All posts by TheDSEF

DSEF Presents First Educator of the Year Award to Dr. Brenda Cude of UGA

DSEF Presents First Educator of the Year Award to Dr. Brenda Cude of UGA

To recognize the significant contributions and achievements of its valued academic partners, the Direct Selling Education Foundation created the Educator of the Year award, and presented the inaugural award to Dr. Brenda Cude, University of Georgia (UGA), during the Awards Gala, at the Annual Meeting held in Orlando in June.

“I was incredibly surprised and honored by this recognition,” says Dr. Cude, who serves as Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator at UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “Serving as a member of the DSEF Board has been a great experience, and I appreciate DSEF’s support of educational programs to expand students’ knowledge of direct selling.”

Recipients of DSEF’s Educator of the Year Award demonstrate outstanding service to the Foundation through leadership, personal involvement, teaching and research.

“Brenda served two terms on DSEF’s Board of Directors, and has made immeasurable contributions as a strategic and tactical advisor to the Foundation’s Academic Advisory Council.” said Gary Huggins, DSEF Executive Director. “Brenda has also hosted multiple DSEF Campus Events, reaching thousands of students with accurate information about the direct selling channel and the industry’s commitment to ethics.”

People First: Social Entrepreneurship in the Real World

People First: Social Entrepreneurship in the Real World

Social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility are twin drivers of positive social change. Direct selling companies and the independent salespeople that represent them are a quintessential example of the power of networks as a force for social good. The Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) shared that message with 300 students at the University of San Francisco during the “Putting People First: Changing the Way We Do Business” campus event on March 2.

DSEF’s “Changing the Way We Do Business” event, which also featured business innovation in the classroom, was conceived by DSEF Board Member, Dr. Elizabeth Davis, Dean of the USF School of Management and Dr. Peggy Takahashi, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs. The DSEF event kicked off USF’s Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference and Tech4Good Startup Weekend, which brought together business leaders, investors and social entrepreneurs to discuss how socially-conscious action, innovation and education can change the world.

Shaklee Chairman and CEO Roger Barnett and Trades of Hope Founder Chelsie Antos shared their companies’ remarkable stories of service, social entrepreneurship and sustainability on panel moderated by Executive Advisor, Retired President and CEO and USF’s Executive-in-Residence Lori Bush. Many US companies have Corporate Social Responsibility programs in place, but direct selling companies are in a unique position to scale those efforts through their independent salesforce. “Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel Peace Prize winner, challenged me to plant one million trees.” says Roger. “At the time, Shaklee had 700,000 direct sellers. I realized that if each person planted one tree, that’s nearly three-quarters of our goal.”

Sales networks can serve as a powerful catalyst for social change.

Trades of Hope’s hand-made jewelry is fairly-traded with women artisans in developing countries, which are then sold through “Compassionate Entrepreneurs” – or direct sellers – in the United States. “When you empower one person out of poverty, they bring three people with them,” says Chelsie. “42,000 people in developing nations are being positively impacted by the work these artisans are doing in their communities,” supported by the sale of these products by direct sellers, who can build businesses of their own.

Social entrepreneurship is also a market disruptor, given the right circumstances.

Ruby Ribbon, a shapewear company that sells products through home parties known as “Trunk Shows,” is using social entrepreneurship and innovative garment technology to disrupt the shapewear market and radically change consumer experience. Market disruption occurs when a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge an established industry. “Our investors told us there was no way women would try on shapewear in other people’s homes,” says Ruby Ribbon Founder and CEO Anna Zornosa, “but our customers benefit from being professionally fitted by our Stylists,” in a private, rather than public, space.

Exposure to direct selling companies as real-world businesses changes hearts and minds of students and faculty. “I was impressed with the companies that visited USF,” says Dr. Sonya Poole, “DSEF’s program shifted my perception and understanding of the direct selling business model.” Dr. Vanessa Hasse echoed that sentiment, “My students shared their thoughts about the presentations and they all loved it. It was an enriching classroom experience.”

DSEF and UTA Host Successful Business Ethics Forum

DSEF and UTA Host Successful Business Ethics Forum

The business environment is changing dramatically. From online transactions and social media to the rise of independent work in the marketplace, the need for ethical business decision-making has never been greater. DSEF’s most recent Campus Event at the University of Texas at Arlington showcased the ethical business practices of seven direct selling companies through presentations and interactions with 700 students throughout the day.

