Archive - May 2008

1
An Investment That Seemed too Good to Be True – Because It Was….
2
What’s an Index? – An Introduction to Market Indices
3
Can You Really Take a Social Security Benefit, Pay It Back, and Then Get A Bigger Benefit?
4
What do municipal bonds and 529 plans have in common?
5
The Sage of Omaha says, “Buy Index Funds”

An Investment That Seemed too Good to Be True – Because It Was….

An Investment too Good to be TrueThere is a warm place in the Bostonian heart for locals who have become famous (or notorious, at least). One such was Charles Ponzi, the colorful fraud who emigrated to Boston in 1903 with a couple of dollars in his pocket and managed to become a millionaire by 1920 (before he got caught). Although he did not invent the “Ponzi Scheme,” he carried it off with such flair that when it recurs – as it does fairly often – it is invariably referred to by his name. The Associated Press reported recently that the SEC has frozen the assets of

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What’s an Index? – An Introduction to Market Indices

When I meet with a prospective client for the first time, I try to explain a little about my approach to investments. On a couple of occasions when I’ve mentioned “index mutual funds,” someone has asked me, “what’s an index?” I’m always happy to get this kind of question; such questions help me remember that not everyone on the planet is a personal finance geek (and that’s a good thing).

The Earliest US Market Index

The idea of a market index, in the US at least, apparently began with Charles Dow, the founder of the venerable Wall Street Journal.  He …

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Can You Really Take a Social Security Benefit, Pay It Back, and Then Get A Bigger Benefit?

An idea that seems to have gained a lot of attention through an article by financial journalist Scott Burns is worth examining. Basically, the idea is this: you retire at 62 and apply for Social Security benefits, which are reduced because you’re retiring early. Then, at age 70, you withdraw from Social Security, pay back the benefits you’ve received, and reapply. Now you receive a much bigger Social Security check.

Normally, if you start taking Social Security benefits at a certain age, your benefit level is locked in from that point forward, although you get cost-of-living adjustments.  You forfeit the …

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What do municipal bonds and 529 plans have in common?

The Supreme Court is considering an appeal to Kentucky versus Davis, a lawsuit that could have an impact on the state tax treatment of both municipal bonds and some state 529 plans.

As described in this article from the Wall Street Journal (also available here as an excerpt from the Albany Times Union, if you don’t have access to the WSJ site), the case is a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs argued that it is unlawful for a state to provide a tax exemption for its own bonds while not providing the same exemption for out-of-state municipal bonds.  Kentucky’s …

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The Sage of Omaha says, “Buy Index Funds”

Buffett Agrees - Invest in Index FundsThe question of whether one should use a passive investment strategy (in which you buy an entire market index) vs. an active strategy (in which you try to figure out which specific securities will outperform and invest in those) is one that can produce passionate responses. Express a strong opinion in favor of one dogma or the other in the midst of a bunch of financial types, and a brawl may ensue.

So it’s interesting to hear that Warren Buffett, who has made his fortune and reputation as an active investor, has publicly opined that index funds can be a …

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