Runners and Sprinters

Running a marathon is a difficult task requiring months of training and discipline. Successful marathoners follow a strict training schedule and plan – a mixture of running, stretching, lifting weights, and eating a balanced diet. And I should know, having run several marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2011.

Each marathon is a blend of runners – young, old, black, white, male, female, etc. It’s possible for 40,000 to 50,000 runners to run in marathons like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Boston. At the starting line, everyone is nervous and excited. During a race, you will pass, and be passed, by other runners. However, there’s always a  group of young men (it’s always young men) who try to elbow their way to the front, dodging other runners like a punt returner. They would sprint ahead, but after a few miles, they’d be walking with their hands on their hips or standing on the side of the road gasping for air. This process repeated itself a few times before they faded away.  

During my first few marathons, I would fixate on these young sprinters and worry that I wasn’t running fast enough, but over time, I ignored them and focused on my goals, and it made for a better running experience.

As an investor, you may feel frustrated as others pass you by with high-flying investments like Tesla or Bitcoin, but don’t abandon your plan to chase returns. Follow your plan, save your money, think long-term, run your race, and good things will happen.

January 8, 2021

Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level. PWM’s custodian is TD Ameritrade, and our annual fee starts at .5% of your assets and drops depending on the level of your assets.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ from those posted in this blog. PWM is not a tax advisor, nor do we give tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for items that are specific to your situation. Options involve risk and aren’t suitable for every investor.

PWM Weekly Stock Market Update

Happy Saturday,

Another good week for stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 3% on Friday and finished up 2.2% for the week. The NASDAQ 100 is positive for the year, and it is up more than 15% for the past twelve months. Small-cap stocks continue to rebound, and international stocks are looking better. The S&P 500 has risen 29% from the March lows.

Why are stocks rebounding? We’re starting to see optimistic signs from around the world. Gilead Sciences is using its drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients, and the results are encouraging. Boeing is resuming production in Seattle, Germany is going to let small businesses open on Monday, and the PGA Tour is teeing off June 11 at the Colonial Golf Course in Fort Worth, Texas. Speaking of Texas, Governor Greg Abbot plans to open some businesses on April 27.

Our investment models were quiet this week as volatility continues to drop. We only rebalanced ten accounts on Tuesday, a year low – which is a good sign.

It has been near impossible to buy U.S. Government securities because large institutions are gobbling them up for their money market funds. As a result, we are purchasing Certificates of Deposits from around the country for our cash and bond holdings. CD’s are federally insured to $250,000 per person, per account.

The CBOE put/call ratio is an indicator I watch closely. It relies on options to determine if investors are greedy or fearful. An option is a contract that allows you to control 100 shares of stock for every contract you own. A put option will rise in value when the price of a stock falls. A call option will increase in value when the price of a stock rises. If investors purchase several puts, fear is high. When confidence is high, they will buy calls. If the ratio is over one (more put buyers than call buyers), investors are nervous; below one, they’re confident. In March, the indicator peaked at 1.83. The ten-year average is .94; the current reading is .91. The ratio has dropped 50% from the peak, an encouraging sign for investors.

Corporate insider buying has been bullish for the past few weeks. Executives and insiders are buying shares of their company stock because of the compelling valuations.

Here’s how stocks, bonds, and other asset classes performed this past week.

  • The S&P 500 rose 3%
  • The NASDAQ rose 7%
  • International Stocks rose .34%
  • Emerging Markets rose 2.2%
  • Long-Term Bonds rose 1.4%
  • Gold fell .17%
  • Oil fell 17.2%
  • Chinese Stocks rose 3%

I decided to run the Boston Marathon in 2009; however, I needed to qualify for the race first. Due to the marathon calendar and my schedule, I missed the window for 2009 and 2010, so I set my sites on 2011. To qualify, I signed up to run the 2010 Austin Marathon, and as a backup, I registered for the Los Angeles Marathon, scheduled for three weeks later. To run Boston, I needed a plan, and it included a two-year training schedule, weight training, and better eating habits.

