Financial Planners Help Clients Plan for Fiscal Cliff

Thursday, 27 Dec 2012 07:56 AM

By Michael Kling

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Their clients are confused, worried and angry, but financial planners are doing their best to help by answering questions about the impending fiscal cliff, CNNMoney reports.

Their main advice, according to CNNMoney, is: Prepare for the worst, but don't panic.

Come Jan. 1, the Bush tax cuts will expire and income tax rates will rise across the board. Taxes will increase $3,500 for the average household next year.

Editor's Note: How to Pay Zero Taxes . . . Legally

Clients are worried about how much the additional taxes would impact their budgets.

"We're looking at people's budgets to make sure they have room for an extra tax bite," Lynn Ballou of Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors told CNNMoney.

Some people should convert retirement accounts to a Roth IRA this year, Ballou noted.

Financial planners urge clients planning to make large gifts to make them this year. Gift and estate taxes are set rise to 55 percent next year after a $1 million exemption, up from 35 percent with a $5.12 million exemption.

If you're planning to sell stocks next year, do it now, experts advise. Capital gains and dividend taxes are also set to increase next year.

Fearing a stock market collapse, some investors are selling large portions of their stock portfolios. For instance, investors with a portfolio of 70 percent stocks and 30 percent bonds might cut stocks to as little as 55 percent, Ross Levin of Accredited Investors in Minneapolis told CNNMoney.

But Levin advises against drastic changes. "As an investor, you need to be comfortable with uncertainty — it is that uncertainty that allows you to have returns."

Paul Jarvis, portfolio manager at Bell State Bank & Trust in Fargo, N.D., recommends holding emergency funds in FDIC-insured saving accounts to cover one to three years of expenses, according to CNNMoney. He also advises diversifying investments, and taking advantage of tax-deferred accounts like the 401(k)s and IRAs. Avoid stashing money under a mattress.

Although Congress's failure to attain a resolution complicates year-end tax planning, investors should think about their long-term strategies, experts told the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.

Consult an investment or tax advisor, they say.

"This is very complicated," said Kathy Kraeblen, a planner with PNC Wealth Management, according to the News & Observer. "There is no cookie-cutter approach to financial management. Everyone's situation is different."

Editor's Note: How to Pay Zero Taxes . . . Legally

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