Thursday, February 16, 2017

Using Tech to Stay on Track

Using Tech to Stay on Track
presented by Sharon Duncan, a Houston Financial Advisor

The New Year is symbolic in many respects. It gives you a chance to start fresh and set some goals that can improve your life in ways large and small. But if you’re like many people, familiar resolutions like “lose weight” or “go to the gym” slowly fade into darkness by mid-February, leaving you feeling disappointed in yourself.

This year, why not try focusing on a different aspect of your life—your finances? Instead of vowing to slim down, you can work on fattening your wallet with some tech-related resolutions. (And they’re probably more sustainable than waking up at 5:00 A.M. to hit the gym before work!)

Making your finances a priority in 2017

Being aware of your finances, staying on budget, and spending less are easy resolutions to adopt. All you have to do is say these three phrases out loud: “I am going to be more cognizant of my finances this year,” “I am going to be extremely frugal this year,” and finally, “I am not going to spend as much as I did last year.” That’s it—you’re done with your New Year’s resolutions.

Only kidding! Simply making these resolutions and hoping for the best isn’t going to work. You need to take a more tactical approach to bettering your finances. Fortunately, a number of smartphone apps and other tech tools are available to help you be more disciplined in your budgeting and spending, turning those resolutions into worthwhile, maintainable habits.

There’s an app for that!
Mint. One of the first budgeting apps available was Mint—a program that allows you to see all of your accounts in one place. By creating a log of your purchases, the app helps you keep track of your spending. After building up a large enough sample size of your purchases and transactions, Mint will even start categorizing them automatically. The app will alert you when bills are due and if any fees have been assessed on your linked accounts. In addition, Mint monitors your credit card balance relative to your spending limits, and it will warn you if any balances exceed a certain threshold of available credit.

Digit. Would you like to be better about putting money into your savings account on a regular basis? If so, then Digit could be the tech solution for you. This service, which also includes an app, monitors your spending patterns via your checking account to calculate a suitable amount to transfer to savings. You also have the option of manually adding money to your savings account by initiating transfer requests. Plus, as a Digit user, you’ll receive weekly reports via text message to keep you abreast of your current balances.

Prosper Daily. Given the growing threat of cybercrime, you may be worried about protecting your identity and making sure no one else has access to your hard-earned money. Prosper Daily helps deter scammers, targeting activity that doesn’t seem quite right on your linked accounts. It can even track your GPS location to see if your cards are being used elsewhere. For instance, if your card is used and it doesn’t match up to your current location, you’ll receive an alert via the app to notify you of this discrepancy. Then, you can dispute the charge right from your phone. To provide even more protection, it also performs regular “black market surveillance”—scanning websites and hacker forums to ensure that your personal information is not being traded, bought, or sold.

Mint Bills. If you need help keeping track of when bills are due during the course of the month, this app is for you. With Mint Bills, you can see all of your account balances, transactions, and the due dates of certain bills. It allows you to view your bills (e.g., credit card, insurance, and utilities) in one centralized place, includes a reminder system to help you avoid late fees, and lets you pay bills directly from the app.

Toshl. Skeptical of linking your whole world to your smartphone? More of a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to budgeting and spending? If you’re not comfortable uploading all of your information and account numbers to the digital world, Toshl may be the right fit for you. The app allows you to manually enter and categorize transactions as you see fit. It will also notify you when bills are due, analyze trends based on your past spending habits, and allow you to easily export your data to an Excel or PDF file.

Cheers to better financial fitness
In this day and age, using technology to your advantage is a must. With the help of your Houston financial advisor and these apps that are available right at your fingertips, you can ensure that you stick to your spending and budgeting resolutions. Here’s to greater financial knowledge, organization, and prosperity in the New Year!

Putting Our Technical Expertise to Work for You

Putting Our Technical Expertise to Work for You
Presented by Sharon Duncan, providing Financial Planning Services in Houston

The workshop was intensive, digging into a wide variety of retirement topics including, IRA withdrawal strategies; the latest DOL rulings; tax planning for investment income; charitable IRA rollovers; and actual court decisions regarding retirement account beneficiaries.

Attending the Slott workshop and gaining insight into the latest retirement requirements helps ensure our financial planning services in Houston are up-to-date and accurate which is crucial for our clients' retirement success .

According to the Washington Post, 10,000 baby boomers per day are taking center stage on the retirement front and Selah Financial is prepared!
Sharon Duncan and Derrick Callis completed an in-depth retirement training workshop from America’s IRA Experts with Ed Slott and Company at the end of 2016, just as about 2.8 million Americans turned 70.

The workshop was held in Coronado, California where members of Ed Slott’s Elite and Master Elite IRA Advisor Groups℠ convened to discuss the latest retirement account planning strategies, new tax laws, and guidelines for the recent Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rules.

“Americans who turned 70 in 2016 are the first wave of baby boomers leading the way in tackling a new retirement challenge – required minimum distribution," says Ed Slott, CPA, founder of Ed Slott and Company and a nationally recognized IRA expert. "These mandatory distributions start once a taxpayer turns 70½, but many factors should be considered when timing your first withdrawal, including your income level, taxes and even your birthday.”

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Time, not timing, is what matters.

When it comes to investing in the market, we believe, it is not the market, but rather time in the market that truly matters. So many investors spend time trying to "guess" what the market is going to do. But any way you slice it, in our experience, timing the market just doesn't work.

Rather, it is our belief that investors who have stayed the course through the long haul - even through periods of declining stock prices - are in a much better place when all is said and done.

For some, this may be extremely difficult to do - especially during times when it appears that the market is in a state of decline. Nobody likes to sit and watch their money "disappear". So it can be tough to stay the course.

