Changing careers can be rewarding for many reasons, but career transitions don’t always go smoothly. Your career shift may take longer than expected, or you may find yourself temporarily out of work if you need to go back to school or can’t immediately find a job. Consider these four tips to help make the financial impact of the transition easier.

1. Do your homework

Before you quit your current job, make sure that you clearly understand the steps involved in a career move, including the financial and personal consequences. How long will it take you to transition from one career to the next? What are the job prospects in your new field? How will changing careers affect your income and expenses in the short and long term? Will you need additional education or training? Will your new career require more or fewer hours? Will you need to move to a different city or state? Is your spouse/partner on board?

You should also prepare a realistic budget and timeline for achieving your career goals. If you haven’t already done so, build an emergency cash reserve that you can rely on, if necessary, during your career transition. It’s also a good time to reduce outstanding debt by paying off credit cards and loans.

Assuming it’s possible to do so, keep working in your current job while you’re taking steps to prepare for your new career. Having a stable source of income and benefits can make the planning process much less stressful.

2. Protect your retirement savings

Many people tend to look at their retirement savings as an easy source of funds when confronted with new expenses or a temporary need for cash. But raiding your retirement savings, whether for the sake of convenience, to raise capital for a business you’re starting, or to satisfy a short-term cash crunch, may substantially limit your options in the future. Although you may think you’ll be able to make up the difference in your retirement account later — especially if your new career offers a higher salary — that may be easier said than done. In addition, you may owe income taxes and penalties for accessing your retirement funds early.

3. Consult others for advice

When planning a career move, consider talking to people who will understand some of the hurdles you’ll face when changing professions or shifting to a new industry or job. This may include a career counselor, a small-business representative, a graduate school professor, or an individual who currently holds a job in your desired field. A financial professional can also help you work through the economics of a career move and recommend steps to protect your finances.

4. Consider going back to school

You might be thinking about pursuing additional education in order to prepare for your new career. But before applying to graduate school, ask yourself whether your investment will be worthwhile. Will you be more marketable after earning your degree? Will you need to take out substantial loans?

In your search for tuition money, look first to your current employer. Some employers might cover the full cost of tuition, while others may cap reimbursement at a dollar amount. Generally, you’ll be able to exclude up to $5,250 of qualifying educational assistance benefits from your taxes.

In addition, it’s likely that you’ll have to satisfy other requirements set by your employer to be eligible for reimbursement benefits. These may include, and are not limited to:

  • Discussing course of study with a manager or supervisor prior to enrolling (and receiving approval)
  • Pursuing a degree or training that is job related
  • Maintaining a minimum grade-point average
  • Working a certain length of time for the company before taking advantage of the benefit
  • Meeting eligibility requirements for regular benefits

Check with your human resources department to learn more about tuition reimbursement qualifications. Be sure to find out whether you can continue to work at your company while you attend school part-time.

Students attending graduate school on at least a half-time basis are eligible for Uncle Sam’s three major student loans: the Stafford Loan, Perkins Loan, and graduate PLUS Loan. Also, at tax time, you might qualify for certain tax benefits, such as the Lifetime Learning credit. For more information, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

Women can face unique challenges when planning for retirement. Let’s take a look at three of them.

First, women frequently step out of the workforce in their 20s, 30s, or 40s to care for children — a time when their job might just be kicking into high (or higher) gear.

It’s a noble cause, of course. But consider this: A long break from the workforce can result in several financial losses beyond the immediate loss of a salary.

In the near term, it can mean an interruption in saving for retirement and the loss of any employer match, the loss of other employee benefits like health or disability insurance, and the postponement of student loan payments. In the mid term, it may mean a stagnant salary down the road due to difficulties re-entering the workforce and/or a loss of promotion opportunities. And in the long term, it may mean potentially lower Social Security retirement benefits because your benefit is based on the number of years you’ve worked and the amount you’ve earned. (Generally, you need about 10 years of work, or 40 credits, to qualify for your own Social Security retirement benefits.)

Second, women generally earn less over the course of their lifetimes. Sometimes this can be explained by family caregiving responsibilities, occupational segregation, educational attainment, or part-time schedules. But that’s not the whole story. A stubborn gender pay gap has women earning, on average, about 82% of what men earn for comparable full-time jobs, although the gap has narrowed to 89% for women ages 25 to 34.1 In any event, earning less over the course of one’s lifetime often means lower overall savings, retirement plan balances, and Social Security benefits.

Third, statistically, women live longer than men.2 This means women will generally need to stretch their retirement savings and benefits over a longer period of time.

