As my daughter and I rode our bikes down the path to Giverny, France I felt like I was in the scene from the Sound of Music where Maria and the kids are biking. Last week I stole away with my youngest for a quick trip to Paris. On our last day we set out to see the home and gardens of Claude Monet. The sun was shining and we had just enjoyed the most divine picnic lunch. It was market day in town, and before we set off on our ride we stopped to pick up fresh bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of Sancerre. I kid you not, it was the best meal of my life. I can still taste that crisp white wine on my tongue.
Yesterday’s vote by the British electorate to end its 43-year membership in the European Union seems to have taken just about everybody by surprise, but the aftermath could not have been more predictable. The uncertainty of how, exactly, Europe and Britain will manage a complex divorce over the coming decade sent global markets reeling. London’s blue chip index, the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100, lost 4.4% of its value in one day, while Germany’s DAX market lost more than 7%. The British pound sterling is getting crushed (down 14% against the yen, 10% against the dollar).
Compared to the global markets, the reaction among traders on U.S. exchanges seems muted; down roughly 3% as you read this, though nobody knows if that’s the extent of the fall or just the beginning.
No one could have foreseen the convergence of two of the most consequential economic events in our history – the mass migration of the Baby Boom generation into their final life stage and the tectonic shift of a declining global economy. Unhinged stock market volatility, rising health care costs and historically low interest rates on savings have caused millions of pre-retirees to rethink their plans and their vision, especially as they consider the prospect of having to stretch their retirement income over 25 or 30 years. As if that weren’t enough, now tens of thousands of retirees are finding that their only real safety net is threatened as a result of their decision to default on their student loans.
“I really don’t know, Ann,” replied Steve after I asked him for his approximate monthly or annual expenses. Like many other clients, Steve and Jenn were wondering if they could afford to retire. They were mentally ready, but wanted to be sure they wouldn’t outlive their money while maintaining their quality of life. Steve had left the expense section of my questionnaire empty, which is surprisingly common. I can’t tell you how many people come to me asking if they can retire without knowing how much they spend, i.e., burn rate.
My blog posts are usually about client experiences, but this one is different. This time I am both the advisor and the client and I need to take my own advice (gulp!) I was casually perusing my March copy of the Journal of Financial Planning when I stopped like a deer in the headlights as I recognized myself in Five Recommendations for Planners with Financially Enabling Clients by Dr. Bradley T. Klontz Psy.D., CFP® and Anthony Canale, CFP®. I realized with great alarm that I am one of those financially enabling clients, specifically with my oldest son who graduated from college last May and is still living at home, working on getting a job. While I love him and his company, it’s time I took some external advice.
There’s no question that we experience emotional pain and anxiety when our portfolios are losing money due to market downturns. Behavioral scientists tell us that we feel losses twice as keenly as positive returns.
But that doesn’t tell us what we really want to know, which is: other than selling at the wrong time and locking in losses, how do we make these downturns less painful?
“Oh, I’d pick the one with the fancy car,” replied Mimi, a member of my investment club, in response to a question I had asked the group about choosing an investment advisor. I could not believe my ears! I had asked if they would choose the advisor in the fancy suit with the expensive BMW or the advisor with the well-worn handbag and a Honda CRV. Had I taught these ladies nothing?
Chances are you’ve wondered about the prospects of younger Americans. Will they enjoy the same economic conditions that their parents lived through? Will retirement still be an option for them?
The NerdWallet organization recently issued a report which found a few differences between today’s college graduates and those of 20 to 40 years ago. For one thing, they carry a lot more student loan debt: $35,051 on average. That means, again on average, that the new graduates will be paying $4,239 a year for ten years before they can properly start saving. NerdWallet estimates that these higher loan payments could potentially reduce future retirement savings by 32%—an average of $700,000.
My son, George (in sunglasses, no cap), rowing bow for the Susquehanna Crew.
Crew is an amazing sport. It works almost every muscle in the human body and requires a tremendous coordinated team effort. In most other sports an individual can stand out; this is not the case in rowing. As I watch my son compete for Susquehanna University and reminisce about my own days as a coxswain, I can’t help but see the many corollaries between rowing and investing.
We will almost surely see the U.S. Federal Reserve Board start the long process of ending its intrusion into the interest rate markets, by allowing rates to rise starting on Wednesday. It will be the first time the Fed has raised rates since 2006, and for some it will mark the beginning of the final chapter of the Great Recession.
Since 2008, as most of us know, returns on short-term bonds have been at or near zero percent, which is a consequence of the Fed keeping the Federal Funds rate—the rate at which it will lend banks virtually unlimited amounts of money, short-term—at 0.125%. The average Fed Funds rate has historically been 3.5% to 4.0%, so this is a considerable amount of stimulus.