Being an Opportunist within the Defined Benefit Pension Crisis

At the request of Money Talks, we’ve created a very thorough summary that tells you how to deal with the pending Defined Benefit Pension Crisis. Please click here to request your copy of this important article.

Object Lessons in Mass Psychology and Discipline

Humans are hard-wired for connection, and as such our very nature pre-disposes us to investment failure, because most people want to be part of the “In” crowd. That’s quite a mouthful, and an ominous one at that. Our current U.S. equity market environment provides object lessons in both mass psychology and discipline.

As I write on the morning of March 2nd it’s noteworthy that yesterday saw $8.2 billion go into SPY, the largest ETF on the S&P 500. That’s the biggest single daily inflow since December 2014 and the second largest in six years. Contrast that with recent reports from major institutional investment houses that state they’re either not increasing equity exposure, or they’re planning to actively decrease equity exposure in portfolios.

Since every trade has a buyer and a seller, there was also $8.2 billion worth of trades yesterday wherein “someone” is getting out. The only possible conclusion one can arrive at is that Institutional Investors are selling their positions to Retail Investors. Market tops are often referred to as those times when investments transfer from strong hands (Institutional, “Smart Money” investors) back to weak hands (Retail, Dumb Money” investors), and that’s what this smells like.

So, are you more comfortable investing with the masses – “hard-wired for connection with the crowd” – or are you content being a patient and disciplined contrarian whose investing behavior mimics or follows the smart, patient and behaviours of Institutional Investors? This is the object lesson in mass psychology: are you part of the “smart” money or the “dumb” money?

The stronger the mass opinion that “everything is positive and rosy,” the more likely we’re close to an interim top…one can almost smell the desperation of the recent buyers whose Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) has over-taken their Fear of Loss of Capital (FLOC), or perhaps their bias against Donald Trump. As Michael Campbell and others has recently warned, mixing your political opinions with your investment decisions is a recipe for disaster.

So, was yesterday’s retail buying panic driven by frustrated Democrats who had previously believed that the markets had to crumble because Donald Trump is (in their eyes) “the source of all evils soon to be perpetrated on America”…and whose February 28th address to a Joint Session of Congress was widely hailed (by 75% or more of viewers) as positive, strong, clear and, yes, even somewhat Presidential? Was yesterday the hard evidence of shy retail investors throwing in the towel, and proclaiming “Just get me into this market before it gets away?”

While I don’t believe this is a major market top that starts a major meltdown, history shows that buying frenzies like we saw on Wednesday March 1st usually immediately precede pull-backs. Only time will tell if history is once again our best guide…but that’s where our Clients’ (and my family’s) money is positioned. It’s boring, and relentlessly effective. If we get a dip in markets, remaining cash will get deployed, so we’d be completely okay with a sharp little pullback. It would be the pause that refreshes “The Bull”, whose lot in life is to always slowly climb the wall of worry created by the masses.

This begs a second important question for readers: do you have a clearly articulated Investment Policy Statement (IPS) that defines the framework for your portfolio? Is your minimum and maximum exposure to cash, fixed income, stocks, precious metals and alternatives clearly laid out as a guide for investment decisions? If you don’t have an IPS, why don’t you? If you do have an IPS, is it being followed by your investment professional or you – if you’re self-managing? This is the object lesson in Discipline…are you following a smart framework?

Patience and Discipline are accretive to your wealth, health and happiness – so focus on these.

Cheers,

Andrew Ruhland, CFP, CIM

Founder, www.integratedwealthmanagement.ca

Intelligently Investing Lump Sums – presented at the WOFC 2017 in Vancouver

Click here to to download the presentation.

Pointed Questions for a New Advisor

Selecting a new wealth management firm for your investment accounts can be stressful. Following are some very specific questions you should ask of any new advisor you are considering hiring. The advisor should be able to answer these questions without advance notice. You might want to copy and paste these questions into your own document for reference purposes.

