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Will the Beginning of Fall Cause the Market to Stall? 09.17.2021

In the Northern Hemisphere, September (the harvest month) marks the beginning of meteorological autumn, and in many countries, the beginning of the academic year.

ira required minimum distribution

In her short poem about the month of September, the Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (best known for her classic children’s novel, Anne of Green Gables) offers a cheerful tribute to the ‘late delight’ of the month:

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days

Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways

With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,

Some crimson poppy of a late delight

Atoning in its splendor for the flight

Of summer blooms and joys

This is September

She could be saluting 2021’s cheerfully buoyant year-to-date stock market returns, with the S&P 500 up +20.35% as of Thursday, September 16th.

However, September has historically been a volatile month for stocks, and in the past has ranked as the least promising month of the year, on average, for the S&P 500 index over the 1928-2021 time frame:

ira required minimum distribution table 2021

Additionally, through September 1st of this year and as depicted by the chart below, the S&P 500 has reached a total of 53 (!) new record closing highs, the fifth highest figure in the past 93 years:

ira required minimum distribution table 2021 Closing Highs

The $64,000 question: Is it reasonable to expect this growth and momentum continue? Here are both sides of the story:

Positive Economic Developments

  1. Improving jobs market: After a rolling sequence of shortages in 2021 (including lumber, used cars, ocean shipping capacity, and semiconductors), labor also continues to be in short supply for many companies. This is reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report of an increase to 10.1 million job openings (!) as of the last business day in June, the highest EVER figure since job openings began to be tracked in December of 2000.
  2. “Goldilocks” labor recovery: While the labor market is improving, it does not appear to be improving at such a rapid extent that the Federal Reserve feels compelled to becomes more aggressive in reducing (or “tapering”) its current level of asset purchases (currently $120 million per month)
  3. Services and manufacturing sector expansion: On September 3rd, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported its services index grew for a 15th consecutive month, registering a 61.7 in August after a hitting a record high of 64.1 in July. On September 1, the ISM reported its manufacturing index also grew for 15 consecutive months, with a very good reading of 59.9.
  4. Rising home prices: Spurred by extremely low interest rates, an increased ability to work remotely, and low inventories of homes for sale, the median sales price for single-family existing homes was higher year-over-year in 2Q, 2021 for 182 of the 183 metropolitan areas tracked by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In fact, in 94% of those metropolitan areas, median prices rose by *more than* 10% from a year earlier!
  5. Potential for scaled back tax increases: In a September 2 Wall Street Journal op-edWest Virginia Senator Joe Manchin indicated that he would not support a social infrastructure spending bill anywhere near $3.5 trillion, thus reducing the chances that such a large package would become law and lead to significantly higher taxes
  6. Significant individual and institutional investor liquidity: The Investment Company Institute (ICI) reports that as of 9/15, total assets of retail money market funds amounted to $1.43 trillion (!), and total assets of institutional money market funds reached $3.03 trillion. This almost $4.5 trillion of CASH currently sitting on the sidelines represents significant buying power for financial assets
  7. Significant corporate liquidityAccording to Dow Jones Market Data, cash holdings among S&P 500 companies reached $1.98 trillion on August 9, a more than 30% increase from two years ago at the end of 3Q, 2019 When combined with significant available credit that remains unused, S&P estimates a total of $6.8 trillion of unused cash liquidity is available to the corporate sector as a whole. This liquidity can be used to buy back stock, increase dividends, and pursue strategic capital investments

Please bear in mind, while this is an impressive and robust list, there are also risks and concerns to worry about: Uninspiring retail sales, weakening commodity prices, slower 3rd quarter GDP growth estimates, and declining consumer confidence, to name a few.

However, at Towerpoint Wealth, we believe the most concerning potential headwind comes in the form of high stock valuations, as the S&P 500’s forward price-earnings (P/E) ratio of 21.2x is the highest it has been in two decades!

High Stock Valuations Price Earning Ratio

Although stretched valuations generally do not represent a causal trigger for a stock market correction, at elevated levels (as is presently), they nevertheless can serve investors well as a cautionary warning sign.


