2015: A Time for Patience

Don’t let the market’s jumps rattle your commitment to staying invested.

What the market does today, it may not do tomorrow. That may seem elementary, but there are days, weeks, months, and even years when that investing lesson is ignored.  Wall Street started 2015 with pronounced volatility, and in the opening six weeks of the year, investors were again reminded why patience is so important.

What did investors do in January? Sell. The S&P 500 lost 3.10%. Discouraging news items bred pessimism: deflation was coming to Europe, world demand for oil had peaked and prices would never come near $100 again, the slowdown in Europe and Asia would soon unravel America’s economic comeback. An old market belief dictates that the opening month of a year sets the tone for the rest of the year. Clear implication: 2015 equals bad market year. Sell, sell before it is too late.1

What did investors do at the start of February? Buy. The S&P 500 gained 3.03% in the first trading week of the month (and it had advanced 2.64% in the 30 days ending February 6). Encouraging news items bred optimism: the European Central Bank unveiled an asset-purchase program extending into 2016 to fight deflation with a scope matching QE3, oil prices began to rebound sharply, assorted earnings pleased Wall Street. Clear implication: 2015 might not be so bad. Buy the dip.2,3

What’s the takeaway here? Don’t panic. Don’t let a down January lead you to put off your annual IRA contribution or trim your per-paycheck retirement plan deferrals. What ground stocks lose, they may quickly regain.

For the record, 2014 provided the same lesson in patience. January 2014 saw the S&P 500 fall 3.56%. February 2014 brought a 4.31% gain. The S&P went on to go +11.39% for the year. Perhaps its 2015 performance will mimic this.1,3

History is no barometer of future stock market performance, but it can be illuminating with regard to how stocks have overcome the “January effect” – a bad January does not necessarily lead to a lousy year. In fact, here is the real eye-opener: during 1989-2014, the S&P finished up for the year 75% of the time after a loss of 2% or greater in January, with an average annual gain of nearly 8% in those market years. In fact, only twice in the past quarter-century has a bad January presaged a bad year for the index (2000, 2008). In 2009, it lost 8.57% in January and went +35.02% for the rest of the year. In 2003, it gave up 2.74% for January, then went +29.94% across the next 11 months. This illustrates that on Wall Street, anything can happen – and that includes good things.4

Stay patient & stay invested. The last couple of years have been notably placid for U.S. stocks. Entering February, the S&P had gone more than 1,200 days without a correction. That lulled some investors into a comfort zone, to the point where they overreacted to significant (but in no way aberrant) stock market fluctuations.5

Patience is a virtue for the long-term investor trying to build wealth for retirement and other future objectives. Already, this stock market year has highlighted its value. The Federal Reserve may elect to raise interest rates and the strong dollar may persist for some time, but those factors may not hold back the bulls in 2015 any more than many others have since 2009.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – ycharts.com/indicators/sp_500_monthly_return [2/9/15]

2 – markets.on.nytimes.com/research/markets/usmarkets/usmarkets.asp [2/6/15]

3 – online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-quarterly_gblstkidx.html [12/31/14]

4 – investing.com/analysis/75-of-the-time,-%27down%27-january-good-for-s-p-500%27s-yearly-close-240337 [1/31/15]

5 – tinyurl.com/kw8ue3b [1/31/15]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, ExxonMobil, ING Retirement, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

Getting Financially Fit for Retirement at 50

Things for trailing-edge boomers & Gen Xers to consider.

When you turn 50, retirement starts to seem less abstract. In terms of retirement planning, a 50th birthday can act as a wake-up call. It may offer a powerful reminder to trailing-edge baby boomers and Gen Xers, many of whom are wrapping up their second act with inadequate retirement savings for their third.

You may find yourself with such a shortfall, and you wouldn’t be exceptional. Your peak earning years may arrive in your forties or fifties, but so do other responsibilities with big price tags (raising a family, caring for aging parents, building a business). Throw in some “wild cards” like divorce, bankruptcy, or health scares, and any fortysomething would be challenged to build significant wealth – and yet it happens.

According to the latest Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study, the median monthly retirement savings contribution by middle-class Americans aged 40-49 is $200. How about middle-class folks in their fifties? It must be more, right? No, the median contribution is even less: $78, working out to $936 per year. (Wells Fargo defined middle-class households as having 2013 income of $50,000-99,999 or investable assets of $25,000-99,999.)1

Just as alarming, 50% of the survey respondents in their fifties said they would ramp up their retirement savings efforts “later” to make up for what they weren’t doing now. When you’re in your fifties, there is no “later” – you have to act now. “Later” equals your sixties and your sixties will likely be when you retire.1

So what can you do here and now? Whether you’ve saved a great deal for retirement or not, what decisions could possibly strengthen your retirement nest egg?

