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“Will the Big Blue Wave Leave You Money to Save?”

It seems ridiculous in times like these to write a newsletter about finances and money, but we feel it is our responsibility at Towerpoint Wealth to do so, even if only to provide some respite from politics to our growing family of readers and Trending Today subscribers. We have heard from a few clients that, for a number of good reasons, you already feel like this: 

And while we understand that it has been a tumultuous week, let’s not be too quick to throw in the towel on 2021!


2020 ended with a record close for both the the S&P 500 (3,756.07, representing a +16.3% price gain for the year) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (30,606.48, representing a +7.2% price gain for the year). So far in 2021, equity prices have continued their upward trend, even with concerns including:

  1. The economic implications of the Democratic wins in both Georgia Senate runoff elections and the tumultuous events in our nation’s capital on January 6th
  2. The likely trajectory of a resurgent third coronavirus wave
  3. Expectations of additional public health-driven economic restrictions and/or lockdowns
  4. A deflation of the currently high levels of investor optimism
  5. Growing levels of speculative activity in some quarters of the market (high volumes of options trading, a robust IPO calendar, and the popularity of cryptocurrencies)  
  6. An interval of market consolidation following such an annus mirabilis as investors have experienced over the past 12 months in the financial markets.

While recognizing the cogency and reality of these concerns, at Towerpoint Wealth we have maintained an essentially constructive view of equity prices, based upon the following factors:

  • Continuing monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve, with ultra-low policy interest rates and $120 billion per month in “Quantitative Easing” money printing, augmented by significant growth in the M-2 money supply, which tends to produce a stimulative environment for consumer prices, GDP, and financial assets (as shown below, over the past year, the U.S. M-2 money supply has increased at +25.2%, the highest rate of growth in four decades!);

Although we believe stock valuations are elevated and investor optimism is high, equity prices were well aware of and already somewhat discounting the possibility of the outcome of the Georgia Senatorial runoff elections tilting Democratic. Additionally, after a possible short-term pullback/correction, the stock market can continue to move higher, with extra caution and care called for, and perhaps even with some cash raised that can stand ready to be invested on a disciplined basis during a market retrenchment.

Implications of the Georgia Senatorial Elections

In our opinion, assuming no defections from party lines, a Democrat-controlled Senate appears likely to produce:

  1. Higher Taxes: Tax increases may not necessarily materialize to the degree that markets may have feared earlier, given that the Senate is likely to feature essentially a 50-50 Democratic-Republican tie — with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a position to cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the Democrats, and with Senator Joseph Manchin III (D, WV) and/or others possibly voting to weaken or reject the tax increases. With some delays and/or dilutions, higher corporate, payroll, income, capital gains, and estate taxes may eventually be on the horizon for many taxpayers (the proposed levies in the Democratic platform amount to $4 trillion, with something in the neighborhood of half that amount deemed likely to be passed). The essential tie in political power in Congress may limit the extent of any changes in tax policy, and an important consideration to be kept in mind is the effective date of any tax increases, including the possible likelihood of retroactivity to January 1st, 2021. 
  2. More Spending: With proposed spending increases amounting to $7 trillion stretched out over a decade, the new Administration favors entitlement expansion, healthcare, climate, and green infrastructure initiatives (to accelerate the use of clean energy in the power sector, building construction, and transit); hiking the minimum hourly wage to $15 (which could support household incomes and augment growth in consumption); housing; education; and infrastructure. President-elect Biden has several times expressed support for drug price reforms. 
  3. Increased Regulation: Through job appointments, executive action, and legislation where feasible, the Biden administration may favor increased restraints on the financial sector and some portions of the healthcare sector, with continued antitrust and market dominance scrutiny applied toward mega-cap technology and social media companies. Statements by President-elect Biden have indicated that his administration might limit pipeline approvals and curtail drilling activity on federal lands.
  4. Spotlight on Relations with the Judiciary: Although we deem such actions unlikely, President-elect Biden may possibly favor certain proposals from within his party to attempt to curtail the Supreme Court’s authority over specific laws by attempting to: (i) impose term limits; (ii) expand the size of the Court; or (iii) through legislative action, divest the Court of its authority over contentious social issues (referred to in academic circles as “jurisdiction stripping”). Any proposed limitation of the Supreme Court’s own powers will very likely spark intense and determined pushback via lawsuits by the Supreme Court as well as by battling parties on either side of the issues involved. 

“Blue Wave” Affected Sectors

Democratic control of the White House, the House of Representatives, and (even if by the narrowest of margins) the Senate (a so-called “blue wave”) could be deemed favorable to large managed-care organizations, renewable energy firms, and the ESG space (companies reflecting and/or supporting Environmental, Social, and Governance initiatives and ideals). Other perceived sectoral beneficiaries of a “blue wave” include, among others: the weakening of the U.S. dollar versus foreign currencies; tax-exempt state and local government municipal bonds; high-yield bonds, small-cap stocks; construction and engineering, manufacturing, materials, industrial machinery, and related firms focusing on the U.S. transportation, maritime, and aviation infrastructure; renewable energy (including wind farms, solar projects, and high-voltage direct current transmission facilities); healthcare equipment and supplies; and cannabis-related companies.

Sectors perceived to be less favorably affected by a slim-margin “blue wave” include: large firms that benefited from the 2017 corporate tax cuts; large-cap pharmaceutical stocks; content liability-protected social network companies (currently shielded by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act); dominant technology antitrust targets; the oil and gas sector; tobacco companies; aerospace and defense firms; health insurance companies; student loan servicing companies, asset managers, credit rating firms, and stock exchange operators; precious metals and precious metals mining shares; and labor-intensive enterprises sensitive to minimum wage increases (e.g., retail and grocery companies, restaurant and fast food chains, for-hire ride-sharing companies, and courier and package delivery firms).

What’s Happening at TPW?

