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The Value of a Real Person

Zach Swaffer, CFP®
May 9, 2019
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Whenever new technology enters the world there are two inevitable emotions: excitement and fear. The thrill of new possibilities tempered by fears of new tech failing to live up to the hype. Take, for example: Robo-advisors. A great example of the complexities surrounding emerging tech, Robo-advisors provide automated digital financial advice based upon algorithms and/or mathematical rules.

When Robo-advisors launched in 2008 they were heralded as the dawn of a new era in financial planning. Some experts even believed this advancement signaled the end of financial planning (and real, human financial planners) as we know it. Not so. Over a decade later Robo-advisors are still around; however, they have failed to take over the financial planning world as predicted and in fact many are shuttering their doors or seriously scaling back on size.

So what happened? Why did Robo-advisors fail to eliminate the role of humans in the financial planning process? At the end of the day, it comes down to human connection. While an algorithm can crunch numbers, make predictions, and even offer investment advice, it cannot form impactful and lasting relationships like a real human. Investment selection and management is a part of what financial planners do – but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Real, effective financial planners are there to prepare you for and coach you through life’s unexpected inevitables. What happens when some life event inevitably occurs or you have a pressing question about your financial plan and when you try to get an answer you reach an automated phone tree that leads nowhere? Unlike a Robo-advisor, a financial planner is a real human available to provide advice and support when you need it. Think of them like a coach for your finances!

True, a human financial planner may cost more than a Robo-advisor. But in return they provide much more value. A study conducted by Vanguard found that working with a financial planner can add about 3% to client returns with 1.50% of that coming from behavioral coaching (that’s half the value coming from coaching alone!). When you start working with a planner you are not simply hiring an investment manager. Instead, you are partnering with someone who will work with you as life evolves to achieve your unique priorities. As you progress along your financial journey you form a trusting relationship with your advisor, so whenever you have questions or concerns you know there is a real human you trust who will answer the phone and provide clarity for you.

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David McDonough
May 13, 2022

Have you ever had one of those months? The water heater stops heating, the dishwasher stops washing, and your family ends up on a first-name basis with the nurse at urgent care. Then, as you're driving to work, you see smoke coming from under your hood. Bad things happen to the best of us, and sometimes it seems like they come in waves. That's when an emergency cash fund can come in handy. One survey found that nearly 25% of Americans have no emergency savings. Another survey found that 40% of Americans said they wouldn't be able to comfortably handle an unexpected $1,000 expense.1,2

How Much Money?

How large should an emergency fund be? There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. The ideal amount may depend on your financial situation and lifestyle. For example, if you own a home or have dependents, you may be more likely to face financial emergencies. And if a job loss affects your income, you may need emergency funds for months.

Coming Up with Cash

If saving several months of income seems unreasonable, don't despair. Start with a more modest goal, such as saving $1,000, and build your savings a bit at a time. Consider setting up automatic monthly transfers into the fund. Once your savings begin to build, you may be tempted to use the money in the account for something other than an emergency. Try to avoid that. Instead, budget and prepare separately for bigger expenses you know are coming.

Where Do I Put It?

Many people open traditional savings accounts to hold emergency funds. They typically offer modest rates of return. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures bank accounts for up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution, in principal and interest.3 Others turn to money market accounts or money market funds in emergencies. While money market accounts are savings accounts, money market funds are considered low-risk securities. Money market funds are not backed by any government institution, which means they can lose money. Depending on your particular goals and the amount you have saved, some combination of lower-risk investments may be your best choice.

Money held in money market funds is not insured or guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency. Money market funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 a share. However, it is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund.4

Money market mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the charges, risks, expenses, and investment objectives carefully before investing. A prospectus containing this and other information about the investment company can be obtained from your financial professional. Read it carefully before you invest or send money.

The only thing you can know about unexpected expenses is that they're coming. Having an emergency fund may help to alleviate stress and worry that can come with them. If you lack emergency savings now, consider taking steps to create a cushion for the future.



Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

  1., 2020
  2., 2021
  3., 2022
  4., 2021


Mike Loo, MBA
March 21, 2018

When it comes to choosing your 401(k) lineup, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by your options. It’s likely why more than 70% of 401(k) plans include at least one target-date fund. Also known as lifecycle or age-based funds, target date funds were created to simplify the investment choices for 401(k) plan contributors. Depending on your company’s 401(k) plan, they may be named something like Target Date Fund 2050, meaning you anticipate retiring around 2050. Target-date funds give employees the option of choosing one fund that diversifies their investments among stocks, bonds, and cash (the allocation) throughout their working life.

Considered a “set-it-and-forget-it” investment option, some investors choose target date funds as a default so they can avoid having to rebalance and update their portfolio allocations over time. The theory is that younger participants, having more years until retirement, can take higher risks in order to achieve higher expected returns. Since the funds focus on a selected time frame or target date (usually retirement), its asset allocation mix becomes more conservative as that date approaches. The percentage of stocks is reduced, and the percentage of bonds and cash is increased.

While target date funds may help encourage employees to participate in their company’s 401(k), there are a few misconceptions about how they work, and it’s important to understand these considerations before choosing your 401(k)’s investment lineup.

Target Date Funds Can Significantly Vary

Many investors get caught up in the year attached to a target date fund. If they change jobs and contribute to a different 401(k) plan, they may assume the target date fund is the same as their previous plan. Or, they believe that a 2050 target date fund is nearly identical to a 2055 target date fund.

However, target date funds with the same target date can significantly vary in their portfolio lineup. Fund families typically have their own unique approach with their target date funds, meaning a John Hancock target date fund likely won’t offer the same ratio of stocks and bonds as a Fidelity plan.

Take a look at this example from InvestorJunkie:

The percent of equities at age 65 significantly differs between target date families. When each of the target date funds has its own fee structure, mix of assets, and risk tolerance, it’s nearly impossible to measure performance between these funds.

Target date funds don’t just vary by their lineup. They can also have different fees.

As we can see in the chart above, the expense ratios considerably vary based on the target date and the target date family. Fidelity Freedom is more than 0.5% higher than Vanguard, which can take a toll on your portfolio when you’re investing for several decades.

Should I Invest in a Target Date Fund?

Like Though not a panacea, target date funds offer a reasonable alternative to the often confusing world of too many investment choices. Ultimately, there isn’t a single recommendation one can make for everyone. Each person has unique needs and circumstances, and they need to be taken into consideration when selecting their 401(k) lineup.

Before choosing a target date fund, there are a few factors to consider.

What do you want the fund to do for you?

Do you want a fund that is at its most conservative allocation when you retire or a fund that will take you through retirement? A target date fund’s allocation changes based on a set timeframe. If your fund is designed to help you get TO retirement, the amount invested in stocks will substantially decrease as you near your retirement date.

A fund that’s designed to get you THROUGH retirement changes allocations based on your life expectancy. These funds will have a greater amount in stocks at retirement than the to funds and thus be higher risk. Knowing which type of fund you own is critical to your ability to assessing its riskiness, along with its long-term expected returns if you are able to stay the course with it through troubled times.

What are the funds’ target allocations?

Whether it’s a to or a through plan, what are its target allocations? How are decisions about allocation made and do those choices complement your needs?

What's your risk tolerance?

Target-date funds can be more aggressive or more conservative than expected. During the 2008 financial crisis, many investors with 2010 target-date funds suffered severe losses because they didn’t realize their portfolio was invested in more stocks than they thought. Would you have stayed invested if the fund had struggled in 2008? If not, perhaps you should look at a more conservative option.

What are the fees?

Target-date funds can often cost more than other funds because they’re known for their long horizons, and their fees will vary by target date family and target date. If you are more cost conscious, you may prefer to invest in index funds.

Choosing Your 401(K) Lineup.

When there are a plethora of investment options from which to choose, take the time to understand what you want from them and find a fund that meets your needs. If you would like to discuss target date funds or other 401(k) options. I encourage you to reach out to me. Call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at

The target date is the approximate date when investors plan to start withdrawing their money.

The principal value of a target fund is not guaranteed at any time, including at the target date.

No strategy assures success or protects against loss

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