Category Archives: Sign of the Times

Market Sound Bite: A Volatile but Emerging World

By John M. Bussel | Principal, Chief Investment Officer, Regional Director

Bring back the Dramamine. After a summer of light chop in the markets, the heavier seas have rolled back in so far this month. Volatility has returned, and its main drivers are familiar.

Early in the year, weakness in China’s economic data and falling oil prices drew concern about a global slowdown in overall demand. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve was considering interest rate hikes, in addition to the one they pushed through back in December, which would have potentially weakened global economies further. Markets declined sharply during the first six weeks of the year before bottoming in mid-February, as the data ultimately showed that the sell-off in oil was more supply-related than demand-related.

Continue reading Market Sound Bite: A Volatile but Emerging World

CIO John Bussel Co-Chairs the Inaugural Israel Investment Summit

By the OneBite Editorial Staff

It may come as a surprise to most that one of the world’s most influential tech capitals can fit inside of New York City. Yet in a global marketplace that has recently contended with political turmoil and stagnant economic growth, the small country of Israel has managed to cultivate a vibrant, dynamic economy driven by innovation and entrepreneurship, one that is starting to outpace its larger and more populated counterparts.

At just 68-years-old, the nation, which boasts more startups per capita than any other country in the world, has gradually morphed into a tech powerhouse: more than 270 multinational corporations, including industry giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft, have opened research and development outfits in Israel. And with the exception of the U.S. and China, Israel outranks every other nation in the number of companies listed on the NASDAQ.

Continue reading CIO John Bussel Co-Chairs the Inaugural Israel Investment Summit

Market Sound Bite: Uncharted Territory

By Roger Hewins | President

My colleague Rafia Hasan wrote a nice piece on negative interest rates, what causes them and whether this all implies lower equity returns as well. We’ll be sharing her article with you on OneBite next week.

We concluded that we do see the weak economies and the inability of monetary policy to stimulate growth, but this does not imply that businesses will not manage through this environment and have success anyway. Equities can go up, even as the economy stays weak and interest rates remain at zero.

Good thing: today, we got more bad news, GDP growth as consistently poor as we have ever seen.1

Continue reading Market Sound Bite: Uncharted Territory

The Brexit: A Threat to Global Markets?

By John M. Bussel | Principal, Chief Investment Officer, Regional Director

Editor’s Note: Since this article was originally published, Britain has voted to exit the European Union (EU). 

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” — John Quincy Adams

The British are leaving? On June 23, British citizens will vote to decide whether the U.K. should leave or remain in the European Union (EU). The most recent polls, while close, show a majority of Britons intend to vote to leave the EU. The arguments to leave include: the imposition of too many rules and regulations on business, lack of control over borders, billions in annual membership fees (8.8 billion pounds in 2014/2015) and a union that is determined to have its members move closer over time, and eventually look more like a “United States of Europe.”

Those looking to stay argue that the country is more secure and held in higher regard by being a member of the 28-nation group, and that the free flow of both goods and people within the EU boosts economic growth, rather than impedes it. Each side has its perspective, and we’ll get the answer soon enough.

Continue reading The Brexit: A Threat to Global Markets?

Why You Should Demand a Fiduciary Standard

By Dean Stange, J.D., CFP® | Principal, Senior Financial Advisor

The Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued new regulations enacting a fiduciary rule for retirement plan advice, in an effort to end some of the abuses that unfortunately are widespread in retirement plans. We covered the background and main terms of the rule after it was released on April 6 (you can read our take here). Due to this new regulation, the term “fiduciary” has received a lot of attention in the news and on financial talk shows lately. Just last weekend, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver dedicated an entire segment to the fiduciary standard, proving that the term has officially made its way into the mainstream.

Here is the big-picture story behind the DOL’s regulation (and the reason this has received so much attention suddenly): for years, there has been a battle brewing in the financial services industry over the fiduciary standard. The DOL’s fiduciary rule is just the latest clash in a much larger financial-services civil war.

What Is a Fiduciary, Anyway?

Let’s back up: there are significant differences in how traditional Wall Street brokerage firms and registered investment advisors (RIAs) are regulated under current law. RIAs, like our firm, are regulated by the Investment Advisers Act of 1940; the terms of this act impose a fiduciary duty on all RIAs, but not most brokerage firms. By definition, fiduciary advisors have “an affirmative duty of utmost good faith to act solely in the best interests of their clients, and to make full and fair disclosure of all material facts,” particularly with respect to actual or potential conflicts of interest. Above all, a fiduciary advisor must put his or her clients’ interests ahead of their own interests and ahead of their firm’s interests.1


By comparison, brokerage and insurance firms are held to a lower “suitability standard.” This means that brokers, insurance sales representatives and advisors operating under this standard are merely required to offer investments that are suitable for their clients. As one Forbes writer put it, this standard “doesn’t require brokers to find the best products, only ones that are ostensibly suitable for you. If an underwhelming house-brand security lines up with the vague outlines of what is considered suitable, they can still push it, even if it costs more to own or underperforms peer securities.”2

Continue reading Why You Should Demand a Fiduciary Standard

Social Security Alert: Last Call for File-and-Suspend

By Karl Schwartz, CPA, CFP® | Principal, Senior Financial Advisor and 
the OneBite Editorial Staff

Click here for a full recap of the key benefits and changes put into place following the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

As many of you know, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, signed into law by President Obama last November, impacted several popular Social Security filing strategies, including two that are most commonly used by married couples today: file-and-suspend and restricted application.

