2017 Year End Focus Comment

December 13, 2017 by  
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Year End Focus                                                                                                                                 December 2017

In the light of this seemingly, never-ending record breaking stock market keep this in mind.

The government and Wall Street typically benefit from good news about the economy. They both know that the general public will not think highly of them if they are responsible for wasting or losing money for their tax payer or investors, respectively.  Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that both the government and Wall Street spin their data to make sure their constituents, or investors are happy?

It is not that they are lying.  It is more that they are not telling you all the facts, all the necessary data.

For instance, if inflation is under control then why are food, fuel and housing cost considerably greater than 20 years ago, in relative value?  The answer is that the government has convinced everyone that using inflation data that excludes items such as food, fuel and housing expense is acceptable.  Why would they exclude the most common and necessary essentials of everyday life from inflation data?

Another example of the spin used to keep the masses happy is employment data. First the government has convinced everyone that people “dropping out” of the work force is acceptable.  Would you agree with their logic?

And then there is this: “Withholding tax collections are now signaling that the US economy is on the cusp of possible recession. The annual growth rate slipped to +2.2% as of December 5. That’s before inflation. Average weekly earnings have lately been growing at somewhat north of 2.5% (but there’s no inflation, ahem). So applying a 2.5% wage inflation factor indicates that real growth is now slightly negative.”, Sure Money author, Lee Adler.

We research a lot of data as investment advisors and I can assure you that the main stream media, government announcements and Wall Street were almost silent about the low tax withholding data when the most recent jobs report was glorified. And, we have more examples if you would like.

Having state this, we are not advising clients to exit stocks.  We are simply explaining how and why you need advisors that look beyond main stream data points, like Saint-Laurent Associates, to determine how best to position and protect your retirement savings and estate.

We are always here to review and answer any questions you may have about any aspect of your finances estate and elder care planning.  We are now accepting new clients resulting from your recommendation. Please let us know if you have anyone you think would benefit from our services.

Please email us at RST@StLaurentPro.com to make sure we have your email on file for future updates.

Thank you for your patronage and trust.   Happy holidays.

 

Richard Saint-Laurent, cwp

Digital Currencies (aka Bitcoin) Gets Some Respect

December 13, 2017 by  
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Bitcoin Futures Surge Above $18,000 In Cboe Trading Debut

Bitcoin futures started Sunday evening on Cboe Global Markets (CBOE), with the cryptocurrency surging. January Bitcoin futures rose 15% to $17,600 Monday morning after topping $18,000 at one point overnight.

Bitcoin’s big 2017 run has intensified in recent weeks, rapidly rising from $10,000 to last week clearing $17,000 last week — above $19,000 on some spot-price platforms — before pulling back.

Bitcoin was trading at $16,627.28, CoinDesk, up nearly 11% vs. a day earlier, as Bitcoin futures appeared to lift spot prices as well.

Bitcoin futures trades, via the symbol XBT, will have zero transaction fees through December. Cboe is getting a jump on CME Group (CME). CME Bitcoin futures launch on Monday, Dec. 18.

Bitcoin futures are a major milestone, showing that the digital currency now has the acceptance of major financial exchanges. Futures should boost liquidity for the cryptocurrency, making it a more acceptable investment vehicle. But some of that liquidity will come from investors getting a chance to short Bitcoin.

Goldman Sachs (GS) will clear Bitcoin futures trades for clients. But JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C) reportedly will not, at least to start. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon last week said that he remains “highly skeptical” of the cryptocurrency, after previously calling it a “fraud.” Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein recently said that Bitcoin “doesn’t feel like a currency.”

TD Ameritrade (AMTD) is among the brokerages that will make Bitcoin futures contracts available for individual investors.

It’ll be interesting to see the impact of Bitcoin futures on Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC). The Bitcoin investment vehicle has been a Bitcoin proxy for investors.

