New Year’s Questions – An Exercise to Begin 2015

New Year’s Questions

I picked these questions up at a wonderful workshop I attended a few years ago and have found them very useful. I use them for myself every year.

Before beginning a new year in full force, it can be supportive to complete and acknowledge the previous year. I hope that spending a few minutes with the following questions will help you complete 2014 and start 2015 on a strong note!

Completing and Remembering 2014

  • What was your biggest triumph in 2014?
  • What was the smartest decision you made in 2014?
  • What one word best sums up and describes your 2014 experience?
  • What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2014?
  • What was the most loving service you performed in 2014?
  • What is your biggest piece of unfinished business in 2014?
  • What are you most happy about completing in 2014?
  • Who were the three people that had the greatest impact on your life in 2014?
  • What was the biggest risk you took in 2014?
  • What was the biggest surprise in 2014?
  • What important relationship improved the most in 2014?
  • What compliment would you liked to have received in 2014?
  • What compliment would you liked to have given in 2014?
  • What else do you need to do or say to be complete with 2014?

Creating 2015

  • How will you acknowledge those who most impacted your life last year?
  • What would you like to be your biggest triumph in 2015?
  • What advice would you like to give yourself in 2015?
  • What is the major effort you are planning to improve your financial results in 2015?
  • What would you be most happy about completing in 2015?
  • What major indulgence are you willing to experience in 2015?
  • What would you most like to change about yourself in 2015?
  • What are you looking forward to learning in 2015?
  • What do you think your biggest risk will be in 2015?
  • What about your work are you most committed to changing and improving in 2015?
  • What is one as yet undeveloped talent you are willing to explore in 2015?
  • What brings you the most joy and how are you going to do or have more of that in 2015?
  • Who or what, other than yourself, are you most committed to loving and serving in 2015?
  • What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2015?
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Las Vegas Financial Advisor, CFP Certified Financial Planner in Las Vegas Financial Planning Firm | Blog Page | Audry Batiste CFP

Year-End Tax Planning for Individuals

Once again, tax planning for the year ahead presents more challenges than usual, this time due to the numerous tax extenders that expired at the end of 2013.

These tax extenders, which include nonbusiness energy credits and the sales tax deduction that allows taxpayers to deduct state and local general sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes, may or may not be reauthorized by Congress and made retroactive to the beginning of the year.

More significant however, is taxable income in relation to threshold amounts that might bump a taxpayer into a higher or lower tax bracket, thus, subjecting taxpayers to additional taxes such as the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) or an additional Medicare tax.

via Las Vegas Financial Advisor, CFP Certified Financial Planner in Las Vegas Financial Planning Firm | Blog Page | Audry Batiste CFP.

Rick Kahler: More Gratitude, Less Spending

A great article by Rick Kahler about Gratude and Money.  It is worth reading!

Steve

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Do you want to more easily change your over-spending behavior? According to some new research, maybe all you need is a bit of gratitude.

Before you brush this idea aside as just another “feel good” theory, you may want to consider a 2013 study that suggests practicing gratitude is a powerful way to increase your happiness and decrease temptations. Northeastern University’s David DeSteno led the research project, which was published in June 2014 in the journal Psychological Science.

Many of us believe we ought to make decisions, especially financial ones, logically rather than emotionally. We assume emotions get in the way of decision-making, so we try to set them aside. We may think the best way to resist temptation, such as wanting to buy something we can’t afford, is to use self-control to clamp down our emotions.

via Rick Kahler: More Gratitude, Less Spending | Kahler Financial.

Living with Volatility, Again!

Volatility is back. Just as many people were starting to think markets only ever move in one direction, the pendulum has swung the other way. Anxiety is a completely natural response to these events. Acting on those emotions, though, can end up doing us more harm than good.

There are a number of tidy-sounding theories about why markets have become more volatile. Among the issues frequently splashed across newspaper front pages: global growth fears, policy uncertainty, geopolitical risk, and even the Ebola virus.

In many cases, these issues are not new. The US Federal Reserve gave notice last year it was contemplating its exit from quantitative easing (an unconventional monetary policy used by central banks to stimulate the economy when standard monetary policy has become ineffective). Much of Europe has been struggling with sluggish growth or recession for years, and there are always geopolitical tensions somewhere.

In some ways, the increase in volatility in recent weeks could be just as much a reflection of the fact that volatility has been very low for some time. Investors in aggregate were satisfied earlier this year with a low price on risk, but now they are applying a higher discount rate to risky assets.

So the increase in market volatility is an expression of uncertainty. Markets do not move in one direction. If they did, there would be no return from investing in stocks and bonds. And if volatility remained low forever, there would probably be more reason to worry.

As to what happens next, no one knows for sure. That is the nature of risk. In the meantime, investors can help manage their risk by diversifying broadly across and within asset classes. We have seen the benefit of that in recent weeks as bonds have rallied strongly.

