We hope you are all in good health and these market swings over the evolving virus headlines aren’t creating an excessive amount of stress for you. Over the past month, the Dow Industrials has closed more than 1,000 points lower on six occasions and has rebounded at least 1,000 points four times. What started out as daily swings of 3% has now become daily swings of 10%!
The problem that remains is uncertainty – nobody knows what this will look like in a couple of months, let alone next week – and markets HATE uncertainty. What we do know about uncertain times is that markets always price the worst-case scenario. When the actual data starts to become slightly clearer, markets respond positively with the same speed and vigor they had when reacting negatively to the uncertainty.
Headline driven events like this virus come out of nowhere. To me, this feels like a combination of two headline driven events (as opposed to economic driven events like the dot com bubble of 1999 or the financial crises of 2008) that I experienced early in my career. The first one was the tied Presidential election in 2000 which resulted in a market drop of 25% in five weeks – nobody likes not knowing who the leader of the free world is after a completed election. The second was 9/11 – just a shocking turn of events that shut the markets down for a week. Coronavirus has the chaos factor, the emotional impact, and the uncertainty of the future all rolled into one and we believe the markets have already priced a significant economic disruption into the markets.
But this too shall pass – it always does – both the headline events and the economic events will fade away over time. The seeds of the next bull market are being planted today and our single biggest job is to make sure you stay invested to reap the benefits. Folks, this is where investing gets hard! If it were easy, then everybody would always love the market and never invest in anything else. I always talk about staying consistent as the best strategy that produces investment results over time. It seems like trite and too simplistic advice, but now we all should be feeling how difficult that simple advice is.
The easy path is always to throw in the towel. Move out and wait as many investors are doing. Except the markets move all too quickly leaving folks out and waiting and undermining performance. If markets move further down, you won’t get in then because that means the headlines have gotten even worse and your nerves will be even more on edge. Your nerves will only calm down and allow you to make such a move once things have gotten better. Of course, the markets will lead the recovery as they always do and then you and your investments results will be left behind. Far too many studies on investor results versus market results over the years come to the same conclusion – investors who move their money in and out of the markets severely underperform over time.
Clearly given the current state of affairs and governmental recommendations, our client meeting scheduled for March 26 will have a different format than gathering in a ballroom. We are looking into different video and audio options that will allow us to still connect on that day with the latest information so stay tuned on that.
As for the office itself, we remain open. Our office design lends itself well to “social distancing” since we all have separate rooms and not shared cubicle space. We are wiping surfaces and door knobs down throughout the day and our daily staff meeting has been replaced with check ins by me at each individual room door. Some of you have switched to phone meetings which is a fine option as well, but we are also continuing with face to face meetings with our chairs pushed back a bit more than usual. Remember the tax filing deadline of April 15 still remains despite suggestions to the contrary. So that means that this tax season has less than 30 days left so if you haven’t gotten us your tax info yet, please do so as soon as possible. Don’t forget, you now have the option to upload your tax documents – just provide us your email and we will send you a secure link to do that.
As always, we are here to chat about the current environment so don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions or concerns.
In 2011 with the inauguration of Rick Scott and a Republican Legislature, the Florida Retirement System started to change. These changes were predicated on the aftermath of 2008 on the state’s finances. The market decline during 2008 and 2009 dramatically reduced the value of the FRS Pension Plan assets from about $135 billion to under $100 billion. As a result, politicians embarked on a cost cutting spree that effectively reduced your retirement benefits. The effect of these changes on employees depended on whether they were in the Pension Plan, DROP or the Investment Plan. These changes still remain in place despite the improvement in state finances and the value of Pension Plan assets returning to over $160 billion as of June 30, 2018.
The single biggest change was the requirement for all state employees to contribute 3% of their salary to the Florida Retirement System. For those in the Investment Plan, these monies go into their own account. For those in the Pension Plan, those monies go into the general fund of the Pension Plan. This required contribution did not apply to those employees who were currently on DROP. This required contribution continues to effectively act as a 3% reduction in one’s salary. For most employees that was particularly tough to take over the past few years given the absence of any salary increases.
Meanwhile, the biggest change for those under the Pension Plan was the effective elimination of the Cost of Living (COLA) of 3% per year that is part of the calculation of one’s Pension Plan benefit.
