Keep it Simple!

It’s no wonder that so many people find investing so confusing! We are constantly receiving conflicting messages about how to be successful investors.

The mutual fund industry tell us that picking stocks is difficult for the average investor, but a professional has a good chance of picking stocks that will outperform the market. They also tell us that a mutual fund that has outperformed the market in the past is likely to outperform the market in the future.

At the same time discount brokerage houses are telling us that picking stocks on your own is easy! They try to convince us that rapidly buying and selling stocks and other investments will lead to big gains. They want us to believe that we are equipped to time markets.
Then we have the mainstream financial media leading us to believe that knowing what happened to the market yesterday is essential for our success as investors. They infer that if we watch the news enough and listen to enough market analysis that we have a good chance of predicting the next market move.

Who should we believe? Each of these sources seem like they ought to know what they are talking about.

The reality is that the primary goal of each of these parties is not to provide us with quality information but to persuade us to consume their products and services. Knowing this we must tune them out and turn instead to unbiased sources of information, like actual academic studies. When we do this, we will encounter a few findings that have been confirmed time and time again. We will understand that any investor – even a full time professional – is unlikely to consistently outperform the market and that reliably predicting short-term market moves is impossible.

All of these facts lead to a very simple investment strategy. We should diversify our portfolios to an asset allocation that is appropriate to our risk tolerance and rebalance out portfolio whenever it strays from our desired allocations.
Keep it simple!

— Nikki Earley

Dunkin’ Donuts Wants to Lose the Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts Wants to Lose the DonutsDunkin’ is losing the “Donuts” in its name. You will still be able to get donuts at all Dunkin’ locations. But the Massachusetts donut-and-coffee chain, which has been increasingly emphasizing its coffee more than its donuts, says it will be dropping “Donuts” from the name of some stores. Recently, the industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News reported that an upcoming Dunkin’ Donuts location in Pasadena, Calif., will cut “Donuts” from the store name and go with just Dunkin’. The Pasadena location will be the first of several to try out the shorter store name.

There are more than 12,000 Dunkin’ Donuts locations worldwide, and it looks like only a handful could be affected in the near future. But if the Donuts-less name is a hit with customers, it could be adopted more widely. The chain wants people to think of its stores as a destination for coffee, although it will still sell doughnuts. Dunkin’ Donuts said it will not make a decision on whether it will change its name until late next year. “While we remain the number one retailer of donuts in the country, as part of our efforts to reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader, we will be testing signage in a few locations that refer to the brand simply as ‘Dunkin’,” the company said. The coffee chain has been referring to itself as “Dunkin” since it began its “American Runs on Dunkin’” advertising campaign more than a decade ago.

The trial run on the rebranded name may become part of a larger redesign that is set to roll out during mid-late 2018, and Dunkin’ Brands plans to determine “Dunkin’s” permanence at that time. The move reinforces comments made by chairman and CEO Nigel Travis during the company’s second quarter earnings call. Travis discussed the company’s initiative to streamline menus and design a new store layout so as to boost efficiency and increase its reputation as a “beverage-led, on-the-go brand.”

Travis said both menu innovation and simplification were key components of the company’s efforts to transform Dunkin’ Donuts. In conjunction with the streamlined offerings, the brand expects to rollout a new store layout in the near future. Dunkin’ also said it will offer curbside delivery to all franchisees. The company is also expanding delivery in the Miami market in a partnership with DoorDash.

Yet rebranding initiatives—like other company and product name changes—can be risky. Many Dunkin’ Donuts loyalists are very protective of their “Dunkies.” That is especially true in New England, where the brand is core to community identity: This is a place that created a mural of Boston Red Sox hero David Ortiz made entirely of Dunkin’ Donuts last year, in honor of his retirement. What is more, many other past corporate rebranding efforts have been mocked and quickly dropped. In 2011, for example, Netflix renamed its DVD delivery service Qwikster, leaving customers confused and frustrated. Less than a month later, Netflix nixed Qwikster; both its DVD and streaming products still go by the name Netflix.

Two of the most disastrous failed name changes happened in 2009. That is when Pizza Hut was met with ridicule for trying out the shorter, supposedly cooler “The Hut” as its name. Even worse, RadioShack became “The Shack”—again, briefly. It is understandable that RadioShack wanted to rebrand itself—few people buy radios anymore, and the company was struggling mightily—but the move was largely viewed as an embarrassing grasp at hipness. It was also just plain unappealing: Who would go to the shack to buy premium electronics?

