Time to Sell?

David Munn, CFP

David Munn, CFP

If you’re reading this, it means you survived the year 2016.  Congratulations.  Fidel Castro was said to have survived more than 600 assassination attempts, but even he could not accomplish what you and I have done. 

Perhaps the stock market was attempting to warn us last January and February that 2016 would be volatile and unpredictable in many ways, but no one could have predicted all that transpired. For their part, US stocks rebounded from what was at one point the worst 10 day start to a calendar year in modern history (Source: MarketWatch), to post moderate gains--taking only a week to digest the surprising Brexit vote--capped off by a furious post-election rally.

Given all that’s happened, I wanted to use this space to address some of the common questions we have been hearing, providing my personal responses:

     Does the market’s recent run mean I should sell stocks?  No

     Does the market’s recent run mean I should buy stocks? No

     Does the market’s recent run mean I should get more aggressive? No

     Does the market’s recent run mean I should get more conservative? No

     Does the market’s recent run mean the government is going to make the economy great again? No

Please allow me to explain.  We know that stocks go up and down over short-term periods of time.  But over long-term periods of time, stocks generally go higher and set new “highs” over and over again.  There are fundamental reasons this is mostly true that this space does not allow for. 

Sometimes the track of stock growth looks like a rocket blasting into orbit (think stocks during the 1980s and 1990s).

Sometimes the track looks like a roller coaster (think stocks since 2000):

When stocks reach new highs, it is no more an indication they will continue rising than it is they will fall.  That’s why you always see that disclosure in our industry, “past performance is not an indicator of future results”.

The market’s response to the election of Donald Trump seems partially based on expectations that his promises of less regulation and lower tax rates for business will lead to higher profits.  These expectations could go unmet or they could be exceeded, dependent on an infinite number of variables over the coming months and years.

So how should an investor respond in these circumstances?

First, re-evaluate your risk tolerance assuming a significant market rally or pullback are equally likely over the coming year.  While the odds may not be exactly equal, they are both possible, so you should be pro-actively prepared for the possibility of both. 

Second, if you plan to add or withdraw money from stocks in 2017, dollar cost averaging is beneficial.  Rather than waiting for an opportune time to buy or sell--which may never come--do a little bit every month. It’s a way of hedging risk and likely ensuring you don’t buy or sell at the worst time of the year. 

Third, if you have not rebalanced accounts recently, this is a good time.  While some parts of the stock market have performed well, other areas--primarily international--have continued to struggle.  Consequently, accounts outside our management, such as employer 401(k) plans may have strayed significantly from their original allocation.

We know some investors decided to exit the stock market prior to the election, fearing what a surprise Trump win might do.  For about 10 hours on election night, that seemed like a very smart move. But the aftermath just goes to demonstrate how unpredictable, irrational and difficult/impossible to time the stock market can be. Expect more of the same in the future. 

 

Sources:

MarketWatch

Disclosures:

       Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Therefore, no current or prospective client should assume that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended by the adviser), will be profitable or equal to past performance levels.

       This material is intended to be educational in nature, and not as a recommendation of any particular strategy, approach, product or concept for any particular advisor or client.  These materials are not intended as any form of substitute for individualized investment advice.  The discussion is general in nature, and therefore not intended to recommend or endorse any asset class, security, or technical aspect of any security for the purpose of allowing a reader to use the approach on their own.  Before participating in any investment program or making any investment, clients as well as all other readers are encouraged to consult with their own professional advisers, including investment advisers and tax advisors.  Munn Wealth Management can assist in determining a suitable investment approach for a given individual, which may or may not closely resemble the strategies outlined herein. 1323DG

Fourth Quarter Market Commentary - Election Aftermath

by Darren Munn, CFA

by Darren Munn, CFA

Aren’t you glad that’s over!  This election season was brutal.  For several months, there was no escaping it.  It dominated the headlines, both in the mainstream media and on social media.  The same was largely true in the financial markets, which were closely watching the election.  The ultimate outcome, a Trump victory and Republican sweep of congress, was considered a huge surprise and sent the markets into a tailspin…for all of about 10 hours.  In the evening of the election, stock futures dropped 5% before being shut down for the night as it became apparent Trump would win.  But by the time the markets opened the next day, stock futures had completely recovered and stocks ended the day 1% higher!1 

The small gains we anticipated when a clear winner emerged turned into fairly large gains, as the S&P 500 surged about 6% after Election Day through the end of the year.1 Why? In a nutshell, we believe the market is expecting a stronger economy with Trump as president.  This will largely be driven by lower corporate tax rates, which directly translate into higher profits, which means higher stock prices.  Of course, this is all before Trump is even in office or any legislation has been passed – so it appears to us the market is pretty confident about the likelihood of these developments. 

