Archive for the ‘Wealth Management & Investment Planning’ Category

Modern day Robin Hood: Take from the rich, give to the… bank? This week on Your Financial Editor.

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Ken Cage is not your typical kind of repo man. He’s one of the worlds most sophisticated and sought after men in his line of work. But he’s no longer repossessing family minivans with baby seats strapped in the back. Taking from the wealthy is what he does best. From $20 million jets, to boats, and even racehorses; there’s nothing this man can’t get his hands on. Join me this week as I talk to Ken Cage about this steadily growing business in today’s tough economic conditions.

Listen from anywhere, by logging onto www.wfmd.com and clicking the listen live button!  Saturday morning @ 8am on AM 930 WFMD.

About this week’s guest:

Ken Cage, President of Operations

Ken has 20+ years in the banking and collections industry with prestigious firms such as JP Morgan and DaimlerChrysler Financial Services and has vast experience in skip tracing and investigation within the finance sector. This experience allows Ken to understand the needs of banking, financial and legal clientele while utilizing his investigation and recovery skills to provide the highest quality service.

Since joining IRG in 2005, Ken has been involved in thousands of repossessions and investigations on all types of specialty assets. Ken has repossessed units in all 50 states, as well as several foreign countries. Ken has been a guest speaker for the International Superyacht Society and been the focus of many news stories for newspaper, magazines and television all over the world. Ken is a licensed Repossession Agent, Private Investigator and Yacht Broker.

Ken has been a member of many organizations related to the investigation field including American Society of Industrial Security, the International Society of Healthcare Safety and Security, the National Association of Chiefs of Police, Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA), National Aircraft Finance Association (NAFA), International Association of Marine Investigators (IAMI) and the National Marine Banking Association.

 

The Fiscal Cliff Deal…what it means to you.

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

What a huge disappointment.
Not only did Obama and Congress NOT reduce spending and the deficit, they increased taxes and will continue to pile on the debt!  In all the media hyped “noise” and grand standing by politicians one important component was left out…the American peoples’ desire for fiscal responsibility. Here’s a rundown of what politicians enacted, when they had the opportunity to achieve some very positive things for the United States and its citizens:

•    Taxes on income, capital gains and dividends on high earners increased

•     A 3.8% surcharge (tax) from the Affordable Care Act

•    Every American who works will see their payroll taxes increase by about 2%
 (See the Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy Calculator)  Once you’ve filled out the information, there are three columns showing your 2012 tax liability, what you will pay in 2013 (provided President Obama signs the compromise bill), and what you would have paid if we had gone fully “over the cliff.” Nearly everyone will see a slight increase from 2012 to 2013 because of the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, but everyone will pay less than if Congress had done nothing. The Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy Calculator is available here.

•    5% increase in the Estate Tax to 40%

 

Originally, the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction committee (also known as the Super Committee) had a target of reducing the federal government’s deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. Instead, the new legislation will increase America’s federal deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade according the congressional budget office.

Is something backwards about this, or is it just me?

In any event, as my previous email stated after the November elections, Obama and Congress ran out of time and still have to deal with the mandatory spending cuts that were suppose to go into effect on 1.1.13 (that was pushed out 2 months), and agree on whether to raise the government’s debt ceiling (we top out at about $14.6 trillion and are due to hit that level in one to two months.) Obviously, since politicians are against fiscal prudence, the debt ceiling will have to be raised, and we will have to borrow even more money from foreign governments to finance our spending.
Here are three things you can do to protect your personal economy now and going forward:

1.)    Make sure you have confidence in your wealth advisor, tax advisor and estate planning advisor and communicate with them regularly.
(A good resource to use to check out a new advisor is www.ethicscheck.com )

2.)    Vote smarter – check your representatives’ voting records and what their visions are for how our country should run and what government’s  role should be.

3.)    Avoid the media “noise”.  Limit your exposure to over-dramatic headlines and lead stories.  Instead, focus on the facts and the fact that you (and your advisor) have taken all necessary measures to put you in the best possible position to ride out volatility and uncertainty. (See this Forbes article for 8 good tips to protect your finances).