While the original legislation stipulated that this was a five year suspension ending in 2016, by requiring legislative action to bring the COLA back, it effectively served as an elimination of this benefit. To date, there has been no real movement by the Florida Legislative to reinstate the COLA for state employees. Given that the value of the Pension Plan assets have returned to a value greater than what they were before the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the COLA benefit should arguably return.
The effect of this change is to prorate an employee’s COLA benefit across their total number of service years. For example, if you have 25 years of service as of July 1, 2011 and worked another 5 years, your COLA benefit under the FRS Pension Plan would decrease to about 2.5% per year from the current 3%. Similarly, if you plan to retire in 2020 with 25 years of service, you would have 9 years at a COLA of 0% (the years since 2011) and 14 years at a COLA of 3%. This would average out to produce a COLA of 1.7% on your pension in retirement.
Employees who choose to go on DROP are also affected by these legislative changes as well. Prior to 2011, DROP monies earned a guaranteed rate of return of 6.5%. After 2011, this rate dropped dramatically to just 1.3%. Over the five year DROP period, this 5.2% annual differential has a dramatic effect on reducing DROP values. In fact, employees should compare the impact of the additional years of service time on their pension with this more limited benefit of DROP. In some cases, the additional years increase one’s pension benefit more significantly than the potential income from the lump sum DROP amount. Remember, years spent on DROP don’t count towards calculating your pension benefit.
Investment Plan members were able to escape the effect of the 2011 legislative changes but in 2012 politicians caught up with them. In 2012, House Bill 5005 reduced the contribution paid by employers into the Investment Plan by a huge margin. Prior to July 1, 2012, the total contributions to one’s Investment Plan account was 22% for special risk employees and 9% for regular class employees. After July 1, 2012 those contribution rates declined to 13% and 6.3% respectively. Since then, these contribution rates have increased only slightly to 15% for special rate employees. Unfortunately, for regular class employees the contribution rate has further declined to 6%. These rates include the mandatory 3% employee contribution.
While billed as a necessary change to level the benefits between the Pension Plan and the Investment Plan, it served to disproportionately undermine the benefits of the Investment Plan. In addition, these changes in contribution rates were buried in legislation that was passed at the 11th hour and largely occurred without much discussion with the affected employees.
Of course, the deal is also different for new State employees as well. For those entering FRS employment on or after July 1, 2011, the vesting under the FRS Pension Plan increased to 8 years from 6 years. Vesting under the FRS Investment Plan remains at one year. In addition, average final compensation under the FRS Pension Plan increased to the 8 highest years of service from the 5 highest years.
The age eligibility for retirement increased from age 62 to age 65 for regular class and from age 55 to age 60 for special risk. The retirement eligibility based on years of creditable service increased from 30 years to 33 years for regular class and from 25 years to 30 years for special risk. New FRS employees will need to work longer in order to receive comparable benefits available to current FRS employees.
In addition, new employees must make an election between the Pension Plan and the Investment Plan within eight months after their hire – otherwise the state will choose for them! Effective January 1, 2018 if new employees do not make an election by the end of the election period of eight months, there will be a default membership. Employees in classes other than the Special Risk Class will default to the Investment Plan and members in the Special Risk Class will default to the Pension Plan. All members will continue to have a second election but employees should make their first election immediately after their hire. Otherwise you may wind up using your second election to reverse a default decision that you didn’t intend to make.
The bottom line on all these changes is that it affects your decision and timing on making any changes to your retirement. In the past, when employer contribution rates to the Investment Plan were 30% higher, the timing of any switch to the Investment Plan was somewhat immaterial. Now, the timing of the switch really matters. Over the years we have reviewed countless individual comparisons and while each situation is unique, based on these reviews, it seems that any move to the Investment Plan needs to be either at the inception of your career or at the end. This also preserves your second election to switch among the FRS options for future use as well.
At the beginning of your FRS career you have time to generate a sufficient balance in your Investment Plan and can take advantage of its shorter vesting requirements. In fact, we have seen some scenarios of late where employees who had initially started with the Investment Plan had the opportunity after 10-15 years to buy back into the Pension Plan and retain a significant portion of their Investment Plan balance.
