Do you know the difference between tax planning and tax advice?Although many people don’t enjoy doing taxes or even thinking about it, tax planning can have a big impact on your financial life — both now and down the line.
Today, Jeremy Keil dives into the world of taxes, highlighting the differences between tax advice and tax planning and explaining why tax planning is important, especially as you plan for your ideal retirement.In this episode, you’ll learn:
Ways you can control your taxes before and after retirement.
What “effective tax rate” means
How taxes change after retirement
How social security impacts your marginal tax rate
Join Jeremy now and get ready to take charge of your tax planning as you work towards building your ideal retirement!Resources
The information covered and posted represents the views and opinions of the guest and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Keil Financial Partners. Keil Financial Partners is a part of the Thrivent Advisor Network, a registered investment advisor. The Content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional investing advice. Always seek the advice of your financial advisor or other qualified financial service provider with any questions you may have regarding your investment planning.
Keil Financial Partners does not provide legal, accounting, or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax professional. Representatives have general knowledge of the Social Security tenets. For complete details on your situation, contact the Social Security Administration.
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Retirement Revealed Episode 9: Tax Planning versus Tax Advice
Are you ready to uncover your retirement solution? Learn more as Jeremy Keil and his guests guide you along the path of retirement and reveal the five steps you need to take to solve your retirement puzzle. Now onto the show!
Aric Johnson: Hello and welcome to Retirement Revealed with Jeremy Keil. Good morning Jeremy. How are you?
Jeremy Keil: Doing well, Aric. How are you doing?
Aric Johnson: Oh, I'm excited. I'm excited about this topic. I love taxes.
Jeremy Keil: Yeah. Who doesn't?
Aric Johnson: I lied. I'm a big fat liar.
Jeremy Keil: Right. Well, I love tax planning. That's what we're talking about now. Not the taxes, but tax planning.
Aric Johnson: Exactly. I mean taxes is a subject that people really don't like to have to deal with, but again, tax planning is a whole different story because then you can all of a sudden see how you’ve got the pieces in place that are going to save you some money and give less to my uncle that's a little shady while keeping more in my pocket. So I think the planning part of it is the really exciting part. The word tax just makes you clench a little bit, but we're going to talk about it, and this is a great time of year to do that.
Jeremy Keil: Yeah. Well, it’s not fun when you pay the taxes, but you owe it so you better pay it. I think a lot of it has to do with some misunderstandings and maybe a feeling that it's outside of your control. There are some things inside your control, and that's what we encourage people to focus on. No matter what topic or area of finance it is, focus on the things you can control, and for anything you can't control, just try to bring the risk down in that area. Try to mitigate that somehow. When it comes to taxes, especially when we get to retirement, that's something that you get a lot more control over than you might've thought.
Aric Johnson: Yup, absolutely. One of my goals this year is to do everything in my power to save about $100 in taxes this year, whether that's just through better planning or through little things that I'm doing. I know that's a very small amount, but my goal is to redirect that $100 to a charity. You and I have talked about philanthropic things before, and I know we're going to have a podcast on that, but I'm hoping that everybody says, you know, the charity that I love and adore or my church or whatever it is, I would love to be able to give just a little bit more this year to them and a little less to that uncle that I'm not too fond of. So that’s my goal.
Jeremy Keil: Well, you feel better writing that check, and you might feel better writing that check for even a few hundred dollars than you would writing that check for $100 to pay for taxes.
Aric Johnson: Alright. Teach me. Let's go.
Jeremy Keil: Yeah. We'll go through it. Well, some of it has to do with just some definitions of certain things. A lot of times when people talk about tax planning, they're thinking, how do I reduce this year's taxes? In reality they're talking about how they can reduce last year's taxes, right? If it's March or April and you're doing your taxes, that's last year. That is done. Most of the time you're just trying to make sure that everything is correct and so forth, but let's just define some things real quick. We may have mentioned before that we're part of the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs, and this isn't even just a financial advisor thing. This is also a tax person situation when it comes to the fact that there is a difference between something called tax advice versus tax planning. Let's just talk about that rule real quick. The idea of tax advice is that it’s helping you fill out and make changes to your current tax year. When you go to your tax advisors, CPAs, and accountants, they're giving tax advice when they're helping you fill out last year's taxes. Maybe you're someone that owns a business or you are setting up a business and they're giving you advice like, you should do this type of retirement plan or you should incorporate your business in this certain level. That's actually tax advice when they can tell you, here's the dollar amount to the penny, when it’s about how it's going to affect you, and when it involves tax forms and things like that. A lot of times it's either current year looking or looking at the last year.
