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Market Volatility and Taxes – How to Minimize Both to Double Your Returns

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As a recovering CFO, I find helping people with their financial planning especially fascinating. I recently conducted a Retirement Income Class here locally, where I had the chance to sit down with one of the students to answer some questions she had a little more thoroughly. It was quickly discovered that our conversation had a lot more merit to becoming a formal meeting so we scheduled a time for us to visit at her home where she would feel more at ease and would have access to any documentation she would need. Our friend, let’s call her Mildred, is a 70 year old lady, who like most working class her age has all of her assets in IRAs. She has her social security and a small pension that she lives on and like most people who grew up with Depression Era parents, lives quite comfortably within the confines of her ‘fixed income’. Mildred came to our class because one of our emphasis is minimizing taxes throughout retirement and since she now has Required Minimum Distributions, she wanted to learn all she could about how to lower her annual income tax bill.

Our conversation was fruitful in that we learned she was replacing her windows at approximately $14,000. This was important for her to do because she plans on giving her daughter the house once she passes. Mildred does not like to owe money so she called her Certified Financial Planner out in Maryland and told him to liquidate enough money for her RMD and a little extra so she can pay for the windows in cash. So Bob, the financial adviser suggested that she liquidate and distribute about $26,000 out of her IRA where they would hold back about 30% for taxes to the federal and state governments.

Now that sounds like it’s no big deal, right? Well, my CFO training told me to look to mitigate the costs of doing business, especially as slippery as taxes. We projected her taxes for next year by completing this transaction Mildred would be on the hook for over $11,000. The tax laws have become pretty complex especially when it comes to Social Security Income. Any income coming from IRAs is going to be counted 100% when you calculate the “Provisional Income” or how much of your benefit is going to taxable. So not only does the effective rate go up because you received more income, but more of your Social Security Income gets taxed. There are three levels, 0%, 50% and 85% and once you reach those thresholds your tax bill increases at a 46% clip. By pouring income out of her IRA, she went from a 14% effective tax rate to one that was over 20%.

My first thought was to divide up the payment to the window company using this year’s RMD and then again using next year’s RMD. This would keep her effective tax rate closer to 14% that she would incur anyway. Mildred had two options, one is use her home equity line of credit she had at 4% and since she itemized, the effective cost to her would be closer to 3% annually and to consider that she would pay it off in less than 6 months it would have only cost her about $600 in interest. Her other option was of course, using the window company’s interest-free financing that she could pay off in a year. Either way, this would save her $6,000 in taxes.

But our story doesn’t end there… during our conversation we discovered that gives to charity quite a bit, about $13,000 annually. So we talked about a tax law called “Tax Increase Prevention Act” that allows people who a required to distribute earnings out of their qualified accounts to donate directly to their charity while being counted as their Required Minimum Distribution. Mildred is required to distribute $11,000 this year which would be added to her income and at a 14% effective tax rate that is about $1,500 in taxes, instead she can transfer $13,000 directly to her charitable organization, satisfy her RMD and bring her entire tax bill from $5,000 down to just over $1,100. In other words, by understanding the tax laws Mildred is able to increase her ‘take home pay’ from $3,200 to over $3,600. Who couldn’t appreciate a $400 per month increase, especially on a “fixed income”?

Now, the last piece of the puzzle, her current portfolio. An allocation made up of 75% stock mutual funds and 25% bond mutual funds. Never mind how expensive mutual funds are or the fact that someone in their 70’s on a fixed income with minimal assets is allocated so heavily into the stock market, let us talk about distribution. If we go along with the RMD schedule, there will be a time every year that Mildred will have to sell her mutual funds in order to get her distribution. Now, the mindset is to have the entire portfolio making enough money where she can live off the interest and capital appreciation. That is great in theory but when you factor in the embedded fees of about 3%, the market would have to do very well in order to stay that course and we all know the markets don’t always go up (except of course the last 6 years, but I digress). Historically speaking, there is a bear market 3 out of every 10 years and if Mildred lives another 30 years, she will have to sell her assets when they are in decline at least 10 times during her retirement. I have been helping people and businesses for over 20 years and nothing brings a portfolio to its knees faster than having to take money out while the assets are declining in value. Simple math tells us if I start with $1,000 and the market takes $100 and I have to withdraw $100 I am left with $800 and if the market regains what it lost, I am now holding $880 and if we did that math again? 4 years from now it would be $750.

