Stock Market Recap after the First Quarter

From what you heard on news you might think the stock market had a horrible first quarter.  With 3 individual trading days that had very large drops, that seemed to be the big news in the stock market.  But in reality the market didn’t really do too bad in the first quarter.  The following is an excerpt from the Matson Money quarterly statement.

“The 1st quarter of 2018 saw a reversal in course in broad equity markets, with both domestic and international equities declining. U.S. stocks fell by 0.76% as represented by the S&P 500 index, while international stocks also weakened, with the MSCI World Ex-USA Index declining 2.04% for the quarter. In unusual fashion, fixed income also finished mostly negative over the quarter. As a result of increasing interest rates, the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Intermediate Government/Credit Bond Index lost 0.98%.

In the previous quarterly letter, we mentioned how the S&P 500 Index was on a run of 14 consecutive positive quarters. It was noted that although this can give investors a euphoric feeling, it can be dangerous because it can lure them into believing that volatility and downside risk are no longer a reality in equity investing. Stephen King has a succinct yet profound quote in the book The Colorado Kid that states “Sooner or later, everything old is new again”

This quote is applicable in many disciplines, but can be especially useful when applied to investing. When returns are negative, it can feel like they will never turn around. Conversely, in times where returns have been positive for an extended period, it can feel like they’ll go up forever. But inevitably, downward volatility will return to the market, and periods of negative returns will show up again. This is what we have experienced over this past quarter, downward volatility returned, equity returns turned negative. What was old is new again.

Why is this an important concept to remember? Because so many investors react on emotion to what is occurring in the present moment, which can undermine their long-term investing success as a result. Each year Dalbar Inc. puts out a comprehensive study titled “2018 QAIB Report” which looks at the individual investor return of all mutual fund investors in the U.S. In this study, they show that the average equity fund investor only received an annualized average return of 5.29% over the 20-year period ending 12/2017, compared to 7.20% for the S&P 500 Index. One of the main contributors to their underperformance is the fact that the average investor had a retention rate of only 4.03 years. What this means is that every 4 years they decided to change the course of their current investment strategy and go in a different direction.

One can surmise that many of these investment changes result from an emotional reaction to the current market conditions. While the difference between 7.20% and 5.29% may not seem that large, over that 20-year period, the average investor would have received over $120,000 LESS than the S&P 500 on a $100,000 initial investment.

We know the historically these cycles of volatility come and go, and that bear markets follow bull markets and vice versa. But over long periods of time, if an investor remained disciplined and consistent with their investment philosophy, they could have been rewarded with generous market returns. The ability to ignore the noise and keep a long-term focus is an extremely important component for an investor, and as the Dalbar data reveals, can also be extremely difficult.

In the end, choosing a wise financial strategy – and sticking to it  – can have tremendous impact on an investor’s long term financial health. Chasing performance through buying and selling is a risky game. Historically speaking, it will only reduce an investor’s real return. Relying on unbiased, non-emotional advice from a trusted investor coach to make good decisions can help an investor bridge that gap between what the average investor makes and the return of the market.”

References

  1. Matson Money. “Account Statement.” Letter to James Hancock. 15 Apr. 2018. MS.

Should You Be Dollar Cost Averaging?

Today we are going to discuss dollar cost averaging (DCA) and how it is most likely helping your retirement portfolio.

Dollar Cost Averaging-  The technique of buying a fixed dollar amount of a particular investment on a regular schedule, regardless of the share price. More shares are purchased when prices are low, and fewer shares are bought when prices are high.”  1.

Dollar Cost Averaging for Dummies

So to put it more simply, dollar cost averaging is when you are investing in a type of investment that has shares (stocks or mutual funds) and you are putting in new money on a consistent basis.  You are investing the same amount of money each time, but buying a different amount of shares, due to the fluctuation of share price of a stock or mutual fund.

The Benefit of Dollar Cost Averaging

As it works out over time, because you are able to buy more shares in lower prices, the average price you pay is always lower than the average price of the stock/mutual fund.   It is hard to wrap my mind around it, but whether the price is going up, down or both, you will get your stocks at a discount using Dollar Cost Averaging.