The Early Baby Boomers- Their Long Final Act Begins

December 13, 2017 by  
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Reprint from by Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, LLP

“The baby boom generation (born from 1946 to 1964) is now entering retirement years, and the earliest members of this group are well into retirement, continuation of their careers in different ways, or encore careers. When this group was born, it began a boom in building housing. When they went to school, there was a boom in school construction; and so on. Now, there is a new set of needs, and decisions to be made. This is a complicated process, but you can’t turn your back on it. I’ve been through this decision process with a number of clients and colleagues, and here are some important topics to consider:

Social Security and Medicare. For many years, we have paid into these programs, and now we are starting to withdraw from them. There are complex rules for both of these programs, and the decisions made as to when and how to receive benefits can have a significant effect on the quality of retirement. Each has an extensive website explaining benefit choices, and you can also call and email them. Some people can sort through the options and make an informed choice, but many people would benefit from getting professional guidance on Social Security and Medicare benefits. You can’t simply do what family and friends have done; situations differ. Money spent on professional guidance will be well spent.

Investments. The baby boom generation surely has more money to manage than any prior generation. This is in part due to the decline in pension plans, which offered a monthly check and involved no investment decisions by participants. These plans have been replaced by defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, which offer a lump sum account. When money was being contributed, plan participants usually had a choice of investment vehicles chosen by others. But in retirement, individuals often have to make their own decisions. It seems odd to think that a lawyer, teacher, doctor, business owner or anyone other than an investment professional should be able to exercise investment responsibility over large retirement sums. For most people, getting advice from an investment professional probably makes sense, and repays the cost of such advice in better investment returns. Of course, there are various types of investment professionals. We are old enough to recognize that phrases like “double your money” and “you can’t lose” are reasons to exercise caution. The challenge for investment professionals is to find a way to help those with more modest retirement accounts. Someone with a retirement account of $100,000 to $500,000 might need more careful advice than someone with millions. The professionals who can find an efficient way to help such people will be performing a valuable service.

Health. It’s no surprise that those who have good health have a better retirement experience. Some aspects of health can’t be controlled, but others can. Each year, I receive an email from Medicare on my birthday, telling me what testing I may obtain. Very helpful. Have regular checkups with your primary care physician as well as those who care for eyes, teeth and other parts that might wear out. Be an intelligent user of medical services to which you are entitled.Diet and exercise are also important. Following just a few suggestions about your health will be as valuable as any investment or other financial choice you make. Here’s a tip: many health insurance plans offer a free gym membership through the Silver Sneakers program. If your plan does, use it.

Your lifestyle. Where will you live in retirement, and in what kind of community? What are your goals or interests in retirement: travel, education, family, encore careers? Whatever you want to do, you need to start planning it. Eventually, most of us will have limits on our activities, so it’s a good idea to work on your bucket list early in your retirement years. There are now many television channels pitched to retirees-they usually include reruns of shows for the 50s and 60s, and commercials for medical devices. It doesn’t hurt to watch them from time to time, but don’t make your retirement goal watching episodes of the Andy Griffith Show. Look forward, not back.”

Reprint from by Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, LLP

Equifax Data Breach: What Consumers Need to Know

September 21, 2017 by  
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The company says vital information on 143 million people was potentially put at risk

The credit-reporting agency Equifax disclosed one of the most significant data breaches in recent history, saying information including the Social Security numbers of 143 million consumers was potentially compromised.

While the massive breach that Yahoo revealed last year involved more accounts, topping 1 billion, that intrusion exposed people’s phone numbers and passwords. Equifax said its breach includes “names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.”

The company added that credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers were accessed, along with some dispute documents that contain personal identifying information for about 182,000 U.S. consumers.

Equifax is offering a number of free services to people, including credit monitoring. (You can find more information at a site Equifax set up, and see our expert advice below on protecting your data.)

Equifax originally said that by signing up, you would opt into arbitration and waive your right to take part in a class-action lawsuit for the credit-monitoring service. But this waiver didn’t apply to the breach at large. The company later dropped the restrictions for the free credit-monitoring service, saying customers who sign up because of the data breach aren’t subject to the clause and won’t be prevented from joining class-action suits.

The breach happened mid-May through July and was discovered July 29, Equifax said. It also said it has seen no evidence of unauthorized activity on its core consumer or commercial reporting databases.

“It’s one of the worst hacks imaginable,” says Dan Guido, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Trail of Bits. “People should be extraordinarily angry at companies like Equifax. We place a huge amount of trust in them about money matters, but they’re so easily compromised by simplistic attacks like this one.”

