There’s always something happening at IAG Wealth Partners. From “Power Break” seminars, client appreciation events, and our Wealth Management Symposium to community and charitable activities by our advisors and staff, we invite you to see what we’ve been up to!
I’m back to talk about another very important aspect of life insurance. Beneficiaries. You all know what that means. It’s the person that benefits from the policy once you are no longer “alive and vertical”. Remember, the policy is not for your benefit, it is for the benefit of the people that mean the most to you in this life.
Every three years, the advisors at IAG Wealth Partners go through an exercise of reviewing beneficiary information with their clients when they are meeting with them for their regularly scheduled financial overview. We are just finishing up on that review year (June 2020 – June 2021). Remember last week when I said that life insurance is not a set it and forget it proposition? Your beneficiary information is one of the very critical reasons why that is.
A few weeks ago, I saw a meme on Facebook asking about a subject you could talk about for 30 minutes that you never imagined yourself knowing much about. Strangely enough, the topic of insurance was the first thing that came to my mind. Seriously. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, it would never have involved insurance, so to be writing about it today is really weird.
On Sunday, my oldest son graduated from high school. We are very proud of his accomplishments, and he is already enrolled for his next steps at Waukesha County Technical College.
The great news about a graduation is that you can’t go backwards. Once you earn that diploma or degree it is yours to keep for the rest of your life. What you do with the skills and knowledge you gained is entirely up to you.
After your last graduation, real life typically begins. You become a student of experience which will teach you far more than your teachers or professors ever did.
The financial markets work the same way.
When you are considering purchasing an item or service, which is more important to you – the price or the amount, quality, and usefulness of that item or service?
Pick amount, quality, and usefulness alone and you could pay thousands of dollars for the world’s best paper clip.
Pick price alone and you could end up owning a Yugo.
Yet, the general public typically only looks at one factor when judging how the stock market is doing – what did the S&P 500 Index do today?
One of the most popular buzz words in the financial markets these days is transitory. You will likely be hearing that word quite frequently in the coming months as the financial markets’ short-term direction is likely dependent on your belief in it.
Just over one year ago, the monetary and political leaders of our country resolved to reignite a shuttered economy at all costs. The Federal Reserve slashed their overnight interest rates to almost nothing and promised to keep them there indefinitely. They also dusted off and expanded programs from the Global Financial Crisis to keep the financial wheels turning and support bond prices by buying assets.
Last week the House Ways and Means Committee approved a bipartisan (yes, you read that correctly) bill that makes significant changes to retirement planning.
The Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2021 (H.R. 2954) is a sequel to the SECURE Act of 2019 which also passed with strong bipartisan support. Its nickname is SECURE Act 2.0 as lawmakers are hoping it will pass with the same ease.
As you may recall, the 2019 SECURE Act made significant changes such as increasing the age at which Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) must begin to age 72 and limiting the life of inherited retirement accounts to 10 years. The SECURE Act 2.0 also includes some impactful provisions that could alter your financial plan if it is signed into law.
Every hike begins with a plan. Pick an idyllic location and gauge how far you or your family can walk. Be prepared with water, nutrition, and any defenses you may need against nature (sun block, insect repellent, or bear spray).
Yet, no matter how much you plan and prepare, unexpected twists and turn can throw you off course.
Last week the Biden Administration laid out its plans for a hike. While we do not know whether the tax hikes below will unfold as planned, we can certainly sense the direction they are heading:
Spring has sprung, and the grass has started greening up and growing again. Thus, adventures in lawn mowing have begun at our house.
Lawn mowing brings out some significant contrasts in my family. There are two distinct approaches that my family members take.
My 15-year-old son is responsible for mowing a specific section of our yard as part of his family responsibilities. His objective is to accomplish this task in as little time as possible. He even Googled the fastest way to mow a lawn to maximize his odds of posting a top speed, and now follows that mowing pattern every time.
It seems like I spend more time focusing on PSI (pounds per square inch) in spring than any other time of the year.
All of the kids’ basketballs, footballs, and kickballs that sat in the garage all winter need some air. All of the family’s bike tires need to be reinflated before the first ride of the year. The car and camper tires all need to be checked.
Until you stop and think about it, you probably don’t realize how important proper inflation is to your everyday life.
We know they are coming. The conditions are turning in their favor. The air is getting warmer. The rain is creating standing water.
Yes, the mosquitoes are coming.
Can you predict exactly what minute of what hour of what day you will receive your first mosquito bite this year? Neither can I.
One of the more common questions we are receiving from clients right now is similar in nature.
During spring training, I saw several commentaries by sports writers about how the Milwaukee Brewers had significantly upgraded their defense in the off season.
Sure enough, four games into the season the Brewers are under-erroring the competition by a score of 2 to 3.
The challenge is they have only (barely) won one game during the first 2.5% of this season and are currently on pace to finish 40-122. Ouch!
Apparently, winning requires more than under-erroring the competition.
How would you feel after successfully making 49,000 consecutive free throws, executing 49,000 perfect days of parenting in a row, or assembling 49,000 flawless motorcycles?
Doing something perfectly 50 times a day, seven days a week, for 32 months can certainly build your confidence. You may even start to believe that your skills are infallible.
Overconfidence can be the beginning of disaster, and the last week provided two very different yet similar outcomes driven by overconfidence.
Overall record. Strength of opponents. Individual and team statistics. Shooting percentage. Rebounds. Steals. Turnovers.
The selection committee that determines the seeding for teams in the NCAA basketball tournament has an overabundance of information at their fingertips when evaluating what seeding a team deserves. Rumor has it they also use artificial intelligence to enhance their decision-making process.
Opportunity knocks, but that persistent harsh knocking sometimes creates fear instead of joy.
Next week Tuesday, March 23rd, marks the one-year anniversary of the end of a harrowing one-month 34% plunge for the S&P 500 Index – a representative basket of 500 U.S. large companies.
In the week leading up to that low point traders were panicking and flailing about as they tried to comprehend how a global pandemic would impact the economy and individual companies. The S&P 500 Index was down 12% one day, up 6% the next, then down 5% the following day.
