Investing

End-of-Year Money Moves for 2019

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Here are some things you might consider before saying goodbye to 2019.

What has changed for you in 2019?

Did you start a new job or leave a job behind? Did you retire? Did you start a family? If notable changes occurred in your personal or professional life, then you will want to review your finances before this year ends and 2020 begins.

Even if your 2019 has been relatively uneventful, the end of the year is still a good time to get cracking and see where you can manage your take bill and/or build a little more wealth.

Keep in mind this article is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for real-life advice. Please consult your tax, legal, and accounting professionals before modifying your tax strategy.

Do you practice tax-loss harvesting?

That is the art of taking capital losses (selling securities worth less than what you first paid for them) to offset your short-term capital gains. You might want to consider this move, which may lower your taxable income. It should be made with the guidance of a financial professional you trust. (1)

In fact, you could even take it a step further. Consider that up to $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains can be deducted from ordinary income, and any remaining capital losses above that can be carried forward to offset capital gains in upcoming years. When you live in a high-tax state, this is one way to defer tax. (1)

Do you want to itemize deductions?

You may just want to take the standard deduction for 2019, which has ballooned to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint filers because of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. If you do think it might be better for you to itemize, now would be a good time to get receipts and assorted paperwork together. While many miscellaneous deductions have disappeared, some key deductions are still around: the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, now capped at $10,000; the mortgage interest deduction; the deduction for charitable contributions, which now has a higher limit of 60% of adjusted gross income; and the medical expense deduction. (2,3)

Could you ramp up 401(k) or 403(b) contributions?

Contribution to these retirement plans may lower your yearly gross income. If you lower your gross income enough, you might be able to qualify for other tax credits or breaks available to those under certain income limits. Note that contributions to Roth 401(k)s and Roth 403(b)s are made with after-tax rather than pretax dollars, so contributions to those accounts are not deductible and will not lower your taxable income for the year. (4,5)

Are you thinking of gifting?

How about donating to a qualified charity or nonprofit organization before 2019 ends? Your gift may qualify as a tax deduction. You must itemize deductions using Schedule A to claim a deduction for a charitable gift. (4,5)

While we’re on the topic of estate strategy, why not take a moment to review your beneficiary designations? If you haven’t reviewed them for a decade or more (which is all too common), double-check to see that these assets will go where you want them to go, should you pass away. Lastly, look at your will to see that it remains valid and up to date.

Can you take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit?

The AOTC allows individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less (and joint filers with MAGI of $160,000 or less) a chance to claim a credit of up to $2,500 for qualified college expenses. Phaseouts kick in above those MAGI levels. (6)

See that you have withheld the right amount.

If you discover that you have withheld too little on your W-4 form so far, you may need to adjust your withholding before the year ends.

What can you do before ringing in the New Year?

Talk with a financial or tax professional now rather than in February or March. Little year-end moves might help you improve your short-term and long-term financial situation.

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▲ A closer look at tax rates – 2019

At-a-glance individual federal income tax guide for 2019. (7)

Sources

  1. investopedia.com/articles/taxes/08/tax-loss-harvesting.asp
  2. nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/itemize-take-standard-deduction/
  3. investopedia.com/articles/retirement/06/addroths.asp
  4. investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/041315/tips-charitable-contributions-limits-and-taxes.asp
  5. marketwatch.com/story/how-the-new-tax-law-creates-a-perfect-storm-for-roth-ira-conversions-2018-03-26
  6. irs.gov/newsroom/american-opportunity-tax-credit-questions-and-answers
  7. 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.

Why Diversification, Patience, and Consistency are Important When Investing

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Regardless of how the markets may perform, consider making the following part of your investment philosophy:

Diversification

The saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has real value when it comes to investing. In a bear or bull market, certain asset classes may perform better than others. If your assets are mostly held in one kind of investment (say, mostly in mutual funds or mostly in CDs or money market accounts), you could be hit hard by stock market losses, or alternately, lose out on potential gains that other kinds of investments may be experiencing. There is an opportunity cost as well as risk.(1)

Asset allocation strategies are used in portfolio management. A financial professional can ask you about your goals, tolerance for risk, and assign percentages of your assets to different classes of investments. This diversification is designed to suit your preferred investment style and your objectives.

