Category: blog

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Market Volatility Update – At War (April 9th, 2020)

Note: This market review was published on April 9th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

Wars can be very inconvenient and last a long time.  Around our office, we feel we are fighting wars on two fronts; one a health care war and the other, an economic war.

Health Care War – Obviously, this is not our area of expertise, so when life is threatened, one should at least find an expert.  Dr. Scott Gottlieb is one and in his recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal this past Monday, he lays out the two ways drugs are being developed in the near term: antivirals and antibody therapies.  Both of these approaches could be ready before a vaccine, which is probably still a year away.  These two drug approaches would help to blunt the ferociousness of Covid-19, while the hope is that a vaccine would prevent the illness altogether.  And while we are hopeful for any help, Dr. Gottlieb extends our return to normalcy much farther than our politicians, at least until year end.

Economic War – At least we have a little better understanding of the recession we have entered, and the bear market that started last month.  This bear market is very purposeful and self-inflicted; the slowing down, and in some cases, stopping economic activity to slow and hopefully, stop the spread of the virus.  The health care fallout created by the virus is staggering and dire; the economic cure will be just as dire. As we watch the normal monthly and quarterly statistics, so far, the real numbers (unemployment) and the estimates (GDP) are off the charts to the down side.  A bear market usually follows three stages: 1) a down-side drop (or in this case, a crash), 2) an equity rally off the first low set (sometimes retracing ½ of the initial drop) and finally 3) a consolidation phase that takes the market down at least to retest the initial low, and in some cases takes the market well below the original low point.  Some bear markets are relatively short (nine months) and some may last over three years, like the tech bubble from 2000 to 2003.  The 2008 crisis lasted 18 months, from October 2007 to March 2009.  Longview’s primary thesis is that we are currently in the upside bounce phase, which is being materially supported by Congress and our Federal Reserve Bank.  While the news of Covid-19 should get slowly better over the next six to eight weeks, the economic news may get significantly worse, bad enough to constitute the third stage, a new testing of the bottom.  Early on, many economists have theorized that the economy may start growing again in the late third quarter, possibly September or October of this year.  Our feeling now is that it may take much longer.  Richard Bernstein, in a recent Barron’s article wrote: “At bottoms, people just assume that horrific performance is going on forever and nobody wants to invest.”  The same feeling many of you felt in early March 2009! Protecting your capital is our primary responsibility, and while we don’t know for sure where the market is going day to day, history is an excellent guide.

Many thanks for your continued confidence in Longview.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

2nd Quarter 2020 Market Commentary

Note: This market review was published on April 8th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

2020 started off with a continuation of the longest bull market in history, but it didn’t last long into the new year.  The major U.S. Indices hit their final high of the bull market on February 18th, 2020, and it was quickly downhill from there.  It took slightly more than a month for the S&P 500 to reach its recent low of 2,191.86, a decline of more than 35%.1  This included the fastest 20% decline in its history, multiple days of futures trading being stopped at their maximum loss and gain, multiple tests of the market “circuit breakers” that pause trading for 15 minutes when the index falls by 7%, and some of the best and worst single days in the history of the market.  The first quarter of 2020 was truly one for the history books.

We are living through a time that will be talked about for generations.  We are in a health crisis the likes of which have not been seen for more than 100 years, and it is having drastic effects on the economy.  A new virus that currently has no cure, no vaccine to prevent, and no heard immunity; it is truly a perfect storm.  This virus has lead governments across the globe to take measures that only months ago we would have likely considered unthinkable.  Global supply chains have been shut down, countries have banned travel, thousands of businesses in the United States have been forced to close, and millions of Americans have already lost their jobs.  Unfortunately, this is only the beginning, and it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

The Federal Reserve has thrown everything it has at the markets in order to try and dampen the long-term effects of this crisis.  They cut rates by 1.50%, all the way to 0%, and all of the cuts were made during emergency meetings.  In addition to rate cuts they also announced multiple assets purchase programs which include buying treasury bonds, mortgage backed securities, municipal bonds, and for the first time in history, investment grade corporate bonds.  The Fed is not alone.  The federal government has also passed a massive stimulus bill of more than $2 trillion, which includes direct payments to American tax payers.

To add to the uncertainty, there was also stress on the global energy markets.  At their latest meeting, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries failed to come to an agreement with Russia on production cuts.  This led to an oil price war, with Saudi Arabia increasing production to their maximum capacity and dropping prices.  The price of oil has seen a dramatic drop since that meeting falling to a low of below $20.  This has put significant stress on U.S. energy companies which require a price much higher in order to produce a profit on their oil drilling operations. 

