Is Your Retirement Advisor a Fiduciary?

Is your Retirement Advisor a Fiduciary?

Do you want a financial professional who is opposed to financial transparency managing your money?

The upcoming and long anticipated proposed rules by the Department of Labor (“DOL”) exposes that very debate, as it seeks to eliminate the ability of financial advisors to profit by selling retirement account products to investors without being held to a “fiduciary standard.”

For those wondering what that means, with a fiduciary standard an advisor must always act in your (their client’s) best interests. A fiduciary standard ensures that the advisor’s duty is to the client only, not the corporation they represent. To the surprise of many, that currently is not always the case. Financial advisors have had the ability to profit (through commissions and high fees) to the potential detriment of their clients. That is exactly what many large financial institutions and insurance companies have done. In fact, the federal government estimates that there are roughly $17 billion dollars of fees generated each year from conflicted advice.

The DOL has made clear –and we agree– that a commission based investment model creates a conflict of interest. Companies with a commission based model operate with an inherent conflict: the pressure to sell products that are more profitable for them and/or their firm can be important factors in how they direct you to invest. For example, an advisor may receive a 5% commission by selling you a fund through their company when you could get a similar product elsewhere without commission. Think of it this way: would you want to work with an accountant who also gets commissions from the IRS? Of course not. You want your accountant to represent your best interests. Would you go to a doctor who makes money each time he prescribes penicillin? No, you want your doctor to prescribe what is right for you. That is the primary reason we stay completely independent and operate as conflict-free, fee-only advisors.

The proposed DOL rule will hopefully begin to fix this issue as it is expected to require a strict fiduciary standard for financial advisors in the context of sales for retirement account products.  This standard will require advisors to certify that they are acting independently and in their client’s best interest, and are not motivated by the prospect of a commission. This has created a firestorm among big insurance companies, broker dealers and other institutional investors who, as we pointed out, don’t typically operate as fiduciaries.

In a letter sent last week to the SEC, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a strong proponent of the proposed DOL rule, pointed out that presidents of Transamerica, Lincoln National, Jackson National and Prudential all have called this proposal “unworkable.”  She commented on the self interest in their position, and the danger in permitting unwitting investors to be guided by non-fiduciaries in the context of their retirement investments.

Why would a rule that requires a financial advisor to act in their client’s best interest create such an uproar? One reason is that unlike Sherman Wealth Management, they are in a commission driven model, and therefore fear that the way they currently serve clients would not meet the standards of this new rule. We hope that because of the conflict a commission driven model creates, that eventually enough pressure from policy-makers like Senator Warren and Labor Secretary Perez will propel this proposed new rule beyond just retirement accounts. In the meantime, think to yourself why anyone would oppose this rule if not for purely selfish reasons?

***

The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

Don’t Expect to Win With Actively Managed Funds

actively managed

This article was originally published on NerdWallet.com

Trying to pick individual stocks is a losing game, and this doesn’t just apply to individual investors. It’s also true for professionally run, actively managed mutual funds.

Actively managed funds are tasked with picking a collection of stocks and bonds that will outperform market indices, or benchmarks, such as the S&P 500 or the Dow. They’re armed with Ph.D. analysts, hundreds of interns, and tools and research to which very few of us have access — but they can’t consistently beat their benchmarks by enough to justify their costs.

Long-term underperformance

Eighty-six percent of actively managed funds failed to beat their benchmarks in 2014, according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices scorecard. “So what?” you may say, “That’s only one year.” But 89% of funds failed to beat their benchmarks during the past five years; 82% failed to do so during the last decade.

The following data help illustrate how unlikely it is for active managers to beat the market over longer periods. During a one-year period, a high percentage of active managers in some categories may outperform their benchmarks. But over five- and 10-year periods, fewer active managers outperform.

