Even hotshot money managers rarely beat the averages by actively picking individual stocks or funds, especially over the long haul. That style has been called the Loser’s Game, and we approach it using Bart Simpson’s wisdom: “Can’t win? Don’t try.” Instead, our advice only looks at asset classes – broad categories of investments that tend to rise or fall together.
We’re not the only ones. Take a peek behind the industry’s curtain and you’ll notice a curious fact: virtually everyone who manages long-term investments, such as for retirement, uses the same fundamental approach. It’s called Modern Portfolio Theory, or MPT. And from the most conservative pension funds to the hottest startups, it’s truly the industry standard.
Apart from all the calculus, what MPT does is really pretty simple. It lets us model the returns of 16 asset classes, lining them up across the spectrum of volatility and return. By matching your needs to this range of possibilities, we build a portfolio that balances risk and reward as efficiently as possible. What that means for you is that whatever your needs and goals, you’ll get the most effective strategy to meet them.
Most advisors, even the most expensive, human kind, will ask you “what’s your tolerance for risk?” If you answer is something like “Huh?” we couldn’t agree more. Instead, we start with your goal: the total amount money we project that you’ll need for a realistic, comfortable, worry-free retirement. Then we work from there to dial in the risk level and investment strategy you’ll need to get there.
Nobody knows for sure how a given investment strategy will work out in real life. To guide your advice, we run a Monte Carlo simulation on your portfolio. Sadly, this doesn’t involve black tie attire and fancy drinks. It means we calculate your future results a zillion different times based on a wide range of possible conditions, and analyze all the outcomes. The result is a projection of the retirement income you can expect with a high level of confidence.
Most people don’t like risk. But in the investment world, taking on carefully calculated amounts of risk is simply how you make money. Research shows that when your portfolio loses value, the pain you feel tends to be more acute than the satisfaction you experience when your holdings gain by an equal amount.
To account for the emotions associated with losing and making money, we created a unique risk-return assessment methodology called bi-constant relative risk aversion, or BI-CRRA. (If you really want to know, BI-CRRA treats gains differently from losses and seeks to avoid painful losses.) Translation: your portfolio thinks the way you do.
When it’s finally time to turn the retirement assets you’ve saved into actual retirement income, you’d be surprised by how many sophisticated advisors fall back on the old “4% rule” – take out about 4% a year and hope for the best. Instead, our proprietary approach optimizes your total retirement income over time, and features a consumption-smoothing model that matches real-world behavior.
Timing is everything, as they say. Both before and after you retire, we track the tax implications of every dollar as well as its investment potential. We make all investment recommendations with an eye to tax-efficiency. And when you decide take out money, we use complex logic to decide where and when your withdrawals will be most advantageous.
Social Security is a big piece of the financial puzzle for most retirees. It's also an area where the obvious choice - taking benefits right away - can actually be a costly mistake. We model Social Security as part of the big picture, and provide detailed advice on how to make the most of your benefits over a lifetime.