Double-digit returns are great unless they're being paid out to someone other than your own account. What do we mean here? Had a look at your health insurance premiums lately? Although we're mid-way through the year you can expect to receive the annual notice of the proposed premium rate change. I've voiced concerns about the rising costs of healthcare for some time now and it doesn't appear to be slowing much at all. When you're premiums for insurance are more than your mortgage, you know there's a problem.
Supposedly inflation is non-existent right now even though the costs of goods and services are on the move. Gas prices are one of the things we often keep an eye on and I've seen them go up around 30% in the past 4 months. Yikes! What about other areas in the economy where prices are going up - many in the double digits! Energy, healthcare, college tuition, food, lumber, raw materials, and services are things we want to keep an eye on.
How about these eye-popping health insurance premium increases:
- 2016 - 7.1%
- 2017 - 16.6%
- 2018 - 13.9%
- 2019 - 8.6%
- 2020 - 6.8%
- 2021 - 1.8%
*Source healthinsurance.org | More detail and article found --> Here
What can you do about your own health insurance and what are your options? You'll definitely want to reach out to your HR department if your employer offers different types of coverage or an insurance broker to help guide you and give you all the insight that's specific to your situation. If you don't have an insurance broker or don't know where to find one, consider Optima Benefits & Payroll.
There are so many different types of insurance or alternatives that you might not know. Things like HDHPs (High-deductible Health Plans) paired with a Health Savings Account or even cost-sharing plans. I personally couple my HDHP plan with an HSA and it works extremely well for our needs. Using this strategy, we're a healthy family with limited visits to the doctors other than routine visits and wellness checkups. None of my family is on expensive medication or has pre-existing conditions that require regular screening or preventative measures so this is a very efficient way to get the coverage we need with flexibility.
Health Savings Accounts (HSA's) offer a ton of benefits for the right families and individuals. They offer a robust system to allow for tax-deductible contributions, tax-deferred growth, and tax-free distribution when used for covered items or services. I've been able to help tons of people invest and grow their HSA's after they've made the decision that an HDHP is the right choice. You can learn more about various insurance alternatives --> HERE.
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Danger ahead or does the party continue? Despite political unrest, chaos in the streets, high unemployment, looming inflation, and concerns about a return to normalcy, the market has been kind to us. That does assume that we have been invested the entire time and not made a knee-jerk reaction to the unprecedented events that unraveled in the past year. Does that mean that all of us have done just that? No - of course not! Recently, we have been meeting with potential clients who have allowed their nerves to get the better of them. After losing around 30% in March/April, they sold investments and remained anxiously waiting in a cash position. Looking back now does nothing good for those in the camp that the sky was falling. With that said, how does that create a learning narrative and impact decisions moving forward? A logical question you may be thinking about even if you were invested the entire time.
Danger ahead? Well, maybe - but what does that actually mean, and how does it impact your overall investment philosophy? The reality is, nobody truly knows when the market will "correct" or go into bear market territory. We are NOT "Perma-Bulls" by any means, but that doesn't mean that we would ever recommend going 100% to cash. In our 25+ years of combined experience, we have yet to see that strategy pan out. The market is fickle. It has no feelings, doesn't know how to tell time, and doesn't care about year-to-date performance. It can be your best friend and your worst enemy; many times over a short period of time. At some point valuations will matter. That's right, earnings, cash flow, balance sheet, and future sales potential will come into focus.
Attempts to be a hero and avoid market crashes can be a costly novice mistake. Possibly the worst investment at this current point in time is cash. So, does this mean that you should do nothing, remain invested the entire time, and become an innocent bystander as your account gets slaughtered? In short, no! Not at all. Keep in mind the stock market has two ends of any trade. There is always someone making money whether the market is going up or down. Finding areas of the market that appear to be undervalued or provide potential upside is our job. It's literally what we are paid to do each and every day.
Is there anything you can do to protect your income or principal? Of course, there is, but that comes with a number of follow-up questions and trade-offs with respect to capping your overall return or tying up your capital for a given period of time. We have ways to hedge against loss, speculate in certain sectors, or even provide defined downside protection. Yes, it's true - there are things you can do to help protect against loss. That in itself is a lengthy discussion and can be done in many ways that are specific to each individual. The point is that you can and should be taking action if it's imperative to meet your needs, goals, and comfort. In many cases, active management and diversification will tackle those challenges and mitigate your willingness to make a foolish decision.
Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett GETTY IMAGES
What are the "experts" saying about the market right now? We cannot ignore the insights from the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, and his often candid commentary on the market. In the latest article citing Mr. Buffet, (FOUND HERE) his market indicator reveals that prices are expensive and a correction may be around the corner. Like most of us, logic, rationality, and common sense don't always line up with market returns. The market knows no time. As the Oracle has mentioned in other articles, "...They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands" (FOUND HERE).
The quote is from 2000 and has relevance over 21 years later. The question shouldn't be "if" the market is going to crash, but "when"? It will happen and you will see your account value drop. Market cycles are a natural thing that reigns in pricing that has run up a little too far ahead of itself. If you've been investing in the past two decades you would have experienced full market cycles that bring down account values and create opportunities. Stocks become a moving target that requires discipline, strategy, and nerves of steel. We watch the markets tick by tick, hour by hour and it's something we don't recommend for the average investor. The number of emotions that can run through your head during the course of a day can be astounding.
Investing is a journey. This is NOT a sprint and shouldn't be treated as such. It's something we hope to be a part of and provide you guidance, knowledge, support, and disciplined strategies as we navigate through inefficiencies of the market. We remain diligent and active in our approach to money management and believe this will aid you in the pursuit of your goals. Although we are not market timers, don't employ leverage, or take on high-risk "bets", we do what we can to protect on the downside and seize opportunities when they present themselves. If you are new to our firm or investing, the one thing we can guarantee is that the market will go up and down. It's not a one-way street and that has to be embraced. Long-time clients of ours know and understand this. We communicate our strategies and rationale in the most difficult of times; the times when most money managers do not want to meet or discuss things.
If you have money to put to work, a looming market correction should not impair your goals. It might mean the type of investments selected are different when things of yesteryear are no longer relevant and change is around the corner. We have a number of headwinds that will work to combat market appreciation and there will always be hints of a catalyst to move the market higher. Remain focused on your goals and we will help work towards achieving those outcomes. Consider our firm as a true partner in your overall journey we call life.
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"Sell in May and Go Away" was an old adage used to advise clients to sell their portfolios during this time. There has been some historical evidence that in cases has proven beneficial, but that evidence has been conflicting; especially in the past decade. If you had followed that advice and sold your portfolio boy would that have been a major mistake! You see in eight of the past ten years the market has been positive and not by a marginal amount either. The historical stats told a compelling story from the '50s until around 2013. Is it by chance, is there evidence or is something else happening here? People have claimed that most Hedge-Fund managers take off from May - October to enjoy some downtime from stress and take those typically warmer months to travel and lay low. The one thing to note is access to trading platforms and how the markets have evolved. We can all pretty much trade and react within minutes if not, seconds, of getting news about market movers. That was all changed with smartphones and the apps that have leveled the playing field.
With that logic, what might we expect for this period and what's happening right now? We have discussed the rotation out of tech and into value for months now on our PennyWise Financial Podcast. We continue to see this theme play out and it does not appear that the shift will end anytime soon. European markets appear to be weak and the virus is still a major headwind for those economies. We view the European markets and International to be behind the U.S. markets by about 6 months or more.
Print baby, Print! That has been happening for a while now and the government seems to be ramping up the distribution of funds with programs to help. Everyone agrees on the need for programs to exist, but how and why they hand over greenbacks is something left for discussion. Inflation should be one of the primary risks for investors right now. It is also the primary risk to bondholders. That's right, the people who wanted safety and didn't want to invest in the stock market could have some challenging times ahead.
Some other factors to include in your portfolio allocation is the looming tax legislation proposals for a corporate tax hike, capital gains tax, and estate taxes. Value stocks are trading at a lower multiple than the high-flying large tech companies which makes them much cheaper and more attractive. Where are managers getting the cash to buy these value names? In your portfolio! They are looking to peel back some of the gains in the tech sector, lock in profits and look for the next big score.