For those still anxious, here are seven simple truths to help you live with volatility:

  1. Don’t make presumptions.

    Remember that markets are unpredictable and do not always react the way the experts predict they will. When central banks relaxed monetary policy during the crisis of 2008-09, many analysts warned of an inflation breakout. If anything, the reverse has been the case with central banks fretting about deflation.

  2. Someone is buying.

    Quitting the equity market when prices are falling is like running away from a sale. While prices have been discounted to reflect higher risk, that’s another way of saying expected returns are higher. And while the media headlines proclaim that “investors are dumping stocks,” remember someone is buying them. Those people are often the long-term investors.

  3. Market timing is hard.

    Recoveries can come just as quickly and just as violently as the prior correction. For instance, in March 2009—when market sentiment was at its worst—the S&P 500 turned and put in seven consecutive months of gains totalling almost 80%. This is not to predict that a similarly vertically shaped recovery is in the cards, but it is a reminder of the dangers for long-term investors of turning paper losses into real ones and paying for the risk without waiting around for the recovery.

  4. Never forget the power of diversification.

    While equity markets have turned rocky again, highly rated government bonds have flourished. This helps limit the damage to balanced fund investors. So diversification spreads risk and can lessen the bumps in the road.

  5. Markets and economies are different things.

    The world economy is forever changing, and new forces are replacing old ones. This applies both between and within economies. For instance, falling oil prices can be bad for the energy sector but good for consumers. New economic forces are emerging as global measures of poverty, education, and health improve. A recent OECD study shows how far the world has come in the past 200 years.1

  6. Nothing lasts forever.

    Just as smart investors temper their enthusiasm in booms, they keep a reserve of optimism during busts. And just as loading up on risk when prices are high can leave you exposed to a correction, dumping risk altogether when prices are low means you can miss the turn when it comes. As always in life, moderation is a good policy.

  7. Discipline is rewarded.

    The market volatility is worrisome, no doubt. The feelings being generated are completely understandable and familiar to those who have seen this before. But through discipline, diversification, and understanding how markets work, the ride can be made bearable. At some point, value re-emerges, risk appetites reawaken, and for those who acknowledged their emotions without acting on them, relief replaces anxiety.

So You Think You’re a Risk-Taker? | Jason Zweig

This is a very interesting article by Jason Zweig about how are brain affects our investment choices.

I think you will enjoy it.

Steve

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Nothing is more important for investors than learning how much they can stand to lose. But nothing is harder to learn—before it’s too late.

The stock market’s sharp swings earlier this month, after three years of steady profits, weren’t nearly steep enough to remind us all how much it hurts to lose money.

Because people have a remarkable ability to distort their own memories, investors who panicked in 2008 and 2009 may be kidding themselves about their ability to survive another crisis. And the typical “risk-tolerance quiz” used by financial advisers is almost useless in predicting how you will react to losses, because perceptions of risk vary so widely.

Increasingly, scientists are tackling the problem. A new study, just published in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience by a team of researchers at University College London, the University of Sydney, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University and Yale University, found that the density of cells in one region of the brain predicts how willing people are to take financial risk.

This research appears to “provide the first link between brain structure and risky choice,” says neuroscientist Scott Huettel of Duke University, who wasn’t involved in the study.

I recently volunteered as a guinea pig in the same experiment, which has been run on more than five dozen people; the results have been controlled for age and sex. A scan of my brain showed that the thickness of gray matter in my right posterior parietal cortex—a small area toward the rear crest of my skull—is slightly below average.

via So You Think You’re a Risk-Taker? | Jason Zweig.

How your personality affects your investment choices

This is a very interesting article about behavioral finance – and why you need an advisor.

Enjoy –

Steve

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If you invest regularly you’ve probably made investment mistakes. Maybe you sold a winning stock too early or held on to a losing stock too long. Mistakes are common in investing and here at Morningstar we are constantly trying to help you avoid them. However, there are mistakes that seem to haunt all of us, the ones where you went against your advisor or followed your gut to no avail.

Mark Smeez, 33, from Hamilton, Ont., knows this all too well. He says that during the 2008 crash he sold all of his stocks and mutual funds. “I didn’t have an advisor, but I did have assistance from someone in the financial industry and they told me that the storm would pass.”

via How your personality affects your investment choices | Ashley Redmond | Investor Insight | Morningstar.

Find a financial adviser who will put your interests first – The Washington Post

This is a great article dealing with the topic of finding an advisor who works for YOU!  Most don’t!

Steve

Today’s column is going to be on the wonky side, but stay with me — it is very important stuff. For investors seeking some help, it can be crucial.

If you want financial advice, there are two things you should be aware of: First, the quality of advice you receive varies widely. You probably knew this already. The quality of everything you buy varies widely. It is as true for financial advice as it is for any product or service you may buy or otherwise consume. You can buy a Yugo or a Mercedes-Benz. They may both be automobiles, but they vary dramatically.

via Find a financial adviser who will put your interests first – The Washington Post.