Q3 Market Update

Market Update: Q3 2020

With the election right around the corner, Q3 was another hot quarter for global capital markets.  U.S. stocks appreciated considerably, and the bond market’s outlook for the economy improved as the yield curve steepened.  At the moment it seems like the markets are expecting another round of stimulus sometime soon.  Rumors of different packages have swirled around both sides of the aisle over the last three months.  As I write this, there appears to be a strong possibility that a bill is passed by the election.  If that doesn’t happen, we may be in for the volatility so many investors are expecting in early November.

This is an odd time, an odd year, and it’s hard to believe that stocks and bonds are both in positive territory after everything that’s happened.  But here we are.  Now is a good time to remind ourselves of a few core investment principles:

  • Diversification is your friend.  Both globally and across different asset classes.
  • Create a long term plan you can stick to.
  • Stick to that plan no matter what.

Easy enough, right?  Here’s this quarter’s market summary.

Q3 Market Update

Q3 Market Update

Q3 Market Update

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Episode 48: The Three Golden Rules of Investing

Episode #47: Mailbag! What Grant is Doing With His Kids’ 529 Plans, Spousal vs. Survivor Social Security Benefits, and Whether Value is Dead

This week on the Grow Money Business podcast we have another mailbag episode. Grant covers four questions from our listeners about Social Security benefits, the future of value investing, distribution strategies for retirement, and saving for your kids’ higher education.

If you have more questions you’d like us to cover, visit growmoneybusiness.com, and drop your questions in the Mailbag section. Grant will answer your questions in a future episode.

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How are Incentive Stock Options (ISOs) Taxed?

How Are Incentive Stock Options Taxed?

Incentive stock options are a wonderful benefit to receive.  They’re often granted to executives of publicly traded companies and early stage employees of startups, in an effort to align their interests more closely with shareholders.  They’re also more complicated than their close cousins, non-qualified stock options thanks to certain tax advantages.  The timing of when your shares vest, when you exercise, and when & whether you sell the resulting shares determine how your options are taxed & whether these advantages will apply.  This post will cover the basics of incentive stock options, how they’re taxed, and a few points to consider if you’ve been granted them.

 

The Basics of Incentive Stock Options

Stock options give holders the right to buy or sell a certain security at a certain price for a certain period of time.  You can buy and sell stock options on thousands of publicly traded stocks through a typical brokerage account.  Incentive stock options are the same basic contract, where you’re given the right to buy a certain number of shares of your company for a specific dollar amount.  Here are a few basic terms you’ll need to know.

Strike Price: This is the price at which you have the right to purchase shares.  This is often discounted from the current market price.

Fair Market Value: Fair market value (FMV) reflects the value of a company’s shares at any given time.  This is easy to ascertain for large, publicly traded companies since their equity value is constantly being traded over exchanges.  FMV for a given day is simply the average of the high and low selling prices on a particular trading day.  For privately held businesses, FMV is typically determined by a formal appraisal or business valuation.

Vesting: Vesting is the concept of your options becoming “active”.  Often companies will issue stock options that vest over time.  This incentivizes employees to stick around and continue building the value of the company.  A common vesting schedule might be 25% over four years.  This means that if you’re issued 1,000 options, 250 will be available for you to exercise one year after the grant date.  Another 250 would vest after two years, and so on.  Another common schedule for ISOs is a three year cliff, where none of the options vest for the first three years.  Then when the three year date arrives, 100% vest.

Grant Date: This is the date the company gives you the options initially.  Vesting “clocks” start ticking on the grant date.

Expiration Date: This is the date the options expire.  Note that sometimes expiration is triggered upon resignation or termination of employment.  Usually you’ll have 90 days after leaving to exercise your options, but this isn’t always the case.

Bargain Element: The difference between the fair market value of the shares and your strike price is the bargain element.

Qualifying Disposition: If you sell ISO shares at least two years after the grant date and one year after exercising, it’s considered a qualifying disposition.  This comes with favorable tax advantages.

Disqualifying Disposition: Any sales of ISO shares that are not considered qualifying dispositions are considered disqualifying dispositions.  Disqualifying dispositions are taxed differently.

 

Example:

Let’s say that your employer gave you 1,000 incentive stock options three years ago that just vested.  The strike price (exercise price) is $10, and equity shares of your company currently trade over an exchange at $25.  The bargain element works out to $15 per share: $25 – $10.  Even though shares of your company might cost $25 on the open market, your ISOs give you the right to buy them for $10.  If you exercised your options and hung onto them for one year, you could then sell the shares in a qualifying disposition.  Exercising and immediately selling would be considered a disqualifying disposition.

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Episode 48: The Three Golden Rules of Investing

A Beginner’s Guide to Factor Investing

This week on Grow Money Business we dive into another fascinating investment strategy: factor investing. Factor investing is a strategy that focuses on selecting securities based on attributes that are linked to higher returns. Throughout this episode, Grant covers what factor investing is, how you may implement it in your investment efforts, and some of the things you should keep in mind when engaging in factor investing. Stay tuned until the end of the episode, where Grant shares some valuable tips for minimizing your risks.

