Lump Sum vs. Dollar Cost Averaging: Which is Better?

Some people go swimming by diving into the pool; others prefer to edge into the water gradually, especially if the water’s cold. A decision about putting money into an investment can be somewhat similar. Is it best to invest your money all at once, putting a lump sum into something you believe will do well? Or should you invest smaller amounts regularly over time to try to minimize the risk that you might invest at precisely the wrong moment? Periodic investing and lump-sum investing both have their advocates. Understanding the merits and drawbacks of each can help you make a more informed decision.

What is dollar cost averaging?

Periodic investing is the process of making regular investments on an ongoing basis (for example, buying 100 shares of stock each month for a year). Dollar cost averaging is one of the most common forms of periodic investing. It involves continuous investment of the same dollar amount into a security at predetermined intervals–usually monthly, quarterly, or annually–regardless of the investment’s fluctuating price levels.

Because you’re investing the same amount of money each time when you dollar cost average, you’re automatically buying more shares of a security when its share price is low, and fewer shares when its price is high. Over time, this strategy can provide an average cost per share that’s lower than the average market price (though it can’t guarantee a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market).

The accompanying graph illustrates how share price fluctuations can yield a lower average cost per share through dollar cost averaging. In this hypothetical example, ABC Company’s stock price is $30 a share in January, $10 a share in February, $20 a share in March, $15 a share in April, and $25 a share in May. If you invest $300 a month for 5 months, the number of shares you would buy each month would range from 10 shares when the price is at a peak of $30 to 30 shares when the price is only $10. The average market price is $20 a share ($30+$10+$20+$15+$25 = $100 divided by 5 = $20). However, because your $300 bought more shares at the lower share prices, the average purchase price is $17.24 ($300 x 5 months = $1,500 invested divided by 87 shares purchased = $17.24).

The merits of dollar cost averaging

In addition to potentially lowering the average cost per share, investing a predetermined amount regularly automates your decision-making, and can help take emotion out of your investment decisions.

And if your goal is to buy low and sell high, as it should be, dollar cost averaging brings some discipline to that process. Though it can’t help you know when to sell, this strategy can help you pursue the “buy low” portion of the equation.

Also, many people don’t have a lump sum to invest all at once; any investments come out of their income stream–for example, as contributions to their workplace retirement savings account. In such cases, dollar cost averaging may not only be an easy strategy; it may be the most realistic option.

The case for investing a lump sum

Maybe you’re considering rolling over an IRA or have just received a pension payout. Perhaps you’ve inherited a large amount of money, or the mail-order sweepstakes’ prize patrol has finally shown up at your door. You might be thinking about the best way to shift your asset allocation or how to invest the proceeds of a certificate of deposit. Or maybe you’ve been parking some money in cash alternatives and now want to invest it.

In cases like these, you may want to at least investigate the merits of lump-sum investing. Several academic studies have compared dollar cost averaging to lump-sum investing and concluded that, because markets have risen over the long term in the past, investing in the market today tends to be better than waiting until tomorrow, since you have a longer opportunity to benefit from any increase in prices over time.

For example, a 2009 study by the Association of Investment Companies found that an investor who put a lump sum into the average British investment company at the end of April 2008 (talk about bad timing!) would have been down 30% one year later. Someone who invested the same total amount divided over 12 months would have been down only 7%. However, when the study examined the previous 5 years rather than a single year, the lump-sum investment made in April 2004 would have been up 26% by April 2009, compared to the periodic investment strategy’s loss of 10% over the same time. Several U.S. studies over several decades reviewed overall stock market performance and reached a similar conclusion: the longer your time frame, the greater the odds that a lump-sum investment will outperform dollar cost averaging.

Caution: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Considerations about dollar cost averaging

  • Think about whether you’ll be able to continue your investing program during a down market. The return and principal value of stocks fluctuate with changes in market conditions. If you stop when prices are low, you’ll lose much of the benefit of dollar cost averaging. Consider both your financial and emotional ability to continue making purchases through periods of low and high price levels. Plan ahead for how you’ll manage the temptation to stop investing when the chips are down, and remember that shares may be worth more or less than their original cost when you sell them.
  • The cost benefits of dollar cost averaging tend to diminish a bit over very long periods of time, because time alone also can help average out the market’s ups and downs.
  • Don’t forget to consider the cost of transaction fees, which can mount up over time with periodic investing.

Considerations about investing a lump sum

  • The lump-sum studies reflect the long-term historical direction of the stock market since record-keeping began in 1925. That doesn’t mean the markets will behave in the future as they have in the past, or that there won’t be extended periods in which stock prices don’t rise. Even if they do move up, they may not do so immediately and forever once you invest.
  • Even if you don’t have a large lump sum to invest now, you may be able to save smaller amounts and invest the total in a lump sum later. However, many people simply aren’t disciplined enough to keep their hands off that money. Unless the money is invested automatically, you may be more tempted to spend your savings rather than investing them, or skip a month–or two or three.
  • Even seasoned investors have difficulty timing the market, so ignoring fluctuations and continuing to invest regularly may still be an improvement over postponing a decision indefinitely while you wait for the “right time” to invest.
  • Don’t forget that though diversification alone can’t guarantee a profit or prevent the possibility of loss, a lump sum invested in a single security generally involves more risk than a lump sum put into a diversified portfolio, regardless of your time frame.