Here is a very basic example.  If you put in $100 a month to a mutual fund priced at $10 per share the first month you would buy 10 shares for that price.  Let’s say the price goes up to $20 per share the second month, so your $100 would buy 5 shares.  So with dollar cost averaging you would have 15 shares after 2 months.  At the same average share price of $15, if you invested the same $200 you would only have 13.3 shares.

So most individual investors saving for retirement use DCA as they invest a monthly amount into their retirement account.   This makes sense and is obviously a good way to invest.  Much better than to try and time the market and only put money in when you feel the market is safe or poised to have a big run up.   It is also a way to put investing for retirement on the monthly budget and plan it in instead of having to make room for it.

Is Dollar Cost Averaging ever bad?

There is only one situation in which Dollar Cost Averaging is not the best option.    If you have a lump sum from receiving an inheritance, bonus,  or are just starting to invest, it is almost always best to invest the lump sum rather than putting it in slowly over time.   Let me explain.

Throughout history the market has ALWAYS gone up over the long term, meaning 10, 20, 30 years.  There has never been a 20 year period where there has been  a loss in the market.  So the more shares you can buy now, usually the better you are.  If you wait to invest, odds are you are going to be buying at a higher price then you could have earlier.   Going back 88 years, 66 of those years have been up markets.  Going forward there is no way for us to know when the market will be up or down.

So the main reason people would rather use Dollar Cost Averaging over contributing a Lump Sum is FEAR.  They are scared the market will crash or take a big drop, because that is what they say on the news almost every single day.  They have been saying it ever since the market bounced back in 2009.   We should not let fear control our investment decisions.

For the average investor saving for retirement, consistent monthly contributions are the way to go, but if you ever do come across a lump sum of money that you want to invest, don’t wait to invest it.

By Jimmy Hancock



References

1. Investopedia. “Dollar-Cost Averaging (DCA) Definition | Investopedia.” Investopedia. Investopedia US, n.d. Web. 04 Sept. 2014. <http://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/dollarcostaveraging.asp>.

2. Miller, Steve. “Dollar Cost Averaging EP 265 08192014.” Livestream. Matson Money, 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 04 Sept. 2014. <http://www.livestream.com/markmatson/video?clipId=pla_0a3928e4-319d-4575-9297-eac738bffcd7&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb>.

What to do During a Stock Market Crash

So the stock market has officially had a “correction” over the last few weeks which is a 10% drop from the previous high.  And many people are panicked!  But panicking after a big drop in the market can be very bad for your long term retirement account.  Especially if that panic involved pulling your money (10% less than you had 4 weeks ago) out of the stock market.

This might sound weird but I actually got excited when the stock market took it’s big tumbles over the last few weeks.  I have been waiting for a good opportunity to “buy low” in the stock market.   Yes, now is the best time to put extra money into your retirement investment account.   Buying shares in a time like this is like when your favorite store has a 10% off your entire purchase sale!  Basically, you get the same items for a lower cost.

There are a few reason why I don’t panic when the stock market goes down.

First, I understand that the stock market has always come back from corrections and crashes to reach new highs.   Along with that, I know that the stock market as tracked by the S&P 500 has made over 10% per year on average over the last 30 years.   I often get asked by people, what if it just keeps going down and I lose all my money?   Investing in a diversified mix of over 12,000 stocks makes it very unlikely for you to lose all of your money.  What are the odds that 12,000 companies across the world in different sectors providing different products all go bankrupt at the same time?

Second, I know I am in this for the long haul.  Every investor is at a different place and will use their money for different things.  If you are needing the money you have invested in the next few years, you should definitely not have a vast majority of your money in stocks.  But either way, you can be invested for the long haul.  Even throughout retirement, yes have a big chunk of your money in bonds, but why wouldn’t you stay invested and give your money a chance to grow and keep up with inflation.  Smart people look at investing as a lifelong thing.

Third, I don’t believe that me or anyone else can accurately predict the future.  This is a big one.  I get asked all the time innocent questions about investing and the stock market from clients and others that are all based around predicting the future.  Questions such as, is this going to end up being a crash?  Do you think stocks are overpriced?  How much do you think a diversified mix of stocks will make this year?  When I answer this question by saying I cannot predict the future, people are usually not satisfied.   The great thing about it is that you do not need a prediction about the future to be a successful investor and make money in the stock market.

