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Increase for Veterans Benefits in 2014

Increase for Veterans Benefits in 2014Washington DC – Veterans, their families and survivors receiving disability compensation and pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs will receive a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase in their monthly payments beginning January 1, 2014.

“We’re pleased there will be another cost-of-living increase for Veterans, their families and their survivors,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The increase expresses in a tangible way our Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices made by our service-disabled and wartime Veterans.”

For the first time, payments will not be rounded down to the nearest dollar. Until this year, that was required by law. Veterans and survivors will see additional cents included in their monthly compensation benefit payment.

For Veterans without dependents, the new compensation rates will range from $130.94 monthly for a disability rated at 10 percent to $2,858.24 monthly for 100 percent. The full rates are available on the Internet at www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/rates-index.asp.

The COLA increase also applies to disability and death pension recipients, survivors receiving dependency and indemnity compensation, disabled Veterans receiving automobile and clothing allowances, and other benefits.

Under federal law, cost-of-living adjustments for VA’s compensation and pension must match those for Social Security benefits. The last adjustment was in January 2013 when the Social Security benefits rate increased 1.7 percent.

In fiscal year 2013, VA provided over $59 billion in compensation benefits to nearly 4 million Veterans and survivors, and over $5 billion in pension benefits to more than 515,000 Veterans and survivors.

For Veterans and separating Servicemembers who plan to file an electronic disability claim, VA urges them to use the joint DoD/VA online portal, eBenefits. Registered eBenefits users with a premium account can file a claim online, track the status, and access a variety of other benefits, including pension, education, health care, home loan eligibility, and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs.

For more information about VA benefits, visit www.benefits.va.gov, or call 1-800-827-1000.

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Christmas Spirit

Mamma Cat Saves the Day

I was trying to find an appropriately humorous Christmas joke when I ran across this incredibly touching video about a mother cat in the Ukraine, who stopped for nothing to get her baby safely back home. For someone like me, who has no children of his own, the intensity of  a bond between a mother and her children has always been slightly mysterious and admittedly sometimes head-shakingly confusing. This little feline mother and her offspring has opened my eyes.

She never once wavered in the determination of what she needed to do. There was only one way to get back to safety for her child. And that’s what she focused on. Watch it. It’ll warm up your Christmas spirit.

Internal Revenue Service Scam Hits Close to Home

Internal Revenue Service Scam Hits Close to HomeMy cousin Sarah was the target of an Internal Revenue Service scam. She told me when she received a telephone voicemail, saying they were with the IRS, she called the number back.

The man who answered the phone identified himself as Officer Adam Scott, with the Internal Revenue Service. He told Sarah her full name and stated her correct home address.

He went on to explain that she had been audited for tax years 2010 and 2011, and that she owed $1,100.00. Scott made no mention of her husband’s name, who she files a joint tax return with, and that it would be turned over to the courts for prosecution… tomorrow.

Sarah told me he was aggressive and tried to intimidate her into giving him the personal information needed to withdraw the funds from her account; but since Sarah retired from the Marion County police department, all he accomplished was to make her mad and she gave him an earful! He even threatened to have someone at her front door within 45 minutes.

She reported this to the Ocala Police Department, where she lives, and was told their hands are tied unless they actually extort money.

It is important to SHARE THIS WARNING with others!

Apparently, this scam has been circulating since October and I found an press release on the IRS website, IRS.gov with more helpful information.

The Internal Revenue Service has warned consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail.

Other characteristics of this scam include:
-Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers.
-Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
-Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
-Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
-Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
-If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.

-If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

-If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.

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I Take Only What is Mine

This Hangs on the way to my bathroom. I see it several times every day

Entitlement is in the news, income inequality is in the news. Obama calls it “the defining challenge of our time” and all the internet search engines comply and rank his words number one in a search, as if this was never said before.

Actually he did so himself in a December 2011 speech when he  painted the 50s and 60s as a cherished time of value in America. Those who grew up in those years can challenge this perception of the truth by only reminding us of the treatment of blacks, women and migrant workers in those decades. Calling them a period of value is grasping at political straws.

In my all-time favorite Elton John song “Indian Sunset”, Bernie Taupin wrote: “I take only what is mine Lord, my pony, my squaw and my child.” On the wall in my music room hangs a painting I got for Christmas last year from the youngest daughter. It says “I take only what is mine”. I cherish that “home made” gift beyond any amount of money, because it has over the years become my life’s guiding principle. And no I don’t intend to get all political on you when I remind you of last year’s campaign fallacy when Obama preached the words “you didn’t build that”. I built whatever I built the hard way, the smart way and sometimes the ignorant way. And yes, every effort was supported by a facilitating infrastructure, and sabotaged by ever strangling government regulations and barricades.

As a generation we (the boomers) sold out for the “ignorance of greed” that we started adopting in the early 80s and have now perfected into a lifestyle of deserving. If you want to get a glimpse of what will come out of that attitude then watch this rather disturbing video where the woman portrays a real life poster model for the Age of Entitlement. Apparently by virtue of the fact that she vehemently believes it is her God-given right to be served Chicken McNuggets at 10:30 in the morning and, when disappointed in her demand, almost literally turns into a crazed zombie, singlehandedly making sure that the next chapter  for all drive-thru windows anywhere is going to include a taser under the counter.

And that over a fast food product that recently came in the news for containing less than 50% chicken meat while the remainder was a concoction of fat, blood vessels,nerve, connective tissue and ground bone.

Inequality Goes Viral

I know, like most of us, that politicians use, borrow or steal any good line or expression to make them look good in the eyes of the people but  with a substantial dose of irony I think this time Obama is trying to ride on the coat tails of an increasingly popular Pope in the Vatican, who addressed something similar several weeks ago. Good man that Pope, no doubt full of good intentions, but also barking up the wrong tree. Contrary to popular belief these days, I do think that capitalism is the only saving grace for humanity. I will need to explain that statement and I promise I will in a near future blog, but for the pope to use the words “the tyranny of capitalism” makes me want to point out that at the end of his reign, history will judge him only on the challenge to keep Roman Catholicism a world religion, not his record for political grandstanding on topics like income equality.

