Some of you may not realize that my family and I are big fans of college football. If you follow college football closely like us, you likely will have already heard experts talking about who will win the national championship this season. Predicting the next national champion in college football may seem like it has very little to do with investing, but it can teach us some important lessons!
If you tried to predict who would win the national championship, you might start by looking at who performed the best over recent history. Since 2009, one university stands out above the rest. The University of Alabama football team has appeared in the championship game five times and won in four of those appearances. During this time period, Alabama has had dozens of players drafted into the NFL and head coach Nick Saban has asserted himself as arguably the greatest coach in college football history. The performance of the team cannot be disputed.
Like the Alabama football team, the track record of the U.S. equity market (and the S&P 500 index in particular) has been impressive since 2009. Just as Alabama boasts a team full of future NFL players, the S&P 500 consists of the most highly sought-after companies. When you look at recent history, it is no wonder the financial press has been giving U.S. equity markets a lot of love.
Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results
While recent history has been very good for the Alabama football team, things did not always look so bright. Before 2009, the last time Alabama won the national championship was 1992 – a drought of seventeen years. Just as Alabama fans may be quick to forget their seventeen year title drought, some investors who allocate their investments only to the U.S. are quick to forget the Lost Decade. The Lost Decade was the time period from 2000 to 2009 bookmarked by two recessions in the U.S. Meanwhile, world markets had returns far superior to the U.S. Where would you rather have been invested during the Lost Decade?
A World of Opportunity
The University of Alabama has had a lot of success compared to other college football programs, yet it is still only one of 128 colleges and universities in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. Any one of these schools can be crowned the national champion in any given year. In fact, over the past twenty years, a university not named “University of Alabama” has won the national championship 80% of the time.
Something similar can be said for the U.S. The U.S. represents only about half of the overall global equity markets. If you chose to invest in only the U.S., you would be missing out! Since 1997, the U.S. was the top performing country in any given year only one time in 2014.
The Lesson: Diversify Your Investments
If you try to pick which region will be the top performer in any given year, you will find this is a game that you can almost never win. The best thing an investor can do is diversify their portfolio by selecting investments both in the U.S. and abroad. By investing in a globally diversified portfolio versus a concentrated portfolio, you have a much better chance at capturing the best returns, no matter which sector they come from. Of course, there will be times that your portfolio contains a “losing team,” but sufficient diversification can help balance out the winners and the losers thereby reducing the chances that you experience a losing streak.
— Nikki Earley
Who’s Afraid of Amazon? Everyone.
Best Buy and Macy’s are each expanding their same-day delivery service to more markets as they look to keep Amazon.com and other rivals at bay. The two retailers each recently announced the expansion of the number of markets where they are respectively offering customers the options to receive online orders on the day they were placed in a bid to protect their recent strong e-commerce growth.
In the case of Best Buy, the electronics retailer is more than doubling the number of metro areas that will have the service to 27 and the company said in a blog it expects same-day delivery to be available in at least 40 cities in time for the holiday season, by far Best Buy’s most crucial time of the year. Best Buy will also sharply reduce the service fee to $5.99 from $14.99 and is adding more products to the merchandise available for same day delivery. Earlier this week, Best Buy reported strong results for its most recent quarter, including a 31.2% jump in online sales.
As for Macy’s, the struggling department store chain is adding 15 more markets to where it offers same-day delivery to 33, while its sister chain, Bloomingdale’s is adding two. The fee will be $8 for online orders of at least $99 at Macy’s and $150 at the upscale Bloomingdale’s. The efforts by both chains, which are both in the top 10 largest online retailers in the United States, are crucial as they and their brick-and-mortar peers look to compete with Amazon, but also with the likes of Walmart and Target which are speeding up their own delivery offerings.
Both companies will be working with Deliv, a Silicon Valley company that works closely with retailers to enable shoppers to place their orders directly on company e-commerce sites and apps and track their packages. Best Buy will also work with another company to provide the service in another 10 markets where Deliv isn’t available. Best Buy started testing this service in 2014, followed by Macy’s in 2015. Both companies have shifted much of their capital expenditure budgets to beefing up e-commerce.
Kohl’s is also working on a strategy for dealing with Amazon. Adhering to the old adage to ‘keep your enemies closer,’ Kohl’s has struck a deal to operate Amazon.com-branded shops at some of its stores. The department store chain, looking to shake off six straight quarters of sales declines, said on Wednesday it will provide 1,000 square feet of space at some 10 Kohl’s stores in the Los Angeles and Chicago areas next month and focus on Amazon’s smart home offerings. Kohl’s joins the ranks of retailers such as Sears to make the pragmatic choice to collaborate with a company that has captured significant market share from brick-and-mortar chains in recent years.
