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Mortgage Interest Deduction 2019: Here’s What Qualifies

If you own a home, one of your first questions may revolve around how your home affects your tax filing. While there have been some changes in recent years, come tax time, it’s important to know exactly what qualifies as a deduction (and to consult with your tax advisor) so you can get the most out of your tax write-offs.* What Is the Mortgage Interest Deduction? A mortgage interest deduction is an itemized tax deduction that allows homeowners to deduct the interest paid on a loan used to buy, build, or improve a first or second home. Homeowners who purchased a home prior to December 15, 2017 can deduct interest on the first $1,000,000 of mortgage debt. For those who purchased a home after December 15, 2017, a deduction only applies to the first $750,000 of mortgage debt. How the Mortgage Interest Deduction Works There are many nuances to the mortgage interest deduction, so make sure you keep good records of the interest you’ve paid throughout the year. Here’s a look at some things to watch out for and know as you’re evaluating your deductions. As noted above, you can deduct all the interest you paid on up to $1,000,000 in a mortgage loan, but you can only deduct up to the first $750,000 of home loan debt if you purchased the property after December 15, 2017. So for example, if you bought a home in 2016 and you have $1,000,000 in debt on that home, you can deduct all of your mortgage interest. However, if you bought a home for the same cost in 2018, you can only deduct interest on $750,000 according to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, there is an exception to the new limit. If you entered into a written contract for a property before December 15, 2017 and closed on the property before April 1, 2018, you are exempt and can deduct your interest on up to $1,000,000 in mortgage debt. What Qualifies As Mortgage Interest? The type of mortgage in question (i.e., a first mortgage, second mortgage, or a Home Equity Loan) and what type of property it covers, such as your primary residence versus a rental or investment property, can affect how your mortgage interest deduction works, so you’ll want to know how it relates to your specific case this year. For a complete list of rules and regulations, make sure to check out IRS Publication 936. Here is a brief overview of a few common scenarios below. Mortgage Interest For Your Home In order to deduct the mortgage interest on your home, you must meet a few qualifications. First of all, the home must be a house, apartment, condo, co-op, houseboat, mobile home, or trailer, and it must have sleeping, cooking, and bathroom facilities. The home itself must be collateral for a mortgage loan. If you receive a nontaxable housing allowance via the military or because you’ve done ministry work, you can still deduct interest. If you have taken out another mortgage to buy out a partner in a divorce as part of a mortgage buyout, you can also deduct the interest on that mortgage. Mortgage Interest For Your Second Home You can deduct mortgage interest on your second home, but in order to do so, there are a few rules. You don’t have to use the home during the year, but the home must be collateral for a loan. Also, if you rent out the home and receive rental income on the property, you must be in the house for more than 14 days or more than 10% of the days the home is rented, whichever is longer. Any Points Paid On Your Mortgage If you paid points on your mortgage loan as a way to pay down the amount of your loan interest, you can deduct these either all at once, or over the course of the loan, but there are a few requirements. The loan must be for your primary home, and paying discount points must be a regular practice where you live. Also be aware of the interest rates on the points, and note that they can’t have also been used for closing costs. Your down payment must be higher than your points, and the points must be calculated as a percentage of the loan. Home Equity Loan Interest The interest on your home equity loan is only deductible if you are using the loan to make significant repairs to your property. If you are using the loan for another purpose — a large purchase, paying down debt, etc. — it is not deductible. Late Payment Charges On Your Mortgage If you’re late making a mortgage payment and are charged a late fee, this additional cost counts as part of the mortgage interest deduction. Prepayment Penalties For some lenders, paying off your loan early can result in a prepayment penalty (not however, when you have a loan with PennyMac) because lenders want to ensure they’re getting interest income. If you are charged a prepayment penalty for any reason, you are allowed to deduct this as part of your mortgage interest deduction. What You’re Not Able to Deduct Not all extra costs associated with a mortgage are deductible. Here’s a look at what doesn’t qualify. Mortgage insurance premiums Homeowners insurance Any interest accrued on a reverse mortgage Down payments, deposits, or forfeited earnest money Title insurance Extra principal payments made on your mortgage Settlement costs (typically) How to Claim Your Mortgage Interest Deduction in 2019 Getting ready to prepare your taxes and want to make sure you’re taking full advantage of your mortgage interest deduction this year? It’s important to make sure all your paperwork is in order and follow these steps to take full advantage of the deduction. Look Out For Form 1098 This form shows how much you paid in mortgage interest and any points for the tax year. Your lender will send you the form if you paid $600 or more in mortgage interest, and they will also send a copy to the IRS to match up with your return. This form may also show you the amount of interest you’ve paid on your home loan to date. Can’t find it or not sure if you received it at all? Just contact your lender, and they can provide you with the amount of mortgage interest you paid for the year. Itemize Your Taxes If you want to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction, you’ll need to itemize your deductions instead of using the standard deduction. Make sure it makes sense to itemize your deductions, as the goal is to take the highest possible deduction available to you. Instances Where You Can Claim the Mortgage Interest Deduction There are some scenarios where you can still claim the deduction even if your situation doesn’t fit the standard requirements exactly. Just make sure you’re keeping extremely accurate records of all of your property costs throughout the year, as well as square footage used for spaces like rentals and home offices, as things can get even more complicated. Here are some cases that would allow you to still claim the deduction. The home was a timeshare You rented out part of your home. You had a home office. (Make sure you track the square footage, and you may even be able to claim an additional deduction using Schedule C.) The home was an apartment co-op. Your home was under construction. Your home was destroyed within the applicable tax year. You and a partner split and you’re now paying a mortgage on a home you both own. Mortgage Interest Deduction 2018 The 2018 U.S. tax bill made significant changes to the mortgage interest tax deduction, as well as other updates for homeowners. Mortgage Tax Bill Changes The mortgage interest deduction allows homeowners to deduct part of the cost of their mortgage on their taxes. The 2018 tax plan now limits the portion of a mortgage on which you can deduct interest to $750,000, as compared to the previous limit of $1 million. Homeowners with mortgages that existed prior to the bill’s passage can continue to receive the current deduction. Property Tax Deduction Changes When looking at the 2018 tax changes, the focus was typically on the mortgage interest deduction changes. The bill has another aspect that affects homeowners: With the changes in property tax deductions, the 2018 tax plan has a limit of $10,000 on the amount of state and local property taxes that can be deducted from a homeowner’s federal taxes. Know Your Tax Advantages With Homeownership Whether you already own a home or are taking your very first steps towards making a smart investment in a home to call your own, be sure to stay in the know about all the potential tax advantages, along with the many other benefits of homeownership. Ready to purchase or refinance and want to know what your options are? Call us now for your free mortgage consultation or apply online to get started on your pre-approval. *Consult a tax adviser for further information regarding the deductibility of interest and charges.