And Obama…oh he is probably just thankful that several shifts on other hot issues have taken the focus away from the “Affordable Care Act website debacle” for awhile and who knows maybe the next debt ceiling debates, Chinese airspace incidents or Syria compromises. Clear is by now that Obama’s presidency is over the board with no clear focus on dealing with a concentrated issue, work up a solution and then move on to the next. When writing this down I had to think about this wonderful video that shares not only talent and perseverance, but above all it embodies total focus and a paced yet determined execution of the process.

Lack of Focus however is not Obama’s personal problem; it is America’s problem.
It is the Culture of Entitlement that has caught this nation and much of the western world in a death knell of gigantic proportions, only covered up by the greatest debasement of a currency ever.

These days everyone is somehow entitled to something or another. And because everyone feels that their contribution to society and human progress is invaluable, an entitlement is justified over and above another person. And that how we as a nation, or if you will western society, have ended up eating our children and grandchildren’s lunch and dinner.

An entitlement comes in different shapes and forms and when contractually stipulated, an entitlement is absolutely and morally correct, albeit not always collectible! A lot like a judgement that is not collectible. Circumstances vary.
There are numerous songs, books, poems, movies that all play with the assumption that life is not necessarily fair, yet entitlements over recent decades have turned into something that apparently is written in blood; and in our current state I would say, with the blood of our children and their born and unborn children.

Over the ages financial and/or power status implied some entitlements.  Entitlements are often natural forms of respect, admiration or simply consideration. Getting up out of a seat for an older person in a train or bus is usually a consideration. Expecting to be served first because your car is the only $100,000 plus car in the parking lot cracks my facade. While I begrudge no one their wealth, per above, when someone begins to confuse wealth with entitlement, I have a problem… and so do they.

That said, I have come across any number of wealthy individuals who enjoy nothing more than lording their good fortune over the rest of humanity. More often than not, the wealthy who fall into this subset made their fortunes by being in the right place at the right time, for example dot-com millionaires and especially members of the lucky-sperm club.

In earlier sidelines of my life, I spent a fair amount of time hanging out with mirror on the wall street types, pseudo artists, purchased nobility and nouveau rich with a tendency to get coiffed in scented salons by people named Oscar at $500 a go.
In way too many cases, the source of their wealth could easily be traced back to university connections that landed them in the upper echelon of the equivalent of a pyramid scheme where, with hardly having to lift a finger, a fraction of a fraction of billions of dollars in transactions flowed daily into their Bond Street custom-stitched pockets.
I’ve learned that the inflatable wealthy not only expect full value for money, they want everyone to walk in their shadow to be of service and to cater to their every whim. Failure to show proper appreciation that you are in their company will, as sure as January 1 will ring in 2014, get you a dismissive sniff or, if it’s a bad hair day, a proper dressing down or worse

So where do we start with addressing entitlements. Where do we start telling President Obama that enough is enough, inspite of his new-awakened passion to alienate the wealthy into picking up their stretchers and move out in larger numbers than they already do these days. Well here is a rundown of what can be called today’s Entitlement Classes and their positions in the conflict.

Politicians
Politicians are most definitely an entitlement class all by themselves. If you have any problem accepting that then it’s time to understand what you pay Washington for the pleasure of being your elected leaders. They make exemptions in hated laws to benefit their own and once they decide that politics is no longer their passion they are a class of individuals entitled to a long list of benefits. Including—should they rise high enough within the political machine—ready access to private jets and a lifelong pension.

On a lower level, while lifelong pensions have all but disappeared in the private sector, by virtue of just showing up at the office each day for a few years, many bureaucrats become entitled to the equivalent of tenure and, upon concluding their “public service,” a comfortable pension.

Yuppies
Remember the term coming into existence in the early 1980? My God I had just landed in the US, ready to take on a new chapter in my life and the first words I heard a crazy twenty-something woman utter in a whiney voice at the luggage inspection was : “But I deserve it!” After the initial shock I quickly learned to find it entertaining when observing the yuppie’s antics as they attempt to argue a plane back on schedule, or explain to a hotel manager that they deserve entitled treatment. Of course it becomes human greed that supports this entitlement attitude after a $20 bill quickly changes hands.

In my opinion, and yes I could be wrong, this sense of yuppie entitlement comes from the near certainty that never before in the history of the world has there been a generation that has had things as soft and sweet as the yuppies/baby boomers.
I remember a colleague in my real estate company who had just received his first Diners Club Card sometime in the mid 1970s. He actually waved the card under the maitre-d’s face when walking into a restaurant to impress his importance!

Most of us have had a lifetime of prosperity and peace – at least no wars in the calibre of World War II)

We got to go to college if we were so inclined, and we were pretty much ensured gainful employment whether we went to college or not. Unfortunately, a large number of yuppies don’t fully appreciate what an historical rarity such a long period of peace and prosperity is. They will be in for a rough awakening as Pax Yuppie is rapidly coming to an end. Their future expectations, understandably based on past experiences, are likely to be somewhat disappointed .

But even so there is a vague awakening about life’s realities, they continue to feel entitled to a life path free of serious bumps, though the unnerving sound of footsteps approaching down the empty hallway scratch at the edge of their collective consciousness.

Old People
Over the last century, responsibility for the care and feeding of the elderly has been steadily transferred from families to society at large. This alteration of the social contract, though likely springing from good intentions, is manifested in the widespread attitude that the state should provide at least a baseline level of support for the elderly, even if the state can’t actually afford it.

This sense of entitlement is underscored each election day when the oldsters turn out in droves to reward politicians who confirm them in their benefits, and punish those that even hint at curtailing same.

The Poor
Like the elderly, over the past century the social contract was redrafted to include a long list of benefits for individuals who steadily fail to achieve a certain income threshold. Collectively, the number of programs and their reach is staggering. To provide just one example, upwards of 50 million people in the United States are now entitled to purchase their daily bread using debit cards linked to the public treasury.

And then there are the special groups of Entitlement Classes and yes I realize I will offend a bunch of people in the various societal groups that need to be addressed but I would love to bring your attention to your fellow citizens who use their specialness to demand special rights and entitlements even though we all seem to at least get a sense of where this all his heading. The following entitlement solicitors only represent a handful in a society that has turned entitled, no matter the financial consequences. Here are just a few…

Minorities
For example, though at its peak only 8% of American families owned slaves and the practice was terminated by constitutional amendment almost 150 years ago, many descendants of the slaves continue to believe they suffer trans-generational trauma and are entitled to government remediation programs without end. Entitlements here stretch into linguistic political correctness, but at least that usually does not carry a public price tag.

