Our Blog

DWM is committed to learning for its team, clients and friends. In this changing world, it’s extremely important to stay current in all areas impacting your financial future.

We encourage all of team members to “drill down” on current topics important to you and contribute to our weekly blogs.  Questions from our clients and their families are often featured in our blogs.  

Financial literacy for clients and their families is very important to us.  We generally hold an annual wealth management seminar for all of our clients.  We encourage regular, at least semi-annual, meetings in person with our clients to review family updates, progress on financial goals, asset allocation and performance of investments.  We’re happy to assist younger members of the family as part of our total wealth management program.

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A True Halloween Scare: Volatility Returns to the Marketplace

Written by Jake Rickord.

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Recently, we here at DWM posted a blog discussing the phenomenon that “Bull Market Runs Come in All Lengths”. Within this article, we mentioned the idea that before our current bull run ends, we may see many more pullbacks and/or corrections.

Within the current month, we have seen these types of market downturns as investor fears of upcoming mid-term elections, tariffs, rising rates,  and international economic slow-down issues have spiked levels of consumer fear (measured by the volatility index, VIX), by nearly 50% .

While this data can’t tell us whether the current bull market run is coming to an end, it opens up the opportunity to better understand just what is happening in the economy, and how we should handle times like these.

To understand the severity of market moves, there are three unique distinctions: a pullback, a correction, and a bear market, which signify downward market moves of 5%, 10%, and 20% respectively.

Over the past month, securities within all asset classes – equities, fixed income, and alternatives - have experienced one of these. On October 23rd, in fact, over 40% of the stocks in the S&P 500 were considered to be in bear market territory. Since then, markets have continued their run of ups and downs.

What can this market data tell us about the future? Unfortunately, not much. While markets tend to be cyclical in nature over the long-term, the short-term is usually marred by emotions (herd mentality, greed, and fear) rather than by solid fundamental and economic modeling. Furthermore, the risk of attempting to predict these short-term outcomes can have a serious long-term effect on the performance of an investor. Studies have shown that by missing out on only a few days strong returns in a market cycle can drastically impact the portfolio’s overall return.

Thus, in order to stay on track with long-term financial goals, one of the most successful and least anxiety-inducing ways to manage investments is to generate a financial plan, assess and re-assess risk tolerance regularly, and continually stay disciplined to these values in order to avoid making emotional and poor decisions. In conjunction with these actions, an investment portfolio needs both an appropriate asset allocation based on a client’s financial plan and has to be made up of a well-diversified portfolio that can help provide exposure to market areas, such as fixed income and alternatives, that are arenas that may still produce returns even with stocks stuck in a slowdown. The combination of these strategies can work as shields to protect both an investor’s assets, and his/her mental health during times of volatility such as today’s challenging marketplace.

At times, corrections, pullbacks, and even bear markets can actually be good things! If certain areas of the market are being overvalued, or company valuations are getting ahead of their fundamentals, pullbacks and corrections can serve as a check and balance system, to get these more in line. This makes companies, sectors, and markets more stable as they can refresh a bull market that is verging on inflating itself beyond its means.

Furthermore, a pullback, correction, or bear market move down for a certain security can provide other opportunities. For example, this month, DWM will be creating value for clients by taking advantage of tax-loss harvesting options. Tax-loss harvesting is the process of selling out of a security that has lost value since an investor first bought it, and using that loss to offset any gains that an investor realized during a tax year. This upside can serve as a nice treat to offset the “trick”-y investment arena of October.

One other somewhat notable factoid is that in the mid-term election year of October 2014, the stock market took a noticeably similar look. That of the Dow Jones down nearly 3%, rebounding, and selling off throughout, ultimately dropping into correction territory. This was quickly followed by a November post-election market boom hitting record highs for the Dow and S&P 500. Once again, while interesting to see, take these numbers with a grain of salt moving forward and looking at future returns.