In the end, deciding between lump-sum investing and dollar cost averaging illustrates the classic risk-reward tradeoff that all investments entail. Even if you’re convinced a lump-sum investment might produce a higher net return over time, are you comfortable with the uncertainty and level of risk involved? Or are you increasing the odds that you won’t be able to handle short-term losses–especially if they occur shortly after you invest your lump sum–and sell at the wrong time?

It’s important to know yourself and your limitations as an investor. Understanding the pros and cons of each approach can help you make the decision that best suits your personality and circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Matthew Curry, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, Alcatel-Lucent, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Hughes, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Matthew Curry is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Advertisements
Posted in Economic Update, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning, Matthew Curry, The Retirement Group | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Investing as a Couple: Getting to Yes

In a perfect world, both halves of a couple share the same investment goals and agree on the best way to try to reach them. It doesn’t always work that way, though; disagreements about money are often a source of friction between couples. You may be risk averse, while your spouse may be comfortable investing more aggressively–or vice versa. How can you bridge that gap?

First, define your goals

Making good investment decisions is difficult if you don’t know what you’re investing for. Make sure you’re on the same page–or at least reading from the same book–when it comes to financial goal-setting. Knowing where you’re headed is the first step toward developing a road map for dealing jointly with investments.

In some cases you may have the same goals, but put a different priority on each one or have two different time frames for a specific goal. For example, your spouse may want to retire as soon as possible, while you’re anxious to accept a new job that means advancement in your career, even if it means staying put or moving later. Coming to a general agreement on what your priorities are and roughly when you hope to achieve each one can greatly simplify the process of deciding how to invest.

Make sure the game plan is clear

Making sure both spouses know how and (equally important) why their money is invested in a certain way can help minimize marital blowback if investment choices don’t work out as anticipated. Second-guessing rarely improves any relationship. Making sure that both partners understand from the beginning why an investment was chosen, as well as its risks and potential rewards, may help moderate the impulse to say “I told you so” later. Investing doesn’t have to be either/or. A diversified portfolio should have a place for both conservative and more aggressive investments. Though diversification can’t guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss, it’s one way to manage the type and level of risk you face–including the risks involved in bickering with your spouse.

It takes two

Aside from attempting to minimize marital strife, there’s another good reason to make sure both spouses understand how their money is invested and why. If only one person makes all the decisions–even if that person is the more experienced investor–what if something were to happen to that individual? The other spouse might have to make decisions at a very vulnerable time–decisions that could have long-term consequences.

If you’re the less experienced investor, take the responsibility for making sure you have at least a basic understanding of how your resources are invested. If you’re suddenly the one responsible for all decisions, you should at least know enough to protect yourself from fraud and/or work effectively with a financial professional to manage your money.

If you’re the more conservative investor …

  • If you’re unfamiliar with a specific investment, research it. Though past performance is no guarantee of future returns, understanding how an investment typically has behaved in the past or how it compares to other investment possibilities could give you a better perspective on why your spouse is interested in it.
  • Consider whether there are investments that are less aggressive than what your spouse is proposing but that still push you out of your comfort zone and might represent a compromise position. For example, if you don’t want to invest a large amount in a single stock, a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in that sector might be a way to compromise. (Before investing in a mutual fund or ETF, carefully consider its investment objective, risks, charges, and expenses, which can be found in the prospectus available from the fund. Read it carefully before investing.) Or you could compromise by making a small investment, watching for an agreed-upon length of time to see how it performs, and then deciding whether to invest more.
  • Finally, there may be ways to offset, reduce, or manage the risk involved in a particular investment. Some investments benefit from circumstances that hurt others; for example, a natural disaster that cuts the profits of insurance companies could be beneficial for companies that are hired to rebuild in that area. Many investors try to hedge the risks involved in one investment by purchasing another with very different risks. However, remember that even though hedging could potentially reduce your overall level of risk, doing so probably would also reduce any return you might earn if the other investment is profitable.

If you’re the more aggressive investor …

  • Listen respectfully to your spouse’s concerns. Additional information may increase a spouse’s comfort level, but you won’t know what’s needed if you automatically dismiss any objections. If you don’t have the patience to educate your spouse, a third party who isn’t emotionally involved might be better at explaining your point of view.
  • Concealing the potential pitfalls of an investment about which you’re enthusiastic could make future joint decisions more difficult if your credibility suffers because of a loss. As with most marital issues, transparency and trust are key.
  • A spouse who’s more cautious than you are may help you remember to assess the risks involved or keep trading costs down by reducing the churn in your portfolio.
  • Remember that you can make changes in your portfolio gradually. You might be able to help your spouse get more comfortable with taking on additional risk by spreading the investment out over time rather than investing a lump sum. And if you’re an impulsive investor, try not to act until you can consult your partner–or be prepared to face the consequences.

