Happy Halloween!

halloween-moneyHappy Halloween! Halloween can be one of the best times of the year, especially if you’re creating memories with your family and friends. We all love to watch scary movies and get a little spooky on Halloween, but do you know what’s even scarier than a creepy clown on Halloween? Having poor financial habits. My name is Grant Maddox and I am a new Service Associate with DWM.  As a recent College of Charleston Business graduate with a concentration in Finance, I have learned a thing or two about spending while on a “college budget”. I have also learned through my course work how important it is to stay on your budget and not over spend.

Americans love to spend!  The 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that average spending in the U.S. across all types of expenses increased in 2015. Expenditures for food, housing, apparel and services all rose between 3.4% and 3.9%. We know the Consumer Price Index remained largely unchanged at 0.73% last year. In other words, the increase in spending was principally not the result of inflation. Instead it shows American households simply spent more in 2015.

There are many reasons why Americans may spend more – for one thing, technology has made it so much easier. As accessibility to online retail and credit options increases, so do our spending habits. You can pay with a swipe of a card or by hovering your phone over a machine!  It is eerie how easy you can spend your hard-earned dollars!  In fact, kicking off the end of year spending season is Halloween. Just how much do Americans spend on trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities? The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts total Halloween spending—including candy, costumes, and decorations—to come to $7.4 billion this year. We are inundated with eye-catching campaigns to encourage excessive spending, especially during the holidays.

Establishing a budget that includes life’s essentials such as rent, utilities, food, and transportation is important for setting up yourself or your child for success. It is crucial to encourage saving early and often to gain the benefits of compounding. While many young professionals may see saving for future goals, such as a down payment on a house, as a non-priority, saving, in fact, can certainly make a huge difference. As a parent, you can even encourage your child’s saving by offering to match a percentage of their contributions to a designated savings account. These lessons can be invaluable to them as they grow older. Having direct deposits of paychecks, direct deposits to savings vehicles and automated payment schedules help us manage our bill payments and savings potential more easily.  Technology can be a wonderful attribute to our society and for our spending, when we use it wisely.

At DWM, we encourage you to plan for your major purchases and be sure that your goals are all part of a larger successful financial plan.  Looking for ways to right size your spending isn’t just about planning ahead for luxury items.  Reviewing all household expenditures to determine if they are needs, wants, or wishes is also a great practice. I look forward to learning all I can about total wealth management and helping our clients and others to achieve their financial goals.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaafdaaaajgvhztrjmmuxlwniytatnguwmy1hnjg5lwfjzdq0mjexmji0nqEditor’s Note:  Please join us in welcoming Grant Maddox to our DWM team.  Grant joined our firm in October as a service associate and is training/learning/working toward becoming a junior advisor. Welcome aboard, Grant!

Consumer Sentiment: “Good, but Concerned About the Future”

Measuring-Consumer-ConfidenceOverall, Americans are feeling pretty good. Their total net worth is now $88 trillion.  That’s a major increase since 2009 when total wealth bottomed at $55 trillion.

In simple math, that’s an average of about $270,000 of wealth per person, obviously impacted in a major way by the 1% at the top.  The median amount (half the people have more and half have less) is about $50,000 per person.  And, on average, roughly 75% of that wealth is in one’s home.  The Federal Reserve report last week showed that mortgage balances are growing slowly, while home prices are increasing steadily.  Many homeowners who were underwater seven years ago now have some equity.

In fact, rising home prices have set off fears that real estate will become more expensive.  In the year ended March 31, 2016, cities like Denver, Seattle and Portland had employment growth more than 3% and double-digit increases in home prices.  At the same time, according to the Case-Shiller indexes, Boston, Cleveland and New York have had subdued growth and home price increases.  Pittsburgh and Dallas are facing housing affordability challenges as demand lately has moved toward central cities, where land is scarce, rather than more spacious distant suburbs. This month, McDonald’s announced its move from Oakbrook to the West Loop in Chicago to appeal to the younger, metropolitan workforce.

