DWM’s Client Portal Overhaul

We are pleased to announce a major overhaul to the Client Portfolio Management side of our website, powered by Orion Advisor Services, a third party that is a leader in portfolio management reporting for the Registered Investment Advisor industry. This is where DWM clients can access their personal portfolio information (such as portfolio details, transaction activity, and portfolio performance) on a secure site. (The MoneyGuidePro planning side is unchanged).

Website 072514

The Client Portal site is now more user-friendly and intuitive. You’ll land on the overview page when you first log in. From there, you can easily navigate into the pages specifically devoted to PERFORMANCE, HOLDINGS, & ACTIVITY. And you can easily switch from viewing from the household level or at the account level just by clicking on one of your accounts. (Click on the picture below for a larger view).

Demo Client screen shot

You can still run the classic PDF style reports. Just go to DOCUMENTS tab, then REPORTS, and click on your desired report. This will be of particular interest for those clients with illiquid securities that are shown “below-the-line” as the OVERVIEW LANDING PAGE does not support those and thus won’t show them there. Quarterly statements and invoices are also found within this same area.

1

We know you’ll love the new look and feel of the site. But to get it, you need to visit www.dwmgmt.com or click on the following link: https://login.orionadvisor.com/login.html?g=53C76474-50BC-40CB-AA14-6B9E56B04DDA

Also, be sure to look for the DWM Mobile app on iTunes or the Android App store!

For our clients, we will review this exciting new Client Portal at our next meeting with you to make sure you are able to login and to answer any questions you may have.

Please note that userids and logins will timeout after 181 days of no activity. We recognize that this can be frustrating, however, because of the confidential nature of the information, Orion has put this safeguard in place for your protection.

Aging Wisely

Aging WiselyThe good news is more Americans are living longer and healthier lives. There are medical breakthroughs and commitments to healthy lifestyles that have redefined the terms of “retirement”. However, this comes with many difficult decisions that face seniors, future seniors, or “sandwich generation” children helping aging parents as they choose how to best age wisely and gracefully. And many Baby Boomers and subsequent generations will need to approach these issues differently than their predecessors because of longer life spans, uncertainty about entitlement benefits and rising medical costs that impact these choices like never before.

Of course, there is no way to precisely predict what each individual’s mental and physical health might look like as time goes by. There are several factors in play to choose the best path: physical and emotional status of the senior, convenience, family participation and cost, for example. The trend has been to find a way to live independently. Many are choosing to stay in their home and have it retrofitted with safety or convenience items to make it more feasible to stay there. For instance: first floor bedrooms, special chairs, ramps, bath and bed handles or even voice-activated command items. There are many perks to this living-at-home arrangement. There is minimal impact on comfortable routines and the familiar surroundings can be uniquely suited to the individual. Family members can stay more in charge. In fact, it is estimated that some 80% of senior care is provided by family and friends. Home care services can offer a supplement to the burdens of those nearest and dearest. There are many levels of home care to consider, depending on the condition and needs of the senior. Some may try using 100% family and friends to help or alternatively combine a regular care-giver with home care service that can provide homemaking, companionship, personal care, transportation or even specialized live-in or respite care to give the regular caregiver a break. Many resources for seniors or their caregivers are available to give support and advice. Overall, aging-in-place can be a more cost-effective and less disruptive choice. Check out AARP, Angie’s List, or other web resources for information.

Independent living can also be achieved in a more managed setting. There are many senior communities that have private senior homes, apartments or rooms, but that share other parts of life with the community. This can mean participating in meal plans, transportation and recreational activities. There are many benefits with this choice in terms of safety and socialization, while maintaining some independence. There may be on-site medical care or easy access and transportation to medical facilities and appointments. Socializing, dining and interacting with others in your age group is known to combat depression and benefit digestion and general well-being. There may be help with personal or home maintenance tasks. This solution can be a reassuring transition for seniors and their families and not as burdensome on individual caregivers.

Finally, there is the assisted living or nursing home option. This solution can be for long-term care or for a finite recuperative scenario. Assisted living facilities can provide varying degrees of care, but usually there is basic on-site medical care or physical therapy, assistance with personal daily activities like bathing and dressing, preparation and service of meals and the ability to stay in a safe and controlled environment. This situation generally also provides much-needed socialization and recreational activities for the seniors. About 60-70% of people over 65 will need some type of long-term assistance during retirement. These types of facilities can average $200 per day or more and sometimes up to $100,000 a year, which can be daunting for those that are unprepared.

