Category Archives: Interesting Observations

Holiday Push

With Thanksgiving behind us we are into the Holiday Push. Hopefully you are closing deals at work. Holiday shopping is in full swing. You simply do not have time for this retirement stuff. Our regular readers know there is no time like the present to enhance your retirement. With the incoming Trump administration caution is likely the best watchword.

Holiday Push: Always keep doing the right things.
Doing the right things always start with watch your fees. How an extra 1pc investment fee will cost you 16 years of retirement income (don’t be fooled by the UK spin here, the math is the same!)
If you are a small business owner, a large business decision maker, or an employee interested in helping yourself and your fellow employees, consider this. Get Your 401(k) Fees Down Because Your Employees Deserve Better
In the spirit of the season, I’ll give you a contrarian position on fees, too … that is, sometimes active managers actually do earn their fees. Royce Special Equity Fund Earning It’s Fees
If you are in the income phase – retired already – then be sure you are generating income. You will find some interesting thoughts on that in these pieces: Despite Mistakes, a Dividend Growth Investor Retires Early, Part 1 Despite Mistakes, a Dividend Growth Investor Retires Early, Part 2 Good Grief, Don’t Jump Off This Dividend Machine High-Dividend Stock Yields 9%, Pays Monthly, 4 Dividend Hikes in 2016, More in 2017
This one is really interesting, if for no other reason than to understand how convoluted the oil and gas industry has become. Sunoco LP: a 15.2% Yield with Significant Upside

Holiday Push: In December we will ease off retirement focus and give you other valuable leads.
Stay alert, particularly during the holidays, to nefarious doings on your phone. What is spyware? How secret programs can see into your iPhone and record your calls
About that Taiwan phone call … what’s up? Donald Trump is aggressively provoking China. What is he thinking?
Do you realize that yesterday a milestone anniversary passed quietly by your door? Is it time to revisit the thinking behind the words? 20 Years Later, Greenspan’s “Irrational Exuberance” Has Become Even More Irrational

Markets & Opportunities

This week we take a quick look at markets & opportunities before turning to more fun things, like travel. With the chaotic and unpredictable election cycle in the US, evolving terror threat globally and continued weakness in the global economy, it seems to make sense to spend some time on Markets & Opportunities. Still, we’re all getting ready for Summer travel, so tips don’t hurt there. Enjoy.
Where are the markets & opportunities now?
Here is a fascinating look at the two sides of the market, business day and off-hours, if you will. The strange thing is, all the gains for the past 11 years have come from off-hours! WTF Chart of the Day: Without “Pajama Traders,” Stocks Have Gone Nowhere in 11 Years
We frequently talk about dividend stocks as a means of delivering retirement income. This article looks at a fascinating way to pick dividend stocks. These 7% Dividend Stocks Sell Way Below Book
No matter what you do, you will ultimately be wrong when investing. That’s okay. How to be Wrong as an Investor
Let’s find some timely tips to improve your Summer travels.
We should start by saving some money. This trick is news to me because, like the author, I figured one-way fares are always more expensive. Cheap Airline Tickets You’re Probably Missing Out On and How to Find Them
Here is another tip I simply did not know. These two are making me feel out of touch! Mobile Passport App Makes US Re-Entry Fast and Easy and It’s FREE!
Admittedly these are not the best ideas ever (like the ones above). Still, there are some pointers worth considering here. Travel Hacks: 8 Ways to Vacation Like a VIP at a Fraction of the Cost
Since you have saved all that money, here are some ways to use it. 4 luxurious train journeys that will make you feel like 19th-century royalty 4 Luxury South African Hotels You’ll Never Want to Leave Behold, the Caribbean’s First Over-the-Water Luxury Suites

 
I cannot resist sharing some interesting tidbits from around the web with you.
The pace of change in thinking on global warming, aka climate change, is quickening. This one is something of a doomsday view. A nightmarish new climate model predicts a gloomy future for cities from Hong Kong to New York
On a strangely related note, Google has some capabilities you may not know about yet. How about producing time-lapse satellite views of areas? Watch the planet morph before your eyes with Google’s mesmerizing time-lapse feature
Lastly, do you think you know what you would see if you could look all the way to the next land mass from the coast? You are probably wrong. 7 surprising maps that prove your view across the ocean isn’t what you think it is

Retirement: Why Worry?

