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Assessing And Managing Risk

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

 

“Evaluating risk always gets me fired up, I can’t help it, it’s the geek in me! I’m constantly evaluating risk and the probability of negative risks occurring as a financial planner. Sometimes, it crosses over to my personal life when I evaluate the financial risk I’ve taken as a business owner. When I first saw this article by Reid Hoffman, it immediately peaked my curiosity. It’s a must read for those of you evaluating your career and where you want to go with it. Sometimes fear and risk hold us back. I hope this article will help you take another look at risk and put it into perspective as it pertains to your career, and the other areas of your life. The concepts of risk defined here are transferable. Nice article Reid!” – Kim Gaxiola

Risk tends to get a bad rap. We associate it with things like losing money in the stock market, or riding a motorcycle without a helmet. But risk isn’t the enemy–it’s a permanent part of life. In fact, being proactively intelligent about risk is a prerequisite for seizing breakout opportunities. Many more people would enjoy breakout opportunities if it were only a matter of tapping networks, courting serendipity, and being resourceful. The reality is that doing those things is usually necessary but rarely enough. There’s competition for good opportunities. And because of that, if you can intelligently take on risk, you will find opportunities others miss. Where others see a red light, you’ll see green.

“Risk” in a career context is the downside consequences from a given action or decision, and the likelihood that the downside actually occurs. Risky situations, then, are those in which the risk level crosses a threshold. For example, flying on a commercial airplane of a major airline is not risky because while the downside scenario of a crash is painful, the likelihood of a crash is extremely low. Meanwhile, the reward of rapid transit is significant. There’s risk when you get on a plane, but it’s so low that commercial flights are not risky.

Risk is the flip side of every opportunity and career move. “[I]f you are not genuinely pained by the risk involved in your strategic choices, it’s not much of a strategy,” says Reed Hastings of Netflix. This is as true for careers as it is for business. If you don’t have to seriously think about the risk involved in a career opportunity, it’s probably not the breakout opportunity you’re looking for.

The constant presence of risk is why every career Plan A should be accompanied by a Plan B and Plan Z. Of course, risk isn’t confined to career-related activities. Doing anything contains risk, including things we do every day, like going for a jog in the park or living in a world where there are nuclear weapons and earthquakes. Even inaction contains risk. A sick person who chooses not to see a doctor is taking on a risk by doing nothing. Inaction is especially risky in a changing world that demands adaptation (see the American auto industry, for example).

So we are all risk takers. But we are not all equally intelligent about how we do it. Many people think you get career stability by minimizing all risk. But ironically, in a changing world, that’s one of the riskiest things you can do. Others think acknowledging downside possibilities is a sign of weakness: “Failure is not an option!” may make for a good movie line, but it’s not good when formulating strategy. Rather than avoiding risk, if you take intelligent risks, it will give you a competitive edge.

 

Assessing and Managing Risk

Learning how to accurately assess the level of risk in a situation isn’t easy, for a few reasons. First, risk is both personal and situational. What may be risky to you may not be risky to someone else. There are people for whom quitting a job before having another one lined up is unacceptably risky; for others, it’s a fine proposition. There are people who forego earning income for several months to start their own companies; others wouldn’t dream of putting themselves in a situation where they aren’t guaranteed a steady salary and benefits.

What’s more, risk is dynamic. You are changing, the competition is changing, the world is changing. What may be risky to you right now may not be a month or year or five years from now. What’s the risk of ruffling your colleagues’ feathers if you lobby aggressively for a lead role on a project? It depends on murky factors that are always in flux. If you just got a raise and upgrade to your title, for example, it’s a different calculus than if you’re new on the job. Nothing is universally risky or not risky; it’s a matter of degree and it various tremendously based on situation and personality.

Assessing risk, while always difficult, is not impossible. Entrepreneurs do it every day. But they don’t use fancy risk-analysis models like those found on Wall Street. And neither should you. There’s no mathematical formula that could possibly capture the probabilities and range of outcomes of a dynamic start-up, let alone the dynamic start-up that is your career. It’s impossible to quantify the pros and cons of every opportunity. You will have time constraints. You will have information constraints. Moreover, your intuition is riddled with cognitive biases that get in the way of rational assessment. So here are a few principles to keep in mind to help you evaluate how risky an opportunity really is, and how you manage the risk that does exist.

 

Overall, it’s probably not as risk as you think

Most people overrate risk. At our core we humans are wired to avoid risk. We evolved this way because to our ancestors, it was more costly to miss the sign of a predator (threat) than to miss the sign of food (opportunity). Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson puts it this way: “To keep our ancestors alive, Mother Nature evolved a brain that routinely tricked them into making three mistakes: overestimating threats, underestimating opportunities, and underestimating resources (for dealing with threats and fulfilling opportunities).” The result is that we’re programmed to overestimate the risk in any given situation.

Sticks get our attention a lot faster than carrots do. Psychologists call this negativity bias, and it pops up all the time in day-to-day life. One stern warning to avoid working with a person makes a stronger impression than one glowing recommendation. Anxiety about how your boss will react to an unconventional proposal will overpower feelings of optimism that he’ll be impressed by your work.

