total returns

It’s Second Look—and Second Opinion!—Season

graphic shows the words "'Tis the Season" inside a magnifying glass

Clients, the markets are at a low point. It’s a prime time to revisit our holdings! Let’s take a second look. 

To be clear, portfolio reviews are part and parcel of our regular business. But these times of churn and change are a great opportunity to look more closely—and try to make sense of everything given the context. 

Conversations with some of you lately have inspired some changes. Could it be time to garner tax losses and take a different approach with some of your resources going forward? 

Our goal at 228 Main is to grow your buckets. We believe the better off you are, probably the better off we will be down the road. That’s enough for us to review and comment on your plans and planning, as well as your investment holdings and accounts. 

While it’s Second Look Season for us in the shop, could it be Second Opinion Season for anyone in your life? It could be you know folks who are paying fees for investment management when their investments don’t seem to be managed at all. Does anyone in your life have long-term investments stuck in stagnant short-term holdings? 

I often say I’m in business to talk all day. If you have questions about your holdings, I might as well be talking to you and your loved ones! And clients, please know that we have nothing to lose by your seeking a second opinion of your own. All the power to you: you are the boss of what you do with your wealth. (We seem to get all the business we deserve, and none that we don’t.) 

No matter where our resources land, remember that the markets go up and down. We won’t tell fairy tales about “minimizing risk” or getting market returns without enduring the inevitable fluctuations. We will not ignore that the price of so-called “safety” is often the loss of potential future gains. 

But we do believe in striving for long-term total returns. So we live with volatility. No waves, no voyage. No rain, no flowers. 

Clients, when you have questions about your situation, please write or call. If you know someone who would like to chat with us, let them know Second Opinion Season is in full swing, now through year-end! 

Thank you all, for everything. 

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It’s Second Look—and Second Opinion!—Season Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

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The Hidden Trade-off: “Risk-adjusted Returns”


You surely have noticed this by now: we disagree with conventional ways of doing many things. Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) forms the theoretical underpinnings of a lot of investment practice today, without adequate understanding of its deep flaws.

MPT defines volatility as risk. We believe, as Warren Buffett does, that volatility is just volatility – the normal ups and downs – for long term investors. So one common practice is to promote the advantages of getting 80% of the market returns with only 50% of the risk (for example). This supposedly is a superior “risk-adjusted return.”

But you could use the same statistical methodology to show that it may cost you about one third of your potential wealth in 25 years to have a 50% smoother ride on the way. For an investor with $100,000 in long term funds, this might be a $250,000 future shortfall. The question might be, “What fraction of your future wealth would you sacrifice in order to have less volatility on the way?”

The idea of sacrificing future wealth is a lot different than the idea of reducing risk. But they are two sides of the same coin. This is the hidden trade-off in superior risk-adjusted returns.

Our experience is that people can learn to understand and live with volatility. We believe investors get paid to endure volatility.

Of course, our philosophy is not right for everyone. Volatility is easier to tolerate for investors with a longer time horizon. But we believe everyone should see both sides of the coin before making a decision to forego significant potential future wealth for a smoother ride, less volatility, along the way.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

This Will Pay Dividends

© Can Stock Photo / lightkeeper

One of the joys of thinking is that every once in a while, you might come up with a good idea. We are hoping we just did exactly that.

Our buy list, the securities we believe have favorable prospects for the years ahead, provides the building blocks for your portfolios. We rank them in order of timeliness, together with a weighting or percentage each should have. When funds are available in a portfolio, we start at the top of this cascade and fill up each holding to the desired weighting.

In our research and portfolio management, our object has long been to maximize total returns.

The bright idea? We re-ranked the Buy List based on dividend yield, and changed the weightings to reflect an income emphasis. By taking the top twenty dividend payers on the list and putting more weight on the better payers, we come up with a healthy dividend yield in a portfolio that has the potential to grow, too. Income and growth.

Dividend payments could be used to reinvest and compound your income or taken as a monthly payment, your choice.

Is this right for you? Maybe, maybe not. Our traditional “total return” approach is more suitable for many. Both alternatives feature holdings that fluctuate in value. These “income emphasis” portfolios will be more concentrated, although having twenty holdings provides diversification.

If you would like to talk about this, or anything else, please email us 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.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. 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.

The payment of dividends is not guaranteed. Companies may reduce or eliminate the payment of dividends at any given time.

Higher Returns, or Minimize Taxes?

© Can Stock Photo / joebelanger

In the course of our research, we recently came across a survey of investors published by a large investment organization1. It contained an example of a technique that might be used to manipulate investors into a less-than-optimal path.

Would you rather minimize taxes, or achieve the highest investment returns? Many people might think that this is a straightforward question: the survey reported that 61% of baby boomers preferred to minimize taxes. In our opinion, it is indeed straightforward—just not in the way they think it is.

