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Why Cash May Not Always Be King!


Cash as an asset is very comfortable for many people to own. It is an asset you can actually touch, feel and hold. Prudent financial and investment planning suggest that you should hold some cash, especially for emergency purposes. Often, 3 to 6 months and sometimes more depending on your personal situation is a good rule of thumb. There are some situations where holding more cash might be prudent. One example that comes to mind are people that have specific known medical conditions that require cash to cover the expenses of healthcare that insurance does not cover. Having cash often helps provide a sense of safety and a feeling of being able to sleep better at night. That is completely understandable!


I have found that the job of a professional advisor is to listen to a client’s needs and craft a plan that has the greatest chance of achieving those needs. I tell my clients that my job is not to tell you what makes you feel good but to advise you on what needs to be done to achieve those goals. That said let’s take a look at Cash as an asset and how potentially the good feeling of having lots of cash, “Cash Is King” may not be the best and potentially could be increasing your risk.


In order to understand that cash may not be king we must understand the effects of inflation on our buying power, and current and historical interest rates on cash. We will use CPI (Consumer Price Index) as the proxy for inflation and the 30 day treasury bill rate for the interest rate on cash, as is customary.


First: inflation as measured by CPI can be defined as a sustained increase in the general price we pay for goods and services over a period of time. We all know that the price of a loaf of bread has gone up since we first started eating it in our childhood. So we understand that things get more expensive over time. If we put money in our mattress when we were 3 years old to buy 10 loafs of bread at the price we would have paid for it then and took it out several years later we would likely not be able to buy as much bread. That can be what holding cash can do if no interest or rate of return is achieved on it.


Second: cash as an asset class is typically not stored in mattresses. More commonly it is stored in bank accounts and brokerage accounts. Rates of interest on cash have varied widely over the past 20 years and for quite some time have averaged 0% in most cases.


Let’s now assume that for a period of 5 years inflation averaged 2.5% and cash averaged 0% interest. Our simplistic real rate of return on that cash is not 0% it is negative 2.5%. Hence we have been losing money during that time and not even potentially realizing it because, well, we still have the same amount of dollars on hand so “I did not lose any of them.” That is factually correct that you have not lost any of the dollars you can count but you have lost on the amount of goods you can turn those dollars into.


Starting off in a position where you are in a negative return scenario right out of the box is a hard perspective for investors to grasp but that is exactly what has been happening for the majority of the last 5 years. Looks to me like holding cash is risky and potentially more risky than many know. This is at the core of why Financial Professionals after understanding a person’s current situation, future goals, feelings and family dynamics, as well as one’s understanding of risk and tolerance for it may need to recommend less cash as a percentage of portfolio holdings than someone may find comforting. We as professionals need to strike the best balance we possibly can in order to achieve those goals. Even if the goals are not exactly achievable, it is our duty to provide a plan that can make the money invested last as long as possible, to achieve as much of the goal as possible. Ultimately, however, investors comfort levels are important and should they decide that holding cash still feels best in light of what we just reviewed then "Maybe Cash Is King" for those investors.


For those of you who are technically and visually minded the following chart will illustrate this issue. It is a 20 year chart dated 03/18/1995 to 03/18/2015:

Ycharts_chart (23)




This chart illustrates the relationship between the inflation rate (measured by CPI) in the United States and interest rates on cash (measured by 3 month treasury rate). We have named the blue line US Inflation rate which is the monthly inflation rate measured by CPI. The Orange line is the cumulative growth of the consumer price index which illustrates the cumulative effect of inflation on goods and services. The Red line is the average monthly rates of return on a 90 day treasury bill, our proxy for interest rates on cash.


What we see is that although inflation rates and 90 day treasury bill rates diverge, cumulative inflation continues to increase, showing that our goods and services get more expensive over time and interest rates on cash do not always help us combat this phenomena. Furthermore, we can be in periods of time, which are multiple years in length, where cash interest rates are lagging behind the rate of inflation. This greatly reduces the effectiveness of our cash as a purchaser of goods and services. Also important to understand is that these negative divergences require us to spend more money on an item in times of low interest rates or negative real interest rates on cash, further hampering the ability for our money to grow when cash rates of return are higher. Why is this, it is because we have to spend more of the cash during these times and we have less of it saved for when rates are above inflation helping us actually grow our money.


