Financial Accounting vs. Tax Accounting

“Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25, ESV)

Although roughly only 10% of taxpayers are audited annually, professionals and business owners are in constant fear of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), especially with the spunky Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares at its helm. In speaking and interacting with several accountants in a business setting, I have heard them say again and again that no matter how well they prepare a client’s financial statements, the BIR can and will always find a deficiency somewhere. To be sure, this is not only true for small and medium accounting and auditing firms but with big ones as well.

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) use financial accounting principles or what is more commonly known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS). In the Philippines, we have adopted the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as our Philippine Financial Reporting Standards (PFRS). The problem arises when these audited financial statements (AFS) are submitted to the BIR as attachment to company or individual Income Tax Returns (ITR) for purposes of computing the tax liability. This is due to the fact that the BIR does not use the same accounting principles and standards used in financial accounting but rather that which is provided for by law under the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 (NIRC) or Tax Code for short, along with revenue issuances by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, such as Revenue Regulations (RR), Revenue Memorandum Orders (RMO), and Revenue Audit Memorandum Orders (RAMO), among others.

RR No. 8-2007 provides that “the recording and recognition of business transactions for financial accounting purposes, in a majority of situations, differ from the application of tax rules on the same transactions resulting to disparity of reports for financial accounting vis-à-vis tax accounting.” Moreover, RMC No. 22-2004 states that “It has been observed that the GAAP and GAAS approved and adopted may from time to time be different from the provisions of the Tax Code.” It then provides that “All returns required to be filed by the Tax Code shall be prepared always in conformity with the provisions of the Tax Code. Taxability of income and deductibility of expenses shall be determined strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Tax Code and the rules and regulations issued implementing the said Tax Code. In case of difference between the provisions of the Tax Code and the rules and regulations implementing the Tax Code, on one hand, and the GAAP and GAAS, on the other hand, the provisions of the Tax Code and the rules and regulations issued implementing the Tax Code shall prevail.” In a separate ruling, the BIR held that “Therefore, it is the financial statements which is in conformity with the Tax Code that should be attached in the filing of Income Tax Returns” (BIR Ruling No. M-111-2006).

This is the main reason why the BIR always finds alleged deficiencies in a taxpayer’s tax return and payment. But what if you have already been using financial accounting principles for the longest time in filing your ITR? Don’t worry, all hope is not lost. RR No. 8-2007 further provides that “Hence, there is a need to reconcile the disparity in a systematic and clear manner to avoid irritants between the taxpayer and the tax enforcer. Accordingly, concerned taxpayers are hereby mandated to maintain books and records that would reflect the reconciling items between Financial Statements figures and/or data with those reflected/presented in the filed Income Tax Return (ITR). The recording and presentation of the reconciling items in such books and records shall be done in such a manner that would facilitate the understanding by the examiners/auditors of the Bureau of Internal Revenue tasked to undertake audit/investigation functions, providing in sufficient detail the computation of the differences and the reasons therefore aimed at bringing into agreement the IFRS and ITR figures.”

Surely, such reconciling of records is indeed taxing (pun intended)! So, in order to avoid such a predicament and the headaches that come along with it, it would be better for taxpayers to adopt tax accounting methods and principles as the PFRS from the very beginning instead of the IFRS as their GAAP and GAAS. For more information on tax accounting principles and methods, please refer to RR V-1 for the Bookkeeping Regulations and RAMO 1-2000, which serves as the guidebook of BIR auditors and examiners in implementing the provisions of the Tax Code, or consult a competent tax professional.

Effects of the Different Property Regimes in the Computation of the Estate Tax Due

Someone asked: “Atty. Terence, I just wanted to ask, what if there was a prenup agreement? How do you divide the properties and compute the estate tax due? Will a prenup supersede the law of a community property with regard to estate tax?”

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Answer: A prenuptial agreement, otherwise known legally as a marriage settlement, is a contract entered into by the parties intending to get married, which must be executed by them prior to the wedding, otherwise, the same shall be void. The primary purpose of a marriage settlement is to determine the property regime of the parties to the future marriage other than that provided for by law by default.

Estate tax, also known as inheritance tax, is a tax on the right of a deceased person to transmit his estate to his lawful heirs and beneficiaries. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a tax on property but on the right to transmit property at death, and is measured by the value of the property.

Now that we know what estate tax is, we should then consider the different kinds of property regimes that a married couple can enter into in order for us to properly compute the value of their respective gross estates and ultimately, their net taxable estates.

For marriages celebrated after or on the effectivity date of the Family Code, which is on August 3, 1988, in the absence of a valid marriage settlement, the default property regime of absolute community of property (ACP) shall govern. In a regime of ACP, the community property shall consist of all the property owned by the spouses at the time of the celebration of the marriage or acquired thereafter. However, the following are excluded therefrom: (1) Property acquired during the marriage by gratuitous title by either spouse, and the fruits as well as the income thereof, if any, unless it is expressly provided by the donor, testator or grantor that they shall form part of the community property; (2) Property for personal and exclusive use of either spouse; however, jewelry shall form part of the community property; and (3) Property acquired before the marriage by either spouse who has legitimate descendants by a former marriage, and the fruits as well as the income, if any, of such property.

