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Tax Efficient Investing: Taxable Accounts vs Tax-Advantaged Accounts

Investment income all has tax implications, we cannot simply ignore taxes if we want to maximize our returns on investments. Taxes in general is complicated, so my goal is to educate myself with some of the most basic guidelines to help myself make better investment and trade decisions.

Some of the tax-efficient investment strategies I learned (and remember to write on here) are:

  • Tax-efficient investments can go into taxable accounts, for example, municipal bonds, which generally have tax-free income, can be good in taxable accounts.
  • Stocks are also tax-efficient in taxable accounts.
  • Active stock funds (or mutual funds) with high turnover rate should go into tax-free accounts and tax-deferred accounts to minimize taxable income.
  • Buy and hold, the less trading you make on your investments, and if you hold over a year, you pay capital gains at either 15% or 20%.
  • Taxable bonds and bond funds should first go into a tax-advantaged accounts such as 401K and IRA. If there’s still room in those accounts, place actively managed stock funds there. And then, next is ETFs and index funds. Lastly, you can add individual stocks that you plan to hold long term over to those tax-advantaged accounts.

Investments best for taxable accounts vs tax-advantaged accounts

Taxable Accounts Suited ForTax-Advantaged Accounts Suited For
Stocks you plan to hold over a yearStocks you plan to hold less than a year
Passively managed funds such as index funds, ETFs as well as international fundsActively managed funds including mutual funds that may generate capital gains distributions and any high turnover funds
Tax-free bonds such as municipal bonds that are not subject to federal or state taxesTaxable bonds and any high yield corporate bonds
Low yield money market and any qualified dividends from stocksReal Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Peer-to-peer (P2P) Lending
Certain commodities such as physical gold and silver ETFs

Cost basis methods and the default method by brokerage

Also, did you know that by default the cost basis of your brokerage accounts are FIFO (First In First Out)? And, by default cost basis of mutual funds uses the average costs method but IRS allow you to change to actual costs method?

I used to sell all of the quantity of individual stock at a time (although I rarely sell since I trade long term) but most recently started to sell specific shares by lots. I can choose to sell shares with the highest costs and least gain first if I wanted to minimize tax for the year.

So to sell shares by lot, choose “sell specific” option when you trade instead of just the “sell” option. Depending on which brokerage you use, you can either change the cost basis method on your account online through their website or simply by giving them a call.

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Warren Buffett's Investing Advice

Best Low-Cost S&P 500 Index Funds (Based On Warren Buffett’s Investment Advice)

Warren Buffett has been quoted for years saying that the best investment for average investors is to invest in low-cost index funds. Just google and you will find plenty of business and investing websites writing about his advice like in the following articles:

But, what exactly are the index funds he recommends? He recommends low-cost index funds that specifically tracks the S&P 500 index. Low-cost S&P 500 index funds are passively managed mutual funds and ETFs which carry minimal expense ratio or fee.

So, what are the best low-cost index funds? In this article, I share with you 6 of the best low-cost S&P 500 index funds that you might want to consider adding to your retirement portfolio. Here I provide you with side-by-side comparison to help with your research. You can then decide which funds make sense for your investment.

S&P 500 Index (Mutual) Funds

VFINX, FXAIX, and SWPPX all track the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, one of the most widely watched benchmarks for U.S. stocks. With these 500 stocks in the funds, you basically own about 80% of the market capitalization of the entire United States.

These funds are considered large-blend category and has the ultimate core large-cap stock holding. They are low-cost index funds because of their low expense ratio. Index funds are a type of passive investment unlike regular mutual funds that are actively managed by fund managers.

Index FundVanguardFidelitySchwab
TickerVFIAXFXAIXSWPPX
Fund NameVanguard 500 Index Fund Admiral SharesFidelity 500 Index FundSchwab® S&P 500 Index Fund
Expense Ratio0.04%0.015%0.02%
Minimum Investment$3000$0$0
Dividend Yield1.86%1.56%1.69%
1 Year Return14.06%13.8%14.06%
Number of Holdings515509509

S&P 500 ETFs

While index funds are just as low cost as ETFs, index funds are traded as mutual funds – priced only after market closes and ETFs traded like stocks intra-day. Below are some of the most popular ETFs which track the S&P 500 index.