What if you still can’t agree?

You could consider investing a certain percentage of your combined resources aggressively, an equal percentage conservatively, and a third percentage in a middle-ground choice. This would give each partner equal input and control of the decision-making process, even if one has a larger balance in his or her individual account.

Another approach is to use separate asset allocations to balance competing interests. If both spouses have workplace retirement plans, the risk taker could invest the largest portion of his or her plan in an aggressive choice and put a smaller portion in an option with which a spouse is comfortable. The conservative partner would invest the bulk of his or her money in a relatively conservative choice and put a smaller piece in a more aggressive selection on which you both agree.

Or you could divide responsibility for specific goals. For example, the more conservative half could be responsible for the money that’s being saved for a house down payment in five years. The other partner could take charge of longer-term goals that may benefit from taking greater risk in pursuit of potentially higher returns. You also could consider setting a predetermined limit on how much the risk taker can put into riskier investments.

Finally, a neutral third party with some expertise and a dispassionate view of the situation may be able to help work through differences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Matthew Curry, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, Qwest, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Chevron, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Hughes, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Matthew Curry is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Posted in Economic Update, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning, Matthew Curry, The Retirement Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Holding Equities for the Long Term: Time Versus Timing

Legendary investor Warren Buffett is famous for his long-term perspective. He has said that he likes to make investments he would be comfortable holding even if the market shut down for 10 years. Investing with an eye to the long term is particularly important with stocks. Historically, equities have typically outperformed bonds, cash, and inflation, though past performance is no guarantee of future results and those returns also have involved higher volatility. It can be challenging to have Buffett-like patience during periods such as 2000-2002, when the stock market fell for 3 years in a row, or 2008, which was the worst year for the Standard & Poor’s 500* since the Depression era. Times like those can frazzle the nerves of any investor, even the pros. With stocks, having an investing strategy is only half the battle; the other half is being able to stick to it.

Just what is long term?

Your own definition of “long term” is most important, and will depend in part on your individual financial goals and when you want to achieve them. A 70-year-old retiree may have a shorter “long term” than a 30 year old who’s saving for retirement.

Your strategy should take into account that the market will not go in one direction forever–either up or down. However, it’s instructive to look at various holding periods for equities over the years. Historically, the shorter your holding period, the greater the chance of experiencing a loss. It’s true that the S&P 500 showed negative returns for the two 10-year periods ending in 2008 and 2009, which encompassed both the tech crash and the credit crisis. However, the last negative-return 10-year period before then ended in 1939, and each of the trailing 10-year periods since 2010 have also been positive.*

The benefits of patience

Trying to second-guess the market can be challenging at best; even professionals often have trouble. According to “Behavioral Patterns and Pitfalls of U.S. Investors,” a 2010 Library of Congress report prepared for the Securities and Exchange Commission, excessive trading often causes investors to underperform the market.

The Power of Time

Note: Though past performance is no guarantee of future results, the odds of achieving a positive return in the stock market have been much higher over a 5or 10-year period than for a single year. Another study, “Stock Market Extremes and Portfolio Performance 1926-2004,” initially done by the University of Michigan in 1994 and updated in 2005, showed that a handful of months or days account for most market gains and losses. The return dropped dramatically on a portfolio that was out of the stock market entirely on the 90 best trading days in history. Returns also improved just as dramatically by avoiding the market’s 90 worst days; the problem, of course, is being able to forecast which days those will be. Even if you’re able to avoid losses by being out of the market, will you know when to get back in?

Keeping yourself on track

It’s useful to have strategies in place that can help improve your financial and psychological readiness to take a long-term approach to investing in equities. Even if you’re not a buy-and-hold investor, a trading discipline can help you stick to a long-term plan.

Have a game plan against panic

Having predetermined guidelines that anticipate turbulent times can help prevent emotion from dictating your decisions. For example, you might determine in advance that you will take profits when the market rises by a certain percentage, and buy when the market has fallen by a set percentage. Or you might take a core-and-satellite approach, using buy-and-hold principles for most of your portfolio and tactical investing based on a shorter-term outlook for the rest.

Remember that everything’s relative

Most of the variance in the returns of different portfolios is based on their respective asset allocations. If you’ve got a well-diversified portfolio, it might be useful to compare its overall performance to the S&P 500. If you discover you’ve done better than, say, the stock market as a whole, you might feel better about your long-term prospects.

Current performance may not reflect past results

Don’t forget to look at how far you’ve come since you started investing. When you’re focused on day-to-day market movements, it’s easy to forget the progress you’ve already made. Keeping track of where you stand relative to not only last year but to 3, 5, and 10 years ago may help you remember that the current situation is unlikely to last forever.

Consider playing defense

Some investors try to prepare for volatile periods by reexamining their allocation to such defensive sectors as consumer staples or utilities (though like all stocks, those sectors involve their own risks). Dividends also can help cushion the impact of price swings. If you’re retired and worried about a market downturn’s impact on your income, think before reacting. If you sell stock during a period of falling prices simply because that was your original game plan, you might not get the best price. Moreover, that sale might also reduce your ability to generate income in later years. What might it cost you in future returns by selling stocks at a low point if you don’t need to? Perhaps you could adjust your lifestyle temporarily.