With all of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the oil price war it is difficult to understand the effects that will be seen in the economy and the financial markets, both short and long term.  With that said, volatility is likely to remain high over the coming months while investors digest economic data, company earnings, and continued economic shutdowns.  It is also probable that some small businesses that have been forced to close will not be able to reopen and some of those that have lost their jobs will not see those jobs return.  The one thing that is certain is that this crisis is going to have real and lasting effects on our economy and on our population. 

We wish all of our clients, friends, and family health and safety during these uncertain times.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

CARES Act – What May Affect You

The COVID-19 (COVID-19) pandemic has left its mark on global and domestic markets. Government guidelines to practice “social distancing” has significantly impacted commerce as consumers are staying at home. The U.S. stock market ended its historical bull run of eleven years in mid-March. Many businesses have suffered in this time, unfortunately resulting in many employees being laid off.

The United States Congress scrambled to create a stimulus relief bill to help aide the economy and the American people. The Senate passed the COVID-19 Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 25, 2020. On March 27, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the bill, and it was signed into law by President Trump just hours later.

This bill is an estimated $2 trillion emergency fiscal package, marking the largest stimulus bill ever passed. The bill is quite expansive, totaling 335 pages in length. It covers quite a few areas including aide to state and local governments, aide to specific business industries, tax credits to businesses, and support to states for paying unemployment benefits. For the purposes of this article, the topics discussed will primarily focus on a few areas deemed applicable to a large portion of Americans.

Tax Updates & Changes

Prior to the CARES Act, Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, announced that the tax filing and payment deadline for 2019 would be moved to July 15, 2020. This also results in estimated tax payments for 1st quarter 2020, which are also normally due on April 15th, being delayed until July 15th. Estimated tax payment due dates for the remaining quarters of 2020 remain unchanged for now.

One change the CARES Act has implemented is a brand new income adjustment (above the line deduction) called a Qualified Charitable Contribution. This deduction can be claimed for up to $300 in charitable donations to qualifying charitable entities. To be eligible for the deduction, the donation must have been in cash only (appreciated-asset donations do not qualify). Cash used to fund a Donor Advised Fund is not eligible either. To claim the deduction, the taxpayer must not itemize deductions, meaning they take the standard deduction.

If you have questions about anything tax related a result of the bill, we recommend you speak with your Financial Planner or CPA.

Rebate Checks

One area of the bill that many Americans will benefit from is the “Recovery Rebate”. These rebate checks are being issued in the form of a refundable credit against 2020 income. The goal for these checks is twofold: Put money in the hands of Americans who have lost some of their income, but also help stimulate the economy with consumers spending more money. Each individual taxpayer may receive up to $1,200 (Married couples filing jointly eligible for $2,400) based on income levels from their 2018 or 2019 tax return; whichever is last on file. Each dependent child that is 16 and under also qualifies the taxpayer for an additional $500 credit. These checks will be issued in the coming weeks, while those who have a bank account on file from a tax refund are expected to receive their Recovery Rebate via direct deposit.

Although the credit is pegged against 2020 income, income levels from your most recent tax return on file (2018 or 2019) are used for eligibility. To be eligible for the full rebate check, a married couple filing jointly must have adjusted gross income (AGI) under $150,000. For those filing head of household, AGI must be under $112,500. A single taxpayer’s AGI must be under $75,000 to be eligible for the full amount. For every $100 of income over the AGI threshold, the rebate check will be decreased by $5.

Example: Charlie and his spouse Karen last filed their taxes in 2018. They have 2 children, ages 14 and 19. Charlie and Karen file their taxes as married, filing jointly. They are eligible for a maximum rebate check of $2,900 (2,400 + 500). Their AGI on their 2018 tax return was $178,000. This means their rebate will be reduced due to being over the income threshold. Their rebate check would be reduced by $1,400 (178,000 – 150,000 = 28,000; 28,000/100 = 280; 280 * 5 = 1400). The rebate check received will be $1,500.

