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.

Q1 2020 PastCast: Crazy Weather We’re Having?!

Here’s all you need to know. (If you’re in a rush.)

  • Coronavirus put an end to the bull market. – The longest period of uninterrupted US stock market gains (w/o a single 20% or more decline), ended VERY abruptly in March, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Stocks fell over 30% – The end of February and March saw the fastest retreat of 20% or more from all-time highs, for US stocks, in history. From all-time highs on 2/19, to recent lows on 3/20, US stocks fell over 30%.

  • Banks cut interest rates. – In order to stabilize financial markets, central banks around the world made several emergency interest rate cuts. These cuts arguably failed to stabilize markets in the short-term, as March was one of the most volatile periods in history for global stocks.

  • We’re in a recession. – Consensus seems to be that we have already entered a relatively severe, but hopefully short-lived recession, as the economy has come to a self-imposed halt and recent weekly unemployment claims appear more like typos than reality, destroying previous records by the millions. 

  • Relief is on the way. – Governments around the world have enacted fiscal stimulus programs intended to provide short-term financial relief to the vast majority of workers that have been asked to isolate at home, in order to slow the spread of the virus. 

  • This WILL end. – And financial markets tend to recover well ahead of the actual economy. 

And now for the long(er) version…

Things have changed…to say the least

Just three months ago, B.C. (Before Coronavirus), we were recapping one of the best decades in history to be an investor. But the longest period of uninterrupted US stock market gains in history, which began in March 2009, came to an abrupt end about a month ago. The first quarter of 2020 was as dark and stormy as it gets when it comes to weather metaphors. And the world has changed so much in the last month alone that there really isn’t much else to focus on in this PastCast than the current crisis we’re all in together.

You’d have to be living a pretty isolated life to have missed just how much the world has changed in the last couple months. But then again, and somewhat ironically, that is exactly what we’re all being asked to do these days thanks to the coronavirus. To say our lives have all changed dramatically would be quite an understatement. 

We’re dealing with an economic, financial, and societal shock unlike any of us have been through before. It’s impossible for us to address the current situation we’re in without recognizing that your investments are unlikely to be your greatest concern at the moment. 

We know that the health of yourself, your family, and your community are your priorities right now. So while we know that this is a scary, uncertain time, we hope at the very least, that our insights here provide you with some perspective that can help you stay focused on those things that matter most in your life right now, without stressing about the stock market and your retirement accounts, while we fight through this pandemic. So let’s start by answering a few key questions…

 

Why did the stock market crash?

The stock market hates nothing more than uncertainty. A global pandemic unlike most investors alive today have ever experienced, brought with it maximum uncertainty. At a time when stocks had been sitting at the highest levels of all time, any unexpected disaster or bad news event was likely to become the catalyst for a sell-off. However, while contagious disease experts around the world have been preparing for an event like this as an eventuality, American businesses, local governments, and the federal government were not prepared for the public health and economic implications of a widespread, highly contagious, deadly virus. 

As panic and confusion set in, businesses began to shut down and states began to close schools and order residents to stay home from virtually all group activities, including work for many of those on the front lines of this battle. 

The realization that we would need to intentionally shut down our economy for the greater good of public health meant small business and corporate earnings would suffer tremendously until we have made it through this, and some businesses in industries like travel, retail, and restaurants for instance, may not make it through to the other side at all. 

Months of little to no revenue and expected lower earnings revisions across nearly all sectors of the economy means companies are suddenly worth significantly less in the minds of investors, in the near term. When you combine that very simple fundamental aspect of stock valuation with the emotional panic of unprecedented uncertainty ahead, you had the perfect recipe for a bloodbath in the stock market. But history has always rewarded the investors that stay the course in these moments. We have no reason to believe this time will be any different.  

 

What has been done to try to prevent a prolonged recession, or worse?

Although we cannot officially identify a recession until we’ve actually seen several consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, virtually all economists agree that we have entered into a deep recession. Unemployment numbers that dwarf previous weekly records and a forced shutdown of a significant portion of all economic activity would strongly indicate that. 

Both the Federal Reserve and the Federal Government have stepped in with monetary and fiscal measures to mitigate the damage and hopefully shorten the duration of this recession. They’ve done this by slashing interest rates to near 0%, making it easier for both individuals and businesses to borrow and lend money, and passing $2 trillion stimulus legislation to help businesses and workers negatively impacted by this economic shutdown. It is yet to be seen whether these early steps will be enough to make this recession a brief one. But that is certainly the goal.

