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Tax-Loss Harvesting: Opportunities and Obstacles

So much of investing is beyond our control (picking stock prices, timing market movements, and so on) that it’s nice to know there are several “power tools” that can potentially enhance overall returns. Tax-loss harvesting is one such instrument, but — like many tools — it’s best used skillfully, and only when it is the right tool for the task. 

The (Ideal) Logistics 

When properly applied, tax-loss harvesting is the equivalent of turning your financial lemons into lemonade by converting market downturns into tangible tax savings. A successful tax-loss harvest lowers your tax bill, without substantially altering or impacting your long-term investment outcomes. 

Tax Savings

If you sell all or part of a position in your taxable account when it is worth less than you paid for it, this generates a realized capital loss. You can use that loss to offset capital gains and other income in the year you realize it, or you can carry it forward into future years. We can realize losses on a holding’s original shares, its reinvested dividends, or both. (There are quite a few more caveats on how to report losses, gains, and other income. A tax professional should be consulted, but that’s the general premise.)

Your Greater Goals 

When harvesting a loss, it’s imperative that we remain true to your existing investment plan. To prevent a tax-loss harvest from knocking your carefully structured portfolio out of balance, we reinvest the proceeds of any tax-loss harvest sale into a similar position (but not one that is “substantially identical,” as defined by the IRS). Typically, we then return the proceeds to your original position no sooner than 31 days later (after the IRS’s “wash sale rule” period has passed). 

The Tax-Loss Harvest Round Trip

In short, once the dust has settled, our goal is to have generated a substantive capital loss to report on your tax returns, without dramatically altering your market positions during or after the event. Here’s a three-step summary of the round trip typically involved: 

  1. Sell all or part of a position in your portfolio when it is worth less than you paid for it. 
  2. Reinvest the proceeds in a similar (not “substantially identical”) position. 
  3. Return the proceeds to the original position no sooner than 31 days later. 

Practical Caveats

An effective tax-loss harvest can contribute to your net worth by lowering your tax bills. That’s why we keep a year-round eye on potential harvesting opportunities, so we are ready to spring into action whenever market conditions and your best interests warrant it. 

That said, there are several reasons that not every loss can or should be harvested. Here are a few of the most common caveats to bear in mind. 

  • Trading costs – You shouldn’t execute a tax-loss harvest unless it is expected to generate more than enough tax savings to offset the trading costs involved. As described above, a typical tax-loss harvest calls for four trades: There’s one trade to sell the original holding and another to stay invested in the market during the waiting period dictated by the IRS’s wash sale rule. After that, there are two more trades to sell the interim holding and buy back the original position. 
  • Market volatility – When the time comes to sell the interim holding and repurchase your original position, you ideally want to sell it for no more than it cost, lest it generate a short-term taxable gain that can negate the benefits of the harvest. We may avoid initiating a tax-loss harvest in highly volatile markets, especially if your overall investment plans might be harmed if we are unable to cost-effectively repurchase your original position when advisable. 
  • Tax planning – While a successful tax-loss harvest shouldn’t have any impact on your long-term investment strategy, it can lower the basis of your holdings once it’s completed, which can generate higher capital gains taxes for you later on. As such, we want to carefully manage any tax-loss harvesting opportunities in concert with your larger tax-planning needs. 
  • Asset location – Holdings in your tax-sheltered accounts (such as your IRA) don’t generate taxable gains or realized losses when sold, so we can only harvest losses from assets held in your taxable accounts. 

Adding Value with Tax-Loss Harvesting

It’s never fun to endure market downturns, but they are an inherent part of nearly every investor’s journey toward accumulating new wealth. When they occur, we can sometimes soften the sting by leveraging losses to your advantage. Determining when and how to seize a tax-loss harvesting opportunity, while avoiding the obstacles involved, is one more way we seek to add value to your end returns and to your advisory relationship with us. Let us know if we can ever answer any questions about this or other tax-planning strategies you may have in mind. 

Bryan Cassick, MBA, CFP®

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Financial Quick Takes: Making Mistakes

Nobody wants to make investment mistakes. And yet, we’re human; mistakes happen. Here’s how to minimize the ones that matter the most, and make the most of the ones that remain. 

