FORT LAUDERDALE – Though every investor has had to bear 2016’s volatile stock market, Florida attorneys continue to be bullish about the importance of staying on a consistent, long-term investment course.
Analysts have predicted the market downtown for months (some even confident enough to use the word “crash”), though a slight uptick in most indexes over the last few weeks has provided temporary respite.
That up-and-down propensity is exactly why investors should stay the course, Martin Press, a tax attorney and shareholder at the law firm Gunster in Fort Lauderdale, recently told the Florida Record.
Press said there’s simple proof in the fact that the volume of the Dow Jones Index has increased at least six-fold from 1987 to the present.
“If a lawyer had put in money every year, they would have a fabulous retirement,” he said. “You just have to listen to the professionals and trust them, and they call for a long-term, diversified investment strategy.”
He said attorneys are no different than anyone else – they need advice from a trusted professional who knows the industry and has proven investment strategies.
“Most of us just know little about how the market works and the strategies that are being employed,” he said. “Invariably, those decisions are made on emotion or on the recommendations of someone else who also doesn’t have enough information.”
David Bercuson, a Miami attorney specializing in entertainment law, told the Florida Record that his solo practice isn’t directly invested in the market, but his personal money is. He also depends on competent professional advice.
“I have a broker who handles my personal portfolio, and he’s never steered me wrong,” he said. “He’s an expert and I trust him.”
Bercuson said retirement planning is foremost in his investment strategy.
“The thing that governs my strategy is age and spreading out my risk so that a market downturn doesn’t negatively affect any one area disproportionately,” he said.
Press said lawyers nearing retirement age have especially tough decisions to make as far as the timing of their departure as it affects their portfolios' bottom line, and thus the quality of their retirement. He said the general rule of thumb is assessing one’s ability to live on 4 to 5 percent of assets.
“I know some people who have gotten really nervous and got out – but they got out at the bottom, which is unfortunate,” he said.
A recent American Lawyer Media survey polled approximately 200 lawyers, who said that while the stock market downturn hadn’t necessarily changed investment strategies, they have considered ways to make up the short-term loss.
Nearly one-third of those who participated in the informal poll said they would be willing to work longer hours to make up for retirement plan shortfalls.
Bercuson said finding extra time is a more difficult feat for a solo practitioner, who already can be stretched thin.
“I already spend as much time in the office as I have to,” he said. “That doesn’t change if there’s an election, it doesn’t change when the weather’s bad and it doesn’t change because of the stock market.”
Press said lower-level law firm employees, as well as those in other industries, also have been hit hard by the market’s effect on their retirement plans.
There was a day, he said, when defined-benefit plans were popular, but that’s no longer the case. He said the only industry offering them broadly is the government jobs in public sector, and even those are getting a second look.
“Most employee investment plans are linked to the market’s performance through 401k programs,” he said. “But those programs are less foolproof than the defined benefit plans of the past.”