The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is the time during which Medicare beneficiaries can make new choices and pick plans that work best for them. Each year, Medicare plan costs and coverage typically change. In addition, your health-care needs may have changed over the past year. The open enrollment period is your opportunity to switch Medicare health and prescription drug plans to better suit your needs.
The annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period begins on October 15 and runs through December 7. Any changes made during open enrollment are effective as of January 1, 2020.
During the open enrollment period, you can:
Now is a good time to review your current Medicare plan. What worked for you last year may not work for you this year.
Have you been satisfied with the coverage and level of care you’re receiving with your current plan? Are your premium costs or out-of-pocket expenses too high? Has your health changed? Do you anticipate needing medical care or treatment, or new or pricier prescription drugs?
If your current plan doesn’t meet your health-care needs or fit within your budget, you can switch to a plan that may work better for you.
If you find that you’re still satisfied with your current Medicare plan and it’s still being offered, you don’t have to do anything. The coverage you have will continue.
The end of the Medicare Part D donut hole. The Medicare Part D coverage gap or “donut hole” will officially close in 2020. If you have a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, you will now pay no more than 25% of the cost of both covered brand-name and generic prescription drugs after you’ve met your plan’s deductible (if any), until you reach the out-of-pocket spending limit.
New Medicare Advantage features. Beginning in 2020, Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans will have the option of offering nontraditional services such as transportation to a doctor’s office, home safety improvements, or nutritionist services. Of course, not all plans will offer these types of services.
Two Medigap plans discontinued. If you’re covered by Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), you may have purchased a private supplemental Medigap policy to cover some of the costs that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. In most states, there are 10 standard types of Medigap policies, identified by letters A through D, F, G, and K through N. Starting in 2020, people who are newly eligible for Medicare will not be able to purchase Medigap Plans C and F (these plans cover the Part B deductible which is no longer allowed), but if you already have one of those plans you can keep it.
Determining what coverage you have now and comparing it to other Medicare plans can be confusing and complicated. Pay attention to notices you receive from Medicare and from your plan, and take advantage of available help. You can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit the Medicare website, medicare.gov to use the Plan Finder and other tools that can make comparing plans easier.
You can also call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free, personalized counseling at no cost to you. Visit shiptacenter.org or call the toll-free Medicare number to find the phone number for your state.
In a recent study conducted by the ‘National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics’, it was found that the average American family will spend just south of $700 for back-to-school costs in 2019. Is your child soon to be a college student? The same survey reported you should be ready to spend a little less than $1,000 alone for start-up school supplies. While this cost seems large, it’s just a part of your financial portfolio. Back-to-school time is not only a great time to plan a scholastic budget, but also reviewing and reassessing your financial plan. Below is your Official 2019 Back-To-School Financial Guide to make sure your student, and your financial goals, stay on track:
How has your year progressed in terms of finances? Have you met or succeeded in your goals? Developing a spreadsheet and comparing where you were at the beginning of the year to where you are now can help you asses how aligned you are with your financial goals. Building this report toward the latter of the year will also give you time to adjust your plan (if needed), throughout the remainder of 2019.
Life happens, which is why insurance was invented. Whether you want to provide for your family in case of an emergency or someone forgets to turn off the stove…again; insurance of all sorts can help cushion the blows to your wallet and financial well-being. However, just as life is always changing, so too are your insurance needs and costs. Once a year, you should reevaluate your insurance needs and coverage for any change. While you may not be able to change health insurance in the middle of the year, items like car and home can be changed with a little research and not much effort.
Regardless if you are married, single, with or without dependents, it is crucial to create and maintain a workable budget. Life changes on a regular basis and your budget must coincide with your current income, needs wants, and goals. Back-to-school time is an ideal time to revisit your budget. It’s a relatively slow time on the tail end of summer travels and on the steps leading up to the holiday season. Budgets should be regularly checked throughout the year and especially after any life changes like marriage, death, education, etc.
Now is the best time to make sure you are receiving the most tax breaks you can on income for 2019. Items like 401(k), charitable contributions, and retirement contributions are all fantastic ways to reduce your tax liability. Consider boosting certain contributions to reduce what you’ll pay in taxes. While ‘tax season’ is still months away, it’s important to start looking at your 2019 year from a financial perspective and start looking out other ways to save on taxes before years end.
Back-to-school season signifies the approach of cooler weather, the quick onset of school costs, and the ultimate approach of years end. Make sure you have a great start to 2020 and finish off 2019 by utilizing this guide when looking at the remainder of your financial year. Although these are good recommendations to start with, you should connect with a financial professional to see where you are on your financial journey and how these tips could benefit you.
For those who are looking for financial advice, we realize the available options are many and deciding who to work with is a challenging problem. At SeaCure Advisors, we know that it is your retirement, and you should have control over it. We offer our experience and knowledge to help you design a custom strategy for financial independence. Contact us today to schedule an introductory meeting!
Disclosure: This information is provided as general information and is not intended to be specific financial guidance. Before you make any decisions regarding your personal financial situation, you should consult a financial or tax professional to discuss your individual circumstances and objectives.
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Understanding the importance of life insurance is one thing. Understanding the tax rules is quite another. As insurance products have evolved and become more sophisticated, the line separating insurance vehicles from investment vehicles has grown blurry. To differentiate between the two, a mix of complex rules and exceptions now governs the taxation of insurance products. If you have neither the time nor the inclination to decipher the IRS regulations, here are some life insurance tax tips and background information to help you make sense of it all.
