Tax code changes in 2017, how will they impact you?

Dear Mr. Market:

tax1You’ve posted some very impressive performance since Donald Trump’s victory in the recent presidential election. While the debate will continue in regards to what changes will take place with the new regime in Washington D.C., individuals are contemplating how they will be impacted. What can you expect and how might you be able to make some strategic moves to take advantage of these changes? Let’s specifically look at what Trump and his team are proposing to change with the current tax laws and how it will impact your finances both today and in the foreseeable future.

With Trump in the White House and Republicans taking control over both the House and Senate, tax cuts are virtually a sure thing. Our current tax codes have individuals paying rates on a graduated level with seven brackets ranging from 10% to 39.6%. What many don’t realize is that with ‘Obamacare’ the top tax bracket pays an additional 3.8% on net investment income which brings their rate to 43.4%. Here are some key points to keep in mind as we move into 2017 and the potential changes:

  • Individual Tax Brackets: Look for a reduction to three tax brackets: 12%, 25% and 33% along with elimination of the additional ‘Obamacare Tax’. Currently qualified dividends and long-term capital gains are taxed at 15% or 20% depending on income along with the additional 3.8% previously mentioned. Expect to see the top rate remain at 20% and the additional tax for healthcare removed.
  • Estate Tax: Trump certainly did not hold back his feelings regarding the ‘death tax’ during his campaign! Currently individuals can pass up to $5,450,000 to their heirs tax-free and for a married couple it’s twice this amount. After that threshold an estate tax of 40% is imposed. Trump would like to completely eliminate the current estate tax structure and make radical changes to it.
  • Overseas Profits: Trump made no effort to hide the fact that he wants jobs and funds that have moved overseas to come back to U.S. soil. Currently billions of dollars from U.S. based companies with foreign divisions are not captured with current tax laws. Trump has proposed a 10% repatriation tax on profits derived from these companies and suggested that this charge could be paid over a 10-year period. He has stated numerous times that he expects this to drive a huge inflow of business and profits back to the U.S.
  • Business Taxes: Expect to see legislation that will cut the current rate of 35% all the way down to 15%. For those that operate as a partnership, Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or S corporation, they could possibly see the same rate as corporations. Of all the proposals that Trump has mentioned this one could have the most profound impact with the potential of a tax rate cut from 43.4% (39.6% plus ‘Obamacare’ 3.8%) all the way down to 15%; particularly if these savings find their way back into the U.S. economy.

All of these rumored changes will not take place until 2017 so what can individuals do to prepare for their 2016 taxes? Below is a quick checklist of some year-end tax tips that everyone should be aware of:

  • Consider working with a professional: There are numerous software and service solutions available these days but with all the changes in tax codes it is prudent to consider working with a tax professional. You might pay more for this but the peace of mind it offers is worth every single penny.
  • Required Distributions: If you are required to take an RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) you have until the end of the year to complete it. The penalty for failing to do so is 50% of the amount not distributed. Also be aware that non-spousal inherited IRAs have unique distribution requirements.
  • Maximize Retirement Savings: If you have not contributed the maximum amount to your traditional IRA or pretax contributions to an employer-sponsored plan, consider doing so to reduce your 2016 taxable income.
  • Tax Harvesting: Take a moment to look at the moves made within your taxable accounts this year. If you have considerable gains consider selling positions that have losses to offset the tax liability. Also be aware of any tax loss carry forwards that you might have from previous years to manage your current taxable gains.
  • Defer Income to 2017: With the potential changes we discussed earlier many individuals might find themselves at a lower tax bracket next year. Consider pushing items like: a year-end bonus, payments for services, business and rental income into next year if possible.
  • Increase Tax Withholdings: If you are going to owe federal income tax for this year consider bumping up your withholding for the remainder of the year. This can be done with a Form W-4 through your employer.
  • Plan Ahead: Waiting until the last-minute is not a plan! Take the time to put together your tax information, know your current situation and how it might change in the future. If this is an overwhelming process for you…we would encourage you to go back to our first point and consider working with a professional!

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-9-27-05-amThe winds of change are blowing in Washington D.C. and the impact that they could have on your personal finances could be “HUGE” or should we say “YUGE”… (pun intended)! Be aware of your current situation and how the newly proposed legislation will affect you going forward. If you find that you need help, consider asking for a referral from other professionals you currently work with. We also are here to help and encourage you to contact us at (888) 47-GUIDE or (888) 474-8433.

‘Twas the Day of the Election…Stock market rally or sell-off?

 

img_59101Dear Mr. Market:

It’s that time of year again….here comes the holidays. One of the most famous Christmas poems ever begins like this:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

What if we changed a few words to reflect what Mr. Market will be thinking about instead of sugarplums and Christmas stockings? What is he thinking on Election Day?

‘Twas the day of the Election, when all through the nation

Every citizen was encouraged to get to a voting station;

Constant stories of Wikileaks and groping

Had every American and the stock market moping;

The media was franticly filling their time with endless chatter

All in hopes that our eyeballs would think a new President would matter;

Whether you’re liberal or conservative we all want a sound future for our girls and boys

As it relates to the stock market it simply prays for an end to this noise;

So goodnight to all and may you wake tomorrow

Knowing full well that some will be joyful and others in total sorrow.

We’ve obviously abbreviated our stock market poem to center on the real question so many investors have: Will this election result drive the markets higher or lower?

If you’ve studied the stock market long enough you’ll know that the one thing that makes it nervous is uncertainty. Prior to yesterday’s strong market rally, stocks logged a nine-day losing streak, which was the longest consecutive slump in 30 years. For months the market had baked in an almost guaranteed Clinton victory but with the advent of another FBI probe into her email practices, the possibility of Trump winning began to create uncertainty again and rattle the markets.

