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investing

No One Can Predict The Future

By | 2020, Money Moxie | No Comments

No one can predict the future. Especially not me. On my LinkedIn page in March 2019, I posted: “I wouldn’t be surprised that we have some good growth in stocks for (2019). You usually have good growth right before a recession. However, 2020 could be a challenging year.” I had no idea it would be as challenging as it has been!

Even though I was right, I was not predicting the future. I was just following statistics and other economic indicators. Little did I know that a global pandemic would stall the U.S. (and world) economy and send it into a freefall. This yanked the 1st quarter into the red. Now, all we need to meet the technical definition of a recession is for the 2nd quarter to be negative as well.

Stocks are not the economy. There has never been a better example of this than the year 2020. The economy is hurting. Consumer spending is down double digits, and unemployment is near 20 percent.

Stocks, on the other hand, have been improving as the government has printed money. Some pundits think stocks have already bottomed and are just headed up from here. Others think we will head lower towards the mid-March bottom. Some have even suggested that this economy looks a lot like a depression. These are all conjectures. No one can predict the future.

This uncertainty leads people to question their financial future: Will I be able to pay my bills for the next 6 months? Will I be able to retire when I planned? Will my nest egg be enough to see me through retirement?

Years ago, questions like this led us at SFS to create a system that is simple yet powerful. It is designed for times like these. The goal is to provide an inflation-adjusted income for the rest of your life, regardless of the storms that may come. It helps remove a lot of the uncertainty around the security of your finances.

We call it a Lifetime Income Plan. The concept is simple: you segment your assets into time frames based on when you will need income. The assets set aside to generate income for the next 5 years should be conservative and protected.

The successive 5-year time segments should be moderate to aggressive, depending on the time frame and your personal risk tolerance. This system can be used whether you are already in retirement or just starting to save for the future.

While the design is simple, the application can be much more complex. As always, we recommend consulting with one of our Certified Financial Planners (CFP®) who are well versed in income distribution strategies.

No one knows exactly how things will turn out with the Coronavirus and how large or long-lasting the impact will be. However, with careful planning, you can help prepare your financial future for any storm that comes.

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What To Do With Your 401(k), If…

By | 2020, Money Moxie | No Comments

1: You are still employed by the sponsor company

Keep investing! The 401(k) implements an effective purchasing strategy called dollar- cost averaging. This strategy involves making regular and continuous fixed-dollar investments. But it is more than just a payroll deduction plan. Dollar-cost averaging removes the risk of trying to time the market.

By using dollar-cost averaging in a long-term investment account, the average cost per share ends up being less than the average price per share. This is because you buy less shares when prices are high and more shares when prices are low. In other words, volatility can work in your favor. So keep investing.

2. You are no longer working for the sponsor company but are employed elsewhere

You have some options.

(1) You can take a partial or full distribution. In most cases, this is a taxable event and may carry additional tax penalties. In rare situations, is this a good idea. Speak with a professional advisor before choosing this option.

(2) You can leave your 401(k) with your previous company. You can no longer contribute to it, but it will continue to perform based on the investments you have selected.

(3) If your new employer offers a 401(k) and you are eligible for it, you can roll your old 401(k) into your new 401(k) plan. This is a tax-free rollover, and you will need to select new investments based on what the new plan offers.

(4) You can roll the old 401(k) into an IRA. In most cases, this is what we recommend. An IRA gives the account owner more control, more investment options, and better planning opportunities than a 401(k). Like a 401(k), an IRA is a retirement account with annual maximum contribution limits and early withdrawal penalties. A rollover is not considered a contribution, and therefore any amount can be rolled.

3. You are no longer working for the sponsor company and are not employed

You have the same options as above, with the obvious exception of rolling to your new 401(k). If you are retired, however, the rollover option to the IRA may be even more appealing. When it comes time to take distributions from your retirement accounts, the IRA has some significant advantages. Some of these include better risk management strategies, tax-saving distribution strategies, and avoiding mandatory distributions from Roth accounts.