Percentage of Actively Managed Funds That Outperform Benchmarks

1 YEAR 5 YEARS 10 YEARS
Source: 2015 Morningstar data
Large-cap value 36.5 19.6 33.7
Large-cap core 28.7 16.7 16.6
Large-cap growth 49.3 11.9 12.2
Mid-cap value 53.5 22.7 42.3
Mid-cap core 42.1 27.7 11.0
Mid-cap growth 41.6 26.0 32.4
Small-cap value 66.7 38.0 38.3
Small-cap core 44.7 32.8 23.1
Small-cap growth 22.2 20.5 23.1

Some managers do outperform the market, but picking a winning manager is as tricky as picking winning stocks. If you still think you can find “a good manager” who is the exception, consider this widely accepted Wall Street rule of thumb: Past performance doesn’t guarantee future performance. A manager who outperformed last year may not do it again this year.

Reasons for underperformance

There are a few main reasons actively managed funds underperform, aside from picking the wrong investments:

FEES

Many actively managed funds charge 1% to 2% per year in management fees, while a passively managed exchange-traded fund could charge as little as 0.1% to 0.2% per year. And many actively managed mutual funds are loaded funds, which means you’ll pay a sales charge, typically between 4% to 8% of your investment, when you buy or sell the fund — though the fee may decrease the longer you stay invested. Compounded over time, these higher fees can eat up a lot of gain, reducing overall returns.

TAXES

Because actively managed funds try to time the market and pick winners, they buy and sell positions frequently. These transaction costs reduce the fund’s returns, and all the buying and selling can also create taxable gain. Fund managers have no incentive to avoid this because they simply pass those taxable gains on to you, the shareholder.

MARKET EFFICIENCY

Some argue that markets are becoming more efficient, making it difficult to identify overvalued or undervalued stocks. The efficient market hypothesis states that stocks are constantly adjusting to news and information, and thus their share prices reflect their “fair value.” In simpler language, other than in the very short term, there are no undervalued stocks to buy or inflated stocks to sell. This makes it virtually impossible to outperform the market through individual stock selection and market timing.

An unsustainable approach

Whether active management can outperform is a controversial topic. Many experts dismiss the science and say that they can indeed beat the market. Some of them may even do so for a year or two, or even five, but what about over the long run? It’s simply not sustainable, and to think otherwise is dangerous.

If the data shows that the vast majority of the brightest and most well-equipped professional investors can’t beat their benchmarks, why should you believe anyone who says they can?

This story also appears on Nasdaq.

***

The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

Has the Internet Replaced Personal Financial Advisors?

human technology

With the wealth of information readily available online, it’s easy to feel that we’re all experts about everything. From scouring the finance blogs and Twitter for the latest “surefire” ways to beat the market, to diagnosing our aches on WebMD, to grilling along with Bobby Flay on YouTube, it can seem like we have almost instant access to the same information as the pros.

So when it comes to personal finances, why is it necessary to have a financial advisor when financial news is so readily available, Twitter is flooded with “hot tips,” robo advisors are ready to automate the whole process for you, and comparison shopping is so easy? Why can’t you just use this treasure trove of information to make your own financial decisions? Or subscribe to an algorithm-based service that will make the best lightning-quick decisions for you?

A couple of reasons…

If you’re good and you dedicate a lot of time online, you can definitely pick up some great information and strategies that the experts are sharing (follow me on Twitter by clicking here!) The tricky part is making sure that the information and the strategies are actually appropriate for you and appropriate right now. We all know that, if we’re not careful, the instantaneous nature of the internet, social media, and impersonal algorithms can lead to impulsive decisions that may not support our own long-term goals and personal risk profile. Quick reactions to new stock market “darlings” or to sudden market volatility can lead to choices that are not the best for your long – or even near – term financial health and growth. In fact, there is a whole science called Behavioral Finance that addresses how personal biases can lead investors to make decisions that actually work against the goals they set for themselves.

