Does Ann Wagner or any politician really have your back?

Fiduciary4Dear Mr. Market:

We don’t typically venture into topics that involve politics as they can be polarizing to say the least. Everyone can think of an individual they know that is always more than willing to share their political opinions whether you want to hear them or not! From time to time, however, there is a topic that needs to be addressed and political party affiliation has absolutely nothing to do with it … It’s a matter of doing what is right.

Recently the Department of Labor issued a new proposal addressing investment management fees associated with retirement accounts. According to a report issued by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, a difference of only one percentage point in fees equals $17 billion! This is money that will either remain in individual’s retirement accounts or find its way to brokers and financial firms’ pockets.

There have been other versions of this legislation proposed in the past. This most recent version requires any advisor that is compensated for providing advice with retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k), 403(b), Simple IRAs and SEP IRAs for example) to operate as a fiduciary, always putting the clients interests first. Why is this even a debate?! What it essentially comes down to is the mighty dollar. Continue reading

Are you allowing the “tax tail” to wag the “investment dog”?

Dear Mr. Market:Tax tail dog 1

Not only do you toy with the emotions of every investor; you also have a partner that often surprises them and hits investors where it hurts the most… their pocketbook. Making money in the stock market is great but so many forget that eventually they have to reconcile with Uncle Sam come tax time. Look for example at some investments that we have recently discussed: Under Armour (UA) and InvenSense (INVN).   If you had purchased these stocks on the first trading day of this year (1/2/2014) you would be up 58% with Under Armour and up 20% with InvenSense. These numbers are impressive and would certainly make any investor happy but what happens when they are sold? How will they impact your tax return and how much of the gain will you have to pay?

Nothing is certain except death and taxes.

                            Benjamin Franklin 

*** Before we move any further in this discussion it is important to note that we are not tax advisors. In this article we will be discussing general guidelines. Every investor’s situation is unique and deserves personal attention. If you have questions we would encourage you to talk with a qualified tax professional.

Let’s take a moment to go over some of the basics when it comes to investor tax issues. Continue reading

Independent Review of the Fidelity Contrafund (FCNTX)

fidelity logoDear Mr. Market:

You need to hear about another mutual fund like you need a new hole in your head. That being said, however, how about we talk about one that’s been around for a long time? They must be doing something well….right?

We’ve certainly not held back with our opinion in the past when it comes to mutual funds. While they certainly can warrant a spot in many portfolios, they need to be reviewed and compared carefully to their peers and other investment options. Today we are going to take an in-depth look at a fund we see in many portfolios but very few individuals actually understand what it is. The Fidelity Contrafund (FCNTX) is one of the largest actively managed equity mutual funds there is with assets just under $110 billion! Continue reading

Building Your Financial Team – The Road to Success

Teamwork arrowDear Mr. Market:

How ‘fit’ is your financial team? Putting together a financial team to help you meet your financial goals is like building a winning sports team. Each member of your financial team needs to know what their responsibility is and what they are contributing to your financial success.   With tax-season behind us and the equity and fixed income markets experiencing volatility, now is a great time to assess your team and see if it is truly making the grade!

There is no single approach to building your team or a guide on how to assemble one. The key is the team needs to work for you, they need to give you a sense of comfort and they need to work together. Whether you work with individuals or utilize software solutions it is important that an assessment takes place so that you don’t suddenly find yourself in a hole that you need to dig out of.

In this article we will discuss how to build your “Team of Trust”. We will look at three key areas that every investor should consider: Estate Planning, Tax Planning and Financial Advice. We will discuss some key elements with each member of the team: Why? Who? What? How Much? Continue reading

What is the difference between Fee-Only and Fee-Based advisors?

Compensation #3Dear Mr. Market:

Last week I had lunch with an old colleague of mine. It’s always good to catch up with others in the same profession but sometimes it also truly helps you understand why so many consumers are confused. Here’s a brief background and then a summary of an actual conversation between two financial advisors:

Both financial advisors began their careers working for major wirehouse firms (think Morgan Stanley, Prudential, UBS, Smith Barney, etc…). They each then worked at Charles Schwab as part of the Retail Branch Network and Schwab Private Client (SPC) group. Thereafter, Advisor #1 (who we will call Fee-Based Advisor) left Schwab to join one of the advisors that is in their Schwab Advisor Network program.  This is a network that has made certain firms wildly successful as Charles Schwab branch representatives get compensated to vector investors and Schwab account holders to meet with advisors who pay to be in their program. Advisor #2 (who we will call Fee-Only Advisor) is not part of any network and is not affiliated with any brokerage firm, mutual fund company, or insurance company. “Fee-Only Advisor” is a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA).

Fee-Based Advisor: So…how are things out there?

Fee-Only Advisor: Good…I keep plugging away but sometimes it’s frustrating to see how undereducated the general public is about this industry. Continue reading

High Frequency Trading – How does it impact you?

HTF robotsDear Mr. Market:

The markets are constantly moving from one headline to the next – some of them having a profound impact on the markets. Last Sunday night “60 Minutes” aired a topic that has been lurking in the shadows for years, suddenly it jumped up and grabbed headlines raising concerns and paranoia with investors. High Frequency Trading (HFT) has dominated headlines over the last week prompting a federal investigation and hours of debate.

Michael Lewis, author of “Flash Boys”, has been on a publicity tour claiming the U.S. Stock Market is ‘rigged’. Is the average investor at a disadvantage, on the outside looking in at the security exchanges? This week we encourage you to view a letter being sent to our clients and friends of the firm (High Frequency Trading letter) Continue reading