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Get ready for the return of Crystal City’s outdoor pop-up beer and wine garden this month by stocking up on these discounted drink tickets — today’s Deal of the Day gets you tickets at 50% off.

Sold in packs of four for the discounted price of only $10 (plus transaction fees), the tickets are valid for any regularly priced beers or wines available at Wine in the Water Park — which occurs just a short Metro ride away in Crystal City —  every Friday in June.

Can’t make any of the June series? These drink tickets don’t expire and are valid at any event with a cash bar sponsored by the Crystal City Business Improvement District including the Father’s Day Auto Festival, the AFACC Beer Garden, Wednesday Night Spins, or the September edition of Wine in the Water Park. 

Purchase Today’s Deal Now

Daily Discount Code: WWPSpring16

WHEN: Every Friday in June ~ 6-10 p.m.

WHERE: Crystal City Water Park (1751 Crystal Drive, Arlington)

WHAT: Crystal City’s pop-up wine and beer garden in the Crystal City Water Park returns every Friday in June. Featuring live music, hand selected wines from the Crystal City Wine Shop, and a free outdoor ArtJamz session, Wine in the Water Park is the perfect way to kick-off the weekend.

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This article was written by Edward Jones. For further information, contact local financial advisor (and Capitol Hill resident) Skip Thompson at 202-223-1179 or [email protected].

We’re at the end of another school year. If you have younger kids, you might be thinking about summer camps and other activities. But in the not-too-distant future, your children will be facing a bigger transition as they head off to college. Will you be financially prepared for that day?

A college education is a good investment – college graduates earn, on average, $1 million more over their lifetimes than high school graduates, according to a study by Georgetown University – but a bachelor’s degree doesn’t come cheap. For the 2015-2016 school year, the average expense – tuition, fees, room and board – was $19,548 at a public four-year school and $43,921 at a four-year private school, according to the College Board. And by the time your children are ready for college, these costs may be considerably higher, because inflation is alive and well in the higher education arena.

Your children may be eligible for some types of financial aid and scholarships. But even so, you may want to consider some college-savings vehicles – and one of the most popular is a 529 plan.

A 529 plan offers a variety of benefits, including the following:

  • High contribution limits – A 529 plan won’t limit your contributions based on your income. In all likelihood, you can contribute as much as you want to a 529 plan, as many states have contribution limits of $300,000 and up. And you can give up to $14,000 ($28,000 for a married couple filing jointly) per year, per child, without incurring any gift taxes.
  • Tax advantages – Your earnings can accumulate tax free, provided they are used for qualified higher education expenses. (529 plan distributions not used for qualified expenses may be subject to federal and state income tax, and a 10 percent IRS penalty on the earnings.) Furthermore, your 529 plan contributions may be eligible for a state tax deduction or credit if you participate in your own state’s plan. But 529 plans vary, so check with your tax advisor regarding deductibility.
  • Freedom to invest in any state’s plan — You can invest in a 529 plan from any state – but that doesn’t mean your child has to go to school there. You could live in one state, invest in a second state’s plan, and send your student to school in a third state, if you choose.
  • Money can be used for virtually any program – Upon graduating high school, not all kids are interested in, or prepared for, a traditional four-year college. But you can use your 529 plan to help pay for qualified expenses at a variety of educational institutions, including two-year community colleges and trade schools.

Of course, a 529 plan does have considerations you will need to think about before opening an account. For example, your 529 plan assets can affect your child’s needs-based financial aid, but it might not doom it. As long as the 529 assets are under your control, they typically will be assessed at a maximum rate of 5.64 percent in determining your family’s expected contribution under the federal financial aid formula, as opposed to the usual 20 percent rate for assets held in the student’s name.

In any case, though, a 529 plan is worth considering. But don’t wait too long – as you well know, your kids seem to grow up in the blink of an eye.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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This article was written by Edward Jones. For further information, contact local financial advisor (and Capitol Hill resident) Skip Thompson at 202-223-1179 or [email protected].

