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Fundranker Blog—March 2010 Archive

Fundranker Multiple-Month Downturns

Through June, 2008, the Fundranker system bucked the bear market that started in November, 2007, but in the frantic market downturn during the last half of 2008 and January and February of 2009, it gave back those gains and then some. Fundranker has had multiple-month downturns only 15 times since 1997, when historical tracking of the Top Eight Model Portfolio began, and it has not had any multiple-month downturns during the recent, year-long, bull market. Here are Fundranker’s losses during those downturns along with its returns during the next three months, six months, and 12 months:

       Next 3  Next 6 Next 12
     Period Months    Loss Months Months Months
Feb/Mar 1997     2 (10.478) 17.993  37.309  49.620 
Jul/Aug 1998     2 (18.332) 24.203  46.650  83.587 
Mar/May 2000     3 (14.633) 20.863  7.140  9.806 
Sep/Nov 2000     3 (11.354) 0.224  2.488  (5.267)
Jan/Mar 2001     3 (9.739) 3.670  (7.140) 12.227 
Aug/Oct 2001     3 (12.200) 13.141  23.520  (1.727)
Jun/Jul 2002     2 (15.637) (6.615) (4.395) 7.475 
Sep/Oct 2002     2 (8.563) 2.377  (4.461) 33.218 
Dec/Mar 2003     4 (7.317) 15.114  23.719  45.021 
Mar/Apr 2004     2 (10.145) 1.538  8.246  16.784 
Jul/Aug 2004     2 (3.678) 14.696  24.092  40.048 
Mar/Apr 2005     2 (6.949) 17.081  20.887  50.482 
Jul/Aug 2006     2 (3.256) 4.659  5.865  16.990 
Jul/Nov 2008     5 (46.834) (9.347) 7.189  28.094 
Jan/Feb 2009     2 (16.832) 18.245  34.694  44.814 

The five-month downturn that began in July, 2008, was the first multiple-month downturn Fundranker had had for two years, and it is by far the worst and longest that Fundranker has suffered. As the Great Recession, the worst recession since the Great Depression, continued, Fundranker added another two-month downturn in January and February, 2009. As it did after many past multiple-month downturns, however, Fundranker was able to garner impressive returns over the following periods.

Although past results are never an assurance of future performance, you still can benefit from knowing that Fundranker almost always has gone on to better performance in the months that follow a multiple-month downturn. Let this knowledge boost your confidence in Fundranker. Stay disciplined, and stick with the Fundranker system.

Posted 3/25/10 10:19am ET in Fundranker | Permalink | Comments (0)

Education Tax Credits for 2009

If you, your spouse, or one or more dependents had qualifying postsecondary education expenses in 2009, don’t miss claiming your education tax credit on federal Form 8863. The American Opportunity credit is new for 2009, and the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits are still available, as well, although the Hope credit is useful now only if you need to claim qualifying educational expenses for a student who attended a school in a Midwestern disaster area. Instead of the above education credits, you also still can claim the tuition and fees deduction on federal Form 8917 for 2009. It is limited to $2,000 or $4,000 depending on your gross income less other deductions, is deducted from your gross income, and lowers your AGI. As such, it hardly ever lowers your federal tax as much as the above credits, and we won’t discuss it any further in this post. As an aside, you may be able to reduce your state income tax for 2009 by claiming qualifying education expenses, as well.

The American Opportunity education credit, new for 2009, allows you to claim a tax credit of 100% of the first $2,000 and 25% of the next $2,000 of qualified education expenses for each student, for up to a maximum $2,500 tax credit per student, for the first four years of postsecondary education. Even better, if you are at least 24 years old (see Form 8863 instructions if you were younger than 24 at the end of 2009), 40% of each student’s tax credit is refundable, meaning it will increase your tax refund, even if you donít owe that much tax. If you claim the American Opportunity credit for any student, you cannot claim the Hope credit for other students, but you can claim the Lifetime Learning credit for other students. The American Opportunity credit is phased out beginning at $80,000 AGI for single taxpayers and $160,000 AGI for married taxpayers who file jointly.