Our nation’s universities are increasingly looking to the business community to share expertise and model practices with faculty and students. The Business Ethics Forum on October 18, executives from AdvoCare International, Mannatech, Inc., Mary Kay, Inc., Nerium International, pawTree, Stream and Zurvita led discussions that helped students understand the changing business climate, the need for ethical decision-making and effective community involvement strategies.

Dr. Larry Chonko, a Professor of Ethics and DSEF Circle of Honor recipient, hosted the Foundation’s event. “As faculty, we are third parties in describing how companies conduct business – what selling practices they use, how they develop products, how they behave ethically, how they give back to their communities,” Larry says. “When representatives of those same companies come to campus they not only tell that story, they can talk about living that story, which is an invaluable experience for students.”

Mark “Bouncer” Schiro, Chairman of the Board of Stream, says campus events are a valuable experience for direct selling executives as well. “While we were on campus interacting with the students, you couldn’t ask for a better situation for reaching millennials,” Bouncer says. “I personally had more than 200 students listening to what it takes to be an ethical entrepreneur. Our time there was priceless.”

Business ethics is the pedestal on which every truly successful direct selling company has been built. One of the most fundamental business ethics issues is trust between a company and its customers. “Direct selling is a relationship marketing enterprise,” says Rick Loy, Vice President of US Sales Training and Field Development at AdvoCare, “People do business with people they like and trust.”

Developing a company culture that instills honesty and integrity in your independent salesforce is the first step, says Michael Lunceford, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Mary Kay and a member of DSEF’s Circle of Honor, “Never sacrifice growth and profit for integrity.” he says.

Businesses of all sectors, not just direct selling, have the responsibility to develop a framework for ethical decision-making. “People have a tendency to go along in order to get along,’” Michael says, “We have a moral obligation to say, ‘no, that is wrong.’ Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.”

Identifying potential ethical dilemmas and developing courses of action is a top-down business strategy. “You have to be proactive to make sure people are doing things the right way,” says Dick Laurin, Director of Business Ethics at AdvoCare, “And you have to understand the legal landscape.”

In addition, companies—and their independent salespeople—benefit from a code of ethics that every member of the organization must follow and put into action. “Whether you are a consumer, distributor or both, look for a member company of the Direct Selling Association (DSA),” says Rick. “They have a Code of Ethics and we, as member companies, must abide by it.” As a condition of membership in DSA, every applicant must agree to a comprehensive ethics compliance evaluation that takes at least one year. “We make changes to our products and marketing materials, based on this oversight,” Rick says.

When business challenges arise, direct selling companies work with their salespeople to resolve the issue. Direct selling companies closely monitor product claims on social media and are continuously work to improve their processes and communications. “At Zurvita,” says Director of Compliance, Erin McGuiness, “our policy for open communication and dialogue often results in our field coming up with the best marketing solutions.” Professor Omar Itani teaches the Social Media class in UTA business school. “We discuss social media strategies in my class, but having a real example of how one company controls its social media presence is a rare opportunity,” he says.

The event also provided a forum for direct selling executives to demystify the industry and explain the business model to students. “We were able to clarify that direct selling is a channel to market your products, not a stand-alone industry,” Bouncer says.

Al Bala, President and CEO of Mannatech points out that direct selling cuts out the middle man by redistributing the costs of advertising and distribution to pay independent salespeople. “Every time you buy a product, you pay for advertising,” he says. “As a consumer, wouldn’t you rather benefit from the opportunity and your own productivity?”

Another unique aspect of smaller direct selling companies is its immediacy. “Being connected to your customers – to 130,000 salespeople –enables us to problem-solve and course-correct in real time and results in innovations that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” says Deborah Heisz, President and COO of Nerium.

Direct selling companies also have a positive effect on the US economy. “Mary Kay does business in 38 countries,” says Kerry Tassopoulos, Vice President of Public Affairs, Compliance and Risk Management, “but what people often don’t realize is that 60 percent of our global product line in manufactured is the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

DSEF campus events advance knowledge of direct selling and demythify the business model to the benefit of companies, executives, professors and students. “The best way to grow a positive image of direct selling is to have executives visit with students and professors and show them, first hand, what direct selling truly is all about,” says Dr. Chonko.

The event exposed students to direct selling as a micro-entrepreneurship opportunity in what can be a competitive job market. “Many of my students are facing tough times finding jobs after graduation, so I also wanted them to understand that direct selling is a viable opportunity to work and earn income,” says Professor Itani.