Fear gripped traders’ imaginations.
Today the U.S. House of Representatives is likely to approve the latest stimulus package to offset COVID-induced economic shutdowns. It is now on its way to President Biden’s desk for signature into law.
While previous bipartisan stimulus packages have passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate, this latest $1,900,000,000,000 version barely passed along strict party lines.
What is the difference between this more contentious stimulus package and previous popular ones?
Signs of spring are all around us right now. The Sandhill cranes returned this past weekend; flocks of robins showed up in my backyard; and I can actually see other vehicles over the snow piles when backing out of my driveway.
One year ago today the United States confirmed its ninth death from COVID-19 and reported 126 total COVID infections. From there we entered a dark COVID winter.
Today we are seeing signs of spring.
Every year the youth group at our church holds a pine car derby for the kids. It is a fantastic night of competitive fun.
Some kids (and parents) really get into it. They invest hours designing their car to maximize its speed potential. They study aerodynamic designs, axle angles, wheel lubrication, and weight placement. They spend days carving, sanding, and painting their speed machine. They are in it to win it.
In my mind, spring begins on March 1. That leaves just over two weeks until I likely encounter disappointment that it is not warmer outside.
Our seasons certainly can bring surprises, but they tend to average out over time. Do you remember December of 2020? We only had half of our normal snowfall in December, but our total precipitation was normal and we had one thunderstorm. The high in Milwaukee on December 23 was 57 degrees.
Most Americans do not like being called needy. It conjures up images of weakness, vulnerability, and dependency in a culture that tends to favor rugged individualism.
Yet, if there was one phrase I would use to describe the stock market at this point in time it would be need E.
While the calendar turned to 2021 just over four weeks ago, your mailbox will likely be full of important memories of 2020 in the coming weeks.
‘Tis the season to collect, organize, and eventually file your 2020 income tax returns. Here are some important reminders as you begin your tax filing process:
2020 is not over.
Over the next six months, reality will unfold one day at a time and we will know whether traders have properly evaluated the economic trajectory for the United States.
In the best-case scenario, …
For every inauguration there must be an equal and corresponding “outaugaration.” If it isn’t already, this should be one of the primary laws of politics.
Only one person can hold a public office at a time, and today we witness the transition of significant power from one President to the next. For investors this can be a time of uncertainty and stress.
I have seen enough mob mentality at work over the last twelve months to last my lifetime. From Portland to Kenosha to Washington, D.C., destructive physical mobs have left a path of devastation and chaos.
It is impossible as individuals to reflect on the actions of a mob without asking ourselves, “What were they thinking?”
The short answer is many of them were likely not thinking.
While most of us hold moral beliefs that would prevent us from ever destroying other people’s lives or property, we also have a natural tendency to go along with a crowd.
Rarely is a new year welcomed with more enthusiasm and less celebration than 2021. Good riddance to 2020, but the only people watching the ball drop in Times Square were security personnel.
My sense is that people are embracing 2021 with such enthusiasm because they fully expect a return to normal by the end of the year (if not sooner). I can certainly understand the appeal of not wearing masks, freely gathering with friends and family, going to a restaurant, attending a baseball game in the summer, and all of the other normal activities that disappeared in 2020.
All of this optimism certainly lifted the financial markets at the end of 2020. However,
On Sunday the President signed into law H.R. 133, The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.” It is a culmination of months of negotiations regarding both COVID-19 relief measures and the federal budget for fiscal year 2021.
If printed, each copy of this 5,593-page piece of legislation would consume 5.5 reams of paper (assuming you printed on both sides) and stand over 11 inches tall. It includes some provisions that will impact financial planning and others that are “just interesting.”
Christmas is coming!
While Christmas will likely be different this year, the expectations of children still grow measurably as the number of opened days on the Advent calendar increase.
There is something about mystery that is fascinating.
If the Green Bay Packers’ defense surrenders 24 points to the Detroit Lions, how many points could the Kansas City Chiefs score against them? With the Packers’ prolific offense, does it really matter?
Tomorrow evening IAG typically hosts hundreds of clients, friends, and family for our annual Christmas Wine & Cheer event. The mood is typically quite festive, the food is always excellent, and the hum of cheerful conversations sometimes even echoes into the following morning.
Alas, we reached the easy decision that gathering hundreds of people in a closely confined space for hours of conversation is not in anyone’s best interest at this moment in history. This is just one more victim of a fairly cheerless year.
Out of the generosity of its heart, Congress waived most Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) in 2020. They will likely be back in 2021.
RMDs are the proscribed annual amount that folks over age 72 must take from their tax-deferred retirement plans to fulfill their promise to the government that they will pay income taxes on their accounts.
If there was ever a year when Thanksgiving should be cancelled, you may think that 2020 is it. Let’s review a few of the reasons you may have to be unthankful this year:
- Loss of life
- Overwhelmed health care workers
- Economic shutdowns and job losses
- Mask-covered faces
- Isolation, quarantines, and cancellations
- Shootings and protests
- The grind of daily uncertainty
Traders have short memories and even shorter attention spans.
Just a couple of weeks ago they were wholeheartedly confused about the future, causing an inversion. Today their enthusiasm seems almost unjustified.
In the past week both the S&P 500 (U.S. large companies) and the Russell 2000 (U.S. small companies) have reached record highs. Small company stocks had not reached a new record high for over two years – since August 31, 2018. Large company stocks last set a record high on September 2 before electionitis set in.
How can traders be so upbeat when we are reaching record level of COVID hospitalizations,…
Today is a day dedicated to those who have made personal sacrifices for our country.
Veterans Day started as Armistice Day in 1938, a day commemorating the end of fighting in the so-called Great War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In 1954 Congress changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
Yesterday is now in the rearview mirror. Almost four years of committed effort, trillions of words, and billions of dollars flowed through the last election cycle, and today the 2024 Presidential campaign begins.
While there may be some uncertainty still lingering about yesterday’s election results, the results of the 2024 Presidential election are even more uncertain. The long-term future is generally less predictable than the next few days.