Our Director of Research and Analytics, Nathan Billigmeier, and Partner, Wealth Advisor, Jonathan LaTurner, slipped away yesterday to play a round of golf at the #1 public golf course in America, Pebble Beach Golf Links!

Our President, Joseph Eschleman, found a good (albeit chilly) lockdown activity to do with his family last week, watching The Croods: A New Age at the West Wind Drive-In in Sacramento!

TPW Service Highlight – Client Family and Culture

In addition to providing them with the economic peace of mind that comes with the suite of comprehensive wealth management services we provide, as “family members” Towerpoint Wealth clients have also come to expect us to host regular, fun, and unique client appreciation and education events, which we happily deliver on. If you aren’t currently a client, here is what you have been missing out on (!):

Chart of the Week

As mentioned above, the news yesterday of the Democrats taking control of the Senate led investors to believe that the government will boost fiscal stimulus, which would in theory boost consumption and economic growth, and in turn, inflation.

The chart below compares the relative performance of stocks that benefit from inflation (blue) vs. those that benefit from deflation (black).

Trending Today

In addition to history making and money making, a number of trending and notable events have occurred over the past few weeks:

As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.

– Joseph, Jonathan, Steve, Lori, Nathan, Matt, and Michelle

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The *Unreal* Real Estate Market of 2020

For a myriad of reasons, 2020 has been both a surreal and unreal year, and the growth in the value of residential real estate is illustrative of that. According to USA Today and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), despite the hard economic times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, home prices rose in the first quarter of 2020 in 96% of U.S. metro markets. A few of the local Sacramento-area agents we work with have commented that “this [real estate] market is even hotter and crazier than it was at its peak in 2006.

The environment 14 years ago was very different – during the U.S. housing bubble, real estate prices were artificially inflated due to speculative fervor, lax lending standards, and arguably negligent regulations. But when we fast forward to 2020, we find four reasons for this red hot market:

Historically LOW interest rates. Money is extremely “cheap” right now, as interest rates on mortgages continue to hit record lows.

Cheap money is analogous to low interest rates, meaning it doesn’t “cost” much to borrow. Mortgage rate cuts have given house hunters ~ 25% more buying power in less than two years, and that does not appear to be ending soon. The less it costs to borrow, the more a buyer may be inclined to do so when buying a home. Alternatively, the less it costs to borrow, the lower the homebuyer’s monthly mortgage payment. Adding this all up provides major stimulus to and demand for buying real estate.

Urban exodus. Just a few years ago, demand for city living was high, and people were piling into major metropolitan areas throughout the United States; now, the opposite is happening, and they are filing out in favor of suburban life.

Rent decreases are accelerating, as seven of the top ten priciest rental markets saw apartment prices drop 5% over the same time last year. Cultural and social opportunities that often draw people to metropolitan areas have largely shut down due to coronavirus. The perceived health concerns associated with public transportation and dense city living, high city taxes, the safety concerns and stress caused by demonstrations devolving into riots and other increases in crime, the desire for more space, and the ability to work remotely have all created a huge outflux from the cities, and concurrently, an influx of cash that has pushed up real estate prices in the ‘burbs.

Telecommuting / virtual working. Before COVID-19, only about 5% of workers did their jobs remotely. That figure has jumped to nearly half. Google, Twitter, and Facebook have led Silicon Valley in announcing plans to let, or even require, employees to work from home, at least for the next year, if not indefinitely. New York-based financial giants J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley have offered their employees a similar option. Telecommuting is no longer a trend, it is a full-blown movement. And that has allowed, or better put, freed people to live where they desire, and not feel geographically-tethered to their job location.

Inventory shortage. There is an imbalance. There are more buyers than sellers. Postponed purchases from March and April due to home-buying restrictions have created intense demand. Families are looking to upgrade, and, understanding we are all spending more time in our homes that before, people simply want more space. There was a nationwide industry shortage even before the pandemic hit, and the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated the problem. U.S. home values grew to $256,663 in August, an 0.7% increase from July, the largest increase since 2013, and inventory is 29.4% lower than a year ago! Builders are racing to catch up with demand, and rising prices should encourage more potential sellers to come off of the sidelines and list. But until those things occur, the shortage of inventory will continue to tilt the housing market in favor of sellers. Economics 101: When demand outstrips supply, prices go up.

How long this lasts remains to be seen. At Towerpoint Wealth, we believe that things will only begin to change in the real estate market when the uncertainty surrounding the job market, economy, and COVID-19 epidemic begin to subside.

What’s Happening at TPW?

The TPW crew enjoyed a “robust” teambuilding potluck earlier this week, highlighted by grass fed tri-tip marinated in “The Sauce for All Seasons,” Pearson’s Premium!

Our Partner, Wealth Manager, Jonathan LaTurner, our Director of Research and Analytics, Nathan Billigmeier, our new Wealth Advisor, Matt Regan, and our Director of Tax and Financial Planning, Steve Pitchford, enjoyed an early morning TPW team-building golf outing at William Land Golf Course!

TPW Service Highlight – Roth IRA conversions

While 2020 will rightfully be remembered for the challenging and unprecedented COVID-19 battle we have all been impacted by, at Towerpoint Wealth, we have continued to proactively work with clients to identify economic opportunities presented by the coronavirus crisis. Specifically, we have identified a “silver economic lining” tax planning strategy this year, one that is designed to take advantage of today’s low income tax rates, which we feel are temporary, while at the same time leave our clients better positioned for tomorrow’s higher income tax rates, which we feel are inevitable.

Below you will find 2020: The Perfect Year for a Roth Conversion, our newly-published white paper that discusses what a “Roth conversion” is, who may benefit from a Roth conversion, why 2020 is a potentially great year to do a Roth conversion, and how to utilize important tax planning tools to evaluate this opportunity.

