Lessons from 2018 and Looking Forward to 2019

2019 Stock Market Returns Should Be Much Better Than 2018

After a long period of market calm, volatility came back in 2018, and we saw daily declines of 1% or greater on 32 separate days plus declines by more than 3% on five days. On Christmas Eve the S&P 500 closed within an eyelash of its first 20% decline since 2009. It was the second-worst December drop on record, after 1931.

Recall our strategy in July when we recognized the signs of a global slowdown and began shifting the portfolios away from risk assets into more stable assets like bonds and short-term fixed income. We downshifted from stocks to bonds again in November, December and so far this month. Tactically, we are at the lowest stock exposure since 2009, being underweighted in stocks, over-weighted in bonds, and market weighted in cash.

A Defensive — But Optimistic — Strategy

In this turbulent environment, our strategy right now is to be defensive with your money. Our goal is to be in the middle of the road when it comes to risk. On one side is the ditch with the turbulence of the global trade war, trillion-dollar budget deficits putting pressure on interest rates and weakening earnings. These headwinds may lead to market declines, and if that’s the case we want to limit the drawdown.

And on the other side is the upside possibility of a resolution to the ongoing trade dispute and a compromise for Europe and Great Britain in the Brexit talks. These resolutions may lead to renewed earnings growth and higher markets.

Expect to see more turbulence in the early part of this year and perhaps a retest of the market lows in the first or second quarter. The volatility usually creates extreme pessimism among investors. This pessimism and a clearer view of future earnings may be the green light to upshift to more stocks. If this scenario works out, we are looking for a year-end target of 2,950 for the S&P 500, a rise of 13% from the current level of around 2,600.

Key Financial Planning Trends in 2018

  • Financial Health is defined by these eight indicators: spend less than income, pay all bills on time, sufficient liquid savings, sufficient long-term savings, manageable debt load, prime credit score, appropriate insurance and a plan for expenses.
  • A study by the Life Insurance Institute found that showing projected monthly retirement income increases savings plan contributions. The more you save over time the more you have for future expenses.
  • Women age 65 plus have a life expectancy of 85.6 versus 83 for men. An increase in drug-related deaths among younger adults has contributed to a drop in overall U.S. life expectancy.
  • Social Security reached a worrisome tipping point in 2018. For the first year since 1982, the program’s costs will exceed its income, forcing the program to dip into its $3 trillion trust fund to pay benefits. The trust fund will be depleted by 2034, resulting in reduced benefit payments unless Congress makes changes.
  • Elder “orphans” will need to develop proactive plans with their financial and legal advisers. It is estimated that 22% of older adults are (or will be) growing older without the “safety net” of a spouse or children.
  • A study by Age Wave found that many parents provide some sort of support to adult children, putting their children’s interest above theirs. In our opinion, if you have your financial house in order, no debt, and if your retirement income needs are covered, it’s okay to advance an inheritance to your children.
  • Home ownership rose for the first time since 2004, to 64%, driven by young adults entering the housing market for the first time. A shortage of homes available for sale has led to price increases in many areas and an overall seller’s market.

Free Safe Haven Kit

There is a feeling of inner satisfaction and confidence that things are under control when you can find your important financial papers when you need them. Being organized saves you time and is critical when you go looking for your medical records.

The SafeHaven kit is perfect for organizing your important document — emergency contacts, living will, durable power of attorney, and lists of prescription medications, bank accounts and more. The kit includes hanging folders organized by category and forms to capture medical, financial and personal information.

We are offering you this FREE SafeHaven kit to get organized and have your affairs in order. Contact Michele Reid (mreid@snowcreekwealth.com) and schedule an appointment to get this free kit.

Come Talk to Us

There are many trends and government policy changes related to personal finance — some are positive and some create financial insecurity. As financial practitioners, we strive to stay current on the ever-changing financial landscape and how it affects personal finance for our clients. This year we want to have a conversation with each of you to talk about your financial wellness. Call Leona Edwards (ledwards@snowcreekwealth.com) to schedule an appointment.

Once again, thank you for your ongoing trust and confidence,

Larry Sacks and David Goldberg

A word from David Goldberg: Year-End Trading

Year-end is a good time for us to lower our clients’ taxes by carefully structuring your capital gains and losses. The volatility in the market has created opportunities to generate (“harvest” as we sometimes say) losses which can be used to offset gains. Capital gains taxes can apply on investments, such as stocks or bonds, real estate (usually not your home), cars and other tangible items.

