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Welcome Richard Hall, CFP®

Richard HallWe are thrilled to announce the addition of Richard Hall, CFP® to the Pitzl Financial team. Rick brings two decades of experience in financial services to our firm, hailing from Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, and Norwest (Wells Fargo).

As a Wealth Advisor at Pitzl Financial, Rick will be instrumental in the financial planning process with our clients, providing individualized advice and strategy, along with the evidence-based investment philosophy you have come to expect. Throughout his career, he has taken great pride in assisting individuals and families with making prudent and impactful financial decisions.

Rick is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, and a graduate of Southwest Minnesota State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a finance concentration.

He and his wife, Maggie, and their five children live in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.  In his free time, Rick likes to stay active playing basketball with his kids, watching his daughters dance, and searching for monster walleye.

The addition of Rick, along with Justin Gabriel (whom we introduced in our January newsletter), adds a great deal of depth and support to our advisory team. 

Please join us in welcoming Rick to the Pitzl team. We look forward to continuing to develop and strengthen our planning capabilities and service model in the years ahead.

Ah…so that’s what risk feels like

Global markets have been thumped pretty bad over the last week, and the last two trading days in particular. As of the time of this writing (Tuesday morning, 4:30am), it appears today will open lower as well. Will that hold? I don’t know. It depends on whether traders buy more than they sell today.

Yesterday, the Dow lost more points than any single day in history. This statement, of course, is the headline story for several news outlets. However, in percentage terms, it only marks the 108th worst day in its 121-year history.

Make no mistake, the market fell sharply, but it was far from its worst day ever. Further, the last time we experienced a drop like this was 2011, so it has been about seven years since we felt this roughly once-per-year event.

We wrote and talked with you at length over the last year about how strange of a year it was, where volatility basically evaporated from the global markets. Stocks seemed to be riding a wave of positive economic news toward an endless horizon. Continue reading “Ah…so that’s what risk feels like”

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

The highly anticipated tax reform we have been hearing much about lately is expected to be passed into law today. While the economic and political implications of this bill will be unknown for some time, we at least have an understanding of the individual changes taking shape that will impact your planning in the years ahead.

My focus in this email is to give you a very general take on what is changing for individuals, and what to consider right away from a planning perspective. Nearly everything available in the mainstream media right now ought to be taken with a grain of salt…on either side of the political spectrum. Very little of what I have been seeing contains much real substance for people. Instead, they either focus on slivers of the bill, or on making a politically biased opinion or hysterical predictions of the impact. And as usual, that goes both directions. Don’t fall for the click bait.

You know where we stand on predictions, whether that be the direction of markets, economic consensus, or the ability of the CBO to project pretty much anything beyond a year or two. We simply don’t know yet, and acknowledging that will help you stay focused on what matters and what you can control.

You also have to look at the bill as a whole, rather than isolating certain components to make a statement. For example, arguing that taking away personal exemptions from families is harmful is extremely misleading without considering that a higher child tax credit will typically more than make up the difference. You are probably hearing / reading that you ought to consider prepaying income or property taxes this year, as those deductions will be limited in the years ahead. However, if you are subject to AMT, prepaying these taxes will save you exactly $0 in Federal income taxes.

Continue reading “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017”

Equifax Data Breach – What You Need to Know

Last Friday, Equifax, one of the major credit reporting bureaus, issued a press release announcing that on July 29 it had discovered “unauthorized access” to data belonging to as many as 143 million U.S. consumers. We have compiled some information that we hope may help you understand what happened and what to do next. There has been a lot of information being thrown around the web the last several days ranging from solid to bizarre conspiracy theories. At the end of the day, this is not likely to disappear overnight, and yes, this is absolutely a big deal.

Equifax has stated its internal investigation determined no evidence of unauthorized activity on its core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases. However, the data accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers were accessed for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and personal identifying information on documents for another 182,000 people.

Equifax has set up a website on which you can enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number to see if you have been affected by the breach.

Many people using this website have received error messages, perhaps due to the volume of people accessing it. Unfortunately, at this time, the results provided by the website can be vague and not necessarily reliable. Considering that the 143 million U.S. consumers affected represent 55 percent of the adult U.S. population over the age of 18, we recommend that you act as if your information was accessed as part of this data breach. Continue reading “Equifax Data Breach – What You Need to Know”

The Problem with New Years Resolutions

Ping Pong TableAs a client of Pitzl Financial, you have likely heard us reframe the modern concept of “Wealth.” While most people today associate the word with being materially rich, the origins of the word can be traced to Middle English, when it meant “the condition of well-being or happiness.”

As we entered the New Year, our office decided to practice what we preach and took a step to increase the “wealth” of the Pitzl & Pitzl and Pitzl Financial teams by investing in our social / cultural capital — we purchased a Ping Pong Table for our newly expanded office space.

However, over a week after the table’s arrival, it remained in scattered pieces on the floor of our office.

An unexpected problem presented itself after we ripped open the box. The table came in a lot of pieces and is quite time consuming to put together! To make matters worse, the tools we have were ill-suited for the task. Continue reading “The Problem with New Years Resolutions”

America Has Voted…

i-votedIt is the morning of November 9th, and I can see the sun rising in the distance as I write this. Let’s all pause and take one very big, deep, collective breath. It’s over, and we are all still here.