Curious how the stimulus bill could impact you and/or your family? We have a new calculator to help!

 

How is this different from 2008 and other historical crashes?

It’s been a while since we’ve seen declines like this in the stock market. For many it may be the first time in your career that you’re experiencing big declines in your investment accounts. 

Looking back throughout history, we see that every crash has ended with the same result – a full and sometimes very quick recovery for the stock market, and an eventual overall recovery for the economy as well. 

Yet, every crash has happened for a very unique reason. This time is certainly no exception. But perhaps what makes this particular crisis the most unique is that the financial impact is a direct result of a self-imposed global economic slowdown, the purpose of which is to flatten the curve, save lives, and thereby also shorten the ultimate economic impact around the globe. 

This downturn has a very clear and intentional reason as its catalyst. Perhaps we can take some comfort in knowing that it has an end. There are very clear and achievable goals (like developing a vaccine and safe treatments) based in science and public health that simply take time. This is not the Apocalypse. 

 

What can the past possibly teach us about something unique like this?

Every crash is unique. And every crash leads to a large portion of the population being convinced that this time the result will also be different. But perspective helps here. We like to remind our clients that in the moment, every crisis feels worse than ever before in some way, especially on a more personal level, but when it comes to the broader economy and the stock market, which is how this ultimately relates to your investments, we see no reason to believe we won’t overcome this, as we always have.

Keep in mind that we have not only seen pandemics before (however rare), but we have also seen an endless number of other periods of great fear and uncertainty, like the Great Depression, two World Wars, various other wars, terrorist attacks, political scandals, financial bubbles, and even what seemed at the time to be imminent and complete nuclear annihilation at several moments during the Cold War. And yet, while the stock market has generally always reacted negatively to the uncertainty of the short-term, it has recovered fully and marched to new highs EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. With a 100% track record.

You’re likely to hear a lot of comparisons right now to one of the darkest economic periods in American history, the Great Depression. While it’s true that the immediate severity of this recession could mirror or even surpass that of the 1930s, this is a completely different situation. Programs like unemployment insurance and social security didn’t even exist yet, and our Federal Reserve was actually making things harder on people and businesses by RAISING interest rates – the opposite of how monetary policy is supposed to be used to stimulate the economy. While the immediate response on the public health side of this crisis will be debated for decades to come, our government seems united for a change and quick to act with both fiscal and monetary policy solutions that should reduce the duration of this downturn. And again, this was all self-imposed. 

This particular situation has challenged the wills and discipline of even the most experienced and successful investors. But if you are convinced that this will be the first time in history that we are truly unable to overcome a crisis, your retirement accounts probably should be the very least of your concerns right now.

 

What can I do right now to ease the pain on my retirement investments?

As a general rule, our advice is to never make emotional, short-term reactionary decisions with your long-term investments. Doing so is not a winning strategy and it is actually one of the worst mistakes investors can ever make. Uncertain times can make anyone feel like they have no control, and making changes to your investments is the natural reaction that can ease the pain by giving you back some control. But while that immediate feeling of comfort can ease the pain in the moment, it almost always comes at a much higher long-term cost. 

Given that every single downturn in history has actually proven to be an opportunity for patient, disciplined long-term investors, the best thing you can do is stay focused on the strategy you have in place that should be built with the understanding that these downturns do, and will continue to happen, between now and when you retire. And in fact, they are the very reason that patient investors are rewarded over time for staying the course. 

The further you are from retirement, the more aggressive your approach should probably be, but that means even more pain in moments like this. But it’s often said that volatility is the price investors pay in order to participate in the long-term gains of the stock market. That painful, but temporary feeling of loss, has historically been rewarded with gains over the long-term, and that is the point, no matter how hard of a pill that may be to swallow in the moment. 

If you’re closer to retirement, your portfolio should consist of investments other than stocks, like bonds and even cash or cash equivalents.  The very purpose of this is to prepare you for moments like this. By including non-stock investments in your portfolio, you are isolating a portion of your portfolio from the short-term unpredictable ups and downs of stocks. And ideally you will have enough in this more conservative portion of your portfolio to provide you with stability or even income if you are to reach retirement before your overall balance has had a chance to recover.

