client relationships

What We Learned from You

© Can Stock Photo / ScantyNebula

One of the privileges of working with you is the opportunity to get to know your life stories. Over the decades, we’ve met a lot of people and heard many stories. We learned a lot about about productive financial habits and instincts from you, our clients.

We have noticed that people who are successful in retirement have some habits that helped them get there. These factors do not guarantee success, of course, but there seems to be a strong correlation. Here are three habits that seem to be key:

1. For all or most of their working careers, they invested regularly—every month, every payday. 401(k) plans, automatic deposits to Roth or other accounts…these put wealth-building on autopilot.

2. They spent less than they made. One client told us, it isn’t how much you make, it is how much you keep. We all know people who make good money and spend all of it–and others who manage to save on modest incomes.

3. They adapted to unexpected surprises without impairing their long term financial planning. Having an emergency fund, realizing that life has uncertainties…these are key to getting back on track through all kinds of times.

The three habits go a long way towards building financial security. In addition to those, some clients were apparently born with helpful investment instincts:

A. A native sense of confidence that the country works through its problems, that economic slowdowns give way to recovery sooner or later. Those who believe that seem to have an easier time waiting for markets to rebound.

B. An aversion to needing to do what everybody else is doing. Fads (or stampedes, as we call them) can be a dangerous way to invest.

We got done at the university a very long time ago. Thanks to you, however, we are always learning. One of the gratifying aspects of our work is the opportunity to pay it forward—to deliver the good news to the next generation. Clients, please email us or call if you would like to discuss this or any other topic.


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

It Really Is All About You

© Can Stock Photo / ShutterM

Time is finite, limited, for everyone. We have diligently restructured how we take care of business for you over the past few years to create more time for our key activities. One of those key activities is talking to you, one on one.

Two years ago we were preparing a total makeover of our communications program. In the 21st century, thoughts can emerge from our fingertips and travel at the speed of light to the screens of your computer, tablet or smart phone. The instantaneous aspect of new media is nicely complemented by the permanent archive of our philosophies, methods and views at 228Main.com—available anytime, anywhere.

If we get the same question twice or need to tell the same story twice, we figure a lot more people have the same question or should hear the same story. So we put it out there for everyone.

We also write about case studies, retirement concepts, financial planning issues, the economy, investment strategy and tactics. Topics in the news also get our attention, particularly when there is context we would like to add.

Bottom line, if we think of something that has a chance to improve your financial position, we are going to write about it. It might be a story or a parable or a bit of history or biography.

Each one of you is unique. Some pay attention to our daily comments and features on our Facebook page, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Others ignore all that, but read our blog posts. At least one client already knows how we think, and doesn’t need any more. And a few read everything in every venue.

We get a lot of feedback from our colleagues—but we are writing for you, not them. What would you like to tell us about our blog or social media activity? Are there topics we aren’t covering, but should? Are you getting anything out of it? Do you feel like any time you spend reading our stuff is well spent—or wasted?

Email us or call if you would like to let us know how we are doing.

Meanwhile, if you aren’t connected to daily commentary but wish to, you can bookmark https://twitter.com/MarkLeibman even if you are not registered at Twitter. Or ‘like’ our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LFNEWS. Or connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lfnews/. We look forward to hearing from you.


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

Our Success Will Never Hurt You

© Can Stock Photo / Cebas

I never aimed to build an empire, or hire an army of people to run it. From a very young age in business, all I wanted to do was find a group of clients who, if we took care of them, would take care of us. Little did I know how gratifying this outcome would be, or how close our relationships would become!

But nothing succeeds like success. It turns out many of you believe we are good at what we do: understanding your life and goals, framing issues so you can make good decisions, and managing your money effectively in a way that coordinates with your life.

Our communications are simple, accessible to almost anyone who can read. Our stories and essays and parables get shared to friends of our friends, and their friends. You recommend our services when you believe it would be a favor to someone close to you. So growth is inevitably happening, even though we devote all of our thoughts and efforts to growing your buckets and communicating with you—not looking for more buckets.

Consultants advise us to ‘segment’ our client group into A, B, and C clients. This is typically based on economics: big accounts are A, little accounts are C. The advice is to get rid of C clients, move B clients to a junior partner, and concentrate on A clients. Of course, being contrarian, this conventional wisdom has never made sense to us. It never seemed right. More than one of you came to us after getting demoted in this way by some hotshot.

For a long time we’ve been able to say, all of our clients are first class. Increasing efficiencies and improvements to our systems and processes and delegation of administrative duties helped us keep this true.

Between the wide reach of new media and unsolicited referrals, one thing—my time—will come into play as a limiting factor. But we have a thoughtful plan, and I think you will like it.

All the way back to the 1970’s, when you went to Kentucky Fried Chicken, Col. Sanders was not back in the kitchen at the fryer. His recipe was there, his methods were there, his image was there. But associates were doing the work. If our growth continues, as seems likely, new clients—not you—will get the Col. Sanders version.

