Eight Wealthiest Men Own the Same Amount as the Poorest Half of The World

A new Oxfam (Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) report confirms many of our worst suspicions about about inequality, that it is horrible and getting worse. Eight men, many have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world, or 3.6 billion people, according to the report. It was published to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the world’s largest gathering of leaders and business heads.

The poorest half of the world owns own the same in assets as that group of eight, $426 billion to be exact. The group of eight is led by Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, the founder of the Spanish fashion chain Zara, and investor Warren Buffett. The others on the startlingly short list are Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecom tycoon, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Michael Bloomberg, former billionaire mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg news and financial information service.

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Photo Credit: Rui Duarte/Flickr CC

This information would be frightening enough on its own, but gets even worse when compared to 2016’s data, when a whopping 62 owned the same in assets as the poorest half of the world, partly because new data shows that poverty in India and China is even worse than reported just last year. Such a steep drop should be troubling to anyone concerned the scourge of economic inequality. Oxfam’s report certainly didn’t mince words, calling the data “beyond grotesque,” and advcates for “a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.”

“From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo,” the report said.

It’s not enough, and in fact, is probably counterproductive, to make these eight men the poster boys for economic evil though they are the beneficiaries. As Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s CEO writes in a Guardian Op-Ed explaining the report, many of the top eight are also among the world’s most prominent philanthropists. Goldring continues,

this is not an exposé of eight people, but of a broken economics. Narrowing the gap between the richest and the rest requires us to take on a more challenging task than asking eight men to change their behaviour. It requires us to create a more human economy; one that does not result in 1% of the world’s population owning the same wealth as the other 99%. One that encourages and rewards enterprise and innovation, yes, but one that also offers everyone, regardless of background, a fair chance in life and ensures when individuals and businesses succeed, they do so for the benefit, rather than at the expense, of others.

Even the heavyweights at the World Economic Forum in Davos know this, as in a study published ahead of the gathering, 700 experts said inequality is the number one threat to the global economy. One way to begin might be to address this threat, aside from a fundamental cultural shift in values, would be to limit tax avoidance, which Goldring reminds us “costs poor countries more than $100B annually that could be used to provide clean water, lifesaving medicines or education. Rich countries, including the UK, lose countless billions more. Yet governments, anxious to defend their own corporate sectors and perceived national interests, have failed to adequately respond to companies’ use of tax loopholes, corporate power and new technology to avoid paying their fair share.” Also contributing to the inequality are policies allowing aggressive wage restraints.

If any of the World Economic Forum Davos attendees were serious about fighting this threat they would do well to read both the report, and and Goldring’s commentary.

Oxfam is considered the world leader in the delivery of emergency relief and implements long-term development programs in vulnerable communities. Today, there are 19 member organizations of the Oxfam International confederation. They are based in: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Quebec, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

YOUR TURN

What would you do to begin to shift the unequal distribution of wealth in this country? In this world? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds and don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

 

Source: Additional reporting and statistics provided by Alternet

 

5 Hidden Ways to Boost Your Tax Refund

While Americans may disagree on how their taxes are spent, at tax time, most of us are looking for ways to pay no more than we owe, or even boost our tax refunds.

Pressing save on taxes key on keyboard

These five strategies go beyond the obvious to give you tried-and-true ways to reduce your tax liability:

1. Rethink filing status to boost your refund
One of the first decisions you make when completing your tax return, your filing status, can affect your refund’s size, especially if you’re married. While most married couples file jointly — 95 percent did in 2015 — a joint return is not always the most beneficial way to boost your refund. Married-filing-separately status requires more effort, but the time you invest offers tax savings under the right circumstances. Calculating your taxes both ways will point you in the higher refund direction.

The IRS uses a percentage of adjusted gross income — AGI — to determine whether some deductions can be used such as medical and certain miscellaneous expenses. Filing separately gives each spouse a lower AGI. If one of them has a lot of medical expenses, such as COBRA payments resulting from a job loss, computing taxes individually allows that spouse to reach the needed AGI percentage based on his or her own income.

Or, a spouse who spends a lot of time on the road and in the air might have travel expenses such as baggage fees that merit separate filing. Expenses can add up for an unemployed spouse looking for work — long distance calls, resume preparation, career counseling and networking — and could be a sleeping miscellaneous deduction that reduces taxable income. However, choosing to file separate returns has drawbacks, such as losing credits available to joint filers, that you must weigh to maximize your refund potential.

