Just Blowing Off Steam

After a 59% rally from February 2016, it was about time the markets as a whole blew off a bit of steam. The pot was already getting frothy with pressure, so it was only a matter of when, not if.  We’ve all been spoiled lately because of an enormous lack of volatility in the stock market; we’ve seen weeks upon weeks of higher highs and new records being set so consistently it’s been almost “expected.”

But, alas. The market giveth the market taketh away, although only around 5%. The reason this market drop is causing such a raucous in the news is because we’ve been blissfully ignorant of the typical waves of ups and downs the stock market usually experiences. Especially over the last two years. Not to worry though, these moves are normal, and it’s better to have a down day or two, than to enter into a completely bear market for months or years.

 

Nothing to fear yet, just the pot blowing off some steam. Plus, everything is selling at a 2-7% discount! Buy up!

Stock Picking is Hard.

“Back in 1999, a chimpanzee named Raven picked stocks by throwing darts at a board. Her portfolio ultimately outperformed over 6,000 money managers by scoring a whopping 213% return for the year. And years later, a Russian circus chimp named Lusha assembled a portfolio that beat 94% of Russia’s mutual funds. Kind of makes you question the benefit of paying the experts.” – The Motley Fool

Stock Picking is Hard. That’s why financial advisors make so much money doing it for you! Take a look at the chart below or above, you can see the total 2017 returns for a few big name stock picking websites. Only 1 beat the actual market itself. Just 1!

This chart only emphasizes the need for everyone to research their stocks carefully before jumping in blindly, and take everything you read on the internet with a grain of salt, even when it comes from a “reputable” sources.

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You might as well go find that chimpanzee, Raven, and have her pick the stocks for you. Or better yet, do you have a dog or cat in the house?

Give them something to do for 2018.

Bitcoin Cash – Live on Coinbase with dash of Insider Trading

Yesterday, at around 7pm PST, Coinbase announced it would allow trading of Bitcoin Cash (BCH). A “spin-off” of Bitcoin (BTC).  Bitcoin Cash could be considered a branch of the Bitcoin tree, despite being slightly different code used to write it. Mining the original Bitcoin Blockchain was considered by some to be getting to difficult to create new ‘blocks’ so Bitcoin Cash was created as a remedy for it and would allow more transactions to be processed faster than Bitcoin, while also allowing miners to start mining blocks that would be easier and hence, yield them more profits.

If you owned any amount of Bitcoin on or before August 1st, 2017, and held your coins on a trading exchanges that was going to accept the new Bitcoin Cash, you should have received an amount of BCH equal to the amount of BTC you owned prior. So, if you had 1 BTC on July 31st, but Aug. 1st you should have received 1 BCH.

Unless…

…you had your BTC on an exchange such as, Coinbase. In that case you didn’t receive anything. But, on December 19th, as I mentioned above, Coinbase decided it was time to allow trading of BCH.

Then all hell broke out.

All Coinbase users who did actually have BTC on August 1st received an equal amount of BCH on Dec. 19th. But within minutes, the exchanges owned by Coinbase (Coinbase & GDAX) went down due to a massive amount of traffic and all trading was suspended temporarily. Obviously, this angered a lot of users because the coins they received minutes earlier, could not be bought or sold. A few more minutes later, the price of BCH on Coinbase skyrocketed to an artificial price tag of $9,000/coin, up from $3,000 when it went live on CB. No other exchange was reporting such an astronomical price.

Fast-forward a mere half-hour and thousands of crypto-followers noticed a strange trend in the price of BCH. For days the price of BCH was hovering around $1,800/BCH coin, but then saw a pretty dramatic rise to $3800, only a few days before Coinbase was going to announce trading of BCH. This has alerted everyone in the crypto-world and even Coinbase is launching an internal investigation into it’s own employees for potential insider trading.  So, Coinbase tweeted this…

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Then, a Reddit form was unearthed that seems to show someone with a insider who works at Coinbase, hinting that BCH is “coming in the next few days.”

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I have no idea if any of this is true or false, but it all is very suspicious and not something you want to hear from a company holding thousands of your dollars or coins.

In another article I will give instructions on how you can move your coins off of the Coinbase platform and into a more secure, “hard” wallet that will be theoretically impossible to have stolen or hacked. I am becoming increasingly nervous of either a hack of Coinbase itself or Coinbase having to dissolve their assets due to SEC intervention (if even possible.) What a wild ride this crypto-business is!

Senate Tax Plan – Why It’s Bad for US!

The statement below is from an email I received from The Motley Fool that I want to share with you. It’s a very important message that directly affects me and you, as long-term investors.