So our student becomes a client when we discover that it would be in her best interest to implement and manage two strategies. The first plan is called “Sequence of Returns” where essentially we pare off Mildred’s portfolio into 3 parts; short term (3 years), medium term (5 years) and long term (longer than 5 years, built to be forever). The basic financial planning fundamental is you never distribute assets out of a volatile account. By placing 3 years of distribution in a non-volatile (doesn’t lose money) account Mildred can be assured that the income will be there if needed. The expected rate of return is something small, about 1 – 3% but it’s guaranteed and will never lose its principal. Her medium allocation would carry a percentage of her assets with 5 years as her minimum but on average about 25% of her assets. This account would carry very minimal volatile assets that should garner between 4 and 7%, we use 6% as a benchmark. The long term allocation can be engaged in the market if needed or can be simply placed in a guaranteed investment so there is no loss of capital (why take the risk if you don’t have to?). In fact, we projected that her standard deviation (amount of volatility) will decrease from where it was originally at 17% down to 3.5% for her overall portfolio while we increased her average rate of return from 3.58% to over 10.5%. The second plan was to convert half of her qualified assets (IRAs) into tax free savings investments. By implementing this tax conversion plan, Mildred is in line to save at least $30,000 in taxes throughout her retirement and increase her assets by $143,000 with no costs to her.

Good financial planning is about being prudent with your financial decisions and not just about “staying the course” when markets go south, re-balancing when things get too good or about diversifying your portfolio allocation to mitigate risk while capturing upside potential. It is about identifying the costs of doing business, the risks associated with a financial decisions and the unknowns that can strip away all the gains just like a CFO for your household.

If you would like a 10 minute, hassle-free private conversation regarding your tax situation or portfolio, send an email to chuck@pinnacletaxadvisory.com and we will get to work for you. Take the next step, it’s time.

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Source by Charles E Stevens

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Where to Find Those Efficient and Hardworking Affiliates?

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Everyone wants a hardworking affiliate, employee, associate, partner, or even spouse, and why not? It’s the next best thing to doing the work yourself. However with the massive outbreak of work and income opportunities available online, how can you beat everyone else and find that one (or more) ideal person who will make your online business explode with success? Here are some of the most ingenious and uncommon ways to snag the idea affiliates for your affiliate program

Direct Sales Agents

Direct sales people are really one of the most enterprising, hard-working individuals in business. They mostly work on commissions or rebates and are willing to literally go door-to-door offering their products to anyone and everyone they bump into. Imagine how much easier their job would be if they could be an affiliate and simply work via the Internet and a mobile device or desktop.

Also, most direct sales people tend to carry more than one brand in their product arsenal so signing up as an affiliate would be almost the same type of work but using a different approach.

Colleges and Universities

Many college kids would be interested in a part-time income opportunity if it would mean funds to help pay for their education, loan, or partying. All you have to do is make sure to offer them products they can endorse as a student.

Freelancers

Did you know that the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest annual report show that 75% of U.S. businesses used freelancers in 2011? Freelancers earned a whopping US$990 billion in 2011 which is a 4.1% increase from the previous year. The only industries where the number of freelancers decreased were in insurance, finance, and construction. Most probably your affiliate program isn’t a part of these 3 industries.

Furthermore, online business and finance experts are predicting the growth to increase incrementally every year even with an economy that is improving. People just want income security and more control over their earnings. With the spate of lay-offs, it’s understandable why many would prefer to work as an affiliate than as an employee.

Scout For Them At Affiliate Conventions

There are annual affiliate conventions held in different cities around the country. You should try to catch one when it is held somewhere near your location. The average turn-out for these types of conventions has increased regularly over the years. Last year, many of them were sold out weeks before the event.

Advertise!

The US Census Bureau has said that as of 2012, 15% of Americans are poor, 43% of young adults depend on their parents to some extent for money. Even more surprising is that the median income of young adults in 1982 was $31,583 and last year it was $30,604 for the same age group! Income is dropping and people are looking for ways to earn additional income outside of their 9 to 5 jobs. That’s where you can come in playing the hero and helping others realize their dream income.

Finally, go online and talk about your product. Make the affiliate marketers come to you and have the luxury of picking the best candidates. You will need some help in marketing your affiliate program so target a marketer who’s experienced in affiliate program and SEO.

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Source by Lina Stakauskaite

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Recession Is Here… Six Costly Mistakes Home Sellers Make During Recessions And How To Avoid Them

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The U.S. is officially in a recession. What is a recession? A recession is a business cycle contraction or general economic decline due to significant drop in spending and other commercial activities. Most pundits and politicians will blame Covid-19 crisis for the recession, but even pre-Covid-19 the proverbial writing was on the wall.

