The Diversified Blog

A wealth management blog dedicated to creating a long lasting sustainable retirement.

A Vote for Small Cap Stocks?

Here is a nice article provided by Weston Wellington of Dimensional Fund Advisors:


In the days immediately following the recent US presidential election, US small company stocks experienced higher returns than US large company stocks. This example helps illustrate how the dimensions of expected returns can appear quickly, unpredictably, and with large magnitude.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE:

A Vote for Small Cap Stocks.pdf


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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The 23 Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions

Here is a nice article provided by Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger:


Years ago, the fellow running the IRS told Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine that he figured millions of taxpayers overpaid their taxes every year by overlooking just one of the money-saving tax breaks listed here.

We’ve updated all the key details in this popular guide to the common tax deductions many filers miss to ensure that your 2016 return is a money-saving masterpiece. Cut your tax bill to the bone by claiming all the tax write-offs you deserve.

1.  State Sales Taxes

After years of uncertainty, in 2015 Congress finally made this break “permanent.” This is particularly important to you if you live in a state that does not impose a state income tax. Congress offers itemizers the choice between deducting the state income taxes or state sales taxes they paid. You choose whichever saves you the most money. So if your state doesn't have an income tax, the sales tax write-off is clearly the way to go.

In some cases, even filers who pay state income taxes can come out ahead with the sales tax choice. And, you don’t need a wheelbarrow full of receipts. The IRS has tables that show how much residents of various states can deduct, based on their income and state and local sales tax rates. But the tables aren't the last word. If you purchased a vehicle, boat or airplane, you may add the sales tax you paid on that big-ticket item to the amount shown in the IRS table for your state. The IRS even has a calculator that shows how much residents of various states can deduct, based on their income and state and local sales tax rates.

We put those quotations marks around permanent above because, as Congress takes up tax reform in 2017, one possibility is the elimination of both the sales tax and the state income tax deductions. But you’re still sure to have the choice for your 2016 return.

2.  Reinvested Dividends

This isn't a tax deduction, but it is an important subtraction that can save you a bundle. And this is the one that former IRS commissioner Fred Goldberg told Kiplinger millions of taxpayers miss . . . costing them millions in overpaid taxes.

If, like most investors, you have mutual fund dividends automatically reinvested to buy extra shares, remember that each new purchase increases your tax basis in the fund. That, in turn, reduces the taxable capital gain (or increases the tax-saving loss) when you redeem shares. Forgetting to include reinvested dividends in your basis results in double taxation of the dividends—once in the year when they were paid out and immediately reinvested and later when they're included in the proceeds of the sale.

Don't make that costly mistake.

If you're not sure what your basis is, ask the fund for help. Funds often report to investors the tax basis of shares redeemed during the year. In fact, for the sale of shares purchased in 2012 and later years, funds must report the basis to investors and to the IRS.

3.  Out-of-Pocket Charitable Deductions

It's hard to overlook the big charitable gifts you made during the year, by check or payroll deduction (check your December pay stub).

But little things add up, too, and you can write off out-of-pocket costs incurred while doing work for a charity. For example, ingredients for casseroles you prepare for a nonprofit organization's soup kitchen and stamps you buy for a school's fund-raising mailing count as charitable contributions. Keep your receipts. If your contribution totals more than $250, you'll also need an acknowledgement from the charity documenting the support you provided. If you drove your car for charity in 2016, remember to deduct 14 cents per mile, plus parking and tolls paid, in your philanthropic journeys.

4.  Student-Loan Interest Paid by Mom and Dad

Generally, you can deduct interest only if you are legally required to repay the debt. But if parents pay back a child's student loans, the IRS treats the transactions as if the money were given to the child, who then paid the debt. So as long as the child is no longer claimed as a dependent, he or she can deduct up to $2,500 of student-loan interest paid by Mom and Dad each year. And he or she doesn't have to itemize to use this money-saver. (Mom and Dad can't claim the interest deduction even though they actually foot the bill because they are not liable for the debt.)

