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Investments

Balancing Investor Euphoria With Market Reality

By | Investments

Many social media users share nearly all aspects of their lives, from photos of cute kids and pets to their political views. And now, we even are seeing posts from exuberant investors bragging about their investment returns. For example, consider this social media post:1

“I strived to become a 401(k) millionaire someday, and this week, thanks to years of consistent savings and a long bull market, that goal has come to fruition, at the ripe age of 45.” This message was accompanied by a snapshot of his actual account statement.

Indeed, every investor proud of his or her success should be applauded for diligent and prudent investing over time. However, it’s worth noting that what goes up generally comes down. The question is: When?

If you’ve achieved significant gains over the past few years, we’d like to help you ensure that your current financial strategy still fits within the context of your own goals, risk tolerance and investment timeline. Feel free to contact us for a comprehensive review of your financial situation to help determine the next move to help you pursue your financial goals.

Strong stock market performance is generally attributed to a wide range of factors, including the prevailing policies of the current presidential administration. While fiscal policy can have a near-term influence on investor and business confidence, other contributing factors are more long term in nature. For example, changes in monetary policy may take six to twelve months to impact the financial markets.2

The same can be true for market declines. While an occasional one-day freefall does occur, most of the time a correction, such as the one that occurred in early February, is the culmination of contributing factors over time. In fact, stock market analysts had been predicting a correction for quite some time, so it did not come as a surprise to many in the industry when it happened.3 Moving forward, analysts expect continued volatility that could damper some of those proud moments many investors have shared.4

Even if investors’ exuberance has been dampened somewhat because of the recent market volatility, it’s important to remember what got them there in the first place: Disciplined investing. As such, a stock price slide can present the opportunity to buy when prices are low — further positioning a portfolio for future gains.In other words, perhaps euphoria and prudence can go hand in hand.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Sally French. MarketWatch. Feb. 1, 2018. “People are bragging about becoming 401(k) millionaires — and posting their balances to social media.” https://www.marketwatch.com/story/people-are-bragging-about-becoming-401k-millionaires—-and-posting-their-balances-to-social-media-2018-01-29. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

2 Oliver Pursche. Kiplinger. March 21, 2017. “The Fed/Trump Face-off: When Fiscal and Monetary Policy Collide.” https://www.kiplinger.com/article/investing/T023-C032-S014-fed-vs-trump-when-fiscal-and-monetary-policy-colli.html. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

3 Eric Rosenbaum. CNBC. Nov. 27, 2017. “Chance of US stock market correction now at 70 percent: Vanguard Group.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/27/chance-of-us-stock-market-correction-now-at-70-percent-vanguard.html. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

Cecile Vannucci. Bloomberg. Feb. 9, 2018. “Volatility Explosion Is Sparking a Rush to Hedge at Any Cost.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-09/a-conundrum-for-hedgers-now-that-you-need-it-the-vix-is-at-32. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

Kristine Owram. Bloomberg. Feb. 12, 2018. “Morgan Stanley Strategist Who Predicted Volatility Says Buy Now.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-12/morgan-stanley-strategist-who-predicted-volatility-says-buy-now. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Mitigating Risk Goes Beyond Asset Allocations

By | Investments

What do Harvey Weinstein, “America First” policies and asset allocation have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out, when it comes to evaluating the various risk factors that can affect an investment or portfolio.

Anyone who’s ever taken a hot minute to observe the market or talk shop about the economy must realize any action that falls under the umbrella of investing comes with risk. The level of risk varies, however, depending on numerous factors, including the asset itself.

At our firm, we tend to focus on ways to help clients limit those risks. If you have any questions about your current risk factors, give us a call and we’d be happy to look at your current portfolio. We recommend you work with a financial advisor for insights into your particular situation. We can then assess those risk factors and recommend a variety of investment and insurance products that can help you work toward your short- and long-term financial goals.

For one example of a risk that is particular to an asset, let’s turn to bonds. We generally consider a bond investment less risky than a stock investment. But that’s mainly in consideration of market risk — which can dramatically impact stock prices. However, bonds are more impacted by interest rates, so in an environment of changing rates, they are exposed to a certain level of risk as well. That’s why trying to look at assets side by side is not as simple as an apples-to-apples comparison.

For investors who are looking to buy individual stocks based on companies, the garden-variety wisdom is to invest in a company you understand well. This wisdom is based on the risk of the unknown. If you don’t know the first thing about a company, how confident can you be in its performance? Not only do you want to review the company’s financial performance, track record, business costs, leadership, risk factors, dividend history and corporate governance, it’s not a bad idea to have some first-hand experience or exposure to that company’s product or service.1

While traditional asset allocation emphasizes diversification across asset classes (think, mixing stocks, bonds, cash, insurance, etc.), it’s also worth considering diversification within asset classes themselves, to work against underlying risk factors — for example, consider buying stocks from multiple companies, or different kinds of bonds. Risks run the gamut, from market risk and interest rate risk to currency and credit risk. Then, too, those risk factors may be more or less significant when applied to international companies, markets and even globalization trends.