The U.S. had over 120 months of economic growth, which was the longest expansion in the modern history. Other indicators, such as negative yield spread on treasuries (long term bonds having lower interest rates than short term T-notes), were pointing to an imminent change of the economic cycle and an impending recession. The only real question was: when and how bad?

Then Covid-19 came… If the cycle was going to change anyway, Covid-19 acted as a huge and unexpected accelerant to make the recession much more immediate and severe.

Inevitably during recessions all classes of real estate, including residential homes and condominiums, will be negatively impacted as lower consumer spending and higher unemployment rates affect real estate prices and marketing times.

Here are the six costly mistakes home and other real property sellers make during recessions and how to avoid them:

Mistake #1: This will pass and real estate market will be hot again soon

First thing to remember is that real estate cycles are much longer than general economic cycles. Even if the general economy recovers, which eventually it always does, a typical real estate cycle takes as long as 10 to 15 years. The cycle has four key stages: Top, Decline, Bottom and Rise.

Let us consider the last real estate cycle, which lasted approximately 14 years:

  • 2006 – Prices hit the Top
  • 2006 to 2012 – Prices Decline
  • 2012 – Prices hit the Bottom (Trough)
  • 2012 to 2019 – Prices Rise*
  • 2020 – Prices hit the Top
  • 2020 to? – Prices Decline

*NOTE: In 2016 the national residential real estate price index reached its pre-recession 2006 peak levels. It took 10 years for the real estate market to recover.

The way to avoid this mistake is to recognize that real estate cycles take years to run and plan accordingly. Additionally, nobody knows for sure when the prices will hit the top or bottom until after the fact.

Mistake #2: Low interest rates will make the economy and real estate market rebound

Between 2006 and 2011 the interest rates (Fed Funds) were continuously cut by the Federal Reserve Board and went from low 5% to almost 0%. However, that did not stop the real estate recession and depreciation of property values.

Undoubtedly, low interest rates made the economic decline and real estate recession less severe and saved some properties from foreclosures, but it still took six painful years for the real estate market to hit the bottom and then four more years for the prices to go back to their pre-recession levels.

Some markets had never fully recovered. For example, residential home prices in some parts of California, Arizona and Nevada are still below their 2006 highs.

To avoid this mistake, one needs to realize that although low interest rates help stimulate the economy and the real estate market, they do not cure them.

Mistake #3: I don’t need to sell now, so I don’t care

If you do not need to sell until the cycle plays out, which typically is over ten years, then you will not be as affected, especially if you have a strong equity position, limited mortgage debt, and solid liquid assets.

However, it is good to keep in mind that “life happens” and either professional or personal circumstances can change and we may need to sell property before the downturn runs its course.

Furthermore, if a property has a mortgages and its value declines to the point being “upside down,” meaning the mortgage loan balance exceeds the value of the property, then the options of selling, refinancing or even obtaining an equity line of credit, will be significantly limited.

This does not mean that everybody should be rushing into selling their real estate if there is no need to do so, just keep in mind that circumstances may and often do change and property options will be affected, so plan in advance. As one wise proverb says: “Dig your well before your thirst.”

Mistake #4: I’m selling, but I won’t sell below my “bottom line” price

This is a common and potentially very costly mistake. Generally speaking, every seller wants to sell for the highest price and every buyer wants to pay the lowest price. That’s nothing new. When selling real estate, most sellers want to achieve a certain price point and/or have a “bottom line.”

However, it is important to understand that the market does not care what the Seller, or his/her Agent, think the property value should be at. The market value is a price a willing and able buyer will pay, when a property is offered on an open market for a reasonable amount of time.

Overpricing property based on Seller’s subjective value or what is sometimes called an “aspirational price,” especially in a declining market, is a sure first step to losing money. When a property lingers on the market for an extended period of time, carrying costs will continue to accumulate and property value will depreciate in line with the market conditions.

Additionally, properties with prolonged marketing times tend to get “stale” and attract fewer buyers. The solution is to honestly assess your selling objectives, including the desired time-frame, evaluate your property’s attributes and physical condition, analyze comparable sales and market conditions, and then decide on market-based pricing and marketing strategies.

