New investment rule: Take your money later

As of Jan. 1, those with a 401(k) or IRA can start withdrawing the required minimum at age 72.
Previously, account holders were required to take the minimum distribution at age 70.5.
The new rules, arising from President Trump’s Secure Act, update the old rules, which were based on life expectancies in the early 1960s.
There may be some tax implications for some account holders, depending on their tax brackets in the year they withdraw. Check with a financial advisor to be sure.
The Secure Act also eliminates the maximum age for traditional IRA contributions, which was previously capped at 70.5 years old. The bill summary by the House Ways and Means Committee explains, “As Americans live longer, an increasing number continue employment beyond traditional retirement age.”
Americans who turned 70.5 years old during 2019 will still need to withdraw their required minimum distributions. Failure to do so results in a 50 percent penalty.
People who are expected to turn 70.5 years old in 2020 will not be required to withdraw RMDs until they are 72.

Flood insurance basics that you need to know about

Texas is known for getting some stormy weather, and because of this, it’s important to make sure that your Cypress, TX area property has the protection it needs. The team at InsureUS is here to help you and your family determine the right coverage to ensure that you have the protection you need.

Flood damage can be awful to deal with, and finding out that your primary homeowner’s policy does not provide adequate protection can make an already stressful situation even worse. The location of your property can also have a significant effect on your flood insurance needs.

Flood Insurance Basics

Flood and water damage can take a toll on your home, and this damage may not be covered by your primary homeowner’s policy. Oftentimes, the coverage availability is determined by the cause of the damage. There can be damage from storms, water main breaks, interior plumbing issues, rainwater, to name a few. It is important that your coverage includes protection for all flood damage, no matter the cause.

The parameters for these policies can be confusing, and it is advisable to sit down with your knowledgeable local agent to review your needs. Everyone’s coverage needs can differ, depending on the location of the property, any requirements set in place by their lender, or their personal comfort level when it comes to insurance protection. Don’t be left with gaps in your insurance coverage! These oversights can result in your own financial liability in the event of flood damage to your home or property. 

Is it time to review your home policy for completeness? If you are in the greater Cypress, TX area and want to learn more about the available flood insurance policies for our area, call or stop by InsureUS today!

What is a lease-to-own, and is it a good idea?

A lease-to-own, also commonly referred to as a rent-to-own or a lease option, is an arrangement between a buyer and a seller in which the seller leases a property for a set period of time, at which point the buyer typically has the option to purchase the property outright (sometimes a contract legally obligates the buyer to purchase).
Nearly everything in this type of contract is negotiable. Often, the seller agrees to set aside a portion of the monthly payments toward a down payment or equity in the home.
It’s also important to note that this is commonly used as a short-term agreement — a few months to a few years — and that, at the end of the lease period, the buyer needs to obtain a traditional loan.
So why would either side consider a rent-to-own scenario?
A buyer may need time to put away money for a down payment and/or to build up their credit. Perhaps they’re self-employed, for example, and need a few years’ worth of tax returns to demonstrate income stability to a traditional bank. Or they have less than stellar credit and simply need time to repair it.
A seller might like the idea of locking in a purchase price and collecting monthly payments along the way. Say the two sides agree to a three-year term with a purchase price of $170,000. If the buyer pays $1,000 a month, the seller collects $36,000 and still sells for $170,000 at the end — which, even after expenses, can net the seller a nice profit.
A lawyer who’s well-versed in real estate law is usually the best person to review, if not draw up, the contract. And buyers should keep an eye on building their reserves and credit so they can qualify for a mortgage that will allow them to take ownership at the end of the term.

Tips for managing contractors

As much as we love our home renovations, there’s no denying that the process can nevertheless be a stressful one. Some of that is due to the myriad of details, ranging from large choices like siding color and style to the smallest, like door stops or light covers.
And a good chunk of the stress can come from working with contractors. From personality styles to deadline stress, the homeowner-contractor relationship can be a tricky one.
To keep a project running smoothly and to reduce stress, consider these tips for working with a contractor:

  • Communicate clearly and in detail. From the first walk-through to the final check, make sure you are clear in your expectations and goals. Put it all in writing, from the paint finish and number of coats to the projects a contractor needs to complete before getting that next check.
  • Speaking of milestones — never get ahead on the money. In other words, pay the contractor enough to cover materials and some of the early work, and then draw up milestones that serve as a carrot. This is fair to both sides: the contractor isn’t working for free, and you aren’t in a position to lose money should a worst-case scenario happen, and the contractor stops showing up.
  • Get referrals and visit construction sites. Any reputable contractor will gladly hand over referrals and welcome you to their job site. This gives you a look at finished projects as well as their style with in-progress work.
  • Get multiple estimates. This may not be necessary with a small project — you probably don’t need three estimates for someone to install a toilet — but you should always get estimates from multiple contractors for mid-sized to large projects. Not only do you get a better idea of the price, but you could be surprised at how differently contractors may visualize the same job.

Act pushes businesses to enroll employees in retirement plans

If the galloping stock market isn’t enough incentive to get into a 401(k) retirement plan, President Trump’s Secure Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, offers another perk.
The Act gives a tax credit to employers that automatically enroll workers into their retirement plans.
Studies show people are more likely to stay in a plan if they are auto-enrolled, rather than have to do it themselves, according to Business Insider.
Under the Secure Act, small employers will get a tax credit to offset the costs of starting a 401(k) plan or Simple IRA plan with auto-enrollment, on top of the start-up credit they already receive.
States have created their own automatic-IRA programs, where companies without a retirement plan can or must provide one for their employees.
Enrolling in a 401(k) or IRA vastly expands money in retirement.