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Short-Term and Long-Term Investments: Which Is Right For You?

Short-Term and Long-Term Investments: Which Is Right For You?

Investing your hard-earned cash is inherently risky. However, the risks you take vary depending on a variety of factors – one of the most prominent being the length of time you wish to keep your money out of your pocket and in the stock market.

Before you invest your money, you should know and understand the risks involved with both short- and long-term investments.

Capital Gains

Capital gains are simply the income you earn from an investment. You find it by subtracting the amount invested from the amount you ended up with. If you invest $500 and cash out $600, you’ve made $100 in capital gains. When calculating capital gains, you don’t take other factors – such as taxable income – into consideration just yet. However, it’s beneficial to have a good idea of where you will stand once you do factor in taxes.

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Short-Term

Short-term investments are those which last less than a single year. Because they last for a short period of time, they often won’t earn you too much money – unless you’re working with short-term, high-yield investments. In exchange for smaller rewards, though, short-term investments are usually much less risky. Short-term investments are usually finite in that investors will set a goal for how much they want to earn, and will “cash out” once they hit their goal.

The capital gains from short-term investments are lumped in with the investor’s regular income – no matter how large or small these gains may be. When it comes to paying income tax, the gains you’ve made on investments may drastically affect what tax bracket you land in, and how much you owe.

Long-Term

Long-term investments, by definition, are those which last for at least one year – and can stay open for as long as the investor chooses. Since long-term investments require leaving the money you invested out of your own pocket for longer periods of time, they’re much more risky than their short-term counterparts. You’ll also usually reinvest your capital gains into your long-term investments, as well. However, the gains you receive once you decide to sell tend to be much greater.

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The capital gains from long-term investments stand alone as far as taxation is concerned. The money you make from them has no bearing whatsoever on your income tax.

Tax Rate

As previously mentioned, the amount you are taxed on investments depends on if you intend to invest for a short or long period of time. It’s incredibly important to keep this in mind when deciding how to invest your money, because the tax you’ll pay may drastically affect your bottom line, and making potentially large capital gains not worth the investment in the first place.

Short-Term

Because short-term investments are lumped in with the rest of the money you make in a year, there’s no specific tax rate for investments that last less than a year. However, the money you make on a short-term investment may actually end up costing you in the long run. For example, if you made $37,000 in 2016, your tax rate is 15% – owing roughly $5,550. However, if you make an extra $700 from a short-term investment, you’ll be pushed up into the 25% tax bracket – meaning you’ll owe $9,425. While a $700 up front gain might seem enticing, you’ll end up losing almost $3,500 in the process.

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Long-Term

On the other hand, since long-term investments aren’t lumped in with the rest of your income, it’s much easier to figure out how much you’ll owe in taxes on your capital gains. While the most you’ll pay is 20% of your investment capital, if you only make 15% profit on your investment, you won’t owe any tax at all. In exchange for a lower tax rate, though, you’ll be keeping your money “on the table” for a much longer period of time – meaning you’ll be risking it for longer.

Verdict

Short-Term

Short-term investments are good for a quick win, and allow you to take your money out immediately if you choose to do so. They’re the best option if you don’t want to become too involved with the market, and are positive you’ll quit as soon as you hit a specific dollar amount.

On the other hand, short-term investments may cause more harm than good if you’re on the cusp of a certain tax bracket. Unfortunately, this is considerably counterintuitive to the purpose of a short-term investment. Most newcomers to the stock market looking to make a “quick kill” are doing so because they need some extra income immediately, but the system is set up to discourage people from making such investments. If you’re going to make a short-term investment, make sure you have capital to invest that the gains you make are worth the extra taxes you’ll end up paying.

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Long-Term

Long-term investments have the potential to drastically increase your net worth, as long as you’re patient. If you keep your investment open for longer than a year, you won’t have to worry about being bumped up into a tax bracket that you can’t afford to be in. Additionally, if you happen to lose any of your capital over the course of your investment, you may be able to claim these losses come tax season.

However, it (obviously) takes longer to reap the rewards of a long-term investment. Long-term investments are those made with the understanding that you don’t need the money right away, and are willing to go without for some time while your investment capital grows. You’ll also have to patiently wait out any dips in the economy, during which your investment may decrease heavily in value.

As long as you can afford to lose the money you put in, long-term investments end up being the much smarter bet.

Featured photo credit: Investment / Simon Cunningham / Flickr via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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