Financial Planning

Financial Planning

MacGray Matters – Financial News – Week of August 2, 2010

Tags: Financial Planning, Mortgage Loans

MacGray MatterTM                                           August 2, 2010

THE ROLLER COASTER RIDE BACK UP:  After a horrible June, the domestic equity markets ended a very positive July.  The Dow Jones Industrials was up 0.40% for the week ending up 7.54% for July.  The S&P 500 was down 0.10% for the week, ending a July that was up 7.23%.  The NASDAQ Composite was down 0.65%, ending July up 7.3%.  All three indices are hovering near break even for the year.

EARNINGS GOOD, GDP..NOT SO MUCH:  Second quarter earnings reports continue to be positive, with Merck, Samsung, Chevron, Honda and FEDEX (see below) some of the big names announcing very positive reports.  However, the second quarter GDP report was disappointing.  The report on GDP for the second quarter of 2010 showed a gain of 2.4%.  That was a big drop from the 3.7% rise in the first quarter.  There was strength in business investment, which was up 17%, but consumers increased their spending by less than 2%.  Consumer confidence data continues to move downward, which explains why consumer spending is not picking up. 

LAZY PEOPLE:  Businessweek.com recently analyzed some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in order to determine which state has the laziest people.  They meant “lazy” as a measure of leisure time spent doing sedentary activities compared with activities that require more physical effort.  The winner was Louisiana, with Mississippi and Arkansas coming in second and third.  Lest you think that it was all southern states that led the way, Delaware and New York cracked the top 20.  To give you some idea what the average person does in the laziest state, in Louisiana, individuals (age 15 and older) sleep on average 8 hours and 44 minutes, watch 3 hours and 5 minutes of television, socialize for 54 minutes and “relax” for 29 minutes.  The average American sleeps 8 hours and 35 minutes, watches television for 2 hours and 38 minutes, socializes 44 minutes, and relaxes for 18 minutes.  The “least” lazy state is North Dakota.  For more, see here.

USING LEFT OVER COLLEGE FUNDS TO PAY SCHOOL LOANS?  Withdrawals from a 529 College Savings plan are tax-free if the money withdrawn is used for “qualified higher education expenses,” or QHEE. The list of eligible expenses includes tuition, mandatory fees, books, supplies, equipment. It also includes a capped amount of room and board if the beneficiary is at least a half-time student. However, QHEE does not include student loan repayments.  Some may argue that student loans merely represent the expenses incurred by the student in past years and should be counted as QHEE when the loans are repaid. The IRS apparently does not buy this argument and will count a student loan only for the year when the loan is taken out to pay the eligible expenses, not for the year the loan is repaid.

AS FEDEX GOES..:  FEDEX is often seen as a bellwether company.  If shipping is increasing then FEDEX will do well.  If shipping in increasing, it is a sign of increased activity, so the argument goes.  FEDEX reported last Monday that it expects to earn between $1.05 and $1.25 per share for the first quarter ending Aug. 31. That’s up sharply from a previous forecast of 58 cents per share.

Douglas R. MacGray, J.D., C.F.P.©, C.E.A.© 

Principal, Senior Vice President Financial Planning

300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670 | W. Conshohocken, PA 19428 

(610) 783-4265 (direct) | (302) 463-3377 (mobile) 

dmacgray@compass-ionadvisors.com

Investment Advisory services offered through Comprehensive Capital Management, Inc. an SEC-Registered corporation.  Securities offered through Comprehensive Asset Management and Servicing, Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC/MSRB 2001 Rt. 46 Ste. 506, Parsippany, NJ 07054, 1-800-637-3211

MacGray Matters – Financial News – July 26, 2010

Tags: Delaware Mortgage Rates, Financial Planning, Mortgage Loans

MacGray MatterTM                                                                                            July 26, 2010

GOOD NEWS DROWNS OUT BAD, EQUITIES RISE:  There was a fair bit of bad news this past week in the unemployment and housing numbers.  In addition, Ben Bernanke’s testimony was far from a Knute Rockne speech.  However, the markets gained.  A big driver for domestic equities was positive earnings reports.  Among the companies that beat quarterly expectations were Caterpillar, 3m, Air Products, UPS, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Ford, Honeywell and McDonalds.  In addition economic reports showed surprise growth in European manufacturing and United Kingdom retail sales.  German confidence data came out stronger than expected on increasing exports.  The Dow rose 3.24% (down 0.03% for the year).  The S & P 500 rose 3.55% (down 1.12% for the year) and the NASDAQ Composite rose 4.15% (up 0.01 for the year).  We seem to be back to square one again for the year.  

