Author Archives: Claire Harrison

Claire Harrison
Claire Harrison is a Campaign Manager at blooom. A high-fiver, thinker, and coffee drinker, Claire loves the Oxford comma and clean design. She’s werkin’ hard to help people learn about their retirement savings and how easy blooom is to use.

The September PastCast

September gets a bad rap.

Poor September. It’s known as the worst month to invest in stocks. But surprise! This year, it wasn’t. More on September’s reputation in a second…

This September, more strong economic news led to continued gains in US stocks, wrapping up the strongest quarter for US stocks since 2013. International stocks in developed countries continued to lag behind the US in large part due to continued concerns on international trade, but did see positive returns for the quarter. Emerging markets stocks continued to struggle and were mostly flat or slightly negative for September, which continues to provide long-term investors the opportunity to add to their positions.

So why the negative press, yo?

Every single year, TV pundits and prognosticators ramp up their bold predictions and warn investors that September has historically been a bad month for stocks. In fact, here are a few of the headlines you may have seen (but hopefully didn’t) in late August or early September this year:

Yes, it’s true that over the last century, the month of September has, on average, typically been the worst month of the year for US stocks, as measured by the Dow. You’ll hear all kinds of speculation as to why this is the case, but one common theory is that people tend to feel more pessimistic about their investments as they wrap up their summer vacations. Don’t get us wrong, summer ending can be a bummer, but this seems like a bit of a stretch. Regardless of the true reason, we won’t argue with the fact. But here’s what they don’t tell you: Over that same period, the Dow’s BEST month of the year has been…wait for it…October!

So what’s the point here? Although historical averages and ominous headlines might suggest that you should sell your stocks every August 31st and then buy back in on September 30th, don’t get caught in that trap. An average like this should not create an expectation. In the last ten years, September has actually seen gains in six of those years. And just two years ago, October was the second worst month of the year for the Dow, despite being the best month on average over the last 100. Using what’s realistically just a coincidental number to try to predict performance over any 30-day period is just one of the many market timing traps investors can be tempted into by scary headlines. Had you reacted to the above headlines in six of the last ten years, you would have been wrong. In fact, in two of those ten, the sell in September/buy in October strategy would have been a double-whammy for you, since stocks were up in September and down in October. And just last year, September was the second BEST month of the year.

An important note: Even if you wanted to, most work retirement plans like 401(k)s won’t even allow you to process more than one transaction into or out of an investment more often than once in a 30-90 day period, unless you pay a hefty fee or risk an excessive trading violation that could restrict access to trade on your account at all in the future.

The bottom line:

When you’re investing for a long-term goal that is over 25 years away and you’re making regular contributions to your retirement account, like a 401(k) or 403(b) at work, there is no point in getting caught up in this guessing game, or any other form of market timing. When you’re investing regularly over time, you’re able to take advantage of the market whether it moves up or down. Since September saw gains for US stocks, and blooom includes a significant allocation to US stocks for most clients, that portion of your account likely grew last month. If October happens to see a stock market pullback for some reason (not that we are predicting this!), it’s basically a market on sale and your money is able to purchase more shares of the funds in your plan at a discount from what they were just weeks ago! History has shown that when you stay consistent, tune out the noise, and ignore the temptation to time the market, it’s a win/win for the vast majority of long-term investors, regardless of what the market does in any snapshot of one month, or even one year!

And if you have less than 25 years until you plan to retire, blooom recommends exposure to more and more bonds as you approach retirement, so trying to guess what stocks may or may not do over any short-term period becomes even less relevant than it already should be to you.

Major props to the stock market for what it accomplished in September and the continuation of this 9+ year run that we’re on now. And hey, maybe this even continues into October and beyond, but remember that returns over 30 days have little impact at all on your returns over the next 30 years. Keep saving, stay invested, and stay focused on what’s important, instead of the click-bait headlines and ratings-hungry business news. And as always, feel free to reach out to our advisors if you ever have concerns.That’s what we’re here for!

Read More

Perception vs. Reality: 2008 to Today

Last month marked the ten year anniversary of the beginning of what ultimately became one of the most significant financial collapses and recessions in our history. Investors closer to retirement saw decades worth of retirement savings seemingly disappear from their 401(k) balances and many young investors were scared out of stocks for good. And yet, just six months following the beginning of the crisis (March 2009), the stock market began what just recently became the longest uninterrupted period of growth EVER.

 

Perception of the stock market since 2008

It turns out that nearly half the country has a negative view of the stock market and how it has performed in the time since the crisis. In fact, a recent study showed that 48% of those surveyed thought that the US Stock market had not gone up at all in the last ten years. 18% actually thought it had gone down. The number of people that own any stock at all has never recovered from prior the the crash either. In 2007, 65% of Americans owned stock in some form or another, but today, that number remains much lower at 55%. So what has actually happened to stocks these last ten years, and what valuable lessons should all investors be reminded of in all of this?

