Should You Encourage Your Client to Use a Professional Fiduciary?
Some of your older clients do not have family or they have no family they trust. Some know that their adult kids don’t get along and if both are on the estate documents, fights will be inevitable. You worry that as they age, some clients are going to need help with finances and their trust management and they shouldn’t count on family. When a client names one’s best friend to serve in the role of successor trustee may sound fine when they’re 50 years old but it’s not so fine when they’re 90.
The successor trustee of your client’s estate can do a lot of good or harm when he or she takes on that role. The person appointed to be the agent of a durable power of attorney is also in a position of tremendous power. Who should serve in that capacity? Should it be family or a professional outside the family?
Most often, your client appoints adult children or trusted people in their lives for this job. The danger arises when the adult child appears to be motivated to steal money or manipulate the elder into giving or loaning it to him. If it is a best friend, and both are aging, there is no assurance that the friend will survive long enough to help when needed or be competent to do so.
I once had a widowed client, living alone, no family in the U.S. who had appointed her best friend to be her successor trustee. I asked my 89-year-old client about the friend. “She lives right down the street”, my client told me. When I asked how old the friend was, she told me “88. She’s really sharp though, even though her vision is going”. I suggested she find a licensed fiduciary to take her friend’s place.
This could be your client. Time to step in and get the client to change that original, now unrealistic plan.
When you, the financial advisor see situations with clients in your book who are aging, and you know they will need someone trustworthy to help them with managing their estate and finances, you need to act. Here are some basics every advisor should know and do.
1. Get to know your client’s estate planning attorney, with written permission to communicate with her from your client. That is simple. Ask whether the estate plan is updated. Find out if the successor trustee is reliable, or in financial difficulty with potential motivation to steal. Team up and work together. If there is no estate planning attorney, give your clients some names of reliable lawyers you know and encourage making an appointment right away.
2. Ask your client about their appointed agents on both the family trust and any power of attorney document. Invite them to a meeting. Discuss the future for your client with the agent(s), particularly long-term care issues, budget and resources the successor might have to manage over your client’s lifespan.
3. Know reputable professional fiduciaries in your area and keep their contact information handy so you can refer your client to a list of them. Fiduciaries are not all created equal. Some are very helpful and can protect a vulnerable client from financial harm. Others are just not competent to do the job and shouldn’t be in it. Choose and vet your list carefully.
To understand more about best ways to manage aging clients and keep them financially safer, check out our book, Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Best Practices. It’s a great start. And you can get up to 10 hours of CE credit for reading it! Get yours here.
Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily
What a week it was.
First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge the horrific mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern American history. On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families.
The memory of the shooting was still fresh in people’s minds during last Tuesday’s Hollywood premiere of Blade Runner 2049, which nixed the usual red carpet and other glitz in light of the tragedy. Before the film, producers shared poignant words, saying that in times such as these, the arts are crucial now more than ever.
I had the distinct privilege to attend the premiere. My good friend Frank Giustra, whose production company Thunderbird Entertainment owns a stake in the Blade Runner franchise, was kind enough to invite me along. Despite the somber mood—a pivotal scene in the film even takes place in an irradiated Las Vegas—I thought Blade Runner 2049 was spectacular. Even if you’re not a fan of the original 1982 film, it’s still worth experiencing in theaters. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s synth-heavy score is especially haunting.
CNET recently published an interesting piece examining the accuracy of future tech as depicted in the original Blade Runner, from androids to flying cars to off-world travel read the article here.
Still in the Early Innings of Cryptocurrencies
Speaking of the future, I spoke on the topic of the blockchain last week at the Subscriber Investment Summit in Vancouver. My presentation focused on the future of mining—not just of gold and precious metals but also cryptocurrencies.
Believe it or not, there are upwards of 2,100 digital currencies being traded in the world right now, with a combined market cap of nearly $150 billion, according to Coinranking.com.
