2018 Third Quarter Investment Commentary

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Diversified portfolios continue their uphill battle as the U.S. Stock market continues to be one of the few sources of positive returns this year.  In August, the current bull market became the longest on record since World War II by avoiding a 20% drawdown during that time.  Recently, the equity markets fell sharply even though the near-term prospects for the economy remain strong, but there are concerns about the November election, trade policy disruptions, FED policy and labor market constraints. Increased volatility and see-sawing markets are likely to continue in the near term.

 *annualized

*annualized

Bonds have continued to be under the pressure of gradually rising interest rates.  Since December 2016, the Fed has raised short-term rates by .25% during 8 of the last 15 meetings.  The last time we experienced rising interest rates was 2004-2006.  During this period, the Fed raised short-term rates by .25% in 17 consecutive meetings in contrast!  This time, they are taking a far more measured pace trying to increase borrowing costs for businesses and consumers to keep the economy from overheating.

International and especially emerging markets are struggling the most this year due to trade war concerns and a strong U.S. dollar even though they were the darlings of 2017.

Trade War Tracking

Since the trade war is at the top of the headlines each day, I thought it would be interesting to share a scorecard.  The below chart shows the tariffs that are still only in the proposal state (diagonal lines) and tariffs that have been put into place. You can see that only a small amount had been implemented before September. On September 21st, the next $200 Billion of tariffs were put into place (China 301 Part 1).  These are tariffs on an extensive list of goods and will start at a 10% tariff, escalating to a 25% tariff in January 2019.  China retaliated by placing tariffs on another $60 Billion in U.S. goods.  This list was smaller and the amount of tariffs placed on them was lower than the market anticipated which is why we didn’t see any negative reactions from the stock market during this round.

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While we are also actively negotiating trade policies with many countries, the focus and largest amount of potential tariffs are against Chinese imports.   According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative “The United States will impose tariffs on…Chinese imports and take other actions in response to China’s policies that coerce American companies into transferring their technology and intellectual property to domestic Chinese Enterprises.  These policies bolster China’s stated intention of seizing economic leadership in advance technology as set forth in its industrial plans, such as ‘Made in China 2025.’”

While markets are more volatile this year seeming to be swayed by the latest tariff headline daily, local markets are still boasting 10.56%  returns on the S&P500 for the year through the end of September. This says to us that markets think this trade war is survivable and possibly even beneficial to the U.S.  While tariffs are generally a negative for an economy over the long-term, investors often, only see the short-term benefits these types of strong-arm policies can bring. 

The point of free trade is that each group of producers focus on what they are best at and can produce the most efficiently (also at the lowest price/best quality).They can then sell their products and use the money to purchase what they need from the most efficient producer.This process usually stretches your dollar the farthest when it comes to purchasing power.Tariffs place an additional tax on the consumer as they usually result in higher prices for us or reduced margins for companies (or a combination of the two).We don’t share the markets rosy outlook, as we believe this trade war will result, eventually, in inflation and supply chain disruptions.It takes time to ramp up production domestically of products that become too expensive to import.When companies face the uncertainty of what retaliatory actions are coming next, they are apprehensive to make the investments required to ramp up local production in the first place. 

Unemployment

We also have to consider that the unemployment rate is back to very low levels (blue line shows below 4% unemployment) and participations rates (gray bar) remain steady.  Where are we going to get all of the new workers required to start producing items locally rather than importing? 

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We don’t think this is how Trump foresees the end game.  He hopes to force China to remove the tariffs they have historically imposed on our goods to put us on a level playing field of no tariffs, no subsidies and preventing intellectual property drain.  Whether he is right and China will be forced to come to the negotiation table remains to be seen.  Volatility should continue at slightly higher levels if this trade war continues to ramp up.

Politics

Mid-term elections are coming up, and that always puts politics at the top of everyone’s minds.  There is also fear of impeachment that we often hear from clients and how that could affect portfolios.  Impeachment is the process where the House of Representatives through a simple majority brings charges against a government official.  After the government official is impeached, the process then moves to the Senate to try the accused.  This must pass the Senate by a 2/3’s majority vote.  If this happened, President Trump would be removed from the office, and the Vice President would take his place. 