5.  Job-Hunting Costs

If you're among the millions of unemployed Americans who were looking for a job in 2016, we hope you were successful . . . and that you kept track of your job-search expenses or can reconstruct them. If you were looking for a position in the same line of work as your current or most recent job, you can deduct job-hunting costs as miscellaneous expenses if you itemize. Qualifying expenses can be written off even if you didn't land a new job. But such expenses can be deducted only to the extent that your total miscellaneous expenses exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income. (Job-hunting expenses incurred while looking for your first job don't qualify.) Deductible costs include, but aren't limited to:

Transportation expenses incurred as part of the job search, including 54 cents a mile for driving your own car plus parking and tolls. (The rate falls to 53.5 cents a mile for driving in 2017.)

Food and lodging expenses if your search takes you away from home overnight

Cab fares

Employment agency fees

Costs of printing resumes, business cards, postage, and advertising.

6.  Moving Expenses to Take Your First Job

Although job-hunting expenses are not deductible when looking for your first job, moving expenses to get to that job are. And you get this write-off even if you don't itemize. To qualify for the deduction, your first job must be at least 50 miles away from your old home. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of getting yourself and your household goods to the new area. If you drove your own car on a 2016 move, deduct 19 cents a mile, plus what you paid for parking and tolls. (The rate falls to 17 cents a mile for 2017 moves.) For a full list of deductible moving expenses, check out IRS Publication 521.

7.  Military Reservists' Travel Expenses

Members of the National Guard or military reserve may write off the cost of travel to drills or meetings. To qualify, you must travel more than 100 miles from home and be away from home overnight. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of lodging and half the cost of your meals, plus an allowance for driving your own car to get to and from drills.

For 2016 travel, the rate is 54 cents a mile, plus what you paid for parking fees and tolls. You may claim this deduction even if you use the standard deduction rather than itemizing. (The rate falls to 53.5 cents a mile for 2017 travel.)

8.  Deduction of Medicare Premiums for the Self-Employed

Folks who continue to run their own businesses after qualifying for Medicare can deduct the premiums they pay for Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D, plus the cost of supplemental Medicare (medigap) policies or the cost of a Medicare Advantage plan.

This deduction is available whether or not you itemize and is not subject to the 7.5% of AGI test that applies to itemized medical expenses for those age 65 and older. One caveat: You can't claim this deduction if you are eligible to be covered under an employer-subsidized health plan offered by either your employer (if you have a job as well as your business) or your spouse's employer (if he or she has a job that offers family medical coverage).

9.  Child-Care Credit

A credit is so much better than a deduction; it reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar. So missing one is even more painful than missing a deduction that simply reduces the amount of income that's subject to tax. In the 25% bracket, each dollar of deductions is worth a quarter; each dollar of credits is worth a greenback.

You can qualify for a tax credit worth between 20% and 35% of what you pay for child care while you work. But if your boss offers a child care reimbursement account—which allows you to pay for the child care with pretax dollars—that’s likely to be an even better deal. If you qualify for a 20% credit but are in the 25% tax bracket, for example, the reimbursement plan is the way to go. Not only does money run through a reimbursement account avoid federal income taxes, it also is protected from the 7.65% Social Security tax. (In any case, only amounts paid for the care of children younger than age 13 count.)

You can't double dip. Expenses paid through a plan can't also be used to generate the tax credit. But get this: Although only $5,000 in expenses can be paid through a tax-favored reimbursement account, up to $6,000 for the care of two or more children can qualify for the credit. So if you run the maximum through a plan at work but spend even more for work-related child care, you can claim the credit on as much as $1,000 of additional expenses. That would cut your tax bill by at least $200.

10.  Estate Tax on Income in Respect of a Decedent

This sounds complicated, but it can save you a lot of money if you inherited an IRA from someone whose estate was big enough to be subject to the federal estate tax.

Basically, you get an income-tax deduction for the amount of estate tax paid on the IRA assets you received. Let's say you inherited a $100,000 IRA, and the fact that the money was included in your benefactor's estate added $40,000 to the estate-tax bill. You get to deduct that $40,000 on your tax returns as you withdraw the money from the IRA. If you withdraw $50,000 in one year, for example, you get to claim a $20,000 itemized deduction on Schedule A. That would save you $5,600 in the 28% bracket.

