Although we often think of the IRA as simply another account, the tax law generally regards it as a quasi-entity that is separate from the individual who owns it. Both the individual and the IRA have their own separate tax rules that apply; intermingling money is not allowed (due to contribution limits), and even paying each others' costs can get a client into some hot water. Accordingly, clients must be very careful when they use their own "outside" dollars to pay any form of expenses that are associated with the IRA itself. Fortunately, in a recent private letter ruling, the IRS did (re-)affirm that an IRA's wrap fee expenses are an acceptable cost to pay on behalf of an IRA with outside dollars, while not running afoul of the IRA rules and limitations.
As the terms "being tactical" or "tactical asset allocation" become increasingly popular, more and more advisors now must decide whether they, too, are "tactical" or not when describing their investment process and philosophy to current and prospective clients. Traditionally, the dividing line was simply whether one was active or passive, a determination that could be made pretty clearly by looking at the portfolio: were there a bunch of actively traded stocks and bonds, or a series of actively managed mutual funds that did the same thing? With tactical, though, it's no longer sufficient to simply look at whether there are stocks and bonds in the portfolio, or actively managed mutual funds; instead, some tactical investors implement their strategies by selecting only passive index funds, but still utilize them in an active, tactical process. Which begs the question: where exactly do you draw the line on being tactical?Read More...
Most planning firms pride themselves on providing great service to their clients, which often involves going to great lengths to satisfy client requests. Yet in reality, it seems that a lot of our intensive service efforts are less a function of what our clients asked for, and more about what we thought we should offer them. Perhaps a common example is something like quarterly performance statements; most firms say their clients "want" them, yet in truth most firms started sending them to clients on a quarterly basis before ever asking and surveying their clients about whether it was what they really wanted and needed. Now, of course, clients have an expectation of receiving them regularly, and weening them off of a currently provided service can be difficult. But in the end, did clients really need that service, or do clients only expect because we created that expectation for them, but now will feel like we're taking something away to change it?
Rebalancing is a investing staple of the financial planning world. The execution of a rebalancing strategy helps to ensure that the client's asset allocation does not drift too far out of whack, as without such a process a portfolio holding multiple investments with different returns would eventually lead to a portfolio that increasingly favors the highest return investments due to compounding. Yet in practice, most financial planners often discuss rebalancing not only as a risk-reduction strategy (by ensuring that higher-return higher-volatility assets do not drift to excessive allocations), but also as a return-enhancing strategy. However, in reality, there is nothing inherent about rebalancing that would be anticipated to generate higher returns... unless you get the market timing right.
Undoubtedly you have, at some point, been exposed to someone from Generation Y (born 1978-2000). It could be in the form of a colleague, an employee, restaurant server or even one of your kids. Gen Y, sometimes referred to as Millienals, Gen Text, and Gen Why have a unique set of characteristics. These characteristics often leave others from other generations, mainly baby boomers, scratching their heads. Since most financial planning firms tend to be owned by baby boomers, and most new financial planners tend to be Gen Y's, conflict and misunderstandings because of generational differences are common. Fortunately, many can be solved with a little intergenerational coaching!
In theory, it seems like such a great idea. The greatest fear of a retiree is living longer than expected and/or outliving his/her money. Only slightly less worrisome is the similar risk that the retiree lives so long that inflation erodes wealth and income to the point that the retiree can't maintain his/her standard of living. Yet there is a single financial services product that tackles these two fears head-on, with rock-solid guarantees (at least as long as you buy from a strong company): the inflation-adjusted immediate annuity. Or for those who are a little older with a shorter time horizon (where inflation is less of an issue), the even-more-widely-available traditional immediate annuity. But despite the apparent "perfection" of the solution to address the problem, immediate annuities are just a tiny fraction of overall annuity sales, and most clients are completely unwilling to put any money into them. So what's the deal? If immediate annuities are such a great solution, why doesn't anyone want to buy one?