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Financial Symmetry: Balancing Today with Retirement

When considering retirement, do you wonder what financial opportunities you may be missing? Busy lives take over and years pass without taking advantage. In this retirement podcast, Chad Smith and Mike Eklund unveil financial opportunities, to help you balance enjoying today so you are ready to retire later. By day, they are fiduciary fee-only financial advisors who answer questions about tax savings, investment decisions, and how to save more. If you’ve been putting off your financial to-do list or are just not sure what you’ve been missing, subscribe to the show and learn more at www.financialsymmetry.com. Financial Symmetry is a Raleigh Financial Advisor. Proudly serving clients in the Triangle of North Carolina for over 20 years.
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Now displaying: November, 2020
Nov 30, 2020

Growth stocks have been on a tear over the past several years. However, traditionally value stocks have been the big performers in the long-term. But with the rapid rise in growth over the last 10 years, are value stocks still worth it?

Video recap: https://youtu.be/qthoQhw9IxA

Today we explore the question: can value stocks still outperform in today’s environment? We’ll look at the data, provide you with the information, and then lay out action steps that you can take to act on what you learn.

What are value and growth stocks?

Before we begin to explore our question we need to clarify the difference between growth stocks and value stocks. Growth stocks are faster growing, more expensive, and have a lower dividend yield. They are those stocks that you hear about on the news: Facebook, Tesla, and Google are a few. Value stocks have slower growth, are cheaper, and have a higher dividend yield. These are the ‘boring’ stocks and include Berkshire Hathaway, JP Morgan, and Wal-Mart. 

Is this time different?

Let’s look back at history to compare the two types of stocks. From 1926-2010 value stocks grew 12.4% per year whereas growth companies returned 9.8% per year. However, the last ten years have been very different. 

Over the last 3 years, growth stocks have outperformed value stocks by 21% per year. This is the highest 3-year difference on record. Which begs the question, is this time different? Listen in to hear about a similar time period in history. 

Can you really compare this new economy to the 1998-2000 economy?

Much of the growth that we have seen over the past 3 years has been driven by FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google). It seems like these stocks could keep growing forever without any competition. And most recently they have all accelerated their growth with the Covid situation. On the flip side, value stocks have been hit hard by the pandemic. 

But are the growth stocks becoming overvalued? Will this growth end up collapsing like the tech bubble of the late 90s?

How do we adjust our investment strategy?

Do you have an investment strategy? It is important to implement a disciplined, rules-based process. Have a process, have a plan, and stick with it. At the end of the day, investor behavior is the key to success.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t own growth companies, we simply recommend a using diversified approach. We like to say that something in your portfolio should always stink. What does your investment strategy look like? Do you have a hard time hanging on to the losers? 

If you are interested in working with a professional to help you come up with an investment strategy, consider using a fee-only financial advisor. Learn what makes fee-only financial advisors different by visiting our website https://www.financialsymmetry.com/

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:43] What are value and growth stocks?
  • [7:12] Why has growth outperformed value by so much over the past 3 years?
  • [12:25] How can you compare this new economy to the 1998-2000 economy?
  • [14:10] How do we adjust our investment strategy?
  • [17:18] Today’s progress principle

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Nov 16, 2020

Have you been offered an early retirement package?

Video recap: https://youtu.be/jpIfdhYVx6Y

Early retirement packages are on the rise. Companies are often looking for ways to cut costs and one way to do that is to give highly compensated employees an incentive to ease into retirement. Usually, these packages offer a one-time payment and sometimes they come with a period of additional healthcare coverage. 

If you are offered an early retirement package many questions will arise. Is this a good deal? Is the package negotiable? What will I do about health insurance? And, of course, should I take it? 

On this episode, Mike and I will give you the tools to create a framework to think about the questions that early retirement packages bring. Listen in to learn how to weigh this huge decision. 

How does this early retirement package affect your long-term financial plan?

Before you consider anything else you need to think about how this package fits into your long-term financial plan. Receiving a lump sum can give you a lottery mindset, so you’ll need to consider what is most important to you. How would this package fit into the bigger picture of retirement?

This is a good time to ask a professional for help. If you are working with a financial advisor, you’ll definitely want to ask their opinion. A financial advisor can help you spot risks and opportunities that you may not have otherwise seen. Mike has some questions you may not have asked yourself about this early retirement package, so make sure you listen in to hear all the questions. 

What about insurance?

The main reason that many people decline an early retirement package is due to insurance. You may want to see if health insurance is a negotiable part of the package. Sometimes the company will offer to pay for your health insurance for a certain period of time. 

You can also check into COBRA coverage which will guarantee you 18 months of health insurance coverage under your old plan--just be prepared for a bit of sticker shock. 

Another way to cover your health insurance is to check into the ACA healthcare exchange. Be sure to weigh all of your healthcare options before signing the deal. 

How will this influence your tax picture down the road? 

So many tax opportunities pop up with an early retirement package. You’ll want to consider all the ways that you can save on taxes if you do decide to accept it. Do you have a health savings account? If so, make sure to max it out. Have you maxed out your 401K for the year? What about your company stock?

If you are under 59 ½, where will your income come from? When do you plan on taking Social Security? Now is the time to plan how to build your ultimate retirement withdrawal strategy. 

Ask yourself: what’s next?

