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Wall Street has always put their profits ahead of the people they advise on stock buying.
This, of course, should not be shocking. But, even I am amazed at how inventive they have become. So called “Robo-Advisors,” or using computers instead of human advisors to help folks make decisions on their market securities are being introduced. These “Robo-Advisors” are just computer programs that attempt to pick up sensitive/hidden market movements and place trades for folks. Now, most people know that Wall Street already employs computers on their own accounts [so called high-frequency trading] and these have allowed Wall Street firms to make huge profits at all of our expense. Now, they are saying that they will employ computers on your behalf. Does anyone really think that they will organize these computers to beat the ones they already have working for their own accounts?
Or is this just another marketing strategy? Retail accounts for most of these Wall Street firms are huge money makers and these Wall Street firms have generally moved to prioritizing getting company 401ks under their direction away from trying to talk to individuals. Of course once they control your companies retirement accounts they put a “representative” in charge of talking to you with cookie cutter advice. These representative job is really to just get people happy with what the marketing is, at least enough to not complain.
Ever ask yourself why it is you have so little control over “your” 401K? Ever ask yourself why you can’t access your accounts, move them, take money out when you want and need to? Ever ask yourself why the investment choices are so minimal? Wouldn’t it be great if you could control $Billions of dollars of other peoples money with those people having so little ability to wrest control of their money away from you, pretty much having to leave their job to do it? And if you were in this position of controlling all this money, why you would suddenly stop putting your own trading accounts ahead of this other money? You earn fees on “managing” this money no matter how it does in the market. In fact, you advise people to just buy index funds and ride the out any market, which if they listen to you only stabilizes these earned fees.
Let me add all this up for you:
1. Wall Street has always put its account ahead of yours when it comes to making profitable trades and stock owning strategies; and
2. Their main concern has always been how best to market to you; and
3. They, along with the US Government, have designed a system that steals control of your “retirement accounts” from you to them. Really the only way most people can get control of their 401Ks is to leave the company they are working for;
4. Their best advice is to not do anything, just leave the thinking to them; and
5. They never are honest about the final results of this system.
So this is the system you want to be involved in? Is that match really worth it?
Now they are telling you that they will employ computer programs that will increase your returns and make you a successful investor. And these computers will in direct competition with the ones already employed on their behalf. But, don’t worry.
Distrust; It’s the way of the world now. January 24, 2017Posted by shaferfinancial in Uncategorized.
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My previous post on designers of the 401K that now regret them is a primer into what is going through the minds of many people today. The recent election surprised many [myself included], but it is really a continuation of what I have noted is the unconscious emotions being manifested by Americans.
The overriding emotion now is distrust of the ideas that are championed by people in power. These feelings have been a long time coming, mostly hidden from sight, but increasingly breaking to the surface in dramatic fashion. Why are we seeing this now?
Since WWII we have seen a mostly stable society where the elites espoused mostly believable versions of our society. Sure, you had an outbreak in the 1960s of doubt coming from society due to Vietnam and Civil Rights, but our politicians still held together society with their views and policies [whether from the right or the left]. Any discontent was funneled into the left/right argument with each side appearing to have the answers to its adherents.
But something funny started happening about a decade or so ago. More and more people began to doubt what the elites were telling them. The accepted ideas of society started to be not only questioned, but to be completely rejected. Our ideas of work, for example, were being rejected with more and more people searching for alternative types of arrangements. Families were being reconstituted. Borders were being ignored. Scientist questioned by laymen.
Funny, talking to other parents on my son’s soccer parents I literally couldn’t figure out who were the biological parents, who was with who, what work the parents did, and even whose house the soccer player was sleeping at. Something that would have been unheard of a generation ago when you knew exactly who the parents were, where they lived, what they did for a living, etc. All the old markers of society now seem to be lost.
All that is obvious and many people have noted it. But what is just coming into view is that by untethering us from the old markers, we are free to question everything. And with that questioning comes the understanding that we are being lied to on a regular basis by the folks in charge. When someone in charge says things are getting better for the country and things are getting worse for you, what do you think happens? When someone pledges “for better or worse” and then that isn’t true what do you think happens? When you are told that if you do your job well, give the company your all, you will be rewarded and it doesn’t happen, what then do you trust? When the school system tells you they will educate your child, help your child succeed in our world, and it doesn’t happen, what then?
Teachers complain that parents don’t discipline their kids. Physicians complain that people don’t behave as they should to have good health. Financial advisors complain because people don’t save like they should or sell their mutual funds when they need the money. These folks don’t trust their customers and their customers don’t really trust their advise because they see adverse results all the time.