In contrast, those that wait to switch at their 25th year of service (30 years if not special risk) experience the largest run up in their projected lump sum balance in the last five years of service. After hitting these full retirement service years, the projected balance rises at a rate similar to inflation. In those cases, it may make sense to make a move in that 25th (or 30th) year of service if an employee wants to go into the Investment Plan. The hardest scenarios are those with 15 years or so of service. For them, it probably makes sense to just wait things out before considering any move among the FRS options.
In addition, those retiring under the FRS Investment Plan need to be aware of the timing restraints that exist to access your money. Retirees must wait one full calendar month after the month in which they retire before they have an early access opportunity to draw funds from the FRS Investment Plan. In order to shorten this window, one should retire at the end of the month rather than the beginning of the month. For example, if you work a few days at the beginning of a month, you would have to wait the rest of the month plus all of the next month before getting any access to your FRS Investment Plan. This early access is also limited to just 10% of the balance and is available only to retirees who meet the normal age and years of service retirement parameters. In order to gain full access to their Investment Plan balance, retirees then have to wait another full two months after the early access period. Consequently, it often amounts to over three months before retirees can set up normal retirement income from their accounts. This is a significant issue with retiring under the FRS Investment Plan and retirees need to consider their timing restraints and plan their finances accordingly in order to have enough resources to bridge those first three months of retirement.
As we start the second half of 2018, the U.S economy appears poised for continued growth. The tax cuts enacted at the end of 2017 and an increase in federal spending approved in February appear to be adding economic momentum. In fact, these policies are expected to add about $285 billion in fiscal stimulus to the U.S. economy this year.
Meanwhile, corporate earnings are at new highs – up over 25% from a year ago for the average large blue-chip company. This represents the seventh straight quarter of profit growth and the strongest gains in many years. These same companies are now starting to spend money on factories, equipment and other capital goods. In the first quarter of this year, these capital expenditures totaled over $167 billion – the fastest pace in seven years.
However, this continued growth does spark one area of potential economic concern. When increased spending occurs with very low unemployment, inflation starts to appear. In fact, one key inflation measure watched by the Federal Reserve hit the central bank’s target in May after running below it every month for six years. If inflation starts rising too fast, the Federal Reserve will be forced to raise rates at a much faster pace as well and this could lead to economic difficulties as borrowing money becomes more expensive.
Headlines, of course, can also throw the markets and economies off. Chief among these is the current discussion about tariffs which could have a negative effect on the earnings of large multi-national companies. We suspect that this political discussion is just a very boisterous negotiating tactic given the current administration’s pattern of behavior but a protracted trade battle would certainly have negative economic consequences.
These trade headline concerns have kept market returns somewhat muted so far this year. Your second quarter statements that you will get in the next week or two will show just slightly positive returns for the second quarter. For the year so far, overall returns are on the order of about 2-3%.
Interestingly, these returns so far appear to be following the typical pattern of Presidential mid-term election years. In the months ahead, politics will certainly dominate the headlines. In the previous 14 mid-term election years (going back to 1962), the markets have experienced a sell-off early in the year and on average end the first three quarters essentially flat. However, as the election results become clearer, the markets rally in the fourth quarter – averaging an increase of 7.5% in the last quarter.
Given the strength of current earnings and capital spending, we are optimistic that this pattern will repeat itself for 2018 and the year will end quite positive for investment results. Stay tuned! That is easier to do these days than ever before as we have dramatically expanded the platforms you can use to listen to our latest weekly broadcast. Our radio show “Dollars and Sense” provides an opportunity to hear our up-to-date thoughts and perspectives. The show is broadcast live on 102.5 FM/540 AM every Sunday at 9AM and then distributed out to various on-line platforms on Monday morning. Links to the most popular channels are below so be sure to subscribe to our channel on your favorite social media platform and you will be automatically notified of our new shows.
Google Play https://plus.google.com/+Nelsonfinancialplanning
If we have not yet visited with you in 2018, the summer time is a great opportunity so don’t hesitate to contact the office to schedule a conversation.
With a third of the year behind us, the calendar shifts to spring (well actually summer here in Florida). So far, 2018 has shown a NORMAL level of volatility.
Is it really a NORMAL level of volatility? Well, consider this. In the first quarter of this year, the S&P500 experienced daily moves of more than 1% on 23 days. However, over the past 60 years, nine other years (or 15% of the time) experienced similar levels of daily volatility. If something happens 15% of the time, it certainly doesn’t make it abnormal . . .
