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10 Big Tax Mistakes That Can Lead to an Audit

The chart below demonstrates a sharp decline in the number of audits since 2010. The IRS audits only 0.5% of all returns as of 2017. That being said, that is still nearly 1 million taxpayers that may face the dreaded audit this coming tax year With that in mind, here is a list of red flags that may draw the attention of the IRS to examining your tax return.

Away From the Numbers: Keeping Money and Goals in Perspective

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Numbers guide much of our daily lives. From the price of a gallon of gas to the cost of our morning coffee, numbers are solidly submerged in our collective consciousness. Numbers are absolute. Even though the cost of a gallon of milk may go up or go down, what the numbers involved mean stay static and absolute. Prices may fluctuate, but a dollar is still four quarters, ten dimes, twenty nickels or one hundred pennies (as unwieldy and impractical counting all of them out at the coffee shop cash register might be). Numbers are logical and predictable. Three times seven will always add up to twenty-one (a number that has much significance at the blackjack table and equal importance for college students looking to embrace their new-found adulthood with a pint or two at the local watering hole). Numbers are practical and unemotional. Numbers know no sympathy - just ask anyone who has ever gotten a costly ticket for exceeding a posted speed limit. Numbers are a lot of things but one thing they are certainly not: numbers are not people.

CONSUMER CREDIT: 3,500 B.C. TO TODAY

Consumer credit is an integral part of modern life and might seem like a relatively new invention. However, historical evidence shows that it has actually been around for more than 5,000 years! This informative infographic takes us on a journey through the history of consumer credit from antiquity through to modern times.

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Dimensional Fund Advisors Named Most Recommended Asset Manager by Advisor Perspectives’ Advisors Choice™ Awards

When it comes to choosing to work with asset managers on behalf of our clients there is no shortage of options. There is Schwab, AQR, American Funds, Vanguard, BlackRock and the list goes on. We have, for a long time, chosen Dimensional Fund Advisors as our primary asset manager for the funds we choose for our clients. The philosophy that they use is evidence-based investing. The choices that they make are backed by decades of research from Nobel Laureates and financial science. To us, this approach to investing just makes logical sense.

Every Single Cognitive Bias in One Infographic

 The human brain is capable of incredible things, but it’s also extremely flawed at times.

Science has shown that we tend to make all sorts of mental mistakes, called “cognitive biases”, that can affect both our thinking and actions. These biases can lead to us extrapolating information from the wrong sources, seeking to confirm existing beliefs, or failing to remember events the way they actually happened!

To be sure, this is all part of being human – but such cognitive biases can also have a profound effect on our endeavors, investments, and life in general. For this reason, today’s infographic from DesignHacks.co is particularly handy. It shows and groups each of the 188 known confirmation biases in existence.

Give Yourself a Gift This Holiday Season: Hire a Fiduciary not a Salesperson

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With a new Republican administration in the offices of President and dominating both the House and Senate it comes as no surprise that, since taking office nearly a year ago, President Trump and the GOP have decided to delay the DOL fiduciary rule indefinitely. Many opponents of this roll back on regulation say that it is denying the American people of transparency and their right to hire someone that they know will act in their best interest as an advisor. What is overlooked is the fact that investment advisors are already required to act in the best interests of their clients as fiduciaries. Brokers, on the other hand, are salespeople who are recommending investment products that, although may be suitable, are not always the best choice for their clients.

The issue is not whether the government should pass a law requiring brokers to live up to the same standards that I and many of my colleagues have been sworn to uphold for decades. The issue is that people should know the difference between an investment advisor and a salesperson.

How Evidence-Based Indexing Works

The strategy uses common sense, data, and financial science to boost performance.

In the hallowed halls of academia, noted professors at the top business schools are teaching entire semesters on the benefits of investment strategies using passive indexes instead actively managed mutual funds or picking stocks.

As of 2017, more than $4.5 trillion has flowed into passive index funds and exchange-traded funds. What is passive investing, why are trillions of dollars flowing to this strategy, and more importantly is there a better way to invest?

To fully understand passive investing, it is helpful to understand active investing. Here investment managers (or investors doing it on their own) try to outperform the overall stock market or a specific part of the market using strategies such as fundamental and technical stock picking or market timing.

Investing

Is Your Investing Strategy Really a Strategy?

SPECULATION, RISK, AND A LONG-TERM PLAN FOR BUYING AND SELLING SECURITIES

Many people are hesitant to invest heavily in the stock market because they consider it similar to gambling or taking too much of a risk with their hard-earned money. With volatility on the rise in our current climate, more investors are pausing to consider the risk they are taking with their investments and whether they should be so bold.

The idea of losing more than they can afford to in advance of their retirement weighs heavier on them than the possibility of capitalizing on the money they invest. Sadly, this type of behavioral bias--fear and herd mentality--can do more harm than good.

Key Questions for the Long-Term Investor

Focusing on what you can control can lead to a better investment experience.

