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SFS

Is Your Heart Making the Decision?

By | 2019, Money Matters, Newsletter | No Comments

Women generally have huge hearts and can sometimes let their hearts lead their financial decisions. Even the most educated and most successful women can let their hearts influence their financial decisions. Here are some examples of how women may be dealing with financial situations:

–    Children ask for money for the latest thing(s), and mothers usually say yes. When mothers spend too much money on their children, they may not be saving enough for retirement.

–    Women who allow their husbands to handle every aspect of financial decisions may find themselves in crisis when a spouse is injured, they are divorced or widowed and discover they are unprepared to manage all facets of their financial life.

–    Single women – those who never marry or who are divorced – are often uncomfortable with finances and may even be bored with financial matters. Still, they are anxious about being financially secure now and in the future.

As women, we need to take control of our financial life and be honest with ourselves and others in our relationships.  We are generous with our love, time and money and we shouldn’t stop being kind, generous people, but we must be sure that our acts of generosity are not depleting our financial future and retirement plans.  We must learn to say “NO” out of love, not out of fear. If you pay for a child’s college education, will it jeopardize your future retirement? This act of generosity could potentially create financial stress for years into the future. Your act of charity should never put you at financial risk.

Women need to set financial limits. Our goal should be to raise financially independent, successful children. While it may seem reasonable to help a family member, continuing to pay expenses for grown children will not help them become financially successful adults. It might feel like tough love, but in the big picture, it truly helps everyone. 

Make financial decisions that support your financial goals and secure your financial future by taking time to think through the situation and process the outcome. Lead with your head, not your heart. Being financially smart will help you secure your goals and achieve financial success.

If you are faced with a decision and need additional information or maybe just a sounding board, reach out to us and let us help you think through your options. Together we can find the right solution for you.

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From Investing FOMO to FEAR

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

My daily commute often leaves me sitting in traffic on State Street in Salt Lake City. Sometimes it can take 10 minutes to move 3 blocks. During these seemingly hopeless times, I often see a cyclist pass me. I consider the wisdom of selling my car and riding my bike. However, no matter how bad the traffic, I eventually pass the biker–no exception. (As a biking enthusiast, I regularly commute on a bike, but it is not faster.)

As investors, we faced similar thoughts in 2018. Should we make a short-term decision even though we know which vehicle will get us where we want to go quicker?

Investors entered 2018 with a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). The stock market had just completed a year where every month was positive. A tax cut had just been passed to stimulate greater consumer and corporate spending. Around the world, growth seemed synchronized, and expectations were rising.

Here is a review of my three predictions for 2018 with commentary on how things turned out.

U.S. growth exceeds 3 percent. The impact of the tax cut, which I referred to as a “sugar rush,” temporarily lifted U.S. growth to make the first forecast correct. The benefits of the cut were so short-lived that investor excitement quickly turned to concern.

The Federal Reserve finally has an impact. Interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve in recent years had largely been ignored by the stock market. This prediction also came true, especially in December when a rate increase was done despite all the problems going on in financial markets.

Investors would be disappointed with the market, but positive economic growth would help the market end the year positive. This prediction seemed to be correct for much of the year. However, it failed in the part that mattered most.

The stock market ended 2018 in an absolute panic! Oil prices were plummeting. The White House could not get a deal done on trade with China. The federal government had its third shutdown in just one year. And, despite all this, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates stating that nothing had changed; the economy was strong.

The stock market sell-off intensified, and the bull market arguably came to an end on Christmas Eve. December performance of the S&P 500 stocks was the worst since 1931. Historically, that makes some sense. The Great Depression began in 1929.

But we were not in the midst of a depression — quite the opposite. Corporate earnings were at record levels. The real GDP growth in this country was around 3 percent. Consumer spending, which represents 70 percent of the U.S. economy, rose in December by 4.5 percent!

What is an investor to do when the economic data is positive, and the market is so negative? At times like this, it is critically important to stay focused on your long-term goals.

It is our job at SFS to help you develop these goals and keep you on track to achieve them. We have tools to provide the necessary clarity and strategies to implement to help you keep moving forward.

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Tax Scams Oh My!

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

The tax season is upon us, and there is no shortage of nefarious individuals looking to make money. Here is a list of potential scams to watch out for–not only during tax season but all of the time:

(1) Phishing emails – these are typically unsolicited emails sent to you posing as legitimate IRS emails. They may contain links taking you to fake websites that ask you to provide personal information. The IRS will never initiate contact with you via email or social media.

(2) Phone – beware of individuals calling and claiming they’re from the IRS. They may threaten you that you owe money and that you will be arrested. They may even say you are entitled to a large refund from the IRS.

Don’t be fooled if the Caller ID on your phone even says the IRS. They can spoof that information. These bad guys are that good. Don’t give them any information. Reach out to the IRS for assistance at IRS.gov.

(3) Tax return preparer fraud – during tax season these scammers pose as legitimate tax preparers. They often promise unreasonably large refunds. They take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers by committing refund fraud or identity theft.

(4) Fake charities – scam artists sometimes pose as a charity in order to solicit donations. Often these appear after a natural disaster hoping to capitalize on the tragedy.

