Rate Watch 2018 -February

Welcome to another edition of Rate Watch as we track the interest rate that is vital to the grandfathered pension at Southern California Edison. If you’ve missed any of our previous articles, you can find them here:

Rate Watch 2018 – January
Rate Watch 2017 – August
Rate Watch 2017 – July
Rate Watch 2017 – June

As our first rate for 2018, we feel that this could be a good indicator on the range of possibilities we might see as we approach the end of 2018. The official rate for the grandfathered pension plan in 2018 is 4.36, derived from the August 2017’s third segment minimum present value rate, but it is important to determine what you options could look like as we approach the official announcement. Let’s take a look at the most recent posted rates:

February 2018 Chart

*These are not current plan rates for Southern California Edison’s pension plan, they are minimum present value third segment rates from the IRS. Official plan rates are derived from the minimum present value segment rates table (https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/minimum-present-value-segment-rates) . Plan rate changes are made by Southern California Edison on an annual basis.

There has been a small uptick from December 2017’s 4.11, but insignificant in the short-term. However, as we say each month, when rates decrease the value of your lump sum payout goes up and vice-versa. The most recent rate is still below the official 2018 rate, but again, it is very early in the year and there is plenty of time for rates to move from now until the fall.

What is more important to note is the continued conversation of rising interest rates in the U.S., and how the Fed continues to look to raise rates in the long-term. The Fed and how the market reacts to these interest rate changes will be one of, if not the biggest, influence on rates this year.

As the fall approaches, it will be vital for SCE employees to examine the new official rate in comparison to the 2018 number of 4.36. Additionally, as employees plan for retirement, their pension should not be the only metric that they look at. Assets, debts, and income needs should all be analyzed prior to making a decision on retirement. Again, this metric is important to track for those prepared to make the plunge into retirement, but you should not base your decision off of rate changes or you pension alone.


Joe OcchipintiJoe Occhipinti
Wealth Advisor
Warren Street Wealth Advisors

 

 

 

 

Joe Occhipinti is an Investment Advisor Representative of Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. Information contained herein does not involve the rendering of personalized investment advice, but is limited to the dissemination of general information. A professioanl advisor should be consulted before implementing any of the strategies or options presented.

Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Changes in investment strategies, contributions or withdrawals may materially alter the performance, strategy, and results of your portfolio.Historical performance results for investment indexes and/or categories, generally do not reflect the deduction of transaction and/or custodial charges or the deduction of an investment-management fee, the incurrence of which would have the effect of decreasing historical performance results.Economic factors, market conditions, and investment strategies will affect the performance of any portfolio and there are no assurances that it will match or outperform any particular benchmark. Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.

 

Rate Watch 2018 – January

If you followed along with us last year, you may remember our Rate Watch 2017 articles where we tracked the interest rate used for the Southern California Edison grandfathered pension.

Rate Watch 2017 – August
Rate Watch 2017 – July
Rate Watch 2017 – June
Rate Watch 2017 – May

Since our last Rate Watch post in September 2017, we wanted to write a quick recap article of the last few months of interest rate changes as we look towards the official announcement in the fall.

Edison uses the minimum present value third segment rate for the grandfathered pension plan. The August rate is the one that is specifically used for the plan’s lump sum value calculation, and the official announcement is made by SCE to its employees in late September or early October.

Rate Watch January 2018 Chart

The rule of thumb with the pension is: when interest rates decrease, the value of your lump sum payout increases and vice versa.

Since August, we have seen the rate fall from 4.36 down to 4.11. While it is still very early in the year, and this number does not directly impact lump sum values for the pension, we find it important to keep track of where the number is at and where it could be heading towards the fall.

If you think that retirement is on the horizon and want to make sure you maximize your pension benefit, then schedule a free consultation to learn what we do for SCE employees and how we have helped 100’s of them retire with confidence.

*These are not current plan rates for Southern California Edison’s pension plan, they are minimum present value third segment rates from the IRS. Official plan rates are derived from the minimum present value segment rates table (https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/minimum-present-value-segment-rates) . Plan rate changes are made by Southern California Edison on an annual basis.


Joe OcchipintiJoe Occhipinti
Wealth Advisor
Warren Street Wealth Advisors

 

 

 

 

Joe Occhipinti is an Investment Advisor Representative of Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. The information posted here represents his opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Changes in investment strategies, contributions or withdrawals may materially alter the performance, strategy, and results of your portfolio.Historical performance results for investment indexes and/or categories, generally do not reflect the deduction of transaction and/or custodial charges or the deduction of an investment-management fee, the incurrence of which would have the effect of decreasing historical performance results.Economic factors, market conditions, and investment strategies will affect the performance of any portfolio and there are no assurances that it will match or outperform any particular benchmark. Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.

