Do Higher Taxes Lead To Socialism In America?

Someone once said, “nothing is certain except pressing the reply all button by mistake and taxes.” How true the saying as we face rising taxes under the new administration.  Supposedly 32% of Americans filers pay ZERO TAXES!  I doubt this statistic sits well with the other 68% of files who pay taxes.   I also doubt the percentage of non-tax payers could be that high, but either way, even 15% is a lot.  The good thing for high income earnings is that the highest marginal tax rate has come down by almost half  since the 70’s.  Furthermore, generally if you are paying no taxes, your adjusted gross income is less than $8,350 as a single, or $16,700 as a married couple.   Wouldn’t you rather make more money and pay taxes than make little money and pay nothing?

Given we don’t blog for a living, and several readers asked me this afternoon “whether I think higher taxes lead to Socialism in America, Yes or No only”, my answer and thesis is therefore: “Yes, higher taxes do lead to socialism in America.”

Get Rich In September & Buy Nothing!

Valuations Gone Wild

Valuations Gone Wild

I declare September frugality month.  If I’ve learned anything from my 20+ years working, it’s that September and October are generally dicey months for people’s fortunes.  9/11 wasn’t good, neither was last September 15th when Lehman declared bankruptcy.   Since 1928, studies show that September is by far the worst month in the calendar year for performance at minus 0.7%.  Sentiment turns on a dime, and when markets rally 50%+ into the months of September and October, our risks are greater than our rewards.

I don’t see the Dow Jones breaking 9,700, nor do I see the S&P breaking 1,040.  This is it, we’re here and it’s time for a pull back.  At 129X P/E this year for the S&P, earnings are going to have to roar back for valuations to get down to prior peak levels of 40-45X.  It’s always dicey when the markets rally ahead of earnings.  Now firms must execute, and rely on the consumer to leverage up again to drive corporate profits.  Good luck to that!

Even if the markets continue to rally and we aren’t fully invested, we still win because the labor market tightens, wages go up, and job security increases.  That said, I plan to spend money on nothing except for food and shelter this September.  No clothes, no new gizmos, no unnecessary strolls to the mall.  September is austerity month, and I’m going to bank all disposable income away!  Who’s with me?

RECOMMENDATION

Invest In Ideas Not Stocks: Motif Investing is a terrific company based right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. They’ve raised over $60 million dollars from smart investors such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs because they are innovating the investment landscape with their “motifs.” A motif is a basket of 30 stocks you can invest in, which are aimed to profit from a specific idea or underlying theme. Let’s say you think new housing construction is going to quicken in the US next year. You could buy a housing motif which might contains Lennar, KBH, Home Depot, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Zillow, and more in various weightings.

You can buy a basket of 30 stocks for only $9.95, instead of buying them individually for $7.95 through a typical broker. You can build your own motif, buy one of the motifs created by Motif Investing, or buy a motif by a fellow Motif Investor with a great track record. You can even buy retirement motifs, much like target date funds, except you don’t have to pay the 1% management fee. You get up to $150 free when you start trading with Motif Investing. Given my focus on buying winning long-term ideas and ignoring the short-term volatility, I really like Motif Investing’s value proposition for retail investors.

Updated on 12/1/2014. Let the bull market continue. Just don’t forget to rebalance.

BusinessWeek’s 10 Best Places To Own Property

Honolulu, HI

Honolulu, HI

BusinessWeek

comes out with a Top 10 list of best places to buy vs. rent.  This is their formulation in their words:

“To create a fair match-up between owning and renting, we calculated ownership costs assuming a fixed 30-year loan for 100% of the purchase price with no down payment. If they had instead decided to factor in a 20% down payment, owning would have been the cheaper option for the top 10 metros on our list.”

The problem I have with this list is that I don’t see the words “Honolulu”, “Newport Beach,” “Malibu”, “San Francisco”, or “Paradise”! Everywhere one wants to live is expensive, and everywhere one doesn’t really prefer to live is cheap. Things are cheap for a reason, and real estate is no different.

Think about prime real estate sitting a top a triangle. The triangle’s base always gets wider as demand continues to grow.  Meanwhile there’s only one prime location.  Is it no wonder why Realtors always talk about “location, location, location”?  You can also think of your sub-prime location as an inverted triangle ready to topple over.  Only a very few want to buy, and the supply is overwhelming.