Roger Morgan, Founder and CEO of pawTree agrees, “We had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of students who are already in the job market and help these students see direct selling as the powerful and viable selling channel we all know it is,” he says. “We appreciate the DSEF providing these opportunities to raise awareness and respect for our entire industry.”

DSEF Introduces Two New Video Teaching Tools

DSEF Introduces Two New Video Teaching Tools

To provide DSEF Fellows and other Academic Partners with relevant teaching content to use in their classrooms, the Foundation has produced two 10-minute videos designed to educate students about business trends such as big data analytics and the sharing economy, and to advance their understanding of the direct selling channel. Tools such as these allow DSEF to reach thousands of students beyond those who attend our campus programs and other events.

Earlier this year, DSEF held a Campus Event on Micro-Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy at Belmont University, featuring Lori Bush, retired President and CEO of Rodan + Fields, and Will Reinhart of the America Action Forum. Through the video teaching tool based on the day’s discussion, students will learn how direct selling is an effective, modern, go-to-market strategy, as well as a mainstream form of micro-entrepreneurship.

In June at DSA’s Annual Meeting, DSEF featured a general session panel, “What Big Data Can Do for You.” The new classroom video based on the panel discussion — and featuring Dr. Liz Davis, University of San Francisco; John Parker, Amway; Bill Schmarzo, EMC; Frank Perkins, Saleforce.com; and Brian Hopkins, Forrester Research — will help students understand how successful companies turn data into actionable business strategies.

 

What Big Data
Can Do for You

Micro-Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy

Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility: We Can Make a Difference

Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility: We Can Make a Difference

Every day, direct selling companies and the independent salespeople that represent them make a difference in the lives of their customers and their communities. The Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) shared that message nearly 1,000 students and their 13 professors at the University of Georgia(UGA) and Athens Tech during the “Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility: We Can Make a Better World” multi-campus event on February 23.

To bring our industry’s commitment to social responsibility and entrepreneurship to the classroom, DSEF partnered with Dr. Brenda Cude, Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator in UGA’s Department of Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics (and DSEF Board Member) and Jared Bybee, Director of ThInc UGA.

ThInc is a celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship through events that engage, inspire and transform ideas to reality. “This campus event was an invaluable opportunity for students and their professors to see companies putting into practice ideals of social responsibility—in the company’s own business model in the case of Trades of Hope and through 4Life Research’scommunity outreach programs,” says Brenda.

Trades of Hope Founders Chelsie Antos and Elisabeth Huijskens shared their companies’ unique story of service, empowerment and compassionate entrepreneurship. The hand-made products designed by women artisans indeveloping countries are then sold through “Compassionate Entrepreneurs”—or direct sellers—in the United States. “Women want to be financially self-sustaining; charitable donations dry up over time,” says Elisabeth. “Only compassionate business can give women in poverty a job.”

4Life Research Founders David and Bianca Lisonbee created immune health supplements for optimal living built on the principles of science, success and service. Today, the Foundation 4Life focuses on child nutrition, shelter and education in 24 markets in the world. “Brand lives in the mind of the consumer,” says Calvin Jolley, 4Life’s Vice President of Communications. “Lots of companies sell supplements, but we differentiate ourselves through service.”

For professors, DSEF Campus Programs provide access to leading industry executives on important issues and business solutions. “The speakers presentations fit well with the concepts we’re studying in class – marketing, branding and how corporate social responsibility influences customer perception,” says UGA Professor Diann Moorman, who teaches an Introductory Consumer Economics class.

In a changing economy, people are more interested than ever in independent work, entrepreneurship and finding fulfilling career opportunities. “We interacted with educators, administrators, and approximately 1,000 students,” says Calvin. “These types of exchanges between our industry and higher education provide an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness, impact perception, and instill a sense of credibility for our businesses among an important cross section of the general public.”

Chelsie agrees, “We love DSEF and its mission to educate America about the direct selling business channel. Together, we are inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

DSEF’s next Campus Program will be held March 30, 2016, at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Linda Ferrell, DSEF Board Member and Belmont University’s Distinguished Chair in Business Ethics, will host and moderate a panel discussion on Ethical Leadership in the Gig Economy.Speakers include Lori Bush, Rodan + Fields; and Will Reinhart, American Action Forum. For more information, contact Kimberly Harris Bliton, DSEF’s Director of Academic Initiatives.

