Happy Belated Birthday Bull Market!

The financial crisis of 2008 seems like such a long time ago. During the crisis, we saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers, bank bailouts and forced mergers, massive federal stimulus, and extraordinary Federal Reserve (Fed) policy.

file0001539596844We experienced near unprecedented stock market volatility when daily stock market moves of 5% or more were not uncommon. Despite these extreme conditions, one of the greatest six-year bull markets emerged from this crisis.

Three months ago, we celebrated another (belated) birthday of the bull market that began on March 9, 2009. (A bull market is defined as a prolonged period of stock market gains without a 20% or more decline.) Not only has this bull market for stocks lasted a long time from a historical perspective (it is the third-longest since World War II), it has also been the strongest six-year-old bull.

As the bull market enters its seventh year, many are wondering whether this bull has another year left to run. As should not be surprising given its age and the strong returns it has produced, this bull market may be due for a modest correction. But, that does not necessarily mean that a downturn is imminent.

Risks always loom somewhere and, right now, they are in the form of terrorism, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the possibility of a nuclear Iran, the energy downturn, and the Eurozone’s struggles.

However, there seem to be enough factors supporting this bull that it could continue its charge:

• Bull markets do not die of old age, they die of excesses, and there does not seem to be any evidence today that economic excesses are emerging in the U.S. economy.

• The Fed typically reacts to built-up excesses with multiple rate hikes, contributing to the start of recessions. The slow economic recovery we have experienced has delayed the formation of excesses and the start of the Fed’s rate hike campaign.

• Though valuations are slightly expensive by historical standards, prior bull markets have shown that corporate earnings gains can lift stocks for quite a while even after valuations exceed long-term averages and stop expanding. Valuations have proven to be good indicators of long-term stock performance; they have not been reliable shorter-term indicators.

• Low inflation persists, which helps increase the value of future earnings and dividends.

• Economic and market indicators that have been found to be effective in signaling recessions and stock market downturns suggest the economic expansion and bull market have the potential to continue through 2015.

Given this backdrop, I believe remaining fully invested in a diversified portfolio is prudent. The outlook continues to be positive for modest gains in stocks based on the underlying strength of the U.S. economy, a rapidly improving employment backdrop, and accommodating global central bank policies. Thus, we can be optimistic that we may be blowing out seven candles on this bull market’s birthday cake next year.

As always, if you have any questions, I encourage you to contact me at bill.pollak@lpl.com or at (925) 464-7057.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual security. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted.

Investing in stock includes numerous specific risks including: the fluctuation of dividend, loss of principal and potential illiquidity of the investment in a falling market.

Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond and bond mutual fund values and yields will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price.

This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial.

Should You Worry about a Federal Reserve Interest Rate Hike?

After years of record-low interest rates, at some point this year the Federal Reserve is expected to begin raising its target federal funds interest rate (the rate at which banks lend to one another funds they’ve deposited at the Fed). Because bond prices typically fall when interest rates rise, any rate hike is likely to affect the value of bond investments.

bond-investingHowever, higher rates aren’t all bad news. For those who have been diligent about saving and/or have kept a substantial portion of their portfolios in cash alternatives, higher rates could be a boon. For example, higher rates could mean that savings accounts and CDs are likely to do better at providing income than they have in recent years.

Also, bonds don’t respond uniformly to interest rate changes. The differences, or spreads, between the yields of various types of debt can mean that some bonds may be under- or overvalued compared to others. Depending on your risk tolerance and time horizon, there are many ways to adjust a bond portfolio to help cope with rising interest rates. However, don’t forget that a bond’s total return is a combination of its yield and any changes in its price; bonds seeking to achieve higher yields typically involve a higher degree of risk.

Finally, some troubled economies overseas have been forced to lower interest rates on their sovereign bonds in an attempt to provide economic stimulus. Lower rates abroad have the potential to make U.S. debt, particularly Treasury securities (whose timely payment of interest and principal is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury), even more attractive to foreign investors. Though past performance is no guarantee of future results, that’s what happened during much of 2014. Increased demand abroad might help provide some support for bonds denominated in U.S. dollars.

Remember that bonds are subject not only to interest rate risk but also to inflation risk, market risk, and credit risk; a bond sold prior to maturity may be worth more or less than its original value. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.

