What is the Yield Curve, and Why is the Financial Media Concerned About it?

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Why are investors and economists getting nervous about Treasury yields? Here is a brief explanation, starting with a clarification.

A yield curve is really an X-Y graph projecting expected rates of return for equivalent-quality bonds with different maturity dates.

But it is not just any yield curve that matters. When investors, commentators, and economists talk about “the yield curve,” they are talking about the graph plotting the interest rates of Treasuries: 3-month, 2-year, 5-year, 10-year, and 30-year notes. The “curve” is the line connecting their projected future yields. This Treasury yields snapshot is authoritatively referred to as: “the yield curve.” (1,2)

The yield curve normally slopes upward.

(Think “rise over run.”) In other words, the projected yields on the short-term Treasuries (at the left of the X-Y graph) are small compared to the projected returns on the 10-year and 30-year Treasuries. (2)

NORMAL YIELD CURVE

normalyieldcurve_r

When the economy is booming, the slope of the yield curve is often steep.

A thriving economy typically has significant inflation, and when investors see rising inflation, they assume the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates. That belief leaves them cold on longer-term bonds, so the prices of those bonds begin to fall, and their yields correspondingly rise. (2)

The yield curve usually flattens when the Fed tightens.

It has been flattening lately, and some economists wonder if it will invert. When the yield curve inverts, interest rates on short-term Treasuries exceed interest rates on longer-term Treasuries. (2,3)

Inverted yield curves are strongly correlated with recessions.

In fact, every recession America has experienced in the last 50 years has been preceded by an inverted yield curve. Three times in the 1950s, however, an inverted yield curve failed to presage a downturn. (2,3)

INVERTED YIELD CURVE

Invertedyieldcurve_r-1

Right now, the 10s-2s gap is being closely watched.

This is the difference between 10-year and 2-year Treasury yields. It has been steadily declining since December 2015 (when the Fed began tightening), and it narrowed to less than 0.5% this spring. (2)

Looking back over the last half-century, the 10s-2s gap has slimmed to less than 0.5% five other times, with an inversion of the yield curve – and a recession – following each time.

Those recessions took time to arrive, though. On average, they began nearly two years after the yield curve inverted. (2)

Wall Street analysts have noticed a relationship between bear markets and recessions – the former tends to herald the latter.

As some study the flattening yield curve, they not only see a recession risk, but an accompanying risk of a stock market downturn, as well. (2)

Could their fears be overblown?

As MarketWatch noted, the flattening yield curve has been promoted by pension funds buying up greater quantities of zero-coupon Treasuries. The Fed, too, may have affected things due to its quantitative easing and ongoing forward guidance. (4)

Is a flatter yield curve a new normal, as former Fed chair Janet Yellen argued in 2017?

She felt the latest gradual flattening was actually a product of a changing relationship between the yield curve and the business cycle. If that is correct, investors could worry a little less about the Fed’s determination to maintain its pace of rate hikes. (Its latest dot-plot projects four interest rate increases in 2018.) The New York Fed recently put the chance of a 2019 recession based on the slope of the yield curve at 11%; in comparison, the chance was 40% on the eve of the Great Recession. (3,5)

Sources

  1. investopedia.com/terms/y/yieldcurve.asp
  2. schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/eye-on-indicators-what-does-yield-curve-tell-us
  3. brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/04/16/the-hutchins-center-explains-the-yield-curve-what-it-is-and-why-it-matters/
  4. marketwatch.com/story/how-pension-funds-could-be-muddying-the-predictive-power-of-this-recession-indicator-2018-06-13
  5. bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-13/fed-raises-rates-officials-boost-outlook-to-four-hikes-in-2018

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Life Insurance 101: The Different Types of Life Insurance Policies Explained

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Whole life. Variable universal life. Term. What do these descriptions really mean?

All life insurance policies have two things in common.

They guarantee to pay a death benefit to a designated beneficiary after a policyholder dies (although, the guarantee may be waived if the death is a suicide occurring within two years of the policy purchase). All require recurring payments (premiums) to keep the policy in force. Beyond those basics, the differences begin. (1)

Some life insurance coverage is permanent, some not.

Permanent life insurance is designed to cover you for your entire life (not just a portion or “term” of it), and it can become an important element in your retirement planning. Whole life insurance is its most common form. (2)

Whole life policies accumulate cash value.

How does that happen? An insurer directs some of your premium payments into a reserve account and puts those dollars into investments (typically conservative ones). The return on the investments influences the growth of the cash value, which builds up according to a formula the insurer sets. (3)

A whole life policy’s cash value grows with taxes deferred.