As mentioned earlier, the rebate check is in the form of a refundable credit against 2020 income. There is good news for those that made too much money in 2018 or 2019 and are not considered eligible for the rebate check. If they face hard times in 2020 with a large reduction in income, they may become eligible for the credit once they file their 2020 taxes in early 2021. Also, for those whose income increases in 2020 and may no longer qualify, they will not have to repay the amount they received in 2019. Please note that the Recovery Rebate is considered a tax credit; therefore, it is not taxable income.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)

The CARES Act has suspended RMDs from applicable retirement accounts for 2020. Even better news is that individuals who turned 70.5 years old in the second half of 2019, and chose to delay their 2019 RMD until 2020 (under old RMD rules prior to the SECURE Act), can also suspend taking RMDs until 2021 as well. For those that have already taken their 2020 RMD, but would like to undo it, there may be an option. This option would be in the form of a “rollover”. Rollovers that are not performed trustee-to-trustee can be completed as long as the individual moves assets from one account to the other within a 60-day period.  Since it is now early April, an individual who took their RMD in early February or after may be eligible for this option. They would just need to simply make a contribution back into the account for the same amount as the RMD previously taken within 60 days of the distribution.

This suspension of RMDs also applies to beneficiaries who now own an Inherited IRA. Owners of an Inherited IRAs (who took ownership of the account prior to 2020) can stretch distributions from the account over the course of their lifetime. The account owner of an Inherited IRA must take an RMD each year following the year they acquire the account. Unfortunately, there is no way to undo the distribution and place the assets back into the account.

COVID-19 Distributions

The bill also introduced a distribution that can be taken in 2020 from an IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan in wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. This distribution can be taken for an amount up to $100,000 for individuals that have been affected or impacted in some way financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those that are considered impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak must be diagnosed with COVID-19, had a spouse or dependent diagnosed with COVID-19, laid off from work, owned a business that closed or reduced hours during the pandemic, or meet other criteria deemed appropriate by the IRS. A perk to the distribution is that it can be “paid back” over the next three years starting from the date the distribution is taken. This means those that had to take a COVID-19 Distribution will indeed be able to make contributions to that account in excess of normal maximum contribution levels for a three-year period. 

This COVID-19 Distribution will avoid a 10% early withdrawal penalty for those that take the distribution under age 59.5. Another perk to this distribution is that the income can either be reported all in 2020, or spread evenly over three years (2020, 2021, 2022). From a financial planning perspective, spreading the distribution income over three years may be more appropriate for some individuals, as this might keep them in a lower tax bracket and be more efficient in terms of tax savings. For those on Medicare that choose to take the COVID-19 Distribution in 2020, and report all the income in the same year, it may cause their Medicare premiums to increase in 2022 due to a two-year look back period for IRMMA.

Federal Student Loan Payments

Another major change brought forth by the CARES Act is the suspension of Federal student loan payments through September 30, 2020. During this time, interest will not accrue on these loans. Be sure to contact your custodian to ensure automatic payments are suspended. Payments are optional during this time. The great news about this suspension of payments is that borrowers who are in route for student loan forgiveness can still count the suspension period as months of payments towards their forgiveness payment plan.

For a complete look at the bill in its entirety, please visit the following link: https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr748/BILLS-116hr748enr.pdf

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Market Volatility Update (March 25, 2020)

Note: This market review was published on March 25th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

I hope this finds you well.  Jon Meacham, today on a news show, was referring back to the phrase in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Certainly it is no coincidence that Thomas Jefferson put the word life first.  As Americans, we find ourselves fighting two wars at the same time in our own backyards.  If history is any guide, without prioritizing one over the other, we might very well lose both.

Obviously, the first war is the one against the Covid-19 virus, the one threatening our lives.  When I wrote to you just two weeks ago, this virus was just getting started in the U.S.  Now, while China and South Korea seem to have greatly contained the virus, the United States seems to be the new epicenter and on a trajectory steeper than that of Italy.  This is as serious as it gets.  We all have a collective responsibility to follow the guidelines set out by healthcare professionals, those doctors and scientists who have the training and understanding to see us through this.  This may take three or four weeks longer and be much more inconvenient, but the lives of our families is certainly worth the price.

The irony here is that if we are following doctors’ orders, we make the other war, the economic crisis worse in the short term.  Our government, as I write this, and most other developed governments are throwing everything they have in the way of stimulus at this problem, with little or no regard for sequencing or the longer term consequences.  And while their efforts may not stave off a recession, their collective work should shorten a downturn and blunt its negative effects.  To a large degree, that is what we have done with your portfolios: by creating a cash buffer, we have slowed the downside dramatically.  That said, your March statement will still look pretty ugly!

