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Blogposts by Pasquale J. Sacchetta

Providing insight from more than 32 years of financial industry experience helping you to make better financial planning and family planning decisions.

Pasquale J. Sacchetta

Pasquale J. Sacchetta

My Biographical information can be found under the About Me section of this website.

22
Jul

You Make Your Money When You Buy, Not When You Sell.

Posted by on in Investments

In most conversations with new clients or prospective clients the subject of performance invariably arises. Whether it's related to the prospects for income generation or the comparison of one investment to another, the return that can be expected on a portfolio is among the top concerns for individuals. Most people want an idea of what their money will earn in income as well as the prospects for increases in asset values. It's very easy to look up returns on mutual funds and indexes and use them as a base for comparison. The problem with comparing performance numbers to an index, or to some other investment vehicle, is the timing of the asset purchase, whatever it might be.b2ap3_thumbnail_chasing-the-markets-1241622.jpg

You can easily compare the performance of any stock, ETF, mutual fund or securities portfolio to the S&P 500 Index. The issue remains that you can't actually buy the index. You can buy a proxy for it like the Vanguard 500 Index fund. This is not the same thing.  Let's say the S&P 500 Index goes up 10% year-to-date.  This means since January 1st (actually January 2nd since the first is always New Year's holiday) the index is up 10% and this assumes you bought it on January 1st. If you don't sell you haven't actually made anything except for a return on paper. If you bought the index at any other time other than January 1st the year-to-date return has no significance to you.  Most people comparing performance numbers just don't think about it in this way.

Let's use an easy example to show exactly what I mean. On January 2nd you invest $1,000 in a stock mutual fund. On July 1st we compare the performance of the mutual fund you purchased to the S&P 500 Index. The index is up 10% year-to-date and your stock mutual fund is up 11% year-to-date. This is very simple to compare because it's obvious your mutual fund beat the index return by 1%. What made this an easy comparison was the starting date.

Now let's use a different entry point for your mutual fund purchase. Let's assume you invested the $1,000 in the stock mutual fund on December 1st of the previous year. Now on July 1st when we review the year-to-date performance, the S&P 500 Index is still up the same exact 10%. Your stock mutual fund is still up the same 11% year-to-date. Your stock mutual fund did, in fact, outperform the index for the year-to-date period. Since you did not buy the stock mutual fund on January 1st makes this comparison irrelevant for two reasons: you don't have a common purchase date and you didn't sell on July 1st. What if the $1,000 that you invested on the previous December 1st was actually worth $970 on December 31st (assuming the stock mutual fund declined 3% during the month of December)?

Yes the year-to-date return on that July 1st is still up 10% on the index and on the stock mutual fund. The index went up 10% during those six months and so did your mutual fund. The value of the index (if you could have purchased it) would be $1,100 on July 1st and the value of your mutual fund would be $1,067. Do you still believe that the performance of the index for the year-to-date period has as much significance to your situation?

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Tagged in: Connecticut Stamford
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21
Nov

Interest Rates: High or Low? Which is better? This Remains The Key Question.

Posted by on in Current Events

We have been hearing about the coming change in policy by the Federal Reserve. It is commonly referred to as The Fed but its official name is The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Most people think that interest rates will rise as a result of the Fed’s meetings sometime early in 2014. We've seen some rates shoot up 1% very quickly since the chatter escalated last May but subsequently things settled down for a while. The Federal Reserve has been artificially keeps rates down by buying bonds on the open market. The more bonds that are purchased drives up the price of bonds and their respective yields lower. You may have heard the term quantitative easing, or QE, which refers to the Fed’s bond buying program. The question becomes why is the Federal Reserve so intent on keeping rates low?

b2ap3_thumbnail_interest-rate-dice.jpgThe theory is that if interest rates are low people will be encouraged to borrow money and spend it. The banks will be encouraged to lend money to people who will spend it. The more people spend, the more the economy grows. The more the economy grows, the higher rates will go because otherwise inflation will spiral out of control. If inflation becomes too rampant, the value of currency will fall. If the value of your currency falls, foreigners won’t want it because it is losing value. Therefore we can see that there is a delicate balance between interest rates, inflation and currency values.

Some people just dismiss the relationship between these factors as the normal result of a cause and effect situation. Let's use an example of inflation rising. Just because the rate of inflation rises doesn't automatically mean that rates should suddenly increase. What if the rate of inflation increased due to temporary shortages of certain durable goods or raw materials? This might be a short-term spike which will correct itself over time and the effects should only be limited to the respective industry. If rates were to move up quickly, the entire economy would now be affected instead of limiting it to the particular industry. Sometimes having a lower valued currency encourages outside investment which is a good thing for the economy. Again, just because the currency value goes down doesn't automatically mean that inflation is out of control.

If all these factors are interrelated, it must mean that there is an ideal and delicate balance between interest rates, inflation and currency values. If you earn more on your savings, you’ll pay more to borrow. If you earn less on your savings, you’ll pay less to borrow. Lower rates generally mean lower inflation. Higher rates generally mean higher inflation. It would seem they cancel each other out; if you earn more and pay more and earn less but pay less, they balance each other out. Not so fast! When you borrow don’t you lock in rates for a period of time? If you obtain a 30-year mortgage and choose a fixed rate, your rate will stay the same for the 30-years. This means that the timing of spending or purchases is critical to the “effect” of interest rate changes. Wouldn't there be a huge difference between locking in a mortgage at 8% versus 4%? Wouldn't a 4% mortgage buy more house than an 8% mortgage?

People always have an answer or a counter-claim. You were probably just thinking that it would be easy just to refinance when rates went back down. What if rates didn't go back down for a long period of time? You would think that it would be better to lock in rates for the long term when rates are really low. Rates have been very low for years now yet people are encouraged to lock in rates for 10 or 15 years instead of 30 years. Wouldn't it make more sense to lock in low rates for a longer period of time than a shorter one? Wouldn't it make more sense to lock in high rates for a shorter period of time than a longer one? Don’t many people end up buying high and selling low? Why do so many people do the exact opposite of what makes the most common sense?

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14
Nov

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats…(But It Doesn't Mean They Are All Seaworthy!)

