10 Percent Doesn’t Mean 10 Percent

10 Percent Doesn't Necessarily Mean 10 Percent

When it comes to stocks, 10 percent doesn’t necessarily mean 10 percent. We will explain this and how setting reasonable expectations can make you a better investor.

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When young financial advisors go to financial advisor school, one of the first things they are taught is the stock market has an average annual return of 10% per year. This leads people to believe the stock part of their investments are going to improve by 10% each year. But, 10% doesn’t mean 10%.

Only two times in the last 96 years have we seen stocks return close to 10% in a calendar year (10.06% in 1993, and 10.88% in 2004). It is more likely the positive years are going to be much better. And, there will also be some negative years, too.

When you’re thinking about what could happen in any given year, you should expect anything. In the short term, almost anything is possible. But over a long period of time—20 or 30 years—expecting stocks to return 10% per year is reasonable.

Setting Reasonable Expectations

It helps to set reasonable expectations when you’re an investor. It helps you to understand volatility is part of the process. And, we also know there will be difficult periods you have to navigate.

For example, you should expect the stock market to be positive three out of every four years. And, you should anticipate one year in four will be negative. Those plus years are likely to be much better than the 10% average annual mark. The average up year is about 21%. The negative years average -13%.

Corrections

You should also expect corrections to happen at least once a year. (We may be in the middle of one right now.) The average correction is about -14%. But even with those interruptions, the market has continued to improve over time.

Bear Markets

You should also expect bear markets. We had one last year, and it was an awful experience. But, the stock market recovered, and the recovery happened a lot faster than any of us anticipated.

When we set reasonable expectations, we can make better decisions about our investments. It keeps us from selling at bad times. It may keep us from buying at bad times as well. Avoiding those key mistakes can help us improve our real-life returns.

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About the Author

Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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How Can You Invest in Electric Vehicles?

How Can You Invest in Electric Vehicles?

How can you invest in electric vehicles? Today we discuss:

  • the two ways you can do this
  • the difference between the two
  • and a valuable lesson we can learn from one of the best-performing stocks over the last quarter-century, Amazon.

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How Can You Invest in Electric Vehicles?

This is a hot topic right now. More people are wanting to know how they can take part in this new and emerging technology.

Individual Stocks

The first way to invest in electric vehicles is to buy individual stocks. The most popular is Tesla. They have been making electric vehicles for a few years. The other major auto manufacturers are also getting involved in this. Both GM and Ford are committing billions of dollars to this technology. GM is also challenging Tesla on the battery front.

There are other companies in this industry. Nikola is developing battery-powered semi-trucks. And there are companies working on charging and battery components. Examples of those include Blink Charging and Plug Power.

There are also companies that manufacture the technology for the cars. Intel and Nvidia will also have a role in this emerging industry.

You can also look for investments in companies who focus on lithium. Batteries are a major component.

Mutual Funds or Exchange Traded Funds

The other way to invest in this industry is to use an exchange-traded fund or a mutual fund. The financial industry has been very innovative over the years. When industries like this emerge, they create a fund to focus on these companies. You can buy the fund instead of trying to pick individual stocks.

The Difference Between Using Stocks and Funds

The big difference between the two is the potential risk and reward.  Both ways of investing offer the opportunity to benefit from the growth of the industry. Both also experience a lot of volatility.

An individual company offers the potential for more reward, if you choose a good one. But when you pick the wrong one, you could lose more.

Using a fund reduces the potential gains. When you buy funds, you make smaller bets on a larger list of companies. Not all of them will be the big winner. You own shares of Tesla, GM, and Ford. You also may own shares of Nvidia and Intel.

The Lesson From Amazon

Amazon went public in May of 1997 in the middle of the dot-com boom. Since its offering, it has been one of the best-performing stocks over the last quarter-century. But early on, there was a lot of volatility.

In its first five years of existence, Amazon suffered significant price drops.

  • It fell more than 20% twice.
  • There were two 40% price drops.
  • One price drop exceeded 60%
  • And one time the price declined 90%!

Withstanding that much volatility takes a strong stomach and nerves of steel. Emerging technologies are not for the faint of heart.

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If you would like to consider an investment in electric vehicles, talk to a financial planner. They can help you understand how it fits within your plans and your goals.

