Monthly Archives: February 2012

Risk, Return and Low Beta Stocks

My article in last week’s Advisor Perspectives titled, “The Greatest Anomaly in Finance: Understanding and Exploiting the Outperformance of Low-Beta Stocks,” explores what the findings of a 2011 paper published in the Financial Analysts Journal called “the greatest anomaly in finance.”  The issue at hand is one that I have written about in a number of articles including “Why Low Beta Strategies are Worth Another Look,” and one that I’d like to explore further in today’s blog post.

Financial theory suggests that risk and return go hand-in-hand. While higher-return assets do tend to be riskier than lower-return assets, there is a notable exception. Continue reading

New Tax Deductions and Limits for 2012

Guest Blog by Craig Guillot, Quicken.com.

With the start of 2012, there are a number of new tax laws and adjustments. From higher tax bracket thresholds and standard deductions, you’ll have some positive and negative changes to your taxes this year.

Higher federal income tax-bracket thresholds

A number of tax changes in 2012 have been due to standard inflation-related adjustments. Continue reading

Calculating the Cost of a College Education

I recently came across a calculator developed by Morningstar to help families estimate future college costs and to determine whether they are on track with saving to meet the future costs of higher education. Let’s have a look at what this tool can and cannot do and how such a tool may be useful.

The key variables that determine the future cost of a college education are:

(1) How many years remain until your son or daughter starts college

(2) Whether they will attend a public or private college

(3) How long they will remain in college, and

(4) Whether they will actually pay the “sticker price,” or receive financial aid, grants, scholarships (etc., etc.)

The Morningstar calculator assumes that your student will, in fact, be paying the full advertised cost of the average public or private university. This is a fairly large limitation to the utility of the tool all by itself. The average student does not pay the advertised price of attendance. In fact, Continue reading

Dividend Stocks vs. Bonds: Are They Worth the Risk?

One of the recurring themes in the financial press in recent years is a warning to income-oriented investors not to pile into dividend-paying stocks to boost portfolio income. The Wall Street Journal has a recent article on this topic titled, “Why Dividend Stocks Aren’t the New Bonds.”  This article is motivated by the fact that $17 billion flowed into equity-income funds in 2010 even as $80 billion flowed out of U.S. equity funds. 

 The arguments made by the WSJ article are similar to those in a November 2011 blog post by Vanguard’s Chief Economist, Continue reading

The Disappearing Retirement

Well-known financial columnist Robert Powell has a recent article in MarketWatch titled, “Retirement in America is ‘Endangered.” The motivation for this piece, he writes, is that retirement preparedness is a crucially important topic that was missed in the recent State of The Union address by President Obama.

Powell goes on to list the key problems with the current ‘state of retirement’ in the United States:

1) Under-funding of Social Security
2) Low savings rates
3) Poor market returns over recent years
4) Inadequate levels of financial literacy
5) Half of American workers have no employer-sponsored retirement plan

All of these issues are critically important. In just one or two generations, we have shifted from a society in which employers provided lifetime retirement income via traditional pension plans, to one in which individuals now must manage every aspect of their financial futures, including how much to save and how to invest their retirement savings. The good news is that each of these five issues can be solved if we have the will to solve them. Continue reading

Social Networks and Social Capital

As Facebook prepares for its IPO, The Wall Street Journal has published an incredibly relevant article titled “No More Résumés, Say Some Firms.”

The article suggests that the traditional process of seeking employment or demonstrating your work history and capabilities, (a.k.a. the résumé), is becoming far less relevant. Now anyone who cares about your work experience or professional accomplishments, can simply Google your name and find out for themselves. Continue reading