Graph of the Week

While we obviously need to continue to remain disciplined, and understanding there is still more work to be done, the United States COVID-19 hospitalization numbers below, from Bespoke Investment Group, are encouraging. Less than one person per 10,000 population (or less than 100 people per 1MM population) is currently hospitalized with coronavirus.

As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.

– Nathan, Raquel, Steve, Joseph, Lori, Jonathan, and Matt

Towerpoint Wealth Team : Sacramento Financial Advisor
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Will Who We Elect Make the Market Correct

It’s right around the corner, and it isn’t going to be pretty, so let’s discuss the election’s impact on the stock market now and get it out of the way.

For a good part of this calendar year, we have counseled you that it is prudent to give advance thought to the range of potential economic, regulatory, taxation, spending, budget deficit, societal, and financial market implications of the national election results, depending on whether Republicans or Democrats win one or more of the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate

After Labor Day, the campaign is likely to reflect increased amounts of political vociferousness, perhaps some degree of vehemence, and even apportionments of vitriol (we hope and pray not too much), with the potential to cause meaningful shorter-term shifts in financial asset prices. That is precisely why we recommend forming beforehand, and sticking to, a well-reasoned and disciplined asset allocation plan and investment strategy tailored to your personal and financial circumstances, time horizon, objectives, and temperament.

November 2020: The 59th Quadrennial Presidential Election

September, October, and then, the Election: With the VIX volatility index (see the Graph of the Week below) having risen an average of four points ahead of each of the last seven presidential elections since this measure was created, important issues to consider in the upcoming weeks ahead include:

  • How clearly (and energetically) each political party’s convention message was received, perceived by, and responded to by their respective loyal voter bases;
  • The nation’s reactions to the anticipated three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate;
  • Assessments of the strength of party identification among various segments of the voting population, as well as in the composition of the overall electorate; at the same time, taking into account the ability of each ticket to generate serious backing from less-supportive voter populations; 
  • Which candidate voters (considering demographic attributes, where they live, how they classify themselves on the political spectrum, and other characteristics) think can better confront America’s broad challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, social issues, and pressing global concerns;  
  • The effectiveness of voting procedures, trust in mail-in balloting, the degree of putative social media and foreign-based election interference, actual voter participation, and the perceived veracity and legitimacy of the results; and 
  • The potential consequences of prolonged uncertainty associated with a contested election (should it occur) for social order and the financial markets.

Some Implications of Potential Scenarios

Roughly one in five workers are currently receiving jobless benefits, and early expectations of a V-shaped recovery have been hindered by renewed coronavirus outbreaks. Regardless of who wins the 2020 election and in what manner, financial asset valuations appear to be reflecting expectations that whenever the coronavirus pandemic ends, some degree of economic acceleration is likely to take place in the U.S.

As we have counseled for some time, it is important to devote thought and attention to the taxation, regulatory, economic, asset allocation, and investment strategy implications of the three leading potential electoral outcomes outlined below (while noting that both political parties have expressed interest in promoting the development of generic drugs, lowering drug prices, and containing healthcare costs; and the two parties have also been focusing on antitrust, platform liability, and privacy issues relating to many of America’s biggest technology enterprises):

  1. If President Trump is re-elected and wins the White House, Democrats keep control of the House of Representatives, and Republicans keep control of the Senate, such an outcome would likely favor securities in the following sectors: technology, defense, finance, healthcare, and energy, while potentially putting pressure on sectors and companies that could be harmed by further deterioration in  U.S-China relations;
  2. If Vice President Biden wins the White House, Democrats keep control of the House of Representatives, and Republicans keep control of the Senate, such an outcome would likely favor companies and sectors that would be deemed to have thereby avoided increased taxes and a heavier regulatory burden;
  3. If Vice President Biden wins the White House, Democrats keep control of the House of Representatives, and Democrats take control of the Senate(sometimes referred to in the media as a “blue wave”), such results would substantially raise the odds of higher taxes. Offsets to the latter outcome could come in the form of substantial additional spending on infrastructure, education, and healthcare. Securities in the following sectors, among others, are perceived to be disadvantaged by a “blue wave” Democratic sweep: defense, healthcare, financials (via increased regulation) and energy (with expectations of restricting fracking and limiting drilling on federal lands in Texas/New Mexico’s Delaware Basin and Southeast Montana/Northeast Wyoming’s Powder River Basin), while giving a lift to sectors and companies that could be helped by improving U.S-China relations.

The Pre- and Post-Election Tax and Spending Outlook

As shown in the panel below, the current taxation and spending policy positions of Vice President Biden contain numerous base-broadening elements that increase taxes by approximately $4 trillion, while increasing spending to the tune of approximately $6 trillion in areas including healthcare, infrastructure, education, energy research, and other initiatives.

Released on Wednesday, July 9, the 110-page report of the Unity Task Forces (created and staffed by individuals designated by Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders) contains a detailed set of policy recommendations in six domestic policy areas: 

  1. Health care (while not supporting Medicare for All, the report proposes a public option, a government-administered plan “like Medicare” that would be available to all Americans; on drug pricing, the report recommends appointing a government board to set prices that Medicare would pay for new drugs);
  2. The economy (with $400 billion pledged for procurement of domestically made goods and $300 billion to support high-tech research);
  3. Climate change (here, a total of $2.0 trillion over four years is earmarked to shift millions of jobs into clean energy, with the goal of cutting emissions from power generation to zero by 2030, having net zero emissions by 2050, and introducing new fuel-economy standards);
  4. Criminal justice (proposing reforms to law enforcement and policing practices);
  5. Education (including universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds, at a cost of $775 billion over a decade), and 
  6. Immigration (proposing to end travel restrictions against 13 countries, and to maintain protections from deportation for approximately 700,000 young immigrants known as “Dreamers”).

Should Vice President Biden win the White House, financial asset prices in general, as well as specific industries and companies, are likely to be affected by the speed and degree to which the new Administration and Congress (whose degree of support depends on which party controls the House of Representatives and which party controls the Senate) might be able to implement priorities in these and other areas.