 

A joint statement from The Motley Fool, LLC, Motley Fool Asset Management, LLC, and Motley Fool Wealth Management, LLC

“The difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” – Will Rogers

What you need to know

Both the Senate and the House have passed their own versions of the biggest tax changes of the last 30 years, and lawmakers are making progress on a joint bill through their committee work (reports from yesterday indicate they have a tentative deal). There is one particular part of the Senate bill that could disadvantage you as an individual investor if it makes it through to a vote — the mandatory FIFO proposal.

Here is a brief primer on what this means and why it’s important.

FIFO stands for “First-In-First-Out.” It is a method for identifying specific tax lots when you have made your total investment over time — using common strategies like dollar-cost averaging, dividend reinvestment plans, buying in thirds, or simply making annual lump sum contributions.

(By the way, senators, many of your constituents invest this way.)

The Senate’s version proposes that all dispositions — including sales, donations, and gifts of investments — be on a first-in-first-out basis (FIFO). This means, if you want to sell, you must sell the oldest lot, which in all likelihood (especially after a very healthy 9-year bull market) has the lowest cost basis and the highest embedded capital gains. The proposal eliminates investor choice.

What does no choice look like?

Here’s an example that might be common to Motley Fool investors.

Say you own 200 shares of Amazon that you purchased twice during the last five years: 100 shares at $300 per share in 2013 and another 100 shares at $700 per share in 2016. Let’s say you want to sell 100 of your shares at $1,100 per share. Under the Senate proposal, you would have to sell your older position and pay capital gains taxes on $800 per share instead of on $400 per share.

Simply, you wouldn’t have the option to choose, for yourself and your family, which of your own stock to sell!

Under current tax rules, individual investors have the choice of which tax lots to dispose of. This allows for such tax-planning strategies as tax-loss harvesting and donating appreciated stock to charities.

It also provides individual investors the flexibility to create sensible financial plans that correspond to their circumstances by having the flexibility to take on a higher tax burden when the situation affords it and being more tax-sensitive when times are tougher.

These tax-management strategies would be severely limited in the new tax world, and that could leave you and charities worse off.

Who could this hurt?

In a word: you.

More specifically, anyone owning stocks in a taxable account will be affected.

Retirees will be especially hard hit, since many will have to sell investments to pay for medical expenses. Retirees typically have very long holding periods, with the oldest investments generally having the most gains built up over decades of buy-and-hold investing. Forcing retirees to recognize unusually high capital gains could increase the taxability of their Social Security benefits and lead to higher income-based Medicare premiums.

Investors that sell stock for a large purchase such as a home or a car are going to be especially hard hit, and the negative tax consequences could have a meaningful effect on consumption habits that would otherwise grow the economy (ahem, again, senators??).

Investors engaging in normal asset class rebalancing activities may place outsized weight on tax implications, resulting in poor investment decisions and an inefficient allocation of capital in our market system. That’s the proverbial “tail wagging the dog” that we try to stay away from.

Investors may be tempted to get out ahead of changing tax rules and sell some later-dated tax lots while they still can. On the flip side, the looming tax bill on old tax lots may dissuade selling a holding when it may be the sensible thing to do.

So what can you do about it? It’s easy and very quick.

Contact your congressional representatives

Let your representatives know how the mandatory FIFO provision in the tax plan will affect your family. Click here for an easy lookup of your representatives, along with their contact information. It will take only a few brief minutes to voice your opinion.

Not sure what to say? Here is the message that Megan Brinsfield, the Director of Foolish Financial Planning for Motley Fool Wealth Management, LLC, left for her senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine:

Hello, my name is Megan Brinsfield and I am a constituent located at [address]. I am calling to convey my concern over the mandatory FIFO provision in the tax plan. This provision will increase my tax bill by thousands of dollars every year by eliminating my freedom of choice around investment management. Additionally, my time spent in recordkeeping will increase since my brokerage only has information on stocks acquired since 2011. I implore you to strike this provision from the tax plan on behalf of me and my fellow investing taxpayers.

For more than 20 years, The Motley Fool and our affiliates have stood up for the individual investor, helping millions around the globe make better financial and investment decisions. The proposed Senate FIFO provision handcuffs everyday investors from making the best individual decision for their own, unique circumstance.

We ask that you join us in carrying our message to the halls of Congress by contacting your senator’s office to express your concern with the FIFO provision.

That’s a great way to help the world invest, better.

Thank you for joining us in supporting individual investors!

