Posts By Scott Weiss, CFP®

How to Use a Bucket Strategy to Help Guard Against Market Volatility

 

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Image by TRIXIE BRADLEY from Pixabay

The Bucket Strategy can take two forms.

1. The Expenses Bucket Strategy:

With this approach, you segment your retirement expenses into three buckets:

  • Basic Living Expenses – food, rent, utilities, etc.
  • Discretionary Expenses – vacations, dining out, etc.
  • Legacy Expenses – assets for heirs and charities

This strategy pairs appropriate investments to each bucket. For instance, Social Security might be assigned to the Basic Living Expenses bucket. If this source of income falls short, you might consider whether a fixed annuity can help fill the gap. With this approach, you are attempting to match income sources to essential expenses. (1)

The guarantees of an annuity contract depend on the issuing company’s claims-paying ability. Annuities have contract limitations, fees, and charges, including account and administrative fees, underlying investment management fees, mortality and expense fees, and charges for optional benefits. Most annuities have surrender fees that are usually highest if you take out the money in the initial years of the annuity contact. Withdrawals and income payments are taxed as ordinary income. If a withdrawal is made prior to age 59½, a 10% federal income tax penalty may apply (unless an exception applies).

For the Discretionary Expenses bucket, you might consider investing in top-rated bonds and large-cap stocks that offer the potential for growth and have a long-term history of paying a steady dividend. The market value of a bond will fluctuate with changes in interest rates. As rates fall, the value of existing bonds typically drop. If an investor sells a bond before maturity, it may be worth more or less than the initial purchase price. By holding a bond to maturity an investor will receive the interest payments due, plus their original principal, barring default by the issuer. Investments seeking to achieve higher yields also involve a higher degree of risk. Keep in mind that the return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Dividends on common stock are not fixed and can be decreased or eliminated on short notice.

Finally, if you have assets you expect to pass on, you might position some of them in more aggressive investments, such as small-cap stocks and international equity. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation does not guarantee against investment loss.

International investments carry additional risks, which include differences in financial reporting standards, currency exchange rates, political risk unique to a specific country, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. These factors may result in greater share price volatility.

2. The Timeframe Bucket Strategy:

This approach creates buckets based on different timeframes and assigns investments to each. For example:

  • 1 to 5 Years: This bucket funds your near-term expenses. It may be filled with cash and cash alternatives, such as money market accounts. Money market funds are considered low-risk securities but they are not backed by any government institution, so it’s possible to lose money. Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund. Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.
  • 6 to 10 Years: This bucket is designed to help replenish the funds in the 1-to-5-Years bucket. Investments might include a diversified, intermediate, top-rated bond portfolio. Diversification is an approach to help manage investment risk. It does not eliminate the risk of loss if security prices decline.
  • 11 to 20 Years: This bucket may be filled with investments such as large-cap stocks, which offer the potential for growth.
  • 21 or More Years: This bucket might include longer-term investments, such as small-cap and international stocks.

Each bucket is set up to be replenished by the next longer-term bucket. This approach can offer flexibility to provide replenishment at more opportune times. For example, if stock prices move higher, you might consider replenishing the 6-to-10-Years bucket, even though it’s not quite time.

A bucket approach to pursue your income needs is not the only way to build an income strategy, but it’s one strategy to consider as you prepare for retirement.

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▲ Structuring a portfolio in retirement – the bucket strategy

Experiencing market volatility in retirement may result in some people pulling out of the market at the wrong time or not taking on the equity exposure they need to combat inflation. Leveraging mental accounting to encourage better behaviors–aligning a retirement portfolio in time-segmented buckets–may help people maintain a disciplined investment strategy through retirement with an appropriate level of equity exposure. The short-term bucket, invested in cash and cash equivalents, should cover one or more years of a household’s income gap in retirement–with the ideal number of years determined based on risk tolerance and market conditions over the near term. A ‘cushion’ amount should also be maintained to cover unexpected expenses. The intermediate-term bucket should have a growth component, with any current income generated through dividends or interest moved periodically to replenish the short-term bucket. The longer-term portfolio can be a long-term care reserve fund or positioned for legacy planning purposes, and pursue a more aggressive investment objective, based on the time horizon. (2)

Sources

  1. kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T037-C000-S002-how-to-implement-the-bucket-system-in-retirement.html
  2. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/insights/guide-to-retirement

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 Fixed-Income Can Help Protect Your Retirement Savings During Market Volatility

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When stocks soar, fixed-income investments have comparatively little allure.

