Personal Success…..Our Coach of the Year

Blog post #420

Everyone defines success differently.

Success in work, success as a financial advisor, success in life, success as a parent or as a football coach.

Each has a different criterion for accomplishments, goals and success.

My business partner, Keith Rybak, has reached a level of success and accomplishment across many of these areas that are worthy of recognition.

Within our firm, Keith is responsible for the day to day trading, financial rebalancing and working with me on strategy, as well as providing personalized advice and guidance to clients.

Outside of the firm, Keith, along with his wife Ann, are raising their “team” of 5 children, four boys and their daughter, Olivia, who range from almost 9 to 17. Each is different and unique.

On top of all of that, Keith has been coaching youth football for the past 10 years for the Walled Lake Braves football organization, of which Keith also serves as the organization’s President.

While teaching the players values, discipline and sportsmanship, his teams have had a record of 27-2 over the past three seasons. They have won 2 league “Super Bowls,” including the most recent season, in which they finished an undefeated 9-0 on their way to a Championship season. In our view, he is Coach of the Year!

The Braves after they won the “Super Bowl” this season, 22-0, at Wayne State University’s stadium, capping off a 9-0 season. Coach Rybak is in the back row, upper left

Keith feels his football coaching success, similar to progress WWM has made with our clients, is based on preparation and focusing on the long term. Keith has worked with the same set of coaches during much of the past 10 years. WWM has had very little staff turnover, as we have had only one person leave our firm since 2009, who wanted to change careers.

Preparation has been a vital aspect of their football game plan. Keith feels that no other coaching staff was more prepared than his staff. He sees a similarity between coaching, which requires practice and a game plan, and the individual investment plan that we develop for each of our clients, which we call an Investment Policy Statement (IPS).

His coaching staff develops a philosophy each year. For 2019, that philosophy was to build a fearless culture, so that behind every fearless player is a fearless group of coaches, who love and care about their players so much that they refuse to let them be anything less than their best.

I have seen the time, dedication and care that Keith puts into his coaching, and I’m sure that he and his coaching staff strive to help their players, 7th and 8th graders this year, be their best and develop as strong teammates.

Just as we as financial advisors need to adapt to changing financial markets and life events, Keith’s teams would have to evaluate many factors before and during a game, and be able to react, adapt and calmly make quick and decisive decisions.

They would identify their strengths and weaknesses to formulate a game plan. Before and during each game, they would assess their risk. Based on their players and the opponent, should they run or pass more? In his league, passing was more risky than running. How strong was their defense? Did they need to score 4 touchdowns or only 2?

How much risk did they need to take? This is the same question we often discuss with you, our clients, as we evaluate and provide you with financial and investment guidance. How much exposure to stocks do you really need? Do you have the patience to hold small value stocks, during periods when they may underperform other asset classes, for the expected longer term reward?

Keith and his coaches worked with their players from mid-summer through late October. They teach them plays. Emphasize conditioning. Develop teamwork.  They started every practice by chanting “Win Today.”  This was a simple and powerful message, that is applicable to all aspects of life. Their team motto stresses that no other team will out work them, no team will out smart them, they will have better practices, better teammates and “most importantly, no team will have more fun than us.”

An example of the fun that Keith brought to his team, and the league, was helping to organize a special day playing at Michigan Stadium earlier this fall. Various age groups of the organization played all day, while their families and friends got to share in the excitement and photo opportunities. As you can see below, Keith and his son, Austin, had a triumphant day at Michigan Stadium, winning 37-0.

The coaches developed game plans, and based on their record, they clearly executed it very well. At the same time, just as in investing, Keith knew that every play in a game does not work out like they designed it or practiced it. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned.

Keith knew they had the right strategy, but that the outcome would often be different. It still made the strategy correct. Similarly, we are confident that having a globally diversified stock portfolio is the proper long term strategy for most of our clients. Even though International stocks have underperformed US stocks for a period of years, we still feel that having a globally diversified portfolio is the proper long term strategy. Sometimes you can have the right strategy, it just doesn’t work out every play, or every year.

