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Topics: Investments Advice

June 14, 2022

When the market drops, some investors lose perspective that downtrends and uptrends are part of the investing cycle. When stock prices break lower, it's a good time to review common terms that are used to describe the market's downward momentum.

Pullbacks

A pullback represents the mildest form of a selloff in the markets. You might hear an investor or trader refer to a dip of 5-10% after a peak as a “pullback.”1

Corrections

The next degree in severity is a “correction.” If a market or markets retreat 10% to 20% after a peak, you’re in correction territory. At this point, you’re likely on guard for the next tier.2

Bear Market

In a Bear Market, the decline is 20% or more since the last peak.2

 

All of this is normal

“Pullbacks, corrections, and bear markets are a part of the investing cycle.”

When stock prices are trending lower, some investors can second-guess their risk tolerance. But periods of market volatility can be the worst times to consider portfolio decisions.

Pullbacks and corrections are relatively common and represent something that any investor may see from time to time in their financial life, often several times over the course of a decade. Bear markets are much rarer. In fact, between April 1947 and September 2021, there have only been 14 bear markets.3

A retirement strategy formed with a financial professional has market volatility factored in. As you continue your relationship with that professional, they will also be at your side to make any adjustments and help you make any necessary decisions along the way. Their goal is to help you pursue your goals.

 

 

 

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  1. Investopedia.com, August 23, 2021
  2. Forbes.com, September 20, 2021
  3. Investopedia.com, October 29, 2021
April 18, 2022

Financial advisory firms have historically endured a bad reputation ­– either because they were too expensive, or they only helped people with lots of money to invest, or they were trying to sell clients a product or plan that didn’t align with the heart of their goals and situation. Too many Americans don’t think they can afford a Financial Advisor and planning services. Too many of them avoid partnering with an Advisor because they don’t think they have enough money to meet some criteria. But those are often the people who could benefit from a financial coach the most! It’s also the largest population in America. That’s why we founded Trilogy Financial almost 30 years ago – to provide a true fiduciary and financial coach to everyday Americans who want to live the best life possible. Our goal at Trilogy was to create something different, something people hadn’t seen before. And over the last 25 years, we’ve been evolving the firm and honing our practices to improve the financial planning industry and make an Advisor accessible to everyone.

A Purpose Driven Financial Advisor and Coach

In Trilogy Financial’s beginnings, our vision and purpose was to help Financial Advisors be better Advisors so they could help more people. However, as time has gone on, that’s evolved into something bigger. Now our purpose is to help everyday Americans gain financial independence. They are the group of people that often struggle to achieve their financial goals, and we want to focus and help those that need advice. This is the culture we’ve built today. Our Advisors want to help as many people as they can, and we’re on a mission to make those Advisors more productive so that can help provide more for our clients. That is purpose-driven business.

How to Make Financial Advisors More Productive For Clients

Most financial advisory and planning firms have an advisor-led service model, and there’s nothing wrong with that – except that not all Advisors have service as their strong suit. As a Financial Advisor, many people perceive our job is to advise people how to save and spend their money. But we believe it takes more than that to make an impact. We’re striving to build what we call a “trust transfer” where our Advisors spend more time advising clients, building Life Plans, and making recommendations, and a service team does what they do best. This is how we’re optimizing our operations at Trilogy for the benefit of our clients. This service team consists of a group of people with a distinct culture and skillset that will deliver great, helpful service to our clients. This is contrary to what’s “the norm” for financial advisory firms – and that’s exactly why we’re doing it. This is part of our efforts to bring quality financial planning and advice to everyday Americans.

Introducing the Mack Service Center

The Mack Service Center is a robust client experience service center that was Trilogy’s late co-founder Kevin “Mack” Mackintosh’s vision for the firm. His core focus was to build a meaningful client service team to support Advisors so they could do what they do best – financial planning – and provide the clients with a high quality experience. Mack designed and developed the Trilogy Service Team based on what he learned over the years as an Eagle Scout, rowing crew member and in his time in the financial planning business. From day one, he had a clear vision of what Trilogy could accomplish when we all worked together and focused on service. A few years back, he took the ball and really got it rolling for this project. He found the right people to lead it and get it off the ground. Right before his untimely passing in early 2020, he had nearly completed building the Service Center team vision. Following his loss, under the leadership of our founder/President, Jeff Motske, in conjunction with Eric Perkins – we built out the actual Service Center, team, outlined processes, operations and more. Kevin Mackintosh instilled the right attitude, built the right culture and we’re proud to name our Mack Service Center after him so his legacy lives on.

The Future of Trilogy Financial and the Mack Service Center

 Our goal is to have a well-regarded Advisor in front of every everyday American.  Too many financial advisory firms want to work with high-net-worth individuals, but it’s those who are 52 years old with $400,000 in their retirement who really need our support and education to get to where they want and need to be. These are everyday Americans, and they deserve for someone to help them pursue their dreams. And we’re changing that. We rolled out the Mack Service Center team this year to support our Financial Advisors’ current planning efforts with each client. This is our way of connecting the financial planning industry back with the real-life issues of Americans and helping each of them plan and live the life of their dreams.

