September 2018 | Posted By Matt Hall

Since our Take the Long View® strategy calls for a level-headed mindset and evidence-based rationale, I am disciplined about keeping emotions out of the mix. But sometimes, even I have to vent. For example, my outrage seems well-placed when it comes to exposing dark players who pose as financial “advisors” while they prey on those who can least afford it. When that happens, the real damage is done if we calmly ignore what’s going on.

We work in an industry with an insanely low bar to entry. As I covered in my book, Odds On, I’ve personally witnessed how many of the big-name brokerage firms prize their sales quotas over solid client care and education. In any industry, a convergence of greed and incompetence is ugly. In wealth management, it can be life-shattering.

That makes me mad. Through our own experiences and in speaking with investors, we see the damage done far more often than you’ll read about in the papers. Yes, regulators have been known to levy millions, if not billions of dollars in fines against the worst offenders, but is it working?

Consider this recent article from personal finance columnist Tara Siegel Bernard. It makes me sick to my stomach to read that a “sandwich generation” daughter had to discover her ailing mother’s broker was quietly extracting roughly 10% in annual commissions from Mom’s account (compared to an industry norm of closer to 1%). In financial speak, that’s known as “churning,” or buying and selling just to turn a profit at the investor’s expense.

Worse, at least when Bernard published her piece, the offending broker was still employed at the same firm. The firm’s response? Bernard reports: “In a statement, [it] said, ‘The client agreed to an appropriate resolution of this matter in June.’ The firm said it was committed to doing the right thing for its clients, and was ‘disappointed when any feel their expectations haven’t been met.’”

What a ridiculous response!

Through the years, I’ve heard from many in our industry with their own tales, which sync with my experiences. The common thread is selfish salesmanship. Today there are thousands of independent investment advisory firms, all of whom are held to a fiduciary standard. While even that can’t prevent a criminal bent on malfeasance, it’s a step in the right direction.

Things are getting better, but it’s time more investors start choosing true financial advocates, not just the family relation, nice neighbor or daughter’s affable softball coach. It’s time to fire the entrenched, big-name brokers who don’t have to (and often don’t) represent your highest financial interests. It’s time to lead with questions such as: Is our relationship always fiduciary?

If the answer is anything besides, “Yes, always,” or if the written version is accompanied by an asterisk and a bunch of fancy legal footwork, it’s time for you to say no. You deserve better.

PS: Check out our related press release about Hillfolio, and how we’re working hard to bring “better” to an even wider range of investors.

September 2018 | Posted By Nell Schiffer

So, have you checked your minor child’s credit reports lately … or ever?

What’s that? You didn’t know your child had credit reports? Technically, they shouldn’t. Not unless you have opened credit lines for them yourself.

Unfortunately, because most children’s identities are so pristine, they’re especially tempting targets for identity thieves. These lowest of the low are looking to steal your child’s identity and sully their credit, sometimes before “Junior” can even walk, let alone go shopping. Many parents don’t know to keep an eye out for this growing threat, so thieves can often have a field day before you realize anything is amiss.

The cherry on the top of this awful mix: Once your child’s identity is stolen, you may not notice until they’re preparing for college, applying for their first line of credit, or embarking on similar adventures that are supposed to be fun and exciting.

Yuck. We’re using today’s post to call attention to this critical threat. We’re not the only ones, either. The Wall Street Journal recently published an excellent overview of the issue, including simple steps you can and should take to monitor your child’s credit, and how to proceed if you find a problem.

A good first step: Check to make sure your child doesn’t have a credit report you’re unaware of. You can do this by navigating to the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Recovery Steps page, scrolling down to “Special Forms of Identity Theft,” and selecting “Child Identity Theft.” Follow the directions there, and establish a schedule to repeat this activity periodically.

You might also consider proactively establishing lines of credit for your children, and then immediately freezing them. This can help prevent someone else from opening a bogus line of credit using your children’s identity.

Also, be on sharp lookout for warning signs. A prime example: your child starts receiving credit card offers or calls from collection agencies. In the past, you’d probably have laughed at these sorts of messages to your three-year-old. These days, they are likely to mean that somebody has stolen your child’s identity and is up to no good with it.

The moral of the story: You can go a long way toward protecting your kiddos and reducing your anxiety by following these steps.

If you feel inclined, do share this with others, and help us spread the word about this little-known threat.

September 2018 | Posted By PJ McDaniel

As Matt Hall touched on in his post, “Exactly Why Fiduciary Matters,” Hill Investment Group was founded on the premise that every investor deserves excellent client care, fiduciary levels of advice, and access to well-structured investment solutions. While we’ve not figured out how to scale HIG to serve the entire planet just yet … we’re working on it.

One big step in that direction started last spring, when I was hired to launch Hillfolio, our ground-breaking new digital platform for investors of more modest means. This summer, we soft-launched the program. On October 1, we’ll launch it publicly, first in St. Louis and Houston – close to Hill Investment Group’s two existing offices – then nationally.

Our alliance with Schwab has been key to the launch.

“We’re excited to see the commitment Hill Investment Group is making to Schwab Institutional Intelligent Portfolios. We recently added the ability to add mutual funds to our ETF-based portfolios. Hillfolio is leading the charge to use this new flexibility for the benefit of their clients.”

You’ll find additional details about our Hillfolio launch in this press release. Stay tuned for more updates soon!

September 2018 | Posted By Rick Hill

When I discovered Jonathan Clements 20 years ago, I noticed right away we had a lot in common. We were both early advocates for evidence-based investing (or “passive investing,” back then). We both knew better than to heed all the “noise” from the vast majority of the popular press. We knew even then, our jobs were to help investors focus on the essentials: reducing costs, managing market risks, understanding the science of investing.

