Monthly Archives: December 2015

2016’s Best Investment Advice Ever

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That’s my dog Gracie. She’s super smart and knows of what she speaks. (You can tell that she’s saying something cause her mouth is open.) Both of us wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. But before it rolls around, here’s a bit of New Year investment advice worth listening to.

The fat lady hasn’t totally finished singing this year. But when she does, 2015 investment returns on the various indices aren’t likely to leave you jumping for joy. That said, the New Year is right around the corner and with it always comes new opportunities—-and new ways of thinking.

While some professionals aren’t expecting 2016 to be a rip-roaring hot year for investors others think the economy is on a right and rewarding path. It’s like the gasoline-is-cheap-so-your-pockets-are-full-of-cash crowd vs. the rents-are-higher-and-health-care-too crowd. Which group comes out ahead won’t been known for 12 months. So,  I’m not going to throw my tiara into that guessing game ring just yet.

Instead, I’d like to offer this almost slam-dunk guarantee for how to have a financially rewarding 2016—- and no, while the photo may have  you thinking it’s invest in the Dogs of the Dow (which is usually a pretty good idea) that’s not of what I speak today. It is this: Invest in yourself.

You may have heard that nugget of financial truth a thousand times before and either poo-poohed the notion or taken it to heart. Good for you if you’re in the latter camp. I wasn’t that smart.

The first time I heard it was from a seasoned stock broker, named Ken, whom I worked with a zillion years ago. And when I heard it, I didn’t really get what he was talking about.

“How do I invest in myself?”

Ken explained: “Pay yourself first out of each and every paycheck you get all year long. And when a New Year rolls around, give yourself a raise.”

That seemed really goofy to me for a couple of reasons. First, didn’t paying the rent and my bills come first and way before paying me, I wondered?

Ken’s answer: “No. You come first.”

Second, it seemed like I sorta kinda wasn’t worth it. You know, being female and the paying yourself first, part.

It took a long time for me to really understand how right-on my broker friend truly  was. I attribute a lot of my lag in understanding his wise financial advice to mind stuff: Like unresolved self-worth and money issues. And some of it just plain stubborn, what does he know, thinking.

When I finally got it, I realized that the rewards of paying myself first weren’t merely financial ones.

By paying yourself first, you’re doing all sorts of positive things for your psyche and your well-being. You’re doing the quiet unseen stuff like building self-worth, acknowledging and honoring yourself for the work you do, building character and confidence, and the list goes on and on. Almost secondary is the fact that when that practice becomes a habit, it also becomes financially rewarding.

So no matter how much you earn or how often you’re paid, do your inner- and outer-selves a favor  and make it a practice to pay yourself first in the coming New Year. The rewards will be bountiful over time.

Happy New Year!

POCKETBOOK

For the week ending Dec. 26, 2015

  • Good IRS news— at least in the near term.

According to a mid-week IRS Newswire, the interest rates Iris, that’s my nickname for the IRS, will remain the same for the calendar quarter beginning January 2. That means 3 percent charged for underpayments and overpayments to her; 5 percent for large corporate underpayments; and 1/2 of 1 percent (0.5) for portions of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000.

Of course those rates could change later in 2016.

  • Market Quick Glance

-Indices

  • Year-to-date returns based on Thursday’s close, December 24, 2015 (markets were closed on Friday, Dec. 25):
  • DJIA + 0.94 percent
  • S&P 500 + 2.19 percent
  • NASDAQ +7.96 percent
  • (Source: Bloomberg)

-Mutual funds

As of Saturday, December 26,  Lipper’s performance figures on  various mutual fund types were not available.

Look for them on Monday, December 28th, at www.allaboutfunds.com where all of Lipper’s weekly performance figures on both stock and fixed-income funds can be found on that site’s home page.

  • Retirement returns better for Da Boss (DB) than Da Crew (DC)

From Pensions & Investments (pionline.com) comes this: “New research from The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has revealed that “Defined contribution plans consistently underperform defined benefit plans, most likely due to higher investment fees…..

“Based on a review to Investment Company Institute data and Form 5500 filings, IRAs returned an average 2.2% per year between 2000 and 2012, compared to 3.1% for defined contribution plans and 4.7% for defined benefit plans. The low return for IRAs might be due to fees or their higher allocation to “safe” but low-returning money market funds, the report said. Roughly 11% of assets in traditional IRAs are invested in money market funds compared to 4% for DC plans,….”