If you have a medical appointment this week, you might want to wish your nurse a happy National Nurses Week. This annual event is designed to celebrate the important role nurses play in health care. Of course, while nurses and doctors can help you in many ways, you can do a lot of good for yourself by adopting healthy living habits, such as eating right, exercising frequently, and so on. But you can also do much to help your financial health.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Stay invested. During times of market volatility, it can be tempting to head to the investment “sidelines” until things “cool off.” Going to the sidelines can mean a few different things — you could simply not invest anything for a while, or you could move a substantial portion of your portfolio to “cash” instruments, which are safe in the sense of preserving your principal but offer almost nothing in the way of return or protecting against inflation. If you’re not investing during a market downturn, or if you’ve moved heavily into cash, you might well miss out on the beginning of the next market rally.
  • Rebalance your portfolio. It’s a good idea to periodically rebalance your portfolio to make sure it still reflects your goals and your comfort level with risk. Over time, and without any effort on your part, your portfolio can become unbalanced. For example, following a long “bull” market, the value of your stocks could have risen to the point where they make up a greater percentage of your portfolio than you had intended. When that happens, you may need to rebalance by adding bonds and other fixed-income vehicles.
  • Diversify. Rebalancing is important. But a balanced portfolio should also be a diversified portfolio. If you only owned one type of financial asset, such as U.S. growth stocks, you could take a big hit during a market downturn. But different types of financial assets don’t always move in the same direction at the same time, so by owning a wide variety of investments — U.S. stocks, international stocks, government securities, corporate bonds, real estate, certificates of deposit (CDs) and so on — you may help reduce the effects of market volatility on your portfolio. Keep in mind, though, that diversification by itself can’t guarantee profits or protect against loss.
  • Maintain realistic expectations. If you expect the financial markets to always move upward, you will be disappointed many times. Market downturns are a normal part of the investment process, and they will always be with us. Once you accept this reality, you will be less likely to make questionable decisions, such as abandoning a long-term strategy. If you’ve designed an appropriate strategy, possibly with the help of a financial professional, you can stick with it through all market environments.

By following the suggestions mentioned above — staying invested, rebalancing your portfolio as needed, diversifying your holdings and maintaining realistic expectations, you can go a long way toward maintaining the fitness of your financial situation.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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This article was written by Edward Jones. For further information, contact local financial advisor (and Capitol Hill resident) Skip Thompson at 202-223-1179 or [email protected].

Tax Freedom Day, which typically occurs in late April, according to the Tax Foundation, is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay off its total tax bill for the year. So you may want to use this opportunity to determine if you can liberate yourself from some investment-related taxes in the future.

Actually, Tax Freedom Day is something of a fiction, in practical terms, because most people pay their taxes throughout the year via payroll deductions. Also, you may not mind paying your share of taxes, because your tax dollars are used in many ways — such as law enforcement, food safety, road maintenance, public education, and so on — that, taken together, have a big impact on the quality of life in this country. Still, you may want to look for ways to reduce those taxes associated with your investments, leaving you more money available to meet your important goals, such as a comfortable retirement.

So, what moves can you make to become more of a “tax-smart” investor? Consider the following:

  • Know when to hold ’em. If you sell an investment that you’ve held for less than one year, any profit you earn is considered a short-term capital gain, and it will be taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income. (For 2016, ordinary income tax rates range from 10 percent to 39.6 percent.) But if you hold the investment for longer than one year, your profit will be taxed at the long-term capital gains rate, which, for most taxpayers, will be just 15 percent. If at all possible, then, hold your investments at least long enough to qualify for the lower capital gains rate.
  • Look for the dividends. Similar to long-term capital gains, most stock dividends are taxed at 15 percent for most taxpayers. Thus, dividend-paying stocks can provide you with an additional source of income at a tax rate that’s likely going to be lower than the rate on your ordinary earned income. As an added benefit, many dividend-paying stocks also offer growth potential. With some research, you can find stocks that have paid, and even increased, their dividends over a period of many years. (Be aware, though, that companies are not obligated to pay dividends and can reduce or discontinue them at their discretion.)
  • Use those tax-advantaged accounts. Virtually all retirement accounts available to you, whether you’ve set them up yourself or they’re made available by your employer, offer some type of tax advantage. With a traditional IRA, or a 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan, your contributions are typically tax-deductible and your earnings can grow tax deferred. Contributions to a Roth IRA, or a Roth 401(k), are never deductible, but earnings can grow tax free, provided you meet certain conditions. The bottom line? Contribute as much as you can afford to the tax-advantaged plans to which you have access.

