July 2018 | Posted By Henry Bragg

Like father, like son: “Little” Henry Bragg is an Astros fan too.

What do you get when you combine an evidence-based process with visionary team spirit and brilliant leadership? A World Series Commissioner’s Trophy, for starters. The “rags to riches” tale of the Houston Astros 2017 World Series victory is now available for your reading pleasure, thanks to Sports Illustrated senior writer Ben Reiter.

We love the recent approach to managing the Astros because it mirrors our approach to investing in two major ways:

  • First, it is backed by data. The Astros management seeks to fully understand the factors that drive wins, quantify them, and weight heavily toward them.
  • Second, like with investing, achieving your long-term goals may sometimes require short-term sacrifices. If you have the right philosophy and the right process, you can trust that the odds will work in your favor long-term.

Something of a visionary himself, Reiter actually predicted the team’s 2017 victory on the cover of the magazine’s June 30, 2014 edition. Was that luck or forecasting talent? You be the judge, when you read Reiter’s entertaining account in “Astroball: The New Way to Win It All.”

Reminiscent of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball tale of the Oakland A’s, the Astros applied similar evidence-based strategies to improve their game. They leveraged what the Oakland A’s Billy Beane began and took it a step further, incorporating (with help from the “Nerd Cave”) scores for more unconventional qualities, such as personality and grit. These elements and more are touched on in this review: “[R]oster-creation, all by itself, did not bring home the championship. Building an exceptional team is one thing, but making it work as a team is another.”

We’ve said it before; we’ll say it again: We couldn’t be prouder of our exceptional home-town team. Go Astros!


Bonus read: For more of baseball’s rich historical lore, I also enjoyed this recent PBS documentary on legendary hitter Ted Williams, in all his quirky glory (narrated by St. Louis’s own Jon Hamm). This related New York Times piece tells the backstory of how some of the film’s best footage was almost lost for good.

July 2018 | Posted By Katie Ackerman

Henry McDaniel, savoring the last drop of ice cream.

Thirteen can be a lucky number after all, as we were lucky to celebrate Hill Investment Group’s 13th year in business by hosting our largest summer family bash to date. Twenty-nine HIG team and family members attended the event, hosted by Matt and Lisa Hall.

More than an excuse to slurp up some ice cream, our family party is a way for us to reaffirm the meaning we find in our work. Magic happens when we have the opportunity to help families plan for their financial future. A different, but equally potent magic happens when we get together with our own families. It’s not only a privilege to enjoy one another’s “at home” side, it also reminds us that our loved ones are one of the reasons we work so hard. Roll up that deep stuff with some tacos, some kids and a pool – and you have our favorite employee event of the year!

This year a big storm blew in halfway through, but it didn’t dampen our spirits. Even as the rain fell in sheets for about an hour and the house lost power, Matt & Lisa’s daughter Harper entertained all the other kiddos with some expert slime-making … just add water.

Our theme this year was summer fiesta, featuring catered local fave Mission Taco Joint and Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Ice Cream, delivered. Eventually, the weather broke and we all had a blast swimming and cheering on the young contestants in our diving board splash-a-thon. John’s son James was the bomb.

James Reagan has the look of pure joy.

The only real downside to the weather was that we weren’t able to get our usual group photo. We’ll just have to make do by featuring the adorable pic of PJ’s son Henry, above, while re-sharing these group photos from 2016 and 2017. Next summer? Bring it on!

July 2018 | Posted By Rick Hill

As we described in this related article, we’re fans of taking a rules-based approach to investing instead of trying to actively forecast a market’s next move or a stock price’s next swing. Attempts to outsmart the market are more likely to waste your energy than deliver higher long-term returns.

So, this begs the question: Why don’t we recommend index funds exclusively for our clients?

We really like aspects of the indexing philosophy. Passively managed index funds typically employ a rules-based strategy to capture returns by tracking a popular index at a low cost. So far, so good. But, as we focus in, like we did in this piece, we start to find some inefficiencies that point to why index funds may not be the optimal vehicle for clients looking to maximize market returns. Curious to learn more? Give us a call.

July 2018 | Posted By Matt Hall

“Recency” is one of the most insidious behavioral biases that can impact an investor’s ability to Take the Long View® with their investments. The name alone suggests it’s the opposite of what we’re about here at Hill Investment Group.