Lastly, I believe in the phrase, buy low and sell high.  It is usually the hard thing to do at the time.  When the stock market is crashing down and you see the headlines say, this is the biggest drop in the Dow in its history, it isn’t necessarily an easy thing to buy stocks on that day.  On the opposite end, when the market is up for 2 straight years and the economy looks great and the headlines say, this is just the beginning for stocks, it isn’t easy to rebalance your portfolio and thus sell stocks and buy bonds.

Ultimately, we know there are going to be stock market ups and downs in the short term, but if you have a low cost diversified mix of stocks you will be doing alright in the long term.

By Jimmy Hancock

References

1. Matson Money. Separating Myths From Truths, The Story of Investing. N.p.: n.p., n.d. PPT.

Why You Might Want to do a Roth Conversion in 2018

The new tax changes for 2018 have many people looking into Roth Contributions and Roth Conversions.  The main reason being, with lower tax brackets for the next several years, there is less of a reason for getting tax breaks now, and more of a reason to get tax free growth for the future.    No matter what your income or tax status is, you can take advantage as well.

What is a Roth Conversion?

A Roth conversion is when you convert money from a pre-tax account (Traditional IRA, 401k, 403B) to a Roth IRA.   By doing this you pay the taxes now on any money converted over, and get the benefit of never having to pay taxes on that money or its growth ever again.

Advantages of a Roth IRA

With a Roth IRA you have many tax advantages over a Traditional IRA.  The most obvious one is that any money you take out after age 59 1/2 and after having the account open for at least 5 years is 100% tax free.  As a part of this benefit is that there are no required minimum distributions at age 70 1/2, and your Roth money can go tax free to future generations at your passing.   Another advantage is that you can always take the total amount contributed to a Roth IRA out without any tax penalty, even if you are not 59 1/2.  It is just the growth on the account that would cause a penalty if taken out early.

Do I qualify for a Roth Conversion?

There are no income restrictions or limits for who can convert to a Roth IRA.  There are income limits for contributions to a Roth IRA, but not conversions.  Because of this anyone who wants to can take advantage of this possible huge tax saving trick.

What is a Backdoor Roth IRA?

A backdoor Roth IRA is for savers that don’t qualify to contribute to a Roth IRA because their income is too high(over $199,000 for married filing jointly)  There is a way for them to contribute to Roth IRA by first contributing to a Traditional IRA with after tax money and then immediately converting the money in the Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.   Because there are no income limits on after tax Traditional IRA contributions this is legal, and can be very beneficial in terms of tax savings.

How much will it save me?

Just to show you the power of a Roth account vs a Pre-tax account, I will give you an example.  Elicia is 30 years old and plans to contribute $5500 a year into a Roth IRA until retirement at age 65.  Ryder is also 30 and plans to do the same but into a Traditional IRA.   In this example I will assume they both get exactly the same return(8% before retirement, 6% after), are in the same average tax brackets each year(30% before retirement, 15% after), and take the money out over a 25 year span in retirement.    During the working years Ryder would have saved $57,750 on taxes compared to Elicia’s $0 saved.   But as they took the money out in retirement Ryder will pay $250,667 to Uncle Sam while Elicia will pay $0.   In this example, a Roth IRA saved Elicia almost $200,000 in tax payments to the government.

Is a Roth Conversion for Everyone?

A Roth Conversion is not right for everyone.  There are a lot of things to consider depending on your age, tax bracket, and current investments.  A Roth Conversion may be very beneficial to you, especially in the long run, but you need the help and advise of a knowledgeable investment coach to decide if it is best in your situation.

By Jimmy Hancock



How Good Were Stocks in 2017

International stocks continued the hot streak and finished the year well ahead of US stocks, while both categories did much better than Bonds.   The following is an excerpt from the Matson Money quarterly statement.

