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Investment Planning

Investment Strategy Insights

After a hot first quarter, we’re left feeling that the market has begun to cool off just as the weather warms up here in the upper Midwest. With a mix of rising interest rates and tempered expectations for Federal Reserve rate cuts, we’ve begun to feel a slight market chill. Nevertheless, and despite some hubbub over inflation and interest rates, we believe the market will remain healthy. Our very own Chief Investment Strategist, Nate Zeller, breaks down why.

Q1 and Q2 In A Few Recording Breaking Numbers

Wall Street continued its hot streak in March, extending its rally to a fifth straight month.  The S&P 500 returned over 10% in the first quarter of the year; the best first-quarter performance for the index since 2019!

The second quarter has gotten off to a cool start for stocks as interest rates moved higher. Following comments from officials at the Federal Reserve, expectations for the number of interest rate cuts this year were damped, sending bond yields higher. Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds recently touched their highest point in 2024. 

What’s To Come of The Fed’s Hold Steady?

Investors remain cautious about the pace of the Fed’s rate-cutting timeline this year and how soon central bankers will be able to meet their 2% inflation target. As expected, the Fed held interest rates steady at their March meeting and officials have indicated they are in no hurry to cut as economic growth remains strong and inflation remains above target. 

Many “experts” and prognosticators on television and the internet would lead us to believe that if the Fed does not cut rates this year it could spell disaster for the stock market. We do not think this is the case, and, in fact, believe the opposite to be true. If the Fed does not cut rates, it is because economic activity and the labor market remain strong. Economic growth generally leads to corporate earnings growth, helping provide a tailwind for stocks. The Fed cutting rates as a result of slowing economic growth could be a bad omen for the stock market. 

An ideal scenario would be lower inflation while the economy remains healthy, but this may be unlikely since robust economic growth typically leads to inflation. There is also the prospect that inflation reverses course and moves higher, forcing the Fed to raise rates. While this may seem doubtful, it does remain a possibility, especially in light of the recent rise in commodity prices – namely oil.  

An Overvalued Stock Market and Broadening Momentum

Indications signal the overall stock market is overvalued when compared to historical measures. The question is whether earnings will continue to grow to support lofty share prices or if prices will fall to be more in line with long-term averages. Nothing mandates that stock prices must trade at certain valuations and, as we know, the market can remain irrational for a very long time. However, over time, the market always seems to “revert to the mean”, so eventually, we are likely to see either a pullback in prices or an acceleration in earnings growth.

The emergence of the “Magnificent Seven” stocks last year led markets higher but not all stocks and sectors participated in the rally. The performance of the major market indices was primarily driven by these seven stocks which now make up a large concentration of cap-weighted indices.  Currently, there is added risk in investing in passive strategies that track these indices, since they are heavily weighted to this small handful of stocks. 

We are not necessarily expecting a pullback in these names, since most are very strong companies with solid and rapidly growing earnings, but we do anticipate a broadening of the upward momentum to include a wider array of stocks in sectors outside of technology which will provide opportunities for active management strategies.   

Protection Strategies To Mitigate Your Investment Risk

With the stock markets trading near all-time highs and a sense the market is overbought, we fully understand there may be some trepidation amongst investors when it comes to putting new money into the market. Remember, stock market investing is a long-term endeavor and there are times of volatility.  Historically, patient and disciplined investors have been rewarded.  There are many protection strategies available which provide stock market participation while protecting against downside risk. If you’re interested in learning more about how various strategies might make sense for you, give us a call at 952-460-3290.

Nathan Zeller Secured Retirement

Nate Zeller

Chief Investment Strategist
Secured Retirement

Navigating the Most Dangerous Decade: How To Thrive In Transition

In terms of retirement, there’s one particular span of 10 years that is the most critical. Known as
the “most dangerous decade,” the five years prior and the five years post your retirement are
the greatest predictors of retirement outcome. The term “most dangerous decade” was coined
by retirement researcher Wade Pfau who found that over 80% of retirement outcomes are
determined during these ten years. Reasons for this include the general shift in lifestyle,
spending, and investment management.

As you navigate this fragile phase, careful planning and strategic decision-making become
important to ensuring long-term financial security and health in retirement. It’s key to receive the
advice of a trusted expert in this period especially; however, there are a few things you can do
to best position yourself for this crucial time.