After a while, you gain the ability to borrow against that cash value. You can even cancel the policy and receive a surrender value. Premiums on whole life policies, though, are usually higher than premiums on term life policies, and they may rise with time. Also, beneficiaries only receive a death benefit (not the policy’s cash value) when a whole life policyholder dies. (2,4)

Universal life insurance is whole life insurance with a key difference.

Universal life policies also build cash value with taxes deferred, but there is the chance to eventually pay the monthly premiums out of the policy’s investment portion. (5)

Month by month, some of your premium on a universal life policy gets credited to the cash reserve of the policy. Sooner or later, you may elect to pay premiums out of the cash reserve – so, the policy essentially begins to “pay for itself.” If all goes well, a universal life policy may have a lower net cost than a whole life policy. If the investments chosen by the insurer severely underperform, that can mean a dilemma: the cash reserve of your policy may dwindle and be insufficient to keep paying the premiums. That could mean cancellation of the policy. (5)

What about variable life (and variable universal life) policies?

Variable life policies are basically whole life or universal life policies with a riskier investment component. In VL and VUL policies, you may direct percentages of the cash reserve into investment sub-accounts managed by the insurer. Assets allocated to the sub-accounts may be put into equity investments of your choice as well as fixed-income investments. If you choose equity investments, you (and the insurer) assume greater risk in exchange for the possibility of greater reward. The performance of the subaccounts cannot be guaranteed. As an effect of this risk exposure, a VUL policy usually has a higher annual cost than a comparable UL policy. (6)

The performance of the stock market may heavily affect the performance of the subaccounts and the policy premiums.

A bull market may mean better growth for the policy’s cash value and lower premiums. A bear market may mean reduced cash value and higher monthly payments to keep the policy going. In the worst-case scenario, the cash value plummets, the insurer hikes the premiums in order to provide the guaranteed death benefit, the premiums become too expensive to pay, and the policy lapses. (6)

Term life insurance is life insurance that you provides coverage for a set period.

Term life provides coverage for usually 10-30 years. Should you die within that period, your beneficiary will get a death benefit. Typically, the premium payments and death benefit on a term policy are fixed from the start, and the premiums are much lower than those of permanent life policies. When the term of coverage ends, you may be offered the option to renew the coverage for another term or to convert the policy to a form of permanent life insurance. (2,7)

Which coverage is right for you?

Many factors may come into play when deciding which type of life insurance will suit your needs. The best thing to do is to speak with a qualified financial advisor who can help you examine these factors, so you can determine which type of coverage may be appropriate.

Sources

  1. thebalance.com/does-a-life-insurance-policy-cover-suicide-2645609
  2. fool.com/retirement/2017/07/20/term-vs-whole-life-insurance-which-is-best-for-y-2.aspx
  3. investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/082114/how-cash-value-builds-life-insurance-policy.asp
  4. insure.com/life-insurance/cash-value.html
  5. thebalance.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-universal-life-insurance-2645831
  6. insuranceandestates.com/top-10-pros-cons-variable-universal-life-insurance/
  7. consumerreports.org/life-insurance/how-to-choose-the-right-amount-of-life-insurance/

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

What an Investment Policy Statement is and Why You Should Have One

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An “Investment Policy Statement” is a document that forms the foundation for an investor’s portfolio.

A good IPS outlines your entire investment plan

An IPS includes the asset allocation, the asset management approach, and your objectives, time horizon, risk tolerance, expected return, liquidity requirements, income needs, and tax concerns.

If you are a value investor, a growth investor, or a conservative investor, your IPS defines a strategy to invest your assets among diverse asset classes in a way that suits your preferred investment style.

Think of your IPS as long-term GPS for your portfolio.

The goal is to set the asset allocation in a way that can potentially give you the highest possible rate of return corresponding to an acceptable level of risk.

Your IPS keeps you from getting “off track” when it comes to investing.

You and your advisor should keep an eye on your portfolio to see that your invested assets stay within the allocation boundaries set by your IPS. This is why regular reviews are so essential.

Periodically, your portfolio may need to be rebalanced.

Here’s why. As months go by, the ups and downs of the investment markets will throw your asset allocation slightly or dramatically out of whack. As an extremely simple example, let’s say you start out with 25% of your assets in U.S. large caps, 15% in U.S. mid caps, 15% in U.S. small caps, 20% in foreign shares and 25% in bonds. Suddenly, small cap stocks have a great quarter, and thanks to the great returns, you wind up with 21% of your assets invested in small caps and only 19% in bonds. Great, right?

No. What’s actually happened is that your risk has increased along with your return. A greater percentage of your assets are now held in the comparatively risky stock market, removed from the bond market. So while the short-term gains have been great, it’s time to rebalance according to the parameters set by your IPS so that you can help reduce your risk exposure.

