Dear Spartan Client,
“A … system will beat a good person [over time] every time.”
—W. Edwards Deming
It’s that time of year for “40 New Year’s Resolution Ideas to Start 2022 Right,” or “22 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep in 2022.” It is thought that humans have been setting New Year’s Resolutions for nearly 4,000 years. Several studies indicate that roughly eight of 10 resolutions fail. James Clear, the author of “Atomic Habits,” sums up the problem well: “New goals don’t deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is not an outcome, it is a process. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better habits, not [just] chasing better results.”
We find this so appropriate for financial lives as well. The habit and process of developing a process to achieve financial health is what gets you to your financial goals. Hopefully through your time with us you have felt the focus on this in our interactions. We want your financial life to be stress-free and full of good processes to keep you on the best path to your goals. With our process-driven risk management strategy, we hope you feel comforted to disregard some of the wild predictions about the future you may run across. We have a plan to react to the reality of future events and crises as they occur.
Below are the asset classes utilized in our portfolios and their model-driven exposure heading into January.
Square indicates no change month-over-month. Arrows indicate increase/decrease month-over-month. Adjustments can vary across Spartan Strategies depending on each Strategy’s objectives. What’s illustrated above most closely reflects allocation adjustments for the Spartan Growth Strategy.
Disclaimer: this note is for general update purposes related to the general strategy and approach of Spartan Planning portfolios. Every client’s situation including Risk Profile, Time Horizon, Contributions, and Distributions is different from other clients. Your exposure to any given asset class will depend on your goals, risk profile, and how tactical or passive your risk profile calls for. If there have been changes to your risk profile and/or goals or if you wish to discuss them in more depth, please contact your advisor.
At a Glance: Allocation Adjustments Heading Into January, 2022
U.S. Equities: No change.
International Equities: Exposure will not change. Emerging markets remain in downtrends across multiple timeframes. Foreign developed equities continue to have an intermediate-term downtrend, and the long-term uptrend is weakening but remains intact for now.
Real Estate: No change.
U.S. and International Treasuries: Exposure will increase slightly due to long-duration bonds re-entering a long-term uptrend. All other segments of the yield curve, both domestically and internationally, remain weak across multiple timeframes.
Inflation-Protected Bonds: Exposure will decrease as an intermediate-term downtrend has developed. The long-term uptrend remains intact.
Short-Term Fixed Income: Exposure will increase slightly by taking on a portion of the exposure vacated by inflation-protected bonds.
Alternatives: No change.
Three potential macro catalysts for the recent trend changes:
- Growth Estimates: Rising COVID-19 infection rates, inflationary pressures, and labor shortages slowed the economic recovery in the U.S. this month. Surveys of purchasing managers released December 16 showed that in the early weeks of December, U.S. business activity continued to expand but at the slowest pace in three months, despite strong demand from customers. U.S. economic output is set to expand by more than 7% annualized in the final three months of the year, according to early estimates from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. That compares with expected annualized growth of about 2% in the eurozone and 4% in China for the fourth quarter, according to JPMorgan Chase.
- Inflation, Inflation, Inflation: U.S. inflation last month rose at the fastest pace since 1982. The Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index increased 5.7% from one year earlier in November. Excluding often-volatile food and energy prices, core inflation was up 4.7%, the sharpest annual increase since 1989. The PCE is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge versus the often-quoted Consumer Price Index gauge. For context, the Fed historically targets 2% annual price increases.
- No Baby Boom: America’s population grew 0.1% this year, the lowest rate on record, according to Census Bureau figures. The U.S. added just 393,000 people in the year that ended July 1 for a total population of 331.9 million. Population growth had averaged more than 2 million a year over the last decade, though it had been slowing even before the pandemic. Population growth is a key long-term driver of GDP growth.
Process vs. Outcome
With all the noise and contradictory data, how do you keep focused on what’s most important? The answer is process.
We often talk about our systematic process and how the “secret sauce” is not complex algorithms but elegant and simple rules combined with disciplined execution. Thus, understanding and planning for your long-term financial goals is only part of the equation. We’ve found that while goals are integral for identifying progress, systems and processes are essential for making progress.
As we enter 2022, instead of making resolutions, we should focus on the processes that react to reality. It’s certainly not as fun as thinking about the goal itself, but as the data shows, without these processes, the likelihood of accomplishing the desired result decreases dramatically. Our goal is to maximize the odds of you reaching your goals. A robust process is one of the best tools to achieve this.
From a market perspective, we have just one goal in 2022, and that is to follow our process. We saw the benefit of this laser-focus in 2021. Who could’ve imagined that 2021 would result in such a positive year for U.S. stocks? Or that real estate would outperform equities despite rising interest rates? Our trend-following process had no opinion about the future direction of asset classes and yet gave us the best chance of being positioned appropriately. Any second-guessing opinions or supposed foresight would have cost us in 2021. We suspect the same will apply going forward, and therefore our focus will remain on executing our process.
David Childs, Ira Ross, and Eric Warren
Disclaimer: this note is for general update purposes related to the strategy and approach of Spartan Planning portfolios. Every client’s situation including Risk Profile, Time Horizon, Contributions, and Distributions is different from other clients. Your particular exposure to any given asset class will depend on your goals, risk profile, and how tactical or passive your risk profile calls for. If there have been changes to your risk profile and/or goals or if you wish to discuss them in more depth please contact your advisor. This email and the data herein is not a solicitation to invest in any investment product nor is it intended to provide investment advice. It is intended for information purposes only and should be used by investment professionals and investors who are knowledgeable of the risks involved. No representation is made that any investment will or is likely to achieve results comparable to those shown or will make any profit at all or will be able to avoid incurring substantial losses. While every effort has been made to provide data from sources considered to be reliable, no guarantee of accuracy is given. Historical data are presented for informational purposes only. Investment programs described herein contain significant risks. A secondary market may not exist or develop for some investments portrayed. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Investment decisions should be made based on the investors specific financial needs and objectives, goals, time horizon, tax liability, risk tolerance and other relevant factors. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Investors should consider the underlying funds’ investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses carefully before investing. The Advisor’s ADV, which contains this and other important information, should be read carefully before investing. ETFs trade like stocks and may trade for less than their net asset value. Spartan Planning Group, LLC (“Spartan” or the “Advisor”) is registered as an investment adviser with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the SEC nor does it indicate that the Adviser has attained a particular level of skill or ability. Indexes are unmanaged and do not incur management fees, costs, and expenses. Spartan’s risk-management process includes an effort to monitor and manage risk, but should not be confused with and does not imply low risk or the ability to control risk. There are risks associated with any investment approach, and Spartan strategies have their own set of risks to be aware of. First, there are the risks associated with the long-term strategic holdings for each of the strategies. The more aggressive the Spartan strategy selected, the more likely the strategy will contain larger weights in riskier asset classes, such as equities. Second, there are distinct risks associated with Spartan Strategies’ shorter-term tactical allocations, which can result in more concentration towards a certain asset class or classes. This introduces the risk that Spartan could be on the wrong side of a tactical overweight, thus resulting in a drag on overall performance or loss of principal. International investments may involve additional risks, which could include differences in financial accounting standards, currency fluctuations, political instability, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Diversification strategies do not ensure a profit and do not protect against losses in declining markets