 


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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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Short Squeeze? What the Heck Is That?

Short Squeeze? What the Heck is That?

What the heck is a “short squeeze”? With the recent activity in GameStop, clients have been asking about this.

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Buy Low-Sell High

To understand this, we have to start with the most basic premise of investing, buy low, sell high.” When investing, most people buy the investment first and hope it appreciates in value. Then you can sell it for a profit.

Short sellers have the same objective, but they do transactions in reverse. They sell at a high price with the hope of buying the stock at a lower price in the future. In a short sale, you normally don’t sell a stock you already own. Instead, you borrow the shares from somebody and sell them. 

Margin Loans

In the investment industry, these are margin loans. A margin loan requires capital up front to start the transaction. In some cases, that might be 50%. If you’re going to sell $10,000 worth of stock short, you have to have $5,000 cash in the account.

There is also a maintenance requirement. This is the amount of capital you must keep based on what happens with the share price of the stock that you sold. For some firms, the maintenance requirement is 30%.

Here is what happens if the stock price goes up suddenly like GameStop did. Our $100 stock goes to $200. Now you owe $20,000. Your maintenance requirement is 30%, but you only have $5,000 in the account—or 25%. This triggers a margin call, which means you must meet the maintenance requirement.

Why Borrow?

Borrowing creates leverage which can enhance your returns. It can also enhance your losses. Here is an example. You short sell 100 shares of a stock trading at $100 for $10,000. The stock price falls to $80 and you buy the shares.  You made $2,000 on this transaction.  Because you used leverage, your rate of return on this transaction is 40% ($2,000 profit divided by $5,000 capital).

What Happens When You Receive a Margin Call? The Short Squeeze

The short sellers can add cash to their trading accounts. But many companies do not have extra cash to add to their accounts. Many individuals will not have a lot of extra cash either. This forces short sellers to either buy the stock at a higher price or sell other positions to cover the margin call. This is the short squeeze.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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Investing vs. Speculating

Investing vs. Speculating

Today we are going to talk about the difference between investing and speculating.  

We have all heard about GameStop and some of the other companies. There were meteoric rises, significant drops, and prices went right back up. There is a lot of speculating and manipulation going on with this company. At the end of the week, it caused some extra volatility in the stock market.

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We want to cover a couple of different things today. First, let’s talk about the difference between investing and speculating.

Investing vs. Speculating

Investing is a long-term process that we use to build wealth over time.

Speculating is a short term bet to pursue a big payoff.

Investing —if you avoid key mistakes, and ride through some of the setbacks—has a high probability of success over long periods of time.

Speculating has a high probability of failure. But a big return potential.

Investing is a boring, uneventful process—most of the time. There are periods of absolute terror, like last spring.

Speculating is an adrenaline-pumping game. It is exciting and exhilarating.

Most of us want to be investors and pursue the long-term accumulation of wealth. It is fine to speculate from time to time. But understand you could lose everything you bet very quickly.

If you make big bets trying to time your entry points in and out of something like GameStop, you have a low chance of doing it well. You may have some temporary success, but at some point, things are going to go against you. Things can get very ugly before you have a chance to react.

If you want to be a speculator, go for it. Keep your bets small and only bet what you can afford to lose.

Anxiety in the Stock Market

These events are causing some temporary anxiety for the stock market. But there are big differences in what’s going on with these few companies and what most people try to do. The trading activity in companies like GameStop does not decrease the value of the other great businesses.

We’ve seen many temporary setbacks over the past 100 years. This may be another one.  For investors who own shares of good companies, stick with it, and don’t panic, things tend to work in their favor.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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A Stock Market Crash is Always Coming

A Stock Market Crash is Always Coming

A stock market crash is always coming.  

A good friend of mine sent me an article last week written by the folks at motleyfool.com. Four Reasons the Market will Crash in the Next Three Months.

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The reasons they gave were:

  • Increased restrictions due to the virus
  • The vaccine euphoria would evaporate. (Remember in the last quarter of 2020, the stock market got a big boost on the vaccine news.)
  • Democrats would win the two Senate races in the Georgia runoffs. (This already happened.)
  • And history repeating itself.

Here’s the truth about the stock market.  The stock market goes up, it goes down, and then it goes back up, again. There is always a crash of some magnitude coming.

