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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Keeping It Real – The Impact of Fees, Taxes and Inflation

Real Stock ChartWhat’s more important to investors than real returns? 

In a previous note (Leaving Money on the Table) we wrote about the impact of taxes and fees on net strategy returns. Our focus was more conceptual and we highlighted the highly customized nature of after-tax portfolio management advice.

Some of our readers, however, remembered empirical work we had done a number of years back using broad US stock and bond market returns. We decided to update our previous research on the effect of taxes, fees and inflation on the real return to investors.

Our methodology is simple.  By necessity we employ some simplifying assumptions regarding fees and taxes. We use S&P 500 and US Government Ten-Year Note returns from the end of 1982 to the end of 2015.

We subtract three levels of “costs” from gross returns:

  • Management Fees
  • Taxes (short and long-term)
  • Purchasing Power (inflation)

Real Stock ReturnsReal Bond Returns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results are eye opening and a timely reminder of the drag on investment returns.  A lot of investors would be surprised to see the extent of this drag on their portfolios but in the real world the results may actually turn out to be even worse. 

Why? For one many investors pay high fees on their portfolios and ignore the tax efficiency of their strategies.

While not as sexy as a discussion of strategy returns or smart beta minimizing the extent of the cost drag from fees, taxes and loss of purchasing power is an important part of sustained wealth creation

 Management fees on portfolios should be scrutinized for value add.  Portfolio management has a cost. Index strategies are now available on most market segments in equity and fixed income markets at low cost but the combination of strategies and overall asset allocation still needs to be managed.

Jack Bogle has been talking about the importance of controlling fees for years and investors as a group may have become recently more fee sensitive especially as the realization sinks in that we are most likely going to be living in a low return environment for the next decade.

Paying high fees in a low return environment would certainly impair wealth accumulation targets.  Paying fees commensurate with value add should be the goal of investors.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, taxes are as certain as death and as such the best that one can do is minimize the tax bite of investment strategies. Tax loss harvesting, low portfolio turnover, proper strategy selection, and legal deferment of taxable events are elements of a coherent well-designed tax minimization strategy.

Finally, a huge drag on net real returns has been the loss of purchasing power. While inflation in recent years has been below historical norms the loss of purchasing power can best be thought of as an almost invisible downward pull on wealth creation efforts.

Not all investment strategies behave in the same manner in the face of inflationary forces.  Properly aligning investment strategies to the expected inflationary environment is an important component of minimizing the deleterious effects of a loss of purchasing power.

 If you would like to read our full report please fill out the information below and hit the Send button

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Eric J. Weigel

Managing Partner, Global Focus Capital LLC

Feel free to contact us at Global Focus Capital LLC (mailto:eweigel@gf-cap.com or visit our website at http://gf-cap.com to find out more about our asset management strategies, consulting/OCIO solutions, and research subscriptions.

DISCLAIMER: NOTHING HEREIN SHALL BE CONSTRUED AS INVESTMENT ADVICE, A RECOMMENDATION OR SOLICITATION TO BUY OR SELL ANY SECURITY. PAST PERFORMANCE DOES NOT PREDICT OR GUARANTEE FUTURE SIMILAR RESULTS. SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN INVESTMENT MANAGER, LAWYER AND ACCOUNTANT BEFORE YOU INVEST. DON’T RELY ON ANYTHING HEREIN. DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK. THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSIDER THE INVESTMENT NEEDS OR SUITABILITY OF ANY INDIVIDUAL. THERE IS NO PROMISE TO CORRECT ANY ERRORS OR OMISSIONS OR NOTIFY THE READER OF ANY SUCH ERRORS

Leaving Money on the Table? Time to Look at Taxes

tax-1351881_1280Thinking about taxes implications for your investments often plays second fiddle in fast moving capital markets and for a large number of investors – pension funds and endowments/foundations the issue is moot given their tax exempt status.

But for many investor be they already wealthy or diligently saving for retirement on their own the issue of taxes is incredibly important.  Proper tax management can dramatically alter financial outcomes especially over long periods of time.

Tax management can be complicated and should encompass the full financial and human capital picture and goals of the household or multi-generational family entity.  Investments are one aspect of this view but properly evaluating the tax implications of different investment strategies is an important component to the long-term success of an entity’s financial plan.

Taxable investors are not generally able to capture the full potential return of an investment for a number of reasons

  • The most obvious and frequently discussed reason are fees and expenses
  • The second and often more significant drag on realized long-term strategy returns is due to taxes

While tax structure and rules vary across geographic domiciles (across countries but also by states ) there are generically speaking two types of taxes that subtract from investor returns – taxes on periodic income received (dividends and coupons) and taxes paid upon the sale of a security.

Measuring the tax bite of an investment strategy depends on individual circumstances but it is still useful to look for generalities to assess the likely impact of different strategies on after-tax portfolio returns

We resort to evaluating four different hypothetical strategies using the theory of tax management as outlined in Chincarini and Kim (Journal of Portfolio Management, Fall 2001).

Value of $ After TaxThe wealth path of the four strategies that we evaluate for tax implications are shown to the left.

All strategies assume an annual gross return of 8% and a management fee of 1% per year. The strategies vary by the type of trading incurred.

 

 

Main Conclusions:

  • The advantage of the more tax efficient strategies for creating wealth for investors are clear especially as one extends the holding period.  Tax efficient strategies compound at a higher rate because of a smaller proportion of gains paid out as short-term taxes and the deferral of trading events leading to fewer taxable consequences.
  • Effective tax management requires an integrated approach to portfolio construction and trading that recognizes the potential returns, risks and tax implications of a strategy.  Simply reducing turnover or matching winning with losing positions once a year yields some gains but leaves a significant portion of the potential tax alpha on the table.

Tax aware optimization techniques while complicated on the surface are commercially available but require customization to account for individual circumstances. In many instances such programs create voluntary losses to offset current investment gains and the more sophisticated applications encompass security positions across different asset classes.  It is also very important to properly account for the intended final disposition of investment assets.

Finally, we would remiss to not point out that tax policy is not only highly specific to geographic areas (say countries and states) but also subject to significant rule changes over time.

If you would like to read our full report please fill out the information below and hit the Send button

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

 

Eric J. Weigel

Managing Partner, Global Focus Capital LLC

Feel free to contact us at Global Focus Capital LLC (mailto:eweigel@gf-cap.com or visit our website at http://gf-cap.com to find out more about our asset management strategies, consulting/OCIO solutions, and research subscriptions.

DISCLAIMER: NOTHING HEREIN SHALL BE CONSTRUED AS INVESTMENT ADVICE, A RECOMMENDATION OR SOLICITATION TO BUY OR SELL ANY SECURITY. PAST PERFORMANCE DOES NOT PREDICT OR GUARANTEE FUTURE SIMILAR RESULTS. SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN INVESTMENT MANAGER, LAWYER AND ACCOUNTANT BEFORE YOU INVEST. DON’T RELY ON ANYTHING HEREIN. DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK. THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSIDER THE INVESTMENT NEEDS OR SUITABILITY OF ANY INDIVIDUAL. THERE IS NO PROMISE TO CORRECT ANY ERRORS OR OMISSIONS OR NOTIFY THE READER OF ANY SUCH ERRORS

 

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