Jeff Benjamin

Investment Insights: The Blogblog

Jeff Benjamin breaks down the game for advisers and clients.

6:30 am EST

Investment manager who bilked $43 million from ex-Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov convicted

By Jeff Benjamin

The shady investment manager who swindled $43 million from former Detroit Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov was convicted Thursday of 15 counts of fraud. Joseph Zada could face 20 years in prison What lessons should investors have learned from the August stock market beat down? Inertia can be a good thing If you've been feeling a little under the weather lately, don't worry it's probably just the sickness one should expect from watching a retirement portfolio swirl down the drain. Losing money activates the brain's 'fear center' Sometimes, the worst part of coming back to work after a vacation or long weekend is dealing with the email deluge that built up while you were trying to relax. It doesn't have to be that painful. Select all, and archive ... Read full post

Sep 3, 2015

Pension giants out of sync with alternative investments

By Jeff Benjamin

When multi-billion-dollar pension funds start darting in and out of alternative-investment strategies, it should raise some questions about what really represents so-called smart money.Regarding the report this week that the board of the $191 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System, known as Calstrs, is considering a $20 billion move out of traditional investments and into alternatives, Morningstar Inc.'s Jason Kephart called the timing “very curious.”“It seems like they're making the move into alts after you've seen all this market volatility,” he said. “Alternative investments make sense for a long-term approach because the performance is driven by different factors, but this looks like they're chasing alternatives after a dislocation.”To be fair, it could just be the timing of a board meeting, but it still looks awfully coincidental to see one of the country's largest pension funds... Read full post

Sep 3, 2015

Pension giant CalSTRS ponders dumping $20B in stocks and bonds in favor of alt strategies

By Jeff Benjamin

In the ultimate defensive move, the country's second-largest pension fund considers moving $20 billion out of traditional investments and into alternatives. Should smaller investors be following suit? 'We're not going to shoot for the moon for returns' The risks associated with gold are climbing at an unlikely time. Alternative appeal A simple strategy for building wealth for investors of any age. When you're young, get organized. When you're older, have an exit strategy. Note from the Feds: You ain't fooling anybody by emailing those sneaky acronyms that suggest you can't say something through email or text. Just taking a conversation offline can be enough for a presumption of shady activity ... Read full post

Sep 2, 2015

The biggest market risk right now might be trying to time this market

By Jeff Benjamin

The stock market is clearly shaky, but trying to time it is a fool's game. This could be over just as fast as it began Wearing your social beliefs in your portfolio can be a big drag on your ability to save for retirement. Giving up a lot for little benefit As OPEC plays chicken, oil prices hit the floor again. Three-day rally is followed by a big fat drop Illinois lottery winner is told to check back later when the state budget is in better shape. Your tax dollars not at work. IOUs in the Land of Lincoln ... Read full post

Sep 1, 2015

Go-anywhere bond funds have failed to go anywhere positive over the past year

By Jeff Benjamin

Nontraditional bond funds that sounded too good to be true are looking like a bust, so far. Taking on a lot of credit and emerging market risk Oil prices ride high on slower production data. In the wake of a 12% jump last week With China on the rocks, is it now better to go active or passive when it comes to the emerging markets? 'A lot of the emerging markets have not done very well' In the category of really weak excuses for being late for work 111 times over two years: This New Jersey school teacher blames the time it takes to eat breakfast. Maybe try chewing faster. When the most important meal of the day is more important than your job ... Read full post

Aug 31, 2015

Closed-end funds rise to the surface following the market mess

By Jeff Benjamin

All that messy stock market turmoil of the past few weeks has created a sweet opportunity in the closed-end funds space. Deep discounts abound In case you're wondering where each Fed member stands on the issue of a September rate hike, here's a complete rundown. Janet Yellen: Likely appropriate Some retail brokerages got low marks for cracking under the pressure of last week's market tumult. Crashing systems Just because you're all grown up now and not heading back to school is no reason not to embrace some back-to-school traditions. Back-to-school traditions for the working world ... Read full post

Aug 28, 2015

That awkward moment when the Fed realizes it can't raise interest rates

By Jeff Benjamin

The only thing missing from the big gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole is inflation. Delaying a rate hike until 2016 'will be awkward' As a consumer of gasoline and other forms of energy, it is hard to get real excited about a spike in oil prices, but it did just happen and it does have some positive implications. Biggest gain in six years If you're looking to play some defense, these funds have a proven track record. They did well in 2008 The ETF flash crash has some folks now asking if ETFs are part of the problem. Whenever something goes wrong in the markets, people look for someone or something to blame ... Read full post

Aug 27, 2015

Making bigger bets with smaller portfolios

By Jeff Benjamin

If you want to invest with a portfolio manager who truly believes in what he or she is doing, look for one with a limited number of stocks in his or her fund. It doesn't guarantee you're getting the best manager or even the best fund, but you can believe that the more concentrated the portfolio, the more confidence that portfolio manager is displaying. In other words, it's easy to hide in the shadows with a closet-indexing portfolio of 154 stocks, which is the average number of positions in actively-managed stock funds tracked by Morningstar Inc. But, true conviction is sticking your neck out with a portfolio of a few dozen stocks. Considering the record-level market volatility of the past week, shrewd stock picking and portfolio manager conviction could become increasingly important over the next few months. “We know what we own, which leads to high conviction, bigger... Read full post

Aug 27, 2015

In hindsight, China's market meltdown wasn't really that bad

By Jeff Benjamin

Now that the dust has started to settle, China's stock market meltdown doesn't seem all that awful. Other major market selloffs have seen higher volatility Not sure if history can be counted on to be a reliable guide in these unprecedented times, but this is how the Fed usually responds to major stock market drops. What will Janet Yellen do? If the stock market has you feeling uneasy, try your hand at currencies. You might like the results. Hot currency ETFs: YCL, ULE, CROC Simple math is all you need to fully understand why you shouldn't sell into a panic, or try and time the stock market's peaks and valleys. Stay calm, and sit tight ... Read full post

Aug 26, 2015

Gloom overshadows Wall Street, but some economists still see a September rate hike

By Jeff Benjamin

The mood on Wall Street is getting downright gloomy. The worst declines since 2011. Meanwhile, there are some economists who still believe the Fed will be able to raise interest rates next month. The SEC has jumped on the pay-ratio bandwagon. Now what? 'A chink of light in a cloudy subject' Better brace your clients for a new way to pay for healthcare expenses, because Obamacare's dreaded Cadillac Tax might signal the end of flexible spending accounts. If you like your flexible spending account, you might not be able to keep it Marijuana tourism keeps on truckin'. No significant investment angles yet, but that has to come eventually, right? Compelling reasons to visit Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia In the category of Hillary fading into the background: The fledgling Joe Biden presidential run has already drawn the support of at least one hedge fund. Could be a blessing, or could be a curse. 'I... Read full post

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