As always, our investment models will focus on our clients’ risk tolerance, time horizon, quality and diversification. It’s amazing just how well the best run companies have done whatever is necessary to focus on their earnings, cash positions, management team, dividends, etc.  Rest assured that at Murray Financial Group, we always strive to provide authentic leadership and knowledge resulting in conservative wealth strategies.

This columnist makes a great point…

The United States has now acquired an electorally powerful liberal bourgeoisie who are convinced, as their European counterparts have been for several generations, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that public spending is inherently virtuous, and that poverty can be cured by penalizing wealth creation. and that government intervention can engineer social ‘social fairness.’ but just when some of Europe’s political class has begun to appreciate the dangers of this philosophy-that taken to its logical conclusion, it leads to economic stagnation and social division-America seems to have decided that it is the quintessence of enlightened sophistication.”
                                                                                                                                                         -Columnist Janet Daley, writing in the London Telegraph, 11/10/12

Well the election has come and gone….and things are status quo.

Friday, November 9th, 2012

The impact on the economy (global) and financial markets (also global) will be more of the same: high unemployment & under-employment, high food and energy costs, volatile investment environments, American, Europe and Asian debt troubles, etc.  In addition to these existing conditions, elected officials will be forced to deal with the “Fiscal Cliff.”

If I may, I would like to break down exactly what the term means, so as you hear and read more about it, you will have a basic understanding of its real impact:

1.  Income tax cuts set to expire will cost $400 to $500 billion and include:

*  President George W. Bush’s tax cuts of 2003 which significantly lowered marginal tax rates.

*  The payroll tax rates are currently at 4.2 percent. If this expires, they will go to 6.2 percent.

*  Other tax cuts that will expire include the AMT patch, Affordable Care and Research tax credits.

2.  Spending cuts that would be initiated under the Budget Control Act would cost $100 to $150 billion:

*  One-half of this stems from automatic defense budget cuts.

*  The other one-half is in the non-defense sector.

3.  Government benefits that will expire would cost consumers $50 to $100 billion and include:

*  Extended unemployment benefits.

*  Medicare doc fix.

If Congress (which is status quo – Senate (D) and House (R)) takes no action, tax rates will increase, spending cuts will begin, and benefits will be suspended.  A “no-action” approach could lead to a $500 to $750 billion hit to our economy in 2013.

Regardless of the amount, it would be very difficult to absorb this hit as it would create a 3 to 5 percent hit to the gross domestic product (GDP) next year.  With Wall Street forecasting 2 percent GDP in 2013, falling off the cliff would send us into negative GDP growth territory and a recession.

So, you will be hearing much about the Fiscal Cliff now that the elections are over.  Unfortunately, politicians don’t have enough time to deal with these very serious problems before year end.  I expect to see an extension of the current policies so additional time and attention can be given to research options. (See the Tax Foundation’s “A Guide to the Fiscal Cliff and the Options for Congress” for further information.

At Murray Financial Group we always strive to provide authentic leadership and knowledge that results in conservative wealth strategies. Our mission remains clear, and we will continue to adjust and modify our clients’ investment models as appropriate for each client’s situation.

Now Money, Later Money, and Never Money…how do the three money types impact your life?

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

The way you relate to your money has a very real and tangible impact on your life, and the lives of your loved ones.  There are three “money types” that people tend to deal with:

1.) NOW Money – the money that is for your current and everyday needs.

2.) LATER Money – money that you save and invest for future income needs (child’s college tuition, retirement, vacation home, etc).

3.) NEVER Money – money that you don’t think you will ever have to touch.  In other words, money/assets that you would like to leave to children, grandchildren, charity, etc).

This post is going to focus primarily on your NEVER Money.  Never Money can take a variety of forms – stock portfolios, IRA’s that you and your spouse created and grew over the years, real estate investments, and many more.  Whatever it is, it is critical to take steps to ensure that it goes to the right person or organization, and in the right way.  Below are 10 common legacy/estate planning mistakes that people often make:

10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes

1. Procrastination.  Simply failing to get around to it.

2. Believing that estate planning is only for the wealthy.  When taking into account the people are often surprised at the size of their “estate.”

3. Not reviewing or updating your beneficiaries and will.  Life changing events such as births, deaths of family members, divorces, and changes in general in your family structure can have a significant impact on how your assets are distributed.