If you have a student who attended school in a Midwestern disaster area, the Hope education credit allows you to claim a tax credit of 100% of the first $2,400 and 50% of the next $2,400 of qualified education expenses for each student, for up to a maximum $3,600 tax credit per student, for the first two years of postsecondary education. If you have other students who did not attend school in a Midwestern disaster area, the Hope education credit allows you to claim a tax credit of 100% of the first $1,200 and 50% of the next $1,200 of qualified education expenses for each student, for up to a maximum $1,800 tax credit per student, for the first two years of postsecondary education. If you claim the Hope credit for any student, you cannot claim the American Opportunity credit for other students, but you can claim the Lifetime Learning credit for other students. None of the Hope credit is refundable, and it is phased out beginning at $60,000 AGI for single taxpayers and $120,000 AGI for married taxpayers who file jointly.

The Lifetime Learning education credit allows you to claim a tax credit of 20% (or 40%, if your student attended school in a Midwestern disaster area) of the first $10,000 of qualified education expenses for all students together, for up to a maximum $2,000 (or $4,000) tax credit. This credit can be used for any number of years of postsecondary education. None of it is refundable, and it is phased out beginning at $60,000 AGI for single taxpayers and $120,000 AGI for married taxpayers who file jointly.

Check various combinations of the three credits to see which is best for you. For example, if you have only one student, she attended school in a Midwestern disaster area, and she had $10,000 of qualifying expenses, you could claim a $2,500 American Opportunity credit, a $3,600 Hope credit, or a $4,000 Lifetime Learning credit. If you have two students, neither attended school in a Midwestern disaster area, and they each had $5,000 of qualifying expenses, you could claim a $5,000 American Opportunity credit, a $2,500 American Opportunity credit along with a $1,000 Lifetime Learning credit, or a $2,000 Lifetime Learning credit. If you have two students, one attended school in a Midwestern disaster area and had $10,000 of qualifying expenses, and the other had $4,000 of qualifying expenses, you could claim a $5,000 American Opportunity credit for both students, a $5,400 Hope credit for both students, a $4,000 Lifetime Learning Credit for both students, or a $4,000 Lifetime Learning credit for the student who attended school in a Midwestern disaster area along with a $2,500 American Opportunity credit for the student who didn’t.

When you are figuring out which option is best for your situation, remember that, if the nonrefundable portion of your education credit is limited by the amount of your income tax, it’s possible a smaller American Opportunity credit, which is partly refundable, may be better than a larger Hope or Lifetime Learning credit.

Posted 3/16/10 10:35am ET in Tax Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

One Year

At the depths of the Great Recession, when the market reached 12-year lows on March 9, 2009, despair seemed to be overwhelming. Then a market rally started, and hope returned, or maybe it was the other way around. Despite many calls for the market to test new lows, it never really did. You can see from the chart below that the market did turn down significantly three times over the last year, but always recovered.

As of March 9, 2010, the Nasdaq Composite Index (as measured by Fidelity’s Nasdaq Composite Index Fund) reached a new high for the year-long bull market, while the S&P 500 Index (as measured by Fidelity’s Spartan 500 Index - Investor Class Fund) and Fundranker’s Top Eight Model Portfolio were tantalizingly close to highs they reached in January.

After Fundranker, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq Composite fell 54.1%, 54.9%, and 55.1%, respectively, during the bear market that lasted from November 1, 2007, through March 9, 2009, they gained 61.5%, 72.8%, and 85.7%, respectively, during the year which ended March 9, 2010:

3/9/2009 through 3/9/2010

Posted 3/10/10 10:02am ET in Fundranker, Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Unrelated Dependent

Are you working long hours, possibly more than one job, and supporting your significant other while she’s out of work? Is your unemployed college buddy mooching off you during a long and unsuccessful job hunt? Have you taken in your daughter’s soccer team buddy because her home life wasn’t working? It’s not obvious, and it may surprise you, but you may be able to claim an unrelated person as a dependent on your 2009 federal tax return.

