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Flexible Plan Investments



 

It has been said in this space many times: “If you choose to benchmark a portfolio against the S&P 500, you have to be prepared to accept drawdowns exceeding 50% during severe bear market declines.”

Proponents of active investment management, like Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., do not think that is a wise or prudent approach for the average investor, or for advisors and their clients. But does the application of risk management tools to reduce volatility in portfolios mean that investors have to pay a steep price over time in terms of performance?

The answer is a resounding “no,” as a very thoughtful article from strategy consultant Dave Witkin of StatisTrade, LLC, demonstrates. I hope you find this article, which first appeared in Proactive Advisor Magazine, to be enjoyable and enlightening.

Have a great week,

David


Can Lower Returns Lead to More Money in Retirement?

The Impact of Sequencing and Volatility on Portfolio Value

Returns, risk, pricing models, optimal portfolio construction—there are so many facets of effective investing and portfolio management. As busy as most of us are, who has time to really dig in and question conventional wisdom?  But like many things in life, the deeper you investigate, the less satisfying you find the conventional “wisdom.” Two important commonly misunderstood issues concern risk and withdrawals.

Let’s start with a bit more information comparing active and passive strategies. Dr. Antti Ilmanen, a Ph.D. graduate of the University of Chicago and currently Managing Director at AQR Capital Management LLP, wrote a book in 2011 titled, "Expected Returns: An Investor's Guide to Harvesting Market Rewards." Dr. Ilmanen found momentum and high book-to-market ratio (referred to as “value” for simplicity)—both active management strategies—significantly outperformed stocks, bonds, and almost all other asset classes on a risk-adjusted basis.

I can already hear some of you saying, "But my clients only care about absolute returns." Of course they do, and who can blame them? But how would they feel if we showed them how lower average returns with less volatility could result in significantly more money in their pockets?

Let's walk through an example. Say you have two clients, Paula and Ann. Paula has heard through the news that active management “does not always work” for investors and she only wants to use passive investment strategies in her portfolio. Ann, on the other hand, is more open to active strategies and believes that in the hands of a skilled advisor, they can provide significant benefits.

 Dr. Ilmanen and others have shown that active strategies using momentum and value can outperform passive approaches on both an absolute and risk-adjusted basis. But for the sake of argument, let's say that when we consider fees, passive management outperforms an active portfolio during the hypothetical ten-year period we will use in our example. More specifically, the arithmetic average return is 8.5% for the hypothetical passive portfolio and 7.0% for the hypothetical active portfolio.

We use the arithmetic average return because it is often used by proponents of passive management strategies as “proof” that a hands-off approach outperforms. As shown in Figure 1, the final value of Paula's passive portfolio is slightly higher than Ann's actively managed portfolio, although the difference—only about $16,000—is probably smaller than you might expect.


Figure 1 - Comparative Hypothetical Returns Without Withdrawals

So even though the hypothetical active portfolio had 1.5% lower average annual returns, the passive and active portfolios have almost the same overall performance over ten years. But I forgot to mention something: both Paula and Ann need to withdraw $50,000 each year from their respective accounts. Since Paula’s passive portfolio had the slightly higher absolute returns in Figure 1, you would expect her portfolio to outperform Ann’s despite the withdrawals, right? Wrong. Let’s take a look at the table including the withdrawals.

 
Figure 2  - Comparative Hypothetical Returns Including $50,000 Annual Withdrawals

The annual percent returns for both portfolios are the same as noted earlier. Despite the fact that Paula's passive portfolio outperformed Ann's active portfolio in seven out of ten years, Ann’s active portfolio ended up in better shape. As shown in Figure 2, the active portfolio finishes the ten years with an 11% higher final equity balance.

“What is going on?,” you ask. There are two issues at work: (1) the sequence of returns and (2) the impact of volatility.

You may be aware that the sequence of returns makes a difference in terms of the ending portfolio value. In other words, a negative return in year 1 has a very different impact than a negative return in year 10. But in this case, the general sequences of returns—when positive versus negative years occur in the two portfolios—are almost identical.

 The larger issue here—and a dynamic often overlooked by studies and news articles proclaiming passive management “outperformance”—is the volatility of returns. An appropriately constructed actively managed portfolio can be significantly less volatile than a passive portfolio. Returning to Dr. Ilmanen, he shows that from 1990 to 2009, U.S. equities had an average return of 8.5%, but the volatility was 15.5%, nearly double the return. In contrast, value investing had a 7.6% average return with a 7.6% annual volatility, and momentum had a 13.1% average return and an 11.2% annual volatility—in other words, volatility was significantly lower in the active strategies.


