We’ve Moved! 6121 Excelsior Blvd. St. Louis Park, MN 55416

Nathan Zeller

Weekly Insights 11/22/21 – 11/26/21

Much to Be Thankful For

This is the time of year when we pause to give thanks for all that we have, which generally include family and friendships, freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and having the privilege of living in one of the most economically developed countries in the world. Here at Secured Retirement, we are especially thankful for our clients and the numerous relationships we have established over the years. We should be mostly thankful for the non-material items in our lives, but would be remiss if we did not give special thanks this year for the great stock market returns we have experienced. This is especially true now since we faced a worldwide pandemic last year which had the potential to devastate many economies and have since recovered with the markets roaring back to above pre-pandemic levels.

With these robust returns, it is imperative that investors take time to review their portfolio positioning and adjust if needed. Many portfolios are now out of alignment with their investment objectives since stocks have had such a vigorous run, subjecting them to excessive risk. It is also important to revisit your personal risk tolerance, including your appetite and ability for taking risk. Many investors have become complacent and feel the stock market will go up forever, but it is inevitable there will eventually be corrections and bear markets. If you are at or nearing retirement, a market downturn could have a significant impact on your savings and adversely affect your income which is why we remain committed to ensuring our clients’ portfolios are closely monitored and adjusted as needed.

The stock markets were generally flat last week, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq squeezing out small gains while the Dow had a slight loss. The market moving events included retail sales numbers and earnings reports from major retailers, most of which was better than expected and provided a boost for the markets. Consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of the GDP so the health of the consumer is watched carefully and thus far has held up well. A recent consumer sentiment report was a little weaker than expected so seeing solid retail sales numbers provided relief to the market.

Going into the holiday season, focus remains on retail sales and consumer spending. Indications are that spending will remain strong. One area of concern is that supply chain constraints could lead to a lack of inventory, in turn leading to less spending. Thus far this does not seem to be the case with retailers reporting higher inventory levels than past years but as the holiday season kicks into full gear, inventory levels will be closely watched. Inflation is another risk to spending since consumer prices have increased at a greater pace than wages, but with household wealth increasing as a result of a strong labor market, multiple stimulus payments, and decent market returns, consumers do not seem likely to curtail spending this year. However, higher costs of goods sold could have a negative impact on earnings for some retailers since often they cannot fully pass on higher costs to consumers. This was revealed in some of the recent earnings reports, so while spending may remain strong, corporate profitability growth may experience some pressure.

Elves in the Workshop

The term “stagflation” has been used more commonly in recent weeks with higher inflation readings and signs of the economy slowing. We feel the risks of entering a stagflation environment, characterized by high inflation and slow economic growth, remain low but have increased slightly. As mentioned above, consumer spending plays a major role in the economy and at this time remains brisk, but we also watch other indicators of economic growth such as the labor market, housing/construction data, and production of goods. Last week was heavy with data releases for the manufacturing sector which included capacity utilization and industrial production, which were much better than expected and show the manufacturing sector remains healthy. This reflects strong demand for end products and indicates supply chain issues, while causing some limited access to materials, may not be having as large of an impact as thought on manufacturing.

Looking Ahead

This week is a short one for the markets due to the holiday and there are no significant economic events. The stock market is open for a shortened session on Friday. Often in the past we have seen some market volatility on Black Friday, but generally on very low volume. Retailers are likely to share details of early holiday-related sales volume, which if is as robust as expected could provide momentum for the markets next week and into early December, as it has in years past. We are long-term investors and do not concern ourselves with short-term market movements, but these are shared as historical reference to be mindful of in the days and weeks ahead. It will have to be seen if we follow such patterns this year.