To learn more about the difference between low cost index funds and ETFs, also check out this post:

ETFVanguardSPDRiShares
TickerVOOSPYIVV
Fund NameVanguard S&P 500 ETFSPDR S&P 500 ETF TrustiShares Core S&P 500 ETF
Expense Ratio0.03%0.09%0.03%
Minimum Investment$0$0$0
Dividend Yield1.71%1.69%1.98%
1 Year Return14.02%13.95%13.74%
Number of Holdings515506509

Can you buy mutual funds or ETFs at another online brokerage?

You can absolutely buy Vanguard funds at Fidelity. You don’t have to open an account with Vanguard in order to buy their mutual funds or ETFs. The same applies to all the funds listed above.

Just to be extra caution, I suggest you still check for any commissions, fees or loads and any charges imposed by your broker before you trade.

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transfer assets to another brokerage

Transfer Assets from Wealthfront to Fidelity

I have been a Wealthfront customer for a few years now and continue to be, but I decided to transfer part of my investment there over to Fidelity.

Why I moved from Wealthfront to Fidelity?

While maintaining my Wealthfront investment with a relatively high risk tolerance at 9.0 (risk parity) and manage to earn about 21% average of gains, I feel I can achieve better performance picking funds on my own. Especially during the most recent market sell-off in March 2020, I saw Wealthfront investment as volatile as my self-directed stocks and even when the market has recovered, my Wealthfront investment barely beat the S&P 500 performance.

Besides, I prefer some flexibility in choosing the asset class to invest in and what not, which Wealthfront as a robo-advisor can only gives a diversified portfolio including the asset classes they have bundled. To be specific, I would have opted out natural resources asset class if I could.

For the lack of performance as well as lack of customization, I decided to move away from Wealthfront into a more DIY brokerage account like Fidelity.

How to consolidate investment accounts without triggering tax?

Since I didn’t want to create a taxable event this year and wanted to keep some of the funds anyways, I chose not to liquidate. I learned that I could transfer in-kind (meaning as-is) between different brokerage accounts. My plan is to sell off funds that I no longer want to keep and consolidate the rests with similar funds I also have in my Fidelity accounts.

I heard some brokerages charge a transfer or closeout fee, but fortunately both Wealthfront and Fidelity don’t. So if you’re considering a brokerage transfer, make sure to check with your new and old brokers first.

How long does it take to transfer assets between Wealthfront and Fidelity?

I initiated the transfer request online on a Friday, the 13th afternoon. Fidelity sent the request on the same day for review.

The request was completed on the following Tuesday, which was the 18th. (although the status tracker initially showed a due date of Thursday, the 20th)

Fidelity dashboard showed the new shares on Wednesday.

So, the transfer request takes about 5 days, not counting weekend.

Are the cost basis info transferred?

Yes, the cost basis will be transferred but according to Fidelity Help page, it may take up to ten days after the transfer. I have waited at least 5 days for the cost basis data to show and until the cost basis is passed, the shares are listed as margins temporarily.

What’s the process to transfer assets from Wealthfront to Fidelity?

The process is really straightforward. I didn’t even make any phone calls to support from either brokerage firms (Although, it is recommended to contact them first to make sure all securities can be transferred and no fees will be incurred either side).

All I did was initiate the process online on the receiving broker end, they validate eligibility of all the securities to be transferred, submit to Wealthfront for review.

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see the light

10+ Job Search Tips To Getting Hired During A Pandemic

These job search tips pertain to seasoned professionals as well as recent graduates. I have gone through job search, applications and interviews multiple times in my 15+ years of professional life including a layoff.

As a hiring manager for startup companies and big corporations, I hope to share what I have learned throughout my career to help you get hired and land your next job especially in this challenging time.

1. Have the right mindset

Mindset is your greatest asset

Having the right mindset is absolutely crucial in the whole job search process. If you started out thinking no company is currently hiring during coronavirus, then you probably will not feel like applying and that just closes out any potential opportunities and possibilities. On the other hand, know that there are companies that are still hiring and you keep on with your effort to job hunt, it will eventually pay off in one way or another even landing your dream job.

Patience & Persistence: keys to successful job search

Job search is a long and exhausting process that needs a lot of patience and persistence. Don’t let any negative thoughts discourage you to the extend that you give up any hope. Being motivated is important and while the process might be slow, trust that taking small steps will lead you to your goal.

Be open to change

As someone who was laid off before in my first job after 4 years with the company, I have to say that it turned out to be one of the best things that happened to my career. It led me to my second job with a startup company where I made many lasting friendships and met my mentor. It’s cliche but true is the saying,

2. Know what you want

Cope with a layoff

If you have recently been laid off, it’s normal to feel disappointed and may even feel a sense of betrayal. Before diving into job searching though, take the time to cope with the feeling of disappointment and acceptance and recovery first. While going through the different stages of grief for the job loss, ask important questions about what you want to do, what you are good at as a way to discover yourself. The clearer you know what you want the better you will be at achieving your goals.

