Dow 17,000 is just another number.

Market pundits and the financial press always make a big deal out of markets reaching new highs … and a really big deal when it’s a round number. So for those who think that Dow 17,000 is a big deal, here’s a little history lesson about the Dow and other milestones that were a “Big Deal.”

November 23, 1954: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at 382.74.  The first time it closed above the peak it reached just before the 1929 crash. That’s a span of 25 years.

In the interim, the world saw the Great Depression and World War II.

November 14, 1972: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 1,000 (1,003.16) for the first time.  It took 10 years before it broke through this level again.

December 9, 1974: Dow Jones Industrial Average index hits 570.01.

November 3, 1982: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at 1,065.49.

May 20, 1985: Dow Jones industrial average closes above 1300 for first time.

December 11, 1985: Dow Jones industrial average closes above 1500 for first time.

January 8, 1987: Dow Jones industrial average closes above 2000 for first time.

October 19, 1987: “Black Monday” Dow Jones Industrial Average falls 22.6%, the largest one-day drop in recorded stock market history.

January 29, 1989: Dow Jones Industrial Average regains all of the 508-point loss since October 1987.

April 17, 1991: Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 3,000 for first time.

February 1995: Dow tops 4,000

November 1995: Dow tops 5,000

October 1996: Dow tops 6,000

February 1997: Dow tops 7,000

July 1997: Dow tops 8000

March 1999: Dow tops 10,000

January 2006: Dow tops 11,000

October 2006: Dow tops 12,000

April 2007: Dow tops 13,000

October 2007: Dow tops 14,000

2008: Beginning of the “Great Recession”

March 2009: Dow closes below 7,000

October 2009: Dow tops 10,000

July 2014: Dow tops 17,000

We need to avoid “irrational exuberance” as well as the belief that every milestone marks the top of the market. That is why careful, intelligent portfolio construction is so very important. No one knows what the future holds. We can be fairly confident that new highs will be reached. We just don’t know when and what route we will take to get there.

The issue for most people is not what the market does, but what their portfolio does and how it supports their lifestyle. For guidance, contact us.

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Warren Buffett and You.

An interesting, and instructive, article in Investment Advisor magazine made some great points about the Buffett legend.  Like most legends, it’s part truth and part myth.  In Buffett’s case there is more myth than truth.

Don’t get me wrong, Buffett is one of the world’s richest men, and a famous investor.  But it’s not a rags-to-riches story.  Son of a Congressman, young Warren had an elite education.  He bought a farm while in high school, not something you can do with the income from a paper route.

The legend is that he’s just a folksy stock picker with a buy-and-hold strategy.  The truth is that he made his first millions as a hedge fund manager, raking off 25% of the profits over a 6% hurdle rate.  His most famous investments came from bailing out firms in distress like GE and GEICO when they were in financial trouble.  Buffett got sweetheart deals from them because he had them by the throat and could lend them billions of dollars when they needed it fast.

That’s the edge that Buffett has that none of my other readers have. (Hi Warren)

One observer of Buffett wrote:

By oversimplifying this glorified investor named Buffett the general public gets the false perception that portfolio management is so easy a caveman can do it. And so we see commercials with babies trading from their cribs and middle aged men trading an account in their free time.

If you’re not Warren Buffett, what should your objective be with your investments?  Think about your goals.  See if they are reasonable.  Determine what it will take to get you there.  If you need help with this, get the advice of a professional.  If you are fortunate enough to have already reached your financial goals, decide what it takes to make sure you don’t lose it.

And then, unless you are determined to make a career out of investment management, hire a competent, credentialed, experienced, fee-only Registered Investment Advisor to manage your portfolio for you.  In other words, call Korving & Company - today – and make an appointment.

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Don’t make these common mistakes when planning your retirement.

Planning to retire? Have all your ducks in a row? Know where your retirement income’s going to come from? Great! But don’t make some basic mistakes or you may find yourself working longer or living on a reduced income.

Retirement income is like a three legged stool. Take one of the legs away and you fall over.

The first leg of the stool is Social Security. Depending on your income goals, do it right and you can cover part of your retirement income from this source. Do it wrong and you can leave lots of money on the table.

The second leg is a pension. Many people have guaranteed pensions provided by their employer.  But these are gradually disappearing, replaced by 401(k) and similar plans known as “defined contribution” plans. If you don’t have a pension but want a second guaranteed lifetime income you can look into annuities that pay you a fixed income for life.

The third leg of the stool is your investment portfolio. This is where most people make mistakes and it can have a big impact in your retirement.

Mistake number one is leaving “orphan” 401(k) plans behind as you change jobs. These plans often represent a large part of a typical retiree’s investment assets. Our advice for people who move from one company to another is to roll their 401 (k) assets into an IRA. This gives you much more flexibility and many more investment choices, often at a lower cost than the ones you have in the typical 401(k).

Mistake number two is trying to time the market. Many people are tempted to jump in and out of the market based on nothing but TV talking heads, rumors, or their guess about what the market is going to do in the near future. Timing the market is almost always counter-productive. Instead, create a well balanced portfolio that can weather market volatility and stick with it.