Patience

Impatient investors obsess on the day-to-day doings of the stock market. Have you ever heard of “stock picking” or “market timing”? How about “day trading”? These are all attempts to exploit short-term fluctuations in value. These investing methods might seem fun and exciting if you like to micromanage, but they could add stress and anxiety to your life, and they may be a poor alternative to a long-range investment strategy built around your life goals.

Consistency

Most people invest a little at a time, within their budget, and with regularity. They invest $50 or $100 or more per month in their 401(k) and similar investments through payroll deduction or automatic withdrawal. They are investing on “autopilot” to help themselves build wealth for retirement and for long-range goals. Investing regularly (and earlier in life) helps you to take advantage of the power of compounding as well.

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▲ Time, diversification and the volatility of returns

This chart shows historical returns by holding period for stocks, bonds and a 50/50 portfolio, rebalanced annually, over different time horizons. The bars show the highest and lowest return that you could have gotten during each of the time periods (1-year, 5-year rolling, 10-year rolling and 20-year rolling). This chart advocates for a simple balanced portfolio, as well as for having an appropriate time horizon. (2)

Sources

  1. forbes.com/sites/brettsteenbarger/2019/05/27/why-diversification-works-in-life-and-markets
  2. 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 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.

Why You Shouldn’t Take a Loan From Your Retirement Plan

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Thinking about borrowing money from your 401(k), 403(b), or 457 account?

Think twice about that because these loans are not only risky, but injurious, to your retirement planning.

A loan of this kind damages your retirement savings prospects.

A 401(k), 403(b), or 457 should never be viewed like a savings or checking account. When you withdraw from a bank account, you pull out cash. When you take a loan from your workplace retirement plan, you sell shares of your investments to generate cash. You buy back investment shares as you repay the loan. (1)

In borrowing from a 401(k), 403(b), or 457, you siphon down invested retirement assets, leaving a smaller account balance that experiences a smaller degree of compounding. In repaying the loan, you will likely repurchase investment shares at higher prices than in the past – in other words, you will be buying high. None of this makes financial sense.(1)

Most plan providers charge an origination fee for a loan (it can be in the neighborhood of $100), and of course, they charge interest. While you will repay interest and the principal as you repay the loan, that interest still represents money that could have remained in the account and remained invested.1,2

As you strive to repay the loan amount, there may be a financial side effect. You may end up reducing or suspending your regular per-paycheck contributions to the plan. Some plans may even bar you from making plan contributions for several months after the loan is taken. (3,4)

Your take-home pay may be docked.

Most loans from 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans are repaid incrementally – the plan subtracts X dollars from your paycheck, month after month, until the amount borrowed is fully restored. (1)

If you leave your job, you will have to pay 100% of your 401(k) loan back.

This applies if you quit; it applies if you are laid off or fired. Formerly, you had a maximum of 60 days to repay a workplace retirement plan loan. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 changed that for loans originated in 2018 and years forward. You now have until October of the year following the year you leave your job to repay the loan (the deadline is the due date of your federal taxes plus a 6-month extension, which usually means October 15). You also have a choice: you can either restore the funds to your workplace retirement plan or transfer them to either an IRA or a workplace retirement plan elsewhere.(2)

If you are younger than age 59½ and fail to pay the full amount of the loan back, the I.R.S. will characterize any amount not repaid as a premature distribution from a retirement plan – taxable income that is also subject to an early withdrawal penalty. (3)

Even if you have great job security, the loan will probably have to be repaid in full within five years.

Most workplace retirement plans set such terms. If the terms are not met, then the unpaid balance becomes a taxable distribution with possible penalties (assuming you are younger than 59½.(1)

Would you like to be taxed twice?

