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Strategic vs. Tactical Investing

Investing

How do these investment approaches differ?  Provided by Stan Evans, CFP   Ever heard the term “strategic investing”? How about “tactical investing”? At a glance, you might assume that both these phrases describe the same investment approach. While both approaches involve the periodic adjustment of a portfolio and holding portfolio assets in varied investment classes, they differ in one key respect. Strategic investing is fundamentally passive; tactical investing is fundamentally active. An old saying expresses the opinion that strategic investing is about time in the market, while tactical investing is about timing the market. There is some truth to that.1 Strategic investing focuses on an investor’s long-range goals. This philosophy is sometimes characterized as “set it and forget it,” but that is inaccurate. The idea is to maintain the way the invested assets are held over time, so that through the years, they are assigned to investment classes in approximately the percentages established when the portfolio is created.1 Picture a hypothetical investor. Assume that she starts investing and saving for retirement with 60% of her invested assets held in equities and 40% in fixed-income vehicles. Now, assume that soon after she starts investing, a long bull market begins. The value of the equity investments within her portfolio increases. Years pass, and she checks up on the portfolio and learns that much more than 60% of the value of her portfolio is now held in equities. A greater percentage of her portfolio is now subject to the ups and downs of Wall Street. As she is investing strategically, this is undesirable. Rebalancing is in order. By the tenets of strategic investing, the assets in the portfolio need to be shifted, so that they are held in that 60/40 mix again. If the assets are not rebalanced, her portfolio could expose her […]

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Bad Money Habits to Break

bad money habits

Behaviors worth changing.  Provided by Stan Evans, CFP   Do bad money habits constrain your financial progress? Many people fall into the same financial behavior patterns, year after year. If you sometimes succumb to these financial tendencies, now is as good a time as any to alter your behavior. #1: Lending money to family & friends. You may know someone who has lent a few thousand to a sister or brother, a few hundred to an old buddy, and so on. Generosity is a virtue, but personal loans can easily transform into personal financial losses for the lender. If you must loan money to a friend or family member, mention that you will charge interest and set a repayment plan with deadlines. Better yet, don’t do it at all. If your friends or relatives can’t learn to budget, why should you bail them out? #2: Spending more than you make. Living beyond your means, living on margin, or whatever you wish to call it – it is a path toward significant debt. Wealth is seldom made by buying possessions; today’s flashy material items may become the garage sale junk of the future. #3: Saving little or nothing. Good savers build emergency funds, have money to invest and compound, and leave the stress of living paycheck to paycheck behind. If you are not able to put extra money away, there is another way to get some: a second job. Even working 15-20 hours more per week could make a big difference. #4: Living without a budget. You may make enough money that you don’t feel you need to budget. In truth, few of us are really that wealthy. In calculating a budget, you may find opportunities for savings and detect wasteful spending. #5: Frivolous spending. Advertisers can make us feel as […]

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A Look at HSAs

hsa plans

Health Savings Accounts may provide you with remarkable tax advantages.  Provided by Stan Evans, CFP   Why do higher-income households inquire about Health Savings Accounts? They have heard about what an HSA can potentially offer them: a pool of tax-exempt dollars for health care, a path to tax savings, even a possible source of retirement income after age 65. You may want to look at this option yourself. About 26 million Americans now have HSAs. You must enroll in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) to have one, a health insurance option that is not ideal for everybody. In 2018, this deductible must be $1,350 or higher for individuals or $2,650 or higher for a family. In exchange for accepting the high deductible, you may pay relatively low premiums for the coverage.1,2 You fund an HSA with tax-free contributions. This year, an individual can direct as much as $3,450 into an HSA, while a family can contribute up to $6,900. (These contribution caps are $1,000 higher if you are 55 or older in 2018.) Some employers will even provide a matching contribution on your behalf.1,2 HSAs offer you three potential opportunities for tax savings. Your account contributions are tax free (that is, tax deductible), the earnings in your account grow tax free, and you can withdraw funds from your HSA, tax free, so long as they are used to pay for qualified health care expenses, such as deductibles, co-payments, and hospitalization costs. (HSA funds may not be used to pay health insurance premiums.)1,3   At age 65, you can even turn to your HSA for retirement income. Current federal tax law allow an HSA owner 65 and older to withdraw HSA funds for any purpose, penalty free. You can use an HSA to pay Medicare premiums (other than premiums for a Medicare […]

