Archive for the ‘Prudence & Fiduciary Duty’ Category
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?
Prospective client A is a physician in his late 60s. He has already reached retirement age but he needs to keep working since he has less than $1mm saved for his retirement.
All that money is in tax deferred accounts, meaning far less than $1mm is available for his retirement. This is NOT retirement security.
Client A is not an extravagant person, so why is he in such dire straits?
The S&P 500 closed the first quarter at a record high. Should that worry investors? The short answer is, No.
When the market was 30% below the high three years ago, I did some research. I categorized all market conditions into:
1. Breaking a new high.
2. Less than 10% below historical high.
3. Between 10% and 20% below historical high.
4. Between 20% and 30% below historical high.
5. Between 30% and 40% below historical high.
6. More than 40% below historical high.
Then I calculated the one year forward returns of the six conditions.
In the last month alone, I’ve gotten calls from two clients asking me if they should invest in tax advantaged oil and gas investments being pitched to them? Both of these clients are physicians.
The pitch is that oil and gas investments are like IRA accounts, but without the contribution limit. Whatever amount you invest can be written off right away.
The pitch is quite alluring to high-income professionals like physicians who are facing higher taxation. But it sounds too good to be true, so I did a study.
It turns out what is being pitched as “tax advantaged” is in fact the riskiest part of an oil and gas investment.
Recently, a client of mine fell, broke his hip and ended up lying on the floor for 20 hours before he was rescued. I went to visit him in the hospital a couple of times. The good news is: he is out of immediate life-threatening danger. The bad news is: he may be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.
When John first came to me to seek my help with his personal finance, I looked at his overall financial big picture and was pleased overall. He worked at federal and state jobs and enjoyed good pensions. On top of that, he had a decent investment account.
But there was a gaping hole in his retirement security: he was turning 70 then, was divorced, and his children lived far away. That meant if he were to get sick, nobody would be there to take care of him; he would need to hire caregivers. Right then, I insisted that he buy long-term care insurance.
Posted January 2, 2013on:
The cliff deal struck between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a good deal overall for high income folks.
Make no mistake, some of them will have to pay more in taxes, but the amount is far less than if there is no deal and all is set back to the Clinton tax regime.
In the past, I have advised my clients to defer income recognition and capital gain realization so that they can pay taxes later. Not this year! Under current law, major tax changes are set to happen at the end of the year. These include:
- Tax rates on ordinary income will rise. The rates for most brackets will increase by 3%. The highest top marginal tax rate (which was for income above $388,350 for both single and married filing joint filers in 2012) will go from 35.0% (in 2012) to 39.6% (in 2013).
Here is a selection of the best wealth management articles around the web for September:
5 reasons your portfolio is too complicated, by Kyle Bumpus
Why analysts are scratching their heads over QE3, by Robert Wasilewski
Is rebalancing market timing?, by Mike Piper
Choosing a mutual fund – Avoid these 6 mistakes, by Roger Wohlner
Fidelity’s new retirement saving guidelines, by Barbara Friedberg
Can I consistently outperform the market? by Ken Faulkenberry
Dividend reinvestment plans (RIPS) and their benefits, by Dave Scott
Questions to ask when picking a financial advisor, by Carl Richards
Get my white paper: The Informed Investor: 5 Key Concepts for Financial Success.
When talking to prospective clients, I am upfront about what I can and can not do. I can NOT beat the market.
Recently, that straightforwardness caused me to lose a prospective client to a major Wall Street firm. Apparently, the financial advisor from that firm was able to convince him that with their exclusive location, expensive brochure, and nice Armani suits, they could beat the market.
This led me to do a mental exercise.
Why do you charge me 1% every year regardless how well you do for me? I would rather not pay you anything for the first 5% return and split anything above and beyond that.
This is a question a prospective client of mine asked me. Let me explain why this fee arrangement is not in the client’s best interest.
Historically, the mean return of the market is 10%, and the standard deviation of return is 15%. This means the market is equally likely to go up 25% in one year and go down 5% in another.
Despite what they want you to believe, financial advisors have very little control over the market.
Why do I need an expensive lawyer to do estate planning for me? Why can’t I just write my will on a piece of paper with two people as witnesses?
This is a question I got from a woman who owns 11 properties in 5 different states. Here is how I explained it to her.
It’s a bad idea to write your own will. Each state has its own descent and distribution law that governs the distribution of the estate of the deceased.
Recently, I went to the monthly meeting of the Chicago Booth Entrepreneur Advisory Group. The group is made up primarily of University of Chicago alumni, and it provides a forum for entrepreneurs to share their issues.
I was blown away by one entrepreneur’s unbridled optimism. He invented a technology that makes changing TV channels on a PC feel as fast as on a real TV. He plans to challenge the cable companies by convincing all of us to watch TV on our PCs.
Yes, cable companies charge us an arm and a leg for their channels, many of which we don’t watch. And nobody loves their cable company. But they have been in business for years. How could a solo entrepreneur working in his bedroom take them on?
Two months ago, I got a call from client of mine, who asked my opinion about an opportunity to invest in pre-IPO Facebook shares. He explained that he and his business partner were offered the opportunity to invest in a private fund that will hold Facebook shares.
I know nothing about these funds, but I told my client to stay away. As a general principle, I always steer my clients away from private funds unless they run the funds themselves. The reason is very simple: these are unregulated vehicles where there is no government oversight and there is no transparency whatever. You don’t know what monkey business they do with your money. Most business people intuitively grasp that if the private deal is about starting a restaurant; but once the deal is about buying Facebook shares, many of them throw caution to the wind.
I met Joseph in a startup networking event. He was trying to attract investors for his latest venture. He has an impressive resume: he founded a tech company that was later sold for tens of millions of dollars in the 1980s.
I was immediately struck by the “never say old” motto of this 75-year-old entrepreneur. But one thing did come across as odd: he was trying to raise a mere $500k for his new venture. Why didn’t he just fund the venture out of his own pocket?
A few months later, I invited him to a charity fundraising dinner where the ticket is $100 per person. He finally admitted to me: “Michael, I don’t have an extra $100 to spare.”
Many people think that fee-based financial advisors are those who charge their clients fees for service; therefore, they have more transparency and less conflict of interest. That’s exactly what the financial industry wants you to think.
Fee-based financial advisors are the financial industry’s response to the rise of independent fee-only financial advisors. Fee-only financial advisors are paid solely through fees for service paid directly by clients; they are not licensed to receive third-party commissions. Consumers rightfully associate this compensation model with integrity and unbiased advice.
Investors crave certainty, but the future is never certain. Prudent investment requires juggling odds. Here are the types of odds that go into my decision making process.
January Barometer Effect
When the market records a positive return in January, the odds that it would record a positive return for the rest of the year are 90%. If not, the odds drop to 50%. This January, the market had a positive return.