Increase Your Savings By Identifying Specific Reasons To Save

save money for freedom. Jamaica panorama

Save money so you can live a free life! Jamaican sunset

I was invited to join the TaxACT How I Save blog tour which shares ways to keep more money in your pocket. Last year, TaxACT saved America over $240 million on tax preparation. 

One of my main goals for 2015 is to save $100,000 in new liquid cash after spending too much money on remodeling in 2014. I got down to around $25,000 in liquid savings towards the end of the year and it just didn’t feel enough for me. Each person’s desire for liquidity is different given our living expenses and risk tolerance levels are all different.

The reasons why I want to have roughly $100,000 liquid at all times is as follows:

1) Minimum private equity investments generally are around $50,000, at least all the ones that have been presented to me. The last thing I want to do is only have $25,000 and not be able to invest in the next Uber.

2) It’s always good to have cash on hand when the stock market throws up. The general long-term trend is up and to the right. I want to implement my own advice on how to better dollar cost average with $5,000 – $10,000 investment increments at a time.

3) I have a goal to pay down my first rental property mortgage within 12 months. There is roughly $85,000 left in principal from this 11.5 year old mortgage (started at $464,000), which is starting to annoy me. I will be averaging roughly $7,000 a month towards paying down extra principal along with my usual monthly mortgage payment that pays down $1,100 in principal in order to achieve my pay down goal. Having $100,000 allows me the flexibility to pay it all off in one go, or give me the confidence to keep on my $7,000 a month plan.

How To Save More Than $100,000 A Year Pre-Tax: Open A SEP-IRA Or Solo 401k

SEP-IRA by American Advisors GroupOne big goal on Financial Samurai is to highlight to readers what is financially possible. Once you know what is possible, you minimize your limiting beliefs and tend to strive much farther. Through close to eight hours of research and production, this post will explain how you can add more than $100,000 every year pre-tax to your retirement account if you have the right employer and proper strategic money making mindset.

The 401k maximum contribution for 2015 is $18,000. The increases will likely continue by $500 increments every year or two to keep up with inflation. Contributing $18,000 pre-tax a year for 30+ years will most likely make you a millionaire by the time you retire. Unfortunately, $3 million is the new $1 million, and in 30 years, $7 million will likely be the new $1 million if we assume a 3% annual inflation rate!

The 401k is not enough for most people to retire on. Sure, we potentially have Social Security to help us when we reach, at the earliest, 62 years of age. But I wouldn’t count on the government to properly manage our money until then. Beyond maxing out a 401k every year, I encourage everyone to also invest at least 20% of their after-tax, after-401k money into a diversified investment portfolio.

As a contractor over the past year, I’ve discovered something that will really supercharge one’s pre-tax retirement savings. The discovery still seems too good to be true, so for any of you tax gurus out there, please speak up and correct me if I’m wrong. We are going to crowd source this post into one of the best maximum pre-tax retirement posts around. The research I’ve done is based off the IRS website, my own experience, and speaking to Fidelity’s small business retirement department where I have a rollover IRA, SEP-IRA, and Solo 401k.

Maximum Taxable Income Amount For Social Security (FICA)

Uncle Sam The Tax ManFICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act and consists of a Social Security tax and a Medicare tax. This tax is very important for everyone to understand because so often we only think about federal tax rates and state income tax rates. The FICA tax is a big percentage of your total tax bill, especially for those making under six figures a year.

When I was making big bucks in finance, the tax bill was equally big bucks. The only saving grace was seeing my after tax paycheck increase after the maximum taxable income threshold for Social Security was breached each year. The tax amounts were jolting based on how inefficient the government was and still is with regards to spending our money.

For 2015, the maximum amount of taxable earnings for Social Security rises to $118,500 from $117,000 in 2014. In other words, an employee must pay 6.2% of any income up to $118,500 for 2015 = $7,347. But any dollar you make above $118,500 is free of the Social Security tax. Hence, a good goal for everyone is to make as much as they can over $118,500 as possible, right?

Not so fast. Given we have a progressive tax system in America with Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and deduction phaseouts, I’ve calculated that the optimal Adjusted Gross Income is roughly $250,000, +/- $50,000. At $250,000, $131,500 of the earnings is free from the 6.2% Social Security tax. Meanwhile, you still get most of your mortgage interest deduction, and only have to pay a slight amount of AMT, depending on the person. A $250,000 income is also high enough to live relatively comfortably in any part of the world.