In the past, one way American investors have diversified their portfolios is by investing in overseas companies. The recent trend toward “America First” has changed some of that sentiment, with more domestic money flooding into the U.S. markets. However, our long-term upward trend in performance leaves less room for growth, so it may be worth considering securities abroad again. If not, an investor runs the risk of being too domestically concentrated, which can yield two risky paths. One, growth stagnates at the top of the market, and potential gains abroad are left on the table. Two, if U.S. markets experience a setback, a heavy concentration can wreak considerable damage.2

One rising risk factor to consider: The threat of a sexual harassment scandal. From the flurry of recent allegations, it would appear some companies operate within a culture of inappropriate behavior. That puts those companies at higher risk for a scandal, which can impact its stock price and, subsequently, shareholder portfolios. For instance, as allegations about Harvey Weinstein’s misdeeds continue to surface, Weinstein & Co.’s financial standing has been hit hard. Just one more thing to consider when assessing investment risk factors.3

As different risks become more or less significant with the changing economy, just remember you don’t have to go it alone; call our firm for a consultation to see how your assets are positioned to cope with risk.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Saikat Neogi. Financial Express. Nov. 29, 2017. “Stock market investment tips: 3 big risk factors to beware of to ensure you don’t lose money.” http://www.financialexpress.com/money/stock-market-investment-tips-3-big-risk-factors-to-beware-of-to-ensure-you-dont-lose-money/951801/?utm_content=bufferb090f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

2 PIMCO. March 13, 2017. “Risk Factor Diversification.” https://www.pimco.com/en-us/resources/education/understanding-risk-factor-diversification. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

Nasdaq. Nov. 6, 2017. “Sexual Harassment is a Major New Investment Risk.” http://www.nasdaq.com/article/sexual-harassment-is-a-major-new-investment-risk-cm872105. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Preparing for Retirement — Do You Have a Plan?

By | Investments

For much of the 20th century, many employees who spent decades working for one company typically received a pension plan. According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 88 percent of all private-sector employees in 1975 had a pension.1 With the confidence of knowing their retirement would be covered by pension and Social Security benefits, perhaps they even saved little — but it would not have been all that necessary to learn how to invest.

Today, the number of private-sector employees with pensions has plummeted to 33 percent.This means that baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 19643) are the first generation of retirees to rely on defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans. In fact, many boomers don’t have the luxury of perhaps just saving a little; they have to save a lot.

In addition, many boomers have to learn about different types of investments, which can be daunting. In fact, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) lists 12 broad types, each of which has its own subsets.4 That’s a pretty big responsibility to take on.

Here’s an idea of where we stand:5

  • 44% of baby boomers have no work-sponsored retirement plans
  • 43% have defined contribution plans
  • 13% have defined benefit (pension) plans

Bear in mind that back in the days when many employees could count on a pension plan, those assets were managed by professional money managers. These days, some company 401(k) plans include a “self-directed” option, which lets you decide how to invest your contributions yourself.6 We hasten to remind you that investing can be complex, and creating a financial strategy for retirement has been complicated by the fact that people are living more years in retirement than ever before. If you could use some advice to help manage your investment portfolio — including self-directed accounts — or to create a financial strategy, please give us a call.

In fact, outside investment advice in the defined contribution space is becoming more prevalent. A recent report by the Spectrem Group found that 73 percent of employer-plan participants use an outside advisor, such as a mutual fund company representative or an independent financial planner, to assist them with investing assets that are outside their plan. However, they do not necessarily consult with an outside advisor for their entire investment portfolio.7

Keep in mind that preparing for retirement involves much more than just accumulating assets. This preparation includes deciding on a Social Security claiming strategy; navigating defined contribution plan rollovers; considering tax consequences; and mulling possible part-time work during retirement. And we must do this while pursuing social and intellectual engagement opportunities so we can stay healthy and cognitively fit during our long retirement.8

It’s a lot to think about. The earlier we get started on our full-scale retirement plans, the better.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 John Waggoner. InvestmentNews. Dec. 2, 2017. “Younger baby boomers face hurdles as they approach retirement.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20171202/FREE/171209994/younger-baby-boomers-face-hurdles-as-they-approach-retirement. Accessed Jan. 16, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 The Pew Charitable Trusts. Feb. 15, 2017. “Retirement Plan Access and Participation Across Generations.” http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2017/02/retirement-plan-access-and-participation-across-generations. Accessed Jan. 24, 2018.