On the other hand, for marriages celebrated before the effectivity of the Family Code, the default property regime of conjugal partnership of gains (CPG) provided for under the Civil Code, the effectivity of which began on August 30, 1950, shall prevail. The same is true in case the future spouses agree in the marriage settlements that the regime of conjugal partnership of gains shall govern their property relations during the marriage. In a regime of CPG, the husband and wife place in a common fund  the proceeds, products, fruits and income from their separate properties and those acquired by either or both spouses through their efforts or by chance, and, upon dissolution of the marriage of the partnership, the net gains or benefits obtained by either of both spouses shall be divided equally between them, unless otherwise agreed in the marriage settlements. Hence, the following shall be the exclusive property of each spouse: (1) That which is brought to the marriage as his or her own; (2) That which each acquires during the marriage by gratuitous title; (3) That which is acquired by right of redemption, by barter or exchange with property belonging to only one of the spouses; and (4) That which is purchased with exclusive money of the wife or of the husband.

Lastly, in a regime of complete separation of property (CSP), each spouse retains ownership of his or her own properties including the fruits thereof. In short, what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine. Article 134 of the Family Code provides that in the absence of an express declaration in the marriage settlements, the separation of property between spouses during the marriage shall not take place except by judicial order. Such judicial separation of property may either be voluntary or for sufficient cause.

So, after determining the share of each spouse from the mass of the community or conjugal property, we can now compute for their respective individual gross estates. Section 85 of the National Internal Revenue Code provides that “the value of the gross estate of the decedent shall be determined by including the value at the time of his death of all property, real or personal, tangible or intangible, wherever situated; Provided however, that in the case of the non-resident decedent who at the time of his death was not a citizen of the Philippines only that part of the entire gross estate which is situated in the Philippines shall be included in his taxable estate.”

Having determined their respective individual gross estates, we can now proceed to computing their net taxable estates taking into consideration the applicable exclusions and deductions provided for by law.

Advantages of Investing in Mutual Funds

When it comes to investing in the stock market, financial and investment advisers will always caution potential investors that before they place their hard-earned money therein, they should first be all-SET. This means that they should have the Size of funds, Expertise and Time. However, even though a potential stock market investor may not be all-SET, there is still an alternative paper asset that one can invest in — Mutual Funds. Below are the advantages of investing in mutual funds according to the Philippine Investment Funds Association (PIFA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) along with my additional comments:

1. Professional Management

One of the main attractions of mutual funds is that it affords its investors, particularly the small ones, the services of full-time professional managers whose job is to analyze the various investment products available in the market and select those that would give the best possible returns to the fund and its shareholders.

2. Low Capital Requirement

Direct investments usually require substantial capital. The minimum investment amounts for Treasury Bills and Commercial paper, for instance, range from P100,000 to P1,000,000 depending on the bank or investment house you are dealing with. This also holds true for stock because while you may be able to buy one “lot” (shares are sold in board lots ranging from 10 shares to 1 million shares depending on the price at which these shares are traded) for as low as P1,000 or P5,000, you may not be able to buy the stock that you really want, especially the blue chip and growth stocks.

3. Diversification

There is a saying that goes, “Do not put all your eggs in one basket.” This adage is especially true in the world of investments which is full of uncertainties. In fact, even King Solomon, the wisest king who has ever lived, said, “But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead (Ecclesiastes 11:2, NLT). There is no such thing as a “sure” thing. An important investment principle that requires holding several securities to reduce the risks associated with investing in individual securities is called diversification. When you invest in a mutual fund, you achieve instant diversification because the fund is required by law to be invested in a wide array of issues and/or securities.

4. Liquidity

Liquidity is the ability to readily convert investments into cash. Other investment products require you to find  buyer so that you can liquidate your investments. That is not the case with mutual fund shares because the fund itself stands ready to buy back these shares at the prevailing Net Asset Value Per Share. While the law provides that redemption proceeds must be given within seven (7) banking days from the date of the redemption request, most funds are able to pay the redemption proceeds within the next day. Mutual Funds are, therefore, considered very liquid investments.

5. Safety

Safety is a very important consideration for most investors. Mutual funds are highly regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Company Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Mutual funds are prohibited from investing in particular investment products and engaging in certain transactions. They also have to  submit regular reports to  the SEC as well as to their shareholders.

6. Potentially Higher Returns

Because a mutual fund is managed as a single portfolio, it is able to take advantage of certain economies of scale. For instance, with its millions of pesos (or other currency) under management, it can negotiate for lower stockbrokerage fees or higher interest rates on fixed-income instruments. In the end, however, it is still the investment company adviser who really makes the big difference when an individual is faced with this decision — “Will I make direct investments by myself or will I invest in a mutual fund?” Because very few individual investors can match the experience and skill of full-time professional fund managers, the investing public is well advised to invest in a mutual fund instead.