Equifax had a much smaller attack in March against one of its subsidiaries, which had not been widely reported before. The company said it notified the few thousand people affected at the time, which included employees of Northrop Grumman, Allegis Group, and the University of Louisville.

Buy right every time

Guido wonders whether the major breach over the summer might mark the beginning of a “post-authentication era,” in which this widely accepted personal information becomes essentially useless in establishing an individual’s identity.

“There’s no sense in treating this like confidential information anymore,” he says. “When you call up your cell-phone company they typically ask for this information, like your Social Security number or your driver’s license number. And it’s simply no longer possible to accurately identify people using these typical trust markers.”

Unlike a credit card company or retailer, consumers generally don’t choose to do business with credit-reporting firms. Instead, those companies gather information on consumers as part of their business.

“The credit bureaus collect highly sensitive consumer data, including Social Security numbers and detailed credit histories, and they have a legal and ethical obligation to protect it,” says Jessica Rich, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization at Consumer Reports.

“While it’s fine that Equifax is offering consumers free credit card monitoring, that’s just a Band-Aid,” she adds. “Companies need to take data security much more seriously so these breaches don’t happen in the first place. That’s why we need stronger data-security laws with tougher penalties.”

Richard Smith, chairman and CEO of Equifax, said in a statement: “This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes.”

What You Should Do

There are some steps you can take to protect yourself and mitigate the potential damage done by this breach.

1. Find out whether your information is potentially at risk.

Equifax has set up a website that allows consumers to determine whether their information was potentially compromised. Click on the tab labeled “Potential Impact” in the center of the home page. You’ll then need to enter your name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.

But even if the scan suggests that you weren’t compromised, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

“When breaches like these happen, consumers need to be diligent—and not just in the short term,” Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com, said in a statement. “Just because nothing looks amiss on your bank statements or your credit report now, that doesn’t mean you haven’t been compromised.”

2. Sign up for credit monitoring.

Equifax announced that it would provide free credit monitoring to all U.S. consumers regardless of whether their information was potentially compromised. Since the service is free and it’s relatively easy to sign up, it’s a worthwhile safety precaution, even if it’s a bit of a nuisance.

Equifax is offering five separate services under the program, all free and found on the company’s website through a link marked “TrustedIDPremier.”

The first is simply getting a copy of your Equifax credit report. The second consists of credit monitoring and automated alerts of key changes to your credit report at any of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.

Another scans suspicious websites for your Social Security number. The fourth benefit is up to $1 million worth of identity-theft insurance to pay for out-of-pocket expenses if you’re a victim of identity theft. The fifth is the ability to actually put a freeze on your credit report.

3. Freeze your credit.

Equifax allows consumers to take the next step and actually freeze their credit lines, and you should take advantage of this. It goes a step further than credit card monitoring in that it prevents anyone from taking out a loan or a credit card in your name.

Of course, that includes you. Which means that when you’re actually applying for credit—say, a mortgage, a home equity line, or even a store credit card—you’ll have to unfreeze your credit line before you do so.

“Consumers should deal with this inconvenience and freeze their credit,” Guido says. “It’s significantly safer than credit card monitoring.”

Equifax’s credit-freeze form asks for straightforward information including your name, address, and Social Security number, and you can use the same form to lift the freeze.

4. Check your accounts.

Even if you follow all these steps, some experts suggest that the scope of this breach means that you’ll still have to monitor your own accounts for fraudulent activity indefinitely.

“Digital data is like a genie in a bottle,” says Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of the privacy-software firm Disconnect. “Once it gets out of the bottle it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get it back.”

The bright side of this incident, such as it is, may be that it encourages consumers to take a more active role as watchdogs of their own financial lives.

“Remember that no one cares as much about your money as you do, and you are ultimately your last line of defense against fraud,” Schultz says. “This is reason number 10,000 to check your online bank statements and credit card statements on a regular basis, ideally weekly.”

One way of making that task a little easier is by setting up online alerts on your credit card and bank accounts triggered by parameters like your balance or the size of a transaction.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to reflect changes regarding whether signing up for Equifax’s credit-monitoring service included an arbitration clause and a class-action waiver. It has also been updated to include the March attack, which had not been widely reported before.

