Tag: financial advisor

Is your money going in the right direction?

An acquaintance recently asked me how his money should be invested.  With banks paying virtually zero on savings, it’s a question on everyone’s mind.  Should he invest in stocks or bonds? If it’s stocks, what kind: Growth, Value, Small Cap or Large Cap, U.S. or Foreign?  The same can be asked of bonds: government or corporate, high yield or AAA, taxable of tax free?  That’s a question that faces many people who have money to invest but are not sure of where.

It’s a dilemma because we can’t be sure what the future holds. Is this the time to put money into stocks or will the market go down? If we invest in bonds will interest rates go up … or down? How about investing in some of those Asian “Tigers” where economic growth has been higher than in more developed countries?

There is no perfect answer. We are not gifted with the ability to read the future. And what is this “future” anyway? Next week? Next year? Or 20 years from now when we will need the money for retirement?

We know that generally, people who own companies usually make more money that people put their money in the bank. Another word for “people who own companies” is “stockholders.” That’s why, over the long term, stockholders do better than bondholders. On the other hand, bonds produce income and are generally lower risk than stocks. So my first answer to the question I was asked is: invest in both stocks and bonds.

Choosing the right stocks and bonds is a job that is best left to professionals. That’s the benefit of mutual funds. Mutual funds pool the money of many investors to create professionally managed portfolios of stocks and bonds. They are an easy way of creating the kind of diversification that is important for reducing risk.

To circle back to the original question our friend asked: the answer is to create a well diversified portfolio. We know that some of the time stocks will do better than bonds, and vice versa. We know that some of the time foreign markets outperform the U.S. market. We know that some the time Growth stocks will do better than Value stocks. We just don’t know when. So we select the best funds in each category and measure the over-all result. With so many funds to choose from, the smart investor will get help from a Registered Investment Advisor like the folks at Korving & Company.

Call us for more details.

How does your financial advisor get paid?

No one expects their professional service provider to give their services away for free. Doctors don’t, lawyers don’t, CPAs don’t nor do financial advisors. However, in the financial services industry often what you actually pay is not clear.

Cerulli Associates surveyed investors and found that most investors wanted to understand how their advisors were getting paid. They wanted “transparency.”

“Helping investors understand the full extent of an advisor’s potential revenue streams has been a persistent challenge for both advice providers and advisors, and has become even more complicated with the ongoing evolution of integrated wealth management conglomerates,” Smith explains.
“The financial industry was built around the premise that investors understand the fees they pay and sign documents affirming their awareness,” Smith continues. “Cerulli’s research indicates that investors who truly comprehend the entirety of their costs are more the exception than the rule. The overall expenses of pooled investment vehicles, including management fees and other embedded fees such as 12b-1s, are essentially nonexistent to many investors-if they do not see a line item deduction from their accounts, they do not recognize a transfer of wealth from themselves to their advisor or provider.”

Even that last sentence can add to the confusion if you aren’t very familiar with the terminology of the investment industry, with terms like “pooled investment vehicles,” “embedded fees,” and “12b-1s.” To better understand how (and from where) financial advisors are paid, here’s a brief list:

“Commissions:” when you buy of sell a stock, bond, or fund, you pay the broker a commission. This also applies to insurance products such as life insurance and annuities. Broker commission formulas for stocks are often based upon the stock’s price and trading volume. Commissions for insurance products and annuities are generally a fixed percentage of the size of the policy being sold, but they can be as high as 10{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}-15{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} for some products. Commissions for bonds are discussed below.

“Mark-up” or “mark-down:” this typically applies to the purchase or sale of bonds, and is the difference between the market price of a bond and what an investment firm offers an investor. In other words, it is the difference between what the bond is actually worth and what you can buy or sell it for. The mark-up or mark-down formula is based upon the number of bonds being bought or sold, their price and their bond rating.

