ACTIONABLE ADVICE FOR FINANCIAL ADVISORS: Newsletters and Commentaries Focused on Investment Strategy

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2014-04-22 Does Rebalancing Reduce Risk? by Michael Edesess (Article)

In a previous article I asked whether rebalancing increases return, as the term "rebalancing bonus" implies. I concluded that it does not. In this article I ask whether it is a tool for reducing risk. The answer depends on whether you believe that the standard deviation of long-term returns is the appropriate measure of risk. This article will show why it often is not.

2014-03-27 The Media?s Incomplete Coverage of the Active/Passive Debate by Roger Nusbaum of AdvisorShares

Barron?s revisited the debate between active and passive portfolio management with it?s conclusion revealed in the article?s title; Go Active for Bonds, but Index Your Stocks. This is an important issue for market participants to explore and the revisit every so often.

2014-03-14 Dangerous Assumptions for Retirees by Rob Isbitts of Sungarden Investment Research

One of the main difficulties with MPT, is that by focusing on historical data to calculate asset allocation, it completely ignores extreme risk (2007-2008).

2014-03-03 Six Easy Pieces: Fundamentals of Asset Allocation Explained by Patrick Rudden of AllianceBernstein

Figuring out the best split for your assets often seems daunting. But it doesn?t have to be. This template can help you get started.

2013-11-19 Asset Class Allocation and Portfolios: Critique and Complication by Adam Jared Apt (Article)

In Part 1 of this essay, I explained that for asset class allocation to become an investment practice, it required a foundation of theory. And Modern Portfolio Theory was that foundation. But today, most financial journalists and investment advisors who proffer advice centered on asset class allocation are?if I may judge from their writings?oblivious of this. And why shouldn’t they be? Theory is abstract and difficult to apprehend.

2013-10-15 Why Customized Content Beats Canned Content by Neil Rhein (Article)

If you’re communicating syndicated (“canned”) content that is similar (or identical) to what every other advisor is saying, you’re just adding to the noise.

2013-10-15 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

Readers respond to Robert Huebscher’s article, The Futility of the Endowment Model, which appeared last week.

2013-10-08 The Futility of the Endowment Model by Robert Huebscher (Article)

In the past two decades, the so-called endowment model has been adopted by hundreds of endowments, foundations and advisors ? particularly those serving ultra-high-net-worth clients. By aggressively allocating to illiquid alternative asset classes, those investors hoped to duplicate the results of Yale and other top-tier institutions. New research exposes the futility of those efforts.

2013-10-01 The Eight Principles of Value Investing by Scott Clemons and Michael Kim (Article)

In any environment, but especially one characterized by uncertainty, eight principles of investing are critical. These bedrock beliefs help guide our thinking at the levels of asset allocation, security selection and identification of the third-party managers we engage to help manage our clients’ assets.

2013-09-24 Why Retirees Should Choose DIAs over SPIAs by Wade Pfau (Article)

Retirement portfolios can be constructed from a mix of asset classes, including stocks, bonds and annuities. In the past, I’ve shown that retirees achieve some of the best outcomes by allocating a portion of those assets to SPIAs. In this column, I extend my analysis to show that DIAs work even better than SPIAs, by providing more liquidity and better longevity protection at a lower cost.

2013-09-09 Moving On - Five Years After Lehman by John Petrides (Article)

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers failure and the start of worst financial crisis in American history since the Great Depression, and yet to some investors, it seems like only yesterday. Investors still hold onto that period of volatility as if it will happen again tomorrow, paralyzing and confusing their investment decisions. Consequently, many investors have watched from the sidelines as the stock market has recovered solidly year after year.

2013-09-03 The Impact of Severe Drawdowns on Safe Withdrawal Rates by Lloyd Nirenberg, Ph.D. (Article)

A Google search for “safe withdrawal rates” produces 30 million results, but none answers a question that is critical to advisors and investors: How would a sudden market downturn ? a “return shock” ? impair a retiree’s forecast withdrawals?

2013-08-06 Unlocking the Two Mysteries behind SPIAs by Wade Pfau (Article)

Two mysteries confound planners who purchase single-premium immediate annuities (SPIAs) for their clients: Why does the present value of a SPIA often exceed its cost, and why do equity allocations appear to increase when a SPIA is purchased? Unlocking those mysteries requires advisors to use a different framework ? based on the household balance sheet ? for the withdrawal phase of retirement.

2013-08-06 Human Capital in the Digital Economy by Alan Winger (Article)

Human capital is a key asset that planners manage as they strive to maximize consumption throughout clients’ lives. Human capital, or lifetime income, often peaks in value early in their careers. Moreover, today’s digital economy means human capital is more volatile and less predictable than in the past, and that carries important implications for financial planners.

2013-08-01 July 2013 Market Commentary by Andrew Clinton of Clinton Investment Management

Fixed income investors have enjoyed a steady move higher in bond prices over the past five years. Given the consistency with which bond values have increased, it is understandable if bond investors were surprised by the just over 0.60%, or 60 basis point rise in ten year Treasury yields and corresponding movement down in bond prices during the second quarter.

2013-07-30 The Power of Diversification and Safe Withdrawal Rates by Geoff Considine (Article)

When Bill Bengen published his seminal research in 1994, a 4% safe withdrawal rate (SWR) was clearly attainable with a variety of asset allocations. But bond yields are lower now than they were then, and equity returns for the next 20 years are unlikely to exceed those of the prior two decades. Indeed, a new paper by three highly respected researchers showed that SWRs for stock-bond portfolios are well below 4%. But as I will demonstrate, a 4% SWR is still possible with a more diversified portfolio ? and without subjecting clients to additional risk.

2013-07-30 A Strategy for Reducing Volatility While Increasing Returns by Steven Farber (Article)

The product on every advisor’s wish list would have the low volatility of fixed income while providing equity-like returns. Although such a product does not exist, equity options, when used properly, will give you the ability to achieve pre-defined goals and objectives.

2013-07-16 Venerated Voices? Awards for the Second Quarter of 2013 by Advisor Perspectives (Article)

We announce our Venerated Voices awards for commentaries published in Q2 2013. Rankings were issued in three categories: The Top 25 Venerated Voices by Firm, The Top 25 Venerated Voices by Author and The Top 10 Venerated Voices by Commentary.

2013-06-25 The Price Your Clients Pay for Using Safe Withdrawal Rates by David B. Loeper (Article)

Safe-withdrawal rates (SWRs) are perhaps the most extensively studied topic in financial planning literature. But applying a single SWR-driven methodology to all clients neglects their unique and individual needs. A better approach is for advisors to assist clients in defining their ideal and acceptable goals and the relative priorities among them. Then they can demonstrate through Monte Carlo simulation the likelihood of the recommended plan becoming over- or under-funded relative to those goals.

2013-06-18 GMO’s Montier on Why to Hold Cash by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Central bank policies have distorted markets to such a degree that investors are devoid of any buy-and-hold asset classes, according to James Montier. But according to Richard Bernstein, the flood of liquidity unleashed through quantitative easing (QE) now offers investors compelling opportunities.

2013-05-28 Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Justin Kermond (Article)

The rock-and-roll star David Lee Roth devised a test using a bowl of M&Ms to ensure that he thoroughly prepared for concerts. He wanted every performance to be perfect, and the framework he used to accomplish that goal provides a decision-making process that is applicable to financial advisors.

2013-05-14 David Rosenberg ? My Love Affair with Bonds is Over by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The chorus of rate-spike-fearing inflationists has a new member. David Rosenberg, a stalwart advocate of fixed-income investing for the last quarter century, publicly declared on May 3 that his “love affair with the bond market has come to an end.” Prepare for a redux of 1970s stagflation, he said, and he advised investors how to construct portfolios to prepare for that scenario.

2013-05-07 How to Construct a Low-Cost Conservative Portfolio by Geoff Considine (Article)

One of the greatest challenges for investors today is constructing low-risk portfolios that provide the best returns using low-cost funds or ETFs. Doing so requires advisors to define risk as the potential for retirees to fail to achieve their financial goals, instead of as volatility, as it is traditionally measured. I will show how to construct a low-cost portfolio that minimizes this definition of risk while generating a reasonable real return.

2013-04-30 Implementing Behavioral Portfolio Management by C. Thomas Howard, PhD (Article)

Behavioral portfolio management is based on the notion that if the advisor can redirect his or her emotions and mitigate the impact of client emotions, it is possible to build superior portfolios by harnessing market emotions. This article describes how this can be done and presents evidence of the superiority of focusing on investor behavior when constructing and managing portfolios.

2013-04-23 Venerated Voices? Q1 2013 by Advisor Perspectives (Article)

Advisor Perspectives, a leading publisher serving financial advisors and the financial advisory community, has published its Venerated Voices awards for articles published in Q1 2013.

2013-03-19 Understanding the Role of SPIAs in a Retirement Portfolio by David B. Loeper (Article)

Wade Pfau’s recent article, Breaking Free from the Safe Withdrawal Paradigm, was well researched. Its goal was to accurately calculate the benefits of using SPIAs based on certain assumptions. I fear, however, that many readers may have not fully grasped the impact of a few key assumptions that drive his results.

2013-02-19 Asset Class Allocation and Portfolios by Adam Jared Apt (Article)

Asset class allocation has been so thoroughly absorbed into the culture of investing that today, most investment guidance is built around it, and you may even have heard that it is the foundation of an investment plan. And like nearly all respectable investment ideas, it is misunderstood and abused. One misconception is that asset class allocation and portfolio management are the same thing. I'll explain why they aren't later, but let's start by considering another misconception.

2013-02-05 Comparing Advisors to Jim Cramer: Measuring your Professional Alpha by Bob Veres (Article)

Jim Cramer, Suze Orman and other so-called investment pundits and gurus are constantly telling consumers that they can do a great job of managing their portfolios on their own. Let's look at what the research has to say about the various investment performance benefits that advisors should be able to give their clients during the accumulation phase of their lives ? excess returns above what do-it-yourself investors could obtain on their own. I call those excess returns 'professional alpha.'

2013-01-15 Demographics and the Decline of Equity Mutual Funds by Paul Franchi (Article)

Until the last few years, mutual fund flows followed performance. Recently, however, money has flowed disproportionately into bond funds and out of US equity funds despite a strong rally in the equity markets. Changing demographics explain this shift, which has important implications for advisors and the mutual fund industry.

2012-12-27 The Best Investment-Related Quotes by Glenn Frank (Article)

I've compiled a list of my favorite investment-related quotes. They come from a range of sources ? including many outside the world of finance. I hope that they provide wisdom and inspiration for the year ahead.

2012-12-26 The Ten Key Benefits of Investment Committees by Bob Veres (Article)

In this first part of a two-part report, I'll identify ten core purposes that investment committees serve in different types of firms, ranking them in order of the number of responses I received. If your investment committee is serving all ten purposes, based on the survey, you're among a select minority - which means that many advisors may find new ways to use this versatile new tool in their RIA practices.

2012-12-26 Putting Clients' Cash to Work by Dan Richards (Article)

A central challenge advisors face are is clients who need mid- to high-single-digit returns to achieve their long-term goals, but who have an overweight position in cash. A recent luncheon with a group of highly successful advisors highlighted this challenge and illuminated a way to overcome it.

