Thoughts, ideas, suggestions and education from financial adviser Jim Ludwick, Founder of MainStreet Financial Planning, Inc. of Odenton, MD; Washington, DC; New York City, and Santa Barbara, CA

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Most of September Tweets

Jim Ludwick's tweets are for education and information. They are not meant as tax, legal or financial planning advice in any particular case.

1. SmartMoney's Jack Hough says don't be in a hurry to buy life insurance before they raise rates:

2. WSJ's Jason Zweig is also on the bond alert bandwagon. Don't chase yield he says:

3. Mark Hulbert more worried about bond rally than big stock rise in past six months:

4. MaketWatch reports on Moody's study that it will take 10 years for home prices to come back to previous highs:

5. Military or Fed. Civ.? Here's the website I check every morning to see what TSP is doing. Look at top of page:

6. How did, one of our favorites, make it to the big time? Now to be owned by Quicken's Intuit:

7. IRS looks for unreported income using mortgage interest deduction according to MarketWatch report:

8. US longevity poor versus other develp. countries. Our health care to blame? No, says new study reported by CNNMoney:

9. 58 and no ret. savings? Money Mag's Walter Updegrave has an answer:

10. Mutual Funds make up 90% of what they lost in last collapse according to Morningstar report in Investment News:

11. Dr. Mark answers the question, "Why did smart people get out and back in and I didn't?" in his blog:

12. WSJ's Leslie Scism notes that variable annuities with guarantees assured many during the latest stock market collapse:

13. WSJ's Jason Zweig argues for 'buy and hold' investing strategy:

14. Kiplinger via Yahoo Finance reports on 20 things you can get for free:

15. New rules for 1st time home buyers in article by Ron Lieber in NYTimes:

16. Will Baby Boomers cashing in pull down the stock market? CBO doesn't think so. Here's a MarketWatch report:

17. Advice from Trent at The Simple Dollar, saving money on things is easy. Here are 12 ideas:

18. Colleague Phil Dyer points out July 24th Fortune Mag story on what you might lose in Healthcare Reform:

19. Is 30 the new 20 when it comes to money skills? Smart Money's Sarah Morgan has this view:

20. Schwab's Liz Ann Sonders says W recovery is out, V much more likely:

21. RT @jaketapper: I follow Descartian twitter rules: Urlito Ergo Sum. I link therefore I am.

22. Balt Sun's Eileen Ambrose tells us how to check up on our bank:

23. Deleted since it was a private message to my son posted by mistake.

24. Enron named Amer. Most Innovative Co. for 6yrs by Fortune accord. to Ariley in book "Predictably Irrational"

25. Kiplinger offers the retiree tax heavens and hells map for this year and next:

26. Kiplinger's Steven Goldberg offers tips on where to put your "safe money" since MM's, CD's are so low:

27. Pearlstein in WashPost says Paulson and Bernanke did the right thing in letting Lehman fail one year ago:

28. reports mortgage rates lowest since May:

29. James Stewart of SmartMoney reports housing prices hit low in 2nd qtr and are on their way up:

30. Boeing moving to China? Here's a report to read and think about:

31. Market light turns yellow says WSJ's Jason Zweig, also author of Your Money and Your Brain, a fav book, :

32. Men's underwear Index predicts end of recession? RT @ylanmui WashPost story:

33. Can you go after your broker for bad advice or products? Things might be improving according to CNNMoney:

34. Withdrawing from your savings in retirement. How much? NYTimes story relates the latest research. Maybe take more?

35. Client Dan likes this site. See if your 401k is rated by this firm.

36. Housing price declines not all bad in latest report from MarketWatch featuring Case-Shiller index:

37. Haven't owned a home in the last 3 yrs? Get a big tax credit: Must close by Dec. 1st: CNNMoney has details:

38. Freebies Galore. RT @KiplingerMedia details all those things we can get for free including financial advice:

39. Don't be greedy says David Luskin of SmartMoney. The latest rally is the best in 75 years off a bottom:

40. Peer to peer college loans. Forbes' David Randall writes on recent trend since trad. loans are down:

41. Anna discovers the budget system that Yuri will use:

42. Periodic Warning: Jim Ludwick posts tweets for the education of recipients, they are not intended as specific advice.

43. Always great ideas from Trent at his blog The Simple Dollar. Here's one of my favorites:

44. @Kiplingermedia: Kimberly Lankford comes up with great ways to save on property and casualty insurance:

45. @Kiplingermedia Report on pot. stamp increase to 50 cents and P.O. going to email for letters:

