Monthly Newsletter
January 2021
At ML&R Wealth Management, we want to ensure our clients are In The Know.

In this month's newsletter, we have an article that reviews the extraordinary year of 2020. We have another article that gives you some great financial tips for the new year. We are continuing our employee spotlight and introducing you to our Chief Compliance Officer & Director of Development, Sarah Wasaff. As usual, we are sharing helpful COVID-19 resources from our parent company, Maxwell, Locke & Ritter, and relevant investment articles and videos from Dimensional.

We are a firm that understands that managing your assets is about more than money. It is about empowering your future. At ML&R Wealth Management, we focus on you.
Vanessa McElwrath, CFP®, Wealth Management Partner

Once in a very great while, there comes a year in the economy and the markets that may serve as a tutorial—a master class in the principles of successful long-term, goal-focused investing. Two thousand twenty was just such a year.

On December 31, 2019, the Standard & Poor’s 500-Stock index closed at 3,230.78. With reinvested dividends, the total return of the S&P 500 was about 18.40%. Non-US developed markets, as measured by the MSCI World ex USA Index, returned 7.59%. Emerging markets, as measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, returned 18.31% for the year.
From these bare facts, you might conclude that the equity market had, in 2020, quite a good year. As indeed it did. What should be so phenomenally instructive to the long-term investor is how it got there.  

3 Financial Housekeeping Tips to Start 2021 + 1 bonus tip

New Years' is a time to celebrate new beginnings. Out with the old and in with the new. This should also include your finances. While 2020 was a challenging year for navigating all the changes happening in the financial world, here are some important changes to note as you start your financial journey into 2021.

Plan your Retirement Savings Contributions

Retirement savings contribution limits remain the same as 2020, as 401ks are still limited to $19,500 with a catch-up contribution of $6,500 for those 50 and older. Traditional IRA and Roth IRA limits are also unchanged from 2020, with a maximum of $6,000 and a catch-up contribution of $1,000 for 50+. However, one thing did change in 2021, the income ranges for these tax breaks. 

Employee Spotlight

We are excited to spotlight Sarah Wasaff this month! Below are some fun facts to help you get to know her better!
Chief Compliance Officer & Director of Operations

Birthday: December 23

Tell us about your family: My husband, Michael, and I have been married for 10 years and we have two awesome boys that are 8 and 6 years old. We also have a sweet dog named Samson.

Favorite Indoor/Outdoor Activity? In the past 10 years or so I have really fallen in love with hiking. And I love indoor spinning!

What is your favorite way to spend the weekend? My favorite way to spend the weekend is with some family time outside either hiking or biking. A great take-out meal. Some time binge-watching with my husband after the kids go to bed. And finally, some creative time crafting.

What was your dream job as a kid? I used to say I wanted to be a CEO even though I always forgot what the letters CEO stood for. I knew I wanted to be in business, though. While most kids were playing house, I would play office.

What is your favorite part of working at ML&R? I love the culture and people at ML&R. The company really is like none other. They don't just talk the talk but they walk the walk when it comes to work-life balance.
Financial Wellness Q&A
In this section, we will address common personal finance questions. Email if you have a question you would like answered.

Question: How long do I have to keep my tax records?

Answer: According to the IRS, you should keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return. However, keep in mind that in some cases you can be audited up to 7 years after filing. ML&R Wealth Management recommends keeping all tax-related documents for 7 years. When purging records, be sure and shred paper documents, destroy electronic storage devices or completely remove files from computers to protect against identity theft.  

Question: Is it too late to withdraw 529 funds for a 2020 education expense?

Answer: No. There are no withdrawal deadlines for a 529 plan. However, it is advised that you withdraw the funds as soon as possible from the 529 plan to cover any expenses from the previous year that have not already been reimbursed. Best practice is to reimburse in the same plan year the expenses incurred so the 1098-T (IRS tuition statement) matches the 1099-Q (payments from qualified education programs). 

The year 2020 proved to be one of the most tumultuous in modern history, marked by a number of developments that were historically unprecedented. But the year also demonstrated the resilience of people, institutions, and financial markets.

Market prices have shown us that certain companies have benefited from the way society has changed during the COVID-19 crisis. A group of tech-focused businesses, referred to as FAANG stocks, have seen their share values increase in ways that are challenging to put in perspective.1 As my friend and colleague Gene Fama said recently:

These firms are entirely different from one another. And they are the end result of a process that started back maybe before 2000, where companies involved in various aspects of tech, of which there were hundreds, or maybe thousands at that point, were all competing to boil to the top. And these five or whatever boiled to the top, so we tend to concentrate on them and forget about the fact that most of this industry died. If you were trying to pick out who were going to be the winners back then, you probably have an empty sack at this point. What we have now are basically the ex post winners. But going ahead, we do not expect them to have 20% returns, never mind 34% returns or whatever the number is. That’s out of the ballpark as far as an expected return goes.

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in the U.S. and across the world, our priority at Maxwell Locke & Ritter is the safety and well-being of our people, clients, families, and community. We are monitoring daily updates and recommendations from the CDC. Additionally, we are minimizing the impact that COVID-19 could have on our services and are staying abreast of all filing deadline adjustments. We understand that in this time of uncertainty you may have growing concerns for the financial health of yourselves and your businesses, employees and families. We have curated some helpful resources for you and will continue to update this page as new information and updates occur.

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About ML&R Wealth Management:
At ML&R Wealth Management, we take investing personally. Your ML&R Wealth Management advisor will work to develop a lasting relationship with you, keeping in touch to understand your changing goals and to provide an asset management strategy to help achieve them. Whenever you need sound financial advice, you have a direct line to a trusted advisor.

For over 20 years, we have served individuals, families, businesses, and nonprofits with wealth management services, custom retirement and 401(k) plans, and portfolio management.

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