Do Investors Still Need Diversification?

With any investment approach, it is crucial to have a plan, and the bedrock of any investment plan is to have a well-diversified portfolio among various asset classes. The rationale behind diversification is to mitigate risk, as you never know when something could adversely affect one of your investments. If you had a portfolio concentrated in equities in 2008 or in energy-sensitive securities following the recent drop in oil prices, you would have lost a significant amount of your investment value. As investors, we diversify portfolios to seek to reduce this risk.

090 (6)However, simply because diversification has been an effective way to potentially reduce risk over long periods of time, by definition you would expect it will outperform some years and underperform others. Unfortunately, this can be painful when the outperforming asset class is the most well-known U.S. index—the S&P 500, an index of the 500 largest U.S. public companies.

This is exactly what happened in 2014—the S&P 500 significantly outperformed many other often diversifying asset classes, including small cap stocks by nearly 9% and foreign developed stocks by approximately 18%. Therefore, a diversified portfolio last year would have significantly lagged the S&P 500.

So why not just invest in large cap stocks or the S&P 500? Over the past 20 years, the S&P 500 has only outperformed all other major asset classes (including small, mid, foreign developed, and emerging markets) 30% of the time, and it was the worst performing asset class 25% of the time. It is important to stick with your investment plan and be invested in at least several different types of investments. Diversification has historically worked, and as we look at 2015 so far, it may be starting to work again.

In 2015, we will continue looking for places to effectively diversify, and will be closely monitoring potential opportunities. In Europe, the European Central Bank is taking aggressive steps to stimulate its economy. As commodity prices stabilize, emerging markets could join the global growth trend. After decades, Japan emerged from deflation with a massive stimulus effort, which may continue to offer an investment opportunity. There are many potential opportunities on the horizon, and looking ahead, I believe returns may come from a much broader set of investment choices, which has already begun in 2015.

file5251307073889When it comes to investing, it is always important to monitor the risks. A key to risk management is a diversified portfolio. You may not always outperform the most well-known index that many undiversified portfolios emphasize, but that should not lead you to abandon your plan and chase the hot asset class. We remain committed to seeking to outperform in different investment climates, but doing so with a well-diversified portfolio that does not take on undue risk.

As always, if you have any questions, I encourage you to call me at (925) 464-7057 or email me at bill.pollak@lpl.com.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual security. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal.

All indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Because of its narrow focus, specialty sector investing, such as healthcare, financials, or energy, will be subject to greater volatility than investing more broadly across many sectors and companies.

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform an undiversified portfolio. Diversification does not ensure against market risk.

Investing in foreign and emerging markets securities involves special additional risks. These risks include, but are not limited to, currency risk, geopolitical risk, and risk associated with varying accounting standards. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks.

The S&P 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial.

Investor, Know Thyself: How Your Biases Can Affect Investment Decisions

Traditional economic models are based on a simple premise: people make rational financial decisions that are designed to maximize their economic benefits. In reality, however, most humans don’t make decisions based on a sterile analysis of the pros and cons.

While most of us do think carefully about financial decisions, it is nearly impossible to completely disconnect from our “gut feelings,” that nagging intuition that seems to have been deeply implanted in the recesses of our brain.

Over the past few decades, another school of thought has emerged that examines how human psychological factors influence economic and financial decisions. This field–known as behavioral economics, or in the investing arena, behavioral finance–has identified several biases that can unnerve even the most stoic investor.

Understanding these biases may help you avoid questionable calls in the heat of the financial moment. Sound familiar? Following is a brief summary of some common biases influencing even the most experienced investors. Can you relate to any of these?

1. Anchoring refers to the tendency to become attached to something, even when it may not make sense. Examples include a piece of furniture that has outlived its usefulness, a home or car that one can no longer afford, or a piece of information that is believed to be true, but is in fact, false. In investing, it can refer to the tendency to either hold an investment too long or place too much reliance on a certain piece of data or information.

2. Loss-aversion bias is the term used to describe the tendency to fear losses more than celebrate equivalent gains. For example, you may experience joy at the thought of finding yourself $5,000 richer, but the thought of losing $5,000 might provoke a far greater fear. Similar to anchoring, loss aversion could cause you to hold onto a losing investment too long, with the fear of turning a paper loss into a real loss.