FINRA. “Types of Investments.” http://www.finra.org/investors/types-investments. Accessed Jan. 16, 2018.

5 The Pew Charitable Trusts. Feb. 15, 2017. “Retirement Plan Access and Participation Across Generations.” http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2017/02/retirement-plan-access-and-participation-across-generations. Accessed Jan. 24, 2018.

6 Amelia Josephson. SmartAsset. March 22, 2017. “What Is a Self-Directed 401(k)?” https://smartasset.com/retirement/what-is-a-self-directed-401k. Accessed Jan. 24, 2018.

7 Spectrem Group. 2017. “How Plan Participants Use Advisors.” https://spectrem.com/Content/how-dc-plan-participants-use-advisors.aspx. Accessed Jan. 16, 2018.

8 Emily Brandon. U.S. News & World Report. Jan. 16, 2018. “How to Retire in 2018.” https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/baby-boomers/articles/how-to-retire. Accessed Jan. 16, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Exploring the Behavioral Biases of Investing

By | Investments

Despite the research and due diligence necessary in developing an investment portfolio, investors are frequently influenced more by their own emotional and behavioral biases than by data.1 These biases may include overconfidence, regret, impatience and the desire to “keep up with the Joneses.”

In fact, personnel from at least one asset management firm believe that the company has a better chance of outperforming the market by anticipating investor behavior. At a macro level, the behavioral biases of a large number of investors may be able to influence the expectations of company performance and even its stock price. By tracking patterns among such biases, it may be possible to capture a higher return on investment relative to other market fundamentals.2

Although there may be truth to that, we believe that investment selection should be based more on individual goals than on mass market speculation. As financial advisors, we help clients get to the crux of their objectives and design a financial strategy around their long-term goals, timeline and tolerance for risk. Markets will always fluctuate, regardless of the impetus, but our job is help reduce the impact of behavioral biases and help keep your financial strategy on track. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more.

Within the study of behavioral finance are subfields. For example, biases can be cognitive, meaning an investor may think and act in specific ways or by following a rule of thumb. A behavioral bias also can be emotional, relying on feelings rather than information. An example of this is “self-attribution bias,” wherein investors tend to believe their investment success comes from their own actions but blame poor performance on external factors.3

Cognitive biases often are characterized by the inability to fully process statistical information or by memory errors.4 In some cases, cognitive bias manifests in simply not acknowledging when there is too much information for a person to process. In this scenario, it is common for an investor to cling to the original reason he or she made the investment — even when presented with new and potentially damaging evidence.5

Another common investing behavioral bias is an aversion to loss. In fact, investors are generally more afraid of losing money than they are of embracing the thrill of stock market success. This inherent fear of loss can, in fact, make an investor unwittingly more conservative than he needs to be or, depending on financial circumstances, should be.6

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Tim Parker. Investopedia. “4 Behavioral Biases and How to Avoid Them.” https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/050813/4-behavioral-biases-and-how-avoid-them.asp. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

2 John R. Riddle. 361Capital. “Bounded Rationality: Tapping Investor Behavior to Source Alpha.” http://361capital.com/financial-advisor/viewpoints/bounded-rationality-tapping-investor-behavior-to-source-alpha/. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

3 Brad Sherman. Investopedia. April 12, 2017. “8 Common Biases That Impact Investment Decisions.” https://www.investopedia.com/advisor-network/articles/051916/8-common-biases-impact-investment-decisions/. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

4 Peter Lazaroff. Forbes. April 1, 2016. “5 Biases That Hurt Investor Returns.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterlazaroff/2016/04/01/5-biases-that-hurt-investor-returns/#74592db8d4ac. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

5 361Capital. “Behavioral Finance Basics.” http://361capital.com/wp-content/uploads/361Capital-Behavioral-Finance-Basics-Infographic.pdf. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

6 Peter Lazaroff. Forbes. April 1, 2016. “5 Biases That Hurt Investor Returns.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterlazaroff/2016/04/01/5-biases-that-hurt-investor-returns/#74592db8d4ac. Accessed Jan. 5, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Evolution of the 401(k)

By | Investments

When employer-sponsored 401(k) plans were introduced in the 1980s, an unexpected consequence occurred: Pensions stopped being the norm. One reason is that companies found 401(k) plans less expensive than traditional defined benefit plans.1

At the time, 401(k) plans were touted as an opportunity for greater earnings and a richer retirement lifestyle. While it’s true that potential exists, it has not come to fruition for many of America’s workers. Analysis of data compiled by The Pew Charitable Trusts indicates that only about half of American workers participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, including 401(k) plans.2

As a result, many Americans are woefully short on retirement funds and savings. According to recent data from the Economic Policy Institute, households in which wage earners are between ages 50 and 55 years old have a median savings of only $8,000. It’s somewhat better — $17,000 — for those ages 56 to 61. Worse yet, a 2016 GOBanking Rates survey found that 35 percent of all U.S. adults have only a few hundred dollars in their savings account; 34 percent have none at all.3

These are averages, of course, but the numbers are bleak. Thirty percent of baby boomers will start retirement with less than $50,000 in savings — indicating many will rely almost exclusively on Social Security benefits.4 If you could use some retirement planning advice, please give us a call. We help our clients make decisions about generating retirement income, using both funds accumulated in employer plans and through individual portfolios, as well as insurance products.

