Month: April 2016

Sooner or Later…

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / SmallTownStudio

When I was a young man, my father told me that the mortality rate is 100 percent. I apologize for speaking so plainly, but sooner or later there is a funeral in store for every one of us.

This sad fact weighs on many of the financial decisions we make later in our lives. The issue is that we never get to know ahead of time when our funeral is going to be. A new retiree might live another forty years, or they might not live to see their next birthday. Plans that make sense for one scenario may not make sense for the other, and we do not get to know which scenario we will face.

When possible, we prefer to invest for retirement on a sustainable endowment-style basis, aiming to generate portfolio income to live on rather than spending down principal: “owning the orchard for the fruit crop.” The longer you can maintain your principal, the less likely it is that you will outlive your money. This approach also has the advantage of leaving a legacy intact to pass down to your heirs, if that is a priority for you.

But not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to comfortably retire on portfolio income alone. And not everyone is content to lock away a lifetime of earnings without getting the enjoyment of spending it themselves. Spending your principal is also an option if you want to live more luxuriously, although this increases the risk of outliving your money—you may wind up merely trading future comfort for present pleasures. The decision you make at 65 may haunt you at 85.

None of us knows the future, life has a way of getting in the way of our best laid plans. Our preference is to plan for a long, healthy life: we believe it is better to have money and not get to spend it than it is to need money and no longer have it. But ultimately, the choices you make about retirement are a matter of which risks you’re comfortable with. Figuring out your priorities is your job. Once you know what you want to do, talk to us and we’ll see if we can help you try to do it.

A Tale of Two Theories

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / ambro

Psychologists have a strategy to help cope with anxiety called the “dual model strategy.” It works like this:

You have a concern about some imminent disaster, which you believe is the source of many troubles for you. This is “Theory A.”

The alternative is that your concerns may actually be unfounded, but your fears themselves are creating your troubles instead. This is “Theory B.”

When it comes to investing, Theory A probably sounds like this: “The problem is that the economy will crash and I will lose money.” Theory B would then read: “The problem is that I worry that the economy will crash.”

If Theory A is correct, the proper plan is to pull your investments out of the market and put your money someplace safe. But there are two problems. First, we’ll never know if Theory A is correct until it is too late. Second, the economy and the markets have eventually recovered from every previous downturn. If you act on Theory A, there’s a good chance you may end up hurting yourself by acting at the wrong time. But Theory B—the idea that your worries are the real problem—is something that we can always work on.

The question is, how do you cope with your anxieties about the market? Perspective is important. Most of us are in this for the long haul, and are counting on our investment basket to provide for us for years and decades to come. Watching the market slide may be nerve wracking—but if you look back over the years, the speed bumps are barely noticeable.

Even so, it is easier to say “stick with the long term plan” than it is to live through short term bumps. There are some practical steps you can take to help cope with your market anxieties, too. Make sure you keep a cash reserve for emergencies: your investment portfolio is not a replacement for money in the bank. Also, as you reach the point in your life when you start to rely on investment income, it’s important to understand where your income is coming from. Even if you fear a downturn in the markets, it may not necessarily affect the ability of your income investments to generate cashflow for you to live on.

The key in all of this is to come up with an investment strategy that you’re comfortable with. If you continually change tactics every time you get nervous you may hurt yourself financially. If you need help coming to terms with your investment worries, please call or email us to talk them out.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

A Time to Reflect

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Klementiev

These are exciting times. With a birthday approaching, I am halfway to 120 years old. It is a natural place to stop and reflect on the journey so far, and the path ahead.

Twenty years ago, I was planning the concept that turned into Leibman Financial Services. At its heart, the idea was to build a business whose success depends entirely on the success of clients. After two prior decades of working with money in most of its forms, the experience and preparation were in place. The interest and passion was there. All we needed was people who would entrust us with their hard-earned wealth and well-thought plans.

Then you showed up. Thank you. The work is gratifying beyond words. And that leads to the next topic, the path ahead.

I plan to work to age 92. Two of my oldest friends, now gone, worked to that age in their own businesses. They were vibrant and active and happy in their later years, a good model for me.

It is amazing how a cherished objective can shape your actions and choices. I often say it is almost embarrassing to be learning so much at such an advanced age. But this is just lame humor. The need to keep learning and adapting and to stay current with developments in the economy and the markets and the business, and to get the resources and people in place to serve your needs, and the constant search for investment opportunities…all of this is invigorating. I feel like I discovered the Fountain of Youth.

