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Contributors

Amanda Lott

Managing Director, Head of Wealth Planning Strategy, Advice Lab

Sarah Backer

Wealth Planning Strategy

The start of a new year is always a good time to review your personal and financial goals, and to finetune your plans for achieving them.

Carefully assessing your financial picture, along with the results and outcomes you experienced last year, is important to do, especially in an election year. The insights you glean can help you avoid making snap decisions based on polling data or news headlines – and can enhance your ability to position yourself and your loved ones for what lies ahead.

To get started, we recommend you focus on these four key areas – and involve your family and your professional advisors in the process.

1. Recenter your priorities

Review your wealth plan: Start by asking yourself whether your personal and/or financial goals have changed since your last review.

Being as specific and detailed as possible in your assessment will help bring into focus the future you envision – and help you resist the urge to make sudden shifts without considering their impact on well-defined, long-term goals. A J.P. Morgan advisor can help you align and optimize your balance sheet to accomplish your priorities.

Determine how much cash you need: We recommend you have enough liquidity on hand to fund one to five years of living expenses; meet large, near-term expenditures; fund opportunistic investments; and provide a psychological safety net.

Once you determine the right amount, lock in interest rates that match your time horizon and liquidity needs.

While interest rates have steadily increased over the last two years, we expect rates to fall and corporate earnings to improve in 2024 – creating more opportunities to put your excess cash to work to serve your longer-term goals.

2. Enhance evergreen planning strategies

Complete annual “to-dos”: There are steps you can take each year to enhance and/or share your wealth; doing so early in the year is often more tax-efficient. For example:

  • Fully fund retirement accounts: Take advantage of the tax-deferral benefits of IRAs and employer plans, such as 401(k)s.
  • Make annual exclusion gifts: If you have the capacity and desire to gift to family, using your annual exclusion is a powerful way to share your wealth without gift tax consequences.

Some key limits to bear in mind:

Table showing 2024 Annual limits & Exclusions.

Assess your gift-giving capacity: This year, the lifetime transfer tax exclusion amount is $13.61 million per person ($27.22 million for married couples). However, these amounts are currently set to decrease very significantly in 2026, to probably a little over $7 million for individuals (around $14 million for married couples).

If you have the desire and capacity to make a large gift to family members or other loved ones, consider doing so now. If you’ve already used your lifetime exclusion under prior limits, you can gift another $690,000 tax-free this year ($1.38 million for married couples).

Plan your charitable giving: Review your recent giving to ensure you are contributing time and resources to causes and organizations that matter most to you. If you are uncertain about where to lend your support this year, consider contributing to a donor-advised fund (DAF) – especially if you expect 2024 to be a high-income year.

A DAF provides an immediate income tax deduction for your financial contribution, while allowing assets to grow tax-free. A DAF further gives you the flexibility to decide at a future date which nonprofits to support.

If you are required to take distributions from your IRA in 2024, you can now donate $105,000 directly to a charity from your IRA, up from $100,000 in 2023. Keep in mind: DAFs and private foundations are not permissible beneficiaries of these qualified charitable distributions.

3. Assess your balance sheet

Look for new opportunities: The interest rate reset has created an investment landscape with more attractive choices than we’ve seen in a decade. In this new environment, we believe a diversified portfolio, with a healthy mix of stocks and bonds, can remain the bedrock of your wealth plan:

  • Fixed income: Given last year’s increase in yields and lower prices, core bonds may be well positioned to deliver strong returns in 2024.
  • Equities: We think equities could make new highs with recovered earnings growth. Pay close attention to current trends, including artificial intelligence, health care and industrials (given renewed focus on infrastructure and construction).
  • Credit: Higher rates may strain commercial real estate and consumer credit, but we do not expect them to trigger a recession. Private credit strategies are likely well positioned for attractive returns.

Enhance tax efficiency: The upcoming presidential election raises the prospect of tax law changes within the next two years. Thus, operating within the rates and rules now in place may be advantageous. To enhance your tax efficiency:

  • First, make sure you have assets in the right types of accounts. Generally, asset classes that generate ordinary income, have high turnover and offer high returns are often held in tax-advantaged accounts, such as IRAs.
  • Next, for taxable accounts, consider implementing an investment strategy that harvests tax losses throughout the year.
  • Finally, if you plan to withdraw cash from your portfolio, determine the most advantageous order for taking funds from your accounts. Generally, if you’re in the top tax bracket, pull first from taxable accounts, then from tax-deferred, and finally from those that are tax-free.

Review borrowing needs: Credit can play an important role in your wealth plans. For example, borrowed funds can provide liquidity to help avoid unnecessarily realizing gains, smooth cashflows and prepare for unexpected opportunities. Credit can also enhance your balance sheet’s tax efficiency if you are able to deduct the loan’s interest expense.

As a first step, determine if your existing credit lines remain aligned to your priorities. A review may reveal you no longer need the line and can use excess cash to pay down the balance. Similarly, a review may confirm an expected investment return will likely exceed the cost of borrowing, even at today’s higher rates, especially if structured in a tax-efficient manner.

4. Protect your loved ones

Strengthen family ties: Consider hosting a family meeting. Scheduled gatherings can foster intra-family communications and help align the visions and values of individual members with the family’s overarching objectives. For many families, such meetings are also an opportunity to educate attendees on topics of common interest; strengthen ties between siblings, cousins and extended family members; share family traditions, stories and values. Research shows that families with a common vision and mission for the future are more successful in sustaining and transferring wealth from generation to generation.

Use AI carefully: By design, artificial intelligence (AI) tools continuously learn and become smarter. While this makes the tools more useful, it also makes cybercrime more difficult to detect and defend against.

At a minimum, take these crucial steps to protect yourself and your loved ones when using AI tools:

  • Anonymize your profile. Create a new, dedicated email address when you sign up for a chatbot. Avoid using the email account you use for banking, work, social media or other personal services.
  • Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication wherever they’re offered.
  • Do not disclose sensitive and personal information, such as names, birthdays, tax information and addresses (i.e., avoid providing information you would not want to have published in a newspaper).
  • Log off after each chat. As with an online banking transaction, protect your information by logging off when you finish each chat.

Learn more about how to safely use AI tools.

We can help

A J.P. Morgan advisor can work closely with you and your professional advisors to review your overall wealth plans, and to help you position yourself and your family for the year ahead.

Connect with a Wealth Advisor

Our Wealth Advisors begin by getting to know you personally. To get started, tell us about your needs and we’ll reach out to you.

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