Is OPEC Headed for the Ash Heap of History?

We read an intriguing essay by Brian Wesbury of First Trust today.  Using the phrase that Ronald Reagan used nearly 25 years ago about the Soviet Union about Marxism and Leninism being left on the “ash-heap of history,” Wesbury thinks that OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) may be headed the same way.

Now it appears OPEC, another nemesis of the US from the prior century is heading for the ash heap of history as well, not because of geopolitics, but because of the hard work of engineers.

A combination of fracking, seismic imaging, and horizontal drilling has led to a huge reduction in the cost of drilling and an increase in the supply of oil and natural gas, not just in the US but around the world.

Case in point: in the past twelve months the US has run an $8.4 billion goods trade surplus with OPEC, including Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. What a difference from less than a decade ago. Back in 2007-08, the US ran a $190 billion goods trade deficit with OPEC. The reason for the change in the trade balance is that the US is importing much less from OPEC, $64.8 billion in the past twelve months versus $253.4 billion at the peak in 2007-08.

Those are amazing statistics.  A $200 billion dollar change in the balance of trade in just under a decade, all due to a technological revolution in the production of oil and gas.  We are accustomed to thinking about technology in terms of silicon chips, iPads and cell phones.  But the bigger sociopolitical change may have been in the dirty, greasy, un-glamorous field of petroleum engineering.

Who would have guessed?

Tagged , ,

Norfolk Southern beats the street

From the AP:

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC) on Thursday reported first-quarter earnings of $387 million.

On a per-share basis, the Norfolk, Virginia-based company said it had profit of $1.29.

The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 97 cents per share.

The railroad posted revenue of $2.42 billion in the period, also surpassing Street forecasts. Three analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $2.4 billion.

Norfolk Southern shares have decreased slightly more than 2 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has risen slightly more than 2 percent. In the final minutes of trading on Thursday, shares hit $82.63, a decline of 19 percent in the last 12 months.

 

NSC shares rose 4.8% in after-hours trading.

 

Tagged , ,

Independent Wealth Managers vs. Wirehouses

If you had the choice, would you rather shop at a boutique or a chain store?  You know what you get at a chain store: pre-packaged products on shelves that meet most of your needs but no personal service.  A boutique provides you with a lot more product selection, a high level of personal service and saves you time in meeting your needs.

The reason that so many people go to chain stores for groceries, hardware and clothing is that they usually offer lower prices. The interesting thing about the financial services industry is that the “chain stores” (the industry calls them “wirehouses”) like Merrill Lynch, UBS, Wells Fargo are not cheaper than financial boutiques.

These boutiques go by other names such as “Registered Investment Advisors” (RIAs) or “Independent Wealth Managers.”   But they are all focused on satisfying their customers, not on the sale.  They are true servants to their customers.  While wirehouses give the impression of size, the are limited to selling the products they have on their shelves.  They can’t suggest you shop down the street for a product that’s better for you.  RIAs are fiduciaries, meaning they put their clients’ interests ahead of their own.  They focus on what’s best for the customer rather than the sale.

According to a survey by Cerulli Associates, over half of the ultra-high-net-worth clients still have their assets at wirehouses or bank trust departments.  That is changing as younger investors or the heirs of the older investors seek the kind of personal service that RIAs and Independent Wealth Managers provide.

If you’re looking for boutique service without paying more for it, contact us.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The dangers of flying blind

I always loved flying.  When I was young and single I learned to fly a plane.  Taking off and flying was easy.  Landing safely was the hard part.    There was another danger for amateur pilots like me, flying without being able to see outside the cockpit.  The name for it is flying blind.

Professional pilots learned to fly blind.  They need to be able to fly in all kinds of weather, even if they are in clouds.  They call that “instrument flying.”  It means they don’t look outside, but read their instruments to complete their flight plans and land safely.  Amateur pilots, on the other hand, can get into serious difficulty if they accidentally fly into clouds.  If they can’t see outside they become disoriented.  It’s one of the most common ways that amateur pilots lose their lives.

When it comes to getting to their financial future, too many people are flying blind.  Over the last two decades too many people have seen their dreams crash and burn because they were not properly prepared.

Approaching retirement without a formal plan is like the amateur pilot who takes off in good weather.  Without noticing it he finds that there are clouds above and below him.  He can’t see out.  He becomes disoriented, not knowing which side is up, uncertain of his direction.  Now he’s flying blind and he’s in serious trouble.

What’s the best way to avoid this kind of trouble?  Two things are needed.

  • Make sure you have a plan that shows you a path to a safe landing.
  • Hire a “professional pilot” – a Registered Investment Advisor – who is experienced in navigating the hazards of the market and who won’t panic when the clouds move in.

Please contact us to see if we can help you land safely no matter what the weather.

Contact us for a free copy of our Investopedia article “How Advisors Can Help Surviving Spouses.”

Tagged , , ,

What are your retirement goals?

