Articles for July 2016

Stocks & Presidential Elections

What does history tell us – and should we value it?

As an investor, you know that past performance is no guarantee of future success. Expanding that truth, history has no bearing on the future of Wall Street.

That said, stock market historians have repeatedly analyzed market behavior in presidential election years, and what stocks do when different parties hold the reins of power in Washington. They have noticed some interesting patterns through the years, which may or may not prove true for 2016.

Do stocks really go through an “election cycle” every four years? The numbers really don’t point to any kind of pattern. (Some analysts contend that stocks follow a common pattern during an election year; more about that in a bit.)

In price return terms, the S&P 500 has gained an average of 6.1% in election years, going back to 1948, compared to 8.8% in any given year. The index has posted a yearly gain in 76% of presidential election years starting in 1948, however, as opposed to 71% in other years. Of course, much of this performance could be chalked up to macroeconomic factors having nothing to do with a presidential race.1

Overall, election years have been decent for the blue chips. Opening a very wide historical window, the Dow has averaged nearly a 6% gain in election years since 1833. Across that same time frame, it has averaged a 10.4% gain in “year three” – years preceding election years.2

Many election years have seen solid advances for the small caps. The average price return of the Russell 2000 is 10.9% in election years going back to 1980, with a yearly gain occurring 78% of the time.1

Do stocks respond if a particular party has control of Congress?
A little data from InvesTech Research will help to answer that.

InvesTech studied S&P 500 yearly returns since 1928 and found that the S&P returned an average of 16.9% in the two years after a presidential election when the White House and Congress were controlled by the same party. In the 2-year stretches after a presidential election, when Congress was controlled by the party that didn’t occupy the White House, the price return of the S&P averaged 15.6%. When control of Congress was split – regardless of who was President – the S&P only returned an average of 5.5% in those 2-year periods.2

Could stock market performance actually influence the election? An InvesTech analysis seems to draw a correlation, however mysterious, between S&P 500 performance and whether the incumbent party retains control of the White House.

There have been 22 presidential elections since 1928. In those 22 years, the incumbent party won the White House 86% of the time when the S&P advanced during the three months preceding Election Day. When the S&P lost ground in the three months prior to the election, the incumbent party lost the White House 88% of the time. Of course, other factors may have been considerably more influential in these elections, such as a given president’s approval rating and the unemployment rate.2

Annual returns aside, is there a mini-cycle that hits stocks in the typical election year? Some analysts insist so, with the cycle unfolding like this: stocks gain momentum during primary season, rally strongly as the presumptive nominees appear and party conventions occur, and then go sideways or south in November and December.3

There might be something to this assertion, at least in terms of S&P 500 performance. A FactSet/Wall Street Journal analysis shows that, in election years starting in 1980, the S&P has advanced an average of 4.9% in the period between when a presumptive nominee is declared and Election Day. After Election Day in these nine years, it declined about half a percent on average.3

How much weight does history ultimately hold? Perhaps not much. It is intriguing, and some analysts would instruct you to pay more attention to it rather than less. Historical “norms” are easily upended, though. Take 2008, the election year that brought us a bear market disaster. The year 2000 also brought an S&P 500 loss. While a presidential election undoubtedly affects Wall Street every four years, it is just one of many factors in determining a year’s market performance.1

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph#641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

Citations.
1 – marketwatch.com/story/2016-predictions-what-presidential-election-years-mean-for-stocks-2015-12-29 [12/29/15]
2 – kiplinger.com/article/investing/T043-C008-S003-how-presidential-elections-affect-the-stock-market.html [2/16]
3 – tinyurl.com/j82mg4c [6/12/16]

Protecting Yourself While Shopping Online

What steps should you take?

Whether you shop online routinely or infrequently, the risk of identity theft rises as you offer more and more information about yourself online.

Avoid using a debit card, and use only one credit card. If your debit card gets hacked, the thieves may be able to access your bank account. But if you use just one credit card for online shopping, you will have only one card to cancel if your card number is compromised. (It would also be wise to keep a low credit limit on that particular card.)

Look for the “https://” before you enter personal information. When you see that (look for the “s”), it should indicate that you are transmitting data within a secure site. Depending on your browser, you may also see a padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser window

Watch what you click – and watch out for fake sites. Pop-ups, attachments from mysterious sources, dubious links – do not be tempted to explore where they lead. Hackers have created all manner of “phishing” sites and online surveys – seemingly legitimate, but set up to siphon your information. It is better to be skeptical.

Protect your PC. When did you install the security and firewall programs on your computer? Have you updated them recently?

Change stored passwords frequently. Make them unique and obscure. It is a good idea to change or update your passwords once in a while. Mix letters and numbers, and use an uppercase letter if possible. Never use “password” or your birth date as your password!

Don’t shop using an unsecured wi-fi connection. You are really leaving yourself open to identity theft if you shop using public wi-fi. Put away the laptop and wait until you are on a secure, private internet connection. Hackers can tap into your Smartphone via the same tactics by which they can invade your PC.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph#641-344-0328 or email mikem@cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.

How Millennials Can Get Off to a Good Financial Start

Doing the right things at the right time may leave you wealthier later.

What can you do to start building wealth before age 35? You know time is your friend and that the earlier you begin saving and investing for the future, the better your financial prospects may become. So what steps should you take?

Reduce your debt. You probably have some student loan debt to pay off. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, which tracks college costs, the average education debt owed by a college graduate is now $28,950. Hopefully, yours is not that high and you are paying off whatever education debt remains via an automatic monthly deduction from your checking account. If you are struggling to pay your student loan off, take a look at some of the income-driven repayment plans offered to federal student loan borrowers, and options for refinancing your loan into a lower-rate one (which could potentially save you thousands).1

You cannot build wealth simply by wiping out debt, but freeing yourself of major consumer debts frees you to build wealth like nothing else. The good news is that saving, investing, and reducing your debt are not mutually exclusive. As financially arduous as it may sound, you should strive to do all three at once. If you do, you may be surprised five or ten years from now at the transformation of your personal finances.

Save for retirement. If you are working full-time for a decently-sized employer, chances are a retirement plan is available to you. If you are not automatically enrolled in the plan, go ahead and sign up for it. You can contribute a little of each paycheck. Even if you start by contributing only $50 or $100 per pay period, you will start far ahead of many of your peers.1

Away from the workplace, traditional IRAs offer you the same perks. Roth IRAs and Roth workplace retirement plans are the exceptions – when you “go Roth,” your contributions are not tax-deductible, but you can eventually withdraw the earnings tax-free after age 59½ as long as you abide by IRS rules.1,2

Workplace retirement plans are not panaceas – they can charge administrative fees exceeding 1% and their investment choices can sometimes seem limited. Consumer pressure is driving these administrative fees down, however; in 2015, they were lower than they had been in a decade and they are expected to lessen further.3

Keep an eye on your credit score. Paying off your student loans and getting started saving for retirement are a great start, but what about your immediate future? You’re entitled to three free credit reports per year from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Take advantage of them and watch for unfamiliar charges and other suspicious entries. Be sure to get in touch with the company that issued your credit report if you find anything that shouldn’t be there. Maintaining good credit can mean a great deal to your long-term financial goals, so monitoring your credit reports is a good habit to get into.1

Do not fear Wall Street. We all remember the Great Recession and the wild ride investments took. The stock market plunged, but then it recovered – in fact, the S&P 500 index, the benchmark that is synonymous in investing shorthand for “the market,” gained back all the loss from that plunge in a little over four years. Two years later, it reached new record peaks, and it is only a short distance from those peaks today.4

Equity investments – the kind Wall Street is built on – offer you the potential for double-digit returns in a good year. As interest rates are still near historic lows, many fixed-income investments are yielding very little right now, and cash just sits there. If you want to make your money grow faster than inflation – and you certainly do – then equity investing is the way to go. To avoid it is to risk falling behind and coming up short of retirement money, unless you accumulate it through other means. Some workplace retirement plans even feature investments that will direct a sizable portion of your periodic contribution into equities, then adjust it so that you are investing more conservatively as you age.

Invest regularly; stay invested. When you keep putting money toward your retirement effort and that money is invested, there can often be a snowball effect. In fact, if you invest $5,000 at age 25 and just watch it sit there for 35 years as it grows 6% a year, the math says you will have $38,430 with annual compounding at age 60. In contrast, if you invest $5,000 each year under the same conditions, with annual compounding you are looking at $596,050 at age 60. That is a great argument for saving and investing consistently through the years.5

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph#: 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/money-steps-need-after-graduating/ [5/20/16]
2 – usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2015/07/03/money-tips-gen-y-adviceiq/29624039/ [7/3/15]
3 – tinyurl.com/hgzgsw4 [12/2/15]
4 – marketwatch.com/story/bear-markets-can-be-shorter-than-you-think-2016-03-21 [3/21/16]
5 – investor.gov/tools/calculators/compound-interest-calculator [5/26/16]

What are Catch-Up Contributions Really Worth?

What degree of difference could they make for you in retirement?

At a certain age, you are allowed to boost your yearly retirement account contributions. For example, you can direct an extra $1,000 per year into a Roth or traditional IRA starting in the year you turn 50.1

Your initial reaction to that may be: “So what? What will an extra $1,000 a year in retirement savings really do for me?”

That reaction is understandable, but consider also that you can contribute an extra $6,000 a year to many workplace retirement plans starting at age 50. As you likely have both types of accounts, the opportunity to save and invest up to $7,000 a year more toward your retirement savings effort may elicit more enthusiasm.1,2

What could regular catch-up contributions from age 50-65 potentially do for you? They could result in an extra $1,000 a month in retirement income, according to the calculations of retirement plan giant Fidelity. To be specific, Fidelity says that an employee who contributes $24,000 instead of $18,000 annually to the typical employer-sponsored plan could see that kind of positive impact.2

To put it another way, how would you like an extra $50,000 or $100,000 in retirement savings? Making regular catch-up contributions might help you bolster your retirement funds by that much – or more. Plugging in some numbers provides a nice (albeit hypothetical) illustration.3

Even if you simply make $1,000 additional yearly contributions to a Roth or traditional IRA starting in the year you turn 50, those accumulated catch-ups will grow and compound to about $22,000 when you are 65 if the IRA yields just 4% annually. At an 8% annual return, you will be looking at about $30,000 extra for retirement. (Besides all this, a $1,000 catch-up contribution to a traditional IRA can also reduce your income tax bill by $1,000 for that year.)3

If you direct $24,000 a year rather than $18,000 a year into one of the common workplace retirement plans starting at age 50, the math works out like this: you end up with about $131,000 in 15 years at a 4% annual return, and $182,000 by age 65 at an 8% annual return.3

If your financial situation allows you to max out catch-up contributions for both types of accounts, the effect may be profound indeed. Fifteen years of regular, maximum catch-up contributions to both an IRA and a workplace retirement plan would generate $153,000 by age 65 at a 4% annual yield, and $212,000 at an 8% annual yield.3

The more you earn, the greater your capacity to “catch up.” This may not be fair, but it is true.

Fidelity says its overall catch-up contribution participation rate is just 8%. The average account balance of employees 50 and older making catch-ups was $417,000, compared to $157,000 for employees who refrained. Vanguard, another major provider of employer-sponsored retirement plans, finds that 42% of workers aged 50 and older who earn more than $100,000 per year make catch-up contributions to its plans, compared with 16% of workers on the whole within that demographic.2

Even if you are hard-pressed to make or max out the catch-up each year, you may have a spouse who is able to make catch-ups. Perhaps one of you can make a full catch-up contribution when the other cannot, or perhaps you can make partial catch-ups together. In either case, you are still taking advantage of the catch-up rules.

Catch-up contributions should not be dismissed. They can be crucial if you are just starting to save for retirement in middle age or need to rebuild retirement savings at mid-life. Consider making them; they may make a significant difference for your savings effort.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – nasdaq.com/article/retirement-savings-basics-sign-up-for-ira-roth-or-401k-cm627195 [11/30/15]
2 – time.com/money/4175048/401k-catch-up-contributions/ [1/11/16]
3 – marketwatch.com/story/you-can-make-a-lot-of-money-with-retirement-account-catch-up-contributions-2016-03-21 [3/21/16]

The Brexit Shakes Global Markets

A worldwide selloff occurs after the United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union.