The forms the entitlements to minorities take vary from cold cash to preferential treatment in college admissions and a broad rainbow of other perks. Why, about a group of university graduate students consisting largely of people “of color” who apparently believe that their special status entitles them to be able to submit university-level work riddled with grammatical errors, protesting that being graded on grammar contributed to a “toxic racial climate.”

Sexual Orientation
A fairly substantial subset of the populace seem to want to define themselves based on their sexual preference. Live and let live, I say. But why it is that some think their sexual orientation entitles them to special treatment. Frankly that is something of a mystery to me. My close friends Ray and John who recently went to Massachussets to get married because Florida is such an ass backward state, once confided: We don’t want entitlements, just be treated like normal human beings with regards and respect.

Soldiers.
In the absence of the draft, no one is forced to sign up for military duty, yet upwards of 180,000 young men and women do each year. Yet once they’re no longer needed or decide to follow other pursuits, they remain entitled to certain benefits for life. Not particularly large benefits, mind you, but special hospitals and a variety of programs to provide support need to be staffed and kept in place to provide this at a substantial cost to the tax-payer, because it’s free to them.

And then of course there’s the top brass who are cosseted in a system of institutional sycophancy replete with nervous salutes from the rank and file, and wining and dining by members of the military-industrial complex. The generals feel entitled to their billion-dollar toys and, mostly, they get them.
Does anyone ever wonder what the dozens of helicopter rides between Mayport and Kings Bay cost and even more importantly if we’re looking at necessity or entitlement when they incessantly come whopping over our beach with doors open and cameras ready on a sunny summer’s day?

Pretty Much Everyone Else.
Unlike earlier eras when self-reliance was a highly valued character trait, these days the vast majority of people in the US and other developed countries expect the government to provide benefits and services to cure all that ails and then some. From housing subsidies, to cash for clunker programs, everyone is entitled.

Off the top of my head just a few examples:

• The government’s exertions to keep our borrowing affordable by suppressing interest rates.
• The provision of free education and subsidies for college.
• the creation of enormous bureaucracies dedicated to ensuring the safety of everything from cars to drugs to food.
• And, increasingly, widespread medical coverage, including cheap medicine.
• Artists, musicians, farmers
• Prisoners of certain crimes
• Paid leave for government workers

Of course I could go on for days, because the list of entitlements is nearly endless as they are directly connected to interest groups. Again, I’m not taking a position on the merits of specific programs, simply pointing out that they exist and have grown far out of proportion over the years. Taken collectively, they have created a self perpetuating culture of entitlement. In my mind I often compare it to a Website I innocently subscribed to several years ago called Care2.com. They originally hooked me with a request to help out in animal abuse cases. I detest animal abuse and the people that practice it, so I was an easy subscription target. Over time, and that is the quintessential word, this website turned into a “take-a stance-on-everything-but mostly-liberal” website without any consideration for financial responsibility, asking me to support their opinion on about everything mankind can screw up or have a skewed opinion on, often drooling with ignorance and presenting entitlement as a god-given right.
Let me make this clear: In my book we are entitled to nothing other than what we have worked for and saved.

How and where to go from here?

If you accept that live has been immersed in an Age of Entitlement — which is not only widespread but ultimately unaffordable and, therefore, entirely consists of undeliverable promises, benefits, services, etc., then you may want to start imagining a glimpse of what lies ahead. And if you think in terms of the Hunger Games, then you’re still daydreaming in terms of entitlements. So be forewarned when I fear that the following will be the guaranteed reactions of the previously introduced entitlement classes.

The Politicians.
In an attempt to remain in power and to protect their own entitlements, the politicians can be expected to strike an increasingly populist tone—it’s always been that way. In time, pushed by the entitled masses to do more than just talk, expect the politicians to take off the gloves and begin instituting every manner of harebrained scheme to milk any group of taxpayers lacking the numbers required to provide political cover come election time.

The Yuppies.
Given that this demographic group is now heading toward the pasture and have been scared stiff by the slow-motion collapse under way, they’re going to do everything in their power to ensure their entitlements stay intact. Which is to say they won’t show up to vote for any party that pledges, upon being elected, to cut said entitlements. Ironically, they will be voting for the very politicians who, as a core reelection strategy, will demonize them and seek to clean them out of a good percentage of whatever net worth remains to them.

Old People.
Old people vote in droves, and so they count to the politicians… at least for the time being, which means there will be no serious attempt to reduce the massive entitlements they now enjoy.

The Poor.
Given the proven political efficacy of populist appeals, the odds of any (successful) politician thumping the podium in favor of cutting welfare, reducing food stamps or school lunch programs, etc., is approximately zilch. Far more likely is that the politicians will try to shove the financial implications of additional entitlements onto the backs of businesses. Which, in turn, will result in those businesses buying robots and deploying software to reduce their workforce. Just think how many transportation workers will become unemployed when Amazon starts delivering 86% of their sales (packages 5 Lbs and less) with drones.

Meanwhile, encouraged by the politicians, the nation’s poor will be emboldened in demanding more… or else. For the record, the official poverty level in the United States, which is defined as being the amount of money needed to buy a “minimally adequate” basket of goods and services according to the living standards of the 1960s, is currently set at $11,720 annually for a single person, $14,937 for a two-person family, and $23,492 for a family of four.

The latest data show that about 46 million US citizens fall below those levels, the largest number since records first began being kept over 50 years ago. Tellingly, that’s a 36% increase since 2000.

And who makes up the “poor” in the United States? Minorities!
For obvious reasons, the minority population now reflexively votes against the party of Lincoln. In the last presidential contest, a whopping 83% of minority voters cast their votes for the Democrats. This sort of political base is to be catered to, and so it will be. No cuts in entitlements here.

Sexual Orientation.
Likewise, those who favor being defined by their sexual preference prefer the Democrats by approximately a 3-to-1 margin. Given the Democrats are fully on board with populist, progressive legislation, expect no demands from this subset for reduced entitlements.

Soldiers.
Cut military benefits? Weaken the military’s ability to respond? You must be joking! No one on either side of the political aisle would be stupid enough to advocate either. In time, the military budget will come under pressure—but only until someone in the military-industrial complex finds an excuse for a new war or, failing that, conjures up an imminent threat that must be countered.