There is little to refer to in recent history to understand how markets would react here in the U.S. if this were to happen.  Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, and Richard Nixon resigned during the Impeachment proceedings but was never actually impeached.  There have been recent unsuccessful attempts to impeach Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and, yes, even Barack Obama.  When Bill Clinton was impeached markets were down in bear market territory (over 20% peak to trough on the S&P 500) for a short time before it rallied back.  The Russian Ruble Crisis also occurred at the same time, so it is hard to say that the impact to markets was solely due to the impeachment process. So while President Trump likes to boast that the “Markets will crash and that everyone will be poor” if he were impeached that is likely not the case. 

While we don’t think this has a high likelihood of happening, if it did, short-term volatility would probably occur while there is uncertainty and this is one of the many reasons why we maintain a diversified portfolio.  If stocks retreated, it is likely that our bond portfolios would perform well and even a possibility that international investments would strengthen in the face of a weaker dollar.  We believe a diversified portfolio with short-term needs set aside in cash or cash equivalents is one of the most effective solutions to an extremely rare event like this.

While this bull market may be getting old, it is important to remember they do not simply die of old age; rather they are killed by recessions.The yield curve is getting dangerously close to inverting but has not, thus not signaling a recession…yet.We are keeping a close eye on the yield curve and trade war as these items could quickly spill us over into a risk of recession. Markets can breeze along seemingly unconcerned by these types of risk until they aren’t.When sentiment swings from optimistic to pessimistic, it can happen almost overnight.As a result, we continue to maintain that having a diversified portfolio is extremely important.We are actively taking advantage of rebalancing opportunities to make sure your portfolios are prepared.If you have any questions or would like to speak with us more on these topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Thank you for your continued trust!

On behalf of everyone here at The Center,

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF®
Director of Investments
Financial Advisor, RJFS

Angela Palacios, CFP®, AIF® is the Director of Investments at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Angela specializes in Investment and Macro economic research. She is a frequent contributor The Center blog.


The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Angela Palacios and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected, including diversification and asset allocation. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns.

3 Common Mistakes in Divorce Financial Planning

Jacki Roessler Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA®

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Watch this video for some of the most common financial mistakes I’ve seen people make during their divorce. The good news is each one of these is easily corrected. What’s my most important tip? Read below to find out.

Highlights from Divorce Mistakes:

  • Minute :15: Not diving into the details of cash flow planning

  • Minute :46: Not paying enough attention to the details of the retirement account divisions

  • Minute 1:30: Getting emotionally attached to a specific asset-whether it makes sense for you to keep it or not.

  • Minute 1:58: Tip: Treat your divorce as if it was a business splitting up-you’ll get better results

  • Minute 2:20: Staying married for ten years-impact on future Social Security income

Over the past 24 years, in every case I’ve seen, there comes a time when a client says, “I agree! I just need to be done with this.” Everyone feels this way at different times in their settlement process. I felt it in my divorce, and this is what I do for a living! Getting divorced is stressful-even for amicable couples. However, fighting this urge is the key to getting a settlement you can live with today and in the future. When you start to feel like you’re willing to accept anything so you can move onto your next chapter, take a breath and slow down. Immerse yourself in the details of the offer on the table. Analyze it. Tweak it. Understand it. No detail is too small, and no question is too silly.

If you have individual questions on your specific case, feel free to contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our advisors

Jacki Roessler, CDFA® is a Divorce Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

Employee Benefits Open Enrollment: 2018 Game Plan

Robert Ingram Contributed by: Robert Ingram

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Now that the Fall season is upon us and the holidays are right around the corner, it is also the annual benefits open enrollment season for many employers.  I know it can be tempting to quickly flip through the booklet checking the boxes on the forms without too much consideration, especially if things haven’t changed too much in your situation.  You’re certainly not alone.  However, setting aside some extra time to review your options is important for not only understanding the benefits you have and what might be changing, but also for identifying potential gaps in your coverages or underutilized opportunities.

Below are some benefits that, if offered by your employer, you should keep top of mind as you are making your elections.

Retirement plan contributions (401(k)/403(b) )

  • Are you contributing up to the maximum employer match? (Take advantage of free money!)

  • Are you maximizing the account?  ($18,500 or $24,500 for age 50 and over in 2018)

  • Traditional 401(k) vs. Roth 401(k) options? 

Click here for a summary of 2018 retirement plan contribution limits and adjustments

Health insurance plans

  • Review and compare your available plan offerings (e.g. PPO vs HMO). Want to explore some of the differences between plan types in more detail? Click here.

