Should I Buy Solar for My House?

Should I Buy Solar for My House?

Two of my core values are frugality and helping the planet. Adding solar to my house is one way I can help the planet by decreasing the amount of energy I consume from nonrenewable resources. But what is the cost of such a move, and when do I break even financially?

Where do I even begin to explore these questions and other blind spots I might have about solar energy?

The following resource can help you determine if your house is a good candidate for solar and what the approximate savings would be for such a change: solar savings estimator.

The process of getting a quote is simple. The two companies I reached out to asked me to send them a copy of my energy bill and some pictures of my Electrical Service (Electrical Panel and Meter). With this information, they obtained my address and were able to view my house and roof to determine its exposure to the sun as well as my annual electric usage. With the pictures, we were able to determine if my Service was To Code and generally figure out how easy a PV System can be interrogated into my existing Service or if additional work might be required. In my case, I wanted to get additional panels to account for the purchase of an EV in two years.

The breakeven period, according to the solar provider, is about 14 years. Over 30 years, we would save $104,962.*

*Assumes a 0.3% annual solar efficiency decrease and an 3.5% annual utility rate increase over 30 years.

In 2022, the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is 26%. In 2023, it will drop to 22%, and in 2024, it is set to expire. This tax credit—and the fact that it is set to expire in a couple years—is a great incentive to explore solar energy now.

When I first started looking into solar options, I had no idea that it could increase the value of my home for resale. According to the Renewable Energy Focus Journal 2017, 1 watt of solar energy adds $3 to the value of your home.

Financing is available as well, which would affect your breakeven period. As of January 12, 2022, the rates very between 3.24% and 9.84% for up to 240 months.

Other considerations to keep in mind as you look into solar options for your home:

  • The length of warranty: There are 25-year warranties available for both workmanship and performance.
  • Your roof age, pitch, direction, and type of roofing material (as some types of roofs are more expensive to install on compared to others): Your roof cannot be too old or it will need to be replaced after solar has been installed. To remove an existing PV System and re-install after a new roof is installed can cost $5,000 – $10,000. Also be aware of any obstructions (such as trees) that could block sunlight from your roof, as well as the direction your roof faces. Northward-facing roofs don’t receive enough “good” sunlight to normally pencil out as a good location for module placement. Southward-facing roofs are the best.

 

Written by: Michael Van Sant, CFP®. CSRIC™

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable; however, Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

 

 

How to Report a Cash and Stock Merger on Your Tax Return

How to Report a Cash and Stock Merger on Your Tax Return

 

First: Congratulations on the successful merger of Kansas City Southern (KSU) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). Second: It’s no fun to receive a surprise tax bill related to the December 2021 merger, so we’ll try to outline the specifics.

Here are the rules around gain recognition when cash/property is received as part of an otherwise non-taxable merger/transaction: Your original cost basis is first applied or transferred to the shares of the acquiring company’s stock. If your cost basis is greater than the value of the acquiring company’s stock received, then the remaining cost basis is applied to the cash portion of the transaction. If your cost basis is less than or equal to the acquiring company’s stock received, any cash or property received in addition to the stock is taxed as a gain.

 

Case Study #1

You originally bought stock for $10,000 that was later acquired by another company for a total merger consideration of $20,000 ($15,000 for the acquiring company’s stock and $5,000 cash). In this case, your new cost basis in the acquiring company’s stock is $10,000 (where you now have an unrealized $5,000 gain as it’s worth $15,000) and $5,000 realized capital gain (since your cost basis was less than or equal to the stock received of the acquiring company).

 

Case Study #2

KSU and CP merger details: KSU shareholders received 2.884 shares of CP stock and $90 cash for each share of KSU stock in December 2021.

