Good Day Alabama: Feb. 2, 2016

Good Day Alabama: Feb. 2, 2016

Here's what you saw on Good Day Alabama:

JEH JEH LIVE - Jeh Jeh joins us live from Pinson Bicentennial Park as part of Red Rock Tuesday. He learns more about how this park will help celebrate the legacy of Pinson's 200-year history and how it ties into the Red Rock System. The Red Rock Ridge and Valley Trail System will connect existing trails and parks connecting our communities while improving the health, economy, and quality of life for our region.  For more information on the many hiking trails and future plans, visit redrocktrail.org/.

BETH K - If you have heart problems or high blood pressure, you may have avoided coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods. But, as UAB Nutritionist Dr. Beth Kitchin told us about the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Heart Association which includes an article on  researchers and doctors who say you probably don't have to! In the Cardiovascular Health Study, researchers studied 1,388 people over the age of 64 -46 percent male, mean age 72- without atrial fibrillation. The participants completed baseline food frequency assessments. They were then monitored with a 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiography (Holter) monitor - a little monitor that records your heart's activities. 840 (61 percent) participants reported that they had more than one caffeinated product a day. What they found was that self-reported caffeine intake was not related to having premature heart beats – the most common form of irregular heartbeat. There were definitely some limitations to this study. It was an observational study – the kind that shows "circumstantial evidence". And also, they used self-reported "habitual" intake of caffeine - not the amount of caffeine before and during the monitoring. But these results do support other studies that show that caffeine is really not a problem in heart patients. But, in the same issue of the journal, several cardiologists wrote a review of data on coffee and other heart issues – including high blood pressure. They stated that research shows that caffeine really doesn't have an effect on blood pressure. Some people may have heard that coffee raises blood cholesterol but that is only true for unfiltered coffee. Most of us drink filtered coffee. One study found that in people who had already had a heart attack, when they were given about 500 mg of caffeine - the amount in 4-5 cups of coffee, they did not have different levels of irregular heartbeats compared to the people on the placebo. Now, before you go against your doctor's orders and start drinking coffee, make sure you consult with him or her first. Everyone's different and there may be some individuals who do need to reduce caffeine. Also, the brave new world of energy drinks – that include guarana and taurine – have sent folks to the ER.  It may be these other ingredients, combining these drinks with weight loss drugs or drinking them with alcohol. Beth recommends people limit caffeine to 300 -  500 mg a day. Caffeine count for a few favorite drinks: 
    1 cup of coffee -8 ounces: 130 mg
    1 cup of hot tea -6 ounces: 40 mg
    1 can of Coke: 46 mg
    1 can of Mountain Dew:  54 mg
    1.55-ounce chocolate bar: 10 mg

