Letter to Clients: 4th Quarter 2020

October 2020

Dear Clients and Friends:

Given the year thus far, we hope this letter finds you healthy, safe, and in good spirts. Here at DV Financial, we remain open for business and are ready to serve you. We are happy to meet with you in person or, if you prefer, over the phone or by video conference. The COVID pandemic emphasizes our long-standing mission of making you comfortable with your money. Now it extends to making you comfortable no matter how you choose to communicate with us.

Last quarter we introduced the newest member of the DV Financial team, Patrick Owens. We have gotten to know him better over the past several weeks and we want you to know him better too. During Patrick’s banking tenure, he earned his Series 6[1], 63[2], and 65[3] as well as his insurance license. He really enjoyed building relationships with clients but wanted to transition to Investment Management and Financial Planning, so he joined our firm as a Financial Advisor. He and his wife Shantelle live in West Des Moines with their three young children and dog. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, cooking, and riding bikes on the local trails. He also volunteers as a Watch DOG at his kids’ elementary school.

This quarter we will cover three important topics:

  1. A market update,
  2. The upcoming election, and
  3. The path to a successful retirement.

Market Update

The S&P 500 Index surged an impressive 60% from the March 23, 2020 bottom to the most recent high in early September, but then the markets suffered a bit of a setback.

Table 1: Key Index Returns

MTD%

YTD%

Dow Jones Industrial Average

-2.3

-2.7

NASDAQ Composite

-5.2

24.5

S&P 500 Index

-3.9

4.1

Russell 2000 Index

-3.5

-9.6

MSCI World ex-USA*

-3.1

-9.0

MSCI Emerging Markets* -1.8

-2.9

US Aggregate Bond TR** -0.1

6.8

 

Source: Wall Street Journal, MSCI.com, Morningstar, MarketWatch

MTD returns: Aug 31, 2020 – Sep 30, 2020 

YTD returns: Dec 31, 2019 - Sep 30, 2020 

*in US dollars           **Bloomberg Barclays

 

Given the rapid run-up, a pullback is not surprising. We continue to maintain our long-term perspective as it is impossible to consistently predict the timing, magnitude, and duration of intermediate corrections. History has clearly shown that staying invested is better than knee jerk reactions and we fully expect the historical trend to prove itself again, given enough time.

There are several factors which contributed to last month’s decline:

  • Uncertainty creates an excellent excuse to capture profits after a quick run-up and our current environment is full of uncertainty.
  • The next wave of COVID appears to be in motion as the daily case count has ticked higher in the U.S.
  • Our political parties have yet to find common ground for a new fiscal stimulus bill. The economic recovery in Q3 has been stronger than many analysts had predicted, but despite the high cost many investors and analysts believe more support is needed.
  • The Presidential election cycle is entering the late innings and worries persist that a clear winner will not be quickly or easily determined. A disputed election would add to investor angst.

2020 Election

On Friday October 2, President Trump and the First Lady tested positive for COVID, injecting a new element of uncertainty into an already tumultuous election. Concerns extend from control of the government, the magnitude of potential infection on government leaders, and the future of the campaign itself. This heightened uncertainty magnifies already fragile investor sentiment.

We are not political analysts. Our role is to guide your journey towards your financial goals. We make every attempt to put aside our individual political beliefs while carefully and cautiously assessing the financial impact as a dispassionate investor focused on economic fundamentals and how they may impact investments.

Again, we consider history. JP Morgan Asset Management developed simple, yet effective, charts to illustrate the impact of government control on the S&P 500 and changes to GDP since World War II.

Years where the Republicans controlled government are shown in red, years where the Democrats controlled government are shown in blue, and the gray years represent divided governments where neither party held control. When looking at the results, we can see that irrespective of political power our nation is strong and markets perform well over time. Perhaps the most important observation may be that our democratic process, while messy at times, leads to discord and debate which may be better for the country than either side “winning”.

We encourage you to keep political rhetoric in perspective. You may recall that in the last election cycle investors were concerned that stock markets would not do well under a Trump administration and many wanted the continuity they thought a Hillary Clinton administration would provide. Now some investors fret that a Biden win could lead to increased regulation on businesses and higher taxes.

Politics are important, but markets are linked to the strength of the economy, corporate profits, and monetary policy – not political ideology. Innovation and entrepreneurship drive the economy no matter who is the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Path to a Successful Retirement

According to the Department of Labor[i]:

  • Only 40% of Americans have calculated how much they need to save for retirement.
  • In 2018, nearly 30% of private industry workers who had access to a 401(k) plan or similar employer sponsored retirement plan did not participate.
  • The average American retirement lasts around 20 years

Retiring successfully does not happen automatically. Social Security is not enough. You must create a plan, implement the plan, and when necessary adjust the plan.