…and then of course
The Wealthy.
Should the wealthy—those with feelings of entitlement or not—come to the conclusion that they’re going to be called upon to carry ever more water for rest of the citizenry, they will react just as they always have. Namely, by hiring the best tax lawyers and accountants possible and exploiting every available loophole (and there are always loopholes). And/or they’ll vote with their feet — moving themselves and, if push comes to shove, their businesses to friendlier shores.

In other words, there is no popular or political will to do anything other than maintain the status quo in this Age of Entitlement. Given that stark truth, all we as individuals can do at this point is sit back and watch the slow-motion train wreck unfold—which, for the record, I’ll be doing from afar. Avé cesar morituri te salute.

Jaguars Foundation Supports Brunswick Teen Center

Jaguars Foundation Supports Brunswick Teen Center

By Stan Cottle

Amelia Island, FL – A grant from the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation is making it possible for teens to learn life skills in a new way.

In November, 2013, the innovative In Search of Me Café life skills program begins helping teens at the Elizabeth F. Correll Teen Center (ECTC) in Brunswick, Georgia.

“Through our JAGS Teen Talk program, the Jaguars Foundation promotes venues, such as In Search of Me Café, that support teens in making positive choices that lead to success, and avoid the pitfalls of risky behavior and poor choices that are obstacles to being successful.”
Peter M. Racine, President
Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation

The ECTC, a unit of the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Georgia, is a state-of-the-art, purpose-built teen center that serves approximately 120 teens. The facility offers teens a wide range of enrichment opportunities including tutoring, leadership development, and with the addition of the In Search of Me Café program, life skills learning.

In Search of Me Café is a comprehensive, interactive, media-rich life skills learning program that helps today’s teens address problems, communicate thoughts and ideas in a like-minded social network, and seek outside help in finding solutions to issues such as bullying, peer pressure, self esteem, substance abuse, underage drinking and more.

Content for the curriculum-based program lives on a robust website that can be viewed at www.InSearchOfMeCafe.org.

Teens who participate in the In Search of Me Café program will learn how to approach difficult issues by asking questions and using the program’s content and resource links to discover they have the power to solve their own problems. The program intends to help teens live more productive lives, thereby reducing the substantial social and economic burden for communities in the future.

“We feel the best way to help teens manage their problems and prepare for focused, productive and fulfilling lives is to provide them with age specific, peer-to-peer methods for helping themselves.”
Stan Cottle, Founder/Director
In Search of Me, Inc.

In Search of Me Café is managed and operated by In Search of Me, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation based in Florida. To learn how you can help teens, contact Stan Cottle at 904-476-4302, ccomstan@gmail.com or visit www.InSearchOfMeCafe.org.

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A1A Wealth Management, Inc. Moving to 
River Capital Advisors, L.C.

Mark Dennis Transitions to River Capital Advisors

Press Release: Mark Dennis of A1A Wealth Management

One of the challenges associated with running a solo financial planning practice is deciding when and how to expand operations while keeping in mind the best interests of my clients and preserving the personal touch along the way. With this in mind, I am pleased to announce that my independent financial planning services will soon expand substantially, offering access to an experienced multi-disciplinary team of Certified Financial Planner™ professionals, Certified Public Accountants, Chartered Financial Analysts, and more.

Effective December 9, 2013, I will begin transitioning my solo financial planning practice at A1A Wealth Management, Inc. into the independent registered investment advisory firm of River Capital Advisors, L.C. located in Jacksonville, FL, where I will join their team as a wealth manager. Our two firms have much in common, including an independent fee-only approach to asset management and a dedication to fiduciary responsibility where we keep the best interests of clients ahead of our own. More information about River Capital Advisors, L.C. is available at their web site:  www.rcawealth.com

In addition to their team of financial planning and asset management professionals, River Capital Advisors is an affiliate of the locally-owned public accounting firm, Smoak, Davis, and Nixon LLP. Organized in 1924, this esteemed accounting firm is one of the oldest in Northeast Florida.  The current financial services team has over 150 years of combined professional experience with which to assist clients across a variety of investment, tax, and financial planning needs.

Mark Dennis who is also this year’s Sunrise Rotary Club president sums the transition up as very complementary: “Combining my business with River Capital Advisors now gives my clients access to a team of financial planners (instead of just one), along with a group of local tax experts and investment managers.”

If you would like to know more about this exciting development or wish to touch base regarding your current financial planning and investment management needs, please give Mark a call at 904-583-1887.

Six Simple Ways to Value a Stock

Six quick and easy ways to determine stock values

Investors are always searching for methods to help them determine whether a company is worth investing in. There are many means of stock valuation, some simple, some more complex.1

Why is stock valuation so important? If the market price of the company’s stock is greater than the company’s intrinsic value, an investor might choose to stay away. If the market price of the company’s stock is less than the company’s intrinsic value, the investor may choose to buy the stock.

Here are six key valuation methods:

• Price-to-Earnings Ratio (P/E)

The price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) is a valuation method used to compare a company’s current share price with its per-share earnings. Its formula is calculated by dividing its market value per share by its earnings per share. The P/E is one of the most widely used ratios, and it is used to compare the financial performance of different companies, industries, and markets. The company’s forecast P/E (its P/E for the upcoming year) is generally considered more important than its historical P/E.

• Price-to-Earnings Growth Ratio (PEG)

The P/E ratio is a snapshot of where a company is, and the PEG ratio is a graph plotting where it has been. The PEG ratio incorporates the historical growth rate of the company’s earnings. This ratio also tells you how your stock stacks up against another stock. The PEG ratio is calculated by taking the P/E ratio of a company and dividing it by the year-over-year growth rate of its earnings.

• Price-to-Book Ratio (P/B)

The price-to-book ratio measures a company’s market price in relation to its book value. Its formula is calculated by dividing the company’s stock by its book value per share. Book value can be found in the company’s balance sheet, usually listed as “stockholder equity.” It represents the value of a company’s total assets subtracted by its total liabilities. The P/B does not consider the actual value of the assets, only the nondepreciated portion of the assets. Like most ratios, it’s best to compare P/B ratios within industries. For example, tech stocks often trade above book value, while financial stocks often trade below book value.