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The Value of Insuring Against Life’s Risks

insurance

Building wealth requires protection from the forces of wealth destruction. Provided by Stan Evans, CFP When you are planning for your future, what do you think about? You may think about your retirement, enjoying having the time and money to take trips and pursue your interests. Maybe you think about your home and enjoying the feeling of stability that can come with home ownership. In making these plans, people often find that their long-term view involves money, in some fashion. That said, life also involves risk as well as unforeseen events that can change our plans in an instant. As an example, sudden injury or disability could leave you in a financial bind, unable to work for an extended period of time, or ever again. For this reason, among others, insurance is an important tool in allowing you to build and maintain your wealth, as well as protecting it from unanticipated and destructive forces. Did you know: * Sixty-eight percent of American workers have no long-term disability income protection.1 * Roughly 70 million Americans aged 18-38 have no life insurance.2 * About one driver in eight is uninsured?3 If you ask a homeowner, replacing a roof is probably the least satisfying expense they will ever face. While the value of such an investment is obvious, it doesn’t quite provide the satisfaction of new landscaping. Yet, when a heavy rain comes, ask that same owner if they would have preferred the nice flowers or a sturdy roof. Insurance is a lot like that roof. It’s not a terribly gratifying expenditure, but it may offer protection against the myriad of potential financial storms that can touch down in your life. The uncertainties of life are wide ranging, and many of them can threaten the financial security of you and your family. We […]

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Your 2019 Financial To-Do List

end-of-the-year money moves

Things you can do for your future as the year unfolds. Provided by Stan Evans, CFP What financial, business, or life priorities do you need to address for 2019? Now is a good time to think about the investing, saving, or budgeting methods you could employ toward specific objectives, from building your retirement fund to lowering your taxes. You have plenty of options. Here are a few that might prove convenient.  Can you contribute more to your retirement plans this year? In 2019, the yearly contribution limit for a Roth or traditional IRA rises to $6,000 ($7,000 for those making “catch-up” contributions). Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) may affect how much you can put into a Roth IRA: singles and heads of household with MAGI above $137,000 and joint filers with MAGI above $203,000 cannot make 2019 Roth contributions.1  For tax year 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 to 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans, with a $6,000 catch-up contribution allowed if you are age 50 or older. If you are self-employed, you may want to look into whether you can establish and fund a solo 401(k) before the end of 2019; as employer contributions may also be made to solo 401(k)s, you may direct up to $56,000 into one of those plans.1  Your retirement plan contribution could help your tax picture. If you won’t turn 70½ in 2019 and you participate in a traditional qualified retirement plan or have a traditional IRA, you can cut your taxable income through a contribution. Should you be in the new 24% federal tax bracket, you can save $1,440 in taxes as a byproduct of a $6,000 traditional IRA contribution.2 What are the income limits on deducting traditional IRA contributions? If you participate in a workplace retirement plan, the 2019 MAGI […]

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A Look Back at 2018 Thus Far

Provided by Stan Evans, CFP The year in brief. Last December, market prognosticators polled by Barron’s forecast a 7% advance for the S&P 500 in 2018. That prediction may come true. By early November, the S&P was up only about 5% for the year. Wall Street began 2018 in rally mode: happy to see large tax cuts for corporations, anxious to see whether a booming economy would lead to rising inflation pressure and recurring interest rate hikes. What Wall Street did not see coming late in 2017 were the 2018 trade wars involving the U.S., China, Canada, and the European Union; appreciable headwinds emerged as punitive tariffs were placed on various imports. The fundamentals of the economy remained strong, but bulls faced challenges as the year proceeded.1,2 Domestic economic health. If the economic recovery from the Great Recession was not at its peak in 2018, it certainly seemed close. After expanding at a middling 2.2% pace in the first quarter, the economy grew 4.2% in Q2 and 3.5% in Q3. (That Q2 GDP reading was the best in nearly four years.)3 The ranks of the unemployed thinned further. The headline jobless rate dipped below 4% in the first half of the year, then declined from 4.0% to 3.7% across the five months ending in October. The U-6 rate, tracking the unemployed plus the underemployed, was 8.0% when 2017 ended; ten months later, it was down at 7.0%.4,5 Personal spending data also affirmed the strength of the economy. In the first three quarters of the year, it contracted just once (0.1% in February). From March through September, consumer spending rose 0.4% or better every month.6 Households were especially confident in 2018, as the two most well-regarded monthly consumer sentiment indices pointed out. During the first ten months of the year, the […]

