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Should you be Concerned about your Retirement and the Stock Market? 3 Things to know!

by Bob Brooks

October 16, 2014

The go, go days of the stock market are certainly not today’s news.  Volatility in the stock market has greatly increased and the losses are starting to mount.  What actions do you take?  I wanted to address what many are thinking this morning as we watch the gyrations of the stock market.  It is important to keep everything in perspective. So, here is what you need to know.

1)     The losses are going to feel more painful than they normally do

It has been a long time since investors have gone to the mailbox and opened a statement that shows a big negative loss in their investments.   Thus, a normal healthy decline can feel very painful.  Be careful and keep the emotions intact. 

2)     Is this a normal correction or the start of a Bear Market?

This is probably the biggest question to answer.  Bull markets will have normal corrections where the stock market will lose as much as -20%.  Typically the range of a normal correction is between -10% and -20%.  I could give you tons of evidence that points to this being the beginning of a bear market where the market loses a lot.  However, that is all speculation and nothing more than an opinion.  An investor in a buy and hold account should be able to endure a 10 to 20% loss as long as the stock market comes back.  However, you need to second guess the buy and hold argument when the losses start to exceed -20%.

3)     Don’t Pay Attention to all of the Predictions – Do what is right for you

If you go to cnbc.com right now, the talking heads all have their opinions as to where the market is going right now.  It is almost comical as CNBC.com posts these opinion pieces that are all over the board.  Remember, most are trying to be “the guy or gal” who makes the big prediction.   There are few “prophets” in the media who don’t have an agenda. Never forget that the market is rarely predictable. 

Successful investors have a Plan A and a Plan B.  If you are stranded without a Plan B, let me know and we can talk.  Further, talk to your advisor if you are concerned.  Your advisor should have a plan B.  Incidentally, Plan B is never “don’t worry about the losses because you are a long-term investor” and Plan B doesn’t involve an annuity (unless you have no risk tolerance),

Finally, like everything else, keep your decision making in prayer and remove the emotion.  Emotion is the great enemy of effective decision making.

If you want more information on Plan B investing, feel free to send me an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call me at 972-386-0384.

 

 
Target Dates –Just Another Reason to Stay Away from Them

 

by Bob Brooks

October 14, 2014

 

Everything about the concept of a Target Date Fund is all wrong.  The mutual fund companies are making these staples in most 401 K plans. They are marketing that these are funds that you can invest in and forget about.  Of course, this is a dangerous mind sight for any investor.  To be successful you need to monitor and track your results versus burying your head in the sand in hope that an industry with a self-agenda of making money first is going to look out for your best interest.   One of the bigger problems for investors is that they don’t pay attention.

Target date funds are designed to target a particular retirement age. So, if you are retiring in 20 years then you would select Target Date fund 2034 which would be the selected retirement year. The notion is that they fund would gradually reduce your exposure to stock as you get older.

Reuters reported some disturbing news:

BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, and Pacific Investment Management Co. (Pimco)—all firms that have seen returns in their target date funds lagging competitors—have made adjustments in the past year so that 401(k) plan participants, particularly those who are younger to middle age, are more invested in equities. In some cases employees who are in their 40s now find themselves in funds that are 94 percent allocated into stocks, up more than 10 percentage points.”

Said another way, instead of sticking to their risk based formula of adjusting stock exposure with age, they are increasing stock exposure because their performance is lagging their peer group.  They are taking additional risk to capture additional return.  So much for that risk protected strategy. 

Ironically, they are also increasing exposure to stocks and potentially the wrong time.  Today, we are in the 9th inning of a way over stretched bull market.  I wouldn’t look characterize today as a time when I would want to be all in when it came to stocks.

In addition, the average expense ratio is .85% as compared with a balanced fund. The mutual fund companies justify the higher expenses because “investors are paying more for peace of mind and a set-it-and-forget it approach to managing their retirement money.”  You are basically paying more for a one time a year rebalancing between stocks and bonds. I hate to tell you – that isn’t rocket science or worth higher fees.  Also there is a huge difference between re-allocating and managing money. 

Investors are marketed that they are getting a :forget about it” risk based investment strategy appropriate for your age.  In reality, it looks like they are more concerned with performance chasing then their original fund mandate.  They did the same thing right before the financial crisis and it turned out to be disastrous. You would think that these companies would learn.

Do yourself a favor, do your own asset allocation and save the money and the potential added risk.  By investing in Target Date funds, the only favor that is being done is for the mutual fund companies.

 

 

 

 
When Will the Pension Crisis Start?

 

by Bob Brooks
October 13, 2014

 

Throughout the years following the after math of the financial crisis, the statistics are disturbing.  The reality is that these state governments have future liabilities to pay out in the form of retirement benefits to retired workers and future workers. Said another, what will retired workers do at the point that these state governments run out of money and can’t make those payments? 

Moody’s recently came out with a report that illustrates the problem.   www.zerohedge.com reported:

“The 25 biggest systems by assets averaged a 7.45% return from 2004 to 2013, but liabilities tripled over the same period leaving them facing a $2 trillion shortfall as investment returns can’t keep up with ballooning obligations. The top 25 funds account for 40% of the entire US public pension system with Illinois, Kentucky, Connecticut, and Louisiana at the top of the 'most underfunded' list.

The last statistic I saw showed that Illinois was only 27% funded.  Texas as a comparison was 82% funded. 

