Tag: financial advisor

The lure and risks of “alternative investments.”

The financial world has been deluged marketing offers from investment firms offering “alternative investments.” “Alts” are non-traditional investments.  They include non-traded REITs, hedge funds and private equity.

The lure of “alts” is summarized in a quote from Financial IQ:

“The 2008 financial crisis scarred investors enough that they’re still seeking new ways to diversify out of stocks and bonds. Meanwhile, investors also are hungry for yield amid persistently low interest rates.”

The problem with “alts” is that they are not well understood.

Many are not liquid – in other words they cannot be sold at a moment’s notice.

In addition, most are not transparent – you can’t always tell what you own because the “alts” managers are secretive, unwilling to reveal their strategy in detail.

Third, the fees charged by “alts” managers are often much higher than those charged by traditional managers.

Many of the “alts” use derivatives which are difficult to understand and can lead to risks that are not obvious. An example are the “guaranteed” structured notes created prior to 2008. When Lehman Brothers collapsed it was revealed that the “guaranteed” notes issued by Lehman were backed by the claims paying ability of a bankrupt company.  People lost millions and learned a painful lesson.

Our philosophy is to invest our money in securities we understand. We always want to know: what’s the worst thing that can happen? If we don’t understand the risk, we don’t invest.  It’s a lesson learned over the years as we keep in mind the first rule of making money:  don’t lose it.

Finding financial guidance for the middle aged executive

Let’s imagine that you’re now firmly on your career track. You’re an expert in your field and have a team of experts to manage some of the complexities of life outside of work.

  • You doctor gives you regular medical check-ups.
  • Your attorney to reviews your estate plans regularly.
  • Your CPA prepares your taxes and suggests ways to reduce them.
  • But there’s something missing ….

You are putting away some serious money and you are getting nervous about market risk so you want to find a good financial advisor. You don’t want a broker who will call you to sell stocks and bonds on commission. You want someone who will create a plan and give you unbiased financial advice. Someone who will manage your portfolio for you – commission free – so that your retirement plans won’t blow up just as you get ready to enjoy independence.

But there’s a dilemma. Just as you feel more comfortable knowing that the pilot on your next flight has spent thousands of hours flying your plane, you want to find a seasoned financial pro who has experience in all kinds of markets. But those years of experience could well mean that he’ll retire before you do! What’s the solution?

Recognizing that continuity is important in a relationship as personal as financial guidance, many advisors have set up teams.

Korving & Company is a good example. Arie Korving has nearly 30 years of experience as a financial advisor. A Certified Financial Planner, he is the author of numerous articles and books on finance and estate planning, he has experience that includes both Bull and Bear markets. He’s seen the investment world from both sides and knows that honesty and experience is what people want in their advisor.

Stephen Korving received his degree in finance from Virginia Tech with a focus on risk management. After graduation he joined Cambridge Associates, one of the country’s leading investment management consulting firms. Cambridge provides guidance to major institutions and the super-rich. A Certified Financial Planner, he teamed up with Arie ten years ago and in 2010 they founded Korving & Company, a boutique RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) focused on providing holistic financial guidance to executives and retirees.

Together they provide decades of experience and a plan to continue to do so for decades into the future.  Check them out.

If you were widowed, would you fire your husband’s financial advisor?

According to an article in Financial Advisor magazine,

Surviving spouses — statistically, wives — have a habit of firing financial advisors. Most sources peg the rate at about 50%, but the advisor-education website says the rate is closer to 70% if you wait a few years for the penny to drop.

Why is that?  It seems that most advisors have an “unbalanced advisor-client relationship.”  That means the advisor focuses on the half of the couple that seems to be more financially savvy.  This results in the surviving spouse, often the wife, not really thinking that the advisor is “her” advisor.

The article goes on to suggest that the advisor “provide basic, nuts-and-bolts financial advice to the surviving spouse.”

At Korving & Co. we go one better.  We have written a set of books “Before I Go” and the “Before I Go Workbook” anticipating the issues that the surviving spouse will face.

That’s why when our clients lose a spouse, we rarely lose the survivor.  They know that we focus on the family and the surviving widow trust us to take care of her.  In fact, we often find that when both husband and wife have passed on, the children come to us to manage their affairs.

For a personally autographed copy of both books, or more information on how we can help you, contact us.

What Rich People Need to Know

I ran across an article at Market Watch titled “Ten things rich people know that you don’t.”  It listed the usual things:

  • Start saving early
  • Automate your savings
  • Maximize contributions to 401(k)s
  • Don’t carry credit card debt
  • Live below your means
  • Educate yourself about investing
  • Diversify
  • Hire a qualified financial advisor

All of that is something to take to heart when you’re young and just starting in life.  But what do people who are already rich need to know?

