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

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2014-04-05 The Lions in the Grass, Revisited by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

Today we explore a few things we can see and then try to foresee a few things that are not quite so obvious. The simple premise is that it is not the lions we can see lounging in plain view that are the most insidious threat, but rather that in trying to avoid those we may stumble upon lions hidden in the grass.

2014-03-16 Inequality and Opportunity by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

Today we will continue our thinking about income inequality, and I will respond to some of your letters, as they make good launching points for further discussion of the topic.

2014-02-15 The Economic Singularity by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

Today, let’s think about central banks and liquidity traps and see if we agree that central bankers are driving the car from the back seat based upon a fundamentally flawed theory of how the world works. That theory helped produce the wreck that was the Great Recession and will have its fingerprints all over the next one.

2014-01-04 Forecast 2014: The Human Transformation Revolution by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

It is that time of the year when we peer into our darkened crystal balls in hopes of seeing portents of the future in the shadowy mists. This year I see three distinct wisps of vapor coalescing in the coming years. Each deserves its own treatment, so this year the annual forecast issue will in fact be three separate weekly pieces.

2013-12-17 Five Strategies for a Rising-Rate Environment Revisited by Kane Cotton, CFA and Jonathan Scheid, CFA (Article)

In June 2010, we recommended five strategies for a rising-rate environment, acknowledging that we had no idea when or how abruptly rates would rise. Indeed, rates fell since we wrote that article. But they are on the rise again. After reviewing how our original five strategies performed, we’ll now present our revised recommendations for investing as rates increase.

2013-12-10 How Service Screw-ups Can Create Happier Clients by Dan Richards (Article)

Companies mess up and let us down. And chances are at some point you’ve dropped the ball with your clients, where an unintended mistake caused frustration and inconvenience. But a recent conversation highlighted a four-step plan to turn service problems into client satisfaction success stories.

2013-12-07 Interview with Steve Forbes by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

For whatever reason, Steve Forbes seems to bring out the passion in me. When I think about what central bank policies are doing to savers and investors, how we are screwing around with the pension system, circumventing rational market expectations because of an untested economic theory held by a relatively small number of academics, I get a little exercised. And Steve gives me the freedom to do it.

2013-11-24 Game of Thrones - European Style by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

The Eurozone crisis is not over, and it will not end quickly or soon. Even if it seems to unfold in slow motion - like the slow build-up in a Game of Thrones storyline to violent internecine clashes followed by more slow plot developments but never any resolution, the Eurozone debacle has never really gone away. The structural imbalances have still not been fixed; politicians and central bankers have still not agreed to solve major fiscal problems; the overall economy still disintegrates; unemployment is staggeringly high in some countries and still rising; and the people are growing restless.

2013-11-12 Three Ways to Turn Casual Contacts into Clients by Dan Richards (Article)

Most advisors routinely cross paths with people who are attractive prospects, whether at their golf club, get-togethers with neighbors or through charitable activity in their community. The challenge is how to raise the possibility of working together without appearing to be one of those stereotyped hustlers who give salespeople everywhere a bad name.

2013-11-05 The Key Issues in Today’s Muni Bond Market by Hildy Richelson and Stan Richelson (Article)

Investing in high quality municipal bonds paying a predictable cash flow and returning your principal at the end of the investment is a well-trodden system for lifetime economic success. In this article we discuss some key issues in purchasing municipal bonds to help you make wise choices for your investing system.

2013-11-05 Combating Climate Change - And Responding to Skeptics by Michael Edesess (Article)

The climate-change threat is real, even if it is only a matter of probabilities. What action we should take, and how action should be brought about, are knotty problems. Harvard Business School’s Business and Environment Initiative (BEI) says they can be attacked with a business approach.

2013-10-29 Why Deficits Don’t Matter by Bob Veres (Article)

Stephanie Kelton, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri/Kansas City, believes that the root of our deficit problems can be found in a fundamental misunderstanding ? shared by Democrats, Republicans and mainstream voters alike ? about the government’s balance sheet. She argues, plausibly, that the whole idea that we should control the deficit at all is costing our nation trillions of dollars in lost output. The result is lost income, savings, wealth and prosperity.

2013-10-22 Recession-Proof Your Marketing by Kristen Luke (Article)

The choices you make and actions you take today will influence how your business fares following the next market crash. Here are two marketing strategies you can implement now to prepare for the future.

2013-10-15 A Q3 client letter: Mike Tyson on Sticking to Your Plan by Dan Richards (Article)

Each quarter I post a template for a client letter, as a starting point for advisors who want to send clients an overview of the three months that just ended and the outlook for the period ahead.

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.

2013-09-17 Where, Oh Where, is Ferdinand Pecora? by Martin Weil (Article)

Five years later, one would like to think that the fundamental conditions that led us to the precipice in 2008 have been corrected. One might presume that the individuals and companies who gamed a largely unsupervised bazaar of counterparty debt and derivatives for their own benefits have been charged and convicted. One would be wrong on both counts.

2013-09-10 Why DFA’s New Research is Flawed by Michael Edesess (Article)

DFA is a company with a laudable history, founded on solid principles and a valuable product concept. From its launch, the investment firm identified and filled a need at low cost to the client, based on elementary but sound theory and simple, compelling, transparent empirical research. It later increased its value to clients by pioneering passive trading strategies. I admire its founders and their accomplishments. But I am afraid the company has succumbed to a dreadful descent into scientism.

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.

2013-08-27 The Price Clients Pay for Worst-Case Forecasts by Bob Veres (Article)

Clients and the world at large give inordinate attention to downside scenarios, and nobody is calling our attention to the much larger upside of our business and investment landscape. The human brain amplifies this effect, because it is hardwired to notice threats much more than opportunities. I recently spoke with Dennis Stearns ? an advisor who happens to be an expert in scenario planning ? about the role planners need to play to counteract media-driven negativity.

2013-08-25 France: On the Edge of the Periphery by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

Charles de Gaulle said that "France cannot be France without greatness." The current path that France is on will not take it to renewed greatness but rather to insolvency and turmoil. Is France destined to be grouped with its Mediterranean peripheral cousins, or to be seen as part of the solid North Atlantic core? The world is far better off with a great France, but France can achieve greatness only by its own actions.

2013-08-20 Target-Date Funds: Why Higher Equity Allocations Work by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Following the 2008 financial crisis, target-date funds (TDFs) were criticized for exposing investors nearing retirement to excessive equity allocations. Were those criticisms justified? How well do TDFs stack up against the venerable strategy of matching one’s bond allocation to one’s age? My research has yielded surprising answers to those questions and to the proper role of single-premium immediate annuities (SPIAs) alongside TDFs.

2013-08-20 Which Crowd? Mulling the Investment Wisdom of the Masses by Steven Grey (Article)

With every investment or trade, the profits that accrue with the passage of time eventually prove one party the wiser. But of what practical value is the notion of collective wisdom if investors can’t consistently identify the ’wise’ crowd before the fact?

2013-08-13 Why Clients Don’t Give You Credit for Your Hard Work ? And What to do About it by Dan Richards (Article)

Advisors work incredibly hard, but clients take that effort for granted. How can advisors get credit for all they do for clients?

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.

2013-07-27 A Lost Generation by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

This week we will briefly look at why weak consumer spending is going to become an even greater problem in the coming years, and we will continue to look at some disturbing trends in employment.

2013-07-16 Letters to the Editor by Advisor Perspectives (Article)

A reader responds to the ongoing exchange of letters regarding socially responsible investing, and a reader responds to Joe Tomlinson’s article, Retirement Portfolios: Fears over Rising Rates are Overblown, which appeared last week.

2013-07-16 Herbert Huebscher (1926-2013) by Robert Huebscher (Article)

My dad passed away on July 8. My eulogy is below.

2013-07-13 The Bang! Moment Shock by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

This week we resume our musings about Cyprus, to see what that tiny island can teach us about our own personal need to engage in ongoing critical analysis of our lives and investment portfolios. Cyprus is not Greece or France or Spain or Japan or the US or (pick a country). I get that. No two situations are the same, but there may be a rhyme or two here that is instructive.

2013-07-09 Retirement Portfolios: Fears over Rising Rates are Overblown by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

The second quarter saw increases in interest rates, losses in every category of bonds and investors abandoning fixed-income markets. The distress has been particularly acute among retirement investors who considered bond funds to be safe. But are fears of bond losses overblown? I will make the case that the rise in interest rates is actually good for retirement portfolios. To see this, one has to look beyond the quarterly statement losses and focus on overall retirement outcomes.

2013-07-08 What Really Matters by Charles Lieberman (Article)

Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke has made quite clear that the Fed’s decision to reduce its bond buying program is data dependent, so many people now wonder if some recent weaker data, such as the downwardly revised Q1 GDP, may signal that the Fed is likely to continue buying bonds at the $85 billion monthly pace for a while longer. To paraphrase George Orwell, some data is more equal than other data. Monthly employment data top the list, although monthly inflation reports, if they were to show any meaningful rise in inflation, would immediately trump the jobs report.