“The 4th quarter of 2017 saw a continued increase in broad equity markets,  both domestically and internationally. U.S. stocks grew by 6.64% as represented by the S&P 500 index, while international stocks had another  positive quarter to book-end their stellar 2017, with the MSCI EAFE index  returning 4.23% for the quarter. After underperforming U.S. stocks for the last several years, the EAFE returned 25.03% for the year, leading the way against  U.S. stocks. Additionally, emerging market stocks outperformed both  domestic and developed international stocks, with the MSCI Emerging  Markets Index rising by 37.75% for the year.

In recent history, we have experienced an extended period of rising returns. Using the S&P 500 Index as a proxy for the stock market, there have been 14 consecutive positive months, and 21 of the last 22. Extending this time-period out longer, over the last 5 years 19 of the 20 quarters have been up. While periods of up markets returns are undoubtedly easier to go through than those of volatile and/or down markets, they can have negative consequences on investors just the same. Many investors equate the idea of “staying disciplined” to not panicking and selling equities while they are down, and indeed, this is an important trait. However, staying disciplined is equally important and can be equally as challenging during times when everything seems to be going well. Deciding upon a personal risk tolerance and time horizon for your investments is one of the earmarks of a sound financial plan. In 1996, then-Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan coined the phrase “Irrational Exuberance” to describe investors who let their current emotions resulting from a hot stock market supersede rational, prudent investing. In simpler terms, they were ignoring their personal risk tolerances because of a period of favorable returns. An argument can be made that managing behavior is the most important aspect of being a good investor. Unfortunately, it is probably also the most difficult part of being a good investor. Despite Greenspan’s warning, many investors loaded up on investments that were riskier than what was prudent for them. Not only by increasing equity exposure, but by investing in hot sectors such as tech start-ups. The idea of missing out on the returns that one perceives that  others are receiving can be a strong motivator.

Unfortunately, many people who overextended themselves were exposed to dramatic losses. From September 2000 to September 2002, the S&P 500 lost over 44% of its value, and the NASDAQ, which is an index of tech company stocks, fell 78% in 30 months from peak to trough, with many individual  companies going to zero. In today’s environment, there is a danger for some investors to repeat the mistakes of the past. With stocks going up 19 out of 20 quarters, it can be easy for one to ignore the downside risk of equities and try to ride the current wave of good returns.

In the 90’s, many investors saw those around them supposedly getting rich by owning start-up companies that were taking advantage of a new paradigm of technology. In the same fashion, today cryptocurrencies are the hot new technology. While no one truly knows how long stocks will continue to rise or how high Bitcoin may go, it is important for investors to not get caught up in the hysteria and stray from the level of risk that they can handle. In the end, choosing a wise financial strategy -and sticking to it -can have  tremendous impact on an investor’s long term financial health. Chasing performance through buying and selling is a risky game. Historically speaking, it will only reduce an investor’s real return. Relying on unbiased, non-emotional advice from a trusted investor coach to make good decisions can help an investor bridge that gap between what the average investor makes and the return of the market.”

References

  1. Matson Money. “Account Statement.” Letter to James Hancock. 15 Jan. 2018. MS.

Is It Now Safe to Invest in the Stock Market?

All time highs and continued growth in the stock market seem to scare investors.  You can hear fears of a pull back on any media outlet you prefer.  But  Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that investors face is determining if “right now” is a safe time to invest (meaning not just the present, but any time). What makes it difficult for investors is a twofold issue: first, is a lack of historical knowledge and perspective, and second, their own emotions. Actually, if one looks back on an historical basis, it would have appeared that there was no safe period in which to invest. Investors are really funny in this regard (actually most advisors are really no better). In 2009 investors were in shell shock coming out of the 2008 financial debacle. By 2015 it was really too good and couldn’t last. Then came the Trump Election, which people thought would most definitely crash the market.    What investors are looking for is something that does not exist—ever—a “Goldilocks” market!

I’m going to take some historical facts and figures to provide some historical context that may enable my clients to feel more comfortable when faced with the ongoing question of “is it safe.”
The first issue that investors must confront is that there is no such thing as a “safe” investment and this applies whether funds are invested in equities, bonds, government fixed income, gold, real estate, your mattress or in a coffee can in the back yard. Your money is always subject to one form of risk or another. For a more complete discussion on this subject read Main Street Money by Mark Matson. If you don’t have a copy let me know and I will get you one.
In this blog, I’ll confine myself to discussing equities and fixed income contained within a diversified portfolio that is periodically rebalanced, with dividends and capital gains reinvested, because that is what we do with our client’s money. Let’s take a decade by decade look at all the challenges investors have faced.