1) Pew Research Center, The Narrowing, But Persistent, Gender Gap in Pay, April 2018

2) NCHS Data Brief, Number 293, December 2017

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

An estate plan is a map that explains how you want your personal and financial affairs to be handled in the event of your incapacity or death. Due to its importance and because circumstances change over time, you should periodically review your estate plan and update it as needed.

When should you review your estate plan?

Reviewing your estate plan will alert you to any changes that need to be addressed. For example, you may need to make changes to your plan to ensure it meets all of your goals, or when an executor, trustee, or guardian can no longer serve in that capacity. Although there’s no hard-and-fast rule about when you should review your estate plan, you’ll probably want to do a quick review each year, because changes in the economy and in the tax code often occur on a yearly basis. Every five years, do a more thorough review.

You should also review your estate plan immediately after a major life event or change in your circumstances. Events that should trigger a review include:

  • There has been a change in your marital status (many states have laws that revoke part or all of your will if you marry or get divorced) or that of your children or grandchildren.
  • There has been an addition to your family through birth, adoption, or marriage (stepchildren).
  • Your spouse or a family member has died, has become ill, or is incapacitated.
  • Your spouse, your parents, or another family member has become dependent on you.
  • There has been a substantial change in the value of your assets or in your plans for their use.
  • You have received a sizable inheritance or gift.
  • Your income level or requirements have changed.
  • You are retiring.
  • You have made (or are considering making) a change to any part of your estate plan.

Some things to review

Here are some things to consider while doing a periodic review of your estate plan:

  • Who are your family members and friends? What is your relationship with them? What are their circumstances in life? Do any have special needs?
  • Do you have a valid will? Does it reflect your current goals and objectives about who receives what after you die? Is your choice of an executor or a guardian for your minor children still appropriate?
  • In the event you become incapacitated, do you have a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or Do Not Resuscitate order to manage medical decisions?
  • In the event you become incapacitated, do you have a living trust or durable power of attorney to manage your property?
  • What property do you own and how is it titled (e.g., outright or jointly with right of survivorship)? Property owned jointly with right of survivorship passes automatically to the surviving owner(s) at your death.
  • Have you reviewed your beneficiary designations for your retirement plans and life insurance policies? These types of property pass automatically to the designated beneficiaries at your death.
  • Do you have any trusts, living or testamentary? Property held in trust passes to beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust. There are up-front costs and often ongoing expenses associated with the creation and maintenance of trusts.
  • Do you plan to make any lifetime gifts to family members or friends?
  • Do you have any plans for charitable gifts or bequests?
  • If you own or co-own a business, have provisions been made to transfer your business interest? Is there a buy-sell agreement with adequate funding? Would lifetime gifts be appropriate?
  • Do you own sufficient life insurance to meet your needs at death? Have those needs been evaluated?
  • Have you considered the impact of gift, estate, generation-skipping, and income taxes, both federal and state?

This is just a brief overview of some ideas for a periodic review of your estate plan. Each person’s situation is unique. An estate planning attorney may be able to assist you with this process.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018

Holding a mix of stocks and bonds is fundamental to building a portfolio that can pursue growth while potentially remaining more stable than a stock-only portfolio during market downturns. Many investors approach this goal by owning a mix of individual securities, a mix of funds, or both. However, some hybrid funds try to follow the same strategy in a single investment.Although the goal of these funds is simplicity, they are not as simple as they may appear, and different types of hybrid funds have very different objectives.

Balanced funds

Balanced funds typically strive for a specific asset mix — for example, 60% stocks and 40% bonds — but the balance might vary within limits spelled out in the prospectus. Theoretically, the stocks in the fund provide the potential for gains while the bonds may help reduce the effects of market volatility.Generally, balanced funds have three objectives: conserve principal, provide income, and pursue long-term growth. Of course, there is no guarantee that a fund will meet its objectives. If you are investing in a balanced fund or considering whether to do so, you should understand the fund’s asset mix, objectives, and rebalancing guidelines as the asset mix changes due to market performance. Rebalancing is typically necessary to keep a balanced fund on track, but could create a taxable event for investors.

Lifestyle funds

Lifestyle funds, also called target-risk funds, include a mix of assets designed to maintain a consistent level of risk. These funds may be labeled with terms such as conservative, moderate, or aggressive. Because the targeted risk level remains consistent over time, you may want to shift assets from one lifestyle fund to another as you approach retirement or retire. A conservative lifestyle fund might be an appropriate holding throughout retirement.

