NewsLetter Vol. 11, No. 5 – September 2018

HRE PR Pic 2013

Harold Evensky CFP® , AIF® Chairman

Dear Reader:

WHOOPS

Retirement isn’t the sort of thing you can just jump into. Rather, it requires thoughtful planning and a modest amount of basic knowledge. Unfortunately, Americans seem to be sorely lacking in this regard. GOBankingRates recently found that, shockingly, only 2 percent of respondents were able to pass a quiz on basic retirement knowledge.

Click here for full article.

 SOBERING

From the Retirement Income Journal

If no action is taken, Social Security will be able to pay only 75 percent of its promised benefits after 2034. To solve that problem today, the government would have to raise payroll taxes (to about 15 percent from 12.4 percent), cut benefits across the board by 17 percent, or implement some combination of the two. It could also generate more revenue by raising the cap on the amount of earned income—currently the first $128,400—on which the payroll tax is levied.

Click here for full article.

FREE AT LAST!!

CBS News

After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of animal crackers are roaming free.

Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, has redesigned the packaging of its Barnum’s Animal Crackers after relenting to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

09-2018_Animal Crackers (1)

Click here for full article.

A MUST-READ

If you’re remotely in striking distance of qualifying for Medicare, my partner, Josh Mungavin, has a most excellent reference book. You’ll note the attractive price—$0—as Josh prepared this amazing effort as a public service and simply wants to make it available to as many people as possible.

09-2018_Medicare Book (2)

Click here to download it now.

THE FIGHT CONTINUES

Posse of top cops from 17 states dresses down SEC, demand same fiduciary standards for broker-dealers and RIAs and cite other ‘egregious’ deficiencies in proposed son of DOL rule

“… the state attorneys general’s remarks carry particular weight because of their regulatory powers and ability to sue the government if the rule falls short of its intended goals. Judging from their comments, they’re mad as hornets at the proposed measure.

The SEC’s proposed rule purports to impose a ‘best interest’ standard on broker-dealers while requiring additional disclosures; however, the proposed rule fails to require broker-dealers to act as fiduciaries for their clients, as is required of investment advisers—meaning retail investors are not assured unbiased advice from all their financial professionals,” the group asserted in a statement.

What’s more, “the proposed rule fails to ban even the most egregious of broker-dealer conflicts, like sales contests, which elevate the broker-dealer’s financial interest above that of the customer.”

Click here to read the full article.

OUCH!

Following up on the theme of retirement health care…

A Couple Retiring in 2018 Would Need an Estimated $280,000 to Cover Health Care Costs in Retirement,  Fidelity® Analysis Shows 

A 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $280,0001 to cover health care and medical expenses throughout retirement, according to Fidelity Investments’ 16th annual retiree health care cost estimate. This represents a 2 percent increase from 2017 and a 75 percent increase from Fidelity’s first estimate in 2002 of $160,000.

For individuals retiring this year, using the same assumptions and life expectancies used to calculate the estimate for a 65-year-old couple, a male will need $133,000 to cover health care costs in retirement while females will need $147,000, primarily due to the fact that women are expected to live longer than men.

09-2018_Graph on Retirement (3)

Click here for the full article.

OTHERS WITH TROUBLES

Luxury Apartment Sales Plummet in New Your City

Sales of such properties costing $5 million or more fell 31 percent in the first half of the year, pushing sellers to cut asking prices.

Click here for the full article.

SOME SURPRISES

At least for me … 10 Highest-Paid Professions in America

From Investment News

  Median base salary
Software Architect $105,329
Nurse Practitioner $106,962
Software Engineering Manager $107,479
Physician Assistant $108,761
Software Development Manager $108,879
Corporate Counsel $115,580
Enterprise Architect $115,944
Pharmacist $127,120
Pharmacy Manager $146,412
Physician $195,842

Click here for the full article.

RIGHT DIRECTION

Trends in Financial Advisor Compensation from WealthManagement.com

  2004 2018
Fee Only 31% 52%
Commission Only 21% 3%
Combination 10% 28%

NO COMMENT

For Online Daters, Women Peak at 18 While Men Peak at 50, Study Finds. Oy.

From the New York Times

Click here for full article.

WISE WORDS

  • “The wise man, even when he holds his tongue, says more than the fool when he speaks.” Yiddish proverb
  • “What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t invent with your mouth.” Yiddish proverb
  • “A hero is someone who can keep his mouth shut when he is right.” Yiddish proverb
  • “Don’t be so humble—you are not that great.” Golda Meir (1898-1978) to a visiting diplomat
  • “Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.” Albert Einstein
  • “You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” Yiddish proverb
  • “I’m not afraid of dying—I just don’t want to be there when it happens!” Woody Allen
  • “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Albert Einstein
  • “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein

HOW LONG?

How long will $1 million last you in retirement? Report says it depends on the state

CNBC/USA Today

Mississippi: 25 years, 11 months, 30 days

Oklahoma:    24 years, 8 months, 24 days

Michigan:      24 years, 7 months, 14 days

Arkansas:     24 years, 7 months, 4 days

Alabama:      24 years, 7 months, 4 days

Hawaii:          11 years, 8 months, 20 days

California:     15 years, 5 months, 27 days

New York:    16 years, 3 months, 22 days

Alaska:          16 years, 8 months, 6 days

Maryland:     16 years, 8 months, 29 days

Click here for the full article.

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

From Financial Advisor magazine

Five Florida Brokers Sued By SEC In Alleged $1.2B Ponzi Scheme

Five unregistered Florida brokers are in hot water for funneling investors into a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. Woodbridge allegedly bilked 8,400 investors out of $1.2 billion in an elaborate Ponzi scheme in which high-pressure sales agents were used to prey on investors, who were told they would be repaid from high rates of interest on loans to third-party borrowers, the SEC said.

In reality, the borrowers were LLCs owned and controlled by Woodbridge’s leadership, according to the SEC, and investor funds were used to pay $64.5 million in commissions to sales agents … the five brokers were among the top revenue producers for Woodbridge, selling more than $243 million of its securities to more than 1,600 retail investors…

The SEC claims that the defendants told investors that the Woodbridge securities were “safe and secure” using various channels of communication. Klager pitched the investments via newspaper ads, while the Kornfelds allegedly solicited investments through seminars and a “conservative” retirement planning class taught via a Florida university and Costa recommended them on a radio program, the SEC said. Robbins allegedly used radio, television and internet marketing.

The moral is true: If it’s too good to be true, it’s not true.

Click here for full article.

HANDY TIP

From The Points Guy (@thepointsguy)

If you travel at all, I hope you have TSA PreCheck. If not, get it—it will save you tons of time and hassle at the security gate. What I didn’t realize is that if for some reason your known traveler number (KTN) doesn’t make it onto your reservation, your ticket may not reflect your qualification for PreCheck.

By streamlining security and cutting down on wait times, the program helps make travel a less stressful experience. However, it only does so when you actually use it, so we strongly encourage you to double-check your frequent flyer accounts and make sure your KTN is saved on your profile

Here’s how to do that for the major airlines in the US once you’ve logged into your account:

Alaska

  • Visit Profile and tier status
  • Click on Traveler profiles
  • Click on Edit my information under International Travel Information
  • Enter your KTN, then click Save

American

  • Click on Your account
  • Click on Information and password
  • Enter your KTN, then click Save

Delta

  • Click on Go to My Delta
  • Click on View my profile
  • Find Basic Info, then click Open
  • Click Edit in the Secure Flight section
  • Enter your KTN, then click Save Changes

JetBlue

  • Click on the TrueBlue icon at the top right
  • Click on Profile
  • Click the pencil icon next to TSA PreCheck
  • Enter your KTN, then click Yes, Update

Southwest

  • Click on My Account
  • Under My Preferences, click Edit
  • Enter your KTN, then click Save

United

  • Click on View account
  • Under Profile, click on Edit Traveler Information
  • Expand the KTN/Pass ID section, enter your KTN, then click Continue 

 

AND ANOTHER HANDY TIP

From my partner Brett

Are you getting a lot of spam email? Instead of clicking “unsubscribe” at the bottom of the email, which tells companies your email is legit and then you get even more spam email, use the Rules feature in Outlook.

  • Click on Rules, Create Rule
  • Go to Advanced Options
  • Click the checkbox that says “with “” in the subject or body” for Step 1
  • Below that, under Step 2, click on the blue link and type in the company name or some unique identifier (be careful not use to a word like JPMorgan or anything else that could inadvertently filter out good emails)
  • Click next and then click the checkbox “move a copy to a specified folder” for Step 1
  • Below that, under Step 2, click on the blue link and select Junk email
  • Click Finish

WORTH READING

Two most excellent articles from one of my favorite practitioner authors, Larry Swedroe, from Advisor Perspective via Bob Veres’ most excellent newsletter.

The Danger in Private Real Estate Investments

“Should clients invest in private deals as an alternative to publicly-traded REITs? Swedroe examines the evidence, in the form of a private investment database compiled by Cambridge Associates. It contains historical performance of more than 2,000 fund managers, more than 7,300 funds, and the gross performance of more than 79,000 investments underlying venture capital, growth equity, buyout, subordinated capital, and private equity energy funds.

The database shows that for the 25-year period ending in 2017, private funds returned 7.6% a year, on average, while comparable REITs returned 10.9%. The private investments were also taking on much more risk, in the form of leverage above 50% of the value of the underlying properties. One research report summarized more than a dozen academic studies across various time periods, and all of them reached the same conclusion: REITs outperformed private deals.”

Click here for full article.

The Problem with Focusing on Expense Ratios

“The evidence is clear that investors are waking up to the fact that, while the past performance of actively managed mutual funds has no value as a predictor of future performanceexpense ratios dolower-cost funds persistently outperform higher-cost ones in the same asset class.

That has led many to choose passive strategies, such as indexing, when implementing investment plans because passive funds tend to have lower expense ratios. Within the broad category of passive investment strategies, index funds and ETFs tend to have the lowest expenses.

Most investors believe that all passively managed funds in the same asset class are virtual substitutes for one another (meaning they hold securities with the same risk/return characteristics). The result is that, when choosing the specific fund to use, their sole focus is on its expense ratio. That can be a mistake for a wide variety of reasons. The first is that expense ratios are not a mutual fund’s only expense.”

Click here for full article.

THERE’S HOPE

From my friend Dianna

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.
At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.
At age 24, Stephen King was working as a janitor and living in a trailer.
At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.
At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.
At age 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.
At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.
At age 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.
Julia Child released her first cookbook at age 39, and got her own cooking show at age 51.
Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the editor-in-chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at age 40.
Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.
Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at age 42.
Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.
Morgan Freeman landed his first major movie role at age 52.
Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made “The Hurt Locker” at age 57.
Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until age 76.
Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.
Whatever your dream is, it is not too late to achieve it. You aren’t a failure because you haven’t found fame and fortune by the age of 21. Hell, it’s okay if you don’t even know what your dream is yet. Even if you’re flipping burgers, waiting tables, or answering phones today, you never know where you’ll end up tomorrow.
Never tell yourself you’re too old to make it.
Never tell yourself you missed your chance.
Never tell yourself that you aren’t good enough.
You can do it. Whatever it is. 

FRAMING—80% FAT-FREE SOUNDS MUCH BETTER THAN 20% FAT

From Morningstar’s optimistic review of active manager performance: Active vs. Passive Fund Management: Our Research on Performance

80% Fat-Free

“4 takeaways about active vs. passive fund management from our year-end 2017 report

  • S. stock pickers’ success rate increased sharply in 2017, as 43 percent of active managers categorized in one of the nine segments of the Morningstar Style BoxTMboth survived and outperformed their average passive peer. In 2016, just 26 percent of active managers achieved this feat.
  • The turnaround was most pronounced among small-cap managers. In 2016, the combined success rate of active managers in the small blend, small growth, and small value categories was 29 percent. In 2017, 48 percent of small-cap managers outstripped their average index-tracking counterparts.
  • Value managers saw some of the most meaningful increases in their short-term success rates. Active stock pickers in the large-, mid-, and small-cap value categories experienced year-over-year upticks in their trailing one-year success rates of 15.0, 20.2, and 34.2 percentage points, respectively. “

How I read these statistics:

20% Fat

57 percent of active managers underperformed their average passive peer.

52 percent of small-cap underperformed

For value managers, 85 percent of large-cap, 79.8 percent of mid-cap, and 65.8 percent of small-cap underperformed.

And that was the good news.

“Although 2017 marked a clear near-term improvement in active managers’ success rates, many of their long-term track records leave much to be desired. In general, actively managed funds have failed to survive and beat their benchmarks, especially over longer time horizons.

Click here for the full article.

HARD TO BELIEVE THIS IS REAL

Top Magician—Israel’s Got Talent

Click here to watch.

COSTCO, ANYONE?

18 Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

Tips from Kiplinger

Click here to see the slideshow.

READ BETWEEN THE LINES

Before I start this “story,” I want to emphasize that I am NOT recommending any of the investments discussed below and E&K has not and does not currently invest in any of them.

It’s a very popular theme today to critique mutual funds for being expensive closet indexers (and I agree) and to suggest that a far better solution is to search for managers who have a high “active share,” i.e., a high percentage of a portfolio that differs from the index (I’m a skeptic). What I teach my class is to be agnostic and do your own research. I recently came across a story about the Baron Fifth Avenue Growth Fund that seemed to make the case for such a manager.

The Art of High-Conviction Investing

Financial Advisor

For over seven years, the Baron Fifth Avenue Growth Fund was a fairly typical large-company growth vehicle with a diversified portfolio of over 100 stocks, lots of benchmark index companies, and so-so performance.

That changed pretty quickly when Alex Umansky, who had been a large-cap growth manager at Morgan Stanley for many years, assumed control in November 2011. Within a relatively short time he had whittled the fund down to fewer than 40 carefully chosen stocks and gave the best ideas ample room to run…

“The fund’s old portfolio was structured to guard against volatility,” says the 46-year-old Umansky. “I guard against over-diversification. If you have a portfolio of 100 names, you’re really just providing exposure to an asset class. We’re in the business of finding mispriced securities and adding alpha.”

Click here for full article.

MarketWatch also had a quite glowing story

Opinion: Baron Funds money manager goes all in to beat the stock market

09-2018_Market Watch Text (4)

Click here to read full article.

So I decided to look beyond the “story.”

Simply looking at a comparison of the fund performance to an appropriate investable index (iShares Russell 1000 Growth) since December 2011, when Mr. Umansky took over, didn’t seem to support the argument.

09-2018_Graph (5)

Next, I looked at what I consider to be the real test—risk-adjusted return. The basic measure for that is the Sharpe ratio, a number that according to Investopedia “ … is the average return earned in excess of the risk-free rate per unit of volatility or total risk.” What I found was that although Baron’s return did indeed beat the index by a percent or two, on a risk-adjusted basis, it lagged. Bottom line, Baron’s looks like a fine alternative if you’re looking for a mega large cap actively managed domestic stock fund, but iShares Russell 1000 Growth, at least today, looks a bit better. The moral: research and don’t just read—read between the lines.
09-2018_Volatility Measures (6)

WOULD BE A GOOD START

SEC Chairman Calls for End of Sales Contests

“As the SEC goes over the public comments it received on its proposed Regulation Best Interest and holds roundtables to hear from investors, the commission’s chairman says some of the feedback has ‘resonated’ with him, according to a statement published on the regulator’s website. Namely, Jay Clayton is adamantly opposed to ‘high-pressure, product-based sales contests’ and wants them eliminated entirely, he says in the statement.

‘In these circumstances, I do not believe it is possible for an investment professional to say with credibility that the investment professional is not putting his or her own interests ahead of the interests of the customer,’ he says, referring to the sales contests.”

Click here for full article.

INTERESTING RESULTS

From the ICI Annual Mutual Fund Shareholder Tracking Survey as reported by ThinkAdvisor

09-2018_Tracking Survey(7)

Although 81 percent and 84 percent respectively reported a fund’s investment objective and risk profile were important considerations, only 36 percent said it was very important.

