Taking Stock from Creators Syndicate https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Fri, 23 Mar 2018 23:56:30 -0700 https://www.creators.com/ http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Taking Stock from Creators Syndicate https://cdn.creators.com/features/taking-stock-thumb.jpg https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock a7b1430970b73fff611fc5c5395ef7e4 Alimony and Utilities for 03/21/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/03/18/alimony-and-utilities Wed, 21 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Could you comment on the changes in tax law that affect alimony payments? As a soon-to-be-divorced 52-year-old man, how do they affect me? I will take a huge hit after we sign our divorce papers, though fortunately, it's a friendly divorce after 26 years and three kids. I have taken a powder in the market and need to be more conservative. I have about $60,000 in cash and would like to buy three utilities that have a good record of dividend growth and some appreciation potential. Which utilities would you recommend? &#8212; DT, Erie, Pa.</p> <p>Dear DT: Right now, alimony payments are deductible from the payer's gross income and included as a taxable item in the recipient's income. But the new tax law changes the playing field for alimony, which my dad defined as "bounty from the mutiny." It seems that alimony won't be a taxable deduction for the payer, nor will it be taxed as income for the payee on a divorce agreement signed after 2018. Alimony recipients after 2018 won't be required to report alimony payments as income. In other words, the money paid to a spouse (with an agreement signed in 2019 or after) will accrue to the payee without tax liability. However, the payer will not get to deduct the alimony payments to the payee. This suggests, according to my certified public accountant, who I suspect works for the IRS, that the treatment of alimony will be similar to that of child support. This change in tax law significantly affects the economics of divorce and affects both parties. Because alimony will not be a deductible tax item, it encourages the payer to negotiate smaller payments. As I said, all divorce and separation agreements signed in 2018 or before still allow for deductions. But for 2019 and after, whammo! It stops as abruptly as a rabbit's tail. So yes, if your agreement was signed this year, you can deduct your alimony payments, and your ex-wife will have to pay taxes on the amount she received. But I strongly recommend that you consult a CPA or a lawyer before you rely on this advice. There's more to it than my brief explanation, and <span class="column--highlighted-text">a mistake could force you to move to a condo in North Dakota</span>.<p>Updated: Wed Mar 21, 2018</p> 86e3988760d6a84fffec3d5bb25a9cd6 Good Advice From a Different Guy for 03/21/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/03/18/good-advice-from-a-different-guy Wed, 21 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: My 84-year-old dad is not well and was a very avid reader of your column until he got sick. He would send your columns to me every week with comments. Two years ago, he had a stroke. According to his brokerage statement, he owns two stocks: 400 shares of Citigroup and 3,000 shares of MGIC Investment Corp. In January 2009, he bought 4,000 shares of Citigroup as a gamble at $1.20 per share. It's now selling for $73 a share. But for some reason, Dad's 4,000-share investment is now 400 shares. A new stockbroker at his brokerage told me that he has no record of Dad's selling Citigroup and mumbled something about a "revised split" that was unintelligible. Dad's notes say you told him that big banks &#8212; such as the Bank of New York Mellon, Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase &#8212; were too big to go bankrupt and that the Federal Reserve would step in to do anything necessary to save all the major banks.</p> <p>In the fall of 2012, on your recommendation, Dad bought 3,000 shares of MGIC Investment Corp. at 90 cents a share. His notes say you said that MGIC was on its way to a recovery and that the stock would sell at $15 a share in the future. Well, MGIC did recover, and it's now trading at $12.20. I've never seen this rate of profit before, so please tell me what to do. I know nothing about stocks. &#8212; AD, Detroit<p>Updated: Wed Mar 21, 2018</p> bedc8ebcde7e09392b5ce557993b85f9 Re-evaluating Investments for 03/14/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/03/18/re-evaluating-investments Wed, 14 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: In 2009, when I was 78, I had $70,000 in cash to invest long term for my grandchildren. I wrote to you for advice after my stockbroker had me invest $10,000 in each of the following stocks: Signet Jewelers at $6, Costco at $44, Macy's at $12, Sears at $69, Bed Bath & Beyond at $23, Fossil Group at $14 and Hibbett Sports at $15. You told me that I was nuts to take advice from a broker who'd been in the business for just three years. I know you will remember because he found your phone number and gave you a piece of his mind for trying to trump his advice. Please tell me whether I should buy or hold those six stocks. &#8212; TB, Wilmington, N.C.