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Investing Is Like Poker, Not Chess

Investing is like Chess, not Poker.

The former World Series of Poker champion, and now corporate consultant, Annie Duke, has written a wonderful book on decision making titled “Thinking in Bets, Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All The Facts.” The book opens with a story that many football fans have said is the worst play call in Super Bowl history. For those that may not remember, the Seattle Seahawks were down by 4 points with 26 seconds left in the game with the ball on the one-yard line. The head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Pete Carroll, called a pass play instead of handing off the ball to one of the best running backs in the NFL. The pass was intercepted and the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl. When the details of the situation are clearly discussed in the book -- the number of downs and time outs left, along with the fact that not one of the sixty-six passes attempted from the one-yard line...

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Secure Act: What You Need to Know

It appears that concern over the retirement readiness of American workers has reached a point where both Houses of Congress are poised to pass new legislation with broad bipartisan support.  The House version of the legislation is called the SECURE Act and has twenty-six individual components impacting either an employer’s ability to offer retirement benefits to its employees or an employee’s ability to save more easily and effectively for retirement.  Here is a quick summary of the more impactful provisions: Employer related: Multiple-Employer Plans (MEP’s)- Small employers are often discouraged from offering retirement plans due to the corresponding cost and administrative burden.  The SECURE Act expands on previous efforts to allow small employers to band together to form Multiple-Employer Plans thereby sharing costs and admin duties.  The act broadens and liberalizes the rules allowing small firms that do not share a common geographic area, trade, industry, or profession to join the...

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Trade War Worries Strike Again

The trade war with China reared its ugly head again this month as the President announced a tariff increase from 10% to 25% on $200 billion of goods while also threatening 25% tariffs on an additional $325 billion of Chinese imports.  Beijing retaliated with a threat to raise tariffs from 10% to 25% on $60 billion of U.S. goods on June 1st. Unsurprisingly, the stock market did not like this new development. The global stock market has dropped approximately 4.5% since the announcement of increased tariffs. Throughout the first quarter, the stock market rallied on news of progress towards an agreement, with an estimate at one point of a trade deal structure that was 90% done.  The U.S. claims China is trying to renegotiate aspects of the deal they previously agreed to. The bond market has subsequently rallied as the U.S. 10-year treasury yield dropped from 2.54% down to 2.32% (bond values...

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Retirees: Is Your Tax Refund Costing You Money?

Millions of people get tax refunds every year and, according to the IRS, the average refund this year is $1,949.  Much has been said about how a large tax refund is just an interest-free loan to the government and people should adjust their withholdings to keep more of their money in their pocket. That topic has been well covered and so I won’t beat it to death any further.  But for retirees, there is another interesting angle when it comes to tax refunds.  A big tax refund may actually be costing you real money. Let me explain; the tax code is built on a system of complex calculations for different types of income.  Long-term capital gains being taxed differently than wages is just one example.  For retirees, by far the most impactful is how your Social Security is taxed.  Basically, 50% of your total Social Security benefits, plus your other income, determines...

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Important Tax Change Reminders

Tax season is upon us and for the first time in about thirty years, taxes will be tabulated based on significantly different rules.  This is due to the tax code changes enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in December 2017.  Though many of us have been hearing about the changes for the past thirteen months, we thought a quick refresher on some of the key pieces affecting individuals may be helpful. First things first, personal exemptions are gone, but the standard deduction has been more-or-less doubled to make up for it.  Couples filing Married Filing Jointly saw their standard deduction go from $12,700 in 2017 to $24,000 in 2018.  What’s more, if you are age 65 or older, a married couple can add another $2,600 to that number. This change, coupled with others listed below, should make tax filing easier for millions of households, as it is far...

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The Market Provides Another Lesson

The stock market entered its own polar vortex in December 2018 and tested the discipline of even the most seasoned investors.  December was brutal in both how much the stock market went down, but also in how relentless the decline was.  There was basically no pause button in the three-week span from December 4th to December 24th.  Take a look at the data on the S&P 500 for yourself: [caption id="attachment_7720" align="alignnone" width="255"] *data from Yahoo Finance[/caption] On top of that, the pundits came out punching with claims of the economy entering a recession and how the stock market would continue to go down dramatically.  The S&P 500 ended up losing 9.18% for the month**.  It was a dark moment and people were at their wits’ end.  Some investors inevitably bailed on their investment plans and sold all of their stocks. **according to YCharts We have always maintained, and so has the evidence, that...

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A Giant Lives On

The investment world lost one of its most influential figures January 16th, as John Clifton Bogle, better known a Jack Bogle, passed away at his home in Pennsylvania.  Jack was 89 years old and responsible for introducing the first index mutual fund for individual investors in 1976.  He built Vanguard from scratch, which ultimately became the world’s largest mutual fund company, and now manages over $5 trillion dollars for investors. Jack has always been an advocate for the individual investor, refusing to market Vanguard funds through back-end payments to brokers, therefore passing the cost savings on to investors.  Jack has authored some of the most important investment books of my lifetime, including my personal favorite Enough. True Measures of Money, Business and Life (2008).  The book brings together both an outline for building wealth and a deeper meaning for using it to enhance your life and the lives of people around...

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