A good financial professional is able to sift through the vast amount of information available to you and determine what is significant to your strategy and what may just be a distraction. A financial advisor who understands Behavioral Finance can help you see where your assumptions, habits, and biases about money and investing may be leading you to get in your own way.

The new algorithm-based platforms are increasingly interesting and have a lot of merit, but the level of personalization is not yet very deep. That means that portfolios are based on broad criteria that may have nothing to do with your current situation, lifestyle, and goals. Again, this is where a trained professional will be able to view your unique individual needs and create a tailored strategy that is geared to you and not just everyone who matches your age and salary level. As more and more fiduciary financial advisors are starting to use smart algorithms as part of their offerings where appropriate, the key is “where appropriate” and “in the clients’ best interest,” the very definition of a fiduciary.

Think about it: would you rather grill along with Bobby Flay on your iPad or would you rather have regular meetings with Bobby, where he looks at the size and model of your Weber, the size of your shrimp, and the recipes you’re trying to learn, and works with you to make sure you become the master of your own grill? (and shrimp!)

The same goes for your financial future. While do-it-yourself is getting easier and easier, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s getting better and better. Look for a fiduciary financial advisor who also has access to the latest information online and is familiar with the latest algorithmic innovations, but who uses that information to get to know clients individually, and tailors a long-term growth strategy for them that will put them on the road to achieving the goals they have set for themselves.

 

With over a decade’s worth of experience in financial services, Brad Sherman is committed to helping his clients pursue their financial goals. Learn more about our Financial Advisor services.

Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date with investment news and wealth management information.

LFS-1279430-082115

 

5 Important Planning Tips for New Parents

7parentingtips

Expecting a visit from the stork soon or has it already dropped off a new bundle of joy? If so, you know the full range of emotions that come with a growing family. Along with the love and excitement you feel with a new baby boy or girl, comes the pressure of new responsibilities and additional financial obligations.

Babies change your life in many ways, including requiring large amounts of time and money. While you may already be thinking about childcare costs and options, or about paying the medical bills that accompanied your new child, there are several other – important – financial considerations you should be thinking about even before the new baby arrives.

Evaluate Financial Priorities. It’s important to consider both short-term and long-term expenses that come with the addition of a new family member. It is a natural impulse, for instance, to want to put your child first and redirect retirement savings into college savings. But remember, you can borrow for college but you cannot borrow your way through retirement. It’s also important to balance long-term goals, like retirement and college expenses, with current financial needs, to help you allocate resources in an appropriate way.

Update Insurance Needs and Your Will. With the expansion of your family, insurance needs can change significantly. Having enough insurance is important in feeling confident about your family’s financial future. Adding your child to your health insurance policy can usually be done with a phone call. Making sure you have enough life insurance for both parents can help ensure you have the funds to raise your child if the unthinkable happens. Short-term disability insurance provides benefits if you have an accident that takes you out of work temporarily. Long-term disability insurance is critical in case a major accident has a permanent impact on your ability to work and earn. While some companies offer disability insurance, it can also be purchased independently.

Updating your will or creating a trust can provide care instructions for your child and allocate resources for their upbringing. Without a will or trust, if you and your spouse die, the state will decide who will raise your children. A will establishes your wishes for who will care for your child. A trust can direct funds specifically earmarked for raising your children and can be an effective way to cover financial expenses and provide for college expenses.

Start Planning For College Early. The sooner you start the better. While it is impossible to know exactly how much you’ll need to save – given that you don’t know what kind of college your child will choose – consider that in 2013-2014 the cost of a moderate in-state public university was $22,826 per academic year and the cost of a “moderate” private university averaged $44,750, according to a College Board survey. ¹

For new parents this means that college could cost over $100,000 for a public college and more than double that number for private school. Instead of trying to fund the entire cost of their education, determine how much you want to contribute. Having children be responsible for a part of their education is often a good lesson in work ethic, even if you can afford to pay for everything, and a critical life lesson if you can’t.