A wave of anxiety hit Wall Street Friday morning. Thursday night, the United Kingdom elected to become the first nation state to leave the European Union. The “Brexit” can potentially be finalized as soon as the summer of 2018.1

Voters in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were posed a simple question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union (E.U.) or leave the European Union?” Seventy-two percent of the U.K. electorate went to the polls to answer the question, and in the final tally, Leave beat Remain 51.9% to 48.1%.2,3

The vote shocked investors worldwide. The threat of a Brexit was supposed to have decreased. As late as Thursday, key opinion surveys showed the Remain camp ahead of the Leave camp – but at 10:40pm EST Thursday, the BBC called the outcome and projected Leave would win.4

Why did Leave triumph? The leaders of the Leave campaign hammered home that E.U. membership was a drag on the U.K. economy. They criticized E.U. regulations that impeded business growth. They felt that the U.K. should no longer contribute billions of pounds per year to the E.U. budget. They had concerns over E.U. immigration laws, which permit free movement of people among E.U. nations without visas.1

Financial markets were immediately impacted. The pound fell almost 11% Thursday night to a 31-year low, and the benchmark U.K. equities exchange, the FTSE 100, slipped 5% after initially diving about 8%. Germany’s DAX exchange and France’s CAC-40 exchange respectively incurred losses of 7% and 9%. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed nearly 8% lower, taking its largest one-day slide since 2008.5

Stateside, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite futures declined more than 5% overnight; that triggered the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s circuit breaker, briefly interrupting trading. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or CBOE VIX, approached 24 after midnight. The price of WTI crude fell more than $2 in the pre-dawn hours.5,6

At the opening bell Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 408 points. The Nasdaq shed 186 points at the open; the S&P, 37 points.7

Fortunately, the first trading day after the Brexit referendum was a Friday, giving Wall Street a pause to absorb the news further over the weekend.

How could the Brexit impact investors & markets going forward? Consider its near-term ripple effect, which could be substantial.

The Brexit could deal a devastating blow to both the United Kingdom and the European Union. Depending on which measurements you use, the E.U. collectively represents either the first or third largest economy in the world. In terms of international trade, its import and export activity surpasses that of China (and that of the United States).2

An analysis by the U.K.’s Treasury argued that the country would be left “permanently poorer” by the Brexit, with less tax revenue and lower per-capita GDP and productivity. The Brexit certainly hurt the U.K.’s major trading partners, which include China, India, Japan, and the United States. Some Chinese and American companies have established operations in the U.K. specifically to take advantage of its E.U. membership and the free trade corridors it opens. With the U.K. exiting the E.U., the profits of those firms may be reduced – and the U.K. will have to quickly negotiate new trade deals with other nations. The most recently available European Commission data shows that in 2014, U.S. direct investment in the E.U. topped €1.8 trillion (roughly $2 trillion), with a slightly greater amount flowing back to the U.S.2

You could also see a sustained flight to the franc, the yen, and the dollar in the coming weeks. The stronger the dollar becomes, the weaker the demand for American exports.

Investors should hang on through the turbulence. The Brexit is a historic and unsettling moment, but losses on Wall Street may be less severe than those happening overseas. Retirement savers should not mistake this disruption of market equilibrium for the state of the market going forward. A year, a month, or even a week from now, Wall Street may gain back all that was lost in the Brexit vote’s aftermath. Historically, it has recovered from many events more dramatic than this.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors.

Citations.
1 – bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887 [6/23/16]
2 – cnbc.com/2016/06/21/uk-brexit-what-you-need-to-need-to-know.html [6/24/16]
3 – bbc.com/news/politics/E.U._referendum/results [6/23/16]
4 – bbc.com/news/live/uk-politics-36570120 [6/23/16]
5 ¬- nytimes.com/aponline/2016/06/24/world/asia/ap-financial-markets.html [6/24/16]
6 – rE.U.ters.com/article/us-usa-stocks-idUSKCN0Z918E [6/24/16]
7 – marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-open-sharply-lower-joining-global-post-brexit-selloff-2016-06-24 [6/24/16]