Comprehensive Money Management

Bill's Blog

2021: Back to Normal?

Like everyone else, I am weary of this pandemic mess. I want to travel freely, enjoy dinner with friends, see a movie, and give a hug or shake hands.  And, of course, I want everyone who lost jobs and businesses to get them back.

 

Alas, that’s not going to happen. At least not quite yet.  The recovery in front of us will be slower than we’d like.

 

The history of our world shows continual improvement over time. Extreme poverty keeps dropping significantly every decade, although this year was a major setback. But that trend will eventually return. We will get through this. Yet the world on the other side will be different. In some ways, it will be better, primarily because of technology-driven innovation, but don’t expect the old world of 2019 to return. It’s gone.

 

Having a general idea of where we are going is great, but how we get there is important, too. Today I want to offer some informed speculation about how the next year will unfold. We’re going to reach some key decision points in the coming months and you’ll make better decisions if you think about them before we get there.

 

In a way, this is like getting the full schedule when planning a child’s school year.  When you know when their vacations are, when grades come out, when games are played, it’s easier to do planning. Sometimes those dates are inconvenient, but it’s better to know the schedule.

 

Landmarks Ahead

 

I’ll start with some info from an excellent article from STAT, the healthcare news service founded by hedge fund titan John Henry. I find its pandemic coverage far more enlightening than the mainstream media.

 

On September 22, STAT ran a long article titled “The Road Ahead.” It lists more than a dozen key moments that could either change the pandemic’s direction in the US, or at least give us important information. At this point no one knows what any of them will bring, but they are worth considering. I’ll share just a few.

 

January 2021: One year after cases exploded in China

 

A year after the coronavirus came to our attention, we’ll likely still have basic questions about it, including how long immunity lasts. There’s not an exact answer. Some people, depending on how sick they get or something intrinsic to themselves, will be protected from reinfection longer than others. But when the bulk of people who recover from a first infection become susceptible again, it can change the dynamics of outbreaks.

 

Protection from the coronaviruses that cause colds is thought to generally last about a year.  Beginning this month, a wave of the pandemic’s earliest patients might see their immunity start to wane.  It’s hypothesized, though, that people who get a second case will typically have milder illnesses and maybe won’t be as infectious.

 

February 2021: Vaccine Distribution Accelerates

 

The companies and government are already working on plans to distribute the vaccine quickly. In December the US vaccinated 2 million people, well behind the goal of 20 million established in Operation Warp Speed.  Experts like to say, “Vaccines don’t stop disease, vaccinations do.” We should get to where we need to before summer.  I’m optimistic but this is not guaranteed. And if we don’t have a nation-wide vaccination campaign on the launchpad early this year, the rosiest 2021 economic recovery forecasts may need a review.

 

March 2021: One Year Since US Outbreak

 

March will mark a year since the initial European and US outbreaks. This will be a sad milepost, particularly for those who lost loved ones, but also an important data point for the survivors.

 

First, we will want to see how many of the early patients remain immune. There have been scattered reports of reinfection in those who recovered. Researchers expect they will retain some immunity but it may recede with time. The answer has important implications for vaccine development and herd immunity calculations.

 

Second, we know many COVID-19 survivors continue to have ongoing health problems. How long do those last? Are they permanent? This matters a great deal, too, and by mid-2021 we should have a better grasp on it.

 

April 2021: Vaccines Round 2

 

Right now, our attention is on the promising vaccines that are being fast-tracked through the clinical trials and approval process. Many others are also in the pipeline, and by next spring we should start seeing results. Many of this “second generation” are truly novel approaches in vaccine science. I know it’s the optimist in me, but I will not be surprised if we find a new vaccine technology that is easier to deliver and that is clearly superior.

 

Some current technologies require the vaccine to be stored at super-cold temperatures. Newer candidates can be refrigerated normally or even kept at room temperature. That would vastly reduce the logistical challenges.

 

Meanwhile, by April, the first-gen vaccines should be widely available. The question will then become whether people will want them. Vaccines development, delivery and acceptance will be a big economic story this year.

 

By the way, the fact that a vaccine may not be 100% effective is not a reason to not take it. While it may not keep you from getting COVID-19, it could significantly reduce the symptoms if you are infected. Along with better therapies, your chances of a mild case and a quick recovery should be better.

 

Bluntly, I intend to get a vaccine. The question will be which one? I am simply going to get my doctor to tell me what he is taking. And of course, there is also the issue of availability.

 

May 2021: Spring Winds Down and Summer Begins

 

Canceled. Postponed. Virtual. That was what happened in 2020 to traditional rites of spring, like proms, graduations, and the beginning of wedding season.  This is a festive season that also includes Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and the summer break. May 2020 wasn’t particularly festive. What about May 2021?

 

At this point, we just don’t know. For it to be anything like normal, we will have to have spent winter and spring distributing a very effective vaccine to most of the population. That, combined with better treatments, might bring people back into circulation. It would mean everything went perfectly for months on end. Possible? Yes. Likely? Ask me next May. But if I were running a business that needs more foot traffic, etc., I would start preparing now for a better summer next year.

 

June 2021:  We need Americans ‘lining up to get the vaccine’

 

Finally, vaccines are widely available. Will Americans roll up their sleeves? The way out of the pandemic is to achieve herd immunity through vaccination, a point that will be reached when 70% or more of the population is protected.

 

Polls, however, indicate widespread, and growing, skepticism about how quickly a safe and effective vaccine can be made available. People of color, who have long histories of mistreatment by the medical field, are even more leery.

 

“The most effective vaccine in the world is useless if no one will accept it,” said Kawsar Talaat, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins. “You can’t talk your way into trust,” Talaat said. “You need to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy, and that the process is trustworthy.”

 

July 2021: Olympic Dreams?

 

The summer Olympics, originally set for July 2020 in Tokyo, have been pushed back a year. Japan has been relatively unscarred by the virus, but bringing so many people from so many places together during a pandemic is risky. And there is also the question of what happens before the games. Will athletes around the world have had safe opportunities to train?

 

I think the best case is the Olympics will be a skeletal event, with small crowds and all athletes vaccinated and quarantined prior to competing.

By August 2021, we should have some level of clarity. Mass vaccinations will either be happening, or not. If the former, then we should be returning slowly to normal. Maybe by 2022 we’ll be shaking hands and hugging again. But what will be left, economically?

