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Where Investors Put Their Money in 2019

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Fund Flows 2019

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Where Investors Put Their Money in 2019

While a strong 2019 closed off an entire decade free of recessions, celebrations have been short. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has tapped the brakes on the global economy, has led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to declare a global recession.

So what were investors doing before the outbreak? To figure that out, today’s infographic from New York Life Investments visualizes where investors allocated their money in 2019.

Broad Comparisons

Virtually every asset class ended 2019 in the green, with U.S. equities among the highest gainers. In spite of this, investors appeared to be quite risk-averse. Even as the S&P 500 climbed 29% over the year, money was pulled away from equities and placed in safer assets such as money market securities and precious metals.

Let’s examine the data in more detail. In the tables below, net flows represents the difference between total inflows and total outflows.

Mutual Funds VS ETFs

Investors continued to invest in ETFs, but the interesting news is surrounding mutual fund activity. In a dramatic reversal from last year’s net outflows of $91B, mutual funds attracted $574B throughout 2019.

Type of Vehicle2018 Net Flows2018 Total Assets2019 Net Flows2019 Total Assets*
ETFs+$238B$3,385B+$281B$4,408B
Mutual Funds-$91B$16,345B+$574B$19,727B

*2019 total assets also include asset appreciation as a result of market movements.

ETFs once again grew their share of total invested assets, from 17.2% in 2018, to 18.3% in 2019.

Flows by Asset Class Group

To get more specific, investment vehicles are classified based on the type of assets they hold.

For example, a fund that holds a variety of American company stocks would be broadly classified as “U.S. Equity,” while a fund that targets specific industries would be classified as “Sector Equity.” Here are the flows each asset class experienced throughout 2019, starting with the largest net inflows:

Asset Class Group2019 Net Flows 2019 Total Assets 
Money Market+$522B$3,483B
Taxable Bonds+$413B$4,433B
Municipal Bonds+$106B$952B
International Equity+$11B$3,416B
Commodities+$8B$110B
Alternatives-$7B$212B
Sector Equity-$33B$995B
Asset Allocation-$38B$1,343B
U.S. Equity-$72B$9,162B

Investors pulled money from asset allocation funds, as well as alternatives, sector equity, and U.S. equity vehicles. Trade tensions between the U.S. and China, which have had a material impact on both countries’ economies, may have been a reason for this conservatism. Other likely factors include the Hong Kong protests and the culmination of Brexit.

In the face of these worrying developments, fixed income vehicles were in high demand, even as the Fed cut rates on three separate occasions. Money market funds had a massive year, and were responsible for much of the investor capital diverted to mutual funds in 2019.

In fact, with a Q3 net inflow of $224B, money market funds saw their strongest quarterly inflows since the global financial crisis.

Deeper Dive: Commodities

One of the most compelling flow trends of 2019 lies in commodities, which we can break down into five subcategories:

Commodities Subcategory2019 Net Flows 
Precious Metals+$11.4B
Industrial Metals-$0.1B
Energy-$0.2B
Broad Basket-$0.8B
Agriculture-$2.2B

Precious metals, which include safe-haven assets like gold and silver, were the only subcategory to see positive net flows in 2019. Likely driven by the fear of inflation, investors flocked to precious metals from June to October.

Gold and silver are often referred to as “safe-haven” assets because they outperform during periods of uncertainty.

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It’s interesting to note that investors pulled money out of precious metals in November and December—perhaps a sign of growing confidence in the economy.

2020 and Beyond

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, volatility has returned to global markets.

While the conservative asset allocation decisions made in 2019 may have given investors some shelter from this turmoil, it’s likely they paid a penalty for missing out on a robust year for equity markets.

In uncertain times like these, it’s important for every long-term investor to keep a cool head. After all, history has shown us that markets will eventually recover.

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Paradigm Shift: The Rise of Women’s Earning Power

As women’s earning power continues to grow, wealth managers who cultivate a deeper understanding of these clients will ultimately stand out from the rest.

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Paradigm Shift: The Rise of Women’s Earning Power

In 2019, women owned almost 33% of global wealth.

Looking at North America alone, women control $35 trillion in assets. These assets are set to grow by a 6.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) until 2023, after COVID-19 effects are accounted for. Notably, the acceleration of female breadwinners is amplifying this trend.

The above infographic from New York Life Investments examines four archetypes of female breadwinners, highlighting their household dynamic and financial priorities as the wealth landscape continues to shift.

A Room of One’s Own

Today, one segment of women makes up nearly 25% of households with over $250K of investable assets: female married breadwinners.

