Benchmarking is a standard tool for investors and investment professionals to evaluate the results of an investment manager. In a world of investing within asset classes and style boxes, the benchmarking process is relatively straightforward – any particular investment offering can be easily matched to an appropriate benchmark. In a world of unconstrained, “go-anywhere” style managers, though, the benchmarking process is less certain. Common methods to determine an appropriate benchmark – such as an ex-post regression of what the fund was invested in – can obscure the actions of the manager, for better or for worse. Is the only solution to simply select an arbitrary benchmark and proceed accordingly? Can we eschew a benchmark altogether?Read More…
The principles of drip marketing are not new; the concept of marketing by sending a series of messages to prospects over time to build familiarity and remain top-of-mind so that you’re likely to be contacted when a need arises has existed for decades. In fact, drip marketing has only gained in popularity as the costs of distribution have declined – from the increasing efficiency of printing postcards, catalogues, and newsletters, to the almost negligible cost of sending messages via email (sometimes taken to its abusive extreme, “spam email”). Unfortunately, though, the challenge of most drip marketing is that it’s still very impersonal, and it can often be a challenge to even identify a list of people to whom the messages should be communicated in the first place. Yet the growing world of social media creates the potential to take “drip marketing” to a whole new level, because it is more social – making it more personal and more engaging, with sharing tools to help the people who receive your content to refer you to their friends and family, and for those you want to reach find you!
Enjoy the current installment of "weekend reading for financial planners" – this week’s edition starts off with two articles about the ongoing debate in Washington on the Investment Advisor Oversight Act of 2012 (the so-called "Bachus SRO legislation"), including a scathing report from the Project on Government Oversight on why FINRA would be a poor choice of SRO, and a second article about why in the end there probably won’t be any action on the Bachus legislation until next year anyway but it’s still important to take it seriously now. From there, we look at a few practice management articles, from an interesting look at how young Generation Y agents are changing marketing and business development in the insurance industry, to the importance of having a good first-six-weeks process in your firm to ensure that your own new Generation Y hires will stick around for the long run, to the importance of choosing the right name for your firm, knowing how to sell to develop your business (even as a professional!), and that the key to growing your business is to deliver an experience that is remarkable – as in, literally, something worth remarking about. There’s also an article about whether Veralytic is really a useful tool for advisors evaluating life insurance on Advisors4Advisors (a response to a post on this blog from a few weeks ago), an examination of how advisors have shifted their investments before and after the financial crisis, and a look at how the due diligence burden on really evaluating ETFs has become far more complex with the proliferation of ETF innovation. We wrap up with Bill Gross’ latest missive from PIMCO about the Wall Street Food Chain, and how the 1% at the top may be disrupted more than they expect as the global deleveraging process continues. Enjoy the reading!
“Planners and academics need to work together to develop a profession with evidence-based practices.” That is the message given at the FPA Retreat by Dr. Michael Finke, a professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University, and a co-author of mine at the Journal of Financial Planning.
Yet while the Journal of Financial Planning is a great resource, and it has been the go-to outlet for research on retirement planning from the perspective of practicing financial planners, especially regarding safe withdrawal rate strategies, the academic research approaches the retirement challenge from a different perspective and focuses on different tools and strategies.
Ultimately, researchers can use their technical skills to investigate optimal retirement strategies, and practitioners can guide these investigations by suggesting real world constraints and ideas for solutions, and even by sharing in the nitty-gritty process of conducting the research. Let’s encourage these interactions to get rigorous analyses which can be applied to real-world problems.Read More…
In planning for retiring clients, it’s crucial to get an understanding of what the client’s goals are in the first place – so that recommendations can be made about how to financially secure those goals. In the context of setting a spending goal, a popular delineation is to separate retirement spending into “essential” versus “discretionary” expenses – not unlike “needs” versus “wants” for accumulators – with the idea of using guarantees to secure the essential expenses, and less certain growth assets with some risk to fund the discretionary expenses (since they’re ‘only’ discretionary and not essential, by definition).
Yet in reality, even discretionary spending still constitutes an important part of a retiree’s overall lifestyle – the loss of which could be very psychologically damaging. As a result, merely securing the essential expenses of retirement and leaving the rest at risk still, in the eyes of most retirees, would constitute a failure of the overall retirement goal. Instead, clients often choose to ensure that all their spending can be sustained – by continuing to work as long as necessary (as health allows) to secure all of their goals. Does that mean the distinction between essential versus discretionary retirement expenses isn’t necessarily helpful after all?
As the country continues to struggle with its fiscal woes, Congress and the White House are increasingly proposing tax law changes intended to cut down on perceived “abuses” and “tax loopholes” – especially those used by the wealthy. The latest, in the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, is a proposal to change to the estate tax laws, requiring any grantor trust to be included in the estate of the grantor (or pay gift taxes if the grantor trust assets are distributed before the grantor’s death).
The proposal would kill the popular Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT) estate planning strategy, which works specifically by relying on the fact that a trust can be a grantor trust for income tax purposes even while being excluded from the grantor’s estate for estate tax purposes – after all, if the grantor trust is automatically included in the grantor’s estate, there’s no longer any value to make gifts or sales of property to an IDGT.
While the rules are only proposed at this point – and would only apply to trusts created in the future, after the enactment date of any legislation – the fact that the change was proposed at all suggests that the days of IDGT planning strategies may be numbered. Read More…