NJ Governor signs SALT deduction workaround into Law

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law May 4th, 2018 the State and Local Tax Deduction bill that would allow New Jersey municipalities to create charitable funds through which NJ taxpayers can donate in exchange for a tax credit of up to 90% of their donation to reduce their property tax bill.  Generally, the charitable deduction would then be fully deductible on the federal income tax return.  The legislation will go into effect in July 2018.
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First Quarter 2018 Review

First Quarter 2018 Review

Market Overview

The overwhelming story of the 1st quarter of 2018 was the return of volatility to our financial markets. In the past quarter, investors saw the S&P 500 experience 6 trading days of plus or minus 2% moves; something that did not occur during a single trading day in 2017. The stock market in 2018 is proving to be more sensitive to political posturing, threats of a trade war, rising interest rates, and inflationary fears. This volatility, however, is far from abnormal with a 12% decline at some point during each year being the average. Lack of volatility during 2017 spoiled investors.

CRA Financial First Quarter 2018 Review

Equity Markets

The quarter started out similar to last year, with the S&P 500 advancing 5.62% in January. In contrast, February and March proved to be a bumpy ride with the stock market retreating 3.89% and 2.69% respectively. The U.S. stock market saw a 1.22% decline compared with a 2.38% decline in developed international equities where the potential risk of a trade war is causing economic uncertainty in a similar fashion. International emerging market equities continued to be a bright spot for investment illustrating a 0.91% return for the first quarter due to improving economic conditions and earnings growth.

International Trade and the Markets

With the announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs and the more recent tariffs of up to $60 billion on Chinese imports, there is the potential for an increased risk of a trade war. A trade war would mean that tariffs are raised steeply and broadly across a range of products and potentially across multiple countries. A trade war among major countries hasn’t occurred in over 90 years but the results have been very bad for economies in the past. Most research and analysis indicates that the current situation would not be expected to deteriorate to this level; however, renegotiating existing trade agreements will have an effect on different businesses/sectors of the economy. Trade announcements from the current administration will likely continue to create volatility in the financial markets, most likely in the short-term.

Tech Stock Challenges

The very large and news grabbing FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) experienced challenges during the past quarter. Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet (Google) in particular have recently found themselves in regulators’ sights due to concerns that privacy laws may have been violated. This could lead to more regulatory oversight causing an increase in operating costs. While the recent volatility in these stocks correlates somewhat to the rest of the NASDAQ, the NASDAQ as a whole actually still posted a positive gain for the quarter of 2.32%. The 7.36% gain of the NASDAQ in January perhaps was the market overbuying these stocks as they were 2017 winners.

Bond and Credit Markets

In March the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark 25 basis points to the range of 1.5% to 1.75%, marking the sixth time since the financial crisis that it has raised rates. The Fed also reiterated its forecast of three hikes for this year, meaning it expects two more for 2018. Given this backdrop of steadily increasing rates, fixed income markets were challenged during the first quarter. Both U.S. fixed income and global high yield were down 1.5% and 0.4% respectively. Municipal bonds also saw a 1.1% decline. In light of higher volatility, cash outperformed most other assets classes, returning a meager 0.3%.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury ended the quarter with a yield of 2.74%. The yield curve remains relatively flat.

Perspective for the rest of 2018

Looking to the rest of 2018, it is expected that market volatility will remain as it is the norm for stock markets. With that being said, analysts expect corporate earnings to continue to grow through the rest of 2018. Traditional stock market fundamentals remain supportive of an ongoing bull market and, in fact, the Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose again in March, continuing its robust upward trend. While sticking with an investment in stocks is more difficult when they aren’t moving straight up, the long- term return that these investments provide is often needed for investors to reach their financial goals. At CRA, we will continue to monitor our markets and portfolios carefully and thank you for your continued relationship with our firm.

Respectfully submitted,
CRA Financial, L.L.C.

