Can a robot really help you financially?

robo advisor

We’re hearing a lot about robo advisors these days. Are they right for you?

The financial services industry is no stranger to developing new products and innovations. Years ago, it was different types of stocks and bonds, then mutual funds were launched. More recently, exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) that mimic indexes were launched. These days, robo advice is a hot topic. While having features that are certainly attractive to some investors, robo advisors aren’t right for everyone.

But first, the “what?”

What are robo advisors?

The term “robo advisor” is actually a bit misleading. Advisors generally guide their clients through the financial planning process to help these individuals achieve their life goals.

Robo advisors are automated portfolio managers. They take a limited amount of information about a client and create a portfolio of holdings. These holdings usually include a basket of ETFs. Robo advisors require little human involvement once their algorithm has been set.

Pros and cons

Robo advisors are programmed to automatically buy and sell holdings based on a desired risk-return profile. As there is little human involvement or management, they tend to be cheaper to invest in than actively managed portfolios. They also tend to be “set-it-and-forget-it” solutions that require very little effort by individual investors.

These portfolios rise and fall according to market and macroeconomic conditions, they typically don’t make adjustments to reflect the market. Conversely, as your advisor I’ve gained a deeper understanding of your financial picture, including your long-term needs and goals. Our work together means that your portfolio is suited specifically to you. Not just to a lot of people who may simply be your age and have a similar amount of savings.

Example of robots investing versus humans investing

During periods of rising markets, robo advisors will tend to perform quite nicely. As they reflect the performance of the wider markets in which they invest.

That said, markets don’t always go up. When markets are falling, portfolios run by robo advisors will tend to drop to the same degree as their corresponding markets. Meanwhile, active portfolio managers tend to rebalance or otherwise adjust their funds to reduce the downside impact of this market weakness. Possibly even taking advantage of it. By doing so, these portfolio managers are able to negate the losses that could result from market weakness. Which is something robo advisors can’t do.

Robo advisors are also not equipped to provide all of the other services that an advisor can provide. Including access to tax and estate planning, lawyers, accountants and other professionals who can help me ensure you have a complete financial plan that truly reflects your short- and long-term needs.

Please feel free to reach out to me to learn more about the benefits of a human vs. robo advisor.

Click here if you would like to learn more about your options and if we can assist you with your wealth management, investment, and retirement planning.

This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice or recommendations. For specific advice or recommendations you would need to meet directly with one of our advisers.

How to Tame Market Volatility through Diversification


It’s that time of the year again. Whether it’s in person or virtually, the holidays are an opportunity for more conversations with loved ones. This year, let’s strive to put some positivity into our conversations. There is a lot to gripe about, but there’s more to look forward to.  And the more we talk, the better we plan, prepare, and progress. Discussing your financial strategies with loved ones can help reinforce them or pivot according to new circumstances. And I’m ready to hear you! Knowing what may have changed this year will help us become more successful in pursuing your financial goals.

One topic that is front of mind is how to diversify your portfolio. One way to help investors reach long-term financial goals is through an investment technique known as diversification. Diversification basically means spreading out your invested money across different investments types, industries, countries, etc. Diversification can smooth out volatility of your portfolio and potentially lead to stronger returns over the long term. Helping you take advantage of the benefits of diversification is a central part of my job as your advisor.

One guiding factor behind diversification is that not all investment categories perform well at the same time. As some are increasing in value, others may be decreasing. Market volatility is the movement of investment categories going up and down.

Maintaining a well-balanced portfolio

As your advisor, I help maximize returns and reduce the risks associated with market volatility. Essentially, your portfolio represents a collection of different investments that work in harmony to help you reach your goals. One way you can achieve portfolio diversification is to divide your investments among the major asset classes. Such classes include equities, fixed income and cash.

Asset classes – A range of risks and rewards

Each asset class comes with varying degrees of risk and return characteristics. Typically, each class performs differently in certain market environments. Here’s a quick summary of each.

  • Equities (e.g., stocks)
    Equities refer to buying stocks or shares of a business, making you a part owner. This means the investor is subject to stock appreciation when the company outperforms. But also subject to the risks of declining stock value if companies underperform.
  • Fixed income (e.g., bonds, Treasury bills)
    Fixed income investors lend capital in exchange for interest. Considered as creditors, bondholders often have a priority claim in case of company bankruptcy. This makes the investments less risky. Fixed income typically provides income at regular intervals.
  • Cash (e.g., money market funds, bank accounts)
    Cash investments provide low returns versus other asset classes, in the form of interest payments. These investments typically come with very low levels of risk.

Investment funds – One-stop diversification

I can also help achieve diversification through the use of investment funds; namely, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These investment vehicles represent convenient and affordable ways to access a wide range of investments.