1920’s
• 1917-23 Russian Civil War
• 1922 Mussolini takes control of Italy (eliminates private ownership, total government control!! Hmm!)
• 1923 Hyperinflation in Germany
• 1926+27 Chinese Civil War
• 1929 Wall Street Crash
• 1929-39 Great Depression
A horrible period to be invested in the market—manic market followed by the 1929 crash. Yet a fully diversified portfolio had $100,000 growing to $135,000 at the end of the decade.

1930’s
• 1932-33 Holodomor Starvation
• 1933 The Nazi Party come into power
• 1933-45 The Jewish Holocaust
• 1935 US Presidential Candidate Assassinated (Huey Long)
• 1935-1936 Italian/Abyssinian War
• 1936-38 Stalin Purges (including Gulag Death Camps)
• 1936-39 Spanish Civil War
• 1937 The Hindenburg Airship Explodes
• 1939-45 World War II
Talk about a horrific period to begin investing? Probably the worst ten year period, economically we have ever experienced. Yet, $100,000 invested at the beginning of the decade grew to $152,000.

1940’s
• 1933-45 The Jewish Holocaust continued
• 1939-45 World War II continued
• 1945 President Roosevelt dies before the war ends
• 1945 Eastern Europe is dominated by Communist USSR
• 1949-1993 The Cold War
What could be a worse time to begin investing as Word War II was starting, followed by the beginning of the Cold War. Let me interject an investment factoid here. The renown international investor, Sir John Templeton made his initial reputation by borrowing $10,000 and buying 100 shares of every stock on the New Your Stock Exchange selling for less than $1 at the start of the war.
If you had controlled your anxiety, like Sir John, and invested $100,000 at the start of the decade, you would have been amply rewarded by seeing that investment grow to $336,000!

1950’s
• 1949-93 The Cold War continues
• 1950-53 The Korean War
• 1951 Mao Zedong takes power in China
• 1956 Suez Canal Crisis
• 1956 Russian quashing of the Hungarian Revolution
• 1959 The Cuban Revolution
• 1959-75 The Vietnam War
This was supposedly the boring decade under President Eisenhower. However, international events didn’t take a holiday and they continued to swirl about us creating many excuses for avoiding the assumption of any investment risk.
Nevertheless, investors who ignored events and invested $100,000 at the start of the decade had $393,000 in their portfolios at the end of the decade.

1960’s
• 1949-93 The Cold War continues
• 1959-75 The Vietnam War continues
• 1961 The Berlin Wall built
• 1962 The Cuban Missile Crisis
• 1963 JFK Assassinated
• 1964 China explodes its first nuclear bomb
• 1967 Six Day Israeli/Egypt War
• 1968 MLK and RFK assassinated—rioting in major cities
• 1969 Libyan Revolution—Khaddafi comes to power
This was the decade where we got to watch both national and international occurrences in almost “real time” thanks to the expansion of television and global communications. An event filled decade both home and abroad. Plenty of excused could be found as to why it was not safe to invest. Yet again, $100,000 invested at the start of the decade produced a portfolio worth $259,000 by the end of the decade.

1970’s
• 1949-93 The Cold War continues
• 1959-75 The Vietnam War continues
• 1970 The beginning of Terrorism in the world
• 1972 Kidnap and murder of Israeli Athletes at Olympics Games
• 1972 President Nixon resigns
• 1975-79 Khmer Rued in Cambodia (Genocide)
• 1979 Saddam Hussein comes to power
• 1979-1981 Iranian kidnapping of U.S. Embassy and diplomats
This decade begins with Vietnam, followed by the Nixon resignation, then the Iranian Embassy kidnapping, and ends with President Carter’s “malaise.” Gas lines, international problems, national embarrassment and a Russian bear looking more ominous.
Yet somehow if one was courageous enough to invest $100,000 at the beginning of the decade, it would have grown to $271,000.

