FINANCIAL CONCEPTS BLOG

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Staying Home To Do Our Part

In these days of travel restrictions, several conferences have become teleconferences. Today, I had two such meetings. Although I love to travel and visit different places around the country, I’ve got to say; it’s nice to be at home in my bed tonight! 

Thank goodness the opportunity to learn is still available every single day. (Parents enjoy the time you are learning with your kiddos from home! Granted, I would not want to be teaching algebra and science!) When this is all over, we will know who the real heroes in our community are. The teachers, the administrators, the health care workers (all of them), the people who stock our groceries, the drive-thru clerks, and the truckers! And of course, the people who manufacture the paper goods!

The first phone conference today was with two amazing women who manage money in our investment funds at Capital Group/American Funds. Janet Gordon and Jody Jonsson have become friends, brilliant friends, over the years. Learning their current perspective recharged our batteries. Today’s topic was What’s Next for the Equity Market.  

One of the reasons that make Capital and American Funds so different is their intense research. The relationships Capital has with the biggest, oldest, AND newest, strongest companies around the world is a strength that cannot be measured. Folks like Janet and Jody can ask the hard questions. And they do! Research doesn’t stop because the world closes business doors while we pause to heal or flatten the curve of a virus. The research continues. Their conversations are deep. Both leaders mentioned strategies and companies they feel will come out of this event stronger and will present exciting investment opportunities. Some companies, have been initially impaired but will come out healed. Some companies will suffer for years to come.

A couple of factors we admire about Capital Group and American Funds are 1) the philosophy of finding value or bargains in this research and 2) the tremendous experience of our investment team.  Their mission is to provide consistent results, especially in negative periods. Janet mentioned an early morning investment meeting in a virtual room with professionals located around the globe. (For participants on the call, it was either an early morning, late afternoon, or midday meeting given the various time zones around the world.)  She said they started the session with a roll call of those professionals with 25 plus years of managing money in the funds, asking them to share their insight for this bear market. She said many of them felt last week was the week to put cash to work. 

Yet another factor on which we agree is diversification—owning lots of companies. Across industries. Across continents. And we also like the diversification of opinions. Janet said she is keeping “dry powder” because she thinks there may still be some bargains on her shopping list in the companies she likes in defense, health care, and high-quality technology companies. Jody has found the multinationals she follows are suddenly a bargain as she believes we will experience an industrial renaissance in the United States. Multinational companies want to err on the side of resiliency and flexibility versus efficiency. And they want to control supply chains close to their customers. 

The last factor in which we align with Capital Group and American Funds segues into the last meeting of my day. Janet and Jody both reiterated that we should reassure our clients, who strongly feel the desire to do something because of heightened emotions, that our professionals at Capital are doing something ALL day EVERY day. 

They are positioning you for the next few days and months, but most of all, for the rest of your life plans. They monitor changing conditions. Along with analysts, portfolio managers, we have scientists, physicians, and consumer pollsters determining how this virus will change our lives. They asked us to share with you to stay focused on your long-term plans and goals. Their last statements reiterated the professionals at Capital who manage your money are working night and day, around the world, with you in mind, in each and every investment decision. 

On the next teleconference, I was invited to speak, along with two other financial advisors and two mentors, on a panel for newer advisors about how we are communicating with our clients. A common theme among us, we are all working as hard and as much as we can to keep you focused on plans and goals.  And to make sure you understand that we know how hard these kinds of periods are. All advisors agreed, these are the days we earn our keep. Our efforts during the volatile times matter to you the most. We all mentioned communicating in all the ways we know how. It may look like we are writing or talking a little too much, but self-isolating is very hard for helpers! 

As this call ended, I remembered how Janet and Jody finished their meeting earlier. Their closing comments were, “Never give up on the power of positivity and ingenuity in times when negativity abounds.” 

Janet stated, while the characteristics and nature of bear markets are always different, the similarities in all bear markets in history are that the problems were solved. The market recovered.

Jody ended the call by saying, “The best advice is to lean the opposite direction of the negativity.” I think I will post that on my computer screen! Don’t be surprised if you hear me repeat it once or twice or ten times over the next 20 years!

 

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Home Sweet Home

Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.

                                                                                                                   Warren Buffett

In scary times, we tend to look to see how much have I lost? But did you know, you don’t lose anything unless you sell something when it’s down? Selling when values are down will lock in a loss, for sure. That minute. Forever.

Investors tend to focus on the bottom line. It’s natural with headlines screaming what went up and what went down. But planners know, the bottom line isn’t always what matters.

What matters most is what your investments can accomplish for you. What your investments can do for your lifestyle. The biggest fear shouldn’t be is the value or bottom-line going down.  The concern should always be am I invested in a way that I can always do the things I choose?  For most, if not all of our clients, they are investing for income…either now, or for later, or for those they love to have income. If your investments continue to give you the income or the lifestyle you desire now, does the bottom-line really matter?

Remember, you can think this way about every thing you own. If the housing market suddenly declines, but you still live in the neighborhood you want, in a comfortable place that is warm, dry and cozy, does it matter if housing prices are down? You are accomplishing what you want with this large investment. A nice place to live.

Back in the “olden days” or when Rhonda first started helping clients retire, she called it mailbox money because your investments sent you a check in the mail, month in and month out. Now the deposits go right to your bank account on the right day. Historically over time the bottom line grows. Not every year does it grow. And rarely like it did last year in 2019. And sometimes it does go down like it did in 2008. But over time it grows.

It zig-zags its way up, or at least it always has, if history is any guide…and really history is the only guide we have.  The average annual return for a conservative mix of stocks and bonds has been 8.8% a year for the last 30 years. March of 1990 to February of 2020. If you had started taking 5% income 30 years ago, and increased it by 3% each year for a cost of living increase, you would have income that grew by double what you started with AND your principal grew to 4 times what you started with. (Of course, past results are not a guarantee of future results.) But this conservative portfolio of half stocks and half bonds would have produced more income so when the light bill went up, or the grocery bill went up, or you planned a big trip or you had to buy a car, the mailbox money grew!  

But we know some of you will say but I don’t have 30 years. None of us comes with an expiration date stamped on the bottom of our foot. And everyday we meet with retirees talking about helping their parents (while helping their children). Life expectancy is increasing. The longer we live, the longer our parents live, the longer we are likely to live. Whether your lifetime is 30 days or 30 years, the rest of your life is what we call a long-term investment horizon.  And we know some of you will say, but the bad days were so bad. In this conservative investment, the worst was uncomfortable. But as long as you didn't sell when it was down, the decline didn't matter for the plan to work. but the worst was uncomfortable....down right scary. The bottom line was down 28%. Down from an exaggerated high. If you had $100,000 invested, the value was $72,000 at that scary bottom.  But you know what? The income was $416 a month. And the next year it was $428. And the next $441. and you get the idea....It took a little while (4 years) for $100,000 to be back to $100,000, but the mailbox  money came.  That's what the folks in the cozy, warm, dry house needed. The money to pay all the bills and still help their families and enjoy the lifestyle they dreamed and worked toward. 

Source: American Funds Hypothetical Illustration for American Balanced Fund March 1990 through February 2020.

 

 

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Time In the Markets is More Important than Timing

When we have volatile days, up or down, it’s easy to think the pendulum swing has begun and it will never stop. But if history has shown us anything, that is not the case. The pendulum swings both ways. And over time, the advances have far outlived the declines.

We recently shared an essay illustrating the importance of why we believe it is critically important to stay invested – through both the ups and the downs of the market. While today’s headlines may be filled with negative news, this essay shows how quickly things can change! Time in the market is far more important than trying to time the market ups and downs. (If you’d like a copy, send us a message, an email, or give us a call)

Remember, you own investments tailored around a financial plan built upon your own individual dreams and goals. While it’s never fun to see investments decline in the short-term, history has shown that staying invested has rewarded investors in the long run.

Your plan wasn’t created with just days, weeks, or months in mind. Your plan was created to help you reach your dreams and goals for years to come!  

Remember, we are here to help you stay focused on your plan! Give us a call if you need to talk things through!

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HEADLINES! HEADLINES! HEADLINES!

Or As Chicken Little Cried , “The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!”

The headlines are terrible. They seem worse than they ever could be or ever have been! The world is going to “you know where” in a handbasket. Things couldn’t get much worse.  Or, they are going to get much worse week after next. (As the media would have us believe.)

But we are pretty sure if you all looked around at your family, your life, your work, your conveniences, you’d say in many ways things are better than we ever could have imagined!

In our opinion, the market has skyrocketed since October and has been looking for a reason to let off steam. And wouldn’t you know it? There are plenty of “reasons.”

The election…If he wins, life as we know it, is over. If she is nominated, life as we know it, is over. Whoever lives in power in Washington, D.C. runs the world and the other guy’s candidate is the Dark Force. Warren Buffett, the wisest investor the world has ever known, will tell you it doesn’t matter who lives in D.C. But what matters most is what consumers in Mississippi, Kansas, Paris, Mumbai, Rio and Moscow are doing! We wholeheartedly agree!

Health tragedies…Are sad realities for too many humans. But should we all stay inside?The headlines have us believing the Wuhan coronavirus is the next plague. Ebola was the last one. Before that, we had the swine flu. Before that, we had the bird flu. Before that, SARS. And remember the days when the world was collectively stockpiling antibiotics because of white powder mailed around the country? (We all have relatives that suffered terribly from illnesses or surgeries that, way back when, would have rivaled the plague! But think of the health advances that have improved the quality of life beyond measure.)

Does it feel really bad to you?  Does it feel like everything is terrible and nothing is going right? Then it might be time to turn off the television or at least change the channels. It’s human nature to feel this way with this kind of noise.

Our advice is to focus on what you can control and what you can do. Focus on who you can help and how. Focus on your family and your plans. And Pray. We are all going to be okay!

If you walk outside, and it feels like something other than the nonstop rain has dropped on your head, call us. We are here to help you understand what truly matters to your plan.

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All in the Family....YOURS and OURS

We are happy to introduce you to our newest team member, Leslie F. Richmond. And yes that F. is for Ferguson.  Did we expect to be working with a daughter, or a sister? Nope. But we are so excited to have her FINALLY join your financial planning family!

Leslie will serve as our Relationship/Communications manager. Her job will be to help us stay in touch with you, often!

This means knowing what’s important to you, now. It means keeping track of your personal milestones and accomplishments. Most of all, it means always being there when you need us.

Families like yours are why we do what we do. And who better to help you than a family. Whether it be a mother, grandmother, brother, son, sister or daughter, just like yours!  

Leslie comes to us with her Master of City and Regional Planning from the University of Memphis. In the fall, she realized her love for economic development/job creation and her love for city planning was very similar to financial planning. She wants to help those recipients of good jobs to reach their goals and dreams.  She finally understood the reasons why we love what we do! (We’ve been telling her since her undergraduate days at Mississippi State.)  

Leslie will call you soon, but in the meantime, if you have any questions, or if there is any thing we can do for you, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Thanks again letting our family be a part of your family!

 

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Happy New Year and Happy New Decade

I know there is debate, and some remind us the new decade doesn’t start until next year, but I’m excited to be heading into the 5th decade of my career. And Scott is heading into his 3rd.

As I looked back over the last decades, I realized as we've helped families live through these times, we’ve helped families through lots of headlines and lots of life.  We’ve seen so much. The 80s, the 90s, the 00s, the 10s, and now the exciting roaring 20s.

For the Fergusons, the Financial Concepts families, and the world, there have been lots of stories. As I walked down memory lane, I realized the planning was more about life, milestones and dreams than headlines.

In the 80s we had the banking crisis. And Wall Street, “Greed is Good.”  But like my family, our clients graduated, married, had their first child, and began their careers. They combined finances, built or bought homes. They began saving and investing for their futures.

In the 90s, the big story was boom days! New ideas.  New investments. And what went up never seemed to go down. Families grew. They bought vehicles. They educated children. They lost loved ones. Their careers or business grew. They saved or invested more.

In the 00s, the big stories were Y2K, September 11, and the mortgage crisis. Graduations, college expenses, new homes, and big purchases. Grandchildren!

In the 10s, we had the strongest recovery imaginable. Retirements and new stages of life. New careers, new jobs, new employers. Health issues. Wellness issues. Lots of life.

What this trip down memory lane reminds us is that financial planning is much more about life than headlines. Plans, investments, money are tools to accomplish all this living. And likely we cannot imagine either the headlines in the 20s, nor the life!

 

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FOOTBALL DOWN SOUTH

 

Scott and I don’t have a lot of hobbies but in the South, college football is definitely a hobby! With a long season, sometimes longer than others 😊, and our own superstitions, college football requires commitment. And our hobby is Alabama Football. As you can imagine, November 2019 won’t go down as our favorite football month. But that doesn’t stop us from saying ROLL TIDE ROLL!

It's awfully important to win with humility. It's also important to lose. I hate to lose worse than anyone, but if you never lose you won't know how to act. If you lose with humility, then you can come back.                  Coach Bear Bryant

 But football and a good or bad season can easily relate to financial planning.

  • Start with a plan.
     Focus on the process of what it takes to be successful.           Coach Nick Saban
     
  • Diversify.

It takes a team, and depth. We can only imagine how ugly the season would have been with no back- ups. You need a great quarterback, but you have to have tackles. You have to have receivers and running backs. And yes, a kicker. (Is this the time to say no game is won or loss on any one play? Neither is financial independence.)

  •  Think long-term because timing doesn't work.

Don't give up at halftime. Concentrate on winning the second half. Coach Bear Bryant

The more one emphasizes winning, the less he or she is able to concentrate on what actually causes success. Coach Nick Saban

Now we didn’t win those big games this year, but if the plan is to meet the goal of long term financial success, you may need a few seasons to win the Championship or two, or 4, or 17.

  •  Faith in the future is critical.

Are 12 wins better than 10? YES!  Do 2 losses, or 2 bad years in the market, or 3, or 4, in a lifetime, derail a plan? NO!

  •  Your/Our coach is Aight!

Becoming a champion is not an easy process... It is done by focusing on what it takes to get there and  not on getting there. Coach Nick Saban

Will you have setbacks? Will you have bear markets? Will your job change? Will you help your children? In the moment, you will feel like your plan is going fail, but your coaches will be right there reminding you, this is one play. We will help you to come back in the second half, or even if it takes one more season! You’ve got a coach helping you to focus on the process, your plan, and your dreams and goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes Grandmothers Do Know Best

 

Often, we tell you to stay the course, or no action is the best action. But successful financial planning is about following some principles that are fairly simple, but not always so easy to follow! That’s why we remind you whenever we get the chance; we earn our keep by keeping your eye on the plan. 

 

  1. Start with a plan.

     

    By a plan, we mean where you are now. Where do you want to be? When do you want to get there? And how much can you add between now and then? Or how much income do you need to draw between now and then? We encourage you to spend more time on your plan for the future than planning your next vacation.

     

    This blog came to us as Rhonda remembered things her grandmother used to say about money. Look after your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. Or another favorite, those folks have more money than sense. (When Rhonda was young she thought her grandmother was saying “cents.”) And of course, a penny saved is a penny earned.

    The destination is YOUR dream and YOUR goal. There is no trophy! But there is satisfaction.  We will keep your eye on the plan, not on a prize!

     

  2. Diversification is Important.

 

True diversification means never making a killing from an investment, but never getting killed by one idea, either. Different investments meet different objectives at different times. Never will they all move in one direction at the same time! And that’s a good thing.

 

And as Granny 2 used to say, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

 

  1. Think Long Term.

 

How long is long term? You should never make an investment that you don’t intend to leave alone for at least five years. Five years has tended to be a “normal” market cycle. Remember though, “NORMAL” is only a setting on the washer!

 

But another way of looking at long- term, if your plan is for the rest of your life, then long-term could be 40 days or 40 years.  Most of us don’t have an expiration date stamped on the bottom of our foot. When investing, history has shown that the good days tend to take care of the bad ones. Time in the market is more important than timing the market.  And measuring your plan’s success daily is like measuring the distance from here to California with a ruler. Anything worth having is worth waiting for, working for, and earning.

 

  1. Faith in the Future.

 

Many of us could have never imagined the progress we would see in our lifetimes. Someone is sitting in the shade because someone else planted a seed. We own pieces of businesses when we invest in stocks, businesses that provide products that are important to our lives.

 

Who’d of thought many of us would pay more a vehicle than we did our first home?

 

  1. Act based on your plan, not the headlines, your favorite brother-in-law,  your neighbor,  a candidate,  your favorite internet or broadcast guru.

 

You know we all tend to hear headlines and immediately think the sky is falling. I should do something, anything. The grass is greener on the other side. This time is different. We know we want to buy low and sell high. But the urgency in an information-saturated world makes us react and do the opposite.  But that guy on the internet was right last time. Remember, stopped watches are right twice a day!

 

One point we don’t count as a principle, but maybe we should. While there are people who do it themselves, and there are those who follow friends, or newsletters, most folks benefit from having a guide.  (Dare we say, sometimes you get what you pay for? Or if it sounds too good to be true, it might be?)

 

We think our clients benefit from having someone whose cooler head will prevail when their hearts and emotions want to react. We want to be your guide to turning your dreams and goals into reality! Let us help you remember the simple things…and to make them easier.  (And maybe some of these quips might help you when the noise gets too loud.)

 

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Return of Volatility? At Financial Concepts, we never knew it left!

One of the most frustrating headlines to read is that the market was volatile today or it’s turbulent again. Again? When wasn’t it? Both the biases that up is normal, and down is volatile or bad are wrong.

 Webster’s defines volatility as the tendency to change quickly and unpredictably. CHANGE. UNPREDICTABLY. Notice that…change without specifying direction. And the most important adjective we stress is unpredictably. No matter how many brilliant talking heads tell us they can predict when and which direction, they can’t. No one can. Even the person that was right, once or twice before.  Remember a broken watch is right twice a day!

 We like words that describe with vivid pictures. We often tell people if you watch the market minute by minute, or day by day, or even month by month, it can look like a squiggly EKG. But if you look at heart rates over time, you will see a very steady line. None of us wants to look at our EKG daily, now, do we?

  Volatility, both up and down, is why the “stock market” provides the returns we need. Comfortable retirement requires growing income that we can’t outlive, and we can’t receive that from an investment that is fixed. Instead of the “stock market” we remind you to think of owning great businesses.

  Remember your plan and goals matter most. If our goal is to teach our children to take their toys upstairs…we should focus on that toy at the top of the stairs. What if that toy is a yo-yo? If we watch our grandson, playing with that yo-yo on each step, the ups and downs might drive us crazy. But if we keep watching, we will see him eventually get upstairs…the trend of that yo-yo, while up and down on the way, was up the stairs! And after a few minutes, the boy and his yo-yo are at the desired top step!

 And the ups and downs that happen on each step, or each day, month, or year, on the way to a lifetime retirement income, are just that, the steps on the way to the ultimate goal…the top step, or the lake house, or the garden, or the front porch swing with grandchildren.

 

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Plan Today for Happier Tomorrows

 

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

You’ll have happier tomorrows if you start planning today. It’s that simple. The benefit of a plan is as that silly commercial says……PRICELESS!

 You start a map with a destination.  Are you going to retire early? Are you going to start a new career in your 50s? Are you going to take your grandchildren to college? Do you want to visit a vacation home that allows you to have the best of both worlds, work and play?

 Next, you determine how many miles and how much fuel the destination will take. Do you want the grands to have First Class Airfare or Economy Tickets? Tuition and room and board or just tuition?  For 3 grands ranging from age newborn to 13, we have a time frame of needing these dollars between the years 2024 and 2037.  Define that goal and the time frame, that’s your destination. For example, an economy ticket for your three grandchildren will take approximately $150,000.  

 Where are you towards meeting this goal, starting at home, or already half way to campus? Do you have money set aside? Or is this a new plan?  For a new plan, you would need to save about $700 a month to fund the $150,000 for 3 grands ranging in age from newborn to 13!1

 Once you know the numbers, you can determine if this is a priority destination.  If this is a have-to trip, you might say, well this is something I feel very strongly about and start investing for gas and lodging! You might say, well this is a lower on our bucket list journey and I’m not willing to commit this much, but I will do something to help them on their way.  I’ll set aside $100 gas money a month for each child. But you need to know the distance on the map and how much gas it’s going to take before you determine whether you are going on this trip.

 Over the last 30 years, you have come to us to take you to retirement at specific ages, plan the trips for education and weddings, and fun things like vacation homes. We have mapped many different destinations in a financial plan. And we can tell you when we determine the miles, and you follow the map, the dreams become reality.

 Some of our strongest career memories are of those who said, we want to be able to arrive at the retirement terminal early. What do we do? And as planners we determined that ticket price, we’ve hesitated to tell you the requirements. But we told you.  This trip is so many miles, and it will take this much gas…every single month or every single year.  And every time… every single time, when someone followed the map, they reached the destination.

 Those who said, well it was only a wish. I’ll just keep working and come back to see you later for an update on available trip costs. The mileage didn’t get better. It got bigger. And while those who decided to wait, went on great trips, splurged on wants and short term wishes….so did those who said this is a have- to destination! The difference in the two scenarios, is commitment to the journey from the moment it became a destination. Those of you who followed the map, put gas in the car, still stopped at some beautiful places on the way.

 Or another way to look at this is to remember one of the examples from Rhonda’s teenage-hood. She has always loved to travel. And had great dreams of all the places she wanted to visit. She worked from the age of 15 at various jobs. But mostly her earnings went to buy the latest trends of 70s teenagers. Her cousin on the other hand also dreamed of traveling to faraway destinations. Teresa had a giant pickle jar with a picture of the next dream destination. Every time she baby sat or worked at the mall, some of her paycheck went in the pickle jar as gas money for the next trip. She visited wonderful places and has memories and photographs and stickers on the suitcases. Rhonda can’t find any of her bellbottom jeans or record albums from the same period! Let us help you print the map to turn your dream destinations into reality. 

 1 The college calculations were estimated using the Capital Group’s College Savings Planner. We used the average public institution cost of $6,069 a year for tuition, with 5% inflation. We assumed an investment would grow at 6%.

 

 

 

 

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I'll be successful when I hit a certain number.

This week marks the birthday of one of the, if not the, most successful investor the world has ever known. Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, turns 89. And his wisdom or quotes have been shared many times over. Those who didn't learn from them, were often at least entertained by them. Reading some of those gems in an email today, reminded us that many explain what we believe to be the keys to financial success very simply, and sometimes quite humorously. Below find just a few of our favorite Warren Buffett quotes:

1. Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. It all starts with a plan for the future.

2. I don't look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over. Diversification means never making a financial killing off of one idea, nor being killed financially by one idea!

3. Our favorite holdings period is forever. The most important quality for an investor is temperament. You need a temperament that neither derives great pleasure from being with the crowd nor against the crowd.

4. The rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield. Think of the medical advancements you couldn't dream of 10 years ago. Think of the marvel that is the device in your pocket. FAITH IN THE FUTURE IS A REQUIREMENT.

5. An investor should act as though he had a lifetime decision card with just twenty punches on it. Timing won't work. If so, everyone would be wealthy. You'd only have to watch the news. As we all know not everyone is wealthy. But it's natural to want to try. Punch that card with the beginning of your plan, and as your life changes, not minute by minute.

Many think financial success is being rich! I'll be successful when I hit a certain number. But the numbers change every day. Not your target, but what you watch. Those numbers change every single day.

At Financial Concepts, we think of being financially successful as being financially independent. When you are financially independent, your financial punches over your lifetime, allow you to live a comfortable independent retirement. Financial success allows you to provide for your family, whether or not you are still with them. And that financial success allows you to leave legacies to causes and concerns you care about.

Remember we are here to help you reach for your dreams and goals by helping you make the most of your 20 punches!

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Financial Noise on Full Volume

Have you ever been to the doctor and stated what WebMd said? I did that once. I told my doctor that my Apple Watch had woken me up to tell me my heart rate was low. He asked, well what did Doctor Apple tell you to do? I got his point. Doctor Apple doesn’t know me or my health. Doctor Apple was reacting to one number.

Last week we sent our friends a letter that explained the Rules of the Financial Classroom. If you didn’t see the letter and would like to, let us know.  Today the financial “experts” on television screamed scary headlines. All were variations of The Sky is Falling.

As our letter explained, history has shown that staying the course and not reacting has been the right lesson plan for most long-term investors. Today’s headline said one number might mean we will have a recession. The media didn’t say that the number might not mean a recession. My low heart rate might have meant a health problem.  That number didn’t signify a health problem, but actually a health strength. Successful financial students don’t time the market. Successful investors don’t react but instead, act on a plan. Thank goodness I followed my health plan created with my doctor based on my history, my lifestyle, and a lot of numbers.

Have you ever noticed the media rarely says the state of the world is good? Today more people are middle-class citizens than ever in all of history. ALL. Middle-class citizens buy most goods and services in the world. The media doesn’t remind us we live in amazing times.

Today the media or financial experts didn’t tell us that the yield on the S&P 500 is 2%. The short-term rate that caused that inverted yield curve is 2%. The “media experts” didn’t mention that an asset that has a yield and that grows over time may be better suited to an investor seeking growing income in a long-term retirement. The “media experts” told you the market will go down and that we will have a bear market because of that one number. The “media experts” didn’t tell you there are short term inverted yield curves that go away as quickly as they come, that it is the sustained inverted yield curves that are worrisome. The “media experts” didn’t remind you that a recession doesn’t always equal a bear market. The “media experts” also didn’t remind you that ups and downs, and even bear markets are all part of normal market behavior. And the “media experts” didn’t point out that what you own or invest in should be determined by your plan.

The media, like Chicken Little with a sponsorship vest, tells you “The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling….” React. Tune In.  React. Tune In. React. Tune In. Like a nonstop fire alarm in elementary school without reassuring teachers telling you this is a drill. This is normal.

The media colors every financial broadcast with the fear of 2008 to 2009. The Bear Market of '08-09' was the scariest one modern investors have experienced. This decline was deep. The decline was long. Clients, almost daily, express their fear of the time to recover, even though many of them recovered from that bear market like every other one in their long investing lifetimes. (We think this may be because life is getting noisier and noisier.) None of us knows when that final bell saying school is out is going to ring. We could be looking at 40 days or 40 years of class time. But we do know history. And a complete study of history is very reassuring.

At the high in 2007, the Dow was 14,000. At the low on March 9, 2009 it finished at 6500. Today it is 25,450. Almost double where it was in 2007. And if your plan provided for your needs in the last 12 years, why can’t you go thru the ups and DOWNS again? Because the Rules of the Financial Classroom say it will go up and down all the rest of your life. The rules say timing will not work. Ever. Or another way to state that rule is Timing Never Works.

As financial planners, we are paid to create your financial plan, including an investment plan, and to monitor and adjust when your life changes! Not when the “media experts” get noisy. We are paid based on the value of your investment portfolio, knowing your portfolio will go up and down. (Our compensation declines when your portfolio drops but we wouldn’t be earning our keep if we told you to waiver from your plan just because of a dip in the market. Our calling as your financial educators and planners is to keep you focused on your plan and reaching for your goals and dreams.)

P.S. I don’t listen to Dr. Apple anymore. I do use my watch to listen to music. I don’t suggest you quit watching television, but I would say watching reruns of Andy Griffith, Leave it to Beaver or Boy Meets World may give you more useful information. Miss Crump, Mrs. Landers, and Mr. Feeney were very good teachers.

 

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A Trumpet Call of Freedom

Everyone knows that July 4th is “America’s birthday.”  It’s the commemoration of our national independence.  A day for fireworks and fun, patriotism and pie.  A celebration of America itself. 

But in a sense, the Fourth of July is even more than that. 

Two-hundred and forty-two years ago, a group of Americans gathered together to sign one of the most extraordinary documents ever written.  We’re referring, of course, to the Declaration of Independence.  Historians debate which day the signing actually took place, but in the grand scheme of things, details like that don’t matter. 

What matters is what came next. 

A Trumpet Call of Freedom

President John F. Kennedy explained it best in a speech he gave on July 4, 1962.1 Standing inside Independence Hall, the same place the founders gathered almost two centuries before, he said:

[The Declaration of Independence] was, above all else, a document not of rhetoric but of bold decision.  It was, it is true, a document of protest – but protests had been made before.  It set forth grievances with eloquence – but such eloquence had been heard before.  But what distinguished this paper from all the others was the final irrevocable decision that it took – to assert the independence of free States in place of colonies, and to commit to that goal their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. 

That Declaration, whose yellowing parchment and fading, almost illegible lines I saw in the past week in the National Archives in Washington, is still a revolutionary document.  To read it today is to hear a trumpet call.  For that Declaration unleashed not merely a revolution against the British, but a revolution in human affairs.  Its authors were highly conscious of its worldwide implications, and George Washington declared [later]that liberty and self-government everywhere were, in his words, ‘finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.’ 

This prophecy has been borne out.  For 186 years this doctrine of national independence has shaken the globe – and it remains the most powerful force anywhere in the world today.  There are those struggling to eke out a bare existence in a barren land who have never heard of free enterprise, but who cherish the idea of independence.  There are those who are grappling with overpowering problems of illiteracy and ill-health and who are ill-equipped to hold free elections.  But they are determined to hold fast to their national independence. 

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln spoke in this hall, [paying] a brief but eloquent tribute to the men who wrote, who fought for, and who died for the Declaration of Independence.  Its essence, he said, was its promise not only of liberty ‘to the people of this country, but hope to the world…hope that in due time, the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.’ 

The theory of independence is old as man himself, and was not invented in this hall.  But it was in this hall the theory became practice; that the word went out to all, in Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, that “the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time. 

When word first came out that the United Colonies were henceforth free and independent States, it didn’t stop at this country’s borders.  As if carried on the wind, it flew across oceans and over mountains.  It rang in valleys and swept across desert plains.  It penetrated walls and fortresses and iron curtains.  It launched revolutions and birthed democracies.  It was a trumpet call that reached every corner of the world – one that still echoes to this day. 

When we celebrate the Fourth of July, we’re observing more than just our nation’s birthday.  We’re commemorating an event that shook the world off its old axis.  We’re participating in a grand, ongoing experiment.  An experiment to maintain, to protect, to uphold certain truths – that all people are created equal.  

This Independence Day, take a moment to look over at your friends and family as they look to the skies.  And when the first glint of rockets reflects in their eyes, ask them if they hear it.  The word.  The prophecy.  The trumpet call. 

Because there’s no sound more beautiful. 

On behalf of all of us at Financial Concepts, we wish you a safe and happy Independence Day!

 

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24/7/365

 

We are all bombarded with information and headlines from various news organizations and social media platforms, 24 hours a day. The power of technology has put a world of information at our finger tips. We are all just one click away from infinite information at any given moment. The more eye-catching the headline the more likely we are to click, read, or watch. And unfortunately, the more dramatic or sensational the story, the better it sells, making it more likely we will tune in and stay glued to the screen. A recent Nielson & Pew Research Center study found that heavy cable TV news viewers watched an average of 72 minutes of news every day…or 26,280 minutes a year.

 

With a world of information readily available, it’s harder than ever to stay focused on our financial plans, plans that our built around our own individual goals and objectives, rather than reacting to the headline of today. We recently sent our clients an article by one of our favorite authors, Nick Murray. Nick takes a fascinating look at recent headlines compared to what actually happened. We loved how the article breaks down what the financial media reported compared to what actually happened, giving truthful context and perspective along the way. If you’d like a copy, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

For over 30 years, we have had the privilege of helping folks plan for their financial futures. Serving as our clients financial guide, we promise to help them stay focused on your long-term financial future instead of the latest headline. We know that this is sometimes easier said than done, and if you ever feel anxious or concerned about something you’ve read, seen, or heard, please know that we are just one phone call away, 662-327-1480.

 

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Did you know doing nothing is taking action?

We are bombarded every day with information that tells us we should be doing something with our money. But sometimes doing nothing is the most important action we can take.

 

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The Power of Gifting

The Power of Gifting

With Christmas just a few days away, it’s probably not a stretch to think that you may have last minute Christmas shopping on your mind. With gifting in mind, we want to quickly outline some of the benefits of investment-related gifting.

First of all, financial gifting can have both positive financial and also internally gratifying results. Gifting can be a great estate planning tool that allows you to transfer your wealth to others during your lifetime.

Another great part of gifting is that you can see the gift put to good use. Some of the non-tax related benefits include the joy of being able to see your recipient enjoy your generosity. This may be helping a child or grandchildren gain financial independence, or it could be seeing your favorite local charity put the funds to use to help those in need.

Another benefit is that you control the distribution of your property. You express how you want your property distributed after your death by executing a will. However, since you won't be around to see what actually happens (for example someone may disclaim your gift), you won't be able to react to any change in circumstances. Lifetime giving allows you to adjust your gifts to changing circumstances and, at the same time, provides the most control over how your estate is distributed.

One of the major financial benefits of gifting is the gift tax exclusion. The annual gift tax exclusion is a federal exclusion that allows you to give $14,000 in 2014 per donor to an unlimited number of recipients/charities/organizations without incurring federal gift and estate tax.

There are many advantages and benefits to gifting. Some are gratifying while others are financially beneficial. As you make your gifting plan, remember the true meaning of the season!

From all of us at Financial Concepts, we wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

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Cyber Security

October is synonymous with fall, Halloween, and more recently Breast Cancer Awareness, but what many don’t know is that October is fast becoming Cybersecurity Month.

With the internet becoming more prevalent worldwide in the last decade, it’s important for everyone to be secure when accessing the internet. There are many different ways your computer may be targeted. From using a credit card to purchase things from your favorite store online, to accessing the internet at the airport, there is potential for your computer to be targeted.

Most computers hold copies of important and private documents. Personal documents such as bank statements, birth certificates, and even something as innocent as your daily calendar can be useful to a person with malicious intent.

But don’t fret! There are some very simple, inexpensive ways to protect yourself against a cyber-break-in.

  • Use a prepaid debit card for online transactions
    • If there were a security breach and the prepaid card number was stolen, there would (ideally) be nothing left for them to take. If it were your personal debit card number, they would gain access to your entire account.
  • Invest in malware protection for your personal computer
    • In many cases, your local computer store or shop will have great recommendations for which malware protection software to buy based on your type of computer and what you use it for.
  • If you keep a calendar on your computer, keep it somewhat vague
    • Do this in whatever way works best for you. If you keep a calendar for meetings, try imputing either the first or last name of the person you’re meeting instead of both. Keep locations out of the description. If this isn’t possible, try investing in a password protected calendar.
  • Set a lock screen on your cell phone
    • Your phone holds lots of personal information, from text messages and emails, to the personal contacts of family and friends. Most lock screens employ a four digit passcode. This will deter someone from breaking into your phone and accessing your personal info.
  • Once you’re done with a site, log out
    • This will lessen the time window for someone or something to access your page. Even something as innocent as social media contains sensitive information. The security questions for lots of sites ask for your mother’s maiden name, first pet etc. Many times, this information is readily available to someone looking at your social media profile.
  • Never accept a free USB or device charger (cell phone, laptop, tablet etc.) from a stranger
    • This could be an attempt to gain access into your devices and corrupt your files.

For more information on this topic on protecting yourself visit www.dhs.gov/cybersecurity or www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/computer_protect.

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This site is only intended for clients and interested investors residing in states and countries in which Financial Concepts is qualified to conduct investment advisory services.
 
Financial Concepts is a registered investment adviser located in Columbus, MS. Financial Concepts may only transact business in those states or countries in which it is registered, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. For non-clients of the firm, Financial Concepts’ web site is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to its investment advisory services.
 

Please contact Financial Concepts at 662-327-1480 to find out if we may conduct advisory business in the state or country where you reside. Accordingly, Financial Concepts does not, and will not, effect or attempt to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, through this website. Any subsequent, direct communication with a prospective client shall be conducted by a Financial Concepts representative who is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state or country where the prospective client resides.