investing · Personal Finance

The In-SECURE Act

I have a general rule for life in the United States: anything which saves you money is eventually removed.

A few of you may know about the passage and signing of the SECURE Act in December 2019. This drama-free legislation made some interesting reforms to retirement plan rules, allowing Americans to make certain penalty-free (but not tax-exempt) withdrawals for qualifying reasons, and also lengthened the timeline under which required minimum distributions (RMDs) must be taken by retirees.

That all sounds good, but there is something else to the story. A separate shift in distribution laws could leave you seriously screwed down the road where taxes are concerned.

Under previous rules, people who inherited an IRA from their parents had the liberty of “stretching” RMDs over the course of their own lifetimes, thus reducing the taxes paid on that money and building inter-generational wealth. Not anymore.

The SECURE Act upends this tradition by placing a 10-year distribution requirement on such inheritance IRAs. So if your parent dies and hands over an account with $500,000, you would need to withdraw something like $50,000 annually to spread it out over that period, or take the lump sum. In either case, taxes will be high.

Perhaps the rule won’t be so horrible for folks who inherit at the age of eighteen, but for others it is bad news. Imagine pulling in a six-figure salary at age 45 and having to stack $50,000 on top of that. Your taxes will giggle with delight.

A broader issue relates to how America prevents people from building wealth if they are not extremely rich. Under current tax laws you can even be penalized for making too much while also maxing out a Roth IRA, and few lucrative deductions are available for middle class people. The SECURE Act is just a garnish on that system.

investing · Personal Finance · Uncategorized

Expense Ratios Simplified

What the heck is THAT?

We’re talking about the elusive “Expense Ratio,” which governs some of the charges passed on to the investment fund participants by money managers. In most cases, this figure will be something like 0.04-0.99 percent, numbers that successfully flummox the mathematically disinclined. They don’t look expensive, and in fact they really don’t seem like much at all.

But the truth is in the fee lines. If you go by the first glance, it is easy to end up paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of expensive charges that eat away at the base return.

Consider the following S&P 500 options for a second, and keep in mind that the returns are a few months old:

American Funds AMCAP Fund

5-year return:  8.94%

Gross and Net Operating Expenses: 0.36%, or $3.60 per $1000

Vanguard Institutional Index Fund

5-year return: 9.63%

Gross and Net Operating Expenses: 0.04%, or $0.35 per $1000

Those numbers make a BIG difference, and we’re not even including the other administrative fees. Plugging them into a calculator we get:

A difference of over $26,000 over thirty years, all while the participant thought he was “saving” money.

Now let’s look at a bond fund for comparison:

Ivy High Income Fund

5-year return: 3.91%

Gross and Net Operating Expenses: 0.57%, or $5.70 per $1000

What’s really sad is that the bond fund has a much lower return, and yet charges higher fees, eating away at growth for the saver or retiree. Expense ratios DO matter, even if they seem like legalese at first glance. Choose the low-cost fund whenever possible

investing · Personal Finance

The Religious Investor

Just how HIGH can it go?”

You’ve probably heard something along those lines in market-based articles. After all, greed and overconfidence are the virtues of constantly churning stock wheels.  It should never stop.

Over the last few years, we have witnessed a rather new phenomenon: the Religious Investor. In this case, it is a person who has no regard for reality or the underlying principles of value. Any outcome, regardless of nature, is an affirmation of their stock’s worth, and skepticism? We simply won’t have it!

The Religious Investor operates much like the Chant Warrior where psychological tropes are concerned. Anything Bad is Good, and anything Good is good. Low polling? That’s because the polls are wrong! Not getting positive attention? Only because of media bias! There is zero possibility of an alternative, because that contradicts the religious narrative.

You probably recognize by now that my target here is Tesla. To be clear, it applies to shareholders in other stocks as well, like Buttondown notes:

One January 29th, 2020, they released a fresh earnings report showcasing the following:

Q4 Non-GAAP EPS of $2.14 beats by $0.38

GAAP EPS of $0.58 misses by $0.26.

Revenue estimate was $7.05 billion, actual was $7.38 billion, beating by $330 million

In reaction, the stock rose from around $570 to $644, roughly 11 percent. This despite relatively poor results in the second half of the year, and a weak track record

Look at how Tesla bulls respond to skepticism:

Comparatively, Apple released the following results not long ago:

Q1 GAAP EPS of $4.99 beats by $0.45.

Revenue of $91.82B (+8.9% Y/Y) beats by $3.41 billion.

Apple’s uptick? About 2 percent. And even in that case, after a long run of success, calling for a sell gets you shredded by the true believers.

So should we all go to cash, or stop being haters and buy?