2012-12-18 Pulling Back the Lens in Emerging Markets by Western Asset Management (Article)

Emerging markets remain resilient, according to Western Asset Portfolio Manager Rob Abad. But in the face of so much global uncertainty, investors would be wise to consider the latest trends and dynamics impacting this maturing asset class.

2012-12-11 The Next Generation of Income Guarantee Riders: Part 3 (The Income Phase) by Wade Pfau (Article)

In this third and final installment in my series on guarantee riders, I'll focus on the post-retirement income supported by income guarantee riders for variable annuities (VA/GLWBs), stand-alone living benefit riders (SALBs), and an unguaranteed portfolio of mutual funds. I'll highlight how differences among these products affect their end results, while also investigating what roles guarantees can most appropriately play in a retirement portfolio.

2012-12-11 Fine Wine - Why it's for More than Just Drinking by Mark E. Ricardo, JD, LLM, AAMS (Article)

For many investors, an ideal asset class would combine superior long-term absolute and risk-adjusted returns with a hedge against inflation and stock market volatility. There's a way to get all of that, in an asset class you might never have thought of until now: fine wine. Investment-grade wine deserves careful consideration, particularly now that - unlike other collectibles, such as art and rare books - it can be traded on a regulated exchange.

2012-11-20 The Fallacies in Today?s Retirement Plan Assumptions: Putting the Hedonic Pleasure Index to Work by Bob Veres (Article)

Are you dramatically underestimating your clients' retirement lifestyle expenditures when you use Monte Carlo software? If you stop and look at a number of important assumptions hidden in the current models, you'll suddenly have a lot less confidence in the retirement plans you?re mapping out for your clients.

2012-11-13 How Well Does the Next Generation of Guarantee Riders Protect Your Income? Part 2 - Starting the Inc by Wade Pfau (Article)

Unlike traditional VA/GLWBs, the future payments from stand-alone income riders are tied to 10-year Treasury rates. That's bad news for retirees, who may find their future benefits compromised if interest rates remain at historically low levels - regardless of how the stock market performs.

2012-11-13 Emerging Markets: Maintaining Perspective by Robert O. Abad (Article)

In this Q&A, Western Asset Portfolio Manager Robert Abad discusses the latest dynamics and trends within emerging markets (EM). Although EM continue to demonstrate resiliency, Mr. Abad believes that given the amount of global uncertainty today, it is important that investors evaluate opportunities alongside a manager equipped to guide them through the risks and rewards of this evolving asset class.

2012-11-06 ClearBridge Advisors - Market Commentary Q312 by Harry ?Hersh? Cohen (Article)

Vibrant end demand is missing, as consumers have neither the wherewithal nor the will to spend as they did in prior periods.

2012-11-06 Asset Location: Nine Tips to Create ?Tax Alpha? by Glenn Frank (Article)

With campaign season finally over, taxes are going to dominate the debate in Washington in the months ahead ? however things shake out at the polls today. It's going to be confusing; it's going to be uncertain. But many of the most critical questions advisors will ask can be answered with an analytical approach to deciding where to 'house' assets ? in taxable or tax-sheltered accounts.

2012-10-30 Building Portfolios that Beat their Benchmark: Measuring Nanometers with a Yardstick by Bob Veres (Article)

Using tools he co-developed with the Nobel-prize winning economist Bill Sharpe, one advisor has found that he can reliably outperform an appropriate benchmark. His work proves it is possible to build a portfolio knowledgably. You just need the right tools to get the job done.

2012-10-30 The Next Generation of Income Guarantee Riders: Part 1 - The Deferral Phase by Wade Pfau (Article)

Clients no longer need to move their assets to a variable annuity with a rider to guarantee lifetime withdrawal benefits, thanks to the RetireOne stand-alone living benefit (SALB) rider from Aria Retirement Solutions, which can be applied to a portfolio of mutual funds and ETFs. Despite this enticing promise, however, the SALB may not offer as much downside protection as advisors and clients expect.

2012-10-16 When Strong Client Relationships Aren?t Enough by Beverly Flaxington (Article)

Building strong personal relationships with your clients and consistently exceeding their expectations for direct, personal service ? these traditionally were the best ways to generate referrals. But what if that's no longer enough?

2012-10-09 Is Gluskin's David Rosenberg Right about Utilities? by Geoff Considine (Article)

They're not the sexiest property on the Monopoly board, but in today's market, there's plenty of evidence mounting that utilities are a great source of income. Indeed, Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg made the case for utilities in a recent commentary.

2012-10-09 Dividend Income: Music to Our Ears by ClearBridge Advisors (Article)

The hunger for income among investors is helping put dividends in the spotlight, say Hersh Cohen and Mike Clarfeld of ClearBridge.

2012-10-09 We Need a Bold Solution to Fix the Retirement System by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Our retirement system is broken. The average American isn't saving enough to comfortably retire, and the fault lies in our reliance on defined-contribution (DC) plans, such as 401(k)s. Tinkering with DC plans won't solve the problem, and the other extreme - a federally mandated guarantee - isn't likely to gain support. But a number of compromises that lie between those approaches offer a better way forward for future generations.

2012-10-09 Letter to the Editor by Various (Article)

A reader responds to Rob Arnott's commentary, The Glidepath Illusion, which was published on September 25.

2012-09-18 Recognize the Relative Advantages of Natural Resource Equities vs. Commodities by RS Investments (Article)

This RS Investments research brief examines how shifts in commodity fundamentals presents the case for employing natural resource equities as a means to benefit from favorable long-term secular trends, while achieving superior risk-adjusted returns, similar diversification benefits, and more reliable inflation protection relative to commodities.

2012-09-11 Can Our Retirement System be Fixed? by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Google 'Teresa Ghilarducci' and you'll find countless references to her as the most dangerous woman in America. That dubious distinction stems from her 2008 book, When I'm Sixty-Four, in which she advocated replacing voluntary 401(k) plans with government-mandated savings accounts. Ghilarducci was attempting to address a problem that thus far has eluded solution, so it's important to consider her arguments, which have drawn praise from some quarters, too.

2012-09-04 The Ultimate Income Strategy - Higher Yield and Lower Volatility by Geoff Considine (Article)

Investors, especially those in the de-accumulation phase of their retirement, count on high income and low volatility. Achieving the best possible tradeoff between yield and risk is a major challenge for advisors. Over the last two years, I've shown how to construct a low-risk portfolio - the ultimate income portfolio (UIP) - that yields over 9.0%. Let's look back at how those portfolios performed and the components of this year's UIP.

2012-09-04 New Research - How to Help Clients Make Better Decisions by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Making decisions is not something human beings are very good at. We do a poor job of predicting what will make us happy in the future, we often misjudge our ability to handle risk, and our decisions are plagued by subtle biases that throw us unwittingly off course. Because the essence of financial planning is making decisions about the future, it's critical that clients and advisors understand how decision-making biases can be identified and overcome.

2012-08-21 The Profession's Faulty Assumptions: A Top Ten List by Bob Veres (Article)

In the financial planning profession, we make a lot of assumptions about the world in order to run spreadsheet models, retirement projections and sufficiency analyses, and generally determine how much a client should save and invest for the future. But many of the industry-standard inputs into our models are (how can I say this delicately?) garbage. Here are my top ten garbage inputs, with an explanation of how we might possibly improve on them.

2012-08-14 Blind Faith by Michael Lewitt (Article)

Central banks are facing political and practical obstacles that will render it very difficult for them to deliver anything more than anodyne words and actions as summer moves into the always dangerous August holiday season. IPhones should be kept on alert at the beach through Labor Day.

2012-07-31 Beyond the Ultimate Death Cross by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

Last week, I showed why the 'ultimate death cross' is not a bearish signal. But the methodology behind that signal - what's known as a 'golden-cross trigger' - can indeed offer a reliable guide to investors. And one can do even better with a simple improvement to the trigger that I have devised.

2012-07-31 Venerated Voices by Venerated Voices (Article)

We published our quarterly update for the Venerated Voices awards. Rankings were issued in three categories: The Top 25 Venerated Voices by Firm, The Top 25 Venerated Voices by Advisor and The Top 10 Venerated Voices by Commentary.

2012-07-24 Optimal Strategies for Secular Market Cycles by Michael Kitces (Article)

With alternative investments and active management strategies growing ever more popular, an advisor recently told me, 'It's just a fad and will end with heartache as all investment fads do. I've watched it play out over and over during my 30-year career.' But I am not persuaded. The secular market cycle today is different from the bear market 30 years ago, and not all market cycles favor the same investment strategies.

2012-07-10 A Mid-Year Client Letter: Wisdom from Three Wall Street Veterans by Dan Richards (Article)

Here is a template for a letter to serve as a starting point for advisors looking to send clients an overview of the past 90 days and the outlook for the period ahead.

2012-07-03 Bond Funds: You Get What You Don't Pay For by Michael Edesess (Article)

Innumerable studies have shown that it's well-nigh impossible to beat the averages consistently investing in equity funds. But what about bonds? Bonds, after all, have more structure - perhaps there are ways an expert fund manager could exploit that structure and gain an edge over other investors. Is it possible to predict how well a bond fund will perform relative to other funds?

2012-06-12 The Problems with Trying to Benchmark Unconstrained Portfolios by Ken Solow (Article)

Benchmarking unconstrained, 'go-anywhere' managers is difficult. Common methods to determine an appropriate benchmark - such as an ex-post regression of how the fund was invested - can obscure the actions of the manager. Is the only solution to simply select an arbitrary benchmark and proceed accordingly?

2012-05-29 A Way to Save for College by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Funding your child's education is perhaps the most important investment you will make, but unfortunately, the investment industry offers few helpful options. Conventional 529 plans are saddled with high fees and force participants to take on an inappropriate degree of risk, as I've written in the past. But a good alternative is now available for funding a private college education.

2012-05-22 Life-cycle Finance and the Dimensional Managed DC® Pension by Wade Pfau (Article)

Pension plans are like cars, according to Nobel laureate Robert Merton. People want a car they can drive and a pension that will maintain their standard of living in retirement; they do not care about what goes on under the hood. Advisors, however, must care. So when a new pension-like option hits the market, as DFA's recently did, it's important to go beyond simply kicking the tires and carefully examine how it works as a retirement-saving vehicle.

2012-05-15 James Montier on the Failures of Modern Finance by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The seeds of the next crisis have already been sown, according to James Montier - and they are fundamental flaws buried deep within the current theory and practice of finance. Bad models were the root of the financial crisis, Montier said, and a slew of behavioral biases are reinforcing financial instability.

2012-05-08 Richard Bernstein: US Assets will Outperform over the Next Decade by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Prior to founding the firm that now bears his name, Richard Bernstein was the chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch & Co. In this interview, he discusses why he expects US assets - both equities and fixed income - to be the outperformers among global markets over the next decade.

2012-05-08 Annuities versus Systematic Withdrawals: Understanding Tax Effects by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Given the complexity of most annuities, analysis of them typically only considers pre-tax results. But taxes matter. As we will see, tax impacts vary by the specific type of annuity you're considering, and will make the difference between annuities being cost effective or a drain on cash flow.

2012-05-08 Why the Best Conductors Sent Us Home Early by Justin Locke (Article)

As a professional speaker, I focus on leadership and management. But I have a major handicap to overcome: the conventional wisdom that a core goal of leadership is to motivate greater effort.