Time is running out to review your portfolio and income plan, especially if you need to make modifications prior to year-end. If you have not done so recently or would like a second opinion please do not hesitate to contact us. Take time this week to pause and think about all of the things you are thankful for.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Nathan Zeller, CFA, CFP®

Chief Investment Strategist

Secured Retirement

nzeller@securedretirements.com

Please contact us if you would like to review your individual financial plan or learn how the TaxSmart™ Retirement Program can help you.

info@securedretirements.com

Office phone # (952) 460-3260

Weekly Insights 11/15/21 – 11/19/21

Fun While It Lasted

With winter quickly approaching, at least for those of us in the northern latitudes, we might feel some melancholy about the end of autumn, which is arguably the most pleasant season of the year here in Minnesota (notwithstanding the Vikings win-loss record in any given year.) But winter brings new opportunities – whether it is being outdoors for wintertime activities or being quite comfortable staying indoors and cozying up in front of a warm fireplace. Given the stock market volatility of last week, investors might have many of the same feelings. Disappointment around the strong run of the previous five weeks slowing should be followed with optimism for what lies ahead.

The S&P 500 ended the week slightly lower, experiencing its first weekly loss since the last week of September. The primary driver of last week’s market activity was inflation, which continues to be on the forefront of consumers’ and investors’ minds. The talk of higher prices has been accelerating for most of this year, akin to a low rumble quickly building in intensity. Now that rumble has grown considerably louder since consumers see higher prices in many, if not most, goods purchased, especially as the holiday season approaches.

The stock market unceremoniously snapped an eight-day winning streak after a surge in the Producer Price Index (PPI) was reported last Tuesday. The PPI, which measures the change in prices charged by producers for their goods and services, rose 8.6% from a year ago and remains at the highest levels recorded since this measure began in its current form 11 years ago. The markets were spooked even more on Wednesday by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of the change in prices paid by consumers, which showed a yearly increase of 6.2%. This was above analysts’ expectations and the largest year-over-year increase since December 1990 when the first Bush was in the White House. Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, was the highest it has been since 1982!

These high inflation readings have implications for the stock market, bond market and overall economy. Raw materials producers, such as energy and mining companies, that benefit from higher commodity prices traded higher while companies having to deal with higher input costs did not fare as well. Growth stocks, especially technology companies, also did not fare well since their share prices are based upon expectations for future earnings. With higher interest rates, the present value of those earnings are not worth as much, providing pressure on current stock prices.

Painted In a Corner

Not only do these higher levels of inflation potentially cause stress for consumers and headaches for certain investors, but this also places the Federal Reserve in a difficult position. The Fed has previously maintained that inflation is “transitory,” or short-term, as a result of the pandemic but in recent weeks has acknowledged it is “persistent.” The inflation readings last week led to speculation the Fed will taper the monthly bond buying program faster than announced two weeks ago, resulting in it completely ending earlier than currently expected. This might also prompt the Fed to take action with interest rates sooner than previously thought with the expectations now for multiple rate hikes next year. Frequently inflation is fueled by “easy money” (low interest rates lead to low borrowing costs for businesses and consumers) so increases in short term interest rates, which increase borrowing costs, reduce the supply of money and have the effect of controlling inflation. However, in addition to easy money, inflation is now being driven by supply chain constraints and higher input costs, namely commodity prices and labor costs, which are beyond the control of any action the Fed could take.

Looking Ahead

Since inflation, which has consistently been viewed at the top of the list of investors’ worries over the past several months, remains elevated there is some concern of a return to 1970s style “stagflation,” marked by prolonged inflation, stagnant economic growth and high unemployment rates. Whispers of stagflation have been gaining in intensity and the past week’s data releases have only added to this fear. With unemployment being relatively low and continuing to decrease we do not see this as being likely, but we are watching for a potential slowdown in economic activity. We are experiencing slowing growth, which is to be expected since it was at such lofty levels coming out of the pandemic, but the fact remains economic expansion continues. Next week’s key economic data releases include retail sales as well as capacity utilization and industrial production. We view current supply chain constraints as the largest threat to the economy so the last two data points just mentioned will provide clues regarding the state of production in the manufacturing sector. If production numbers are lower than expected or slow considerably there is a high probability overall economic growth will follow and slow also. Consumer spending comprises almost 70% of GDP so a slowdown in retail sales would also point towards slowing growth. At this point the economy seems to be (mostly) firing on all cylinders but this could change over the next several months, which would subsequently alter our investment outlook and portfolio positioning.

