Jeff Benjamin

Investment Insights: The Blogblog

Jeff Benjamin breaks down the game for advisers and clients.

Jan 30, 2015

Bill Clinton loses points for building that budget surplus

By Jeff Benjamin

New research pins the 2008 financial crisis on an economic environment created by Bill Clinton. Turns out that surpluses can have negative side effects. National Bureau of Economic Research says reduced government debt pushed investors into property and real estate Big Oil projects are getting kicked to the curb as cheap oil continues to take a toll. The global industry scurries to respond to falling prices St. Louis turns to Goldman Sachs to the keep the NFL Rams from taking their football and moving elsewhere. The guru of stadium financing to the rescue Lessons learned long ago in biology class probably apply today in the way you manage your personal finances. Reassess your expenses often ... Read full post

Jan 29, 2015

Younger generations going all in with 401(k) contributions

By Jeff Benjamin

The average account totals might be slight, but the pace of 401(k) plan contributions has never been higher. Gen Y and Gen X participants are setting the pace As REIT performance carries over from a strong 2014, investors will want to know a few basics before getting their feet wet. It's not the same as buying a house Looking at some small-cap biotech stocks under a microscope. PPHM, SNTA, THLD Bill Gates wishes he had learned a foreign language. Wait? What? Couldn't he just pay somebody to speak a foreign language for him? Maybe he should have finished college ... Read full post

Jan 28, 2015

What Obama's attempt to tax 529 plans says about the safety of Roth IRA assets

By Jeff Benjamin

President Barack Obama's brief attempt to tax 529 college savings plans has inadvertently reminded some financial advisers that government promises can often be temporary, and planning should be approached accordingly.While Mr. Obama dropped his proposal to tax college savings accounts just 11 days after it was presented in his State of the Union address, the fact that it was presented at all is why financial advisers often approach Roth retirement savings accounts with caution.“We know that when Congress needs dollars, they're going to get them,” said Phillip Cook, president and owner of Mogul Wealth Management Inc.“It is a concern of mine that the tax rules are unlikely to be the same 20 or 30 years from now, and certain tax-law changes could easily wipe out the benefits of investing in a Roth today,” he added. “My clients have never heard me promote Roths, but I get asked questions about them quite... Read full post

Jan 28, 2015

The latest CFA test scores send 56% back to square one

By Jeff Benjamin

While some New Yorkers were shoveling out on Tuesday, a lot of Wall Street-wannabees were sweating over the results of the December CFA tests, which showed that only 44% of test takers passed. Cheer up, less than 20% of candidates pass all three tests on the first try Responding to a public backlash, President Obama is dialing back his plan to tax 529 college savings plans. Accidently identifying middle-class savers as 'rich folk' Jeffrey Gundlach shares lessons he learned from his biggest investing mistake. Not buying high-yield bonds in October 2002 If you're still looking for a Super Bowl investment strategy, try loading up on poultry-producer stocks. 50 million fewer chicken wings, but demand has not changed ... Read full post

Jan 27, 2015

Russia is starting to look like an investment opportunity

By Jeff Benjamin

The case for investing in Russia looks great, on paper. Just hold your nose and take a big bite. Banking on a business-friendly and reform-minded history If the hedge funders have it right, oil prices will continue to slide. Crude oil short positions are at the highest level since September 2010 Will the storm bearing down on the East Coast produce a rare snow day for the stock market? Officials have urged residents not to leave home unless necessary Not all IRAs are created equal, but choosing the right one doesn't take a rocket surgeon. Knowing your limits ... Read full post

Jan 26, 2015

Global bankers are painting the Fed into a corner

By Jeff Benjamin

Global easing by central bankers makes it harder for the U.S. Fed to stick with its promise of hiking rates this year. Caught between a rock and a hard place and a strong dollar and falling commodity prices Greece makes a move toward ending austerity, setting the stage for some grown-up conversations with global creditors. Radical left wing wins Greek election Obama's tax grab might not have a chance this year, but it could be a blueprint for where Washington will go for money in a few years. If you like your tax loopholes you can keep them. Wink. Wink. Billionaire money managers says, 'Do as I say, not as I do.' 'America's lifestyle expectations are far too high' ... Read full post

Jan 23, 2015

The next thing to worry about: Investor overconfidence

By Jeff Benjamin

The down side of a multi-year bull market in stocks is that investors stop worrying so much about financial security. Sometimes, a little fear is a good thing. A credit card is not a long-term backup plan With crude oil at around $46 a barrel, it's not too early to start worrying about what happens if it gets to $30. Rhymes with 'global recession' Turns out most hedge fund employees are not millionaires. But they're far from impoverished with starting salaries of between $72.5K and $190K. Heads up, tax planners. Here are 10 things the IRS says you should be reporting. Any cash or valuables you find are taxed ... Read full post

Jan 22, 2015

Good looks aren't everything, but it might help you attract more assets

By Jeff Benjamin

Better-looking money managers attract more clients, but they also tend to underperform. So, there's that. Looks aren't everything The winning bidder in an IRS auction for $2 million worth of annuity payments from a 1985 contract between the NY Mets and Darryl Strawberry is paying $1.3 million for more than 18 years of monthly payments of $8,891.82 each. Bidding at Tuesday's IRS auction started at more than $900,000 The SEC has charged a Florida-based investment manager with treating $17M worth of client assets 'as his personal piggy bank.' You're not supposed to do that. Making Ponzi-like payments to investors Hedge fund manager sends letter of apology for losing all but $200,000 of the firm's money. Hey, at least he apologized. My bad ... Read full post

Jan 21, 2015

Gold shines amid growing economic stress in Europe

By Jeff Benjamin

Gold starts to shine as the safe haven play against the backdrop of growing economic stress in Europe. The precious metal jumped more than 1% on Tuesday to its highest level since September The same president who wants to provide 'free' community college, wants to add taxes to those saving for college through 529 plans. You can't make this stuff up. Taxing 529 plan withdrawals as ordinary income Last year was a tough run for emerging market debt managers, but at least a handful made money in 2014. When 0.09% still counts as a good year If you haven't made a New Year's resolution yet, how about resolving to change some of your passwords? Safety first. If your password is among these 25 weak examples, you might be at risk ... Read full post

Jan 20, 2015

Swiss franc fallout hits some liquid alt funds harder than others

By Jeff Benjamin

Financial advisers who have been watching from a distance the fallout from Switzerland's surprise move last week to remove its currency ceiling against the euro might want to take a closer look at some of the mutual funds in their clients' portfolios.While it might be disheartening to see something like the 8.7% one-day drop of the John Hancock Absolute Return Currency Fund (JCUIX), investors in that fund at least knew they were exposed to the currency markets.The same likely cannot be said for investors in some multi-alternative mutual fund strategies that were also caught flat footed, and were apparently betting big that the Swiss franc was heading lower.When the Swiss government's actions last week caused the franc, which had already been considered overvalued relative to global currencies, to spike 30% in one day, some multi-alternative mutual funds that are supposed to include layers of diversification suffered out-sized hits.On... Read full post

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