7. Convenience

Mutual funds are purchased directly through SEC-licensed Certified Investment Solicitors (CIS) only. These CIS are usually connected to banks, insurance companies, investment companies, or brokerage firms and normally provide personal, tailor-fit service. Some fund companies have even set up retail centers for investors. Many have payroll deduction plans and some funds, with proper authorization, will deduct and invest on a regular basis a specified amount from the shareholder’s bank account.

Funds offer a variety of services, including preparing monthly or quarterly account statements, automatically debiting additional investments from, or crediting redemption proceeds to, the investors’ bank account; or allowing transfers from one fund to another. Most major mutual fund companies offer extensive record-keeping services to help investors track their transactions and follow their funds’ performance via phone, text message, or the internet.

8. Transparency

Investment company advisers (such as Philam Asset Management, Inc.) provide investors with updated information pertaining to the fund. All material facts are disclosed to investors as required by the SEC.

9.  Flexibility

Investors are allowed to modify investment strategies over time by transferring or moving from one fund to another within a mutual fund family.

Some of the Things that a Professional Financial Advisor Does

Financial Planning:
• Cares more about you and your money than anyone who doesn’t share your last name
• Asks questions in order to understand your needs and objectives
• Helps you determine where you are at present
• Guides you to think about areas of your financial life you may not have considered
• Helps organize your financial situation
• Formalizes your goals and puts them in writing for you
• Helps you prioritize your financial opportunities
• Helps you determine realistic goals
• Studies possible alternatives that could meet your goals
• Prepares a financial plan and/or an investment policy statement for you
• Makes specific recommendations to help you meet your goals
• Implements those recommendations
• Suggests creative alternatives that you may not have considered
• Reviews and recommends life insurance policies to protect you
• Assists you in setting up a company retirement plan
• Assists in preparing an estate plan for you
• Persuades you to do the things you know you ought to do, even if you don’t feel like doing them

Investments:
• Prepares an asset allocation for you so you can achieve the best rate of return for a given level of risk tolerance
• Does due diligence on money managers and mutual fund managers in order to make appropriate recommendations
• Stays up to date on changes in the investment world
• Monitors your investments
• Reviews existing annuities
• Reviews your investments in your company PERA plans
• Reviews and revises portfolios as conditions change
• Guides you through difficult periods in the stock market by sharing historical perspective
• Works with you to improve your investment performance
• Can look inside your mutual funds to compare how many of their holdings duplicate each other
• Converts your investments to lifetime income
• Helps you evaluate the differences in risk levels between various fixed-income investments such as government bonds and corporate bonds.
• Provides research on stocks from both affiliated firm and third parties
• Holds and warehouses stocks, bonds and other securities
• Records and researches your cost basis on securities
• Provides you with unbiased stock research
• Provides you with personal stock analysis
• Provides you with a written sector-based evaluation of your portfolio
• Determines the risk level of your existing portfolio
• Helps you consolidate and simplify your investments
• Can provide you with technical fundamental and quantitative stock analysis
• Gives you strategies for trading options
• Provides you with executive services involving restricted stock and employer stock options
• Provides introductions to money managers
• Show you how to access your statement and other information online
• Shops top rates from financial institutions throughout the country
• Provides access to answers from a major investment firm

Taxes
• Suggests alternatives to lower your taxes
• Review your tax returns with an eye to possible savings in the future
• Stays up to date on tax law changes
• Helps you reduce your taxes
• Repositions investments to take full advantage of tax law provisions
• Works with your tax and legal advisors to help you meet your financial goals.

Person-to Person:
• Monitors changes in your life and family situation
• Proactively keeps in touch with you
• Remains only a telephone call away to answer financial questions for you
• Serves as a human glossary of financial terms such as beta, P/E ratio, and Sharpe ratio
• Makes sure that the he/she and the firm provide excellent service at all times
• Provides referrals to other professionals, such as accountants and attorneys
• Refers you to banking establishments for loan and trust alternatives
• Provides you with a chart showing the monthly income from all of your investments
• Suggests alternatives to increase your income during retirement
• Listens and provides feedback in a way that a magazine or newsletter writer does not
• Shares the experiences of dozens or hundreds of clients who have faced circumstances similar to yours
• Helps educate your children and grandchildren about investments and financial concepts
• Holds seminars to discuss significant and /or new financial concepts
• Helps with continuity of your family’s financial plan through generations
• Facilitates the transfer of investments from individual names to trust or from an owner through to beneficiaries
• Keeps you on track
• Identifies your savings shortfalls
• Develops and monitors a strategy for debt reduction
• Educates you on retirement issues
• Educates you on estate planning issues
• Educates you on college savings and financial aid options
• Is someone you can trust and get advice from in all of your financial matters
• Is a wise sounding board for ideas you are considering
• Is honest with you
• Saves you time

Guest Blog: Defending Your Fee in an Angry Marketplace

When clients average 9% a year, it’s easy to pay a 1% fee. When they lose money, those fees become harder to stomach. Here’s a four-part action plan for reestablishing your worth and protecting clients from further damage.