11.  State Tax Paid Last Spring

Did you owe tax when you filed your 2015 state income tax return in the spring of 2016? Then, for goodness' sake, remember to include that amount in your state-tax deduction on your 2016 federal return, along with state income taxes withheld from your paychecks or paid via quarterly estimated payments during the year.

12.  Refinancing Points

When you buy a house, you get to deduct in one fell swoop the points paid to get your mortgage. When you refinance, though, you have to deduct the points on the new loan over the life of that loan. That means you can deduct 1/30th of the points a year if it's a 30-year mortgage. That's $33 a year for each $1,000 of points you paid—not much, maybe, but don't throw it away.

Even more important, in the year you pay off the loan—because you sell the house or refinance again—you get to deduct all as-yet-undeducted points. There's one exception to this sweet rule: If you refinance a refinanced loan with the same lender, you add the points paid on the latest deal to the leftovers from the previous refinancing, then deduct that amount gradually over the life of the new loan. A pain? Yes, but at least you'll be compensated for the hassle.

13.  Jury Pay Paid to Employer

Many employers continue to pay employees' full salary while they serve on jury duty, and some impose a quid pro quo: The employees have to turn over their jury pay to the company coffers. The only problem is that the IRS demands that you report those jury fees as taxable income. To even things out, you get to deduct the amount you give to your employer.

But how do you do it? There's no line on the Form 1040 labeled “jury fees.” Instead, the write-off goes on line 36, which purports to be for simply totaling up deductions that get their own lines. Include your jury fees with your other write-offs and write "jury pay" on the dotted line.

14.  American Opportunity Credit

Unlike the Hope Credit that this one replaced, the American Opportunity Credit is good for all four years of college, not just the first two. Don't shortchange yourself by missing this critical difference. This tax credit is based on 100% of the first $2,000 spent on qualifying college expenses and 25% of the next $2,000 ... for a maximum annual credit per student of $2,500. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less ($160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return). The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above those levels.

If the credit exceeds your tax liability, it can trigger a refund. (Most credits are “nonrefundable,” meaning they can reduce your tax to $0, but not get you a check from the IRS.)

15.  A College Credit for Those Long Out of College

College credits aren’t just for youngsters, nor are they limited to just the first four years of college. The Lifetime Learning credit can be claimed for any number of years and can be used to offset the cost of higher education for yourself or your spouse . . . not just for your children.

The credit is worth up to $2,000 a year, based on 20% of up to $10,000 you spend for post-high-school courses that lead to new or improved job skills. Classes you take even in retirement at a vocational school or community college can count. If you brushed up on skills in 2016, this credit can help pay the bills. The right to claim this tax-saver phases out as income rises from $55,000 to $65,000 on an individual return and from $110,000 to $130,000 for couples filing jointly.

16.  Those Blasted Baggage Fees

Airlines seem to revel in driving travelers batty with extra fees for baggage, online booking and for changing travel plans. Such fees add up to billions of dollars each year. If you get burned, maybe Uncle Sam will help ease the pain. If you're self-employed and traveling on business, be sure to add those costs to your deductible travel expenses.

17.  Credits for Energy-Saving Home Improvements

Your 2016 return is the last chance to claim a tax credit for installing energy-efficient windows or making similar energy-saving home improvements. You can claim up to $500 in total tax credits for eligible improvements, based on 10% of the purchase cost (not installation) of certain insulation, windows, doors and skylights. The credit is subject to a lifetime cap, so if you’ve already pocketed the max, you’re out of luck. But there’s no such limit on the much more powerful incentive for those who install qualified residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines in 2016. Your credit can be 30% of the total cost (including labor) of such systems.

