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Dangerous times in the market! May 26, 2017

Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance, mutual funds, Retirement Income.
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Just wanted to put out my thoughts here. We are in a serious transition period that adds tremendous risk to all markets. We seeing more and more irrational market movements. Interest rates are being pushed up gradually, companies are reporting mixed results. Oil markets are running off of only emotions, forgetting fundamentals. Real estate and the the equity markets have both had fairly long run-ups by historical standards. And politically, there is huge risk with a new untested leader.

Now is the time to be very careful if you have market driven financial products. If you are planning to retire anytime soon, protect yourself. If you can’t emotionally deal with huge losses in the equity market, move to products that protect principal.

Frankly, I am not good at “timing” market issues and usually keep my money at work. But I have plenty of time to recover if the market goes south and have a good amount in my EIUL which won’t go south. Additionally, since half my stock portfolio is in Berkshire, which performs best in down markets, I feel safe. My oil stocks have already done poorly for the last couple years, so no more damage can be done to them.

Protect yourselves going into the summer.

There is more than 1 right answer! May 2, 2017

Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance, mutual funds, paradigm shift, Retirement Income.
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I recently pulled out and wore an old t-shirt. It was a t-shirt from an old friend who is now deceased. He was a jeweler who made fine items for folks. The ultra-wealthy from all over the east would come to buy his wares. He was a mountain of a man with huge hands. I was always amazed that those club hands could make such fine jewelry. When he walked the beach he lived on, most people thought he was some biker and stayed away from him. He like it that way.

On the back of the t-shirt is his saying: It’s better to be a well known drunk than an anonymous alcoholic.

You can imagine the looks I got when I took my son to the playground wearing this t-shirt. 🙂
Anyway it has spent way to much time tucked into my closet and now I just don’t care what looks I get.

But the saying on the t-shirt it speaks to perspective. He lived the life of a rich and somewhat famous person and pretty much did what he wanted to do. While 12 step programs are all about conforming to society’s norms around substance abuse.

Where is this all going? Well most of us conform to the norms of society in our everyday life. We go about our business never really questioning the reality taught to us by those in power. Now I am not saying that we should all go around drinking excessively and doing what we want without regards to others. But I am saying that there are always alternative ways of thinking that are just as valuable as what we have been taught.

I dedicate my life to helping people understand that in the financial world. I am grateful that so many people come to understand what I am teaching them and have found financial success as a result.

As my son is now a freshman in HS, we often have discussions about the world. I find myself having to play “devil’s advocate” with some of his now strongly held beliefs. I hope he will learn from our discussions and not be so quick to buy into what is being told to him whether it is political, financial or the propaganda from the medical system about what is good for him and what is not. I hope he learns to be a critical thinker. He will need to be.

Wall Street invents another way to beat you with “Robo-Advisors” April 6, 2017

Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance, mutual funds, Mutual Funds for Retirement, Retirement Income.
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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.

Really???????

Designer of the 401K now regrets it!!! January 5, 2017

Posted 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, 2016

Posted 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!!!

Are people waking up to the issues of mutual funds as retirement vehicles? October 17, 2016

Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance, mutual funds, Retirement Income, Uncategorized.
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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.

What I would like to ask the mutual fund shrill’s? April 26, 2016

Posted 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.
MF Yes

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?
MF Yes.
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?
MF Yes
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
TA Why?
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, 2016

Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance.
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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.

State of the state; 2016 January 7, 2016

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I have so much to be grateful for. Sometimes I get caught in the web of day-to-day activities that I miss out on what is truly great. So here is the state of the state of my life for Jan 2016.

I have a great wife and a great kid. They continually give me joy in my life;
My business relationships continue to flourish. Doing seminars with Jeff Brown and crew has been a great way for me to get my message to a wider audience. Thanks Jeff for including me!
My stock portfolio took it on the chin in 2015, but thankfully I have learned to be patient and not reactive. Oil is now priced at less than half of what it takes to get the marginal barrel out of the ground. Makes little sense, but the market does that some times. My EIUL took no losses this year, unlike the market. Makes for a good nights sleep.
I moved this summer to a new town in NH. It has been great for the whole family. Definitely a good decision that will make our family stronger and open up opportunities for us all! Do miss all our friends in the old town though.

Change comes hard. Really glad I was able to make the changes I did over the last couple years.
Here’s to a great 2016.

Thanks to all who favored me to be in their lives. I continue to try to help as many people as I can!

Patience; The Ultimate Virtue November 19, 2015

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We live in a society that keeps moving faster and faster. We want instant success and make instant judgements, labeling people/strategies a failure in short time. I read a Florida State University football blog on a regular basis, and posters are constantly writing off these athletes as a bust if they don’t play like All-Americans in their first couple years on the team.

I see the same in youth sports. If the kids aren’t instant stars, dominating at an early age, then the adults in their lives push them to move on to other sports/activities or consider it just recreation and lower their expectations to “its a lifetime sport.” In school, if they aren’t immediately making great grades, reading at college level at age 10, or doing Algebra in 5th grade, then we need to get them tutoring.

But read the biography of successful people and you see a different line to their success. Failure after failure until finally success. I am reading a biography of the Wright Brothers that is demonstrating this.

And of course the opposite happens. Early success is assumed to mean that elite status will follow. In youth sports, we see that all the time. The kid that is 6 ft. at 13, is assumed to be on his way to being an elite athlete because he can dominate his smaller competition. The person who gets great returns on a stock pick is assumed to have some better technique for picking stocks that will last forever.

But reality is something different. US swimming has been looking at how many top youth swimmers become elite senior swimmers. It is pretty easy to document in swimming because the competition is about the stop watch [or electronic timing now a days]. So US Swimming looks at the top 10 times of 12-13-14 year olds and compares that to participants in senior nationals, junior nationals, NCAA, world competitions, etc. over the following years. So how many of those top youth swimmers end up as top senior swimmers? 10% for men and 19% for women.

What does that tell us? 1. We can’t determine who will go on to become elite athletes until after puberty. 2. You can’t tell who will become great by just looking at them. There is something there that can’t be predicted. Same with good investors. Can you name great investors over the long term? There is probably a couple of handful of folks you could name.

So what is the most important personality trait in all this? Patience. That’s right, those 90% of boys that were not considered elite swimmers during their formative years kept on going to swim practice. They kept on working. They didn’t allow someone else to tell them they weren’t good enough. And they had coaches that did the same thing. They didn’t rush their development, didn’t move these athletes to the bench, didn’t spend all their resources on the few who were looking great at age 12.

If you come to our retirement income seminar, you will hear the same thing. We have folks from different parts of life, some with incredible success already, some just starting out. But, the one thing we preach is put a plan in place and show patience.

And we try to eliminate the noise that might cause a lack of patience or a panic for our clients.
Like a good coach, we nurture folks through the process, giving them all our time no matter how successful they are when they come to us, because we know some of the most meager beginnings become our greatest successes; like the Wright Brothers.