Which Path Would You Take?

“I don’t know…something just doesn’t feel right,” you mumble through your mask to your primary care doctor while sitting on the examination table under a flickering fluorescent light in a room decorated with anatomical charts and hand-sanitizer dispensers. After listening to your heart and your lungs, the doctor diagnoses your feelings of worry as a mild condition that is easily treatable but could become serious if a proper treatment regimen isn’t followed. The doctor gives two treatment plans: one coming from the New England Journal of Medicine and the other from a health magazine that can be purchased at your local convenience store. Which plan do you choose?

 

The health magazines are filled with tips and tricks, such as how to burn body fat, jump-start the body’s metabolic rate, and build immune system strength. And they might even work sometimes. If you want to choose the treatment plan with the highest odds of success, it might give you more confidence to know that the medical journal, and its recommendations, are based on decades of data collected from research studies performed by medical experts and peer-reviewed by the medical community.

We face the same decision when it comes to investing. > SEE MORE

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The (Not So) Trivial Pursuit of Financial Contentment

Here’s some fun trivia for you to share with your friends as we head into the weekend:

Did you know you have to count to 1,000 before you’ll find the letter “a” in a spelled-out number?

 

We thought you could use that break from the deluge of mid-year news events and stock market commentaries on 2020’s bipolar extremes. The general theme has been how quickly global markets sold off and came back – even as economic and sociopolitical headlines continued to stoke bonfires of ongoing upheaval.

And the year is only half over. > SEE MORE

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What Has Historically Followed A Time Like This?

Having patience can be challenging when recent downturns have occurred. But the reality is that some of the biggest innovations (and opportunities) arise out of difficult times. And when it comes to investing, all we have is what those opportunities might bring us in the future. This is why investing can be hard when focusing on short-term movements for your long-term retirement plan.

We can’t go back in time and change the past, but we can return to the evidence, and review what has occurred each time.  And while not perfect or any guarantee, we can put the odds in our favor to grow over time.

Our partners at Dimensional put this visual together (below) showing how returns have averaged coming out of downturns of -10%, -20%, and -30%. Please take a look as a reminder of how having a longer-term outlook has helped investors in times like these – to not only stay on course but also to be confident in what can lie ahead.  > SEE MORE

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You, Your Retirement, and the SECURE Act

You may have missed the news – buried in a much bigger spending bill and passed in the thick of the holiday season. But after months of nearly bringing it to the finish line, it’s now official: the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act was signed into law.

 

 

The SECURE Act provides a mixed bag of incentives and obligations for retirement savers and service providers alike. Its intent is to make it easier for families to save more for retirement.

That said, “easier” doesn’t necessarily mean less complicated. The following is an overview of the most significant changes that we see for you (our clients), as the SECURE Act starts rolling out in 2020.

 

Tax-Favorable Retirement Saving

Compared to previous generations, more Americans are living longer, remaining employed into their 70s, and shouldering more of the duty to fund their own retirement. As such, the SECURE Act includes several incentives to start saving sooner and keep saving longer.

  • Initial RMD increases to age 72 – Until now, you had to start taking Required Minimum Distribution (RMDs) out of retirement accounts at age 70 ½. RMDs are then taxed at ordinary income rates. Now, you don’t need to begin taking RMDs until age 72. However, if you turned 70 ½ in 2019 or earlier there is no change; the new rules begin for those turning 70 ½ in 2020.  Rules for qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) and Roth IRA withdrawals remain unchanged.
  • IRA contributions for as long as you’re employed – If you work past age 70 ½, you can now continue to contribute to either a Roth or a traditional IRA. Before, you could only contribute to a Roth IRA after age 70 ½.
  • Expanded participation for long-term, part-time employees – Even if you’re a part-time employee, you may now be able to participate in your employer’s 401(k) plan.

> SEE MORE

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If You Ever Needed More Evidence To Properly Diversify…

We’ve said it before.  There is nothing better than seeing a few concise, clear pictures that demonstrate (again) why as investors we follow the path we do.  Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) recently came out with a piece that may help you to remember what we absolutely believe to be true.  That is (in their words):

  • Returns can vary sharply from one period to another
  • Holding a broadly diversified portfolio can help smooth out the swings, and
  • Focusing on known drivers of higher expected returns can increase the potential for long-term success

Reminders like this can also help us to answer certain questions we should naturally have from time to time.  Questions such as “why would I continue to hold an investment that (in the short-term) has simply stunk?”  To understand this more, let’s first start by looking at US Stocks (S&P 500) in the first decade of the 21st century (2000-2009) versus the second (2010 until June 2019). Note that you can click on each image to see a larger view:

 

If you’re like me, you may be glad that US Stocks are held in portfolios in some way, given their run over the last ten years.  But what concerns me more is seeing that first decade (at left).  What if US stocks go through a long period of time like this, and you’re just beginning to take income now from your portfolio? > SEE MORE

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