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The Most Charitable Time of the Year

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charitable time of the year

Is the end of the year the most charitable time of the year?

Is this the most charitable time of the year?

As we get closer to the end of the year, my mailbox is filling up with requests from charities for donations. It is, after all, holiday gift-giving season. Since we’re in the latter part of December, it’s a little late, but better late than never.

Most charitable giving is done by individuals, and I would not be surprised if many are given at the end of the year when the holidays put us in a donative spirit. It is a fact, according to Giving USA, a publication researched by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, that most donations (72 percent) are from individuals (2016 data).

Foundations account for another 15 percent, with giving by bequest (8 percent) and corporations (5 percent) completing the picture. Thirty-two percent of charitable contributions were made to the religion category, 15 percent went to education, and 12 percent went to human services, according to Giving USA.
In a study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy completed in October 2017 using IRS data at the ZIP code level, 75 percent of itemized charitable giving in 2015 came from households earning $100,000 or more. This was up from a little more than half 15 years prior.

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, we are reminded that charitable donations can be tax-deductible to some extent.

The new tax plan may dissuade some who are motivated by tax deductibility.

Sean Parnell, vice president of public policy at The Philanthropy Roundtable, said in a statement following the passage of the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that “95 percent of taxpayers will be unable to deduct charitable contributions from their income under the bill as a result of doubling the standard deduction.” His organization estimated that this would cause charitable contributions to decline between $12 billion and $20 billion. Individuals donated $281.86 billion in 2016, according to Giving USA.

No matter what the incentive for a possible charitable gift, how do you know who is a worthy recipient of your largess? Assuming you are a researcher, let me tell you about a website called Charity Navigator. The site lists and rates charities for what I call “exceptionalism.”

While many charities are profiled on the site, Charity Navigator prominently lists its “Perfect 100,” charities with perfect scores on the site’s two main metrics, which I’ll discuss shortly. These are charities that “execute their missions in a fiscally responsible way while adhering to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities.”

Sixty-five charities have perfect scores for “financial health and accountability and transparency,” the two metrics that are reviewed for scoring.

Financial health is determined by assessing seven factors, four of which fall under financial efficiency performance metrics (program expense percentage; administrative expense percentage; fundraising expense percentage; fundraising efficiency) and three financial capacity performance metrics (program expenses growth; working capital ratio; liabilities to assets ratio).

These are numeric measures that are converted to a score ranging between 0 and 10.

Accountability and transparency metrics are shown as a checklist rather than a numerical result.

A charity either has independent voting board members or it does not. Same with having a conflict-of-interest policy and a process for determining CEO compensation.

Here are a couple of examples from the list:

The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International has a mission to “advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace.” As one example of its programs, it is known for funding exchange-student programs around the world.

Another Perfect 100 is the Greenville Humane Society, which operates a no-kill facility for animals in South Carolina.

Where can you turn to judge charities not rated by Charity Navigator? We’ll talk about some resources next week.

One final thought: If you are over 70 1/2, you may receive a solicitation this month from your favorite charity to make a gift to it directly from your individual retirement account (IRA). You may use your required minimum distribution (RMD) for this purpose, but be careful. You need to follow the IRS’ “qualified charitable distribution” (QCD) rules — and you have to act quickly so that your RMD is withdrawn before the end of the year.

You can find more information on QCDs in IRS Publication 590-B, “Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).”

 

* * *
Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn.) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments ([email protected]). To hear Julie speak, visit www.juliejason.com/events.

(c) 2017 Julie Jason.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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US Housing Sales Boom Will Last Until 2021

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Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman told CNBC on Thursday that he sees the US housing sales boom will last until 2021. Total US Home sales increased 9.4% in September, surpassing estimates. Meanwhile, median prices went up 15% year over year. This is according to data provided by the National Association of Realtors.

RELATED: Biden Is Latest Dem to Support Ridiculous Free Housing Proposal

Shares of Redfin, a real estate brokerage firm, were higher by 1% Thursday to $45.60. The stock more than doubled during this year. It now has a market cap of $4.5 billion. 

Why do people buy houses during a recession? 

During this time when the economy is reeling and jobs are tight, people buy homes. Why? There are a couple of reasons.

The bigger acceptance for remote work freed many people from living in the city. The opportunity to leave cramped apartments and expensive city living. The pandemic gave enough reason for workers to pack up and head for greener pastures. Next, interest rates are going down hard. From 3.7%, 30-year mortgage rates are now 2.9%, the lowest rates ever. Despite higher prices, people know this is the best time to buy on the cheap. 