There was one difference between us. While I was a fiduciary investment advisor for a then-small firm, Clements was the personal financial columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and one of the few voices of reason in the media. His columns left me optimistic, knowing we were not alone.

At the time, I did not notice a physical resemblance. Funny what a few years will do. These days, I see we now share a similar hair style as well!

Two white-haired gents: Jonathan Clements (left) and Rick Hill (right)

Whatever. We’re both still going strong doing what we love: I, in my role at Hill Investment Group, and Clements, as proprietor of the Humble Dollar blog and author of the newly published, “From Here to Financial Happiness.”

One of his recent posts, “Tell Us a Story,” caught my attention. We often employ story-telling in our client conversations here at HIG. But, as Clements points out, it’s important to not let random anecdotes distract you from the greater story of evidence-based investing. “Detail the inevitable failure of most investors to beat the market,” he says, “and someone will bring up the neighbor who purportedly bought Amazon’s stock at the initial public offering and never sold.”

I agree. There’s always “the neighbor,” or cousin, or co-worker who hits the random jackpot. Good for them. But, as Clements concludes: “The weight of our many mediocre investment decisions eventually sinks in – and (you were expecting me to say this) the logic of indexing proves irresistible.”

If you’re looking for other thoughtful ideas about achieving financial happiness, you might find Clements’ materials irresistible as well. From one white-haired gent to another: Hat’s off to you, Jonathan!

September 2018 | Posted By Jared Machen
Abby Crimmins, Client Service Associate

At Hill Investment Group, we are always looking to add quality individuals to the team. We get extra enjoyment when we are able to “rescue” them from what we refer to as the dark side of the financial industry … as Matt Hall describes here.

In that context, please join me in welcoming Abby Crimmins as our new client service associate. Abby comes to us from a wirehouse. In her own words, “After an unsettling start to my career, I was eager to find a financial firm that emphasized exemplary client service and aligned with my core values.”

Fortunately, a family friend introduced Abby to HIG, and to Matt’s book, Odds On.  After reading the book, she knew where she was meant to be. As good timing would have it, we too were seeking an individual with Abby’s talents to build on our client service team.

Augmenting her wirehouse experience (where she was selected to participate in an executive leadership development program), Abby is a University of Missouri-Columbia “Mizzou” graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance and real estate. Her attention to detail, process-oriented mind, and can-do enthusiasm will also be valuable assets to us and our clients, as she covers tasks that are perhaps best described as “a little bit of everything.”

During her Mizzou days, Abby traveled to New Zealand and Australia as part of an international business program. She also used the opportunity to try sky diving! When she’s not jumping out of airplanes (just the once … so far), she enjoys spending time with family and friends, trying new restaurants, attending concerts and working up a good sweat at the fitness center.

Abby also loves meeting new people and can’t wait to be helpful to you.

September 2018 | Posted By Buddy Reisinger

For years, we’ve been sharing the results of Dimensional Fund Advisors’ annually updated “Mutual Fund Landscape” analysis.  As we first expressed back in 2013, “This analysis of the US mutual fund industry performance casts doubt on the ability of investors to form a winning long-term strategy by picking outperforming funds based on past returns. It also raises questions about the effectiveness of investment strategies that attempt to add value by identifying mispriced securities.”

This is one message that bears repeating. Especially since, this year, somebody got creative over at Dimensional and produced an engaging video version. Check it out!

Click image to open video
August 2018 | Posted By Katie Ackerman

What’s 100 years old, a member of the Hill Investment Group family, and the first and largest of its kind?

If you’re a St. Louisan, you may already know the answer is The St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre – or, The Muny, to its many friends. Founded in 1918, the Muny is the oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre in the nation. The HIG connection comes from the fact that its long-tenured President and CEO Dennis Reagan is our own John Reagan’s dad. (Reagan Senior has been a fixture at the theatre since he joined their ranks more than 50 years ago!)

To commemorate its centennial, we hosted a birthday bash for this beloved venue on August 12, including a pre-show dinner and backstage theatre tour, followed by the season’s closing production of (what else?) “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

A night at The Muny with the Reagan family, plus Rick Hill.

 

We were pleased to put on the event, enjoyed by a good number of our local friends. What a night it was. Because pictures will capture the event far better than words can, we invite you to stroll over to HIG’s Instagram page, where we’ve posted several other photos of the fun.

Here’s to the Muny’s next season … 101 and counting!

August 2018 | Posted By Rick Hill

Speaking of Vanguard versus AQR, another frequently asked question we get here at Hill Investment Group is why we typically use Dimensional Fund Advisors instead of Vanguard for the core of our portfolio builds. Vanguard typically beats Dimensional in terms of raw fund expense ratios (i.e., how much the investor pays to fund management). And we often emphasize how important it is to manage costs. Shouldn’t that mean Vanguard is the obvious choice?

Our answer: Expense ratios are an important consideration, but they’re not the only one. 

At HIG, our Investment Policy Committee (IPC) is tasked with remaining current on these sorts of comparisons. To supplement our own, independent analyses, we also keep an eye on the work of respected colleagues, such as the BAM ALLIANCE’s Chief Investment Officer Jared Kizer, CFA. As a former colleague, Jared graciously agreed to let us share his own recent research report here: “Comparing DFA- vs. Vanguard-Oriented Portfolios.”

Click to open

I found Jared’s analysis compelling, and I hope you do as well. Enjoy the read.