I could go on with the history lesson, but suffice it to say that the 80’s decade rewarded $100,000 by growing to $453,000. In the 90’s it grew to$338,000.
This last decade, which was sort of known as the “lost decade” because of the dot.com/tech bubble, the real estate bubble. This resulted in two severe bear markets. Still investors were rewarded by having their portfolio vastly outperform the underlying cost of living and inflation.
So the lesson for all is that if one pays attention to events, you can always find a reason why it is not a good time to invest—and historically, you would have always been wrong!! I will not say anything about the world we find ourselves in today because we have always found ourselves in difficult times both domestically and globally—there have always been challenges and there always will—it is just the nature of the species.
As to the basic question: Is it safe? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions!

By Jim Hancock

References

Source of returns figures for the various asset classes utilized in the hypothetical portfolio: DFA Returns Software 2.0, Feb. 2011. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Performance included reinvestment of all dividend and capital gains.

1.Taylor, Fred. “Commentary: Is It Safe?” Message to the author. 6 Aug. 2014. E-mail.

2. Matson Money. But This Time it Really is Different. N.p.: n.p., n.d. PDF. https://www.matsonmoney.com/

Bitcoin: Are you Missing Out?

Do you suffer from FOMO?  FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out.  Just about everyone suffers from this in one way or another.  Bitcoin is becoming more of a household word and it’s popularity is exploding. So what is bitcoin, and is it something you should invest in?

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a form of cryptocurrency that only exists in numbers on a computer screen, rather than an actual coin or physical dollar bill. It is a form of international currency and it is the first decentralized digital currency in the world.   You can buy bitcoin from any online bitcoin seller, by trading your dollars for bitcoin.  There are many other types of cryptocurrency now trying to surpass bitcoin in popularity.

Why is Bitcoin so popular right now?

The price of 1 Bitcoin started out close to $1 back in 2011, and now the price of 1 bitcoin is about $17,000. Even just a month ago it was well under $10,000!  That is some pretty extreme price fluctuation and growth.  Also, just recently, trading futures of Bitcoin became available, and ETF’s with Bitcoin are coming soon.

Should you invest in (buy) Bitcoin?

Investing in Bitcoin is much more similar to gambling, than it is to prudent stock market investing.   Yes, if you buy Bitcoin now, you could be filthy rich in a year, but you could also be completely broke too.   There is so many regulatory issues that Bitcoin has not made it through yet, and there have been several instances of bitcoin price manipulation and fraud.

My main suggestion when it comes to Bitcoin is to only use money that you absolutely do not need and could live without to invest in Bitcoin.  If you have the desire and want to try it out, go right ahead, but not with grocery or retirement money.

I have personally been watching the price of Bitcoin over the last few weeks, and the price swings have been pretty extreme on a daily basis.  The price volatility seems to be about 10 times more extreme than the price volatility of the stock market.   For now, most of the price swings have been up.

Over the coming weeks and months, you will hear many “investing gurus” or maybe even radio commercials hyping the potential to get rich investing in Bitcoin.

Buying Bitcoin without actually Buying Bitcoin

The prudent way to invest in Bitcoin, is by investing in a globally diversified stock portfolio.  In this way, you are in turn investing in some companies that buy, sell, and accept Bitcoin.  In this way you take a lot of the risk out of it, and get more steady returns.  Your Fear Of Missing Out senses might not be quenched, but you will be able to sleep better at night.

(Update: From the time I wrote this 2 days ago to now, the price of Bitcoin went up to over $18,000, and is now down below $17,000.)

By Jimmy Hancock

References

Solin, Dan. “Bitcoin in Perspective.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bitcoin-in-perspective_us_5a2fd4e4e4b0bad787127002?utm_content=buffer00ef8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.

 

Health Insurance in Idaho in 2018

As the Open Enrollment Period for enrolling in a qualified health insurance plans kicks off for 2018, I thought it would be a good time to review some basics on how health insurance in Idaho works these days.

Open Enrollment Period

If you do not currently have a health insurance plan you have until December 15th to get signed up, or else you will most likely have to wait for 2019.   If you already have a health insurance plan, the deadline to switch to a different plan is the same day, December 15th.

Who Qualifies for a premium tax credit?

