Not that I am following the stock market or anything . . . but a quick glance at the performance of domestic stocks through 2014 reveals that the stock market sold off about 5% to start the year, before quickly retracing that loss through the past 6 trading days, and now, through February 14, shows a slight gain for the year.

As much as The Coffeehouse Investor encourages you to “Build Wealth, Ignore Wall Street and Get On With Your Life,” it seems that many investors continue to do just the opposite. They pay too much attention to the market, and as a result, their emotions push them to make the wrong decisions at the wrong time.  This type of investor behavior, documented by such companies as Dalbar is absolutely destructive in an effort to build long term wealth through a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds.

Let’s take a closer look at the above, summed up succinctly (if unknowingly) in two separate articles, running side by side, in The Wall Street Journal . . .

On page C4 of the February 7 edition, The WSJ ran the following article titled “Investors Switch From Equity Funds to Bonds,” starting out with . . .

Investors swapped out of U.S. equity funds and into bonds at the fastest clip on record last week, according to Lipper Inc., as they grasped for safety while the stock market swooned.

The irony of this was that another article adjacent to the one mentioned above was titled “Dow’s Rise Is Biggest Advance Of the Year.”

Let’s see. . . . after one of its strongest years ever, the stock market has a slight hiccup, and investors flee it as if another crash was coming, only to miss out on one of the strongest 6 trading days of the past couple years.

How can you avoid this?  A good place to start is to ignore the stock market as much as you can.  It might not be possible to tune it out completely, if you catch a market report on a radio station or nightly news report.

It is possible to ignore (not monitor) your account on a daily basis. You have complete control over that.  By not monitoring it on a daily, or even weekly basis, you are more apt to have common sense (not your emotions) guide you in your portfolio decisions.

In fact why monitor it at all, except maybe twice a year when you consider rebalancing?



Starting with next Wednesday’s webinar (click here to register), the overriding theme of The Coffeehouse Investor in 2014 will be,

“Keep It Simple.”

Ever since I started working on The Coffeehouse Investor over 20 years ago, I have been fairly religious about keeping my story simple, so that investors of all types can understand the message.

Over the years, I have received numerous comments from these same investors acknowledging their appreciation at my attempt to accomplish just that.

Coming from a professional background in the financial services industry (working as a stockbroker for over 10 years at Smith Barney – now Morgan Stanley), I found a little irony in reading that the head of Merrill Lynch’s Wealth Management division has now found the same religion of “simplicity.”   To quote . . .

“We’re going to make sure that we get the right outcome for clients, but do it in a way that’s in plain language, that people can understand, so we once again don’t make the mistake of leading with complexity when our clients are looking for simplicity.”

In the coming weeks and months, I am going to be explaining to you why  things like Monte Carlo simulations, standard deviations, Trinity studies and three factor models are irrelevant (and maybe counterproductive?) to you reaching your long term financial goals.

In place of all that financial jargon, I will reveal to you, using terminology that you can easily understand, why you need to develop a “pass-book savings” mentality to become a successful investor.

I will be sharing with you what you have requested of me: Clarity on achieving financial goals.

This New Year promises to be an exciting one, and I look forward to connecting with you to accomplish just that.  Hope you can tune in to next Wednesday’s webinar. 



Happy New Year from The Coffeehouse Investor – and what a year it has been.  Starting yesterday, December 31st, at about 1:15 p.m. Pacific time, my e-mail inbox started filling up (like clockwork) with requests from investors across the country who wanted to know the year-end Coffeehouse portfolio returns.

So, without further ado . . .

1 year       14.88%

3 year       9.48%  (annualized)

5 year      12.6%

10 year     7.51%

20 year    8.87%

In looking back over the past few years, a few things stand out.

2013 was the fifth consecutive year of positive returns for the portfolio.

Since 2009, the seven-fund portfolio has generated a total return of 81%.

Of the portfolio’s 40% that is allocated to fixed income, this portion generated a negative 2.14% return, showing a decline for the first time since 1999.

Looking at the 20 year annualized return of almost 9%, one could say, “It has been quite a run,” and it has.  But don’t expect anything close to those numbers over the next 20 years.  I have this discussion every day in my work at Soundmark Wealth Management, especially with folks who have been embracing the straightforward approach since 2000 and whose portfolios have generating some eye-catching numbers during that stretch.