2012-05-01 Why MLPs Belong in Your Portfolio by Geoff Considine (Article)

One would think that an asset class yielding 7% and carrying less volatility than do equities would be popular with investors. Yet, despite those attributes, master limited partnerships (MLPs) remain unknown or ignored by large numbers of investors. The case for MLPs is compelling, so it's time for a deep examination of the special properties of this asset class.

2012-04-24 65+5+Dividends: The case for quality dividend stocks in the first five years of retirement by Legg Mason ClearBridge Advisors (Article)

Retirees are living longer than ever before, and for many, outliving their money is a real concern. A good reason to consider quality large-cap dividend stocks in the early years of retirement - which have historically offered higher returns than fixed income with lower volatility than equities overall.

2012-04-24 Why a 60/40 Portfolio isn?t Diversified by Alex Shahidi (Article)

Maintaining a balanced portfolio is critical, especially when predictions of growth and inflation vary as widely as they do today. Investors are always better off spreading risk than aggressively betting on one economic outcome, and that's especially true when the range of possible economic outcomes is so wide.

2012-04-17 Rethinking Safe Withdrawal Rates: The Meaning of Failure by Wade Pfau (Article)

Merely knowing the probability that an investor's wealth will be depleted at some point is not enough to build a retirement strategy. That is the traditional measure of failure in safe withdrawal studies, and it's time to move beyond it.

2012-04-17 The Rebalancing Problem by Michael Nairne (Article)

Selling winning asset classes to buy losers runs counter to human nature. But doing so with discipline can increase the potential return of a portfolio while critically maintaining its risk profile. The rebalancing premium is an important and often overlooked addition to returns of properly managed portfolios.

2012-04-10 Allocating to Real Assets: Why Diversification Matters by Cohen & Steers (Article)

One way to extend the long-term purchasing power of a traditional stock and bond portfolio is through an allocation to real assets. But individually, categories like commodities, natural resource equities and REITs can be volatile. Cohen & Steers meets the challenge with a focus on broad asset-class diversification.

2012-04-03 Gassed Up but No Place to Go by Geoff Considine, PhD (Article)

When a great investor points to a vastly underpriced asset, a natural first reaction is to devise the best strategy for buying it. Sometimes, however, the impediments to that strategy prove too great, something anyone will soon discover who listens to Jeremy Grantham's assertion that 'everyone who has a brain should be thinking of how to make money' long-term on natural gas.

2012-04-03 A Q1 Letter to Clients: Bernanke, Buffett and Siegel on the Prospects Ahead by Dan Richards (Article)

Here is a template for a letter to serve as a starting point for advisors looking to send clients a summary of what's happened in the past 90 days and the outlook for the period ahead.

2012-03-27 GMO: Two Questions We Can't Answer by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Its reputation was built on stellar returns achieved with long-term bets on undervalued asset classes. Current market conditions, however, pose two unanswerable questions for GMO ? leaving the firm with an uncertain strategy for its equities and fixed-income allocations.

2012-03-19 Did You See The 10-Year? by John Petrides (Article)

This week the US 10 year Treasury note spiked from 2% yield on Monday to 2.4% by the end of Wednesday. Around the office we were marveling at this move. Given the recent volatility in the equity market, that might not seem like much to stock investors, but to those in the fixed income world thats quite a change. The sudden spike in Treasuries has several implications: 1. Those investors who rushed into U.S. Treasuries over the past four months out of fear and panic (presumably not in hopes of achieving income) in search of safety, actually have an unrealized loss in their position!

2012-03-13 Letter to the Editor - Tactical Asset Allocation v. Behavioral Finance by Various (Article)

Ken Solow, Michael Kitces and Sauro Locatelli respond to Christopher Sidoni's article, The Conflict between Tactical Asset Allocation and Behavioral Finance, which appeared on February 21.

2012-03-06 New Tools to Manage Longevity Risk by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

If you could guarantee yourself an inflation-protected stream of income for the rest of your life, would you take it? For many retirees, the answer is yes, and that is rightfully sparking new interest in deferred-income annuities (DIAs). By combining a DIA with a TIPS ladder or more aggressive equity-centric investments, retirees can obtain inflation-protected lifetime income. But they will face important tradeoffs, as I will explain.

2012-02-28 The Problem with Target-Date Fund Glide Paths by James A. Colon, CFA (Article)

The attack on target-date funds (TDFs) continues to gain steam, and for good reason. Virtually all TDFs offer a mechanical approach to glide-path management, unnecessarily exposing investors to risk - most noticeably when they are on the verge of retirement. A superior approach would keep the long- and short-term volatility of an investor's portfolio within appropriate ranges by actively managing the glide path.

2012-02-28 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

Readers respond to Christopher Sidoni's article, The Conflict between Tactical Asset Allocation and Behavioral Finance, which appeared last week, and to Simon Johnson's commentary, Too Big to Jail, which appeared on February 21.

2012-02-21 The Conflict between Tactical Asset Allocation and Behavioral Finance by Christopher J. Sidoni, CFA, CFP (Article)

How?s this for irony? Certain investor behavior creates the conditions for a tactical asset allocation strategy to succeed ? but the same behavior simultaneously Increases the likelihood that clients will not follow the strategy. Recent research by Ken Solow, Michael Kitces and Sauro Locatelli identified a promising approach to tactical portfolio strategy, but our firm?s experience indicates clients will be reluctant to follow this approach ?particularly when the expected payoff is highest.

2012-02-14 The Safety-first, Goals-based Approach to Financial Planning by Wade Pfau (Article)

Little of what is taught in traditional investment textbooks is of value in personal financial planning. Risk is not standard deviation; it is the probability and consequences of not meeting one's goals. That real-world perspective animates a new book by Zvi Bodie and Rachelle Taqqu that implores advisors and their clients to lock in the funding of their essential expenses before worrying about their discretionary goals.

2012-02-14 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

A reader responds to Larry Siegel's article, Jeremy Siegel, Rob Arnott and Other Experts Forecast Equity Returns, and another reader responds to Joe Tomlinson's article, An Innovative Solution to Retirement Income, both of which appeared last week.

2012-02-07 Jeremy Siegel, Rob Arnott and Other Experts Forecast Equity Returns by Laurence B. Siegel (Article)

A forecast of the equity risk premium (ERP) tells you how much to save, how to allocate assets between equities and fixed income, and how much you can consume. Given its great importance, the CFA Institute recently convened a group of top-level academics and practitioners to forecast future ERPs - and to reflect on similar predictions they had made a decade ago.

2012-01-31 Why Target-Date Funds Fail by Robert Huebscher (Article)

New research explains why target-date funds have failed to meet investors' objectives. While most of the criticism has been directed to overly aggressive glide paths, that is merely a symptom of the underlying problem - the misalignment of incentives between investors and fund companies.

2012-01-24 Michael Lewis on the True Depth of the Crisis in Europe by Larry Siegel (Article)

Michael Lewis is a financial writer and author, most recently of Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, in which he reported on the European debt crisis from several of the affected countries. In this interview, he discusses a range of topics, including the future of Wall Street and the challenges of great financial writing.

2012-01-24 New Tools to Help Clients with Retirement Decisions by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Our clients face a range of financial planning issues, and the arrival of retirement typically involves making numerous decisions. Here is a set of tools that provide useful information to professionals who work with clients on the verge of retirement - especially financial advisors, accountants and lawyers.

2012-01-17 GMO: Something's Fishy in China by Robert Huebscher (Article)

A wide gulf separates the two most prominent views regarding China's future. Faced with slowing economic growth, one side says its leaders will deftly navigate a soft landing, while the other claims it will face an implosion similar to those that befell Japan 20 years ago and the US in 2008. Count GMO, a firm that has built its reputation on its ability to identify a bubble about to pop, in the latter camp.

2012-01-17 Letter to the Editor - GLWBs by Various (Article)

A reader responds to Wade Pfau's article, GLWBs: Retiree Protection or Money Illusion?, which appeared on December 13, 2011.

2012-01-10 Safe Withdrawal Rates: A Do-It-Yourself Approach by Wade Pfau (Article)

Reconciling the assumptions that underpin safe withdrawal rate studies with one's own capital market expectations and constraints is a daunting task, since those studies rarely reflect the practical realities of an advisory practice. But new research now provides a generalized framework for determining a safe withdrawal rate for a given retirement duration, acceptable failure probability, asset allocation and capital market expectations. Advisors no longer must be constrained by the assumptions and choices of others.

2012-01-10 Using the ECRI WLI to Flag Recessions by Dwaine van Vuuren (Article)

In September 2011, the ECRI proclaimed a new U.S recession would begin sometime in the coming year. It based its prediction on a host of its own internal long-leading indexes, together with its widely followed weekly leading index (WLI). I want to focus on the proper use of the WLI and examine its accuracy in recession dating, in order to put this current recession call into context.

2012-01-10 2011: The Famine That Followed the Feast That Followed the Fiasco by Ron Surz (Article)

Ron Surz provides his award-winning commentary on the US and global markets.

2011-12-27 The Ten Best Articles You Probably Missed by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Great articles don't always get the readership they deserve. Here are 10 articles that you might have missed, but I believe merit reading.

2011-12-27 The Ten Most-Read Articles in 2011 by Robert Huebscher (Article)

As is our custom, we conclude the year by reflecting on the 10 most-read articles over the past 12 months.

2011-12-27 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

Readers respond to three recent articles and commentaries: Wade Pfau's article, GLWBs: Retiree Protection or Money Illusion?, which appeared on December 13; PIMCO's commentary, Hot Potato, which appeared on December 21; and Kay Conheady's commentary, Does the Trend Matter?, which appeared on December 20.

2011-12-20 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

Readers respond to several articles: GLWBs: Retiree Protection or Money Illusion?, Did Congress Cash In on Insider Stock Trading?, and Can this be Serious?, all which appeared last week, and to John Mauldin's commentary, The Center Cannot Hold, which appeared on Saturday.

2011-12-13 GLWBs: Retiree Protection or Money Illusion? by Wade Pfau (Article)

One of the most popular variable annuity riders is the guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (GLWB), which offers downside protection through lifetime income, upside potential with step-ups based on market performance, and minimal surrender penalties. But, examining historical data, I have found that those riders carry a cost that will not be readily apparent to retirees: their cash flows rapidly decrease on an inflation-adjusted basis.

2011-12-13 Can this be Serious? by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Of the hundreds of investment books that we are asked to review, a recent one stood out for its utter audacity: '401(k) Day Trading: The Art of Cashing in on a Shaky Market in Minutes a Day,' by Richard Schmitt. The premise of this book is as preposterous as its title. But it raised two important questions, meriting this review.

2011-12-06 Why Shiller and Soros May Be Wrong about Farmland Investing by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Earlier this year, Yale's Robert Shiller identified farmland as an asset class in the early stage of bubble formation. George Soros, Jim Grant and Jim Rogers have espoused similarly bullish views. But advisors - even those managing the assets of very wealthy clients - shouldn't bet the farm on these expert forecasts just yet.

2011-11-29 Jeremy Siegel on Why Stocks are 'Extremely Attractive' by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Jeremy Siegel is the Russell E. Palmer Professor of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His book, Stocks for the Long Run, now in its fourth edition, is widely recognized as one of the best books on investing. We spoke to him last week about equity valuations and the prospects for the economy.