As we have mentioned in the past, the stretch from November until January is historically one of the strongest times of the year for the stock market. Despite the recent run-up, we do not foresee any reason for it to be different this year. Gains may be more muted than in past years, but we remain optimistic for a continuation of the upward trend. Holiday décor can be seen in stores and Thanksgiving will be upon us next week, reminders that the end of the year is approaching. If you have not yet had a year-end review of your portfolio and financial plan, be sure to give us a call to schedule one. Here in the Twin Cities we saw our first brush of snow last week, reminding us that winter truly is on its way, so best to embrace it, just as it is best to embrace whatever is happening in the markets and position yourself accordingly.

Have a wonderful week!

Nathan Zeller, CFA, CFP®

Chief Investment Strategist

Secured Retirement

nzeller@securedretirements.com

Please contact us if you would like to review your individual financial plan or learn how the TaxSmart™ Retirement Program can help you.

info@securedretirements.com Office phone # (952) 460-3260

Weekly Insights 11/8/21 – 11/12/21

Never Forget

As we observe Veteran’s Day this week let us give gratitude to those who have served in the Armed Forces. We enjoy the freedoms we have today because of their bravery and sacrifice. Our country was founded on certain principles including liberty and freedom, for which our forefathers fought during the Revolutionary War and many of our family members, friends, and neighbors have more recently protected. By securing our freedom, men and women in uniform have also protected the capitalistic society from which we benefit. This enables us to work hard to earn a living, save money, and have investments for savings to grow.

Speaking of investing, the stock markets are again sitting at all-time highs with last week being the fifth consecutive week of gains, which were driven by positive economic news and continued strong corporate earnings. The earnings season is winding down with 85% of the S&P 500 companies now having reported. Not surprisingly the earnings reports were strong with many companies beating estimates and boosting forward guidance. Strong corporate profits and a growing economy should provide continued tailwinds for the markets. Historically speaking, the stretch from November through January is one of the best times of the year for the stock market. It remains to be seen if history repeats itself this year, but having a solid economy and continued growth in corporate profits leads us to believe there is no reason this year would be any different.

Beginning in March of last year, in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”) has purchased $120 billion of bonds per month in an effort to keep interest rates low as well as signal the intention of using monetary policy to help support the economy. Last week on Wednesday, the Fed announced they are going to being “tapering,” or reducing, this monthly bond buying program, commonly referred to as quantitative easing, or “QE.” The tapering will consist of reducing those purchases by $15 billion per month which is expected to fully wind down the program by the middle of next year, but the Fed maintains flexibility to adjust in either direction if needed. Since this announcement does indicate the Fed feels the economy is close to fully recovering and able to stand on its own, it helped push the stock market higher even though this announcement was expected since the Fed generally signals their intentions in advance. The QE program helped keep interest rates low so we expect to see some rise in interest rates over the coming months. It is also now expected the Fed will begin to raise the base Fed Funds rate shortly after QE is fully wrapped up in the middle of next year.

Jobs

The employment reports of the previous two months were weaker than expected, but still positive, which led some to believe the Fed could hold off on beginning the taper to ensure the economy was on stable footing. However, the Fed obviously felt strongly enough that the economy was at least stable, and most likely expanding, that they went ahead with the taper announcement. Their decision seems well justified since the October employment report on Friday was better than expectations and the previous two months were revised upwards, which should not be a surprise given we remain near record highs for job openings. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.6%, but even with these large jobs gains the employment-to-population ratio remains below where it was pre-pandemic and indicates we are still not at full employment. This shows there is still room to run in the labor market recovery and therefore further wage pressures may be limited.

Also on the economic front, durable orders, factory orders and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) non-manufacturing survey all came in better than expected last week, providing further evidence the economic recovery remains intact and is not showing signs of slowing down. Data for labor costs and hourly earnings were higher than expected, which is not completely surprising given the current state of the labor market. Since labor costs, along with supply chain disruptions, seem to be driving inflation this leads us to believe inflation will continue in the foreseeable future.

Looking Ahead

Given the numerous surveys suggesting inflation continues to be the largest risk on investors’ minds, this coming week will be significant with the Producer Price Index (PPI) and Consumer Price Index (CPI) being reported. The stock market has enjoyed a healthy run since the beginning of October and with earnings season winding down it might be due for a bit of a slowdown; hopefully that is not the case and it continues to march upwards.