Posted by on in Investments

We have all heard the saying. There is some truth to the idea that when the economy is doing very well most of the people benefit in some way to some degree. This doesn't mean that all people benefit equally or even proportionately. Even when things are going very well there are bumps in the road or waves on the ocean. We need to remember that if the economy is doing well it indicates that the country as a whole is doing well based on averages. Anytime you average any numbers, you’ll come up with an average for the set but it will also have a median. Averages can be misleading; the median tells you that half the numbers are lower and the other half of the numbers are higher. The median acts as your center point or your balancing point. Why is this important?

b2ap3_thumbnail_boats-port.jpgIt is important because if you only look at averages you will be missing a great deal of the statistical information that is available to you no matter what the subject matter is. You could be researching investments or you could be researching Fantasy Football or Fantasy Baseball players. Let’s say a baseball player had a batting average of .302 the previous season. Most people would say he hit 302 but it is actually .302 which represents the average of all his visits to the plate. If he steps in the batter’s box 1,000 times he’ll get 302 hits. Let’s make this simpler and say for every 10 at-bats he’ll get about 3 hits. Here’s a very important question: Can you deduce from this batting average that this ballplayer will get a hit for each of his next 3-at-bats if he has not had a hit his last 7 trips to the plate? No!

Where are we going with this? If the S&P 500 Index has gone up an average of 14% in the previous 20 years does this mean it will go up about 14% this year or next year? No! We put too much emphasis on the average and we don’t look deeper. There are 500 stocks in the S&P 500 Index. If the Index climbs 14% in one year does this mean that every individual stock in the index climbed exactly 14%? No! One stock might have risen 80%, another 40%, another 10%, and another 1% while several others could have had negative returns yet the index climbed an “average” of 14%. Would you rather invest in the index and take the average of 14% or would you rather invest in the individual stocks that returned 80% and 40%? What about when the index is negative? Does this mean every individual stock had a negative return in that year? No! Would you want to invest in the index knowing it would return a negative average for the year?

The best investments are those which can stand on their own no matter what the overall economy is doing, and no matter if the tide is going in or out. Over time I have slowly shifted my thinking away from indexes and geographical investments. I learned the hard way that just because there were compelling reasons why the Brazilian economy should perform strongly the last few years leading up to the Olympics and World Cup, it doesn't mean that a Brazilian ETF will realize a great return. China may have a bright future but it doesn't mean you should invest in an ETF that invests solely in China. It would be wiser to invest in individual solid companies which would benefit from a more successful Chinese economy.

You might believe that a collection might be a wise long-term investment; there are many physical items that you could choose to collect such as cars, coins, stamps, paintings, sculptures, etc. Would a Yugo command the same return over time as a Ferrari? No chance! So you would invest in a “collection” or “index” of cars if you knew they could own Yugos, AMC Pacers and Pontiac Azteks? Research is key to making sound decisions no matter the subject matter. Asking the right questions and seeking the necessary information is critical to success. The next time you hear or read that this is the perfect time to make some investment ask yourself all the prerequisite questions. If investing were so easy we would all own some index funds and there would be no advisers, wealth managers or hedge fund managers.

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08
Nov

Have You Started Your Year-End Tax Planning Yet?

Posted by on in Tax Planning

One of my favorite holidays is the 4th of July, especially when it comes on a Thursday to create a 4-day weekend. I love the summer and July 4th means that summer is in full-swing. I also dislike when it quickly goes by because before you know it we are into mid-September and we just blew through Labor Day weekend. Thanksgiving Day is almost upon us and Christmas is not far away. This means that the end of the year will come very soon. I’m sure you are thinking about presents right now but you should be thinking about taxes!

Most people only think about taxes when it is absolutely necessary like on April 15th, completing paperwork for a new employer or choosing options for a 401-K plan. You should be thinking about taxes at some point every year as a way to plan to pay the least possible amount going forward. One of the easiest forms of tax planning is tax-loss harvesting. Tax-loss harvesting involves selling your losers before the end of the year to book a capital tax-loss. Some advisors recommend that you sell the security in which you have an unrealized capital loss and buy a similar security or wait 30 days and buy back the same security. I manage my client’s portfolios with taxes in mind all year round, not just at the end of the year.b2ap3_thumbnail_irs-black-white.jpg

If you haven't had a discussion about tax planning for this year with your investment adviser by now it can only mean two things. Your adviser is an RIA (Registered Investment Adviser), has discretionary trading authority and has done planning for you and your family in a comprehensive way. This would mean the adviser knows what needs to be done to minimize taxes based on your planning sessions. This is a good thing. Your adviser is not a RIA and/or a CFP (Certified Financial Planner), your adviser does not have discretionary authority and you have not had any comprehensive planning done. This is a bad thing. It means you probably aren't going to be taking advantage of tax losses which might be in your portfolio. Not every investment goes up all the time. There are winners and losers.

I might sell a security in March if I believe it is the right thing to do at that time, regardless of the tax consequences. First and foremost you own any investment because you believe it is a good investment to hold at that time. Buying and selling any investment or asset strictly based on tax considerations is not very sound investment strategy. When you do sell any security that you've held for more than one-year you'll have a long-term capital gain or loss. When you sell any security that you've held for less than one-year you'll have a short-term capital gain or loss.

The key is to effectively offset losses against gains whenever possible: long-term losses against long-term gains and short-term losses against short-term gains. Short-term gains are taxed are your regular income tax rate while long-term gains are taxed at the capital gains tax rate. We're used to the long-term capital gains rate being lower than your regular income tax rate but this is not necessarily true by definition. Congress has the ability to change both rates every year.

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31
Oct

The Twitter IPO Is Almost Here

Posted by on in Investments

Happy Halloween! It’s almost November and the Twitter initial public offering (IPO) is almost upon us.  Twitter will trade under the symbol TWTR on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Many investors have been looking forward to the Twitter IPO because they believe the stock may “pop” (go up significantly) on the opening day of trading. Some people will sell and take a quick profit if the stocks really moves.  Some people might want to sell but can’t because of regulatory restrictions on their stock. Most people will buy the stock at the inflated price on opening day and hold on to it. Of course this all assumes that TWTR is priced correctly and trades far higher than its initial offering price. We all know you can’t assume anything with IPOs or with stocks in general.

