Money and emotions. Inseparable. We’re hard-wired that way. Since caveman times, we’ve always had an aversion to loss. And, that’s one of the reasons many people aren’t feeling so great about their money in 2015. All asset classes – equities, fixed income and alternatives – are all just about break-even for the first ten months of 2015. And, because our minds place more emphasis on recent events than longer term, many are wondering what lies ahead for their money and their net worth. Those were the subjects of our two annual seminars; yesterday at the Liberty Tap Room in Mt. Pleasant and last week at Emmett’s Brewery in Palatine. Both locations served as great places to not only deliver an important financial presentation, but also as a great place to just hang out and visit with one another.
In case you missed our 2015 seminar entitled “How Are You Feeling About Your Money Lately?” here are some of the highlights:
Looking at the last five centuries for clues to what’s coming next: Citing many facts from Northwestern University’s Dr. Robert Gordon’s report on U.S. economic growth, there have been waves of change. There was not much real economic growth before 1750. Then, in 1750, the first Industrial Revolution, which included steam and railroads, pushed economic growth for almost 8 decades. Industrial Revolution #2 was centered in the U.S. with the invention of cars, planes, electricity, communication and refrigeration. From 1870-1970, Americans moved from the farm to factories, working in the cities and manufacturing new products and buying them. It was a huge push on economic growth. Currently, we are in Industrial Revolution #3 covering the period 1960 until now and is characterized by computers, e-commerce and the internet. Dr. Gordon’s premise is that many of the positive characteristics in the 20th century that pushed economic growth, such as demographics, women entering the workplace, education advances, a rising middle class and low debt (federal, state and local) have diminished. Therefore, at this time it will be difficult for the U.S. to obtain an increase in its real growth rate of roughly 2% per year unless and until there is a major innovation breakthrough.
Last 100 years of bull markets and bear markets: Though bear markets seem “unbearable” when occurring, the fact is that they are much shorter in duration and much less in impact than bull markets. However, based on expected lower growth and inflation, the average annual stock market returns will likely be less in the coming decades than the 80’s and 90’s for example. Indeed, there will be bear markets at some point in the future. But that said, it is not wise to try to time the market; instead control the things you can control and stay invested in an appropriate diversified asset allocation and stick to your long-term investment plan.
Emotional biases: The markets are not rational because of human beings and their emotions and the fact that they sometimes trade on those emotions. As such, the markets tend to continually overshoot one way and then the other. Recency bias, loss aversion bias, anchoring bias, and other biases can have major (and typically bad) impacts on our decision making. For example, recency bias was the principal reason many investors felt compelled to get out of stocks in late September based on the last two months’ most dismal performance – had they traded on that emotion, they would have missed out the huge October rally upward. Emotional biases in investing can significantly disrupt sound investment plans but there are fortunately ways to cope including: understanding the problem exists, creating a culture of discipline which can be done by creating a sound investment plan (e.g. Investment Policy Statement), and working with a financial coach like DWM that keeps you and your emotions from hurting yourselves.
Other Key Metrics: Protecting and growing your net worth is much more than simply focusing on investment returns. One needs to regularly review and monitor other key measurements that matter. These include assets, additions to assets, planned date of financial independence, retirement income, inflation, investment returns, effective tax rates, goals (needs, wants and wishes), expected longevity, estate planning and stress testing, including risk management. There are many “financial advisors” out there willing to work with your investments, but not as many that are qualified and willing to go through a comprehensive financial planning process using the metrics above and providing other value-added services to completely help manage your financial life. DWM’s Total Wealth Management Process includes both Investment Management and Value-Added Services. The process has two parts: first, a series of initial meetings to review all aspects of a client’s financial life and provide review, recommendation and implementation. And, second, an ongoing process to monitor and adjust the plan through life’s twists and turns. It is focused on the client’s numbers and emotions and designed to help protect and grow their legacy and provide peace of mind.
For more information about the discussion above, don’t hesitate to contact us.
We just wrapped up our fall seminars which focused on Pullbacks, Corrections, Bear, and Bull markets. Both venues – Palmetto Brewery in Charleston and Emmett’s Brewery in Palatine – served as great places to not only deliver an important financial presentation, but also as fine places to just hang out and visit with one another.
In case you missed our October seminars entitled “Is it Time for a Pullback, Correction, or a Bear Market?”, here is a quick recap:
Pullbacks, Corrections, and Bear Markets all signify a move down of 5, 10, or 20%, respectively, from a recent peak. They may sound scary but a Pullback/Correction might actually be a very healthy thing because it may signify that the underlying asset’s valuation is getting back in line with fundamentals. In other words, Pullbacks and Corrections are different from Bear markets in that they may be simply a “pause” that refreshes an otherwise healthy Bull!
Diversification plays a huge role to a balanced portfolio. The end of September and beginning of October saw a significant Pullback in equity indices, e.g. Russell 2000 Small Cap, S&P500, etc. However, other asset classes were not exhibiting same price movements. In fact, some fixed income indices experienced no pull back and traded at all-time highs. Alternatives also experienced non-correlation benefits. The media (i.e. CNBC) would have you believe that investing begins and ends with only large cap domestic stocks. Diversified investors don’t need to get caught up in their obsession.