Mistake number three is “set it and forget it.” The biggest factor influencing portfolio returns is asset allocation. And the one thing you can be sure of is that over time your asset allocation will change. You need to rebalance your portfolio to insure that your portfolio does not becoming more aggressive than you realize. If it does, you could find yourself facing a major loss just as you’re ready to retire. Rebalancing lets you “buy low and sell high,” something that everyone wants to do.

Mistake number four is to assume that the planning process ends with your retirement. The typical retiree will live another 25 year after reaching retirement age. To maintain you purchasing power your money continues to have to work hard for you. Otherwise inflation and medical expenses are going to deplete your portfolio and reduce your standard of living. Retirement plans should assume that you will live to at least 90, perhaps to 100.

Retirement planning is complicated and is best done with the help of an expert. Check out our website and feel free to give us a call. We wrote the book on retirement and estate planning.

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Market Myth #2: It’s all about beating the market.

For many amateur investors the object is to beat the market.  They are abetted in this belief by the many magazines and newsletters that make the market the benchmark of what a successful investor should emulate.  People spend hours scouring the media looking for stock tips and investing ideas as if investing was a sport, like horse race, where the object is to beat the others to the finish line.

The fact is that “beating the market” does not address any individual’s actual financial goals.  It’s a meaningless statistic.  And it’s dangerous.

The fact is that most professional investors don’t beat the market on a consistent basis.  Even index funds, designed to replicate the market, don’t actually beat the market.  At best they provide market rates of return minus a fee.  Attempting to beat the market exposes the investor to more risk than is prudent.

Your portfolio should be built around your needs and consistent with your risk tolerance.

What does this mean?  Your portfolio should provide a return that’s keeping you ahead of the cost of living, that allows you to retire in comfort, and is conservative enough that you will not be scared out of the market during the inevitable corrections.

Want to create a portfolio that’s right for you?  Contact us.

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Market myth #1: the stock market can make you rich.

This is one of a series of posts about common market myths that can be dangerous to your wealth.

The market is rarely the place where fortunes are made.  Real people get rich by creating and running great companies.  Bill Gates became the richest man by building and running Microsoft.  Steve Jobs the same way.  The Walton Family, ditto.

In the less rarefied world of multi-millionaires, millionaires and semi-millionaires the same thing is true.  People get rich (or well-to-do) by starting a business, studying and becoming a professional or just working for a living and saving part of what they earn.

This is not to disparage the market as a  tool for protecting  wealth, maintaining purchasing power, living well in retirement and getting a fair rate of return on your money.  But the idea that you can get rich by trading stocks is a myth that can actually destroy your financial well-being.

One of the best ways of avoiding the temptation to use the market as a “casino,” a place where you can “win the lottery” is to turn to a professional investment advisor.  Someone who knows what’s possible and what’s not.  Someone who is in the business of getting you a fair rate of return on your money while minimizing the risk that you will lose it.  An independent, fee only RIA is someone who will not try to sell you one the latest investment fad that the  wire-houses are selling, but who will act in your best interest, because that’s in his best interest.

Have a question about the markets?  Ask us.

 

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Retirement Insecurity and What to do about it.

Would you care to guess what percentage of men age 51 years or older, making over $75,000 per year, who feel very confident about maintaining their current lifestyle in retirement?

According to the Journal of Financial Planning (July 2014) the number is less than half:

43% to be exact.

Women of the same age and the same income are even less secure:

Only 32% feel very confident that they can maintain their lifestyle in retirement.

If you are in the majority who are unsure about being able to retire and not cut back, isn’t it time you got a financial physical? Check out our website.  Give us a call. It won’t cost you anything. We won’t try to sell you anything (we hate that when we’re on the receiving end of a sales pitch).

After looking at these statistics, it may explain why we have such a large number of women clients as well as retirees. Retirement should be a time to enjoy life, to do the things you never had the time to do before. It’s not the time to worry about money.

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What to do when couples disagree on investing

It’s well known in the investment business that women are more risk averse than men. There are, of course, exceptions and I should qualify that by saying that’s true of “most” women and men.

In most cases this does not cause problems when couples invest. That’s because there is usually a division of labor with one spouse making most of the investment decisions. However, when spouses collaborate on investing, a significant difference of opinion can cause a lot of stress in a marriage. Differences in money management styles between two partners can ruin a marriage.

That’s the time for the couple to meet with a trusted financial advisor who can provide unbiased advice and professional expertise. Getting an intermediary involved in what could be a serious dispute usually helps. This often allows a couple to come to an understanding that both can agree works for them.

If you and your partner have disagreements about money and investing, get in touch with us.

And don’t forget to read the first three chapters of BEFORE I GO.  It’s free.

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“What Is the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certification?”

No doubt you’re well aware of the volatility that has characterized the economic environment over the past five years. It’s little wonder that personal financial security is still uppermost in many peoples’ minds. They’re eager for advice about their retirement, estate plans, insurance, emergency funds, liabilities and their asset allocation. Today’s financial conditions require a holistic approach – looking at an individual’s entire financial picture, not just one aspect or another. Working with a Certified Financial Planner™ professional is assurance that he or she is a credentialed expert who is held to high ethical and professional standards.

