Yearly Archives: 2014

­

Affordable Healthcare Act Tax Facts

doctor with baby

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The most important Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) tax provision for individuals and families is the premium tax credit. This took effect on January 1, 2014 and will affect federal individual income tax returns filed in 2015.

Individuals who maintain healthcare coverage throughout the year will report their coverage on their federal income tax return by simply checking a box. Qualifying coverage includes most employer-sponsored coverage, coverage obtained through a Health Insurance Marketplace and coverage through most government-sponsored programs, as well as certain other plans.

Those who don’t have qualifying coverage or who don’t have an exemption may have to make an individual shared responsibility payment when they file their federal income tax return. For 2014, the payment amount is the greater of 1 percent of the household income above the taxpayer’s filing threshold, or $95 per adult plus $47.50 per child (limited to a family maximum of $285).

Individuals may qualify for an exemption if they do not have access to affordable coverage, they have a gap of less than three consecutive months without coverage, or if they qualify for one of several other exemptions, including a hardship.

For more tax facts or information about the  individual shared responsibility payment, visit IRS.gov/aca. For more information about the Marketplace, visit HealthCare.gov.

By |December 30th, 2014|Current Affairs, Health Care, Insurance, Taxes|

Falling Oil Price a Pleasant Surprise

Mailliard-webAs 2014 wraps up, Europe and most of the world outside the United States struggles with weak economies.  U.S. growth, while a relative bright spot, has been stuck at around 2 percent.

Against this backdrop, the price of oil has tumbled to multi-year lows. Crude oil has recently fallen below $60 a barrel, down roughly 40 percent in the past six months. Energy experts, governments and Wall Street didn’t see it coming.

Falling oil price a pleasant surprise.

Consumers have seen the national average price of gasoline fall from $3.70 a gallon in June to around $2.60, as reported by AAA. Sounds like good news, right? True to form, much of the media has emphasized the sinister effects of falling oil prices:  declining oil company stocks, and economic pressures on aggressive oil-producing countries such as Russia and Iran, for example.

In the larger scheme, however, consumers having more disposable income is simply a good thing.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Christine Lagarde claims falling oil prices will boost global gross domestic product (GDP). The IMF estimates, as reported by  Business Insider, the recent 40 percent drop in oil prices could translate to nearly 1 percent in increased global output.

“Lower oil prices are unambiguously positive,” CNBC’s Larry Kudlow wrote in the Wall Street Journal.  Kudlow is a vocal proponent of the view that falling oil prices act like a “huge tax cut that will primarily help the middle class.”

With less after-tax income being pumped into their gas tanks and ultimately into the pockets of oil sheiks, consumers have more to spend on trips to Costco and Wal-Mart.

Despite the naysayers, if recent numbers on things like retail sales and consumer confidence hold up, the U.S. economy could experience a much healthier growth rate going forward.

By |December 17th, 2014|Current Affairs|

A Broader Perspective on Democracy and Emerging Markets

What if the values behind private capitalism, democracy and political freedom simply don’t add up for people living in emerging markets? Dambisa Moyo, Ph.D., an international economist who analyzes macroeconomics and global affairs, suggests there’s an ideological schism between developed and developing countries.

McCann-web

Moyo was a keynote speaker at Schwab Impact 2014 in Denver, which Mike McCann attended in November for professional development. The national four-day conference brings together the Registered Investment Advisor community for collaborative learning on key industry issues and best practices.

During her presentation, Moyo asserted that China’s economic system, one that embraces state capitalism and de-emphasizes democracy, poses a serious challenge to Western ideals. People want a better life first, she said. Democracy is a distant second. Where does that leave the United States and other Western nations? Watch Moyo’s powerful TED talk to gain a broader perspective on democracy and emerging markets.

Moyo is also a New York Times best-selling author of several books. To learn more about her and her research, visit Moyo’s website at www.dambisamoyo.com

By |December 6th, 2014|Current Affairs, Video Blog|

Why Include Bonds in Your Portfolio?

Patrick EngAt the beginning of 2014, there was a lot of talk about inflation and higher interest rates in the United States. As a result, some investors were reluctant to own bonds in their portfolios. One of the unique qualities about bonds is that their prices move in the opposite direction of interest rates. So, if investors are anticipating higher interest rates, it would seem reasonable they’d be reluctant to own bonds in which prices would drop as interest rates rise.

When many people hold the same view of where the market is going, the market will usually prove them wrong and move in the opposite direction. This is precisely what happened in the bond market this year. If we use the yield on the U.S. Treasury 10-year note as our measure of interest rates, we saw the 10- year interest rate actually moved down from roughly 3 percent in January to a yield of 2.35 percent as of mid-November.

This move lower is instructive for us to understand how important it is to have a balanced portfolio consisting of stocks and bonds, even if it defies expectations. We can never be certain which direction the stock or bond market is going. Having a disciplined investment strategy enables investors to make objective decisions, rather than choices made out of fear or greed.

Why include bonds in your portfolio? Investors can benefit from bonds in their portfolio for three key reasons:

  1. Safety. When the stock market goes down, an investor needs a safe haven as part of the portfolio.
  2. Stability. The bond portion of a portfolio will also provide a stabilizing force to reduce the risk of the portfolio value fluctuating too wildly in a volatile market.
  3. Income. Receiving some fixed payments during a market correction will help to minimize losses when stocks trade lower.

Keep in mind when constructing an investment portfolio that risk and returns should come primarily from the stock part of the portfolio. Your safety and risk management should come from bonds.

By |November 25th, 2014|Current Affairs, Investing|