Rebalancing in Tax-Deferred Accounts

For tax-deferred investment accounts, this is easily done: you simply transfer assets among accounts to restore the target allocations. Future contributions occur according the IPS parameters.

Rebalancing in Taxable Accounts

When it comes to taxable investment accounts, it is usually best to ramp up future contributions to the underweighted funds rather than sell portions of a fund and trigger taxes.

Maintaining Balance

As a balanced investor your IPS should be designed to help you invest in a consistent, appropriate way, a way that matches your preferred investment style. Without an IPS, you invite impulse, emotion and a short-term focus into the picture.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

What Women Need to Know Before Deciding to Retire: Challenges & Opportunities

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A practical financial checklist for the future.

When our parents retired, living to 75 amounted to a nice long life, and Social Security was often supplemented by a pension. The Social Security Administration estimates that today’s average 65-year-old female will live to age 86.6. Given these projections, it appears that a retirement of 20 years or longer might be in your future. (1,2)

Are you prepared for a 20-year retirement?

How about a 30- or 40-year retirement? Don’t laugh; it could happen. The SSA projects that about 25% of today’s 65-year-olds will live past 90, with approximately 10% living to be older than 95. (2)

How do you begin?

How do you draw retirement income off what you’ve saved – how might you create other income streams to complement Social Security? How do you try and protect your retirement savings and other financial assets?

Talking with a financial professional may give you some good ideas.

You want one who walks your walk, who understands the particular challenges that many women face in saving for retirement (time out of the workforce due to childcare or eldercare, maintaining financial equilibrium in the wake of divorce or death of a spouse).

As you have that conversation, you can focus on some of the must-haves.

Plan your investing.

If you are in your fifties, you have less time to make back any big investment losses than you once did. So, protecting what you have is a priority. At the same time, the possibility of a 15-, 20-, or even 30- or 40-year retirement will likely require a growing retirement fund.

Look at long-term care coverage.

While it is an extreme generalization to say that men die sudden deaths and women live longer; however, women do often have longer average life expectancies than men and can require weeks, months, or years of eldercare. Medicare is no substitute for LTC insurance; it only pays for 100 days of nursing home care and only if you get skilled care and enter a nursing home right after a hospital stay of 3 or more days. Long-term care coverage can provide a huge financial relief if and when the need for LTC arises. (1,3)

Claim Social Security benefits carefully.

If your career and health permit, delaying Social Security is a wise move for single women. If you wait until full retirement age to claim your benefits, you could receive 30-40% larger Social Security payments as a result. For every year you wait to claim Social Security, your monthly payments get about 8% larger. (4)

Above all, retire with a plan. Have a financial professional who sees retirement through your eyes help you define it on your terms, with a wealth management approach designed for the long term.

Sources

  1. cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db293.htm
  2. ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.htm
  3. medicare.gov/coverage/skilled-nursing-facility-care.html
  4. thestreet.com/retirement/how-to-avoid-going-broke-in-retirement-14551119

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

How to Make Sure “Lifestyle Creep” Doesn’t Ruin Your Financial Plan

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Sometimes more money can mean more problems.

“Lifestyle creep”

An unusual phrase describing an all-too-common problem: the more money people earn, the more money they tend to spend.

Frequently, the newly affluent are the most susceptible.

As people establish themselves as doctors and lawyers, executives, and successful entrepreneurs, they see living well as a reward. Outstanding education, home, and business loans may not alter this viewpoint. Lifestyle creep can happen to successful individuals of any age. How do you guard against it?

Keep one financial principle in mind: spend less than you make.

If you get a promotion, if your business takes off, if you make partner, the additional income you receive can go toward your retirement savings, your investment accounts, or your debts.

See a promotion, a bonus, or a raise as an opportunity to save more.

Do you have a household budget? Then the amount of saving that the extra income comfortably permits will be clear. Even if you do not closely track your expenses, you can probably still save (and invest) to a greater degree without imperiling your current lifestyle.

Avoid taking on new fixed expenses that may not lead to positive outcomes.

Shouldering a fixed mortgage payment as a condition of home ownership? Good potential outcome. Assuming an auto loan so you can drive a luxury SUV? Maybe not such a good idea. While the home may appreciate, the SUV will almost certainly not.

Resist the temptation to rent a fancier apartment or home.

Few things scream “lifestyle creep” like higher rent does. A pricier apartment may convey an impressive image to your friends and associates, but it will not make you wealthier.

Keep the big goals in mind and fight off distractions.

When you earn more, it is easy to act on your wants and buy things impulsively. Your typical day starts costing you more money.

To prevent this subtle, daily lifestyle creep, live your days the same way you always have – with the same kind of financial mindfulness. Watch out for new daily costs inspired by wants rather than needs.