Figure 3 – Comparing Twenty Years of Returns and Volatility, 1990 – 2009

So what is important to take away from this analysis? First, looking only at average annual returns in a vacuum can be misleading. The volatility of returns can make a major difference. Second, when you also consider withdrawals, the reduced volatility of some active management strategies has the potential to make a far larger impact on the portfolio value than losing some small portion of returns due to fees.

Finally, while there are always exceptions, certain actively managed strategies with proven track records, like value and momentum, could significantly outperform a passively managed portfolio. While we have used fairly conservative rates of return in comparing the two hypothetical portfolios, Dr. Ilmanen’s study suggests that using the right active strategies can outperform passive strategies on both an absolute and risk-adjusted basis.


Don't file too early—Reallocated dividend payments

If your clients hold a mutual fund, ETF, or Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) in their portfolio, there is a high probability a portion of the dividend payments made throughout the year will be reallocated for tax reporting purposes. Due to late reallocation notices, some account owners will receive a corrected tax form.


Jerry Wagner and Renee Toth attend ETF seminar

Flexible Plan President and Founder Jerry Wagner and Executive Vice President Renee Toth are traveling this week to attend a national ETF seminar to gather and exchange ideas on one of the hottest growth areas in investing—Exchange Traded Funds.

 


US equity markets were up last week. The NASDAQ Composite gained 2.66% last week, the S&P 500 was up 1.60%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded a weekly gain of 0.92%. Nine of the ten S&P industrial sectors were up for the week. The move upward was led by Information Technology (3.11%), Industrials (2.36%), Consumer Discretionary (1.71%), and Energy (1.60%). All of the Quantified Funds were up last week. The largest gain was in the Quantified Market Leaders Fund (QMLFX, 2.62%), followed by the Quantified All-Cap Equity Fund (QACFX, 1.34%), the Quantified Alternative Investment Fund (QALTX, 1.26%), and then the Quantified Managed Bond Fund (QBDSX, 0.31%).

Last week the Quantified All-Cap Equity Fund (QACFX) shifted its weightings in four leading stock baskets, which were over 61% of the portfolio’s composition: “All-Cap High Flier” (21%), “All-Cap Low Debt ” (19%), “All-Cap Upside” (15%), and “All-Cap Quality Acceleration” (8%). Among domestic sector distributions, Information Technology and Health Care led with portfolio allocations of 18% and 19%, respectively. The largest stock holdings in the All-Cap portfolio were in the common stock of Amedisys Inc. (AMED, 2.08%) and the common stock of Dollar General Corporation (DG, 2.08%).

The cash level within the All-Cap Fund remained at 9.96% last week. The Fund’s daily pattern trading of S&P 500 futures started the week neutral, changed to 8% short on Thursday’s close, and neutral on Friday’s close to begin this week. Our TVA-based futures hedge remained neutral throughout last week.

The Market Environment Indicator (MEI) remained bullish last week. On Friday, equity asset class allocations in the Quantified Market Leaders Fund remained at the following: Large-Cap Growth (23.70%), Large-Cap Value (9.60%), Mid-Cap Growth (14.41%), and Small-Cap Growth (4.80%). Total sector ETF weightings remained at 47.49% from the prior week. Distribution of sector holdings and weights were as follows: Health Care (12.99%), Biotech (13.00%), Financial Services (13.00%), and Retail (8.50%). The individual ETF positions with the leading portfolio weightings were the ProShares Ultra QQQ ETF (QLD, 8.25%), the ProShares Ultra S&P500 ETF (SSO, 8.25%), the SPDR Financial Select Sector ETF (XLF, 6.93%), and the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT, 6.80%).

Within the Quantified Alternative Investment Fund (QALTX), the Long/Short Market Neutral Alternative sub-portfolio decreased allocation to the Advantage Dynamic Total Return Fund (AVGRX, 1.70%).

Among the largest ETF positions there were a few changes: allocations to the Market Vectors Nuclear ETF (NLR, 5.01%) and the iShares US Pharmaceuticals ETF (IHE, 4.88%) increased, while allocations to the Wisdom Tree Managed Futures Strategy ETF (WDTI, 4.82%) and the SPDR Materials Select Sector ETF (XLB, 2.48%) decreased.