Ultimately we must all be comfortable with our investment portfolios and cash is a major component of the mix of assets we own. Hopefully next time you here the phrase “Cash is King” you remember that maybe it truly isn’t as safe as you once thought.


Disclaimer: The Charts provided in this article was produced by Ycharts a third party provider of analytical data and charts. We believe that the information used to create this chart is accurate to the best of our knowledge however we cannot guarantee the accuracy of its content.


ETF's: Why We Use Them At Prominence

ETF's offer clients a great opportunity to put together a tax efficient asset allocation that is well diversified, lower cost, low conflict of interest, tactically tradeable and very liquid. Building a core asset allocation using ETF's can provide exposure to all the necessary portfolio constituents without high minimums. At Prominence Capital we use ETF's to generate core portfolios that strategically expose our clients to investments that meet their risk tolerance and investment objectives.


Why Independence Matters At Prominence Capital.

As an independent registered investment advisor, and independent business owner, Prominence Capital is able to make decisions on working with our clients that are not driven by a board room decision. 

Recently the Wall Street Journal published an article on Bank of America Merrill Lynch and its corporate decision to push accounts under $250,000 out to a telephone service division. This will require brokers to try and do very creative house-holding tricks with client accounts to be able to get paid on them and keep them from going to a call center. Here is the link:

This is very important to people especially those who are younger, building wealth and want to have a direct relationship with an advisor. There has been a proliferation of Robo-Advisors and Large Brokers and Banks pushing out relationships that do not meet minimums. Robo-Advisors can be a good option for some investors. For those people who want continuous conversation and an experienced person seeing and feeling the emotions behind a face to face conversation Robo-Advisors may not the best place. 

As independent registered investment advisor, Prominence Capital is not beholden to corporate decision making on how we can run our business. We make the decision to work with any client on a case by case basis where account size does not disqualify a potential business arrangement. Fee based only registered investment advisors, such as Prominence Capital, are not compensated by the products they sell (commission). We are paid directly by the investor. We do not push a firms proprietary products either. We are held to a fiduciary standard which is a higher standard than the suitability standard that most brokers at large firms are held to. Transparency of all fee's, disclosure of all conflicts of interest and putting our clients interest ahead of our own is what we are obligated to deliver. As a fee based only advisor, we charge a percentage on assets we manage, Prominence Capitals success in tied to the success our clients achieve with their investments.

To learn more visit us on the web at or call us at 310-433-5378



Mortgage Interest And Points Paid:Tax Deductible?



I often get asked questions about how much mortgage interest is deductible and what size loan to use when financing a home purchase. Also it is common to get into a discussion about if paying points to pay down interest make sense and if they are deductible. 

While every situation is different with regard to mortgage size, and I am a fan of getting the largest mortgage that one can possibly afford in most cases but not all, I will tackle the deductible nature of interest and points here to clarify how it works.

Mortgage Interest: Interest paid on a qualified residence is limited to interest on the acquisition indebtedness secured by a principal or secondary residence up to a maximum debt level of $1,000,000, plus home equity indebtedness secured by a principal or secondary residence up to a maximum debt level of $100,000.

Points Paid: Points paid on a loan are really nothing more than prepayments of interest. Generally points must be capitalized and amortized over the life of the loan. However, the points incurred on a loan that is used to buy or improve a principal residence generally are deductible in the year the points are paid. 

Points Paid on Refinance: These points must be deducted ratably over the life of the loan (amortized). If it is a second refinance the un-amortised (not deducted) points from the first refinance are deductible in full when the first refinance loan is paid off.

Choosing to pay down loan interest by paying points can help lower a payment to a level that is more affordable. Often I suggest that not doing so is the better decision. Buyers will have use of the funds used to pay the points and often through investment may be able to generate a better return on those funds than paying down the points would generate over time. However, doing so really is specific to the home purchasers own situation. In many cases, home purchases are as much an emotional decision as they are a financial decision and if paying down points to make a payment more affordable gets a buyer in the home they love and want that may in itself make paying points well worth it.



Negative Returns In Retirement: Draw Down


Retirement, time to sit back relax and enjoy life. Wait for many people retirement will last 30+ years. This often means needing equities in a portfolio, riskier assets...Relax again you have an asset allocation designed to generate the needed returns, balancing risk, to get you through retirement. Wait what if when you go to generate needed income from your investments and the market is in a downward trend, multiplying the effect of the downward pressure on your portfolio...Can this significantly reduce your ability to achieve your retirement income goals because now you have less working toward those goals?

Positive returns over loner periods of time for a portfolio although very important often do not show the truth of how generating returns effect a persons ability to use their money and  meet their real goals of a specific lifestyle. Yes you will here that the stock market averages a certain rate of return annually, 7% or 8% or..., and that over time history has shown us stocks will go up and we can plan based off of these potential returns. This is true for most assets. The problem with this thinking while in retirement is understanding that most assets do not generate these returns in a "sequential" fashion. Meaning that although the market may historically return any given rate of return over time the course that those returns take are not predictable and reliable. 



This was particularly on display for many investors nearing or in retirement in the 20008 to 2010 period. Recently in an article I read online written by a wise advisor, this concept was well articulated by using a rain fall analogy. I being a skier will give one using snow fall....

My favorite ski resort advertises a long season typically starting in early November and running all the way through the end of June and often as far as the 4th of July. They also boast about 400+ inches of seasonal snow fall...Wow...50 inches of snow per month not bad, 4 feet of snow each month no wonder they can make it to July often. Wait, there are years they close early and often the conditions are lousy. Why? The answer is that 200+ inches has fallen in any given month of the season at a time and some months there is none. This can make for a tough season especially those of us who travel 5+ hours to get there on the weekends when we have the time during the season. Would be nice to be able to enjoy the powder when it falls. Alas I cherish the days I get when their is fresh powder. I have gone seasons with out it!

Now back to the point of investing, retirement and understanding the need to manage for downward returns...

While in retirement it is good to invest at least some portion of your retirement assets in investments or with investment managers that have a mandate of minimizing the effect of the decline of the asset(s). 

Understanding the concept of maximum draw down and using strategies and managers that seek to minimize the effect of this on a portfolio of investments can be extremely important for investors nearing or in retirement. You need your assets to last. Looking at managing the depth of your portfolios downward performance can greatly enhance the potential of your meeting your true investment goals, which are to live the lifestyle you want or can for as long as you can.

Selecting the right bonds, mutual fund managers, ETF's, Separately Manged Account Managers or using sophisticated options strategies to structure a portfolio in order to help minimize draw downs can limit upside but it can also help with making sure the portfolio is less depleted in a down market when income generation is needed.


Roth IRA Conversions Benefits

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Roth IRA conversions: are often a great strategy used to minimize the effects of taxation on your hard earned and saved money. Taxes are important to understand in managing our wealth. It is not just about how much money we have it is also about how much we can use for our own purposes.

With a Roth IRA conversion investors convert a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. This allows for the utilization of the Roth IRA rules which can often be more beneficial than Traditional IRA rules. Primarily the benefit of not having to pay income tax when you withdraw funds for retirement out of a Roth IRA is what is attractive to investors. Not everyone is eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. Individuals are not allowed to contribute if their income exceeds Roth IRA income limits.

People that do not qualify to invest in a Roth IRA often end up investing in 401k plans and Traditional IRAs. Traditional IRAs also are subject to income limits and other eligibility requirements, allow for a tax break on the contribution but you pay income taxes in retirement. 401(k) plans have similar tax treatment on contributions and distributions in retirement to a Traditional IRA. Roth IRAs are opposite.

The IRS allows for individuals to convert their Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs without income limitations. There is no 10% early withdrawal penalty as long as the funds are moved into the Roth IRA in a 60 day period. Most often the conversions are done immediately.

When you convert to a Roth IRA from a Traditional IRA you pay income tax on the contributions. The taxable amount that is converted is added to income and regular income tax rates are applied.

Why Convert?

