No RMDs for 2020!

But, you may want to take IRA withdrawals anyway. The reason is simple: Taxes are On Sale!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) have been eliminated for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; but, you just might want to consider taking a distribution anyway.   Why?

Taxes are on sale!  

The dirty little secret is that all that money in your IRA isn’t yours, unless you have so many deductions or credits that you can zero out all your income – not likely.   We have a tendency to look at our statement’s IRA balance and think all that money is ours.  It isn’t .  At some point, Uncle Sam will take a chunk of it.  It will happen when you begin withdrawing it.  So, the only question is at what rate?

Few people are aware that the current tax laws is set to expire – it ‘sunsets’ – on December 31,2025, about 5 years from now (that allows for tax increases without anyone in Congress having to vote for it, though many would happily do it earlier anyway).

So, you can take your IRA money now at ‘sale prices’ or take it later at higher prices.  Why would you want to do that (besides the obvious)?

The SECURE Act has eliminated the stretch IRA.  This means your heirs could have a big problem when you and your spouse pass away.  Odds are it will happen when your kids are in their peak earning years; want to guess what taxes might look like then?  When they inherit your IRA(s), they will be required fully liquidate those IRAs by the end of the 10th year – ouch!  Big tax bite.

What can you do?  Begin withdrawing your IRA money while taxes are on sale over the next five years and do a Roth conversion on the money each year.   You’ll pay taxes now at ‘sale prices’ and the money will grow inside the Roth IRAs tax-free.   Now, there’s no RMDs.   And, when the time comes, your kids will have to liquidate by the end of the 10th year – but the money will be tax free!

There’s a hidden benefit for you, too:  Taxable income is used to determine what percentage of your Social Security is deemed taxable; it’s also used to determine Medicare premiums.   The less money you have in your traditional IRAs, the less the RMDs – and the less taxable income you have.   Hmmm.

If you have a comprehensive financial plan, a Roth conversion analysis should be a normal part of your planning process.   The savings over the life of your plan, and to your kids, could be substantial.   There are a number of issues to be considered, age, possible penalties, etc., so be sure to talk with your financial advisor.  Don’t have one?  See below!

 

Is there a subject you would like to learn more about?  Let me know in just 1 minute!  You can do it here.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Three Tips for Building Family Wealth

There is more you can do, of course; but, these will get you on your way: 

Getty Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Most people work long hours for 30+ years trying to build wealth for themselves and their families  –  okay, it’s really for the vacation home and a nicer car, but the first part sounds better.

The truth is building family – inter-generational wealth – really isn’t that hard to do.  If you REALLY want to do that, these simple steps will get you started.

  1. Choose your beneficiaries wisely when allocating inheritance money.   Leave tax-deferred accounts (IRAs and non-qualified annuities, for example) to younger family members.  They’re likely in a lower tax bracket and have longer life expectancies for taking the required minimum distributions, which means the distributions will be smaller, as well.    Highly appreciated assets are best left to beneficiaries in higher tax brackets as long as the cost-basis can be stepped up to the current price levels.  This means wealthier recipients can sell the asset with little or no tax consequences.  The high-income beneficiaries would most benefit from the tax-free benefits from life insurance policies.   Life insurance is the most overlooked, yet one of the most valuable tools in the toolbox.   Where else could you create an estate with the stroke of a pen?

  2. Don’t be too eager to drop older life insurance policies.  Some may wonder why keep the policy if they no longer need it.  Those older policies may be paying an attractive interest rate, which is accumulating tax-deferred.  Secondly, those small premiums may well be worth the much larger tax-free payoff down the road.   How to tell?  Start by dividing the premium into the death benefit.  Got the answer?  If you think you’ll pass away before that number (in years), you probably should keep paying.   Remember, death benefits generally pass tax-free!

  3. Convert Grandpa’s IRA to a Roth IRA.    When grandpa passes away, his IRA assets will likely be passed down to children and grandchildren, which means they’ll have to begin taking taxable required minimum distributions (RMDs) – which means they’ll probably be taxed at a higher rate than grandpa would have paid on his own withdrawals (when grandpa passes away, the grandkids are probably in their peak earning years, paying higher taxes anyway.  Why force them into a higher bracket still?).  If grandpa converted some or all of his traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs while alive, this problem wouldn’t happen.  Smart kids might want to encourage this and even offer to pay the tax bill on the conversion now!