A recent issue of Financial Advisor magazine reports that “millennials” (people between age 18 and 34) view retirement goals differently from their parents.

Instead of viewing retirement starting at a certain age, like 65, millennials expect to retire when they reach a certain financial goal.

Fifty-three percent of millennials view retirement as the start of something exciting. In comparison to their elders, 21 percent of millennials are more likely to make pursuing a passion, furthering their education or starting or growing their own business their priorities in retirement.

We at Korving & Company are in the business of helping people achieve their financial goals. How do you view your financial goal? Please use the response button below to let us know.

Tagged , ,

You and your Super-Yacht.

The OceAnco – Igor Lobanov Y708 85.60m Superyacht – Superyachts ...

Have you ever glanced at the pictures of the rich and famous having a party on the deck of a Super-Yacht somewhere in the Caribbean or Mediterranean?  Have you wondered what would it cost to party like that?  Well, it is expensive, but not impossible.  You see, they probably don’t own the yachts, they rent them.

In the April 15th issue of Private Wealth, they discuss what it takes.

Lounging in the Caribbean aboard a beautiful, 100-foot superyacht sounds pretty great, but it might be hard to relax when you’ve got a hefty engine repair bill to pay and crew payroll paperwork to review. The annual cost of operating a 180-foot vessel is $4.75 million, or about 10 percent of the yacht’s original cost. With high maintenance costs in mind, ultra-high-net-worth individuals looking to explore the high seas are increasingly turning to charters.…

A week on a superyacht can cost $115,500 to $190,000, on average, the report found, while the average purchase price is a bit more than $10 million …

Of course that puts it out of the price range of all except the ultra-high-net-worth individuals; those with a minimum worth of $30 million.

But the number of ultra-high-net worth people keeps growing and they often decide to rent a yacht or lease a jet rather than buying one.  It’s a business that keeps growing.

And for people who are climbing the financial ladder (or win the lottery), it doesn’t hurt to dream big.

Tagged , ,

Major Investment Firm Finds Most 401(k) Participants Stressed About Finances

An overwhelming majority of Americans in 401(k) plans are feeling increasingly insecure about their financial future, and most said they could use some professional financial help …

Employees of both large and small companies are feeling increasingly insecure about their financial futures.  A large part of this is based on the decline of pension plans which were once offered as benefits by large employers.  Most companies now offer 401 (k) plans which leave the responsibility for retirement income up to employees.

As a result, over half of those surveyed wanted help managing their finances.  While some employers offer “financial wellness” programs, many employees would rather not use them because of privacy concerns.  This is where the RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) provides exceptional value.

A lot of this stress can be relieved by getting a financial plan.  The RIA industry offers financial planning to people who wonder when or if they will ever be able to retire.  These firms also offer to manage their clients’ money for them, relieving the anxiety of people who are concerned about how their money should best be invested.

Getting regular reports and performance reviews, being able to talk to someone about concerns, and dealing with people who are fiduciaries relieves a lot of stress.

To relieve your stress, give us a call.

Tagged , , , , ,

How Advisors Can Help Surviving Spouses

Investopedia published an article we authored.

When the subject of death comes up, a term that’s often used to describe the feelings of those left behind is “loss.” But there is more to that loss than the loss of companionship. There’s also the loss of information, especially if the person who died also handled the family finances.

In my 30 years of experience advising families I have often had to help and council widows who depended on their husbands to manage the family finances. It’s fairly common for families to have several investment relationships. It’s quite rare to find that the spouse who managed the money actually did a good job keeping records and keeping his spouse “in the loop” when it comes to money management. And when her spouse dies, the widow has to deal with a host of organizations whose primary focus is on making sure that they don’t distribute money to anyone who is not entitled to it. The liability is too great. So we typically have a widow dealing with the death of a loved one, plus the Social Security Administration, the husband’s pension plan, and two, three or more brokerage firms who handled the couple’s investments. (For more, see: Estate Planning: 16 Things to Do Before You Die.)

Who Handles the Finances?

One of my earliest experiences was with a widow whose husband took care of all the family finances. He made the investment decisions, paid the bills and balanced the checkbook. He died suddenly and his wife did not know what to do. Childless and with no near relatives, she needed help. (For more, see: Estate Planning for a Surviving Spouse.)

While her husband’s will was up to date, during our first meeting she revealed that she knew nothing about her financial condition. She did not know how much she was worth, what her income sources were or what it cost her to live. It took a while to learn where all the investments were, what her income sources were and how much she needed to maintain her lifestyle. (For related reading, see: Advanced Estate Planning: Information for Caregivers and Survivors.)

Over the years I found that this situation was not uncommon. Balancing a checkbook, paying bills and making investment decisions does not appeal to a lot of people. They are happy to allow their partner to do that for them. The problem with this division of labor does not appear until the individual in charge of the finances disappears either through death or incapacitation.