February 18, 2021

What is a fiduciary?

When selecting a Financial Advisor, it’s important to know they will be looking out for you and the money you worked hard for all your life. Not all financial advisors are the same. When considering a financial advisor to partner with, it’s important to know if they are fiduciaries, meaning they will be ethically obligated to work in your best interests to help you reach your goals.

Why choose Trilogy?

At Trilogy, we operate by suitability standards in offering advice and recommendations that are the most suitable to your needs. We aren’t just salesmen looking to sell products that earn the highest commission. We are dedicated Advisors, financial life planners, who use our expertise to guide you to make smart money decisions. We recommend investments and financial products that are the best fit for your life situation.

Trilogy Capital Inc. is a Registered Investment Advisor. We are a fee-based firm. That means some of our Advisors earn commissions from the sales of certain insurance or securities products. While this incentivizes our Advisors to be the best they can be at their job, be assured that they put people first to select the best solutions for you.

You have a team behind you

When you work with Trilogy, you don’t just have just one Advisor, you have a team who have an ethical duty to recommend what’s best for you. We are specialists with decades of experience in wealth management and protection.

Life planning

With our Advisors, you can be sure they have a fiduciary duty of care to work at the highest level of trust in creating and reviewing your Life Plan. When they make a recommendation, it’s because they feel strongly it’s the right fit for you and your needs, in the life stage you are now and for the future.

Investing for your future

Our financial professionals work in a fiduciary capacity with our investment platforms. We value our relationship with you and work to maintain your trust. We look at the big picture and consider all aspects of your life regarding your personal financial situation.

We know managing your finances can be a full-time job. That’s why our Advisors are there for you to ensure your investments are properly diversified for your risk tolerance. We also monitor other service providers working on components of your plan (including investment companies, record keepers and third-party administrators) to make sure they are catering to your needs and in a cost-efficient manner.

Managing risk

Your fiduciary Financial Advisor will review your personal situation to determine where the risk factors are when it comes to protecting your wealth and recommend insurance products that best fit your needs to add peace-of-mind protection. Whether it’s long term care or life insurance – we’re here to set you up for success so you have a solid plan for whatever comes your way in life.

In keeping with our fiduciary commitment to you, we are an independent financial planning firm. That means we don’t own any insurance products. We’ve done the legwork to find reputable insurance companies who have a proven track record of financial security and claims-paying ability, so you can be confident we recommend products that have the credibility you can count on.

A partner you can trust

When you work with Trilogy, you can finally take a breath in knowing you have a partner who will look out for your finances and do what is best for your life situation and help you meet your financial goals. You can get on with enjoying life, not worrying if you have the money to cover it.

October 29, 2020
 

Today, conversations, screens, and ads on how the upcoming election will affect our economy and the American way of life are unavoidable. Naturally, we start to ponder how the outcome might impact our own financial independence. Since market forecasters and economic commentators ever really get it right only part of the time, formulating investment strategy based on “expert” prognostications and financial journalism routinely sets individual investors up for failure.

According to historical analysis, in 19 of the past 23 election years from 1928-2016, stock market returns were positive, no matter which party held office. In fact, during an election year, the S&P 500 has experienced an average return of 11.3%—data that demonstrably counters the stock market doom and gloom headline hysteria generated in the media.

While it is crucial not to be emotionally reactive, it is equally important to plan for economic changes that are realistically possible. Following an election, it is wise to assess how federal policies could impact your plan.

A few takeaways…

  1. Separate your personal politics from your investment decision-making.
  2. Remain calm and focused on your long-term plan: thoughtful planning plus sound decision-making matters.

During his First Inaugural Address, our 32nd President reminded the nation that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” If not kept in check, fear becomes a catalyst for rash decision-making which can impede your path to financial freedom. As always, I am here to talk things through with you, to listen, and to assuage your fear; that’s my job.

April 17, 2019

“Don’t invest and forget.” This is a common sentiment that advisors try to communicate to their clients. We understand the importance of having a solid financial plan, but the plan doesn’t serve you if you set it and then don’t check in with it for years. A financial plan is a living and breathing document. As your life changes, so should your plan because those life changes can cause changes in your goals and your risks.

As you start your adult life, risks are generally low, and timeframes are typically long. You may be single, you may be renting. Should you hit some rough times, not that much may be rocked. This also applies to your investments. If there is a market shake-up, you have plenty of time to wait for the market to correct itself. Therefore, this is the time to be aggressive on your way to financial independence.