18.  Bonus Depreciation ... And Beefed-Up Expensing

Business owners—including those who run businesses out of their homes—have to stay on their toes to capture tax breaks for buying new equipment. The rules seem to be constantly shifting as Congress writes incentives into the law and then allows them to expire or to be cut back to save money. Take “bonus depreciation” as an example. Back in 2011, rather than write off the cost of new equipment over many years, a business could use 100% bonus depreciation to deduct the full cost in the year the equipment was put into service. For 2013, the bonus depreciation rate was 50%. The break expired at the end of 2013 and stayed expired until the end of 2014 . . . when Congress reinstated it retroactively to cover 2014 purchases. Then, the provision expired again . . . but near the end of 2015, Congress revived the break. The 50% bonus applies for property purchased in 2016 and 2017, too; the bonus drops to 40% in 2018 and 30% in 2019.

Perhaps even more valuable, though, is another break: supercharged "expensing," which basically lets you write off the full cost of qualifying assets in the year you put them into service. This break, too, has a habit of coming and going. But as part of the 2015 tax law, Congress made the expansion of expensing permanent. For 2016 and future years, businesses can expense up to $500,000 worth of assets. The half-million-dollar cap phases out dollar for dollar for firms that put more than $2 million worth of assets into service in a single year.

19.  Social Security Taxes You Pay

This doesn’t work for employees. You can’t deduct the 7.65% of pay that’s siphoned off for Social Security and Medicare. But if you’re self-employed and have to pay the full 15.3% tax yourself (instead of splitting it 50-50 with an employer), you do get to write off half of what you pay. That deduction comes on the face of Form 1040, so you don’t have to itemize to take advantage of it.

20.  Waiver of Penalty for the Newly Retired

This isn’t a deduction, but it can save you money if it protects you from a penalty. Because our tax system operates on a pay-as-you earn basis, taxpayers typically must pay 90% of what they owe during the year via withholding or estimated tax payments. If you don’t, and you owe more than $1,000 when you file your return, you can be hit with a penalty for underpayment of taxes. The penalty works like interest on a loan—as though you borrowed from the IRS the money you didn’t pay. The current rate is 3%.

There are several exceptions to the penalty, including a little-known one that can protect taxpayers age 62 and older in the year they retire and the following year. You can request a waiver of the penalty—using Form 2210—if you have reasonable cause, such as not realizing you had to shift to estimated tax payments after a lifetime of meeting your obligation via withholding from your paychecks.

21.  Amortizing Bond Premiums

If you purchased a taxable bond for more than its face value—as you might have to capture a yield higher than current market rates deliver—Uncle Sam will effectively help you pay that premium. That’s only fair, since the IRS is also going to get to tax the extra interest that the higher yield produces.

You have two choices about how to handle the premium.

You can amortize it over the life of the bond by taking each year’s share of the premium and subtracting it from the amount of taxable interest from the bond you report on your tax return. Each year you also reduce your tax basis for the bond by the amount of that year’s amortization.

Or, you can ignore the premium until you sell or redeem the bond. At that time, the full premium will be included in your tax basis so it will reduce the taxable gain or increase the taxable loss dollar for dollar.

The amortization route can be a pain, since it’s up to you to both figure how each year’s share and keep track of the declining basis. But it could be more valuable, since the interest you don’t report will avoid being taxed in your top tax bracket for the year—as high as 43.4%, while the capital gain you reduce by waiting until you sell or redeem the bond would only be taxed at 0%, 15% or 20%.

If you buy a tax-free municipal bond at a premium, you must use the amortization method and reduce your basis each year . . . but you don’t get to deduct the amount amortized. After all, the IRS doesn’t get to tax the interest.

22.  Legal Fees Paid to Secure Alimony

Although legal fees and court costs involved in a divorce are generally nondeductible personal expenses, you may be able to deduct the part of your attorney’s bill.

Since alimony is taxable income, you can deduct the part of the lawyer’s fee that is attributable to setting the amount. You can also deduct the portion of the fee that is attributable to tax advice. You must itemize to get any tax savings here, and these costs fall into the category of miscellaneous expenses that are deductible only to the extent that the total exceeds 2% of your adjusted gross income. Still, be sure your attorney provides a detailed statement that breaks down his fee so you can tell how much of it may qualify for a tax-saving deduction.

