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With Scripps brands like Food Network, can Discovery ‘own the kitchen?’

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Discovery CEO: Scripps merger a ‘winning recipe’

Discovery just bought Scripps Networks. Now what? Global expansion, a possible new streaming service, and an eye on future deals.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav describes the newly-merged company as “the leader in real-life entertainment around the world.” His cable channels specialize in unscripted shows, which typically cost a lot less than scripted dramas and comedies.

With Scripps, Discovery is gaining HGTV, the Food Network and several other channels.

But those channels face the same challenges as Discovery’s existing brands like TLC and Animal Planet: Cable subscription declines, on-demand viewing behavior and constantly increasing competition for eyeballs.

So companies like Discovery are getting more creative — managing their existing subscription and advertising businesses while looking for new ways to grow.

The Scripps deal closed on Tuesday. Zaslav spent Wednesday morning at the Food Network’s test kitchen in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market. After a live-streamed town hall for new and old employees, he sat down with CNN for an interview.

Zaslav confirmed that Discovery is “thinking about” creating a Netflix-style streaming service as a home for some of its programming. Disney is actively pursuing this route, Viacom is considering it, and so are other major media companies.

“We’re thinking about it because we have a lot of great content,” Zaslav said.

But he also talked up the importance of the programmer-distributor relationship, since subscriber fees from distributors are the core of Discovery’s business. He suggested that Discovery could work with those distributors on a streaming service business model.

He’s definitely not counting TV out. “We think we could still grow our traditional business around the world,” he said.

Listen to the whole podcast here:

In the next few months, Discovery will take some TV shows from Scripps’ library in the United States and try them out on channels in other countries.

Discovery also sees digital opportunities relating to the Scripps takeover.

Food Network and its sibling Cooking Channel are both well-known brands. “Between Food and Cooking, you know, why can’t we own the kitchen?” Zaslav said. “We could own it with Amazon with Alexa. We could own it with a manufacturer like Samsung. We could own it with Google. But when someone comes into the kitchen, nobody has more recipes than us” or “more short-form content” about cooking.

So is Discovery talking with those tech companies? “We’re open for business,” Zaslav said.

Other highlights from the interview:

Zaslav on competition on the “field” of TV:

“The right side of the field in the media business is scripted movies and scripted series. And on that side you have Disney buying 21st Century Fox — a big moment. You know, why is Rupert selling 21st Century? Because that’s a tough side of the field.” Amazon is said to be spending $6 billion on programming. Netflix, $8 billion.

“If the media business was a soccer field, everyone else is going after that ball,” Zaslav said. “And we own most of the rest of the field globally.”

Zaslav on TV’s “new real estate”:

“The old world was getting real estate on basic cable around the world. The new real estate is, they have to pull you.” In other words, cable was pushed to you through a set top box and a TV guide. Consumers now have more power to “pull” whatever they want to watch by searching or clicking on an app.

“When people open up that screen they’ve got to say ‘I want to see Food. I want to see HGTV. I want to see Discovery. I want to see Oprah Winfrey.'”

Zaslav on “superfans:”

“When people love the Olympics, they’ll pay for it. They’ll pay to get it all. People love Food. People love Oprah. People love Discovery. They love cars. They love science. We’re still going to have our traditional channels. But if we can get those ‘superfans’ to pull us down on their phones, either together with distributors or together with the big companies like an Amazon or an Apple or a Google — if any of that happens, we’re going to be one of the very big winners.”

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Retirement contribution limits will rise in 2019

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Planning young: a retirement roadmap

Good news retirement savers: The Internal Revenue Service announced cost of living increases to the contribution limits for retirement-related plans in 2019.

Annual contribution limits to 401(k)s will increase to $19,000 from $18,500.

And the annual contribution to an IRA, last increased in 2013, rises to $6,000 from $5,500.

“This is another win for investors and savers,” says Stephanie Bacak, a financial planner at Capstone Global Advisors. “For so long there were really no cost of living increases in the IRA so it is a great opportunity for so many to be more prepared for retirement.”

Catch-up contributions, available to those age 50 and over, will remain unchanged at $6,000 for 401(k)s and $1,000 for IRAs.

In addition to 401(k)s, limits for 403(b)s, most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan will also increase to $19,000.