All in all, keeping in mind that while volatility and uncertainty in the marketplace can be scary, maintaining a balanced, disciplined portfolio and financial plan, and staying dedicated to that plan throughout all market cycles is the key to being financially sound and minimizing the number of sleepless nights. At DWM, we proactively discuss these matters with clients, and strive to keep our clients informed, motivated, and on-target to their financial plans to help them reach their long-term financial goals. Happy Halloween!

 

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Your “Hidden Brain” Impacts Your Politics

Written by Lester Detterbeck.

 

 

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Hopefully, all of us will vote in the midterms on 11/6 or before. Roughly half the country will vote for Republicans (conservatives) and half will vote for Democrats (liberals.). Did you know that your choices are not only impacted by your upbringing and experiences, but also very specifically by your genes? We’re hard-wired from birth for much of our political views.

Shankar Vedantam is one of my favorite authors and commentators. He is NPR’s social science correspondent and before that a journalist at The Washington Post. His 2010 book “The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save our Lives” describes how our unconscious biases influence us. I highly recommend it.

Mr. Vedantam relates the story that on a regular basis, right before an election, someone will share an article with him about how science proves that the brains of a liberal are stunted or that Republicans are less intelligent than Democrats. While those claims likely have no merit, Mr. Vedantam contends that there are “genuine psychological differences between liberals and conservatives.”

On a recent Hidden Brain telecast, Mr. Vedantam hosted political scientist Dr. John Hibbing to the show. Dr. Hibbing is co-author of “Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives and The Biology of Political Differences.” Dr. Hibbing pointed out that differences between partisans are not limited to politics. There are generally differences in food choices, living spaces, and temperaments. Conservatives generally like meat and potatoes; liberals are more likely to prefer ethnic food. Conservatives tend to have organized rooms with things like sports memorabilia, while liberals tend to have lots more books and may not be as tidy. As far as temperament, conservatives tend to favor order and tradition and liberals tend to be more comfortable with ambiguity and change.

Then, there’s a huge difference between conservatives and liberals when it comes to threats and danger. According to Dr. Hibbing, conservatives tend to see the world with its terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, and immigrants as a very dangerous and threatening place.   Liberals tend to believe they live in a relatively safe society.   Conservatives therefore want and need the government to help them “protect themselves and their family, limit immigration, and put lots of money into defense and law and order.” Liberals, on the other hand, are reinvigorated by immigrants coming to our country, don’t see the need to spend so much money on defense and support gun control. Conservatives and liberals read about events of the world and they simply don’t respond to them in the same way.

Mr. Vedantam chimed in: “There is a very powerful illusion that we have that the rest of the world sees the world the way we see the world. And, if they come to a different conclusion, it must be because they’re being deliberately obtuse or somehow deliberately biased, as opposed to the idea that people are actually seeing the world the same way, but reacting to it differently.” Psychologists call it a case of “false consensus” that we assume others will see the world the way we do.

People are wired differently. Roughly 30-40% of our political views come from genetics based on research by Dr. Hibbing. 60-70% comes from our environment. Mr. Vedantam has described how researchers separate the effects of biology from those of the environment. They look at fraternal and identical twins. Both sets of twins have identical initial environments, but the fraternal twins have similar but not identical genes. Data from thousands and thousands of twin pairs supports the conclusion that political views are quite “inheritable.”

Finally, brain activation patterns of liberals and conservatives are different. Dr. Hibbing has conducted tens of thousands of experiments in which he showed various pictures to individuals whose brain was being scanned. Liberals’ brains would highly activate at times much differently than when conservatives’ brains were highly active. The brain scan results alone proved “incredibly accurate in determining whether an individual was a conservative or liberal.”