In 1978, Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1978, which included a provision for Section 401(k) plans, offering a means for employees to defer compensation from bonuses or stock options from current taxes. The law went into effect in 1980. The following year, the IRS issued rules permitting workers to make tax-deferred contributions to their 401(k) plans directly from wages, which is when their popularity began to explode. By 1983, almost 50 percent of large employers were offering or developing plans.5

It was an easy sell. Employers liked them because they were cheaper to fund with matches, and the expense was more predictable than indefinite pension payments. Employees felt they were in the driver’s seat and could make better investment decisions for higher earnings. These projections turned out well for companies, but perhaps not as well for many employees, as 401(k) accounts rise and fall with the financial markets.6

Automatic enrollments in 401(k) plans, as well as automatic contribution increases each year, appear to have the potential to help Americans save more. According to a study by J.P. Morgan: 7

  • Among workers who automatically enrolled in their 401(k) plans, only 1% opted out and 96% were happy with the feature. Nearly a third of those surveyed said they would not have enrolled in the plan without the automatic enrollment feature.
  • Among those whose contributions were automatically increased each year, 97% were satisfied, and 15% said they likely would not have increased contributions on their own.

In 2006, a new rule allowed employers to offer Roth 401(k) plans, either as a separate plan or as part of their retirement program. The Roth 401(k) is funded with already taxed income, the earnings grow tax-free and qualified withdrawals made during retirement are not taxed.8

For now, 401(k) plans are a primary retirement savings vehicle for American workers. However, one of the caveats is that those tax-deferred income contributions and earnings deprive the government of revenues that could be used to reduce the deficit or for new spending programs. With new deficit concerns on the horizon, the tax status of 401(k) funds could be subject to greater scrutiny in the future.9

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Kelley Holland. CNBC. March 23, 2015. “For millions 401(k) plans have fallen short.” https://www.cnbc.com/2015/03/20/l-it-the-401k-is-a-failure.html. Accessed Dec. 29, 2017.

2 The Pew Charitable Trusts. January 2016. “Who’s In, Who’s Out.” http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2016/01/retirement_savings_report_jan16.pdf. Accessed Jan. 11, 2018.

3 Ester Bloom. CNBC. June 13, 2017. “Here’s how many Americans have nothing at all saved for retirement.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/13/heres-how-many-americans-have-nothing-at-all-saved-for-retirement.html. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.

4 Suzanne Woolley. Bloomberg. Dec. 13, 2017. “Retirement, Delayed.” https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/retirement-redesigned. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.

5 Kathleen Elkins. CNBC. Jan. 4, 2017. “A brief history of the 401(k), which changed how Americans retire.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/04/a-brief-history-of-the-401k-which-changed-how-americans-retire.html. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.

6 Ibid.

7 Dan Kadlec. Money. July 27, 2016. “The 401(k) Features Employers Can No Longer Ignore.” http://time.com/money/4422533/401k-features-employers-can-no-longer-ignore/. Accessed Dec. 19, 2017.

8 Denise Appleby. Investopedia. Nov. 30, 2015. “Roth 401(k), 403(b): Which Is Right for You?” https://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/06/addroths.asp. Accessed Dec. 14, 2017.

9 Suzanne Woolley. Bloomberg. Nov. 15, 2017. “Why Republican Lawmakers Are Eyeing 401(k)s for Their Tax Plan.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-16/why-senate-tax-cutters-have-an-eye-on-big-401-k-s-quicktake-q-a. Accessed Dec. 29, 2017.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Exclusive vs. Inclusive Investing

By | Investments

There are many different approaches to investing in the stock market, but most fall under two categories: exclusive and inclusive. Exclusive means conducting thorough research on prospective companies and investing in a portfolio of select, thoroughly vetted securities. One of the advantages of this approach is that if an investor’s research pans out, he could have quite a cache of high-performing “winners.”1

An unfortunate disadvantage is that most big “winners” in the market have at some point suffered declines of up to 50, 60 or even 90 percent on their way to success. That type of risk can be difficult for the average investor to stomach.2

The inclusive strategy is quite the opposite. This encompasses ETFs, mutual and index funds, wherein the idea is to diversify across securities to help reduce volatility, yet still yield a positive return on investment. The advantages are that this is usually a lower cost way of investing in a wide array of stocks, and diversification may offer a better defense against capital losses. On the flip side, however, stellar returns can get whitewashed by a batch of underperformers.3

Many factors should be considered in developing an investment strategy. We have the tools to help clients determine how much risk they are willing to take on and what types of investments are appropriate for their financial goals, investment timeline and individual circumstances.  We’re here to help you analyze your personal financial situation and create strategies utilizing a variety of investment and insurance products that can help you work toward your financial goals.