  • Focus on more than just the premium cost. Think about the deductibles, copays, and the annual out-of-pocket maximums

  • Consider your health history and the amount of services you use. For example, are you likely to hit the deductible or maximum out-of-pocket costs each year? The benefit of lower premiums for a high deductible plan may be outweighed by higher overall costs out-of-pocket.  Are you less likely to hit the deductible but you have excess cash saving just in case?  A lower premium, high deductible plan could make sense.

Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts vs. Health Savings Accounts

Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts both allow you to contribute pre-tax funds to an account that you can then withdraw tax-free to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses.  There are, however, some key differences to remember.

Flexible Spending Account for health care (FSA)

  • Maximum employee contribution in 2018 is $2,650

  • Generally must spend the balance on eligible expenses by the end of each plan year or forfeit unspent amounts (use-or-lose provision).

  • Employers MAY offer more time to use the funds through either a grace period option (you have an extra 2 ½ months to spend the funds) or a carryover option (you can carry over up to $500 of the balance into the following year)

For more information on the FSA click here.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

  • Can only be used with a high deductible health insurance plan

  • Maximum contribution in 2018 for an individual $ 3,450  ($4,450 for age 55 and over)

  • Maximum contribution in 2018 for an family plan $6,900  ($7,900 for age 55 and over)

  • All HSA balances carryover (no use-or-lose limitations apply)

Click here for more information about the basics of using an HSA

Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account

  • Pre-tax contributions to an account that can be withdrawn tax-free for qualified dependent care expenses within the plan year

  • Maximum contribution in 2018 is $5,000 ($2,500 if married filing separately)

  • Use-or-lose provision applies 

Life and Disability Insurance

  • Employers often provide a basic amount of life insurance coverage at no cost to you (typically 1 x salary). 

  • You may have the option to purchase additional group coverage up to certain limits at a low cost.

  • Many employers also provide a group disability insurance benefit. This can include a short-term benefit (typically covering up to 90 or 180 days) and/or a long-term benefit (covering a specified number of years or up through a certain age such as 65).

  • Disability benefits often cover a base percentage of income such as 50% or 60% of salary at no cost with some plans offering supplemental coverage for an additional premium charge.

  • Life and disability insurance benefits can vary widely from employer to employer and in many cases only provide a portion of an employee’s needs.It is important to consult with your advisor on the appropriate amount of coverage for your own situation.

Like most things related to financial planning, your benefit selections are specific for your family’s own unique circumstances; and your choices probably would not make sense for your co-worker or neighbor.  We encourage all clients to have conversations with us as they are reviewing their benefit options during open enrollment, so don’t hesitate to pass along any questions you might have. If we can be a resource for you, please let us know.

Robert Ingram is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


This information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not provide advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues. These matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional. Life insurance Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the insurance company.

When the Rubber Hits the Road: Steps to Take When you Find that you are Behind on your Retirement Savings

Sandy Adams Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®

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So here you are.  You find yourself happily on cruise control — you seem to be making more money every year, you have the house and cars you always wanted, the kids are now in college and you take the family vacations you want when you want to take them.  And then — bam — traffic comes to a stop.  What?  How can this be?  How can we already be in our mid-50’s?  How can retirement be so close? How is it possible that we haven’t saved more towards our own retirement by now?  What do we do to make it to our goal on time?

If this sounds anything like you, you are not alone.  We find that many clients come to us looking for assistance with their retirement late in the game. They may not have balanced their multiple financial goals as evenly as they should or could have and they find themselves behind in their retirement goals as they approach their retirement years. 

The good news is that it is possible to get yourself back on track by taking few action steps:

  1. Make sure you have a strong savings/emergency reserve fund.  At a minimum, this is 3 - 6 months’ worth of living expenses.
  2. Make sure all unnecessary and high interest rate debt is paid off; if this has accumulated, it is likely a result of no emergency reserve fund.
  3. Attempt to maximize your contributions to your employer retirement plans (start by making sure you are meeting any company match, and increase your contributions over time to meet the maximum contribution as cash flow allows; ramping up contributions is more crucial if your time frame towards retirement is shorter).  *See here for our blog on 2018 retirement plan contribution limits.
  4. If you are able to save beyond your maximum employer retirement plan contributions, consider savings in either a ROTH IRA (if you are eligible under the current income limitations) or in an after-tax investment account to create diversification in your retirement investment portfolio.  What we mean here is that we want to have different tax buckets to draw from in retirement — we don’t want every dollar you access for income in retirement to be taxable in the same way.
  5. And lastly, partner with a financial planner to keep yourself and your retirement savings plan on track until retirement.  Having an accountability and decision making partner to help you determine where best to save, when and how to save more, when you might realistically be able to retire and how much you might be able to spend is crucial to a successful retirement.