Investors hungry for double-digit returns may regard them as bland, vanilla securities saddled with an opportunity cost, geared to risk-averse retirees who are “playing not to lose.”

An investment earning a consistent rate of return on a fixed schedule is not a negative. Fixed-income investments are something you may want as part of your portfolio, particularly when stocks fall.

Fixed-income investments have a steadiness that stocks lack.

Most are simple debt instruments: an investor transfers or pays money to a government or financial institution in exchange for a promise of recurring payments and eventual return of principal. (1)

Corporate and government bonds are popular fixed-income investments. U.S. Treasury bills, bonds, and notes, all backed by the federal government, pay interest based on the duration and nature of the security. States and municipalities also issue bonds to generate funds for infrastructure projects. Corporate bonds usually have 10-year or 20-year durations; the interest on them may exceed that of Treasuries and state and muni bonds, but the degree of risk is greater for the bondholder. Firms with subpar credit ratings issue bonds that are junk rated, offering a relatively higher return and higher risk. (1)

There are bond funds that also pay a set rate of return. Some of these funds trade like stocks and can be bought and sold during a trading day, not merely after the close. They typically contain a wide variety of both corporate and government bonds. (2)

Additionally, there are money market funds and money market accounts. They do differ. A money market fund is a managed investment fund made up of assorted fixed-income debt securities. A money market account is simply a high-yield bank account insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). (3)

Consider certificates of deposit as well. Banks create these debt securities to generate pools of capital to use for their business and personal loans. Some CDs have terms of less than a year; many are multiyear. Typically, the longer the commitment a CD investor makes, the greater the coupon (annual interest rate) on the CD. These investments are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. (1,3)

At some point, you might want less of your portfolio in equities. That realization might be prompted by a consideration of the markets or simply by where you are in life.

When the financial markets turn volatile, the last thing you want is to have all your investments moving in the same direction at the same time.

If your portfolio includes a balance of investments from different asset classes, some with little or no correlation to the stock market, then you may take less of a loss than someone whose portfolio is overloaded in equities.

The risk is, this “someone” could be you. Across a long bull market, the equity investments within your portfolio will usually outgain the non-equity investments. That can throw your original asset allocations out of whack and leave you mostly invested in stocks. If stocks plunge, the value of your portfolio can drop rapidly. (4)

The conventional wisdom is to lessen your equity position as you age. You may currently hold stocks across many sectors of the S&P 500, but that is not diversification. True diversification uses multiple asset classes – and conservative, fixed-income investments – to try to minimize risk.

Fixed-income investments may not always return as spectacularly as equity investments, but they are also less prone to spectacular losses. They are designed to provide some stability for an investor, and as you get older, stability becomes increasingly important.

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▲ Asset class returns

This chart shows the historical performance and volatility of different asset classes, as well as an annually rebalanced asset allocation portfolio. The asset allocation portfolio incorporates the various asset classes shown in the chart and highlights that balance and diversification can help reduce volatility and enhance returns. (5)

Sources

  1. thestreet.com/investing/fixed-income/what-is-fixed-income-investment-14758617
  2. investopedia.com/articles/investing/041615/pros-cons-bond-funds-vs-bond-etfs.asp
  3. thebalance.com/certificates-of-deposit-versus-money-markets-356054
  4. fool.com/investing/2018/01/29/heres-how-bull-markets-can-be-bad-for-your-portfol.aspx
  5. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/insights/guide-to-the-markets/viewer

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 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.

Why Portfolio Diversification Is Important During Volatile Markets

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A multiple asset class portfolio prevents having all your investment eggs in one basket.

Diversification Helps You Manage Risk

We all want a terrific ROI, but risk management matters just as much in investing, perhaps more. That is why diversification is so important. There are two great reasons to invest across a range of asset classes, even when some are clearly outperforming others.

REASON #1:

Potentially Capture Gains in Different Market Climates

If you allocate your invested assets across the breadth of asset classes, you will at least have some percentage of your portfolio assigned to the market’s best-performing sectors on any given trading day. If your portfolio is too heavily weighted in one asset class, or in one stock, its return is riding too heavily on its performance.

