Articles for March 2012

Is Your Estate Planning Creative Enough?

When it comes to estate planning, I think it’s safe to say you’ve never “seen it all.”  But I’ve seen a lot… people that did virtually no planning and wrote huge checks to the IRS for estate taxes.  A case where everything was left to a county government.   And one of the most creative cases involved a trust designed to distribute the estate to the children in thirds: 1/3 immediately upon death, 1/3 in 5 years and the last 1/3 after 10 years.  If they squandered the first 1/3, they would get another chance in 5 years and again in 10 years.

It’s important to think ahead if you have been fortunate enough to have a nice-sized estate.  The people you want to benefit from your hard work won’t necessarily end up with it if you don’t plan.  With the estate tax exclusion allowance scheduled to drop from $5.1 million to $1 million after the end of this year (without further congressional action), some people whose wealth might be tied up in their business (i.e. a small business or farm) could be in a challenging situation….maybe enough to impact the viability of the business.

There’s plenty of suitable strategies out there to help you keep more of what you’ve earned and pass it on to those you want to receive it, whether family, charity, or (in some cases) a local government.  You may even be able adopt your girlfriend!  The key is to get with your financial and legal advisers and design your strategy.

Is Gasoline High?

Back around 1960, my Dad bought an old Sinclair gas pump to fill his 1940s-vintage gas farm tractors. He never bothered to ever change the price on the pump, so it was always stuck at 28 cents a gallon. Wouldn’t that be nice? It certainly appears that gas is higher now than in “the good old days”. But compared to what?

Well, the prices are relative to the currency in which you buy gas – dollars, euros, etc. Historically gold represents the best available standard in terms of which to define the value of a monetary unit like a dollar. In 1960, 100 gallons of gas cost roughly the same (in dollars) as about .88 ounces of gold ($35.27). And in 2012, the 100 gallons are equivalent to about .23 ounces of gold ($1711.50).

So even though it takes many more dollars to buy a gallon of gas today than it did in 1960, it takes much less gold to do the same thing. It’s not gas prices going up so much as it is the dollar going down. Wages of many people aren’t going up as fast as the dollar is going down, so we all feel the pinch. If oil companies are bad guys for raising gas prices, those in charge of U.S. fiscal policy and deficit spending should shoulder part of the blame as well.

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*Commodities Disclosure