At the end of the day, we consider all these types of considerations to be valid, except the adage to rip all your money out of your investments to sit in cash. Stocks and the stock market don't pay attention to calendars, year-to-date returns, or any other correlation we try to formulate to use as the rationale. Earnings, market conditions, sentiment, employment, interest rates, GDP, legislation, and other factors are real metrics to use when analyzing your investments. We don't follow the "Sell in May and Go Away" strategy as we view this as baseless and a matter of coincidence. We're not believers and we don't think you should be either.
We've all been trained to think credit cards and carrying balances to be toxic to our financial health. That would be true in most cases, but that doesn't mean you should close all your cards, cut them into pieces and never carry one in your wallet or purse. First off, you shouldn't be afraid of them. There are a ton of benefits that come along with credit cards and you should use them to your advantage.
We all shop online and credits provide all of us some insulation from all that can go wrong with spending money online. The pandemic has only created a tailwind for online spending and that's also increased the number of data hacks and fraudulent websites trying to go after your hard-earned cash. Using your debit card instead of a credit card means you immediately part ways the funds in your bank account. Use a credit card and you're leveraging the credit card company's cash. If there's a problem with the order, fraud, wrong item, or a delay - it's not on your dime. How about a product that breaks right after the warranty period? Well, that's happened to be at least a hand full of times. If your credit card has an extended warranty program, you could be entitled to have the product fixed or replaced without any deductible or having to jump through hoops. Some credit cards have decent rewards without an annual fee and that's great, but you shouldn't shy away from the cards that come along with an annual fee. The reason being, some of the added benefits can far outway the cost of that annual fee. Don't be shortsighted on this as it can make you whiff at getting the most bang for your buck.
Points, Cashback, Miles, and such are a huge win if you make two very important choices. First, pick a credit card that provides you the best benefits you're looking for. There's no reason to choose an international airline if you mainly fly domestic etc. This one is a must - spend responsibly. It makes zero sense to buy things you don't really need, just to get the additional miles and such. Those points and cashback are also redeemed tax-free. With potential tax hikes around the corner, we can all use a little break wherever we can get one.
Good credit is extremely important. For those who say they'll pay cash for everything, there will come a time when you will need good credit; perhaps to buy a car, vacation home, or investment property. Credit cards and having access to capital on credit cards will help your credit score. Lavish spending and carrying balances on credit cards can have just the opposite effect; it will hurt you more than the outrageous interest you'll be paying on the balance. Utilization of credit impacts your credit score quite a bit and it's important to keep the cards open as long as you can because longer credit history will also benefit your score.
Promotional offers can be a decent option as a short-term "get out of jail free" card to use on debts carrying higher balances. Where most get in trouble here is doing this without an actual plan. A zero-interest offer for a year or two is tempting for anyone, but don't allow this benefit to turn on your and create more havoc than it should. This is NOT recommended, but I did work with a client back in the mid-2000s that utilized the zero percent offers that carried no fee, and invested those funds into CDs (Not the ones we used to play in our car). He was able to make minimum payments on the balances and collect the interest at the end of his CD term - at the time that was around 6 - 7%!! Anyhow, using credit cards as a part of your overall plan can be a useful tool in building credit, protecting yourself in purchases, shell out some perks in the form of points, cashback, and such.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news to start the week, but this is not your average Monday for things that will leave you feeling a little less than comfortable. For starters, the Peloton brand is finding itself in some hot water after another child is injured by its equipment. Apparently like anything if used by a minor or unsupervised adult, injuries can happen. Let's face it we've all witnessed adults using equipment wrong in the gym so just imagine how a child might want to play on this stuff. At any rate, the stock is suffering from the latest news as it appears they have some things to change or possibly have better ways to alert their owners that this is equipment that can result in serious injury. At any rate, continue using your equipment safely, and let's hope the fitness maker and others can prevent future injuries. More info can be found HERE.
How about your car driving on autopilot or auto-assisted driving? Do you feel comfortable riding along your commute to or from work with a computer getting you there? Tesla has been ahead of the auto industry for some time now and they claim their assisted driving programming is safer than you behind the wheel. The statics have shown it to be safer versus humans driving, but there lies some questions to be considered about the algorithm and ethics put into the programming when making split-second decisions on the road. The latest news shows that the Tesla crash leaving two dead over the weekend was at the hands of the assisted driving feature in the car. This too is leaving some damage on the stock and raising some eyebrows about what happened and how comfortable we should be allowing programming to take over the wheel. More info about the crash can be found HERE.
