On September 20th, our Chief Investment Officer, Jim Callahan, spoke on a panel in front of roughly 100 attendees at the Denver Athletic Club. Along with investment executives from four other wealth management firms, Jim was invited to discuss the topic of “Advanced Asset Allocation”.
The role of tax strategies in trading and managing investment portfolios
Certain tax strategies can add a meaningful boost to portfolio performance because taxes are an explicit cost to any portfolio and, therefore, a detractor from performance. Although tax situations are unique to each individual, any strategy that limits or delays the tax bill and retains more after-tax return for investors will face little argument.
“Avoidance of taxes is not a criminal offense. Any attempt to reduce, avoid, minimize, or alleviate taxes by legitimate means is permissible. The distinction between evasion and avoidance is fine yet definite. One who avoids tax does not conceal or misrepresent. He shapes events to reduce or eliminate tax liability and upon the happening of the events, makes a complete disclosure. Evasion, on the other hand, involves deceit, subterfuge, camouflage, concealment, some attempt to color or obscure events, or making things seem other than what they are.”— Internal Revenue Manual Code 184.108.40.206.2.1 (05-15-2008) 26 USC §7201 – Avoidance Distinguished from Evasion
Assuming all investors pay taxes either now or later, the chart below illustrates the benefit of delaying taxes. We assume a portfolio of 60% stocks, 40% bonds that is rebalanced every year. The solid line depicts the growth of the 100% taxable portfolio, while the dotted line shows portfolio growth in a 100% tax-deferred portfolio. Of course, the taxman arrives eventually, so we show the hit (a worst-case all-at-once tax consequence) to the tax-deferred line when withdrawing at ordinary income tax rates.
Too much of a good thing can be wonderful, at least, if actress Mae West was right. But when it comes to your investments, we’d argue too much of a good thing can be downright
Consider what’s going on among blue chip stocks in today’s low yield environment. Anyone seeking income from bonds knows that yields are at historic lows. As such, many investors have sought blue chips stocks and their healthy dividends as an equivalent to traditional bonds. We don’t believe this to be a terrible idea, but it definitely comes with its tradeoffs and we question whether those risks and rewards are getting the attention they deserve today.
Passive investing as the foundation for an optimal portfolio
To investors who have spent years accumulating wealth through active entrepreneurship or business management, the notion of being “passive” may have a negative connotation. But when designing a portfolio strategy, evidence suggests that passive investing produces superior results with lower expenses than one built around active trading.
In a passive investment strategy, an investor is not looking to beat the market. Rather, the goal is to gain exposure to the broader market – all the good and all the bad – at the lowest possible cost. (Source: Managing Investment Portfolios: A Dynamic Process)
The broader market is represented by indices, for example the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index for stocks and the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index for bonds. Investors do not buy into an index per se, but in funds that closely mimic the index.
Hiring a financial advisor can be a smart and profitable decision: As we detailed in a recent blog article, advisors using industry best practices can help their clients earn a significant investment premium.
There’s a catch, though. Not all financial advisors do the right thing, consistently, for their clients. Surprisingly, the great majority of financial advisors are under no legal obligation to put their clients’ financial interests ahead of their own.
As we have watched the 2016 Olympics in Rio, it’s truly impressive to see the athletes from all over the world compete at such a high level and demonstrate their true dedication to their chosen sport. The athletes and their families have spent years devoted to hard work, incredible amounts of focused energy to training, exhibit world class discipline and dedication in order to be the very best in the world. Their ascension to the Olympics of course has not been linear, as each of the athlete’s had to overcome many obstacles and adversity in their paths to reach the pinnacle of their respective sport. The Olympian athletes’ training efforts, focus, and discipline are primarily behind the scenes with many hours working with their coach and trainers, with never a promise to compete or let alone win an Olympic medal. Their hard work and tireless effort’s provides them the best chance to execute their lifetime goals.
Janiczek recently hosted an expert team of five respected advisors to discuss business exit planning for high net worth individuals. Around the table sat five like-minded professionals who interacted in a case study regarding an upcoming business sale and the necessary steps to complete the transaction. The group included an estate attorney, a consultative tax professional, a life insurance advisor, and two comprehensive wealth management professionals.
No single input is more important to a portfolio’s success than asset allocation, or determining how much to allocate to various asset classes.
In 1986, authors Gary Brinson, Gilbert Beebower, and Randolph Hood conducted an in-depth study of the various sources of investment returns. Specifically, they analyzed quarterly returns from 1974-1983 for the 91 largest pension funds, and determined that 93.6% of the returns generated were a result of asset allocation.
In a follow-on study in 1991, the authors concluded that 91% of portfolio returns are determined by asset allocation.
The last 18 months have been a volatile time in the market with fears of a Chinese recession causing a temporary market pullback in August 2015, Eurozone concerns causing a dip in February 2016, and Brexit triggering a quick decline at the end of June this year. Through all of that, the S&P 500 is actually up 3.67% over the last 12 months and 6.17% year-to-date. Because the S&P 500 is up 6%, your portfolio should have returned around 6% this year, right? Not necessarily, and if you’re in a diversified portfolio, likely not.
The problem with comparing a diversified portfolio to “the market” is that the S&P 500 only measures companies that make up a portion of a well-diversified portfolio. Football is top of mind as it is nearly football season again (HALLELUJAH!) so allow me to draw an analogy. Lineman, the largest players in football, make up only a portion of NFL football players. Comparing the S&P 500 to a diversified portfolio is like comparing the average size of an NFL lineman to the average size of an NFL football player. While players of the same sport are being compared, the comparison is apples to oranges because there are a large variety of statures in the NFL. The same goes for investing where there are countless asset classes available.
Financial advisors can provide peace of mind. But do they deliver a demonstrable, dollars-and-cents advantage to their clients?
Two studies show that the answer is yes—if the advisor is diligent in providing several key services. Let’s start with research from Morningstar, the big Chicago-based investment research firm. A 2012 Morningstar study found that advisors who use an “efficient financial planning strategy” can help clients increase their retirement assets significantly.