Mistake #5: I will list my property for sale only with Agent who promises the highest price

Real estate is a competitive business and real estate agents compete to list properties for sale which generate their sales commission incomes. It is not unusual that Seller will interview several agents before signing an exclusive listing agreement and go with the agent who agrees to list the property at the highest price, often regardless if such price is market-based.

Similarly to Mistake #4, this mistake can be very damaging to Sellers, as overpriced properties stay on the market for extended periods of time costing Sellers carrying expenses such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance.

Furthermore, there is the “opportunity cost” since the equity is “frozen,” and it cannot be deployed elsewhere till the property is sold. However, the most expensive cost is the loss of property value while the real estate market deteriorates.

During the last recession, we have seen multiple cases where overpriced properties stayed on the market for years and ended up selling for 25% to 40% below their initial fair market values.

The solution is to make sure that your pricing strategy is based on the market, not empty promises or wishful thinking.

Mistake #6: I will list my property only with Agent who charges the lowest commission

Real estate commission rates are negotiable and not set by law. A commission usually represents the highest transactional expense in selling real properties and is typically split between Brokers and Agents who work on the transaction

Some real estate agents offer discounted commissions, in order to induce Sellers to list their properties with them. But does paying a discounted commission ensure savings for the Seller? Not necessarily.

For example, if the final sales price is 5% to 10% below property’s highest market value, which is not that unusual, due to inadequate marketing, bad pricing strategy, and/or poor negotiation skills, it will easily wipe out any commission savings and actually cost the Seller tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.

The solution is to engage an agent who is a “Trusted Advisor,” not just a “Salesperson.” A Trusted Advisor will take his/her time and effort to do the following: 1) Perform Needs Analysis: listen and understand your property needs and concerns; 2) Prepare Property Analysis: thoroughly evaluate your property and market conditions; 3) Execute Sales and Marketing Plan: prepare and implement custom sales and marketing plan for your property; and 4) Obtain Optimal Results: be your trusted advocate throughout the process and achieve the best possible outcome.

Finding such a real estate professional may not be always easy, but it certainly is worth the effort and will pay off at the end.

In conclusion, this article has outlined six costly mistakes real estate Sellers make during recessions and how to avoid them. The first mistake is not understanding that real estate cycles are long and take years. The second mistake is a misconception that low interest rates alone will create a recovery. Another mistake is not realizing that circumstances may change and not planning in advance. Mistakes number four, five and six pertain to understanding the market value, proper pricing and selecting the right real estate professional.

By understanding and avoiding these mistakes, real estate Sellers have significantly better chances of minimizing the negative impact of a recession while selling their properties.

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Source by Robert W. Dudek

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Useful Tips To Build The Best Gaming Computer

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Every gamer will want their computer to be the best gaming computer among their peers. Sometimes, with a little knowledge and tips and tricks, it is possible to build the best gaming computer and show it off to your peers. This article will show you how:

1) You can’t get the best gaming computer from computer retailers

If you want to get the best gaming computer, you have to build your own. Different gamers have different requirement for their gaming machine. Unless you are willing to pay a high price, you will not be able to buy a commercial computer that fulfills all your gaming needs. The only option you have is to build your own gaming computer.

2) You don’t have to be rich to build the best gaming computer

It is not necessary to burn a hole in your pocket to build the best gaming computer. With some due diligence, do some market research and compare prices around the marketplace. Merchant such as TigerDirect and NewEgg give regular discount to their products and you could save a lot of money if you catch them during their promotional period.

3) Most expensive parts do not have to be the best part

Sometime, the latest model or the most expensive model does not have to be the best part for your computer. It requires various components to work together to form the best computer system. When choosing a computer part, what matters is how well it can integrate with the rest of the components. Compatibility is more important than individual performance. What use is there if you spend lot of money on the latest quad-core processor and find that your motherboard doesn’t support it?

4) You don’t need to change the whole PC to own the best gaming computer

It is a misconception that you have to change the whole gaming machine to build the best gaming computer. If you already have a good barebone system, what you need to do is to upgrade the necessary parts and your gaming computer can roar back to life instantly.

5) Brand is important

Unless you want to see your computer system malfunction every few days, it is important that you purchase the parts from branded manufacturers with strict quality control. Motherboard brand such as Gigabyte, ABIT, ASUS are some quality brands that you can consider

If you follow diligently to the tips stated above. You will be on your way to build the best gaming computer. While price can be an issue, it is better not to scrimp on important computer parts such as motherboard, CPU, RAM and graphics card as it will cost you more to upgrade in the future.

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Source by Damien Oh

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