Another year has come to a close and we embark on a fresh journey in 2013. New laws, tax rate brackets, strategies, investments and chances for a bipartisan solution to problems that will arise.
Notes from Sandy:
Playa Hermosa Wildlife Turtle Refuge, Costa Rica
Read more ...
Notes from Sandy
Ah, election year. How I hate politics and all the mudslinging that comes with it. Some friends are so rabid on Facebook with their political posts; I can't even look any more. I recently attended a conference and heard Mary Matalin and James Carville speaking together (pictured above). They are so funny with their insults of each other and their opposing parties I have no idea how they can stay married. They each told great "behind the scenes" stories like the day that Dick Cheney shot his friend while hunting quail. All funny stories aside, they gave great insight to their projections of the coming election.
Capital Gains and Tax rates: Going up? Going Down? Staying flat?
Each party has a vision of what the capital gains rates will be, estate tax limits, if there will be a Medicare surtax on unearned income, income tax brackets, AMT tax, and other big issues. Congress and Senate leaders are working now to address the "fiscal cliff" facing our country in January but I don't have much faith they will get a comprehensive deficit reduction deal done. We will see. This means a very busy November and December as we review portfolios in light of changes we believe will take effect.
Read more ...
I am so happy to salute some great seniors this summer. I attended an 85th birthday party for Estelle C. and then one week later, the 90th birthday party for Lynn B.
Lynn was a dancer most of her life and many of the guests at the party had dancing and musical backgrounds and were fascinating to talk to. Lynn’s son sang a beautiful rendition of They Call the Wind Mariah and I learned he toured and sang with John Denver. What a nice afternoon with inspiring seniors bragging about being over 90.
Frances is a client of mine that will turn 100 this year and still lives alone, drives and does all her own organic cooking. She plays piano and entertains for the seniors at the nearby nursing home. She and her sister Norma Y. (age 91) are participating in a longevity study with Dr. Eric Topol from Scripps. National Geographic sent a photographer to her house to take photos of them painting, baking pies and playing piano. They might be the cover story in National Geographic in February 2013.
Frances on the left (99) , Norma on the right. (91)
Global news changes daily with Greece, the Euro, Spain and Italy and their associated problems. I am keeping an eye on the yield of the ten year bond issued by Spain and Italy- when it reaches 7%, which is a critical juncture. Both countries crossed this point in November 2011 and again in early January 2012. Yields are currently near 5.73% and that is a positive sign. If there are fears that Spain and Italy cannot manage their debt and need a bailout, the rates will rise. China’s home prices rose last month, a good sign that China is not yet following the US on a path of a home pricing bubble and the following collapse.
I did the Redondo Beach Triathlon in June, a 3 mile swim in Lake Mission Viejo and had an allergic reaction of hives and welts from “swimmers itch”- I will never swim there again! I just finished the Seal Beach Rough Water swim and will do the 2 mile Balboa to Newport Beach Pier swim and several other ocean swims over the summer. I am returning to Hawaii to do the big Labor Day swim this year- my favorite place to swim. I hope everyone has summer vacations and goals planned. I am so excited to see the Summer Olympics in July and so many Olympians coming back to the trials after “retiring” from their sports. Janet Evans (age 40) , Dara Torres (age 45), and Natalie Coughlin are inspiring when you see them compete against teenagers. Age is just a number- go out and do something bold!! Sandy
Notes from Carol:
This past quarter produced the pullback that we had expected: -3.3% for the S&P 500 Index, -2.5% Dow Jones Industrial Index and -5.1% for the Nasdaq. The good news is that it was a mild reversal and the portfolios and indexes are still positive for the year.
Based on your feedback, I revised the Asset Allocation report. The new format shows you the % of your portfolio in US Equity, Global/International, Fixed Income, Real Estate and Cash. There is also a classification for Balanced, which represents mutual funds that contain both equity and fixed income. This should give you a clear picture of how much of your portfolio is in equity vs. fixed income vs. other asset classes.
I will be going on vacation to Europe at the end of August. I will be visiting Spain, Italy and France. Next quarter, I will report on my observations of how these countries are faring.
Notes from Erin:
Save the Date - Gail Moreno Memorial Golf Tournament
Asset Planning will be hosting the 3rd annual Gail Moreno Golf Tournament to help raise money for the Breast Cancer Angels charity. The tentative date for this event is Saturday, October 20, 3 pm, at Little Rec 9 hole Golf Course in Long Beach. We will be sending you more information as plans are finalized. Please mark this on your calendar!
Our IT consultants are experimenting with new email spam filters for our server. Recently we had many client emails that were blocked at the server and we never received them. If you send us an email and don’t get a reply within 48 hours, please call the office. And if you ever need anything immediately (trades, money withdrawals, etc.) please call.
