Author Archives: Chris Costello

CEO passes the torch

CEO Chris Costello Passes The Baton

Five years ago, Kevin Conard, Randy AufDerHeide and I started meeting to talk about our big idea: A company that could change the way average Americans without huge retirement accounts saved for retirement. We would put our kids to bed and then work into the wee hours of the morning in Randy’s basement. Never did the three of us imagine that five years later, we would have built the company that exists today. We have 30 employees who manage more than $2 billion for almost 20,000 clients all across the country, using a totally disruptive technology model.

In the beginning, we just sought to build something to help average Americans get access to professional financial help. Especially the vast majority of folks who don’t have huge retirement accounts – folks just like my own mom and dad.

A Growing Company

Once blooom launched, I had in the back of my mind the thought that we might reach a point at which the company’s size and complexity would require someone with a much more expansive “executive tool kit” and experience to take the company to the next level.

In 2016, we hired Matt Burgener as our chief marketing officer. I know a few of us thought that if I was to get hit by the proverbial bus, Matt would be a great candidate to take the CEO spot. He has an impressive background and was so committed to blooom’s mission that he relocated his family from Dallas to Kansas City to join the company.

Well, I am relieved to tell you that I did not get hit by that bus. But after working closely with Matt over the past 15 months, it has become abundantly clear to me and those around me that Matt is the right person to take over as CEO to lead blooom into the future. I’m thrilled to report that Matt’s experience and counsel played a huge role in blooom’s rapid growth over the past year and a half.

What’s Changing Now

After much discussion with Kevin, Randy and my wife, and with the support of the blooom Board of Directors, I am transitioning the role of CEO to Matt.

I will stay on as chairman of the blooom Board of Directors, and I will remain deeply involved at the company level. I will continue to do what I love – help people secure their futures by saving and investing wisely. To that end, I’ll happily continue to be the face of blooom externally, doing media appearances and speaking engagements, acting as chief evangelist and leading client education, among other things.

This was not an easy decision, but I have always felt I would do what is in blooom’s best interest. Truthfully, I now believe this is a situation in which blooom gets to have its cake and eat it, too, because we’re both playing to our individual strengths. Matt is a seasoned executive with deep experience in scaling companies, and I get to focus on the things I do best: speaking externally about our mission to change average Americans’ financial lot in life.

Looking Forward

I’m excited to see how blooom will grow in this next phase under Matt’s leadership, and I look forward to continuing to build on our goal of bringing simplified financial advice and services to millions of Americans.

Read More

The Stock Market Sell-Off

Every investor needs to know that market sell-offs are both inevitable and, in fact, business as usual.

This is not our first rodeo… more like 350th

Since 1900, the market has averaged three declines of at least 5% per calendar year (source: Capital Research and Management Company). In other words: The market has dropped by at least 5% about 350 times since 1900! The mistake so many investors make is that they see their account value declining, and hear doom and gloom from the media and friends. They then assume they should sell and “wait for things to get better.” This is not an advisable course of action: The market has recovered and reached new all-time highs not 90% of the time… but 100% of the time.

 

Hindsight is always 20/20

Sometimes, we know why the market is selling off. Other times, it is a complete surprise. History has also shown that the reasons for market sell-offs are rarely what the talking heads were predicting. What we know or fear today will rarely be the actual reason for a future market decline.

 

What should investors do after a big market sell-off?

Know that the recent market decline has nothing to do with what the market will do today, tomorrow, or next month. Many times after steep sell-offs in the market, it goes on to rebound even higher than where it was before.

 

Your not-to-do-list

If you are investing for the long term (like inside your 401k for retirement), the best course of action when you feel scared about the markets is do nothing. Do not panic, do not do something radical like selling out of your investments.

 

Learn to love a good sale

If your budget allows, a market decline is the best time to INCREASE your contributions to your 401k. Think about it: The market has effectively gone on sale. We know as consumers to look for sales and bargains when we are shopping. Americans would be wealthier if they learned to treat market declines as sales and, if possible, bought a bit more.