They remain a blind spot across the wealth management profession, but provide a vital opportunity for wealth management professionals.

From a high-level perspective, these primary earners describe themselves as independent and hard working, according to a study by RTi Research. While 75% work with an advisor, only 41% feel knowledgeable about their finances. At the same time, 82% of the primary earners are college graduates, while advancing their financial education remains a priority.

Below is a deep dive on the spectrum of female married breadwinner households, outlining their key mindsets, behaviors, and outlooks.

The Four Archetypes

Female breadwinner households can be broken down into four broad archetypes.

1. We’re In This Together

Accounting for 39% of respondent households, this archetype reflects a collaborative dynamic where both partners appreciate each other and are aligned on future financial objectives.

Household Dynamic

  1. Works as a team with their partner
  2. Partners are proud and appreciative of one other
  3. Typically have a positive outlook

Defining Opinions and Behaviors

  • My spouse supports me: 80%
  • My spouse appreciates my hard work: 74%
  • We are aligned on future financial goals: 66%
  • We live in a “normal” household: 59%

2. I Got It

This archetype comprised 25% of respondents. Typically, the primary earner illustrated pride and enjoyment in this role. At the same time, they felt supported by their partners.

Household Dynamic

  1. Comfortable and experienced in this position
  2. Spouse is supportive and comfortable with a secondary role

Defining Opinions and Behaviors

  • Primary earner role is a source of pride: 43%
  • Primary earner role is fulfilling: 41%
  • As the primary earner I am in control: 33%
  • Always been the primary earner: 61%

3. A Little Help Please

With 26% of respondents, this archetype was an outlier, mainly as they did not feel a positive impact from being a breadwinner. These women carry a larger burden on their shoulders and would prefer if their partner would take on more household tasks.

Household Dynamic

  1. Feel that everything relies on them, want their partner to contribute more
  2. Would even prefer if roles were reversed

Defining Opinions and Behavior

  • Everything depends on me: 42%
  • Want spouse to take on more responsibilities: 29%
  • Negative impact as primary breadwinner: 97%
  • Prefer if spouse was the primary earner: 59%

4. I’ve Got It From Here

This final archetype accounted for 33% of households. These were characterized by the women taking on a primary earner role later in life, while feeling proud in the role as the highest earner.

Household Dynamic

  1. Typically new to primary earner role
  2. Feels supported by their spouse, and long-term financial goals are aligned
  3. Appreciates the hard work partner has done in the past

Defining Opinions and Behaviors

  • My spouse supports me: 59%
  • My spouse appreciates my hard work: 51%
  • Became primary earner later in life: 100%
  • Feels strong: 52%

Getting a better sense of these archetypes can help advisors personalize their approaches—and harness a clearer appreciation of their clients financial goals.

On the Horizon

Of course, female married breadwinners have a diverse range of financial goals. These investment goals and objectives typically vary across different life stages, but they also share many similarities.

For primary earners 60 and over, the most important investment goals were a comfortable lifestyle and protecting their future. On the other hand, breadwinners between the ages of 40-59 were most concerned with saving for retirement. Finally, the key investment goals of those aged 25-39 also surrounded a comfortable lifestyle, saving for children’s education, and saving for retirement.

As women amass greater wealth at faster speeds, understanding how to manage it well becomes increasingly crucial.

A New Wealth Frontier

It comes as no surprise that the primary female earners who work with advisors have better views on their finances.

As a result, opportunity knocks. Half of female breadwinners see their financial advisor as a business partner, and 33% see them as a necessity. At the same time, 66% of female primary earners want an advisor that will make them the most money.

As this powerful economic force continues to accelerate, it could create a watershed decade ahead for both women’s wealth and the wealth management field.

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What is Defined Outcome Investing?

Defined outcome investing is a customizable solution that investors of all mindsets can use to add a layer of predictability to their results.

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What is Defined Outcome Investing?

Equities can play a critical role in any investment portfolio thanks to their long-term growth potential. At the same time, this asset class can also present a number of challenges for investors.

Uncertainty around the short to mid-term performance of equities can be a major deterrent for some, while others may find it difficult to select the best stocks based on their unique needs. Fortunately, there is a solution that can help investors overcome these challenges. In today’s infographic from New York Life Investments, we introduce defined outcome investing, and examine how it can help individuals take more control over their equity investments.

Understanding How DOI Works

Defined outcome investing (DOI) is a family of strategies that add a layer of predictability to an investor’s results. This is achieved through two unique aspects.

The first is a customizable risk-return profile, which gives investors the option of receiving either upside enhancement or downside protection features.