For further granularity, the following panel sets forth eight elements of personal taxes and four elements of corporate taxes: (i) under the current U.S. tax regime, which would not currently be expected to change much under President Trump (although the President has endorsed the idea of payroll tax reductions; tweeted about a potential capital gains cut; and vowed to extend the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which capped the so-called SALT (State and Local Tax) deduction at $10,000); and (ii) as currently outlined as taxation policy under a Biden administration.

Given that the process of turning taxation proposals into law takes time, it is likely to be at least June 2021 for new tax legislation to be enacted. On several aspects of tax planning (including the timing and forms of income and expenditures; tax gain-loss harvesting; and retirement, estate, and gifting strategies), it may be sensible to postpone any major moves until a judicious assessment can be made of the makeup of the post-election government and its specifically-expressed legislative agenda.

Regardless of the fireworks, and ultimate outcome, of the election, we will always believe that good, well-run, profitable companies will remain good, well-run, profitable companies, independent of a Trump or Biden win.

What’s Happening at TPW?

Happy to have him aboard, contributing, and part of the Towerpoint Wealth family, the TPW team has been indoctrinating Matt Regan, a.k.a. “the new guy,” over the past two weeks:

Our new Wealth Advisor, Matt Regan, connected with our President, Joseph Eschleman, and our Partner, Wealth Advisor, Jonathan LaTurner, for an enjoyable business lunch at the historic Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento earlier this week.

Our President, Joseph Eschleman, and his wife, Megan Eschleman, hosted Matt and his lovely wife Alyssa for an enjoyable evening of tri-tip, corn on the cob, chicken skewers, and Frank Familycabernet.

TPW Service Highlight – Social Security Optimization

Many investors are not prepared for retirement, and have not properly planned for how to structure their post-retirement income. With the popularity and availability of pension plans quickly waning, and rock bottom interest rates making it difficult to derive enough interest income from bonds, the importance of Social Security has never been greater.

Through careful planning and the development and utilization of a custom Social Security optimization analysis, our aim at Towerpoint Wealth is to help our clients structure a plan to ensure that they are not leaving any money on table when it comes to their Social Security benefits. According to the Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin, 70% (!) of all retired workers started taking benefits before their normal retirement age. For some this may make sense, but for many, this will result in the forfeiture of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetime.

Let us help you scientifically analyze the myriad of Social Security claiming strategies available to you, and develop a customized plan to ensure you have properly maximized this hugely important retirement income benefit.

Graph of the Week

The market anticipates some pretty incredible fireworks (as we probably all do) leading up to November’s elections. With Joe Biden’s lead over President Trump drifting lower since the late summer, there is now even more expected volatility around Election Day, and things almost assuredly will only heat up further as we get closer to November.

The graph below reflects the historical activity and pricing of the VIX, a popular index that measures future stock market volatility, used by investors to hedge against it. Currently, November’s election is the most expensive event risk on record. With many more absentee and mail-in ballots expected to be cast in this election, the possibility certainly exists that we do not know who the winner is on Wednesday, November 4.

Quoting Cameron Crise, Bloomberg macro strategist, “In the history of VIX futures contracts, we’ve never had an event risk command this sort of premium… That obviously suggests that markets anticipate some pretty incredible fireworks.”

Don’t say you haven’t been warned, keep your seatbelt firmly buckled, and most importantly, don’t be surprised nor overreact to the upcoming craziness!

As always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here to help you properly plan for and make sense of it.

– Nathan, Raquel, Steve, Joseph, Lori, Jonathan, and Matt

Towerpoint Wealth Team : Sacramento Financial Advisor
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President Joseph Eschleman Cited As Expert

Our President, Joseph Eschleman, recently penned a white paper for Towerpoint Wealth that discussed 14 different strategies to consider during the coronavirus crisis. Joseph was cited as an expert by MutualFunds.com for his work and content on the subject, who published his commentary on their website on June 11.

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24 Karat Shine or Pyrite for Your Portfolio?

By: Nathan Billigmeier, Director of Research and Analytics 

From ancient civilizations to modern society, humans have always had a fascination with gold. The yellow metal has been used as currency, as jewelry, and incorporated within various other industrial applications. Gold also helped shape United States history when it was discovered in the Sacramento Valley in 1848 sparking the California Gold Rush. But does it belong in your investment portfolio? We will discuss some of the benefits and drawbacks below. 

1) Store of Value

Famed financier J.P. Morgan once stated, “Gold is money, everything else is just credit.” This quote strikes at the core of the “gold as a store of value” argument. But what exactly is a store of value and what qualifies gold to be viewed as such? 

By definition, a store of value is an asset that maintains its value without depreciating. Gold’s ability to maintain wealth by preserving purchasing power has been well documented. Civilizations throughout history have turned to gold as a means of exchange as well as a hedge against currency devaluation. 

Gold’s finite supply also helps boost its appeal as a store of value. To date, all the gold mined throughout history would fit into two and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), approximately 187,000 metric tons of gold has been mined in total, with 57,000 metric tons remaining underground. 

Critics of gold state that it is an antiquated means of exchange with little utility or industrial application, outside of jewelry, and should therefore not be considered a store of value. Specific to utility, their argument could be viewed as valid. But what gold lacks in utility, it makes up for in investor psychology. Humans have long placed value in gold. While this value may very well be due to its historical reputation, until this connection is broken, gold will remain one of the primary assets used to preserve wealth 

2) Low Correlation to Other Investments

One key aspect of a properly diversified portfolio is owning investments that have a low correlation to each other. What does this mean, and why is it important? Correlation is a numeric value from -1 to +1. The closer that two different investments are to having a +1 correlation, the higher the likelihood their respective market values will move in tandem with each another. Vice versa is true for investments with a -1 correlation. Investments with a correlation of 0 are completely unrelated, meaning the price movement of one has no relation to the price movement of the other.For longer-term investors, it is important to have the correlation between the various asset classes (read: stocks, bonds, alternatives, cash, etc.) held in their portfolio be as close to zero as possible. This allows investors to better manage the risk of their portfolio and increases the likelihood that the share price of investments held in different asset classes will not move in the same direction in response to current economic and market trends. 

