Michele Clark
Clark Hourly Financial Planning - Chesterfield, MO Advisor
1415 Elbridge Payne Road, Suite 255
Chesterfield, MO 63017 USA
Work 636.264.0732
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Asset Allocation: Rebalancing a Portfolio in an Appreciated Market

February 22nd, 2017

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.

Target Bands

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.

Annual Rebalancing

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!

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Financial Records: What to Keep, Where to Keep, and How Long

February 1st, 2017

Keeping your financial records organized is an important part of managing your personal finances.  Whether it’s a paid personal property tax receipt or a W-2 to correct a conflict with Social Security records, there may be times when you need to locate a financial record or document–and you’ll need to locate it quickly.

By taking the time to declutter and organize your financial records, you’ll be able to find what you need when you need it.

What financial documents should you keep?

If you tend to keep stuff because you “might need it someday,” your desk or home office is probably overflowing with nonessential documents. One of the first steps in determining what records to keep is to ask yourself, “Why do I need to keep this?”

Documents you should keep are likely to be those that are difficult to obtain, such as:

  • Tax returns
  • Legal contracts
  • Insurance claims
  • Proof of identity

On the other hand, if you have documents and records that are easily duplicated elsewhere, such as online phone bills and credit-card statements, you probably do not need to keep paper copies of the same information.

How long should you keep your financial records?

Generally, a good rule of thumb is to keep financial records and documents only as long as necessary. For example, you may want to keep ATM and credit-card receipts only temporarily, until you’ve reconciled them with your bank and/or credit-card statement. On the other hand, if a document is legal in nature and/or difficult to replace, you’ll want to keep it for a longer period or even indefinitely.

Some financial records may have more specific timetables. For example, the IRS generally recommends that taxpayers keep federal tax returns and supporting documents for a minimum of three years up to seven years after the date of filing. Certain circumstances may even warrant keeping your tax records indefinitely.

Keep in mind that if you purchased an investment in a taxable account, you will need to have proof of what you paid for that investment, including reinvested capital gains and dividends. The investment companies are required to supply that information for purchases as of January 2012 and after. Before that date they may or may not have it. Do not throw away old investment statements and confirmations of trades before that date for taxable accounts.

Listed below are some recommendations on how long to keep specific documents:

Records to keep for one year or less:

  • Bank or credit union statements (that do not contain information used for tax returns)
  • Credit-card statements (that do not contain information used for tax returns)
  • Utility bills

Records to keep for more than a year:

  • Tax returns and supporting documentation
  • Mortgage contracts
  • Property appraisals
  • Annual retirement and investment statements
  • Receipts for major purchases and home improvements

Records to keep indefinitely:

  • Birth, death, and marriage certificates
  • Adoption records
  • Citizenship and military discharge papers
  • Social Security card

Keep in mind that the above recommendations are general guidelines, and your personal circumstances may warrant keeping these documents for shorter or longer periods of time.

Out with the old, in with the new

An easy way to prevent paperwork from piling up is to remember the phrase “out with the old, in with the new.” For example, when you receive this year’s auto insurance policy, discard the one from last year. In addition, review your files at least once a year to keep your filing system on the right track.

Finally, when you are ready to get rid of certain records and documents, don’t just throw them in the garbage. To protect sensitive information, you should invest in a good quality cross cut shredder to destroy your documents, especially if they contain Social Security numbers, account numbers, or other personal information.

Additionally, you should verify information in your documents, for example pull your credit report and verify that the information contained in it is correct compared to your other documents such as credit card statements. When you look at your Social Security Benefit Statement annually, verify that the earnings history is correct versus your W-2 information.

Where should you keep your financial records?

You could go the traditional route and use a simple set of labeled folders in a file drawer. More important documents should be kept in a fire-resistant file cabinet, safe, or safe-deposit box.

If space is tight and you need to reduce clutter, you might consider electronic storage for some of your financial records. You can save copies of online documents or scan documents and convert them to electronic form. You’ll want to keep backup copies on a portable storage device or hard drive and make sure that your computer files are secure.

You could also use a cloud storage service that encrypts your uploaded information and stores it remotely. If you use cloud storage, make sure to use a reliable company that has a good reputation and offers automatic backup and technical support.

Once you’ve found a place to keep your records, it may be helpful to organize and store them according to specific categories (e.g., banking, insurance, proof of identity), which will make it even easier to access what you might need.

Please note that if you have elected electronic statements with your investment firms, they send you an email notice that your statement has been created and the electronic version is ready for download. They are expecting you to pull up your statement and print it or save an electronic version. Brokerage firms will make an electronic version available to you for a certain period of time ranging from a few years to ten years depending on the firm. After that period they will not have the statement for you. Keep in mind that for taxable investments they were not required to keep track of cost basis information before 2012, although some did.

Tax Preparation Documents

Consider creating a central location to collect the documents, such as 1099s and W-2, needed to prepare your tax return so that as they arrive at the beginning of the year you have one place to collect them, making the task of tax preparation easier. This location can be used throughout the year to collect copies of receipts for donations and major home improvements.

