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Cypen & Cypen
November 28, 2019

Stephen H. Cypen, Esq., Editor

CalPERS approved new investment policies for its global equity and global fixed-income portfolios. The $385.1 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, had $191.2 billion in global equities and $112.3 billion in global fixed income as of Sept. 30. CalPERS' global equity portfolio is divided into market capitalization-weighted and factor-weighted segments. The new global equity policy provides that the strategic objective of the capitalization-weighted equity portfolio is to provide economic growth and a reliable source of liquidity. The goal of the factor-weighted portfolio is for economic growth with reduced overall volatility and some diversification of equity risk. CalPERS had $134.2 billion in its capitalization-weighted equity segment and $56.9 billion in factor-weighted as of Sept. 30. The new policies shift reporting of certain violations of investment restrictions and constraints from the investment policies themselves to the investment procedures and guidelines. The impact of these changes is that violations will now be reported to senior investment staff rather than to the board. The new policy removes the 15% limit on illiquid assets in the global equity portfolio. Restrictions regarding concentration risk, out-of-benchmark bets and use of derivatives are now in the pension fund's investment procedures document and not in the investment policy. The global fixed-income policy removes domestic and international sector ranges. The new policy replaces constraints on three former sectors -- dollar-denominated fixed income, international fixed income and credit enhancement -- with constraints on three new sectors: long Treasury, long spread and high yield. The earlier version of the policy included permissible ranges for fixed-income sectors, including U.S. Treasury and government-sponsored debt, mortgages, corporate, opportunistic and sovereign. Both policies remove a clause that had required the staff to report to the board at its next meeting when staff members have concerns about or problems with the policy, and all violations of the policy. Katherine H. Crocker, investment director, investment controls and operational risk, explained that the staff still has that obligation but it is now part of the total pension fund investment policy the investment committee approved in September. That policy provides that the staff shall report problems with, material changes to, and all violations of CalPERS' investment policies except for temporary underweights or overweights arising from the investment committee's adoption of new program or subprogram asset allocation targets. Separately, CalPERS is winding down its forestland portfolio as well as non-core assets across its real assets portfolio due to underperformance. CalPERS had $40.9 billion in real assets as of June 30, with $32.9 billion in core real assets. CIO Yu Ben Meng told the investment committee that the staff is exploring ways to speed up the process. CalPERS has wound down about $10 billion of non-core, legacy real assets in the past four years, said Paul Mouchakkaa, managing investment director, real assets. CalPERS had $1.3 billion in forestland as of June 30. It sold some timberland last year at a loss of $1.6 billion. At the same time, CalPERS officials are researching investment in other forestland for its potential carbon offset, said Beth Richtman, managing investment director, sustainable investments, in response to a question from Betty T. Yee, California state controller and a board member. However, CalPERS is waiting for state and federal lawmakers to provide incentives to institutional investors to invest in carbon offsets, Ms. Richtman added. CalPERS' entire real assets portfolio underperformed its benchmark in multiple time periods. The portfolio earned a net return of 3.7%, underperforming its benchmark by 283 basis points for one year; 6.4%, some 42 basis points under its benchmark for three years; 7.5%, a 111-basis-point underperformance for five years; and 4.1%, below its benchmark by 430 basis points for the 10 years ended June 30. Real estate and forestland also underperformed their benchmarks for all periods. Infrastructure was the only real asset portfolio that outperformed its benchmark for all time periods. Mr. Mouchakkaa attributed the real asset portfolio's underperformance mostly to sales for a loss of close to $2 billion of the portfolio last year. He also attributed underperformance to CalPERS writing down its retail real estate portfolio before the benchmark index had done so. During the meeting, board President Henry Jones asked why pension fund officials have not made more progress increasing the infrastructure portfolio. CalPERS had $4.8 billion in infrastructure as of June 30. CalPERS does not have an infrastructure target allocation. Its real asset target allocation is 13%, while the actual allocation is 11%. Arleen Jacobius, Pensions & Investments, November 21, 2019.