Some friends and associates may pass over my periodic posts here thinking they are not relevant to them, which is why I am focusing on retirement: why worry? You see, regardless your situation, well prepared or ill prepared, knowing more and acting on it with respect to your retirement is entirely relevant for each of you.

First, some context on where things stand.
Americans are astonishingly ill prepared for retirement, and Social Security is no panacea. You truly do have to invest in your retirement, and the leaner things are now, the smarter you need to be about it.
We are way behind: Ready to get serious about saving for retirement? Here’s what you need to do.
Compound interest helps: Ask a financial planner: ‘What is compound interest?’
Managing your investments does not end when you retire: 3 Reasons it’s important you continue investing long after you retire
Healthcare remains the elephant in the room: These 5 charts predict what retirees will pay for healthcare over the next 10 years Near retirees can expect $400K in health care costs
We continue to live longer, so the old rules no longer apply: We’re living longer – get ready to pay for it 4% Retirement Rule: Why It Might Not Work for You, and What You Should Do About It Managing your retirement nest egg and making it last as long as you do

Now that you have a sense for things, what can you do about it right now?

I realize I seem to have a one track mind, retirement. That’s because it is how I best feel able to help each of you. Now, though, here are some other, thought provoking articles.
You may have read about this AI from Google beating the world class Go player. It is said to be quite a feat, and this article expands on this. Most interestingly, the article delves into the ‘what-ifs’ around AI given this one’s ability to think of things a human would not consider. Fascinating. Google just proved how unpredictable artificial intelligence can be
As you think of desirable traits for a President, predictability has to be pretty high on the list. Admittedly most campaign promises go by the boards, but you hope the candidate is truthful and sticks to their core beliefs (as outlined during the election). Incredibly, The Economist has taken a strong stand on our current election cycle. What do you think of this? ‘President Donald Trump’ in Top Ten Risk Events for Global Economy

Challenging Markets

Challenging markets are the time when you need a plan and you need to stick with it.
Even when facing challenging markets, plans need not be overly complicated. Here is an interesting analysis of a very simple plan, invest $100 a week into the S&P Index. Just look how it works. Zero Effort Retirement: 20 Years Dollar Cost Averaging Into the S&P 500
I would argue that annuities are a good component of a retirement plan – you can forget about challenging markets entirely! Just which kind is right for you, that’s a specific question for you and your advisor. What we do know is that the vast majority of Americans have a pretty decent chance of running out of savings in retirement. That is why I am a big fan of Deferred Income Annuities, or QLACs inside of qualified plans, because they give you a safety net beyond your comfort zone. Deferred income annuities can double payouts later in life
Now, if you are very conservative, or simply do not trust your instincts, willpower, or what have you, there is always the option to go with an Immediate Annuity. Here your income stream starts right away, and it is, in fact, comparable to an old school pension, i.e. you know what you will get for as long as you live. Interestingly enough, if you did a good job saving for retirement, you could patch together a term certain immediate annuity (that is a set payment for a set period, say 20 years) and a deferred income annuity (set to start in 20 years). You might still have some mad money left to enjoy right away. 3 Things to Know About Immediate Annuities
Just so you do not come away with the belief that dividend stocks, even dividend stars, are a panacea, this article does some back testing of that argument. The Fate of These 49 ‘Dividend Aristocrats’ of the Early 1990’s May Give You Nightmares
No matter your approach, this article is a good read because times like these present tempting ‘opportunities’ to make a quick buck. The Difference Between Investing and Speculating

