Episode 48: The Three Golden Rules of Investing

A Beginner’s Guide to Factor Investing

This week on Grow Money Business we dive into another fascinating investment strategy: factor investing. Factor investing is a strategy that focuses on selecting securities based on attributes that are linked to higher returns. Throughout this episode, Grant covers what factor investing is, how you may implement it in your investment efforts, and some of the things you should keep in mind when engaging in factor investing. Stay tuned until the end of the episode, where Grant shares some valuable tips for minimizing your risks.

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How Are Non-Qualified Stock Options (NSOs) Taxed?

How Are Non-Qualified Stock Options (NSOs) Taxed?

Non-qualified stock options (NSOs) are a very popular way to compensate employees at publicly traded companies, and a wonderful benefit to receive.  But the tax consequences, and how to handle them, can be confusing.

How you handle an NSO grant should depend on your personal financial situation: your objectives, your tax situation, your cash needs, the rest of your portfolio, etc.  Managing your NSOs thoughtfully can lead to a huge tax savings over time.  Managing them haphazardly can lead to an unwanted (and unneeded) bill to the IRS.

This post will cover how NSOs are taxed, and a few questions you should ask yourself before deciding how to handle them.

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Mutual Funds vs. ETFs: What's the Right Investment Vehicle For You?

Mutual Funds vs. ETFs: What’s the Right Investment Vehicle For You?

Sound investment management always starts with asset allocation.  The biggest decision you can ever make as an investor is the portion of your assets you invest in stocks.  This decision alone is responsible for around 90% of the returns you’ll see over the years in your portfolio.  The other 10% is based on whether you’re investing in U.S. stocks or international stocks, large cap or small cap, and value or growth.

Once you decide the proper allocation for you and your family, the next step is to select specific investments to buy.  Maybe that’s an S&P 500 index fund.  Perhaps it’s a small cap value stock fund.  Whatever the asset class, if you choose to invest in a fund you’ll have two predominant choices: a mutual fund or an exchange traded fund (ETF).

Both can be great investment vehicles, but they are very different animals.  Making a sound decision surrounding which vehicle is best for your strategy is important, and one that many investors overlook.

This post will describe these differences, and how to determine which investment vehicle is right for you.

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Don't Take Those RMDs This Year!

Don’t Take Those RMDs This Year!

As you may have heard, the CARES Act (aka the Coronavirus stimulus bill) created a holiday for mandatory distributions from retirement accounts in 2020.

So if you’re otherwise required to pull money from your IRA or 401(k) this year, you can skip it – penalty free.  This includes retirement accounts of your own AND those inherited from someone else.  Pretty neat, right?

But remember, the CARES Act wasn’t passed until March.  What if you’ve already taken a distribution?  Can you put it back?

The good news is yes, you can, as long as it’s done by August 31st.  Whereas this wasn’t initially the allowable, updated guidance from the IRS says that those of you who took RMDs in January or February can now replace them.

Read on for the details on how to put back your RMD if you’ve already taken one, and when you might still want to take a distribution if you haven’t already.

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Q2 Market Update

Market Update: Q2 2020

Well that was an interesting quarter.  The second quarter of 2020 brought us the fastest selloff into a bear market in history, which subsequently turned out to be one of the shortest in history.  Equities around the world continue to whipsaw investors amid COVID-19 and the resulting fiscal and monetary stimulus packages from governments around the world.  In short, the markets seem to be at odds with the economy.

Interest rates have fallen in lockstep and show few signs of rising any time soon.  This makes for great refinancing opportunities for borrowers, but poor bond yields for long term investors.  These are interesting and precarious times.

Here is this quarter’s market update.

Q2 Market UpdateQ2 Market Update

Q2 Market Update

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The Economy Is Not The Stock Market

The Economy Is Not The Stock Market

So here we are….in the middle of a global pandemic.  Unemployment in the US is hovering around 15%.  Businesses are struggling to remain viable.  Hundreds of thousands of families…probably millions …are concerned they won’t be able to make their mortgage payments.

Yet, the stock market is closing in on all time highs set earlier this year.

How is that possible?  What gives?