Funding for long-term care is typically done using one or a combination of the following:

  1. Self-funding using your personal investment resources.
  2. Purchasing a Long-Term Care Insurance Policy that typically provides a daily benefit (after a 90 day “elimination” period) for home care or a facility, subject to limits on number of years and total dollars paid.
  3. Opting for a reverse mortgage. More people are using their home to stay at home. The FHA-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program has recently undergone major changes by lowering fees and providing more flexibility in their use.

Decisions on how best to age wisely and gracefully are among the most important and difficult an individual or family will make. At DWM, we help you evaluate your future residential needs or long-term care options as you age. Planning for your future will ease the burden for you and your loved-ones and allow you to truly get the most you can from your Golden Years! Give us a call, we are happy to help.

Clash of the Financial Pundits

financial pundits“There was never a century nor a country that was short of experts who knew the Deity’s mind and were willing to reveal it.” – Mark Twain.

These days there is more information coming out of the financial media than ever before. In their recent book, “Clash of the Financial Pundits”, Joshua Brown and Jeff Macke express it as “Each day, investors are barraged with more advice, regardless of the batch delivered the day before. Each week the lights are flashing brighter and the volume is growing louder. Each passing year brings more confusion, not less- more opportunities to be lead astray.”

CNBC, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance are all in the business of getting people to watch, not just inform. Readers are the key for the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Kiplinger’s and other publications. And, then you have the investment newsletters. It’s mostly entertainment, drawing attention and making money- for them.

Definition: “Pundits give opinions in an authoritative manner usually through the mass media.” To become well-known and well-paid, pundits know that certitude is the key: He who comes off as the most sure in his/her opinions will attract the most attention. Research shows that our brains have a natural aversion to uncertainty and have discomfort not knowing what comes next. Many individuals want cocksure experts. It’s no surprise that Ben Stein, a noted financial pundit with an up and down track record, says “I am paid to pontificate.”

Former star pundit James Altucher says there are two ways to become a successful pundit: One is with greed, the other with fear. “If you work with greed, you propose to make people money. Or you work with fear. There are always going to be people who want to be afraid because that’s sort of evolutionary psychology.” Of course, some sales pitches use both fear and greed.

Pundits have been around for centuries. When Robert Harley came up with the idea of the first joint-stock offering in England, the South Sea Company, he knew he needed marketing. He hired a fleet of writers, including Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe, for his press releases. Warren Buffet once said, “Forecasts may tell you a great deal about the forecaster; they tell you nothing about the future.” Jeff Macke sees it this way: “What the financial experts seem to have in common is that their biases are almost always on full display. ‘Everyone talks their book’ is a way of saying that if people are offering an opinion, it’s most likely colored by the way they are currently invested in the market. This is human nature.”

In short, financial news is often filler, or worse yet, misleading, and emotional nonsense, with opinions offered as analysis. Furthermore, it is often prediction driven and experience shows us most predictions are worthless. So, what are we to do?

Consider some or all of the following:

  • If you are going to follow the pundits, make them accountable. Diary their claims and follow up using an app such as FollowUpThen.com
  • Focus your TV and written consumption. Create a shortlist of objective individuals who collectively can understand complex financial issues and communicate them, reduce economics to understandable basics, and provide insights and help you understand common mistakes investors make.
  • Consider listening to shows such as “Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio”. Rather than a 15 minute interview of stock picks and predictions, these will be one hour of longer in depth interviews by Barry Ritholtz with key financial people such as Jeff Gundlach of Doubleline, Arthur Levitt, former SEC Chair, and Sheila Bair, FDIC Chair. The first radio/podcast was run on July 12, with nine more to follow.
  • Ask your financial adviser what they do to reduce the “noise” and get more signal in their media consumption. What is their consumption? How do they use that to provide more value to you including education on key topics?
  • Or, pour yourself a beverage and let DWM filter the noise for you. You may have lots of better things to do with your time than to try to keep up with all the financial pundits these days. You can always call DWM if you need anything. That’s why we are here.

