Series I Bonds, Yes 9.62%

From the Archives of TGIF 2 Minutes (original post May 13, 2022) to reflect my recent purchase of I-Bonds and continued questions received:

“What are I Bonds?” The “I” in I Bonds stands for Inflation, which is why these bonds are so HOT at the moment. (Note: inflation overall is clearly not a good thing; I Bond interest rates may be one of the only things that benefit from skyrocketing inflation.)

You can skip this entire post and simply go to www.TreasuryDirect.gov and click on “How to buy Series I” under the column, “Individuals”. The website is written – literally – as if a third grader could understand it. See the * and ** footnotes below.

The “I Bond phenomenon” has heated up in the past eighteen months with the spike in inflation. Their current, high interest rate warrants taking a look.

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Hard Landing Recession or Soft Landing?

It is fairly safe to say that the US has entered a recession, even if the backwards looking, narrowly focused, official “National Bureau of Economics Research”, or NBER, has not declared it yet. The NBER is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1920 that somehow came to possess the distinct “responsibility” of declaring recessions in the US. Seriously?

In the case that the US has entered a recession (not yet “declared” by the NBER) then what does that mean for savers and investors? A quick bit of background: typically, economic cool-downs come in two varieties: hard landings and soft landings.

  • The hard landing ends a period of economic expansion in recession,
  • The soft landing ends a period of expansion with a smoother period of mere economic slow-down.

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Reviewing Crypto Quarterly – Vol. 2

Today’s edition is a review of Crypto from early April 2022. TGIF 2 Minutes will return with new content in early July! Read on for:

  • A high-level update & follow-up on cryptocurrencies
  • Brief comments on Inflation & 1st quarter 2022

Crypto Update

Continuing with the whirlwind of interest generated by “To Crypto Or Not To Crypto” and “Crypto Superbowl” there is more to say including highlighting the recent 36% decline in Bitcoin since November 2021. There is broad evidence that high-profile, fiduciary financial advisers are hesitant – for good reason – to include cryptocurrency across the board in client portfolios. At the same time, a good number of high-profile, responsible, fiduciary financial advisers are including cryptocurrency in some – emphasis, “some” – client portfolios, depending on the client’s goals and risk tolerance.**

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Taxes Make Ya Wanna Go #$%&!

Yup, it is tax season. This year as clients and friends were completing their 2021 tax returns* the cries of, “Are you kidding me?” and “This is by far the most taxes I have ever paid in my life!” were louder than ever. There were valid reasons for wealthier taxpayers paying more taxes for tax year 2021 – far more than for tax year 2020. A few reasons were somewhat UN-related to the coronavirus pandemic, and a number of reasons were directly pandemic-related.

The majority of my clients and friends simply made more money in 2021 than 2020. (Is that a bad thing? Most likely not.) The pandemic, in a delayed fashion, led to promotions and opportunities in 2021 for lots of individuals in corporate America and at companies that “dug in” amidst epic challenges in 2020. Retention and performance bonuses wound up being paid in 2021 (continuing in 2022), following a time in late 2020 when it seemed basic compensation and jobs were at serious risk. This turnaround was a huge irony and welcome relief to a number of people – and the “flip side” became higher taxes for tax year 2021.

Pandemic-related factors were to blame for higher 2021 taxes in several “hidden” ways.

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Financial Satisfaction in Crazy Times

These are crazy times, almost chaotic. Chaos is defined as complete disorder and confusion – and parts of the world and our lives may be nearing that point, or at least feel that way. How does an investor get financial satisfaction in times like these? Carefully and patiently.

“Carefully” can equate to:

  • having a plan that addresses saving, spending, taxes, & investments
  • being able to monitor and adjust the plan, perhaps with an adviser
  • then continually executing the plan.

The “patiently” part can be more difficult and is just as critical.

Storms are temporary and the worst of chaos and volatility will pass – be prepared for an unknown timeframe.

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War, Invasion & Investing

Clearly, war and invasions have far more repercussions than merely financial. But somewhat luckily, the financial toll in most cases, for us as Americans (exception September 11th), has been what hits closest to home. And unluckily financially speaking, the biggest savers and investors are then most affected by the financial toll of war and invasions around the world.

Currently, the world – most notably the Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Russia – is experiencing the effects of an invasion that (God help us) may or may not turn into a larger situation. Specifically, the financial effects of the Ukraine invasion by Russia are being felt far beyond Europe and Russia. US and worldwide stock markets are down both from late 2021 highs and most notably in late February.

World events over the past 50+ years, and the accompanying market reactions that took place over the short-term and longer-term.

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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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Investing in the Next Facebook?

How many people caught the news last week that Facebook officially changed its corporate name to… Meta? And changed its stock ticker symbol to MVRS? Presumably, MVRS is short for “metaverse.” What is the metaverse and is it the next “hot” investment? (In other news, Facebook is looking to distance itself far, far away from discoveries that the company knew full well for over a decade the damage its central social media platform would inflict and has inflicted on people of all ages, especially children. But that is not the topic of today’s TGIF 2 Minutes.)

Regarding Meta, CEO Mark Zuckerberg says succinctly, “the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet.” Gaming and alternate reality seem to be at the forefront of the concept with bitcoin and cryptocurrency central as well. The whole thing sounds huge.

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Champagne & William Shatner

Last week William Shatner – at 90, who knew?! – became the oldest person to achieve space flight. Completion of a 10-minute journey on the reusable New Shephard rocket, including four minutes of weightlessness, was cause for major celebration immediately afterwards.

But notable was that upon disembarking from the space capsule Shatner politely turned down taking part in the champagne shower amongst the crew, Blue Origin promotional people and members of the press.

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