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Questions to Ask if Building Wealth is the Task 05.28.2021

As we sit on the eve of 2021’s Memorial Day Weekend, 73% of those in a Quinnipiac poll said their plans are similar to the ones they had pre-pandemic. The light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is getting brighter and brighter by the day!

building Wealth Questions to Ask

We’re looking at plunging COVID-19 case and death rates and widening vaccination uptake rates here in the United States, in addition to an uptake in exuberance and economic optimism by investors that has driven the stock market to all time highs. And, as is typically true during periods of market extremes, the talking heads, market strategists, investment gurus, and even your brother-in-law Frank seem to have all the answers as to why this is happening, and what lies around the corner. Our advice to you: Ignore this nonsense, and ignore them all.

Rather than become enamored by these predictions and/or fall prey to a well-articulated story spun by a seemingly well-credentialed “expert,” we encourage you to tune out this noise, and not worry nor think too much or too hard about interest rates, cryptocurrencies, inflation, China, large caps and small caps, mask mandates, or the U.S. deficit. Don’t worry about what the “new normal” means, and don’t get too worked up about “getting your share” of the possible American Jobs Plan or the American Families Plan stimulus packages (we’re purposefully not even linking to any of these themes). Instead, let’s channel our energy and attention into things that we have control over.


While we do believe you should always be ready for the unexpected, we also feel it is way more important to understand and internalize a number of foundational investing and wealth building principles. Ask yourself if you can succinctly and confidently answer the following questions:

  • Can I remain objective and rational, and recognize when you are being fearful, greedy, and emotional about your money? Your worst investment enemy is usually found by looking in the mirror. The limbic system is a wonderfully complex set of brain structures that deal with emotions, but activating your fight or flight response in reaction to fear, greed, and anger is not conducive to successful investing or successful longer-term wealth building. 
  • Do I understand that my neighbors, friends, and co-workers are perhaps confused and delusional? Not only do they probably spend too much and boast too much about their portfolio, but the chances their financial decisions are rooted in any of the principles listed here are quite low.
  • Am I trying to simply make money, or am I working to build and protect my wealth? We equate the former to gambling, and the latter to investing. While anything can happen on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual basis, we believe your odds of success increase significantly if you establish and follow a disciplined longer-term wealth building plan.
  • What am I doing to proactively insulate my downside from a major catastrophe during a market correction? We believe this is way more important than hitting a home run during a period of market strength. While his two rules are a bit binary, the spirit of Warren Buffett’s quote should resonate:
  • Why am I investing, and do I have a plan? For obvious reasons, it is invaluable to not only think through, articulate, and quantify the goals and vision you have for your and your family’s future, but also to have a methodology for how you attend to your personal financial decision-making. And this methodology will be different than your friend’s, neighbor’s, or co-worker’s, as we all obviously have different things that motivate us and that we ultimately want out of life. This is assuming that your friend, neighbor, or co-worker even has a plan at all.
  • Do I recognize that costs, fees, expenses, and taxes matter? At Towerpoint Wealth, we call them “necessary evils” to helping clients grow and protect their net worth. And while we can never eliminate the drag that costs, fees, expenses, and taxes creates, we certainly can work to identify, and reduce, these friction points.
  • Am I aware that saving money is the single most effective way to build my wealth and to retire? While you need to have balance between saving for tomorrow and living your life today, the capital you spend today is capital no longer available to fund your retirement. Saving money equals peace of mind.

Towerpoint Wealth Turns Four!

On May 26, 2017, with zero clients and $0 in assets under management, we officially launched Towerpoint Wealth. Classified as a “bold,” “risky,” “fearless,” and “courageous” decision by our clients and colleagues, it fortunately turned out to be a prescient and extremely positive one based on the feedback we continue to receive and strategic growth we continue to experience.

Today, we are approaching $350 million in assets under management, and continue to be thrilled to serve YOU, always striving to expand your peace of mind by helping you remove the hassle of properly coordinating your financial affairs.