I hope that provided a lot of good food for thought on your retirement. Now, let’s turn our attention to other, interesting things floating out there in the worldwide web.
Climate change, is this our fault, or does it just happen every so often? That’s the kind of conversation I avoid. I have never professed to be a climatologist, and question anyone I know who does. Still, certain datapoints make you think hard about just what is happening and what we stand to lose. If You’re Not Terrified by Climate Change, Just Consider the Great Barrier Reef
Similarly, I try not to get involved in the DOD/VA issues, but this article really got me steamed. Thousands of US veterans are sick and dying because of burning garbage

 

I simply cannot leave on a sour note like that, so let’s get some positive news, too.
I made the tactical error of mentioning this article when I found it on Valentine’s Day. A mining company found a 400-carat diamond and now its shares are going wild
These geniuses didn’t know when to stop. 16 Inventors who were killed by their own inventions
Everyone can use some help with their iPhone (especially the FBI, it seems). 25 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do

Election Madness

Indeed, about mid-way between the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary, we have seen an already raucous and unique primary season turn to true election madness.
The Iowa Caucuses delivered on a host of fronts, from a unique partnership with Microsoft to deliver app based election returns to not adequately staffing certain precincts to ‘coin toss’ decision making and ‘tell Carson supporters that he’s dropping out, so switch to us’ tactics. Democratic debate night: The first one-on-one clash leaves Hillary Clinton stumbling on Wall Street Who won the New Hampshire Democratic debate? The Politico Wrongometer The fury of Ben Carson Iowa governor slams Ted Cruz for ‘unethical and unfair’ tactics Bloomberg could be a ‘serious contender’ in 2016, his pollster says

Not one to let you forget your retirement savings, some timely guidance from around the web.
Our last installment zeroed in on dividend stocks as a strategy, here is some more background for you on the approach. Ponder the Future of Your Dividend Growth Stocks Dividends: A Key Component of Total Return 20 dividend stocks that Wall Street loves the most
I have paraphrased Warren Buffett before on this very quote, but the idea is ‘don’t save what you don’t spend, spend what you don’t save.’ That’s the key in the so called accumulation phase – your earning years, pre-retirement. Then, though, you have to become a spender, and making the transition can be difficult. Turning a Saver Into a Spender in Retirement and Spending and Saving in Retirement

Lest you think I forgot the world economy, it still moves along in pretty much the same way.
China is releasing an important data set tomorrow, about its currency surplus. A Preview of This Weekend’s Event that Could Unleash a “Vicious Bear Market Rally”
How about here, at home, how is the US economy doing? Economy added 151,000 jobs in January That sounds good enough, but it isn’t.

I think it is overdue to have some levity here, so here is some miscellany:
First, with the Super Bowl this weekend, how about a preview of games to come? Microsoft Offers Tantalizing Glimpse of HoloLens-Powered Super Bowl
Even some travel tips for you this week: Lonely Planet Releases Travel Guides to 38 Cities – For Free

Retirement Special

Better to trust the man who is frequently in error than the one who is never in doubt.” — Eric Sevareid, journalist

Your retirement, own it:
This is a really simple concept that I think escapes many, but now you can adopt this approach, too. Treat Personal Finance Like a Business So You Can Retire Early
We have covered volatility before, but it has such a short history, it is hard to decipher. Here is a look at the largest moves in VIX, with an eye to finding trends. VIX Trips from 37 to 20 Have Been All-or-Nothing for Stocks
At the risk of seeming self-serving, having spent so long in the annuity space, this is an interesting article on using annuities for income in retirement … in bankrate.com, of all places. Annuity Strategy to Keep Income Flowing