We are quite proud of the effort and results that Keith has had as a football coach for these young athletes. We are confident that they will be better in life, as well as in future athletics, as a result of Keith being their coach.

We are also confident that Keith’s same dedication to planning, strategy, patience and effort will benefit you as a client of our firm.

And just so you don’t have to worry, Keith is not planning to leave his day job as a financial advisor for a football coaching career.

If you want to talk to a winner, on the field and off, give Keith a call.

Italy, Investing and Principles

Blog post #413

My wife Felicia and I were fortunate to have travelled for the past 10 days to Bologna and Florence, Italy, as well as day trips north and south of each, respectively, to visit various family owned establishments that produce Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar and a winery south of Florence, in the Tuscan hills.

When we meet and talk with you, and in these blog posts, we often stress a number of investment themes, which we feel are important for your long term financial and investment success. It seemed more than a coincidence that some of the same critical success factors and issues in investing are vital to each of these high quality, multi-generational businesses.

  • Diversification
  • Patience and Planning for the long term
  • How to deal with events you cannot control

We first visited the Hombre dairy farm in Modena, Italy, which produces 14 wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano a day. The farm has over 500 cows, of which they use 268 cows to produce top quality cheese. While they only use one or two types of cows, they diversify by having many extra cows in their herd.

This is not a quick or simple process. The cows are milked two times per day, at 3 am and 3 pm, 365 days per year, to produce the amount of milk necessary to make the cheese wheels. Each morning’s batch of milk is carefully handled by a small team within a certain number of hours, over and over, in an attempt to ensure that all of the air bubbles are removed before the cheese is sealed.

The cheese is then aged for 24-30 months in a special climate-controlled room. The cheese wheels are cleaned and rotated weekly, to prevent moisture build up. The optimal price at market is 36 months, so the farm tries to sell them at around 30 months. Each wheel must be individually inspected by an expert with a small hammer to be graded as Parmigiano Reggiano. A wheel that is not approved is worth less than 50% of its optimal price. One error in the process can significantly affect the end price.

The dairy farm must be patient and think long term. They have taken care to produce a high-quality product by investing in their land (to feed their cows) and they have to adjust to weather and other factors which could impact any part of the production or aging process.

We visited a family owned business in Modena, north of Bologna, which produces very high-quality balsamic vinegar. La Vecchia Dispensa top products are not the typical balsamic vinegar which we would put on salads, for example. See link to Zingerman’s article, for an explanation.

The production of the balsamic vinegar they bottle and sell this year originated generations ago, back to 1925. We toured their 5-story storage facility, which was like a small tower in a castle, with very narrow, winding, cement stairs between each floor.

The vinegar is aged in wooden barrels, which are key to the aging and taste process. Unlike wine, the type of wood barrel and how the barrel has been aged is much more important to the end product than the grapes which are used. The wooden barrels last for 50-100 years and improve with age. Like our emphasis on long term planning and investing, this family treats these wooden barrels as truly very long-term assets.

Simone Tintori explained to us that they source the grapes from 5-7 separate farms in the Modena area, to ensure they are diversified, particularly if one or more of the farms has growing or harvesting problems. After the grapes are harvested, they choose which ones to use, and the skin and juice are added to barrels in an amazing process.

They have barrels of various sizes and types of wood on different floors of the tower. The barrels are not sealed; they have holes at the top which are covered with a small piece of cloth. A number of times a year, some of each barrel’s contents are transferred by a master to the next barrel in its row. The barrels themselves are not turned or rotated at all. Gradually, over years and decades, juice is moved down the row and then finally taken out of the last barrel with something like a soup spoon. That is the only product to be sold from that row, that year.

The family has a special barrel, called the starter, which can be used to begin a new batch. This carefully treasured starter juice is kept in a glass container, so it is not affected by the aging of the wood barrel. One starter container is in the tower we were in, but they also have four other starter containers in different locations of Modena, as this is so vital to all their future production.

