Cash is an Opportunity

As we start another year, we want to work with you, our clients, to keep an eye out for new opportunities.  Many of our clients have significant cash reserves which they accumulate as part of their safety net and a rainy-day fund.  In the past leaving the funds in the bank or looking for investment opportunities did not make much difference as cash was essentially yielding nothing and a dormant asset class.  Things have changed, it’s time to upgrade your fixed income.

As the Federal Reserve has begun to raise interest rates cash is no longer an asset class to be ignored.  Boost your income and diversify your investments with short-term fixed income. There are many vehicles which now can be considered as an alternative to low yielding idle cash or bank money market accounts.  Consider the benefits of high-quality short-term U.S.Treasury bills and notes, intermediate-term tax-exempt municipal bonds, or investment grade Collateralized Loan Obligations. Depending on the time horizon, liquidity needs and risk tolerance, we can find a productive home for those idle funds that will generate income and add balance to your investments.

Short-Term Fixed Income

Short-term fixed income will generate more interest income than a typical savings account and the investments have been found to preserve capital. Generally, there is very little market volatility and the funds are usually available within two days of the request. We have found this to be ideal for people who are saving for a specific goal or to keep a reserve.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss the cash opportunities discussed above. We look forward to hearing from you.

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

Get a FREE ICE Key and Be Ready for a Medical Emergency

 

As we age, having our affairs in order is more important than ever. And I’m not just talking about our own personal affairs, but those of our parents and children, too. Many boomers are now caring for aging parents, which requires knowledge of all their medical conditions, prescriptions, allergies and more. If we’re lucky, this information is recorded somewhere, but too often it’s not.

Plus, as our kids leave for college, we must be able to manage their healthcare from afar. Even though we try to equip them to be self-sufficient and use good judgment, they’re still college students who may not be as organized as they should be, especially if a medical emergency arises. Plus, the ability to share a student’s healthcare information — even with parents — is often limited due to of HIPAA regulations.

The Difference between Life and Death

In the case of a medical emergency, having important details readily available to medical professionals can be the difference between life and death. An innocent drug prescription can be lethal when taken in conjunction with other medications. It has been reported that Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) seriously injure up to 2 million hospitalized patients and cause over 106,000 deaths annually. In most cases, doctors simply lack the medical information they need to treat their patients.

The Solution: The ICE Key

This portable, easy-to-use USB flash drive goes right on a keychain. In a medical emergency, first responders are trained to look for the acronym ICE (In Case of Emergency), ensuring that medical professionals will have the information they need to make life-saving decisions.

Simply input important medical information on the PDF forms pre-loaded on the ICE key. This is not only critical to nurses and doctors but can also allow them to communicate directly with you as the person to contact in case of an emergency involving a parent or child.

Get a FREE ICE Key

Contact us today to schedule a review and we’ll give you a free ICE Key and help you complete the pre-loaded PDF forms.

Back to School Checklist

As school starts up again, we at Snow Creek want you and your child to be as prepared as possible. Here are a few things you might consider as we begin a new school year.  Read more…

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.

Philanthropy: What do you want your legacy to say about you?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about philanthropy and its role in our financial planning practice. As more of our clients begin to contemplate retirement and estate tax planning, the questions that always arise are, do we have enough money to retire? How do we pass what’s left to our heirs? And sometimes, what are our philanthropic goals?

Often what is missed are the numerous planning opportunities available to benefit charity, create a current income flow, and reduce potential inheritance tax while we are alive.

Generational Wealth Transfer

Some of the more common generational wealth transfer techniques are to create a trust during your lifetime. These trusts are usually funded with appreciated assets being transferred to the trust. The trust sells the property and, in these instances, avoids any income tax.  The grantor receives a current charitable income tax deduction and an income stream for life or for joint lives. Upon death, the remaining assets go to the charities you have designated. There are numerous types of trusts to facilitate this kind of planning.

Charitable Giving Reflects Your Values

For clients with heirs, the dilemma is to determine what is fair so the children and grandchildren are adequately taken care of and what should be left to charity. While some people prefer to leave their entire estate to their heirs, others believe leaving enormous sums of money to children and grandchildren can be a disservice.

Communicating Your Values

One item we would stress is to have as many of the family involved in the discussions as possible. It is critical for future generations to understand your philanthropic views so they can continue to respect your wishes. Formal family meetings, for example, may be scheduled so all the generations can have an understanding of what’s at stake, as well as getting to know the key family advisors: attorney, accountant and wealth manager. This gives the opportunity for parents to encourage giving without imposing their ideas on their children.

Immediate Tax Planning

For more immediate income tax planning, consider bunching deductions in one year and taking the standard deduction in the alternate year. This is especially beneficial in light of the significant increase to the standard deduction passed into law in the new tax bill effective 2018. This can partially be achieved by making donations to donor-advised funds. A donor-advised fund can be established by most custodians as well as community foundations. The amount contributed to the fund is allowed as a charitable deduction in the year contributed. The funds can be distributed in the current or future years to the respective charities at your direction, thus satisfying your tax planning and philanthropic goals.

Please call us to schedule an appointment to discuss any of your charitable questions.