Tax reductions from claiming dependents can cut a single parent’s tax bill when he or she files ashead of household. You need to have one or more children who lived with you for more than six months, and paid more than 50 percent of the cost of keeping a home. Those costs include mortgage and rent, utilities, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, repairs and food.

Single taxpayers who care for a parent may also qualify for the more advantageous head-of-household status if they paid more than half of the cost of maintaining that parent’s residence for the whole year. Your parent need not live with you; when you pay more than half of their cost to live in a home for seniors or rest home, you can claim head of household.

2. Don’t shy away from tax deductions
Keeping a trip log for your volunteer work, job-hunting and doctor’s appointments may seem like a waste of time, but those miles add up and represent deductions. Parking, toll and bus or taxi receipts support your claim, while a record of the miles you drove lets you write off the cost of using your car through the standard mileage rate. Good travel records could help you reach the needed minimum percentage of adjusted gross income for miscellaneous deductions.

Moving for a new job 50 miles or more away can boost your tax refund because you can deduct moving, storage and travel expenses related to your relocation. You have to work full time at the new job for at least 39 weeks the first year; however, you can take the deduction in the year you move if you expect to meet this time test within the following tax year. You don’t have to itemize to get this tax break to lower your adjusted gross income. Simply figure your total using IRS Form 3903 and attach it to your 1040 return.

Charitable deductions can help your refund cause, too. Record keeping lets you add up the dollars spent doing charity work, in addition to claiming the market value of any clothing or household things you donate. When you bake for a fund-raiser, the cost of your ingredients can be deducted, but not the value of the time you spent baking.

3. Maximize your IRA contributions
You have until April 15th to open a traditional IRA for the previous tax year. That gives you the flexibility of claiming the credit on your return, filing early and using your refund to open the account. Traditional IRA contributions reduce your taxable income. You can take advantage of the maximum contribution and, if you’re at least 50 years old, the catch-up provision, to add to your IRA. If you contributed to a Roth IRA, you may be able to claim the retirement savings contribution credit that also lowers taxable income and result in a larger refund check.

4. Timing can boost your tax refund
And while this line item may be a day late and a dollar short, it’s good to keep in mind for next year. Taxpayers who watch the calendar improve their chances of getting a larger refund. If you can, pay January’s mortgage payment before December 31st and get the added interest for your mortgage interest deduction.

Schedule health-related treatments and exams in the last quarter of the year to boost your medical expense deduction potential.

Paying property taxes by New Year’s Eve could make the difference between itemizing and taking the standard deduction, and thus, a bigger refund. If you’re self-employed, you can pay your fourth-quarter state estimated taxes in December, rather than in January when they’re normally due, to increase your itemizing potential.

5. Become credit savvy and refund happy
Credits work better than deductions as refund boosters. For each credit dollar, your taxes go down a dollar. Yet, 20% of eligible Americans don’t claim the earned income tax credit. If you’re working and meet the guidelines, you may be eligible for EITC even if you’re single with no children. If you have kids, the child-care credit may help you.

For those with children in college, credits related to higher education expenses, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, could provide tax relief. We spoke with CPA Miles Brkovich of Bennett & Brkovich, LLC in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and he says; “The American Opportunity Credit is great because up to $1,000 is refundable. That means you could receive as much as $1,000 even if you had no tax liability. The total credit is $2,500 and applies only to the first four years of undergraduate higher education expenses. If you’re in grad school or beyond, you may be eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit.”

Tax laws change frequently, and credits come and go, so staying informed can be financially rewarding. Credits for home improvements that save energy keep more money in your wallet throughout the year and at tax time. For example, an investment in an alternative energy heating system for your home could let you claim 30 percent of the cost through 2017.

YOUR TURN

Do you have any tips to add to this list? We want to hear from you! Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

This article is for general informational purposes designed to help you put these valuable deductions on your radar. Union Built PC employees and principals are not certified accountants. Please be sure to check with your tax adviser to see if you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.