Everywhere I look these days I find subtle reminders that that our season has once again changed to fall.
This coming Sunday we reach the end of Daylight Savings Time and fall back one hour. Enjoy the extra hour of sleep (or let the kids think you are letting them stay up late). While completely predictable, this change messes with my internal clock by making it really dark in the evening.
The number of cases continues to climb rapidly. It appears to be spreading across our state and our country at a pace that is accelerating.
The range of people’s reaction to this prolonged period of uncertainty is quite wide. Some folks have adopted a strategy of self-isolation while others seem to be openly inviting infection.
This continued spread is taking its toll on the collective psychology of our nation.
Today’s blog is the second in a two-part series regarding how a potential Democratic sweep in the November elections could impact your financial plan. Please read last week’s blog regarding itemized deductions and capital gains taxes here.
Today we focus our attention on income taxes, Social Security payroll taxes, and estate taxes.
We are now under one month until Election Day 2020, and it appears increasingly likely that the Democratic Party has a greater than 50% chance to control the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and the Presidency starting in January 2021.
As we learned in 2016, the pollsters and pundits are far from perfect. If the electorate that actually votes by November 3 is significantly different from the population they are polling, the results could vary widely.
New Year’s Eve is one of those holidays that sneaks up on me every year since I stopped working on Capitol Hill. It is difficult to believe another year is slipping away at 11:59:59 pm tonight when the federal government closes its books on one of the most extraordinary budget years in our country’s history. Tomorrow morning we start a brand new budget year.
When we began this budget year on October 1, 2019, the world was a different place.
Over the course of this year my fifth grade daughter and I have had a fairly consistent bedtime routine. About 45 minutes before lights out, we sit together and I read her a chapter from the Harry Potter series. We are now reading the fifth book of the series, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
Almost every chapter we read follows a similar pattern that builds through the book which my daughter finds a little frustrating on occasion. The beginning of the chapter provides some background and moves the story along, but the ends of the chapters are typically cliffhangers that leave her imagination wondering where the story goes from there.
Concentration was not my strength as a grade school student.
One day in second grade I packed up my bag and started walking home when the bell rang for first recess. I had just spent the previous who knows how long daydreaming instead of listening to Mrs. Sebald.
Let’s say on February 18 you had a premonition. A really strong premonition.
You saw the COVID-19 outbreak surging in Italy and thought that it would soon be arriving in the United States. You correctly diagnosed the negative impact on the American people, our economy, and the financial markets.
On August 30th Warren Buffett celebrated his 90th birthday. While many people admire Mr. Buffett solely for his investment prowess, I admire Mr. Buffett more as a person.
This was supposed to be Milwaukee’s year of national prominence. The Democratic National Convention was supposed to attract tens of thousands of visitors to southeast Wisconsin in mid-July.
Alas, Milwaukee’s time in the limelight was stolen by a microscopic menace, and now the Democratic National Convention is running unconventionally with only a skeletal crew based in its host city.
Being unconventional does not come easy to most people. We seem to have a built-in tendency to try and fit in with other people. Yet, being unconventional can also be rewarding.
A very long time ago on December 31, 2019, the U.S. government’s total debt amounted to a mere $23,201,380,134,806.73.
Today that amount has grown to $26,498,433,296,171.26, an increase of $3.3 trillion or 14% in a matter of 7.5 months. Given the fiscal response necessary to keep our economy from complete collapse during a global pandemic, many would say this debt addition is well worth it.
Now Congress is negotiating another pandemic response bill that could add another $1 to $3.5 trillion to the debt. Having suspended our country’s debt limit until August 1, 2021, Congress has left itself plenty of flexibility for driving the debt higher.
But at what point does the national debt become unsustainable?
Twenty years ago today you could purchase a 10-year Treasury bond and earn a snappy 5.97% per year for the next 10 years.
If you had saved up $500,000 for your retirement, your nest egg could provide you with $29,850 per year of income with minimal risks to your principal.
Today you can purchase a 10-year Treasury bond and earn a paltry 0.56% per year for the next 10 years.
Your $500,000 nest egg can now provide you with an underwhelming $2,800 per year of income with minimal risk to your principal. To achieve the same $29,850 of annual income that was available in 2000 with minimal investment risk your nest egg would need to be a whopping $5,330,357 today.
In speaking with many of our clients these days we are finding one overarching theme – a bit of nervous tension. After everything that has happened so far in 2020, who can blame anyone for being a bit on edge?
We yearn for the daily routines that we previously thought were mundane. We want to hug our grandchildren again. We want to clear our minds of any microscopic menaces. We just want normal. Now.
June was officially the most expensive month in the entire history of our country. The federal government spent $1,104,903,000,000 last month in an effort to offset the economic contraction triggered by COVID-19.
That comes to about $3,350 for each of our 330 million residents. In one month.
This is likely the beginning of a very important experiment that may take decades to unfold: How much debt is too much debt?
One positive side effect of extremely low interest rates is that mortgage rates have plummeted to near-record lows.
If you (or your children) have a mortgage and your income has not been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 economic downturn, today’s mortgage rates may present an opportunity to lower your interest costs, reduce your monthly payments, or pay off your mortgage more quickly.
How do you know whether refinance is profitable for you? In the end it all boils down to math, so here are three key questions to ask:
How often does the IRS give you permission to do something illegal?
If you own a beneficiary retirement account and took your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) early in 2020, this could be your lucky day.
As you likely know, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law earlier this year permitted taxpayers to skip taking their 2020 RMDs. This includes both taxpayers who have reached RMD age (either 70.5 or 72 depending on when you were born) and taxpayers who own beneficiary retirement accounts.
With our weekly blog writer on vacation, we’d like to bring you a Blast From the Past with Scott’s blog, Road Trip, originally published April 4, 2018. A little over two years later, this seems incredibly timely.
Are you or your family planning a road trip this summer?
When your family takes a long road trip you can likely predict the overall attitude of the clan upon arrival based on two key ingredients: time and distance travelled.
While most families are really close, an extended period of time in close quarters can sometimes drive them apart. Quirky habits become annoyances. Conversations can run in circles. Games can run out of gas.
