks at lower prices, especially for those who are underinvested relative to their long-term targets.

As is often the case in today’s world, we are faced with a myriad of concerns and headlines that could distract us from our long-term investment strategy. I will continue to monitor these key economic, market, and policy factors and assess how they may impact your portfolio and what, if any, changes should be made.

Our emotions naturally tend to influence our actions, but with a well-thought-out plan and the right guidance, we can ensure that we stay on course to reach our goals. As always, please contact me with any questions you may have.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual security. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

The information in this letter has been prepared from data believed to be reliable, but no representation is being made as to its accuracy and completeness.
Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted.

Investing in stock includes numerous specific risks including: the fluctuation of dividend, loss of principal and potential illiquidity of the investment in a falling market.
This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

Securities offered through LPL Financial LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC.

Tracking #1-649279 (Exp. 09/18)

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Consider an IRA Charitable Rollover

If you want a tax break and want to help a non-profit, this may be a good move.

Have you ever wanted to make a major charitable gift? Would you like a significant federal tax break in acknowledgment of that gift? If so, an IRA charitable rollover may be a good financial step to take.

If you are age 70½ or older and have one or more traditional IRAs, you may want to explore the potential of this tax provision, first introduced in 2006 and recently made permanent by Congress. In the language of federal tax law, it is called a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) – a direct transfer of up to $100,000 from the IRA to a qualified charity.1,2

An IRA charitable rollover may help you lower your adjusted gross income. That may be a goal in your tax strategy, especially if your AGI is large enough to position you for increased Medicare premiums, greater taxation of your Social Security benefits, or exposure to the 3.8% investment income tax and the 0.9% Medicare surtax. If your AGI passes a certain threshold, you also lose the ability to itemize deductions.2

Up to $100,000 may be excluded from your gross income in the year in which you make the gift. The gifted amount also counts toward your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).1,2

By the way, this $100,000 annual QCD limit is per individual. If you are married, you and your spouse may gift up to $200,000 in a year through IRA charitable rollovers. Imagine lowering your household’s AGI by as much as $200,000 in a tax year.2

A QCD will not afford you an opportunity for a charitable deduction. That would amount to a double benefit for the taxpayer making the gift, which is not something federal tax law allows.3

You need not be rich to do this. When many people first learn about the IRA charitable rollover, they think it is only for multi-millionaires. That is a misconception. Even if you do not think of yourself as wealthy, a QCD could prove a significant element in your tax strategy.

How does it work? Logistically speaking, an IRA charitable rollover is a trustee-to-trustee transfer: the IRA owner does not take possession of the money as the gift is arranged. Rather, the custodian or trustee overseeing the IRA writes a check for the amount of the gift payable to the charity. It is a direct transfer of funds, not a withdrawal.2

An IRA owner must be age 70½ or older to do this, and he or she must be the original owner of the IRA (an inherited IRA may not be used). The gifted assets must come from an IRA (or multiple IRAs) subject to RMD rules. SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs are ineligible if an employer contribution has been made for the particular year.4,5

Can you gift appreciated securities as well as cash? You can. Securities held within an IRA may be directly transferred from an IRA to a qualified charity in a QCD. You can claim an income tax deduction for the full fair market value of those securities.4,5

The charity or non-profit involved must pass muster with the IRS. It must be an entity that qualifies for a charitable income tax deduction of an individual taxpayer, and it cannot be a donor-advised fund, a private foundation that makes grants, or a supporting organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 509(a)(3). The charity must provide you with a letter of acknowledgement denoting that you received no goods, services, or benefits of any kind in exchange for your gift, and that you shall not receive any in the future as a consequence of your gift. If that letter is not quickly sent to you, be firm in requesting it.4,5

In case you are wondering, you can actually contribute more than your IRA RMD amount for a particular year through an IRA charitable rollover, as long as the gifted amount does not exceed $100,000. If you pledge a donation to a qualified charity or non-profit, an IRA charitable rollover can be used to satisfy your pledge.5

This tax break has been a boon to charities and IRA owners alike. Correctly performed, a charitable IRA rollover may help to lessen tax issues while benefiting qualified non-profit organizations.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
    
Citations.
1 – marketwatch.com/story/ira-charitable-rollover-provision-made-permanent-2015-12-25 [12/25/15]
2 – forbes.com/sites/jamiehopkins/2016/01/20/why-retirees-need-to-stop-writing-checks-to-charities/ [1/20/16]
3 – cof.org/content/analysis-ira-charitable-rollover-extension [12/22/15]
4 – wealthmanagement.com/retirement-planning/ira-qualified-charitable-contributions-reinstated-made-permanent [12/21/15]
5 – forbes.com/sites/berniekent/2015/12/20/should-you-make-a-charitable-contribution-from-your-ira/ [12/20/15]
LPL Tracking 1-469991