Seated in the conference room of his wealth management firm in San Ramon, Calif., Rich Arzaga breaks out a few tools to explain the investment advantages of oil and gas drilling programs. He’s got a fine-point pen and a sketch pad — but alas, no milkshake a la Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood.”
“This is not wildcatting,” says Arzaga, founder and CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management and an adjunct professor in personal finance at the University of California at Berkeley. Lewis’ anti-hero in “Blood” swindles and snakes for oil wherever he can find it, whereas Arzaga (pictured) wants to discuss something much more civilized: qualified drilling programs that yield big tax savings for investors and, if you’re lucky, 10 or more years of financial returns.
Though he first attended the Hollywood Bowl more than 30 years ago, Ron Moormeister remembers well those Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts. His voice waxes rhapsodic as he recalls the lineup: Mandy Patinkin, Julie Andrews, a Tchaikovsky Spectacular complete with the bombastic 1812 Overture.
So when he hit it big in 1995 — selling his insurance brokerage firm at age 49 — he decided to help the orchestra and to get a tax benefit too. He used a charitable remainder trust, or CRT, a creative strategy that allowed him to give away his money, yet still derive funds from it based on a mix of tax deductions and investment.
While some youngsters long to become rock stars or Hollywood heavyweights, others now gravitate towards another stripe of pop-cultural celebrity: the whiz kid who becomes a millionaire before age 21.
That’s not hard to fathom now, given the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and other tech hotshots. But for Susan Beacham — founder of Money Savvy Generation — steady strokes and ingrained habits set kids on the course to riches. And Beacham should know: She practices what she preaches with her two teenage daughters, Allison, 19, and Amanda, 17.
Once the debt ceiling rancor faded, financial gurus and observers had little reason to think debate on taxing the wealthy would ignite again before Nov. 23. That’s when the 12-member congressional super committee issues its recommendations on finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.
Then came President Obama’s announcement on Monday of the “Buffett Rule,” a plan to raise taxes on American households making more than $1 million annually. Suddenly, the millionaires who support such a plan — like Warren Buffett himself — had cause for hope after many months of anti-tax furor and tax hike inaction.
Mark and Kathy Swezy of Englewood, Colorado embody what many Americans would call a rock-solid work ethic. Mark is a full-time purchasing manager at JoaQuin Manufacturing, while Kathy splits her time between her own graphic design business and a job at Nosh Nest, a high-end cookware and food shop in downtown Denver, Colorado.
Yet to hear Kathy Swezy tell it, the last two months have meant belt tightening on top of more belt tightening. “Over the last 60 days it’s been a little bit better, because I’m starting to get more graphic design work — but I really had to cut my rates, too,” she says. “So I’ve been buying school clothes at thrift stores, I’m using outdated software,and basically we don’t go out to dinner much at all.”