How Do Mutual Funds and Stocks Differ?
Tom Saxon, Financial Advisor
Whether you're a first-time stock investor or a seasoned veteran, you should understand what differentiates single stock investments from mutual fund investing.
Picture a collection of stocks, bonds, or other securities that are purchased by a group of investors and then managed by an investment company. That's a mutual fund. When you buy shares in a fund, you're really buying a piece of a large, diverse portfolio. Conversely, stocks are shares of a single company.
When it comes to managing their investments, some investors prefer leaving the details and skills to someone else. They like having a professional manager oversee the day-to-day decisions that a changing stock market involves and see that as a distinct advantage. A good manager, they might argue, has access to information that would cost them an exorbitant amount, even if they had the time and inclination to do the work themselves. On the other hand, some investors would never surrender control of their investments. Individual comfort level plays a big part in your investment choice.
Diversification is a big selling factor for mutual funds. When one security in a fund drops, an insightful fund manager may have included stocks that could cushion or offset that loss. But that's not to say that an investor couldn't diversify his or her own stock selections. Diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss; it is a method used to help manage investment risk.
In terms of liquidity, fund investors can cash in on any business day. When you sell a stock, you must wait three business days before the trade settles and your money is released.
The issue of red tape also sets mutual funds apart from stocks. Mutual fund investors often cite transaction ease as an inviting factor. And it is hard to beat the convenience of having records and transactions handled for you, while periodically receiving a detailed statement of your holdings.
Transacting business with stocks can be a more complicated experience. Placing buy orders, selling shares, or dictating any number of orders can be time-consuming. To some, however, that's just part of the experience.
In summary, fund investors are often attracted by the overall convenience. By contrast, stock investors may tend to be more comfortable with their own investing skills. Keep in mind that the value of mutual funds and stocks will fluctuate with changes in market conditions; when investments are sold, the investor may receive back more or less than the original investment amount.
Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.
Annuities and Retirement Planning
Have you maxed out your contributions to your IRA and employer-sponsored plan? Do you want to save more? An annuity may be a good investment to look into.
Get the lay of the land
An annuity is a tax-deferred insurance contract. You invest your money with a life insurance company that sells annuities. In exchange for your investment, the life insurance company promises to make payments to you or your beneficiary in the future. Chances are, you'll start receiving payments after you retire. Annuities may be subject to certain charges and expenses so do your research first.
Understand your payout options
Understanding your payout options is very important. Payments are based on the claims-paying ability of the life insurance company. You want to be sure that the payments you receive will meet your retirement income needs. Here are some common payout options:
- You surrender the annuity and receive a lump-sum payment of all the money you accumulated. Your tax bill on the investment earnings will be due all in one year.
- You receive payments from the annuity over a number of years. If you die before this "period certain" is up, your beneficiary will receive the remaining payments.
- You receive payments from the annuity for your lifetime. You can't outlive the payments (no matter how long you live), but there will typically be no survivor payments after you die.
- You combine a lifetime annuity with a period certain annuity. This means that you receive payments for the longer of your lifetime or the time period chosen. Again, if you die before the period certain is up, your beneficiary will receive the remaining payments.
- You elect a joint and survivor annuity so that payments last for the combined life of you and another person. When one of you dies, the survivor receives payments for the rest of his or her life.
Consider the details
An annuity can often be a great addition to your retirement portfolio:
- Your investment earnings are tax deferred as long as they remain in the annuity. You don't pay income tax on those earnings until they are paid to you.
- If you die with an annuity, the annuity's death benefit will pass to your beneficiary without going through probate.
- Your annuity can be a reliable source of retirement income, and you have some freedom to decide how you'll receive that income.
- You're not subject to an annual contribution limit, unlike IRAs and employer-sponsored plans.
- You're not required to start taking distributions from an annuity at age 70½.
Choose the right type of annuity
Most annuities fit into a small handful of categories. Your choices basically revolve around two key questions. How soon would you like annuity payments to begin? How would you like your money invested? You should consult a Financial Professional to help you consider the investment objectives, risk, charges, and expenses carefully before investing.
Handling Market Volatility
Chris Parks, Financial Advisor
Conventional wisdom says that what goes up, must come down. But even if you view market volatility as a normal occurrence, it can be tough to handle when it's your money at stake.
Here are some tips to help handle market volatility.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket
Diversifying your investment portfolio is the best way you can handle market volatility. Because asset classes perform differently under different market conditions, spreading your assets across different investments such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives can help manage your overall risk. Ideally, a decline in one type of asset will be balanced by a gain in another, though diversification can't guarantee a profit or eliminate the possibility of market loss.