Questions about the Advisor’s Services and Business Structure:

  • Besides access to investments, what services do you provide? (E.g. Financial Planning, Tax and Retirement Planning, Collaboration with Accountant and/or Estate Planning Lawyer, Life and Health Insurance Services, Parent Care & Health Planning, etc.)
  • How many client families do you currently serve?
  • What’s the maximum number of client families you will work with?
  • How many people do you have in your team? What’s your business’s succession plan?
  • If we become clients, how often would we meet in person, conference call, etc.?
  • What are your professional designations and experience?
  • Where do most of your new clients come from? Referrals from related bank branches, referrals from clients, content-based marketing?
  • How are you paid? Commissions, hourly fee, or fee-based?
    • If commissions, how much (%) and how long does that keep me in those investments?
    • If fee-based, what are your fees and how do they scale down as the size of our portfolio grows or we bring over new money?
  • What are your minimum investment amounts for a new client family?
  • What specific attributes of your advisory business differentiate you from competitors? How exactly do these differences benefit me? Please be specific.
  • Are you free to share your own original ideas or research, or those from independent research sources?

How would your friends and clients describe you re: being more of a mainstream thinker and advisor, versus being an independent thinker and innovator?

  • Are you familiar with Martin Armstrong? Please share your views on his work, etc.
  • What are your views on the safety and investment potential of long term govt. bonds?
  • How are my accounts protected from theft or fraud?

Questions about the Advisor’s Firm:

  • Does your firm have investment banking operations (aka corporate financing relationships) with any public securities issuers?
    • If yes, please explain exactly how we are protected from conflicts of interest created by these investment banking relationships. Are any of these securities issuers represented in any of your portfolios?
  • Does your firm have proprietary investment platforms like mutual funds or separately managed accounts?
    • If yes, what % of your clients’ investments are in these proprietary investment choices? If over 10-15%, why such a high %? Are there any incentives (financial, recognition, educational) for recommending proprietary investments? Do you own shares of the company?
    • If yes, how does this affect your objectivity in respect of your firm’s proprietary investment offerings?
  • What pressures do you have from branch or senior managers in respect of your average revenue per client?

Questions about the Investment Managers the Advisor Recommends for Clients:

  • Are your investment managers Fiduciaries? Would our accounts be considered to be under Fiduciary Care, or is our risk framed by industry “Suitability Requirements?”
  • Given the low interest rate environment, what specific strategies and investments do your managers use to increase yield in the non-equity portion of our portfolio, without taking on unnecessary capital risk?
  • Do your managers typically hold more than 40 stocks in their core equity portfolios?
  • How free are your managers to make significant adjustments to country, asset class and sector allocations in order to take protect and grow our capital…or are they restricted in terms of the changes they can make?
  • How do your managers deal with risk and reward in the currency markets?
  • Do your managers actively use option overlay strategies in your equity portfolios?
  • What are the risk management parameters in place on the securities your managers select, or is it more buy and hold?
  • Can you please provide a summary of your clients’ investment performance?
  • How much flexibility is there for your portfolio managers to make higher allocations to high growth sectors such as precious metals, energy, technology, etc.?
  • Do your Portfolio Managers use independent research sources, or only those from the firm’s research department?
  • Are your Portfolio Managers familiar with Martin Armstrong’s Socrates/ECM™ system? Are they both willing and able to incorporate Socrates™ into how they manage my portfolio?
  • How often do you (the advisor) communicate directly with the people who make the day to day investment decisions for our portfolio? Can I speak directly with the portfolio manager? If yes, how often?
  • Given that wealth creation and preservation is firstly about avoiding wealth destruction, how exactly will you protect our nest-egg from catastrophic losses whenever the next major financial crisis starts to unfold?
    • Are they willing and able to fully “de-risk” our portfolio when necessary?

We look forward to participating in the upcoming 2017 World Outlook Financial Conference, including presenting information-packed Personal Finance Workshops. We hope to see you there.