To anyone who has been around for a while, that news ought to come as no surprise. Individuals investing their own money for their own retirement accounts have always lacked the investment acumen that many educated corporate bean counters have.

  • Finally: Holiday spending, saving and flying pigs

If trying to find a parking space was any indication of holiday spending, there was no shortage of shoppers at the Palm Beach Outlet mall on December 24th or on December 26th. I’m guessing the same was true elsewhere around the county and country. Word is holiday shoppers  spent a lot this year but we’ll have to wait to see the tallied numbers to know for sure.

That said, when I was  young, like junior high school-aged young, I remember suggesting to my parents that instead of buying presents to put under the tree for Christmas, why not celebrate the holiday on what my Serbian grandparents called  Old Calendar Christmas, January 6. Even at that young age I was price sensitive and realized that the same stuff can cost a whole lot less after Christmas  than it does before.

Coincidentially, in November  I bought one of those cute little handmade Patience Brewster ornaments at Bloomingdale’s. It was pricey, 52 bucks, and a For Me gift. But how could I pass up a  flying pig? Well,  I was back in that store the day after Christmas, on  December 26th, and low and behold, the same Tinkerbelle Flying Pig ornament was on sale for 75 percent less. Seventy-five percent off! So I did what any good shopper, who hadn’t opened the box yet would do: I returned the 52 dollar pig and bought another one for 13 bucks and change.

Pigs do indeed fly.

 

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POCKETBOOK

For the week ending Dec.19, 2015

•Interest rates up but not where it matters most: Saving
Sorry folks, while the Fed raised interest rates by 25 basis points, or 1/4 of 1 percent, don’t expect to see any bump up of returns on the deposits you make into things such as your checking, savings or money market funds.  You can, however, expect to feel the pain of paying more when borrowing money. Gone now are cheapo rates on mortgages, car loans, credit card rates, etc.

•Market Quick Glance
-Indices
Year-to-date returns based on Friday’s close, December 18, 2015:
DJIA -1.49 percent
S&P 500 -0.57 percent
NASDAQ +5.27 percent
(Source: Bloomberg)

-Mutual funds
Read Lipper’s performance figures on literally millions of various types of mutual funds every week. Published on Thursday’s, between 12-31-14 and 12-17-15, the year-to-date average return of the 6,067,922 U.S. Diversified Equity Funds it keeps track of was –2.37 percent.

Find all of Lipper’s weekly performance figures on both stock and fixed-income funds at http://www.allaboutfunds.com. Look for it in the left column of the home page.

-Stocks for Star Wars fans
Who can say what kind of impact The Force will have over the long run, but if it’s movie investing you’ve a penchant for, here are four companies, in no particular order, that have ties of one sort or another to the Star Wars movie:
-Disney (DIS). It closed Friday at $107.72, has had a 52-week trading range of $90 to $122.08 this year and pays a divided of 1.25 percent ($1.42 per share).
-Mattel (MAT) closed Friday at $26.19 per share and has traded between $19.45 and $31.25 this year. Its current dividend is a juicy 5.6 percent ($1.52 per share).
-Electronic Arts (EA) share price closed last week at $68.98. This year’s shares have ranged from $45.21 to $76.92. The company pays no dividend.
-Hasbro’s )HAS) last trade on Friday was at $65.83 per shares. The stock has traded between $51.42 and $84.42  this year. HAS pays its shareholders a dividend of 2.77 percent ($1.84 per share).

Or you could forget all that and simply buy Target or Wal-Mart.

I was in my local store over the past few days and shoppers carts were filled to their brim with not just Star Wars toys but with toys galore along with clothes, coffee makers and groceries thrown in just because.

Target (TGT) closed last week at $71.37. Its 52-week trading range: 68.15 to 85.81. The company pays a dividend of 3.10 percent ($2.24).
Wal-Mart’s (WMT) share price is cheaper closing at $58.85 on Friday and its  dividend is a tad higher at 3.32 percent ($1.96 per share).

(Prices according to Yahoo! Finance)

-On the other end of the shopping spectrum, if you’ve been waiting for shares of luxury retailer Neiman Marcus to hit the street, you’ll have to wait as its once planned IPO has been shelved.