Gold is a unique asset in that it has a low, or sometimes even negative correlation to the other primary asset classes typically included in a properly diversified portfolio. In fact, as you can see from the above graph, it tends to have a negative correlation to US equities, hence sometimes being described as a “flight to quality” asset. 

3)Portfolio Insurance

Just as you purchase home or auto insurance to protect your assets against unforeseen events, you should consider doing the same with your investment portfolio. As recent events have shown us, market and economic crises can and do happen. 

Given its negative correlation to US equities, gold can provide needed insulation to your portfolio, helping it to better absorb these inevitable pullbacks. While it will not completely offset equity losses, gold can help reduce volatility and provide “downside insulation” to a portfolio. 

As the chart below shows, with the exception of two instances, the 1997 Asian financial crisis and 2013’s “Taper Tantrum,” gold has achieved positive returns during times of equity unrest. It also has a tendency to outperform US Treasuries during these downturns, which many view as another safe haven asset. 

4) But What About Income? 

Gold is not without its faults. One of the main arguments against gold ownership is the lack of a dividend or interest payment and the fact it has little to no industrial production value. 

One of the most famous investors in the world, Warren Buffet, is an outspoken critic of gold ownership for these very reasons. He has been quoted as saying, 

“Gold gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.” 

…and Mr. Buffett would be correct. Gold has little to no real economic utility, does not generate sustainable cash flow, and does not pay a dividend. 

What it does offer is relative stability and the potential for price appreciation. During turbulent economic times when company cash flows decline and dividends are cut or reduced, gold tends to shine, as investors try to preserve capital and fear the inevitable stimulus measures taken by central banks and/or government could stoke inflation and decrease the purchasing power of their currency.

More recently, financial markets have also been grappling with historically low interest rates, with some countries even experimenting with negative interest rates (i.e. investors paying the government interest, instead of receiving it, when owning government-issued bonds). This has significantly lowered the opportunity cost of owning gold (which pays no interest) versus owning government-issued bonds (which pay interest) as investors look for safety during times of market unease. Gold has been a direct beneficiary as the declining interest rate trend has gained steam, particularly in countries issuing bonds with negative interest rates. Why would an investor choose to pay interest to own a government bond when they could own gold instead, achieving the similar end goal of capital preservation? 

4) What happened to gold with the COVID-19

COVID-19 market pullback in March of 2020, gold suffered sizable declines along with equities. In fact, it suffered its largest weekly decline since 1983 while equities dipped into bear market territory in a record-shattering 20 days. Doesn’t this fly in the face of all the previous arguments for owning gold?

It depends on what you believe. Some have argued that the declines in the price of gold, at the exact same time equities were dropping precipitously, debunks the theory that gold should be viewed as a safe haven asset during times of market turmoil. Especially coupled with the fact that US Treasury bonds and the US dollar remained strong throughout the collapse in equity prices.

Proponents of gold have argued that the price decline the metal suffered in March, 2020 was due to the rapid shock the US economy experienced as virtually all of us entered lockdown. This forced many investors to raise cash as rapidly as possible, and gold, being a very liquid asset, provided easy access to needed cash. These proponents would challenge that the price of gold acted similarly during the 2008/2009 financial crisis before ultimately touching all-time highs, not too different to what has happened over the last three months. 

By analyzing the above chart, we are able to see that initially gold did maintain its strength as equities began to move lower. As the equity losses accelerated, gold prices declined before beginning a steady march higher prior to the March 23 low in equity prices. This does lend credence to the claim by gold “bulls” that the metal was used as a source of cash by investors during the selloff, and in doing so, helped them limit their losses.

In Summary

While critics may remain unconvinced, it is hard to deny that gold has maintained its luster throughout history as a go-to asset during times of uncertainty. Its ability to provide ballast to a portfolio allows your longer-term financial goals to remain upright and on course. We are by no means advocating that investors transition 100% of their assets into gold. However, we feel that a modest allocation of 3-7% in gold does have a place in a properly diversified investment portfolio. 

How Can We Help? 

At Towerpoint Wealth, we are a legal fiduciary to you, and embrace the professional obligation we have to work in your best interests 100% of the time. If you would like to discuss your circumstances further, we encourage you to call (916-405-9170) or email (nbilligmeier@towerpointwealth.com) to open an objective dialogue. 

Sacramento Wealth Management Nathan Billigmeier Director of Research and Analytics

Nathan Billigmeier Director of Research and Analytics 

Towerpoint Wealth, LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser. This material is solely for informational purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Towerpoint Wealth, LLC and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Towerpoint Wealth, LLC unless a client service agreement is in place

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Gotta Own FAANG For Your Portfolio to Hang?

The COVID-19 crisis has challenged and changed us all in different ways, including what we think of as essential. The conversation over what qualifies as an “essential” versus “non-essential” business has impacted many companies that produce and sell items and services considered essential for everyday use. What do you think of as essential (?) – we encourage you to reply to this email and let us know.