4. Not having a tax-planning strategy in place.  Current tax laws are complex and ever changing.  There are strategies available to help you minimize taxes and avoid estate tax penalties.  Sit down with your tax professional to implement advanced tax and estate planning strategies.

5. Take advantage of gifting.  The government allows tax-free annual gifting of $13,000 per individual or $26,000 per couple annually to as many individuals as you choose.  This is a means of giving away some of your estate tax free to family members.

6. Joint titling of assets.  It is true that joint titling of assets may allow you to avoid probate, but do not overlook the additional risks; misappropriation of assets by the joint title holder, exposing of assets to a divorcing spouse of the joint account holder, exposing assets to creditors of the joint account holder.

7. Failure to provide someone you trust with the location of important documents.  All of the work you have gone through in planning the distribution of your assets is worthless if nobody can find the documents.

8. Leaving everything to your spouse.  The government offers an estate tax credit (repealed for 2010) by leaving all of your assets to your spouse you are sacrificing their share of estate tax credit.

9. Doing it yourself.  Not seeking out expert advice.

10. Naming your estate as the beneficiary.  By directing your assets to be paid to your estate   “pursuant to the terms of your will” assets that would normally avoid probate-will become subject to probate which can be both time consuming and expensive.

As you can see, tax issues are mentioned in several of these 10 mistakes.  With a proper tax strategy, there are ways to leave money in a legacy that doesn’t include a huge tax bill for your heirs.  Life insurance is one option to consider when planning your legacy.  It is unique because it is designed to create a lump sum benefit when you pass away that is paid to your beneficiaries, and they don’t pay income tax on the benefit.  Properly designed and structured, it can be one of the most flexible and efficient financial tools you can use.

Ask these 6 questions before purchasing a term life insurance policy:

What are your income needs?
It’s important to consider your family’s income needs over the course of your policy, including expenses such as mortgages, college tuition, medical bills and funeral costs.

What length of term do you want?
The length of your term will depend on your long-term income outlook. For example, if you’re working for 10 more years and then have retirement benefits and Social Security, a 10-year term may work for you.

Can you convert the policy?
If you outlive your term life insurance policy, you may want to convert it near the end of the term without needing another medical exam. Be sure to read the fine print on the conversion option, as there can be time limitations for conversion.

What other benefits do you want?
Riders – such as disability waivers that pay your premiums if you become disabled – are more common on whole life insurance policies than on term life insurance policies. But they are available, so look into them.

How applicable are advertised rates?
Even if you’re relatively healthy for your age, the rates promoted in online or newspaper ads may be based on an applicant with exceptional health. The price quoted may not be applicable to you.

Is the insurance company stable?
Life insurance companies are usually in excellent financial health, but you should still check out their rating. Agencies that rate life insurance companies include A.M. Best Company, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services.

My last point relates to mistake #3 – not making sure beneficiary information is up-to-date.  A periodic beneficiary review  (video) is a critical tool to ensure that you leave the legacy that you want to the people you want to leave it to.

If you want to learn more about the three money types and how they impact your life, tune in to Your Financial Editor – this Saturday morning @ 8 on AM 930 WFMD.  Listen live @www.wfmd.com.

 

Have you heard, Europe has debt problems?

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

 The subject of Europe’s debt crisis just won’t go away. Since the polarization of Greece’s problems a couple of years ago the subject, and problems, have unfortunately picked up momentum. Headlines in the mainstream media have went from Greece to Portugal to Ireland to Spain to France to the United Kingdom and so on. The 17-member Eurozone has not exactly worked like a well oil machined since its inception in 1999. Europe is finally feeling the pain of an excessive entitlement environment. They are learning across the pond that you can’t take 3 months off a year, retire at age 52 and receive a very generous pension from the government and stay solvent.

I was on a conference call with some market strategists from major financial institutions a couple of days ago, and the general concensus on Europe seemed to be:

Greece will leave the Eurozone sometime in 2013

The European Central Bank has a lot of work ahead due to the debt it is carrying on its books

The Euro currency probably won’t survive in its current state

There will be some investment opportunities because of the uncertainty

Of course, here in the states, investors will also have to deal with election year follies, the “fiscal cliff”the Congressional Budget Office has identified, high unemployment, etc. If we are fortunate enough to gain some clarity and confidence regarding these issues, I think better and more rewarding days lie ahead.

