Risk

The Sequence of Returns

Presented by Beacon Financial Group

A look at how variable rates of return do (and do not) impact investors over time.

What exactly is the “sequence of returns”? The phrase describes the yearly variation in an investment portfolio’s rate of return. Across 20 or 30 years of saving and investing for the future, what kind of impact do these deviations from the average return have on a portfolio’s final value?

 

The answer: no impact at all.

 

Once an investor retires, however, these ups and downs can have an effect on portfolio value – and retirement income.

   

During the accumulation phase, the sequence of returns is ultimately inconsequential. Yearly returns may vary greatly or minimally; in the end, the variance from the mean hardly matters. (Think of “the end” as the moment the investor retires: the time when the emphasis on accumulating assets gives way to the need to withdraw assets.)

 

An analysis from BlackRock bears this out. The asset manager compares three model investing scenarios: three investors start portfolios with lump sums of $1 million, and each of the three portfolios averages a 7% annual return across 25 years. In two of these scenarios, annual returns vary from -7% to +22%. In the third scenario, the return is simply 7% every year. In all three situations, each investor accumulates $5,434,372 after 25 years – because the average annual return is 7% in each case. 1

 

Here is another way to look at it. The average annual return of your portfolio is dynamic; it changes, year-to-year. You have no idea what the average annual return of your portfolio will be when “it is all said and done,” just like a baseball player has no idea what his lifetime batting average will be four seasons into a 13-year playing career. As you save and invest, the sequence of annual portfolio returns influences your average yearly return, but the deviations from the mean will not impact the portfolio’s final value. It will be what it will be. 1

 

When you shift from asset accumulation to asset distribution, the story changes. You must try to protect your invested assets against sequence of returns risk.

 

This is the risk of your retirement coinciding with a bear market (or something close). Even if your portfolio performs well across the duration of your retirement, a bad year or two at the beginning could heighten concerns about outliving your money. 

 

For a classic illustration of the damage done by sequence of returns risk, consider the awful 2007-2009 bear market. Picture a couple at the start of 2008 with a $1 million portfolio, held 60% in equities and 40% in fixed-income investments. They arrange to retire at the end of the year. This will prove a costly decision. The bond market (in shorthand, the S&P U.S. Aggregate Bond Index) gains 5.7% in 2008, but the stock market (in shorthand, the S&P 500) dives 37.0%. As a result, their $1 million portfolio declines to $800,800 in just one year. 2

 

If you are about to retire, do not dismiss this risk. If you are far from retirement, keep saving and investing, knowing that the sequence of returns will have its most relevant implications as you make your retirement transition.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

 

    

Citations.

1 - blackrock.com/pt/literature/investor-education/sequence-of-returns-one-pager-va-us.pdf [10/19]

2 - kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T047-C032-S014-is-your-retirement-income-in-peril-of-this-risk.html [7/3/18]

3 - thebalance.com/how-sequence-risk-affects-your-retirement-money-2388672 [2/8/19]

 

 

Your Changing Definition of Risk in Retirement

Presented by Beacon Financial Group

During your accumulation years, you may have categorized your risk as “conservative,” “moderate,” or “aggressive,” and that guided how your portfolio was built. Maybe you concerned yourself with finding the “best-performing funds,” even though you knew past performance does not guarantee future results.

 

What occurs with many retirees is a change in mindset – it’s less about finding the “best-performing fund” and more about consistent performance. It may be less about a risk continuum – that stretches from conservative to aggressive – and more about balancing the objectives of maximizing your income and sustaining it for a lifetime.

 

You may even find yourself willing to forgo return potential for steady income.

 

A change in your mindset may drive changes in how you shape your portfolio and the investments you choose to fill it.

 

Let’s examine how this might look at an individual level.

 

Still Believe. During your working years, you understood the short-term volatility of the stock market, but accepted it for its growth potential over longer time periods. You’re now in retirement and still believe in that concept. In fact, you know stocks remain important to your financial strategy over a 30-year or more retirement period.

 

But you’ve also come to understand that withdrawals from your investment portfolio have the potential to accelerate the depletion of your assets when investment values are declining. How you define your risk tolerance may not have changed, but you understand the new risks introduced by retirement. Consequently, it’s not so much about managing your exposure to stocks but considering new strategies that adapt to this new landscape. Keep in mind that the return and principal value of stock prices will fluctuate as market conditions change. And shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost. This is a hypothetical example used for illustrative purposes only.