Traditionally defined, consumer staple stocks are broken down into five main industries: beverages, food, household goods, personal and hygiene products, and tobacco – services and items that individuals are either unwilling or unable to eliminate from their budgets even in times of financial trouble. Recently, a more contemporary definition of a consumer staple has emerged from our pandemic-altered lifestyles, and consequently, the definition of a consumer staple stock has arguably changed. Introducing, the FAANG stocks:

Facebook (social media). Amazon (e-commerce). Apple (smartphones and tech hardware). Netflix (video streaming). Google (online search and services). All five companies are known for their dominance in their respective industries and sizable customer bases. Combined, they have a market capitalization of more than $4 trillion! Additionally, as a group (below, in purple), the stocks have collectively outperformed the overall stock market (as measured by the S&P 500, below, in yellow) by a healthy margin so far in 2020: 

While many other companies have experienced major interruptions to business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, revenue and earnings for the FAANG stocks have been excellent. Facebook doubled its first quarter profit from 2019; Amazon’s first quarter revenue in 2020 increased 26.4% from the same period a year ago; Apple increased its dividend by another 6% on April 30; Netflix now has 182.9 million subscribers, more than doubling its own projections for new paying customers in Q1 of 2020; and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, experienced year-over-year revenue growth of 13% (to $41.2 billion) in the first quarter of 2020. Clearly impressive numbers for these “essential” businesses.


Will companies like the FAANG stocks continue to dominate in the hazy and nebulous “new normal” we are all continuing to get used to, or will things revert and this outperformance be temporary? One thing is for certain – we should get used to life, as well as the financial markets, remaining unsettled and uncertain for the foreseeable future.

Pandemic Notes

  • Did you know that COVID-19 is an acronym for coronavirus disease of 2019? The name was selected by the WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, working in cooperation. Their joint guidelines required that the name and its abbreviation be easy to pronounce, related to the disease, and not refer to a specific geographic location, a specific animal, or a specific group of people.
  • Good news heading into the weekend: While one additional coronavirus diagnosis is too many, the curve is flattening, as new COVID-19 cases in the United States have been stable for over two weeks now, according to Deutsche Bank, the World Health Organization, the CDC, and Worldometer:
  • More than 90 Sacramento restaurants are re-opening for dine-in service this weekend. To see the full list within the Sacramento Bee article, create a free account with the SacBee, or click HERE, and then cut and paste the URL into a web browser opened in “incognito mode” (a nifty little trick):


In addition to our dependence on the aforementioned technology behemoths and our desire to dine out again, a number of trending and notable events occurred over the past few weeks:

We are seeing early signs that these times of separation are beginning to pass, and opportunities to be back together in person with those we have been missing, are beginning to grow. And as always, whether in person or via a Zoom teleconference, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have – the world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here for you.

– Nathan, Raquel, Steve, Joseph, Lori, and Jonathan

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Reaching First Base AFTER Shelter-In-Place

As we trend towards gaining back the freedoms we surrendered in the name of saving lives and flattening the curve, the slow unwind of sheltering-in-place is beginning:

We are continuing to witness the COVID-19 pandemic re-order virtually every industry in the world, and concurrently, many aspects of our formerly “normal” lifestyles. And as we have adapted to today’s slower lifestyle and “new normal,” we have been reminded of just how important our homes have become – as a safe haven, a de facto schoolhouse, an impromptu remote office, and a warm family nest. However, as much as we have learned (a bit forcibly) to love being at home, and as integral as home has been in this new normal, most of us would agree that being at home this much has gotten a little long-in-the-tooth.

There are many more chapters yet to be written about the COVID-19 crisis, and as much as we love our “warm family nests,” this next chapter in the story is one that we all have been anxiously awaiting – the safe and sturdy return to shared communal life, outside of our homes.

As the dawn of the decline of the shutdown approaches, we are all eager to regain the ability to step outside our homes and see friends and family again, to shop at our favorite stores, to eat at our favorite restaurants, and yes, to trade in our trusty sweat pants for our favorite work attire as we begin to head back to work. But make no mistake about it, what our lives will look like as summer approaches will be markedly different that the way we lived our life in February. A “new normal” is upon us, and being adaptable, and socially, economically, and physically aware, is paramount.

A summary of our views:

  • We are all working more hours now than before the COVID-19 outbreak – expect it to continue
  • Companies will begin bringing employees back to work over the next two to six weeks, with strategies for doing so being differentiated and customized based on geography and industry
  • People are starving for connection, and content, and while we yearn for and need physical connection with each other, the transformation of digital communications and social media has been monumental
  • We are optimistic that, as a country, we can and will find the right balance between a compassionate and pragmatic democracy
  • Debt, both personal and governmental, will finally become a central economic and political theme
  • Public confidence levels are quite low, but the condition will be temporary as we continue to learn about the virus and make irregular progress in defeating it
  • Serious concerns surrounding public transportation will lead to a longer timeline for people getting back to work in larger cities
  • We are not planning to see even the possibility for a COVID-19 vaccineuntil mid-2021, at the absolute earliest
  • If there is a significant resurgence in COVID-19 cases this fall, the fatigue of the situation will be extremely painful and we could retest market lows
  • The crisis has been devastating to lower income families, and could cause further longer-term disparity and danger to their well-being
  • Expect taxes to increase, regardless of who wins the 2020 presidential election, as our massive stimulus programs need to be paid for
  • Crises accelerate trends, and there will be larger moves in businesstowards technology, consolidation, and outsourcing, with less need for real estate
  • A New Deal-like infrastructure program will be a central component in additional Federal stimulus borrowing and spending

On a much lighter note, and for anyone who is a fan of Billy Joel (who isn’t?), click HERE (or below) to spend four minutes listening to/watching a VERY entertaining “social distance-sing project” where the Phoenix Chamber Choir performs The Longest Time – the adapted lyrics and instruments are great!

Tragically, some have lost loved ones during this time, and we acknowledge that will change life for them even on the upside of this pandemic. But for most of us, these times of separation will pass and we will be back together, in person, with those we have been missing. And as always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have – the world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here for you.