THE NEXT BUBBLE-COLLEGE TUITION?:  No cost can stay way ahead of the general rate of inflation indefinitely.  For years, we have been watching college tuition costs stay ahead of the general rate of inflation by a wide margin.  What is causing this, and what kind of bubble might this create?  Anecdotally, I have heard many more people steering their children to more inexpensive options in the past couple of years.  The combination of the rising costs and the troubled economy has moved many parents to think differently than they might have just a few years ago.  What are some of the indicators that we are running into a problem?  1)  Tuition has been increasing at two to three times the rate of inflation, about 8% per year, 2) students are borrowing more than ever, for example the number of college students graduating with over $25,000 in debt has tripled in the past decade, 3) in the past two decades, colleges have doubled their non-teaching staff while enrollment has increased only 40%, 4) publicly traded, for-profit education companies derive 75% of their revenue from federal funds, up from 48% in 2001, and quickly approaching the 90% limit imposed by federal law, 5) colleges are spending large amounts of money on amenities such as luxury dorms, gyms, pools to lure students, 6) college president salaries are rapidly increasing, for example, 23 private college presidents made more than $1 million in 2008 and 110 made more than $500,000 (there were no million dollar presidents in 2002).  Federal student loans became non-dischargeable in bankruptcy in 1998, and then private loans became non dischargeable as well in 2005.  Will we hit a tipping point when students begin defaulting on these loans at a more rapid rate, and colleges begin to face the need for cost cutting?  

LENGTH OF UNEMPLOYMENT:  Congress passed, and President Obama signed an extension of unemployment benefits.  As you can see from the chart below (from the U.S. Department of Labor, see here), the unemployment in this economic downturn has been long term like no other in the recent past.  The median duration of unemployment we face now is incredibly long compared to anything we have seen in the last fifty years:

MORE ON UNEMPLOYMENT:  Unemployment has by far been the most watched metric to determine the strength, or lack thereof, of the recovery.  One highly watched number has been the number of Americans filing for initial unemployment on a weekly basis.  This past Thursday, the announced number for the prior week was 464,000.  That is up 37,000 from the week before.  The number of Americans filing for initial unemployment insurance climbed last week, the government said Thursday.  The 4-week moving average of initial claims, which is calculated to smooth out volatility, was 456,000, up 1,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 454,750.

HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS:  One in ten new health plans currently sold in the United States is a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA).  The primary sales argument for these plans has been reduction in health premiums.  However, there is also a strong advantage in the tax advantages that accompany such plans.  To be qualified as a plan that can be paired with an HSA, an HDHP must

1)      have an annual deductible of at least $1,200 for an individual and $2,400 for a family of two or more,

2)      cannot exceed $5,900 out-of-pocket maximum for an individual or $11,900 for a family of two or more (out-of-pocket expenses are those you have to pay before the insurance company starts to pay 100% of covered charges), and

3)      limits first dollar coverage to certain preventative services and for everything else, you must satisfy the high deductible before the policy pays. 

The premiums for such plans are considerably less, and the savings is generally used to fund an HSA, which can be used to pay the out-of-pocket expenses.  Deposits in HSAs are generally pre-tax for employer-sponsored plans.  Employers can also make pre-tax contributions to employee HSAs.  The combination of employee and employer contributions cannot exceed the out-of-pocket maximum for the year (see above).  HSA funds can be invested like most traditional investment or retirement accounts.  The earnings grow tax deferred and remain tax free if withdrawn for allowable medical expenses.  Funds can also be used to pay for qualified long term care insurance premiums.  If funds are taken out prior to age 65, it is taxable as ordinary income and  subject to a 20% penalty (increased from 10% by the new health care reform law).   If funds are withdrawn after age 65, you must pay ordinary income tax, but no penalty will apply.  Presumably, people have lots of medical expenses after age 65, so for most people, it will not be difficult to use accumulated HSA assets in a manner that allows tax free withdrawal many years after the initial deposits are made.  Unfortunately, an ambiguous provision in the new health reform bill threatens the very existence of these plans.  As of January 1, 2011, insurers will be required to maintain an 80% medical loss ratio for policies meaning 80% of the premium must be spent on actual medical claims, not administrative costs or profit.  If “premium” is considered to be just the premium on the high-deductible insurance policy, most such plans would fail the test since most of the medical claims are paid from the HSA and not the policy.  However, if money from HSAs is considered, most such plans would meet the ratio test.  The way the bill was written, this decision rests entirely on the HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.