Obviously not all of these cryptos will survive. We’re still in the early innings. Last month I compared this exciting new digital world to the earliest days of the dotcom era, and just as there were winners and losers then, so too will there be winners and losers today. Although bitcoin and Ethereum appear to be the frontrunners right now, recall that only 20 years ago AOL and Yahoo! were poised to dominate the internet. How times have changed!
It will be interesting to see which coins emerge as the “Amazon” and “Google” of cryptocurrencies.
For now, Ethereum has some huge backers. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), according to its website, seeks to “learn from and build upon the only smart contract supporting blockchain currently running in real-world production—Ethereum.” The EEA includes several big-name financial and tech firms such as Credit Suisse, Intel, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, whose own CEO, Jamie Dimon, knocked cryptos a couple of weeks ago.
To learn more about the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, watch this engaging two-minute video.
Will Bitcoin Replace Gold?
Lately I’ve been seeing more and more headlines asking whether cryptos are “killing” gold. Would the gold price be higher today if massive amounts of money weren’t flowing into bitcoin? Both assets, after all, are sometimes favored as safe havens. They’re decentralized and accepted all over the world, 24 hours a day. Transactions are anonymous. Supply is limited.
But I don’t think for a second that cryptocurrencies will ever replace gold, for a number of reasons. For one, cryptos are strictly forms of currency, whereas gold has many other time-tested applications, from jewelry to dentistry to electronics.
Unlike cryptos, gold doesn’t require electricity to trade. This makes it especially useful in situations such as hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico, where 95 percent of people are reportedly still without power. Right now the island’s economy is cash-only. If you have gold jewelry or coins, they can be converted into cash—all without electricity or WiFi.
Finally, gold remains one of the most liquid assets, traded daily in well-established exchanges all around the globe. Every day, some £13.8 billion, or $18 billion, worth of physical gold are traded in London alone, according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The cryptocurrency market, although expanding rapidly, is not quite there yet.
I will admit, though, that bitcoin is energizing some investors, especially millennials, in ways that gold might have a hard time doing. The proof is all over the internet. You can find a number of TED Talks on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, but to my knowledge, none is available on gold investing. YouTube is likewise bursting at the seams with videos on cryptos.
Bitcoin is up 350 percent for the year, Ethereum an unbelievable 3,600 percent. Gold, meanwhile, is up around 10 percent. Producers, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have gained 11.5 percent in 2017, 23 percent since its 52-week low in December 2016.
Look Past the Negativity to Find the Good News
The news is filled with negative headlines, and sometimes it’s challenging to stay positive. Take Friday’s jobs report. It showed that the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first month in seven years that this happened. A weak report was expected because of Hurricane Irma, but no one could have guessed the losses would be this deep.
The jobs report wasn’t all bad news, however. For one, the decline is very likely temporary. Beyond that, a record 4.88 million Americans who were previously sitting out of the labor force found work last month. This helped the unemployment rate fall to 4.2 percent, a 16-year low.
There’s more that supports a stronger U.S. economy. As I shared with you last week, the Manufacturing ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a 13-year high in September, indicating rapid expansion in the manufacturing industry. Factory orders were up during the month. Auto sales were up. Oil has stayed in the relatively low $50-a-barrel range, which is good for transportation and industrials, especially airlines. Small-cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, continue to climb above their 50-day and 200-day moving averages as excitement over tax reform intensifies.
These are among the reasons why I remain bullish.
One final note: Speaking on tax reform, Warren Buffett told CNBC last week that he’s waiting to sell assets until he knows the plan will go through. “I would feel kind of silly if I realized $1 billion worth of gains and paid $350 million in tax on it if I just waited a few months and would have paid $250 million,” he said.
It’s a fair comment, and I imagine other like-minded, forward-thinking investors, buyers and sellers will also wait to make huge transactions if they can help it. Tax reform isn’t a done deal, but I think it has a much better chance of being signed into law than a health care overhaul.
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