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It's About Context...

People frequently ask my opinion on financial issues and economic events. This blog allows me to answer their questions and provide context for those things that affect their financial health.

Once Again…It’s On! Here We Go! Top Stock Picks for 2015.

Every December, the financial media publishes and broadcasts the predictions of Wall Street analysts and money managers who offer their top stock picks for the year to come.

When people ask me what I think about the predictions or what the markets will do, I tell them bluntly, “I have no idea!  Your guess is as good as mine.”

To evaluate these predictions, I highly recommend doing the following easy and educational exercise, which I’ve been doing for over a decade:

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The FOCUS Blog is Back!

The FOCUS Blog is Back!

After a very lengthy hiatus, we are happy to announce the relaunch of our blog.  With the new look and features, we hope you like it as much as we do!  

Look for new posts beginning next week!

Please route any questions, ideas, or suggestions that you have for the Blog to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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Work with someone who works in your best interest

There is a lot of confusion about how different types of financial “professionals” work. On one hand, you have brokers or registered representatives (RR) who work for broker-dealers and insurance agents who represent insurance companies. On the other, you have investment advisors (IAR) who work for Registered Investment Advisors (RIA). While people use the generic term financial advisor to describe all three, there is a substantive and legal difference among them.

(The term financial advisor did not exist until the late 1990s and was a deliberate and brilliant marketing tactic to recast product sales people (i.e., brokers and agents) in a more positive light and blur the distinction among RR, agents and IARs). Suitability or Fiduciary?

RR’s and insurance agents work on the suitability standard. This means that as long as they get information about your net worth, determine how much risk you can handle and verify that you are financially qualified, he or she can recommend a product that is not necessarily in your best interest. You bear all the risk. Suitability is essentially a “buyer beware” standard filled with conflicts of interests.

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The urgent need for a universal fiduciary standard

I closed my last entry with the question: Under which standard would you rather the professional financial advice giver work: suitability or fiduciary?

The answer is obvious, but let me share with you what’s happening behind the scenes.

For decades, the term fiduciary has been foreign to the investing public. Over the last decade and with enactment of Dodd-Frank, it is now entering the public consciousness. (The Dodd-Frank Act is the most extensive financial regulatory laws enacted since The Great Depression. Among other things, the laws aim to prevent another financial crisis and increase consumer protections).

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Tactical Management Is Nothing New

The 2008 financial crisis caused investors to gain a true appreciation of market volatility. We saw that market declines can be fast, furious and nasty. During this period, there were thousands, if not tens of thousands, of articles and editorials proclaiming the benefits of tactical investment management. Tactical management has been around for years, but its popularity increased with the financial crisis.

What is tactical investment management? It is an approach where the portfolio manager dynamically shifts the asset allocation (investment mix) in response to market trends and macro-economic conditions. Tactical supporters assert that this approach is most effective when markets are flat or down.

If you’ve been to one of our investment workshops, you know I would say tactical management is simply “market timing” in disguise.

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"What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say." ---- Ralph Waldo Emerson