However, as your life changes, so does your risk. Perhaps you get married and start a family. Perhaps you buy a house or maybe you start a business. Suddenly, there is more at stake, there is more to lose. Additionally, while there is more at stake, there is less time. There is less time to save, less time to recoup any losses. These changes undoubtedly influence our decisions and our behavior in the market.

This change in risk isn’t done with the flip of a switch. Everyone’s life is different, hitting different life milestones at different times, starting to work towards financial independence at different places and having different goals to work towards. Therefore, computing risk, can be a gradual and complicated process. Working with a financial advisor can help you know when and how to change your risk so that you can steadily work towards the future and protect what you have today.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

March 12, 2019

A generation or so ago, the path to financial freedom was pretty direct for most. You found a job and saved for a home and a rainy day. When it was time to retire, you collected from a pension and enjoyed your remaining twilight years. Over time, things have drifted away from womb-to-tomb employment and gotten a lot more complicated. Today’s Americans have to be much more proactive with their finances. In this day and age, saving isn’t enough. Make sure your money is working as hard as you work for it.

There are a lot of concerns for the future. Buying a home. Sending kids to college. Making sure that your current career will be around to see you to retirement. People are living longer, so their retirement money has to go farther. Many high costs associated with medical care aren’t covered by Medicare, such as many prescriptions and long-term care. Pensions are no longer viable option for most Americans, and Social Security, a program that was never intended to replace income, no longer provides the level of security people need for their future. There’s a lot to prepare for.

Due to these concerns on the path to financial independence, people need to be mindful of their money. Even the most conservative Americans need to do more than contribute to a standard savings account, which can’t keep up with the rate of inflation. Investing your money will grow it exponentially faster than simply saving due to the power of compound interest. Yet, preparing for the future can be very emotional work. Today’s retirement planning relies far more on the decisions made by an individual rather than a company or organization, which can be a lot of pressure. Fears of not having enough money, a very common concern, can cloud decisions and can prompt people to react rather than plan. This is why an objective third party is necessary. Financial advisors can see past the emotions and help you plan your path to your financial freedom.

In this day and age, there are real and unique concerns that can derail you from the path to your financial independence. Trilogy Financial is here to help you establish your goals and invest your money to help get you where you want to go. It is our mission to ensure that every American, from Main Street to Wall Street, has access to great planning and the tools to establish their financial independence.

February 28, 2019

Do you want to start investing but fear you will be buying in at the top of the market? Well, what if I told you there was a way to invest in which you could take emotion out of the equation altogether, not only banishing market anxiety but actually taking advantage of dreaded market volatility? Too good to be true? Far from it. The panacea exists, and it’s called dollar cost averaging or, as we call it in the finance world: DCA.

Dollar Cost Averaging is a pretty simple financial strategy: you purchase a set dollar amount (say $300) of securities (stocks, mutual funds, etfs, bonds…you get the idea) on the same day each month. Because you are committed to a set dollar investment the total number of shares purchased will vary from month to month based on the market. In months where prices are increasing you receive fewer shares; however, in months with falling prices your money buys MORE shares.

How does this benefit you? It removes emotion from the investment equation by keeping you from attempting to “time the market” (which has been proven to be impossible) and helps establish the saving behavior necessary for long term financial success. You are not waiting for a certain price to be reached before buying and when markets are experiencing volatility you are not selling and sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to settle down and then attempting to determine when to buy back into the market. Rather, you are using a disciplined strategy to steadily contribute to your long term goals and when the market is on sale, prices are declining, your monthly contribution has more buying power.

Here’s what’s even better: you are most likely already taking advantage of DCA as part of your financial plan, without even realizing it! If you are contributing to an employer sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) (which you should be!), you are taking advantage of Dollar Cost Averaging by setting aside a certain percentage of your pay and investing it on set days each month. But why limit a DCA strategy to just one segment of your financial portfolio? You can leverage Dollar Cost Averaging to efficiently build individual accounts for shorter or medium term priorities such as travel, a new car, or purchasing a house. It’s not magic or rocket science, but Dollar Cost Averaging can help take advantage of volatility in markets, remove emotion from investing, and establish a beneficial pattern of saving for future priorities.

While dollar cost averaging is a powerful financial tool it is only one component of a full financial plan. If you would like to talk more about the impact of dollar cost averaging on your personal financial plan please contact me at zach.swaffer@trilogyfs.com.

February 19, 2019

We all know we should save more. We all want to save more. Yet, month after month we face the same Groundhog Day scenario: paying all of the bills only to realize that – yet again – there is simply nothing left to save. Sound familiar?

Think about it for a minute. In our Groundhog Day scenario, you are dutifully paying every creditor in your life except for the most important: yourself! It’s time to change the narrative: moving forward, think of saving money as paying yourself. You spend all month working hard. You deserve to keep some of the compensation for that hard work. You on board? Great! To keep you honest, we’re going to set up automatic contributions.