Disruptive Caution

 

The sequence outlined above may sound bleak. Obviously, we all wish it could end sooner. Possibly it will. A lucky break here or there could change everything for the better. But realistically, I think we should prepare for the disruption to continue well into 2021. And possibly beyond, if vaccine development and deployment (or therapeutics) take longer than expected.

 

The nature and degree of disruption is a matter of choice. I don’t expect to see more lockdowns like last spring – unless there are more virulent mutations. We’ve learned a lot since then. Masks, distancing, and staying outdoors effectively reduces the spread to manageable levels. But these measures don’t stop the spread, so many will remain cautious.

 

This caution is what disrupts the economy. It’s perfectly rational, too. If you have the option of working from home, you would probably rather do that than enter a building loaded with possible COVID-19 carriers. But it’s a problem for the restaurants, convenience stores, and other businesses you might have visited near your workplace. Multiply by a few million and here we are.

 

I can only think of two things that would change these decisions. If we have effective COVID-19 treatments, people will raise their risk tolerance. If you get infected, your doctor just prescribes some pills and you stay home a couple of weeks. Not great, but most people would take the chance. The other is a widely accepted, effective vaccine. You can act more or less normally if you know most of the people you encounter aren’t a threat to your health.

 

Nevertheless, the behavioral changes that sparked this recession will last a few more months, at least. Some may become permanent. How many people, prevented from going to their gym, have now adopted home workout regimens that are just as effective? Not to mention more convenient and less expensive? They may never go back to their gyms.

 

Ditto for personal care. Many people who once visited expensive salons to cover their gray roots have learned how to do it themselves. Ditto for manicures, skin care, etc. Bad news for salons and spas.

 

And conventions? Conferences? I suspect that it will be a while before they’re back.  My favorite strategic investment conference was originally schedule for Phoenix, but instead it became a virtual online event last year.  It wasn’t so bad and was actually better in some ways. I suspect many large events will never return to their previous size. That will be costly for airlines, hotels, restaurants, taxis, and more. Concerts? Bars? Again, they’ll reopen but probably with fewer customers. Which means these segments will shrink. Others will grow to take their place. That’s what entrepreneurs do.

 

I know it sounds cold-blooded, but nearly every airline other than Southwest has been in and out of bankruptcy. I fully expect air travel will be higher by the middle of this decade than in 2019, though the flight path there might be a little bumpy.  But that’s the long run. We have a big problem right now.

 

1930s Ahead

 

More than two months after the enhanced unemployment benefits ended, close to 25 million American workers are still on the rolls. This is a little bit off the high, but not much. Their initially generous benefits are much smaller now.

 

Meanwhile, the small businesses that received forgivable PPP loans in April/May/June have all ended their 24-week spending period and a new PPP program will soon begin. Whatever isn’t forgiven will convert into regular loans. In trying to help these businesses, the government will have saddled some with even more debt.

 

Further up the food chain, the airline payroll support program just expired. The large carriers are laying off thousands of workers. Retailers continue to close stores and reduce headcount in locations that lack customers.

 

Hauntingly, we are starting to see layoffs outside the retail and service sector, at companies like Allstate and Raytheon that weren’t directly affected by the pandemic. They are shedding jobs anyway. This suggests the recession is spreading into parts of the economy it hadn’t previously touched.

 

All this is going to continue as long as COVID-19 remains enough of a threat to create the behavioral changes described above. We are at least another six months (and that’s a best case) from a vaccine being widely distributed enough to help. Thousands of businesses and millions of workers don’t have the means to wait. They just don’t. They spent their cash and are running out of choices.

 

As you know, I am as worried about the massive government debt as anyone. But if we don’t spend what it takes to support the economy until a vaccine is ready, the next few years could rival the 1930s. I don’t say that lightly. I see a wonderful long-term future but a giant canyon is opening between then and now.

 

Historically the general wisdom was that Washington gridlock was a good thing for the economy.  The general wisdom is now shifting as government inaction has become the bigger threat. 

 

Obviously the two parties see things differently. That’s not new. Until recently, they found ways to compromise. They need to do it again, or we will all pay a heavy price.

 

And that price will be borne by those least able to afford it. This chart from the Washington Post speaks volumes.  Which recession doesn’t look like the others?

 

 

 

A more modest second stimulus package has now been signed into law.  The new PPP “second draw” loans focus on those that were hardest hit.  Applicants must demonstrate a 25% or greater drop in gross revenues to qualify.  Restaurants get special treatment, allowing them to receive loans of 3.5 times their average monthly payroll cost.  Other businesses are limited to 2.5 times.  The first PPP program worked well despite a number of flaws.  It kept businesses from closing their doors.  I expect that the new round will have similar effects. 

 

What happens beyond the March, 2021 expiration of the 2nd PPP and federal unemployment benefits is anyone’s guess. It will depend a lot on the success of vaccine distribution and reduced spread of the virus and new mutations.  Further government action may be absolutely necessary.  Both sides will have to compromise or we could be looking at a straight up depression and a return to the March/April 2020 economic crisis. Here’s hoping they can figure it out. My base case is that they will.

 

I am a believer in human innovation and ingenuity. I think we will figure this out. I think the path of technology and innovation, especially in the biotechnology sector, is such that none of us in 2030 or 2035 will want to go back to the good old days of 2019. The medicine and healthcare of 2019 is going to look like the Stone Age in the 2030s. So will much of our current technology.

 

We’re going to have to rationalize the debt sometime before 2030. I believe that life-extending technology and perhaps even the Holy Grail of age reversal technology will be available within the next decade or so.  People will need to stay productive for longer to make that work.

 

As I performed research for this blog, I saw that MIT researchers are working on a “universal” flu vaccine. It targets a protein that rarely mutates, and might lead to a longer-lasting and more effective flu vaccine. Such research is happening everywhere. Some of it will bear fruit and make all our lives better.

 

But in the meantime, we have to get through 2021. In a few weeks, Georgians will go to the polls and decide on which party controls the agenda in the Senate. The problems will be the same whoever wins. The pace of recovery might be different. But entrepreneurs and businesses will figure it out. Innovation will grow. There will be more opportunities to put money to work in new technologies in this next decade than in the last 50 years combined. That’s one of the reasons I added a new category called “Innovation” to your asset allocation.  It’s already been the top performing category over the past two years. I think that outperformance will continue.

 

So even as we deal with the problems in front of us, let’s not take our eyes off the prize of innovation in the future. Over the coming months, I will be spending more time talking about the potential of the future (often happening right in front of us) and less about the problems of the present. Join me.