Here are six steps on the path to a successful retirement:

  1. Calculate your retirement goal – The first step is to decide what your lifestyle will be in retirement and then estimate how much it will cost on a monthly or annual basis to fund your lifestyle. You can adjust that figure by any known income sources such as Social Security or a pension benefit, and the remainder tells you how much income you need to produce. Next account for inflation and estimate your average return on investments. Finally, you can perform time value of money calculations to determine your monthly savings goal. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry. We have software and tools which automate this process for you.
  2. Select investments which help you sleep, not ones that keep you awake – Some investors are more comfortable playing it safe, while others want to maximize their returns. Typically, we expect to be rewarded for risk but that does not mean the path will always be smooth. You need to find the balance where you get enough return on your money to reach your goals, while not living in fear of looking at your account statements.
  3. Decide on a tax strategy – Modern retirement accounts come in two flavors; before tax (traditional) and after-tax (Roth). The difference is where you pay your taxes. In a traditional account, you invest before paying taxes, the money grows tax deferred, and you pay taxes when you take the money out. Traditional retirement accounts are also subject to Required Minimum Distributions (RMD). In a Roth account, your investment is made after paying taxes, the money grows tax deferred, and is received income tax free as long you are over age 59.5 and have had a Roth account for more than five years. In general, the goal of investing is to put in a little and take out a lot. Would you rather pay taxes on the little bit you put in or the lot you take out? The answer is straightforward unless you believe taxes will be lower in the future.
  4. Be a systematic investor – Put on blinders when it comes to your retirement savings and make sure you regularly and systematically contribute. If you have an employer sponsored plan at work, be sure to take full advantage of the “free money” your employer makes available through matching. The strategy of investing a constant amount regularly without regard to market prices is called Dollar Cost Averaging. While no investment strategy can guarantee success, Dollar Cost Averaging does guarantee that your average cost per share will be less than the average price per share because you end up buying more shares when the price is low and fewer shares when the price is high.
  5. Magic Formula: Time + Compounding = Success – Immediately is the best time to start investing! The longer your money works for you, the better off you will be. If you correlate the amount of money you need to save every month to reach your retirement goal to the diameter of a ball, the more time you have the smaller your ball needs to be. The analogy we like to make is of a marble, a golf ball, a softball, and a beach ball. If you put a marble in your pocket, you will not even feel it there. With a golf ball, you will feel it for a while, but soon you will get used to it. A softball in your pocket may fit, but you will never forget it is there while a beachball is just too big to fit.
  6. Planning your withdrawals is as important as planning your savings – It is an awkward shift in paradigm. Instead of saving a percentage of your paycheck, now you must take out a percentage of your nest egg. Take out too much and you run the risk of running out of money. Take out too little and you may not be able the enjoy as much as you could. You must also make decisions as to when to begin drawing social security and take into account tax considerations such as RMDs.

While the steps are simple, the impact can be tremendous. Many people are intimidated by retirement planning and we understand why; it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. At DV Financial, we have over 30 years of working with people as they prepare for and enter retirement. You do not have to do it alone. We share our knowledge and expertise so you can reach your goals with confidence.

Parting thoughts

As 2020 draws to a close, we are honored and humbled that you have given us the opportunity to serve as your financial advisor. Please feel free to reach out to us by email or call (515) 255-3354; you can also like and follow us on Facebook @dvfin. We especially enjoy when you share our value with others and consider it the highest form of compliment. If you know of others who seek answers to calm their financial nerves, we would appreciate the introduction.

We truly hope that your holiday season is shared with friends and family and that everyone is safe and healthy.

Sincerely on behalf of the DV Financial team,

Art Dinkin, CFP®

This newsletter contains general information that may not be suitable for everyone. The information contained herein should not be construed as personalized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this newsletter will come to pass. Investing in the stock market involves gains and losses and may not be suitable for all investors. Information presented herein is subject to change without notice and should not be considered as a solicitation to buy or sell any security.

Indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly in an index. Unless otherwise noted, performance of indices do not account for any fees, commissions or other expenses that would be incurred. Returns do not include reinvested dividends.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded “blue chip” stocks, primarily industrials, but includes financials and other service-oriented companies. The components, which change from time to time, represent between 15% and 20% of the market value of NYSE stocks.

The Nasdaq Composite Index is a market-capitalization weighted index of the more than 3,000 common equities listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The types of securities in the index include American depositary receipts, common stocks, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and tracking stocks. The index includes all Nasdaq listed stocks that are not derivatives, preferred shares, funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or debentures.

The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. It is a market value weighted index with each stock's weight in the index proportionate to its market value.

The Russell 2000 Index is an unmanaged index that measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity universe.

The MSCI All Country World Index ex USA Investable Market Index (IMI) captures large, mid and small cap representation across 22 of 23 Developed Markets (DM) countries (excluding the United States) and 23 Emerging Markets (EM) countries*. With 6,062 constituents, the index covers approximately 99% of the global equity opportunity set outside the US.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index that consists of indices in 21 emerging economies: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.

Barclays Aggregate Bond Index includes U.S. government, corporate, and mortgage-backed securities with maturities of at least one year.

[1] Investment Company Products / Variable Contracts Representative

[2] Uniform Securities Agent State Law

[3] Uniform Investment Adviser Law

[i] www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/top-10-ways-to-prepare-for-retirement.pdf