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“Have you enjoyed your money?” And other financial planning questions you should ask yourself in 2021

By Paul Parnell

Photo of Paul Parnell

“Have you enjoyed your money?” This is a question I often ask my clients. Too often I see investors who work and save diligently for a lifetime and yet never actually enjoy the fruits of their labor.  

After a year of life in a pandemic, I’m seeing a shift, and more families are taking time to reevaluate their priorities in terms of how they truly want to spend their time and money. Here are some common questions and points of consideration to reflect on for your personal financial plan.

Have you reevaluated any major priorities?

For example, I have clients say they plan to travel more once things open again. Some desire to move closer to family, to downsize, to retire earlier. Sadly, there have been many stark reminders this year that life is short, and our health is never guaranteed.  I see families that are more reflective on leaving a legacy and making significant changes to their trusts to protect their assets.

Any effective financial plan must take these elements into consideration.

Did the pandemic impact your job or career?

Early retirement, a career change, or job loss means impact to employee benefits that are tied to your long-term goals.

Specifically, Cobra was extended again – for at least another 6 months beyond May. This offers the unemployed more time to find new work and maintain their healthcare benefits – an important component of your financial plan. Accordingly, if you’ve lost your job, you may need to evaluate whether or not you can benefit from rolling your 401K over to an individual retirement account.

Volatility in the markets over the last year impacted executive compensation plans. It’s important to reevaluate your stock options, RSUs, or any additional incentives for consequences.

I am also seeing that, for people who have retained their jobs, many have accumulated more cash reserves than normal. If your cash reserve is beyond the recommended 3-6 months of expenses, you should consider shifting some to longer term investments.

Has your risk tolerance changed?

Risk tolerance often changes when you go through major life events. I’ve heard clients say, “Life too short and I want to retire early,” and they are willing to buckle down and live on less in retirement.

Meet with your financial planner and evaluate your current risk tolerance. Is it enough to maintain a high probability of your assets lasting? Cash and more conservative investments like CD’s aren’t paying much of anything these days. With interest rates so low, and plans for new economic expansion, historically this is a time to be more aggressive. Ensure that your portfolio is balanced to meet your future goals.

How might taxes impact your financial plan?

There are likely some big tax law changes coming over the next couple years. This is the time to be looking at tax shelters and maximizing your retirement plans, if you can. At Ballast Advisors, we also have an affiliated CPA practice, so this is a comprehensive service we may offer our clients.  We work with our client’s other advisors—including accountants, attorneys, and bankers—to ensure the seamless execution of your plan.

Capital Gains tax are likely to increase to historical levels, and this is something to be planning for earlier than perhaps you had planned. It’s something to be watching very carefully.

Questions and Answers

Any successful investment strategy requires getting to know our clients- to understand their dreams, goals and create a complete picture of their financial situation. 

Anytime you have major life change or shift priorities – be they personal or financial –your financial plan needs to reflect those changes. It is equally important to update your estate plan. It’s important to consult with your financial professionals to ensure that you are on track to meet your goals, no matter what life brings.

Whatever your passion is – from travel to grandkids – make sure you build in a plan to enjoy your money.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES The opinions expressed herein are those of Ballast Advisors, LLC and are subject to change without notice.  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.

 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.

How Do Presidential Elections Impact The Stock Market?

If there was one word for 2020, it very well might be “uncertainty” — rarely a positive noun in the investment world.  Global pandemic aside, a presidential election is traditionally a time for some uncertainty among investors to the degree they believe a president’s party or policies can shift the market.

However, data suggests that degree of influence an election result has on the market is not always so clear. There have been 17 presidential elections since 1950, and each comes with unique variables that may impact market performance.  Collecting and organizing the data from these elections is made easier using YCharts, a leading research firm for financial advisors based in Chicago, IL. “YCharts allows Ballast Advisors to collect historical data, like election data, export it to an Excel spreadsheet for analysis and detecting trends, and present it in a way that is easy to digest for clients,” says Steve Schmidt, a partner at Ballast Advisors.  Schmidt makes it clear that the data and graphs from YCharts are meant to provide context, not as investment advice. Past performance should never be used to indicate future results.