One way to gauge risk tolerance is to recognize how we each react when the markets start to fall. It’s a very common, natural instinct to want to sell holdings to “stop the bleeding,” but, in fact, the opposite may be more productive. Buying when prices drop — at least well-vetted securities that are expected to recover – can be a means of achieving higher performance. But that’s not generally how human nature works. And, unfortunately, how investors react can have far more impact on performance than the economy or individual stock fundamentals. In fact, Robert J. Shiller, Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale, believes that markets are more prone to move when investors think they know how other investors will react.4

The one thing about significant market moves, whether up or down, is that they can throw a portfolio off your carefully designed plan. This is why rebalancing a portfolio, at least annually, can be an important investment strategy. However, a recent Wells Fargo/Gallup survey found that less than half of investors rebalance to restore their portfolios back to targeted stock and bond allocations on an annual basis. A bull run can be pretty satisfying as you watch your account’s market value continually increase. However, the problem with this is that an investor could be generating a far more aggressive portfolio than suited for his or her circumstances. In the event of a correction, losses could be significant.5

One suggestion is that investors should consider diversifying any position that climbs higher than 5 to 10 percent of their overall portfolio.6

Another possible strategy is to position some portfolio assets into an annuity. While the approach is slowly starting to catch on, the recently released 2017 “TIAA Lifetime Income Survey” found that only 50 percent of respondents reported being familiar with how an annuity works. However, even that finding can be deceiving. About 63 percent of participants who were invested in a target-date fund thought that it would provide a guaranteed income stream. While this is true of annuities*, it is not the case with most target-date funds. Half of those surveyed expressed interest in having an annuity option in their employer-retirement plans.7

*Annuity guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. Annuities are insurance products that may be subject to fees, surrender charges and holding periods which vary by company. Annuities are not a deposit of nor are they insured by any bank, the FDIC, NCUA, or by any federal government agency. Annuities are designed for retirement or other long-term needs.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 Barry Ritholtz. Bloomberg. Sept. 26, 2017. “So Few Market Winners, So Much Dead Weight.” https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-09-26/so-few-market-winners-so-much-dead-weight. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Robert J. Shiller. The New York Times. Oct. 19, 2017. “A Stock Market Panic Like

1987 Could Happen Again.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/business/stock-market-crash-1987.html?smid=tw-share. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

5 Walter Updegrave. Money. Oct. 4, 2017. “Do This One Thing Each Year If You Want a Better Retirement.” http://time.com/money/4964526/do-this-one-thing-each-year-if-you-want-a-better-retirement/. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

6 Donald Jay Korn. Financial Planning. Aug. 22, 2017. “Convincing clients to let go of huge holdings.” https://www.financial-planning.com/news/convincing-clients-to-let-go-of-huge-holdings. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

7 Karen Demasters. Financial Advisor. Oct. 17, 2017. “Annuities Are Misunderstood, TIAA Says.” https://www.fa-mag.com/news/annuities-are-misunderstand–tiaa-says-35249.html. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Assessing Risk

By | Investments

It is common to have a very traditional interpretation when we think of investment risk, such as the belief that stocks are seen as a risky investment, and bonds less so. But many issues have come to light in the past decade that cause us to think about risk differently. For example, there’s the risk of outliving your retirement savings, which is often cited as one of the primary concerns of today’s retirees.1

And that’s just today’s retirees. If you’re still in saving mode, your retirement could be even longer than today’s average retirement.2 Given this potential reality, it may be time for all of us to re-evaluate how we assess risk.

As financial advisors, we spend countless hours helping people develop a financial strategy for the future. That means we continuously research and discuss risk factors, and we understand how to apply them to each individual’s situation. Please contact us if you’d like help assessing what risk factors you need to consider in regard to your long-term financial goals.