My ranking for Very Important would be:

  • Investment Objective and Risk Profile
  • Performance Compared to an Index
  • Fees and Expenses (already included in the “performance”)
  • Mutual Fund Rating Services wouldn’t even make the list

Click here for full article.

PUNCTUATION IS POWERFUL

From my friend Dianne on Facebook

An English professor wrote these words on the blackboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly:

“A woman without her man is nothing”

All of the males wrote:

“A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

All the females in the class wrote:

“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

Punctuation Is Powerful!

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton’s statement on Cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings

“The world’s social media platforms and financial markets are abuzz about cryptocurrencies and ‘initial coin offerings’ (ICOs). There are tales of fortunes made and dreamed to be made. We are hearing the familiar refrain, ‘this time is different.’

The cryptocurrency and ICO markets have grown rapidly. These markets are local, national and international and include an ever-broadening range of products and participants. They also present investors and other market participants with many questions, some new and some old (but in a new form), including, to list just a few:

  • Is the product legal?  Is it subject to regulation, including rules designed to protect investors?  Does the product comply with those rules?
  • Is the offering legal?  Are those offering the product licensed to do so?
  • Are the trading markets fair?  Can prices on those markets be manipulated?  Can I sell when I want to?
  • Are there substantial risks of theft or loss, including from hacking?

The answers to these and other important questions often require an in-depth analysis, and the answers will differ depending on many factors.  This statement provides my general views on the cryptocurrency and ICO markets and is directed principally to two groups:

  • ‘Main Street’ investors, and
  • Market professionals—including, for example, broker-dealers, investment advisers, exchanges, lawyers and accountants—whose actions impact Main Street investors.

Considerations for Main Street Investors

A number of concerns have been raised regarding the cryptocurrency and ICO markets, including that, as they are currently operating, there is substantially less investor protection than in our traditional securities markets, with correspondingly greater opportunities for fraud and manipulation.

Investors should understand that to date no initial coin offerings have been registered with the SEC. The SEC also has not to date approved for listing and trading any exchange-traded products (such as ETFs) holding cryptocurrencies or other assets related to cryptocurrencies. If any person today tells you otherwise, be especially wary.”

Click here for full article.

AND THEN THERE IS MARKET RISK

After the Bitcoin Boom: Hard Lessons for Cryptocurrency Investors

Tony Yoo, a financial analyst in Los Angeles, invested more than $100,000 of his savings last fall. At their lowest point, his holdings dropped almost 70 percent in value. Pete Roberts of Nottingham, England, was one of the many risk-takers who threw their savings into cryptocurrencies when prices were going through the roof last winter. Now, eight months later, the $23,000 he invested in several digital tokens is worth about $4,000, and he is clearheaded about what happened.

“I got too caught up in the fear of missing out and trying to make a quick buck,” he said last week. “The losses have pretty much left me financially ruined.”

Mr. Roberts, 28, has a lot of company. After the latest round of big price drops, many cryptocurrencies have given back all of the enormous gains they experienced last winter. The value of all outstanding digital tokens has fallen by about $600 billion, or 75 percent, since the peak in January, according to data from the website coinmarketcap.com.

Click here for full article.

HEADLINES

From my friend Peter. You can’t make this stuff up.

09-2018_Headlines (8)

IT’S 100 DEGREES IN LUBBOCK BUT IT COULD BE WORSE

As one might expect, the desolate and remote East Antarctic Plateau is home to Earth’s coldest temperatures. What is surprising, however, is that these bitter temps are even colder than previously thought—reaching nearly -148 degrees Fahrenheit (-100 degrees Celsius).

I ALSO LOVE GETTING OLDER

From my friend Judy. Always a good source of interesting tidbits.

  • My goal for 2018 was to lose 10 pounds. Only 15 to go!
  • I ate salad for dinner. Mostly croutons and tomatoes. Really just one big round crouton covered with tomato sauce. And cheese. FINE, it was a pizza. I ate a pizza.
  • I just did a week’s worth of cardio after walking into a spider web.
  • I don’t mean to brag, but I finished my 14-day diet food in 3 hours and 20 minutes.
  • A recent study has found women who carry a little extra weight live longer than men who mention it.
  • Kids today don’t know how easy they have it. When I was young, I had to walk nine feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.
  • Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.

 

NOT SO HUMBLE

Harold Evensky to receive FPA’s highest award

AND

Harold Evensky to receive Frankel Fiduciary Prize

GOOD STUFF

From my friend Alex.

09-2018_Memes (9-A)

09-2018_Memes (9-B)

HOW OLD IS GRANDMA?

09-2018_Grandma(10)

One evening, a grandson was talking to his grandmother about current events. The
grandson asked his grandmother what she thought about the shootings at schools,
the computer age, and just things in general.

The grandmother replied, “Well, let me think a minute.”

  • I was born before:
    • Television
    • Penicillin
    • Polio shots
    • Frozen foods
    • Xerox
    • Contact lenses
    • Frisbees
    • The Pill
  • There were no:
    • Credit cards
    • Laser beams
    • Ballpoint pens
  • Man had not yet invented:
    • Pantyhose
    • Air conditioners
    • Dishwashers
    • Clothes dryers (clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air)
    • Man hadn’t yet walked on the moon
  • In my day:
    • “Grass” was mowed
    • “Coke” was a cold drink
    • “Pot” was something your mother cooked in
    • “Rock music” was your grandmother’s lullaby
    • “Aids” were helpers in the principal’s office
    • “Chip” meant a piece of wood
    • “Hardware” was found in a hardware store
    • “Software” wasn’t even a word.
  • Until I was 25, I called every man older than me “sir.”
  • And after I turned 25, I still called policemen and every man with a title “sir.”
  • We were before gay rights, computer dating, dual careers, day care centers, and group therapy.
  • Our lives were governed by good judgment and common sense.
  • We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong and to stand up andtake responsibility for our actions.
  • Serving your country was a privilege; living in this country was a bigger privilege.
  • We thought fast-food was what people ate during Lent.
  • Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins.
  • Draft dodgers were those who closed front doors as the evening breeze started.
  • Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends, notpurchasing condominiums.
  • We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, yogurt, or guys wearing earrings.
  • We listened to big bands, Jack Benny, and the president’s speeches on our radios.
  • If you saw anything with “Made in Japan” on it, it was junk.
  • The term “making out” referred to how you did on your school exam.
  • Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and instant coffee were unheard of.
  • We had 5-and-10-cent stores where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents.
  • Ice cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel. And if you didn’t want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps tomail one letter and two postcards.
  • You could buy a new Ford Coupe for $600, but who could afford one?Too bad, because gas was 11 cents a gallon.
  • We volunteered to protect our precious country.
  • No wonder people call us “old and confused” and say there is a generation gap.

How old do you think I am? 

Are you ready?

This woman would only have to be  66  years old. All this is true for those of us born any time before late 1952. Gives you something to think about.

Depressing, as I’m lots older.

WHY WE NEED A FIDUCIARY STANDARD

Why Conflicting Retirement Advice is Crushing American Households

From Forbes

It is a well-documented fact that American workers are financially underprepared for retirement. For example, in a recent Government Accountability Office Report that examined the retirement savings of households in the 55 to 64 age group, researchers found that 55% of households had little to no retirement savings. Additionally, the remainder in that range that had saved for retirement saved a median of approximately $104,000. Even with Social Security, it seems the average American worker will have limited financial resources to generate income during retirement.

When you look at the savings data, this shortfall is not a surprise, as the U.S. consistently under-saves its peers. Data sourced from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) spanning over a decade of savings rates ending in 2008 shows that the U.S. has historically come up short. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. all reported generally better national savings rates during that time period. Although the retirement preparedness of the average American worker is distressingly bad and the savings trends and figures are of great concern, the focus of this article will be on the cost of conflicting advice on retirement preparedness.

The effects and financial impact of conflicting advice on American families is of consequence. In a 2015 report by the Council of Economic Advisers, the authors estimate that “the aggregate annual cost of conflicted advice is about $17 billion each year.” This conflicting advice comes from individuals and institutions that are “compensated through fees and commissions that depend on their clients’ actions. Such fee structures generate acute conflicts of interest.”

Unfortunately for the American family seeking “professional” financial advice, the choices are few. Just a small percentage of financial professionals are able to offer financial advice without facing the conflicts outlined by the Council of Economic Advisers. In a recent article (paywall) penned by Dr. Kent Smetters, he suggests that out of the roughly 285,000 financial advisers in the U.S., few are “fee-only advisers who follow a true fiduciary standard that prohibits commissions on products recommended to clients and legally requires the advisers to always put their clients’ interests first.”

It is challenging at best to determine which advisers, brokers, agents and mutual fund companies are able to act in your best interests as most say they will.

The effects and financial impact of conflicting advice on American families is of consequence. In a 2015 report by the Council of Economic Advisers, the authors estimate that “the aggregate annual cost of conflicted advice is about $17 billion each year.” This conflicting advice comes from individuals and institutions that are “compensated through fees and commissions that depend on their clients’ actions. Such fee structures generate acute conflicts of interest.”

Click here for full article.

WELLS FARGO PUSHED WEALTH ADVISORS TO USE HIGH-FEE PRODUCTS, CROSS-SELL

From Yahoo Finance

For almost two years, Wells Fargo has been under near-constant fire. It all began, of course, with the revelation that employees in bank branches, who faced immense pressure to sell, had opened fake accounts for customers. Then, the bank agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to settle allegations of abuses in its auto lending and mortgage businesses.

In the spring, the bank also disclosed that its board was conducting a review of “certain activities” within the bank’s wealth management unit, which filings describe as including fee calculations of fiduciary accounts.

In mid-July, Yahoo Finance reported on increasing sales pressure in the wealth management sector of Wells’ Private Bank. Late last month, the Wall Street Journal also reported that four Wells Fargo advisors had sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, detailing “long-standing problems” in the wealth management business.

In addition, the Journal reported that the broad class of Wells Fargo advisors were encouraged to funnel wealthier clients into the Private Bank’s wealth management area because the fees were higher. A former senior executive in this area and multiple former Wells Fargo brokers expressed that to Yahoo Finance as well.

Click here for full article.

MERRILL LYNCH PAYS $8.9 MILLION TO SETTLE CONFLICT OF INTEREST CHARGES

From Financial Advisor

“Merrill Lynch’s equity research arm has agreed to pay approximately $8.9 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it failed to disclose a conflict of interest to more than 1,500 of Merrill’s retail advisory accounts who were sold approximately $575 million in products as a result.

Investors continued to be sold the products managed by a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign multinational bank despite concerning management changes because of the fees the banks paid to be on Merrill’s advisory platforms and its broader financial relationship with the wirehouse, the SEC found.

‘By failing to disclose its own business interests in deciding whether certain products should remain available to investment advisory clients, Merrill Lynch deprived its clients of unbiased financial advice,’ said Marc P. Berger, director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. ‘Retail clients must feel confident that their advisors are eliminating or disclosing such conflicts and fulfilling their fiduciary duties.’

Merrill’s decision to continuing offering the U.S. subsidiary’s products violated both its due diligence and disclosure policies and violated its own ADV requirements.

According to the order, Merrill put new investments into these products on hold due to pending management changes at the third party. As part of the decision, Merrill’s governance committee planned to vote on a recommendation to terminate the products and offer alternatives to investors.

The third-party manager sought to prevent termination by contacting senior Merrill executives, according to the order, including making an appeal to consider the companies’ broader business relationship.

Following those communications, and in a break from ordinary practices, the governance committee did not vote and chose instead to defer action on termination, the SEC found.”

Click here for full article.

If you’re in doubt regarding the legal relationship you have with an advisor, have them sign the simple mom-and-pop “fiduciary oath” (it doesn’t even have the word “fiduciary” in it). If you’d like a copy, call (305-448-8882) or send an email (david.evensky@ek-ff.com) and we’ll send you one.

Hope you enjoyed this issue, and I look forward to “seeing you” again in a couple months.

 

_HRE SIGNATURE

Harold Evensky

Chairman

Evensky & Katz / Foldes Financial Wealth Management

 

Check out the link below for Harold’s previous NewsLetter:

NewsLetter Vol. 11, No. 4 – August 2018

 

www.EK-FF.com

Employee Benefits: Retirement

The following is a chapter from Employee Benefits: How to Make the Most of Your Stock, Insurance, Retirement, and Executive Benefits by Josh Mungavin CFP®, CRC® and Edited by Chris Boren & Tristan Whittingham.

Employee Benefits - cover

 

Retirement

 

401(k), 403(b), & 457 Plans

A workplace retirement plan is one of the most common profitable employee benefits employers offer. They normally come in the form of 401(k), 403(b), 457, pension, or cash balance plans. Often, an employer will match employee contributions up to a certain dollar amount or income percentage.

Optimal Use: Strategies and Analysis

a. Mega Backdoor Roth 401(k) contributions

By using the right strategies, you may be able to contribute more than you thought possible and, in turn, save more money on taxes over time. In general, employees can only contribute up to $18,500 per year to a retirement plan with an additional catch-up of up to $6,000 per year if the employee is 50 years old or older (“employee contribution limit”).1 Many employees don’t realize that the maximum contribution to one of these accounts is $55,000 per year plus the catch-up (“maximum contribution limit”)—and that they may be able to contribute up to that amount despite the employee contribution limit and employer matching amounts adding up to less than the full maximum contribution limit.

The strategy is as follows:

1. Backdoor Roth 401(k) Strategy

The math works like this:

2. Backdoor Roth 401(k) Math

Normally, this would mean you could not fund your 401(k) up to the maximum contribution limit of $55,000, leaving a full $24,000 on the table ($55,000 – $31,000 = $24,000). If you have a nondeductible 401(k) and work for a company with retirement plan documents that allow it, however, you can make a $24,000 contribution to the nondeductible part of the 401(k) and then convert the contribution to the Roth portion of your 401(k). This effectively allows you to maximize the yearly contribution to your retirement account.

A very highly compensated employee can still take advantage of this strategy because employers can only base 401(k) matching off $275,000 of an employee’s compensation per year no matter how highly compensated the individual is.2 A 401(k) can provide a versatile savings account by allowing penalty-free (but not tax-free) distributions of certain amounts for a down payment on a home purchase or medical expenses. Keep in mind that any additional profit-sharing plan contributions by the employer must be considered when calculating the overall yearly contribution. It is very important to check the plan documents and speak with your HR department or plan administrator to make sure you are getting the most from your retirement plan.

b. Company Stock in a 401(k): Net Unrealized Appreciation

Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) is the name of a little-known tax break that can help save you money on taxes from employer stock held in a 401(k) plan if you qualify. NUA rules allow you to take employer stock out of your 401(k) upon certain triggering events, only pay ordinary income taxes on the cost basis of the stock (the price you originally paid for the stock) for the withdrawal, and then have the gains taxed at capital gains tax rates. This can be particularly valuable if:

  • You have highly appreciated employer stock (stock with very low-cost basis);
  • You have an immediate need to withdraw money from your 401(k);
  • You are retiring after age 70.5 and you have to take your first required minimum distribution (RMD); or
  • You have a short RMD period, including stretch RMDs.

