Enjoy the current installment of "weekend reading for financial planners" - this week's edition kicks off with an interesting lawsuit that has been filed by "whistleblower" David Danon against Vanguard, suggesting that it is abusing its unique corporate structure to avoid any Federal and state income taxes that should be paid (to the tune of $1B of foregone Federal taxes in the past decade), in addition to implicitly giving it an unfair competitive advantage as a result.
From there, we have a few investment-related articles this week, including a discussion of whether the era of the stockpicker may be definitively coming to an end as Vanguard approaches $3 trillion of AUM and the expansive march of investment tools and technology makes "everyone" such a capable investor that there's not enough alpha left to go around, the emerging price war between established financial services companies (and financial advisors) and technology companies (e.g., robo-advisors) who are driving down the cost of a pure passive strategic portfolio that is regularly rebalanced, and a fascinating article finding that low-cost active managers really may be providing value (including Vanguard's own active funds) and that the real issue is not about active vs passive but simply high-cost versus low-cost.
We also have several technical financial planning pieces, from a great discussion by David Blanchett and Wade Pfau about how most of the criticisms of Monte Carlo are not actually faults of Monte Carlo but simply flaws in how our typical Monte Carlo tools are designed and used (and could be solved with better software tools and assumptions), to a look at the re-emergence of "jumbo" reverse mortgage loans after "smaller" HECM reverse mortgages have dominated the landscape for 5 years (though the new loans may still be too expensive to be competitive). There's also a good summary of the recent Social Security Trustees' Report, highlighting that Social Security is not as bad off as most suggest!
There are a couple of practice management articles as well, including how advisors can take advantage of the "small data" opportunities in their practices along with the "big data" solutions that are being built for them, some tips about processes/procedures to implement to avoid HR headaches as an advisory firm owner, and a nice guide on how to onboard a new employee in an advisory board.
We wrap up with three interesting articles: the first looks at whether the financial services industry needs to get better about communicating more visually and putting some "glamour" into solutions (without being abusive); the second is written by a so-called "0.01%er" about the problems with income inequality and making an interesting case for why a significant increase in the minimum wage could be good for both the middle class and capitalism; and the last paints a sad but disturbingly accurate picture of just how "strange" the financial services industry really is, in a country where doctors must attend medical school and lawyers must pass the bar - and even becoming a taxi driver in London requires passing a test that can take years of practice - but in financial services, "managing money requires little more than a desire to manage money" (and a very rudimentary licensing test)!
And be certain to check out Bill Winterberg's "Bits & Bytes" video on the latest in advisor tech news at the end, including big changes for online data storage for users of Dropbox and a look at whether the latest Google Apps are making Microsoft Office less necessary than ever! Enjoy the reading!