Crooked Street

Lombard Street is the erstwhile Wall Street of London, the title of a classic book by Walter Bagehot about finance in the 19th century, and, in San Francisco, a major tourist destination better known as the crooked street. So that seemed the perfect title for a blog on finance written from a West-of-Wall-Street point of view (and sometimes, from a flat on Lombard, where the site image above was taken).

Yes, Your Stocks Will Drop

With the US stock market at all-time highs, you're probably wondering whether the bottom is about to fall out. If I knew the answer to that, I'd retire the day after the drop. But here's what I do know: if you invest money in the US stock market today, tomorrow, next week or next month, it's quite likely that you'll lose money, at least temporarily. Not just at all-time-highs though...this has been the case most of the time, and there's no reason it would stop being that way.

Look:

Why I Can't Guess Your Tax Bracket

Earn a higher income and you'll almost always pay higher federal income taxes. That's pretty clear from looking at a table of income tax brackets. But just how much higher has become a really hard thing to estimate, because those brackets don't tell the whole story. 

American Funds and the Limits of 10-year Return Figures

How does an investor go about picking a good mutual fund to buy for the long haul - one that will leave you with more money than a passively-managed fund? Though we've heard countless times the caveats about "past performance," it's one of the first things most people look at when sizing up a fund. A recent look at Growth Fund of America (GFA) shows how even long-term performance figures can be poor indicators of how a mutual fund has performed for investors who invested money along the way.

2013 Tax Brackets Set, Finally

With just days to spare, Congress passed a tax bill in late 2012 that set the rates for 2013, cleaned up some loose ends for 2012, and at least in theory removed some uncertainty about tax rates for the coming few years. "In theory" because nothing stops another tax bill from coming along that shakes it all up again.

The Nasdaq 100, QQQ, Facebook Nightmare

Buy low, sell high - at the most fundamental level, isn't that what we'd all like to do when investing? Then how appealing does it sound to buy an investment that, by design, might actually be doing the opposite? For a value investor, it's a nightmare scenario.

Medicare Tax Details Released

The IRS today released proposed regulations and FAQs related to the new Medicare tax on net investment income. For those who haven't heard of it, beginning in 2013 married couples with AGI over $250,000 and singles with AGI over $200,000 will pay an additional 3.8% tax on income meeting the criteria.

Also, there's a new 0.9% surcharge on earned income that exceeds these same AGI treshholds. These new taxes were passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, but only take effect in January 2013.

When 0% is OK

Not surprisingly, I've had a few conversations with clients about the lousy rates being paid on savings accounts and money-market balances and, to a lesser extent, short-term bonds. For money-market funds especially, the interest rate might as well be zero. Let's take a look at why 0% can be OK.

Year-End Financial Planning (2010)

Is it that time already? Yes, it is. Don't wait until the last week of December to think about ways of reducing your 2010 tax bill, or helping out your favorite charity or niece. This article will keep track of ideas for year-end financial planning for the calendar year 2010. Check back for updates as 2011 approaches.

Ponzi with your latte?

Years ago I was sitting in Caffe Roma in North Beach, and overheard two of the regulars talking about making money off a quick stock trade -- I think it was Intel. It had the ring of a novice who day-traded a little play money. Who would have guessed it was one of countless pitches in a $14 million scam running right here in my neighborhood?

Indifferent Home Buyers

T wo months ago my wife and I made an offer on a house here in San Francisco, but we were outbid by $50,000. Should we have offered more?

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