Bad Decisions vs. Bad Outcomes

First, let’s define what we’re talking about: 

Investment mistakes happen when you make bad decisions, regardless of whether the outcome is good or bad. 

Bad decisions are the ones a rational investor would not make. For example: 

  • Failing to spread your risks around: Concentrating in too few securities, instead of diversifying across many, and many types of investments. 
  • Confusing speculating with investing: Chasing or fleeing hot trends, instead of structuring your total portfolio to capture expected market growth over time. 
  • Taking on too much or too little investment risk for your circumstances: Investing too conservatively or too aggressively for your financial goals and risk tolerances.  
  • Overlooking taxes: Spending more than necessary to participate in the market’s expected long-term growth. 
  • Succumbing to harmful behavioral biases: Acting on gut feel over rational resolve. 

These common investment mistakes share a recurring theme: By making wise decisions about that which you can control, you can best prepare for that which you cannot. 

Damage Control

Consider auto insurance as an analogy with similar controllable choices and random risks. From hail storms to hit-and-runs, misfortunes happen. They are not your fault; they are not your mistake. But you insure against them anyway, since they can still generate a substantial loss. 

You also do all you can to minimize your “at fault” errors. You don’t drive while impaired. You keep your vehicle in safe repair. You observe traffic laws. None of these sound decisions guarantee success, but they appreciably increase the odds you’ll remain accident-free. 

As an investor, you can take a similar approach:

Mistake-free investing does not guarantee success. Rather, it improves your odds for happy outcomes, while softening the blow if misfortune strikes.

It’s worth noting, even if you make all the right investment decisions for all the right reasons, random misfortune can still strike. If it does, it would be a mistake to decide your prudent investment strategy was to blame. It would be an even worse mistake to abandon that strategy because you’ve encountered the equivalent of a market hit-and-run. This would be like dropping your insurance coverage because it didn’t prevent the accident to begin with.  

The Upside of Making Investing Mistakes

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

As just about any star athlete will tell you, the path to success is paved with errors. The same can be said about investing. The occasional misguided decision may even be good for you as an investor—especially if it’s made when the stakes are smaller and time is on your side. 

The point is, if you’ve made investment mistakes in the past, don’t beat yourself up over them, or make more mistakes trying to “fix” the past (such as deciding you’ll never invest again after being burned by the market). Often, your best move is to identify which investment mistakes were involved, embrace the lessons learned, and give yourself permission to move on. 

Admittedly, if you made an investment that didn’t pay off as you hoped for, it may be hard to know just what went wrong. Was it you, the whims of the market, or both? 

Among our chief roles as a financial advisor is to help you sort out investment errors from market misfortunes, so you can move forward with greater resolve. Sometimes, this means adjusting your portfolio to reflect evolving personal financial goals or targets. Often, it means convincing you to stay the course with your already-solid plan. Either way, your future is not yet written. Reach out to us today if we can help you make the most of your next steps.

WSWA

Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Tax Loss Harvesting: How to Make the Most Out of Market Volatility

When we invest money, our main objective is to see the money grow. When we think about market losses and downturns, we may think of painful periods where we watch our account balances decrease instead of grow. While market losses are never fun, they are unfortunately a part of the normal investment life cycle. However, when market volatility hands us losses, there are some options to make lemonade out of lemons.  

What is tax loss harvesting?

Tax loss harvesting is the process of selling securities while they are at a loss, realizing that loss for tax purposes, and then redeploying that money into another investment (such as a different stock, bond, or mutual fund). The IRS does not allow you to sell an investment at a loss, receive the tax benefit, and then immediately reinvest those proceeds into the exact same security right away. Selling a security and re-purchasing it within the same 30-day window is called a “Wash Sale.” You can avoid triggering the Wash Sale rule by investing in something similar but different enough to avoid having the rule apply.

While most people will tend to do this only once at year end, this is actually something that can be done at any time in the year with no limit as to how frequently you do so. With custom indexing and commission-free trading, frequent tax loss harvesting has become more achievable than ever. In years of high volatility, frequently harvesting tax losses can have a big impact on your tax bill.  

Keep in mind that for this strategy to work, you must have capital invested in a taxable, non-retirement brokerage account. Your 401(k) and IRA are not eligible for tax loss harvesting.

How does it benefit you?