Losses Can Be Good

Losses offset gains. These losses carry over on your Federal Income Tax return, which can be used in the future. It’s possible you may use up to $3,000 of total capital losses in excess of capital gains as a deduction against ordinary income.

Many of you may see trading activity in your taxable accounts. As part of our process, we will frequently sell a position at a loss and buy a similar position to maintain the strategic allocation in your account.

Everyone wants to avoid a big tax bill. By harvesting losses from the sale of stocks or bonds, we can work to help you keep more of what you make. If you have any question or concerns about your strategic allocation, please don’t hesitate to call us with your concerns.

Wishing you the best of the New Year,

Stay well,

David Goldberg

The Current State is not the Permanent State

Back in July, we became more concerned about economic conditions: rising interest rates, trade tariffs, and a split Congress. We then acted to reposition investment portfolios to be more defensive. As we scaled back stocks we increased short-term fixed income and cash reserves.

For a few months, it seemed we prepared a bit early for a downturn.  But the stock markets changed direction in October, with the U.S. averages falling over 10% from their peak and global markets falling over 20%. While there are no signs of an imminent recession in the U.S., it is clear that this sell down is broadening.

Market declines are part of investing, and they haven’t lasted forever.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average has typically dipped at least 10% once a year, and 20% or more every 3.75 years, according to data derived from 1900-2017. Bear in mind there has never been a time when markets declined and haven’t recovered to advance to higher levels.

Wall Street is on Sale

A lesson that I have learned is to seek and take advantage of market weakness. Declining markets give you a chance to invest in world-class companies at lower prices. Good companies find a way to prosper regardless of the environment.  Our process is to rely on research, experience, and judgment to buy good companies at attractive prices.

If you want to make money over time, add to your investment portfolios in this period of volatility and lower prices. Invest systematically. We can help you to be set up with monthly electronic bank drafts into your accounts, which can be started, stopped, increased or decreased at any time.

Supercharge your accounts by moving larger chunks of excess cash which may be earning a low-interest rate to your investment account.  Add to your children’s and grandchildren’s 529 accounts now, since college costs never seem to go down and your family will appreciate the gift of an education.

No one can predict short-term markets, and investors who sit on the sidelines risk losing out on periods of meaningful price appreciation that follow market downturns. Focus on the benefit of long-term investing and be decisive while this price decline presents the opportunity. Stay on the road with your investment plan, and feel free to talk with us to voice your concerns.

Seminar:  Three Winning Strategies

Over the years we have helped you to plan, invest and protect your wealth. We have helped you with your tax planning and tax returns, and we counsel many of you to prepare an estate plan. Now, we want to help you to organize your personal data, have constructive conversations about intergenerational family finances and make the best decisions you can for your current healthcare coverage.

Join us on Thursday, November 15, 2018, from 10 am-1pm at Scarritt Bennet Center. We’ll be hosting an event we call “Three Winning Retirement Strategies.”

You’ll learn from experts what happens within families as they talk about money and plan for the future.  You’ll learn about the most current Medicare and healthcare plans. And we’ll tell you stories about what individuals and families need to do prepare for medical emergencies that happen in all our lives.

Get a Free ICE Key

Everyone attending our seminar will receive a free Ice Key, a portable, easy-to-use USB flash drive that goes right on your keychain. We’ll help you to fill out the pre-loaded PDF forms with your important medical information. In a medical emergency, first responders are trained to look for the acronym ICE (In Case of Emergency) so doctors have the information they need to make life-saving medical decisions.

Lunch and parking passes will be provided to those who RSVP. Who else do you know that might benefit from a key?  Feel free to bring a friend.

To RSVP please call Liz Clay at 615-673-7795 or CLICK HERE

Cash is an Asset Class

At this point we are thankful for the financial gains that have come in this current bull market. Starting in March of 2009 we have had over 3,400 calendar days of gains, the second-longest growth run on record since WW2. In most accounts, we have held firm to the growth story keeping our foot on the gas and “overweighting” stocks in the investment portfolios.

Read more…

New Understandings, Better Results

This year I set a goal for myself to learn more about new technologies that are being offered to financial planning and wealth management businesses like ours. I have always thought if I could take knowledge and turn it into value then it would be good for all concerned. Our goal is to offer comprehensive strategies and give advice on how to use financial planning to set a course for the investment process.