Your portfolio is like a garden. A good gardener will plant a variety of flowers to ensure something is always blooming. The gardener knows that some flowers eventually die off or may not grow well but if there is enough diversity the overall picture will still look good.

REASON #2:

Potentially Less Financial Pain if Stocks Decline

If you have a lot of money in growth stocks and aggressive growth funds (and some people do), what happens to your portfolio in a correction or a bear market? You’ve got a bunch of losers on your hands. Tax loss harvesting can ease the pain only so much.

Diversification gives your portfolio a kind of “buffer” against market volatility and drawdowns. Without it, your exposure to risk is magnified.

ADVICE:

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

Believe the cliché: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Wall Street is hardly uneventful and the behavior of the market sometimes leaves even seasoned analysts scratching their heads. We can’t predict how the market will perform; we can diversify to address the challenges presented by its ups and downs.

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▲ Asset class returns

This chart shows the historical performance and volatility of different asset classes, as well as an annually rebalanced asset allocation portfolio. The asset allocation portfolio incorporates the various asset classes shown in the chart and highlights that balance and diversification can help reduce volatility and enhance returns. (2)


Sources

  1. usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/perfi/retirement/story/2011-12-08/investment-diversification/51749298/1
  2. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/insights/guide-to-the-markets/viewer
  3. This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.

How to Value the Value of Working With a Financial Advisor

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Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

A good professional provides important guidance and insight through the years.

What kind of role can a financial professional play for an investor?

The answer: a very important one. While the value of such a relationship is hard to quantify, the intangible benefits may be significant and long-lasting.

There are certain investors who turn to a financial professional with one goal in mind: the “alpha” objective of beating the market, quarter after quarter. Even Wall Street money managers fail at that task – and they fail routinely.

At some point, these investors realize that their financial professional has no control over what happens in the market. They come to understand the real value of the relationship, which is about strategy, coaching, and understanding.

A good financial professional can help an investor interpret today’s financial climate, determine objectives, and assess progress toward those goals. Alone, an investor may be challenged to do any of this effectively. Moreover, an uncoached investor may make self-defeating decisions. Today’s steady stream of instant information can prompt emotional behavior and blunders.

No investor is infallible

Investors can feel that way during a great market year, when every decision seems to work out well. Overconfidence can set in, and the reality that the market has occasional bad years can be forgotten.

This is when irrational exuberance creeps in. A sudden Wall Street shock may lead an investor to sell low today, buy high tomorrow, and attempt to time the market.

Market timing may be a factor in the following divergence: according to investment research firm DALBAR, U.S. stocks gained 10% a year on average from 1988-2018, yet the average equity investor’s portfolio returned just 4.1% annually in that period. (1)

A good financial professional helps an investor commit to staying on track

Through subtle or overt coaching, the investor learns to take short-term ups and downs in stride and focus on the long term. A strategy is put in place, based on a defined investment policy and target asset allocations with an eye on major financial goals. The client’s best interest is paramount.

As the investor-professional relationship unfolds, the investor begins to notice the intangible ways the professional provides value. Insight and knowledge inform investment selection and portfolio construction. The professional explains the subtleties of investment classes and how potential risk often relates to potential reward.

Perhaps most importantly, the professional helps the client get past the “noise” and “buzz” of the financial markets to see what is really important to his or her financial life.

The investor gains a new level of understanding, a context for all the investing and saving. The effort to build wealth and retire well is not merely focused on “success,” but also on significance.

This is the value a financial professional brings to the table. You cannot quantify it in dollar terms, but you can certainly appreciate it over time.MI-GTM_3Q19_August_High-Res-64

▲ Diversification and the average investor

The top chart shows the powerful effects of portfolio diversification. It illustrates the difference in movements between the S&P 500, a 60/40 portfolio and a 40/60 portfolio indicating when each respective portfolio would have recovered its original value at the peak of the market in 2007 from the market bottom in 2009. It shows that the S&P 500 fell far more than either of the two diversified portfolio and also took two or more years longer to recover its value. The bottom chart shows 20-year annualized returns by asset class, as well as how an “average investor” would have fared. The average investor asset allocation return is based on an analysis by Dalbar, which utilizes the net of aggregate mutual fund sales, redemptions and exchanges each month as a measure of investor behavior.