Overestimating threats and avoiding losses may be a fine strategy for achieving evolution’s cold mandate to pass our genes on to future generations. But it’s not the way to make the most of this life. To lead a big and vigorous life, you must work to overcome this negativity bias. The first step is to remind yourself that the downside of a given situation is probably not as bad, or as likely, as it seems.

 

Is the worst-case scenario tolerable or intolerable?

Of the voluminous research on risk, remarkably little of it actually analyzes how real businesspeople make real decisions in the real world. An exception is a study done by professor Zur Shapira in 1991. He asked about seven hundred high-level executives from the United States and Israel to describe how they think about risk in different scenarios. What he found likely came as a disappointment to architects of fancy decision trees. The executives surveyed didn’t calculate the mathematical expected value of various scenarios. They didn’t draft long lists of pros and cons. Instead, most simply tried to get a handle on a single yes-or-no question: Could they tolerate the outcome if the worst-case scenario happened? So the first thing you want to ask of a possible opportunity is, If the worst-case scenario happens, would I still be in the game? If the worst-case scenario is the serious tarnishing of your reputation, or loss of all your economic assets, or something otherwise career-ending, don’t accept that risk. If the worst-case scenario is getting fired, losing a little bit of time or money, or experiencing discomfort, as long as you have a solid and reliable Plan Z in place, you will still be in the game, and should be open to taking on that risk.

 

Can you change or reverse the decision midway through? Is plan B doable?

Management consulting firms frequently offer to pay for analysts to go to business school in exchange for a two-year commitment to work at the firm after graduation. Analysts who take the offer are making a four-year commitment in total: two years in school, two years at the same firm afterward. Precommitting four years of your life is riskier than career choices that allow you to pivot to Plan B if you decide something is not going well or if some other amazing opportunity came up. So when assessing a risk, if you realize you made a mistake, could you reverse your decision easily? Could you get to a Plan B or Plan Z relatively quickly? If the answer is no, the opportunity is riskier and should be approached more cautiously.

Michael Dell famously dropped out of the University of Texas to start Dell Computer. But his start-up wasn’t a sure thing at the time, so he managed the risk by hedging his bets. Instead of dropping out of college for good, he applied for a formal leave of absence so that if the company seemed to be going south, he could return to his studies with no problem. Dell took a prudent risk that preserved the option to reverse his decision and go to Plan B.

 

You’ll never be fully certain. Don’t conflate uncertainty with risk.

There will always be uncertainty about career opportunities and risks. Uncertainty is an ingredient of risk. And the more compelling and complex the opportunity, the more uncertainty tends to surround it. In all situations, you simply cannot know everything about all possible pros and cons. While you don’t want to make career moves on 0 percent information, you also don’t want to wait till you have 100 percent information—or else you’ll wait forever. Uncertainty makes people uncomfortable. But uncertainty does not automatically mean something is risky. Jetting off to vacation in Hawaii with no set itinerary introduces many uncertainties about what will transpire, but it’s not particularly risky. After all, how likely are you to have a bad time in Hawaii? When Sheryl Sandberg came to Silicon Valley from Washington, there were innumerable uncertainties. (Would California be a good place to raise a family? How would her reputation suffer if Google was a flop?) Had she treated all the unknowables associated with entering a new industry as serious risks, she would never have joined Google and would have missed out on a breakout opportunity. When it’s not clear how something will play out, many people avoid it altogether. But the biggest and best opportunities frequently are the ones with the most question marks. Don’t let uncertainty lull you into overestimating the risk.

 

Consider age and stage. What will the risks be to you in a few years?

Age and career stage affect your level of risk. Generally, the downside consequence of failure is lower the younger you are. If you make mistakes in your twenties and thirties, you have plenty of time to recover both financially and reputationally. You have parents and family to fall back on. You are less likely to have kids or a mortgage. Just as financial advisors counsel young people to invest in stocks more than bonds, it’s important to be especially aggressive accepting career risk when you are young. This is a main reason many young people start companies, travel around the world, and do other relatively “high-risk” career moves: the downside is lower. If something worthwhile will be riskier in five years than it is now, be more aggressive about taking it on now. As you age and build more assets, your risk tolerance shifts.

Adapted from my book with Ben Casnocha — learn more about risk at The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career.

Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

The Top Five Career Regrets – Courtesy of Harvard Business Review, HBR Blog Network, written by Daniel Gulati

“It’s interesting, maybe even comforting to see that at virtually all levels in the workforce we have regrets when it comes to our careers. One of the top things that allows us freedom and flexibility to do something about our regrets is to have the financial independence to take some of our regrets and create a ‘do-over.’ This is why at all times we need to keep a high level of savings so that we may be able to hit the ‘reset’ button if we want it. Another idea is to live more simply when it comes to the ‘stuff’ in our lives. What do you think? Do you have any of these regrets? Are there some goals for 2013 that can help you do something about these regrets?” – Kim Gaxiola

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

 

What do you regret most about your career?

I had just finished a guest lecture on business and innovation at Parsons School for Design, and a particularly attentive front-row audience member kicked off question time with the curliest one of the day. I answered quickly with the hope of getting back on target. But judging from the scores of follow-up questions and the volume of post-lecture emails I received, a talk on career regret would have been the real bull’s-eye.

