It has been a while since our last commentary and the main reason for that is because the markets have been relatively calm over the past year. But 2022 has been anything but calm and market volatility has been picking up dramatically. We just witnessed the worst week in the markets since March 2020. We believe the catalysts for the recent declines we are experiencing over the last 4 weeks has little to do with COVID and more to do with the Federal Reserve and the anticipation of rate hikes in 2022. Technology and growth-oriented stocks have been especially punished recently. The bond market has seen a severe pullback given the potential for rising rates. While there is no doubt that inflation has picked up, the question is whether the recent selloff is justified?
An argument can be made that the stock market was due for a pullback. After all, we haven’t experienced a major decline in close to two years. Pullbacks and corrections, while painful in the short-term, are normal market events. The average intra-year decline of the S&P 500 is 14% from its high, but in 32 of the past 42 years, the market still ended the calendar year in positive territory. (See slide 16 JP Morgan Guide to the Markets)1
On a positive note, we believe that there has been an extreme “over-correction” in certain sectors of the market, especially growth stocks. There has been a technical decline in the markets which puts us in oversold territory. Growth stocks are now trading at historical discounts compared to their value counterparts. This selloff has less to do with poor earnings of companies and more to do with panic selling. While there can be more pain in the short-term, we believe that the recent pullback could provide a good opportunity for patient investors with a long-term time horizon. For most balanced investors, we are not suggesting any major portfolio shifts based on the recent pullback. When we construct our portfolios, we do so with these types of pullbacks in mind.
We have attached a commentary from LPL Research if you would like to read more. During periods of market turbulence, most clients find it helpful to have one-on-one discussions. As always, we are here to answer any questions or discuss your specific game plan as we navigate through the ups and downs.
Brad and Samantha
1 - Guide to the Markets-JP Morgan Asset Management
The content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
March 28, 2020 Commentary
First and foremost, our hearts go out to the people and families of those who have been affected by the Coronavirus. While Samantha and I are both telecommuting as of this week, since we are considered an essential business, our office remains open to accept mail and process business as usual. We are grateful to report that as of today, both of us, our families and our staff are well.
At the rate the virus is spreading, our daily lives have been changed and we won’t go back to normal until the virus is contained. While the loss of human life and spread of the virus may be helped through social distancing and stay at home orders, the economic impact has sent shockwaves through the system. To help provide relief for American Families, the House and Senate have finally agreed on a stimulus package which most economists agree will avoid a depression. Some of the highlights of the stimulus package include a check to every American (subject to income limits), greater access to retirement plans funds, enhanced unemployment benefits, money to hospitals and healthcare providers, financial assistance to small businesses, loans to distressed companies, etc.
It is hard to believe that as of one month ago, the economy was very strong. However, directly due to this virus, we have experienced the fastest bear market and 30% decline in the history of the stock market. The Coronavirus news headlines may be downright frightening over the next few weeks and months as death numbers are expected to rise along with the amount of infected people. Economic numbers will come out that will also have a negative impact on the markets. The market volatility is at an all-time high and we can see this in the price dislocation of trade execution. However, it is quite possible that we have seen the markets overreact and shoot past fair market value based on fear. Remember, markets trade over the short-term based on fear and greed. We are seeing record amounts of fear today.
I know these times are scary and the financial markets are certainly adding to that stress. Whenever the markets have rebounded from previous bear market lows, the markets tend to over anticipate and move up prior to the economy rebounding. We are currently experiencing the over-anticipation to the downside. At some point, this will change and reverse. While the markets have rallied this week off the lows on 3/23, it is normal to see the markets test those lows again before settling into a more normal trading range.
In the meantime, we have been reaching out to as many of you as possible to get a more specific picture of where you are positioned from a cash standpoint. Specifically, we have been asking about cash in the bank with the idea that we want you to have enough cash to make you comfortable during these uncertain times. Over these next few months, we will look at your financial plans and make the necessary adjustments. One potential result of these events is that expenses may be adjusted downward due to the fact that we aren’t spending as much during social distancing and it is likely that the price of goods and services will come down. Mortgage rates may lower to the point where refinancing may become attractive to some of you. Education costs and health insurance premiums may need to be adjusted. This may have a substantial impact on your cashflow.
Since this bear market has substantially lowered the prices of stocks, growth rates over the next few years are expected to be much higher than they were. We believe this will help investors who were fully invested prior to this decline, recover these recent losses faster. In other words, due to prospective double digit returns as this market recovers, this is likely to attract new buyers adding to positive momentum For example, if you believe that the markets will reach the highs achieved just 4 weeks ago 5 years from now, then 10% annualized growth in stock prices now seems reasonable. We believe the recovery will be faster than that, but this is just for illustrative and simplicity purposes.
