Believe me, we get it. After yesterday’s Brexit referendum and its startling outcome, it’s hard to view today’s news without feeling your stomach twist over what in the world is going on. Whenever the markets scream bloody murder, your instincts deliver a sense of unrest ranging from discontent to desperation.

Financial author Larry Swedroe has called this your GMO response: Get me out! The Wall Street Journal personal finance columnist Jason Zweig explains it this way: “Losing money can ignite the same fundamental fears you would feel if you encountered a charging tiger, got caught in a burning forest, or stood on the crumbling edge of a cliff.”

Basically, you can’t help it. These sorts of responses are being generated by the amygdala lodged deep inside your brain, over which you literally have no control.

What’s Next?

So, first, take a breath. Now another one. Next, remember that there is a fine line between remaining informed about global goings on, versus letting an onslaught of news take over your brainwaves and trick you into rash reactions.

In that context, it doesn’t take long to realize that the breaking Brexit news raises myriad questions, with few swift and comforting answers currently available.

In lieu of fixating on the bounty of in-depth analyses (when in reality the answer to exactly what is coming next is: “Who knows?”) it’s worth remembering that capital markets have been encountering and absorbing startling news for centuries. When viewed close up, the mechanics can be ear-piercingly loud, but they actually have a history of working marvelously well in the long run – at least for those who heed the evidence on how to participate in the upside rewards while managing the inevitable downside risks.

What Should You Be Doing?

In short, very little at this time … which we understand, can be one of the very hardest things to (not) do. So let’s talk about that.

In your portfolio, if we’ve accurately positioned you for withstanding high market risk when it occurs, you can congratulate yourself for having already prepared as best you’re able.

While the outcome of the Brexit referendum is certainly new and different, its impact on the market is old hat. These are the sorts of events we have in mind when we prepare and manage you and your portfolio. Using global diversification, effective asset allocation and careful cost management, the goal has been – and remains – the same. Our aim is to expose you to the market risks and expected returns you need for building or preserving your wealth, while minimizing over-concentration in any one holding. That way, you are best positioned to avoid bearing the “Ground Zero” worst of it when market crises do occur.

Even so, perhaps the unfolding events are causing you to realize that you aren’t as keen as you thought you were on bearing market risk. Real life is very different from theoretical exercise.

If this is the case, we get that too. Still, we would strongly suggest that this is no time to act on those insights. In fact, it’s likely to be the worst time to do a “GMO.” First, it is likely to incur significant avoidable financial loss. Plus, while it may temporarily feel better to have “done something,” it leaves you with no plan for the future. That can generate more chronic unhappiness than it briefly relieves. Life is too short for that!

If you’re having your doubts, consider your current feelings an important and valuable insight about yourself, but please, please sit tight for now. Do give us a call right away, though, and we’ll explore how best to ratchet down your investment risk sensibly and deliberately.

In short, as your advisor, we’re all in on safeguarding your best financial interests. We remain as here for you as ever. We hope you’ll let us know how you are holding up, and what questions we can answer about the unfolding news. Market analyses aside, we are living in “interesting” times, and would love to chat further with you about them, one on one.

Thanks in part to our evidence-based approach to investing, we don’t have to eat our words or advice very often. But recently, we discovered that we stand corrected on one point. Fortunately, it’s a point we’re happy to concede:

Evidence-based investing doesn’t have to be such a boring subject after all.

In his recent “Last Week Tonight” HBO segment on retirement plans, John Oliver showed the world that even the typically eye-rolling conversation on why fiduciary advice matters to your investments can be delivered so effectively that it goes viral … or at least as viral as financial planning is ever likely to get, with nearly 3.5 million views, and counting.

Oliver’s masterful combination of wit and wisdom is worth watching first-hand. If you’ve not yet taken the 20-minute coffee break to check it out, we highly recommend that you do so.

The best part? It’s hard to say. He covers so many of our favorite subjects: avoiding conflicted financial advice, reducing the damaging effects of excessive fees, and participating sensibly in expected market growth.

We also are hopeful that Oliver’s segment will help strengthen the impact of the Department of Labor’s recent rule, requiring all retirement advice to strictly serve the investor’s best interests. We can’t quite bring ourselves to share the analogy that Oliver used to bring that particular point home, but here are a couple of our other favorite zingers (pardon his French):

On stay-the-course investing: “There is growing evidence that over the long term, most managed funds do no better, and often do worse, than the market. It’s basically the plot of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’ If you stick around, doing nothing while everyone around you f**ks up, you’re going to win big.”

On hidden fees: “Think of fees like termites. They’re tiny, they’re barely noticeable, and they can eat away your f**king future.”

Lacking Oliver’s comedic timing, our own frequent conversations on these same subjects are unlikely to ever reach 15 million viewers. But that doesn’t diminish our equal levels of passion and enthusiasm for how important it is to safeguard your financial interests by embracing the few relatively simple, but powerful principles that Oliver shared.

One thing we do have over Oliver: We are quite serious about actually serving as a fiduciary advisor, protecting and promoting your highest financial interests. As always, we deeply appreciate your business. If you are aware of other investors who could use a similar helping hand, why not share Oliver’s video with them? We hope you’ll also offer them our name along with it, in case they’d like to continue the conversation.