“Load:” a sales charge that is assessed when purchasing a mutual fund. Some load fees are charged up front (referred to as a “front end load,” often seen with A share class mutual funds bought or sold via a broker), when sold (referred to as a “back-end load,” often seen with B share class mutual funds bought or sold via a broker), or as long as the fund is held (referred to as a “level load,” often seen with C share class mutual funds bought or sold via a broker). The load you pay is passed along to the broker. Front end loads are usually between 3{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} – 8{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}, with 5{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} being fairly typical. Back end loads are the most confusing, and (thankfully) are being eliminated by many fund companies. In very general terms (for the sake of this article), they don’t charge you a front end load, but if you want to sell the fund within 5 or 6 years of purchasing the fund, they will hit you with a fee (called a “deferred sales charge”) of between 1{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} – 5{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}, depending on how soon you sell it (with the higher fee coming the earlier you sell it). Oh, and on top of that, they typically also charge you a 12b-1 fee (discussed next) of 1{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}. Level loads typically don’t charge a front end load or a back end load, but they do maintain a 1{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} 12b-1 fee for as long as you own the fund.

“12b-1 fee:” an annual fee, usually 0.25{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}, paid by the mutual fund to the broker to help the fund market its products. It’s often referred to a “trailer.” As mentioned above, for B and C share class mutual funds, this fee is typically a much higher 1{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}.

“Management fee:” this is the fee that an investment manager charges for creating and managing a portfolio of securities.

A “Fee Only” investment advisor’s only compensation is the management fee. This eliminates the conflict of interest inherent in the other types of compensation such as commissions, loads and trailers. It provides an incentive for the Fee Only advisor to shop for the lowest cost investment products for his clients.

Avoid These Common Retirement Account Rollover Mistakes

If you are one of the people who are uncertain of the basic financial steps to take when you retire, you are not alone. Author and public speaker Ed Slott recently recounted how little most people really know about what to do with their 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement assets when it comes time to leave work.

Most people do not know what to do with their retirement plans (commonly referred to with obscure names like 401(k), 403(b), 457, and TSP) once they retire. Many people simply leave the plan with their former employer because they don’t know what else to do. But that could end up being a mistake. Others know they can roll their plan into a Rollover IRA, but are not aware that if they don’t do it exactly right, they could be faced with a big tax bill.

Handling IRAs is often fraught with danger. There is a big difference between a rollover and a direct transfer. Rollovers are distributions from a retirement plan. Sometimes they are paid directly to you via check. You then have 60 days to move the assets into a new IRA or you will be taxed. If the rollover is paid directly to you, it is customary to have 20% automatically withheld for taxes. Counter-intuitively, you have to replace the 20% withholding when you fund the new IRA or that amount will be considered a taxable distribution and you will owe tax on the amount withheld. You can only make one rollover per 12 month period. If you make more than one rollover per year, you will be taxed.

A direct transfer is one where your IRA assets are moved from one custodian to another without passing through your hands. Under current law you can make as many direct transfers per year without triggering a tax penalty and there is no withholding.

When you are retired and reach the age of 70 ½, you will encounter Required Minimum Distributions. If these are not handled correctly, they can trigger huge tax consequences. If an individual fails to take out the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from a retirement plan, there is a 50 percent penalty tax on the shortfall.

Even many people in the investment industry do not understand the rules well. Slott notes that many financial companies do not provide advice on these topics because they are so focused on accumulating assets that they do not train their advisors on “decumulation.” Decumulation is a term that applies to retirees once they begin to take money from their retirement plans to supplement their other income sources.

“Every time the IRA or 401(k) money is touched, it’s like an eggshell; you break it and it’s over…. You mess up with a rollover and you can lose an IRA.”

Retirement is a time when people want to relax and pursue their leisure activities. Unfortunately, the rules actually get even more complicated. Make sure that you take time to learn the rules, or find a professional that does, before you move money from a retirement account.

Women and Financial Advice

Glass ceilings continue to be broken!  Two women are currently vying for the office of President of the United States.  More women are attending college than men, and those women are graduating in larger numbers.  Affluent women are handling more money than ever before and are becoming their families’ primary breadwinner in increasing numbers.