The New York Stock Exchange has been preparing and testing their systems to avoid another fiasco like the one with the Facebook (FB) IPO in May 2012. Maybe Twitter management chose the NYSE over the NASDAQ market because of the fear of having similar problems. We’ll soon know how smoothly the IPO process goes for Twitter as well as the NYSE and we’ll know how accurately the shares of TWTR were priced. Twitter seems to have good IPO buzz because it is a micro blogging site where users can posts short messages (140 characters) about any subject they like and share it instantly with the world. The world is abuzz about Twitter and its new shiny stock.b2ap3_thumbnail_tweetie-me.jpg

Should we really be this interested in a Twitter IPO? Can TWTR live up to the hype? Will TWTR continue to do well after the initial day of trading or will it fall to a normal trading level and just stay there? No one really knows. I’m not so sure Twitter should be a stand-alone company, never mind going public. Yes more than 200 million people use Twitter on a regular basis and I am one of them (@PJSacchetta). There is no charge to register for a Twitter account and there is no charge to use the service. As far as I know they are not planning to charge users any fees. They plan to make money from sponsored tweets; a tweet is what they call a 140-character message that users post on Twitter. Sponsored tweets are just another way of saying paid tweets or just plain ole advertising.

Most people have liked Twitter from the start because they could rely on real people tweeting real information in real time without any funnel or editing. Breaking news has been posted on Twitter before any other media source. All kinds of important information has been posted on Twitter and then re-tweeted or shared through many other media outlets and sites. You can tweet from a computer, tablet or mobile phone. It’s quick, easy and convenient for most people. This is why I think that monetizing Twitter may not work well enough to justify a stand-alone public company. Will many people get turned off by seeing more advertisements? Will Twitter become just another site with tons of ads?

Sometimes we need to assess the facts as they are and not as we would like them to be or become. I’m sure the founders, management and early investors (venture capital) want to become super rich with their publicly traded stock or cash out. This is the American way. They have every right to list their IPO and take their chances. The question remains “is this the best course of action for the company”? Based on the mass of users who pay nothing to use the service and expect unfiltered tweets to be posted instantly, is there really a business model that can sustain long-term independent success?

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25
Oct

Others Ask If This Is A Great Investment; I Ask Is This A Great Investment Now?

Posted by on in Investments

After hearing the current events of the past week in the financial field it made me wonder if most people understand the concept of when profits are made with any form of investment. We saw stocks like Google, Amazon and Microsoft do very well after announcing quarterly results. Google (GOOG) shot up 14% in one day (Oct 18th) to close over $1,000 for the first time. The market value increase in Google stock in one day was greater than the total market value of most publicly traded companies. What changed from one day to the next that investors quickly decided that Google should be worth 14% more that day? Was Google stock really worth that much less only two days prior?

This question is at the heart of understanding what makes Wall Street tick. One would imagine that folks who invest money professionally do so in an unemotional way and only focus on facts and figures. If this were true, how do you explain a stock moving 14% in one day? Many stocks don’t move that much in months or a year. Is it possible that these professionals had no idea that Google would announce the numbers they did? Emotion made people take profits and other people jump on the bandwagon. Gordon Gecko would call it greed. There is only one way for you to have made a 14% profit on Google stock on that day…you would have had to purchase the stock at least the day before. Simple right?

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What’s my point here? The profit on Google stock was not made on Oct 18th, the day it shot up so much.  It was made on the day whoever bought the stock before October 18th. Profit in stocks is determined at the time of purchase rather than at the time of sale when the actual gain is realized. The calculation of your profit in any stock trade is dependent on the price you paid versus the price at which you sold. This is very similar to the market value of homes. Let’s assume the average house on your block is valued at $400,000 today. Who would you imagine would be a happier homeowner, the person who purchased the house at a cost of $300,000 many years ago or the person who purchased a house several years ago at a cost of $475,000? Both are worth approximately $400,000 today. The homeowner who paid $300,000 and sells for $400,000 realizes a $100,000 profit. The purchase price was key to this profit.

The next time you read or hear about a great real estate deal, a great stock, or any other great investment, just remember that every investor’s personal profit is determined based on the date of purchase. This is true of the market returns you hear about every night on the news or see on your smartphone. If you read Yahoo Finance after the market close today (10/25) you’ll see that the S&P 500 Index is up 19.81% for 2013 year-to-date. Does this mean that everyone who was invested in a S&P 500 Index fund or ETF is up almost twenty percent? Sure, if you purchased the fund or ETF at the closing price of the last trading day in December of 2012. It is more realistic to assume that people buy investments at different times and sell at different times than the first day of the year.

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17
Oct

Macro vs Micro: A Study in Economics (and Investments)

Posted by on in Investments

If you think back to your college economics class, you'll remember the difference between macroeconomics and microeconomics. Microeconomics is the study of people and businesses with respect to the decisions they make regarding the allocation of resources and pricing of goods. Macroeconomics is the study of the economy as a whole including entire industries and economies.1 In simpler terms, micro is looking at individuals or specific companies where macro is looking at the big picture. When you research an investment, whether it be a stock, bond, ETF, mutual fund or any other security, you must look at the specific investment as well as the entire market as a whole. Macro and micro forces affect the price of securities on a daily basis.

Let's look at an example. Suppose you wanted to invest in a company that supplied parts or machinery to the oil industry. The individual management of the company would be important to you to ensure effective leadership going forward. The financials of the company would be important to make sure the company will grow, be profitable and which will increase the stock price over time. The product line and the pricing would be important to you so that you would be confident that this company could compete well for new business. The reputation of the company would be important in helping it grow. These are all factors that the individual company can control in some way. Can the company control the price of oil? No! Would the price of oil affect the sales of this company? Yes!b2ap3_thumbnail_economics.jpg

This company you are researching may be the best managed supplier to the oil industry and it might be the most competitive company in its field. But if the price of oil were to suddenly drop precipitously, this company's sales might also drop substantially because oil companies would drill and pump less oil at lower prices. Actually, at this time oil companies are producing and refining more oil than ever before because of the continued high market prices. Market forces drive prices up as well as down. What we are saying is that the stock price for the company you are researching may rise or fall based on macroeconomic conditions that have nothing to do with its own management and financials. This means you are investing in not only the individual company stock but the oil industry and the U.S. economy (and world economy) as well.

Timing is critical to making a sound investment. It is our belief that money is made when a security is purchased not when it's sold. The price at the time you sell a stock represents the proceeds you will receive upon the sale. The profit you make depends on the price you paid when you bought the stock. The key to any successful investment strategy is the discipline behind it.  Warren Buffett invests in companies that he can understand, that are superbly managed and which are highly competitive in their respective industries. Once he invests he is committed for long term. He knows that the decision to invest was made based on a sound discipline and that over time his investments will perform. His track record is pretty remarkable.

