Q1 Letter to Clients

If there’s a message to take from 2023 markets, it is this: Timeless wisdom best informs timely decisions.

Here’s how Morgan Housel describes the same in his new book, “Same as Ever.”

“The typical attempt to clear up an uncertain future is to gaze further and squint harder—to forecast with more precision, more data, and more intelligence. Far more effective is to do the opposite: Look backward, and be broad. Rather than attempting to figure out little ways the future might change, study the big things the past has never avoided.”

Following are a few timeless tenets that offer timely investment insights for the year ahead.

There’s Never a Good Time to Time the Market

Perhaps most obviously, last year demonstrated how randomly—and rapidly—markets can move. As The Wall Street Journal reported at year-end:

“Almost no one thought 2023 would be a blockbuster year for stocks. They could hardly have been more wrong.”

Another financial journal observed:

“What was supposed to go up went down, or listed sideways, and what was supposed to go down went up — and up and up. The S&P 500 climbed more than 20% and the Nasdaq 100 soared over 50%, the biggest annual gain since the go-go days of the dot-com boom. … ‘I’ve never seen the consensus as wrong as it was in 2023,’ said Andrew Pease, the chief investment strategist at Russell Investments.”

Many financial pundits offered elaborate explanations for the year’s fortunes, and why (in hindsight) their projections were so far off. While their reasons may be accurate, the implication is, were it not for this, that, or the other thing, their forecasts would have been correct.

The problem is, there’s almost always “this, that, or the other thing” going on in this big, busy world. Thus, it really should come as no surprise that routine surprises regularly randomize the market’s next moves.

We’ve known this for years—since at least 1973, when Burton Malkiel published the first edition of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.” Even after 50 years, Malkiel’s message represents one of the most timeless truths explaining why we don’t try to time market trends.

Beware of Catchy Catchphrases

In 2023, just seven stocks within the S&P 500 Index explained almost two-thirds of the index’s total annual gains. Their striking performance scored them the catchy title, “Magnificent Seven.”

What should we expect for this star lineup in the coming year? Search today’s popular press, and you’ll find timely tips galore on whether to bulk up on more magnificence, or sell while the selling is good. Forecasts hinge on the usual suspects: Whether inflation rises or falls, a recession lands or recedes, technologies advance or retreat, and so on.

Taking a more timeless view, we would suggest being wary of celebrated stocks bearing trendy titles. Chasing after stellar returns with their own nicknames may work for a while. But eventually, one of those “surprises” tends to come along, turning once-hot stocks into cold plays.

Which brings us to our next timeless tenet.

Diversification Is Perennially Prudent

Viewing 2023 up close, there may be a temptation to chase after the market’s recent winning streak, bulking up on more of that which has been so pleasantly surprising of late.

Zooming out, our perspective remains unchanged: Maintain a globally diversified portfolio, tailored for your needs. Treat an allocation to the Magnificent Seven (and the next trend, and the one after that) as one of many “pistons” powering the market’s perennial growth. But pair it with effective diversification, to temper the inevitable upsets that await us in the year(s) ahead.

In this spirit, I wish you a well-diversified investment portfolio in 2024, along with abundant concentrations of health, happiness, and harmonious well-being for you and yours.

 

 

4 Financial Best Practices for Year-End 2023

Scan the financial headlines these days, and you’ll see plenty of potential action items vying for your year-end attention. Some may be particular to 2023. Others are timeless traditions. If your wealth were a garden, which actions would actually deserve your attention? Here are our four favorite items worth tending to as 2024 approaches … plus a thoughtful reflection on how to make the most of the remaining year.  

 

1.     Feed Your Cash Reserves

With basic savings accounts currently offering 5%+ annual interest rates, your fallow cash is finally able to earn a nice little bit while it sits. Sweet! Two thoughts here:

Mind Where You’ve Stashed Your Cash: If your spending money is still sitting in low- or no-interest accounts, consider taking advantage of the attractive rates available in basic money market accounts, or similar savings vehicles such as short-term CDs, or U.S. Series I Saving Bonds (“I Bonds”). Your cash savings typically includes money you intend to spend within the next year or so, as well as your emergency, “rainy day” reserves. (Note: I Bonds require you to hold them for at least a year.)