Those ruled by recency will disregard decades of data, and instead allow only the latest, relatively random data points to skew their view. A prime example occurs whenever purveyors of traditional active investing revisit a perennially misleading script that goes something like this: “If too many investors invest in index funds (i.e., if the market is left to run on auto-pilot), there will be nobody left to set proper pricing. Investors should revert to an active investment strategy, before it’s too late.”

Again, the argument is nothing new; if index funds were the only investment available, markets would indeed stop functioning. But with every new season, the traditional active camp seems to come up with a fresh batch of stats that supposedly signal that the end of index investing is nigh.

Recently, the focus has been on index investing inflows – or, more accurately, their reduced volume. So far this year, the deluge of dollars mostly heading out of active investing and into index/passive funds has decreased to a more orderly flow compared to 2017.

Is index investing on the wane? In this related piece, we share a quibble we do have with index investing, and why we typically favor a similar, but more direct approach for capturing scientific sources of expected return. But before anyone concludes it’s time to get more active at timing and selecting specific stock picks, here are three, recency-dispelling reads we suggest:

Index Funds Are Going to Be Just Fine,” Barry Ritholtz, ThinkAdvisor

Our favorite excerpt: “Why must we complicate what is otherwise a simple explanation? Investors have become a little more financially literate; indexing is maturing as an investment style. Those who are hoping for a major reversal of a trend that has been 40 years in the making are very likely to be disappointed.”

Indexing Fuss Unwarranted,” Larry Swedroe, ETF.com

Our favorite excerpt: “While it’s certainly possible that, at some point, passive investing could reach such a dominant share that price discovery would be limited, clearly, we are nowhere near that level, and almost certainly won’t be there for a very long time.”

The growth of index investing has not made the markets less efficient,” The Economist

Our favorite excerpt: “Perhaps the growth of indexing has robbed the world of outstanding stockpickers. But it seems more likely that it has put a lot of bad managers out of business … And it is not as if the buying and selling of stocks by informed investors with opinions has ceased. The turnover of stocks has actually increased over time. Active investors are more active than ever.”

July 2018 | Posted By John Reagan

Jared, with a few of his favorite CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ exam study books.

What does it take to become a CFP® practitioner, and what’s it to you whether your advisor has one or more of them on board?

As an acronym – the CFP® credential stands for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Its use is strictly regulated by the CFP Board, which was established in 1985, with roots dating back to the 1960s.

As a credential – It ranks right up there with a CPA or MBA in terms of sweat equity. To even apply for certification, an individual must:

  1. Have a bachelor’s degree or better from a U.S.-accredited institution
  2. Pass a full-day exam
  3. Complete 4,000–6,000 hours of boots-on-the-ground financial planning experience
  4. Pass a background check and sign an Ethics Declaration

As an ongoing designation – a CFP® certificant can’t just coast once they’ve earned the credential. They must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education every two years, and remain compliant with their ethics declaration.

We’re proud to announce that our own Jared Machen has completed all the steps necessary to become a CFP® professional, which means we’ll soon have four CFP® certificants on the team, including me, Jared, Rick Hill and Henry Bragg.

Jared estimates he spent approximately 265 hours studying for the exam, which he passed on his first try. (That’s no cakewalk; the average pass rate is only about 60%.) While passing the CFP® Certification Examination was as challenging as ever, we did notice one way in which technology has helped those studying for it: When Rick passed his exam in 2001, he had to wait weeks for a letter to arrive in the mail. Jared completed his online, and accessed the results with two button clicks, three minutes after he’d finished.

Upon learning the news, Jared shared: “I’m excited to have the test behind me. But I’m even more excited to leverage what I’ve learned throughout the process to deepen my contributions to Hill Investment Group and our clients.”

Way to go, Jared!

June 2018 | Posted By Katie Ackerman

 

Jared Machen

Jared Machen

 PJ McDaniel

PJ McDaniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we add a new team member, we look for special qualities and experiences to add to the depth of our group. There is no question PJ McDaniel and Jared Machen fit the bill.