In those years where volatility was higher in the first quarter, the remaining three quarters also had higher volatility with their being an average total of 86 such 1% days for those years. However, the good news for those years was that the average total return was 9.6%! The current economic back drop appears poised to replicate a positive return as well, particularly with corporate earnings currently running at an 18% annual growth rate.
For some additional perspective, please review the attached article from American Funds. “Investing through Adversity” contains some valuable perspective and statistics. Please pay particular attention to the third page which helps to put bull and bear markets into perspective.
34 years ago today, Jack Nelson started this company. Certainly a lot of headlines and markets ups and downs have occurred over that time period! For reference though, the DOW was at 1186 on May 1, 1984. The fundamentals of investing like diversification and consistency remain as true today as they were in 1984. It has been a privilege to help so many achieve their hopes and dreams and we look forward to many more years to come.
Our client appreciation events are coming up in the next two weeks. The May 15 event still has space available so if you have not yet sent in your RSVP please contact the office today as we need to set a guaranteed number by tomorrow. We are currently in the process of securing dates for our 3rd & 4th quarter client meetings so stay tuned for those exact meeting dates.
With tax season behind us, there are plenty of opportunities to schedule a conversation so give us a call to schedule something particularly if we have not visited yet in 2018.
As President Trump marks his 100 th day in office tomorrow, we thought it would be a good time to take stock of where the markets, economy and headlines are.
2017 is clearly off to a great start for the markets. So far, U.S. markets are up over 6% and non-U.S. markets are up over 8%. We believe that much of this movement is simply a catch up to the economic improvement in the second half of 2016. This better economic data had generally been underappreciated and underpriced by equity markets. The election, in and of itself, simply provided the resolution of some uncertainty that gave the markets an opportunity to focus on the better economic conditions at hand.
Currently, we believe the markets are pricing in the expectation of additional economic growth. This expectation is predicated on a combination of diminished regulatory burdens on the private sector; lower personal and corporate tax rates; and fiscal stimulus in the form of infrastructure spending. Unfortunately, these pro-growth policies have been delayed by political wrangling. We are optimistic that these policies will take effect in the near term, but any further delays in implementation could splash some cold water on the markets.
Despite this political uncertainty, the greater trend towards optimism cannot be ignored. Consumer and business confidence numbers are both at levels not seen for well over a decade. Of course, optimism can be fickle particularly if headline events like North Korea take a disastrous turn. Absent that type of event (which is always a risk in today’s world), we continue to expect that this optimism will lead to tangible effects like greater spending by households and greater hiring by corporations.
Here at the office, another tax season has come and gone. If we have not yet visited with you personally in 2017, now is a perfect time to come in to the office for a general conversation. In other news, Nelson Financial Planning was recently ranked by AdvisoryHQ News as a top-rated financial advisory firm in Orlando, FL. We have attached their review to this email for your reference and to share with your friends.
We are getting ready for our upcoming client appreciation event at Enzo’s on your choice of May 11 or May 16. We thank you for your timely response and selection of food and dates. We are very excited that the response to this event has been so strong. Both dates are currently on a wait list due to venue size restrictions so please let us know if your plans change.
As always, for our latest thoughts, tune in to our weekly radio show “Dollars and Sense” at 9AM on Sunday at 540 AM/102.5 FM. The show is also available the following day on our website www.NelsonFinancialPlanning.
com or on Facebook or Twitter under Nelson Financial Planning and Linked In under Joel Garris.
Look forward to seeing you on either May 11 or May 16!
We trust you all survived Hurricane Irma last week. The office was out of power for a day before resuming normal operations. It is so sad to see the pictures and hear the stories about the devastation in the Keys and the Caribbean. The forces of nature are powerful indeed!
Meanwhile, the markets continue to shrug off any negative news and move higher. Your third quarter statements which you will get in a couple of weeks are on pace to show another 2-3% increase for the most recent three month period. For the year so far, domestic equity funds are up over 12% while international funds are up over 20%.
There are some real economic fundamentals that are helping to drive this upward trend and provide the basis for our continued optimism. First, the major economies of the world are expanding in unison for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. Second, inflation remains subdued keeping both the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank on the sidelines to leave interest rates unchanged. Third, the U.S. economy is not over leveraged as there has been minimal credit growth over the past 10 years; and the U.S. financial system is better capitalized than it has been in years. Fourth, the stock market is not being driven upward by investor euphoria as $737 billion has been pulled out of equity strategies since the 2008 financial crisis.