Another blurb about an internet hack that leaves us more than vulnerable surfing the online web - Facebook and another company called Ubiquiti have been hacked and your data is online for everyone to see. Like other hacks, the best you can do is log in, change your password, enable 2-form authentication if the app or website allows it. It also brings about more questions about how responsible these companies are with our private data. I'm not sure about you, but I don't want everyone around to have access to my cell phone, etc. Take a look for more information on the FACEBOOK BREACH as well as the UBIQUITY BREACH for more details.
The pandemic has created challenges for a ton of business owners across the globe, but none quite like restaurant owners. Monarch Wealth Management began initiatives early into the crisis in 2020 and made efforts to spend local and raise awareness to encourage local spending. This caught fire and a ton of folks ordered food delivered to their home, take our and whatever they could to support these local business owners and help them fight for survival. When I opened my email from American express and learned of this new program I couldn't help hold back! What a great way to help give back and keep these places alive!
We don't promote credit cards or offer them to our clients, but we do get questions about benefits, cashback, and point promotions all the time - and it's hard to deny that these offers are pretty sweet. We're not just a cookie-cutter money manager or large investment firm flying on auto-pilot. Our clients want advice and guidance on anything financial that can help. Take advantage of these, put some money back in your wallet and help out a local business owner fight the good fight.
In an effort to keep the good vibes flowing this Good Friday I want to start a campaign that will run through the rest of 2021. Restaurant owners have been hit hard and I want to do what I can to help. Below are the details:
1. Read my #FinancialModelBlog post to learn more about the promotions going on right now through various corporations and how you can use those to support local places in your area right now.
2. Vote for your favorite restaurant by using Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter and tag Monarch Wealth Management, LLC and the #ROCHESTER #RESTAURANT of your choosing. All votes must be cast by the 15th monthly and I will announce each month's winner by the end of the month.
3. I will commit to visiting the winning restaurant once a week for an entire month. Each month a new restaurant will be chosen based on the votes and I will do this through the rest of the year.
4. I'll also tag a friend to match my efforts each month, post pictures, and tag the restaurant to promote our experience.
This starts now - ready, set, go......
I also want to recognize the following organizations for helping with the additional cashback, rebates, and promotions they're running to get things moving.
Take a look at the details from the American Express Website or visit their site for more details.
CLICK HERE to check out more details or look below for a brief summary of what they're doing!
New Consumer Dining Amex Offers Through 2021
Eligible U.S. Consumer Cobrand Card Members1 can enroll to earn up to $220 in statement credits at U.S. restaurants, whether they dine in or take out through December 31, 2021. Offers include:
- Delta SkyMiles Amex Offers:
- Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
- Up to $165 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members can receive $15 back per month (up to 11 times).
- Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card Members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).
- Hilton Honors “Score More on Dining” Amex Offers:
- Up to $55 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Card Members can receive $5 back per month (up to 11 times).
- Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card Members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
- Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card Members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).
- Marriott Bonvoy Amex Offers:
- Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card Members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
- Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card Members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).
Things have been a little less than concrete since the pandemic and the IRS isn't much different when it comes to tax returns and reform. What changes should you know about and discuss with your tax professional? Below are a few things to consider...
1. Relax and enjoy Some Extra Time to File...well - Maybe
We have mentioned in previous blog posts that the deadline to file your return and make those payments has shifted to May 17th. This was done to help us all as some Americans struggle more than others through the pandemic. More than likely the IRS is behind schedule as well. Great news for those of us who like to drag our feet and get things done. Don't forget to check your state deadline versus the federal extension as they don't necessarily match.
2. More time for...
Let's not forget the people who like to delay filing or request an extension typically wait till the last minute to fund their IRA's and other tax-advantaged accounts. More time to file means more time to save and that includes your contributions to IRA's, HSA's, and college savings plans.
