Looking Under the Hood of your Company Retirement Plan

Dear Mr. Market:

401k under the hoodIf you ask any hard working American what their goal is the answer will usually have some something to do with retirement.  While this common goal should be attainable through focus and discipline the market has certainly thrown its fair share of setbacks at investors.  For most Americans their home is their largest asset and second is their retirement plan (401(k), 403(b), Simple IRA, SEP IRA, etc).  You have a limited amount of control on the value of your home but how can you manage and monitor your retirement plan to help make your retirement goals a reality?  In this article we will take a step back to the basics and look at factors that will have a profound impact on the performance of your retirement accounts and what you can do to control them.

Last fall legislation was passed requiring 401(k) providers to completely disclose their entire fee structure to participants. Investors will now be able to see what fees are associated with the various funds in the plan and what they are paying to participate in their employers retirement plan. According to CNN Money, a working couple will see nearly a third of their investment reduced by these fees over their careers– that amounts to nearly $155,000!! Schwab reported that nearly 30% of investors had absolutely no idea that they paid any fees for their retirement plan. Continue reading

Is Jim Cramer Really Your Financial Advisor?

Unknown-8Dear Mr. Market:

Many investors have made fortunes off of you and others have of course lost their shirts. There is another tranche of folks that we want to bring to your attention and that is about the people who have made money regardless of how well they predicted your next move; let’s talk about the entertainers that you keep in business.

Anytime someone has made millions of dollars from investing we’re going to at least listen and try to learn what they’re all about. In the case of Jim Cramer, however, he’s made his money from Continue reading

Are you really looking for horrible investment advice?

Dear Mr. Market,

How great would it be to have a job where you could constantly deliver results short of expectations and never have to worry about being fired?  What if you could always simply blame your lack of performance on random external forces or global events?  Imagine if you had a yearly performance review that went something like this…

 “You missed your target goals by 28% and were wrong more often than you were right!  Nice work, we are going to give you a bonus and a 10% raise!”

pay performance

 This doesn’t happen in the real world…or does it?!  The financial services industry has become notorious for overpaying executives even when the company itself is struggling to survive or is even on the verge of declaring bankruptcy.  For example, Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers was one of the 25 best-paid CEO’s for eight years straight – right up until his firm collapsed in 2008.  It has been called ‘”the largest bankruptcy in history”;  it triggered a chain reaction that produced the worst financial crisis and economic downturn in 70 years!  What about professionals in the financial industry that consistently underperform but are not at risk of losing their jobs? Continue reading

Women Investors : Who Controls the Purse Strings?

Women Investing

Dear Mr. Market:

Did you remember Mother’s Day and get her something special?  As we celebrated Mother’s Day earlier this month we would not be surprised if Mr. Market didn’t do much for his mother or for women in general.  The financial services industry has been notorious for overlooking women investors however the ‘tides of change’ are quickly approaching and everyone needs to be aware of it.

Women have become a major power player and are making a huge impact in today’s financial world.  The statistics speak for themselves; here are some eye opening facts: Continue reading

Is the Stock Market Headed Higher or Lower?

Dear Mr. Market,

tightropeHere we are…now what? You reached an all-time high this week with the S&P 500 breaking the previous record of 1,565 set in October of 2007. Congratulations! Although you’ve taken today off for Good Friday, here we sit at 1,569 and everyone is wondering …”what’s next?”.  Will you break out to even higher levels or is the expected correction that everyone is talking about becoming more and more of a given?

We ask you these questions because it’s times like this when many investors make critical decisions. Passing historic levels in the stock market can be more than just a headline. For some it’s a time of reflection and it allows the investor to see where they’ve come from since the last bear market or how they’ve done since the last time the market was this high. Breaking new highs shouldn’t be the trigger that tells an investor to reassess their strategy though.

Since nobody we know has a crystal ball, what we really want to know is how most investors are feeling in light of reaching these levels. Humans have a natural fear of heights. As a market gathers steam and prices rise most investors welcome that and typically “feel” good. A different feeling then creeps in when new levels are reached. Investors then believe with each new high that a reversion to the mean will occur and the market is bound to correct. Sure, the “writing is on the wall” and just about everyone we speak to thinks (feels) that the market will correct soon. This opinion is held the most by those that either have not participated in the recent market run-up or those that perhaps are trying to sell a different vehicle. Continue reading