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Bird in the Hand

March 25, 2020

This is a great, easy-to-read article that discusses what to do with regard to investing in times like these. If you already read our latest newsletter article, Coronavirus (Again), you will not see anything surprising. Investing cash sitting on the sidelines and repositioning portfolios are great ways to take advantage of investments that are deeply discounted to what they were just a month or so ago. The economic outlook is still cloudy, so we may not have seen the bottom and we may see more short-term losses from here. However, we do expect a global recovery and so continuing investing through this difficult time can be paramount to the long term success of your plan.

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Warren Buffett is 'almost certain' that stocks will beat bonds over time if rates stay low

February 22, 2020

We have been saying this about bonds for some time so it's nice to share an opinion with the Oracle of Omaha. Low interest rates lower the costs of borrowing so along with a business friendly tax environment, businesses thrive and their stock values tend to reflect that over the long term. Also, low interest rates cause bonds to underperform due to low coupon payments and/or loss of value when rates rise. For more of our thoughts on bonds, please see our Focus article: Why Not Bonds (Again)?.

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Fed Could Hit Back at Trump, a Former Top Official Suggests

September 9, 2019

There are no words …

To the surprise of anyone who knows me, this one has me speechless.  And not because I don’t have an opinion on the subject, quite the contrary.  I agree with the writer on some points, and disagree on others.  Our opinions will always differ, but the fact that a former Federal Reserve Bank governor would write an article of this nature is a severe break in decorum for an institution that prides itself on decorum.

Fact is, everyone has an opinion on the President, and they are not malleable (informed choice of this word, look it up).  We have all made up our minds.  So I’m not going to take the risk of alienating 50% of my client base, 100% of whom I love dearly.  Rather I will let this article, and the ones to which it refers and links, speak for themselves, and encourage you to make up your own mind.

Regardless of where you stand on the President, his person, his policies or his politics, or the economic issues discussed in this article, I believe you will find the issues discussed involve new perspectives and viewpoints which perhaps are not being fully considered or appreciated by any of us, regardless of which side of those issues we find ourselves.

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Here's who's winning under Trump's tax law

April 16, 2019

Normally we write a brief statement about any article we post here telling why we posted it and our opinion on the topic presented. However, this article warranted a longer piece, so please see our latest newsletter titled The Tax Savings and Jobs Act for more information and commentary.

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Tax collectors chase rich New Yorkers moving to low-tax states

March 8, 2019

Moving to a lower tax state has long been a major consideration in a retirement plan.  As this article mentions, however, the pace of “tax flight” has increased, and with it, the aggressiveness of many states in chasing down and persecuting if not prosecuting those they think are gaming the system.  Two key take-aways here from my perspective:  First, make sure your move is really a move (take the dog with you, buy a cemetery plot and hire a dentist), and THEN count the days.  Second, don’t count on the fact that New York is the only state to fear.  My suspicion is that CA, CT, NJ, IL and a lot of others are taking notes if not teaching tactics to tax collectors elsewhere.

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America's politicians are tearing the country apart -- but we can do better

October 25, 2018

Once again you may be asking, “what does this have to do with financial planning?” In my opinion, quite a lot actually.

The current market turmoil, in many ways, is business as usual. 10 to 15% corrections are normal, healthy even, and to be expected. The fact that we are having our second one this year is a bit troublesome perhaps, but still not worthy of panic.

The timing in juxtaposition with the elections, however, is not a coincidence. A correction of this magnitude at a time when the economy is humming along demands a better explanation than “normal market dynamics”. Market performance ultimately is a reflection of consumer and investor confidence, and it’s really hard to be confident when folks from one end of the political spectrum to the other are telling us how bad things are without giving us any workable solutions.

I’m sure the political noise is not the only factor in this week’s volatility, seasonality is an issue as well. For some reason these things tend to happen in September and October. But I guaran-damn-tee you it ain’t helping any.

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'They're protectionist': Fed's James Bullard says other countries won't wipe out tariffs with the US

August 6, 2018

This is finally an objective view of the so-called "trade war". Despite claims to the contrary, our foreign trading partners are not the free-traders that they claim to be; the United States has been on the losing end of protectionist tariffs for years. While one may disagree with the means the president is using, fixing the trade imbalance is an important step toward the future of our economic well-being.

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Aetna CEO: Obamacare 'cannot be repealed, period'

August 3, 2018

I do not know Mark Bertolini’s political affiliation, or what his personal preference would be with regard to what health insurance should look like. I think it’s safe to say, however, as the chairman of one of our largest health insurance companies, he has a vested interest in the continued viability of private insurance plans. I believe him to be informed and, ultimately to have a balanced viewpoint on the outlook for health insurance in the American marketplace.