2011-11-22 Investment Trends in the Financial Advisory Profession by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Advisors are optimistic about the returns Treasury bonds will provide over the next decade, but they are less sanguine about the projected performance of US equities. Their inflation expectations are consistent with the historical data. These findings and many others arise from our study, Investment Trends in the Financial Advisory Space: Key Implications for the Investment Management Industry, a research report now available from Advisor Perspectives.

2011-11-15 A Strategy with a 25-year Record of 25% Returns by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Indiana-based SBAuer Funds launched its inaugural mutual fund in December of 2007, after having established a successful track record with a separately managed account business. I spoke with Bob Auer, who has employed the same stock selection system used by the fund for the last 25 years, over which time returns have averaged 25% annually.

2011-11-08 An International Perspective on Safe Withdrawal Rates by Wade Pfau (Article)

Prospective retirees must consider whether they are comfortable basing retirement decisions on the impressive but perhaps anomalous numbers found in historical US data. What has been safe for US retirees in the past has been far less secure for their foreign counterparts.

2011-11-08 Is One Better than Three? by Dave Loeper, CIMA, CIMC (Article)

One way to 'juice' a portfolio is by increasing allocations to small- and mid-caps, as one recently published paper contends. But a careful analysis - properly adjusting for risk - shows how that seemingly appealing approach can destroy client wealth.

2011-10-25 On Market Timing and Whiskey by J.J. Abodeely (Article)

Noah S. 'Soggy' Sweat, Jr. a Mississippi legislator, gave a famous speech addressing the controversial subject of prohibition. The consummate politician, Soggy tried to appeal to advocates on both sides of the issue, illustrating a lesson that advisors today will surely appreciate: In order to get at the substance of a contentious issue, sometimes you have reframe the question.

2011-09-27 Reexamining Bill Gross' Decision to Sell Treasury Bonds by Geoff Considine (Article)

Bill Gross made headlines in February by asserting that Treasury bonds were not providing enough yield to make them worth the risk and reducing his allocation to zero in the PIMCO Total Return Fund. The subsequent rally forced him to admit his mistake in August, but by then his fund was trailing 90% of its peers and having its worst year since 1995. I will examine Gross' decision in retrospect, to illustrate its tactical and strategic costs and benefits for his shareholders.

2011-09-27 A Buying Opportunity in Investment-Grade Corporate Bonds by Chris Shayne, CFA (Article)

Given that yields on Treasury and high-quality corporate bonds are near 50-year lows, investors looking for relative value in fixed income should consider purchasing lower-rated investment-grade corporate bonds. As Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg said last Wednesday, 'if you have money to put to work, and are looking for a reward that more than compensates for the incremental risk involved at this juncture, credit is a good place to be looking.'

2011-09-06 Five Strategies for a Sideways Market by Kane Cotton, CFA and Jonathan Scheid, CFA (Article)

If this slow growth environment coupled with asset price volatility continues for (to steal a quote from Fed Chairman Bernanke) 'an extended period,' what additional portfolio strategies might aid the overall risk/return profile of investor portfolios? More specifically, how do you manage investments in a sideways market?

2011-08-30 Why High-Yield Bonds Make Sense Today by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

None other than Gluskin Sheff's Dave Rosenberg, the widely followed analyst who was been consistently bearish in the current market cycle, said last week that high-yield bonds are 'a good place to be right now.' Recent price declines have made them attractive in the short term, and their risk-adjusted returns make them attractive to longer-term strategic investors.

2011-08-09 New Insights on the Role of Alternative Investments in High-Net-Worth Portfolios by Scott Welch, CIMA (Article)

Trends and developments over the past five years allow greater access to alternative strategies and dictate a different conversation with investors about the purpose and trade-offs of such strategies, as well as appropriate ways to incorporate them into well-diversified portfolios.

2011-08-02 Improving on the Ultimate Income Portfolio by Geoff Considine (Article)

The Ultimate Income Portfolio, which was published in this newsletter July 6 of last year, has delivered the risk-adjusted returns that I projected. Here's a detailed look at how last year's portfolio performed and several ways it can be improved in today's environment.

2011-08-02 Does Citigroup's Panic/Euphoria Model Work? by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

Citigroup's Panic/Euphoria model fell into panic territory at the end of June 2011. According to the model's originator, strategist Tobias Levkovitch, this indicates a roughly 90% probability that equity prices will be higher in six months and a 97% chance of gains in 12 months. How reliable is this model?

2011-08-02 Hitting a Moving Target: Matching Portfolio Risk to Client Expectations by Scott Smith (Article)

Much of the angst faced by investors and advisors over the last several years was caused by mismatched perceptions regarding investors' appetite for portfolio risk. Advisors overestimated the amount of risk investors were comfortable being exposed to within portfolios.

2011-07-26 Comfort is Rarely Rewarded; Maverick Risk and False Benchmarks by J.J. Abodeely, CFA, CAIA (Article)

Conventional investment strategies, while affording the investor at least a temporary degree of comfort, are destined to produce mediocre results. Only by distancing themselves from the ordinary approach ? as Jeremy Grantham and Seth Klarman have ? can asset managers achieve superior performance and truly fulfill their fiduciary duties by acting as proper stewards of their clients? capital.

2011-07-19 Retirement Planning and Worst-Case Scenarios by Wade Pfau (Article)

New research suggests that skepticism in a 4% safe withdrawal rate (SWR) is well justified. It is perhaps due to good luck that American retirees have not yet experienced a withdrawal rate below 4%. But a better approach than worrying about SWRs is to focus on the savings rate needed to meet your retirement spending goals, not on what the safe withdrawal rate is.

2011-07-12 Harold Evensky on the New Rules for Wealth Management by Robert Huebscher (Article)

If you don't have a copy of The New Wealth Management on your bookshelf, you should. From gauging the risk tolerance of your clients to measuring the performance of their portfolios, this book provides comprehensive guidance for virtually every aspect of a financial advisory practice. Harold Evensky, the lead author, spoke with me last week and highlighted some key themes in the newly released second edition.

2011-07-05 Momentum Investing Can Achieve Market-Beating Returns by Matthew Tuttle, CFP (Article)

In 2002 and 2008 the investment tide went out. And as Warren Buffett famously predicted, we learned who was swimming naked. Both times, it was the practitioners of Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT).

2011-06-28 An Important Challenge to ?Stocks for the Long Run? by Geoff Considine (Article)

Jeremy Siegel's dictum - to invest in stocks for the long run - faces a new challenge. A recent paper by Robert Stambaugh, a Wharton colleague, and Lubos Pastor of the University of Chicago says that once you take into account the uncertainty of estimating future returns, stocks are not nearly as attractive to retirement-oriented investors as Siegel has claimed.

2011-06-28 Reducing Risk through Value-Oriented Tactical Strategies by Mark E. Ricardo, JD, LLM, AAMS (Article)

Conventional wisdom was that the best way to reduce portfolio risk is to adopt a diversified long-term strategic asset allocation. That paradigm was challenged - deservedly so - following the 2008 financial crisis. Fortunately, an improved paradigm has emerged: Investors should combine long-term strategic allocations with a value-oriented tactical rebalancing strategy.

2011-06-28 The Diversified Portfolio Index by Charles Fahy, Sr. (Article)

Investment rates of return that are average but consistent are the products of exceptional performance. Over longer time horizons, these returns become increasingly difficult to outperform. One such example is the Diversified Portfolio Index - a buy-and-hold strategy deployed across all major asset classes.

2011-06-21 Investing Based on Jeremy Grantham's Forecast for Diminishing Resources by Robert Huebscher (Article)

In his most recent commentary, Jeremy Grantham became one of the first mainstream investment professionals to publicly forecast a world economy threatened by diminishing natural resources. A survey of our readers showed that an overwhelming majority agree with Grantham's views. But constructing a portfolio positioned to capitalize on those themes is exceedingly difficult.

2011-06-07 New Challenges for the Endowment Model by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The multi-billion dollar endowments of elite institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are supposed to never be strapped for cash, but that's not how things played out during the financial crisis, when all those schools and many others were forced to raise liquidity under adverse market conditions. The endowment model, despite those failures, is still basically sound, according to Luis Viceira, but it needs several key improvements before institutions and individuals can rely on it.

2011-06-07 Improving on Buy and Hold: When is the Best Time to Sell by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

My model, Improving on Buy and Hold: Asset Allocation using Economic Indicators, has been updated. A Sell-A type signal will be generated by the model in the second week of August and I advise reducing one's stock market investments then.

2011-05-24 Talking a Jumper off the Ledge by Doug Simmang (Article)

Our clients expect - and appreciate - the planning services we as advisors provide. But in those rare instances when emotion, fear and stress combine to cloud a client's judgment, we have the opportunity to truly make a difference in their lives. A recent story on NBC's Today Show illustrated the importance of the rational and reasoned logic an advisor can offer.

2011-05-24 Ownership in an Operating Business by David L. Blain (Article)

There was a time when the three legs of the retirement stool were Social Security, pensions, and personal savings, but those days are gone for good, and the stool needs new legs. Paper assets and real estate are classic asset classes that can help fill the void, but where else can investors turn for the stable income they need?

2011-05-17 Improving on Buy and Hold: An Initial Sell Signal by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

I have updated the model described in my article, Improving on Buy and Hold: Asset Allocation using Economic Indicators. The ECRI U.S. Weekly Leading Index and its annualized growth rate published on May 13, 2011, together with the most recent values of the other indicators, have been incorporated in my model. A basic sell signal was generated last week.

2011-04-26 Why Mid-Cap? by RidgeWorth Investments (Article)

RidgeWorth Investments has published research detailing six distinct reasons why investors should consider a specific allocation to mid-caps. Specifically, it explores historical performance, evaluates current conditions that favor mid-caps as well as examines how mid-caps have performed during different points in market and economic cycles. Finally, the research looks at the incremental benefit of adding an allocation of up to 40% of mid-cap stocks to a portfolio of solely large and small cap stocks. We thank RidgeWorth Investments for their sponsorship.

2011-04-26 Cerulli Survey Results: Advisor Use of Tactical Allocation by Tyler Cloherty (Article)

Advisors have increasingly turned to tactical allocation to manage client risk. While there has been abundant discussion on how this approach should be executed in theory, our survey results show what advisors are doing today in their practices.

2011-04-12 Ten Trends that will Reshape the Fund Industry by Robert Huebscher (Article)

For advisors scouring among thousands of mutual funds, bargains and inefficiencies will be harder to find in coming years. Intense competition among funds for shelf space will not translate to lower fees, and the new class of broad asset allocation funds is unlikely to live up to its marketing promises. Those were among the surprising forecasts from Geoff Bobroff, with whom I met last week.

2011-04-05 Two Critical Lessons from Japan An End-of-Quarter Letter to Clients by Dan Richards (Article)

Given recent events in Japan and North Africa, many clients are looking to their advisors for direction on what they should do. This template for an end-of-quarter letter is intended to be a starting point for your letter to clients.

2011-04-05 The Future of Investment Manager Due Diligence (and a Look Back at Q1 Performance) by Ron Surz (Article)

Despite the continuing global financial crisis, the uprisings in the Middle East and the Japanese disaster, global stock markets delivered positive results in the first quarter of 2011, as described in this capital market review. In the second part of the article, you'll discover what due diligence procedures need to change and why.