Lots of people get rich without following the rules.  They may start a successful business, enter a highly compensated profession, climb the corporate ladder, win the lottery, become a sports star or inherit a fortune.   Once you are rich, the number one objective for most people is to stay rich.  One very successful financial advisor with just 28 very wealthy clients said

“People don’t come to me to get rich, they come to me to stay rich.”

That’s the role of a good financial advisor.   Their job is to  do more than manage their client’s portfolios, it’s to take care that all of the other boxes are checked off:  to diversify the client portfolio, to educate the client about investing, to see to it that they live within their means.  In many cases they take care of family issues, lifestyle issues; the kinds of things that family offices do.

It’s what we do.  It’s what our clients expect.

Have a wealth maintenance question?   Contact us.

Are you flunking the retirement readiness test?

A recent article in Financial Advisor proposed an interesting analogy: “Imagine boarding a jet and heading for your seat, only to be told you’re needed in the cockpit to fly the plane.”

That’s the situation many people are finding themselves in today.  Once upon a time, employers set up pension plans managed by investment professionals.  You worked and when you retired the pension checks began coming for the rest of your life.

That ended when 401(k) plans began replacing defined benefit pension plans.

Once, employers made the contributions, investment pros handled the investments and the income part was simple: You retired, the checks started arriving and continued until you died. Now, you decide how much to invest, where to invest it and how to draw it down. In other words, you fuel the plane, you pilot the plane and you land it.
It’s no surprise that many people, especially middle- and lower-income households, crash. The Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances, released in September, found that ownership of retirement plans has fallen sharply in recent years, and that low-income households have almost no savings.

But it’s not only the low-income workers who lack basic financial wisdom.

Eighty percent of Americans with nest eggs of at least $100,000 got an “F” on a test about managing retirement savings put together recently by the American College of Financial Services. The college, which trains financial planners, asked over 1,000 60- to 75-year-olds about topics like safe retirement withdrawal rates, investment and longevity risk.
Seven in 10 had never heard of the “4 percent rule,” which holds that you can safely withdraw that amount annually in retirement.
Very few understood the risk of investing in bonds. Only 39 percent knew that a bond’s value falls when interest rates rise – a key risk for bondholders in this ultra-low-rate environment.

If you fall into this category and want to find out what help is available, contact us.  We’ll be glad to chat; no sales pitch and no pressure.

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It’s about making people’s lives better

It’s not just about money.

In most people’s minds the term “financial advisor” has all the emphasis on “financial” and very little about “advisor.” We disagree. We think of ourselves as advisors to the family, helping guide families with a whole range of issues. Some don’t have anything to do with investing.

We have gone car shopping for a client who didn’t want to deal with car salesmen. We have helped people choose the right retirement community.  We help educate young people about investing to make sure they get a good start in life.  We explore vacation destinations for our clients. We review our clients’ estate plans and beneficiary designations to make sure that they are in line with their wishes. We wrote a book designed to help people provide critical information to their heirs before they pass on (Before I Go).

And, of course, we have provided peace of mind to clients who worried about running out of money in their retirement years. This allowed them to do the things they wanted such as travel, spend time with their grandchildren or just relax with a good book.

We do more than manage portfolios. We assist the people who come to us for advice with the deeply personal things in their lives. Making people’s lives better is our goal.

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Financial tips for corporate executives

The December 2014 issue of Financial Planning magazine had an article about “Strategies for Wealthy Execs.” It begins:

Just because your clients are successful executives doesn’t mean they understand their own finances.

And that’s true. Successful executives are good at running businesses or giant corporations. But that does not make them experts in personal finance.

One of the ways executives are compensated is with stock options. But options must be exercised or they will expire. Yet 11% of in-the-money stock options are allowed to expire each year. That’s usually because they don’t pay attention to their stock option statements.

Executives usually end up with concentrated positions in their company’s stock. Prudence requires that everyone, especially including corporate executives, have to be properly diversified. Their shares may be restricted and can only be sold under the SEC’s Rule 144. To prevent charges of insider trading, many executives sell their company stock under Rule 10b5-1.

An additional consideration for executives is charitable giving. Higher income and capital gains tax rates make it beneficial for richer executives to set up donor-advised funds, charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder trusts, or family foundations.

For more information on these strategies, consult a knowledgeable financial planner.

Family Business Financial Planning

A family business is one of the ways that individuals build something of value for themselves and their family. Suffolk is a great example of a community where family owned restaurants, hardware stores, gift shops, bike shops, jewelry, sporting goods, clothing and furniture stores line the streets. Suffolk has its national chains, but its most recognizable businesses – in the pork and peanut industry – began as family businesses.

These family shops often provide a comfortable living as well as job opportunities for family members of the founders. Whether they stay small and local or grow into large businesses, there are challenges that everyone running a business has to face.