Some might argue that the Social Security tax is regressive because it caps out at $118,500 in 2015. Why shouldn’t rich people pay more? Here’s the thing people might not understand. Social Security benefits cap out based on the maximum amount of Social Security tax contribution as well. It’s not like someone who is making $500,000, and not having to pay the 6.2% Social Security tax on $381,500 of his earnings is getting extra benefits based off his $500,000 income. He’s just getting the maximum Social Security payout amount when it comes time for him to collect based on the maximum taxable income amount he contributes.

The $500,000 income earner is already paying the highest marginal federal tax rate of 39.6% plus state taxes, if applicable. 

Important Year End Tax Moves To Make

Year End Tax Moves SunsetThe good thing about having multiple income streams is the financial security it provides. The bad thing about having multiple sources of income is a much more complicated tax structure. With 70,000+ pages to the tax code, things can get confusing.

My income sources come from investment income, rental income, W2 income, deferred income, K1s, and 1099 income. My goal is to shield as much income from taxes as legally possible and keep Adjusted Gross Income to no greater than $250,000 a year due to AMT and deduction phaseouts that completely go away after this level.

But as my online business grows, it gets harder to shield income. For example, one can only contribute so much to a 401K and SEP IRA. Meanwhile, I can’t eat $300 business steak dinners every night with clients nor am I willing to buy a luxury car to write off or pay 4X the price for first class flights. Maximizing ROI and minimizing waste is the way I like to run my business and my personal finances.

The majority of actions to reduce your taxes must take place during the calendar year unless you’re filing as a business entity on a fiscal year. So if you want to pay less taxes, it’s worth setting aside some time during the holidays to wrestle this beast to the ground.

How Europeans See Money Differently From Americans

Stonehenge Sideways View

After almost finishing my loop around Stonehenge, I stumbled across a French woman who was lying on the ground sideways. She adjusted herself a little bit to get more comfortable, but paid no attention to fellow tourists wondering what she was doing.

She made me want to lie down sideways as well to see what she was seeing. I didn’t because I felt a little silly copying her in broad daylight. So instead, I took this picture and tilted my phone. Perhaps you are now bending your head sideways or lifting your laptop sideways to see what she sees.

What do you see?

At What Income Level Does The Marriage Penalty Tax Kick In?

Marriage Penalty Tax In HawaiiOne of the most disappointing things about the government is their institution of the marriage penalty tax. The government is smart to laud the act of marriage in order to collect more taxes. When you’re in love, what’s an extra $1,000 or $10,000 a year in taxes you’ve got to pay? Love is blind and the government tries to take full advantage of you.

Lucky for us, we are not blind. We don’t mindlessly follow everything our politicians have to say. We question why the government suddenly allowed Roth IRA conversions during the height of the financial crisis. We think for ourselves, and that’s why the lot of us are going to be much better off than the rest.

This post will present examples of various fictitious couples with various income levels and deductions to give you an idea of how much extra you must pay the government in order to get married. All data comes from this marriage penalty tax calculator by the Tax Policy Center.

I encourage you to input your own numbers and see what happens after this post as well. Remember, please take your anger out on the government, not on me. I’m just the investigator trying to shine a bright light on this ludicrous situation. Just the fact that I had to spend loads of time figuring out various income permutations to see when the marriage penalty tax kicks in is maddening. 

The Benefits Of A Backdoor Roth IRA

Backdoor Roth IRA - Horseback ridingIs A Backdoor Roth IRA A Good Move?” on Daily Capital is probably the best post on the internet that explains who should do a backdoor Roth IRA, how to do a backdoor Roth IRA, who is allowed to do a backdoor Roth IRA, the risks of a backdoor Roth IRA, and who doesn’t need to do a backdoor Roth IRA. Have a read and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Long time readers know that I’m one of the biggest detractors of the Roth IRA program. The main reality is: most people will make less in retirement than during their working years. Therefore, taxes should be lower, all things being equal. I present many more arguments as to why a Roth IRA is suboptimal.

But after spending some time editing the Daily Capital post, I’ve come around to the idea that for some people, a backdoor Roth IRA is a good move. Here are three main reasons why a backdoor Roth IRA should be considered.