Some people are naturally risk averse, and others are enthusiastic risk-takers. Most fall somewhere in between, with attitudes toward risk changing, depending on where they are in in their lives. It’s not uncommon for individuals to take more risks in their younger years, when they have more time to rebound from market setbacks, and then take a more conservative approach as they near retirement.3

If we pursue a strict risk/reward investment strategy, we can still come up short in meeting retirement goals. For example, say you are extremely risk-averse, so you invest all of your money in 10-year Treasury notes in order to generate around $56,500, which is the average annual household income. These securities, which are considered low risk because they are backed by the U.S. government, were paying out around 2.25 percent in October, so you would need to have $2.26 million invested to earn that much – even more if you factor in long-term inflation.4 In this particular scenario, we might say that such a level of risk-aversion is a luxury many of us cannot afford.

Let’s look at another type of risk. As a general rule of thumb, risk-averse U.S. investors are more comfortable investing in domestic stocks versus those in other countries. This year, that’s working out pretty well, when you consider that the S&P 500 boasted a 14.86 percent year-to-date return as of Nov. 2, 2017.5 However, a lot of countries are doing well these days, so diversifying to include foreign stocks could help improve a portfolio’s overall return while adding the risk-mitigation factor of broader diversification. To put this in perspective, consider that the MSCI World ex USA Index has yielded 15.51 percent and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index is at 25.08 percent for the year as of Sept. 27, 2017.6

It’s also important to evaluate different kinds of risk beyond that associated with individual holdings. There’s the potential risk of not keeping pace with long-term inflation’s impact on the purchasing power of our savings. There’s what’s called “sequence of returns” risk, which means your average annual return over a long timeline may be good, but if you experience declines during the beginning of your retirement years, the risk of loss is much higher.7

There’s also the risk of having significant health problems and needing long-term care. Some people experience this while others don’t, but there’s no way to be sure which camp we’ll fall into – so that’s a potential risk.

While many retirees may believe that their greatest risk is not accumulating a certain amount of money by the time they retire, we believe their goal should be to create a financial strategy that reflects their needs and objectives instead of chasing an arbitrary monetary amount.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Catey Hill. MarketWatch. July 21, 2016. “Older People Fear This More Than Death.” http://www.marketwatch.com/story/older-people-fear-this-more-than-death-2016-07-18. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

2 Jeff Stimpson. Forbes. Sept. 5, 2017. “How to Balance Investment Risk and Reward in Retirement” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/09/05/how-to-balance-investment-risk-and-reward-in-retirement/#629608b96ec4. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

3 Walter Updegrave. CNN Money. June 21, 2017. “How much investing risk should you take in retirement? http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/21/pf/retirement-investing-risk/index.html. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

4 Bruce McCain. Forbes. Sept. 20, 2017. “Seeking Financial Security When Life Changes Strike.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucemccain/2017/09/20/seeking-financial-security-when-life-changes-strike/#589a300c2f0a. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

5 CNN Money. Oct. 24, 2017. “S&P 500 Index.” http://money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/. Accessed Nov. 2, 2017.

6 eTrade. Sept. 28, 2017. “International calling.” https://us.etrade.com/knowledge/markets-news/commentary-and-insights/international-calling?ch_id=S&s_id=Twitter&c_id=ESOC. Accessed Sept. 28, 2017.

7 Dana Anspach. The Balance. Aug. 14, 2017. “Learn How Sequence Risk Impacts Your Retirement Money.” https://www.thebalance.com/how-sequence-risk-affects-your-retirement-money-2388672. Accessed Oct. 24, 2017.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice. All investments are subject to risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. 

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Investing for the Long Term

By | Investments

What does the phrase “long term” mean to you? For children, long term can mean waiting for Christmas or summer vacation that feels like a million years away. For young adults, long term may reference how long it takes to pay off student loans. As we get older, we begin to understand that long term can be a really long time – even decades. We may wonder where the years went. Suddenly we’re in our 50s, 60s, 70s or older. Long term tends to be a subjective phrase depending on what stage you have reached in life and what your goals are.

When it comes to investing, its meaning is only marginally clearer. In other words, if we’re encouraged to invest for the long term, how long is that – 10 years, 20, 30? It largely depends on what your financial goals are – a house, college tuition for the kids, retirement and so on. We take the time to help clients define their financial goals and then create strategies using a variety of investment and insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. Give us a call so we can work with you to help you pursue your long-term goals.

It’s worth noting that even an experienced investor can’t say for sure whether they’ve got the right mix of investments for the long term. Take, for example, Jack Bogle, the founder of The Vanguard Group. He recently responded to a question he received from a young investor concerned about how potential catastrophes would impact his portfolio. Bogle replied by sharing his own portfolio mix (50/50 indexed stocks and short/intermediate bond indexes) but said that half the time he worries that he has too much in equities, and the other half that he doesn’t have enough. “We’re all just human beings operating in a fog of ignorance and relying on our common sense to establish our asset allocation,” he wrote to the investor. 1

The S&P 500 has nearly quadrupled in annualized returns since its low in 2009.2 Several prominent market analysts and investment firms suggest this means it’s about time for a market downturn.3 The question is, if you’re a long-term investor, do you sell in anticipation of a correction? After all, if the point is to buy low and sell high, it makes sense to take gains while prices are at their highest before they begin to drop. Or does it?

