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Financial considerations beyond the 'fiscal cliff'

(BPT) - With the agreement reached at the eleventh hour of 2012 to avert components of the so-called 'fiscal cliff,' nearly all taxpayers will be affected in some way. With...

(BPT) - With the agreement reached at the eleventh hour of 2012 to avert components of the so-called 'fiscal cliff,' nearly all taxpayers will be affected in some way. With that in mind, there are still many things you can do this year to prepare for potential additional tax changes and to take control of your financial situation.

Below are 10 options from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for you to consider as you prepare for your financial future in 2013 and beyond.

1. Consider an IRA-qualified charitable distribution.

People 70 1/2 and older, who are required to take minimum distributions from their traditional IRAs, may give up to $100,000 directly from their IRAs to qualified charities. This will satisfy the required minimum distribution, or RMD, requirements and no taxes will be due on the amount of the contribution.

2. Know your tax bracket.

Now that tax rates are higher at some levels, it's more important than ever to know which tax bracket you fall into. Ask your financial representative and accountant about strategies to keep your taxable income at a reasonable level.

3. Consider converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

Given current historically low federal tax rates, you may want to consider locking in now and paying taxes while rates are low for most people. If you choose to convert later, you may be doing so at a higher rate.

4. Look closely at your 401(k) contributions.

You may want to consider making after-tax Roth 401(k) contributions, due to the low tax rates. Conversely, higher-income earners may want to focus on making pre-tax 401(k) contributions to decrease their taxable income.

5. Consider investing in municipal bonds.

The interest earned on municipal bonds is generally exempt of federal income tax and can help to diversify your overall portfolio.

6. Consider cash value life insurance.

In addition to protecting your family financially after you die, fixed cash value life insurance also can help you reach your broader financial goals while you're living by helping you to diversify your assets.

7. Understand the benefits of inherited IRAs.

They can help your beneficiary take distributions over the maximum period allowed by federal required minimum distribution (RMD) rules, and give your assets the potential to continue to grow tax-deferred for your heirs.

8. Consider harvesting long-term capital gains.

Sell eligible assets while top tax rates for most taxpayers on long-term capital gains is just 15 percent.

9. Consider using unneeded life insurance and annuity contracts to pay long-term care insurance premiums.

The exchange may be free of federal income taxes and help preserve your estate and way of life. This is especially important to households hit by the 3.8 percent Medicare surtax and higher income tax rates.

10. Review your financial and estate strategies

Based on history and our debt situation, it's likely federal (and state) income tax rates will increase sometime in the future. Review your financial and estate strategies and take appropriate actions now that estate law is permanent.

'Taking the opportunity to take a closer look at the recent changes and how they might affect your financial future is critical,' says Patrick Egan, chief retirement spokesperson for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. 'Change seems to be constant and working with a financial services professional can help to ensure you're adequately prepared no matter what happens in 2013."

EDITOR'S NOTE:

The discussion of taxes in this piece is not intended to be comprehensive and is subject to change at any time. Tax law and regulations are complex and depend on individual circumstances. We make no guarantees regarding tax treatment - federal, state, or local - of life insurance or other assets.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and its respective associates and employees cannot provide legal, accounting, or tax advice or services. Work with your Thrivent Financial representative, and as appropriate your attorney and/or tax professional for additional information.

Securities and investment advisory services are offered through Thrivent Investment Management Inc., 625 Fourth Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55415, a FINRA and SIPC member and a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Thrivent Financial representatives are registered representatives of Thrivent Investment Management Inc. They are also licensed insurance agents/producers of Thrivent Financial. Fee-based financial planning services are available through qualified investment advisor representatives only.

1 Municipal Bonds are subject to risks which include, but are not limited to, credit risk and interest rate risk. Some issues may be subject to state and local taxes and/or the alternative minimum tax. Any increase in principal value may be taxable. Bonds are subject to price change and availability. If you sell prior to maturity, you will receive current market price, which may be more or less than you paid. Interest generated from municipal bonds is generally expected to be free from federal income taxes. If the bonds are held by an investor resident in the state of issuance, state and local income taxes such as interest income, may be subject to federal and/or state AMT. Investing in municipal bonds for the purpose of generating tax-exempt income may not be appropriate for investors in all income tax brackets. Please consult your tax advisor for detailed discussion on your specific situation. These and other risks are described in the Fund's prospectus.

Investing in a mutual fund involves risks, including the possible loss of principal. The prospectus contains more complete information on the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the fund, which investors should read and consider carefully before investing. Prospectuses are available from a Thrivent Financial representative or at Thrivent.com.

For additional important disclosure information, please visit Thrivent.com/disclosures.

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