Investing

A Smart Investor’s Antidote to Corona Virus Fears: Diversified Asset Allocation

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Financial markets have been especially hard-hit, with reports of new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases appearing in South Korea, Italy, and Iran. The uncertainty over transmission and fears of a global pandemic—and resulting slowdown in economic/financial activity—has led to the sharp negative response in risk markets.

Of course, there is still much about the medical side of this that is unknown, related to level of contagion, transmission mechanisms, incubation periods, and development of a vaccine. Commentary on these issues would only speculation at this point. Financial markets, as we have said many times, can adapt when conditions are certain (even if the news is terrible, prices will sharply discount themselves accordingly). However, higher levels of uncertainty create a wider path of probabilistic outcomes, which make it more difficult to pinpoint what various assets are worth at a single moment. This process of market price discovery is important, and can be thrown off-track temporarily by events like this.

As seen in the chart below, equity market indexes have typically experienced an average of a half-dozen to a dozen or more days per year when prices rise or fall by at least +/- 2%. But, we haven’t experienced such a day since last August, and the last several years have been far less volatile than average. So, we’ve likely become far more sensitive to ‘normal’ market volatility. As in the past, these uncertainties have tended to pass, problems are solved, the current worry moves on to a new one (as global trade fears have moved to this), and human conditions generally improve over time. This results in economic growth, rather than decline, and also explains why risk assets like equities have tended to win more than lose over history.

In the near term, how unpleasant this hiccup becomes is yet to be determined, and perhaps we’ll have to endure more down days. In a global environment already suffering from slower growth and looking for catalysts for improvement, the timing of a one-off event like a virus is far from optimal. China has already been impacted through quarantines, and by store/factory closures that have a direct impact on shutting down economic activity. If this spreads further, other regions could also be similarly affected. But, at some point, normal business and consumer activity will resume.

The best course, as we believe is always the case, is an adequately diversified asset allocation.

It’s an important reminder, that while segments such as bonds do not look exciting from a forward-looking return perspective, especially considering the high correlation between starting bond yields (currently low) and forward-looking multi-year total returns, these prove their worth during times of crisis. Over time, periodic equity ‘resets’ also help keep equity valuations in check, potentially preventing excess exuberance that could eventually result in worse outcomes down the road if the most optimistic predictions prove unsustainable. A skeptical market is likely a healthier one.

Corona Virus Fears Hit the Market

Financial markets have fallen sharply on concerns of the coronavirus, a respiratory illness first identified in Wuhan, China, spreading globally. While the headlines have been worrying, and no loss of human life is insignificant, it is important to understand the facts. The framework we have adopted for discussing this virus is to consider the three components of a pandemic—contagion, severity and treatment—and how the evolution of those components can shift the market narrative.

The Three Components of a Pandemic:

1. CONTAGION

As of January 30, there are approximately 9,776 confirmed cases. While China is the epicenter of the virus, there have been 118 confirmed cases outside of China in 22 different countries and regions. As a point of comparison, the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003 lasted about 9 months, from November 2002 to July 2003, with cases spanning 29 countries. While Chinese authorities have responded by placing over a dozen cities on lockdown, there have been a number of challenges in preventing the spread of the virus:

  • Chinese New Year: Inception of the illness occurred just before Chinese New Year, when an estimated 400 million Chinese take approximately 3 billion trips over the 40-day festival period.
  • Incubation: The virus could have an incubation period of up to 14 days, meaning it could take up to 2 weeks before an infected individual presents symptoms, making policing the spread of the virus challenging.
  • Airborne nature: The virus spreads via droplet transmission (coughs, sneezes etc.)

The rising contagion level is what seems to have triggered uncertainty among investors.

2. SEVERITY

There is no clear information on the actual severity of the virus. As of January 30, there are 213 confirmed deaths related to coronavirus; however, there are few details related to these deaths (e.g. age of patients, additional complications, how quickly they sought medical help). Historically, severity levels have varied dramatically. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of the 8,098 global cases of probable SARS reported, there were 774 deaths, or a 9.6% fatality rate; meanwhile, the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009 had a much lower level of just 0.03%. Historical analysis related to pandemics is somewhat limited as each illness has its own unique components and considerations.

One promising sign is that there are 187 reported cases of patients who have recovered and were discharged from the hospital. If severity does begin to rise along with contagion, then investor concerns may mount further as potential loss of life and economic damage rises.

3. TREATMENT

Viruses, such as the coronavirus, are difficult to treat. It is possible to vaccinate against many viruses, but the development and roll-out of a potential vaccine can take time. At this stage, treatment options are relatively unknown, adding to investor uncertainty.

