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Bud Thorstenson sitting at his desk

The Stock Market—Lessons from Bud

My Dad (Bud) was the biggest fan of the stock market I have ever met.   I’m not a licensed advisor, I’m just passing on what he told me.  Always consult a professional.  He’s been gone for 15 years now, but if you knew Bud, you undoubtedly heard most of this:

  • Dad often reminded me that stocks always go up.  At least on average and over time.  
  • Dad never bought a bond or a CD—as they get devoured by inflation.   If you buy a stock with growing dividends, you may find that in 30 years the annual dividend you receive is worth more than what you paid for the stock.  Stocks go up with inflation because companies can raise prices.
  • If you buy five small-cap stocks, four of them will probably go broke, and the other one will undoubtedly make up for those four losers.  Yeah, that is gambling, but only small companies can become big companies.  
  • Never buy mutual funds outside of a retirement plan.  The reason is you get clobbered with capital gains as the fund manager churns the portfolio.  If you buy individual stocks, you can choose to keep them forever, and NEVER pay the capital gains tax.  The stocks get a new basis when you die.
  • There is never a reason not to sell your losers.  This way the government pays for part of your bad idea as the losses are deductible.  On the flip side, you don’t ever have to pay tax on the winners, if you don’t sell them.  He called this “playing with the house’s money.”  If you like the stock, double down for 31 days and then sell your higher cost shares, to avoid the wash sale rules.
  • Never trade commodities or options.  For every winner, there is a loser, plus there is someone in the middle taking a “cut” of every transaction.  Professional traders are smarter than you are.  Stay away.
  • Never catch a falling knife.  If a stock is going down, don’t buy it until it starts going back up.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell a winner if its valuation gets crazy high.  Take some money off the table.
  • Buying stocks requires savings.  Savings requires sacrifice.  You might need to sacrifice that new car, or that big house.  (Yeah, I have been in my same house for 30 years.)
  • Learn to sleep restfully when the stock market crashes.  It will go back up.
  • Stocks are liquid like cash.  Bankers are a lot easier to deal with if you have substantial liquidity.  Real estate is a better way to diversify as rents go up with inflation.  And you can’t buy real estate without a banker.
  • Buy stocks all the time.  Never keep cash.  You can always borrow against your stocks on a rainy day, or simply sell them.
  • If you buy Black Hills Corp and MDU, the dividends will pay your utility bills.
  • Why buy a mutual fund when you can buy a closed-end fund that trades at a steep discount to Net Asset Value?
  • Read the glossy annual reports.  Then stack them up in the corner of your office as that is so cool.
  • Buy stocks when you are very young.  It takes time to get rich.
  • How to find a good stock to buy?  Pick up a magazine or newspaper and read.  
  • Give stocks to charity.  That way you don’t have to pay tax on the gains, and the charity gets more.
  • Never buy annuities.  They are not tax efficient.
  • Regarding bank certificates of deposit (CD), he told everyone:   “Why put your money in the bank, when you can buy the bank?”   Dad had stock in Wells Fargo and US Bank, which by the way yielded 4.39% and 2.82% today.   Find those rates in a CD!

Remembering Bud Thorstenson

Bud was the second of six children growing up on the family ranch in Selby, South Dakota during the Great Depression.

World War II took him away in 1945. During the early months of the Allied Occupation he worked as a supply clerk in Japan. He earned several medals including the Meritorious Unit Award and the Victory Medal.

The GI Bill helped him to graduate from the University of Denver in 1950, with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting. After graduation he went to work for Harold Heims CPA in Rapid City, and became the 31st CPA in South Dakota.

Within a few years Bud was managing the CPA practice and his first partners included Dale Sayler, Rich Siekman, Jerry Benson, and Leroy Ketel. The firm which would eventually be named Ketel Thorstenson, LLP.  It continued to prosper due to Bud’s leadership as a partner through 1996.

Bud was a leader in the CPA profession and served as president of the South Dakota Society of CPAs and as a board of director for the South Dakota Board of Accountancy.

Bud worked 54 tax seasons! He loved the intricacies of every business deal but especially enjoyed conversing with his clients. All who knew him profited from his sage financial advice.

Community service was important in his life, and he was an active member of the Morning Optimists for nearly 50 years.

At KTLLP we appreciate the impact Bud had on the community, on establishing a strong foundation for the firm, and how he touched each of our lives.

Paul Thorstenson

Paul joined Ketel Thorstenson in 1986. He has had the pleasure to follow in his father’s footsteps (Bud Thorstenson) in the leadership of the firm. He is a partner in the Rapid City office, and previously served as the CEO of KTLLP’s executive partner committee. To those who know him, Paul is eager and excited to assist clients with complex tax issues and strategic business planning. Paul mentors the Business Valuation Niche and has experience providing courtroom expert testimony.
Paul Thorstenson

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