2013-07-01 \"This Country is Different\" by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

Cyprus is a very small country, some 800,000 people. Among the leadership, everyone knows everyone. There is much to admire, as we will see. But Cyprus has had a gut-wrenching crisis, proportionately more dire than any in other European countries recently; and precedents are being established here for how future problems will be dealt with in the Eurozone and elsewhere.

2013-06-25 The Great Debate on Inequality: Stiglitz versus Krugman by Michael Edesess (Article)

Economics Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz is the chief alarmist warning that income and wealth inequality in the U.S. is a very serious threat to the economy. So it comes as a surprise that his fellow Nobelist Paul Krugman ? Stiglitz’s intellectual comrade-in-arms ? disagrees with him. Their disagreement goes to the heart of today’s economic problem.

2013-06-25 Strategies for the Retirement Red Zone by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

The retirement red zone is the critical years immediately before and after retirement, when financial plans are highly vulnerable to adverse market movements. In many previous articles, I have examined strategies to reduce risk after retirement, but here I will focus on the decade before retirement. I’ll compare strategies that rely on traditional stock-bond portfolios with those using various types of annuity products.

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.

2013-06-01 Central Bankers Gone Wild by John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors

For the last two weeks we have focused on the problems facing Japan, and such is the importance of Japan to the world economy that this week we will once again turn to the Land of the Rising Sun. I will try to summarize the situation facing the Japanese. This is critical to understand, because they are determined to share their problems with the world, and we will have no choice but to deal with them. Japan is going to affect your economy and your investments, no matter where you live; Japan is that important.

2013-05-21 Do Annuities Reduce Bequest Values? by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

The widely held view that annuities reduce bequest values is too narrow. Adjustments can be made in retirement portfolios to reduce retirement risk without sacrificing the value of one’s bequest. Here’s how retirees can purchase annuities, adjust allocations in remaining assets and achieve improved retirement outcomes.

2013-05-07 Niall Ferguson: Four Reasons Why the U.S. is Failing by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Niall Ferguson is the champion of anti-Keynesian economists. Last week, he explained why America’s pursuit of Keynesian policies is leading to disastrous consequences.

2013-05-07 Eight Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your Boss The Art of Managing Up by Beverly Flaxington (Article)

Many advisors with whom I work want their employees to work with them more effectively ? what I call “managing up.” Advisors are often at a loss as to how to motivate staff and get them to jump on board with new initiatives ? and those problems can be addressed by helping your charges improve their working relationship with you.

2013-05-06 The Narrative Changes Yet Again by Charles Lieberman (Article)

The April employment report suggests that the economy continues to expand at a moderate pace, as had been the common view prior to the March employment report. While sequestration and the hike in the payroll tax at the beginning of the year may have taken a bite out of growth, hindsight indicates the economy entered 2013 with enough momentum to overcome these new forms of fiscal drag. Growth should strengthen over the coming months, as lower oil prices and time overcome the negative influences.

2013-04-30 The Best Solution for Protecting Retirement Portfolios: Put and Call Options versus GLWBs by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Retirees cannot be exposed to severe ? or even modest ? market losses. They need to protect their savings in a cost-effective manner. I will compare the projected outcomes for two types of strategies: options, which can reduce volatility, and products that guarantee lifetime income, such as variable annuities with guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits.

2013-04-08 “Country Roads, Take Me Home,To The Place I Belong ” by David Lieberman (Article)

Recently, I was listening to a Pod Cast from This American Life about the increasing disability rolls in the United States. The story itself was excellent and I would highly recommend it, but the implications of the numbers are equally remarkable. In the past 20 years, the number of people on disability in the United States has soared, even recently when the unemployment rate has declined materially. Rather than focus on the policy decisions, causes of this phenomena, or even whether they are logical, good, or bad, I’m going to focus purely on the unemployment and economic ramifications

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.

2013-03-19 How My Firm Hires Great Employees by Teresa Riccobuono (Article)

Adding a team member is a big decision. If you are thinking the time is right to add to your roster, here are a few things to consider.

2013-03-12 Bill Ackman on What Makes a Great Investment by John Heins (Article)

In addition to commenting on his high-profile current investments, Pershing Square Capital's Bill Ackman in a recent interview with Value Investor Insight describes the general company traits he looks for in both active and passive investments, why a high public profile is an important element of his strategy, whether his thesis on J.C. Penney has evolved, what lessons he's learned from a few prominent mistakes, and why his short conviction on Herbalife is as high as ever.

2013-03-05 Breaking Free from the Safe Withdrawal Rate Paradigm: Extending the Efficient Frontier for Retiremen by Wade Pfau (Article)

The traditional safe withdrawal rate approach that relies on a portfolio of only stocks and bonds produces among the worst possible outcomes for meeting spending needs and preserving financial assets for other uses. My research demonstrates there is a better approach.

2013-03-05 What Economists can Learn from Downton Abbey by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Economists warn that the U.S. economy could be heading toward one of two catastrophes: the two-decade long stagnation that has befallen Japan, or the hyperinflation that struck Zimbabwe and the Weimar Republic. Such cautionary tales alert policymakers to the failed efforts of their predecessors. But the most relevant comparison is rarely cited ? to Great Britain in the 1920s, as depicted in the highly popular PBS series Downton Abbey.

2013-02-19 The Three Minutes that Cost a Million-Dollar Prospect by Dan Richards (Article)

Small investments of time often pay big dividends. That message was agonizingly clear to an advisor who wasted several minutes having a coffee at a Starbucks, when he should have been preparing for the prospect he was about to meet.

2013-02-12 Ten Minutes that Uncovers What?s Really Important to Prospects by Dan Richards (Article)

It can be incredibly hard to get prospects ? and even some clients ? to let down their guard and talk openly about what really matters to them. That's why a 10-minute Priorities Exercise is an essential tool. Using a list of 20 possible priorities as a starting point, the exercise quickly homes in on the most important issues in people's lives in a comfortable, unobtrusive fashion.

2013-02-05 Four Steps to Get in Front of Million-dollar Prospects by Dan Richards (Article)

Most advisors tell me that once you're face-to-face with a prospect, you have an excellent chance of signing them up. It's not the slam dunk that it might have been 15 or 20 years ago, but good odds nevertheless. The big challenge is getting that face-to-face meeting.

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.

2013-01-02 Is Fracking a ?Happy Solution? to our Energy Needs? by Richard Vodra, JD, CFP (Article)

A few weeks ago, John Mauldin called fracking a 'happy solution' that will produce jobs, potentially solve our trade deficit and generate new tax revenue, though energy prices may rise in the process. But how excited should we be about the 'shale revolution'?

2012-12-27 The Ten Most-Read Articles in 2012 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?

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 Jeremy Siegel on 'Dow 15,000' by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Jeremy Siegel was one of very few individuals to have correctly predicted the strong performance of the equity markets over the last year. The Wharton professor and author of the renowned book, Stocks for the Long Run, forecasts continued strong performance for the year ahead.

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.

2012-11-27 Over the Cliff: Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles on the Looming Deficit Crises by Michael Skocpol (Article)

As President Obama and Congressional leaders hurtle Thelma-and-Louise-style toward a budgetary precipice, another deficit-tackling duo hit the road earlier this month to deliver a simple message: This all could have been avoided.

2012-11-20 Are Inflation-Adjusted Annuities Right for Clients? The Product and Its Prospects by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Many economists and retirement experts favor inflation-adjusted SPIAs, but advisors and the investing public have never shared their enthusiasm. Detractors contend that the product is fundamentally flawed and will never gain broad acceptance. My own view is more optimistic, but significant obstacles will, nonetheless, continue to impede wider adoption.

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.

2012-11-06 The Three Most Important Hours for Your Business by Dan Richards (Article)

Rocky markets mean that you can't rely on referrals alone. If you've built a significant client base, you want to continue to dedicate the bulk of your time to communicating with them. But for your business to stay healthy, you need to bring in new clients ? advisors need to carve out three hours a week to focus on reaching out to prospective clients.

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.

2012-10-30 Letter to the Editor by Various (Article)

A reader responds to a discussion from last week, which was in response to Joe Tomlinson's article, We Need a Bold Solution to Fix the Retirement System, which appeared on October 9.

2012-10-16 Will Bonds Be ?Burnt to a Crisp?? by David Schawel, CFA (Article)

Bill Gross's recent monthly commentary painted a disturbing picture for investors - he foresees bonds being ?burnt to a crisp.? This isn't just hot air. Such a conflagration is possible, and investors in bond funds, especially those that are constructed similar to the widely followed Barclays bond index, need to heed risks inherent in today''s market.

2012-10-16 A Partnering Approach for Women Clients by Tony DiLeonardi and Barbara Kay (Article)

You probably hear a lot of talk about 'landing' and 'retaining' clients ? implying that a client is a passive object, for you to win and hoard. This terminology, which we are all guilty of using, casts advising as some sort of grand competition. Men may be comfortable with a competitive approach. But women are not!

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 A Q3 Letter to Clients - Insights from a Wall Street Legend 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. In it, I draw upon investing principles articulated by the legendary Barton Biggs, who passed away earlier this year.