Review your financial plan with your advisor?  Don’t have an advisor or a plan?   Hmmmm.  See below.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

The Investment Model And It’s Amazing Hidden Powers.

Few understand the power of the investment allocation model, even in – especially in – times of crisis; but the power can be great when tied to a long-range financial plan.

Power of the Model

iStock Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

I can almost guarantee that not many people fully realize the power of an investment model as a means to fulfill a long-range financial plan, even in – or especially in – times of crisis.

The chances of a V-shaped recovery appear to be slim; not just because of the chances of a new spike in the pandemic due to possible premature reopening of the economy, it’s more about how market recoveries generally occur; yet, the power of the investment model remains unknown to many.

Many people intuitively believe that a 20% loss can be recaptured with a 20% gain; but, of course it’s not true.   If you start out with $100, a 20% loss takes you down to $80.   But, to get back to $100, you need to see your $80 grow by 25% ($20 ÷ $80).  So, knowing that it takes a 25% gain to buy back a 20% loss, it’s easy to see why recoveries generally take longer than the original decline.

When we suffer declines in the market, it can be tempting for some people to sell on the way down in an attempt to cut their losses.  The problem, of course is that calling the ‘bottom’ is difficult, because recoveries seldom occur in a straight line.  Next thing they know, the recovery happened and they missed the rebound forcing them to buy back in at a new high.  As you can see from this chart, a simple buy-and-hold philosophy would have been much easier without forcing them to become a market genius.  After all, if Warren Buffett can’t time markets – and he says he can’t – than, why should we try?

Market Timing

That’s where the power of the investment allocation model comes in.

Those who’ve been smart enough to build their financial future with a blueprint tend to have a framework for fulfilling their long-range strategic plan.  On the investment side of their planning, the foundation is an customized asset allocation.  What few realize is that that allocation has an automatic buy low/sell high mechanism that comes built-in!

Let’s look at a simplified example:

Since we talking about stocks more than bonds, let’s use an example of a simple growth-oriented allocation that’s comprised of 70% stocks and 30% bonds, with the majority of the stocks in the domestic U.S. market (represented here using the S&P index) and a lesser amount in foreign stocks (represented here using a Europe, Asia, and Far East index).

Sample Allocation

Let’s assume our hypothetical investor has $500,000 invested.  To make it simple, basic stock-bond allocation would look like this:

Stocks:  $350,000   =  70%
Bonds:   $150,000   =  30%
Total:     $500,000   =  100%

Now, let’s suppose stocks drop by 20% (we’ll pretend bonds stay the same).  Our new allocation would look something like this:

Stocks:  $280,000  =  65%
Bonds:   $150,000  =  35%
Total:     $430,000  = 100%

Stocks are now underweighted by 5% and bonds are now overweighted 5%.  The great thing about models is that they can, and usually are, rebalanced on some type of schedule or according to some built-in protocol.  To get back to our original allocation, money will have to be reallocated from bonds into stocks – the rebalancing ensures that we’re now buying low.

In order to get stocks back to their 70% weighting, we’ll need to bring the stock total to $301,000 ($430,000 x 70%).  That will require moving $21,000 from bonds ($301,000 – $280,000).  So, our rebalanced allocation is now:

Stocks:  $301,000 = 70%
Bonds:   $129,000 = 30%
Total:     $430,000 = 100%

Now, over time, the stock market finally recovers the 25% needed to get back to where it was.  That 25% gain in stocks adds $75,250 to stock value:

Stocks:  $376,250  =  74%
Bonds:  $129,000  =  26%
Total:    $505,250  = 100%

Notice, we didn’t just get back to where we were before, we actually made money!  We ‘beat the market’?  How did that happen?  The market returned to where it was but we ended-up ahead!  

Rebalancing the investment model allowed us to buy low and sell high without being a market genius!

Now, of course, this is a over-simplified hypothetical (you can’t buy an index and I’ve ignored things like the time-frame involved, taxes, inflation, and a lot of other stuff), but, the concept is no less valid.

Oh, yes, rebalancing again now, getting us back to our original allocation, now means that we’re `selling high’ as the 4% overweighted stock money is now repositioned back to bonds until next time.

Not bad, eh?

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Would You Build A House Without a Blueprint?