Douglas R. MacGray, J.D., C.F.P.©, C.E.A.© Principal, Senior Vice President Financial Planning
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670 | W. Conshohocken, PA 19428 (610) 783-4265 (direct) | (302) 463-3377 (mobile) 

dmacgray@compass-ionadvisors.com

Investment Advisory services offered through Comprehensive Capital Management, Inc. an SEC-Registered corporation.  Securities offered through Comprehensive Asset Management and Servicing, Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC/MSRB 2001 Rt. 46 Ste. 506, Parsippany, NJ 07054, 1-800-637-3211

If you would like to apply for a Delaware Home Loan, you can APPLY ONLINE HERE, you can call John R. Thomas at 302-703-0727 or send an e-mail to jthomas@primeres.com

John R. Thomas – Certified Mortgage Planner – Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc.

302-703-0727 DE Office / 610-906-3109 PA Office / 410-412-3319 MD Office

248 E Chestnut Hill Rd
Newark, DE 19713
www.PRMIDelaware.com

MacGray Matters – Financial News Update – July 19, 2010

Tags: , Financial Planning

MacGray MatterTM                                                                                            July 19, 2010

FINANCIAL REFORM:  Early this week, President Obama will sign the Financial Reform Act passed by the Senate this past week.  What does the bill say?  Once again, it is very, very long and rather confusing.  One of the main reasons I can’t tell you what it all means is that much of the Act simply directs the Executive Branch to do things, like make regulations.  The bill will immediately create a 10-member Financial Stability Oversight Council, a powerful assembly of regulators chaired by the Treasury Secretary to keep watch over the entire financial system.  The Obama administration has one year to create a new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.  The Fed has until April to derive standards to measure the fairness of fees charged by banks to merchants for customers who use debit cards.  Regulators also will have to figure out how to implement new standards for how much capital banks should hold in reserve to protect against losses. The legislation requires rules in 18 months, but the U.S. is also part of international negotiations on what global capital standards should be, and those could move more slowly and affect how quickly the regulations are enacted.  As we learn more about this legislation and its implications, we will provide additional information.

EQUITIES LOSE IT ALL ON FRIDAY:  On Friday, stocks gave back all of the gains that had been earned during the first four days of the week.  This was largely due to the drop in quarterly revenues for some major companies such as GE, Citigroup and Bank of America.  Other economic news for the week included reports indicating the major inflation indices fell in June due to lower prices of energy and food, retail sales were 0.5% lower in June (second consecutive monthly decline), and industrial production slowed in June.  For the week, the Dow was down 0.98% (down 3.17% for the year), the S & P 500 was down 1.21% (down 4.50% for the year) and the NASDAQ Composite was down 0.79% (down 3.97% for the year).

POTENTIAL MARKET MOVERS THIS WEEK:  It often seems that anything and everything can move the markets on a given day.  Here are some events coming up this week that will likely influence what happens with the markets short term movement.  Three housing related reports will be released this week: the NAHB builder confidence survey on Monday, housing starts on Tuesday, and existing home sales on Thursday. Fed Chairman Bernanke will report to the Senate and House on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday, the European bank stress test results will be released.  Also on Tuesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the Regional and State Employment and Unemployment report for June.  On Thursday, the initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.

RAILROAD TRAFFIC:  According to the Association of American Railroads, traffic in June 2010 was up 10.6% compared to June 2009, but traffic was still 10.2% lower than in June 2008.

