How to Plan for the Transition of Our Financial Caretaking
For seniors, arranging to entrust financial affairs to someone else is an important part of preparing for old age. Once you have chosen a surrogate and dealt with some of the details laid out in last week's column, one question remains. How will the transition occur?
Here are some suggestions, based on the work of Carolyn McClanahan, MD, CFP.
A good first step is to simplify your finances. For example, consolidate checking, savings, and retirement accounts. Reduce check-writing by using credit cards wherever possible and paying off the balances every month. Reduce credit cards to three: one to use in public, one only for automatic bill paying, and one for other online purchases. Not only does this simplify record-keeping, but it minimizes the disruption when one is stolen (Believe me, it happens. It's happened to me several times.) As McClanahan points out, "The easier it is, the longer independence can be maintained."
Your surrogate needs to know about all your assets. Not only does this include common liquid assets like bank accounts and securities held in taxable and retirement accounts, it also means more obscure liquid assets. Some examples include variable and fixed annuities, structured notes, collectibles, mineral rights, and cash value life insurance.
3. Provide access.
It’s helpful to have the person who will take control of your finances begin by periodically monitoring your accounts. This will require them to have access to your financial records. If your affairs are relatively simple and your surrogate is local, you can authorize them to access your accounts and receive statements. Another good way to share information, especially if your surrogate lives at a distance, is through a secure online access site where you can share relevant and up-to-date information. Almost every financial planner offers a "client portal," and so do popular sites like Dropbox and Sharefile.
McClanahan recommends that your surrogate start with just observing the monthly financial activities. This can mean receiving duplicates of the bills or periodically logging into investment sites. Alerts could be set on various accounts if spending exceeds a certain limit. There are several money management sites, like quicken.com and mint.com, that can also give a surrogate online access to monthly statements and spending alerts.
The activity of the surrogate can eventually be increased to attending annual meetings with your insurance agent, investment adviser, attorney, and accountant. If you have a financial advisor, it would be helpful to bring your surrogate into your quarterly or annual updates. This way the surrogate can begin to build a relationship with the advisor, which will greatly smooth the transition to the surrogate working conjointly with the advisor in making all your investment decisions.
The surrogate can gradually begin to assist with the monthly bill paying. Eventually, this would culminate in the person taking over all financial decision-making and responsibilities like purchases, bill paying, taxes, and investment decisions.
6. Monitor the surrogate.
Having a system of checks and balances by appointing someone to monitor the surrogate may help you be more comfortable allowing a surrogate to take over your finances. The monitor might be another family member. It might also be your attorney, accountant, or financial planner, whose fiduciary responsibility would be to you.
Planning for the transition of our financial caretaking is one more aspect of preparing for old age that we are reluctant to even think about. Yet without it, we must eventually accept options imposed on us by family or the court. This planning is crucial in order to take care of yourself and your finances in the ways you choose.
Alternative Beta Strategies: Alpha/Beta Separation Comes to Hedge Funds
Written by: Yazann Romahi, Chief Investment Officer of Quantitative Beta Strategies, J.P. Morgan Asset Management
A quiet revolution is taking place in the alternatives world. The idea of alpha/beta separation has finally made its way from traditional to alternative investing. This development brings with it a more transparent, liquid and cost-effective approach to accessing the “alternative beta” component of hedge fund return and a new means for benchmarking hedge fund managers.
The good news for investors is that the separation of hedge fund return into its components—rules-based alternative beta and active manager alpha—has the potential to shift investing as we know it. These advancements could democratize hedge funds and, at long last, make what are essentially hedge fund strategies available to all investors—even those who aren’t willing to hand over the hefty fees often associated with hedge fund investing.
A benchmark for alternatives
With respect to traditional equity investing, we have long accepted the idea that there is a market return, or beta—but this hasn’t always been the case. Investors used to assume that to make money in the stock markets, one needed to buy the right stocks and avoid the wrong ones. The idea of a market return independent of skilled stock selection seemed ridiculous to most market participants. Yet today, we would never invest in an active manager’s strategy without benchmarking it against its respective beta.