Rethinking Income Strategy

Many people think that achieving a savings goal is the single most important element of
preparing for retirement. The truth is that it’s even more important to create a strategy around
generating income in retirement. You simply don’t know how long savings will last. Creating an
income strategy in retirement equips you with an action plan that continues on. The more
diversified your income streams are, the better off you’ll be. Dividend-paying stocks, i-bonds,
real estate investments, annuities, and more all provide additional income streams. Diversifying
income streams enhances financial resilience and ensures a steady cash flow even as you
move out of the workforce.

Prepare for Healthcare Costs

Healthcare just keeps on improving! As medical advancements continue to progress, people are
living longer. That means retirement income has to stretch further as a result. Planning for
healthcare expenses is crucial, but it’s hard to anticipate these big things that haven’t happened
yet. Additionally, inflation for healthcare services continues to outpace the general economy. So,
costs for care are only going up, up, up.

A lot of people make the mistake of assuming Medicare will cover all of their medical bills in
retirement. But that’s simply not true. Medicare will cover some medical expenses. You’ll still be
on the hook for important things like vision, dental, and long-term care. While it’s difficult,
planning healthcare expenses early on is essential to mitigate financial strain in later years.
Even with the level of uncertainty, insurance premiums and medication costs are things you can
better plan for in advance.

Consider Your Investments

In retirement, your system of adding new money to your savings will shift and you’ll more
regularly be taking money out of your accounts. If the stock market is doing well, the money you take out might be balanced by new gains. But if the market is down for a while, every time you
take money out, it could be more like taking a slice from a shrinking pie. This is called sequence
of returns risk, and it’s something that all investors have to contend with.

If you retire when the market is up, you might be okay even if it goes down later. But if you retire
when the market is down, your savings might not bounce back. This risk is heightened during
the first decade of retirement when your portfolio balance is at its highest, and withdrawals may
have a more substantial impact on its sustainability. The market’s timing is beyond your
control, but you can take steps to minimize the risk. Regularly checking and adjusting your
investment mix every 6 to 12 months can help. Make sure your portfolio is diverse and matches
your age, goals, and how much risk you’re comfortable with. The important thing is to have a

Stay Active, Stay Healthy, and Stay In Touch

Beyond financial considerations, it’s extremely important to prioritize your health – mental and
physical – throughout the period right before and right after retirement. It’s a time of major life
shifts, disruption, and, frequently, some stress – no matter how welcome your retirement may
be! Staying active, engaging in meaningful activities, and maintaining social connections are
vital to a fulfilling retirement. By cultivating a healthy lifestyle, you not only enhance your quality
of life, you also reduce the risk of costly medical interventions in later years.

The most dangerous decade certainly sounds scary! And the truth is, it can have a huge effect
on your overall retirement. However, with planning and proactive strategies relative to your
income planning, healthcare costs, and investment portfolio, you will be well-positioned to
weather the storm. Your journey through retirement is not only about financial security; it’s about
living a fulfilling and purposeful life. Our comprehensive retirement planning aims to equip you
with the full package so you can do just that. To review the strategies for your “most dangerous
decade”, call us today at 952-460-3290.

Investment Strategy Insights

Secured Retirement’s Chief Investment Strategist, Nate Zeller, dives into the current trends shaping the US economy. As we wrap up the year’s first quarter, there are a number of market indicators shedding light on the year’s possible economic progression. Nate rounds up leading economist forecasts to help illuminate our way forward. Here’s where we’ve been and where we’re going in 2024:

Navigating Strong Currents and A Robust Economy

This year is starting out on a positive note with the stock markets continuing to move higher as we progress in 2024. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at all-time highs at the end of February. And the market advance is not just limited to large-cap stocks, small-cap stocks, represented by the Russell 2000 Index, have also rallied. These stock market gains come on the heels of the U.S. economy remaining stronger than expected, with Q4 2023 GDP growing at more than 3% compared to the prior year. In turn, the Federal Reserve has been compelled to hold interest rates steady. Robust consumer spending rates and solid employment numbers are additional indicators of a strong economy. Unemployment has ticked slightly upwards, but the most recent numbers indicate an overall healthy labor market.

Inflation, Stubborn Inflation

Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, does continue to fall but remains stubbornly above the Fed’s comfort level of an annualized 2%. At the beginning of the year, it was expected that the Fed would cut interest rates six times over 2024. However, with the continued strength of the economy and the fact that inflation remains somewhat stubborn, current forecasts predict fewer cuts. Some economists even predict there may not be any rate cuts this entire year.