NET WORTHS OF PRESIDENTS:  The Atlantic published an article which showed the net worths of all the U.S. Presidents at their peaks in today’s dollars.  Here are the some of their results: 

  • ·         George Washington                $525 Million
  • ·         John Adams                            $19 Million
  • ·         Thomas Jefferson                    $212 Million
  • ·         Andrew Jackson                     $119 Million
  • ·         Abraham Lincoln                    Less than $1 Million
  • ·         Ulysses Grant                          Less than $1 Million
  • ·         Theodore Roosevelt                $125 Million
  • ·         Franklin D. Roosevelt             $60 Million
  • ·         John F. Kennedy                     $1 Billion
  • ·         Ronald Reagan                       $13 Million
  • ·         Bill Clinton                             $38 Million
  • ·         George W. Bush                     $20 Million
  • ·         Barack Obama                        $5 Million

MORE AFRAID OF RUNNING OUT OF MONEY THAN DYING:  Allianz Life Insurance Company surveyed 3,200 Americans.  They found that sixty one percent of Americans between the ages of 44 to 75 admit they fear the prospect of running out of their accumulated assets during retirement more than they fear death. 

OLD POWERS OF ATTORNEY AND HIPAA:  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996.  The privacy rules under HIPAA became effective in April 2003, and health care providers must comply.  Essentially, the HIPAA privacy rules provide that health care providers must take steps to prevent the unauthorized dissemination of “Protected Health Information” (PHI).  The penalties to health care providers for non-compliance with the HIPAA privacy rules are severe.  As a result, health care providers are very concerned that they might transmit PHI and incur the severe penalties.  Consequently, Health Care Powers of Attorney will be carefully scrutinized by health care providers, and health care providers will need assurances that providing PHI to a Health Care Representative will not violate HIPAA.  Given the penalties at stake, the health care provider may likely err on the side of caution and not provide any PHI to a Health Care Representative unless the Health Care Power of Attorney specifically states that PHI may be transmitted under the HIPAA privacy rules.  Therefore, all Health Care Powers of Attorney should be updated to specifically empower Health Care Representatives to receive PHI in accordance with HIPAA.  This power should be clearly stated so that any health care provider reviewing the power will feel secure that the transmission of the PHI to the Health Care Representative will not be a violation of the privacy rules of HIPAA.  While all Health Care Powers of Attorney should be scrutinized to see if they contain provisions regarding HIPAA and PHI, it is unlikely that that any Health Care Powers of Attorney executed in 2001 or earlier will contain such provisions since the final HIPAA privacy regulations were not published until December of 2000.

Have a great week!

Doug MacGray

Douglas R. MacGray, J.D., C.F.P.©, C.E.A.© Principal, Senior Vice President Financial Planning
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670 | W. Conshohocken, PA 19428 (610) 783-4265 (direct) | (302) 463-3377 (mobile) dmacgray@compass-ionadvisors.com

Investment Advisory services offered through Comprehensive Capital Management, Inc. an SEC-Registered corporation.  Securities offered through Comprehensive Asset Management and Servicing, Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC/MSRB 2001 Rt. 46 Ste. 506, Parsippany, NJ 07054, 1-800-637-3211

If you would like to apply for a Delaware Home Loan, you can APPLY ONLINE HERE, you can call John R. Thomas at 302-703-0727 or send an e-mail to jthomas@primeres.com

John R. Thomas – Certified Mortgage Planner – Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc.

302-703-0727 DE Office / 610-906-3109 PA Office / 410-412-3319 MD Office

248 E Chestnut Hill Rd, Newark, DE 19713

www.PRMIDelaware.com

MacGray Matter – Financial News Update – July 5, 2010

Tags: , Financial Planning

MacGray MatterTM                                                                                            July 5, 2010

UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS ADD TO A NEGATIVE WEEK:  On Friday, the Department of Labor reported that non-farm payrolls dropped by 125,000 jobs due largely to the Census Bureau laying off 225,000 temporary workers.  Private sector job growth was positive by 83,000 jobs, but that was less than “expected” and not near enough to make up for the loss of government jobs.  Manufacturing jobs fell by 8,000 after a three-month positive streak.  I continue to find this particular graph found on calculatedrisk.com (and used with permission) to be a key one to follow:
Photobucket

MANUFACTURING STILL GROWING, BUT THE GROWING IS SLOWING:  In China, manufacturing growth slowed more than economists had forecast (according to Bloomberg).  Also this week, a gauge of factory output in the 16-member Euro region weakened for a second month according to a survey by Bloomberg. The U.S. Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index fell more than economists forecast to 56.2 from 59.7 in May.  Those numbers still indicate growth, but slowing growth.

CONSUMERS STILL WARY:  Personal income rose in May by 0.4%, but consumer spending rates did not keep pace.  Personal consumption increased only 0.2%.  This resulted in the national savings rate increasing to 4.0%, its highest level since last September.  This slows the recovery, but adds to the overall, long-term financial health for the country and all those individuals who are saving, and not spending.  A 4% savings rate is hardly excessive. 

