Technology Investor 

Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.

Previous Columns
8:30 AM EST, Tuesday, December 11, 2007: Our guest bathroom has nowhere to hang your coat. Yesterday I bought a coat hook. It cost $33.60. It was brushed nickel and gorgeous. But $33.60 for a hook on the backside of a bathroom door! Think of the hook as microeconomics.The door is part of our new house. Think of the whole house as macroeconomics. The budget on that -- when it was conceived three years ago -- was a generous (so I thought) $250 a square foot. It's coming in at $450 -- an 80% increase. Think of the house as the macro-economic view, made up of little views -- like a doubling in steel prices in the last two years 50% increases in wood, and skyrocketing nickel prices (which have actually dropped recently).

My wife, who can't distinguish between my heartfelt bitching and my curious commenting, says "Suck it up. This is the world we live in." Despite my claims to our family's uniqueness, I suspect we're the same as everyone else -- spending wildly in favor of the good life. Which brings me to China. India. Russia. Brazil. (The ultra-economic picture.) They're all getting richer at breakneck speed. Which means more demand for:

1. Commodities. My broad commodity fund is up 17% this year.

2. Monsanto's magic seeds. You must read this week's BusinessWeek. And what a stock ride:

3. More demand for fertilizer.

4. More demand for meat. There's a new ETF called (I kid you not) COW, which tracks livestock prices. About 70% of the security is held in live cattle and about 30% is in lean hogs. For more, read Jonathan Hoenig's piece.

Tax planning NOW: Sell some of of your losers. Apply ordinary losses to ordinary gains. Give it to Uncle Sam or give it to your kids or your charities. Or just plonk some money into a donor-advised fund and figure which charity you want to give to. You can also pay for school/college tuition, dental, and medical expenses (including health insurance premiums) of family members or friends. When paid directly to the providers of those services, these payments are exempt from both gift tax and generation-skipping tax, regardless of the amount you spend. You can give up to $12,000 each year to as many recipients as you would like without incurring a gift tax. Spouses can combine this annual exclusion to jointly give $24,000 to any person tax-free. Annual exclusion gifts must be complete (that is, received and, in the case of a check, either deposited or cashed) by December 31. Another strategy to consider to help decrease estate taxes is to reduce your net worth by making lifetime transfers to family members. Separate from the annual exclusion, current law specifies that you can give away $1 million ($2 million for married couples) before a 45% gift tax applies. The challenge is to pack as much value as possible into that lifetime exemption amount. GRAT that results in no taxable gift, or at least a very nominal one, so that there is no exemption wasted if the asset do not perform as you hoped. For both the GRAT and the FLP, tax laws are currently quite favorable. However, these benefits may disappear in the guise of reform in 2009.

I stole most the above words from a document I can't publish. Suffice, it's authoritative. There are plenty of things you should do NOW to save on your taxes for 2007. Remember the federal estate tax is scheduled to disappear altogether in 2010 (a good time to die) and spring back full-blown) in 2011 unless Congress acts sooner. I don't see it going away permanently. The Democrats have convinced themselves that only rich people pay it (about 2% of all estates). And the Republicans will need the money.

The grass is greener on the other side: Switching employers. Switching wives. Switching brokers. Switching usually doesn't work. I don't know the stats. Figure 83.2%. The problem, as my father would say, "lies in your own backyard." And, of course, the ONE determining factor of your net worth is divorce. All the acrimony of divorce makes the lawyers richer and the participants poorer. It's sad to watch.

Why men shouldn't take messages:

Words to live by

+ Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

+ If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.

+ If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.

+ By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.

+ There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

+ Your friends probably love you anyway.

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.

Go back.