  • Mutual funds – These are made up of a pool of assets from many investors. Mutual funds are managed by a portfolio manager. The portfolio manager actively seeks to produce greater returns than a specific market benchmark, such as the S&P 500 Index. With the large scale of a mutual fund, you benefit from professional management and can get strong diversification by gaining access to investments that would normally be inaccessible or too expensive for most individuals.
  • ETFs – These are funds that track and seek to replicate the performance of select market indexes. ETFs represent a basket of securities based on the underlying index. This allows investors to gain broad diversification across entire markets, industries, regions or asset classes. ETFs are known to incur fewer administrative costs, therefore charging lower fees to investors.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions on the terms discussed in this article, or on how your investment portfolio is diversified.

Click here if you would like to learn more about your options and if we can assist you with your wealth management, investment, and retirement planning.

This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice or recommendations. For specific advice or recommendations you would need to meet directly with one of our advisers.

How to Start Investing

How to start investing

So, you’ve landed your first “real” job! Now’s the perfect time to create your first investment plan and start investing.

First, let me congratulate you on getting through school and starting your first “real” job. You’ve worked hard to get here, and I’m sure there are many things you’ll want to spend your new paycheck on. An apartment of your own, some decent takeout (not from a student cafeteria), maybe a little traveling.

You should do those things, as long as they fit into your budget. You’ve earned a little breathing room. But now that you have some stability, you should also thinking about how to start investing for your future. Here are three ways to get the ball rolling.

1. Pay down debt

As a student, you may have accumulated a mix of debt, from student loans to credit cards. Create a debt-repayment plan that focuses on paying off your high-interest debt, like credit cards, first.

Student loans often carry lower interest rates, so these loans might not be your top priority. At the same time, many student loans require you to make a minimum monthly payment shortly after you graduate, and you only have so much time to repay the entire loan. You still need a loan-repayment plan to make sure you don’t default on these loans.

2. Build your emergency fund

Post-graduate life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes your air conditioner breaks down in the middle of a heat wave or your car dies on the way to a meeting. I suggest putting 10% of your paycheck into an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. The goal is to eventually have enough money in your emergency fund to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses, but it can take a while to get there.

Your emergency fund should be low risk and easy to access, like a regular savings account.

3. Think about retirement

This is the best time to take advantage of the power of compounding. If you start putting just $200 a month into a retirement savings account at age 25, and let it grow over the next 40 years at a 4% rate of return, you’ll have about $237,000 in that account when you turn 65.

Wait another 10 years to start investing the same amount at the same rate of return, and you’ll reach age 65 with about $140,000. That’s a big difference.

If your employer offers a 401(k), use it. With this tax-advantaged retirement account, you contribute pre-tax dollars directly from your paycheck. You employer will also match your contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary.

If you don’t have a 401(k), look into a traditional IRA (individual retirement account) or Roth IRA. With a traditional IRA, you’ll get a tax break on your contributions, while with a Roth IRA, you won’t pay federal taxes when you withdraw money in retirement. With both types of IRAs, you won’t pay taxes on any investment income you earn within the plan until you start making withdrawals.

Ready to start investing? Contact me today and we’ll work on creating your first investment plan.

This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice or recommendations. For specific advice or recommendations you would need to meet directly with one of our advisers.

The Great Divide – Economy and Markets

The Great Divide - Economy and Markets

The Dog Days are here! School is back in session, some in-person, some virtual. The virus continues to be present and the economy slowly is rebuilding while the markets continue to climb. Last week indexes finished slightly up. The Dow up 1.8%, S&P up 0.64%, and Nasdaq up 0.08%. The S&P began the week rising for it’s 7th straight session in the green and briefly passed the all-time high on Wednesday. The flat performance was a result of uncertainty with economic data, the latest virus patterns, and a second fiscal stimulus package that never was.

Last Week

The S&P 500 index is close to record territory once again. The economy and the stock market seem far off. Thursday marked the 100th day since the market lows on March 23. The markets have rebounded 50% since then. A strong recovery for investors, while millions have lost jobs and over 160,000 Americans have lost their lives. Management reports on earnings calls have been surprised at the speed and scale of the demand rebound. Many companies expected a short lived drop, followed by a gradual recovery. Not so much the “snap-back” experienced.

It is encouraging that the U.S. has added back millions of jobs lost during the first wave. Last Thursday marked the first jobless claims report under 1 million since March. Also, from earnings calls, consensus views are pointing towards record breaking earnings next year. Strongly supported by interest rates, which continue to be favorable for the foreseeable future. Investor fears over companies falling into financial distress are offset by the Feds support of buying bonds and Congress spending on relief. Retail sales also rose in July 1.2% higher than June, setting a new all-time high, and another sign of recovery.