Now how would this transaction be reported on your 2021 tax return if you owned 1,000 shares of KSU at the time of the merger?
  • Original KSU cost basis: $65,000.00 or $65.00 per share purchased > 1 year ago.
  • Merger consideration: $298,657.40 total value received between CP stock and cash:
    • CP stock: 2,884 shares of CP stock worth $208,657.40 (1,000 shares of KSU * 2.884 shares of CP shares at $72.35 on the date of the transaction)
    • Cash: $90,000 (1,000 shares of KSU * $90 cash received per share)
    • Cash in lieu of fractional shares: Since the stock conversion part of the transaction led to a whole number (i.e., 2,884.00 shares versus 2,884.50 shares), no extra cash was distributed for fractional CP shares.
  • New CP cost basis: $65,000 or $22.54 per share ($65,000 KSU cost basis / 2,884 new shares of CP). The cost basis remained unchanged (explained below).

Capital gain: Long-term capital gain of $90,000 realized and reported in tax year 2021. Per the example above, the cash received is treated as a capital gain in the year of receipt since this individual’s cost basis was less than the stock received of the acquiring company (CP in this case). This also left the new cost basis in CP to be unchanged from KSU.

 

Case Study #3:

Now what if the conversion of KSU shares to CP shares led to fractional CP shares? How would that impact the tax calculation? What if you owned 1,150 shares of KSU instead of 1,000 shares?
  • Original KSU cost basis: $65,000.00 or $56.52 per share purchased > 1 year ago.
  • Merger consideration: $343,456.01 total value received between CP stock and cash:
    • CP stock: 3,316 shares of CP stock worth $239,912.60 (1,150 shares of KSU * 2.884 shares of CP shares at $72.35 on the date of the transaction—see below for how the 0.6 of 3,316.60 shares is treated)
    • Cash: $103,500 (1,150 shares of KSU * $90 cash received per share)
    • Cash in lieu of fractional shares (result of 3,316.60 CP shares conversion to 3,316.00 CP shares): $43.41 (CP shares at $72.35 * 0.60) of which $31.65 will be treated as a capital gain in 2021.
      • Capital gain calculation: $31.65 [$43.41 cash received for a fractional share of CP stock – ($19.60 new CP cost basis per share * 0.60 shares)]. The new CP cost basis is calculated by dividing the original KSU total cost basis by the new CP shares received including fractional shares (i.e., $65,000 KSU cost basis / 3,616.60 CP shares).
    • New CP cost basis: $64,988.24 or $19.60 per share. The new CP cost basis is the KSU cost basis less the $11.76 cost basis used up when calculating the capital gain in the cash received in lieu of fractional shares.

Capital gain: Long-term capital gain of $103,531.65 realized and reported in tax year 2021 ($103,500 cash + $31.65 cash in lieu of fractional shares). Per the example above, the cash received is treated as a capital gain in the year of receipt since this individual’s cost basis was less than the stock received of the acquiring company (CP in this case).

 

Case Study #4:

What if you didn’t have as large of a gain on the position when the transaction happened? What if your cost basis was $280,000 instead of $65,000 for 1,150 shares?
  • Original KSU cost basis: $280,000.00 or $243.48 per share purchased > 1 year ago.
  • Merger consideration: $343,456.01 total value received between CP stock and cash:
    • CP stock: 3,316 shares of CP stock worth $239,912.60 (1,150 shares of KSU * 2.884 shares of CP shares at $72.35 on the date of the transaction—see below for how the 0.6 of 3,316.60 shares is treated)
    • Cash: $103,500 (1,150 shares of KSU * $90 cash received per share)
    • Cash in lieu of fractional shares (result of 3,316.60 CP conversion to 3,316.00 CP): $43.41 of which $0.00 will be treated as a capital gain in 2021.
      • Capital gain calculation: $0.00 [$43.41 cash received for a fractional share of CP stock – ($72.35 cost basis per share * 0.60 shares)]
    • New CP cost basis: $239,912.60 or $72.35 per share. The new CP cost basis equals the price of CP shares on the date of the transaction because the KSU cost basis was greater than the amount of CP stock received in the merger.

