• Nate Baim, MBA, CFP®

The Election and Your Finances


Enjoy this week's edition of the Planner's Beta


Beta (n) - climber's jargon that designates information about a climb This digest's purpose is to share observations, ideas, and treasures found this week which you may also find insightful. Sharing does not mean it's an endorsement. I am endorsing the pursuit of knowledge and exploration.



Monthly Financial Planning Item

The end of the year provides many planning opportunities and issues. Year-end items to review include tax planning, investment and retirement accounts, charitable giving, cash flow and savings, insurance, and estate planning. This checklist (link in image below) covers several planning issues that you should consider before the end of the year, including:

  • Review issues concerning investment and retirement accounts, including matching capital gains against any investment losses in taxable investment accounts.

  • Review tax planning issues regarding strategies dependent upon your potential for higher or lower income in the future. You will also want to review where you sit relative to your tax bracket, as this is an excellent time to make moves to "fill up" tax buckets for the current year.

  • Several strategies will also help reduce tax liability that can be considered based upon their situation for those who are charitably inclined.

  • For those who own a business, tax reform created some opportunities surrounding pass-through income. Accelerating or deferring business expenses presents another planning opportunity for some business owners.

  • It's wise to review your cash flow situation as the year comes to a close to see if you can fund a 529 plan for children, know if you can save more in your retirement plan like a 401(k), or place earmarked money aside for other goals. It's also good to review retirement accounts to see if you have contributed too much for this current year.

This comprehensive checklist covers the types of year-end planning issues we likely have already discussed in our meetings. However, take the time to consider the items on this list to uncover any items we may have missed. Having a systematic process helps you better identify planning elements that could benefit you this year and beyond. If needed, feel free to place time on my calendar.




Putting the election in perspective (Fidelity) - Many states expect record-breaking voter turnout for this year's election. It is a hotly contested election. The stakes seem high. Congress and the Executive are lightning rods for political division and emotion, and many of us allow the enthusiasm of politics to cloud our personal financial decision-making. 


I agree with this piece that market volatility may increase in the near term (especially if political wrangling delays the results). A new Executive or Congress will likely continue the direction of stimulus for the economy, but different election outcomes will probably change the proposed stimulus's characteristics. And in the longer run, tax policy will likely change (with whatever result in this current election). 


However, it is essential to keep in mind, political risk is ever-present, and this risk is something we keep in mind as we craft financial plans. Many speculate taxes will change with a change in government, or a particular stimulus flavor will come with a specific mix of political parties in control in Washington DC. When things do change, this is when having a financial plan is valuable. The plan helps us determine the impact change will have on the confidence of your goals. The process helps make a good decision in light of risk. 


Changes in politics alone should not immediately influence your behavior. Evaluating political changes using the process of financial planning is what should influence your decisions. Financial planning is a process that helps you analyze the situation within the context of your unique situation, and the process illuminates decision alternatives that may be best for your goals.


Yes, if the candidate you voted against wins, it may be tempting to make quick decisions. If you find yourself in this position, and you are prone to take action, be sure to ask yourself, "Do I fully understand the consequences of my actions and their impact on my confidence in reaching my stated goals?"

The Dark Side Of The Recovery Revealed In Big Data (NPR) - Two things stand out in this article. The first has to deal with how organizations outside of government leverage data to provide greater insight into the economic metrics. The second is the data shown in this piece illustrates the "K" shaped recovery.


First, Opportunity Insights partnered with numerous private organizations to create a data set that allows them to analyze significant economic trends. By partnering with these companies, Opportunity Insights can receive data and find information on the economy's health at a much higher frequency than the traditional government published economic data points. It would be interesting to understand the nature of the data, how it is shared, and how confidentiality is maintained.


Second, the data shared in the article illustrates the "K" shaped recovery. This phrase is being used more and more in the news. The premise of the "K" shaped recovery is that lower-income workers' welfare is not improving or declining. At the same time, higher-income earner's fortunes are about the same or improving. It will be interesting to see the difference between this organization's findings and the government data (when it becomes available).


The implications of accurate and more readily available information can be huge for policymakers as they determine how to respond to future economic crises. Maybe such information will reduce the inertia of bureaucrats? I think that is wishful thinking.


Quote of the Week


"There is no such thing as a normal period of history. Normality is a fiction of economic textbooks." - Joan Robinson


 

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