Dividend Paying Stocks Strategies

Guest Post by Donald Conrad fiduciary adviser, Conrad Capital Management

Dividend Paying Stocks are often a great option to traditional income investments. Investors measure dividend value through dividend yield, which is calculated by dividing annual dividends with the current stock price. Although the stock price tends to fluctuate, it might be a good addition to ones current strategy for those willing to hold for long term. In fact, the most popular dividend strategies such as the Dogs of the Dow, DRIPS, Proprietary Dividend Capture Strategy, to name a few, are straightforward and have relatively minimal capital requirements. The typical dividend is offered by mature companies that have graduated from the growth stage and are looking to provide additional investment incentives. Dividends may also lower a stock’s volatility as investors are more likely to hold dividend stocks longer than non-dividend stocks.

dividend-paying-stocks

There are four important dividend dates that investors should be aware of before investing in dividend paying stocks:

Declaration date – The board of directors announces all the important dividend dates, and the amount of the dividend payments.

Ex-Dividend date – An investor must purchase the stocks before the Ex-Dividend date to be eligible for dividend payment.

Date of Record – Two days after the Ex-Dividend date. The settlement of the trade needs to occur either before, or on the date of record, for investors to be eligible for the dividend payment.

Date of payment – The registered investors will be paid.

Dividend Investing Strategies

1)  The Dogs of the Dow is a high dividend yield investment strategy where the investor invests in the top 10 highest yielding Dow Jones stocks out of the 30. This strategy often offers diversification, less downside risk, and beneficial reward potential. The investor’s position is re-balanced after a year and a day to take advantage of more tax-efficient capital gains. To learn more about this and other variations to this strategy, consult your financial advisor.

2)  A Dividend Capture Strategy is when the investor purchases the stock before the ex-dividend date and then sells it ex-dividend, hence capturing the dividend. There may be many ways of doing this; thus it is important to work with your financial advisor to develop a strategy that best fits your needs.

3)  Dividend re-investments are another effective way for investors to take advantage of dividends where stockholders can increase their holdings and accumulate the value of their investment over time. Although investors will still have to pay taxes on reinvested dividends, a reinvestment strategy may be attractive to smaller investors looking to build a larger position in a company through dollar cost averaging. Some corporations also offer specialized dividend reinvestment plans called DRIPs, which are usually free of brokerage and transaction fees. Some corporations may even offer stock at a discount to market price through their DRIP programs. Ask your financial consultant about available dividend reinvestment plans that might be suitable for you and your investment goals.

Choosing a Dividend Investment Plan

While dividend investing can provide an attractive source of income for stockholders, it is important to consider the timing and efficiency of your investments. Be aware that dividends are taxed at different rates than income, and may cause administrative hassle if done incorrectly. Consult your investment advisor to ensure that your dividend investment plan maximizes return and best fits your needs as an investor.

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1377 Motor Parkway, Suite 406, Islandia, NY 11749
dconrad@conradcapital.com
Phone: (631)-439-7878  Fax: (631)-439-7879
www.conradcapital.com

Protecting Your ID When You’re Always Connected

With more and more of our time spent connected to smart devices, security is always an important factor to consider whether you’re working on files that live in the cloud, filing photos, or trying to get to the next level of your favorite online game. Your smartphone or tablet could be a target for a savvy hacker looking to capture your information. When you use a smartphone for all the convenience it can deliver (including mobile banking, document signing and sharing, and staying social), what steps should you think about to help ensure your security?

identity-theft

Using Apps Safely

As you look for applications to add into your smartphone, make sure you’re taking the legitimacy of apps into account before clicking ‘download.’ You can do this by reading reviews of apps that are unfamiliar to you so you’re in the know on issues that other users have experienced. Make sure, too, that you know and can confirm that the developer source is a reputable one. The good news for you is that app stores now have rigorous screening procedures to vet submissions, so they’re on the lookout to make sure your store shopping experience is safer and more intelligent than in earlier days.

Protecting Yourself Beyond Apps

Apps are a major window into device access, but hackers have commonly resorted to other increasingly sophisticated tactics to get into your information by email, too. Commonly known as phishing, these look-alike attempts to scam you out of your personal information by resembling communications that you do (or might reasonably do) business with. Commonly requested information: your Social Security number, account information, and passwords. As a reminder of something you probably are already familiar with, never give these out in email: reputable companies won’t ever ask for you to supply this information by email.