It is easy to cruise through life and forget how quickly time is passing us by.  Before we know it, important life milestones are creeping up on us before we are prepared for them.  With the help of a financial planner, you can get yourself back on track and ready to meet the goals you’ve always dreamed of.  If we can be of help to you or anyone you know who might be in this situation, give us a call.  We are always happy to help!

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


Any opinions are those of Sandra Adams and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. There is no assurance any of the trends mentioned will continue or forecasts will occur. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Roth IRA owners must be 591⁄2 or older and have held the IRA for five years before tax-free withdrawals are permitted. Like Traditional IRAs, contribution limits apply to Roth IRAs. In addition, with a Roth IRA, your allowable contribution may be reduced or eliminated if your annual income exceeds certain limits. Contributions to a Roth IRA are never tax deductible, but if certain conditions are met, distributions will be completely income tax free. Diversification and asset allocation do not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Raymond James is not affiliated with any of the companies listed above. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Webinar in Review: College Planning Navigating the Financial Aid Process and the FAFSA

Robert Ingram Contributed by: Robert Ingram

Are you unsure of where to start when it comes to applying for financial aid or what to make of the award letter your child has received? You’re not alone! Many parents are confused about the FAFSA, about what it actually means, or how they will benefit from completing it each year. Throughout this 45-minute webinar, our guest speaker, Carrie Gilchrist, Ph.D., Senior Financial Aid Outreach Advisor at Oakland University will share her insights on why you should always complete the FAFSA and how the information is used to determine financial aid awards. Carrie will also discuss the FAFSA filing deadlines and details, provide advice on steps to consider leading up to starting school, and address how college savings accounts can potentially affect financial aid.

Link to recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0yjOqZzYHQ

Check out the time stamps below to listen to the topics you’re most interested in:

  • 4:25: Explanation of the Elements of Financial Aid

  • 5:30: What is the FAFSA, and How to Apply

  • 23:30: FAFSA Processing

  • 28:00 Sources of Financial Aid: Federal Government, State, College & University, Private Sources

  • 38:30: Change in Financial Circumstances

  • 39:30: Your Next Steps

Robert Ingram is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


The opinions expressed in the webinar are those of the speaker and not necessarily those of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Raymond James is not affiliated with Carrie Gilchrist or Oakland University.

Why Retirement Planning is Like Climbing Mount Everest

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

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Mount Everest.  One of the most beautiful, natural wonders in the world.  With an elevation of just over 29,000 feet, it is the highest mountain above sea level on the planet. As you would expect, climbing Mount Everest is an incredibly difficult and dangerous feat. Sadly, over 375 people have lost their lives making the trek. One thing that might surprise you is that the vast majority who have died on the mountain, did not pass away while climbing to the top. Believe it or not, it’s actually the climb down, or descent, that has caused the greatest amount of fatalities.

Case in point, Eric Arnold was a multiple Mount Everest climber who sadly died in 2016 on one of his climbs. Before he passed, he was interviewed by a local media outlet and was quoted as saying “two-thirds of the accidents happen on the way down. If you get euphoric and think ‘I have reached my goal,’ the most dangerous part is still ahead of you.”  Eric’s quote really struck me and I couldn’t help but think of the parallels his words had with retirement planning and how we, as advisers, help serve clients.  Let me explain.   

Most of us will work 40+ years, save diligently, and hopefully invest wisely with the guidance of a trusted professional with the goal of retiring and happily living out the ‘golden years.'  It can be an exhilarating feeling – getting towards the end of your career, knowing that you’ve accumulated sufficient assets to achieve the goals you’ve set forth for you and your family. However, we can’t forget that the climb is only half way done. We have to continue working together and develop a quality plan to help you on your climb down the mountain as well! When do I take Social Security? Which pension option should I elect? How do I navigate Medicare? Which accounts do I draw from to get me the money I need to live on in the most tax-efficient manner? Even though you’ve reached the peak of the mountain – aka retirement, we have to recognize that the work is far from over. There are still monumental financial decisions that need to be made during the years you aren’t working that most of us simply can’t afford to get wrong. 