At the end of the day, this is your money and if you are feeling overly stressed you likely need a better understanding of your strategy. That is what blooom’s team of advisors is here for. And you may also be realizing now that you are not comfortable with the level of risk you’re taking. That is ok too. Now may be a time to reassess your risk tolerance within your blooom profile. Just as long as you know that changes to your risk tolerance that coincide with market crashes can become a dangerous and detrimental habit.

 

The sun WILL come out again…but maybe not tomorrow 

This too shall pass. The news is already beginning to turn more positive as there is hope for some successful treatments, vaccines, and strict policies put in place by governments around the world are beginning to prove effective in flattening the curve. The death toll is already tragic and will continue to get worse in the coming weeks. Many of us will either know someone directly impacted by the loss of a family member, be infected ourselves, or at least have someone close to us infected, before this is all over. But one thing we can all be certain of is that we have the greatest minds on the planet working night and day to find effective treatments and vaccines.

The financial and economic toll will likely be enormous over the next few months and maybe longer, but attempting to guess how and when the stock market is going to react and eventually recover, is just a recipe for sleepless nights and ultimately a losing battle. We’re here to take on that burden for you and remind you of the time-tested lessons that can help keep you from making mistakes at the worst possible times. 

When it comes to your retirement investments, don’t let this distract you from the much bigger picture and draw you into making harmful investment decisions. We may still be in for more of a wild ride from here, but know that there is light at the end of it all. We will get through this. And blooom is in your corner. Lean on us when you need help with your finances. Know that we exist for times just like this. You have enough to worry about right now. Let us help you stay focused on what truly matters most in your life right now. Hang in there and please reach out to us for a conversation if you need it. We’ve got your back!

 

 

The information is provided for discussion purposes only and should not be considered as advice for your investments. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Please consult an investment advisor before you invest.

Read More

What the Stimulus Package Means for You

What does this stimulus package mean? 

Congress has passed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package aimed at helping people financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. If you have an adjusted gross income of less than a certain amount you could qualify for a check. Additionally, the package includes temporary penalty-free 401k withdrawals. 

We’ve outlined more of the details of the pandemic stimulus package below. But before we get into them…here’s a little context.

 

The world has changed…

It’s crazy to think that just over a month ago, the US economy was near record low unemployment and the stock market was at all-time highs. To say the world has changed quite a bit in the last month would be a drastic understatement. 

Since reaching new all-time highs in February, US stocks completely erased more than three years worth of gains in what felt like the blink of an eye. While stocks appear to have already recovered some of those losses, this week’s new unemployment claims spiked to levels that appear more like a typo than reality. In fact, this week’s jobless numbers more than quadrupled the previous record, coming in at 3.28 million new claims – more than 10 times the previous week! So why is this happening?

To state the obvious, asking hundreds of millions of people to stay home from work. While undeniably necessary to slow the spread of the virus at this point, it’s bound to have some pretty devastating effects on the economy. 

As an attempt to mitigate the financial impact of this economic shutdown on individuals, families, and businesses, Congress has passed a massive $2 Trillion economic “stimulus” package that includes direct payments to individuals and families most likely to be negatively affected financially from this difficult period. While the bill itself is reportedly more than 800 pages long, and includes billions in bailouts to large corporations and essential support to small businesses, we’re here to get you the info and advice that is most likely to impact YOU and your personal and/or family finances.

 

Who does this stimulus package help?

If you have a Social Security number and have adjusted gross income of less than $75k (individuals) or $150k (married couples), and no one else can claim you as a dependent, you could receive $1,200, or $2,400 respectively. In addition, families with children under the age of 16 will receive $500 per child. So a typical family of four would stand to receive a one-time payment of $3,400, as an example. There are phaseouts for individuals making between $75k – $99k and also for married couples with no children, making more than $198k. Head of household filers can expect the full amount if they earned less than $112,500. 

Check out our 2020 stimulus check calculator to get a better idea of what YOU may expect.

 

What is the intention of the stimulus?

Stimulus packages are nothing new. The government has stepped in to provide an economic boost to individuals and businesses several times in the past. But this time, rather than attempting to encourage people to get out and spend this money on couches and new TVs, this is more like a rescue than a stimulus. We’re being asked, for the benefit of public health, to stay inside and avoid many of the activities that keep the economy chugging along in normal times. With millions of people suddenly losing their jobs, being asked to not work, and still needing to pay their bills, sending people money and expanding unemployment benefits significantly are quick ways to help lessen the ripple effects of this Pandemic on the economy, until we are able to defeat it, which we will!