If the time invested in the car results in great progress toward a much-anticipated destination the family can maintain a positive attitude over time by focusing on that mutual goal.
With our weekly blog writer, Scott Heins on vacation, we thought we would bring you one of Scott’s original blogs. This one, Back to the Future was originally published October 21, 2015
Your alarm goes off tomorrow morning. You open your eyes and start your morning routines, but something feels different. Your first glance at the mirror reveals a person that looks 30 years older than you were the night before. Are you dreaming? Nope. Somehow the world moved 30 years forward overnight and today is October 21, 2045.
Since our weekly blog writer, Scott Heins is on vacation this week, we thought we would bring you a Blast From the Past. This blog, Irrational Exuberance was originally published March 22, 2017.
One of the most frequent questions our clients are asking us these days is, “When will the market correction come?”
There is a sense that perhaps traders have bid up asset prices to unsustainable levels and a future price adjustment is inevitable and imminent – perhaps starting as soon as yesterday. We both agree and disagree with this sentiment.
We agree that asset prices appear to be fully priced based on long-term historical valuation metrics. We agree that a future price adjustment is inevitable as that happens almost every year. However, we disagree with the conclusion that this means a market correction is necessarily imminent.
Odds are increasing that March 23, 2020, was a significant bottom in the financial markets. There is always the possibility that this low will be retested if economic conditions deteriorate, but those odds shrink slightly with every day that goes by.
The days leading up to March 23 were filled with fear, including a harrowing one-day drop in the S&P 500 Index of 12% just one week earlier. The 34% tumble from the February 19 record highs was fastest onset of a bear market in history. Emotional traders were in outright panic selling mode.
But then two unexpected actions threw a wet blanket in the middle of this panic party, and a market bottom was born.
Summer finally arrived in southern Wisconsin just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
After being cooped up by COVID-19, many people decided beautiful weather was just what they needed to be out and about this past weekend with family, friends, and even public crowds.
What happens over the next 7-10 days will likely have a significant impact on public health policy and the financial markets going forward.
If current COVID-19 cases start climbing we can expect more stringent social distancing requirements to be put in place and a negative reaction from traders who have been optimistically projecting a return to “normal” sooner rather than later.
Companies that earn profits are more desirable to own than those that don’t. That seems easy enough.
The real question is how early before profitability are you willing to own a company? Many companies lose money for years before they either gain traction or succumb to failure. Even companies like Apple and Microsoft were once floundering startups that faced numerous life-threatening challenges along the way to becoming global successes.
The current economic reshuffling makes it even harder to predict future earnings for companies big and small, and thousands of stock analysts are paid to calculate those predictions every day.
Accurate information is an extremely valuable asset when making life-altering decisions.
Excessive or inaccurate information is a liability that leads to confusion instead of clear-headed decisions.
While I am neither an epidemiologist nor a professional statistician, it appears to me that we may be getting lost in excessive and potentially inaccurate data in making COVID-19 response decisions.
Understanding both current and historical decision-making often requires two sets of data. One data set documents the evidence on which decisions are made. It is always incomplete and full of information gaps. Decision-makers never have access to real-time accurate data.
“Jigsaw Puzzle Industry Warns of A Shortage of Jigsaw Puzzles” blares the headlines. “Puzzles Sell Out During the Pandemic.”
Apparently my family is like many who must find cooperative activities for homebound family members. Since March we have had puzzles in varying states of completion on the dining room table for any family member that wants to help put the pieces together. Whether it is five minutes or an hour, working together can be fun.
It can also reveal what you are escaping.
I sense that we have reached a quadruple inflection point in our country’s pandemic progress, and the next few weeks will be pivotal in determining how the rest of 2020 unfolds.
Inflection Point 1: Flattening the curve. The mantra since COVID-19 first appeared has been to “flatten the curve” to ensure our health care system is not overwhelmed like Italy. This strategy has worked except for a few isolated hotspots.
It turns out that making our contagious world safer by shutting down people’s lives is much easier than making it “more dangerous” again.
As I observe people’s varying viewpoints on the appropriate level of risk to take, I can’t help but surmise what their investment portfolio must look like.
Supersafers would likely prefer that Safer at Home restrictions be upgraded to Safest at Home. They were the first to adopt facemasks and self-isolate.
Six months ago it was October 15. Odds are you were at least thinking about carving pumpkins, buying or creating Halloween costumes, or maybe even picking up some Halloween candy.
Little did you know that that Halloween candy – or the candy collected by your children a couple of weeks later — would be serving as your primary rations during an economic shut down six months later. Or that the toilet paper mummy costume you saved for next year would prove so useful in a pinch.
Predicting what your life will be like six months into the future is really hard.
I feel like it is March right now.
I really do not like March. Gritty snow piles, gloomy days, cold rain, and brown lawns have no appeal to me. It is like the calendar and weather patterns conspire to pack every environmental irritant I have into one singular month.
The only way I can slog through March is that I have higher expectations for April and May.
You likely have heard of the giant $2 trillion economic stimulus package working its way through Congress. While it is not quite law yet, there are some important provisions that impact investors and are likely to become law in the near future.
If the current version of the legislation is signed into law the following changes will take place:
This is the moment of truth.
You have seen the financial markets fall over the course of the last month. You are cooped up in your home and deprived of your normal social contacts. Your life has been turned upside down by a microscopic virus.
What do you do? Do you act on your fears and participate with the panickers?
One month ago our world was very different.
Back then we saw some clouds of uncertainty on the horizon, but nothing that impacted us personally. Most of the time those clouds dissipate, but occasionally they turn into a storm.
Looking back, we can always say “I had a bad feeling about this.” But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that a large majority of our bad feelings never turn into bad events. We easily forgive and forget those false bad feelings because everything turns out well.
Fueled by continued upbeat earnings forecasts, the S&P 500 set its most recent record high a mere three weeks ago on February 19.
Coincidentally, on February 19 our weekly blog was inspired by the fiery finish of the Daytona 500, and that blog’s very last sentence concluded with “It is better to understand your risks before the next crash instead of after.”