• Price-to-Sales Ratio (P/S)

The price-to-sales ratio helps determine a stock’s relative valuation. Its formula is calculated by dividing the company’s price per share by its annual net sales per share. Price-to-sales ratio is considered a relative valuation measure because it’s only useful when it’s compared with the P/S ratio of other firms. The P/S ratio varies dramatically by industry, so when comparing P/S ratios, make sure the firms are within the same industry.

• Return on Equity (ROE)

The ROE is calculated by dividing a company’s earnings per share by its book values per share. The ROE is a measure of how well the company is utilizing its assets to make money. Understanding the trend of ROE is important because it indicates whether the company is improving its financial position or not.

• Dividend Payout Ratio

This ratio is calculated by dividing the dividends paid by a company by its earnings. The dividend payout ratio can also be calculated as dividends per share divided by earnings per share. A high dividend payout ratio indicates that the company is returning a large percentage of company profits back to the shareholders. A low dividend payout ratio indicates that the company is retaining most of its profits for internal growth.

Holiday Health Reminder

Holiday Health ReminderNow is the time to pay attention to your holiday health and here is a holiday health reminder : you must remain constantly aware of your food portions and your physical activity while avoiding unnecessary stress. Right? Ha ha, yes… it can be done.

Celebrating the holidays with family and friends tends to lead us down Temptation Street full of sweet desserts, heavy dinners and alcoholic indulgence. ‘Tis the season to eat more, spend more and stress more… all while working out less. Our schedules are disrupted with holiday parties, family get-togethers, high calorie gifts, financial strains, out of town guests, entertaining and other stress inducers…

Gaining just two or three pounds during the holidays lead to January resolutions that are often never met, leaving you adding on the pounds year after year, after year.

Trying to lose weight now, during the holidays is not often successful, but maintaining your current weight and NOT putting on new pounds through New Year’s Eve – is considered a success.

Count your calories and don’t skip your regular workouts and you should be fine… if you do indulge, cut back on your next meals and take in more exercise.

P.S.
…and get plenty of sleep. Those late nights will take their toll in a hurry!

If you find your health spinning out of control this holiday season, seek the help of a professional trainer, a reputable gym, or a dietary advisor; you may find that by being mindful of your diet and excercise you can give yourself the best gift of all… a healthier you this holiday season.

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A Thanksgiving Lesson

A Thanksgiving LessonThe following Thanksgiving Lesson has been floating around cyberspace and after receiving it more than once in my “inbox” this Thanksgiving season, I began searching the World Wide Web for its original author. While I didn’t find the exact article, I believe the original article may have been published November 20, 2009, and authored by Chip Wood.

“Did you know that our Pilgrim forefathers tried communism when they first landed at Plymouth Rock?

How’s that for a dramatic beginning to a story? Years ago, when I used to give a lot of talks to high school classes, this was one of my favorites. It always got the students’ attention. And I have to admit, I also enjoyed seeing some liberal teachers get so upset with me they almost lost their lunches.

Here’s the story I told those students in those long-ago presentations.

The Pilgrims who arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 were incredibly brave and hardy souls. They were motivated by the noblest of virtues. They vowed, each and every one, to be as selfless as possible—to always put the needs of the group first. They agreed to own everything in common and to share everything equally.

And their naïve piety almost killed the entire colony.

We all know how the adventure begins. A group of devout Christians, seeking religious freedom for themselves and eager to ‘advance the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ’ in the New World, sets sail from Plymouth, England in 1620. An investment consortium known as the Merchant Adventurers of London paid the expenses for the trip, including chartering the Mayflower and its 40-man crew.

The deal was simple: The Pilgrims agreed to establish a colony in northern Virginia where they would plant crops, fish the waters and hunt in the forests. They would return a certain percentage of each year’s bounty to London until their debt had been repaid.

Things went wrong from the start. First, the syndicate changed the deal, drastically reducing the amount they would loan the Pilgrims. The brave adventurers were forced to sell many of their own possessions, and much of their provisions, to pay for the trip. As a result, they landed in the New World badly short of supplies.

Next, the small ship they had purchased in Holland, which was to accompany them to America so they could fish the waters off the coast, had to be abandoned in England.

Shortly after they set sail, the ship, badly misnamed the Speedwell, became ‘open and leakie as a sieve,’ as its captain reported. They returned to Dartmouth, where the boat was dry-docked for three weeks as repairs were made.

But to no avail. After leaving Dartmouth, the group sailed less than 300 miles when the captain decided the Speedwell ‘must bear up or sink at sea.’ This time the ships put in at Plymouth, England, where it was decided to go on without the Speedwell. On Sept. 16, 1620, the Mayflower set out alone to cross the Atlantic.

A month later, when they had reached the halfway point, fierce storms battered the ship and threatened the lives of passengers and crew. Many wanted to turn back for England. But if they abandoned the journey, they would lose everything they had invested. The Pilgrims decided to trust in God and sail on.

Despite the storms, the hazards, the crowding and the poor food, only one Pilgrim died during the voyage, a young servant. His death was balanced by the birth of a son to Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins, who named their child Oceanus.

There were 102 passengers on board the Mayflower—50 men, 20 women and 32 children—along with a crew of 40. The captain set a course along the 42nd parallel, a bearing that would carry him to Cape Cod. From there he intended to swing south and follow the coast to northern Virginia.

A little over two months later, on Nov. 19, land was finally sighted and the captain turned the ship south, toward Virginia. However, they soon encountered such ‘dangerous shoals and roaring breakers’ that they turned back to Massachusetts. It was then that the grumblings of dissent turned into a full-fledged roar. Many of the passengers insisted on landing in Massachusetts, where ‘none had power to command them.’

The Pilgrim leaders decided to meet the explosive situation by asking each male on board, except for the crew, to sign a formal document that would lay ‘the first foundation of their government in this place.’ Thus the Mayflower Compact was born.

The Pilgrims were a diverse lot. Many of them were illiterate. Yet in creating the Mayflower Compact they showed an extraordinary political maturity. They agreed to establish a government by the consent of the governed, with just and equal laws for all. Each adult male, regardless of his station in life—gentleman, commoner or servant—would have an equal vote in deciding the affairs of the colony. Of the 65 men and boys on board, all but 24 signed the agreement. The only ones who did not were the children of those adults who did sign, or men who were too sick to do so.

The first decision made under the covenant was to abandon efforts to reach Virginia and instead to settle in New England. The first explorers landed at Plymouth on Dec. 21, 1620.

