Your 2021 Essential Financial To-do List


2020 is finally behind us. What is your plan for year 2021? Here I outlined some financial tips for you to put on your early 2021 to-do list to jump start the year to be a successful and prosperous one for you and your loved ones. Below are some of the essential personal financial information you will want to save and keep in handy as your reference guide throughout the year.

  • Adjust your retirement plan contributions for 2021

2021 retirement plan contribution limits

Plan Maximum
Age 50
and Over
401(k)/403(b) $19,500 $6,500  

Deductible IRA
$6,000 $1,000
Non-Deductible IRA $6,000 $1,000  
Roth IRA $6,000 $1,000

The individual IRA contribution deadline for 2020 is April 15, 2021.

Phase out range for deductible IRA is $105,000-$125,000 for joint filing if covered by a workplace retirement plan; Phase out range for Roth IRA is modified AGI from $198,000-208,000 for joint filers.

Health Savings Account Contribution Limit for 2021:

  Self-only Family Coverage
Contribution Limit $3600 $7200
Contribution Limit over age 55 $4600 $8200
High-deductible health plan
minimum deductible  
$1400 $2800
High-deductible health plan
out-of-pocket maximum  
$7000 $14,000
  • Keep in mind these important income tax facts for 2021:

2021 Income Tax Brackets and Rates:

Single Filer
Income Range
Married File Jointly
Income Range
10% $9,950 or less $19,900 or less
12% $9,951- $40,525 $19,901 – $81,050
22% $40,526 and $86,375 $81,051 and $172,750
24% $86,376 and $164,925 $172,751 and $329,850
32% $164,926 and $209,425 $329,851 and $418,850
35% $209,426 and $523,600 $418,851 and $628,300
37% $523,601 or more $628,301 or more

The standard deduction is $12,550 for individuals and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly.

2021 Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Exemption Amounts:

  Single or
Head of
Married File Jointly
Qualified Widow
Married File
$ 73,600 $ 114,600 $ 57,300
25% reduction
if over:
523,600 1,047,200 523,600          
818,000 1,505,600 752,800

2021 Qualified Dividend and Long-term Capital Gain Tax Rate:

Income Range:
Single filer
Income Range:
Married file jointly
Capital Gain Tax Rate
$0-$40,400 $0-$80,800 0%
$40,401-$445,850 $80,801-$501,600 15%
Over $445,850 Over $501,600 20%

Net Investment Income Tax:

Individuals will owe the tax if they have Net Investment Income and also have modified adjusted gross income over the following thresholds:

Filing Status Threshold Amount
Married filing jointly $250,000
Married filing separately $125,000
Head of household (with qualifying person) $200,000
Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child $250,000
Single $200,000

The Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) applies at a rate of 3.8% to certain net investment income of individuals, estates and trusts that have income above the statutory threshold amounts.

  • Annual Exclusion for Estates and Gifts

In 2021, the first $15,000 of gifts to any person is excluded from tax.

Since 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily increased the basic exclusion amount for estate and gift taxes for tax years 2018 through 2025, with both dollar amounts adjusted for inflation. For 2021 the exclusion amount is $11,700,000 per individual, and $23,400,000 for a couple.

  • Review your Insurance policies

If your situation has changed during 2020, such as change of job, birth of a new child, or purchases of new car, house, etc., you need to review your insurance coverage or talk to your financial adviser to help you come up with proper coverage amount for your current insurance needs.

Don’t forget the deadline for individual tax filing is Thursday April 15, 2021.

Gather and organize all your paperwork such as W-2 forms, bank statements, mortgage payment statements, property tax receipt, business expenses, investment statements from your broker-dealers, charity donation receipts, etc. for your 2020 tax filing.

  • A couple of events that you might want to keep an eye on:
    • House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal plans to reintroduce in the new Congress the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2020, which would boost the required minimum distribution age from 72 to 75. In 2019, the Secure Act passed by congress has pushed the age that retirement plan participants need to take the required minimum distributions (RMD) from 701/2 to 72. If this new bill passes, it would create more favorable financial planning opportunities to people contributing to various retirement plans.
    • Another thing to watch for is for families with kids applying for college in the fall 2021. The dates and places of taking the SAT/ACT had been changed a couple of times last year by the institutions which offer these tests due to the pandemic. Since the pandemic is still going on parents need to make sure their high school kids know the exact dates and places of taking these tests. Parents and students can go to to check out the latest updates on SAT test or for ACT tests.

Maximize Health Insurance Benefits and Minimize Your Healthcare Spending in 2021


After some heavy rain and low-40 degree days fall has finally come to Dallas. It signals the coming of holiday shopping, family gathering, end-of-year to do list and, annual enrollment. November is the month that health insurance for individuals and families sponsored by either government or many private employers are open for enrollment.

For people who will not have private insurance, the 2021 Open Enrollment Period starts from Sunday, November 1 and runs through Tuesday, December 15, 2020. You can go to to get information on what Health Insurance Market Place is and how it works. The website also let you browse and compare health plans available for 2021 enrollment. Starting in 2014, taxpayers with low to moderate annual incomes may be eligible for a Premium Tax Credit if they purchase health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Market Place.

If your employer continues to sponsor group health insurance as an employee benefit, you probably have already received enrollment notice from your employer by now. Whether this is your first enrollment or your fifth or tenth time, you need to take some steps to ensure you and your family get the maximum benefits while minimize future costs.