Our client meeting next week will focus on the overall economic picture and discuss the importance of the active investment management that happens in each fund you own with us. Our typical client portfolio consisting of 8-10 funds which hold about 1,200-1,500 different publicly traded companies. During the course of the year approximately 300-400 of those companies will be sold and other companies bought. This very active investment approach generates superior long-term results.
Brad Rutan of MFS Investments will be our guest speaker at the event on Wednesday, September 27. As usual, the event starts at 5:30 at the Country Club of Orlando (1601 Country Club Drive, Orlando, FL) and features dinner and drinks. If you have not yet reserved your space at this meeting or would like to bring a friend, please call the office at 407-629-6477 or reply to this email.
On another note, many of you have asked us how to respond to the widely reported data breach by Equifax, one of the three credit monitoring agencies. We discussed this topic this past Sunday on the radio show (“Dollars & Sense” Sundays 9-10 AM on 102.5 FM/540 AM) and you can listen to the show on Facebook via this link https://www.facebook.com/NelsonFinancialPlanning/posts/1944460429170427 . You can also refer to the information put out by the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do .
I followed the steps outlined by the FTC to find out that I may have been affected by the data breach at Equifax so I subscribed to the free credit monitoring service. Another option is to place a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit. The fraud alert is not quite as cumbersome as the freeze when seeking credit in the future so I prefer the fraud alert unless there has been a specific incidence of identity theft. Protecting your information is of the utmost priority here at the office and we recently upgraded our firewall to the best available option on the market. We certainly live in a different and vastly electronic era these days!
If you have not been in to see us lately, please call the office to arrange a review. Thank you as always for your continued confidence and the referral of your friends to us! Look forward to seeing you on the 27 th .
The State of Your Retirement Intro & Chapter 1: The FRS Pension Plan – The Guaranteed Check a Month Club
It is surprising to me how often state employees are not given all the information necessary to make an informed decision about their retirement. This series will feature seven chapters covering, among other topics, the Pension Plan, DROP, the Investment Plan, the litany of changes since 2008 and some successful retirement income strategies that reduce your taxes and provide flexibility in retirement.
If you are a member of the Florida Retirement System (FRS), you have seen a lot of changes to your retirement options over the past few years. The state of your retirement has changed dramatically and what made sense in the past often does not make sense today. We regularly meet with state employees to help them figure out these ever changing options. These meetings generally focus on reviewing the pros and cons of your retirement choices to help you make an informed decision and are done as a free service to you.
While you are working, we keep you informed on a continuous basis by mailing FRS Update letters every few months or so. We do not charge for this ongoing service. Simply put, keeping you informed about the latest legislative changes and market performance while you are still working is somewhat straightforward. It also gives you an opportunity to try us out before you’ll really need us in retirement.
As a current employee, your options have changed a lot since 2008. These changes fundamentally shift your retirement options.
Once you retire, things get a lot more complicated. Our focus shifts to providing personalized retirement income strategies to meet your unique retirement expenses and tax liabilities. These income needs are ever changing and the tax implications in retirement are very important. There are a variety of accounts available as a state employee and each has different tax implications depending on your age and job. Your investment focus also shifts to a more growth and income oriented mix which is very different from the approach used while working. Simply put things get a lot more complicated in retirement and that’s when our customized advice applies.
The FRS Pension Plan — The Guaranteed Check a Month Club
The oldest retirement option within the FRS is the Pension Plan. The Pension Plan is a defined benefit plan where your benefit of a monthly retirement check is defined by law. The amount of this check is determined by your years of service, your creditable service percentage and your average final compensation. In addition, you select from among four different options for your retirement income. The two most popular options are Options 1 and 3. Option 1 generates the most amount of income but ends when you die and Option 3 generates income for you and then your spouse when you die but with a reduction in income over Option 1 of typically 15-20% depending upon the age of your spouse.
This retirement income amount is annually supplemented in retirement by the application of a cost of living adjustment (COLA). However, the COLA has been suspended effective July 1, 2011 which results in a reduction of the prior COLA benefit of 3% per year. Despite better finances in Tallahassee, there has been no suggestion about reinstating this COLA in the future. Consequently, the COLA continues at 0% for all years of services after 2011.
