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Managing Bond Risks When Interest Rates Rise

After dropping the benchmark federal funds rate to a rock-bottom range of 0%–0.25% early in the pandemic, the Federal Open Market Committee has begun raising the rate toward more typical historical levels in response to high inflation. At its March 2022 meeting, the Committee raised the funds rate to 0.25%–0.50% and projected the equivalent of … Read more

There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2021

Making a last-minute contribution to an IRA may help you reduce your 2021 tax bill. If you qualify, your traditional IRA contribution may be tax deductible. And if you had low to moderate income and meet eligibility requirements, you may also be able to claim the Saver’s Credit for 2021 based on your contributions to … Read more

5 Reasons to Consult a Financial Planner on New Tax Legislation

            5 Reasons to Consult a Financial Planner on New Tax Legislation The new tax legislation proposed will undoubtedly impact the tax responsibilities of those individuals and families who have multi-generational wealth.  While the highest impact will be seen generally for our ultra-high-net-worth and highest-earning clients, at Ballast Advisors we … Read more

INFOGRAPHIC: 5 Facts about Retirement Savings

In general, workers seem to begin preparing for retirement almost as soon as they get their first job. However, according to the 2021 Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), retirement preparations do vary a bit by age group. Let’s look at Ages 45-54 with our infographic “5 Facts About Planning for Retirement”

5 Facts about retirement ages 45-54 - Ballast ADvisors - Inforgraphic

Rising Inflation: Where Will It Go from Here?

Though all economists expect inflation numbers to rise in the near term, there are different views on the potential long-term effects.

Rising Inflation

In March 2021, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.6%, the largest one-month increase since August 2012. Over the previous 12 months, the increase was 2.6%, the highest year-over-year inflation rate since August 2018. (By contrast, inflation in 2020 was just 1.4%.)1

The annual increase in CPI-U — often called headline inflation — was due in part to the fact that the index dropped in March 2020, the beginning of the U.S. economic shutdown in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the current 12-month comparison is to an unusual low point in prices. The index dropped even further in April 2020, and this “base effect” will continue to skew annual data through June.2

The monthly March increase, which followed a substantial 0.4% increase in February, is more indicative of the current situation. Economists expect inflation numbers to rise for some time. The question is whether they represent a temporary anomaly or the beginning of a more worrisome inflationary trend.3

Measuring Prices

In considering the prospects for inflation, it’s important to understand some of the measures that economists use.

CPI-U measures the price of a fixed market basket of goods and services. As such, it is a good measure of prices consumers pay if they buy the same items over time, but it does not reflect changes in consumer behavior and can be unduly influenced by extreme increases in specific categories. Nearly half of the March increase was due to gasoline prices, which rose 9.1% during the month, in part because of production interruptions caused by severe winter storms in Texas.4 Core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3% in March and just 1.6% year over year.5

In setting economic policy, the Federal Reserve prefers a different inflation measure called the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index, which is even broader than the CPI and adjusts for changes in consumer behavior — i.e., when consumers shift to purchase a different item because the preferred item is too expensive. More specifically, the Fed looks at core PCE, which rose 0.4% in March and 1.8% for the previous 12 months, slightly higher than core CPI but still lower than the Fed’s target of 2% for healthy economic growth.6

A Hot Economy

Based on the core numbers, inflation is not yet running high, but there are clear inflationary pressures on the U.S. economy. Loose monetary policies by the central bank and trillions of dollars in government stimulus could create excess money supply as the economy reopens. Pent-up consumer demand for goods and services is likely to rise quickly, fueled by stimulus payments and healthy savings accounts built by those who worked through the pandemic with little opportunity to spend their earnings. Businesses that shut down or cut back when the economy was closed may not be able to ramp up quickly enough to meet demand. Supply-chain disruptions and higher costs for raw materials, transportation, and labor have already led some businesses to raise prices.7

According to the April Wall Street Journal Economic Forecasting Survey, gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to increase at an annualized rate of 8.4% in the second quarter of 2021 and by 6.4% for the year — a torrid annual growth rate that would be the highest since 1984. As with the base effect for inflation, it’s important to keep in mind that this follows a 3.5% GDP decline in 2020. Even so, the expectation is for a hot economy through the end of the year, followed by solid 3.2% growth in 2022 before slowing down to 2.4% in 2023.8-9

Three Scenarios

Will the economy get too hot to handle? Though all economists expect inflation numbers to rise in the near term, there are three different views on the potential long-term effects.

