Ready to Throw Caution to the Wind?
True story: I had a friend who was such an abysmal investor he actually started investing against his own judgment. He’d plow through masses of data, read every piece of expert investment advice he could get his hands on, and make his picks. If his research and intuition told him to sell energy stocks, he’d invest a bundle in the sector. When he thought he was looking at a stock that was a “sure thing,” he’d sell. It was a bit crazy, but it paid off. Why? Because the one thing he knew for certain is that what he had been doing before wasn’t working, so he did the exact opposite, and his portfolio surged.
Just do something different
At the moment, it seems more than a few people are wondering if the Fed should think about using a similar tactic. Interest rates have been at historic lows ever since 2008 when rates plummeted to zero in an effort to salvage the tanking economy. And while a lot has changed in the US economy, the Fed has stuck by its old policy that rates shouldn’t be raised until core inflation hits the magical number of 2%.
But after a single rate hike in late 2015, Janet Yellen et al decided last week to sit tight. Again. This time the reason was Brexit, but it seems like there’s always something threatening the US economy. Brexit. China. War. And with a constant barrage of global events, it seems unlikely the US will exceed the 2% core inflation point any time soon—much less remain consistently above it.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t presume to have all the answers. I’ve heard smart people on both sides of the fence argue for and against a rate hike, and both camps have very valid points. There’s no easy answer. So maybe the Fed should, like my friend, throw caution to the wind and just do something different. Just for the heck of it. Just maybe.
Then again, maybe they should look before they leap.
Setting Guideposts Creates Confidence for Advisors and their Clients
Here’s the thing: in today’s volatile environment, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. There’s too much news. Too much information. Too much input to make smart, sensible decisions. For advisors, it begs the question: how do you manage your portfolios in the midst of unprecedented volatility? How do you manage the unmanageable?
The best-selling trading book of all time, Trading for a Living by Alexander Elder is a great place to start. (The updated version, The New Trading for a Living, was released in 2014.) Of course, there are many methods out there, but all of them are designed to help advisors and investors develop a disciplined approach to investing that removes the psychological and mechanical barriers to success.
As we all know, one of the biggest of those barriers is reacting to the market. You’ve seen it with clients: as soon as the market dips, the phones start ringing with clients wanting to jump ship—right at the worst time to sell. When the market peaks, everyone wants to jump on board—right at the worst time to buy.
It’s an easy cycle to spot when someone else is making the blunder. But unless you’re following specific guidelines and have created your own guideposts that drive not only buy/sell decisions, but the myriad other decisions you have to make on a daily basis, how can you be certain you’re not blundering yourself? Trading for a Living is a great read for anyone who wants to develop a calm, disciplined approach to the markets because it focuses on managing risk and managing your own responses to market volatility and other events, and it provides clear pathways for both.
Perhaps the most valuable outcome of having unshakeable guideposts in place is not confidence in your own decisions (which is wonderful in itself!), but the confidence of your clients. The next time a client comes to you saying that “it’s time to do something,” you can remind them you already did do something. You jointly agreed to a strategy and guideposts that you’ll use to grow their wealth over the long run. You balanced their tolerance for risk and reward. And now they need to trust those decisions will pay off.
Even if Janet Yellen trusted my advice about the best next step for interest rates, I don’t know what I’d recommend. Perhaps trying something new is the right move. Perhaps it would be an economic disaster. What I do know is that creating and following concrete guideposts is the best possible way to manage uncertainty.
An Advisor's Guide to Helping Women Become Savvy Investors
Today, more women than ever are involved in managing their personal and household finances. In a recent study, nearly half of the women surveyed (44%) stated that they are solely responsible for their household financial decisions, compared to 35% of men1. But the study wasn’t all good news. While women may be taking the lead when it comes to their finances, they also reported that they are not confident in doing so. In fact, in every financial category included in the survey, men reported much greater confidence than women. Where was the biggest gap? You guessed it: investing.