Despite a weak May labor report showing only 38,000 nonfarm jobs and some politicians claiming the economy is a disaster, overall consumer sentiment is up.  Home prices and wages are up, interest rates and gas prices are low and people are starting to spend more.  Consumer spending jumped 1% in April, the fastest pace in nearly 7 years.

In addition, everyone likes to hear that the stock markets are rallying, which they have done since February. And, daily media blasts about approaching or hitting new market highs, which are happening lately, prompt positive consumer sentiment as well.

The University of Michigan’s next “Index of Consumer Sentiment” due on Friday, is expected to be good.  Economists have forecasted it to come in at 93.5, down slightly from May.  However, it would still be above average for economic expansions.  What we are seeing, though, is a growing gap between the favorable Current Economic Conditions sentiment and the renewed downward drift of the Expectations Index.

Since the late 1940’s U of M has been interviewing households.  In early June, the 500 respondents who answered the 50 core questions, rated their current financial situation as the best since 2007.  And, their prospects for gains in inflation-adjusted income for the year ahead were also most favorable in 9 years.  However, these respondents did not think the economy was as strong as a year ago nor do they expect the economy to do as well in the year ahead as it has done.

The next six months will be quite interesting.  While the economy has posted steady job growth for most of the past six years, May’s disappointing labor report begs the question:  “Have things changed?”  In addition, what happens if the UK decides on June 23rd to leave the EU, and Brexit occurs? And, how about China’s big slowdown from double digit economic growth just a few years ago?

Certainly, there are lots concerns and uncertainties.  So, what’s new?  We all deal with uncertainty and change every day.

As our regular readers know, our advice is to focus on what you can control:

Investments-

  • Create an investment plan to fit your needs and risk tolerance
  • Identify an appropriate asset allocation target mix
  • Structure a diversified portfolio
  • Reduce expenses and turnover
  • Minimize taxes
  • Rebalance regularly
  • Stay invested

Other Key Metrics-

  • Separate your goals into needs, wants and wishes
  • Review your expected longevity
  • Target a date of financial independence
  • Use realistic targets for investment returns and inflation in your planning
  • Review all assets and make sure they are performing appropriately
  • Review all debt and determine if it is appropriate
  • Review all insurance for coverage and cost
  • Review your estate plan to make sure it meets your wishes and that assets are titling appropriately
  • Monitor your plan regularly and make appropriate changes

We encourage you to focus on the above.  And, of course, if you need some help or have a question, give us call.  At DWM, we’re here to increase family wealth by adding value.

“The Future Depends on What You Do Today”- Mahatma Gandhi

100-candlesNo one has a crystal ball.  If we did, we might ask three important questions:

-How long will I live?

-Will I have enough money if I live to age 100?

-How will I spend the time I have on this earth?

As wealth managers dedicated to increasing families’ wealth and legacies, we consider these questions and the related answers as extremely important.

We Americans are living longer.  From 1980 to 2020, the number of Americans 90 years of age and older tripled to 1.9 million. And, by 2050, it is expected there will be 8 million 90 and over.  This is a new paradigm.  Historically, people retired in their 50s and early 60s and lived their last few years retired in comfort during the “golden years”.   These days, someone retiring in their early 60s could live 30 or 40 more years.  If so, will they have enough money and what will they do for that time period (perhaps 1/3 or more of their lifetime on earth)?

Life Expectancy. There are some good tools to help you estimate when your “plan will end.”  Here are three: https://www.livingto100.com/, https://www.bluezones.com/ (click on tools), and https://www.myabaris.com/tools/life-expectancy-calculator-how-long-will-i-live/, (Note: each site will require you entering your email address) These tools can take 5-10 minutes.  All look at personal health, family history and socioeconomic status.