The most sanguine perspective, held by many economic policymakers including Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, is that the impact will be short-lived and due primarily to the base effect with little or no long-term consequences.10 Inflation has been abnormally low since the Great Recession, consistently lagging the Fed’s 2% target. In August 2020, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced that it would allow inflation to run moderately above 2% for some time in order to create a 2% average over the longer term. Given this policy, the FOMC is unlikely to raise interest rates unless core PCE inflation runs well above 2% for an extended period.11 The mid-March FOMC projection sees core PCE inflation at just 2.2% by the end of 2021, and the benchmark federal funds rate remaining at 0.0% to 0.25% through the end of 2023.12

The second view believes that inflation may last longer, with potentially wider consequences, but that any effects will be temporary and reversible. The third perspective is that inflation could become a more extended problem that may be difficult to control. Both camps project that the base effects will be amplified by “demand-pull” inflation, where demand exceeds supply and pushes prices upward. The more extreme view believes this might lead to a “cost-push” effect and inflationary feedback loop where businesses, faced with less competition and higher costs, would raise prices preemptively, and workers would demand higher wages in response.13

Maintaining Perspective

Although it’s too early to tell whether current inflation numbers will lead to a longer-term shift, you can expect higher prices for some items as the economy reopens. Consumers don’t like higher prices, but it’s important to keep these increases in perspective. Gasoline, jet fuel, and other petroleum prices are rising after being deeply depressed during the pandemic. Airline ticket prices are increasing but remain below their pre-pandemic level. Used cars and trucks are more expensive than before the pandemic, but clothing is still cheaper.14 Food is up 3.5% over the last 12 months, a significant increase but not extreme for prices that tend to be volatile.15

For now, it may be helpful to remember that “headline inflation” does not always represent the larger economy. And with interest rates near zero, the Federal Reserve has plenty of room to make any necessary adjustments to monetary policy.

Projections are based on current conditions, are subject to change, and may not come to pass.

1, 5, 15) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021
2-4, 7) The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021
6, 9) U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2021
8) The Wall Street Journal Economic Forecasting Survey, April 2021
10, 13) Bloomberg, March 29, 2021
11) The Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2021
12) Federal Reserve, 2021
14) The New York Times, April 13, 2021
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2021

 

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES The opinions expressed herein are those of Ballast Advisors, LLC and are subject to change without notice. The third-party material presented is derived from sources Ballast Advisors consider to be reliable, but the accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Nothing contained herein is an offer to purchase or sell any product. This material is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Ballast Advisors reserve the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about the firm, including its services, strategies, and fees can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available without charge upon request.

A Retirement Income Roadmap for Women

It’s important for you to be involved in the retirement income planning process even if you’re married. While you may plan to be married forever, many women end up single at some point in their lives due to divorce or death of a spouse. All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.

More women are working and taking charge of their own retirement planning than ever before. What does retirement mean to you? Do you dream of traveling? Pursuing a hobby? Volunteering your time, or starting a new career or business? Simply enjoying more time with your grandchildren? Whatever your goal, you’ll need a retirement income plan that’s designed to support the retirement lifestyle that you envision, and minimize the risk that you’ll outlive your savings.

When will you retire?

Establishing a target age is important, because when you retire will significantly affect how much you need to save. For example, if you retire early at age 55 as opposed to waiting until age 67, you’ll shorten the time you have to accumulate funds by 12 years, and you’ll increase the number of years that you’ll be living off of your retirement savings. Also consider:

• The longer you delay retirement, the longer you can build up tax-deferred funds in your IRAs and employer-sponsored plans such as 401(k)s, or accrue benefits in a traditional pension plan if you’re lucky enough to be covered by one.