Now the question is how do we get back into the market safely.  This is a true, ferocious bear market, with huge swings both downward and upward.  I wish I could say we think this is over. We don’t think it is, but we do think we are closer to the bottom than the top.  In late March 2009, Jeremy Grantham of GMO fame put out a letter entitled “Reinvesting When Terrified”, and while we are certainly not terrified, putting money (risk) to work in uncertain markets goes against human nature.  So be it; you will find us putting cash back to work strategically over the next several weeks and months, primarily using a dollar cost averaging rather than a lump sum strategy.

Again, as we navigate the pitfalls of the global markets over the coming months, should you have any questions about either our investing process, our thoughts on the economy or your own financial planning, please don’t hesitate to contact your advisor.  If we all do our part, we will eventually get through this crisis.  Many thanks for your continued confidence in Longview.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Market Volatility Update (March 9, 2020)

Note: This market review was published on March 9th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

Erik Larson has just released a new biography of Winston Churchill entitled The Splendid and the Vile.  It documents the one year from May 10, 1940 to May 10, 1941, the period in which Nazi Germany overran France and began the bombing of London.  During this perilous time “Churchill’s great trick was his ability to deliver dire news and yet leave his audience feeling encouraged and uplifted”.

There is an investing concept we first heard during the 4th quarter of 2008: “the permanent impairment of capital”. During that recession, where the S&P 500 fell 50% over 18 months, this concept was loosely defined as losing no more than 20%.  We feel it is imperative to protect capital when it is called for and especially not to injure financial plans so much that they may never recover.  While the S&P 500 recovered in four to five years, it did so from a base of inexpensive equities and much government stimulus.  This time around equities are expensive, bonds even more so and global central banks have spent most of their stimulus.  We have been de-risking all of our managed portfolios since late January, from only 7% for aggressive accounts to 39% for moderate accounts.  So going into this Coronavirus crisis, we felt we were reasonably prepared, but its effect on the U.S. economy may be deeper than we thought.  That said, the Covid-19 crisis may dissipate quickly over the next three to four months if China and South Korea are any indication.  But it also may leave our economy, along with other global economies, in a much weaker state, much more so than even at the turn of this year.

As we navigate tough markets over the next several months, should you have any questions about either our investing thesis, the economy in general or your own financial planning, please don’t hesitate to contact your Longview advisor.  We try to build resiliency into our portfolios and planning for times like these, and while we might not have Churchill’s knack for encouragement, this crisis will also eventually pass us by.  Many thanks for your continued confidence in Longview

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

Chad Odell Joins Epilepsy Foundation of Alabama Board

Longview investment analyst, Chad Odell, has recently joined the advisory board of the Alabama chapter of the Epilepsy Foundation.  Chad’s wife has suffered from seizures for more than 15 years, but it took years for her to receive a formal diagnosis of epilepsy.  Since receiving her diagnosis her seizures have improved, but they have not gone away.  Her diagnosis still affects their daily lives and Chad is excited to have the opportunity to serve a cause that means so much to his family. 

The mission of Epilepsy Foundation Alabama is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.  Epilepsy Foundation Alabama is a chapter of the national Epilepsy Foundation.  With the strength of a national organization and network of epilepsy experts, Epilepsy Foundation Alabama provides national scope and local impact.

The Epilepsy Foundation provides many services to the community including a 24/7 hotline, community forums, Kids Crew, seizure education, SUDEP Institute, and advocacy. Epilepsy Foundation Alabama is hosting four fundraising walks across the state this year in Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, and Birmingham.  For more information visit their website at www.epilepsyalabama.org.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Market Volatility (February 28, 2020)

Note: This market review was published on February 28th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

In his brief essay yesterday, Woody Brock, one of our research partners, wrote that the Coronavirus is truly an “unknowable unknown”.  And while we are all sympathetic to those who have died, or are sick and possibly stranded, the stock market around the world can be brutal when there is not enough information to make an informed decision.

Longview, as investment advisors, has the same access to information as any other investors around the world. So far, this information has been vague and inconclusive.  Global markets have corrected this past week faster than at time in the history of the S & P.  We, along with most other investors, have watched as the situation went from a local Chinese problem to a global panic.

We have been tracking the downturn since last Friday, February 21, and aggregate portfolio losses have been about half of the market losses.  Many of you will remember our philosophy of “grow and protect” and we feel the “protect” mode is prudent now.  Many investors are attuned to buying the dips, but as in late 2008, when you don’t know where the floor is, we would rather wait.  Your capital and ours is too hard earned to be anything but prudent.  You will see in your portfolios where we, as we understood the unfolding gravity of this global panic, have exchanged “growth” assets for “protect” assets.  It is our opinion that a resolution to this situation will not be quick, but could take months or longer, not only longer to overcome the virus, but to also re-establish global trade.