</p> <p>Dear TB: Yes, I remember your broker's phone call. He verbally trashed me (and did a good job of it), but I realized that one can't reason someone out of an idea he hasn't been reasoned into. So I just listened to him shouting and calling me unkind names, and that made him feel good. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Yep, he gave me a piece of his mind, but he didn't ask for its return. So I have kept it boxed in my desk drawer, and every once in a while, I'll open the box and tickle it with a ballpoint pen.</span><p>Updated: Wed Mar 14, 2018</p> 1e9d6dd787592750f227d30dfd8fa93e AmeriGas Is That Animal for 03/14/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/03/18/amerigas-is-that-animal Wed, 14 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: My spouse and I are both in our early 60s, and we have $10,000, with the hope of being able to get an 8 to 9 percent return. I know this may be a high reach because we don't want to own any volatile issues. If there is such an animal that could give us this return, with moderate risks, we'd be very appreciative. &#8212; PC, Akron, Ohio</p> <p>Dear PC: <span class="column--highlighted-text">My friend Velveeta Jackson has accused me of eating too many Twinkies under the power lines, because the issues I recommend tend to be income stocks.</span> But Velveeta is only partially right. I love the taste and texture of Twinkies and probably eat too many, but I always stay far from all those power lines because they give most people (including me) the hiccups. Sometimes they may cure hiccups, too.<p>Updated: Wed Mar 14, 2018</p> 6eb520aad32d4c17e1250e784a2010bc Making Money on Margin for 03/07/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/03/18/making-money-on-margin Wed, 07 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I got a $10,000 bonus from my employer in January and put it with a broker in early February. He has made four trades, including a biotech stock with a funny name I've never heard of. My account is now worth $12,200. He said if he had my account on margin, then he could have made twice as much money. Is that true? I asked how it works, and he said I won't have to put up more money but I just have to sign a broker's form and I can buy twice as much stock immediately. Because he doesn't explain things well, and I don't want to offend him, could you please explain how margin works? And is it true that I could have made twice as much money as he claims? Also, I'd like to buy stock in the fantastic Chinese market. Do you think Chinese stocks will move way up? What Chinese stocks would you recommend? &#8212; LD:, Portland, Ore.</p> <p>Dear LD: That broker's right on the money! If you had signed his margin agreement upon opening the account and followed his advice, you'd have made twice as much money. That margin agreement would give you an extra $10,000 credit so you could buy $20,000 worth of stock. The flip side of that agreement is that you could also lose twice as much. <p>Updated: Wed Mar 07, 2018</p> 85608edf8df8302dd78d2e3f6628fa26 New Look at Newell for 03/07/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/03/18/new-look-at-newell Wed, 07 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: What happened to Newell? I bought 500 shares at $43 in September of 2017. My broker tells me to sell the stock and take a loss and wants me to put the proceeds in American Funds New Perspective. Your advice would be appreciated. &#8212; JM, Moline, Ill.</p> <p>Dear JM: New Perspective (ANWPX) is a good fund with a good record and a sweet commission would be paid to your broker.<p>Updated: Wed Mar 07, 2018</p> cb93acb2d45f9920ab2b4896a5dbf78b MasterCard and Consumer Debt for 02/28/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/02/18/mastercard-and-consumer-debt Wed, 28 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: My brother, who does well in the stock market, told me to buy 100 shares of MasterCard. He thinks that President Donald Trump's economic policies and infrastructure spending will grow corporate earnings and give more people jobs and many people higher-paying jobs. He says that these people will spend their money rather than save it. We both believe that the American consumer is born to spend. Please advise. &#8212; JA, Indianapolis</p> <p>Dear JA: I think your brother is right as light!<p>Updated: Wed Feb 28, 2018</p> 43763c179764ef279b2a03049971f628 Opinions on Uniti Are Not United for 02/28/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/02/18/opinions-on-uniti-are-not-united Wed, 28 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: What can you tell me about a company called Uniti Group, which has a 15.49 percent dividend yield? Do you think the dividend is safe, and would you buy the stock for long-term growth and income? My stockbroker &#8212; who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the company is based &#8212; is aggressively recommending the stock, and his enthusiasm is very catching, especially with the high-yielding dividend. He occasionally has coffee with some of the company's employees. So, would you recommend that I buy 1,000 shares? &#8212; KK, Jonesboro, Ark.</p> <p>Dear KK: Maybe! Read on, but keep in mind that your broker may be a little too close to the company to give the best advice.