Economy and the Market – a continuing look at the wide array of perspectives:
A fascinating walk through the charts behind the greatest thinkers on Wall Street. Take a few minutes to get some great insight … free. Wall Street’s brightest minds reveal the most important charts in the world
The China saga and its related implications for the US and global economies continues. China Officially Sold a Quarter Trillion Treasuries in the Past Year (Unofficially Much More) and What This Means
Then, there is the Fed, and Ben Bernake recently saying that negative interest would not be a bad idea. Dollar Moves Shake the World: “Federal Reserve Could Start a Currency War”
Whatever the driving force, commentary is building on the notion of a global slowdown. Here is an interesting amalgam of some of the best known names in the ring. Why Are the IMF, the UN, the BIS, and Citi all Warning that an Economic Crisis Could be Imminent?
While you may not like David Stockman, this is a pretty decent walk through the facts around the global central bank interventionist policies and the seemingly undeniable result. The Central Bankers’ Death Wish
Simply because it is out there, and lends some credence to the thesis that the Fed is less anchored in reality than we might like. “They Just Don’t Want a Job” – The Fed’s Grotesque “Explanation” Why 94.6 Million are Out of the Labor Force

Miscellany – perhaps all that market turmoil is making people crazier still:
I think everyone can be better at this, here is another way to try improving your security. Create Complex Passwords You’ll Always Remember with Poetry
Whether you are too far from a Costco, or simply that thrifty, this is a good article. Get Costco Prices without the Membership Fee at These Price Matching Stores
Another fascinating, positive byproduct of the drought. Mexican church reappears nearly 50 years after being submerged

Your retirement, plan now

It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.– Thomas Huxley, scientist

Retirement security – the more you know…:
It is always inevitable, a downturn, but after this long run…be prepared. This is an interesting analysis of a low cost protection. Portfolio Structure for Hedging Against a Downturn
Of course, high yields are a nice thing to have, too … that is, without undue risk. How to Get High Yield Returns in Retirement
This just came out today, an interesting, albeit academic, view of retirement savings. I still think it is worth the read. Saving for retirement should be Job #1
Always willing to lead you a little further into the weeds, consider reading this (it does mean a free registration) piece on the impact of interest rates on your retirement. Interest rate liability important to retirement conversation

The Economy –a toe-dip into the world of macroeconomics, join me:
I’ve been saying this for a few posts now, and it gets more compelling as we go. Of course there’s always contrary data, and they like to highlight that, but …. Wall Street is on the verge of saying ‘recession’
In very much the same vein, but on a defensive note, here’s Goldman’s take: What Goldman is Telling It’s Clients: Sell in May and Don’t Come Back for a Year

Leadership tips –back to the servant leader topic:
I have touched on this a few times, and really want to like it. Maybe it’s the name that throws me. Still, I pretty much agree. Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to be a ‘Servant Leader’
Being a persuasive speaker is a winning skill to have, here’s a quick, helpful guide. 6 Tips for Writing a Persuasive Speech (on any topic)

Travel tips – save money for your retirement, but still have fun:
I’m always happy to find money savers, and this is an interesting tool. Clearlayover Combines Two Round Trips for Significant Savings
Even if you don’t save money on your flight, you want to be comfortable! Here’s my strategy for securing the best seat on every flight

Miscellany – take your mind off things this weekend:
Some fun flashbacks to see David Letterman off the air. David Letterman Retires: A Brief History of the Top 10 List
This is a pretty cool, pretty disturbing application of technology. Public photos mined to create beautiful time-lapses

A better life in time for Passover and Easter

“Attach yourself to those who advise you rather than praise you.”— Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux, poet and literary critic

Retirement tips – diligence on our savings is the best advice:
This is a fascinating read on where we stand today and why you may need to change some attitudes … and allocations. This is Why You Are Diversifying Wrong
Have I mentioned fees lately? I should, and this article points out the most insidious ones hidden in your 401(k). Warning: You May be Handing Over $155,000 in 401(k) Fees
Since you are already now kicking around in your 401(k), take the time to ask these questions, too. Having been there for the birth of Ameriprise, it’s near and dear to me. Four Ways to De-Bug Your 401(k)