For advisors, this presents a challenge and an opportunity. There is a 90% likelihood that a woman will be financially self-reliant at some point in her life due to divorce, becoming a widow, or choosing to marry later in life or not at all2. By taking steps to help your female clients become confident, savvy investors, you’ll not only be more effective at serving in the best interests of these women and their families, but you’ll also be able to build much stronger, more trusted relationships to help ensure each family’s assets remain in your care for decades to come.
Follow these five steps to help your female clients invest with greater confidence:
1. Urge every woman to put her financial needs first.
Women do have a weakness when it comes to planning for the future, but it has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge, skill, or smarts. Their primary weakness is a willingness to put others’ needs first. This is a huge mistake when it comes to planning for the future. Investing for retirement simply can’t wait until the kids are grown or aging parents no longer need care. In fact, based on average life expectancies, women should plan to accumulate enough funds to last at least 20 years after retirement. The following chart illustrates the power of compounding based on an 8% rate of return to help bring that point home:
This hypothetical example assumes an annual 8% rate of return and does not take into account income taxes or investment fees and expenses. This example is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any specific investment. An investor’s actual return is not likely to be consistent from year to year, and there is no guarantee that a specific rate of return will be achieved.
2. Educate women about the power of investing.
Security about any topic is rooted in confidence and knowledge. Educating your female clients about investment basics can help drive more confident decisions and more positive long-term outcomes. From the basics of compounding to the nuts and bolts of researching options and understanding the pros and cons of different asset classes, make it your job to help every client understand what she is buying—and why.
3. Dive into the details of asset allocation.
Asset allocation is by far the largest determinant of a portfolio’s success—even more important than the individual securities selected and timing of an investment. This is critical information for your client to understand as she pursues her financial goals.
4. Discuss how her investment strategy needs to evolve over time.
Part of every client’s financial education should be to understand how financial needs and goals change with each stage of life stage. Because a shorter investment time horizon creates greater vulnerability to market volatility, she needs to understand the impact of shifting a portion of her investment portfolio to more income-oriented investments as she moves closer to retirement. This Life Stages Guide can help you paint a clear picture of how allocation strategies need to evolve to fit her changing needs.
5. Be sure she’s covering all the financial bases.
Smart investing is vital, but missteps in other areas of financial planning can thwart even the best investment plan. Offer every client a basic planning checklist that includes these three important steps:
- Focus on the big picture. Organize your important financial papers and schedule an annual review of your investment strategy with your advisor. Regularly monitor your net worth—including your assets (all investments and savings) and liabilities (mortgage, credit cards, and other debts) to be sure you’re always moving toward your end goal of a secure retirement.
- Pay down any outstanding debt. Debt reduces your net worth, threatens your financial security today, and reduces your ability to invest for the future. Do whatever you can to minimize debt, and build an emergency fund to help pay for any unexpected expenses.
- Make estate planning a priority. Once a year, review your will and your beneficiary designations for every account to be sure they continue to reflect your wishes. If you have children under 18, work with your advisor or estate planner to establish a trust and select a trustee to ensure your assets are managed for the benefit of your children.
As a trusted advisor, make it your mission to provide your female clients with the education and guidance they need to become savvy investors and make the smart, educated financial decisions. By doing so, you can help every woman you work with not only enhance her financial security, but also gain the confidence to take greater control of every aspect of her financial life.
Click here to learn more about IndexIQ.
 Survey conducted by Regions Financial Corp. in partnership with Vanderbilt University, 2015.
 The Simple Dollar, “Guide to Financial Independence for Women,” 2014.
Disclosure: The information and opinions herein are for general information use only. The opinions reflect those of the writers but not necessarily those of New York Life Investment Management LLC (NYLIM). NYLIM does not guarantee their accuracy or completeness, nor does New York Life Investment Management LLC assume any liability for any loss that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions. Such information and opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security or as personalized investment advice.
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