We are now after the start of the crash, and we do not see the finish line yet.
The coronavirus COVID-19 has created some scary headlines.
It is scary to the general public, some of whom are now stockpiling supplies and rations to survive a quarantine.
It is even scarier to government organizations. In these circumstances people expect their government to competently implement measures to restore health and calm. If governments appear to be incompetent they may soon be removed from power and replaced with a government that makes better promises.
Concerns continue to rise over the spread of COVID-19. Efforts to contain its spread focus on keeping people isolated from each other.
Isolation has its advantages for slowing the spread of a contagious disease, but it could be a disadvantage for the global economy which relies on people working together.
The stock market adjustment over the last two days reflects the wide uncertainty about potential future economic outcomes. But before we think about future outcomes it may be beneficial to take a step back and review the past to understand how rapidly the future can change.
Less than two months ago the world was entirely unaware of COVID-19. It did not exist to the best of our knowledge. It was an unknown unknown.
Winning isn’t everything. Sometimes surviving is reward enough.
Monday’s Daytona 500 offered a solemn reminder that to earn the checkered flag in a 500-mile NASCAR race requires taking a large amount of risk.
Ryan Newman experienced a fiery crash as he competed to finish the race in first place. Now we are all thankful that he is still alive.
NASCAR has invested millions of dollars in driver safety to prepare for crashes like this. Impact-reducing walls replaced concrete. The cars themselves have been redesigned to make high-speed crashes survivable.
Thankfully, investing is not nearly as dangerous to your physical health as auto-racing, but there are still crashes for which we must be prepared in advance (without spending millions of dollars).
Within the last week I have had several articles cross my path which involved stretching (or lack thereof).
The first stretch came from the Mayo Clinic which updated its article describing all of the benefits of stretching. In summary, stretching is good for flexibility.
By far the most frequent stretch references referenced the SECURE Act’s impact on “stretch” IRAs. In summary, the SECURE Act is not good for the flexibility of non-spousal retirement account beneficiaries.
The first official step toward this fall’s elections is in the past. On Monday real voters finally had their first opportunity to share their support for candidates by literally voting with their feet at caucuses across Iowa and 87 satellite locations around the world.
Unlike billions of people around the world, we are blessed with the freedom to participate in selecting our country’s leaders. However, a republican form of government can be quite messy.
Monday’s mess in tallying caucus results using a brand-new smartphone app is just one of many surprises that will unfold in the coming months.
2019-nCoV has yet to acquire an acronym like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), but its rapid spread through Wuhan, China, and surrounding areas is creating apprehension about another global outbreak of a lung-infecting cold virus. (Source: sciencenews.org)
How far will 2019-nCoV spread?
There are only two things on stock traders’ minds these days – buy and buy.
- The S&P 500 Index – a broad index including 500 large U.S. companies – has set record highs on 50% of trading days so far in 2020.
- Traders are now paying more for $1 of anticipated future corporate earnings than at any point in the last 5 years. (Source: JPMorgan)
By most measures, stock prices for large cap U.S. companies are richly valued.
However, just because traders have said buy-buy to higher stock prices does not mean a correction is imminent.
Only a 10% chance.
According to the National Weather Service, there was only a 10% chance that last weekend’s monster snowstorm which we heard about for days would provide us with a mere 2-3 inches of snow. By their analysis, there was a 90% chance we would get more than 3 inches. See their explanation on the graphic by clicking this link, then click on the picture
Our first blog of 2020 is dedicated to helping you make 2020 a better year for you and your family.
We will forego all of the 20/20 allusions about vision and foresight, though they may prove irresistible throughout the year.
We will not remind you that the new year brought plenty of changes to retirement accounts. If you are interested in those, please see our previous blog on the SECURE Act.
We will not bore you with our market predictions for the year because, as usual, we do not know with certainty how 2020 will unfold. Only hindsight is 20/20.
Do you have your Christmas shopping done yet? While holiday retail sales figures have been impressive, I am pretty sure not everyone is quite done with their shopping yet.
The pressure to find the perfect gift is on, and it is only enhanced as the number of shopping days dwindles.
Imagine the anticipation as the first perfect gift was given. As promised that gift arrived in a stable in Bethlehem and his birth was announced by angels and a star.
Sometimes the perfect gift arrives in the strangest form.
After languishing for almost seven months, the SECURE Act is on the legislative move!
On May 23, 2019, the House of Representatives passed the SECURE Act by a vote of 417-3 and it stalled in the Senate.
Just yesterday the SECURE Act was folded into H.R. 1865 – one of the giant year-end spending bills that are likely to pass both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate this week.
The temporary budget that is currently funding the government expires after Friday, December 20.
This is the time of year when eating healthy usually takes a back seat to an abundance of cookies and other Christmas delights.
It is also the time of year to check up on your financial health as one calendar year closes and another opens.
Before your calendar is filled with family visits, wrapping present, and holiday parties, take a few minutes to ensure you are making the most of 2019 and planning ahead for 2020:
While only a week ago, Thanksgiving is almost an afterthought for many people at this point. You may still be eating some turkey leftovers, but the house is probably clean(er) and families have travelled back into their normal lives.
Yes, the logistics of Thanksgiving can be challenging, but you will be pleased to learn that scientists almost unanimously agree that thanksgiving is good for you. And not just on Thanksgiving.
On Monday the Milwaukee Brewers unveiled their brand new logo and uniforms for their upcoming 50th season in Milwaukee. Their new logo is an updated version of the ball and glove logo they used from 1978-1993.
Except it isn’t a ball and a glove, it is really an M and a B for Milwaukee Brewers.
It is so obvious, yet it isn’t.
Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). If you are over age 70.5 or you inherited a retirement account you know what RMDs are.
RMDs are the absolute minimum amount you must take out your tax-deferred retirement account or inherited retirement account every year to avoid a 50% penalty.
If you have not taken your RMD for 2019, there are only a few weeks left to get it done or the IRS may assess one of the harshest penalties in the tax code when you file your taxes next year.
Over the last week the S&P 500 Index, an index that tracks U.S. large cap stocks, has set a number of new record highs.