The party line answers sound something like:

  • “Stocks prices reflect future earnings, not present earnings”
  • “COVID-19 is temporary, and our economy will return as soon as it passes”
  • “The market is just being manipulated by the Fed.  All that cash is pumping up the market”

All these are reasonable responses.  But they circumvent a very important concept that many of us seem to be forgetting recently:

The economy is not the stock market, and the stock market is not the economy.

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Reflections on the Pandemic So Far

Reflections on the Pandemic So Far

We are currently somewhere around day 60 of our family’s quarantine, and the country is inching closer to reopening.  Over those 60(ish) days I worked remotely from home, and held a TON of meetings with clients, colleagues, and others over Zoom.  As you can imagine, everyone has handled the last two months a little differently.  Some investors are more comfortable with volatility than others.

I had a chance this week to think back on the sentiment in general.  How people are doing and feeling.  How they’ve handled the last few months.  What their financial situation is like right now.  And while everyone has handled quarantine and the Coronavirus pandemic differently, there are some trends I’ve noticed across many of my conversations.  I thought these trends might make an interesting blog post, so here are a few things that have been on my mind recently.

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Market Update: Q1 2020

Market Update: Q1 2020

Well here we are….one quarter into 2020, and the risk event we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived.  Volatility as measured by the VIX Index touched all time highs over the first quarter as the Coronavirus spread from China to Italy and the rest of the world.

The stock slide here in the United States was fierce, but a late quarter bounce regained a substantial portion of the lost ground.  More ground, in my opinion, than the numbers really support.

From here, small cap and emerging markets are starting to look like wonderful bargains.  But without knowing the extent of the economic damage & how long the world will be sheltering in place, it’s difficult to make that argument with too much confidence.

Here’s this quarter’s market update.

Market Update: Q1 2020

Market Update: Q1 2020

Market Update: Q1 2020

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The CARES Act: Implications for Individuals

The CARES Act: Implications for Individuals

As I’ve written about on the blog and covered on the podcast recently, the CARES Act is a big piece of legislation.  (Remember….the total package is $2.2 trillion!).  We’ve covered several sections of the bill and how it might impact you on the blog recently, including a deep dive into the paycheck protection program.

There are also many provisions in the bill we haven’t covered.  Specifically, sections relating to stimulus checks, expanded unemployment insurance, mandatory distribution holidays, penalty free retirement account withdrawals, and student loan relief.  Coincidentally, all have been commanding a large number of questions from clients of Three Oaks recently.

Like all legislation there is a great deal of gray area in this piece of legislation, especially given the urgency with which it was passed.  The IRS, SBA, Department of Labor, and other government entities are scrambling to provide relevant guidance as soon as possible.  So while there may appear to be some planning opportunities with regard to the law, it’s entirely possible they’re just a temporary mirage.  Nevertheless, here’s what we know now about the CARES Act and how it might impact you as a taxpayer.

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Where Do We Go From Here? Market Thoughts & Financial De-Leveraging

Where Do We Go From Here? Market Thoughts & The Risk of Financial De-Leveraging

Well that escalated quickly.  We are now officially in the second fastest bear market on record.  Bear markets become official when stocks fall 20% or more from their peaks.  Ordinarily this takes months to play out.  Bad news comes out, stocks sell off a bit.  Everyone goes home, thinks about it, and comes back the next morning.  More bad news comes out, stocks fall a bit further, and so on.  Here’s some data from Marketwatch on how long it typically takes to enter a bear market:

Where Do We Go From Here? Market Thoughts & Financial De-Leveraging

With the Coronavirus driving the U.S. and much of the world to shelter in place, our economy has come to a screeching halt.  Some forecasters are guessing that we’ll see a 5% drop in GDP this quarter, others are predicting as much as a 30% drop.

Whatever camp you reside in, the picture is not pretty.  Markets did not take long to notice.  Whereas it takes on average 136-137 trading days to enter a bear market based on the data above, it only took us 19 to get there this time – the second fastest on record:

Where Do We Go From Here? Market Thoughts & Financial De-Leveraging

So where do we go from here?  A stimulus package is just about to be passed (finally).  Markets rebounded as much as 12% yesterday and another 4.5% today.  Even though the public health picture still looks bleak, we are starting to wrap our heads around how long the pandemic may continue.

Here are a few things I’m reading and my thoughts on what happens next.

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