The rules for an NUA distribution are very strict, and you should work with your CPA to make sure you follow all the rules precisely. The rules are as follows:

  • You have to distribute the entire balance of your 401(k) and any other qualified plans you have with the employer in a single tax year (some can be withdrawn directly to a taxable account and some can be rolled into an IRA, but there can be no money left in your 401(k) account at the end of the tax year).
  • You must take the distribution of company stock from your 401(k) in actual shares—you cannot sell the shares in the 401(k) and then distribute cash.
  • You must have experienced one of the following triggering events:
  • Separation from service from the company whose plan holds the stock (this may include certain cash buyouts of the company you work for);
  • Reached age 59.5;
  • Become disabled; or
  • Death

Potential Downsides

All tax strategies can be useful, but it is generally not recommendable to let the “tax tail wag the dog.” Trying to pursue this NUA strategy too aggressively can lead to you owning too much company stock and not having your portfolio appropriately diversified. You only have a few different triggering events, which means you only have a few opportunities to distribute the stock, possibly leading to overzealous distributions in the year in which they can be made. This can lead to paying taxes at a higher-than-normal tax bracket and not leaving as much money as you would normally leave in your retirement account, ultimately leading to higher taxes in the long run because all the investments held outside your retirement account are taxed every year. Your heirs do not receive a “step up in basis” on NUA shares upon your passing. You may be charged a penalty for an early retirement account withdrawal if you retire earlier than 59.5 years old, (although in some cases you can take penalty-free distributions as early as age 55). You cannot strategically convert these assets into Roth IRA assets over the years at a potentially low tax rate if they are taken as NUA; however, any amounts rolled into an IRA and not taken as an NUA distribution can still be converted to a Roth IRA. You will have to pay any applicable state taxes on the NUA withdrawal, which may apply equally to ordinary income and capital gains.

Keep in Mind

  • You will have to pay gains (for any price changes in the stock subsequent to the distribution) on any shares distributed from the retirement account and not sold immediately as either short- or long-term gains.
  • It is generally wise to keep the NUA stock in an account separate from other company stock to simplify your recordkeeping.
  • In addition, note that the NUA is not subject to the 3.8% Medicare surtax on net investment income.

Strategic Use

  • You are allowed to “cherry pick” which shares of stock to distribute in kind to the brokerage account and roll the remainder into an IRA.
  • Your heirs are allowed to take an NUA distribution when you pass away if the shares are still held in the company plan.
  • If you separate from service before the age of 59.5, have a very highly appreciated employer stock position, and you need to make a distribution from your retirement account, you would have to pay the normal 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, the penalty will be calculated off of your cost basis. This means if you purchased shares for $1,000 that are now worth $50,000, you can withdraw the $50,000 in employer stock and only pay the ordinary taxes and 10% penalty on the $1,000 cost basis. Then you would only have to pay taxes on the remaining $49,000 at your current capital gains tax rate.
  • You may be able to take an NUA distribution and then strategically sell the shares off in small amounts over the years to keep your income limited to a level that allows for 0% capital gains rates.
  • You can use the NUA distribution to satisfy your first required minimum distribution if you are over the age of 70.5 when you retire so you only have to pay ordinary income taxes on a potentially low-cost basis amount rather than the full amount of your first distribution when you would have had to distribute money from your retirement account anyway. This can significantly reduce the taxes due on your first required minimum distribution.

c. Optimizing Taxes: Backdoor Roth IRA Contributions

This unique strategy becomes available if your 401(k) plan allows you to roll over an IRA account into the 401(k) plan. Normally, single people making over $120,000 a year and married people filing taxes jointly making over $189,000 a year are limited in their ability to contribute to a Roth IRA (the income numbers are based on your Modified Adjusted Gross Income). By using the backdoor Roth IRA strategy, a highly compensated individual can contribute to a non-deductible IRA and convert it to a Roth IRA. The problem is that any Roth conversions must be done pro-rata across all IRA accounts. This means that, if you have a deductible IRA in addition to a non-deductible IRA being funded, any conversion of IRA money would be taken from both pre- and post-tax IRA accounts pro-rata. This creates a tax on the distributions from the deductible IRA where otherwise there would be none.

3. Backdoor Roth IRA Contributions

To avoid this additional taxation, you could potentially transfer the deductible IRA money into your 401(k) and then convert the new non-deductible IRA contributions to a Roth IRA without creating a taxable distribution.

d. 15-Year 403(b) Catch-Up Deferrals

There may be a special provision in a 403(b) plan that allows an additional catch-up separate from the over-50 catch-up. The additional catch-up, which amounts to $3,000 per year, is available to employees who have provided the same employer with 15 years of service. The amount of the allowable 15-year catch-up deferral is calculated as the lesser of:

  • $3,000; or
  • $15,000 reduced by all prior 15-year catch-up deferrals; or
  • $5,000 x years of service, reduced by all prior elective deferrals (including all past 15-year catch-up deferrals) to your 401(k)s, 403(b)s, SARSEPs, or SIMPLE IRAs sustained by your employer.

For employees who are eligible for the 15-year catch-up deferral and the over-50 catch-up, the 15-year catch-up deferral should generally be used first; the over-50 catch-up falls second in priority.

4. 15-Year 403(B) Catch-up Deferrals

e. 457 Special Catch-Up Deferrals

Another catch-up tool available to 457 plan participants is the 457 special catch-up deferral. This allows plan participants who are three years away from attaining normal retirement age in their 457 plan to defer:

  • Twice the yearly limit on deferrals ($37,000 in 2018, which is two times the yearly maximum contribution of $18,500 in 2018) for the three years leading up to normal retirement age; or
  • The yearly limit on deferrals plus any amount allowed in prior years that you chose not to or could not contribute. Plans will keep an ongoing list of amounts you were allowed to defer in prior years, the amount you actually deferred, and any shortfall from those years. If you choose this option, they add up all your shortfall and allow you to contribute an amount equal to the shortfall over the next three years.4

For governmental 457 plans, this additional contribution cannot be paired with the over-50 catch-up, which makes it important to use the one that will provide you with the greatest benefit or largest contribution.

5. 457 Special Catch Up Deferrals

Special Considerations

It is important to know whether your employer matches contributions on a per-year or per-paycheck basis. Obviously, it is in the best interest of the employee to put in the full $18,500 at the beginning of the year to maximize the amount of time the money is invested. However, if the employer matches on a per-paycheck basis, the employee may find themselves getting a 5% match on their first paycheck and no further employer contributions for the year. As a result, the employee’s checks have no 401(k) contributions to match for the remainder of the year. This can lead to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost matching through the years if not caught by the employee.

Mingling Contributions Among 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457 Plans

If you have a 401(k) and a 403(b), the maximum amount you can contribute to both accounts combined is $18,500 (2018).5 If you have a combination of a 401(k) and/or a 403(b) paired with a 457 plan, the maximum you can contribute combined is $37,000: $18,500 to the 401(k) and/or 403(b) and $18,500 to the 457. Plus, you can make any catch-up contributions allowed. The money you save into each account should be in order of employer matching with the employer plan that matches you at the highest rate first, until the match is completely maximized; then the money should flow to the account with the second-best matching and so on until you have contributed your overall maximum contribution to all plans.

6. Mingling Contributions 401(k), 403(B) & 457

Over-50 Catch-Up Contributions

For those who will reach age 50 before the year’s end, the limit on the amount you may contribute to a 403(b), 401(k), or 457 account increases by $6,000. This boosts the individual contribution limit from $18,500 to $24,500.

7. Over-50 Catch-Up Contributions

General Breakdown of 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457 Plans

When it comes to comparing 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457 plans, there are many similarities and few differences. The similarities include:

  • $18,500 contribution limit (2018);
  • $6,000 over-50 catch-up contribution;
  • Risk of investing falls on employee;
  • Withdrawals taxed as ordinary income; and
  • Amounts deferred on a pre-tax basis.

The major differences include:

  • 403(b)s and 457s have additional catch-up deferrals, as discussed above;
  • 401(k)s are open to most employers, 403(b)s are open to tax-exempt and non-profit organizations, and 457s are open to state/local governments and some non-profit organizations; and
  • 457 plans may not be subject to early withdrawal penalties like 403(b)s and 401(k)s.

Pensions: Buying Years of Service

Your pension may give you the option to buy additional years of service credit, which can increase your yearly pension benefit.

Optimal Use: Strategies and Analysis

Purchasing additional years of service should be looked at as an investment decision. You should estimate the rate of return on the “investment” of buying years of service. Doing so would allow you to compare it to a portfolio you’re currently invested in or one you plan on being invested in during retirement. You should also look at what you can buy as a single premium immediate annuity compared to what you would spend out of pocket to buy the years of service. You can then compare the additional increase in your pension to the annuity payment (keeping in mind whether your pension has any cost-of-living adjustments) to know whether you’re being offered something that competes with what is available on the open market.

To calculate an estimated return on this investment, you will need to figure out the rate of return over a given period. In other words, you’ll need to determine the amount of time you expect to collect on the pension plus any cost-of-living adjustments the pension may have. A cost-of-living adjustment would only make buying years of service more profitable.

8. Buying Additional Years of Service for Pensions

Some employers may allow you to avoid early retirement penalties by purchasing service credits. Doing this allows you to become eligible for normal retirement at an earlier date. This might make sense if you: (1) face the potential of having to go on unpaid medical leave that will be factored into your last three years of income, (thus lowering your yearly benefit); (2) have enough money to retire and no longer wish to work; or (3) are presented with another money-making opportunity that requires leaving your employer to pursue. Purchasing additional service credit is generally done to increase your retirement benefit, but doing so can also increase the benefit to your beneficiaries if you pass away during active service. This can be particularly valuable if you have a younger spouse or a critical illness. It can be thought of as a life insurance policy that pays out over time to support your family, even if you no longer qualify for a new life insurance policy due to your terminal illness.

General Considerations

Pension calculations generally rely on the following variables: years of service, retirement age, and highest salary over a specified number of years or average salary over a specified number of years. Purchasing additional service credit adds the number of years purchased to the number of years you worked for the employer for purposes of computing your monthly benefit.

9. Example of a Pension Benefit Calculation

Special Considerations

One thing you need to consider is that you will be buying additional income in retirement. This may affect your taxes and Medicare premiums. You must also consider the stability of the pension plan you’re buying into and the possibility that the pension will change during your retirement along with the years in which you’ll be collecting the pension.

You will want to consider whether you are already vested in the pension. Buying into a pension before vesting and being laid off before you vest can have serious repercussions depending on how the pension years of service purchase works with your employer. There is the possibility of buying years of service before vesting, being laid off or leaving, and not getting any benefit from the money you spent to buy years of service in a pension you will never receive benefits from. Pensions will usually not allow beneficiaries to buy additional years of service credit once the original pension owner passes away. It’s imperative that you don’t put all your eggs into one basket. Relying solely on the pension money can be risky because the pension could be renegotiated and the city, state, federal agency, or employer could go into bankruptcy.

An important factor to consider is whether you can purchase the service credit with pre-tax or after-tax money. If all the money from the pension benefit is to be taxed, then it would be ideal to pay for the years of service credit with something that is pre-tax, like a 403(b) or other retirement plan. As a result, the money is only taxed once rather than twice, and you can reduce your required minimum distributions from the retirement plan for future years in hopes of staying in lower tax and Medicare brackets.

General IRS Rules and Eligibility

  • Pensions typically don’t allow you to buy years of service to bring yourself up to a vesting level (although some do).
  • Some pensions only allow you to buy service at retirement or after a certain number of years of employment.
  • Certain pensions allow credit to be purchased at a discount or acquired for free for periods spent in military service, on maternity leave, under a worker’s compensation claim due to disability, or for out-of-state service from a similar state, federal, or private school employer.

It’s worth talking to any past and current employers to figure out the best way to combine your years of service or use previous job years of service to get a discount when buying years in your pension.

You may also find value in using your paid time off (PTO) strategically during your last working years (the years your pension calculation is based on). You may be limited in the number of hours of PTO factored into your pension calculation in your last years of employment. As a result, you may be able to get more value from your pension by strategically selling your PTO days back to your employer if that is considered when your pension is calculated. You may also be able to use your PTO during times you would normally be off work, e.g., holidays or summer for teachers, in your last years of your employment to boost the average salary on which your pension is based.

DROP Accounts

Some employers’ pension plans have the option for a Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), which allows you to formally retire (as far as your pension is concerned) while you continue to work. Your monthly pension retirement benefits are put into a trust fund instead of being paid to you while you participate in the DROP program. The trust fund will be invested, potentially earning tax-deferred interest for you during the time you participate in the DROP program.

Optimal Use: Strategies and Analysis

It’s important to begin paying attention to any DROP program options far in advance of retirement since plans can have a five-year period for which you can participate. You will have to file the appropriate applications on time to take advantage of the longest period that you can be a participant if it makes sense for you and your financial plan.

Your DROP benefits may be calculated using a participation rate (accrual rate) on your current income or on your pension benefits. For example, let’s say someone earns credits in the DROP program based off a accrual rate on their years of service and their current income ($50,000 per year), the accrual rate is 2.5%, the period in the program is five years, and the person elects to participate for the full five-year period after having worked 25 years. You determine the DROP benefit by multiplying the $50,000 per-year income by the 2.5% accrual rate, which gives you a payout rate of $1,250 per years of service. In this case, we would multiply the $1,250 x 20 for the years of service to get an annual credit in the DROP pension payout of $25,000 per year x the five years of participation for a total drop credit of $125,000.

The math works like this:

10. Example of a Drop Pension

Free calculators are available online that will compute your break-even period if you invest the DROP money; going into that level of depth on this calculation, and some things that should be factored in, are beyond the scope of this book. Suffice it to say that, for most people who invest the funds at a reasonable rate of return, the time to break even when not having participated in DROP is a very long time. It may also make sense to compare the yearly benefit of an immediate fixed-annuity payment bought with the lump-sum DROP money to the yearly difference in a pension payment (keeping in mind that I’m not currently a fan of annuities), but doing so gives you a good comparison point for how much your DROP money would purchase in terms of an annual benefit.

You may also choose to participate in the DROP plan if you have already maximized your lifetime benefits payable by your pension plan. This allows you to continue adding to your retirement even though you have hit the edge of what your pension will pay you. The rate at which you accrue benefits in the DROP program may also be higher than what the defined benefit part of your pension plan offers. It’s worthwhile to look at the payout available to you if you were to take the DROP assets at the end of the period and put them in an immediate annuity purchased cheaply at a fixed rate. By doing so, you can see what the amount of money would buy you in a yearly retirement benefit guaranteed by the open market compared to what your employer offers for the same period of service credits. That is not to say you should buy an annuity with the money, but it is an easy, straightforward way to compare what your pension offers with what is available elsewhere with the same amount of money.

Further, it may make sense for you to use your DROP funds to purchase a term or other life insurance policy and couple that with a pension that has a payout over a single lifetime. This dual strategy may give you more money overall than if you just got a joint pension with a payout for both spouses—and given the insurance component, it also provides money on the back end for the surviving spouse. The value of this strategy varies widely from couple to couple, so it’s important to do a proper evaluation and comparison. That being said, when evaluating the life insurance, you should assume that the spouse for whom the single life pension payments are being made passes away in the first year, so the surviving spouse has sufficient buffer should the worst happen. Again, I am not a huge fan of life insurance due to the way it is commonly sold, but it makes sense to at least check the math on the cost and potential value of a fixed-term life insurance policy with an insurance agent before deciding whether to participate in the DROP program using the above strategy and what type of pension payout to take.

Your pension may have a cost-of-living increase to the pension plan for the years in which you are participating in DROP, or they may stop the cost-of-living adjustment increases for your pension benefits while you are participating in the program. It is important for you to account for this in any calculations involving whether it makes sense for you to participate in the DROP program.

The DROP program will generally allow you to name a designated beneficiary and contingent beneficiary. This means that if you pass away while participating in the DROP program, your beneficiary or contingent beneficiary will receive the DROP assets. This can be particularly valuable if you have elected for any options other than joint and 100% survivor pension benefits so the surviving spouse is left with a lump sum of money. It can also benefit the contingent beneficiary to the extent that if something were to happen to both you and your spouse, usually no one would be eligible to receive pension benefits. However, in this case your contingent beneficiary could still receive the DROP benefits that accrued during your participation in the DROP program rather than receiving nothing from your pension.