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 28, 2018</p> 99756e8ee0d2bd8499e5c835c7bd8361 Taxes and Retirement Savings for 02/21/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/02/18/taxes-and-retirement-savings Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I have $362,000 in my 401(k) account. It took me 22 years to accumulate that amount. Now I'm told that Washington is considering a tax on the current value of everybody's retirement accounts to help pay for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Is this true?</p> <p>My wife and I recently moved back to Fort Lauderdale and discovered you're no longer on the air with your great call-in radio show. Why? We've tried to remember your great definition of the word politics. Could you repeat it for us? &#8212; JS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 21, 2018</p> f9eb219201555d0ffec1897e2e61c516 Mint Scheme for 02/21/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/02/18/mint-scheme Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I saw in a recent edition of USA Today that the federal Mint is offering (to use your word) a Golconda &#8212; selling individual state $100 bills at only $99. These are beautiful productions that look exactly like $100 bills, except the symbol of your state is embossed on the front. Each is made of 1 ounce of silver, and these 100s are struck in high relief and have a 0.999 pure silver proof finish. A friend of mine has six of them, and they're absolutely beautiful. Mary Ellen Withrow &#8212; the 40th U.S. treasurer &#8212; claimed in the paper: "We can barely keep up with all the orders." These are the first and only "State Silver" 100s ever struck by the U.S. Mint. And everyone living outside the United States must pay $198 for the State Silver 100s. I could buy 10 of these and sell them for a big profit. &#8212; RE, Erie, Pa.</p> <p>Dear RE: I've seen the advertisement in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and, surprisingly, even my hometown newspaper. I've also seen the State Silver 100s themselves, and suffice it to say that they shine and sparkle like GIA-certified flawless 5-carat diamonds. They glitter. They're exquisite. They're dazzling. But they're a colossal rip-off.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 21, 2018</p> fdf020fcfcca7ed8cbd0d5132a57eb9a Down Market for 02/21/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/02/18/down-market Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: What's your opinion of the current stock market? Why has the market collapsed so much the past month? Some investors blame President Donald Trump's appointment of hawkish Jay Powell, Marvin Goodfriend and Loretta Mester to guide the Federal Reserve. Others say that 2018 will be good for the economy. Others predict a slight decline in corporate revenues and earnings and a runaway deficit. Others say it's a normal reaction to a market that's run up too fast. This is very scary. Will stocks recover from this ghastly crash? The other question on most minds is: How do we protect what we have? Can you make any sense of what's happened and what will happen? &#8212; MT, Bettendorf, Iowa</p> <p>Dear MT: Janet Yellen was a swell Federal Reserve chair, and many investors who were comfortable with her policies are uncomfortable with what they know about Powell, Goodfriend and Mester. But they're more uncomfortable with what they don't know about these three musketeers. Each of them is a strong advocate of rising interest rates, and they probably will be more aggressive than Yellen in raising rates. The appointment of these three to super-powerful and sensitive positions at the Fed concerns most investors and me, too. It's kind of like appointing a new coach and staff to run a professional football team when new hires were not necessary. Jumpin' Jack Flash, mama mia, Jiminy Christmas, oy vey and blimey. My friend Knobby Walsh always reminded me, "If something ain't broke, don't fix it!" The Fed, running smoothly under Yellen, wasn't broken, so these appointments take the cupcake. Perhaps this is why cryptocurrencies are becoming popular.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 21, 2018</p> de23f9dbfd092c1aaadf789682a80023 Johnson & Johnson and Talcum for 02/14/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/02/18/johnson-johnson-and-talcum Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I bought 300 shares of Johnson & Johnson on your recommendation at $106 in April 2017 and have a 23-point profit. I bought it for the long term, and as you advised, I used Charles Schwab, which saved me a fortune on commissions. I paid about $7 in commission for the 300 shares and have reinvested the dividends as you advised.</p> <p>Now I read that Johnson & Johnson is in serious trouble because its talcum powder, which I began using 40 years ago after showers, may cause cancer. I was mortified because a court awarded a Los Angeles woman who developed ovarian cancer after using talcum for decades $417 million. The stock has dropped a bit recently, and I'm concerned that the damages could get worse and my stock could tumble as the tort lawyers gang up on the company. Can talcum powder cause cancer? Please tell me whether I should hold the stock or sell it. &#8212; CF, Durham, N.C.