Keep Spending and Debt under Control. When you have an adorable child it’s very easy to overspend. You want them to have the best of everything. Setting a budget and sticking with that can help you keep your spending in line with your established budget. This can also help you maintain the discipline needed to continue contributions to long-term financial goals like retirement and their college education. And remember, the best gift you can give your children – your time and attention – is free.

Another important consideration is debt. When you carry debt, you are paying today for yesterday’s bills. Investing potentially allows you to pay today for tomorrow’s bills. By keeping yesterday’s bills settled and debt to a minimum, you lay the foundations for having enough to enjoy today with your children and plan for tomorrow.

Teach Children About Finances At An Early Age. Finances are a part of our daily lives. When you involve children early on they gain an appreciation for what things cost and how to choose what we want and what we can live without. As soon as your child old enough, start helping save their pennies for something they really want, and teach them that work is part of the process of earning money. These skills, if taught early, can lead to a lifetime of responsible money management.

Parenting is an amazing adventure that changes the way you see yourself and the world. Keeping an eye on finances can provide you with the confidence you need to not only enjoy your growing family but help lay the foundations for a stronger future.

 

¹ http://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tmpl.jhtml?articleId=10064

LFS-1219374-060815

Why Reducing Your Tax Refund is a Good Thing

With tax day fast approaching, many people are counting on receiving a big check back from the Government. While you’re probably looking forward to this windfall, there are reasons why you may wish to minimize your end-of-year refund.

Why Big Refunds are Bad

Taxes are refunded to you when the Government takes too much of your pay each pay period. By overpaying each paycheck, only to get the money returned to you once a year, you are essentially lending the Government money at zero percent interest.

This is money that could have been budgeted for and spent, or invested, throughout the year. Even if you had put the money in a savings account over the year, you still would be better off.

How to Minimize Your Refund

In order to adjust the amount that is withheld for the IRS each pay period you need to fill out/change your W-4 form.

The W-4 allows you to specify allowances or exemptions that you are eligible for.

These can include:

  • Donations to charitable organizations
  • Interest on a home mortgage
  • Interest on student loan debt
  • Contributions to traditional IRAs

The W-4 form estimates the amount that you would receive from a tax refund. This amount is then distributed over the number of weeks remaining in the tax year, lowering the amount withheld from your paycheck each pay period.

You should also look into filling out a new W-4 every time you have experienced a major change in your life. Examples of this include:

  • Switching jobs
  • Marriage
  • Having a child
  • Losing a dependent (They either file their own tax return, or you can no longer claim them)

While trying to lower the amount that is withheld in taxes each pay period generally makes sense, it may be prudent to not list all of the exemptions you are eligible for on your W-4.

Why You May Not Want to Claim all Your Allowances

While having too much in taxes withheld can be compared to lending the Government money at a rate of zero percent interest, the reverse is also true.

If you underpay in taxes each paycheck, you end up owing money to the Government. In theory this is great. You could put the money in a savings account, and then at the end of the year pay back the Government while pocketing the interest that you collected.

In practice however this is not a prudent strategy for most people.

Individuals have a tendency to spend money that they have, and forget about longer-term consequences of their actions. Additionally while receiving a refund at the end of the year is exciting, the opposite is also true.

This is why it may make sense for you to leave a few deductions you are eligible for unlisted on your W-4. This ensures that you receive a tax refund, albeit a smaller one, rather than owing money.

What to Do When You Do Receive a Refund

While this advice can be helpful for next year, chances are this year’s tax season will provide you with a large refund.

If you do receive a large refund there are a series of things you can consider to maximize its value. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Invest in yourself – Sometimes the best investment you can make is in yourself. Consider buying a book or taking a class to help improve your performance in work or at life.
  • Get your will done – this can often cost less than a $1,000 in total but can save your beneficiary’s significantly more both in terms of money as well as headache
  • Put money into a college savings plan
  • Pay down your mortgage
  • Invest in a non-tax-exempt account – if you have already maxed out your IRA
  • Save for a rainy day
  • Open/add to an IRA
  • Pay off student loan debt
  • Pay off credit card debt – if you have any credit card debt, this should be an immediate priority
  • Save the money and increase your 401(k) contributions – put your money in a safe place such as a savings account, and bump up your 401(k) contributions to reflect the fact that you have this money sitting on the side.