We are never happy to add additional turmoil to your lives by changing investments within your portfolios, but taking a lesson from 2008, we feel it prudent to do so.  As always, thank you for your confidence in our abilities.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions.

Sincerely,

Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s Investment Team

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.

1st Quarter 2020 Market Commentary

Note: This market review was published on January 14th, 2020 and may not be reflective of current market or investing issues.

In contrast to major lows at year end 2018, the end of 2019 saw major U.S. indices at or near record highs. The fourth quarter saw much lower volatility than the middle of the year as the markets continued mostly higher with only a few minor pullbacks along the way. Many of the risks that were influencing markets throughout the year are still relevant today; however, most of them have shown signs of moving toward a resolution.  There have been more negotiations in the U.S.-China trade war, and they are finally showing signs of progress, tensions in the Middle East seemed to have peaked for now, and the latest deadline for Brexit is less than a month away.

In their fourth quarter meeting, the U.S. Federal Reserve stopped the interest rate easing cycle, for now, and left their benchmark rate alone following three consecutive cuts during the year. The future path for the Fed is still in question however.  Chairman Powell has said that the three cuts during the year were simply a mid-cycle correction to interest rates and do not point to a long-term easing cycle.  Although the Fed has stopped their interest rate cuts for now, they have been forced to continue to increase their balance sheet through an asset purchase program in order to continue to provide liquidity to overnight lending markets.  While it continues to be talked about as a short-term issue, there has been continuous intervention through the fourth quarter and plans to halt the asset purchases have continued to be delayed.

The trade war between the U.S. and China is finally starting to show progress and talks are finally starting to look like they could bring results over the coming months.  The first phase of the deal has been verbally agreed to and is expected to be signed in mid-January.  While many details of the first phase have not been shared publicly, it is expected to include China increasing purchases of U.S. agricultural products and increasing intellectual property protections, while the US is likely to end any tariff increase. That said, phase two of a long-term deal could be years away.

Geopolitical tensions continue to be a threat. Protests in Hong Kong have continued throughout the past few months, despite the government removing the controversial extradition bill that provided the initial spark for the protesters.  While the first of the protester’s five major demands has been met, in the removal of the bill, the remaining four have seen little interest from the government. In the Middle East, following U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed rebels, protesters occupied the Green Zone in Iraq and were able to break into the compound surrounding the U.S. Embassy.  While the situation de-escalated after a few days, the United States then killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, to which the Iranian military responded by launching rockets at bases in Iraq that house American troops.  While there were no casualties reported in the attack, it showed that Iran is willing to use military force if they deem it necessary. This has been reported as the end of the retaliation from Iran and both sides seem to be standing down, for now. Over the next few months global growth could begin to rebound off of recent lows due to the stimulus that has been provided over the past year.  This growth will likely be supportive of risk assets over the next quarter, with international markets expecting out-performance relative to the United States as the dollar begins to weaken. While a recession in the United States continues to be a threat, one is not expected during the first three to six months of 2020 unless there is a significant unforeseen event.

Disclosure: Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions.  Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  Longview Financial Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. A copy of the Longview Financial Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.



Secure Act Bring Changes to Your Planning – Part 1

Over the summer of 2019, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. On December 19, 2019, the Senate passed the bill, and it was signed into law by the President on December 20, 2019.

The bill affects many Americans and may potentially result in the update of many financial plans here at Longview. The bill is long and covers many areas including the following:

  • Required Minimum Distributions from qualified accounts
  • Contributions to Traditional IRAs past the age of 70.5
  • Changes to the stretch provision in Beneficiary IRA accounts
  • Updates to exceptions of penalties for early distributions from accounts
  • The use of 529 accounts to pay off qualified education loans.

There is a lot to cover! Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down certain areas of the SECURE Act into a series of blog posts. In this post, we’ll start with the updates to Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from qualified accounts, which include vehicles like Traditional and Rollover IRA as well as 401(K) and 403(B) accounts that are in your name.