Use cash to help manage your mindset

Having some cash holdings can be the financial equivalent of taking deep breaths to relax. It can enhance your ability to act thoughtfully instead of impulsively. An appropriate asset allocation can help you have enough resources on hand to prevent having to sell stocks at an inopportune time to meet ordinary expenses or, if you’ve used leverage, a margin call.

A cash cushion coupled with a disciplined investing strategy can change your perspective on market downturns. Knowing that you’re positioned to take advantage of a market swoon by picking up bargains may increase your ability to be patient.

Know what you own and why you own it

When the market goes off the tracks, knowing why you made a specific investment can help you evaluate whether those reasons still hold. If you don’t understand why a security is in your portfolio, find out. A stock may still be a good long-term opportunity even when its price has dropped.

Tell yourself that tomorrow is another day

The market is nothing if not cyclical. Even if you wish you had sold at what turned out to be a market peak, or regret having sat out a buying opportunity, you may get another chance. If you’re considering changes, a volatile market is probably the worst time to turn your portfolio inside out. Solid asset allocation is still the basis of good investment planning.

Be willing to learn from your mistakes

Anyone can look good during bull markets; smart investors are produced by the inevitable rough patches. Even the best aren’t right all the time. If an earlier choice now seems rash, sometimes the best strategy is to take a tax loss, learn from the experience, and apply the lesson to future decisions.

*Data source: Calculations by Broadridge based on total returns on the S&P 500 Index over rolling 1-, 5-, and 10-year periods between 1926 and 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Matthew Curry, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, Glaxosmithkline, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, AT&T, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Matthew Curry is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Posted in Economic Update, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning, Matthew Curry, The Retirement Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Protecting Your Savings and Investments

In the wake of turbulence in the financial markets, it’s worth reviewing the legal protections available for assets held by banks, credit unions, and securities dealers.

Bank/savings and loan deposit accounts

Generally, deposit accounts at banks and savings and loans insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) are insured up to $250,000 per depositor per bank. FDIC insurance covers both demand deposits (those that provide immediate access to cash, such as checking, NOW, and savings accounts as well as money market deposit accounts) and time deposits, such as certificates of deposit (CDs). It covers both principal and any interest accrued as of the date that an insured bank closes.

FDIC insurance does not cover mutual funds, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, annuities, or other securities, even if they were bought through an FDIC-insured bank. It also does not cover U.S. Treasury securities (because they are backed separately by the full faith and credit of the federal government) or safe deposit boxes.

You can’t increase your protection simply by opening more than one account in your name at the same bank. For example, splitting the money between a checking and a savings account or opening accounts at different branches of the same bank do not increase your coverage.

However, deposits that represent different categories of ownership may be independently insured. For example, a joint account qualifies for up to $250,000 of coverage for each person named as a joint owner. That coverage is in addition to the $250,000 maximum coverage for each person’s aggregated single-owner accounts at that bank. For example, a married couple with three accounts at one bank–they each have $250,000 in an individual account, and they also have $200,000 in a joint account–would qualify for FDIC insurance on the entire $700,000. The limit on the amount protected in one or more retirement accounts at one bank also is $250,000; this is separate from the $250,000 coverage of individual accounts. (Remember, however, that FDIC insurance applies only to deposit accounts, not to any securities held in an IRA or other retirement account.)

There also may be additional safety nets. In some states, a state-chartered savings bank is required to have additional insurance to cover any losses beyond the FDIC limits. Some banks also may participate in the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service (CDARS), which enables a bank to spread large CD deposits among multiple banks while keeping the amount at each individual bank, including the original bank, within FDIC insurance limits.

You do not have to be a U.S. citizen or resident for your account to receive FDIC protection. According to the FDIC, no depositor has ever lost a penny of funds that were covered by FDIC insurance. An online calculator at the FDIC’s website, http://www.fdic.gov, can help you estimate the total FDIC coverage on your deposit accounts.

Credit unions

Member share accounts at most credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). It is administered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which like the FDIC is an independent agency of the federal government and is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury. (Some credit unions are not federally insured but are overseen by state regulators; they typically have private credit insurance.)

NCUSIF insurance is similar to FDIC insurance; it covers share accounts, share certificates, and share draft accounts but not investment products sold through a credit union. It covers single-owner accounts up to $250,000 per customer per institution. Retirement accounts such as IRAs and Keoghs have separate coverage up to $250,000. As with bank deposit accounts, independent coverage may be available for different categories of ownership. You can estimate your existing coverage by using the calculator at the NCUA’s website www.ncua.gov.

Brokerage accounts and SIPC

Most brokerage accounts are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). Unlike the FDIC, the SIPC is not a government agency but a nonprofit corporation funded by broker-dealers registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (A non-SIPC member must disclose that fact.)