While we will always remain humble about our ability to consistently predict the future with accuracy, we do advise clients and friends to heed these high valuations, and to be vigilant in biasing high-quality, “all-weather” assets in their portfolios, especially in light of complacent stock market volatility readings and the long span of time without so much as a 5% market correction.

Confused? Worried? In need of discipline, direction, and/or a plan? Have questions or concerns? Click HERE to contact us for an objective, no-strings-attached conversation about you and your circumstances, as we fully support and echo Warren Buffet’s philosophy:

Warren Buffet Philosophy

What’s Happening at TPW?

Our Partner, Wealth Advisor, Jonathan LaTurner, wrapped up an amazing trip to Washington D.C. with his fiancée, Katie McDonald, stopping by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and also the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Looks like an awesome tour of our nation’s capital, Jon!

The San Francisco Giants are hot right now (!), and our Director of Tax and Financial Planning, Steve Pitchford, and his partner, Katie, took in an AMAZING extra-innings Giants ‘W’ versus the Dodgers two Fridays ago at Oracle Park! #BeatLA

Illustrations/Graphs of the Week

You cannot keep funds in a retirement account indefinitely, as the government wants their share! Required minimum distributions (RMDs) represent the minimum amount that you must withdraw from your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan account each year. With the exception of Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s, from which withdrawals occur tax-free and are not required until after the death of the owner, regular RMDs can be a “tax thorn” in the side of many investors who have accumulated wealth in any tax-deferred retirement account.

In addition to the two resources found in the news stories at the bottom of this newsletter (discussing RMDs and QCDs), the table directly below, courtesy of Michael Kitces from Kitces.com, does an excellent job of outlining the various strategies available to reduce, minimize, and delay these pesky mandatory, and taxable, retirement account withdrawals:

retirement account withdrawals

Confused? Have questions or concerns? Click HERE to contact us for an objective, no-strings-attached conversation about you and your retirement account circumstances.


Trending Today

As the 24/7 news cycle churns, twists, and turns, there have been a number of trending and notable events that 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.

Click here to Download

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

Towerpoint Wealth team - Sacramento financial planner
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Six Strategies to Optimize Your Charitable Intentions 04.13.2021

By: Steve Pitchford, Director of Tax and Financial Planning and Matt Regan, Wealth Advisor
Published: April 13, 2021 updated October 22, 2021

Most individuals who are philanthropically inclined usually just take the path of least resistance and write a check directly to a charity. Of course, this is a straightforward approach and can qualify for an income tax deduction, but when being charitable, there are many different (and often economically more advantageous) options and strategies available to you. Indeed, with strategic and thoughtful planning, a taxpayer may be able to optimize their gifting strategy, meeting multiple objectives by maximizing the economic benefits 1.) to themselves, 2.) to their favorite charities, and even 3.) to their loved ones.

Are you optimizing your philanthropy and gifting strategy? Below you will find a myriad of different charitable strategies we regularly employ for Towerpoint Wealth clients, designed to help you better understand your options.

Cash/Direct to Charity

A cash gift is the simplest and (by far) most popular form of charitable giving.

The income tax deduction[1] for a cash gift is generally equal to the amount of cash donated less the value of any goods or services received in return. And while the benefit of a cash donation is its simplicity, as you will see below, it is not always optimal from a tax and gifting perspective.

Donor-Advised Fund

A Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) is a charitable fund, a 501(c)(3) entity in and of itself, that allows an individual to donate cash or appreciated securities, such as individual stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or exchange-traded funds (ETFs).[2]

Donor Advised Fund DAF Charitable Intentions White Paper

Donating appreciated securities can be a more tax advantageous way to fund a DAF, as donating an investment that has gone up in value generally provides the exact same tax deduction as donating cash, while at the same time provides the extra benefit of eliminating the capital gains tax that a taxpayer would normally pay upon selling the security.