• Medicare generally doesn’t start until you’re 65. Does your employer provide post-retirement medical benefits? Are you eligible for the coverage if you retire early? Do you have health insurance coverage through your spouse’s employer? If not, you may have to look into COBRA or a private individual policy — which could be expensive.

• You can begin receiving your Social Security retirement benefit as early as age 62. However, your benefit may be 25% to 30% less than if you waited until full retirement age. Conversely, if you delay retirement past full retirement age, you may be able to increase your Social Security retirement benefit.

• If you work part-time during retirement, you’ll be earning money and relying less on your retirement savings, leaving more of your savings to potentially grow for the future (and you may also have access to affordable health care).

• If you’re married, and you and your spouse are both employed and nearing retirement age, think about staggering your retirements. If one spouse is earning significantly more than the other, then it usually makes sense for that spouse to continue to work in order to maximize current income and ease the financial transition into retirement.

How long will retirement last?

We all hope to live to an old age, but a longer life means that you’ll have even more years of retirement to fund. The problem is particularly acute for women, who generally live longer than men. To guard against the risk of outliving your savings, you’ll need to estimate your life expectancy. You can use government statistics, life insurance tables, or life expectancy calculators to get a reasonable estimate of how long you’ll live. Experts base these estimates on your age, gender, race, health, lifestyle, occupation, and family history. But remember, these are just estimates. There’s no way to predict how long you’ll actually live, but with life expectancies on the rise, it’s probably best to assume you’ll live longer than you expect.

Project your retirement expenses

Once you know when your retirement will likely start, how long it may last, and the type of retirement lifestyle you want, it’s time to estimate the amount of money you’ll need to make it all happen. One of the biggest retirement planning mistakes you can make is to underestimate the amount you’ll need to save by the time you retire. It’s often repeated that you’ll need 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income after you retire. However, the problem with this approach is that it doesn’t account for your specific situation. Focus on your actual expenses today and think about whether they’ll stay the same, increase, decrease, or even disappear by the time you retire. While some expenses may disappear, like a mortgage or costs for commuting to and from work, other expenses, such as health care and insurance, may increase as you age. If travel or hobby activities are going to be part of your retirement, be sure to factor in these costs as well. And don’t forget to take into account the potential impact of inflation and taxes.

Identify your sources of income

Once you have an idea of your retirement income needs, your next step is to assess how prepared you (or you and your spouse) are to meet those needs. In other words, what sources of retirement income will be available to you? Your employer may offer a traditional pension that will pay you monthly benefits. In addition, you can likely count on Social Security to provide a portion of your retirement income. Other sources of retirement income may include a 401(k) or other retirement plan, IRAs, annuities, and other investments. The amount of income you receive from those sources will depend on the amount you invest, the rate of investment return, and other factors. Finally, if you plan to work during retirement, your earnings will be another source of income.

When you compare your projected expenses to your anticipated sources of retirement income, you may find that you won’t have enough income to meet your needs and goals. Closing this difference, or “gap,” is an important part of your retirement income plan. In general, if you face a shortfall, you’ll have five options: save more now, delay retirement or work during retirement, try to increase the earnings on your retirement assets, find new sources of retirement income, or plan to spend less during retirement.

A 65-year-old woman is expected to live another 20.8 years, compared with 19.6 years for a man. (Source: NCHS Data Brief, Number 395, December 2020) *Generally, annuity contracts have fees and expenses, limitations, exclusions, holding periods, termination provisions, and terms for keeping the annuity in force. Most annuities have surrender charges that are assessed if the contract owner surrenders the annuity

Transitioning into retirement

Even after that special day comes, you’ll still have work to do. You’ll need to carefully manage your assets so that your retirement savings will last as long as you need them to.

• Review your portfolio regularly. Traditional wisdom holds that retirees should value the safety of their principal above all else. For this reason, some people shift their investment portfolio to fixed income investments, such as bonds and money market accounts, as they enter retirement. The problem with this approach is that you’ll effectively lose purchasing power if the return on your investments doesn’t keep up with inflation. While it generally makes sense for your portfolio to become progressively more conservative as you grow older, it may be wise to consider maintaining at least a portion in growth investments.