We agree with the markets that a Trump presidency is more favorable for the economy…BUT.  That is a big “but”.  There are certain factors in play over which Trump will have no control, so how much impact he will have remains up for debate.  The Federal Reserve raised interest rates again in December and indicated they expect several more increases in 2017.  Sound familiar?  We believe this and the strong dollar will be headwinds, in addition to some other concerns we have been watching.  The reality is, we may be headed for a recession in the next year or two regardless of what Trump does.  If so, we believe it will be a shallower recession than it otherwise would have been. 

The fourth quarter was again positive for stocks and easily the worst for bonds – which gave up much of their gains for the year as rising interest rates drove down bond prices.  Most of the positive move for stocks and negative move for bonds came after the election.  (Morningstar)

Positives

·         Employment continued to be steady with the unemployment rate at 4.7% in December.  (U.S. DOL)

·         Low oil & gas prices continue to save money for consumers, but the savings have been shrinking.

·         We believe energy markets have stabilized and are near equilibrium.  We expect oil to stay in the $40-$60 range in 2017.

·         Housing has continued moderate--but choppy--growth.  Low interest rates have helped keep prices affordable.  (Barron’s)

·         Economic growth picked up in the third quarter to 3.5%2 - but we do not expect this rate to continue.

Challenges & Risks

·         Economic growth will likely trend in the 2% range in our opinion.

·         Oil price declines are still working through the system and we are seeing the expected defaults from many energy companies. 

·         Interest rates – the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December and expects 3-4 increases next year.  We believe this is more than the economy can handle and expect only 1-2 increases next year.

·         Government regulation is a potential huge drag.  Health care costs are continuing to rise significantly & government interference in several areas (finance, education, energy) continue to limit economic growth.  Will this improve in 2017? 

·         China, Europe, North Korea – we expect these three to capture significant headlines in the coming year.

Despite a rocky start, we believe 2016 turned out to be a pretty decent year in the markets.  Unfortunately, investors who panicked during the rocky period of January and February seemingly missed out on some very substantial returns.  We have been working to “lock in” some of our gains and move capital to investments we believe offer greater upside potential over the next few years. 

We are excited about what 2017 has in store and are honored to serve you!

 

 

Sources:

1)      Bloomberg

2)      Barron’s

Disclosures:

Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Therefore, no current or prospective client should assume that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended by the adviser), will be profitable or equal to past performance levels.  This material is intended to be educational in nature, and not as a recommendation of any particular strategy, approach, product or concept for any particular advisor or client.  These materials are not intended as any form of substitute for individualized investment advice.  The discussion is general in nature, and therefore not intended to recommend or endorse any asset class, security, or technical aspect of any security for the purpose of allowing a reader to use the approach on their own.  Before participating in any investment program or making any investment, clients as well as all other readers are encouraged to consult with their own professional advisers, including investment advisers and tax advisors.  Camelot Portfolios LLC can assist in determining a suitable investment approach for a given individual, which may or may not closely resemble the strategies outlined herein. A337

13 Things you need to Reach Your Money Goals (Hint: It's not money)

13 things.png

What do you want your life to look like? What would life be like if you were debt free? What if you didn’t have to work for money? Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

When you have a vision of what life could be like when you reach your financial goals, you can begin to figure out how to get there. And though formulating a plan for reaching those goals is a big step in the right direction, it’s still only a piece of the puzzle.

Having a goal is not enough. You have to get your thinking right. You have to really want it and you have to actually believe that you can get it. You have to stick with it, do the hard work and be willing to change direction. You have to pick yourself up after you fall. And you have to have patience.

Though money itself plays a role in your success, whether or not your reach your financial goals has more to do with your mindset than it does with the actual numbers.

13 Things You Need to Reach Your Money Goals

1. Know why you want it

Why do you want to reach your goal? You have to have a reason, an inspiration, a motivation to really want it. Your "why" will keep you going when the going gets rough and will provide the incentive and direction you need along the way.

