Planning Commentary – Who are the Mass Affluent?
“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”
– Dale Carnegie, American Writer and Lecturer
Families that our firm is fortunate enough to serve have certainly found a lot of success financially. Interestingly, our clients are often so busy working hard (and having fun at it) that they fail to realize how much success they really have experienced. As an example, a study published by the Spectrem Group and Vanguard recently defined the “Mass Affluent” as households having net worth between $100,000 and $1M. There are 28.4 million households in the U.S. that fit in this category. The U.S. population as of this writing is estimated by the United States Census Bureau “Population Clock” at 321,231,058. This means that only 8.84% of households in the U.S. fit in this category!
Other categories as depicted by the graph below from Spectrem represent even smaller portions of the U.S. population. A lot of families we talk with are surprised at these figures.
To put this in perspective a different way, based upon 2011 Census Bureau data (the most recent data available), 56% of the U.S. population has a net worth less than $100,000, and the median household net worth is roughly $68,000! By all measures our clients are a part of a very successful group of the population, particularly in their financial life.
As we serve hundreds of these successful families, we have learned that striking a balance in all things is critical. Dale Carnegie was right about having fun doing what you do to find success, but it certainly doesn’t just apply to what you do professionally. Many times the benefit to realizing the success we have had professionally (and the resulting financial gain) is that it allows us to spend more time enjoying parts of life that don’t involve making money. To say this another way, as long as we have a way to objectively measure our success in relation to our goals and feel confident we are on pace to meet them, we can relax more and take time to enjoy our family, friends, causes and community. Those are ways outside of our financial lives that we all feel enriched and accomplished, yet they each require success to be present in our financial lives to allow the time and commitment to occur in a healthy way.
By way of being born in this great country we are each already very lucky. Coming off of another 4th of July celebration should remind us all of that. When you are having fun doing what you are passionate about professionally, it will often lead to great financial treasures. What you do to enjoy those blessings in all ways will certainly have a lot to do with your happiness in life and feeling of fulfillment. Part of our job in wealth planning is to help the families we work with see their true ability to meet all of the needs in their lives, the most important often not being money related at all.
Authored by: N. Perry Moore, CBEC™, CFP®, ChFC®
Direct Phone: 812-602-6306
Investing Commentary – Changing of the Guard
“Markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux, and money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.”
– George Soros
(Hungarian-born U.S. business magnate, investor and philanthropist
Chairman of Soros Fund Management and one of the 30 richest people in the world)
With the first half of 2015, we’ve seen a changing of the guard in global financial markets. After several years of double-digit returns, the S&P 500 index is now lagging other equity markets as the effects of lower oil prices and a stronger U.S. dollar have been too much for an improving economy to offset. On the other hand, Small-Cap Growth companies have benefited from their more domestically concentrated revenue stream, resulting in a return of 7.7% for the first six months of the year. Reinforcing the importance of staying globally invested, both emerging and developed international equity markets have regained some ground this year, rising 1.73% and 6.20%, respectively. Both Europe and Japan have benefited from very aggressive monetary policies, and emerging markets are beginning to see signs of stabilization. Alternatively, interest rate sensitive asset classes such as bonds, real estate investment trusts, and utility stocks have struggled with higher and more volatile interest rates.
Our thoughts on Greece
As we write this commentary on Monday, July 6, the initial market reaction has been fairly muted to Sunday’s “NO” vote on proposed creditor terms by the citizens of Greece. However, given the uncertainty of how this situation will be resolved, we wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in market volatility over the coming weeks. On a positive note, we believe that the European Central Bank has the monetary tools in place to prevent any spillover of the crisis throughout the rest of Europe. European leaders (led by Germany) may still offer a very bold debt relief deal to help Greece stay in the monetary union, but we think the chance of this happening is slim. We expect further economic deterioration for the citizens of Greece, but we don’t anticipate their troubles bringing down the rest of the world. With an economy that generates roughly the same GDP as the State of Connecticut,1 Greece isn’t a global economic powerhouse. Expect hoarding of goods to increase and a shortage of food and fuel to intensify with access to capital cut off. The government will struggle to pay pensioners and the salaries of civil servants. As a result, the government will be under significant pressure to issue some type of IOUs to maintain a sense of a functioning economy. If it does, the IOUs will take on the role of a parallel currency to the Euro, quoted domestically at a significant discount. Inflation within Greece will likely increase significantly.
Market performance this year should not only remind investors of the importance of time horizon, but also the importance of diversification. As always, we welcome your questions and comments, and we certainly appreciate the trust and confidence you have placed in us.
Your Investment Team,