This has been one heck of a ride. We, as a nation, have a great number of wounds to heal, friendships to mend, and divides to bridge, but we survived.

Overnight, as the poll results were coming in, the stock futures market plunged more than 5%. If this looked and felt like the Brexit vote earlier in the year, it certainly was. It is notable that initial market reactions are actually a pretty poor indicator of long-term results.

If you haven’t looked yet, take solace in knowing that the market has recovered a great deal of those initial losses already. As of this writing, the futures market is still down (which indicates the market will likely open lower today) but where it stands as I write this is still comfortably positive for the week.

Whether you are feeling elated and hopeful about the results, or depressed and scared, let’s not get carried away with assumptions about what is going to happen over the next 4 years. History has proven that most of what is discussed during campaigns is dead on arrival in the real world. And before you go there, remember that the four most expensive words in the English language are “this time is different.” Continue reading “America Has Voted…”

The Votes are in – “Brexit” Wins

When we warned earlier this year to brace for significant market volatility throughout this election year, a “Brexit” is not what we had in mind.

For those of you hearing this term for the first time today, you may want to get used to hearing it. We are going to hear a lot about it in the weeks and months ahead.

What is “Brexit”?

In short, Britain + Exit = Brexit. Yesterday, the United Kingdom went to the polls for a referendum vote on whether to leave the European Union. In short, the leave vote won 52% to 48%.

Why does it matter to you?

First, in the immediate term (ie. today), this is a bit of a shock to the markets. Virtually all economists and politicians were in favor of staying, and the polls leading up to the vote indicated that was the likely result. In fact, global markets had risen significantly this week in anticipation of a vote in favor of the UK staying in.

Today, you woke up to the markets dropping in a pretty severe way. However, it is important to note that this is simply the market repricing what it was incorrectly predicting earlier in the week.

Your headlines are going to read that the European markets are plummeting, tumbling, being routed, and I have even seen the term “free-falling.” Indeed, they are.

However, what none of these headlines even bother mentioning is that the MSCI Europe stock index had risen 9.75% in the last 5 days leading up to today. Today, not surprisingly, the broad European market is down just over 9%, essentially just giving back what it had gained earlier in the week. Continue reading “The Votes are in – “Brexit” Wins”

The Life Changing Power of Expert Advice

Golfing_KrzysztofUrbanowicz_Flickr-e1457466248316Like most eighth-grade boys, I thought I had it all figured out. I was proudly “self-taught” and didn’t need anyone to tell me what to do, especially when it came to my golf game.

My mother knew better, however. Behind my back, she scheduled a lesson for me with Troy Wright, a local golf instructor. Reluctantly, I went to meet the person who would ultimately change the course of my life.

Troy was passionate, patient and knowledgeable. He took videos of my swing and compared it side-by-side to PGA tour players. As they say, the camera doesn’t lie. Because he took the time to show me, I could clearly see what I was doing wrong.

Troy didn’t just start telling me what to do differently. Rather, by employing his deep reservoir of knowledge, he explained the mechanics of the golf swing in ways I could see and understand. He opened my mind, and I came to realize exactly how much I didn’t know.

The changes we made felt drastic, yet the improvements were immediately evident. In just one hour with Troy, I learned more about my golf swing than I had from the hundreds of hours I spent by myself on the driving range. 

Within one year, my average score dropped by 13 shots. As a result, I was named the MVP of my high school’s varsity golf team as a freshman. Troy’s expert advice helped me improve at a pace I never could have achieved on my own.

Seth Godin, the best-selling author, had a similar experience with his cooking hobby. He had an extensive cookbook library and spent years honing his craft. However, his wife signed him up for a cooking class with a famous chef. Godin wrote that, in 20 minutes, he learned more about cooking than he had in all the time he spent in culinary pursuits up to that point. In short, the accumulated knowledge of an extensively experienced practitioner is profoundly effective.

The do-it-yourself approach is also rewarding in its own way, but often will end up costing you far more than what you’d pay a professional. Low-stakes DIY home projects can be a fun challenge to tackle, but when the task at hand involves your life savings and financial goals, mistakes are exponentially more risky (and expensive). 

The problem is that outside of your own area of expertise, you don’t really know what you don’t know. And what you don’t know can hurt you severely. 

As a young golfer, not only did I need another set of eyes on my swing, I needed a skilled professional who knew exactly what to look for to help take my golf game to the next level. I am dubious that I would ever have earned a college golf scholarship had it not been for Troy. 

What the do-it-yourself approach cannot provide is an objective third party who asks the questions you’ve never considered. This third party, whether golf coach or financial advisor, should be someone who can help you determine your goals, provide a clear path toward those goals, and keep you accountable in your efforts to achieve them. 

Most of us are looking for direction in some capacity. We want to be confident not only that we are pointed toward our objectives, but that we are on the most efficient track with the highest odds of success. If you aren’t clear and confident about the direction of your financial life, maybe it’s time to sit down with a fiduciary advisor.

There are many people out there on the fence about hiring a financial advisor. If you are among them, perhaps it’s time to honestly revisit and evaluate your own limitations. Sometimes the hindrance is that we, like the young golfer, think we know more than we actually do. Even if you (or maybe it’s your spouse or partner) remain reluctant, go ahead and schedule that appointment. Just see what a financial advisor dedicated to the promise of true, comprehensive wealth management has to offer.

It may just change the course of your life.