The intent is there. The pandemic allowed you to work anywhere. And interest rates allow you to pay the lowest interest rates. People are taking the plunge and buying. So what’s the problem? We’re running out of houses to buy. 

Demand coming from the rich 

Rich professionals who can work from home are the reason for the uptick in housing demand. Kelman said that many remote workers moved from major cities to distant suburbs. Kelman said these workers began “taking a permanent vacation where they’re working from those homes.”

People are taking advantage of low-interest rates to snap up homes. Kelman noted that “part of what is fueling this boom is that the economy has just split into two and rich people are able to access capital almost for free.” The opportunity to buy homes for cheap may be too much to resist. “Of course, they’re going to use that money to buy homes,” he added.  

Meanwhile, there’s another group of people who would like to buy but can’t. Kleman said:  “There’s just another group of Americans who are still struggling, who can’t access the credit because we’ve raised credit standards, and you have high unemployment. I just think those two trends, at some point, have to collide.” 

Kelman foresees demand to continue until 2021 at least. Many undecided buyers will buckle down next year and take the plunge. He said: “There’s no way it can last forever. This level of demand is absolutely insane. I would expect it to last into 2021, at least.” Why 2021? “There are so many people now who have decided they’re not going to be able to buy a home by year-end,” he said. Kelman expects them to buy next year, “as their kids shift school districts. I do think we’re going to see this for some time.”

Shrinking inventory of houses for sale

With homes fast disappearing from the market, higher purchase prices are coming back. Based on data from the National Association of Realtors data, only 2.7 months’ supply of houses is available last month. This represents the lowest level since 1982 when the NAR began tracking data. 

Kleman expects supply to increase after the elections. Uncertainty will decrease after voters elect a new president. Listing and selling a home can take months to process. That’s why sellers have a lower risk tolerance than buyers. “Buyers, when they see a house they love, they pounce,” he said. “I think the sellers are just looking long term in the economy and still feeling some anxiety. Many of them are going to put their homes on the market in January and February.”

Demand won’t last forever  

The Wall Street Journal’s Justin Lahart thinks not everybody can live outside the big cities. A remote job in a vacation spot may pose difficulties for some. Winter conditions may also make some remote workers rethink their strategy. He also believes that the housing boom now made people buy houses sooner than later. He thinks many of the workers who moved to the suburbs would’ve done so in a few years. When the pandemic subsides, a smaller group might follow the exodus out of big cities. 

The number of people who can afford houses will shrink as well. Many workers’ careers derailed during the year. Many millennials got burned during the financial crisis in the early 2000s. Now, a new career-threatening crisis is in full swing. The post-coronavirus landscape may depend on how well the economy rebounds. We’ll have next year to find out.

Watch this as CNBC reports on the US housing sales boom. Redfin CEO Says “people are buying vacation homes, then taking a permanent vacation:

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Business

Market Volatility Rises As Election Polls Show Tightening Race

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Market Volatility Rises As Election Polls Show Tightening Race

The relatively calm markets earlier this month are giving way to more volatility as we approach the election. This is according to a team of strategists at JPMorgan.

“While it is perhaps true that during the first two weeks of October risk markets were supported by a widening of US presidential odds, which by itself implied a lower probability of a close or contested US election result, over the past week or so these odds have started narrowing again,” said a team of strategists at JPMorgan Chase, led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou.

According to recent polls by RealClearPolitics, in key battleground states, Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads President Trump by 3.9 percentage points, 49.1 vs. 45.2. That lead has shrunk from a 5 percentage point advantage for Biden about a week ago.

A general election nationwide poll by RCP shows a wider 8.6 percentage-point lead for Biden. However, there are many who feel those polls are not correcting for sampling bias.

Polls Inaccurate?

MarketWatch recently interviewed Phil Orlando, the chief equities strategist at Federated Hermes. There, he said he doesn’t believe the polls accurately reflect how close the race is. In relation to this, he pointed to the surprise win by Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“Our base case is that the polls are wrong, there’s an oversampling biased error that a lot of polls aren’t correcting for,” Orlando said.

With a tightening race for the White House, volatility has returned to the market. It will also likely increase in the final two weeks leading up to the election.

A report put out yesterday by SentimenTrader showed that the CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, jumped to levels last seen during the Great Financial Crisis, and tends to rise as stocks fall as it is typically used as a hedge against market downturns.

Market analysts use the ratio to measure how speculative traders are getting. A rise in the put/call ratio means that investors are expecting plenty of volatility between now and November 3.

The VIX, which measures investor bullish or bearishness on the S&P 500 for the next 30 days, is currently near 29, well above its historical average between 19 and 20. This week alone the VIX jumped 6.3%.

