January High-5 from Janiczek
A monthly recap of articles designed to inform and inspire on a variety of topics related to investing and wealth management.
In this edition:
- 2019 Outlook / 2018 Top Takeaways and Market Review
- Investing in Volatile Markets
- Wealth & Health in 2019
- More Freedom in 2019
- All for One, One for All
- Ten years after the 2008 market meltdown, U.S. equities are up over 200% and posting fresh new all-time highs.
- Higher interest rates during the quarter presented some headwind for bond investors, but bonds can still generate decent returns within a long-term trend of higher interest rates.
- The underlying economy boasts plenty of strength, with economic growth during the rest of 2018 expected to remain above 3%.
Legacy planning goes beyond mere numbers, aligning traditional estate planning with a family’s goals and values. The process includes defining and expressing what wealth means to a family. It involves identifying the core values that bind the family, and in many cases it involves grooming children and grandchildren to be guardians of not just wealth, but also those values.
Nearly eight weeks after his election, emotions about President-elect Donald Trump continue to run high.
There’s no doubt that Trump was a divisive candidate, and he is already saying and doing things that have pleased some and discouraged others. But as investors contemplate the next four years under this president, they should pay attention to facts and numbers and be on guard against emotional decision-making.
It’s common for investors to overestimate the impact that Presidential election results have on investment markets. Prior to the election, many commentators predicted a market crash in the event of a Donald Trump victory. That didn’t happen, of course; to the contrary, the market has risen. That’s an example of the strength and adaptability of the markets: They have a long history of digesting jarring and unforeseen events, and then moving forward.
The challenge of performance measurement
Periodic reviews of an investor’s portfolio helps ascertain whether the investment process is working, but more importantly, whether it’s on the right course for the individual investor.
The Beardstown Ladies was a 12-woman investment club that gathered monthly and managed their own stock portfolio. They became celebrities in the mid-1990s when news of their track record went viral: since their 1983 inception, The Beardstown Ladies claimed their portfolio had returned 23.4% versus the S&P 500’s 14.9% return. But in 1998, an audited performance record was released showing the club’s actual returns were actually 9.1% per year.
There are few things that we Americans get worked up about as much as presidential elections.
One candidate, some of us feel, would be a disaster for the country, while the other would lead it in the right direction. That seems to hold true every four-year cycle, but this year emotions are pitched especially high. Spurring us along is the financial news media, which breathlessly advises us about how to invest for a Clinton presidency, or a Trump presidency.
What are tactical adjustments? In their 1986 asset allocation research, Brinson, Beebower, & Hood defined tactical asset allocation as:
“…strategically altering the investment mix weights away from normal in an attempt to capture excess returns from short-term fluctuations in asset class prices (market timing);”
Investors in the U.S. are keenly aware of how managing taxes can help to build wealth—as evidenced by the trillions of dollars that we’ve invested in IRAs, 401(k)’s and other tax-sheltered accounts.
What too many of us fail to consider, however, is the need to remain tax-conscious even after we’ve built our wealth. For retirees seeking to preserve and appreciate their wealth, tax-savvy decisions are especially important.
One of retirees’ key tools for tax management is known as retirement withdrawal sequencing. In plain English, this refers to the order in which you make withdrawals from various account types to fund your retirement.
Those who have saved successfully often have a combination of taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free accounts. When that’s the case, proper planning about which accounts to tap first can allow you to defer a substantial amount in taxes while maximizing the opportunity for the remaining accounts to appreciate.
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 126.96.36.199.2.1 (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.
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.