Martin Armstrong, www.martinarmstrong.com, just recently wrote about the upcoming pension crisis.  He wrote the following in this latest post.

 

“After 2015. 75 (sometime third quarter of 2015), we will begin to observe the Pension Crisis manifest before our eyes. There are few governmental exceptions within Western Society without this serious trouble. While they keep everyone occupied between soccer and football, governments have done an incredible job of committing massive fraud upon the public. Public unions are simply demanding that governments raise taxes and extort money from other sectors to hand to them.

 

It is tough to know what this is going to look like. It is just another faction of the enormous debt crisis we face in America.  All you have to do is look at the math and the numbers are in the trillions.  What’s worst, is that these pension plans depend on strong investment returns.  With the potential of the stock market running into trouble going forward, losses would set mushroom those pension liabilities. 

There is one thing for sure.  The Federal Government will not be in the business of bailing out these state and local governments.  Unfortunately, it will be the workers and the bond holders who loaned the states money that will take the hit.

 

 

 
WARNING – New IRS SCAM could catch you off guard!

 

by Bob Brooks

October 10, 2014

 

There is a new scam going around designed to steal your identity.  Make sure you are aware of it so you don’t become a victim.  The use of the IRS is insidious because when most people hear the phrase IRS their brains turn to mush and the common sense gene shuts down.  The first thing and only thing you think is that you don’t want to be in trouble with the IRS.  Just the mention of trouble blocks anyone’s ability to think rationally.

 

The scam can go in many different angles.  It could be that someone from the IRS is going to issue a warrant for your arrest because of back taxes.  It could be that the IRS is calling about the money that you owe.  It really doesn’t matter.  It is effectively designed to create fear.  Once they have you fearful, you are not thinking and will probably do something like give them banking information to pay the taxes or your social security information to verify your identity. 

 

This scam happened to me.  Now I know better.  I write about this sort of thing all of the time and talk about it on the radio.  My wife called me and said that someone keeps leaving messages on our answering machine informing that I need to call a number because I am going to be in trouble with the IRS.  My first initial reaction (common sense gene turns off) did I miss something?  Do I really owe money? What are could they be calling about?  If I were on the phone with them and the common sense gene turns off, it might be off just long enough for me to do something dumb.

 

Here is the bottom line when it comes to the IRS – THEY DON’T CALL YOU!!!  If there is an inkling of trouble, they always start out with a form letter. If the situation escalates the letters come with deadlines.  Then they are delivered certified informing you of action that they are taking.  So, if this happens to you, just remember that is not how they go about their process.  Also remember that more than ever, the probability of someone trying to scam you is pretty high.  Be on the look-out!

 
Don’t Think You Will Ever Retire? Things to Consider

 

October 9, 2014

By Bob Brooks

 

I don’t think I will ever retire!  Over the past 22 years of advising, I have heard that phrase more than I want.  The reality is that most people take a peripheral look at their situation and come to a conclusion without really looking at every angle.  Here are some things to consider:

 

Taking advantage of social security

Contrary to popular belief, it will be a while before social security disappears.  While it is here, take advantage of the benefits.  There are strategies that most people don't know about that enable you to get the most out of social security.  Most see it as you choose to take it at age 62 or 66 or 70.  That is not the case. There are strategies that you can consider to maximize the most of social security which in turn can increase your cash flow.

 

Could 70 be the new retirement age? 

Let's face it - people are living longer.  It was released just this week that the average lifespan is now the longest on record.  Increasing your retirement age by 4 to 5 years might seem desirable.  However, it might if it gives you the type of retirement you want. Waiting can give you that much more time to accumulate and deleverage your life (more on that later) Plus you can get maximum social security benefits at age 70.

 

Are you taking care of your adult kids at your own expense?  

We take care of our kids hopefully until they are on their own which is in their early twenties.  However, life doesn't always work out that way and we continue to take care of them throughout their 20's and into their 30's.  A parent can get so accustomed to doing so that they don't realize that they are actually hurting their own situation.  If you are in that situation, take stock of how it is effecting your retirement.  Then determine if you are ok with that.  If not, figure out how to wean your child off of your pocketbook and get them out on their own.

 

Do you really know your monthly expenses? 

This is at the crux of the problem for most people. When asked what someone might need at retirement I often get – 4000 to 6000 a month.  Well is it 4000 or 6000?  There is a big difference. Know that number like the back of your hand.  It is an invaluable piece of information.  You might find you don’t need nearly what you thought.

 

Determine what part your retirement savings will play

I know this might sound crazy.  However, most people save all of this money and have no idea what benefit it will create during retirement.  Figure out how you much income you can take from what you have saved.  You might be surprised. 

 

Deleverage, deleverage, deleverage

Make it a goal to have no debt (including the mortgage) at retirement.  When you have no debt payments, you need less investments to create income to pay those debt payments.  Plus, being debt free creates options.

 

Don't forget the importance of cash

Cash is never really considered as a part of a retirement plan.  Most people don’t look at their cash stockpile as an asset.  Cash plays an important role during retirement.  If you have it, then you are closer to being successful than you might think.  

 

Be creative, realistic, and wrapped in Prayer

A successful retirement plan is a creative retirement plan.  Be realistic where you are and accept it.  From that place, you can create.  Finally, make this about what God wants you to do in this great time of your life and not what only you want to do.  There will never be a time where you have this much freedom.  What will you do to serve Him? 

 

If you want a full assessment about where you are right now, send me an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

Bob

 

 
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