Fool on,

Megan Brinsfield, CPA, CFP, Director of Foolish Financial Planning, Motley Fool Wealth Management, LLC

Bryan Hinmon, CFA, CIO Motley Fool Asset Management, LLC

Andy Cross, CIO The Motley Fool, LLC

Turn Impulse Spending into Impulse Buying

With companies like Amazon offering same-day shipping for a massive portion of their products, it’s pretty easy to take impulse shopping to the next level. In-fact, just today I ordered new disc brakes for my electric commuter bicycle on Amazon and it should arrive by tomorrow morning. Granted, this wasn’t an impulse buy, per se. It was a necessity because my front brakes barely stop me at all anymore due to the increased weight from the motor and massive battery. But, I digress.

I was an impulse shopper for years! Constantly ordering things I don’t need online only to barely ever use them or to sell just a few years later. Most of the gratification of making impulse purchases comes from the instant gratification of spending your hard earned money. It’s like a reward for working hard day in and day out.

I had to find a way to curb this bad habit.

Since I started investing almost 2 years ago, I found that I simply had less money to spend on impulse purchases. But more importantly, when I get that urge to spend money, guess what, I buy stocks! It’s the absolute best scenario I can think of to curtail those spending urges and I end up with boatloads of high-quality products that can be sold years later FOR PROFIT. I even get a very similar “high” as I did from making those stupid purchases on Amazon, all 28-pages of “past amazon orders” Ugh, what a waste of all those years of compounding returns.

Since selling my 4-wheeled-retirement-sucking metal cage, I have even more money available to spend that would have normally been spent on near-useless materialistic goods. I instead put 100% of that extra cash right into the stock market which is now increasing my yearly deposits by $6,000! That’s more than enough money to max out an IRA.

I know many, many people in my life that would benefit even more than me by turning their impulse spending into impulse buying.

Have you considered doing the same thing? I challenge you to 30 days of no impulse spending and switching to impulse buying of stocks (and more) and see what the effects are to your own finances.

101 Years Ago – DOW Surpasses 100 Pts

In 1916, the DOW Industrial (one of the 3 main US Market Indexes) surpassed 100 points. Many believed we were in a bubble that was ready to burst.

Today, the DOW is ~22,000.

*Journalist Charles Dow created the first index more than 100 years ago. In 1896, Charles averaged the stock prices of the top 12 publicly-traded companies by adding their stock prices together and dividing by 12.

Free Stock Trading Tool

You’ve probably heard of brokerage companies such as; Charles Schwab,  Fidelity, MerrillEdge, TD Ameritrade, the list goes on… But there is a new kid on the block (definitely a millennial) that is trying to scoop up their fair share of the stock brokerage service game. This service is called Robinhood. This isn’t a new service, it was founded in 2013 by Baiju Bhatt & Vladimir Tenev as a way for younger & less wealthy investors get into trading. Today, just 4 years later the company is valued at $1.3 Billion dollars. Yup, billion with a “B.” Way to go guys! Not only have they become a serious competitor in the brokerage industry, they have forced the hands of multiple larger firms to lower their fees on trade transactions.

Which brings me the next point. Robinhood offers completely FREE buying and selling of stocks, mutual funds, ETF’s, and more. I want to say that again. They offer FREE trades!

Just take a look at the other guys’ fees, minimum balances required, etc.

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Most investors will tell you to aim for fees to equal 1% or less of your capital invested. This makes sense because if you have 5% in fees added to every transaction you make, you are already 5% in-the-hole before you even make the purchase! Robinhood allows you to avoid all fees with all purchases. So you can buy just 1 stock worth say, $5/share, and you won’t have to pay the $4.95 or more charged by other firms.

There are a couple downsides to Robinhood.

  1. You cannot invest in any retirement accounts such as a Roth IRA or 401k
  2. You must have an extra 5% of available funds in your account to make a purchase. So if a stock is $100, you must have at least $105 funded in your account.
  3. No researching is available in-app.
  4. No Stock Re-purchasing through Dividend payouts. Dividends are paid and deposited into your account and you don’t yet have the ability to automatically reinvest them. This isn’t a huge deal since trades are fee-free, but it does require a little more work on your end.

Overall, Robinhood is a fantastic investment vehicle, especially for the younger generation or those who are just dipping their toe in for the first time.

*Recently, I received an offer from Robinhood to transfer any stocks I own in a regular investment account (meaning not a retirement account) for ZERO fees and they even offered to refund any fees charged by the original brokerage firm. I am seriously considering it and will make an update if I decide to move forward. The only gripe I have is that all of my stocks won’t be in one place anymore. But, to save on $5 fees for every stock purchase I make, it could be very lucrative.

If you are interested in getting started with Robinhood, please click the link below! It is a referral link, but you’ll get a free stock to start your investing journey, just for signing up!

Sign Up Today and Receive 1 FREE Stock valued at between $3-$100