Mortgage Loan To Value (LTV) Overview

The mortgage’s Loan To Value (LTV) is a key indicator of the lender’s ability to recover on its investment should a loan default occur. The Loan To Value (LTV) is the loan amount divided by the value of the property. The higher the Loan To Value ratio, the greater the monetary risks for the lender should a default occur. Lenders use the LTV ratio in conjunction with other key performance indicators (e.g. FICO Credit Score values and Debt to Income (DTI) ratios) to determine……

How to Copy Warren Buffet’s Biggest Investment of 2020

When Warren Buffet invests, people pay attention. His biggest investment of 2020 might surprise you — and you can do it, too.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Reducing Capital Gains Tax on a Rental Property

Owning a rental property can help you to grow wealth long-term and diversify your income streams. Receiving regular rental income can help supplement withdrawals you might make from a 401(k) or an individual retirement account (IRA) in retirement or give you an … Continue reading →

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7 Pros and Cons of Investing in a 401(k) Retirement Plan at Work

A 401(k) retirement plan is one of the most powerful savings vehicles on the planet. If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that offers one (or its sister for non-profits, a 403(b)), it’s a valuable benefit that you should take advantage of.

But many people ignore their retirement plan at work because they don’t understand the rules, which may seem confusing at first. Or they worry about what happens to their account after they leave the company or mistakenly believe you must be an investing expert to use a retirement plan.

Let's talk about seven primary pros and cons of using a 401(k). You’ll learn some lesser-known benefits and get tips to save quickly so you have plenty of money when you’re ready to kick back and enjoy retirement.

What is a 401(k) retirement plan?

Traditional retirement accounts give you an immediate benefit by making contributions on a pre-tax basis.