We also continue to watch the progress of the infrastructure and social spending bills, especially any revenue provisions, i.e. taxes, which might be included and how they would impact individuals. Political dynamics have changed over the past week with election results, especially two key gubernatorial races. This does not impact Congress directly but it does show that the Democratic party in Washington, which holds a razor-thin majority, does not hold the leverage once thought for passing these bills, especially going into mid-term elections next year.

We would like to especially like to recognize our firm’s founder, Joe Lucey, who is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the many clients who are veterans or have family members serving in the military. We do have a few spots remaining for our Veteran’s Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday, November 10th with special guest speaker John Kriesel. Call our office for more details if you or a veteran you know would like to attend. Thank you to all vets for your service; we will never forget.

Have a wonderful week!

Nathan Zeller, CFA, CFP®

Chief Investment Strategist

Secured Retirement

nzeller@securedretirements.com

Please contact us if you would like to review your individual financial plan or learn how the TaxSmart™ Retirement Program can help you.

info@securedretirements.com Office phone # (952) 460-3260

Weekly Insights 11/1/21 – 11/5/21

The Great Pumpkin

For those of you who spent Halloween waiting in the pumpkin patch hoping to catch a glimpse of the Great Pumpkin, hopefully you were not disappointed. Investing in the stock market is similar to believing in the Great Pumpkin – maintain an optimistic attitude, remain patient, and be willing to commit time in order to experience the joy of what you hope to achieve.

After a frightening September for the stock market, October did not seem very scary. Strong earnings reports pushed the market higher with the S&P 500 ending the month with a gain of nearly 7%. About half of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported quarterly earnings with roughly 12% of those providing positive earnings surprises. This pace is lower than the previous two quarters but higher than the long-term average of 8.4%, indicating that despite the supposed undertows in the market, companies remain very profitable and continue to experience growth.

Microsoft and Alphabet (Google) had very strong earnings while Apple and Amazon were surprisingly disappointing. There is no doubt Apple and Amazon are extremely profitable and continue to grow but not at the pace analysts expected. The four companies listed above make up about 20% of the S&P 500 so the movement in their stock prices has the potential to have outsized impacts on the index, which is commonly viewed as a barometer of the health of the overall market. While these companies may grab headlines and move the major indices, there are many other stocks making moves with much less visibility. This leads us to believe that individual stock selection and sector weightings will be increasingly important in the foreseeable future.

Sugar High

Similar to children (and adults) coming off a post-Halloween sugar high from eating too much candy, the economy is slowly coming off a high from having large amounts of stimulus pumped into it. This does not mean there is going to be a crash or recession, but rather the pace of growth will be lower than the previous few quarters. GDP numbers released last week were slightly below expectations, but still showed continued growth. The term “stagflation,” which is high or moderate inflation accompanied by slow or no economic growth, is increasingly being used due to concerns of diminishing growth. However, economic growth remains modest for now, but this is an area in which we remain vigilant. In our view, the biggest risks to continued economic expansion are the current supply chain constraints and higher input costs which could possibly lead to a slowdown in spending.

We would be remiss if we did not mention inflation since that is what we see as being the largest risk to investors in the intermediate to long term. The Federal Reserve’s (the Fed) preferred inflation measure, Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE), was reported last week and remains elevated at the highest levels since 1991 as well as above the Fed’s comfort zone. There seems to now be little doubt inflation remains persistent and will take center stage during the Fed’s discussions when they meet this week.

Looking Ahead

Earnings reports continue in earnest over the next few weeks, but with many large names already reporting it seems unlikely any individual announcements will move the markets substantially. A continuation of the momentum in positive earnings surprises should provide further tailwinds for the stock markets. It is widely anticipated at the conclusion of their meeting this week the Fed will announce the beginning of a tapering, or reduction, in their monthly bond buying program, often referred to as Quantitative Easing or “QE.” Since the Fed tends to telegraph their intentions in advance their action is generally priced into the market before it happens. Should they deviate greatly from expectations there is the potential to cause some market movement, either up or down, on a short-term basis.