Cheers,

Andrew H. Ruhland, CFP, CIM

Founder of Integrated Wealth Management in Calgary

www.integratedwealthmanagement.ca

What I Learned at Martin Armstrong’s Orlando Conference

Last week I attended the Institutional and Technical Analysis sessions at Martin Armstrong’s World Economic Conference in balmy Orlando, along with the Chief Investment Officer of one of our discretionary Portfolio Managers from Toronto. This trip was the most recent step of my 22 year project of bringing Marty’s precision models into how our Clients’ money is managed.

martyface

The three most important takeaways were: we’re on the right track, most people using the Socrates system as a standalone are still challenged, and Socrates is a very precise tool best used by skilled hands. Here’s a bullet-point summary:

We’re on the right track:

1) Marty’s major forecasts around currency allocation, gold, stocks and government bonds have been exceptionally accurate, so our Client portfolios are well –positioned, and ready for what lies ahead

2) Trump’s election does NOT change the bigger picture long-term trend directions, but he may help to steepen/accelerate a few of them, like:

  • capital inflows to the $USD, stocks, etc. by virtue of proposed reductions in corporate taxation
  • rising bond yields based on promises of massive infrastructure spending that will need to be financed with additional debt…pushing the U.S. closer to the crest of the slippery slope

3) The fact that Trump’s election and some of his early Cabinet appointments have shaken things up in virtually every major Establishment institution (EU, UN, MSM, the Fed, et al) probably means he’s headed in the right direction. In particular, the MSM snowflakes are proving why their trust ratings are bunched up down around their collective ankles

4) I met conference attendees from about 10 different countries, and a clear theme emerged: very successful non-mainstream people have become successful mostly because they understand that being non-mainstream is not “extreme.” The masses are – by definition – wrong at the extremes, but they create the trend in between. Being an independent thinker means that you are willing and able to “ride the herd without becoming one of them,” and you don’t really care at all about being popular

  • Most people who are using Socrates as a standalone platform are having trouble:

1) Marty’s ECM and Socrates works very effectively when used properly, but it’s a new and different framework with its own language

2) Socrates does not prevent people from making foolish investment decisions based on their own biases and psychological weaknesses

3) The people who are using Socrates unsuccessfully have some common traits: insufficient diversification, undisciplined trade execution, hyper-active trading frequency, and very sloppy risk management

  • Socrates is a very precise tool best used by skilled hands.  As one of Marty’s team explained it, a wise parent wouldn’t give a sniper rifle to a child…because they can hurt themselves and others without the proper training and maturity. Specifically:

1) Socrates is NOT supposed to be used as a day-trading platform

2) Socrates should be used in tandem with an existing disciplined framework, including proper diversification, disciplined trade execution, moderate trading frequency, and with very disciplined risk management in place

3) Our managers will utilize Socrates to make sure Client portfolios:

  • Are on the right side of every major currency move
  • Are over-weighted in asset classes that have the best risk : reward potential
  • Avoid major losses from high-risk asset classes, and possibly benefit by shorting these asset classes
  • Click here to find out more about how this works http://integratedwealthmanagement.ca/special-video/

Our team is looking forward to hearing Marty again at Michael Campbell’s upcoming World Outlook Financial Conference, as well as sharing our insights with attendees during the Personal Finance Workshops.

Patience and discipline are accretive to your wealth, health and happiness – so focus on these.

Cheers,

Andrew H. Ruhland, CFP, CIM

Founder and President

Integrated Wealth Management Inc.

Dealing with Lump Sums

Are you sitting with a large cash position and wondering what to do? Are you feeling anxious over the market conditions based on the U.S. election, and not sure about making the next move? You’re not alone, and this article can help.

deer_in_the_headlights

Whether the cash came from the sale of a business or real estate, a pension roll-out or stock option exercise, an inheritance or simply seeking shelter from the next anticipated market downturn…having a large amount in cash is both comforting AND anxiety provoking.

The older you are and the bigger the lump sum, the more challenging this becomes. It’s easy to over-think the situation and end up feeling like the proverbial “deer in the headlights” especially if you’re concerned about market valuations and event risk.