Over the next several weeks, we may be looking to make a few adjustments in portfolios. Please keep in mind that the stock market decline has changed allocations to be more conservative, just due to the stock price declines. For example, if on December 31, 2019, you were invested in a balanced portfolio (60% Stock and 40% Fixed Income allocation), as of last week’s close, you were closer to 50% Stock and 50% Fixed Income. One potential change may include a shift from passive management/index funds (ETFs) to more active management (Mutual Funds). Active management has more flexibility to take advantage of specific sectors and companies that are poised to thrive when the economy and markets rebound. Another shift may be from US Treasuries to dividend paying stocks. Treasury yields have come down significantly. Dividend paying stocks may provide more income with appreciation potential, but with increased risk. We will do our best to make these adjustments based on the changing landscape.
At the end of the day, we will continue to do our best to help you navigate through these uncertain times. While it is extremely hard to tune out the noise, it’s our job to help you do that so that you can focus on what really matters to you and your family. We wish everyone the best and more importantly, STAY SAFE! Things will get better!
March 17, 2020
We hope this e-mail finds you all healthy and safe. As the markets continue to slide, we are going to continue communicating with you. We have spoken with several of you over the telephone and will keep doing so in addition to these emails.
We are doing our very best given all of the information we have available to be responsible and thoughtful stewards of your money, while still honoring your investment policy statements. If you need short-term cash on hand, please reach out to us.
We want you to know that as painful as it is to watch everything going on right now, we DO believe this too shall pass and we will get through this. We believe things are going to get better, but we suspect they may get a bit worse before we see improvement. We are here for you however you need us to be.
If we haven’t spoken to you within the past month, please either call us or send us an email and let us know how you’re doing.
On a lighter note, Brad and I just remembered as we are writing this that it’s St. Patrick’s Day. The last thing on our minds after yesterday is celebrating and festivities, but we certainly hope to celebrate green on our market screens at least for a little while today. Stay safe and be well.
As many of you may have heard, The Secure Act was passed in Congress and President Trump signed it into law on December 20th. This law has some pretty significant changes when it comes to planning for retirement and the way that you can leave those assets for the next generation to inherit.
Before we get into the important details about the Secure Act, we also wanted to mention the attachment. Soon, we are going to be in election season and we will all be inundated with ads, debates, and other drama and news regarding the election. Many people wonder how the turnout of the election will affect the markets. We thought the attached piece does a good job illustrating how the different election outcomes have impacted the market historically. While past performance does not guarantee future results, it at least provides some historical perspective.
The Secure Act made a positive change for those who are working longer and delaying retirement. The law changed the maximum age of 70 1/2 for IRA contributions, so that if you continue working after age 70 1/2, you will still be allowed to make traditional IRA contributions as well as spousal IRA contributions. The prior law said that once you reach the required minimum distribution age of 70 1/2, you were no longer able to make these types of contributions. Keep in mind you can also make Spousal IRA contributions as well.
The change that will affect everyone with a retirement savings account, is that required minimum distributions are now required to start at age 72, rather than age 70.5. These are the distributions that the IRS requires retirement account holders to take from their retirement accounts based on a life expectancy factor.
Beneficiaries who inherit IRAs are also required to take required minimum distributions. Prior to the Secure Act, a non-spouse beneficiary was able to inherit a loved one’s IRA account and stretch the required minimum distributions out over their own lifetime. The new law now requires non-spouse beneficiaries to take the entire balance of the inherited IRA account out within 10 years after the IRA owner passes away. This ten year time period starts in the calendar year after the IRA owner passes away. The good news is that you have flexibility with this and it does not all have to come out evenly over 10 years. Therefore, one can be strategic in those distributions from an income tax perspective. Spouses can still roll their spouse’s IRA into their own, so this rule only applies to NON-spouse beneficiaries.
For those of you who are planning to start a family or add to your existing family, the Secure Act increases your choices in how you fund that expense. The Secure Act provides an exemption for an IRA or owner to take out up to $5,000 in the same year that they either give birth to a child or adopt the child for expenses related to expanding your family. Typically, if you take a distribution from your IRA accounts prior to 59 1/2, there is a 10% penalty on the amount of the withdrawal. This provision waives that 10% penalty for the $5,000 withdrawal. One significant planning factor to consider is that the withdrawal will still be taxable as ordinary income just like any other withdrawal from your IRA account, so you may still want to analyze whether your IRA is the best place to fund those types of expenses.
There were many other changes relating to employer sponsored retirement plans, so if you are a small business owner or new employee and would like more detailed information, please reach out to us.
If you are a client, these changes welcome additional planning opportunities that will be included on our agenda during your next strategy and tactical meeting. If you have more pressing questions or would like more detailed information please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for further discussion.