When it comes to taking your information with you on the go, mobile devices are unbeatable for convenience, portability, and staying connected. Just make sure that you’re keeping security in mind when you set up accounts, consider new apps, or access your information from another new place.

RELATED: Protect Your Sensitive Data from Cyber Criminals with the Union Built Cloud

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

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Stealing the Economy in 6 Easy Steps

So… How Does So Much Wealth End Up in the Pockets of CEOs and Wall Street Firms?

1. Companies buy other companies using borrowed money.
Since the 1980s, corporate raiders, corporations and hedge funds have looked to take over any company they could. But here’s their secret.

2. Raiders use the assets of the targeted company to pay for the costs of the acquisition.
The target company is weakened because it has to pay back millions of dollars. Worse, the corporate raiders pay themselves from the assets of the acquired company, too, in fees and special dividends. The CEOs and bankers get their cut as well. Not much left to share with the workers from a once-successful company.

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3. CEOs get paid with stock incentives.
That means when a company’s stock goes up, CEOs get even more money.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., most CEOs are focused on very short-term goals, like improving their own compensation. They most likely aren’t looking at long terms goals like increasing productivity or reinvesting in research and development. They aren’t interested in increasing workers’ real wages and benefits. So what does the CEO do?

4. CEOs use company earnings not to invest in better equipment or operations, not to pass along gains to workers, but to buy more stock.
That raises the stock prices and raises the CEO’s salary.

5. CEOS IMPLEMENT “THE SQUEEZE.”
The company downsizes, and workers get laid off. Jobs are shipped offshore. Pension funds are frozen. Wages and benefits are cut.

6. Results
The earnings of the corporation are redistributed to executives and Wall Street bankers.

What’s left for workers?

NOT MUCH.

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Behind Closed Doors: What Is A Perfect Portfolio?

BY DONALD CONRAD
Fiduciary

What is the best selection of investments?

Research consistently has found: the best way to maximize returns across every level of risk is to combine asset classes rather than individual securities.

I use Modern Portfolio Theory to identify the ideal investment mix for each client. It is important to stress that every asset class has a known history of performance, and each one has a future which cannot be known. Every investment involves risk, which is another term for uncertainty. This is where things get tricky, because there is no risk in the past, no uncertainty about how things turned out. Then how are we creating the optimal mix? Diversification is the answer, investing in a variety of assets.

conrad-capital-investments-sidebarPredicting the long-term performance of just one asset class is harder than predicting the performance of a group of them. Even when most sectors of the market are moving up or down, there’s usually some outlier that’s bucking the trend. Because there’s no way to know in advance what that outlier will be, the best strategy is to own them all and weight them accordingly based on your specific risk tolerance and macroeconomic variables. What we need is long-term past performance data identifying the asset classes with favorable performance and acceptable levels of risk. 11 asset classes were identified based on decades of data and legions of academic researchers. I teach as many people as possible how to put those asset classes together into effective combinations of different investments.

From time to time I slightly overweight towards an attractive asset class when doing so will allow the portfolio to achieve good returns and helps to reach the client’s long-term goals. In the last few months I had several reasons to continue to slowly and carefully invest into the energy sector because fossil fuel related investments have a great chance to outperform their sector, industry or even the market as a whole, and they are at a great discount. I conducted an analysis and created an ENERGY BASKET containing an ideal mixture of US and international energy related equities, currency, and ETFs.

PRINT THIS ARTICLE: Behind Closed Doors: What Is A Perfect Portfolio?

Looking for more information on how to build the perfect portfolio?  Donald Conrad invites you to contact him with your questions or comments at dconrad@conradcapital.com or by calling 631-439-7878.

