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The Fed Decides to Wait PDF Print
Tuesday, 22 September 2015

In a tough time for equities, it elects not to roil the markets.


(Photo: Creative Commons "Caution is Required" by Leland Francisco is licensed under CC BY 2.0)


Caution TapeOn Thursday, the Federal Reserve postponed raising short-term interest rates. Citing "global economic and financial developments" that could "somewhat" impair economic progress and lessen inflation pressure, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 9-1 against a rate hike, with Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker being the lone dissenter.1


This spring, a September rate hike seemed probable – but during this past week, assumptions grew that the central bank would put off tightening. On Wednesday, the futures market put the likelihood of a rate hike at less than 30%.2

The Reasons for a Roth Solo 401(k) PDF Print
Monday, 21 September 2015

401k keyboardHere is a way for a solopreneur to save much more for retirement.

[Photo credit: Got Credit]


Self-employed? Seeking to ramp up your retirement savings? You should look at the potential of the Roth Solo 401(k). If you are a high-earning solopreneur, this savings vehicle may be a great choice, because it allows you to make both employee and employer contributions to a 401(k) account in the same year.1


How does a Roth Solo 401(k) work? This is a Roth variation of the standard Solo 401(k). In the standard or "traditional" Solo 401(k), employer and employee account contributions are made with pre-tax dollars. In the Roth version, the employer still contributes pre-tax dollars but the employee contribution is made with after-tax dollars.2


There is a very nice tradeoff for doing this. If you abide by IRS rules, the Roth contributions you make, and the earnings they generate, can be eventually be withdrawn tax-free.2,4


You can make an employee contribution of up to $18,000 to a Roth Solo 401(k) in 2015. This amount will rise in future years, as it is indexed for inflation. Yearly catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 are currently allowed for those 50 and over.1


Your business may also contribute 20-25% of your yearly net earnings to the plan. If you have incorporated your company, this profit-sharing contribution limit is set at 25%; if you have not, the limit is 20%. Total employer & employee contributions to a Roth Solo 401(k) are capped at $53,000 for 2015, $59,000 if you are old enough to make the $6,000 catch-up contribution. (The maximum amount of employee elective deferrals and employer non-elective contributions should be calculated via the methods detailed in IRS Publication 560.)1,3

Keeping All This Volatility in Perspective PDF Print
Tuesday, 15 September 2015

These recent ups & downs are reminiscent of past Wall Street swings.


bull and bearFall might be anything but calm on Wall Street. Volatility is back, in a big way: the CBOE VIX has risen more than 105% since the end of July. Additionally, 11 of the 15 trading days ending September 9 were "all or nothing" days in which more than 80% of the S&P 500 moved either higher or lower. In the last 25 years, the index has not had a 15-day period like this.1,2


Contrast that with the first 159 trading days of 2015, in which just 13 such days occurred according to Bespoke Investment Group research. In fact, during the first half of 2015 the Dow Jones Industrial Average was never more than 3.5% up or down YTD, on pace for the most placid year in its history.2


Writing in the Financial Times, the noted economist and portfolio manager Mohamed El-Erian recently identified a few factors driving these market swings – factors that may not subside anytime soon.


Fundamentally, he cited the "spreading economic slowdown" in China and other emerging markets "eroding a fundamental underpinning of high and stable asset prices" – and bursting some asset bubbles in the process.

Do Our Biases Affect Our Financial Choices? PDF Print
Monday, 24 August 2015

Even the most seasoned investors are prone to their influence.


(Photo: Creative Commons "Ripples of Colour" by Scott Cresswell is licensed under CC BY 2.0)


Ripples of ColorInvestors are routinely warned about allowing their emotions to influence their decisions. They are less routinely cautioned about letting their preconceptions and biases color their financial choices.


In a battle between the facts & our preconceptions, our preconceptions may win. If we acknowledge this tendency, we may be able to avoid some unexamined choices when it comes to personal finance. So it may actually "pay" us to recognize our biases as we invest. Here are some common examples of bias creeping into our financial lives.


Valuing outcomes of investment decisions more than the quality of those decisions. An investor thinks, "I got a great return off of that decision" instead of thinking, "that was a good decision because ______."


How many investment decisions do we make that have a predictable outcome? Hardly any. In retrospect, it is all too easy to prize the gain from a decision over the wisdom of the decision, and to therefore believe that the decisions with the best outcomes were in fact the best decisions (not necessarily true).


Valuing facts we "know" & "see" more than "abstract" facts. Information that seems abstract may seem less valid or valuable than information that relates to personal experience. This is true when we consider different types of investments, the state of the markets, and the health of the economy.


Investing in Agreement With Your Beliefs PDF Print
Friday, 21 August 2015

The case for aligning your portfolio with your outlook & worldview.


(Photo: Creative Commons "Serendipity" by Leo Grübler is licensed under CC BY 2.0)


Investing in Agreemnt With Your BeliefsDo your investment choices reflect your outlook? Are they in agreement with your values? These questions may seem rather deep when it comes to deciding what to buy or sell, but some great investors have built fortunes by investing according to the ethical, moral and spiritual tenets that guide their lives.


Sir John Templeton stands out as an example. Born and raised in a small Tennessee town, he became one of the world's richest men and most respected philanthropists. Templeton maintained a lifelong curiosity about science, religion, economics and world cultures – and it led him to notice opportunities in emerging industries and emerging markets (like Japan) that other investors missed. Believing that "every successful entrepreneur is a servant," he invested in companies that did no harm and which reflected his conviction that "success is a process of continually seeking answers to new questions."1


Among Templeton's more famous maxims was the comment, "Invest, don't trade or speculate." Having endured the Great Depression as a youth, he had a knack for spotting irrational exuberance.2,4


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