Capital gain: Long-term capital gain of $63,456.01 realized and reported in tax year 2021 [$103,500 cash – ($280,000 original KSU cost basis – $239,956.01 CP stock received, based on CP share value at $72.35 applied to 3,316.60 shares)]. Per the example above, only part of the cash received is treated as a capital gain since the $280,000 original KSU cost basis is greater than the amount of CP stock received. As such, the remaining cost basis is applied to the cash received until used up; then the remainder is treated as a capital gain.

 

Case Study #5:

What if you bought the KSU stock less than 1 year prior to the stock and cash merger transaction with CP? The only difference is that any gain realized would be treated as a short-term capital gain that is taxed at ordinary income tax rates for Federal income taxes. Per Case Study #4, the $63,456.01 gain would be treated as a short-term capital gain instead of a long-term capital gain.

Estimated taxes: Please be aware that you may need to make an estimated tax payment(s) for Federal and State (depending on what state you live in) income taxes to account for the realized capital gain portion of these transactions to avoid any penalties.

If you have any questions about the KSU and CP cash and stock merger or about any other financial planning topics, please contact the Merriman team.

 

Useful resources:

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable. However, Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for personalized investment advice or as a recommendation or solicitation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Nothing in these materials is intended to serve as personalized tax and/or investment advice since the availability and effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon your individual facts and circumstances. Merriman is not an accounting firm- clients and prospective clients should consult with their tax professional regarding their specific tax situation.  Merriman does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

Washington Capital Gains Tax and Long-Term Care Payroll Tax – New Taxes and Planning Opportunities in 2022

Washington Capital Gains Tax and Long-Term Care Payroll Tax – New Taxes and Planning Opportunities in 2022

 

The start of the new year is often a time when tax changes go into effect. At the Federal level, the Build Back Better Act, which had some significant tax changes, has not passed. For now, it is unclear if the legislation will pass in 2022. It is also unclear if any of the changes would apply in 2022 or would only apply to future years if it does pass.

In Washington State, 2022 brings the scheduled implementation of two new taxes that have the potential to impact many Merriman clients: the capital gains tax and the long-term care payroll tax.

 

Washington State Capital Gains Tax

Starting in 2022, Washington will apply a 7% tax on realized capital gains above $250,000. The most common assets that will generate income subject to this tax include:

  • Sales of stocks and bonds (and mutual funds, ETFs, and other pooled investments)
  • The sale of a business above a certain size

 

Other assets are specifically exempt from the capital gains tax, including:

  • All real estate
  • Sale of small businesses below a certain size
  • Investments inside retirement accounts
  • Restricted stock units (RSUs) at the time they vest (though their later sale could result in taxable capital gain income)

 

How the tax is calculated

This 7% tax is applied only on capital gains above the $250,000 threshold. It is not impacted by other income. The same threshold applies to married and unmarried households.

Example 1: John sold $500,000 of Microsoft stock in his taxable investment account that was acquired for $240,000. He has no other income in 2022. This results in $260,000 of capital gains. Since $260,000 – $250,000 exemption = $10,000, John would owe ($10,000 x .07 = $700) in capital gains tax.

 

Example 2: Sally has $800,000 of income from her job. She sold $500,000 of Amazon stock that was acquired for $300,000. Because the $200,000 of realized capital gain is less than the $250,000 exemption, she does not owe the capital gains tax. Her other income is irrelevant to this calculation.

 

Example 3: Matt and Molly are married taxpayers filing a joint tax return. Matt sells stock in his individual taxable account that realizes $150,000 of capital gains. Molly sells stock in her individual account that realizes $120,000 of capital gains. Even though they are both individually below the limit, because they are married and are filing a joint tax return, their total gains are $20,000 above the $250,000 limit; they would potentially owe $1,400 in capital gains tax.

 

When are payments made?

According to the state Department of Revenue webpage, the tax will be calculated on a capital gains tax return in early 2023. The tax payment will be due at the same time the taxpayer’s federal income tax return is due.