Put Your Cash in Context: While current rates across many savings accounts are appealing, don’t let this distract you from your greater investment goals. Even at today’s higher rates, your cash reserves are eventually expected to lose their spending power in the face of inflation. Today’s rates don’t eliminate this issue … remember, inflation is also on the high side, so that 5% isn’t as amazing as it may seem. Once you’ve got your cash stashed in those high-interest savings accounts, we believe you’re better off allocating your remaining assets into your investment portfolio—and leaving the dollars there for pursuing your long game.  

 

2.     Prune Your Portfolio

While we don’t advocate using your investment reserves to chase money market rates, there are still plenty of other actions you can take to maintain a tidy portfolio mix. For this, it’s prudent to perform an annual review of how your proverbial garden is growing. Year-end is as good a milestone as any for this activity. For example, you can:

Rebalance: In 2023, relatively strong year-to-date stock returns may warrant rebalancing back to plan, especially if you can do so within your tax-sheltered accounts.

Relocate: With your annual earnings coming into focus, you may wish to shift some of your investments from taxable to tax-sheltered accounts, such as traditional or Roth IRAs, HSAs, and 529 College Savings Plans. For many of these, you have until next April 15, 2024 to make your 2023 contributions. But you don’t have to wait if the assets are available today, and it otherwise makes tax-wise sense.

Revise: As you rebalance, relocate, or add new holdings according to plan, you may also be able to take advantage of the latest science-based ETF solutions.  We’re not necessarily suggesting major overhauls, especially where embedded taxable gains may negate the benefits of a new offering. But as you’re reallocating or adding new assets anyway, it’s worth noting there may be new, potentially improved resources available.

Redirect: Year-end can also be a great time to redirect excess wealth toward personal or charitable giving. Whether directly or through a Donor Advised Fund, you can donate highly appreciated investments out of your taxable accounts and into worthy causes. You stand to reduce current and future taxes, and your recipients get to put the assets to work right away. This can be a slam dunk strategy to avoid an embedded capital gain and get a tax deduction for the full value going to the charity of your choice.  If you have appreciated assets, considering gifting these and holding on to your cash.

 

3.     Train Those Taxes

Speaking of taxes, there are always plenty of ways to manage your current and lifetime tax burdens—especially as your financial numbers and various tax-related deadlines come into focus toward year-end. For example:

RMDs and QCDs: Retirees and IRA inheritors should continue making any obligatory Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) out of their IRAs and similar tax-sheltered accounts. With the 2022 Secure Act 2.0, the penalty for missing an RMD will no longer exceed 25% of any underpayment, rather than the former 50%. But even 25% is a painful penalty if you miss the December 31 deadline. If you’re charitably inclined, you may prefer to make a year-end Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD), to offset or potentially eliminate your RMD burden.

Harvesting Losses … and Gains: Depending on market conditions and your own portfolio, there may still be opportunities to perform some tax-loss harvesting in 2023, to offset current or future taxable gains from your account. As long as long-term capital gains rates remain in the relatively low range of 0%–20%, tax-gain harvesting might be of interest as well. Work with your tax-planning team to determine what makes sense for you.

Keeping an Eye on the 2025 Sunset: Nobody can predict what the future holds. But if Congress does not act, a number of tax-friendly 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provisions are set to sunset on December 31, 2025. If they do, we might experience higher ordinary income and capital gains tax rates after that. Let’s be clear: A lot could change before then, so we’re not necessarily suggesting you shape all your plans around this one potential future. However, if it’s in your overall best interests to engage in various taxable transactions anyway, 2023 may be a relatively tax-friendly year in which to complete them. Examples include doing a Roth conversion, harvesting long-term capital gains, taking extra retirement plan withdrawals, exercising taxable stock options, gifting to loved ones, and more.