Building a solid portfolio that outperforms the market is not easy. If it was every investment manager would outperform his/her respective benchmarks. Comparing your investment returns to some outside benchmark is not as relevant as it used to be. Would you happy losing only 10 percent of your portfolio value in a year where the overall market went down 20 percent? No! Simply outperforming some index is not enough. Buying the right stock at the right time and holding on to it will yield great value over time. Sometimes stocks move quickly and sometimes they take a long time to move. By investing in well managed competitive companies that have solid financials you give yourself the ability to outperform the average companies. We strive to do this for our clients every day. We focus on solid investments that we believe will perform well in the long-term no matter what the macro market forces do in the short-term.

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10
Oct

What is Washington Thinking? A Special Current Events Blogpost...

Posted by on in Current Events

It has been more than one week since the partial government shutdown began. We have not seen much movement from either side on getting the situation resolved, either for the short-term or the long-term. Several band-aids were used in order to limit the public outcry such as making sure all our military personnel get paid, the all furloughed government works would receive retroactive pay and that the families of fallen service men and women would receive immediate death benefits. Congress was able to pass these very limited bills because of the overwhelming public support but that's about as far as they have been able to go in more than 10 days.b2ap3_thumbnail_capital-dc.jpg

You might be wondering why this is able to happen so often. The answer is rather simple. We allow it to happen. That's it; plain and simple. Our country has come to a point in time where everyone is concerned mostly about the issues that concern them in the most direct way. We built this country by putting the country first. During World War II all Americans sacrificed for the good of the country and to help win the war. What exactly has any American sacrificed during the last 3 Wars except for the service men and women (and their immediate families)? Have we driven less? Have we consumed less?  Have we entertained less? Have we traveled less? Have we purchased less? Have we given more? I would say that most Americans have gone about their normal business throughout the first Gulf War, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq invasion. So Congress has responded much in the same way. Why should your Congressman worry about something that does not directly affect his/her district?

Until we, as Americans, begin to act differently our representatives will not change the way they act. They see this as the only way to survive the next election. The U.S. Senate is a more deliberate body and the Senators are more protected from everyday politics because they only face reelection every 6 years. This is only one body. The other body, the House of Representatives, is much more affected by local politics. Each member of the House is up for reelection every 2 years. By the time they get to Washington after one election it's almost time to start campaigning and raising money for the next election cycle. Senators may work together in a more bipartisan fashion but they can't pass any legislation unless the House agrees to go along. This is where you and I come into the picture. We need to convince our representatives that we send them to Washington to protect our interests as well as the interests of the American republic. We need to stop this one-issue style of governing. Yes every issue is important. We all have one issue that is incredibly important to ourselves. This shouldn't mean that we focus on that one issue and nothing else. Sometimes we need to help the other guy and put someone else first. Isn't this what we teach our children?b2ap3_thumbnail_whitehouse.jpg

This governing by the abyss is destroying the full faith and credit of the United States. We are beginning to be perceived more like a banana republic than the most successful republic in history. This needs to stop. The markets have reacted negatively to this governance because no one particularly likes uncertainty. Our elected officials can fight the good fight without threatening to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States of America. Holding the country hostage over raising the debt ceiling is beyond comprehension. Raising the debt ceiling does not involve any new spending by Congress. It allows the U.S. Treasury to borrow money to pay for the expenditures that the Congress has already passed in previous legislation should it not have enough money on hand. This is not something that should ever be debated. The debate should be happening when Congress authorizes the spending in the first place. Again, every House member and Senator has a voice during the legislative process.  Why don't they speak up? Not very many politicians want to go against their own party on major spending issues because it could cost them in their local districts. Yes, once again it all comes down to protecting our own self-interests above everyone else's. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. We quietly rubber stamp this nonsense every day that we say nothing. Nothing will change until we change it.

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03
Oct

Loss Leaders Are Not Only Found in Your Supermarket or Big Box Store

Posted by on in Investments

I'm sure you have seen all the discount brokerage ads on television, in magazines and journals...heard the radio ads...and read them on the internet, on your tablet and on your mobile device.

Each one promising a lower cost per trade than the next. Think about it.  Can any brokerage company, whether it's exclusively online or if it has physical locations, survive with the revenue from trades that are priced at $3.95, $4.95 or $7.95?  Do you think it's possible for any brokerage company to survive and prosper from selling their trading services for a fee that is lower than what Starbucks and your local ice cream shops sells their products for?Your Local Big Box Store

Obviously discount brokerage firms need to supplement the very low trading fee with other revenue.  It's like a loss leader in a retail store.  A supermarket will advertise a popular item at a very low price to get you in the store.  It is their hope that you not only buy the sale item but that you buy many other items at full price, since you are there already.  We shop this way and we are used to it.  The supermarkets know this.  They aren't looking at the profit they make on the sale items but the profit they make on all the items being sold each day or week.

I'm sure you have read the fine print.  Don't you think the discount brokerage firm, or any trading firm, has a list of charges for anything else that you may need?  Don't you think they plan on making money on your cash while it's sitting there waiting to be invested?  Of course in this low interest rate environment making money on idle cash isn't as profitable as it used to be.  The low trading ticket charge usually applies to buying and selling stocks or ETFs.  What about mutual funds?  Is there a "preferred" list from which you can trade without any fees?  Why would there be a preferred list?  Because the brokerage firm must make money on that list of funds in some other way in order not to charge you any trading fees.  Otherwise they would not need a preferred list at all.  Compare the expenses for each share class...you'll be shocked when you read the numbers.

Cost is always important.  What is much more important is the bottom line.  In working with our clients, we strive to use the lowest cost share class available.  We don't only consider cost.  It doesn't matter how low the trading fee is if you lose money on the trade.  Then again, if you make money on the trade, you probably aren't as concerned about the trading fee.  The trading expenses should always be considered but they shouldn't overshadow the investment goal.  The main point here is that costs are important but the main overriding concern should be to invest in the lowest cost share class of whatever fund or security is appropriate for your situation.  When dealing with individual stocks, the purchase price and the selling price are much more critical to your overall portfolio success than the ticket charge.

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26
Sep

What Exactly Is Wealth Management?