Make those catch-up retirement plan contributions. They may seem inconsequential in the big picture, but when you factor in potential investment returns and the power of compounding, they really aren’t. You can start making catch-up plan contributions in the year in which you turn 50. (You can make your first one while you are 49; it just has to be made within that calendar year.) If you only have a five-figure retirement savings sum at age 50, your retirement savings may double (or more) by age 65 through consistent inflows, compounding and catch-up contributions and decent yields.2,3

For 2015, there is a $1,000 catch-up contribution limit for IRAs and a $6,000 catch-up contribution limit for 401(k)s, 403(b)s, most 457 plans & the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.4

Explore ways to save even more. Are you self-employed and a sole proprietor? You could create a solo 401(k) or a SEP-IRA. If eligible, you can defer up to $53,000 into those plans for 2015. Also, SIMPLE plans (to which both employers and employees may contribute) have contribution limits of $12,500 next year with a $3,000 catch-up limit.4,5  

Slim down your debt. Retiring debt-free is a remarkable financial gift that you can give to yourself, and you ought to strive for it. You will always have some consumer debt and you may incur medically-related debts, but paying off the house and avoiding large, new, “bad” debts should be high on your financial to-do list. If accelerating or pre-paying your mortgage payments makes sense, see if your monthly budget will let you do so; be sure you won’t face those rare prepayment penalties. Once your residence is paid off, you might consider living in a cheaper, tax-friendly state – another way to retain more money.

Look at LTC & disability insurance. Again, this comes down to “how much can you afford to lose?” While long term care coverage is rapidly growing more expensive, it still may be worth it in the long run as medical and scientific advances make the chances of lingering our way out of life more common. Should something impede your ability to earn between now and retirement, disability insurance could provide relief.

Consider revisiting your portfolio’s allocation. Since 1964, there have been seven bear markets. On average, they lasted slightly more than a year. On average, it took the S&P 500 3.5 years to return to where it was prior to the plunge. If you are 50 or older, think about those last two sentences some more. If your portfolio is allocated more or less the same way it was 30 years ago (some initial portfolio allocations go basically unchanged for decades), revisit those percentages in light of how soon you might retire and how much you can’t afford to lose.6,7

These are just some suggestions. For more, tap the insight of a seasoned financial professional who has known and seen the experience of saving during the “stretch drive” to retirement.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.   

Citations.

1 – forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/10/23/retirement-saving-workers-and-firms-must-step-up/ [10/23/14]

2 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2013/05/03/playing-catch-up-with-your-401k/ [5/3/14]

3 – forbes.com/sites/mitchelltuchman/2013/11/21/financial-planning-for-late-starters-in-five-steps/ [11/21/13]

4 – irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Announces-2015-Pension-Plan-Limitations;-Taxpayers-May-Contribute-up-to-$18,000-to-their-401%28k%29-plans-in-2015 [10/23/14]

5 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2014/10/23/irs-announces-2015-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more/ [10/23/14]

6 – traderhq.com/illustrated-history-every-s-p-500-bear-market/ [4/5/14]

7 – mainstreet.com/article/stop-thinking-about-risk-tolerance-try-risk-capacity-instead/ [10/7/14]

This material was prepared by Peter Montoya Inc, and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Glaxosmithkline, Verizon, Merck, Pfizer, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at http://www.theretirementgroup.com.

 

 

Balancing Your Investment Choices with Asset Allocation

A chocolate cake. Pasta. A pancake. They’re all very different, but they generally involve flour, eggs, and perhaps a liquid. Depending on how much of each ingredient you use, you can get very different outcomes. The same is true of your investments. Balancing a portfolio means combining various types of investments using a recipe that’s appropriate for you.

Getting an appropriate mix

The combination of investments you choose can be as important as your specific investments. The mix of various asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives, accounts for most of the ups and downs of a portfolio’s returns.

There’s another reason to think about the mix of investments in your portfolio. Each type of investment has specific strengths and weaknesses that enable it to play a specific role in your overall investing strategy. Some investments may be chosen for their growth potential. Others may provide regular income. Still others may offer safety or simply serve as a temporary place to park your money. And some investments even try to fill more than one role. Because you probably have multiple needs and desires, you need some combination of investment types.

Balancing how much of each you should include is one of your most important tasks as an investor. That balance between growth, income, and safety is called your asset allocation, and it can help you manage the level and type of risks you face.