We pondered that question, and wondered why there was even a choice between minimizing taxes and going for higher returns. Generally, an investor comes out better off if she or he aims for the highest after-tax returns.

Peddlers of financial products know that if they can get a prospect to focus on taxes, then it doesn’t matter whether the investment is really any good or not. It merely needs to meet that very important objective of minimizing taxes. A tight focus on taxes takes the spotlight away from the actual investment and its performance.

We think a better approach is to include the potential impact of taxes in our investment decision-making. You may hate taxes, but it would make no sense to go for 1% tax free instead of 6% taxable (all other things being equal)—the higher rate would leave you better off even after you paid the tax.

Some of you are more concerned about income taxes than others. It doesn’t matter what your object is, we need to agree that seeking the highest after-tax returns is a more sensible goal than either minimizing taxes or achieving higher returns. In our reality-based approach, we can integrate both objectives to work towards a more sensible plan.

Each of you is free to make whatever decisions you would like to, with your money. (We never forget whose money it is.) If you bring it us, we are never going to focus on just minimizing taxes, or just focus on achieving high returns. That is a false choice, and a seller who presents that to you may be trying to manipulate you.

We seek to achieve the best after-tax returns—that is the path that potentially leaves you with the biggest bucket. No guarantees, of course. Clients, if you have questions about this or any other pertinent issue, please email us or call.

1 2016 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth survey, U.S. Trust Bank of America Private Wealth Management

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

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax advisor.

This is a hypothetical example and is not representative of any specific situation. Your results will vary. The hypothetical rates of return used do not reflect the deduction of fees and charges inherent to investing.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

© Can Stock Photo / lucidwaters

Wouldn’t it be great to have an easy job with a big salary? Or a hot sports car that was very low-priced? Or a luscious dessert with no calories?

The financial equivalent: an investment with good returns and stable value. Believe us when we say this is a popular concept.

Nearly five decades ago, the Rolling Stones advised that “You can’t always get what you want.” This is surely true of each of the situations described above. You just cannot get those desirable combinations.

But “if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.” On the investment front, many people need their money to grow over time to meet long term goals. Stability of value along the way would be comforting to have. The true need is growth, and the key measure is how much money you wind up with in the distant future.

The real return on truly stable assets is usually low. Some people with a lot of assets relative to their needs can live with low returns. Most of our clients need their money working harder than that—so necessarily must forego stability along the way. (Or, adjust their goals to reflect more modest circumstances.)

We take pride in telling it like it is. Although many sellers promote the false notion that you CAN get good returns and enjoy stable values, we believe you can handle the truth. Markets go up and down—and that’s OK. Whether you were born with effective investment instincts or we had to train and coach you, many of you have shown the ability to live with volatility and invest effectively anyway.

Go ahead, ask us again about that mythical investment with good returns and stable value. We will help you understand that you can’t always get what you want, but you can get what you need. Call or email us if you wish to 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.

They Say You Can’t Handle the Truth!

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / firebrand_photo

The conventional wisdom in the investment business is that you can’t handle the truth. Our whole business is built around the idea that you CAN handle the truth. Some were born that way, and others may be trained to handle the truth. The stakes are quite high, because those who can handle the truth about investing may be more likely to enjoy success at it.

We humans do have some tendencies which are both deeply rooted and counterproductive to informed investing. The easy path for us would be to pander to those tendencies, affirm them, pat you on the back and take your money. Here are some examples of that:

“They” (the adherents of flawed conventional wisdom) promote the idea that the pain of a loss is twice as great as the pleasure of a similarly sized gain.

“They” speak of temporary downturns as if they were actual losses, a disservice to long term investors.

“They” promote the idea that arithmetic works against investors, since a 20% loss must be followed by a 25% gain in order to break even.

“They” sacrifice total returns on the altar of expensive new products or stagnant investments in the hopes of reducing volatility.

We, on the other hand, believe you can handle the truth. Our experience confirms this. Here is the truth:

1. Long term investing always involves living with volatility, there is no way around it.

2. The ‘pain of a loss’ is optional—it may be offset by the joy of finding bargains, or ignored in the confident knowledge that downturns are temporary. The economy and markets always muddle through and eventually recover.

 3. According to Standard & Poor’s records, over the century’s experience with the Dow Jones Average, so far every 20% loss has been followed by a greater than 25% gain.

4. Investing for the long term in accordance with proven principles, using timeless strategies and timely tactics, in a manner that can get you to your goals, is the right way to do it.

We believe that people who keep some money in the bank, and who know where their needed cash flow will come from, can usually live with our methods and strategies with at least some part of their wealth. And we know that others may not be able to do it. Some lack the confidence that the system will endure, others just cannot tolerate fluctuating account values. It takes all kinds to make the world.

Our aim is to add value to those who can handle the truth, as we’ve defined it here. We work hard to educate and train and impart perspective and context…and it has worked. As always, if you have questions or comments, please write 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. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.