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Social Security Closing a Lucrative Loophole

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

If you're planning for retirement, you should be aware of Congress' recently enacted budget deal. Why? Because it eliminates a popular Social Security claiming strategy known as "file and suspend."

File and suspend is essentially a way for married couples to squeeze the maximum amount of benefit dollars from Social Security over their lifetimes. In some cases, file and suspend is projected to add hundreds of thousands of dollars to a couple's lifetime retirement income.

Before we go any further, it's important to clarify that couples who already have the file-and-suspend strategy in place will not be affected by the new legislation. In fact, there is still a six-month window for couples who meet certain age requirements to use file and suspend before the law's provisions take effect.

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Bringing the Evidence Home

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

Welcome to the final installment in our Evidence-Based Investment Insights: Bringing the Evidence Home. We hope you've enjoyed reading our series as much as we've enjoyed sharing it with you. Here are the key take-home messages from each installment:

  1. You, the Market and the Prices You Pay. Understanding group intelligence and its effect on efficient market pricing is a first step toward more consistently buying low and selling high in free capital markets.
  2. Ignoring the Siren Song of Daily Market Pricing. Rather than trying to react to ever-changing conditions and cutthroat competition, invest your life savings according to factors over which you can expect to have some control.
  3. Financial Gurus and Other Unicorns. Avoid paying costly, speculative "experts" to pinch-hit your market moves for you. The evidence indicates that their ability to consistently beat the market is rarer than rare.
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Don’t Sweat The Stock Market’s Volatility

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

The stock market has taken investors on a rollercoaster ride over the past few weeks, jangling plenty of nerves in the process.

In times like these, looking at some historical perspective can go a long way toward easing investors' minds. Specifically, let's look at market corrections, which are said to occur when the market falls 10% from a recent high point.

Market declines of 10% occur, on average, once per year, according to research by JP Morgan Asset Management. And drawdowns of 20% take place once per market cycle.

The bottom line is that corrections are completely normal. They're part of the process that, over time, keeps the prices of stocks in line with their fundamental value based on earnings and other factors. You might think of corrections as a pressure valve, keeping the market from expanding into a dangerous bubble.

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Behavioral Biases: What Makes Your Brain Trick?

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

In last month's blog, we discussed the deep-seated "fight or flight" instincts that that trick us into making significant money-management mistakes. Now let's take a look at a half-dozen of the behavioral biases that arise from our wiring, and how they can sabotage even the best-laid investment plans.

Behavioral Bias #1: Herd Mentality

Herd mentality is what happens to you when you see a market movement afoot and rush to join the stampede. The herd may be hurtling toward what seems like a hot buying opportunity, such as a "next big thing" stock. Or it may be fleeing a perceived risk, such as a country in economic turmoil. Either way, as we covered in "Ignoring the Siren Song of Daily Market Pricing," following the herd puts you on a dangerous path toward buying high, selling low and incurring unnecessary expenses.

Behavioral Bias #2: Recency

Your long-term plans are also at risk when you succumb to the tendency to give undue weight to recent information. In "What Drives Market Returns?" we learned that stocks have historically delivered premium returns over bonds. Whenever stock markets dip downward, though, we typically see recency bias at play, as droves of investors sell their stocks to seek "safe harbors." In a roaring bull market, they reverse course and buy.

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The Human Factor in Evidence-Based Investing

Written by Brian Puckett, CFP®, CPA/PFS, Attorney at Law.

Over the past several months, our blog series on evidence-based investing has explored the ways we can use stock and bond market factors to help drive an effective investment strategy.

We turn now to what is arguably the most significant factor in evidence-based investing: the human factor.

Despite everything we know about efficient capital markets and all the solid evidence available to guide our rational decisions, we're still human. We've got things going on in our heads that have nothing to do with solid evidence and rational decisions—a brew of instincts and emotions that spur us to leap before looking.