What the experts say
Skip those extra broker services
As financial-services companies step up efforts to offer lower-cost retirement plans, some are finding new ways to offset the losses, said Anne Tergesen in The Wall Street Journal. Falling 401(k) plan fees have “meant millions of dollars in lost revenue for asset managers and record keepers.” To replace the income from the fees, some companies “are pushing higher-cost advisory services”; others are “promoting ‘wellness’ services—programs that combine financial education with guidance from apps and advisers.” But recent lawsuits have challenged these efforts as unfair to consumers. In April, participants in two Vanderbilt University 403(b) plans announced a proposed $14.5 million settlement that would require the school to bar its record keeper, Fidelity Investments, from using data about plan participants to market other products.
Furniture rental goes upscale
New startups are hoping to persuade more people to rent their furniture instead of buying it, said Gaby Del Valle in Vox.com. “Two such companies, Fernish and Feather, both promote themselves as flexible, affordable alternatives to furniture ownership.” Unlike older stores such as Rent-A-Center, which target low-income buyers, the startups are looking for more affluent Millennial clients who want “nice furniture they can’t necessarily lug from apartment to apartment.” Both companies let customers buy the furniture if they want to keep it, at the regular retail price. By comparison, “a $148 subwoofer would cost a customer $779 if they bought it through a one-year rent-to-own contract from Rent-A-Center.”
Be careful of ‘10-year’ market returns
You should take the 10-year stock market returns with a grain of salt, said Jeff Sommer in The New York Times. The standard long-term metric used by financial-services companies on your quarterly statements is 10 years. But “recall that before stocks began rising with the start of the long bull market on March 9, 2009, they had fallen sharply.” The S&P 500 plummeted more than 50 percent in the previous two years. But—poof! Thanks to “the arbitrary logic of the calendar,” those miserable bear market figures are no longer incorporated in the 10-year returns. Don’t be misled by great-looking numbers that can provide an incomplete picture. “Taking longer views—say, 20 years or more—will give you broader perspective,” even though few investors tend to stick with the same approach for 20 years.