TOTALLY RED WEEK:  Each day last week ended with negative returns in the domestic equity markets.  The Dow Jones index was down 4.51% (down 7.11% for the year).  The S&P 500 was down 5.03% (down 8.3% for the year), and the NASDAQ was down 5.92% (down 7.82% for the year).  To give some additional perspective, for the last twelve months, the Dow is up 16.98%.  The S&P 500 is up 14.07% for the last twelve months and the NASDAQ Composite is up 16.44%.  We continue to be defensive in our portfolio management approach.

THE GIFT TAX OPPORTUNITY OF 2010:  It seems more and more likely that Congress will do nothing with the current estate and gift tax this year.  As a result, 2010 remains an outlier year.  Currently, there is a $1 million exemption for the gift tax, and an annual exemption of $13,000 per year.  Therefore, if you make a gift to your child of $1,013,000, you can claim the first $13,000 as the annual exemption, and the remaining $1 million as your lifetime exemption from gift tax.  For any amount above those exemptions, the current tax (2010 only) is a flat 35%.  In 2011, the top gift tax rate increases to 55%.  Is it possible, given the current deficits being run up by the government, that the Congress will actually raise rates instead of lowering them?  Of course, the answer is a resounding “yes”.  Therefore, for individuals with large estates, this year may present an opportunity to transfer some of that wealth and avoid significant transfer tax.

MORE LABOR NUMBERS:  I reviewed labor statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor on their website.  Here are some numbers I found interesting.  The reported population of the U.S. in June 2009 was 235,655,000.  In June 2010, that number had increased by about 9/10 of one percent to 237,690,000.  In June 2009, the civilian labor force was 154,759,000.  In June 2010, that number had decreased by about 9/10 of one percent.  Therefore, even though the amount of people employed from June 2009 to June 2010 fell by 919,000, the unemployment rate remains the same as it was one year ago:  9.5%.  The number of persons reported as employed in the civilian labor force in June 2010 is 139,119,000, which is over 300,000 less than May 2010, and yet the unemployment rate dropped from 9.7% to 9.5%.  The primary reason is that many of the temporary census workers who have been laid off were seniors or others who are not otherwise rejoining the workforce, and therefore, they do not get classified as unemployed.

GETTING OUT OF A CAR LEASE:   It is possible, but generally not easy or pretty, to get out of a car lease.  Your best option, of course, if possible is to keep paying for the lease until it ends.  If you cannot due to the loss of a job or other financial reverses, what do you do?  First, go to the car dealer.  The dealer may be able to strike a deal with you to 1) lower your payments, 2) preserve your credit, and/or 3) get you out of the car completely.  This will likely cost you more than the balance on the lease.  If your dealer is willing to work with you, there may be a way out. But beware: It WILL cost you something. The car dealer is not in the business of charity work.  If the dealer will not work with you, consider a lease swap.  Companies such as SwapALease.com or LeaseTrader.com will connect you to a buyer who, for an incentive, will take over your car lease, allowing you to walk away with no liability and no penalties or obligations. Before you list your car with a lease swap company, it is vitally important to check with your leasing company to see if they will allow this type of transfer.  It will cost approximately $100 to list your car, and then there will be a contract transfer fee that could be as much as $200 or more. Listing your lease doesn’t mean getting out of your lease is a sure thing. If you are running close to your allotted mileage, you may not find a taker.  Finally, you might be able to get out of your car lease by surrendering the car to the leasing company.  You are not really getting out of anything as the company will sell the car, apply the proceeds to your balance, and sue you for the difference.  Your credit score will take a hard hit.   

Have a great week! 