Alert - You may have received an Internet "phishing" attempt disguised as an email notification from TD Ameritrade stating that your account statement is available online. This email will contain several links that appear to connect you to your account, but may instead prompt them to install software designed to capture their account information. Do not click on any of these links. If an email looks suspicious to you, do not click on any link contained in the email. You should log in as normal through the website directly.
For those of you that are new clients of Asset Planning, you can get can receive additional updates from us by subscribing to our Blog and following us on Facebook. A link to our Blog and Facebook can be found at www.AssetPlanninginc.com
Wow, what a start to the 2012 year!
Notes from Sandy:
I had the honor of attending the invitation only Barron’s Winners Circle Independent Advisors Summit in Phoenix, AZ last month. Hosted by Barrons Magazine, the elite advisors gathered to promote best practices in the industry and the value of advice to the investing public. Of the 350 advisors, I would estimate 35 women were invited. This reminded me of the early days in 1986 with my broker dealer and I was one of three women in a sea of five hundred male brokers. It is still a male dominated industry but the female ranks are growing.
"Never consider the possibility of failure; as long as you persist you will be successful." Brian Tracy
My second accolade of the year is to be featured in Financial Planning magazine, April issue. The magazine sent two photographers out to the office and spent roughly six hours doing the entire photo shoot. The magazine likes that I go “against the tide” of mainstream advisors that use all mutual funds. Combine that with the fact I am still swimming competitively in the pool and the ocean, they decided to take photos on the beach next to the Seal Beach pier. They took photos until it was pitch dark. The photo they used was taken with three long exposures. The wind was cold and blowing so hard, they put my goggles on my forehead to keep my hair in place. I would never want to be a model! We will send reprints as soon as we receive them.
To make it a perfect quarter, the Nasdaq was up 18%, Dow up 8.1% and S&P up 12%. My favorite stock, Apple, gained 48% in this quarter. I do expect a market correction fairly soon. These performance numbers are fantastic but not sustainable as the market basically increased straight up. I have trimmed a few positions and await a buying opportunity when it corrects. China is my biggest fear as their real estate property market has peaked, and if they follow our path, they will fall into recession just as we did. A recession in China will have a global impact and will ripple here to our market also.
“No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” Mark Twain (1866)
Ah, yes, it is also a presidential election year. There are several areas of the tax code that will change as a result of the election. Under a second Obama term, tax rates for most of our clients will rise. If there are changes to the long term capital gains rates, we will be evaluating each taxable account and acting to minimize taxes. Since the Republican party candidate is not finalized but it appears Romney will be running as the choice, modifications may be coming to our tax brackets and estate planning. It will be an interesting year ahead, filled with uncertainty over our elections, tax code, European and China concerns.
Notes from Carol:
The current bull market just celebrated its 3rd birthday. It has experienced more 5% corrections in the first three years than any bull market of the past. Each of these corrections was a wild ride. One of the toughest tactics in a volatile bull market is to sit back and stay on course. As Sandy mentioned we have made some allocation changes and will likely make more ahead. Our focus has been on domestic stocks and bonds and that will continue. International stocks have had a strong 1st quarter but headline risk is still strong and any news (good or bad) leads to major moves.
FYI - In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. government just released records from the 1940 Census. I am fascinated by this information. I will now be able to go on-line and learn much more about my family (see if the stories I heard were true) and share it with my children. The web site is http://1940census.archives.gov. Access to the records is free and open to anyone online, but it is not yet searchable by name. You need to know the county or city where they lived. The name search is coming. There was so much interest that the web site could not handle all the traffic and is being upgraded to handle all the demand.
Tax season is almost over! You still have time to make 2011 IRA contributions. Please send them to us by April 10 so that we can get it posted to your account by April 15.
Notes from Erin:
This quarter was particularly exciting for me as I completed the final requirement to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. To become a CFP®, one must hold a bachelor’s degree, complete a comprehensive financial planning coursework from a board approved program, pass a 2 day examination, have 3 years of direct personal financial planning experience, and undergo a background check. Maintaining the CFP® designation requires 30 hours of continuing education every two years, along with adhering to the board’s ethical & professional standards.
An additional bit of news is the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) was expanded this month in an effort to allow more people to refinance into lower rates. The program’s aim is to help people that are current on their mortgage payments but can’t refinance due to negative equity. More information about HARP 2.0 & can be found at http://www.fhfa.gov/ . If you are looking to refinance & believe you might qualify, please be advised that lenders may have additional requirements on top on HARP 2.0 for refinancing. This means if you if you are denied at one place, make sure you clarify if you are being denied by the lender or the program. If it is just a company requirement that is left unmet, you should try other lenders. We have a couple of mortgage brokers we trust if anyone would like a referral.