In my opinion, we are on a waypoint of a trek, the ultimate destination of which is a single-payer system (i.e., nationalized, socialized health care delivery … “Medicare for All”). I have said for years, there is no going back. The only question is whether we are walking, running or sliding, but I believe the path is definitely downhill from here. My take-away from this article is that the Republicans would be well served to drop their rhetoric about “repeal and replace” because it ain’t gonna happen. (Or, if it does, the unintended consequences are not going to be desirable for the vast majority of my readers.) The best we can and should hope for is to stabilize the current system – call it “repair and revise” if you want, because the only acceptable replacement will need to be one acceptable to the beneficiaries of the current system.

Bertolini’s comments provide an insider’s observations in broad strokes of what is necessary to stabilize the current system. Congress’ (both sides of the aisle) and the President’s continued demagoguery on this subject is totally counter-productive to fixing the current system, and only plays into the hands of those whose end game is a fully nationalized single-payer system.

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Don't Assume Clients Know as Much about Social Security Benefits

June 19, 2017

Social Security is Complicated: Although this article is aimed at advisors, it is a good read for anyone. Social Security is based on a complex set of laws, run by a large, entrenched, and often detached bureaucracy.  Like any other governmental program, there are a lot of rules and regulations that most people are not fully aware of, often including, unfortunately, the folks charged with interpreting and administering those rules. This article provides an overview of some of the more important aspects of Social Security which are commonly misunderstood and/or overlooked by individuals in their planning for retirement.

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How the Tables are Turning on Obamacare

January 9, 2017

Affordable Care Act Reform: I share the viewpoint expressed in this article that the Republicans may be getting ahead of themselves by repealing Obamacare before they have a firm, workable plan for it’s replacement.  IMHO, there is too much toothpaste out of the tube for us to go back to the system that preexisted the Affordable Care Act.  Virtually everyone agrees that some elements of the ACA must survive and others that are worth keeping while there is probably not much agreement on what exactly those elements are.  The risk to the Republicans, however, is that the replacement turns out to be no more workable, or no more popular to the masses than Obamacare, but the new plan becomes known as Trump/Ryan/McConnellcare.  Whatever the replacement plan looks like, the Republicans own it. The 2018 midterm elections will be heavily influenced by the success or failure of the Trump game plan.  But health insurance policy effects everyone, and ACA reform, for better or worse, has the potential to outweigh any successes or failures in just about any other initiative.

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Greed Report: Tax Hack - How to Protect Yourself from a Crime that won't go Away

August 26, 2016

"Are people filing fraudulent tax returns a real problem that I need to worry about?"  One would like to think that this is a minor nuisance, but unfortunately, this is a $6 billion per year problem that the IRS has yet to solve. This crime could happen to anyone, and when it does, it is a long, difficult process to correct with the IRS. Fortunately, there are some precautions that you can take to help lessen the chance that it will happen to you. This article discusses the problem and lists a few steps you can take to help decrease the likelihood that you will be a victim. We especially want to remind you that the IRS will not call or email you, so don't even consider responding to those.

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401(k) Nightmares: What NOT to Do with Retirement-plan Cash

August 16, 2016

Should I use my retirement savings to tide me over through a tough spot?”  This is a question we hear often. The generally accepted answer is a resounding no. This article addresses the subject very well.

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Social Security Trust Fund Projected to Run Dry by 2034

June 22, 2016

Social Security to run dry by 2034?  Elsewhere in this section is an encouraging article for retirees, suggesting that pension and investment funds may go further in retirement than conventional wisdom might suggest.  This article, on the other hand calls into question the long range efficacy of the Social Security Old Age fund.  This is not a case of “crying wolf”.  While different analyses project shorter or longer life expectancies of the Social Security Trust Fund, there is no debate that some form of repair is absolutely necessary.  The longer it is put off, the more radical the required changes will have to be.  Higher taxes, lower benefits, later retirement, all must be considered.  But bottom line … it’s a fiscal issue which must be addressed in a bi-partisan, or better yet, apolitical manner.

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There's Good News at Last on the Retirement Front

June 1, 2016

Will your retirement income resources be adequate for your needs?  This commentator offers a viewpoint which I have held for quite some time, but which is not widely supported across the industry.  Long-range financial planning is by necessity, a cautious and conservative endeavor as small divergences can have outsized affects over longer periods of time.  It is encouraging to know, however, that not everyone sees the long-range prognosis as so overwhelmingly daunting.  Every case is different, of course, and these views need to be properly applied in the context of your own situation.

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