Tax Freedom Day is here and then it’s gone. But by making some tax-smart investment decisions, you might reap some benefits for years to come.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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At Home On The Hill

This sponsored column is written by Ty Voyles, a licensed Realtor© in the District of Columbia and principal of Fulcrum Properties Group, a team of real estate agents located on Capitol Hill that serves Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Complete our Buyer Questionnaire or Sellers Questionnaire today, and we can help you find your dream home tomorrow!

If you are a homeowner who is expecting a tax return, you’re likely thinking about ways to put it back into your house. But what projects will get you the biggest return on your investment when you are preparing to sell your home?

We recommend starting small. Often times, the “touch up” items on your list are the ones that can make the biggest impact for the smallest cost. For example, replacing your entry door will instantly transform the way you and others feel welcomed into your home.

Similarly, a fresh coat of paint and taking the time — or hiring someone — to patch up any damaged drywall will help your home shine. Consider refinishing the hardwood floors to give them a fresh shine, just like your walls. But, keep in mind that you will need to move furniture to have this done, so timing is everything.

Your front and back yards are also areas that can be easily spruced up for a small amount, and the end result can highlight the amount of extra living space your home has outdoors. Take care to not over do it with the landscaping; mulching around a few well-placed plants will go a long way.

As for kitchen and bathroom remodels, these often return less than 80% of what you spend, on average. As I mentioned in a previous article, many potential buyers will see these areas as ones they plan to renovate to their own tastes once they move in, so they will not be as interested in paying a premium for the upgrades.

If you are thinking of selling and want to make sure you are picking the best projects for your money, schedule an appointment with your realtor. Because realtors are regularly working with buyers, they will have the best sense of what is selling in the current market, and what is not.

We also invite you to attend our Renovation Extravaganza on April 23 at the Hill Center, located at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. We will be joined by local renovation experts who are ready to answer your questions about interior design, landscaping, and general contracting. The event is free and open to the public. Please RVSP at fulcrumpgevents.com.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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This article was written by Edward Jones. For further information, contact local financial advisor (and Capitol Hill resident) Skip Thompson at 202-223-1179 or [email protected].

To be successful at investing, some people think they need to “get in on the ground floor” of the next “big thing.” However, instead of waiting for that one “hot” stock that may never come along, consider creating an asset allocation – a mix of investments – that’s appropriate for your needs, goals and risk tolerance.

But once you have such a mix, should you keep it intact forever, or will you need to make some changes? And if so, when?
To begin with, why is asset allocation important? Different types of investments – growth stocks, income-producing stocks, international stocks, bonds, government securities, real estate investment trusts and so on – have unique characteristics, so they rarely rise or fall at the same time. Thus, owning a mix of investments can help reduce the forces of market volatility. (Keep in mind, though, that allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against loss.) Your particular mix will depend on your investment time horizon, comfort with risk, and financial goals.

When you are young, and starting out in your career, you may want your asset allocation to be more heavily weighted toward stocks and stock-based investments. Stock investments historically have provided the greatest returns over the long term – although, as you’ve probably heard, past performance can’t guarantee future results – and you will need this growth potential to help achieve your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement. Stocks also carry a greater degree of investment risk, including the risk of losing principal, but when you have many years to invest, you have time to potentially overcome the inevitable short-term declines.

Once you reach the middle-to-later stages of your career, you may have achieved some of your goals that required wealth accumulation, such as sending your children to college. However, what is likely your biggest long-term goal – retirement – still awaits you, so you may not want to scale back too much on your stocks and other growth-oriented investments. Nonetheless, including an allocation to bonds can help to reduce some of the volatility of the stock portion of your portfolio.

Now, fast forward to just a few years before you retire. At this point, you may want to lower your overall risk level, because, with retirement looming, you don’t have much time to bounce back from downturns – and you don’t want to start withdrawing from your retirement accounts when your portfolio is already going down. So, now may be the time to add bonds and other fixed-income investments. Again, though, you still need some growth opportunities from your investments – after all, you could be retired for two, or even three decades.

Finally, you’re retired. At this point, you should adjust your asset allocation to include enough income-producing investments – bonds, certificates of deposit, perhaps dividend-paying stocks – to help you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you’ve envisioned. Yet, you can’t forget that the cost of living will likely rise throughout your retirement. In fact, at a modest 3 percent inflation rate, the price of goods will more than double after 25 years. So even during retirement, you need your portfolio to provide some growth potential to help you avoid losing purchasing power.

