Category Archives: Retirement Planning

Taking a Closer Look at ETFs – the Importance of Liquidity when Investing

A 30-second read by Nicholas Scheibner: You may have heard about low- or no-expense-ratio Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), but cost is not the most important factor when investing in an ETF – it’s liquidity. You want to make sure that the ETF you’re investing in has a high daily volume of trading. Everything can seem great with an ETF when markets are going up, but when things are going down, and you want to sell out of your fund, you may take a big loss.

To illustrate this, picture a room with 100 people, and a door that can only fit one person at a time.  Imagine everyone wanting to leave the room at the same time.  As you can imagine, there would be a rush to the door, and it would be difficult for everyone to get out – a similar theory applies to ETFs.  If there are very few people trading an ETF on a daily basis, it can be difficult to sell at the price you would like. You want to invest in an ETF that has a lot of activity, (a large door), so that when you want to exit, you can at a reasonable price. 

For more information on ETFs, you can read our “What are some differences between Exchange-Traded Funds and Index Mutual Funds? ” article.

For any other questions, please reach out to your Baron Team

Does Your Advisor Offer Institutional Pricing?

This post originally appeared in April, 2016.  For more information on institutional pricing, visit our Investment Management page.

A 60-second read by Anthony Benante: Baron Financial Group is an institutional investor.  As an independent RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) with no allegiance to any investment company, we seek the most attractively-priced investments for our clients. We look at every situation, and when we have the opportunity to invest in institutionally-priced mutual funds that make sense for our clients, we take advantage of the opportunity. The result of this is a direct benefit to the clients’ bottom line. And here’s why:

In the world of mutual funds (which are pools of assets such as stocks and/or bonds), there can be different pricing for the same underlying investments.  For simplification, you could think about these different pricing levels as institutional and retail. Whether you buy institutional-class shares or retail-priced shares from a mutual fund, the investment itself will be exactly the same. The major difference between the two is their fees and this can directly impact investor performance. For example, retail-priced shares can have higher expense ratios, while institutional-class shares have ongoing lower expense ratios (an expense ratio is a measurement of what an investment company charges to run a mutual fund). Retail customers may experience the effects of higher expense ratios because they typically have lower purchasing power.  Retail investors may also be subjected to upfront fees (fees when you purchase shares) as well as back-end fees (fees when you decide to sell your shares). There can also be yearly marketing fees called “12b-1” fees that you might have to pay. Finally, there may be a minimum to what you have to buy.

Institutional-class shares, on the other hand, tend to offer 25 to 50 basis points (a basis point is 1/100th of 1%) of pricing advantage because of their lower fees. There are no initial upfront percentage fees (note that there can be a small nominal transactional fee to purchase these funds) and no maximum sales fees are allowed. With lower expense ratios, more of your money is actually being invested. The result of this can be better performance and better returns for longer periods. 

Ask an advisor at Baron Financial Group to find out if institutional-class mutual funds are right for you. 

Recent Market Volatility

A 60-second read by Anthony Benante: The US Stock market is experiencing something that historically happens about once per year, a market correction.

Our Clients’ Perspective is Important to Us
Our client portfolios are constructed in a risk-appropriate strategy, based on ability and willingness.  When clients complete a financial-planning workbook, we are able to present analysis showing their financial position in different market environments, including markets like we are currently experiencing

Market Activity
Starting January 30th, market volatility has significantly increased.  Explaining the exact reasons for the current moves at this point is difficult.  Fundamentally, not much has changed from an economic growth, corporate profit or employment standpoint.  These are all showing stability and improvement.  However, on Friday, as part of the unemployment report, it indicated that wage inflation is starting to surface.  This created some questions and concerns around inflation and interest rates.  Markets responded aggressively to these concerns.  We have seen popular equity benchmarks trade significantly lower than where they were in mid-to-late January.

Though the numericalpoint moves you hear about may sound alarming, keep in mind that the index levels themselves are higher.  In reality, the percentage moves are not that uncharacteristic.  As investors, you should expect to experience periods of market weakness.  Corrections of 5% – 10% are not that uncommon historically.  We just have not seen these types of moves recently. 

What Baron is Doing – Controlling the Controllable 
The development of Baron Strategies for clients considers different market environments.  That is why we have assets that are built for Growth, for Stability and for Diversification.  We are paying attention to the performance of our investment choices.  We continue to review our investment choices versus peers and benchmarks, and seek rebalancing opportunities.

Baron follows the four pillars of disciplined investing:

  1.  Create a globally-diversified portfolio
  2.  Control the quality of investments
  3.  Rebalance when needed
  4.  Keep emotions out of investing

With the recent Stock Market turbulence, there are THREE questions you should be asking yourself:

  1. Do I have a strategy in place for all market conditions?
  2. Am I receiving proactive communication from my advisor?
  3. Have I been given financial guidance to help answer “Am I OK”?