With the lowered likelihood of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates, bond yields moved higher – the major bond indices showing negative performance year-to-date. Let this be a reminder that interest rates remain volatile and bonds may not provide the best protection for your portfolio.

Supply, Demand, Mortgage Rates

For a full 18 months (and counting), we’ve been experiencing an inverted yield curve, where short-term interest rates are higher than longer-term interest rates. If the Fed were to cut short-term rates, we’d expect the yield curve to normalize, since it’s unlikely that longer-term interest rates will move much this year. Sorry prospective home buyers, mortgage rates, which are tied closely to the US 10-year Treasury bond yield, may not move much either. If for some reason mortgage rates were to drop, more buyers could have the opportunity to enter the market. However, with supply remaining scarce, this may cause home prices to rise, further leading to inflation.

A “Landing” Economy? What’s That?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been said to be in a “landing economy”.  “Landing,” refers to the anticipated slowdown caused by the inflation spike in 2022 and subsequent brisk pace of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. Some forecasts predicted a “hard” landing, meaning the economy would fall into a moderate to deep recession, but more recently the majority of economists anticipate a “soft” landing with a rather mild recession. Given the current resilient state of the economy, the prevailing thought is of “no” landing, meaning the economy will not fall into a recession and continue to expand. How it will play out remains to be seen. In the case of no landing, the Fed would likely not cut interest rates for the foreseeable future out of concern for inflation rearing its ugly head as the economy expands.

The Fed and The Election

The Fed’s inaction could also be an effort not to influence November’s presidential election. Therefore, it may be unlikely they’ll do anything in July or September, leaving only two meetings (not including next week’s meeting where it is highly anticipated they will hold rates steady) for opportunities of rate cuts prior to the election, so chances are waning.  However, this forecast could change should we see the economy fall into a recession or conditions shift drastically, but this seems unlikely in the near term. And there are two meetings after the election this year, so odds of multiple rate cuts in 2024 do remain.  

Through the remainder of the year, we will be watching what effects the political landscape and upcoming elections have on the stock and bond markets. Historically stock markets perform well in election years, but what we have experienced over the past several years have been called “unprecedented” so there certainly is no guarantee we will follow history.

Cautiously Witnessing Tech Titans

The biggest concern we have now is the stretched valuations of the mega-cap tech stocks. In 2023, we saw the emergence of the “Magnificent Seven” stocks which led markets higher and accounted for 62% of the S&P 500’s return. But those original seven have now shrunken to the “Fabulous Four” so far in 2024, with Nvidia, Meta (Facebook), Microsoft, and Amazon accounting for 55% of the index’s returns through the end of February. We remain cautious as narrow market breadth can lead to drawdowns of major indices if that concentration of stocks were to lose value. It remains to be seen if the current market leaders will be able to generate enough earnings growth to justify their lofty valuations and as well as maintain such positive sentiment amongst investors. Until there is a broadening of market leadership, we remain slightly cautious on the markets.  

As laid out by market indicators and economists across the country, there are possibilities for how the economy will progress as 2024 continues to unfold. Inflation continues to play a role in the equation and the status as an election year leads us to closely monitor this delicate balance in the face of The Fed’s current inaction. However, the resilience of the U.S. economy, with its GDP growth, healthy consumer spending, and employment figures, sets a promising tone for the year ahead! 

For more insight into the wide world of finances and how economic trends factor into your retirement, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today at 952-460-3290.

Nathan Zeller Secured Retirement

Nate Zeller

Chief Investment Strategist
Secured Retirement

Don’t Let Penalties Cost You

So, did you catch the high school boys’ hockey state championship this weekend? What a showdown on the ice! I heard a record number of attendees (20,346!!) were at the Xcel for Saturday night’s final match up – crazy! A huge congratulations to Edina and St. Cloud Cathedral for clinching their respective Class AA and Class A victories.

Few things make me prouder to be a Minnesotan than watching those young guns fly down that ice, masterfully handling the puck even at their age. And the hair! You can’t forget the hair! Thems were the days. It’s peak nostalgia season for many of us in the State of Hockey.

We follow the tournament closely here in the office and it always amazes me how fast these games can turn – part of what makes them so exciting. It all boils down to a few critical plays, a few critical errors. Penalties are one of the most frequent blunders in a game. I’ve seen the frustrating toll they can take on team morale myself watching my son play.

