Commentary2022-04-05T12:30:04-04:00

This Is Not Your Father’s Market

Oldsmobile Super 88 1959 in Cuba

We need to go back 34 years to remember the infamous Oldsmobile commercial where the slogan was “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile.” The idea was that Oldsmobile had changed and evolved and their new image would resonate with a younger client base. In short, the advertisement ended up being more of a slow lane to a dead end than a revitalization of the brand. Today, there are parts of the global markets where this slogan does resonate, as well as areas where the market appears to have changed, but after looking underneath the hood you may uncover an engine that looks just like the past.

Today is not your father’s bond market. On January 1st, 1988, the 10yr US Treasury Bond had a yield of 8.26% with inflation in 1988 at about 4.0% (inflation.eu). Therefore, a US Treasury Bond provided a real yield of about 4%. Fortunately, for bond investors, interest rates maintained a downward trend for the next 34 years. Today, the 10yr US Treasury Bond has a yield of about 2.4% with inflation red hot to start the year, coming in at nearly 8%. This combination produces a negative 6% real yield and creating a flat tire for your portfolio. While interest rates may remain in a trading range in the near term, they may likely rise as the Federal Reserve continues to raise rates. As interest rates rise, bond prices fall. Therefore, today’s fixed income climate has low, but rising yields and high inflation, which translated to about a -6% return for Investment Grade Bonds year to date (YTD). We believe it’s prudent to opportunistically manage your bond holdings to provide ballast for a portfolio without hindering your future growth.

International equities (about -6% YTD return) may be worth a second test drive. International equities began the year outperforming their US counterparts but gave back their outperformance after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We continue to monitor the war and hope for a peaceful resolution soon. With that said, the current market environment may provide opportunities in Developed and Emerging Markets as they continue to trade at a discount to US equities on Price-to-Earnings ratios and may be well positioned to grow during a period of higher commodity prices. International equities have given investors multiple head fakes in recent years, causing our team to remain cautious and selective, but we think this is the right time for a second test drive.

The US equity markets are off to a choppy start for the year, with worries surrounding inflation, interest rate hikes, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Fortunately, March provided some relief as major indices rebounded off their lows. The Dow Jones and S&P 500 were down about 4% and 4.6% respectively, and the more technology and growth heavy NASDAQ is down about 9%. The US equity market today looks more like Tesla than Ford on the surface. However, it is legacy companies like Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway, and Coke that are providing strong returns for investors. Companies with the ability to adapt to the ever-changing marketplace, pass on cost to the consumer, and a strong balance sheet to weather a storm continue to deliver strong performance. We believe that the US equity market is still your father’s market. The market over time will continue to reward companies with strong earnings and fundamentals regardless of what the company looks like on the surface, as it is the numbers under the hood that will guide our decisions and future returns for our clients.

We thank you for your continued support of our firm and look forward to our next phone call, zoom call, or hopefully an in-person meeting. As always, “you do the dreaming, we’ll do the math.”

April 5, 2022|Commentary|

2022 Bucket Strategy

As each year ends, investors, business owners, and households alike begin thinking and maybe even dreaming about what the new year will bring. Will 2022 be an artist’s break out year, will “Buddy Buckets” shine in ACC basketball play, or will a household spend or save more? The latter begs to ask the question about budgeting and planning for the year ahead.

We advise clients to use a bucket strategy for budgeting based on their individual financial plan.  As one example, the 20-30-50 model suggests 20% savings, 30% wants (think socializing and travel), and 50% fixed bills like housing. Regardless, of what model works best for your family, we would like to focus on the savings portion today. Using a bucket strategy, we advise clients to break out their savings into three distinct buckets.

Bucket Strategy

Cash Bucket
(Rainy Day fund):

Depending on a household’s financial plan and investment phase the specific amount of cash we advise varies. However, an example may be 3 months of expenses for a young investor in the accumulation phase.

Medium-Term Bucket:

Comprised of an investment account or education planning (UGMA, 529 Plan, etc…). After your retirement bucket has been maxed out, this bucket can be used to invest the remainder of annual savings.

Retirement Bucket:

The retirement bucket includes employer-sponsored accounts like a 403(b) or 401(k) as well as individual retirement accounts like a Traditional or Roth IRA. We may advise clients to grow their Roth bucket as much as they can as we anticipate future tax increases.

As for global markets in 2021, what a year! The S&P 500 grew about 29%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up about 21% and the NASDAQ rose about 22%. International Equities struggled to keep up with their US counterparts in 2021 but still rose by about 7%. Unfortunately, Investment-Grade Bonds (represented by the Bloomberg Aggregate Index) detracted from portfolio performance losing about 2% on the year. As a former colleague once coined, 2021 showed “diworsification” as the S&P 500 was the best game in town.

As we look out into 2022, there are two major themes for investors – inflation and the transformation from a pandemic to an endemic disease.

Inflation may remain a concern for some time which could cause the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than the market expects. Therefore, we have been aligning our portfolios to overweight companies that have quality earnings and pricing power to pass along price increases to the consumer. In terms of COVID-19, it appears to be more and more evident that COVID-19 may look more and more like influenza as an endemic disease and will remain a health concern into the future. As COVID-19 (depending on the variety of strains) becomes more common place, it may alleviate disruptions in everyday life. Therefore, families and investors may be able to finally take that long awaited vacation or be able to visit with family more often than in the previous two years. We believe this transformation will cause volatility in global equities, but an overall strong backdrop for increased corporate earnings in the years ahead. We want to wish everyone a healthy and a prosperous 2022 that fills all of your life buckets! As always, “you do the dreaming, and we’ll do the math!”