By the way, none of our portfolio models or strategies depend on whether Greece gets its act together or not. At Murray Financial Group, our authentic leadership and knowledge results in conservative wealth strategies and that’s what matters to you and your family.

Do Presidential Elections Affect the Stock Markets?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Presidential Election Cycles as a Predictor of the Stock Markets

By Michael Binger, CFA – Senior Portfolio Manager

The stock market goes up and down in cycles. Over the years there have been many attempts to correlate the cycle of the stock market to certain events in the world and its economies. Serious market researchers attempt to correlate stock market movements to a variety of economic data in their predictive models. Market technicians will try and correlate price patterns to stock market cycles. But there are also a multitude of offbeat theories in predicting market behavior such as the Super Bowl winner, skirt lengths, aspirin production and moon phase theory.

Surely these offbeat theories are pure poppycock, or are they?

The Super Bowl theory is based on whether the National Football Conference (NFC) or the American football Conference (AFC) wins. If the NFC wins stocks are likely to close up for the year. If the AFC wins the market is more likely to close down for the year. Don’t laugh; it’s been accurate 82 percent of the time since the first Super Bowl in 1967. I’ll bet many quantitative staffs would be duly impressed with an econometric model that had an 82 percent history of success. Over the years this and other theories have had varying degrees of predictive power. The problem with these theories is that most believe no logical reason can be forwarded for why they have worked other than pure coincidence. Let’s look at another popular and timely market theory that seems to have historical precedent. This is the Presidential election cycle and its correlation to stock market returns. Historically, there has been a distinct trend in stock market returns of the different years of the presidential cycle. The theory goes as follows: Years one and two of the incumbent President’s term usually have given us lower than average Standard & Poor’s 500 index returns. Year three produces significant outsized returns while year four is again above average. To take this even further, the theory proposes that year two provides the most opportune buying points in the market and late in year four the best selling point. Let’s first look at the historical return data before we start to analyze if this is pure coincidence or if there is some merit to this pattern.

Below are the average and median annual returns for the S &P 500 for each year the Presidential cycle dating back to 1900.

 A clear pattern certainly emerges, but how has this pattern held up in recent decades? Here’s a look at the median returns for each of the four years in presidential terms since 1946, or the end of WWII.

The return data of the last 100 and 50 years both point to a predictable pattern over history. Finally, let’s look at the number of years in which the stock market had a positive return during each year of the presidential cycle.

Clearly the data points to years one and two producing substandard returns with years three and four being better. If you really want to profit off this theory year three would be the investment choice with median returns around 17 percent and positive returns occurring 94 percent of the time.

Is this presidential election pattern purely coincidence or can we build a case for why these returns emerge. I believe a rational explanation can be put forth for this correlation between politics and the stock market.

 The predominant theory for this pattern is that incumbent Presidents want to be reelected. Washington can play an active role in influencing the economy and since most voters tend to vote with their wallets it behooves a President approaching reelection to implement policies that will stimulate the economy and boost the stock market. The administrative branch can do this with fiscal policy (think Keynesian economics) by lowering taxes, increasing spending and curtailing regulation. All of these are generally good for corporate profitability and the stock market. On the flip side, Yale Hirsch of the Stock Trader’s Almanac has found that wars, recession and bear markets tend to start or occur in the first half of a Presidents term. The anemic first half, strong second half S&P 500 returns of the Presidential cycle have been fairly predictable and investable over the previous century. 

The Presidential cycle stock market theory has historically worked over time, but is certainly not bulletproof every time. We only need to look at George Bush’s second term and the first three years of Barak Obama’s Presidency to see that the trend is not perfect. Bush’s last two years, 2007-2009, gave negative returns while Obama’s first two years were strongly positive return periods. This is exactly opposite of what history would tell us, proving that this theory has merit, but like all statistical studies, past predictability is no guarantee of future success. 