There does not appear to be a requirement to make estimated tax payments before the end of the year the way some taxpayers are required to do for federal income tax.

 

Potential court challenge

Opponents have challenged the law saying this capital gains tax is unconstitutional under the state constitution. A hearing is scheduled for February 2022. Any ruling is expected to go to the state supreme court later this year.

At this time, we are encouraging families who may be impacted by this new tax to plan under the assumption that it will go into effect.

 

 

Long-Term Care Payroll Tax

We have previously shared about Washington’s new long-term care payroll tax. The tax is 0.58% on all wages (including RSUs at the time they vest) and is used to pay for long-term care benefits ($580 on $100,000 of income).

Taxpayers were given the opportunity to exempt themselves from the payroll tax by securing a private long-term care insurance policy before November 1, 2021, and requesting an exemption from the state.

 

Delay in implementing the payroll tax

In December 2021, Governor Inslee asked the state legislature to delay implementing the payroll tax. That has not happened yet, and employers are technically still required to withhold the payroll tax from employee paychecks.

The requested delay was to allow time to address some concerns, including:

  • The current program is limited to Washington residents. Residents could pay in for an entire working career, move out of state in retirement, and then not be eligible for benefits.
  • The current program has no mechanism for new workers in Washington State to opt out.
  • The current program requires workers to pay into the system who may never be eligible for benefits. Since you must pay in for 10 years to qualify for benefits, older workers who retire before reaching that point will pay in but not qualify for benefits. Military spouses and other out-of-state residents who work in Washington may be in a similar situation.
  • The current program has no mechanism to ensure that individuals who opted out of the payroll tax maintain their insurance.

It is expected that implementing the payroll tax will be delayed, but it will still likely go into effect in some similar fashion in 2023 or 2024.

 

 

Planning Opportunities

The biggest planning opportunity for the capital gains tax is remaining mindful of how much capital gains income is being realized each year. Several large area employers, like Amazon and Microsoft, along with many smaller employers have seen a significant increase in stock values.

At Merriman, we believe in the benefits of diversifying investments and not remaining too concentrated. For tax purposes, it is often beneficial to realize those capital gains over multiple years to spread out the tax impact.

Since the 7% state capital gains tax is in addition to the federal capital gains tax, it likely makes sense to limit those gains to $250,000 per year where possible.

For the payroll tax, there is a bit of a holding pattern. There was a rush of activity in 2021 to qualify for the exemption, and that deadline has passed. Now that implementation has been delayed, we will wait to see what adjustments, if any, happen and what clients should do to plan for it.

We will update with further adjustments for federal and state taxes. Your financial advisor can provide additional specific guidance.

 

 

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable; however, Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

 

Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA) Surcharge – What Does It Mean, What Can I Do, and How?

Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA) Surcharge – What Does It Mean, What Can I Do, and How?

 

 

Co-written with Jeffrey Barnett

 

The first question on many retirees’ minds is how to pay for expensive healthcare costs and health insurance when you’re no longer covered by the employer plan you relied on throughout your career. Medicare is the U.S. government’s answer for supporting healthcare costs throughout retirement. While you might have already enrolled in Medicare or are at least looking forward to beginning benefits at age 65, you may not know how Medicare premiums work. Let’s explore Medicare premiums and an important potential speedbump known as IRMAA.

 

What Is IRMAA?

 

To provide some background, approximately 75% of the costs of Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) and Part D (Prescription Drug) are paid directly from the General Revenue of the Federal Government, with the remaining 25% covered through monthly premiums paid by Medicare enrollees. If you receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, your Medicare Part B premiums are typically deducted automatically from your monthly benefits. For those who don’t receive these benefits, you’ll receive a bill to pay your premiums instead. Medicare premiums increase as your income grows through Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA), which is an additional surcharge for higher income individuals on top of the 2021 Medicare Part B baseline premium of $148.50.

