Last week the Keen Wealth leadership team took a trip to Chicago for the Charles Schwab IMPACT® Conference. One of the biggest gatherings in the financial services industry, it is designed to educate attendees on new technologies, trends, and navigating hot-button issues. There were dozens of sessions, hundreds of vendors, and vast opportunities to learn.
And Schwab put together an incredible lineup of speakers this year: former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Washington insider (and Keen On Retirement podcast guest) Greg Valliere, Not Impossible Labs Founder and CEO Mick Ebeling, and best-selling author Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Big Short), just to name a few.
It’s inspiring to hear people who are at the top of their professions give their perspectives on big issues in business, politics, science, and culture. And it’s fun and a privilege to be surrounded by industry peers at invitation-only events like this and like the Barron’s Top Advisors Summit each year. But even more, I believe attendance is an important professional obligation. Our clients at Keen Wealth trust us to help them make the most informed decisions possible about their long-term financial futures. To do that, my team has to stay current on the important trends that are shaping fiscal policy, technology, economic trends and the wider world.
On today’s show, I’m joined by Keen Wealth’s Matt Wilson and Sarah Tipping as we reflect on the key big picture trends we saw emerging from this year’s Schwab IMPACT® Conference, and how those trends might impact your financial planning in 2018 and beyond.
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Insights from Today’s Podcast from the Charles Schwab IMPACT® Conference
1. Rapid, widespread change is a cause for optimism.
David Cameron stepped down after the British people voted in favor of Brexit, which he opposed. And while the former prime minister did warn that “the pace of change has been too fast for some people to keep up with,” I was struck by the optimistic tone of his speech, and how hopeful he was about Britain’s future as it recreates its relationships with the European Union and the rest of the world.
Obviously, people getting left behind by new technology and new political and social developments has been a big topic of discussion here in the States as well. And the deluge of bad news we’ve had to deal with in 2017 has left many folks uncertain about the future. But all the speakers I saw echoed Cameron’s optimism, whether they were discussing new breakthroughs in health care or how technology and cooperation in the global marketplace can bring people closer together.
2. Don’t dismiss the next cybersecurity threat.
Our blogs and podcasts this year have emphasized the importance of safeguarding your online info. The Schwab IMPACT® Conference only underscored that the preventative measures we’ve discussed will continue to be a part of our digital lives from now on. As Joshua Cooper Ramo of Kissinger Associates noted, “It took Napoleon three months to march to Moscow. It took Moscow three seconds to hack the Democratic National Party’s emails.”
As we’ve mentioned before, one of the best things you can do to ratchet up your cybersecurity is to stop thinking these kinds of hacks and scams won’t happen to you. Take these threats seriously. And here’s one new tip we learned at Schwab Impact: no matter how tempting it might be, don’t use unpackaged USB flash drives, even if you assume they are new (like one from a vendor at a trade show). If it’s loaded with a virus or malware, just plugging it into your computer or phone could be enough to compromise your passwords, banking info, and anything else you’ve stored online. Keen Wealth’s policy has always prohibited the use of USB flash drives for storing personal information. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find one anywhere in our firm!
3. Blockchain, yes! Bitcoin … maybe later.
Digital-only cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been in the news lately, and some of my clients at Keen Wealth have asked if they should consider adding these assets to their portfolios.
Maybe more exciting, and relevant to the general public, is the technology that makes Bitcoin work: blockchain. Whenever someone buys or sells something using Bitcoin, that transaction is validated using a shared, distributed “blockchain” network of millions of computers, each with its own instantly-updated and verifiable database. No one computer keeps all the records in one location, so it’s much harder for hackers to crack blockchain networks, and easier for the public to trust these records. The wider applications for this technology could be revolutionary, especially in finance.
We’re not as enthusiastic about investing in Bitcoin, or adopting it as your preferred payment method. Governments are far too invested in controlling their established currencies to let Bitcoin make any real waves in fiscal policy. There was also some chatter at the conference about a “Bitcoin bubble,” and considering the currency’s value can fluctuate as much as 20% within an hour, you’re probably better off pursuing more traditional investments right now.
But hey, that could change! One final common thread that ran through the presentations at Schwab IMPACT® Conference was that no one can predict with 100% accuracy what’s coming next. All anyone can do is control the controllable, accept volatility when it comes, adapt when necessary, and trust in human progress. That’s the philosophy we’ll continue to stick to when we’re managing our clients’ money at Keen Wealth.
Bill Keen on the Charles Schwab IMPACT® Conference …
“All the speakers I saw were full of optimism about the future, whether they were discussing new breakthroughs in health care or how technology and cooperation in the global marketplace can bring people closer together.”
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Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 24 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
Keen Wealth Advisors is a Registered Investment Adviser. Nothing within this commentary constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Keen Wealth Advisors manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed here. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.