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Blog Posts

Fireworks to Celebrate the mid-point of 2017!

  As I write this commentary at the mid-point of 2017, the markets have made steady progress in the first 6 months despite what has been an unpredictable and often concerning geopolitical environment around the world.  I often tell clients and interested parties that unexpected events can have an impact on markets but they are generally short-lived.  At the end of the day, the markets go back to being influenced by companies and their profits.  That seems to be the case so far in 2017 as we get ready to celebrate with July 4th fireworks, even though every week is filled with news about our partisan politics or the latest terrorist incident.   In the U.S., the Federal Reserve (Fed) made good on raising interest rates.  Unemployment is low, workers are producing goods and services and financial markets have responded in-kind.  While somewhat different economic factors are in play, most overseas’ economies and financial markets are outperforming the U.S.  Even bonds, an asset class most felt would lag as the Fed raised rates, have done well on a relative basis.  Read on! →

Early to the Market Party?

It’s rare to find someone who likes to be early to a party.  It’s a unique person indeed who enjoys what most consider at best, an awkward situation with a host who silently wishes they had a few extra minutes to prepare.  At the other end of the etiquette spectrum are those who don’t know when to leave.  Most make their exit while still having fun, but there are always a few who overstay their welcome, fueled by the adrenaline of rich food and heavy handed cocktails.  Sound familiar?   Like most celebrations, the “market party” has an awkward beginning with a handful of guests making idle chatter while anxiously waiting for others to arrive.  Somewhere along the way, the early arrivers are joined by the validators.  The party then takes its legitimate place as a festive, burgeoning event where everyone seems happy and revels in good cheer.  Last but not least, the latecomers arrive.  Whether due to procrastination, an overbooked dance card or just plain forgetfulness, every party has them.  Whichever group the investor may belong to there is Read on! →

What is “VUCA” for Dow 20,000? – A Message from the Pulpit

Being a fairly regular attendee at church, I enjoy the reflection that comes from listening to our Clergy explain the liturgy in ways that tie our lives, habits and values to what is happening in the world around us.  As with most large groups, I expect how the message is interpreted and acted on varies widely within the congregation.  As our democracy embarks on a new period of its long evolution, concerns are at a crescendo and opinions on the outcome of issues are not always positive or optimistic.  Under this backdrop, our Rector gave what I believe was a thoughtful sermon on how to put the current state of affairs in context while offering ways each of us could move forward in a caring, positive way as individuals.  That should not come as a surprise given the role Clergy play in our communities.  What might come as a surprise and at the risk of being accused of not paying attention, I couldn’t help but make a connection between the sermon’s foundation – VUCA – and what happens every day in Read on! →

A “Value” Bias in Investing

Broadly speaking, value investments are those that are often acquired at a discount to their fair market price and that pay dividends.  They also tend to be perceived as “steady” and less inclined to volatility relative to their more growth oriented counterparts.  Our portfolios have a mix of U.S. and International equity investments classified as growth, but are more heavily weighted to value.  Only the smallest portfolios, limited to broad market, passive index investments with roughly equal weightings of value and growth, may lack this lean to value.   A closer look at portfolios will confirm this preference.  In the large cap space, value investments like PowerShares Large Cap Value (ticker, PWV) and FMI International (ticker, FMIJX) generally represent a larger percentage of the overall portfolio than their growth counterparts, Schwab U.S. Large Cap Growth (ticker, SCHG) and WisdomTree Emerging Market Consumer ETF (ticker, EMCG).  Berkshire Hathaway and IBM, which were added to larger portfolios almost a year ago, are two more examples of “value” companies.  A close inspection of mid cap, small cap and emerging market investments will turn Read on! →

“Fall” into your Employer Benefits Package

  Although it may not yet feel like fall outside, we are approaching the last quarter of 2016 and the time when employer benefits open enrollment occurs for the coming year.  Before that benefits package hits your mail/email, here are a few things to consider in advance and discuss with your advisor.   Are you covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)? An HDHP is defined as having a deductible of at least $1,300 for Singles or $2,600 for families.  If your health plan qualifies, you are eligible to contribute pre-tax money to a Health Savings Account (HSA), up to $3,400 for Singles in 2017, or $6,750 for families per year.  By contributing pre-tax money, you reduce your current taxable income, but more importantly, when the money is withdrawn from the HSA for qualified medical expenses, it comes out tax-free.   There is currently no other investment vehicle in which pre-tax money goes in and tax-free money comes out. The ideal situation is to maximize contributions to the HSA each year you are eligible (by having a high deductible health Read on! →