As the year begins to wind down, it’s time to sit down with clients to make sure everything is on track for them to take advantage of whatever opportunities exist to ease the tax bite next April. But as a holistic advisor, taxes are just the tip of the iceberg. “A comprehensive year-end review will uncover many ways you can be of service and give clients the benefit of your broad expertise,” said Chad Smith, a wealth management strategist as HD Vest Financial Services.

“The process will also ensure that you have been operating under the right assumptions about what your clients are trying to accomplish, and how they want to go about it,” he added.

There are four basic categories of your clients’ financial lives to review when you have that sit-down: general and large financial status items, retirement savings tactics, gifting goals, and tax-timing strategies. Here is a review of each category that you can use to create a checklist to cover all the bases and spot areas that need to be attended to.

ANNUAL REVIEW ITEMS

These items represent the foundation blocks of clients’ financial lives.

  • Family dynamics: Have there been any new children, or a change in marital status?
  • Health: Any significant changes in the health of your client and family members that have implications for anticipated medical spending and health benefit plan selection?
  • Health benefits: Is your client taking advantage of any available health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts, and are they enrolled in the most appropriate health plan option at work?
  • Insurance review: Are all the needed life, disability income, long-term-care, auto, homeowners and other appropriate property & casualty coverage categories (e.g., umbrella liability) in place?
  • Employment status: Have any changes occurred that impact income – or are there any on the horizon?
  • Real estate: Has your client moved, or do they plan to soon?
  • Risk tolerance: It’s always a good idea to check your clients’ pulse on this topic for possible changes that would indicate a need to alter investment strategy.
  • Beneficiary review: Do current beneficiaries coordinate with the client’s overall legacy plans?
  • Estate planning documents: Do they still reflect your clients’ wishes, and are they up to date with current law?
  • Required minimum distributions: Remember they are required after clients turn 70-1/2.
  • Retirement cash flow plan: Check to make sure original goals are still in place.
  • Asset allocation: Are assets allocated appropriately given current client goals, and do assets need rebalancing in light of financial market changes?
  • Debt review: Is your client’s debt burden reasonable? Growing imprudently? Are there opportunities to refinance debt on more favorable terms?

RETIREMENT PLAN CONTRIBUTIONS

With the vast variety of retirement savings vehicles in existence, it’s important to make sure clients are taking advantage of those they can.

Are employed clients with company 401k’s getting the most they can in employer matches, and putting away as much as they can? Or if they own a business, are they maximizing their retirement savings opportunities using the optimum plan design? Are individuals using the right plans for additional savings, whether an IRA, a Roth IRA, a non-deductible, or some other deferral option, such as annuities, cash-value life insurance and tax-efficient investments?

GIFTING

It does not always occur to clients that they can be methodical about gifting, and find tax-efficient methods of helping family members. This can include:

  • Charitable gifting: Outright gifts to charities.
  • Gifts to family: Annual exclusion usage, outright gifts, gifts to a trust for the benefit of a family member.
  • Educational savings: Tax-efficient vehicles include 529 plans, Coverdell savings accounts and education IRAs.

TAX TIMING STRATEGIES

Here are the traditional core elements of a year-end meeting focusing on tax minimization:

  • Tax loss harvesting: Review client portfolio gains and losses for tax-savings opportunities.
  • Dividend and capital gains reviews: Take a look at expected returns and associated tax liabilities.
  • Payment of estimated state and local taxes: Discuss deductions and an AMT mitigation strategy.
  • Distributions from retirement plans: Discuss taxation and future tax projections.Roth conversion: Discussion of the tax efficiency of an IRA-to-Roth conversion.
  • Business expenditures: Timing of capital investments from a need and tax perspective.
  • Stock options: Review tax implications of exercising options, as well as a timing strategy.
  • Bonus income: Forecast amount and, for those with flexibility in the timing of receiving the bonus, discuss which year it should be taken.

That’s a lot to talk about, so the sooner you can start reaching out to clients, the better – and the better of you’ll both be, come the end of the year and the start of tax season.


HD Vest Financial Services® is the holding company for the group of companies providing financial services under the HD Vest name.

Securities offered through HD Vest Investment ServicesSM, Member SIPC, Advisory services offered through HD Vest Advisory ServicesSM, 6333 N. State Highway 161, Fourth Floor, Irving, TX 75038, 972-870-6000.

The HD Vest affiliated companies exclusively provide financial products and services, and do not provide or supervise tax or accounting services. Advisors may provide tax, accounting or other services through their independent outside businesses, but these services are separate and apart from HD Vest.

Before investing in a state specific 529 plan, you should compare your own state's qualified tuition program and any state tax or other advantages it may provide.