Leadership tips – behavioral changes that will make you a real leader:
I beat this drum as often as possible, open communication, accessibility, and an understandable strategy are keys winning long term. Employee Engagement and the Communicator’s Role
I loved the heart of this article, simple, to the point, worthwhile. The 5 Best Pieces of Advice Any New Leader Will Ever Get
Travel tips – a few minutes now can save you a lot of hassle on the road:
Thanks to modern security protocols, sometimes you make the gate well before your flight … try to catch that earlier flight. How to get on earlier flight without paying fee
If that fails, then you might be interested in this app. LoungeBuddy Airline Lounge Locator App

This week, something to ponder:
With the Iran nuclear framework announced, plenty will be written on both sides of this story. I happened across this one earlier today. Have you formed an opinion yet? Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran puts the world’s safety at risk
Just for a little added context, there are crazy guys like this running around. A Russian ‘Doctor of Military Sciences’ says Moscow should just nuke Yellowstone if tensions boil over

Become more well rounded

You have to be odd to be number one” — Dr. Seuss

Global Economy:
Alan Greenspan has lost some of his luster since largely leaving the public eye. Still, it is never a bad idea to hear what he has to say. Aside from the seemingly preposterous suggestions, (riots in the streets?) there are some good points. Gossip in the Workplace Could Signal Larger Problems
On the flip side, I offer the perspective that a strengthening Dollar is causing global liquidity tightening, imperiling emerging markets, including China. “Ignore This Measure of Global Liquidity at Your Own Peril”, Albert Edwards Warns

Retirement:
With all my focus on fees and income, you may wonder what the goal is for retirement savings. This may help. You won’t be able to calculate how much money you’ll need for retirement without knowing these six answers
Another way of looking at the same problem, how much to save? How Much of Your Income Should You Save?

Travel:
I am sold on this, effectively sight unseen, because of the age old conundrum around garment bags being yet another, big checked item. Fellas, This Bag Will Make Traveling with a Suit So Much Easier
Travel internationally with good mapping capability, and don’t crush your data budget with this new app. Nokia HERE Maps for iPhone is out: Here’s why you want it
If you are not so concerned about your data, you may want to have a look at these apps, too. 8 Travel Apps That Work Better Than a Guidebook

Weekly Diversions:
Dig these gems up on Netflix, Amazon or PPV. Worthwhile 2014 Movies You May Have (Actually) Missed
I found this to be both mesmerizing and unnerving. A visualization of an asteroid’s path of orbit which nearly collided with the Earth and Moon in 2003
This one takes a commitment, but if you liked “The Imitation Game” it may be worth the effort. The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic

Inspiring Leadership

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
— Peter Drucker, Austrian-American writer and management consultant

Leadership:
Here is a great argument for staying visible, accessible and open. Gossip in the Workplace Could Signal Larger Problems
In some respects, this is a primer on transitioning from managing to leading. 4 things managers need to stop and start doing
A great way to get yourself thinking today, and often. 35 Inspiring Leadership Quotes

Retirement:
You realize how set I am on reducing fees and their impact on your retirement. Still, this feels too much like it is asking for increased regulation, somehow skirting the rules. U.S. mutual funds cut expenses by shifting billions to trusts
Forbes has a CFP give you some tips on retirement withdrawal rates. How Much Investment Money Can You Take Out in Retirement
Here is a decent, albeit brief, look at spend rates in retirement. It loops in the rule of thumb 4% guideline. How Much of Their Nest Egg Should Retirees Spend a Year?
This is an interesting article because I’m amazed that Money magazine would publish it without reference to longevity annuities, especially qualified ones. The New Rules for Making Your Money Last in Retirement

Travel:
Funny and insightful, this post helps you while away the hours you spend in airports between flights. The Definitive Guide to Drinking in Airports
Leverage technology to save yourself some money on your next vacation. 6 Google Flights Tricks That Are Better Than Any Travel Agent
Mind you, this is a bit backwards as it is the UK perspective, still, I think there are some worthwhile points in here. Booking a flight? This table shows how timing affects ticket pricing.
Fascinating Aside:
File this in the unintended consequences category. Can a solar eclipse shut down Europe?