Live well, but not extravagantly.

After years of law school or time toiling at start-ups, getting hired by the right firm and making that career leap can be exhilarating – but it should not be a gateway to runaway debt. According to the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances, the average American head of household aged 35-44 carries slightly more than $100,000 of non-housing debt. This is one area of life where you want to be below average. (1)

Sources

  1. time.com/money/5233033/average-debt-every-age/

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

What a Target-Date Retirement Mutual Fund Is and How to Use It Properly

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Are these low-maintenance investments vital to retirement planning, or overrated?

Do target-date funds represent smart choices, or just convenient ones?

These funds have become ubiquitous in employer-sponsored retirement plans and their popularity has soared in the past decade. According to Morningstar, net inflows into target-date funds tripled during 2007-13. Asset management analysts Cerulli Associates project that 63% of all 401(k) contributions will be directed into TDFs by 2018. (1,2)

Fans of target-date funds praise how they have simplified investing for retirement. Still, they have a central problem: their leading attribute may also be their biggest drawback.

How do TDFs work?

The idea behind a target-date fund is to make investing and saving for retirement as low-maintenance as possible. TDFs feature gradual, automatic adjustment of asset allocations in light of an expected retirement date, along with diversification across a wide range of asset classes. An investor can simply “set it and forget it” and make ongoing contributions to the fund with the confidence that its balance of equity and fixed-income investments will become more risk-averse as retirement nears.

In a sense, a TDF starts out as one style of fund for an investor and mutates into another. When he or she is young, it is an aggressive growth fund, with as much as 90% of the inflows assigned to equities. By the time the envisioned retirement date rolls around, the allocation to equities and fixed-income investments may be split closer to 50/50. (2)

With such long time horizons, TDFs are truly buy-and-hold investments.

That has definite appeal for people who lack the time or inclination to take a hands-on approach to retirement planning. TDFs also usually have low turnover, with some distributions taxed as long-term capital gains. (1)

Are pre-retirees relying too heavily on TDFs?

Putting retirement investing on “autopilot” can have a downside – and that may be worth an alarm or two, given Vanguard’s forecast that 58% of its retirement plan participants (and 80% of its new plan participants) will have all of their retirement plan assets in TDFs by 2018. So in noting the merits of TDFs, we must also look at their demerits. (2)

The asset allocation of a target-date fund is not exactly dynamic.

As it is geared to a time horizon rather than current market conditions, TDF investors may wince when a severe bear market arrives – it could be a case of “set it & regret it.” They will need the patience to ride such downturns out. If they sell, they defeat the purpose of owning their TDF in the first place.

Additionally, some investors are conservative well before they reach retirement age.

A fortysomething risk-averse investor might not like having a clear majority of his or her TDF assets held in equities.

An investor will not be able to perform any tax loss harvesting with assets invested in a TDF (that is, selling “losers” in a portfolio to offset gains made by “winners”) and if all of his or her retirement savings happen to be in the TDF, you have to pull money out of the TDF to put it in other types of investments that might generate tax savings. (1)

Fees can be high

Because most TDFs are funds of funds – that is, multiple mutual funds brought together into one giant one – it may mean two layers of fees. (2)

The glide path is very important.

All TDFs have a glide path, the glide path being the rate or pace at which the asset allocation changes from aggressive toward conservative. With some TDFs, the glide path ends at retirement and the asset allocation approaches 100% cash. With others, the fund keeps gliding past a retirement date with the result that the retiree maintains a foot in the equities market – potentially very useful in the face of longevity risk, or as it is popularly known, the risk of outliving your money. The glide path of the TDF should be agreeable to the investor. The problem is that an investor may agree with it more at age 40 than at age 60. (1)

Here is a sample equity glide path for Vanguard’s target date funds:

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 8.59.23 PM

One feature can make TDFs even more appealing.

In 2014, the IRS and the Treasury Department permitted TDFs held in 401(k) plans to add a lifetime income option. That let a TDF investor receive a pension-like income beginning at the fund’s target date. Companies sponsoring 401(k)s can even elect to make such TDFs the default plan investment; that is, employees who wanted to direct their money into other investment vehicles would have to inform their employers that they were opting out.

Younger retirement savers should take a look at TDFs.

If you are not enrolled in one already, you may want to weigh their pros and cons. While not exactly “the cure” for America’s retirement savings problem, they are deservedly popular.

Source

  1. money.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-smarter-mutual-fund-investor/2015/04/07/3-questions-to-ask-before-choosing-target-date-funds
  2. time.com/money/3616433/retirement-income-401k-new-solution/
  3. nextavenue.org/article/2015-02/target-date-funds-pros-and-cons
  4. https://www.vanguard.com/pdf/s167.pdf

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.