Required Minimum Distributions

As many of you are well aware, the magic age of 70 and a half (70.5) signifies the start of Required Minimum Distributions – a time in which you have to distribute a portion of certain types of accounts. The amount distributed is based on the balance of the account at the end of the previous year and a divisor based on your age at the current year. Let’s break that down a little more using Steve as an example:

Steve is 74 as of January 1, 2020, and his birthday is December 2. On December 31, 2019, Steve had an IRA that totaled $1,085,000. With his birthday in December, that means that Steve will be age 75 as of December 31, 2020, which will make his RMD divisor 22.9. So, knowing those two numbers, this is how we determine Steve’s RMD.

$1,085,000/22.9 = $47,379.91

As you can see, Steve must take $47,379.91 by December 31, 2020, and report that distribution as income on his 2020 tax return. Failure to take the distribution means he would face a 50% penalty on the amount in which he failed to distribute. To get a better understanding of what your RMD may look like, check out the IRA Required Minimum Distribution Worksheet from the IRS.

So, what does this have to do with the SECURE Act? RMDs are still the same in that a portion will need to be distributed based on your age in the current year; however, the age in which an individual has to start RMDs is now age 72 but only for those turning 70.5 after December 31, 2019. So, for those born before or on June 30, 1949, sorry, you still have to take Required Minimum Distributions starting at age 70.5.

As for those born on or after July 1, 1949, you will not have to start taking RMDs until you reach age 72. Let’s use Sue as an example as to how the change in the law will work now:

Sue’s birthday is July 11, 1949. In her annual meeting in 2019, Sue’s advisor told her of her upcoming RMDs starting 2020, given the fact that she would not turn age 70.5 until January 11, 2020. With the SECURE Act now in place, her RMD does not have to start until at least 2021, which in turn may present opportunities to consider and implement from both a financial and tax planning perspective.

One thing to note about her first RMD that is very similar to the former distribution rules is that she will not officially have to start taking her RMD until April 1 following the year that she reaches her RMD age. Under the old RMD rules, while she would have turned 70.5 in 2020, her first RMD would technically not have to be taken until April 1, 2021. The only caveat is that she would have to take her 2020 and 2021 distribution both in 2021, which would raise the amount of tax she would have to potentially pay on her 2021 tax return.

With the new RMD rules, Sue doesn’t have to take her first RMD until April 1 in the year following her 72nd birthday, which would be April 1, 2022. Again though, like before, if she did move forward with that, she would need to take both her 2021 and 2022 RMD in 2022 and report both of them on her tax return. Sometimes, this may make sense, but before implementing that, we strongly encourage you to speak with your financial planner before to see if it makes sense from a taxation standpoint, because it could affect not only the taxes paid but also your Medicare premium in future years. 

Qualified Charitable Distributions

For many of our charitably inclined clients, we may make a recommendation for them to complete a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). For those who are unaware of what this is, when an individual reaches age 70.5, they can take their RMD or a portion of it (up to $100,000) and have that money sent directly to a charitable organization. The amount that is contributed by way of QCD is not counted towards any income on the income tax return. This has become even more important over the past couple years with the recent Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, which increased the Standard Deduction, thus for many Americans there isn’t a tax benefit from an itemization standpoint of donating to a charitable organization.

The QCD has created a new way of making charitable donations a de-facto tax benefit. Here’s an example: 

Let’s say that Joe is 75 and has to take an RMD of $50,000. Joe is also charitably inclined and would like to give $10,000 to his favorite charity, but will still take the Standard Deduction on his tax return. With a QCD, Joe can take $10,000 from his RMD, give that directly to the Charitable Organization and then only have to report $40,000 towards his income on the tax return.

The QCD has always coincided with age 70.5 and the RMD age. Going forward, under the SECURE Act, while the beginning RMD age has changed for some, the QCD age will remain at age 70.5, meaning that an individual may have a couple of years to give from their qualified accounts before their RMD start age of 72. This, in turn, not only contributes to the goals for those who would like to give to charity but may also lower future RMDs, thus potentially lowering future tax liability too. As with any distribution strategy from your accounts, please consult with your financial planner to determine the most appropriate action to take that is in line with your goals, as well as provides benefits for you both now and in the future.

2019 HudsonAlpha Tie the Ribbons Event

Jessica, Chad, Lauren, Jonathan, and Debbie attended the 2019 Tie the Ribbons event held at the VBC North Hall. The annual event was informational and moving, as always.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology‘s breast and ovarian cancer research team of scientists are “committed to the goal of using genomic science and HudsonAlpha’s state-of-the-art technology to find new breakthroughs in breast and ovarian cancers.”

To learn more about the event, visit https://hudsonalpha.org/foundation/tie-the-ribbons-event/

Disclaimer

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