Sources

  1. cnbc.com/2019/07/31/youre-making-big-financial-mistakes-and-its-your-brains-fault.html
  2. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/adv/insights/guide-to-the-markets/viewer

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.

8 Common Retirement Planning Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

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Pursuing your retirement dreams is challenging enough without making some common, and very avoidable, mistakes. Here are eight big mistakes to steer clear of, if possible.

1) No Strategy

Yes, the biggest mistake is having no strategy at all. Without a strategy, you may have no goals, leaving you no way of knowing how you’ll get there – and if you’ve even arrived. Creating a strategy may increase your potential for success, both before and after retirement.

2) Frequent Trading

Chasing “hot” investments often leads to despair. Create an asset allocation strategy that is properly diversified to reflect your objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon; then, make adjustments based on changes in your personal situation, not due to market ups and downs. (The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset allocation and diversification are approaches to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation and diversification do not guarantee against investment loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.)

3) Not Maximizing Tax-Deferred Savings

Workers have tax-advantaged ways to save for retirement. Not participating in your workplace retirement plan may be a mistake, especially when you’re passing up free money in the form of employer-matching contributions. (Distributions from most employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Generally, once you reach age 70½, you must begin taking required minimum distributions.)

4) Prioritizing College Funding over Retirement

Your kids’ college education is important, but you may not want to sacrifice your retirement for it. Remember, you can get loans and grants for college, but you can’t for your retirement.

5) Overlooking Health Care Costs

Extended care may be an expense that can undermine your financial strategy for retirement if you don’t prepare for it.

6) Not Adjusting Your Investment Approach Well Before Retirement

The last thing your retirement portfolio can afford is a sharp fall in stock prices and a sustained bear market at the moment you’re ready to stop working. Consider adjusting your asset allocation in advance of tapping your savings so you’re not selling stocks when prices are depressed. (The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Asset allocation is an approach to help manage investment risk. Asset allocation does not guarantee against investment loss. Past performance does not guarantee future results.)

7) Retiring with Too Much Debt

If too much debt is bad when you’re making money, it can be especially harmful when you’re living in retirement. Consider managing or reducing your debt level before you retire.

8) It’s Not Only About Money

Above all, a rewarding retirement requires good health. So, maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, stay socially involved, and remain intellectually active.

Sources

  1. theweek.com/articles/818267/good-bad-401k-rollovers

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.

New Rules Allow for Longer 401(k) Loan Repayment After Leaving Your Job

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Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

The conventional wisdom about taking a loan from your 401(k) plan is often boiled down to: not unless absolutely necessary. That said, it isn’t always avoidable for everyone or in every situation. In a true emergency, if you had no alternative, the rules do allow for a loan, but they also require a fast repayment if your employment were to end. Recent changes have changed that deadline, offering some flexibility to those taking the loan. (Distributions from 401(k) plans and most other employer-sponsored retirement plans are taxed as ordinary income, and if taken before age 59½, may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty. Generally, once you reach age 70½, you must begin taking required minimum distributions.)

The new rules.

Time was, the requirement for repaying a loan taken from your 401(k)-retirement account after leaving a job was 60 days or else pay the piper when you file your income taxes. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed that rule – now, the penalty only applies when you file taxes in the year that you leave your job. This also factors in extensions.

So, as an example: if you were to end your employment today, the due date to repay the loan would be the tax filing deadline, which is April 15 most years or October 15 if you file an extension. (1)

What hasn’t changed?

Most of what transpires after a 401(k) loan still applies. Your repayment plan involves a deduction from your paycheck over a period of five years. The exception would be if you are using the loan to make a down payment on your primary residence, in which case you may have much longer to repay, provided that you are still with the same employer. (1)

You aren’t just repaying the amount you borrow, but also the interest on the loan. Depending on the plan, you’re likely to see a prime interest rate, plus 1%. (1)

If you do take the loan, a good practice may be to continue making contributions to your 401(k) account, even as you repay the loan. Why? First, to continue building your savings. Second, to continue to take advantage of any employer matching that your workplace might offer. While taking the loan may hamper your ability to build potential gains toward your retirement, you can still take advantage of the account, and that employee match is a great opportunity.

