Washington’s GET Program Updates Explained

Many parents in the Pacific Northwest choose to start saving early for their children’s education, including participating in Washington state’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program. However, as tuition starts lowering with the College Affordability Act, the state felt it was necessary to reevaluate the GET program. Board members announced this August that they would be implementing steps to protect participants who bought into the program and assumed tuition would rise. The plan, which goes into effect on August 19th, includes the following:

  • Refunds on amortization fees for investors who purchased credits after 2011
  • Reimbursements for GET credits bought after July 1st, 2015, and
  • Two-year suspension of new enrollments in the program.

Looking to find out how these updates affect you and your savings? The GET Committee provided the following frequently asked questions about what lower tuition means for the program:*READ MORE

Beyond the Noise: A Look at Greece, Puerto Rico, & China

Three events in financial markets have received significant media attention in the last week: a potential Greece exit from the Eurozone, a potential default by Puerto Rico on its bond holdings, and the significant decline (after a rapid advance) in China’s equity markets.  The Coldstream Investment Strategy Group thought it important to cut through the “media noise” and let you know our views on these events.


GREECE

Near Term Uncertainty in Greece

As you may have heard, Greece missed a $1.7 loan billion payment to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday.  While this event and the closure of the Greek banking system are dominating news coverage this week, a $3.9 billion bond payment due to the European Central Bank on July 20 is much more important to world markets, since failure to pay would put Greece into a formal state of default.  The situation remains extremely fluid, with developments coming nearly hourly.  It is unlikely that current negotiations will lead to an agreement prior to a scheduled July 5 referendum, which will indicate whether the public will accept further austerity in order to stay in the Eurozone.  Since the current government was elected on an anti-austerity platform, it may collapse if the referendum passes or if a deal on further spending cuts and tax increases is struck in the meantime.

Potential OutcomesREAD MORE

Coldstream Tactical Allocation Decisions: An Example

Investment decisions at Coldstream are made by our Investment Strategies Group (ISG), which is composed of client portfolio managers, as well as managers of other Coldstream investment vehicles such as our 401K and alternative investment products. ISG sets strategic parameters for its asset allocation decisions. These parameters are designed so that client accounts are balanced and diversifi ed among asset classes. Within these strategic parameters, ISG also makes tactical decisions. These tactical decisions all fall within ISG’s strategic framework, but we will overweight and underweight asset classes based on ISG’s view of the near to medium term prospects for each particular asset class.READ MORE

Consider Dividend-Paying Stocks

In this low interest rate environment, income-minded investors, who have some tolerance for risk may find dividend-paying stocks attractive.  In fact, nearly 40% of S&P 500 companies have dividend yields above the 10-year US Treasury bond yield.

The appeal of dividend-paying stocks is easy to understand as they can provide investors with regular income regardless of market conditions. In addition, many dividend paying companies increase their dividends over time thereby creating a growing cash flow over time versus the fixed coupons of bonds.  It is important to note, however, that equities typically exhibit a higher volatility of returns than bonds, and the underlying company may choose to increase, decrease, and/or eliminate the dividend at any time.  Regardless, we consider dividend paying equities an important part of a well-diversified income-generating portfolio.READ MORE

A Pending Bond Bear Market?

In the aftermath of the tech bubble, the housing bubble, Wall Street scandals and the near collapse of the financial system, many ordinary investors have lost faith in the equity markets.  In an effort to reduce the risk in their portfolios, retail investors have exited equity mutual funds while bond funds have seen large inflows (see chart below).  Investors have accepted the lower return of fixed income assets in exchange for lower volatility and more certain cash flows.  Unfortunately, these investors may be in for a far rockier road than they had anticipated; we believe the current very low yields on fixed income instruments do not compensate investors for the risk that is building in the asset class. READ MORE

Thoughts on the “Fiscal Cliff” from the Coldstream Investment Strategy Group

With the elections over, the media has turned its attention to negotiations between the U.S. House, Senate and Administration over tax policy and spending programs to avert what has been dubbed the “fiscal cliff” facing our country.  One of our research resources, Strategas Research Partners, provides a list below of the various tax extensions, programs and spending cuts set to change in 2013 if action isn’t taken between now and year end. Investors have clearly been nervous about the outcome of these negotiations; the S&P 500 stock market index has fallen (as of November 16th) more than 6% from its early October level, with the NASDAQ composite and small cap stocks down even more.READ MORE

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