Merriman’s Take | Stocks vs Bonds

Merriman’s Take | Stocks vs Bonds


What’s the best asset mix for you? You already know that your two major options are stocks and bonds. The choice between them represents a basic tradeoff: growth vs. stability. Investing in stocks is more likely to produce higher returns than investing in bonds, but with more volatility. (more…)

Traditional or Roth 401(k)?

Traditional or Roth 401(k)?

Often employers offer the option of contributing to a traditional 401(k) or a Roth 401(k). Do you know which one is right for you?

The primary difference is in the tax treatment. The traditional 401(k) gets a tax benefit at the time of contribution, because money contributed to such an account is not taxed. Moving forward, the earnings in your traditional 401(k) are not taxed as long as the funds remain in the account. When you begin to make withdrawals in retirement, the funds withdrawn are taxed as ordinary income.

Roth 401(k)s are taxed the reverse way. In these accounts, money is taxed when the contribution is made. Earnings on investments in your Roth 401(k) account are not subject to tax, and the money is not taxed when it’s withdrawn.

If the investor’s marginal tax rate is the same at the time of contributions and withdrawals, the traditional and Roth accounts would produce the same results.

Because of these differences in tax treatment, taxpayers in the lowest tax brackets should contribute to Roth accounts, while taxpayers in higher tax brackets will want to use traditional retirement accounts. As a general strategy:

When you’re in the 12% tax rate or lower: Contributions should be made to a Roth 401(k).

When you start moving into the 22% tax bracket: 50% of contributions be made to a traditional 401(k), and 50% to a Roth 401(k).

In your peak earning years: As you move into years with marginal tax rates above 22%, most or all retirement contributions should be made into a traditional 401(k) instead of the Roth.

If you’re still not sure which option is right for you, we’re happy to help.

Merriman’s Take | How We Pick Investments

Merriman’s Take | How We Pick Investments

Merriman is an independent investment advisor. That means we don’t receive any income or financial benefit from the companies whose products we recommend for you. This keeps us on the same side of the table with you, allowing us to fulfill our fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of our clients, and we take that responsibility seriously.

Our research department reviews the available investment options and selects investments based on the following key principles. (more…)

Five Warning Signs It’s Time to Review Your Home and Auto Insurance (and What to Do About It)

Five Warning Signs It’s Time to Review Your Home and Auto Insurance (and What to Do About It)


As Wealth Advisors, we provide advice on all aspects of your financial situation, and we work with a network of carefully selected professionals in taxes, estate planning and insurance to devise appropriate solutions that will help you achieve your goals. This article is a collaboration between Merriman Advisor Chris Waclawik and Amy Deforeest, personal risk advisor at Willis Towers Watson, who is one such member of our professional network team.

Many of us set our home and auto insurance when we initially purchase it, and then we forget about it. Unfortunately, we may not realize we’ve made a mistake until it’s too late. (more…)

Cyber Hygiene

Cyber Hygiene

This post was co-authored by Wealth Advisor Lowell Parker, CFP® and Information Systems Manager Rodney Gonzales.

As banks become increasingly difficult for cybercriminals to hack, high net-worth families are the next logical targets. These criminals are organized, patient, and in some cases, well-funded. Cybercrime is also underreported, and while the court system is catching up with the expansion of laws and penalties for cyber-related crimes, cases remain hard to solve or even prove.

Having your personal information compromised isn’t a matter of “if,” but “when.” It’s less expensive to take preventative measures than it is to investigate and eliminate threats. It’s imperative that you take the right precautions both externally, with your vendors and service providers, as well as internally with your home computers and networked systems. (more…)

Why Advisors Need Advisors

Why Advisors Need Advisors

Have you ever heard the proverb about the cobbler’s children? It essentially states that the cobbler’s children, although surrounded by well-made shoes, have the most worn out shoes. Or that doctors are the worst patients? The same can be said for wealth advisors. We’re not immune to the common mistakes that exist in the financial world, and even we can benefit from the financial guidance we provide for others.

As a new advisor, I had an epiphany. Yes, an epiphany, as corny as that sounds. I realized that although I could adequately pick investments, decide on a savings plan and develop a strategy for myself, I wasn’t following through with it. While at a client meeting, my coworker explained it best by saying, “We help hold you accountable to your goals.” Duh! That was the thing I was not giving myself. I could make the best laid plan, but I wasn’t following through and doing the actions I needed to do to be successful. I had the knowledge, but needed accountability. The very next day I hired my first advisor. (more…)