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Read the Fine Print

As I was reading the paper the other day I came across an ad for a pretty prominent mutual fund broker-dealer. The ad was touting the investment acumen and performance of its mutual funds and fund managers. It mentioned how many of its funds had outperformed category medians over a certain span of years. Then I read the fine print. The fine print stated the following: Rankings are based on total return and do not include the effects of sales charges The rankings were based on the funds’ Class Z shares. Past performance does not guarantee future results. In providing these materials the company is not acting as your fiduciary as defined by the Department of Labor. Let me summarize what these fine print statements mean. First, sales charges reduce returns. In other words, their rankings didn’t include the expenses associated with commissions earned by the salespeople that sell the […]

Sorry to Rain on your Parade

I wanted to take a brief moment to remind our readers of a fundamental investing truth that tends to get overlooked, forgotten, or deliberately disregarded during times of market euphoria. Think about this. If you had a million dollars at the beginning of 2016 to invest and I said that over the year that there would be a Supreme Court vacancy, the Cubs would win the World Series, interest rates would rise, and Donald Trump would become president – would you invest that million dollars in the market? I would bet that many people would not. They would guess that 2016 would be a dismal year for market returns. Yet, in 2016 the Dow returns 13.4% and the S&P 500 returned 9.5%! With all of that uncertainty and the improbable happening, the market still had a great year of returns. Those who stayed invested were rewarded. Those who sold (say, […]

Planning Without Assets

Many individuals, especially after graduating college have an enormous amount of human capital but very little when it comes to financial capital and investable assets. A common question or concern may be that they are of little interest to financial planners because they don’t have any investable assets or wealth. Let me say that this is both correct and incorrect thinking – depending on the financial planner – and just as important; how the financial planner is paid. Let’s start with the correct version first. Financial planners are paid in a number of different ways from commission, fee-only and fee and commission. Focusing on fee-only planners for a moment, these planners may be compensated by the hour, retainer, or as a percentage of assets the planner manages for the client. If a fee-only planner is only compensated by assets under management, then the planner may not be interested in helping […]

Should You DIY Your Financial Planning?

Many individuals may consider doing their own financial planning over the course of their lives. Although financial planning is generally not too terribly difficult, to answer the title’s question, the answer should be “No.” Here are some reasons why. Get a second opinion. Even if you do it yourself, it’s wise to have another professional take a look at what you’re doing. A good financial professional will confirm good decisions you’ve made and will politely tell you if there’s a gap in your plan or if you may be making mistakes or omissions here and there. Even good financial professionals have another professional look at their plans. Be wise enough to realize you don’t know everything. Time management. Although many individuals are smart enough to learn how to do their own financial plans, many aren’t willing to take the appropriate amount of time. It takes quite a bit of time […]

Pregnant Men and Tattooed Aristocrats

  When you read the title to this article your mind immediately processed the words as unfamiliar and not particularly logical. After all, how many pregnant men do you see and how many tattooed aristocrats do you run into? The title was actually taken from the book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I’m currently in the middle of my third time through the book and it seems like each time I read it I gain valuable insight as to how our minds work and how we perceive things. Most notably, these words stuck with me as a way to inform our readers of other financial words and pairings they may encounter and to make readers aware that these word combinations will seem and are illogical. The goal is to help inform readers that should they see some of the following phrases, they should immediately realize that something doesn’t […]

Check Your Vitals

Whenever you go into the doctor’s office for a check-up what’s the first thing he or she usually does? The doctor checks your vital signs. Generally, this is heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing, reflexes, etc. Sometimes either the doctor or the nurse practitioner will have a questionnaire asking various questions such as number of drinks per day, whether or not you smoke, and any allergies – to name a few. Most individuals give this information without thinking twice. Most of the time, the answers we give don’t change. So why does the doctor keep asking the same questions every time we have an appointment? The answer is because if one of these answers does change (such as an irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure) this changes the potential diagnoses and outcome. This is why it’s important in your financial planning to always check your vitals. In other words, even though you […]

Sometimes it’s Not a Good Fit

Whether you’re the prospective client working with a financial planner or the planner working with a prospective client, sometimes for whatever reason the relationship doesn’t make sense. The purpose of this post is to help prospective clients and planners in deciding whether or not a client/planner relationship is worth pursuing or maintaining. First, let me start from the perspective of the client looking for a financial planner. Initially, as the client you’re going to want to look for some of the minimums every financial planner should be doing. The first is the CFP® designation. This means that the planner has at least a minimal amount of financial planning education and had passed a rigorous exam. Next, make sure the planner is a fiduciary. This is not optional. This means that the planner is legally required to act in your best interests always. Additionally, make sure they are fee-only. This means […]