Increase clarity to achieve your goals

With the said, not everyone knows what they want and what their purpose are in life; some discover themselves over time and some never will.

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shopping list stock up for quarantine emergency

Coronavirus Quarantine Checklist: What To Stock Up At Home?

This is slightly off topic for the blog but it’s relevant to what’s currently going on. As I was looking for a shopping checklist to help people stock up for emergency, I couldn’t find a well organized list. So I created one here for you.

While we all should stock up necessities during this quarantine period, remember to buy only what you need for a month. Let’s not think only for ourselves but for others too. Stock up, but don’t hoard!

If you plan to order groceries delivery, order a week or weeks ahead. Depends where you live, the availability and schedule might be all taken up at least several days out.

Below is my suggestion of essential items to stock up for a family, you may not need to buy everything, get what you need as per your usual.

Food

Dry Food

  • Bread
  • Breakfast Cereals
  • Jam & Spread (strawberry jam, marmalade, nutella)
  • Cookies & Crackers
  • Pancake Mix & Syrup
  • Baking Mix (brownie, muffin, cake, etc.)
  • Oatmeal & Instant Oatmeal
  • Cocoa Milk Powder

Staples

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Grains
  • Noodle & Instant Noodle
  • Soft Taco

Pantry

  • Sugar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Ketchup
  • Flour
  • Cooking Oil

Canned Food

  • Soups
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Canned Fruits or Vegetables (corn, beets, etc.)
  • Spam or Tuna

Frozen Food

  • Breakfast Waffles & Pancakes
  • Toaster Strudel & Tarts
  • Meatballs or Fish Sticks or Hashbrown
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Pizza or Pizza Rolls
  • Ready Prep Meals
  • Desserts & Treats (cheesecake, butter cake, etc.)

Fresh Food

  • Fruits (bananas, apples, grapes, mandarins, strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
  • Vegetables (cabbage, carrots, radish, etc.)
  • Garlic & Onions & Ginger
  • Potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Meats (beef, chicken, pork, ground beef or pork, etc.)
  • Seafoods (Frozen Shrimp, Fish, etc.)
  • Sausages & Hotdogs & Ham

Dairy

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Butter

Kids Food

  • Granola Bars
  • Goldfish
  • Chips & Snacks
  • Popcorn

Beverages

  • Water
  • Juices
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soda

Personal Care

  • Soap (handsoap, body soap, etc.)
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Toiletries (toilet paper, paper towel, toothpaste, etc.)
  • Feminine Hygiene (menstrual pads)

Cleaning

  • Dishwash Detergent
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Disinfectants & Wipes

Medications

  • Prescription Refills
  • Medicines (cough drops, cough relief, pain relief, fever reducer, etc.)
  • Multivitamins or Supplements
  • Bandaid

Baby Supplies

  • Baby Food & Formula
  • Diaper
  • Wipes

Pet Supplies

  • Pet Food & Treats
  • Cleaning Supplies

Did I miss out anything else essential? Stay safe and healthy!

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best things to do during coronavirus quarantine

Top 10 Things To Do (Or You’ll Regret Not Doing) During Coronavirus Quarantine

We are experiencing unprecedented times and events in our lives right now but there’s nothing that we cannot overcome collectively. Together we will get through this and beat this virus as well as the fear and market turmoil it sparked.

While we are doing our part to social distance from potentially spreading virus unknown to us, there are things we can do to best utilize time at home that we will be glad we did once the pandemic is over. Here’s a list of things we can all use our time for while we go about our lives as normal as possible.

Disclaimer: Please note that when you purchase through affiliate links, I may earn a referral commission, which helps to run this blog, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

1. Stay home to flatten pandemic’s curve can save lives

By the time a given community has a confirmed case of coronavirus, it is highly likely that as many as 1000 people already infected. In order to contain the virus, we cannot wait until a confirmed case to start staying home.

Given the spread and cases growing rapidly at global scale, the least everyone can do to help flatten the curve is by staying at home. It is to protect yourself, your family, your community.

Even you think you are healthy and won’t get sick, think about the difference you make by not spreading the virus to more people. Let’s protect others who are vulnerable to this virus especially seniors and people with medical conditions.