2017 – The Year in Review

2017 – The Year in Review

2017 Year in Review Early Predictions

Heading into 2017, many analysts were predicting a modest year for investors. Fresh off the end of 2016 where stocks rallied strong in the fourth quarter to finish up almost 12% (S&P 500) for the year, both Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs were predicting an S&P 500 return for 2018 of less than 3%. Further, many analysts were also predicting a rough ride for the bond market, where it was widely believed that rising interest rates would cause most bond returns to be flat or negative for the year. The S&P 500 posted a total return of 21.31% for 2018, its best year since 2013. And, although the Fed (FOMC committee) raised short-term interest rates three times in 2017, the long end of the interest rate yield curve (as indicated by the 10 Year US Treasury Rate) actually declined slightly during 2018, starting the year at 2.45% and finishing 2018 at 2.40%. The US Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Bond Index finished 2017 with a respectable 3.54% return. If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that forecasting elections or market returns is a fool’s errand.
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Forth Quarter 2017 Overview

Forth Quarter 2017 Overview

Market Overview

Amidst a backdrop of unusually low volatility, United States and a broad swath of world equity markets rose sharply during 2017, based upon the expansion of 45 separate global
economies. The US broad market advanced 20.52% for the year, 6.2% coming during the final quarter. Developed international and emerging international markets climbed 25% and 37% respectively during 2017, while posting end of quarter gains of 4.23% and 7.44% respectively.
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Explaining “Backdoor Roth IRAs”


Learn how higher income earners can contribute to a Roth IRA

ROTH IRAS ARE A POWERFUL WAY TO SAVE FOR RETIREMENT

Contributions into a Roth IRA are not tax deductible. However, the earnings in the account accumulate tax deferred, and can be distributed completely tax free after age 59½, provided 5 years have elapsed since the tax year of your first Roth contribution. Many investors who might otherwise contribute to a Roth IRA find themselves constrained by the IRS income limits which restrict their ability to contribute to a Roth IRA based on their adjusted gross income (AGI).
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Third Quarter 2017 Overview

Third Quarter 2017 Overview

Market Overview

Global markets continued their broad advance during the third quarter 2017. Thus far 2017 has been a year where all major asset classes have advanced with international equities leading the field. Could we now be at an inflection point?
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CRA Financial Hosts Annual Client BBQ

On July 13, CRA Financial hosted a barbecue at the Atlantic City Aquarium, catered by Nobil Foods. Starting with a tour of the aquarium, a delicious barbecue and cocktails followed outside overlooking Clam Creek, with a performance by Strawberry Jam Band. Clients of all ages enjoyed the summer night of fun.

CRA Financial, LLC is a comprehensive wealth management firm whose primary objective is to assist clients in accumulating and preserving wealth. They are committed to providing value-added, wealth- enhancing services in a cost-effective manner that remains consistent with their philosophy of putting their clients’ best interest first. These services encompass six comprehensive areas of financial planning: investment, tax, insurance, retirement, education, and estate planning.

This article was originally published in the Summer Edition of NJ Lifestyle. Photos by Eric Weeks.

Mid-year Market Overview: Will the rally continue?

Mid-year Market Overview: Will the rally continue?

rallyRALLY: The markets are off to a great start so far in 2017. The S&P 500 closed the second quarter with a strong year-to-date gain of 9.34% (Total return including dividends). Investors saw a market that remained resilient in the face of uncertainty and volatility was kept at bay. Corporate earnings remained strong, global economies have been improving, and major central banks across the world have continued support. Markets shrugged off repeated global terrorist attacks and a seemingly stalled presidency as a gridlocked Congress wrangled with the questions of the government’s appropriate role in the U.S. health care system.
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HSA Benefits: Health Savings Account = A great retirement tool

HSA Benefits: Health Savings Account = A great retirement tool

Health Savings Account = A great retirement toolA Health savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged savings account for individuals and families enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. Contributions to an HSA are tax deductible and can be made via payroll deductions, as well as from outside contributions. Withdrawals used to cover qualified medical expenses are not subject to federal taxes. These plans are designed to provide a tax break for the out-of-pocket medical costs associated with a higher deductible health plan, however they also can be used as a great vehicle to save for retirement.
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Market Timing: How far will the market continue to move higher, before the drop arrives?

Market Timing: How far will the market continue to move higher, before the drop arrives?

How far will the market continue to move higher, before the drop arrives?The 10 bear markets since 1929 combine for an average market drop of 45% over an average duration of 25 months. The bull markets that have preceded/followed those 10 bears have generated an average return of 154% over an average duration of 54 months. The current bull market, which began on March 2009, is well above those averages. The bulls just celebrated the 8th anniversary, and have cheered market gains of 231% through the end of 2016. With the market continuing to post impressive gains to start 2017, many investors are increasingly worried that a “pullback” is on the horizon. This increasing pessimism has many investors asking; “Is it possible to time the market?”
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