Balancing risk and return

Ideally, you should strive for an overall combination of investments that minimizes the risk you take in trying to achieve a targeted rate of return. This often means balancing more conservative investments against others that are designed to provide a higher return but that also involve more risk. For example, let’s say you want to get a 7.5% return on your money. Your financial professional tells you that in the past, stock market returns have averaged about 10% annually, and bonds roughly 5%. One way to try to achieve your 7.5% return would be by choosing a 50-50 mix of stocks and bonds. It might not work out that way, of course. This is only a hypothetical illustration, not a real portfolio, and there’s no guarantee that either stocks or bonds will perform as they have in the past. But asset allocation gives you a place to start.

Someone living on a fixed income, whose priority is having a regular stream of money coming in, will probably need a very different asset allocation than a young, well-to-do working professional whose priority is saving for a retirement that’s 30 years away. Many publications feature model investment portfolios that recommend generic asset allocations based on an investor’s age. These can help jump-start your thinking about how to divide up your investments. However, because they’re based on averages and hypothetical situations, they shouldn’t be seen as definitive. Your asset allocation is–or should be—as unique as you are. Even if two people are the same age and have similar incomes, they may have very different needs and goals. You should make sure your asset allocation is tailored to your individual circumstances.

Many ways to diversify

When financial professionals refer to asset allocation, they’re usually talking about overall classes: stocks, bonds, and cash or cash alternatives. However, there are others that also can be used to complement the major asset classes once you’ve got those basics covered. They include real estate and alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, metals, or collectibles. Because their returns don’t necessarily correlate closely with returns from major asset classes, they can provide additional diversification and balance in a portfolio.

Even within an asset class, consider how your assets are allocated. For example, if you’re investing in stocks, you could allocate a certain amount to large-cap stocks and a different percentage to stocks of smaller companies. Or you might allocate based on geography, putting some money in U.S. stocks and some in foreign companies. Bond investments might be allocated by various maturities, with some money in bonds that mature quickly and some in longer-term bonds. Or you might favor tax-free bonds over taxable ones, depending on your tax status and the type of account in which the bonds are held.

Asset allocation strategies

There are various approaches to calculating an asset allocation that makes sense for you.

The most popular approach is to look at what you’re investing for and how long you have to reach each goal. Those goals get balanced against your need for money to live on. The more secure your immediate income and the longer you have to pursue your investing goals, the more aggressively you might be able to invest for them. Your asset allocation might have a greater percentage of stocks than either bonds or cash, for example. Or you might be in the opposite situation. If you’re stretched financially and would have to tap your investments in an emergency, you’ll need to balance that fact against your longer-term goals. In addition to establishing an emergency fund, you may need to invest more conservatively than you might otherwise want to.

Some investors believe in shifting their assets among asset classes based on which types of investments they expect will do well or poorly in the near term. However, this approach, called “market timing,” is extremely difficult even for experienced investors. If you’re determined to try this, you should probably get some expert advice–and recognize that no one really knows where markets are headed.

Some people try to match market returns with an overall “core” strategy for most of their portfolio. They then put a smaller portion in very targeted investments that may behave very differently from those in the core and provide greater overall diversification. These often are asset classes that an investor thinks could benefit from more active management.

Just as you allocate your assets in an overall portfolio, you can also allocate assets for a specific goal. For example, you might have one asset allocation for retirement savings and another for college tuition bills. A retired professional with a conservative overall portfolio might still be comfortable investing more aggressively with money intended to be a grandchild’s inheritance. Someone who has taken the risk of starting a business might decide to be more conservative with his or her personal portfolio.

Things to think about

  • Don’t forget about the impact of inflation on your savings. As time goes by, your money will probably buy less and less unless your portfolio at least keeps pace with the inflation rate. Even if you think of yourself as a conservative investor, your asset allocation should take long-term inflation into account.
  • Your asset allocation should balance your financial goals with your emotional needs. If the way your money is invested keeps you awake worrying at night, you may need to rethink your investing goals and whether the strategy you’re pursuing is worth the lost sleep.
  • Your tax status might affect your asset allocation, though your decisions shouldn’t be based solely on tax concerns.

Even if your asset allocation was right for you when you chose it, it may not be appropriate for you now. It should change as your circumstances do and as new ways to invest are introduced. A piece of clothing you wore 10 years ago may not fit now; you just might need to update your asset allocation, too.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Glaxosmithkline, Verizon, Bank of America, Merck, Pfizer, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Monitoring Your Portfolio

You probably already know you need to monitor your investment portfolio and update it periodically. Even if you’ve chosen an asset allocation, market forces may quickly begin to tweak it. For example, if stock prices go up, you may eventually find yourself with a greater percentage of stocks in your portfolio than you want. If stock prices go down, you might worry that you won’t be able to reach your financial goals. The same is true for bonds and other investments.

Do you have a strategy for dealing with those changes? You’ll probably want to take a look at your individual investments, but you’ll also want to think about your asset allocation. Just like your initial investing strategy, your game plan for fine-tuning your portfolio periodically should reflect your investing personality.