It’s not easy being a financial advisor these days. For some, you’re about as popular as members of Congress or the Bush administration. Within the last few weeks, millions of investment clients received third-quarter statements. Those who dared open the envelope found portfolios hammered by the recent market free fall. Trillions of dollars have evaporated from the markets.

Will clients stick with you?

A study released this month by Prince and Associates was not encouraging—at least, not for the wealthiest sectors of the financial services industry. The survey showed that an alarming 81% of investors with at least $1 million in discretionary assets at private banks were planning to pull at least some of their money from their advisors in the wake of Black September and Blacker October. Nearly half said they planned to change advisors and warn others about that professional.

Prince attributed this loss of confidence to the uncertainty caused by the credit crisis, the banking bailout, the market collapse, and the election. The good news in that? Factors such as the personal style and service approach of an advisor and the reputation of the advisory firm can greatly help shape an investor’s attitude. And their willingness to keep paying you, Prince said.

Advisor Beth Blecker, CEO of Eastern Planning in Pearl River, New York underscores the importance of steady service in this rough market: “I am not having any trouble defending my fee with 95% of my clients, but service is the key,” she notes. “I see my best clients every quarter, and I host special volatility-education events and appreciation events. I tell clients this is the time that I really have to earn my fees by keeping them long-term-goal-oriented. We do not believe in timing the market, so it is up to me to keep them invested.”

Taking charge of your message

What can you do now to keep clients happy, defend your fees, and attract new clients? Here’s an action plan for tough economic times.

Go back to the investment policy. When you initially establish an investment policy statement, it can be used to remind clients of potential losses they agreed to accept. This is especially valuable in a down market. An investment policy statement might include a statement like this: “Client X could accept losing 15% in any single year. Over a five-year period, she could tolerably lose 3% annualized.”

When the market falters, you can point back to the risk range outlined in the investment policy statement, as well as to the benchmarks chosen to help put the client’s investment performance into perspective. “It puts in plain English what risks they were willing to take,” said one advisor about his IPS. “It also provides a measurable standard by which we can reasonably be evaluated in a down market.”

Action step: Review clients’ investment policy statements. If you don’t have an IPS process, consider developing one to formally outline your approach.

Host an education summit. Perhaps no time would be more appropriate than now to gather your clients together at your home or office for a special “volatility event” to educate them about your market outlook and how you plan to address the current crisis. An education workshop should include the following elements:

  • A small number of attendees. Unlike a mass-marketed seminar, a client education workshop involves only a select group of your best clients—15 to 30 at the most.
  • Shared interests. When inviting clients to attend your exclusive workshop, choose those who share common interests and concerns. Your knowledge of their unique needs and issues will create a more effective event.
  • Educational purpose. Your education summit should not be tied to a product push. Clients should be able to ask questions and speak their minds. “Since this crisis hit, we have hosted special volatility events with my son, who is a certified financial analyst,” explains Blecker of Eastern Planning. “Clients were very happy that they could ask him whatever they wanted related to the market downturn.” You could bring in your own expert.

Action step: Determine which of your clients to invite. Consider hosting a series over several weeks for small client groups. Saturday mornings often work well. Limit attendance to 30 at the most. Find a guest speaker, if possible, but be sure you remain in charge of the message.

Remind clients about the benefits of fees. Clients don’t pay you a fee just for market performance. And while paying a fee in a down market can be frustrating, clients need to remember all the advantages of fees. Here are a few benefits you can remind them about:

  • Risk management. In a down market, your job is still to manage client risk and optimize their long-term strategic portfolio planning. This service becomes even more important when the market goes down as client confidence is low.
  • Portfolio flexibility. In declining markets, slight modifications to a portfolio can help your clients manage risk. A fee arrangement allows you to fine-tune their holdings without worrying about costs.
  • Constant advice. Paying a fee does not assure a positive return any more than paying for a doctor’s services guarantees the treatment will be successful. Clients pay for the process and the constant attention you give them. As one advisor notes, “Markets go down. This fact cannot be confused with the failure of the consultant.”
  • Excellent service. Clients rely on your service team to answer their questions and handle their requests promptly. Remind clients about the excellent service you strive to provide, that you have the best in the business handling their day-to-day financial needs. Point out that they can reach a member of your team at any time, and emphasize the level of personal service that distinguishes your practice.
  • Tax management. You play an important role in minimizing your clients’ tax bill. Making portfolio adjustments for tax purposes is more easily done under a fee arrangement because you don’t have to worry about transaction costs. Sometimes the tax savings can pay for a year’s worth of fees. A client can also write off your advisory fee, while mutual fund expenses are not deductible.
  • Shared economic interest. Remind your clients that as a result of your fee-based relationship, you’re feeling the pain along with them. One advisor told me his client assets were down 13% last quarter, meaning he just took a 13% pay cut. Your goal is to increase your clients’ wealth, and you share in their success and have every motivation to help them reach their goals.