As with those who climb Mount Everest, many financial plans that are in good shape when entering retirement can easily be derailed on the descent or when funds start to be withdrawn from your portfolio – aka the “decumulation” phase of retirement planning. A quality financial and investment strategy doesn’t end upon retirement – this is the time when proper planning becomes even more critical.  Email me if I can help you on the climb – both on the way up and on the way down the mountain.  Learn more about our process here.

Nick Defenthaler, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Nick works closely with Center clients and is also the Director of The Center’s Financial Planning Department. He is also a frequent contributor to the firm’s blogs and educational webinars.


Any opinions are those of Nick Defenthaler, and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Any information provided has been prepared from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed by Raymond James Financial Services and is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision. Any information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM and CFP® in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Implementing Your Asset Allocation

The Center Contributed by: Center Investment Department

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At Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®, one of our core investment beliefs revolves around utilizing a strategic asset allocation. We believe there is an appropriate mix of assets that can help investors meet their goals based on well-established and enduring asset classes. This can vary over time depending on your objectives and evolving markets. Finding the right combination of these asset classes and allocation to each plays a pivotal role in managing risk and aiding in ensuring stabilizing returns. In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed the purpose of asset allocation and how to determine the proper asset allocation.  Now let us wrap up this subject with a hypothetical example of the implementation.

Below is a chart of a financial plan overhaul.  You can see there is quite a difference between the current allocation and a recommended allocation.  The current allocation (in blue) is overweight US Large Cap stocks and International Large Cap stocks while underweight the bond asset categories that we define as Core Fixed Income and Strategic Income.  The financial plan takes into consideration any outside accounts like 401k’s, insurance, and/or annuity products to truly understand an entire investment portfolio and determine a suitable asset mix. This helps keep a client within their volatility comfort range as well as on track to reach their return expectations over the long haul.

 Source: Morningstar

Source: Morningstar

The recommendation involves selling some of the positions that fall within the overweight asset classes while adding to the underweight bond asset classes.  The end result should be a portfolio with less risk which can be important leading into those early years of retirement if returns had been excellent in recent years it would be important to have a careful eye toward taxes and work with a CPA to construct a tax efficient strategy to divest some of the risk. 

If you are unsure how your asset allocation stacks up, seek out a financial planner so they can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy tailored to your unique needs.


These asset allocations are presented only as examples and are not intended as investment advice. Actual investor results will vary. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Although derived from information which we believe to be reliable, we cannot guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information above. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Any opinions are those of Angela Palacios and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Investing involves risk and asset allocation and diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. 1. Core Fixed Income includes: U.S. Government bonds and high quality corporates 2. Strategic Income includes: Non U.S. bonds, TIPS, high yield corporates and other bonds not in core fixed. 3. Strategic Equity includes: REITS, hedging strategies, commodities, managed futures etc. Large cap (sometimes "big cap") refers to a company with a market capitalization value of more than $10 billion. Large cap is a shortened version of the term "large market capitalization. Smaller mid caps, which are defined as those that fall below a certain market-cap breakpoint, and "small plus smaller mid caps", which include both companies considered small-cap and the smaller mid-cap companies. Mid caps are typically defined as companies with market caps that are between $2 billion and $10 billion. Mid-cap stocks tend to be riskier than large-cap stocks but less risky than small-cap stocks. Small caps are typically defined as companies with market caps that are less than $2 billion. Many small caps are young companies with significant growth potential. However, the risk of failure is greater with small-cap stocks than with large-cap and mid-cap stocks.

Autumn Greetings and Center Updates

Tim Wyman Contributed by: Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD

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On behalf of everyone here at The Center committed to serving our clients and each other, we hope that you and your family had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend filled with family, friends, and fun!  While The Center wasn't quite yet founded in 1894, since then the first Monday in September has been a national holiday meant to honor the contributions workers have made to the well-being of our country. For many, Labor Day is also considered the unofficial end of summer.

Fortunately, endings also lead to exciting beginnings; Good-bye Summer and Hello Fall! It's back to school time for the kids (happy parents), the college football season kicked off, and of course the cider mills start pumping out donuts and cider – our favorite!