The cash level within the Fund decreased to 18.74% last week. The daily pattern trading of S&P 500 Index futures with 10% fund capital allocation started the week neutral, changed to 4% short on Thursday’s close, and neutral on Friday’s close to begin this week. The 7.5% capital allocation of the volatility-based systematic trading of NASDAQ 100 Index futures started the week 7.5% long, changed to 6.0% long on Tuesday’s close, and 7.5% long on Wednesday’s close to begin this week.

The Quantified Managed Bond Fund’s (QBDSX) two leading broad-bond index ETF holdings, the iShares S&P National Muni Bond ETF (MUB, 0.17%) and the SPDR Nuveen Barclay’s Municipal Bond ETF (TFI, -0.08%), were mixed for the week.

The 10-year US Treasury yield decreased to 1.80% for the week. The Fund increased weightings in the iShares Barclay’s 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEF) from 8.12% to 8.44% and in the iShares Barclays 3-7 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEI) from 0% to 4.20%, while decreasing allocations in the iShares S&P National Muni Bond ETF (MUB) from 12.06% to 11.16% and in the SPDR Nuveen Barclays Municipal Bond ETF (TFI) from 9.42% to 8.58%. Cash increased to 9.82%.

The 10% active portfolio exposure to 30-Year US Treasury bond futures in the Fund started the week long and remained long to begin this week. The position gained around 0.58%.

Total Return

Fund (Inception) Symbol Qtr Ending 12/31/14 YTD Ending 12/31/14 1 Year Ending (12/31/14) Since Inception Ending (12/31/14)* Annual Expense Ratio
The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund (7/5/13) QGLDX (3.20%) (3.75%) (3.75%) (4.53%) 1.66%
Quantified Managed Bond Fund (8/9/13) QBDSX (0.05%)
1.96%
1.96% 1.31% 1.68%
Quantified All-Cap Equity Fund (8/9/13) QACFX 4.18%
(0.50%)
(0.50)% 2.93% 1.51%
Quantified Market Leaders Fund (8/9/13) QMLFX 3.74%
2.85% 2.85% 6.53% 1.71%
Quantified Alternative Investment Fund (8/9/13) QALTX (0.14%) 0.71% 0.71% 6.38% 2.20%

*Annualized

As of the most recent prospectus, the expense ratios for the Gold Bullion Strategy Fund are as follows: Investors’ Class (No Load), 1.66%; Class A, 1.66%; Class C, 2.41%. The maximum sales charge imposed on Class A share purchases (as percentage of offering price) is 5.75%. An additional 2% redemption fee applies to all share classes, including Investors’ Class, when shares are redeemed within 7 days of purchase.

The performance data quoted represents past performance; past performance does not guarantee future results. The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate and an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. For current performance, please call 1-855-647-8268.

Risks associated with the Quantified Funds include active frequent trading risk, aggressive investment techniques, small and mid-cap companies risk, counter party risk, depository receipt risk, derivatives risk, equity securities risk, foreign securities risk, holding cash risk, limited history of operations risk, lower quality debt securities risk, non-diversification risk, investing in other investment companies (including ETFs) risk, shorting risk, asset backed securities risk, commodity risk, credit risk, interest risk, prepayment risk, and mortgage backed securities risk. For detailed information relating to these risks, please see prospectus. 

The principal risks of investing in The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund are Risks of the Sub-advisor’s Investment Strategy, Risks of Aggressive Investment Techniques, High Portfolio Turnover, Risk of Investing in Derivatives, Risks of Investing in ETFs, Risks of Investing in Other Investment Companies, Leverage Risk, Taxation Risk, Concentration Risk, Gold Risk, Wholly-owned Corporation Risk, Risk of Non-Diversification and interest rate risk. “Gold Risk” includes volatility, price fluctuations over short periods, risks associated with global monetary, economic, social and political conditions and developments, currency devaluation and revaluation and restrictions, trading and transactional restrictions. 

An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of each Quantified Fund and The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund before investing. This and other information can be found in the Funds’ prospectus, which can be obtained by calling 1-855-647-8268. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing in The Quantified Funds or The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund. 


There is no guarantee that any of the Quantified Funds or The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund will achieve their investment objectives.

Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., serves as investment sub-advisor to The Gold Bullion Strategy and Quantified Funds, distributed by Ceros Financial Services, Inc. (member FINRA/SIPC). Ceros Financial Services, Inc., and Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., are not affiliated entities.

Advisors Preferred, LLC, is the Funds’ investment adviser. Advisors Preferred, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ceros Financial Services, Inc.

 

For more information on the Quantified Funds, sub-advised by Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., please review the prospectus and fund performance.

