oracle of louisville

That Sinking Feeling… or a Sinking Fund?

photo shows a jar full of coins, a stack of cash, and a small card that says "PLAN"

Have you ever been faced with a large expense for which you were unprepared?  

I have. It gave me a sinking feeling. 

Sinking itself isn’t always a bad thing. The term “sinking fund” originally referred to a dedicated reserve a corporation would set up to repay a debt, contributing funds on a regular basis to build up the needed amount.  

Many individuals have adapted the idea to manage their personal finances: having a sinking fund may help us avoid that sinking feeling

This idea came in handy as I recently set out to see how well the sources for my retirement income were matching up with my expenses. My home has a new roof, won’t need another for many years. My vehicles are fairly new; they won’t need to be replaced for years, either. 

But the fact is, someday I will need to pay for a new roof. I will need to replace a car. Furniture and appliances wear out. More predictable but “lumpy” expenses happen, too, like property taxes and planned travel. 

If my budget fails to account for these items, my budget is not really covering all of my living expenses, is it? The answer is a sinking fund, as in these examples. 

  • Home maintenance. If I sink $200 for repairs and such into a sinking fund every month, I would have $12,000 every five years. That should cover a new roof ten or fifteen years from now… or deductibles on storm damage… or a chance to repaint when needed. Likewise, $100 monthly should cover whatever appliances or furniture need replacing: that’s $12,000 over ten years. 
  • Transportation. Piling $350 monthly toward vehicle replacement ought to pile up to enough to buy a car when needed, years down the road. 
  • Annual needs. By adding in one-twelfth of my property taxes and one-twelfth of the annual travel budget each month, my sinking fund should be able to handle most anticipated lumpy expenses, in general. 

I don’t know when the dryer will need replacing—or what else might break!—but I should have the funds to meet the need. And in any of these scenarios, if the balance gets way ahead of likely expenses, I could always pare back the monthly deposit, direct that money elsewhere as I see fit. 

There are different ways to do sinking funds. I set up a monthly automatic transfer into my LPL Financial brokerage account, where the funds will go into an insured cash account until needed. If you would like to set up a sinking fund for your lumpy expenses, email us or call. 


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Time Machines or Time Capsules?

Both could serve their purpose, but which sounds more useful, more versatile: a time capsule or a time machine? Well, the two might have something to teach us about our investment vehicles. More on the blog.


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Are They SMART Goals in a Dumb Pond?

photo shows a ripple growing in a blue pond with green trees in the background

Use SMART goals.

Be smart about it.

Work smarter, not harder.

You’ve probably heard this advice at a juncture in life; maybe you’ve even said it to someone else. Goals don’t get us very far unless they are explicit, meaningful, and can be tracked. Without them, aren’t they just dreams? “Hope is not a plan,” I’ve heard it said.

None of this is meant to be cynical, but I’m thinking about an important distinction: having “smart” goals won’t matter if they’re pointed in a “dumb” direction. So let’s get out of that framework. Smart and dumb are relative anyway (not to mention judgmental!).

The fit of a goal matters. For those of us youngest children who ever wore hand-me-downs, you know that even the stuff in the best shape isn’t quite right if it wasn’t picked for you. Alignment of a goal matters too: the thing better fit into the big picture. Does achieving a big purchase now help me live the life I want, without side-tracking my long-term goals? Just an example.

And your goals stay yours. Then it’s part of our job to make sure our strategies stay aimed at those goals.

We, too, strive for good fit. We don’t splash around in “opportunities” that don’t align with our principles. We seek bargains, we focus on owning the orchard for the fruit crop, we avoid stampedes. If it’s not in alignment, it could be a distraction or a tangent.

Jane Fonda once put it nicely: “If I want to make ripples, I better be sure I’m throwing my pebbles into the right pond.”

“Right” is relative to your life, your vision. We’re just happy to be part of the effort. Time to check in on your goals and their direction? Call or email, anytime.


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When a Ripple Comes Full Circle

photo shows overlapping ripples expanding in a pool with blue and yellow tones of water

A rare thing happened recently, an event more than four decades in the making.

Early in my career, making loans was part of my job at Louisville State Savings. One of those loans helped a trade-school graduate buy tools. He was 19 years old and ready to go to work and live on the fruits of his labor. We completed the paperwork at 130 Main—just down the street from where I am now.

This week a 60-year-old man came in to see me at 228 Main. He wanted to get his 401(k) plan rolled over so he could retire and live on his capital.

It was that trade school graduate, back to visit me at the other end of his career.

I was honored to be there at the start, and the finish, of this fellow’s career. It was a greater honor to hear him talk about his experience.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said, “when you might have moved to Florida. I don’t want to deal with an 800 number or a computer. I like to be able to come in and sit and talk.” It was about more than his preferred methods of doing business, though.

It was about having someone to be there with him as he navigated his goals. He continued, “I need somebody that understands what I’m trying to do. You were here when I was starting out, you’re here now, and I hope you’re here for a long time to come.”

I have long suspected that every interaction can make ripples that expand to the end of time. We leave tracks wherever we go. The seeds we plant with our words and deeds grow into things we could never imagine at the time. I had a small part in getting some tools into the right hands. That young man setting out no doubt changed many people’s lives throughout his career. And who knows what that help enabled them to do?

