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Letter to Clients - 3rd Quarter 2023

July 2023

Dear Clients and Friends:

We have reached the halfway point of 2023 and the celebration of our Nation’s independence on the 4th of July. So far, being an investor in 2023 is a lot like a fireworks display. We have seen some amazing, beautiful displays of wonder like new Artificial Intelligence chat bots interspersed with the occasional loud, bright, and scary BOOM which can rattle the unsuspecting spectator.

We hope that if (when?) you get rattled financially, you use DV Financial as a resource. Most of the time, with a little research and understanding, we learn that the noise is just a distraction, and our safety is never in jeopardy.

In this letter, we are going to start with news about the upcoming transition from TD Ameritrade to Schwab, provide our outlook on the markets, and finish with tips to protect yourself from scams.

Moving from TD Ameritrade to Schwab

Many years ago, when I became an independent financial advisor, one of the first decisions I had to make was to select a custodian for my client’s assets. There are lots of institutional custodians with a myriad of products available, but eventually I narrowed the list down to two. TD Ameritrade and Schwab. But I was having a difficult time picking one over the other. Eventually, I was given sage advice. I was told that they are both great custodians and that I should just pick one because either would be fine. I chose TD Ameritrade and have never regretted the decision.

In 2020, during the pandemic, Schwab purchased TD Ameritrade with the intent of merging the two companies into Schwab.  Together, this merger involves around 40 million accounts, each company provides services for thousands of Registered Investment Advisors who, in turn, have anywhere from a handful of advisors to thousands of advisors. Taking two large organizations and blending them into one would be no simple task.

The team at Schwab has been working on this complex task for three years and the transition will finalize around the Labor Day holiday in September. The transition team has been diligent about communicating the process with the associated investment professionals and now that the merger is weeks away, they have started sending communications to clients as well.

You do not need to take any action. Your account will transition from TD Ameritrade to Schwab automatically. However, there are a few things you should know.

First, if you log into TD Ameritrade’s website to see your account, you will have to establish a new login with Schwab. Soon they will be sending you instructions on how to set up your Schwab login and you should be able to see your account through Schwab’s platform before it transfers to Schwab. You must have a Schwab login if you do not want to receive paper statements or paper trade confirmations.

Second, your account number will change but this should have minimal effect. If you have linked your bank account(s) to your TD Ameritrade account, that link will transfer to the new account at Schwab. During this three-year planning process, we believe we have transition plans in place with all our internal systems, although there may be a glitch or two. If we do experience any glitches, we will likely be able to resolve them quickly.

If you have any questions, concerns, or want to discuss the transition to Schwab, please let me know. By our next Client Letter, I hope to be reporting that the transition is complete  and the process went smoothly.

What do you call a market like this?

When a market declines 20% or more in a major market index we refer to it as a “Bear” market. Similarly, when a market increases 20% or more in a major market index, we refer to it as a “Bull” market. Since the S&P 500 is broad based index comprised of 500 firms, it is considered a major market index which can benchmark the overall stock market.

From its peak early in 2022, the S&P 500 had declined 25%1 when it bottomed out in October 2022 which meets the criteria to be labeled a Bear Market. But since that mid-October low, the index has advanced 24.4% which meets the criteria to be labeled a Bull Market. Has the market abruptly turned around? Is this a sign that the storms have passed, and clear skies are ahead?

Examination of the Key Index Returns reveals that the NASDAQ, Year to Date (YTD), has significantly outperformed all other indexes. The NASDAQ Composite is best known for its large number of technology related companies. As of December 2022, about half of the index was made up of companies from the tech industry with well-known names like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet (Google) near the top of the list2. Amazon and Tesla are included in the NASDAQ as Consumer Discretionary companies, but many people consider them to be at least closely related to technology companies.

It is important to recognize that indexes are not exclusive. Stocks which are measured in the NASDAQ are likely also included in the S&P 500, but the weightings are different. When we see the NASDAQ YTD nearly twice the S&P 500 YTD, that is indicative that technology companies have outperformed the broader market. While there are several reasons why technology companies have performed so well thus far this year after posting disappointing returns in 2022, the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) chat bots such as Chat GPT and Bard are likely a major contributor.

In William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2), Juliet asks herself:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;”

If Juliet were to read about the ups and downs of the stock market in 2023, I doubt she would care much if you considered it a Bull Market or not, and neither should you. Unless your portfolio has bee overweighted in technology stocks, which would violate all the principals of portfolio diversification, I doubt you feel like an investor in a Bull Market.

The combination with $5 trillion of recent fiscal stimulus and the Federal Reserve raising interest rates 4.88% in just 14 months3, both of which are unprecedented in recent history, have created challenges for economists and analysts to forecast trends. The economic shutdown and subsequent reopening caused by COVID, the shift away from goods and toward services, travel, and entertainment, and consumer pent-up demand are just not incorporated into their models. This is a new challenge for everyone including the Fed, economists, investors, and short-term traders who transact on market movements.

This is why market timing is not a realistic sustainable strategy. It is very rare statistically to consistently predict the highs and lows of the markets which is required to be successful as a market timer. Successful long-term investors avoid chasing trends and the temptation to time the market. Instead, they maintain their discipline and adhere to a consistent plan which has consistently proven to maximize the probability of long-term rewards.

At the beginning of 2023, many analysists predicted a recession in the first half of 2023 and it does not look like they were correct. Some are now saying it will come later in the year, others predict a recession in 2024, and others now think that the Fed has engineered a “soft landing” which will avoid a recession. If we were market traders, it would be important to be correct. As a market investor, we keep our focus on the future and accept the ups and downs along the way.