The future is not guaranteed to us, in any sense. We can plan a big retirement party for the year 2048 when I turn 92. But we can’t know that any one of us will be there. So we would also like to extend another invitation, for something a little sooner.

If you would like to have breakfast with me at B’s Diner in Louisville, or lunch at the Main Street Café, just call the shop. We are scheduling through mid-July, so there are plenty of slots. The coffee’s always on, too, so if another time would suit you better, we can do that. Thank you all, so much, for the decades–past and future.

No Straight Lines

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Nature’s most prevalent theme might by “cycles.” From breathing to day/night to the seasons of the year to seventeen year cicadas, cycles rule the universe.

At some level, we know from our own life experience that the economy and markets also move in cycles. Yet our human nature encourages us to focus on the present and the immediate past when we try to picture what tomorrow may bring. It seems that most people can’t see the turning point, even when we know it is inevitable.

The green arrow in our drawing could be many things. Let’s say the beginning of the green line at the low point is gasoline in 2002, $1.50 per gallon, rising in nearly a straight line to $4 by 2008. We all remember the first time gas hit $4—everywhere you turned, an “expert” was talking about gas going up to $7. Many thought we would never see $3 per gallon again, ever. All of this wrong-headed thinking was based on the straight line trend. The human mind is creative: it can invent a plausible story to justify anything—so the experts had a story to explain why gas was going to $7.

Stepping back to look at the bigger picture and the longer term, one sees that the apparent straight line was simply a small piece of a longer term cycle. We know why the turning points happen, and we explained that here.

The downward red line could be many things, too—the price of copper or iron ore from 2011 to 2016, the stock market 2007-2009, interest rates over the last couple decades. The same principle applies: ultimately, there are no straight lines, only cycles.

Sometimes we invest because we believe a turning point is coming based on a cycle we’ve studied. The challenge is that the straight line part of the deal may persist longer than we thought it would, meaning that our investment in the turning point has less value (usually temporarily.) But our fundamental understanding of cycles is what keeps us going. Often the straight line takes prices to more extreme levels, and new opportunities emerge. Our job is to do the best we can to take maximum advantage of the tuning point, when it comes.

With perspective, background, context and history playing such a major role in our work, it continues to amaze me that a history degree is of such great value in the work of investing. It is a good thing, too, since my art skills are not great (as you can see.) The moral of the story for you is to think hard when somebody proposes that “based on current trends” something must happen or will never happen. The trend is probably part of a straight line that is, itself, part of a longer cycle.

If you have questions about how this applies to current events or portfolio holdings or your specific situation, please call or write.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

 

Meet Our Research Sources

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / meggichka

You already know Mark Leibman and our LPL Registered Administrative Associate Greg Leibman. But you might not know our allied staff economist, our fixed income research director, our market strategist, or the fellow who oversees the whole allied research effort. John Canally, Matthew Peterson, Ryan Detrick, and Burt White have decades of experience, advanced degrees, specialized training and the appropriate professional designations.

Most importantly, they each have the ability to communicate economic and market developments with the context and background needed to get at the real meaning and significance.

These folks do not work at 228 Main. They are the key people among dozens in LPL Financial’s Research Department. In our quest to find the right investments, and to understand the economic and market environment in which we live, they play a major role. They put out reports, they help conduct the daily Research Morning conference call, they blog, they tweet—they communicate.

One of the wonderful things about life in the 21st century is the vast amount of information available. We’ve spent a lot of time appraising the quality of commentary from across the financial industry. We are able to follow key specialists at Schwab and Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo and other firms, as well as our most respected peers and money managers.

The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times provide a great overview of the major stories of the day, and more detailed trade publications are a vital source of news about the industries in which we’ve invested. People with specialized knowledge are available through blogs and social media, as well. We read the Detroit newspapers for auto industry news, Australian papers for news on global raw materials producers, and we find news sources for other situations as needed. Subscription-based investment research and data round out our fundamental sources.

We have what we need to do our own thinking, draw our own conclusions, and take action in pursuit of your interests. If you have specific questions, please call or write to ask them.

Sell in May and Go Away?

One popular piece of market lore revolves around the idea that virtually all of the stock market’s cumulative gains over large chunks of the past have come between November and May. The other half of the year, from May to November, has produced little in the way of gains, on average. Hence the saying, “sell in May and go away.”

