Despite the United States stock market gaining 14 percent in the first three months of the year, investors pulled more money from stock funds than they contributed. For the quarter, net outflows exceeded inflows by $16.48 billion. Since 2018 was a lousy year for most assets, you wonder if people didn’t open their 2018 year-end statements and dumped stocks in a panic. Stock funds got hammered by trade tensions and the prospect of even higher borrowing costs. Similarly, last year bond funds lost value in the wake of increased interest rates.

Overall, money flowed to bond funds with over $110 billion in excess of withdrawals. People still remember the Great Recession and bond funds provide a degree of stability during market declines. The dimming chances of future rate increases led to a 3 percent gain for the average intermediate-term (three-ten year maturity) bond fund during the first quarter.

Brent Schutte, Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management, observed while 2018 was a year when nothing went right, it was the opposite so far this year. Not precisely — money market funds did well last year. Besides, short-term cash flows and market movements mean relatively little. The major takeaway is investors should make sure their portfolio is suitable for their risk tolerance and capacity, time horizon and spending goals. Portfolio withdrawals during retirement exacerbate market declines while 401K contributions minimize them. With retirement 10 or 15 years away a bear market may not spook you as bad as one when you are spending down your savings.

Buying a Car

Years ago, I knew a car dealer who I nicknamed “Snake.” When word got back to him, he complained, but I reminded him of the rattlesnake photo on his desk. After he sold his dealership, he found selling used cars to people with low credit scores was a more profitable niche. He had a captive market and providing insurance and financing was a lucrative ancillary line.

Car buyers today research online and can make a more savvy purchase leading to shrinking vehicle mark-ups. Profit margins for financing and other add-ons like extended warranties and exterior protection packages have remained stable and have become more critical to auto dealership profits. Before stepping down as Auto-Nation CEO, Mike Jackson pointed out the emphasis on financing along with insurance products increased profitability.

For many years I avoided extended warranties for any consumer product, but I will never own a computer without one. The motherboard on my laptop went out, and Dell had a technician in my office within 24 hours. I was in the middle of an audit at the time, too. Like the Monkees, I’m a Believer. With the advanced technology on new cars, extended protection could be worthwhile, especially around salt air. A garage may work just as well.

You can’t always get what you want but Buz Livingston, CFP can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.