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Making Your Money Count

This week Dave discusses an often-overlooked aspect of Social Security – how are your benefits taxed?!


  1. Equity Markets – were positive in this shortened trading week with U.S. stocks (S&P 500) up 0.61% while international stocks (EAFE) rose 1.05%

  2. Fixed Income Markets – also saw gains this week with investment grade bonds (AGG) up 0.26% while high yield bonds (JNK) gained 0.42%

  3. Yellen Discusses Global Tax Deal – Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with the other G-7 countries in London this week to discuss the initial agenda on forming a universal global tax deal, with hopes of coming to an agreement at the Group of 20 meeting in July. Meanwhile domestically President Biden pitched his idea for a minimum 15% tax rate on corporations and strengthened IRS enforcement efforts.

  4. Oil Rally – Following an upbeat assessment of future oil demand by OPEC in their meeting this week, oil rallied up to $68/barrel with the group also announcing a production increase in July. Oil also saw a boost from the decision on Iran being allowed back on the market being pushed until at least August.

  5. Key Insight – [VIDEO] This week Dave discusses an often-overlooked aspect of Social Security – how are your benefits taxed?! [ARTICLE] This week’s written article includes both a review of the “highlights” of Washington state’s new long-term care tax as well as a great piece from Nick Murray on how focusing on the resilience of dividends can lead to a healthier mindset that can help improve overall performance as well.


Investors understandably focus on the stock market’s returns, but there is far more to building, and maintaining, wealth than staring at S&P 500 levels. Taxes, properly insuring your family (not just under-insuring but also avoiding salesman tempting you to over-insure) and managing one’s mindset are all critical pieces.

This week I am hoping to bring you a little nugget on each of these topics. We start with the video above touching on the taxation of Social Security and end with the article below that includes some key points to consider regarding WA state’s new long-term care tax, as well as a timeless piece from Nick Murray that hopefully helps you view your portfolio in a new and healthy way.

I hope you find them most useful and that you all have a wonderful weekend!

Dave and the team at TEN

A. State of WA New LTC Tax – What You Need to Know

As I discussed in our last week’s video commentary, there are some important details you need to know about the new state of WA LTC tax.

1. Why did it come into existence?

As we see an aging population in our state, along with the need to back-stop Medicaid, it’s simply a way to back-stop the potential for future care in our state. Jay Inslee, and our state reps in favor of this tax, are looking to secure tax revenues for these future needs.

2. What is it?

  • It’s a 0.58% Payroll tax on your Gross Income (W2 wages, Bonuses, Commissions, RSU’s, etc.). That’s equal to a $580 annual tax liability for every $100,000 of income you make.

  • It’s effective January 1st, 2022, unless you opt out with qualifying coverage in place by November 1, 2021.

  • Employees can opt out with equal or better coverage in place, the self-employed can simply opt out.

  • What is the coverage – A lifetime $36,500 benefit (or more simply put $100 per day benefit for 12 months).

  • This only covers the working spouse who has paid into the system, not their spouse or children.

  • The benefits are not portable out of the state of WA (I.e., if you retire out of state there will be no benefit based on today’s legislation).

3. Who should consider opting out?

  • The obvious one is higher earners – There may be much better options out there for you simply due to the nature this tax is not capped. For example, if you make $500,000 as a household annually, you are looking at a $2,900 annual tax. In 10 years, that is close to $30,000 that you may be able to re-position into a product that could give you significantly more LTC coverage with full control over your asset (and potentially a return of premium to your estate if you don’t use it).

  • If you plan to retire out of state – As of right now, this tax does not provide a portable policy out of the state of WA.

  • Retiring before you are vested – If you plan to retire within the next 5 or so years.

  • Self Employed – Right now you can simply opt out of the tax, but it may be a good idea to consider LTC planning as part of your long-term financial plan.

Please feel free to contact us with any additional questions, or to find out if you have options for your personal financial situation. Remember, don’t make big financial decision out of fear but rather a long-term financial strategy. We look forward to chatting soon! 