As always, we are not tax or legal advisors, so please consult with a tax or legal representative for more specific information about the legal or tax impacts of the Secure Act.
Brad & Samantha
We hope everyone had a safe and Happy New Year! We are certainly glad to put 2018 behind us. The last quarter of 2018 was a challenging environment for investing to say the least. December 2018 was the worst December since the Great Depression as there seemed to be broad-based indiscriminate selling among many major asset classes. As your year-end statements arrive, please keep in mind that the overall markets have not had a major downturn in many years. While many of you have experienced positive performance in your portfolios since 2009 (coming off the heels of the 2008 credit crisis), it does not make the recent decline any less painful. The good news is that we believe our overall financial system today is significantly stronger than during the Great Recession of 2008.
Although the markets have experienced a steep decline in a relatively short period of time, it is worth noting that the economy is still growing. Given solid economic fundamentals supporting growth in the economy and corporate profits for 2019, we do not believe this bear market will be long-term in nature. While the volatility may continue as the dysfunction in Washington continues, we still believe the markets are oversold. In short, we are cautiously optimistic moving forward, especially at these levels.
In life and in the financial world, there are certain aspects which we can control and others which are out of our control. The day to day price movements in the underlying investments are obviously out of our control. After all, the markets will fluctuate in the short-term based on two emotionally driven factors: Fear and Greed. Therefore, we should avoid making major long-term investment decisions based on short-term volatility. Instead, we should focus on what we can control which is making prudent decisions based on your specific financial plan. When markets are not cooperating, it is usually helpful to take a step back and focus on What Really Matters to You. These are your short, intermediate, and long-term goals as we’ve outlined within your financial plan and through our process. While we will be reaching out to everyone individually in the early part of 2019, we encourage you to schedule a Strategic and Tactical Meeting. Now is a great time to review the big picture and revisit specific areas of your financial plan.
We wish you a Healthy and Prosperous 2019! We are honored to serve you as your trusted advisors.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.
Tax Changes Commentary
Hope you all had a great summer! As we move towards the 4th quarter, we wanted to reach out to everyone regarding your tax situation for 2018. While we all know there were tax cuts and it is the most substantive tax changes in decades, many still don’t quite understand how it will impact their individual tax situation. To that point, we have attached an article from the April 2018 Washingtonian that we thought did a great job summarizing some of the changes that will apply to most of the population. We hope you find it helpful as well.
Our financial planning program has updated their software to reflect the tax changes in 2018 and forward. We received “release updates” the past couple of months regarding what specific updates they were making. We wanted to pass along these pdf files to you for reference because we think they do a great job showing the differences in the specific tax limits/deductions and key numbers in 2017 vs. 2018. While we are not accountants, we do realize the importance of meeting with your tax advisor prior to year-end. Many people wait to talk to their CPAs until after the tax year has ended and by then, your opportunities for tax savings could be more limited. We encourage you to reach out to your tax advisor at your earliest convenience to help them do the best job they can for you.
As always, we are available to answer any specific questions you may have.
February 6, 2018
Volatility is Uncomfortably Normal
As of the close on 2/5/18, the US markets are down approximately 8% from the January 26, 2018 high. In other words, we are close to where we started at the beginning of the year. This decline has been magnified by the fact that it has been years since we have seen any major stock market volatility. In fact, the US markets had a positive return in every month during 2017. We haven’t experienced a 20% decline since 2008.1 While a 1175 point drop in the Dow in one day is startling, keep in mind that the Dow had reached a historic high of 26,616.71 in January.2 Due to this high, the drop was still only 4.6% from the previous close. To date, 1175 points is the largest one-day point loss in history, but not even close to the largest percentage loss—that’s perspective.
While corrections are normal, they are always painful and even more painful when you haven’t experienced the pain in a while. However, we must remember that corrections and pullbacks are a normal part of long-term investing. Due to the exuberant run-up in the market over the past several months, valuations had become more extended and it is normal for them to revert to the mean.
We have attached a chart from JP Morgan exhibiting annual intra-year declines in the markets vs. calendar year performance of the S&P 500.3 You can see that despite average intra-year declines of 13.8%, during 29 of the 38 years the markets still ended in positive territory for the year.
We believe this recent decline has more to do with stock market technical factors and positioning vs. fundamentals. The US economy appears to be in good shape, as earnings and economic data remain strong. We believe that the following Washington Post article did a great job briefly summarizing the reasons for the drop in the markets and why we shouldn’t panic.
As always, we are here to answer any specific questions or concerns you may have, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
3 JP Morgan Guide to the Markets-4Q2017
All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is a capitalization weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is comprised of 30 stocks that are major factors in their industries and widely held by individuals and institutional investors.