Training for a marathon is tedious and lonely, especially on runs of 15 to 20 miles or more, and running in Texas is challenging because temperatures will climb north of 100 degrees in the summer and drop into the teens during the winter.

I qualified for the Boston Marathon based on my time in Austin. On race day, my goal was to run each mile under 8 minutes and not fixate on the finish line, 26.2 miles from the start. If I kept my pace, I would finish the race in 3 hours and 30 minutes or better. I followed my plan and ran the race one step at a time, one mile at a time, and finished in 3 hours and 22 minutes – a personal best!

Runners who struggle to finish a marathon become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the race, especially when they obsess over the entire 26.2 miles. To get to the finish line, follow your plan, focus on your goal, keep to your pace, and enjoy the journey.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~ Chinese Proverb

Have a great weekend, and keep the faith!

 

Forever Is A Long Time

Financial planning is important, but life planning is better. A financial plan indicates a finite service, a one-time event. Life planning takes financial planning to a higher level. It’s enduring, vibrant, and active. It’s proactive. It’s forever, and forever is a long time!

I’ve run several marathons, and I always envision myself finishing the race before I start training. It motivates me to continue running on cold winter days. My training will cover several months in order to build up my endurance to run 26.2 miles. On race day I never focus on the daunting task of running the entire marathon. I take it a step at a time, a mile at a time and eventually I’ll arrive at the finish line.

Life planning is like running a marathon. However, in life, you’ll have multiple goals all competing simultaneously. When my daughter was born, I had two conflicting goals: paying for college and saving for retirement. In addition, I had to pay my mortgage and the other household expenses. I didn’t have the luxury to choose one over the other.

Setting goals and timelines is paramount in life planning. Writing your goals down and committing them to paper will give you an opportunity to succeed.

In a famous study, The Harvard MBA Class of 1979 was asked about their goals. Only 3% of the graduating class had written goals.  Ten years later the graduates were interviewed again. The group with written goals had ten times the wealth of the remaining 97% – combined![1] Goals matter.

Financial planning is great until life gets in the way and then you must do what you can. How do you choose the life goal that’s most important? How do you prioritize them? Are short-term goals more important than long-term goals?

If you’re fortunate to live a long life, you’ll pass through several stages – each one exciting in its own way.  I’m sure if you looked back over your life you can identify several memorable moments that have shaped who you are today.

So, how do you approach life planning? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Take an inventory of your current situation. What resources do you have? Where’s your money going? How is it being spent? What are your short-term needs?
  • Write down your goals. Document your dreams. Journal your thoughts. Don’t worry about your current situation when you start this exercise. President Kennedy didn’t have the resources or knowledge to put a man on a moon, but his vision and optimism drove others to make it happen.
  • Monitor your progress. Check off items from your list after you’ve reached a goal. As you move through your life stages, set new ones. My daughter’s education is funded, so I’m adding new goals to my list.
  • Eliminate goals that are no longer important to you or your family. When I was young, I wanted a Porsche, but now that I’m older it’s no longer a goal. My cousin had a Porsche and he let me drive it often. I was able to test drive my goal before I decided to let it go. Eliminating goals is just as important as establishing new ones.
  • Review your past goals. How did they turn out? What can you learn from your successes or failures? Can your past direct you to better opportunities or help you from repeating previous mistakes? Pause, rest and reflect on where you’ve been. Climbing a mountain takes time. After you reach the peak, look around and enjoy the beauty of achieving your goal. Take solace in your journey.
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon and don’t let obstacles get in your way. Of course, there will be hardships, but if you stay focused on your written goals you’ll eventually arrive at your destination.
  • Don’t go solo. If you’re married, you and your spouse can work on your goals together. Family goals are just as important as personal ones. If you’re single, share your goals with a friend or trusted advisor. Accountability is helpful.
  • Give thanks. On your life journey you’ll encounter several people who need a little extra help. Stop and give them a hand. You’ll be glad you did.

Life planning is perpetual. It’s forever. Let your written goals motivate you to live life on your terms.

In their heart’s humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9

November 30, 2018

Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management firm located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process to help our clients pursue a life of purpose.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog.