 

4.     Weed Out Your To-Do List

I love this one…it is at the top of my improvement goals.  Doing less instead of staying busy with more.  This year, we’re intentionally keeping our list of year-end financial best practices on the short side. Not for lack of ideas, mind you; there are plenty more we could cover.

But consider these words of wisdom from Atomic Habits author James Clear:

“Instead of asking yourself, ‘What should I do first?’ Try asking, ‘What should I neglect first?’ Trim, edit, cull. Make space for better performance.”

JamesClear.com

 

Let’s combine Clear’s tip with sentiments from a Farnam Street piece, “How to Think Better.” Here, a Stanford University study has suggested that multitasking may not only make it harder for us to do our best thinking, it may impair our efforts. 

“The best way to improve your ability to think is to spend large chunks of time thinking. … Good decision-makers understand a simple truth: you can’t make good decisions without good thinking, and good thinking requires time.”

Farnam Street

 

In short, how do you really want to spend the rest of your year? Instead of trying to tackle everything at once, why not pick your favorite, most applicable best practice out of our short list of favorites? Take the time to think it through. Maybe save the rest for some other time.

Quarterly Letter to Clients

The first three months of the year would not be described as boring by any stretch of the imagination.  With the war in Ukraine continuing to create global uncertainty and the government-assisted closing of two of the largest regional banks in history, there is plenty to capture our short-term focus.  But even with these and other events, many stock indexes are up since early January and bond prices have seen some recovery as interest rate pressure has eased a bit. The point is that sometimes investment returns can tell a different story than does the current headlines.

However, whether the numbers are up or down in any given year, we caution against letting them alter your mood, or as importantly, your portfolio mix. Because, when it comes to future expected returns, short term performance is among the least significant determinants available.

Thumbs Down…Thumbs Up

In the thumbs-down category, U.S. stock market indexes1  turned in annual lows not seen since 2008, with most of the heaviest big tech stocks2 taking a bath. Bonds fared no better, as the U.S. Federal
Reserve raised rates to tamp down inflation. The U.K.’s economic policies3 resulted in Liz Truss becoming its shortest-tenured prime minister ever, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s continued COVID woes kept the global economy in a tailspin. Cryptocurrency exchanges like FTX4… well, you know what happened there.

On the plus side, inflation has appeared to be easing slightly, and so far, a recession has yet to materialize. A globally diversified, value-tilted strategy5 has helped protect against some (certainly
not all) of the worst returns. An 8.7% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)6 for Social Security recipients has helped ease some of the spending sting, as should some of the provisions within the newly enacted SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022.

Recency Bias

Now, how much of this did you see coming last January? Given the unique blend of social, political, and economic news that defined the year, it’s unlikely anything but blind luck could have led to accurate
expectations at the outset.

 In fact, even if you believe you knew we were in for trouble back then, it’s entirely possible you are altering reality, thanks to recency and hindsight bias. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig7 ran an experiment to demonstrate how our memories can deceive us like that. Last January, he asked readers to send in their market predictions for 2022. Then, toward year-end, he asked them to recall their predictions (without peeking). The conclusion: “[Respondents] remembered being much less bullish than they had been in real time.”

In other words, just after most markets had experienced a banner year of high returns in 2021, many people were predicting more of the same. Then, the reality of a demoralizing year rewrote their memories; they subconsciously overlaid their original optimism with today’s pessimism.

What have we learned?

Where does this leave us? Clearly, there are better ways to prepare for the future than being influenced by current market conditions, and how we’re feeling about them today. Instead, everything we cannot yet know will shape near-term market returns, while everything we’ve learned from decades of disciplined investing should shape our long-range investment plans. 

In other words, stay informed but be careful to not be swayed into a reactive decision. Keep your long-term lenses on and your future self will thank you for it.
 