DROP programs can allow either a guaranteed rate of return or allow you to invest the funds like you would with an IRA account. It’s important to know what your investment options are and if they are guaranteed before opting for the DROP program. Make sure your participation in the DROP program is in line with your risk tolerance and return goals. If you retire with enough money to not take your pension payments immediately and before you reach age 70.5, you can use the assets you hold outside the DROP program and the pension to fund your current lifestyle. It may be wise to use the years before you turn 70.5 to convert, in piecemeal, the DROP program money into an IRA and then convert slowly, as dictated by pre-modeling your taxes, certain amounts of money every year from your IRA to your Roth IRA.

This conversion over time means the required minimum distributions from any DROP money will be lower in the future. You may be able to keep your lifetime taxes lower by taking small amounts out of your IRA and moving them to a Roth at a low tax bracket. Decreasing the required minimum distributions by converting money from IRA money to Roth IRA money over the course of time may also help keep your Medicare premiums at a lower rate during your retirement, which allows additional cost savings. In addition, if you retire early enough and you have converted some of your IRA money to a Roth, you can take it out tax and penalty free if you need any money from that Roth IRA (as long as the money is not attributable to growth but the money you put in the Roth IRA that has been in the Roth IRA for five years or longer). This means that you need to keep track of how much you convert from the IRA to the Roth IRA before growth. In other words, if you convert $10,000 from the IRA to the Roth IRA and it grows to $15,000 over the course five years, it is invested so you can take out $10,000 tax and penalty free; however, you will have to pay penalties on the additional $5,000 in gains that are made in the Roth (if you are not over age 59.5). This allows extra emergency cash flow in case you need it later in life but before you turn 59.5.

General Considerations

Generally, the DROP program is valid for a specified number of years; after that point, you will have to terminate your employment. The DROP assets will generally be paid out to you as an IRA rollover. Certain job benefits may also accrue based on your previous purchase of service credits in the pension. If this money is paid for with after-tax contributions, you may find different rules for receiving the money back. You may be able to roll the ordinarily earned DROP money over into an IRA, and you may have to take an immediate distribution to a taxable account for any DROP credit earned by purchasing service credits from your pension provider. These accumulations may or may not be a tax-free lump sum payout. The proportion of DROP assets you get that are attributable to any purchase of service credit with after-tax money may be treated differently upon rollout. You may find that you get paid out to a taxable account and the rest rolls over to an IRA.

Special Considerations

Typically, once you start the DROP program you are no longer eligible to purchase pension service credit.6 It’s important to purchase any credits you intend on purchasing before entering the DROP program or to know whether your employer allows the purchase of service credits after having entered the DROP program.

Make sure you file the appropriate forms if there are any changes to your employment or employer and make sure you know how DROP works before making any changes since any lapse in employment with a participating employer can cause your DROP participation to be terminated. Some benefits intended for actual retirement may not be available to you while you are in the DROP program because you are currently working, including health insurance subsidies and other programs intended to help retired employees.

It is important to know your options for reemployment after participating in DROP and formally retiring from service since some employers require you to be retired for a certain period, such as six months after your DROP termination date and your retirement date, to receive all your benefits. In some cases, if you go back to work too early, the employer will void your retirement application and benefits, including all the funds accumulated during your DROP participation, which you will ultimately have to pay back. This has very serious consequences, so if you intend on going back to work after retirement, it’s important to speak with your HR department and make sure you fully understand how the DROP and pension programs work in coordination with going back to work in the future.

If you do not terminate your employment at the end of the DROP program, you may find that your retirement benefits during that point of time, including DROP money that has been put aside and growing for you, are cancelled and you are put back into the regular pension program, which may or may not be beneficial. Understanding what happens if you work past the DROP election date is important because if the DROP program has not had a positive outcome for you, it may be worthwhile to run the math and consider working past the DROP program date intentionally to accrue the pension benefits if your pension works in that manner.

You can generally receive DROP account money in a direct rollover to an eligible retirement plan (e.g., an IRA and a lump-sum payment) or some combination of a direct payment to you and a rollover to an IRA. Keep in mind that if you decide to take a lump-sum payment, you will generally be taxed on the full amount given to you at an ordinary income tax rate. This can be punitive because you may have five years of pension payments taxable all in the same year that you have been working.

11. More Drop Pension Examples

It is important to note that any withdrawals from the DROP program prior to age 59.5 may be subject to a 10% penalty, similar to the 10% penalty assigned to an IRA early withdrawal. There may be a way around this if the DROP program has an associated investment plan qualified as an employer-sponsored plan. Keeping the money in the investment plan may make you eligible to take distributions prior to age 59.5 from the investment plan without facing a 10% IRA early withdrawal penalty if the payments are paid to you after you separate from service with your employer during or after the year you reach age 55. You may also be able to structure payments over the course of your lifetime from the DROP program and avoid the 10% penalty. Correctly structuring your retirement and the age at which you will need these assets is very important, so you should speak with your tax advisor and financial planner before doing anything.

Some special-risk members who are qualified public safety employees may receive distributions from the plan without the 10% excise tax if they separate from service after age 50 (people in this category are generally police, firefighters, or emergency medical service workers for a state or municipality). This means, it can be important to think carefully about your age and how long it will be before you need the DROP money before deciding whether to keep the money inside an investment plan offered by the pension provider or roll the money over into an IRA where you could be subject to additional excise taxes on any withdrawals before the age of 59.5. If you have already rolled the money over into an IRA, it may be wise to speak to your HR department about whether you can roll the money back into the investment plan and take withdrawals if you end up needing withdrawals prior to age 59.5, although this may not always be possible.

 General IRS Rules and Eligibility

  • You may have to wait until you are eligible to retire under the current pension plan to participate in the DROP program. Depending on the plan, you may have to choose to enroll within a certain period based on your first eligibility date, or you may be allowed to choose when you would like to enroll after your retirement date.
  • Once you enroll in the DROP, you may not be able to add years of service to your pension.
  • You are likely limited in terms of the amount of time you can participate in the DROP program, but if you select a shorter DROP period than the maximum allowed, you may be able to request an extension up to the maximum allowed by your employer.
  • Electing to participate in the DROP program is usually irrevocable. In other words, you typically cannot decide you don’t want to participate in the DROP program any longer once you have started participating. In addition, you will no longer receive service credit for years of work and the pension calculation for years worked while participating in the DROP program in most cases.
  • You may need to name a separate beneficiary for the DROP account money from your pension since that person may not automatically be the same as the pension beneficiary. Looking at who the beneficiary is and ensuring that it is who you want it to be is important.

 

To download the book – for free! – click the following links:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Nobles

Feel free to contact Josh Mungavin with any questions by phone 1.800.448.5435 extension 219, or email: JMungavin@EK-FF.com.

For more information on financial planning visit our website at www.EK-FF.com

NewsLetter Vol. 11, No. 4 – August 2018

HRE PR Pic 2013

Harold Evensky CFP® , AIF® Chairman

Dear Reader:

FAST!! 

From USA Today:

200,000 trillion calculations per second: U.S. launches the world’s most powerful supercomputer. Oak Ridge National Laboratory and IBM have successfully built and launched the Summit supercomputer, the world’s most powerful and smartest supercomputer.

The powerful computer is the next step toward a national goal of developing the world’s first fully capable exascale machine by 2021. An exascale computer is one that is capable of making one billion billion calculations per second. The Summit supercomputer has a peak performance of 200,000 trillion calculations per second — or 200 petaflops, making it eight times faster than the Titan Cray X supercomputer that came before it. [My emphasis.]

Oak Ridge National Laboratory director Thomas Zacharia said Summit has already proved itself capable of making exascale calculations in some scientific areas. During its installation, scientists used it to make more than 1.8 quintillion calculations in a single second in bioenergy and human health research. “This is the first time anyone has broken the exascale barrier,” Zacharia said. “Today’s Summit also gives us confidence we can deliver on a fully capable exascale computing resource by the year 2021.”

SCARY

As I wrote in my last NewsLetter, cybercrime is alive and well. Indeed, according to the AICPA, “143 million U.S. consumers were victims of cybercrime in 2017, with losses hitting $19.4 billion. Still, only three in five adults responding to the AICPA survey (61%) said they had ever looked at their credit report. Monitoring your credit is an important step in protecting your finances.” You can request one free report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. The AICPA also recommends checking credit reports associated with your children’s names, even very young children.

From the Federal Trade Commission website:

The three nationwide credit reporting companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report.

To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

We take cybersecurity VERY seriously, and you should too!

THE SHRINKING MARKET

The New York Times reported on a paper by Ohio State finance professor Rene Stulz that found:

  • In the mid-1990s, there were more than 8,000 publicly traded companies.
  • By 2016 there were only 3,627.
  • Based on the growth of the U.S. population, those numbers represent a reduction from 23 companies/million to 11 in 2016.
  • In 1974, 61.5% of publicly traded companies had assets of less than $100 million (in 2015 dollars). By 2015 that portion was 22.6%

1.The Shrinking Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAD

The New York Times reports on new research that sheds light on the scope of a problem affecting a rapidly growing share of older Americans: “The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.”

 

BE PREPARED

Good advice for everyone, not just Boy Scouts. My friend Mena suggests checking out Ready.gov. “I really like Ready.gov for all their information on storm preparation. They cover everything from hurricanes to wildfires to active shooters and pets. June is Pet Month. Gather some information about it!”

EXCELLENT ADVICE

These five lessons from West Point can make you a better investor—and a better person:

2.Excellent Advice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINANCIAL PORNOGRAPHY

Even professionals engage in nonsensical habits. From wealthmanagement.com:

Active vs. Passive: Halftime Results

Investors who shifted to index-based ETFs and mutual funds have generally been rewarded in the first half of 2018, as most actively managed funds failed to keep up with the cheaper alternatives despite the belief we’re in a “stock picker’s market.”

Comparing performance over a six-month period? Worthless!

BEN’S BROMIDES

In his recent newsletter for professionals (which is always excellent), Michael Kitces invited Ben Coombs, a longtime friend and one of our profession’s founders to contribute a guest column. Ben’s musings included a few thoughts both clients and professionals need to take to heart when planning.

  • No matter how precise your answer or calculation may be, it will be wrong tomorrow; a moment will change everything.
  • You can’t send a rocket to the moon without making midcourse corrections.

In my terms that means ignore the decimal places, and “don’t buy and forget—buy and manage.”

FINANCIAL PORNOGRAPHY, PART 2: ARTICLE OF FAITH

From the New York Times:

Facebook’s stock Plunge Shatters Faith in Tech Companies’ Invincibility

It had become an article of investor faith on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley: Quarter after quarter, year after year, the world’s biggest technology companies would keep raking in new users and ever-higher revenue. And with that, their share prices would continue to march upward, sloughing off any stumbles.

This week, that myth was shattered. And investors responded Thursday by hammering the stock of Facebook, one of the world’s most valuable companies. Shares of the social media giant fell 19 percent, wiping out roughly $120 billion of shareholder wealth, among the largest one-day destruction of market value that a company has ever suffered.

Reminds me of the crazy time of the tech boom that peaked in early 2000, when many pundits were arguing that the only place to invest was in U.S. technology and anyone who didn’t was stupid.

HOT TURNS COLD

If six months is worthless, how about one year? Be wary of chasing whatever’s hot. S&P Dow Jones Indices publishes a SPIVA U.S. Scorecard that’s chock-full of interesting and useful data.

For example, it notes that the U.S. equity market ended 2017 on a strong note with the S&P 500 growing 21.83%. Unfortunately, 63.08% of large-cap managers underperformed their index.

How about those that did beat their benchmark for the year? The following highlights the risk of assuming that a style that beats its benchmark index for one year is likely to continue doing so in the future.

Percentage of U.S. Equity Funds That Outperformed Their Benchmarks

1-YEAR           3-YEARS        5-YEARS        10-YEARS

Mid-Cap Growth Funds              82                     9                      19                        2

Small-Cap Growth Funds           85                   13                      13                       4

Real Estate Funds                        63                   40                      26                     15

 

SOBERING NEWS

From the Wall Street Journal:

 A Generation of Americans Is Entering Old Age the Least Prepared in Decades

Low incomes, paltry savings, high debt burdens, failed insurance—the U.S. is upending decades of progress in securing life’s final chapter

Americans are reaching retirement age in worse financial shape than the prior generation, for the first time since Harry Truman was president.

This cohort should be on the cusp of their golden years. Instead, their median incomes including Social Security and retirement-fund receipts haven’t risen in years, after having increased steadily from the 1950s. 

 TRAGIC

From the Financial Times:

Hamptons property sales slow as caution spreads to the wealthy

3. Tragic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home sales have slowed down this year in the Hamptons, the Long Island beach communities that serve as a summer playground for the wealthy of New York, bringing the median price below the $1m mark.

 FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Below is my summation of “Investing Lessons from a Top Poker Player,” an article by Larry Swedroe, one of our profession’s most thoughtful practitioners in our profession’s number-one newsletter (Bob Veres’s Advisor Perspective).

A poker player is betting against one opponent, with a good hand and one card remaining to be drawn.  He estimates his odds of winning the hand to be 86%, so he makes a big bet. Ultimately, that last card proves to be the winning one for his opponent, and he loses big. He “learns his lesson” and changes his strategy.

But wait—if he had followed this strategy 100 times, he’d come out ahead 86% of the time. He knew that in 14% of the cards to be drawn, the hand would be lost. Changing his strategy will probably end up losing him money in the long run.

The lesson? You cannot judge a strategy by the results of one or two outcomes—either way. The Amazon executive who owns Amazon stock in a highly concentrated portfolio has enjoyed a great outcome, and draws the lesson that this is a great investment strategy. But executives who tried that strategy at Polaroid, Eastman Kodak, Digital Equipment, Burroughs, and Xerox would have begged to differ. Roughly 80% of the time, a concentrated portfolio is a poor idea.

The same caution applies to value investing. From 2007 to 2017, the value premium—the average annual difference in returns between value stocks and growth stocks—was -2.3%. So we have “learned” that value investing is inferior to growth, right? But over 10-year periods since 1927, value stocks have outperformed growth stocks 86% of the time, just like a poker hand eventually would. Value investing isn’t suddenly a bad idea; we just managed to hit that other 14% that comes along from time to time.

Swedroe says that there are going to be periods when the best strategy loses, and the smartest among us will be the first to notice and switch course. Research has shown that people with the most intelligence and numerical literacy are the ones who tend to make this type of mistake.

 OPTIMISM REIGNS

“Less than two-thirds of workers are confident that they will retire at age 65, and nearly a third of those surveyed plan to continue working in retirement, according to a Transamerica Center for Retirement survey.

Sixty-two percent of baby boomers, the group closest to retirement, believe they can comfortably retire…. ‘Millennials are the most confident, as they have the most time to save,’ says Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of Transamerica Institute and its center for retirement studies. Despite this sense of assurance, only 67% of millennial workers are confident that they will be able to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle.”

Framing is everything. I read this as “more than two-thirds of retires and 67% of millennials are confident they will be able to retire with a comfortable lifestyle.” I hope they’re right, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

CASH FLOW RESERVE

We’ve been using our “Cash Flow Reserve Strategy” since the early 1980s. Versions are now common throughout the financial services world, so it’s really nice to be recognized as the creators. Check out the mention below from Christine Benz, director of personal finance at Morningstar, in her article “A Midyear Bucket Portfolio Checkup.”

“Before we delve into the Bucket portfolios’ performance, let’s first review what the Bucket approach is designed to do. As pioneered by financial planner Harold Evensky, the Bucket strategy for retirement portfolios centers around an extraordinarily simple premise: By holding enough cash to meet living expenses during periodic weakness in stock or bond holdings—or both—a retiree won’t need to sell fallen holdings. That leaves more of the portfolio in place to recover when the market eventually does.”

 WE’VE COME A LONG WAY!

Notes from David E.:

From March 2005 comes this summary (by John Hallock) of a study, “Forecasting the availability and diversity of global conventional oil supply.” The study was published in the journal Energy.