SIPC was created by Congress in 1970 to help return customer property if a broker-dealer or clearing firm experiences insolvency, unauthorized trading, or securities that are lost or missing from a customer’s account. Many brokerages also extend protection beyond the SIPC limits with additional private insurance. If a member firm became insolvent, SIPC would typically either act as trustee or ask a court to appoint a trustee to supervise transfer of customer securities and cash. The SEC requires brokerages and clearing firms to segregate customer accounts from their proprietary assets and funds.

 

What’s Covered Where
  What’s covered? Limit for single-owner accounts Limit for retirement accounts Limit for joint accounts
FDIC (banks) Checking/NOW/savings accounts; money market deposit accounts; time deposits (e.g., CDs) $250,000 (includes all such accounts owned by the same person) $250,000 (includes all retirement accounts owned by the same person) $250,000 per joint owner (includes all joint accounts owned by the same person)
SIPC (brokers) Investments registered with the SEC, and cash $500,000, including up to $250,000 in cash $500,000 per customer, including up to $250,000 cash $500,000 per customer
NCUSIF (credit unions) Regular share accounts, share draft accounts, share certificates $250,000 (includes all such accounts owned by the same person) $250,000 (includes all traditional and Roth IRAs; Keoghs covered separately up to $250,000) $250,000 per joint owner (includes all joint accounts owned by the same person)
These are some of the most common accounts; additional categories of ownership, such as trusts, may offer additional protection and use category-specific ways of determining protection limits. All limits apply to accounts at a single institution; if you have accounts at more than one protected institution, you qualify for protection up to the full amount at each one.

 

SIPC covers a maximum of $500,000 per customer (including up to $250,000 in cash) at a given firm. SIPC doesn’t protect against market risk or price fluctuations. If shares lose value before a trustee is appointed, that loss of value is not protected by SIPC. In general, SIPC covers notes, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other shares in investment companies. It does not cover investments that are not registered with the SEC, such as certain investment contracts, limited partnerships, fixed annuity contracts, currency, gold, silver, commodity futures contracts, or commodities options. Additional information about SIPC protection and an explanatory brochure are available at www.sipc.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Matthew Curry, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Verizon, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Matthew Curry is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Posted in Economic Update, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning, Matthew Curry, The Retirement Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Balancing Your Investment Choices with Asset Allocation

A chocolate cake. Pasta. A pancake. They’re all very different, but they generally involve flour, eggs, and perhaps a liquid. Depending on how much of each ingredient you use, you can get very different outcomes. The same is true of your investments. Balancing a portfolio means combining various types of investments using a recipe that’s appropriate for you.

Getting an appropriate mix

The combination of investments you choose can be as important as your specific investments. The mix of various asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives, accounts for most of the ups and downs of a portfolio’s returns.

There’s another reason to think about the mix of investments in your portfolio. Each type of investment has specific strengths and weaknesses that enable it to play a specific role in your overall investing strategy. Some investments may be chosen for their growth potential. Others may provide regular income. Still others may offer safety or simply serve as a temporary place to park your money. And some investments even try to fill more than one role. Because you probably have multiple needs and desires, you need some combination of investment types.

Balancing how much of each you should include is one of your most important tasks as an investor. That balance between growth, income, and safety is called your asset allocation, and it can help you manage the level and type of risks you face.

Balancing risk and return

Ideally, you should strive for an overall combination of investments that minimizes the risk you take in trying to achieve a targeted rate of return. This often means balancing more conservative investments against others that are designed to provide a higher return but that also involve more risk. For example, let’s say you want to get a 7.5% return on your money. Your financial professional tells you that in the past, stock market returns have averaged about 10% annually, and bonds roughly 5%. One way to try to achieve your 7.5% return would be by choosing a 50-50 mix of stocks and bonds. It might not work out that way, of course. This is only a hypothetical illustration, not a real portfolio, and there’s no guarantee that either stocks or bonds will perform as they have in the past. But asset allocation gives you a place to start.

Someone living on a fixed income, whose priority is having a regular stream of money coming in, will probably need a very different asset allocation than a young, well-to-do working professional whose priority is saving for a retirement that’s 30 years away. Many publications feature model investment portfolios that recommend generic asset allocations based on an investor’s age. These can help jump-start your thinking about how to divide up your investments. However, because they’re based on averages and hypothetical situations, they shouldn’t be seen as definitive. Your asset allocation is–or should be—as unique as you are. Even if two people are the same age and have similar incomes, they may have very different needs and goals. You should make sure your asset allocation is tailored to your individual circumstances.

Many ways to diversify

When financial professionals refer to asset allocation, they’re usually talking about overall classes: stocks, bonds, and cash or cash alternatives. However, there are others that also can be used to complement the major asset classes once you’ve got those basics covered. They include real estate and alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, metals, or collectibles. Because their returns don’t necessarily correlate closely with returns from major asset classes, they can provide additional diversification and balance in a portfolio.

Even within an asset class, consider how your assets are allocated. For example, if you’re investing in stocks, you could allocate a certain amount to large-cap stocks and a different percentage to stocks of smaller companies. Or you might allocate based on geography, putting some money in U.S. stocks and some in foreign companies. Bond investments might be allocated by various maturities, with some money in bonds that mature quickly and some in longer-term bonds. Or you might favor tax-free bonds over taxable ones, depending on your tax status and the type of account in which the bonds are held.