As with the rest of our team, we like to provide a little more than “just the facts” in our website bios. For example:

  • What special day does our Client Service Associate Jared Machen and his wife Erin share in common (besides their wedding anniversary)?
  • What is Hillfolio Director PJ McDaniel’s favorite movie, and why?

You’ll find their bios and the answers here, along with the rest of our bios.

June 2018 | Posted By Matt Hall

I’m obsessed with tennis. It’s mostly a healthy obsession, but this time of year, I start to slip. Why? Wimbledon, the finest tennis tournament in the world, is about to begin. It’s steeped in tradition, and yet its host, the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, isn’t afraid of innovation and science.

Whenever there’s a way to combine statistical analysis, tennis, and investing, I’m all over it. That’s why my life was transformed nearly 20 years ago, when Larry Swedroe did exactly that in the brilliant introduction to his first book (emphasis mine):

“After making what I thought was a great shot, a forehand that landed right in the backhand corner of my opponent, my teaching pro said, ‘That shot will be your worst enemy.’ While it was an exceptional shot, he explained, it was not a high percentage shot for a good ‘weekend player.’ Remembering how good that shot felt, I would try to repeat it. Unfortunately, I would be successful on a very infrequent basis. The pro asked me if I wanted to make great shots or would I rather win matches? (I thought that one was the cause of the other.)”

Playing the winner’s game is what the pro was getting at as he cautioned Larry about falling in love with his special and rare shot. Winning calls for consistent and disciplined play. When players go for shots beyond their skills, they’re playing a loser’s game. This decades-old analogy goes back to a book by Dr. Simon Ramo, Extraordinary Tennis for the Ordinary Player.

With this background, you’ll know why the following ad is so meaningful to our firm. As a minor sponsor for the April 2018 Men’s Clay Court Championship, Hill Investment Group was proud to support an event that has been in play for more than a century – and held near our Houston office since 2001. As our sponsorship ad expressed, we enjoy helping investors play a winning game, by embracing a “long view” game plan.

 

Click on image to enlarge it

 

June 2018 | Posted By Hill Investment Group

Marilyn Wechter, MSW

In one of our recent posts, “You Need a Therapist,” Matt Hall described how we first connected with financial therapist Marilyn Wechter, MSW, and how much we’ve enjoyed collaborating with her ever since. This month, we thought it would be fun to share some of the ways we’ve been personally inspired by Marilyn. How have we used what we’ve learned from her – here in the office and at home? Read on to find out.

Rick Hill – One key takeaway from Marilyn has been how to share your financial values with your family, especially your children. How you spend your money communicates your values. Also, you can start talking to your children about money when they are very young; just tailor the conversation accordingly. Family meetings are important as well, although any communication is usually better than none. Marilyn once told me she’d conducted more than 1,000 family meetings and not one of them was a failure.

John Reagan – Marilyn has a way of putting things in perspective. For example, she’s helped me better balance my time and energy among the people and projects that are most important to me at work and home. “Live a little” are often good words to live by.

Nell Schiffer – Marilyn taught me that anxiety is contagious, which has been a simple but inspiring idea for me. We know that anxiety feels bad, but knowing that doesn’t always motivate us to let go of it. Realizing that our own anxiety can infect others is a powerful force for change, plus it reduces your own stress.

Henry Bragg – When the unexpected occurs – whether it’s death, divorce or Hurricane Harvey – being human is the most important thing you can do for others. Be sincere. Let people know you care, that you empathize with their concerns, and that you’re there to help, to the extent you’re able. Then just be yourself. Words of wisdom from Marilyn.

Buddy Reisinger – The most important thing I’ve learned from Marilyn is how to listen to others at a level I didn’t know I could. It’s still a work in progress, especially at home! But deeper listening has helped me better appreciate where others are coming from, why they feel the way they do, how they got where they are today, and where they’d like to go next. I’ve gotten better at stopping myself from interjecting before the other person has finished their thoughts.

Matt Hall – We all hold a mirror up to others. Am I intentional about what I am reflecting back? That’s my favorite lesson from Marilyn. She uses the example of a child learning to walk. If I hold out encouraging arms, a toddler will often smile and keep walking. If I project fear or doubt, most will sit down. The analogy holds true in our adult relationships too. I always try to remember that as I spend time with the important people in my life.