Regardless of what you do with your tax refund, it is important that you come up with a plan. A trusted financial planner can help you in the process of creating one.

With over a decade’s worth of experience in the financial services industry Brad Sherman is committed to helping individual investors plan and prepare for retirement.

***

The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.

Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.

If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.

5 Big Picture Things Many Investors Don’t Do

5 Big Picture Things

These simple strategies can make a big impact on your long term portfolio.

Investing and finances can be overwhelming and confusing. Having so many options available, how is an investor to choose which direction to go. For those who seek to understand, it can become paralysis by analysis, where the more you study, the more you realize you need to know. With all of its complexity, simple investment strategies can be very effective, if the right choices are made.

Here are 5 Strategies most average investors don’t focus on, but should.

  • Have a thought out strategy with a purpose. A common mistake of investors is to put money in an account without a lot of thought as to the goals you want to achieve. Starting an investment fund without goals is like driving in a car with no destination in mind. Without a purpose for the money, it is impossible to measure the success or failure of the investment.
  • Start Early with a Time Horizon. Starting early gives your money more time to grow. The longer the money is invested, the better it can weather market fluctuations and the more likely you are to successfully reach your goals. Along these same lines, set specific goals around a time horizon. How long will each bucket of money be invested? This is a very important piece to your overall strategy because it will help evaluate the specific investments that will be most beneficial. If you are 15 years away from your goal, investment choices will be much different than if you are 5. The closer you get to the destination, the less able you are weather market fluctuations. This should be considered in your overall strategy.
  • Increase The Amount Invested Each Year. When looking over your investment strategy, separate the performance and the contributions. The performance is how much your money has grown through your investment strategies. Contributions are the dollar amount that you have added to your investment accounts. These two factors make up the total growth of your portfolio. Both of these numbers are important to your overall strategy. The account performance should be reviewed independent of contributions to help you stay on track with the right investment choices for your risk tolerance and time horizon. The amount you have added in contributions is what you have built into your budget for long term financial goals. When you increase those contributions each year, your account should grow significantly faster. Small increases are often not felt in the monthly budget.Let’s say you currently contribute 6% from your paycheck into your 401k. In addition to that you are putting $50 a month into your IRA and $50 a month into a  college fund. At the beginning of the year, increase your 401k contribution by 1%. Now you are putting away 7% in pretax dollars for retirement. Then the next quarter increase your IRA contribution to $75 a month and the quarter after that, increase your college fund contributions by $25 a month. These small increments will barely be noticed in your monthly budget. The $25 a month increase is less than $1 a day. If you are earning $50,000 a year, the 1% increase with your 401k is only around $21 a paycheck if you get paid bi-monthly, in pretax dollars. Meaning your paycheck will be reduced by less than $20 a paycheck due to the pretax allocation. If you increase the contribution at the time of your annual raise, it will only be noticed in the form of larger investment accounts.
  • Review your asset allocation as a whole picture. When you have separate investments for different financial goals, it is more of a challenge to see your portfolio in a complete picture. Having investments with different companies can increase these challenges. When you have a 401k at a current job, and maybe one or two from previous jobs, they are more difficult to keep up with. Then you might have current investments for retirement, college and savings for your first home. Taking a holistic view of all your investments will help to ensure you have the best asset allocation possible. When your allocation gets out of whack, you might end up taking on more risk than you are comfortable with, without realizing it. It is not always possible to have all your investments under one roof, especially with a current 401k. However, including these investments in all financial reviews will help you stay on track for your overall investment goals as well as ensuring your asset allocation and risk profile are appropriate.
  • Understanding what you can control. In life we like to have control over our current and future destinations. Happiness and success often come from recognizing what we can control and focusing on that. Investing is no different. We cannot control the markets and we cannot control the economy. There is a host of circumstances and events that are outside of our control. Stressing and worrying about those things is not beneficial. You can control spending and investment rate. You can control which investments you choose and the amount of risk in your portfolio. Staying focused on these elements will lead to higher comfort levels which will encourage staying the course.