 

Personal Changes and Proof of My Optimism

 

I mentioned that I miss traveling and socializing with people. The return to normal has been frustrating and taking longer than I would like, partly because we’re more or less confined to our own ZIP Code. I suspect that there will be an explosion of pent-up demand when the virus is contained or effective therapeutic treatments are available.

 

That confidence is manifested in our decision to purchase a second home & office in New York City.  We’re looking forward to spending more time with our family, friends and clients who live in the city.  Of course, my clients who live in Florida and elsewhere are welcome to visit us when traveling to NYC too.

 

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year in 2021!

 

Bill

 

 

Acknowledgement:  Special thanks to Andrew Joseph, writer for the STAT healthcare news service and to John Mauldin, president of Millennium Wave Investments for their expertise and insights from which I borrowed heavily in the development of this month’s blog.   

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It’s a Whole New World

So much has changed in our lives in 2020.  Everyone is feeling stressed.  Here are a few of today’s top stressors.  It’s not a complete list.  What are your top 5 stressors?  And what does it say about our current situation if you have difficulty limiting your list to just 5?

 

Pandemic

Sickness and death

Lockdowns

Job loss/Furloughs

 

Protests

Wild Fires

Hurricanes

Floods

 

Violence

Cabin fever

Socialism

Fascism

 

Systemic bias

Homelessness

Isolation

Food Insecurity

 

Depression

Sense of loss

Sickness

Fear of dying alone

 

QAnon

Political extremism

Quarantine

Conspiracy theories

 

Weight gain

Political protest

Racism

Unconscious bias

 

Nationalism

White Supremacy

Proud Boys

Police shootings

 

Hate speech

Extreme partisanship

Pizzagate

Hatred of elites

 

Hospitalization

No Funerals

Antifa

Climate Change

 

Election fraud

No Weddings

Masks

Mass Shootings

 

Fact checking

Fox News

Hannity

Rachel Maddow

 

Racial Justice

Institutional Norms

Deep State

Social Distancing

 

Fake News

Foreign Interference

Hate Speech

Disinformation

 

Loss of Civility

Media Bias

Propaganda

Intolerance

 

You’ll notice that “investment performance” is not on the list.  Developing and implementing your investment strategy is my job, not yours.  I’m good at it because I have the time and interest to consistently learn.  I’m constantly seeking out new ideas to minimize risk and maximize future returns.  Managing risk is my specialty.  Diversification, strategic thinking and careful research are my primary tools.

Covid-19 is disrupting societies, economies, and markets around the world like no other crisis since World War II.  Policymakers, health workers, business and investors have been caught flat-footed, and without a playbook.  Adoption of trends that were already well underway have accelerated at a breathtaking pace, and new trends have emerged.  Working from home, online grocery delivery, home fitness, online education, relocation from cities to suburbs, online shopping, restaurant delivery, e-sports and video games, and dozens of other new trends are now firmly in place and here to stay.  Change is always stressful, especially when the speed is breathtaking.  When it comes to your investment portfolio, you can relax and take a deep breath.

I’ve spent much of the past 6 months rethinking investment strategy to adapt to the new realities.  I’ve attended two week-long strategic investing conferences for investment professionals.  I’ve participated in dozens of daily webinars hosted by fund companies and industry leading educators.  Both of the strategic investment conferences (originally scheduled for Phoenix and for Sydney) were virtual online events this year.  I’ve heard from 60+ leading investment thinkers from around the world.  I’ve listened to podcasts and finished more than a dozen audible books online.  The voices included portfolio managers, CIOs, senior investment analysts, investment strategists, economists, independent consultants and practitioners. Each offers his/her best high conviction ideas on contemporary and emerging portfolio construction strategies, to help us build better quality investor portfolios in a whole new world.

Even as I continue my own education, I’ve been busy making strategic changes to our investment strategy and investment selections.  This was necessary as the rules have changed. 

First, it’s important to understand that you remain highly diversified across 20 different asset classes, each chosen for specific reasons.  That part has not changed.  The changes I’m referring to are occurring within each of the asset classes.  Each change will be highlighted in some depth below. 

My goal is always to minimize risk and volatility while achieving market-like returns over time.  Like pieces in a puzzle (or players on a sports team), each asset class plays a very specific role in portfolio construction.  Some benefit from inflation.  Some deflation.  Some from economic growth.  Some from economic slowdown.  Others from rising interest rates.  Others from falling rates.  I could go on.  When we put them together, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  And each part is absolutely necessary to fully maximize the benefits for the whole.

A robust, carefully constructed investment portfolio with routine tax-aware rebalancing protects us from the negative consequences of making reactive investment decisions.  It avoids adverse outcomes that typically result from undisciplined portfolio decisions and unpleasant surprises on your tax return.  But a thoughtful strategy and robust framework is not enough.  Investment processes must be flexible enough to shift with changing paradigms, to avoid introducing unintended risks into portfolios.  It helps to have a clearly articulated and defined investment philosophy and framework to overcome our human tendencies, and successfully navigate treacherous conditions such as those experienced in 2020.

For the past 50 years we’ve lived in a period of mostly declining interest rates.  Rates have fallen from more than 20% in the early 80’s to negative in some parts of the world today.  That represented a tailwind for stocks, bonds and real estate for most of those years.  Returns of 8% to 10% were common during much of our investing lifetimes.  A new reality has now set in.  Today rates have nowhere to go but up.  Valuations are stretched by historic standards.  Demographically most of the developed world is aging and exiting their most productive years.  Economic growth and the investment return that it generates are increasingly harder to come by.  Much of the growth we have seen in recent years can be directly attributed to Fed policies that effectively pull future returns forward.  As a consequence, Investment returns for diversified portfolios are likely to average no more than 4% to 5% per year over the next 5 to 10 years.  This is the consensus among most economists and Wall Street banks.  Northern Trust was the latest institution to lower their long-term return forecast to 4% just last week, joining JP Morgan, PIMCO, and others (see the “Ivy Portfolio Index” attached).

Meanwhile, central bank “money printing” to prop up the economy has added increased risks to the financial system including the fear of resurgent inflation or even a potential monetary collapse.  A global pandemic still has yet to run its course, potentially leaving a path of both physical and economic pain that has yet to be fully realized.

We are entering a period of great unknowns.  The greatest minds of our time are wise enough to know that we have never been here before and none of us can accurately predict where we’re going from here.  Depressed yet?  Don’t be.  A lot of good things are happening at the same time.