23.  Don’t Unnecessarily Report a State Income Tax Refund

There’s a line on the tax form for reporting a state income tax refund, but most people who get refunds can simply ignore it even though the state sent the IRS a copy of the 1099-G you got reporting the refund. If, like most taxpayers, you didn’t itemize deductions on your previous federal return, the state tax refund is tax-free.

Even if you did itemize, part of it might be tax-free. It’s taxable only to the extent that your deduction of state income taxes the previous year actually saved you money. If you would have itemized (rather than taking the standard deduction) even without your state tax deduction, then 100% of your refund is taxable—since 100% of your write-off reduced your taxable income. But, if part of the state tax write-off is what pushed you over the standard deduction threshold, then part of the refund is tax-free. Don’t report any more than you have to.


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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10 Things That Will Soon Disappear Forever

Here is a nice article provided by David Muhlbaum and John Miley of Kiplinger:


Ten years ago, thousands of Blockbuster Video stores occupied buildings like this all over the country, renting DVDs and selling popcorn. Today, all but a handful are closed. The company’s shares once traded for nearly $30. Now Blockbuster is gone, scooped up (and then erased) by the DISH Network in a bankruptcy auction.

Obsolescence isn’t always so quick or so complete, but emerging technologies and changing practices are sounding the death knell for other familiar items. Check out these 10 that we’ll be saying goodbye to soon.

1.  Keys: Keys, at least in the sense of a piece of brass cut to a specific shape, are going away. At the office, most of us already use a card with a chip embedded to get access. But for getting into your house (and your car), the technology that will kill off the key is your smart phone. Connecting either via Bluetooth or the Internet, your mobile device will be programmed to lock and unlock doors at home, at the office and elsewhere. The secure software can be used on any mobile device. So if your phone runs out of juice, you’ll be able to borrow someone else’s device and log in with a fingerprint or facial scan. Phone stolen? Simply log in and change the digital keys. Kwikset, a brand of Spectrum Brands (SPB), offers the Kevo, and lock veterans Yale have partnered with Nest, now owned by Alphabet (GOOGL), to create the Yale Linus.

For the car, a variety of "connected car" services such as Audi Connect and GM's OnStar already let you unlock and lock the car remotely and even start it with a phone app — but you still need your keyfob to drive off. Next up: Ditching the keyfob entirely. Volvo says it plans to implement this in 2017.

2.  Blackouts: Frustrating power outages that leave people with fridges full of ruined food are on their way out as our electrical grid becomes increasingly intelligent – and resilient.

Two factors are at work: slow, incremental “smart grid” improvements to the system that delivers electricity, and the rapidly expanding use of solar energy in homes and business.

The breakthrough product here is the home battery. Developed by electric-car maker Tesla (TSLA) and others, by 2020, batteries will be cheap enough to store surplus solar power during the day and discharge it overnight, helping to better balance electricity supply and demand – and run a home for up to days during a blackout. LED lighting and more efficient appliances are helping, too, by reducing load on the system, whether the grid is or a backup system is running.

Utilities are also deploying huge banks of batteries, from suppliers like AES (AES), in storm-prone areas to make sure the power stays on for everyone.

3.  Fast-Food Workers: Burger-flippers have targets on their backs as fast-food executives are eager to replace them with machines, particularly as minimum wages in a variety of states are set to rise to $15.

Diners will notice reduced staffing up front as outlets such as Panera (PNRA) turn to touch-screen kiosks for order placing. Behind the scenes in the kitchen, industry giants like Middleby Corp. (MIDD) and boutique startups like San Francisco's Momentum Machines are all hard at work for devices that will take on tasks like loading and unloading dishwashers, flipping burgers, and cooking french fries.

Humans won't be totally out of the picture — the machines will require supervision and maintenance, and dissatisfied customers will need appeasing. But jobs will plummet.

4.  The Clutch Pedal: very year it seems that an additional car model loses the manual transmission option. Even the Ford F-150 pickup truck can’t be purchased with a stick anymore.

The decline of the manual transmission (in the U.S.) has been decades in the making, but two factors are, ahem, accelerating its demise:

Number one: Automatics, developed by firms such as Borg-Warner (BWA), ZF Friedrichshafen and Aisin, are getting more efficient, with up to nine gear ratios, allowing engines to run at the lowest, most economical speeds. Many Mazdas and some BMWs, among others, now score better fuel mileage with an automatic than with a stick.