Posted by on in Investments

We should begin by defining the mostly misused term of wealth management.  Most people assume that wealth management automatically means it must have something to do with the well off and the rich.  The word "wealth" seems to have that effect on people.  Wealth management is the comprehensive oversight of the entire assets of a person and/or a family.  The assets could consist of cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, businesses, royalties, inheritance, collections, art, automobiles, aircraft, boats/yachts and so much more.

 

Most people normally equate wealth management with the asset management (portfolio management) of more than $1,000,000 in bonds and equities.  Would it make sense to hire a wealth manager to oversee the investment of several million dollars when you might own your own company worth $25 or $50 million?  An Investment Advisor can manage investments for a client without managing the client's other interests.  This would be a dedicated investment based on a certain risk tolerance and style of management.  Comprehensive wealth management would incorporate the several million dollars as well the privately held company worth $25 or $50 million because they are both part of one person's total wealth.  The taxes that this entrepreneur would pay would be based on his investment income and business income.  Tax issues should be considered when making certain investment decisions.

 

I'm not suggesting that the Wealth Manager is going to run his client's company just because he was hired to provide comprehensive wealth management services.  The Wealth Management Advisor will review the client's entire holdings and formulate a plan to proceed with the client's goals in mind.  Whether or not a Wealth Manager has direct oversight of certain assets shouldn't prevent those assets from being part of the client's overall total picture.  A true Wealth Management Advisor will focus on bottom line of the entire client picture and not just focus on the portfolio of stocks and bonds he/she may personally manage.

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27
Aug

Where Were You Last Year Around This Time?

Posted by on in Investments

We hear where the market is on a daily basis; the ups, the downs and the quiet days!  The stock market is always trying to look forward and anticipate what will happen before it actually happens.  It is commonly accepted that most events are already priced into the market before they take place.  Sometimes there are shocks to the system that provide no advance warnings like political upheaval, weather related catastrophes, or terrorist activities that the market immediately recognizes with substantial downside movement.  As more information is available and verified, the market returns to some sort of normal trading pattern over time.  Markets will fluctuate in the best of times as well as the worst of times.  It is very rare for the market to stay close to one level for an extended period of time with little or no volatility.  This presents a series of issues for investors who would like to maximize their returns over time but need to withdraw a percentage of their assets over time for living expenses, special purchases, business activities, taxes and/or estate planning purposes.

Think about where you were last August (2009) around this time.  For many, you might have been on vacation, visiting relatives, working, or watching the stock market after a horrendous performance earlier in the year.  Assuming that you had decided to invest in the stock market last August after following the rebound which approximately began in late March and early April, you would be buying the market with the S&P 500 Index standing at roughly 1,028 towards the last week in August 2009. The S&P 500 Index stood roughly in the 1,055 range during the last week of August of this year, closing at 1,060.00 on August 27, 2010.  If you had purchased equities last August and held on to them, the value of your equity portfolio would be approximately 2.50-3.00% higher this year.  Had you purchased equities (assuming the S&P 500 Index returns) last August and then sold the market in late April 2010, your equity portfolio would be valued at approximately 18% higher.  The S&P 500 Index closed at a level of 1,217.28 on April 23, 2010.

Let's assume that in late April 2010 you were confident that the economy was getting stronger and that you felt equities were a good place to be for the long-term.  You probably would have decided to stay invested.  After all, equities are supposed to be long-term investments.  Assuming an initial $1,000,000 investment last August, your portfolio would have grown to a a value of $1,180,000 in late April and it would be worth approximately $1,030,000 this week.  You would have seen an erosion of $150,000 of real buying power in your portfolio during the last four months.  Some people believe that if you haven't sold it doesn't matter.  What do you believe?  Should you believe that these market hills and valleys present us with an opportunity to maximize returns if we build a portfolio around a central plan that takes advantage of market volatility while making effective allocations for required cash flow needs.  We live in a brave new era of investing.  It is simply not good enough to make allocations to the stock market and sit back and wait.  We must formulate a plan to maximize returns, minimize volatility and meet our investing and spending goals.  This is accomplished with a comprehensive financial and estate plan which includes the risk tolerance of the individual investors as well as the goals which are most important to their families.

For some clients where this planning was implemented before last August, the return they received on equity-indexed allocations over the same one-year period from last August to now is approximately 10%.  These allocations were not subject to the market gyrations throughout the year and the value was guaranteed at a certain level.  Sometimes the best investments or allocations may not be the most exciting when created but they certainly have the potential to be very exciting in certain market conditions as we have witnessed in the last several years.  One thing that continues to puzzle me is the reference that most money managers have to the relative performance of their fund/portfolio versus the stock market indexes such as the Dow Industrials, NASDAQ or the S&P 500.  Would you be happy with your portfolio if the S&P 500 Index dropped 10% in one year but your portfolio value only dropped 5% during the same time?  In essence, you would have outperformed the market but you still lost portfolio value.  Do you agree that your portfolio performance should be relative to an external index?  I believe that your portfolio performance should be relative to your individual and family planning goals.  Take a look at your overall portfolio and plan as it has performed over the last several years and ask yourself if you are confident that it will help you to achieve your goals.  If you aren't very confident, consult with a financial advisor who understands where you are and where you'd like to be.

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12
Feb

The Market is Still Trying to Find Its Way

Posted by on in Investments

The emotional and irrational fears of a worldwide meltdown dragged the market down to ridiculous levels last March.  The bounce back from these super-lows has been improperly characterized as a market rally.

On March 9, 2009 the S&P 500 Index closed at 676.53, which was the result of worldwide panic based on the unknown.  Were we headed into a massive worldwide meltdown?  How low could the market go?  Shortly after March 9th I concluded that there was no rational justification for the market to be as low as it was.  I was confident of an upturn once people starting thinking rationally again.  I just wasn't confident whether it would take months or years.  As it turns out, people have very short memories.  The scars from the fear of the meltdown didn't last long at all.

And so the market rally started and on August 3rd of last year the S&P 500 hit 1002.63.  In less then five months we got back to the magical level of 1,000 on the index.  My theory is that we should have never been lower than this level.  The S&P 500 Index stood at 1565.15 on October 9, 2007.  If we look at the percentage decline from this market high in October 2007 to the market lows of March 2009, the S&P 500 index dropped 56.78% in 17 months.  In my opinion, the facts did not support this kind of market drop in this time period.  Based on my analysis I concluded that the S&P 500 Index shouldn't have gone through the 1,000 level, never mind barreling right through it with no end in sight!