Crashes are Normal

Your definition of a crash and my definition of a crash are probably two different things. To me, a crash is a significant drop. What we saw last spring, that was a crash. Others include:

  • The “dot com” bust
  • the Great Recession
  • 1987
  • And the end of 2018, when the market dropped almost 20% over the course of three months.

You can look at the data going back into the 1920s and see that market crashes happen all the time.

Annual Corrections

The average calendar year correction since 1980 is -14%. The smallest was -3%. And the small corrections are rarer than the bigger ones.

The largest was -47%. That happened back in 2008. Last year, the correction was -35%. It was the second-worst drop in the last 41 years.

These events happen regularly. What is more important is what happens after the crashes. The stock market’s total return in 2020. was +18.4% last year. It erased the losses and produced a gain of almost 20%!

A stock market crash is always coming

Over the last 41 years,

  • There has been a drop of -10% or more at least 23 times
  • the market has gone down by more than -14% 16 times
  • and the compounded average annual return over the 41-year timeframe is +11.9% per year.

Stop and think about what has happened over the last four decades.

Despite all that happened, the stock market rewarded investors with an 11.9% average annual return.

Don’t worry about the headlines. You can write these stories every month from here to eternity. The crashes are going to happen. History shows us time and time again, those who weather the storms are rewarded.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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Is Gold a Better Investment than Stocks?

Is Gold A Better Investment Than Stocks?

Is gold a better investment than stocks?  Wendy asks, “I keep hearing ads advising us to sell our stocks and buy gold or silver. For an older investor, is this a valid point?” 

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Gold Better iNvestment than stocks

Is gold a better investment than stocks?  

Gold is one of the ultimate fear assets. When things go haywire in the markets, people tend to turn to gold because it’s a tangible asset, and it has value everywhere.

We’re dealing with the possibility of hyperinflation. If that happens, gold could do very well. Another shutdown could increase the fear level of investors. Gold could also do well in that case. There are periods of time, like early 2020, where gold really shined.

Fact or Myth? Gold is safer than stocks

You have a gold bar locked in the safe. You paid $1,500 dollars for it. Unless you pay attention to gold prices, you know you have a gold bar and it has value. You may not know how much it’s worth, but it’s going to be worth something to somebody.

If you pulled it out earlier this year and thought to yourself, “I wonder how much this is worth?”, you discovered it was worth $2,000. Then, you put it back in the safe until next year. The next time you think about the bar, it could be worth $1,500. It could be worth $1,200.

Gold has extreme fluctuations in value, just like stocks. Let’s look at the last 13 years.

  • 2013 -28%
  • 2014 -2%
  • 2015 -10%
  • 2018 -2%.

Over the same timeframe, stocks were down

  • 2008 -37%
  • 2018 -4%.

Over 13 years, gold lost money four times, and stocks were down twice.

If you look at the last 48 calendar years, gold experienced declines 18 times. Stocks fell 11 times.

Gold is not a “safer asset” than stocks.

Is gold better than stocks?

Here is a link to a good article called, Gold’s Romantic Delusion. There’s a graph in that article which shows $10,000 invested in gold in 1980 versus $10,000 invested in stocks. On July 31 2020, the gold would have been worth about $36,000. Stocks would have been worth $761,000.

Is Gold Better Than Stocks

Source: Gold’s Romantic Delusion by Andrew Hallam.  Click here for the full article

Is it a better asset than stocks for older clients, or any client for that matter? In our opinion, no. The numbers say the opposite. Gold isn’t a bad investment, but I wouldn’t own gold instead of stocks.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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Should I Use My Savings To Pay Off my Mortgage?

Should I Use My Savings To Pay Off My Mortgage?

This question is from Karen. She asks, “With interest rates so low, we aren’t earning anything on our savings. I’m also worried about another significant drop in the stock market. Should I take money from my savings to pay off my mortgage?”

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There are two parts to this. One is eliminating debt. The other is what is the better use of your money?

Paying off debt is never a bad thing, especially as you get closer to retirement. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, the largest annual expenditure for people 50 and older is housing. If you can pay off your mortgage before you retire, it can help you have a more successful retirement.