Tripping, for example, is an often-called penalty and especially frustrating because it’s just so easy to do. Penalties can happen fast with emotional or sloppy playing, and the more there are the more frustrating it becomes – to watch and play. It hurts to see your best guy have to sit in the box. If you’re going to take a penalty, make it worthwhile.

When it comes to your retirement, you cannot let penalties, even a 2-minute minor mistake, cost you your retirement game. Ill-timed market corrections or legislative changes can affect your retirement earnings, but with the right retirement lineup, they shouldn’t.

Just as a well-rounded hockey team relies on each player to contribute their strengths to achieve victory, the best retirement planning is a team effort. Having the right people in your lineup can make all the difference. At Secured Retirement, our tight team has perfected key plays to ensure every client has a tried and true winning strategy.

In sports, we love a wild game that comes right down to the wire – not here. Here, methodical planning with a few key plays is what wins gold. Remember that!

Cup of Joe


From Joe Lucey, Founder of Secured Retirement

There’s something about sitting down with a steaming cup of coffee that always kicks my day into high gear. And it’s not just because of the caffeine it sends coursing through my veins.

Throughout my career, some of my biggest revelations have come to me in conversation with my mentor over a cup of joe. Good conversation and personal connection can pick you up in a special way. It’s that feeling that I’m hoping to bring to you with my new series, your Cup of Joe.

5 Considerations To Help You Land the Right Financial Advisor

With more and more financial products hitting the market and a growing number of so-called gurus shilling financial advice from every nook and cranny of the internet, it’s more important than ever to have a trusted financial advisor in your corner. But with so many opinions floating around, how can you determine who to actually trust? Navigating through the maze of investment options, retirement plans, and financial strategies demands tried-and-true expertise and insight. We’ve put together a list of five things to consider as you sift through the noise and find a professional who’s worthy of your trust.

  1. Communication Style: Clear and effective communication is crucial to the advisor-client relationship. In this industry, things can get complex and confusing quickly. You want an advisor who can spell it all out for you in a way you understand. Beyond that, you’ll want to work with someone who responds promptly and is willing to provide you with regular updates. Transparent and open communication fosters trust and ensures that you remain in the know and empowered throughout your financial journey.
  2. Credentials and Beyond: Formal credentials can be a valuable indicator of expertise, but they don’t provide a complete picture of competency. In the world of financial consulting and retirement planning, there is a whole spectrum of designations ranging from rigorous to just plain formalities. Take into account a prospective financial advisor’s track record, integrity, and compatibility with your financial goals, rather than simply relying on the acronyms trailing their name.
  3. Specialization: Just like you’d consult a cardiologist for heart-related concerns rather than your family doctor, you should seek out a financial advisor whose expertise aligns with your specific financial needs. At Secured Retirement, our specialization revolves around income and tax planning for retirement. Having a specialty indicates the presence of proven strategies. Whether you’re interested in retirement planning, estate management, or investment strategies, and depending on where you are in your financial journey, working with a specialist ensures guidance and comprehensive insights tailored to your goals.
  4. Life-Long Learning: Even the most decorated financial professionals should seek out ongoing education and training. This is a field that is constantly changing. You want to work with advisors who keep up with this change. What’s more, you want to know that the training they’re doing isn’t on sales techniques, but in areas of financial substance. Ensure your financial partner values honing their knowledge and skills in their area of expertise so that they consistently stay on top of their game.
  5. A Range of Approaches: Every family’s financial situation has its strengths and weaknesses. Within their specialty, your financial advisor should be able to tailor their approach to your unique situation in order to achieve your personal financial goals. You need a partner who takes the time to listen to your vision and can craft a strategy around it. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in this industry, and if anyone claims there is. . . Beware!

In the complex world of financial planning, working with competent financial professionals you can trust makes all the difference. At Secured Retirement, we’ve built our business with these very considerations in mind. We’re a partner you can rely on and thrive with. 

Connect with us today: 952-460-3290

Danielle Christensen


Danielle is dedicated to serving clients to achieve their retirement goals. As a Paraplanner, Danielle helps the advisors with the administrative side of preparing and documenting meetings. She is a graduate of the College of St. Benedict, with a degree in Business Administration and began working with Secured Retirement in May of 2023.

Danielle is a lifelong Minnesotan and currently resides in Farmington with her boyfriend and their senior rescue pittie/American Bulldog mix, Tukka.  In her free time, Danielle enjoys attending concerts and traveling. She is also an avid fan of the Minnesota Wild and loves to be at as many games as possible during the season!