4. You need financial help due to COVID-19

The CARES Act allows some individuals to take early withdrawals from retirement accounts in 2020 without the early withdrawal penalty. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have a spouse or dependent diagnosed with COVID-19, or have experienced a layoff, furlough, reduction in hours, have been unable to work, or lack childcare because of COVID-19, you may qualify. Withdrawals may impact your tax liability, so speak with a financial advisor before taking an early distribution.

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Election Years: Positively Volatile

By | 2020, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

It may turn out to be a typical election year. I expect stocks to be up in 2020, but in the single digits—much less than in 2019. Investors dislike uncertainty, and 2020 will be filled with plenty of political unknowns. Despite some extra ups and downs, election years tend to be positive for stocks. Hang in there.

A lot of Republicans could have missed out from 2009 to 2016. Similarly, Democrats would have missed the 2017-2020 markets. The rule for election volatility is that it comes sooner than most investors expect. Most summers have a bit of a slowdown. In election years, that drop usually hits in spring.

The classic October drop is typical even in election years, but don’t get caught saying, “I’ll invest when the election is over.” The market usually begins to climb a couple of weeks before the final vote.

Some rotation in the markets may develop as we learn who the candidates will be. Still, the most likely outcome is gridlock in Washington, with the Republicans staying in control of the Senate and the House controlled by Democrats. Regardless of your political opinions, gridlock is usually good for stocks because large companies plan 10+ years ahead of time and prefer a predictable business environment.

*Research by SFS. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is widely considered to represent the overall U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.

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Investing Is Not Like Buying A Refrigerator

By | 2020, Executive Message, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Some people think that investing has been simplified so much that it is like buying a refrigerator: You spend a few hours researching the options and then select a product that will last for 10 years. While there have been significant improvements to simplify investments, there is still a world of knowledge that is needed to select the right investments for your personal goals and time horizon. Buying the wrong refrigerator won’t wreck your retirement, but buying the wrong investment might.

Inside of a 401(k), the participant is the money manager. Because of this, the options had to be simplified. This has given rise to retirement-ready investments that have target dates based on when a participant will retire. We applaud this because most investors don’t know the nuances of investing in large-cap companies vs. small-cap companies, etc. The closer you get to retirement, and the more assets you have, the more important investment selection becomes.

Investment selection is less like picking out a fridge and more like being the forecaster for a home improvement store. That forecaster must determine beforehand how much is needed of each product, for each department, at the right time of year. If the quantity or timing is significantly off, then it puts the store in jeopardy of decreasing revenue and potential bankruptcy. Because of this complexity, a forecaster needs to have advanced training, education, and experience.

With investments, not only do you have to understand the individual investment, but you also must understand how it is impacted by the different market sectors, business cycle movements, politics, and the world economic environment.

At SFS, we are lucky to have a chief investment strategist, James Derrick, who has his MBA, CFA, and two decades of money management experience. He managed investments through the downturns of 2000-2003 and 2007-2009 when the S&P 500 lost 55% and 57%, respectively.* In fact, other financial advisors hire James and SFS to manage their clients’ money.

Don’t risk your retirement nest egg. You aren’t buying a refrigerator. Choose a money manager with the foresight, knowledge, and experience to help protect you against the downturns while allowing your assets to grow in the good times.

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Investment Truth

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

Just when you think you have things figured out, the world changes.

As investors, we get excited when the markets rise and fearful when they fall. The world is always happy to give us advice. At SFS, our goal is to identify the truth in the cacophony of headlines so we can implement strategies to help you navigate a changing world.

We may be tempted to believe that if we work hard enough, we can predict what will happen. This is not true. The stock market seems to move in the direction that surprises the greatest number of people. Just when investors think they know, the world changes.

Following rules can help us avoid many investment mistakes. Over long periods of time (10+ years), the U.S. markets have almost always been positive. Implementing this rule means this: stay invested.

Warren Buffett described the stock market as a mechanism that transfers money “from the impatient to the patient.” You will feel more patient in difficult times if you have a customized financial plan with your goals and a plan of action.