Many workers anticipate retiring at or around age 65, when retirement traditionally begins. Some believe they will work longer than that, and others shorter. Importantly, research shows the timing of when many people enter retirement is not completely in their own control. In a recent survey conducted by NerdWallet, the company found more than one-third of American retirees said it was not their personal choice to leave the workforce. While the number is less than half of respondents, it still represents a sizable portion of participants forced to retire due to unforeseen circumstances. According to NerdWallet, 18% had to leave because their health negatively impacted their ability to work, while 9% simply lost their job and could not find another. Not explored as a reason in the survey but also another issue is leaving the workforce to care for a loved one battling physical or mental illness, whether it’s a family member, significant other or a child. “Illness can be debilitating, not just for the person who gets sick, but on the primary partner of that person, too,” says Harris Nydick, founding partner and managing member of CFS Investment Advisory Services. “It’s difficult to keep a career going and trying to keep your spouse or a significant other going too.”
Considerations in Early Retirement
If workers find themselves needing to take retirement early on, there are concerns to understand going forward. The first is how best to begin withdrawing savings from a 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA). If participants younger than 59 1/2 draw from these tax-qualified savings accounts without meeting certain disability requirements or obtaining another exception, there will be an automatic 10% penalty tax assessed on top of any normal income taxes. Another matter is how best to time Social Security. Delaying these checks until age 67 is often ideal, as workers will lose a percentage of their benefit each year it is claimed earlier. If an individual begins making their claims at age 62, generally the earliest eligible age to begin taking Social Security, this can result in substantially reduced benefits--with monthly payments falling by as much as 30%, according to the Social Security Administration. If participants delay their claim however, their benefits will increase 8% a year until age 70, says Arielle O’Shea, investing and retirement specialist at NerdWallet. “It pays, quite literally, to delay taking your benefits,” she recommends. “But, if you’re forced into early retirement and you have no other way to make ends meet, early claiming of Social Security is an option.” One tip O’Shea adds is if participants do end up back on their feet or no longer need to claim Social Security after taking a reduced benefit early, they can suspend the benefit once they reach age 67 until age 70. Doing this can increase their checks by 8%. Another matter is the issue of maintaining health insurance coverage. Some generous employers may offer continuing coverage until Medicare eligibility, depending on the terms of the employees’ separation. But unfortunately many will not, or they may only provide coverage for a relatively short period. If a retiree is the caregiver for a loved one, the cost of private health insurance with restricted savings is almost unattainable, says Nydick. Taking on part-time work, or moving towards contracting or consulting gigs, can assist with health insurance and even bring money to the household. Nydick mentions how some companies, such as Starbucks and Costco, offer health insurance and offer 401(k) benefits for part-time workers. Even if one does not generate as much income as they did in their established career, this path minimizes out-of-pocket costs. If part-time work is not feasible, freelancing and consulting can generate substantial income while working from home or remotely, says Nydick. “If you can’t leave home, maybe you have the kind of skill set that allows you to have a consulting job, where most of your work is done via email, Zoom or Go-To Meeting,” he adds.
Conserving Can Make a Difference
As one would expect, O’Shea recommends early retirees take conservative approaches when withdrawing for their retirement accounts. This means more modest vacations and spending habits. “Early retirees have to set a new budget,” Nydick advises. “Setting a new budget and setting new expectations are all things these people have to consider.” “It can make sense to meet with a financial planner, but early retirees can also use a retirement withdrawal calculator to get a good estimate of how much they can spend annually,” O’Shea says. Also important is investing savings appropriately. If a worker retires at age 60, they may still have 30 to 35 years of retirement in front of them, O’Shea notes. They will likely need to maintain some exposure to equity markets, if only to outpace inflation. Consulting a financial planner, or even a robo-adviser--which typically costs less than a planner and can still manage investments--is ideal. “This might mean keeping a couple years’ worth of expenses in liquid accounts so you’re covered in the case of a market downturn, but investing the rest of your savings in a portfolio of stocks and bonds, heavily tilted toward the stock allocation,” O’Shea suggests. Along with conserving money are coordinating personal budgets. Considering debt and income, these new retirees will have to arrange a new plan until additional benefits or money is set in. Amanda Umpierrez, Planadviser, November 20, 2019.