 

When can I expect my money? 

If you’ve provided your bank information to the IRS for tax purposes, like payments or refund direct deposits, you should receive your payment fairly quickly and seamlessly, without needing to do much of anything. The IRS will use the most recent tax information they have for you, likely either your 2018 or 2019 adjusted gross income (if you’ve already filed for 2019). Specific timelines have not yet been released and may depend on your bank. If your bank information is not on file with the IRS already, there may be additional steps required and the process is expected to take no more than 3 weeks.

 

Where should I put this money when I receive it?

This is a highly personal decision and one that obviously depends on your own unique financial situation and any immediate or anticipated effects of this crisis on you and/or your family. Keep in mind that if you have not lost income and are able to continue paying your bills on time, it may be a good idea to just park the money in a savings account to give your emergency savings a boost until it may eventually be needed. 

Many individuals that find themselves in a very fortunate situation and do not anticipate many, if any, financial disruptions from all this, could also consider donating a portion of their money to local charities or supporting local retail stores and restaurants that will surely struggle in the coming months.

 

Emergency provisions for 401k withdrawals

Along with direct payments, the bill also includes some temporary provisions that allow for penalty-free early withdrawals from retirement plans and some added flexibility when it comes to 401k loans. Individuals will be allowed to withdraw up to $100k from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus related purposes without the typical 10% penalty prior to age 59½.

It’s important to understand that this money will still be taxable, but the new provisions allow the taxation to be spread over three years. That said, it still could be a significant tax hit to you. Money withdrawn will also be allowed to be recontributed to the plan within three years, regardless of annual 401k contribution limits. 

Please understand that these provisions, while well-intended and worth looking into for some individuals, should not be used unless it is your last resort, in our opinion. The truth of the matter is that this Pandemic is certain to cause financial hardship for millions of people and some will absolutely need to resort to dipping into their nest egg just to get by. These provisions allow for this without additional hardship caused by the usual 10% penalty. But just because there is no penalty, does not mean there isn’t still a long-term cost to doing so

It’s important to remind everyone that dipping into your retirement account(s) early locks in losses that have likely resulted from this downturn in the stock market, without giving your account a chance to recover with the overall market. You also lose the power of compounding on that money from staying invested over time. These provisions may absolutely be necessary right now and can benefit many that truly need the relief, but make sure you have exhausted all other sources of savings before considering early withdrawals from your retirement account(s).

 

Watch out for stimulus package scams!

Newly introduced government programs and initiatives are a scammer’s best friend. Please beware of calls, emails, and even snail mail, from unknown places, or even places that appear to identify as the IRS or any government agency. No legitimate source should ever contact you requesting for you to say or enter your social security number, credit card, or bank account numbers over the phone or via email. These times of crisis can often bring out the best in most of us, but they can also present unique opportunities for scammers to prey on the most vulnerable and desperate among us. Be vigilant.

 

Blooom is here to help clear up any confusion

We all have so much on our minds right now and the last thing we need is more confusion. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns during this difficult time. It’s what we’re here for!

 

 

 

The information is provided for discussion purposes only and should not be considered as advice for your investments. While the data from third parties is believed to be reliable, we cannot ensure the accuracy or completeness of the data provided. Blooom does not provide tax advice. Consult a tax expert for tax-specific questions.

Read More

Pandemic: 3 Things you should be doing with your 401k right now

For many of you reading this, you might be experiencing your first significant (and scary) drop in the value of your retirement savings. Even for others, a bit longer in the tooth, this recent stock market free-fall due to the pandemic is enough to rattle even the most experienced of investors, myself included. In times like this, after watching a sizable piece of your portfolio temporarily melt away, it is perfectly normal to want to question everything. Moreover, many people might be feeling a strong desire to change something…anything, if it will help their critical retirement savings. In the next few minutes, I will set forth a very simple 3-step plan that you can take action on right now!

 

The right balance for YOU is the key

One of the most important decisions you can make as an investor, from both a Risk and Return perspective, was/is your decision to invest in an appropriate balance between stocks and bonds inside of your retirement account. Striking the right balance of stocks and bonds is critical because this sets the stage for the vast majority of the return (growth) you should expect over time, but also the amount of volatility (ups and downs) you will experience with your account, specifically during times like this. Historically, stocks have provided much higher returns than bonds have, but bonds have demonstrated much more price stability than stocks. In other words, over time stocks have made investors much wealthier, but along with that wealth generating potential, have come many many sleepless nights!