Consider creating a personal document locator

Another option for organizing your financial records is to create a personal document locator, which is simply a detailed list of where you have stored your financial records. This list can be helpful whenever you are trying to locate a specific document and can also assist your loved ones in locating your financial records in the event of an emergency. Typically, a personal document locator, kept in a very secure location, will include the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Personal contacts (e.g., attorney, tax preparer, financial advisor)
  • Online accounts with username and passwords
  • List of specific locations of important documents (e.g., home, office, safe)

Keeping your financial records organized will reap long term rewards in time saved and peace of mind for years to come.

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!

 

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Garrett Planning Network Retreat 2016

August 8th, 2016

I was recently out of the St. Louis area for a bit while I attended The Garrett Planning Network 16th 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 that offer planning and investment advice on an hourly basis.  Each member owns their own firm. I have written about the Garrett Planning Network before.  This was the eighth 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℠

During the four day conference I attended various educational programs such as:

  • Behavioral Finance: Psychology and Economics in Investing
  • Reverse Mortgages in Retirement Income Planning
  • Planning Costs Related to Caregiving
  • Fiduciary Best Practices for Registered Investment Advisor Owners
  • And others

Noted author William Bernstein, a bit of a rock star in our industry, gave one of the Keynote addresses titled “What the Liberal Arts Have to Teach Us about Finance.”  He talked about the difficulty of forecasting, and characteristics of good forecasters.  He discussed economic history; not the usual economic history going back to the market crash of the 20s, or even the tulip bulb bubble.  But economic history going back to biblical times and what conclusions can be drawn from such “longitudinal studies.”

Allan Roth, another well known author and fellow financial advisor delivered the Keynote address “Behavioral Finance: Psychology and Economics in Investing”, wonderfully telling it like it is in his typical style.  He shared financial decision making biases that negatively impact consumers and advisors alike based on academic research and personal observation.

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 dozens of conference calls throughout the year, 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.  I am already looking forward to next year!

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Michele Clark in the News: Wealth Gathering’s Moneymentals Blog

January 7th, 2013

Should you get your investment advice from a couple of plumbers?  I did and it turned into a wonderful career for me.   Those plumbers were my grandpa and my dad.

Learn how I got introduced to investing at a very young age and how it has influenced my thinking about investing ever since by reading “Blogger Interview: Hourly Planner’s Michele Clark” at the Wealth Gathering website.

Michael Goldman at Wealth Gathering asked me some questions about;

  • My professional background and why I didn’t stay in the traditional, commissioned-based brokerage firm environment.  I have worked in a bank, bank brokerage firm, a full commission brokerage firm, and a full service discount brokerage firm.
  • How does my family balance living in the moment vs. saving for the future.  Such a great question, because it is the essence of financial planning.
  • Who is your financial role model.  I could have gone on and on with this one.  I think I will do a future blog post of my own.
  • And do I think everyone is capable of learning enough about personal finance to do it on their own.  This answer may surprise you!

I know Michael through the Garrett Planning Network.  He is like me, in that he owns his own financial planning firm.  In addition he has the Wealth Gathering site which is so unique.  It is designed to offer online tools, coaching, and peer support.  It is structured like a financial fitness program.   As you know, I am a fee-only financial advisor, so I do not receive any compensation from them, and am not affiliated with Wealth Gathering.  If you have a chance to look at the interview, take a look around at the other information on the website.  Especially considering this is the time of year that so many people are tackling financial To Do items.

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Financial Resolutions

December 28th, 2012

I believe that just about everyone has some sort of financially related To Do item sitting on their To Do list.  And they have every intention of taking care of it.  However, so many other more time critical things seem to keep the financial items from getting to the top spot of the list.

If you are going to resolve to get some of your financial To Dos To Done, what actually matters – how it got done or that it got done?  I will come back to that thought in a minute.

When people come to see me they have accumulated a list of tasks, and it is so easy to see how  that happens in our busy lives.

You take a new job – a nice jump up the career ladder.  Something needs to be done with that old 401(k).  But what?   You’re busy with the new job right now.   So you put it on The To Do List.

Your income is higher now with the new job, should you have more life insurance?  Or is the life insurance at work enough?  You did buy some whole life from that guy that came to the house when you first got married.  Is that still the right policy for you or not?  So you put that on The To Do List.

Your kids are getting older, and you haven’t saved as much as you had intended for college.  How much can you afford to put away for their college vs. how much should you be saving for our own retirement?  Well, the kids are in middle school, you have a couple more years, so you put it on The To Do List.

At work they keep changing your investment choices and you don’t know what to pick.  You don’t have the tools to see all of your investments together and create a diversified portfolio that incorporates all of your accounts, but you know that you need to do it one day.  But you don’t have the time right now.  So you put that on The To Do List.

Sometimes when potential clients meet with me in the free Get Acquainted meeting they tell me that they feel bad about not taking care of these things themselves.  I stress to them, that I do not want them to feel that way.  I tell them that when I have electrical problems at the house, I call an electrician.  And when I have serious plumbing problems I call a plumber.  I have had a handy man come to the house a few times to work though lists of little things that were annoyances.  Sometimes you call in a professional to help you with your list.  And it feels great to work on that list.

So if you are making a resolution to get your financial To Do items To Done, make a plan to either do them yourself, or to contact a professional to help you do them.  Because when you mark them off the list, what actually matters – how it got done, or that it got done?

Resolve to take action today!

Have a Wonderful New Year!

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