I concluded that the market rally that brought us back to the levels above the 1,000 mark on the index was just a correction of an overcorrection on the way down.  It was just the pendulum adjusting its swing and trying to find some sense of equilibrium.  Therefore, it is difficult to say whether we are in a secular bear market because I do not believe we have seen any real signs of market stabilization, other then government stimulus spending.  The real test will be when the stimulus effects wear off and we see how the economy is progressing on its own feet.  I believe we'll stay in a trading range between 1,000 and 1,200 on the S&P 500 until we receive very clear signals that the economy has indeed stabilized and that no other shoes are preparing to drop!

By the way, this analysis assumes that the Chinese economy doesn't implode because of their bad banking situation, that the Greek tragedy doesn't become a tsunami and that the price of oil doesn't skyrocket again!

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13
Jan

Why Planning is so Important: Financial Decisions Should Not Be Made in a Vacuum!

Posted by on in Financial Planning

The thing that I find most often when talking to prospective clients is that people like to make isolated, focused decisions. People are used to making isolated decisions. Let's say you are buying a new car. What do you do first? Read a magazine? Search the web? You probably go to the dealer only after you have done exhaustive research and made comprehensive comparisons. Then you decide on the car that makes you feel good, meets your requirements and costs about what you are willing to pay for it. If you are really focused, you might even compare the insurance costs of each vehicle and factor that cost in your shopping comparison. Finally you buy the car. Now you are the happy proud owner of a new car or truck.

Does anyone call their financial advisor before buying a car? Does anyone analyze the time value of money cost whether they pay cash, finance all or part of it or keep their old car longer? In my experience not very many people speak with their financial advisor before buying a car. Some might ask questions relating to leasing versus purchase or they might ask tax related questions if business use is involved.

Financial decisions should not be made in a vacuum. Planning is the key to financial success. All financial decisions should be made under the context of an overall written financial plan which is updated annually. Each financial decision that you make affects your overall long-term financial picture. I've seen people look for the highest yielding CD and lock in to long-term guaranteed rates. Once a person finds what they believe to be the highest rate, they choose it and feel like they have found a great deal. How does one decide how much to invest in this CD? How does one decide the period of time to lock up the CD money? Whether you are putting a new roof on your home, planning a trip around the world, purchasing a new vehicle or making an investment, the best decisions are those that are consistent with your overall long-term plan.

Remember, a picture is made up of millions of little dots or pixels. Each individual pixel might not seem to be that important in and of itself. But when you begin to place each pixel next to each other, at some point the greater picture begins to come into focus. You need to focus on each individual pixel but only with the overall picture in mind to ensure that it eventually comes in clearly. Each financial decision is like a pixel today that will help shape your overall financial picture tomorrow. Having a written financial plan in place helps you to make informed, consistent decisions that help to validate your long-term financial goals.

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29
Jun

Madoff Sentencing: A Time To Reflect

Posted by on in Investments

Today we heard that Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his Ponzi scheme.  He received the maximum sentence.  Did anyone really expect anything less?  The judge heard from many victims and they demanded the ultimate punishment.  Now, everyone should move forward.  The victims have to live without the resources they once thought they had.  Some victims have lost their homes or are being forced to sell their homes.  Some foundations and charities have greatly reduced their operations and some have even closed their doors.  All this suffering because of one man's greed.

For those who weren't victimized by this crime, this is a good time to reflect.  Apparently this can happen to anyone.  Madoff's victims included close friends and family.  I'm sure you've heard about due diligence when selecting a financial advisor.  Just before his arrest in December, Mr.Madoff probably had a very high FICO credit score, was probably current on all his bills and was a well respected money manager and former NASDAQ chairman.  I have not heard of many people choosing not to invest with Madoff because of a due diligence investigation.  There is one person who testified before Congress that he repeatedly tried to get the SEC to investigate Madoff's firm with no results.

What does this mean for the average investor who doesn't have the resources of the SEC?  In my opinion, due diligence isn't just about checking some one's past.  Yes, a felony conviction is very important even though it happened in the past.  What's even more important is the future.  The best way to decide whether to consider a financial or investment advisor is to look at whether they are being held to the fiduciary standard.  When an adviser has a fiduciary duty to his or her client, he or she must act in the best interests of the client even above his or her own self interests.  A Certified Financial Planner™ professional (CFP®) voluntarily accepts the fiduciary responsibility for his or her clients by choosing to be certified by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.  A Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) involuntarily accepts the fiduciary standard because it is required under the Advisers Act of 1940.  A Registered Investment Adviser who is also a CFP® certificant must meet the fiduciary standard to his or her clients under two authorities.  This is a very good start to choosing an advisor.

The next question to ask is whether the RIA investment adviser representative is also a registered representative with FINRA.  A registered representative licensed with FINRA only needs to meet the suitability test on the day the investment is sold.  There is usually only one reason why individuals are licensed with FINRA and licensed under the Advisers Act of 1940 as Investment Advisers:  Commissions.  RIA firms and their investment adviser representatives may not accept brokerage commissions.  Advisers are required to take their advisory fees in a fully disclosed manner.  This ensures that the client knows exactly what the RIA firm will charge them before they sign the portfolio management agreement.  This also ensures that the Investment Adviser does not have a financial reason to churn the client because the advisory fees aren't based on transactions.  Most advisers that are licensed both as registered representatives and investment adviser representatives do so because they would like to continue to sell and receive commissions on variable insurance products (variable annuities, variable life insurance).  Independent RIA firms and their advisers (who are not FINRA licensed) can continue to work with variable insurance products that are no-load but they can't accept any kind of compensation on those variable products.  They can include the variable insurance assets under the client's investment advisory agreement asset total for purposes of calculating the asset based fee.

We've also learned that bigger is not always better or safer!  Take AIG, Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Lehman Brothers and the list keeps growing.  We've also learned that the age of the firm is not a reliable factor in predicting how long they will be in business in the future.  The only way to alleviate (you can never really eliminate all of it) this risk is to hire an independent financial or investment advisor who has no affiliation with any one investment, insurance or banking company.  The adviser should also have a qualified custodian actually custody the client's assets.  The qualified custodian should be totally independent of the financial or investment adviser.  I believe the safest qualified custodian is a trust company.  A trust company is not a securities broker-dealer and its only function is to custody assets for its clients.  You'll notice that I refer to financial advisors and investment advisers.  This is because they are not easily interchangeable.  More on this subject in another post!