Interestingly, hedge fund managers have been held to a different standard. Investors have been much more willing to accept the notion that hedge fund strategy returns are pure alpha, and that their investment returns are based entirely on the skill of the fund manager. That notion explains why investors have been willing to accept a “two and twenty” fee structure just to access what has been perceived as one of the most sophisticated and powerful investment vehicles available.
In thinking about the concept of beta, consider its precise definition—the return achievable by taking on a systematic exposure to an economically compensated risk. In traditional long only equity investing, the traditional market beta has been further refined as a number of other risks have been identified that are commonly referred to as “strategic beta.” These include factors such as value, momentum, quality and size. But no one ever said that these risk factors must be long-only.
Over the past decade, as more hedge fund data became available, academics began to disaggregate hedge fund return into two components: compensation for a systematic exposure to a long/short type of risk (alternative beta), and an unexplained “manager alpha.” What they found is that a significant portion of hedge fund return can be attributed to alternative beta. That fact has turned the tables on how we look at hedge fund return. With the introduction of the alternative beta concept, hedge fund managers will have to state their results, not just in terms of total return, but also as excess return over an alternative beta benchmark.
Merger arbitrage—an alternative beta example
The merger arbitrage hedge fund style can be used to illustrate the alternative beta concept. In the case of merger arbitrage, the beta strategy would be the systematic process of going long every target company, while shorting its acquirer. There is an inherent return to this strategy because the target stock price typically does not immediately rise to the offer price upon the deal’s announcement. This creates an opportunity to purchase the stock at a discount prior to the deal’s completion. The premium that remains is compensation to the investor for bearing the risk that the deal may fail.
Active merger arbitrage managers can add value by choosing to invest in some deals while avoiding others. Therefore, their benchmark should be the “enter every deal” strategy, not cash. In fact, the beta strategy explains the majority of the return to the average merger arbitrage hedge fund. And it doesn’t stop there. Other hedge fund styles that can be explained using alternative beta include equity long/short, global macro, and event driven. Note that the beta strategy invests in the same securities, using the same long/short techniques as the hedge fund strategy. The difference is that the beta strategy is a rules-based version that can become the benchmark for the hedge fund strategy. After all, if a hedge fund strategy cannot beat its respective rules-based benchmark (net of fees), an investor may be wiser to stick to the beta strategy.
Implications for investors
What does all this mean for the end investor? Hedge funds have traditionally been the domain of sophisticated investors willing to pay high fees and sacrifice liquidity. Alpha/beta separation in the hedge fund world means that investors can finally choose whether to buy the active version of the hedge fund strategy or opt for the passive (beta) version. Hedge fund strategies can be effective portfolio diversifiers. Now, through alternative beta, virtually all investors can access what are essentially hedge fund strategies in a low cost, liquid, and fully transparent form. For investors who haven’t had prior access to hedge funds, this could be welcome news. Not only can investors look at an active hedge fund manager’s strategy and determine how it has done compared to the systematic beta equivalent, they can also invest in ETFs that encapsulate these systematic strategies.
When looking at one’s traditional balanced portfolio today, there are plenty of questions around whether the fixed income portion will achieve the same level of diversification it has provided in the past. After all, with yields still low, there is little income return. Additionally, the capital gains that came from interest rate declines are likely to reverse. With fixed income unlikely to adequately fulfill its traditional role in portfolios, there is a need to find an alternative source of diversification. This is where alternative strategies may help. For investors seeking to access diversifying strategies in liquid and low-cost vehicles, alternative beta strategies in ETF form are one option.
Looking for an alternative to enhance diversification in your portfolio?
For investors looking to further diversify their overall portfolio, JPMorgan Diversified Alternatives ETF (JPHF) seeks to increase diversification and reduce overall portfolio volatility through direct, diversified exposure to hedge fund strategies using a bottom-up, rules-based approach.
Learn more about JPHF and J.P. Morgan’s suite of ETFs here.
Call 1-844-4JPM-ETF or visit www.jpmorganetfs.com to obtain a prospectus. Carefully consider the investment objectives and risks as well as charges and expenses of the ETF before investing. The summary and full prospectuses contain this and other information about the ETF. Read them carefully before investing.
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