 

Shift the Risk. For instance, it may mean that you hold more cash than you ever did when you were earning a paycheck. It also may mean that you consider investments that shift the risk of market uncertainty to another party, such as an insurance company. Many retirees choose annuities for just that reason.

 

The guarantees of an annuity contract depend on the issuing company’s claims-paying ability. Annuities have contract limitations, fees, and charges, including account and administrative fees, underlying investment management fees, mortality and expense fees, and charges for optional benefits. Most annuities have surrender fees that are usually highest if you take out the money in the initial years of the annuity contract. Withdrawals and income payments are taxed as ordinary income. If a withdrawal is made prior to age 59½, a 10% federal income tax penalty may apply (unless an exception applies).1

 

The march of time affords us ever-changing perspectives on life, and that is never truer than during retirement.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

 

Citations.

1 - forbes.com/sites/forbesfinancecouncil/2019/05/09/understanding-financial-risk-why-you-shouldnt-just-focus-on-the-probability-of-success [5/7/19]  



Diversification, Patience, and Consistency

Presented by Beacon Financial Group

Three important factors when it comes to your financial life.

Regardless of how the markets may perform, consider making the following part of your investment philosophy:

 

Diversification. The saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has real value when it comes to investing. In a bear or bull market, certain asset classes may perform better than others. If your assets are mostly held in one kind of investment (say, mostly in mutual funds or mostly in CDs or money market accounts), you could be hit hard by stock market losses, or alternately, lose out on potential gains that other kinds of investments may be experiencing. There is an opportunity cost as well as risk. 1

Asset allocation strategies are used in portfolio management. A financial professional can ask you about your goals, tolerance for risk, and assign percentages of your assets to different classes of investments. This diversification is designed to suit your preferred investment style and your objectives.  However, there is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification and asset allocation do not protect against market risk.

 

Patience. Impatient investors obsess on the day-to-day doings of the stock market. Have you ever heard of “stock picking” or “market timing”? How about “day trading”? These are all attempts to exploit short-term fluctuations in value. These investing methods might seem fun and exciting if you like to micromanage, but they could add stress and anxiety to your life, and they may be a poor alternative to a long-range investment strategy built around your life goals. Keep in mind, there is no guaranteed strategy to accurately predict when to enter or exit the market.

 

Consistency. Most people invest a little at a time, within their budget, and with regularity. They invest $50 or $100 or more per month in their 401(k) and similar investments through payroll deduction or automatic withdrawal. They are investing on “autopilot” to help themselves build wealth for retirement and for long-range goals. Investing regularly (and earlier in life) helps you to take advantage of the power of compounding as well.

 

If you don’t have a long-range investment strategy, talk to a qualified financial professional today to determine what strategy may be appropriate for you.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

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Citations.

1 - forbes.com/sites/brettsteenbarger/2019/05/27/why-diversification-works-in-life-and-markets [5/27/19]

Do Our Biases Affect Our Financial Choices?

Presented by Beacon Financial Group

Even the most seasoned investors are prone to their influence.

Investors are routinely warned about allowing their emotions to influence their decisions.  They are less routinely cautioned about letting their preconceptions and biases color their financial choices.

 

In a battle between the facts & our preconceptions, our preconceptions may win. If we acknowledge this tendency, we may be able to avoid some unexamined choices when it comes to personal finance; it may actually “pay” us to recognize our biases as we invest. Here are some common examples of bias creeping into our financial lives. 1

  

Valuing outcomes of investment decisions more than the quality of those decisions. An investor thinks, “I got a great return from that decision,” instead of thinking, “that was a good decision because ______.”

 

How many investment decisions do we make that have a predictable outcome? Hardly any. In retrospect, it is all too easy to prize the gain from a decision over the wisdom of the decision, and to, therefore, believe that the decisions with the best outcomes were in fact the best decisions (not necessarily true). 

Valuing facts we “know” & “see” more than “abstract” facts. Information that seems abstract may seem less valid or valuable than information that relates to personal experience. This is true when we consider different types of investments, the state of the markets, and the health of the economy.