Source

  1. kiplinger.com/article/taxes/T001-C001-S003-ex-workers-get-more-time-to-repay-401-k-loans.html 

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.

The SECURE Act: What it is and How it Might Affect Your Retirement Plan

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The SECURE Act and Traditional IRA Changes

If you follow national news, you may have heard of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act. Although the SECURE Act has yet to clear the Senate, it saw broad, bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and could make IRAs a more attractive component of your retirement strategy. However, it also changes the withdrawal rules on inherited “stretch IRAs,” which may impact retirement and estate strategies, nationwide. Let’s dive in and take a closer look. (1)

Secure Act Consequences.

Currently, those older than 70 ½ must take withdrawals and can no longer contribute to their traditional IRA. This differs from a Roth IRA, which allows contributions at any age, as long as your income is below a certain level: less than $122,000 for single filing households and less than $193,000 for those who are married and jointly file. This can make saving especially difficult for an older worker. However, if the SECURE Act passes the Senate and is signed into law, that cutoff will vanish, allowing workers of any age to continue making contributions to traditional IRAs. (2)

The age at which you must take your Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) would also change. Currently, if you have a traditional IRA, you must start taking the RMD when you reach age 70 ½. Under the new law, you wouldn’t need to start taking the RMD until age 72, increasing the potential to further grow your retirement vehicle. (3)

As it stands now, non-spouse beneficiaries of IRAs and retirement plans are required to withdraw the funds from its IRA, tax-sheltered status, but can do so by “stretching” the disbursements over time, even over their entire lifetime. The SECURE Act changes this and makes the use of “stretch” IRAs unlikely. Under the new law, if you leave a Traditional IRA or retirement plan to a beneficiary other than your spouse, they can defer withdrawals (and taxes) for up to 10 years max. (4)

What’s next?

Currently, the SECURE Act has reached the Senate, where it failed to pass by unanimous consent. This means it could move into committee for debate or it could end up attached to the next budget bill, as a way to circumvent further delays. Regardless, if the SECURE Act becomes law, it could change retirement goals for many, making this a great time to talk to a financial professional.

Sources

  1. financial-planning.com/articles/house-votes-to-ease-rules-for-rias-correct-trump-tax-law
  2. irs.gov/retirement-plans/amount-of-roth-ira-contributions-that-you-can-make-for-2019 
  3. congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1994
  4. law.com/newyorklawjournal/2019/04/05/what-to-know-about-the-2-big-retirement-bills-in-congress/

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 the Sequence of Portfolio Returns Could Impact Your Retirement

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A look at how variable rates of return do (and do not) impact investors over time.

What exactly is the “sequence of returns”?

The phrase simply describes the yearly variation in an investment portfolio’s rate of return. Across 20 or 30 years of saving and investing for the future, what kind of impact do these deviations from the average return have on a portfolio’s final value?

The answer: no impact at all.

Once an investor retires, however, these ups and downs can have a major effect on portfolio value – and retirement income.

During the accumulation phase, the sequence of returns is ultimately inconsequential.

Yearly returns may vary greatly or minimally; in the end, the variance from the mean hardly matters. (Think of “the end” as the moment the investor retires: the time when the emphasis on accumulating assets gives way to the need to withdraw assets.)

An analysis from BlackRock bears this out. The asset manager compares three model investing scenarios: three investors start portfolios with lump sums of $1 million, and each of the three portfolios averages a 7% annual return across 25 years. In two of these scenarios, annual returns vary from -7% to +22%. In the third scenario, the return is simply 7% every year. In all three scenarios, each investor accumulates $5,434,372 after 25 years – because the average annual return is 7% in each case. (1)

Here is another way to look at it.

The average annual return of your portfolio is dynamic; it changes, year-to-year. You have no idea what the average annual return of your portfolio will be when “it is all said and done,” just like a baseball player has no idea what his lifetime batting average will be four seasons into a 13-year playing career. As you save and invest, the sequence of annual portfolio returns influences your average yearly return, but the deviations from the mean will not impact the portfolio’s final value. It will be what it will be. (1)

When you shift from asset accumulation to asset distribution, the story changes.

You must try to protect your invested assets against sequence of returns risk.

This is the risk of your retirement coinciding with a bear market (or something close).