A Message from Donald Conrad

conrad-capital-donald-conradI am Donald Conrad, President and CEO of Conrad Capital Management. CCM is based in the heart of Long Island, Islandia (New York), right between the Hamptons and Manhattan. I have offered investment counseling, retirement plan advice to families and businesses across the country since 1998. I began my career in the financial services industry in 1982. Throughout my 34 year professional career I have helped labor union workers throughout NY State. My clients have included indispensable, experienced workers with specialized knowledge from all walks of life, ranging from firefighters to nurses to police officers and air pilots. I have seen firsthand the benefits that unions bring to their members and I worked hard to provide highly customized face-to-face fiduciary investment advice for affordable fees to active and retired workers.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hold Series 7, 24, 63 and 65 licenses, as well as Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) Certification. I am an independent investment advisor; – registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as such subject to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of my clients. In this role I have worked with complex portfolios and served the many unique needs that often require special management strategies. Previously, I served as Senior VP – at PaineWebber (1993 – 1997), Sr. Vice President at Shearson Lehman Hutton (1987 – 1993) and Sr. VP at E. F. Hutton & Co. (1982 – 1987).

CCM is dual-registered, and has three divisions:

• Registered Investment Adviser
• Broker Dealer Association1
• Alternative Investment Vehicle/Hedge Fund of Funds – CCM Partners, LP

I lead a great team of professionals keeping client centric solutions in focus. Investors continue to demand an increasingly high level of expertise, integrity and objectivity. We work hard, walk our walk every day and strive to be the best that we can. The team at CCM is comprised of educated, multilingual, and multinational professionals who are experienced in the areas in which they operate.

The main reason that I became a wealth manager was to help people deal with their money. Working with my clients to get them on the right track to meet their goals is a very rewarding part of my job and it is something that I really enjoy doing. Preparing for a financially secure retirement has become significantly harder in the 21st century. There is something unique about making meaningful and positive differences in the lives of many working professionals helping their transition into retirement.

PRINT DONALD CONRAD’S BIO

 

conrad-capital-investments-LOGO

Conrad Capital Management
1377 Motor Parkway, Suite 406 Islandia, New York 11749
dconrad@conradcapital.com  www.conradcapital.com
Phone: (631)-439-7878 Fax: (631)-439-7879


1 Securities are offered through Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments, member FINRA/SIPC. Headquartered at 18 Corporate Woods Blvd., Albany NY 12211. Purshe Kapalan Sterling Investments and Conrad Capital Management are not affiliated companies.  

A Bigger Lesson Learned: The Verizon Strike and the U.S. Economy

For the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), as well as Verizon management – at least on the surface – there’s been no bigger story this Spring.  The unity of the CWA and IBEW, other Unions who’ve rallied around Verizon Workers, and even the public reflects how normal cuts have become and how unusual resistance on this scale is in the United States of the 21st century.

For working women and men, and retirees in the US, there is little structural economic support.  We can pretend otherwise, but look at nearly every other industrial democracy, where high level and cost effective health care is the norm, retirement security means much higher income replacement, public policy supports retaining jobs in key industries and most important, there is widespread public and political support for collective bargaining.

We are in an economic free fall.  Pretending that we are consumers and not working Americans first will not fix it.  Tax cuts will not fix it.  Attacks on working Americans and their rights will make the landing even harder.

We need to restore workers’ rights in a meaningful way so that we all can negotiate and engage our employers in a meaningful way. Human resource leaders at major US based employers should be ashamed of looking to cut costs at every turn, then collaborating with multi-billion dollar political machines to fight every political attempt to restore balance through public policy.  For example, nearly without exception, US management opposed federal legislation mandating that all employers pay for quality care.   Even those employers like Verizon that provide decent health care end up subsidizing employers that are health care deadbeats by ensuring spouses who work for those companies.

RELATED: 5 Key Reasons to Back the Working People at Verizon

Collective bargaining can make a difference.  Look back to 1938, when the United States still was gripped by the last of the recessions that made up the Great Depression. Well known economist John Maynard Keynes wrote to President Franklin D Roosevelt, stating that the jobs program and financial regulation were important, but “I regard the expansion of collective bargaining as essential.”

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Keynes was not particularly a union supporter but he understood, as did economists for decades to come, that collective bargaining is a critical engine to fire up the demand curve and enable workers to improve their conditions in discussion with management, thus improving the economy. We will never have an economic recovery in this country if instead very profitable employers automatically cut wages, cut benefits and ship more good jobs overseas because their colleagues at other firms are all doing it.  That remains a race to the bottom.

We can’t have a recovery based on a “dollar store” economy. Unless workers can truly use bargaining rights to better their conditions, that’s exactly where we’re headed.  The strike at Verizon demonstrates the severity of the problem, but it will take a majority based political movement to fix it.