A bull case can be built on the fact that we’re entering a period of great technological innovation and dramatic increases in productivity.  Self-driving cars, 3-D printing, “internet of things”, wearable technology, cloud computing, genomic engineering, robotics and artificial intelligence are disrupting and revolutionizing our world. 

A bear case can be made that these disruptive technologies are resulting in rapid change that may be beyond our ability to cope – at least in the short term.  Just ask Alexa if you’d like to know more! 

While I am a long-term optimist, I place no short-term bets either way.  Your portfolio will help us prepare for all possible scenarios.  There will be winners and losers among your 20 asset classes.  That is by design.  You’re positioned for all possible scenarios.  No matter which scenario unfolds and at what pace, your portfolio is designed to produce market-like returns with as little drama as possible. 

Here’s a brief description of some of the changes that I’m begun making inside the 20-asset class structure of your investment portfolio.  Note that underlined names and phrases in blue are links to more information.  These changes will better position us for success in this new world:

Equities:  Broad-Based

US Large Cap Stocks: No doubt that you’ve heard that a handful of stocks now make up more than 25% of the market capitalization – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google (FAANG).  In fact, the largest 50 of the 500 companies that make up the S&P 500 index now represent well over half of the S&P.  Even as these top 50 have become quite expensive, many of the 450 remaining offer compelling values.  I’m focusing on individual companies that produce high “free cash flow”.  These are solid companies that generate cash income beyond what is needed for reinvestment in the businesses.  Many of these companies pay solid and sustainable dividends, can add value by buying back stock, and have solid earnings growth prospects for the future.  These are the “Cash Cows” of the S&P.  The Pacer US Cash Cows 100 ETF (symbol COWZ) has been added to your investment portfolio along with some individual companies that I believe offer compelling value that fits this theme.

US Small Cap Companies:  Smaller companies tend to be more volatile than large companies, but as a group they have historically offered better investment returns over long periods of time.  The Pacer US Small Cap Cash Cows 100 ETF (symbol CALF) has been added to your portfolio along with some select smaller capitalization companies that offer strong free cash flow, compelling valuations and solid growth prospects.

Int’l Developed Market Companies:  International stocks are currently less expensive than their US counterparts.  This may reflect the higher weight of high-flying technology names in the US indices.  International companies also offer geographic diversification and currency diversification in an uncertain world.  The Pacer Developed Markets International Cash Cows 100 ETF (symbol ICOW) includes international companies with selected for their strong free cash flow and stable dividends.

Emerging Market Companies:  Emerging market stocks are a different animal, so to speak.  Here we want Cheetahs, now Cows.  Emerging market countries are where we were back in the 1950’s.  Here we look for fast growing companies that are best positioned to capitalize on the rapid population growth in the developing world.  The Emerging Markets Internet + eCommerce ETF (symbol EMQQ) and the Columbia Emerging Markets Consumer ETF (symbol ECON) avoid the problem of inefficient “state-owned enterprises” that dominate many broad-based emerging market funds.

Equities:  Natural Resources & Basic Needs

Energy & Materials Companies:  The fossil fuel industry is dying.  Rapid advances in technology and reduced costs are catapulting clean energy companies focused on solar, wind, geothermal and battery technologies into taking their place.  I’ve been exiting all broad-based energy companies relying on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy ETFs and individual companies that are leading the charge (pun intended).

Food & Farmland Companies: The world’s population is growing – and through good times and bad –– we all have to eat.  I’m now supplementing the two industry ETF stalwarts, VanEck Vectors Agribusiness ETF (symbol MOO) and iShares MSCI Global Agriculture Producers ETF (VEGI) with companies like Farmland Partners which owns 158k acres of farmland and Gladstone Land which owns 88k acres.  I’m also supplementing the broad-based food and farmland ETFs with individual companies including leaders in the plant-based foods revolution such as Kroger, Beyond Meat and rapid growers like United Natural Foods.

Water & Environment Companies: Water is the new oil.  We all take it for granted.  And why not?  We turn a tap and out it comes.  But that’s about to change.  The basic problem is that the quantity of water in the world is finite, but demand everywhere is on the rise.  Water is considered an “axis resource”, meaning it’s the resource that underlies all others.  So, whether you’re building a computer chip, or growing crops, or generating power, all these things require lots of water.  We invest in ETFs like the Invesco S&P Global Water Index ETF, and individual industry-leading companies such as  Veolia , Xylem and Consolidated Water.

Timber Companies:  A unique characteristic of timber companies is that their inventory keeps appreciating in value even during recessions – as their trees continue to grow during good times and bad.  Lumber is also used primarily in the single-family home market, which is booming during the pandemic as people leave high-rise living in cities for work-at-home solutions in the suburbs.  We invest in both iShares Global Timber & Forestry ETF (symbol WOOD), and directly in Weyerhaeuser, the largest landowner in the United States with 12 million acres of timberland under management.

Fixed Income:

Cash & Currencies:  This is our dry powder.  There are times when cash is king even when the yield is next to nothing.  The US dollar has been on a long run versus other countries for more than 20 years.  With the current unprecedented pace of Fed money printing, some believe that that this trend is long in the tooth.  For that reason, and to hedge our bets, we are beginning to include foreign cash in the mix through currency ETFs.  Favorites include the Australian and Canada dollar (commodity currencies) and the Swiss Franc (which has a long history of responsible management of their currency).

US Bonds: Historically the least risky asset class may now be the riskiest of them all.  After 50 years of declining rates (which causes the prices of existing fixed-rate bonds to rise in value), many of us wonder how much lower they can go if at all.  Nonetheless, bonds remain an important diversifier.  We avoid the risk of rising rates by focusing on bonds with short duration, inflation-protected bonds, variable rate bonds, and bond substitutes like new products such as Cambria Tail Risk ETF (TAIL), which invests in a combination of US treasuries and “put options” on the stock market that would rise in value significantly in the event of a sizeable market downturn. 

International Developed Market Bonds:  Our focus here is on currency diversification to reduce the risk of decline in the US dollar and inflation-protection through TIPS purchased from major developed issued by responsible governments including Germany, Spain, the UK, Australia, China and Japan. 

Emerging Market Bonds:  Bonds issued by developing countries offer both currency diversification and high yield.  Today emerging market countries like South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines often have stronger balance sheets and less debt than many of their developed market counterparts.  These countries have younger populations and better growth prospects than their more highly developed competitors.  In that sense the bonds of these countries may be mispriced, leaving room for significant appreciation in addition to their already high yields. 

