5 Years since Market Bottom
It is just over 5 years since the market hit the bottom after the Great Recession in March 2009. The overall U.S. stock market has more than tripled or gone up 218%1. It is nice to see our portfolios in the black after the gut wrenching bear markets of 2000 and 2007.

Where will the market go from here? Kiplinger’s Personal Finance had some very sage advice2:

  1. A starting gun does not mark the arrival of new bull market
  2. Rebalancing is essential
  3. Diversification works – the fall and subsequent rise of the market does not occur uniformly
  4. Stocks are a portfolio’s engine but not the place for short-term financial needs
  5. Calling a top is as difficult as identifying a bottom

Myths of Bond Investing
Investors cannot seem to decide what to think about the bond market. With interest rates at historic lows and the Federal Reserve talking about raising interest rates sooner than later, investors are not used to the recent volatility of the bond market. Remember, bonds are for safety not to make a killing or even to beat inflation. Here are some myths about bond investing:

  • Myth #1: Bond investors will suffer huge losses when interest rates rise. Estimates are that if intermediate term bond rates (average maturity of 5 years) were to increase by 1%, intermediate term bonds prices would only fall by 5.6% in price. The worst year for the bond market was 1994, when, due to a sudden spike in interest rates, it fell 2.9%.
  • Myth #2: Investors who need income must own risky alternatives. These alternatives might include master limited partnerships (MLP’s), real estate investment trusts, bank loans and business development companies. None of these are substitutes for well-managed bond funds. Remember, if an investment is offering a much higher than market yield, there is a very good chance the risk of the alternative is a lot higher than the the regular bond fund. Higher risk is where the stock portion of your portfolio comes in, not the bond allocation.
  • Myth #3: Actively managed “go anywhere” funds will outperform. These are “bond” funds that managers invest in whatever the fund manager wants to invest in, even stocks. Here we have a case of the risk level of the fund being ratcheted up more than you should be exposed to, and as with the market in general, I am not sure where these fund managers get a monopoly on reading the future. These funds are so larded with expenses, that there is no guarantee that returns will make up the cost hurdle.
  • Myth #4: Individual bonds are better than bond funds. As interest rates rise, individual bonds may decrease in value, but if you hold them to maturity (and the bonds don’t default), you will get your income as well as principal back. The problem with this strategy is that you need a very large portfolio to get suitable bond issuer diversification and the best prices on the bonds purchased. Another drawback, is that when an individual bond pays out interest, you cannot automatically reinvest the proceeds into a bond yielding the exact same yield. You have to wait till you have sufficient earned income or maturing bonds to reinvest your cash.

With a bond fund, as soon as a bond matures, the fund manager reinvests the proceeds at the current prevailing rates. Even if interest rates go up, and the fund’s price declines, the reinvested cash goes into bonds at the higher prevailing interest rates. Also by periodically rebalancing, you are buying low and selling high, depending on how your bond allocation changes.

Deadline for Funding IRA’s for 2013
Tax day is approaching on April 15. If you are planning on funding your IRA for last year, you have until the 15th to fund your IRA. The easiest way is to transfer the money electronically through the custodian’s website. If you mail contributions by the deadline, those contributions will be considered timely – even if they are not deposited into the IRA until after the due date. So, if you find yourself making an 11th hour IRA contribution, be careful. Not all methods of sending your IRA contribution return are acceptable if you want to take advantage of the timely mailed, timely filed rule!

Sending your contribution by United States Postal Service (USPS) is clearly OK. If, however, you want to bypass those lines and use another service, you must be sure it’s an IRS approved private delivery service (PDS). The current the list of designated PDS’s is as follows:

  1. DHL Express (DHL): DHL Same Day Service
  2. Federal Express (FedEx): FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2 Day, FedEx International Priority, and FedEx International First
  3. United Parcel Service (UPS): UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express

Note these delivery rules also apply to getting your hard copy IRS tax return to the IRS.

Personal Notes
In January we spent a delightful time on the island of Exuma, in the Bahamas. It was great kayaking out to a deserted island across from our rental every day, communing with the tortoises, rays, birds and even a small shark. The fresh fish & lobster were delicious! Now we are playing a lot of tennis again in various leagues and clinics. Soon we head off to Salt Lake City for the NAPFA annual conference to meet colleagues and keep abreast of developments in the financial industry.

Contact me for a review meeting if needed. Please plan early for setting up an appointment. Feel free to pass this newsletter on to whoever may be interested.


1Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI), 3/9/2009 to 4/4/2014
2Happy Fifth Birthday, Mr. Bull, Carolyn Bigda, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, March 2014