Even if your portfolio performs well across the duration of your retirement, a bad year or two at the beginning could heighten concerns about outliving your money.

For a classic illustration of the damage done by sequence of returns risk, consider the awful 2007-2009 bear market. Picture a couple at the start of 2008 with a $1 million portfolio, held 60% in equities and 40% in fixed-income investments. They arrange to retire at the end of the year. This will prove a costly decision. The bond market (in shorthand, the S&P U.S. Aggregate Bond Index) gains 5.7% in 2008, but the stock market (in shorthand, the S&P 500) dives 37.0%. As a result, their $1 million portfolio declines to $800,800 in just one year. (2)

If you are about to retire, do not dismiss this risk.

If you are far from retirement, keep saving and investing knowing that the sequence of returns will have its greatest implications as you make your retirement transition.

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▲ Sequence of return risk – saving for and spending in retirement

Poor returns have the biggest impact on outcomes when wealth is greatest. Using the three sequence of return scenarios – Great start/bad end in blue, steadily average in grey and bad start/great end in green – this chart shows outcomes assuming someone is saving for retirement in the top chart and spending in retirement in the bottom chart.

  • The top chart assumes that someone starts with $0 and begins saving $10,000 per year. In the early years of saving, the return experience makes very little difference across sequence of return scenarios. The most powerful impact to the portfolio’s value is the savings behavior. However, the sequence of return experienced at the end of the savings timeframe when wealth is greatest produces very different outcomes.
  • The bottom chart shows the impact of withdrawals from a portfolio to fund a retirement lifestyle. If returns are poor early in retirement, the portfolio is what we call ‘ravaged’ because more shares are sold at lower prices thereby exacerbating the poor returns that the portfolio is experiencing. This results in the portfolio being depleted in 23 years – or 7 years before the 30 year planning horizon. If, instead, a great start occurs the beginning of retirement and the same spending is assumed, the portfolio value is estimated to be $1.7M after 30 years.

The key takeaway to understand is how important it is to have the right level of risk prior to as well as just after retirement because that is when you may have the most wealth at risk. You should consider to mitigate sequence of return risk through diversification, investments that use options strategies for defensive purposes or annuities that offer principal protection or protected income.

Sources

  1. blackrock.com/pt/literature/investor-education/sequence-of-returns-one-pager-va-us.pdf
  2. kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C032-S014-is-your-retirement-income-in-peril-of-this-risk.html
  3. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/insights/guide-to-retirement

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.

Don’t Let Emotions Influence Your Investment Decisions

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Are your choices based on evidence or emotion?

Information vs. instinct.

When it comes to investing, many people believe they have a “knack” for choosing good investments. But what exactly is that “knack” based on? The fact is, the choices we make with our assets can be strongly influenced by factors, many of them emotional, that we may not even be aware of.

Deal du jour.

You’ve heard the whispers, the “next greatest thing” is out there, and you can get on board, but only if you hurry. Sound familiar? The prospect of being on the ground floor of the next big thing can be thrilling. But while there really are great new opportunities out there once in a while, those “hot new investments” can often go south quickly. Jumping on board without all the information can be a bit like gambling in Vegas: the payoff could be huge, but so could the loss. A shrewd investor will turn away from spur-of-the-moment trends and seek out solid, proven investments with consistent returns.

Risky business.

Many people claim not to be risk-takers, but that isn’t always the case. Most proficient investors aren’t reluctant to take a risk, they’re reluctant to accept a loss. Yes, there’s a difference. The first step is to establish what constitutes an acceptable risk by determining what you’re willing to lose. The second step is to always bear in mind the final outcome. If taking a risk could help you retire five years sooner, would you take it? What if the loss involved working an extra ten years before retiring; is it still a good risk? By weighing both the potential gain and the potential loss, while keeping your final goals in mind, you can more wisely assess what constitutes an acceptable risk.

You can’t always know what’s coming.

Some investors attempt to predict the future based on the past. As we all know, just because a stock rose yesterday, that doesn’t mean it will rise again today. We know this, but often we “shrug off” this knowledge in favor of hunches. Instead of stock picking, you can exercise a little caution and seek out investments with the potential for consistent returns.

The gut-driven investor.