By being aware of your asset allocation, and by making timely adjustments as necessary, you can provide yourself with the opportunities for growth and income that you will need throughout your life.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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At Home On The Hill

633 7th St. NE

This sponsored column is written by Ty Voyles, a licensed Realtor© in the District of Columbia and principal of Fulcrum Properties Group, a team of real estate agents located on Capitol Hill that serves Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

This week, we have a sneak peek at one of our favorite upcoming listings, 633 7th St. NE. This one is sure to go quickly!

Situated on a tree-lined street just north of Stanton Park, this classic rowhouse has the details that make traditional Capitol Hill homes so special, including the original millwork and mantles, and original pine and oak hardwood floors.

The entryway welcomes you with original tile work and classic newel posts — a rare find!

​Enjoy high ceilings throughout the living and dining room, and into the updated kitchen. The main and upper levels have three bedrooms with one and a half bathrooms. The finished basement hosts an additional bedroom, bathroom and kitchen as a separate in-law suite.

Conveniently located one block from the H Street corridor and across from Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School, you will love being in the heart of the neighborhood. But you may find that the inviting backyard will become your evening oasis as you relax on one of the double decks or soak in the hot tub.

Bonus feature to this great house: You will never have to worry​ about street parking since this home comes with a two car garage!

Like what you see? Give us a call, and check out more “coming soon” listings here.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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At Home On The Hill

This sponsored column is written by Ty Voyles, a licensed Realtor© in the District of Columbia and principal of Fulcrum Properties Group, a team of real estate agents located on Capitol Hill that serves Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Complete our Buyer Questionnaire or Sellers Questionnaire today, and we can help you find your dream home tomorrow!

Zillow recently released a new tool that allows a seller to “time the market” and determine the ideal window for selling their home for highest price in the fewest number of days. It’s a great idea, but the market is driven by much more than these computer algorithms are tracking.

On Capitol Hill, price is driven at a neighborhood level, with neighborhood factors. Zillow is using regional data, not local data, to determine the numbers. The reality is that price factors are not a regional, city, or even zip code issue.

Take, for example, how local data shifts month to month due to the type and price of homes sold. If 30 out of 100 sales in April are for condos, and then 45 out of 100 in May are for condos, the numbers could incorrectly suggest that it’s better to sell in April due to the average sales price. The same number of homes were sold each month, but April looks better simply because more of the listings were houses at a higher price point than condos.

Additionally, inventory fluctuations by neighborhood have a bigger impact on your home’s value than the city or regional market’s fluctuation. The only way to get this information is through a highly proactive agent who is tapped into recent sales, current inventory, and coming soon listings or shadow inventory.

Now, let’s consider average time on the market. This is determined more by pricing it right and presenting it well, than on the actual list date. Zillow shows the market average for days on the market (DOM) for Capitol Hill to be 43 days, and suggests that listing your home in April can reduce this by 18 days. Our team’s average DOM is 13. Our median is eight. Having your home move quickly isn’t about when you list; it’s about listing it with the right agent at the right price.

Looking at my own home on Zillow — and ignoring the fact that the Zestimate is about $150K off in its estimation of my current market value — it says I will get $3,500 more by listing my home in April instead of March. What they are really saying is that historically, homes like mine registered a final sales price of $3,500 more in April . . . when you look at the all of the D.C. metro area. But knowing the current local inventory and the current local feel of the market, I’d wager that I’d actually be better served listing my home today than in a month. Why? Because inventory is tight right now, but the line of listings expected — both by us and through other agents we talk with regularly — is increasing. This means that the current set of buyers will compete more aggressively over my home now because there are fewer alternate options available. But next month, these buyers will likely have more to choose from.

Zillow chart

Most importantly, finding the right time to sell should include the impact in your life. Selling a home isn’t a piece of cake. It takes preparation, patience, and poise. Getting your home in show condition — and keeping it that way — is a daunting task. Doing the prep work the right way, and on the right timeline to reduce stress and maximize results is worth so much more than a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to our clients. Especially when we can make up that “time the market” money with smart improvements and clever presentation.