We remain confident in the long-term opportunities we have as investors, and we continue to use patience, portfolio diversification, and rebalancing as our primary tools to overcome volatility and uncertainty.

Be on Guard

Scammers have no boundaries when it comes to creativity to be deceitful. Stories like this, where Eden & Mark lost their life savings are alarmingly common. In October 2022, Eden got a pop-up notice on her computer, and she followed the instructions to call Microsoft. Except the person she talked to was a scammer and not an employee of Microsoft. While the story may sound unbelievable, Eden said the person on the phone sounded convincing, and she was tricked into believing her families safety was at risk if she did not immediately follow all the instructions which included making five wire transfers to the scammers totaling about $564,000!

Fraudulent activities are becoming increasingly sophisticated and diverse, but the results are unfortunately the same. Seniors get bilked out of their savings. According to the 2022 FBI Elder Fraud Report4, losses reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) increased 84% in 2022 to $3.1 billion! Unfortunately, those figures probably underestimate to real totals as some victims may be unaware they have been scammed while others are embarrassed to report it.

Tech and customer support schemes continue to be the common type of fraud reported while monetary losses due to investment fraud jumped 300% (largely due to crypto investment scams). The tech and customer support scams take advantage of their victims’ unfamiliarity with technology. Some may be as simple as a call from “tech support” to inform you that your computer has a virus. Or, like Eden & Mark, a pop-up message appears and provides a phone number to resolve or fix a problem. Either way, you may be asked to pay a fee so they can fix your problem, or they will connect to your system to covertly find your personal confidential data such as banking information and passwords (or both).

How to Protect Yourself

Know that tech support will never call you to tell you there is a problem with your system. If you get such a call, just hang up. Ignore pop-up windows encouraging you to make a phone call or press a button to fix the problem. If you get a pop-up message which you do not expect or understand, try restarting your computer. If it persists, take your computer to a reputable repair shop.

Here are some of the more common scams being used to defraud seniors:

  1. Investment scams promise quick riches and pressure the elderly into accessing their retirement accounts, the equity in their home or convince them to go into debt.
  2. The lottery/sweepstakes/inheritance scam falsely notifies individuals that they have won a cash prize or will receive an unexpected inheritance from a distant and previously unknown relative.
  3. There has been an increase in romance scams, which can be particularly challenging to identify, as the perpetrator creates a false online persona to gain the trust and affection of the victim. Once scammers earn your trust (and your heart), they start requesting money and won’t stop taking advantage of you until you cease sending them funds.
  4. Scammers call unsuspecting older adults and pretend to be from the IRS, Social Security or Medicare. These organizations never make unsolicited phone calls. Hang up the phone.
  5. Be aware of the grandparent scam. You may get a call that goes like this. “Hi, Grandma. Do you know who this is?” When the unaware grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer secures their trust. The fake grandchild then asks for money to solve some urgent financial problems (such as overdue rent, car repairs or jail bonds).

It is important to stay vigilant, but also know that we go to great lengths to protect your assets. There are certain requests which we cannot honor if they come by email or in a voicemail until we have a chance to verbally confirm it with you. We are not trying to make it harder for you to access your money. We just want to confirm that your request is legitimate.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss any concerns, please let us know so we can schedule a consultation. Until our next meeting, I want to thank you for your trust and confidence. It is a privilege to be your financial advisor.

            Sincerely,

Art Dinkin, CFP®

This newsletter contains general information that may not be suitable for everyone. The information contained herein should not be construed as personalized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this newsletter will come to pass. Investing in the stock market involves gains and losses and may not be suitable for all investors. Information presented herein is subject to change without notice and should not be considered as a solicitation to buy or sell any security.

Not associated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency.

Indices are unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly in an index. Unless otherwise noted, performance of indices does not account for any fees, commissions or other expenses that would be incurred. Returns do not include reinvested dividends.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a price-weighted average of 30 actively traded “blue chip” stocks, primarily industrials, but includes financials and other service-oriented companies. The components, which change from time to time, represent between 15% and 20% of the market value of NYSE stocks.

The Nasdaq Composite Index is a market-capitalization weighted index of more than 3,000 common equities listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The types of securities in the index include American depositary receipts, common stocks, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and tracking stocks. The index includes all Nasdaq listed stocks that are not derivatives, preferred shares, funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or debentures.

The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. It is a market value weighted index with each stock's weight in the index proportionate to its market value.

The Russell 2000 Index is an unmanaged index that measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity universe.

The MSCI All Country World Index ex USA Investable Market Index (IMI) captures large, mid and small cap representation across 22 of 23 Developed Markets (DM) countries (excluding the United States) and 23 Emerging Markets (EM) countries*. With 6,062 constituents, the index covers approximately 99% of the global equity opportunity set outside the US.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a float-adjusted market capitalization index that consists of indices in 21 emerging economies: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.

Barclays Aggregate Bond Index includes U.S. government, corporate, and mortgage-backed securities with maturities of at least one year.

Diversification does not guarantee a profit or protect against a loss in a declining market.  It is a method used to help manage investment risk.

Rebalancing/Reallocating can entail transaction costs and tax consequences that should be considered when determining a rebalancing/reallocation strategy.

1 St. Louis Federal Reserve S&P 500 data

2 https://www.bankrate.com/investing/what-is-nasdaq-composite/

3 https://www.visualcapitalist.com/interest-rate-hikes-1988-2023/

4 https://htv-prod-media.s3.amazonaws.com/files/2022-ic3elderfraudreport-643e8e89685c2.pdf