Allen St. John

Allen St. John

I believe that technology has the power to change our lives—for better or for worse. That’s why I’ve spent my life reporting and writing about it for outlets of all sorts, from newspapers (such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times) to magazines (Popular Mechanics and Rolling Stone) and even my own books (“Newton’s Football” and “Clapton’s Guitar”). For me, there’s no better way to spend a day than talking to a bunch of experts about an important subject and then writing a story that’ll help others be smarter and better informed.

Summer 2017 Stock Market Update

August 3, 2017 by  
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August 2017

As many of you know, we have been commenting for a while now about why much of the economic data does not bode well for the stock market.  For many fundamental reasons it can be argued that it is not realistic that the stock markets can keep hitting new all-time highs –  yet, it is happening.

We do expect, inevitably, a long overdue, correction – which usually helps keep the markets healthy.  So far, all but of a few indicators are pointing to an inevitable correction.  However, if history is any indicator, once those few hold outs come into line dare we say, that there may be more gains to come in the broader stock markets?  Here is why we have some confidence that we still have some upside:

  • Believe it or not there are still record amounts of investor’s cash sitting on the side lines since the last market crash in 2008. The general public is STILL not significantly “in” the markets – and massive bull markets don’t typically peak until the general public is in.
  • From a pure economic data prospective this bull market is still incredibly “broad.” There are hardly any weak spots.  Even gold is moving higher.
  • Where else are investors to invest to make enough profit to keep pace with a 2-3% annual inflation rate?  The answer is: Nowhere.  In fact, most so-called conservative bond funds have been showing negative returns for years now.  The U.S. Stock Markets are the best looking house in a bad neighborhood, to use a real estate analogy.

Perfect segue – Remember the last real estate boom?  By the peak, it seemed like everyone was “in real estate.” That’s what a peak looks like. But today, the general public is selling stocks, not buying. Investors are not piling in. They are getting out…

“Despite the relentless uptrend, there has not been a sustained rush into equity funds,” Jason Goepfert, of SentimenTrader.com, wrote on his site last week. Jason’s service tracks dozens of indicators to gauge what investors are thinking. “In early July, investors pulled more than $11 billion from domestic equity funds.”

The average investors is too emotional and therefore is makes decisions based on fear.  But the “fear of loss” is over played.  The fear of losing out on potential market gains has yet to flourish.The next progression in this historical, irrational investing pattern will be the “greed” stage. When greed overtakes fear of loss, then we’ll be getting close to a correction. We’re not there yet.

Further evidence pointing to more short term upside in the stock markets is once again based in history. During the Tech Boom of the late 1990’s, more stocks were falling than rising.  That was a warning sign.

The financial term for this data set is called the Advance/Decline Line.  The Advance/Decline Line is simply the running total of the number of advancing stocks in a day minus the number of declining ones.  In other words, when any bull market is being carried on the backs of just a few companies, it’s not a sustainable.

Just compare the data of today to 1999?  The opposite seems to be happening…

During the dot-com boom in 1999, the Advance/Decline Line was falling – signaling that the market’s overall health was poor. Today it’s showing the opposite. Take a look:

In short, it seems this market is healthy – for now.  But we must proceed with much caution, as always.

Therefore, we are recommending a great weight of our growth portfolios to equities for the short term – this includes reallocating more cash held in reserve into equities, as well.

As always, contact us with any questions or changes in your life.

In the mean time, enjoy the summer.

Richard St-Laurent, cwp

July 12, 2017 by  
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Did you know that the Department Of Labor (DOL) “strongly suggests” that every 2-3 years business have their 401k plan independently review for competitiveness by competitors – and document the results?

If your business has a 401k plan, and you are an executive or have anything to do with it you are personally liable.  You may probably be thinking that your plan provider told you that everything is “within reasonable standards” or  “within compliance standards based on new DOL mandates” or “we are fiduciary advisors, so don’t worry about it”.  

As a prudent fiduciary yourself, you should then to ask them to produce documented proof, in writing.  But what exactly would you ask them for?  Unless you work or are educated in fiduciary services how can you evaluate something for which you have limited experience, basis, criteria, nor a guide book, if you will?