Nathan, Raquel, Steve, Joseph, Lori, and Jonathan

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President Joseph Eschleman Interviewed by Diamond Consultants

The ability to freely and creatively communicate with clients has proven to be critical during the COVID-19 crisis. And it is this freedom that served as one of the primary drivers of the decision to establish Towerpoint Wealth as a fully independent wealth management firm back in 2017. Click below to listen to Louis Diamond, of Diamond Consultants, interview our president, Joe Eschleman, as they discuss how leaving Wells Fargo, with the help of Dynasty Financial Partners and Charles Schwab, and establishing Towerpoint Wealth allowed him to freely and creatively engage with clients and prospects, offer a much broader suite of services and products, and act as a true legal fiduciary to each TPW client.

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How Do We Unlock the Lockdown

At least 316 million people (or more than 96% of the U.S. population) in 42 states are currently under a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend life as we know it. However, as California’s Governor Gavin Newsom stated just last month, “This is not a permanent state, this is a moment of time,” and the good news is that we are seeing hopeful time-frames for reopening:

In the meantime, our economy is in an absolute tailspin due to the national lockdown, and Great Depression-esque numbers are expected for the second quarter:

  1. A total of 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past five weeks. That translates to a national unemployment rate expected to be as high as 15 or even 20% as a result of the pandemic that has forced millions of businesses to shutter and lay off employees, significantly higher than the 10% peak seen during the 2008 financial crisis.
  2. The U.S. economy is facing its biggest contraction ever, as GDP for the second quarter is expected to show an annual rate decline of 40%! As a comparison, the biggest drop in growth in U.S. history occurred in 1932, when the economy contracted by 12.9% during the worst year of the Great Depression.

And while it might sound crazy to say, understanding these are nothing short of horrific numbers, there is a clear light at the end of the tunnel.

Why is the stock market (as measured by the S&P 500) up 29% over the past month? One simple answer: The stock market is not a reflection of the current economy. Investors are forward-looking and future-oriented, and they are buying in advance of, and belief in, better days ahead. It can be confounding to grasp when the current state of affairs seems so grim, but it is an essential point for longer-term investors to note and internalize. Since 1953 (with one exception), the S&P 500 stock index has bottomed anywhere from three to 11 months prior to the official end of a recession. In other words, as Warren Buffett said : If you wait for the robins, spring will be over.

We encourage you to read Policy and Portfolio Impact of COVID-19 – A Talk With Dr. Ben Bernanke, as forceful actions by the Fed and bi-partisan Congressional stimulus packages have both led to a backstopping of the financial markets and a temporary de facto safety net for our economy.

The fact that the upcoming ugly U.S. economic figures and data are EXPECTED is especially important to note. While horrific, these numbers will come as no surprise to savvy investors, who understand that stocks almost always rebound before the economy does, and who understand that the market expects the pain experienced by the U.S. economy to be temporary. Questions remain about the shape of the economic recovery and the shape of our new lifestyles, but fortunately the correlation between the temporary nature of our economic pain and the temporary nature of our current shelter-in-place lifestyles cannot be denied.

In addition to anticipating the end of conscientious sequestering and the slow birth of economic recovery, there have been a number of non-COVID-19 newsworthy events over the past few weeks that you may have missed:

As we have mentioned previously, it is important to take comfort that better days are set to return. We will be with our full families again. We will be with our friends and colleagues again. Together. And as always, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, info@towerpointwealth.com) with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have. The world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here for you.

– Nathan, Raquel, Steve, Joseph, Lori, and Jonathan

Towerpoint Wealth Team : Sacramento Financial Advisor
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Policy and Portfolio Impact of COVID-19

A Talk with Dr. Ben Bernanke, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve

Our President, Joseph Eschleman, was recently invited to sit on a conference call led by Ben Bernanke, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and PIMCO senior advisor. Bernanke discussed why recent policy moves made by the Federal Reserve (“the Fed”) and other central banks will be critical to a more stable future for the global economy and financial markets. Bernanke discussed why given today’s unpredictable environment, policy response must first focus on public health to promote recovery, and should be senior to current economic policy. To be clear, the role of monetary and fiscal policy, while hugely important during this pandemic, is primarily meant to keep things alive and to support the economy during this temporary economic downturn. The Fed has acted with alacrity in this current crisis to help support liquidity in the capital markets, help financial institutions have access to cash, and to keep credit flowing to the real economy. Domestically and globally, recovery will depend on 1.) public health, 2.) science and 3.) the public’s confidence in both. It will likely be slow, and with false starts, and it will assuredly be different across regions, industries, and businesses. And while 2020 will assuredly be a year of severe recession, our hope is that the economy will open up by the latter part of the year, especially as the medical situation improves, with growth prospects for 2021 being significantly better

Current Economic Environment

Bernanke did not waste any time pointing out that we are facing a deep global recession. And while there may be an emotional relationship between the COVID-19 crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis (primarily the stress created by uncertainty and similarities surrounding the extreme market volatility), the chain of causality is quite different. The ’08 recession was caused primarily by financial system dysfunction, which led to economic instability and weakness, while today’s COVID-19 recession has been caused not by problems in our financial system, but instead by a natural disaster bringing the global economy to a near standstill.

The good news is our banking system is strong and healthy, unlike in 2008. Debt issued by major banks and financial institutions has been backstopped by the Fed, and banks today are well-capitalized and a source of economic strength, opposite of the environment during the 2008 recession.

Today, the critical element will be public-health policy response to the pandemic, which is even more important than economic policy. Working towards a vaccine is obviously a critical step to recovery, with the purpose of monetary and fiscal stimulus to keep things alive in the shorter-term until a vaccine is ready and we can begin to get back to life as normal.

Bernanke said to expect the near-term economic numbers to be brutal, with -30% GDP and a double-digit unemployment rate here in the United States over the next few quarters. However, these unprecedented figures are expected to be temporary, and to some extent should be taken with a grain of salt. The key question: How long will the temporary shutdown last? One quarter? Two quarters? All of 2020? Longer? If it lasts through the summer, we could be looking at severe bankruptcies and permanent job losses and layoffs.