There is a lot of talk about oil and gasoline these days—and of fear premiums and even the ability of supply to match the pace at which demand is rising.… [The] US Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected that worldwide crude oil production wouldn’t peak until between 2020 and 2030…. Others believe that when conventional oil does actually become harder to find that the market will ensure a transition to alternative fuels—liquified petroleum gas (LPG), tar sands, deep-water oil, etc.…

A growing cadre of researchers, oil industry professionals and even economists are not so sanguine. They believe that the potential to find more oil and produce oil at ever increasing rates is more limited and doubt that either the oil or alternatives will be found in time to avert near-term supply disruptions.

 Now to July 2018, from Bloomberg:

U.S. Is Set to Become World’s Top Oil Producer, Government Says

The U.S. government sees oil production further climbing next year even amid transportation logjams in the country’s most prolific shale play.

The Energy Information Administration sees U.S. crude output averaging 11.8 million barrels a day in 2019, up from its 11.76 million barrel a day estimate in the June outlook.

‘In 2019, EIA forecasts that the United States will average nearly 12 million barrels of crude oil production per day,’ said Linda Capuano, Administrator of the EIA. If the forecast holds, that would make the U.S. the world’s leading producer of crude.

THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT

Here’s an excellent graphic from Nic reminding everyone (particularly investors) to be wary of overconfidence. Remember, all the kids in Lake Woebegone aren’t really above average.

Coined in 1999 by Cornell psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, Wikipedia tells us that “in the field of psychology, the DunningKruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.”

4. The Dunning-Kruger Effect

BACK ON MY SOAPBOX

As usual, I’ll preface this with the caveat that I’m quite biased on the subject of advisor responsibility. The following are excerpts from an op-ed piece by Elizabeth Warren in Financial Advisor regarding the SEC’s proposal to address the broker conflict-of-interest problem.

Your lawyer can’t take money from your opponent to give you bad legal advice. If you’re on Medicare, your doctor can’t take kickbacks from drug manufacturers for prescribing their drugs. But, under current law, your broker-dealer can receive monetary rewards and other perks for recommending certain investment products, even if those products aren’t in your best interest.

The commission should make four main changes:

First, the final rule should make absolutely clear that all financial professionals must act in their clients’ best interest by applying a fiduciary standard to the brokerage industry….

Second, the SEC should explicitly ban the most obvious forms of conflicted advice, like sales contests and quotas that encourage brokers and agents to make bad recommendations….

Third, the SEC shouldn’t rely on disclosure alone to protect customers. A number of studies have shown that disclosure fails to reduce the harm caused by conflicted advice, and brokers have every incentive to make the disclosures as ineffective as possible. A lawyer can’t represent his client’s opponent just because that conflict was disclosed, and the same should be true of a broker.

Finally, the SEC should include a strong enforcement mechanism by allowing investors to sue advisers who scam them. When someone is cheated by their doctor or lawyer, they can go to court. There’s no reason that families shouldn’t have the same option when their life savings are at stake.

Sounds like common sense to me. I couldn’t agree more.

 IT PAINS ME TO SAY THIS…

But sometimes Jim Cramer gives good advice. Check out “Jim Cramer’s Investing Rule 7: No One Made a Dime by Panicking.”

Click Here.

DON’T KNOW IF IT’S TRUE

I barely understand Bitcoin, but if the following is true, it’s sobering.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse took to the stage at the Stifel Financial 2018 Cross Sector Insight Conference to talk cryptos. “I’ll tell you another story that is underreported, but worth paying attention to. Bitcoin is really controlled by China. There are four miners in China that control over 50% of Bitcoin…

How do we know that China won’t intervene? How many countries want to use a Chinese-controlled currency?”

RARE AGREEMENT

Ken Fisher is often outrageous in his pronouncements, and we’re rarely on the same page, but in his recent rant about the current SEC proposed actions, I believe he’s absolutely on target. Below are a few excerpts from an article on Financial Advisor IQ.

 Ken Fisher Slams SEC Attempt to Tighten Broker Regulation

The founder of RIA giant Fisher Investments has slammed the industry watchdog for its attempts to write a best interest standard for broker-dealers, saying if the SEC wants to better regulate brokers, it should enforce the rules it already has….

“I urge the Commission to begin strictly enforcing the ‘solely incidental’ language in the Advisers Act, like a parent starting to strictly enforce bedtime after a long summer vacation, which for the brokerage industry has lasted for more than two decades,” Fisher says.

HUMBLE

Danny is infinitely humbler than me. I obviously couldn’t resist including this tidbit from s2analytics, “Five Lessons from Daniel Kahneman.”

Be Humble
Kahneman’s research has shown that since we use overconfident, highly emotional logic in making investment decisions, the best approach is often the simplest. Ironically, Kahneman defers to his certified financial planner for portfolio advice, Harold Evensky of Evensky, Brown & Katz in Coral Gables, Florida.

At the beginning of a lecture in Chicago on May 2, after introducing himself as a psychologist and insisting he wasn’t an economist, Kahneman glanced down at Evensky sitting in the first row and quipped nervously, “I’m intimidated by my financial adviser, he knows how little I know.”

A little humility goes a long way in successful investing. You don’t need a Nobel Prize under your belt to discover that.

NICE TRY, AARP

Seen in the AARP.org bulletin: “BID BY AARP TO SAVE ‘FIDUCIARY RULE’ REJECTED—Reg would have forced financial advisors to put clients first.”

TACTLESS THINGS I SAY

My friend Bob Veres highlighted in his most excellent newsletter some thoughts from Allan Roth, an experienced practitioner. A number of them really resonated with me.

  • I’m charging you to tell you I don’t know the future.
  • Is your goal to die the richest person in the graveyard? This is another version of: If you’ve won the game, quit playing. Stop taking significant market risk when you no longer have to.
  • You have a ton of cash, and that is your riskiest asset. Inflation and taxes inevitably erode the value of cash, bit by bit, over decades.
  • If it feels wrong, go for it. People typically want to put their money in whatever asset class has performed well, or take from the asset class that has performed worst. This is backwards.
  • Get real! This means focus on real, after-inflation returns, and after factoring out all the AUM fees, mutual fund expense ratios, etc.

BIG!

From wealthmanagement.com comes this list of the world’s biggest wealth management firms in 2017:

UBS                                            $2.4      Trillion

Morgan Stanley                      $2.2       Trillion

Bank of America                     $2.2      Trillion

Wells Fargo                              $1.9      Trillion

Royal Bank of Canada           $908      Billion

Credit Suisse                            $792      Billion

Citi                                             $530      Billion

J.P. Morgan                              $526      Billion

Goldman Sachs                      $458      Billion

BNP Paribas                           $437      Billion

E&K didn’t make the list. Maybe next year.

BEST STATES TO RETIRE IN

From Kiplinger:

“To help you weigh the pros and cons of each state when it comes to retirement, we ranked all 50 states based on financial factors critical to retirees, including living expenses, tax burdens, health care costs, household incomes, poverty rates and the economic wellness of the state itself. Of course, plenty of other factors figure into this major life decision, from proximity to family to climate preferences. But we’ll leave assessing those personal considerations to you.”

 

Share of                                  Cost of Living              Average Income

Population 65+                        to U.S. Average          for 65+ households

#1  South Dakota               15.2%                                      -4%                              $43,712

#2  Hawaii                          16.1%                                      +87%                           $71,997

#3  Georgia                         12.3%                                      -7%                              $50,607

#4  North Dakota               14.2%                                      +1%                             $46,763

#5  Tennessee                    15.0%                                      -12%                            $47,891

#6  Alabama                       15.3%                                      -13%                            $44,934

#7  Virginia                         13.8%                                      +7%                             $59,869

#8  Florida                           19.1%                                      +1%                             $51,187

#9  New Hampshire          15.9%                                      +18%                           $53,202

#10  Utah                             10.0%                                      +4%                             $53,211

U.S.                                       14.5%                                                                           $53,799

OK

I’m not going to complain about 100 degree weather in Lubbock

5. OK

ABOUT TIME

From wealthmanagement.com: “An increasing number of women are becoming billionaires. In fact, women are joining the three-comma-club at a faster rate than men, according to Wealth-X’s annual billionaire survey.”

SPRUCE UP YOUR GARAGE DOOR

Some ideas from my friend Leon:

6. Spruce up your garage door

SMART, NOT BRILLIANT

In preparing for a seminar I’ll be giving, I came across an interesting article. I believe the “lesson” is as valid today as when the study was done in 2002.

“In researching how wealthy families created their wealth and then how some were able to sustain it while others lost the wealth, we came across the following.

“To create wealth required concentrated risk taking, often magnified through leverage. To sustain it, the better strategy was to diversify and take a diverse portfolio of risks. This was highlighted through a study of the Forbes 400 (a list of the wealthiest individuals in the U.S.) over a 23-year period. Of the 400 on the list at the beginning of the 23-year period, only 50 remained on the list. The principal factor in dropping off the list was that they did not change their approach to risk taking and their concentrated wealth did not keep up with increases in the market. The interesting insight from this study was that any of those original 400 who would have sold their concentrated assets at the beginning of the period, paid taxes, and simply invested in the S&P 500 Index would still be on the list today.”

Source: “Creating a Goal-Based Wealth Allocation Process,” by Ashvin B. Chhabra, Ravindra Koneru, and Lex Zaharoff, Journal of Wealth Management, winter 2008.

MORE SMART, NOT BRILLIANT

This chart is from J.P. Morgan’s most recent Guide to the Markets, a quarterly publication and one of the most valuable publications in the financial services world.

7. More Smart, Not Brilliant.png

Source: J.P. Morgan, Guide to the Markets, 3Q 2018, as of June 30, 2018

IT’S A GLOBAL WORLD

8. It's a Global World.png

WHY DIVERSIFICATION WORKS OVER TIME (EVEN FIVE YEARS)

9. Why Diversification Works Over Time

Source: J.P. Morgan, Guide to the Markets, 3Q 2018, as of June 30, 2018

ONE MORE GURU BITES THE DUST

From the Wall Street Journal:

‘This Is Unbelievable’: A Hedge Fund Star Dims, and Investors Flee

For years, David Einhorn’s investors didn’t seem to mind his unusual ways—the aloofness toward clients, midday naps, unpopular stock picks, late nights on the town. Until the billionaire hedge-fund manager fell into a slump.

After more than a decade of winning on Wall Street, Mr. Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital Inc. has shrunk to about $5.5 billion in assets under management, his investors estimate, from a reported $12 billion in 2014, and his investments are struggling.

AND ONE MORE NAIL

In the hedge fund coffin, this one from the New York Times:

Hedge Funds Should Be Thriving Right Now. They Aren’t.

Highly paid hedge fund managers have complained for years that it’s unfair to compare their performance with the broad stock market during prolonged bullish periods. Hedge funds are designed to mitigate risk, the argument goes, and so investors in them might sacrifice some gains as markets rise while waiting for hedge funds to prove themselves in more challenging times.

Those times would seem to have arrived.

So far this year, stock markets have delivered weak returns, bond markets have turned in negative performances, and everything is much more volatile—just the environment that many hedge funds say they’ve been waiting for….

The results for the first six months are now in—and they shatter the myth of hedge funds thriving in turbulent markets.

Hedge funds, on average, underperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index yet again. An index of hedge fund performance, calculated by the research firm HFR, gained just 0.81 percent in the first half of 2018. That is less than half of the S. & P. 500’s 1.67 percent gain.

AND SOME INTERESTING (AND IMPRESSIVE) DATA ON EMERGING MARKETS

10. And Some interesting (and impressive) data on emerging markets

J.P. Morgan, Guide to the Markets, 3Q 2018

BUY HIGH, SELL LOW

Notice a pattern?

11. Buy High Sell Low

Source: 2018 Investment Company Fact Book: A Review of Trends and Activities in the Investment Company Industry. Washington, DC: Investment Company Institute. Available at www.icifactbook.org

THE AMAZING BODY

Some tidbits from my friend Leon. Just reading this wore me out. I had to take a nap.

  • Your heart pumps approximately 2,000 gallons of blood through its chambers every single day. It beats more than 100,000 times a day.
  • You take around 17,000 breaths a day on average, and don’t have to think about a single one.
  • Your brain doesn’t stop working. It’s estimated that about 50,000 thoughts pass through it each day on average, although some scientists put the figure closer to 60,000. That is a whopping 35 to 48 thoughts every minute.
  • You blink about 28,800 times every day, with each one lasting just a tenth of a second. You can weigh up any visual scene in just a hundredth of a second.
  • Red blood cells literally shoot around the body, taking less than 60 seconds to complete a full circuit. That means 1,440 trips around your body every day.
  • You shed more than 1 million skin cells every day.
  • Your hair (if you still have any) grows about half a millimeter per day, and the average adult with a full scalp has around 100,000 hairs on their head.
  • The average person will eat over 50 tons of food in his or her lifetime. No wonder I keep gaining weight!
  • And most amazing of all, your body cells are regenerating themselves every single day without any prompting. This means you have an entirely new set of taste buds every 10 days, new nails every six to 10 months, new bones every 10 years, and a new heart every 20 years.

 

BUT THIS SHOULD MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER

Kiplinger’s “Cheaper by the Decade” shows us prices today versus 33 years ago (adjusted for inflation):

                                                1985               2018

Cell Phone                           $  1,495           $    670

Television                             $  1,200           $    160

Computer                             $  2,495           $ 1,099

Nike Air Jordans                 $     152           $    110

Honda Accord LX               $25,343           $24,465

SPEAKING OF MILLENIALS

PGIM Investments, the investment manufacturing and distribution arm of PGIM, the global asset management business of Prudential Financial, has found in its 2018 Retirement Preparedness Survey that a majority of millennials (62%) planned to retire only when they had enough money, but 31% were not saving for retirement at all, as they didn’t see “the point of planning for retirement because anything can happen between now and then.”

As my dad would say, I think they’re cruzin’ for a bruzin’.

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY, PART 2

Courtesy of David:

12. We've Come a Long Way, part 2

NOW THAT’S VOLATILITY!

13. Now That's Volatility

https://www.parametricportfolio.com/blog/argentina-capital-markets-from-hero-to-goat

OVERCONFIDENCE

Wikipedia tells us, “The overconfidence effect is a well-established bias in which a person’s subjective confidence in his or her judgements is reliably greater than the objective accuracy of those judgements, especially when confidence is relatively high.” And from Financial Advisor IQ:

Americans Confident About Their Own Financial Literacy – for No Reason

Americans seem to put a lot of faith in their financial literacy, despite the fact that only around one out of 20 scored in the top bracket on a financial quiz, according to a recent report from the research firm Raddon.

Forty-four percent of Americans believe they’re “extremely” or “very” financially literate, according to a survey of 1,200 U.S. adults 18 and over conducted in the fall of 2017 by Raddon, which is part of Fiserv. But not even half were able to pass a financial quiz, and just 6% were able to get a score of 90 or above on the company’s quiz, Raddon found.

WORKER PRAISE             

14. Worker Praise

Courtesy of Planadvisor.com

Retirement plan participants are clearly happy campers. If you’re eligible and not yet participating, do it now! If you’re in business and do not offer a plan, now’s the time to consider doing so. As we’re advisors to many plans we’re obviously biased in favor of saving through retirement plans.

CHEAT SHEET

If you’re like me, you never can remember who is in which generation. Here’s a good recap and some interesting statistics from the Graphic Sociology blog on the Society Pages site:

15. Cheat Sheet 1

15. Cheat Sheet 2

I JUST LOVE MARKET TIMING

Hope may spring eternal but market timing is a tried-and-true strategy for long-term underperformance. Here’s an example from Jason Zweig’s always excellent Wall Street Journal column “The Intelligent Investor.”

Average returns if an investor had…*

 

Bought and Held the Investment           Traded the Investment

 

Emerging Market Bonds                  6.1%                                                                   4.0%

European Stock                                 2.6%                                                                   -7.8%

 

*Annualized over the 10 years ended March 31, 2018—Morningstar

 

Hope you enjoyed this issue, and I look forward to “seeing you” again in a few months.