Like the cheese above, and the wine below, their product must be inspected by experts. Blind taste tests determine whether each batch, which is a combination of many decades of grapes, aging and blending by the master, will be certified, as they hope. If a batch fails, the market value drops by 1/2 – 2/3, which Simone says happens, as the judging can be very subjective. Their top quality, traditionally produced and aged balsamic vinegar can sell for $100 to hundreds of dollars per bottle.

Just as we can control with you how much risk should be taken by setting your allocation to stocks, they can control the aging and treatment of the barrels.

They are patient. They are diversified over decades, as each barrel contains juice from many years that has been added and taken out. The taste of each years’ grapes is beyond their control, as that is impacted by weather conditions, particularly near the harvest.

Similar to a mutual fund that may contain hundreds of individual company stocks, no one company stock can have a significant impact on your financial future. This can be a positive or negative, but it is prudent from a long-term perspective. Likewise, no one season of grapes has too much impact on any year’s final production, as the balsamic vinegar that is bottled in any year is the result of decades of grapes, aging in aged barrels, combinations and care. It is very well diversified.

The last food related tour of Italy was a boutique winery about an hour south of Florence, called Fattoria Fugnano, in San Gimignano. We arrived on a rainy day, as they were in the midst of their harvest of grapes. Unlike the balsamic vinegar producers, who are not dependent on a specific year’s harvest, we were greeted by the winery’s owner Laura Dell’Aria, who said she hadn’t slept for days due to the very rainy weather at this most vital time of the year for them. She explained that the grapes could not be harvested for a number of days after the rain stops, as the additional moisture of the rain negatively affects the grapes. Fortunately, as our terrific visit ended hours later, the storms had stopped and the sun shone brightly.

As we often discuss, we focus on things which matter and things you can control. It must difficult to be in a business like a winery where weather, which cannot be controlled, can have such a material impact on one’s livelihood. As financial advisors, we have to deal with uncertainty in many aspects, but if you plan with us, have a long-term perspective or timeframe to meet your financial goals, then shorter term volatility and uncertainty usually can be offset.

Laura is the second-generation owner of the winery, which she took over at age 23 after her grandfather passed away in the late 1990s. Laura explained that she has made some mistakes and learned many things over the years. And she is still learning and trying new things.

Since we founded our firm, we have learned to help our clients remain disciplined and not be as affected by emotions or investment fads. We know that diversification is critical. Just as Laura and her staff educated my wife and I about their wines (which were great, and we highly recommend visiting her winery), their land and even about their bottles and labels, we try to educate you, our clients, to view your portfolio as a whole and for the long term.

Each of these products, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar and the wine, must meet local regulatory approval to be labeled as the highest quality they desire. Not all of the products will get top approval each year. Some years, some products will not fare as well. However, the companies do not give up on their long-term processes, dedication and commitments to quality.

Similarly, in a globally diversified investment portfolio, some asset classes will outperform for a year or many years….and some asset classes will underperform for a year or many years. Just as the wine maker does not give up if a year or two is not as top quality as they desire, we do not feel it is in your best interest to give up on an asset class that has not performed as well for a lengthy period of time, unless there is new data that justifies such a change.

We had a fabulous trip. We also took 2 cooking classes and learned how to make various pasta dishes from scratch. But don’t worry, I’m not giving up my day job to make ravioli full time!

A Tribute to a Special Person

Art Sweet, who was one of the nicest people I have had the privilege of knowing and working with, died last week at the age of 93. We worked together as partners at a prior CPA firm for 18 years, from 1990 until 2008. 

Art had merged his two person CPA and bookkeeping practice into this other CPA firm a number of years before I joined that firm in 1990. Originally, Art intended to gradually transition his clients and retire a few years later. Art exceeded the firm’s “mandatory” retirement age of 65 or 70 by quite a bit, as he continued working until last December….finally retiring at age 93.