That’s not what long-term investing is about. The reason returns over 30 years tend to outperform those from, say, five years, is that time is what typically smooths out those periods of volatility. If we continue investing automatically, we may end up buying during those periods of price drops and we can potentially make stronger gains as prices rise again.4

If we base our investment decisions on when the market will take a turn for the worse, we could end up missing out on the future gains that could have been made. Long-term investing may involve patience, unlike children who anxiously await the holidays.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal.  No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. It’s important to consider any investment within the context of your own goals, risk tolerance, investment timeline and the composition of your overall portfolio. This information is not intended to provide investment advice.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Andy Clarke. Vanguard Blog for Advisors. July 12, 2017. “Stocks and the meaning of “long term.” https://vanguardblog.com/2017/07/12/stocks-and-the-meaning-of-long-term/. Accessed Oct. 12, 2017.

2 Joe Ciolli. Business Insider. Sept. 15, 2017. “An investing legend who’s nailed the bull market at every turn sees no end in sight for the 269% rally.” http://www.businessinsider.com/laszlo-birinyi-interview-investing-legend-bull-market-sage-2017-9. Accessed Sept. 19, 2017.

3 Paul J. Lim. Money. Sept. 19, 2017. “ ‘Unnerved’: These 5 Big Wall Street Players Are Predicting a Downturn.” http://time.com/money/4943479/wall-street-prediction-stock-market-downturn/. Accessed Sept. 19, 2017.

4 Maya Kachroo-Levine. Forbes. Sept. 18, 2017. “Should You Invest As Usual When Stocks Are This High?” https://www.forbes.com/sites/mayakachroolevine/2017/09/18/should-you-invest-as-usual-when-stocks-are-this-high/print/. Accessed Sept. 19, 2017.

This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Goals-Based Investing

By | Investments

There’s a difference between monitoring an investment and checking its performance on a daily basis. Rather than being concerned about short-term volatility in the market, consider the future purpose or goal of what you want your money to pay for. This is the fundamental idea behind goals-based investing. You don’t just seek out investments that will yield a certain average annual return; you identify other factors that may matter more.1

In goals-based investing, it’s not about how much your investment earns; it’s about how much you need your investment to yield. For example, let’s say you need about $50,000 to pay for your child’s college education. You save diligently from the time he or she is 10 years old through his or her last year in college – 12 years. During that time, you save $37,000. Your investment needs to earn an additional $13,000. There are a lot of factors here that will determine your return, but the point is that your investment need not be overly aggressive to achieve the return you desire. It should reflect how much risk you’re willing to take to yield the amount you’ll need to pay for your child’s education. Not necessarily more. Preferably no less.

If the investment earns more, you can put those additional earnings in your retirement savings bucket. If it earns less, you may need to tighten the belt on your finances and use more current income to pay for expenses during those college years, or get aggressive about applying for loans and scholarships. The point is, an investment should align with a goal – including its timeline for when you’ll need the money. The timeline can help you determine how aggressively to invest. The longer you have to invest, the more risk you may be able to take.

Just as the timeline matters, so does your age. Young investors with a longer investment timeline usually can be more flexible at choosing riskier investments – as long as those risks are aligned with their goals.2

However, let’s say your last child came later in life. If you will turn 60 before he or she goes to college, you could consider saving for his or her college education via tax-deferred retirement plans. You can start tapping these funds after age 59 ½ and no longer be subject to an early withdrawal penalty, but keep in mind that distributions will be subject to income taxes at that point.

Defining each goal you want to achieve can help guide your investment strategy, which can include the type of account in which you invest, such as a tax-advantaged college savings account or a tax-deferred retirement account. Different goals may call for different types of accounts, so you may need to create an investment strategy for each individual goal and monitor several different types of investments.3

This is where we can help. We’ll work with you to define each goal, establish which type of plan is most appropriate and what types of investments suit your timeline and tolerance for market risk. Then, we’ll help monitor how well those investments stay on track as you work toward your financial goals.

When all of these factions are aligned, you can be less concerned about day-to-day fluctuations. If you think you need to save more, you might want to consider different ways you can generate additional income sources that will allow you to save and invest more.