MONEY TUESDAY - While the door has closed on many tax moves for 2015, several opportunities are still available for the savvy planner.  Stewart Welch with the Welch Group joined us to explain. He says there are two options for individuals to explore.
Traditional IRA- You can contribute up to $5,500 to a Traditional IRA and so can a non-working spouse!  If you were age 50 or older last year, you can add an additional 'catch-up' contribution of $1,000 for a total of $6,500.  Your ability to deduct contributions is 'phased-out' if you or your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work. Deadline for making a 2015 contribution is April 18, 2016.
• If neither you nor your spouse is covered by a plan at work: fully deductible
• If you are covered by a plan at work: for joint filers, your contribution is fully deductible if your modified adjusted income is below $98,000 -$61,000 for single filers- and phased out between $98,000 - $118,000 - $116,000 - $131,000 for single filers. 
• If you are not covered by a plan at work, but your spouse is and you are joint filers: your contribution is fully deductible if your MAGI is below $183,000, and phased out between $183,000 - $193,000.
Roth IRA- Same contribution amounts apply as for the Traditional IRA.  With a Roth IRA, you don't get a tax deduction but your money grows tax deferred and withdrawals at retirement are tax-free. Note: The income phase-out for contributing for a Roth is MAGI between $183,000 and $193,000 for joint filers - $116,000 to $131,000 for single filers.
Roth Conversion Two-Step Strategy.  If you are ineligible to make current contributions to either a deductible Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA because you fail the income test - i.e., you make too much money, there's still a way to get money into a Roth IRA. I call it the Roth Conversion Two-Step Strategy because it requires that you complete a two-step process. First, you contribute to a nondeductible traditional IRA - there are no income test qualifications, then you immediately "convert" to a Roth IRA. This is a little loophole in the tax law, so take advantage of it while you can! Remember, a nonworking spouse can also use this strategy. Caution: If you have other IRAs with tax-deferred money in them, then a Roth conversion must be done on a 'pro-rata' basis…meaning you'll owe some taxes on your Traditional IRA even though you left it untouched.  To avoid this, see if your company 401k plan will allow you to 'roll-up' your Traditional IRA into the plan.  Once this has been done, you can follow this Roth Conversion Strategy while avoiding income taxes.  Timing really matters here, so be sure to consult your tax advisor before implementing any of the above strategies. 
For self-employed business owners, if you own your own business, you can still take advantage of tax deductible contributions to a Simplified Employee Pension Plan.  With a SEP, you can contribute 25 percent of your income to a maximum of $53,000.  Your deadline for contributions are April 18th or the filing of any extensions - October 15, 2016 is final extension date. If you have employees, you must contribute the same percentage for them as you do for yourself.  Note: As a self-employed owner, your calculation is a bit more complicated than simply taking 25 percent and you may need help from your tax professional. Assuming you established these plans last year, you have until your tax filing date including extensions to contribute to:
• SIMPLE IRA- You can contribute up to 100 percent of your pay up to $12,500 plus an additional $3,000 if you were age 50 or older in 2015. You must also contribute for certain eligible employees.  Note: To take advantage of a SIMPLE IRA, you must have established the plan no later than Oct 1, 2015.
• Solo 401k plan- contributions come in two forms: elective deferrals and non-elective contributions.  With elective deferrals, you can contribute 100% of compensation up to $18,000 - $24,000 if you were age 50 or older in 2015.  For non-elective contributions, you can contribute 25 percent of compensation but the combination of elective deferrals and nonelective contributions cannot exceed $53,000 - $59,000 is age 50 or older in 2015.  You have until your tax filing date including extensions to make your contributions.

FASHION TRENDS - While cold weather fashion trends are in full swing, it can be daunting to incorporate the hottest runway looks into our everyday wardrobes. Jasmine Snow, best known for her insider advice and extensive knowledge of fashion, styling and pop culture showed us how to rock the latest fashion trends for 2016. She discussed versatile fashion-forward style for the young, style-savvy shopper, as well as feminine, elegant and edgy looks with chic separates that are perfect for layering into both casual and dressy looks.

GARDENING - Sandra Reaves joined us to discuss her straw bale gardening. She says straw bales are portable and inexpensive. The straw decomposes to create a growing medium. Setting up of the bales is easy! Set the bale with the cut side up. Condition the bale 2 weeks before planting. On days 1-3, water the bale well. On days 4-9, water with liquid fertilizer or on days 4-6, water in 1 cup of  dry fertilizer. And then on days 7-9, water in 1/2 cup of dry fertilizer. Plant your seeds when the internal temperature of the bale has cooled. After planting, fertilize and water regularly because there are limited nutrients in the decomposing straw.  For more information, visit Sandra's Facebook page - it includes lots of pictures, tips, how-to videos, and info on veggie trials going on in the garden.  It's a "real time, real life" look at home gardening and food preservation. You can find her at Facebook.com/JosieGladysGardens or JosieGladysGardens.blogspot.com.

NEW IN BOOKS - Susan Swagler writes about books at her "Turn the Page" blog and in Birmingham Magazine. Her theme for this month's list is Good Taste - from a book on food and entertaining by one of the state's premiere caterers to a smart book about American womanhood to a gripping Southern Gothic novel to an unforgettable and inspirational memoir, this is tasteful reading in more ways than one. Today she introduced us to 
- Food, Fun & Fabulous: Southern Caterer Shares Recipes and Entertaining Tips by Kathy G. Mezrano
- The Boston Girl by Anita Diamante
- Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington
- Bronner:  A Journey to Understand by Sherri Burgess

Tomorrow on Good Day Alabama, we bring you advice on retirement.... it's not about an age but a number. We show you how to find out what your number is! Mickey takes us to visit his buddies at the Birmingham Zoo! Jeh Jeh brings us some beautiful music from east Alabama. We check in with the doctor to take questions about your health, and the gardener joins us with advice for your garden! Join us for all of this and much more tomorrow on Good Day!