Economic and Market Implications

At this point, the market is reacting to contagion, as we have seen identified cases rapidly increase. What may exacerbate or alleviate the market reaction is how treatment and severity evolve.

What we saw back in 2003 with the SARS outbreak was that it had the most significant impact on air travel, tourism, and domestic demand in Asia. Hong Kong, for example, experienced some of the most severe economic impacts, with its GDP growth falling by -0.5% y/y in 2Q 2003, and its retail sales declining by -7.7% y/y that quarter. China’s growth slowed to 9.1% y/y, and its retail sales, industrial production, and fixed asset investment suffered. However, these rebounded quickly as the new cases dropped and the Chinese government offered supportive economic measures. As highlighted in the chart below, U.S. equities fared better than stocks in EM Asia when concerns over SARS were rising. However, Asian stocks rebounded once concerns about SARS abated. This indicates that prevailing market conditions and fundamentals have a more prominent influence on returns. Unfortunately, the current environment is one of slowing global growth and earnings.

The coronavirus is likely to impact the economy and markets in similar ways, although perhaps to a greater extent. In China, for example, the nature of its economy has changed materially since the SARS outbreak, shifting from an industrializing economy to a more consumer and service-oriented economy. To complicate matters, this outbreak coincides with the Lunar New Year in China, the most important holiday for travel and consumption. As mentioned above, the estimated 3 billion trips taken over this period are likely to be negatively impacted by travel restrictions for 35 million people, and others canceling their plans. Already, travel was down -28.8% on the first day of Lunar New Year compared to the first day last year, according to the Ministry of Transport. Additionally, last year Chinese consumers spent nearly $150 billion in just the first week of Chinese New Year according to the Ministry of Commerce, but this year, with many confined to their homes, consumption may also drop. A few major multinational companies are temporarily closing factories in the region or re-routing supply chains.

Impacts to the Chinese economy, which has already faced headwinds from slowing global and domestic demand and external trade pressures, are likely to be the most pronounced, and are likely to elicit a policy response from the Chinese government. However, for U.S. investors, markets may be more likely to stabilize, as we have seen few protracted market declines due to health crises, geopolitical risks, natural disasters or political turmoil.

How to Tolerate Market Turbulence When Investing For The Long Term

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Look beyond this moment and stay focused on your long-term objectives.

Volatility will always be around on Wall Street, and as you invest for the long term, you must learn to tolerate it. Rocky moments, fortunately, are not the norm.

Since the end of World War II, there have been dozens of Wall Street shocks.

Wall Street has seen 56 pullbacks (retreats of 5-9.99%) in the past 73 years; the S&P index dipped 6.9% in this last one. On average, the benchmark fully rebounded from these pullbacks within two months. The S&P has also seen 22 corrections (descents of 10-19.99%) and 12 bear markets (falls of 20% or more) in the post-WWII era. (1)

Even with all those setbacks, the S&P has grown exponentially larger. During the month World War II ended (September 1945), its closing price hovered around 16. At this writing, it is above 2,750. Those two numbers communicate the value of staying invested for the long run. (2)

This current bull market has witnessed five corrections, and nearly a sixth (a 9.8% pullback in 2011, a year that also saw a 19.4% correction). It has risen roughly 335% since its beginning even with those stumbles. Investors who stayed in equities through those downturns watched the major indices soar to all-time highs. (1)

As all this history shows, waiting out the shocks may be highly worthwhile.

The alternative is trying to time the market. That can be a fool’s errand. To succeed at market timing, investors have to be right twice, which is a tall order. Instead of selling in response to paper losses, perhaps they should respond to the fear of missing out on great gains during a recovery and hang on through the choppiness.

After all, volatility creates buying opportunities. Shares of quality companies are suddenly available at a discount. Investors effectively pay a lower average cost per share to obtain them.

Bad market days shock us because they are uncommon.

If pullbacks or corrections occurred regularly, they would discourage many of us from investing in equities; we would look elsewhere to try and build wealth. A decade ago, in the middle of the terrible 2007-09 bear market, some investors convinced themselves that bad days were becoming the new normal. History proved them wrong.

As you ride out this current outbreak of volatility, keep two things in mind.

One, your time horizon. You are investing for goals that may be five, ten, twenty, or thirty years in the future. One bad market week, month, or year is but a blip on that timeline and is unlikely to have a severe impact on your long-run asset accumulation strategy. Two, remember that there have been more good days on Wall Street than bad ones. The S&P 500 rose in 53.7% of its trading sessions during the years 1950-2017, and it advanced in 68 of the 92 years ending in 2017. (3,4)

Sudden volatility should not lead you to exit the market.