Asset allocation strategies

There are various approaches to calculating an asset allocation that makes sense for you.

The most popular approach is to look at what you’re investing for and how long you have to reach each goal. Those goals get balanced against your need for money to live on. The more secure your immediate income and the longer you have to pursue your investing goals, the more aggressively you might be able to invest for them. Your asset allocation might have a greater percentage of stocks than either bonds or cash, for example. Or you might be in the opposite situation. If you’re stretched financially and would have to tap your investments in an emergency, you’ll need to balance that fact against your longer-term goals. In addition to establishing an emergency fund, you may need to invest more conservatively than you might otherwise want to.

Some investors believe in shifting their assets among asset classes based on which types of investments they expect will do well or poorly in the near term. However, this approach, called “market timing,” is extremely difficult even for experienced investors. If you’re determined to try this, you should probably get some expert advice–and recognize that no one really knows where markets are headed.

Some people try to match market returns with an overall “core” strategy for most of their portfolio. They then put a smaller portion in very targeted investments that may behave very differently from those in the core and provide greater overall diversification. These often are asset classes that an investor thinks could benefit from more active management.

Just as you allocate your assets in an overall portfolio, you can also allocate assets for a specific goal. For example, you might have one asset allocation for retirement savings and another for college tuition bills. A retired professional with a conservative overall portfolio might still be comfortable investing more aggressively with money intended to be a grandchild’s inheritance. Someone who has taken the risk of starting a business might decide to be more conservative with his or her personal portfolio.

Things to think about

  • Don’t forget about the impact of inflation on your savings. As time goes by, your money will probably buy less and less unless your portfolio at least keeps pace with the inflation rate. Even if you think of yourself as a conservative investor, your asset allocation should take long-term inflation into account.
  • Your asset allocation should balance your financial goals with your emotional needs. If the way your money is invested keeps you awake worrying at night, you may need to rethink your investing goals and whether the strategy you’re pursuing is worth the lost sleep.
  • Your tax status might affect your asset allocation, though your decisions shouldn’t be based solely on tax concerns.

Even if your asset allocation was right for you when you chose it, it may not be appropriate for you now. It should change as your circumstances do and as new ways to invest are introduced. A piece of clothing you wore 10 years ago may not fit now; you just might need to update your asset allocation, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Matthew Curry, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by Pfizer, fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, ExxonMobil, resources.hewitt.com, Raytheon, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Michael Greer is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Posted in Economic Update, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning, Matthew Curry, The Retirement Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Balancing Your Investment Choices with Asset Allocation

A chocolate cake. Pasta. A pancake. They’re all very different, but they generally involve flour, eggs, and perhaps a liquid. Depending on how much of each ingredient you use, you can get very different outcomes. The same is true of your investments. Balancing a portfolio means combining various types of investments using a recipe that’s appropriate for you.

Getting an appropriate mix

The combination of investments you choose can be as important as your specific investments. The mix of various asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives, accounts for most of the ups and downs of a portfolio’s returns.

There’s another reason to think about the mix of investments in your portfolio. Each type of investment has specific strengths and weaknesses that enable it to play a specific role in your overall investing strategy. Some investments may be chosen for their growth potential. Others may provide regular income. Still others may offer safety or simply serve as a temporary place to park your money. And some investments even try to fill more than one role. Because you probably have multiple needs and desires, you need some combination of investment types.

Balancing how much of each you should include is one of your most important tasks as an investor. That balance between growth, income, and safety is called your asset allocation, and it can help you manage the level and type of risks you face.

Balancing risk and return

Ideally, you should strive for an overall combination of investments that minimizes the risk you take in trying to achieve a targeted rate of return. This often means balancing more conservative investments against others that are designed to provide a higher return but that also involve more risk. For example, let’s say you want to get a 7.5% return on your money. Your financial professional tells you that in the past, stock market returns have averaged about 10% annually, and bonds roughly 5%. One way to try to achieve your 7.5% return would be by choosing a 50-50 mix of stocks and bonds. It might not work out that way, of course. This is only a hypothetical illustration, not a real portfolio, and there’s no guarantee that either stocks or bonds will perform as they have in the past. But asset allocation gives you a place to start.

Someone living on a fixed income, whose priority is having a regular stream of money coming in, will probably need a very different asset allocation than a young, well-to-do working professional whose priority is saving for a retirement that’s 30 years away. Many publications feature model investment portfolios that recommend generic asset allocations based on an investor’s age. These can help jump-start your thinking about how to divide up your investments. However, because they’re based on averages and hypothetical situations, they shouldn’t be seen as definitive. Your asset allocation is–or should be—as unique as you are. Even if two people are the same age and have similar incomes, they may have very different needs and goals. You should make sure your asset allocation is tailored to your individual circumstances.

