Being raised a rural Georgia Methodist it seemed as if I grew up in a peculiar drug culture; I was drug to church every time the doors opened.



Since not much was going on, Sunday mornings were tolerable but Sunday evening services often interfered with quality time. An aunt converted to Catholicism and chose our local parish for her wedding. Alas, the location was too small for Mama’s large family thus children were excused — Hail Mary, Full of Grace and the rare reprieve gave me more fun time.



The new Pope ruffled more than few feathers with his pronouncement that trickle-down economics was not working as well as planned. Or maybe it does.  For people who have money invested in stocks these are heady times, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 have set new highs.



The tech-heavy NASDAQ hit levels not seen since the Clinton Administration. Our clients’ investments have done well. Despite the new highs, not everyone in the world’s largest economy and wealthiest nation can celebrate. Unemployment rates are historically high, albeit lower now than any time since 2008. 



No one needs a direct line with God to see the growing income inequality. Real wages for the American middle class have stagnated over the last 30 years.



Don’t let Pope Francis’ words bother you. Look at them as a wake-up call. “… without equal opportunities … aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.” I love capitalism but rioting in the streets often hinders commerce. 



Nelson Mandela, a giant of a man, was laid to rest this week. Economic sanctions coupled with divestiture by investors both played a role in apartheid’s unwinding. Without capitalists twisting the screws a bit (a mite late, true dat) the oppressive regime would/could have held on longer.



There is a horn of prosperity from Genoa, Italy, to Glasgow, Scotland, where capitalism raised living standards and later spread across the Atlantic to America.  Perfect, capitalism is not, but we’ve yet to develop a more efficient system. One thing we learned from the 2008 economic collapse is capitalists themselves are the biggest threat to capitalism. 



 



Charitable Gifting Revisited



Don’t let concerns over itemized deduction phase-outs curtail gifting strategies. The Pease exemption (itemized deductions reduced 3 percent with 80 percent floor) is definitely a surtax on income over $300,000 Adjusted Gross Income (single, $250,000). For most, even with the limitations, charitable deductions remain a viable and effective strategy for reducing taxes while helping others. I posted Michael Kitces’ excellent column at buzblog.net if anyone wants the gory details. A couple with $301,000 Adjusted Gross Income loses $30 in itemized deductions whether they claim $20,000 or $30,000 in itemized deductions. The Pease phase-out is calculated solely on income and not on total deductions.



 



New Rules



Like Bill Maher closing his show with “New Rules,” here’s our version. If you don’t like Walton County’s Spring Break New Rules, Panama City Beach is due east on US 98.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. 



Buz Livingston, CFP, has the only hourly financial planning and investment management firm headquartered in Blue Mountain Beach. For information visit www.livingstonfinancial.net or visit the new office at 2050 Scenic 30A, M1-Unit 230, Redfish Village.