Also rising next year are the income ranges that determine eligibility for deductible contributions to IRAs, to Roth IRAs, and to claim the saver’s credit.

For example, the income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA increased to $122,000 to $137,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $120,000 to $135,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $193,000 to $203,000, up from $189,000 to $199,000.

The IRS increases are helpful, says Shane Mason, certified financial planner at Brooklyn FI, but only if you are able to make the maximum contribution.

He says those who want to continue to max out their 401(k) should revisit their contributions to make sure they’re putting in enough with each paycheck.

Those that are paid semi-monthly (twice a month or 24 times a year) should be contributing $792 per paycheck and those paid biweekly (every two weeks or 26 times a year) should be contributing $731 per paycheck.

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How to plan for taxes in retirement

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Planning young: a retirement roadmap

How can I best plan for a tax efficient retirement?

For many retirees, even those who have meticulously planned their retirement income, the amount of taxes they are expected to pay may come as an unwelcome surprise.

It’s understandable. This is a new form of income that they may not be familiar with.

“Sometimes they think that because they are retirees, they don’t have to pay income taxes. Then they are surprised,” says Chris Chen, a certified financial planner at Insight Financial Strategists. “Sometimes they think that Social Security is tax-free, which it is not.”

Or, he says, surprises pop up from mismanaged expectations. “When they take an IRA distribution, they may not withhold taxes, or they may have a job of some kind which pushes their Social Security and retirement account distributions into a higher tax bracket.”

Chen says that a major failing in being hit with these kinds of taxes is short-term planning. If you’re only planning one year at a time, sub-optimal tax situations will arise.

Rather, he suggests, make a plan for reducing taxes, by planning over multiple years.

Evaluate your income needs

First, determine your retirement cash flow needs, says Lauren Zangardi Haynes, certified financial planner at Spark Financial Advisors. And identify your sources of income.

You’ll need to determine when Social Security will start. How much (if any) pension income will you receive? Do you get a temporary boost in pension income until you reach Social Security full retirement age?

Zangardi Haynes says you need to be aware of required minimum distributions, or RMDs. That’s when IRA owners and qualified plan participants are forced to withdraw from their retirement accounts. Withdrawals must happen by April 1 following the year a retiree reaches 701/2.

“Sometimes people pull from Roth IRAs or taxable accounts early because they don’t want to pay taxes on traditional IRA withdrawals but then end up with oversized RMDs in their 70s,” she cautions.

While looking at your income and expenses, Zangardi Haynes says, you may find some tax advantage by making charitable distributions directly from a traditional IRA. These charitable contributions may count towards your RMD if you are over age 701/2.

Use tax diversification

One of the best ways to position yourself for retirement is to have three buckets of assets: taxable, non-taxable, and tax-deferred, says Michael Troxell, a financial planner and a CPA with Modern Financial Planning. For example, you’d have brokerage accounts, a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA.

“This way, you can sort of cherry pick when pulling out income for retirement,” says Troxell. “For example, one could pull out their IRA money until they max out the 12% tax bracket, which is $77,400 if you’re married.”

Next, he says, you could pull out from your brokerage account. You’d need to pay capital gains rates on any long-term gains there.

“Lastly, you would pull from your Roth IRA,” Troxell says. “Ideally, the Roth would be last since you would want that money to grow tax-free for as long as possible.”

Plan for the tax window

What happens for retirees, often, is that all these income sources in retirement can turn on at once, says Adam Beaty, certified financial planner with Bullogic Wealth Management. And if you’re not prepared for the time between when you retire and age 70 — called the tax window — you can be hit hard and miss out on lowering your future tax bill.

“At age 70 they will be required to take their required minimum distributions,” he says. “They will also be required to turn on Social Security if they haven’t already.”

If combined assets are high enough, the required minimum distributions will cause 85% of Social Security to be taxed. Plus, they are paying on the taxes from the distribution.

“This is usually a big surprise tax bill that can be avoided if they take the right steps,” he says. The tax window will allow the client to make some moves to lower their future tax bill, if a retiree is diversified with the three types of accounts — always taxable (IRA/401(k)), never taxable (Roth IRA/Roth 401(k)), and sometimes taxable (brokerage account).

“During this tax window, they will likely have very low income and thus, be in a low tax bracket,” Beaty says. This is when he recommends taking assets from an always-taxable account and putting them in a never taxable account.