The best way to really maximize your home’s sale price is to work with the right agent, prepare the home in the right way, and present the home in the best light. So play with the new Zillow tool, then give us a call for the real scoop. I would wager my commission that our process and expertise will get you a better sales price on your home than “timing the market” will. And you’ll enjoy the process a lot more too!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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This article was written by Edward Jones. For further information, contact local financial advisor (and Capitol Hill resident) Skip Thompson at 202-223-1179 or [email protected].

Now that spring has officially sprung, you might look around your home and decide it’s time for some sprucing up. But you don’t have to confine your efforts to your house and yard — you can also engage in a little “spring cleaning” in your investment portfolio.

Here are a few suggestions for doing just that:

  • “Dust off” your investment strategy. Dusting is a big part of spring cleaning. Light fixtures, shelves, windowsills — they can all acquire layers of dust and grime that need to be whisked away. And if you’ve left your investment strategy unexamined for a long period, it too may need to be “dusted off” and reevaluated. Over time, your financial goals, family situation and even risk tolerance can change, so it’s a good idea to review your overall strategy to make sure it’s still appropriate for your needs.
  • Get rid of “clutter.” Once you start tidying up your house, you might be surprised at all the “duplicates” you find — a broom in a bedroom, another broom in the laundry room, a third in the garage and so on. Just as you probably don’t need multiple brooms, so you may find that you have many versions of the same type of investment in your portfolio. If you own too many of the same investment, and a market downturn affects that particular asset, your portfolio could take a big hit. You may be better off by selling some of the too-similar investments and using the proceeds to diversify your holdings. (However, while diversification can reduce the impact of volatility on your portfolio, it can’t guarantee profits or protect against loss.)
  • Remove “stains” on your portfolio. As you clean your carpets and furniture, you might notice some stains that should be removed. And when you look through your portfolio, you might find some “stains” in the form of chronically underperforming investments. Instead of holding on to these vehicles with the hope that they will eventually turn around, you might consider selling them and using the proceeds to purchase new investments, which can help fill any gaps you may have in your holdings.
  • Consolidate your accounts. Have you ever discovered a stapler in one drawer, a roll of tape in the linen closet and a bunch of marking pens on your desk? All these items may be useful, but for the sake of efficiency (and to cut down on frustrating searches), you might want to consolidate them in one place. And you could do something similar with your investments. Specifically, if you have some stocks here, a couple of certificates of deposits there and some IRAs at still another place, you might consider consolidating them with one financial services provider. With all your investments in one place, you could possibly reduce the fees and paperwork associated with maintaining your accounts. And when you eventually start taking withdrawals from your IRA and 401(k), you may find it easier to calculate these required distributions if they’re coming from just one place. But just as importantly, when you consolidate your investments with one provider, you may find it easier to follow a single, unified investment strategy.

So, there you have them — some spring-cleaning ideas to help you update and energize your investment portfolio. And you won’t even need a dustpan.

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This sponsored column is written by Ty Voyles, a licensed Realtor© in the District of Columbia and principal of Fulcrum Properties Group, a team of real estate agents located on Capitol Hill that serves Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Swim into a rare find on Capitol Hill! 1235 E Street SE is a unique offering that perfectly blends classic and contemporary finishes. Charming brick floors welcome you into a soaring foyer with massive windows and tons of light. A front-sited chef’s kitchen features huge windows that allow light to reflect off of the stainless appliances and stone counters.

Gleaming hardwood floors flow through a large, open living-dining area that features a wood-burning fireplace. Upstairs, three bedrooms offer plenty of options for space and storage.

But the true jewels in this crown are the outdoor spaces: a lovely private front patio and a rear oasis. An outdoor den leads to a back yard Eden, centered by one of the Hill’s few swimming pools. From the flagstone patio to the large shed and stellar side access, this home is one of a kind on Capitol Hill.

Come see this great house this weekend! Open Saturday and Sunday from 1-3 p.m.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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At Home On The Hill

This sponsored column is written by Ty Voyles, a licensed Realtor© in the District of Columbia and principal of Fulcrum Properties Group, a team of real estate agents located on Capitol Hill that serves Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Washingtonians may still be pulling on warm jackets in the mornings, but I know that many of those hooded heads are firmly trained on spring. To be more precise, they’re focused on readying their homes for the annual height of the real estate market, and the question that pops up in my conversations with sellers again and again is, “Before we list our home, should we complete a dramatic kitchen renovation to increase our sales price?”