We want to thank you for the opportunity to work for you as well as share some of the changes and happenings here at The Center.  Much has changed in our 33-year history, but like the celebration of Labor Day, much has stayed the same.

Transitions and Continuity

The firm's four partners, Matt Chope, Sandy Adams, Laurie Renchik, and myself, continue to be committed to upholding The Center's organizational culture and passion for client service. Recently, Melissa Joy transitioned out of the firm.  Over the years Melissa held a variety of roles, most recently as Director of Marketing and financial planner.  Our strong foundation established by our founding partners, all whom have successfully retired, provide guidance and grounding during periods of change. In addition to the firm's four partners, we have a deep bench of talented professional advisors, supported by a dedicated in-house investment department and terrific client service group to ensure continuity.

Awards and Recognition

The Center has once again been recognized as a Great Place to Work by Crain’s in addition to being named one of the Best Places to Work by InvestmentNews. I was also named to Forbes Top State-by-State Advisors List for 2018 in Michigan and to 2018 Financial Times 400 Top Financial Advisors. I don’t mention the last two awards to toot my own horn, but rather to demonstrate the strength, dedication, and commitment of The Center team.

Awards are cool and we are very proud of the recognition. More importantly, this type of recognition allows us to attract top talent to provide world-class service and strive towards our core purpose of improving lives.

Center Growth

Since you’re already here, why not stay a little longer and take a look around our refreshed website. You’ll find some new videos and pictures. There are also a few more folks than when The Center started in 1985; the growth has been consistent and measured as we do our best each day to serve you. The graphic below showcases The Center and its growth in a more visually pleasing way.

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Making decisions in the best interest of our clients is at the core of The Center. It all goes back to where we first began, our humble beginnings of Marilyn Gunther, Dan Boyce and Estelle Wade championing comprehensive financial planning to improve lives. The Center's current team of 28 embraces this awesome responsibility each day. In the end, we appreciate that our firm is about people - our firm is about you.

As we move into autumn, we wish you a colorful season of happiness and much success. As always, feel free to reach out if we can be of service. We love to hear from you!

Sincerely,
Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD
Managing Partner

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® and is a contributor to national media and publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal and has appeared on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), mentored many CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.


Crain's Cool Places to Work recognition program honors employers that go the extra mile to make employees feel appreciated.

InvestmentNews “2018 Top 50 Best Places to Work for Financial Advisers”, March 2018. The Best Places to Work for Financial Advisers program is a national program managed by Best Companies Group. The survey and recognition program are dedicated to identifying and recognizing the best employers in the financial advice/wealth management industry. The final list is based on the following criteria: must be a registered investment adviser (RIA), affiliated with an independent broker-dealer (IBD), or a hybrid doing business through an RIA and must be in business for a minimum of one year and must have a minimum of 15 full-time/part-time employees. The assessment process is compiled in a two part process based on the findings of the employer benefits & policies questionnaire and the employee engagement & satisfaction survey. The results are analyzed and categorized according to 9 Core Focus Areas: Leadership and Planning, Corporate Culture and Communications, Role Satisfaction, Work Environment, Relationship with Supervisor, Training, Development and Resources, Pay and Benefits and Overall Engagement. Best Companies Group will survey up to 400 randomly selected employees in a company depending on company size. The two data sets are combined and analyzed to determine the rankings. These awards are not representative of any one client's experience, are not an endorsement, and are not indicative of advisor's future performance. Neither Raymond James nor any of its Financial Advisors pay a fee in exchange for this award. InvestmentNews, the Best Companies Group, and Crain's are not affiliated with Raymond James.

The FT 400 was developed in collaboration with Ignites Research, a subsidiary of the FT that provides specialized content on asset management. To qualify for the list, advisers had to have 10 years of experience and at least $300 million in assets under management (AUM) and no more than 60% of the AUM with institutional clients. The FT reaches out to some of the largest brokerages in the U.S. and asks them to provide a list of advisors who meet the minimum criteria outlined above. These advisors are then invited to apply for the ranking. Only advisors who submit an online application can be considered for the ranking. In 2018, roughly 880 applications were received and 400 were selected to the final list (45.5%). The 400 qualified advisers were then scored on six attributes: AUM, AUM growth rate, compliance record, years of experience, industry certifications, and online accessibility. AUM is the top factor, accounting for roughly 60-70 percent of the applicant's score. Additionally, to provide a diversity of advisors, the FT placed a cap on the number of advisors from any one state that's roughly correlated to the distribution of millionaires across the U.S. The ranking may not be representative of any one client's experience, is not an endorsement, and is not indicative of advisor's future performance. Neither Raymond James nor any of its Financial Advisors pay a fee in exchange for this award/rating. The FT is not affiliated with Raymond James.

