Taxes and Investing
Whenever I speak to an organization if I mention you can travel for free or get $10,000 or more per year tax-free, I am always asked to come back and speak again on this single topic. It is incredible how many people either don’t know or don’t use on a regular basis what I am about to reveal. I am talking about tax-free money just for the asking and every kind of free travel imaginable.
A lot of people opt for the travel benefits because they enjoy traveling and the benefits are usually worth a bit more if used for travel. For me, cash is king. I like money, especially when I don’t have to report it as income.Read More
I started investing in Prosper, the micro-lending platform where you can invest as little as $25 on a loan, back in June 2012. By investing a small portion in a large number of loans risk is spread out; no one loan going bad has an outsized effect on performance. I started withdrawing money after the returns plummeted after changes were made to the platform. Because it takes time to collect payments from loans held, it is an illiquid investment. My original investment of $13,400 is still worth $979 after withdrawing $15,430. Not great, but not bad either.Read More
Low interest rates have raised concerns if it is proper to pay off debt early. The good news is there are ways to determine if you should pay down debt, including the home mortgage, or invest funds to accelerate net worth building. Low interest credit card teaser rates and equity lines of credit add another dimension to the ever evolving world of personal finance. There are two factors to consider when balancing between reducing debt or increasing investments: the return on the investments over the cost of capital and the risk factor.
Personal finance can learn a thing or two from corporate finance when it comes to debt and investment. Just like a business, when a household decides to pay down debt there is a tradeoff. Accelerating debt reduction takes money from other areas, mostly spending or investment, but also reduces risks associated with debt servicing. In this post I will assume you have reduced your spending to a reasonable level and the trade-offs are between debt retirement and investment only.Read More
The IRS has audited tax returns the last several years at a historically low rate. Individuals faced a 0.84% audit rate in 2015; millionaires, 9.55%; Schedule C sole proprietor taxpayers, 4%; partnerships, 0.51%; and S corporations, 0.40%. (Source: The Kiplinger Tax Letter: Vol. 91, No. 4) None of this makes a difference if your number comes up. Over the years I developed methods to reduce risk of audit. My clients are audited at a fraction of the national rates due to the steps applied to all tax returns leaving my office.
IRS audits are expensive even if you did nothing wrong. Hiring an accountant to navigate the audit process is time consuming regardless of guilt. Unlike criminal law, in tax matter you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. The burden of proof is on you to provide proof of income and deductions should the government come knocking. Below are several tips to reduce your risk of getting an unfriendly letter from Revenue.Read More
Years ago I started a book project called The Zero Percent Tax Bracket. The idea was to write a book with all the ways a person can bring in money and legally not report it as taxable income. As I started pulling information together it became clear marketing such a book would be difficult. Since I was not focusing on tax protesting or other such BS it would not attract the wing nut crowd nor was I interested in becoming the next Charles Givens. A book called The Zero Percent Tax Bracket would probably languish on the back shelf of a bookstore with only modest sales. The idea was sound but I did not like the marketing plan.
Today I am resurrecting the idea. As a book it would need a serious shove to turn a profit for the publisher; as a series of blog posts it is an excellent way to outline all the ways to line your pocket without owing a penny in tax. You will not find all of these tax-free methods listed in the tax code. It is the unusual interpretation of tax law that always appeals to me as long as jail time is not involved. (Jail time might be okay if it is a fairly short stint of three-hots-and-a-cot, plus free healthcare at the expense of the taxpayers. Taxes are no fun, but collecting benefits—even free jail lodging—does.)Read More
Media continually warns of impending inflation due to all the money printing by central banks around the world. The concern is real. If inflation spikes bonds will suffer massive loses and stocks will also suffer a painful decline. It is past time we look at the facts about inflation, how fast it rises, and what causes prices to spike.
Planning for retirement and when reviewing investments, inflation is a consideration. A review of historical inflation data will help in the decision-making process. By reviewing the historical data also clearly shows why inflation accelerates, including solutions to protect yourself. We will focus on inflation data in the U.S. I have reviewed price data for other countries and further back than the U.S. data. The conclusions are the same.Read More
Over the years I have used attorneys for a variety of needs. When I started a hedge fund the initial deposit was $25,000 and I was happy to pay it. We laugh at lawyer jokes and sometimes lawyers deserve the bad rap they get, but most of the time attorneys are a powerful part of your team preventing expensive problems before they happen. There is a reason why they are called counselors.
I encourage landlords and business owners to keep a relationship with an attorney. Buying and selling a property requires an attorney in my opinion and landlord/tenant issues can be reduced when a lawyer is consulted before actions are taken. There are also the surprise attorney needs. Who do you call when arrested for a DUI? (The first person who says Ghostbusters will be escorted out the door.) You don’t plan on certain events in life; they just land in your lap. Business owners and landlords have greater legal needs, but the average guy on the street finds himself in need of professional help a time or two in life as well (wills, probate, trusts, sale of property, et cetera).Read More
I have noticed a trend involving wealth building that is all wrong. I see it in comments on other personal finance blogs a lot lately. I am sure it has been there all the while and it only jumped out at me recently for whatever reason. The misinformation is so important it needs clarification.
The comment goes something like this: I am not saving right now because I am paying off student loans/credit cards/car loans/making extra mortgage payments. When you pay down debt you ARE saving and also building your net worth. The real question is: How can you balance debt reduction with retirement savings for maximum net worth building?
Paying down debt removes the most caustic item on your balance sheet holding back wealth creation. Debt interest is an expense you can only slay by destroying the debt (paying it off). Debt is not a bad thing in and of itself when used as a tool, but most consumer debt is bad. Mortgages are the exception if used properly.Read More