Turn lemons into lemonade during periods of volatility

Staying focused on the bright side is admittedly hard to do when the markets are volatile. Fortunately, there are always some silver linings amid market volatility. For investors who feel the urge to do something in response to the markets, here are four things you can do to help minimize your tax exposure without altering your asset allocation or getting off track from your investment plan:

  1. For your taxable accounts, a good strategy is to harvest portfolio losses when volatility strikes in order to offset gains elsewhere in your portfolio. You “harvest losses” when you sell a security that has experienced a loss and use that loss to offset realized gains. The goal is to reduce your overall tax liability in your portfolio. Harvesting throughout the year, in response to market declines, can be a smart way to maximize the value of this strategy. Of course, you’ll want to steer clear of the Internal Revenue Service’s wash sale rules.
  2. Market declines can offer you a good opportunity to convert your IRA into a Roth IRA. When an IRA declines in value, the conversion taxes won’t be quite so burdensome. And once in a Roth account, all future growth of those converted assets is tax-free.You don’t have to wait for a market decline to consider a conversion. If you have a period of lower earnings (maybe you’re in between jobs), consider investing in a Roth IRA or converting IRA assets to one. Roth assets are great to pass along to your beneficiaries because there are no required minimum distributions. Of course, you’ll want to consult with your CPA so that the conversion doesn’t push you into a higher tax bracket.
  3. Could you use some extra help in your business this summer? Hiring your child to work for you can be an excellent strategy to minimize tax liability. Even better, have him or her contribute what they earn into a Roth IRA. No one pays federal income taxes on the first $6,300 of income since that’s the standard deduction. Plus, your child can put away $5,500 of that money into a Roth IRA and get a kick-start on their retirement plan or even college savings (Roth contributions can be pulled out later for college expenses without paying penalties or taxes).You don’t need to wait for a market downturn to do this, but your child will have learned an important lesson in investing: buy when the markets go down.
  4. Regardless of how the markets are performing, gifting appreciated stocks rather than cash to charities can be a good strategy. Your assets won’t be depleted by capital gains taxes, allowing your chosen charity to keep more of your gift. You’ll also be able to claim the full value of your gift on your tax return. That’s a win-win for you and your favorite charity. If you’re over age 70½, rather than withdraw your required minimum distribution (RMD), make your charitable gift from your IRA. This way, your RMD won’t increase your income. It’s a smart way to control your tax situation during retirement.

The information presented above is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Whenever making an investment decision, please consult with legal, tax, and accounting professionals.

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