Current or historical holdings of the funds

 


Over the last week, the gold spot price gained 1.06% despite further strengthening in the US Dollar Index to a new 11-year high. The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund (QGLDX) climbed 1.27% for the week, its difference against the gold spot price due mostly to QGLDX’s early close at 1:30PM (rather than 4:00PM for the gold spot price). The prices of short-duration fixed income ETF holdings were slightly higher, on average, over last week, while the value of the COMEX gold futures, which has the same early 1:30 close as the Fund, gained 1.23%.

Total Return

Fund (Inception) Symbol Qtr Ending 12/31/14 YTD Ending 12/31/14 1 Year Ending (12/31/14) Since Inception Ending (12/31/14)* Annual Expense Ratio
The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund (7/5/13) QGLDX (3.20%) (3.75%) (3.75%) (4.53%) 1.66%
Quantified Managed Bond Fund (8/9/13) QBDSX (0.05%)
1.96%
1.96% 1.31% 1.68%
Quantified All-Cap Equity Fund (8/9/13) QACFX 4.18%
(0.50%)
(0.50)% 2.93% 1.51%
Quantified Market Leaders Fund (8/9/13) QMLFX 3.74%
2.85% 2.85% 6.53% 1.71%
Quantified Alternative Investment Fund (8/9/13) QALTX (0.14%) 0.71% 0.71% 6.38% 2.20%

*Annualized

As of the most recent prospectus, the expense ratios for the Gold Bullion Strategy Fund are as follows: Investors’ Class (No Load), 1.66%; Class A, 1.66%; Class C, 2.41%. The maximum sales charge imposed on Class A share purchases (as percentage of offering price) is 5.75%. An additional 2% redemption fee applies to all share classes, including Investors’ Class, when shares are redeemed within 7 days of purchase.

The performance data quoted represents past performance; past performance does not guarantee future results. The investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate and an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost. Current performance may be higher or lower than the performance data quoted. For current performance, please call 1-855-647-8268.

Risks associated with the Quantified Funds include active frequent trading risk, aggressive investment techniques, small and mid-cap companies risk, counter party risk, depository receipt risk, derivatives risk, equity securities risk, foreign securities risk, holding cash risk, limited history of operations risk, lower quality debt securities risk, non-diversification risk, investing in other investment companies (including ETFs) risk, shorting risk, asset backed securities risk, commodity risk, credit risk, interest risk, prepayment risk, and mortgage backed securities risk. For detailed information relating to these risks, please see prospectus. 

The principal risks of investing in The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund are Risks of the Sub-advisor’s Investment Strategy, Risks of Aggressive Investment Techniques, High Portfolio Turnover, Risk of Investing in Derivatives, Risks of Investing in ETFs, Risks of Investing in Other Investment Companies, Leverage Risk, Taxation Risk, Concentration Risk, Gold Risk, Wholly-owned Corporation Risk, Risk of Non-Diversification and interest rate risk. “Gold Risk” includes volatility, price fluctuations over short periods, risks associated with global monetary, economic, social and political conditions and developments, currency devaluation and revaluation and restrictions, trading and transactional restrictions. 

An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of each Quantified Fund and The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund before investing. This and other information can be found in the Funds’ prospectus, which can be obtained by calling 1-855-647-8268. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing in The Quantified Funds or The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund. 


There is no guarantee that any of the Quantified Funds or The Gold Bullion Strategy Fund will achieve their investment objectives.

Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., serves as investment sub-advisor to The Gold Bullion Strategy and Quantified Funds, distributed by Ceros Financial Services, Inc. (member FINRA/SIPC). Ceros Financial Services, Inc., and Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., are not affiliated entities.

Advisors Preferred, LLC, is the Funds’ investment adviser. Advisors Preferred, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ceros Financial Services, Inc.

 

For more information on the Quantified Funds, sub-advised by Flexible Plan Investments, Ltd., please review the prospectus and fund performance.

Current or historical holdings of the funds

 


Gold train 

We saw this gold train pulling out of the station just before Christmas, spotting an “inverse head & shoulders” pattern. We noted that as a weekly chart breakout, it meant a longer term up trend was beginning. It appears that a number of gold market analysts now see the train has made its first stop.

Many strategists are saying a gold bull market has just begun, as investors crowd into the one asset that isn't getting debased by central banks … gold rebounded … after the ECB announcement, which said the program will last at least until 2016, a longer and more open-ended time frame than many expected.

Before the ECB action, Lindsey Group's chief market analyst Peter Boockvar said he was bullish on gold, saying on Wednesday, “The gold bear market is over and the bull resumption is just getting started.”