Since the signing of the Bipartisan Budget Act, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has provided clarification on several details that were not specifically defined in the initial legislation. Here is a summary of the final details you should know:


Recap: This strategy allows one spouse to file for Social Security benefits at their full retirement age (FRA) and then immediately suspend the collection of the benefits as far out as age 70. One of the key elements of this strategy is that it addresses one of the qualifying factors to allow a spouse to collect a spousal benefit based on their earnings record.

Deadline Approaching: To take advantage of this strategy, you must be 66 and file and suspend your benefits on or before April 29, 2016. The SSA recently announced that it will not process any suspension requests submitted on or after April 30, 2016. However, if you file and suspend before April 30, but your request isn’t processed until April 30 or later, the SSA will still honor your claim — thus, you’ll still be able to take advantage of the strategy (so long as you’re of eligible filing age).

Continue reading Social Security Alert: Last Call for File-and-Suspend

Understanding the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule

By the OneBite Editorial Staff

It has swept headlines, sparked water-cooler conversations and ignited heated discussions in countless Congressional hearings. If you’ve kept a pulse on the regulatory world over the past few months, chances are you’ve heard about the release of the Department of Labor (DOL)’s fiduciary rule for retirement plan advice. But what, exactly, does the legislation entail? And more importantly, how does it affect retirement plan advisors, plan sponsors and participants?


The Timeline

Though the buzz around the rule has increased over the past year, the legislation is actually six years in the making: it was initially proposed in 2010, but was withdrawn in 2011, following strong industry opposition and resistance from both sides of the aisle.

The DOL went back to the drawing board and reintroduced the proposal for public comment last April. After several attempts by lobbyists, legislators and industry opponents to block the rule (including a failed attempt to attach it to the omnibus spending bill at the close of 2015), the legislation was delivered to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review in January. On April 6, the rule made its official debut to the public.

Continue reading Understanding the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule

Protecting Our Seniors and Their Assets

By Patrick Brault, CPA, CTFA | Principal, Regional Director

Over the past few years, a disturbing trend has come to light regarding our nation’s growing senior population: elder financial abuse and exploitation has become more widespread, with new cases increasing by the day. According to AARP, senior fraud accounts for nearly $3 billion in losses each year — and that number is expected to grow.1 A recent article in The New York Times noted that 10,000 people will turn 65 every day over the next decade, which means more elders will be susceptible to financial abuse in the coming years.2

Unfortunately, the full impact of this epidemic remains largely unknown — one of the greatest concerns for this age group is that most cases of abuse, especially those related to finances, are not reported. Typically, financial losses are related to situations involving physical or mental abuse (or both). And what’s worse is that the perpetrators are often people the senior wouldn’t expect — in fact, many cases of abuse involve “trusted” confidants, such as relatives, friends, advisors and others.

Continue reading Protecting Our Seniors and Their Assets

Top Three Changes on the Tax Front for 2016

By the OneBite Editorial Staff

In one of its final legislative actions at the close of the year, Congress cleared the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes” (PATH) Act of 2015, which permanently reinstated a number of popular tax provisions that had lapsed in previous years (you can read more about the bill here).

Beyond the passage of the PATH Act, 2016 will bring a handful of minor changes that you’ll need to keep on your radar for next year. Right now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s great and all, but I’m focused on finalizing my 2015 tax return — I can’t even think a full year ahead.”

Sure, it may sound daunting — but it’s important to remember that tax planning is a year-round process, one that doesn’t halt once your return is signed and filed. The sooner you plan ahead and start the preparation process, the better your chances of achieving greater savings (and avoiding any unwelcome surprises) next year. The first step: schedule a meeting with your advisor to get up-to-speed on the new adjustments and assess whether they’ll affect your tax plan moving forward.


Here’s a quick look at the top changes that will take shape in 2016:

Continue reading Top Three Changes on the Tax Front for 2016

New Legislation You Should Know: 529A ABLE Accounts

By Benjamin Hayes, CFP®, MBA | Principal, Senior Financial Advisor

Late last year, Congress enacted new rules to improve the recently created 529A ABLE account, a tax-advantaged savings account for individuals with disabilities. Before we jump into the new rules, let’s briefly review the key advantages and distinctions of the account itself.

529 New Legislation - Benjamin Hayes_ABLE

A Step Forward for Special Needs Planning

In 2014, Congress passed legislation to expand on the popular 529 plan for college savings, creating the 529A ABLE (or “Achieving a Better Life Experience”) account. The new ABLE account was developed to provide parents the opportunity to save money in a tax-advantaged investment vehicle for children with special needs.

A typical 529 plan allows for tax-free distributions only if the beneficiary uses the funds for qualified education expenses. But if the beneficiary doesn’t have expenses from one of those qualified institutions, any earnings withdrawn from the 529 account are subject to taxes and penalties. For parents of children with special needs, this rule significantly limited the practical use of a typical 529 account.

Continue reading New Legislation You Should Know: 529A ABLE Accounts