APTC, or Advanced Premium Tax Credit is when your health insurance premiums are significantly reduced based on your income.  Anyone who isn’t offered coverage from work and has income between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line based on their family size may qualify for the premium tax credit.  Coverage from work also applies to spouses and children if coverage is offered to them.   The 2018 federal poverty line for a family of 1 is $12,060 and goes up by $4,180 for each additional person in the family. 1.   So a family of 4 can make as much as $98,400 and still qualify for a premium tax credit.

Options for Coverage in Idaho

Options are pretty slim in most states, including Idaho.  There are 4 health insurance carriers (Mountain Health Co-op, Blue Cross, Select Health, and Pacific Source) offering individual and family coverage on and off the Idaho Exchange(must get coverage on exchange to get APTC) , and 1 more that offers individual coverage outside the exchange only (Regence).   Of those 5, only 3 are really competitively priced.  But then when you talk about price increases and deductibles that keep going up, there are really no “affordable” options for most people.   With that being said, whatever your current situation is you might be able to save money by looking into all your options.  The prices vary so much with each company each year that it is usually not in your best interest to stick with the same company year over year.

Saving Money

For example, I helped a family save hundreds of dollars a month by switching them from being a spouse and children on a school district employer health plan, to a family plan off the exchange with Regence, separate from their employer.  Coverage for the actual employee is usually a very good price, but if your employer offers coverage for your spouse and children, it is usually more expensive then what you could get separate from your employer.

Another option to possibly consider, is Medi-Share, which is a Christian Care Ministry.  It is not health insurance, but it works similarly at a much lower cost and has saved people thousands of dollars.

Last but not least, if you are seriously considering going without any coverage, I would suggest you look into Health Values, a supplemental insurance carrier, which covers accidents and is under $100 for the whole family no matter your age or health.

If you need help with your health insurance I am a licensed agent  and work with the Idaho health insurance companies as well as Medi-Share and Health Values.

By Jimmy Hancock

References

  1. ASPE. “2017 Poverty Guidelines.” US Department of Health and Human Services, 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 31 Oct. 2017. <https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines>.



2017 Stock Market Update

The stock market has continued to have success. The big surprise of the year continues to be international stocks. The Matson Money International Stock fund is up 21.89% this year, compared to the Matson Money US Stock Fund which is up just 8.27%. The following is from the Matson Money quarterly update.

“The 3rd quarter of 2017 saw a continued increase in broad equity markets,  both at home and internationally. U.S. stocks grew by 4.48% as represented by  the S&P 500 index, and for a third consecutive quarter, international stocks  fared even better, with the MSCI EAFE index returning 5.47% for the quarter.  After lagging in recent quarters, small stocks surged ahead this quarter, with the MSCI EAFE Small Cap Index returning 7.52%, while the Russell 2000  Index delivered a 5.67% return.

The news cycle over the last quarter was dominated by natural disasters and escalating geopolitical tensions; specifically in rhetoric exchanged  between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The  hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean and displaced millions in Houston were great tragedies that impacted countless people and caused billions of dollars of damage. In times where events such as these elicit powerful negative  emotions and we see the massive damage and hurt that many people are going through, it can be difficult to not let that emotion bleed over into our perception of the overall economy or financial markets. It can seem intuitive to believe that the unexpected loss of billions of dollars of infrastructure and the collateral damage of lost businesses and millions of employees who are  temporarily out of work would have a tangible impact on our overall economy and therefore negatively impact financial markets, reversing the general upward trend.

However, as with many other seemingly logical intuitions  regarding the what’s and whys of stock market performance, this too is not reflected in reality. In both the current market and what we have experienced historically, the stock market has an uncanny ability to shake off bad news and move uncorrelated to whatever else may be happening in the news, in contrast to what people may expect.