When you borrow from an employee retirement plan, you invite that prospect. You will be repaying your loan with after-tax dollars, and those dollars will be taxed again when you make a qualified withdrawal of them in the future (unless your plan offers you a Roth option). (3,4)

Why go into debt to pay off debt?

If you borrow from your retirement plan, you will be assuming one debt to pay off another. It is better to go to a reputable lender for a personal loan; borrowing cash has fewer potential drawbacks.

You should never confuse your retirement plan with a bank account.

Some employees seem to do just that. Fidelity Investments says that 20.8% of its 401(k) plan participants have outstanding loans in 2018. In taking their loans, they are opening the door to the possibility of having less money saved when they retire. (4)

Why risk that? Look elsewhere for money in a crisis. Borrow from your employer-sponsored retirement plan only as a last resort.

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▲The toxic effect of loans and withdrawals

The top chart shows that employees who took loans and a withdrawal from their account may end up with significantly lower balances in the end. The bottom chart shows that the employee did not get the benefit of contributions and company match when paying back their loans. To avoid this scenario, stress the importance of an emergency reserve and savings for other goals outside of the retirement account. If the employee must borrow, if they keep contributing while paying back the loan that may mitigate the negative impact of the loan.

Sources

  1. gobankingrates.com/retirement/401k/borrowing-401k/
  2. forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2018/01/16/new-tax-law-liberalizes-401k-loan-repayment-rules/
  3. cbsnews.com/news/when-is-it-ok-to-withdraw-or-borrow-from-your-retirement-savings/
  4. cnbc.com/2018/06/26/the-lure-of-a-401k-loan-could-mask-its-risks.html
  5. 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 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 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

person holding pink piggy coin bank

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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

brown eggs in brown wicker basket

Photo by Julian Schwarzenbach on Pexels.com

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.

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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Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

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.

What’s the Difference Between a Mutual Fund and an ETF?

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An investment company creates a new company, into which it moves a block of shares to pursue a specific investment objective. For example, an investment company may move a block of shares to track performance of the Standard & Poor’s 500. The investment company then sells shares in this new company. ETFs trade like stocks and are listed on stock exchanges and sold by broker-dealers.

Mutual Funds

Mutual funds, on the other hand, are not listed on stock exchanges and can be bought and sold through a variety of other channels — including financial advisors, brokerage firms, and directly from fund companies.

The price of an ETF is determined continuously throughout the day.

It fluctuates based on investor interest in the security, and may trade at a “premium” or a “discount” to the underlying assets that comprise the ETF. Most mutual funds are priced at the end of the trading day. So, no matter when you buy a share during the trading day, its price will be determined when most U.S. stock exchanges typically close.

Tax Differences.

There are tax differences as well. Since most mutual funds are allowed to trade securities, the fund may incur a capital gain or loss and generate dividend or interest income for its shareholders. With an ETF, you may only owe taxes on any capital gains when you sell the security. (An ETF also may distribute a capital gain if the makeup of the underlying assets is adjusted.)

Determining whether an ETF or a mutual fund is appropriate for your portfolio may require an in-depth knowledge of how both investments operate. In fact, you may benefit from including both investment tools in your portfolio.

Amounts in mutual funds and ETFs are subject to fluctuation in value and market risk. Shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

At a glance.

Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds have similarities — and many differences. The lists below give a quick rundown.

Mutual funds:

  • Bought and sold through many channels
  • Not listed on stock exchanges.
  • Priced to the end of the trading day.
  • Capital gains within the funds distributed to shareholders.
  • Dividends may be automatically reinvested.

Exchange-traded funds:

  • Bought and sold through broker-dealers.
  • Listed on stock exchanges.
  • Price continuously determined during the trading day.
  • Capital gains within the ETF reinvested, and the ETF may distribute a capital gain if the make-up of the underlying assets is adjusted.
  • Dividends generally distributed to brokerage account.

Source

  1. ici.org/pdf/2018_factbook.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.

Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are sold only 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.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Composite Index is an unmanaged index that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. Index performance is not indicative of the past performance of a particular investment. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Individuals cannot invest directly in an index.