How does it work? The donor makes an irrevocable gift of cash or appreciated securities to a DAF. The donor is then able to decide, on their own timeline, when to grant funds out of the DAF and directly to a charity or charities of their choice. If the contribution is appreciated securities, the DAF is allowed to sell these positions tax-free. The DAF will typically then, at the donor’s discretion, invest the funds in a manner consistent with the donor’s charitable goals and objectives. Once the donor is ready to make a grant from the DAF, he or she simply informs and authorizes the DAF custodian (usually via the custodian’s online platform) to send a check directly to the charity on the donor’s behalf.

Typically, the funding and operational costs of DAFs are low, and our clients also love that they provide a year-end summary report, eliminating the hassle and stress of tracking each contribution/grant out of the DAF individually.

Towerpoint Tip:

At Towerpoint Wealth, we also evaluate “frontloading” a DAF with several years’ worth of potential charitable contributions, allowing a taxpayer to “hurdle” the standard deduction and thus, not only eliminate the future capital gains tax of the donated funds, but also provide them with at least a partial tax deduction for their charitable contributions in a particular tax year.

Private Foundation

A private foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization set up solely for charitable purposes.

A private foundation may be structured either as a corporation managed by a board of directors, or as a trust managed by trustees. Unlike a public charity, the funding for a private foundation typically comes from a single individual, family, or corporation.

The primary benefit of a private foundation is the enhanced control that it provides, as it is able to formulate its own customized charitable gifting approach and platform (and continue to gift directly to other charities as well). A donation to a private foundation is an irrevocable charitable gift, and qualifies for a potential income tax deduction that, for most individuals, will be the exact same as gifting directly to another 501(c)(3) charity.[3]

Importantly, private foundations have administrative and tax reporting requirements that may be costly, and speaking further with a financial advisor and tax professional regarding the benefits and drawbacks of establishing one is recommended.

IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution

Individuals who are over the age of 72 are subject to annual required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their pre-tax IRA(s). These distributions are included on an individual’s tax return as taxable income and are subject to ordinary income tax.

As an alternative to taking a “normal” RMD, an individual can instead execute a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD), which allows them to both satisfy their RMD and their charitable intention at the same time.

How does a QCD work? Instead of a “normal” RMD, which usually is deposited into an individual’s checking, savings, or brokerage account, a QCD is paid directly from the IRA to a qualified charity. This distribution not only offsets – or, depending on the amount, fully satisfies – an individual’s RMD, but it is also excluded from taxable income.[4]

And unlike other gifting strategies, a QCD’s net effect as an “above the line” dollar-for-dollar tax deduction can offer additional economic benefits when compared to a “typical” itemized charitable tax deduction.

Charitable Remainder Trust

A charitable remainder trust (CRT) allows a donor to make a future charitable gift, while at the same time, receive an income stream during their lifetime for their own spending goals and needs. There are two types of CRTs: Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs) and Charitable Remainder Unitrusts (CRUTs). The two main differences are how the annual distribution to the income beneficiary(ies) is calculated and how often assets can be contributed to the trusts.[5]

When the donor establishes and contributes to a CRT, they are entitled to a current income tax deduction that is equal to the future expected value of the trust assets that will ultimately pass to the charitable beneficiary(ies). The deduction calculation is based on a number of different factors, such as the annual income stream payout set by the CRT, the age(s) of the income beneficiary(ies), the trust’s specified term of years, and the published IRS monthly interest rate.

At either 1.) the donor’s death, 2.) the death of the beneficiary, or 3.) the completion of the trust’s term, the trustee will distribute the balance of the trust assets directly to the chosen charity(ies).

The primary benefit of a CRT is that an individual may receive a substantial tax deduction in the year they open and fund the CRT, while at the same time, continue to receive income for themselves (or other income beneficiaries) during their lifetime. If the CRT is funded with cash, the donor can claim a deduction of up to 60% of adjusted gross income (AGI); if appreciated assets are used to fund the trust, up to 30% of their AGI may be deducted. In addition, if the trustee decides to sell contributed appreciated securities, he or she can do so tax-free.

