investing · Personal Finance

My Investment Arsenal

A few folks have requested to see my approach to investing in more detail, so I decided to conjure up the following post. It obviously features a level of diversification, but more in style than substance. I see investments as both ways to grow money and also explore different concepts, so at times certain targets are selected more for interest than practicality.

Stock Accounts

1. Individual Account (Taxable)

This houses the bulk of my investing money, at times to great annoyance. The biggest upside is easy movement of funds If I need to do something important in the short-term, but the negative surrounds tax policy requiring me to hold longer than I would prefer in some cases.

2. Individual Robo-Managed Account (Taxable)

I got this to take some weight off my shoulders on a weekly basis. My broker service offers different plans optimized for taxes, conservative wealth strategies, or growth, and I place a small amount in each month with minimal overhead where management fees are concerned.

3. Roth IRA (Non-Taxable)

Probably the best place to store your investment holdings for the long run. The money goes in post-tax, but then grows without penalty until you’re older, providing no early withdrawals have been made. I do my best to max this out each year, though I fell short a few years back, and more recently got penalized by the IRS for contributing too much based on my salary.

4. Employer 401k

While I am not a fan of 401k programs, I started putting in 5 percent this year (pre-tax) because my income was creating expensive charges when tax filing rolled around. I made sure to pick the lowest fees for my funds, and generally don’t pay much attention to it other than the occasional checkup.

Fixed Income Sources

1. Savings Account

One can shop around, but I use the decently-high option from my broker service. This account yields a little over 1 percent and is effectively an airlock for money that will journey to any of the first three accounts mentioned.

2. Lending Club

This is more of a novelty than anything else to me. The site allows participants to purchase loans and get paid interest, providing you meet specific income standards. I tossed a grand in at the beginning of the year, focused on two different lines of credit. Probably should check it more frequently, but they don’t come due until a few years from now.

Real Estate

1. Fundrise

Not sure this goes here exactly, but I started with the REIT broker last year, and have enjoyed their products thus far. They offer different portfolios depending on your priorities, but I mostly bought in to take advantage of the projected growth in Midwestern city redevelopment. Biggest downside is receiving multiple forms to enter for taxes, which can create a problem if your software (*cough H&R Block*) doesn’t recognize small dividend amounts. That becomes a non-issue after you have been with them a while, however.

2. Physical Real Estate

As some of you know, I purchased a house earlier this year. Thus far it has required time and pennies, but the goal is to have at least half the mortgage paid by renters, and possibly as much as 100 percent. It also gives me the space to start a new business venture I have been planning for some months now. We’ll see whether I was smart to buy or not in the years to come.

Alternate Hedges

1. Cryptocurrency (Coinbase)

I’ve been nibbling on Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, XRP, and even 0x for a while now. Can’t say any of them have done spectacularly well, or at least not long enough for me to react. I keep adding despite Coinbase’s obnoxious fees because we can never know what will happen to fiat currency in the future.

 2. Precious Metals

I continue to accrue silver whenever possible. A key thing to consider is WHERE you are purchasing it. Going to a pawn shop or metals joint can lead to astronomically higher prices with no chance of a refund. Make sure to Google the value of whatever you choose to buy, and check online retailers to ensure there is no extreme markup.

investing · Personal Finance

Why You Should Work For The Government

Some years ago I was party to a conversation about various career fields. One participant noted they hoped to get hired by the federal government, which another dismissed as “under-achieving.” This did not seem to faze the first chap, who just shrugged and gave off a satisfied smile.

Looking at some recent stats, we can see why. As private sector industries such as hospitality and leisure bleed jobs like the hemorrhoid circus, government is one of the few examples with a net positive rating, and the highest performer among the winners.

Even as the economy goes bad, the government continues to operate, paying out salaries to workers who might be deemed “non-essential” and laid off if they were in the private sector. This gives state employees a tremendous economic advantage over those who are losing their jobs (or getting less hours). They will not face the disruption native to other industries, and therefore can more easily buy into the discounted stock market or real estate.

Beyond this, government workers aren’t treated all that badly. The current federal model of FERS, which has been replicated by many state and local governments, provides a far more stable benefits package than the vaunted private sector. Participants get access to a Thrift Savings Plan (basically a 401k) with up to 4 percent matching, and a pension that comes to around 33 percent of their highest three-year salary, along with Social Security. Healthcare plans are decent as well.

The skeptics among you might point to the recent government shutdown as an example of disadvantages, but government workers ultimately received back pay, while most of the workers affected by coronavirus will not.

So if you have a child someday, recommending a career in the civil service isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

Culturalism · investing · Personal Finance

Goldman Takes Third Blood

In my last video, I warned folks about Wall Street’s likely attempt to weaponize the Coronavirus panic in service of their financial interests. I also noted that Goldman Sachs has cultivated such a close relationship with the federal government that it managed to completely destroy a competitor (Lehman Brothers) during the bailout negotiations of 2008.

But there is more. As markets reel from the virus’ impact, our lovely friends have released an updated report on U.S. GDP for the second quarter, suggesting an upcoming 24 percent drop.

How convenient. Sounds like a great way to further tank the economy, allowing the Goldmanites freedom to make a killing on shorting strategies, plus accumulate dirt cheap shares.

Now hold on, the skeptic might say, what happens if the market declines so Goldman Sachs is also in trouble?

It’s quite simple. They just give a ring to the Treasury Department, led by none other than Steven Mnuchin, the retired Chief Information Officer for Goldman.

If you watch your 401k undergo further decline in the following weeks, just remember who is walking in “Fields of Gold.”

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.