So I’m taking this moment to remind you that I’ve been a CFP® professional for 21 years. The designation comes with extensive training in financial planning, estate planning, insurance, investments, taxes, employee benefits and retirement planning, as well as in CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct, which are rigorously enforced. As a CFP® professional, I’m required to uphold my certification through continuing education – something to consider with new financial instruments appearing regularly on the consumer market. In fact, CFP® certification is the most recognized in the industry for personal financial planning. So as you think about your financial future, please bear in mind that only 17% of all financial advisors in the industry can claim this distinction.

Please ask for the CFP® brochure. E-mail us at info@korvingco.com Visit our website to learn about us. If you have any questions or would like an analysis of your current financial situation, I’d love to hear from you.

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Avoiding the Housing Trap in Retirement

Homes are a money pit. This morning the HVAC repairman showed up to fix the broken attic fan. Painters are coming next week. The insurance bill on the home is due soon. The landscaping needs some work. Let’s not forget real estate taxes and the mortgage payment.

Many people think of their home as a financial asset. Most people thought real estate was a safe financial asset. People were flipping houses for fun and profit. Then 2008 came along and we learned a whole new set of terms, like “liar loans” and “short sale.”

What does this have to do with retirement? Just this: many people are over-spending on their dream home or holding on to costly vacation homes. There is a term for this: being “house poor.” It describes the homeowners who spend too much of their income on housing costs.  How much is too much?  If it’s nearing 40% it’s definitely too much.

We won’t go into the reasons for this; they are well-known. The answer is to either make more money or to get rid of the money pit. It may be a very difficult emotional decision, but over the long-term, the financial markets have done better than the housing market. Another benefit is that the financial markets are liquid while your home is not,  sometimes taking a year or more to sell.

We are big believers in home ownership. But in our experience a home is not a financial asset that is used in retirement. In most cases the home does not become a financial asset until the owner gets too old and has to move into a retirement community or a nursing home. By that time, retirement is nearing its end.

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Investment Mistakes Millionaires Make

Think millionaires don’t make investing mistakes?  Think again. The deVere Group asked some of its wealthy clients to tell them about the biggest investing mistakes they made before getting professional guidance. It demonstrates that the rich are not that much different. Keep in mind that many people get rich by starting a successful business or inheriting money. That does not make them smart investors.

Here’s a list of five common investment mistakes, and how to avoid them:

5. Focusing Too Much On Historical Returns

Too often investors look at stocks, bonds and mutual funds in the rear view mirror, expecting the future to be a repeat of the past. This is rarely the case. It’s why mutual fund prospectuses always state “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Too many investors buy into last year’s top investment ideas, only to find that they bought an over-priced lemon. Investment decisions need to be made with an eye to the future, not the past.

That’s why we build portfolios based on what we think the markets (& investments) will do in the next 6-36 months. Of course we also look at track records, but in a more sophisticated way than buying last year’s winners.  And when investing in mutual funds, it’s vitally important to examine who is responsible for the fund’s performance and if that person’s still managing the fund.

4. Not Reviewing the Portfolio Regularly

Things change and your portfolio will change with it, whether you watch it or not. If you don’t watch it you could own GM, Enron or one of the banks that closed during the crisis in 2008. Every investment decision needs to be reviewed. The question you always need to ask about the investments in your portfolio is “if I did not own this security would we buy it today?” If the answer is “no,” it may be time to make changes.

We review your portfolios regularly, to make sure you’re on track with your stated goals.  We also offer regular reviews with our clients and prepare reports for them to show how they are doing.

3. Making Emotional Decisions

The two emotions that dominate investment decisions are greed and fear. It’s the reason that the general public usually buys when the market is at the top and sells at the bottom.

We help take the emotion out of investing.  We have a system in place that helps keep emotion out of the equation.

2. Investing Without a Plan

Most portfolios we examine lack a plan. In many cases they are a collection of things that seemed like a good idea at the time. This is often the result of stockbrokers selling their clients investments without first finding out what they really need.

We always invest with a plan.  You tell us your goals, timeline, etc and then we use that as an investment guide.  We don’t care about beating arbitrary indexes; we care about helping you achieve your plans with the least amount of investment risk possible.

1. Not Diversifying Adequately

One of the biggest risks people make is lack of diversification. It’s called putting all your eggs in one basket.   This often happens when people work for a company that offers stock to employees via their 401(k) or other plan. Employees of Enron, who invested heavily in their own company via their retirement plan, were devastated when their company went broke.   Sometimes investors own several mutual funds, believing that they are properly diversified only to find that their funds all do the same thing.

Nobody has ever accused us of being under-diversified.  We champion broad diversification in every one of the MMF (Managed Mutual Fund) portfolios we create. We choose funds that invest in different segments of the investment market. We own many assets classes (bonds, stocks, etc.). We diversify geographically, including some overseas funds. And we have style diversity: growth vs. value, large cap. vs. small cap. With rare exceptions, there is always something in our portfolios that’s making you money.

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