Investment advice offered through Maryland Financial Group, a registered investment advisor. Maryland Financial Group and IntegriGen Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.
September 18, 2017
Volatility Recent Events
As we write this message, we are thinking of our friends and family who have been affected by the recent hurricanes. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been impacted by the damage and/or the threat of these storms. In addition to the natural disasters the U.S. has been facing recently, there has also been uncertainty regarding the increasing tensions between the United States and North Korea. We want you to know that we are here for you if you have concerns and wish to discuss any of this further.
The facts show that anytime a country obtains nuclear capabilities, there is always increasing uncertainty. The difference this time and why many seem to be more nervous is due to the volatile nature of both leaders. We read a great article regarding the current geopolitical situation and wanted to pass this along to you since we thought it was informative and interesting.
Politics aside, if history has taught us anything, it’s that geopolitical concerns may have little impact on asset prices over the long-term. They are mainly headline risks and can cause short-term volatility, but most investors are focused on the intermediate and long-term. We need to remain disciplined with overall investment allocations because geopolitical events are unpredictable and short-term in nature for the markets. We do not recommend implementing changes to your long-term investment strategies based on these risks.
In regards to the possible damage and aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; while one cannot quantify the horrifying consequences these storms have on people’s home and lives, there is much rebuilding to be done after the storm passes. The expense of the damages will likely be a short-term negative impact on the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, once the insurance companies and government spend money in efforts to rebuild and repair damage, this will likely strengthen the economy and help corporate earnings, especially those sectors that benefit from these events. In the long-run, we expect a positive overall effect to GDP.
On the positive side, the overall returns in most markets have continued to be strong during 2017 and while volatility has increased recently, it remained low during most of 2017. Through your mix of active and passive strategies, most of you have been participating in this positive market performance.
Looking to the end of the year, the debt ceiling was recently raised through December 8th. The president’s administration had three goals over the past few months: budget resolution, the debt ceiling and tax reform. We have listened to several political experts and economists who think that Trump was willing to be more lenient on the first two items (hence the recent debt ceiling raise) so that he and the Republicans would get the Democratic support they need to pass a meaningful tax reform package. One of the reasons we have had positive impact in the markets was based on the belief that corporate tax rates would be reduced. If this does come to fruition, this could also have a positive effect on equity prices in the U.S. moving forward.
We also wanted to address the Equifax breach many of you may have heard about. It is incumbent upon them to provide the public guidance on what they are doing and what they recommend we do as the public. With roughly half of the US population being compromised this will be a high priority for everyone. However, if you feel as though you need to address this issue, we recommend the following steps:
Find out if you’re affected: Equifax has established a website, https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/
Change your passwords: Especially any that you might have been exposed by the breach. If your online company offers two factor authentication, use it.
Enroll in an identity protection service: These services check to see if your information’s used to open new credit accounts or if your social security number appears on suspicious websites. They also may insure you against some potential losses from identity theft. Equifax is offering free credit monitoring to all U.S. consumers for a year.
Check your credit reports: The breach occurred three months ago, so take a look at your credit reports for any suspicious activity during that period. If you find something fishy, contact the credit card company’s fraud department immediately. You are not responsible for charges on a bogus card, but you must report the problem in a timely manner.
Be especially wary of phishing attempts: Fraudsters may try to use the stolen data to acquire other vital information or money from you. Watch out for suspicious phone calls or emails from people claiming to represent your credit card company, bank or other financial entities.
Set a fraud alert: A fraud alert forces credit card companies to verify your identity before opening an account. Obviously, this may be a good idea if you fear someone’s running around with your data. To set a fraud alert, contact one of the three credit card bureaus in the U.S. –Equifax at 1-888-766-0008, Experian at 1-888-397-3742 or TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289. Be aware the fraud alert must be renewed every 90 days.
If you’re really worried, you also can freeze your credit by calling the same three agencies. A credit freeze requires you, or anyone pretending to be you, to unfreeze your account by providing the PIN you got when you froze your credit.
Repeat these steps for loved ones: Particularly any seniors in your family who may be susceptible to phishing attempts or other fraud.
We are always here to discuss any additional questions or concerns you may have, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 301-251-1005.
Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the recent storms.
Samantha Fraelich-Rohe & Brad Glickman
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
November 10, 2016
While the election may be over, we are now experiencing the impact of the surprising outcome. This election was extremely emotional and regardless of how you feel about politics, our job is to make sure that the way you feel does not overpower the way we invest for your future and your financial plan.