This query is usually followed by a blushing admission that the client has been watching a lot of HGTV lately. After a quick home visit, my advice is almost always the same: watch as much HGTV as you (and your significant other) would like, but pocket those grand renovation ideas for your next house.

Why? Well, there are a few reasons. The first is financial, which is usually the primary concern for a home seller looking to engage in a renovation they will not get to enjoy for very long. For example, research shows that you probably won’t get your money back on the expense of a full kitchen renovation when you sell.  The National Association of Realtors says that your return will less than 80 percent of what you spend, on average.

The second reason is related to the first: most sellers are not professional designers, and therefore may not choose finishes that will translate to the fickle tastes of the general public. It’s human nature to design your home in a style that suits your tastes — even if you intellectually understand that this space will not be yours for very much longer.

The professionals who are really adept at flipping or staging homes have learned with experience to create spaces that are attractive but impersonal, so they appeal to the broadest possible swath of homebuyers. It’s very difficult for a non-pro to achieve a similar “general public” aesthetic because he or she is emotionally invested in the house. I’ve come across a number of sellers who complete what they believe to be a renovation that will create broad appeal, but the final product is really a reflection of their own tastes, not those of the average buyer.

The third reason to lay off the major renovations on a house you’re about to sell is that construction actually isn’t very fun to live through. It looks like a blast on HGTV because all aspects of the process have been edited, polished, trimmed and coifed by professionals. In reality, the loss of privacy, inconvenience, dust and noise of a renovation, combined with the general stress that comes with packing up your family’s belongings and actually moving, just is not worth it most of the time.

So go ahead, paint your front door for a pop of color, or add a border of pansies out front to give your listing extra curb appeal. But schedule a visit with a licensed realtor before you start rolling up your sleeves for demo.  Chances are, you should keep getting your renovation fix from HGTV until you find your next dream home.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.

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This article was written by Edward Jones. For further information, contact local financial advisor Skip Thompson.

We’re getting closer to April 15: Tax Filing Day. And while there may not be much you can do to change your results for the 2014 tax year, you can certainly look closely at your tax returns to find areas you might be able to improve next year — and one such area is your investment portfolio.

Of course, you may also find opportunities in other places, too. Could you have taken more deductions? Could you have moved some of your debts into a tax-deductible loan, such as a home equity loan or line of credit? You’ll want to consult with your tax advisor to determine areas of potential savings. However, you may be able to brighten your tax picture by making some “taxsmart” investment moves, such as the following:

  • Resist the urge to trade frequently. It can be costly to constantly buy and sell investments. In addition to the commissions you may incur, and the possibility that such excessive trading can impede a consistent investment strategy, you could rack up a sizable tax bill. If you sell an asset that you’ve held for a year or less, any profit you earn is considered a short-term capital gain, which is taxed at the same rate as your ordinary income. So, for example, if you bought Investment ABC for $1,000 on January 5, 2014, and you sold it for $1,250 on Dec. 31, 2014, you’d be taxed on your $250 gain. If you are in the 28% tax bracket, you’d owe $70 in taxes. But if you had waited until January 6, 2015, and you sold your investment for the same $250 gain, you’d pay the more favorable long-term capital gains tax rate of 15%, which translates into $37.50 in taxes — just over half of what you’d owe at the short-term rate. If you habitually sold investments after owning them less than a year, the taxes could really add up — so try to be a “buy-and-hold” investor.
  • Increase your 401(k) contributions. If you aren’t already participating in your 401(k) or similar plan, start now. And if you are contributing, boost your contributions whenever your salary goes up. You typically put “pretax” dollars in your 401(k), so the more you add, the lower your annual taxable income. Plus, your earnings can grow tax deferred.
  • “Max out” on your IRA. Depending on your income level, you may be able to deduct some, or all, of your contributions to your traditional IRA — and these deductible contributions can lower your taxable income. Plus, your investment can grow tax deferred. (Keep in mind, though, that taxes will be due upon withdrawal, and any withdrawals made before you reach 59.5 are subject to a 10 percent IRS penalty.)