 

[1] http://www.lifemastering.com/en/harvard_school.html

Marathon Investing

Running a marathon with 30 or 40 thousand runners is chaotic – especially the start. When the gun goes off the crowd surges forward, so you better be ready to run or you’re going to get steam rolled. It’s pure emotion and adrenaline.

The first few miles are crazy as runners try to find a little running room. Runners are talking, high-fiving, and taking selfies and there’s always a young guy (always a guy) who’s sprinting at full speed.

At miles five and six the crowd starts to thin a bit and the pack catches the young sprinter. The talking declines and there are no more high-fives.

When runners pass the half-marathon mark there’s no more talking; it has been replaced with the rhythmic hum of running shoes bouncing off the asphalt. Marathoners now have plenty of running room.

Mile twenty is the wall. Runners are now in survival mode as they leave the teens and cross over into the twenties. This is a psychological and emotional barrier. After blowing through this imaginary barricade, the race is now a 10k – a distance marathoners have run thousands of times.

The final two miles are exciting. The finish line is nearing, and all training is about to payoff. Crossing the finish line to the roar of the crowd is an amazing experience. A few feet later runners are given their finishers medal, their new badge of honor.

Investing and running a marathon have several things in common. Day to day the stock market is emotional, chaotic, and unpredictable. It’s impossible to try to figure out how the market will move in the short term. Investors who try to time the market usually get whipsawed and lose money.

Over a five-year time frame the stock market is more predictable, making money for investors about 86% of the time. Extending the time horizon to ten years, it has produced gains 95% of the time. Over a twenty-year period, the stock market has never lost money.[1]

The Vanguard 500 Index Fund has lost 6.34% for investors during the month of October. In the short term, it’s performing poorly, but if we extend the time horizon to 5, 10, and 15 years the results are much better. It has produced an average annual return of 11.55% for five years, 13.95% for ten years, and 8.80% for fifteen. Had you invested $100,000 in this fund fifteen years ago, you’d have $391,192 today.[2]

Runners set a goal to finish a marathon. Investors who want to succeed should also set goals. Short and long-term goals are paramount for you to track your progress. A financial plan will help you quantify the things that are most important to you and your family. Do you want to take a trip? Buy a second home? Create a foundation? All these items, and more, can be part of your plan and moving towards your goals is more important than the day to day movement in the stock market.

Seasoned marathoners rely on tools and technology to help them with their training runs. Watches, heart monitors, fit-bits, etc. record every step. Runners adjust their pace or training methods as needed. They use big data to improve their results. Investors don’t rely on technology as much as they should or could. Today, there are numerous software resources to help investors improve their results.

To become a successful investor, follow the path of a good marathon runner: set goals, take it a day at a time, monitor your performance, adjust as needed, follow your plan, keep your eyes focused on your goals, and think long-term. If you do these things, good things will happen.

The marathon is not really about the marathon, it’s about the shared struggle. And it’s not only the marathon, but the training. ~ Bill Buffum

10/24/2018

Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog.

[1] Ibbotson®SBBI® 2015 Classic Yearbook.

[2] Morningstar Office Hypothetical Tool

Financial Planning is a (Boston) marathon and not a sprint.

In 2009 I decided to run the Boston Marathon.   Unlike most marathons, the Boston Marathon requires runners to qualify for their esteemed race so the earliest that I could run this marathon would be in April of 2011.   I launched a plan to make this happen and set out on a two year journey to realize my dream.   

In my early days of running marathons I just ran.  I ran without any plan.   My first marathon was the Los Angeles marathon in 1991.   I was in shape but did not have any type of strategy for training or race day management.   I was going to run as fast as I could for as far as I could.   I wore cotton and did not stop at any aid stations to drink water.   This “strategy” worked well until mile 20.   At mile 20 the wheels came off.   I was dehydrated and started to cramp.  The last 6.2 miles of this race were some of the worst of my life.  My lack of planning did me in on this marathon.