I guess what I am trying to say is, life compounds.

Satisfaction is not exactly the emotion I’m feeling, but it’s something like the deep contentment of knowing I’m in the place I’m supposed to be, making the difference I can. Isn’t that what people want out of life, more than anything? To know they make a difference?

Start to finish—it seems like a full circle. But really, one thing leads to another, and another, and another. I’ve been a lot of places, but now I’m in the one with the best view of life, compounding.

Clients, if you want to talk about the next thing to which your life is leading, email me or call.


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In Any Language, There’s One Simple Goal

Hope, optimism, belief, notion… In our line of work, it doesn’t matter how you say it. We’re banking on the idea that, overall, we’ll see more up than down.


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Getting Down to Brass “Tax”

photo shows a light letter box with the word "TAXES" sitting on top of various cash bills

While paying taxes is generally a good sign that you are making money, it seems most people want to avoid paying more tax than they need to. It’s a common enough question we field, and one worth considering.

How do we handle the tax impacts of our choices?

For smaller investors with tax-deferred vehicles like IRAs or 401(k) plans, tax considerations are simpler. Only deposits and withdrawals have any tax implications (and for Roth IRAs, rarely even then.)

Things get more complicated for investors with substantial balances outside of retirement accounts: most trading activity has tax impacts. You pay taxes on interest and dividend payments; you also become subject to capital gains tax when selling investments.

The principle of capital gains is straightforward enough. For instance, if you buy stock for $100 and later sell it for $100, you made no money and owe no tax. If you were to sell it for $110, you would have to pay some percentage of the $10 profit in tax (but not the rest of the $100: that was money you had in the first place.) And if you sold it at $90, you would have a loss of $10 that you could use to offset taxable gains elsewhere.

The important thing here is that the IRS generally only cares about the value of investments when they are bought or sold. If your $100 stock position balloons up to $1,000 one year and then collapses back down to $100 the next, the IRS has no interest in the round trip. They only see the difference from your original purchase, regardless of how high or low the price got in the meantime.

It is easy to despair when an investment is underperforming, but according to the IRS, those losses do not exist until you decide to sell. And if a high-flying investment should pull back from its highs, the IRS would give you a very funny look if you tried to claim it as a loss.

So if the IRS does not care about your gains or losses “on paper,” why should you? A drop is not a loss, and value at inception is a great anchor to come back to when you need a jolt of perspective.

And if after all this you find yourself with more resources than you would need in your lifetime, there are estate planning opportunities to consider. If you are sitting on long-term investment gains that you do not think you will be spending, there is little reason for you to sell those holdings and pay taxes on your gains yourself.

If those assets are passed down to your heirs, however, they would generally only need to worry about gains made after they inherited them, so whatever gains you accumulated during your lifetime can pass to them tax-free.

Lots to think about! It’s an important topic for many investors. Clients, when you need to talk about your tax considerations, please reach out.


This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.


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What the IRS Knows: Getting Down to Brass "Tax" 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

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We Need What We Need, But We Want What We Want

We’re big fans of making the most of things. But it takes a little perspective to learn how to prioritize our goals. What are our very next needs? What are the wishes that can wait?


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Looking Out for the Ones We Love

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We’ve had plenty of conversations recently with people in their working years. It’s reminded us of a basic fact: family dynamics and money can create a lot of angst for people of any age. The issues of aging may be about universal to the human experience, but the particulars have to be navigated family by family.

We’ve seen these topics from many angles. They are pertinent for aging couples, vital for singles. Couple dynamics usually involve one taking care of the other; when there is no “other” in the household, that support system must be found elsewhere. (Trust me on this: I’ve lived it!)

When the dynamics in a family start changing, it can feel concerning for those in the younger generation, too. The questions we’ve fielded are as varied as the families:

  • May an adult child or someone else do business on behalf of a parent who is not able to?
  • Are there sufficient resources to take care of the health needs of the parent?
  • Is there a plan to be sure assets are titled properly and headed where they should be in the event of death? How do we avoid spending unnecessary time, energy, taxes, or legal work when the time comes?
  • What are the roles of Medicare and Medicaid?
  • Should we be aware of any scams or elder abuse that could be a threat to a parent?
  • Who makes health decisions on behalf of a parent who is not able to?
  • Where is the information survivors would need to settle a parent’s affairs?

The ideal scenario is that a family goes into any major event with clarity, already: that the senior generation’s plans and intentions are already made known, that they’ve communicated their wishes regarding health care principles and the ultimate disposition of their estate. And sometimes we arrive at a big moment and need to work with what we have.

If you are concerned about a parent, an initial call can help us understand your questions, point you to resources, explain how things might work, or make plans for a meeting with the parent.

If you are a parent and would like to make sure your plans and intentions are carried out, let’s talk.

In all cases, better communication usually reduces stress. Assets are the result of years or lifetimes of work and effort. We believe that planning to make sure they do as we intend is one way to respect that work and effort.

Call or email to get a conversation started: any moment can be the right moment to start.


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When the Price Is Right

Who doesn’t love a bargain? A savvy searcher knows that there’s more than one type of opportunity. What does this mean for our portfolios? More in this week’s video.


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