December 2007, 4th Quarter
It wouldn’t be January without a comment about my Trojan football team!
The Trojans (10-2, 7-2 Pac-10) won their final four regular-season games to earn an unprecedented sixth consecutive conference championship. It also gives them a record 32nd appearance in the Rose Bowl as well as a sixth straight BCS bowl berth. They easily won the Rose Bowl 49 to 17 over Illinois. Go Trojans!!
Money Magazine Makeover
I again had the pleasure of doing a money makeover for Money Magazine. The story is about a young school psychologist, Patty, who like so many others bought real estate at the peak of the market and will face mortgage resets in the near future. You can read the entire enclosed article to find out how Patty can bring herself out of her current bind without ‘mortgaging her future’.
Junk Mail and Going Green
Did you know that you can stop 90% of all bulk and junk mail from being delivered to you? Join www.GreenDimes.com for a $20 fee and they will stop your junk mail and plant 10 trees. I am doing what I can to become more “green” and help preserve the environment. I take my cloth bags to the grocery store, I recycle plastic, glass, cans and paper and dispose of paints, pesticides, florescent bulbs and batteries on a monthly basis at a designated drop off site. I got an artificial Christmas tree this year- also to stop my puppy from chewing a real one. If you want to cut paper use by Asset Planning, we can email your quarterly statements to you. Both TD Ameritrade and Schwab have electronic confirmation and monthly statements available.
2007: The year in review
What a crazy year this has been. The market has been more volatile this year with the subprime mortgage mess and the talk of recession in 2008. The S&P gained only 3.5% for 2007, the Dow gained 6.4% for the year. Large, mid and small cap value stocks were negative for the year and growth showed positive returns. This is the first year growth style equities had returns higher than value style during the past five years. Oil began the year at $51.57 and crossed $100.00 a barrel last week. Gold began the year at $650 per ounce and recently traded at $863, driven by the dollar’s steep decline against the euro. The euro finished at $1.4773 versus the dollar.
Will 2008 be a recession year? I believe the answer depends on how much lower home prices will fall and if the trouble with lenders persist. At the national level, a recession is commonly defined as two or more consecutive quarterly declines in real GDP. I think the GDP will grow by 1.5% in 2008, barely avoiding recession. I also think the Fed will cut rates again, but that will not help the homeowners that need to refinance their adjustable mortgages. Why? With home prices falling, most of the troubled homeowners cannot obtain an appraisal that will match or exceed their current mortgage. Also, lending standards have tightened and now require proof of income to obtain new mortgages. Foreclosures will increase, and market prices will fall further. The job losses in retail, mortgage and construction have impacted Orange County more than LA County. One positive is that 2008 is an election year and that usually bodes well for the market. Economists at Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch commented today that the U.S. Economy was transitioning into a recession at the end of 2007, based on the jobless rate of 5% in December.
It is time to review your credit report for possible fraud and see who is accessing your credit information. You should review all your credit card accounts you have open and close those you do not use any longer. Having too much credit available will decrease your overall credit score. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and get your free report. You can also request the report by phone from any of the three credit reporting agencies and they will mail the report to you.
You may regret many things in life but you will never regret being too kind or too fair. -Brian Tracy
I hate to say I was right
For the first half of 2008, the Dow has fallen 14.4% and is down 19.8% from the high in October 2007. An official technical bear market is when the market is down 20%. The S&P is down 12.9% for the first half of this year. For the quarter, the Dow lost 7.4%, the S&P lost 3.3% and the Nasdaq gained 0.6%. In the March 2008 newsletter, I made my prediction that the Dow would retest the low level of 11,500. When I wrote that, the Dow stood at 12,500. Sadly, the market has fallen, and true to my prediction, the Dow closed on June 30th, at 11,350. This is one time I hate being right. I have been fairly realistic in my views of the economy, the falling home prices and my worry over the subprime market.
Optimism is the one quality more associated with success and happiness than any other.
Wealth Manger’s Top Dogs
We are proud to announce that we have again been selected as one of the top Wealth Mangers in the nation. Our listing will appear in the July/August issue of Wealth Manager Magazine. My sincere thanks go to you, our client, for your trust and loyalty in our decisions and management of your portfolios.
Dollar gains, then falls, and will gain again
The dollar fell to a record low against the Euro in April and then began to slowly gain some strength. I think the dollar will strengthen by the end of the year. The Federal Reserve board is beginning to comment on the weak dollar. If the dollar gains, it will help offset the high commodity prices and oil.
China is letting its currency escalate faster against the dollar to contain inflation from commodity imports. A stronger yuan will help stabilize the trade deficit between our nations. This will make US exports more competitive with Chinese goods in their home market. This gives the US an edge against goods from Europe and Japan.
A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.
Summer is here! The Olympics will begin 8-8-08
I did the Danskin Triathlon inside Disneyland Adventure. Swimming in the dirty lagoon water is something I never want to do again but it was a blast biking the closed streets all around Disneyland. The run went “behind the scenes” of the attractions and through Bugs Life, etc. I also swam the one mile Long Beach Ocean Festival swim. The problem was the buoys drifted away from us and we kept swimming and swimming, trying to round them. The swim ended up being twice as far as we all expected. I felt like Dory in the movie Nemo: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. With sore shoulders, I finally saw the finish line and took 2nd place.
Notes from Carol
0% Capital Gains Rule
In 2008, the tax law allows for 0% capital gains rate for those in the 10% and 15% tax brackets from now until 2010. The cutoff for the 15% tax bracket is $65,100 for joint filers and $32,550 for single filers. While many of you will not be able to meet this income limit, there are some opportunities that your family members could benefit from. For example, you can transfer stock or other appreciated assets to a child or grandchild fresh out of school to help them payoff their student loans. Then they can sell the shares and pay 0% capital gains if they are under the income limits and not a dependent of anyone. This is considered a taxable gift to the donor but the tax law allows you to give $12,000 annually (or $24,000 from both spouses) to any individual without paying any gift tax. Please consult with us or your CPA if you think this applies to you.
Variable Rate loans
If you currently hold a variable rate loan, you should seriously look into converting into a fixed rate. The Fed is concerned about the weak dollar and will start to raise rates in order to strengthen it.
Asset Management Clients: We are following the market closely and strategically managing your portfolio based on your risk tolerance, long-term objectives, and market fundamentals. If there is a change in your cash flow needs, risk tolerance or long term goals, please let us know so that we can adjust the portfolio accordingly.
Financial Planning Clients: If you would like a review or update, please call to schedule.
Enjoy your summer!