Source of Volatility

Jeffrey Mills, the chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust, said some of the volatility likely comes from investors trying to position their portfolios based on who they perceive will win the election.  “There could be some front-loaded selling but I do feel like that’s a near-term phenomenon,” he said. But he says no matter who wins, there’s really only one place to invest, and that’s the stock market.

“There is going to be this continued pull toward equity markets — where else are you going to go when you need to earn a certain percentage to fund retirement, fund education?”

If investors are moving money today based on who they think will win the election, Daniel Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas Securities said each candidate will likely benefit different sectors.

A Biden victory will be good for stocks in the infrastructure, renewable energy and technology sectors, said Clifton.

If President Donald Trump is reelected, Clifton said there’s “huge upside” in some sectors. These include defense, financials and even the for-profits like prisons, education and student loan lenders.

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Automobiles

Tesla Keeps Streak Intact, Posts Profitable 3rd Quarter

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The winning streak continues Tesla posts a profitable 3rd quarter, it’s fifth consecutive. The EV company posted a net profit of $331 million for the three-month period ended Sept. 30. Tesla also confirmed its goal of delivering 500,000 vehicles within the year. CEO Elon Musk calls the latest quarter as Tesla’s “best quarter in history.” The company posted a record of $8.77 billion in revenue against estimates of $8.28 billion. This is an increase of 39% from a year ago. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected sales of $8.28 billion. Shares went up over 3% at about $438 in after-hours trading. Since January, Tesla shares have grown 500%.

RELATED: Tesla To Sell New Stock To Raise $5 Billion Capital

500,000 Deliveries on Target

Despite the pandemic, the company will proceed with its original goal of 500,000 cars in 2020. In a statement, Tesla affirmed its goal. “While achieving this goal has become more difficult, delivering half a million vehicles in 2020 remains our target,” it said. This entails building more cars at its Shanghai factory, and improvements in logistics and delivery.

Earlier in October, Tesla reported 139,593 vehicle deliveries in the quarter. This places the 500,000 targets is within reach. Model 3 and Model Y took up the bulk of deliveries and growth during the period. The more expensive Models S and X dropped by 12% compared to 2019. As such, Tesla started slashing prices for its higher-end models to increase demand. The Model S reduced its prices twice to $69,420.

China Remains the Crucial Market

China remains the key market for Tesla’s profitable 3rd quarter. Tesla’s auto sales in China climbed nearly 13% in September, their sixth straight monthly gain. The company’s Shanghai Gigafactory raised production due to demand. Demand for the Model 3, especially in China, led to a retooling. From 150,000 units per year, it now handles 250,000.

China’s “Golden September, Silver October” is the country’s high point in car purchases. Sales reached 2.57 million vehicles last month. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said that sales were still down.  For 2020, 17.12 million vehicles got sold, which is 6.9% below last year. 

Electric vehicles enjoyed brisk sales during the period. Sales increased by 67.7% to 138,000, which is the third straight month of gain. Tesla reduced its Model 3 prices by 8%, down to 249,900 yuan ($36,805).

Based on September sales, the momentum looks to carry over to October. Haitong International analyst Shi Ji expects even better numbers this month. He said: “Based on our dealer channel checks, the growth in momentum extended into the October Golden Week, as retail sales exceeded dealers’ expectations”

A Decrease in Credit Sales

While revenue rose, regulatory credits fell down from $428 million to $397 million. Ben Kallo of RW Baird observed that “Regulatory credits are a big part of the EPS beat. But that’s part of the game: Tesla’s competitors are paying them, and Tesla is reinvesting that into their factories in Berlin and Texas.”

Tesla generates extra income by selling credits. Manufacturers buy these credits to comply with carbon-emissions standards. They come from all over California, Europe, and other areas. Investors prefer seeing profits from the core business of selling cars. A Bloomberg analyst thinks that the S&P snub might be due to credit sales. Analyst Michael Dean noted “question marks about the sustainability of regulatory emission-credit sales, which are currently underpinning earnings.”

For 2021, Tesla aimed for even more increases in production. This includes its all-electric semitrailer truck and its pickup truck. The company hopes to get more cars out of its China factory. It also expects its newest plants in Berlin and Texas to start churning cars. Musk estimates the 2021 production could reach 840,000 to 1 million vehicles.

The company also laid out plans during its recent “Battery Day” event. Musk announced that the company will start making its own “tabless” batteries. These batteries improve the cars’ range and power. The improvements will help bring down the cost to produce a car. Soon, Tesla hopes to launch a vehicle priced under $25,000.

Watch this as Yahoo! Finance reports on Tesla earnings: Tesla posts a profitable 3rd quarter, it’s fifth consecutive and EPS estimates:

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