Some investors tend to pull out of investments the moment they lose money, then invest again once they feel “driven” to do so. While they may do some research, they are ultimately acting on impulse. This method of investing may result in huge losses.

Eliminating emotion.

Many investors “stir up” their investments when major events happen, including births, marriages, or deaths. They seem to get a renewed interest in their stocks and/or begin to second-guess the effectiveness of their long-term plans. It’s a case of action-reaction: they invest in response to short-term needs instead of their long-term financial goals. The more often this happens, the more incoherent their so-called “financial strategy” becomes. If the financial changes they make are really dramatic, it can lead to catastrophe. Many times, there is no need to fix what isn’t broken or turn away from what they’ve done right. By enlisting the assistance of a qualified financial professional (and relying on their skill and expertise), you can be sure that investment decisions are based on facts and made to suit your long-term objectives rather than your personal, changing emotions or short-term needs.

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.

Should You Take Your Pension as a Lump Sum or Monthly Lifetime Payments?

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Corporations are transferring pension liabilities to third parties. Where does this leave retirees?

A new term has made its way into today’s financial jargon: de-risking.

Anyone with assets in an old-school pension plan should know what it signifies.

De-risking is when a large employer hands over its established pension liabilities to a third party (typically, a major insurer). By doing this, the employer takes a sizable financial obligation off its hands. Companies that opt for de-risking usually ask pension plan participants if they want their pension money all at once rather than incrementally in an ongoing income stream.

The de-risking trend began in 2012.

In that year, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors gave their retirees and ex-employees a new option: they could take their pensions as lump sums rather than periodic payments. Other corporations took notice of this and began offering their pension plan participants the same choice. (1)

Three years later, the Department of the Treasury released guidance effectively prohibiting lump-sum offers to retirees already getting their pensions; lump-sum offers were still allowed for employees about to retire. In March 2019, though, the Department of the Treasury reversed course and issued a notice that permitted these offers to retirees again. (1)

So, whether you formerly worked or currently work for a company offering a pension plan, a lump-sum-versus-periodic-payments choice might be ahead for you.

This will not be an easy decision.

You will need to look at many variables first. Whatever choice you make will likely be irrevocable. (2)

What is the case for rejecting a lump-sum offer?

It can be expressed in three words: lifetime income stream. Do you really want to turn down scheduled pension payments that could go on for decades? You could certainly plan to create an income stream from the lump sum you receive, but if you are already in line for one, you may not want to make the extra effort.

You could spend 20, 30, or even 40 years in retirement. An income stream intended to last as long as you do sounds pretty nice, right? If you are risk averse and healthy, turning down decades of consistent income may have little appeal – especially, if you are single or your spouse or partner has little in the way of assets.

Also, maybe you just like the way things are going. You may not want the responsibility that goes with reinvesting a huge sum of money.

What is the case for taking a lump sum?

One line of reasoning has to do with time. If you are retiring with serious health issues, for example, you may want to claim more of your pension dollars now rather than later.

Or, it may be a matter of timing. If you need to boost your retirement savings, a lump sum may give you an immediate opportunity to do so.

Maybe you would like to invest your pension money now, so it can potentially grow and compound for more years before being distributed. (As a reminder, pension payments are seldom adjusted for inflation.) Maybe your spouse gets significant pension income, or you are so affluent that pension income would be nice, but not necessary; if so, perhaps you want a lump-sum payout to help you pursue a financial goal. Maybe you think a pension income stream would put you in a higher tax bracket. (2)

If you take a lump sum, ideally, you take it in a way that minimizes your tax exposure. Suppose your employer just writes you a check for the amount of the lump sum (minus any amount withheld), and you direct that money into a taxable account. If you do that, you will owe income tax on the entire amount. Alternately, you could have the lump sum transferred into a tax-advantaged investment account, such as an IRA. That would give those invested assets the potential to grow, with income taxes deferred until withdrawals are made. (2)

Consult a financial professional about your options.

If you sense you should take the lump sum, a professional may be able to help you manage the money in recognition of your financial objectives, your risk tolerance, and your estate and income taxes.

Sources

  1. cnn.com/2019/03/20/economy/lump-sum-pensions-retirement/index.html
  2. fool.com/retirement/2018/06/18/lump-sum-or-annuity-how-to-make-the-right-pension.aspx

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.