Since we have been looking at the Presidential term year cycles it would also be interesting to see the correlations between political parties and stock market returns. Who does the general stock market prefer, Democratic or Republican Presidents? The data may surprise you. Over the last 50 years the Dow was up twice as much when Democrats were in office versus Republicans. Over the last 110 years, dating back to 1900, the market still performed better when Democrats controlled the Oval Office versus Republicans. For Democrats, the Clinton years were really strong, while the George Bush Jr. years of the 2000 decade were fairly weak for the S&P 500. 

2012 is an election year. What can we glean from history as to who will win this year? We should all watch the S&P 500 closely between July 31 and Oct. 31. Historically, when this period has a positive return the incumbent has been reelected 89 percent of the time. When this period is negative the incumbent loses 86 percent of the time according to data compiled by the Standard & Poor’s. Finally, no modern President has ever been reelected when the unemployment rate is above 7.2%. And we all know where unemployment stands today.

Remember, the Presidential Cycle theory is just that, a theory derived from a historical return pattern. Many other things are constantly affecting the stock market at all times in addition to the year of the Presidential term. It is wise to take them into account when making your investment decisions.

The IRS is paying close attention.

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Think tax evasion is a small problem? The Tax Justice Network released a report at the end of 2011 which showed that tax evasion amounts to $337.3 billion per year in the US. Yes, that’s billion with a “B”.

This was based on numbers from 1999 to 2006, and is probably even higher in recent years, as the weak economy may have led more people to hide money from the government. As an example, the average tax refund decreased by $100 in 2011 — perhaps people are reporting less income in order to keep more of their money.

Now, it’s hard for us wrap our heads around how much money that really is. Here’s a way to do so: Recently, Congress was unable to agree on a plan which would reduce the national deficit by $1 trillion over 10 years. Over that same time period, tax evasion will cost us well over $3.3 trillion.

Given my profession, perhaps it’s obvious that I’m a big proponent of everyone following the tax rules. When we don’t, it means that everyone else has to pick up the slack. And the consequences of all of this reporting about tax fraud is greater scrutiny on honest taxpayers, and higher tax rates.

The IRS is Catching More Tax Evaders

The “good” news is that the IRS is doing a better job of catching people who aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. Fraud investigations increased by 14% in 2010, while prosecution recommendations (cases that the IRS thinks should be brought to court) increased 18% and convictions increased by 4%.

Again, it’s possible that some of these increases are due to the economic situation of the past few years, but the fact that the IRS decreased its investigation time by nearly 40 days is a sign that the IRS is doing a better job.

Don’t Give In To The Pressure; Avoid Taxes — LEGALLY

Here’s what you should understand — the rise in tax evasion means that the IRS is continuing to increase its scrutiny on every return. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up the fight! There are innumerable LEGAL ways to avoid paying too much in taxes. And, unfortunately, software programs and fly-by-night tax shops don’t do a very good job of proactively seeking them out for you.

Do Rich People Live Longer?

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

An interesting article in U.S. News and World Report has some surprising insight into this question…

Women and Retirement

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Last week on “Your Financial Editor”, I covered some of the pitfalls women face with their retirement planning.  It’s apparent that menand women have some very similar circumstances, both “pre” and “post” retirement date.  However, some of the issues that women face, if not taken into consideration and planned for properly, could wreak havoc on their golden years.

The Urban Institute is a think tank organization in Washington D.C. and I recently read their latest report about retirement issues for Baby Boomers and found it to be very interesting and informative.  The issue talked about:

  • Boomer women have worked more than ever before, boosting family incomes and retirement wealth.
  • The shift from pensions paying regular retirement income for life to 401(k) plans subject to market volatility adds uncertainty to Boomer’s retirement income.
  • 30 t0 40 percent of the youngest Boomers will replace 75 percent of earnings received in their early fifties, making it difficult to maintain pre-retirement living standards.

I hope you find time to peruse the report.  I continually find it amazing to see how much health, wealth and family are intertwined with our clients’ retirement planning and wealth planning.

Investor Alert…Social Media and Investing: Avoiding Fraud

Friday, January 6th, 2012

The SEC issued an Investor Alert titled “Social Media and Investing: Avoiding Fraud” prepared by the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy.  The alert aims to help investors be better aware of fraudulent investment schemes that use social media, and provides tips for checking the backgrounds of advisors and brokers.