As we head into the last two months of the year, we expect stock market returns to be more muted especially after such a strong showing in October. Close attention is being paid to supply chain issues and how retail inventories, both traditional and online, are affected. Consumer sentiment remains high and indications are most people are willing to spend money this holiday season but it remains to be seen if there will be enough inventory to support a high level of spending. We will also be watching the progression of the infrastructure and social programs bills in Congress, especially how revenue will be generated to pay for each and what impact that might have on individuals, corporations and the broader economy.

Even though we have moved past Halloween and transition into a new month, do not lose faith in the Great Pumpkin, a robust economy or the stock markets. If you would like to have a discussion regarding any potential tax savings moves or portfolio adjustments prior to the end of the year, which is rapidly approaching, please do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a meeting.

Have a wonderful week!

Nathan Zeller, CFA, CFP®

Chief Investment Strategist

Secured Retirement

nzeller@securedretirements.com

Please contact us if you would like to review your individual financial plan or learn how the TaxSmart™ Retirement Program can help you.

info@securedretirements.com Office phone # (952) 460-3260

Weekly Insights 10/25/21 – 10/29/21

A Tale of Two Markets

A few weeks ago, investors were dealing with elevated volatility and downward pressure in the stock market. September went down as the worst month for the S&P 500 since March of last year when the pandemic descended upon the globe. Now, a few short weeks later, sentiment has turned positive and the markets have rebounded, once again trading at all-time highs. What changed during that time? Really not much…..

The market pullback a month ago was blamed on a rise in interest rates attributable to concerns about the Federal Reserve tapering their bond buying, fears of contagion from troubles in the Chinese real estate market, a growing number of coronavirus cases, political debate in Washington around the debt ceiling and spending proposals, and a rise in inflation. These issues remain, yet investors no longer seem concerned. Granted, the debt ceiling issue was temporarily resolved and there is progress around the spending proposals; however, all else remains the same. There was one trigger beginning in mid-October that helped push stock prices higher – earnings. Earnings reports began in earnest last week and in many cases exceeded expectations, reflecting continued growth in corporate profits.

We encourage investors to tune out the extraneous noise, which does not affect the stock market and instead look at what truly does matter – earnings and the overall health of the economy. In that regard, all appears to be fine and there is reason to believe the stock market is once again showing strength. Those investors who maintained a long-term view and were not caught up in short-term noise were rewarded for their patience. The stock market is up over 5.5% in the month of October.

Still Growing

Speaking of the economy, the focus remains on inflation with little doubt that inflation remains persistent and looks to continue into at least the foreseeable future. One of the worries currently garnering attention is a possible return to 1970’s style stagflation – inflation without growth. That time was also characterized by high unemployment, which is not the case today as unemployment is relatively low and continues to fall. Moderate inflation can be good for the economy if it is accompanied by growth. At this point, all indications are the economy is continuing to grow, but there are a few signs of slowing. The various measures of economic growth show very strong growth over the past several months due to the year-ago comparisons when the economy was re-opening. All indications reflect the economy remains on solid footing and if it is slowing, only from high levels.

Looking Ahead

The largest driver of the markets over the next week will likely be earnings announcements and we anticipate strong earnings to continue, which should help fuel further stock market gains. We also continue monitoring the infrastructure and spending bills in Congress, especially how the revenue will be raised to pay for each (i.e. taxes).

Many of the proposals for tax increases from Democratic Congressional leaders have been scaled downwards due to vocal opposition from within their own party. The size and scale of the original proposals reached well into the trillions of dollars to be funded by the American taxpayer. Regardless, even though the total price tags on these spending bills are decreasing they remain extraordinarily large and require funding, which could only be reasonably found in material and sweeping tax increases and/ or increasing the overall national debt.

If you are interested in discussing how taxes could impact your retirement and how we might reduce the effect Uncle Sam has on your hard-earned savings, please give us a call to schedule a planning session to review your individual situation.

Have a wonderful week!

Nathan Zeller, CFA, CFP®

Chief Investment Strategist

Secured Retirement

nzeller@securedretirements.com

Please contact us if you would like to review your individual financial plan or learn how the TaxSmart™ Retirement Program can help you.

info@securedretirements.com Office phone # (952) 460-3260

Weekly Insights 10/18/21 – 10/22/21

Did that Really Just Happen?