I’ll close with a picture I took with my Blackberry on a cruise through San Diego Harbor last week.  That’s the U.S.S. Nimitz in the background: 

Doug MacGray 

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

  Douglas R. MacGray, J.D., C.F.P.C, C.E.A.C Principal, Senior Vice President Financial Planning
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 670 | W. Conshohocken, PA 19428 (610) 783-4265 (direct) | (302) 463-3377 (mobile) dmacgray@compass-ionadvisors.comInvestment Advisory services offered through Comprehensive Capital Management, Inc. an SEC-Registered corporation.  Securities offered through Comprehensive Asset Management and Servicing, Inc. Member, FINRA/SIPC/MSRB 2001 Rt. 46 Ste. 506, Parsippany, NJ 07054, 1-800-637-3211

All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, nor from want of honor or virtue, so much as downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.  John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1787

Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.  Leviticus 25:10 (inscribed on the Liberty Bell) 

Financial Market Update – July 21, 2008

Delaware Mortgage Rates, Financial Planning, Mortgage Loans

THE MARKETS:  Volatility remains the watchword on Wall Street.  At least this week the volatility was the kind people like:  positive volatility.  The Dow was up 3.57% (down 13.33% for the year) and the S & P 500 was up 1.71% (down 14.14% for the year).     

CITIBANK BEATS EXPECTATIONS:  Citigroup lost $2.5 billion and still beat analysts’ expectations.  This amounted to a loss of 54 cents per share, in the April-June period. Analysts were predicting losses in the mid-60 cents per share.   In the same timeframe last year, the bank earned $6.23 billion, or $1.24 per share.   

REVEALING UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS:  Is all that money my wife and I are spending on my son’s college education worth it?  The following numbers compiled by The Manhattan Institute say “yes”.  The following are comparisons of unemployment numbers for May 2007 (the first number) and May 2008 (the second number) for the following levels of education: 

Less than high school diploma                 6.7 %             8.3 %
High school graduate                                  4.5 %              5.2 %
Some college                                                 3.4 %             4.3 %
College diploma                                             2 %                2.3 %  

Another indicator is perhaps a bit more surprising.  Also in May of 2008, men who are married and still living with their spouse are unemployed at a rate of 2.7%.  Men who are divorced or separated are 6.4% unemployed.  Men who have never been married are 10.1% unemployed.  The numbers for women are 2.8%, 5.3% and 9%. 

THE WIDENING YIELD SPREAD:  The yield spread on Treasuries (the difference between the yield on 90-day T-bills and 30-year bonds) widened to 3.18% last week, almost triple what it was at the beginning of the year.  That is often a sign of strong future growth in the economy.   

CHARITABLE LEAD ANNUITY TRUSTS (CLATs):  This is a large subject to tackle briefly, but I’ll give it a shot.  A CLAT is an estate planning tool that can help a charity now and transfer part of your estate to the next generation in a tax efficient manner.  After you create a CLAT, you transfer assets to it.  Thereafter, a fixed amount is paid to the charity for a term.  The term can be a fixed number of years or for as long as one or more individuals is living.  After the term, the charity no longer receives anything, and the remaining trust assets go to named individuals.  The value of the charitable deduction is determined actuarially based upon interest rates published monthly by the IRS (Section 7520 rates).  This is a fairly complicated calculation, but planners such as me buy software (updated with monthly IRS rates) that can run these calculations instantly.   The lower the 7520 rate, the more value you can shift to your heirs free of estate and gift tax.  These rates are going up currently. 

Example:  Husband and Wife (both age 65) create a CLAT next month, and contribute $500,000.  The CLAT pays Local Christian School (a 501(c)3 charity) $30,000 every year as long as either Husband or Wife is living.  The remainder will go to Husband and Wife’s four children.  Approximately $422,000 of this transfer will be deductible, and about $78,000 will be a taxable gift to the children.  If the trust assets earn 7% per year, and Husband and Wife both die in 20 years, then the children will receive approximately $816,000 with no further estate or gift tax (and the taxable gift was only $78,000!). 

The CLAT can be set up so that the donor(s) gets the charitable deduction for the $422,000, but the CLAT will pay income tax each year with no ability to take a tax deduction for the annual charitable payments.  In the alternative, the donor(s) can elect to not take the income tax deduction, in which case the CLAT will be able to deduct the annual charity payments from its income taxes.

This information is provided by my good friend and associate Doug MacGray.  Doug is a certified financial planner so if you would like to meet with Doug or ask him any questions, please give me (John Thomas) a call and I can get you in touch with Doug.

