Determining whether an active manager is having a positive impact is a difficult thing to measure, without a doubt. Yet before one can even begin to determine if a manager is delivering value, you must first consider what it takes to constitute “value” in the first place. How much does an active manager need to outperform, in order to be delivering value to the client, to be worth the fee that is paid to the manager? Yet for some reason, we scale we use to measure the cost is very different than how we measure (out)performance. Is there a double-standard here?
Once again the charge of being a “market timer” is being hurled at active portfolio managers in a recent discussion thread initiated by Bob Veres on Financial-Planning.com. The term itself seems to get planners into such a tizzy, though, while the actual definition of what constitutes “market timing” is unclear at best; perhaps a new definition of market timing is in order. To say the least, the most common definition of market timing, the one that implies that market timers are similar to “retail” day-traders willing to take their portfolios to extreme asset allocations based on their very short-term predictions of future market behavior, is badly in need of an upgrade.
Planning around estate taxes by using a Bypass Trust is a “basic” strategy that has been around for decades. In fact, for many clients, it was a major impetus to get their estate planning done in the first place – if your estate was above a certain threshold and you didn’t get estate documents that would put a proper Bypass Trust in place, it could cost your beneficiaries hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Yet with the new provisions of the tax legislation signed into law last week by President Obama, Bypass Trusts will no longer be necessary for many clients to maximize the use of a couple’s estate tax exemptions – which means it may be time to bypass the Bypass Trust planning strategy.
As with many labor-intensive professional services, financial planning is not inexpensive to provide for clients. There are overhead costs, potential staffing costs, regulatory and compliance costs, in addition to the costs for software and services to support how professionals deliver their value. Accordingly, all of this is wrapped into the price that financial planners must charge their clients to earn a reasonable living and an adequate business profit. Yet often clients balk at the cost of financial planning. Which begs the question – if your clients think financial planning is expensive… to what are they comparing that cost?
For many years, the use of annuities for retirement income guarantees often fell along all-or-none lines – either you annuitized the entire amount of income the client needed, or you didn’t. In more recent years, this view has shifted, whether it means just annuitizing a portion of the client’s assets to satisfy some of the income needs, or using a variable annuity with income/withdrawal guarantees to insure at least a portion of the income goals.
Although these strategies are viewed by many as a more balanced and “diversified” way to distribute income needs amongst various products and risks – for instance, insuring 50% of the income goal and investing towards the other 50% – it begs a fundamental question: what exactly does it mean to insure half of a client’s retirement income goal?Read More…
The proverbial writing has been on the wall for a while, but now it’s official: the Social Security withdraw-and-reapply strategy will no longer be available, except under relatively limited circumstances. On the plus side, though, it appears that the strategy has been far more hype than actual value, and the number of people directly affected should be very minimal.