Target-date funds

Target-date funds contain a mix of assets selected for a specific time horizon. The target date, usually included in the fund’s name, is the approximate date when an investor would withdraw money for retirement or another purpose, such as paying for college. An investor expecting to retire in 2035, for example, might choose a 2035 fund. As the target date approaches, the fund typically shifts toward a more conservative asset allocation to help conserve the value it may have accumulated. This transition is driven by a formula called the glide path, which determines how the asset mix will change over time. The glide path may end at the target date or continue to shift assets beyond the target date.Funds with the same target date may vary not only in their glide path but also in the underlying asset allocation, investment holdings, turnover rate, fees, and fund performance. Variation tends to be greater as funds near their target date. If you own a target-date fund and are nearing the target date, be sure you understand the asset mix and whether the glide path extends beyond the target date.

All in one?

Traditional balanced funds typically contain a mix of individual securities. Although these funds may be an appropriate core holding for a diversified portfolio, they are generally not intended to be an investor’s only holding. However, some balanced funds and most lifestyle and target-date funds include a mix of other funds. These “funds of funds” are often intended to offer an all-in-one portfolio investment. You may still want to hold other investments, but keep in mind that investing outside of an all-in-one fund may change your overall asset allocation. Asset allocation and diversification are widely accepted methods to help manage investment risk; they do not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

Additional considerations

The principal value of a target-date fund is not guaranteed before, on, or after the target date. There is no guarantee that you will be prepared for retirement on the target date or that any fund will meet its stated goals. The return and principal value of all funds fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018

Here are 10 things to consider as you weigh potential tax moves between now and the end of the year.

1. Set aside time to plan

Effective planning requires that you have a good understanding of your current tax situation, as well as a reasonable estimate of how your circumstances might change next year. There’s a real opportunity for tax savings if you’ll be paying taxes at a lower rate in one year than in the other. However, the window for most tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so don’t procrastinate.

2. Defer income to next year

Consider opportunities to defer income to 2019, particularly if you think you may be in a lower tax bracket then. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may enable you to postpone payment of tax on the income until next year.

3. Accelerate deductions

You might also look for opportunities to accelerate deductions into the current tax year. If you itemize deductions, making payments for deductible expenses such as medical expenses, qualifying interest, and state taxes before the end of the year, instead of paying them in early 2019, could make a difference on your 2018 return.

4. Factor in the AMT

If you’re subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), traditional year-end maneuvers such as deferring income and accelerating deductions can have a negative effect. Essentially a separate federal income tax system with its own rates and rules, the AMT effectively disallows a number of itemized deductions. For example, if you’re subject to the AMT in 2018, prepaying 2019 state and local taxes probably won’t help your 2018 tax situation, but could hurt your 2019 bottom line. Taking the time to determine whether you may be subject to the AMT before you make any year-end moves could help save you from making a costly mistake.

5. Bump up withholding to cover a tax shortfall

If it looks as though you’re going to owe federal income tax for the year, especially if you think you may be subject to an estimated tax penalty, consider asking your employer (via Form W-4) to increase your withholding for the remainder of the year to cover the shortfall. The biggest advantage in doing so is that withholding is considered as having been paid evenly through the year instead of when the dollars are actually taken from your paycheck. This strategy can also be used to make up for low or missing quarterly estimated tax payments. With all the recent tax changes, it may be especially important to review your withholding in 2018.

6. Maximize retirement savings

Deductible contributions to a traditional IRA and pre-tax contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) can reduce your 2018 taxable income. If you haven’t already contributed up to the maximum amount allowed, consider doing so by year-end.

7. Take any required distributions

Once you reach age 70½, you generally must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans (an exception may apply if you’re still working for the employer sponsoring the plan). Take any distributions by the date required — the end of the year for most individuals. The penalty for failing to do so is substantial: 50% of any amount that you failed to distribute as required.

8. Weigh year-end investment moves

You shouldn’t let tax considerations drive your investment decisions. However, it’s worth considering the tax implications of any year-end investment moves that you make. For example, if you have realized net capital gains from selling securities at a profit, you might avoid being taxed on some or all of those gains by selling losing positions. Any losses over and above the amount of your gains can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 if your filing status is married filing separately) or carried forward to reduce your taxes in future years.

9. Beware the net investment income tax

Don’t forget to account for the 3.8% net investment income tax. This additional tax may apply to some or all of your net investment income if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly, $125,000 if married filing separately, $200,000 if head of household).

10. Get help if you need it

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to tax planning. That’s why it often makes sense to talk to a tax professional who is able to evaluate your situation and help you determine if any year-end moves make sense for you.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018