Paying as little tax as possible allows for investors to enjoy more of their money. Conversion to a Roth IRA generally allows investors to save money in the long run. Choosing a year where an investor might know their taxable income is going to be lower than others allows them to execute a conversion in a low income tax bracket year. If the government announces upcoming income tax rate increases this also provides a reason to execute the conversion in the existing lower tax bracket year.

The benefit then becomes that in retirement the entire balance of the funds in your Roth IRA are available for investors to use and there is no after-tax balance calculations to manage. The original owners of the Roth IRA are also not subject to Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) beginning at age 701/2 like owners of a Traditional IRA and other retirement plans are. This is often also perceived as a potential benefit for owners.

Please keep in mind though that high income earners may convert to a Roth but may not be able to make additional contributions of funds.

For more information and an analysis on how this strategy might benefit you please call us at 310-433-5378 or contact us via the web at


Retirement Accounts: Creditor Protection?

Keep my money

Often clients are looking for ways to protect there assets from creditors and have questions about whether their IRA provides any protection.

The answer is that retirement accounts are protected from creditors to varying degrees under state and federal bankruptcy laws. This includes most IRA accounts.

However, there is one situation that has recently been changed that investors should understand. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court case of Clark vs. Rameker, June 12 2014, held that Inherited IRA's are NOT protected in bankruptcy. The ruling was made after the court decided that Inherited IRA's are not retirement accounts and thus not eligible for creditor protection.



Mortgage Underwriting: Asset Depletion



Qualifying for a mortgage loan has gotten more and more difficult since the real estate bubble in the early and mid 2000's lead to the great recession. Many different underwriting techniques that were previously common to see have become less common these days. One such technique, Asset Depletion, is one of those less commonly found in today's mortgage lending community.

Asset depletion is a technique originally designed to allow borrowers who are asset heavy and employment income light to qualify for a mortgage. This technique was especially beneficial for business owners who show low income levels or wealthy individuals with insufficient income or difficulty providing a qualifying employment history.

Today the ability show great amounts of income and several years of history of it tend to dominate what lenders are looking for. However some lenders are willing to use asset depletion techniques to help borrowers qualify for their loans.

Asset depletion is a calculation where a borrower's liquid assets are entered into a calculation to bring up the amount of monthly income they have in order to make mortgage payments. Generally the calculation is a borrowers total assets divided by a set number of months, such as 360 for the standard 30 year loan. Qualifying assets tend to be only liquid assets such as cash, investment accounts and retirement accounts. 100% of the assets in cash accounts and non retirement liquid investment accounts typically qualify. For retirement accounts the amount that qualifies is generally about 70% of the asset base and could potentially be close to 100% if the borrower is over 591/2 years old. Check with your lender to see what they are willing to use in their calculation. 

For instance a borrower who has $1,000,000 in liquid assets and $500,000 in retirement assets may have qualifying monthly income of $3,750. ($1,000,000 + $350,000=$1,350,000; divided by 360)

This is an underwriting technique and does not require the borrower to actually deplete their asset base to make payments.

Asset depletion is not a gurantee to mortgage approval. It is a technique that only helps satisfy the income portion of the underwriting process. Lenders that use this technique often need a good understanding of the borrowers specific situation before they would even grant using this technique as part of the potential approval process.

Investor Life Cycle: Where are you?

Understanding how to invest money to appropriately meet a clients needs and expectations is the job of an Investment Management Professional. Determining where clients are in their life cycle needs to be determined in order to make appropriate decisions. Typically concepts such as Time Horizons, Risk Tolerance, Investment Knowledge, Current Income and Years of Investing Experience are discussed to determine how to appropriately allocate capital.

There are many other concepts often discussed along with these but an understanding of where someone is in their investment life cycle can also be very helpful to making decisions.

What is the Investment Life Cycle?

It can be defined many ways but I find the following three phase approach to be simple and helpful when combined with other concepts for deriving portfolio construction and selecting specific investments.