Action step: If you encounter concerns about your management fee, make it your priority to listen first. Once you have understood and acknowledged the client’s objection, you can respond appropriately with the above advantages of fee-based advisory relationships.

Consider new hedging strategies. Finally, however well you defend your fees, it may be time to take a new investment approach. While focusing on long-term goals and staying invested has long been a mantra for financial advisors, a growing subset of advisors are embracing alternative risk management strategies and hedging to reduce short-term portfolio volatility. They’re basically saying, Forget the long run; we gotta stop the pain now.

“In order to justify your fee, you must bring something new to the table,” argues Otto Federen, an independent registered investment advisor in Lexington, Ky. “Buy and hold equals ‘hope and hold’—and hope is not a strategy.”

Federen completely revamped his investment approach after the 2002 bear market, when he saw fundamentally sound companies and managers beaten down by the market. “We recognized that we had to have downside protection.” He has had his clients in Treasury money funds since February, and he uses some managers who use short strategies.

Thomas Norris, president of NFI Advisors, manages risk with structured accounts comprised of Treasury bonds and call options on the S&P 500 Index to participate in upward swings. His clients have not lost money during the downturn. “If you don’t lose, you don’t have to make it up. I’m not in the market. We’ve protected them on the downside.”

Norris sees his no-risk strategy as the only approach during what may be a rough time ahead. “The average investor has been told to just stay invested, that the market will recover. But look at 1973-74. The market lost 50% of its value. People and advisors were devastated. And over 10 years during the ’70s, the market died slowly.”

And some advisors, recognizing the flat market over the last decade worry about another decade with little forward progress. David Hoelke, CFP, of Focus Financial in St. Paul, Minn. explains: “It’s not the wild swings up and down that concern me. I’m more concerned about a longer-term stagnant period, where clients might only make 2-3% because of a deflationary recession. If all asset classes perform poorly, 2-3% could be strong compared to inflation. “But if I’m taking one of those points as my fee, it might not sit well. I don’t worry about my clients becoming angry, but rather that they become pragmatic and learn that CDs might a safer alternative. And while that’s shortsighted on their part, some clients are frazzled enough that they might not care.”

Action step: Investigate alternative investment approaches on Horsesmouth and elsewhere. Explore the costs and potential advantages of these absolute return strategies.

Senior Editor Nicole Coulter specializes in helping financial advisors manage their businesses more effectively. She has previously written about practice management issues for publications such as Registered Representative and Bank Investment Representative. She holds an MBA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Words of Wisdom From Master Advisor Nick Murray

1. If you are still prospecting, no matter what else is wrong with your business, you will yet succeed. If you stop prospecting, in the absence of a steady flow of referrals/introductions, then no matter what else appears to be right with your business at the moment, you are ultimately going to fail.

2. “Rejection” does not hurt, other than to the extent we allow it to do so. The only way to hear “yes” is to risk hearing “no.”

3. Most people who invest most of their capital in fixed income investments as they go into retirement will run out of money well within their lifetimes, and will die destitute and dependent upon their children. Equities: life. Bonds: death-in-life.

4. Optimism is the only realism. It is the only world view that squares with the facts, and with the historical record.

5. Get a year’s living expenses in a money market fund as quickly as you can, even if you have live on coffee and rice while you’re saving toward this goal. This will allow you to turn down business that doesn’t feel 100% right to you. It will give you the strength to tell any prospect to go to the devil, and make it stick.

6. It is infinitely easier to turn a one-million dollar client into a two-million dollar client than it is to turn ten one-hundred thousand-dollar clients into two-hundred-thousand dollar clients.

7. Money is love. The wise advisor will always look for clients who wish to use their money as an expression of love.

8. Your price is only an issue to the extent that your value is in question.

9. Every year on your birthday, fire the client who has given you the most grief since your last birthday.

10. Never take part of an investment account. Win it all, or pass on it all. It’s not just the gaps, the overlaps and the lost fee efficiencies that make divided accounts a no-no: it’s that you’re getting sucked into a performance derby.

11. When we are telling prospects and clients exactly what they need to do in order to achieve their most deeply-held financial goals, it is not possible for them to counter with valid objections, because there are no valid objections.

12. The origin of all wealth is threefold: personal initiative, hard work, and thrift. Tell me the percentage of your income that you’re putting away, and I’ll tell you whether you’re going to achieve your financial goals.

13. The world does not end. It only seems to be ending. This time is never different.

14. Americans say they want safety and income. What they really want is all the income they can get, and the illusion of safety. More money has been lost in the quest for the chimerical combination of safety and high yield than in all the stock market crashes in history.