The price of oil goes up because oil is now dear, then it goes down because there is plenty of it. How we are suppose to eat for good health changes all the time. Educatiopn fads change the curriculum, but the kids don’t respond any differently. Homework is piled on, yet the kids test scores are going down [and what are they doing all day in school?]. All people are supposed to be treated equally, but we don’t.
I could go on and on, but the end result is we now live in a mistrustful society. Spend a few minutes on the internet and you realize this. Nobody trusts anymore; not the politicians, the elites, the school systems, the financial industry, each other. Look at gun sales for an example.
Its hard for me to point this out. But the truth is needed to go forward.
Designer of the 401K now regrets it!!! January 5, 2017Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance, Mutual Funds for Retirement, Retirement Income.
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Folks who read my blog know how much I dislike the 401K as a retirement vehicle. I have often pointed out that the original design of the 401K assumed it was a supplemental strategy to go along with pensions and other investing for top level corporate executives. It was never intended for use as a single retirement vehicle for average salaried workers.
Now in an article in the Wall Street Journal written by Timothy Martin, one of the original designers basically comes out and says what I have been saying all along.
From the Wall Street Journal Piece:
“His hope in 1981 was that the retirement-savings plan would supplement a company pension that guaranteed payouts for life. Thirty-five years later, the former Johnson & Johnson human-resources executive has misgivings about what he helped start. What Mr. Whitehouse and other proponents didn’t anticipate was that the tax-deferred savings tool would largely replace pensions as big employers looked for ways to cut expenses. Just 13% of all private-sector workers have a traditional pension, compared with 38% in 1979. “We weren’t social visionaries,” Mr. Whitehouse says. Many early backers of the 401(k) now say they have regrets about how their creation turned out….
“The great lie is that the 401(k) was capable of replacing the old system of pensions,” says former American Society of Pension Actuaries head Gerald Facciani, who helped turn back a 1986 Reagan administration push to kill the 401(k). “It was oversold.” ”
So in short, corporations took advantage of the 401K to reduce pension obligations and the need to put aside $$$ to cover those obligations in both good and bad markets. They found this pension cash flow need hard to manage in varying markets. But, individuals are expected to be able to handle this cash flow issue?
I have said it before many times, but sequence of return risk is the greatest challenge to individual retirement savers. And the vast majority of workers have no idea what sequence of return risk is, let alone how it can devastate their retirement savings.
Now that the Wall Street Journal is even on board, isn’t it time you gave me a call?
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to all December 16, 2016Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance.
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Well, 2016 is almost over and thought I would post 1 more time for the year.
The stock market is still moving up at this time, but I can’t help the sinking feeling that we will have a market swoon soon. Meanwhile the Fed’s have increased the interest rate and plan on 3 more for 2017. I think that is good news and we really need a more normal interest rate environment. Cap rates for EIULs will start to trend up if these interest rate hikes happen.
The oil market has begun to turn on the back of a 6 month OPEC et al. reduction. But I just can’t shake the feeling that we are going to be on a real hard ride up for oil prices all to soon. We still have significant reserves built up from the last 2 years of oversupply, but there are few places that can ramp up speedily to account for depletion and an additional 1-1.5M BPD increase in demand that will happen in 2017. Oil is like this, never a dull moment.
Real Estate is still hanging in there, and is still a great place to put your investment dollars in my opinion [once you get your EIUL established of course :-)].
Well, snow is falling and I just heard that the local downhills and cross-country trails are opening this weekend, so should be a great holiday time for the Shafer Family!!!
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An interesting trend is occurring with the people who are contacting me about EIULs. I am getting a lot of calls from folks in their early to mid thirties who start the conversation off with something like this: My 401K is going nowhere, I know there must be a better way to save for retirement. Now I find this very interesting because most of these folks weren’t in the market in 2008, the last time we saw a significant negative year.
I had this conversation recently with a 35 year old.
DS: What are you trying to accomplish?
Client: Well, my 401K is going nowhere, so I am looking for something that will do better and work for me.
DS: When did you start your 401K?
Client: Well, I don’t really remember, but it was somewhere around 2008 or 2009. Before that, I really didn’t have a great job and I wasn’t married so I was spending everything I made.
DS: Do you own a home?
Client: Yes, after getting married, my wife and I were able to buy a home with assistance from our families.
DS: How much are you able to save now?
Client: Well, between my wife and myself we are saving around $1200 month including what we put into our 401Ks. Before our 1st child was born, it was a little more.
DS: Do you remember the stock market dropping significantly?
Client: Well, I do remember it, but it did’t really affect me, so my memory of it is vague. Around 2007 or so right? But we do remember the housing prices dropping, because we were able to pick up a nice house for a decent price in 2010.