“We often hear from our clients during an election cycle,” says Schmidt. “They often have concerns about the impact of an election on their financial plans.”  While every investor is different, Steve Schmidt and the professionals at Ballast Advisors have taken the time to answer three common questions heard from investors during this election

How differently do markets perform when a Democrat or Republican candidate is leading in major polls?

According to trends observed in the data from YCharts, when presidential candidates are “tied” in polling, the S&P 500 daily and cumulative returns are negative. On average, the trends in the YCharts data reveals the market tends to favor a Republican candidate leading the major polls.

“Keep in mind, leads in political polls often vary depending on the source of the poll,” said Schmidt, “polls are not an exact science, and may also have inherit bias depending on the targeted participants of the poll.”

S&P 500 Performance By Party Leading Polls

Two strong examples of this pattern: S&P 500 percent change under poll leaders in the 1988 and 2000 U.S. Presidential elections. See disclosures below.

Does the market react differently when a Republican or Democrat candidate is elected?

Although, historically the market may initially react favorably to a Republican candidate because of the belief that their policies are more “Business friendly” and therefore more stock-market favorable versus Democrat candidates. However, data demonstrates that once a president takes office, in the long run the market has performed better under Democratic presidents on average.

“Today’s economic conditions and thus, market performance, is often a cumulative effect that can be a decade in the making,” Schmidt says. “Today’s economy often stems from the work of both current and previous administrations combined.”

How have other major asset classes performed under recent presidents?

According to YChart data, U.S. and Emerging Market Equities have been among the best performing major asset classes since Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. In the last 30 years under four different presidents, U.S. and International Equities handily outperformed under Democrats, and Emerging markets have slightly outperformed under the Republican presidents (Performance through Set 14, 2020 for Donald Trump).

“At the end of the day,” Schmidt reminds us, “markets fluctuate for a host of reasons, many of which are misunderstood by seasoned investors.  The best laid investment plan is to stay diversified.”

Summary – What does this mean for you?

What does this mean overall? If you’re basing your investment decisions on what party is or isn’t elected during presidential elections, you’re likely hurting your portfolio more than helping it. The person occupying the White House is  just one of many variables that impact investment values. For example, the Dot.com burst in 2001, and the financial crisis in 2008 greatly impacted the markets beyond the control of Presidents Bush and President Obama.

“At Ballast Advisors, we recommend in the face of uncertainty clients ‘stay invested,’ because almost without exception we’ve accounted for money needed in the near-term,” Schmidt reminds us.  Prominent investor Peter Lynch once said, “Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.”  According the chart below, the S&P500 has consistently grown in value, no matter who is in office.

Rather than invest in stocks under only a Republican or Democratic president, stay invested in stocks for the long-term under all presidents. 

Data & Disclaimers

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. 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. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All investing involves some degree of risk. Nothing contained herein is an offer to buy or sell a security, investment strategy or product. 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.

Historical market performance for the S&P 500 and other asset classes accessed via https://go.ycharts.com/hubfs/Guide_to_How_Presidential_Elections_Impact_the_Stock_Market.pdf

Presidential term dates can be found https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_presidents_of_the_United_States

 Polling sources: 1952-2012 elections: Gallup; 2016-2020 elections: Marist College, Monmouth University, Siena College/The New York Times Upshot, ABC News/The Washington Post ( A+ rated pollsters FiveThirtyEight). How this polling data works: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/pollster-ratings/ How this polling data works: Pollster data sourced from FiveThirty Eight and is good through May 19, 2020. FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings are calculated by analyzing the historical accuracy of each firm’s polls along with its methodology. Accuracy scores are adjusted for the type of election polled, the poll’s sample size, the performance of other polls surveying the same race, and other factors. FiveThirtyEight also calculates measures of statistical bias in the polls.

Data was aggregated by YCharts with the end-date of each poll’s collection period serving as the charted poll date.

©2020 YCharts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. YCharts, Inc. (“YCharts”) is not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (or with the securities regulatory authority or body of any state or any other jurisdiction) as an investment adviser, broker-dealer or in any other capacity, and does not purport to provide investment advice or make investment recommendations. This report has been generated through application of the analytical tools and data provided through ycharts.com and is intended solely to assist you or your investment or other adviser(s) in conducting investment research. You should not construe this report as an offer to buy or sell, as a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or as a recommendation to buy, sell, hold or trade, any security or other financial instrument. For further information regarding your use of this report, please go to: ycharts.com/about/disclosure

The S&P 500 index is an unmanaged market-capitalization-weighted index of 500 common stocks chosen for market size, liquidity, and industry group representation to represent U.S. equity performance. The index is provided for comparative and informational purposes only. It is not possible to invest directly in the index shown.

