I was honored to help US News and World Report recently in their article “How Grandparents Can Help Save for College” the author of the article and I discussed how difficult it can be for families to discuss money and saving for college and different ways to broach the subject. We also discussed how the money that a Grandparent has saved for a grandchild can sometimes hurt their financial aid prospects depending on how it is managed. We also discussed different investment vehicles and the pros and cons of each.
I was recently out of the St. Louis area for a bit while I attended The Garrett Planning Network 17th Annual Retreat which was held in Denver, Colorado. I am a member of the Garrett Planning Network which is an international group of financial planners / investment advisors. Each member of the network owns their own firm. I have written about the Garrett Planning Network before. This was the ninth year I have gone.
I attended the conference and earned continuing education credits by going to various educational programs, which I need so that I can keep my designations and licenses such as:
- CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
- NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor
- CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠
For example, I have to have 60 hours of continuing education every two years as a NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor.
During the four day conference, I attended various educational programs such as:
- What Goes into a Plan for the Later Years of Life?
- Retirement Income Showdown: Risk Premium vs. Risk Pooling
- How You Can Help Your Clients Cut Their College Costs
- Why All the Buzz about Reverse Mortgages
- The State of Fiduciary Rules for Fee-Only Investment Advisors
- Big Insurance Theories
- How to Use Reverse Mortgages to Secure Yur Retirement
- Long Term Care Planning: Leveraging Your Client’s Risks
- And others
You can see some of the live tweeting that I did at the conference under my Twitter handle @HourlyPlanner. You do not need a Twitter account.
The Garrett Planning Network has several educational conference calls each month, and the members interact on an internal forum to help each other with more complex planning cases on a daily basis. One of the most beneficial outcomes of my annual trip to this retreat is getting together with this group, sharing ideas, and getting updates from these amazing colleagues in person. It is something I look forward to all year!
I found a recent study conducted by Dimensional Fund Advisors, a synopsis of which is below, very interesting and timely given the rising interest rate environment. For a background on bonds, I have also created a blog post today about How Bonds Work.
Should stock investors worry about changes in interest rates?
Research shows that, like stock prices, changes in interest rates and bond prices are largely unpredictable. It follows that an investment strategy based upon attempting to exploit these sorts of changes isn’t likely to be a fruitful endeavor. Despite the unpredictable nature of interest rate changes, investors may still be curious about what might happen to stocks if interest rates go up.
Unlike bond prices, which tend to go down when yields go up, stock prices might rise or fall with changes in interest rates. For stocks, it can go either way because a stock’s price depends on both future cash flows to investors and the discount rate they apply to those expected cash flows. When interest rates rise, the discount rate may increase, which in turn could cause the price of the stock to fall. However, it is also possible that when interest rates change, expectations about future cash flows expected from holding a stock also change. So, if theory doesn’t tell us what the overall effect should be, the next question is what does the data say?
Recent research performed by Dimensional Fund Advisors helps provide insight into this question. The research examines the correlation between monthly US stock returns and changes in interest rates. While there is a lot of noise in stock returns and no clear pattern, not much of that variation appears to be related to changes in the effective federal funds rate.
For example, in months when the federal funds rate rose, stock returns were as low as –15.56% and as high as 14.27%. In months when rates fell, returns ranged from –22.41% to 16.52%. Given that there are many other interest rates besides just the federal funds rate, Dai also examined longer-term interest rates and found similar results.
So to address our initial question: when rates go up, do stock prices go down? The answer is yes, but only about 40% of the time. In the remaining 60% of months, stock returns were positive. This split between positive and negative returns was about the same when examining all months, not just those in which rates went up. In other words, there is not a clear link between stock returns and interest rate changes.
There’s no evidence that investors can reliably predict changes in interest rates. Even with perfect knowledge of what will happen with future interest rate changes, this information provides little guidance about subsequent stock returns. Instead, staying invested and avoiding the temptation to make changes based on short-term predictions may increase the likelihood of consistently capturing what the stock market has to offer.
Glossary of Terms
Discount Rate: Also known as the “required rate of return,” this is the expected return investors demand for holding a stock.
Correlation: A statistical measure that indicates the extent to which two variables are related or move together. Correlation is positive when two variables tend to move in the same direction and negative when they tend to move in opposite directions.