In the upcoming weeks, it may be best not to make snap decisions and instead, wait for the markets to settle as they try to decipher between political rhetoric and reality. In other words, it may be a mistake to try to trade in a market which is trying to gain its footing and is clearly inefficient and unpredictable at this moment. In our previous commentary, we mentioned that there is a direct correlation between uncertainty and market volatility. This seems to be playing out given the election results. Based on the political rhetoric, many people are anticipating a great deal of change over the next few years. While we have yet to see if Candidate Trump’s rhetoric is mirrored in President Trump’s policy, we do expect the prospect of change to increase volatility in the coming months.
If you look at the chart below, when we are experiencing such dramatic daily shifts in the markets, it is imperative to remain disciplined and not emotional. There may not be a better example of this than the day after the election. The futures were down significantly when it was evident that Trump would be the victor. In his acceptance speech, he mentioned that we need to come together as one united people. We believe this helped reverse the steep downward trend and the U.S. stock market closed significantly higher. The below chart illustrates the impact of being out of the market during some of the best performing days since 1996. It is most important to note that 6 of the best 10 days occurred within two weeks of the 10 worst days. This is the reason discipline remains so important.
As always, we will continue to look for long-term opportunities as the facts present themselves. In addition, if we do see a decline in the markets prior to year-end, we will take full advantage of tax-loss harvesting opportunities, where appropriate, on an individual basis.
As your trusted advisor, we are here to hold your hand and help you remain calm, so please don’t hesitate to call, even if you just need to vent.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual
The economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
October 4, 2016
It is hard to believe that we are already entering the 4th quarter of 2016. As we get closer to the end of the year, we want to remind you of the importance of tax planning prior to the end of the year. Specifically, we are here to help you manage potential tax liability from your investable assets. While we will be making the appropriate adjustments for you in our advisory accounts, please keep us posted on your positions in any outside “non-retirement” accounts we may not be managing. Also, if you are self-employed, there may be certain types of retirement plans which should be established/receiving contributions prior to the end of the calendar year. We are available to have these discussions.
Recently, we have been asked on several occasions how we believe the markets will react to certain election results and if any changes should be made to one’s portfolio in anticipation of each potential outcome. We would not be surprised to see market volatility increase between now and Election Day. While no one can predict the direction of the markets with absolute certainty, we believe that the markets do not act favorably to uncertainty. As far as adjustments one should or should not be making in anticipation of Election Day, we would suggest that you remember the long-term goals and objectives of each account and strategy you have in place. If the potential short-term market volatility makes you uncomfortable, we can always look to raise cash in conjunction with year-end tax planning. Always remember that buying opportunities usually present themselves in extreme periods of over-selling. These are conversations we plan to have with our clients over the next few months.
The economic forecasts may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor
Brad Glickman, CFP® & Samantha Fraelich-Rohe, CFP®
July 12, 2016
The market volatility has picked up this week up right where it left off after last Friday’s Brexit vote. While there is clearly a negative reaction and short-term economic impact, we believe buying opportunities do exist as valuations have become more attractive. The fallout from leaving the European Union (EU) may result in a significant hit to United Kingdom’s growth. However, this may put off future interest rate increases and make it harder for the Federal Reserve to raise rates in the US in the near future. We do not believe Brexit will have a major effect on most US companies. It is important to note that the UK economy only accounts for approximately 4% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). 1We also believe the chances of other EU countries exiting the EU has diminished based on the reaction to the UK leaving the EU. In other words, it would surprise us if there was a major snowball effect.
In the meantime, the global equity markets are continuing to be emotional in response to the Brexit vote. Quite simply, the bookmakers predicted the opposite result and the vote surprised the majority of people. The markets usually do not act favorably to surprises or uncertainty. We are firm believers that emotions drive stock prices in the short-term. You may have better opportunities to works towards by taking advantage of the emotional reactions of others. In looking at domestic stocks, the question we can ask ourselves is this: Did something happen to the fundamentals of the companies in the US to justify a decline of 5-10% in the S&P 500 over the past week? If you do not believe so, and have a long-term time horizon, today is a better entry point than at this time one week ago.
Depending on your time horizon, goals, objectives, risk tolerance, and suitability; opportunities may exist. Let’s plan to discuss these opportunities together in the upcoming weeks. We are always available for you and welcome these discussions.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual security. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.
Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted.
Investing in stock includes numerous specific risks including: the fluctuation of dividend, loss of principal and potential illiquidity of the investment in a falling market.
Investing in foreign and emerging markets securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, geopolitical risk, and risk associated with varying accounting standards. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks.
1 JP Morgan Market Research
May 17, 2016
Have you ever wondered if you or your family have “missing” money? Believe it or not, there are assets out there that people don’t even know they have. These types of accounts are called, “Unclaimed Property” and they total tens of millions of dollars.