A Note for New Advisors

This post is for an advisor just starting out in their career. Their work could range from working for a large broker-dealer, to a small financial planning firm with a few employees. The main point of this post is to give the advisor reading it some hope and inspiration. Having had experience working for both a large broker-dealer and a small firm (here at BFP) my hope is to give some advice thoughts as the advisor shapes their career. First, you are in one of the greatest positions in your career. You have the choice of determining how you want your career path to look. Determine the path and what type of financial professional you want to be moving forward. Identify if you are a hunter or a farmer. If you decide to be a hunter, you will spend the rest of your career “going for the kill”. This means […]

A Risk Management Checklist

Although many individuals have various risk management policies in place, sometimes those policies get brushed aside and every once in a while the dust needs to be wiped off of them and perhaps some updating needed. Here’s a checklist to consider the next time you review your risk management strategies. Auto Insurance – Review your coverage to make sure it’s still adequate. Liability limits of at least $250,000 should be the norm. Limits of $500,000 up to $1 million are better. If you drive an older car, consider raising your comp and collision deductibles or eliminating them altogether to save on premiums. Upside down on your car loan? Consider gap insurance. Better yet, don’t have a car loan. Home Insurance – Make sure your home is insured to its reconstruction cost. This is the cost to rebuild your home using today’s prices for materials, labor, etc. It is NOT the […]

5 Ways to Handle a Falling Market

Given the recent market volatility and the uncertainty that comes with it here are a few things to consider to reduce potential stress. Some individuals can perhaps make the best of a rocky situation. Do nothing. Before reacting or making a decision that could affect your returns and income in the future, take a moment to think about the situation. Is it as bad as it seems? Is it just like the previous market dips? What happened afterwards? If you’ve decided on the correct asset allocation for your portfolio then expecting market dips should be the norm, not the exception. Revisit your goals. Remember the reason why you’re investing in the first place. Is it for retirement and you’re in your 30s? Is it for a college education and you have a 6 month old? Is it for retirement income and you have a family history of longevity? This point […]

Tips for Tax Time

Given that it the start of tax season and individuals will be gathering and preparing their 2015 tax return information, I’d thought I’d put together some basic tax tips. Individuals may consider thinking about these items in order to have a smooth and (hopefully) stress-free 2015 tax season. Additionally, I’ve included a link to our 2015 Tax organizer. Please feel free to use it at your convenience to get your “tax ducks in a row”. Furthermore, please let us know if you’d like us to prepare and file your taxes for you. Many current clients have found Blankenship Financial to be cost effective and efficient compared to other big-named tax preparation services. As Enrolled Agents both Jim and I are well qualified to handle most tax matters and returns. And now with the tax tips… Beware the non-tax man cometh! Each year we field calls from clients and prospective clients […]

Why People Don’t Trust Financial Advisers (and Used Car Salesmen)

Based on some recent experience I’ve had in trying to purchase a vehicle, I thought I’d spend some time on helping advisers new to the industry trying to build their businesses the right way. Additionally, it may help some advisors who are or were being taught the wrong way to deal with clients and prospective clients. Perhaps this post will be better understood if I share my recent (and unsuccessful) experience trying to purchase a different vehicle. Over the last month I’ve inquired both private sellers and dealerships regarding certain vehicles they had for sale. Of the many features and benefits available, I’ve made clear (at least to the dealers) what features and benefits are important to me. Like many car buyers, I am looking for good gas mileage, reliability, and affordability. What I am not looking for is pushy salespeople, sales pitches and closing techniques. Nevertheless, it’s what I’ve […]

Without Action, Resolutions Don’t Matter

Given the start of the New Year it seems almost cliché to write a blog post about resolutions to make for 2016. While making resolutions is not a bad thing, I thought I’d spend some time talking about an arguably more important aspect to resolutions; and that is taking action. To help make some sense with the article I thought I’d share a personal experience. When I was in college I was considerably overweight. Between my junior and senior year I lost quite a bit of weight – about 75 pounds. I was never overweight growing up; I had just let poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle get the best of me. After the weight came off, several friends and family members asked me what I did and what my secret was. Really, there was no secret. It was simply eating less and exercising more. However, I became infatuated […]

Your Year End Financial Checklist

As 2015 winds down it may be an ideal time to consider wrapping up (pun intended) some loose ends regarding your finances and getting ready to welcome 2016 financially prepared. Here’s a list of things to consider as 2015 comes to an end. Have you made your maximum IRA contribution for 2015? If you have yet to contribute the maximum to your IRA there’s still time. Individuals under age 50 can contribute $5,500 while those 50 and over can contribute $6,500. Individuals have until they file their 2015 taxes or the 2015 tax deadline (whichever comes first) to make their 2015 IRA contributions. Expecting a Christmas bonus? Your IRA is a good place to put it. Consider increasing the amount you contribute to your 401(k). If you’re not already maxing out your employer plan contributions ($18,000 if you’re under 50 and $24,000 if you’re 50 or older) consider increasing the […]

Are You Biased? (Hint: Yes, You Are!)