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End-of-the-Year Money Moves

end-of-the-year money moves

Here are some things you might want to do before saying goodbye to 2018.   Provided by Stan Evans, CFP What has changed for you in 2018? 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 2019 begins. Even if your 2018 has been relatively uneventful, the end of the year is still a good time to get cracking and see where you can plan to save some taxes and/or build a little more wealth. 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. If you fall into one of the upper tax brackets, you might want to consider this move, which directly lowers 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 2018, 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 the receipts and assorted paperwork together. While many […]

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Tolerate the Turbulence

wall street

Look beyond this moment and stay focused on your long-term objectives.  Provided by Stan Evans, CFP 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 sometimes creates buying opportunities. Shares of quality […]

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Your Diversified Portfolio vs. the S&P 500

Diversified Portfolio

How global returns and proper diversification are affecting overall returns.   Provided by: Stan Evans, CFP “Why is my portfolio underperforming the market?” This question may be on your mind. It is a question that investors sometimes ask after stocks shatter records or return exceptionally well in a quarter. The short answer is that while the U.S. equities market has realized significant gains in 2018, international markets and intermediate and long-term bonds have underperformed and exerted a drag on overall portfolio performance. A little elaboration will help explain things further.     A diversified portfolio necessarily includes a range of asset classes. This will always be the case, and while investors may wish for an all-equities portfolio when stocks are surging, a 100% stock allocation is obviously fraught with risk.    Because of this long bull market, some investors now have larger positions in equities than they originally planned. A portfolio once evenly held in equities and fixed income may now have a majority of its assets held in stocks, with the performance of stock markets influencing its return more than in the past.1 Yes, stock markets – as in stock markets worldwide. Today, investors have more global exposure than they once did. In the 1990s, international holdings represented about 5% of an individual investor’s typical portfolio. Today, that has risen to about 15%. When overseas markets struggle, it does impact the return for many U.S. investors – and struggle they have. A strong dollar, the appearance of tariffs – these are considerable headwinds.2,3  In addition, a sudden change in sector performance can have an impact. At one point in 2018, tech stocks accounted for 25% of the weight of the S&P 500. While the recent restructuring of S&P sectors lowered that by a few percentage points, portfolios can still be greatly […]

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Why Did Treasury Yields Jump?

A look at the early October selloff of U.S. government bonds.  Provided by: Stan Evans, CFP Investors raised eyebrows in early October as long-dated Treasury yields soared. On Tuesday, October 2, the yield of the 10-year note was at 3.05%. The next day, it hit 3.15%. A day later, 3.19%. What was behind this quick rise, and this sprint from Treasuries toward riskier assets? You can credit several factors.1 One, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell made an attention-getting comment. On October 3, he expressed that the central bank’s monetary policy is “a long way from neutral.” In other words, interest rates (in his view) are nowhere near the point where the Fed needs to stop increasing them. Bond investors found his remark plenty hawkish.2 Two, great data keeps emerging. The Institute for Supply Management’s service sector purchasing manager index hit an all-time high of 61.6 in September. (It should be noted that this index has only been around for a decade.) ADP’s latest payrolls report found that private companies added 230,000 net new jobs last month, a terrific gain vaulting above the 168,000 noted in August. Additionally, initial unemployment claims were near a 49-year low when October started. These indicators signaled an economy running on all cylinders. Further affirming its health, Amazon.com announced it would boost its minimum wage to $15 an hour, giving some of its workers nearly a 30% raise.3 Three, you have the influence of the Fed thinning its securities portfolio. It has been reducing its bond holdings since last fall and is now doing so by $50 billion per month (compared to $40 billion per month last quarter).2     Four, NAFTA could be replaced. Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. have agreed to a preliminary trilateral trade pact designed to supplant the North American Free Trade Agreement. Wall […]

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