Financial Market Update – July 14, 2008

Delaware Mortgage Rates, Financial Planning
BEAR MARKETS:  Credit and money supply concerns, plus resurgent oil prices seemed to be the drivers behind further negative movement in the equity markets on Friday.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded below 11,000 for the first time since August 2006 but finished at 11,100. The S&P 500 finished the day in bear territory, as well.  There was much reporting about widespread concern that the two U.S. mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could fail, despite Bush Administration assurances that won’t be allowed to happen. Over the past 65 years, bear markets have lasted about 10 months on average (some have been considerably longer than the average). The first one of this century was deep and one of the longest on record, from 2000 to 2003. The long bull market that followed reached its peak in October/November 2007, and, in fits and starts, has been turning toward bear territory since then.  Where will the market move next? There’s never a shortage of opinions.  Your overall investment strategy should not be tied to making the right “bet” about where the market is going in the month or quarter. Maintaining a long-term viewpoint is historically the best course.
CONSUMER BORROWING:  The Federal Reserve reported that consumer credit increased by $7.8 billion in May.  Most of the increase was in credit card usage rather than auto loans or college loans.  Cearly consumers are using more debt to maintain their “lifestyle” in the face of higher prices, especially for food and energy.  A dangerous trend I just read about is 401k plans that are allowing much easier access to “cash” in the form of loans using ATM cards.  Loans agains 401k plans is very inefficient and dangerous.  If anything, it should be more difficult.  Consumers were using home equity to support expense needs.  Much of that has dried up, and now credit cards are filling the void.  Watch out for 401k loans to be the next area of “ready cash”.
CONVERTING TRADITIONAL IRAS TO ROTH IRAS:  The income limit is $100,000 for a single individual, and $100,000 for a husband and wife filing jointly. A taxpayer who is married-filing-separately is not eligible to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. Both the $100,000 cap, and the prohibition on conversions by married taxpayers filing separately, are scheduled to disappear permanently after 2009. The conversion of funds from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA is subject to income tax just as if the amount “converted” had been actually distributed to the participant. Thus, the distribution will be taxable as ordinary income just the same as a distribution of the same amount from the same plan would be. For conversions in 2010 only, the taxpayer will have the option of spreading the taxable income over two years, 2011 and 2012; otherwise, the conversion is taxable in the year it occurs.

GRANDPARENTS AND 529 (COLLEGE SAVINGS) PLANS:  A 529 plan can be an effective way for grandparents to contribute to a grandchild’s college education, while simultaneously moving assets out of their own estate. Contributions to a 529 plan grow tax deferred, and withdrawals used for the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses are tax free at the federal level.  A grandparent can open a 529 account and name a grandchild as beneficiary, or they can contribute to an existing 529 account.  Grandparents can contribute a lump sum to a grandchild’s 529 account, or they can contribute smaller, regular amounts.  A big advantage of 529 plans is that under special rules unique to 529 plans, individuals can make a lump-sum gift of up to $60,000 ($120,000 for joint gifts by married couples) and avoid federal gift tax.  Another attractive feature of 529 plans is that under current law, grandparent-owned 529 accounts are excluded by the federal government’s financial aid formula–only parent-owned 529 plans count.

This update is provided by my good friend and business associate, Douglas MacGray from EGE Advisors and he is Senior Vice President, Financial Planning.  If you would like to setup a free consultation with Doug, please give me (John Thomas) a call at 302-368-7132 and I will arrange it for you.

Weekly Financial Market Update – June 30, 2008

Delaware Mortgage Rates, Financial Planning, Mortgage Loans

THE MARKETS:  June has been a negative month for the equity markets.  For the month, the S&P 500 is down 8.7% and the Russell 2000 is down 6.19%.  For the quarter, the S&P 500 is down 3.35% and the Russell 2000 is up 1.84%.  The Dow Jones AIG Commodity Index is up 9.59% for the month and 27.8% for the year.  This is a “long only” index which can be volatile and about which many investors are wary (“How high can it go?”).  It has been having an extraordinary run during this bearish equity market.

CHARITABLE GIVING:  According to the Giving USA Foundation, charitable giving in the United States reached a record $306.4 billion in 2007.  Giving rose 3.9% last year.  Charitable giving was 2.2% of gross domestic product for 2007.  Individual giving was an estimated $229 billion, or 74.8% of the total estimated giving in 2007, an increase of 2.7% (a drop of 0.1% when adjusted for inflation).  Corporate giving increased 1.9% to $15.69 billion, representing a decline of 0.9% when adjusted for inflation.  Grants made by foundation rose 10.3% in 2007, or 7.3% when adjusted for inflation.  Charitable bequests increased 6.9%, or 4% adjusted for inflation.  In the last five recessions since 1973, giving fell an average of 1.3% adjusted for inflation. 

