November 2018 | Posted By Henry Bragg

Having been an advisor through boom and bust markets alike, I can attest that some “Frequently Asked Questions” come and go. But for as long as I’ve been around to answer it, here’s one that has never grown old:

“I’ve got a lump sum of cash. Should I invest it all at once, or gradually, over time?”

I covered this question back in 2015, pointing to a 2004 Dimensional Fund Advisors analysis entitled, “To Wade or Plunge.” At the time, I said:

“Although it feels more comfortable to wade given the uncertainty inherent with markets, the evidence shows that, approximately two thirds of the time, you are better off taking the plunge.”

I’d say the same again today. If you’ve got a lump sum of cash you plan to invest in the market, you might as well put all of it to work sooner rather than later.

More recent analysis continues to support this approach. In 2016, Vanguard published a paper and podcast entitled, “Invest now or temporarily hold your cash?” This month, Vanguard’s senior investment strategist Andy Clarke updated his post on the subject, still concluding, “More often than not, it has paid to invest immediately.” He offered data demonstrating that this conclusion holds true across various global markets, and among stocks and bonds alike.

Just as I suggested in 2015, the biggest risk you face when plunging into the market isn’t financial. It’s whether you can ignore the regret you’ll probably feel if you happen to plunge at an inopportune time – i.e., just before the markets take a dive with your hard-earned cash. As long as you don’t act on your regret, it’s natural to feel it. Just remember to Take the Long View® with your actions. The long term trend is up, and the power of global capitalism is at your back.

October 2018 | Posted By Jared Machen

Are you seeking your financial fortune? We recently found ours in a fortune cookie. Excellent advice … and the pho was tasty too.

pho-fortune

October 2018 | Posted By John Reagan

Please join us in celebrating a very special addition to the Ackerman family, and by extension, Hill Investment Group. Katie, Doug and big sister Sally welcomed William “Billy” Hayden Ackerman to the world in the wee hours of October 21, 1:35 am. Billy weighed in at 8 lbs., 11 oz. Congratulations to all!

Ackerman family
Doug, Katie and big sister Sally welcome Billy Ackerman to the world. 

October 2018 | Posted By PJ McDaniel

Are you closer to 22, 42 or 72 years old? Regardless, a 2018 Charles Schwab Consumer Digital Demands Survey found an interesting common denominator across investors of all ages. Whether online automation is your native tongue, or you’d rather get a root canal than spend time managing your own investments, almost every investor would prefer to have it all: easy online tools, plus easy access to a financial professional when assistance is in order.

Schwab hired an independent research firm to conduct its survey this summer, polling 1,000 U.S. adults. One data point I found particularly interesting: 70% of those surveyed agreed that “robos are a good start, but they expect to need more personal service for more complex situations.”

If you break that down among age groups, agreement remained strong:

  • 78% of millennials, 72% of Gen X and 64% of Boomers somewhat or strongly agreed they still highly valued the human touch.
  • 80% of those surveyed agreed that “Ease of use” was important, making it the top driver of trust in digital experiences.
  • 79% of those surveyed agreed that “Easy access to human customer service” was important, which means it came in a very close second.

In short, investors understandably want the best of both worlds: accessible automation and personalized client care. That’s why we’ve developed Hillfolio, an affordable solution for extending evidence-based investing to a wider audience.

What are your financial goals? Are you saving toward retirement? Funding your kids’ college costs? Filling up that rainy-day fund? By helping you automate your excellent saving and investment habits, while offering the hands-on advice every family requires to make confident financial calls, our aim is to put the odds of success on your side. We don’t think that’s too much to ask for!

October 2018 | Posted By Buddy Reisinger

When this Wall Street Journal video of Warren Buffett’s reflection on the 2008 Financial Crisis debuted in early September 2018, a decade had passed since the beginning of the last big market crisis.

In light of current market volatility, it’s worth revisiting Buffett’s perspective today. Comparing the American economy to “an economic train moving down the track that has no ending,” he cautions against reacting to the occasional “derailments.”



“People talk about a fog of war,” says Buffett, “but there’s a fog of panic too, and during that panic, you’re getting inaccurate information, you’re hearing rumors. If you wait until you know everything, it’s too late.”

Words of wisdom that made sense in 2008. They still make sense today.

October 2018 | Posted By Matt Hall

At the risk of gushing, I am proud of you. I’m proud, because none of you (our clients) called us in panic or concern when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 800 points on October 10.

It’s better to Take the Long View®

A friend sent me a mid-day message that day: “Are your phones blowing up? People are losing their minds right now.”

My message back: “You know we prepare folks to take the long view. Not one call.”

As I publish this post on October 30, the market remains cranky. Who knows what’s in store in the short run? So far, Hill Investment Group clients, I remain delighted over your resolve, your mental toughness, your non-reaction when baited.

Don’t get me wrong, I derive no pleasure from watching steep market declines. To an extent, I blame the media pundits. I can barely stomach the way they seize on the short-term gyrations to provide empty explanations. It grates on me to watch them leverage the market’s equivalent of a car crash, preying on our human frailties, knowing full well that fear will drive eyeballs their way.

That said, there is rare advice to be mined out of the media. For example, The Wall Street Journal just released an amazing piece by UCLA behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi, “The High Financial Price of Our Short Attention Spans.” Dr. Benartzi has so much good advice, I’d have to quote nearly the entire article to share my favorite parts.

Perhaps this subhead will suffice: “Focus on the most relevant information, not the most available.” Or this: “Your biggest mistakes will come from overreacting to the latest stock swings, not underreacting.” Now, go read the rest (by clicking the link above).

One way we strive to keep our clients on course here at HIG when others are “losing their minds” is to remind them of these simple, but powerful lessons:

  1. Allocate intentionally. Your asset allocation was a decision we made together, based on the mix most likely to help you achieve your unique goals. Any random day (or month, or even year or few) shouldn’t change that.
  2. Diversify globally. Your globally diversified portfolio typically includes roughly 12,000 stocks from the US and beyond. You’re already set to receive appropriate exposure to risks and expected returns from worldwide markets.
  3. Rebalance habitually. Rebalancing sounds easy, but it takes guts, and is hugely important. It’s as close as we get to leveraging market moves, trimming high-flying asset classes (selling high) and restoring recent underdogs (buying low), according to your personalized portfolio plans.
  4. Take the Long View.® Everything we do is about putting the math on your side. What happens in the short run is tough to predict. But we know what the science of investing says, and we’ve built your portfolio accordingly.

Combined, these four principles suggest that simple discipline may be the most important ingredient of all in becoming a world-class investor. I couldn’t tell you whether we’ve just experienced a random blip or the beginning of a bigger correction. But I am confident that we’ve prepared our clients for either outcome, and nearly any other permutation we may encounter.

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.