Merriman’s Take | The Role of Bonds

Merriman’s Take | The Role of Bonds

Stocks and bonds are the basic building blocks of our portfolio. Think of stocks as the offense and bonds as the defense. Bonds are basically loans to a government entity or company that are paid back over time. Depending on how creditworthy the borrower is and how long the borrower will take to repay the loan, bonds can be relatively safe investments, or carry more risk. The two big factors that help investors classify bonds are referred to as quality and maturity. (more…)

Merriman’s Take | The Role of Stocks

Merriman’s Take | The Role of Stocks

Stocks represent ownership in a company and provide the long-term growth an investment portfolio needs. When you invest in stocks, you invest in the growth of companies and the economy.

While bonds provide investors with stability and are more predictable, stocks have outperformed them for decades. Whether you invest in large companies or small ones, history shows that stocks will outpace bonds, as the above graph shows. Note, too, the difference between short and long-term bond investments. Over the last 90+ years, short-term bonds barely kept up with inflation, meaning investors who committed to short-term bond portfolios over the long term may have actually lost money over time. In fact, without stocks driving growth in a portfolio, even keeping up with inflation can be a challenge. We know that without stocks, an investment portfolio isn’t going to help you meet your goals. (more…)

Swedish Death Cleaning

Swedish Death Cleaning

As hard as it is to think about, the end of life will involve your loved ones cleaning out your home. At Merriman, we work with you and your estate planning team to get your financial affairs in order, both to ensure your wishes are met, but also for the ease of those people in your life who are most important to you. Margareta Magnusson recently published a book entitled The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter. Swedish death cleaning? While the sound of it may make you a little nervous, it’s a useful tool to cut down on possessions in a service to your loved ones and a fulfillment of that same goal.

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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…)

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…)

Teaching Kids About Cash and Credit

As we get to know our clients, we always ask about the goals they have for their children and grandchildren. Over and over we hear a variation on a theme: I want them to have enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing. How do we go about teaching our kids and grandkids the value of a dollar, while giving them opportunities to have fun and enjoy what financial freedom can give? Moreover, how do we teach them about credit and borrowing money in a way that will encourage them to only spend what they have, and no more? We’ve found some useful tools to help young people learn the skills of budgeting and spending wisely, both with cash and credit.

Debit Cards

To teach your teenager about spending, consider the American Express Serve prepaid debit card. The card requires no credit check or minimum balance, and has minimal fees. Parents can set up an account in their name, called a “Master Account,” and from there create up to four subaccounts for children aged 13 or older. Your child is issued a personal debit card with access to the funds in their subaccount, which can be used at merchants that accept American Express, as well as ATMs. They can also request funds from you, as well as send funds back from their account to yours.

Parents can view their child’s transaction history and set spending limits. Parents and children both have access to budgeting tools through American Express to see transactions divided into categories, or view each category as a percentage of their total spending. This is a great way to give kids power over how their allowance is spent, while being able to oversee spending and encourage good habits. These prepaid accounts can’t be overdrawn, offering another safeguard, and they do not affect the cardholder’s credit history.

Consider contacting your local credit union to see if they offer similar products with no fees.

What About Credit?

One of the best ways to teach your kids about credit, while also helping them build their credit history, is a secured credit card. Many major banks offer secured credit cards, which come with many of the same perks and services as traditional credit cards. Cardholders deposit funds into a checking or savings account. That deposit is then put on hold by the bank and used to secure the credit line on your credit card. iStock_89087687_XSmallA $300 deposit, for example, would become equivalent to a $300 credit line. The held funds continue to earn interest in the depository account, but can be spent using the secured credit card. Minimum payments are due monthly, and balances carried forward each month accrue interest charges just like with a traditional credit card. Balances and payments on a secured credit card are reported to the three credit bureaus, so making on-time payments is just as important.

After holding a secured card and making regular purchases and payments for a year, many banks will reassess the cardholder’s credit and, if strong enough, free up the funds used to secure the card, converting the account to a traditional card issued on credit. This type of card offers kids the ability to take time to learn about using credit cards, including the importance of making payments on time, as well as the process of billing cycles, interest charges, and spending only what they can afford to pay off each month. Some secured cards even offer rewards like traditional cards.

For something more traditional, college-age kids may consider the Discover it® for Students Card, which offers credit tracking and a reward for a good report card. A GPA of 3.0 or higher each school year will earn you $20 in rewards, and certain categories earn up to 5% cash back throughout the year. This card is also a great option for college kids who might be spending a semester studying abroad, as it charges no foreign transaction fee. Be sure to remind your student that while they may not see a fee for using their card abroad, they may still get less-than-favorable exchange rates on currency when using any credit card in another country. Lastly, in the event the card is misplaced, your student can freeze the card using an on/off feature accessible online and through the mobile app.

Cash and credit are both important tools for young people to feel comfortable using, and offering kids the freedom and responsibility to use them from an early age can make a huge difference in how careful they are with money down the road.