Many ways to diversify

When financial professionals refer to asset allocation, they’re usually talking about overall classes: stocks, bonds, and cash or cash alternatives. However, there are others that also can be used to complement the major asset classes once you’ve got those basics covered. They include real estate and alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, metals, or collectibles. Because their returns don’t necessarily correlate closely with returns from major asset classes, they can provide additional diversification and balance in a portfolio.

Even within an asset class, consider how your assets are allocated. For example, if you’re investing in stocks, you could allocate a certain amount to large-cap stocks and a different percentage to stocks of smaller companies. Or you might allocate based on geography, putting some money in U.S. stocks and some in foreign companies. Bond investments might be allocated by various maturities, with some money in bonds that mature quickly and some in longer-term bonds. Or you might favor tax-free bonds over taxable ones, depending on your tax status and the type of account in which the bonds are held.

Asset allocation strategies

There are various approaches to calculating an asset allocation that makes sense for you.

The most popular approach is to look at what you’re investing for and how long you have to reach each goal. Those goals get balanced against your need for money to live on. The more secure your immediate income and the longer you have to pursue your investing goals, the more aggressively you might be able to invest for them. Your asset allocation might have a greater percentage of stocks than either bonds or cash, for example. Or you might be in the opposite situation. If you’re stretched financially and would have to tap your investments in an emergency, you’ll need to balance that fact against your longer-term goals. In addition to establishing an emergency fund, you may need to invest more conservatively than you might otherwise want to.

Some investors believe in shifting their assets among asset classes based on which types of investments they expect will do well or poorly in the near term. However, this approach, called “market timing,” is extremely difficult even for experienced investors. If you’re determined to try this, you should probably get some expert advice–and recognize that no one really knows where markets are headed.

Some people try to match market returns with an overall “core” strategy for most of their portfolio. They then put a smaller portion in very targeted investments that may behave very differently from those in the core and provide greater overall diversification. These often are asset classes that an investor thinks could benefit from more active management.

Just as you allocate your assets in an overall portfolio, you can also allocate assets for a specific goal. For example, you might have one asset allocation for retirement savings and another for college tuition bills. A retired professional with a conservative overall portfolio might still be comfortable investing more aggressively with money intended to be a grandchild’s inheritance. Someone who has taken the risk of starting a business might decide to be more conservative with his or her personal portfolio.

Things to think about

  • Don’t forget about the impact of inflation on your savings. As time goes by, your money will probably buy less and less unless your portfolio at least keeps pace with the inflation rate. Even if you think of yourself as a conservative investor, your asset allocation should take long-term inflation into account.
  • Your asset allocation should balance your financial goals with your emotional needs. If the way your money is invested keeps you awake worrying at night, you may need to rethink your investing goals and whether the strategy you’re pursuing is worth the lost sleep.
  • Your tax status might affect your asset allocation, though your decisions shouldn’t be based solely on tax concerns.

Even if your asset allocation was right for you when you chose it, it may not be appropriate for you now. It should change as your circumstances do and as new ways to invest are introduced. A piece of clothing you wore 10 years ago may not fit now; you just might need to update your asset allocation, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Matthew Curry, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by AT&T, fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, access.att.com, ING Retirement, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Merck, Pfizer, Glaxosmithkline, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Matthew Curry is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Posted in Economic Update, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning, Matthew Curry, The Retirement Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

In-Service Withdrawals from 401(k) Plans

You may be familiar with the rules for putting money into a 401(k) plan. But are you familiar with the rules for taking your money out? Federal law limits the withdrawal options that a 401(k) plan can offer. But a 401(k) plan may offer fewer withdrawal options than the law allows, and may even provide that you can’t take any money out at all until you leave employment. However, many 401(k) plans are more flexible.

 

First, consider a plan loan

 

Many 401(k) plans allow you to borrow money from your own account. A loan may be attractive if you don’t qualify for a withdrawal, or you don’t want to incur the taxes and penalties that may apply to a withdrawal, or you don’t want to permanently deplete your retirement assets. (Also, you must take any available loans from all plans maintained by your employer before you’re even eligible to withdraw your own pretax or Roth contributions from a 401(k) plan because of hardship.)

 

In general, you can borrow up to one half of your vested account balance (including your contributions, your employer’s contributions, and earnings), but not more than $50,000.

 

You can borrow the funds for up to five years (longer if the loan is to purchase your principal residence). In most cases you repay the loan through payroll deduction, with principal and interest flowing back into your account. But keep in mind that when you borrow, the unpaid principal of your loan is no longer in your 401(k) account working for you.

 

Withdrawing your own contributions

 

If you’ve made after-tax (non-Roth) contributions, your 401(k) plan can let you withdraw those dollars (and any investment earnings on them) for any reason, at any time. You can withdraw your pretax and Roth contributions (that is, your “elective deferrals”), however, only for one of the following reasons—and again, only if your plan specifically allows the withdrawal:

 

  • You attain age 59½

 

  • You become disabled

 

  • The distribution is a “qualified reservist distribution”

 

  • You incur a hardship (i.e., a “hardship withdrawal”)

 

Hardship withdrawals are allowed only if you have an immediate and heavy financial need, and only up to the amount necessary to meet that need. In most plans, you must require the money to:

 

  • Purchase your principal residence, or repair your principal residence damaged by an unexpected event (e.g., a hurricane)

 

  • Prevent eviction or foreclosure

 

  • Pay medical bills for yourself, your spouse, children, dependents, or plan beneficiary

 

  • Pay certain funeral expenses for your parents, spouse, children, dependents, or plan beneficiary

 

  • Pay certain education expenses for yourself, your spouse, children, dependents, or plan beneficiary

 

  • Pay income tax and/or penalties due on the hardship withdrawal itself

 

Investment earnings aren’t available for hardship withdrawal, except for certain pre-1989 grandfathered amounts.