If you react anxiously and move out of equities in response to short-term downturns, you may impede your progress toward your long-term goals.

MI-GTM_4Q18-HIGH-RES-63
▲ 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 page advocates for simple balanced portfolio, as well as for having an appropriate time horizon.

Sources

  1. marketwatch.com/story/if-us-stocks-suffer-another-correction-start-worrying-2018-10-16
  2. multpl.com/s-p-500-historical-prices/table/by-month
  3. crestmontresearch.com/docs/Stock-Yo-Yo.pdf
  4. icmarc.org/prebuilt/apps/downloadDoc.asp
  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.

Should You Care What the Financial Markets Do Each Day?

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Focusing on Your Strategy During Turbulent Times.

Investors are people, and people are often impatient. No one likes to wait in line or wait longer than they have to for something, especially today when so much is just a click or two away.

This impatience also manifests itself in the financial markets. When stocks slip, for example, some investors grow uneasy. Their impulse is to sell, get out, and get back in later. If they give in to that impulse, they may effectively pay a price.

Across the 30 years ended December 31, 2018, the Standard & Poor’s 500 posted averaged annual return of 10.0%. During the same period, the average mutual fund stock investor realized a yearly return of just 4.1%. Why the difference? It could partly stem from impatience. (1)

It’s important to remember that past performance does not guarantee future results. The return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate over time as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

Investors Can Worry Too Much.

In the long run, an investor who glances at a portfolio once per quarter may end up making more progress toward his or her goals than one who anxiously pores over financial websites each day.

Too many investors make quick, emotional moves when the market dips. Logic may go out the window when this happens, in addition to perspective.

Some long-term investors keep focus. Warren Buffett does. He has famously said that an investor should, “buy into a company because you want to own it, not because you want the stock to go up. (2)

Buffett often tries to invest in companies whose shares may perform well in both up and down markets. He also has famously stated, “If you aren’t willing to own a stock for ten years, don’t even think about owning it for ten minutes.” (2)

In contrast with Buffett’s patient long-term approach, investors who care too much about day-to-day market behavior may practice market timing, which is as much hope as strategy.

To make market timing work, an investor has to be right twice. The goal is to sell high, take profits, and buy back in just as the market begins to rally off a bottom. But there is volatility in financial markets and the sale at any point could result in a gain or loss.

Even Wall Street professionals have a hard time predicting market tops and bottoms. Retail investors are notorious for buying high and selling low.

Investors who alter their strategy in response to the headlines may end up changing it again after further headlines. While they may expect to be on top of things by doing this, their returns may suffer from their emotional and impatient responses.

Nobel Laureate economist Gene Fama once commented: “Your money is like soap. The more you handle it, the less you’ll have.”

Wisdom that may benefit your strategy, especially during periods of market volatililty. (3)

Mutual 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.

▲ 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. nytimes.com/2019/07/26/your-money/stock-bond-investing.html
  2. fool.com/investing/best-warren-buffett-quotes.aspx
  3. suredividend.com/best-investment-quotes/
  4. 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.

How Might the Coronavirus Impact the Global Economy and Markets?

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The spread of the new coronavirus has taken over the headlines and hijacked market sentiment in recent weeks. Thus far, through available medical data, it appears that while the virus appears more contagious than the similar SARS epidemic in 2003, it is less lethal. The fatality rate for the coronavirus has been 3% or so thus far, relative to 9% for SARS at its peak.

Current Impact

The idiosyncratic elements included in such events—such as the World Health Organization declaring China’s surging infections a global public health emergency, the Russians closing their land border, and drastically reduced air travel—all added to market worries. The week ended with more questions about the level of contagion, and lethality, as a few hundred travelers from the Wuhan epicenter were quarantined in California, which is the first such domestic action in decades.

From an economic standpoint, it appears that the global economic growth pace could be reduced by as much as 0.5-1.5% for Q1, based on best estimates, if conditions peak and recover similar to past experience. In the worst case, this may lengthen the period of global growth slowdown experienced and defer a recovery into mid-year or a bit beyond, as opposed to earlier 2020. This growth impact mostly impacts China, due to reduced travel, but also a slowdown or stoppage of domestic consumption, including entertainment, such as restaurants and consumer goods. This could affect large multi-national brands, but also any company sensitive to general business conditions, as well as energy commodities.