DS: Yes, 2008 was the last time we saw a big drop in the stock market.
What is surprising to me, is that this 35 year old recognizes the issues with mutual funds even though he hasn’t had a truly big negative year. People tend to forget the fear of big drops in ones finances, but the scars remain long after the memory fades. But, this person was able to recognize the issue without the scars or the memory. And he isn’t alone. I have been getting increasing amounts of calls from folks in this same situation and similar age group.
That is progress.
On Being a Contrarian September 4, 2016Posted by shaferfinancial in Uncategorized.
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Not a day goes by when I don’t speak to a very intelligent person who simply accepts the common wisdom about life. Mostly, this doesn’t cause problems for folks. Unfortunately, there are some area’s of life where just going along with the herd will lead to unfortunate circumstances.
My wife and I aren’t like that. We are contrarians. My wife after watching a ton of TV shows about tiny house living convinced me that we were wasting time and money living in a 2000 square foot abode with just 3 people. So, when we wanted to move she convinced me to move into a smaller place; 750 sq. feet. Frankly, I had my doubts, but guess what? It is working well. Before we had large chunks of our home that we never used other than to throw junk into and collect spider webs. No longer. Cleaning…..is swift and easy and because we use most of our space we keep it more tidy than before. Now when our son disappears into his room [ok his room isn’t tidy] he is simply a few steps away to call for meals. We got rid of lots of stuff we hadn’t used in years. We really do feel lighter. Hard to explain but it works. Who knew spending less money on living expenses, getting rid of excess things, and being physically closer to your family would make you feel so much better?
I do retirement income seminars with some folks. We give information on several alternative strategies for retirement income including EIULs. We took a year hiatus, but we have scheduled another one:
October 28-29 2016 San Diego California
If you have any doubts about what you are doing with your finances, you owe it to yourself to come and listen to our group of experts. For a small amount of dollars you can at the very least understand alternative strategies and possibly put your financial future on stable ground. Doesn’t matter where you live, get on a plane and come out to San Diego to meet us. You can find the link on my retirement income page.
When I talk to folks who followed our advice, they all say they feel much better; happier, less stressed. Becoming a contrarian has its benefits……..
Latest Dalbar Data June 15, 2016Posted by shaferfinancial in Uncategorized.
The latest Dalbar data is out, detailing the continue failure of the 401K/Mutual fund strategy for retirement saving. This has been an ongoing series of datum, for over 30 years, that records what actual investors’ rate of return is over varying time periods [1,3,5,10,20 and 30 years]. The data has been recognized as similar to internal data produced by the largest mutual fund companies.
It is a really simple story. Although this data is created for producers, and is slanted for them to not take responsibility for the results of their advice, this year there is a discussion on the “psychology” of investing, better known as behavioral finance. There is still a misunderstanding on what the behavioral finance scientist tell the industry.
They still call folks who react to market moves, up and down, irrational. That is folks who sell when fear has pushed the market down or buy when the market is buoyed by exuberance are described as irrational. The misunderstanding is in two points:
- Our brains are hardwired to react to fear in a “flee or fight” mode. That is exactly what is rational to do when faced with a saber tooth tiger. So what the mutual fund industry really wants you to do is irrational and goes against how our brains are hardwired. This, of course, explains why people in general don’t follow the advice of these buy and hold mutual fund sales people.
- There is no evidence that the advisors themselves are able to overcome the way their brains are hardwired and not make the same mistakes in their own lives. The industry does try to “encourage” advisors to convince people to buy and hold by tying their compensation into how much total money they are managing, but this has not proved to be capable of stopping people from their fear response.
So having pointed all this out [for the umpteen time in this blog] here are the results:
For the last 30 years the S&P 500 benchmark index has returned 10.35% while the individual investor in equity funds over those 30 years gained, on average, 3.66%. Investors stayed in their equity funds for an average of 4.1 years before selling out.
The numbers are a little better when you lower the time span down to 20 years with S&P 500 benchmark averaging 8.19% and the individual investor averaging 4.67%. This better performance is easily understood because the most damage is done during years the index goes down significantly which hasn’t happened since 2008, a full 1/3rd of the 20 year time period.
For those investing in asset allocation funds and fixed income funds the returns are even worse at 1.65% and 0.59% 30 year returns respectively.