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 14, 2018</p> 4e8734d62791fc2c8bc61db0511eb024 Is Rite Aid a Good Buy? for 02/07/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/02/18/is-rite-aid-a-good-buy Wed, 07 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Do you have a Facebook page? If so, our investment club can't find it. We think it would be very interesting for the public to view your personal thoughts and get to know more about the man who has been writing for our newspaper for over 35 years.</p> <p>Also, what do you think about Rite Aid? Do you think it has a chance of coming back to the $5-$9 range? If so, our club would like to buy 5,000 shares of the stock. &#8212; DR, Oklahoma City<p>Updated: Wed Feb 07, 2018</p> 730ab6fe3bca65bb7dc7d771ace38b11 Invest in NuVasive? for 02/07/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/02/18/invest-in-nuvasive Wed, 07 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: My mother-in-law suffered with a bad back for over 20 years, resisting spine surgery because many of her contemporaries had rotten luck with it. However, one of her friends had a spine procedure six months ago and is still bragging about the good surgeon who performed it. The surgeon used a surgical platform developed by a company called NuVasive. This persuaded her to give surgery a try, although with tremendous reluctance. Her success was beyond anything she had expected. I figure God had to be on our side, because my mother-in-law is truly a harridan and complains at the drop of a hat. Please, what can you tell me about NuVasive? I'm thinking of buying 300 shares of the stock, and my mother-in-law would probably buy 1,000 shares. &#8212; JR, Rochester, Minn.</p> <p>Dear JR: I know the stock, and I know folks like your mother-in-law. Please don't allow her to stretch her luck. This scold may have enjoyed an unexpectedly good outcome, but if the stock were to drop after her purchase, I suspect that her back problems would come back &#8212; probably worse than before.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 07, 2018</p> e3fa01291933bf4bd04b771ab5e65e48 High-Yield Stocks for 01/31/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/01/18/high-yield-stocks Wed, 31 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Readers: Last week, I gave you some of Ossie Ollum's recommendations for low-priced stocks and promised to give you more this week. But for some reason, he wasn't confident about his other picks. However, many readers are interested in stocks yielding over 10 percent, and Ashley Madison was kind enough to help me out. Ash believes there are some uncommonly good high yields out there but warns that if the stock market takes a dip, each of these recommendations will probably dip more than the market.</p> <p>At 6 feet 2 inches tall, with shoulder-length blond hair, carrying a solid 189 pounds of mostly ripped muscle, supported with broad shoulders and size 11 feet in steel-toe hobnail boots, 32-year-old Ashley Madison used to be known as the finest high-yield stock artiste in Wamsutter, Wyoming. In January 2015, the list of 10 high-yield stocks Ashley shared with me was a grand slam. Those 10 high yielders had a total return of plus 47.2 percent, including dividends. Wow, even Michael Milken was impressed. But that was just one good year in a row; the following two years were daunting, unmitigated disasters. In 2016, her 10 issues imploded when they came into contact with Earth's atmosphere and its 21 percent oxygen level. Ashley's total return that year was minus 31.2 percent. Not good, that! In 2017, Ashley's January 10-stock portfolio was down by 37.2 percent 11 months later. However, because the third time is a charm (in most movies, it's the third key that opens the door), <span class="column--highlighted-text">Ashley gave me 10 high yielders to share with you this week. Still, you may need all the help you can get, so I propose that you spend the remaining Sundays of this year in the amen corner of your church.</span> It won't cost you a thing, but your family may be surprised at the results.<p>Updated: Wed Jan 31, 2018</p> bb521441f910c95a5316ff4b8887041b Schwab's Clean Sweep for 01/31/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/01/18/schwabs-clean-sweep Wed, 31 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Charles Schwab is forcing all customers out of sweep money market funds and into bank accounts. My current sweep account pays 0.88 percent, and the bank account pays a lousy 0.1 percent. Schwab is giving us no choice in this matter. It claims it has something to do with the Dodd-Frank reforms, which were enacted eight years ago. On the phone, the manager claims there's some regulation in effect now. Please write about this. Do Fidelity and others do this? By the way, you need to get a Gmail account. Yahoo is useless now. &#8212; BW, Kankakee, Ill.</p> <p>Dear BW: Verizon Communications (VZ-$54) has a new division called Oath. Sadly, management assigned an unproven toady (Tim Armstrong) to head it. Oath consists of brands under the umbrellas of AOL, which was acquired in June 2015, and Yahoo, which was acquired in June 2017. I'm told that this guy Armstrong lacks the capability, the creativity, the employee support and the joie de vivre to run Oath. He certainly was a big-time loser when he was CEO of AOL, a great company with enormous potential that lost its cache and was forced to be absorbed by a larger company to remain in business. Eventually, Yahoo will slowly disappear into the humors, vapors and ether just like AOL and become a relic of better times past.