 

Valuing the latest information most. In the investment world, the latest news is often more valuable than old news, but when the latest news is consistently good (or consistently bad), memories of previous market climate(s) may become too distant. If we are not careful, our minds may subconsciously dismiss the eventual emergence of the next bear (or bull) market. 

     

Being overconfident. The more experienced we are at investing, the more confidence we have about our investment choices. When the market is going up and a clear majority of our investment choices work out well, this reinforces our confidence, sometimes to a point where we may start to feel we can do little wrong, thanks to the state of the market, our investing acumen, or both. This can be dangerous.

 

The herd mentality. You know how this goes: if everyone is doing something, they must be doing it for sound and logical reasons. The herd mentality is what leads many investors to buy high (and sell low). It can also promote panic selling. Above all, it encourages market timing – and when investors try to time the market, they frequently realize subpar returns.

       

Sometimes, asking ourselves what our certainty is based on and what it reflects about ourselves can be a helpful and informative step. Examining our preconceptions may help us as we invest.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 - forbes.com/sites/theyec/2018/12/14/three-psychological-biases-that-prevent-effective-financial-management [12/14/18]



Investing Means Tolerating Some Risk

That truth must always be recognized.

When financial markets have a bad day, week, or month, discomforting headlines and data can

swiftly communicate a message to retirees and retirement savers alike: equity investments are

risky things, and Wall Street is a risky place.

All true. If you want to accumulate significant retirement savings or try and grow your wealth

through the opportunities in the markets, this is a reality you cannot avoid.

Regularly, your investments contend with assorted market risks. They never go away. At

times, they may seem dangerous to your net worth or your retirement savings, so much so that

you think about getting out of equities entirely.

If you are having such thoughts, think about this: in the big picture, the real danger to your

retirement could be being too risk averse.

Is it possible to hold too much in cash? Yes. Some pre-retirees do. (Even some retirees, in fact.)

Some have six-figure savings accounts, built up since the Great Recession and the last bear

market. They may feel this is a prudent move with the thought that a dollar will always be

worth a dollar in America, and that the money is out of the market and backed by deposit

insurance.

This is all well and good, but the problem is the earning potential. Even with interest rates

rising, many high-balance savings accounts are currently yielding less than 0.5% a year. The

latest inflation data shows consumer prices advancing 2.3% a year. The data suggests the

money in the bank is not outrunning inflation and may likely lose purchasing power over

time.

Consider some of the recent yearly advances of the S&P 500. In 2016, it gained 9.54%; in

2017, it gained 19.42%. Those were the price returns; the 2016 and 2017 total returns (with

dividends reinvested) were a respective 11.96% and 21.83%.

Yes, the broad benchmark for U.S. equities has bad years as well. Historically, it has had about

one negative year for every three positive years. Looking through relatively recent historical

windows, the positives have mostly outweighed the negatives for investors. From 1973-2016,

for example, the S&P gained an average of 11.69% per year. (The last 3-year losing streak the

S&P had was in 2000-02.)

Your portfolio may not return as well as the S&P does in a given year, but when equities rally,

your household may see its invested assets grow noticeably. When you bring in equity

investment account factors like compounding and tax deferral, the growth of those invested

assets over decades may dwarf the growth that could result from mere checking or savings

account interest.

At some point, putting too little into investments and too much in the bank may become a risk

– a risk to your retirement savings potential. At today’s interest rates, the money you are

saving may end up growing faster if it is invested in some vehicle offering potentially greater

reward and comparatively greater degrees of risk to tolerate.

Having an emergency fund is good. You can dip into that liquid pool of cash to address

sudden financial issues that pose risks to your financial equilibrium in the present.

Having a retirement fund is even better. When you have one of those, you may confidently

address the risk of outliving your money in the future.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This

information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee

of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is

advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and

may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment

or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any

investment.

«RepresentativeDisclosure»

Citations.

1 - valuepenguin.com/average-savings-account-interest-rates [10/4/18]

2 - investing.com/economic-calendar/ [10/11/18]

3 - money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/ [10/11/18]

4 - ycharts.com/indicators/sandp_500_total_return_annual [10/11/18]

5 - thebalance.com/stock-market-returns-by-year-2388543 [6/23/18]