Can this running analogy help you as an investor?   I believe it can.  I have noticed over my career that most investors do not have a financial plan or investment strategy.    Most investors show up on race day and hope for the best.  This strategy of hope for the best usually does not end well.   A solid financial plan can help you create generational wealth.   A well-constructed financial plan can assist you with income generation, portfolio construction, risk management, tax benefits and estate protection.   The numbers also back up the many reasons why you should have a financial plan.  In an October of 2006 study done by Annamaria Lusardi and Olivia S. Mitchell in a paper titled, “Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Well Being,” [October 2006, page 26] they found that successful planners had 3 times the net worth of non-planners.   This is a significant number and it should not be ignored.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “it takes as much energy to hope as it does to plan.”  

So how did I do with my Boston Marathon plan?  I qualified for Boston by running the 2010 Austin Marathon.   I ran the Boston Marathon in April of 2011 on a gorgeous Monday morning.  It was my perfect race.   The weather, the crowd, the course and my time all exceeded my goals.  I was able to PR in this race due to my two year plan.

Bill Parrott is President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management, LLC.

10/19/2015

 

Can you pick the winner in the crowd?

The world’s largest marathons may attract 30, 40 or 50 thousand runners.   The Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston, Berlin and London marathons attract tens of thousands of runners each and every year.   The runners have different abilities and backgrounds but all have a similar goal of finishing the race.   If you had to pick a winner for an upcoming marathon where would you begin?  Would you ask a friend?   Would you get your advice from a cable TV commentator?   Would you throw a dart?  Would you subscribe to a service that specializes in picking the best marathon runners?  How about looking at the entrants to identify the one that looked like the best runner?   Can you review past race results to isolate the winner?  It is not so easy to pinpoint the one winner.

In reality, only five or six runners in the field of thousands will have a legitimate chance of winning.   Does this make your job of picking the winner any easier?   The elite runners will leave the field behind after the first mile and the pack will never see them again.    The elite runners will finish the marathon in a little over two hours.   The field may average about four hours with the back of pack finishing in six, seven or eight hours and, as always, some runners will not finish.

The top five runners in the 2015 Boston Marathon finished the race in under two hours and eleven minutes.   There were 26,598 finishers in this marathon and the average finish time was 3:46:28.   15,327 runners finished better than this time, 11,271 runners fared worse and 3,653 runners did not finish.   Of the initial race entrants, about 50% finished better than average and 50% finished worse than average.  With this data how is it possible to pick the top finishers each and every year?

According to the Morningstar data base, there are 21,015 stocks.  Is it possible to pick the best five or six stocks every year from the tens of thousands that trade?   Would you be able to pick the five best?  Five worst?  What if you happened to pick a stock that did not finish?   In 2015, there were 1,074 companies that were up more than 95% and 626 companies that were down more than 95%.

What is the best way to stay in the race so that you finish your financial marathon?   I say take the field.   Again, the average time from last year’s Boston Marathon was 3:46.  Ask any marathon runner if they would like to finish a marathon in 3:46, most would say yes.    The ideal way to take the field when you invest is to own an index fund.   An index fund will give you the greatest opportunity to make money for the long haul.   An index will give the investor the best chance to win the financial race.    The Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund has averaged 10.64% since August of 1976.    A $100,000 investment in this fund in August of 1976 is now worth $5,440,000!  I would guess that most investors would be happy with these results.

As a runner in a marathon, you are competing against professional athletes, finely tuned runners, weekend warriors and first time marathoners.   A runner dedicated to training for a marathon will have an enjoyable experience.   An individual that did little training, not so much.

Like a marathon runner, an individual that enters the investing arena will be competing against professionals, seasoned traders, hobbyists and first time investors.   If you are not ready for the competition, it would be wise to hire a financial coach or advisor to help you reach your goals.

Is it worth your time to try and find the best five companies year in and year out?  A better allocation of your time might be to identity your top five financial goals and make those dreams become reality.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.   1 Corinthians 9:24 

Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management, LLC.  www. Parrottwealth.com.

Sources: Marathonguide.com, Boston Athletic Association, baa.org, Morningstar.com

A Runner’s Guide to Retirement Planning.