 

The Coronavirus and the Global Economy

As of February 26, 2020, the death toll from COVID-19 — the official name of the coronavirus first reported in Wuhan, China — passed 2,700, while the number of confirmed cases exceeded 80,000. Almost all were in China, most of them in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province. But more than 2,500 cases, including 46 deaths, had been reported in almost 40 other countries. A surge of cases and deaths in South Korea, Italy, and Iran caused new concern that the virus may be difficult to contain.1

Cities under lockdown

By mid-February, at least 150 million people in China were under restrictions affecting when they could leave their homes, and more than 760 million — about 10% of the world’s population — lived in communities under some form of travel restriction.2 Most global airlines cancelled service to and from China, disrupting tourism and business travel.3 The Chinese government enacted restrictions around the time of the Lunar New Year celebration, during which many businesses were closed, lessening the immediate impact. However, as factories and other businesses remained closed after the holiday, the loss of Chinese production and consumer spending began to take a toll on global businesses.4

Lost supply and demand

Many U.S. technology companies have manufacturing operations in China while also selling to Chinese businesses and/or consumers. Companies with substantial exposure to the slowdown in China include big tech brands such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Qualcomm, as well as many smaller tech businesses.5-6

Vehicle manufacturers throughout the world rely on Chinese-made parts, and many have plants in China. General Motors (which sells more cars in China than in the United States), Ford, Toyota, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Tesla, and Volkswagen all suspended operations in China, while Hyundai and Renault closed plants in South Korea, and Fiat Chrysler closed a plant in Serbia, all due to parts issues.7-9

Global retailers including Apple, Ikea, Levi Strauss, McDonald’s, KFC, and Starbucks temporarily closed stores in China.10-11

In addition to disruptions in the global supply chain and Chinese consumer market, the tourism industry in the United States, Europe, and other Asian countries may be hard hit by the absence of Chinese tourists. One estimate suggests a loss of almost $6 billion in U.S. airfares and tourist spending.12

Although it is too early to measure the full effect on global business, a private report released on February 21 indicated that U.S. business activity had slowed in February to the lowest level in six years, with the biggest hit to the service sector, where travel and tourism are major components. The report also indicated a sharp drop in Japanese business due to lost tourism and export orders. Exports were down in Germany, but the initial impact on the eurozone was minimal.13

Oil pressure

China is the world’s largest importer of crude oil, and Wuhan is a key center of its oil and gas industry. The prospect of lower demand drove oil prices into bear-market territory — defined as a drop of 20% from a recent high — in early February. Prices rose later in the month but dropped again with news that the virus may be spreading. Natural gas prices have also been hit by the prospect of lower growth in Asia. While lower prices may be good for U.S. consumers, oil-exporting nations, including the United States, will face lower revenues, and energy companies that are already on rocky ground may struggle.14-17

Market reaction

In late January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.7%, due in large part to concerns about the virus, wiping out gains for the year.18 The market bounced back quickly and set new records in February, but weak business news and a rash of cases outside of China sent it plunging, with a loss of almost 8% from February 19 to 25.19-20 This suggests that the market may be volatile for some time and that future direction might depend on the progress of disease control and emerging information on the impact of the virus on U.S. and global businesses.