The first is competition. For every business there is a better financed competitor. The supermarket doomed the family-run grocery store. Wal Mart is a feared competitor for anyone selling groceries, clothing, furniture, electronics, toys, eyeglasses; and now it’s even getting into banking.

The second challenge is a bad economy. Many communities have seen their downtowns shuttered when local industry left. The businesses depending on housing have still not fully recovered from the crash of 2008.

Finally, most small businesses are very dependent on one or a few key people. If the children don’t want to get into the business when the parents are ready to retire, the business often closes. There is no guarantee that a business can be sold when they owner is ready to retire. Unless the owner has prepared for this, the financial results can be devastating.

For all these reasons, the family business owner has to make sure that they have prepared themselves financially for life after the business. Succession planning is critically important and should be part of the business plan from the moment the business is started. If a business is a partnership, buy-sell agreements should be in place to avoid complications from the death of a partner. If a business is going to be passed along to children, the owners should be clear about the division of assets. Otherwise there is likely to be wrangling – or even lawsuits – over who is entitled to what.

Most people in business choose to convert from individual proprietorships to limited liability companies. This protects the business owners’ personal assets in case of a lawsuit against the business. Some convert to “Chapter C” corporations for tax purposes. If a company wants to grow even larger, it may want to raise cash by “going public” and selling shares to the general public.

One of the most common mistakes that business owners make is to invest too much of their money in the business. It’s a fact that a family business is a high-risk enterprise. Competition, the economy – even a change in traffic patterns – can bring a business to its knees. Building an investment portfolio should go hand-in-hand with building a business. When most of your money is tied up in your business you are making the same mistake as the investor who owns only one stock. Diversification reduces risk and provides a safety net. Factors that are out of your control could end up severely damaging your business value, thereby crippling your total savings and your future goals and ambitions.

In addition to the traditional savings and investment accounts, the tax code provides many ways for business owners to put money aside in a variety of tax-deferred accounts such as SEP-IRAs, 401(k) plans, and SIMPLE-IRA plans. As a business owner you can even set up a “Defined Benefit Plan” which works much like a traditional pension.

There are a great many things that running a business entails beyond offering customers a great product or service. People who start a business are usually focused on this aspect of the business. But to insure that the business – and the family – survives and thrives, business owners should seek the assistance and guidance of a team consisting of an attorney, an accountant and a financial planner. They may be in the background, but they are critical for the financial success of the family business.

Benchmarking Inverts the Basics of Investing

The problem with “benchmarking”  – that is measuring your investment performance against market indexes (known as “benchmarks”) – is that it often leads to buying into asset bubbles.

During the tech boom of the last 20th century, billions of dollars went into internet stocks whose values became wildly inflated.  People who participated in this as a way of reaching for high rates of return, found that no one rang a bell when the party was over.  Many lost their retirement savings and saw their 401(k)s devastated.

Certain stocks become wildly popular, industries become wildly popular and investing styles become wildly popular, all of which leads to wildly inflated values.  This almost inevitably leads to financial pain.

But this does not only happen in the stock market.  In the first decade of the 21st century, real estate seemed to be a way of making outsized profits.  Of course, when the housing bubble collapsed, many not only lost money, but their homes.

The focus of serious investors is to align your portfolio with your personal objectives.  The focus should be on long-term – multi-year – performance.  The only benchmark that should concern you is the one you set for yourself.

At Korving & Company we keep our clients grounded and work with them to meet their personal benchmarks.  Contact us to do the same for you.

Financial Planning in the Shadow of Dementia

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is an epidemic. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. It’s irreversible and fatal although some may linger for up to 20 years. And the number is expected to soar.

The Alzheimer’s Association has created a list of the 10 warning signs. These range from memory loss, through confusion to severe mood changes.

Because of the widespread nature of this disease, for people with Alzheimer’s and their families there are a number of things that should be done. Plans should be in place well before the onset of the symptoms.

• Review your insurance policies, especially your Long Term Care policies.
• Talk with your family and your financial advisor to make your wishes known.
• Review your wills and trusts.
• Appoint an advocate who has the legal authority to act on your behalf.
• Make sure you have provided for an appropriate Power of Attorney.

Research shows that declining financial skills is one of the first symptoms of the early stages of Alzheimer’s. This includes anything from difficulty in balancing a checkbook to being victimized by criminals who prey on the elderly. This usually leaves family members to take responsibility for the individual’s finances.

In some cases, people assume these responsibilities without having experience handling money or dealing with financial issues. This is the time to bring in a trusted financial advisor. We can provide practical guidance on both day-to-day and long-term financial decisions.

For a report on this subject, contact Korving & Company – the Financial Planning and Investment Management experts.

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