We can easily help.  Start by taking our short 401k Compliance Questionnaire to know what you need to look for and if you have any glaring compliance issues.  If you answered  ‘no’ to more than one question we can tell you what you need to correct it and dramatically mitigate your personal liability, reduce costs and increase services while improving your employees’ retirement plans, as mandated by the DOL. Forward this web page to anyone responsible for your 401k , if need be.

2017 Mid-Year Advice

July 11, 2017 by  
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“Hypocrisy is the universal solvent of social relations”.

We live in an uncertain world.  Economies expand and contract.  Interest rates rise and fall.  Markets gyrate up and down.  And nobody gives anyone a warning.  It can be a bit unsettling, especially when one’s life savings are on the line.  It would be great if you could protect your investments so as to be prepared for whatever the future holds.  In fact, you may be able to do so.  You only need to start with the follow five time-tested principles…..

Don’t try to forecast the economy. The national and global economy is, today, too big, too dynamic, and way too complex for anyone, from corporate executives, to central bank presidents, to accurately predict.  So, if you’re running your portfolio based on someone’s guess about how long an economic expansion will last, or when the next recession will occur, you are already off on the wrong foot.  Twice each year The Wall Street Journal polls 55 of the nation’s leading economists and asks what lies ahead for the economy, interest rates, inflation, and the US dollar. Most are way off, and without consensus.

Save more. To ensure a comfortable retirement, we need to save as much as we can, for as long as we can, starting as soon as we can. Millions of Americans believe that the government will deliver the material happiness they deserve, sparing them the trouble and discomfort of striving for it.  More than a quarter of Americans have put aside less than $1,000 for retirement.  Forty two percent have saved less than $10,000.  And 58% have accumulated less than $25,000.  Unfortunately, the average retired worker receives just $1,341 per month from social security.  Without some big changes to our spending habits, those numbers will likely decline over the next decade.

Asset allocate your portfolio –  Diversify!   Asset allocation is the process of finding an optimal mix of investments for a portfolio.  It means dividing ones assets in the correct proportions of stocks, bonds, and other non-correlated assets to allow the best chance of achieving a financial goals while assuming as little risk as possible.   Asset allocation is the single biggest investment decision, responsible for approximately 90% of a portfolio’s long-term return.

Rebalance the portfolio.  Over time, each of the asset classes should generate returns that exceed inflation.  However, they won’t move in lockstep.  Not necessarily undesirable.  And that result should warrant a rebalance of the portfolio, so as to return the whole to its original percentages, by selling back appreciated asset classes, putting the proceeds to work in classes lagging asset classes.  This process forces the portfolio manager to sell high, and buy low.  Paring back on extended assets in this way, reduces risk and generally adds a point to the portfolio when done annually.  While most of us may be reluctant to liquidate a portion of an asset class that has done well, keep in mind that asset classes move in unpredictable up and down cycles, and rebalancing thereby, works to portfolio advantage.  Ignore the siren call of market timers, financial marketers, and economic forecasters, and save more, allocate properly and rebalance annually.  Cover these bases and stay on track to reach your financial goal.

Last but not least, is one of the most misunderstood pieces of advice given within the financial services industry: Don’t try to time the market (not to be confused with ‘timing the economy’) determining when to invest.  It does seem rather easy, in hind sight, when you look at a chart of past bull and bear markets.  “If only I had gotten in down here, and then out somewhere up there, and then back in around here”.  Trying to switch into the market rallies, and in and out for the corrections, or even just trying to call the major turns every decade, or so, can be a waste of time and money.

Sure, anyone can make a good call (and whoever does so, will likely brag about it).  But to successfully time the market, one must make at least three good calls:  Buy at the right time; get out at the right time; and then, buy back in at the right time.  Otherwise “one” is out of luck, because the long-term direction of the stock market is “up”.

The exception to this rule of market timing is when there are overwhelming data or a proven strategy involved in the investment process.For instance, if you are deciding how to reallocate a large amount of cash it is crucial to determine if market data, based on historical experience seems to discriminate against, or favor, a specific asset class at any point in time.