Insurance companies take on pension risk, so why wouldn’t DB plan sponsors take lessons from insurer’s investment strategies? John Simone, managing director and head of Voya’s Insurance Investment Solutions business in Chicago, says old ideas for insurance companies are new ideas for defined benefit (DB) plans. Just as DB plans are challenged by low interest rates and the late credit cycle, so are insurance companies; they have to meet long-term obligations too. And, as Brett Cornwell, fixed income client portfolio manager at Voya Investment Management in Atlanta, Georgia, points out, it is insurance companies that DB plan sponsors turn to when transferring the risk of their plans. According to Cornwell, DB plans, in the last 10 or 15 years, have been adding more fixed income instruments that match the duration of their liabilities, such as long-duration bonds. They have also been moving out of growth-seeking assets. “DB plans are discounted with the AA corporate bond yield, so intuitively, plan sponsors are using more long-duration bonds to match the discount rate,” he says. But fixed income has grown to 60% or as much as 80% to 90% of DB plans’ portfolios. Cornwell says that’s largely worked, but now it is a risk factor that corporate bond exposure is so high. “Liability-driven investing (LDI) 2.0 is more about now diversifying portfolios so they don’t have too much in a corporate bond name or sector,” he says. When diversifying, some DB plan sponsors take on a lot of risk with non-fixed income assets, Simone says, but insurance company investment ideas do not necessarily dial up risk.

Diversifying from long-duration bonds
A Cerulli Associates survey shows U.S. insurance companies view the late stage of the credit cycle as “very concerning.” In response, nearly two-thirds (64%) plan to increase their allocations to private debt and half expect to add to structured or securitized debt during the next 12 months. Among alternatives investments, which are limited in insurers’ general account investment portfolios due to regulatory capital constraints, a majority of insurers plan to add to infrastructure investments (75%), alternative fixed-income strategies (63%), and private equity (55%). Cornwell says insurance companies use a variety of securitized sectors--fixed income sectors not as narrowly defined as what DB plans use. He believes DB plans should take a more diversified approach. For example, insurance companies use investment-grade private placements, which he says is a direct extension of what DB plans are already doing--adding corporate credit. A private placement is a sale of stock shares or bonds to pre-selected investors and institutions rather than on the open market. It is for an investor seeking to raise capital. Cornwell explains that private placement can offer covenant packages--an investor may be asking for capital to fund a business, so a DB plan loans the investor money. Private placements have “make whole provisions.” Such provisions allow parties to agree in advance on a measure of damages for prepayment of the loan. Lenders use make-wholes to lock in a guaranteed rate of return on their investment at the time they agree to provide the financing, while borrowers may benefit by obtaining lower interest rates or fees than they would otherwise. Cornwell says private placements are credit-oriented instruments that come with protections from downgrades, defaults and credit-rating migrations. NYC-based Tas Hasan, partner and investment committee member at Deerpath Capital Management, a direct lender to the lower-middle market, says for DB plans, there are elevated leverage levels in direct lending, while generating a low yield. “Pension funds need to generate yield, but in the late credit cycle, they are thinking more about safety,” he explains. “When pushed to take increased risk, the upper-middle market is overheated, so they can move into the lower-middle market. We don’t see an erosion of the quality of loans with an elevated level of risk in the lower-middle market.” Direct lending is a form of corporate debt provision in which lenders other than banks make loans to companies without intermediaries such as an investment bank, a broker or a private equity firm. The lower-middle market consists of companies with less than $50 million of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). According to Hasan, the reason for direct lending in the lower-middle market is that a lot of capital has been raised in direct lending, but most has concentrated on lending to companies with more than $100 million in enterprise value. More than 80% of those loans are now “covenant-lite,” meaning they lack traditional requirements for companies to maintain certain financial benchmarks that protect the investors who pay for them. In the lower-middle market, there are still protections and covenants in place to mitigate risk.