 

The ABCs of Behavioral Bias – Conclusion

We’ll wrap our series, the ABCs of Behavioral Biases, by repeating our initial premise: Your own behavioral biases are often the greatest threat to your financial well-being.

We hope we’ve demonstrated the many ways this single statement can play out, and how often our survival-mode brains trick us into making financial calls that foil our own best interests.

Evidence-Based Behavioral Finance

But don’t take our word for it. Just as we turn to robust academic evidence to guide our disciplined investment strategy, so too do we turn to the work of behavioral finance scholars, to understand and employ effective defenses against your most aggressive behavioral biases.

If there weren’t so much damage done, behavioral finance might be of merely academic interest. But given how often – and in how many ways – your fight-or-flight instincts collide with your rational investment plans, it’s worth being aware of the tell-tale signs, so you can detect when a behavioral bias may be running roughshod over your higher reasoning. To help with that, here’s a summary of the biases we’ve covered throughout this series:  

The Bias Its Symptoms The Damage Done
Anchoring Going down with the proverbial ship by fixing on rules of thumb or references that don’t serve your best interests. “I paid $11/share for this stock and now it’s only worth $9. I won’t sell it until I’ve broken even.”
Blind Spot The mirror might lie after all. We can assess others’ behavioral biases, but we often remain blind to our own. “We are often confident even when we are wrong, and an objective observer is more likely to detect our errors than we are.” (Daniel Kahneman)
Confirmation This “I thought so” bias causes you to seek news that supports your beliefs and ignore conflicting evidence. After forming initial reactions, we’ll ignore new facts and find false affirmations to justify our chosen course … even if it would be in our best financial interest to consider a change.
Familiarity Familiarity breeds complacency. We forget that “familiar” doesn’t always means “safer” or “better.”    By overconcentrating in familiar assets (domestic vs. foreign, or a company stock) you decrease global diversification and increase your exposure to unnecessary market risks.
Fear Financial fear is that “Get me out, NOW” panic we feel whenever the markets turn brutal.   “We’d never buy a shirt for full price then be O.K. returning it in exchange for the sale price. ‘Scary’ markets convince people this unequal exchange makes sense.” (Carl Richards)
Framing Six of one or half a dozen of another? Different ways of considering the same information can lead to illogically different conclusions. Narrow framing can trick you into chasing or fleeing individual holdings, instead of managing everything you hold within the greater framework of your total portfolio.
Greed Excitement is an investor’s enemy (to paraphrase Warren Buffett.) You can get burned in high-flying markets if you forget what really counts: managing risks, controlling costs, and sticking to plan.
Herd Mentality “If everyone jumped off a bridge …” Your mother was right. Even if “everyone is doing it,” that doesn’t mean you should. Herd mentality intensifies our greedy or fearful financial reactions to the random events that generated the excitement to begin with.
Hindsight “I knew it all along” (even if you didn’t). When your hindsight isn’t 20/20, your brain may subtly shift it until it is. If you trust your “gut” instead of a disciplined investment strategy, you may be hitching your financial future to a skewed view of the past.
Loss Aversion No pain is even better than a gain. We humans are hardwired to abhor losing even more than we crave winning. Loss aversion causes investors to try to dodge bear markets, despite overwhelming evidence that market timing is more likely to increase costs and decrease expected returns.
Mental Accounting Not all money is created equal. Mental accounting assigns different values to different dollars – such as inherited assets vs. lottery wins. Reluctant to sell an inherited holding? Want to blow a windfall as “fun money”? Mental accounting can play against you if you let it overrule your best financial interests.
Outcome Luck or skill? Even when an outcome is just random luck, your biased brain still may attribute it to special skills.   If you misattribute good or bad investment outcomes to a foresight you couldn’t possibly have had, it imperils your ability to remain an objective investor for the long haul.
Overconfidence A “Lake Wobegon effect,” overconfidence creates a statistical impossibility: Everyone thinks they’re above average. Overconfidence puffs up your belief that you’ve got the rare luck or skill required to consistently “beat” the market, instead of patiently participating in its long-term returns.
Pattern Recognition Looks can deceive. Our survival instincts strongly bias us toward finding predictive patterns, even in a random series. By being predisposed to mistake random market runs as reliable patterns, investors are often left chasing expensive mirages.
Recency Out of sight, out of mind. We tend to let recent events most heavily influence us, even for our long-range planning. If you chase or flee the market’s most recent returns, you’ll end up piling into high-priced hot holdings and selling low during the downturns.
Sunk Cost Fallacy Throwing good money after bad. It’s harder to lose something if you’ve already invested time, energy or money into it. Sunk cost fallacy can stop you from selling a holding at a loss, even when it is otherwise the right thing to do for your total portfolio.
Tracking Error Regret Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Tracking error regret happens when you compare yourself to external standards and wish you were more like them. It can be deeply damaging to your investment returns if you compare your own performance against apples-to-oranges measures, and then trade in reaction to the mismatched numbers.