Ever since that afternoon, I’ve been on a mission to categorically answer the awkward but significant question of exactly what we’d do if we could magically rewind our careers. The hope? That by exposing what others are most disappointed about in their professional lives, we’re maximizing our chances of minimizing regret in our own.

To this end, I sat down with 30 professionals between the ages of 28 and 58, and asked each what they regretted most about their careers to date. The group was diverse: I spoke with a 39-year-old managing director of a large investment bank, a failing self-employed photographer, a millionaire entrepreneur, and a Fortune 500 CEO. Disappointment doesn’t discriminate; no matter what industry the individual operated in, what role they had been given, or whether they were soaring successes or mired in failure, five dominant themes shone through. Importantly, the effects of bad career decisions and disconfirmed expectancies were felt equally across age groups.

Here were the group’s top five career regrets:

 

 

1. I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money

By far the biggest regret of all came from those who opted into high-paying but ultimately dissatisfying careers. Classic research proves that compensation is a “hygiene” factor, not a true motivator. What was surprising, though, were the feelings of helplessness these individuals were facing. Lamented one investment banker, “I dream of quitting every day, but I have too many commitments.” Another consultant said, “I’d love to leave the stress behind, but I don’t think I’d be good at anything else.” Whoever called them golden handcuffs wasn’t joking.

 

2. I wish I had quit earlier

Almost uniformly, those who had actually quit their jobs to pursue their passions wished they had done so earlier. Variable reinforcement schedules prevalent in large corporations, the visibility of social media, and the desire to log incremental gains are three reasons that the 80% of people dissatisfied with their jobs don’t quit when they know they should. Said one sales executive, “Those years could have been spent working on problems that mattered to me. You can’t ever get those years back.”

 

3. I wish I had the confidence to start my own business

As their personal finances shored up, professionals I surveyed yearned for more control over their lives. The logical answer? To become an owner, not an employee in someone else’s company. But in the words of Artful Dodger, wanting it ain’t enough. A recent study found that 70% of workers wished their current job would help them with starting a business in the future, yet only 15% said they had what it takes to actually venture out on their own. Even Fortune 500 CEOs dream of entrepreneurial freedom. Admitted one: “My biggest regret is that I’m a ‘wantrepreneur.’ I never got to prove myself by starting something from scratch.”

 

4. I wish I had used my time at school more productively

Despite all the controversy currently surrounding student loans, roughly 86% of students still view college as a worthwhile investment. This is reflected in the growing popularity of college: In writing Passion & Purpose, my coauthors and I found that 54% of Millennials have college degrees, compared to 36% of Boomers. Although more students are attending college, many of the group’s participants wished they had thoughtfully parlayed their school years into a truly rewarding first job. A biology researcher recounted her college experience as being “in a ridiculous hurry to complete what in hindsight were the best and most delightfully unstructured years of my life.” After starting a family and signing up for a mortgage, many were unable to carve out the space to return to school for advanced study to reset their careers.

 

5. I wish I had acted on my career hunches

Several individuals recounted windows of opportunity in their careers, or as one professional described, “now-or-never moments.” In 2005, an investment banker was asked to lead a small team in (now) rapidly growing Latin America. Sensing that the move might be an upward step, he still declined. Crushingly, the individual brave enough to accept the offer was promoted shortly to division head, then to CEO. Recent theories of psychology articulate the importance of identifying these sometimes unpredictable but potentially rewarding moments of change, and jumping on these opportunities to non-linearly advance your professional life.

Far from being suppressed, career regrets should hold a privileged place in your emotional repertoire. Research shows (PDF) that regret can be a powerful catalyst for change, far outweighing the short-term emotional downsides. As famed psychologist Dr. Neal Roese recently stated, “On average, regret is a helpful emotion.” It can even be an inspiring one. But it means that we must articulate and celebrate our disappointments, understanding that it’s our capacity to experience regret deeply, and learn from it constructively to ultimately frame our future success.

 

 By Daniel Gulati

Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

Why 2013 May Be A Very Good Year

If the fiscal cliff is averted, stocks may have all kinds of reasons to rise.

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

 

What if the future is more bullish than the bears assume?

With 2013 approaching, stock market volatility seems to have increased. Equities rise on optimistic remarks about a fiscal cliff solution, then fall when another voice expresses pessimism, and vice versa.

In addition to this constant seesawing, the market is contending with anxieties about Europe, with the eurozone now officially in another recession, and the strong possibility of higher taxes on capital gains and dividends in 2013 plus surtaxes on varieties of net investment income.1

Even so, 2013 may turn out to be a good year for stocks. Our economy looks to be healing, and that may give investors around the world more optimism.