 

Avoid FOMO

Considering that today, the Dow Jones is around 25,000, wouldn’t you want to travel back in time to 2008/2009 and buy a ton of stocks? During the financial crisis, the Dow went below 7,000! Sadly, very few investors were buying when it was at those low levels. Many were even doing exactly the opposite–the worst possible thing: They were selling at those insanely low levels. Doing this likely locked in losses that many investors may have never recovered from. Most other long-term investors who stayed put and ignored the panic were rewarded by their portfolio values, if they were well-diversified. They climbed up to new all-time highs within just a few years.

 

When in doubt, ask blooom

At blooom, we do our best to communicate these kinds of messages. We worry that there is an entire generation of investors (roughly age 32 and younger) that were likely not investing during the last significant market decline. They have thus only seen the market since 2009 on a fairly robust growth trajectory. We remind our clients that markets never go straight up and that periodic declines are not only inevitable, but actually needed from a risk/reward standpoint.

 

Since blooom specializes in 401k accounts, it is easy for us to help our clients maintain a long term focus, since their investments are generally for long term goals like retirement. We also remind our clients that included in their monthly subscription fee, they always have access to a blooom advisor if they are feeling scared or considering selling out of their investment portfolio.

 

Help us help you

Blooom will put together a beautiful, well-diversified portfolio for all clients using the lowest cost funds available within their 401k plan. However, if a client does something rash and sells out when the markets declines, all of the work that blooom has done goes right out the window – and might never return. We suspect that a lot of wealth is squandered by individual investors not from poor investment selection, or high fee funds, but squarely due to bad decisions and bad investor behavior in moments of emotional exuberance or fear. Be careful not to chase over-priced “hot” funds in good markets, and be sure not to bail out of so-called poorly performing funds in bad markets. The old “buy high, sell low” problem – don’t fall for it!

 

If you would like more information or perspective on this topic – visit blooom’s FAQs regarding market declines.

 

 

Read More
Beware the Bull in Retirement Yellow Brick Road

How to Travel Safely Down Retirement Yellow Brick Road

The past few years, we’ve seen a lot of people happily talking about the gains they have been seeing in their 401k accounts. They’re sharing return numbers with others online and in the grocery store. It would seem like the kind of talk you’d want to hear.

Please don’t get me wrong. It’s great to see so many people happy that their retirement accounts are increasing in value. But there is a very important message to convey concerning these high returns.

Like the Lollipop Guild in the Wizard of Oz – IT AIN’T ALWAYS GONNA BE THIS GOOD!

The Facts About Returns Since blooom’s launch

Blooom launched its 401k management service in late-September of 2014. Since that time, the stock market (as measured by the S&P 500*) has had a cumulative return of roughly 28% and has averaged almost 10% per year.  In addition, the Vanguard Total World Stock ETF – a better proxy for blooom clients given its allocation to global equities – is up over 15% year-to-date! The point here is that these past three years have been a good time to be a stock market investor. Hell, it has been a GREAT time to be a stock market investor since the Great Recession (stock market collapse) of 2008-2009.

With all of these happy people, we want to make sure everyone understands that this is not always how things will go. In reality, the market will go down periodically.  In fact – It NEEDS to go down periodically. That is precisely why investing in the market carries risk and this same risk is exactly why investors who have stayed in the market for long periods of time and weathered this risk have been rewarded with much higher returns than “risk-free” investments like CDs, Government Bonds, and money market funds have produced.

4 Key Characteristics of a blooom-managed 401k

If you’re a blooom client, your managed 401k has four key characteristics that other 401k investors may not receive:

Read More
Thanks 1 Billion Clients

Blooom Reaches $1 Billion in Assets Under Management

“Wall Street has made a habit of running in the opposite direction of investors with small accounts…maybe we should build something and run towards them.”