There is also a huge psychological boost to being debt-free. What happens if the economy shuts down again and you get laid off? Not having a mortgage payment can reduce your stress. It’s less stressful knowing you don’t have to come up with $1,000 each month when you’re not working. We cannot underestimate the value of being debt-free.

What is the best way to do this? Here are some factors to consider. These apply whether you’re using a lump sum or paying extra on your principal. 

Compare interest rates

The first thing is to compare your current interest rate to what you earn on your savings and investments. If your mortgage interest rate is high, 4% or more, and you’re earning 0.75% (or less) on your savings, this decision is easy. The difference in the cost of your money compared to what you’re earning is significant. Using your savings to pay down or pay off your mortgage makes a lot of sense. If your interest rate is closer to 3%, and you’re invested in something that has a potential to earn 8%, the math changes.

Your age

The second factor is your age. For someone under 40, the value of compounded returns from investing can be better for your future. If you are closer to retirement, the benefit to paying off that mortgage is more valuable.

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How long will you live there?

Are you planning to stay in your house for a long period of time? If you’re planning to remain there for several years, paying off the mortgage makes more sense. If you’re planning to sell your home in the next 36 months, I’m not sure the answer is as clear. You may not want to pay off your mortgage if you plan to sell it in the very near future.

Tax costs

What are the potential tax costs to raise the funds to pay off your mortgage? Does that come from an IRA or a 401k? If it does, then the entire distribution can be taxable.

Here is an example. If you need $100,000 to pay off your mortgage, you may need to withdraw $133,000 from an IRA. The extra amount will cover the taxes. That is a very expensive way to pay off your mortgage.

Selling stock to pay off your mortgage can also result in a significant tax cost. Your sales proceeds are $100,000. You paid $50,000 for those shares. You will incur $7,500 in capital gains taxes and some additional state income tax. That is also an expensive way to pay off your mortgage.

If the money is in a savings account, there is no tax cost to use it for your mortgage.

Paying off debt is rarely a bad choice, but you need to look at it from all angles and make an intelligent choice.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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Is Doing Nothing The Right Thing To Do?

Is Doing Nothing the Right Thing to Do?

During a Bear Market, many investors are tempted to sell their stocks and move to cash.  Many financial advisors will tell them to sit tight, and ride out the storm.  Is “doing nothing” the right thing to do?  Today we’ll share some interesting data that shows that in the last market, doing nothing was better than panicking.

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We’ve already been through a lot this year. And we’re still dealing with a lot. We have an election coming up in a few weeks. The Coronavirus is still part of our lives. There are questions about another major shutdown. And there are some concerns with all the government help that there is going to be hyperinflation. There are a lot of things that could cause another bear market.

Doing nothing

When we have major turmoil, people want to do something to protect their nest egg. In every bear market, we’ve had people call and ask if they should go to cash. Our answer has always been no. Sit tight right through any storm we encounter.

We believe you will be better off if you don’t make an emotional decision. Doing nothing is hard to do. In fact, it’s the second hardest thing to do as an investor.

Inevitably, we will have someone who can’t take it anymore and bail out. During the “dot com” bust and the Great Recession, we had clients who sold their stocks within a week of the market bottom after the damage was done.

Cash panickers

Is doing nothing the right choice? Recently, Vanguard did a study during the bear market this spring. They looked at over 31,700 accounts, both retirement plans, like 401(k)’s, and retail accounts. They found that 0.5% of those accounts panicked and moved to cash between the market high on February 19 and the end of May.

They looked at two things. They looked at the actual returns of those clients at three different points: March 31, April 30th, and May 31. And they compared those to the returns those clients would have realized if they had done nothing. Here’s what they found.

By the end of March, 56% of those clients who went to cash were in a better place than if they had done nothing. This means they had a higher balance than if they stayed invested.

The stock market rebounded very quickly. By the end of April, only one third of those clients were in a better place.

By the end of May, only 15% of those clients had a higher balance by going to cash. 85% of those clients who panicked would have had better results if they did nothing.

85% of those clients who panicked would have had better results if they did nothing.

Selling low...

Why is that? Most of them didn’t guess the correct time to move to cash. You have to make that decision very early in the process, so you don’t take part in the downturn. A good number of them went to cash after a significant amount of the damage was done.

When the market turned around and moved higher, they missed a great buying opportunity. They didn’t participate in the rebound. Essentially what they did was sell low and bought at higher prices. This is the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do.