(5) Tax-related identity theft – this happens when an individual uses your Social Security number to claim your refund. This may not even be discovered until you try to file your return. The IRS may even send a letter to you indicating that they’ve identified a suspicious return.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of identity theft, the Identity Theft Resource Center offers free help and information to consumers at idtheftcenter.org.

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Financial Basics

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

The world of credit can be a mysterious one, to say the least. There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to credit and how to build it. Here are three things you need to know:

How Credit Scores Are Determined
(1) Your payment history makes up the most significant percentage of your credit score, so it is imperative that you make payments on time!
(2) Credit bureaus also look at the amount of money you owe compared to how much credit is available to you. The smaller the amount you owe, the better your credit score will be.
(3) The other, smaller portions pertain to the types of credit you have, like installment loans such as a car loan or mortgage, and revolving credit like credit card debt. (4) Any new credit you’ve applied for is also examined.

Your credit score can range anywhere from 300-850 and can affect many things, like the interest rate you can get on loans and mortgages, and it can even determine whether you are accepted to rent a place to live.

Credit Cards Aren’t Bad, but You Need to be Careful
I have heard many times that credit is bad and you should never use it. That simply isn’t true, but credit does need to be used wisely.

If misused, credit can get you into trouble. Instead, make sure you are paying off your entire credit card balance on time each month. If you only make the minimum payments, you will be charged interest and it will become a never-ending cycle of payments and even higher debt. Making the minimum payment will not make a dent in what you owe.

How to Check Your Credit Report
It is important to check your credit report a few times a year to make sure it is correct. There are three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each one is required to give you one free report every year. The easiest way to request your report is at annualcreditreport.com. If your report is not correct, reach out to the credit bureau. Its representatives should help you with the process of correcting it.

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Market Fear and a New Approach

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments
A sad businessman stands on a red decreasing arrow while another man runs up a green upwards arrow. Corporate ladder. Competition rules. Winners and losers.

The Dow is down 600 points! The S&P falls 7 percent! Five straight days of market decline! Sell! Sell! Sell!

During times of volatility, we see headlines like this on the news, read them on the Internet, and hear them on the radio. But before we buy the fear and sell the stock, let’s take a step back.

The most obvious fact about the stock market is this: Buy low and sell high. This gem of information is simple to understand and promises positive returns. Yet, it is during tough times that investors often forget what they know is best. Instead of buying low and selling high, investors often buy fear and sell stock.

A focus on negative market movement can cause worry, even panic. This leads investors to act irrationally and break the second rule of investing, which is: Don’t let emotion overpower logic.

Times of smooth appreciation are the exception and not the rule. In fact, 2017 was the first year in history that the S&P index closed higher every month. Volatility is the norm. Sometimes markets are up. Sometimes they’re down. Historically, the long-term trend, is up.

The average annualized return on the S&P 500 since its beginning in 1928 is approximately 10 percent. This means that those who stayed invested in diversified portfolios long-term made money.

Despite all the positive statistics I could type, watching your investment accounts decline is scary. Maybe the key to investment comfort (and success) is not a change in investments, but a change in paradigm.

My advice is this: Hire a qualified financial advisor whom you trust. Then shift your focus from market performance (something you can’t control) to your financial goals (something you can control).

When we create a plan for a client, we base it on their goals. Goal-based investing puts the emphasis on the objective, not the performance. This offers advantages.

First, it gives us a target. When we know what we’re aiming for, it becomes much easier to determine the probability of success. Changes we need to make to improve the likelihood of success also come into focus.

Second, it can produce higher returns. Focusing on the goals rather than the short-term performance can reduce emotional overreactions to market volatility. It also decreases the temptation to chase high returns, which often leads to poor performance.

Third, it brings stability and creates confidence in your financial future. Knowing you’re on track to meet your goals brings comfort regardless of which direction the market is moving.

I believe goal-based investing is a favorable approach to planning for your future. It will also consider your current financial situation, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Make sure to meet with your financial advisor regularly to review your goals and update your financial plan.

Before you buy the fear and sell the stock, please call us. We would love to talk more about goal-based investing and how it can benefit you.

*Data from public sources. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is widely considered to represent the overall U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author.

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Tax Law Changes

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

The first significant tax reform in over three decades was put into action for 2018. Now we get to see the real impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as people start to file their 2018 tax return.

Whether you are filing your tax return or you want to make sure you give your accountant the best information possible, here are the major changes to which you should pay attention.

Form 1040 significantly shortened and simplified
One of the major goals for this tax reform was to “simplify” taxes. The immediate impact is that the old Form 1040 will be shrunken down to a half page on front and back. Now there will only be 23 lines compared to the daunting 79 lines on the old 1040. There will no longer be a form 1040A or 1040EZ as those were just an attempt to simplify an overly complex 1040. The new 1040 will be accompanied by 6 schedules.

If this shortened version makes you feel like attempting to do your taxes for the first time in a while, you should probably still take them to your accountant as there are so many tax changes that you really need an expert that knows how all of the changes will impact you. If you have been filing your own taxes, they should be easier this year (should being the keyword).

