Category : investing

When Market Tanks ... Do These 3 Things

3 Things You Should Do With Your 401k When The Market Tanks

Disclaimer:  I am not predicting the market tanks tomorrow, next week, next month or even next year. Contrary to what the media or “pundits” try to convince you — it is impossible to predict when the market will drop or what will ultimately cause it. That said, I am 100% convinced that the market will drop at some point.

In fact, at blooom – we guarantee that it will drop at some point in the future. In reality, it isn’t IF the market will drop. It is WHEN and how many times over your investing lifetime will it occur. We try to inform our clients about this as often as possible and set the expectation that market drops – although painful at the time – are perfectly normal.

The mistake average investors make most often is they take the assumption that something is wrong with the market or their portfolio and they bail out of their investments right in the midst of the market decline. They do this thinking that they are doing the “safe” thing but it is often the absolute worst thing you can do. It is a huge reason why average investors perform so horribly when left to their own devices.

So what can you do the next time the market tanks?  At blooom, we advocate that our clients do these 3 things.

1. Set Your Expectations Ahead of Time

Just knowing that it is perfectly normal for the market and the value of your account to decline from time to time is half the battle.

History has repeatedly shown that the right thing to do — regardless of the circumstances causing the market decline — is to not panic, sit tight and just get through it. You probably know that the average rate of return over the stock market over the past 30, 50 whatever years is something close to 10%. Guess what, the 10% rate of return was calculated by STAYING in the market 100% of the time. Even in the last 20 years (1997-2016), the average investor return – 2.29% — has paled to that of the S&P’s 7.68% 1.

Achieving the S&P historical numbers does NOT assume that an investor had a fully functioning crystal ball. They weren’t hopping out of the market before a decline and back into the market right before it turned upwards. That rate of return assumes you left your investment the heck alone!

Start prepping your mind today — when the waters are fairly calm — for the fact that your 401k will decline in value when the market drops. This does not mean anything is wrong with your 401k, the investments, or blooom!  I promise you — after 22 years of experience working with clients to help them save for retirement — if you can come to grips and expect the market and your portfolio to drop from time to time, you will put yourself in a much better position for investing success.

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Common Traits Hamilton And Blooom

5 Unexpected Reasons Why We Love Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton the Broadway musical has been the hit of the New York stage for several years now. Even before his hip-hop reinvention, we at blooom shared some sensibilities with our founding father. Here are the Top 5 Alexander Hamilton traits we live when providing 401k help:

Alexander Hamilton Was an Innovator

When there was recent talk of removing Hamilton from the $10 bill, it was no surprise that there were a number of supporters who reached out to the press to challenge the move. Hamilton is rooted in the origination of several of our country’s financial and business institutions.

In addition to serving as our first U.S. Treasury Secretary, Hamilton co-founded the Bank of New York, which still lives on today as BNY Mellon. The bank’s stock was among the first to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. His strategies were also instrumental in the formation of interest-paying bonds, the chartering of a national bank and the first U.S. incubator.

Disruptive like Hamilton, blooom’s founders created a revolutionary online 401k app to fix the plans for EVERY American. The key distinction between blooom and other robo-advisors is that we are the only firm managing individuals’ employer-sponsored retirement accounts like 401ks and 403bs.

And, blooom clients also have access to unbiased professional financial advice beyond their 401k. Our goal is to provide access to help everyday Americans, not just millionaires who can typically afford financial advice. We do it for only $10 a month.

Alexander Hamilton Championed Transparency

In 1801, Hamilton started a daily federalist news sheet that eventually became the New York Post. At the time, Hamilton used the paper to voice his opinions publicly and attack conventional wisdom.

Transparency is no act for us, as blooom is a fiduciary. This basically means we are required to act in your best interest, not ours. We wish this was the case for all advisors in the good ol’ US of A, but it’s not.

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401k Management Requires Dissection

What Do an Appendectomy and 401k Management Have in Common?

Picture this. You start to feel a dull sense of pain around your belly button that shifts to your lower right abdomen. Within just a few hours the dull pain has escalated to a sharp pain that can no longer be ignored. When you move, the pain gets excruciating and if by chance you need to cough or sneeze – you’d better be gripping onto something!

At this point, you realize you need to get your butt to the ER. After what seems like a million bumps in the road on the way to the hospital, you check yourself into the ER. The ER doctor then begins the examination. After just a few moments of probing your lower abdomen — she is confident that you have appendicitis.

The doctor explains that if appendicitis is not treated quickly, the appendix can rupture. When that happens, it releases bacteria into the abdomen and potentially leads to other, life-threatening infections.

Because of this danger she explains, appendicitis is considered a medical emergency. It typically needs to be removed within 24 hours of the condition being diagnosed. Given the amount of pain you’re are in, surgery sounds like the least of your worries. So, you tell her, “Let’s do it! Get this thing out of me. Nobody even knows what the heck an appendix does anyway!”