• Spend wisely. You want to be careful not to spend too much too soon. This can be a great temptation, particularly early in retirement. A good guideline is to make sure your annual withdrawal rate isn’t greater than 4% to 6% of your portfolio. (The appropriate percentage for you will depend on a number of factors, including the length of your payout period and your portfolio’s asset allocation.) Remember that if you whittle away your principal too quickly, you may not be able to earn enough on the remaining principal to carry you through the later years.

Understand your retirement plan distribution options. Most pension plans pay benefits in the form of an annuity. If you’re married, you generally must choose between a higher retirement benefit that ends when your spouse dies, or a smaller benefit that continues in whole or in part to the surviving spouse. A financial professional can help you with this difficult, but important, decision.

• Consider which assets to use first. For many retirees, the answer is simple in theory: withdraw money from taxable accounts first, then tax-deferred accounts, and lastly, tax-free accounts. By using your tax-favored accounts last and avoiding taxes as long as possible, you’ll keep more of your retirement dollars working for you. However, this approach isn’t right for everyone. And don’t forget to plan for required distributions. You must generally begin taking minimum distributions from employer retirement plans and traditional IRAs when you reach age 72, whether you need them or not. Plan to spend these dollars first in retirement.

Consider purchasing an immediate annuity. Annuities are able to offer something unique — a guaranteed income stream for the rest of your life or for the combined lives of you and your spouse (although that guarantee is subject to the claims-paying ability and financial strength of the issuer). The obvious advantage in the context of retirement income planning is that you can use an annuity to lock in a predictable annual income stream, not subject to investment risk, that you can’t outlive.*

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to retirement income planning. A financial professional can review your circumstances, help you sort through your options, and help develop a plan that’s right for you.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2021

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES The opinions expressed herein are those of Ballast Advisors, LLC and are subject to change without notice. The third-party material presented is derived from sources Ballast Advisors consider to be reliable, but the accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Nothing contained herein is an offer to purchase or sell any product. This material is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Ballast Advisors reserve the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about the firm, including its services, strategies, and fees can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available without charge upon request.

Advanced Estate Planning Concepts for Women

As you plan your estate, it is important to consider the tax implications. This can range from planning for the income tax basis of your property, to the gift tax, estate tax, and generation-skipping transfer tax potentially applicable to transfers of your property.

You will need to think about the disposition of your assets at your death and any tax implications. Statistically speaking, women live longer than men. So if you are married, you’ll also probably have the last word about the final disposition of all of the assets you’ve accumulated during your marriage. You’ll want to consider whether these concepts and strategies apply to your specific circumstances.

Transfer taxes

When you transfer your property during your lifetime or at your death, your transfers may be subject to federal gift tax, federal estate tax, and federal generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax. (The top estate and gift tax rate is 40%, and the GST tax rate is 40%.) Your transfers may also be subject to state taxes.

Federal gift tax

Gifts you make during your lifetime may be subject to federal gift tax. Not all gifts are subject to the tax, however. You can make annual tax-free gifts of up to $15,000 per recipient. Married couples can effectively make annual tax-free gifts of up to $30,000 per recipient. You can also make tax-free gifts for qualifying expenses paid directly to educational or medical services providers. And you can also make deductible transfers to your spouse and to charity. There is a basic exclusion amount that protects a total of up to $11,700,000 (in 2021, $11,580,000 in 2020) from gift tax and estate tax.

Federal estate tax

Property you own at death is subject to federal estate tax. As with the gift tax, you can make deductible transfers to your spouse and to charity, and there is a basic exclusion amount that protects up to $11,700,000 (in 2021, $11,580,000 in 2020) from tax.

