The president needs a better financial plan - for himself. Some clues to Barack and Michelle Obama's finances can be found in their 2012 tax return and 2011 financial disclosure report (filed in 2012). The documents suggest any average CFP could save the Obamas money.
The first couple earned $662,076 last year. Subtracting their deductions and exemptions, their taxable income was $335,026. After being hit with the AMT, which is partially offset by a foreign tax credit, the Obamas paid $112,214 in federal taxes - about 18.4% of their adjusted gross income.
Yet the Obamas could earn much more with less risk. Take their mortgage: They paid $45,046 in mortgage interest in 2012, apparently on an $800,000 loan at a 5.625% interest rate. As for their holdings, they own about $3million in Treasuries, yielding 0.71% if averaging a five-year maturity. By selling some of those Treasuries and paying off the mortgage, they would effectively get five more percentage points on the amount; they would also be about $40,000 better off each year before taxes, and less exposed to rising rates. They would pay more in taxes but make much more after taxes - and they aren't getting the full deduction anyway, due to the AMT. (The White House declined to comment for this story.)
ASSET ALLOCATION CHANGES
A good planner also would investigate the $115,516 tax-loss carry-forward on Schedule D. It would take almost 40 years to utilize this loss carry-forward at the annual limit of $3,000 a year.
To increase the value from this loss by creating more taxable capital gains, the Obamas need to adjust the accounts in which they hold their assets. They own Treasuries in their taxable account and Vanguard S&P 500 index funds in their retirement accounts. By switching, they would get a better chance of gains.
And rather than invest only in large- caps, they should consider a total U.S. stock index fund to include smaller companies - a move that would also show support for small businesses.
Their overall asset allocation also seems skewed. Despite the $3 million in Treasuries, they have only about $400,000 in stock index funds. Bonds are unlikely to keep up with inflation, so taking more risk is in order.
Other areas to explore involve management of the AMT. The Obamas have two options. If they have IRAs - the disclosures don't specify - the first is a Roth conversion. That would generate more income, lower the AMT and effectively let them convert at a lower tax rate. The second would be to reduce the $150,034 they gave to charities, an idea that might be a nonstarter for occupants of the White House.
Allan S. Roth, a Financial Planning contributing writer, is founder of Wealth Logic in Colorado Springs, Colo. He also writes the Irrational Investor column for CBS MoneyWatch.com and is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Financial Planning content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access