The Dunkin’ Donuts’ change, which, again, is only being tested at select locations, seems like it is on safer ground than those puzzling rebranding initiatives. Then again, customers often frown on any changes whatsoever to the brands they love. This is especially true in tradition-bound New England, where there could be suspicion and resentment if anyone dares to mess with residents’ beloved Dunkin’ Donuts.


1. – CNN Money
2. – Nation’s Restaurant News

The Good News Is . . .

Good News• The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July while the unemployment rate fell to 4.3%, the lowest since March 2001, according to a government report. The number of employed Americans hit a new high of 153.5 million. The employment-to-population ratio also moved up to 60.2%, tied for the highest level since February 2009. The closely watched wage number was unchanged from previous months, with average hourly earnings up 2.5% on an annualized basis. The average work week also was unchanged at 34.5 hours. Bars and restaurants provided the biggest boost for the month with 53,000 more positives, while professional and business services contributed 49,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

• Archer Daniels Midland, Co., one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers, reported earnings of $0.57 per share, an increase of 39.0% over year-earlier earnings of $0.41 per share. The firm’s earnings topped the consensus estimate of analysts by $0.05. The company reported revenues of $14.1 billion. Management attributed the results to continued strength in its Ag Services and Corn Processing business units, as well as contributions from recent acquisitions.

• Discovery Communications announced a $11.9 billion deal for Scripps Networks Interactive to build a new force in cable television focused on nonscripted programs. The deal unites Discovery, which owns Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, with Scripps, which has Food Network and HGTV, a channel focused on home improvement. The combined companies will control about 20% of the ad-supported pay-television audience in the United States. It also will be home to five of the top TV networks popular with women, bringing the Scripps channels together with Discovery offerings that include TLC, Investigation Discovery and OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. The announcement comes amid sweeping consolidation in the telecommunications and media industries. Under the terms of the deal, Scripps’ shareholders will receive $63 a share in cash and $27 a share in Discovery common stock.


1. – Reuters
2. – CNBC
3. – Archer Daniels Midland, Co.
4. – NY Times Dealbook

Planning Tips

Tips for a Mid-Year Tax Checkup

Tips for a Mid-Year Tax CheckupTips for a Mid-Year Tax Checkup

After April 15, most of us are happy to ban all thoughts of income tax until next year’s tax deadline looms. But taking a little time to do a mid-year check-in and tune-up can really be worth it, saving you last-minute panic and cash. Take advantage of summer to lock in tax breaks and catch up with any payments you owe. It is the slow period in the world of tax advising, and, therefore, a good time to plan ahead before the year speeds up in December. Below are some things you might want to cover in a mid-year tax checkup. Be sure to consult with your tax advisor to determine what tax strategies are appropriate for your situation.

If you have an extension to file your 2016 tax return, do it now – Why wait until Oct. 15, when the return is due? If you are expecting a refund, the money should be earning interest for you, not the government. And if by some chance you have miscalculated (and underpaid) the tax you owe, the sooner you pay up the better. Penalties and interest start to accrue the day after the April tax deadline, even if you have filed for an extension.

Stay on track with tax payments – If you have had, or expect to have, any life-changing events during the year–marriage, divorce, having a child, buying a house, a spouse taking or leaving a job–you may need to adjust the amount of tax that is being withheld from your paycheck. You do not want to give Uncle Sam a big interest-free loan, but you do not want any underpayment penalties, either. The IRS has a withholding calculator, so you can get it right. If you need to make any adjustments, file a new W-4 form with your employer.

Review your retirement accounts – Could you afford to bump up your contributions or even max them out? Some companies are limiting and cutting back on their 401(k) contributions, but that does not mean you should. Check on your investments and asset allocation.

Determine if you are close to the itemize/don’t-itemize point for deductions – If so, you may want to use a strategy called bunching, in which you push discretionary write-offs into a year when you’re going to itemize, rather than one when you take the standard deduction. Think of scenarios such as the following: At mid-year, it looks like you are almost at the point where you could itemize. You usually give $1,000 to a particular charity each year. You are close to retirement, so next year you will not need the deductions to offset as much income. So this year you double up on your contribution to take advantage of itemization when you need it.

Get organized – Avoid another marathon session of receipt logging next April by enlisting the help of an app. For instance, Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker lets you scan receipts (valid for IRS documentation) with your iPhone, iPad, or Android mobile device, making it easy to track your expenses and deductions as you go along. The do-it-yourself program is free, or you can choose a paid plan (starting at $9.95/month after a free trial) that lets you mail in your receipts. Keeping up-to-date with expenses and maximizing your tax deductions is particularly important if you have business travel and entertainment expenses, or need to track business use of your personal car.


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2. – Inuit
3. – Investopedia
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