The simplest choice is to set it and forget it–to make no changes and let whatever happens happen. If you’ve allocated wisely and chosen good investments, you could simply sit back and do nothing. But even if you’re happy with your overall returns and tell yourself, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” remember that your circumstances will change over time. Those changes may affect how well your investments match your goals, especially if they’re unexpected. At a minimum, you should periodically review the reasons for your initial choices to make sure they’re still valid.

Even things out

To bring your asset allocation back to the original percentages you set for each type of investment, you’ll need to do something that may feel counterintuitive: sell some of what’s working well and use that money to buy investments in other sectors that now represent less of your portfolio. Typically, you’d buy enough to bring your percentages back into alignment. This keeps what’s called a “constant weighting” of the relative types of investments.

Let’s look at a hypothetical illustration. If stocks have risen, a portfolio that originally included only 50% in stocks might now have 70% in equities. Rebalancing would involve selling some of the stock and using the proceeds to buy enough of other asset classes to bring the percentage of stock in the portfolio back to 50. The same would be true if stocks have dropped and now represent less of your portfolio than they should; to rebalance, you would invest in stocks until they once again reach an appropriate percentage of your portfolio. This example doesn’t represent actual returns; it merely demonstrates how rebalancing works. Maintaining those relative percentages not only reminds you to take profits when a given asset class is doing well, but it also keeps your portfolio in line with your original risk tolerance.

When should you do this? One common rule of thumb is to rebalance your portfolio whenever one type of investment gets more than a certain percentage out of line–say, 5 to 10%. You could also set a regular date. For example, many people prefer tax time or the end of the year. To stick to this strategy, you’ll need to be comfortable with the fact that investing is cyclical and all investments generally go up and down in value from time to time.

Forecast the future

You could adjust your mix of investments to focus on what you think will do well in the future, or to cut back on what isn’t working. Unless you have an infallible crystal ball, it’s a trickier strategy than constant weighting. Even if you know when to cut back on or get out of one type of investment, are you sure you’ll know when to go back in?

Mix it up

You could also attempt some combination of strategies. For example, you could maintain your current asset allocation strategy with part of your portfolio. With another portion, you could try to take advantage of short-term opportunities, or test specific areas that you and your financial professional think might benefit from a more active investing approach. By monitoring your portfolio, you can always return to your original allocation.

Another possibility is to set a bottom line for your portfolio: a minimum dollar amount below which it cannot fall. If you want to explore actively managed or aggressive investments, you can do so–as long as your overall portfolio stays above your bottom line. If the portfolio’s value begins to drop toward that figure, you would switch to very conservative investments that protect that baseline amount. If you want to try unfamiliar asset classes and you’ve got a financial cushion, this strategy allows allocation shifts while helping to protect your core portfolio.

Points to consider

  • Keep an eye on how different types of assets react to market conditions. Part of fine-tuning your game plan might involve putting part of your money into investments that behave very differently from the ones you have now. Diversification can have two benefits. Owning investments that go up when others go down might help to either lower the overall risk of your portfolio or improve your chances of achieving your target rate of return. Asset allocation and diversification don’t guarantee a profit or insure against a possible loss, of course. But you owe it to your portfolio to see whether there are specialized investments that might help balance out the ones you have.
  • Be disciplined about sticking to whatever strategy you choose for monitoring your portfolio. If your game plan is to rebalance whenever your investments have been so successful that they alter your asset allocation, make sure you aren’t tempted to simply coast and skip your review altogether. At a minimum, you should double-check with your financial professional if you’re thinking about deviating from your strategy for maintaining your portfolio. After all, you probably had good reasons for your original decision.
  • Some investments don’t fit neatly into a stocks-bonds-cash asset allocation. You’ll probably need help to figure out how hedge funds, real estate, private equity, and commodities might balance the risk and returns of the rest of your portfolio. And new investment products are being introduced all the time; you may need to see if any of them meet your needs better than what you have now.

Balance the costs against the benefits of rebalancing

Don’t forget that too-frequent rebalancing can have adverse tax consequences for taxable accounts. Since you’ll be paying capital gains taxes if you sell a stock that has appreciated, you’ll want to check on whether you’ve held it for at least one year. If not, you may want to consider whether the benefits of selling immediately will outweigh the higher tax rate you’ll pay on short-term gains. This doesn’t affect accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs, of course. In taxable accounts, you can avoid or minimize taxes in another way. Instead of selling your portfolio winners, simply invest additional money in asset classes that have been outpaced by others. Doing so can return your portfolio to its original mix.

You’ll also want to think about transaction costs; make sure any changes are cost-effective. No matter what your strategy, work with your financial professional to keep your portfolio on track.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Albert Aizin, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

Albert Aizin is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.