Real Assets & Alternative Diversifiers

US Real Estate:  There is something to be said for physical assets that we can feel and touch, and which don’t become obsolete when someone invents new software code, a faster computer chip or better high-tech mousetrap.  Shopping malls and office buildings may be in secular decline, but apartment communities in low tax states, senior housing and datacenters in suburban markets are on the ascendency.  Income-producing real estate provides low risk and solid dividends as long as one doesn’t bet too heavily on particular types and locations.  We are now supplementing broad-based REITs with companies that own senior housing, medical offices, apartment communities in the Sunbelt, distribution warehouses and cloud-based datacenters that are in increasing demand all over the country.  REITs currently produce dividends of 4% to 5%.  Even assuming no appreciation in asset values, this asset class offers solid returns.  Given the tax structure of REITs, we typically hold real estate investments in tax-deferred retirement accounts whenever possible.   

Global Real Estate:  If real estate itself is a good diversifier, owning it globally magnifies the diversifying properties.  Cell towers, data storage facilities, and cloud-based data centers are exploding in demand worldwide.  We own US domiciled REITs that maintain real estate holdings worldwide.  Yields here are even higher than with US properties, averaging 6% to 7% globally. 

Global Infrastructure:  Highways, bridges, and airports make up the bulk of publicly-owned global listed infrastructure, but the fastest growth is coming from the rapid expansion of critical infrastructure that uses smart technologies. Years of dithering and missed opportunities in Washington have forced innovators and investors alike to create their own infrastructure boom. With the economy crying out for stimulus and an election on the horizon, these companies may finally be ready to rebuild the nation and the world.  Regardless of which party wins the US election, it’s a safe bet that we will be heavily investing in rebuilding our infrastructure beginning next year. Rebuilding infrastructure means new jobs and economic growth, which may be sorely needed as we come out of the pandemic and face dislocation in so many service industries.  We are getting ahead of this curve by investing in Global X US Infrastructure Development ETF (symbol PAVE) and SPDR S&P Kensho Intelligent Structures ETF (symbol SIMS).  The former invests in traditional companies that benefit from infrastructure development including railroads, engineering companies, heavy equipment makers and contractors.  The latter focuses on smart building infrastructure, smart grids, intelligent transportation infrastructure and intelligent water infrastructure.  This category could explode upward when Congress and the President get serious about rebuilding our infrastructure and stimulating the American economy in the process.

US Energy Infrastructure:  We’re gradually exiting the oil and gas pipelines that once dominated this category in favor of progressive utilities that have embraced new technologies including solar, wind, nuclear and other non-fossil fuel source of energy.  We remain partially invested in Kinder Morgan, an energy pipeline company that is expected to benefit from consolidation of the remaining US pipeline infrastructure as they gobble up weaker players.  It doesn’t hurt that Richard Kinder, one of the greatest minds in the energy industry, owns 10% of the shares.

Gold & Gold Miners:  The Federal Reserve can print money, but they can’t print gold.  Gold has historically performed well during deflationary periods when fear is high and when low interest rates make the carrying cost low.  Gold also performs well in inflationary periods when confidence in paper money is waning.  Our gold holdings are diversified in vaults throughout the world including London, New York, Frankfurt, Perth, Toronto and Zurich.  We also hold companies that own gold in the ground in the form of the gold miner ETF iShares MSCI Global Gold Miners ETF (symbol RING) and individual gold mining companies such as Newmont (symbol NEM).

Commodities:  Commodities are turning in a solid performance in 2020.  The category includes oil and gas, agricultural products, industrial metals, and precious metals including silver, platinum and palladium – many of which have industrial uses in technologies of the future.  Most importantly, commodities are a tangible real asset that outperforms when the US dollar is weak, as it was for most of 2020 to date.  Commodities are in finite quantity and extraction involves significant costs, offering a thesis for increased scarcity as population growth continues around the world. 

Innovation:  This is the most exciting category to talk about.  It’s all about the future, except that the future is now.  Innovation has persisted throughout the course of history; but it has not always progressed in a predictable or linear fashion.  Innovation is episodic.  Periods when we have seen increases in rapid adoption of new technologies typically coincide with sustained and accelerating economic growth.  I believe that we’re now living through a 4th industrial revolution and that is driving the current pace of innovation in the marketplace.  Building on the 3rd (a digital revolution occurring since the mid-20th century), the 4th reflects many technologies – blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres.  Innovation is everywhere.  It can be found in any part of the economy regardless of sector classification, market capitalization or geographical location.  That’s why I’ve created a space for innovation as a separate asset class.  The companies that are leading this revolution don’t necessarily fit in any of the other 19 categories.  Some of them are small and not yet profitable.  They don’t always appear in other broad market indices.  There are 5 platforms of growth that will generate significant economic value over the next 5 to 10 years:

·        Global E-commerce.  Beyond companies like Amazon and Alibaba – who have penetrated industries like travel, books, household products, groceries, office supplies and media – I see significant opportunities in fashion, autos, travel, ride sharing, restaurant delivery and even textbooks.  There are opportunities in payment companies that are easy to use and add security and safety to the system.  Drone manufacturers and other ways to delivery packages are also potential areas for investment.

·        Genetic breakthroughs.  The genetics industry is on the cusp of creating meaningful advances in diagnostics and therapeutics, and even in areas like agriculture and artificial intelligence applications.  Human longevity and aging may even be manipulated through advances over the next 10 to 15 years.

·        Intelligent machines.  Artificial intelligence or machine learning is permeating every layer of product development. If the past 30 years we spent time collecting and organizing data with mainframes, personal computers and mobile phones.  The next 30 years could be set up to take that data and change our lives in the physical world.  The future of production will include individualized products designed to the needs of the customer.  Efficiencies in the design and manufacturing process, employing robotics, 3D printing, and manipulation of massive amounts of data, will enable that level of specificity and customization.

·        New finance.  Efficient pricing and methods of payment are advancing and being adopted rapidly.  Methods of exchange are evolving with trends in e-commerce, allowing mobile payments and digital wallets to gain traction. This is especially true in developing countries that lack the advantages (or burdens) of a brick-and-mortar banking infrastructure.  In many poor countries, payments by smart phones have already completely replaced paper currencies and the need for bank accounts or credit cards.  FinTech is a merging of finance and technology and rapid adoption is already underway everywhere in the world.