2011-03-29 GMO's Market Outlook: 'Disappointingly Overvalued' by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Opportunities across US and foreign assets classes are unattractive, according to Ben Inker, the head of asset allocation at the Boston-based global money manager Grantham, Mayo, van Otterloo & Co. (GMO). Neither the equity nor fixed income markets hold the potential for investors to earn acceptable inflation-adjusted returns, Inker said.

2011-03-22 What Investors Should Fear in the Permanent Portfolio by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

Over the last decade, the assets of the fund PRPFX have swelled from $50 million to more than $10 billion. The concept underlying that fund, Harry Browne's Permanent Portfolio (PP), has rewarded PRPFX investors with attractive risk-adjusted returns. Those investors, however, may want to rethink their exposure - especially if PRPFX is the core of a retirement-oriented strategy.

2011-02-22 Toward an Understanding of Risk - Part 2 by Robert Huebscher (Article)

How should clients think about risk in their portfolios? Advisor Perspectives put that question to a cross-section of prominent advisors and academics. Their answers encompassed diverse opinions and underscored how crucial that question is to the investment process. In part one of this series, which appeared last week, we heard from seven practitioners in the financial planning community. This week, we hear from seven well-known academics, including two Nobel Prize winners.

2011-02-15 Toward an Understanding of Risk by Robert Huebscher (Article)

How should clients think about risk in their portfolios? Advisor Perspectives put that question to a cross-section of prominent advisors and academics. Their answers encompassed diverse opinions and underscored how crucial that question is to the investment process.

2011-02-15 Assessing New Tools to Protect Against Tail-Risk Events by Jerry Miccolis (Article)

Protecting against sudden, severe market drops is as crucial as it is difficult. A plethora of approaches to this problem have been brought to market in last few years, and to evaluate them my firm developed a set of rigorous criteria. These criteria led us to a solution that works for us and for our clients.

2011-02-15 David Laibson on the Hidden Challenges of Aging Clients by Dan Richards (Article)

In this interview, Harvard economist David Laibson discusses his research into the challenges of helping elderly clients with their financial planning. He also discusses how to overcome the procrastination and laziness that often result in inferior investment decisions. This is a transcript of the interview.

2011-02-08 Optimizing Your Fixed Income Allocation by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

Here's a little-known fact: The traditional 60/40 portfolio, when using the aggregate-bond index for its fixed-income allocation, has a 99% correlation to the returns of the S&P 500. One way to overcome the limited diversification value offered by the aggregate index is to use a risk-parity approach. In this article, I explore the concept of risk parity in asset allocation and how it provides value for portfolio management.

2011-01-25 Should Advisors Care about Short-Term Volatility? by James Colon, John Gambla and Rob Guttschow (Article)

How can advisors construct portfolios that meet their clients' risk preferences across economic environments? You may be surprised to learn that tactical asset allocation has an important role to play.

2011-01-18 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

A number of readers respond to Nancy Opiela's article, Tactical Asset Allocation and Market Timing: What's the Difference?, and one reader responds to Michael Lewitt's article, The Wages of Growth. Both articles appeared last week.

2011-01-11 Tactical Asset Allocation and Market Timing: What's the Difference? by Nancy Opiela (Article)

Why is it that the industry dismisses significant changes to portfolio allocations as "market timing" transactions but embraces the subtler "tactical shifts" many advisors are making in the current, transitional market? As advisors debate the nuances of that question, the more relevant question may be: How would you respond if a client asked you to explain the difference between market timing and tactical asset allocation?

2011-01-04 Your First Resolution for 2011: A Better Alternative to Face-to-Face Meetings by Dan Richards (Article)

In 2011 you need to rethink your approach to client meetings. For larger clients who you meet with regularly, you should consider replacing some of those face-to-face meetings with structured phone meetings.

2011-01-04 Improving on Buy and Hold: Update December 31, 2010 by George Vrba, P.E. (Article)

I have updated the model described in my article Improving on Buy and Hold: Asset Allocation using Economic Indicators. The ECRI U.S. Weekly Leading Index and its annualized growth rate, published on December 31, 2010, together with the most recent values of the other indicators used, have been incorporated in the model.

2010-12-28 The Ten Most-Read Articles in 2010 by Robert Huebscher (Article)

As is our custom, we conclude the year by reflecting on the 10 most-read articles over the past 12 months. In decreasing order, based on the number of unique readers, those are...

2010-12-28 The Ten Best Articles You Probably Missed by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Great articles don't always get the readership they deserve. Here are 10 articles that you might have missed, but we believe merit reading.

2010-12-21 Debunking Ken Fisher by Robert Huebscher (Article)

In his latest book, Debunkery, Ken Fisher achieves his goal of dispelling many common investment myths and, in doing so, offers his philosophy on how individuals should manage their money. While most of the advice he offers is unequivocally correct, he also makes egregious errors on some serious matters.

2010-12-21 How Much Smid-Cap Exposure is Best? by Jon Quigley, CFA and John Bright, CFA (Article)

Small- to mid-cap stocks have outperformed since 1999 and have attracted considerable attention. We offer a few things to consider in determining how much exposure to smid-cap stocks you should maintain.

2010-12-14 Five 2010 Tax Tips for a Time of Uncertainty by Glenn Frank (Article)

While the posturing and political grandstanding continues in Washington over the fate of the Bush tax cuts, tax season is fast approaching. With the time for long-term planning long gone, here are five questions to ask clients that could prompt some smart tax moves in the closing weeks of 2010.

2010-12-06 The Dangers of Rebalancing by Michael Edesess (Article)

Every portfolio should be rebalanced to its targeted asset allocation, we are taught. Indeed, there may be no other precept as routinely and studiously practiced among financial advisors. But does rebalancing either increase expected return or reduce risk? If so, why? The answers to those questions reveal that it may be prudent to rebalance, but not for the reasons you think.

2010-11-30 Black Gold, Texas Tea by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The flow of money into gold-related funds is, at least in part, driven by good intentions - hedging against dollar debasement, inflation, and systemic risk. As investors drive the price of gold to record levels, though, they are overlooking an equally compelling commodity hedge, one that the Beverly Hillbillies once dubbed 'black gold, Texas tea' - oil, that is.

2010-11-09 New Strategies in Alternative Investments by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Alternative investments, broadly speaking, and hedge funds, more specifically, have performed as intended over the last 20 years, modestly increasing returns and significantly reducing risk when added to a traditional stock-bond portfolio. Selecting the appropriate vehicle is the challenge, and that task has been made easier by the introduction of new exchange-traded strategies.

2010-11-09 How Modern Is Your Portfolio Theory? by Direxion Funds (Article)

After 58 Years, is there Another Way to Conquer the Efficient Frontier? In the past, active or "tactical" investment management referred to jumping in and out of stocks and bonds - market timing. With the introduction of sophisticated funds that help the masses harness the power of institutional managers and alternative asset classes and strategies, today, tactical management may help to renovate your portfolios - and help you retain and attract assets.

2010-10-29 Asset Allocation in an Uncertain Economy by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Advisors should not bet on whether the recession will be L-, V-, or W-shaped. Instead, Ron Albahary said they should use strategic asset allocation and overweight or underweight those asset classes that have historically done well at certain points in the economic cycle. Albahary is the CIO of Convergent Wealth Advisors, a Washington, DC-based wealth manager.

2010-10-26 An Exceptional Resource for Asset Allocation by Michael Edesess (Article)

Roger C. Gibson's fine and exemplary book, Asset Allocation: Balancing Financial Risk, Fourth Edition, shows that character and conscience-based counseling still exist, even in the financial profession. It is still possible for advisors to look out for their clients' long-term interests.

2010-10-26 Improving on Buy and Hold: Buy by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

Georg Vrba updated the model described in his article, Improving on Buy and Hold: Asset Allocation using Economic Indicators. The ECRI U.S. Weekly Leading Index and its annualized growth rate published on October 22, 2010, together with the most recent values of the other indicators used, have been incorporated and generated a buy signal.

2010-10-19 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

In our letters to the Editor, two readers respond to our recent article, The Misguided Promise of 529 Plans, citing the advantages of those plans.

2010-10-05 The Misguided Promise of 529 Plans by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Along with the overall market, 529 plans suffered disastrous returns in 2008, leaving many families with insufficient funds to pay their tuition costs. The real problem, though, is not with the past performance of 529s. A misguided promise underlies the vast majority of 529 plans - that their heavy allocation to equities will provide acceptable risk-adjusted returns for the time horizons over which most parents invest.

2010-10-05 Improving on Buy and Hold: Don?t Buy Yet by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

According to Georg Vrba, all conditions for a type A buy signal have not as yet been satisfied. Exactly the same conditions exist now as those of 5/6/08. The past is not an indicator of the future, but it would not have been a good decision to enter the market in May 2008.

2010-09-28 A Better Alternative - Natural Resource Equities by RS Investments (Article)

Investors look to the commodity market to provide three primary benefits: portfolio diversification, inflation protection, and equity-like returns. However, empirical data shows that over the last decade, shifts in underlying fundamentals have undermined the role which commodities are expected to play in a diversified portfolio, particularly relative to natural resource equities. RS Investments reviews the return streams generated by both commodities and natural resource equities in the context of the benefits expected from each investment option. We thank them for their sponsorship.

2010-09-28 Unraveling the 12b-1 Debate by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The SEC has proposed sweeping changes to the way commission-based advisors will be compensated for the services they provide. Those changes will rename and modify the 12b-1 fees that many mutual funds now charge. To understand their impact, we spoke with Avi Nachmany of NY-based Strategic Insight, whose clients include the largest mutual funds.

2010-09-28 Improving on Buy and Hold: The Updated Signals by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

At the request of many readers, Georg Vrba updated the model described in his article Improving on Buy and Hold: Asset Allocation using Economic Indicators. The Economic Cycle Research Institute's (ECRI) U.S. Weekly Leading Index (WLI) and the index's annualized growth rate published on September 24, 2010, together with the most recent values of the other indicators he used, have been incorporated in the model.

2010-09-14 A Better Way to Invest in Gold by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

In the year since Geoff Considine last wrote about gold, underlying prices have risen 24%, leading to several important questions - including whether his advice of a year ago still holds today. We look closely at how a direct investment in GLD performed as compared to a bond-plus-call-option strategy, and which conditions favor each strategy.

2010-09-07 Jeffrey Gundlach on Bonds, Stocks and Gold by Robert Huebscher (Article)

DoubeLine's Jeffrey Gundlach recently reduced his position from "overweight" to "small underweight" in Treasury bonds, and cited "divergent behavior across the yield curve." In this interview, he discusses that behavior and the rationale behind his move, as well as his thoughts on other asset classes, including equities and gold.

2010-09-07 The Free Lunch Illustrated by Michael Nairne (Article)

One of the most remarkable discoveries in modern finance is the ability to improve the expected return of a portfolio while simultaneously reducing its risk. In this guest contribution, which advisors can share with clients, Michael Nairne explains that the proverbial "free lunch" does exist, its exploitation requires a focus not only on the returns and volatility of the assets in the portfolio but on the degree of covariance between those assets.

2010-08-31 The Riskiest Pension Assets (and the Implications for Muni Bonds) by Robert Huebscher (Article)

State finances are in trouble, in large part due to unfunded pension liabilities. To assess the depth of those problems, one can look at what is likely the riskiest component of states' pension assets - their exposure to alternative investments and, in particular, to private equity. We assess those risks and look at the larger question of whether unfunded liabilities can trigger municipal defaults.