I really mean it when I say I had the privilege of working with Art. At a funeral or when someone dies, you sometimes hear people say that everyone liked him or her, or they never heard a bad word about that person. Art Sweet was truly one of these people. He was kind. He was liked by everyone he came in contact with. Although I’m sure he had his private moments, I cannot remember him ever getting angry or raising his voice at anyone.

Art and his wife Gladys, when they were both younger and healthy, were world travelers. They loved music and dancing, as well as their many friends and family. We would frequently drive to one of his favorite lunch places, the former Georgio’s on Greenfield Road, always splitting a Caesar salad and huge bowl of pasta. We would have great conversations about his travels, his last trip or the one he was planning, as well as all types of cultural activities, such as a concert he attended, a movie he had seen or a book he was reading. I felt like I was living vicariously through him. Now, I am able to do some of the things we had talked about at those lunches.

Decades ago, I was in awe of Art for his ability to adapt to all the technology changes he encountered. He started as an accountant and CPA way before personal computers. He did tax returns by hand in pencil. He learned how to use computers, as well as handle the continuous avalanche of tax changes that a CPA faces. It is one thing for someone in their 30s or 40s to learn new technology, but imagine the challenges he faced and overcame to keep current with technology in his 70s, 80s and even in his 90s.

People leave a legacy. Art left me a huge legacy. Many years ago, I read a concept by a consultant, Alan Weiss, that when you look back on your career or firm, you will find that it is very likely that a handful of key people will have had a huge impact on your business.

I am very fortunate that Art had many wonderful clients, as many of Art’s clients transitioned through the years at the CPA firm to become my clients. As I transitioned from a full-time CPA to a financial advisor, many of these clients, and their families, became clients of our financial advisory firm, and are still valued clients and cherished friends.

Art had a love of life and a passion for culture and travel. Art cherished his family, his children, grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. For many years, he cared for his wife as she had Alzheimer’s.

Arthur M. Sweet was a special person. The world lost a very kind and gentle person last week.

I am grateful that he was a part of my life.

Have you checked these recently?

The following are some ideas and reminders of things you should consider, which may prompt some good next steps.

Beneficiaries for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies: Are the actual designations on the forms what you intend? Have you reviewed them recently?

  • It is a good idea to review your beneficiary designation forms every few years, to ensure they reflect your current intent.
  • If you want to provide for charitable bequests upon your death and you have retirement accounts, these gifts should be reflected on retirement account designations, not as part of your will/estate planning documents.

Have you enabled the emergency function on iPhones and other devices?

  • For iPhone users, if you enable the emergency function within the Health app (which comes with the iPhone) and you are in an accident or incapacitated, a first responder can access critical information from your phone, even if your phone has security codes or Touch ID.
  • After going into the Health app, continue to “Medical ID.” Input your name, emergency contacts, and basic health information.
  • The Medical ID feature can be accessed without unlocking any other information on your phone. (Thanks to my kids for this recommendation, which I just did).

Do you know whether your financial advisor is a fiduciary?

  • We highly recommend that your financial advisor be a fiduciary, which means that all of their advice and recommendations must be in your best interest (even if it is not in theirs or their company’s best interest).
  • We are fiduciaries. Most brokers or financial consultants with major brokerage firms and banks are not fiduciaries. The interest of their company can come before your interests. For more information, see this blog post.

Passwords:

  • Are you using complex and different passwords?
  • Have you recently changed the passwords for some of the websites you use most and for banks and credit cards?
  • We highly recommend using an application like 1Password or a comparable password manager, which stores passwords and can automatically enter your passwords and user names for you. For more information, see this blog post, How to Securely and Efficiently Manage Your Passwords.

What is one thing which you are procrastinating on, that if you dealt with it, would enable you to move forward?

  • Think about this. We hope this helps you resolve something or move an issue forward. Procrastination can mean it’s important, but you just need to focus on it and determine the next step.

Have you checked your FICO score or your Social Security information?