·        Exponential data.  Our ability to collect, store and deliver data to create more efficient marketing and distribution has taken a major leap forward in recent years and is growing exponentially.  That requires massive amounts of datacenters, fiber-optic cable, and cell towers.  Advances in artificial intelligence, computing power and memory are allowing us to fully exploit that data.  The creation, cleaning, storage, and delivery of data will lead to new applications like augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence & machine learning, software as a service, and the sharing economy.  Some have postulated that data is becoming the new oil.  I agree.  

We are covering this space through a variety of thematic ETFs focused on the innovators that are changing our world.  These include The SPDR Kensho New Economies ETF  (symbol KOMP), the iShares Exponential Technologies ETF (symbol XT), the ALPS Disruptive Technologies ETF  (symbol DTEC), the ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (symbol ARKG), the iShares Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF  (symbol IRBO) and the iShares Cybersecurity and Tech ETF  (symbol (IHAK). 

Hedge Strategies & Macro Trends:  A hedge is a risk management technique to minimize volatility, reduce risk and improve performance.  Hedge funds have historically used complex techniques such as long/short equity strategies, put/write and covered call options strategies, leveraged dividend strategies, merger arbitrage and tail risk management techniques to achieve these objectives.  Other techniques include momentum and macro-trend following strategies designed to exploit market inefficiencies.  We use several well-regarded ETFs to cover this asset class including the Direxion Work from Home ETF (trend following), the AFGiQ US Market Neutral Anti-Beta Fund (long/short equity), Blackrock Enhanced Equity Dividend Trust (leveraged dividend), the Quadratic Interest Rate Volatility and Inflation Hedge ETF  (tail risk), the Global X NASDAQ 100 Covered Call ETF  (options) and the Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF (macro-trend) to gain exposure to transformational blockchain trading technology (which goes well beyond crypto-currency applications).

Conclusion:  If you’ve made it this far, you now have an appreciation for how I spend my time.  Roughly half of my time is spent educating myself and applying what I learn to portfolio construction.  The other half is implementation and responding to individual client needs.  My goal is always to help you achieve your goals as articulated in your financial plan.  The strategy is always evolving in an effort to better manage risk and take advantage of new opportunities as they emerge.  New ideas are constantly being considered for introduction to our disciplined investment framework.  The goal is always to minimize risk, reduce volatility and generate strong long-term returns as we work together to achieve your financial goals.  The goal is simple.  The challenge lies in the design, the implementation and the rebalancing discipline.  That’s my job.  One less thing for you to stress about as we move forward together into this Whole New World. 

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Goldman Sachs: National mask mandate needed to restart US economy

Government mandates to wear a mask in public have become a uniquely hot-button issue in the U.S., which finds itself in the throes of a coronavirus crisis that appears to be drifting out of control by the day.  The debate pits scientific consensus against libertarian philosophy.  The public welfare against individual freedom.  Reasoned thought against inflamed tribal passion.

“Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”.  – former Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (addressing pragmatic limitations on liberty.)

Impact on Economic Activity

Goldman Sachs – whose focus is always on business, the economy and making money – weighed in on the debate in a new study released last week.  Goldman observes that “New US coronavirus cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, leading investors to worry that renewed lockdowns will again depress economic activity.”

Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman, says that “a national face-mask mandate would partially substitute for renewed lockdowns that could otherwise subtract more than a trillion dollars from gross domestic product and cripple the US economy.”

Goldman’s new study compares data from 125 countries and scores of US counties with and without face mask mandates.  The researchers concluded that a government order to wear face masks in public “could cut the virus’s infection rate by nearly 60 percent, and reduce fatalities by nearly half.”

Public Confidence

“We find that face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes,” they wrote, and this “seems to reflect a largely causal impact of masks rather than correlation with other factors (such as reduced mobility or avoidance of large gatherings).”

Beyond the medical evidence, mandatory face mask usage would also increase public confidence and feelings of personal safety, further increasing the likelihood that individuals and families feel comfortable returning to work, school and other activities.  

Avoiding Lockdowns

Looking at the U.S., the researchers found “face mask usage is highest in the Northeast, where the virus situation has improved dramatically in recent months, and generally lower in the South, where the numbers have deteriorated”.

“For example, only about 40 percent of respondents in Arizona say that they ‘always’ wear face masks in public, compared with nearly 80 percent in Massachusetts.”

“If a face mask mandate meaningfully lowers coronavirus infections, it could be valuable not only from a public health perspective but also from an economic perspective because it could substitute for renewed lockdowns that would otherwise hit GDP,” the researchers wrote.

Their data showed that countries that fail to reach widespread masking usage see both infections and deaths increased.

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

The Goldman report comes as Florida, Texas, California and Arizona – the states that have accounted for much of the recent rise in U.S. cases – imposed new restrictions and rolled back their reopening plans.

There are now 10.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 world-wide and at least 521,000 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. continues to lead the world, with a case tally of 2.8 million and death toll of 131,000.  The US has only 4% of the world’s population but more than 25% of virus-related deaths.  

On Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said that the pandemic is “not even close to being over.”

Still, mask wearing in the U.S. has been lax and not uniform. Hugo’s Tacos, a Los Angeles Mexican restaurant, temporarily closed its doors, claiming that its workers were being bullied for enforcing mask-wearing protocols in their restaurants.

LA, particularly, has seen an explosion of COVID-19 cases, with about 100,000 cases and more than 3,300 deaths.

Tribalism and the Culture War

While science and the rest of the world are largely in agreement, the medical guidance in the US has become embroiled in a culture war.  The US president’s view on mask usage is seen undercutting efforts by public-health officials to encourage the use of facial coverings and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, to halt the resurgence of the infection.

Impact on the Stock Market and Economic Recovery

Concerns about a resurgence of the disease also has created turbulence in the equity markets after the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq Composite Index all surged from the late-March lows on the back of hope that America had gotten a handle of the outbreak, which bullish investors surmised could help to stoke a so-called V-shaped, or sharp, economic recovery.

Goldman warns that failure to issue a timely national mandate on mask wearing will jeopardize the US recovery and potentially lead us into a lasting recession or depression if the virus is not contained.  Community spread has already reached levels that exceed our ability to test, contact trace and isolate.  

A national mask mandate is our only viable solution to quickly returning to economic prosperity.  Public resistance is akin to “cutting off the nose to spite the face”.  Resistance based on anger, mistrust or tribalism will only reduce public confidence, risk further damage to our economy and slow our efforts to restore our nation’s health.