The Forbes ranking of Best-In-State Wealth Advisors, developed by SHOOK Research is based on an algorithm of qualitative criteria and quantitative data. Those advisors that are considered have a minimum of 7 years of experience, and the algorithm weighs factors like revenue trends, AUM, compliance records, industry experience and those that encompass best practices in their practices and approach to working with clients. Portfolio performance is not a criteria due to varying client objectives and lack of audited data. Out of 21,138 advisors nominated by their firms, 2,213 received the award. Neither Forbes nor SHOOK receive a fee in exchange for rankings. This ranking is not indicative of advisor's future performance, is not an endorsement, and may not be representative of individual clients' experience. Neither Raymond James nor any of its Financial Advisors or RIA firms pay a fee in exchange for this award/rating.

Student Loan Interest Rates Increase for the 2018/2019 School Year

Josh Bitel Contributed by: Josh Bitel

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before, college is expensive. For the second year in a row, rates on federal student loans for students attending college in the fall of 2018 are rising by 0.60%. This is a result of the rise in 10-year Treasury note rates. This rate increase wont effect loans made on or before June 30, 2018. Of course, this only applies to federal loans.

For current students, new loan payments will be slightly higher – to the tune of about two or three dollars per month. However, the bigger hit comes for students enrolling for the first time in the fall. With the combination of rising interest rates and the cost of college sky rocketing every year, repayment of these loans can feel daunting. We are likely to see consistent rate hikes for the foreseeable future which will serve to be a bigger burden down the road.  

These rate hikes stress the importance of reducing your need for loans, if possible. Saving as early as you can is an easy way to do this. Simply put, the more you have saved, the less you will need to borrow for education. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and applying for as many scholarships and grants as you qualify for is a great starting point.

Before applying for loans, you should always know how much you need to borrow, there are numerous student loan affordability calculators available online that can give you a sense of what you need and what you can afford. Bear in mind that you may qualify for more than you need, so fighting the temptation of a little extra spending money (at 6.60% interest) is key.

At any rate it is important to understand key information when signing into a loan. Education costs are steadily rising, and interest rates seem to be headed in the same direction. With a responsible payoff strategy and a little bit of hard work, you can start chipping away at that debt in no time. 

Josh Bitel is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®


The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Josh Bitel and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

When It Might Make Sense to Distribute an IRA Account

Sandy Adams Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®

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As you might imagine, most financial planners (and most clients) have a preference for stretching the distribution of their IRA (or other qualified retirement) accounts over long periods of time so as to lessen the income tax burden on those accounts over many years.  And, if possible, most clients would prefer the ability to leave dollars in those accounts to their children and grandchildren as a form of legacy/inheritance. However, as life circumstances change, it sometimes makes sense to keep an open mind about how we view the distribution of those accounts. 

In our experience, we have found that it sometimes makes sense to consider accelerating the distribution of IRAs/qualified retirement accounts when the following circumstances are present:

  • Owner of the IRA is an older adult (in this context, meaning beyond RMD status)
  • IRA/Qualified Retirement Accounts are smaller accounts within the clients overall investment portfolio (i.e. have a $30k IRA and have other investment accounts/bank accounts to draw from)
  • Are likely in a lower tax bracket than the heirs they might be leaving the assets to
  • May have medical/health care costs to write off to offset the income from the potential income from IRA/qualified account distributions

While these circumstances certainly will not apply to MOST clients, they might apply to a select few. When they do, this strategy can not only save significant tax dollars but can simplify the distribution of an estate long term by avoiding the division of a small IRA amongst multiple beneficiaries.

If you or your family have questions about whether this strategy might apply to you or someone you know, please reach out to our Center Team.  We are always happy to help!

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary of all available data necessary for making a financial decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person's situation. Raymond James does not provide tax advice. You should consult a tax professional for any tax matters related to your individual situation.