 

A housing comeback appears evident

Our economy won’t fully recover from the downturn until the housing market does. We have strong indications that this is happening. The October report on existing home sales from the National Association of Realtors showed a 10.9% annual improvement in the sales pace, with the median sale price rising 11.1% in a year to $178,600. (The median sale price increased in October for an eighth straight month.) The Census Bureau noted a 17.2% annual rise in new home sales in October. Lastly, the Conference Board’s November consumer confidence poll found that 6.9% of respondents planned to buy a home in the next six months. In November 2010, less than 4% did.2,3,4

 

QE3 is open-ended

The Federal Reserve will keep buying mortgage-linked securities for as long as it sees fit, and the Wall Street Journal has reported that the Fed will likely broaden the effort to include the purchase of Treasuries in 2013 (compensating for the absence of Operation Twist next year). So cheap money should be around in 2013 and beyond thanks to the Fed’s bond-buying efforts and its dedication to maintaining historically low interest rates.5

 

Earnings could improve

This last earnings season was as disappointing as analysts believed it would be, but we could see gradual improvement across upcoming quarters, assuming Congress does something significant about the fiscal cliff. Citigroup sees earnings growth of 5% next year even with minor fiscal tightening.6

 

Durable goods orders didn’t drop last month

They were flat in October (minus transportation orders). This implies that if some companies cut back on spending heading toward the fiscal cliff, others increased or resolutely maintained theirs. Business investment increased in October in key categories: 0.9% for computers (the first rise in demand in five months), 2.9% for machinery and 4.1% for electrical gear.7

 

Consumer confidence may be translating into personal spending

This month, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index reached a mark of 73.7; the highest level since February 2008. Chain-store sales were up 3.3% during Thanksgiving week from the week before, and up 4% from last Thanksgiving week according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.7

 

If we get a fix for the fiscal cliff, 2013 could be promising

There is a real sense that the U.S. economy is headed for better times, along with the market. Morgan Stanley had projected the S&P 500 ending 2012 at 1,167; that certainly seems doubtful. It now forecasts the index finishing 2013 at 1,434. Other year-end 2013 projections for the S&P are even more bullish: Deutsche Bank is seeing a year-end finish of 1,500, Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees the S&P reaching 1,600, and Piper Jaffray thinks it can make it all the way up to 1,700.8

There are economists who think 2013 could be a key transitional year, a step toward a more robust economy at mid-decade. If solid economic indicators inspire companies and consumers to spend and invest more, next year might surprise even the most ardent stock market bears.

 

 Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037
This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-57550532/return-of-europe-recession-is-bad-news-for-u.s/ [11/15/12]
2 – investorplace.com/2012/11/existing-home-sales-climb-in-october/ [11/19/12]
3 -www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-mo-new-home-sales-20121128,0,3039964.story [11/28/12]
4 – blogs.wsj.com/economics/2012/11/27/price-rise-shows-a-better-balanced-u-s-housing-market/ [11/27/12]
5 – articles.marketwatch.com/2012-11-28/economy/35404923_1_treasurys-operation-twist-program-long-term-rates [11/28/12]
6 – www.cnbc.com/id/49922204/2013_Earnings_Outlook_Now_in_Congress_Hands [11/21/12]
7 – news.investors.com/economy/112712-634800-fiscal-cliff-fears-dont-sink-durable-goods-confidence.htm [11/27/12]
8 – www.cnbc.com/id/49981729 [11/27/12]

Is your communication style limiting your career success?

Thanks to Kim Meninger for giving us some clear and concise points on communication. Do you rehearse what you say for important meetings? Don’t leave it to chance. Plan what you will say and practice aloud so it becomes more comfortable when the time comes to perform live. – Kim Gaxiola

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

 

If you are struggling to advance your career or achieve your specific career goals, your communication style may be to blame. Many otherwise competent professionals with great leadership potential lack the skills or self-awareness to effectively communicate with others. Despite their strengths and accomplishments, their careers begin to stagnate as they fail to influence, persuade, and connect with key leaders.

Communication is a powerful skill that comes naturally to some, but not all. Even the best communicators likely had some help in the development of their communication skills. Communication is intimately tied to other important career success factors, such as the ability to effectively lead others, build a powerful brand, and navigate organizational politics. If you are committed to maximizing your career success, you must make the effort to strengthen your communication skills.

Here are five important steps you can take to maximize your communication with others:

 

1. Be clear and to the point

Whether you are speaking to your manager individually, or you are presenting to an audience of executives, know your message. This means avoiding the anxiety-induced tendency to provide unnecessary details or stray off topic. Begin with a clear and focused message. Save the backup data and supporting details for questions.

 

2. Stay away from language that weakens your message

Women, in particular, need to be mindful of this. When delivering a message, do not dilute its power by making statements such as, “This may not be important, but…,” or, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but…” Another common message-weakening statement is, “I think.” Make a statement; don’t offer an opinion. The more powerful your language, the more likely you are to be heard.

3. Know your audience

This is critical. It is human nature to consider issues in terms of your own needs and wants, but this is ineffective if you are looking to persuade or influence others. Before you speak, know what interests and motivates the audience with whom you are speaking. For example, if you are presenting to a team of data-oriented professionals, stay away from the theoretical and focus on the facts and numbers that support your case. Likewise, if you are presenting to the CEO, be sure that you emphasize the impact on the bottom line.

 

4. Speak the language of your organization

Every organization has its own unique culture and language. The more closely you fit the culture, and the more proficiently you speak the language, the more likely you are to be perceived as an influential communicator. Pay attention to how influential leaders communicate in your organization and adapt your own style accordingly. Also, find a mentor that knows the ins and outs of your organization and can help you understand its values.