DSCN897633. Endowment bias is also similar to loss-aversion bias and anchoring in that it encourages investors to “endow” a greater value in what they currently own over other possibilities. You may presume the investments in your portfolio are of higher quality than other available alternatives, simply because you own them.

4. Overconfidence is simply having so much confidence in your own ability to select investments for your portfolio that you might ignore warning signals.

5. Confirmation bias is the tendency to latch onto, and assign more authority to, opinions that agree with your own. For example, you might give more credence to an analyst report that favors a stock you recently purchased, in spite of several other reports indicating a neutral or negative outlook.

6. The bandwagon effect, also known as herd behavior, happens when decisions are made simply because “everyone else is doing it.” For an example of this, one might look no further than a fairly recent and much-hyped social media company’s initial public offering (IPO). Many a discouraged investor jumped at that IPO only to sell at a significant loss a few months later. (Some of these investors may have also suffered from overconfidence bias.)

7. Recency bias refers to the fact that recent events can have a stronger influence on your decisions than other, more distant events. For example, if you were severely burned by the market downturn in 2008, you may have been hesitant about continuing or increasing your investments once the markets settled down.

nyc4_carolinaantunesConversely, if you were encouraged by the stock market’s subsequent bull run, you may have increased the money you put into equities, hoping to take advantage of any further gains. Consider that neither of these perspectives may be entirely rational given that investment decisions should be based on your individual goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

8. A negativity bias indicates the tendency to give more importance to negative news than positive news, which can cause you to be more risk-averse than appropriate for your situation.

An objective view can help
The human brain has evolved over millennia into a complex decision-making tool, allowing us to retrieve past experiences and process information so quickly that we can respond almost instantaneously to perceived threats and opportunities.

However, when it comes to your finances, these gut feelings may not be your strongest ally, and in fact may work against you. Before jumping to any conclusions about your finances, consider what biases may be at work beneath your conscious radar. It might also help to consider the opinions of an objective third party, such as a qualified financial professional, who could help identify any biases that may be clouding your judgment.

Is the Stock Market Casting a Spell on Investors?

After the financial markets posted another strong performance during the first half of this year, the word “magic” keeps coming to mind! And it’s not just because the word offers an apt description of the pretty wizardly stock market returns lately.

bull-markets-604cs030413My current interest in sorcery also comes from observing a noticeable shift in investor behavior. Just a few years ago, some investors were very apprehensive about stocks, and very reticent to take on very much risk in their investment plans. But in recent months, some of these folks seem to have come under a magic spell and have begun to appreciate the potential rewards (and the risks?) of equity investing.

It’s certainly understandable how the stock market’s performance may have brewed a mystical tonic to bring investors back to stocks. During the first half of 2014, the Standard & Poors 500 Index (the “S&P 500”), a well known and broad measure of the US stock market, gained 7.14% through June 30, 2014.

Hot Equity Market!
These returns came after two consecutive excellent years in 2013 and 2012 when that same index posted increases of 32.39% and 16%, respectively. Since the bear market bottom on March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 has gained a whopping 221.17% through June 30, 2014. The impressive results seem to be the investment equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of a hat!

Earlier this year, I began to hear conservative investors expressing a desire to increase their equity investments. My personal observation of this apparent growing appetite for stocks, combined with other anecdotal evidence of such interest, raises important questions for all investors.

magicoDoes the more optimistic tone in business and among investors makes this a good time to seek out potentially greater investment rewards? Or, are investors setting themselves up to be potentially disappointed if the equity markets shift unexpectedly to a downward trend?

Of course, it is great news that there is more optimism in the air! A more positive economic outlook, an improving job market, and healthy stock returns reflect an environment that some thought just a few years ago could have only come about through economic sleight of hand!

And although there remain some concerns about the strength of the current economic recovery, the current financial climate is certainly far more encouraging than it has been for several years. But does that mean you should increase your exposure to equity investments?

That’s a question which wizards or financial advisors should not answer hastily. Any investment shift, especially a significant change, provides both risks and opportunities that should be evaluated based primarily upon an investor’s financial goals and circumstances, as well as that individual’s risk tolerance. Conversely, the decision should NOT be based on which investments have offered the best returns most recently.