<p>Updated: Wed Jan 31, 2018</p> f0a7766c9d882b2737c8d8892a70560e Cheap Stocks for 01/24/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/01/18/cheap-stocks-3d6a3 Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Are there stockbrokers who specialize in cheap stocks? My wife and I would like to find a qualified and recognized cheap stock expert who could recommend 10 stocks selling for $10 or less. I would invest $10,000 in each. We've decided to risk up to $100,000, have some fun and shoot for the moon by buying cheap stocks. Some of my friends tell me that they have made thousands of dollars every year with a portfolio of stocks selling for less than $10 a share. They hold the stocks for a year, and then they keep the winners and get rid of the losers. Could you recommend some cheap stocks for us, or could you recommend a broker who specializes in this kind of investment? &#8212; HA, Ann Arbor, Mich.</p> <p>Dear HA: They lie.<p>Updated: Wed Jan 24, 2018</p> 69c1f9257f7750d345d07ce63bbcd418 Best Stock Picks for 01/24/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/01/18/best-stock-picks Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Please recommend about 10 stocks that are not well-known on Wall Street, are seldom touted by research departments and have, in your opinion, good appreciation potential over the next 18 to 24 months. I'm comfortable with low to moderate risk. &#8212; DB, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.</p> <p>Dear DB: My friend Ossie Ollum, an old college classmate I've kept in touch with, thinks he's a stock maven. He gave me a bunch of issues last week and told me to watch them for a year. <span class="column--highlighted-text">He believes that this portfolio could provide a 33 percent total return in 18 months.</span> I chose nine issues. I'll profile the others next week.<p>Updated: Wed Jan 24, 2018</p> e0e9b47e18ac4b7fc77c35791b4f3224 Highly Rated Stocks for 01/17/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/01/18/highly-rated-stocks Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I am very nervous about the stock market and have been selling my weak stocks &#8212; those that have weak financial statements and those I don't think will be able to keep their profit momentum during a big downturn. For example, I'm selling Ford and General Motors, my airline stocks, some of my real estate investment trusts, two restaurant stocks, all of my small telecommunications stocks, two media stocks, insurance stocks, bank stocks, and mortgage issues. But I want to remain in the market with stocks rated A++, because they have the highest financial strength and, though they may also fall in price, they will continue their dividends and recover well when the market comes back. What stocks would you recommend? I have $84,000 to invest. &#8212; HK, Kankakee, Ill.</p> <p>Dear HK: The designation A++, for the few who don't know, is Value Line's top safety rating. It tells us that the financial strength of a company is among the best of the 1,700 companies followed by Value Line. Value Line's ratings are measured by companies' balance sheets and financial ratios and by the stability of their stock prices over the past five years. Value Line also considers business risk, the level and direction of profits, cash flow, earned returns, cash on hand, and the size of a company. But be mindful that the Value Line safety rating is a quality rank and not a performance rank. Please read that sentence again.<p>Updated: Wed Jan 17, 2018</p> e029983fbef55ed54719c62b57d1134e Chinese Stocks for 01/17/2018 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/01/18/chinese-stocks Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: In January 2015, I invested $200,000 in Chinese stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The Chinese stock market was as hot as a firecracker, and people I know were making big money quickly. Needless to say, it didn't work out for me. I bought 41 stocks, and my original $200,000 investment is now worth $127,000. Could you please look over my portfolio and tell me what to sell and what to keep? &#8212; GL, Kankakee, Ill.</p> <p>Dear GL: Most Chinese IPOs are generating unexpected losses for investors. The route has discouraged many Chinese firms from going public in the U.S. and listing their shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Last year, 17 Chinese firms debuted on the Big Board. Accordingly, 11 of those firms are trading below their initial public offering prices, with half of them plunging within a month of their listing. For example, your Qudian (QD-$12.30) &#8212; a $1.5 billion-revenue outfit that, with its subsidiaries, runs online consumer finance platforms for the People's Republic of China &#8212; has been a bust. QD lends small sums of cash plus merchandise credits that have retail value. QD, among China's largest IPOs, raised $900 million when it came public at $35 a share last October. It now trades 60 percent lower. Your money's gone.<p>Updated: Wed Jan 17, 2018</p>