Then comes a response that you were not at all expecting. Instead of starting the process to prep you for the appendectomy, she instead asks you just about the …

Strangest Question You Would Expect a Doctor to Ever Ask

“I would love to perform this appendectomy, but before we can proceed, I need to know how much you have saved for your retirement?”

You are thinking … WTF!  What in the world does my retirement saving have to do with this emergency surgery? But given how much pain you are in, you will answer just about any question if it means getting you closer to the pain meds.

“I have about $70,000 saved up in my 401k,” you answer proudly. Still, you hadn’t seen the 401k management questions in the admittance form. What’s this about?

Her reply leaves you totally dumbfounded. “That is great but, unfortunately, you don’t have enough saved for ME to perform the appendectomy you badly need.”

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Eggs Need Diversification Beyond One Basket

Why Diversification Matters in 401k Management

“In the world of investing nothing is as dependable as cycles” – Howard Marks, Oaktree Capital chairman

We want to illustrate the randomness of markets and why diversifying is a good idea.

We put together the following chart to do just that. It shows the performance of several of the major asset classes over the last 10 calendar years updated through 12/31/2016.

Diversification - Asset Category Performance

A Few Things About Diversification Jump Out

While US markets have rebounded strongly since the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, international markets have lagged for the most part. Unfortunately, this is causing a lot of investors to abandon their international funds or avoid them altogether. If we extended this chart back a few years further, the opposite would have been true. Another reminder that markets are cyclical. Nothing new to see here.

Poor commodities. They had their first positive year of the past six years in 2016. Even after that gain, the asset class is down around 50% since the beginning of 2011. Commodities still have a place in a diversified portfolio, but if you have been banking on the return of the gold standard, you have likely been disappointed.

Looking only at this chart, bonds seem to be a dependable source of a decent return. However, like all history, context is everything. We’ve seen a 30-plus year bull market in bonds where the 10-year treasury yield went from over 15% in the early 1980’s to around 2.5% at the end of 2016. Falling interest rates are a positive for bond prices, but they can only fall so far. The next decade will likely look different for bonds.

The Diversification Chart Teaches Valuable Investing Lessons

First, there will be up years and down years. Chasing the best performing asset class of the previous year won’t yield great results. Oftentimes, the top performing asset class one year will be near the bottom of the pack the next year, and vice versa. Other times, an asset class’ relative performance will persist (see: commodities from 2011-2015 or US large cap from 2013-2016). The point is, the future is unknowable.

If you’re relying on your (or anyone else’s) ability to time the market, you’re doing it wrong.

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Sir Isaac Newton…astronomer, mathematician, physicist…and super crappy investor.

Newton made a huge impact in the 1700s with his contributions on the Law of Motion, gravitation and by being the inventor of the first reflecting telescope. Stay with us here…he was also a fellow of Trinity College, a member of Parliament, and was knighted by the Queen in 1705.

By all accounts, the man was a freaking genius.

But, Boy Oh Boy, Did He Suck at Investing.

Think about that? How is it even possible that a person this smart could be bad at investing? Simple. And here is the story:

Enter the South Sea Company. This was a company that was established in the early 18th Century. In exchange for assuming England’s war debt, the company was granted a monopoly on trade in the South Seas.

Bingo. Investors loved this. They smelled a huge money making opportunity.

Sir Isaac Newton was no different than any other investor. He too had been charmed into purchasing shares of the South Sea Company and by 1720 after seeing the stock rise rapidly without reason at a fever pitch he rationalized, “I can calculate the movement of stars, but not the madness of men.” So, he cashed out. And profited big time from his investment.

Then he watched as the stock continued to soar THREE times higher than when he sold his shares. We can only imagine the regret he was feeling. As evidence, he went on to repurchase South Sea Company. Only this time he was buying it THREE times higher than when he last sold it.

Briefly, the stock continued to rise. We’re sure Newton was feeling wonderful about his decision. And then things started to go awry. The stock peaked weeks later and then cratered. Newton ended up losing £20,000 (nearly his life savings) which in today’s dollars equates to roughly $3,000,000.

Let That Sink In. Astronomer. Mathematician. Physicist. And….Broke.

Newton, a genius by all accounts, couldn’t pull off investing without letting his emotions get the best of him. Where does this leave you?

Simple. You need to find a professional that can help you navigate the emotional ups and downs of investing. We don’t care where you get help, just get help! Many traditional advisors have $1,000,000 account minimums before they’ll talk to you. Luckily for our clients, we don’t have a minimum and we focus on the ever confusing 401k that you might have set on “auto-pilot”.

Look, this isn’t about your IQ score. 1000s of folks using blooom are super smart people – doctors, teachers, firemen…shoot, we even have financial advisors using blooom for their own accounts! Yes, they are all smart. BUT they’ve come to the realization that it’s best to have someone hold your hand through the inevitable ups and downs you will see as an investor.

Don’t let your investing experience become a history lesson for someone else.

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