 

Medicare premiums and any surcharges are based on your filing status and Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) with a two-year lookback (or three years if you haven’t filed taxes more recently). That means your 2021 premiums and IRMAA determinations are calculated based on MAGI from your 2019 federal tax return. MAGI is calculated as Adjusted Gross Income (line 11 of IRS Form 1040) plus tax-exempt interest income (line 2a of IRS Form 1040). The table below details the base premium amount you’ll pay for Medicare in 2021 depending on your MAGI and filing status, inclusive of any additional IRMAA surcharge.

 

 

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) tracks these numbers for you and uses MAGI data from the IRS. For every year that they determine IRMAA applies to you, you’ll receive a pre-determination notice explaining what information was used to make the determination and what to do if individuals feel the finding is incorrect, like due to a life-changing event as defined by the SSA. After 20 or more days, the SSA sends another notice with additional information regarding your appeals rights. For the instances you feel an incorrect determination was made, you can request a “New Initial Determination.”

 

Am I Eligible to Request a New Initial Determination?

 

There are five qualifying circumstances where an individual may be eligible to request a “New Initial Determination.” They are:

  1. An amended tax return since original filing
  2. Correction of IRS information
  3. Use of two-year-old tax return when SSA used IRS information from three years prior
  4. Change in living arrangement from when you last filed taxes (e.g., filing status is now “married filing separately” but you previously filed jointly)
  5. Qualified life-changing event(s)

 

According to the SSA, a Life-Changing Event (LCE) can be one or more of the following eight events:

  • Death of spouse
  • Marriage
  • Divorce or annulment
  • Work reduction
  • Work stoppage
  • Loss of income-producing property
  • Loss of employer pension
  • Receipt of settlement payment from a current or former employer

 

A common scenario we often see is with new retirees age 65 or over where income is much lower in retirement than it was two years ago, but the SSA determines that the IRMAA surcharge should be applied to your premium costs given the lookback period. Fortunately, an exception can be requested under the “work stoppage” LCE, and we can help you navigate that process. Luckily, this is typically irrelevant after the first or second year of retirement since post-retirement income is often significantly reduced and naturally falls below the IRMAA threshold. Another common scenario for retirees is having portfolio income that pushes you above the IRMAA tiers. However, it’s important to point out that portfolio income from things like capital gains or Roth conversions are not allowable exceptions to request for the IRMAA surcharge in a high-income year.

 

If you don’t qualify to request a new initial determination based on the 5 qualifying circumstances noted above, you also have the right to more formally appeal the determination, which is also known as requesting a reconsideration.

 

 

Requesting a New Determination

 

If any of the above life-changing events apply, individuals are likely eligible to request a new initial determination by calling their local Social Security office or, alternatively, completing and submitting this form for reconsideration along with appropriate documentation. We highly recommend calling the Social Security hotline at 800-772-1213 to discuss if more than one LCE applies to you, if you have questions about why IRMAA applies to you, or if you have questions about requesting a reconsideration.

 

We know that Medicare can be tricky and that this only scratches the surface, so we also encourage you to contact us if you have any questions. We regularly serve as a resource for questions around enrolling for Medicare along with many of the other factors involved in planning for retirement, and we are happy to help you as those questions move to the forefront.

Sources:
Income Thresholds:  https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs

Life-Changing Event: https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.25/handbook-2507.html

Determination Notices: https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0601101035

 

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

How We Understand Financial Freedom, and How We Actually Should

How We Understand Financial Freedom, and How We Actually Should

 

Financial freedom is especially important for young people, particularly students. They frequently overspend on online courses, products, clothing, and even essay review services like Best Writers Online.

As a result, they feel a sense of financial deficiency. To avoid this problem in the future, it is critical to learn how to properly manage one’s budget.

 

What Exactly Do You Mean by Financial Freedom?

What prevents most people from following their dreams? Money, only money! This represents a specific stage of life. Some may object, saying, “But money does not make you happy!”