A 401(k) is a type of retirement plan that can be offered by an employer. And if you’re self-employed with no employees, you can have a similar account called a solo 401(k). These accounts allow you to contribute a portion of your paycheck or self-employment income and choose various savings and investment options such as CDs, stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds, to accelerate your account growth.

Traditional retirement accounts give you an immediate benefit by making contributions on a pre-tax basis, which reduces your annual taxable income and your tax liability. You defer paying income tax on contributions and account earnings until you take withdrawals in the future.

Roth retirement accounts require you to pay tax upfront on your contributions. However, your future withdrawals of contributions and investment earnings are entirely tax-free. A Roth 401(k) or 403(b) is similar to a Roth IRA; however, unlike a Roth IRA there isn’t an income limit to qualify. That means even high earners can participate in a Roth at work and reap the benefits.

RELATED: How the COVID-19 CARES Act Affects Your Retirement

Pros of investing in a 401(k) retirement plan at work

When I was in my 20s and started my first job that offered a 401(k), I didn’t enroll in it. I was nervous about having investments with an employer because I didn’t understand what would happen if I left the company, or it went out of business.

I want to put your mind at ease about using a 401(k) because there are many more advantages than disadvantages.

I want to put your mind at ease about using a 401(k) because there are many more advantages than disadvantages. Here are four primary pros for using a retirement plan at work.

1. Having federal legal protection

Qualified workplace retirement plans are protected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), a federal law. It sets minimum standards for employers that offer retirement plans, and the administrators who manage them.

ERISA offers workplace retirement plans a powerful but lesser-known benefit—protection from creditors.

ERISA was enacted to protect your and your beneficiaries’ interests in workplace retirement plans. Here are some of the protections they give you:

  • Disclosure of important facts about your plan features and funding 
  • A claims and appeals process to get your benefits from a plan 
  • Right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty if the plan is mismanaged 
  • Payment of certain benefits if you lose your job or a plan gets terminated

Additionally, ERISA offers workplace retirement plans a powerful but lesser-known benefit—protection from creditors. Let’s say you have money in a qualified account but lose your job and can’t pay your car loan. If the car lender gets a judgment against you, they can attempt to get repayment from you in various ways, but not by tapping your 401(k) or 403(b). There are exceptions when an ERISA plan is at risk, such as when you owe federal tax debts, criminal penalties, or an ex-spouse under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. 

When you leave an employer, you have the option to take your vested retirement funds with you. You can do a tax-free rollover to a new employer's retirement plan or into your own IRA. However, be aware that depending on your home state, assets in an IRA may not have the same legal protections as a workplace plan.

RELATED: 5 Options for Your Retirement Account When Leaving a Job

2. Getting matching funds

Many employers that offer a retirement plan also pay matching contributions. Those are additional funds that boost your account value.

Always set your 401(k) contributions to maximize an employer’s match so you never leave easy money on the table.

For example, your company might match 100% of what you contribute to your retirement plan up to 3% of your income. If you earn $50,000 per year and contribute 3% or $1,500, your employer would also contribute $1,500 on your behalf. You’d have $3,000 in total contributions and receive a 100% return on your $1,500 investment, which is fantastic!

Always set your 401(k) contributions to maximize an employer’s match, so you never leave easy money on the table.

3. Having a high annual contribution limit

Once you contribute enough to take advantage of any 401(k) matching, consider setting your sights higher by raising your savings rate every year. For 2021, the allowable limit remains $19,500, or $26,000 if you’re over age 50. A good rule of thumb is to save at least 10% to 15% of your gross income for retirement.

Most retirement plans have an automatic escalation feature that kicks up your contribution percentage at the beginning of each year. You might set it to increase your contributions by 1% per year until you reach 15%. That’s a simple way to set yourself up for a happy and secure retirement.

4. Getting free investing advice

After you enroll in a workplace retirement plan, you must choose from a menu of savings and investment options. Most plan providers are major brokerages (such as Fidelity or Vanguard) and have helpful resources, such as online assessments and free advisors. Take advantage of the opportunity to get customized advice for choosing the best investments for your financial situation, age, and risk tolerance.

In general, the more time you have until retirement, or the higher your risk tolerance, the more stock funds you should own. Likewise, having less time or a low tolerance for risk means you should own more conservative and stable investments, such as bonds or money market funds.

RELATED: A Beginner's Guide to Investing in Stocks

Cons of investing in a 401(k) retirement plan at work

While there are terrific advantages of investing in a retirement plan at work, here are three cons to consider.