Bill

 

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Pizza, Beer and Getting Punched in the Mouth

When I was a kid living in Tucson, Arizona, my family of seven often packed into our Chevy station wagon and headed to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor on Friday nights.  My ten-year-old self loved Shakey’s.  It wasn’t just about the pizza.  There was something magical about the overall experience.  Shakeys’ was always packed and noisy.  Mechanical “player pianos” pounded out music.  Live musicians in straw hats wandered from table to table, and we all sang along to familiar ragtime tunes.  I loved that we were there as a family and that my parents were momentarily unperturbed by their five rowdy kids, possibly helped along by the free-flowing pitchers of beer.

It’s odd how some small things become seared into our memories, while others simply disappear.  One such odd memory is one of the many comical signs adorning the walls that somehow inexplicably captivated me:   

     “Shakey’s made a deal with the bank.  We don’t cash checks and they don’t make pizzas”. 

I guess that just struck me as quite clever in my ten-year-old mind.  They were setting the rules, but doing so with a bit of humor.  In that spirit, I’d like to roll out my own new rule for you and the other clients of Comprehensive Money Management:

     “CMMS made a deal with its clients.  We’ll help you achieve your financial goals, and you’ll stop worrying about the daily ups and downs of the markets”. 

I’m hard at work doing my part.  Are you ready, willing and able to do yours?

We’re Standing Tall

     “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  – American philosopher Mike Tyson

Unlike so many others, your plan remains strong and fully intact.  In fact, thanks to this insane volatility, a few new opportunities have emerged that may help us come out stronger on the other end.  Your plan was designed to weather an occasional punch in the mouth, and has handled that well.  You’re still standing and looking good without much added wear or tear.

The New World Order

I’ve spent a lot of time researching coronavirus and COVID-19 – and now – with confidence – I can tell you that I don’t know how this will play out. Nobody does.  It may go away in a month, or it may linger much longer.  The optimist in me thinks that over the next month or two – things will get worse – then will start to get better.  Just as it is hard to see what would ever stop good things from continuing forever, it is also hard for us to see how bad things will end and get better on the other side.

I do believe that capitalism will win – and that pharmaceutical companies will find a cure or a vaccine.  I’ll bet on capitalism – our selfish perpetual engine with the power to do seemingly impossible things.

The realist in me hopes the optimist is right, but suspects that COVID-19 may linger longer than a few months.  How much longer?  We don’t know, and we don’t have to, because you have a solid financial plan that knows how to take a punch and continue to push forward – not in panic – but with dignity and grace.

My Focus

All of my waking hours are focused on continually managing risk, lowering your tax bill, and repositioning your portfolio for the New World Order that lies ahead.  That will likely be a world of economic deleveraging, more people working from home, higher unemployment, lower investment returns and less fervent speculation on Wall Street.  Debt-fueled stock buybacks by corporate CEOs that pumped up stock prices to maximize their bonuses are likely a thing of the past.  Market returns for a diversified portfolio are likely to be no more than 5 to 6% in the coming years.  We’ve prepared for that.  Your financial plan built in to the MoneyGuide Pro financial planning software assumes a 5.5% average annual return.  Even after this recent punch in the mouth, your actual long-term average annual return is still beating that goal.  Your investment portfolio and overall financial plan remain solid and fully intact.        

Taking Action

I’m not sitting still.  For the past two weeks, I’ve been furiously rebalancing and harvesting losses in taxable accounts.  I’m adding value by capturing the loss in select securities for tax purposes, even as the replacement security is positioned to catch the rebound.  I’ve also begun to make a few strategic changes in individual investment selections within the confines of your overall asset allocation plan.

     “Life can only be understood backwards—but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Within your EQUITY allocation (the “engines”), I’m gradually switching from ETFs that invest in the broader markets to those that focus primarily on high quality, cash rich companies with strong balance sheets.  I’m de-emphasizing REITs that invest in all property types (including shopping malls and office buildings) in favor of those that focus on trends with sound demographic underpinnings, such as medical offices, senior housing and hospitals.  I’m repositioning the portfolio in recognition that many small businesses will fail – and many industries will never be the same.

Within your FIXED INCOME allocation (the “brakes”), I deemphasized higher-yield corporate bonds long ago in favor of safer US treasury securities.  You have been rewarded for that move, as both short and long-term treasuries have soared while corporate bonds have faltered.

Within your REAL ASSETS allocation (the “diversifiers”), gold, alternative strategies and other hedges are playing their part by cushioning the portfolio from uncertainty, economic turmoil, and corporate and consumer deleveraging.  Who would have thought that Brent crude would be trading at $4 a barrel – well below the price of water – which it did earlier this past week?  Or that gold would quickly rise by 25% in a few short weeks after many years of a slow and torturous decline?  The diversifiers in your portfolio serve us well when the unexpected strikes, or when the engines falter and the brakes fail.      

Consumer behavior will change due to this virus; and consumers are 70% of the US economy.  I’m working hard to anticipate and get out in front of these changes before they are fully known and appreciated by the wider world.

We’ll Get Through This Together

I told you earlier what I don’t know about this virus.  Nor do I have a crystal-clear picture of its impact on our consumer-driven economy.  What I do know is that you can have clarity, or you can have undervaluation; you cannot have both. Today we have anything but clarity, but undervaluation is coming to us real fast.  Bargains only happen when people are confused and truly scared. 

For an added confidence booster, I recommend that you revisit my earlier blog “What Do I Own and Why Do I Own It?”.  A newly updated and revised copy is attached.  Each of the investments in your portfolio – the engines, the brakes and the diversifiers – play a critical role.  They work together to produce the best possible long-term outcome and maximize your long-term wealth.

So, let me do the strategizing and the worrying and help you navigate these volatile markets.  We may not yet be at a market bottom, but I’m convinced that the things we own today offer compelling long-term value once we get past the current period of uncertainty.  I also believe that investors will be rewarded for adding new money to their investment portfolios at these levels. 

Maintaining a long-term time horizon is paramount.  Every decision we make, we need to make from the perspective not of tomorrow, next week or even next year – but three to five years from now. 

That’s why investing is hard. 

 

Bill

 

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My Support for You in a Crisis

Good evening.

I’m sure you don’t have to be told that our country – and the world—are in a big awful mess.  The Covid-19 virus has disrupted everything: our sense of personal safety, our jobs, the economy, and – for an undefined period of time – our investment portfolios. 

I’m reminded of the stories my mom and dad shared with me about growing up during the Great Depression and World War II.  They were stories of collective sacrifice as the world faced great and sometimes mortal threats.  Of course, my parents survived (or else I wouldn’t be here), and we both know that our society will survive this as well. 