Chasing Attractive Market Returns?
Unfortunately, investors, to their own detriment, sometimes pursue investments that have fared well in the short term, but which might not be priced to perform so well in the future. Some financial journalists have recently suggested that investors who want to reconsider their investment strategies or asset allocation might be acting irrationally, or adding risk to their portfolios at exactly the wrong time.

I don’t completely agree with that perspective since an investor might have valid reasons for re-considering their financial goals and/or their personal circumstances might have changed. Also, stocks might not be so outrageously priced relative to historical valuation models that would suggest a plunge is necessarily imminent (though a wizard would need a crystal ball to know with certainty).

Should You Change Your Investment Path?
iStock_000011359435XSmall appian bottomStill, prudence may likely be the order of the day. Investors should establish and stick with a disciplined asset allocation strategy and look for opportunities to “rebalance” back to your model. That discipline might suggest that selling some stock might be timely if your model is out of balance.

Although we all might wish for a magic wand to make profitable investment decisions, not even the best wizards can time the markets or guarantee investment outcomes. Instead, investors should consider using time-tested investment principles and potions in managing their portfolios. As always, if you have any financial or investment related questions, please send me an email message at bill.pollak@lpl.com or call at (925) 301-4086

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult me prior to investing.

Is the Stock Market Rigged?

file0001031687320Is the stock market rigged in favor of high-speed electronic trading firms? Perhaps, but that shouldn’t matter to most investors.

Last week, media reports and a new book by author Michael Lewis have focused on a form of high-frequency stock trading where professional traders use sophisticated computers and complex programming to see stock orders coming in and position themselves ahead of the orders as middlemen between existing buyers and sellers.

All of this is done very rapidly, over and over again, often netting the high-frequency trader a few pennies on the stock price. While short-term traders fight it out at lightning speeds over these pennies, long-term investors are generally above the fray. If you are an investor focused on the longer term fundamentals of an investment, generally speaking, you have little to fear over the very small price moves caused by high-frequency trading.

file7781266798375High-frequency trading has been gathering headlines for 15 years. But, in recent years, this trading has shown some signs of stressing the fabric of the markets, for example, with the May 6, 2010 “flash crash,” when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,000 points in just minutes, then rebounded by the end of the day. Investors should bear the risk of their investment; they should not have to bear the risk of whether the markets are functioning fairly or effectively. In response, regulators have taken some action.

The Dodd-Frank legislation, passed in 2010, effectively restricted high-frequency trading by the big banks. Yet, not everyone sees high-frequency trading as a negative; some mutual fund companies have publically noted that using such strategies reduces transaction costs and benefits the investors in their funds.

In short, high-frequency trading may create small inefficiencies over the short run, but for long-term investors it has little impact on achieving their financial goals.

As always, if you have questions, I encourage you to contact me at bill.pollak@lpl.com or at (925) 301-4086.

March 2014 Blog: Can You Win “Investment” Gold?

It’s not often that we can gain investment insights from an 18-year-old wunderkind.

1_3a104b11a55dd074a15f7c05a91b6a17Many of us marveled at the performance of American Mikaela Shiffrin at the Sochi Winter Olympics, where she became the youngest Olympic slalom champion. What makes Shiffrin remarkable is not only her success, but also her approach to the sport. Unlike many of her peers, while training she focused more on technique and practice — the discipline of ski racing — rather than on competing.

When Shiffrin lost footing and became airborne on the course, she was able to regain her position quickly as she had practiced her recovery many times before. Throughout all of her training, she took the long-term view. It can be difficult to take the long-term view in investing, particularly when we are challenged by bumps on the slope.

February, for example, provided investors with mixed signals. Colder and snowier-than-usual weather adversely affected many economic reports, causing uncertainty over the health of the economy to linger. Several high-profile companies also cited the negative impact of weather on future earnings.

Looking at the bigger picture, however, helps us regain our sense of balance. U.S. stock prices appear to be looking past weather disruptions and have rebounded back to near record highs following a soft start to the year. We see underlying strength in most economic indicators including a continued recovery in the housing market, which is supported by easier mortgage availability, limited home inventory, and near-record housing affordability.