 

_HRE SIGNATURE

Harold Evensky

Chairman

Evensky & Katz / Foldes Financial Wealth Management

 

Check out the link below for Harold’s previous NewsLetter:

NewsLetter Vol. 11, No. 4 – June 2018

 

www.EK-FF.com

Six Things You Need to Know to Make You a Better Investor

HRE PR Pic 2013

Harold Evensky CFP® , AIF® Chairman

Click the following links to view Harold R. Evenskys, CFP®, AIF® Six Things You Need to Know to Make You a Better Investor presentation that was held at the Coral Gables Art Cinema on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018.

To view the entire seminar: Click Here

To view in segments click the following:

Part 1: Squaring the Curve

Part 2: Returns (No Control)

Part 3: Volatility Risk & Luck

Part 4: Real People

Part 5: Market Timing

Part 6: Knowing Where the Buck Stops

 

Feel free to contact Harold Evensky with any questions by phone 1.800.448.5435 or email: Harold@Evensky.com

For more information on financial planning visit our website at www.EK-FF.com

The Value of a Financial Planner

John_Salter2012

John R. Salter, CFP®, AIFA®, PhD Wealth Manager, Principal

Financial planning is the process of determining how you can meet your financial goals by managing your financial resources. Probably you have already thought about your own financial planning. Maybe you have thought about working, or already work, with a professional financial planner. Whatever your situation, we wanted to discuss the value of working with a financial planner.

Financial planners provide advice on how to achieve financial goals. The quality of the advice should be measured by whether you attain those goals. The value of financial planning lies in the development of a plan specific to your goals, but just as important is the guidance you get along the way.

Below are just a few ways financial planners provide value to clients.

Creating a Financial Plan

One well-documented fact about our lives is we are likely to spend more time planning a vacation than planning for our retirement. And why not? The vacation seems much more fun! However, the vacation is a one-time event, whereas issues related to your financial life have a lasting impact on your future (and your ability to take vacations, for that matter!) A financial plan maps out the steps you need to take in the areas of spending, saving, investing, managing risks, and handling bequests in order to attain your financial goals.

A financial planner provides the analysis and can outline the steps needed to meet your current and future financial goals.

Being a Sounding Board

Should you pay off your mortgage? Should you buy or lease your car? What about buying a rental property? Were you pitched an annuity at a free dinner? A financial planner can help you answer all these questions and more, either through an analysis and/or by providing the details you need to make an informed decision yourself. You can probably think back to times you have contemplated a decision, seemingly to no avail, when an objective opinion could have saved you time.

A financial planner is there to help.

Optimal Investing

Investing should be boring. We should focus not only on achieving returns, but also evaluate the risk we are willing to accept to reach those returns. This “risk” refers to how much your portfolio might drop in a short-term bear market, but also the risk that you might not be able to meet your future financial goals. Our investments should be diversified; we should not have all our eggs in one basket. The best portfolio should arise out of the overlap between your risk tolerance, your financial capacity to take risk, and the risk and return needed to meet your future goals.

A financial planner helps determine your optimal portfolio.

Staying Disciplined

Long term, we are likely to be our own worst enemy in terms of keeping our financial plan on track, both in terms of performing the financial planning tasks we need to undertake and sticking with the investment plan. One notable example is estate planning, which seems to be the last item on everyone’s to-do list. Sometimes we need simple “nudges” to make sure these tasks are completed. Financial planners also help stay on track with our investments. When the market’s down, you want to adjust and make it more conservative, and then get back in when it is up. This is the easiest way to lose money long term. Ongoing management includes rebalancing or bringing the investment mix back to target. In general, this is selling the winners and buying more of what hasn’t done as well recently, and of course assumes long-term investment values will rise. Does short-term market volatility get you worried? Why not have your financial planner help you stay disciplined through the ups and downs of the market cycle, which are inevitable, simply by reaching out to you during rough markets?

A financial planner helps you stay disciplined through the financial planning process.

Managing Behavior

We are human, and therefore we are hard-wired to make terrible financial decisions. We want to be in the market when things are going well, and out when things look bad. We should do the opposite. We focus too much on the short term; we want to make decisions based on short-term noise rather than long-term analysis. We want to be in the winners and out of the losers, whereas being spread across winners and losers (being diversified) is the best long-term strategy. We want our investments to be exciting and sexy, but they should be dull and boring. We want to chase the investments that did well in the too-recent past, but they are likely those that will falter in the short-term future. We make decisions based on simple rules of thumb because we cannot perform complex math in our head. Our behavior, based on the emotions tied to our money, prevents us from reaching our future financial goals.

A financial planner helps manage your behavior and separate emotion from your money.

Tax and Cost Efficiency

In a world of lower return expectations, and given that we cannot control the markets, the ability to control and take into consideration tax and cost efficiency becomes even more important. Many financial planners have access to the universe of financial products. This means they also have access to the range of costs of products and may be able to implement a plan more cost effectively compared to a retail solution. If a financial planner can access a mutual fund for 0.5% less, that is 0.5% more staying in your portfolio. Tax savings produce similar benefits. A financial planner can not only make long-term tax-efficient recommendations but can also strategically position your individual investments in certain accounts to minimize current taxable income. A solution which decreases the tax you pay also results in more money accumulated or available.

Keep on Track

A financial plan is important to meeting goals, and maintaining and monitoring the plan are the check-ups required for progress. Annual meetings with your financial planner provide the opportunity to review your goals and see progress toward meeting them. Of course, we all know life can change at any moment, so updating and monitoring financial plans takes account of the ebbs and flows of life.

So, what is the quantifiable value of a financial planner? Many studies have addressed this question. These examples include many of the topics above, such as the financial planning process, portfolio construction and investment selection, rebalancing, and tax efficiency. The answer? Studies have concluded the value of a financial planner and the financial planning process can add an upwards of 3% in returns per year.

Below are links to a few of these studies.

https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/investing-ideas/financial-advisor-cost

http://www.envestnet.com/sites/default/files/documents/ENV-WP-CS-0516-FullVersion.pdf

https://www.vanguard.com/pdf/ISGQVAA.pdf

https://corporate1.morningstar.com/uploadedFiles/US/AlphaBetaandNowGamma.pdf

No matter how you might value a financial planner, the true value comes from the benefits listed above and from following and keeping on track with the financial planning process. Value goes beyond simple products or investment choices and returns. A financial planner is your partner in meeting your future financial goals.

Feel free to contact John Salter with any questions by phone 1.806.747.7995 or email: JSalter@EK-FF.com

For more information on financial planning visit our website at www.EK-FF.com.

NewsLetter Vol. 11, No. 3 – June 2018

HRE PR Pic 2013

Harold Evensky CFP® , AIF® Chairman

Dear Reader:

 

DEPRESSING IF TRUE

“Medicare to go broke three years earlier than expected, trustees say.

Medicare’s hospital trust fund is expected to run out of money in 2026, three years earlier than previously projected, the program’s trustees said in a new report published this afternoon.

“The more pessimistic outlook is largely due to reduce revenues from payroll and Social Security taxes, and higher payments than expected to hospitals and private Medicare plans last year.

“The solvency report is the first since the repeal of Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board earlier this year as part of a massive spending agreement in Congress. The panel outside experts was designed to tame excessive Medicare spending growth, but costs never grew fast enough to trigger the controversial board, and no members were ever appointed. Social Security faces depletion in 2034, the program’s trustees also said today. That’s identical to last year’s projection.”

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/05/medicare-outlook-2026-625908

 

GOOD NEWS? BAD NEWS?

From my friend and long-term care guru, Bill Dyess.

I don’t know if it’s good news that someone needed LTC this long, but it was certainly good news that their insurance covered them. Here are the largest claims as of 12/31/2017 (and they’re still being paid!)

Male Female
Paid to date $1,592,000 $2,600,000
Years claim has been paid 9 years, 10 months 13 years, 9 months
Initial premium/year $4,474/year $2,600/year
Years paid until claim began 6 years, 6 months 13 years, 9 months

 

PITHY THOUGHT

For market timers….

Think about the few times when there was lots of certainty—2000 or 2009. How did that work out?

 

TEST RESULTS

From my last NewsLetter …

A TEST

John Durand wrote Timing: When to Buy and Sell in Today’s Markets, a classic in active investment management. He also wrote How to Secure Continuous Security Profits in Modern Markets, in which he opined: “As this is written, one of the greatest bull markets in history is in progress. People have been saying for several years that prices and brokers’ loans are too high; yet they go on increasing.… People who deplore the high at which gilt-edged common stocks are now selling apparently fail to grasp the fundamental distinction between investments yielding a fixed income and investments in the equities of growing companies. Nothing short of an industrial depression … can prevent common stock equities in well-managed and favorable circumstanced companies from increasing in value, and hence in market price.” When was his book published?

No winners, but here are ones that came mighty close:

Alan Rosoff ……………… 1928

Richard Lorenz………….  1930

Jewell Davis ………….…  1925

The publication date was September 1929.

The Great Depression started October 29,1929.

TIDBITS FROM AARP

  • Only about 37% of couples share financial decision-making equality. For shame!
  • The average parent thinks allowances should begin at age 10.
  • Approximately 29% of women in dual-income marriages make more money than their spouses; that’s up from 16% in 1981.
  • The “average” family in the top 10% of wealth in the United States receives an inheritance of about $367,000, while families at the median level of wealth report an average of about $16,000.
  • The average payout from the tooth fairy in 2017 was $4.13; in the West, it was $6.
  • About 53% of grandparents contribute to their grandkids’ education, and 23% contribute to health and dental bills.

 

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED

When markets take a dip, it’s not the end of the world (and if it is, who cares about markets?).

06-2018_Market Downturn

Even better, from our perspective, is that corrections are great buying opportunities.

 

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS

While the Federal Reserve’s “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017” stated that “overall economic well-being has improved over the past five years,” that optimistic headline masks a lot of sad news.

“Economic Well-Being. A large majority of individuals report that financially they are doing okay or living comfortably, and overall economic well-being has improved over the past five years.

“Even so, notable differences remain across various subpopulations, including those of race, ethnicity, and educational attainment.”

Furthermore:

“Dealing with Unexpected Expenses. While self-reported financial preparedness has improved substantially over the past five years, a sizeable share of adults nonetheless say that they would struggle with a modest unexpected expense.

“• Four in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. This is an improvement from half of adults in 2013 being ill-prepared for such an expense.

“• Over one-fifth of adults are not able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full.

“• Over one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.”

https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2017-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201805.pdf

 

PHEW!

Good thing I went to college a zillion years ago. Here are the statistics for Cornell’s Class of 2022:

Applicants     –           51,000+ (a record high)

Admit rate      –           10.3%    (an all-time low)

Admitted        –           5,288

 

SAD BUT TRUE

Cyberattacks are a reality of life today, and we take the risk very seriously.

2.9% of advisors have faced successful attacks on their firm (not us).

44% of firms with more than one employee require mandatory cybersecurity training (we do).

81% of advisors believe addressing cybersecurity is high or very high on their priority list (we believe it’s very high).

 

IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS

New York Times

“Hoping to thwart a sophisticated malware system linked to Russia that has infected hundreds of thousands of internet routers, the F.B.I. has made an urgent request to anybody with one of the devices: Turn it off, and then turn it back on.

“The malware is capable of blocking web traffic, collecting information that passes through home and office routers, and disabling the devices entirely, the bureau announced on Friday.”

https://www.ic3.gov/media/2018/180525.aspx

 

TULIPS

As I wrote in my last NewsLetter:

Here’s what Crypto pioneer Mike Novogratz said on Monday on CNBC’s “Fast Money” (12/11/17).

“This is going to be the biggest bubble of our lifetimes.” Which, of course, does not stop him from investing hundreds of millions in the space. While conceding that cryptos are the biggest bubble ever … “Bitcoin could be at $40,000 at the end of 2018. It easily could.” Then, of course, it may not.

Turns out, so far, it’s “not.”

06-2018_Bitcoin USD Price

 

GOOD ADVICE

Also from AARP, an excellent article (as always) by Jean Chatzky: “Planning for the Worst.” Why disability insurance may be a must-have for you and this article is must-have reading for my younger readers.

https://www.aarp.org/work/working-at-50-plus/info-2018/disability-insurance-chatzky.html

 

DISMAL

“Dismal Outlook for Millennials” was the headline in a planadviser article. Why?

67% 66% 47%
Feel they will outlive their savings Have no retirement savings Think they will be unable to retire when they would like to

And, to my amazement,

Only 34% Only 21%
Participate in a retirement plan Are worried about their retirement security

 

THE ANSWER IS “BECOME A CEO”

“Income inequality in the United States has increased significantly since the 1970s, after several decades of stability….”

Wikipedia

The New York Times ran an interesting, albeit depressing, story highlighting this issue:

“Want to Make Money Like a CEO? Work 275 years.

“This year, publicly traded corporations in the United States had to begin revealing their pay ratios—comparisons between the pay of their chief executive and the median compensation of other employees at the company. The results were predictably striking.”

Examples included:

CEO Median Employee Years to Earn
Walmart $22.2 million $19,177 More than 1,000
Live Nation $70.6 million $24,406 2,893
Time Warner $49 million $75,217 651

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/25/business/highest-paid-ceos-2017.html?emc=edit_nn_20180525&auth=login-email

 

 WHY WE NEED A FIDUCIARY STANDARD

From the Wall Street Journal:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/wells-fargos-401-k-practices-probed-by-labor-department-1524757138

“Wells Fargo’s 401(k) Practices Probed by Labor Department
“Department is examining if bank pushed participants in low-cost 401(k) plans into more expensive IRAs

“The Labor Department is examining whether Wells Fargo & Co. has been pushing participants in low-cost corporate 401(k) plans to roll their holdings into more expensive individual retirement accounts at the bank, according to a person familiar with the inquiry.

“Labor Department investigators also are interested in whether Wells Fargo’s retirement-plan services unit pressed account holders to buy in-house funds, generating more revenue to the bank, the person said.”

It’s important to note that at this stage, it’s just a “probe,” but it’s no secret that these actions are common throughout the financial services world. If you’re responsible for a 401(k) plan, be sure your advisor is a 3(38), not a 3(21), fiduciary.

From the National Institute of Pension Administrators: “A 3(21) investment fiduciary is a paid professional who provides investment recommendations to the plan sponsor/trustee. The plan sponsor/trustee retains ultimate decision-making authority for the investments and may accept or reject the recommendations. Both share the fiduciary responsibility. By properly appointing a monitoring an authorized 3(38) investment manager, a plan sponsor/trustee is relieved of all fiduciary responsibility for the investment decisions made by the investment professional.”

 

WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO

“The Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement strategy to protect retail investors resulted in the return of a record $1.07 billion to harmed investors in 2017, SEC officials said Tuesday.”

Financial Advisor.

 

“JPMORGAN TO REMOVE SOME FIDUCIARY RULE HANDCUFFS, OTHERS MAY FOLLOW”

“JPMorgan Chase & Co. is telling its brokers and private bankers to prepare for changes to its retirement account policies and products in preparation for the likely repeal of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule next week.

“The message, sent in emails from bank executives to advisors at J.P. Morgan Securities, Chase Wealth Management and Chase Private Bank on Wednesday, signals that Wall Street firms are poised to move quickly to reverse restrictions that they imposed to comply with the conflict-of-interest rule that took partial effect last June.”

 

ONE MORE TIME

As I continue to beat the fiduciary drum continually, what can I say? It’s REALLY important. So, below is an excerpt from an interview with Phyllis Borzi in my friend Christopher Carosa’s FiduciaryNews.