According to Reuters.com, the Dallas-based retailer’s same store sales have fallen for the first time in six years.

•Goldiluck?
Thursday, on CNBC’s “Futures Now“, Peter Schiff said that he still expects gold to reach $5000 an ounce. While he didn’t give a date, that’s gotta be some time way away. On Friday, gold was trading around $1067 an ounce, according to KITCO.
That said, Schiff doesn’t expect to see much more downside to gold’s current price. In that  interview he added: “I don’t think there’s that much downside [in gold] because I think most of this is already built into the price.”
•Generic Savings
According to Drug Store News (DSN): “Since 2005 generics have saved patients $1.68 trillion, a report released by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association showed.”

•Government monkeying around with spending
According to Watchdog.com, government agencies have “spent $8 million to put 12 primates on treadmills in Texas and paid $30,000 in fines for a host of federal violations, including performing a necropsy on a baboon that was still alive.” Oh my.

•As for a Santa Claus Rally…
Looks like investors might have to forget all of that good little boy and good little girl crap.

According to  Jeff Hirsh’s recent Tumbir post comes this: “2015 is on pace to be the first losing pre-election year for the DJIA since war-torn 1939 when Germany invaded Poland…” The S&P 500 was down 5% in 1939 and as WWII broke out in Europe the stock market was down double digits the next two years.”

 

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Don’t forget mindful giving

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In this the hap-hap-happiest time of the year come all sorts of giving opportunities.

If your snail mail mailbox looks anything like mine, envelopes filled with letters and pens, bags and stickers, and cards and calendars have been rolling in since late October, early November. While I’m a fan of giving, I like knowing how my donated dollars are  used preferring that they are spent on the actual mission of the charity rather than excessive administrative costs.

On that last point, CharityNavigator.org is packed with  information about charitable giving. They’ve even got Top Ten Lists.

Just for the heck of it, I clicked on their Top Ten List of the“10 Highest Paid CEOs of Low-Rated Charities” and surprise surprise: The top salary listed was $417,500 and paid to the CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Yikes. The lowest: $205,168 for the CEO of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.

Yes, all non-profits have administrative costs  but making sure those costs aren’t eating up a large portion of the dollars donated is important  to any charity that wishes to maintain a sound reputation.

Lovetoknow.com posted a piece,”What percentage of Donations go to Charity”. The answer, (based on info from Charitynavigator.org), stated that if a non-profit is “spending more than 33.3 percent of their total budget on overhead, the organization is simply not meeting its mission.”

Personally, I’d like to see a greater percentage of a dollar donated going directly to the charity’s cause and/or mission. But that’s just me.

According to Lovetoknow.com, the American Red Cross keeps its administrative expenses under 5 percent of their total overhead and spends 92 percent of their income on programs that benefit the community. A few other charities that spend 90 percent or more of the money donated that actually gets spent on their mission include the Greater Chicago Food Depository; Oregon Food Bank; The Conservation Fund; Give Kids the World; Save the Children; and UNICEF.

Additionally, 86 to 89 cents of every dollar given to Doctors Without Borders goes to supporting their mission.

Donating time and money to grass roots local charities can also be hugely rewarding.  Lake Worth-based Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, forgottensoldiers.org,  is one worth learning more about.

In the end, whether you’re donating  $1 or $1,000,000, their is a  joy to giving  that’s  both seen and unseen for all involved.

 

To learn more about charitable giving organizations,  established watchdog groups include CharityNavigator.org; CharityWatch.org, this site provides a brief overview of the charity but requires a membership fee for more in depth info;  GuideStar.org; and GiveWell.org.

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POCKETBOOK

 

$$$ review for week ending Dec.11, 2015:

  • Net worth

“The MEDIAN net worth of folks 65-74 is $190k. That means half of everyone has more and the other half has less, which is a far better reflection of how wealth is distributed than the “average”….”

(Source: Regarded Solutions, SeekingAlpha.com)

  • Market Quick Glance

-Indices

Year-to-date returns based on Friday’s close (12/11/15) show the DJIA and S&P 500 indexes down less than 1 percent;   0.72 percent and 0.27 percent respectively. The year’s big winner so far is NASDAQ, up 5.46 percent.