The Fed’s Toolkit

Currently, the Fed is operating at an unprecedented scale, and when compared to 2008, has already done much more, and quicker, to provide support to the economy and to the financial system. Current Fed Chair Jay Powell deserves credit for his swift decision-making, as well as his use of the monetary “playbook” that was established during the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed remains the global lender of last resort, and has already taken action to provide $2.3 trillion of loans to support the United States economy. The size of the Fed’s current balance sheet is $6 trillion (and growing), the biggest it has ever been. And while the sheer size of it concerns some economists, Bernanke was quick to point out that the Fed is acting as a lender, and not a grantor, and is lending on a collateralized basis. These loans are self-liquidating, meaning the money the Fed is loaning is being used to buy assets (bonds), which will in turn be used to then pay back the loan when the bonds mature. Over a period of time this will automatically cause the Fed’s balance sheet to shrink to a more normal level.

Additionally, the Fed recognizes that the U.S. dollar is still king, is still viewed as the world’s currency, and that the availability of dollars is critical to maintain global liquidity and to fuel global credit. Demand for dollars is very strong right now, and to satisfy that demand and to provide dollars to foreign central banks, the Fed has also opened dollar swap lines with 14 different foreign central banks, acting as a repo facility for these banks and collecting interest while doing so.

Bernanke also focused on the emergency credit programs originally introduced to deal with the strained credit conditions of the Great Depression, and utilized more recently during the 2008 financial crisis. Section 13(3) was added to the Federal Reserve Act in 1932 to expand the Fed’s lending authority beyond banks, permitting it to extend credit to individuals, partnerships, municipalities, and corporations – a type of “Main Street” lending facility. Credit markets have recently been extremely dysfunctional, and these 13(3) lending facilities have allowed the Fed to backstop the credit markets in a secure manner and reduce overall volatility. The popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is authorized under section 13(3), and a $500 billion municipal liquidity facility has also been established to offer credit to state and local governments.

Monetary Policy

In addition to its lending capacity, the Fed also has monetary policy as ammunition to combat the severe economic slowdown. Short-term interest rates have been cut to zero, and the Fed is buying Treasury and mortgage-backed bonds to provide liquidity to the economy. This extremely loose monetary policy is meant to be a temporary placeholder and create an “economic bridge” until we are out of lockdown and the economy begins to pick up speed. Bernanke expressed concerns that people may start saving more and spending less after we see a loosening of the lockdown, and any additional Fed easing will be based on the pace of the economic recovery. It is going to take a while for the economy to get back on track and up and running again, with things not approaching normal in our economy until at least later 2021 and into 2022.

Negative interest rates were discussed as a possible economic policy tool in some circumstances, but the Fed is not inclined to pursue them over the near term. Why?

1. They have a very limited scope.

2. They may disrupt the money market industry.

3. They are most useful to fight deflation (see Japan in 2016), and the COVID-19 crisis is not deflationary.

4. The Fed is on record as saying they are not willing to consider negative rates.

Fiscal Policy and the Political Environment

The 2020 recession is very different when compared to 2008’s recession. It may sound surprising, but Congress is significantly more bi-partisan about today’s economic crisis than they were in ’08. Today, we are fighting a common problem – the virus; in 2008, the problem was the health of our banks, and bailing out the banks was an extremely unpopular issue. The fiscal response to today’s crisis has been very good, and Bernanke believes we will need more from fiscal policy as the economy begins to open back up. Our fiscal response is a de-facto relief package due to a natural disaster, but absolutely necessary to avoid even greater economic pain.

The United States is fortunate in our capacity to borrow, and demand for Treasuries is very high. The big question of how government can afford all of this stimulus and issue and backstop debt like this is a hugely important one, understanding the CARES Act was funded entirely by debt issuance. Bernanke was quick to note that he has no problems with what the U.S. has done to borrow substantially to stave off this crisis, especially understanding the financial burden of doing so is minimal with interest rates close to zero. Emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic are exactly why the United States has a deep debt capacity, although we certainly do need to do better longer-term planning about the structure of the U.S. budget.

Forward Guidance, Outlook and Recovery

It is clear that the shape, and extent, of the current recession will be directly correlated to the health response to COVID-19. Recovery will be directly correlated to the level of focus, energy, and resources placed on medicine, science, and public health. A vaccine may not be available for 12 to 18 months, and opening up the economy will be a slow and regional process, with false starts a reasonable expectation. How to keep proper distance between workers, and how to regularly test the work force for COVID-19 are key questions that will impact what the recovery will look like, as well as the seasonality of the virus. Hopefully the beginnings of a recovery begin this summer, although it remains to be seen if it will be “V” or “U” shaped, or possibly a more uneven “W” shape. Public confidence is key, as this is obviously a highly uncertain environment that requires caution and care. Bernanke holds hope that 2021 should be significantly better than 2020, as some of this year’s economic figures will be Depression-esque.
However, the Great Depression lasted 12 years, and we are hopeful this recession will be measured in months. And understanding the IMF made huge changes to its global growth expectations for 2020 (from +3% to -3%), their 2021 forecast is for growth of +6%.

The United States is institutionally strong (governors, mayors, CEOs, presidents of universities, etc.), having high levels of diversity and innovation. As a country, we have weathered many other crises in our collective past, each of which was unique in its circumstances and impact, and we are confident that this pandemic will prove to be no different.

How Can We Help?

Joseph F. Eschleman, CIMA®, President, Towerpoint Wealth

At Towerpoint Wealth, we are a fiduciary to you, and embrace the legal obligation we have to act in your best interests 100% of the time. We encourage you to call (916-405-9140) or email (info@towerpointwealth.com) to open an objective dialogue.

Towerpoint Wealth, LLC is a Registered Investment Adviser. This material is solely for informational purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Towerpoint Wealth, LLC and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Towerpoint Wealth, LLC unless a client service agreement is in place.