“This is a smart move, and puts Kohl’s ahead of its department store peers (many of which are focusing less on the electronics category), as the retailer now boasts a unique, differentiated traffic driver that sets them apart from the pack,” Jefferies analyst Randal Konik wrote in a research note. The Amazon areas will be staffed by Amazon employees and showcase how a variety of Amazon devices, including Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Fire TV, Fire tablets, and others interact with Alexa, Amazon’s voice-enabled technology.
The move also shows how even Amazon, which has been opening a number of its own stores, sees the benefit of physical retail at a time it is pushing its Echo products and the like, Konik said. Indeed, as soon as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market closed last week, the online retailer’s Echo devices could be seen at Whole Foods stores across the country.
The Good News Is . . .
• U.S. worker productivity was stronger than initially thought in the second quarter, leading to a modest increase in labor costs that could keep inflation muted in the near term. The Labor Department said that nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, rose at a 1.5% annualized rate. Productivity was previously reported to have increased at a 0.9% pace in the April-June period. It grew at a 0.1% rate in the first quarter.
• Korn Ferry International Inc., a leading global executive search and organizational advisory firm, reported earnings of $0.55 per share, an increase of 5.7% over year-earlier earnings of $0.52 per share. The firm’s earnings topped the consensus estimate of analysts by $0.03. The company reported revenues of $401.3 million, an increase of 5.8%. Management attributed the results to strength across all of its business segments, as well as lower operating costs.
• United Technologies has agreed to buy the airplane parts maker Rockwell Collins for $30 billion, including debt, establishing an industrial giant and cementing one of the largest deals ever in the aerospace industry. Under the terms of the deal, United Technologies—a diverse business that includes the Otis escalator and elevator brands and Pratt & Whitney, which makes high-performance aircraft engines—will pay $140 a share in cash and stock. Rockwell investors will receive $93.33 a share in cash and the remaining $46.67 in United Technologies stock. Buying Rockwell—which produces electronics and avionics for aircraft, including the F-35 fighter jet—would complement United Technologies’ offerings without any overlap. It also would give the firm more negotiating leverage over the airplane makers Boeing and Airbus.
Tips for Having the Estate Planning “Talk” with Aging Parents
Estate planning is never an easy topic. Many people plan for everything else in their lives but put this subject off. Adult children are reluctant to have the discussion with their parents. Postponing it and any related estate planning can leave loved ones with issues after death that will be costly to resolve. The talk with parents is one that needs to be addressed with care and compassion. Below are five topics you should, at the bare minimum, discuss with our parents and tips on how to approach the subjects. Be sure to consult with your financial advisor to get their recommendations on how best to have this conversation.
Do You Have a Will or a Trust? – While asking this question will not be the easiest thing you will do, it will help set the foundation for future conversations. A good approach may be bringing up a concern about your own estate planning. Blame it on your estate planning attorney or financial advisor if needed. Crafting the question around your issues may lead to a more natural conversation about their own. The key is to let the conversation take a natural turn by not rushing it, helping to open the line of communication for future discussions.
Have You Named Your Health Care Surrogate and Power of Attorney? – Estate planning does not start and end with the creation of a will or trust. While having one is essential for anyone, regardless of income or net worth, it is important to note that a health care surrogate and power of attorney appointment are among those critical documents too. Whoever is named as the surrogate is able to make health care decisions and receive protected information on behalf of that person if he or she is unable to make those decisions. A power of attorney is similar, except that it extends to financial and general affairs. Seek the help of a qualified estate planning attorney for assistance with these documents.
Are Your Named Beneficiaries Current? – Families may change as the years go by, and the beneficiary list created five or 10 years ago may need updating. It is easy to have this update slip by, especially if your employer’s plan or life insurance agent does not send out yearly reminders, but it should be part of an annual review for everyone. Keeping the list of beneficiaries updated is one way of preventing future problems. It may also help avoid unfortunate issues such as will contests or family disputes about inheritances.
Where Do You Keep Your Important Documents? – In an emergency, at least one designated person should know where to access important documents (e.g. tax returns, financial account statements, bank statements, life insurance policies, long-term-care policies, health insurance, online access information, and advisors’ and attorneys’ contact information). You may find it helpful to set aside an afternoon to review the documents with your parents and ensure everything is up-to-date. If your parents have a safe deposit box, ask where the keys, combinations and any pertinent details are kept.
Are There Any Other Personal Wishes or Matters to be Discussed? – This may be the toughest question of all, especially because no one wants to think about what it means. Once again, compassion and understanding are key. You may discover that your parents have different views from yours, and it is important that those views are expressed ahead of time. While many of these topics will be covered in the will and designation of health care surrogate and power of attorney documents, it is equally important to have a conversation about their personal wishes. No one wants to face familial disputes over how to take care of a sick parent.