Will My Nest Egg Hold Out?  Next, it’s time to calculate your expected “financial independence” date.  See our blog of April 21, 2015 http://www.dwmgmt.com/plan-for-financial-independence-not-retirement/  This is the date at which you have enough assets for the rest of your life without needing to work for money.  Recently this “independence” date has been extended for many due to three principal factors; increased expected longevity, lower expected returns, and reductions in and uncertainty about pensions and social security. The financial independence calculation requires a review and monitoring of key current and expected metrics: assets, additions to assets, longevity, retirement income, inflation, investment returns, tax rates, and spending goals.  Of course, all results must be stress tested and regularly monitored and revised as appropriate.

Meaning, Identity and Purpose in Remaining Years.  Planning for the “golden years” goes well beyond money.   Happiness, of course, is more than that.  We discussed it in our September 9th blog http://www.dwmgmt.com/how-would-you-rate-your-life/.  We ask our clients not only about their financial priorities, but also about their visions for their family, career, health, dreams, legacy, education and charity.

These days, more and more seniors are taking inventory on who they are, their accumulated skills and experience and want to stay engaged in the broader society and economy, continuing to be useful, active and “keep going”.  Here are some recent inspiring examples in the news:

  • Gerry Marzorati, former editor of the New York Times and author of the new book “Late to the Ball” has immersed himself in tennis since taking it up in his mid-50s. Mr. Marzorati recognizes that “Sixty is not the new 40. Fifty isn’t either.  Your lung capacity in late middle-age is in steady decline as are your fast-twitch muscle fibers that provide power and speed. Your sight, senses and balances are getting worse.”  Yet, undaunted, Mr. Marzorati concluded that for him, his “golden years” would be spent on “finding something new, something difficult- to immerse yourself in and improve at.”  He threw himself into his new passion, hiring a coach, practicing for hours and hours and even entering competitions in his new love.  No trophies yet, but fulfillment.
  • Alan Page, the leader of Vikings’ Purple People Eaters, is about to start his third career at age 70.  After his Hall of Fame NFL career, Mr. Page finished law school and became a Justice in the Minnesota State Supreme Court for 24 years until recent mandatory retirement.  Now he and his wife will commit their full-time efforts to their Page Foundation, focused on educating young children, through money and mentoring.
  • At 100, Ida Keeling is still running for her life. She has the fastest time for American women aged 95-99 in the 60-meter “dash” at 29.86 seconds.  She is 4’6” and weighs 83 pounds.  She said she was fast as a girl, though back then there were few opportunities for girls.  What makes her faster now is that “everyone has slowed down.”  She became a single parent of four when her husband died at age 42.  Ms. Keeling’s daughter, Shelley, herself a track coach, got Ida back into running when Mom was 67.  Her one hour of daily running gives Ms. Keeling a sense of serenity: “Time marches on, but I keep going.”

Go ahead.  Take the test!  See how long you will be at life’s party.   Then, by yourself, or with help from a wealth manager like DWM, develop, monitor and maintain a financial, personal and family plan for the future that meets your priorities and visions. The future depends on what you do today.  Go for it!

MGP 4 – The Next Generation of Financial Planning

MGP logo onlyThe financial industry is seeing some interesting changes spurred by the recently-enacted DOL fiduciary rule (see our recent blog at http://www.dwmgmt.com/fiduciary-standard-closing-in-on-reps-and-brokers/ ). At DWM, we welcome these changes as it now requires financial advisors to adhere to a rule that we have been following from the beginning…which is to make investment and planning recommendations with the client’s best interests in mind.  We always put the client first and always remain committed to this philosophy.

 

Last week, MoneyGuidePro, our chosen software provider, came out with a new version of their financial planning tool called MGP 4.  It is the next generation of financial planning software and the updates are specifically intended to help the financial advisor stay in line with the new rules.  The changes have made the software more “conversational” so advisor and client can spend more time discussing goals and retirement requirements, something we have always focused on.  We have spent some time reviewing the new features and there is a small learning curve with it.  We do think in the long run, it’s a nice update.  If you have recently logged on and were surprised or frustrated with it, you are not alone.  We want to describe some of the basics to you and, of course, we are always available for questions.

