December Market Perspective

As the U.S. stock market moves towards its 5th anniversary off the March 2009 bottom and we break all-time highs seemingly every week, I wanted to share some of my thoughts.  Using S&P500 Index historical total return data1 there have been 12 bull markets since the 1930’s.  The industry standard definition of a bull market is a gain of 20% off its low over a period of at least 6 months. Today’s bull market is in its 57th month which puts it close to average from a historical perspective.  Its total return from the 2009 low to today is 167%.  This is close to the average bull market gain of 185% since the 1930’s. However, the rate of gain per month is 2.9% which ranks it 3rd best since the 1950’s.  The only faster pace has been the bull market leading up to the ’87 Crash and the tech driven bull market of the late 90’s which ended with the dot.com crash in 2000. With low-moderate U.S. growth, low inflation, low (but rising) relative interest rates, improving housing market, lower Read on! →

Last Minute Gifts for the Person Who Has it All

Despite the fact that I am a planner by nature, somehow the holidays always sneak up on me and I am left to complete all Christmas shopping a week or two before the big day. (Yes, I have resolved to change my ways in 2014…) I also find it increasingly difficult to come up with creative gift ideas as family members get older, have steady careers, good salaries, and can buy what they want at the drop of a hat, leaving me with very little to work with in the way of fun and exciting gifts that still have an element of surprise. If you find yourself in a similar predicament this year, I’m here to lend a few suggestions that are not your typical Christmas gift. Let’s think out of the box this Christmas…quite literally, because none of these gifts fit under a tree! 1.    Donating to a charity or cause in someone’s honor. Is there a charity or cause that you care deeply about? Or better yet, maybe a charity or cause that your family member or friend Read on! →

Santa’s Checking His List, Are You?

In my last blog, I wrote on the virtues of asset class diversification to mitigate risk.  More specifically, taking stock of your equity holdings and deciding how much of their value could be lost.  The goal was to assign a dollar value, instead of a percentage to measure risk. Sticking with a similar theme, my latest reading of The Intelligent Investor[1], lead me to reflect on the importance of checklists in making investment decisions and reduce errors.  Working in conjunction with Clearview Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Officer, portfolio oversight is a critical component of my role as Chief Compliance Officer.  This doesn’t involve making specific investment choices but it does involve working to establish a useful list of decision criteria to help determine when to buy, hold or sell an investment. Too often, individual investors allow subjective criteria play an outsized role in whether to buy, hold or sell an investment.  While instinct may have a place, a checklist of objective criteria should be employed to mitigate emotional bias and provide a higher level of consistency.  Checklists are an effective Read on! →

ATTN. NC TAXPAYERS – 2014 NC TAX WITHHOLDING NOTICE

December 17, 2013: ATTN: NC TAXPAYERS. The North Carolina General Assembly recently enacted a bill which becomes effective for tax years beginning January 1, 2014. Under new North Carolina law, the current graduated income tax rates will be replaced with a flat tax rate of 5.8% in 2014. All NC taxpayers will be allowed to take a higher standard deduction, but may no longer claim a personal exemption for themselves, their spouse, children, or any other qualifying dependents. Additionally, many deductions and tax credits that impact North Carolina withholding tax are no longer available for tax years beginning January 1, 2014. As of January 1, 2014, the North Carolina Department of Revenue will reset all current withholding elections to zero (meaning NC will automatically withhold the maximum amount of State income tax from your paycheck, unless you instruct otherwise). By now, you should have received notice from your employer prompting you to assess and complete a new Employee Withholding Allowance Certificate. To update your North Carolina withholding election for the 2014 tax year, submit a completed NC-4EZ or NC-4 form Read on! →

Year-end Reflections and a Look Ahead

As 2013 comes to a close, it is a good time to reflect on the many things that have transpired.  For us, the year brought the start of a new firm and the opportunity to place new emphasis on our clients and the comprehensive nature of our work.  We are grateful to our clients and to the professionals who showed support during the year.  We look forward to providing many years of dedicated service and working together to navigate the numerous financial needs that will arise throughout the course of our relationship. Equity markets continued to show strength in 2013 and portfolios benefited as a result.  We remained diligent, yet cautious throughout the year.  Diligence came in the form of keeping fixed income and hybrid investments at targets.  Caution was exhibited by seeking quality, valued oriented equity investments and by keeping higher than normal levels of cash.  The result was moderate, yet steady growth in portfolios with reasonable downside protection when markets retreated.  Growth is more uncertain in 2014.  Interest rates remain low, but tapering by the Federal Reserve seems Read on! →