I wanted to learn if and how these new technologies could help our clients. New trends like big data, artificial intelligence, behavioral finance, digital wallets, e-documents, and smart portfolios are mixing in with the reliable old rules like diversification, tax-efficiency, and ethical behavior.

Valuable Courses, Conferences and Continuing Education

Each of us at Snow Creek has attended online courses, conferences, and conventions where Business School Professors, Money Managers, Economists, Mathematicians, and Research Scientists gave us their opinion on many trends, strategies, and techniques. Luckily for our pocketbooks, Nashville is now a popular convention destination, and we could sit and listen for hours while educators and sponsors from the International Association of Advisors in Philanthropy and the Investments and Wealth Institute came here to deliver almost five days of presentations.

We went for two days to an advisor summit in New Orleans to learn about intelligent systems for wealth management and personal financial wellness. We chatted with many software vendors for wealth advisors and subsequently looked at many “demos” of the newest and smartest iterations of their software. I went to NYC to attend a JPMorgan conference for advisors and listened for two days to world-class money managers who bring big data economic analytics to bear on investment decisions for enormous pools of money.

Professionally I have to complete continuing education requirements every two years to maintain my Certified Financial Planning Designation. Being a Certified Financial Planner, CFP® is about extensive training and experience along with professional integrity. This year our learning honed in on our obligation to always act in the best interest of our clients as a fiduciary.

Better Tools, Better Planning

In my opinion, it’s a good idea to constantly work on your professional skills, learn continuously, finding mentors and resources that guide you to carefully use knowledge and experience to make decisions. Our investment values are clear, and our work begins collaboratively with each individual, family, estate or trust in a one-on-one Financial Planning process.

Once we establish your objectives we must gather your data, organize it, analyze it and use the results to establish a course to achieve long-term financial goals.  To facilitate that we can now offer you convenient financial data aggregation tools that consolidate and simplify your various accounts.

From there we can analyze the data and then deliver detailed reports that are easy to read on most smartphones, tablets or computers. These reports will clearly show you what you want to know about your money.

No Substitute for Face-to-Face

But, unless we regularly sit down and talk eye-to-eye about all this data, the information may not be of much use or of much comfort to you. Everyone’s lives are forever changing — maybe it is a job or career change, your family or your marital situation, big purchases like houses or an investment opportunity arise, planning for retirement, and the big ones — health care and estate planning. We can all make smarter decisions by modeling hypothetical outcomes of financial choices and the long-term outcomes may very well be closer to what you want.

The economy is forever changing as are the harvests of investments. It’s important that we get your unique situation right, and without your ongoing input that’s a pretty difficult task. I suggest everyone re-commit to attending regular meetings with us to talk about your accounts, tell us your concerns and adapt to the new data aggregation tools. Then we can use our new understandings and experience to set your financial goals and invest accordingly.

Call us and make an appointment to review, let us hear about what’s on your mind. It’s your money and it’s important to communicate regularly. We prefer to review in person, but if that’s not convenient we can show you how to use the internet to share information and have a proper conversation.

A Note to Our Clients About Trading Activity

I wanted to bring your attention to the most recent activity in your investment accounts. We are generating trades in the fixed-income portion to move money from a strategy that is not doing as well as we expect.

As you know, the economy has been sluggish for years and the Federal Reserve had a policy of low-interest rates to encourage growth. The economy is now growing at a faster rate than before and the Fed has decided to raise interest rates to moderate growth. Whenever things change there is a period of friction and dislocation as market participants try to adjust to the new paradigm. We are finding that our active U.S. fixed managers are doing better and they see more opportunity ahead as we go through the new interest rate cycle.

The Move to U.S. Fixed Income

For several years we used Global fixed income as a key component of our strategy but the performance of that strategy has lagged for the last six to 18 months. Conversely, the performance of our U.S. fixed income has performed up to and above our expectations, therefore we are closing out the Global fixed income and repositioning that money to the performing funds.

Fixed income is an important piece of the investment portfolio because it can preserve principal, generate income and provide stability. We want to encourage our investors to stay invested in stocks for the long term because you can make more money in stocks while you have the relative safety of the fixed income.

We encourage you to review your accounts through the Snow Creek Web portal https://snowcreekwealth.portal.tamaracinc.com and call us with any questions or concerns.

Once again, thank you for your trust and confidence.