January 5, 2022|Commentary|

F.I.R.E. Investing!

Have you heard about the movement called F.I.R.E. investing? F.I.R.E. stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. Sounds like a great idea as who would not want to be financially independent with the ability to retire on their timeline rather than on the timeline of retirement income like social security. The goal for F.I.R.E. investors is to save and invest 50% to 70% of their income so that they can retire in their 40s maybe even their 30s! You may need to read that sentence again, as the answer to the question you are inevitably asking is YES, F.I.R.E. investors work to save over 50% of their income.

FIRE Investing

How does this work? A F.I.R.E investor first calculates their financially independent (FI) number. This number provides the investor the ability to retire early, switch jobs, work part-time or whatever the investor desires. Everyone’s FI number is different, but one easy calculation someone could use is 30x their projected yearly expenses. Thus, if your expenses are $50,000 and using this F.I.R.E. investor calculation you may need about $1.5 million.

Saving 50% of one’s income is nearly impossible for most investors with the unpredictability of life from raising a family, the cost of education, investor debt, and the list goes on. However, what we can learn from the F.I.R.E. movement is the power of a financial plan and the liberating feeling of being financially independent. We constantly work with our clients to put a plan in place to help them achieve their financial goals whether that be retiring early or building a nest egg for generations to come.

As for financial markets today, we just finished our 6th consecutive positive quarter for the S&P 500, albeit with the recent volatility in September it does not feel that way. The S&P 500 is up about 16% YTD (year-to-date), the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up about 12% YTD and the NASDAQ is up about 13% YTD. Investment-Grade Bonds (represented by the Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate Index) dampened volatility for portfolios in September as they outperformed equities on a relative basis but are still negative on the year.

Recent headlines frame a daunting wall of worry for investors as Wall Street Bulls sound a bit more cautious on media outlets. Rising interest rates, raising the debt ceiling, the US government defaulting on its debt, and a government shutdown would make anyone fearful of what is to come in the markets. However, as some investors worry about a correction that will inevitably come, we prepare for the volatility and the opportunity it presents like buying great companies at lower prices or managing taxes for our clients as Uncle Sam is always lurking and happy to tax capital gains.

We are excited to close the chapter on September as it is historically one of the worst months of the year for the equity markets and are ready for a fall filled with crisp air, football, and a little more volatility in the equity markets. We thank you for your support and trust in our company and cannot wait for our next discussion to help you reach your financial goals. As always, “you do the dreaming, we’ll do the math.”

October 19, 2021|Commentary|

Halftime For The Global Markets

The second quarter has ended, which means it is halftime for the global markets. The first half could not have gone better for investors in riskier assets like equities as the S&P 500 is up 14.4% YTD (year-to-date) posting the second best first half since 1998 according to Barron’s.  As investors, we hope that whatever Herb Brooks type speech that was delivered before the first half, will be delivered again for the third quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 12.7% YTD, and the NASDAQ is up 12.5% YTD closing the gap in the second quarter as growth stocks rallied on a move lower in interest rates. The fixed income market provided positive results for investors in the quarter, but Investment Grade Bonds (represented by the Bloomberg Barclays Aggregate) are still negative 1.7% for the year.

As you may recall, the first quarter of 2021 was dominated by Energy and Financial companies as the rotation continued away from the Technology COVID-19 winners. However, investors experienced a reversal in the second quarter. Energy and Financial sectors had strong quarters up 9% and 7% respectively, but the Technology and Communication Services sectors outperformed up 12% and 11%. The combination of strong cash flow, quality earnings, and lower interest rates as the 10yr US Treasury yield decreased to 1.47% provided tailwinds for growth companies to outperform.

What about inflation… a major concern for the market and investors as the most recent headline inflation reading was 5.0% for the 12-month period ending in May. We believe some inflation data is transitory as our economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 recession. Inflation numbers will normalize but will remain higher than inflation data prior to the pandemic, in our view. One of the key data points in the recent inflation reading was used car prices, which increased because of the imbalance in the supply of new cars. As the supply of new cars increases during the recovery, we should see supply and demand find a healthier equilibrium. With that said, higher inflation moving forward, albeit lower than current readings, suggests that companies with the ability to pass along price increases to consumers have a competitive advantage. Furthermore, higher inflation and low interest rates support our belief that portfolios should be overweight equities and underweight bonds and cash alternatives as inflation erodes the dividend purchasing power.

As we look to the quarters ahead, we believe our economy will continue to recover and grow from catalysts such as vacation and business travel and what we believe will be a record breaking back to school shopping season. In our view, international equities may provide strong relative returns in the second half of the year, but we are cautiously watching the impact of the COVID-19 Delta variant. We favor US and international equities moving forward, but utilize fixed income, commodities, and cash alternatives to provide ballast and diversification in our portfolios.

We thank you for your continued support in our company and look forward to our next connection. As always, “you do the dreaming, we’ll do the math.”

July 1, 2021|Commentary|
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