 

The Brutal Truth

It turns out that not only have US stocks increased since the bottom in March of 2009, but the S&P 500, an index representing 500 of the largest publicly-traded American companies, is up over 350%. That is a market that has more than quadrupled it’s value in just 10 years! In other words, looking back, the crash of ‘08-’09 was an historic investment opportunity for those that were able to stay calm and focused on their long-term goals. What many view as the perfect example of why NOT to risk your money in the stock market, has actually become one of the best examples in a lifetime of why it’s so important to invest in stocks when you have a long-term goal like retirement. And for those that don’t have as much time on their side, the crisis proved the importance of including other assets like bonds and cash in their portfolios, in order to help preserve any money they may need for income in the short-term.

 

Today and Beyond…

As we continue to extend what is now the longest period of uninterrupted stock market growth in US history, let’s not forget what happened just ten years ago, and the important lessons we all can learn from all the chaos that became known as the Great Recession. There is absolutely no way to know when we’ll experience another event of that magnitude, but we should expect many many corrections of 10% or more in the coming decades, just as we’ve seen at least once nearly every year over the last century. For those with a long term goal like retirement, remember how important it is to be the one staying calm while the world around you panics. Stay focused. Keep investing. Become the investor most wish they would’ve been a decade ago. We can help you get there. It’s what we’re here for.

 

Read More

Our August PastCast

What’s going on in the market?

August has been full of mostly positive economic news for the US, but the noise is starting to build in the headlines. As mid-term elections approach, political contests around the country are heating up, and as expected, markets are unsure of what to make of the potential outcomes and ramifications this November. That said, stocks keep rolling. While we are nowhere near the returns investors experienced broadly in 2017, the market has now entered the longest bull market in history. Milestones like this tend to lead to a heyday for market “experts” and tv pundits beginning to predict the next huge crash, which quite honestly has been going on since this recovery began in 2009. Our view hasn’t changed: none of this matters for those investing for a long-term goal like retirement. All-time highs are a great thing, but our focus is on the long-term and the potential for a correction is always on the table. It is no reason to change your strategy.

 

Here’s the lowdown on all-time highs.

For some context, it’s important to remember just how easy it is to reach a new all-time high so we don’t get too carried away with return expectations. Over just the last five years alone, here are the number of times the Dow has hit record highs (source: the balance)

 

  • YTD 2018: 11 times
  • 2017: 70 times
  • 2016: 26 times
  • 2015: 6 times
  • 2014: 39 times
  • 2013: 52 times

 

Think about it for a second…it really only takes an increase of any amount, even 0.00000000000001% to reach a new all-time high, once you’re already sitting at an all-time high. Over the many years, if not decades most blooom clients have until they retire, they are likely to experience hundreds, if not thousands more record highs, so why worry about the potential for a crash? Why not instead keep your eyes on the prize? Stay focused on the end goal and remind yourself that along with the many new all-time highs you’re likely in for over the years ahead, your investments will also experience many many market dips. Historically, it has always benefited those with a disciplined approach, to view those pullbacks as opportunities and a market “on sale”, rather than a reason to run for the hills.

 

Enjoy the summer heat while it lasts, folks.

As we enter this last month of summer, remember that things could very well cool down soon in the market, BUT they could also very well continue to stay hot. And that’s the kind of forecast the most successful investors will pay attention to, because the only short-term prediction that can be made about the stock market with 100% certainty is this: nobody has a clue. But for those focused on the long-term forecast, we see no reason to believe that it won’t remain sunny for those that are patient, just as it historically always has.

 

To be clear, we are not recommending or even hinting that investors should attempt to sell high or time the market. Sure, It would be great to sell at the all time high and time it perfectly so that you don’t miss any potential gains, and then buy back in at the lowest point…but there are some hurdles to this: 1) you could be, but we doubt that you’re watching the market 24/7, 2) no one knows when the trends truly start to turn, 3) you have to be right twice for that to happen, 4) most 401k accounts have restrictions on trading within it like a brokerage account, and 5) you’re restricted to the funds that are available through your plan.

Consider this: you hear horror stories of the crash in late ’07 through ’08 – people losing everything, retirement’s being ruined…. those do happen, unfortunately. HOWEVER, short of positions going to $0, had those investors not sold, they would be considerably better off today than they were pre-recession.

Stay focused and please reach out if you’d like to discuss with our advisors.

 

 

This information is provided for discussion purposes only and should not be considered as advice for your investments. Investing involves risk. Your investments are subject to loss of principal and are not guaranteed.

Read More

5 Ways to Save for Retirement When You Have Student Loan Debt

Graduation caps have landed, tassels have been switched to the other side, and mom has all the pictures she could ever want. Graduation day is one of the most memorable occasions in a person’s lifetime, but as seventy percent of new grads know, it also starts the countdown to one of life’s most-dreaded evils: paying back student loans. Recent research suggests millennials are now spending one fifth of their annual salaries on student loans alone, and now expect to be making payments well into their forties. At the same time, most millennials know they need to start saving for retirement in their twenties – from their first day at their first job if possible – but when Sallie Mae comes knocking it can seem impossible to both pay back debt and save for retirement on an entry level salary.

 

So how can you manage your student loan debt and also make sure you have enough to retire comfortably?