This seems unlikely, but think of this common example. When we leave a job, we usually get mail from the retirement plan administrator telling us we need to take a distribution or roll our retirement accounts over. Unfortunately, the forms and the letters they send with these notices are typically very confusing. They overwhelm the majority of people and it gets put on the backburner. We tell ourselves, “I’ll do it later. “
But what if after that, we move? The mail gets forwarded but we never call the 401(k) sponsor to tell them our new address and before long, the institution doesn’t have your correct address to send statements. You eventually forget about that balance in the 401(k) plan (especially if it’s small). It is then that your assets become known as “unclaimed property.”
Another example might be if someone passes away. The heirs may not even know the accounts exist. Some of these assets can be in stale investment accounts or even abandoned safety deposit boxes. The actual owners themselves or their legitimate heirs can claim the assets anytime because there is no statute of limitations. You can easily find out this information by contacting the Comptroller of the state of the account owner’s residency. For the Washington DC metropolitan area, this information can be found below:
Maryland: (The state of Maryland mails a complete list of names every year, so be on the lookout in the spring of each year for a reminder).
To obtain a claim form go online or call 410-767-1700 Call: 410-767-1700.
To obtain a claim for go online or call 1-800-468-1088Call: 1-800-468-1088
To obtain a claim form, go online or call 202-442-8181 Call: 202-442-8181. You can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 9, 2016
College Planning Involves More Than Just Saving Money
For those of us planning to send a child off to college after high school, the thought of tuition costs alone can be overwhelming. According to Forbes, 1 the average annual cost of many colleges in the U.S. is now $40,000. College degrees are a major investment of time and money for both the parents and the students. It is typically the priciest expense for which we help our clients plan. Many of us become so consumed with figuring out a way to pay for the tuition and other costs, that we forget to consider other important parts of college planning along the way. If you and your children are going to make such a large investment of time and money, we suggest taking some time a couple of years before the first year of college to start planning aspects other than just saving funds to pay the costs. The following are a few questions we suggest you answer well before your child starts applying and spending time and money on application fees, essays, etc.
What is the best college for the money you will spend?
While it can be impressive to tell others your child is attending a well-known or prestigious school, the name and history of the school is not necessarily the most important aspect these days. Don’t waste hundreds of thousands of dollars because you got caught up in a name and thought that alone would be enough to make it the correct choice. When researching colleges, go beyond the name and look for more telling statistics regarding the school. Money Magazine has a website called Money College Planner and the address is www.money.com/colleges. They can provide critical information for your college choice beyond annual tuition costs. They look at the educational quality, the affordability and the graduate outcomes.
For educational quality, we suggest focusing on schools with strong graduation rates. Look for those with rates of six years, which is above the national average. You can view similar rates on www.collegeresults.org. Smaller classes (less than 20 students) can also be advantageous as the student has more opportunities to interact with their professors and receive any help they may need. This typically translates to more success. A good resource for class size statistics is www.Collegedata.com
Consider the environment your child will be in as well. Is it a school that has the type of extracurricular activities your child will enjoy? Pick a school with the type of environment that would allow your child to thrive. If they are happy in their surroundings, they are likely to be more engaged in their student experience.
Graduation outcomes can reveal what type of salary success recent graduates have had from a particular university. Check out www.Payscale.com to see what over 1.5 million alumni are earning within the first 5 years of graduating.
Student loan repayment is important as well since few college graduates will leave school without some sort of debt. The average college graduate leaves school with a debt of $31,000 according to the Survey of Consumer Finances. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, college debt makes up 30% of total household non-mortgage debt, even surpassing credit card debt. Check out how capable the school’s recent graduates are of paying down their debt. Few schools can show that within three years of graduating, the student has been able to pay at least $1 of principal on their debt. If you find a school with strong rates for debt repayment, that can be telling of the financial success the graduates tend to have.
When you start planning for which school might be best, there is one major change to the financial aid and Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) process you should be aware of well in advance. Beginning in October of 2016, the FAFSA will become available much sooner than the typical January 1st. This is significant because the financial aid process will start using the tax year two years ahead of the prospective student’s freshman year. So for a student that is planning to graduate in the spring of 2016 and start school in the fall of 2017, the system will look at tax year 2014 as the base for financial aid. This is critical for families to know and begin planning for should they wish to make themselves eligible for as much financial aid as possible.
We are always available as a resource for any other questions you or your family may have throughout the college planning process.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
March 9, 2016
Tax Planning Strategy
We hope 2016 is off to a good start for everyone. Besides eagerly awaiting Spring, we are in the midst of tax season and we realize you receive a lot of mail at this time of year. If you would like to give us a call before you send everything to your CPA, we can help ensure you aren’t missing any reports.
