Tips From Donna (January 2017 Wesban Monthly)
by Donna Gordon on February 15th, 2017

​GROWTH, VALUE, OR BOTH

The terms growth and value are often used to describe two different investment strategies, yet many investors may want both qualities in an investment. Famed investor Warren Buffett put it this way in a 2015 interview: "I always say if you aren't investing for value, what are you investing for? And the idea that value and growth are two different things makes no sense.... Growth is part of the value equation."1
Even so, analysts may look at specific stocks as offering more growth potential than value, and vice versa. And these concepts are used to construct many mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). So it's helpful to understand the opposing ideas, even if you want the best of both in your portfolio.
Poised to grow?
As the name suggests, growth stocks are associated with companies that appear to have above-average growth potential. These companies might be on the verge of a market breakthrough or acquisition, or they may occupy a strong position in a growing industry.
Growth companies may place more emphasis on reinvesting profits than on paying dividends (although many large growth companies do offer dividends). Investors hope to benefit from future capital appreciation of growth stocks, which tend to be considered higher risk than value stocks. However, it's equally important for growth and value stocks to have strong fundamentals.
Undervalued?
Value stocks are associated with companies that appear to be undervalued by the market or are in an industry that is currently out of favor. Unlike growth stocks, which might seem expensive and overvalued, value stocks may be priced lower in relation to their earnings, assets, or growth potential.
Established companies are more likely than younger companies to be considered value stocks, and these firms may emphasize paying dividends over reinvesting profits. An investor who purchases a value stock typically expects the broader market to eventually recognize the company's full potential, which may result in rising share prices. One risk with this approach is that a stock considered to be undervalued because of legal or management difficulties or tough competition might not be able to recover from the setback.
Focused funds
Identifying specific growth or value investments requires time, knowledge, and experience to analyze stock data. A more convenient and accessible way to add growth or value stocks to your portfolio may be through mutual funds or ETFs that focus on these categories. Such funds often have the word "growth" or "value" in their names. However, there could be a wide variety of objectives and stock holdings among funds labeled growth or value.
Also keep in mind that you might find growth, value, or both in a broad range of investments that do not employ growth or value strategies.
Diversification
Holding growth and value stocks and/or funds is one way to diversify the stock portion of your portfolio. Over the past 20 years, the average annual return for value stocks was about 1.5 percentage points higher than that of growth stocks (8.54% versus 7.02%). Yet growth stocks outperformed value stocks in eight of those years — in some years by large margins. This suggests that growth and value stocks may respond differently to varying market conditions.2
Diversification is a method used to help manage investment risk; it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.
The return and principal value of stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs fluctuate with changes in market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Supply and demand for ETF shares may cause them to trade at a premium or a discount relative to the value of the underlying shares.


KEY RETIREMENT AND TAX NUMBERS FOR 2017

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces cost-of-living adjustments that affect contribution limits for retirement plans, thresholds for deductions and credits, and standard deduction and personal exemption amounts. Here are a few of the key adjustments for 2017.
Retirement plans
Employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans can defer up to $18,000 in compensation in 2017 (the same as in 2016); employees age 50 and older can defer up to an additional $6,000 in 2017 (the same as in 2016).Employees participating in a SIMPLE retirement plan can defer up to $12,500 in 2017 (the same as in 2016), and employees age 50 and older will be able to defer up to an additional $3,000 in 2017 (the same as in 2016).
IRAs
The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $5,500 in 2017, with individuals age 50 and older able to contribute an additional $1,000. For individuals who are covered by a workplace retirement plan, the deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for the following modified adjusted gross income (AGI) ranges:
  2016 2017Single/head of household (HOH) $61,000 - $71,000 $62,000 - $72,000Married filing jointly (MFJ) $98,000 - $118,000 $99,000 - $119,000Married filing separately (MFS) $0 - $10,000 $0 - $10,000
The 2017 phaseout range is $186,000 - $196,000 (up from $184,000 - $194,000 in 2016) when the individual making the IRA contribution is not covered by a workplace retirement plan but is filing jointly with a spouse who is covered.
The modified AGI phaseout ranges for individuals making contributions to a Roth IRA are:
  2016 2017Single/HOH $117,000 - $132,000 $118,000 - $133,000MFJ $184,000 - $194,000 $186,000 - $196,000MFS $0 - $10,000 $0 - $10,000
Estate and gift tax
The annual gift tax exclusion remains at $14,000.The gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount for 2017 is $5,490,000, up from $5,450,000 in 2016.
Personal exemption
The personal exemption amount remains at $4,050. For 2017, personal exemptions begin to phase out once AGI exceeds $261,500 (single), $287,650 (HOH), $313,800 (MFJ), or $156,900 (MFS).
These same AGI thresholds apply in determining if itemized deductions may be limited. The corresponding 2016 threshold amounts were $259,400 (single), $285,350 (HOH), $311,300 (MFJ), and $155,650 (MFS).
Standard deduction
These amounts have been adjusted as follows:
  2016 2017Single $6,300 $6,350HOH $9,300 $9,350MFJ $12,600 $12,700MFS $6,300 $6,350
The 2016 and 2017 additional standard deduction amount (age 65 or older, or blind) is $1,550 for single/HOH or $1,250 for all other filing statuses. Special rules apply if you can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.
Alternative minimum tax (AMT)
AMT amounts have been adjusted as follows:
  2016 2017Maximum AMT exemption amountSingle/HOH $53,900 $54,300MFJ $83,800 $84,500MFS $41,900 $42,250Exemption phaseout thresholdSingle/HOH $119,700 $120,700MFJ $159,700 $160,900MFS $79,850 $80,45026% on AMTI* up to this amount, 28% on AMTI above this amountMFS $93,150 $93,900All others $186,300 $187,800*Alternative minimum taxable income


HOW CAN I PAY OFF THE CREDIT CARD DEBT I RACKED UP OVER THE HOLIDAYS?
​

It's a common occurrence once the holiday season winds down — you reluctantly look at your credit card statement and wince at all the purchases you made over the holidays. Fortunately, there's no need to panic. Consider using one of the following strategies to help pay it off.
Make a lump-sum payment. The best way to pay off credit card debt is with a single lump-sum payment, which would allow you to pay off your balance without owing additional interest. Look for sources of funds you can use for a lump-sum payoff, such as an employment bonus or other windfall. However, most individuals find themselves getting into credit card debt due to a lack of cash on hand in the first place, so this may not be an option for everyone.
Pay more than the minimum due. If it's not possible for you to pay off your balance entirely, always be sure to pay more than the required minimum payment due. Otherwise, you'll continue to carry the bulk of your balance forward without actually reducing your overall balance. You can refer to your monthly statement for more information on the impact that minimum payments will have on your credit card balance.
Prioritize your payments. If you have multiple credit cards that carry outstanding balances, another payoff strategy is to prioritize your payments and systematically pay off your credit card debt. Start by making a list of your credit cards and prioritize them according to their interest rates. Send the largest payment to the card with the highest interest rate. Continue making payments on your other cards until the card with the highest interest rate is paid off. You can then focus your repayment efforts on the card with the next highest interest rate, and so on, until they're all paid off.
Transfer your balances. Another option is to transfer your balances to a card that carries a lower interest rate. Many credit card companies offer highly competitive balance transfer offers (e.g., 0% interest for 12 to 24 months). Balance transfers may enable you to reduce interest fees and pay more against your existing balance. Keep in mind that credit cards often charge a fee for balance transfers (usually a percentage of the balance transferred).




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