Should You Donate $3 to the Presidential Election Campagin Fund?

Every year you are asked by your tax preparer (or your software) if you want to donate $3 of your federal tax to votethe Presidential Election Campaign Fund.  Do you know where this $3 comes from or where it goes?

If you select YES, $3 of your total federal tax liability is diverted from the U.S. Treasury to the campaign fund for qualified presidential candidates - most of this goes to the primary candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties. It was created to reduce dependence upon contributions from private parties. They can then spend the dollars on campaign advertising, travel, or for their staff.

While checking the YES box does not increase your personal tax, it does reduce the amount of receipts of the federal government - which may increase your tax in the future.  You can learn more at http://ow.ly/tu99c

Capture More Valuable Tax Deductions

untitledTwo Great (Free) Apps for Tax Time Here are two free smartphone apps designed to help you capture, and audit-proof your tax deductions.

It's Deductible (by intuit)

The makers of TurboTax, Mint.com, and Quicken created an application that helps you capture the full value of your non-cash charitable contributions. The app can also be used for tracking your cash contributions and mileage. 

Shoeboxed

This app is an easy way to capture all business related deductions (especially useful when traveling). Receipts can be instantly added to the app via the smartphone app. This not only eliminates the paper, but allows for easy expense report creation. This app also has a built in mileage tracker.

Historical Facts Support Faith in the Future

The visually powerful and educational four-minute video below is a 200-year summary of the incredible progress of the world. It is from Hans Rosling, a physician who cured paralytic disease and co-founded the Swedish chapter of Doctors Without Borders. He is currently a professor of international health and has compiled an amazing amount of UN data into something truly useful and devoid of politics and emotions.

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A Look Back - 4 Investors over 5 Years

The U.S. stock market has just completed an almost five-year bull market, finishing with not only its best year since 1997, but a startlingly wonderful month and final day of the year.  Despite all the uncertainties that we faced (the government shutdown, Boston bombings, the Syrian uprisings, debt ceiling debates, NSA revelations, the lingering economic aftershocks of superstorm Sandy, nuclear standoff with Iran) people will look back at 2013 as one of the most profitable years—but only for the disciplined and confident investor.

The actual realized lifetime returns earned by investors has far more to do with what they do than with the investments they select. In other words, investors are far more important than investments. For example, even if you are the best fund picker, if you were out of the market in 2013, this fund picking ability wouldn’t have made a lick of difference to your actual realized returns.

Two years ago, in my cover article of this newsletter titled “A Look Back”, I looked at the performance of several typical investors since the 2008 bear market had begun.  Now that it has been five years, I thought it was time to see how four of these investors have fared: Panicked Pete, Tim Timer, Nervous Nelly, and Disciplined Debby.

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The Disconnect Between the Market and News Events

In 2013, there was much to worry about. Not only did we start the year headed off the fiscal cliff, but interest rates rose, bonds got hammered, tax-rates climbed, and the government shut down. YET equities soared with YTD U.S. stock returns the highest seen in a decade. This has been an excellent lesson in the disconnectedness of news and market returns.

One year ago, did you have a desire to "get out" of the market...or at least not do any equity purchasing? If so, it was certainly understandable to have those reservations. However, doing so would have been a shame because 2013 has been a record-breaking year for equities.

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@MallardAdvisors