This was written in email from Kevin Conard, my co-founder to me late one night back in January 2013. Four-and-a-half years later that idea has evolved into a company – blooom – and we are proud to announce that we have grown faster than virtually any other robo-advisor. Blooom now manages more than $1 billion of retirement accounts for our clients.

Specifically, thousands of people from all across this country have trusted blooom with what is likely their most important and potentially most valuable financial asset – their employer-sponsored retirement account, or 401ks/403bs, as they are so strangely named.

If you’re a blooom client, I want to thank you for believing in us and starting this journey of bettering your retirement and financial situation together. The entire blooom team works hard every day to help you reach your financial goals.

Every time we receive a message of gratitude from one of our clients, we share it with the team and … everyone gets to work the next day with a sense of pride that they are truly helping people and striving to achieve greatness. Thanks to everyone once again. We will continue to provide our helpful service to all of you — in good times and bad.

Speaking of pride. We also take pride that this Kansas-based company reached the milestone faster than both Betterment or Weathfront – while doing so on a fraction of the capital. They’re peers not so much from a comparable service offering but in that they’re a benchmark for other robo-advisors. In other words, out of the gates, we have grown faster on fewer resources, as one should expect from someone managing their money.

Blooom was started in 2013 to help the traditionally un-helped.

We felt – and continue to feel — that it isn’t fair that the people who needed the help from the financial services industry the most were the least likely segment of the population get it.

You’ve done the hard part: You started saving for you retirement. Thanks for letting us do the rest.

If you haven’t already read blooom’s manifesto — here’s WHY this is all so important to us:

Read More
401k Fees Eat Holes in Money Socked Away

What The Heck are 401k Fees and How Do You Kill Them?

The saying “ignorance is bliss” doesn’t apply to hidden 401k fees. We frequently reference them … and for good reason. According to research from NerdWallet, people with 40 years until retirement could lose as much as $500,000 because of investment fees.

Worse yet. Most people aren’t AWARE they are paying these fees. An incredible 92% of Americans have no idea how much they pay in 401k fees.

We’re going to provide a simple break down of the fees found in your 401k. We’ll also review what, if anything, you can do about them.

Providers Have Three Main Types of 401k Fees

Investment fees are specific to each investment option your plan offers and typically the loftiest type of fee. Luckily, you can usually control – or get help to control – these types of fees. They can be reduced by simply choosing to invest in funds that have lower expense ratios.

Other types of 401k fees, administrative and service fees, are more difficult for you to reduce, as they are an innate part of your provider’s plan.

Here’s the quick overview of the three main types of fees:

  1. Investment fees – Expressed as an “expense ratio” of anywhere from 0.01% – 3%. Our team will call these “fund specific fees” or “fund fees.”They cover the management of the investments within your plan. And they typically represent the largest component of fees. Generally assessed as a percentage of assets invested, they are deducted directly from your investment returns: Investment fees are taken out annually as a percentage of your investment.
    • Sales charges – transaction costs for buying/selling shares
    • Management fees – for managing the assets of the fund, often used to cover administrative expenses
    • Other fees – to address services such as furnishing statements
  2. Plan administration fees – The fees charged to keep your plan running. These fees include recordkeeping, accounting, legal and trustee services that are necessary for administering the plan.
  3. Individual service fees – typically associated with optional features offered under a 401k plan. Some additional services may include access to a customer service representative, educational videos or seminars, planning software, investment advice, or online transactions. The more services provided, the higher the fees. The cost typically corresponds with the size of your employer’s 401k plan, i.e. there are benefits of scale (the following are the typical fees by employer size):
    • 1.4% for small employers
    • 0.85% for medium-size employers
    • 0.5% for larger employers

Investment Fees Pile On – They’re Vermin You Want to Control

We sometimes hear from people that they don’t need to worry about investment fees because their account balance is relatively small. But here’s the rub: Fees negatively affect your 401k (or other employer-sponsored retirement plan) in several ways.

Read More
1 2 3 7