The stock market has clawed its way back from the Great Recession’s heavy losses to reach new highs this week. Now, what should investors do? Here are five tips from Stephen Kirkland, a certified public accountant in West Columbia:
1. Sell sensibly. If you’re selling stock for a profit, make sure you have held the investment for more than a year so you can take advantage of lower tax rates for long-term capital gains. Capital gains on investments held for less than a year will be taxed at a higher rate.
2. Diversify. With the changes in the stock market over the past four years, this might be a good time to reallocate your investments and be sure they are well diversified. Selling the stocks that have soared and keeping the ones that have tanked will leave you with a “portfolio of dogs.”
3. Axe the emotions. Don’t be emotionally tied to a stock. Some people have been burned that way, for example, holding onto Wachovia stock as it plummeted to $5 a share from $55. If you can’t detach the emotions, have a professional advise you.
4. Consider new rules. Under the new health-care law, a new 3.8 percent Medicare surtax on most capital gains kicked in Jan. 1. Most people are not yet accustomed to that tax. This affects mostly higher income investors – singles making $200,000 a year in adjusted income or couples making $250,000.
5. Should you keep it? Selling at a gain will increase your overall income, and that could phase out some of your tax deductions and credits. For example, the higher your income goes, the less your tax credit is for child care or medical costs. So, keep in mind that the gain multiplied by the capital gains rate does not reflect the entire impact on the taxes that you will pay.