There are several behavioral heuristics and biases that can lead to poor financial decisions. For brevity, we will focus on a few; mental accounting, the endowment effect, loss aversion and status quo bias. For each bias, we will provide a definition and then provide examples of how the biases can lead to poor financial decisions. Mental accounting is the way individuals code and evaluate transactions, investments and other financial outcomes. An example is when employees with access to company stock have 50 percent of company stock in their retirement plan and the remaining money split evenly between stock and bond funds. These employees make the mistake of owning too much company stock (not enough diversification). Mental accounting puts company stock into its own “asset class.” The endowment effect, developed by Richard Thaler is the tendency to place more value on an object once an individual owns it; especially if it’s […]

Advice to the Masses May Not Apply to Individuals

Last week on my ride home from a meeting I had the opportunity to tune into a nationally syndicated talk show regarding personal finance. The host is very popular among listeners and has written several best sellers. Many churches and schools follow the financial program designed to educate individuals on how to set a budget, get out of debt and save for retirement. Generally, the advice given is applicable to many individuals. Sometimes it’s not. A listener called into the show and explained that she had approximately $100,000 in an annuity in an IRA. The annuity paid an interest rate of 2% and had a current surrender charge of 4% – just over $4,000. The caller was asking the host whether or not she should surrender the annuity and roll it over to a non-annuity IRA invested in mutual funds. In a matter of seconds the recommendation was to surrender […]

Personality Influences Financial Decisions

The recent volatility in the stock market has everyone a bit uneasy – even folks who have worked with a trusted financial adviser for years. But if you’ve never worked with an adviser before, you may be surprised to find that one of the first things he or she will do is ask you to fill out a risk analysis questionnaire. This questionnaire is designed to help you understand your financial decisions and the process of making decisions. It’s all tied to your personality, your own unique world-view. Why is risk analysis important before you make decisions with your money? Risk tolerance is an important part of investing – that should be understood at the outset. But the real value of answering a lot of questions about your risk tolerance is to tell you what you don’t know – how the sources of your money, the way you made it, how outside forces […]

How to Interview Your (Potential) Financial Adviser

As individuals need help with their finances and investments they will likely turn to the help of a qualified professional. Their future financial adviser may come via referral from a trusted friend or family member, or through an extensive Internet search. The following is a list of questions (and answers to look for) that individuals can ask their potential adviser to see if he or she is likely to be a good fit and more importantly, act in the client’s best interest. Are you a fiduciary? If yes, move to question 2. If no, thank them for their time and move to the next adviser on your list. Advisers that are fiduciaries are legally bound to put their clients’ best interests first. In other words, regardless of compensation, products offered or company affiliation, fiduciary advisers must act in the best interest of their clients. Everything else is secondary. How do […]

How to Prioritize Your Time and Money

Sometime ago I wrote about needs versus wants. Along those lines I’d like to talk about priorities. It’s pretty common that we heard our friends or family say “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have the money” (of course, we’ve never said these words). And periodically, I’ll hear these words uttered by my students (no time to study), generally after a not-so-good exam score. But what these folks are really saying is “It’s not a priority right now.” For many of us, it’s not about having more time or more money. It’s really about prioritizing the time and money we have. When we reprioritize what’s important to us, it’s amazing the things we can accomplish and the money we can save. Here are some tips to prioritize your time and money. In fact, for many folks time is money. Prioritize your savings. This can be done by paying […]

Have You Saved Enough for Retirement?

One of the reasons that retirement funding is a mystery to most folks is the uncertainty that comes with trying to determine how much is enough – enough savings set aside so that we don’t run out of money during retirement. The answer to this question begins with an understanding of your day-to-day living expenses, and how those expenses may change in retirement. This is a simple enough process, although it does take some effort. The difficult part is to determine what the funding requirement is in order to provide the income you’ll need to cover your living expenses – for as much as forty years or more! There is a rule of thumb (more on this later) that you can use to come up with a rough guess – but without using sophisticated computer modeling and analysis, your level of assuredness is limited. According to a recent survey by […]

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