Risk-Return FeatureHow it Works
Upside enhancementEnhances the returns of the specified index, up to a cap. The investor is not sheltered from negative returns.
Downside protectionProtects investors from negative returns, up to a certain amount. The investor still participates in market upside, up to a cap.

The second aspect is a predetermined time period—defined outcome strategies carry a maturity date, similar to a fixed income security. Upon reaching its maturity date, a defined outcome strategy expires and the proceeds are paid out to the investor. This feature makes it easier for an investor to time their equity exposures around personal liquidity needs.

To understand the potential of DOI, consider a woman who wishes to make a down payment on a property one year from now. She would like to invest and grow her money in the meantime, but is worried about market volatility. Rather than purchase individual securities or ETFs, she could opt for a defined outcome strategy with downside protection over a one year term.

These features would reduce the likelihood of negative returns over the year, while still giving her exposure to the growth potential of equities.

Types of Defined Outcome Strategies

Investors have three distinct types of defined outcome strategies to choose from, depending on their personal objectives.

Growth Strategies

Growth strategies are designed for investors who:

  • Have a positive outlook on markets
  • Seek high levels of capital appreciation
  • Accept the possibility of negative returns

As implied by their name, these strategies produce enhanced market returns. They do not, however, offer any downside protection. The table below demonstrates how a growth strategy with 50% upside enhancement would perform across a number of scenarios. Assume a maximum return cap of 36%.

Market ScenarioS&P 500 Return (via ETF)Growth Strategy Return Defined Outcome Result
Strongly Positive50%36%Investors reach their maximum return cap of 36%.
Positive20%30%Investors gain 10 percentage points over the index.
Modestly Positive8%12%Investors gain 4 percentage points over the index.
Negative-10%-10%Investors match the index's negative return.

Buffered Strategies

Buffered strategies are a more neutral solution designed for investors who:

  • Have a moderate outlook on markets
  • Seek capital appreciation
  • Require a safety buffer to mitigate losses

Buffered strategies allow investors to participate in equity markets while receiving a specified level of insulation from negative returns. The table below demonstrates how a buffered strategy with 20% loss insulation would perform across a number of scenarios. Assume a maximum return cap of 24%.

Market ScenarioS&P 500 Return (via ETF)Buffered Strategy ReturnDefined Outcome Result
Strongly Positive30%24%Investors reach their maximum return cap of 24%.
Positive8%8%Investors match the positive return of the index.
Negative-20%0%Investors are sheltered from losses within their buffer.
Strongly Negative-30%-10%Any losses beyond the buffer are realized by the investor.

Preservation Strategies

Preservation strategies are best suited for risk-averse investors who:

  • Have a negative outlook on markets
  • Want to manage downside risk
  • Have significant financial obligations in the near future

Preservation strategies provide a different type of downside protection where, instead of a buffer, investors define their maximum loss. The table below demonstrates how a preservation strategy with 95% capital preservation (5% maximum loss) would perform across a number of scenarios. Assume a maximum return cap of 20%.

Market Scenario S&P 500 Return (via ETF)Preservation StrategyDefined Outcome Result
Strongly Positive30%20%Investors reach their maximum return cap of 20%.
Positive8%8%Investors match the positive return of the index.
Negative-3%-3%Investors match negative returns within their maximum loss.
Strongly Negative-30%-5%Investors maintain 95% of their capital.

Accessing Defined Outcome Strategies

Defined outcome strategies are accessed through a vehicle known as a unit investment trust (UIT). UIT’s offer similar levels of transparency and accessibility when compared to ETFs or mutual funds, including daily liquidity and transparency of holdings. So how are they able to offer such compelling risk-return features?

The answer lies in their use of equity options, a type of derivative contract. Equity options give the holder, in this case the UIT, the option of buying (or selling) a stock at a predetermined price on a specific date in the future. These contracts are used to engineer the risk-return features previously described, and are the reason why defined outcome strategies carry a maturity date.

Thus, in order to realize the specified upside enhancement or downside protection features, an investor must hold the UIT for its entire term. While there is no penalty for redeeming a UIT early, the investor will not reach their defined outcome objective.

A More Predictable Approach to Investing

Equities are a powerful tool for long-term growth, but it can be difficult to build a properly-aligned portfolio according to one’s risk tolerance. This becomes especially relevant in today’s uncertain economic environment.

With customizable risk-return profiles and a defined maturity date, defined outcome investing is a powerful solution that can support a variety of financial goals through different phases of the market cycle. Whether its maximizing returns or saving for retirement, investors can now take greater control over their financial future.

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