A wise mentor once told me that “when your principles are sound, they can never fight you,” so in our firm we’ve designed principle-based processes to deal with almost every major situation that clients experience over a lifetime…we live the mantra “process provides protection.” Maybe that’s why intelligent and analytical people are drawn to us? What I know for certain is that this methodical process dramatically reduces stress and improves the longer-term outcomes. Here it is:

  • Assess how this lump sum needs to complement the other investments you currently have, including these questions:
    1. How confident are we in how the rest of our portfolio is being managed, especially regarding risk management?
    2. Does our current financial advisor have all the tools necessary to deal with future challenges and opportunities?
    3. If you’re self-managing, do you still want to have the primary responsibility for day to day investment decisions?
    4. If you have your portfolio divided between multiple advisors, have you considered the potential cost savings, portfolio coordination benefits and additional tax deductions that you could be missing out on?
  • Once you’ve carefully answered the questions above, and are comfortable with the asset mix and investment vehicles you’ll be buying into, we get to the most stressful part. Just like eating an elephant, we recommend doing it one bite at a time. Here’s how we implement:
    1. Decide on how many tranches you want to divide your lump sum into. It could be 3 or 4 equal portions, or another number you’re comfortable with.
    2. Decide on the frequency of getting the subsequent tranches of capital invested, perhaps monthly or every six weeks.
    3. Add tactically to each asset class as it experiences its own natural dip
    4. Be ready to pounce. Crisis contains danger for the unprepared, and opportunity for the well-prepared and patient types. If a major buying opportunity materializes during the systematic implementation process described so far, that’s the best thing that could possibly happen. You get to buy under-valued assets while others are selling them in a panic, thus taking advantage of “Mass Psychology” instead of being the victim of it.
  • Once fully implemented, monitor and adjust as necessary, using the risk management parameters and systems that you’re comfortable with. If someone else is managing the portfolio, get clarity on exactly how they manage downside risk.

This process works like a charm, but you need to follow it systematically.

Patience and discipline are accretive to your wealth, health and happiness, so focus on these.

Cheers,

Andrew H. Ruhland, CFP, CIM

Founder and President

Integrated Wealth Management Inc. in Calgary

Special U.S. election note October 29 2016

Yesterday afternoon, FBI Director James Comey dropped a bombshell into the middle of the last 11 days of the U.S. elections. Will it be enough to tip the balance? Can the mainstream push any harder on the scales than they already have been?

Over the last 3 to 4 months some friends (?) and family have fallen silent due to my continued non-support of Hillary Clinton, based on my extensive research into her 30 + years of corruption, and my ongoing criticisms of the incredible bias in the mainstream media.

Some have suggested I was being “extremist” for taking this stance. I acknowledge that in addition to dealing with our own life challenges, many of us have been overwhelmed by the intense negativity and shallowness of the mainstream media analysis re Donald Trump, while completely ignoring, denying and dismissing credible evidence of massive corruption throughout the entire Democratic party apparatus.

It has now been revealed by hard video evidence that the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton herself were all aware of and – in fact directed – the incitement of violence at Trump rallies, on the ground voter fraud, and that the person who directed all these activities has visited the White house 342 times including 47 meetings with Obama. This has been widely ignored by the mainstream media…being dismissed as yet another “right wing conspiracy.” It’s has now been proven true.

I have also been extremely clear that I think that Donald Trump is NOT a worthy candidate either. I have never defended his integrity or style and have openly questioned his debate skills and called out his lack of discipline and massive/fragile ego. I have also written and repeated verbally that whomever wins the White House, America loses. I stand by my position.

I felt so strongly about this that I wrote this article about taking action before the volatility starts for the Money Talks website, and even did a sponsored email to Alberta subscribers to Rebel.Media.

This is the the beginning of the acceleration of the decline of confidence in government. Corruption is everywhere, and this will hasten the rise in interest rates based on investors demanding a higher risk premium for lending to government. This election is a referendum on whether or not systemic corruption is acceptable…in a democracy, you get the government you deserve.

Of course if Donald Trump wins on November 8th and we experience market volatility, it will be blamed on Donald Trump. If Hillary still wins on Nov 8th, and then gets indicted and possibly even charged, America will be thrown into chaos. Will this be attributed to “yet another vast right wing conspiracy” or will the mainstream media finally admit that they have been bought and paid for, and perhaps admit their role in lying to the world based on their own ideological framework?

