Monthly Archives: December 2012

Getting Help in Choosing and Managing a Portfolio

There is currently $5 Trillion invested in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), $4.7 Trillion invested in self-directed retirement plans provided by employers (401(k), 457, and 403(b) plans), and $2.3 Trillion invested in traditional pension plans offered by private companies.  These numbers are stunning for a number of reasons.  First, self-directed retirement plans (IRAs, 401(k)’s, etc.) dramatically dwarf the amounts invested in traditional pensions.  This is part of a long-term trend, as employers move away from traditional pensions, but the magnitude of the shift is striking.  With the assets in IRA’s surpassing the $5 Trillion mark earlier this year, the amount of money in individual accounts is moving ahead of employer-sponsored plans.  What’s more, it is anticipated that IRA’s will continue to grow relative to employer-sponsored plans as people retire and roll their savings from their ex-employer’s plan into an IRA.  This matters because investors in IRA’s have even less help in creating and maintaining their portfolios than investors in employer-sponsored plans.  Continue reading

The Difference Between Marginal and Effective Tax Rates

Guest post by Contributing Editor, Matthew Amster-Burton, Mint.com.

Think you’re unlucky? I know a guy who’ll pay 99% of his income in taxes if the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of December. Continue reading

What Are the Core Asset Classes for Income Portfolios?

In a recent post, I presented a list of the ‘core asset classes’ that investors need in order to build portfolios that fully exploit available diversification opportunities.  That article focused on portfolios designed for total return potential, the combined return from price appreciation and income generated by the assets in the portfolio.  For investors focusing on building income-generating portfolios, the core asset classes are somewhat different.  In this article, I present a proposed set of core asset classes for income-focused investors, along with examples of representative funds.  Continue reading

Investing for Income vs. Total Return

One of the most-discussed issues in long-term investing is whether to focus on income generation or simply to think in term of total return (price gains plus income).  The discussion of this topic often focuses on whether investors should seek out stocks that pay dividends vs. simply planning to sell a fraction of their portfolio periodically to provide income.  I recently wrote a long article on this topic, which has been cited in a very interesting discussion of this theme going on at Bogleheads.    One of the most active participants in the debate on the Bogleheads forum and elsewhere is Larry Swedroe, a well-known advisor and author.  As I read the Bogleheads discussion thread, it strikes me that there is considerable confusion around this topic, so I thought I would add a few more thoughts. Continue reading

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The State of the Economy

Availability of timely data is at the core of effective financial and economic analysis.  The Federal Reserve Economic Database (FRED) provides a vast array of economic time series via an intuitive graphical interface.  If you want to get a read on the U.S. economy, FRED is an outstanding resource.  The ability to quickly create customized charts makes it quick and easy to examine a wide range of data.  In this article, I am going to show a number of these charts, while  exploring the overall economic U.S. economic picture. Continue reading