See Related Post: Eleven Ways to Help Yourself Stay Sane in a Crazy Market

Global growth outlook

Anything that affects China, the world’s second-largest economy, can have a powerful ripple effect around the globe. An early February report by Moody’s Analytics estimated that every 1 percentage point reduction in China’s real gross domestic product (GDP) will reduce global GDP outside China by 0.4%. The report projected that disruption caused by the virus would cut more than 2 percentage points off China’s GDP growth in the first quarter of 2020 and result in a loss of 0.8% growth for the year. This in turn would cause a loss of about 0.3% in annual global GDP growth outside China and about 0.15% in the United States. Moody’s lowered its projection for 2020 global growth from around 2.8% to 2.5%.21

In a February 16 forum, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was more optimistic, suggesting that the virus might shave 0.1% to 0.2% off the IMF’s 2020 global growth projection of 3.3%. Georgieva cautioned that there was still a “great deal of uncertainty” and emphasized that the economic damage depends on the length of the disruption. If the disease “is contained rapidly,” she said, “there can be a sharp drop and a very rapid rebound.”22

The immediate concerns are to combat the virus on a human level and normalize business activity, but the outbreak could accelerate the shift of U.S. and European manufacturing away from China, creating a more diversified global supply chain.23-24  The situation remains in flux, so you may want to keep an eye on further developments.

All investments are subject to market volatility and loss of principal. Investing internationally carries additional risks such as differences in financial reporting, currency exchange risk, as well as economic and political risk unique to the specific country. This may result in greater share price volatility. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

1) South China Morning Post, February 26, 2020

2) The New York Times, February 18, 2020

3-4, 21) Moody’s Analytics, February 2020

5, 23) The Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2020

6, 10) Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2020

7) Forbes, February 12, 2020

8) Car and Driver, February 4, 2020

9) The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2020

11-12, 14-15, 18) The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2020

13) The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2020

16, 20) The Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2020

17) The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2020

19) The New York Times, February 20, 2020

22) Bangkok Post, February 17, 2020

24) South China Morning Post, February 18, 2020

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2020

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES 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. The opinions expressed herein are those of Ballast Advisors, LLC and are subject to change without notice.

Concentrated Stock Positions: Considerations and Strategies

Investing and stock market concept gain and profits with faded candlestick charts.

Time counts

When dealing with a large stock holding, think about your time frame. Some strategies, such as hedging, might be most suitable in the short term or if you are restricted from selling. Others, such as donating to a trust, may be more cost effective over a longer time period, though your charitable intentions obviously play a role as well.

Close up a man working about financial with calculator at his office to calculate expenses

Make sure your collar’s not too tight

Transaction costs in multiple leg options strategies, such as a collar, can be significant and should be considered as these strategies involve multiple commissions, fees, and charges. Also, the prices set for a collar must not violate the rules against a so-called constructive sale. A strategy that eliminates all risk is effectively a sale and thus subject to capital gains taxes. The strike prices of a collar should not be too close to your stock’s market price.

Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors, and investors may lose the entire amount of invested principal in a relatively short period of time. Prior to buying or selling an option, a person must receive a copy of “Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options.” Copies of this document may be obtained from your financial professional and are also available at http://www.theocc.com.

Whether you inherited a large holding, exercised options to buy your company’s stock, sold a private business, hold restricted stock, or have benefitted from repeated stock splits over the years, having a large position in a single stock carries unique challenges. Even if the stock has done well, you may want more diversification, or have new financial goals that require a shift in strategy.

When a single stock dominates your portfolio, however, selling the stock may be complicated by more than just the associated tax consequences. There also may be legal constraints on your ability to sell, contractual obligations such as lock-up agreements, or practical considerations, such as the possibility that a large sale could overwhelm the market for a thinly traded stock. The choices appropriate for you are complex and will depend on your own situation and tax considerations, but here is a brief overview of some of your options.

Sell your shares

Selling obviously frees up funds that can be used to diversify a portfolio. However, if you have a low cost basis, you may be concerned about capital gains taxes. Or you may want to avoid any perception of market manipulation or insider trading. You might consider selling shares over time, which can help you manage the tax bite in any one year, yet allow you to participate in any future growth.

You’ll need to consider the tax consequences of any sale. Long-term capital gains are generally taxed at special capital gains tax rates of 0%, 15%, and 20% depending on your taxable income. By contrast, because short-term capital gains are taxed as ordinary income, the top short-term capital gains tax rate can be 37%. Higher-income taxpayers should be aware that they may be subject to an additional 3.8% Medicare unearned income tax on net investment income (unearned income includes capital gains) if their adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 (single filers) or $250,000 (married joint filers).