3. What about estimated tax payments?
The news about the extension is more time to file, get your tax documents in order, and carefully file for an accurate return. The delayed filing deadline applies to those who pay estimated tax, but it does NOT delay the due date for estimated payments to be made.
4. Understand the power of paying now versus later
You might be like a ton of us who hear tax savings today, reduce your tax bill now, and other ways of using tax deferral and tax deductions to help your situation. Talk to your tax advisor and if your younger, have a long time horizon, the benefits of prepaying taxes now eliminate 100% of the tax down the road. Of course, we're talking about Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) contributions.
5. Knowledge is power
Talk to your tax person about any legislation changes, deadlines, or strategies. If you don't have a trusted CPA or tax professional - get one! Find someone you trust and can relate to. Fee schedules vary quite a bit and the advice they give can be quite different as well. There are a ton of variables to consider so like most consulting it is more of an art than a science. If things were as simple as using a formula, everyone would use the same calculator and do what's best for their situation.
You want to add liquidity to your finances and you have a ton of options, but may not know or realize this could be one if you're working with the right firm. There are a ton of reasons why someone may want or need to add some flexibility to their current situation. Tax-time is here and for some that can pose short-term cashflow issues, they'll need to address. You don't NEED to sell your investments or other assets to pay for short-term obligations to then further magnify a tax obligation. What are we talking about? A Securities-backed line of credit - also known as an SBLOC.
First, you have to know what it is. We have talked about it on our #PennyWiseFinancialPodcast in the past, but it's a line of credit that uses your investment portfolio as collateral. That means you don't have to liquidate securities at an inopportune time, pay the tax, or worse, sell on a market dip. You can then draw on that line of credit when and if you need to use the funds any way you want. It will provide you with a ton of flexibility.
Let's list some of the benefits to better understand the details of how they work. The application process is streamlined because of our partnership with various lenders. Again - you have to be working with the right firm and the advisors who know where and how to unlock access to these types of programs. There is zero application fee, annual fee, or monthly fee for access to these programs. You might wonder how fees are assessed to the account if there aren't any application fees or annual fees. The account is charged interest based on the amount you borrow from the line. So it's only the portion of the line you're using that will be charged anything. Common uses are for taxes, tuition, real estate transactions, estate settlements, business investment, and other purchases.
In a nutshell, this program can be another outlet for you so you don't have to submit to using emergency funds, credit cards, selling investments or other assets, or your home equity line of credit if you don't have to. This is another tool that can make sense for clients that want an outlet to have access to capital they may need in a pinch. If you have questions about how this works or if you want to learn more about this strategy, SCHEDULE A MEETING NOW!
Taxes are around the corner, but they're also on the move! The IRS made the decision to extend the filing deadline until 5/17/2021. Keep in mind your federal and state tax deadlines are independent of one another and could differ. This comes as no surprise as the economy and individuals continue to face challenges at the hand of the pandemic. In addition to the most recent economic impacts, this only makes sense to change in future years as well. Many 1099's aren't issued until March and some corrected documents are received in mid to late March. Think about that for just a minute. If an accountant or CPA has to prepare, review and file hundreds of returns for its clients within such a short period of time, how many mistakes are made? This isn't an attack on the firms themselves, but more of an obvious concern given the short amount of time allotted for data collection, number crunching, and accuracy.
What about the other end of things? I'm talking about the IRS reviewing, approving, and processing the returns themselves. How much revenue is lost in going through those returns in short order? The tax code changes almost as often as we change seasons, but there have been some recent improvements that can simplify the process and understanding how much is owed or if you're due a refund.
More time to file tax returns only seems logical. Giving people more time to collect all the necessary W-2's, 1099's and other forms needed to prepare the return will reduce stress for all of us. We have clients that call when they're in a pinch because of lost forms, missing forms, or inaccuracies. I am in favor of moving the filing deadline for the sake of all parties - especially the CPAs.
Let's not forget the extension also gives individuals more time to consider making contributions to their IRA's, Health Savings accounts, and other accounts. These decisions are not easy and the extra time will allow those to look back on the previous year, get a better feel for their tax situation and adjust accordingly.
For More information on those deadlines check out the links below:
IRS publication --> HERE for details on the change.
State details -->HERE choose your filing state.