And it is true. The primary mission of money is to provide people with safety and freedom. Also, it provides us with the opportunity to live our lives the way we wish. Indeed, it is difficult to argue the point that it is easier to be happy with money than with an empty wallet.

Financial freedom allows you to kill two birds with one stone: have enough resources for living and be happy at any stage of your life.

 

What Is Financial Freedom?

Financial freedom is defined as a state in which a person’s income received without active participation (passive income) significantly exceeds his expenses for maintaining the desired lifestyle.

 

Why Is Financial Freedom Important?

Being financially free means that you have the freedom to:

  • Choose your lifestyle;
  • Buy the things you want regardless of your regular salary;
  • Spend money on entertainment;
  • Invest in projects and the property estate sector;
  • Avoid credit loans;
  • Have access to free money whenever you need it.

Both children and adults must learn the fundamentals of financial freedom—the sooner, the better. Adults can take a long time to learn something new, putting off all their business until later.

The most effective option, of course, is to teach students, who are more intellectually flexible than adults and who have a greater understanding of why this is important than schoolchildren.

Students usually spend most of their time writing essays or scientific papers. However, financial literacy is a much more valuable issue that they will face once they become self-sufficient. As a result, it can be wise to delegate written work to the professionals of an essay review service such as Writing Judge in order to have more time to focus on learning the basics of financial freedom.

 

How Do You Achieve Financial Freedom?

How many of us have wished to be financially independent but concluded that it was out of our reach? We frequently blame our circumstances, other people, or even our bad luck.

However, with proper planning, anything is possible. Here are some pointers to get you started:

#1 – Time Is More Important Than Money

A person who has achieved financial independence begins to see boring meetings and routine work in a new light. He understands that his time has a higher value, and it is better to spend it on important activities. Things that must be done but are of no interest can always be delegated to someone else.

#2 – Always Have Sources of Additional Income

To be financially independent, you must find a passive source of income. Do not refer to an additional source of income as a part-time job; it could simply be another job.

In most cases, one can do it for free or for a small amount of money at first until he improves his skills in a specific field. Over time, this source of passive income can be even more profitable than the main job.

#3 – Make It Possible for Your Money to Grow

The traditional methods of saving money under a pillow or in a home safe are already out of date. Inflation quickly depletes these savings.

Financial crises often leave you wondering whether you should invest. There are various ways to generate passive income from assets, including stocks, alternative investments, and real estate. Simply select what is best for you.

There have never been better strategies to develop equity in the past. The miracle of compound interest will dramatically improve your savings. It may appear complicated, but everything is straightforward: if you constantly contribute, you will receive a proportion of the growing amount each year.

Open a brokerage or an individual investment account and learn how to invest on your own. There are numerous competent materials and courses available on the Internet that can be mastered for free. Create a managed portfolio and replenish it once a month. Or determine if it’s time to hire a financial advisor for guidance.

#4 – Be Deliberate in Your Actions

A person seeking financial freedom does not believe in lotteries and does not invest large sums simply because “everyone does it.” Follow your instincts rather than trends and popular opinion.

#5 – Income Should Be Carefully Spread Out

Invest in various areas to avoid losing everything to the next “black swan.” Even if some assets depreciate, the rest will serve as insurance.

#6 – Read Books on Finance

Read books about financial freedom and ways to achieve it—not to impress others but to expand your knowledge. One devotes a significant amount of time to earning money.

Understanding how money works make sense if you want to dispose of it competently. The wise man researches customer reviews before purchasing household appliances. The same thing applies to money. Learn from the best in this field.

#7 – Plan Ahead of Time for Potential Crises

The world has experienced financial turmoil over the last few decades, including the financial crisis of 2008 and the pandemic-induced recession. It is worthwhile to keep an eye out for signs of impending crises to strengthen your investments’ financial situation. This will also aid in the proper management of available funds.