Sometimes when things are moving along nicely, whether it is a ride in a car or on a boat, or even on a larger scale as you go through life, something occurs that really catches you by surprise. These events can be good or bad and the impacts can be relatively minor or quite significant.  Often these occurrences happen so quickly you stop and ask yourself if that really took place.  The stock market seemed to have done just that last week, fortunately in a positive way. 

The markets began the week drifting lower in what appeared to be more of the same negative sentiment that we’ve experienced the past few weeks, but then something great happened on Thursday when the S&P 500 posted its largest single day gain since March.  This momentum continued with further gains on Friday. The big move was attributed primarily to a strong start to the earnings season, but also the weekly jobless claims numbers continue to drift lower reflecting continuing strengthening in the labor market.  It also helps that nationally we seem to be past the peak in the recent surge of coronavirus cases and a short-term agreement was made to raise the debt ceiling, averting a default by the federal government. 

Higher and Higher

We’ve all experienced higher prices recently on the things we buy, so it was not a surprise that the inflation data released by the government last week showed inflationary pressures persist. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 5.4% compared to a year ago, remaining at a 13 year high and the fifth month in a row inflation came in at 5% or higher. This was driven primarily by higher energy prices and a surge in food prices, plus the largest increase in rent in 20 years.  The Social Security Administration uses CPI data to adjust social-security payments and on a positive note announced last week the cost-of-living (COLA) increase for next year is 5.9%; the largest annual increase in about 40 years.  

Also on the inflation front, the Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 8.6% on an annual basis, which is the highest reading since the early 1980s.  The PPI measures the change in the price of goods sold by manufacturers and therefore is generally a leading indicator of consumer inflation.  Of note in this report was that a few months ago the price increases were attributable to a few products, namely lumber and used vehicles, but now the increases are more broadly spread amongst additional goods and services.  With inflation remaining persistent, many economists are no longer referring to it as being “transitory” but instead are now describing it as being “sticky.”

Looking Ahead

Earnings season kicks off in earnest this week, which we anticipate will provide further tailwinds for the markets.  Analysts are revising earnings estimates higher, albeit to a lesser extent than the previous two quarters.  Congress continues to consider large spending bills, but the price tags on each seem to be coming down which is likely another factor for optimism in the markets.  We continue to keep a close eye on interest rates, especially in light of the recent inflation reports. There seems to be a disconnect between bond yields and inflation, with low bond yields discounting that inflation will remain on a prolonged basis.  We think inflation will continue and bond yields will edge higher. Since bond yields and bond prices have an inverse relationship, any move higher in yields would cause a drop in prices.  Traditional fixed income may not provide the safety it has in the past so we would encourage you to consider other vehicles for providing income and diversification to your equity portfolio.  We would be glad to discuss strategies with you to protect your portfolio from inflation while providing protection in the event of downturn in the stock market. 

I will be sharing more insights and strategies during our monthly Lunch and Learn on October 25th.  You can join us in-person at our office here in St. Louis Park or watch online. See this week’s Secured Retirement Weekly Newsletter for more information and to sign-up. 

Have a wonderful week!

Nathan Zeller, CFA, CFP®

Chief Investment Strategist

Secured Retirement

nzeller@securedretirements.com

Please contact us if you would like to review your individual financial plan or learn how the TaxSmart™ Retirement Program can help you.

info@securedretirements.com

Office phone # (952) 460-3260

Ryan Keapproth

Ryan Keapproth

Retirement Planner

Ryan is dedicated to serving clients to achieve their retirement goals. Ryan’s holistic approach centers on wealth management strategies with a focus on income planning throughout retirement. As a Financial Advisor, Ryan is an Investment Adviser Representative (IAR), life and health insurance licensed and a Certified Tax Preparer. Ryan is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, with an Accounting and Finance major.

Ryan is a lifelong Minnesotan originally from Woodbury and currently residing in Bloomington with his wife, Riamae, and their rescue Terrier Beagle mix, Douglas. He and his family are avid travelers in their free time. Ryan enjoys playing golf and poker, and describes himself as a major foodie enjoying new restaurants around the cities whenever possible. He is a sports fan especially when the Vikings and Timberwolves are playing.