Many medium to large private employers offer their employees a benefit program including a flexible spending account(FSA) under which the employee can elect a reduction in compensation and requests those dollars be allocated to the purchase of specific benefits. The benefits that can be provided include health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payments such as co-pays, coinsurance payments, eyeglasses, and dental care. The maximum employee contribution to health FSA will be capped at $2,750 for 2021.

The election to contribute to employee FSA is made annually before the beginning of the year for which the election will be effective. The salary reductions used to fund specific benefits in the flexible spending account are not included in the employee’s gross income and are not treated as wages for Social Security taxes. If the money allocated to your health care flexible spending account is not used by the end of the year, it is forfeited. So, the first thing you need to do is to look back and review your family’s health related costs in 2020. Or better if you can look back two to three years and detect a spending pattern for your family’s medical expenses. Doing so gives you an idea of how much you have spent on family’s healthcare and where those dollars went. Then you can elect the amount of FSA salary reductions more aligned with your family’s circumstance. Some employers, however, allow their employees up until March 15th of the following year to spend funds in their FSA. So, be sure to check your FSA’s spending deadline with your employer’s human resource department.    

Next, review your current coverage and elections, and then consider the available plans to determine your needs for 2021. All employer-sponsored health plans are required by law to provide their employees the disclosure of important plan information, called The Summary Plan Description (SPD). The SPD contains important information such as how the plan operates, what benefits are provided, when an employee becomes eligible to participate in the plan and how to file a claim, etc. Another piece of document you can obtain from your employer is Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). SBC helps you compare your coverage options across different types of plans.

Among the plans sponsored by your employers, there probably is a type of plan called high-deductible health plan. If you are financially able I would argue for enrolling in this type of plan to take advantage of Health Savings Account (HSA). HSA combines a high deductible health plan with a savings account. According to, for 2020, the IRS defines a high deductible health plan (HDHP) as any plan with a deductible of at least $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family. An HDHP’s total yearly out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance) cannot be more than $6,900 for an individual or $13,800 for a family. (This limit doesn’t apply to out-of-network services.) In addition, to be an eligible individual and qualify for an HSA, you are not enrolled in Medicare.

 HSAs have several tax advantages. One of them is that the contributions are an above-the-line deduction reducing adjusted gross income, so taxpayers do not need to itemize their tax deductions to benefit from HSA. Another advantage is that earnings on the contributions to an HSA are not taxed currently, and the distributions used to pay for qualifying medical expenses are tax-free. Qualified medical expenses include:

  • Medical expenses not reimbursed by health insurance policy
  • COBRA health insurance premiums
  • Long-term care premiums
  • Health insurance premiums if an individual is receiving unemployment compensation

The 2021 individual HSA contribution limit will be $3,600. The limit for family HSA contribution will be $7,200. If you will be 55 before the end of 2021, you can contribute an additional $1,000.

There is no doubt that healthcare related costs are staggering in the US. You will be amazed that even improving your health slightly can potentially lower your healthcare costs tremendously.

Take Care of Your Health to Improve Your Wealth


Part of a financial advisor’s job is to help clients manage the risks that could derail their financial plans or harm their financial well being. Healthcare planning is an important part of this risk management.

As generation X gets older their health is increasingly having more significance on their wealth. To older gen Xers, aging is potentially more detrimental to their wealth than stock market volatility.

According to a CDC report, 78% of US adults 55 and older have at least one chronic condition (Source: CDC/National Center for Health Statistics: National Health Interview Survey). If you are one of the gen Xers and have not started healthcare planning, now is a good time to start preparing for the unavoidable health issues later on.

When it comes to healthcare planning people usually thinks it is all about comparing and buying health insurance. In fact, health planning is a holistic process. It starts with an intentionally planned wellness regime that takes care of not only your physical well being but also your mental/emotional well being. Your wellness program needs to be reasonable, fitting your lifestyle and easy to stick with.

An integral part of your wellness plan is preventative care such as once a year physical examination. As people get older, health related expenses increase, too. Major medical bills are the leading cause for personal bankruptcy in US. It is more cost effective to prevent an illness than treating it. So, if you are 40 or older do not procrastinate on your annual physical.

What is more, the current pandemic also highlighted the fact that healthcare planning is a critical part of one’s risk management. The potential costs of a person hospitalized with coronavirus could be in the range of $21,936 to $38,755 if that person uses in-network service providers; if using out-of-network providers, the costs could be even higher, potentially costing you $42,486 to $74,310 (sources: FAIR Health). Therefore, it is urgent to identify in advance which in-network hospital will be your go-to hospital under your current health insurance plan.

If, unfortunately you have incurred coronavirus related medical bills, ask the health provider(s) to provide an itemized charge to make sure it does not have charges waived by CARES Act, such as diagnosing tests and co-payments. Alternatively, you can go to to find out what health insurers are offering to consumers during the pandemic.

A comprehensive healthcare plan also includes a few important legal documents, such as power of attorney and medical advanced directive. If you have drafted these documents a while ago, now is the time to update them to reflect the current and changing situations.

Poor health undermines our ability to work, thus reducing our earnings potential. Poor health also hinders our ability to enjoy life. It is imperative that gen Xers start taking care of their health now to live a quality life down the road.