  • FICO scores are important for interest rates on loans and applying for credit. You can get this for free from many credit cards. Email me for more information.
  • If you are not yet receiving Social Security, you should go to ssa.gov at least every few years, review your earnings history for accuracy and see a projection of your future benefits. Their website is quite secure and they have now added a second level of verifying your identification.

 

We hope these are helpful and practical for you and your family.

Better than

Over the long term…..

Being optimistic is better than being pessimistic.

Being patient is better than reacting quickly.

Staying in the market is better than getting in and out of the market because you are worried.

Small company stocks do better than large company stocks.

Value company stocks do better than growth company stocks.

Globally diversified portfolios of index-like funds do better than concentrated holdings of US individual stocks.

Using complex computer passwords is better than using a few simple passwords.

Avoiding annuities and hedge funds is better than using them.

Lower mutual fund fees are better than higher fees.

Using a password manager program is better than keeping your passwords on a piece of paper.

Having a financial advisor who monitors the tax management of your portfolio throughout the year is better than an advisor that only does it at year end.

Making a financial decision after consulting with your financial advisor is better than making a decision without talking to your advisor.

These should help you to be better.

12 Travel and Credit Card Tips for Greater Value and Enjoyment (Part 1)

We advise you on your finances and investments.

But we all spend money. I want to provide tips which can save you money and time, create greater value and help you and your family to have better experiences as you shop, fly, travel and eat out.

Today in Part 1, are 6 tips that you should consider and implement, if they make sense with your lifestyle.

Within the next few weeks, I will post Part 2, with more tips.

1. Get TSA PreCheck, or Global Entry, to save you time and energy every time you fly. These are both valid for 5 years.

  • Global Entry, geared toward international travel, requires an interview and provides for expedited processing through customs at airports and land borders when you arrive back in the US. If you apply for this, TSA PreCheck is included in the $100 cost.
  • TSA PreCheck is only for domestic air travel and costs $85. For more information, go to www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck .
  • The cost for either is reimbursable if you have one of the following premium credit cards: Citi Prestige, Platinum Card from American Express or Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card, through Chase.
  • Even if you don’t have these credit cards, the average cost of $20-$25 per year is very well worth it. I recommend that your entire family get at least TSA PreCheck. I did this, the process is quick and easy…and you will appreciate it every time you fly.

2. Don’t spend time waiting in car rental lines by signing up for car rental rewards programs, which are free. You can register online. By doing this, you can bypass the long lines at the rental car counters and go right to your car each time you rent. You can do this quickly online, prior to the next time you rent a car.

3. Learn more about maximizing credit card and loyalty strategies. Over the past few years, and especially in recent months, I have read and learned more about the many perks and variety of benefits which are available. A great place to start is www.thepointsguy.com. If you spend the time, you will be amazed at the benefits you can accumulate.

  • If you are loyal to a certain hotel chain, then get their branded credit card. Just getting the credit card will usually get you some free nights. If you use that card for spending or travel, you may move up to elite status, which will get you many perks. I have been loyal to various Marriott brand hotels and now regularly get upgrades, my paid stays and purchases with their credit card rapidly multiply (which can be used for future free nights), special offers, and you get better service from their staff.
  • The Points Guy website recommends SPG (Starwood), which is expected to merge with Marriott, as having the greatest value for their reward program.

4. Consider spending money to get a premium credit card. I once thought it did not make much sense to pay for a premium credit card. However, this can be a wise investment if you will use the benefits.