For federal income tax purposes, an insurance contract cannot be considered a life insurance contract–and qualify for favorable tax treatment–unless it meets state law requirements and satisfies the IRS’s statutory definitions of what is or is not a life insurance policy. The IRS considers the type of policy, date of issue, amount of the death benefit, and premiums paid. The IRS definitions are essentially tests to ensure that an insurance policy isn’t really an investment vehicle. The insurance company must comply with these rules and enforce the provisions.
Because life insurance is considered a personal expense, you can’t deduct the premiums you pay for life insurance coverage.
The premium cost for the first $50,000 of life insurance coverage provided under an employer-provided group term life insurance plan does not have to be reported as income and is not taxed to you. However, amounts in excess of $50,000 paid for by your employer will trigger a taxable income for the “economic value” of the coverage provided to you.
The taxation of life insurance proceeds depends on several factors, including whether you paid your insurance premiums with pre- or after-tax dollars. If you buy a life insurance policy on your own or through your employer, your premiums are probably paid with after-tax dollars.
Different rules may apply if your company offers the option to purchase life insurance through a qualified retirement plan and you make pretax contributions. Although pretax contributions offer certain income tax advantages, one tradeoff is that you’ll be required to pay a small tax on the economic value of the “pure life insurance” in the policy (i.e., the difference between the cash value and the death benefit) each year. Also, at death, the amount of the policy cash value that is paid as part of the death benefit is taxable income. These days, however, not many companies offer their employees the option to purchase life insurance through their qualified retirement plan.
Whoever receives the death benefit from your insurance policy usually does not have to pay federal or state income tax on those proceeds. So, if you die owning a life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit, your beneficiary under the policy will generally not have to pay income tax on the receipt of the $500,000. This is generally true regardless of whether you paid all of the premiums yourself, or whether your employer subsidized part or all of the premiums under a group term insurance plan.
Different income tax rules may apply if the death benefit is paid in installments instead of as a lump sum. The interest portion (if any) of each installment is generally treated as taxable to the beneficiary at ordinary income rates, while the principal portion is tax free.
If you hold any incidents of ownership in an insurance policy at the time of your death, the proceeds from that insurance policy will be included in your taxable estate. Incidents of ownership include the right to change the beneficiary, the right to take out policy loans, and the right to surrender the policy for cash. Furthermore, if you gift away an insurance policy within three years of your death, then the proceeds from that policy will be pulled back into your taxable estate. To avoid having the policy included in your taxable estate, someone other than you (e.g., a beneficiary or a trust) should be the owner.
Note: If the owner, the insured, and the beneficiary are three different people, the payment of death benefit proceeds from a life insurance policy to the beneficiary may result in an unintended taxable gift from the owner to the beneficiary.
Unlike term life insurance policies, some life insurance policies (e.g., permanent life) have a cash value component. As the cash value grows, you may ultimately have more money in cash value than you paid in premiums. Generally, you are allowed to defer income taxes on those gains as long as you don’t sell, withdraw from, or surrender the policy. If you do sell, surrender, or withdraw from the policy, the difference between what you get back and what you paid in is taxed as ordinary income.
Some policies, known as participating policies, pay dividends. An insurance dividend is the amount of your premium that is paid back to you if your insurance company achieves lower mortality and expense costs than it expected. Dividends are paid out of the insurer’s surplus earnings for the year. Regardless of whether you take them in cash, keep them on deposit with the insurer, or buy additional life insurance within the policy, they are considered a return of premiums. As long as you don’t get back more than you paid in, you are merely recouping your costs, and no tax is due. However, if you leave these dividends on deposit with your insurance company and they earn interest, the interest you receive should be included as taxable interest income.
If you withdraw cash from a cash value life insurance policy, the amount of withdrawals up to your basis in the policy will be tax free. Generally, your basis is the amount of premiums you have paid into the policy less any dividends or withdrawals you have previously taken. Any withdrawals in excess of your basis (gain) will be taxed as ordinary income. However, if the policy is classified as a modified endowment contract (MEC) (a situation that occurs when you put in more premiums than the threshold allows), then the gain must be withdrawn first and taxed.
Keep in mind that if you withdraw part of your cash value, the death benefit available to your survivors will be reduced.
If you take out a loan against the cash value of your insurance policy, the amount of the loan is not taxable (except in the case of an MEC). This result is the case even if the loan is larger than the amount of the premiums you have paid in. Such a loan is not taxed as long as the policy is in force.
If you take out a loan against your policy, the death benefit and cash value of the policy will be reduced.
The interest you pay on any loans taken out against the cash value of your life insurance is not tax deductible. Certain loans on business-owned policies are an exception to this rule.
If you surrender your cash value life insurance policy, any gain on the policy will be subject to federal (and possibly state) income tax. The gain on the surrender of a cash value policy is the difference between the gross cash value paid out (plus any loans outstanding) and your basis in the policy. Your basis is the total premiums that you paid in cash, minus any policy dividends and tax-free withdrawals that you made.
The tax code allows you to exchange one life insurance policy for another (or a life insurance policy for an annuity) without triggering current tax liability. This is known as a Section 1035 exchange. However, you must follow the IRS’s rules when making the exchange.
The tax rules surrounding life insurance are obviously complex and are subject to change. For more information, contact a qualified insurance professional, attorney, or accountant.