Helping Manage the Transition

This is the point at which a trusted financial advisor can ride to the rescue. A good one is willing to go through records to see what it takes to run the household. He will be able to determine the survivor’s income. He will know how to identify the family’s investment and bank accounts even if the records are incomplete. Just as important, a financial advisor should be willing to provide more than simply financial advice to the surviving spouse. This is the point where questions arise about selling the extra car, upgrades around the home, moving to be nearer the children – or moving into a senior living facility. These may well be the questions a trusted advisor is able to answer. (For more, see: 6 Estate Planning Must-Haves.)

Advisors who are simply money managers will, at this point, probably find themselves replaced. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Global Private Banking/Wealth Management Survey, 2011, more than half (55%) of the survivors will fire their financial advisor following the death of a spouse. A lot of that will be due to the changing level of service that a surviving spouse needs. (For related reading, see: Why Do Widows Leave Their Advisors?)

But there is actually a better answer to the financial confusion that often follows a death. The best time to gather comprehensive information about family finances is when the couple is still alive.

Why a Will Might Not Be Enough

With due respect to the legal profession, will and trust documents are written to specify how assets are to be distributed at death. With few exceptions, they rarely get down to the kind of detail that allows the surviving spouse to take up where the deceased has left off.

What is needed is a specific book of instructions itemizing financial assets, their location and their ownership. Income will be vitally important to the surviving spouse. Realizing that income will change once one’s spouse dies, it’s important to know what the survivor’s income sources will be. Finally, the cost of maintaining the surviving spouse can be determined while both are still alive much more easily than after one has passed away. And since so many transactions now take place via password protected Internet portals, the survivor needs a list of those portals and passwords. (For further reading, see: The Importance of Estate and Contingency Planning.)

When someone dies, the surviving spouse will always have a period of grieving. But if a little though is given to preparing for the inevitable, grief does not have to be accompanied by fear of an unknown financial future.

To make it easy for couple who want to plan, purchase a copy of our book: BEFORE I GO and the BEFORE I GO WORKBOOK.  Contact us:

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

Why do elderly Japanese want to go to prison?

I read an interesting comment by Art Cashin that bears considering.

Japan’s prison system is being driven to budgetary crisis by demographics, a welfare shortfall and a new, pernicious breed of villain: the recidivist retiree. And the silver-haired crooks, say academics, are desperate to be behind bars.

Crime figures show that about 35 per cent of shoplifting offenses are committed by people over 60. Within that age bracket, 40 per cent of repeat offenders have committed the same crime more than six times.

There is good reason, concludes a report, to suspect that the shoplifting crime wave in particular represents an attempt by those convicted to end up in prison — an institution that offers free food, accommodation and healthcare.

The mathematics of recidivism are gloomily compelling for the would-be convict. Even with a frugal diet and dirt-cheap accommodation, a single Japanese retiree with minimal savings has living costs more than 25 per cent higher than the meagre basic state pension of Y780,000 ($6,900) a year, according to a study on the economics of elderly crime by Michael Newman of Tokyo-based research house Custom Products Research.

Even the theft of a Y200 sandwich can earn a two-year prison sentence, say academics, at an Y8.4m cost to the state.  The geriatric crime wave is accelerating, and analysts note that the Japanese prison system — newly expanded and at about 70 per cent occupancy — is being prepared for decades of increases. Between 1991 and 2013, the latest year for which the Ministry of Justice publishes figures, the number of elderly inmates in jail for repeating the same offense six times has climbed 460 per cent.

If it weren’t so, so sad, it would be positively elegant. You are an elderly Japanese person who can’t get by. You are not aggressive so you want to commit a crime with no threat or hostility. So, you commit one of the most non-hostile crimes possible –shoplifting.  When the authorities insist you leave and return to poverty, your simple recourse it to repeat the same crime, may even in the same store.  Human adaptation is an absolute wonder to behold. Government planning, however, is prone to bring unintended consequences, usually of the worst order.

People adapt to incentives and the results are not necessarily what was anticipated.  It’s called the law of unintended consequences.

Tagged , , , ,

The Fiduciary Rule and You

The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued its final version of the fiduciary rule regarding retirement accounts.  The issue that the DOL is trying to address is that broker-dealers (major investment firms like MLPFS, UBS, etc.) do not have to act in their clients’ best interest.  They only have make recommendations that are “suitable.”  What that means is that if a broker-dealer representative has the choice between recommending two investments, they can recommend the one that pays them more, as long as the recommendation is suitable. That may not be in the client’s best interest.

The “fiduciary” standard requires an investment advisor to recommend the investment that is in the best interest of the client.  That often results in lower costs to clients.  Korving & Company is a pure RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) and is a fiduciary.   We do not offer commission-based products and offer our clients the lowest cost versions of appropriate investments.

The DOL rules apply to retirement accounts like 401(k) and IRAs.

For questions about the fiduciary rule, contact us.

Tagged , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 153 other followers

%d bloggers like this: