FINANCIAL CONCEPTS BLOG

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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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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.