Motif Investing’s New Position Page

Motif Investing allows individuals to invest in great ideas focusing on real-world themes and popular investing strategies. A motif is a carefully researched and intelligently weighted portfolio of up to 30 stocks that reflect real-world trends and investment ideas. Now, Motif Investing has made it even easier for customers to understand their investments with a new Allocations tab on the Positions page. These new views will allow individuals to see various breakdowns of their stocks and ETFs into investment type, sector, and motif.

Now investors can easily see what their investment allocation is by investment type. They can also see how the stocks in their motif are allocated by sector. Also, investors can see allocation across all motifs by going to the Motif section, and then clicking on each motif to see its individual performance.

For a limited time, Motif Investing is offering up to a $150 bonus when you invest and trade. The cash bonus offer applies to new, approved Motif Investing brokerage accounts opened after 9/1/12 and funded with at least $2,000. The new funds must be posted to the account within 10 calendar days of account opening, and must remain in the account for 45 calendar days. The total bonus will be based on motif trades made within 45 calendar days of funding, as follows: 1 motif trade will receive $50; 3 motif trades will receive $75; 5 motif trades will receive $150. A motif trade is defined as a completed purchase or sale of a motif for $9.95 commission. Individual stock trades will not be considered as part of this offer. The cash bonus will be credited to the account within 30 calendar days after the end of the 45-calendar-day period.

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Doing Nothing – The Best Reaction to a Falling Market?

In my post last week I shared that I had moved my money out of my bond fund. A record amount of money was moved out of bond funds as other investors reacted to falling prices. A lot of people took their money out of the stock market in May when the market dropped sharply. According to a blog post at Betterment.com the smartest thing to do during a market dip is nothing.

They share that a surprising 98.7% of Betterment investors didn’t withdraw money during that time. The post shares four lessons to be learned from the recent decline. The first lesson is that recent declines do not predict future declines. Another lesson is that you should pre-act rather than re-act. The article also reminds you of the tax implications of moving your money out of the market. And finally, you need to consider that when you cash out you will eventually need to figure out when to get back in the market.

These are all valid points. I don’t need to worry about the tax implications since my money was in an IRA. Only time will tell whether moving my money out of the bond fund was a good move or not. What do you think, is doing nothing the best move?

Investing your money with a company like Betterment can make it easier to keep your emotions out of investing since they allocate the money for you. If you would like to find out more about Betterment or open an account just click on one of the affiliate links in this post or below.

Getting Out of Bond Funds

Bond funds are losing a ton of money since interest rates are rising and bond prices are falling. Many investors are moving their money out of bond funds.  A record amount of money was moved out of bond funds in June.  I have moved my money out of bond funds as well but I probably should have moved my money out of bond funds a few months ago.  Since I knew that my bond fund would decline in value when interest rates started rising again and I knew that interest rates would eventually have to rise I switched the bond allocation of my portfolio to a short term bond fund to lessen the eventual loss.  If I would have instead moved my money completely out of bonds and into a money market fund I would have saved myself several hundred dollars.  Of course, it is always easier to see what the correct move is in hindsight.  I’m not a proponent of market timing in general, but since it seems likely that bond funds will continue to decrease in price for a while I’m staying out of them until I think they have bottomed out or are at least close to bottoming out.

I need to figure out what to do with the bond portion of my portfolio.  I currently have it in a money market fund.  That is not a great option though, because the fund is paying basically 0% interest.  The only thing having my money in a money market fund does for me is ensure that I don’t lose money.  Although I’ll still be losing money when inflation is taken into consideration.  I don’t want to have 100% of my money in stocks so I’m not sure where else to invest the money.  Unfortunately, the bond portion of my portfolio was in my IRA with a mutual fund company and they have a limited selection of funds available.  I’m thinking that I might put that money into a stock mutual fund and use my TradeKing.com account to invest new money in something other than stocks or bonds. What do you think I should do with the bond fund money? Invest in stocks, leave it in the money market fund, put it back in a bond fund, or something else?