Will you be able to transition into retirement successfully? The answer to this may be dependent upon whether you are retiring from something or to something. This is why it is important to consider what’s next. 

Will you relax on a beach somewhere, find another job, become a consultant, or try your hand at entrepreneurship? An early retirement package can bring about myriad choices, but you need to make sure that you are financially prepared to accept them. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:15] How does this decision affect your long term financial plan?
  • [8:02] Health insurance often makes or breaks this offer
  • [10:02] How will this influence your tax picture down the road? 
  • [15:04] Ask yourself: what’s next?
  • [17:43] Alternate scenarios
  • [18:40] The progress principle

Resources & People Mentioned

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Nov 2, 2020

While the FAANG stocks have been the most obvious enviable stock positions over the past decade, there are always success stories readily available to raise feelings of doubt and FOMO in even the most disciplined long-term investors.

Video recap: https://youtu.be/FN4xHoe8mHE

For example, investors who purchased $100,000 of Zoom stock at its IPO price of $36/share in April of 2019 would have earned a cumulative rate of return of about 590% and built a nest egg of ~$650k.

Zoom is one of the most recent examples of a company whose stock performance has exceeded expectations so wildly over the past 18 months that it is tempting to wish we were a part of the action and predict that those results will continue in the future, making us very wealthy in the process. After all, the path to extreme wealth is often created through very concentrated positions in individual companies. Examples include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and many others. What made them so lucky? And why shouldn’t we be able to identify companies that will post results like these?

While individual stocks might not kill us, they do pose catastrophic risks that have the potential to be detrimental to our wealth. The nature of individual stock returns was studied in detail in Hendrik Besseminder’s 2018 study in the Journal of Financial Economics, “Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?” which covered stock performance from 1926-2015. These are some of the key findings:

  • A minority of common stocks have a positive lifetime holding period return, and the median lifetime return is -3.7%
  • Only 3.8% of single-stock strategies produced a holding period return greater than the value-weighted market, and only 1.2% beat the equal-weighted market over the full 90-year horizon
  • Just 42% of common stocks have a holding period return greater than one-month treasury bills

While the data is compelling that the odds are stacked against us on individual stocks, often the allure is just too strong. There is no reward without risk, right? Some of us may still want to take advantage of the growth potential of an individual stock position for any number of reasons. Maybe you want to have ownership in the company you work for or do business with frequently. You may have also inherited or been gifted individual stock positions. These might even have sentimental value for your family. Or you may just have a feeling about that company. If you find yourself in one of these situations, we recommend setting a decision-making framework for how you will buy, hold, and sell these positions:

  • Perform a portfolio Deep Dive. If you are holding a portfolio of diversified mutual funds or ETFs, it’s likely you already hold a position in the stock(s) you are considering. This means you have already been riding the wave of success and benefiting from the stock’s stellar performance. It has simply been less visible, and the return was muted by subpar performance in other areas. Diversification means you will always hate something in your portfolio, but it also gives you the best odds of long-term success.
  • Decide how much. If after performing your portfolio analysis you still decide you want to buy an individual stock, you will need to choose a prudent amount. We recommend individual stock positions account for no more than 5-10% of your portfolio. You don’t want to be overexposed to a position that has the potential to kill you, even if it might make you a killing.
  • Consider Taxes. While we never want to let taxes guide our investment strategy, it is prudent to consider how tax-efficient the position will be. If the outsized returns you expect come to fruition it may be beneficial to purchase the position inside your Roth or Traditional IRA for tax-free or tax-deferred gains. Conversely, you may be in a high tax bracket now, but expect that to fall in a few years when you retire. This may present the opportunity to realize any capital gains at a lower rate or even 0% in the future. Take a peek at your financial plan for context.
  • Set target prices for buys and sells. Often the stocks that feel most attractive are those with fantastic recent past performance. They are also often very expensive relative to their peers and the broader stock market. Researching the company’s current and historical price to earnings ratio as well as estimates of fair market value is informative for making buy, hold, sell decisions.
  • Ask: What if I am wrong? Our natural tendency when faced with the prospect of incredible return potential is toward overconfidence. Make sure your answer to #2 is an amount you are willing to say goodbye to if the outcome is not what you hoped for.
  • Ask: What if I am right? If your hopes and dreams come true with a winning stock pick it is important to set rules around trimming that position back to target to periodically take profits, diversify, and reduce risk. Recognize that dabbling in individual stocks is a form of gambling, and it is important to know when to walk away.

For further reading on creating a decision-making framework and avoiding common investor pitfalls, we recommend Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow,” and“Decisive,” by Chip and Dan Heath. If you find yourself called by the Siren Song of an individual stock or deciding how to manage positions you may already own, please contact us to discuss the best approach for your personal situation in more detail.

Outline of This Episode

  • [3:03] If others can do it, why can’t I pick a winner? 
  • [6:20] Industrial change can happen very quickly and cause a shift in industries
  • [10:02] Perform a portfolio deep dive
  • [12:36] Don’t choose an individual stock to make up lost ground
  • [15:02] Consider taxes
  • [17:16] Set target prices to buy and sell
  • [19:39] Ask yourself “what if I’m wrong?”
  • [20:39] Ask yourself “what if I’m right?”
  • [22:34] List the potential scenarios

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