Tax planning is where we make some assumptions about your situation and just see how it could affect you over your whole lifetime. That's where we feel you can get the biggest bang for your time or the biggest bang for your buck is when you are focusing on the tax planning. Usually the rest of your life is going to be longer than last year, right? So let's take a look at it. When someone like your financial planner or someone like us says, hey, you got your required minimum coming up in 10 years. It might push you to another higher tax bracket. Let's do something about it now. I mean, that's some really forward thinking if we're making some decisions that might affect you 10 years down the road. In reality, if you don't make those decisions, it's still going to affect you 10 years down the road or longer, so you might as well make decisions that you've thought through where you've weighed the pros and cons. That's the tax planning part of it that we like to focus on.
Aric Johnson: Yeah. Well, that’s the best place to start I think, right?
Jeremy Keil: Yeah. That just kind of creates a little bit of a problem in a way when people feel like they're doing tax planning when they're really talking to someone that's a tax advisor. Sometimes we'll talk about tax planning and they'll say, oh, I’ve got my accountant. He did my taxes last year. Okay, that's great. You want your taxes done correctly, but if your financial advisor or your tax person or whoever it is isn't talking through your financial situation and how it might change and how that might project out into the future and how actions you can take today can affect your future, that's not actually tax planning. It's the tax planning that we like to really help you figure out and make some decisions on. There are a couple of words that are important to know. You might've heard of some of them, but there's your tax bracket. A lot of people I think have heard of that. There's your effective tax rates. A lot of times your accountants or your tax person will give you your tax returns and just as an example let's say you had $100,000 of income and you paid $8,000 in taxes. They'll say, oh, you had an effective tax rate of 8%. You might hear that and feel like you're paying taxes at an 8% rate. You might be in the tax bracket of 12%, and that's just the way that the US tax code works where the first few dollars pays a zero rate and then the next few dollars pays a low rate and then as you make more money those next dollars pay a higher rate. That's where we get into the concept of something called marginal taxes. Marginal taxes is saying, if I take this action, if I have an extra $1,000 of income, or if I have an extra $1,000 as a deduction, how are the taxes going to change on that specific $1,000. That's called the marginal rate. Let's just say your income's about $100,000. You're getting close to the top of that 12% bracket. Let's just pretend you just hit it. You hit the top of the 12% bracket. Well, the next bracket is 22%, so here you are. You think, I'm in the 12% tax bracket. Maybe your tax person figured it out and said, you paid $8,000 in taxes, so you have an effective tax rate of 8%. In reality, if you made $101,000 as an example, and let's just say that this next $1,000 goes into the 22% bracket, well now you paid $220 in taxes on that $1,000 amount. That's a 22% marginal tax rate on that specific decision and on that specific dollar amount, and that's the one that really matters. That's probably the one you see the least, but that's the one that affects you the most. That's what we really like to key in on is what is your marginal tax rate? How will it change based on certain situations or certain decisions you make? This is a little complex, but our hope is to simplify it down and help you make some different decisions. One of the key ways to do that is to just look at how your taxes will change when certain points in your life happen. A lot of people are not yet retired. They probably want to retire, right? Your taxes would probably change before retirement and after retirement. Oftentimes with retirement when you get on social security, your taxes will probably change before and after social security. Later on, you might get to what used to be the age of 70 and a half. They just changed this tax law in December of 2019. Now it's 72, so the age of 72 is when you start the required minimum distributions. Your taxes might change before that happens and after that happens. The one that a lot of people don't realize or plan for is the fact that your taxes will probably change when there's two of you when it goes down to one, right? When we get into the mid 80s or around 90 or so, perhaps the first person in the couple dies. That’s obviously very unfortunate, but from a financial standpoint your taxes have changed as well. You're no longer married. You're now a single individual, and your taxes are going to change then. So we can somewhat look at these crossover points and say what's going to happen before and after retirement and so forth. We can see how this marginal tax rate is going to be showing up. I don't know about you, but I think that if I see a marginal rate that's lower than the rest, I'm going to try to pay taxes at that rate versus another one.
Aric Johnson: Oh yeah, definitely.
Jeremy Keil: Yeah, so let's just go through and talk about what happens before and after retiring and all of those different areas. So this is where things get interesting and new for folks. We work with people all the time that are preparing to retire. We'd like to help you retire and stay retired. That’s the way we usually like to talk about it. If you're not yet retired, you've had 30-40 years of kind of the same thing. You make your salary, you have some deductions, and you fill out your taxes. It feels like you can't really change it, right? But after retirement, you can. You can change a lot of things, right? So before you’re retired, you got your 401k, IRAs, and different things that maybe can affect your deductions. After retirement, you get to choose when your income shows up in your tax return. If I walked into my boss's office and said, hey, can I work for this year while you pay me next year, that probably isn't going to fly. I think tax wise it’s not going to fly either, but when you're retired, you can call up your 401k or call up your IRA and say, hey, for 2020 I need some money, but I'm going to take it out in 2019. You can make your taxable income show up in one year but actually use it the next year. Or perhaps you do the opposite. You can use some money in one year, but push off the taxes to another year, right? If you take money from your savings account, you're not paying taxes on that, and then maybe the next year you replenish that, right? If I need $10,000 out in December, I could take it from my savings account and then call up my IRA in January to replenish that. That’s next year that the taxes are going to show up, so you have a lot of control in retirement. That’s just something that people aren't used to is the fact that you get to control your taxes before and after retirement. So that's just kind of the first concept that you want people to understand is that you can control your taxes quite often in retirement. It's about making decisions on when you have income showing up or when you take deductions. You can even move your deductions around a little bit.
Aric Johnson: Yeah, and I think that that's the biggest thing that people probably don't know is that they have more control than they think.
Jeremy Keil: Yeah, that's exactly it. You could get some psychological and philosophical debate going here, but the idea is that you do have a lot of control. Understanding that and making use of that is going to allow you to come out ahead in the long run for sure.
Aric Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. So what's next?
Jeremy Keil: Well, another big one is that oftentimes you retire and then you hit social security. We had an episode where we only focused on social security for a half hour, so you can go back and check that out. The idea is that you can take social security when you want to. Oftentimes you end up delaying social security because your taxes will change before you take it and after you take it. It's so odd, and it's really where this marginal rate comes in. It's just a very odd way that they figured out how to tax social security. They came up with this back in the early 80s. They use this term called provisional income. They say, we’ll tax part of your social security based on a formula that we figured out that determines whether we're going to tax your social security and if so, how much of it? So you use this formula. Trust me, if you don’t have a tax person by the time that you hit social security, you will want it just for this. They'll figure it out and say, well, your social security amount, whether it's $10,000, $30,000 or $50,000, will be 0% taxable to upwards of 85% taxable, or anywhere in between.
Aric Johnson: Up to 85%?
Jeremy Keil: Up to 85% of it becomes taxable. Your tax rate is actually different. People hear that and they think 85% taxes. It's actually 85% taxable. What that means is that your $1,000 of social security might show up as zero on your tax form or it might show up as $850 on your tax form or anywhere in between. This is where we get a little danger coming in from this idea of, oh, I've got an 8% effective tax rate. We'll just go back to the example earlier of when you are in the 12% bracket. We see this a lot with clients, especially when they go from being married to single, right? You might've been in the 12% tax rate when you were married. We’ll talk about this later on about how your tax rates and tax bracket will change when you're single. We got something we see all of the time. We got a couple clients I'm thinking of right now. They're at the top of the 12% tax bracket, and they're maybe at the seven, eight, or nine percent effective tax rate. You kind of figure, oh, I take $1,000 out and my effective tax rate is eight, nine, or ten percent, so that’s what I'm going to pay my taxes on, right? That’s not quite the case. When you pull out an extra $1,000 and you're at the top of the 12% tax bracket, guess what? You're actually at the bottom of the 22% tax bracket, so that $1,000 will come out at the 22% rate, right? If you're at the top of the 12%, you're actually at the bottom of 22%. You probably didn't know that until you filled out your forms and found out what bracket you're in, but what's worse is the way that this whole social security taxation comes in. That $1,000 of IRA money or taxable money will probably cause more of your social security to be taxed. We'll go with the extreme example, which we've seen a lot. We see this a lot of times with widows, oftentimes the wife, but that $1,000 of extra income all of a sudden brought $850 more of your social security into the tax form. So it's not the $1,000 that shows up. It's $1,850 that shows up in the tax form, and because you are at the bottom of the 22%, you thought maybe you were paying 12% taxes. No, you're at the bottom of the 22%. You're paying 22%. Well, we'll do some quick math, but 22% times the $1,850 is about $410, so all you did is you took out $1,000. You’re thinking that $1,000 is going to show up on your tax form, either at your effective rate, which is maybe like eight, nine, or ten percent, or at the tax bracket that you know you're at the top of at 12%, but no. It's actually $1,850 that got kicked into the 22% rate. You pay $410 bucks. That's a 41% marginal rate. We see so often that the swing of the marginal rate is far higher than what your actual tax bracket was. That's a big deal. I use some extreme examples, but we see this all the time. It all depends on a lot of factors like how much your social security is already taxed and where you take your money from. We just wanted to really highlight how important this crossover point is before you take social security versus after you take social security. Your marginal rate is going to wildly swing. We see that so often. You might want to run your tax forms through some planning software and talk with the person that knows what they're doing. Have a tax planner to help you figure this out because by the time you hit April and you fill out your tax forms and your taxes are higher than you thought they would be, it's a little too late at that point.
Aric Johnson: I mean, nobody likes surprises like that, right? I mean, surprise, you won something big. Great! Surprise, you just paid a lot more in taxes. Nobody enjoys that.
Jeremy Keil: When you are looking at these crossover points, you want to see whether that marginal rate went up or down. Well, whenever it's down is when we encourage you to pay some taxes. Oftentimes the marginal rate goes up and people are making decisions that are almost going to push their rate even higher. It's unfortunate. Have you heard of required minimum distributions?
Aric Johnson: Yes, absolutely.
Jeremy Keil: Yeah, so it's the idea that any money that you got this tax deduction on, whether it be a traditional 401k or a traditional IRA, guess what? You got to pay it back, or you got to report it as income rather whenever you take the money out. So people retire at 60, 62, or 65 and they tell us all the time, I got it figured it out. I'm just going to live on this dollar amount and I'm going to wait to take out my IRA and 401k until they force me. I don't want to do it, so I'm going to wait until they force me. I don’t know about you, but my kids don't like to be forced to do something. It doesn't change at 18. When you become an adult, you still don't like to be forced to do something. That's why a lot of people we talked to don't like to be forced to take out these required minimum distributions. Usually when you do something because you want to, you feel better about it and you probably are getting a better tax situation, right? If I'm 65 and I don't need to take the money out but I do it anyway, well, why did I do it? Not because I'm forced to, but because I figured out that the tax situation is better to take it out at 65 versus at what's now 72 for the required minimum. It's unfortunate. A lot of people say, I'm just going to wait. I'm going to wait and wait. We say, wait a second. Maybe it's 10-12 years from now before you're forced to take it out. You want more money in your accounts by then, right? Yeah, I want more money. So you're going to wait until later on when you have more money that's taxable to take your money out versus right now when perhaps you pay less taxes on a lower amount? Let's figure this one out. Let's look at what your marginal rate will be before the required minimums and after required minimums. If you have a lower marginal rate today, why don't we take the money out? There's so many different ways you can do it, but why don't we take the money out now before you're forced to because you want to do it at that point because you've done the planning and you figured out it's better off for you.
Aric Johnson: Well, and it comes down to one word for me: control. Right? You have control. You're in control. You're not just not some passenger that is strapped into this thing where you just don't know what's going to happen. You have the control. It's just like what you brought up about kids when you force them to do something. I've got some grandbabies now, and my granddaughter loves to play with beads. It's a very tactile thing. When it comes to picking up those beads, it is the worst experience of her entire life. She just can't understand why she has to pick up all of these beads. Well, she's lost control at that point, and I’m forcing her to pick up all the pieces. Nobody wants to do that with their taxes. Don't be there just trying to pick up the pieces. Control the scenario from the get go. That's good. That's really good.
Jeremy Keil: Well, it’s a new thing, and like we said earlier, you had 35-40 years or whatever it is where you didn't have much control over your taxes. But here you are with all these different situations. You've got control over the rest of your life, and a lot of it has to do with when you choose to pay taxes. Here's one that's not the one we want to talk about. It's not fun to talk about, so usually people ignore it or they're kind of surprised by it. Hopefully you're surprised by it ahead of time so that you can do some things about it. When there's two of you, your tax bracket is different than when there's one of you. A lot of people retire and they're married and they've spent their life together and they understand that they want to spend their retirement together, but at some point you won't be, right? Somebody is going to pass away first. Let’s say you’re a couple making $100,000. When you make $100,000 as a couple, you're probably in the 12% tax bracket. Especially when you're retired, you're probably in the 12% tax bracket. The way that tax brackets work is complex. There’s books about this, but the way the tax brackets work is at that point roughly half of your income is at the 12% bracket. Some of it’s at nothing, some of it's at 10%, and like half of it's at 12%. Well, when the first person dies, the tax bracket is actually cut in half. At the same time you might be making less money. That usually happens. The lowest social security goes away. So this couple was making $100,000 together in the 12% bracket. The widow might drop down to $85,000. Well, now they have less income, but they're not in the 12% bracket anymore. Because the tax brackets got cut in half they went from having half their money at the 12% rate to half their money at the 22% rate. We see this all the time.
Aric Johnson: Okay Jeremy, so what you're saying is that when one spouse dies, they get the higher of the two for social security correct? I know that historically men have worked higher paying jobs just because that's kind of the way the world has been working for decades. They're the main breadwinner traditionally, so they usually have higher payments for social security. Let's say the husband was receiving $2,000 and the wife was receiving $1,000. That's $3,000 altogether, but if he dies, she begins receiving the $2,000 but loses the $1,000, so her income goes from $3,000 to $2,000, correct? Is that what you're saying?
Jeremy Keil: Yeah. That's exactly it. It's a little bit more complicated than that, but I love that example. That's a great way to go about it. Another thing too, traditionally a lot of the husbands are a couple years older than the wives, so traditionally the husbands get to a higher amount first because they're just older. That's just kind of the way life has seemed to work out. That’s starting to change a lot right now but still a lot of people that are retiring today at 60 or 65 are somewhat close to that traditional idea. Either way, no matter what it is, if you have two social securities, one goes away when the first person dies. It's still the lower one. It doesn't matter whose it is, but the lower one goes away. Oftentimes we work with couples where combined they might be making $100,000 roughly speaking. They're at the top of the 12% tax bracket, which means roughly half their income is in that 12% tax bracket. Let's pretend the government looks at these two people making $100,000. It's like they're both making $50,000, right? It doesn't matter if they're both making $50,000 or if one's making $100,000 while the other is making $0. They kind of say, oh, you're making roughly $50,000, and for single folks, when you add in the deductions and so forth, that's like the top of the 12% bracket. So for that couple that beforehand was making $100,000, it's like the government looked at them as two single folks making $50,000 in a way. But when the first person dies and their income drops from $100,000 to $85,000, now there's that one single person. Now she's filing as a single person making $85,000, and she's got a lot of income above that point where it turned from 12% to 22%. Roughly speaking, it's like half your income went from 12% as a married couple to where roughly half your income is in the 22% bracket as a single individual. That's why a lot of times you have people that lower their income as a widow while their taxes go up. It's unfortunate, but that's just kind of the way the tax system works.
Aric Johnson: Yeah. I mean, it's almost a penalty, right? It's a penalty for somebody dying, and that's hard. The thing that bothers me is that she's a widow. Either way, anybody who loses a spouse is going through tremendous turmoil, they have to make huge adjustments in their life, and now they're going to be charged more in taxes. You are just getting kicked while you're down.