But even though selling when there is a sudden downward movement in the market may limit your short-term losses, you may also miss out on an upward swing in the market. According to Market Analysis, Research and Education (MARE) group, a unit of Fidelity Management & Research Co., the investors who sold and remained out of the market (S&P 500 Index) after it fell by 20 percent on October 19, 1987, would have missed out on the 15 percent climb over the following two days.

Likewise, an investor who sold after eight down days in the fall of 2008 would have missed out of the 6th largest one-day gain ever on October 11, when the S&P rose by 12 percent, also stated by MARE. This, too, highlights the importance of investing for the long-term, and not getting caught up in the "hype" of short-term market movements.

All indices are unmanaged and investors cannot actually invest directly into an index. Unlike investments, indices do not incur management fees, charges or expenses. Past performance does not guarantee future results.The S&P 500 Index is a broad-based measurement of changes in the stock market conditions based on the average performance of 500 widely held common stocks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

There is Always Scary News

Every time I turn on the TV, it seems as though bad news is flooding the screen. Of course, this news has an effect on the stock market, keeping many investors away. While it may seem like times are tough right now, there has actually always been negativity out in the world, and in turn, reasons to keep your money close. But the truth is, if you stop investing during "bad" times, you will lose out on quality investment opportunities.

Here are just a few examples of what would have occurred in terms of dollar amounts and average total returns if you had invested $10,000 in the (            )  on these historic days:
  • Terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Ten years later, you would have had $12,715 which is a 2.4% return. By the end of 2013, you would have had $21,168 - a 6.3% return. 
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped a record 22.6 percent in one day on October 18, 1987. Ten years later, you would have had $44,268 which is a 16.0% return. By the  end of 2013, you would have had $137,666 which is a 10.5% return.
  • President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Ten years later, you would have had $22,945 which is an 8.7% return. By the end of 2013, you would have had $2,171,751 which is an 11.3% return.
  • Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. Ten years later, you would have had $34,710 which is a 13.3% return. By the end of 2013, you would have had $37,870,576 which is a 12.1% return.
      Spreading fear is profitable for the 24/7 news channels and is designed to keep you tuned in for more information. Their ongoing, fear-based programming is harmful to you and your investing program. 

[     *Results are calculated by (            )

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Reflection Reveals Economic Truth

Our nation’s dialogue is drumming red, white, and blue as we continue to draw closer to November 8th. Our upcoming election has prompted plenty of debate across several avenues, including how the outcome might affect our investments. It seems that even during family dinner, it is hard to break away from the clatter of opinions. So, how are we supposed to find solace in the middle of a heated presidential campaign?

Answer: Pause and consider . . . because your investment return is not determined by whether we have a Democrat or Republican in the White House. Sure, this is easier said than done! While there is cJanita thisonstant rhetoric around elections, it is important to ask yourself two things:

  • Do you remember the past elections affecting the performance of your investments over the long run?
  • Does your experience reflect an investment return that was different whether a Democratic or Republican president was in office? 
This is not the first time our economy has adjusted to a new president and it certainly won't be the last. We encourage you to please let your goals determine your actions, not the current president's political affiliation. However, if you are struggling to make sense of this in regards to your investments, please know that we are here for you. Just reach out to our trained specialists at

In times like these, it helps to recall there have always been times like these.”
- Paul Harvey 

Six truths that won't be affected by the election's outcome.

It is a common perception that the stock market will fare better when a Republican is in the White House because the Grand Old Party tends to be pro-business. A related perception is that Democrats hinder economic and market growth with higher taxes and increased regulation. The historical evidence just doesn't support either notion.

In truth, investors who stay the course are likely to fare much better than those who invest only when one of the two major political parties controls the White House. In fact, if you look at the returns of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since its invention in 1897, it's clear the stock market does not favor either party.
Everything Investors Need to Know—and Should IgnoreAbout the Upcoming Election
  • Gridlock doesn’t mean nothing gets done.
  • Changes in Washington don’t typically come all at once but in increments.
  • Campaign rhetoric doesn’t always influence what happens during a president’s tenure.
  • Consumers and businesses have a far greater impact on the economy than the government.
  • The state of the economy influences who is president, not vice versa.
  • The stock market doesn’t care if the public is happy with who is president. 
The U.S. election will, as always, give us sufficient reasons for both optimism and despair but as an investor, your long-term goals, plan and behavior should shape your investment decisions, not your reaction to who wins the presidential election. However, if you have needs or concerns that you would like to discuss with us in person, please give us a call at 281.990.7100 or email!

"Well-positioned, well-led companies will create investment value regardless of who sits in the White House."

Jerry Webman, Ph.D., CFA Chief Economist for OppenheimerFunds

Bad news always gets more attention

It's easy to focus on the doom and gloom reported in our 24/7 news world. Simply put, bad news always gets more attention!

The focus on bad news seems even worse in an election year when candidates can't stop speaking about the country's problems. Of course this is followed closely by all the reasons the candidate is the man/woman for the job!

According to Warren Buffett in his annual shareholder letter released this spring, it is because of this constant negative drumbeat that many Americans now believe their children will not live as well as they themselves do.

"That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history," said Buffett.

He goes on to claim that the American GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita is a staggering six times the amount it was in 1930.Moreover, Buffett doesn't believe that Americans are smarter or work harder now than they did then. They just work more efficiently, allowing for more production. 

"This all-powerful trend is certain to continue: America's economic magic remains alive and well. For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start. America’s golden goose of commerce and innovation will continue to lay more and larger eggs. America’s social security promises will be honored and perhaps made more generous. And, yes, America’s kids will live far better than their parents did," said Buffett. 

"Every pessimist who ever lived has been buried in an unmarked grave. Tomorrow has always been better than today, and it always will be."
- Paul Harvey