Archive for the ‘Prudence & Fiduciary Duty’ Category
That was a message I got from a new client of mine. I must admit, it really bites. Yes, I sold his Apple stock. And yes, since then the price has gone up 15%. So of course, I can understand he’s upset and beginning to question whether I know what I am doing.
Having studied improvisational comedy, I’m aware that regardless of how I feel, it is wise to always validate others’ feelings. So I replied, “Yes, I should have asked you before I sold it.”
Afterward, I sent him some data to mull over.
Nasdaq just crawled its way back to 4000 a few days ago, and this time Apple is the biggest and hottest stock in the Nasdaq 100.
Last time when Nasdaq passed 4000, the top ten tech stocks (try saying that ten times fast) were, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Qualcom, Oracle, JDSU, Nextel, Sun Micro, Veritas and MCI Worldcom.
Since the last time Nasdaq passed 4000, Microsoft has gone down 34%, Cisco 59%, Intel 53%, Qualcomm, the only up stock in the group, has gone up 25%, Oracal has gone down 67%, JDSU 98% and the remaining four are no longer in business; they were either merged out of existence or end ignominiously.
This is actually the wrong question. The right question should be, “Which license do you have?”
Generally, there are two types of licenses for people who call themselves a “financial advisor.” People who passed the series 65 test and people who passed the series 7 test. The nature of these two licenses are as far apart as heaven and earth.
Series 7 is a securities license. People who have passed this test can legally be a broker. They are actually prohibited by law to give financial advice, except incidental to the financial products they are selling.
He is paying the advisor 1.6% in fees. First of all, this fee is quite exorbitant. For the size of his portfolio, he shouldn’t be paying more than 1% in advisor fees.
Adding insult to injury, for the fee that he is charging, this advisor puts his money into a collection of very expensive mutual funds like ODMAX.
It is very easy to check the expenses of a mutual fund. I just googled ODMAX and I found out it has a load of 5.75% and an expense ratio of 1.36%. (For those who don’t know, load is a one time charge to pay commision to the Ameriprise advisor who doubles as a broker. Expense ratio is an ongoing annual charge.)
ODMAX is a mutual fund that invests in emerging market stocks. If you use the low cost alternative, aka a Vanguard fund, you will pay no load and the expense ratio is only 0.33%, a saving of 1.06%.
Don’t ever underestimate these tiny savings. Because in ten years, the savings will be more than 10%, in twenty years, more than 20%. This businessman is in his 50s; he can easily live another 30 years. I asked him: “How would you like to be more than 30% poorer in retirement?” That is exactly what this financial advisor will make him.
Seriously! Congress established it in 2008 in House Resolution 1499.
I only know this after getting an email from my estate planning attorney friend. I think you should read it as well.
According to the resolution passed by Congress, “Many Americans are unaware that lack of estate planning and financial illiteracy may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties by default through the complex process of probate.” The resolution goes on to state that “careful planning can greatly assist Americans in preserving assets built over a lifetime for the benefit of family, heirs, or charities.”
This has recently been a subject of discussion with clients of mine. They are a self made millionaire couple. their parents however, are relatively poor. They have enough to live on by themselves, but if they ever got sick, they would be financially dependent on their children for care.
To that end, my clients have set aside $1m just in case.
I suggested they fork over a few hundred a year to pay for their parents’ gym memberships. If their parents actually use the memberships, my clients may never need to spend the million.
1. “The gross revenues for the financial services industry in 2010 were $1.129 trillion. That year, total US financial assets stood at $50.38 trillion, meaning that the financial services industry as a whole is skimming 2.25% a year out of everyone’s wealth.” This is an excerpt from a post on Wealthcare Capital entitled “Investment Expenses – The Other Millionaire You Make.” How about I help you cut those expenses by half?
2. Shocking! Shocking! Your elected representatives want the financial industry to continue ripping you off!
3. Ike Devji wrote a piece “Investment Fraud Red Flag for Physicians.” It is packed full of useful tips. I have one thing to add though, never work with a broker, regardless how clean his or her broker check record. These people are not legally obliged to watch out for your best interest.
4. A very succinct piece in Physicians’ Monday Digest about How Rising Interest Rates Would Affect You.
5. Taxpayers beware, AccountingToday has a piece on tax deductions expiring in 2014.
The tenant is a single mom with two young children, whose estranged husband just stopped paying child support because he is officially unemployed, but the tenant believes he is getting paid under the table.