Weather delays kept the majority from seeing their new home for nearly two weeks. On Jan. 2, 1621, work began on the first building they would erect—a storehouse.

Because provisions were so scanty they decided that the land would be worked in common, produce would be owned in common, and goods would be rationed equally. Not unlike the society Karl Marx envisioned of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’

Unfortunately, thanks to illness, injury and attitude, the system did not work. Pilferage from the storehouse became common. Suspicions of malingering were muttered. Over the course of that first, harsh winter, nearly half of the colonists perished. Four families were wiped out completely; only five of 18 wives survived. Of the 29 single men, hired hands and servants, only 10 were alive when spring finally came.

The colonists struggled desperately for two more years. When spring arrived in April 1623, virtually all of their provisions were gone. Unless that year’s harvest improved, they feared few would survive the next winter. The Pilgrim leaders decided on a bold course. The colony would abandon its communal approach and permit each person to work for his own benefit, not for the common good.

Here is how the governor of the colony, William Bradford, explained what happened then. This is taken from his marvelously readable memoir (if you can make adjustments for the Old English spellings), History of Plimoth Plantation:

The experience that was had in this commone course and condition, tried sundrie years, and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanitie of that conceite of Plato & other ancients, applauded by some of later times;—that ye taking away of properties, and bringing it in communitie into a commone wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.

For this communitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion & discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For yet young men that were most able and fitte for labor & services did repine that they should spend their time & strength to worke for other men’s wives and children with out any recompense.

Once they replaced communal efforts with individual responsibility the differences were dramatic—and life-saving. Men went into the fields earlier and stayed later. In many cases, their wives and even their children (some barely past the toddler stage) worked right alongside them. More acres were planted, more trees were felled, more houses were built, and more game was slaughtered because of one simple change: People were allowed to keep the fruits of their own labors.

The Pilgrims arrived deeply in debt to the London merchants who sponsored them. They worked for more than 20 years, as individuals and as a community, to pay off the crushing burden. In 1627, they borrowed money to pay off the Merchants Adventurers. By 1645, they had paid off the entire debt to the company which had advanced them the sums to pay off the Merchants.

When their debt had been paid in full (at the astronomical interest rate of 45 percent per year), the company that had advanced the sums wrote the Pilgrims:

Let it not be grievous to you, that you have been instruments to break the ice for others who come after with less difficulty. The honour shall be yours to the world’s end.

As we celebrate this coming Thanksgiving Day, some 380 years after the Pilgrims celebrated the first of this uniquely American holiday, let us remember the sacrifices they made… the devotion they showed… and the lessons they learned.

Until next time, keep your powder dry.

—Chip Wood

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Relay for Life Team Captain Holiday Meeting

Relay for Life Team Captain Holiday MeetingIn April 2014, the American Cancer Society will be holding its annual Relay For Life of Fernandina Beach/Yulee and the holiday meeting for Team Captains is coming December 3rd.

Since 1985, Relay For Life has grown from one man – Dr. Gordy Klatt, who walked, jogged and ran around a track for 24 hours raising money for his local American Cancer Society unit – to a movement to eliminate cancer that now takes place in more than 5,100 communities in the United States and in 20 other countries around the world. Nearly 4 million people participate in the life-changing event, which has raised a total of more than $4 billion to fund the American Cancer Society’s mission.

Everyone in Nassau County who has been touched by cancer is invited to attend. This team event builds friendship among team members by having fun and raising money for the fight against cancer. It’s the perfect team-building event for any organization.

relay-for-life-holiday-meeting

The event consists of teams who spend 18 hours together in efforts to raise money and fight cancer. Each team has at least one member walking or running the track during the entire event.

Relay For Life is about celebrating, remembering and fighting back. The Society celebrates cancer survivors by inviting all local cancer survivors to start each Relay event. The Survivors Lap honors those who have won their fight against cancer and those who are currently undergoing treatment.

The Society remembers all of those touched with cancer with the Luminaria Ceremony after dusk. The track is lined with luminaria marked with the names of those who survived and those who lost their battle with cancer. The Society fights back by raising money for research, education, local patient services, and advocacy.

The event is also filled with music, live entertainment, games and other activities.

relay-for-life-holiday-captain-meeting-2013

We need your support! By forming a team from your company, church, school, neighborhood, etc., you will not only be part of a great community event, but you will raise funds to improve the quality of life for cancer patients today and the outlook for those diagnosed in the future.

There will be a meeting for Team Captains or those who want to learn more, on Tuesday, December 3, 2013, from 6:00 – 7:00 PM at the Fernandina Beach Police Station on Lime Street, in their community room.

If you are interested in learning more about this important event, please call Anne Taylor at 904-391-3645.

It’s about being a community that takes up the fight!

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Supermarket Shelves Reflect Paycheck-to-Paycheck Society

The Beauty of the Midnight Sun

Dear Readers. Today in this weekend bulletin I was going to talk a bit about ‘the dos and donts‘ with crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, why gold is still being kicked in the balls by an stupendously exuberant Wall Street and why you should consider having your website hosted in an overseas territory, considering all the limitations and restrictions to be expected out of Washington. But after reading that Norway’s Army is battling Global Warming by going vegetarian, while the GOP is planning to cut alternative energy subsidies in half, I figured that it is all hog wash anyway. And if you don’t think so you should read Hugh Gusterson’s insightful article about “Which Drone Future Will Americans  Choose?” and still believe that we actually do have a choice.

So instead I decided to talk about reflections from my 3 times weekly grocery trips as well as some Festive information about the Holiday Season and some Sunday Morning Humor.

A Paycheck to Paycheck Society

As we are going into the last four week dash of grocery shopping and gift hunting, I would like to share a little secret with those of you, who always shy away from buying the larger bottle of ketchup in favor of the smaller one because of cash flow considerations. American grocery stores offer interesting reflections of financial irony, enticing (allowing) the poor to buy higher priced smaller packaged items, while the more prosperous among us take the advantage of buying those same products in larger volumes, but at substantially lower prices. Is this news to you?

There’s some real irony in this as often the stereotype of someone making bulk purchases is a person down to his last penny and watching every cent. But in reality, larger purchases at discounted pricing are for the better off; while buying the tiny packages at higher pricing is for the poor.

Of course I’m familiar with the economic law that states “the more you purchase of a product, the better the price you purchase at.” What rational person would prefer to pay more for a product when the same product in a larger packaging is staring them in the face for 30% less? But that’s only one side of the equation. The other side presents a real economic conundrum.

