Looking Ahead in 2022

One thing is certain: numerous predictions about 2020 and 2021 in categories ranging, from the emergence of a pandemic, to continuance of the pandemic, how best to cure the pandemic, to rates of inflation, supply and demand in the economy, to the ability of technology to make accurate predictions… were wrong.

Possibly the largest factor affecting the US economy today, inflation, was not even on the list of biggest risks at the 2021 World Economic Forum.* This is not to poke fun at the predictors but rather an indication of how misguided predictions about risk can be.

Numerous predictions about 2020 and 2021 were wrong.

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Markets Prefer Certainty

Amidst the continuous stream of news and recent market fluctuations, a dash of certainty was injected into stocks and bonds with this week’s Federal Reserve meeting. If only for a day.

Several factors are at work –

  • interest rates, per the US Fed
  • future government spending policy
  • rates of employment
  • market valuations

among other factors.

A dash of certainty was injected into stocks and bonds with this week’s Federal Reserve meeting. If only for a day.

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2021 What A Year So Far

Wow… year-end 2021 is fast approaching. As if 2020 was the year we all wanted to turn the page… it is deja vu all over again in 2021. BUT a positive spin can still be put on year-to-date 2021, especially with respect to market returns.

It may be too early to say that stock market gains, to date, have been better than decent in 2021. From the US small-cap index up 12%, to large-cap S&P 500 up 22%, to Nasdaq up 19%, to the Dow Jones up 13%, these are all solid year-to-date returns.

Take the time before year-end to evaluate portfolio gains and asset allocation.

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Year-End Tax Planning Tips 2021

Tax planning is important stuff. Perhaps not as exciting as the markets but saving money on taxes can still be exciting! Mid-November begins the countdown to year-end. The following is a handy Tax Planning Checklist.*  Some of these items, if done now, could make a big difference to the 2021 tax year AND add to savings.

1. How close are you to maxing out your 401k? The max is $19,500 for those under age 50 and an extra $6,500 for those age 50 and above. The deadline is December 31st and lots of 401k and 403b plans allow contributions of as much as 25-30% or even 100% of pay. Contribution rates can be lowered again in the new year.

There is still time remaining in 2021 to accomplish tax-deductions and/or create new savings vehicles!

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Will Social Security be There, Pt. 2

Last week tgif2minutes.com explored a basic statement directly from Social Security’s SSA.gov summarizing that taxes will mostly likely need to go UP TODAY to afford Social Security in the mid 2030’s and for future generations – which is only 15 years away.

This week’s edition will present several possible changes that could take place along the path to higher taxes in order to preserve the Social Security that American workers pay into dearly and expect to receive someday.

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Will Social Security Be There?

Here starts a mini-series of TGIF 2 Minutes editions.

The following is taken directly from the current Social Security website. The italics below are copied from the website and presumably are meant for emphasis. Underlines are mine.

The concepts of solvency, sustainability, and budget impact are common in discussions of Social Security but are not well understood. Currently, the Social Security Board of Trustees projects program cost to rise by 2035 so that taxes will be enough to pay for only 75 percent of scheduled benefits. This increase in cost results from population aging, not because we are living longer, but because birth rates dropped from three to two children per woman. Importantly, this shortfall is basically stable after 2035; adjustments to taxes or benefits that offset the effects of the lower birth rate may restore solvency for the Social Security program on a sustainable basis for the foreseeable future. Finally, as Treasury debt securities (trust fund assets) are redeemed in the future, they will just be replaced with public debt. If trust fund assets are exhausted without reform, benefits will necessarily be lowered with no effect on budget deficits.

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Murphy’s Law is Expensive

One of the most critical factors of long-term personal financial success is… guess:

  1. The markets
  2. Spending
  3. Interest rates
  4. Stock selection
  5. Income level

And the answer is… SPENDING. This fact is why a truly competent financial planner will spend the most time on discussing spending, both today and future projected, along with GOALS (Goals are what people spend money on).

Things can go wrong at any time, therefore, count on one or more things going badly wrong along the course of a person’s life and financial life.

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Personal Board of Directors

As has been said, “No man [or woman] is an island.” The deeper meaning of the famous poem by this title may be somewhat philosophical: that we are all part of a bigger unit such as the world, a country, a family, or something. The less deep but equally serious meaning is more like,

  • why go it alone?
  • try reaching out to others from time to time to seek advice and larger perspective.

Regular readers of TGIF 2 Minutes may be thinking that Debbs has lost her mind here but the related idea of having a “Personal Board of Directors” has been worthy of featuring for some time. Coincidentally Brett Danko, my business partner and the principal and founder of Main Street Financial Solutions LLC, recently presented a similar topic including having and regularly consulting with a Personal Board of Directors which inspired this edition.

The Personal Board of Directors can be consulted regarding decisions of all sorts – personal, financial, and professional.

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A Quick 2Q Wrap-Up

Just like that it is July 2021! That means both the 2nd Quarter and 1st Half of the year have come to a close. Here are a couple of quick notes about the quarter including a few things that changed and did not change on the year.

Stock and bond markets along with portfolio performance continued to be strong. It seems there is less caution in the air with an economy continuing to come out of the pandemic. Although the expression “the most unloved bull market” is still on peoples’ minds. Reason being that worries abound as the US Fed and Treasury continue to pump record amounts of money into the US economy. And there are plans for the stimulus to continue. This state of affairs risks inflation among other economic maladies.

Stock and bond markets along with portfolio performance continued to be strong in 2Q.

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Are Tax Rates Going Higher?

The question of whether or when tax rates may go higher is one asked after many a US Presidential election. The actuality of taxes going up is altogether another issue with its own timing depending on the President, party and Congress involved. There can be signals of both higher and lower taxes that certain candidates and Presidents communicate to win friends (and elections) and influence people.

In fact, in reading this week the obituary of Walter Mondale it seems that his transparent insistency on a proposal to raise taxes in his mid-1980’s US Presidential bid was a major factor behind his losing the election to Ronald Reagan (Reagan’s 2nd term run). That was then, this is now. One could say that now President Biden ran on a platform to raise taxes – in part winning him the election. Taxes and tax plans may always be part of US elections as they say the only things certain in life are death and taxes.

There is no “magic bullet” strategy to avoiding tax increases.

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