Viewpoint

 

 

 

Year End 2017 - November 2017
The leaves were reluctant to reveal their fiery shades of orange and red this year. Our clocks are turning back and Christmas decorations are popping up at your favorite shops. For us - and for you as well - it is a reminder of the year-end planning that lies ahead. We ask that you review this correspondence fully.
 

Educational Reconsideration - October 2017
Among his many talents, founding father Benjamin Franklin had a knack for getting to the core of transcendent issues of his times and remarkably ours too. The self-taught Franklin became a success because he understood rightly in the 18th Century that “the only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.”
 

How Much Can One Kid Cost? - July 2017
A decade or two ago it would have been inconceivable for Americans to consider their family size as an economic decision. Even bringing it up now seems slightly un-American. No matter what the family size was during the unprecedented post-World War II economic boom, it felt that standards of living would continue to rise and rise.  For many, that model has now been reduced to a nostalgic mirage.
 

Will the Can Kick Back? - May 2017
Regular readers know that we are not shy about tackling controversial issues that impact both our clients and the larger society. The very real and potential generational battle about the future is one deserving of thoughtful consideration and discussion.  This subtle clash is in the form of an inter-generational conflict between baby boomers and their successor generations, a battle that does not (so far) attract daily headlines.  This potential for conflict is nonetheless real and consequential. 
 

Critical Thinking - March 2017
The myriad choices we make over a lifetime regarding our finances, education, health, family, social life, and career often have a cumulative and profound impact on our financial security and our ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor. In an era of uncertain, and likely lower, financial returns and renewed political risk throughout the western world, it’s vitally important to recognize how economic, political, environmental, and social policies have a much greater impact on our lives than ever before.
 

Is Your House an Asset or Not? - February 2017
Just as we have questioned the true value and cost of higher education in an era of increasing student loan debt (and stagnating wages), how we handle the questions of where to live and how much to spend on housing should also come under scrutiny.  
 

The Active or Passive Management Debate - January 2017
After almost 8 years in a U.S. bull market, there seems to be an incessant drumbeat for passive investment strategies by both institutional and individual investors alike. The ongoing debate around active vs. passive management stems from the fact that on average, the majority of active investment strategies have struggled to outperform their low-cost passive counterparts. Because of this, many active managers are struggling to justify their expense - and with future returns expected to moderate, this is an issue that remains directly in the cross hairs. 
 

2017 Stakeholder Report - January 2017
We embrace the year ahead and prepare this annual stakeholder report for those that are extended members of our family. In preparing to put fingers to keyboard, it is always helpful to reflect back on prior client missives over the better part of the last decade. We’ve communicated countless times on market volatility, the importance of leaving less to chance, taxes, the influence of central bankers, and geopolitics. We’ve also shared stories with you regarding the growth of our practice and team, and the new process pieces we’re always putting in place to help ensure that our clients achieve the financial security they desire.
 

The Educational Dilemma - December 2016
Does spending $120,000 or more at the age of 18 without a committed and viable career path realistically prepare our young adults for the evolving demands of a modern workforce and the financial realities of today? Or, would it make more sense to utilize high quality lesser expensive programs for foundational learning (prerequisites, trade, or certificate) before spending top dollar in pursuit of a specialized career or highly regarded diploma.  It’s also common for two year programs to allow matriculation to a four year degree at a much lower cost. At roughly $6,000 per year (in-state), programs like GBCC and others have the potential to save families and students thousands of dollars while simultaneously helping them develop a foundational set of values and skills.  
 

2016 Holiday Thank You - December 2016
We are grateful for the support of our clients that allow us to invest in our community in multiple ways.  Our primary areas of interest and investment relate to civics education and financial literacy to support future engaged, citizens.
 

What is Your Succession Plan? - November 2016
When your plumber who has kept your toilets flushing happily for 25 years says he is retiring, what is your plan?  Demographics and professional transitions have been a topic of discussion on our team over the past few years and should be for your family as well.
 

How Clients Communicate - October 2016
Today, everyone has their own unique style of communication, and these various modes can be both a blessing and a curse for the engaged relationship. However, it is a real dilemma when a client chooses to sporadically siphon information using various mediums and neglects to openly and consistently communicate with those they’ve installed as partners in their financial security.
 

Getting All of the Details Right - September 2016
Imagine this scenario:   A client has a number of various retirement accounts that have grown over decades of work. The client has divorced and remarried.   Years later, her first husband passes away for any number of reasons (a busy life and career to name a few), yet remains the beneficiary of an account worth more than a half-million dollars for several years after his death. We were recently faced with this very issue while onboarding a new client into our practice. The client was stunned by the oversight, and immediately changed the beneficiary to her current husband after seeking legal counsel at our suggestion.
 

Low Rates and Complacency - June 2016
Expectations can be a funny beast. When I was in college and then early in my career in the 1970s, my father and his friends felt ‘terrible’ about the world being handed to my generation. It was the end of the Vietnam War and for the first time an American President had resigned. There was skyrocketing inflation and soaring interest rates (also known by that dreaded term of stagflation), and the post-World War II era of cheap oil that helped fuel historical levels of economic growth was over. Overall market returns in the 1970’s were dismal, at best. Yet, as the Broadway song famously said, “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” 
 

Sequence Matters - May 2016
Of all the tools at the disposal of investors, few people recognize the financial significance of sequencing. Sequencing has the potential to add great value, but when ignored can be a devastating mistake for those seeking financial security and independence. In fact, when it comes to financial decisions, proper sequencing is as important as the benign task of putting socks on before tying your shoes. – to complete this exercise in any other order would seem illogical to most. 
 

Let's be Clear - Planning is Everything - March 2016
What does planning-dependent mean? First, it requires a sense of clarity about expectations, opportunities, risks, weaknesses and sequence.  Whether it’s at the beginning phase of accumulating your first nest egg or later on in the process, it is critical to know why you are investing before considering what you should actually invest in. We like to think we are in control of our destinies, but in reality none of us control markets, interest rates, currency flows, or much that makes up the global macroeconomic picture puzzle.
 

Lunch with Paul Volcker - January 2016
Recently, I had the pleasure of an extended lunch with one of my all-time heroes, Paul Volcker, former Fed Chairman (1979-1987) and the first Chair of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board (2009-2011). I was curious to learn and discuss his opinion on many economic and political topics, but in particular how the Volcker Rule has played out as part of the larger Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.
 

The Era of Coflation - January 2016
Historians will likely look back at this post-2009 period as one of coflation. A caveat is worthy here because if you haven’t heard of this, you aren’t alone. It is a new concept first mentioned in 2010, and expanded upon in our practice over the past 5 years.  It helps us explain to clients what is happening today at both macro and micro levels.
 

Tax Alpha Across The Generations - January 2016
Taxes are typically our greatest lifetime expense and we make every effort to mitigate their drag on our clients’ retirement portfolios. During our three decades of helping families in their quest for retirement security, it appears that what is known as tax efficiency – or “tax alpha” -- has played out nicely for those who listened to our message early on.