Volatility is normal. The ups and downs are a part of investing, but they are exactly what leads to poor decisions. Combat this tendency with diversification and risk management.

In theory, good diversification should mean that a portion of your portfolios is making money. In reality, there is no guarantee, but diversification still helps.

Measuring risk begins by accurately determining how much risk you can and should take. Take too much and there is no way you can make good decisions in the storm. Take too little and you won’t reach your goals. Oscillate back and forth between the two, and you are likely moving backwards.

Our advisors at SFS can help you know how much risk is appropriate for you, and we can get you in a portfolio to match that need.

These are just a couple of my rules that help me maintain successful strategies in a world of endless opportunity and obfuscation. We blend all the rules with the economic realities we see in order to give you the best advice and portfolios that we can.

*Research by SFS. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. S&P 500 time period chosen to display a sample of the timing of government actions. The S&P 500 is an index often used to represent the U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass.

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From Investing FOMO to FEAR

By | 2019, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

My daily commute often leaves me sitting in traffic on State Street in Salt Lake City. Sometimes it can take 10 minutes to move 3 blocks. During these seemingly hopeless times, I often see a cyclist pass me. I consider the wisdom of selling my car and riding my bike. However, no matter how bad the traffic, I eventually pass the biker–no exception. (As a biking enthusiast, I regularly commute on a bike, but it is not faster.)

As investors, we faced similar thoughts in 2018. Should we make a short-term decision even though we know which vehicle will get us where we want to go quicker?

Investors entered 2018 with a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). The stock market had just completed a year where every month was positive. A tax cut had just been passed to stimulate greater consumer and corporate spending. Around the world, growth seemed synchronized, and expectations were rising.

Here is a review of my three predictions for 2018 with commentary on how things turned out.

U.S. growth exceeds 3 percent. The impact of the tax cut, which I referred to as a “sugar rush,” temporarily lifted U.S. growth to make the first forecast correct. The benefits of the cut were so short-lived that investor excitement quickly turned to concern.

The Federal Reserve finally has an impact. Interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve in recent years had largely been ignored by the stock market. This prediction also came true, especially in December when a rate increase was done despite all the problems going on in financial markets.

Investors would be disappointed with the market, but positive economic growth would help the market end the year positive. This prediction seemed to be correct for much of the year. However, it failed in the part that mattered most.

The stock market ended 2018 in an absolute panic! Oil prices were plummeting. The White House could not get a deal done on trade with China. The federal government had its third shutdown in just one year. And, despite all this, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates stating that nothing had changed; the economy was strong.

The stock market sell-off intensified, and the bull market arguably came to an end on Christmas Eve. December performance of the S&P 500 stocks was the worst since 1931. Historically, that makes some sense. The Great Depression began in 1929.

But we were not in the midst of a depression — quite the opposite. Corporate earnings were at record levels. The real GDP growth in this country was around 3 percent. Consumer spending, which represents 70 percent of the U.S. economy, rose in December by 4.5 percent!

What is an investor to do when the economic data is positive, and the market is so negative? At times like this, it is critically important to stay focused on your long-term goals.

It is our job at SFS to help you develop these goals and keep you on track to achieve them. We have tools to provide the necessary clarity and strategies to implement to help you keep moving forward.

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Just For Women – Let it Grow

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

Sharla J. Jessop, President of SFS, taught us at the Just for Women conference how to “Let it Grow” from a wealth perspective.

She reminded us that “The best way to attain money and wealth in life is no secret … spend less than you make!” She went on to teach us the best way to have your wealth grow.

When investing, manage your risk and don’t freak out! Make sure you are emotionally comfortable with your investment plan.

Protect what you have with a “financial bodyguard.” This is someone to watch over your wealth when you can’t. Finally, make sure your beneficiaries are up to date and educate yourself about cyber threats.

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Be Smarter with Your Money

By | 2018, Money Moxie | No Comments

Women outlive men by an average of 5 years. That means women can’t treat their finances exactly as men treat theirs. Women need to think about money for the long term, that way they can retire worry-free. Here are some things women should be doing now to prepare for the future.

