When was the last time you reviewed your mortgage? If it’s been a couple of years, it may be worth pulling out those documents and taking a look at your rate, terms and payment. A few things have happened recently that might make this a good time to look into a refinance, especially if you have a strong credit score.
Sometimes the best strategy is to do nothing at all.
It occurred to me recently as I was thinking about the financial markets that there’s a strong possibility we’re in the same situation we were in between January 2, 2014 and January 4, 2016. During that time, the markets didn’t do much – they went up, but a lot of volatility occurred, and by the fall of 2015, everyone thought for sure we were headed for a recession. The markets were acting funny, and people were convinced that the bull we’d been in since the end of 2009 was officially over.
Then, between January 25, 2016, and October 9, 2019, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained a little better than 60 percent, not including dividends. Even though most people’s accounts were positive, we were bombarded all the time during that two-year period between ’14 and ’16 that the bull was dead. Many people were still making money. They just weren’t making as much money.
The reality is that we do sometimes go through these periods where the markets gyrate up and down and there’s a bunch of gibberish made up by journalists. But, this volatility is worth looking into, and some of you have decided to make some portfolio adjustments now, while we’re not in a recession. And that’s okay.
What I do find somewhat problematic is that, when the markets go nowhere, the best thing for investors to do might be to sit on your hands. Most of the stocks we own are solid American companies who continue to innovate, and whose worth will be realized by investors. But these will also gyrate back and forth, and we won’t know who the true winners are until we’re out of this market period we’re in.
People often take volatility as a time to make a lot of changes in their investments, and while we are actively monitoring your portfolios, I can assure you – and trust me, in my business, I rarely get to make guarantees – but I can tell you that between now and the next election, you’ll be hearing a few soundbites over and over: Trump. China. Impeach. Brexit. Boeing planes grounded. GM strike. Loss of consumer confidence. Impeach.
In my opinion however, all of that is just noise along the investment path.
Here’s the deal. If you’re going to need your money in, the next 24-36 months or so, please, give us a call and let’s talk. But, if you’re a longer term investor, it may be best to sit tight and ignore the news. Mentally remind yourself that most of your investments are a bet on the growth and innovation of America, and nothing else.
When I got into this business in February 1997, the Down Jones Industrial Average was right around 7,000. Currently, it’s around 26,000. I had no idea what the markets would do back then, and while I don’t have a crystal ball to forecast the next 22 years, I do believe that American ingenuity should continue to advance, and that the markets should reflect that ingenuity.
In our office, we see different approaches to money that tend to fall into a few distinct categories. In my business, I often find myself serving as a financial therapist for the families I work with, and that sometimes means figuring out why certain people fall into one of these categories. Finding and addressing the why can also help change any patterns that might be working against you.
Integrating and embracing technology in financial planning.
The other day, I went old school with my kids – we watched the original Knight Rider! My boys were unimpressed to begin with, until woah! It’s a car that talks, and processes everything but human emotions, and self-drives. At this point, my son said, “I guess that’s where the idea for Tesla came from.”
By now, I’m sure you’ve read an article or three on the recent Lyft initial public offering (IPO), unless you’re in a foreign country somewhere, in which case, I’ll explain: Lyft is a ride-sharing app where regular people make side money using their own cars to taxi people around. Trust me, once you use it, you’ll get it!
Sure, we love numbers. But our business is so much more.
We’ve spent the first part of 2019 talking about the emotional realities of retiring and what to expect before and after you take that long-awaited plunge, along with the importance of finding your perfect match in a financial planning team. (Hint – we hope it’s us!)
Today, I want to talk a little about the emotional side of why I got into this business in the first place. Now, you’re thinking, “Dave, aren’t you a numbers guy?” And the answer is yes. I am. I love the financial markets, and helping people work toward their financial goals, whatever they think their “magic number” might be. However, although it’s true that I chose this profession and then chose to start my own company because I enjoy crunching numbers, I also chose this profession because I truly do love to help people.
If you’re a current client, you’ll remember that our initial meeting lasted between 90 minutes and two hours. Now, if all I wanted to do was look at your current finances, plug them into a few formulas and send you back out into the world, I wouldn’t take up anywhere near that much of your time – or mine. But that first meeting is the beginning of getting to know who you are not only as a financial client, but as a whole person.
Some folks look at me strangely when I ask some seemingly invasive or unrelated questions during meetings, but let’s back up for a minute. Almost everything we do in life involves money in some way. Right? Your health, your home, your children and grandchildren, your cars, where you like to vacation, how often you eat out and what brand of watch or shoes you like to sport. The simple truth is that what you choose to spend your money on says a lot about your values, and how you approach life in general. We’re never prying or judging, I promise. We’re just gathering information.