  • The Citi Prestige Card, which costs $450 per year, provides a 4th night free on any hotel stay of 4 nights or longer (must book through their service), comes with a $250 airline credit which can be used to pay for airfare, baggage fees, in-flight wifi and other items, charges on this card earn 3X for airfare and hotels, can get three free rounds of golf and Admiral Club lounge membership (related to American Airlines). The huge benefit is the 4th night free, if you are planning an extended stay and the hotel is expensive. I may get this card and use it on the second part of a trip next fall.
  • Other cards in this category are Amex Platinum and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card.
    • The Ritz card offers many perks, such as $300 of travel incidentals (which includes TSA reimbursement), 3 hotel club lounge upgrades per year (hugely valuable if you enjoy the free breakfasts, food and drinks throughout the day), Gold level status, $100 credit on stays of 2 or more nights and much more. The annual fee can easily pay for itself many times over, depending on which perks you use.
    • The Amex Platinum also provides significant hotel savings on bookings through Amex FHR (which may include room upgrades, daily free breakfast, free 3rd or 4th nights), airline incidental reimbursement, Delta club lounge access for card holders and authorized users, Gold status with SPG (Starwood Hotels) and Hilton Hotels, free Boingo wifi and ShopRunner two day delivery service.

5. Monitor your FICO score and use your credit cards wisely. Many credit cards now provide your FICO score monthly or online. This is important, as the better your FICO score, the more accessible various credit cards are. Discover It Card, US Bank, and certain American Express, Citi and Capital One credit cards now provide FICO scores.

  • Do not apply for too many cards at once. Do not cancel older cards, as that will negatively impact your credit score. Make sure you can afford to pay what you charge and pay it off every month. Don’t pay interest on a credit card. If this is an issue, we need to talk about it.

6. Use the points you have already earned! Many people have hundred of thousands of points in many different programs. Do you have tons of Delta or other airline miles? Do you have American Express reward points? Citi Thank you points or Chase Ultimate Reward points? Hotel reward points at many different chains?

  • When are you going to use them? When you plan your next trip, consider redeeming these points. Don’t just continue to accumulate them for tomorrow….enjoy them now, unless you are saving them for a specific trip or purpose.

I truly hope these ideas get you thinking about how you spend and travel, as well as how you can maximize the benefits which are available, if you know and use the right strategies. Just as investing can be complicated, we try to simplify that for you.

If you have other tips and thoughts or opinions about this blog post, I would love to hear them. Please let me know what you think, at bwasserman@wassermanwealth.com.

 

Disclosure: I use some of the above credit cards, airline programs, and hotel loyalty programs mentioned above. I have not been compensated for any of these comments. They are based on my own experiences, opinions and research, with special credit to www.thepointsguy.com, which I highly recommend. There are many credit cards, hotel chains and airline reward programs, all with varying benefits. The purpose of this post is to make you aware of the potential uses and benefits, not to recommend any specific product or company.

 

Purely Personal…In Memory of my father-in-law

Silver Family 2
The world changed on Saturday, as my father-in-law, Alan Silver, suddenly passed away.

For the many people who knew Alan, the world became a little less bright. A little less fun.

Alan was not a famous person. There will be no long obituaries written about him citing tremendous business or philanthropic accomplishments.

But to those who knew him, there is a great loss, a missing puzzle piece in their life now. He was a good person, who was a very devoted husband, father, grandfather (“Papa”) and friend to so many people. He loved life and sharing it with the people he knew.

Alan had the right priorities. He lived the American Dream in his 73 years, as he provided a better life for his family than how he grew up. He cherished his daughters, his grandchildren, his wife and extended family. He spent nearly every Sunday in recent years with his two young grandchildren. As his older grandson, now 10, has learned and began to excel at golf, they became close golf buddies.

He was a devoted husband and cared for his wife Susan. While they lived a middle to upper-middle class life style, they made important decisions and sacrifices, to benefit their children. When my wife Felicia was in her teens and began to develop creative interests, they enrolled her at Cranbrook, a private high school with an excellent fine arts curriculum. When Felicia wanted to pursue a career in commercial interior design, they helped her to attend Pratt Institute in New York City for college.

Alan had an incredible and large group of close friends, many of whom he has known and maintained from grade or high school. Keeping relationships like that takes work and effort. To him, it came naturally. As I have gotten to know these friends over the past years, and even more this week, I am amazed at their warmth, caring and intellect. Just good quality people, who treat me like family. They know who they are and how much they mean to me.

When anyone needed help or something fixed, Alan was always willing. When close friends needed something fixed, they would call and say “Service.” And he would be there, tools in hand, day or night. On Sunday’s however, he said his fee was double. With a smile.