Financial investing success has more to do with implementing sound strategies, rather than luck or great market timing. It is more about staying the course, than picking the “hot” stock that will make you a millionaire.

Learn more about our Investment Management services.

Related Reading:

Tips for Millennials to Understanding the Stock Market

What is Dollar Cost Averaging?

5 Things Investors Get Wrong

Why and How to Get Started Investing Today

Mitigating Your Investment Volatility

The Psychology of Investing

Rebalance Your Portfolio to Stay on Track With Investments

Behavioral Investing: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus!

LFS-1082064-121814

Mitigating Your Investment Volatility

Mitigating Investment Volatility

Volatile markets can be unsettling. You work hard for your money and even losing money on paper, to market fluctuations, can make you want to put all your cash under the mattress. In reality most investments will have volatility. Fixed rate products like CD’s may not have volatility, but will have their own risk of not keeping up with inflation. Currently 1 year CD’s are paying around 1%, and 5 year CD’s are only paying around 2%, according to Bankrate. This makes it necessary to have investments in your portfolio, which will fluctuate in value, in order to potentially have the needed funds to pursue your financial goals.

With inflation averaging 3.22% per year from 1913 to 2013², it is easy to see that establishing an investment portfolio that provides higher returns than inflation is essential to any long term plan. Investors look to mitigate the risk of the volatile markets, while seeking a return that will build investment values.

For all its Bull and Bear markets, runs and crashes, stock market investments in the last 100 years has been positive when looking at any 10 year period from 1903 to December 1912³. The average stock market return since 1932 is around 7% and when inflation is taken into account the average return is over 10%⁴. So while the markets do go up and down on a daily basis, the overall market pattern has a consistent upward trend. However, past performance is not indicative of future results and your investments selection(s) and time horizon will affect your results.

Investing With Your Risk Tolerance in Mind

Investment risk, by definition, is the likelihood of losses in relation to an expected rate of return for a specific investment. All investments have some investment risk. The challenge for you is to determine which investments have risks you are willing to accept, and may be potentially rewarded with higher returns on a consistent enough basis.

This is where a Sherman Wealth Management financial professional comes in. They work with you to determine a level of risk that is suitable for you and provide the potential growth needed to pursue your financial objectives. This requires not only understanding specific investments but also having a good pulse on what you, as an investor, need.

In order to give the best advice, it is necessary to truly understand the client’s needs. Just asking, how much risk are you comfortable with, is not enough. Educating and teaching you about risk and what it may mean for your future, is the goal. This allows you to select investments that reflect your risk tolerance and financial aspirations.

Taking a high level of personal interest in the changing needs of our clients is our goal. We believe this is the best strategy for maintaining an investment portfolio that is designed to have the appropriate amount of risk to pursue your financial goals, while striving to minimize the risk taken on individual investment choices.

Each investor has individual needs and no investor’s taste for risk is the same. You need recommendations that take all of your circumstances and life goals into account. Added risk might lead to higher returns, but not always.

If you have a lower tolerance for risk, building an investment portfolio that is designed to withstand market turmoil is more appropriate. These strategies still experience ups and downs, but the right blend of investments potentially moderate the fluctuations to align with your tolerance for risk.

The stock market offers investments that carry various levels of risk. There are value, dividend paying stocks that have a lower volatility than emerging small cap stocks. Bonds are also available at various risk levels, allowing you to manage risk and performance within the portfolio.

