A Merry Christmas task and sweet blessings on the season

What may seem like a tedious chore for most businesses, the annual process of updating our Christmas mailing list is actually a happy one for us here at Winch Financial. Subtle changes in addresses indicate major life changes in which we’re thrilled to play a role. A young man returns from active duty and purchases his first home. A woman marries and changes her name. A couple retires and purchases a residence in Florida. A student graduates from college and heads out into the world. Our Christmas card list grows each year as we add new clients and friends, and families expand. You can trace milestone events in the firm as well by the Christmas cards we send. Last year’s card commemorated Pastor Ron Vignec, brother of our CEO Christina Winch, and mentor to countless people in the Seattle area, who died on Nov. 10, 2013. This year, our card features a picture of a Ginkgo tree branch, lovely in the winter snow because we’re celebrating the four-star success of our mutual fund, named for this resilient and productive tree. December marks an especially hectic time in our industry, as we monitor a volatile market and prepare our clients and their accounts for the year’s end. Still, it’s nice to take a moment to reflect upon the year’s accomplishments, both for our clients and for our firm. Merry Christmas from Winch Financial. We’re here for you every season of your life, but we’re particularly proud to know you during this most special time of the year.

You need at least seven of these things in your life right now

My dishwasher just broke.  I am currently hand washing everything until I can get around to buying a new one.  I don’t mind doing dishes, so it’s not that hard for me to deal with, but the rest of the household does not like it.  I feel that it is a great way to zone out and think.  I seem to do my best thinking while my hands are busy with something that does not take a great deal of brain power.   This morning while washing the coffee cups, my mind drifted to the question of what do I really need to be happy. It’s funny.  I have been writing loads of Christmas cards and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and hopes for joy and love and good health and such.  I do wish all of those for my family and friends, but what do we actually need?  If they are anything like me, what they really need are at least seven of the following: ~ A challenge that is neither life threatening nor dreadfully painful but that helps you grow ~ Some form of creative expression ~ Work that keeps your mind very active and gives you the feeling of accomplishment ~ Walking, running, swimming, biking, yoga-ing, fencing, anything that makes your body move ~ At least three people in your life that tell you how much they appreciate and love you, regularly ~ The ability to travel, whether it is to another country or to another place in your imagination ~ Some form of creative inspiration ~ A luxurious bed with comfy sheets and a cozy pillow(s) ~ Quiet time to sit down and sincerely give thanks for the beauty and bounty in your life ~ One song that simply makes you dance (hopefully at least once a week – maybe even by yourself) ~ Something or someone for whom you can volunteer… | Read More »

Senate offers good, not great, news about your taxes

While they did not make them permanent, members of the Senate did vote last night to extend several tax breaks, which is good but not great news for charities and the tax payers who support them. The temporary extensions will expire after Dec. 31, 2014, unless Congress votes further extensions in the next session. Effective immediately, though, donors who want to make an IRA charitable rollover for the 2014 tax year can do so. The charitable IRA rollover was designed to encourage older American tax payers to donate from their Individual Retirement Accounts. IRA owners age 70 ½ or older can exclude up to $100,000 a year from income if the IRA funds are paid directly to qualified charities. The amount also is considered as the required minimum distribution, or part of it depending on your individual circumstances. Without this exemption, IRA owners would have to withdraw the funds, pay taxes on them, and then contribute to the charity before claiming the deduction. This offered less incentive for these types of charitable contributions, especially for tax payers who normally don’t itemize their deductions. While the temporary extension is a hassle for tax planning, which normally is most effective when effected two years out, it does allow for some immediate deductions including: 1)      Teaching expenses, up to $250, for those who purchase their own supplies. 2)      Tuition fees and deductions 3)      State and local sales tax as an option for itemized deductions if the amount is greater than the state income taxes paid. 4)      Mortgage insurance premiums as an itemized deduction. Additionally, attached to the extender bill is the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which allows people who were disabled before the age of 26 and their family and friends to contribute up to a combined total of $14,000 a year to an ABLE account. Earnings would grow tax free and the money would not disqualify the disabled person… | Read More »

How to avoid the holiday expense hangover with grace and gratitude

They’re back!  The same 26 holiday songs playing through every retailer’s speaker.  The same peppermint bark at every checkout.  The same car commercials with Santa promising you a new ride or a jeweler promising you a diamond solitaire with fuzzy lighting and expressions of engagement bliss. It is a love/dislike experience for me.  On one hand, I truly love Christmas.  I believe that Jesus is AWESOME and I am overcome with joy and gratitude at every candle-lit church service. I also absolutely LOVE to give a good gift.  But, I dislike the rest of it.   I struggle with the intense crowds, the heavy foods that I can’t resist, the awkward feeling when someone gets you a gift that you weren’t expecting, the fear that the driver in the next lane is egg nog impaired, the pressure to stay within your budget and still find meaningful gifts, and even (when I am completely honest with myself) my own desire to receive.  It is overwhelming. This year, in order to save the “holiday expense hangover” (and for a multitude of other reasons including the family mandate that we adults will NOT purchase each other gifts), I am left to create my own “Grateful Gifts”.  Instead of purchasing gifts that will put me in the red and potentially be unwanted or add to another’s already cluttered life, I am going to create handwritten notes for everyone in my family stating why I am grateful for them, explaining how they bless my life.  This, hopefully, will fill everyone’s hearts, although it may still clutter up their lives/desks. I am anticipating that it will actually be harder to accomplish than purchasing presents.  I am also anticipating that, even with all my good intentions, I will leave the grand majority of the notes until Christmas Eve and totally stress myself out about getting them written.  It is clearly not going to take the pressure off of… | Read More »

Keen Analytical Ability Boosts Winch Financial’s Mutual Fund To Four Stars

Propelled by its tactical allocation strategy, which allowed fund managers to successfully navigate market volatility, the Ginkgo Multi-Strategy Fund enjoyed especially strong performance over the one-year and three-year periods ending on November 30, 2014, which led to a four star rating by Morningstar for the three-year period ending 11/30/2014, out of 183 funds in the tactical allocation category for risk adjusted returns. “Over the past three years, the Investment Team has really hit the cover off the ball,” said Co-Chief Investment Officer John Hintz. “The Fund has enjoyed outstanding absolute and relative total returns mainly due to our ability to effectively analyze the risk/reward tradeoff in various asset classes and market sectors. Our in-house analytical expertise, especially within the Energy and Health Care sectors, has been a large contributor to the Fund’s terrific performance over the short term and long term.” The Fund’s ability to allocate tactically within various asset classes and market sectors led to it outperforming 91% of the 297 funds in the Tactical Allocation Category on Morningstar+ for the one-year period ending Nov. 30, 2014, and 89% of the 201 funds in the Tactical Allocation Category for the three-year period ending Nov. 30, 2014, based on total returns. During the first half of 2014, the Fund remained significantly overweight in the energy sector, which paid off handsomely. In late June, concern regarding the potential for falling oil prices along with elevated energy sector valuations prompted the investment team to reallocate, essentially exiting the energy sector altogether. This agile response to our investment team’s in-depth analysis allowed the Fund to participate in the energy upswing earlier this year, while, at the same time, avoiding the energy massacre that has taken place over the past few months. In early fall, the investment team became more concerned about slowing economic growth in Europe and China in combination with elevated U.S. valuation multiples.  Capitalizing on the Fund’s inherent flexibility, the team… | Read More »