A simple and traditional solution to a very volatile equity market may be to utilize a dollar-cost-averaging (DCA) strategy. Another, more involved process would be to employ a tactical strategy that takes the emotion out of decisions by using algorithmic, computerized models, which strive to make money and save gains no matter which direction the market goes.

Obviously, we are available to elaborate on this and other topics in more detail.  We want to meet with you to review your financial plan.  Please call to schedule a meeting at a time convenient for you.

(We offer a copy of our firm ADV II, annually, upon request)

Best Regards,

Richard St-Laurent, cwp

 

 

Should You Own Gold or Silver?

January 2, 2017 by  
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There are many marketing gold, silver and other precious metals and

related investments. Needless to say, Buyer Beware!

In some cases we think it is prudent to have “some exposure” to certain commodities and precious metals and, or related sector investments.  The key words in that sentence are “some exposure”. We will clarify this and any other questions you may have about precious metals, related investments and commodities when you call us for a review.

As for the reasons to have “some exposure” in precious metals, suffice to say they are many and various. Recently we have been alerted to a few more. The follow are excerpt from just one of the precious metals analysts I follow, which is similar to a few others I have read.

“You won’t hear about this catalyst in the financial media…but it’s urgent.

On December 31, 2016, the floodgates could open for 1.6 billion “gold bugs”…32 central banks…and 112 billionaires. I’m talking about a new gold standard for Islamic law.

Right now, the World Gold Council is working with the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, which sets the standards for Islamic financial law, in order to create an entirely new standard for gold trading.

 

This is huge. In short, we could be looking at $3 trillion piling into the gold market later this year. You see, Islamic law bans certain “immoral” trades…things like alcohol and tobacco stocks. It also includes gold…even though gold holds a special place in Islamic culture. So until now, gold has been “off-limits” to Muslims for the past 42 years. In other words, one-quarter of the world’s population-among it the world’s most enthusiastic gold buyers-has hardly touched a single gold investment.

 But that could all change. This new standard would allow close to a quarter of the world’s population to trade gold investments just like any other. When that happens, all of that pent-up demand will be unleashed. Standard & Poor’s estimates $3 TRILLION could flood into the Gold market in January.

China has taken control of pricing gold.China is the world’s top importer, producer, and consumer of gold. Earlier this year, China opened the Shanghai Gold Exchange. It’s a “shot across the bow” to the world that they want to dominate the global gold market. If estimates are right, China’s gold reserves are almost double that of every other major country combined. And obviously, they think they should set the price. Not banks in the West.

China wants a price set on actual physical gold. Not on paper contracts, like futures. This is truly game-changing. For the last 40 years, the Libor and COMEX exchanges priced gold based on futures contracts. Right now, there are 252 ounces of gold claims per ounce of deliverable gold.

China will change that when it becomes the center of gold trading. And every single trade on the Shanghai Gold Exchange will be backed by the equivalent amount of physical gold.

In combination with the new Islamic law, gold has a legitimate shot at rising to levels we haven’t seen in our lifetime. In fact, the Chinese are quietly opening yuan “clearing banks” in Middle Eastern countries…including a new yuan bank in Dubai-the financial hub of the Middle East.

But there’s another catalyst that ties everything together. “Peak gold” has arrived…

Peak gold is similar to the concept of peak oil. The idea is that, at some point, the easy-to-extract oil will be gone. Exploration and development costs will soar and production will decline over time. This can be applied to all finite resources. None more so than gold!

Right now in the gold sector, the production of gold is rapidly shrinking…just as demand is soaring. This has caused exploration to plummet in recent years, simply because the cost isn’t worth it. The experts are saying “peak gold” is here. Last year, Goldman Sachs warned that there’s “only 20 years of known mineable gold reserves.”

The “known” part is key. That’s because the costs of mining exploration have surged 10-fold, even as new discoveries become few and far between. This has caused exploration to plummet in recent years, simply because the cost isn’t worth it.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, agrees we’ve reached “peak gold.” It predicts gold production will decline by 20% every year moving forward, even with higher prices.