Number two: Among high-performance cars, such as Porsches, “automated” manual shifts are taking hold. They use electronics to control the clutch instead of your left foot. You can select the gears with paddles, or just let the computer take care of that, too. The result: Shifting is faster than even for the most talented clutch-and-stick jockey, improving the cars' acceleration numbers. Plus, the costs on these are coming down, and they can now be found in less-expensive sporty cars, such as the Golf GTI.

Even the biggest of highway trucks are abandoning the clutch and stick for automatics, for fuel-efficiency gains and to attract drivers who won’t need to learn how to grind their way through 18-plus gears.

Some price-leader economy models, such as the Nissan Versa and Ford Fiesta, will list manuals on their cheapest configurations (though few will actually sell), and a segment of enthusiast cars, such as the Ford Mustang and Mazda Miata MX-5, will continue to offer the traditional three-pedal arrangement for some years to come. “It will be reserved for the ‘driver’s vehicle,’” says Ivan Drury, an analyst for Edmunds.com. But finding one will be a challenge — those holdout drivers had better be prepared to special-order their clutch cars.

5.  College Textbooks: By the end of this decade, digital formats for tablets and e-readers will displace physical books for assigned reading on college campuses, The Kiplinger Letter is forecasting. K–12 schools won’t be far behind, though they’ll mostly stick with larger computers as their platform of choice.

Digital texts figure to yield more bang for the buck than today’s textbooks. Interactive software will test younger pupils’ mastery of basic skills such as arithmetic and create customized lesson plans based on their responses. Older students will be able to take digital notes and even simulate chemistry experiments when bricks-and-mortar labs aren’t handy.

This is a mixed bag for publishers. They’ll sell more digital licenses of semester- or yearlong usage of electronic textbooks as their customers can’t turn to the used-book marketplace anymore. On the other hand, schools are seeking free online, open-source databases of information and collaborating with other institutions and districts to develop their own content on digital models, cutting out traditional educational publishers such as Pearson (PLO), McGraw-Hill and Scholastic (SCHL).

6.  Dial-Up Internet: If you want to hear the once-familiar beeps and whirs of a computer going online through a modem, you will soon need to do that either in a museum or in some very, very remote location.

According to a study from the Pew Foundation, only 3% of U.S. households went online via a dial-up connection in 2013. Thirteen years before that, only 3% had broadband (Today, 70% have home broadband). Massive federal spending on broadband initiatives, passed during the last recession to encourage economic recovery, has helped considerably.

Some providers will continue to offer dial-up as an afterthought for those who can’t or don’t want to connect via cable or another broadband means. But a number of the bigger internet service providers, such as Verizon Online, have quit signing up new dial-up subscribers altogether.

7.  The Plow: Few things are as symbolic of farming as the moldboard plow, but the truth is, the practice of “turning the soil” is dying off.

Modern farmers have little use for it. It provides a deep tillage that turns up too much soil, encouraging erosion because the plow leaves no plant material on the surface to stop wind and rain water from carrying the soil away. It also requires a huge amount of diesel fuel to plow, compared with other tillage methods, cutting into farmers' profits. The final straw: It releases more carbon dioxide into the air than other tillage methods.

Deep plowing is winding down its days on small, poor farms that can't afford new machinery. Most U.S. cropland is now managed as "no-till" or minimum-till, relying on herbicides and implements such as seed drills that work the ground with very little disturbance. Even organic farmers have found ways to minimize tillage, using cover crops rather than herbicides to cut down on weeds. Firms like John Deere (DE) offer a range of sophisticated devices for these techniques.

8.  Your Neighborhood Mail Collection Box: The amount of mail people are sending is plummeting, down 57% from 2004 to 2015 for stamped first-class pieces. So, around the country, the U.S. Postal Service has been cutting back on those iconic blue collection boxes. The number has fallen by more than half since the mid 1980s. Since it costs time and fuel for mail carriers to stop by each one, the USPS monitors usage and pulls out boxes that don't see enough traffic.