Perhaps a silver lining is what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.  I’m hopeful that this crisis will bring us together as one nation and one world.  We are all human, and all a bit fragile.  This pandemic also reminds me that we are all on this planet for a short period of time.  Perhaps this crisis may help us re-learn what is truly important and what is less so. 

There is nothing that brings people together like a common enemy.  This time that enemy is COVID-19 and the threats that it presents to our physical and financial health.  I’m writing, not because I can add much to what you’re already getting from the media, but because I deeply want to proactively comfort you and lighten your load a bit if I can.  Let me offer these thoughts in no particular order.

Keeping your head when all others are losing theirs

I would ask you to recognize that we are ALL experiencing a lot of stress as we navigate through this pandemic.  You do not need to worry.  I’m doing that for you!  I lie awake at night thinking about you and my other clients.  I’m spending many of my waking hours looking for opportunities that will help us come out stronger on the other end.  I’m also thankful that tax season is largely behind me, with nearly 100 client tax returns already filed or ready to file.  That frees up my time to rebalance, harvest tax losses, and look for new opportunities.  I’m taking action to protect your portfolio, reduce future taxes, and reposition your investment portfolio for the gains ahead.

Herd mentality

We all need to recognize that we’re all part of the human herd.  By that I mean that you probably share the instinct to sell and get out of the way of whatever the market does in the highly unpredictable near future.  Our fight or flight instincts tempt us to retreat to the sidelines.  Even those of us who manage investments for a living are not immune.   The outcries of the irrational, instinctive part of our brain – which scientists tell us is the most powerful – is screaming right now. 

This is precisely why investing is not easy. 

We are all emotionally affected by the events of the world.  Neither you nor I are immune from human emotion.  But despite all the emotional pressure, our higher cognitive functions must remain in control. 

Are you currently thinking like a lizard, rabbit or Dr. Spock?

Scientists tell us that the human brain has three parts, the cerebral cortex at the top (which makes us rational humans), the cerebellum immediately below (which has the intelligence of a rabbit), coordinates muscular activity, and then the limbic brain at the top of your spinal cord, which controls fight or flight reactions.  That bottom nodule of thinking tissue has roughly the same intelligence as a lizard.

When humans encounter danger (and the recent market behavior certainly qualifies, particularly when it is also associated with a life-threatening pandemic and global economic shutdown), the mind instinctively retreats to the limbic brain.  Which means that many of us are currently functioning with the intelligence of a lizard.  It’s in that kind of environment that a disciplined investment strategy really shines!

Don’t feel bad if you find yourself thinking like a lizard at this moment.  We all do that from time to time.  The key for each of us is to recognize what is happening with our biology, tame the fight or flight automatic impulses of our limbic brain, and strive to react more like Dr. Spock. 

What to do? 

If you feel shut down by fear, I understand what that feels like and empathize with your feelings.  I’m here to listen.  Sometimes just talking things through can pull the locus of our awareness out of the bottom of the brain toward the top. 

Focus on the opportunities:

The market turmoil is giving us a rare opportunity to add value to our financial lives.  I feel like a kid in a candy story when I’m harvesting tax losses and reestablishing cost basis across your portfolio.  I’m also looking for opportunities to perform Roth IRA conversions at these lower valuations.  And of course, the treasury bonds, infrastructure, precious metals and cash in your investment portfolio can be redeployed at a time when stocks are on sale, giving portfolio returns a boost once we get to the other side of this crisis and the economy recovers again.

What’s Next?

I hope that you were not expecting me to tell you how long the Covid-19 epidemic will last, or to measure its long-term economic impact, or have any insights into when the markets will eventually recover.  Of course, I have no idea of any of those things – and nobody else does either.  Humility is a good thing to have when you’re forecasting the economy or markets. You never know what relevant facts you might be missing, so it’s best not to be too confident.  Those of us who have experienced three major downturns (or four if you experienced Black Monday crisis back in 1987) remember how unexpected they were, how experts and pundits were caught by surprise, and how wrong they were when they tried to tell us what was coming next.

The Long Term:

I only know one thing: which direction the next 100% movement in the stock market is going to be.  Long term investors know this.  Throughout recorded history, investment portfolios typically double every ten or twenty years, especially when measured from what could be close to a market low.  Cash may feel good right now, but it is guaranteed to lose value after considering inflation.  Of course, getting out of markets may feel satisfying in the moment, but it begs the question of when to get back in.  Most of us can’t finance our retirement earning less than 1% per year. 

Selling low and buying high is not a winning investment strategy.  Neither is consistently selling during market downturns and buying back in at market highs.  Our highly diversified 7/20 model (seven primary assets classes and 20 sub-asset classes), routinely rebalanced, is a winning strategy.  It has consistently provided high single digit returns with fewer negative years than any other strategy (see 47-year analysis attached).  Note the worst three-year rolling return for this strategy was -13%.  This is also a strategy that on average has resulted in a doubling of value every 7 to 10 years.  This is not a strategy practiced by lizards.  It is a strategy created by and faithfully followed by academics and the smartest minds on Wall Street who think and react more like Dr. Spock.

Bill’s crystal ball

I’ve been writing and publishing blogs for my clients every quarter now for 18 years.  My long-term clients may remember that I often signed them “Dr. Doom”.  I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian.  I have found that tendency has served me well over time.  That also manifests itself in feeling more optimistic when those around us are losing their heads.  That’s where I am today.  I suspect that the short-term pain is not over.  But for long term investors, when Wall Street sees “blood in the streets”, it has always proven in retrospect to be a great time to invest for the long term. 

If you need help getting through this crisis, please let me know. 

Please accept my best wishes, my sympathy, and my support as you and your family navigate this crisis together.  Rest assured that you are never far from my mind, and that I’m working diligently to ensure that your investment portfolio comes out of this crisis well positioned for the rebound that will inevitably come.  I’m glad to have you as a client and am lucky to have a job that I truly love. 

Be kind.  Be smart.  Be well.

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Contact Info

Comprehensive Money Management Services LLC
535 Vilabella Avenue
Coral Gables, FL 33146
Phone 305-662-7757
Fax 305-402-8409
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Disclosures

Comprehensive Money Management Services LLC (“CMMS”) is a Registered Investment Adviser located in Coral Gables, Florida. The firm is registered with the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation. CMMS and its representatives are in compliance with the current filing requirements imposed upon Florida-registered investment advisers and by those states in which CMMS maintains clients.

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