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Buffett Recommending S&P Index Fund A Mistake, Says Berkshire Shareholder

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Buffett Recommending S&P Index Fund A Mistake, Says Berkshire Shareholder

In an article earlier this week, we posed a simple question: has Warren Buffett lost his touch?

Mark Hulbert, of the Hulbert Financial Digest, says skeptics are being “unfair” on Buffet. Hulbert adds that anyone suggesting he’s lost his touch should cool their heels. He says Buffett hasn’t lost money in the last 10 years. He also mentions that nobody beats the market all the time.

Others, like Howard Gold, a columnist at Marketwatch, points out that Buffett has been “profoundly underperforming” against the S&P 500 and most of his recent deals have been duds.

Buffet Gives Advice

But what irks one investor, in particular, was Buffett’s advice that the average investor should just buy an S&P index fund.

Buffett’s comment came during the Berkshire Hathaway conference call, when he stated “In my view, for most people, the best thing to do is to own the S&P 500 index fund.”

That may be practical advice for the vast majority of Americans. However, Tony Scherrer, a CFA at Smead Capital Management, says that Buffett’s comment completely goes against his own advice.

Scherrer believes that by recommending an S&P index fund, Buffett is telling investors to buy the exact type of companies that he himself has spent his career avoiding.

Specifically, a quote from the 2007 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter, where Buffett says:

“The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money.”

Scherrer takes each part of the statement and points out where Buffett contradicts or simply ignores his own advice. He starts with:

“The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly…”

The S&P 500 has 21% of its weighting in just five stocks: Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alphabet. Scherrer points to research by David Kostin at Goldman Sachs that shows these top five names have an expectation of revenue growth of 14% over the next two years, and trade at 28x the forward two-year earnings average. The other 495 stocks in the index are expected to grow revenue much slower, at 4% over the next two years, but also trade at a much lower 14x the forward two-year earnings average. In other words, buying the S&P index fund means paying twice as much (28x vs. 14x) for a handful of stocks that are growing rapidly.

“…requires significant capital to engender the growth…”

Netflix, Amazon and Facebook are among the heavily weighted stocks in the index, and Scherrer says they are all burning through significant amounts of money to keep growing.

“Netflix’s cost for its content has mushroomed from $4.5bn five years ago to an expected $15bn in 2020 and will have to continue to expand to operate its business. Amazon… recently announced a $4bn increase in costs associated with safety of its workers and protection in its warehouses on the heels of its deficiencies… Facebook’s recent quarter included a 34% increase in expenses year-over-year to a whopping $46.7bn, as its cost to acquire new customers and increased regulatory expenses spiked.”

“…then earns little or no money”

Looking at the numbers, Scherrer says ”Netflix burned $3.1bn in free cash flow last year and must persistently ramp that up to attract and retain subscribers. Amazon’s flywheel generated an eye watering $280bn revenue number in 2019, but operating profits for everything outside its cloud business came in at a measly $5.3bn. You currently pay 68x forward price-to-earnings for Netflix, 126x for Amazon, and 28x for Facebook.”

Buffett of the Past v.s. Buffett of the Present

Scherrer believes that if 2007 Warren Buffett met today’s Warren Buffett, there’s no way he would allow him to buy an S&P index fund that is highly concentrated into a handful of stocks that are high growth, capital incinerators that earn very little money.

But 2007 Warren Buffett would probably be most appalled that 2020 Warren Buffett would be selling airlines stocks. That means at some point, Warren Buffett thought investing in airline stocks was a good idea.

In the same 2007 shareholder letter, Buffett outlined what “The Great, the Good and the Gruesome” businesses look like. Buffett described a “gruesome” business by using airlines as an example.

Incredibly, he described them as “The worst sort of business is one that grows rapidly, requires significant capital to engender the growth, and then earns little or no money.”

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5 Little-Known Ways To Lower Your Taxes

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5 Little-Known Ways To Lower Your Taxes

Everyone loves to pay lower taxes, but very few people understand or take advantage of all the tax breaks that are available to them. Here’s a list of 5 little-known tax breaks that you can use to help lower your tax bill.

1. Pay No Capital Gains Tax

If you sell an asset you’ve owned for more than a year, you pay long-term capital gains tax of either 0%, 15% or 20%. This is a favorable tax treatment when compared to selling assets you’ve owned for less than a year, which are taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income.

But, it’s possible to pay no capital gains tax when selling your long-held assets like stocks and bonds or mutual funds. In order to pay no capital gains tax, your taxable income needs to be less than $39,375 if you are single or $78,750 if you are married when filing your 2019 taxes. For the 2020 tax year, those numbers jump slightly to $40,000 and $80,000.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit

This program directly benefits those with low-to-moderate incomes, and particularly those with children. A single filer would need an adjusted gross income of $15,570 or less to benefit, but for a married individual with three children, the adjusted gross income limit is as high as $55,952. In certain situations where your EITC benefit exceeds the amount of taxes you owe, you would receive a tax refund.

3. Deduct Your Retirement Account Contributions

If you are putting money aside in a traditional IRA as part of your retirement plan, you can contribute up to $6000 per year. If you aren’t part of a retirement plan through work – like a 401(k) – you can deduct all of your contributions no matter what tax bracket you are in. Non-working spouses (or spouses making very little income) can contribute up to $6,000 ($7,000 if 50 or older) into their own IRA account as long as the working spouse has enough earned income to cover both contributions. There are limits to the deductions as income increases, so check with a tax adviser.

