JOY TO THE WORLD

With ratification of the New START Treaty yesterday, the threat of accidental nuclear annihilation – or just a loose nuke falling into the hands of terrorists – notched down a little. How can that not be good? With the added plus that we’ll soon need many fewer billions each year to maintain our 30%-reduced nuclear arsenal.

The President also signed Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell repeal yesterday. By broadening the talent pool, this can only strengthen our military; and by rejecting discrimination, it further perfects our union.

An effort 17 years in the making, it was a moving ceremony, to say the least. I don’t even know where to begin, so I won’t. Except to say that the feeling in the auditorium of the Interior Department (held there – like the signing of the health care bill – because the crowd was too large for the White House) was something few in attendance will soon forget.

CHRISTMAS READING

You know what can be really fun to do (and one gets a bit better at it with practice)? Reading a book, out loud, to one’s family or better half.

You can hardly miss with A Christmas Carol, of course, which has the added virtue of being free. Just download it to your phone or Kindle or iPad. Takes just a few seconds.

You don’t even have to decide which version to read – the Reginald Owens or the Alistair Sim or the Albert Finney or the Muppets or any of the others. This is the book. It is not just A Christmas Carol but The Christmas Carol, if you will, from which all others are imagined.

A more modern offering for your consideration: Steve Martin’s wonderful new novel, An Object of Beauty. You will love it if you happen to be an art dealer and may very well love it even if, like me, you have only a passing familiarity with the art world.

And speaking of books . . .

PRICE WAR CONTINUES!

I am slack-jawed. Amazon has the new edition of The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need now marked down from $14.95 to $7.96 – this, for book that, if worth it’s weight in gold, should fetch north of $15,000. They are practically begging you to buy it. And Barnes & Noble has matched it!

(Beware the Kindle and Nook editions, which inexplicably remain the 2005 edition without clearly letting you know.)

DO YOU HAVE LOTS OF MONEY?

I’ve found a private investment, in increments of $100,000, that pays what appears to me to be a very safe (albeit not Federally guaranteed) 8% rate of interest; sports an “equity kicker” that will probably not be worth anything but just might be worth a lot; and provides an “environmental kicker” in that it will finance the weatherizing of 100 homes to reduce their fuel consumption and carbon footprint. If you are an accredited investor interested in learning more, email and I’ll put you in touch with the company.

ROTH

Patricia Bingham: “You might want to mention that the benefits of conversion are considerably more clear cut for people who have non-IRA funds to pay the tax bill for conversion, and that people who don’t might not come out ahead, especially if they are under 59½ and have to pay a 10% penalty on the amount they keep back to pay taxes in addition to regular income tax on the full amount of the withdrawal.”  Yes!  The whole point is to pay the tax with money from outside your retirement plan, because that is in effect a way to sock away a lot more tax-deferred, as suggested Monday.

“You might also want to clarify that people who don’t act by December 31 will not have missed their chance to make a conversion, only their chance to spread the income out over two years.  On the financial blogs and forums that I follow, a surprising number of people believe that the income limit was lifted for 2010 only and that the conversion window for taxpayers with an AGI over $100K closes at the end of this year.  Your wording (“…there’s probably still time for you to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA”) may inadvertently reinforce this idea.  For lower-income taxpayers, a series of partial conversions, up to the limit of whatever bracket one is in, is another idea worth mentioning.”  All good points, as was John Critchlow’s suggestion Tuesday to split one’s retirement funds between both types of IRAs.

 

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