 

5. Don’t try to fake it

One of the greatest ways to dig a hole and bury yourself is to venture into unfamiliar territory without a strategy. Many professionals are more afraid to admit that they don’t have the answer than they are to risk losing credibility with their audience. Particularly when speaking to an executive audience, don’t try to fake it! If you are asked a question that you can’t answer, don’t make something up. Let them know you will follow up with the response and then follow through as soon as possible.

Your communication skills can make or break your career. If you are struggling to get promoted, earn a higher income, or otherwise advance your career, take a look at the way you communicate with others. It can be helpful to seek candid feedback from trusted colleagues and mentors. Once you identify areas in need of improvement, prioritize them in your professional development plan. Your career success depends on it!

 

Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

SOME FISCAL CLIFF SCENARIOS – What could play out in the near future?

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

 

Will 2013 be as severe as some economists think?

The fiscal cliff is getting closer and closer. How will Congress respond?

In the worst-case scenario, Congress argues and deadlocks. Tax hikes and roughly $109 billion in federal spending cuts take a bite out of GDP and another recession becomes a possibility.1

There are other possibilities, however. The fiscal cliff may yet be averted, or at least we might back away from its edge. One of several scenarios might come to pass.

 

 

Scenario A: Congress buys time.

Many analysts think this is exactly what will happen. Congress is in a lame-duck session. The option for legislators to “pass the buck” may prove tantalizing. So we could see a short-term, stopgap deal with the idea that the next session of Congress will tackle the problem later in 2013. The debt ceiling could be raised, and a “down payment” might be made on longer-term liabilities.1

 

Scenario B: Congress can’t make a deal.

This may not be so improbable; if you remember the “super committee” assigned to craft a deficit reduction plan in 2011, you will also remember that it didn’t accomplish the set task. In fact, we are facing the fiscal cliff because of that committee’s failure.2

The “fiscal cliff” already amounts to Plan B. When Congress and the White House reached an accord to raise the debt ceiling back in August 2011, $1 trillion in federal spending cuts were greenlighted and Congress was told to find $1.2 trillion more to slash. As that didn’t happen, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts are set to begin next year. So Congress would actually be following federal law if it did nothing to respond to the issue.2

Doing nothing seems unsuitable, but there is the risk that history could repeat itself. Election outcomes may alter political assumptions and interfere with consensus. If it looks like we will go over the cliff in the waning days of 2012, there is a strong possibility that the incoming 113th Congress could vote quickly to reinstate select spending levels and tax breaks. That might mute some of the clamor from global financial markets.3

 

Scenario C: Middle ground is reached.

Some degree of compromise occurs that leaves no one particularly satisfied. Certain short-term provisions are phased out, such as the payroll tax holiday, the recent increases for small business expensing, and assorted tax credits and tax breaks for education. The Bush-era tax cuts are preserved (at least temporarily) for the middle class, but rates rise for those making $1 million or more per year. The clock turns back to 2009 with regard to estate taxes. The rich face higher taxes on capital gains and dividends. Perhaps some defense cuts are postponed.

 

Scenario D: The “Grand Bargain.”

Congress and the White House boldly arrive at a something more than an incrementally enacted deficit reduction plan. They reach a “grand bargain,” a deal designed to cut the deficit by $4 trillion by the mid-2020s, after historic, long-range compromises are made to reach stability on assorted tax and spending issues. With a lame-duck Congress, this may be a longshot.1

 

Scenario E: The “Down Payment.”

Legislators could always tear a page from another playbook in trying to solve this problem. The Bipartisan Policy Center, for example, thinks a “grand bargain,” or anything approximating a real deal on the fiscal cliff, is unlikely given the short interval between the election and 2013. It recommends a “down payment” of deficit cuts that could be approved by a fast-tracked simple majority vote. If Congress didn’t take further steps to cut the deficit next year, then certain tax breaks would disappear and cuts would hit social welfare programs (excepting Social Security).2

Whatever happens in Washington, this is a prime time to consider financial moves with the potential to lower your taxes and insulate your wealth. Explore the possibilities before 2013 arrives.

Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.

 

 

TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037
This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – articles.marketwatch.com/2012-10-25/economy/34719282_1_fiscal-cliff-tax-cuts-defense-cuts [10/25/12]
2 – thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/budget/262893-bipartisan-policy-center-floats-fiscal-cliff-solution [10/12/12]
3 – www.salon.com/2012/11/01/a_look_at_3_scenarios_as_the_fiscal_cliff_looms/singleton/ [11/1/12]

 

THE BIG TAX QUESTIONS OF 2013 – How will Congress resolve these issues?

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

 

Decisions must be made.

In the next couple of months, Congress will address several major tax matters. Here are the big questions looming.

 

 

The Bush-era income tax cuts.

Will the current 10%-15%-25%-28%-33%-35% federal tax rate structure give way to 15%-28%-31%-36%-39.6% tax brackets in 2013? After the election, some analysts feel a compromise will be struck to maintain some of the Bush-era cuts for another year. In 2013, you may see the 10%, 15%, 25% and 28% brackets being retained while the wealthy face higher taxes.1

 

Tax rates on capital gains & dividends.

Right now, dividends and most long-term capital gains are taxed at either 0% or 15% (depending on the income tax bracket you fall into). In 2013, dividends are scheduled to be taxed as regular income (cf. 15%-39.6% tax brackets above) and the capital gains tax rates are set to increase to 10% and 20%. So will dividend taxes and capital gains taxes only increase for the rich in 2013? That may very well turn out to be the case.2

 

 

Estate & gift taxes.