2. Recognize the excuses

Excuses emerge when our mind tells us what we are thinking about doing could be uncomfortable. And we don’t like discomfort. But, here’s the thing, change is rarely comfortable, at least not at first. In order to make real progress, we have to do the things that are uncomfortable. So recognize the excuses for what they are –  just your mind trying to tell you there may be some discomfort ahead.

3. Believe that you can do it

If you doubt your ability to accomplish your goal, you’ve set your goal in vain. Shifting your mindset from one of “I can’t” to “I can’t YET” and changing the inner voice of doubt is crucial.

Use others as motivation if you need to. Find inspirational stories of people who have accomplished a goal similar to yours. Study them. Take that knowledge and apply it to yourself. You can do it.

4. Be willing to listen and learn

You don’t have all of the answers within you. Take the initiative to learn that which you do not know, whether it be from people you know, books, videos, blogs, podcasts or professionals. Listen to people who have done what you want to do and decipher what works for you and what doesn’t. Fill in the knowledge gaps as you go.

5. Make a plan

Without a map, you’ll never reach your destination. Have a detailed plan stating the steps you will take to get to your goal. Don’t just say you have a goal, write it down with details on how you plan to do it – I know, it sounds hokey, but it works.

An important part of your plan should create accountability. Report your progress to someone on a regular basis (have a goal buddy) or make it public.

6. Commit 100%

Don’t do this because you think you “should”. Do it because you want it and commit to it 100%. Leave no doubt and no way out. You are going to do this. No days off, no excuses – you are 100% in!

If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal-cost analysis, you’ll regret where you end up. That’s the lesson I learned: it’s easier to hold to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time. The boundary—your personal moral line—is powerful because you don’t cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there’s nothing to stop you doing it again.” -Clayton Christensen

7. Start today

Procrastination is the enemy of success. It is never the
"right time"
to start anything. Even if it’s just something as small as writing down your goal, start doing something today. And then every day after that. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, do something, no matter how small, each day to work toward your goal.

8. Do the hard work

Change is never easy. Now that you’ve decided what you really want and what you have to do to get there, you have to actually take action. Even if it’s just small things each day, do the work. Nothing will change without the hard work.

If you have trouble doing the hard work, use the 5 minute rule. Do the work you need to do for just 5 minutes. At the end of the 5 minutes, you can step away and come back later, or you can continue on. Most of the time, you’ll find you’re ready to continue working!

9. Stay positive

You’ll have days where you think you just can’t do it. You’ll have people in your life that will tell you you can’t do it. Recognize the skepticism, smile, practice gratitude and ditch the negativity. This may mean ignoring or distancing yourself from negative influences and people in your life.

10. Stick it out

A little prep and planning can go a long way, but obstacles are sure to get in your way. Be prepared to ask yourself "how" you will get past those roadblocks and keep going. Ask “How can I get past this?” to come up with solutions.

11. Recognize the small wins

You may have one big goal that you want to reach, but you won’t get there in one fell swoop. It’s the small steps that will get you there. Those little victories along the way provide momentum you need to keep going. Focus on the small wins to make the overarching goal feel more actionable.

12. Don’t let mistakes stop you

Mistakes don’t mean you failed, they’re simply lessons. Rather than letting mistakes own you, own your mistakes. Learn the lesson, leave the mistakes in the past and keep moving forward with your newfound knowledge.

13. Be patient.

We have a tendency to always want to be 10 steps ahead of where we are. It’s okay if you don’t reach your goal at breakneck speed. The important thing is to keep going, no matter how slowly.

Making a big change in your life requires more than just a goal. These 13 things will help you make big changes and put you on the path to successfully reaching your goal.

August 29, 2016 - Article By centsiblyrich  (http://centsiblyrich.com/13-ways-reach-money-goals/)
Grant Sims, CFP

Grant Sims, CFP

If you have questions about your money goals and creating a personal financial plan, contact Grant Sims for a complimentary review. grantsims@munnwealth.com

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2017 Resolution: Create/review my Financial Plan - We can Help!

Many new clients came in this December to check off their 2016 New Year’s resolution of: meet with a financial advisor to create/review my personal financial plan. If this is one of your New Year’s resolutions don’t wait till the end of 2017. You can start now by getting organized and calling in to set up a time for a complimentary review! 