I wouldn’t. I also wouldn’t be driving in a strange city without a GPS.

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

It looks like the COVID-19 issue is going to be with us for awhile; the U.S. is still seeing over 25,000 new cases each day and some medical experts think we’re in a two-year process, which makes some sense considering the time it takes to get a vaccine into mass distribution, as well as getting the public to embrace it the way they did the polio vaccine in the 1950s.

Congress, of course, has been passing relief measures which, among some, are raising concerns about the national debt which now stands around at 100% of GDP while unemployment payments in excess of normal wages are creating a disincentive for some Americans to return to work until August, when those benefits are due to expire.

We’e in, of course, an ‘event-driven’ bear market which some would call a structural bear in that it is the result of a government-induced forced shut-down. Given that about 70% of our economy is driven by the consumer and no one knows when they will feel safe enough to work, shop, travel, and go to sporting events (a $12-billion industry) – not to mention the achievement of mass innoculation; some experts believe that the bear could last as long as 42 months.

Whenever economic crisis occurs – and it has on numerous occasions throughout history – the lesson comes home that building a financial house without a blueprint makes for bad construction and a poor outcome. That blueprint, of course, is a financial plan that serves as the foundation for an investment process – and a process is not a group of transactions. Today, of course, those who’ve done it the right way are seeing the value, and the power, of having a model to follow and stay within.

If you have a plan, make sure you keep it updated. If not, maybe it’s time to begin one.  If you’d like some help, you can begin your process here.

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

How Social Security and Pensions Might Impact How You Arrange Your Nest-Egg.

Few people think about this, but you might want to.

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Everyone intuitively understands the need to have a balanced approach to meet retirement needs; however, it’s also important to address risk in light of the long term inflation risk.  

Let’s take a hypothetical example using simple numbers.  And, suppose after all the data gathering, goal setting, and risk assessments have been completed in the financial planning process, June and Ward Cleaver (yes, I am that old) have decided they feel comfortable with a portfolio that’s comprised of 60% bonds and cash and 40% in stocks.  

June and Ward are retiring today after over thirty years of working and saving—they’ve done a lot of thing right—and have accumulated a nest-egg of $1 million.   So, in our simple example, that would indicate their money should be arranged with $600,000 allocated to bonds and cash, and $400,000 to stocks.  Simple.

But, suppose the two of them also have Social Security income—maybe even pension income, as well.  This additional ongoing cash flow shouldn’t be ignored in constructing their allocation.    Again, to keep numbers simple (I’m highly qualified for simple numbers).  Let’s say Ward and June have an additional $30,000 in annual ongoing income to augment their savings.   

What does that $30,000 annual income represent?  How much would someone need to have invested to provide the same income?

Assuming a 4% annual withdrawal rate on assets  – we’ll say that fits June and Ward’s situation  –  that $30,000 represents income on an additional $750,000 in assets… except these assets are illiquid:   June and Ward can only take the income, they can’t ‘cash in’ the principal.   It is like, in effect, an annuity, something some people use to simply ‘purchase’ a lifetime income.   I’m not a big proponent, but they do have their place in some situations—but that’s another story.

Nevertheless, if we consider that $30,000 annual income as actually representing an additional asset, June and Ward really effectively have $1,750,000 in assets, $750,000 of which we’ll consider illiquid and providing an income of $30,000 at 4%, but it never runs out of money.   If 60% of their total retirement ‘assets’ is to be allocated to bonds, their bond portfolio might now be $1,050,000 (60% of $1,750,000), $750,000 of which is already allocated and providing $30,000 in income. 

That leaves $300,000 ($1,050,000 – $750,000) to be allocated to bonds from their nest-egg.  This decreases their nest-egg bond and cash allocation from the original $600,000 to $300,000, and therefore raises their stock allocation from $400,000 to $700,000.   If long-term inflation is an issue – and it is – then were June and Ward really risking being under-allocated to stocks?

The ‘guaranteed’ $30,000 cash flow, representing an illiquid asset, provides them with the ability, i.e., gives them the freedom, to still address short-term needs and objectives with $300,000, while allowing more money, $700,000) to address long-term inflation risk.

Historically, stocks have performed, simply because they represent the economic engine of the United States.   And, it has never made sense to bet against the U.S.A.   Pistons drive the engine and the engine provides forward movement.