Alan loved food. Sunday dinners and barbecues were memorable. He was a master at the grill. He would not hesitate to drive miles with family or friends to try a new restaurant, visit a great bakery or search for the perfect slice of pizza. Even if meant getting lost or going into a dangerous neighborhood, the venture was worth it. Distance was no issue when it came to finding good food. That is a family tradition that will surely continue.

Alan loved gadgets and the latest technology. He was not always good at it, but he tried. Apple has lost one of their best customers. Alan recently bought his grandson a small drone with a camera, but he was just as likely interested to use it himself.

Alan was often impatient, frequently changing TV channels and driving others in the room crazy. He was an avid golfer and sports enthusiast. He loved good music and Detroit’s annual Dream Cruise. He had a passion for doing huge puzzles, which he framed after completion. This was his way of relaxing after his hours in the property management business.

When I entered their family a number of years ago, Alan welcomed me warmly. He was not a deep conversationalist, as his phone would constantly be beeping, ringing or buzzing. He didn’t actively engage in all matters, as the iPhone or TV were usually of more interest to him. But we all knew that he cared, and cared deeply, about those in his life.

Unlike others who suffer for months or years with an illness, Alan’s death came quickly and without much warning.  Unfortunately there was not the opportunity for a final “I love you” for those closest to him.  His vast circle did not get the chance to tell him how much he meant to them.  There will not be another round of golf, another vacation with friends or family or steak to grill.  There will be no 50th wedding anniversary celebration for him and his wife Susan, a few weeks from now.

So as cliche as this sounds as I write this….please take time today or this weekend and tell those you love and appreciate….that you do.  Do it often.  You will not regret it.

Professionally, we are financial advisors. Our business relationships focus on money. But the relationships become deeper and much more personal than just about investments. They are about people, their children, their grandchildren and their legacy.

Alan Silver is a reminder that there is far more to life than money and work. Alan worked hard, but enjoyed his life. He knew how to have fun, smile, share good times with people, enjoy food and the importance of family.

That doesn’t mean that you should not plan and save and consider the long term. It is hard for me this week to balance the many seminars and discussions I have about planning for 90-100 year life expectancies, after an event like this. But I know that good planning and longer life expectancies are also an important reality.

So please, tell the people you are closest to how much you really care about them. It may be the most important habit you develop.

Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage Now

Mortgage rates have dropped significantly in the past few months, and especially this week.  You should immediately see if refinancing your mortgage makes sense.

Mortgage rates are closely tied to the 10 year US Treasury note yield, which has declMortgage rate picined from 2.27% on December 1, 2015 to around 1.6% over the past few days. This is a 3 year low.  Mortgage rates have dropped as well.  For 30 year mortgages, rates are now well below 4%, even in the 3.7% range, depending on the amount you want to borrow, points (if any, that you want to pay) and other factors.

Who do you know who…….has a mortgage with an interest rate above 4%, or even above 4.5%?  If so, this could be a great opportunity to refinance their existing mortgage and save money every month.

Does this apply to you?  Does this apply to your children or grandchildren?  To a frient, co-worker or other relative?  You can do yourself and others close to you a great favor by promptly acting on this information.  Make a phone call or send an e-mail.  Forward them this blog post.

Interest rate are very volatile.  If you think this applies to you, we encourage you to act promptly.  While rates may remain at these levels, or even go lower, they are unpredictable and could change directions quickly.

We feel it is our obligation to provide you with this information, as part of the comprehensive financial
planning services that we provide.  One of the reasons we write this weekly blog is to point out or explain significant financial matters in a very timely manner.houseonmoney2

If you think you may benefit from refinancing, you should contact a mortgage lender, your bank or our firm.  We are not in the mortgage business, but we can assist you in analyzing this type of financial decision.

We want to assist you, your family and friends, so each of you can make the best financial decisions possible.  So who do you know who can benefit from this type of information?