Previous Epidemics

In reviewing several previous episodes of epidemics, including SARS (2003), Swine flu (2009), Avian flu (2013), and Ebola (2014), financial markets reacted negatively in a similar way. On average, equities troughed about four weeks after the initial panic. In each of these cases, they recovered back to around where they started before the panic in the subsequent few weeks (and moved higher than that in several cases) by two months after the initial event. History doesn’t always repeat, and every contagion is a bit different, but such similar epidemics were proven to have been short-lived blips on the financial radar screen.

Sources

  1. LSA PortfolioAnalytics
  2. FocusPoint Solutions calculations, based on index returns from Yahoo Finance. Epidemic start dates: SARS (1/21/03), Swine flu (6/11/09), Avian flu (3/31/13), Ebola (9/30/14), as defined by Goldman Sachs Investment Research. Coronavirus start date set as 1/17/20, with returns through 1/31/20.

8 Key Issues Facing Investors in 2020

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The term ‘outlook’ can be misleading, as most forecasts tend to be partially to very off-base in hindsight. So, this question is best answered as a summary of whatever is currently top of mind going into the New Year. Some of these change from year-to-year, while others have been ongoing.

1) Presidential Impeachment Proceedings

Now that this has escalated to a full trial in the Senate, expectations for an acquittal or lighter ‘censure’ appear the highest-probability outcome. Of course, anything that throws these expectations off track could affect financial markets, as would any implications for the upcoming Presidential race (see below). Despite all this, polls have shown Americans are relatively steadfast in their support one way or the other following the high-profile and contentious proceedings so far.

2) Trade Between the U.S. and China

While ‘phase one’ of a deal has technically been agreed to, it remains under legal review and has yet to be finalized. While the process of achieving further agreement remains likely a long one, the hope is that further tariffs can be paused and/or coupled with an easing of existing restrictions. Following the various announcements, which financial markets have tended to view optimistically, follow-through is also an issue, as details have been vague and implementation has been spotty historically.

3) Trade Between the U.S. and Other Countries

While the issues between the U.S. and China have taken most of the headlines, increasingly protectionist policies affect other relationships around the globe. This has been highlighted (and possibly solved) by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) replacement for NAFTA, assuming final approval is just a formality. Also, there are a variety of other skirmishes with Europe, notably with France over their imposition of a ‘digital tax’, which affects a disproportionate number of U.S. tech firms, and was countered with a symbolic severe 100% tariff on items of French cultural significance, such as Champagne, cheese, etc. Other export-heavy nations, such as Germany (especially with autos and industrial equipment), are also sensitive to these protectionist pressures.

4) The Presidential Election

This is potentially volatility-inducing, based on polling results and sentiment. Politics aside, the key financial market issues here are:

  1. A Republican administration (Trump) would retain the current pro-corporate policies, such as a low tax regime and reduced regulatory burdens.
  2. A Democratic regime (especially Warren or Sanders) could raise fears of anti-competitive review of certain behemoth companies, such as in technology, attempt a rollback in tax cuts or reestablish a more restrictive regulatory environment.

There are sector concerns here as well, which we’ve discussed previously. Overall, an incumbent president has a lot to lose by the economy going into recession just prior to an election—it’s almost a sure-fire formula for a regime change.

5) Economic Growth/Stage of the Business Cycle

How long will this already-long cycle continue? That is the key question, and may continue to be so until we eventually have a recession. A decade of recovery since the financial crisis is already a record in the modern era (last 100+ years, at least), but we have experienced several mid-cycle slowdowns over that time (which can look like a recession is beginning, even when it doesn’t end up unfolding). Growth has been slow throughout, though, which has reduced the amount of ‘excess’ in the economy, and possibly, the damage from a recession, if one were to occur in the near-term.

6) Yields and Fed Policy

The U.S. Federal Reserve has effectively announced that the three rate cuts in 2019 are it for the time being, the certainty about which the market seems to appreciate. However, the bar for raising rates has been raised, due to concerns over a lack of broad inflation. The Fed’s predictions for the future, though, similar to other economists, have shown mixed accuracy. Other central banks around the globe, such as the ECB and Bank of Japan, have remained steadfastly accommodative, keeping interest rates at negative levels, in addition to other stimulus, in response to very low inflation and economic growth. Looking at the long-term drivers of demographics/labor force growth and productivity, such meager conditions do not appear likely to abate soon.