As you continue to gather tax documents and have discussions with your CPAs regarding filing your 2015 tax returns, we thought it would be appropriate to share a potential strategy in planning ahead for 2016.
Depending on your situation, a Roth-IRA conversion may be an appropriate strategy. Many years ago, there was an income restriction to execute a Roth-IRA conversion, but this has changed. While there is an eligibility requirement for making a Roth-IRA “contribution”, anyone with a Traditional IRA or Employer-Sponsored Retirement plan can potentially execute a “conversion”. A Roth-IRA conversion occurs when changing an account from a Traditional IRA to a Roth-IRA. Assuming that the Traditional IRA is pre-tax savings, converting to a Roth-IRA requires you to recognize the tax (ordinary income) at the time of conversion. Then, assuming the Roth-IRA is held for 5 years and you have attained age 59 1/2, the withdrawals (including interest/growth) will be tax-free. On the contrary, when you withdraw from a Traditional 401(k)/IRA in retirement, you will be required to pay ordinary income tax at that point. Also, unlike Traditional IRAs, you are not required to begin taking distributions from Roth-IRAs at age 70 ½. Based on the recent downturn in the markets, this could allow you to pay income tax now at a discount (assuming the value increases over time) and then receive withdrawals in retirement tax-free.
The Roth-IRA conversion also has a lot of flexibility. The IRS allows you to “re-characterize” (reverse) a Roth-IRA conversion if you decide that you do not want to move forward with the conversion. You have up until you file your taxes for 2016 (including extensions) to convert back. A re-characterization may make sense if the account values fall from the time of conversion (Ex. in calendar year 2016) until the filing date for tax year 2016 (in 2017). Partial conversion and re-characterizations are allowed as well.
While there are many other potential benefits, this strategy may not be appropriate for everyone. A Roth-IRA conversion is best suited for those who can afford to pay the tax bill with “after-tax” money, as opposed to taking a withdrawal from retirement funds for this purpose. It is also best suited for those who believe they will be in the same or even a higher tax bracket during retirement.
The decision whether or not to convert really depends on your specific situation and the financial plan we built together. The recent market pullback and the fact that many of you are planning/currently discussing taxes with your CPA, this is a topic worth mentioning. If this is a topic you would like us to help you explore with your accountant, please let us know.
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Traditional IRA account owners should consider the tax ramifications, age and income restrictions in regards to executing a conversion from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. The converted amount is generally subject to income taxation. The Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax free, as long as they are considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment may change. Roth IRA account owners should consider the potential tax ramifications, age and contribution deductibility limits in regard to executing a re-characterization of a Roth IRA to a Traditional IRA
January 13, 2016
Still a Believer in Diversification
We hope you enjoyed the holiday season and by now are probably getting back to more normal schedules. If you are like most of us, the start of a new year also means making that routine physical/checkup appointment with your physician. Picture this: the physician’s assistant enters the exam room, syringe in hand, reminding you it’s time for the flu shot, all the while trying to distract you from looking at the number on the scale in front of you. Other seemingly mundane (and hopefully not too disappointing) vital statistics are gathered and entered on a chart for the doctor to review. And finally, the doctor walks in, asking us how we feel, explaining the results of the information collected and getting to the part that really matters to us – advice on our health. Sound familiar?
Much like the basic physical health vitals measured and recited to us, we want to assess and discuss the current financial vitals before discussing the most important part of this commentary which is...why does this really matter to you?
2015 is being described by many market analysts as a year of confusion, divergences and price dislocations. After a very bumpy ride, the price of the S&P 500 Index from January 1st through December 31st was down, and only dividends pushed it into slightly positive territory on a total return basis. Oil was down substantially while the US dollar increased over 15%. 1International equities continued their downward trend of the past few years while global central banks continue easing monetary policy. Emerging markets were beaten up once again, especially the countries that are oil exporters and not importers. Credit related fixed income (high yield markets and debt instruments) suffered a steep blow and worries over the slowdown in China caused a global sell off. In 2015, the Federal Reserve raised rates for the first time since prior to the credit crisis. In 2016, they project to raise rates by a total of 1% through four rate hikes.
The uncertainties from 2015 continued into the first week of 2016 and overall volatility has spiked. This past Monday, China’s circuit breakers kicked in due to steep price declines, halted trading in Chinese markets, and caused panic trading around the globe. The markets are reacting on Wednesday to the news of North Korea’s claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Once again, this Thursday, the same circuit breaker issues in China are causing selloffs. 2
What does all of this economic information and summary of the markets mean for you and your portfolio?
If you look at the year 2015 in the chart below, you will see that a globally diversified portfolio (“Asset Alloc”) was down for the year. If you had more international exposure, commodities, or perhaps credit driven debt in your portfolio, you may have been down even further than the “Asset Alloc.” Box shows for 2015. As you can tell from the line in the graph though, asset allocation has provided a less bumpy ride over a long period of time.