15. Stop trying to prove anything. You can’t prove the sun’s coming up tomorrow, nor that you or your client will be here to see it even if it does. A great advisor never accepts the burden of proof.

16. There is no such thing as a “standard” deviation. Reality always comes at us out of deep left field.

17. The only sane investment objective in retirement is an income that grows at a minimum of the same rates at which one’s cost of living is rising.

18. There is no statistical evidence fore the persistence of performance.

19. Disciplined diversification is a pact with heaven: I will never own enough of any one thing to make a killing in it; I will never own enough of any one thing to be able to be killed by it.

20. All investment “new eras” end in ruin, because all inventions follow the same arc, from miracle to commodity.

21. Never take your business problems home with you. That way you can never take them out on the people who love you.

22. Price and value are inversely correlated. When the price of any investment sector is rising, its value is declining; the converse is also true.

23. The most fascinating aspect of all financial crises is their essential sameness.

24. Life is too short to work with anyone you don’t like, and /or who doesn’t like you.

25. Get our of debt, and stay out of debt. This can be a very cyclical business. If you’re a genuinely high-quality advisor, you will lose accounts and AUM in a “new era” speculative orgy. Keep you nut as low as you possibly can.

26. What goes around comes around, even if it’s on a very long, elliptical orbit.

27. Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.

28. The iron law of the commodity cycle is: supply responds directly to price, even as demand responds inversely to it.

29. The advance is permanent. The declines are temporary. There have been twelve bear markets with a mean decline of 25% since the end of World War II. The first one started on May 29, 1946. that day, the S&P Index closed at 19.5. As I write, twelve ends-of-the-world later, it is 1400. Stocks are up seventy times over these six decades because earnings are up seventy times.

30. Almost all of life is in the Grateful Dead dong “Uncle John’s Band.” The rest is in “Box of Rain.”

31. The dominant determinant of the real long-term returns real people really get isn’t investment performance. It’s investor behavior.

32. Every Christmas, assemble your entire family and watch the A&E move The Crossing, about Washington’s attack across the Delaware on Christmas night, 1776. This, and not It’s a Wonderful Life, is the true American Christmas classic. Every April 13, assemble them all again, and watch Apollo 13.

33. Protectionism always raises consumer prices above where they would otherwise be; it also invariably destroys more jobs than it “saves.”

34. All investments are income investments. They are made for the production either of current income, or of future income, or of income for someone else. The only sane test of an investment’s long term income producing potential is its long term total return, not its current yield. By that one sane test, stocks are a far better income investment than bonds.

35. The computer in your cell phone is a million times smaller, a million times cheaper, and a thousand times more powerful than the mainframe computer used by E.F. Hutton & Company on the day I joined that firm, May 1, 1967. This is a billion fold increase in computing power per dollar. In the next quarter century, there will be another such billion fold increase, at which point technology will have essentially solved all our current problems: energy, the environment, poverty and disease. This is the exact worst moment in human history to turn pessimistic.

36. Freedom is never free.

37. No one who really understands baseball ever referred to the 1969 World Series champions as the Miracle Mets. They were anything but a miracle. Indeed, from the middle of the 1968 season on, they were well nigh inevitable.

38. There is no completely bad time to be prospecting, but the very best time to be prospecting is when the market is down 20%. Amateurs will have stopped calling their clients, and your timeless wisdom will never get a better hearing.

39. The only sure way to be trusted is to be single-mindedly, relentlessly trustworthy. The only way to be sure you’re always absolutely trustworthy is to tell the pure, unvarnished truth all the time, and let the chips fall where they may.

40. Stop asking for referrals. Ask for introductions.

41. And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Investment 101

This time of year, many people think about freedom and what it means to them. We’d like to go one step further and ask that you consider your financial freedom. Imagine being financially free to live the life of your dreams and be in complete control of how you spend your time. Start today by asking yourself two simple questions:

Are you close to being financially free?

If not, do you have an action plan to get there?

If you didn’t answer an affirmative “YES” to either one of those questions, now is your time to take action. The reality is that you must have a plan if you want to achieve financial freedom. Without a plan you’ll likely never get to where you are going and could potentially waste a great deal of time and money in the process. The good news is as long as you make the decision to ACT TODAY you can begin taking steps towards financial freedom – and we can help!

Just gather at least 20 of your officemates, churchmates, classmates, friends, or relatives and we will come to you!

Investment 101

What is a VUL and Why is It a Good Investment?

I have read some blogs of certain financial experts advising people not to buy or invest in a VUL insurance because of the high charges that can eat up their account value (No. of units x NAVPU) and that people should instead buy a term insurance, which is significantly cheaper, and invest the difference in stocks, mutual funds, UITFs or ETFs. Other arguments against VULs is that it is only for those who are lazy to learn about investing themselves and that people who reach a ripe old age no longer have any young children or dependents to worry about when the call of death arrives.