46. MW's Lew Sichelman details what you should expect when your mortgage is paid off: Paperwork alert.

47. MarketWatch (MW) issues warning. Get your holiday tickets early. Bargains may soon disappear:

48. SmartMoney reports on tricks that credit card issuers are up to now and what you can do:

49. Breaking News: RT @KiplingerMedia: Saturday Mail Getting the Sack

50. Link to blogcast next Tuesday September 29th at noon Eastern:

51. Balt. Sun's live personal finance blog has Jim Ludwick answering ?s live next Tuesday, noon, Eastern. Email ?s to

52. Term vs. Permanent Life Insurance: Here's how CNNMoney's Walter Updegrave answer the question:

53. RT @KiplingerMedia: RT @blackgirlgrown: Big barrier to becoming rich is living like you're rich before you are.

54. R T @CherylKrueger: It's time to review your ret. plan and adjust. Focus on what you can control. Newsweek article:

55. Get your free CLUE report on your reported property and casualty activity for the past seven years:

56. RT @KiplingerMedia See what Ins. Cos. are doing with your prop. and casualty claim info: Could haunt you:

57. What will it take to become a millionaire? Use Kiplinger tool to find out:

58. Cal ranked #21 in USNews list. Could it be their great athletic programs pushed it ahead of UCLA et al.:

59. Think your portfolio shrunk? Look what's happened at the big unversity endowment funds in a NYTimes story:

60. Many people tell me they are not relying on Social Security, but don't see them saving enough. Here's a MW take on it:

61. Rich going on a budget? Yes, says NYTimes via Yahoo Finance:

62. Social Security primer on Yahoo Finance from CNNMoney's Walter Updegrave:

63. Richard Ferri author of newly published:The ETF Book to speak at my DC office, Nov. 13th, 6pm. Free. Res. a must. Email

64. advice on using your IRA/Roth IRA for college expenses:

65. WSJ warns higher income taxes coming and link to several personal finance stories worth reading:

66. Investors missing rally as they head to bond funds says John Spence in MW:

67. Rob. Powell in MW(MarketWatch) report on 5 Ways To Make Nest Egg Last including link to AARP helpful calcs.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Roth Segregation Strategy

A recent article on Roth IRA strategies in a financial industry publication authored by David Marotta reminded me of how many opportunities are available to save or pay income taxes now since rates are expected to rise in the future.

The most intriguing idea in Marotta’s article is labeled “Roth Segregation Strategy”. That caught my attention. Basically, Marotta suggests converting traditional IRA money into multiple Roth IRAs, each in a different asset class, (one class might be large cap growth) to capture a dramatic increase in a particular asset class resulting in a cash flow advantage over the tax cost of conversion.

Marotta suggests that the owner see how each Roth IRA performs over the time period allowed to “recharacterize” or return them to a traditional IRA where they originated and not pay the tax that would have been incurred. This technique is available to all taxpayers in 2010 and 2011 when income limits are eliminated for traditional IRA conversions to Roth IRA.

Can you have your cake and eat it too? Marotta reminds us that you only have to pay taxes on the conversions not “recharacterized” at the end of the allowable time period which can be lengthened by tax deadline extensions. That could be 21 months if you converted in January and made the “recharacterization” decision by mid-October of the next year which is the ultimate filing deadline. He suggests only paying taxes (on the original conversion value) on those that have had significant gains. Otherwise return those with less than stellar increases to the traditional IRA with no tax due.

How does that work? Here’s my simple calculation (this is not tax advice, only education): You create five different Roth IRAs funding each with $10,000 in January of 2010. During the next 21 months (you may make a decision sooner) you end up with a 10% gain in one, minus 5%, in the second one; 10% gain in the third one; 15% gain in the fourth Roth IRA and a 25% gain in the fifth Roth IRA.

Now if your effective tax rate (combined state and federal) is 25% , then you could hold onto Roth IRA number five paying $2,500 tax for conversion and end up with $12,500 in your Roth IRA experiencing a net zero cash flow and no future income taxes on that Roth IRA. All other converted Roth IRAs could be returned to the traditional IRA if you only wanted to have a zero or less than zero tax consequence. That less than zero tax consequence would happen if Roth IRA number five gained more than 25%, a happy prospect.

I can imagine lots of folks keeping conversions that saw reduced tax consequences rather than just none or less than zero as I explained in the last paragraph. For example I could pay $2,500 tax on Roth IRA number four, and end up with a $11,500 Roth IRA at a net cash flow cost of only $1,000. Not a bad price to pay for no further taxes.

Warning: In practice, custodians usually withhold 20% of the converted amount and you have to gain it back (or balance things out) upon filing of your tax return. So beware of the cash flow consequences of conversion and recharacterization. This is not a simple exercise and does take planning. However, it provides our firm and our colleagues’ firms with another opportunity to benefit our clients.

(David John Marotta is president of Marotta Wealth Management, Inc. of Charlottesville, VA)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

So now its time to start a blog

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and now it's time to begin a blog.

First order of business is to define the purpose, scope, intent and audience for this communication medium.

Purpose: Periodically spend some time composing and transmitting some idea, concept, facts or other useful information for my readers. Explain what I see as the impact of the topic under discussion or its ramifications.

Scope: Financial planning topics should provide enough freedom and constrain my enthusiasm for pontificating too far afield.

Intent: Provide useful information and calls to action when appropriate.

Audience: Those who might be searching for some new idea, or rehash of an old idea with a new twist when it comes to personal finance. Might be interested in my story telling about how others have achieved their goals, or have been twarted and want to discover how so they can avoid the same mistake(s).

So let's see how we can go from here. It will be interesting how we integrate Facebook business page, twitter, YouTube blogs and now this: Advice Only Musings.

Your faithful writer and editor, Jim