“By paying taxes now, in a lower bracket, we can save them money in the long run,” he says. “If Social Security is not on, this may be a good time to start spending money out of the always taxable accounts and save the never taxable accounts for after 70.”

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When should I sell my mutual funds?

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What is a stock market correction?

When is the best time to get out of a mutual fund?

After a recent stock market dip, Ian Bloom, a financial planner in North Carolina got a panicked call from a VIP client: his mom.

“I have to sell everything!” she told him.

He assured her, as he does all his clients, that if she did she would lose much more than she would gain, because they had created a financial plan that already accounted for market sell-offs.

Now would come the hard part: sticking to it.

Fluctuations in the market can leave investors eyeing their mutual funds with disdain. They may feel their money could work harder elsewhere.

That may be true. There are situations in which selling mutual fund shares works to your advantage. But you could also encounter adverse consequences.

Move on your strategy not on the market

The time to sell a mutual fund is when you need the liquidity and you have planned ahead to make the move, says Eric Gabor, certified financial planner and founder of Eagle Grove Advisors.

“Any kind of decline in the market or reaction to a geo-political event is not the time to sell,” he said.

Individual investors should only sell funds when their situation calls for a need to make a change, says Amy Hubble, a certified financial planner and principal investment adviser at Radix Financial. Investors may need cash, she says, or need to reduce risk as a need for cash draws nearer.

“Or maybe your target allocation to that asset class has grown outside its tolerance compared to the rest of the portfolio,” says Hubble. “For example, you had a strategic allocation of 10% and it’s now 17% of your portfolio.”

But it can be hard for investors to remember that they need to sit on their hands when they hear bad news.

It’s not uncommon for a novice investor to want to sell their investments when they see declines in the market, says Leah Hadley, a certified divorce financial analyst and chief executive of Great Lakes Investment Management. “That’s why we work with clients to determine an appropriate level of liquidity so that there is less temptation to sell when the market is down.”

Keep in mind that your mutual funds might include more than just US stocks, says Bloom, head of Open World Financial Life Planning.

“Your portfolio will include funds that include different parts of the market,” he says. “Sure there’s the S&P, but there might also be bonds, international and emerging markets. When the market goes down, no one is talking about the other parts, the international investments, the bonds. The part that stands out is the part that is in the red: the S&P.”

Red flags

While your plan is to stick with your strategy for the duration of your timeline, there are mutual fund red flags that could merit a change.

“I will consider making a change in portfolios if there has been a change in the fund’s strategy and it no longer makes sense in my overall strategy with the client,” says Hadley. “I will also sell out of a mutual fund that is consistently under-performing the relevant benchmark.”

Gabor recommends watching the fund manager, too. “If a manger leaves a fund they have managed for many years and a new successor is named, that may be a time to re-evaluate how it fits into your portfolio.”

He adds that investors should also be on the lookout for tax inefficient funds.

“You could get out if there are large inverse tax consequences,” says Gabor. “That’s why I like tax-managed mutual funds, and exchange traded funds.”

Watch out for high turnover ratios, says Hubble, like those over 25% per year. “Funds with high turnover ratios mean the fund is managed tax inefficiently and you’re likely to receive unannounced short-term capital gain distributions at the end of the year, which have high tax costs.”

Another red flag is high expense ratios. “This is the most important number to look at in a fund,” says Hubble. “Do not pay managers more than 1% to underperform the market half the time in long-term savings accounts. Do yourself a favor and for long-term money, skip the active managers altogether and invest in low-cost index funds.”

The consequences of getting out

If an investor does decide to liquidate the fund, keep an eye on your tax liability.

“If the investor has held the fund for a less than a year, all capital gains will be taxed at their income level,” says Timothy Kenney, a certified financial planner and founder of TK Pacific Wealth. “If they have held the fund for greater than a year, they can get a little break in the capital gains tax, maybe 5% or 20% depending on your tax bracket, but they may have a big tax bill to pay next year since we’ve been in a bull market for so long.”

If you have a fund you are looking to sell and it happens to be at a loss, Kenney suggests paying attention to the capital gains distribution.

Funds tend to pay capital gains toward the end of the year, and by selling before the distribution you avoid getting hit with the tax.

Have an investing question? Ask us here[1] to be included in a future column.

References

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