Fama/French Total US Market Index: Provided by Fama/French from CRSP securities data. Includes all US operating companies trading on the NYSE, AMEX, or Nasdaq NMS. Excludes ADRs, investment companies, tracking stocks, non-US incorporated companies, closed-end funds, certificates, shares of beneficial interests, and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (Permco 540).
. See, for example, Fama 1976, Fama 1984, Fama and Bliss 1987, Campbell and Shiller 1991, and Duffee 2002.
. Wei Dai, “Interest Rates and Equity Returns” (Dimensional Fund Advisors, April 2017).
. US stock market defined as Fama/French Total US Market Index.
. The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which depository institutions lend funds maintained at the Federal Reserve to another depository institution overnight.
|Source: Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.
Results shown during periods prior to each Index’s index inception date do not represent actual returns of the respective index. Other periods selected may have different results, including losses. Backtested index performance is hypothetical and is provided for informational purposes only to indicate historical performance had the index been calculated over the relevant time periods. Backtested performance results assume the reinvestment of dividends and capital gains.
Eugene Fama and Ken French are members of the Board of Directors for and provide consulting services to Dimensional Fund Advisors LP.
There is no guarantee investment strategies will be successful. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.
All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for informational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.
Investing in Bonds
Bonds may not be as glamorous as stocks or commodities, but they are a significant component of most investment portfolios. Bonds are traded in huge volumes every day, but their full usefulness is often underappreciated and underestimated.
Why invest in bonds?
Bonds can help diversify your investment portfolio. Interest payments from bonds can act as a hedge against the relative volatility of stocks, real estate, or precious metals. Those interest payments also can provide you with a steady stream of income. Additionally, because individual bonds have a face value and maturity date, investors like knowing how much and when to expect their investment.
Bonds as Part of Your Overall Portfolio Strategy
Bonds play an important role in your overall portfolio strategy, AKA investment mix. As interest rates rise and bond prices are impacted, your overall portfolio allocation will be impacted as well.
For those of you who are managing a portfolio on your own and read this blog for education, or are hourly/project based clients, that will mean that you will need to monitor your portfolio and rebalance the allocation back to your original allocation/investment mix. If you do not, then the amount of risk/projected return in the portfolio will not match the amount of risk/return you wanted in the portfolio.
For those of you who work with us on an ongoing basis for investment management/partnership based clients, we set up “target bands” according to your allocation/investment mix and make changes when your portfolio deviates from those bands. So we do not wait until a certain time of year, we make changes as needed and only if needed.
How bonds work
When you buy a bond, you are essentially loaning money to a bond issuer in need of cash to finance a venture or fund a program, such as a corporation or government agency. In return for your investment, you receive interest payments at regular intervals, usually based on a fixed annual rate (coupon rate). You are also paid the bond’s full face amount at its stated maturity date.
You can purchase bonds in denominations as low as $100, and often in increments of $1,000 (though individual brokers may have a higher minimum purchase). Some are backed by tangible assets, such as mortgage contracts, buildings, or equipment. In many other cases, you simply rely on the issuer’s ability to pay. You can buy or sell bonds in the open market in the same manner as stocks and other securities. Therefore, bonds fluctuate in price, selling at a premium (above) or discount (below) to the face value (par value). Generally, the longer a bond’s duration to maturity, the more volatile its price swings. These factors expose bonds to certain inherent risks.
You can buy or sell bonds in the open market in the same manner as stocks and other securities. Therefore, bonds fluctuate in price, selling at a premium (above) or discount (below) to the face value (par value). Generally, the longer a bond’s duration to maturity, the more volatile its price swings. These factors expose bonds to certain inherent risks.
Bond risk factors
Although many bonds are conservative, lower-risk investments, some others are not, and all carry some risk. Because bonds are traded in the securities markets, there is always the chance that your bonds can lose favor and drop in price due to market risk; as a result, a bond redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than its original cost. Much of this volatility in price is tied to interest-rate fluctuations. For example, if you pay $1,000 for a 5 percent bond, that same $1,000 might buy you a 6 percent bond the following month, if interest rates rise. Consequently, your old 5 percent bond may be worth less than $1,000 to current investors.
Since bonds typically pay a fixed rate of interest, they are open to inflation risk. As consumer prices generally rise, the purchasing power of all fixed investments is reduced. Also, there is a chance that the issuer will be unable to make its interest payments or to repay its bonds’ face value at maturity. This is known as credit or financial risk. To help minimize this risk, compare the relative strength of companies or bonds through a ratings service such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, A. M. Best, or Fitch. Finally, bonds also involve reinvestment risk: the risk that when a bond matures, you may not be able to get the same return when you reinvest that money.
Bonds issued by private corporations vary in risk from typically steady utility bonds to highly volatile, high-interest junk bonds. Also, many corporate bonds are callable, meaning that the debt can be paid off by the issuing company and redeemed on a predeterminded fixed date. The company pays back your principal along with accrued interest, plus an additional amount for calling the bond before maturity.
Some corporate bonds are convertible and can be exchanged for shares of the company’s stock on a fixed date. You can also purchase zero-coupon bonds, which are issued at a discount to (below) face value. No interest is paid, but at
You can also purchase zero-coupon bonds, which are issued at a discount to (below) face value. No interest is paid, but at maturity you receive the face value of the bond. For example, you pay $600 for a 5-year, $1,000 zero-coupon bond. At the end of 5 years, you receive $1,000. Corporate bonds have maturity dates ranging from one day to 40 years or more and
Corporate bonds have maturity dates ranging from one day to 40 years or more and generally make fixed interest payments every six months.
U.S. government securities
The securities backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government carry minimal risk. United States Treasury bills (T-bills) are issued for terms from a few days to 52 weeks. They are sold at a discount and are redeemed
United States Treasury bills (T-bills) are issued for terms from a few days to 52 weeks. They are sold at a discount and are redeemed for their full face value at maturity. Other Treasury securities include Treasury notes, which have terms from 2 to 10 years, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS), which have terms from 5 to 30 years, and Treasury bonds, which have a term of 30 years. Although the interest earned on these securities is subject to federal taxation, it is not subject to state or local taxes.
Other Treasury securities include Treasury notes, which have terms from 2 to 10 years, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS), which have terms from 5 to 30 years, and Treasury bonds, which have a term of 30 years. Although the interest earned on these securities is subject to federal taxation, it is not subject to state or local taxes.
Various federal agencies also issue bonds. As with any investment, these bonds carry some risk. However, because the U.S. government guarantees timely payment of principal and interest on them, they are considered very safe. Some of these bonds use mortgages as collateral. Most mortgage-backed securities pay monthly interest to bondholders.
Municipal bonds (munis) are issued by states, counties, or municipalities, and are generally free from federal taxation (with some exceptions). Some may be completely tax free if you are a resident of the state, county, or municipality of issuance. Though municipal bonds generally offer lower interest payments compared with taxable bonds, their overall return may be higher because of their tax-reduced (or tax-free) status. Some municipal bond interest also could be subject to the alternative minimum tax. You must select bonds carefully to ensure
Though municipal bonds generally offer lower interest payments compared with taxable bonds, their overall return may be higher because of their tax-reduced (or tax-free) status. Some municipal bond interest also could be subject to the alternative minimum tax. You must select bonds carefully to ensure
You must select bonds carefully to ensure a worthwhile tax savings. Because municipal bonds tend to have lower yields than other bonds, the tax benefits tend to accrue to individuals with the highest tax burden.
Munis come in two types: general obligation (GO) bonds and revenue bonds. GO bonds are backed by the taxing authority of the issuing state or local government. For this reason, they are considered less risky but have a lower coupon rate. Revenue bonds are supported by money raised from the bridge, toll road, or other facility that the bonds were issued to fund. They pay a higher interest rate and are considered riskier. Therefore, research the project being funded to the extent possible before you invest, to make sure that it will generate sufficient income to make payments.
Monitoring your bond portfolio
Of course, you’ll want to keep an eye on your bond portfolio, as you should with all of your investments. Although other factors may affect them, bond prices are often closely tied to interest rates. When rates go up, the market price of your bonds tend to go down; when interest rates fall, your bonds generally rise in value.
Interest rates also tend to affect a bond’s current yield, which measures the coupon rate of your bond in relation to its current price. The current yield rises with a corresponding drop in the price of a bond, and vice versa. In addition, inflation, corporate finances, and government fiscal policy can affect bond prices.
The major bond-rating services offer letter grades regarding the relative strength of a corporation or bond. Your brokerage statement or brokerage account website will often have the credit rating for your bonds. Keep an eye on the credit rating to make sure that it is still in investment grade range which for Standard and Poor’s is BBB- or higher and Moody’s is Baa3 or higher.
Portions of this blog post are from an article prepared by Broadridge Investor Communications Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2017 But, I just had to add my own two cents!
You probably already know you need to monitor your investment portfolio and update it periodically. Even if you’ve chosen an asset allocation, market forces may quickly begin to tweak it.
For example, if stock prices go up, you may eventually find yourself with a greater percentage of stocks in your portfolio than you want, and therefore a more aggressive portfolio than you originally intended. If the market corrects, your portfolio will go down more than you originally felt comfortable with, because you had more in stock than you originally intended, due to stock market appreciation.
Do you have a strategy for dealing with those changes? You’ll probably want to take a look at your individual investments, but you’ll also want to think about your asset allocation.
How rebalancing works
To bring your asset allocation back to the original percentages you set for each type of investment, you’ll need to do something that may feel counterintuitive: sell some of what’s working well and use that money to buy investments in other areas that now represent less of your portfolio.
Typically, you’d buy enough to bring your percentages back into alignment. This keeps what’s called a “constant weighting” of the relative types of investments.
Let’s look at a hypothetical illustration. If stocks have risen, a portfolio that originally included only 60% in stocks might now have 70% in equities. Rebalancing would involve selling some of the stock and using the proceeds to buy enough of other asset classes to bring the percentage of stock in the portfolio back to 60%. This example doesn’t represent actual returns; it merely demonstrates how rebalancing works. Maintaining those relative percentages not only reminds you to take profits when a given asset class is doing well, but it also keeps your portfolio in line with your original risk tolerance.
Methods for Rebalancing your Portfolio
Knowing that the market can be volatile and that rebalancing is a disciplined process that helps offset the risk of volatility, how do you know when to rebalance your portfolio? There are a couple of methods for rebalancing.
One common rule of thumb is to rebalance your portfolio whenever one type of investment gets more than a certain percentage out of line, say, 5 to 10%. This type of monitoring typically requires sophisticated software and an alert system to send you an automated alert whenever your portfolio is outside of acceptable balance range.
Otherwise it would be a daily manual exercise of updating the value of each investment and the relative value of the asset classes of the overall portfolio. This is a daily disciplined practice that most investors would not maintain on a sustained basis over years, which would be required. When we work with clients on an investment management basis, we use Target Bands as our method of rebalancing. We can do this because we have daily access to their account information and the software to monitor the accounts versus our target allocation.
You could also set a regular date for rebalancing. To stick to this strategy, you’ll need to be comfortable with the fact that investing is cyclical and all investments generally go up and down in value from time to time. When we work with clients on an hourly basis, we encourage them to come back to us on an annual basis for portfolio rebalancing. Because we do not have access to their accounts, we rely on investment statements that they provide us. In this situation, this is a good way to rebalance the portfolio back to the target allocation. The concern comes when too much time elapses between rebalancing periods and due to market fluctuation the portfolio can become an allocation that is not in line with their risk tolerance.
Our example has been about an appreciated stock market, because that is the market that we are experiencing. However, in a depressed market you would also want to rebalance. If stock prices go down, you might worry that you won’t be able to reach your financial goals because you no longer have the stocks needed to hedge against inflation, so you would want to rebalance back to your original asset allocation model. The same is true for bonds and other investments.
Balance the costs against the benefits of rebalancing
Don’t forget that too-frequent rebalancing can have adverse tax consequences for taxable accounts. Since you’ll be paying capital gains taxes if you sell a stock that has appreciated, you’ll want to check on whether you’ve held it for at least one year. If not, you may want to consider whether the benefits of selling immediately will outweigh the higher tax rate you’ll pay on short-term gains. This doesn’t affect accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs, of course.
In taxable accounts, you can avoid or minimize taxes in another way. Instead of selling your portfolio winners, simply invest additional money in the asset classes that are underweighted in your portfolio. Doing so can return your portfolio to its original mix.
Sometimes rebalancing can be done in the tax deferred or tax free accounts, which will minimize the changes that need to be made in the taxable accounts, to minimize tax consequences.
You’ll also want to think about transaction costs; make sure any changes are cost-effective.
Also, look out for the impact that a sale in the taxable accounts can have in other areas of your financial plan. If your income goes up will it impact your FAFSA/college financial aid, Medicare means testing, Social Security benefit be taxed at a higher rate, put you in a higher income tax rate, etc.
No matter what your strategy, work with your financial professional to keep your portfolio on track.
Portions of this blog post are from an article prepared by Broadridge Investor Communications Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2017 But, I just had to add my own two cents!