 

Next Steps: Think Slow

Even once you’re familiar with the behavioral biases that stand between you and clear-heading thinking, you’ll probably still be routinely tempted to react to the fear, greed, doubt, recklessness and similar hot emotions they generate.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman helps us understand why in his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” where he describes how we engage in System 1 (fast) and System 2 (slow) thinking: “In the picture that emerges from recent research, the intuitive System 1 is more influential than your experience tells you, and it is the secret author of many of the choices and judgments you make.”

In other words, we can’t help ourselves. When we think fast, our instincts tend to run the show; for better or worse, they’re the first thoughts that come to mind.

This is one reason an objective advisor can be such a critical ally, helping you move past your System 1 thinking into more deliberate decision-making for your long-term goals. (On the flip side, financial providers who are themselves fixated on picking hot stocks or timing the market on your behalf are more likely to exacerbate than alleviate your most dangerous biases.)

Investors of “Ordinary Intelligence”

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett is a businessman, not a behavioral economist. But he does have a way with words. We’ll wrap with a bit of his timeless wisdom:

“Success in investing doesn’t correlate with I.Q. once you’re above the level of 25. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.”

If you can remember this cool-headed thinking the next time you’re tempted to act on your investment instincts, Mr. Buffett’s got nothing on you (except perhaps a few billion dollars). But if you could use somes help managing the behavioral biases that are likely lurking in your blind spot, give us a call. In combatting that which you cannot see, two views are better than one.

 

Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor. The information posted here represents his opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional.  Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.

The ABCs of Behavioral Bias – S-Z

We’re coming in for a landing on our alphabetic run-down of behavioral biases. Today, we’ll present the final line-up: sunk cost fallacy and tracking error regret.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

What is it? Sunk cost fallacy makes it harder for us to lose something when we also face losing the time, energy or money we’ve already put into it. In “Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes,” Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich describe: “[Sunk cost fallacy] is the primary reason most people would choose to risk traveling in a dangerous snowstorm if they had paid for a ticket to an important game or concert, while passing on the trip if they had been given the ticket for free.” You’re missing or attending the same event either way. But if a sunk cost is involved, it somehow makes it more difficult to let go, even if you would be better off without it.

When is it helpful? When a person, project or possession is truly worth it to you, sunk costs – the blood, sweat, tears and/or legal tender you’ve already poured into them – can help you take a deep breath and soldier on. Otherwise, let’s face it. There might be those days when you’d be tempted to help your kids pack their “run away from home” bags yourself.

When is it harmful? Falling for financial sunk cost fallacy is so common, there’s even a cliché for it: throwing good money after bad. There’s little harm done if the toss is a small one, such as attending a prepaid event you’d rather have skipped. But in investing, adopting a sunk cost mentality – “I can’t unload this until I’ve at least broken even” – can cost you untold real dollars by blinding you from selling at a loss when it is otherwise the right thing to do. The most rational investment strategy acknowledges we cannot control what already has happened to our investments; we can only position ourselves for future expected returns, according to the best evidence available to us at the time.

 

Tracking error Regret

What is it? If you’ve ever decided the grass is greener on the other side, you’ve experienced tracking error regret – that gnawing envy you feel when you compare yourself to external standards and you wish you were more like them.

When is it helpful? If you’re comparing yourself to a meaningful benchmark, tracking error-regret can be a positive force, spurring you to try harder. Say, for example, you’re a professional athlete and you’ve been repeatedly losing to your peers. You may be prompted to embrace a new fitness regimen, rethink your equipment, or otherwise strive to improve your game.

When is it harmful? If you’ve structured your investment portfolio to reflect your goals and risk tolerances, it’s important to remember that your near-term results may frequently march out of tune with “typical” returns … by design. It can be deeply damaging to your long-range plans if you compare your own performance to irrelevant, apples-to-oranges benchmarks such as the general market, the latest popular trends, or your neighbor’s seemingly greener financial grass. Stop playing the shoulda, woulda, coulda game, chasing past returns you wish you had received based on random outperformance others (whose financial goals differ from yours) may have enjoyed. You’re better off tending to your own fertile possibilities, guided by personalized planning, evidence-based investing, and accurate benchmark comparisons.