Women are willing and able to hire financial advisors.  However, according to a number of studies, many women are unhappy with their financial advisors because of disrespectful and condescending attitudes from many in the advisor community.

Many women do not feel they are getting what they need or want because their advisors don’t listen.  Women don’t necessarily need different or unique investments. But they do want to have more detailed conversations about their goals and their concerns.  Women want a “deep, meaningful advisor relationship” according to one major research study of affluent women.  Women are generally more willing to share their personal information and concerns. These things actually allow financial advisors to do a better job!  For instance, women who have family members battling medical problems or drug addiction may find that these issues can have long-term financial implications on themselves and their families.

These women owe it to themselves and their families to interview a number of financial advisors until they find the right fit, depending on what they value most.  We work with a large number of affluent women clients.  Generally these women value that we listen to truly understand their aspirations, concerns, and fears; come up with solutions that address those issues; continuously monitor and manage of their portfolios; and provide proactive outreach.

Setting Realistic Goals

How realistic are your goals?  Some people work hard and exceeded the goals they had when they were young.  Others find their goals forever out of reach.  For example, most people want to retire in their mid-sixties.  That’s a goal, but is it realistic?  Are they going to have a pension when they retire and, if so, how much is it?  When are they going to apply for Social Security, and how much are they going to get?  Will they need a retirement nest egg, and how much will be in it?

Career choices will have a big impact on these answers.  A financial plan will also provide many of these answers.  But a plan is only as good as the assumptions we put into it.  As the old saying goes: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

The rate of return you get on the money you put aside has a huge impact on whether you reach your goals.  Studies have shown that many people have an unrealistic expectation of the returns they can expect on their savings and investments.  With interest rates near zero percent, putting your money in the bank is actually a losing proposition after taxes and inflation.  Investing in the stock and bond markets may lead to higher returns.  But the long-term returns that many people assume they can get often leads to taking unreasonable risks.

There is nothing wrong with having high goals.  The best way to check to see if your goals are high, but attainable, is to talk to a fee only financial advisor.  Preferably one that is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.  They have the experience and the expertise to let you know if your goals are reasonable and what you can do to reach them.

Contact us for a “reality check” today.

How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 7

Most happy couples think they communicate well. However, on the subject of finances, studies and experience has shown that they don’t communicate nearly as well as they think.

Many couples don’t know what their partner earns, how much they have invested, what it takes to retire and where their retirement income will come from.

Couples often disagree on the way their money should be invested and in too many cases one partner is in charge of investing and the other is kept in the dark.

Retirement is another issue in which there is a great deal of confusion. Many do not know what it takes to retire, have nebulous goals about retirement and even disagree about when to retire.

The lack of good communication leads to worries about financial disasters. Issues include health care costs, the effect of inflation on buying power, outliving their savings and the possibility that Social Security may not be there for them prey on their minds.

In the face of so much uncertainty, only one-in-five couples have a plan. One of the benefits of having a plan is that it makes it much more certain that they will achieve their goals. And that bring peace of mind.

Of course the earlier that people start to plan, the higher the probability that they will achieve their goals and have a healthy and frank discussion about financial issues. The best time to start is when you are young and it’s an excellent way for newlyweds to begin life together.

Thanks for your interest and we hope you will share this with your friends.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 6

Most couples think they communicate well, but research indicates otherwise when it comes to finances. Communication on financial issues between couples is especially poor, as we have discovered in previous essays.

Couples were asked what advice they would give to newlyweds and young couples about finances. Newlyweds usually do not put frank talk about finances at the top of their “to-do” list. That may be a big mistake.

The most common suggestions for young couples starting out in life together were:

  • Save as early as possible for retirement (57{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}).
  • Make all financial decisions together (41{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}).
  • Make a budget and stick to it (39{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}).
  • Make sure you have an emergency fund (38{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}).
  • Don’t hide expenditures (28{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}).
  • Disclose income, debts and assets early (24{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}).

One of the easiest ways of accomplishing all of these objectives is for young couples to consult a financial advisor as soon as possible. By doing so they will reveal their finances to each other, develop a budget that matches their income, agree on an investment strategy, and be given a roadmap to long-term financial peace.

Our final essay on this subject will summarize what we have learned.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 5

Most couples think they communicate well, but research indicates otherwise when it comes to finances. Communication on financial issues between couples is especially poor, as we have discovered in previous essays. Despite concerns about medical costs, running out of money, inflation and Social Security, most couples have not created a plan to deal with these worries.

The 20{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} of couples who have created a plan get the benefit of peace of mind, less stress, and a more cohesive relationship. Uncertainty and doubt around important financial issues creates stress within relationships.
Couples who have a retirement plan in place:

  • Are twice as likely to live a very comfortable retirement.
  • Are 50{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} more likely to be “completely confident” in assuming responsibility for retirement.
  • Are much more confident that their partner will be OK in retirement.
  • Are twice as likely to know how much they will need in retirement.
  • Are less concerned about unexpected health care costs.
  • Are much less likely to be concerned about outliving their savings.

Having a plan to reach your goals is much like going to the grocery store with a shopping list. You know what you need and are less likely to forget important items, nor are you as likely to buy things you don’t need.

Creating a plan forces couples to be open with each other about their goals, their finances, and the issues that may keep them from achieving those goals. Working with a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP) to create a plan also brings an important measure of reality to the process. Professional guidance creates realistic assumptions about how much should be saved and the rate at which it should grow. A CFP can also help mediate differences between couples when issues arise.

Our next essay will focus on advice to young couples.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 4

Most couples think they communicate well, but research indicates that communication about finances is often not good. In our previous essays we have discussed common financial disagreements.

In this essay we will discuss some of the financial worries couples have.

Nearly three-quarters (74{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}) of couples worry about unexpected health care costs. For more than half, it’s their top concern. With people living longer than ever before, advances in medical technology and the skyrocketing cost of health care, this concern comes as not real surprise.

After health care, the next biggest concern for couples (51{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}) was outliving their retirement savings.

The negative effects of inflation and concerns that Social Security may run out were the next biggest concerns.

Despite these worries, only 20{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} of couples actually have a plan in place to address these issues! And over one-third (36{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}) haven’t even thought about planning!

Our next essay will take a look at those couples who have taken the time to create a financial plan.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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Protecting yourself against financial fraud.

Bernie Madoff isn’t the only fraudster preying on the unwary. There are a number of scam artists in the financial services business.

There’s the case of Malcolm Segal. According to the SEC:

Segal allegedly promised his clients 12{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} returns on CDs bought through Aegis. But he’s alleged in some cases to have either bought the CDs but redeemed them early or not bought them at all. Citing the SEC, the Philadelphia Business Journal says he raised about $15.5 million from at least 50 investors in this fashion.

It puzzles me how people can actually fall for something like this. Perhaps I have been in the investment business so long that I have seen too many of the ways people are fleeced out of their money.

How do you protect yourself against financial fraud? The first thing to do is to be suspicious of offers that are too good to be true. No actual, legitimate bank is offering 12{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} CDs in a 1{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} interest rate environment.

Another thing to do is to make sure that your assets are held in custody be a third party; a custodian like Charles Schwab, Fidelity or a major bank trust department.  The reason that Madoff was able to fool his clients for so many years is that he printed his own statements. These statements “showed” that he was trading for them and that they were making money. In reality, he was not trading and their account statements were fabrications.

At Korving & Company we use Schwab as our custodian and our clients receive trade confirmations and statements from directly from Schwab. We encourage our clients to view their accounts on-line at Schwab.

We had an experience with a client who had an account with another advisor. He suddenly dropped his custodian and began producing his own account statements. That’s a wake-up call. They asked us to look at their statements and when we noticed that their end-of-year tax reports did not include taxable income from CDs that he claimed to have bought for them, we knew he was defrauding them.

If you have any concerns about your financial advisor, feel free to contact us for a second opinion.

 
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