We will never be believers in the thought that diversification doesn’t work over the long-term. However, there are shorter periods of time that if you isolate the portfolio, it may seem like diversification failed you. 2014 and 2015 seem to be great examples of this. Diversification by definition spreads risk over several different asset class and we further diversify risk in your portfolios by using different types of investment strategies. Now that we have returned to more normal volatility levels after almost a 5 year vacation from them, we tend to get a clearer picture from our clients as to what their true risk tolerance may be. It is also a good reminder that equities in particular, can be dangerous if you have a shorter time horizon. While volatility can be difficult to swallow, it does create opportunities. We are here, looking for those opportunities for you.
On a lighter note, we hope you enjoy meetings with us more than you do your routine physicals/checkups. As CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER Professionals TM, these are the times we can really add value by revisiting and reviewing projections in your specific financial plan. We will continue to reach out to you, as opposed to waiting for you to contact us to have these discussions. We pride ourselves on being proactive and not reactive. However, we are always here to answer your questions and encourage you to call us if you have more specific concerns.
August 27, 2015
The Dip Finally Happened, What Now?
Given the past few days in the global markets, many of you are probably asking how you should be viewing this market selloff. While a dip of this magnitude can be disconcerting and scary, we all tend to have short memories and we may need perspective to maintain discipline for the long-term. A 10% correction is actually very normal and very healthy for the markets. What has been abnormal is the fact that we haven’t experienced a downturn of 10% in four years (the last downturn of this size was during August of 2011).
The cause of this volatility appears to be a combination of the following: A slowdown in China, lower oil prices, fear of an earnings slowdown, and interest rate uncertainty. In order to maintain perspective, it’s important to understand what causes market selloffs, especially in the short-term.
In the short run, market selloffs are typically about psychology. That doesn’t meant they aren’t important, but it is important to provide perspective to the psychology. This particular market selloff started in China, based on the devaluation of the Chines Yuan and the fears of slowing economic conditions. This has caused fears around the globe, hence the recent reaction. As China is the world’s 2nd largest economy, the world will be watching to see if China’s government can take the proper steps to minimize damage surrounding their recent slowdown and market selloff.
The recent economic numbers in the U.S. are actually quite positive. We have seen a pick-up in retail sales, housing starts surprised to the upside and are the highest number since 2007. We had a solid jobs report for the month of July and most expect another good August jobs number report.1 According to Bloomberg, the U.S. GDP estimate of 2.3% growth was raised to over 3.00%.2 However, there is an overhang on inventories, so that may cause some drag on growth down a bit. To add to investor’s concerns is the possibility of a Fed interest rate increase in September or possibly delaying into 2016. While the timing is uncertain, the question is not as much “if” but “when”.
What is perhaps even more beneficial is the fact that unlike 2007, neither the general public nor corporations are overleveraged. Home borrowing is under control. Lower commodity prices are certainly wreaking havoc on energy prices which some say could cause deflation. But deflation may not be a negative when it only concerns commodity prices. Deflation is a problem when it causes downward pressure on wages which can lead to economic weakness. Low commodity prices can actually act like a tax cut for Americans and put more money in our pockets. In summary, we do not believe the current economic environment resembles 2008.
Finally, in the long run, it is important to note that buying equities on dips is more advantageous than buying equities on spikes. In other words, we would rather buy stocks on sale as opposed to paying a premium. Even before the pullback, we believed stocks as a whole were fairly valued and not overvalued based on valuation measurements. It is important in volatile times to make sure you have an appropriate risk profile. I heard a famous economist in our industry, Dr. David Kelly, say yesterday that “There’s nothing like a bear market for all of us to find out just how risk averse we are. For a few years now, I have heard people repeatedly saying that they are waiting for a good buying opportunity. The part they forget to add is that they want a buying opportunity without fear, but no truly historic buying opportunities have come without that fear.”
While this may not be an appropriate time for all investors to take advantage of a buying opportunity, it is normal to experience a sell-off of 10% or more. When we constructed your portfolio, we had the long-run in mind and these types of declines are normal and we expect them. This is a good reminder that the stock market can be extremely volatile. We just haven’t seen this type of volatility in a while. If your goals have changed, or you want to reassess your risk tolerance, please contact us to discuss your specific situation.
3 Pic from www.webseoanalytics.com
Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal.
No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values.
This material may contain forward looking statements and projections. There are no guarantees that these results will be achieved. It is our goal to help investors by identifying changing market conditions. However investors should be aware that no investment advisor can accurately predict all of the changes that may occur in the market.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.