There are three challenges facing anyone who seeks to act on this supposed wisdom. The first one is, any widely expected event gets discounted by the market as it gains currency with the public. If the saying works, it will get overexposed until it stops working© Can Stock Photo Inc. / photocreo.

The second challenge is, the statistics on which the lore rests are averages—they say nothing about what happens in any particular year, much less about what will happen this year.

The third challenge is the most interesting of all. When one examines the results of not selling in May and never going away, one wonders what more could be desired. I (Mark Leibman) was born in May 1956, when the S&P 500 Index stood at 44. As I write this, the index is 47 times higher. This calculation of a 4,600% profit excludes dividends, which would have added considerably. This tells us how not selling in May would have worked over the past nearly sixty years.

Our purpose in writing is to help you avoid being tricked by the “Sell in May” idea into a short-sighted investment decision. There are always reasons to worry about the future, developments which alarm people, and fear mongers peddling pessimism for profit. Against the dynamism and ingenuity inherent in human endeavors, these fears and worries have yet to produce a permanent downturn in the economy or the market.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

New Balance for Your Portfolio

Our recent article about finding your strategy provoked interesting conversations. We quickly saw a new framework for investors to reconcile competing needs and desires. This article puts context around the three central tradeoffs investors face.

Current Income or Long Term Growth?

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Fortunately, there are investments and strategies that offer the opportunity for long term growth while providing current income. Dividend-paying blue chip stocks are the best example. While suitable as part of an appropriate portfolio for many people, growth with income investments do not provide stability of market value, part of the next tradeoff.

Stable Value or Long Term Growth?

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While most people might prefer stability AND growth, it isn’t possible to have all of both. The best we can do is some of each. We ceaselessly seek to inoculate clients against fear of downturns, which are an inherent part of long-term investing. Behavioral Economics suggests that the price of stability is too high And yet most people need some ‘money in the bank’ or stable value holdings. They serve as emergency funds and also build confidence in your investments.

Stable Income or Stable Value?

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This may be the most under-utilized concept in the financial world. Investments that provide reliable recurring income fluctuate in value. And investments that deliver stable value do not provide reliable recurring income. Those now planning to retire have seen a vivid example in their lifetimes. Bank deposit interest rates have ranged from more than 1% per month at times to less than 1% per year at other times. In other words, the value was stable but the income was not.

The key concept here is that people living on their capital do not spend statement value to buy groceries or pay the electric bill. Portfolio income is the key to the monthly budget. Therefore, reliability of income could be more vital than stability of value.

Putting it All Together

We can do a better job of managing our goals when we understand that reliable income and long term growth provide opportunities that stable value holdings do not. Think about these ways to build a portfolio that you can live with:

  • Set aside an emergency fund so you are prepared for the unexpected.
  • Know where your income is coming from for the months and years ahead.
  • Plan for rising cost of living with a certain amount of growth potential.

These are major issues, requiring some thought and discussion. We are available; write or call to set an appointment when we can discuss your situation.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. The payment of dividends is not guaranteed. Companies may reduce or eliminate the payment of dividends at any given time.

Renting the Oil Company

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / fredgoldstein

We all seem to know intuitively that rent on a residence covers all the expenses of ownership, plus a profit for the landlord. Hence most people prefer to own their homes rather than pad the landlord’s wealth.

And yet when we buy a gallon of gasoline, we are paying all of the oil company’s expenses plus a profit for their owners. We pay the cost of refining crude oil into gasoline, transporting it to retail locations, or running the store at which we purchase the gasoline. Not to mention the cost of exploring for and pumping the crude oil and shipping it to refineries.

But if we own a piece of the action (in the form of shares of common stock) in an oil company, we indirectly own a share in the oil wells and refineries and transportation and everything else needed to put a gallon of gasoline within our reach. Own or rent? We prefer to own—and by the way, if you prefer to rent, thank you for doing business with our oil company!

We and our clients own phone companies and clothing manufacturers and car makers and raw material producers and major retailers and airlines and nearly every other segment of the economy. From the time we wake up and brush our teeth, put on clothes, go to factories and shops and offices, use energy through the day… we are doing business with ourselves. We are owners, not renters.

It is our opinion that a person who owns no common stock or other business rents everything: the refineries, auto manufacturers, food distributors, trains and planes, communications networks. They are paying rent for everything that goes into their life, without receiving any benefits of ownership.

Rent or Own? You might want to own shares of companies for the very same reason you prefer to own your home. We are available to discuss whether this philosophy fits into your plans and planning—call or write.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Because of their narrow focus, sector investing will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies.