Category Archives: Chalk Talk

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May 28, 2019

The Eternal Optimist

Positive Vibrations to Brighten Your Day

By @JeffMastronardo

I stumbled upon some interesting information the other day that I thought timely to share with you.  If you go online or turn on your TV, there is no doubt it will be easier to find headlines or articles about how bad the economy is or how bad it is going to get.  Below I have listed some stats that if you didn’t know, you should, and hopefully they can brighten up your day a little bit.

  • For the first time ever, there are more job openings posted in America than there are people looking for work.
  • Initial claims for unemployment in March 2019 dropped below 200,000 for the first time since men walked on the moon.  Relative to population (329 million at year-end 2018 vs. 203 million in July 1969) this is by far the lowest number ever recorded.
  • Household net worth is well over $100 trillion, yet household leverage – debt payments to disposable income – is lower than it’s been since 1980.
  • In 2018 the United States became once again the largest oil-producing country in the world.  In 2020 we will become a net exporter of hydrocarbon energy.
  • The iPhone in a middle school child’s backpack contains, by orders of magnitude, more computing power than NASA command on the day Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.
  • The US is minting 1,700 new financial millionaires, excluding their homes, each day.
  • In November of 1960 over half the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, the majority of humans were illiterate.  The percentages today are barely 10 and 15 respectively.
  • In the next 24 hours, assuming this is an average day on Planet Earth, 217,000 people will have escaped extreme poverty, 325,000 will have gained some access to electricity, 300,000 more will have gained access to clean water and 600,000 will have gotten online for the first time.

The world isn’t perfect, and not everyone is living the American dream.  I merely wanted to highlight for you the amazing progress we have made and remind you that the news isn’t all bad.

The eternal optimist,

Jeff Mastronardo

Financial Coach


Resources

Data quoted in the above bullet points are excerpts taken from an interactive newsletter by Nick Murray [Longevity The New Inequality, Nick Murray Interactive Volume 19 Issue 5, accessed May 2019], which includes reference to the following as sources for this data.

  • Ryan Krueger of Krueger & Catalano 2017, Two’s Are Now Underestimated: The Mikan Drill for Stocks, Sure Dividend, <www.suredividend.com/mikan-drill-for-stocks>
  • Jeffrey A. Tucker 2019, Wealth Has Never Been More Equal, American Institute for Economic Research, <www.aier.org/article/wealth-has-never-been-more-equal>
  • Tracey Longo 2019, DALBAR: U.S. Investors Lost Twice As Much As The S&P In 2018, Financial Advisor Magazine, <www.fa-mag.com/news/u-s–investors-lost-twice-as-much-as-the-s-p-500-in-2018-43995.html>
  • Kenneth Rogoff 2019, Modern Monetary Nonsense, Project Syndicate, <www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/federal-reserve-modern-monetary-theory-dangers-by-kenneth-rogoff-2019-03>
  • Mark J. Perry 2019, Dynamic chart of the day: The evolving electricity mix of the US, 1985-2017, Carpe Diem AEI, <www.aei.org/publication/dynamic-chart-of-the-day-the-evolving-electricity-mix-of-the-us-1985-2017/>
  • Marian L. Tupy 2019, Food Prices in 1919 Compared to Today, FEE, <www.fee.org/articles/food-prices-in-1919-compared-to-today/>
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January 15, 2019

Recognize and Prevent Fraud

We have seen an increase in the amount of Cybercrime and fraud threats in the last few years and suspect that trend will continue.  While Financial Coach plays an important role in helping protect your assets, you also can act to protect yourself and help secure your information. We’ve summarized below common cyber fraud tactics, along with tips and best practices. We also cover actions to take if you suspect that your personal information has been compromised.

Cyber criminals exploit our increasing reliance on technology. Methods used to compromise a victim’s identity or login credentials – such as malware, phishing, and social engineering – are increasingly sophisticated and difficult to spot. A fraudster’s goal is to obtain information to access your accounts and assets or sell your information for this purpose. Fortunately, criminals often take the path of least resistance. Following best practices and applying caution when sharing information or executing transactions makes a big difference.

 

What it may look like

Recognizing an attempt at committing fraud may improve the ability to prevent its occurrence. The scenarios below are examples of a few methods used by criminals to fraudulently collect private information.

  • You receive a seemingly legitimate email from your bank regarding a recent data breach. It highly encourages that you check your account and even provides a link to a specified website dedicated to this incident.

Cyber criminals use these types of “phishing” attempts to lure victims to fake websites, which often even appear identical to those of legitimate companies, where they collect information from anyone who attempts to log in and check accounts.

  • A familiar and reputable company you often shop sends you a ‘limited special offer’ in the form of an email attachment, which appears to be nothing more than an advertisement when opened.

Schemes like this are used to trick victims into installing “malware”, which is software specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems. Creating a doorway into your computer, criminals are then able to collect personal information by accessing personal files, email, and web-browsing activities. Some may even spend days, months, or years monitoring activities for patterns before attempting to impersonate without raising flags.

  • The phone rings. Its ABC Insurance Company informing you of a payout from a loved one’s insurance policy. Not quite thinking it through, you provide banking information for payment to go directly into your account.

Unfortunately, there are heartless criminals who prey on the loved ones of the recently departed. Using newspapers, websites, and other sources, they piece together information from obituaries and other public records in hopes of catching the fragile in mourning off-guard.

 

What you can do to prevent it

Be suspicious and trust your gut!

Always second guess unsolicited or unexpected phone calls, text messages, email and even mail, especially when asked to send money or disclose personal information. Hang up the phone/Do not reply to the email/mail at even the slightest suspicion. If the caller/sender is someone you know, confirm the legitimacy of their request by contacting them at a familiar phone number, not an alternate number provided on caller ID or within a suspicious email.

Assume someone is always watching. 

Don’t open links or attachments from unknown sources. Never enter confidential information in public areas. Always visit websites by entering known web addresses into your browser, rather than visiting by clicking links contained within emails.

Beware of urgency and pressure. 

Urgent-sounding, legitimate-looking emails are intended to tempt you to accidentally disclose personal information or install malware. Callers who apply pressure, even be in the form of a friendly caller ‘acting in your best interest’, are may be trying to catch you off-guard.

Monitor, monitor, monitor.

Regularly check your email and financial account statements, such as banks and credit cards, for suspicious activity.

Avoid conducting personal business through email. 

Never share sensitive information through email. Restrict your communication regarding personal or financial information to voice conversations (phone or in-person, not email). Some examples of ‘personal business’ include:

  • Request to a financial adviser for withdrawal of funds or trade activity
  • Tax related details or documents to a CPA
  • Information regarding loan applications, such as a mortgage
  • Bank or credit card related activities
  • Changes to contact information, such as mailing address, phone or email

How we can work together

Below are some safe practices for communicating with our firm to help protect your information and assets.

  • Keep us informed regarding changes to your personal information
  • It is our standard practice to call you and confirm any requests received through email.
  • In 2019 we will be working with our clients to establish a verbal password in order to confirm identity any time a request is received via phone call. This will be an agenda item during our review meetings in 2019.

As always, thank you for your business, trust and friendship.  Please contact anyone at our office with any questions or concerns regarding our cybersecurity protocol.

 

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August 6, 2018

Things We Don’t Believe

 


The practice of overseeing and caring for the financial well-being of clients and their families is serious business, and yet our industry is driven by sales and marketing as much as any other line of work. Things are changing for the better though. Investors are becoming better informed and more financially literate about the big differences in which advisors deliver financial advice and investment management.

 

Evidence Based Investing” is a term that we use quite a bit. And while it may not be a mainstream phrase, it accurately describes how we think about our investing approach. So perhaps that begs a question: what are the other approaches? There really isn’t a specific name for them but maybe they fall under the categories of “Conventional Wisdom”, or “Evidence Free Investing”.

 

These are ideas, notions, and beliefs that pertain to investing that have been around for a long time. Many of these have been sold and marketed by the industry for years and decades and used at the basis for brokers and certain financial advisors to manage their clients’ investments. And some of these sound right; they make intuitive sense in some cases. That’s why the industry has had such success selling based on some of these ideas.

 

So here’s a few things we don’t believe, followed by a brief comment that is grounded in evidence:

 

Focusing on beating market averages is more important than minimizing costs and taxes

Markets are not at all predictable in the short term, and remembering to control what can be controlled is of paramount importance. Avoiding mistakes is more effective than obsessing over beating a benchmark, index, or your neighbor.

 

Returns can be generated without assuming risk

On the contrary, risk is the price that must be paid in order to enjoy higher returns. No exceptions. 

 

Close monitoring of news and headlines is an important part of managing investments

Paying attention to the markets and the news of the day is obviously important. But people make the mistake of assuming that developments in politics, economic data, and other current events should dictate constant changes to investment portfolios. 

 

Choosing the right funds is more important than controlling behavior

Behavioral mistakes can destroy any financial plan, regardless of the specific investments. 

 

It is reasonable to expect to be able to consistently identify which managers will outperform in the future

It is foolish to assume that past winners will continue to beat the competition. Evidence shows that the reverse is usually the case. 

 

Concentrated portfolios are superior to diversified ones

Diversification reflects an acknowledgement of the basic premise of unpredictability. It also provides a natural buffer during market turmoil that increases the chances of sticking with an investment plan. 

 

Correctly timing the markets is a critical task for investors to accomplish in order to achieve solid returns

Getting the proper allocation among the various asset classes and maintaining discipline is by far the most important part of an investment plan. As Peter Lynch said, “more value has been destroyed anticipating corrections than has been lost in the corrections themselves.”

 

Wall Street analysts have special insights into where the markets are headed

The only thing to say about Wall Street’s market predictions is how predictably bad they are. One of the most pervasive myths in the investing business is that there is such a things as the character from the infamous E.F. Hutton commercials from the 1970’s and 1980’s. There is not wizard behind the curtain. 

 

We now have much more widespread dissemination of research, data, and various studies that have been eye opening for a lot of investors. The result of this has been overwhelmingly positive for those investors and practitioners that remain open minded to challenging the conventions that for a long time were assumed as truths.

 

For further reading on this topic: A Guide to Understanding Investment Basics

 

As always, thank you for your trust and confidence in us. Your feedback is always welcome.

 

Michael Traynor CFA®

Chief Investment Officer

 

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