Portability

The estate of someone who dies in 2011 or later can elect to transfer any unused applicable exclusion amount to his or her surviving spouse (a concept referred to as portability). The surviving spouse can use this deceased spousal unused exclusion amount (DSUEA), along with the surviving spouse’s own basic exclusion amount, for federal gift and estate tax purposes. For example, if someone died in 2011 and the estate elected to transfer $5,000,000 of the unused exclusion to the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse effectively has an applicable exclusion amount of about $16,700,000 ($11,700,000 basic exclusion amount plus $5,000,000 DSUEA) to shelter transfers from federal gift or estate tax in 2021.

Federal generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax

The federal GST tax generally applies if you transfer property to a person two or more generations younger than you (for example, a grandchild). The GST tax may apply in addition to any gift or estate tax. Similar to the gift tax provisions above, annual exclusions and exclusions for qualifying educational and medical expenses are available for GST tax. You can protect up to $11,700,000 (in 2021, $11,580,000 in 2020) with the GST tax exemption.

Indexing for inflation

The annual gift tax exclusion, the gift tax and estate tax basic exclusion amount, and the GST tax exemption are all indexed for inflation and may increase in future years.

Income tax basis

Generally, if you give property during your life, your basis (generally, what you paid for the property, with certain up or down adjustments) in the property for federal income tax purposes is carried over to the person who receives the gift. So, if you give your $1 million home that you purchased for $50,000 to your brother, your $50,000 basis carries over to your brother — if he sells the house immediately, income tax will be due on the resulting gain.

In contrast, if you leave property to your heirs at death, they get a “stepped-up” (or “stepped-down”) basis in the property equal to the property’s fair market value at the time of your death. So, if the home that you purchased for $50,000 is worth $1 million when you die, your heirs get the property with a basis of $1 million. If they then sell the home for $1 million, they pay no federal income tax.

Lifetime giving

Making gifts during one’s life is a common estate planning strategy that can also serve to minimize transfer taxes. One way to do this is to take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion, which lets you give up to $15,000 (in 2020 and 2021) to as many individuals as you want gift tax free. As noted above, there are several other gift tax exclusions and deductions that you can take advantage of. In addition, when you gift property that is expected to appreciate in value, you remove the future appreciation from your taxable estate. In some cases, it may even make sense to make taxable gifts to remove the gift tax from your taxable estate as well.

Women live an average of 5.1 years longer than men.* That’s important because it means that there’s a greater chance that you’ll need your assets to last for a longer period of time. Keep this in mind when you consider making lifetime gifts. Property you give away is no longer available to you. *NCHS Data Brief, No. 395, December 2020.

Trusts

There are a number of trusts that are often used in estate planning. Here is a quick look at a few of them.

• Revocable trust.

You retain the right to change or revoke a revocable trust. A revocable trust can allow you to try out a trust, provide for management of your property in case of your incapacity, and avoid probate at your death.

• Marital trusts.

A marital trust is designed to qualify for the marital deduction. Typically, one spouse gives the other spouse an income interest for life, the right to access principal in certain circumstances, and the right to designate who receives the trust property at his or her death. In a QTIP variation, the spouse who created the trust can retain the right to control who ultimately receives the trust property when the other spouse dies. A marital trust is included in the gross estate of the spouse with the income interest for life.

• Credit shelter bypass trust.

The first spouse to die creates a trust that is sheltered by his or her applicable exclusion amount. The surviving spouse may be given interests in the trust, but the interests are limited enough that the trust is not included in his or her gross estate.

• Grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT).

You retain a right to a fixed stream of annuity payments for a number of years, after which the remainder passes to your beneficiaries, such as your children. Your gift of a remainder interest is discounted for gift tax purposes.

• Charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT).

You retain a stream of payments for a number of years (or for life), after which the remainder passes to charity. You receive a current charitable deduction for the gift of the remainder interest.

• Charitable lead annuity trust (CLAT).

A fixed stream of annuity payments benefits a charity for a number of years, after which the remainder passes to your noncharitable beneficiaries, such as your children. Your gift of a remainder interest is discounted for gift tax purposes.