While these seem like valid objections, however, there are some very important things about VUL insurance products that these writers have failed to consider. But before I proceed to address these issues, let me first define what a VUL is. VUL stands for Variable Unit-Linked/Variable Universal Life. According to Investopedia, a VUL is “A form of cash-value life insurance that offers both a death benefit and an investment feature. The premium amount for variable universal life insurance (VUL) is flexible and may be changed by the consumer as needed, though these changes can result in a change in the coverage amount. The investment feature usually includes sub-accounts  (pooled funds) which function very similar to mutual funds and can provide exposure to stocks and bonds. This exposure offers the possibility of an increased rate of return over a normal universal life or permanent insurance policy.” As Mr. Rienzie Biolena, RFP, puts it: “It is an investment and life insurance product in one. The difference between a VUL and other forms of life insurance is that part of the premiums is invested in pooled funds which, in time, are expected to grow in value.

Now, for my observations: First, you cannot make withdrawals from your term insurance because it does not have cash value unlike Whole Life and VULs which have cash/account value and can therefore also serve as your savings “account” in the case of the latter. Hence, the only way for an insured to enjoy his purchase is that if he or she dies during the term of the policy, which, in this case it is not really the insured who enjoys it but the beneficiaries. Second, according to Mr. Randell Tiongson, RFP:  “It is interesting to note that less than 20 percent of term insurance policies are still in force when the insured dies and, therefore, never pay a claim.” Third and most important of all, since the death benefits of a VUL, which include the amount invested in the pooled funds, is still classified as insurance, the proceeds thereof are excluded from the computation of gross income [Section 32(B)(1), National Internal Revenue Code of 1997] and gross estate [Section 85(E), Ibid] thereby exempting it in effect from taxation, provided, that the assignment of beneficiaries is irrevocable. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for gains derived from investing in mutual funds, stocks, unit investment trust funds, or exchange traded funds, because in case of the death of the investor, such gains, if any, including the principal amount shall still form part of the gross estate and therefore subject to estate tax. And the worst part is, once the bank or financial institution finds out about the death of their depositor or investor, such funds are mandated by law to be frozen until payment of estate taxes is completed. That is why, as discussed in one of my previous blogs, life insurance, particularly VULs, is an indispensable tool in estate planning.

As a side note, there are VUL products, such as Philam Life’s Money Tree, that while providing minimal guaranteed life insurance coverage, has virtually the same rates of return as mutual fund investing. Maybe the writers criticizing VULs as a whole were not aware of the existence of VUL products such as the Money Tree or were greatly misinformed. As I conclude, remember that prior to investing, it is important to know your needs and goals before handing in your hard-earned money and diversify! As the wise teacher said: “Invest what you have in several different things. You don’t know what bad things might happen on earth.” (Ecclesiastes 11:2, ERV)

Make Your Money Work for You!

In the Philippines, most people view dabbling in the stock market as a form of gambling and as a result avoid investing therein. In fact, several years ago, I asked my dad, who is arguably the most successful Filipino executive in the international pharmaceutical industry of his time, why he hasn’t considered investing some of his retirement money in the stock market or in other similar financial instruments. He told me that the reason why he does not is that he wants to have absolute control over his money and he cannot have that with the stock market because placing your money there is just exactly like gambling where other people and circumstances dictate the condition of one’s investments. Unfortunately, I believed him.

Ironically, for a lot of Filipinos, this way of thinking about investing in the stock and money market has led them to investing in get-rich-quick scams offered by unscrupulous persons. I mean, who hasn’t heard of Multitel, Aman Futures and the like? Instead of getting themselves financially educated and patiently investing in legal and time-tested ways to grow their money, they gullibly hitch on the bandwagon of these allegedly “safe” and “high yielding” investment vehicles such as the Ponzi Scheme, also known as the “pyramiding scheme.”

Now, some people might think that I am referring to Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) businesses. I am not. Pyramiding and MLM are not necessarily synonymous. While Ponzi schemes take people’s money and use them in paying the referral commissions of those who joined earlier without trafficking any actual product whatsoever, legitimate MLM companies carry tangible products such as food supplements, skincare and cosmetics, clothing apparel, and household stuff, to name a few. To know if you are joining a legitimate MLM company, make sure that the same is a corporate entity registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and a member of the Direct Selling Association of the Philippines (DSAP). Moreover, be wary of MLM companies that sell cheap products at exorbitant prices. Check the prevailing market value of similar products before jumping in. In other words, don’t just rely on the testimonies of certain network marketers, even if they are your family members, but do your own research. Due diligence is the key.