2012-10-09 High-Dividend Yield Strategy under the Microscope by Michael Nairne (Article)

High-dividend yield stocks have become the favorite recommendation of a host of advisors, but an undue focus on income alone obscures the irreducible fact that long-term investment success is based on the total return of a portfolio including both income and capital growth. This raises two questions. How has the total return of a high-dividend yield strategy fared relative to the market? How does its total-return performance compare to the returns of other possible stock-selection strategies?

2012-09-25 Investing in a Resource-Constrained World by Richard Vodra, JD, CFP (Article)

The potential consequences of stagnant oil production and climate change for society are written about frequently, but here is a simpler question that is important to our community: How are these and related facts likely to affect investment returns going forward? How can we even frame such questions usefully?

2012-09-25 How to Build a Portfolio by Adams Jared Apt (Article)

This is the first of a set of three articles intended for the educated layman, in which I will combine the core ideas presented in my preceding articles into a comprehensive description of how to put together a portfolio. In this one, I'll explain what is often called Modern Portfolio Theory.

2012-09-18 Campaign Rhetoric and Our Energy Future by Michael Edesess (Article)

At their respective conventions, both President Obama and Mitt Romney spoke to a centrally important topic for America and the world: energy. Their positions ? political posturing aside ? are broadly similar. But rather than a coherent, sustainable vision for the energy future of the United States, both men's rhetoric reflected the usual exercise in political base-touching, apple pie-polishing, and third-rail avoidance. And two important, perhaps crucial, pieces of the energy puzzle were hardly mentioned at all.

2012-09-18 Your Clients' Toughest Retirement Decision by Wade Pfau (Article)

Want to trigger an impassioned debate? Ask a group of advisors about the choice between systematic withdrawal plans and single-premium immediate annuities. Fee-only advisors are loath to cede control of client assets to an insurance company that might someday default, while annuity advocates fire back that only their strategies provide a lifetime income guarantee.

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.

2012-09-11 Ponzi Games by Michael Lewitt (Article)

Whatever schemes the European Central Bank may cook up over the next few months will only prove short-term liquidity relief to what are long-term insolvency problems. Like any Ponzi scheme, the last money in is going to be hurt the worst when the charade comes to an end. In the meantime, investors proceed at their own risk.

2012-09-11 Stalking the Wild Stock Pick by Mariko Gordon (Article)

Summer already feels long gone. Happily, I came away from my time on the shore last month with more than just sand between my toes. Here are four lessons learned from watching 'creatures eating other creatures!'

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.

2012-09-04 Lessons from the Weight-Loss Industry: The Keys to Growing your Practice by Dan Richards (Article)

Why do most attempts at dieting result in failure? According to Weight Watchers - whose program has outperformed its competition over many years - it's because of a lack of a good methodology or the right combination of discipline and incentives. The same is true of successful client prospecting, as a recent conversation with an advisor illustrated.

2012-08-21 Take My Stuff. Please by Mariko Gordon (Article)

We're all familiar with the benefits of removing clutter from our personal lives. Here's why you should impose a 'decluttering regimen' on your portfolios and lose your attachment to the past and future that those investments represent.

2012-08-14 How Safe are Annuities? by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

For many advisors, the possibility that insurance companies will run into financial difficulties makes recommending annuities a nonstarter. But annuities are the best way to mitigate longevity risk, which may pose a greater danger, and advisors can take steps to help protect clients from insurers' financial problems.

2012-08-07 Why Hedge Funds Destroy Investor Wealth by Michael Edesess (Article)

If all the money that's ever been invested in hedge funds had been put in Treasury bills instead, the results would have been twice as good. So claims Simon Lack - a former JPMorgan executive whose job was once to help steer billions into hedge funds - in his recent book, The Hedge Fund Mirage: The Illusion of Big Money and Why It's Too Good to Be True. You'd think hedge fund advocates would immediately pounce on this and refute it; but it's irrefutable.

2012-08-07 Robert Shiller on the Social Benefits of Finance by Laurence B. Siegel (Article)

It's a bad sign for the finance industry that one of its leading minds - the distinguished Yale economist Robert Shiller - has felt compelled to write a book in order to defend the idea that finance itself is a constructive pursuit, worthwhile to modern society. Have things really gotten that bad?

2012-08-07 The Game-Changer for Attracting Affluent Clients by Dan Richards (Article)

Until now I've been a skeptic on the value of social media for attracting affluent clients. You can use Facebook and Twitter to connect with investors in their 20's and 30's - but not the older, more prosperous clients advisors target. But last week, three separate conversations changed my mind on this.

2012-07-31 The Alternative to AUM-Based Fees: The Total Profitability Retainer Formula by Bob Veres (Article)

Many - perhaps most - advisors are overcharging a few of their clients and undercharging the rest. In other words, a small number of investment advisor clients are subsidizing the services that the others are receiving. Here's a way to address that.

2012-07-24 Deciphering the Annuity Puzzle: Practical Guidance for Advisors by Wade Pfau (Article)

Economists love to try to explain why people may act irrationally; such 'puzzles' inspire numerous researchers to probe their possible solutions. The annuity puzzle, which ponders why retirees do not buy more annuities, is a classic example. After describing the basic theory behind why this is so puzzling, I will address a variety of potential explanations, and then turn to the practical guidance the puzzle offers for advisors and their clients.

2012-07-24 The Ultimate Death Cross - False Harbinger of Doom by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

Skeptics and devotees of technical analysis took notice last week when Albert Edwards, the closely followed investment strategist at Societe Generale, warned the S&P 500 was 'on the verge of an ultimate death cross,' foretelling imminent major losses for the stock market. Edwards' sense of doom is misguided. An ultimate death cross is mathematically impossible unless the S&P were to suffer an immediate and precipitous decline. Moreover, the signal would provide a positive outlook, if it were to occur.

2012-07-17 Should You Wait to Buy a SPIA? by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Advisors may be reluctant to recommend single-premium immediate annuities (SPIAs) with interest rates currently so low. It may be better to wait for rates to rise, which will bring more attractive SPIA pricing. But that leaves the question about how long we will wait for better pricing. In this article, I'll show how the decision to delay can turn out well or poorly, depending on the timing and size of rate increases.

2012-07-10 Benchmarking Your Retirement Portfolio With a Risk-Free Strategy by Laurence B. Siegel (Article)

Making the savings from 35 or 40 years of work pay for a retirement of the same length is a real challenge. At a zero real rate of return, you would have to save half of your income to enjoy a retirement that long without taking a cut in your living standard. There is, of course, a better way - judicious use of TIPS and annuities. A riskless strategy using those asset classes can safeguard one's retirement assets and can serve as a benchmark against which riskier portfolios can be measured.

2012-07-10 Are You Ever Asking for It: Client Referrals by Wendy J. Cook (Article)

Are you in the habit of routinely asking for client referrals? If so, fantastic. Consider this a pep talk. If not, well, it's still a pep talk. But it's also a call to action.

2012-06-26 Jeremy Grantham: US Stocks are Expensive and Bonds are Disgusting by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Jeremy Grantham, who has consistently identified overpricing in the US equity markets - he flagged both the Dot Com bubble and the irrational pricing that preceded the financial crisis, for instance - said last week that US stocks are 'a little expensive' and bonds are 'disgusting.' But his sternest warning to investors concerned the longer-term threat posed by global resource constraints.

2012-06-26 Ensuring That Clients Feel Valued by Dan Richards (Article)

Ask advisors whether they value their clients - especially top clients - and care about their future success, and you'll get a funny look wondering what you've been smoking. The answer is so obvious that the question isn't worth asking. But ask clients the corresponding question and the response is often quite different.

2012-06-19 Retirement Floors and Implications for Evensky's Cash-Reserve Strategy by Wade Pfau (Article)

Does sensible retirement planning call for funding basic needs with less volatile assets and investing more aggressively for aspirational goals? Or, with client goals clearly defined and prioritized, does sensible planning call for a total returns approach? Multiple schools of thought have emerged, but there is not yet any consensus about what constitutes a proper retirement income floor. These lingering unresolved disagreements reinforce the benefits of Harold Evensky?s and Deena Katz? popular strategy.

2012-06-12 Investing for Retirement: SPIAs, TIPS, Stocks and the 4% Rule by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Relying only on stocks and bonds to fund a decumulation strategy may no longer be feasible, given today's low interest rate environment and the prospect of muted returns from the equities market. Investors should instead consider using single-premium immediate annuities (SPIAs) to fund at least a portion of retirement needs.

2012-06-11 A Huge Step Forward by Charles Lieberman (Article)

The Europeans have taken a major step in resolving their credit crisis, although additional policy initiatives are still needed. Like the TARP program in the U.S. in 2008, the 100 billion euro bailout of Spanish banks should recapitalize those institutions sufficiently to cover their real estate loan losses and enable them to regain access to the credit markets. But the rest of Europes banks also need more capital. Greece still needs to choose a new government and that new government must decide how Greece will work towards balancing its budget. Europe still needs economic growth.

2012-06-05 Finding the Best Dividend Fund by Geoff Considine (Article)

Assets are flowing into dividend-stock funds. But many experts are warning that those investors are setting themselves up for significant losses. Using an objective methodology that assesses tradeoff between yield and risk, we can determine those funds that investors should prefer - and a few they should avoid.