2010-08-31 Why Mid-Cap? by RidgeWorth Investments (Article)

RidgeWorth Investments has published research detailing six distinct reasons why investors should consider a specific allocation to mid-caps. Specifically, it explores historical performance, evaluates current conditions that favor mid-caps as well as examines how mid-caps have performed during different points in market and economic cycles. Finally, the research looks at the incremental benefit of adding an allocation of up to 40% of mid-cap stocks to a portfolio of solely large and small cap stocks. We thank RidgeWorth Investments for their sponsorship.

2010-08-31 Evaluating Unconstrained Managers by Various (Article)

How can advisors evaluate an unconstrained asset manager, such as John Hussman of the Hussman Fund? In a follow-up to a recent article on research by Roger Ibbotson, we present views from several advisors on the role of returns-based style analysis and whether it can help identify whether managers such as Hussman deliver alpha.

2010-08-24 What Investors Really Want by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Using a mean-variance optimizer to construct a retirement portfolio that sits on the efficient frontier is tantamount to dining on a well-prepared meal that was pureed in a blender, believes Meir Statman, a professor of finance at Santa Clara University. Statman's research focuses on behavioral finance, and how advisors can help investors make smarter decisions.

2010-08-24 Improving on Buy and Hold: Asset Allocation using Economic Indicators by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

Most long-term stock market investors follow a buy-and-hold strategy, one that makes big losses unavoidable when major downturns strike the stock market. This strategy assumes that an investor cannot know when to switch from one asset to another and that if one avoids the bad days of the market, one is also likely to miss the best days. In this guest contribution, Georg Vrba presents a way to resolve this dilemma, based on various economic indicators that provide timely buy and sell signals for the S&P 500 index.

2010-08-17 Misconceptions about Risk and Return Uncovered by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

Our beliefs about risk and return determine how we construct portfolios and manage risk. Research over the last decade suggests that a number of the ideas on which many investors and advisors rely lead to portfolios that are too highly exposed to market risk. In this article, we review a number of ideas that determine how we select assets and how we determine what to expect from those assets.

2010-08-17 A New Framework for Retirement Income Planning by Manish Malhotra (Article)

In this guest contribution, Manish Malhorta proposes a new framework to solve many problems associated with retirement income planning, one that answers questions investors often ask, such as: "How much retirement income can I have with only a 10% chance of failure?" and "How much do I need to have now to draw $50,000 for 30 years with full certainty?"

2010-08-17 Cerulli Survey Results: New Themes in Advisors? Portfolio Strategies by Bing Waldert (Article)

New ideas, such as tactical asset allocation and the use of alternatives, have seen some uptake even before the market crisis, particularly within large institutions, but they are receiving increased attention as solutions for risk-averse clients. This article examines some of the evolutions, using data from a Cerulli Associates survey of Advisor Perspectives readers conducted in June and July of 2010.

2010-08-17 Refining Core-Satellite Investing by Ron Surz (Article)

Thanks in large part to the current crisis, investors are showing renewed interest in portfolio construction, and core-satellite investing is regaining popularity. So why the interest in core? It could be for either of two reasons - hedging or completeness - as Ron Surz explains.

2010-08-17 Letters to the Editor: Harold Evensky, et. al. by Various (Article)

Our letters to the Editor include three responses to articles in last week's issue from Harold Evensky of Florida-based Evensky & Katz.

2010-08-10 When Active Management Matters by Kenneth R. Solow, CFP and Michael E. Kitces, MSFS, MTAX, CFP (Article)

Financial planners have eagerly awaited any research that could finally, definitively prove - or disprove - the pesky notion that active management is effective. Though no one has yet risen to that challenge, past academic studies have been improperly interpreted to show that portfolio policy, or asset allocation affects portfolio returns far more than active management. As Ken Solow and Michael Kitces write in this guest contribution, the most recent study to tackle the active management debate, by Yale professor Roger Ibbotson, shares two weaknesses with previous research.

2010-07-27 Why Immediate Annuities Make Sense by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

As they approach retirement, baby boomers are increasingly concerned about how best to manage their portfolios during the decumulation phase of their lives. One of the challenges for advisors and investors is understanding what role annuities should play, if any. Geoff Considine shows that immediate annuities should be an important part of a decumulation strategy.

2010-07-13 Fake Diversification Exposed: Does Asset Allocation Work? by David B. Loeper, CIMA, CIMC (Article)

Domestic equities are down roughly 14.5% from their April 23rd high. Many advisors tout sophisticated (and very expensive) asset diversification strategies, supposedly to protect their clients against precisely these circumstances. So, with this recent decline, Dave Loeper asks whether all of those supposed diversifiers protected portfolios?

2010-07-06 Stock Markets and a Sea of Change by Ron Surz (Article)

Ron Surz provides his award-winning market commentary, analyzing performance across global markets during the first half of this year. He also addresses several other topics, including the fiduciary standard, developments in target date funds, and distortions in style assignments created as a byproduct of the financial crisis.

2010-06-22 Inexpensive Protection Against Rising Rates by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

As is too often the case, the biggest risks are those that we discount. The possibility of a surge in interest rates appears to be today's ignored risk, despite the warnings of many experts, including David Einhorn, Bill Gross, and Seth Klarman. We discuss an inexpensive strategy to protect your portfolios from the tail risk of rising rates.

2010-06-15 Asset Allocation Matters, But Not as Much as You Think by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The market downturn has caused a rethinking of many core principles underpinning investment advice, chief among them the role of asset allocation. We talk with Yale's Roger Ibbotson about the impact of market returns and active management in explaining return variance and the role of asset allocation going forward.

2010-06-08 What?s Driving Investment Management Outsourcing? by Northern Trust Investments (Article)

Advisors who fully outsource their investment management want to free time for clients and grow their practice. But, as Northern Trust Investments' research explores, not all advisors are comfortable with full outsourcing. We thank Northern Trust for their sponsorship.

2010-06-08 Ten Ways to Improve Manager Selection by Nancy Opiela (Article)

Today's emphases on fiduciary responsibility, risk management and increased transparency require better due diligence when selecting managers. Especially in today's turbulent markets, advisors who spend more time and resources to do due diligence well can find themselves at a distinct competitive advantage. While these ten tips won't necessarily help you identify the next active management superstar, they can bolster your manager selection and due diligence program.

2010-06-01 Three Ways to Improve Safe Withdrawal Rates by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

Using Monte Carlo analysis, Geoff Considine examines three ways safe withdrawal rates can be increased beyond the baseline 4% guideline. He compares and quantifies the benefits of increasing diversification beyond equities and bonds, increasing allocations to fixed income, and employing tactical asset allocation.

2010-05-18 Search Engine Marketing for Financial Advisors by Dan Sommer (Article)

How do you take advantage of search engine marketing as a financial advisor? The goal of search engine marketing is to ensure that your website appears on as many results pages as possible for queries that relate to your business, and in this guest contribution Dan Somer explains the details of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.

2010-05-11 Inspire Client Trust by Delivering Clear, Insightful Investment Communications by Ani Yessaillian (Article)

One of the best ways to build trust with your clients is to consistently deliver clear, insightful investment communications. In this guest contribution, consultant Ani Yessaillian tells you how to make the most of your quarterly performance report and your off-cycle investment communications.

2010-05-11 A Coming Wave of M&A? by Seth P. Hieken, CFA (Article)

In this guest contribution, Seth Hieken of The Colony Group says to expect M&A transactions to accelerate over the course of the year. If correct, there are several important guidelines investors may wish to follow.

2010-04-27 Gary Shilling: America?s Lost Decade by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The US faces 10 years of slow growth and deflation that could rival Japan's "lost decade" - two words which Gary Shilling did not utter but which unmistakably characterize his forecast. Shilling is founder and President of the New Jersey-based economic consulting firm A. Gary Shilling & Co.

2010-04-27 The Four Horsemen of Growth: David Kelly?s Guide to Markets by Katie Southwick (Article)

With unprecedented volatility now largely behind us, J.P. Morgan's Chief Investment Strategist David Kelly believes that the economy is entering a period of recovery. To move forward, we must abandon our negative mindsets and focus on opportunities for expansion.

2010-04-27 Writing in Plain Speak by Wendy J. Cook (Article)

Wendy Cook specializes in helping advisors write newsletters and create presentations, and in this guest contribution she shares a number of tips to improve your writing skills. Cook is passionate about writing, and her article covers topics such as the importance of brevity and how to tailor content to your audience.

2010-04-27 The Hidden Risk in Target Date Funds by Ron Surz (Article)

Choosing the appropriate target date fund (TDF) for an investor is not easy, given the large number of products in the marketplace and the lack of tools to easily compare those offerings. That choice, however, is made a lot easier if one focuses on the component of TDFs where investors are exposed to the greatest risk - what guest contributor Ron Surz calls the "risk zone."

2010-04-20 Lessons from Yale?s Endowment Model and the Financial Crisis by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

The Yale endowment's performance during the financial crisis was worse than what would be mathematically expected, but not significantly enough to question the endowment model's tenets. Moreover, Yale's performance and philosophy suggest two very important lessons for advisors and investors- to diversify beyond equities and fixed income, and that some illiquid asset classes can be an important source of alpha.

2010-04-20 Investment Implications for Government Policy and Intervention by BlackRock, CFA Institute Reprint w/ Curtis Arledge (Article)

Government intervention has stabilized the economy, but policymakers must be careful to draw down their interventions before inflation occurs. Although residential real estate has seen its worst days, a wave of high-yield bonds and loans will soon mature, and the banking system must rebound enough to absorb that bubble. Despite these uncertainties, the range of yields and total annual returns among fixed-income sectors provide investors with multiple opportunities. We thank BlackRock for their sponsorship.

2010-04-06 Liz Ann Sonders on the US Economic Recovery by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Liz Ann Sonders is Senior Vice President and Chief Investment Strategist at Charles Schwab & Co. In this interview, she discusses her positive outlook for the US economy, which she believes has been recovering since last summer.

2010-03-30 Seven Tips for a Successful Family Foundation by Nancy Opiela (Article)

Managing a foundation's assetswins you the cachet of being seen as helping your clients fulfill their philanthropic goals, and it is extremely lucrative work that can create a practice-building bridge to the next generation.The administrative aspects, as Nancy Opiela writes, can be daunting and she offers seven tips for a successful family foundation.

2010-03-29 I'm Entitled by Charles Lieberman (Article)

Greece's budget problems reflect the willingness of the government to pay workers wages and benefits that exceed the willingness of citizens to pay taxes. The simple lesson is that governments cannot promise benefits without considering their cost. It is therefore disappointing that the U.S. government chose to create a new healthcare entitlement program at a time when it is already running high budget deficits. Markets are not ready to stop financing U.S. budget deficits right now, but this may become a problem down the road.

2010-03-23 The Best Books on Passive Investing by Indudeep Chhachhi & Edward R. Wolfe (Article)

Two finance professors, Edward Wolfe and Indu Chhachhi, survey the literature on passive investing and offer their recommendations for authors and books. Whichever side of the active-passive debate you take, these books should be required reading. The evolution through which the literature on passive investing has gone is striking. Early writers started out with a point to prove: that passive investing is the only way to invest that makes sense. Today, the writing in this area has moved beyond "proving a point" to expanding on what is a settled issue.