So in a nutshell, you’ve got…

* The shrinking supply of gold…

* The potential for unprecedented and instant surge of demand from 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide…

* And the new Shanghai Gold Exchange that could return physical gold back to the gold markets…

The bottom line is this “trifecta” of gold events is creating a once-in-a-lifetime setup for gold investors.

One that will see the price of gold (possibly go)  higher.

All of these things have already sent gold into the early stages of a new bull market.”

Contact us with questions or comments soon.

Best Regards,

2016 Year End Comments

December 25, 2016 by  
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December 2016                 

As I pen this letters, the stock market’s recent surge has confirmed the trend higher, hitting our predicted long term records.  But, that does not mean a correction can’t come before creating more new highs. As we have been saying for over a year now, a correction is still way overdue. Although there are many reasons for this prediction, another  point has recently become glaringly obvious: Just five stocks have accounted for over 60 percent of the move up.

According to Weiss Research, “…about two-thirds of the rally in the Dow can be attributed to five companies: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), JP Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), and Boeing Co. (BA).

But, one company has stood above the rest during this post-election rally: Goldman Sachs.

In fact, the investment firm has been responsible for a huge amount of the increase in that index — a mind-boggling 30 percent of the recent gains. The other four stocks combined make up the other 30 percent.

Still, for investors even thinking about chasing these high-flyers, keep this in mind: When the rally backs up some — which I believe it will — these five will likely get hit the hardest.

And while market breadth — or the number of stocks advancing compared to those declining — is improving, it’s still not what I’d like to see for a rally of this magnitude”

Does this sound confusing?  Not if you have been listening to us regularly and you have worked with us to create a plan.

This year marks the 36th anniversary of our financial planning firm.   Many of you, friends and clients, have been with us for most of these thirty-six years.   We are grateful for your loyalty.   From the beginning of our practice, we have always placed first, the interest and financial goals of our clients.    

As investment advisors, 2016 has been a challenging year, as we worked to keep our anxious clients focused on their long-term goals while guiding them through the turbulent periods.  Stock markets began the year with a declining performance as oil prices plummeted and the Chinese stock market sell-off reverberated globally.  Our advice to fearful and anxious clients then, was: Keep calm, stay the course, and, had we taken some profit earlier, view a market decline as an investment opportunity to invest any idle cash in their investment portfolio.  History has proven time and again that investors who are willing to wait out short-term volatility have been rewarded over the long term. 

Over the years of our association, we have frequently discussed the various views of risk from your investment perspective.  We have always emphasized the importance of portfolio diversification to minimize the effect of market volatility, and the associated risk of loss. The inclusion of diverse asset classes in a range of industries has the effect of dispersing investment risk.  

Diversification of management and strategy discipline are other ways we continually explore in order to reduce risk as well. This is an interesting topic we will elaborate more on if you are interested, or when we speak next.

Risk has always been pervasive in investing, no matter how “conservative” an investor may consider themselves.  In today’s ever-shifting global landscape, it has become even more pervasive.  There are often misperceptions about risk.  For investors, there are two important misperceptions.   The first and most prominent misperception in investing is that all risk is bad.   In reality, investors must accept an element of risk in order to realize a return.   The familiar adage applies:  “No risk, no reward”.    We apply the perception of risk as we work to construct an investment portfolio for our client, as we discuss the goals, investment objectives, time horizon, and investment risk profile of every client to fashion an allocation policy.   Thus, the risk may actually be perceived as a way to assist the portfolio construction process. 

Diversifying can improve a portfolio’s investment risk profile.  The challenge with this is that “risk” means different things to each investor, and there is no magic formula to risk management.  The prime way to diversify a portfolio is by attempting to achieve optimal balance of risk-taking to generate returns.  To adequately diversify risk in the portfolio, the investor must determine and define what risk means to them by thinking about the investment objective, and to assess that risk.  There are multiple ways to assess risk.  Is currency risk more important than market risk, or country (political) risk?

Another common misperception about risk has to do with cash.  Most investors assume that cash is risk-free and that holding it is the best safety net.  That may not be the case.  Investors need to consider that cash also carries risk since it is currency, and currency can inflate and deflate in value.  The amount of cash the investor holds at a moment’s time may not be worth the same at another time.   While inflation is not a major concern today, investors should be wary of holding too much cash.  Holding cash is risky because holding it is gambling that the currency value will always remain the same, or increase in value.          

