The Uncommon Average

The US stock market has delivered an average annual return of around 10% since 1926.[1] But short-term results may vary, and in any given period stock returns can be positive, negative, or flat. When setting expectations, it’s helpful to see the range of outcomes experienced by investors historically. For example, how often have the stock market’s annual returns actually aligned with its long-term average? Exhibit 1 shows calendar year returns for the S&P 500 Index since 1926. The shaded band marks the historical average of 10%, plus or minus 2 percentage points. The S&P 500 had a return within this…

Lessons for the Next Crisis

Over the coming weeks and months, as other anniversaries of major crisis-related events pass (for example, 10 years since the bank run on Northern Rock or 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers), there will likely be a steady stream of retrospectives on what happened as well as opinions on how the environment today may be similar or different from the period leading up to the crisis. It is difficult to draw useful conclusions based on such observations; financial markets have a habit of behaving unpredictably in the short run. There are, however, important lessons that investors might be…

INDEXING VS. EVIDENCE-BASED INVESTING

Many investors realize that an evidence-based investment approach offers many benefits when compared with an active investment approach. Evidence-based investing involves buying and holding market components, whereas an active investor or fund manager tries to pick the next winning stock or time where the market is headed next. An evidence-based approach offers these major benefits: By holding entire market components, the investor maximizes the benefits of diversification. By “tilting” the portfolio to riskier or less risky components, the investor can expect to capture the highest market return given his or her risk tolerance. The investor maintains control over his or…

EQUIFAX DATA BREACH: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

On Friday, Equifax, one of the major credit reporting bureaus, issued a press release announcing that on July 29 it had discovered “unauthorized access” to data belonging to as many as 143 million U.S. consumers. We have compiled some information that we hope may help you understand what happened and what to do next. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have specific questions. Equifax has stated its internal investigation determined no evidence of unauthorized activity on its core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases. However, the data accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth…

Health Savings Accounts: Are They Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Are health insurance premiums taking too big of a bite out of your budget? Do you wish you had better control over how you spend your health-care dollars? If so, you may be interested in an alternative to traditional health insurance called a health savings account (HSA). How does this health-care option work? An HSA is a tax-advantaged account that’s paired with a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Let’s look at how an HSA works with an HDHP to enable you to cover your current health-care costs and also save for your future needs. Before opening an HSA, you must first…

Market Gurus Mostly Strike Out….Again

Larry Swedroe At the start of each year, I compile a list of predictions that gurus have made for the upcoming year, along with some items I frequently hear from investors—sort of a consensus of “sure things.” I keep track of these sure things with a review at the end of each quarter. With the turn of the calendar, it’s time for our midyear review of 2017’s list. As is our practice, I’ll give a score of +1 for a forecast that came true, a score of -1 for one that was wrong and a 0 for one that was…

Social Security & Medicare Challenges Continue

Every year, the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds release reports to Congress on the current financial condition and projected financial outlook of these programs. The newest reports, released on July 13, 2017, discuss the ongoing financial challenges that both programs face, and project a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)  for 2018. What are the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds? Social Security: The Social Security program consists of two parts. Retired workers, their families, and survivors of workers receive monthly benefits under the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) program; disabled workers and their families receive monthly…

Changing Jobs? Know Your 401(k) Options

If you’ve lost your job, or are changing jobs, you may be wondering what to do with your 401(k) plan account. It’s important to understand your options. What will I be entitled to? If you leave your job (voluntarily or involuntarily), you’ll be entitled to a distribution of your vested balance. Your vested balance always includes your own contributions (pretax, after-tax, and Roth) and typically any investment earnings on those amounts. It also includes employer contributions (and earnings) that have satisfied your plan’s vesting schedule. In general, you must be 100% vested in your employer’s contributions after 3 years of…

The Three-Step Investor’s Guide to Navigating the Financial Advisory Fiduciary Ruling

by Tim Maurer, Director of Personal Finance, 3/7/2017 As an educator in the arena of personal finance, I generally avoid matters of public policy or politics because they tend to devolve into dogma and division, all too often leaving wisdom and understanding behind. But occasionally, an issue arises of such importance that I feel an obligation to advocate on behalf of those who don’t have a voice. The issue of the day revolves around a single word: “fiduciary.” The Department of Labor ruling effective June 9th, requires any financial advisor, stock broker or insurance agent directing a client’s retirement account to act…

The Broccoli and Pizza Portfolio

For some of us, it’s hard to give up on the idea that investing should be exciting. Picking stocks can be fun, after all, and there’s nothing like getting your timing right and bragging about it later with friends. For all the accumulated wisdom about asset allocation, risk, diversification, and discipline, some people seem bound to see investing as an end in itself rather than a means to an end. For these folks, picking stocks is a hobby. They follow the gurus and soak up the financial media. Despite evidence to the contrary, they’re convinced they can build a consistently…