1. You may have limited investment options

Compared to other types of retirement accounts, such as an IRA, or a taxable brokerage account, your 401(k) or 403 (b) may have fewer investment options. You won’t find any exotic choices, just basic asset classes, including stock, bond, and cash funds.

However, having a limited investment menu streamlines your investment choices and minimizes complexity.

2. You may have higher account fees

Due to the administrative responsibilities required by employer-sponsored retirement plans, they may charge high fees. And as a plan participant, you have little control over the fees you must pay.

One way to keep your workplace retirement account fees as low as possible is selecting low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) when possible.

One way to keep your workplace retirement account fees as low as possible is selecting low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) when possible.

3.  You must pay fees on early withdrawals

One of the inherent disadvantages of putting money in a retirement account is that you’re typically penalized 10% for early withdrawals before the official retirement age of 59½. Plus, you typically can’t tap a 401(k) or 403(b) unless you have a qualifying hardship. That discourages participants from tapping accounts, so they keep growing.

The takeaway is that you should only contribute funds to a retirement account that you won’t need for everyday living expenses. If you avoid expensive early withdrawals, the advantages of using a workplace retirement account far outweigh the downsides.

FIRE: How to Find Your Aha Moments and the Key to Achieving FIRE

Although enduring the pandemic has been stressful to say the least, I have learned a multitude of lessons I’ll never forget. One of the biggest is that, like it or not, I’m not cut out to homeschool four kids while trying to work at home. Most of all, though, the pandemic has reinforced my feeling […]

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Why It’s the Year of the Side Hustle

Side hustles have always been a good way to earn more money and better your finances. With so many people in debt while wages have fallen flat, they’ve become especially popular over the past decade. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen them shoot ahead in popularity even further.  According to a recent survey by […]

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Should I stay or should I go? Wrestling with the decision to quit a career

J.D.’s note: In the olden days at Get Rich Slowly, I shared reader stories every Sunday. I haven’t done that since I re-purchased the site because nobody sends them to me anymore. But earlier this year, Mike did. I love it. I hope you will too.

Earlier this year, I sent my wife a text message: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how freaked out would you be if I quit my job this afternoon?”

My wife and I had only been married a short while, but she’d known since our second date that I didn’t plan to work in my traditional job until normal retirement age. She also knew that I hadn’t been very happy at work in recent months.

We’re very compatible financially — both savers raised in working-class families that didn’t always have a lot. We make a point of having what we like to call “Fun Family Finance Day” from time to time. On Fun Family Finance Day, we do everything from competitively checking our credit scores to discussing questions that get at the root of our money mindsets to help us create our goals.

But this question wasn’t part of the plan. Not then.

And it was never on any of the lists of questions that we’d discussed with each other. It was like a pop quiz, a pothole in the smoothest relationship road I’d ever traveled…and I was the one putting it there.

Dreams Remain Dreams Without Doing

My wife and I rarely argue, but when we do it’s usually about food. It’s the kitchen and the grocery store that are our battleground. Our finances are fine. Thankfully, when you’re confident in the life you’ve created and the person you chose to build it with, it’s a lot easier to be honest about what’s on your mind.

That still doesn’t always mean you get the answer you want. Or the answer you were expecting. She responded: “Wait what. Kinda. What would you do?”

A completely reasonable and fair question. Not to mention one that I’d probably have to get comfortable answering from a lot more people.

I think my immediate reaction was: We talk about this stuff all the time, where is my, “No worries baby, YOLO!”? (I must have watched too many romcoms back before we cut cable from our lives.)

Being a grownup, it turns out, is actually really hard sometimes. I was about to learn that talking about something, and actually doing it, are a world apart.

Life is full of dreamers and doers. Sometimes those two personalities cross over. But there are plenty of people who go through life talking about so many things they’ll never have the courage to try — or the discipline and determination to follow through with.

Which person was I? The dreamer? The doer? Or that fortunate combination of both?

8 Money-Saving Tips for Improving Your Bathroom’s Design

I don’t know about you, but for me, a bathroom goes well beyond its practical uses; within the past years, I’ve come to think about it as a sanctuary of sorts, that room of the house that’s dedicated to pampering, relaxing, and deconnecting — a place where I can enjoy some alone time and use […] More

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