-Mutual funds

Lipper’s mutual fund performance figures are published every Thursday.The data is updated weekly and provides the best one-stop-shopping overview of how various types of funds have performed over the short and long term that  you’ll find anywhere.You can read abaout them all in the column to the left of Dian’s Column at http://www.Allaboutfunds.com . Please read through it every week. The more you know about how your fund’s performance measures up against other like funds, the better investor you’ll become.

That said, here are a few Lipper  year-to-date performance highlights for the week ending Thursday, December 10, 2015:

-Under the World Income Fund category, Japanese Funds have rewarded their shareholders the most. Of the 51 funds included in  it, the group’s average was up 11.46 percent.

-On the other hand, the biggest losing group was Latin American Funds. Of the 49 funds under that heading the group average was down 27.58 percent.

-Under the U.S. Equity Fund heading, of which there are 8,409 funds, the average group return was down 1.43 percent.

-Lipper keeps tabs on 2,637,660 fixed-income funds. Year-to-date, the average return on this lot was down 1.45 percent.

  • Dividend investing: Kinda Hot and Cold Rewards

First, the hot-ish rewards….

From Morningstar’s ETF Specialist column: “Dividend Investing: Man vs. Machine …..On average, dividend-oriented ETFs beat their actively managed mutual fund counterparts in each of the four categories studied. Most of the funds in the sample were in the large-value category, where the average ETF returned 12.25% during the five years ended Sept. 30, 2015, compared with 10.67% for the average actively managed, dividend-oriented mutual fund.”

Now, the cold-ish….

If you’re a fan of dividend investing as I am –and so are most people who’ve made any money over the long haul— below is an interesting  list included in  USA TODAY’s Matt Krantz’s piece published 12/11/15 , ” 13 companies can’t afford their big dividends”.

“2015 S&P 500 COMPANIES PAYING OUT MORE IN DIVIDENDS THAN THEY’VE EARNED *

-Company, Symbol, Dividend yield, payout ratio

-Kinder Morgan, KMI, 12.1%, 329.6%

-ONEOK, OKE, 11.1%, 160.3%

-Williams, WMB, 8.85%, 528.8%

-Frontier Communications, FTR, 8.54%, NM **

-CenturyLink, CTL, 8.19%, 166.1%

-Iron Mountain, IRM, 7.17%, 421.4%

-Wynn Resort, WYNN, 7.15%, 359.1%

-HCP, HCP, 6.29%, 437.9%

-Spectra Energy, SE, 6.18%, 128.4%

-Murphy Oil, MUR, 6.13%, NM

-ConocoPhillips, COP, 6.11%, NM

-CenterPoint Energy, CNP, 6.03%, NM

-Mattel, MAT, 6.01, 169.2%”

(* Based on dividends and net income the past 12 months.Source: S&P Capital IQ, USA TODAY)

Full story at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2015/12/11/payout-ratio-big-dividends-afford/77115700/

  • Giving

According to Wealth-X, hugely rich entrepreneurs do give.

From their recent press release,” America’s Billionaire Entrepreneurs Give Nearly US$180 Million In Lifetime, More Than Other UHNW Donor Groups”, comes this:

“America’s billionaire entrepreneurs give, on average,  US$179.5 million per person to various causes during their lifetimes — more than any other ultra high net worth (UHNW) donor group — according to a new report by Wealth-X and Arton Capital….”

  • Scoring a Mortgage

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported “59% of new mortgage originations (by dollar, not by number) in the 3rd quarter of 2015, were obtained by borrowers with credit scores above 780.”

I snooped around and data from  the Statistic Brain Research Group showed, as of July 8, 2014, the national FICO average credit score  was 691.

FICO scores range from  300 to  850.

  • Mergers or let’s just call it “ DuPoints”

The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell wrote a read-worthy piece published December 11, 2015, titled “Dow and DuPont, two of America’s oldest giants, to merge in jaw-dropping mega deal”.

In case you have forgotten what these two iconic companies manufacture, here’s some of what  Harwell wrote:

“Dow was founded in 1897 by chemist Herbert Henry Dow primarily as a seller of bleach, but it would become one of America’s chief suppliers of chemicals for explosives, medicines and tear gas during World War I. With the Monsanto Company, Dow would also produce Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide made infamous during and after the Vietnam War.