Is doing nothing the right thing
is doing nothing the right thing
is doing nothing the right thing

The cost of being wrong

If you sell now thinking things are going to get bad, you have to be aware that they may not get as bad as you think. For example, let’s take the 2016 election. I woke up that morning and saw that Donald Trump won the election and immediately turned to CNBC. The futures that morning showed that the Dow Jones Industrial Average was in for a rough day. When I got to work I had two calls before the market opened. These clients were extremely concerned about what was going to happen in the stock market. They thought it was going to be ugly.

By the time the market opened, futures were positive. Over the next several months, we saw the stock market race higher. Had those clients gone to cash, they would have missed that rally.

If things do get as bad as you believe, you might be right for a while— just like the folks in the Vanguard study. But will you have the confidence to buy at lower prices?

Most people think things are going to get worse before they get better. Stocks are forward looking. The stock market will turn around long before the economy turns around. Stocks will begin to increase long before people believe things will get better. If doing nothing is the second hardest thing to do, then buying stocks in the middle of a bear market is the hardest.

Vanguard found only 9% of those 31,000 accounts bought more stocks during the bear market.

If you have to...

If you’re convinced you need to go to cash, do it early. Do it before things get worse. We’ve already seen a minor pullback. Don’t wait until things are down 20% or more to sell. And you need to have a plan to buy at lower prices. You must have courage to buy when things look like they’re going to get much worse.

If you can’t make the decision to do both of those things, then do nothing. Sit tight and ride out the storm.

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Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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Can A Trust Protect Your Assets If You go to a Nursing Home?

Can a Trust Protect Your Assets if You Go to a Nursing Home?

Shirley asks, “Can my Mom use a trust to protect her assets if she has to go to a nursing home?”   This question deals with planning for Medicaid.  

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Do you want to hear the full show?

The full episode is over 25 minutes long.  And we’ve found that not everyone wants to spend that much time listening to things.  But if you want to listen to the entire episode, it is below.

We answer:

  • What should I do with my old retirement plan? 
  • Can I use a trust to protect Mom’s assets if she goes to a nursing home?
  • Should I use my employer’s new Roth 401k option?
  • How do I use my savings to create retirement income?
  • Can I make the maximum contribution to both a Roth IRA and the Thrift savings plan?

Transcript: Can a Trust Protect Your Assets if You Go to a Nursing Home?

This question deals with planning for Medicaid. Medicaid is for people who have no financial resources. And to qualify, you have to spend what you have for your own benefit first. It’s basically welfare for healthcare.

Protecting assets

Oftentimes, people want to transfer money to a trust or give it away to protect those assets for their kids. They would rather their kids have it than a nursing home.

Here’s how this works, especially if you’re going to use a trust. The trust needs to be irrevocable, which means your mother is no longer going to own her assets. She’s no longer going to control her assets, and she can no longer benefit directly from the assets. This poses its own challenges.

The look back

The transfer also needs to be done at least five years in advance of applying for Medicaid. Most states have a 60-month look back. If you don’t wait for the 60 months, Medicaid will ask you to pay for your own care for a while.

Here’s an example. Your mother transfers $100,000 fewer than 60 months before she applies for Medicaid.  Medicaid is going to ask her to pay for that much of her own care. 

Medicaid says the monthly amount for her care is $9,000.  This is the offset amount. Medicaid is going to ask her to pay for 11 months of care ($100,000 divided by $9,000) before they pay for anything.

To make this work, you have to be thinking way ahead. Transfers need to be done at least five years before you apply for benefits.

Other considerations

In most cases, you want to look at carving off a portion of those assets. Your mother is still going to have to live and she still has needs. She will need her assets to provide some income. Restricting all her money is not a good idea.

She also has to be comfortable with the idea that she’s giving up control of the assets. That’s difficult for a lot of people.

Work with an expert

Medicaid planning is very complex, and very involved. There are attorneys who specialize in this and you’re going to want to get them involved. It’s not something you want to do on your own.

We would be happy to recommend some local experts to help you address your concerns.

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About the Author

Neal Watson is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and a Financial Advisor with Fleming Watson Financial Advisors.    He specializes in helping hard working, middle class families plan for retirement.

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