During this real estate correction, you’ve seen expensive areas such as San Francisco correct 15-20% from the peak, however, drive out 1 hour east and places such as Antioch and Pittsburgh have gotten crushed by 40-60%.  If you’re an investor, focus on places where you’d actually see yourself willing to live in.  After all, if you wouldn’t want to live in your property, why would someone else?

A similar purchasing analogy can be made with cars.  You may think that someone buying a limited production Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder for $210,000 is foolish with his money.  But, after one year later, he’ll sell that Lambo for more, or at the least recoup more than if he had bought a brand new Ford Expedition for $48,000.  Obviously this example is extreme here, given most don’t have $200K to splurge on a car, but you get my point.

Things are cheap for a reason. Only if you have the financial means, and are already living in one of these 10 cities should you consider buying.  Otherwise, just focus on buying or renting in that tropical paradise in the best location possible.

Read more to see what paradise cities lie in BusinessWeek’s Top 10 list!

Michael Vick Suits Up

“Michael Vick – A Second Chance Or No?”

When Michael Vick was convicted of animal cruelty a couple years ago, he lost everything. Particularly painful was his $135 million multi-year guarantee contract from the Atlanta Falcons. Probably even more painful was the shame he felt and the 18 month experience in the slammer. He’s now free and signed with the Eagles for $1.6 million this season, with a potential to make $5mil next year if the Eagles choose to keep him. The question on many sports fans and animal lovers minds is: Should Michael Vick be given a second chance?
The question really has two parts. Should Michael Vick be given a second chance in the NFL? And should Michael Vick be given a second chance at life? After some thought, and seeing his latest appearance on 60 Minutes, I’m leaning towards acceptance and forgiveness.

Does Bernie Madoff Win In The End?

There are press reports that Bernie Madoff has cancer and doesn’t have many years left to live.  If this is the case, does Bernie win in the end?  For decades, Bernie has been pilfering his clients for millions, and living far beyond his wildest dreams.

Let’s say that through an honest living, he could have made $50 million over the past 30 years of work.  However, through his devious ways, he makes $450 million more.  Even though he’s in jail now, and spends 5 years before he dies at age 76, doesn’t he come out ahead despite getting the book thrown at him?

Forgoing A $50 Million Fortune For The Love of Football!?!

For a guy who doesn’t work anymore, my favorite part of the year begins soon.  In just a few moments, college football starts and many a Saturday will be wasted with guys and some girls zoned in front of their TVs or at their favorite bars rooting like crazies!

Surprise, surprise, the Florida Gators are the most favored #1 pre-season pick in history due to the return of Tim Tebow and an enormous core of returning starters.  You’d think that winning the Heisman and two National Championships are good enough, not to mention the millions waiting, but not for Timmy. Rounding out the Top 10 include:  #2 Texas, #3 Oklahoma, #4 Southern California, #5 Alabama, #6 Ohio State, #7 Virginia Tech,  Mississippi, #9 Penn State and Oklahoma State also tied at #9.

It’s good to see the Pac 10 get SOME love, with California coming in at #12, Oregon at #16, and Oregon State scratching in at #25 or #26.  After all, the Pac 10 conference is the only one to boast an undefeated 5-0 bowl record in 2008-09.  This compares favorably with the ACC’s record of 4-6, MAC at 0-5, and The Big 10 at 1-7!  But none of the experts care. The Pac 10 will always be underrated because the weather is too nice out here.

Let’s forget the ranking injustices for now, and focus on the monetary aspect at hand!

Note To Self: Buy More Rental Property!

If there’s one thing I know I will regret 15 years from now, it’s not buying property over the next 12 months.  Last Friday’s 7.6% YoY jump in existing home sales was a big shocker that helped propel the stock market to new highs.  What’s exciting though, is that the property markets have lagged, creating what I think is a golden opportunity to pick up some rentals for one’s retirement.

If you look around the world, from the UK to Hong Kong, property prices have rebounded double digits this year. Yet, the US is slowly but surely coming out of price declines largely because of still massive consumer debt overhang.  Volume growth generally always supersedes price growth.  Who knows exactly when the property market will bottom, but what we do know is how to calculate simple math to make proper purchasing decisions.