Automatic contributions to savings or investments are a crucial step in building a stable financial foundation. Establishing automatic transfers tied to your paycheck schedule ensures that you will pay yourself for all of your efforts at work and invest in your future. It codifies the “pay yourself first” mentality and aligns your monthly spending with your available discretionary income. For example: if I see extra money sitting in my account, I’m likely to splurge on a fancy meal, or buy a plane ticket to visit my sister. Then the end of the month rolls around, and there is no money left over for saving and investment. On the other hand: if I never see the money in my account, I don’t miss it!

By paying yourself first (saving as money comes in), you will see less money sitting in your account and, accordingly, you will spend less. Over time, you won’t even notice the money being set aside. Your spending habits will have auto-adjusted to your new, post-savings cash flow. (I promise!)

One of the best parts of a “pay yourself first” system is that you don’t have to feel guilty about spending the money in your checking account. Having automatically set aside your monthly savings, you’re free to spend the rest of your money as you wish! Regardless of your balance at the end of the month, you can rest easy knowing your financial foundation is secure.

As a financial advisor, I find a “pay yourself first” savings model to be far more successful than any strict budgeting system. Budgets require line item expense tracking and don’t adapt easily to unexpected expenses. Establishing automatic transfers to “pay yourself first” allows you to maintain a more flexible budgeting system – while still sleeping well at night knowing that your saving objectives have been met.

If you would like to talk about establishing an automatic savings plan or your personal situation please contact me at zach.swaffer@trilogyfs.com.

August 10, 2018

As someone who works directly with clients on helping them with their financial plans and investment decisions, it wouldn’t be too far off to think that I might not do too bad on my own personal investments. Well, truth be told, I have indeed made some high-return investments over the years. The funny thing about that is when I think about “the best investments I ever made”, they are not stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, venture funds, or the like. The best investments that I have ever made came from investing in myself and/or my practice. The returns may be harder to quantify, but I would venture to guess that it has been exponential. Below are my top three “best investments I ever made”:

Going Back To School For An MBA

I’ve always been someone who wants to constantly improve, both as a person and as a professional. In an article that I had previously written, I discuss how an MBA prepared me for my career as a financial advisor. This was a both a huge gamble and a big-time winning investment for me, especially since I initially entered business school without a clear roadmap of where the advanced degree would take me. After going through the MBA program at USC’s Marshall School of Business, the greatest value I gained came from improving my qualitative skills, such as working with people, networking, effective communication, work ethic, and time management. While I already had these skills at a basic level, it wasn’t until after obtaining my MBA that I realized a deeper level of utilizing those qualitative skills in my career.

Hiring A Personal Trainer

Without our health, we will not be able to enjoy all of the great opportunities at our disposal today or in the future. Because of this fact, I strongly believe that hiring a personal trainer was one of my best investments. In this article, I draw several parallels between personal trainers and financial advisors, ultimately discussing the value that both can bring, respectively, to your health and finances.

Investing in my health by hiring a personal trainer is one of my best investments for several reasons:

Education

For most, it may not make sense to have a personal trainer for their entire life. However, the knowledge and education around the body, nutrition, exercises, etc. that you will gain from hiring a personal trainer will reap returns for the rest of your life. By being more aware and knowledgeable than you were before, you may miss out on potential future injuries or poor food choices that can lead to debilitating diseases.

Consistency

We are more likely to stick to certain regimens when we are simply told what to do. By being on a plan and schedule with my personal trainer, I did not have to worry about anything except for showing up and working hard. We were on a consistent regimen, and I saw results; in fact, I lost more than 15 pounds over the course of several months when I compared my heaviest to my lightest weight!

Decreased Future Medical Costs

By being consistently active and doing exercises that I would not normally do on my own, my personal trainer made sure that my comprehensive training program would benefit me in the realm of longevity. Because of that, I decrease my chances of needing to undergo major surgeries that someone who lives a sedentary life may have to undergo. This means less money spent on future medical needs and long-term care.

Spending Time To Imagine And Dream About The Future

Sometimes work, family, and social events take up all of our time. However, if we never stop and take time to plan, strategize, and dream, we will never accomplish our goals, let alone have something to work towards. While it may not seem like an investment, “spending time to imagine and dream about the future” may be the lowest-cost, highest-yielding investment there is.

In this article, I talk about planning ahead and setting financial goals. It is important to be proactive in planning for the future that you want. The key here is to write your goals down, break them into smaller goals, and find someone (or a community) that will hold you accountable. Your success lies heavily in setting “meaningful” goals. When you set goals that are meaningful, you will be much more likely to reach them.

For me personally, I’ve found that in those times that I dedicate to imagining and dreaming about the future, I’m able to create a reinvigorated excitement for what’s ahead. The return from spending time planning for your future should not be discounted. The yield is immeasurable, and all it costs is your time, creativity, and dedication.