DWM 2Q14 Market Commentary

brett-blogIt’s unusual when nearly all asset classes move in one direction and even more unusual when that direction is up. But that’s what has happened so far in 2014 with stocks having another good quarter, alternatives having a solid quarter, and most surprisingly bonds having a stellar quarter. The primary driver behind the rallies in both stocks and bonds remain the aggressive efforts of global central banks to keep printing money in efforts to keep sluggish economies moving in the right direction. In other words, results have been good but one can’t help but feel like this rally is mostly due to artificial catalysts. And what happens when those aren’t good enough to propel us forward? Back to that question in a little bit.

Let’s look at the numbers:

    • Stocks have been on a roll with the S&P500 notching its sixth consecutive quarterly gain. The average diversified US stock fund returned +3.4% in 2q14 and is now up 4.9%.
    • In the fixed income markets, bonds prices surprisingly rallied as evidenced by the US Barclays Aggregate Index registering +2.0% for the quarter and up 3.9% Year-To-Date (“YTD”). This unexpected bond rally so far this year is from generally declining bond yields as evidenced from the 10 Year US Treasury rates falling from 3% at the start of the year to about 2.5% at quarter end. Almost everyone had expected rates to move higher, but the reverse happened when central global banks pushed looser monetary policy in response to slow economic indicators. That being said, with little further room for yields to fall, we expect rates to gradually move back up with the Fed moving toward higher rates in 2015.
    • Many liquid alternatives fared very well in the second quarter. Here are some of the ones we follow and use within our DWM Liquid Alternatives Model:
      • *JPMorgan Alerian Master Limited Partnership Index (symbol: AMJ) – up 7% 2Q14
      • *SPDR Gold Trust (GLD)– up 3.5%
      • *SPDR DJ Global Real Estate (RWO) – up 7.4%
      • **Pimco All Asset Authority (PAUDX) – up 3.9%
      • **RiverNorth DoubleLine Strategic Income (RNDLX) – up 3.3%

* denotes an alternative asset
** denotes an alternative strategy

Another important factor is that housing appears relatively strong. The Case-Shiller 20-city Home Price Index rose 10.8% in the year ended in April. However this has been driven by a lot of cash buyers. As many people with great balance sheets know, the mortgage approval process is complicated, lengthy, and no fun these days. Furthermore, the strength is showing up in pockets – one suburb may be hot, but another nearby may not be moving at all. If you’re considering a real estate transaction, make sure you have done your due diligence and it’s also a good idea to get your real estate broker and financial advisor helping you together.

As we move into the second half of 2014 (crazy how fast this year has gone!), we look to history to give us a relative view of what to expect. For example, the current S&P500 bull market is now over 5.3 years old. The longest bull market since 1950 lasted 9.5 years, so we may have some time left. Furthermore, the S&P500 has gone over 1000 calendar days without a double-digit pullback, the fifth longest stretch without a 10% or greater drop in the last 50 years. Some fear that this represents the “calm before the storm”; on the other hand, perhaps we are in a “Goldilocks” environment and this low volatility environment can continue on.

It definitely is not all roses out there. Interest rates are still low, but trending up, meaning inflation could be right around the corner. Jobs look better on the surface, but the wage growth isn’t really there as companies continue to squeeze productivity out of their workers. That means Americans won’t spend money like they use to, and hence economic growth could be kept in check. Case in point of this comes from the final 1Q14 GDP reading which showed negative growth of 2.9%. This was worse than expected and the worst reading since 1Q09, the height of the recession. The report showed that consumer spending, the main component within the GDP calculation, fell from 3 to 1 percent. Sounds serious, but in 2014-style, investors simply shrugged it off saying, hoping, that it was due to the harsh winter weather. The 2Q14 reading to be released at the end of July will need to show serious improvement or we doubt the market will just shrug it off again. The nation’s quarterly growth has only been as bad as or worse than this reading only 18 times in the last 67 years.

To sum it up, 2014 has not been flashy but it has been a profitable one for most investors so far. There is a lot of noise out there, but no one knows exactly what is going to happen next. There are both many headwinds and many tailwinds. That said, make sure you and your portfolio have a captain to steer you through those winds. One that will help you stay well-diversified and employ strategies that can help in all market scenarios, be it up, down, or sideways. We at DWM have a lot of experience navigating these terrains. We looking forward to continuing the journey with our crew and reaching new heights.