2012-05-29 The Essential Ingredient for Exceptional Success by Dan Richards (Article)

Advisors often ask me what they have to do to truly excel. They expect an answer based on their value proposition, the prospective clients they focus on, how effectively they get in front of those prospects, or their discipline and work ethic. A talk I attended last fall provided a clear cut - and surprising - answer.

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 The Surprising Way to Deepen Client Relationships by Dan Richards (Article)

Among the countless ways advisors have attempted to increase client loyalty, I've found a simple approach that deepens relationships.

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.

2012-05-01 Making the Right Wager on Client Longevity by Manish Malhotra (Article)

Using annuities to fund retirement is anathema to most advisors, who view the loss of control over one's capital and impossibility of a bequest as nonstarters for their clients. But as clients reach the later stages of their retirement, those arguments no longer apply. A single-premium immediate annuity is superior to a TIPS ladder or a systematic-withdrawal portfolio for funding the last phase of retirement.

2012-04-24 Bruce Greenwald on Structural Imbalances in the Economy by Eric Uhlfelder (Article)

Bruce Greenwald likes to say that he is constituted to disagree with everybody about everything, and he was true to his word at the recent Hyman P. Minksy Conference in New York. Taking immediate exception with the virtually unanimous characterization of the economic crisis as a balance-sheet recession, Greenwald, a professor of finance at Columbia University, argued that, far from being unusual, balance-sheet recessions can in fact be found at the heart of almost all business cycles.

2012-04-17 Two Words to Get in Front of Prospects by Dan Richards (Article)

Even advisors who are successful in every aspect of their business struggle when it comes to getting meetings with prospects. The key is to understand how prospective clients look at requests for action - and to frame anything you ask with two words in mind.

2012-04-17 Muppet Capers by Michael Lewitt (Article)

Investors enjoyed strong stock market and credit market gains during the first quarter of the year, but storm clouds may be forming on the horizon. Corporate profits have likely peaked. Stocks may be the best house in a bad neighborhood, but houses in that neighborhood appear to be fully priced for now. There are also some troubling signs in the bond markets, particularly the long end.

2012-04-10 Flexible Strategies for Longevity Protection: Comparing Two Products by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Products that guarantee income for life can be useful for retirement planning, but many clients also want flexibility and control over their investments. Two products that can meet these objectives are variable annuities with guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits (VA/GLWBs) and deferred income annuities (DIAs).

2012-04-10 Paul Kasriel's Parting Thoughts on the Economy by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Paul Kasriel, the chief economist at Northern Trust, will retire at the end of this month. In this interview, he explains why he is optimistic about the prospects for the US economy and why supposed headwinds - from the price of oil to the housing market - pose much less of a threat than most people believe.

2012-03-13 Investor Communications: Are You Upbeat, or Upfront? by Wendy J. Cook (Article)

When discussing scary markets with your clients, how do you combine the upbeat inspiration they may want with the upfront, honest information they may need to hear? Striking the right balance makes all the difference.

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.

2012-03-06 Five Business Tips from a Top Entrepreneur by Dan Richards (Article)

Financial advisors are classic entrepreneurs, typically starting a business from scratch with the goal of achieving financial security for themselves and their families. That's why lessons from entrepreneurs with a pattern of demonstrated success ? even outside the financial industry ? are tremendously helpful.

2012-02-28 Globalization: Its Saboteurs and Its Chicken Littles by Michael Edesess (Article)

The word 'globalization' provokes both excitement and fear. The excitement has sold millions of Tom Friedman books and turned a drab annual business conference, the World Economic Forum, into one of the hottest events of the year. It is front-and-center in recent tensions between the U.S. and China, and makes the European Union's economic crisis a concern for the whole world. Should we fear or embrace globalization?

2012-02-28 Communication Skills to Outperform Your Competitors by Jack Singer, Ph.D. (Article)

To succeed as an advisor, it's not good enough to have the right products and the right clients. You need to understand your clients' underlying goals and constraints and to develop an atmosphere of trust and understanding. In the course of my work with numerous advisors, I have found that the 'T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S.' model effectively develops those skills.

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 An Innovative Solution to Retirement Income by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

Generating lifetime income is the ultimate goal of retirement planning. Why is it, then, that two of the most compelling mechanisms for doing just that are shunned by the investing public, despite overwhelming support from experts? I'm talking about immediate annuities and delayed claiming of Social Security, both of which are remarkably effective at securing retirement needs.

2012-01-31 Lacy Hunt on the Roadblock to Recovery by Robert Huebscher (Article)

'The fundamental key to prosperity is not governmental financial transactions, or even private sector financial transactions,' according to Lacy Hunt, the widely respected economist at Hoisington Investment Management, with whom we spoke last week. 'The key to prosperity is the hard work and creativity of our individuals in businesses.'

2012-01-31 Barry Eichengreen on the End of the Dollar by Dan Richards (Article)

Barry Eichengreen is a professor of economics and political science at the University of California, Berkeley and a former senior advisor to the International Monetary Fund. In this interview, he discusses the future of the dollar as the reserve currency and the role of the IMF in the Eurozone crisis. This is the transcript of the interview.

2012-01-17 Martin Wolf on the Eurozone and Beyond by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Martin Wolf is widely considered to be one of the world's most influential writers on economics. Since joining the Financial Times in 1987, where he is chief economics commentator, he has received numerous awards for excellence in financial journalism. In this interview, he discusses the Eurozone crisis and prospects for global economic growth.

2012-01-17 Income Annuities versus GLWBs: A Product Comparison by Joe Tomlinson (Article)

The variable annuity with a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit (VA/GLWB) has become the most popular form of annuity, as retirees seek income protection and equity-market participation. But VA/GLWBs are often costly, and the typical purchaser has few tools with which to assess the costs. Investors need a straightforward way to gauge the fees for VA/GLWBs versus other retirement income alternatives.

2012-01-17 Letters to the Editor - the Misreading of Reinhart and Rogoff by Various (Article)

Many readers responded to Robert Huebscher's article, The Misreading of Reinhart and Rogoff, which appeared last week.

2012-01-10 The Misreading of Reinhart and Rogoff by Robert Huebscher (Article)

If the cry for deficit reduction rests on an intellectual framework, it would be the work of Reinhart and Rogoff, whose book, This Time is Different, has been hailed for its historical study of financial crises. A key finding - that growth slows once the ratio of debt-to-GDP exceeds 90% - has been widely cited by those calling for decreased government spending. But those calling for deficit reduction have largely ignored a number of caveats that Reinhart and Rogoff gave with respect to their 90% threshold, and as a result many warn that the US faces a Greek-like sovereign-debt crisis.

2012-01-03 Ghosts of Christmas Past by Michael Lewitt (Article)

While Europe desperately needs the liquidity that the latest bailout scheme provides, nobody should mistake liquidity for solvency and think for a moment that the crisis is over. Much more work is needed to heal the wounds that European policy makers and business leaders have inflicted on their societies since the European Union was formed.

2012-01-03 US Recession - An Opposing View by Dwaine van Vuuren (Article)

A large number of reputable analysts and companies are forecasting a new U.S recession on the immediate horizon. Attracting the most attention is ECRI, which made a public recession call on September 30th and several television reaffirmations since. But an examination of a broader range of other composite economic indicators shows that sole reliance on ECRI's forecast would be misplaced.

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 Five Steps to Succeed in the Retirement Market by Dan Richards (Article)

We've all seen the statistics on the number of boomers entering retirement. And every advisor has been told of the opportunities as new retirees shift from accumulating assets to accessing those savings. Tapping into the retirement is too important to be left to chance - you need a plan. Here are the five steps to make this happen.

2011-12-13 Improving on Buy and Hold: A Buy Signal by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

In my August 2010 article I advocated a market timing strategy, to sell or significantly reduce one's stock holdings in anticipation of a recession or slowdown in the economy and switch into cash or a low-beta Treasury bond fund, and then reverse the process ahead of a recovery. A type-A buy signal was generated on December 9, 2011.

2011-12-06 Small-Cap ETFs: Tail or Dog? by Mariko Gordon (Article)

Now that ETFs represent anywhere from 30% to 40% of small-cap trading volume, the creature that was created to shadow its master has become bigger than the index itself. Let's look at the impact of this rapid growth and the three important questions it raises.

2011-11-29 Do You Really Understand Rates of Return? Using them to look backward - and forward by Michael Edesess (Article)

The basic quantitative building block for professional judgments about investment performance is the rate of return. How well do we really understand it? And how can we use past rates to assess the prospects for future performance? You may be surprised to learn that 'expected return' may not be what you think.

2011-11-08 A Unique Way to Help Clients Close the Retirement Gap by Dan Richards (Article)

Clients facing a shortfall in retirement savings can bridge that gap in many ways. But one technique is often neglected: spending reductions - even small ones - in their everyday lives. A new web site gives clients the tools to quantify and manage those reductions.

2011-11-01 Five Tips from Accountants on How to Get Referrals by Dan Richards (Article)

Over a recent lunch, three partners in a small accounting firm told me how financial advisors should go about getting referrals.

