Jeff Benjamin

Investment Insights: The Blogblog

Jeff Benjamin breaks down the game for advisers and clients.

6:30 am EST

Bond ETFs brace for a June rate hike

By Jeff Benjamin

Interest rates are still a long way from anything that could be considered normal, but with the Fed teasing out a rate hike next month there's reason to be mindful of certain bond portfolios. You don't have to banish bond ETFs. The millennials have an entirely different definition of investing. There's a certain comfort in just outpacing inflation. Mid-cap stocks to the rescue. The S&P 400 Index is beating big- and small-cap indexes so far this year. Big Pharma's clever move of using charities to conceal higher drug prices Not cool. That's just a fraction of the total cost. ... Read full post

May 23, 2016

BlackRock faces backlash for supporting 'fat cat CEOs'

By Jeff Benjamin

BlackRock is in the hot seat for being “soft” on high pay for corporate executives. The world's largest asset manager faces an angry throng toting an online petition. In reading the Fed's tea leaves, the market might have overlooked a couple of important details that should put a new spin on the outlook for a June rate hike. The employment market has weakened since the April Fed meeting. If you want better investment returns sometimes you have to embrace the idea of being uncomfortable. Time to get outside the box, and beyond your comfort zone. Three simple ways to beef up your retirement savings. Going Roth even when the IRS says no. ... Read full post

May 20, 2016

Former financial adviser faces possible 287-year prison sentence for robbing seniors

By Jeff Benjamin

A former Wisconsin adviser is headed to trial and facing 28 counts of stealing from her clients. Jean Walsh-Josephson is accused of taking more than $4 million from elderly clients. If convicted of all charges, she could face a maximum sentence of 287 years in prison. If your mutual fund is investing in heavily-indebted companies, does that mean you're investing in debt? Three mutual funds with big exposure to heavily-indebted companies. Hedge funds are banding together to strike back against the steady barrage of attacks on them as the symbol of the evils of Wall Street. A hedge fund lobbying group. If a half million dollars seems like a good retirement-savings target, think again. Depending on your age, it might just be a good start. It also depends on where and how you want to live in retirement. ... Read full post

May 19, 2016

Why the inventor of 401(k)s came to view them as 'monsters'

By Jeff Benjamin

The father of the 401(k) grew to think the plans were better at sending fees back to the financial industry than helping savers. “He believed in doing the right thing.” Mark Cuban says with “100% certainty” that the market will tank if Donald Trump wins the White House in November. The billionaire entrepreneur says losses could exceed 20%. BlackRock's chief investment strategist for fixed income thinks the market is underestimating the Fed's approach to rate hikes. July and September rate increases could be in play. A snapshot of how Americans' spending has changed in the last 50 years. Health care spending has skyrocketed. ... Read full post

May 18, 2016

George Soros bets against the S&P

By Jeff Benjamin

George Soros is betting big on an S&P implosion. The billionaire hedge funder is shorting stocks and buying gold. The sudden spike in the price of oil has fallen right in line with what veteran oilman T. Boone Pickens believes: That the price is going even higher. If he's right, the financial markets would be celebrating. For those still young enough to adjust course, here's a chance to learn something from the regrets of retirees. Wishing they started saving for retirement earlier in life. Just in time for Father's Day, some Greek islands that can be acquired for just a few million bucks. Prices starting as low as $3.3M. ... Read full post

May 17, 2016

Don't rule out a June rate hike by the Federal Reserve

By Jeff Benjamin

The logic behind a Fed rate hike in June is probably no more outlandish than most of what the Fed has done over the past seven years. The Fed might surprise us all next month. A simple guide to finding out if an ETF or mutual fund is right for your clients. There's the matter of fees, transparency, and so on. For those clients tempted to wade into the fog of 401(k) loans, here are a few points to pounder. Keeping your money out of the market for a long time. Ten ways to tell if you're sitting next to an economist on your next flight. He keeps reminding you that there's no such thing as complimentary beverages. ... Read full post

May 16, 2016

Avoid the TIPS rally. It's merely an inflation head-fake

By Jeff Benjamin

Once upon a time, back when the Federal Reserve was still primarily dedicated to being an apolitical body strictly focused on monetary policy, there was a thing known as inflation, which was often preceded by the threat of inflation.Nowadays, seven years into a lackluster economic recovery that feels okay thanks to the Fed's ever-drifting mandate, we only have the threat of inflation, and only sometimes.That is an oversimplified explanation of what the economists and other big thinkers like to call the new normal, or the new neutral if you used to work at Pimco.Think of it as a time when interest rates are absurdly low, economic growth is barely visible, and inflation seems about as ominous as chapped lips.To the Fed's credit, it has done just about everything in its power to try and manufacture some semblance of inflation, including building up a record $5 trillion balance sheet through the experiment known as quantitative easing.For... Read full post

May 16, 2016

DOL fiduciary rule trips up robo efforts at BlackRock, Schwab

By Jeff Benjamin

The DOL fiduciary rule is throwing a wrench into the robo-advice efforts at BlackRock and Schwab. Some robo advisers may need to substantially change their business practices and how they operate. Jim Cramer, the TV personality known for rolling up his sleeves, honking silly horns, and analyzing stocks between commercials, is apparently less impressive when it comes to managing an actual portfolio. The “Mad Money” host, who's TV persona was air-brushed into the form of George Clooney for the new movie “Money Monster,” has been losing ground to the S&P 500 Index. Since 2001, investors would have been better off in the S&P 500 Index than in Mr. Cramer's Action Alerts Plus portfolio. Eight urban myths of personal finance. You don't need to start saving for retirement until you're 40. The Seven most common Social Security misconceptions. Your decision to file only affects you. ... Read full post

May 13, 2016

High-frequency trading has made the stock market better for investors

By Jeff Benjamin

If you're happy with the stock market, you can thank the existence of high-frequency trading. Creating the best market ever for individual investors. The appetite for gold is swelling once again. The ETF inflows are huge. A note for your empty-nester clients, have them clean out their stuff so their kids don't have to take on that overwhelming chore. What happens to my things? In the spirit of this weekend's Players Championship golf tournament, let's take a look at the best golfers in finance. As the saying goes, if you can't break 90 you've got no business playing golf, and if you're breaking 80 you've got no business. Bill Gross' handicap is 12.9. ... Read full post

May 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton's hedge fund ties get trimmed by one

By Jeff Benjamin

More proof that times are tough all over. Hillary Clinton's son-in-law is shutting down one of his hedge funds after losing 48% last year in a Greece-focused strategy. Whatever remains of the $25 million raised will be returned to investors. Hopefully, Marc Mezvinsky's wayward bets on a Greek economic revival will be enough to deter the Democratic frontrunner from considering her son-in-law for a future economic-advisor position. If you're holding your breath waiting for normal interest rates to come back you're just going to pass out. It starts with inflation, which remains stubbornly absent in this economy. Despite all the fuss and tantrums over the plight of those trying to raise a family on a minimum-wage income, the data suggests a less grim reality. There has been a multi-decade decline in the percentage of employed people working for minimum wage. Renowned oilman J. Paul Getty made his riches following the straight-... Read full post

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