A sustainable, long-term approach
Mike Anderson, vice president and portfolio manager for asset and liability management (ALM) strategies at Securian Asset Management, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, says, “In my role working with ALM strategies for [insurer’s] general accounts, I look at each liability and work to manage assets against those liabilities, taking a sustainable, long-term approach.” He says securitized assets help with that. When the overall general account is in investment-grade fixed income, commercial mortgage loans are a good percentage of the portfolio. In addition, fixed income investments include asset-backed securities and corporate credit. Anderson says regular feedback of liability and longevity information from actuaries helps to improve the ALM process as far as security selection and pricing, especially when thinking of credit risk and liquidity needs. Jeremy Gogos, vice president and portfolio manager of quantitative strategies at Securian, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, says pension plan sponsors have the advantage of a good projection of liquidity needs. They have the ability to allocate into commercial whole loans and private placements variations, taking on a liquidity premium above that of the insurance market. According to Cornwell, there are some securitized assets not available to DB plans, but there is still a wide array they can use. He adds that long duration collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) have structural protection and collateral that is government-backed. A CMO refers to a type of mortgage-backed security that contains a pool of mortgages bundled together and sold as an investment. Organized by maturity and level of risk, CMOs receive cash flows as borrowers repay the mortgages that act as collateral on these securities. Some key things for DB plan sponsors to consider, according to Cornwell, is that DB plans and insurance companies work under different regulatory environments and DB plan liabilities are valued differently than insurance valuations. Also, DB plans are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), so plan sponsors should consider what is and is not allowable. He adds that there’s some ambiguity about whether DB plan sponsors governed by ERISA can invest in below investment-grade securitized assets, but he believes most would say it is not allowed. Still, Cornwell says, “We advocate for DB plan sponsors to take investing lessons from insurance companies to the extent it works for their plans.” Rebecca Moore, Plansponsor, November 20, 2019.
The billionaire boom “has now undergone a natural correction." The world’s billionaires saw their collective fortunes dip in 2018 for the first time in three years, erasing $388 billion of their net worth. Asia was hardest hit, as slowing growth in China and rising U.S. interest rates resulted in an 8% wealth drop among that continent’s richest people, according to the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report. Those in the U.S. fared better, fueled by tech billionaires who numbered 89 by the end of 2018, up from 70 a year earlier. The billionaire boom “has now undergone a natural correction,” Josef Stadler, head of ultra-high net worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in the report. “The stronger dollar, combined with greater uncertainty over equity markets amidst a tough geopolitical environment” were the main drivers, he said. Excessive wealth has become an increasingly contentious issue globally, with some U.S. presidential candidates making it central to their campaigns. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has proposed a 6% wealth tax on assets over $1 billion, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has said that billionaires shouldn’t exist at all. Beyond Washington, protests from Hong Kong to France are seeking a reckoning for the rich, citing decades of inequality as a cause of their frustration. Stock markets have bounced back since 2018, with the MSCI All-Country World Index up 20% so far in 2019. And even with last year’s dip, billionaires’ wealth increased almost 35% -- or $2.2 trillion -- since 2013, according to the report. (Bloomberg) -- The world’s billionaires saw their collective fortunes dip in 2018 for the first time in three years, erasing $388 billion of their net worth. Asia was hardest hit, as slowing growth in China and rising U.S. interest rates resulted in an 8% wealth drop among that continent’s richest people, according to the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report released Friday. Those in the U.S. fared better, fueled by tech billionaires who numbered 89 by the end of 2018, up from 70 a year earlier. The billionaire boom “has now undergone a natural correction,” Josef Stadler, head of ultra-high net worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in the report. “The stronger dollar, combined with greater uncertainty over equity markets amidst a tough geopolitical environment” were the main drivers, he said. Excessive wealth has become an increasingly contentious issue globally, with some U.S. presidential candidates making it central to their campaigns. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has proposed a 6% wealth tax on assets over $1 billion, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has said that billionaires shouldn’t exist at all. Beyond Washington, protests from Hong Kong to France are seeking a reckoning for the rich, citing decades of inequality as a cause of their frustration. Stock markets have bounced back since 2018, with the MSCI All-Country World Index up 20% so far in 2019. And even with last year’s dip, billionaires’ wealth increased almost 35% -- or $2.2 trillion -- since 2013, according to the report. “We’ve seen that these people can be successful and drive change regardless of who’s in a leadership role on the political scene,” said John Mathews, who oversees UBS Group AG’s private wealth and ultra-high net-worth business in the Americas. In Hong Kong, where unrest has persisted for months, billionaires are showing few signs of moving their wealth out of the city, according to Marina Lui, UBS wealth management’s head of China. “We’ve been looking every week and I can say we really can’t see much happening,” she said Friday at a briefing in Beijing. Billionaires tend to have a long-term view on investments, and the vast majority don’t adjust their global allocations because of short-term problems in individual regions, Harry Qin, a PwC partner, said at the briefing. The combined wealth of billionaires in mainland China dropped 12% last year to $982.4 billion, according to the report. Emma Vickers with assistance from Zhang Dingmin, WealthManagement.com, November 9, 2019.
Affordable medical coverage is something everyone wants, especially as people age. Luckily, our nation has safeguards for workers as they get older. Millions of people rely on Medicare, and it can be part of your health insurance plan when you retire. Medicare is available for people age 65 or older, as well as younger people who have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months, and people with certain specific diseases. Two parts of Medicare are Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medicare Insurance). You are eligible for premium-free Part A if you are age 65 or older and you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.  Part B usually requires a monthly premium payment. You can apply online for Medicare even if you are not ready to retire. Use our online application to sign up. It takes less than 10 minutes. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if we need more information. Otherwise, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail. You can sign up for Medicare on our website. If you don’t sign up for Medicare during your initial enrollment window that begins three months before the birthday that you reach age 65 and ends three months after that birthday, you’ll face a 10 percent increase in your Part B premiums for every year-long period you’re eligible for coverage but don’t enroll. You may not have to pay the penalty if you qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP). If you are 65 or older and covered under a group health plan, either from your own or your spouse’s current employment, you may have a special enrollment period during which you can sign up for Medicare Part B. This means that you may delay enrolling in Part B without having to wait for a general enrollment period and without paying the lifetime penalty for late enrollment. Additional rules and limits apply, so if you think a special enrollment period may apply to you, read our Medicare publication, and visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for more information. Health and drug costs not covered by Medicare can have a big impact on how much you spend each year. You can also estimate Medicare costs using an online tool. Keeping your healthcare costs down allows you to use your retirement income on other things that you can enjoy. Social Security is here to help you plan a long and happy retirement. Visit our website today. Darlynda Bogle, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Social Security Administration, November 7, 2019.
Following the decade of low yields since the Great Recession, investors now look at their fixed-income investments to not only protect against volatility and risk, but also to deliver higher returns. “A lot of times, the market conditions are the catalyst,” said Randall Parrish, Voya Investment Management’s head of credit. “It’s the plan that has a high return hurdle, and they come to us and say ‘How am I going to get there? I can buy equities, but I’ve got to have some fixed income. What role does that play?’” Traditionally, investors in that position have either looked to riskier credit products or extended the duration of their fixed income portfolio, but today they are just as likely to consider more innovative credit products with a broader opportunity set. Often, that means investing in some combination of multisector credit or an unconstrained fixed income strategy. Both exhibit relatively low correlation to interest rates, but unconstrained strategies can also offer lower correlation to equity markets and have the potential to deliver some protection against a broad risk sell-off. That’s particularly important at this point so late in the market cycle.