We gladly offer a second-opinion phone call to help review your financial situation or to answer any questions you may be having at this time.  Please feel free to reach out to the Baron Team.

Click here to learn about our comprehensive Financial Planning and Investment Management service

Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Every investment strategy has the potential for profit or loss. This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice.

5 Financial Actions to Consider at Year-End – 2017 version

A 90-second read by Anthony Benante:  What 5 things should you be thinking about at the end of the year when it comes to your finances?

1. Review your personal budget and commit to a savings plan for 2018

a. On January 1, write down the balance in your checking account. Do this on the first of the month for the next three months. After you incorporate your income for the period, as well as take note of any cash withdrawals from other accounts, you can get a general sense of what your monthly spending is.

b. We work directly with our clients at Baron to help understand how their budget and all of their financial assets work together.  If you would like a budget sheet (either electronic or hard-copy), let us know. 

2. Review your long-term investment strategy

a. Is the long-term strategy in place for you still right for your specific circumstance? Are you going to be making any large purchases coming up in the New Year? Are you thinking about revisiting your risk tolerance – becoming more aggressive or conservative?

b. At Baron, we use a customized approach to design client portfolios.  We not only consider potential return, but also risk, as well as how the investments complement each other.  Having a long-term investment strategy is critical for investing success and provides a guide for when markets act unexpectedly or make a major directional move.

3. Rebalance your investment accounts

a. Rebalancing brings the portfolio into alignment with the original target weights of each asset class. It also helps to reduce long-term portfolio volatility.

b. Client portfolios at Baron are rebalanced on a contingent basis.  This means the actual holdings are regularly compared to the recommended strategy.  Triggers are in place to help identify when investments deviate too far from strategy and trades are placed. This keeps client portfolios close to their strategy.  Most individuals do not follow this disciplined approach. 

4. Review your tax situation for the year and take advantage of tax trading in your investment accounts, if possible

a. Understanding how your investments may impact your tax circumstance is important.  The last trading day for 2017 is Friday December 29th.  That is the last day you can make any changes to your portfolio for your 2017 tax return.

b. Throughout the year, we review Baron clients’ tax situations and see if any strategic trades can be made to help reduce tax burdens.  As year-end approaches, we look to minimize tax impacts when possible.  However, our main focus is adhering to portfolio strategy, while minimizing taxes when possible.

c. A new tax  bill has been passed and there will be changes for 2018.  Check in with your accountant or tax preparer to see if they recommend any changes prior to year-end or to your tax plan for 2018.

5. If you are 70 ½ or older, or if you have inherited a tax-deferred account, make sure you understand how required minimum distributions (RMDs) apply to you

a. If either of the above applies to you, you will need to take an RMD.  Contact your advisor or custodian to help understand the amount and how to take your RMD.  It is important to take your required minimum distribution in order to prevent any penalties from the IRS.

b. At Baron, we advise our clients on the timing, the structure (lump sum or regular distributions throughout the year) and the correct dollar amount needed to be withdrawn from retirement accounts requiring RMDs.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Baron Financial Group team.

 

Keeping Your Portfolio “Balanced”

A 60-second read by Victor Cannillo:  If your goal is to invest over the long-term, totally avoiding a sector solely on the basis that it has recently performed well would not be prudent.  Long-term investors should identify a globally-diversified strategy, spread across many sectors, that is risk appropriate and helps them achieve their goals.  

At Baron, our objective is to find the appropriate balance of globally-diversified assets for our clients’ portfolio, while producing as little volatility as possible to achieve their desired results. Using a rebalancing strategy can help smooth out volatility in the portfolio and prevent overweighting to any one sector or asset class while still allowing the investor to remain invested.

A rebalancing strategy aims to divest the relative gains from strong-performing asset classes and invest the proceeds in non-correlated asset classes that may be underperforming at the present time. By purchasing securities within sectors that may be trading at severe discounts due to their lackluster recent performance, our clients can both reap the reward of the recent market surge, while simultaneously strengthening the long-term stability of their portfolio. Furthermore, if the sectors that have been performing well recently were to take a severe and unexpected downturn, a rebalancing strategy would look to assure that the portfolio is not overinvested in those asset classes and exposed to an unwarranted amount of risk at any given time.

For any questions on your portfolio, please don’t hesitate to contact your Baron Team

 

Converting your IRA to a Roth IRA – What to Know

A 60-second read by Nicholas Scheibner:  The main difference between a Traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and a Roth IRA is that with a Roth IRA, you pay taxes upfront, so that when you are in retirement, you can make withdrawals tax-free.