History shows that Bull markets typically last greater than 5 years on average and Bears about a quarter of that. Bear markets experience more volatility, given the fear that usually surfaces during these times. Bull markets don’t end based on a particular time frame, but instead end from an external shock (e.g. overvaluation/bubbles, inflation, etc).
Bull & Bear markets are driven by greed and fear as much as economic fundamentals. Humans are not wired for disciplined investing, hence investors can help themselves gain discipline by using a wealth manager like DWM to focus on the things that one can control, and avoid emotional, poor decisions based on things one cannot control.
Trying to predict short-term markets is virtually impossible. Markets don’t necessarily correlate with current economic data. The world has changed and old formulas and rules of thumb may not apply. Global concerns can cause investors’ appetite for risk to diminish overnight. However, over the long-term, the markets have rewarded discipline, through world events of all types.
Trying to time the market is a fool’s game. Studies show that missing just a few days of strong returns can drastically impact overall performance.
Your financial adviser should help you focus on what you can control. This includes creating both a financial plan and an investment plan. You also need to stress test these plans. And, then you need to review your risk profile- which is a combination of risk capacity, risk tolerance, and risk perception.
The markets cannot be controlled, but asset allocation can be. Asset allocation is the primary driver of returns. Once you have your risk profile, you are in a position to construct an appropriate asset allocation target mix. Use of multiple asset classes (equities, fixed income, alts) lead to non-correlation benefits. Non-correlation leads to a smoothing effect to your return profile which means smaller downsides. Smaller downsides lead to better geometric compounding, hence better LONG-TERM RESULTS. The chart below shows the impact of downside volatility and why one wants to avoid that.
Focus on things you can control:
Create an investment plan to fit your needs and risk tolerance
Identify an appropriate asset allocation target mix
Structure a well-balanced, diversified portfolio
Reduce expenses through low turnover and via passive investments where available
Minimize taxes by asset location, tax loss harvesting, etc.
Rebalance on a regular basis, taking advantage of market over-reactions by buying at low points of the market cycle and selling a high points
Using a dedicated and caring financial advisor can keep you focused on the above items and more. Most importantly, an advisor like DWM can keep you and your portfolio disciplined so you can reach your long-term financial goals.
We just wrapped up our fall seminar series and based upon feedback it was a great success. Both venues – the Wolfe St Playhouse in Charleston and Emmett’s Brewery in Palatine – served as great places to not only deliver an important financial presentation but also as a great place to just hang out and visit with one another.
In case you missed one of the October seminars entitled “Rising Interest Rates: Should I Be Concerned?“, here is a quick recap of what you missed:
The Bond bull market may be over.
The last 3 decades saw declining interest rates. Because of the inverse relationship between rates and bond prices, this created a nice tailwind for bond prices.
With interest rates recently bouncing off historic lows and expected to gradually increase as the Fed tinkers with tapering their Quantitative Easing Program, these tailwinds are becoming headwinds.
This doesn’t mean that bonds will necessarily have negative returns but expected returns should be significantly lower than the 8.5+% returns they have exhibited since September of 1980 when 10-Year Treasury rates peaked at 15.8%.
Bonds still play a vital role within an overall portfolio as do all of the asset classes.
As a diversifier which creates lower volatility to the overall portfolio- bonds not only have smaller corrections than equities but have consistently held up during equity market corrections.
As a capital preservationalist.
As an income provider.
Traditional and major index (like Barclays Aggregate) bond funds may not be the best way to go. Make sure to ‘get under the hood’ of your bond portfolio and ‘check the fluids’.
Duration (essentially the amount of time until a bond matures) – the bigger the duration, the more sensitivity the bond price will change. Because of this, consider reducing the overall duration of your bond portfolio.
Consider adding floating rate exposure – one of the few subsectors within bond land that enjoys a rising interest rate environment given that they rely upon loans that reset in periods usually less than a year at the new current interest rate environment.
High Yields – with default rates near historical lows, these securities can enhance an overall bond portfolio.
Look to areas outside of the US – international developed and emerging bond markets can provide diversification and enhanced yields/returns.
Utilizing low cost ETFs and mutual funds for the above exposure helps eliminate company-specific risk.
Use of multiple asset classes lead to non-correlation benefits that ultimately lead to better long-term results.
Non-correlation leads to a tighter range of outcomes for the overall portfolio
Tighter range of outcomes puts a smoothing effect on your return profile
Smoothing effect leads to smaller downsides
Smaller downsides lead to better geometric compounding
Better geometric compounding leads to BETTER LONG-TERM RESULTS
Note: Investor psychology studies and personal experience remind us that not everyone is a fan of non-correlation when stocks are roaring, but the fact is one cannot count on 20%+ stock returns year in and year out. Not to mention that the 30yr+ bond bull market may be over. One must look elsewhere for proper diversification, for real positive returns and for protection to the portfolio.
The world has changed…and will keep changing.
Don’t try to control the things you cannot, but take advantage of the things you can control.
The markets cannot be controlled, but Asset Allocation can be. Asset allocation is the primary driver of returns.
Make sure you are prepared for a rising interest rate environment or whatever environment is thrown your way by working with a wealth management professional firm like DWM.