Some boxes will find new homes in places with greater foot traffic, such as shopping centers, public transit stops and grocery stores. But on a quiet corner at the end of your street? Better dump all your holiday cards and summer-camp mail in them, or prepare to say goodbye.

9.  Your Privacy: If you are online, you had better assume that you already have no privacy and act accordingly. Every mouse click and keystroke is tracked, logged and potentially analyzed and eventually used by Web site product managers, marketers, hackers and others. To use most services, users have to opt-in to lengthy terms and conditions that allow their data to be crunched by all sorts of actors.

The list of tracking devices is set to boom, as sensors are added to appliances, lights, locks, HVAC systems and even trash cans. Other innovations: Using Wi-Fi signals, for instance, to track movements, from where you're driving or walking down to your heartbeat. Retailers will use the technology to track in minute detail how folks walk around a store and reach for products. Also, facial-recognition software that can change display advertising to personalize it to you (time for a mask?). Transcription software will be so good that many businesses will soon collect mountains of phone-conversation data to mine and analyze.

And think of this: Most of us already carry around an always-on tracking device for which we usually pay good money — a smart phone. Your phone is loaded up with sensors and GPS data. Is it linked to a FitBit perhaps? Now it has your health data.

One reason not to fret: Encryption methods are getting better at walling off at least some aspects of our digital lives. But living the reclusive life of J.D. Salinger might soon become real fiction.

10.  The Incandescent Lightbulb: No, government energy cops are not coming for your bulbs. But the traditional incandescent lightbulb that traces its roots back to Thomas Edison is definitely on its way out. As of January 1, 2014, the manufacture and importation of 40- to 100-watt incandescent bulbs became illegal in the U.S., part of a much broader effort to get Americans to use less electricity.

Stores can still sell whatever inventory they have left, but once the hoarders have had their run, that’s it. And with incandescent bulbs burning for only about 1,000 hours each, eventually they’ll flicker out.

The lighting industry has moved forward with compact fluorescents, halogen bulbs, and most recently and successfully, bulbs that use light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and General Electric (GE) and Sylvania have found themselves sharing shelf space with newer firms like Cree (CREE) and Feit.

Soon, the only places you'll still see the telltale glow of a tungsten filament in a glass vacuum will be in three-way bulbs (such as the 50/100/150 watt), heavy-duty and appliance bulbs, and some decorative bulbs.


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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Your Plan's Vesting Schedule: Tailor It to Meet Your Needs

A retirement plan's vesting schedule, which establishes when employer contributions to the plan will be owned outright by the employee, plays a role in how effective the plan is in helping to attract and retain employees. Employers will want to carefully consider their goals and the available options when selecting a vesting schedule for their plan.

Common Vesting Schedules

The simplest schedule -- from an administrative perspective -- is to allow immediate vesting in 100% of the employer contributions allocated to the employee. However, immediate vesting offers little incentive for employees to stay with the company and therefore may become more counterproductive as the rates of employee turnover increase.

For this reason, sponsors concerned about employee retention often turn to a delayed vesting schedule. Instead of allowing 100% vesting up front, they seek to maximize employee retention by tying the vesting percentage to the participant's years of service.

Generally, for defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, delayed vesting is available in two forms: "cliff" vesting and "graded" vesting. With cliff vesting, a participant becomes 100% vested after a specific period of service. With graded vesting, a participant becomes vested at a percentage amount that gradually increases until he or she accrues enough years of service to be 100% vested. (It should be noted that an employee's own contributions to the plan are always 100% vested, or owned, by the employee.)





Employers may choose a schedule that provides for vesting at a more rapid rate than those shown above, but they may not adopt a schedule that provides for less rapid vesting.

How do employers calculate years of service? A year of service is any vesting computation period in which the employee completes the number of hours of service (not exceeding 1,000) required by the plan. Typically, the vesting computation period is the plan year, but it may be any other 12-consecutive-month period.

Are all employer contributions subject to a vesting schedule? Several types of employer contributions must always be 100% vested. These include both non-elective and matching contributions in a SIMPLE 401(k) plan or a "safe harbor" 401(k) plan.