Life insurance

Life insurance plays a part in many estate plans. In a small estate, life insurance may actually create the estate and be the primary financial resource for your surviving family members. Life insurance can also be used to provide liquidity for your estate, for example, by providing the cash to pay final expenses, outstanding debts, and taxes, so that other assets don’t have to be liquidated to pay these expenses. Life insurance proceeds can generally be received income tax free. Life insurance that you own on your own life will generally be included in your gross estate for federal estate tax purposes. However, it is possible to use an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) to keep the life insurance proceeds out of your gross estate. With an ILIT, you create an irrevocable trust that buys and owns the life insurance policy. You make cash gifts to the trust, which the trust uses to pay the policy premiums. (The trust beneficiaries are offered a limited period of time to withdraw the cash gifts.) If structured properly, the trust receives the life insurance proceeds when you die, tax free, and distributes the funds according to the terms of the trust.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2021

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES The opinions expressed herein are those of Ballast Advisors, LLC and are subject to change without notice. The third-party material presented is derived from sources Ballast Advisors consider to be reliable, but the accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Nothing contained herein is an offer to purchase or sell any product. This material is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Ballast Advisors reserve the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Ballast Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about the firm, including its services, strategies, and fees can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available without charge upon request.

Now is a Fantastic Time to Review Your IPS

An Investment Policy Statement is your guardrail to keep you on your path to retirement.

When markets near high records, you wonder, “Is this a bubble?” When markets dive, you wonder, “Is this a crash?” Your biggest question: How do you keep your head on the recent Wall Street rollercoaster?

After one of the most spectacular recoveries in recent years (from the bottom in late March 2020 to present day) both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 continue to notch record highs – enough whipsawing to make your neck and your retirement accounts ache.

There’s an effective medium, though, between doing nothing and panicky trading. These guidelines can keep you level-headed even while the markets twist and turn (which they always will).

Your Investment Policy Statement

Revisit or develop your investment policy statement at the beginning of every year. An IPS describes procedures, your investment philosophy and style, guidelines and constraints for you and your advisor to manage your investments.

An IPS serves as your guardrail so you don’t veer all over, chasing investments or changing your strategy as markets change.

To begin creating your IPS, write down your key investing goal and the year in which you hope to reach it. If this goal will take you years (such as funding your retirement or paying for a child’s college education), try to figure your own longevity – then add a few more years. Quantify how much your goal costs and remember to adjust the cost upward to reflect inflation’s likely future impact.

Next, set your asset allocation targets for investments. Your IPS needs to fix a range for your asset allocation rather than a static figure for each class. This increases your options for making investment decisions if the markets rise or dip just a little.

Finally, document specifically the market conditions that will spur you to make investment decisions. That way you’ll know what to do and exactly when – not just when your emotions move you.

Consider Index Funds

These are diversified buckets of holdings that follow general market rises and falls. The odds of one or a few companies dropping to zero at the same time are slim. The odds of all the companies going to zero at the same time in an index are practically non-existent.

You may reduce your worries about losing your money – although index values still go up and down – as well as grow comfortable with changing values and learn how to rein in your exposure to those changes.

Investing in more than one index is also a basic part of protecting your portfolio with diversification and asset allocation (two different tactics).

Three More Tips

Further, consider these three tips:

1. Forget about predicting the future. Correctly guessing one event is lucky. Nailing 10 events – that’s prediction. Nobody accomplishes that regarding the markets. Approach investing with no predictions: Being wrong can carry huge costs.

2. Develop a prudent plan. Include structured processes with decision rules to guide you and that already consider markets always going up and down. The degree of ups and downs you weather depends largely on your tolerance and capacity for risk.

3. Customize your portfolio. Base it on the principles above and tailor it to you and your situation. Don’t invest based on chit-chat around the (virtual) water cooler, structuring financial moves based on someone else’s situation and needs. To do so sends you chasing investments that are merely hot and not necessarily what’s prudent for you.

Combining and using these principles can provide you some comfort during any market.

Copyright © 2021 AIQ. All rights reserved. Distributed by Financial Media Exchange

Retirement Education

It’s never too early to start saving for your retirement – but it can be too late. Find out why you need to start saving for your retirement now in this video