MID-YEAR ADJUSTMENT ON MILEAGE DEDUCTION:  The Internal Revenue Service announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rates for the final six months of 2008. Taxpayers may use the optional standard rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.  The rate will increase to 58.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven from July 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2008. This is an increase of eight (8) cents from the 50.5 cent rate in effect for the first six months of 2008.  The IRS normally updates the mileage rates once a year in the fall for the next calendar year.

“HEART”:  On June 17, 2008, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (“HEART”) was signed into law.  HEART had been unanimously passed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.  Among the many provisions designed to enhance the financial well-being of armed service members serving in a combat zone were: 1) Military compensation (up to the maximum enlisted service member’s pay) earned in a combat zone will be excluded from a service members gross income; 2) A service member may also exclude compensation, for up to two years following service in a combat zone, earned while hospitalized from wounds, disease, or injuries incurred during service in a combat zone, and 3) The Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004, allowed a service member to treat combat pay as earned income for purposes of the earned income credit. HEART makes this law, which expired on December 31, 2007, a permanent  tax code provision.   

This information has been provided by my good friend Doug MacGray.  Doug is a certified Financial Planner and if you would like to speak with Doug, please give me a call (John Thomas) at 302-368-7132.

Weekly Market Update – June 16, 2008

Delaware Mortgage Rates, Financial Planning, Mortgage Loans
NOT MUCH MOVEMENT LAST WEEK:  The markets did not move much:  The Dow was up 0.80% and the S & P 500 was down 0.05%.

NEXT INTEREST RATE MOVEMENT WILL BE UP?:  The Fed’s increased public anti-inflation discussion has led to market expectations of one or more rate hikes by the year end. The Fed funds futures market is pricing in 75 basis points by January. The Fed outlook has changed over the last several weeks. In the April 30 policy statement, the Federal Open Market Committee hinted strongly that it was finished with rate cuts, but the market expected that a weakening economy would force the Fed to cut at least once more. Since late April, economic data have been mixed, but not as bad as many feared. The price of crude oil has continued to rise, to a point where the Fed’s concerns about inflation are now dominant.  IN EUROPE: At the European Central Bank (ECB), they have made it clear that inflation is their number one concern and they aren’t thinking about a cut in rates.  Jean-ClaudeTrichet, the ECB Chairman, has strongly hinted that their next move is likely to be an increase in rates. If that happens, and the U. S. doesn’t match the increase, it will put added downward pressure on the dollar and likely cause oil prices to continue to go up.
 
ECONOMISTS LESS PESSIMISTIC:  This past week, once again, the Wall Street Journal asked a panel of Wall Street economists whether we are in a Recession.  52% say yes.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that this same group was asked the same question in April and 76% said yes.  It looks like economist opinions are as volatile as the markets.
DEBT CAN BITE YOU AT ANY TIME, AND COMPOUNDING WILL KILL YOU:  This past week, Prince Charles paid off a family debt more than three centuries past the statute of limitations.  Charles paid 453 pounds and 15 pence ($885.04) which King Charles II failed to pay to the Clothiers Company in Worcester,  England, in 1651!  Charles II had commissioned uniforms for his troops to fight Oliver Cromwell’s forces that year.  Prince Charles didn’t pay interest, and Clothiers did not insist on it.  If interest was taken into account, he would have owed approximately $90,000 U.S.

SIZE OF PROFIT:  According to Fortune Magazine, the average profit margin at the pump for a US gas station is 11 cents a gallon, approximately half the size it was just 1-year ago.  The average net profit margin for the S&P Energy sector, according to figures from Thomson Baseline, is 9.7%. The average for the S&P 500 is 8.5%. Google’s net profit margin in its most recent quarter was 25%. 

BANKS MORE PREPARED:  According to the FDIC, US commercial banks and savings institutions set aside $37 billion in loan-loss provisions in the 1st quarter 2008 in anticipation of bad loans that may default.  Banks set aside $9 billion for such loans in the 1st quarter 2007.

This is information is provided by good friend and business associate Doug MacGray.  Doug is a certified financial planner.  If you would like a referral to Doug please feel free to contact me (John Thomas) at 302-368-7132 Ext.12 or send me an e-mail to DelawareMortgages@yahoo.com