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Contributors

15 Sep Back to School Financial Checklist

Summer is over, back to work everyone. I walked past a Christmas store on Fifth Avenue this morning. As we race towards the tail end of 2015 carve out some time in the coming weeks to make sure you are on target with the following checklist to help optimize your personal balance sheet to give you a feel good financial cheer for the holiday season.

  1. Max out your retirement plans – For many this is the one true no brainer of investing.  If you are lucky enough to get an employee match in your 401k take it! Regardless you need the tax deduction so whether you are employed or self-employed contribute the maximum you can to your retirement plan for 2015 before making any other investment commitments. 
  2. Create or review your will.  This is the first relatively simple step in ensuring adequate estate planning for you and your family.  A will ensures that your property is distributed fully according to your wishes and importantly if planned properly can avoid unnecessary financial and emotional uncertainty for your heirs. 
  3. If you already have a valid up-to-date will in place you may need to take the next steps in forming a more comprehensive estate plan.  If your overall wealth is expected to be in excess of $5 million estate planning is essential but even up to that level of wealth simply paying careful attention to ownership, location and family considerations in your current will help ensure your assets are safeguarded and distributed according to your wishes. 
  4. The low interest rate train will be departing shortly.  Before it leaves make sure you have reviewed all of your outstanding credit: mortgages, loans, car loans and unsecured credit to make sure you are paying the lowest rates available.  For example refinancing high interest rate balances on credit cards with lower rate facilities like HELOCs or bank loans is a prudent way to lower interest payments and increase your ability to reduce principal.     
  5. Ensure your assets are allocated appropriately.  Assess your return and risk objectives and make sure your investment portfolio together with your exposure to debt is appropriate.  August provided a strong warning of how aggressively markets can move.  Uncertainty prevails and volatility will likely persist.  Investors may ultimately be proved correct but staying solvent until that day comes is the crucial determinant if you are to be successful.  September has remained volatile but the large moves we saw in August have abated.  Reduce or add to positions as appropriate but do not over extend. 
  6. Assess your realized and unrealized capital gains and losses y-t-d.  If you are looking for positives from August’s market volatility here’s one to consider: regardless of where your assets are held and who is managing them your Investment portfolios are now likely sprinkled with losses.  Although investment considerations should always be first priority, if you can re-position your holdings and accomplish point number 5 while reducing you 2015 tax bill at the same time, that’s a win.  Be careful not to chase positions or leave yourself exposed but careful assessment of gains and losses is a valuable driver of total return after tax (the only number that matters)
  7. Plan your investment strategy for 2016.  You need to take a view.  Long-term common sense investing is the lowest but best denominator of investment success.  Careful investing is defending against risks while moving towards opportunity.  You may not be correct all the time, especially in the short-term, but understanding your positions and what makes your investment portfolio tick is crucial.  Simply throwing money into broad cross sections of all asset classes will leave you completely at the mercy of markets for better or worse. 

Disclaimer

We make no representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness of any information provided on this Blog nor do we undertake any obligation to update any of the information provided on this Blog. We expressly disclaim all liability for actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this Blog, as it is not intended as investment advice. This material is intended for discussion purposes only.  It is not an offer to sell, nor a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, nor does it purport to be a complete description of the terms of or the risks or potential of interest inherent in any actual or proposed security or transaction described herein. The data contained in this report were taken from statistical services, reports in our possession, and from other sources. The commentary, opinions and estimates expressed are our own and we make no representations either as to the accuracy or the existence or non-existence of other facts or interpretations which may be significant. The information herein was gathered from responsible sources but C.J. Lawrence cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness. The directors, officers, and employees of C.J. Lawrence may either from time to time have a long or short position in the securities described in this reports and may buy or sell such securities. The information herein does not take into account the particular investment objectives or financials circumstances of any specific person who may receive it. Before making an investment, prospective clients are advised to thoroughly and carefully review our Form ADV with their financial, legal, and tax advisers to determine whether this strategy is suitable for them. C.J. Lawrence and Cyrus J. Lawrence are trademarks of Cyrus J. Lawrence LLC. C.J. Lawrence is a registered investment adviser.