In years of extreme volatility, you may be able to accumulate a large amount of tax losses in a short period of time. These losses can then be used to offset future capital gains.  If you end up with more tax losses than you have gains to offset them in any given year, you can use the losses to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income on your tax return.  

You will be able to carry forward an unlimited amount of these losses into future tax years until you’ve been able to use them up.

Tax loss harvesting can be especially useful for investors who might have highly concentrated company stock with a large amount of unrealized gains, or other legacy investments that they’ve been holding onto to avoid a large tax impact. These tax losses can be used to help decrease single stock risk and sell off legacy assets with little to no tax impact.

What are the next steps?

If you are a Warren Street client, we are already doing this for you (as applicable).  For clients with larger taxable brokerage accounts invested in our custom indexing strategy, you will likely see tax loss harvesting happening on a more frequent basis.  

All in all, seeing losses reported on your Form 1099 form is not necessarily a bad thing. While your long term objective remains the same in terms of seeking growth, taking advantage of short term volatility through tax loss harvesting can lead to a nice tax perk that can aid in your overall financial return on investments in the long run.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our advisors for complimentary portfolio review, you can schedule a consultation here

Justin Rucci

Justin D. Rucci, CFP®

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

Will Your Vote Move the Market?

Election seasons are highly polarized and leave investors from both sides of the political aisle paralyzed by what-ifs and fear of the other. This seems more true now than ever. Given COVID-19, supreme court implications, and an incredibly divided nation in terms of policy wishes, we expect a volatile finish to 2020. Due to an expected record number of mail-in ballots due to the election, it’s even possible the results aren’t known for days or even weeks. It’s normal to be concerned, but does the data support it? Does taking investment action make sense?

Believe it or not, I wrote the above days before President Trump and the First Lady contracted COVID-19. Can 2020 have any more twists and turns? Our team at Warren Street sends our thoughts and well wishes to them both, their families, and their staff. We hope a speedy and full recovery ensues. The diagnosis for President Trump is undoubtedly troubling given his age and possible pre-existing conditions, it’s sure to inject additional doubt into investors’ minds. CDC data however is still dramatically in his favor and it’s safe to assume he’ll receive best-in-class care. Historically, election seasons have in-fact provided for increased volatility in the markets. In addition, the dispersion in results and returns has been all over the map especially in the short term. You should find comfort however in the fact that long term returns have generally been positive regardless of who’s been at the Presidential helm or a split vs. unified congress. More details to come.

Let’s start with volatility (chart below). Taking a look back to 1929 you’ll see that the election year realized volatility exceeds non-election year volatility in September-November by a rather dramatic amount as measured by daily standard deviation in returns. I can’t say whether the current September 2020  volatility is caused or simply correlated to this phenomena. With U.S. stocks down over 7% 9/1-9/23 there’s plenty going on in the world to not simply chalk this up to election hysteria.

Now that volatility is out of the way, let’s talk returns, starting with short term returns. It is abundantly clear what investors prefer, and it isn’t what you’d think. The President is less significant than the balance of power. Returns tend to be best with a split congress, or in the best performing case a Democrat for President with a Republican congress. Why might that be? Gridlock. Investors love the status quo, but more so corporations love the predictability that comes with it. The ability to invest, forecast, and produce without the prospects of a changing playing field often lends itself to unimpeded growth.

We all learned in 2016 that polling is VERY fallible. Here we find ourselves again with a rapidly changing landscape of polling results, and most of which seem to be consolidating into the margin for error. Meaning both the Presidential and the Congressional races can go any which way. If we were betting, we’d likely expect a blue wave (Biden win and Democrats take over the Senate). Most of this is because incumbents just simply don’t win while in a recession, it’s only happened once in the last 100 years. The bad news, a Democratic sweep is actually one of the worst outcomes for investment markets historically over the corresponding 2 years (blue below) post election. The good news, you can barely tell a difference after 4 years (light blue below) regardless of who is in office, Presidential or Congressional.

Source: FMRCo

So what do we do now? Proceed with caution. Obviously this election is unparalleled in so many ways, and because of that we can’t solely rely on historical data to give us permission to proceed with blinders on. Having said that, you can make a bullish case for U.S. and Global securities regardless of who wins. What types of companies and which geographies you favor might look very different however. Each party has a different impact on tax code, currency stability, trade relations, etc. It’s important to construct your portfolio with these varied outcomes in mind and not be married to one outcome to succeed.

