Retirement Planning is by far one of the most important areas of financial planning and one that we allocate a good portion of our time and resources to address. We break retirement planning up into two distinct phases:
- Accumulation Phase
- Distribution Phase
The accumulation phase is simply the phase in which you are still working and gathering assets to fund the distribution phase. Clients in the distribution phase are usually either retired or semi-retired, and are supplementing their pre-retirement income with distributions from their portfolios. This article is Part 1 of a two-part series on retirement planning and will address the Accumulation Phase of retirement planning.
Not all investment income is taxed the same. Thanks to the IRS, the tax code regarding your investments is constantly changing, and keeping up with these changes is important to optimize the tax efficiency of your portfolio. Remember, it’s not what you make but what you keep that counts.
If an investor were to look at just the starting and ending index values for equities, it would show a quiet quarter with equities posting a very modest gain for the 1st quarter. The S&P 500 finished up 0.77% on a price only return basis. Looking deeper, however, reveals that investors were taken on a very wild ride, driven by fears of both a global and domestic recession, which saw equity markets sell off substantially and enter correction territory.
During 2015 the US stock market posted its worst overall performance since the financial crisis of 2008. That being said, the DJIA decline of (2.23%) and the S&P 500 decline of (.73%) were modest compared to the 40% decline registered during that time. A global commodity drop led by a 30% drop in oil a year following a 50% decline in 2014 is cited as a major reason for the poor performance. The Energy sector was the biggest decliner of the S&P 500 falling (24%) during 2015. The steep drop in oil and commodity prices also spilled over into the bond markets, as energy and miner credits weakened. Much of this year’s gains were concentrated in a small number of primarily consumer discretionary individual stocks.
Even with multiple positive revisions noting US economic expansion in the second quarter and pegging US 2nd quarter growth at an annual rate of 3.9%, the US stock market could not shake off the global turmoil primarily related to the reported slow-down in China. In addition, The FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) did not increase short term interest rates despite telegraphing multiple signals that they would be raising and that left investors confused and uncertain on the actual state of the US economy. Today’s disappointing jobs report will only add to that uncertainty with a reported addition of 140,000 jobs, well below the 200,000 consensus estimate. World markets including the US were very volatile during the third quarter. The fourth quarter looks to be more of the same. Today’s Dow tape went from a decline of 260 points to up 200.
As Published in the Winter 2016 Edition of NJ Lifestyle
Volatility was the overall theme of the stock market in 2015, but despite the wild swings to the upside and downside, the market finished roughly flat for the year, posting a price only return of -0.73%. The market finally experienced the “inevitable correction” that investors and analysts had been calling for since mid 2013. In May, the S&P 500 hit an all-time intraday high of 2,134. In August, the S&P fell to an intra-year low of 1867, representing a drop in value of 12.5%. After an initial September rally that faded back to market lows, October rewarded investors with a 13% rally, hitting 2116 in early November, before sliding back to 2043 to end the year.
Market Overview – June Gloom!
Equity markets slumped during the final 5 trading days of the quarter ending June 30th, and the US market endured its worst single day performance of 2015 on June 29th when the DJIA lost 350.33 points. Most point to the uncertainty and the media magnified headlines of Greece, China and Puerto Rico as the main culprits. To those whom have been paying attention, all this news separately would be of no surprise and almost a non-event, but when highlighted repeatedly and bolted together by the media, you have all the makings of a mini panic heading into a long holiday weekend, all the while providing undisciplined nervous participants multiple reasons to sell. The month ended in the red for both domestic and international equities, as well as all bond classes. The exception was the Russell 2000, which eked out a monthly gain of .60%. – Nothing to write home about.
As published in the Holiday 2015 Edition of NJ Lifestyle
More often than not, when we ask a potential client what they are currently paying in investment fees, we receive one of two answers:
- I don’t know.
- I don’t pay anything.
The first answer is understandable, as the transparency of investment fees leaves a lot to be desired, and the second answer is just wrong. Fees come in various forms; including commissions, portfolio management, operating expenses, and 12-b1 fees. Although you may not see the fee, it does not mean you are not paying it.
Taxation of Investment Income
Not all investment income is taxed the same. Thanks to Congress, the federal tax code regarding your investments is constantly changing, and keeping up with these changes is important to optimize the tax efficiency of your portfolio. Remember, it’s not what you make but what you keep that counts.
The main determinants of federal investment income tax rates are your annual income and the type of investment income earned: interest income, dividend, and capital gains. Investments such as savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money markets, annuities, and taxable bonds (as opposed to municipal bonds) produce taxable interest income. This income is considered ordinary income and is taxed at an individual’s ordinary income tax rate, which ranges from 0% to 39.6%.
As published in the Fall 2015 Edition of NJ Lifestyle
Arguably the most difficult aspect about investing in the stock market is the volatility that is the trade-off for higher long term returns. During the past 40 years, the S&P 500 (widely regarded as the standard index for measuring Large Cap U.S. stock market performance and includes the 500 largest U.S. Corporations by market capitalization) realized an average annual total return of 11.4%, according to S&P Dow Jones index data. However, to have benefited from such performance, an investor would have had to stay the course through periods of significant volatility. Market declines of 10% or greater (typically defined as Corrections) have happened more than 15 times over that forty year period, including four bear markets (defined as market declines of 20% or more). Corrections happen on average once out of every 18 months. Until the recent decline in August, the markets had been more than four years since our last 10% pullback. Corrections are normal and are to be expected when investing in equities. That doesn’t, however, mean they are not unpleasant and unnerving to most investors.