As we head into a new quarter, always know that we are here to help and are grateful for your
continued trust.

Josh

 

Quarterly Letter to Clients

Well, we made it to 2021 so how are you feeling?  The start of a new year can breed hope for new possibilities.  Even though 2020 was oppressive to most in so many ways, I do think we can still hold hope for the new year.  I have never been one to focus on New Year’s resolutions as they always felt like a recipe for disappointment (I know that is not the case for everyone, though).  What I am striving for this year is not new resolutions, but rather strengthening routines.  Routines feel more in my control, and if 2020 taught anything, it is to control what we can control.  One of these areas for me is to practice gratitude.  I have begun by thinking of 3 things I am grateful for each night before I go to sleep.  It is refreshing and encouraging to think on these things.  When we talk later this year, feel free to check on my progress with this.  This is just one small example, and I am sure that you have others that jump to your mind.  Let me encourage you to pursue practices like this for the sake of your own mental health in 2021.

Speaking of control…

You likely have heard us say in the past that market performance is not an area that any of us have control.  Because of this, it is wasted energy to focus and worry about market movements.  You should spend that energy doing things you can control: spend less than what you make, avoid debt, build cash reserves, plan your generosity and plan your future – practical principals that have an outsized impact on your life.

Small, quiet acts

Whether the temptation is to abandon a free-falling market (like the one we encountered less than a year ago), or chase after winning streaks, an investor’s best move remains the same.  Concentrated bets on hot hands generate erratic outcomes, which makes them far closer to being dicey gambles than sturdy investments.  Trust instead in the durability of your carefully planned investment portfolio. Focus instead on small, quiet acts.  That is what we are here for, for example, to:  
  • – Remind you that your globally diversified portfolio already holds an appropriate allocation to Tesla stock (which may be a lot, a little, or none, depending on your financial goals.
 
  • – Guide you in rebalancing your portfolio if recent gains have overexposed it to market risks.
 
  • – Help you interpret the 5,600 pages of the newly passed Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, so you can manage your next financial moves accordingly.
 
  • – Assess potential ramifications of the Biden tax proposals and advise you on any additional defensive tax planning that may be warranted for you in the years ahead.
 
  •  -Remain by your side as you encounter whatever other challenges and opportunities 2021 has in store for you and your family.
  These are not loud acts that you will read about in the paper, but they are the stuff financial dreams are made of.  2021 will be interesting to say the least, but let’s hold onto the hope and possibility that a new year brings.  Stay healthy, stay grateful and know that we are here to help.   Josh, Mike, Matt and Sandra  

Fee Reductions

Happy New Year!  I hope this message finds you well after enjoying the holidays.  I just have a quick note to share to start off our new year.  A longer post will be coming later this week as our quarterly letter to clients.

2020 was a tough year on many fronts, but one thing it taught us is that market performance in the short term is wildly unpredictable.  In addition, short-term performance will likely have a small impact, if any, on your probability of success with your own financial goals.  So it is really not worth your mental energy to ever spend a moment worrying about your short term investment performance.   Plus, none of us really have any control over investment performance.

What do we have control over?  From a planning and investment standpoint, we discuss fees quite often, and look to reduce this financial headwind where possible because this is something we can control.  Most of our clients have Dimensional Funds as core holdings in their portfolio, so we were happy to hear this fall that they announced that fees would be reduced across a broad range of their equity funds effective February 2021, representing an approximate 15% reduction on an asset-weighted basis.  They were already significantly lower than the average mutual fund expense ratio, so this is a great move in the right direction.  It is exciting because it means that, all else equal, our clients will get to keep more of the investment’s returns which will have a compounding effect on wealth over the years.

Reducing fees is only one way to increase your wealth over time.  Let us know if you would like to discuss the other planning tools that can be used to increase wealth as well.

