ESG investing is a popular theme today. It involves allocating investment capital to companies that operate on policies of Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) principals fitting progressive, liberal, socialist, or woke criteria or values. These policies are often put ahead of earning profits. For profit corporations exist to make money for their shareholders. They have an obligation to act lawfully and ethically, but other than that, their responsibility is to the shareholders. Other “stakeholders”, be they employees, customers, communities, nations, etc. should only have their wishes considered to the extent doing so has a direct or indirect benefit to the profitability and growth of the company.
That said, in the absence of a directive by the client, any Fiduciary Advisor with the power to invest in, or influence or vote shares in a company supporting ESG, Equity, or Affirmative Action, without being able to draw a direct line on how that vote or initiative specifically benefits that company, is in violation of their fiduciary duty. Failure to put the best person in a job, taking actions to reduce sales or revenue, or increasing costs in the pursuit of ESG policies, have no direct benefit for the company, and is rarely if ever, in the interest of the investor.
The Bottom Line: Fiduciaries have the obligation to put the investors interests first.
In a capitalist economy, recessions are a good thing. Just like in nature, the weak put a drag on the strong. Well capitalized businesses can benefit from a recession. It is their reward for being well run.
A recession or economic downturn is a painful thing. People lose their jobs and income. Assets are often reduced in value. Businesses that sometimes took decades or generations of development go belly up. But they are also a healthy process. Excesses are reduced or eliminated. Resources are freed up for investment in more productive and new endeavors. Efficiency is rewarded.
Whether you are looking for places to invest, or you are an entrepreneur seeking to grow your business, a recession can be an opportunity. Sometimes you have to take one step backward to take two steps forward.
The government has expanded the money supply by over 35% since the Covid Pandemic began. The printing press was being run 24/7 and the output was dropped out of helicopters on everyone, whether they needed it or not. In addition, they forced huge sectors of the economy to shut down for months and even longer. What we have is more money chasing fewer goods and services. A recipe for inflation in any scenario.
To make things even worse, they impaired domestic energy production by cancelling the XL pipeline. This has forced us to import more oil and gas at much higher rates. And labor costs, were not spared. People were paid more to sit home than return to work, minimum wages were raised significantly, and unions were given unprecedented preferences and privileges.
It appears as I write this that any modifications to our tax laws and system will not be enacted nor take effect until 2022. Additionally, there is very little likelihood that any tax rates will be lower in 2022 than they were in 2021. While it’s usually beneficial to defer taxes when possible, it can be even more advantageous to pay taxes at the lowest rate possible. It is clear that for some taxpayers 2021 will be the lowest rate for the foreseeable future.
It’s not too late to do some year end tax planning. Based on my assumptions above, some of these actions and strategies may be beneficial for you.
It happens every year. We are bombarded on TV with commercials enticing seniors to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan. This year the notable celebrity pitchmen are Joe Namath and Jimmy “JJ” Walker of Good Times fame. They promise and imply the world if you just sign up. Sometimes I think they would tell you that you will live to be 100 if they could get away with it and it was on the cue card.
But, are they really a good option? Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly…
If your car lease is expiring in the coming months, it MAY have a buyout purchase option. This means you have an option to buy the car at a previously set price. This price was set based upon the predicted residual value of the car at the end of the lease when you entered into the contract. Check your lease to see if yours has a buyout. If it does, you may want to consider executing the buyout for a number of reasons.
New cars are in short supply mostly due to chip shortages. As with anything in short supply, they are more expensive than usual. By buying or leasing a new car now you would be locking in a high price.
The prices of used cars are way up due to the new car shortage.
Your current leased vehicle may have lower mileage due to curtailed driving in the pandemic.
The buyout price may be well below the current market value of the vehicle.
By buying the car you avoid the damage inspection and assessments for often minor issues when a leased car gets turned in.
The $1.9 Trillion Covid Relief Bill (American Rescue Plan Act) appears headed to passing the House and Senate with at least the $1,400 per person direct checks to many Americans remaining in the bill. In the House version, the full payments will go to all filers with incomes under $75,000 Single and $150,000 Joint. The payments would begin phasing out at incomes above that until reaching $100,000 Single and $200,000 Joint respectively.
The Senate version lowers the eligibility numbers to $50 – 75K Single and $100 – $150K Joint. In either case eligibility will be determined by the most recent of your 2019 and 2020 Tax Returns. It recognizes that many people have not filed their 2020 returns yet.
Here in lies a planning opportunity for some people. If your income will allow you to qualify for the payment(s) in only one of those tax years, make sure that the lower income is the latest return you have filed.
As a result of the Georgia Senate elections on January 5th, we have regime change. The Democratic Party now controls the White House and both chambers on Capitol Hill. They are free to enact almost any economic, regulatory or fiscal legislation they desire as long as they can agree amongst themselves and pass muster with the Supreme Court. None of what they do will be undone until the Republican Party regains control of all three legs of the stool. In the past 40 years one party has had complete control in only 14 of them, so it could be a while until that happens. Here is what I think we will see from the Federal Government in the coming year from a fiscal and economic perspective.
For the first few months, they will be tied up trying to implement their own Covid plan. We can expect more stimulus money being distributed to almost everyone, unemployment payments being expanded and extended and more aid of some sort being directed at small businesses. This plethora of money chasing fewer goods and services will lead to increased inflation, that’s Econ 101. Sustained inflation will lead to higher market interest rates – the Fed will not be able to stop this over any extended period.
One of the projects I undertook over the past few weeks, was to redesign this blog. I had never liked the design that was originally imbedded with our website and two years ago I decided to use a separate host. I picked a template and configured it – at least as best I could. To be generous, it sucked. After a while, I just stopped posting – frankly, I was a bit embarrassed by it and it was way too distracting. Fixing it is one of those things that just never got to the top of the to do list. Until now.
I have been writing Financial In$ight for three decades. It morphed from a monthly printed and mailed newsletter to a blog. Communicating with our clients and followers is important. The financial world is a big place and I cherish the opportunity to make it a bit smaller. I needed to solve this problem.