As for the stock market, when you buy the shares of stocks of a certain corporation, you actually become a part owner of that business. As a part owner, you get to have a share of the business profits, called dividends. In addition, you are also entitled to voting rights, provided that your shares are common stocks. Getting into the stock market only becomes as risky as gambling if you are involved in stock trading, where stocks are bought and sold within a short period of time through the use of market trend speculation. However, this is not the case when it comes to stock investing. Although investing in stocks still carries a higher amount of risk compared to fixed income securities such as government bonds and cash deposits due to its volatility, the same can be managed through the use of the Peso Cost Averaging method. Peso Cost Averaging works by investing a fixed amount money in stocks of great Philippine corporations in regular intervals instead of just on a one-time-big-time basis. In this manner, there is no need to time the market conditions because as you buy more units the average cost per unit of investment becomes smaller. Moreover, unlike stock trading, you invest for the long term, preferably a minimum of ten years so as to realize the positive yields of your money. Investing long-term greatly lessens, if not totally eliminates, the risk of devaluating your money because instead of focusing on the present and immediate situation of the market, you look at the bigger picture where, historically speaking, stock prices of great companies always rise in the long run even after a hard fall. Nevertheless, if you are still afraid of investing in the stock market directly or do not have enough money to invest yet, then you can consider investing in pooled equity or balanced funds through Mutual Funds, Unit Investment Trust Funds, or Variable Unit-Linked Insurance. However, that will be the subject of another article!

The bottomline is, in making your money grow, financial literacy is indispensable. So before investing your hard-earned money in any of these instruments, make sure that you invest in yourself first. Read books, attend seminars, watch video lectures, consult expert professionals, or if you’re up to it, go back to school and enroll in a business, finance or law related course. In this time and age of information technology, knowledge, nay, applied knowledge, truly is power; and with great power comes great responsibility!

What are Mortgage-Backed Securities?

Although it is not yet widely known in the Philippines as an investment tool, Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) have been in vogue in the United States and other western nations. In fact, these financial instruments played a huge role in the financial crisis of 2008 caused by a huge number of borrowers who defaulted on their residential mortgages. To get an idea of what that was all about, read my previous blog where I posted an article from Wikipedia about the documentary movie “The Inside Job.” So what is an MBS and how is it sold and used as an investment vehicle?

Generally, real estate investments are classified into three categories: (1) Agricultural; (2) Residential; and (3) Commercial. MBS falls under the second category. In an MBS transaction, an issuer sells bonds to investors that are backed by a pool of mortgages. Specifically, the issuer acquires mortgage loans from various third-party lenders and other mortgage loan sellers (“originators”), pools those loans, and transfers them to a trust. The trust then issues certificates that are secured by some or all of the pooled mortgage loans and pays a yield to the investor linked to the cash flow—i.e., the principal and/or interest payments—from the loans. This process is called securitization.

If the borrowers whose mortgage loans back the certificates fail to pay their mortgages, the holders of the certificates backed by the loans might not receive the yield that they expected. The securitization process takes this risk into account in calculating the price and expected yield of the bonds backed by pools of mortgages.

MBS can be backed by different kinds of loans. Mortgage loans are designated prime if the borrowers to whom the loans are made have good credit scores, the loans are fully documented, and the mortgage loans conform to specified guidelines. These loans are considered less risky to investors when securitized, and as a result, pay lower yields. Subprime mortgages are mortgage loans made to borrowers with weaker credit scores and less documentation of income or assets. These loans are riskier because the borrowers are considered more likely to default on their loans. Alt-A mortgages fall between the prime and subprime categories, often involving prime borrowers but lower documentation than would be required for a prime mortgage.

To ensure that the loans they are making are appropriate and that the borrowers can repay them, the originators of the loans have underwriting guidelines that guide their decisions concerning whether to issue a mortgage loan to a borrower. These guidelines, however, are subject to a variety of “exceptions,” which allow an originator to make loans that did not fully comply with guidelines.

When determining whether to purchase a mortgage loan certificate, an investor might consider various statistics regarding the loans underlying the securitization, which were generally provided to them by the sponsor and underwriter of the transaction (described below). These figures would generally be represented to the investor in a document called the prospectus supplement. For example, the prospectus supplement would state the percentage of properties that were occupied by their owners (“owner-occupancy rates”) and the loan-to-value (“LTV”) ratios of the loans (the relationship between the amount of the loan and the value of the property securing the loan). This would give the investor information about how likely the borrowers on the loans underlying the securitizations would be to default on their mortgages. In addition, the prospectus supplement also generally summarized the underwriting guidelines for certain of the mortgage lenders, also known as originators, and represented that the originators made loans in accordance with their underwriting guidelines.

Each securitization would be divided into tranches, representing different ‘slices’ of risk exposure.  Each tranche had its own risk profile and was assigned its own credit rating, with the most senior tranches generally being the least risky and junior tranches having a higher degree of risk exposure.  Investors would select a tranche for purchase based on their appetite for risk.

The date on which a securitization was issued is known as the securitization’s closing date.  Each securitization was assigned a CUSIP number: an alphanumerical identifier unique to that securitization.

MBS were sold to the public by large investment banks such as Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and the Lehman Brothers as profitable and safe investment vehicles. Only time will tell if and when such instruments or those similar thereto will become popular investment instruments in the Philippines and other developing countries in Asia. When that time comes, you would better be prepared. Remember, knowledge is power!