Jeremy Keil: Yeah. I don't think it was intentional, and really how can you come up with a system that's perfectly fair all the time for every situation? But now you guys know about it, and hopefully this is the last thing that happens as part of your retirement as a big change. This is way down the road, but we'd rather you figure this out now as you're planning for retirement instead of being the widow who finds out about it in April the year or two after the spouse dies. Like, wait a second, I have higher taxes. Well, you're in a different tax bracket now. We like to run the numbers for this stuff. People say, oh, we can live on less because there's one of us. Well, your property taxes didn't change. Or they’ll say, we'll make less, so the taxes will go down. Well, it actually went up when we figured it out. Unless your plan is for your spouse to live on exactly half of your income, which I hope is not your plan and I hope you're leaving your spouse with more than half your income, your tax bracket is probably going to change, so let's do some planning on that. Like you said earlier, take control. We can project this out. Let's take some control. When you have that lower tax rate and marginal situation when there's two of you, let's pay taxes on purpose at that lower amount because you might have projected it out and seen, oh, it'll be higher later on. Let's pay taxes now when there's two of us at a lower rate when we can afford to in order to help out that widow later on so that they aren't paying those higher taxes later on when they're forced to.
Aric Johnson: Yeah. That sounds like a good plan Jeremy. I know we're running low on time today. Is there anything in closing that we really need to be thinking about?
Jeremy Keil: Yeah, we use this word control a lot. Control the things you can control. We talk about that all the time. That's a big deal. You can control so much. Focus on things like your tax planning, not your investments. You can't control what's going to happen in the world, and you can't control what's going on in the stock market. When you hit retirement, you can control a lot about your taxes, and it's really looking at what your marginal rate is before a certain event and after a certain event, and then you can take some control and pay taxes on purpose on the lower rate versus when you're forced to perhaps at the higher rate.
Aric Johnson: Gotcha. All right. Fantastic.
Jeremy Keil: Yeah, it's complicated stuff, but it's fun to talk about the planning part. It’s more fun to plan it out than it is to actually pay the taxes, so make sure you're working with someone that's a good tax advisor but also a good tax planner. We talked about the difference between an advisor and a planner, but you need a good tax planner too. It’s probably not going to be the same person, and that's okay. But if your tax person, financial person, investment guy, or whoever it is isn’t talking about this stuff, we don't think they're doing their complete job. You need this kind of help.
Aric Johnson: Yup, absolutely. I want to make two points here for the audience. You need to understand that Jeremy has done this for a very long time, and the best part is that he is not an accountant, right? He works with accountants, and he will work with your account. It makes the team better when someone can kind of orchestrate and be the coach of the team bringing all of these pieces together, so talk to him about that. Speaking of that, Jeremy, how do they get ahold of you if they want to have this conversation?
Jeremy Keil: Yeah. Easiest way is to come check out our website: keilfp.com. There is a lot of good information on there. In the top right there is a button that says, “Start Here”, so if you are looking for a good place to start, we got a “Start Here” button for you. That’s easy enough. Otherwise you can pick up the phone. It's 262-333-8353.
Aric Johnson: All right my brother. This was a great podcast. A lot of great information, and my biggest takeaway is the difference between my tax planner and my tax advisor. It’s probably not the same person. I never really thought of it that way before. That's given me a lot of food for thought, so thank you for that. I appreciate your time.
Jeremy Keil: Absolutely. Thank you, Aric.
Aric Johnson: You bet, and thank you all for listening to the Retirement Revealed podcast with Jeremy Keil. If you have not subscribed to the podcast yet, please click the “Subscribe Now” button below. This way, when Jeremy comes out with a new podcast, it'll show up directly on your listening device. This makes it much easier to share these podcasts with your friends and family. Again, this is a great one to share because this conversation with your spouse needs to happen. It's a great time of year for it, and the planning can begin now. Again, thanks for listening today. For everyone at Keil Financial Partners, this is Aric Johnson reminding you to live your best day every day, and we'll see you next time.
Thank you for listening to the Retirement Revealed Podcast. Click on the subscribe button below to be notified when new episodes become available. Visit Retirement-Revealed.com to learn more. The information covered and posted represents the views and opinions of the guest and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Keil Financial Partners. Keil Financial Partners does not provide legal, accounting, or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax professional. Representatives have general knowledge of the Social Security tenets. For complete details on your situation, contact the Social Security Administration. Keil Financial Partners is a part of the Thrivent Advisor Network, a registered investment advisor. The Content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional investing advice. Always seek the advice of your financial advisor or other qualified financial service provider with any questions you may have regarding your investment planning.