 

So, in order to determine the right balance of stocks vs bonds in your account, you really need to assess the following two inputs.

Time horizon

How old are you and when are you planning to retire? Knowing this will set the stage for how long you have to invest your retirement account. This is important to know because your ideal stock to bond mix will differ quite a bit for someone that is 35 vs 55 years old. Generally speaking, the younger you are, the higher allocation to stocks you should have. Why? Because you need the growth in your account over time (which stocks have historically provided) in order to amass enough of a nest egg to one day be able to live off these savings in retirement. Conversely, as you near retirement and get closer to needing to live off your retirement savings, it makes sense to have some of your account in bonds and even cash, which don’t fluctuate in value like stocks do.

Risk tolerance

What is your tolerance for risk when it comes to your retirement savings? This one is a bit tricky. You see, your risk tolerance is something that really shouldn’t change on a day to day basis. Your risk tolerance is really part of who you are as a person. It is part of your unique personality. Assessing someone’s risk preference (tolerance for risk) should ideally be done in calm waters and not in the heat of battle. I have found that if you ask most people questions about risk with regard to their investments when the stock market is chugging along, making newer and newer highs – most people will salute the flag of stocks and tell you that “yeah sure, I can handle all the ups and downs the stock market may throw at me – bring it on!” But then, that exact same person – asked those exact same questions in the midst of a 4-alarm fire in the stock market like we are experiencing right now, will answer 180 degrees differently. “This is my retirement savings, I cannot handle this kind of drop!” And therein lies the problem. Your preference for risk (or volatility) in your retirement account should not fluctuate like the market itself. In other words – you can’t have your cake and eat it too! You can’t be aggressive when the stock market is good and flip flop to conservative when the market drops. 

 

Ok, so all this is fine and dandy but what should you do RIGHT NOW? We can’t change the fact that the market is now down by roughly 30% from its month-ago highs and we have no clue what the next few months will look like. So the question remains – what can you do right now, specifically with your retirement account? 

 

STEP 1:

Acknowledge the fact that you are concerned, maybe even scared, and possibly even panicked. If I can play Psychologist for a moment – let me just say that those emotions you are experiencing are perfectly normal. It is OK to feel that way and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

 

STEP 2:

Try your darndest to NOT make knee-jerk, in-the-moment emotional decisions with something designed for the very long term – like your retirement savings. 

 

STEP 3:

Take back some small modicum of control in an out of control environment. Reach out to your financial advisor and ask them if your retirement account is still appropriately invested (from a risk standpoint) after all this recent carnage in the markets. Or, if you have been going it all alone with your retirement savings, I strongly encourage you to take 5 minutes and use blooom’s free tool for a check-up on the health of your account today. At no cost, this will very clearly and easily tell you if you have the appropriate balance of stocks vs bonds in your account. From there, you will be able to determine if any action is needed. Then, and only then, will you be able to put emotions to the side and have a clear, un-obstructed view of where things stand today. 

 

THIS is our why

We started blooom 7 years ago with the sole purpose of bringing badly needed financial advice and management to the massive number of American retirement savers that have been left behind by Wall Street and largely forced to going it alone when it comes to their retirement savings. Now, more than ever before, I am so proud of what blooom is doing for clients in this time of crisis. THIS is why we exist. 

 

Chris Costello is the co-founder and Chief Investment Officer at blooom, a digital investment advisor for retirement accounts. Chris is a Certified Financial Planner and has been managing retirement accounts and working with clients for almost 25 years.

Read More

The Pandemic and your Retirement Savings – A Blooom Webinar

We’re all in this together

Let me begin by saying – we are in this with all of you.  Although each and every one of us has our own unique situation and challenges we are, no doubt, all bonded by a shared desire to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from the spread of this virus. Additionally, It goes without saying that all of us at blooom share in the fears and frustrations with the steep declines we are all seeing in our retirement accounts.  I don’t care who you are – seeing your nest egg decline in value is never easy to tolerate.  

That being said, my hope is that the communications that blooom has put out and will continue to put out will at least help to soften some of your concerns.  At the end of the day, none of us know the extent of the market decline or when we will turn the corner on the fight against this virus. BUT… we feel supremely confident that we will get through this and the values in our accounts will eventually begin to recover.