The drought between record highs lasted from late July to late October as traders digested an on-again-off-again trade deal with China, gradually weakening economic reports, and political developments in the U.S. and Europe.
Reaching a record high and maintaining upward momentum are two very different things.
Children and their parents cumulatively spend millions of hours across the country carving pumpkins for Halloween.
Even IAG’s competitive pumpkin carving teams took part in the tradition this year.
Why do we cut holes in the top of large orange gourds, scoop out their innards, poke holes in them, and then light them up?
Every four years or so we find that reliable long-term investors become susceptible to a pernicious disease I like to call electionitis. This election cycle it seems to be getting an early start.
I believe electionitis is a contagious virus which cannot be treated with typical antibiotics. The major symptom of electionitis is that it causes otherwise rational investors to believe that cash is the only appropriate investment until the next election is over and “things settle down.”
“Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Those seven words were included in a now-deleted tweet by Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets.
Those seven words could result in the loss of millions (if not billions) of dollars of revenue for the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Whether you believe this is true in your personal relationships or not, it is as vital a truth in the financial markets as it is for a magnet.
Magnets have a north pole and a south pole. Try to push two north poles together and you will find repulsion; but hold a south pole and a north pole near each other and there is instant attraction.
Similarly, the financial markets require the presence of two poles to function — sellers and buyers.
On September 5 the Brewers’ playoff prospects looked fairly grim. On that day they lost to the Chicago Cubs by a score of 10 to 5 at Miller Park, their record was a mere 3 games over .500, and they had several teams in front of them for the second wild card playoff spot.
Many Brewers fans were resigned to missing the playoffs this season after almost making it to the World Series last year. Very disappointing!
The next 17 games were a complete surprise.
Celebrate diversity. This is a pretty common phrase I am sure you have seen on bumper stickers or heard in conversations.
Babies born on September 11, 2001, turn 18 years old today.
They were born on a day that altered our entire country’s view of the world. On that day Americans’ belief that our country was safe from terrorist attacks was destroyed along with thousands of lives.
The Green Bay Packers begin their 2019 season against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field tomorrow evening.
The remaining players have survived numerous mini-camps and a long training camp which prepared them for the regular season. All of those preseason camps are designed to reinforce the basic fundamentals of the game.
Teaching players to instinctively use optimal strategies for ball handling, body positioning, and foot work should free them from thinking about those fundamentals during the regular season.
Yet we know football players are human, and sometimes mental mistakes create fundamental problems.
The U.S. economy is facing a similar funda-mental challenge right now.
This Week’s Blogger: Scott D. Heins, CFP®, IAG Chief Investment Officer
Hootie and the Blowfish released their debut album Cracked Rear View on July 5, 1994, just over 25 years ago. Track 8 on that album is entitled “Time,” which includes the following refrain:
The back to school shopping season is in full swing. Kids are excited to get new clothes and school supplies. Parents are excited because a new sense of normalcy and structure is on the horizon.
The trade and currency conflict between the United States and China continues to escalate.
One of the potential risks for financial markets this fall had been the potential political firestorm over raising the federal government’s debt limit. In the past the suspenseful debate over the debt limit led to tension in the financial markets.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
At my house the recycling bin is often more full than the garbage bin when the carts are rolled out to the curb for collection. We use our plastic grocery bags to clean up after the cats and dog. Unfortunately, reduce is a far more elusive objective with three kids. If anything we are ducing instead of reducing.
Today is yet another cold and miserable day this spring, and forecasters are predicting another 1 or 2 inches of rain for southern Wisconsin.
The National Weather Service reports that so far 2019 has been above average for snow and overall precipitation, and we have employees and clients whose basements have suffered from this overabundance of water.
Last week the trustees of the Social Security trust funds issued their 270-page annual report on the financial security of the Social Security program. As the trustees have warned for many years, the current structure of the Social Security program is not sustainable beyond the mid-2030s.
The “R” word went viral in OctobeR, NovembeR, and DecembeR last year as traders extrapolated 2018’s economic pattern into 2019.
Economic output in the U.S. grew at a torrid 4.2% annual rate in the second quarter of 2018. It slowed to a 3.4% growth rate in the third quarter and slowed further to a 2.2% in the fourth quarter.
I would bet that my third grader can spot the pattern here:
- 2% minus 0.8% is 3.4%
- 4% minus 1.2% is 2.2%
Once we recognize the pattern we can extrapolate into the future:
- 2% minus 1.6% is 0.6%
- 6% minus 2.0% is economically ugly
This simplified exercise in extrapolation resulted in a market meltdown in the months ending in R.
But the economy is not as prone to predictable patterns as traders would like to think. Slowing growth does not always result in a recession. Sometimes slowing growth simply stops slowing and rumors of recessions recede.
It certainly appears that when the Bureau of Economic Analysis releases the first of three Gross Domestic Product estimates on Friday, April 26, that the recessionary economic growth pattern will be broken. Most economists expect a growth rate comfortably exceeding the pattern’s 0.6% “prediction.”
Does that mean our economy is now recession-proof? Absolutely not. There will undoubtedly be a real recession at some point in the future.
We also believe there is a high likelihood that the number of impending recession rumors will exceed the actual number of recessions. However, the very last one of those many rumors will in fact be correct and precede the next recession.
Whether we are experiencing an economy that is roaring or receding, our passion is to help you confidently create and adjust your financial plan and portfolio as life unfolds. We recommend using our Portfolio GPSTM process instead of relying on rumors to guide your way.
Quote of the week: John Kenneth Galbraith: “There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know.”
The English language fascinates me. On Monday I heard the same phrase used to reflect two entirely different sentiments.
On Monday afternoon the phrase “on fire” rang throughout the world as millions watched a tragedy unfold at Notre Dame in Paris. Hundreds of firefighters responded to the scene and desperately made every effort to save an 850-year-old landmark that was previously saved from disrepair by Napoleon.
Unless you live in Massachusetts or Maine the federal tax filing finish line falls just 5 days from now on April 15. Either you must file your taxes by April 15 or file an extension which permits you to delay the inevitable until October 15 — as long as you pay what you think you owe now.
