New Office Location
Our relocation to the Merchant Commons building has been postponed until February 1, 2014.  Our new address will be:

220 S. Warren Street, 9th Floor
Syracuse, NY 13202

We are very excited to be moving into this unique downtown Syracuse space that will accommodate our growth.

“Merchants Commons is a modern, urban mixed-use building featuring over 34,500 square feet of commercial space and 66 residential apartment units in downtown Syracuse, New York. Two buildings, the Merchants Bank building and the Snow Building, were combined to create a most unique environment in which to live and work.”

 – Joseph Hucko, Developer,
Washington Street Partners


New Faces at Rockbridge
Our recent consolidation of individual investment management accounts and staff of RJR Associates will expand our current team of professionals available to meet the needs of our clients.  Below are the individuals who will be joining Rockbridge.  Visit the “Who We Are” page of our website for full biographical information.

Bob Ryan, Chief Investment Officer
Ted Scallon, Business Development
Doug Burns, Investment Advisor
Matt Ramsey, Investment Advisor
Patti Edwards, Client Relations Manager
Keri Morrison, Client Service Administrator

Last year turned out to be a fantastic year for the US stock market, and also for our investment advisory business.  At Rockbridge, we experienced continued growth in the amount of assets we manage and the number of families who turn to us for advice and portfolio management.  Our annualized growth rate has been 15%, nearly doubling the size of the firm in four years.  

On January 3, 2014, we signed an agreement with Bob Ryan, principal of RJR Associates, to consolidate their individual investment management accounts with those of Rockbridge Investment Management. 

We are excited to be working with Bob again.  Bob and I first worked together more than 30 years ago, which of course means we are both 30 years older than when we first met, but also more experienced and a bit wiser.  Bob has always been an influential mentor and it will be a pleasure to be working closely with him again.  Bob will assume the role of Chief Investment Officer at Rockbridge.  He will also continue as principal of RJR Associates focused on institutional money management. 

Our focus at Rockbridge will be to build on our shared investment philosophy to help individuals and families prudently manage their accumulated wealth.   Wealth management extends beyond a sound investment management strategy to include a deliberate consultative planning process.          

  • We begin by identifying the individual’s goals, objectives, and constraints that are incorporated into a prudent investment plan, and retirement spending plan (if appropriate). 
  • The next step is to identify issues that involve tax planning, estate planning, charitable gift planning, and risk management (insurance).
  • Finally, we work with the client’s current advisors, or tap our network of expert specialists to resolve these issues through regular reviews of each client’s plan.

When we include the accounts we currently manage with the individual clients of RJR Associates, Rockbridge will become one of the largest fee-only independent registered investment advisors in Upstate New York.  Our firm will include nine full-time employees and another five shared/part-time staff.  Below are the individuals who will be joining Rockbridge.  Please visit the “Who We Are” page of our website,, to view the biographies of our team.

Bob Ryan, Chief Investment Officer
Ted Scallon, Business Development
Doug Burns, Investment Advisor
Matt Ramsey, Investment Advisor
Patti Edwards, Client Relations Manager
Keri Morrison, Client Service Administrator

Rockbridge will now have seven professional investment advisors.  Four are in their 30’s or 40’s, one has yet to reach 30, and only Bob and I are over 50, so we are well positioned to provide continuity to our current clients, and hopefully a generation or two beyond.

We are aware that size brings complexity, but we look forward to the challenge and remain confident that we can maintain our close personal relationships with clients, our attention to detail, and continue to meet the investment and planning needs of our clients as we grow together.u

2013 Year in Review
It was a fantastic year overall for the financial markets, cappePeriodic Performance 12 31 13d off with the S&P 500 Index closing at an all-time high of 1,848 (up 32.4%).  In addition to the domestic stock market, developed international stocks also advanced 23.3%.  In contrast, there were a few market segments that lagged for the year.  The bond market ended the year down 2.4%, which was the first negative year since 1999 (see “Bonds Continue to Present a Conundrum”).  In addition, emerging markets and TIPS both finished the year with negative returns, -2.3% and -8.8% respectively.   Finally, REITs were relatively flat compared to recent years returning only 1.2%.

Consumer Confidence
With the recent run up in the equities market, consumers have turned optimistic about the economy.  With this confidence, and the desire for additional yield not currently available in the bond market, some investors are gravitating toward a more aggressive asset allocation.  Unfortunately, taking on more investment risk at a market high is not the best investment approach.  We strongly believe that maintaining a stable asset allocation will yield the best returns over the long run. Rebalancing at the end of 2013 meant selling US and international stocks and buying additional positions in the bond market.

2014 Outlook – More Uncertainty
As with 2013, there is still a great deal of uncertainty ahead for 2014.  Low returns in the bond market are a major challenge that will be exacerbated as interest rates rise.  The general consensus is that short-term rates will rise in the future, but the timing is still uncertain.  Another major challenge for 2014 is the pace of growth in the economy.  While there is positive growth, the rate is below historical averages.  This slow growth is also affecting the employment figures.  Finally, there is still political uncertainty in Washington which drives a continued high level of market volatility.

Bonds Continue to Present a Conundrum
Yields are low.  Rates are likely to rise, sooner or later.  When rates rise, the market value of bonds declines, cancelling out the meager interest return, or even creating negative returns as we saw in 2013. 

Q:  So why invest in bonds?

A:  We continue to invest in bonds because they diversify a risky portfolio that includes stocks, and provide a higher expected return than cash, which is the alternative for diversifying stock risk.

Q:  With interest rates so low, how much better is the expected return from bonds compared to cash?

A:  The current reward for taking bond risk can be observed by looking at the difference, or “spread”, between cash at 0% (Fed Funds rate) and ten-year Treasury bonds now hovering around 3%.  By historical standards, that reward is well above average.  The spread between Fed Funds and the ten-year Treasury averaged 1.7% over the past 10 years, and averaged only 0.5% over the past 60 years!  Similarly, the spread between the two-year Treasury and the ten-year Treasury is now over 2.5%.  That spread has not exceeded 2.75% any time in the past 30 years.  Everyone expects rates to rise (sooner or later) and that results in historically high rewards for locking in longer maturities on bonds.

Q:  So if we do invest in bonds, wouldn’t individual bonds be better, because we can hold them to maturity and ignore changes in market value?

A:  Not really, at least not for long-term investors.  Ignoring a change in market value does not make it go away.  When a bond portfolio is “marked to market” after a rise in interest rates, its current yield is necessarily higher.  This is what happens with a bond mutual fund.  If an individual investor ignores the change in market value, his current yield remains the same.  Over time this difference washes out as bonds mature and are replaced with new bonds with higher yields.

To recap:  We continue to invest in bonds because they diversify stock market risk and provide higher expected returns than cash.