Is Pessimism Good for Investors?

The emotions of investors are subject to change and at times those sentiment changes can be contrary to market signals. For example, investors may be optimistic about the market or a stock and may continue to buy, thinking that prices will continue to push higher. But, often stock prices pull back leaving the overly optimistic investor with a loss.

Or, an investor may be overly pessimistic and think stocks are perpetually going down and keep her money under the mattress waiting for the perfect investment opportunity. Often, though, when pessimism is at its most extreme stocks lift off their lows and the pessimistic investor misses out.

When market strategists put both sentiment extremes into statistical perspective, we can see that there is a positive correlation between extreme pessimism and potential future gains. There is also a positive correlation between excessive optimism and future declines. Sentiment is not a perfect indicator, it is just one of many variables to consider when you are choosing your portfolio.

Unwarranted Pessimism?

In today’s market environment, renewed volatility, Trump tirades, inflation, a focus on the Fed interest rate hikes, and trade war talk have shifted the focus away from the ongoing global economic expansion and the favorable earnings outlook. Pessimism is at an extreme and the appetite for risk seems low. However, extreme pessimism is not supported by deteriorating fundamentals (job losses, consumer spending down, or a decline in corporate earnings).

The outlook will be clearer as the corporate reporting season is about to begin, and earnings expectations are optimistic. It would not be surprising to get an upward move in the markets when the attention shifts back to earnings and global growth.

Patience, Please

Stock market volatility had been missing for all of 2017, and since it returned in February and March it has been rough on the nerves.  It takes time to make money in the market and one must try and not get too concerned with market volatility or a move of more than 1% a day. Over time these daily moves are inconsequential to our long-term goals. In my opinion, the current volatility is more consistent with a market correction in a bull market, and while the fundamentals stay intact it supports our overweight allocation to equities.

We monitor each portfolio daily, and our goal is to statistically minimize the downside risk by staying globally diversified and to be tax efficient by harvesting tax losses. We build fences around long-term cash withdrawal needs, and we plant seeds into growth as opportunity presents.  Financial planning is the base of our practice, and the real way to make money in stocks is not to get scared out of them when sentiment is at an extreme.

Do you have a financial plan that reflects your sentiment or your goals? Give us a call to schedule an appointment and we’ll keep you on the road.

The Thimble

For our investors, the 2017 stock market and account performance is a one-sided affair. The advance was global in scope with every U.S. index rising in all four quarters. Stocks outperformed bonds for the third year in a row, growth beat value with technology the top-performing sector, and the emerging markets were the top asset class in 2017.  Forty-two of 44 countries posted gains.

The U.S. economy is strong and the momentum in the global economy is picking up. The idea that global growth is being synchronized raises the possibility that the investment cycle can be stronger for longer.

Two Changes Benefit Investors

There are two major changes that help our cause as investors. First, since the bull market started in March of 2009, stocks have appreciated largely due to low-interest rates from the accommodative Federal Reserve policy. The goal of the Fed’s policy was to get the economy going and inflate the value of assets — homes, real estate, stocks, and businesses — to increase the financial well-being of all who save and make investments in their homes or retirement accounts.

Second, at the end of 2017 U.S. business earnings get a boost from the change in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. That means that many of the companies we own stock in have become 14% more valuable because now the U.S. Government owns less of the earnings than before.  Companies can take that 14% and either pay employees more income, or they can pay out more in dividends to shareholders, or they can buy back company stock which makes the remaining shares more valuable.  The tax cut is incredibly good news for owners of U.S. stocks or in shares in foreign companies.

Previewing 2018

Our outlook for 2018 is for the bull market to stay intact, but we’re likely to encounter increased volatility with corrections exceeding 5%.  We’ll be active in market dips, and we’ll rebalance portfolios to take advantage of price changes.

We’re tweaking our portfolios to get in front of the boost from tax reform in that we are taking money from the growth stocks and applying it to the more cyclical, value, domestic and small-cap stocks. We expect our global growth theme to continue and we’ll continue to add to international stocks.

Although we are positive for 2018, there are risks in any outlook that can alter the landscape — congressional failure to fund the government and increase the debt ceiling, trade protectionism, disruptive geopolitical events, a stronger U.S. dollar and an abrupt rise in interest rates can derail an outlook. If global growth slows, an earnings deceleration is likely as we move into 2019. We’ll be on the watch for these macroeconomic trends and react accordingly.