 

But there are some disadvantages to hardship withdrawals, in addition to the tax consequences described below. You can’t take a hardship withdrawal at all until you’ve first withdrawn all other funds, and taken all nontaxable plan loans, available to you under all retirement plans maintained by your employer. And, in most 401(k) plans, your employer must suspend your participation in the plan for at least six months after the withdrawal, meaning you could lose valuable employer matching contributions. And hardship withdrawals can’t be rolled over. So think carefully before making a hardship withdrawal.

 

Withdrawing employer contributions

 

Getting employer dollars out of a 401(k) plan can be even more challenging. While some plans won’t let you withdraw employer contributions at all before youerminate employment, other plans are more flexible, and let you withdraw at least some vested employer contributions before then. “Vested” means that you own the contributions and they can’t be forfeited for any reason. In general, a 401(k) plan can allow you to withdraw vested company matching and profit-sharing contributions if:

 

  • You become disabled

 

  • You incur a hardship (your employer has some discretion in how hardship is defined for this purpose)

 

  • You attain a specified age (for example, 59½)

 

  • You participate in the plan for at least five years, or

 

  • The employer contribution has been in the account for a specified period of time (generally at least two years)

 

Taxation

 

Your own pretax contributions, company contributions, and investment earnings are subject to income tax when you withdraw them from the plan. If you’ve made any after-tax contributions, they’ll be nontaxable when withdrawn. Each withdrawal you make is deemed to carry out a pro-rata portion of taxable and any nontaxable dollars.

 

Your Roth contributions, and investment earnings on them, are taxed separately: if your distribution is “qualified,” then your withdrawal will be entirely free from federal income taxes. If your withdrawal is “nonqualified,” then each withdrawal will be deemed to carry out a pro-rata amount of your nontaxable Roth contributions and taxable investment earnings. A distribution is qualified if you satisfy a five-year holding period, and your distribution is made either after you’ve reached age 59½, or after you’ve become disabled. The five-year period begins on the first day of the first calendar year you make your first Roth 401(k) contribution to the plan.

 

The taxable portion of your distribution may be subject to a 10% premature distribution tax, in addition to any income tax due, unless an exception applies. Exceptions to the penalty include distributions after age 59½, distributions on account of disability, qualified reservist distributions, and distributions to pay medical expenses.

 

Rollovers and conversions Rollover of non-Roth funds

 

If your in-service withdrawal qualifies as an “eligible rollover distribution,” you can roll over all or part of the withdrawal tax free to a traditional IRA or to another employer’s plan that accepts rollovers. In general, most in-service withdrawals qualify as eligible rollover distributions except for hardship withdrawals and required minimum distributions after age 70½. If your withdrawal qualifies as an eligible rollover distribution, your plan administrator will give you a notice (a “402(f) notice”) explaining the rollover rules, the withholding rules, and other related tax issues. (Your plan administrator will withhold 20% of the taxable portion of your eligible rollover distribution for federal income tax purposes if you don’t directly roll the funds over to another plan or IRA.)

 

You can also roll over (“convert”) an eligible rollover distribution of non-Roth funds to a Roth IRA. And some 401(k) plans even allow you to make an “in-plan conversion”–that is, you can request an in-service withdrawal of non-Roth funds, and have those dollars transferred into a Roth account within the same 401(k) plan. In either case, you’ll pay income tax on the amount you convert (less any nontaxable after-tax contributions you’ve made).

 

Rollover of Roth funds

 

If you withdraw funds from your Roth 401(k) account, those dollars can only be rolled over to a Roth IRA, or to another Roth 401(k)/403(b)/457(b) plan that accepts rollovers. (Again, hardship withdrawals can’t be rolled over.) But be sure to understand how a rollover will affect the taxation of future distributions from the IRA or plan. For example, if you roll over a nonqualified distribution from a Roth 401(k) account to a Roth IRA, the Roth IRA five-year holding period will apply when determining if any future distributions from the IRA are tax-free qualified distributions. That is, you won’t get credit for the time those dollars resided in the 401(k) plan.

 

Be informed

 

You should become familiar with the terms of your employer’s 401(k) plan to understand your particular withdrawal rights. A good place to start is the plan’s summary plan description (SPD). Your employer will give you a copy of the SPD within 90 days after you join the plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of Matthew Curry, and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com, access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, netbenefits.fidelity.com, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

Matthew Curry is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

Posted in Economic Update, Financial Advisor, Financial Planning, Matthew Curry, The Retirement Group | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,