FN: Now to the present. It looks like the Conflict-of-Interest Rule has not survived its court challenge and that the current administration seeks to, in essence, rewrite it. Still, the impact of the Rule remains. The term “fiduciary” – in part thanks to your efforts, in part thanks to John Oliver – has been elevated in the minds of the investing public. What aspects of the Conflict-of-Interest Rule are now “baked into the cake” of the retirement industry and would be hard to reverse, formal regulation or not?

Borzi: It’s probably too early to tell. But one of the lasting legacies of the DOL conflict-of-interest rules is in the greater public understanding of the need to seek an advisor who is willing to agree in writing to be a fiduciary. Unfortunately, most consumers are not yet at the point where they can tell for sure whether someone who assures them they are acting in their best interest (and thus using that term as a marketing slogan) is genuinely accepting legal liability as a fiduciary. That’s why consumers must get that acknowledgement of fiduciary status in writing and not simply accept the representations of individuals purporting to be acting in their interest.”

That’s why getting the Committee for the Fiduciary Standard’s oath (http://www.thefiduciarystandard.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/fiduciaryoath_individual.pdf) signed by your advisor is so important.

You can read the full transcript of the FiduciaryNews interview here:

http://fiduciarynews.com/2018/05/exclusive-interview-phyllis-borzi-says-original-fiduciary-5-part-test-left-plan-sponsors-holding-the-bag/?utm_source=BenefitsPro&utm_medium=IsthePerfectFiduciaryRuleEvenPossible&utm_campaign=051718z&ct=t(EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_5_15_2018)

 

ROBO PLANNING

The hot story in the planning world is Robo-Advisors: i.e., planning based on computer algorithms. I just heard a quote from an MIT AgeLab presentation that captures my thoughts:

“My life is not an algorithm; my life is a story.”

 

PRINCIPLES

Of course, when discussing fiduciary concepts, it’s important to consider principles, so I thought I’d share the story of “A Man of Principles” from my friend Phil.

“In 1952, Armon M. Sweat, Jr., a member of the Texas House of
Representatives, was asked about his position on whiskey. What follows
is his exact answer (taken from the Political Archives of Texas):

“‘If you mean whiskey, the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody
monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home,
creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the
mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples
Christian men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious
living into the bottomless pit of degradation, shame, despair,
helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it
with every fiber of my being.’

“‘However, if by whiskey you mean the lubricant of conversation, the
philosophic juice, the elixir of life, the liquid that is consumed
when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and
the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas
cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an
elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that
enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life’s great tragedies
and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which
pours into Texas treasuries untold millions of dollars each year, that
provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our
deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest
highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this
nation, then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favor of it.’

“‘This is my position, and as always, I refuse to compromise on matters
of principle.’”

 

DELAY MAY BE GOOD

If you’ve not yet planned your retirement, the two major contributors to increasing the probability of financial success are delaying retirement and social security. If you have questions, check with us. That’s our forte.

06-2018_How Americans Claim.png

Source: Wealthmanagement.com

 

A GOOD START

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-24/carney-and-dudley-urge-banks-to-prepare-for-move-away-from-libor  

“10 Universities with the most billionaire alumni”—a useless but interesting tidbit. Here’s the list:

SCHOOL                               # of Billionaire Alumni

University of Michigan                         26

University of Chicago                           29

University of Southern California       29

Yale                                                         31

Cornell                                                    35

MIT                                                           38

Columbia                                                53

University of Pennsylvania                 64

Stanford                                                  74

Harvard                                                188

 

 

OVERCONFIDENCE

“The overconfidence effect is a well-established biased in which a person’s subjective confidence in his or her judgments is reliably greater than the objective accuracy of those judgments, especially when confidence is relatively high.” ~Wikipedia

Overconfidence (e.g., Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average) is a classic behavioral heuristic and one that often leads to poor investment decisions.

“There’s a Big U.S. Gender Gap in Retirement Investing Confidence Wealth Management

“Sixty percent of college-educated, not-yet-retired men say they’re comfortable managing their investments, compared to 35 percent of women.”

It’s that recognition of reality that makes women generally better investors then men.

 

OLD MEN

Given my current age, I kind of liked this:

One evening the old farmer decided to go down to the pond, as he hadn’t been there for a while.
He grabbed a twenty-liter bucket to bring back some fruit while he was there.

As he neared the pond, he heard voices shouting and laughing with glee. As he came closer, he saw it was a bunch of young women skinny-dipping in his pond. He made the women aware of his presence and they all went to the deep end. One of the women shouted to him, ‘We’re not coming out until you leave!’

The old man frowned, ‘I didn’t come down here to watch you ladies swim naked or make you get out of the pond naked.’

Holding the bucket up he said, ‘I’m here to feed the crocodile….’

Some old men can still think fast.

 

Hope you enjoyed this issue, and I look forward to “seeing you” again in a few months.

 

_HRE SIGNATURE

Harold Evensky

Chairman

Evensky & Katz / Foldes Financial Wealth Management

 

Check out the link below for Harold’s previous NewsLetter:

NewsLetter Vol. 11, No. 2 – April 2018

 

 

Buyer Beware: What Do You Get From Your Advisor?

Brett Horowitz

Brett Horowitz, CFP®, AIF® Principal, Wealth Manager

Although I have never been to Thailand, I have read that you cannot go more than a few feet in a typical town market without someone yelling “same same.” It is the vendor’s way of telling you that what they offer is the same as everyone else, thus encouraging you to end yourcomparison shopping and buy from them.

Recently I spoke with a gentleman considering whether to become a client of our wealth management firm, and he asked matter-of-factly how we are different than all the other hundreds of investment firms in the area. It seems that most of the public thinks of all financial firms as “same same,” yet they differ widely. Here are a few of the things that may distinguish one financial advisory firm from the next.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I cannot tell you the number of prospective clients who sit down to meet with us and have no idea how to answer the following three major questions.

  1. What return do you need in order to meet your personal goals?

If your portfolio is making 20% per year but it is loaded with risky assets that are keeping you up at night and you only need to earn 5% per year to live your current lifestyle, what is the point of taking the extra risk? Is your plan to make as much money as possible or to have the ideal lifestyle with the least amount of risk? If your goals change, shouldn’t the asset allocation (and desired return) be altered as well?

  1. Is your portfolio performing suitably to help you meet your goals?

If you are not receiving performance reports every so often, how do you know if the current advisor is doing a good job in helping you meet your goals? What does this performance tell you about the likelihood that you will meet your goals? Do you have a plan in place for tracking your goals?

  1. How does your current advisor get paid, and what is the total cost of your relationship?

If you cannot determine how much your advisor is being paid, isn’t it vital that you ask, to make sure the fees are reasonable? The US Department of Labor 401(k) fee website (http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/publications/401k_employee.html) compared two investors who started at age 35 with a 401(k) balance of $25,000 and never contributed again. Both investors earned 7% per year before fees, but one paid a 0.5% annual fee and one paid a 1.5% annual fee for the investments. The ending value after 35 years would have been $227,000 for the investor who paid a 0.5% annual fee versus $163,000 for the investor who paid a 1.50% annual fee. The 1 percentage point difference in fees reduced the account balance at retirement by 28%! An advisor cannot control the market, but they do have some control over taxes and expenses.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

We recognize that you have a lot going on and you do not always get around to completing your tasks. Perhaps you bought a life insurance policy years ago and have never revisited that decision to determine whether it still makes sense. Perhaps you never made a change to your estate documents or IRA beneficiaries after a marriage or divorce. Or perhaps you have not revisited your 401(k) allocation since the first time you made the initial selection.

Is this something that your advisor addresses? Does your advisor even know or want to know about your social security benefits, life insurance, or estate documents? Or have you simply been reduced, in your advisor’s eyes, to “a number?”

There are also certain age milestones that should prompt you to confer with your financial expert to ensure that decisions are made responsibly, such as:

  1. A few months before age 62, we suggest you sit down and go through a social security analysis to determine the optimal age for beginning to collect benefits.
  2. A few months before age 65, we recommend you research and apply for Medicare (as delaying will likely lead to penalties, based on the current Medicare rules).
  3. At age 70½ (or earlier for inherited IRAs) and each year thereafter, you need to decide the best approach in taking Required Minimum Distributions from your IRA.

Tax Brackets

Knowing your tax bracket and working with your accountant can help you achieve the highest after-tax return on your bonds.

Tax Sheltering

Placing certain assets to take advantage of IRAs, where you do not pay taxes on income and gains, can help boost your overall return.

Capital Gain Distributions and Tax Losses

If you are not watching out for mutual fund capital gain distributions at the end of the year, you are likely to get hit with a large tax bill. In addition, one of the ways to lower your tax bill is to take advantage of losses in your account once they take place.

Rebalancing

It is important to keep your asset allocation consistent with your goals by rebalancing between stocks and bonds. This may also lead to higher risk-adjusted portfolio returns over time.

The Devil Is in the Details

At the end of the day, it will benefit you to find a firm that puts a lot of time, effort, and thought into these details. The plan that is put in place on Day 1 should not be “buy and hold” (often described as “set it and forget it”), but rather “buy and manage,” with changes based on research, long-term projections, and unique circumstances. I can assure you that all financial firms are not “same same.” It is incumbent upon you as the buyer to ask the right questions before choosing the firm that’s best for you.

 

Feel free to contact Brett Horowitz with any questions by phone 305.448.8882 ext. 216 or email: BHorowitz@EK-FF.com

For more information on financial planning visit our website at www.EK-FF.com.

Staying the Course No Longer Works!

HRE PR Pic 2013

Harold Evensky CFP® , AIF® Chairman

Ever since the market debacle triggered by the Great Recession, “Staying the Course No Longer Works” and “Modern Portfolio Theory Is Dead” have been popular headlines with the financial media. It sure sounds good; after all, why would any investor willingly subject their portfolio to the massive losses of 2008 and early 2009? They wouldn’t, of course; so does that mean that long-term strategic investing is out the window? One of the core beliefs at Evensky & Katz / Foldes Financial Wealth Management is that to earn market returns an investor needs to be in the market. Is that yesterday’s story? Needless to say, our investment committee takes these considerations very seriously, and we regularly review our investment philosophy and strategies. What we’ve concluded is that a better headline for the critics of modern investment theory would be “The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow.” Unfortunately no one has yet discovered that pot. Here’s our take on the debate.

The critics claim that modern portfolio theory, asset allocation, and buy and hold are all equivalent concepts and all are passé. What surprises me is that the critics seem to believe they have just discovered the truth, when in reality a new group of “gurus” discovers the same truth after every bear market. These critics typically claim that “allocations are solely and simplistically based on projected historical data and traditional methodology that assumes valuation is irrelevant; they are determined at the beginning of the investment process and are never changed, except when they are rebalanced.”

Although unfortunately it is true that many practitioners do in fact develop allocation models based simply on historical data, that is certainly not the case at Evensky & Katz / Foldes Financial Wealth Management. We heed the advice of Harry Markowitz, Nobel Laureate and the father of modern portfolio theory. In his seminal work, Professor Markowitz wrote, “The first stage starts with observations and experience and ends with beliefs about the future performances of available securities.” He is quite clear in rejecting the approach of using historical projections. “One suggestion as to tentative risk and return is to use observed risk and return for some period of the past…I believe that better methods, which take into account more information, can be found.”

We certainly agree. When developing our recommendations for allocations to bonds and stock, we first develop forward-looking estimates for the returns, risk, and relative movement (i.e., correlations) of the various investments we will consider for our portfolios. While there can be no guarantee that these estimates will turn out to be correct, they certainly take into consideration not only the past but also the current market environment as well as expectations regarding future changes. For example, our projections for future returns are modest relative to past returns, our expectation regarding risk is that the markets will remain more volatile than in the past, and finally we believe that we live in an increasingly global world, so markets will move more in tandem in the future than in the past. The result is that the benefits of diversification will be diminished but not eliminated.

Regarding the criticism that allocations are determined at the beginning of the investment process and never changed, except when they are rebalanced—a strategy I call “buy and forget”—again, unfortunately many practitioners do follow this ostrich-like policy. But this criticism should be leveled at the practitioners setting their policies in stone. There is nothing in the literature or in practice to suggest that a policy allocation should not be revisited and revised when and if forward-looking market expectations change. As a consequence, it is our practice to review our assumptions at least annually, and our “strategic” allocations do in fact vary over time as a result of changes in our worldview. Rather than “buy and forget,” our policy is “buy and manage.”

The bottom line is that some may develop allocation models based solely on projections of historical data, but we do not. Some may also ignore valuations; again, we do not. And some may design allocation models and set them in stone; we do not.

Feel free to contact Harold Evensky with any questions by email: HEvensky@EK-FF.com

Visit us at www.EK-FF.com

Are Bonds the Next Bubble to Burst?

Brett Horowitz

Brett Horowitz, CFP®, AIF® Principal, Wealth Manager

Nary a week has gone by in which we don’t get asked this question in some form or other. Newspapers and CNBC trumpet this headline to grab their readers’ attention, and I make no apology for doing the same—although as you will see as you continue reading, the tone of my article will not be quite as alarming. Newsletters tell their subscribers in UPPERCASE BOLD LETTERS the “secret” that only their subscribers can learn as to how to deal with this risk. Never mind the fact that if they actually had the secret, why would they tell you, and why would they need to sell their newsletter to earn a living? Let’s separate fact from fiction and discuss in a clear-headed manner what investors and our clients should do about this supposed impending disaster.

Back in the early 1980s, you could have purchased a 10-year Treasury bond, backed by the full faith of the U.S. government, with an interest rate of just over 15%. During the past 30-plus years, interest rates have decreased, and earlier this year, rates for 10-year Treasury bonds were at 2.5%. Bond prices move inversely to interest rates. If you own a bond with 5% coupon (or interest rate) and rates go up, such that new bonds pay 6%, your bond becomes less attractive, and the price of your bond goes down. However, if you hold that bond to maturity, barring a default, you will get your full money back at maturity. After interest rates falling for 30 years, we’ve already seen them rise this year, and experts have a consensus view that rates will continue to rise going forward, bringing us back to more normal levels. After all, interest rates can’t get much lower!

If you own an individual bond, you may not worry as much about rising interest rates, because if you ignore the interim price fluctuations, you will get back the full value of the bond, absent a default. There is a risk, though, that if you need money before the bond matures, the price may not equal what you paid for the bond, and you may recognize a loss. In addition, as we saw during the Great Recession, there have been times when liquidity for bonds ceased to exist. Investors were having such a hard time selling them that they accepted whatever price was offered. This price anomaly will affect the price of other people’s bonds too, similarly to how a foreclosure in a neighborhood affects the prices of the other homes in that neighborhood. The price is only as good as what someone is willing to offer.

Most people choose to own bond mutual funds, since owning individual bonds can be expensive and mutual funds can be very diversified. If you own a basket of 10 $50,000 bonds and you suffer one default, that’s a 10% hit. If a bond mutual fund holds 2,000 positions, a bond default is not even noticed. Bond mutual funds are a basket of bonds with a fund manager deciding which bonds to buy, which to sell, and which to keep to maturity. Just like individual bonds, the collection of bonds in a mutual fund will lose (gain) value if interest rates rise (decline). The easiest way to quantify the effect of an interest rate change is to view a bond’s duration. Duration is a measure of a bond’s sensitivity to interest rates and the higher the number, the greater the impact. A bond fund with a duration of three years means that for every 1% change in interest rates, the price will move by 3%. A bond fund with a duration of 15 years would have a larger move associated with a change in rates than a bond fund with a duration of fewer years.

If we knew that interest rates would rise tomorrow (there’s the rub!), we would sell bonds completely to avoid this risk. While we expect rates to rise over the coming years, we don’t know how or when they will rise. At the beginning of 2017, 10-year Treasury bonds were yielding 2.45%. Had someone bailed out of bonds and sat on the sidelines all of last year because they expected interest rates to rise, they could have missed out on great returns (the Bloomberg Barclays Municipal Bond Index was up 5.45% for 2017). In addition, rates may move differently for two-year bonds than they would for 30-year bonds. Lastly, who’s to say that the United States won’t slip back into a recession and that bonds will be the best-performing asset class for the next 12 months—or that stocks won’t drop 20% because they have become overvalued, and then suddenly a small bond loss looks like a good deal in comparison? The point is that trying to time this event is tantamount to useless, and anyone who says they can do it is either lucky or is bound to be wrong more than half of the time.