These unprecedented times will further expose the weaknesses of traditional passive investing strategies, and the shallowness of fundamental-only security analysis. This confirms the wisdom of adding Martin Armstrong’s Socrates(TM) system into the investment processes of our already-excellent Fiduciary Portfolio Managers.

I’m looking forward to hearing Martin Armstrong’s perspectives on the future, while learning more about how to best utilize his models to protect and grow client capital. I must admit that I’m not thrilled about travelling to Orlando on Tuesday November 8th.

If you would like to explore how we can be of service to your family, please respond to this note. Please feel free to forward this note to friends or family who are concerned as well.

Patience, discipline and compassion are accretive to your wealth, health and happiness – so focus on these.

Cheers,
Andrew H. Ruhland, CFP, CIM
Founder, Integrated Wealth Management Inc.

Andrew Ruhland on MoneyTalks Radio

Andrew Ruhland was recently on MoneyTalks radio with Michael Campbell speaking about wealth management in 2016

Shelter BEFORE the storm

lightning stormMoney Talks listeners and readers have heard and read recent very clear expressions about pending equity market risks in the U.S. (from Martin Armstrong) and Canadian markets – especially in the Energy sector (from Josef Schacter). But what should you actually do? Should you seek shelter before the storm?

In 2008, many investors were either caught unaware of the systemic risks, or chose to ignore warnings of a major market crash. The financial pain from that (passive or active) decision to do nothing was profound; pain burns deep emotional scars that can be difficult to reverse. The theme of this article is simple: don’t make the same mistake again.

To be clear, our firm’s view is not an apocalyptic one. Our consistent investment thesis for the last 5 years has been (and still is) focused on over-weighting equities versus fixed income, U.S. equities versus Canadian and global equities, and tactical over-weights to stronger currencies like the $USD. Precious metals miners will eventually be very attractive as well. This thesis is the direct result of great work by our Portfolio Managers, including watching global capital flows (et al) via Martin Armstrong. This has resulted in our clients enjoying very solid risk-adjusted returns.

With the ongoing integration of Armstrong’s Socrates™ system into our managers’ processes, we remain optimistic about investment performance going forward. I’m certainly looking forward to attending the next WEC with Marty in Orlando on November 10th and 11th, and tapping into his models and systems to help enhance portfolio results going forward.

Given the downside risks (seasonality, U.S. election chaos, rising war-risk with Russia, stagnant global GDP, et al), each reader should carefully consider if it makes sense for them to lock in recent gains in stocks, bonds and currencies for a portion of one’s portfolio. This decision should be made BEFORE any major downturn begins, and should be made coolly and calmly in candid discussions with your trusted financial advisor – someone who really understands your goals, circumstances and “financial pain threshold.”

If your concerns are (even politely) dismissed as being irrational and you’re told to simply do nothing, then that in itself should be cause for a “mindful pause.” After all, it’s your money and dealing thoughtfully and respectfully with the emotions that surround your nest-egg is a critical part of the role that a great advisor plays in the journey toward achieving your Life Goals™. Tax consequences should also be part of the discussion, but remember the old age, “Don’t let the tax tail wage the investment dog.”

Minimizing the volatility during periods of market turmoil is something that most investors think is an implicit part of the investment management services that Canadians pay for. It should be, but the ability and willingness of large investment managers to be nimble within capital markets is shackled by three important limitations:

  1. The standard Prospectus (or equivalent) of most mutual and segregated funds typically requires each fund to be > 95% fully invested within their mandate;
  2. Mutual funds impose minimum holding periods and limit the frequency that an investor can make in-out-in tactical moves; and most importantly
  3. Canada’s investment management landscape is dominated by the major chartered banks, a few massive insurance companies, and several big mutual fund companies. Besides having an obvious bias toward riding through all short-term volatility, big money managers have a little-known practical problem: if they make major defensive moves by selling down a significant portion of their portfolios, they can actually cause turmoil by “spooking the market.” Translation: being too big limits their ability to be nimble. The result is that their size can actually work against your best interests.