Imagine finding yourself in the condiments row of a supermarket where you notice that two bottles of ketchup – one larger and one smaller, same brand-name with the per-ounce price of each clearly labeled for the shopper. After doing some quick math in your head, the bigger bottle turns out to be about 30% cheaper than the small one per ounce of product. You quickly verify that you’re “comparing apples with apples” and this isn’t some special sale, but just the normal price, the only difference being packaged in a different size. According to any financial markets theory, this opportunity shouldn’t exist.

Designed Around Paycheck to Paycheck

Yet, whether it’s ketchup or just about anything else at the grocery store, one can save money by simply purchasing a larger package these days. And no I’m not even talking about bulk discount retailers like Costco, Sam’s Club or Restaurant Depot, but just your regular neighborhood grocery store. For people like me this advantage is in reality an earning, rather than a saving, but for the average American in the grocery store, the sad truth is that the pricing system of our entire society is based on people living paycheck to paycheck. It is designed around shoppers with near zero dollars in their checking accounts and that is why there are so many people buying the smaller packaged quantities? For many Americans the difference between a weekly $100 grocery bill and a $200 bill is enormous, which directs not only the purchase behavior from brand-name to store brand, but also the packaged sizing of products purchased.

I had a friend down in St.Maarten who bought a pack of cigarettes every day. Cost $2. A carton of 10 packs was only $12 or $1.20 per pack. $0.80 savings per day is $5.60 of earnings per week, had he bought a carton. Per year he would have had earned $292 in risk free income. His reason for purchasing one pack a day was: “Maybe I quit tomorrow.” He never did.

Next time I’m going to the grocery store and earn 5% to 10% riskless return on my groceries I know it’s great for me, but it’s disheartening to know that these savings are essentially the result of a paycheck-to-paycheck society. Either people can’t afford to make their ends meet with their paychecks, or they have completely lost control of their spending. But then again, there is something virtuous about these prices as well. In the free market, the price system actually rewards one for earning a greater income by offering cheaper prices for larger purchases. The same is true of other pricing as well. With a bigger down payment and more income, one pays lower interest rates on the mortgage – again, a reward for doing better. When it comes to government however, it’s the complete opposite. We are actually punished for earning greater incomes by paying higher taxes. Funny, isn’t it?

And while talking about government, here is a WARNING

After a recent wave of identify thefts, the FBI estimates there are over 500 fake ACA (Obamacare) websites set up for the sole purpose of stealing your personal information. So protect yourself and remember: the real one is the one that doesn’t work!

Restaurants Open on Thanksgiving Day

Courtesy of the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council

Following Restaurants are open and take reservations for Thanksgiving:

• Amelia Island Coffee – 207 Centre Street – (904) -321 2111

• Barbara Jean’s – 960030 Gateway Blv – (904)-277 3700

• Café 4750 (Ritz Carlton-Amelia Island) – 4750 Amelia Island Pkwy – (904) 277 1100

• David’s Restaurant – 802 Ash Street -(904) 310 6049

• Horizons – 4828 First Coast Highway – (904) 321 2430

• Huddle House – 1855 South 8th Street – (904) 261 2933

• Jack and Diane’s – 708 Centre Street – (904) 321 1444

• Marché Burette – 6800 First Coast Highway – (904) 491 4834

• Merge – 510 South 8th Street – (904) 277 8797

• Pablo’s Mexican Grill – 12 North 2nd Street – (904) 261 0049

• Slider’s Seaside Grill – 1998 South Fletcher Ave – (904) 277 6652

• Salt – (Ritz Carlton – Amelia Island) 4750 Amelia Island Pkwy – (904) 277 1100

• The Surf – 3199 South Fletcher Ave. – (904) 261 5711

• The Verandah – 6800 First Coats Highway – (904) 321 5050

Some Sunday Funday Impressions

Hunting Season has started here in North Florida so I thought you might like this one:

Click on Photograph for 360° tour

Daily I receive loads of great stories and beautiful pictures, but I was very happy to receive one last week with a 360° photograph one of our guests at the Amelia Oceanfront B&B took last June. Amazing technology. If you’re interested in finding out more about this contact Suburban Video directly.

In Closing for Today I’ll leave you with some of my favorites for this week. Click on them to enlarge.

This is a tattoo I would wear

HAVE A GREAT WEEK AND THANKS GIVING DAY

Authors Salute the U.S. Military with FREE Books

Authors Salute the U.S. Military with FREE BooksJacksonville, FL – To honor the men and women in uniform, and their spouses, the thriller-writing team of Gary Williams and Vicky Knerly are donating copies of their e-books to all active and retired members of the U.S. military, and their spouses, during this Holiday season.

“We wanted to recognize all the brave men and women who have served in the U.S. military and their spouses for the sacrifices they have made and will continue to make. We are a free country because of your unending dedication, commitment, and support. Please enjoy our stories and know that you have our heartfelt gratitude.” – Gary Williams & Vicky Knerly

Beginning November 18 and continuing through January 1, service members and their spouses can download FREE copies of novels by Williams and Knerly: Death in the Beginning, Three Keys to Murder, Before the Proof, and Manipulation, by going to:

williamsknerly.com/militaryappreciation1.aspx

…where download instructions are displayed.

About the authors:
Gary Williams lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with his wife and children. Williams has a bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing and writes full time. His father and two uncles served in the military during World War II. One uncle, Audre W. Markham, paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Vicky Knerly is a native of Syracuse, New York, has two sons, and resides on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Knerly has a bachelor’s degree in English and two masters’ degrees. She has won awards for her research-based writing, and works for a private university based in Melbourne, Florida, where she also teaches as an adjunct professor.

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Holidays and Chocolates; Inseparable Twins

Win this Gift Basket At Peterbrooke Chocolatier

Win this Christmas Gift Basket At Peterbrooke Chocolatier

My wife and I were talking the other day about the upcoming Holiday Season and the need for us to get out and enjoy them more than we have in recent years. It seems that ever since we took over the Innkeeper role at the Amelia Oceanfront B&B 2 years ago, our outgoing social life has suffered a great deal, primarily because guest arrivals and check ins happen around the same time frame as parties and social events around the island. Deciding that we wanted to change that this season, I was happy to see the Peterbrooke Chocolatier season invitation to the Chocolate Martini Party  on November 15, the precursor for two additional Holiday Events on Friday and Saturday November 29 and 30th and Saturday December 7 (see programs below).