E TRADE Open an IRA and Get up to $600 Bonus

Open an IRA at E*TRADE Securities and Get up to $600 You can receive up to $600 when you open an IRA at E*TRADE. Offer valid for one new E*TRADE Securities Individual, Joint or Retirement account opened by 12/31/2013 and funded within 60 days of account opening with at least $10,000. Other restrictions may apply.

You will receive up to 500 free trade commissions for each stock or options trade executed within 60 days of the deposited funds being made available for investment in the new account (excluding options contract fees). You will pay $9.99 for your first 149 stock or options trades and $7.99 thereafter up to 500 stock or options trades (plus 75¢ per options contract). Your account will be credited for trades within a week. Account must be funded within 60 days of account open.

Credits for cash or securities will be made based on deposits or transfers of new funds or securities from external accounts made within 45 days of account open, as follows: $1,000,000 or more will receive $2,500, $500,000 – $999,999 will receive $1,200; $250,000 – $499,999 will receive $600; $100,000-$249,999 will receive $300; $25,000-$99,999 will receive $200. Your account will be credited within one week of the close of the 45-day window.

You will not receive cash compensation for any unused free trade commissions. Excludes current E*TRADE Financial Corporation associates, and non-U.S. residents. This offer is not valid for Unincorporated Organization or E*TRADE Bank accounts. New funds or securities must remain in the account (minus any trading losses) for a minimum of six months or the credit may be surrendered. One promotion per customer. E*TRADE Securities reserves the right to terminate this offer at any time. Consult your tax professional regarding limits on depositing and rolling over qualified assets.

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Financial Nightmare: Losing Your Entire 401k Plan

A 401k plan can be a very valuable asset for your future. It allows you to save more without being taxed just yet. If you don’t know what a 401k is then you should read on so you can find out more.

Tax Deferred Retirement Fund

What is known as a 401k is officially termed as a tax deferred retirement plan. The fancy alpha numeric code comes from the law that authorized the creation of retirement plans like that. From the name, you could guess that the benefits of this type of retirement plan are in connection with the taxes that it is charged with. In a 401k plan the money that you contribute is not taxed right away. That means any portion of your income that you contribute to the plan will not get taxed just yet. When the time comes when you would be using the plan then that is when it would be charged with taxes, hence the term deferred. The existing tax rates would then be used at that time.

The money that is accumulated on the fund is then invested. Usually it is placed on the stock market. By investing it, your money can earn income, though you cannot use it just yet, you know that you would have something saved up for your retirement. Check out the Suncorp superannuation calculator for help planning for your future.

Is it Possible to Lose Your Entire 401k?

Some people are concerned with their 401k. They are worried that they might lose it in its entirety. It would be such a shame to lose a huge part of your savings, money that you have worked for, so quickly. The truth is that it is really possible for you to see your entire 401k vaporized.

Keep in mind that the money in your retirement plan is not just sitting in some vault where it is kept until you retire. That’s not how it works. The money is used for investments and the most common financial product where it is placed are stocks. Like other forms of investment, there is risk in the stock market. Some stocks are riskier than others but in the end, all stocks have the potential of going bust.

So if the money in your plan was invested in stocks that lost value, then you could really lose all of your money. That’s a highly unlikely scenario but it is possible and it can happen. What is likelier is that you can lose a good portion of your money when it is invested in shares that go down in value. You can lose a good portion of your retirement savings within a few minutes of trading.

Diversifying Investments

The best way to prevent that from happening is to diversify your investments. This means that your portfolio should include both low risk stocks that can provide poor returns and those that can provide high returns but are high risk as well.

These are just some things that you ought to know when it comes to your 401k. It is your duty and responsibility to be aware.

Savers ‘Being Let Down’ by Customer Service

One quarter of respondents to a recent survey who had made a complaint about their savings account over the last 12 months still feel like their worries were not resolved to a satisfactory degree. According to Which? members taking part in an investigation into savings account complaints, it presents a real worry – particularly given that one in five UK customers have had problems over the past year.

While savings accounts are becoming more diverse and open to different demographics in the UK – such as junior ISAs with household-centric companies like Family Investments – older people are struggling with their account holders, with certain banks topping the table for examples of discourse.

