Dollars and Sense – December 2014

Editor’s Note: “Dollars and Sense” is a new column in the Sun Lakes Splash dedicated to financial issues. This column is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subject of personal finances. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or other damages. As each individual situation is unique, questions relevant to personal finances and specific to the individual should be addressed to an appropriate professional to ensure that the situation has been carefully and appropriately evaluated. Robson Publishing, a division of Robson Communities Inc., is not liable for information contained in these articles.

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Taking time out from the holiday chores to make some strategic saving and investing decisions before December 31 can affect not only your long-term ability to meet your financial goals but also the amount of taxes you’ll owe next April. Those who are investing novices may wish to use gambling as a learning tool beforehand. Whilst a clear distinction between investing and gambling must be made, there are behavioural patterns that could serve you well in both. Visiting a Judi Bola website, also known as a Gambling Ball in English, might be of use to someone hoping to make waves in the investing world. You may wish to click here if you want to learn more.

Look at the forest, not just the trees

The first step should be a review of your overall portfolio. This can tell you whether you need to rebalance. If one type of investment has done well – for example, large-cap stocks – it might now represent a greater percentage of your portfolio than you originally intended. To rebalance, you would sell some of that asset class and use that money to buy other types of investments to bring your overall allocation back to an appropriate balance. Your overall review should also help you decide whether that rebalancing should be done before or after December 31 for tax reasons.

Also, make sure your asset allocation and diversification is still appropriate for your time horizon and goals. Diversification and asset allocation don’t guarantee a profit or insure against a possible loss, but they’re worth reviewing at least once a year.

Know when to hold ‘em

When contemplating a change in your portfolio, consider how long you’ve owned each investment. Assets held for a year or less generate short-term capital gains, which are taxed as ordinary income. Depending on your tax bracket, your ordinary income tax rate could be much higher than the long-term capital gains rate, which applies to the sale of assets held for more than a year. For example, as of tax year 2013, the top marginal tax rate is 39.6 percent, which applies to any annual taxable income over $400,000 ($450,000 for married individuals filing jointly). By contrast, the long-term capital gains rate owed by taxpayers in the 39.6 percent tax bracket is 20 percent. For most investors – those in tax brackets between 25 percent and 35 percent – long-term capital gains are taxed at 15 percent; taxpayers in the lowest tax brackets – 15 percent or less – are taxed at 0 percent on any long-term capital gains.

Make lemonade from lemons

Now is the time to consider the tax consequences of any capital gains or losses you’ve experienced this year. Though tax considerations shouldn’t be the primary driver of your investing decisions, there are steps you can take before the end of the year to minimize any tax impact of your investing decisions.

If you have realized capital gains from selling securities at a profit (congratulations!) and you have no tax losses carried forward from previous years, you can sell losing positions to avoid being taxed on some or all of those gains. Any losses over and above the amount of your gains can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 for a married person filing separately) or carried forward to reduce your taxes in future years. Selling losing positions for the tax benefit they will provide next April is a common financial practice known as “harvesting your losses.”

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