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits to a goals-based approach is that it makes us think about what we want in life in very tangible terms. Suppose you want to retire to a coastal community. That’s your goal, and how early you get started saving and investing and at what age you’ll want your money can help determine your investment allocations. The return on that investment will ultimately decide how much house you can afford when retiring to your coastal destination. When creating your financial strategy, you should also consider the sort of lifestyle you want to provide your family and how expensive a college you want your children to attend. As with investment risk, trade-offs may need to be made in order to pursue your financial goals.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. It’s important to consider any investment within the context of your own goals, risk tolerance, investment timeline and the composition of your overall portfolio. This information is not intended to provide investment advice.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

 

1 Michael Finke. The American College. June 19, 2017. “The Philosophy of Goal-Based Investment Planning.” http://knowledge.theamericancollege.edu/blog/the-philosophy-of-goal-based-investment-planning. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.

2 Amy Kemp and Dorsey Wright. NASDAQ. Aug. 3, 2017. “The Next Generation of Investors.” http://www.nasdaq.com/article/the-next-generation-of-investors-cm826808. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.

3 Sunder R. Ramkumar and P. Brett Hammond. Forbes. April 10, 2017. “Goals-Based Investing: From Theory to Practice.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/pensionresearchcouncil/2017/04/10/goals-based-investing-from-theory-to-practice/#462b4018459d. Accessed Aug. 30, 2017.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Assessing Risk in Retirement Income

By | Investments

When it comes to investing, there’s no such thing as a “safe bet.” Every type of financial vehicle has some level of risk, even checking and savings accounts. Back in the 1920s, people believed that the safest place to keep their money was a bank, and they were right. But as they witnessed during the Great Depression, even those assets were not 100 percent safe. Bank runs caused banks to deplete their cash holdings, and they had to call in loans and liquidate assets to try to keep up with withdrawal demands, which subsequently led to bank failures.1 In response, the government created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures deposits up to $250,000 per depositor, per FDIC-insured bank, per ownership category.2

Throughout history, bank deposit accounts have generally been considered the safest place to keep assets. However, today’s longer lifespans illustrate that risk takes many forms, including the potential risk of outliving your money if you don’t save enough, have a well-diversified financial portfolio to help outpace inflation and seek out multiple sources for reliable income streams. We can recommend a variety of strategies to help retirees pursue each of these goals, based on individual circumstances. Give us a call, and let’s discuss your options.

Consider even Social Security. The agency projects that by 2034, its Trust Fund will be reduced to the point where it can pay out only 74 percent of promised benefits to retirees. While it’s unlikely this safety net will collapse, Congress will need to take steps to keep the fund fully solvent.3

However, individuals who invest in 401(k)s should be aware that even if their company closes or goes bankrupt, vested 401(k) assets belong to the account owner; the employer or the employer’s creditors can’t touch them.4

Another factor that can potentially affect your retirement assets is the impact long-term inflation can have on cost of living expenses for people who spend 20 to 30 years or more in retirement. Inflation has remained low for many years, and some market experts believe that, as a result, many investors are not well-prepared for a resurgence of inflation.5

With the knowledge that investing offers the possibility of growth but also the risk of loss, it’s a good idea to consider working with a financial advisor to help tailor a financial portfolio to your specific goals, timeline and tolerance for different types of risk. Your financial advisor may also suggest annuities, and although they are not investments, some annuity contracts credit interest earnings that are linked to the performance of an external market index. These types of annuities, often referred to as fixed index annuities, offer a combination of higher interest growth potential and guaranteed income. The guarantees are backed by the insurance company so it’s important to check out the credit rating and financial strength and experience of the issuing insurer.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 History.com. “Bank Run.” http://www.history.com/topics/bank-run. Accessed Aug. 6, 2017.

2 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. June 3, 2014. “Deposit Insurance FAQs.” https://www.fdic.gov/deposit/deposits/faq.html. Accessed August 15, 2017.

3 Chris Farrell. Forbes/Next Avenue. June 24, 2016. “The Truth About Social Security’s Solvency And You.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2016/06/24/the-truth-about-social-securitys-solvency-and-you/#2590b10b2199. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.

4 Dana Anspach. The Balance. Nov. 22, 2016. “If My Company Closes, What Happens to My 401k?” https://www.thebalance.com/if-my-company-closes-what-happens-to-my-401k-2388225. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.

5 Rebecca Ungarino. CNBC. Aug. 5, 2017. “Inflation isn’t stirring, but still the biggest risk to investors even as it’s ‘least apparent’: Brown Brothers.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/05/with-inflation-dormant-investors-downplay-risks-to-the-economy.html. Accessed Aug. 6, 2017.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. Any references to reliable income generally refer to fixed insurance products, never securities or investment products. Annuities are insurance products that may be subject to fees, surrender charges and holding periods which vary by company. Annuities are not a deposit of nor are they insured by any bank, the FDIC, NCUA, or by any federal government agency. Annuities are designed for retirement or other long-term needs.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance and investment products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic financial planning strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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