Effective for new employees after July 1, 2011, retirement eligibility has increased to age 65 or 33 years for regular class and age 60 or 30 years for special risk class. Previously, normal retirement was age 62 or 30 years for regular class and age 55 or 25 years of service for special risk class. The vesting period for the Pension Plan has also increased from six to eight years for new employees hired after July 1, 2011. In addition, a 3% employee contribution is required that goes into the general Florida Retirement System.
For a more complete description of the FRS Pension Plan, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions about the Pension Plan and the Pension Plan Summary prepared by the State of Florida Division of Retirement. Both of these documents can be found within www.myfrs.com .
In summary, the FRS Pension Plan is a traditional check a month retirement plan. This check is guaranteed by the state to last for your lifetime or, with a reduction in income, for a set period of time or the life of another like your spouse. There is never any ability to utilize lump sum amounts from the Pension Plan nor leave a legacy to your beneficiaries. For some, this is the appeal of the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).
Where indicated, market data and performance represents past performance which is no guarantee of future results. Individual results may vary and values do fluctuate in any investment. This booklet contains our most current understanding of the Florida Retirement System and U.S. tax laws as of October, 2016. This booklet is intended to detail complicated retirement topics but is not a complete discussion as each individual’s situation is different and various exceptions exist. Nelson Financial Planning offers securities through Nelson Ivest Brokerage Services, Inc., a member of FINRA/SIPC. Please note that the information provided in this document has not been approved or endorsed by the State of Florida or the Florida Retirement System.
- Expert Tax Advice You Can Actually Rely On. You hear a lot of conversations about saving for retirement but not much about planning your retirement income. The biggest reason for this is that most financial firms don’t or won’t give tax advice. Check out their websites. If the fine print says the firm you are using does not provide tax advice and you should consult your own tax advisor, how good is the tax advice you are getting? Our firm employs a full time IRS Enrolled Agent as a member of our financial planning team. We also have a tax preparation service for our retirees that includes a CPA and we stand behind our tax advice.
- Expertise and Unbiased Advice of a Certified Financial Planner TM . In the financial services industry, credentials matter. Being a Certified Financial Planner TM , means that the advisor has completed extensive training and experience requirements and is held to a rigorous ethical standard. According to the Certified Financial Planning Board, certificants “understand all the financial complexities of the changing financial climate and will make recommendations in your best interest”. If the firm you are using does not employ Certified Financial Planners TM , how “expert” and “unbiased” is their financial advice?
- Only Recommend Investments that We Own Personally. Our most important policy is that we only recommend to our clients investments that we personally own. In the financial industry, few firms can make that claim of their financial planners. Jack Nelson started that commitment when he began the firm in 1984. While Jack has since passed, this bedrock principle continues today. Don’t you want to be dealing with somebody that truly has a vested personal interest in how your investments perform?
- Central Florida’s longest running Radio Show – 31 Years and Counting! Many firms do radio shows for certain periods of time but ours is the longest running in Central Florida. We view the radio show more as an opportunity to speak to our followers every week with fresh ideas and perspectives on the most current events of the day. Our radio show “Dollars and Sense” is heard live every Sunday at 9AM on Newsradio 102.5 WFLA and is simulcast on 540AM as well. If you miss the show on Sunday, it is always available on any of our social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Google or Linked IN – or at www.NelsonFinancialPlanning.com. Unlike other shows that constantly tell you to call the office now, ours does not because its purpose is to educate, inform and hopefully entertain the listening audience.
Well, market volatility took a step up yesterday. Looks like that volatility continues today (but in a positive way so far!). Just another example that underscores how difficult it is to predict market behavior in the short term. People forget that volatility has two sides – up and down- and if you get out on the down days chances are very high that you will miss one or more up days. Those moves will cost you, which is why we work as hard as we do to provide perspective to ensure you achieve the best possible investment results over time.
Now between the two headlines – oil and virus – the one to watch is oil. That one has the greatest potential economic impact. While the U.S. economy is certainly strong, with low unemployment and less leverage or borrowed money in the economic system than other times, it is not immune to contraction. As we mentioned in our email two weeks ago, the chance of the virus driving the economy into a recession was “Frankly, maybe!” However, the combination of an oil price drop that disrupts energy production in our country (which has been a main driver in economic growth over the past few years) would push that assessment to – Frankly, probably!