#8 – Do Not Spend Money on Things That Are Not Necessary at the Time

Goods on sale, incomprehensible investments, and other unnecessary categories of expenses do not contribute to financial freedom. Give up impulsive spending.

#9 – Use Your Money to Help Others

Not everyone is a philanthropist. A small donation, on the other hand, is accessible to nearly everyone. When we help the rest of the world, we benefit ourselves. And this alters our relationship with money.

#10 – Manage Your Monthly Budget

The best way to ensure that all bills are paid and savings are replenished is to create and stick to a monthly budget. This is a common routine that aids in the achievement of financial objectives while discouraging unplanned spending.

It is not difficult to live a simple life. Many wealthy people developed the habit of living within their means before becoming wealthy. To do so, you must analyze costs on a regular basis and find reasonable ways to save without sacrificing your quality of life. For example, when you go shopping, don’t go to the city center where prices are higher; instead, head to a remote quarter where the cost of the same goods is much lower.

#11 – Automate All Your Payments

On payday, distribute funds depending on monthly needs. If you pay a loan, send payment as soon as you receive it. The same is true for savings: it is preferable to set aside a specific amount at the beginning of the month and then spend the remainder.

This also applies to utility bills, mobile communications, and the Internet. All essential payments can be set up in your bank application so you do not even have to send them manually. There will be no incentive to put something off until later.

#12 – Invest in Your Health

Invest in your health by seeing doctors, particularly dentists, on a regular basis. Many difficulties can be avoided by simply altering one’s way of living.

Outdoor walks, healthy eating, and exercise therapy help to prevent several common ailments, such as hypertension, gastritis, diabetes, and obesity. Remember that poor health can compel you to retire earlier than expected and earn a smaller monthly income.

 

Conclusion

Control revenue and spending, investigate investment opportunities, and begin accumulating money as soon as possible. Financial freedom is more than just a certain level of wealth. This is an opportunity to live debt-free, think strategically, and understand how to manage finances for the benefit of your family and others.

 

 

 

Written exclusively for Merriman.com by Lafond Wanda
Lafond Wanda is a professional content writer, copywriter, content strategist, and communications consultant. She started young with her writing career from being a high school writer to a university editor, and now she is a writer in professional writing platforms— her years of expertise have honed her skills to create compelling and results-driven content every single time.

 

 

Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and it is not intended to serve as a substitute for personalized investment advice or as a recommendation or solicitation of any particular security, strategy or investment product.  Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

Inflation: Our Thoughts and How We Respond

Inflation: Our Thoughts and How We Respond

 

As investors, we all share the goal of growing our assets over time. It feels great to see your balance rise and earn a sense of security through diligent saving and investing. However, it’s important to look beyond the ledger line to understand how much our assets can provide for us in real terms. The actual goal is maintaining and improving purchasing power with our savings, and inflation can be a concern even when we see markets trending up. Prudent financial planning accounts for inflation so you’re prepared across economic conditions.

With inflation in the news for the past several months, it can be difficult to determine how much of the heightened concern is noise and how much is worth giving stock to. While it is undeniable that we are currently experiencing increased inflation—having risen 5.4% over the last 12 months as of September, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics—some level of inflation is par for the course. Let’s explore what inflation is in more detail, common concerns we hear from our clients around inflation, and some ideas on how to help protect your portfolio when inflation is high.

What is inflation?

In its most basic sense, inflation is “the decline of purchasing power of a given currency over time” as explained by Investopedia. While it is described as less purchasing power, how it affects us as everyday consumers is through the increasing price of goods and services. A common measure of inflation is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI is calculated by taking the average weighted cost of a basket of goods and dividing it by the cost over a prior period. Recent inflation has had an outsized effect in certain areas. The cost of fuel and gasoline are up 43% and 42% respectively from 12 months ago. The prices of used cars and trucks are also up 24%. However, if you look at core inflation, which is the CPI excluding the more volatile food and energy categories, the 12-month rate drops to 4%, which is much closer to historical averages. The Fed also expects increased inflation to be temporary, with projections at 2.1–2.2% in 2022 through 2024 per a report by Reuters. You can dive into the data in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ table of 12-month percentage change if you’re curious to learn more.

With inflation running hotter this year, what’s driving it? We typically see three different inputs that spur inflation, including: increased demand without enough supply, steady demand with falling supply, and the cycle of increasing wages and costs due to expectations about future inflation. The supply chain shutdown caused by COVID, as well as the demand rebound from the ongoing vaccination effort and reopening of the economy, are likely contributing to the increase we’re observing now.

What are the fears?

Inflationary concerns often stem from fears of the Fed responding by raising interest rates, leading to more costly borrowing and slower economic growth. However, the subsequent cooling may lower consumer demand and create deflationary pressure. It’s a delicate balance that the Federal Reserve seeks to maintain by adjusting monetary policy, but what does a potential interest rate hike to fight inflation mean for our investments? Opinion varies on short-term signals for rising rates. However, when investing for the long term, we find there hasn’t been significant correlation between interest rate changes and stock market performance over extended periods. In comparison, bond prices tend to fall as interest rates rise since existing lower-yielding bonds become less attractive relative to newer bonds with higher rates. We combat this by weighting short- and intermediate-term bonds more heavily to limit interest rate sensitivity on the fixed income side.

Another common concern we hear from our clients is fear of government overspending. However, there are two key points to remember. The first is that inflation isn’t inherently bad, and a consistent, low level of inflation often indicates steadily increasing productivity for the economy. The second is that government spending doesn’t necessarily cause inflation, and it depends on how the money is spent. There is a great analogy from The Guardian describing government spending and the economy as a flower bed:

It’s possible that overwatering could cause spillover, but it depends on how you water it and where. If you pour water in one place that is already saturated, it’s likely to flood and cause the flowers to die. In contrast, if you shower water over the whole bed, or focus on the driest areas, the water will be soaked up and the flowers will grow.

The article also highlights how massive spending following the 2008 financial crisis and recovery did not cause runaway inflation. Instead, inflation has been near record lows over the last decade.

How do we respond?

We believe the most reliable way to protect yourself from different economic conditions like inflation is to have a balanced, diversified portfolio that includes a mix of assets with real expected returns (total portfolio return less inflation). The amount allocated between stocks, bonds, and other investments like real estate will vary, but it’s during inflationary periods like this when staying on the sidelines and holding too much cash can erode purchasing power over time.

We also invest in specific asset classes to help navigate inflation. Value stocks tend to perform well in inflationary environments as investors seek present income and strong cash flows. Sectors like energy, consumer staples, and financials are prominent in value equities and often perform well during these periods. On the fixed income side, we utilize government credit in our bond allocations, which tends to be less sensitive to inflationary pressure than corporate credit. Merriman portfolios also feature alternative specialized investments in real estate, reinsurance, and alternative lending. These assets have real expected returns above inflation and are less correlated with the stock and bond markets. Real estate tends to perform better during periods of rising inflation as investors increase rents to adjust to the changing prices. Reinsurance contracts can also respond to rising costs and rates by increasing premiums annually and keeping the collateral invested in assets with at or above inflation levels of return. Alternative lenders utilize floating rates which provide flexibility in a volatile rate market as well. Specialized investments offer an alternative to purchasing additional bonds for diversification from equities and provide tools for responding to inflation.

Inflation is an important reality when investing, whether it’s how it affects portfolios or the economy as a whole. We enjoy diving into the causes, concerns, and strategies to address inflation, and hopefully provide insight to ease any worries. At Merriman, we will continue to monitor inflation and ensure we’re positioned properly to navigate changes, up or down.

 

 

 

All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source.  Merriman does not provide tax or legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. As always please remember investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital and past performance does not guarantee future returns; please seek advice from a licensed professional. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Merriman and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Merriman unless a client service agreement is in place.