So what does this all mean? Again, this means that the strategy of investing in mutual funds within or outside of a 401K wrapper is a strategy that is unlikely to create enough wealth to fund one’s retirement years, unless you are the lucky few that either has a large enough income to push large amounts into the mutual funds and/or you have “Buffett like” ability to ignore market movements. And, of course, this also means that your interest in creating a well funded retirement goes against Wall Street’s interest in having you invest in stocks [mutual funds or individual stocks]. The individual is left to deal with either a failing Wall Street pushed strategy or figure out a different strategy in the face of massive amount of propaganda for the mutual fund industry.
The sad thing about this state of affairs is that the people who most need to find an alternate retirement strategy [the middle class], are so fully propagandized by the mutual fund industry that they almost never can see alternative strategies without reacting to the negative propaganda put out on EIULs and Investment Real Estate. My clients tend to be up the ladder from the middle class is both income and education and especially adept at mathematical concepts.
My most common question? Why don’t you hear about EIULs or Why isn’t this more commonly done? The second most common comment? There is a lot of negative comments on the internet about EIULs. The next comment is usually, “this makes so much more sense.”
So to all those folks out there who haven’t been able to pull the chain on an EIUL yet, I say, put 3.66% into all those retirement calculators and see what the potential value is at retirement age and multiply that number by 4% [even that number is found to be to aggressive], the suggested amount you can take out yearly to make your retirement last until death. Now that you have gotten off the floor, you might want to give me a call!
What I would like to ask the mutual fund shrill’s? April 26, 2016Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance, mutual funds.
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Sometimes I imagine the ability to actually press the facts on the mutual fund industry.
Alas, this isn’t likely to ever happen. But what if it did? Here a made up scene of a mutual fund executive getting grilled on the witness stand by an attorney. Again, this is a product of my imagination!
MF= Mutual Fund Executive
TA= Trial Attorney
TA Your company has 10,000 sales people giving advice to people on retirement savings, right?
MF We don’t call them salespeople, they are Registered Investment Advisors or Certified Financial Advisors, but yes that is about the number.
TA The majority of the time they suggest clients invest in mutual funds, correct?
MF Not sure about that
TA How many of your mid income clients are suggested to be in stocks or bonds and not mutual funds?
MF In that group I would agree with you that most are in mutual funds.
TA In fact, your company in involved with over 100 of the fortune 500 employees, correct?
MF Sound about right
TA So you have a fiduciary duty to put 100’s of thousands of employees into the correct retirement savings vehicle.
TA Have you seen the Dalbar reports on individual returns for those investing in mutual funds?
MF I believe we give that out to our representatives
TA Does you company have any internal analysis of individuals’ returns that invest in mutual funds with your company?
TA What is the average returns that you are finding for individuals?
MF I’m not sure
TA Can you read the report generated by your company that I just handed you [Exhibit 34]?
MF Yes, give me a second
TA Just read the last paragraph out loud to the jury
MF Overall returns average around 3.3% over the last 25 years for individual investors……..
TA Where in your printed advertisements does that number appear?
MF Don’t know, you would have to talk to advertising
TA Does it ever appear in your companies advertisement?
MF Not sure
TA Again, are you aware if that result ever appearing?
MF No, not aware of it.
TA Does being a fiduciary mean you should disclose items like that?
MF No, the SEC has never made a rule like that.
TA So because it is not required by the SEC you don’t feel the need to be honest with your clients?
MF That is not how we think of it. If our clients do what we tell them too, they will get much higher returns than that.
TA But they don’t do they?
MF I’m not sure.
TA Did you not just read your internal research indicating that they don’t?
MF I’m not sure we are talking about the same thing
TA What is the object for these employees in their 401Ks that you are suggesting they fund with mutual funds?
MF To save for retirement
TA Would you say that the objective is to ultimately have a stream of income when your clients no longer work?
MF Yes, that would be correct
TA Would you also say that you want to have them get the largest stream of income they can?
TA Would you say that part of your fiduciary duty is to make sure you suggest financial instruments that would accomplish the largest stream of income they can achieve?
MF I would agree with that
TA Have you heard of sequence of return risk?
MF Yes, but what does that have to do with mutual funds?
TA Explain what your understanding of sequence of return risk is
MF The order of returns. In other words, is the order of returns such that it increases the risk to the overall return given a certain time period.
TA When people save for retirement are they looking for a return in a certain time period?
MF Well, yes I guess, they are going to retire at a point
TA So wouldn’t they have to deal with sequence of return risk?
MF Yes, but we have products that deal with that
TA What are those products?
MF Annuities and certain mutual funds that move the percentages of equities down as one ages.
TA What does that do to the overall return?
MF Well it would decrease it.
TA Your products that your company suggests to deal with market variation reduce the returns below the 3.3% return you previously read?