  1. Accumulation Phase-earliest stage in an investors life cycle where the investor is accumulating assets. There is a long time horizon and often more risk can be accepted because there is more time to achieve objectives. In this phase there can often be short term needs that must be considered and the appropriate amount of investment risk taken: such as when a large purchase is looming. For instance the purchase of a home.
  2. Consolidation Phase-this phase is typically when wealth accumulates more rapidly. In this phase many of life's large purchases and immediate cash needs are already addressed and income is often significantly out pacing expenses allowing for more rapid building of wealth. Time horizon to the next phase (Spending Phase) is getting shorter over this phase.
  3. Spending Phase-this phase is signified when earned income has ended and investment income from accumulated wealth is now the primary source for living expenses. Typically called retirement. Longer life expectancies can lead to long time horizons in this phase. Some would say this is the phase where one would now enjoy the utility of the wealth they have created. Risk tolerance tends to be significantly lower as asset fluctuations are less desirable. However some risk is often required for potential growth to combat the prospects of long time horizons in this phase.

Understanding which phase you fit into can greatly help with understanding why certain investments are necessary and how they fit into your overall investment portfolio. Knowing what phase you are in can make the uneasy feelings about investments more understandable as to why they may be necessary.

To discuss your specific situation please contact Prominence Captial at 310-433-5378. We can also be contact via the web at



Indexes: Dow vs. S&P 500 vs. Russell 3000

How could the Dow Jones Industrial average be up over 100 points and the NASDAQ and S&P 500 be down for the day.On  10/30/2014 this was exactly the case in the early morning hours.

10-30-2014 Index Charts

One of the 30 Dow Industrial constituents, Visa (V) reported wonderful earnings and the stock was off to the races....up over 9%. Visa also happens to be in the S&P 500 and the Russell 3000, so why were both down. Reason was due to the way the index is derived. In order to understand this phenomena we need to understand how the indexes methodology works. Then we will discuss picking and index to measure performance of a portfolio.

Price Weighted Method: The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price weighted average of the 30 stocks that make up the index. "The prices of constituent stocks are aggregated strictly based on quoted prices. Securities that are combined in this manner influence the index in proportion to the magnitude of their price per share." (Shilling) The price-weighted method is the average of current prices of the stocks in the index. All stock prices are added up and the total is divided by the number of stocks in the average. This method gives higher-priced stocks more influence than low-priced stocks.

Capitalization Weighted Method: Also known as the market-value-weighted method, is the method used for the indices that most investment professionals use as benchmarks to measure portfolio performance. Indexes such as the S&P 500 and the Russell 3000 use this methodology. These indexes are generated by determining the total market capitalization of all stocks in the index and dividing by the total number of shares of all the stocks. Capitalization is a company's outstanding shares multiplied by its share price, better known as "market capitalization".

Equally Weighted Method: "Security prices are equally weighted to give as much weight to a 1% fluctuation in the price of a stock that sell sat $108.50 as to a 1% move in the price of a stock that sells for $15.13 regardless of capitalization." (Shilling) Value Line Index is an example of this type of index method. Movements in the index are based on arithmetic or geometric average of the percentage price changes for the stocks in the index. Price or market value does not make a difference.

Now that we understand the methodology behind the types of indexes; we need to look at them to understand how to measure performance in our portfolios. As we can see Capitalization-Weighted Indexes such as the S&P 500, Russell 2000 and Russell 3000 are constructed in a way that is most accurate when using them for benchmarking portfolio performance. So which one do we choose...many professionals talk about and use the S&P 500 as the benchmark of choice. This bench mark represents 500 of the countries largest companies and addresses about 75% of the domestic investable market.  Using this index is very common but may not be entirely appropriate especially if you own a portfolio with Large Cap, Mid Cap and Small Cap stocks. Small Capitalization Stocks are not well represented by the S&P 500 and this index may give you a false indication of how you are truly doing. Often people use a blend of the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000 (small cap index) to get a better idea of performance. One index that is potentially more reliable is the Russell 3000. This index measures the performance of the largest 3,000 U.S. companies representing approximately 98% of the investable U.S. equity market. 

Benchmarking is important and we must understand what our portfolio is made up of in order to truly know which benchmark to use so we can determine how we are doing.

Prominence Capital (310)433-5378 or