As an example, many clients don’t think about coming to our team before they buy a home, but I will always, always encourage you to come in for a meeting before making any major purchase. No, I’m not a lender or mortgage broker, but I can help you see how a major purchase can affect the rest of your finances and goals – and whether you’re making an emotional or rational decision.
Beyond putting your financial puzzle together so our team can see the whole picture, however, the emotional side of our business really shows itself after we’ve established trust. Whether it’s a tragedy or a windfall, an unexpected raise or layoff, a struggling child who needs help or setting up a trust for a favorite charity, these life events are all emotional in some way – and all affect your finances in one way or another. We like to think of ourselves as financial therapists, and my team and I have spent many hours in our conference room listening to client families work through life’s ups and downs and twists and turns. And it truly makes us feel good to do so.
Lots of folks get into the financial planning business because they are just numbers guys or gals, and that’s fine. This industry is obviously about numbers. But if an advisor only looks at a client’s investment portfolio and bottom line, makes a few tweaks and moves on to the next client, that advisor is missing out on what’s truly special about this industry – and the client is missing out on the benefits of comprehensive, holistic financial planning.
If you’re looking for something more from your financial planning team than you’re currently getting, our door is always open. We’ll provide a safe and confidential space for you and your family to talk about the emotional stuff that’s going on in your life, and how you can best prepare for these types of events in the future. For our current clients, has life handed you a lemon lately? Or an incredible gift of some sort? Please, pick up the phone and tell us about it. We’ll celebrate with you, or help you make some lemonade. That’s what we do.
One thing that always follows New Year’s resolutions is the review of your stock portfolio, right? Lots of folks want to sit down and talk about not just the previous year, but take a look three or five years back. Then come the questions of “what have you done for me lately?” as folks look at their statements after the volatility of the last quarter. We know we need to be prepared to answer these questions, and we welcome them.
Make sure you find the right professional as well as personal relationships.
Seems like everyone is looking for that perfect match, especially this month, right? Whether you’ve found your soulmate, or you’re still looking, or you’ve given up, dating sites are everywhere these days. Speaking of perfect matches, when it comes to our clients, we know that, for those of you who have found us and started working with us, we probably weren’t your first love. In some cases, we weren’t the second, third, fourth or even fifth! Some of you only found us a year or two before you retired, and some didn’t walk through our doors until a year or two after you retired.
Falling in love is a wonderful feeling, and as a financial planner, it would be great if we could craft the perfect image and message that would make everyone who reads it say, “Ah ha! That’s who I want to do business with!” Unfortunately, as anyone who’s ever ventured into the wild world of online dating will tell you, that perfect dating profile is elusive if not downright impossible to find. And, nothing we could come up with would be as entertaining as some of the ads those dating sites put out there!
So, to have a little fun this month, our staff looked around and compiled a list of our favorites that we think you’ll enjoy. From the sappy Plenty of Fish to Match.com trying to convince you a first date could actually be like this, to the real-life couples featured by Christian Mingle to my favorite, Farmers Only – then there’s the slap-stick approach taken by Zoosk, eHarmony telling you you’ll always be a bridesmaid, and of course the world of apps like Tinder, Bumble and lots more I’m sure, that I won’t even go into. Even if you’ve already found your beloved, these are good for a laugh!
In all seriousness though, one thing that works in any mutually beneficial relationship – whether personal or professional – is finding someone who will pay attention to you, listen to you, and with whom you have some things in common. This is why we take a team approach to financial planning. We know different personalities click differently with different people, so we will always work as a team on your behalf.
This month, we’re going to be exploring how you will benefit when you feel you have found that perfect match with a financial planning team and other professionals. We’ll cover topics such as what you’re hoping your money can do for you, how insurance should fit into your financial plan, how frequently you should meet with your team, and how your financial planner will interact with other professionals in your life, such as attorneys and CPAs.
If you’re already working with our team, we’re glad we found each other, and we hope you’ll pass our name along to others you think might be a good fit. For those of you who aren’t yet working with us, maybe February is the time to take that plunge and make a connection. First meetings are always free, and we’ll keep the coffee hot.
The vast majority of times when I do look at a prospective client’s portfolio, I typically see some things that didn’t happen, and some things that did happen, that I’d recommend changing up. Some of the symptoms I like to address when asked for a second opinion are as follows:
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