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Able Wealth Management's blog on personal finance, financial planning, investing, taxes, and the behaviors and decisions that influence our actions.

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Estate planning is a complex endeavor, and one of its most intricate components is the "step-up in basis." This mechanism can significantly influence the after-tax value of assets, especially when considering the difference between a full and partial step-up. Financial advisors play a pivotal role in guiding clients through this maze, ensuring they maximize their wealth for themselves and their heirs.

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Navigating the world of taxes as an artist can seem daunting, but it's a crucial aspect of your financial success. As an artist, you're essentially running a business, and this comes with certain tax implications. Your income isn't only derived from the sale of your artwork; it may also come from teaching, commissions, royalties, and grants. All these income sources are taxable and must be reported on your tax return.

This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth understanding of Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), a unique philanthropic tool that allows donors to make tax-deductible donations, maintain advisory privileges, and manage their charitable giving flexibly and efficiently. However, potential donors must consider certain drawbacks such as limited control, administrative fees, and minimum contribution requirements, and are advised to consult with financial professionals to ensure DAFs align with their financial and charitable goals.

Proactive Senior Financial Planning As people age, it becomes increasingly important to recognize the early signs of cognitive decline, as this can have a profound impact on their ability to make sound financial decisions. However, identifying the onset of cognitive impairment is not always easy. During the early stages of cognitive decline, individuals are more […]

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Volatility Drag

Volatility drag, often unnoticed by many investors, plays a significant role in the performance of investment portfolios, especially in markets characterized by high volatility. Understanding volatility drag is crucial for making informed investment decisions and managing long-term investment performance.

Understanding Volatility Drag

Volatility drag refers to the negative effect of investment volatility on compound returns over time. It occurs because losses have a more significant impact on portfolio value than gains of the same magnitude. For example, if an investment loses 10% one year and gains 10% the next, the investment will not return to its starting value due to the mathematical asymmetry between gains and losses. This phenomenon underscores the importance of minimizing large fluctuations in investment value to protect long-term returns.

The Mathematics Behind Volatility Drag

The mathematical principle underlying volatility drag is relatively straightforward but profound in its implications for investors. The key concept is that percentage gains and losses are not symmetrical. A 50% loss requires a 100% gain to break even, not a 50% gain. This asymmetry means that volatility (up and down movements in price) can erode the compound growth rate of an investment, even if the arithmetic mean of the returns seems healthy.

Example of Volatility Drag

Consider an investment with the following annual returns: +20%, -15%, +10%, and -5%. While the arithmetic mean of these returns might suggest a modest positive performance, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) would tell a different story, factoring in the volatility drag and showing a lower effective return than the arithmetic mean would suggest.

Implications for Investors

  • Risk Management: Understanding volatility drag emphasizes the importance of risk management strategies, such as diversification and the use of derivatives for hedging, to minimize significant downturns in portfolio value.
  • Investment Strategy: Investors might consider investment strategies that aim for steady, consistent returns over those with potentially higher but more volatile returns. Such strategies might include investing in low-volatility stocks, index funds, or using dollar-cost averaging to mitigate the impact of market fluctuations.
  • Psychological Aspects: Volatility drag also highlights the psychological challenge for investors who may overreact to short-term market movements. A long-term perspective is crucial for successful investing, as frequent trading in response to volatility can exacerbate the drag on returns.
  • Performance Evaluation: When assessing investment performance, considering both the arithmetic mean return and the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) can provide a more comprehensive view of an investment’s performance, factoring in the effect of volatility.

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