Grant Sims, CFP

Grant Sims, CFP

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If you have questions about your money goals and creating a personal financial plan, contact Grant Sims for a complimentary review. grantsims@munnwealth.com

 

 

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOUR FINANCIAL PLANNER

by Joshua Mudse, CFP

With the record setting release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Jedi fever has never been so popular. Excerpted from Ryan Neal at WealthManagement.com, here are Six Star Wars lessons for choosing your financial planner:

1.       Strength in Diversity

Star Wars has always been about a diverse rebellion fighting against an oppressive Empire that enslaves alien races, but the new generation of movies embraces diversity more than ever to appeal to moviegoers. The main protagonists in 2015’s “The Force Awakens” and this year’s “Rogue One” are females, and “Rogue One” features an ensemble cast of varying ethnic backgrounds working together to fight the Empire. Investment portfolios have long reaped the benefits in diversifying assets.

2.       The Power of Holistic Planning

As young Skywalker’s advisor, Obi Wan Kenobi teaches him that the Force, an energy field created by all living things that binds the galaxy together, is the source of his power. Your advisor needs to have a holistic view of your financial life, as well as a mastery of investment strategy. By understanding how various accounts, needs and goals all connect together, an advisor can be a truly powerful guide. 

3.       Sticking to the Plan

While Luke is a neophyte just learning the ways of the Force, Han Solo is a hardened skeptic, disregarding advisors like Obi Wan Kenobi and instead preferring the lifestyle of a risk taker, which has led him to real problems with debt. When Luke gets distracted by Solo’s taunts, Kenobi reminds him to trust in his plan instead of making knee-jerk reactions. While things get rocky along the way, Luke eventually reaches his goal of becoming a Jedi Knight. It’s a good reminder for when the markets get rough: Trust in the plan, mitigate short-term emotional reactions, and focus on long-term goals. Han may call it luck, but good advisors know there’s no such thing. 

4.       The Quick and Easy Path Leads to the Dark Side

We learn more about the Force in the 1980s' “Empire Strikes Back,” when Jedi master Yoda teaches Luke about the Dark Side. Like a good advisor, he tells Luke that chasing instant gratification, like investing heavily in a hot stock, can lead to ruin. When Luke ignores the advice, he’s almost defeated by Darth Vader. Yoda reminds us that patience is key with investing, not adventure or excitement. 

5.       Work with a Fiduciary

Along with Yoda’s warning about the quick, easy and seductive dark side, the heroes of Star Wars are frequently working not just for themselves, but in the best interest of the galaxy. Finn abandons The New Order after he’s asked to attack innocent villagers and uses his knowledge to aid The Resistance. And General Leia (no longer a princess), forms The Resistance when The New Republic won’t give her the support she needs because she knows opposing Kylo Ren and Snoke is in the best interest of the galaxy. Good advisors want to keep the trust of their client, putting the client needs ahead of their own.

6.       It’s Not Just About Money

Though Han Solo told Princess Leia that he doesn’t care about her or the rebellion, he becomes a true hero after he realizes that there’s more to life than money. Advisors are worth more than just allocating assets and providing returns; they can be even more valuable by helping navigate important milestones in life, like buying a home, sending kids to college and retiring comfortably. Remember what Leia told Han: “If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.”       

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Three Lessons That Christmas Can Teach Us About Our Finances

By Joshua Mudse, CFP

The weeks that encompass the celebration of Christmas are filled with family and friends, a time of sharing, a time for reflection on the year behind and an opportunity to prepare for the year ahead.  The meaning of Christmas is important to our spiritual lives, and the full story of Christmas also provides us with important insight that we can apply to our financial lives.

1.       Acknowledge That There is a Problem

While we think of Christmas as a season of light, the truth is that the birth of Jesus Christ came at a time filled with darkness. When Christ was born, the word of God had not been heard for centuries. Approximately 400 years passed between Malachi and John the Baptist. Without the word of God present among them, the people walked in spiritual darkness.

For many of us, we have turned a blind eye to our financial lives. In the day-to-day struggles of work and family, it is easy to put off an honest assessment of our financial situation. Credit card debt piles up. Insurance premiums are missed. Checking accounts are overdrawn. As small items get ignored, we fall deeper into financial darkness, feeling overwhelmed with the thought of doing anything to make things better. The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem.

God knew that left to our own understanding and efforts, the separation from Him would continue to grow. He acknowledged the problem. Fortunately, he was also willing to take action for a solution.