Given all this, should you be worried about bond losses? Yes and no. I’ll first point out that bonds are not guaranteed to make money over any period of time. If you want a guaranteed return, you can buy a CD or stuff your money into a savings account. Both currently earn a pittance and are almost certain to lose money to inflation over time. But when bonds do lose money, the losses are usually modest because the lower volatility protects bond investors. The worst annual return by the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index going back to 1976 was a 2.92% decline in 1994. Contrast that to the worst annual stock return going back to 1976 (measured by the S&P 500, including dividends)—37% in 2008—and you can see that by dumping bonds in favor of stocks, you avoid the interest rate risk but are simply exchanging this risk for overall market risk, which is far greater. Many of our clients have seen us walk through the long-term modeling in Money Guide Pro and have seen that the results frequently look better the more bonds someone owns. While the average returns each year will be lower (if we assume stocks outperform bonds), the volatility is reduced, and that may cause the probability of a successfully funded retirement to increase. If you had a choice between earning 8% per year with a 50% probability of successfully funded retirement, or earning 7% per year with a 90% probability of success, which would you choose? We think that for a majority of our clients, the probability of retirement success is more important than leaving a larger inheritance.

A number of investors have pointed to dividend-paying stocks, Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), or Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) as appropriate alternatives to bonds. All three investments provide a potentially higher yield than cash and bonds, but without the interest rate risk. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, investors are again simply avoiding one risk (interest rate) for another risk (market risk), as these investments got hammered in the Great Recession. Here’s a table of their returns from 10/31/2007 through 2/28/2009:

Investment (based on Morningstar Office) Cumulative Return
DJ U.S. Select Dividend TR USD -53.32%
Average of the 20 largest MLPs in the Alerian MLP 50 Index* -31.04%
DJ U.S. Select REIT TR USD -66.14%

* The Alerian MLP Index has only been in existence since 4/2009.

So if we have concluded that market timing does not work, and that many classic bond “alternatives” seemingly have more risk, not less, does that mean we sit back and acquiesce to the bond universe? Not entirely. At our firm, we’ve made a number of changes to our clients’ bond portfolios going back several years. First, we shifted a portion of the fixed-income funds into shorter-duration funds. None of the traditional bond funds in the portfolio currently have a duration longer than five years, and there is currently very little invested in long-term bonds. Should rates rise, this will help mitigate the losses. Second, we have carved out 25% of the bond portfolio into what are called “unconstrained bond funds.” These funds have wide latitude and buy foreign bonds, junk bonds, long bonds, and T-bills, or even short the market and make a bet on higher interest rates. The risk exists that these active funds make wrong bets and underperform the market, but so far, their track record has been very strong. The main reason we are using these managers is to protect on the downside should interest rates rise, as opposed to trying to make a high return with high risk. Lastly, we continue to keep an exposure to inflation-protected bonds. If interest rates rise because investors are concerned about higher inflation, these bonds have the ability to outperform traditional bonds.

If your investment horizon is short-term, bonds may prove to be a low- (or negative-) returning investment. Never assume that bonds will always provide positive returns: if someone is looking out 30 years, they will see ebbs and flows in all markets. Our advice: stay relatively safe in your bond portfolio, stay connected to the annual review of your Money Guide Pro retirement plan, and stay calm. Unfortunately, the headlines are more entertaining than the reality of the situation.

Feel free to contact Brett Horowitz with any questions by phone (305.448.8882 ext. 216) or by email: BHorowitz@EK-FF.com

Visit us at www.EK-FF.com

NewsLetter Vol. 11, No. 2 – April 2018

Dear Reader:

GURU’S SECRET
From the Wall Street Journal:

How Pundits Never Get It Wrong: Call a 40% Chance
Talking heads have learned that forecast covers all outcomes; “I just said it was a strong possibility.”

What are the chances that readers will make it to the end of this article? About 40%.

If you do make it, that prediction will look smart. If you don’t, well, we said the odds were against it.

Brilliant!!

SHELF LIFE
Ever wonder if the food you are about to eat is still good? Here is a website that allows you to check if the date on your food means it can be eaten or should be thrown out.

Still Tasty?

BOY, DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR
Wisdom from my #1 son:

As I get older, I realize

1. I talk to myself because there are times I need expert advice.
2. I consider “In Style” to be the clothes that still fit.
3. I don’t need anger management—I need people to stop pissing me off.
4. My people skills are just fine. It’s my tolerance for idiots that needs work.
5. The biggest lie I tell myself is, “I don’t need to write that down; I’ll remember it.”
6. I have days when my life is just a tent away from a circus.
7. These days, “on time” is whenever I get there.
8. Even duct tape can’t fix stupid—but it sure does muffle the sound.
9. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes and come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller?
10. Lately, I’ve noticed people my age are so much older than me.
11. “Getting lucky” means walking into a room and remembering why I’m there.
12. When I was a child, I thought naptime was punishment. Now it feels like a mini vacation.
13. Some days I have no idea what I’m doing out of bed.
14. I thought growing old would take longer.
15. Aging sure has slowed me down, but it hasn’t shut me up.
16. I still haven’t learned to act my age, and I doubt I’ll live that long.

I wonder if he’s trying to tell me something!

HEAD SCRATCHER
Excerpts from an article in InvestmentNews discussing the possibility of the SEC mandating the appropriate use of titles for financial service practitioners (i.e., sales titles for brokerage representatives and advisor titles for fiduciary advisors):

“We’re hoping that it will play a significant role because it is an action the SEC could take immediately without going through the whole political process,” said Harold Evensky, chairman of Evensky & Katz/Foldes Financial and a member of the Committee on the Fiduciary Standard. “It’s a commonsense, mom-and-pop solution to the issue of distinguishing the relationship between the professional and the client.”

But nothing is ever as simple as it may first appear.

“If you see the two terms side by side, the ultimate effect is to create a pecking order with a competitive advantage,” said Gary Sanders, counsel and vice president of government relations at the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. “It’s not the regulators’ role to give a competitive advantage to one segment of players over another.”

“Competitive advantage”? Letting the public know the difference between a salesman and a fiduciary? For shame! How naive of me. I thought the regulators’ role was to protect the public, not a business model.

REALLY DEPRESSING
From Financial Advisor:

Advisor, Pastor of One of U.S.’s Largest Churches Allegedly Defrauded Elderly
The pastor of one of the nation’s largest Protestant churches defrauded elderly investors of $3.4 million in an investment scheme involving pre–Communist era Chinese bonds, according to a federal indictment.

Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, orchestrated the scheme with financial planner Gregory Alan Smith of Shreveport, Louisiana, who was permanently barred from the securities industry in 2010 by Finra, according to the U.S. Justice Department and the SEC.

MILLIONS OF MILLIONAIRES
The number of millionaires in the United States climbed to over 11.5 million by the end of 2017! (MarketInsights)

WHERE DO SOME COME FROM?
From Kiplinger’s:

CEO Pay Hits the Stratosphere
Pay for the average large-company CEO has risen 46% since 2009, versus 2.2% for the average worker.

2016: $15.6 million

IMPORTANT LIFE LESSONS
From Christo, a Lubbock friend:

• I never make the same mistake twice. I make it five or six times, just to be sure.
• The secret of enjoying a good wine:
1. Open the bottle and allow it to breathe.
2. If it doesn’t look like it’s breathing, give it mouth to mouth.
• “It’s true, I do sh*t in the woods.” [the bear]
• Dear Optimist, Pessimist, and Realist,
While you three were busy arguing about that glass of water, I drank it!
• Every box of raisins is a tragic tale of grapes that could have been wine.

DON’T FEEL BAD
If you don’t get to play with the “Big Boys” on Wall Street. From Bloomberg Markets via my partner, Lane:

One of John Paulson’s hedge funds has plunged about 70 percent over the past four years, marking a dire stretch for the billionaire plagued with investor redemptions…

The performance marks yet another setback for Paulson, whose claim to fame was his bet a decade ago that the U.S. housing market would collapse. But his Paulson & Co. has failed to keep up such money-making wagers and instead shuttered a fund last year and made wrong-way trades on gold, U.S. banks and drugs stocks.

Investors lost patience. The firm’s assets nosedived from a 2011 peak of $38 billion, when clients contributed about half the capital. Now the firm runs about $9 billion, and roughly 80 percent of that is Paulson’s own money.

Paulson Partners also follows a merger arbitrage strategy, which typically bets that a target company’s shares will climb toward the offer price while the bidder’s will fall. Since the fund started trading in 1994, it has produced a 9 percent annualized return, while the levered version has gained 7.5 percent since its inception in 2003 [as of early January 2018]. Last year the funds lost money on their pharmaceutical stocks, the person said.

By way of comparison (S&P 500)
January 1994–January 2018: 9.8% (dividends reinvested)
January 2003–January 2018: 10.2% (dividends reinvested)

TOOT HIS HORN
From AARP Bulletin:

The Kentucky Derby doesn’t start until Steve Buttleman blows his bugle call. Mr. Buttleman has been the bugler, playing his 32-inch herald trumpet, at Churchill Downs for 23 years.

FROM MY LITTLE BROTHER
Control Tower Repartee
Tower: “Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o’clock, 6 miles!”
Delta 351: “Give us another hint! We have digital watches!”

Tower: “TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 degrees.”
TWA 2341: “Center, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?”
Tower: “Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?”

A student became lost during a solo cross-country flight. While attempting to locate the aircraft on radar, ATC asked, “What was your last known position?”
Student: “When I was number one for takeoff.”

A DC-10 had come in a little hot and thus had an exceedingly long roll-out after touching down.
San Jose Tower Noted: “American 751, make a hard right turn at the end of the runway, if you are able. If you are not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights, and return to the airport.”

Tower: “Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on frequency 124.7.”
Eastern 702: “Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway.”
Tower: “Continental 635, cleared for takeoff behind Eastern 702, contact Departure on frequency 124.7. Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?”
Continental 635: “Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we copied Eastern. We’ve already notified our caterers.”

One day, the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the active runway while a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around, and taxied back past the Cherokee. Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said, “What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?”
The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real zinger: “I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I’ll have enough parts for another one.”

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one’s gate parking location but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206.
Speedbird 206: “Frankfurt, Speedbird 206! Clear of active runway.”
Ground: “Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven.”
The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.
Ground: “Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?”
Speedbird 206: “Stand by, Ground, I’m looking up our gate location now.”
Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): “Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?”
Speedbird 206 (coolly): “Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark—and I didn’t land.”

SAD BUT TRUE
Excerpts from The Death of the Fiduciary Rule Is Bad News for Your Retirement.

The Fiduciary Rule is one step closer to death, and that means it’s once again A-ok for your retirement planner to scam you.
I’m sure they’d take issue with the phrasing, but effectively it’s what they’re doing. For many financial planners, there’s no requirement that the advice they give you is in your best interest—it only needs to meet a “suitability” standard. Instead, they can suggest products and funds that give them a kickback, even if the products don’t perform as well as others or have higher fees attached to them. In fact, the White House Council of Economic Advisers found that non-fiduciaries cost retirement investors (AKA you and me) $17 billion per year.
Do you know who does have to work in your best interest? Fiduciaries. There are plenty of them out there—you can search for one here—and these advisors pledge to do what’s best for you, their client. Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) and Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) are fiduciaries, for example. They don’t get kickbacks from certain products, and they don’t tack on extra fees. Instead they help you make a financial plan that works for you….
The Fiduciary Rule, crafted by the Obama Administration, would have required that all financial professionals (like brokers and insurance agents) to adhere to the “fiduciary” standard—meaning they’d have to work in your best interest if they were advising you on your retirement investments. Simply, they would have had to put your needs before theirs.
Naturally, the financial industry was not happy. How could they continue to turn such enormous profits if they’re not able to scam the average investor out of his or her retirement savings?
… a federal appeals court ruled that the Department of Labor overstepped its authority when it wrote the rule. The opinion did say that Congress or another “appropriate” state or federal regulator could act to institute it, though…that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
Who else is held to a fiduciary duty? Lawyers are a typical example. Would we all be fine with some lawyers breaching client-attorney privilege or cutting a deal with the defense to receive a portion of their client’s payout on the backend, if they charged the client slightly less upfront? No?
So what can you do? Well, of course be aware that this is happening. If it’s possible, hire a “fee-only” planner to advise you on your investments. And lobby your state government to institute its own version of the Fiduciary Rule. And maybe get a little riled up about it.
You might also ask your financial advisor to sign the Committee for the Fiduciary Standards Oath (http://www.thefiduciarystandard.org/fiduciary-oath/). At least then you’ll know your advisor is committed to your best interest. If they refuse? Consider a change.

HANDY TO KNOW
Also from Kiplinger’s:

When It’s Safe to Shed Your Tax Records
In most cases, the IRS has three years after the due date of your return (or the date you file it) to do an audit. You should keep some records even longer than that, and it’s a good idea to hold on to your tax returns indefinitely.

Three Years—W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, cancelled checks, and receipts for charitable contributions. Records relating to HSAs and 529 Plans. Contributions to tax-deductible retirement accounts.

Six Years—Receipts for business income and expenses, if you’re self-employed.

THIS IS VERY COOL!
The U.S. Postal Service has a new service called “Informed Delivery.” It provides a picture of the exterior, address side of letter-sized mailpieces and tracks packages that are scheduled to arrive soon! You can also check back for the prior week. Sign up for free at https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action.
LITTLE HAROLD
From my friend Ron:

04-2018_Little Harold

A new teacher was trying to make use of her psychology courses. She started her class by saying, “Everyone who thinks they’re stupid, stand up!” After a few seconds, Little Harold stood up. The teacher said, “Do you think you’re stupid, Harold?”

“No, ma’am, but I hate to see you standing there all by yourself!”

Harold watched, fascinated, as his mother smoothed cold cream on her face. “Why do you do that, Mommy?” he asked.

“To make myself beautiful,” said his mother, who then began removing the cream with a tissue.

“What’s the matter?” asked Harold. “Giving up?”

Harold’s kindergarten class was on a field trip to their local police station where they saw pictures tacked to a bulletin board of the ten most wanted criminals. One of the youngsters pointed to a picture and asked if it really was the photo of a wanted person. “Yes,” said the policeman. “The detectives want very badly to capture him.”

Harold asked, “Why didn’t you keep him when you took his picture?”

The math teacher saw that Harold wasn’t paying attention in class. She called on him and said, “Harold! What are 2 and 4 and 28 and 44?”

Harold quickly replied, “NBC, FOX, ESPN, and the Cartoon Network!”

I like Little Harold.

A TEST
John Durand wrote Timing: When to Buy and Sell in Today’s Markets, a classic in active investment management. He also wrote How to Secure Continuous Security Profits in Modern Markets, in which he opined: “As this is written, one of the greatest bull markets in history is in progress. People have been saying for several years that prices and brokers’ loans are too high; yet they go on increasing.… People who deplore the high at which gilt-edged common stocks are now selling apparently fail to grasp the fundamental distinction between investments yielding a fixed income and investments in the equities of growing companies. Nothing short of an industrial depression … can prevent common stock equities in well-managed and favorable circumstanced companies from increasing in value, and hence in market price.” What year was this book published?

Send me an email at hevensky@ek-ff.com with your guess. No fair looking it up on the web. I will publish the names of the first 5 people who guess correctly in my next newsletter.

Hope you enjoyed,

_HRE SIGNATURE

Harold Evensky
Chairman
Evensky & Katz / Foldes Financial Wealth Management

 

Check out the link below for Harold’s previous NewsLetter:

NewsLetter Vol. 11, No. 1 – February 2018