2011-11-01 Regulatory Armageddon by Bob Veres (Article)

Suppose you were somehow able to convince 40 advisors, who are all well-known thought leaders in the profession, to gather in the same room for a six-hour brainstorming session. The goal: to identify the single most important thing that the financial planning profession should be thinking about now. What do you think they'd come up with? Fasten your seat belts, because this may be the most important report you'll read all year.

2011-11-01 Why Invest? by Adam Jared Apt (Article)

Investing has its rational justifications, but like any human activity, it's contingent upon history. American society has come to regard investing in stocks and bonds as a matter of personal responsibility and even an obligation, which in part explains why we invest.

2011-10-25 Miccolis, Bengen and Evensky on the New Challenges in Portfolio Construction by Michael Skocpol (Article)

Conventional wisdom about the best way to construct a portfolio has been discredited, according to three industry thought leaders ? Jerry Miccolis, Bill Bengen and Harold Evensky. Each has distinct visions of the ways in which advisors should build portfolios in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, but all three agree that traditional methods must be scrutinized.

2011-09-27 New Research on Attracting HNW Clients by Dan Richards (Article)

When it comes to winning new clients, most advisors think they need to persuade prospects to replace their existing advisors. But new research shows that an easier course of action is to persuade those prospects that they should supplement the advisor they are currently using. This is especially the case if you're working with high net worth investors.

2011-09-27 When Greece Defaults by Keith Goddard (Article)

The Greek default is indeed inevitable, but there remain two possible ways the world may learn about it, and financial markets will react very differently depending on which of these two processes for default occurs.

2011-09-20 Own Your Brand by Kristen Luke (Article)

Your company's brand is too important to not have total control of your logo. Your designer may have created your logo, but you should have full control over these files. This means having appropriate versions for different applications and owning the rights to your logo.

2011-09-13 An Uncritical Glorification of Hedge Funds by Michael Edesess (Article)

Sebastian Mallaby's book, More Money than God, sheds some light on interesting events in hedge fund history and is strewn with a few valuable insights. Mostly, though, it is a work of serial hagiography. It seems designed to attract worshipers like those who drive by celebrity homes in Beverly Hills.

2011-09-06 No Way Out by Michael Lewitt (Article)

There aren't enough Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerbergs to innovate our way out of the Everest of debt we have built for ourselves (and will continue to build for the foreseeable future). The good news (a purely relative evaluation) is that astute investors will find enormous opportunities in today's markets as they increasingly reflect unsustainable fiscal and monetary imbalances.

2011-08-16 A Commentary on the Correction by Michael Nairne (Article)

Market corrections are always painful and this one particularly so because of the lingering anxiety from memories of the 2008-2009 market crash. I explore the history of stock market corrections and examines the dynamics of the recent downturn as well as actions that may be warranted, depending on individual circumstances.

2011-08-09 Does Government Intervention in Financial Markets Slow Economic Growth? by Michael Edesess (Article)

As we saw with the Dodd-Frank legislation and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the question underlying the debate over financial regulation is whether it stifles economic growth. Leo F. Goodstadt's book, Reluctant Regulators, provides useful insights from the experiences of Hong Kong and China. It also causes us to ponder whether our measurement of economic growth is fundamentally flawed.

2011-08-09 How Conservative Investing Threatens Retirement by Dan Richards (Article)

Just as the Great Depression left a generation with a poverty mentality that still persists, the two bear markets of the last 10 years risk shaped an entire generation's attitude to investing. That's a key finding from a survey of affluent Americans commissioned by Merrill Lynch and released earlier this year, and it raises important implications for how financial advisors should deal with conservatively-minded investors.

2011-08-02 Seven Implications for the Coming Retirement Revolution by Dan Richards (Article)

Most advisors look to seniors as a core part of their client base. That's why it's essential to understand how boomers are going to transform retirement, just as they have redefined every other stage of their lives. Let's look at three new pieces of research and the seven implications they carry for retirement planning.

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 Income Opportunities in Municipal Bonds and Stocks by Robert Huebscher (Article)

In this interview, Brian McMahon and Chris Ryon of Thornburg Investment Management assess the opportunities for income-oriented investors, particularly in the municipal bond market. They answer questions such as when a separate account is better than a fund, and why a barbell is inferior to a laddered portfolio.

2011-07-26 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

A reader responds to our article, Gundlach: A Debt Ceiling Impasse Could Drive Rates Lower, which appeared last week. Another reader responds to Don Moir's letter to the editor, which was in response to Doug Short's commentary, A Short History of Dividend Stocks, which appeared on July 5.

2011-07-19 Sorting Out the Annuity Puzzle by Joseph A. Tomlinson (Article)

Why do so few people buy annuities? Economic theory would predict robust demand for this financial product, especially as the workforce ages, but the reality is quite the reverse. Most efforts to explain this have focused on buyer behavior. But to better understand the annuity puzzle, we need to study the sellers.

2011-07-18 Politicians Are Playing With Fire by Charles Lieberman (Article)

Politicians have the ability to screw up the economy. Investors remain focused on three major concerns: the debt ceiling imbroglio, default risk in Europe and the pace of economic recovery in the U.S. All three may be disruptive and damaging to markets and the economy, although the first two are matters of policy and should be overcome with sensible policy judgments. Instead, the markets remain hostage to the political game of chicken. This will not happen if common sense prevails. Unfortunately, investors lack confidence that politicians will make good decisions.

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 A Million Dollar Meeting Gone Wrong - A Lost Prospect Tells All by Dan Richards (Article)

Over lunch last week, a long-time friend who's a partner at a Toronto law described a recent meeting with a financial advisor seeking his business and how some subtle errors and obvious mistakes cost the advisor the opportunity to do business.

2011-07-05 Sentiment Whiplash by Charles Lieberman (Article)

The equity market rallied about 5% in a mere five days, reversing most of the losses over the prior eight weeks. What drove this turnaround? A whole slew of events suggest a less fearful future. The economic outlook improved, markets in Europe calmed down, as Greece got its capital infusion. Budget negotiations do seem to be making some progress. Incremental capital requirements on systemically important financial institutions were less than feared and the approved interchange fee was greater than expected. And commodity prices have weakened, notably including grain prices.

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 How to Get in Front of High-net Worth Prospects by Dan Richards (Article)

Last week, I got a call from an advisor who used a simple idea to set up meetings with three $2 million prospects. This advisor used some research from one of my recent columns to jumpstart conversations about critical issues for the wealthy.

2011-06-10 Why Bill Gross Doesn?t Like Stocks (or Treasury Bonds) by Sam Parl (Article)

Stocks have come to the end of a ?wonderful journey,? according to PIMCO's Bill Gross, and are now on their own, like ?a baby bird just released from the nest.? The journey Gross spoke of is the multi-decade decline in real interest rates, which have fueled bull markets across ?risk assets,? especially in equities and bonds.

2011-06-07 How to Waste Time Effectively by Wendy Cook (Article)

Ah, the Internet. Could there be a more usefully annoying, time-sucking, time-saver? It's always there, ready to transport us to that crucial bit of information we need - or to distract us far away from what we need to be doing. How do you harness the power of the Internet without letting it gallop off with your valuable time?

2011-05-24 A Sentence that Tripled Referrals by Dan Richards (Article)

This veteran advisor added a six-word sentence to his website - and saw referrals triple as a result.

2011-05-24 A Washington Forecast for Advisors and Investors by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Only entitlement reform can bridge the federal deficit, and your clients should prepare for changes to Medicare and Social Security, according to Andy Friedman. Cost-sharing and means-testing are among the big changes that Friedman sees on the horizon. Don't expect much progress in the near term, though, as Friedman forecast continued gridlock on the budget at least until the 2012 elections are decided.

2011-05-17 Pippa Malmgren on Inflation and its Geopolitical Impact by Robert Huebscher (Article)

The Cold War may have been over for a quarter century, but the inflation-driven challenges that characterized that historical era are heating back up. Today, global volatility is back, according to Pippa Malmgren, who says that commodity-driven inflation will lead to political instability in emerging markets.

2011-05-10 What Return can we Expect from Stocks? by Adam Jared Apt (Article)

What return can we expect from stocks over the long term? This sentence contains four problematic terms: 'return,' 'expect,' 'stocks,' and 'long term.' Intended for the educated laymen, this article considers each in turn.

2011-05-03 The Tension between Belief and Permission by Justin Locke (Article)

It's advice we all get often, but what does it mean to 'believe in yourself?' Such rhetoric sounds great on the surface, but whenever I hear that expression I cringe.

2011-04-19 Managing Exposure to Extreme Markets by Geoff Considine (Article)

Volatility in the equity markets has subsided, courtesy of a strong bull market and fading memories of the 2008 financial crisis. Risks remain, however, ranging from the turmoil in northern Africa to sovereign debt instability in Europe. Investors can take advantage of the complacency in the equity markets by purchasing inexpensive insurance against adverse events.