7) Equity Earnings and Valuations

One concern is about U.S. markets, following a strong period of above-average absolute returns and relative out-performance over foreign equities—how long can it go on? Valuation has tended to be a poor predictor of near-term performance, but can be useful in looking at upcoming multi-year performance. In this framework, a period of lower returns following a decade of high returns compared to historical norms wouldn’t be surprising. But markets continue to surprise in the meantime, so those who have moved to more defensive positioning too early can miss out on continued strength. Earnings growth has tended to be the primary driver of long-term equity results, however, which is a reason stocks often decline prior to recessions and perform well during periods of economic expansion. At the same time, the world has become more convoluted, with U.S. companies earning increasing amounts of revenue from abroad, and vice versa, so, aside from currency impacts, company domicile outright is less useful in broad brush equity market evaluations than in the past.

8) The Wildcards

They are always there, whether it be geopolitical flare-ups, weather disasters, political regime changes, or other surprises. As always, portfolio diversification can help ease the volatility of these.

▲Consumer confidence by political affiliation

This chart looks at consumer confidence by political affiliation. The grey line shows the percentage of all individuals polled who feel that economic conditions are good or excellent while the blue and red lines show how Democrats and Republicans feel about economic conditions, respectively. While there has been a large surge in consumer confidence for Republicans and a decrease in confidence for Democrats more recently, the bottom line is investors should not let politics dictate their investment strategies.

Sources

  1. LSA Portfolio Analytics
  2. https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/gim/protected/adv/insights/guide-to-the-markets/viewer

What’s the Difference Between Value Investing and Growth Investing?

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You might be initially confused by these terms or even suspect they aren’t that different in terms of what each model offers you as an investor, but they are very distinct approaches, and it’s good to understand these two schools of thought as you invest. This understanding could help you make important investment decisions, both now and in the future. (1)

At first glance, some of the advantages to each approach may not be immediately obvious, depending on what sort of market you are facing. There is an element of timing to both value and growth investing, and that concept may be helpful in understanding the differences between the two. (1)

Investing for Value

Value investors look for bargains. That is, they attempt to find stocks that are trading below the value of the companies they represent. If they consider a stock to be underpriced, it’s an opportunity to buy; if they consider it overpriced, it’s an opportunity to sell. Once they purchase a stock, value investors seek to ride the price upward as the security returns to its “fair market” price – selling it when this price objective is reached.

Most value investors use detailed analysis to identify stocks that may be undervalued. They’ll examine the company’s balance sheet, financial statements, and cash flow statements to get a clear picture of its assets, liabilities, revenues, and expenses.

One of the key tools value investors use is financial ratios. For example, to determine a company’s book value, a value analyst would subtract the company’s liabilities from its assets. This book value can then be divided by the number of shares outstanding to determine the book-value-per-share – a ratio that would then be compared to the book-value-per-share ratios of other companies in the same industry or to the market overall.

Investing for Growth

Growth investors use today’s information to identify tomorrow’s strongest stocks. They’re looking for “winners” – stocks of companies within industries expected to experience substantial growth. They seek companies positioned to generate revenues or earnings that exceed market expectations. When growth investors find a promising stock, they buy it – even if it has already experienced rapid price appreciation – in the hope that its price will continue to rise as the company grows and attracts more investors.

Where value investors use analysis, growth investors use criteria. Growth investors are more concerned about whether a company is exhibiting behavior that suggests it will be one of tomorrow’s leaders; they are less focused on the value of the underlying company.

For example, growth investors may favor companies with a sustainable competitive advantage that are expected to experience rapid revenue growth, effective at containing cost, and staffed with an experienced management team.

Value and growth investing are opposing strategies

A stock prized by a value investor might be considered worthless by a growth investor and vice versa. So, which is right? A close review of your personal situation can help determine which strategy may be right for you.

▲ Returns and valuations by style

This page shows returns and valuations by investment style for the U.S. equity market, and leverages the “style box” framework pioneered by Morningstar. Return periods include the most recent quarter, year-to-date returns, returns since the 2007 peak and returns since the 2009 low. To the right, valuations depict which areas of the U.S. equity markets are trading at a deeper discount or premium, relative to their own 20-year average. (2)

Sources

  1. https://kiplinger.com/article/investing/T052-C000-S002-value-vs-growth-stocks-which-will-come-out-on-top.html
  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.

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

u s dollar bills pin down on the ground

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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.

MI-GTM_3Q19_September-63

▲ 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

man holding ipad

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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.

FINAL-2019-GTR-2_22_HIGH-RES-46
▲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 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.

MI-GTM_3Q19_August_High-Res-60

▲ 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.