We’ve now reached the end of our alphabetic overview of the behavioral biases that most frequently lead investors astray. In a final installment, we’ll wrap with a concluding summary. Until then, no regrets!

 

Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor. The information posted here represents his opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional.  Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.

The ABCs of Behavioral Bias – O-R

So many financial behavioral biases, so little time! Today, let’s take a few minutes to cover our next batch of biases: overconfidence, pattern recognition and recency.

 

Overconfidence

What is it? No sooner do we recover from one debilitating bias, our brain can whipsaw us in an equal but opposite direction. For example, we’ve already seen how fear on the one hand and greed on the other can knock investors off course either way. Similarly, overconfidence is the flip side of loss aversion. Once we’ve got something, we don’t want to lose it and will overvalue it compared to its going rate. But when we are pursuing fame or fortune, or even going about our daily lives, we tend to be overconfident about our odds of success.

When is it helpful? In “Your Money & Your Brain,” Jason Zweig cites several sources that describe overconfidence in action and why it’s the norm rather than the exception in our lives. “How else could we ever get up the nerve to ask somebody out on a date, go on a job interview, or compete in a sport?” asks Zweig, and adds: “There is only one major group whose members do not consistently believe they are above average: people who are clinically depressed.”

When is it harmful? While overconfidence can be generally beneficial, it becomes dangerous when you’re investing. Interacting with a host of other biases (such as greed, confirmation bias and familiarity bias) overconfidence puffs up our belief that we can consistently beat the market by being smarter or luckier than average. In reality, when it’s you, betting against the trillions and trillions of other dollars at play in our global markets, it’s best to be brutally realistic about how to patiently participate in the market’s expected returns, instead of trying to go for broke – potentially literally.

 

Pattern Recognition

What is it? Is that a zebra, a cheetah or a light breeze moving through the grass? Since prehistoric times when our ancestors depended on getting the right answer, right away, evolution has been conditioning our brains to find and interpret patterns – or else. That’s why, our pattern-seeking impulses tend to treat even random events (like 10 coin flips, all heads) as if they’re orderly outcomes suggesting a predictive pattern. “Just as nature abhors a vacuum, people hate randomness,” says Zweig, as a result of our brain’s dopamine-induced “prediction addiction.”

When is it helpful? Had our ancestors failed at pattern recognition, we wouldn’t be here to speak of it, and we still make good use of it today. For example, we stop at red lights and go when they’re green. Is your spouse or partner giving you “that look”? You know just what it means before they’ve said a single word. And whether you enjoy a good jigsaw puzzle, Sudoku, or Rubik’s Cube, you’re giving your pattern recognition skills a healthy workout.

When is it harmful? Speaking of seeing red, Zweig recently published a fascinating piece on how simply presenting financial numbers in red instead of black can make investors more fearful and risk-averse. That’s a powerful illustration of how pattern recognition can influence us – even if the so-called pattern (red = danger) is a red herring. Is any given stream of breaking financial news a predictive pattern worth pursuing? Or is it simply a deceptive mirage? Given how hard it is to tell the difference (until hindsight reveals the truth), investors are best off ignoring the market’s many glittering distractions and focusing instead on their long-term goals.    

 

Recency

What is it? Recency causes you to pay more attention to your most recent experiences, and to downplay the significance of long-term conditions. For example, in “Nudge,” Nobel laureate Richard Thaler and co-author Cass Sunstein observe: “If floods have not occurred in the immediate past, people who live on floodplains are far less likely to purchase insurance.” That’s recency, tricking people into ascribing more importance to the lack of recent flooding than to the bigger context of being located on a flood plain.

When is it helpful? In “Stumbling on Happiness,” Daniel Gilbert describes how we humans employ recency to accurately interpret otherwise ambiguous situations. Say, for example, someone says to you, “Don’t run into the bank!” Whether your most recent experience has been floating down a river or driving toward the commerce district helps you quickly decide whether to paddle harder or walk more carefully through the door.

When is it harmful? Of course buying high and selling low is exactly the opposite of investors’ actual aspirations. And yet, no matter how many times our capital markets have moved through their bear-and-bull cycles, recency causes droves of investors to stumble every time. By reacting to the most recent jolts instead of remaining positioned as planned for long-term expected growth, they end up piling into high-priced hot holdings and locking in losses by selling low during the downturns. They allow recency to get the better of them … and their most rational, evidence-based investment decisions.

 

We’re on the home stretch of our series on behavioral biases. Look for the rest of the alphabet soon.

 

Warren Street Wealth Advisors, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor. The information posted here represents his opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional.  Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.