2011-04-05 A Close Look at the PIMCO-Met Life Retirement Strategy A Marriage Made in Investment Heaven? by Michael Edesess (Article)

If you embrace their recently announced co-marketing strategy, when you're relatively young you use PIMCO's Real Income Funds for stable income in the near term. When you're older Met Life's Longevity Income Guarantee kicks in and takes it from there. You're set with secure income for life. We examine these products more closely and analyze whether they are good deals, either separately or together.

2011-04-05 Is Alpha Dead? by Andreas Steiner (Article)

While beta has been declared dead several times in the past, alpha is a survivor. My diagnosis is that alpha, however, is in very critical condition itself, even under the most optimistic interpretation. A more realistic assessment is that alpha is dead.

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.

2011-04-04 Getting Stronger by Charles Lieberman (Article)

The expansion is getting stronger. Employment gains keep building, key to a sustainable lasting expansion. Adverse shocks could still hurt the expansion, but risks of the expansion faltering on its own are fading fast. This will enable the Fed to begin the lengthy process of unwinding the aggressive addition of excess liquidity into the financial system. The trend in job growth maintained its trajectory in March, strengthening consumers and businesses. Household income gains add to the ability of consumers to finance spending, which adds to corporate profitability and leads to more hiring.

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.

2011-03-29 Change Isn't So Hard by Justin Locke (Article)

Change always encounters resistance. While our natural instinct may be to fight back against that resistance, I have found that a better path is to lessen the original resistance, rather than trying to surmount it.

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.

2011-03-08 Ed Hyman: The Key Threat to Economy Recovery by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Ed Hyman is not worried about China, quantitative easing or fiscal deficits. Equity market performance this year will be strong, he predicts, and the US economic recovery will proceed. But there is a caveat in his outlook ? and it is an immense one.

2011-03-01 Understanding Variable Annuities with GMWBs by Robert Huebscher (Article)

It's very tempting: a variable annuity with minimum lifetime payout that can increase - but never decrease - based on market performance. That temptation comes in the form of an increasingly popular variable annuity rider known as a guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit. We explain the flaws in a widely publicized study by Morningstar/Ibbotson, and provide our own analysis of the product.

2011-03-01 Spring Cleaning for Your Website by Kristen Luke (Article)

Despite the time, thought and energy you spend building your web site, it?s too easy to forget about it and neglect it. It is time for a spring cleaning. Here are seven tips to spruce things up.

2011-03-01 The Real Flaws ? A response to 'Understanding Variable Annuities with GMWBs' by Peng Chen (Article)

Peng Chen challenges our analysis of variable annuities with guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits.

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 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 Undoing Meredith Whitney's Damage by Hildy Richelson, Ph.D. (Article)

Meredith Whitney did the municipal bond market an immense disservice with her misguided comments on 60 Minutes when she predicted massive defaults. Two recent articles in this publication provided accurate rebuttals to her analysis, but they failed to clarify important reasons why muni bond investors do not face the imminent peril that Whitney predicted.

2011-02-08 Be a Problem Setter, not a Problem Solver by Justin Locke (Article)

It's not a good idea to solve every problem. Sometimes, as my experience as a professional musician illustrates, it's better to just make sure everyone knows what the problem is that you want solved.

2011-02-01 Stop Using Outlook for Email Marketing by Kristen Luke (Article)

Unfortunately, many advisors confuse the ability to send hundreds of emails through Outlook with conventional email marketing. Advisors who do this don't know that they are putting themselves at risk of violating the federal CAN SPAM laws.

2011-02-01 Rubbing One's Smell on the Project by Justin Locke (Article)

When you give clients advice, sometimes they ignore it. Though vexing, it is an important reminder that you are their financial advisor and not their financial commander.

2011-01-25 Beyond the Efficient Market Hypothesis by Michael Edesess (Article)

John Cassidy's 2009 book, "How Markets Fail," drives the final nail in the coffin of the Efficient Market Hypothesis. Well, perhaps the penultimate nail - as I'll explain. It is the most compelling argument I have read that we need a new and improved theory of markets, a theory that subsumes the efficient market hypothesis, much as Einstein's relativity theory subsumed Newtonian physics.

2011-01-24 A Malicious Mix of Economics and Politics by Charles Lieberman (Article)

I suspect 2011 will continue to produce its ups and downs (much like the past few years). The European debt crisis is still a big issue. The US Municipal debt (particularly in Illinois) issue is lingering. Congress is still Congress. When and if these issues present themselves and the markets react, we could view those situations as continued buying opportunities since the underlying fundamentals of stocks improve. However, long term investors should not wait for dips to begin investing, but rather start a systematic plan of redistributing cash back into the market.

2011-01-18 Jeffrey Gundlach: The Greatest Investment Opportunity of 2011 and 2012 by Robert Huebscher (Article)

In June of 2007, against a backdrop of strong equity and corporate bond performance, Doubleline's Jeffrey Gundlach was one of the first to warn investors that sub-prime mortgages were 'a total unmitigated disaster, and they are going to get worse.' In an equally bold statement, last week he identified the asset class he considers the greatest investment opportunity for the next two years. Again, it was one for investors to avoid.

2010-11-30 Why You Aren't Getting Referrals - And What to Do About It by Dan Richards (Article)

When it comes to attracting new clients, every advisor knows that nothing beats referrals from satisfied clients. However, many advisors hold fundamental misconceptions about what it takes to get quality referrals. As a result, they either don't talk about referrals at all or do so ineffectively.

2010-11-23 Stop Front-Running the Fed by Keith C. Goddard, CFA (Article)

A change of mindset is in order for bond investors, who must recognize that it is no longer wise to 'front-run' monetary policy by purchasing the same bonds the Federal Reserve is targeting with its latest round of quantitative easing.

2010-11-23 Seeking Beta in the Bond Market: A Math-driven Investment Strategy for Higher Returns by Georg Vrba, P.E. (Article)

Investors seeking permanent exposure to the bond market should invest in high-beta funds during up markets and low-beta funds during down markets. This simple strategy provides consistent long-term returns that are considerably higher than what a static investment in bond funds would achieve.

2010-11-16 Jeremy Siegel on the Upside for Equities and the Virtues of QE2 by Robert Huebscher (Article)

In our annual interview, Jeremy Siegel, the Russell E. Palmer Professor of Finance at the Wharton School, offers his forecast for equities - a 10% to 20% gain in 2011, along with a continued rally through the end of this year. He also explains why the current round of quantitative easing is exactly what is needed to stimulate the economy.

2010-11-09 Finding Your Alternatives by Beverly D. Flaxington (Article)

In everyday life, you know that the first idea you think of to meet a need, or address a problem, may not always the best one. But when it comes to running a firm, far too many advisors never go through a proper brainstorming process to determine which option may be the best one for their firm.

2010-11-09 The Most Neglected Marketing Principle by Kristen Luke (Article)

Often, advisors lack a strategy for following up with prospects if they are not immediately interested in hiring your firm. As the authors of a recent book state, "81% of sales that close, close on or after the fifth contact." It is imperative that you integrate a follow-up strategy in your marketing plan.

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.

2010-10-19 Harvard Experts: Economy is Like a Bus Winding Down a Mountain Road by Charlie Curnow (Article)

Five Harvard economists, including Ken Rogoff and John Campbell, emphasized the need for U.S. policymakers and households to cut down on borrowing and increase savings during a panel discussion on Tuesday, October 13 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

2010-10-05 A September to Remember by Ron Surz (Article)

In his quarterly market analysis, Ron Surz notes that September has historically been the worst performing month for US stock markets, losing 1% on average over the past 85 years, while the average return in the other 11 months was a positive 1.3%. Not so this September. Surz reviews global market performance and provides his thoughts on peer group analysis and target date funds.

2010-09-21 A Bass Player?s Perspective on Leadership by Justin Locke (Article)

A fascinating phenomenon pervades major symphony orchestras. Whenever a new guest conductor steps onto the podium, a musician will know - within two seconds or less - if they will be an inspiring leader. Justin Locke shares his experience as a professional bass player and the insights he gleaned as to what makes for great leadership.

2010-09-14 The Centre Cannot Hold by Michael Lewitt (Article)

"A refusal to shed discredited monetary and fiscal policies and embrace creative and politically bold solutions is keeping our economy mired in high levels of structural unemployment and below-trend growth," writes Michael Lewitt in the latest edition of the HCM Market Letter. He also believes that "misguided faith in Keynesian solutions to debt crises, a near-religious belief that mild deflation must be avoided... and uninformed media hype about the alleged benefits of mergers and acquisitions" should be added to the list of bad ideas that lead economic policy and markets astray.

2010-09-14 Use Client Loyalty to Drive Profitable Growth by Ani Yessaillian (Article)

As a financial advisor, you simply can't afford to lose clients, writes Ani Yessaillian in this guest contribution. No matter how many new investors walk through your front door, you'll never be able to grow your business if you're losing dissatisfied clients out the back. Client loyalty is crucial to profitable growth.

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.

2010-08-24 How to Choose the Right Social Media Archiving Strategy by Blane Warrene (Article)

Advisors who have embraced social media as an important component of their marketing and service toolbox must monitor and manage the content they distribute. In this guest contribution, Blane Warrene discusses how to collect and store postings and comments made by you and others on social media platforms and store the information in a readily accessible database.