If you hold restricted shares, you might set up a 10b5-1 plan, which spells out a predetermined schedule for selling shares over time. Such written plans specify in advance the dates, prices and amounts of each sale, and comply with SEC Rule 144, which governs the sale of restricted stock and was designed to prevent insider trading. A 10b5-1 plan demonstrates that your selling decisions were made prior to your having any insider knowledge that could influence specific transactions. (However, terminating the plan early or selling too much too quickly could raise questions about the plan’s legitimacy.)

You might also be able to avoid some of the restrictions on how much and when you can sell by selling shares privately rather than on the public market. However, you would likely have to sell at less than the market. However, you would likely have to sell at less than the market value, and would still face capital gains taxes.

Hedge your position

You may want to try to protect yourself in the short term against the risk of a substantial drop in price. There are multiple ways to try to manage that risk by using options. However, bear in mind that the use of options is not appropriate for all investors.

Buying a protective put essentially puts a floor under the value of your shares by giving you the right to sell your shares at a predetermined price. Buying put options that can be exercised at a price below your stock’s current market value can help limit potential losses on the underlying equity while allowing you to continue to participate in any potential appreciation. However, you also would lose money on the option itself if the stock’s price remains above the put’s strike price.

Selling covered calls with a strike price above the market price can provide additional income from your holdings that could help offset potential losses if the stock’s price drops. However, the call limits the extent to which you can benefit from any price appreciation. And if the share price reaches the call’s strike price, you would have to be prepared to meet that call.

Monetize the position

If you want immediate liquidity, you might be able to use a prepaid variable forward (PVF) agreement. With a PVF, you contract to sell your shares later at a minimum specified price. You receive most of the payment for those shares — typically 80% to 90% of their value — when the agreement is signed. However, you are not obligated to turn over the shares or pay taxes on the sale until the PVF’s maturity date, which might be years in the future. When that date is reached, you must either settle the agreement by making a cash payment, or turn over the appropriate number of shares, which will vary depending on the stock’s price at that time. In the meantime, your stock is held as collateral, and you can use the upfront payment to buy other securities that can diversify your portfolio. In addition, a PVF still allows you to benefit to some extent from any price appreciation during that time, though there may be a cap on that amount.

Caution: PVF agreements are complicated, and the IRS warns that care must be taken when using them. Consult a tax professional before using this strategy.

Borrow to diversify

If you want to keep your stock but need money to build a more diversified portfolio, you could use your stock as collateral to buy other securities on margin. However, trading securities in a margin account involves risks. You can lose more funds than you deposit in the margin account. Consider speaking with a financial professional before considering this strategy.

Exchange your shares

Another possibility is to trade some of your stock for shares in an exchange fund (a private placement limited partnership that pools your shares with those contributed by other investors who also may have concentrated stock positions). After a set period, generally seven years, each of the exchange fund’s shareholders is entitled to a prorated portion of its portfolio. Taxes are postponed until you sell those shares; you pay taxes on the difference between the value of the stock you contributed and the price received for your exchange fund shares. Though it provides no liquidity, an exchange fund may help minimize taxes while providing greater diversification (though diversification alone does not guarantee a profit or ensure against a loss). Be sure to check on the costs involved with an exchange fund as well as what other securities it holds. At least 20% must be in nonpublicly traded assets or real estate, and the more overlap between your shares and those already in the fund, the less diversification you achieve.

Donate shares to a trust If you want income rather than growth from your stock, you might transfer shares to a trust. If you have highly appreciated stock, consider donating it to a charitable remainder trust (CRT). You receive a tax deduction when you make the contribution. Typically, the trust can sell the stock without paying capital gains taxes, and reinvest the proceeds to provide an income stream for you as the donor. When the trust is terminated, the charity retains the remaining assets. You can set a payout rate that meets both your financial objectives and your philanthropic goals; however, the donation is irrevocable.

Another option is a charitable lead trust (CLT), which in many ways is a mirror image of a CRT. With a typical CLT, the charity receives the income stream for a specified time; the rest goes to your beneficiaries. There are costs associated with creating and maintaining trusts. You receive no tax deduction for transferring assets unless you name yourself the trust’s owner, in which case you will pay taxes on the annual income. Other philanthropic options include donating directly to a charity or private foundation and taking a tax deduction.

Managing a concentrated stock position is a complex task that may involve investment, tax, and legal issues. Consult professionals who can help you navigate the maze.

 

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES 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.