MF Well….if you put it that way….but anytime you reduce risk you reduce returns
TA What percentage of your clients are in these risk reducing products?
MF It would be a small percentage of folks approaching retirement.
TA So, for most of your clients sequence of return risk is a real concern?
MF We aren’t concerned with it for most of our clients
MF Most of our middle income clients are more concerned with overall returns
TA Do you think if they understood SOR risk they might be concerned with it?
MF We don’t speculate on that, we give the clients what they want
TA But aren’t you a fiduciary?
MF Again, the SEC doesn’t require us to talk about SOR risk
TA As a fiduciary you are not discussing the overall returns experienced by consumers and the ways to decrease SOR risk?
MF We discuss what the most appropriate vehicle is as required, and for most of our middle income clients mutual funds are the most appropriate vehicle. We have worked hard to get the overall expenses down in mutual funds and are very proud of our products that lead the industry in low fees!
TA So you are very proud of the fact that your clients are receiving 3.3% returns over the long run when the market has returned over 8%?
MF Well that is a function of investor behavior that we have no control over. The product itself does great when matched up to our competition.
Musings on the oil market and my oily stocks March 3, 2016Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance.
Two years ago no one could predict what the last 20 months would look like in the oil market. But, the one thing that people could know if they looked is that the oil market is known for having mind numbing large movements that don’t conform to the fundamentals of oil production.
Given all that, and the impossibility of predicting oil prices going forward, it is apparent we have hit an inflection point. Brent price closed up to over $37 today. Interday movement was over 3% from its high to its low [all before noon]. That in itself tells us that emotions are ruling the movements.
Shale oil is now down over 500,000 BPD from its peak. Quarterly and year end financials indicate huge losses in the industry totaling billions of dollars for 2015. Bankruptcies are increasing. The majors are lowering capex significantly. The tight oil companies have reduced capex 80% or more in some cases. Some companies are even stopping their drilling programs. OPEC producers are talking freezing production in concert with Russia and other countries.
Demand is up. India over 10%, China right at 10% and the good old USA, gasoline usage is up 2% over last year.
Now all the analyst point out that storage is filling up here in the US. But that is a little confusing as this is about imports coming in bought by the refiners. Why would they go to all the expense of storing oil if they didn’t foresee the price going up in the near future?
Compare this to 6 months ago when tight oil was still being produced at peak rates, Saudi A. and Russia was trying to increase production, and everyone was predicting that demand would level off.
Now there is considerable damage that has been done to the oil industry. Billions lost. 100s of thousands of people laid off. Projects postponed and canceled. Reserves not being replaced. Countries budgets being diminished. Production in the North Sea, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil are in real trouble. The first three have mature fields that are depleting and not being replaced. Brazil self imploded.
But there is a time when things change, and I believe we are there. Maybe the price of oil will continue to be lower than what it costs to produce it for a while longer???? But, we are IMO, looking an a inflection point.
EIUL Update February 23, 2016Posted by shaferfinancial in Uncategorized.
Over the last year most of my clients achieved positive results. This in light of a stock market that has gone nowhere with the S&P 500 actually slightly negative. Even more important is that with stock market watchers on edge, expecting negative results, those clients and myself who have EIULs know that whatever the market does our losses are capped at 0. For those who have retirement looking at them in the mirror this has to be a very comfortable position. For those who have decades to retirement, the good night sleep or the ability to completely ignore the noise has to be worth it.
In general, EIULs have continued to become an important alternative for thinking folks who want some protection from market forces. It again was the fastest growing financial product. During the last year, Wall Street and Whole Life forces ganged up to get the SEC to change the illustrations required. This change produces illustrations that are grossly more conservative than before. Note, the SEC didn’t force mutual fund sellers or whole life sellers to become more conservative in their marketing materials. Despite this more conservative illustration regulation, EIULS continued their popularity gain. Note that with the long term lower interest rate environment, the worse possible for life insurers, EIULs continue to preform as they were designed to do. And, the insurers that sell them continue to be financial stable. We are now starting the 3rd decade since the first EIULs were introduced, and everything the critics said would happen, hasn’t. Something that can’t be said about Mutual Funds, Variable Universal Life, Whole Life, etc. Given what has happened over the last 20 years to the economy, the fact that the stock indexes are barely above where they were 20 years ago, given that the historic returns in EIULs have dramatically outstripped mutual funds, this product has fully proved itself.
I get asked all the time why this product isn’t more well known? The answer is very simply that Wall Street + the government has created a propaganda system that is all encompassing when it comes to retirement planning. But rest assured that Wall Street and the Whole Life insurers are very cognizant of the power of EIULs for retirement income. Hence, the new illustration rules.