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?"

2010-08-10 Performance that Plan Sponsors Value Most by Jeffrey Briskin (Article)

Advisors serving 401(k) plans may successfully improve investment performance, only to find out that the plan sponsor is totally unsatisfied. In this guest contribution, Jeffrey Briskin relates a recent conversation that made that painfully obvious, and a recent study by his company confirmed that such outcomes occur all too often.

2010-08-03 Woody Brock: How to Achieve Growth without 'Bad' Deficits by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Of all the challenges facing our nation, none is as daunting as trying to achieve economic growth and reduce unemployment without adding layers of debt to our already bloated deficit. Legislators and economists have debated the merits of stimulus measures, changes in tax rates, and monetary policies, but they are no closer to a consensus than they were at the onset of the financial crisis. H. 'Woody' Brock, however, says a genuine solution is possible.

2010-08-03 Rebuilding Confidence in Stocks by Dan Richards (Article)

These days, there's a cloud of uncertainty over markets, with questions about economic growth, government deficits, the timing and impact of interest rates increases, unemployment levels and the housing market. As Dan Richards writes, this environment is when advisors can bring value, by providing perspective on both sides of the debate about the value that stocks provide at today's levels.

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.

2010-07-27 Robert Shiller: A Cautious Outlook for Stocks by Dan Richards (Article)

Dan Richards recently spoke with Robert Shiller, the Yale economist who foresaw the financial crisis and created the Case-Shiller housing index. Shiller discusses the potential for a double-dip recession, valuations in the US equity market, and the outlook for a housing recovery. This is the transcript of the interview.

2010-06-29 Jeff Gundlach: The US will 'Politely Default' on its Debt by Robert Huebscher (Article)

Jeff Gundlach's keynote address at last week's Morningstar conference documented the immensity of U.S. debt obligations and the lack of choices available for alleviating that burden. As he has stated in the past, he does not view inflation to be a threat in the capital markets today. He cited six options open to policy makers, but believes a seventh - some form of default - is most likely.

2010-06-29 Winning Clients...By Being Dumb by Justin Locke (Article)

In this guest contribution, Justin Locke says "looking dumb" is a better strategy than trying to be smarter than your clients and prospects. Locke is a professional musician and author of a book we previously reviewed, The Principles of Applied Stupidity, and he outlines a key tactic to persuade prospects.

2010-06-29 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

In our letters to the editor, readers comment on two of last week's articles: Improving on Morningstar's Ratings: Moving Beyond Past Performance and The New Roth Rules: Are Your Clients Converting? Survey Results - April/May 2010.

2010-06-22 Niall Ferguson on Japan, China, and the US by Dan Richards (Article)

Harvard's Niall Ferguson is arguably today's leading economic historian. In part two of this interview, Ferguson explains why he fears the future is bleak for Japan, why China may someday be the leading global superpower, and what all this means for the US. We provide a video and a transcript.

2010-06-22 Three New Ways to Use LinkedIn to Market Your Business by Kristen Luke (Article)

LinkedIn is constantly evolving and has become a better marketing tool in the process, writes Kristen Luke. If you haven't logged in recently, here are three new ways you can use the site to market your business.

2010-06-15 Three Steps to Start Building a Powerful Center-of-Influence Network by Ani Yessaillian (Article)

In a time when multiple referrals sources are required for profitable growth, it's imperative that financial advisors accelerate their referral-building efforts by proactively creating a powerful center-of-influence network. Whether you're just getting started or have a network already in place that you want to develop further, Ani Yessaillian offers several initial steps can help you sharpen the focus and efficiency required to cultivate relationships with those who are most likely to provide coveted introductions.

2010-06-01 The Essential Quality that Sets Top Performers Apart by Dan Richards (Article)

Ask industry veterans about what really sets top producers apart and you'll get lots of suggestions, says Dan Richards. Intellect, discipline, work ethic, people skills and focus would all be put forward - and a case can be made for the importance of all of these. There is one attribute, however, that every true top performer has in large quantity.

2010-06-01 Social Media & Reputation Management for Financial Advisors by Dan Sommer (Article)

As a financial advisor, your reputation is one of your most important prospecting tools. While the internet presents a wealth of marketing benefits, one downside is potentially losing control of your reputation. In this guest contribution, Dan Sommer shows how to make sure that doesn't happen.

2010-05-25 The Prospecting Approach that Works Today by Dan Richards (Article)

The problem with viewing a prospect conversation as an event is that you have to ask for a firm commitment at the end of any interaction - whether it is a request to meet when talking on the phone or asking for a decision to invest when meeting face-to-face, according to Dan Richards. All too often, that request will be premature - and if it's too soon in the process, the prospect feels under the gun. Richards offers a solution.

2010-05-25 Sleeping with the Enemy by John W. Pfenenger II, CFA (Article)

When it comes to investing, our worst enemy may be the one we see in the mirror every morning - ourselves. In this guest contribution, John Pfenenger looks at how emotions affect investment decisions, and how understanding behavioral economics can help advisors work with their clients.

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 Predicting Financial Crises by Charlie Curnow (Article)

MIT Sloan School senior finance lecturer Mark Kritzman thinks he has found a warning signal to predict the onset of financial crises in a new statistical model called the absorption ratio. The absorption ratio predicts systemic risk by measuring how tightly markets are coupled, and thus how vulnerable they are to the spread of negative shocks.

2010-05-11 Join a Professional Association ? Just Not Your Own Profession by Kristen Luke (Article)

Don't limit your involvement in professional associations to your own profession, says Kristen Luke. To actively market your business, spend more time with professional associations that pertain to your prospective clients than for your own industry.

2010-05-11 Tagline, You?re It by Wendy J. Cook (Article)

Have you ever noticed that it can be easier to write a 6,000-word treatise than to come up with six perfect words, like, say, "You're in good hands with Allstate®"? As Wendy Cook writes, sometimes less is more - more frustrating, that is. How do you say a lot with a little in corporate taglines?

2010-04-27 Investing Insights from Doctors by Dan Richards (Article)

Dan Richards works out in the early mornings with a psychiatrist, who recently forwarded an article in the New York Review of Books by Jerome Groopman, a physician and frequent writer on the challenges of modern day medicine. As Dan read it, he was struck by the parallels between the things that cause doctors and investors to go wrong.

2010-04-20 Unconventional Wisdom: An Interview with Robert Shiller by John Heins (Article)

"Few macroeconomic prognosticators have been as publicly right as Yale's Robert Shiller,whose first and second editions of the book Irrational Exuberance laid bare, with remarkable timing, the speculative bubbles forming first in the Internet-crazed stock market and next in residential real estate," writes the highly regarded newsletter Value Investor Insight in its preface to this interview with Shiller and excerpt from his latest book. Value Investor Insight, which bills itself as the "Leading Authority on Value Investing, offers a no-obligation, one-month free trial subscription.

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.

2010-04-06 A Q1 Letter to Send Clients by Dan Richards (Article)

Dan Richards provides the latest in his very popular series of quarterly letters for advisors to send to their clients. This Q1 2010 article combines the attributes he considers essential: a balanced outlook, candor, short enough for clients to get through yet long enough to be substantial, fact-based, and customizable to your own voice.

2010-04-06 A Review of "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis by Michael Edesess (Article)

"The Big Short" tackles the financial meltdown as seen by four relatively minor, but colorful players. (Minor means running only hundreds of millions, not billions.) All of them were voices in the wilderness, writes Michael Edesess, our reviewer. All of them bet heavily against the subprime real estate bubble that, for a while, fueled huge gains.

2010-03-23 Hard Lessons from a Lost Account by Dan Richards (Article)

A couple of weeks ago Dan Richards talked to an investor who had recently switched advisors - and who provided an example of the stress that investors experience when they're not sure whether their advisor is really on top of their financial affairs. "What I look for are people who are proactive and are always thinking about my situation so that I don't have to," an investor told Richards. "That's what I look for in my accountant, that's what I look for in my lawyer - and that's what I look for in my financial advisor."

2010-03-16 Rational Deficit: An Interview with Dan Ariely by John Heins (Article)

Through creative research and clever articulation of his ideas, behavioral economist Dan Ariely has established himself as one of the brightest thinkers today on the subject of human decision-making, particularly with respect to influences of which we are largely unaware. In this wide-ranging interview with the investment newsletter Value Investor Insight, Ariely describes the unwitting biases that can lead to bad decisions and what investors can do to guard against them.

2010-03-09 The New Rules of Marketing - A Roundtable by Dan Sommer (Article)

Given the ever-shifting landscape of information consumption and consumer behavior, financial advisors have been forced to change their thinking about the way they market themselves. In this guest contribution, Dan Sommer speaks with two investment professionals who answer a series of marketing-related questions for advisors.

2010-03-09 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

In our letters to the Editor, readers respond to a number of recent articles, including the charity challenges posed by Roger Schreiner and Dave Loeper, the active v. passive debate, Morningstar ratings, and our article on the PIMCO Total Return fund.