Jim

Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Are the Markets On Their Way Back?

Markets always do; but strategies in the future will have to be different.

iStock Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Maybe. You might think so. 

While the S&P was down 10.5% year-to-date as of Friday, it’s still UP 1.1% for the last 12 months while foreign stocks actually lost 13.1%.  Who’d a thunk it?   And, the real surprise is the NASDAQ index of small stocks, down only 3.3% for the year and actually UP 9.3% for the last 12 months as of Friday’s close[i].  The 10-year Treasury has gained 17.9% as the yield plummeted to just 0.65%[ii].

The core consumer price index (CPI) is holding at 2.1%[iii]; but, as we see huge stimulus spending driving up the debt, the inevitable result may be too much money chasing too few goods and services, thus driving up inflation – an argument to get the economy moving again in order to drive up production while increasing the job numbers and sources of revenue.  Debt as a percentage of the GDP will be the key figure to watch.

A key worry is a debt spiral. Treasury secretary Mnuchin is already trying to fund the growing budget deficit – the $2.2 trillion stimulus package is the largest ever passed.   John Briggs, head of strategy for the Americas at Natwest Markets, thinks the sheer amount of debt coming is really a war-time sort of funding.

The government has been selling short-term debt (Treasury bills that mature in one year or less) virtually as fast as possible – and more is coming.

The fiscal 2020 deficit – a deficit that needs to be funded somehow – will be four times as large as last year’s $3.8 trillion – almost 19% of GDP, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan group.  Few on ‘the hill’ see a need for caution right now, given the threat of the virus, but there is little doubt corrective action will be on the horizon.

Economists at JPMorgan Chase & Company say GDP will shrink an annualized 40% in the second quarter, according to a feature in Bloomberg News.   That, of course, means a huge amount of debt is coming in the second quarter. 

Having a solid formal financial plan with the right allocation is now more important than ever.  The markets will come back, but because of the CARES Act and the SECURE Act – and added market volatility – the strategies that used to work are now changing.

Jim

[i] Source: MacroBond Financial AB. S&P 500 is represented by the S&P 500 Index, DJIA is represented by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ is represented by the NASDAQ Composite Index, Foreign Stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE Index and Emerging Markets are represented by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. Sectors based on S&P 500 Index sector indexes. You cannot purchase an index.

[ii] Source: MacroBond Financial AB, Morningstar Inc., Bloomberg LP. 10-Yr Treasury is represented by the MacroBond 10-Year Treasury Bond Index.

[iii] Source: MacroBond Financial AB, Federal Reserve (Fed Funds Rate), US Department of Labor (Inflation and Unemployment) and US Bureau of Economic Analysis (GDP).

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

Opinions expressed are those of the author.  The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

Market Crisis in Perspective

A Picture is worth…. you know.

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Is the media overplaying the stock market pullback?

No more than usual.   This has all happened before – just different story lines.  Take a look at the following charts from JP Morgan:

How long do these downturns last?

Last week someone asked me (some people think all advisors are stockbrokers) whether he should be in or out of the market.  

Jim

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Interested in becoming an IFG client?  Why play phone tag?  Schedule your 15-minute introductory phone call!

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® in his 21st year of private practice as Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a fee-only registered investment advisor with clients located in New York, Florida, and California. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742.  IFG helps specializes in crafting wealth design strategies around life goals by using a proven planning process coupled with a cost-conscious objective and non-conflicted risk management philosophy.

The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

What Will “Medicare for All” Really Cost?

Politicians don’t live under the same health care or retirement systems the rest of us do – so promises, for them, are easy to make.

Fotila Images

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

I’m not sure how many of the candidates who are running on government supported Medicare for everyone majored in economics or finance – it maybe explains the obvious their all-to-obvious failure to address the question directly.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for example, promised that it won’t cost the middle class “one penny” – a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by any country now offering universal health care.  According to an inciteful Advisor Perspectives article by Rick Kahler, CFP® and registered investment advisor based in Rapid City, S.D., the middle class in those countries pay income taxes of up to 40% and a national sales tax equivalent to 15-25% of income.

While Senator Warren estimates the cost over a decade at $20 trillion in new federal spending – a cost the middle class is somehow to avoid – Estimates from six independent financial organizations put the figure in the $28-36 trillion range.

