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“Lists are how I parse and manage the world.”
                            -Adam Savage


I always have a handful of potential topics for these newsletters. Sometimes I start writing and it just fizzles out. Sometime I just can't get a topic to make sense without going thousands of words, so I scrap it (I know what you're thinking, "These could be longer?) Then sometimes I have small topics or points of interest that don't lend themselves to a whole article. I've built up the latter over the last few months, so this newsletter is taking the form of a list. Ten (hopefully) interesting things, some derived from past newsletter articles and some just small tidbits you might like to know.

  • The Old College Try

The average cost of a four year, private college in the Northeastern United States is $62,000. I've been looking at colleges with my daughter and trust me, that sticker shock doesn't wear off. But here's what that means, if you have newborn and want to put enough money away to pay for their education at a private college, assuming you earn 6% on the money you put away and the cost of college only goes up by 3% (half of the actual increase over the last few decades) you would have to put away $1,100 / Mo. for the next 18 years!

  • The High Cost of Dying

The Federal Estate Tax Exemption is essentially $11,400,000. If you are wealthier than that, please call me, but also your estate will pay a tax of 40% on the amount OVER that figure. So if you have $11,400,001 you will pay 40 cents in Estate Tax. The Massachusetts Estate Tax exemption is only $1,000,000 per person (the tax rate is much lower) if you are married you can't automatically transfer your spouse's exemption to your own but more shockingly, if you exceed that figure you will pay taxes on ALL the money - not just what exceeds the limit. So if you have $999,999 at death you'll pay no Massachusett's Estate Tax, if you have $1,000,001 you will pay over $35,000. So do your Estate Planning!

  • Timing is Everything

I mentioned last month that an inverted yield curve is an indicator a recession is coming, but that the lead time can be fairly long and that's why we don't make dramatic moves. I recently came across some information from Robert Ross, editor of The Weekly Profit that goes into even more detail. While an inverted yield curve has been a precursor for every recession since 1956, the average time frame between that inversion and the recession has been 18 months, and during that intermediate period the S&P 500 has averaged a 32% increase.

  • No HAL Here

I hate phone trees. I hate calling a company that is supposed to "service" me; the insurance company, my bank, heck even my doctors office, and I have to navigate a phone message service. Or how you have to input your account number but then still tell the customer service agent what that number is again - if you're lucky enough to talk to a person and not a robot. During normal business hours we have a real live human being that answers the phone and knows you by name if you're a client. As long as I am in charge that's the way it will stay.

  • Oh Grow Is Me

First Quarter Economic Growth blew the doors of the estimates at 3.2%. I had the pleasure of speaking with Brad McMillian, Chief Investment Officer of Commonwealth over a cocktail not so long ago and we tossed around the reasons why this might be misleading. I'm not going to try and summarize a conversation I had over a scotch - but Brad was nice enough to write something up about the same topic - you can read here.

  • I'll Brexit Later

The plan to exit Great Britain from the European Union has been delayed by six months - they now have until the first of October to come up with a plan. The EU itself has seemed more accommodating then they did early in the year, but at the end of the day this is a political decision and will require a political solution. The British Parliament can't reject every plan forever and they know this - they just need six more months to spread the blame enough that no one party bares the full brunt of any negative economic consequences.

  • Did You Know

We can aggregate all your accounts through our Investor360 system? So you log on to just that site and you can get up to date information on bank accounts, 401K's - even mortgage balances and credit card statements? Well we can. We're also working on being able to text to communicate financial information (right now we cannot use texts to conduct business) and if you need any financial documents scanned and shredded and you are a current client - we'd be happy to schedule a time to do that for you.

  • ESG ASAP

A few months ago we unveiled our ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) portfolios and explained a little about what they were. Recently the Marriott hotel chain announced it was stopping the use of plastic straws at all it's 6500 locations - this is another example of the impact ESG investing can have on corporate behavior. If you want more information please give us a call, I'm happy to talk to you or just send out a brochure -there's also some new information on our website . If you belong to a group or club that might need a speaker at your monthly meeting - this is a great topic and I'd be happy to come and discuss it.

  • Inflation Mistaken

We've been hearing for years that there is little to no inflation. While it's certainly not the late 70's or early 80's - it's hard to believe the rate is as low as we're being told it is. The Fed may be the biggest culprit. The Fed doesn't even use the flawed CPI number that informs the Social Security Administration and they cite in the news, they use the CPE ( Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index.) The CPE seeks to adjust prices for the greater utility you get out of things you buy. So for example, the actual average car price has increased 14% over the past five years, and 28% over the past ten. But since the average car today has features; like GPS, Bluetooth, and various collision warning systems that cars ten years ago didn't have the Fed backs out the extra value of those items since you're paying more for those - not for the four tires and an engine. Under the CPE the average price of a car has only gone up by 11% over ten years and actually gone down 0.3% over five years. This would be fine if you could actually go to the car dealership and buy a brand new 2009 car - but since you can't in the real world the sticker price of a car has gone up by almost 3% per year, not the 1.1% the Fed calculates. By the way, many people want to use the CPE to set the rate of increase on Social Security benefits rather than the CPI - which over the last ten years would have cost you about half the already paltry increase in benefits.

  • Are They Any Good?

There's no perfect system to find a good financial adviser. You want a combination of trust, competence, understanding, empathy and diligence. Plus sometimes it just comes down to personality - is this somebody I want to talk to a several times a year for the next couple decades? While I encourage you to check out our website and like our Facebook page, those only show you what we want to show you. FINRA, our regulator, has a site called brokercheck where you can at least find out if your adviser is properly licensed and if they've had any criminal or civil actions brought against them. If you are shopping for a financial adviser this is a good place to start.

Please let me know if you need anything, or want to follow up on any of the above. Let's hope for an early summer.