Built-in flexibility
“The way that you construct a product and the right fit for a given client depends on what their return target is and how much volatility they are willing to take,” Parrish said. “There’s quite a bit of flexibility around a mandate for any given opportunity.” Multisector credit typically includes a blend of high-yield bonds and bank loans that look and act like credit investments but gives managers the flexibility to react to changing market conditions. Unconstrained fixed income employs a broader set of investment opportunities that involves additional asset classes. The right mix of multisector credit and unconstrained fixed income will depend on an individual client’s needs. One might prefer a multisector credit investment that has a high beta to credit markets. That might include high yield and bank loans as well as emerging market corporate and a few other asset classes as well. Multisector credit is easier than unconstrained fixed income for clients to understand, Parrish said, since it behaves like credit, is easier to benchmark and includes asset classes with which they typically have experience. By comparison, an investor interested in more of an absolute return approach might be more interested in an unconstrained product that’s more complex and might bring less liquidity in exchange for the prospect of higher returns.
Many flavors
“Where multisector credit is more homogenous, unconstrained can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but probably not the same thing to any two,” Parrish said. “That opens up a broad range of products.” In addition to emerging market debt, an unconstrained fixed-income strategy might also include private credit or more flavors of securitized products. If less liquid assets are included, it may feature gated redemptions. When credit is attractive, unconstrained fixed income may own a lot of it, but it can own very little when credit markets are stretched or other investments are more attractive. Fund managers have more leeway with unconstrained strategies to choose where to invest and to take advantage of short-lived opportunities that pop up in a volatile market. The product has evolved in recent years, and today’s unconstrained fixed income strategies use duration to minimize risk over a full market cycle. They’re also not benchmarked in a traditional way. “There might be a LIBOR benchmark instead of a credit benchmark,” Parrish said. “The idea is that you’re looking for more sources of alpha, less correlation of returns and for positive returns regardless of the market environment. So even if the credit markets are weaker, you are still looking for that LIBOR-plus-something return. But you also have to look at the price that you’re willing to pay in terms of volatility to get there.”
Room for both
Multisector credit and unconstrained strategies are not always mutually exclusive, but they typically fit in different buckets inside an investor’s portfolio. “They can co-exist within a broad portfolio, but you really have to think about those different buckets,” he said. “You don’t want to take a multi-credit fund and put that in somewhere you’re really looking for absolute return and limiting downside. Because when credit markets sell off, that fund might outperform a credit benchmark, but it’s probably still going to give you a negative return.” Parrish said he spends a lot of time in discussions with clients trying to understand their particular needs in order to determine the right product or mix of products for them. “There’s a lot of flexibility, so often it’s just about understanding their risk tolerance and desire,” Parrish said. “We can build products tailored to fit a client. Like everything else, your return target is directly related to the amount of risk that you’re willing to take. Telling yourself otherwise is kind of silly.” Interest in these strategies cooled a bit last year when interest rates looked set to rise more than they did, but Parrish said that no matter what the broader market does, he expects to continue seeing more interest in both multisector credit and unconstrained fixed income. “It’s a conversation that’s here to stay and even beyond rates picking back up,” he said. “You move forward a year or two, if there’s a downturn in the credit cycle, multisector credit won’t be as popular, but once you come through on the other side of the next downturn, credit is always going to be a part of investor portfolios.” P&I Content Solutions, Pensions & Investments, October 28, 2019.
So let's be honest with ourselves and not take ourselves too serious, and never condemn the other fellow for doing what we are doing every day, only in a different way. 
The game has its ups and downs, but you can never lose focus of your individual goals and you can't let yourself be beat because of lack of effort. - Michael Jordan
Thanksgiving is a federal holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November (November 28, 2019.) It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, with a proclamation by George Washington after a request by Congress. Thomas Jefferson chose not to observe the holiday, and its celebration was intermittent until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, when Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863, during the American Civil War. Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving" to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the date was changed between 1939 and 1941 amid significant controversy. From 1942 onwards, Thanksgiving has been proclaimed by Congress as being on the fourth Thursday in November. Thanksgiving is regarded as being the beginning of the fall–winter holiday season, along with Christmas and the New Year, in American culture.

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