President Obama’s proposal has the U.S. returning to a top estate tax rate of 45% with a $3.5 million exemption. In other words, estate taxes would return to 2009 levels as opposed to 2001 levels (55% top rate, $1 million exemption), which is what would happen if the Bush-era cuts simply expired. While Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and others in Congress have called for an end to estate taxes, many analysts think they will return to 2009 levels as a byproduct of Obama’s re-election. Will we see a unified gift and estate tax in 2013? That is a possibility, though not a given. It could be that the lifetime gift tax exemption becomes $3.5 million in 2013 (it is currently $5.12 million per individual with the unused portion of an individual exemption portable between spouses) with gifts past the exemption taxed at 35%. That would be better than the alternative: a scheduled $1 million exemption, along with a 55% maximum gift tax rate.2,3

 

The payroll tax holiday.

Months ago, the consensus was that this would not survive into 2013. Yet last month, Rep. Christopher Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told C-SPAN that it should be extended. Former Treasury Secretary and Obama administration economic advisor Larry Summers agrees. So it may live on for another year.4

 

The marriage penalty.

Our federal tax code has a longstanding quirk: occasionally, married couples pay more in tax than they would if they were single filers. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 attempted to lessen the penalty in two ways. It made the standard deduction for married joint-filing couples twice what it was for singles, and it made the bottom two tax brackets for those married and filing jointly twice as broad as for singles. In 2013, the marriage penalty could become more severe: the standard deduction for joint filers will be only about 167% of the standard deduction for singles and those widened joint-filer tax brackets are slated to narrow. As middle-income couples will probably face higher payroll taxes in 2013, retaining the current softer penalty seems likely.2

 

Child & childcare tax credits.

Both of these credits are set to shrink next year. The child tax credit is supposed to be halved to $500, and the maximum childcare credits available to most parents ($600 for one child aged 12 or younger, $1,200 for more than one) are poised to drop to $480 and $960. Extending these credits into 2013 could amount to good PR for a disdained Congress.5

 

The American Opportunity Credit.

In 2009, the up-to-$1,800 Hope tax credit was supercharged into the AOC: an up-to-$2,500 education credit which could be claimed for four tax years that include college education rather than two. In 2013, the AOC is scheduled to disappear with an $1,800 (or possibly $1,900) Hope credit slated to reappear. The AOC may be extended into 2013; again, it would be a popular move at a time when Congress is riding a wave of unpopularity.5,6

 

College expense deduction.

Back in 2011, you could write off as much as $4,000 in tuition on your federal return. Some legislators would like to see this deduction made available again in 2013 and perhaps even made retroactively available for 2012. It would be a popular move and it could prove a nice “sweetener” on any bill addressing tax issues for the coming year.5

 

Charitable IRA gifts.

Universities and retirees found the IRA charitable rollover quite useful, but it faded away at the end of 2011. Many in the education community (and some in Congress) would like to see it return for 2013, and given that tax hikes seem to be imminent next year, a big tax break like this might be offered pursuant to a Congressional compromise.5

 

IDLs & PEPs.

In 2010, itemized deduction limits and personal exemption phase-outs were repealed. In 2013, they may return as the federal government seeks much-needed tax revenues.2

Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.

 

 

TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037
This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – money.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-best-life/2012/08/29/get-ready-for-5-key-money-changes-in-2013 [8/29/12]
2 – www.smartmoney.com/taxes/tax-policy/key-tax-issues-to-watch-postelection-1351019063876 [10/23/12]
3 – www.deseretnews.com/article/765589424/Sen-Orrin-Hatch-calls-for-end-of-estate-tax-as-Jan-2013-taxmageddon-looms.html [7/12/12]
4 – online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444734804578066991225311524.html [10/18/12]
5 – www.marketwatch.com/story/14-tax-issues-to-watch-after-the-election-2012-11-01 [11/1/12]
6 – www.finaid.org/otheraid/hopescholarship.phtml [11/8/12]

 

 

BIG SPENDERS vs. BIG SAVERS – Who would you rather emulate?

You stand at your window and look across the street. Nice house, you think. Nice landscaping. Nice sports car. Nice driveway. New bikes for the kids. Wow, your neighbors are really well off. If only you had that kind of money.

That plain home down the street with the older model sedan parked out front pales in comparison. A couple in their seventies lives there, and the front yard hasn’t been spruced up in a decade. Who knows, maybe they struggle just to get by.

If you could somehow look into the financial lives of those two households, you might be surprised. The couple with all the toys might not be as wealthy as the neighborhood perceives, while the vanilla exterior on that humble rancher might hide a multimillionaire next door.

 

Remember that affluence does not = net worth.

When you look across the street at the house of that well-to-do family, you are not necessarily gazing at a portrait of wealth. You are seeing a portrait of their spending habits.

What are they spending their money on? Perhaps, quite literally, a façade; their house may be the best house in the neighborhood, but what of kind of mortgage payment are they grappling with? Are they making payments on that sports car? That vehicle is a depreciating asset (unless they keep it garaged for a few decades). The flat-screen, the pool, the home audio system … they have put their dollars into things that their neighbors can see. They may be engaging in all-too-common financial behavior: thinking of wealth in terms of material items, spending money on toys instead of their lives.