The Week Ahead

The equity markets will have their eyes on Washington in hopes of a new stimulus. On Thursday, unemployment claims will be reported and the hope is that a under 1 million trend goes on. Continuing unemployment claims are still above 15 million, however, this is much lower than the 25 million in May. Stress for parents remains as school openings have created more unrest than security. How the school year unfolds for parents will no doubt impact the workforce productivity. Some areas of the country have already started so watching closely for signs that reopening in person can be done safely is key.

At the end of the day, it is clear the markets and the economy are not one in the same. Very different directions, as reflected in year-to-date index performance; Dow down 2.1%, S&P up 4.4%, and Nasdaq up 22.8% through the close on Friday.

Have a safe week!

Click here if you would like to learn more about your options and if we can assist you with your wealth management, investment, and retirement planning.

This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice or recommendations. For specific advice or recommendations you would need to meet directly with one of our advisers.

Market Brief – 2020 Mid-Year Review

Market Brief 2020 Mid-Year Review

Dog days of summer have arrived. For 2020, it feels like the dog days arrived in March. From the moment the pandemic began to spread, to stay-at-home orders, to lock-downs, to protest rallies, to reopening phases, and back to more restrictions… what a year, and we are only halfway home. Didn’t even mentions the murder hornets! Let’s take a minute to catch our breath and see where we have been, where we are, and where we will go. Currently, we are in the midst of earnings season. Big name stocks will report second quarter earnings this week. Last week the main indexes finished mixed. The Dow up 2.3%, S&P up 1.25%, and Nasdaq down 1.1%. The S&P 500 outperformed the Nasdaq index by the widest margin since February 2016. The markets were mainly buoyed by progress of a virus vaccine.

What Happened?

The year started off strong through mid-February. Early cases and the fast spread of the coronavirus took hold in Asia and quickly jumped country borders to become a worldwide pandemic. Just about a month from the market peak in February came the market lows in March, a 33.9% drop for the S&P index. In just a few weeks, the U.S. economy erased 7 years of employment gains. 30 million Americans lost jobs, driving unemployment as high as 22% in April. By June, the unemployment rate hovered around 14%. Still extremely high, but significantly lower from 2 months prior.

In March, the Fed stepped in and provided a backstop to the equity markets. Stabilizing and possibly adding turbo to the economy via stimulus for individuals and businesses. The pandemic accelerated tech disruption. It changed how companies reach consumers, how supply chains work, how to deal with remote employees, and still build their brands.

Where Are We Today?

Year-to-date index performance; Dow down 6.54%, S&P down 0.2%, and Nasdaq up 17.0% through the close on Friday. Last week, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said the Trump administration and Senate leadership are discussing a new stimulus bill. The end of July is the target time frame as the previous stimulus benefits are ending. The housing market reports are exceeding expectation. Current metrics show a shortage of existing home inventory, limited housing labor to build new homes, and a shortage of entry level homes for the first time home buyer. Historically low mortgage rates help boost the housing demand. Labor income across the board is surging and consumer spending is rebounding.

The markets are in fairly good position today. Much of the strength is attributed to the Fed and swift implementation of monetary policy. With interest rates near zero, investors are willing to pay for future earnings. Growth stocks have done well, value stocks have lagged. When the economy improves and interest rates rise, growth stocks will be challenged by high valuations. Communities have begun to re-open. The U.S. seems to have chosen independence over lock-down. This has led to a recent uptick in coronavirus cases. Deaths due to the virus have decreased as health care has gotten smarter about how to handle symptomatic cases. The resurgence of hiring and end of mass layoffs indicate the job market is recovering. While the decreasing layoffs and increasing hires offer hope, the reopening process has been trending in the wrong direction.

Where Are We Going?

It’s election season. From here on out, politics will headline media reports. Snippets and quotes from leadership on both sides will sway the markets. Bigger than the election is the Fed’s actions. Interest rates are low and likely to remain low for a very long time. This creates a scenario of easy lending and the opportunity for trillions of dollars to remain invested in the market. The future months will measured by the resurgence of the coronavirus, how quickly a vaccine can be developed, another round of monetary stimulus, and the upcoming election. If you thought the first half of 2020 was a roller coaster, the second half might be just as wild! Take care and be safe.

Market Brief’s are taking a summer hiatus, see you at the end of August!

Click here if you would like to learn more about your options and if we can assist you with your wealth management, investment, and retirement planning.

This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice or recommendations. For specific advice or recommendations you would need to meet directly with one of our advisers.