 

Some perspective

I have had the privilege of advising clients and managing retirement accounts for almost 25 years.  I still have scar tissue from the stock market crash that followed the dot.com bubble that burst in the early 2000s, and even more so as a result of the financial crisis of 2008-09.  During both of those times – well before blooom was even a glint in my co-founders eyes – I can remember vividly having face to face conversations with clients – often looking into the whites of their eyes, seeing and hearing about how worried they were about those declines.  The stock market decline that followed 9/11 and the stock market decline during the financial crisis – although a totally different set of reasons than the virus today – it was, in many ways, just as scary as it feels today. Having made it through those past market shocks – I sincerely hope I can share some of this experience with all of you so that you have a fighting chance of enduring this significant market decline and maybe – help you become a smarter, more informed investor with knowledge and perspective that will continue to serve you well for the rest of your investing lifetime.

 

Ok, so let’s begin…

To start off, I think it must be acknowledged what has taken place in the stock market PRIOR to this very recent and rapid decline.  To do this, let me walk you back to March 6, 2009. As we now know, that day turned out to be the absolute lowest point that the stock market dropped to during the Financial Crisis.  On that day the Dow Jones Average briefly fell below 6,500. Since that point, and all the way up until literally just last month, the stock market has been on an absolute terror, and I mean that in the good sense.  We joke that you have had to try really hard to miss out on all these gains in the stock market during this period. In fact, my guess is that a very large portion of investors in this country have been so spoiled with good returns this past decade that until very recently, you were likely lulled into a false sense of security.  Some of you may have even started to believe that investing was easy. Some of you, I dare say, may have even started to believe that investing was a sure thing. I think it is also worth pointing out that for those of you listening to this that were born after 1986 you have likely never been a stock market investor in a true bear market.  Granted, we had a near 20% drop in late 2018 due to trade concerns but that was over before most people even knew about it. All you had to do these past 10 years was stay invested. period.

I mention this because it is important to acknowledge the fact that if you are still in your 20s or 30s, you are likely experiencing something as an investor that you have never ever had to deal with.  Those of us in our 40s, 50s and older have seen significant shocks to the market before. And although the reason for the decline in the market today is totally unique, the drop itself has played out countless times over the history of the stock market.  

No pain, no gain

In fact, as we can see on this chart, since the 1930s we have had 8 different time periods where the stock market dropped by at least 20%.  I also show this chart to illustrate just how powerful the growth has been for the vast majority of history. You can ignore the numbers on this chart and just take in the massive difference between the green and red sections.

So if the good times in the stock market have so clearly out-weighed the brief, temporary downturns in the market – why do so many investors left to their own devices fail so miserably with their investments?  I encourage you to stay tuned for that answer.

So not only are big drops in the stock market normal….I want to also make the point that they are NECESSARY.  Yes, let me repeat that….significant and scary drops in the stock market are indeed NECESSARY. I say this because one of the great reasons why the stock market has been such a wonderful tool to build wealth over long periods of time (as we saw in the previous chart) is precisely because of the risk that being an investor comes with.  Surely everyone has heard the old saying “there is no such thing as a free lunch” well this certainly applies to life as a long term investor in the stock market.  You see, if there were never any rough times, if there were no gut wrenching, shockingly steep drops in the market, then there wouldn’t be much risk.  And without that risk, the returns would be a fraction of what they historically have been. Think of it this way. You may know some of your friends who have no appetite for risk and have historically kept much if not all of their savings in things that come with guarantees.  Those would be things like Bank CDs, savings accounts, money markets or government bonds. It is true that they have no risk of loss and yes it is true that they are feeling very good about themselves in times like we are in right now. BUT, while the rest of us have been making big returns over the past 10 years and over the past 70 years by investing in the stock market, they have historically earned a tiny fraction in their risk free investments.  You see – if you don’t take any risk you shouldnt be expected to make much return. So I say again – there is no such thing as a free lunch.  

 

Blooom’s approach

Often, in times like this many investors feel compelled to question everything when it comes to their important retirement savings.  Given that, let me remind you what blooom has and IS doing for your accounts.

  1. Appropriate mix of stocks vs bonds given your age, time horizon to retirement and risk tolerance
  2. Proper diversification – as the old saying goes: making sure you don’t have too many eggs in any one basket
  3. Lowest fee funds available within your 401k or IRA.