April 2020 – Quarterly Update: Covid-19 Edition

This will be the quarter that we look back on and never forget.  It was the time that a virus spread with a silent vengeance, and the world came to a screeching halt.  You may be feeling quite disoriented, fearful or even anxious as you read this note since ‘normal’ for all of us has been shaken to its core due to Covid-19. You are likely hunkering down at home, which is what you should do, with little of your regular activities to keep you busy.  If you are like me, it literally feels like the earth has stopped spinning on its axis.  Up is down, and right is left.  Trust me when I say that it is completely normal to feel this way in the context of what we are dealing with as a human species.

I do not come to you with answers or any conclusions that will change the world…there are people that are much smarter than me working on that now, and I have confidence that they will figure it out.  But I can bring some encouragement and suggest some small actions that might, just maybe, help us feel like planet earth is starting to rotate once again.

What can you do?

The spread of Covid-19 has impacted the global economy with a speed and impact that is unlike anything seen in our lifetime.  This does not mean that happiness and contentment are totally out of your control, however.  Mindset is key…start by realizing that the sun still rises every morning like the picture at the top of the article.  There is new hope with each new day.  I am sure you have found, as have I, that there is now more time to watch movies, read a book, take a distance-appropriate walk to enjoy the spring weather or call someone (yes, actually call them rather than text) to see how they are doing.

If you are sheltering at home with loved ones, you have probably seen them more in the last two weeks than you have for months.  We should all continue to do more of these things, and the more we do, the more connected we will stay.  I am not a loquacious extrovert, but I have thoroughly enjoyed being around and talking with the ones I care most about.  And the more connected we stay, the more human we will feel.  This is where happiness and contentment hide, not in your investment portfolio or the latest round of news.

What are we doing?

Actions taken during times of fear in the markets will have implications for years to come.  The question is whether they will be positive or negative.  For the long-term investors, which are clients that we serve, volatility creates opportunity.  We have taken advantage of this opportunity by tax loss harvesting, which allows us to realize the losses for tax savings, but then invest the proceeds right back in something else so the money is never out of the market.  The tax savings for our clients this year will be significant.  We have also looked to strategically rebalance portfolios.  Because some of the fixed income assets have gains over the last year, we have sold those gains to go buy equity funds that are now at a discount.  It rebalances the ship and holds to the strategy of selling high and buying low.

What is next?

The fact is, I don’t know.  No one does, but that’s OK.  We are still waiting on the details of the massive Stimulus bill that was signed into law on March 27th.  There are too many details for me to summarize here.  If you want a deep dive in to the details, you can find that here.  I plan to write more on this soon, but if you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to call our office.  We are all working remotely, but the extensions still ring right to us.  Know that we are here to help in this time of uncertainty.  Your well-being is of greatest concern to us, and not just financially.  Be safe, be smart, and be part of the global solution for everyone by staying home.

We will see you soon,

 

Josh, Mike, Matt and Sandra

A Covid-19 update from your PLC Wealth team

To say the last couple of weeks have been unexpected, unparalleled and dizzying would still be understating exactly what we have lived through in the last few weeks.  Based on further news today (specifically, the Stay at Home Orders issued by Wake County, NC for our local clients), most of us will be sheltering in place for the coming weeks, as we should.  I have listened intently, as I am sure you have, to all sides of the discussion that has carried on since the beginning of the outbreak.  At this point, the experts are making the case for the seriousness of the virus as it spreads exponentially, and that it is likely that the healthy and optimistic among us could be putting our most vulnerable at risk.  Slowing down our movement even further, whether by choice or by requirement, seems to be inevitable for a while longer to give us all the best opportunity to get through this.  While we do not know how long this Covid-19 virus will last, I want to take a few moments to speak to you directly about what we are doing as a firm and how you can continue to reach us during these times.