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26
May

Fisher Investments: Are Lawsuits and Arbitration Claims Valid?

Posted by on in Investments

I don't believe in cookie cutter approaches to the investment management services being offered by Registered Investment Advisers.  There is a fiduciary relationship between a client or beneficiary and the Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) firm.  This means that the adviser must act in the best interests of the client or beneficiary.  This is a very important and very serious responsibility.  This is the critical distinction between RIAs and broker-dealers (securities firms licensed under FINRA).

According to press reports, Fisher Investments, a national Registered Investment Advisory firm, is being challenged in court and through arbitration claims that it violated its fiduciary responsibility to the client by investing 100% of their money in equities in a declining and obviously bear market.  This is a very serious charge.  This isn't the first time that investors have filed complaints or lawsuits against Fisher.  The question should not be what percentage of the client's investments at Fisher were placed in equities but rather what percentage of the client's overall investments and assets were placed in market oriented securities and investments.  This is a critical question that needs to be addressed when trying to decide whether the adviser acted in the best interests of the client.

If the clients held assets outside of Fisher Investments that consisted of more conservative instruments, then Fisher might be looking out for the best interests of the client by investing them in equities.  No one can successfully time the market with an entire portfolio on a continuous basis.  Sure, some people get lucky and the timing works out; more often than not, investors are too early in getting out or too late in getting back into the market.  If Fisher Investments held all of the clients' investable assets and allocated 100% of the money to equities, the situation becomes far more difficult to clearly understand without having all the information available that the Investment Adviser was given by the client.

There is one fact that is clear.  Most investors do not understand the difference between having an investment adviser and having a financial advisor.  An investment adviser is concerned about the investment management of the client's assets.  The investment adviser is focused on providing the client with the maximum return on the money invested based on the risk tolerance specified.  The financial advisor is focused on the overall needs of client based on having knowledge of the client's entire financial picture, of which the investment management component is only one piece of the puzzle.  Return on investment is important; achieving your goals is more important.  Most people think they have a personal financial advisor when, in fact, they only have an investment adviser.

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26
Nov

Listen for the Words: Always and Never!

Posted by on in Financial Planning

Have you ever read an article or listened to a so-called expert on television or on the radio and noticed that the expert makes a statement that uses the words always or never?  If you hear the words "always" or "never" used in a sentence which claims to provide you with free advice, please take it at face value.  Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

First things first: let's define the term expert.  I say "so-called" because there is no way to know for sure if someone is really an expert in the subject matter being addressed.  Someone may claim to be an expert simply because they were provided an opportunity to appear on the television or radio program or because they were quoted in an article.  This really doesn't prove that they are an expert in the specific subject matter at hand.  For example, a medical doctor is an expert on medical and health issues but does the fact he/she is a doctor automatically make them an expert on cancer research or brain surgery?  I think not!

This is an important fact to keep in mind when making your way through the infinite information available online, on the television and in print.  I'm not advocating that you ignore professional advice and recommendations.  I'm recommending that you consider all relevant information but realize that your own personal situation is unique.  There is rarely a time when one fact is relevant to many individuals at the same time regardless of other factors.  For example, if a "so-called" expert were to say that all debt is "always" a bad thing, would that be a correct and sound statement?  I do not believe so because a mortgage is very different than a credit card balance.  One helps build equity in a real asset with tax advantages while the other finances current expenses at a high interest cost.

One simple rule to follow is that whenever you hear any expert use the word "always" or "never", take whatever statement follows with a grain of salt.  Each individual situation is unique and can't be generalized.  It is sometimes difficult to make educated decisions when you are being flooded with conflicting information.

You should consider all relevant data and make informed decisions that are consistent with your overall financial and family goals.  The successful implementation of your planning strategies is dependent on the proper interpretation of all available informational resources.  Remember...you are an individual and you are unique.  Your planning should reflect that reality!

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29
Oct

Asset Allocation: Often Written and Talked About But Rarely Maximized

Posted by on in Investments

The sad truth is that most individual investors focus on the worst performing account or asset in their portfolio and try to figure why that one account didn't perform better.  The one loser gets all the attention while the better performing assets are ignored or simply taken for granted.  What's wrong with this picture?

Another focus becomes the fees or costs of the particular investment.  Investors read and listen to various media outlets that talk how important low cost investing is.  Some major discount brokerage firms run commercials that make fun of financial professionals who make money off their clients without adding any value.  One commercial goes as far as saying you need to stop paying high fees in order to make money.  Is cost really the most important factor in determining financial success?  Shouldn't the achievement of your financial goals be more important that the expense ratio of a mutual fund?  Would you rather own a mutual fund that returns 25% in one year and has a 1.5% expense ratio or one that returns 12% in one year with a 0.80% expense ratio?  Expense ratios and costs are all relative.

The real deciding factor in a successful written financial plan is the asset allocation planning.  By creating the optimal asset allocation plan for clients, we know exactly how their portfolios should look.  We know that not every portion of the allocation will outperform at the same time.  We also know that with timely and proper rebalancing, the asset allocation model will ensure that the client has the necessary exposure to the different asset classes.  We don't know which asset classes will perform best each year but we do know from past experience that the best performing classes are different from year-to-year.  The optimal asset allocation model will also reflect the risk tolerance of the client.

If clients spent more time on their asset allocation planning, and less time on individual investment choices, the total return of their entire portfolio would show solid improvements over time.  Investments are designed for the long-term.  Trying to compare individual investment returns to benchmarks on a short-term basis does nothing to enhance the probability of success of the entire portfolio.  It's not about beating a benchmark as much as it is about meeting your goals.  Your asset allocation planning should be the centerpiece of your financial portfolio.  If it isn't, you should probably have a different financial advisor.

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24
Sep

Separately Managed Accounts (SMAs)

Posted by on in Investments

So much has been said and written about Separately Managed Accounts (SMAs) that I wanted to make a strong case in circumstances where appropriate, they are the only way to go! If you have at least $500,000 in investable assets or more, some form or variation of the SMAs is available and can provide you with the needed diversification of asset classes and reduced portfolio risk exposure. Individuals with at least $1,000,000 in investable assets have more options and can diversify among different money managers to construct a sound and complete separately managed portfolio. (Multi-manager account options exist for as little as $250,000 in assets)

What do I mean by a fully managed separate account portfolio? A separately managed account is actually a segregated separate account within an entire portfolio of investments for which an outside manager is given the authority to manage a specific allocation. You are invested in individual securities and have direct ownership of the underlying investments in your separately managed account. This is a very important feature of SMAs and provides you with much more control over your portfolio. You have the ability to see the trading activity and all fees are completely disclosed. This provides you with complete transparency of your portfolio.