2. Stock up on necessities but don’t hoard

Many cities around the world have ordered self-isolation or quarantine or even lockdown. To lessen the need to go out for essential or grocery shopping, every household should start stocking up necessities.

In California where we live, I think we’ll need to stock enough for about a month given the quarantine order has already been in place.

Stock up to the amount that you need, but don’t selfishly hoard unnecessarily out of fear.

Supermarkets that we go to have started putting limit for essential foods and household goods, we are limited to 2 bottles of 1 gallon milk of any kind per household.

While I know we will easily run out of milk since my 3 year old drink at least 32oz daily, we just have to adapt to this new circumstances and make adjustments ahead with or without alternatives.

3. Stay healthy and reduce stress

While we all are practicing social distancing and staying at home all day, it is important that we continue to stay healthy. That means keep your exercise routine but do it indoor.

Cook at home and eat nutrition foods.

Avoid binge watching that compromises sleep at night, because sleep is the #1 most important thing you need that boost your immune system in order to stay healthy.

If you are sick, for the sake of people around you in your house as well as anyone outside when you do go out, wear a mask.

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when to buy Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet stock

When To Buy Mega-Cap Tech Stocks In This Market Sell-Off?

Thought this was an interesting take of the stock prices on the AAMG mega-cap tech companies. I never followed any market analyst advice on what prices to buy and own a specific stock. Most analyst don’t even feel confident enough to take a position when it comes to stock prices and how low is low but Craig’s report showed his resistance and level of confidence at the same time I thought was worth keeping eyes on for what I could possibly learn from this.

Market Analyst Craig Johnson said on CNBC’s Trading Nation on Monday (Mar 17th, 2020).

On Microsoft:

“… if we see this stock pull back to say the $140 or $132 level area, you’ve got a lot of support down there from a long-term chart perspective. And if you’re a long-term investor, this is where you want to buy it,”

On Apple:

“He notes that the $225 level would present an opportunity to buy, a 10% drop from where it currently trades. It has not traded at those levels since September.”

On Amazon and Alphabet:

“Amazon and Alphabet also have potential if they see a bigger drop. He identifies the $1,700 level for Amazon and $1,000 for Alphabet as buy spots.”

Read the full article here: This is when to buy Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet stock from CNBC.

He also shared his thought about Tesla back in Dec 2nd, 2019.

On Tesla:

“Tesla’s multiyear chart shows that Tesla’s stock has for the most part traded between roughly $240 and $385 per share.”

Johnson said he was looking to take money out of the stock at the current level (in December) and wait for shares of Tesla to revert back to the lower end of the trading range at $290 or below before becoming a buyer.

It seems we are going back to that trading range once again as the stock continues to plunge.

Read the full article here: Here’s where the pros would buy in for Tesla from CNBC.

The information here is for informational purpose only and should not constitute financial or investing advice. I am not a finance professional.

What are your thoughts on this or the whole stock market right now? No matter what’s going on in the market, the most important thing now is to stay healthy. With good health, we human is capable of overcoming any adversity.

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investment-plan-to-prepare-for-kids-college

Setting Clear Investment Plan To Save For Kids College In Volatile Markets

The stock market downturn in the past 2 weeks serve as a good reminder that the stock market is risky and volatile. It’s not a wake up call per se because going into this type of investment we know all along that it always carry a high risk. But, we invest anyways because it provides the highest potential returns. However, as much as we make the informed decision to invest, it is important that we make as much of a plan about our investment strategy.

Invest for the long term

While I am not too overly concerned about this round of bear market or crash (although my total equities have just dropped $50K on paper), I think it’s still a good chance to reassess our financial goals. I intend to write down our plans in a way that we can stick to over the long term and note actions we need to take now as well as in the foreseeable future.

Plan an exit ahead of using the fund

Technically, I have as far as 24 years from retirement, but personally I would ideally prefer to retire in less than 10 years. For bear market that happens so often in every 3-5 years, we have to keep on riding out the market ups and downs and keep investing with the long term in mind. Plan an exit ahead of any need to use the investment fund.

Even though reaching my retirement age is still a long way to go, we are not that far off from having to cash out some of that savings to fund our first child’s college education. It’s coming up in the year 2026. And then 4 years after in 2030 our second child will go to college, and then 4 years later in 2034 our youngest child will also too.

Diversify investment types

Among different types of investments, I have to admit that we aren’t that well diversified. For example, we are currently not investing in real estate (other than our primary residence) at the moment, although we had done that in the past. It is a consideration and option down the road though. For now, just between stock market investment and cash in savings, that is probably how we will rebalance our asset allocations for the near future.