There is a practical solution to this limitation, which you can find by clicking here: http://integratedwealthmanagement.ca/special-video/

Remember as well, that if you do decide with your advisor to partially “de-risk” your portfolio temporarily, that you need to be willing (and able) to buy back in again during a period of market panic. Don’t worry about timing this “perfectly,” because you’re improving your long-term returns as long as you get back in at a lower level than where you took money off the table.

Cheers,

Andrew H. Ruhland, CFP, CIM

Founder & President of Integrated Wealth Management Inc. in Calgary

Solution to Low Interest Rates

Arithmetic is beautiful, elegant, and stunningly objective. Sometimes the truth of our own arithmetic is unpleasant…but if you can accurately identify the core problem to be solved, then you can get to work on actually solving it.

So let’s start with some typical retirement Arithmetic. If you need $50,000 of pre-tax income from your portfolio, at a 3% yield you need $1.67 million. At a 5.5% return (including current income AND capital gains), you need $909,090. The difference is significant, and affects when you can retire, or how much you can receive in retirement income.

Are you just going to sit back and take this “yield abuse” dished out on mature investors by Central Banks who’ve helped drive down interest rates, or recognize the problem and get it solved? Let’s get to work.

Having been indoctrinated for decades about how “safe” top-rated government bonds are, we find ourselves at or very near historic low yields, with lots of risk to your principal if you’re investing in long-term government debt. It’s happened before, at least a couple times in your grandparents’ lifetime. The problem is real, the results are serious, only the timing is unknown.

As Jim Dines says, “Over-efforting creates countervailing forces,” so don’t ignore volatility of market prices simply because an investment has a high yield. Focus on total return, with yield (interest and dividends) as part of the overall return, along with prudent capital gains.

Below is a compilation of strategies for dealing with the low interest rate environment from the IWM stable of discretionary portfolio managers…not specific recommendations for the reader. All portfolios are managed within the framework of an Investment Policy Statement (IPS), which is a best practice among Fiduciaries. “Process provides protection,” and here’s an intelligent process:

  • Step 1: Seek Higher Yielding Fixed Income alternatives to Government Bonds, with a focus on credit quality, including:
    • Corporate Bonds, preferably under 5 years to maturity to be able to reinvest at higher rates in the future
    • Preferred Shares with a guaranteed floor-rate reset provisions, ideally at rates 3% or more > 10 year govt. bond yields…and tax efficiency
    • Commercial Mortgages, with Loan:Value ratios > 75%, and
    • Structured Real Estate Trusts
  • Step 2: Consider “higher than traditional” allocations to High-Yielding Equities. The old rules about no more than 30 or 40% equities in retirement are outdated. Consider the following:
    • Blue-Chips are boring and effective. Utilities and other sectors like telecoms and consumer staples with stable cash flows and great dividend coverage are a start
    • High Yielding Corporate Bonds behave more like Equities, so an ETF helps diversify away individual credit risk but not sector risk. HYG, JNK and XCB are a few well-known options that can fit the bill, but see notes on timing and currency below
    • Alternatives like structured Asset-based Lending and Factoring pools yielding 6 to 8%
  • Step 3: Dynamic Strategies. Markets are fluid and dynamic, and management of your portfolio should be as well:
    • Writing Covered Calls on your blue-chip equities to add 1 or 2% to your current yield
    • Active Currency management, sometimes to grow but most importantly to protect
    • Buy volatile assets like stocks and high-yielding corporate during pullbacks, not just because you have cash
    • Think of cash as a tactical asset class, not a strategic one, unless you’re already drawing income during retirement
    • Lock in gains with a disciplined risk management framework. Be one of the strong hands who are selling to the late-comer weak hands when valuations are stretched. You never go broke by taking a profit, and great assets can be bought back later at lower prices.

Increasing the yield within your portfolio almost always decreases its volatility, and the less volatile your portfolio is, the less likely you are to do something that is financially destructive like selling volatile assets near panic lows.

And remember, everything included in your Investment Plan should be consistent with the Life Goals ™ expressed in your Wealth Management Plan.

– Andrew H. Ruhland, CFP, CIM

Founder and President, Integrated Wealth Management Inc. in Calgary