Frankly, I find it very helpful to learn that political views are at least, in part, biological. Years ago, left-handers (like both my mother and father) were thought to be lazy and had their hands hit with a wooden ruler to make them write “correctly,” using their right hand. People saw left-handers as a flaw, something that needed to be driven out. Now, of course, we understand that being left-handed is very biological. Similarly with politics. Dr. Hibbing concludes: “If we recognize that others, virtually half the country, are oriented to the world in a different fashion, maybe we would be a bit more tolerant to them. This is the only way we’re going to get anywhere if we at least understand where they are coming from even if we might deeply disagree with their conclusions.”

As we approach the midterms with the vitriol rising, let’s all remember our hidden brains and those of others, particularly family and friends and show tolerance and respect to all. We may see the same world differently: our unique genes, unconscious biases and life experiences may produce different conclusions and different political preferences. Yet, we’re all Americans and we and our country will all do better if we work together.     

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Midterm Elections and Beyond: What to Expect

Written by Lester Detterbeck.

 

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November 6 is less than 3 weeks away. We hope everyone votes - as Americans, it’s our most fundamental right. We certainly are not predicting the election results. Lots of close races in IL, SC and across the nation.

However, history shows that the president’s party has lost House seats in over 90% of the last 20 midterm elections. With possible changes in Congress, anxiety sets in among investors. Political uncertainty begets legislative uncertainty and creates a headwind for stocks.

No surprise-the stock markets in 2018 have been quite volatile, particularly these last three weeks when equities have pulled back 5-10%. Even so, the fundamentals are still very good. Economic growth and corporate profits remain strong. The job market is robust, overall personal incomes are increasing and consumer sentiment is high. All bode well for a longer-term positive trend.

Historically, U.S. stock market performance after mid-term elections has been very good. The uncertainty fades and investors move forward. Going back to 1926, the average return on U.S. stocks the year after the mid-term election has been an amazing 17.9%. And, the average return in November, the month of the election, has been 2.7%. However, the last three midterms have not produced such lofty U.S. stock market returns in the following year: only 5% in 2007, 2% in 2011 and 1.4% in 2015.

We expect lots of forecasts as we come up to Election Day. For many years, the “Presidential Election Cycle Theory” was thought to be reliable. This theory states that U.S. stock market returns are weak the first two years of the president’s term and strong in the year prior to (the year after the mid-term election) and the year of the next election. Yet, recently this theory has missed the mark many times including for elections in 1960, 1984, 1988 and 1992. Furthermore if this theory was correct, then 2007 and 2008 should have been strong and 2009 weak. However, the opposite was true. In addition, during President Obama’s tenure, the stock markets were stronger the first two years and weaker the last two years of each term. Again, just the opposite of the “Theory.”

We’d rather focus on the long-term and fundamentals rather than rely on a theory that hasn’t worked for decades. We’re viewing October-to-date performance as a healthy pullback, particularly for U.S. stocks. The S&P 500 price/earnings ratio forward estimate as of Monday was down to 16.84 as compared to 19.30 a year ago. This current P/E ratio is now right at the 25 year average which typically means the bull market is not about to end.

At the same time, the price/earnings ratios for other developed countries (like those in the EU and Japan) are less than the U.S. And, the P/E ratio for emerging market countries (think China, India, Russia and Turkey) is even less. A lower P/E ratio means a lower stock price for the same earnings. Academic research has shown that undervalued equity markets have achieved higher future returns in the long run than their overvalued counterparts. That’s why we are so confident, and research shows, that, in the long run, diversification wins.

We’re not making predictions about the financial markets between now and November 6th nor what happens thereafter. Instead, we encourage you to “sit tight” in your diversified, appropriate long-term asset allocation through and after November 6th. Over the past century, equities have produced real capital growth of about 7% annually. No other investment-bonds, cash, gold or real estate offers comparable return potential. At the same time, we encourage you to consider holding an appropriate amount of fixed income and liquid alternatives, which both are generally non-correlated with equity and are designed to reduce your risk and volatility and increase your long-term returns.

So, stay invested and make sure to vote. If you won’t be able to vote in person on November 6th, please obtain, complete and submit your absentee ballot. Remember: Every vote matters. Every vote counts.

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