Now don’t get me wrong – these 3 things are extremely important.  And for many people, before they signed up for blooom – their retirement accounts had none of the above key factors.  BUT BY FAR, THE MOST IMPORTANT FEATURE of your blooom subscription …you have access to a human advisor at blooom. Wealthy clients have had advisors for decades.  Most average Americans on the other hand, have been forced to go it all alone. This go-it-alone strategy might have worked well in the decade leading up to this Virus when the perception of investing was “easy” but now, more than ever – having a trusted advisor to lean on with questions and concerns is priceless in my opinion.  As the co-founder of this company and someone who has spent their entire adult life advising clients – I don’t feel that I am over-stating just how important having an advisor really is.  

 

The average investor

Earlier I told you I would explain why so many investors on their own so miserably under-perform the long term returns in the market and often the long term returns of wealthy clients.  But before we get to the answer….let’s have a look at how bad the problem really is….

So I posit…why does the average HUMAN investor so miserably UNDER-perform the stock market and most variations of it?

 

If you have the right strategy, doing nothing can mean everything

For more perspective on this, let’s have a look at the complete picture.  This is a graph of the Dow Jones Average all the way back to 1950. When you put the stock market into this kind of context it should further boggle the mind as to how many people haven’t been able to grow more wealth in something that looks like this. 

The absolute wealth destroying actions that have plagued investors for decades have not been the declines in the stock markets themselves but rather how investors in those declines have behaved.  You see, each time there were dips in the market there were investors bailing out. And often times when the market had recovered and things looked great again, those same investors would buy back in at higher levels.  Wash, rinse, repeat a few times of buying high and selling low…well, you catch my drift.  

So here is the secret…In order to reap the wonderful rewards of being a long term stock investor, all you had to do was sit still.  In other words you had to do nothing during the temporary declines to make sure you were around to benefit from what has been the permanent uptrend. That is it folks.  And here we are again today. Another steep decline in the long and storied history of the stock market. I ask you to think about how you will behave during yet another temporary decline like we are having today.  

The bottom line

Finally, Please listen carefully.  At the end of the day – this is YOUR money.  Our job at blooom is to give you our best advice at all times.  But, you may ultimately not always agree with us and that is OK.  If you look to us for advice you will always get the advice we think is best for you and tell you what we think you should do.  BUT… You will always get the last word. PERIOD. If at any point you feel strongly that you must do something that goes against what we are recommending – that is absolutely your prerogative.  If you decide to take actions different than what blooom recommends You will be able to maintain your blooom membership but we will turn off our permission to actively make changes in your account for you.  I repeat…If you decide to make changes in your account that we feel goes against our advice – those changes would need to be made by you.  

Regardless, please always remember we are just a click away if you want to chat or have concerns about your account.  Just log into your blooom account and initiate a conversation. We look forward to helping you navigate these exceptionally difficult waters.

Thank you for taking the time to listen and I hope you know that we started this company to serve people just like you.  So I have just one request….right now, at this very moment, you have friends, family members and co-workers who are all alone when it comes to their retirement savings.  Unless they are also a blooom client or they have a big net worth and have their own advisor – they are trying to navigate these rough waters themselves. Very wealthy clients have had access to advisors over the course of history – especially in times of great panic in the markets.  Now, companies like blooom have made it our mission to reach a new audience of under-served investors. In times like this – having an advisor to lean on can make such a huge difference in your future financial security. So please, if you have found this helpful and enlightening, I encourage you to take a minute and pass on the link to this webinar to them, I am sure the people you care about will appreciate this as well. 

 

Thank you and stay safe. 

 

The information is provided for discussion purposes only and should not be considered as advice for your investments. Please consult an investment advisor before you invest.

Read More

Coronavirus and your investments: Is your retirement savings properly invested?

A note from Chris Costello the co-founder of blooom, a digital advisor for your retirement savings: 

A bit of perspective.

With the recent news of the coronavirus and its effects on the market, people may be wondering, “Are my investments properly invested?” To answer that question, we first must recognize that these past 11 years (post financial crisis of 2008-2009) have been unusually stable. But not just stable, down-right easy money in terms of the stock market investments within your retirement account. For reference, the Dow Jones average was near 6,500 in March 2009 and even after the sharp recent stock market sell-off it is around 25,000 these days. That is almost a 400% increase in just 11 short years. I say again, that is anything but typical! It is precisely this extended Bull Market that we have enjoyed that makes this recent stock market drop so darn painful. We just aren’t used to it!