Maybe the most impressive number over of the whole lot is 6.32%.  That is the annualized return over the past 6 years that includes the nasty bear market of 2008.  Why do I call attention to this number?  Because it reminds us of the importance of staying the course in the next (inevitable) bear market!

Why are returns likely to be significantly less going forward, why does it matter to you, and what can you do to accentuate those returns?

I invite you to tune in to the next Coffeehouse Investor webinar  on January 22nd at 6:00 p.m. Pacific to learn more!



I’m telling ya, there is no stopping the stock market.  It seems like for the past two years all the prognosticators have been calling for a market correction, and still the market keeps on setting record highs.

Through the end of November, the S&P 500 had recorded eight straight weeks of gains.  According to The Wall Street Journal, it hasn’t had a run like this in over a decade.

But with each passing day that the stock market sets a new record, another market guru seems to come out of the weeds and scare us into thinking the market is overdue for a big correction.  Today the guru happens to be Bill Gross who is telling us to watch out for a stock market bubble.

Here are some thoughts to ponder . . .

First, while the stock market IS overvalued, it isn’t by much, at least according to Vanguard.  With large cap stocks sporting a price-to-earnings ratio of 17.6, this is hardly bubble territory.

The stock market has had quite a run, up over 20% so far this year.  Time to take profits? Maybe, maybe not.  According to Jeffrey Keintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, the average return on common stocks after a yearly gain of 20-25%, is 13% the following year.

Oh, and one more thing . . .

Why all the fuss over a market drop?  Isn’t that what stock markets are supposed to do every once in a while.  The stock market is two steps forward, one step back. Always has been, always will be.  Sometimes the steps are big, sometime the steps are small.

If you are squirming over a potential market drop, it means one of two things. Either you need to get on with your life and ignore the market, or reallocate dollars out of the market so that you don’t need to sell stocks for living purposes during the next market decline (and then get on with your life.)

That is where your financial plan comes in handy.

What matters most when integrating all this stuff into your portfolio and into your life, is not what the stock market does over the next 4 months, but what it does over the next 10-15 years.  Almost assuredly, stocks will significantly outperform bonds during this stretch, and good reason to have a healthy chunk in your portfolio today.

With the city of Detroit falling into bankruptcy, there is a lot of discussion on what will happen to the pension benefits of city employees.

But Detroit isn’t the only municipality that is struggling to meet its pension obligations.  It seems to be endemic across our country’s state and local landscape.

For the most part, state and local municipalities are saving too little caused in part by rates of return on projections that are too high.  This causes future pension balances to be overinflated base on what is likely to unfold.

As individual investors, we can learn from the pension struggles of municipalities.  In my work as an advisor with Soundmark Wealth Management, I address these issues with folks every day.

It is important to keep portfolio growth expectations in check when putting together your financial plan.  Using return expectations of 7% or 8% can provide for a rosy outlook on your worksheet projections, but this will only require you to save substantially more than you anticipated, closer to retirement, if the returns don’t come to pass.

There has been a lot of commotion recently regarding the increase in interest rates.

For instance, the 10-year Treasury note has increased in yield from 1.64% to 2.55% over the past eight weeks.

Lots of people seem to be up in arms over these increases, but much of this angst is brought on by a financial media that stokes fears of a bond bubble bursting.

I am not saying that this is much ado about nothing, but the fact that interest rates might continue to go up isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world for your portfolio.

In fact, in the long run, it will likely be to your advantage, because you get the benefit of higher rates, that is, of course, if you don’t have your entire bond portfolio in 30 year Treasury bonds.

Tara Siegal Bernard, wrote an insightful piece in a recent New York Times article that puts all the above in perspective, and reminds us of the important role bonds have in most portfolios.


Every so often, when I sit down at my computer and open up my e-mail, I find a letter from a Coffeehouse Investor sitting in my inbox.  Their comments and “thank-you’s” for the efforts I put forth in creating the Coffeehouse Investor 14 years ago spur me on to do more with our three simple principles.

And while these e mails are sent from investors of all types and all ages, it is especially gratifying to know that so many female investors tune in to The Coffeehouse Investor.

On this day when we celebrate Mother’s Day, it is particularly important to give Moms the knowledge, resources, and confidence to be smart investors of their financial resources.

Doing good work as a Mom is a full-time job several times over.  I look at the effort my Mom put in to raising eight children on that farm in Southeastern Washington state, and I have no idea how she managed to do it, day after day, and keep her sanity.  But she was there for us, and still is, day after day. Her presence continues to be a vibrant force in the lives of her children and grandchildren as we get on with living our own lives.