When we look at negative catastrophic events that have occurred throughout history, whether it be war or natural disaster, equity markets have on average generated positive returns despite these calamities. When looking at the  subsequent 1-year return from the month in which the following event  occurred: Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the start of the Vietnam War, the eruption of Mount St. Helens, the S.F. Earthquake of 1989, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Super Storm Sandy, we see an average return of 9.70% as measured by the S&P 500 Index. This included 6 positive years and 2 that were negative, or 75% positive years. Over the entire time-period for which we have data from 1926-2016, the average annualized return of the S&P was 10.04%, and 67 of the 91 years were positive, or 74% positive years. This data would  indicate that even some of the worst or most trying events in U.S. history did not result in the stock market behaving, on average, any differently than it did in any other year. Trying to predict the movement of the market based on geopolitical events or natural disasters proves to be the same folly as any other form of forecasting.

In the end, choosing a wise financial strategy, and sticking to it, can have tremendous impact on an investor’s long term financial health. Chasing performance through buying and selling is a risky game. Historically speaking, it will only reduce an investor’s real return. Relying on unbiased, non-emotional advice from a trusted investor coach to make good decisions can help an investor bridge that gap between what the average investor makes and the return of the market.”

References

  1. Matson Money. “Account Statement.” Letter to James Hancock. 18 Oct. 2017. MS.

The Surprising Reason You Shouldn’t Buy the Best Mutual Funds

It seems like common sense to buy a product that is popular or seems to be doing well.  For example, a few of my friends will be buying the new I Phone X, largely because Apple has a proven track record of making successful and innovative phones.  As consumers, that is what we look for when buying things.

On a similar note, many investors think it is common sense to invest their money with a mutual fund manager that has proven to be the best by their performance, or track record.  It almost seems like that should be the only reasons to pick a mutual fund manager, is based on their track record.  But I am here to spoil that “common sense” belief when it comes to investing.

There has been recent research on this topic, which confirms decades of academic findings, suggesting you should avoid top-rated mutual funds.

“According to a new study by Baird Wealth Management Research, not only do mutual fund ratings not predict future performance, they may be reliable red lights that should warn you against buying a fund.  Baird analyst Aaron Reynolds asked the question “do fund ratings predict future performance?” Here’s what he found:”

“For US stock funds, the research found that ratings were negatively predictive of future performance, e.g. a high rated fund will perform worse than a low rated fund.”  How do you explain these results? Often, when a stock fund manager has a good year, it’s due to chance. ” 1

Further Proof

This is one of the myths of investing that Mark Matson talks about all of the time.  5 star mutual funds are the funds that have a great track record over the past few years and that seem to get everything right.  But check out this simple chart that further proves that Track Record Investing gives you below market returns.  2.

Average Annual Return       2007-2011            2012-2016

Top 30 Rated US Stock Funds from 2007-2011           5.07%                     4.35%

All US Stock Funds                                                   -0.12%                     12.04%

So the “top 30” funds from 2007 to 2011 beat the market as a whole by about 5%.   So lets say you read a magazine, saw a headline, or worse yet your investment advisor says to invest in one of these funds that “continually beats the market”.   You decide to buy in at the end of 2011.  2012 through 2016 come, and your fund gets beat by the market by 8% annually for 5 years.  That’s almost 40% total growth that you missed out on.  Plus you missed out on the 5 years that it beat the market because you got in based on the track record.

The Alternative Method for Deciding on Mutual Funds?

If looking at Track Record isn’t the best way to determine what funds to invest in, then what is?  How about academic studies?  Studies done by Nobel Prize winners show that investing in a globally diversified fund, that doesn’t try to beat the market, but just focuses on getting market returns and rebalancing is the best way to invest long term. 3.  You should not try to find a mutual fund that is going to beat the market, you need one that is going to get market returns and charge lower total fees.  Stock market returns over long periods of time are surprisingly high.  To get good long term returns, you don’t need to gamble or speculate.  Fund managers that try to beat the market not only often fail in their quest, but they incur much more costs to you the investor.

Track Record Investing could be detrimental to your long term retirement portfolio.   Don’t fall for the hot mutual fund headlines.

by Jimmy Hancock

References

1. Wasik, John. “Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Highly-Rated Mutual Fund.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2014/03/24/why-you-shouldnt-buy-a-highly-rated-mutual-fund/>.

2. Matson Money. Separating Myths From Truths, The Story of Investing. N.p.: n.p., n.d. PDF. https://www.matsonmoney.com/

3. Matson, Mark. Main Street Money. Mason: Mcgriff Video Productions, 2013. Print.