You folks with whom I have a personal relationship, who value our work and depend on it, you will always have access to me to help with your plans and planning. This is why we say our success will never hurt you. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email or call us.
 


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

The State of Our Union

© Can Stock Photo / Niyazz

Our union? Yes, you and we are partners in a unique enterprise. As a client, you share our confidence about the long term. Many of you are willing to live with volatility in the short term to get where you want to go. And many of you don’t join stampedes or sell out in panic. This investment behavior puts you in a select group. It is a vital ingredient in the beginning of your success—and ours.

The 21st anniversary of the decision to embark on our ultimate business venture is a natural time to take stock. Where are we now? Where are we going? We’ll assess this in terms of our three key activities.

Communications.

We love to talk—you know this. About two years ago, we began to figure out how to talk to all of you, every day if you would like. The new media has two aspects. Real time commentary and news shows up in the social media venues like Facebook and Twitter. A permanent library of all of our philosophy and strategies and methods can be found 24/7 at 228Main.com.

Paradoxically, the success of our new media has given us more time to talk one on one, by telephone or email or in person. So now we spend more time doing what we love, connecting with you directly. We expect to continue to build both our archives and our skill at real time interaction.

Investment Research.

To a surprising extent, our research capabilities are tied to new media activity. We interact with great minds in economics and market strategy, trading ideas and insights and finding topics we wish to investigate more deeply.

The one-to-one communications with you also contain a research element. We gain perspective on global markets by talking to executives who have traveled the world on business. We have a better understanding of specific industries and companies because we talk to people who are in those businesses. Every one of you is a consumer, and we talk to you about companies and products you deal with every day.

Our conventional sources have never been better, either. LPL Financial continues to build out our back office research staff by adding and developing talent. Bottom line: we are connected to ever-richer sources of ideas and trends as well as the specific data we need to do our work.

Portfolio Management.

Over the past eighteen months we have worked on improving our capability to act more quickly on fleeting opportunities. You saw the results. Our portfolio review process is more robust than it ever has been.

We also have tweaked our strategy. Now, client portfolios see more activity but in smaller pieces. Instead of looking for opportunities where we can invest 5% of a portfolio balance, we will take action if 1 or 2 or 3% position sizes are appropriate. With more holdings comes greater diversification. Theoretically, this may give us a smoother ride to our goals.

The markets are like a thousand piece mosaic whose tiles are constantly changing. So we cannot tell you what changes are coming in the future—only that we will always be trying to figure out how to grow your buckets more effectively.

So the state of our union is grand. We have focused on our systems and processes so we can take care of business no matter what happens in our lives or the economy and markets. We offer no guarantees about the future, except for our intent to get better as we go along. Thank you all for your part in our unique partnership. Clients, if you’d like to talk at greater length about these things or anything else, please email or call.


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

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

Freedom to Decide vs Freedom to Debate

© Can Stock Photo / JohnKwan

One definition of ‘discretion’ is freedom to decide what should be done. 95% of our investment advisory clients have granted us discretion to trade individual securities on their behalf, for their benefit, in line with their objectives.

In 2016 this privilege was key to making bond purchases, which had to be done on a bulk basis. In other words, one large purchase in the market was divided among scores of our client accounts. The issue is that we cannot talk to eighty or a hundred clients in a short enough time frame to place a bulk order.

The logistics can be daunting. When we learn that a bulk purchase has been negotiated, then we must make sales that same day in all affected accounts to raise the money to pay for the bonds.

Fortunately, we developed a rules-based framework that enabled us to handle all the work on a timely basis. In late 2016 we used the same concept to develop a protocol for trading stocks. This new method is astoundingly effective.

On one day, we placed more than five hundred individual stock trades. We had concluded that a sector we owned was going to have a lot of trouble maintaining revenues and profits and needed to be sold. At the same time, we were excited about the bargains we had found elsewhere in the market. (You can read more about our strategies here.)

We have a high duty to advisory clients, whose situations and accounts we must monitor over time. Even with our new-found efficiencies, we have less and less time for commission-based brokerage business. Because we lack freedom to decide, we only have freedom to debate.

By that we mean to place calls, discuss potential investments, argue or not, and perhaps obtain permission to make a trade in exchange for a commission. The ‘freedom to debate’ part of our business is under $10 million and shrinking. The ‘freedom to decide’ piece is approaching $50 million and growing.

We are committed to our three key activities: talking to you, researching investments, and managing portfolios. We can do the most good for the most people if we have freedom to decide. This is why we ask you for that privilege and obligation. If you have any questions about this, or any other aspect of your situation, please call or write.


In a fee-based account clients pay a quarterly fee, based on the level of assets in the account. In deciding to pay a fee rather than commissions, clients should understand that the fee may be higher than a commission alternative during periods of lower trading. Advisory fees are in addition to the internal expenses charged by mutual funds and other investment company securities. Clients should periodically re-evaluate whether the use of an asset-based fee continues to be appropriate in servicing their needs.

Investing involves risks including the possible loss of capital. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.