Negative Interest Rates: The Positives and the Negatives

By David Urovosky

You may have recently seen or read news stories about the trend overseas toward central banks attempting to stimulate their countries’ economies by reducing loan interest rates to below zero percent. The European Central Bank (ECB) has already embraced negative yields, and the Bank of Japan is the most recent entrant into this controversial phenomena.

In layman’s terms, here is what you need to know about this trend and how it may affect your financial investments in the future:

 What is a negative interest rate?

Negative interest rates are interest rates that are actually below zero. A depositor would actually have to pay money to the bank for keeping it there. In effect, the depositor is paying the bank to save their money.

This is how it theoretically works:  If you deposited $10,000 in your bank you may only receive $9,990 after a year—with no interest paid in between. That means savers won’t get all of their money back. You may ask “Why would I do that?” As long as the rates were not too low or not too negative, you may keep it there and “pay the fee” for safety or convenience.

It seems counterintuitive that people would pay a bank or financial institution to save money.  What is happening in the economy and financial markets in Europe and Japan that would make this option attractive to depositors?

This is not an attractive option for depositors. The Central Banks in Europe, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and Japan are now charging commercial banks for their excess reserves. According to Bloombergview.com (January 29, 2016), negative interest rates actually punish banks that hoard cash instead of extending loans to businesses or to weaker lenders. They have not started charging retail customers (yet) for fear of losing deposits. By the end of 2015, about a third of debt issued by euro zone governments had negative yields. That means investors holding bonds to maturity won’t get all of their money back.

There are several potential explanations for the emergence of negative yields, particularly those on the short end of the yield curve. These include very low inflation, the persistence of the international savings glut and “flight to safety” toward low-risk, fixed-income assets.

In consequence, sovereign bonds of certain countries in Europe that are deemed low-risk have been in heavy demand. In addition, The ECB has exacerbated the demand for these bonds by implementing the Extended Asset Purchase Program (their version of quantitative easing — stimulating the economy by increasing funds in the monetary system).  The ECB is purchasing $60 billion of these bonds every month until at least September of 2016 for a total of $1.6 trillion euros. This and other factors have caused a shortage of these bonds, which has driven up the price and knocked down the yields into negative territory.

What is the likelihood that American banks and other financial institutions could start charging depositors to hold their money?

Most banks have not passed on this cost to their retail customers for fear of losing deposits. However, this policy does cost the banks money and hurts profits. The banks have tried to cover some of this cost by implementing various fees. Some commercial banks, such as Julius Baer and JP Morgan, have started to charge their largest corporate customers who carry tens of millions of dollars with the banks. In effect, they are telling these larger customers to take their money elsewhere!

For the average individual investor, what are the plusses and minuses of negative interest rates?

The big plus is that is that interest rates for loans of all types—mortgages, car loans etc.,— will be lower for a longer period of time. It will be a great time for borrowers. The same holds true for our government. With $19 trillion in debt, interest rates will remain low and our deficit will not increase at blinding speed. Businesses will be able to borrow at lower rates and expand. Companies will be able to borrow cheaply and either expand or buy back their stock (such as Apple and many other companies).

The minuses of negative interest rates are two-fold. It is bad for savers and that affects a lot of retired people. It may have a cost to keep money in the bank. The second is behavioral. If interest rates were only slightly negative, it may not change behavior very much. Depositors would still leave money in the bank for safety and convenience. But negative rates crossing that threshold (some analysts say at 0.5% negative) could change behavior. How?

  • People may start to make excessive tax payments to the government and earn a zero return until a refund is received from the government, thus avoiding negative rates.
  • People may start to pay their electrical bills or cable bills months or even a year in advance.
  • People may also start to hoard cash and leave it under their mattress.

None of these tactics are good for the economy. The economy is based on confidence and we need money in the system to be “out there” changing hands, and making purchases. In his February 13, 2016 article “Negative 0.5% Interest Rate: Why People are Paying to Save” in the New York Times, financial reporter Neil Irwin muses, “Might new businesses sprout up that allow people to securely store thousands of bundles of $100 bills, or could people buy physical objects as stores of value that banks can’t charge a negative interest rate on?” In Japan, where rates have been very low to non- existent and now negative for a long time, many people buy safes to keep in the house. Maybe we should start looking for companies that manufacture safes as an investment?

What are the spinoff implications of negative interest rates for other financial market sectors?

For countries that have implemented negative rates, it may help boost their exports by encouraging currency depreciation and may support lending and domestic demand by further easing credit conditions. At the same time, they could also have some adverse consequences for financial stability through an erosion of bank profitability and through excessive risk taking by investors seeking a higher yield (as mentioned in my last quarterly report).

Potential implications for developing countries include a search for yield supporting capital inflows (for example, U.S. treasury bonds would become a very attractive investment compared to the bonds in sovereign debt of Europe because the treasuries are high yielding and the dollar would increase in value as compared to the euro), which could help offset the impact of an approaching liftoff in U.S. policy interest rates.

As far as currency goes, if our interest rates are higher than Europe and Japan (which they are now), investors searching for yield will buy these bonds. They are attractive. They are priced in U.S. dollars, so theoretically the dollar will go up in value as compared to the euro and the yen. This will make U.S. products more expensive around the world and will hurt sales and earnings of the large U.S. companies that have a lot of international sales. That is one reason the stock market took a big hit when Janet Yellen announced the first interest rate hike in almost 10 years in December 2015. Much of the rest of the world is lowering rates as we have started to hike rates. That hurts our multinational companies earnings and profits and share prices.

Your key takeaways:

I don’t think we will have negative rates in the United States this year; however, negative interest policy is spreading in the rest of the world. David Kotok, the Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors said, “Five currencies and 23 countries are now practicing some form of negative interest rate policy (NIRP). In all cases the likely outlook is for NIRP to go lower in rate and for its usage to broaden. For perspective, 24% of the world’s real output is housed in those 23 countries ranging in size from Malta (the world’s smallest economy) to Japan (the world’s third-largest economy).”

I expect interest rates in the U.S. to remain low for a long time, perhaps 3 to 5 years. Investors will continue to search for yield and, with a lack of other choices, I think money (in fits and starts) will find its way to the stock market and other risk assets and drive prices of credit-sensitive bonds and stocks higher during the next few years.

Questions or comments? Send us an email at David.Urovsky@lfg.com.

The information in this blog post has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.  Any opinions are those of David A. Urovsky, President of Wealth Advisors Group, and are not necessarily those of Lincoln Financial Advisors.  Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.  This information is not intended as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security referred to herein.   Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Investing involves risk, and investors may incur a profit or loss.

David Urovsky is registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer, Member (SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. It is not our position to offer legal or tax advice.  Wealth Advisors Group is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. CRN-1468262-041116

 

 

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How Is Your Financial Fitness? Find Out With This 8-Point Checkup

By David Urovsky

Helping people achieve their financial goals starts with realistic and manageable planning.

In order to develop a sound financial plan, the financial advisor must determine not only the amount of wealth required to achieve your desired lifestyle but also study your entire financial situation. This includes an examination of the present or potential need for such financial tools as budgeting, tax reduction strategies, retirement planning, insurance, estate planning to avoid long-term tax issues and more. It is important to account for every aspect of your financial well-being.

A great way to start the planning process is with an 8-Point Financial Fitness Checkup, through which you and your financial advisor will come up with answers to the following key questions:

• Do you have a written, detailed and realistic monthly budget?

• How are you funding your emergency fund? How long will these funds last if you needed them to cover monthly expenses?

• How are you planning to guard against income losses from illness, disability or death?

• What tax saving strategies did you employ during the last year?

• How are you funding your retirement plan and when do you plan to retire?

• What are your goals for retirement (i.e., travel, major purchases, lifestyle changes, and so on).

• When did you last review the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and insurance policies?

• When did you last update your will?

Following these conversations, your advisor can develop a customized plan that responds to your individual goals and gets you strategically positioned for financial health. Quarterly or semi-annual reviews in person and phone calls throughout the year will allow your advisor to respond to changes occurring in your life as well as changing market conditions.

It’s never too late to improve your financial fitness, so why not get started on your checkup today?

Coming next:  How children of baby boomers are playing an increasingly important role in financial planning for their aging parents.

David Urovsky is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Wealth Advisors Group is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Group. CRN-2279009-101518

Previous entries may have listed strategies and techniques that may be obsolete in current tax and investment environments. These entries were presented within the context of the time, and may not reflect current investment, tax or legal conditions.

Great News! Wealth Advisors Group Realigns Broker-Dealer Affiliation with Lincoln Financial Advisors

By David Urovsky

August 25, 2015 represents a major milestone for Wealth Advisors Group. On that date, we realigned our broker-dealer affiliation with Lincoln Financial Advisors (LFA), one of Lincoln Financial Network’s two broker-dealers. As a result, we now have access to Lincoln’s full U.S.-wide planning and technology capabilities.

We could not be more excited about the promise this new relationship with Lincoln Financial Advisors holds for our clients. Now we will be able to tap into all the capabilities and resources of Lincoln Financial Network so that we can serve clients even better and take our firm to the next level. This move will benefit everybody involved.

We’re delighted that we will be affiliated with LFA’s Greater Washington, D.C. Regional Planning Office, which will give our clients access to the full support that Lincoln offers to financial advisors and clients throughout the Greater D.C. marketplace. This includes a local planning department, local operations department and local technology team that provides the latest upgrades and updates in the financial services industry.

One of the most important benefits of our new alliance with Lincoln will be expanded access to research, analytics and financial planning resources.

We will be working closely with Stefan Lambert, managing principal of LFA’s Greater Washington, D.C. office. Here is what he had to say about our new affiliation: “We are delighted that David is bringing his 20+ years of experience in financial planning, investment management and wealth management to our Frederick marketplace. David and his team represent the core values that LFA advisors throughout the country embrace in assisting clients with financial matters, including comprehensive and holistic planning, as well as a risk-adjusted approach to investment management and wealth management.”

Reinforcing Lambert’s comment about risk, one of our hallmarks at Wealth Advisors Group is maintaining a strong emphasis on managing risk in a portfolio. Our number one goal is to obtain optimal returns with the least amount of risk. At the same time, we follow a fee-based approach that always puts the client’s best interests first, avoids conflicts of interest with the sale of investment products, and provides more transparency regarding what clients are being charged.

About Wealth Advisors Group

Wealth Advisors Group draws upon president David Urovsky’s 20+ years of experience in the financial services industry to provide comprehensive, holistic and risk-managed investment management and wealth management services to clients who are ready to retire or who have already retired. The firm is based in the heart of downtown Frederick, Md. David Urovsky is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Wealth Advisors Group is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors. For more information, visit http://www.wealthadvisorsgrp.com.

About Lincoln Financial Network

Lincoln Financial Network is the marketing name for the retail sales and financial planning affiliates of Lincoln Financial Group and includes Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and Lincoln Financial Securities Corporation, both members of FINRA and SIPC. Consisting of approximately 8,500 representatives, agents and full-service financial planners throughout the United States, Lincoln Financial Network professionals can offer financial planning and advisory services, retirement services, life products, annuities, investments, and trust services to affluent individuals, business owners and families.

CRN-1277814-081915

Introducing a New Way to Raise Your Investment IQ

By David Urovsky

Investing the intelligent way. That’s what my new blog, David Urovsky’s Investment IQ, is all about.

For more than 20 years, I have been helping clients achieve their financial goals through comprehensive, holistic financial planning and wealth management. Through Wealth Advisors Group, the independent financial services firm I founded in 2002, I work primarily with people who are ready to retire or who have already retired.

The core values I developed over the past two decades set me apart from traditional financial planners. First and foremost, I strongly emphasize managing risk in a portfolio. My number one goal is to obtain optimal returns with the least amount of risk.

My team and I make it a point to know our clients and their objectives, while educating them about their options. Clients tell us that they appreciate our ability to explain the complexities of the financial world in ways that are meaningful, yet easy to understand.

Over time, we have watched our clients work toward achieving their financial goals through well-conceived planning and commitment. Our success is directly attributed to the close relationships we have fostered by playing an active role in the long-term success of our clients’ financial lives.

These values bring me to why I started this blog. Taking care of financial matters with confidence and optimism is a long journey, and I want this blog to be a starting point. My goal is to enlighten and empower those seeking advice about finances.

We will cover a lot of ground in this blog. We’ll deal with financial trends, market developments (both domestic and global), investment planning, tax reduction strategies and pressing public policy issues related to finance and investments. From time to time, we will go beyond financial nuts and bolts and address questions of lifestyle that pre- and post-retirees face.

Along the way, I will tap into the expanded research and financial information resources now available to us through our new broker-dealer affiliation with Lincoln Financial Advisors, one of Lincoln Financial Network’s two broker-dealers. More on that in our next post.

Stay tuned!

CRN-1337007-102715

Hallmarks of a Client-Centric Investment Approach

Hallmarks of a Client-Centric Investment Approach

By David Urovsky


Knowing the client. That is what a client-centric investment approach is all about.

An investment advisor’s work process must begin with the client. The advisor must take the time to really get to know the client as an individual. In the first meeting, the advisor should ask about the client’s current financial circumstances. Factors to review include annual income, job security and satisfaction, and financial assets set aside for retirement or other financial objectives. Then the advisor and client should discuss anticipated financial goals and the time horizon the client has in mind.

Based on a careful study of this information, the advisor is then able to develop a customized financial plan that offers several approaches to investment – all of which are clearly defined, manageable and responsive to the criteria the client has provided. After the client selects the approach that seems most appropriate, the advisor finalizes and exacts the plan, choosing carefully from the vast array of financial products available in the marketplace.

Day-to-day, the client-centric investment approach is demonstrated through attentive service that includes returning phone calls and e-mails promptly (on the same business day). And sometimes, the advisor goes above and beyond.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, I went with a client to help her buy a car because she wasn’t familiar with all of the financial terms and jargon. Next week, I’m going to sit with a client and her attorney to discuss alimony disagreements with her ex-spouse.

Client-centric portfolio management also means being proactive with regular and frequent client communication by phone, e-mail, mail and, if appropriate, in-person meetings.

Consistent portfolio review is another hallmark. Depending on the client’s preference, portfolio reviews could be quarterly, semi-annual or annual.  Whatever the frequency, these reviews must be done consistently. They can be done in-person or by phone, depending on the client’s preference. Either way, consistent portfolio reviews make it possible for the advisor to respond more effectively to changes in the client’s life or market conditions.

Perhaps the most important hallmark of the client-centric investment approach is that all investment solutions are customized and personalized.  This means strict avoidance of cookie cutter solutions or pre-packaged investment models.

In the long run, client-centric investment depends on the quality of personal relationships. As an advisor, I’m not just a stranger who manages money. I make it my business to be accessible to my clients. In that spirit, I have been known to make house calls.

David Urovsky is registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer, Member (SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. It is not our position to offer legal or tax advice. Wealth Advisors Group is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. CRN-2400901-012919