As we noted in the most recent edition of our newsletter, the Guide, we believe the way we search and interpret the news will have an impact in how weak hands play their cards at the table. In other words, if you came into this election as a hardcore fan of Trump or Clinton and the results don’t go your way, you will naturally be more inclined to think doom is lurking around the corner. The reality is that with the absolute circus and divisive lead-up that this election has brought us, we’re bound to see about half of the country in tears. Will that impact the stock market though?

Yes…of course it will, but not in the way you may expect. In the short-term you will see a fairly sharp rally or sell-off so your best play (if you’re a trader) would be to take advantage of the volatility. If Clinton wins you will see the markets bump up nicely but then flatten out towards year-end as the reality of four more years of similar economic policies get extended. If Trump wins, it’s our opinion that the market will sell off in a fairly sharp manner but that you’ll see a rebound that will negate much of that. Like him or not, one thing that his potential presidency would bring is change. Lastly, once the short-term effects are played out, the other main guarantee is that whoever wins will face political gridlock. (you can take that to the bank!)

Over the longer-term you will see Mr. Market adjust to what he is given. As alluded to previously, the one thing that will be alleviated is uncertainty. If your investment time horizon is longer than the end of this week, however, you should be allocated properly in advance of any unforeseen event. We’re currently positioned to take advantage of surprises we don’t know about but also very aware of the reality that the markets will eventually gravitate to focusing on actual economic growth or lack thereof.

We believe the market has pleasantly surprised most investors this year. Although we predicted a low to mid-single digit type year back in January…most of the investing world was on the other end of that spectrum. After steep corrections in late 2015 and the worst start to any year in history, it may have understandably been difficult to listen to our advice. So, what’s the advice now?

We’ve lowered exposure to both stocks and bonds as we wrap up this year. Many of our portfolios have at least 15% (and many upwards of 30%) allocated to assets that have low to zero correlation to the market.

Lastly…what if neither win? Albeit an unlikely scenario, there are some that want to hang on Trump’s vague allusion to “keeping the country in suspense” if he loses and doesn’t want to concede. In our opinion this was more of his brash and not too polished debate skills and there would be someone in his ear to settle down his ego with the reality of a loss.

i_voted_sticker-r9e8abad0ab5d4e9fbe7d9321b3b15060_v9waf_8byvr_324We’ll have a “winner” of some sort tomorrow and that will allow Mr. Market to digest what
he’s dealing with over the next four years. Give him some certainty, so get out and vote!

How will Taxes impact you after the Election?

taxes-2016Dear Mr. Market:

Don’t over think this…quickly name two of the most polarizing topics you can think of. Allow us to throw two out that are often top of mind but very few people actually want to dig in and address…. Politics and Taxes. Both of these ‘ugly’ topics are incredibly relevant as we move closer to an election day that is quickly approaching and will impact nearly everyone for the foreseeable future!

Keep in mind that the information we are sharing is based on what each candidate is currently proposing and could be outdated within minutes of us publishing this article. It is also important to remember that any tax policy changes require congressional approval … one more reason to keep a close eye on this election! We won’t dig into every detail of their tax proposals or share our opinions, but rather highlight some basic facts and allow you to form your own opinions. Continue reading

10 Rules on Stock Picking

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Dear Mr. Market:

We’ve written countless letters to you on the ups and downs of the stock market. This time, however, we’d like to share some ‘rules of the road’ and a guideline on how to pick stocks regardless of the environment you’re presenting us.

Click here to read the latest white paper written by My Portfolio Guide, LLC.

Cheers!

PS- If you have questions or would like more information on this white paper or others…please send us a note below:

Cheers to a stock that beats the market and its peers!

Dear Mr. Market:

We find ourselves back in earnings season, which always brings several surprises with well-known stocks…both positive and negative. Analysts and the media will tempt investors to chase returns as quarterly earnings are dissected and trading ‘advice’ is thrown around like a hot dog vendor working the crowd at a baseball game.

Our world is currently swimming in uncertainty which pushes investors to hunt for stability and returns that will enable them to reach their financial goals. Imagine if there was a stock that has posted impressive returns in both up and down markets and all the while you most likely have been supporting it yourself without even realizing it!

Constellation Brands (NYSE: STZ) is an international beverage producer and marketer with operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Italy. They own iconic brands like: Robert Mondavi, Svedka Vodka, Ballast Point, Corona and Modelo to name just a few. In total they currently have over 100 brands in their portfolio with sales in 100 countries, 40 facilities and approximately 9,000 employees. In 2015 Constellation was one of the top performing stocks in the S&P 500 Consumer Staples Index. Continue reading

Brexit too shall pass…

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Dear Mr. Market:

You hate uncertainty; that fact has been established from the day you began trading. If the rest of the investing public hasn’t heard about “Brexit” vs “Bremain”…it’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is always something to worry about and now with a vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union the potential implications and chants of uncertainty will continue to create worry and panic.

Ironically enough, even amidst all the doom and gloom, the world is not that much different than before the vote. Although the U.K. surprised many with its vote to leave the EU, this decision and the potential fallout will take a couple of years to fully play itself out. Even though there will clearly be political uncertainty and initial volatility (which is natural)…the UK will have two years to negotiate the terms of its exit and establish a new relationship with the EU. Although there won’t be a shortage of opinions, this doesn’t imply an automatic death to the stock market!

It’s times like these that are EXACTLY why people overreact and make critical mistakes. Once people get over their initial reaction (shock, surprise, fear etc) the markets will see relief in knowing there is a result and a definitive decision. In other words…there will be some basic element of certainty and that allows markets to naturally correct and go back to moving based on actual fundamentals as opposed to speculative forces or fear.

What should one do in the near-term and will this lead to something worse? Continue reading