A Forbes article describes the tax increases aimed at wealthy individuals.  Included are:

  • Eliminating the favorable tax rate on capital gains
  • Increasing the “Obamacare” tax from 3.8% to 14.8% on investment income over $250,000
  • Eliminating the step-up in basis for inheritors
  • Establishing a financial transaction tax of 0.10%

The capital gains tax increase, the step-up in basis, and the financial transaction tax will all affect middle class investors – potentially anyone with a 401(k) or an IRA.  Rick Kahler points out that the American Retirement Association estimates that the financial transaction tax alone will cost the average 401(k) and IRA investor over $1,500 a year.

The 0.10% financial transaction tax, for example, would apply to all securities sold and purchased within a mutual fund or ETF, in addition to any purchases and sales of the funds themselves by investors.  Mr. Kahler estimates these costs can run 0.20% to 0.30% a year to fund investors.   When you consider some index funds charge only 0.10% in total expenses, the increase comes to 200% or more.

Eliminating the step-up in basis and the favorable capital gains treatment will certainly cost middle class investors more than a penny.  A retiree leaving an heir $200,000 with $100,000 in cost basis, could easily cost the middle class inheritor $10,000 to $20,000 or more in taxes.

Candidates can promise – that doesn’t cost anything – but it’s the electorate who needs to do the math.  After all, our elected representatives don’t live in the same health care world the rest of us do.

Jim

 

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Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and An Accredited Investment Fiduciary® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group.  He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.

 

Are Risk Questionnaires Meaningless?

Do they really add value?

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

Risk questionnaires have played a major role in retirement and investment planning for as long as I can remember; and I’ve used them no less religiously than any other advisor.   Frankly, I’ve always felt they were a little stupid. Continue reading

Is Inflation on the Horizon?

We’ve been below 2% for a long time; but, will it continue?

Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

So far, tariff-induced inflation simply hasn’t arrived.  You’d think if it was going to, it would be here by now.   And, the reason is simple:  If inflation was in the ‘pipeline’, goods in current inventory would be marked-up in advance in order to raise cash to cover new inventory acquisition costs. 

We’ve seen this before.  When Mideast oil prices increased, prices at the local gas pumps went up immediately.  But, that hasn’t happened with the trade-tariff fears.

Meanwhile, the Fed continues it’s race to the bottom.  But, after the most recent cut, the dollar strengthened, making American goods more expensive and reducing demand – opposite the Fed’s intention.  Weaker dollars attract foreign capital, increasing exports for American companies; so, the Fed’s losing-streak continues.

Vanguard and Wall Street Journal economists expect inflation to be closer to 2% over the next few years; but, as we know, predictions are one thing, surprises are something else.   Inflation has been less than 2% over the past ten years, so it wouldn’t be surprising that the Fed would allow it to run above that number for a period.

For investors, this is where diversification can play a key role.  Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) are probably the best and purest form of hedging inflation.   Another potential hedge is short-term corporate bonds.  This is because if inflation is driven by a strong economy, consumption will increase and profits should be strong; however, it’s important to know what you’re doing:  It’s important to understand credit risk – not simply trusting ratings – as well as the average duration of your bond portfolio, as well as how that duration has changed over time.

Of course, bonds can be effective as short-term inflation hedges; but a long-term time frame is another story.  Nothing has outperformed stocks and bonds simply haven’t.

Remember, it’s not an either-or proposition.  It’s about having a portfolio diversification design that fits your own desires and objectives – and your attitudes about risk.   Best to work this out with someone who has seen it all a few hundred times and can help navigate the financial marketplace.

If you don’t know where to find professional help, you can ask your family and friends; you can also consult these resources:

The CFP® Board

The Financial Planning Association

Of course, if you’re not a current IFG client, I hope you will consider checking out the tabs at the top of this page.

Hope this helps,

Jim


Jim Lorenzen, CFP®, AIF®

 

 

Jim Lorenzen is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and an ACCREDITED INVESTMENT FIDUCIARY® serving private clients since 1991.   Jim is Founding Principal of The Independent Financial Group, a  registered investment advisor with clients located across the U.S.. He is also licensed for insurance as an independent agent under California license 0C00742. The Independent Financial Group does not provide legal or tax advice and nothing contained herein should be construed as securities or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment to the individual reader. The general information provided should not be acted upon without obtaining specific legal, tax, and investment advice from an appropriate licensed professional.