The investments discussed above are not what you’d typically discuss with your financial advisor. However, I hope you were able to see how much of a return each of those items have provided me. With that said, if you are contemplating post-secondary education, different ways to invest in your health, how to map out your future goals, or anything else, please do not hesitate to get in touch. You can always call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com.

March 22, 2018

Due to the nature of my profession, I am solicited for financial advice in all aspects of my life from all types of people. Similar to a doctor who gets asked about symptoms at birthday parties, people often ask for my opinion or input on financial matters, particularly investing. As most doctors will tell you, it’s hard to give advice when you don’t know the particulars.

However, if someone is really eager or serious for guidance on investing, I will suggest that they do their homework. The information they’re looking for isn’t found on the stock exchange or the Finance section of a newspaper.  Most times, the information you need to start with is found a lot closer than you would expect.

The first thing to take into account are your financial goals. As I’ve mentioned before, being aware of your financial “why” can highlight good habits, change inefficient patterns, refocus priorities and ultimately develop a plan to help you achieve your financial freedom. Therefore, you need to be specific. Do you want to retire in 30 years? Perhaps you want to buy a house in five years or start a business in two. In these scenarios, your goals act as targets, and with the help of a good financial planner, you can develop an action plan with measurable steps to incrementally achieve them.

Another thing to be aware of is your risk tolerance. This isn’t a measure of whether you like to bungee cord jump or skydive. Rather, this is an indication of how much volatility in your investments you are comfortable with. This is something that needs to be determined for the individual as well as the household. Risk tolerance is a very personal indicator, and there are times that couples don’t see eye to eye. When new clients come in, we have them complete a risk tolerance questionnaire to not only to see how individuals may or may not be working together but to also figure out the most effective plan to achieve their goals. The last thing we want you to do is tackle investments that won’t achieve your goals in a timely.

As you can tell, these items are all very personal. What you’re saving for, how long and hard you’re willing to work towards your goals, and what your income and lifestyle needs are, both current and future, will all be factors in planning how to invest. I bring this up because so many clients come in referring to the advice their friends, neighbors or coworker gave them. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m all for educating one’s self. Let’s discuss your options. But please don’t think that investing in what your child’s Little League coach is investing in is automatically the best option for you.

Let me put it another way. I’ve been athletic all of my life, playing high school and college baseball and an avid golfer. Knowing that, I’m not going to start a new exercise regime with a leisurely walk around the block or bench pressing 400 pounds. It’s not that I don’t believe these fitness goals are valid – they’re just not valid for me. The same idea can be applied to your finances. If any of the factors I’ve mentioned are not aligned, you may discover that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and that you need to be wary of the barb wire in between.

I know it sounds odd, that investing should be more complicated. But the truth is knowing your financial self is much important than knowing the stock market when you first start investing.

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 michael.loo@lpl.com.

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

March 19, 2018

In 2001, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted a new rule to supposedly prohibit mutual fund names that may mislead investors about a fund’s investments and risks. The rule required a fund with a name suggesting that the fund focuses on a particular type of investment (e.g., “stocks” or “bonds”) to invest at least 80% of its assets accordingly. Previously, funds were subject to a 65% investment requirement.

This rule resulted in many funds changing their names, changing their investments, or both. In general, things are better now than they were before the 2001 rule. However, today’s mutual fund names and categories can still be confusing and/or misleading.

Blurred Boundaries

For example, let’s look at names that connote where the fund buys its investments. These names usually contain words like “Domestic,” “International,” “Global,” and “World.” Imagine a Domestic Large-Cap fund, whose name suggests it buys large, U.S. companies. But if the fund owns mostly companies in the S&P 500 Index, those companies might be generating up to 50% of their revenues outside of the U.S. The large multinational firm might be based in the U.S. but do business in countries all around the world. The opposite may be true of funds with “Global” or “World” in their name; those companies based in foreign countries may be deriving some or all of their revenue from dealings with the U.S.

Undefined Jargon

Another confusing category of funds is called “smart beta”. Investopedia defines Beta this way1:

“Beta is a measure of the volatility, or systematic risk, of a security or a portfolio in comparison to the market as a whole. Beta is used in the capital asset pricing model (CAPM), which calculates the expected return of an asset based on its beta and expected market returns.”

Got that? Let’s assume you totally understand beta and CAPM. So, what is “smart” beta? If beta is a measure of volatility, then a reasonable person might assume that “smart beta” is a more intelligent measure of volatility, right? Let’s see if the definition of smart beta contains the word “volatility.”

Investopedia defines smart beta this way2:

The goal of smart beta is to obtain alpha, lower risk or increase diversification at a cost lower than traditional active management and marginally higher than straight index investing. It seeks the best construction of an optimally diversified portfolio. In effect, smart beta is a combination of efficient-market hypothesis and value investing. Smart beta defines a set of investment strategies that emphasize the use of alternative index construction rules to traditional market capitalization-based indices. Smart beta emphasizes capturing investment factors or market inefficiencies in a rules-based and transparent way. The increased popularity of smart beta is linked to a desire for portfolio risk management and diversification along factor dimensions, as well as seeking to enhance risk-adjusted returns above cap-weighted indices.