20120121-RoyersfordPA-WinterStormLimerickSquare__5MF_Absent a severe storm in March, we expect more clarity on the health of the overall U.S. economy in April, when March economic data are released, and we still expect economic growth, as measured by real gross domestic product (GDP), to reach 3% in 2014, based upon many of the drags of 2013 fading, including U.S. tax increases and spending cuts and the European recession, and growth accelerating from additional hiring and capital spending by businesses.

The bond market also hit some bumps, as Puerto Rico was downgraded during the month by all three major credit rating agencies as a result of its large debt burden and multi-year recession. But municipal bond market investors have been thinking longer term and appeared to take the downgrades in stride by noting Puerto Rico is not reflective of the overall market.

Just last week, the broader bond market appeared to corroborate the move in stock prices by ignoring another batch of weather-impacted data and anticipating better growth. Bond investors also refocused on a Federal Reserve that remains on schedule to reduce bond purchases and eventually raise interest rates in late 2015.

Policymakers in Washington, D.C. appear to be taking the longer view as well by focusing less on partisan differences and more on overall economic health. Congress agreed to a “clean” debt ceiling increase without links to the Affordable Care Act or the Keystone XL pipeline.

This “clean” bill acted as a positive for the stock market, which may have rallied on the perception that a more business-friendly legislative environment may be developing. We continue to expect a 10-15% gain for U.S. stocks in 2014, as measured by the S&P 500 Index. (Derived from earnings per share for S&P 500 companies growing 5 – 10% and a rise of half a point in the price-to-earnings [PE] ratio.)

As we look back at the concerns we’ve had during the past month, we realize — just as Mikaela Shiffrin did on her gold medal run — that we’ve been here before. We know we can trust the discipline and practice of sound investing and stay focused on our long-term goals. Even those of us who are industry veterans can take a lesson from the young champion.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult me prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

The economic forecasts set forth in this letter may not develop as predicted.

This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial.

What return are you really earning on your money?

If you’re like most people, you probably want to know what return you might expect before you invest. But to translate a given rate of return into actual income or growth potential, you’ll need to understand the difference between nominal return and real return, and how that difference can affect your ability to achieve financial goals.

file0001196782729Let’s say you have a certificate of deposit (CD) that’s about to expire. The yield on the new five-year CD you’re considering is 1.5%. It’s not great, you think, but it’s better than the 0.85% offered by a five-year Treasury note.*

But that 1.5% is the CD’s nominal rate of return; it doesn’t account for inflation or taxes. If you’re taxed at the 28% federal income tax rate, roughly 0.42% of that 1.5% will be gobbled up by federal taxes on the interest. Okay, you say, that still leaves an interest rate of 1.08%; at least you’re earning something.

However, you’ve also got to consider the purchasing power of the interest that the CD pays. Even though inflation is relatively low today, it can still affect your purchasing power, especially over time. Consumer prices have gone up by roughly 1% over the past year.** Adjust your 1.08% after-tax return for inflation, and suddenly you’re barely breaking even on your investment.

What’s left after the impact of inflation and taxes is called your real return, because that’s what you’re really earning in actual purchasing power. If the nominal return on an investment is low enough, the real return can actually be negative, depending on your tax bracket and the inflation rate over time. Though this hypothetical example doesn’t represent the performance of any actual investment, it illustrates the importance of understanding what you’re really earning.

In some cases, the security an investment offers may be important enough that you’re essentially willing to pay someone to keep your money safe. For example, Treasury yields have sometimes been negative when people worried more about protecting their principal than about their real return. However, you should understand the cost of such a decision.

*Source: Department of the Treasury Resource Center (www.treasury.gov) as of April 2013.

**Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index as of April 2013.

Plan Now for Year-End Investment Changes

You might not enjoy sitting down to do year-end investment planning, but at least this fall you can make plans with greater certainty. For the last three years, investment planning has meant trying to anticipate possible changes in tax law; for tax year 2013 and beyond, you know for sure how income, capital gains, and qualifying dividends will be taxed. That gives you an opportunity to fine-tune your long-term planning, or to develop a plan if you’ve postponed doing so. Here are some factors to keep in mind as the year winds down.

TaxLossHarvesting-240x157Consider harvesting your losses
With tax rates settled, the question of whether to sell losing positions to generate capital losses that can potentially be used to offset capital gains or $3,000 of your ordinary income becomes a much more straightforward decision. That process is known as harvesting tax losses, and it could prove especially worth considering this year. The first half of the year produced strong gains for U.S. equities; even a mediocre second half could still have the potential to leave you with a higher tax bill than you had anticipated.