There are several tests to determine whether an unrelated person is your dependent. If you and your potential dependent pass all of these tests, get ready to save a bundle on your taxes:

  • Is your potential dependent a qualifying relative? It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that she isn’t a qualifying relative, because, well, she’s not related to you in any form or fashion. Take a close look at the IRA definition of a qualifying relative, however, and you’ll see that it includes, in addition to various real relatives, any other person who lived with you all year as a member of your household if your relationship did not violate local law. Note that the 2009 Form 1040 instructions list some exceptions that still count as living with you, such as going to school or on vacation. So if your potential dependent lived with you for all of 2009, and your relationship did not violate local law, you pass this test.

  • Is your potential dependent a qualifying child of any taxpayer for 2009? Because she is not related to you, she’s not your qualifying child, and if she lived with you the entire year, then she can’t be a qualifying child of anybody else, either. You easily pass this test.

  • Did your potential dependent have gross income of less than $3,650 in 2009? If so, you pass this test.

  • Did you provide over half of your potential dependent’s support in 2009? Well, does she have some other means of support? Is the support you provide more than her other means of support? If so, you pass this test.

  • Was your potential dependent a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, a U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico? If so, you pass this test.

  • Was your potential dependent married? If not, you pass this test.

  • Can you yourself be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s 2009 tax return? If you are providing have of your potential dependent’s support, it’s unlikely someone else is providing half of your support. You should pass this test easily.

So if you pass the above tests, just how much can you save on your taxes? An additional dependent allows you an extra exemption, which, for 2009, shaves $3,650 off your taxable income. If you are in the 25% tax bracket, that amounts to tax savings of over $900. If you also are paying education expenses for your unrelated dependent, you can save big with an education tax credit. To top it off, you probably will save money on your state income tax, as well.

Posted 3/7/10 11:21am ET in Tax Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

2009 Qualified Dividends

Fidelity shows qualified dividends paid on funds in a taxable account at www.fidelity.com and on 2009 Form 1099-DIV. These dividends are from companies the funds held for the required holding periods to qualify as qualified dividends. In addition to meeting the holding period within the fund, however, you also have to hold your fund shares for the required holding period for your dividends to be qualified. To pass the qualified dividend holding period test, you must hold your fund shares for a period of at least 61 days, which can precede, straddle, or follow the ex-date of the dividend.

Fidelity paid dividends on several funds in Fundranker’s Top Eight Model Portfolio in April and December, 2009. Here is a list of those dividends, ex-dates, days Fundranker held shares in the funds, and whether those days pass the qualified dividends holding test:

        Fund   Ex-Date Days Pass?
Chemicals (FSCHX) 12/11/2009   32 No
Electronics (FSELX) 4/17/2009   32 No
Gold (FSAGX) 12/11/2009   62 Yes
Materials (FSEPX) 12/11/2009   62 Yes
Multimedia (FBMPX) 12/11/2009   32 No
Pharmaceuticals(FPHAX) 4/17/2009 215 Yes
Telecommunications (FSTCX) 4/17/2009   92 Yes

Assuming you bought and sold the above funds on Fundranker exchange dates, the bottom line here is that you should claim dividends that Fidelity reports as qualified for Gold, Materials, Pharmaceuticals, and Telecommunications as qualified dividends, but not those that Fidelity reports as qualified for Chemicals, Electronics, or Multimedia.

If you bought and sold the above funds on dates other than Fundranker exchange dates, or if you held, in a taxable account, other Fidelity funds which paid qualified dividends, you’ll need to calculate your own holding periods to determine whether the dividends Fidelity reports as qualified are truly qualified.

Posted 3/03/10 11:20am ET in Fidelity Investments, Fundranker, Tax Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)