Goodbye 2011 and Hello 2012
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Steve Jobs
Notes from Sandy:
It was quite a year of big stories for 2011. Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi, Steve Jobs, Kim Jong-il, all leaders of a different nature, are gone. We had global events with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the Royal wedding in England. The United States of America lost its triple A credit rating and Occupy Wall Street grew across the globe as the 99% expressed their displeasure with greed, big banks and Wall Street in general. I witnessed Occupy Irvine which reminded me more of a soccer event with nice pop-ups, organized bake sales with a bounce house and games for kids. It even had signs in the street announcing a “quiet zone” ahead. No chanting, just signs resting next to people sunning in chairs.
After a very volatile and bumpy ride, the Dow ended the year up 5.5% while the S&P 500 finished flat and the NASDAQ was down 1.8%. As the news on Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal and France kept the averages moving, it was a wild swing from positive 8% in April and negative 17% from those highs by October. China finished down 21.7%, France down 17.3%, Germany down 15% and Canada down 11%. Gold hit an all-time high at $1,778 per ounce and finished the year at $1,566. We also begin 2012 with the dollar equal to 1.2958 Euros after hitting a high of 1.4882 in May, 2011.
I see some positive changes ahead in 2012. I think real estate is beginning to slowly rebound as buyers are jumping through hoops to qualify to buy properties. I think mortgage rates will remain low throughout 2012. As unemployment numbers start to decline, the glut of properties in foreclosure should also decline. I see foreclosures and short sales being worked out so it appears the banks are moving faster on these sales.
Our charity golf event raised over $10,000 for Breast Cancer Angels thanks to our clients, sponsors and friends donating to the event. It was a beautiful sunny day and everything was perfect. Asset Planning also supported the Seal Beach Victims fund for the families that lost loved ones in the horrible Salon Meritage shooting.
Have you set your goals for the New Year? Unless you know where you are going, you won’t know when you get there. I am still working on my goals for 2012 but I plan on many ocean swims this coming year. Nikki is playing water polo and swimming for Los Alamitos High School and I love attending the games and cheering.
Notes from Carol:
Europe and the Stock Market
The stock market is hungry for reasons to go up. That was shown in the last two months. With any news or comments which can be interpreted as positive, the market reacts strongly to the upside. The positive moves
toward the end of November and December had largely to do with announcements regarding the debt crisis in Europe which were in the direction of a solution. The market reacted favorably. But, does this mean we are out
of the woods and on our way to a permanent solution in Europe? Maybe. It will take additional follow through on the part of the central banks to solve the immediate issues and provide some assurance that the crisis can avoid catastrophic levels. The economic data in the U.S. has been relatively upbeat lately. Retail sales for Black Friday exceeded expectations, with the average shopper spending 9.3 percent more, and total spending coming in at a record $52.4 billion. The numbers show the American consumer, the driving force behind our economy, still has the capacity to spend.
Our portfolios have become a bit more defensive without taking us out of the game for the positive moves.
One of the best ways to get young people to save and think about their future is to help them set-up a Roth IRA. As long as they have earned income, they can open a Roth. For example, my daughter made $2,000 working at a retail store. I opened the Roth for her and I gifted the money to start the account. She is very excited about the account, especially when I showed her how much her money will compound over the next 50 years. A Roth IRA is made with after-tax contributions and earnings are tax-free for withdrawals made after age 59 ½.
You can gift up to $13,000 to any number of people without facing gift tax consequences.
Realized Losses and Gains for 2011
We will be mailing out the 2011 realized Capital Gains and Loss reports by the first week of February. This will have the cost basis and net proceeds for any sales. It will also have the capital gains and dividends paid for the year. You will need this in addition to the 1099s that you will receive from Schwab or TD Ameritrade to give to your tax preparer.
Notes from Erin:
Changes for retirement contributions beginning in 2012:
401k, 403b, & 457 maximum employee contributions increase to $17,000 per year. The catch up contribution, for those ages 50 and above, remains at $5,500 per year.
IRA contributions remain unchanged at $5,000 plus $1,000 catch up per year for those above age 50.
Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) phase outs increase for those that can deduct IRA contributions and still participate in a qualified retirement plan (QRP). All Fliers (except Married filing Separately) that don't participate in a QRP can deduct IRA contributions from their taxes regardless of AGI. Those participating in a QRP can only deduct IRA contributions if AGI is under $58,000 for Single Filers and $92,000 for Married Filing Joint. Partial deductions are allowed for Fliers with AGI between $58,000-68,000(Single) and $92,000-110,000 (MFJ). For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a QRP but his or her spouse is, the deduction is phased out between $173,000-183,000 (MFJ). Remember if you make a deductible IRA contribution, always keep track of your basis by filing an 8606 with your tax return.
You can make a full Roth IRA contribution if your AGI is under $110,000 (Single) or $173,000 (MFJ). Partial contributions are allowed for fliers with AGI between $110,000-$125,000 (Single) and $173,000-$183,000 (MFJ).
Please send your SEP, Roth and Traditional IRA contributions for your accounts to API by Monday April 9, 2012.
Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year! Sandy, Carol, and Erin J