Selecting the right financial adviser is crucial. You want someone who is trustworthy and who will act in your best interest, but they are not as easy to find as you would think.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal provides tips on finding an adviser who is the right match for you. The author of the article, Jason Zweig, explains the importance of research, interviewing, asking the right questions and other forms of due diligence. “Only after you have thoroughly questioned the advisers and reviewed their answers should you ask yourself which one feels most likeable and trustworthy.”

You can read Zweig’s article here.

Life insurance is often sold as a “one size fits all” product; it will serve as protection and as an investment account that will grow at an impressive interest rate.  When you take the time to unwind these products, you will often find that the old saying holds true:  “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Like most insurance products, the wording is very confusing and the salespeople are very convincing, which makes it difficult to determine if the policy is right for you.  Hopefully these explanations of the various types of life insurance will help clarify what type of policy is truly in your best interest:

  • Term Life Insurance – Term life insurance, often called “pure insurance,” is the most affordable type of life insurance. It can be purchased for 10-, 15-, 20-, or 30-year “terms.”  For example, if a 30-year old purchases a 20-year term policy, the policy will terminate when the insured reaches 50 years of age.  This is typically the most appropriate life insurance, as it covers a point in your life when you need the most amount of life insurance:  when your children are young, debt is high(er), and retirement savings balances are relatively low.  The need for insurance after 60+ years of age does not really exist for most clients.
  • Whole Life Insurance – In my experience, whole life insurance is the most oversold type of life insurance currently on the market. There are very rare situations where whole life insurance makes sense.  I have seen salespeople sell these products as a better alternative to 401(k) accounts, college savings plans, etc., which is entirely false.  Unlike term life insurance, whole life insurance covers the insured’s “whole life.”  In fact, if the policy is still in force when the insured reaches 100 years of age, the insurance company will write the insured a check for the death benefit!  Whole life premiums are substantially higher than term life insurance, and salespeople may be inclined to sell a client whole life insurance rather than term life insurance to generate higher commissions.  These policies have a “cash value” component of the policy that is often very misleading.  For example, if you pay a $100 monthly premium for a policy, $60 may go to the insurance company for the actual cost of the insurance, and $40 may go into a separate forced savings account (cash value).  Often times, insurance companies project 7% growth on these cash value accounts, which is entirely unsustainable.  There are various components we look at with these policies (“guaranteed” and “non-guaranteed” projected values, dividends, etc.) that are crucial in determining if the product is right for you.
  • Universal Life Insurance – If you want to purchase permanent insurance, universal life insurance is typically a better investment than whole life – “guaranteed” universal life in particular. Old(er) universal life insurance policies need to be reevaluated; clients often expect these policies to last their entire lifetime, when in fact they end prematurely due to the internal cash value earning lower than anticipated interest rates. Insurance companies solved this problem by issuing guaranteed universal life insurance policies.  These policies will stay in force even if interest rates aren’t as projected (as long as certain conditions are met).  There is a subset of universal life insurance called variable universal life insurance which is simply “gambling” with your life insurance.

Most consumers will be much better off by purchasing term insurance rather than either type of permanent insurance, but certain situations may warrant the need for permanent life insurance.  If you have any of these policies and have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me (by phone or email) for evaluation.

A simple Google search for “retirement plan” or “retirement calculator” will provide thousands upon thousands of results.  The number of websites that promise to provide retirement or financial guidance in a short amount of time are plentiful.  The real question is, are they accurate?   As with anything in life, the devil is in the details.  A comprehensive understanding of your personal situation cannot be done in a 5-minute Twitter level analysis.  It does not make sense to have a cursory glance at something as important as retirement.  When considering retirement planning and whether to go alone or with an advisor, please consider the following points:

Are the Plan Results Really Correct?

  • Have you ever heard the saying, Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)? This is more important than anyone realizes when talking about retirement plans spanning 30+ years.   A slight miscalculation can mean the difference between a successful plan and low spending in retirement.  Simple online retirement calculators are high level estimates and should not be used to make major life decisions.

Advanced Scenario-Based Analysis

  • Modern financial plans have moved far past standard Excel models and back-of-the-napkin calculations. Not only should the retirement plan be flexible and easy to update, it should also run many simulations and stress test the results looking at downside scenarios.  This is not something that can be done easily through a quick calculator or fixed rate of return model.


  • The biggest impact on financial and retirement planning has nothing to do with analysis. Emotions and personal experience can heavily weigh decisions as retirement approaches.  Having an unbiased and objective resource can prevent costly mistakes.   Emotions are also amplified the few years around retirement because of the shifting mindset from saving to spending from your portfolio.


  • Another factor that a financial advisor can provide is the framework for good decision making. What decisions need to be made now?  Which decisions have the biggest impact?  Financial planning, like life, is not black and white.  What advisors do is to help you frame your decisions so that you are able to make the best decision for you.

Missed Opportunities

  • Your financial life is filled with several complex topics including investments, savings, debt, taxes, college savings, Social Security, pensions, etc.  Understanding the relationship between all of the topics is far more complicated, and because of this there are often missed opportunities.  Look to an expert to help you capture those opportunities.