What’s Happening at TPW?

The Towerpoint Wealth crew recently spent some time in a professional photo shoot with Tim Engle, of Tim Engle Photography – below is one of our favorite shots from the session.

We hold our collective noses to the grindstone at Towerpoint Wealth ~ 97% of the time. However, the culture we have built at the firm is also predicated on spending time outside the office and having fun together as a work family, which is why we regularly schedule fun teambuilding events.

We had an enjoyable “hooky afternoon” earlier this month, pedaling through midtown Sacramento on the Sacramento Brew Bike, with pit stops at Public House DowntownKupros, and The Golden Bear. A well-behaved and fun afternoon!

TPW Service Highlight – RETIREMENT – Building wealth

We only semi-jokingly say that you can retire any time you want, but will you be able to with the lifestyle and income stream you desire?

At Towerpoint Wealth, we believe that everyone deserves a secure retirement, and we stand ready to help you with a myriad of retirement-specific tools and planning considerations. The cornerstone of this process is the development of a customized retirement and financial plan using our modeling software from RightCapital(R).

Click HERE to review a sample customized RightCapital financial plan.

Additional retirement-specific services include sustainable and tax-efficient retirement income planning, “black swan” event planning and modeling, customized Social Security benefit election optimization analysis, corporate pension modeling and optimization, fixed/variable/immediate annuity analysis, and optimal-retirement-age projections.

Chart of the Week

Real estate values continue to be on fire! Click HERE to watch an excellent video in which our President, Joseph Eschleman discusses the white hot Sacramento real estate market with long-time Sacramento realtor, Brian Kassis.

And while there is no question about the tremendous price increases homeowners have experienced over the past year and a half, the chart below makes an interesting comparison between the value of the stock market (using the S&P 500 as a proxy) and the value of residential real estate (using the Case Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index as a proxy) over the past 30 years.

Understanding the importance of owning both real estate AND equities when working to build net worth, and recognizing that people seem to be more relational to the increases in the value of their home, the chart below from Visual Capitalist is an eye-opener!

In addition to home prices going up and U.S. COVID numbers going down, a number of trending and notable events have occurred over the past few weeks:

As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely unsettled and complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.

– Joseph, Jonathan, Steve, Lori, Nathan, and Michelle

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Is Your 401(k) in Disarray 03.29.2021

As a small business owner, we know that you are an “around the clock” grinder, with a myriad of responsibilities that often supersede the core responsibilities you have to the growth of your business. And understanding that a regular review of your business’s retirement plan may not be a top priority of yours, at Towerpoint Wealth we have created this 401(k) “healthcheck” for your benefit. We regularly come across 401(k) and other company-sponsored retirement plans that, as currently structured, are in serious need of attention and improvement, and we are experienced in helping you, as a trustee and fiduciary to your company’s retirement plan, minimize the hassle of giving your plan the attention it needs.

Is your 401(k) plan structured and optimized properly to help you and your employees maximize the myriad of economic, investment, and tax benefits? Are you properly managing your fiduciary responsibility? Ask yourself the questions found below to quickly gauge whether your 401(k) needs adjusting or improving.

 Does my plan have a safe harbor structure?

You want to ensure that your 401K) retirement plan passes the annual non-discrimination testing conducted by the IRS. In its simplest sense, non-discrimination testing ensures that an employer is making contributions to each employee’s retirement account that equals the same percentage of salary for everyone. Importantly, if a plan fails a non-discrimination test, the 401(k) may lose its tax-qualified status.1

Retirement Plan 401(k) Disarray Towerpoint Wealth White paper 2021

[1]The most common reason a 401(k) plan fails this non-discrimination testing is when one or more of the business owners make much greater 401(k) contributions compared to their employees.

A safe harbor 401(k) plan structure ensures that you meet the non-discrimination regulatory requirements by following strict guidelines specific-to employer plan contributions, participant disclosures, and much more. 

