Archives for March 19, 2015

1,000 Free Hilton Honors Points For Updating Password

Hilton is offering people 1,000 Hilton HHonors points for creating a “real” password to replace their previous 4-digit PIN. Took me less than a minute. You must do this between March 12th and March 25th, 2015, and points will be posted in 6-8 weeks. From the e-mail I received:

As of April 1, 2015, we will no longer be accepting PINs. All members will instead be required to create a secure password. […] As a thank you, if you proactively update your password before March 25, 2015, you’ll receive 1,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points. […] Create your password now by following the steps below:

• Visit the Personal Information section in your account profile by logging in with your current credentials, and then select “Create Username and Password”.
• Your new password must be at least 8 characters, contain at least 1 upper case letter, contain at least 1 number or 1 special character.

If you are not a current Hilton Honors member that joined before 3/12/15, you are not eligible. However, you can sign-up for a new account using this separate 1,000 point bonus.

Participating in this promotion will also extend the expiration date of your points to 12 months out from the date of posting. Per the Hilton website:

Hilton HHonors points do not expire as long as members remain active in the program. To keep an account active, members can stay at one of Hilton Worldwide’s hotels, or earn or redeem HHonors points within 12 months.

Beware of Mutual Funds That Artificially Juice Their Dividend Yield

juicingdividendsI like seeing my dividend income roll in each quarter, as do many other investors. But are mutual funds artificially “juicing” their reported dividend yields to attract investors? This is explored in a recent academic paper Juicing the Dividend Yield: Mutual Funds and the Demand for Dividends, which I found via Alpha Architect. Here is the abstract:

Some mutual funds purchase stocks before dividend payments to artificially increase their dividends, which we call “juicing.” Funds paid more than twice the dividends implied by their holdings in 7.4% of fund-years examined. Juicing is associated with larger inflows, and is more common among funds with unsophisticated investors. This behavior is consistent with an underlying investor demand for dividends, but is hard to explain by taxes or need for income, as funds can generate equivalent tax-free distributions by returning capital. Juicing is costly to investors through higher turnover and increased taxes of 0.57% to 1.52% of fund assets per year.

The problem with making extra trades to make your dividend yield look higher is that it is not tax-efficient. The increased turnover itself creates extra capital gains and trading costs. Also, when a funds buy a stock just before the ex-dividend date, then that dividend no longer qualifies for the lower dividend tax rate. I just ran across this problem last month when doing my taxes and looking at my qualified dividend income percentages. (I’m not saying that WisdomTree is not engaging in any “juicing” behaviors, it is very hard to actually calculate and there are other factors involved.)

Interestingly, the paper authors propose addressing that exact problem. Make it easier on investors and require funds to report their qualified dividend income percentages (emphasis mine):

One minimally intrusive regulatory change that could improve investor decision-making is to require funds to break out dividend income into qualified dividends (entitled to a reduced income tax rate, when the stock was held for 60 days or more) and non-qualified dividends (which pay the full income tax rate, for stocks held for less than 60 days) when reporting their distributions in filings such as annual reports. Such disclosure would not harm an investor that was already informed about juicing, but would ensure that investors had easy access to the information necessary to make an informed decision if they chose to do so.

Bottom line: Juicing exists and it hurts investors with higher turnover and higher tax bills, but it’s hard to know when by just looking at the usual mutual fund stats. Until then, be careful if you’re buying an actively-managed fund primarily due to their high dividend yield.