04 Sep How Much Time Does Money Buy?

Well it depends… but please read on because rather than evade the tough questions of investment management, we believe our job at C.J. Lawrence is to empower investors with the information they need to help guide their financial decisions for the future.

But first the hard truths.  On our website (www.cjlawrence.com) one of our tag lines states “At the core of every successful plan is a targeted and disciplined investment strategy”.  Translated, no matter how good your financial plan, it is worthless without the assets to support it.  So take your planning back to step 1 and ask the fundamental question: how much money do I need and when?  There are unlimited variables but the key ones include life: time to retirement, life expectancy, spending plans, cost of living, capital market assumptions…

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to better pinpoint the answers but in the meantime let us offer you the following reference points.  The U.S. Treasury 10 year yield remains in a choke hold between 2-2.5%.  That’s an annual income of $20-25,000 on $1m with no pay rise for a decade.  You may be a millionaire but long-term subsistence is barely realistic based on these numbers.  To increase your income your need to do one or a combination of the following: 1. Increase your return 2. Eat up your capital.  Both require greater exposure to risk, the former in market volatility the latter outliving your assets.  The realty of today’s zero interest rate world is that you need to carefully balance the risk you are willing to take with your spending assumptions. 

Historical stock market returns have ranged between 8-12%, depending on the period under review.  Many years have presented significantly better returns but, more critically, many significantly worse.  Investors cannot count on a consistent high single digit returns but history guides us that you need exposure to risk assets such as stocks if you have any hope of getting near the total return necessary for a comfortable retirement.  The longer your time horizon the higher the odds of hitting reasonable return targets, in the short-term you are relying on luck over rationale. 

Say you want $100,000 of income and assume a reasonable total return of 5%, inflation aside, $1m dollars will last you approximately 14 years.   If you want to increase either the time or the income you need to grow your assets.  $150,000 annual income to last you 20 years with similar return assumptions will require net assets of at least $1.9m.  Throw in some world travel, lingering college expenses for your kids and, god forbid, significant long-term care costs and your asset requirement ramps.  Ballpark assumptions for a healthy couple in their early sixties wishing to live an active life in an affluent location will need approximately $3m-$5m to fulfill their retirement aspirations and leave a legacy for their children.   If these numbers don’t make you blink congratulations you are officially wealthy and should inquire about our wealth management services immediately.  On the other hand if you, like the majority, feel unprepared financially fear not, it is never late to get serious about investing and establish a target.  At C.J. Lawrence we are here to help you reach your goals, call us and grab the reigns of your financial future.   

Disclaimer

We make no representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness of any information provided on this Blog nor do we undertake any obligation to update any of the information provided on this Blog. We expressly disclaim all liability for actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this Blog, as it is not intended as investment advice. This material is intended for discussion purposes only.  It is not an offer to sell, nor a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, nor does it purport to be a complete description of the terms of or the risks or potential of interest inherent in any actual or proposed security or transaction described herein. The data contained in this report were taken from statistical services, reports in our possession, and from other sources. The commentary, opinions and estimates expressed are our own and we make no representations either as to the accuracy or the existence or non-existence of other facts or interpretations which may be significant. The information herein was gathered from responsible sources but C.J. Lawrence cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness. The directors, officers, and employees of C.J. Lawrence may either from time to time have a long or short position in the securities described in this reports and may buy or sell such securities. The information herein does not take into account the particular investment objectives or financials circumstances of any specific person who may receive it. Before making an investment, prospective clients are advised to thoroughly and carefully review our Form ADV with their financial, legal, and tax advisers to determine whether this strategy is suitable for them. C.J. Lawrence and Cyrus J. Lawrence are trademarks of Cyrus J. Lawrence LLC. C.J. Lawrence is a registered investment adviser.