Are the rough times behind us?

This was not supposed to be this week’s essay topic. As I finished my lunch in which I was outlining about a different topic, the waitress at the Chinese restaurant put a fortune cookie on my table. It read:

any rough times are behind you 2

“Any rough times are behind you.”

Yea right. This would be great if it could be true, but I know it can’t be. Life just does not work that way.

I know that I will face more challenges in the future, both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, one day my parents will age. I will face conflicts with my children, spouse or family members.

We will each face challenges in the future that will cause certain periods of “rough times” to deal with. One of the keys to our future is how we handle these difficult periods or the issues we will confront.

Will you handle it alone? Or will you choose to benefit from the support and guidance of friends, family and advisors? Will you talk and openly share with others? Will you be vulnerable, so others can try to provide you with guidance, strength and clarity?

During the past 5 weeks, investors have had to face another period of “rough times.” A few of our clients have called or come in for meetings, to talk through their concerns. This is our opportunity to add real value to their life, as we listened to their concerns and worries. During thes e conversations, we exchanged thoughts and ideas.

We were able to give them confidence that our underlying investment philosophy isPresentFuture still valid. Through this process, the calls and meetings ended with each person or couple feeling better about their investment plan and strategy.

In a different respect, some of the investment sectors or asset classes that we invest in may underperform other asset classes (they are facing a “rough time.”) This asset class or style underperformance may occur for a short time or a number of years. We don’t know in advance, as we can’t predict the future.

We continually monitor and evaluate the mutual funds that we recommend based on how well they do compared to their respective peers. We compare the apples to the apples, and the blueberries to the blueberries. Based on this criteria, the type of apples we recommend (the mutual funds we have selected) compare very favorably to other types of apples over the long term, based on their 3-5-10-15 year track records.

While the apples (mutual funds that we have selected) may underperform some other fruit for a period of time, we are confident that our overall investment strategy will continue to perform well over the long term. The blueberries may outperform the apples for a year or three years, but we are confident that our basket of fruit (mutual funds we select) will outperform the vast majority of other fruit (other actively managed mutual funds) over the next 3-5-10 years.

And maybe even more important, we are confident that the asset allocation and investment plan we structure for you will provide for your ongoing standard of living and financial objectives. The goal is not always about outperforming a certain market sector, it is about your future cash flow in retirement and your ability to sleep well at night.

tough times ahead
No, not all the rough times are behind us.
There will be more drops in the stock market. There will be times when we each face personal crisis and problems. There will be times when some of our investment recommendations underperform certain sectors of the market.

 

But in the long run, working closely with us as your financial advisor when you do face personal, financial, estate planning issues or challenges will lead to a better outcome and help you to overcome these “rough times.”

 

We are here for you. Contact us when you need us. Or when you just want to talk something over.

Do you have this?

“How easily do you bounce back from a disappointment?  What is your reaction to change?  As an investor, or a board member or an employee, are you seeking stability or impact?

“Resilience is a skill, one that’s probably more valuable than most.”

~ Excerpt from blog post by Set Godin, “Resilience, ” January 13, 2016

 

I can write about market forecasts, long term trends and all of those things, but when it comes down to it, Seth Godin’s message is critically important.

To be a successful investor, you need to be resilient.  Do you have this?

Being resilient means that you can overcome and bounce back after something bad has occurred. Resiliency means that you have the capacity to handle adversity, then recover, move forward and be more successful in the future.

While we provide you with investment advice, we can carl richards things matter mosthelp you be more resilient, especially during volatile times when stock markets are dropping.

Many times during the market downturn of 2008-2009, clients found that talking with us was helpful. These conversations made them more resilient.  And in the long run, this helped them to be more successful.

If you want to talk about what is going on in the world, or how it impacts you personally, please call us. That’s why we are here.

For more specific thoughts on recent stock market activity, please read our blog post “Our perspective on 2016, week 1,” dated January 8, 2016.

For a broader view, please read “Our most important advice, “ dated December 23, 2015.