For metals strategist Peter Grandich, the FX complex and the oil selloff are signals for a new bull market. He attributed gold's recent gains to currency movements with the Swiss franc and Chinese Yuan.


NASDAQ goes positive YTD; gold tops $1,300

Across four days, the tech-heavy benchmark rose 2.68% to settle Friday at 4,757.88. The S&P 500 ended the week at 2,051.82, the Dow at 17,672.60; those settlements resulted from 4-day gains of 1.63% for the S&P and 0.94% for the Dow. Thursday, gold closed above $1,300 on the COMEX for the first time since August; it settled Friday at $1,292.60, up 1.2% for the week. A barrel of West Texas crude was valued at just $45.83 at Friday’s NYMEX close.4,5

% Change Y-T-D 1-Yr Chg 5-Yr Avg 10-Yr Avg
DJIA
-0.84
+9.11
+14.74
+7.04
NASDAQ
+0.46
+12.78
+23.15
+13.69
S&P 500
-0.34
+12.22
+17.59
+7.63
Real Yield 1/16 Rate 1-Yr Ago 5-Yrs Ago 10-Yrs Ago
10Yr TIPS Yd
0.21%
0.66%
1.33%
1.68%

  December returns
DJIA
-0.03%
NASDAQ
-1.16%
S&P 500
-0.42%

Sources: online.wsj.com, bigcharts.com, treasury.gov - 1/23/15 6,7,8,9
Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.
These returns do not include dividends.


A rise in home buying

Existing home sales were up 2.4% in December and 3.5% for 2014. In its latest report, the National Association of Realtors noted a median sale price of $208,500, 5.8% above a year before. The sales pace in the last half of 2014 was 8% better than in the first half, with cheaper mortgages certainly a factor. (Last week, a 30-year FRM averaged just 3.66% interest.) December saw a 1.9% dip in building permits, but the Census Bureau also noted a 4.4% boost for housing starts. Starts for 2014 totaled 1.01 million, a 9-year high. Last year, groundbreaking increased 8.8%.1,2


ECB fights deflation risk with stimulus

Thursday, the European Central Bank unveiled a plan to ease: a massive stimulus that will purchase 60 billion euros (about $69 billion) of bonds per month through September 2016. The tipping point for the move appeared to be the 0.2% December retreat in the eurozone inflation rate. All this easing will weaken the euro even more, thereby offering relief to the export-reliant economies of many eurozone nations.1



Citations

1 - consumeraffairs.com/news/a-strong-finish-for-sales-of-existing-homes-012315.html [1/23/15]
2 - dailyfinance.com/2015/01/21/new-home-construction-rises-december/ [1/21/15]
3 - latimes.com/business/la-fi-ecb-stimulus-euro-quantitative-easing-20150122-story.html [1/22/15]
4 - proactiveinvestors.com/companies/news/59465/gold-retreats-06-to-1292-wti-down-brent-up-59465.html [1/23/15]
5 - fxstreet.com/news/forex-news/article.aspx?storyid=4edca382-02d3-4d7b-8766-c764b9def512 [1/23/15]6 - markets.wsj.com/us [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=1%2F23%2F14&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=1%2F23%2F14&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=1%2F23%2F14&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=1%2F22%2F10&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=1%2F22%2F10&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=1%2F22%2F10&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=1%2F24%2F05&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=1%2F24%2F05&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
7 - bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=1%2F24%2F05&x=0&y=0 [1/23/15]
8 - treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyield [1/23/15]
9 - treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyieldAll [1/23/15]

 


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Disclosures

To our readers
Over the past week, an inordinate number of mutual funds held in Flexible Plan strategies have paid dividends or capital gains. While we and our data sources have accounted for these price changes as thoroughly as possible in our transaction reports, it is possible that some of the performance numbers contained in this edition of our Hotline may be slightly different than actually occurred over the last week.

Everything in the newsletter pertains to strategies available on our Strategic Solutions platform at Trust Company of America. The same strategies are implemented on many other products: mutual funds, variable annuity, variable life and retirement platforms. Therefore, we expect the strategic discussion may be of interest to you. Note, however, that since these products have their own subaccount and fund universes and different internal expenses, the results and trading of the same strategy on other platforms may differ substantially from those described herein.

Managed Retirement Plan Participants:
Most of you are managed using Lifetime Evolution and our sub-advised funds, so those topics will be most applicable to your account. But, more and more of you are in plans using Market Leaders. If so, that newsletter section may interest you

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