Hmm. Not a single mention of volatility. Are you confused yet?

Growth, Aggressive Growth, Capital Appreciation, Equity Income

Growth sounds good, but how is it different from capital appreciation? Don’t they mean the same thing? Does aggressive mean faster, riskier, meaner, or something else? Equity income funds are supposed to be stocks that pay dividends, right? So, what category do you think the Dividend Growth Small & Mid-Cap Fund3 is? It has both “dividend” and “growth” in its name, but are they separate or together? Does the fund invest in companies whose dividends are growing, or does it invest in growth companies that also pay dividends? An investor would need to read the fund’s prospectus to find out for sure. I’m sure all good investors thoroughly read those prospectuses from cover to cover.

Reporting Problem

The SEC requires mutual funds to report complete lists of their holdings on a quarterly basis. So, the manager of the hypothetical Blah-Blah Domestic Large Cap Fund could buy a bunch of foreign small-cap stocks on January 1 and hold them until March 28. Then, the manager could sell them and replace them with domestic large-cap stocks, and report on March 31 that the fund was properly holding domestic large cap stocks as required. On April 1, the manager could buy back the foreign small cap stocks and repeat that process every quarter.

Conclusion

Mutual fund names and categories are more informative than they used to be, but they can still be quite confusing or misleading. Investors (and advisors) need to do their due diligence, fully read those prospectuses, and closely follow the actions of the fund managers. Is your advisor recommending mutual funds? Are they confident of what’s really in those funds? Are you? If you have any questions about the mutual funds in your portfolio, email me at steve.hartel@trilogyfs.com and I if I can’t answer your question, I will find someone who can.

  1. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/beta.asp
  2. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/smart-beta.asp
March 12, 2018

Each of our lives is comprised of elements that create a story. Our financial lives are no different – the elements include our bank accounts, retirement accounts, mortgages, car loans, student loans, investment accounts, stock options at work, life insurance policies, credit cards, etc. When most people think of their financial life, they think of these elements but have trouble contextualizing them in their overall financial story. All of these elements are simply tools that either help or deter us from our goals. Before analyzing the tools, it’s important to understand why you’re using them and the goals and priorities that create the story which requires them.

One way people analyze these tools is by researching investment returns. Before delving into the world of returns, think about why you are investing in the first place. Your investments should reflect your overall financial priorities. If the risk tolerance in your investment appropriately reflects the time-frame you plan on needing the money, then worrying about investment returns day-to-day can be more of a headache than it’s worth. For example, if you are 35 years old saving for retirement at 60 – you should be aggressively invested if you’re comfortable with that. Because you have 25 years before you plan on using the money, short-term fluctuations in the market shouldn’t really concern you. In fact, if the market does go down and you are still contributing to your retirement, you are technically “buying on sale” – getting more shares for the same dollar value. Contributing to your retirement in up-and-down markets is called “dollar-cost-averaging” – meaning you average out the cost/share of an investment by contributing consistently rather than trying to time the market and invest when you are “buying low”.

There are many benchmarks in the financial industry to compare your investments to and track performance. Some examples include the S&P500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average for large-cap stocks, the Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index for bonds, and the MSCI Index for international investments. It’s important to understand how your investments are doing in relation to the overall market – it keeps you abreast of what you are investing in and prompts questions you may not ask otherwise – such as what fees you are paying, who’s helping you decide what to invest in, and how much risk you’re taking on compared to the benchmarks you’re using as a comparison. However, the benchmark you should habitually pay more attention to than any other is your particular goal with each investment and your overall goals in terms of building wealth.

Focusing on investment returns only paints half of the picture when tracking progress because it is completely out of your control. If you can confidently say your investments are well diversified and invested according to a risk-tolerance you are comfortable with, there is a much more important benchmark to track than returns. Instead of relying on your investment vehicles to do all the heavy-lifting, you should use your investment behavior as the ultimate indicator to determine if you’re making progress or need more work. What are the financial goals you have in mind? To retire by 55? To save for a second down payment on a house? To pay off your mortgage? Help your children pay for their college tuition? Protect your investments and family in case of a long-term illness? Reduce credit cards and student loans? Build emergency savings?

When you are focused on goal-based financial planning, there are a lot of benchmarks to concern yourself with other than the hype involved in investment performance. Are you saving more this year than you were last year? Did you increase your savings rate when you received a raise? Does the money you are spending appropriately reflect the values and priorities that are most important to you? Are you using extra income to increase investments and decrease liabilities? By focusing on why you’re investing in the first place and the priorities that matter to you, it’s easier to ask the right questions and monitor progress. Once you know what you’re shooting for, a Decision Coach can help you understand the appropriate tools to get there.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is a capitalization weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is comprised of 30 stocks that are major factors in their industries and widely held by individuals and institutional investors.