Ways to pay for kids college

I think it would be a dream if all our childrens’ college education are funded by scholarships. If not, the second best scenario would be subsidies from their employers, if they managed to land on any work-study type opportunities. Otherwise, we will most likely have to tap into a combination of our investment accounts with some student loans, if we don’t want to touch neither IRAs nor 401K which will be needed for retirement.

Below are several ways for students to afford college:

  • Scholarships and grants (and financial aid)
  • Employer subsidies
  • Work-study opportunities / paid internships
  • Student research positions
  • College savings / 529 plan
  • Parents savings / investments
  • Federal student loans
  • Parents retirement (IRA, 401K, etc.)

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difference between market correction and bear market

What’s Market Correction, Bear Market and Recession?

We keep hearing about the words market correction and bear market being used on the stock market news a lot. If you are investing, you should know and understand these financial terms and their differences and not be surprised by them when they actually happen. As you will see below, these events do occur rather frequently.

The more you realize that they are common the better you can be prepared for how you manage your investment and retirement plans. The worst thing in investment can happen due to bad investing decisions out of either fear or greed. And lack of knowledge is usually the main cause of fear.

What is a market correction?

Market correction is defined as drop of 10% from the market peak. On average, corrections last 4 to 5 months and occur as often as every year (8 to 12 months). The market has had 22 corrections since 1945, 10 of the corrections within the last 20 years. The previous correction had ended in December 2018. The stock market loses, on average, 14% in a correction.

What is a bear market?

Bear markets is markets in which the stock or index has fallen more than 20%. On average, bear markets lasted 14 months and took 24 months to recover. There have been 12 bear markets since 1945 / WWII with average decline of more than 30%. The biggest decline was bear market of 2007-2009, which went into a great recession with stock market suffered slightly more than 50% drop.

What is a recession?

A recession is a period of negative economic growth that happened 2 consecutive quarters in a row that last more than 6 months. It goes beyond the financial markets as to effect the economy as a whole visible in GDP, unemployment, industrial production and sales. On average, recessions since WWII have lasted a duration of 10 months.

Market Crash & Bear Markets In The United States Since 2000

  • Dot-com bubble (Mar 10th, 2000): Collapse of technology bubble.
  • 911 attacks (Sep 11th, 2001): September 11 attacks caused the global stock market to drop sharply.
  • Stock market downturn of 2002 (From Mar 2002 with dramatic decline in July and September):
  • Bear market of 2007-2009 (Oct 2007 – Mar 2009): DJIA, Nasdaq and S&P 500 all suffered declines of over 50%.
  • Financial crisis 0f 2008 (Sep 16th, 2008): Largely due to subprime loans (provisions of loans to people who may have difficulty maintaining repayment schedules.

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invest-in-yourself-and-your-future-career-options

Invest In Yourself And Your Future Career (Part 2)

Whether we reinvent ourselves after 40 depends on individual’s happiness level. For somebody who is perfectly happy with what they do every day and would be as excited to continue do that for the next 5 or 10 years, you may not need to reinvent yourself. But even if you don’t need to reinvent yourself, it is still important to invest in yourself. I’d like to think of it as a constant need as a way to be fulfilled in order to not feel empty as a human being on earth. Invest in yourself and you can invest in others.

If you haven’t checked out the part 1 of this Ultimate Guide To Investing In Yourself (2020): Personal Development, please start there first and then come back to the part 2 here. When talk about investing in yourself, we must look at all aspects of our lives because the key to living a fulfilled lives is when balance and harmony is reached. Not every aspects will be equally great, that’s not the point but at least maintaining some balance without neglecting some part of yourself.

Remember this:

So with part 1 all about Personal Development, which I dedicated the whole post to that alone, the next parts include career, health (physical), mindset (mental), wealth and relationship. Career being the focus of this specific post for now. Below are some ideas we can implement to help expand our future possibilities.

Career

Having a meaningful career is critical in feeling a sense of purpose. Our professional life and personal life when equally satisfying will increase the level of our happiness. If you are on a job that you dread about going to do the work every morning, it’s time to reassess your why and figure out something that you like to do instead that will also pay the bills.

For people who has built a career they love now can still be looking at ways to either boost their current career or future career to stay ahead. Investing in yourself not only improve your career options but also increase your lifetime earning power.

1. Start a side job / freelance / business

Do you have a desire to switch career at some point? Perhaps to leave a 9 to 5 job. Or a desire to start a side job or freelance or business.

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