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

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8:30 AM Wednesday, March 1, 2006: Death and taxes are sure things. Certainly death. Maybe not taxes. Susan and I met with an estate planner yesterday. Items:

+ If my wife, Susan, and I die any time in 2010, there'll be no tax on our estate. Zero. If we die on January 1, 2011, our estate, under the present law, will be taxed at 55%. (I don't make this stuff up.)

+ Only 2% of estates pay taxes. The others save taxes by planning, by asset transfers or simply by being poor and falling under the exemptions.

+ Congress has abolished the estate tax, also called the death tax, four times, and brought it back when Congress needed the money, as it does at present.

+ Congress is presently arguing about the estate tax. It's talking about exclusions between $2 1/2 million to $3 million. That's the level below which you don't get taxed. Above that the Republicans want 15%. The Democrats want 35%. Somewhere, sometime there'll be a compromise. Don't hold your beadth. It doesn't look like 55%.

+ The more you plan, the more entities you set up now, the less your estate will pay.

+ The BIG key is to remove the appreciation of your estate between now and when you die. According to the actuaries, my wife or I (i.e. one nof us) will live another 29 years. That's plenty of time for a doubling or even a tripling. That would make a horrendous tax liability.

There are some simple things you can do:

1. Make sure enough assets are in each spouse's name so you don't forfeit the benefit of Federal estate tax exclusions.
2. Make a will. Amazingly, most people don't have them.
3. Start gifting to your kids. It's $24,000 a year per kid tax-free. That will add up over 29 years.
4. Estate taxes are due nine months and a day after you die. If your assets are illiquid (like in real estate), it may make sense to buy insurance now to pay for the taxes then. The earlier you do it, the healthier you are. So your chances of being turned down are lower.

There are a million more complicated techniques, including Charitable Remainder Trusts, Dynasty Trusts, Grantor Retained Annuity Trust, and the Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT) which I wrote about on January 23. Click here.

I'll return to this gruesome subject in more depth another time. Meanwhile the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. I'm feeling better this morning.

The best 19" monitor for the money: It's the ViewSonic VX922. It's only $367.95 a piece from

The VX922 is phenomenally fast -- 2 milliseconds, which means it will run HD broadcast quality full motion video. It has a DVI input. It runs 1280 x 1024 pixels, which is perfect for multiple screens and a laptop powered by the VillageTronic card:

The VTBook slides into your laptop's PC card slot. It lets you run a total of four monitors -- three external ones (like the VX922) and your laptop's internal screen. My estate
planner loved my setup yesterday and wants to install the same in his home office.

Being sick gives boredom a whole new meaning: Getting well is a whole other thing. First you have to figure if your sickness is caused by a virus or bacteria? You have to know this because Antibiotics will work against bacteria, but not a virus. Here are some guidelines regarding form the Cleveland Clinic:
* Colds and flu — Viruses cause these illnesses. They cannot be cured with antibiotics. Both children and adults should consider being vaccinated with the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines.
* Cough or bronchitis — Viruses almost always cause these. However, if you have a problem with your lungs or an illness that lasts a long time, bacteria might actually be the cause.
* Sore throat — Most sore throats are caused by viruses and don’t need antibiotics. However, strep throat is caused by bacteria. A throat swab and a lab test are usually needed before your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic for strep throat.
* Ear infections — There are several types of ear infections. Antibiotics are used for some, but not all.
* Sinus infections —A runny nose and yellow or green mucus do not necessarily mean you need an antibiotic. It is normal for mucus to get thick and change color during the course of a viral infection. For some long-lasting or severe cases, your doctor might decide to prescribe antibiotics.

In short, the best advice I've gleaned:

+ Stay healthy.
+ Don't get run down.
+ Don't smoke.
+ Stay away from sick people like me.
+ Wash your hands often, especially when around people like me.
+ Get a flu shot.

Reader, Kenneth Corntassel, also recommends antiviral herbs. Some are echinacia, garlic, osha, elderberry, licorice. Take them hourly for 2-3 days and you should be much better.

The end of the world is near
In the year 2006, the Lord came unto Noah and said, "Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of
all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans."

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying, "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

"Noah!" He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"

"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed a building permit from the local council. I've been arguing with the Health Department about the need for an on-site toilet. My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.

"Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

"Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!

"When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a such confined space.

"Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.

"I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew. Immigration and Naturalization is checking the working visa status of most of the people who want to work. The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.

To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.

"So, forgive me, Lord, but it will take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky.

Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"

"No," said the Lord. "The Government beat me to it."

Harry Newton

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. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty 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 Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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