2010-03-16 The New Investment Paradigm: Graham Meets Markowitz by Bob Veres (Article)

Broadly speaking, the financial services industry has been divided into two competing paradigms since roughly 1950. One, articulated by Harry Markowitz, suggests advisors add value through diversified portfolios optimized along the efficient frontier. The other, advocated by Benjamin Graham, says advisors add value by purchasing assets at prices less than their fair value. Bob Veres reconciles those views and describes the New Paradigm that has emerged.

2010-03-16 No Shell Game? Then What Is It? by Dave Loeper (Article)

Wealthcare's Dave Loeper responds to Roger Schreiner's recent article, It's No Shell Game. Loeper contends that the rules of Schreiner's challenge ensure that Schreiner will win and, from a larger perspective, active management advocates sacrifice their clients' wealth by exposing them to risks those advocates cannot control.

2010-03-02 Asset Allocation for Grantham?s Seven Lean Years by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

Followers of Jeremy Grantham know his consistently accurate long-term forecasts well, as well as his ability to identify and avoid asset bubbles and steer clients into high-performing asset classes. Grantham's prescience is remarkable but not irreplicable. Geoff Considine shows that his Monte Carlo simulations nearly match Grantham's forecasts, and he reviews the implications for asset allocations.

2010-02-26 Was It All Just A Bad Dream? Or, Ten Lessons Not Learnt by James Montier of GMO

Montier reflects on ten lessons the investment industry did not learn during the market declines of 2008 and 2009. He says that it is time to abandon the efficient market hypothesis and acknowledge the role the housing bubble played in the financial crisis. In addition, he notes that the principles of value investing still hold true: Buy when assets are cheap, and sell when they are expensive.

2010-02-23 An Analysis of the Risk and Return of Small/Mid-Cap Growth by David Vincent (Article)

In this guest contribution, David Vincent of Fred Alger says investors interested in gaining exposure to the small-capitalization growth equity style should consider the small/mid ("SMid") capitalization style as a way to capture the benefits of small-cap growth.

2010-02-23 Interest Rates, Inflation and the PIMCO Total Return Fund by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The current generation of financial advisors has never experienced rising interest rates, but that will change, based on the forecasts we collected in our survey last week. We review our survey results and look at the implications for the largest bond portfolio, the PIMCO Total Return fund.

2010-02-02 Change ? The Only Constant by Christina Ho (Article)

The Institute for Private Investors serves families with over $50 million in assets. Their data show wealthy investors have increased their use of tactical asset allocation and are positioning their portfolios to defend against liquidity, concentration and inflation risk.

2010-01-26 Diversification Really Does Pay Off by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

The last decade severely tested investors' belief in the value of diversification and strategic asset allocation, leading some in the financial media to assert that diversification and asset allocation failed and were worthless during the crash of 2007-2008. Now is an ideal moment to look back and assess the carnage.

2010-01-26 Using Alternative Investments to Build a Stronger Portfolio by Robert M. Hussey (Article)

Traditional asset classes may no longer provide sufficient portfolio diversification, but there's a new wave of mutual funds that offer alternatives strategies previously available only to large institutions. Robert Hussey of Natixis Global Associates describes how alternative strategies can be used in a mutual fund package. We thank them for their sponsorship.

2010-01-19 Steve Leuthold: The Market will Rally This Year by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Steve Leuthold is chairman of the $4.5 billion Leuthold Group and one of the most widely-followed market analysts. In his keynote presentation at last week's Fortigent conference, he offered an upbeat forecast for the first half of 2010.

2010-01-19 Shiller PE's and Modeling Stock Market Returns by Joseph A. Tomlinson, FSA, CFP (Article)

One of the most popular assumptions used in investment modeling is that stock prices follow a random walk. However, a growing body of evidence shows that this is a bad assumption, and that stock prices go through periods of over-pricing and under-pricing that affect future returns. Joe Tomlinson, a Maine-based advisor, offers a model based on Shiller PE ratios to disprove the random walk hypothesis.

2010-01-11 Weekly Market Commentary by Scotty George of du Pasquier Asset Management

2010-01-05 Paul Krugman on Deficits, Taxes, Inflation, and Recovery by Dan Richards (Article)

Dan Richards' interview with Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel prize winner in Economics, covers his views on the size of the next stimulus package, how high marginal tax rates should go, and lessons from the Japanese experience. Whether or not you agree with him, Krugman is highly influential and his views may presage future policy decisions.

2010-01-05 Risk Management through Costless Collars by Geoff Considine (Article)

Nassim Taleb and Zvi Bodie are among those who advocate a wealth management strategy that includes options. Despite their evangelism, though, options are rarely a part of retirement portfolios. The costless collar, a straightforward options strategy, gives investors the upside of an asset class (such as equities) while absolutely limiting the downside risk.

2010-01-05 Perspectives on 2009 and Beyond by Ron Surz (Article)

We are again privileged to provide Ron Surz' award-winning market commentary. Surz examines global performance in Q4, 2009 and the prior decade.

2009-12-29 Diversification is Not Enough by Roger J. Schreiner (Article)

The mainstream financial services industry, the media and academia - virtually everyone - has overestimated the value of diversification in risk management. The recent crisis has shown that investors need more than simple diversification to protect them from both the known and the unknown risk that they will eventually encounter. In this guest contribution, Roger Schreiner, says that when it comes to risk management, diversification simply is not enough.

2009-12-15 The Next Black Swan? Underfunded Public Pensions by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The plights of California and other states reveal an ominous threat our economy faces: underfunded public pension liabilities. We examine the size and scope of this problem, focusing on whether the underlying assumptions used to calculate liabilities are realistic.

2009-12-14 Gathering Momentum by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-12-08 The 529 Dilemma by Mary Ann Lambert (Article)

The recent market decline coupled with, tax, custodial, management fees and estate planning issues make the decision to use a 529 plan less than straightforward. In this guest contribution, advisor Mary Ann Lambert briefly reviews the history of college savings plans and shows how the current landscape favors 529s for some clients but not for others.

2009-12-07 Recovery on Track: Buy Equities, Sell Bonds by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-12-01 To Roth or not to Roth, That is the Question by David B. Loeper, CIMA, CIMC (Article)

With the new Roth conversion rules about to be lifted next year and a "one-time special offer" available to allow investors to spread the tax bite of conversion over two years, more and more Roth conversion calculators are showing up every day. Be wary, says Dave Loeper of Wealthcare Capital. If you use one of these calculators, don't say he didn't warn you about how misleading the results can be.

2009-11-30 It's a Weak Recovery, Or Is It? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-11-24 Interview: Brian McMahon of Thornburg Investments by Robert Huebscher (Article)

We speak with Brian McMahon, CEO and CIO of Thornburg Investment Management about the Thornburg Income Builder Fund (TIBAX) and the challenges of finding income-producing securities in today's markets.

2009-11-23 Too Big to Fail vs. Too Political to Regulate by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-11-16 Debunking Policy and Economic Myths by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-11-09 Buffett's Message by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-11-02 I'll Get Back In When The Market Corrects by John Petrides (Article)

2009-10-27 Policy Needs and Timing Concerns by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-10-27 Stay the Course or Plot Another? by Ted A. Ponko, CFA (Article)

Is it reasonable for investors' objectives to change along with major fluctuations in their wealth? In these instances, sticking with the current portfolio may not be the best option - even for long-term investors. In this guest contribution, Ted Ponko of Klein Decisions argues advisors need a reliable way to determine when to stay the course and when to plot another.

2009-10-27 The ?V? Points Downward by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Long-term equity investors face a critical juncture. They can believe a V-shaped economic recovery is imminent, if not underway, and valuations for broad-based equity indexes properly reflect an end to the "decrepit decade" of return-less risk in US markets. Or they can believe true economic recovery - growth, not just stability - is still a long way off and US equity valuations are in bubble territory, not reflective of the rough terrain ahead. We provide our thoughts.

2009-10-19 Yet another Quarter of Better-Than-Expected Earnings Growth by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-10-12 Is There A by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-10-05 The Recovery Process by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-09-29 Strategic and Tactical Perspectives on Gold by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

There are good reasons for investors to maintain a long-term strategic allocation to gold, which has clear, positive portfolio benefits (due to low correlation to other asset classes). That said, gold is in an historic run-up in value and has been generating unsustainably high returns. Because of its high price and rising volatility, Geoff Considine argues there is significant tactical risk in gold.

2009-09-29 Taste Testing Investment Style Sausages by Ron Surz (Article)

Equity indexes, like those offered by Russell and S&P are the investment-world equivalent of sausages - chopped up pieces of meat in tightly wrapped packages. Most shoppers buy sausages based on brand name, as do investors when they choose their benchmarks. In this guest contribution, Ron Surz dissects these index sausages and explains the real differences in their ingredients.

2009-09-29 A Tale of Two Investors by Brian Murphy (Article)

Just as Dickens contrasted the fortunes and misfortunes in England and France in his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, today the divergence is painfully apparent in those who plan to accumulate wealth for their retirement and those who seek excess returns in their portfolios. In this guest contribution, advisor Brian Murphy tells the tale of two clients - one who aggressively sought alpha and the other who passively built retirement wealth.

2009-09-29 Interview: Jeff Mortimer, CIO of Charles Schwab Investment Management by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Jeff Mortimer is Senior Vice President and Chief Investment Officer-Charles Schwab Investment Management, Inc. (CSIM). Mortimer has overall responsibility for approximately $240 billion in Schwab Funds and managed accounts. We spoke with Mortimer two weeks ago about the economy and why he believes the market has already priced in the bad news trumpeted by the media.

2009-09-28 Unappreciated Risk by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-09-21 Stocks Have Moved From Being by John Petrides (Article)

2009-09-15 Mohammed El-Erian: We Have Not Reached Escape Velocity by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Kicking off this year's Schwab Impact conference in San Diego, Mohammed El-Erian told an audience of nearly 1,000 advisors on Sunday night that the US financial system has not fully emerged from the financial crisis. El-Erian and his co-presenter, Larry Fink of Blackrock, addressed a range of topics, including the safety of the financial system, the future of regulation, and the outlook for inflation.

2009-09-15 Investing Lessons from Golf and Blackjack Players by Robert Huebscher (Article)

At key moments investors refuse to take those chances that will make them money. Behavioral finance has a term for this - risk intolerance. Research supporting these claims comes from two divergent pastimes - the games of golf and blackjack.

2009-09-15 Theoretical Support for the Moving Average Crossover by Keith C. Goddard, CFA (Article)

In this guest contribution, Keith Goddard matches an appropriate descriptive theory about how asset markets work with recently published normative theory using Ted Wong's moving average crossover as an indicator for timing portfolio changes in active portfolio management strategies. He proposes that the theory of "Rational Belief Equilibrium" in asset markets, developed by Stanford professor, Mordecai Kurz, helps to explain why moving average crossovers have demonstrated predictive value in the stock market, and why they might continue to offer predictive value in the future.

2009-09-14 One Year After Lehman by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-09-08 Slow Turn by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-09-08 Are REITs Now Undervalued? by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

The last couple of years have been rough for real estate, but there was a time not too long ago when it seemed that this was a 'special' asset class, with REITs providing valuable diversification benefits and consistently high returns. Do today's low valuations represent an opportunity to buy? Can investors expect a return to low correlations for REITs with the major equity market indexes?