B. Comments about "On the Resilience of Dividends" by Nick Murray

I have loved, and used this article, for a few years now. You’ve all heard the old cliches about “staying invested” and “be a long-term investor” that the industry loves to throw around but how?! Being an investor is tough, and as Tim has touched on many times in these pages before, our brains are hard-wired to NOT respond constructively to tough markets – which is why we spend so much time and effort helping give you tips and mindsets you can lean on (in addition to us of course) during those times.

To that end, the piece below shares another great way to view your portfolio that has been a help to myself and many of my clients. As Mr. Murray states in the article “you don’t take your account statement to the supermarket.” Our natural temptation is to employ a myopic focus on the daily account value of our long-term investment balances and be sucked in to 24-hour financial news media cycle driven by fear-mongering and “click bait” headlines/soundbites. As he covers so well below, it is likely a far better use of our time and energy to focus more on the consistency in our dividend production as a critical component of our long-term growth and income plans. In so doing we may experience far less knee jerk emotional reactions to market swings, a healthier investing experience and even improved returns.


On The Resilience Of Dividends - AT THE TURN OF THIS YEAR, in this series of little essays, I wrote one titled “You don’t take your account statement to the supermarket.” It was a meditation on dividends—the cash payments made by corporations to their shareholders—as an income stream which has, for the last six decades and longer, grown at a very significant premium to inflation.

Just since 1960, while the Consumer Price Index was compounding at about 3% per year, the cash dividend paid by the S&P 500 Index grew from $1.98 to an estimated $49.73 in 2017, a compound annual growth rate of 5.76%.

Far from being a statistical abstraction, this fact has important implications for the retirement income investor, whose basic financial challenge must be to cre­ate an income stream which has some historical chance of offsetting rising liv­ing costs. In my essay, I suggested that retirement investors—who tend to focus overwhelmingly on the stability of their principal—might also wish to spare some attention to the issue of income growth through dividends.

When the full-year estimate of the 2017 dividend cited above was published in January by Dr. Aswath Damodaran of NYU’s Stern School of Business, I looked into the dividend issue a bit further. You can too, by clicking (or googling) “S&P earnings history—NYU Stern _” _to find the chart I’m about to quote from.

In addition to confirming a divi­dend growth rate approaching twice the long-term inflation rate, a deeper look at dividend trends suggests that, at least since 1960, (a) the dividend has rarely gone down from one year to the next; (b) on those rare occasions, the decline was relatively minor; and (c) perhaps most important to the re­tirement investor, dividend cuts dur­ing bear markets in stock prices have tended to be much less severe than the price declines themselves.

To this last point, consider the two most recent (and also deepest) post-WWII bear markets in stock prices, those of 2000-20002 (S&P 500 Index down 49% peak to trough on a closing basis) and 2007-2009 (S&P 500 down 57%).

As you’ll see from the chart, in the first instance the full-year dividend actually peaked in 1999 at $16.71, and troughed in 2001 at $15.74. (It was already rising again in 2002.) The total decline over the two years was about six percent, in sharp con­trast to the Index, which virtually halved.

In the global financial and economic conflagration of 2007-2009, the divi­dend kept rising into 2008, when it peaked at $28.05. It troughed the fol­lowing year at $22.31, a total decline of 20.5%. This is by far the largest decline in dividends on the chart, as indeed the Great Recession was the worst econom­ic contraction of the post-WWII era. Even I would not suggest that a 20% decline in one’s investment income would have been insignificant to a re­tiree. But again, see it in the context of a 57% price decline in the Index. (And note that, since its trough, the Index’s dividend has more than doubled.)

Why have cash dividends been stickier to the downside than stock prices? Well, I think it’s at least in part because com­panies hate having to cut them almost as much as investors hate having them cut. But you’ll also note, in the last column of the chart, that Index companies in the aggregate have been paying out less than half their earnings in dividends. (In 2017 it was actually less than 40%.) This sug­gests that even when corporate earnings take a hit in a business slowdown, com­panies may not immediately experience commensurate pressure on their ability to maintain the dividend.

Whatever the reasons, the more one gets into the dividend history of main­stream equities, the less they seem histori­cally to have exhibited as much volatil­ity as have stock prices. This leads one ever-so-gently to suggest that perhaps if we checked our actual dividend income every 90 days instead of checking our account balances every 90 minutes, we might become better investors.

© April 2018 Nick Murray. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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