 

 

Real wealth may not be advertised.

Perhaps the older couple down the street isn’t interested in the hottest new luxuries. Decades ago, they put extra money toward their mortgage; even with housing values currently depressed, their residence is still worth much more than they paid for it. Most importantly, it is paid off.

Maybe they are good savers, always have been. When they were the age of the flashy couple up the street, they directed money into things that their neighbors couldn’t see – their investments, their retirement accounts, their bank accounts.

Years ago, they could have lived ostentatiously like that high-earning couple up the street – but instead of living on margin, they chose to live within their means. They saw some of their friends “rent” a luxury lifestyle for a few years, only to lose homes and cars they couldn’t really afford. Sometimes the economy or fate had a hand in it, but too often their friends simply made poor decisions.

It could be that it was just more important for them to think about the future rather than the moment. Parenting reinforced that philosophy. Their good financial habits kept their family away from a bunch of bad debts, and helped them build wealth slowly. Indirectly, it also helped their kids, who grew up in a household with less financial stress and with an appreciation and understanding of key financial principles. Now, they are applying those principles to build wealth in their own lives.

 

 

Roughly every fortieth American is a millionaire.

There are nearly 8 million people with a net worth of $1 million or more in the U.S., and their financial characteristics may differ slightly from what you expect.1

Fidelity’s 2012 Millionaire Outlook survey (which polled 1,000 households with $1 million or more in investable assets) notes that 86% of millionaires are self-made. Not so amazing, perhaps, but here is a striking detail. Among the self-made millionaires, the top sources of assets were 1) investments and/or capital appreciation, 2) compensation and 3) employee stock options or profit sharing. Millionaires born into wealth were the most likely to cite entrepreneurship and real estate investing as key factors behind their fortunes.2

According to the survey, the average U.S. millionaire is 61 years old with $3.05 million in investable assets. Fidelity also found that with regard to the financial future, more than (30%) of these millionaires were focused on preserving wealth, rather than growing it (20%).2

 

 

What will you spend your money on, tomorrow or today?

As Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko noted in their classic study The Millionaire Next Door, the typical millionaire lives on 7% of his or her wealth. That was in 1997; the percentage could be lower today. Call it frugal, call it boring, but such financial conservation may help promote lifetime wealth. Today, with so many enticements to spend your money as soon as you earn it, this mindset may have a lot of financial merit.1

 

 

 Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

As material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0411/why-many-millionaires-dont-feel-rich.aspx#axzz2AM2TWb3m [4/13/11]
2 – www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/19/idUS126070+19-Jul-2012+BW20120719 [7/19/12]

The Aftermath of Sandy

Gauging the economic and market impact of the storm.

Presented by Kim Gaxiola

Hurricane Sandy’s fury has exacted a considerable and tragic toll. Even with the relief efforts now underway, it will be some time before things return to normal in many communities. How has Sandy impacted Main Street, Wall Street and the broader economy?

 

 

Repairing Main Street

How do you begin to total the damage from a storm affecting 20% of the U.S. population?1

EQECAT, a risk-modeling firm, thinks it could run as much as $10-$20 billion, with $5-$10 billion reflecting insured losses. This is an important distinction, as many analysts feel a tally of $10 billion or less in covered losses could have a comparably diminished effect on the insurance industry beyond the fourth quarter. However, respected University of Maryland economist Peter Morici told MarketWatch that total losses could reach $35-45 billion if the superstorm ultimately proves more powerful than Hurricane Irene… exactly how Sandy was being described the morning after. That would fall well short of the economic hit from Hurricane Katrina, from which the damage totaled about $108 billion; 1992’s Hurricane Andrew was responsible for roughly $60.5 billion of destruction. Federal government officials say they have about $3.6 billion ready to pay for relief efforts.1,2,7

If there is any good side to this, it is that the collective response to Sandy’s destruction may amount to an economic stimulus. MarketWatch notes that as much as $20 billion could be spent over the next 12 to 24 months on new construction, remodeling and renovation, which could further invigorate the construction industry, indirectly aid the job market, and bring about increased consumer spending.1,2

 

 

 

Resuming trading on Wall Street.

Will the New York Stock Exchange’s goal of reopening Wednesday morning turn out to be realistic? Just in case, NYSE Euronext will test a backup plan Tuesday morning, a plan B that could permit trading in case things aren’t up to speed by Halloween. In this scenario, NYSE Arca would become the primary market for New York-listed stocks – we’re talking about the NYSE’s electronic market that could operate even if its trading floor or headquarters were closed for the day.3

As for Tuesday, all NYSE and NASDAQ exchanges will close across all asset classes. While the CME Group’s Nymex floor will be closed today, its products are still available electronically. CME Group opened trading of equity-index futures and options Monday night, but that trading ended early today; however, trading of interest-rate futures and options will resume with normal trading hours. The CBOE and CBOE Futures Exchange are shuttered today; CBOE Holdings will update traders if the closure is forced to stretch into Wednesday.3

With the end of the month coming, there is extra impetus to get the market open – fund managers need to adjust holdings before November starts.