Bipartisanship in Congress is a rarity these days, so when key leaders of Democrats and Republicans develop and introduce legislation together it catches one’s eye.
Last week the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled the soundly bipartisan SECURE Act. SECURE stands for Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement. I suspect the acronym came before the title, but I will let you be the judge.
The SECURE Act includes some interest
One very important market indicator has plunged 25% since November 8, 2018, and has not bounced back with the stock market. Can you name it?
Here is a hint: Agent 007 encounters this indicator at a low-traffic intersection in Washington, D.C. that he travels through only once per decade.
Basketball is a truly American game. It was created in December 1891 by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, to help keep young athletes in shape during winter.
Less than thirteen years later basketball’s popularity had grown enough to make it a demonstration sport at the Summer Olympics. By 1936 it become an official Olympic sport and by 1939 led to the creation of the NCAA basketball tournament.
This coming Friday we celebrate the Ides of March.
I personally celebrate the Ides of March because it marks the (almost) halfway point of my least favorite month of the year. March is not warm enough to start outside spring activities, but not cold enough to extend fun winter activities. The cold rains of March melt away the snow piles, revealing the winter’s accumulated dirt and grime.
They grow up so fast.
March 9, 2009, seems like just yesterday, but it will be a full ten years in just a few days.
Ten years ago a precious little baby bull market was born. This baby bull didn’t look like much at the time and didn’t garner much attention at first.
IAG’s advisors have been serving our clients for almost 34 years now. Since our founding in 1985 there have been some significant trends that have led to substantial changes for our clients.
The most obvious of these is technology. Our clients now have instant access to more information than ever before. While mostly beneficial, it can also lead to overconfidence in the “right” answers for the wrong questions.
On Monday IAG Wealth Partners held its annual State of the Company meeting. It is an opportunity for our team to gather off-site to review accomplishments, focus on better ways to serve our clients, and do some team building.
This coming Monday, February 18, is President’s Day. I am sure you have all of your family gatherings and celebrations planned at this point.
Will Christmas Eve come again in the next few months?
Based on my calendar the answer is a definite no. It appears Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day are more likely.
Checking in with the financial markets, the odds seem a little higher.
People generally prefer to have a sense of security and control in their lives, and modern technology has done wonders to give people the illusion of control.
Need to know exactly when it will start snowing? Check the radar on your phone. Want to know what your destination looks like? Check Google Maps for a street view. Want to see how busy a restaurant is before you head out? Your phone can tell you.
While the calendar turned to 2019 just over three weeks ago, your mailbox will likely be full of important memories of 2018 in the coming weeks.
‘Tis the season to collect, organize, and eventually file your 2018 income tax returns. Here are some important reminders as you begin your process:
The aftermath of a natural disaster is ugly. We have all seen the pictures of flooded homes, burned vehicles, and scattered debris. People’s lives and property are disrupted and destroyed by forces beyond their control.
Since the September 20th S&P 500 Index all-time record high the financial headlines have focused on the stock market’s choppy decline. However, there is another equally fascinating half of the story in the financial markets over the last three months.
The other half of the story is the bond markets where expectations have turned 180 degrees over the last three months.
Hopefully you were celebrating Christmas with family and friends for the past week or so instead of paying attention to the financial markets. It has not been enjoyable.
On Christmas Eve the S&P 500 teetered on the brink of a bear market. At that point it had lost 19.78% since its record high on September 20. Many other common stock market indices are already in bear market territory – small cap stocks, international stocks, and emerging market stocks to name a few.
The Christmas season is supposed to be full of joy – the birth of a Savior, the gathering of families, and giving of gifts.
Yet for many people Christmas can be a struggle. The message of a Savior can easily be missed, the family gatherings turn lonely, or the gift-giving focuses on what you get instead of what you give.
Final exam time is approaching for high school and college students. They will test how much cumulative knowledge they have gained from their studies over the last four months. Hopefully they will earn a passing grade from their teacher.
As the year winds down, Congress is faced with the task of deciding whether they wish to extend certain tax provisions that expire every year on December 31.
On November 26, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled his year-end proposal which included some interesting retirement account proposals.
December 14 marks the end of 2018.
It is amazing how the end of the year creeps up on you when you subtract 17 days from the calendar.
The more people who believe in an unpredictable future economic event, the more likely it will happen.
These “economic prophecies” have the potential to become self-fulfilling because people alter their behavior based on their newfound belief in future events.
I must write our weekly blog on Tuesday morning so that it can be reviewed and approved in time to share it with you on Wednesday.
That seems like a pretty strange greeting for this particular holiday. What exactly is happy about celebrating Halloween? I guess one could point to the smiles on children’s faces as they infuse themselves with sugar or creative costumes that bring a chuckle, but Halloween’s roots are much darker.
The clock is ticking on 2018. The end of the year may seem pretty far away, but Christmas Eve is just two months from today.
As you likely know, the tax rules for 2018 changed substantially and the IRS is very busy writing new forms to help you abide by the new rules. You can take a sneak peek at their latest draft of the 2018 Form 1040 here. It certainly looks different than 2017.
The recent turbulence in the stock markets created some excitement for the attention-span-challenged talking heads over the last week or so.
These attention-seeking distractors feel compelled to go searching for causes, assigning blame, and stirring up the worst instincts in long-term investors’ minds whenever there is a bit of turbulence.
The gulf continues to grow.
The political theater last week highlighted one of the more challenging aspects of living in a country with an economy based on capitalism and a government based on a “small r“ republican form of government.
Identifying when it is time for change in leadership is very difficult for any organization. Has the current leadership team performed as expected? Are the stakeholders pleased with the results? Are the current leaders living in the past or preparing for the future?
Crucial. Must-win. Crunch time. Winner takes all.
Sports announcers are typically full of hyperbole as they work to build the drama for an important game.
Now that the kids are back to school, the Halloween decorations are out in force. It is truly the scariest time of the year.
According to computer models, Hurricane Florence appears poised to make landfall along the Carolina coastline in the coming days. But that wasn’t always the case.