Finally – One of the riskiest asset classes is “alternatives”.  Alternatives have long been known to be among assets reserved only for those investors who are willing to bear the heightened risk that comes with the ability to achieve sizable returns.  However, sorting risk in alternative investments involves assessing varying risk dynamics.  The wide range of alternatives, such as hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, property, and infrastructure involve varying risk dynamics.  Each of these investments may produce outsize returns, but present unfathomable risk as well.                      

There are few investors today who invest in only one asset class, essentially putting all their eggs in one basket.  When diversification is recognized as the correct way to reduce risk and gain income in the process, it is essential to differentiate among the available eggs and choose the right ones to create the best combination.  What risk means to you is not the same as what risk means to someone else.  Knowing how various asset classes impact your portfolio and strategizing accordingly is essential.  And, sometimes you need to take some gains, even if you think the peak has not yet arrived.             

One more commonly over looked point: Do not assume your work retirement plan or 401k is immune to undue risk. On the contrary, there has been a dramatic rise in law suits against 401k sponsor and providers due to poor due diligence, unnecessary risk, conflicts of interest and unreasonable expenses related to 401k plans – in particular, Fidelity and other large brand names are leading the guilty suspect’s list. We have expanded our ERISA fiduciary relations to better analyze and advise you with employer sponsored 401k plans and other benefits options.

Our client reviews involve reappraisal of client investment objectives, risk assessment, time horizon, and portfolio diversification, in conjunction with life, estate and elder care planning.  

Please call soon to schedule a meeting for your review.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Thank you for your continued trust and confidence.

We Wish You A Happy Holiday and A Prosperous New Year

Sincerely,

Richard St-Laurent, cwpp

 

Five Star Award Profiled in Boston Magazine, March 2016 Issue

July 8, 2016 by  
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BOSTON April 8, 2016 PRLog — Richard St-Laurent, owner of one of the oldest niche registered

investment advisory’s in Boston, North Shore, Saint-Laurent Associates continues accolades after being

awarded the Five Star Wealth Manager designation in 2016, as profiled in Boston Magazine.

 

“Big Brother”, with its growing surveillance and regulations, is out of control and continues to control more of your life and business than you may ever know.  And what you don’t know can harm you. Every person involved in any process of selecting and implementing retirement benefits plans, needs to know how to protect themselves from personal losses and law suits.  For over 30 years Saint-Laurent Associates has been helping investors and business with every aspect of financial and estate planning.

 

PROBLEMS OF TRADITIONAL INVESTING, An Industry Slow To Change:  Investment options and reporting for investors, benefits providers, fiduciaries and employers have changed dramatically, yet many in the financial and insurance industry are slow to change accordingly.  In addition, market dynamics are very different and will continue to change.  Data has proven that the old strategies by themselves do not always work.  Therefore, strategies and products need to change with the market place. This means more research, communication and expense dedicated to clients.  Many providers avoid smaller accounts due to low profit potential.  Not at Saint-Laurent Advisors & Associates.  We help find the solutions to fit your needs.

 

SOLUTION: The Key Is Finding the Proper Vehicle To Solve the Problem:  At Saint Laurent Advisors (SLA), we represent our prospects and clients to find the proper solutions to suit each situation.  This means investors need to partner with advisors that will be ahead of the curve.  As an independent firm we are able to be more proactive and nimble. Therefore, we search out cutting edge strategies and offer alternatives – some not yet understood by most firms but likely to become standard practice.  Unlike traditional brokerage and highly advertised firms, SLA benefits as our clients profit.  Therefore, we are proactive in our suggestions and solutions.  Contrary to what many believe accountants and attorneys are not trained to be proactive and may not understand all the available options to their clients.  Beware the “generalist” advisory, who claims they are “fiduciaries” – there are varying degrees of “fiduciaries”.  Know the types of “fiduciaries designations”, defined by the Department Of Labor and the IRS, and which best suits your objectives.

 

Telephone: 978-232-9990

Websites: http://www.retirementplanninginbostonma.com/retirement-pl… www.StLaurentPro.com

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