Personal Finance

As 2006 is rapidly coming to a close, it’s worth a reminder to check on all your year-end planning… Here’s a bullet list of things to think about…

  • Are there any losses you have in taxable accounts that you’d want to realize for tax loss selling?
  • Have you contributed your max to retirement accounts to minimize taxable income?
  • Rebalance your portfolio if you do it once a year.
  • Pray that you don’t qualify for AMT.
  • Watch for the earnings distribution estimates from your mutual funds held in taxable accounts. (more…)

After briefly reviewing interest bearing accounts lately, I have to say b’bye to ING Direct shortly… Here are the other rates out there that I found more appealing (all rates are APY):

ING’s rate of 4.4% is certainly nothing to sneeze at… In fact, compared to normal retail banks, it is still pretty good. Wachovia can offer up to 3.55% in a money market account, but you have to deposit ridiculous amounts of money to get that rate — us mere mortals would earn between 0.25% and 2.48%. And ING is certainly not the fly-by-night operation that you can typically find sporting the highest rates on… but then again, HSBC is a much bigger financial institution with a market cap in excess of $210 billion.

Even though ING used to lead the pack in high yielding money market/savings accounts, it’s now a lagger in this high interest paying competition. I plan to keep my account open in case they decide to lead again, but the majority of my savings will go elsewhere…

I found a blog the other day that is worth a comment… StockCoach’s Corner is a guy’s blog where he is detailing his trading activity, including every position he has, and the current portfolio value ($742,000).

I also found a guy with a blog called Irregular Payments, who has a much more humble account size (~$45k), and is more geared towards him dealing with his personal finances than investing…

I was visiting my commercial mail drop today to collect my mail.? All my mail is sent there and all my accounts show that address as my home address.? Nowhere is my name linked to my home address except in the records of utility companies, something I couldn’t avoid easily (though it is possible).? As I was leaving the maildrop, the proprietor informed me that a Durham County Sheriff had come in looking to serve me with papers.? (more…)

Money Markets are looking really good right now for safe money while we wait for several markets to get over their jitteriness. SECU raised their MM rates to 4.5% (4.6% APR). ING is cruising at 4.35%, but I suspect they will raise within the next 30 days. For parking your money in “cash” in your trading accounts, consider Vanguard’s MM account (VMMXX), which is currently posting a hefty 5.08% yield.

I just drastically scaled back my REIT positions after today’s crushing news from Toll brothers, Bill Gross’ sickening chart (see link within earlier post from Jason) and the additional failure of yesterday’s REIT market peak to hold out. I moved half of my REIT position into equal portions of Money Market (VMMXX) and Total Bond Market (VBMFX).

I’m percolating a blog post regarding REITs but it will take some time to make that post worthwhile.

Entertaining?article from the editor of Maxim about becoming rich.??

Most memorable quote from the article:

If it flies, floats or fornicates, always rent it ? it?s cheaper in the long run.

I wonder if that applies to the billionaire heiresses?? Surely they do a lot of…flying.? Also, 1-2 million?GBP is considered “the comfortable poor” on his scale of wealth.? Ah, perspective.

My mortgage is a fixed loan at 5.375%, yet with the tax deductions that mortgage interest carries, my “adjusted” cost of the interest is equivalent to a 4.2% rate.

If we look at the highest yielding money market or CD rates, we can find some as high as 6%*. This means that I have a theoretical carry trade between my mortgage and a money market account. Wow, that’s pretty cool.

This means I am actually profiting if I choose to keep funds in a money market account instead of pre-paying the mortgage.

Now, unfortunately, this is all theoretical… my money market account only yields 4.35%, so I’m clearing my “adjusted” cost, but not the real cost. I’m also curious if money market and CD rates will stay at this level for more than a year or two.

* Ok, the 6% rate is a technicality — it’s an introductory rate, but you can find 5.5% or better for quite a few CDs.

It was requested that I make mention of the CPA firm that focuses on the needs of active traders and hedge funds. It is Green & Company run by Robert Green, CPA, who literally wrote the book on trader taxes.

Now might be a good time to start thinking about a CD or bond ladder for your short-term or “safe money”. With the FOMC still raising short-term rates, long term rates have had plenty of time to move up as much as possible…

Why ladder? Let’s look at three scenarios: (more…)

My daily routine is non-existant, mainly due to my investment choices thus far. As you both know my focus in on asset allocation coupled with dollar cost averaging within me and my SO retirement accounts. One account gets 2 installments per month, the another gets one installment per month, and our IRAs get one installment per year which I try to market time as much as possible within a range of 1-2 months in the year. My investment options are self limited at this point to index funds, since that allows me the ability to minimize expenses and go along with the research that shows that index funds out perform 80% or more of the actively managed funds. Since I cannot invest in many of the excellent actively managed funds anyway within my employer sponsored retirement accounts, I don’t bother looking too hard at the actively managed funds–not a good use of my time. (more…)

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