The markets certainly seem to be pricing a full blown recession into the mix given this quick decline of 20%. The silver lining on that front is recessions are always followed by expansions and bull markets! Remember you accumulated your assets over time – usually a 20-30 year period that consisted of plenty of headlines and a few recessions – and you will spend your assets over a similar 20-30 year period that will consist of plenty of headlines and a few recessions.
On an additional note, I just don’t understand the current approach to coronavirus. Clearly, if you are older and have health issues, then this virus is not something to be taken lightly. But it almost seems like the world (or at least the media) is expecting a zero-risk tolerance approach to combating this virus. When did that become the standard? And if it is, why do I still see cars on the road (accountable for 1.25 million deaths each year), cigarettes in the stores (accountable for 480,000 deaths each year just in the U.S.), and pools in everybody’s backyard (accountable for 360,000 deaths each year from drowning). Could some of the reaction to the virus be the death of common sense?
As always, we are here to answer any of your questions and concerns. That’s why you hired us in the first place – to provide some perspective in difficult times and create investment allocations that stand the test of time against the constant whirlwind of headlines and events. So don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email!
As a reminder, our next client event is coming up on March 26 at 5:30 PM.
Look forward to seeing you on the 26th. And remember wash your hands and cough into your elbow!
The Coronavirus has certainly dealt a quick blow to the markets. The ongoing quarantines, lost production and supply chain disruptions are putting further stress on a Chinese economy that was already growing at its slowest level in 30 years and still dealing with the effects of the U.S. trade war. With each passing day there is increased concern that this China problem will become a U.S. problem that derails one of the longest periods of expansion on record. We believe this is a fair concern that cannot be ignored.
Every expansion ends and is followed by a recession. Every recession ends and is followed by an expansion. This is the normal ebb and flow of the economy that has been going on for a hundred years plus. There is nothing in these headlines that suggest that this overall economic pattern won’t continue in the future. At some point, markets and the economy contract and reset themselves for the next period of expansion. Over the course of the next 30 years there will be no less than three expansions and three recessions based on the historical pattern. And guess what, for those of you who have been clients with us for 30 years or more, that’s exactly what you have experienced during that time – 3 recessions (1992, 2001 & 2008) and 3 expansions (all the other years!)
So is Coronavirus the “thing’ that precipitates an economic recession in the near term. Frankly, maybe. Remember though most of the time these types of events produce more of a V shape in the economic pattern. The event produces an immediate impact on growth and then once resolved, acceleration occurs as that pent up demand is unleashed. Certainly, that was the template for prior outbreaks like SARS or Ebola.
When the next recession does occur (and it will!). We believe that it will be quite mild and not a repeat of the financial crisis of 2008. Why? The combination of low interest rates and low unemployment should damper any economic decline. The absence of any obvious asset bubbles (i.e. think real estate in 2008) also suggests a milder decline when it does occur.
So, what to do for now? Well, bottom line, stay consistent and stay diversified. Your portfolios are predominantly invested in large companies that make the stuff that the world will continue to use each and every day. They are highly diversified (often with hundreds of different companies in them) and well balanced between growth companies and dividend paying companies. If you have some extra cash, now may be a great time to actually add to your accounts.
And finally, a little prospective on the virus itself as the media (and even the CDC) are in overdrive mode which means there is little perspective provided and fear of the unknown is sky high. Every year in this country for the past decade, there was an average of 30-45 million cases of the flu that resulted in 20,000 – 40,000 deaths according to the CDC. Bottom line, the regular run of the mill flu is far deadlier to you living here in the U.S. So, wash your hands and take your flu shot!
In the meantime, tax season is underway at the office and the pattern so far is decent news with most experiencing lower tax bills due to the continued effects of the tax cuts in 2018. As a reminder, please be sure to RSVP to our next client dinner at 5:30 on March 26, 2020 at the Country Club of Orlando. (1601 Country Club Dr. Orlando Fl.). We have had a change of speaker for that event and are pleased to welcome Emily Tillman who is an Equity Investment Director with American Funds.
We look forward to seeing you on March 26.