If you want to review your current investment posture as we head toward the stretch of election season 2020, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

Blake Street, CFA, CFP®

Wealth Advisor, Warren Street Wealth Advisors

Investment Advisor Representative, Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC., a Registered Investment Advisor

The information presented here represents opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Nothing in this document is a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. Warren Street Wealth Advisors may own securities referenced in this document. Due to the static nature of content, securities held may change over time and current trades may be contrary to outdated publications. Form ADV available upon request 714-876-6200.

4 Money Blunders That Could Leave You Poorer

Not to do listA “not-to-do” list for the new year & years to follow.

Provided by: Warren Street Wealth Advisors

   

How are your money habits? Are you getting ahead financially, or does it feel like you are running in place?

 

It may come down to behavior. Some financial behaviors promote wealth creation, while others lead to frustration. Certainly other factors come into play when determining a household’s financial situation, but behavior and attitudes toward money rank pretty high on the list.

 

How many households are focusing on the fundamentals? Late in 2014, the Denver-based National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) surveyed 2,000 adults from the 10 largest U.S. metro areas and found that 64% wanted to make at least one financial resolution for 2015. The top three financial goals for the new year: building retirement savings, setting a budget, and creating a plan to pay off debt.1

 

All well and good, but the respondents didn’t feel so good about their financial situations. About one-third of them said the quality of their financial life was “worse than they expected it to be.” In fact, 48% told NEFE they were living paycheck-to-paycheck and 63% reported facing a sudden and major expense last year.1

 

Fate and lackluster wage growth aside, good money habits might help to reduce those percentages in 2015. There are certain habits that tend to improve household finances, and other habits that tend to harm them. As a cautionary note for 2015, here is a “not-to-do” list – a list of key money blunders that could make you much poorer if repeated over time.

 

Money Blunder #1: Spend every dollar that comes through your hands. Maybe we should ban the phrase “disposable income.” Too many households are disposing of money that they could save or invest. Or, they are spending money that they don’t actually have (through credit cards).

 

You have to have creature comforts, and you can’t live on pocket change. Even so, you can vow to put aside a certain number of dollars per month to spend on something really important: YOU. That 24-hour sale where everything is 50% off? It probably isn’t a “once in a lifetime” event; for all you know, it may happen again next weekend. It is nothing special compared to your future.

 

Money Blunder #2: Pay others before you pay yourself. Our economy is consumer-driven and service-oriented. Every day brings us chances to take on additional consumer debt. That works against wealth. How many bills do you pay a month, and how much money is left when you are done? Less debt equals more money to pay yourself with – money that you can save or invest on behalf of your future and your dreams and priorities.

     

Money Blunder #3: Don’t save anything. Paying yourself first also means building an emergency fund and a strong cash position. With the middle class making very little economic progress in this generation (at least based on wages versus inflation), this may seem hard to accomplish. It may very well be, but it will be even harder to face an unexpected financial burden with minimal cash on hand.

 

The U.S. personal savings rate has averaged about 5% recently. Not great, but better than the low of 2.6% measured in 2007. Saving 5% of your disposable income may seem like a challenge, but the challenge is relative: the personal savings rate in China is 50%.2

 

Money Blunder #4: Invest impulsively. Buying what’s hot, chasing the return, investing in what you don’t fully understand – these are all variations of the same bad habit, which is investing emotionally and trying to time the market. The impulse is to “make money,” with too little attention paid to diversification, risk tolerance and other critical factors along the way. Money may be made, but it may not be retained.

 

Make 2015 the year of good money habits. You may be doing all the right things right now and if so, you may be making financial strides. If you find yourself doing things that are halting your financial progress, remember the old saying: change is good. A change in financial behavior may be rewarding.

     

Warren Street Wealth Advisors

190 S. Glassell St., Suite 209

Orange, CA 92866

714-876-6200 – office

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

    

Citations.

1 – denverpost.com/smart/ci_27275294/financial-resolutions-2015-four-ways-help-yourself-keep [1/7/15]

2 – tennessean.com/story/money/2014/12/31/tips-getting-financially-fit/21119049/ [12/31/14]