We have implemented many changes in the last couple of weeks as part of our Business Continuity Plan due to Covid-19.  Thankfully, we were prepared for a remote working environment, and hopefully you have seen no interruption in the normal service from our team.  We have all set up our home workspace.  This give us access to our email, phone calls, and client files just as easily as we have them in the office.  Our phone service is fully digital which means we can take it with us wherever we go.  If you call the office and dial my extension, it will ring my mobile phone.  If I call you from my mobile phone, I will be doing so from my office line.  We also have a fully digital and secure document management system for our firm which means we can safely access all your files at any time of day from any location in the world.  Additionally, all our portfolio management, financial planning and client relationship software is cloud-based and accessible from any location.  Believe it or not, it really did not take much time for PLC Wealth to convert to a virtual firm with the same capabilities as when physically in the office.

Now, obviously, there are some challenges.  It is impossible to fully replace the face-to-face relationship, both for our internal operations and for our client relationships.  We are utilizing a secure and compliant messaging tool for internal communications.   While there may be times that we need to access the office, we are attempting to have only a 1-person max in the office at any time.  We will also plan to continue with client meetings moving forward through virtual meeting technologies such as Zoom.  If you do not have access to a computer for such a meeting, we can still have a conversation the old school way…over the phone…in order to make sure that we do not fall behind in our relationship with each of you.  Again, if you need us in the meantime, we are an email or phone call away, just as we have always been.

There are a few logistical items to cover: First, mail will be checked regularly, but maybe not every day.  Additionally, we have always made the effort to suggest linking your personal bank account to your brokerage accounts to allow for quick money movements back and forth, should they be necessary.  Since we are no longer at the office, a time like this makes it necessary.  So, if you need to make an IRA contribution or want to add funds to your brokerage account, we can still do that by an electronic transfer.  Getting money from your accounts is just as easy, or we can have a check mailed to you.  The bottom line is that getting money from your accounts or to your accounts is just as easy as always.  Finally, if you have actual stock certificates, those must be mailed directly to TD for deposit in your account, so just let us know if you need the mailing address.

Unfortunately, times of crisis create opportunities for bad actors.  There are already stories of scams coming to the surface, so be prepared and know what to look for:

 

  1. – There are no miracle drugs or remedies for Covid-19 at this time so don’t fall for this one.  And do not click on any links that may be in an email stating such things, as the link may be another way to inject a virus on your computer.
  2. – Be very skeptical of any investment ‘opportunities’ with research claims that are no supportable.  People will make wild claims to prey on other’s hopes and inability to use the rational brain in times of stress.
  3. – Never, never, never disclose your social security number, account numbers, or any other piece of Personally Identifiable Information (PII).  There are rumors that spam calls and emails are already going out claiming that thsi information is needed to get your piece of the Stimulus bill or a tax refund.  Hold on to your PII like you (financial) life depends on it.
  4. – Generally, just be skeptical in these times of anything that seems too good to be true.  If you are not sure, get in touch with us to talk through it.

 

Let me leave you with a little encouragement in the midst of Covid-19 .  Take this time to do something that many of us no longer do naturally on our own…slow down, exercise (by yourself), rest, re-energize, call someone you haven’t spoken with in a while, or binge watch movies with your family that you never have the time for…but mostly, just look around you to see all of the blessings that you inevitably still enjoy.  Sometimes, when we are not able or willing to do that which is in our best interest, it is necessary for it to be forced upon us.  We find ourselves in one of those times in history.  We are a creative and adaptive species so I look forward to hearing about some of the ways that you will get through this…because you will get through this.  I will leave you with three pieces of advice that I am confident will be good for you in the long run…Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and don’t touch your stocks.  Know that we are committed to continuing to serve you and your family. We will strive to provide you with an even higher level of service than that which you have come to expect from us.  If you need anything at all, even if it is just to have a conversation about the events of the day, please let us know.  We are here to help.

Carpe diem,

Josh and the PLC Wealth Team

January 2019 – Quarterly Review: “Average returns” are rare

What if Charles Dickens had begun his classic “Tale of Two Cities” as follows: It wasn’t the best of times, it wasn’t the worst of times, it was the usual mixed bag.