(For instance, just yesterday I received a note in the mail from her with some stretching exercises for golfers – how sweet is that?)

Why is The Coffeehouse Investor especially meaningful for women?  It allows the female investor to invest with confidence without getting caught up in the “male-dominated” energy of Wall Street.  It is no secret that this energy can be condescending at times, an attitude of “I know better than you do, so follow my advice.”

When you become a Coffeehouse Investor, you aren’t following anyone’s advice except your own – including your own confidence in people and economies and countries around the world, and that the creativity and productivity of these people will be reflected in the long term growth of the stock market.

Not surprisingly, I have found, in working with countless investors including many Moms, that this confidence in one’s own ability  to build successful portfolios spurs them on to not only take control of their household savings, but the impetus to save more.

Thanks to all the great Moms out there.  Keep up the great work.


I am loving this time of year, and with the heat wave sweeping Seattle, new signs of life are springing up all over the place.

Today I want to talk about one component of life that is as important and essential as it is inevitable.

It is a bold and final statement to everyone’s life while alive.

It is our own dying.

Our death.

I could write a couple of chapters (heck, we all could) about how death has touched and moved me, but for now I will just say that 21 years ago a close friend and director of a local Hospice Agency invited me to serve on the advisory board of Providence Hospice of Seattle.

That experience of serving people who are embracing the final act of life changed my life.

I started to deal with the fact that I wasn’t going to live forever, and that I better get on with my life, a catalyst that caused me to step away from my job as a stockbroker and eventually create The Coffeehouse Investor.

Last week a good friend of mine who has been intimately involved in nurturing hospice patients sent me a link to this article, written by a doctor, on the subject of dying – a healthy reflection on a topic many of us will be faced with sometime in our lives.


The sunshine has returned to Seattle, always a welcome sight after 5 months of grey and rain.  I like this time of year because I am working in the yard, fixing up the house, and planting my garden.

Speaking of gardens, it takes a (very small) leap of faith to put the seeds in the ground with the hope that there will be enough sunshine over the next few months to harvest a crop sometime next August.

But beings I’m a farm kid at heart, I don’t give the sunshine a second thought.  Even during the drought year of 1977, we still harvested enough wheat to buy seed for the next year, and a bumper crop at that.

I don’t know why I am sharing this with you, but maybe it has something to do with the anxiety so many investors are feeling these days with the current lofty levels of the stock market.

In my opinion, it takes a (very small) leap of faith to maintain a sufficient allocation in common stocks with the expectation that stock market levels are going to be significantly higher 10 years from now.

When looking at the possibility of a steep sell-off in the market over the next year, I am not saying it doesn’t matter, but, well, it doesn’t matter.  I am counting on the next ten years, and, well, the sunshine has returned to Seattle.


I can’t remember the last time I purchased an individual stock.  For me, owning the collective creativity of workers around the world makes a lot more sense for my serious money.

But I love following companies, especially startup companies, and the dynamics that make them succeed (and fail) in a competitive global environment.

There is one startup company called FutureAdvisor that I have been keeping a close eye on this past year.  This company is an investment advisor web application that offers 401-k plan participants portfolio recommendations while focusing on the same principles found here at The Coffeehouse Investor – things like low fees, proper asset allocation, and of course capturing the return of broad markets around the world.

Amelia Greenhall, is FutureAdvisor’s Designer, Illustrator and Data Scientist.  On top of that she climbs mountains, hangs on cliffs, and does other crazy things like summing up my two hour Coffeehouse webinars in a one-page illustration called The Awesome Portfolio Checklist.

I just love the creative energy of Amelia and the entire FutureAdvisor team who have found a way to help investors focus on what is important in reaching their financial goals.

If you are looking for some guidance on YOUR portfolio, check out FutureAdvisor.  And while you are at it, download a copy of The Awesome Portfolio Checklist, paste it to your bedroom door, review it twice a year, and get on with your life!


Sign Up

The Coffeehouse Investor newsletter provides you with brief bursts of inspiration in your journey toward simplifying your investment decisions and increasing your investment returns!


The Coffeehouse Book

The New Coffeehouse Investor Book

The Coffeehouse Investor

How to Build Wealth, Ignore Wall Street & Get On With Your life by Bill Schultheis

Download the first chapter

Buy on Amazon.com

Buy on BN.com.