With the exception of a very short lived “blip” in the market in late 2018, so short lived in fact that if you took a long nap you might have missed it, investors have not seen a Bear Market in 11+ years. By definition, a Bear Market is defined by a drop in the market of at least 20% and although late 2018 came close, it didn’t quite drop by 20% and it was over before most people knew it. This extended period without a true Bear Market is incredibly unusual given that, on average, we see a 20%+ drop about once every 6 years. 

 

Investing has been “easy” recently… too easy. 

My point is that it has been so dang easy to make money in your retirement accounts these past 11 years. In fact, you had to really “mess things up” (trying to time the market or have been investing way too conservatively) if your retirement account isn’t up substantially this past decade. This protracted Bull Market has led many investors to feel overly confident about their abilities to manage their own accounts and merely set it and forget it. And therein lies the problem. I am super worried that the majority of investors have been “lulled to sleep” with how incredibly easy it has been to make money in your investments this past decade. I am worried that a growing majority has lost perspective on historical market declines and become too complacent.

My concern is exacerbated for investors age 33 and younger. For this demographic – this past week might be the first time (as an adult investor) that you have logged into your retirement account and seen it noticeably lower than the last time you peaked at it. 

 

Market declines are a part of life.

It also needs mentioning that not only are declines of AT LEAST 20% a normal, recurring part of life as a stock market investor – in a very real sense – they are necessary! If you have ever heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” that is very much applicable here. The entire reason that investors are compensated over long periods (decades) with superior returns from their stock market investments is because they have to “pay the price” of periodic, temporary kicks in the pants like we are experiencing today. If the market never dropped precipitously like this, the risk would be minimal and, in turn, so would the returns. For a certain segment of the population that simply cannot tolerate the short term temporary drops in the market, they are generally left to invest in very secure, safe but VERY low returning investment like Government Treasury Bonds and CDs. The price these folks pay over time is substantial when it comes to wealth accumulation. It is true, they feel very good once every few years when the market declines, but the other 80+% of the time, I am guessing they have a tremendous nagging sense of being left out.

At blooom, we now manage over $4 billion for our clients all across this country. From age 22 to age 70, each and every one of them concerned that their critical retirement savings is working just as hard as they are working to fund those accounts. 

 

Find a smart strategy and stick with it.

Given the recent (justified) concerns with the Coronavirus, I can’t stress enough the importance of taking a moment to make sure your account is invested appropriately given your individual situation. In times of great market anxiety like this, it can often lead to a “lack of control” feeling. Here is one big, important step you can take to grab back some control over your retirement savings when the market tanks

 

Ways to identify your long-term investment strategy.

If you’re finding yourself nervous this week, specifically regarding your long-term investments (like your retirement accounts), now may be a good time to evaluate the level of risk you’re taking and whether or not what your doing both aligns with your goals and your sanity. If you’re not sure where to begin, it’s important to find someone that truly has your best interests in mind. In the world of advising, we would call this a fiduciary.

Blooom can help.

In under 5 minutes, by going to blooom.com, you can get a totally free assessment of your retirement accounts. This assessment will perform a check on these 3 key things:

 

  1. Blooom will make sure you have an appropriate mix of stocks and bonds in your account that makes sense for your specific age, time horizon to retirement and risk tolerance? 
  2. Blooom will make sure you have enough diversification in your account? (Not too many eggs in any one basket)
  3. Blooom will analyze if you are currently paying unnecessarily high hidden fund fees within your account?

 

IF, after this complementary analysis – you decide to sign up for blooom you will also have the ability to chat with a financial advisor at blooom (yes, a real human). So before you go do anything rash, like panicking out of your investments – please, please take advantage of this incredible service. Our Advisors and Client Service folks are truly exceptional people with YOUR best interests at heart. Wealthy folks across this country have access to qualified financial professionals at this very moment, helping them navigating these scary waters. Blooom was built specifically with the desire to bring this kind of badly needed help and counsel to all the folks out there that have been trying to handle their retirement savings all alone.

 

Final word…It is entirely OK and normal to feel scared during market declines like these. But, I do not think it is OK to make financial decisions in moments of fear.

 

 

 

The information is provided for discussion purposes only and should not be considered as advice for your investments. Your investments will go up and down in value based on what happens in the markets. 

Read More
1 2 3 14