If you contribute to a Roth IRA, your contributions are never deductible and won’t lower your taxable income, but your earnings are distributed tax free, provided you’ve had your account at least five years and you are older than 59½. In 2015, you can contribute $5,500 to your IRA, plus an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution if you are 50 or older– and it’s almost always a good idea to “max out” your contributions each year.

By following a buy-and-hold investment strategy and using those tax-advantaged accounts available to you, you may be able to help yourself — at tax time and beyond.

Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.

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Hill Pet of the Week: Freckle

Metro Mutts

Freckle is the Hill Pet of the Week. He’s a 3-month-old domestic short-haired cat, who can be adopted. Here’s his bio shared by the Washington Humane Society shelter on New York Avenue NE:

I’m Freckle, a gorgeous, dapper kitty with a heart of gold and fondness for big snuggles. I’m an equal-opportunity cuddler — fellow kitten or full-sized human. I think we’ll get along just swell.

Just in general, I’m a pretty friendly lad with a relaxed personality. Sometimes my foster dad even likes to pick me up and hold me like a baby. That’s fine by me. I start purring and get a giant smile!

Don’t worry though, I also know how to have fun, like getting into mischief with my siblings.

To adopt Freckle or other pets from the Humane Society, see the Petango adoption site or call 202-576-6664.

Want your pet to be considered for Hill Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least three horizontal photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a gift bag of dog or cat treats from Metro Mutts, along with 100 Metro Mutts Reward Points.

Known for “What dogs and cats want. What owners need,” Metro Mutts specializes in products and services for passionate pet owners. Now offering individualized dog walking, pet sitting and cat care from two store locations on Capitol Hill, on Barracks Row and on H Street NE. Learn more at www.metromuttsdc.com.

Photos via Washington Humane Society

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Hill Pet of the Week: Tiny

Metro Mutts

Tiny is the Hill Pet of the Week. She’s a 6-month-old Chihuahua mix, who can be adopted. Here’s her bio shared by the Washington Humane Society shelter on New York Avenue NE:

I’m Tiny, which is a fitting name for me since I’m only six pounds! I’m a sweet little Chihuahua puppy looking for my perfect forever family to show me that the world isn’t such a scary place.

I’m a little shy at first and am working to build my trust in people. But once I warm up to you, I love giving kisses and snuggling up on your lap. I also like playing with my toys, snacking on treats and playing with my foster puppy siblings.

I’m looking for a calm and quiet forever home with someone who will help me with my confidence and training. I’m learning how to walk on a leash and master this whole house training thing, though I seem to get the idea of using pee pads just fine. I would probably do okay with older children and get along well with other little dogs. (I haven’t met cats yet.)

To adopt Tiny or other pets from the Humane Society, see the Petango adoption site or call 202-576-6664.

Want your pet to be considered for Hill Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least three horizontal photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a gift bag of dog or cat treats from Metro Mutts, along with 100 Metro Mutts Reward Points.

Known for “What dogs and cats want. What owners need,” Metro Mutts specializes in products and services for passionate pet owners. Now offering individualized dog walking, pet sitting and cat care from two store locations on Capitol Hill, on Barracks Row and on H Street NE. Learn more at www.metromuttsdc.com.

Photos via Washington Humane Society

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Hudson and Tennessee, also known as “Tennie,” are the Hill Pets of the Week. The puppies, who are Great Pyrenees mixes, love to play. Here are their bios shared by their owner, Cari Shane:

Tennie has never met a dog she doesn’t like, and we go to a make-shift dog park every day, twice a day so she can play with her neighborhood friends.

Hudson has never met a person he doesn’t like and is “offended” when people on the street don’t stop to talk to him and pet him.

Their personalities mesh. Hudson is learning to find friends at the dog park. Tennie is learning to not be so aloof with people. They are a wonderful pair and watching them enjoy each other and play brings tears of joy.

Want your pet to be considered for Hill Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least three horizontal photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a gift bag of dog or cat treats from Metro Mutts, along with 100 Metro Mutts Reward Points.

Known for “What dogs and cats want. What owners need,” Metro Mutts specializes in products and services for passionate pet owners. Now offering individualized dog walking, pet sitting and cat care from two store locations on Capitol Hill, on Barracks Row and on H Street NE. Learn more at www.metromuttsdc.com.

Photos courtesy of Cari Shane

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