Good afternoon to our CJM clients. We want to take a few minutes to personally address you during these very unsettling times in which we find ourselves.
During this difficult moment of uncertainty, the highest priority for us here at CJM is the health and safety of each of our clients as well as our colleagues and all of their extended families. The COVID 19 pandemic is first and foremost a health crisis which has challenged each of us as global citizens to do our part to limit its spread and impact. To that end, we want share a few action steps we are taking as a firm.
First, we are fortunate to have the ability to work remotely so we have made the decision starting Monday to have all CJM team members work from home for the next two weeks. We will reassess at that time. Your client experience should be seamless and the service level will be consistent with the high level you have come to expect. We have redundant capabilities to answer phones and emails, place trades, review client portfolios, conduct client meetings, basically to continue to handle all client needs remotely. We will still receive and process mail and overnight packages but ask you not to drop by as we will not be there to greet and help you in person.
This brings us to our second logistical update…our annual client review meetings serve an important part of the planning process as we review balance sheets asset allocation, investment performance and more. Our out of town and international clients are keenly aware of the ability to have virtual meetings via conference call or Zoom video conferencing. For the next several weeks at least, we will rely on these virtual capabilities for all annual client meetings and any other discussions that client feel are needed. Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding as we balance the need to social distance with the need to communicate and support you, our clients.
Having addressed the safety and logistical impact of the coronavirus, let’s now talk about the market volatility that has unfolded over the last few weeks. Here are some quick numbers for you to digest. From the highs back in February, most major US stock indices are down about 28%. YTD – stocks are off about 25%. But we then account for the fact that most of our retirement income clients have 35 to 45% of there portfolio in bonds and cash which have performed relatively well over those same time periods, we can better understand that CJM client portfolios have been somewhat insulated YTD most of our clients are down about 15-16% vs. 25% for the major stock indices. And as we widen the lense even more to see where stocks stand vs. December 2018 lows, stocks are still up a bit, about 5% if we use the S&P 500 as our proxy.
I don’t want to appear to be minimizing this extremely challenging moment in the financial markets. Disconcerting, yes. Hard to comprehend, yes. Detrimental to our clients’ financial independence, we do not believe that to be the case. In fact, it is exactly the hours and years of planning, fine tuning, monitoring porfolios, modifying asset allocations, and adjusting annual withdrawal rates etc. that offers us and hopefully offers you reassurance that together we will get through this. We do not say this lightly. We understand the stakes.
For our clients in the retirement income phase of their lives, we want to remind and reassure each of you of our consistent approach to maintain at least 3 years worth of the income you need from your portfolio in the more conservative asset classes.
For those clients just about to enter into retirement, we want to emphasize the numerous scenarios we model which include conservative return assumptions and some bad timing scenarios that stress test the portfolio to withstand environments similar to today’s. This analysis allows us to be comfortable knowing long term success is possible through these market swings.
For our clients in the wealth accumulation phase of their lives, not only do we feel that selling out of the stock portion of your portfolio now to potentially be ill timed but it actually can be an opportunity to put some extra cash to work for monies you see no need of touching for 5-10 years plus.
I heard one financial analyst say that you should treat your retirement portfolio like you are being urged to treat your face right now…just don’t touch it! Tracey Baker is another principal here at CJM who reminded us in our firm recently that we strive hard to plan appropriately for the bad times…DURING the GOOD times. This helps us avoid rash or reactionary decisions when fear is at a heightened state.
We want you to know that we appreciate the continued trust and confidence you have in us. We want you to have the peace of mind to know we are here to support and communicate with you so do not hesitate to reach out for clarity and reassurance. Thank you very much for taking the time to listen to this important message. Take care.