2.       Do the Hard Things

Awareness and acceptance of the problem is the first step to improving our financial life. Once we have identified the solutions, the next major challenge is changing our behavior and decision making to align with our desired outcomes. This will often require foregoing immediate gratification, making small decisions now that will greatly impact our longer term future.

Some of these decisions are easier than others. Getting better at planning meals to cook at home instead of eating out, and making coffee at home instead of stopping for an expensive latte on the way to work are small changes to our weekly routines. Postponing the purchase of a new car, selling assets like boats and motorcycles, and downsizing the size of our housing require a willingness to sacrifice the now for the reality of financial freedom.

There is no better example of sacrifice than the gift of Jesus. God so loved His people that he was willing to sacrifice his only son to provide a path through the darkness back to Him.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 1:19-20 NIV

3.    Be Hopeful

Whenever we start on a behavior change, it is easy to get discouraged in the early stages. Progress to long term goals is hard to see on a daily basis, yet the small decisions and sacrifices are felt immediately.  Having an attitude of Hope helps to keep our focus on making good financial decisions, while having grace towards ourselves when we don’t.  

The birth of the Christ Jesus is the ultimate story of Hope, a confident expectancy of a future that is better than today. Christmas can be a season of love, of forgiveness, of generosity and new beginnings. Possibly the most famous (and memorized) scripture provides the foundation for this certain future:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Munn Wealth Management.

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Investing in Retirement

Sarah Berndt

Sarah Berndt

In my profession as a portfolio manager, it is not uncommon to have some clients preparing for retirement, and one of the most important aspect of retirement planning is how investments are allocated to stocks, bonds, and cash.  You may have heard various “rules of thumb” regarding this topic, but they, in my opinion, have only minimal value when it comes to each individual’s unique planning needs. I recently ran across this column by Christine Benz of Morningstar that concisely explains the process we use and why one retiree’s allocation will vary from another.  What is presented here is an excerpt from a September commentary.
 
“Off-the-shelf asset allocation guidance doesn't vary significantly for people who are still accumulating assets for retirement. . . stock-heavy at the outset and well into middle age, transitioning to more bonds and cash as retirement approaches.
 
Closing in on retirement, however, one-size-fits-all recommendations won't cut it. Some retirees should have 50% (or even less) of their portfolios in stocks, while others should hold portfolios that are much more aggressive.
 
Why such large variations? The key one is that different retirees will make different cash-flow demands on their portfolios. A retiree who's lucky enough to have a pension that supplies most of her living expenses can reasonably park a hefty share of her portfolio in stocks, holding just enough in liquid assets to cover unanticipated expenses or periodic splurges.
 
A retiree with a shorter time horizon who is forecasting spending his portfolio during his lifetime, meanwhile, will need to maintain more in liquid assets and less-volatile asset classes like bonds.  By venturing too far out on the risk spectrum, he runs the risk of needing to pull his money out at a time when stocks or other riskier asset classes are in a trough.
 
Guided by this concept, retirees can use their anticipated cash-flow needs to develop a customized asset allocation framework. Money they expect to need within the next few years should go into the only asset class with a guarantee of safety over such a short time horizon: cash. Assets for the middle years of retirement can go into high-quality bonds, which offer higher return potential than cash over a two- to 10-year time horizon with some--but not extreme--fluctuations. Finally, assets that won't be tapped for another decade can go into stocks, which are unreliable over time horizons of fewer than 10 years but typically land in positive territory if you're able to hang onto them for at least a decade.” 
 
By Christine Benz | 09-19-16 | 06:00 AM | 
Note: This article is part of Morningstar's September 2016 Retirement Matters Week special report.

Disclosures:
This material is intended to be educational in nature, and not as a recommendation of any particular strategy, approach, product or concept for any particular advisor or client.  These materials are not intended as any form of substitute for individualized investment advice.  The discussion is general in nature, and therefore not intended to recommend or endorse any asset class, security, or technical aspect of any security for the purpose of allowing a reader to use the approach on their own.  Before participating in any investment program or making any investment, clients as well as all other readers are encouraged to consult with their own professional advisers, including investment advisers and tax advisors.  Camelot Portfolios LLC can assist in determining a suitable investment approach for a given individual, which may or may not closely resemble the strategies outlined herein. Some information in this presentation is gleaned from third party sources, and while believed to be reliable, is not independently verified. A317