 

The biggest change is in the presentation and some of the familiar indexes are set up in new locations.  The updated format takes you to a My Plans landing page where you will have access to your financial plan.  Once the plan is selected, you will be on the page with personal information, similar to the previous version.  If you look at the top of this page, there is a progression line with three circles on it. The circle on the left is marked “About You” and is green at this stage. Once you click on the circle, the dropdown has all the items from the previous version grouped in four categories- Personal, Goals, Money and Risk and Allocation.  Click on each of these for details. ‘Personal’ shows personal information and has a new area for expectations and concerns.  ‘Goals’ has a retirement schedule and a place to include your goals, including one for health care, a newly-established feature to help us understand and track the costs that health care may have on your financial plan.  When you click on ‘Money’, you will see the familiar drop-down categories from the old version – including investments, retirement income and net worth.  Finally the ‘Risk and Allocation’ section will help us evaluate your risk tolerance and allocation strategy so we can see if they are in line with your goals.  You can always skip a category by returning to the “progression line” at the top and selecting your choice.   Everything is here, it just may take an extra step to get there.

 

*Tech Tip:  If you want to have an abbreviated look at your plan, you can select the ‘My Snapshot’ tab on the first page to have quick access to some of the most popular features like net worth, goals and results.

 

Once you finish ‘Risk & Allocation’, you are ready to move to the ‘Results’ circle.  You’ve seen these headings before. We suggest you click on ‘recommended scenario’.  Once on that page, look at the left side and you’ll see blue rectangles with personalized strategy tabs based on your goals.  One new, exciting feature is the Social Security tab which allows you to calculate your best strategy drawing benefits, if you haven’t already begun.  You can also choose the “What if Worksheet”. Here is where we modify certain predictors for the future like rates of return, inflation or living longer.  You can look under the recommended scenario or under the ‘What if worksheet’ Monte Carlo simulation graphs and you will see the blue rectangle “explore”.  Click on explore and then scroll down to “combined details.”    You’re now into the results page and graph, which all of our clients have seen before and shows the annual and linear progression of the value of your future portfolio.  This chart starts with the current value of your investment portfolio and shows how the additions, earnings, taxes and spending or goals might impact it going forward.  You can follow it to the wonderfully euphemized “end of your plan”!  We always find that amusing…

 

There are many other features hidden in this financial planning software and we invite you to “play” with this program any time. There is something for everyone in here.  In the play zone, you can add any number of crazy or exciting goals to see if you can make them come true.  Or if you want to prepare for the worst, you can stress test for challenges in the “what are you afraid of” feature. There are strategy tools, a budget feature and you can print your net worth report anytime. The ‘Finish’ tab includes the reports area which is not as intuitive as before, so if you have questions, please call us.  We are always glad to help…or run them for you!  And don’t worry, when you are finished playing with your plan, we always keep the original copy that is our constant.  DWM wants you to understand and participate in your financial planning and be as educated and knowledgeable as possible.  After all, that is our fiduciary responsibility and we always put our clients first!

Financial Planning for Family Members with Special Needs

From The Charleston Mercury May 30:

You may recall that back in March I invited y’all to my 100th birthday party. I received a number of nice responses, including suggestions for the menu at the party to include “soft items” not requiring much chewing for toothless attendees. I also received a few serious responses, one from my friend and fellow fee-only financial advisor Don Bailey. Click here to read the full article.

Will you be able to celebrate your century mark?

Lester Detterbeck of Detterbeck Wealth ManagementFrom the Charleston Mercury today:

“You’re invited to my 100th birthday party, so mark it down: Nov. 20, 2047 – only 35 years from now. This isn’t a joke. Recent studies show that Americans are living longer. It’s likely I will reach 100. Will you? And, if you do, will your savings last that long too? “

 Click here to read my latest contribution to the Charleston Mercury.