Towerpoint Tip:

Opening, funding, and administrating a CRT is complicated and there are important ongoing tax filing obligations. As such, it is highly recommended to work with a trusted financial advisor and tax professional to ensure that a CRT is the right choice. Further, the tax deduction calculation may be audited, so it is important to hire a qualified professional to appraise this value.

Charitable Lead Trust

In the simplest sense, a charitable lead trust (CLT) is the reverse of a CRT. The income generated by the contributed assets is distributed to the chosen charity, and the beneficiaries receive the remainder interest. Like a CRT, a CLT can be an annuity trust (CLAT) or a unitrust (CLUT), but different distribution rules apply.

There are two main types of CLTs: a grantor CLT and a non-grantor CLT. A grantor CLT, like a CRT, is designed to give the donor an upfront charitable income tax deduction. However, to receive the charitable deduction, the donor must be willing to be taxed on all trust income. Since the gift is “for the use of” a charity instead of “to” a charity, cash contributions to a grantor CLT are subject to reduced deduction limits of 30% of AGI, and appreciated asset contributions are subject to deduction limits of 20% of AGI. For non-grantor CLTs, the grantor does not receive a charitable income tax deduction, nor are they taxed on the income of the trust. Instead, the trust pays tax on the income, and the trust claims a charitable deduction for the amounts it pays to the charity. It is very important to note that since they are not tax-exempt, neither type of CLT offers the ability to avoid or defer tax on the sale of appreciated assets like a CRT does.

A CLT may be a better option than a CRT if an individual has no need for current income and wants to ensure that, upon their death, their loved ones receive an inheritance.

Towerpoint Tip:

A charitable lead trust is often structured to provide gift-tax benefits, not necessarily a current income tax deduction. A donor is able to gift more to family members with a reduced gift-tax effect because the gift’s present value is discounted by the calculated income to be paid to the charity(ies). The tax deduction the individual receives is based on the annual amount provided to the charity.

Pooled-Income Fund

A Pooled-Income Fund (PIF) is a type of charitable trust that functions like a mutual fund.

A PIF is comprised of assets from many different donors, pooled and invested together. Each donor is assigned units in the fund that reflect his or her share of the fund’s total assets. Each year, the donors are paid their proportionate share of the net income earned by the fund – the distribution amount depends on the fund’s performance and, importantly, is taxable income to the beneficiary (which is typically the donor but may also be a family member, friend, etc.). At the death of each income beneficiary, the charity receives an amount equal to that donor’s share in the fund.

PIF contributions provide a tax deduction to the donor upon contribution and, like the other charitable gifting vehicles described previously, affords the donor the ability to avoid paying any capital gains taxes on the contributed appreciated securities.

Pooled Income Fund Donor Charity

A primary drawback of a PIF is that the donor has no control over how the assets are invested, as the investment of the fund is directed by a professional manager. As such, it is important that individuals speak with a financial advisor to ensure that a PIF is thoughtfully incorporated into their overall investment allocation and strategy, as well as philanthropic and charitable giving plan.

How can we help?

At Towerpoint Wealth, we are a legal fiduciary to you, and embrace the professional obligation we have to work 100% in your best interests. If you would like to learn more about charitable giving strategies, we encourage you to contact us to open an objective dialogue.

Steve: 916-405-9166, spitchford@towerpointwealth.com


[1] In order for an individual to receive a tax deduction, their combined itemized deductions must exceed their standard deduction.

[2] Appreciated securities may be donated directly to certain charities as well. However, doing so is typically an administrative hassle for both the individual and the receiving organization.

[3] Donations to a private foundation are tax deductible up to 30% of adjusted gross income (AGI) for cash, and up to 20% of AGI for appreciated securities, with a five-year carry forward

[4] Up to an annual maximum of $100,000, per taxpayer.

[5] A CRAT pays a fixed percentage (at least 5%) of the trust’s initial value every year until the trust terminates. The donor cannot make additional contributions to a CRAT after the initial contribution. A CRUT, by contrast, pays a fixed percentage (at least 5%) of the trust’s value as determined annually. A donor can make additional contributions to a CRUT.