Tax brackets
Tax brackets have been reduced, which should benefit almost all people. Tax brackets are based on your total amount of taxable income, not adjusted gross income.

For example, if a couple’s joint taxable income was $75,000 in 2017, they were in the 15-percent bracket and in 2018 will be in the 12-percent bracket. The 25-percent bracket has been reduced to 22 percent.

Changes to the standard deduction and exemptions
The most significant changes for individuals happened to the standard and itemized deductions. With the changes, it is estimated that 80-90 percent of people will now take the standard deduction. However, don’t throw out your box of medical receipts yet. You still need to make sure itemizing is no longer a benefit for you.

The standard deduction limit has been raised from $6,350 to $12,000 for single filers and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married filers. They also did away with personal exemptions that were $4,050 per person, but offset that loss for families with children by increasing the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. There is also an extra deduction of $1,600 for single filers and $2,600 for married filers if you are over age 65. (For a more complete list, please visit:
smedleyfinancial.com/financial/2019-key-numbers.php.)

Specific changes to itemized deductions
State and local tax deduction has been limited to $10,000. You can still deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, and that limit will be going up to 10 percent in 2019.

Mortgage interest can be deducted up to a principal value of $750,000 if the loan originated in 2017 or later. Older loans will be grandfathered in and interest is deductible up to a principal limit of $1,000,000. Mortgage equity loans will only be deductible if the proceeds were used for home improvement. (Say goodbye to consolidating debt into a home equity loan and deducting it.)

This major overhaul to the tax system should simplify taxes and should make it so most people take the standard deduction. Most people should also end up paying a little less in taxes, which is always nice.

Let’s look at an example
In 2017, Jay and Mary filed a joint tax return. They are both age 55 and they don’t have any dependents. They had $18,000 in itemized deductions. Add to this their personal exemption of $4,050 each, totaling $26,100 in deductions. In 2018, they will only get the standard deduction of $24,000 with no personal exemptions and may owe more in taxes. The saving grace for Jay and Mary is that their tax bracket was reduced and may make up for the reduction in deductions.

SFS and its representatives do not provide tax advice; it is important to coordinate with your tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

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Where to Park Cash

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Let’s say you received an inheritance, or you sold your home or business, or you earned a big bonus. Where do you park your cash while you decide how to make the best use of it? The best short-term account is the one that best matches your needs. Call us to talk about what would be best in your situation. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit are FDIC or NACU insured up to $250,000 and offer a fixed rate of return. Other investments are not insured and their principal and yield may fluctuate with market conditions.

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Preparing 2018 Taxes

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Tax reporting documents
While you may be anxious to get your taxes done, you can avoid filing amended returns by assuring you have all final tax documents to provide to your tax preparer.

Most 1099 tax forms will be available between January 27th and February 16th.

If you have an account with National Financial Services, please be aware of the following timelines for receiving your tax documents.

Some securities companies may not deliver National Financial Services with final tax information by the first mailing date. In this case, you will not receive a 1099 until the final information is available. A preliminary tax statement will be available online only. This will not be reported to the IRS and cannot be used for filing purposes.

All 1099s will be available online and mailed no later than March 8th.

If you have signed up to receive electronic documents, you can access the tax documents through your Wealthscape access. If you signed up to receive tax documents electronically only, you will not receive them in the mail.

Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD)
If you made a qualified charitable distribution from your IRA during 2018, please let your tax preparer know. Your 1099R form should indicate that the taxable amount is undetermined by a checked box in 2b “Taxable amount not determined.”

You will also need to provide documentation from the charity that your donation was received. This should not count as income for tax purposes and should not be an itemized deduction.

Consult your tax advisor for further information regarding the preparation of your taxes. If you have questions regarding the delivery of your tax documents, please contact our office at 801-355-8888.

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Climbing a Wall of Worry

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Climbing a wall of worry is a common phrase in the investment world. The implication is that the market will move higher as it overcomes uncertainty. In 2018, the U.S. stock market had its worst December since 1931. It followed with the best January since 1987! The news has not changed much. The difference has been a return of calmness.

Financial health of Americans is the most critical sign of health for the U.S. economy. As 70 percent of the economy, consumer spending drives overall growth. This spending increased by 4.5 percent in December. That was in the face of a drop in stocks and was as good as consumers can sustain with wage growth of 3.2 percent in 2018.

Employment has strong momentum and continued to grow last year despite political turmoil and market fears. Unemployment (currently at 4 percent) improved by 0.1 percent over 12 months. As long as employment is improving, the outlook for consumers and the economy should be positive.

Oil prices fell 40 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. That magnitude of change spooked investors–just as it did in early 2016. While these investors prefer stability, consumers love low prices. The eventual impact will be lower inflation, which should help the current economic growth to continue.

How good will 2019 be? Politicians on both sides are underestimating the impact of the trade war with China. A solution to this trade dispute could really help investors as it gives confidence to farmers, manufacturers, and other businesses and consumers who pause spending during uncertain times.

*Research by SFS. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Investing involves risk, including potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is widely considered to represent the overall U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

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