Does my plan have a profit-sharing component and if so, am I optimizing its structure?

For a business owner to maximize the personal net worth building benefits associated with sponsoring a company retirement plan and receive the maximum 401(k) annual contribution amount of $58,000 in 2021[1] (employee deferrals + employer contributions), pairing a profitsharing component in the plan’s design is essential.

All profit sharing plan structures – same dollar amount, comptocomp, new comparability, etc.[2] – are not created equal. In particular, the new comparability strategy is becoming increasingly more common in modern 401(k) plans as this type of profit-sharing plan allows for unique flexibility in allocating the profits among the business owner(s) and employees.

Is my investment fund lineup optimized?

401(k) investment fund lineups vary from basic to advanced and passive to active. And with employees having better and more diverse investment options outside of 401(k) plans, annually reviewing your company’s fund lineup for improvements is critical to ensure that employees do not look to invest their hard-earned dollars elsewhere, and also to meet your fiduciary responsibility as plan trustee.

It is also a requirement that a business owner (usually with help from an investment professional) formulate, and review at least annually, an investment policy statement (IPS) for their 401(k).

Is my ERISA fidelity bond fund amount appropriate?  

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires 401(k) plans to hold a fidelity bond, which protects the plan from losses resulting from improper handling of the funds.

While fidelity bonds are generally inexpensive for the coverage offered, we often see the amount protected as either 1.) inadequate or 2.) overkill.  

[1] Increased to $64,500 for business owners 50 years of age or older.

[2] There are often several different terms that refer to the exact same type of profit-sharing structure.

Does my plan currently allow for after-tax Roth contributions?

While changing for the better, many 401(k) plans still do not allow after-tax Roth contributions. 

For business owners and employees that are in a temporarily low income tax bracket –  a business owner “winding down” and closing in on retirement or a younger employee at the beginning of their career and earning curve – offering an after-tax Roth contribution option, particularly given it typically costs nothing to do so, is a valuable and often overlooked plan benefit.

Is my vesting schedule appropriate?

Retirement Plan 401(k) Disarray Towerpoint Wealth White paper 2021

In order to incentivize employees to stay with your company, having a vesting schedule for any  employer-matching profit sharing contributions that is not overly generous is important. For a number of Towerpoint Wealth’s clients who are business owners, a vesting schedule of six years (with 0% vesting in the first year of participation) is appropriate, but each business and retirement plan is unique.

Have I considered automatically distributing an employee’s 401(k) balance when they leave the company?

Many 401(k) plan administrators charge their fees based on the number of employees that the plan has. 

In order to keep fees to a minimum, it is advisable to consider automatically distributing account balances below a certain threshold when an employee separates from service.

Am I managing my fiduciary responsibility and minimizing my fiduciary liability?

All business owners who offer a 401(k) for themselves and their employees have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that they are acting in the employees’ best interests, being prudent, diversifying plan investment assets, and adhering to all provisions of the retirement plan documents.

There are concrete steps that a business owner can take to uphold their fiduciary duty and at the same time, minimize their fiduciary liability.

Retirement Plan 401(k) Disarray Towerpoint Wealth White paper 2021

Wealth management firms that specialize in helping business owners optimize their retirement plans, such as Towerpoint Wealth, are able to help guide you through these murky waters.

Am I doing everything I can to maximize my own personal net worth within my company’s retirement plan?

Even if a small business owner has a well-structured plan that meets everyone’s needs, is it important to remember that 401(k)s, and other types of company-sponsored retirement plans, are uniquely customizable. And often, there are overlooked plan features that may help the business owner maximize their ability to accumulate wealth within the plan. 

One of these particularly powerful features is allowing for after-tax deferrals (not the same as after-tax Roth deferrals), which then affords the business owner to take advantage of the “Mega Backdoor” Roth IRA strategy.

Some other questions that are worth your thoughtful attention: Do I allow for hardship distributions and if not, should I? What about allowing rollovers from other retirement plans? Is it risky to offer loans to employees? Are my plan’s expenses and fees reasonable?