Santander headed up the chart for the highest proportion of customers that experienced problems during the last 12 months. In fact, 29 per cent of the bank’s customers had difficulty with this provider over this period. Barclays followed in second place with 22 per cent of savings customers experiencing problems during the last year.

While poor customer service was the most common problem that Which? recorded, mistakes on statements were also a major issue – the second most often-quoted complaint. Other sticking points were also regularly mentioned; many respondents were annoyed about their inability to see the interest rate in their online account, while others were angered at the difficulty in getting through to a human on the phone to answer a question.

However, other banks performed quite well. First Direct and Nationwide were the least likely to have customers encountering problems with their savings account, with only 12 per cent of consumers registering complaints.

While certain positive trends did emerge, they weren’t without a caveat of some sort. For example, while six in ten of the most recent savings accounts complaints were resolved to the satisfaction of those making them, one quarter of complaints had to be made more than once before there was some form of resolution.

Meanwhile, 33 per cent of people told Which? they didn’t think a problem was serious enough to make a complaint; 19 per cent were more put off by the expensive phone numbers that banks offer for complaint calls.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said of the findings: “There’s a lot to complain about in banking over the last few years and to win back our trust they must sort out their complaints handling. When things go wrong it is critical that banks act swiftly and fairly to deal with the problem, identify what caused it and make sure it’s not repeated.”

 

IRS New Simplified Home Office Deduction

The tax season has ended for most people. The returns have been spent, and the individuals have gone back to their lives. they may be earning enough for the next year, or they may simply be oblivious to the entire process.  A taxpayer who works out of his home office may want to have the process of making a home office deduction made easier.  If he missed the opportunity this year, he can use the simplified home office deduction.

If someone has not taken the simplified home office deduction yet, he may want to take a few minutes and learn what it is.  It is a simple idea. Someone who conducts business out of his home needs to find any way to save money he can. this deduction is a great way for someone who works at home to get additional money back on his tax return. Something that is more likely to happen is that the person will get his tax debt reduced. The Internal Revenue Service cannot do much about the overly complicated tax code, but politicians can give people breaks. This simple tax write-off is one of the many breaks a person can take.

If someone does not know what he needs to do to take it, he can ask his tax adviser.  These professionals can help someone avoid the pitfalls that are found in this area of law, but they are not necessary for most people. Most websites can calculate the deduction, as long as they know the amount of home office space that is used.  If someone has made it this far and has not realized that this is for people who have a home office. The average American factory worker cannot take it, unless he lives in the same factory in which he works.

Why I Bought KMI

The most recent addition to my dividend stock portfolio is KMI. Kinder Morgan Inc. or KMI is engaged in pipeline transportation and power storage. It is the chief supplier of the colorless, odorless gas known as carbon dioxide which is utilized in the improved oil retrieval jobs in North America. Kinder Morgan Inc. is an American company.

I have been interested in investing in Kinder Morgan for a few years but didn’t want to invest in KMP since it is a limited partnership unit and issues a K-1 which could complicate my taxes.  It probably is not that big of a deal to report the K-1 on your taxes but since there are lots of other dividend stocks available that wouldn’t require the extra tax complication I avoided KMP.

Since I first looked at Kinder Morgan they have added the KMI option to allow investing in their company.  This option is not a partnership unit but shares in the general partner interest and the investment is treated like a regular stock purchase.  The KMI option allows me to invest in Kinder Morgan and receive an approximately 4% dividend yield with great potential for dividend growth.  I’m predicting that natural gas will become a much greater used source of energy in the next few years.  Even if I’m wrong I think KMI will at least maintain their dividend and KMI doesn’t need the price of natural gas to rise in order to increase their profits. I’m not an investment expert and I’m obviously biased since I own KMI but I believe it is a great dividend stock to own both for its current dividend yield and its potential for future dividend growth.

Net Investment Income Tax Basics

The new Net Investment Income Tax that went into effect this year is a source of confusion for some investors.  The IRS has answered some of the more common questions about the tax which should help resolve the confusion for most investors.

The Net Investment Income Tax is imposed by section 1411 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The NIIT applies at a rate of 3.8 percent to certain net investment income of individuals, estates and trusts that have income above the statutory threshold amounts.  The NIIT will affect income tax returns of individuals, estates and trusts for their first tax year beginning on (or after) Jan. 1, 2013 calculated using a tax return calculator.

Individuals will owe the tax if they have Net Investment Income and also have modified adjusted gross income over the following thresholds:

Filing Status

Threshold Amount

Married filing jointly

$250,000

Married filing separately

$125,000

Single

$200,000

Head of household (with qualifying person)

$200,000

Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child

$250,000

Taxpayers should be aware that these threshold amounts are not indexed for inflation.

If you are an individual that is exempt from Medicare taxes, you still may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax if you have Net Investment Income and also have modified adjusted gross income over the applicable thresholds.

In general, investment income includes, but is not limited to: interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, non-qualified annuities, income from businesses involved in trading of financial instruments or commodities, and businesses that are passive activities to the taxpayer (within the meaning of IRC section 469). To calculate your Net Investment Income, your investment income is reduced by certain expenses properly allocable to the income.

In order to arrive at Net Investment Income, Gross Investment Income (items described in items 7-11 above) is reduced by deductions that are properly allocable to items of Gross Investment Income. Examples of properly allocable deductions include investment interest expense, investment advisory and brokerage fees, expenses related to rental and royalty income, and state and local income taxes properly allocable to items included in Net Investment Income.

The Net Investment Income Tax is subject to the estimated tax provisions. Individuals, estates, and trusts that expect to be subject to the tax in 2013 or thereafter should adjust their income tax withholding or estimated payments to account for the tax increase in order to avoid underpayment penalties. For more information on the Net Investment Income Tax visit IRS.gov.

Second Hand Phones: What To Do

It’s safe to say the average person upgrades or changes their phone on a regular basis. For some, this could be every year, whilst others might only upgrade periodically every few years. Yet the end result is the same; over time, this amounts to a small pile of unwanted and unused phones lying around the house. We don’t know what to do with them, so they often become part of the home, collecting dust in various forgotten corners and drawers.

Yet there is always something that can be done. Just because you no longer want or use a phone doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who would. From passing it along to the benefits of mobile phone recycling, there is always a market or audience out there. Like the old saying goes, one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.

 Passing It Down

Not everyone can afford a phone. Likewise, not every really wants the newest and latest model. There are various instances when someone might just want a phone for the simple purpose of making the occasional phone call, or simply for emergencies. There are other instances too, where passing your old phone down has its benefits and potential.

Take younger children, for instance. If they want a phone, it can often be expensive to buy one. Giving them an old phone gives them something that works, yet it also gives them something to learn with. Part of having a phone, like anything, is learning responsibility for it. As such, if an old phone inevitably gets lost, you haven’t lost a brand new phone.

Recycling

Everyone knows what recycling is, yet it’s seldom considered with mobile phones and gadgets. Our T.V gets recycled, as do fridges and other large units. Yet these aren’t so different for smaller gadgets, you just need to know where to look.

In the case of mobile phones, there’s great online business for recycling these. From your end and perspective, this is simply a case of looking up the phone model, seeing how much it’s worth, and sending it off. The value can be quite surprising, too. Then again, considering it’s a phone which has no use or purpose to you, its value is nothing. As such, any money you make off of a well used phone is nothing but profit.

It should also be noted that the recycling industry is usually more generous than the second hand phone market. This is because a phones appeal can age, whilst the key components and resources are still in demand. The older your phone is, the less you’ll get for it at a second-hand shop, whilst recycling ensures it keeps a constant value throughout.

In short, these are just a few of your options, but it should hopefully show that you are not without a choice. Whether you pass it down to someone in need, or sell it for profit, it ensures the phone does much more than sit forgotten in your home.

Jill Pearce is a technology enthusiast and blogger with a keen eye and passion for keeping things both affordable and practical. This involves writing posts on areas such as mobile phone recycling, where a tech junkie’s cravings need to meet financial responsibilities.