Simplicity has its merits in the culinary, business and financial worlds. Once two cooks worked on a squash casserole. Things would have been alright except one budding chef had a recipe from the page on the left, the other read from the right. Stir-frying squash with onions, garlic, and Bad Byron’s Butt Rub is easier to make and hard to beat.
Mutual funds with low turnover, whether they are actively or passively managed, work out better for investors. Fewer trades translate into less realized capital gains and a more tax-efficient portfolio. Warren Buffett once said that the ideal holding time for an investment is forever. Target date funds (TDF) automatically lower stock allocations as people get closer to retirement. TDFs minimize decisions for pre-retirees. The federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) has five investment funds along with a handful of TDFs. The TSP’s simplicity makes it one of the nation’s top-tier retirement plans.
We love flying Southwest Air (NYSE: LUV). According to legend, which Texans fall for, Southwest’s first business plan was laid out on a cocktail napkin. In journalism school, they teach you to print the legend when it becomes fact. In reality, the business model consisted of frequently flying between major Texas markets. Due to a quirk in federal regulations, the upstart airline could out-maneuver more established (and now defunct) airlines. Southwest Airlines went on a three-year legal battle that entailed more than a cocktail napkin.
Minimalism has limits. Retirement planning can be simple, if you have a pension, for instance, or if you have a lifetime of living within your means. However unexpected long-term care costs or family dementia can upset the best-laid plans of mice and men. Someone in good shape for retirement could see plans derailed by job loss or a family tragedy.
Something simple can lead you astray. Take lottery tickets; there is nothing complex about picking a few numbers, but, in aggregate, people lose money. Congress has a couple of tax bills floating around; their common premise is lower taxes stimulate economic activity and higher government revenues. In the National Museum of American History, there is a cloth cocktail napkin illustrating this idea, initially promoted by economist Arthur Laffer. His simple concept, the Laffer curve, has a kernel of truth. If everyone paid a 90 percent tax levy and rates dropped to 10 percent, economic activity would likely increase.
While Laffer’s notion sounds promising, in reality, it flops. For almost four decades we have listened to this siren song but never see the promised benefits. While the concept of lower taxes appeals to everyone, including me, a government slack on resources may find funding disaster relief, Medicare, hurricane preparation and flood insurance difficult. Don’t forget that the Florida economy relies on all four of these government-subsidized services.
You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit livingstonfinancial.net or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.