2009-09-08 Shiller P/Es and Predicting Returns Some Additional Thoughts by Joseph A. Tomlinson, FSA, CFP (Article)

In a follow-up to his article last week, Shiller P/Es and Predicting Returns, Joe Tomlinson explores the issue of how best to use the Shiller P/Es in setting asset allocation strategies. He extends his earlier work to show results for a selection of alternative strategies.

2009-09-08 Infrastructure Investing by Michael D. Underhill (Article)

With global markets improving, liquidity returning to the credit markets, and valuations improving, the infrastructure market looks promising. In this guest contribution, Michael Underhill argues that infrastructure assets,when chosen correctly, can diversify an investor's portfolio because of their low correlation with other asset groups, their consistent returns coupled with lowered levels of risk, and their potential for inflation-linked returns.

2009-09-01 Politics and Fund Managers by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Those readers who would like to know whether to invest with Democrat or Republican fund managers finally have some guidance, thanks to a new academic study. We report the results, along with a host of reasons why you shouldn't read too much into this data. We also provide the names of the top fund manager donors to each party over the period from 1992 to 2006.

2009-09-01 Shiller P/E's and Predicting Returns by Joseph A. Tomlinson, FSA, CFP (Article)

It becomes clearer every day that the stock market does not follow a random walk and that there may be some predictability in long-term returns. But there's little agreement on how best to make such predictions. In this guest contribution, advisor Joe Tomlinson takes a look at using price/earnings ratios to predict future stock market performance.

2009-09-01 Additional Thoughts on the ?New Normal? by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

A number of readers responded to Geoff Considine's article three weeks ago, What the New Normal Means for Asset Allocation, including Larry Katz, Director of Research at Merriman, whose response we published last week. Katz criticized Considine along a number of dimensions, and in this guest contribution Considine defends his New Normal asset allocation.

2009-09-01 Dougal Williams Responds: The Failure of Asset Allocation Funds by Dougal Williams, CFA (Article)

Dougal Williams' article two weeks, A Crash Course in Investing: Six Lessons from the Market Meltdown, also drew comments from a reader, who challenged the methodology Williams used when he argued that asset allocation funds have failed to deliver out-performance. Williams responds to those criticisms and offers new evidence of the failure in that fund category.

2009-09-01 The Levers to Financial Freedom by Russ Thornton (Article)

Virtually the entire financial services industry is built upon spending vast amounts of time, money and other resources on things over which we have absolutely no control - like attempting to manage investment returns. In this guest contribution, advisor Russ Thornton shows that, by focusing on those things you can control, you as a financial planner can build better, more resilient plans for your clients.

2009-08-31 Cash is a Clunker by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-08-25 The New Normal and Asset Allocation Merriman?s Response by Larry Katz, CFA (Article)

Larry Katz, Director of Research at Merriman, Inc., responds to Geoff Considine's article two weeks ago, What the New Normal Means for Asset Allocation. He has multiple objections concerning much of Considine's logic, and would not recommend his alternative portfolio to their clients.

2009-08-25 Should Investors Hold More Equities Near Retirement? by Ron Surz (Article)

A just-published paper argues that investors should hold more equities as they near retirement, contrary to conventional wisdom and to the glide paths employed by the target date fund industry. Ron Surz examines this research, and argues that the authors of the paper failed to properly consider the risks inherent in such a strategy.

2009-08-24 There's A Strong Recovery Ahead in Housing by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-08-18 A Crash Course in Investing Six Lessons from the Market Meltdown by Dougal Williams, CFA (Article)

The market decline from October 2007 to early March 2009 was the worst since the late 1930's. Stocks dropped 60%, investor uncertainty skyrocketed, and trust and confidence were shattered. The age-old rules for personal investing are now being questioned: Is Buy-and-Hold dead? Has Asset Allocation outlived its usefulness? Does Diversification still work? In this guest contribution, Dougal Williams provides answers to these questions that can serve as a guide for long-term investment success.

2009-08-17 Will Commercial Real Estate Defer Recovery? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-08-11 It Is Looking More Like A V-Shaped Recovery by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-08-11 What the New Normal Means for Asset Allocation by Geoff Considine, Ph.D. (Article)

Bill Gross of PIMCO forecasts a New Normal - slow economic growth, higher inflation, and increasing correlations among asset classes. If this view is correct, what should investors do? Geoff Considine examines the implications for asset allocation and financial planning by stress-testing some well-known asset allocations to see how well they will serve investors in the forecast environment.

2009-08-04 A Wakeup Call for Advisors: Turmoil at the Top of the Market by Dan Richards (Article)

Recent articles in Business Week, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal describe turmoil among high-net worth investors and have profound implications for financial advisors. Dan Richards offers a five-point response for advisors to counteract investor disillusionment with their current relationship.

2009-08-03 Still Missing the Last Piece: Jobs by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-07-27 Revenues Down, Profits Up, Is This a Problem? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-07-20 From Green Shoots to Flowering Buds by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-07-13 The Shin Bone Is Connected to the Knee Bone... by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-07-06 Disappointment, Not Tragedy by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-06-30 Letters to the Editor: Moving Average: Holy Grail or Fairy Tale, Part I by Various (Article)

We have two sections of letters to the Editor. The first set features responses to Ted Wong's article, Moving Average: Holy Grail or Fairy Tale - Part 1.

2009-06-29 The Message of the Bond Market by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-06-23 Compelling Evidence That Active Management Really Works by Ken Solow (Article)

The majority of academic studies conclude that active management does not add value for investors. However, a closer look at how many studies were conducted reveals several flaws in their methodology that are not as well-known as the accepted conclusion about active versus passive management. Guest contributor Ken Solow revisits work by two Yale researchers showing the value added through active management.

2009-06-23 Letters to the Editor ? Moving Average: Holy Grail or Fairy Tale? by Various (Article)

Ted Wong's article last week, Moving Average: Holy Grail or Fairy Tale?, drew a large number of questions and comments from readers.

2009-06-22 (The Economy) and Housing are Bottoming by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-06-15 What if the Chinese Sell Treasuries? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-06-09 Changes in Asset Allocation by Robert Huebscher and Mary Pitek (Article)

Each quarter we review changes in the Advisor Perspectives (AP) Universe, which represents $50 billion in high-net worth assets managed by RIAs. Our analysis looks at changes in asset allocation, the mutual funds and ETFs that gained or lost market share, and the performance of the most popular actively managed mutual funds. This analysis focuses on changes in asset allocation.

2009-06-08 Why are Interest Rates Rising on Treasuries? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-06-02 Jeremy Grantham's Warnings to Investors by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Of the thousands of investment letters penned in the industry, only one draws as much readership as Warren Buffet's annual letter to his shareholders: The quarterly commentary written by Jeremy Grantham. Grantham, the Chairman of the Boston-based investment firm Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo, was a featured speaker at Morningstar's Investor Conference last week, and he spoke at two breakout sessions. Those who, like me, attended both were richly rewarded, as he gave two distinctly different talks, addressing many subjects not covered in his commentaries.

2009-06-02 John Bogle and the Lantern on the Stern by Robert Huebscher (Article)

In his remarks at the Morningstar conference last week, Vanguard founder and index fund pioneer John Bogle criticized many aspects of the mutual fund industry. Bogle, who turned 80 this year, is primed to fight his next battle - reducing investor reliance on past returns - which he likens to a lantern on the stern of a ship.

2009-06-01 Where Are the Land Mines Hidden? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-05-26 Is the Stock Market Rally for Real? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-05-26 What the ?Missing Out? Argument Misses by Theodore Wang (Article)

Market timing is discredited by passive investment advisors as a voodoo ritual. Buy-and-hold proponents argue most compellingly by citing the "missing out" scenario - they show a dramatic drop in return, to Treasury Bill levels, if investors are out of the markets for only a few good days. In this guest contribution, Ted Wong debunks the missing out argument, using 137 years of market data.

2009-05-19 David Swensen's Ascent by Mebane Faber (Article)

Mebane Faber provides an excerpt from his new book, The Ivy Portfolio, on the ascent of David Swensen and the development of the tools employed to manage Yale's endowment. Faber shows the data Swensen used to determine Yale's aggressive allocation to alternative asset classes.

2009-05-18 Seeds of Recovery by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-05-11 Inflation Fears are Overblown by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-05-04 The Upside Case for the Stock Market by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-04-27 The Ship is Turning by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-04-20 Step by Step by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-04-13 A Little Healthier, Psychologically by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-04-06 Not Out of the Woods Quite Yet by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-03-30 International Economic Games at the G20 by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-03-23 Policy Engaged by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-03-18 Unraveling the Housing Market by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-03-18 Don't Fight the Fed by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-03-16 Early Green Shots by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-03-09 Accounting Gone Wild by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-03-02 A Good Strategic Move by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-02-27 The Value of Trust Preferred Shares by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-02-23 Nationalization Fears by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-02-17 Stop Talking, Just Do It by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-02-09 Even Bonds Offer Good Value Now by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-02-02 Dismal News Is Not Quite So Dismal by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-01-26 Two Steps Forward, One Step Back by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-01-12 Dismal Economy by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2009-01-05 The Outlook for 2009 by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-12-22 Winter Thaw? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-12-15 It's All about the Credit Markets by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-12-08 Mr. Market's Manic Moods by John Petrides (Article)

2008-12-01 Still Working to Restore Confidence by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-11-24 Restoring Confidence by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-11-17 The Power of Lower Oil Prices by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-11-17 The Power of Lower Oil Prices by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-11-11 Expectations for a Long Recession by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-11-03 Looking for Value; It's Everywhere by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-10-27 A Letter to Treasury Secretary Paulson by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-10-20 Coordinated Rescue Strategies by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-10-13 Seriously, Frankly by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-10-08 Exceptional Action for Extraordinary Times by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-10-06 A Stitch in Time Would Have Saved Nine by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-09-29 Behind the Scenes at the Credit Crisis by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-09-29 The Melodrama Continues by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-09-22 Sifting Through the Carnage by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-09-15 Where's the Safety Net? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-09-15 Thoughts at the End of the Day by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-09-08 Help for the GSEs and Housing by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-09-02 Hopeful Signs of Improvement by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-08-26 Academic Debate by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-08-18 Problematic Credit Risks by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-08-11 Black Gold by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-08-04 Is Inflation a Problem? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-07-29 The Complicated World of Fannie and Freddie by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-07-21 GMO versus GMI by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-07-14 Hysteria, Stoked by Hedge Funds and Media by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-07-07 What is Needed for the Economy to Improve? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-07-01 Worries Over Incompetent Policies by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-06-23 When Will It End? by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-06-16 Talk Softly and Carry a Big Stick by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-06-09 Moral Confusion by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-06-02 And Miles to go Before I Sleep by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-05-19 Turning the Long, Slow, Painful Corner by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-05-12 The Conspiracy Raising Oil Prices by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-05-05 Looking Ahead to a Gradual Recovery by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-04-28 More Policy Action is Still Needed by Charles Lieberman (Article)

2008-04-22 The Turn is Underway by Charles Lieberman (Article)

0000-00-00 Woody Brock on Why to Own Stocks Now - Video by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Dr. Horace 'Woody' Brock is the founder Strategic Economic Decisions and the author of American Gridlock. In a recent talk, he explained why investors should own stocks ? particularly those with stable dividends ? and why bonds are very risky in today's environment. This is the video; a transcript of this talk is also available.


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