Taxes and Investing
Whenever I attend a conference I look for things the crowds miss. The mainstream information is still absorbed, but there always seems to be something most people pass that contains a lot of potential.
Last year at FinCon such an opportunity screamed to me. Several companies were offering 5% on savings with few strings attached. One was geared toward military people, but had some fees and restrictions I felt uncomfortable with.Read More
Jack Bogle gave us the index fund. Warren Buffett has said most people should put their money into index funds.Personal finance bloggers—especially in the FIRE* community—spout “index fund” like it’s a nervous tick. And you might have noticed this blog has the same nervous tick.Some are worried about all this index fund investing. The concern is index funds will control so much of the market that it will lose its efficiency. I remember the same concerns in the 1990s when I was a stock broker about mutual funds in general, most of which were actively managed.Index funds will not break the market any more than actively managed mutual funds did. For one, there will still be plenty of people investing in individual stocks. And the hedge fund guys will do their share providing liquidity.Read More
You might notice the bloggers spouting the same gibberish get picked up by mass media outlets while your favorite blog (that had better be this one!) gets nary a mention. The reason for this is people prefer the familiar to an honest answer that could make a real difference.Read More
Because a lot (most) of your gains are deferred anyway with an index fund and the tax rate is lower when you do sell (compared to traditional retirement accounts) and there are no RMDs or early withdrawal penalties, non-qualified accounts should play a central role in the portfolio of most investors.Read More
The tax profession is aging. Attracting new people to the profession is difficult because it lacks the glamour of other professions. But sit in any public forum and mention you are a tax professional and you will be inundated with tax questions and offers to take them on as new clients. The tax profession is a good field with ample opportunity to do good, but few even consider accounting or tax as a career option.Read More
Regardless how experienced or educated you are you will still make financial mistakes, some of them humdingers. Personal finance blogs and media outlets frequently share basis financial mistakes to avoid: spend less than you earn, invest in index funds, avoid debt and so forth. All this is good advice, but it goes a lot deeper than this.Read More
Healthcare is taking center stage once again as the political arena heats up. This will not be a political treatise. Instead, we will focus on the long-term problems in the U.S. healthcare system and potential solution to be found in the tax code.Medicare for all is something that appeals to me. When the politics are stripped there is a lot to like in the idea of expanding Medicare to everyone. Currently about half the people get some form of Medicare benefit. The old, very young and poor qualify for the Medicare program. Unfortunately, the Medicare system is set up backwards. The people who pay for it are not the people receiving benefits and the people receiving benefits don’t pay for it (with the exception of people age 65 and older).Even the elderly who pay a Medicare premium for some parts of the program are still subsidized by those earning a wage or salary, the very people who don’t qualify for benefits. The inefficiency of the U.S medical system has created the most expensive healthcare system in the world by far with sub-par results. For most illnesses it is better to travel for treatment if you want better odds at living.Read More
Frequently we look for political solutions to income inequality and the wealth gap. While the issues can be improved slightly from political action, there are two additional ways to close the wealth gap and level income.
Politics is the messiest way to fix these problems and history offers ample warning for those who seek answers from this source. One need not look further than Mao’s China or Stalin’s Russia to see how abysmal political leveling can be. North Korea is a modern example of how not to level the playing field.
Let’s turn our attention to the second way income inequality can be reduced. Walter Scheidel in his book The Great Leveler provides what he calls the “Four Horsemen” of leveling: war, revolution, collapse and plague. Historically these four horsemen have been the leading cause of leveling income and wealth.
Once again this is not a comforting thought. You can read Scheidel’s work for an in-depth review of his research. The record is clear, however; it takes great dislocation, pain, suffering and death for income and wealth to level naturally.Read More