While the statement may reflect reality, it doesn’t grab your attention half as well as Dickens’ actual opening sentence describing the French Revolution. As he concluded about the period, “some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Thus, we’ve long known about our infatuation with extremes – Best! Worst! Delight! Despair! These are the sentiments that fuel our dreams and inspire our works of art. But you do yourself a disservice if you allow superlatives to rule your investing. In capital markets, if you get caught up in extremes and devalue the sweeping tides of time, you risk giving up your greatest edge: a clear-eyed understanding of what’s really going on.

As we reflect on the events of 2018, here are two evidence-based points worth repeating:

1. “Average” annual investment returns aren’t typical; in fact, they’re rare.

To quote a more contemporary source than Dickens, Cliff Asness of fund manager AQR recently observed: “This world is pretty much designed to convince us that we’re always at DEFCON 1, when 5 is the mode and 4.5 the mean.”

Other year-end analyses concluded that market volatility for 2018 remained on the low side. Even the wilder swings toward year-end were not that remarkable in the grand scheme of things.

And yet, many “noisiest authorities” have been quick to play up the superlatives, while downplaying how these sorts of best of times, worst of times conditions have long been more the norm than the exception in capital markets. As expressed in this Forbes column, “when you take the long view – and if you’re a long-term investor, then you should – you’ll see that what feels jarring right now is actually just a return to normal levels of short-term volatility.”

This brings us to our second point.

2. You are human; you are susceptible to recency bias.

While there are many behavioral biases that trick us into sabotaging our best financial interests, we’re especially interested in the damage recency bias could cause in current conditions.

Recency bias can trick your brain into downplaying decades of robust market performance data, while magnifying the run of unusually calm market conditions we’ve been enjoying relatively recently – essentially since March 2009. This in turn may lead you to lend more weight than is warranted to current volatility.

That’s not to say the ride will be fun if we encounter more turbulence ahead. But by remembering extremes are actually the norm in your quest to generate durable long-term returns, you stand a much better chance of preserving your objective perspective and your portfolio, come what may.

We are grateful for the opportunity to remain at your side, ever eager to advise your course through whatever the markets have in store for us in 2019 and beyond. How can we help? Let us know!

Ring in the new year with…Financial Planning!

December 20th, 2018

By Matt Miner

Dear Clients and Friends,

At PLC Wealth we enjoy a good New Years party as much as anybody.  But we also know that the end of the year can be a chance to pause and reflect on how 2018 went, and what we aim to change in 2019.

We think it’s terrific to take some time to move from undefined “hope” to vision, and from vision to goals, and from goals to specific plans to make things happen in your life and your family.  As our friend Dave Ramsey says, “Goals are visions and dreams with work clothes on.”

If you’re ready to get a jump on 2019, here are a few financial best practices for the year ahead. Pick one or two of them to tackle.  Give us a call if you’d like to work together to translate these goals into specific plans you can achieve or begin to achieve in the coming year.

1. Do nothing

Seriously. If you have a well-built investment portfolio in place, guided by a relevant investment plan, your best move in hyperactive markets is to let that plan be your guide. That often means doing nothing new with your holdings except your planned, periodic rebalancing. We list investment inaction as a top priority, because “nothing” can be one of the hardest things to (not) do when the rest of the market is in perpetual motion!

2. Double down on your planning

In order to advance your SANF (“Sleep at Night Factor”) in volatile markets, you must have a relevant plan in place that you understand.  That plan guides your portfolio and your new investments. A fresh new year can be a great time to tend to your investment plan – or create one, if you’ve not yet done so. Have any of your personal goals changed, or will they soon? How might this impact your investment mix? Have market conditions put your portfolio ahead or behind schedule? Are you unsure where you stand to begin with? It’s time well-spent to periodically ensure your plan remains relevant to you and your personal circumstances.