My first marathon was a disaster.   After a years of running short races, I decided to graduate to a marathon.   The 1991 Los Angeles Marathon was going to be my first.   On race day I thought I was ready for the 26.2-mile journey through LA.

I was young, naïve and in shape so the only strategy I employed was to run as fast as I could for as long as I could.  In short, I had no strategy.  I was running without a plan.

My first miscalculation was my attire.  I wore cotton.  Cotton is a major no-no for marathon runners.  After a couple of miles, the shirt had to go.   I took it off and ditched it on the side of the road and this brought up another issue.  I was now shirtless and running without sunscreen.  As the Southern California Sun bore down on me I started to burn.

During the race I avoided all the aid stations until mile twenty.  At this point I was done.  I was dehydrated and sunburned.  I looked like a big red salt lick.  I started to walk but was saved by a young boy who gave me a giant bottle of Gatorade.  His gift gave me enough fuel to get to the next aid station.   The aid stations for the last 6.2 miles were of little use because I couldn’t drink enough Gatorade to cure my thirst.

I finally finished the race and made it home where I was able to lick my wounds and reflect on the events of the day.

If I was going to continue to run marathons, I needed a game plan.  As the years went on I read books on running and applied what I learned.  As a result, my race experiences went up and my race times went down.  I was fortunate enough to run in the 2011 Boston Marathon and in 2015 I set a PR in San Diego.

What does this have to do with retirement planning?

If you’re a runner, you’re most likely patient, disciplined and goal oriented.   Are you the same when it comes to planning your retirement?  Do you spend as much time planning your retirement route as you do your running route?

Here are a few strategies to help get you to the retirement finish line with a smile on your face.

  1. A plan is needed. A sound retirement and financial plan will help guide your steps.  It will help align your investment holdings to your goals so they’re both working for your benefit.  The plan will give you a baseline of your current financial situation.
  2. Think long term. A marathon, as you know, is 26.2 miles so don’t worry about what is happening at mile 3 or 4.  If you’re retiring in 10, 20 or 30 years let your investments run and pay little attention to short term moves in the markets.
  3. Find the right shoes. Running a marathon in high quality, light weight shoes makes all the difference in the world.  So, too, when it comes to your investments.  The “lighter” your fees the better your investment results.  You have the ability to control your costs.  When you’re working on your financial plan you should also do a thorough review of your investment holdings.  It’s imperative to focus on low cost index funds and investments so you can drive your expenses lower.
  4. Set your own pace. A large marathon may have twenty, thirty or forty thousand runners.  It’s likely you will pass, and get passed, by another runner during the race.    Each runner in a race has their own goal so don’t get caught up trying to match them step for step.  You’ll be better served to focus on your own goal and pace.   Your retirement goals are yours only so don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.   Your financial plan will help set your retirement pace.
  5. Re-fuel and check in. Take advantage of all the aid stations on the race route.  Taking a few seconds to hydrate and re-fuel will treat you well for the back half of the marathon.   Once your retirement plan is up and running you’d be wise to check it every year to make sure your still on pace to achieve your goals.
  6. Run with a coach or a team. Your running results may improve if you run with a coach or a team.  Who doesn’t want a running partner or two when it’s 5:00 in the morning and raining?  Running with a team will help you stay focused and motivated.  A financial coach or a team of trusted advisors can do the same.  Your team will support you on your retirement journey.   A financial coach can assist you with all decisions financials.
  7. Go fast. Stocks will be your best friend during your retirement expedition.   Stocks purchased for the long haul will allow your assets to grow faster than “safe” investments like bonds or cash.
  8. When you cross the finish line stop running. The pain of the last few hours pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you see the finish line.   Your retirement plan will give you a finish line.  If you’ve achieved the assets needed for your retirement, you can now afford to stop running and lock in your gains.   A move to more conservative assets likes bonds or cash can help preserve your assets.

A plan for running and retirement can keep you going for a long time.   I would encourage you to get out there and start planning!

We all know that if you run, you are pretty much choosing a life of success because of it. Deena Kastor.

Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management, LLC.  www.parrottwealth.com.

July 26, 2016