The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is an index of the U.S. investment-grade fixed-rate bond market, including both government and corporate bonds.

The MSCI EAFE Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets, excluding the US & Canada. The MSCI EAFE Index consists of the following developed country indices: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Each index is an unmanaged index which cannot be invested into directly. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

March 6, 2018

Recent market volatility and nervousness of investors seems to make this a good time to re-evaluate our current time frames and allocations for our investment accounts. One of the most important reasons is that our time frames and risk tolerance often clarify and determine the type of investment and allocation we should consider for our money.

Let’s agree that we might feel the market is efficient over a long period of time. With this kind of long-term perspective, should this recent volatility send us into a panic when evaluating our 401k and Roth IRA; investment accounts that possibly will be utilized 10, 15, or even 25 years from now? I anticipate you can come to my same conclusion…no. Let’s take this idea one step further. I would argue that panic should not be the response, but an excitement to save more, invest more, and watch our money possibly work more efficiently for us than if it was sitting in a safe, under the mattress, or at the bank. Market volatility and “correction” is healthy for long-term investors.

Now, I just alluded to two long-term retirement accounts. What if we have a 12-month goal to renovate the kitchen? That is a different time frame. That would result in a different level of risk. In fact, oftentimes, if the assets invested are to be purposed for a capital expense within the next twelve to twenty-four months, I then recommend holding on to cash and savings. The risks and costs of investing might be too high for our level of comfort for that short of a time-frame. Then, when we know the basement is set to be finished, the birth of a child is coming, or a rental property down payment are in sight, then we may want additional funds in the bank outside of our traditional three to six months of savings, especially if the time frame is tight.

And finally, what if we have additional cash that we don’t have a specific priority in mind for, and we have a comfortable amount in our bank savings, and we don’t want to wrap additional money into a retirement account and then not have access to it until after age 59 ½? This idea, this solution, is often unknown to investors. We are taught that we need to save into retirement accounts and make sure we have three to six months of emergency savings…but that’s not all we should consider. A non-retirement investment account helps us be more efficient with our excess cash or monthly cash flow, yet these invested assets are still accessible within 2-7 business days. In the 5, 10, or even 20 years until retirement, do we anticipate having a few non-retirement priorities? I’m confident the answer is “yes” for just about everyone. Or, maybe we run into a few unexpected things, too. Let me name a few examples…anniversary trip, home remodel, broken furnace, family vacation, new car, next down payment, adoption, or caring for our parents. Until we have a time frame, let’s believe in the market, invest our money in an efficient, cost-efficient, diversified portfolio, set to our level of risk and based on our anticipated time frame.

When a priority shows up, or even a BIG emergency, if we have been saving all along, it might make us better prepared. Just like a 401k, we can establish this type of investment account, determine a monthly contribution amount, and we can save and invest on a monthly basis. This could be incredibly impactful, because if we stick to the alternative of trying to over-save into our bank savings account, what might happen? Just prior to the end of the month, we might be too tempted to “slide to transfer” our “extra” funds right back into our bank checking. By establishing this additional, more efficient savings vehicle, funds that are earmarked for a future priority, outside of two years from now, will help us to be better prepared when that priority shows up, AND, hopefully having a stronger earning potential than what is available as interest at the bank.

This last example addresses an intermediate level of planning that tends to get lost in the emergency savings/retirement planning conversation. One consideration, please be aware that since these funds may not be in tax-deferred type of accounts, there may be various kinds of taxation on the growth and trading of holdings within these accounts. You would need to discuss taxation with your tax professional. Short- and long-term capital gains taxes are to be considered. But again, one of the biggest benefits of this type of account is that these funds tend to be more readily accessible. The flexibility of these types of non-retirement investment accounts are considered to be incredibly instrumental.

To summarize, if you are funding your 401k, and you have an adequate level of savings in the bank, and still have additional cash flow that could be used for future priorities, then I encourage you to establish an individual or joint non-retirement investment account for those exact goals. But first, please schedule time to meet with a Certified Financial Planner to help craft a strategy for your financial plan. He/she will help you better understand your time frames, your priorities, which will then determine your allocation, your level of risk, your investment, and the titling of the accounts.

So, despite the market volatility, the encouragement is the same: spend less, save more, start today.

March 1, 2018

Over the course of working with so many individuals and families, I’ve found that many people think financial planning, investing, and retirement planning are a sprint to the finish line. While on paper, maxing out your 401(k) each year and building an all-stock portfolio for maximum growth potential seems like a good plan, fast and big investing can actually slow down your progress to your goals. Let’s look at why.

The Dangers of Little Liquidity I always enjoy working with enthusiastic young couples who want to do everything in their power to reach their desired retirement. However, in the process of focusing on their long-term retirement goals, they neglect their short-term needs.