4. Saver’s Tax Credit

If you are a single filer with adjusted gross income less than $32,000 (or $64,000 if married) you claim a tax credit (a credit, not deduction – more on this in a moment) of 10%, 20% or 50% of the first $2,000 you put into a retirement account ($4,000 for married filers). The lower your income, the higher the credit amount. Unlike a deduction that lowers your taxable income, a credit reduces the amount of taxes you owe on a dollar-for-dollar ratio. So a $2,000 tax credit reduces your taxes by $2,000.

5. Lifetime Learning Credit

If you are interested in continuing your education, you can utilize the Lifetime Learning Credit. This allows you to go back and study nearly any topic, at any school, you can get back 20% of up to $10,000 in expenses per year. The income limits are $68,000 for single filers and $136,000 for married filers. Now go back and enroll in that art class you always wished you had taken!

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Trump Says Economy ‘Roaring Back’ in June As 4.8 Million Jobs Added

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Trump Says Economy ‘Roaring Back’ in June As 4.8 Million Jobs Added

The economy added back 4.8 million jobs last month, according to the government’s June jobs report released yesterday. That handily beat the 3.7 million jobs forecasted by economists and dropped the unemployment rate down to 11.1%.

After the report was released, President Trump said the economy was “extremely strong” and “roaring back” after the country has regained more than 7.5 million jobs in the last two months. Trump added that the economy will keep growing unless voters elected Democrat Joe Biden in November. He said Biden would raise taxes and hurt the economy and the stock market would “drop down to nothing.”

Jobs Added

Of the jobs added back in June, bars and restaurants hired – or rehired – 1.48 million workers. This comes as many reopened for outdoor dining in the early phases of the reopening. They brought back a similar number of workers in May. It happened after shedding more than 6 million jobs due to the pandemic.

The retail sector regained 740,000 jobs, healthcare added back 358,000 workers, and manufacturing saw 356,000 jobs added.

The energy sector continues to be battered by low oil prices amidst the economic slowdown. Additionally, that industry shed an additional 10,000 jobs last month.

The return of lower-paying jobs like those found in the restaurant and hospitality industry dragged down the average hourly wages for the second straight month.

Many are cautioning against reading too much into reports like average hourly wages while the economy is in such turmoil.

Stephen Stanley, chief economist of Amherst Pierpont Securities, says, “The wage figures will be pretty much useless for a long while until the labor market gets back to some semblance of normality.”

Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist of the job site Glassdoor, also gave an explanation. He added, “Today’s positive jobs report does provide a powerful signal of how swiftly U.S. job growth can bounce back and how rapidly businesses can reopen once the nation finally brings the coronavirus under control — a reason for optimism in coming months.”

Looking Forward

Unfortunately for many of the workers recently rehired to work in bars and restaurants, the recent spike in new coronavirus cases could lead to those jobs quickly being lost for a second time. Bars in many states are being shut down again in an effort to curb the growing number of cases.

The unemployment rate fell for the second straight month. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is trying to fix a reporting error that, if corrected, would increase the unemployment rate by 1%.

The problem is how households respond to the monthly survey that is used to calculate the unemployment rate. The jobless rate would have been 1 point higher if not for continued problems in how respondents answer the question about their employment status.

What many consider the “real” unemployment rate, which is the U6 rate, includes workers who can only find part-time jobs. It also includes those who’ve become too discouraged to look for jobs because so few are available. Using that measurement, the unemployment rate stands at 18% in June, down from 21.2% in May.

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Trump Favors Larger Stimulus Checks, Says ‘Tremendous’ Market Crash if Biden Wins

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Trump Favors Larger Stimulus Checks, Says ‘Tremendous’ Market Crash if Biden Wins

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business News, President Trump mentioned his support for another round of stimulus checks and says should Joe Biden win the election in November, we should expect the stock market to crash “a tremendous amount.”

On Stimulus Checks

Speaking with Blake Burman, the president says he is in favor of another round of stimulus checks, but wants to make sure that there is a financial incentive for Americans to return to work.

“I support it, but it has to be done properly. I support actually larger numbers than the Democrats, but it’s got to be done properly. We had something where it gave you a disincentive to work last time. And it was still money going to people, and helping people, so I was all for that. But we want to create a very great incentive to work.”

Trump also mentioned he wants the checks to arrive quickly and spent quickly, without the Democrats adding complications.

“I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it, I want the money to get there quickly and in a non-complicated fashion. And they wanted to make it too complicated, also it was an incentive not to go to work,” said Trump.

Returning to work is what hard-working Americans are looking forward to, says Trump, and he wants there to be a financial incentive to do so.

“You’d make more money if you don’t go to work. That’s not what the country is all about. And people didn’t want that. They wanted to go to work but it didn’t make sense because they make more money if they didn’t… we want people to get out and we want to create a tremendous incentive for people to want to go back to work.”

On Biden and Taxes

When asked about Joe Biden’s recently announced plans to raise corporate taxes if he becomes President, Trump said “You’re going to crash the market. 401(k)s will be down the tubes, the wealth of the country will be down.”

He added “That will kill the market. It will kill everything we are doing, it will kill jobs, and it will be very bad. Frankly, the stock market is doing well, but it’s an overhang. If he got elected, and they say this, that’s an overhang over the market, because the market would crash. Would absolutely crash.”

When asked what he means by crash, Trump responded, “Markets would go down by tremendous amounts. He’d raise taxes, he’d raise regulations. Look, one of the biggest things I’ve done is I’ve cut regulations more than any President in history. We still have regulations, but they’re much less. His people, the people around him (Biden) are radical left. They’re going to raise taxes, they’re going to raise regulations, and they’re going to put everyone out of business. It would be a disaster.”

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