Focus on the forest, not the trees
As the markets go up and down, it's easy to become too focused on day-to-day returns. Instead, focus on your long-term investing goals. Only you can decide how much risk you can handle, but don't overestimate the effect of short-term price fluctuations on your portfolio.
Look before you leap
When the market goes down, you may be tempted to pull out altogether. The small returns that typically accompany low-risk investments may seem attractive when more risky investments are posting negative returns.
But before you leap into a different investment strategy, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. How you choose to invest your money should be consistent with your goals and time horizon.
For instance, putting a larger percentage of your portfolio into conservative investments may be the right strategy for you if your investment goals are short-term. But if you still have years to invest, stocks have historically outperformed stable value investments over time.
Look for the silver lining
A down market does have a silver lining; the opportunity you have to buy shares of stock at lower prices.
One of the ways you can do this is by using dollar cost averaging. Here, you don't try to "time the market" by buying shares when the price is lowest. Instead, you invest the same amount of money at regular intervals. When the price is higher, you’ll buy fewer shares of stock, but when the price is lower, you will buy more shares. Over time a regular fixed dollar investment may result in an average price per share that's lower than the average market price.
Don't stick your head in the sand
While focusing too much on short-term gains or losses is unwise, so is ignoring your investments. You should check up on your portfolio at least once a year, more frequently if the market is particularly volatile or when there have been significant changes in your life. You may need to re-balance your portfolio to bring it back in line with your investment goals and risk tolerance, or redesign it so that it better suits your current needs. Don't hesitate to get expert help if you need it when deciding which investment options are right for you.
What is a trust?
When you create and fund a trust, you are known as the grantor. The grantor names people, known as beneficiaries, who will benefit from the trust. Beneficiaries are usually your family and loved ones but can be anyone, even a charity. Beneficiaries may receive income from the trust or may have access to the principal of the trust either during your lifetime or after you die. The trustee is responsible for administering the trust, managing the assets, and distributing income and/or principal according to the terms of the trust. Depending on the purpose of the trust, you can name yourself, another person, or an institution, such as Wye Financial & Trust, to be the trustee. You can even name more than one trustee if you like.
Why create a trust?
often used to:
- Minimize estate taxes
- Shield assets from potential creditors
- Avoid the expense and delay of probating your will
- Preserve assets for your children until they are grown (in case you should die while they are
- Create a pool of investments that can be managed by professional money managers
- Set up a fund for your own support in the event of incapacity
- Shift part of your income tax burden to beneficiaries in lower tax brackets
- Provide benefits for charity
Retirement Plans for Small Businesses
Colin Pryor, Financial Advisor
If you're self-employed or own a small business and you haven't established a retirement savings plan, what are you waiting for? A retirement plan can help you and your employees save for the future. A retirement plan can have significant tax advantages:
- Your contributions are deductible
- Contributions aren't taxed to an employee until distributed from the plan
- Money in the retirement program grows tax deferred
Which Plan Is Right For You?
You'll need to define your goals before choosing a plan. For example, do you want:
- To maximize your own retirement savings?
- A plan funded by employer or employee contributions? Both?
- A plan with lowest costs? Easiest administration?
A SEP allows you to set up an IRA for yourself and each of your employees. You contribute a uniform percentage of pay for each employee. For 2017, your contributions for each employee are limited to the lesser of 25% of pay or $54,000. SEPs have low start-up and operating costs and are easy to set up.
SIMPLE IRA Plan
The SIMPLE IRA plan is available if you have 100 or fewer employees. Employees can elect to make pretax contributions in 2017 of up to $12,500 ($15,500 if age 50 or older). You must either match your employees' contributions --up to 3% of each employee's compensation--or make a fixed contribution of 2% of compensation for each eligible employee.
Typically, only you contribute to a qualified profit-sharing plan. Your contributions are discretionary — there's no set amount you need to contribute each year. A separate account is established for each participant that holds your contributions. Contributions for any employee in 2017 can't exceed the lesser of $54,000 or 100% of the employee's compensation.
The 401(k) plan has become a popular retirement savings vehicle for small businesses. With a 401(k) plan, employees can make pretax and/or Roth contributions in 2017 of up to $18,000 of pay ($24,000 if age 50 or older). You can also make employer contributions to your 401(k) plan. Combined employer and employee contributions for any employee in 2017 can't exceed the lesser of $54,000 or 100% of the employee's compensation. 401(k) plans are required to perform complicated testing each year to make sure benefits aren't weighted toward higher paid employees. A “safe harbor” plan will help avoid this testing by requiring you to either match your employees’ contributions or make a fixed contribution for all eligible employees.
As an employer, you have an important role to play in helping America's workers save. Now is the time to consider a retirement plan for your business.