“DuPont was founded in 1802 as a gunpowder mill by the French-American industrialist Éleuthère Irénée du Pont. The company would go on to develop neoprene, a synthetic rubber; corian, used in home countertops; mylar, a plastic in balloons; and the refrigerant freon.”

Full story at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2015/12/11/dow-and-dupont-two-of-americas-oldest-giants-to-merge-in-job-dropping-megadeal/

 

 

Still Time To Avoid A Holiday Overspending Hangover

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Unless you’re a Scrooge or super disciplined, it’s oh-so easy to get caught up in the ho-ho-ho of holiday spending. Whether you’re an admitted shopaholic, or have a tendency to over give, not to worry. What follows are three tips to avoid that horrible oh-my-God-I’ve- spent-too-much holiday spending hangover.

April Lane Benson, Ph.D., author and NYC therapist who specializes in compulsive buying disorder, knows of what she speaks. A recovering compulsive shopping addict, who now helps others with their addictions, has plenty to say on the subject.

“Compulsive buying is called the Smiled Upon Addiction,” said Benson, in her presentation to members of Financial Therapy Association earlier this month. “It’s called that because consumption fuels our economy.” She added that we even had a president who after 9/11 told everyone to go shopping.

According to Benson, compulsive buying is an addiction that carries more guilt and shame than alcoholism and drug addiction. “These are problems for which we have a lot of treatments. There is not a lot of treatment yet for compulsive buying disorder.”

The disorder can wreak havoc on everyone’s pocketbook whether they are problem buyers or not. And, can become a serious issue during the holidays when giving is in and expected.

But not to worry. Benson offered three simple suggestions to ward off the likelihood of a holiday overspending hangover. They are:

1.Don’t take the kids with you. Holiday shopping with the kids can cost you. According to Benson, research suggests that people spend 29 percent more than what is in their budget when they shop with their children.

2.Forget shopping with your partner. That will cost you too. “We tend to spend 19 percent more when we are shopping with a partner,” she said.

3. Don’t use a shopping cart. Or if you must, choose a small one. Similar to serving a meal on a big dinner plate, choose a smaller plate and it will hold less. And so it is with shopping carts: You can’t get as much in a small one as you can one of those great big ones and that could mean less money spent.

Oh, and there’s one more thing: Buying experiences rather than stuff pays off lots more for everyone—the gift giver and the gift receiver.

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Worst time for family money meeting? Holidays!

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by Dian Vujovich

Let me be clear: Talking about money has always been an emotionally charged subject no matter how much money your family has or doesn’t have, how old you are or how “Father Knows Best-like” and perfectly functional —or dysfunctional—your family is.  And talking about this touchy subject might just be the one thing that turns an already sensitive family holiday gathering into a gone-postal one.

Over the past few weeks more than one financial services sources have suggested the holiday season, when the family is all gathered together, is a great time to talk money. Really? I can’t think of a worse time to bring up how the trusts have been funded, who has one, who doesn’t, how much money is going to charities, Fido’s care, grandpa’s lover or that grandma has gambled all the family funds away and we’re all now broke than during the already emotionally charged holiday season. A season that pretty much brings out the best and worst in each of us.

I can only think its got to be some kind of masochistic who would find this a good idea. Or, a financial education newbie who sees more value in the family’s portfolio than he does the importance of understanding how a said family really works, and what’s at the core of its make-up and interpersonal relationships.After all, the family finances subject is one that’s far too important to be piggybacked with any other family event.

So to keep the mashed potatoes and Grandma’s Baccarat Harcourt 1841 Louis Philippe stemware from flying across the table during a holiday dinner consider a more appropriate time for engaging your family into a birth, death and inheritance dialogue. For instance, begin with any day of the year that doesn’t have a party, or occasion, associated with it.

That means forget the holidays. They already bring with them too much stress. Plus, family members can come to the whatever-it-is-festive occasion masking any number of unresolved conflicts that a money discussion would only exacerbate.

And pass by the notion of birthdays, anniversaries or after a funeral to touch on the subject. Instead, have the guts to pick a date and time that works best for you and is not associated with any emotional anything.

Every single family needs to address the financial realities of their family with all of their family members. And do so with plenty of fore thought and planning no matter what’s in the coffers.

While your family’s first money summit might seem a little awkward, I guarantee that once you have one, you’ll have more as circumstances change and the years pass. And when you finally do, your family will be both grateful and thankful for the time well spent.

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