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How Are Non-Qualified Stock Options (NSOs) Taxed?

How Are Non-Qualified Stock Options (NSOs) Taxed?

Non-qualified stock options (NSOs) are a very popular way to compensate employees at publicly traded companies, and a wonderful benefit to receive.  But the tax consequences, and how to handle them, can be confusing.

How you handle an NSO grant should depend on your personal financial situation: your objectives, your tax situation, your cash needs, the rest of your portfolio, etc.  Managing your NSOs thoughtfully can lead to a huge tax savings over time.  Managing them haphazardly can lead to an unwanted (and unneeded) bill to the IRS.

This post will cover how NSOs are taxed, and a few questions you should ask yourself before deciding how to handle them.

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Mutual Funds vs. ETFs: What's the Right Investment Vehicle For You?

Mutual Funds vs. ETFs: What’s the Right Investment Vehicle For You?

Sound investment management always starts with asset allocation.  The biggest decision you can ever make as an investor is the portion of your assets you invest in stocks.  This decision alone is responsible for around 90% of the returns you’ll see over the years in your portfolio.  The other 10% is based on whether you’re investing in U.S. stocks or international stocks, large cap or small cap, and value or growth.

Once you decide the proper allocation for you and your family, the next step is to select specific investments to buy.  Maybe that’s an S&P 500 index fund.  Perhaps it’s a small cap value stock fund.  Whatever the asset class, if you choose to invest in a fund you’ll have two predominant choices: a mutual fund or an exchange traded fund (ETF).

Both can be great investment vehicles, but they are very different animals.  Making a sound decision surrounding which vehicle is best for your strategy is important, and one that many investors overlook.

This post will describe these differences, and how to determine which investment vehicle is right for you.

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Don't Take Those RMDs This Year!

Don’t Take Those RMDs This Year!

As you may have heard, the CARES Act (aka the Coronavirus stimulus bill) created a holiday for mandatory distributions from retirement accounts in 2020.

So if you’re otherwise required to pull money from your IRA or 401(k) this year, you can skip it – penalty free.  This includes retirement accounts of your own AND those inherited from someone else.  Pretty neat, right?

But remember, the CARES Act wasn’t passed until March.  What if you’ve already taken a distribution?  Can you put it back?

The good news is yes, you can, as long as it’s done by August 31st.  Whereas this wasn’t initially the allowable, updated guidance from the IRS says that those of you who took RMDs in January or February can now replace them.

Read on for the details on how to put back your RMD if you’ve already taken one, and when you might still want to take a distribution if you haven’t already.

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Q2 Market Update

Market Update: Q2 2020

Well that was an interesting quarter.  The second quarter of 2020 brought us the fastest selloff into a bear market in history, which subsequently turned out to be one of the shortest in history.  Equities around the world continue to whipsaw investors amid COVID-19 and the resulting fiscal and monetary stimulus packages from governments around the world.  In short, the markets seem to be at odds with the economy.

Interest rates have fallen in lockstep and show few signs of rising any time soon.  This makes for great refinancing opportunities for borrowers, but poor bond yields for long term investors.  These are interesting and precarious times.

Here is this quarter’s market update.

Q2 Market UpdateQ2 Market Update

Q2 Market Update

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The Economy Is Not The Stock Market

The Economy Is Not The Stock Market

So here we are….in the middle of a global pandemic.  Unemployment in the US is hovering around 15%.  Businesses are struggling to remain viable.  Hundreds of thousands of families…probably millions …are concerned they won’t be able to make their mortgage payments.

Yet, the stock market is closing in on all time highs set earlier this year.

How is that possible?  What gives?

The party line answers sound something like:

  • “Stocks prices reflect future earnings, not present earnings”
  • “COVID-19 is temporary, and our economy will return as soon as it passes”
  • “The market is just being manipulated by the Fed.  All that cash is pumping up the market”

All these are reasonable responses.  But they circumvent a very important concept that many of us seem to be forgetting recently:

The economy is not the stock market, and the stock market is not the economy.

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Reflections on the Pandemic So Far

Reflections on the Pandemic So Far

We are currently somewhere around day 60 of our family’s quarantine, and the country is inching closer to reopening.  Over those 60(ish) days I worked remotely from home, and held a TON of meetings with clients, colleagues, and others over Zoom.  As you can imagine, everyone has handled the last two months a little differently.  Some investors are more comfortable with volatility than others.

I had a chance this week to think back on the sentiment in general.  How people are doing and feeling.  How they’ve handled the last few months.  What their financial situation is like right now.  And while everyone has handled quarantine and the Coronavirus pandemic differently, there are some trends I’ve noticed across many of my conversations.  I thought these trends might make an interesting blog post, so here are a few things that have been on my mind recently.

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