Tropical Depression 6 was a clump of fluffy clouds that formed off of the west coast of Africa on August 30. It was a nonevent. No headlines. No warnings. No danger.
Then Tropical Depression 6 organized into a tropical storm and received its name from the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Since most of the tropical storms that form off the coast of Africa do not make landfall in the United States, Florence only garnered a few media mentions.
Florence grew quickly into a formidable Category 4 hurricane far off the east coast of the United States, but then wandered into an unfavorable environment that reduced her once again to a tropical storm. This, too, occurs more frequently than making landfall in the United States.
A couple of days later Florence bumped into favorable conditions and rapidly grew back into a Category 4 hurricane that is now poised to unleash its destructive forces on millions of Americans, and we pray for their well-being.
The story of Florence is very similar to the storms that occasionally impact the financial markets, except financial hurricanes cannot be detected by satellite images or radar. There are no “cones” that illustrate where destructive financial forces are likely to make landfall. There are no reliable evacuation warnings.
As horrible as a Category 4 hurricane is, there is some comfort in knowing when and where it is most likely to make landfall.
In the financial markets no such warning system is available. Every day there are fluffy financial clouds in the sky and we could spend all of our time worrying which ones will evolve into rain showers, thunderstorms, tropical storms, and the occasional hurricane.
In our view, a better approach is to embrace the uncertainty of living in a financial world where there are both sunny and cloud days; always be prepared for financial hurricanes by having enough cash on hand to make ends meet no matter what the financial weather is like tomorrow; and hunker down when the occasional hurricane hits knowing that it will pass in due time.
Our specialty is not financial weather forecasting. Our specialty is helping our clients prepare for storms while enjoying the sunny days.
Quote of the week:
Daniel Crosby, Ph.D.: “I have 10 commandments, if you will; they sort of cover the waterfront for me, if people would do these things: First, in all markets, up down and sideways, you control what matters most. Second, thou shall understand risk. Third, start now, start again tomorrow, and start again the next day. Fourth, trouble is opportunity. Fifth, do less than you think you should. Sixth, forecasting is for weathermen. Seventh, if you’re excited about an investment, it’s probably a bad idea. Eighth, this time isn’t different, and neither are you. Ninth, you should be the benchmark. Tenth, excess is never permanent.”
Summer is over. The kids are back at school. If you look carefully a few trees are not quite as green as the used to be. Yes, fall is underway.
Late August is one of the least desirable times to mow my lawn. It is not the heat and humidity that get to me, but the poor decision-making by amphibians.
Frogs have great hearing. They need it to survive. They hear predators, find food, maintain territories, and find a mate using their ears. Therefore, I know they hear me when I start the lawnmower.
There are typically only two types of people that enter your house through the back door – family and friends or thieves.
In the new tax law, Congress clarified that assets entering a Roth IRA account through the back door are your friends.
Life can be a game of inches. Sometimes mere seconds separate us from safety or tragedy. Or keep us from setting new records.
Our current bull may become the longest bull market on record within the next few weeks. This is true if you believe the current longest bull market on record lasted from October 12, 1990 to March 24, 2000 – a total of 2,388 trading days.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) acts as our country’s official economic expansion and recession referee. Given that they often do not “make the call” until 12 to 24 months after a recession starts and ends, one could say there is nothing instant about their officiating.
As I sat atop the Summit of Mount Quandary in Colorado a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but realize how spectacular the world we live in is. There’s really nothing like standing 14,265 feet up in the Rocky Mountains after climbing for three and a half hours.
The baseball stars came out last night for Major League Baseball’s All Star game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Next year’s All Star game will be held at Progressive Field in Cleveland for the first time since 1997. However, as of this writing MLB has not yet announced the players who will be participating or starting for next year’s All Star game.
Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the unemployment rate jumped up from 3.8% to 4.0% in June and the ranks of the unemployed rose by 499,000 people.
That is great news for the economy.
When I volunteered to write the blog a month or so ago, I knew that I wanted it to be family focused. Just this past weekend, my Facebook post stated that “family dinners are my favorite time of life.”
Last week I took full advantage of a beautiful summer afternoon to go for a jog around my neighborhood. As I passed by neighbors waving and children playing, I was overcome with gratitude. I felt grateful for the safe, vibrant, and diverse community that I call home.
For years I have been told that parenting involves “launching” our children into new situations from early on - think 1st day of kindergarten to the “Big Launch”, also known as going off to college. The fact that I have had 18 years to prepare for this made me believe that I would be ready for this time in my life.
Time is running out for Wisconsin parents to claim their 2018 Child Sales Tax Rebate. If you are a Wisconsin parent with minor children, now is the time to sign up for this rebate before the opportunity closes on July 2.
There was a giant party on the deck at my house over the weekend. When the temperatures start climbing all my neighbors come out for a good time – especially when we have the floodlights on.
I have attached a picture in case you are curious what kind of raucous parties I throw on my deck.
Yesterday we unveiled our new name and logo at our 23rd annual Wealth Management Symposium.
Investors Advisory Group is now IAG Wealth Partners.
We are the same people with the same commitment to serving our clients — just with a new name and logo.
We believe IAG Wealth Partners fits us better for several reasons.
Life is often full of unexpected outcomes. Every unexpected event or difficult decision in your life has a ripple effect on your and your family’s future.
Dictionary.com defines a wedge as a “piece of hard material with two principal faces meeting in a sharply acute angle, for raising, holding, or splitting objects by applying a pounding or driving force.”
A wedge is a simple machine. You can use it for gaining some height, driving a golf ball, or splitting logs.
.2, 4.6, 11.4, 16.5, 4, and 10.
Those are the inches of snow recorded in Milwaukee from November 2017 through April 2018. Everything looks pretty normal – except for the last two numbers which normally would be reversed.
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On Saturday, April 21, America laid to rest former first lady Barbara Bush. Over one thousand people paid their respect in person while millions watched across the world.
You likely know the attention-grabbing headlines of Barbara Bush’s life already: married for 73 years, wife and mother of U.S. Presidents.