If you are considering converting your IRA to a Roth, here are a few things to consider:

Taxes: If you convert money from a traditional IRA to a Roth, your tax rate for the year you convert could go up.  If you decide to explore the conversion, please review with your accountant when to convert, as ideally, you would want to convert in a year that you expect your taxes to be lower.

RMDs: If you do decide to convert, this does provide a greater tax diversification to your overall portfolio, since you will potentially be reducing the required minimum distribution (RMD) amount from your IRA by converting IRA assets to Roth IRA assets.

The financial breakeven: The financial breakeven for a Roth is different for everyone, however, there are some general principles for the calculation – If tax rates increase in the future, this conversion may be worth more. If tax rates stay the same, or go lower, there may be less of a benefit. You may want to consider the opportunity cost of investing all monies today as opposed to using a portion for taxes.  The longer you live the more you may benefit from having the Roth assets grow tax-free.

Please review this information with your accountant and consult with your financial planner prior to converting.

For any further questions, please reach out to your Baron team.

What Does Working with a Fee-Only Advisor Mean for You?

An Advisor who is compensated by only YOU, the client:

Working with a Fee-Only advisor means that the advisor is only compensated by the fee that they charge, not by any commissions. The fee could be charged hourly, or it could be calculated as a percentage of a client’s assets under management (AUM), or even a retainer model. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is the country’s leading professional association of Fee-Only financial advisors and they define a Fee-Only financial advisor as “one who is compensated solely by the client with neither the advisor nor any related party receiving compensation that is contingent on the purchase or sale of a financial product.” 

Working with a Fee-Only advisor means that the advice you receive is not motivated by the need to sell any products or influence from outside interests. The advice is objective and tailored to meet your specific needs.

An Advisor who works in YOUR Best Interest:

Continue reading What Does Working with a Fee-Only Advisor Mean for You?

Treasury Ends myRA Retirement Savings Program

A 30-second read by Victoria Cannillo: In a previous post, we provided an overview of myRA, a retirement savings option, backed by the U.S. Treasury, for those who didn’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. The program was introduced in 2014 to enable participants to contribute to a retirement plan with flexible contribution amounts and no fees to open an account. The Treasury Department has recently announced that the myRA program will no longer continue, stating the demand for the program did not warrant the expense.

On the myRA website it states, “The U.S. Department of the Treasury has decided to phase out the myRA® retirement savings program and the program is no longer accepting new enrollments…” According to a July 28, 2017 article in The New York Times by reporter Tara Siegel Bernard, in the few years that the program was in existence, there were roughly thirty thousand participants. Participants of the program have the opportunity to rollover the savings that they accumulated through myRA into a Roth IRA. The myRA website provides participants information about selecting a new Roth IRA provider so that they can continue saving.

Please reach out to your Baron Team for any further questions.

Dealing with Market Volatility – A Long-Term Perspective Helps Manage Short-Term Actions

A 60-second read by Anthony Benante: If staying up-to-date on market events is a part of your regular routine, that is fine, but remember that volatility is a constant factor when it comes to investing. It’s best to have a plan established before you invest, so that you know what to do when markets make unexpected short-term moves.  For the assets you are investing for the long-term, the day-to-day fluctuations you experience now may not seem as significant over time. However, there are actions you want to take. 

At Baron Financial Group, we review our investment choices versus peer investments, to determine if any individual investment choices need to be changed.  Also, we review client portfolios versus their specific long-term strategy and rebalance them if needed.  These actions are part of working towards our main objective, which is to help our clients achieve their financial goals.  Volatile markets are incorporated in our financial plans for clients and we keep clients informed about their chances for achieving those goals in different market environments.  This helps give our clients a clear perspective of where they stand and what it will take to achieve their long-term financial goals, even after incorporating recent market moves.

As always, if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Baron Financial Group team.

 

Should politics affect your decision to include international investments in your portfolio?

A 45-second read by Anthony Benante:  For your specific portfolio, you need to evaluate your ability and willingness to take risk to help determine your personal profile. Without knowing about your entire financial situation, we would not make a specific recommendation for any asset. Typically, including globally-diversified assets in your investment strategy offers statistical benefits. We encourage you to think about the long-term nature of investing and validate your investment strategy with a comprehensive financial plan.  The plan should show outcomes based on different market environments and cycles.

Given the expectation that you could live into your 90s, it would probably not be best to look at your portfolio through a political lens.  In the short-term, breaking news is constantly occurring and it would be difficult to react correctly to each new development as it relates to your investments.  Over the long-term, there is the possibility for change in political parties and history suggests that the political party in charge in the United States has little impact on long-term market performance.  The decision to include international investments should not be directed by current political situations, but rather based on which investment strategy can help you achieve long-term success.

Reach out to our Baron team if you have any questions…