 

 

 

What about earnings and the October jobs report?

Many corporations are delaying the release of third-quarter earnings reports. Hertz, Spirit, and Waste Management will now report quarterly results on Wednesday; Pfizer, Pitney-Bowes, Ralph Lauren, Sirius XM, and TripAdvisor will follow suit Thursday; McGraw-Hill and Thomson Reuters will now report Q3 earnings on Friday. Time Warner Cable will announce Q3 results on November 5, and Office Depot is delaying issuing its Q3 results until November 6.4

“Our intention is that Friday will be business as usual,” Labor Department public affairs specialist Jennifer Kaplan told CBS News regarding the release of October’s employment report. While noting that the severity of the storm might hinder some of the report’s final calculations, Labor Department officials are hopeful that the report can be released as scheduled November 2 (at 8:30am EST).5

 

 

 

Fuel prices

U.S. natural gas consumption could be greatly tempered this week, and prices may move significantly. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware are home to five of the most important gasoline refineries on the east coast, but analysts feel they could rebound decently from any storm-related problems. While RBOB gas futures rose Monday as traders assumed some disruption in supplies, it appeared the bigger blip might be demand, with commuting and trucking patterns potentially thrown out of whack for days.6

As to whether drivers might see a violent spike in gas prices, the Oil Price Information Service’s Tom Kloza dismisses the notion: “My hunch is we’ll get a wobble higher in the next couple of days, and then resume [heading] lower.”6

After the stress of this superstorm, we can only hope that its economic effect will not be as severe as some anticipated.

Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037
This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204840504578086290411855054.html [10/29/12]
2 – marketwatch.com/story/big-storms-rarely-dent-economy-for-long-2012-10-29 [10/29/12]
3 – www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-29/u-dot-s-dot-stock-trading-canceled-as-new-york-girds-for-storm [10/30/12]
4 – www.cnbc.com/id/49596291 [10/29/12]
5 – www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-57542196/will-hurricane-sandy-delay-the-jobs-report/ [10/29/12]
6 – www.cnbc.com/id/49596291 [10/29/12]
7 – http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/30/us-storm-sandy-insurance-idUSBRE89T0WT20121030 [10/30/12]

Three Tips on How to Negotiate Your Salary

Three Tips on How to Negotiate Your Salary

Presented by Kim Gaxiola

 

In all of the women’s conferences I attend, the common theme on the salary discussion is that women don’t ask. I believe one of the big reasons why women’s salary is less then men is because we simply don’t ask for more. Men consistently ask for more money when being hired, promoted, going out for drinks socially with their manager, or at performance review time. I hope this article gives you some more confidence to go out and ASK! You’ll be pleasantly surprised more often then not at the responses.

Three Tips on How to Negotiate Your Salary

Gaxiola Financial Group’s Wardrobe Change: TechGirl Financial

Gaxiola Financial Group’s Wardrobe Change

Presented by Kim Gaxiola

 

Ready or not, here comes fall. I think I’m ready, are you? It takes a while here in California to really see a difference in seasons, but at least there are holidays like Halloween to get us in the mood. Change is happening all across the country as the outdoor moves from summer to fall and then winter. Out goes the summer clothes, here come the heavier winter styles. What’s different this fall from your last fall season?

With the change of seasons, Gaxiola Financial Group is going through a wardrobe change too. We’ve been working on a re-brand and its unveiling has come. Welcome TechGirl Financial. I compare it to a wardrobe change because the planner behind it all, that would be me, at the core hasn’t changed a bit. I’m just a bit wiser each year. The advice is still the same, but the delivery has shifted. Because we are all consuming information in different ways, I am committed to keep up with the technology and bring advice and communications along with it. The name TechGirl Financial has many appropriate meanings, but keeping up with the times, heavily influenced by our surrounding technology, is key in the delivery of financial advice.

Why Girl? Because I refuse even at the age of 40 to be addressed as a woman! This is pretty typical of many GenX peers of mine. Bringing up another point: while I’m largely focused on the Baby Boomer generation, generation X is accumulating assets and needs help too. I want to be approachable for multiple generations to come.

What does that mean to you? How do you prefer to receive your communications? Phone, email, Facebook, LinkedIn? As I recently flew to Chicago for a conference and met with some clients too, the personal face to face time doesn’t change. We must be in communication in the meantime, and it’s good to know how to reach you. Another great benefit to you will be the information I post online through my new blog www.techgirlfinancial.com. There are common questions I get reflective upon the season. I will address those trends in the blog, and from time to time may point you there to deliver some ideas that may help you in your financial journey.

I invite you to bookmark the new site, register at TechGirl Financial on Facebook, subscribe to RSS feeds, or follow on Twitter. These are the best ways to keep current on the news I continue to deliver in a prompt manner. There will be webinars and videos hosted and you are all welcome to participate and invite a friend along with you. I’m never too busy to help you, a friend, or family member in need of some financial guidance.

Happy Fall to everyone!

 

Lean In To Retirement

Check out TechGirl Financial's Article Series on how to "Lean In To Retirement".

About the Founder

Kim will put you at ease with your financial planning and help you to create a clear picture of your financial future!

Check the background of this investment professional on FINRA's BrokerCheck

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Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisors Services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor.

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