Whether you’ve been investing for decades or are just getting started, at some point on your investment journey you’ll likely ask yourself some of the questions below. Trying to answer these questions may be intimidating, but know that you’re not alone. Your financial advisor is here to help. While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list it will hopefully shed light on a few key principles, using data and reasoning, that may help improve investors’ odds of investment success in the long run.

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1. What sort of competition do I face as an investor?

The market is an effective information-processing machine. Millions of market participants buy and sell securities every day and the real-time information they bring helps set prices.  This means competition is stiff and trying to outguess market prices is difficult for anyone, even professional money managers (see question 2 for more on this). 

This is good news for investors though. Rather than basing an investment strategy on trying to find securities that are priced “incorrectly,” investors can instead rely on the information in market prices to help build their portfolios (see question 5 for more on this). 

Lessons for the Next Crisis

It will soon be the 10-year anniversary of when, in early October 2007, the S&P 500 Index hit what was its highest point before losing more than half its value over the next year and a half during the global financial crisis.

Over the coming weeks and months, as other anniversaries of major crisis-related events pass (for example, 10 years since the bank run on Northern Rock or 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers), there will likely be a steady stream of retrospectives on what happened as well as opinions on how the environment today may be similar or different from the period leading up to the crisis. It is difficult to draw useful conclusions based on such observations; financial markets have a habit of behaving unpredictably in the short run. There are, however, important lessons that investors might be well-served to remember: Capital markets have rewarded investors over the long term, and having an investment approach you can stick with—especially during tough times—may better prepare you for the next crisis and its aftermath.

Mind Over Model

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Checking the weather? Guess what—you’re using a model. While models can be useful for gaining insights that can help us make good decisions, they are inherently incomplete simplifications of reality.

In investing, factor models have been a frequent topic of discussion. Often marketed as smart beta strategies, these products are based on underlying models with limitations that many investors may not be aware of.

To help shed light on this concept, let’s start by examining an everyday example of a model: a weather forecast. Using data on current and past weather conditions, a meteorologist makes a number of assumptions and attempts to approximate what the weather will be in the future. This model may help you decide if you should bring an umbrella when you leave the house in the morning. However, as anyone who has been caught without an umbrella in an unexpected rain shower knows, reality often behaves differently than a model predicts it will.

Most Valuable U.S. Companies Over 100 Years

HOW MUCH DOES THE BUSINESS WORLD SHIFT IN A CENTURY?

Today’s visualization comes from HowMuch.net, and it uses Forbes data to show how the list of the top 10 companies in the U.S. has evolved over the last 100 years.

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Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Over 2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart

ALL MAJOR POWERS COMPARED BY GDP FROM THE YEAR 1 AD

Long before the invention of modern day maps or gunpowder, the planet’s major powers were already duking it out for economic and geopolitical supremacy.

Today’s chart tells that story in the simplest terms possible. By showing the changing share of the global economy for each country from 1 AD until now, it compares economic productivity over a mind-boggling time period.

Preparing Essential Documents Before Your Child Goes off to College

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Preparing for college is exciting and expensive. Any parent who has painstakingly spent hours in Target and Bed Bath and Beyond finding the perfect dorm sheets, blankets, refrigerator, desk and lamp among the countless other items you’ll likely buy along with those, can tell you that sending a child off to college is not just emotionally draining it is financially draining. While you are making these important purchases to ensure your child is well-prepared and comfortable in her or his new living environment, there are some legal documents that need to be prepped as well.

Ranked: The 10 Wealthiest Countries in the World

According to market research company New World Wealth, the world has accumulated $215 trillion in private wealth, a 12% increase over the last year.

Incredibly, the vast majority of this wealth – about 73.5% – is held by just 10 countries:

Teaching Financial Literacy from Grade School to Grad School

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As a parent and a financial advisor it has always been important to instill the value of financial knowledge and to encourage other parents to teach their children to understand the fundamentals of good financial decision making.

Unfortunately, lessons in money management can fall by the wayside and by the time kids are starting to make their own money choices they do not have the tools to avoid costly mistakes.

I think it is an enormous oversight that schools don’t even teach the basics such as how to pay bills or why interest rates matter. Sadly, we will not likely see a shift in the education system anytime soon so, it must be left up to parents and guardians to teach financial literacy to their children. Ultimately, it is you who will benefit from having a responsible grown up who doesn’t need to borrow money from you or live over the garage due to poor money choices.

The Future of Artificial Intelligence, According to Pop Culture

Storytellers of all kinds have long been fascinated by the possibilities artificial intelligence offers humanity.  Movies and books have given us a window into possible realities both good and bad resulting from the rise of the machines.
 

Today’s infographic from BBC Future provides an entertaining take on these scenarios, organized by potential likelihood.

The Future of Food: How Tech Is Changing Our Food Systems

The urban population is exploding around the globe, and yesterday’s food systems will soon be sub-optimal for many of the megacities swelling with tens of millions of people. Further, issues like wasted food, poor working conditions, polluted ecosystems, mistreated animals, and greenhouse gases are just some of the concerns that people have about our current supply chains. Today’s infographic from Futurism shows how food systems are evolving – and that the future of food depends on technologies that enable us to get more food out of fewer resources.