 

Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Create a budget

Your first step should be to come up with a plan outlining your long-term financial priorities, including everything from paying off student loans and contributing to retirement to having immediate funds for an emergency. You can’t focus on realizing long term goals when you’re trapped lurching from one immediate crisis to the next. Take some time to breathe and focus on the future.

 

2. Manage your payment plans

While getting out of debt can seem like a more urgent priority, make sure you are on track to meet your retirement goals before accelerating your student loan debt payoff date. According to a Morningstar report, every dollar of student loan debt creates a 35 cent decrease in retirement savings. Try to put at least 10-20 percent of your income throughout your working years aside for retirement. This enables you to take advantage of compounding interest and the time value of money, so you’ll actually end up with more money by the time you retire. Automation makes managing this process easier, so you don’t need to think twice about it!

 

3. Take advantage of employer matching policies

Does your employer match contributions or participate in a pre-tax retirement saving plan? You could be earning a higher rate of return by making sure you’re participating in and capitalizing on those policies. New company, new plan? No problem! Look into rolling over your 401(k) to maximize your benefits. Sometimes money does grow on trees.

 

4. Refinance your existing debt

If you have good to excellent credit and a steady cash flow you’re a prime candidate for loan refinancing. Look for a new loan with a lower interest rate, and make sure you use all the money from the new loan to pay off the old one. Some banks and loan providers also offer loyalty and automation discounts, so you should also make sure you’re familiar with all the options available to you before you sign on the dotted line.

 

5. Keep an eye on pesky fees

Three in four Americans have no idea what they’re paying in 401(k) fees, and nearly 40 percent believe they’re not paying any fees at all. When’s the last time you checked what you’re paying in fees? It’s not enough to just save money if you end up losing thousands of dollars in fees you don’t even know you’re paying. Signing up for Blooom’s 401(k) robo-advisor to manage your 401(k) and minimize those pesky fees costs a flat fee of $10 per month, no matter how much you have saved. No small print, no tricks.

 

Still feel like you’re drowning in debt? Check out blooom’s free 401(k) checkup tool to see how you’re doing with your retirement savings plan.

Read More

Keep Calm and Invest On

Remember when “breaking news” was actually worthy of the term? It’s thrown around so much by networks these days, it feels like everything leading off the news is cause for mass hysteria. Maybe there’s an asteroid heading right for us, or maybe the Sun is supposed to randomly burn out in the next few months.

If that’s the case, your investments aren’t going to do you any good anyway. But in the far-off chance that those things DON’T happen any time soon, it might be good for us to cover something EVERY long-term investor must understand. Just like any set of stairs you encounter, markets go up AND down. It happens ALL the time … so often that at some point investors saving for retirement owe it to themselves to stop paying so much attention to [insert major news network].

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen something similar to these following headlines over the years:

“Expert: Crash is Coming, Time to Sell”

“2008 All Over Again?: Analysts Think So”

“Dow Sheds 300: Pros Say Get Out!”

And the very next day…

“Dow Rebounds 350 Points: Bull Market Marches On”

“Analysts: This Year Could Be the Best Year in Decades for Stocks”

“Risk On: Never a Better Time to Buy!”

You get the point. In a world where we now have a 24-hour news cycle, the very existence of any news outlet is highly dependent upon one thing: RATINGS. There is simply nothing better for ratings than fear and panic, which is why those first three headlines will catch more attention than the last three. It’s why negative news will always net more ratings.

Why is this? Well, unfortunately negative events have a greater impact on our psychology than neutral or positive events. This is often referred to as negativity bias and it’s just another annoying and unavoidable part of our human nature. It’s why we tend to pay more attention to a celebrity’s life spiraling out of control than the daily acts of heroism displayed by any of our local fire departments. In the world of finance, it’s why we’re inclined to tune in on the down days and ignore the up days. The media knows this. They thrive on it. It’s also the reason that very simple facts that would likely relieve that fear for the average long-term investor are often left out of the story.

For example, how about the fact that, according to data from the Capital Group, in the last 115 years we’ve seen a decline in stocks of 10% or more on average once every single year? Or the fact that in that same span, we’ve averaged three declines of 5% or more every single year? What about the most comforting fact of all – that there has NEVER been a single time in U.S. history where the stock market has dropped and not recovered. Does that guarantee it will never happen? Absolutely not, but we would have far bigger concerns than our 401k accounts if we saw the first ever permanent crash. When the stock market is falling, viewers are more likely to stay tuned (can you say RATINGS BONANZA?) Do they usually balance it out with historical context and comforting facts? Not so much.

No one knows for sure what the rest of 2018 will bring to investing. Financial news will continue to keep us informed and sometimes on edge, but its role has little to do with the average investor saving for a far-off goal like retirement. Unless you’re a professional trader trying to interpret market data every second of your day, any news related to the day-to-day movements in the stock market should be irrelevant to you. Investing for your retirement is about retirement. If anything, most investors should embrace the volatility, since the market is really just going on sale. It’s not about today, tomorrow, or even five years from now. And if you ARE that close to retirement, you shouldn’t be heavily invested in stocks anyway.

So relax. Be patient. Chill. Sure, it’s a challenge to any investor, but it may also be what ultimately saves you from making enemies with future you.

Read More
1 2 3