For many of my clients in their 20s and 30s, I may recommend contributing enough to their 401(k) to get the employer match, if one is offered, and contribute some of their paycheck to build an emergency fund and savings. This can help them avoid focusing so much on their long-term retirement goals that they neglect their short-term goals, from buying a house to paying off student loan debt. I generally recommend that my clients build a reserve fund that can cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

Dipping Your Toes In Versus Diving Head First

I said it earlier but I’ll say it again; investing and financial planning is a marathon, not a sprint. I’d much rather be the tortoise—slow yet steady and consistent—than the hare—fast yet unpredictable—when it comes to my investing strategy.

One of the more underrated strategies for financial security is making consistent and periodic contributions to your portfolio over a long period of time. As I mentioned earlier, younger individuals and families may not have the income yet to max out their 401(k), but they can make consistent contributions and increase them over time as their income increases. Like the tortoise, saving for retirement and other long-term goals is all about perseverance and consistency, even if it is at a slower pace.

It’s easy to let emotions get in the way, and many investors fall prey to the newest investment strategy that claims a higher return on investment. But the fact of the matter is, there is no controlling or predicting the market. I tell my clients that instead of focusing on what they can’t control, it’s helpful to focus on what they can control: the capital they invest.

Whether the markets are high or low, consistent contributions can have a powerful long-term effect. Additionally, maintaining a well-diversified portfolio and rebalancing if needed each year can help ensure your portfolio matches the appropriate level of risk you’re willing to take. Adhering to this motto and disciplined strategy can help you avoid the common trap investors fall into: buying high and selling low, and chasing high returns.

The Risks of Aggressive Investing

Too often, financial advisors tell young individuals in their 20s and 30s to keep close to 100% of their portfolio in stocks. The theory is that young investors have decades to ride out volatility and make up for any lost returns. While this may work for some individuals, I’ve had a number of younger clients who don’t feel comfortable taking such risks, even if they have decades to try to make up for losses.

Investing entirely in stocks isn’t necessarily the way to go, even if it makes sense on paper. It’s nearly impossible to entirely remove emotions from investing. Too often, I’ve seen investors give up when their portfolio takes a big hit. They lose motivation to keep investing, and they struggle to keep their eyes on the finish line of their long-term goals.

Incorporating investments, like bonds, that offer lower returns and lower risk, may help you feel more confident in your portfolio and avoid the rollercoaster of emotions if your portfolio takes a hit during a downturn.

Next Steps

Like the tortoise and the hare, fast investments don’t mean you’ll reach the finish line first. While it can be difficult, it’s important to tune out the noise of the media and focus instead on what strategies make sense for your unique situation, risk tolerance, and short and long-term goals. While not as exciting, I believe slow and steady can win the race, and without as many speed bumps along the way.

As an independent financial advisor, my mission is to make a meaningful impact on the lives of my clients and the people they love. I help families make informed decisions with their money and pursue a strong financial future. If you’re interested in learning more about balancing your short and long-term goals, I encourage you to reach out to me. Call my office at (949) 221-8105 x 2128, or email me at michael.loo@lpl.com.

September 27, 2017

When you put the words, “retirement,” “investments” and “risk” in the same sentence, most of us will automatically think about market risk, you know, the possibility for an investor to experience losses due to overall performance of financial markets1.  According to the 2014 Annual Retirement Confidence survey, 88% of retirees are worried about maintaining the same standard of living.  While Market Risk is a very real reason to worry, there are other risks that may throw a wrench into your financial plan. This time we will discuss the possible need for Advance medical care, how much it could cost, and how to be ready for it.

The Risk: There is a 50% chance that any of us will need some form of Advance Medical Care2.  In other words you or your spouse WILL need Advance Medical Care. The risks are so high and yet most investors don’t prepare of it.

The Cost: Know the potential damage. The numbers don’t lie. The average cost of long term care in the US for Nursing Home Care for a Semi -Private room is a whopping $225 per day3.  The average stay in a Nursing home is 892 days.  For easy math you are looking at a $200,000+ cost above and beyond your living expenses.

The Solution: Use small dollars to cover big expenses. Get life insurance with living benefits.

One solution that is becoming more and more popular is getting a life insurance plan that can be used to cover Advanced Medical Care. Some insurance companies offer something called Living Benefits Riders. These riders allow you to “advance” a portion of your death benefit if certain conditions are met, such as Terminal illness, problems with the Activities of Daily Living  and life threatening conditions.

Building a Financial Plan that can withstand the risks of life is complicated.  Make sure you hire a Financial Coach to help you prepare for the unknown. Thinking outside the box may be a way to protect your golden years.

[1] www.investopedia.com/terms/m/marketrisk.asp

[2] http://www.aaltci.org/long-term-care-insurance/learning-center/probability-long-term-care.php

[3] www.genworth.com/about-us/industry-expertise/cost-of-care.html#

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