1. Invest early – Why? Because you will need more. After retirement, women will have around three decades to enjoy their lives. Take advantage of your paychecks now. Enroll in a 401(k) or open a Roth IRA. The longer you are invested, the more compound interest you stand to accrue–which means you are making more money. It is never too late to start investing no matter what your age– even $100 can make a huge difference (maybe giving up your Diet Coke habit). It is satisfying to watch your money multiply.

2. Keep your eye on the goal – Because you have more time, that means there are more possibilities for things to go wrong, anything from divorce to job loss or death. It is a great idea to have multiple “what if” scenarios in your plan and have regular financial checkups. Discuss your long-term goals with your Smedley Financial advisor, who can help you stay on track.

3. Get involved in your finances – even if your spouse is the one “who does it.” You should know what is coming in and going out each month. It is important to “know” about your money. For example, your account numbers, passwords, etc.

4. Always be looking out for yourself – Women will spend on average 12 years out of the workforce, raising children or caring for elderly family. Even if you are not getting paid for this work, it is important to invest into an IRA and contribute as much as you can. This will help improve the financial future for you and your family. You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself.

 

Source: https://www.mfs.com/subs/redbook/pdf/redbook_fly_9_17.pdf

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Investing According to Your Goals & Your Time Frames

By | 2017, Money Moxie, Newsletter | No Comments

In financial planning, goals and investing go hand-in-hand. These are then combined with your personal attitudes towards risk to determine the investments that should be used.

When investing in the market, it is important to understand the associated risks, such as market volatility. This includes level of fluctuation and the amount of time you are willing to endure these ups and downs of the market.

One important consideration is to determine when the assets you are investing will be needed to fund your goal. For example, saving for retirement is a long-term goal, saving for your children’s education is most likely an intermediate-term goal, and saving for a new car would probably be a short-term goal.

Referencing the chart on this page will help you determine the time frame of your goals. If it is zero to three years, it would be best to keep your assets in a conservative location.

If your time frame is 10+ years, choosing to invest aggressively may be the best choice for you. A lot of the decisions also rely on your personal investment risk tolerance.

As your financial advisors, we can help guide you to investments that best match your investment goals, timelines, and objectives.

For instance, if your goal is saving for retirement, a 401(k), 403(b), or Roth IRA may be the best option due to the tax benefits. We can also look at your holdings and determine if they are invested to match your risk tolerance and time frame of when the assets are needed.

If a goal is to save for a down payment on a home in the next five years, an advisor can help you open an account that would be best suited for that goal.

For example, a 401(k) would not be the best option for this situation due to the taxes and 10% penalty for early withdrawal. Plus, in this situation there would be a loss of opportunity for growth on those assets. The best option may be an individual account with transfer on death, or a joint account with rights of survivorship.

We can help you set up appropriate types of accounts for you goals and then help manage the levels of risk. We even look at minimizing tax consequences.

There are a lot of options that come into play when determining how and where to invest. When looking at time frames, you may have to take risk–but take only the appropriate amount. If you’re planning to buy a home in a year and invest your down payment in a very risky stock, the results could be disastrous. You could delay your goals or even destroy a dream.

Use the chart as a guideline to help fund your goals and remember we are always here. Let us help guide you!

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What Tech Employees NEED from Financial Advisors

By | 2017 | No Comments

I recently surveyed tech employees to find out how financial advisors can better address their biggest concerns. Here’s what they had to say.

Make me believe that my company is a unicorn, but help me save as if it isn’t.
Even with the tech boom, only 15 to 20 new companies per year will eventually reach the mark of $100 million in revenue. The good news for Silicon Slopes companies is that the majority of those companies are coming from outside the San Francisco area.i The new 2017 list shows that Utah is home to 4 Unicorns: DOMO, Qualtrics, Pluralsight, and InsideSales.com.ii

Are you working for a unicorn? Many tech employees sink all of their excess cash into stock options. This can create a huge windfall or a major money pit. Britt Hawley from InsideSales.com says that tech employees need financial advisors to, “help them understand, manage, and factor (stock options) into their financial planning.” A good financial advisor can help you create a holistic plan that still optimizes your stock option purchases while giving you some balance through your 401k, insurance planning, and other investment planning. Dan Preece from HealthEquity found this to be true when the company he works for went through an IPO; “One of the biggest things for me was having help navigating through stock options, IPOs.”