Can vesting schedules be changed? Generally, a vesting schedule may be changed, but the vested percentage of the existing participants may not be reduced by the amended schedule. Moreover, an employee with three or more years of service by the end of the applicable election period can choose to select the previous vesting schedule. The election period begins no later than the date of adoption of the amended schedule and ends on the latest of the following dates:

•  Sixty days after the modified vesting schedule is adopted;

•  Sixty days after the modified vesting schedule is made effective; or

•  Sixty days after the participant is provided a written notice of the change in vesting schedule.

What situations would cause vesting of an employee's entire balance? In certain circumstances, the participant's interest in a 401(k) plan is required by law to be 100% vested. These circumstances include attainment of normal retirement age (as defined in the plan), termination or partial termination of the plan, and complete discontinuance of contributions to the plan. Additionally, though not required by law, nearly all 401(k) plans provide for 100% vesting upon the participant's death or disability.


Required Attribution


Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Wealth Management Systems Inc. or its sources, neither Wealth Management Systems Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall Wealth Management Systems Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.

© 2016 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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When Employees Leave, but Plan Accounts Stay

Work force reductions may leave some employers with low-balance plan accounts owned by former employees. These accounts can be expensive to maintain and burdensome to administer. Below, you will find answers to commonly asked questions about handling these small accounts.

Can we just distribute small accounts to the former employees? Check your plan's provisions. Under federal law, plans can provide that, if a former employee has not made an affirmative election to receive a distribution of his or her account assets or to roll those assets over to an IRA or another employer's plan, the plan can distribute the account - as long as its balance does not exceed $5,000. For accounts valued at $1,000 or less, the plan can simply send the former employee a check for his or her balance. Distributions of more than $1,000 must be directly transferred to an IRA set up for the former employee. Accounts valued at $1,000 or less may also be rolled over for administrative convenience.

Should non-vested assets be included when determining whether a mandatory distribution can be made? You only have to include the value of the former employee's non-forfeitable accrued benefit. If the employee was not fully vested in any portion of the account when he or she left your employ, you do not have to count the non-vested portion.

What about rollovers? A plan may provide that any amounts that a former employee rolled over from another employer's plan (and any earnings on those rolled over assets) are to be disregarded in determining the employee's non-forfeitable accrued benefit. Thus, you may be able to cash out and roll over accounts greater than $5,000. Note that rolled over amounts are included in determining whether a former employee's accrued benefit is greater than $1,000 for purposes of the automatic rollover requirement.

What requirements do we have to meet when rolling over a small account? To fulfill your fiduciary duties as a plan sponsor, the following requirements must be met:

•  The rollover must be a direct transfer to an IRA set up in the former employee's name.

•  The IRA provider must be a state or federally regulated financial institution, such as an FDIC-insured bank or savings association or an FCUA-insured credit union; an insurance company whose products are protected by a state guaranty association; or a mutual fund company.

•  You must have a written agreement with the IRA provider that addresses appropriate account investments and fees.

•  The IRA provider cannot charge higher fees than would be charged for a comparable rollover IRA.
(Other fiduciary responsibilities apply.)

Are there rules for investing the rollover IRA? The investments chosen for the IRA must be designed to preserve principal and provide a reasonable rate of return and liquidity. Examples include money market mutual funds, interest-bearing savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and stable value products.

Do we have to provide disclosures? Yes. Before you cash out an account, you must notify the former employee in writing, either separately or as part of a rollover notice, that, unless the employee makes an affirmative election to receive a distribution of his or her account assets or rolls them over to another account, the distribution will be paid to an IRA. As long as you send the notice to the former employee's last known mailing address, the notice requirement generally will be considered satisfied. In addition, you must include a description of the plan's automatic rollover provisions for mandatory distributions in the plan's summary plan description (SPD) or summary of material modifications (SMM).

"For accounts valued at $1,000 or less, the plan can simply send the former employee a check for his or her balance."


Required Attribution


Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Wealth Management Systems Inc. or its sources, neither Wealth Management Systems Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall Wealth Management Systems Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.

© 2016 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.


Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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