I continue to have a running debate with a colleague about the benefits and pitfalls of recommending a portfolio of mutual funds versus a separately managed account portfolio. Of course he points out that mutual funds are easier for the client to understand and the client doesn't see every single trade made on their behalf. He insists that mutual funds are easier for most clients, especially for older clients and boomers because the monthly statement is so much easier to understand. He points out that the client won't see any losses taken on individual securities within the mutual funds in the portfolio and that clients don't like to see losses. All this may be true. But are these good enough reasons not to recommend a separately managed portfolio when it makes sense given the client's goals and objectives just because the advisor doesn't want the hassles?

Well, let' have a look! The most important distinguishing feature of the SMAs is the individual securities ownership. This may be important to you with non-qualified accounts because you can have some control over capital gains and harvesting tax losses. With a mutual fund, you have no control over gains or losses (this is not as important with IRAs and 401-Ks). You can only buy or sell your mutual fund (possibly creating an unwanted taxable event). This is the extent of your control over the investment.

The next most important feature of the SMAs is knowing who is managing the investments. You are aware of the asset management firm and your advisor updates you on any changes to the way the account is managed. With mutual funds, the fund company can change the manager at any time and the mutual fund style might drift over time. Again you have no control other than to sell. With SMAs you control the individual securities and you may change the manager without having to sell all of the securities in the account. Clearly the SMAs provide individuals with more flexibility and control.

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27
Aug

Download Home Inventory Software for Free!

Posted by on in Home

All of the natural disasters that we have witnessed in the last several years have shown that anybody can lose their house and all their worldly possessions without much notice. I recently came across a web site sponsored by the Insurance Information Institute that allows individuals to download free software to create a room-by-room inventory of their personal possessions. This allows consumers to ensure that they have the correct amount of insurance coverage in case of loss. This inventory process also helps to settle insurance claims as well as to justify any losses for tax purposes. The web site address is:  www.KnowYourStuff.org.

The site provides the home inventory software at no charge. They also offer a vault service to store your home inventory files remotely so that you have immediate access to your information should your home be destroyed. There is an annual cost to the off-site vault service but I believe it is well worth the fee to protect this valuable information. Individuals can avoid paying for the remote storage service by keeping copies of their files in a safe deposit box at their local bank.

The vault service is particularly helpful to families that have more than one home. This allows all the home inventory information to be stored remotely so that the homeowner can access the information immediately about any home from anywhere. It is also useful for families that want to help older parents and grandparents track their personal belongings for estate planning purposes.

Investing a little time to create your personal family home inventories can provide much peace of mind at a time when everything looks to be the worst it can possibly be. We can't totally isolate ourselves from natural disasters and catastrophic losses but we can surely prepare ourselves in the unlikely event that they do happen to us. Download the software and get started to having peace of mind for your family!

www.KnowYourStuff.org

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31
Jul

Leave the Vacuum to Lifting Dust!

Posted by on in Financial Planning

Being a financial advisor for 23 years makes for many interesting client exchanges.  There are a few unwritten rules that I usually advise clients to follow in order to make their financial planning as successful as possible.  One of the most important rules to follow is not to allow yourself to make any investment or financial decision in a vacuum.  What do I mean by this and how do you prevent it?

When you make a decision in a vacuum, you are implying that nothing else can be affected by this current decision.  As we all know, most decisions do impact others areas of our lives and we should be careful to make decisions with this in mind.  Let's look at a very simple example.  If you were planning a Westport to San Francisco trip, you would surmise that the 2, 957 mile trip would take you approximately five days driving 10 hours per day.  If you made it your goal to be in San Francisco in five days, you could make unplanned stops and take short side trips as long as you knew you were on-track to arrive at your destination within the planned timeframe.  If you made decisions along the way without regard to your 5-day goal, how would you ever know if or when you would actually get to San Francisco?

Every single financial decision has an impact on your overall financial picture.  Whether you have a written financial plan or not, the impact of every decision you make is felt whether you realize it or not.  I like to use the example of an airline CEO with my clients.  If you are running an airline, your job is to safely transport passengers and cargo on-time from one destination to another with the best possible customer service.  If you just happened to notice a great deal on an aircraft engine online, would you buy the engine just because it was a great deal?  What would you do with it?  Would you leave it in your office with the hope of assembling other great deals and to someday have a complete airplane?  Or would you just buy the most efficient assembled airplane from an airplane manufacturer and focus your time on running the best airline possible?  Sometimes a great deal or a great rate turns out to be not-so-great when you consider your overall financial picture.

The next time you make any financial decision (renew a CD, buy long-term care insurance, buy a hot stock, mutual fund or hedge fund, etc.), just remember that if you make the decision in a vacuum you won't fully appreciate all the implications of that decision.  If you are planning to buy or renew a CD, think about how this decision will affect your overall financial picture.  If the one-year CD rate is 5.00% and you are in the 28% tax bracket, your net after-tax return is only 3.60%.  Assuming the current inflation rate of 2.69% (according to inflationdata.com), the real after-tax rate of return on your 5.00% CD right now would be only 0.91%.  Doesn't sound quite as interesting as 5.00%!

Continuing with the CD example, evaluate how many times you have just rolled over the CD.  If this is money you do not need for current spending, and all you do is keep rolling over the CD when it matures, doesn't it make sense to decide whether to renew or not with your overall portfolio and goals in mind?  Everywhere you look in town and our neighboring towns, you see banks building and opening new branches.  Would banks be opening all these new branches if they weren't making money on all their CD deposits?  Banks take your money and make money with it.  Evaluating other investment choices will provide you with different options to achieving your financial goals.  Continual renewal of CDs is not the equivalent of having a financial plan.

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Copyright 1991-2017 CFIG Wealth Management, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.  Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.  Insurance products and services are offered through Continental Five Insurance Group, Inc., a licensed insurance agency, 30 Old Kings Highway South, Suite 115, Darien, CT 06820.  Investment advisory services are offered through Continental Five Investment Group, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor, 30 Old Kings Highway South, Suite 115, Darien, CT 06820.

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