Part of a holistic plan is creating a way for you to reach your goals even if your company doesn’t get bought out or go public. There is a lot of value in diversification and multiple income streams. You should still be contributing 10-15% of your salary into your 401(k). If your 401(k) ends up being the smallest piece, then it is still icing on the cake. If your 401(k) is your main retirement, then you will be grateful you chose to save. You don’t want to have to delay retirement because you are still hoping that your company will go public.

Help me without taking all of my money
Too many times tech employees seek out good advice only to find a sales person, masquerading as a financial advisor, pushing the “hottest thing since sliced bread.” Kayden Holt from Pluralsight put it this way, “Employees need people to help them without taking all of their money.” Unfortunately there are a few rotten “advisors” that taint the whole bunch. Be wary if an investment planner is only playing on a one string guitar or sells you something that is too good to be true.

Seek out a holistic advisor, typically a Certified Financial Planner®, that will look at all of your goals and will devise a plan to help you get there. Also make sure the fees they charge are in line with the service provided and that they can prove the value they are providing. Tech employees “like to know in a tangible way how they are benefitting from a financial advisor,” stated Mr. Hawley. Good advice does not have to be expensive, but bad advice always costs you dearly, no matter how little you pay for it.iii

Educate me about how to invest.
Tech employees are more savvy than most. “They like to understand the why” behind an advisors investment actions, said Mr. Hawley. Good investment advisors will be able to explain the details of their investing process with its pros and cons. They can explain in concrete ways what they can do for you that you can’t do for yourself. If you want to do your own investing, they can help you do it. If you want to have someone else manage your money, they can do that too. Most importantly they will be a teacher. “Just as much as we needed grade school to learn how to read and write,” said Mr. Holt, “we need financial advice to learn, grow, and earn.”

Give me different ways to access advice.
The world of advice is changing. The old stockbroker model of paying commissions for stock trades is dying. In its place you can find different models: Do it yourself, monthly retainer, or assets managed for a fee.

Technology is changing the landscape and making better advice and trading platforms available to the masses. Many do-it-yourselfers are drinking in the information and trading their own account.

Paying a monthly retainer, like $100 a month, is a newer model. It allows you to call up and ask questions anytime you want. It also helps people start out on the right foot even if they don’t have a lot of investable assets. It begs to reason that if you are willing to invest $100 in a phone every month, you should be willing to invest $100 in your financial security.

If you don’t enjoy researching investment ideas, you don’t have the time, or you’re afraid of not knowing what you don’t know, then seek out a holistic fee based firm that will also give you advice as part of that fee. The fee based model makes sure the advisor’s interests are aligned with yours.

Shield me from taxes
Tech employees tend to excel and have some great financial rewards. You may also be working for a unicorn and end up with a windfall. In either case you are probably getting killed by taxes, figuratively of course. Mr. Preece stated that reducing tax liability is extremely important because “I’ve worked hard to earn what I’ve got (often putting in late hours) and I want to ensure that I can enjoy as much of what I’ve earned as I can.” The best financial advisors will work in concert with CPAs specializing in stock transactions to make sure you can shield yourself from as much tax as legally possible.

Tech employees have some unique needs. The right financial advisor can help address those needs and make sure your future is all that you expect it to be. As Mr. Holt said, an “advisor is one of the only ways to balance your money and invest in yourself.”


i https://www.strictlyvc.com/2014/12/01/many-tech-companies-break-year/
ii https://www.cbinsights.com/research-unicorn-companies
iii http://www.cbsnews.com/news/quest-for-alpha-the-final-10-rules-for-being-a-successful-investor/

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