How Can We Help?

Steve Pitchford, CPA, CFP®
Director of Tax and Financial Planning

At Towerpoint Wealth, we are a legal fiduciary to you, and specialize in optimizing retirement plan structures for business owners.. If you would like to speak with us regarding any other tax questions you may have, we encourage you to call (916-405-9166) or email (spitchford@towerpointwealth.com) to open an objective dialogue.

Towerpoint Wealth, LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser. This material is solely for informational purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Towerpoint Wealth, LLC and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Towerpoint Wealth, LLC unless a client service agreement is in place.


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Choosing Who Will Inherit Your Retirement Accounts

You are working on your estate plan, and trying to figure out who you should name as the beneficiary of your 401k account and IRAs. Simple – the kids, right? Not so fast.

Click to watch the video below from our Wealth Advisor, Matt Regan, to learn the non-spouse beneficiary distribution rules for inherited and pre-tax IRAs and “regular” pre-tax 401ks, and why understanding these rules are so important for income tax and estate planning purposes.

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Funding a “Backdoor” Roth IRA

Do you have the enviable problem of NOT being able to contribute to a tax free Roth IRA every year because you make too much money?

Click to watch the video below from our Wealth Advisor, Matt Regan, to learn how you can go through the back door and still fund a *tax-free* Roth every year!

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Is There a Vax to Protect Your Portfolio From Tax?

2016 survey of 1,000 taxpayers, conducted by WalletHub, found that, if told they never had to pay income taxes again, 27% of respondents would brand themselves with a tattoo that says “IRS” and 11% would gladly drive to Chipotle every single day for three years to clean its toilets. You can’t make this stuff up!

And while there is credible evidence and research that suggests people actually like paying taxes (click HERE to read a Psychology Today article about this “phenomenon”), in our 23+ years helping clients properly build and protect their net worth and wealth, we have yet to encounter a single client, prospect, colleague, or friend who fits this category. While we may intellectually understand why we have to pay them, most of us seem to emotionally detest it.

At Towerpoint Wealth, we recognize (and embrace!) our bias in working with and helping our clients towards achieving the goal of growing and building their assets as intelligently and as efficiently as possible. Understanding there are a myriad of road blocks, speed bumps, and hazards to account for while on this journey, we also recognize and coach our clients to understand that there are two major, and unfortunate, “necessary evils” that stand in the way of accomplishing this goal:

  • Fees, costs, and expenses
  • Taxes

And while neither of these is completely avoidable, intelligently reducing the drag of either one directly helps your portfolio get better gas mileage. Below are two simple examples to illustrate that point:

To be clear, we have encountered those who let the “tax tail wag the dog” and seemingly focus more on tax avoidance than net-worth building; our preference will always be to help our clients maximize their after-tax wealth, which does pair with having a tax bill every year. However, it also pairs with being directly mindful about keeping your obligation to Uncle Sam to an absolute minimum whenever and wherever possible.

The 2020 tax season is right around the corner, and with it will come some inevitable surprises for those who didn’t properly plan, or who were ignorant of certain aspects of and/or changes to their global 2020 income tax situation. And understanding the interest, dividends, and capital gains that will soon be showing up on your 1099 forms, (all of which report taxable income to the IRS), we encourage you to use the resources found at the bottom of this newsletter to your advantage, and to contact us (click HERE) if you encounter any unwanted 2020 “tax surprises,” or feel you would benefit from a fresh perspective on how to leverage and maximize ideas and opportunities to make your portfolio, and your life, more tax efficient.

What’s Happening at TPW?

Our Wealth Advisor, Matt Regan, working hard as usual from home right now, along with little Mason and Stevie, his loyal friend!

Directly reflecting the firm’s culture, Towerpoint Wealth is a family both inside and outside the office, as our Partner, Wealth Advisor, Jonathan LaTurner, our Client Service Specialist, Michelle Venezia, our President, Joseph Eschleman, and our Director of Tax and Financial Planning, Steve Pitchford all enjoyed a fun day hanging out together and watching Super Bowl LV!