2010-03-02 Massachusetts Pensions in Crisis by Charlie Curnow (Article)

We wrote in the past about the perilous situation of public pension systems nationwide, and the Massachusetts state pension system is no exception. The severe problems Massachusetts faces - created by years of generous worker benefits and declining asset values - mirror challenges faced by many other states.

2010-02-09 6 Ways to Make the Most of your Web Site by Nancy Opiela (Article)

Whether your web site is an online brochure to attract prospects or tool to enhance client communication, small changes can generate big returns. Even if your site already has the right look and feel, here are six ways it can still be improved.

2010-02-09 Transforming Your Business with an Integrated Solution by Marie Swift (Article)

Marie Swift evaluates the various systems and processes that are kicked-off at a typical firm from one of the most common client interactions - an inbound call. Many firms work with disparate software systems and utilize far too many manual tasks - resulting in duplicate data entry and poor customer service. Conversely, Marie evaluates this same scenario utilizing an integrated software and services solution, Tamarac Advisor 9, and finds dramatic gains in efficiency, accuracy and overall firm profitability. We thank Tamarac for their sponsorship.

2010-01-26 The Potemkin Market by Michael Lewitt (Article)

We are again privileged to publish the current issue of Michael Lewitt's newsletter, titled The Potemkin Market. Lewitt updates his forecast for the S&P 500, criticizes the current financial reform efforts and the ongoing GSE bailout and Fed Chairman Bernanke. Lewitt argues that risk is overpriced in many segments of the market.

2010-01-22 Policy Incompetence by Charles Lieberman (Article)

While the objective [of President Obama's proposed bank regulatory policy] is laudable and the financial system is in need of new regulations to protect it more effectively, the proposed approach i

2010-01-19 To Trust or Not To Trust, That is the Question by Mariko Gordon (Article)

Last year's financial roller-coaster ride may have you convinced that the less you trust, the better off you'll be. Recent research, however, supports Daruma's Mariko Gordon's long held belief that "too little" trust can be just as detrimental to investment gains as "too much."

2010-01-19 Letters to the Editor by Various (Article)

Readers responded to a range of topics in our letters to the Editor: our Paul Krugman interview, our article last week on the causes of the financial crisis, our article on the true cost of insuring the uninsured, and our article on costless collars using options.

2010-01-12 The Financial Crisis Post-Mortem: Suicide, Accident or Murder? by Michael Skocpol (Article)

Since the stunning collapse of America's financial system in 2008, questions have swirled around how we got here and who's to blame. The subsequent finger-pointing has yielded few answers, but now one economist has taken a cue from CSI's Gil Grissom and Law and Order's Jack McCoy. He performed an autopsy.

2010-01-05 The Falling Dollar: Should We Worry? by Elisabeth L. Talbot, CFA (Article)

Over the past several months, it has become increasingly fashionable to refer to the decline of the U.S. dollar as another financial "crisis." Yet, given the current state of the global markets, declaring that the dollar's recent losses amount to a "crisis" is an overstatement, says Elisabeth Talbot in this guest contribution. To the contrary, current conditions surrounding the dollar are arguably supportive of - if not integral to - economic recovery.

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.

2009-12-08 Cleaning up Messes by Dan Richards (Article)

Whether it's a phone call to a difficult client, a meeting with a retiree whose portfolio has been hit hard, a tough conversation with an underperforming staff member or getting through a mountain of filing, most of us have at least one issue on which we have been procrastinating for weeks, months, maybe even years. Dan Richards gives some tips for dealing with tough issues.

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.

2009-12-01 Think Like a Marine by David Raileanu (Article)

Retired Marine Patrick Gould has just published a book, Prudent Decision Making in an Imprudent World, and his theories prove useful for understanding decision-making in all arenas, not just those that involve life-and-death decisions. He applies many of his theories of risk, reward, preparation, security, and asset management to the financial world, working from modern portfolio theory and ultimately offering a practical decision method.

2009-11-24 Buy Bonds and Not Bond Funds by Hildy and Stan Richelson (Article)

Record inflows into longer-term bond funds in the last six months have provided investors purported relief from the near-zero returns in money market funds. Do not mistake those inflows or rising prices for an endorsement of bond funds, write Stan and Hildy Richelson in this guest contribution. Bond funds are inferior to individual bonds, as those who are now buying bond funds may soon discover.

2009-11-17 Disheartened by Michael Lewitt (Article)

We are again privileged to publish an excerpt from Michael Lewitt's HCM Market Letter. In this issue, titled "Disheartened," Lewitt argues that the powers-that-be are making limited progress addressing the structural problems in the economy, and that the greatest challenge is to achieve budgetary discipline.

2009-11-10 Letters to the Editor ? The ?V? Points Downward by Various (Article)

In a letter to the Editor, a reader responds to our article, The "V" Points Downward.

2009-10-20 Finance After Auschwitz by Michael Lewitt (Article)

We are again privileged to provide an excerpt from Michael Lewitt's HCM Market Letter. In this installment, Finance After Auschwitz, Lewitt examines the dangers posed by Iran, whether the market is overvalued, the future of securitization, and what should be done about the private equity industry.

2009-10-13 Seven Ways to Reach Prospects in the New Normal by Nancy Opiela (Article)

Extravagance is out and frugality is in. Finding happiness in what we can afford is what sells. With many investors implicitly or explicitly bracing for the New Normal and lower returns from the capital markets, advisors need to rethink their marketing programs to be consistent with their clients' tempered expectations.

2009-10-06 A Quarter-End Letter to Send Clients by Dan Richards (Article)

Last fall, Dan Richards began posting quarter-end letters that advisors could adapt for their own use. Many advisors have told him that they have received an outstanding response to the letters they sent as a result, and Dan provides a template for a third-quarter letter.

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.

2009-09-22 Predictably Irrational - How Investors Frame Decisions by Robert Huebscher (Article)

One of the most provocative sessions at last week's Schwab Impact conference was given by Dan Ariely, who deftly summarized his current research in the important field of behavioral finance. Ariely's message was that, no matter how good their intentions or how deep their experience, people - investors specifically - consistently make the wrong decisions. They behave irrationally, and predictably so.

2009-09-22 Disaster Management, The Green Beret and Lamaze Way by Mariko Gordon (Article)

Few of us respond as easily or effectively as we might like in the face of disaster. In this guest contribution, Mariko Gordon takes a look at why, and offers three things to keep in mind the next time you're in the midst of a crisis, financial or otherwise.

2009-09-15 The Key to Trading and Investing in ETFs by Paul Weisbruch (Article)

In this guest contribution, Paul Weisbruch argues that an ETF does not require a certain amount of trading volume in order to be liquid. The underlying securities of the ETF determine its liquidity. Many within the industry do not grasp this reality and are missing out on a lot of quality ETFs.

2009-09-08 Make the Most of your Networking after the Event by Kristen Luke (Article)

After a networking event, the standard practice for most advisors is to send an email, make a phone call or mail a handwritten note. But what happens after the initial contact? Is there a system in place to continue following-up in the coming weeks, months and years, even if there is not an immediate fit? This is where most advisors fail in their networking strategy, according to Kristen Luke.

2009-08-25 Building a Practice in America?s Fastest Dying City by Robert Huebscher (Article)

While many - perhaps most - advisors use client appreciation programs as part of their marketing efforts, Mo Young has embraced this idea and made it his sole marketing focus. Young's practice is based in Youngstown, Ohio - which has the distinction of losing population more rapidly than any other city in the US - yet Young has added several hundred new clients over the last four years with his strategy.

2009-08-25 The Case for Optimism by Dan Richards (Article)

Only a few months ago, economist's doomsday scenarios caused widespread concerns that we were about to revisit the Great Depression. That consensus view on the economy has shifted remarkably quickly, with a much more positive outlook for the immediate period ahead. Dan Richards cites two recent articles making a persuasive case for optimism.

2009-08-18 New Rules of Growing Your Book of Business: Microblogging with Twitter by Dan Sommer (Article)

Twitter has quickly become one of the fastest-growing and most talked-about marketing channels on the web. In this guest contribution, Dan Sommer explains how this rapid growth and wide adoption across many demographics makes it ideal for financial professionals looking for new ways to reach potential clients and build thought leadership.

2009-08-11 How to Construct a Marketing Plan and Budget by Kristen Luke (Article)

One way to significantly increase the chances of marketing success is to develop a marketing plan and stick to it. Kristen Luke says forget the formal marketing plan and just outline your marketing activities and budget, and she provides a step-by-step guide for you to follow.

2009-07-28 How Long is the Long Run? by Robert Huebscher (Article)

How long must one be invested in the equity markets to have full confidence that they will earn superior returns (as compared to bonds) and overcome the risks of bear markets? We look at the historical record to see how stocks have fared against bonds for various holding periods, and we look at research by Zvi Bodie and Mark Kritzman on this topic.

2009-05-19 Five Ways to Cultivate Professional Referral Relationships by Kristen Luke (Article)

If you are looking to make professional referrals a key strategy for your business, you will want to develop dozens of relationships. Kristen Luke shows how to efficiently nurture these relationships with an action plan to touch your centers of influence throughout the year, just as you would your clients.


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