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.

4 Investment Accounts You Need to Have

What investment accounts are available for me?  What are the tax consequences of investing?  Planning your investments to build a retirement fund can be a dizzying prospect. The various questions, options, details, accounts, and amounts are enough to make anyone’s head spin. It is important to work with an investment coach that can understand your specific needs.

Below are a few basics and suggestions on some options available to most people.

1. Fulfill Your Company’s Match Program: If you work for an employer that has a retirement plan option, this is a must.  Most companies, even small companies, offer some sort of retirement account.  Smaller companies usually have simple IRA’s or SEP IRA’s, while larger companies usually have 401k’s.  There is a high likelihood that your company has a match program as part of their plan.  This means that for each contribution you make into your account, the company will match it up to a certain amount.  So match programs offer an instant 100% return on the money invested.   Before you invest anywhere else, make sure you are investing enough in your work retirement plan to get your full match.

Warning!  If you don’t plan on working for the company long term, make sure you check out the vesting schedule.  A lot of company retirement plans don’t give you full access to the employer contributions unless you work there for a 3 to 5 years.

2. IRA to the Max: An IRA is an individual retirement account that can be opened by anyone seeking to invest.  Investing in an IRA usually gives you more investment choices and flexibility than is offered in many 401k plans.   Also, you have the Roth option.  There has been a long standing battle between the Traditional IRA’s and the Roth IRA’s. When it comes to your retirement planning, your Roth IRA should win this battle in most cases. There are a few different reasons why you should make this move. Investing in a Roth allows you to pay taxes on your income now, and avoid the higher tax rate as it grows in your retirement.  The total taxes paid with a Roth IRA from opening of account to death and beyond are almost always less than with a Traditional IRA.

Who’s eligible?  Even if you have a retirement plan at work you are eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA.

Another thing to consider if you are married is opening a Roth IRA for your spouse.  Even if they are not working you can contribute to their Roth IRA and max it out as well.

3. Open Taxable (Non-Qualified) Accounts: If you have maxed out your company plan and an IRA for your and your spouse, congratulations, you are doing very well in the retirement planning side of things.  But what if you still want to put more money away?  There are still options.   You can still invest more money in a non-qualified account.  If you are married this would be a joint account, and for the singles it is a personal account. There are a few advantages and disadvantages of this type of account.  This is not a tax sheltered account, so there is no taxable advantage.

One big advantage.  There is no tax penalty or fee for taking the money out at any age for any reason.  For that reason a lot of people use this account as an emergency fund, or in any case where they want extra flexibility.

4. Education Planning:  If you have kids, you need to think about saving money for their future, especially their college expenses.  There are Education Savings Accounts, and other ways and means of doing this that are advantageous for tax purposes.

 
There is a lot of things to know, and I haven’t even gotten into life insurance and that side of the retirement planning.   Like I mentioned before, there is a reason that no one has created a perfect plan that fits everyone. Depending on your personal income, you might not be eligible for certain accounts, like a Roth IRA.  But, for most people, these four steps are a great place to start.

By Jimmy Hancock



College Savings Piggy Bank. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2017.

What Those Gold Advertisements Aren’t Telling You

We have all heard the advertisements on the radio and headlines that keep telling us that investors need to flee to safety and buy gold.  They will tell us that the stock market is going to crash worse than last time, and that investors need a hedge to inflation with gold.  They will say it with charisma and inflict fear upon us as investors.  Even I have found myself a little fearful at times.

I have put in the research, and gold as an investment does not make sense for most investors, especially long term investors.  Gold as an investment may give some assurance to the leery, older investor, but the numbers just don’t add up like you might think they do.

Show me the Data

The reason gold is not good as a long term investment is because the growth of the price is extremely low compared with stocks.   Check out this paragraph from article I found.

“Because of inflation, a dollar acquired in 1802 would have been worth just 5.2 cents at the end of 2011. A dollar put into Treasury bills at the same time would have grown to $282, or to $1,632 had it gone into long-term bonds. Held in gold, it would have grown to $4.50. True, that’s a gain even with inflation taken into account. But the same dollar put into a basket of stocks reflecting the broad market would have grown to an astounding $706,199.” 1

1 single dollar grows to almost a million dollars in stocks, but in gold it grows to $4.50.   That stat alone teaches us not only the weak gold price growth, but the extreme growth potential in stocks.

So what about more recently?  Let’s look at Gold’s return over the last 25  years

Over the last 25 years the real return(inflation adjusted) of gold was a measly 1.5%, and 4.1% before inflation adjustment.  2. Stocks as indicated by the S&P 500 over the last 25 years had a return of 9.62%. 3.  That is over 5.5% per year increase compared to gold.  Yes, that includes 2008 stock market crash.  If you understand the value of compounding, you know you can’t afford Gold’s return in a long term portfolio.

The current price of an ounce of Gold is $1281.80.  This is a far cry from where it was just a few years ago when it reached its peak above $1900 in 2011. 4.  If you jumped on that bandwagon, you have hopefully learned a valuable lesson.

Gold as a hedge against inflation

A lot of people that invest in Gold do it knowing about the low long term returns.  The reason they give is it is a hedge against inflation.   I understand this side and its merits, but have 2 minor push backs to that.  First of all, how can you compare the inflation rate, a very constant thing year after year, to the price of gold, which bounces around on extremes year to year.   Second of all, how are stocks not a better hedge against inflation?  If the CPI goes up due to inflation, stock prices also increase.  We saw that with the huge growth rate of stocks back in the 80’s when inflation was very high.

One Case for Gold

The only reason I would ever advise someone to buy gold, is if they believe that a catastrophic, life altering event is coming in the very near future.  If you think we are going to go back to hunters and gatherers and that capitalism will disappear, then I suggest you buy gold.

Final Say

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but in my opinion gold is not a good hedge against inflation, and it is not a good long term investment.  Investing in Gold is better than keeping all of your money under your mattress, but this is a good, better, best argument. If you are scared of stocks it is most likely because you or someone you know has gone about investing in stocks completely wrong in the past.   To win financially for retirement, invest in a globally diversified portfolio filled with stocks and short term fixed income.

-By Jimmy Hancock



References

1. “Investing in Gold: Does It Stack Up? – Knowledge@Wharton.” KnowledgeWharton Investing in Gold Does It Stack Up Comments. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 22 May 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/investing-in-gold-does-it-stack-up/>.

2. Carlson, Ben. “A History of Gold Returns – A Wealth of Common Sense.” A Wealth of Common Sense. N.p., 21 July 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2015. <http://awealthofcommonsense.com/a-history-of-gold-returns/>.

3. “S&P 500.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%26P_500>.

4. “Yahoo Finance – Business Finance, Stock Market, Quotes, News.” Yahoo Finance. N.p., 5 Jun. 2017. Web. 5 Jun. 2017. <http://finance.yahoo.com/>.