To maximize your losses for tax purposes, you would sell shares that have lost the most, which would enable you to offset more gains. Unless you specify which shares of stock are to be sold, your broker will typically treat them as sold based on the FIFO (first in, first out) method, meaning that the first shares bought are considered to be the first shares sold. However, you can designate specific shares as the ones sold or direct your broker to use a different method, such as LIFO (last in, first out) or highest in, first out.

Interest rates: bane or blessing?
12884_nota_higher_interest_ratesThe Federal Reserve has said that if the economy continues to recover at its expected pace, it could raise its target Fed funds rate sometime in 2014. However, investors have been anticipating such an increase since early summer, when many bond mutual funds began seeing strong outflows from investors concerned that a rate increase could hurt the value of their holdings.

As any consumer knows, lower demand for a product often means lower prices. And since bond prices move in the opposite direction from bond yields, yields on a variety of fixed-income investments have begun to rise. However, there also could be a silver lining for some investors. Higher yields could provide welcome relief for individuals who rely on their investments for income and have suffered from rock-bottom yields.

The Fed has said any rate decisions will depend on future economic data. However, now might be a good time to assess the value of any fixed-income investments you hold, and make sure you understand how your portfolio might respond to a future that could include higher interest rates. Many investors’ asset allocation strategies were likely developed when conditions generally favored bonds, as they have for much of the last 20 years.

Though asset allocation alone can’t guarantee a profit or prevent the possibility of loss, make sure your asset allocation is still appropriate for your circumstances as well as the current investing climate. And don’t forget that other financial assets can be affected by potential future interest rate changes as well.

Calculating cost basis for fixed-income investments
The IRS had originally planned to require brokers to begin reporting the cost basis for any sales of bonds and options this year, as it already does for stocks and mutual funds. It has now postponed implementation of the requirements for bonds until January 1, 2014 to give financial institutions more time to test their reporting systems. However, don’t throw away your old records yet, especially if you’re considering selling any of your bond holdings.

The cost basis reporting requirements will apply only to bond purchases and options granted or acquired on or after January 1, 2014, so you’ll still be responsible for calculating your cost basis for any bonds or options acquired before that date.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. The tax information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax advisor.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2013

What Rate of Return Can Stock Market Investing Provide?

That depends on many factors, including your time frame and the types of stocks involved. Many retirement planning calculators project a portfolio’s future value based on historical returns. However, past performance is no guarantee of future results, and you should take any such assumptions with a grain of salt.

iafmaIqaL3lkYou may have heard that stocks have historically averaged a 10% return. However, be careful about relying too much on that number. First, the figure on which that statement is based–9.8%–reflects the compounded annual total return of the S&P 500 between 1926 and 2012. Is your time frame likely to be that long? Second, equities’ performance in recent years hasn’t been as robust. The last time the S&P’s compounded annual 10-year total return was 9.8% or more was 2004; from 1999 to 2008 it was negative for the first time in decades, and from 2003 to 2012, it was 7.1%.*

Third, that 7.1% was the index’s nominal return; it doesn’t take into account inflation or taxes. As of April, the annual inflation rate was a little over 1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That would cut that 7.1% to just over 6%. And a 1% inflation rate is very low; over the last 20 years, it has averaged roughly 2.4% a year, which would mean an inflation-adjusted return under 5%. That’s less than half the often-quoted 10% average, not including any taxes owed.

What would that mean to a hypothetical $100,000 portfolio? Even if you managed to achieve a 9.8% nominal return compounded annually for 10 years, adjusting it for 2.4% inflation would mean a projected balance of almost $255,000 would actually be worth roughly $200,000 before taxes. That’s a pretty substantial gap.

Returns for stocks other than the large caps of the S&P 500 can be different. Still, when planning for income or long-term goals, focusing on real returns could help keep your expectations realistic.

*Calculations based on total returns compounded annually through December 2012 on the S&P 500 Index, which is an unmanaged market-cap weighted index composed of the common stocks of 500 leading companies in leading U.S. industries. It is not available for direct investment.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. The tax information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax advisor.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2013