One reason for my happiness was to see Sandy and her staff, delightful ladies who know their way to a man’s heart (Chocolate obviously) and the other reason was knowing that I was going to see quite a few of our good friends and acquaintances at the shoppe. No disappointments here. The Chocolate Martinis were better than any White Russian I ever tasted and the rest of the sampling was so sinfully decadent that I had to force myself not to go for seconds.

Couldn’t stop myself however from purchasing a pound of their New Black and Tan Truffles and am teaching myself to savor one-a-day (right around the time that I’m writing this story).

If you’re looking for new ideas for Holiday Season desserts a trip to Peterbrooke Chocolatier is a “must”. I’m ready to break a long eggnog tradition for a new tradition called Chocolate Martinis.

Click on Posters to ENLARGE

Looking for Income? Consider REITs

Income from REITs is still quite attractive

Income from REITs is still quite attractive

For most Americans, an investment in real estate begins and ends with the purchase of a home. Yet investments in commercial real estate — including shopping centers, office buildings, and hotels — may be available to investors.
Real estate investment trusts (REITs) allow individuals to invest in large-scale, income-producing real estate. REIT performance has varied historically, with a total annualized return of 11.78% over the past 10 years, and a 19.70% return in 2012

Types of REITs

There are more than 100 publicly traded REITs, according to the National Association of REITs (NAREIT).
•   Equity REITs, which directly own real estate assets, make up most of the market.
•   Mortgage REITs loan money to real estate owners or invest in existing mortgages or mortgage-backed securities.
•   Hybrid REITs combine the investing strategies of both equity and mortgage REITs.

REITs resemble closed-end mutual funds, with a fixed number of shares outstanding. REITs are also traded like closed-end funds, offering a price per share. Unlike a closed-end fund, however, REITs measure performance by funds from operations (FFO) rather than by net asset value. FFO is defined as net income plus depreciation and amortization, excluding gains or losses from debt restructurings and from sales of properties. REITs’ growth benchmark is FFO growth, while valuation is reflected in an FFO multiple (share price divided by FFO) rather than in a price-to-earnings ratio.

The REIT Appeal

REITs offer a number of potential advantages, including the following.
•    Diversification: REITs can help to diversify an equity portfolio weighted to stocks in other industries. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a nondiversified portfolio. Diversification does not ensure against market risk.
•     Built-in management: Each REIT has a management team, sparing investors the effort of researching each property’s management team.
•    Liquidity: Because REIT shares are traded on the major stock exchanges, they are more readily converted into cash than direct investments in properties. Like direct property investments, REITs may lose value.
•    Tax advantages: REITs pay no federal corporate income tax and are legally required to distribute at least 90% of their annual taxable income as dividends, eliminating double taxation of income. Investors can also treat a portion of REIT dividends as a return of capital, although those classified as dividends are taxed at ordinary rates.

Weighing the REIT Risks

As with all investments, REITs have specific risks that are worth considering.
•    Lack of industry diversification. Some REITs limit diversification even further by focusing specifically on niche developments such as golf courses or medical offices.
•    Potential changes in the value of underlying holdings. These changes can potentially be influenced by cash flow of real estate assets, occupancy rates, zoning, and other issues.
•    Concern about performance metrics. Critics contend that FFO could be misleading because it adds depreciation back into net income. NAREIT counters that real estate values fluctuate with the market rather than depreciate steadily over time, making FFO a realistic performance measure. Also, REITs may average the rent they will receive over a lease’s lifetime rather than report actual rent received, which critics say can further cloud performance figures.
•    Interest rate sensitivity. If rates and borrowing costs rise, construction projects with marginal funding may be shelved, potentially driving down prices across the REIT industry.
•    Environmental liability. Companies in the real estate industry are subject to environmental and hazardous waste laws, which could negatively affect their value.

REITs can be a way to add total return potential to a diversified, long-term portfolio. Your financial advisor can help you decide whether an allocation to a REIT could help you pursue your financial goals.

The information in this communication is not intended to be financial or tax advice and should not be treated as such. Each individual’s situation is different. You should contact your financial and/or tax professionals to discuss your personal situation.

The Seven Wonders of the World

Six Senses and the Power to Combine them

We all grew up with a vague impression of what constituted the Seven Wonders of the World. From history and geography lessons we learned that Egypt’s Pyramids were somehow part of it and then there was the Grand Canyon and the Wall of China.

Some of us got confused between whether or not The Eiffel Tower was one of them and since the habit of naming the Seven Wonders of the World dated back to our early public school system, we were fairly certain the Panama Canal and Rome’s St.Pieter had been added at some point.

So when a teacher in the Netherlands in her annual quest for the Seven Wonders, asked her students to each make a list of 7 sites, the answers she collected back with few exceptions returned pretty much the same order as it has done for decades:

1. Egypt’s Pyramids
2. The Taj Mahal
3. The Grand Canyon
4. The Panama Canal
5. The Empire State Building
6. The St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome
7. The Great Wall of China

And while collecting the sheets the teacher noticed that one girl was still bent over her paper, so she asked if she could help her. “Well it’s difficult,” the student said, “there are so many wonders of the world.”

Okay said the teacher, up for a challenge that would take the class away from the obvious outcome: “Tell us what you’re thinking off and let’s see if we can help you value them as wonders of the world.”

The girl hesitantly replied: “Well I think the 7 Wonders of the World are:
1. Seeing
2. Hearing
3. Feeling
4. Tasting
5. Smelling
6. Smiling and
7. Loving

The entire class broke out in silence and deep consideration when she added: “All these ‘things’ are so simple and unassuming, that we too easily forget how magical they are.” The most valuable things in life cannot be built or bought.

Remembering my own experience some 55 years ago when classroom confronted with the results of the list for the Seven Wonders of the World, I recall asking: “why is the Grand Canyon on the list“. Not because it is not a magnificent panorama, but because I figured it was the only one on the list not man-made! My teacher had called it a smart observation. Looking back I wished I had had the wisdom of understanding life’s simplicity and beauty like this little girl.
A beautiful message to share and appreciate before the Holiday Season once again will lure us into massive spending on “stuff” we don’t need.