My heart goes out to this tenant, I would never want her and her children to become homeless. But my head tells me that if my client lets her stay for free, she would most likely wind up staying for free forever and my client’s rental property would become a toxic asset.
So what should I advise my client?
I read with disgust this news about a “financial advisor” stealing $1.3m from his client who also happened to be his father!
I want all of you to know that not all financial advisors are the same. In fact “financial advisor” is a free term. There is no educational requirement nor legal requisite. Justin Bieber and his grandmother could call themselves financial advisors and begin dispensing advice – and they would not get into trouble for it!
In reality though, there are generally four types of people who like to call themselves “financial advisors”:
I had a fun conversation with a prospective client who I lost a few months ago. He actually got me to create an investment plan for him, then he shopped around and found an advisor who charges less.
He then had the gall to call me back and ask whether I think he is paying too much for his new advisor. Here is what he said.
My advisor puts me in low cost ETFs and meets with me every quarter. But otherwise he does nothing with my portfolio, so what exactly do I pay him $15k for?
I know this gentleman has a sizable portfolio, and $15k means a fee of well below 1%. So I told him what I thought.
The fee is very competitive.
The advisor did the right thing by putting his money in low cost EFTs.
- Doing nothing with a portfolio is the only right thing to do!
A few days ago, I interviewed Jim Ludwick using Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA.) This is the first time I’ve interviewed an expert live on air! Feel free to laugh as you watch me stutter and trip over my words left and right.
Jim is the owner of MainStreet Financial, he used to be an agent at NY Life. Now he is a licensed insurance advisor.
I did not waste his appearance and got right down to the nitty gritty. I asked about a client case during the interview. Specifically, this client of mine was talked into 1) buying a universal life insurance inside her defined benefit plan, 2) buying a whole life insurance policy for her young daughter, because “it’s a great investment” according to the agent’s illustration of 8% growth.
I asked Jim three questions:
Some might ask: what value is there in meeting regularly? There can be about $100k of value in it, let me tell ya!
Meeting regularly allows me to uncover hidden issues and potential opportunities, thereby helping my clients make smart financial decisions.
In 2009, he had a windfall of $1m. He asked a lady who had sold him a bunch of annuities where he should put his newfound cash. He further told her he was already up to his neck in annuities so he wanted to take some risks.
The agent pointed him to a celebrity business. Basically, some hollywood celebrity was trying to start an online gaming business, and needed $30m to do so.
My client went to their presentation and was mesmerized by the income projection. Then, when he saw that one of his relatives was a minority partner in the venture, he was totally sold. He signed a check for $1m on the spot.
He might as well have flushed it down the toilet.
Here is what he did wrong.
I went to a conference for CPAs last week, and my biggest takeaway was a concept called captive insurance.
This is the concept of a business owner setting up an insurance company to insure the risk of his/her own business. Thus the name captive.
But what’s in it for one to have one’s own insurance company?
It turns out that Congress has created legislation to encourage captive insurance – some would call that a tax loophole. IRC 831(b) states that small insurance companies ($1.2m or less in annual premium income) pay tax only on investment incomes. In other words, they don’t pay tax on premium income.
Can you see the tax loophole here? If a business pays its captive insurance company $1.2m in insurance premiums, the premium is deductible to the business and yet tax exempt to the captive insurance company. Depending on the tax structure of the business, this could mean a tax saving of 40% to 70%.
But tax savings aren’t the only major benefit!
When I write a blog post, I like to drive home one and only one point at a time.
In my last blog post, the point I wanted to make was that cost matters. In case you didn’t notice, not only did I reduced my new client’s cost by 85 basis points, I also reduced the number of funds in her portfolio from 39 to 4.
With such a small numbers of funds, is the portfolio diverse enough?
Emphatically yes. In fact, it is much more diversified than the previous portfolio of 39 actively managed funds.
What I use are asset class funds; DFQTX holds all 5000+ stocks traded in the US equity market; DFTWX holds all foreign stocks; DFGEX holds all domestic and foreign REITs and of course VBTIX holds all bonds. With these four portfolios, you are holding all of the world’s productive assets. How much more diversified can you get?
Last weekend, I went to New Jersey to meet a potential client who is an executive at a pharmaceutical company.
He told me that, as part of the executive benefit package, the company refers executives to Morgan Stanley where they get “free” financial advice. I smirked and said: “Well, we will find out how free it is. One thing I know, though, Wall Street firms are not known for charity.”
It turns out that Morgan Stanley advised him to open several, separately managed accounts (SMA), each with a management fee of 1.5%. The reason for the multiple accounts?