Keeping It Real

Few things affect economic growth and overall prosperity more than interest rates. Low rates create incentives for risk-taking, while high rates act as a brake on economic growth. Interest rates are the principal tool of the Fed, whose mandate is to promote maximum employment and stable prices. Rates do more than heat up or cool down GDP growth; they can cause bubbles to inflate or burst, threaten the stability of our national financial system, imperil the safety net, reduce the value of the dollar, and lead to social unrest. We thought it would be useful to put today’s interest rate environment in perspective by looking at the history of interest rates since the Kennedy administration.

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Don’t Be a Bird Brain

If you grew up in the Western world, you’re probably familiar with the folktale of Henny Penny, which in America we call Chicken Little. Versions of this allegory go back as far as 25 centuries. When a falling acorn hits a chicken on the head, she mistakenly believes the sky is falling and sets off a panic among the other animals, which leads to disaster. As we move into the summer months and as the national election heats up, there will be no shortage of acorns falling—in the form of predictions of doom. The wise investor will recognize falling acorns for what they are, a natural phenomenon that’s just a part of life, and maintain their composure while those around them are losing their heads.

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The Rosannadanna Rule

The wizards of Wall Street and the hedge fund managers in Connecticut have a lot of different algorithms and statistical models to guide their investments, but we recommend received wisdom as a check on their prognostications. There is a lot of sense in common sense.

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Debt and Taxes

Legislation, like the weather and inflation, is something we react to, not control. When planning for long-term financial security, we can hope for the best and plan for the worst, but it’s not only nearly impossible to predict what Congress will do, it’s pure speculation to predict what the impact of new legislation will be. However, investors should be concerned that the epic and rapidly growing mountain of government debt may become their personal problem before too much longer.

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For Retirees, “Buyer Beware” Remains Sound Advice

The long-awaited “final” rule from the Department of Labor will become effective on September 23rd of this year. It will mandate the fiduciary standard for investment advisors who work with ERISA plan participants. Investors should welcome this news but understand its narrow focus and remain vigilant in their dealings with investment product salespeople.

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Five Threats to Retirement Security and How to Solve for Them

The dream of retirement is a finish line, a rest from decades of work, and a reward for good behavior—after all, you’ve arranged things so that you won’t need to work again.
Unfortunately, for most Americans, retirement is not a finish line—it’s the beginning of a new phase of life filled with threats to their security and without the comfort that comes in the form of a paycheck.

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Taxes Should Be Job #1

For many business owners, taxes can be their largest single expense—larger than qualified plan contributions, larger than their mortgage, and sometimes even larger than the kids’ college education. If taxes take the biggest bite out of your nest egg, your tax strategy should be upstream from your investment policy statement.

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Six Reasons to Put Tax Policy Ahead of Investment Policy

Taxes First, Then Math is the decision-making paradigm of the ultra-wealthy, and for good reason. For several reasons, actually, and this blog will highlight some of them. Let’s begin with the core premise that the richest Americans overwhelmingly employ family offices to handle their financial affairs, and it’s hard to imagine a family office that does not have one or more tax professionals in a key client-facing role.

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Passive Investing Has Taken the Lead and Appears Unstoppable

As we learned in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, life-changing events can happen in two ways: gradually, then suddenly. That is certainly the case for passive versus active investing. Vanguard launched its first version of an S&P 500 index fund in May of 1976, and it took nearly 40 years for index funds to claim a 30% share of the funds marketplace. Last month, passive investing finally claimed a majority of the fund assets under management in America. In the storm of cultural, economic, and geopolitical news, you may have missed the story, but for the investment industry, it’s a very big deal. It’s an even bigger deal for the American family.

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