Is It Time to Take Some Chips Off the Table?

Is It Time to Take Some Chips Off the Table?

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For those of you looking forward to reading Part 2 of the New Tax Law – Don’t Let the Tax Tail Wag the Dog post, my apologies to you. It will be published next week. After the recent surge in stock prices with the notable exception of Apple, which has lost 265 points, or 38% of its value, in just four months from its September 21st high of 705.07 to its close of 439.88 this past Friday, I feel compelled to write and publish this post first.

I was in Las Vegas attending a professional conference last week which may have been the impetus for the title of this post. As an investment advisor, when I see the Dow Jones Industrial Average increase by 792 points, or 6%, from its December 31st close of 13,104.14 to Friday’s close of 13,895.98 in less than one month, including 13 out of 17 sessions when the closing price has exceeded that of the previous day with 7 consecutive daily increases through Friday, on top of a 7.3% increase in 2012, I take notice. The phrase “reversion to the mean” comes to mind.

As a retirement income planner, I look for windows of opportunity for my clients to transfer, what amounts to slivers of their investment portfolio in many cases, from the unpredictable fluctuations of the stock market to conservative investments that are designed to provide guaranteed income* payable over a specified period of time that they can depend on throughout retirement. This includes single premium immediate annuities (“SPIA’s”), deferred income annuities (“DIA’s”), and fixed index annuities (“FIA’s”) with income riders. Since my crystal ball shattered years ago, I don’t try to time the market to determine when it has peaked in order to recommend and perform this heroic service for my clients.

While my clients are unanimously very happy with the recent increased value of their portfolios, I know from many years of experience that this state of euphoria is often short-lived. The reality is that their equity allocation is more than what is targeted for their portfolio in several cases. As a result, the risk associated with their portfolio is greater than what is appropriate for their risk tolerance level. This is inevitably a ticking time bomb unless corrective action is taken in a timely manner.

Shifting a portion of a managed investment portfolio to guaranteed income* at opportune moments has proven to be a winning strategy for my clients within 20 years of, or in, retirement. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Each time that a client implements this recommendation, he/she accomplishes two important goals shared by all individuals doing retirement income planning: (a) portfolio risk reduction and (b) decreased likelihood of running out of money in retirement.

Although I haven’t done any formal large-scale studies, I can confidently state from personal and client experience that this generally results in reduced short- and long-term stress levels, fewer cases of insomnia, and less health issues in general for those individuals who implement this strategy compared to those who don’t. This unequivocally trumps the short-term euphoria associated with increased portfolio values in a bull market.

Let Apple’s recent experience be a lesson for us all. Don’t be afraid to take some chips off the table, especially when your retirement, health, and happiness are at stake.

*Subject to the claims-paying ability of individual insurance carriers

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