Asset Allocation for Mitigating Volatility

Another method to help mitigate market risk and volatility is through Asset Allocation. This is the process of using several asset classes within an investment portfolio by apportioning a portfolio’s assets according to the individual goals, risk tolerance and investment horizon. Stock market investments have the general categories of stocks and bonds.

Stocks are broken down further between value stocks and growth stocks, with value generally being more conservative. Stocks that pay dividends are usually more conservative than stocks that do not, because investors are getting some return while they still hold the position. Stocks are also broken down by company size. These are denoted as large cap, mid cap and small cap stocks. Large cap stocks include companies like Microsoft, Apple, Bank of America and national names we all recognize. Small cap companies are those with 300 million to 2 billion in revenue, and mid-caps are between these two. The last large category is US companies and International or global companies.

Bonds are rated much like individual credit is rated. There are consumers that are a much lower risk than others and this is measured through individual credit scores. Bonds operate in a similar way. There are independent credit agencies like S&P and, Moody’s which rate company bond offerings. Bond ratings are expressed as letters ranging from ‘AAA‘, which is the highest grade, to ‘C’ (“junk“), which is the lowest grade. Different rating services use the same letter grades, but use various combinations of upper- and lower-case letters to differentiate themselves. Lower ratings represent higher default risk and thus higher interest rates to investors.

Selecting the best mix of stocks and bonds is a delicate balance. Spreading your investments choices across different categories may provide an effective way to reduce the overall volatility of a portfolio. As the market fluctuates not all stocks and bonds move up and down at the same rate or the same time. When asset allocation is used correctly there is a designed buffer against losses and the overall risk of the portfolio should be reduced.

Advantages of Dollar Cost Averaging

Dollar cost averaging is an investment strategy where you invest a fixed dollar amount on a regular schedule, regardless of the actual price of the stock, bond or other investment vehicle. There are several advantages to using this strategy.

Smaller amounts can be invested providing potential benefits of growth over time. Time in the market is much more important than market timing and dollar cost averaging gets you in the market on a regular basis.

Buying more shares when the stock has a lower price and less shares when the price is higher. . Even the best companies will see stock prices fluctuate based on a current news reports, events that impacts the industry, or seasonal fluctuations.

Dollar cost averaging helps reduce the risk of the overall portfolio because you are investing at regular intervals and buying more shares when the prices are low. This can be an effective way to grow your portfolio. Studies have shown that those who invest in regular intervals are more consistent with their investments, providing better overall growth, according to Morningstar⁵.

Dollar cost averaging does not protect against a loss in declining markets. Since such a plan involves continuous investments in securities regardless of the fluctuating price levels, the investor should consider his or her financial ability to continue such purchases through period of low price levels.

Financial strategies require a long term strategy. As such, volatility must be considered in your investment choices. Avoiding volatility because of fear can result in negative returns, when adding the impact of inflation. Working with a financial professional who understands volatility and uses strategies designed to enable you to build a portfolio which is suitable to your risk tolerance. Let us help you determine which investments are appropriate for your financial goals.

LFS-1056941-111014

Learn more about our Investment Management services.

Related Reading:

Tips for Millennials to Understanding the Stock Market

What is Dollar Cost Averaging?

5 Things Investors Get Wrong

5 Big Picture Things Many Investors Don’t Do

Why and How to Get Started Investing Today

The Psychology of Investing

Rebalance Your Portfolio to Stay on Track With Investments

Behavioral Investing: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus!

Footnotes:
1. http://www.bankrate.com/cd.aspx and http://www.nerdwallet.com/rates/cds/best-cd-rates.
2. http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation_Rate/Long_Term_Inflation.asp
3. https://www.efficient.com/pdfs/A_Century_of_Evidence_on_Trend-Following_Investing.pdf
4. http://observationsandnotes.blogspot.com/2009/03/average-annual-stock-market-return.html
5. http://www.morningstar.com/InvGlossary/automatic_investment_plan.aspx