2017 was an historic year for the stock market. All 12 months delivered a positive return (as measured by the S&P 500 Total Return Index). In fact, we have just experienced our fourteenth straight month of positive gains. There has been no other similar run in the last 90 years. In fact, since 1928, there have been just two years (1958 and 2006) where there was even only a single month of decline. Keep in mind, however, that past short-term results have near-zero predictive ability on future returns.
Clients have been asking, “How much longer can this go on?” After all, the stock market recovery has lasted almost nine years, and some of you may be starting to experience anxiety. To try to put the current situation into perspective, remember how the last eight years have felt since the Great Recession. While the market rose during most of them, it never felt as though the economy was truly out of the doldrums. For many, this was their truth as they were either unemployed for an extended period of time or experienced wage compression. 2017 was the first year that it actually felt as though the economy was in recovery. So, does this mean we are in year one of expansion? Or is the bull market getting tired? Well, bull markets do not die of old age. It usually takes a recession or extreme overvaluation of securities to put it down. The global economy is finally growing, so there is no recession in sight. While valuations are indeed high, they are not in “bubble” territory, especially considering the low interest rates and low inflation environment we are presently enjoying. Thus we recommend that you stay the course.
White Pine Additions
December marked the 20-year anniversary of White Pine. For those of you who have been clients for much of that time, you have benefited from the talents and personal care provided to you by Debbie Baron. Some of you were recently introduced to Amy Lauzon, Debbie’s apprentice, who will be working with Debbie until her retirement in January 2019. We are all fortunate that there will be an extensive training period to enable Amy’s transition into her role as Debbie’s successor.
During the coming year, we will continue searching to bring aboard a client relationship professional, as well as a business development person. These are new positions which we believe will enhance the sustainability of White Pine while providing additional skill sets to you. The roles of these future additions to our staff will not replace current functions, but rather ensure that you will be well served in any and all future business situations. Finally, to provide needed space for these changes, we are taking advantage of some vacated space in our building to expand and update the White Pine office environment.
In addition to these personnel enhancements and office changes, we will be implementing a few software improvements. Our goal is to improve our communication capabilities with you and improve your overall experience with our service. First, we will be replacing our financial planning software. While the current product has served us well and has helped you to put a financial game plan in place, the new software will allow us to take planning to the next level. If all goes well, you should be able to link all of your accounts to this app and view your financial plan on the web via your cell phone and other digital devices. With up-to-date values always directly available to us, we will be able to answer your financial questions much quicker and instantly show you the results.
The second major change will be in our reporting software. Although it will be hidden from view, the benefit to you will be apparent in the streamlining of our operations. What you will certainly notice is the ability to see your reports online or in the phone app mentioned above. It will also allow us to exchange sensitive documents more easily in a secure web portal vault. The reports will be more visually appealing and we promise to keep them relevant, not just aesthetically pleasing.
You will still be able to see how well (or how poorly) your assets performed and how much you are compensating us. We strongly believe in complete transparency and helping you fully understand your financial e-mail, phone alerts, or possibly even video reports (stay tuned).
Obviously, 2018 will be a year of great change for all of us. We are excited about the capabilities these changes will offer you. We also know that there may be hiccups along the way. The patience and grace you have always shown us will be greatly appreciated. The last 20 years have been a blessing for all of us and we are prayerfully confident that “the best is yet to come.”
Happy New Year!
-White Pine team