TPW Service Highlight – Tax-Managed Portfolio Management

In addition to investment expenses, income taxes are the second of the two necessary evils we face when helping you grow, and protect, your net worth and assets in the most effective and efficient way. Taxes can severely impact investment returns if not monitored, scrutinized, and controlled. And while we never let the “tax tail wag the dog,” at Towerpoint Wealth we do maintain a specific focus on helping our clients absolutely minimize the tax impact of their investments, portfolio, and overall financial decision-making.

Utilizing low-turnover mutual funds, ETFs, and separately-managed accounts, taxable versus tax-free bonds, strategic tax-loss harvesting, tax diversification, and the asset location strategies discussed in Steve Pitchford’s MoneySavage podcast featured below helps us help our clients significantly reduce the income taxes they pay on their investments.

Issuance of 2020 Charles Schwab 1099s 

A brief but important reminder for our Towerpoint Wealth family of clients: Initial Form 1099 production is based on two different waves at Schwab, with the vast majority (85%+) produced in the second wave:

Chart of the Week

The population exodus from high-tax states like California, New York, and New Jersey is very real, as a migration to other, oftentimes lower-tax states happens when individuals do not feel they are getting enough value for the taxes they are paying.

Federal and state income taxes are unfortunately a necessary evil when working to grow and protect your net worth, but working to manage and minimize your “obligation” to the taxing authorities is one of Towerpoint Wealth’s core competencies. Click HERE to message us and learn more about specific strategies to *reduce* your income tax pain.

Trending Today

In addition to tax drag and Super Bowl schwag, a number of trending and notable events have occurred over the past few weeks:

As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.

– Joseph, Jonathan, Steve, Lori, Nathan, Matt, and Michelle

CLICK Here To Download Towerpoint Wealth PDFs
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Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder 02.12.2021

Our President, Joseph F. Eschleman, CIMA®, was interviewed by Candice Georgiadis, a contributing writer to Authority Magazine, as part of her series about leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders. Joseph’s story and message does an excellent job of summarizing not only how passionate and driven he is as President and founder of Towerpoint Wealth, but also the grit, tenacity, and hard work it takes to build and grow an individual advisory practice, and to then pivot, and ultimately build and grow a $300 million boutique wealth management firm.

Click HERE to read the Joseph Eschleman / Towerpoint Wealth story!

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Cryptocurrency – Wait, I Have to Pay Taxes??!!

Do you own/trade cryptocurrency? Interested in investing in BitcoinEthereum, or any of the other 4,000 cryptocurrencies currently available to own and trade?

If so, it is important you understand the income tax consequences of owning crypto.

If you are thinking about buying, selling, or trading cryptocurrencies, watch this quick video from our Wealth Advisor, Matt Regan, to learn the tax consequences of doing so.


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Suitability vs. Fiduciary

When hiring a financial advisor, you expect him or her to always act in your best interests, 100% of the time, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Click below and watch a quick video from Matt Regan, and learn about the important difference between the fiduciary standard and the suitability standard, how they can impact your financial and wealth management plan, and ultimately, your success in growing and protecting your net worth and assets.

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Rich vs Wealthy

Would you rather be rich or wealthy? Do you know the difference? The small financial decisions we make today will have a huge impact on our future. Click below and take 60 seconds to watch Matt Regan’s video message, and click HERE to congratulate him on his new baby boy!

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The GameStop Hurricane – Who Cares??!! 01.28.2021

GameStop stock – what is all the hubbub bout? Should you even care?

Watch the 90 second video message below from our President, Joseph Eschleman, to set your head straight, find out if this short selling and short-covering madness even matters, what these Reddit users are doing, if you should care about this stock surge, or if sticking to a more disciplined and strategic investment plan is better.

Wait for the excellent Warren Buffett quote at the end as well!

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