3. Prepare for the unknown with a rainy-day fund

Time will tell whether 2019 markets are friendly, foul, or (if it’s a typical year) an unsettling mix of both. Having enough liquid, rainy-day reserves to tide you through any rough patches is a best practice no matter what lies ahead. Knowing your near-term spending needs are covered should help with both the practical and emotional challenges involved in leaving the rest of your portfolio fully invested as planned, even if the markets take a turn for the worse.

4. Redirect your energy to contributing financial factors

While you’re busy staying the course with your investments, you can redirect your attention to any number of related financial and advanced planning activities. While you don’t necessarily need to act on everything at once, it’s worth reviewing your financial landscape approximately annually, and identifying areas in need of attention. Maybe you’ve got a debt load you’d like to reduce, or an estate plan that’s no longer relevant. Perhaps it’s been too long since you’ve reviewed your insurance line-up, or you’d like to revisit your philanthropic goals in the context of the latest tax laws. Refreshing any or all of these items is likely to contribute more to your financial success than will fussing over the stock market’s daily gyrations.

5. Perform a cybersecurity audit

Protecting yourself against cybercriminals is another excellent use of your time. With the new year, revisit a a few basic, protective steps:

Enable two-factor authentication on important accounts

Change key passwords on your most sensitive login accounts

Review your credit reports (using AnnualCreditReport.com)

Place a freeze on your credit file, to block unauthorized access (now free, based on recently enacted federal law)

Especially with child identity theft on the rise, these actions apply to your entire household. Unfortunately, even minor children are now at heightened risk.

6. Have “that money talk” with your kids, your parents, or both

When is the last time you’ve held any conversations about your family wealth? It’s never too soon to begin preparing your minor children for a financially literate adulthood. As they mature, their financial independence rarely happens by accident, with additional in-depth conversations in order. Then, as you and your parents age, you and your kids must prepare to step in and assist if dementia, disability or death take their tolls. There also can be ongoing conversations related to any legacy you’d like to leave as a family. For all these considerations and more, an annual “money talk” can be critical to successful outcomes.  If you’d like help completing this task, PLC Wealth is ready to work with you to get it done.

7. Make 2019 a year you absolutely crush it in your work, business, or volunteer efforts

All of us are engaged in some kind of productive activity that puts us into contact with other people.  This may be our career, our own business, a non-profit organization we serve, or simply running our family’s household.

We all have things we’d like to be different in our daily situation.  As you conclude 2018, think back on items you would like to change in 2019.  Focus on what you can change or influence, not what you can’t, concentrating your efforts your “locus of control.”  For example, if you have a difficult boss or co-workers but you don’t want to change your actual employment, change how you respond emotionally to a difficult situation.  Use tactics like focusing on what you are grateful for in this context, getting more exercise, or having that difficult conversation with someone about why a situation has become problematic for you.

Many of us have room to be more organized and focused on the vital few that really matter.  Make a plan for how to tune out the noise and get the right things done.

Two great resources here are Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  If you don’t love reading, try an Audible audio book while you exercise or commute.

So, there you have it: seven creative ways to bolster your financial well-being while the stock market does whatever it will in the year ahead. While this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope you’ll find it an approachable number to take on … with two critical caveats.

First, we’ve got a bonus “financial best practice” to add to the list:

Above all else, remember what your money is for.  Money is meant to fund your moments of meaning.  At PLC Wealth, we want our clients to live rich, not die rich.

Second, we recognize that each of these “easy” best practices aren’t always so easy to implement. We could readily write pages and pages on how to tackle each one.

But instead of writing about them, we’d love to help you take action on these steps.  At PLC Wealth, we work with families every day and over the years to convert their dreams into plans, and their plans into achievements. We work in the context of single-issue planning engagements, comprehensive financial planning, and investment management.  We hope you’ll be in touch in the new year, so we can partner with you.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you and your family from the team at PLC Wealth – Josh, Mike, Sandra, & Matt