DSEF Campus Programs Help Direct Selling Go Mainstream

DSEF Campus Programs Help Direct Selling Go Mainstream

linda_student_webWhile leading academics, labor organizations and policymakers publicly discuss the growing trend toward independence in the workforce and its implications on US economy, the direct selling channel has long been a path to market for innovators and a driver of opportunity for entrepreneurs.

DSEF, which serves as the direct selling community’s education ambassador, explored this topic with professors, students and local businesses at the “Micro-Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy” campus program at Belmont University in Nashville, TN, on March 30.

The campus program featured Lori Bush, Executive Advisor, Retired President and CEO of Rodan + Fields, a premium skincare company that uses the direct selling channel to market and distribute its products, and Will Rinehart, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy from American Action Forum, a policy think tank organization based in Washington, DC.

Lori explained to students and faculty how direct selling fits in the sharing economy—direct selling companies share marketing resources with independent entrepreneurs who can build businesses of their own.

“Direct selling is a shared marketing platform – a business in a box – that provides a royalty-free license to use the company brand, technology and marketing to create a scalable, micro-entrepreneurial business at very little cost,” Lori says. “It’s not an antiquated business model—through the use of technology and crowdsourcing, it’s a mainstream opportunity for entrepreneurs.”

Will explained the gig economy as independent contractors moving from one project or “gig” to another rather than seeking full-time employment. “The economic downturn and technology are driving this shift toward entrepreneurship,” he says. “People don’t think of gigs or collaborative consumption as employment, but rather, supplemental income. People use the resources they have – their car (Uber), their living space (Air BnB) or their artwork (Etsy) – to support their hobbies, meet people, earn extra income and choose their own hours.”

Drs. Linda and OC Ferrell, Distinguished Professors of Leadership and Business Ethics at Belmont University, hosted the Foundation’s event. “Our students are thirsty for knowledge on how to be entrepreneurs. Will presented the opportunities in the gig/sharing economy and Lori nailed the way micro-entrepreneurship (direct selling) fits in. We have an amazing opportunity to connect with faculty and students in a way we have not had before,” Linda says.

OC agrees, “Will defined individuals in the gig economy who move from one project to another as independent contractors. The sharing economy is the online gig economy as represented by Uber, Lyft, Air BnB and direct selling companies who operate an app to allow for ordering. These conceptualizations of how direct selling fits into the gig economy resonated with both faculty and students.”

DSEF plans to significantly expand its academic outreach over the next three years. The Foundation is uniquely positioned to open a dialogue with academic and students to demythify the channel through campus programs, academic symposiums and research.

What’s YOUR Financial IQ?

What’s YOUR Financial IQ?

by Dr. Brenda Cude, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia

Brenda_cudeHow much do you—and your children and grandchildren—know about managing money? If you’re like most others around the world, the answer is not enough. Most—young, old, educated or not—have failed “financial literacy” tests given to measure their financial knowledge. Perhaps some fail because the tests don’t measure what we do know about managing money. But, odds are that most of us don’t know as much as we should. After all, financial decisions have become ever more complex with new options appearing often.

How can your children and grandchildren learn about managing money? An obvious answer is that they learn from you—and not just from what you say, but also from what you do. If you want your child to wait until he or she has saved enough to buy a desired item, show that you are doing the same.

Realize though that every child is different. For some, saving up for something is a fun challenge. For others, it’s pure torture. (For fun, search the Internet for YouTube videos about the “Marshmallow Test.”) While you’re online, search for resources to teach children about money—there are lots of options. Resources from University Cooperative Extension Services are unbiased and peer-reviewed.

Children can and should learn about money management in school. According to the Council for Economic Education, 17 states require public high school students to take a course in personal finance. In 22 states, high schools are required to offer a personal finance course.

In some states, including Georgia, money management concepts are required to be taught in K-12. One popular way to teach children concepts about money is through a Bank-at-School program. With the cooperation of a local financial institution, children can open accounts and make deposits at school, often with students serving as the bank tellers. Another popular way is through the Stock Market Game, in which children work in teams to invest a hypothetical fund into a portfolio of stocks. The accompanying resources for teachers (and sometimes parents) increase the students’ knowledge from the experience.

What if money management isn’t being taught in your schools? Ask—no demand —that it be taught—and offer to help. Contact a local credit union or University Cooperative Extension Service. Both have educational missions and may be helpful to bring money management education to your schools.

College students also have opportunities to continue to learn about money. They can inquire about in-person or online courses that teach money management concepts or even peer-led groups with a personal finance focus.

What about you? How can you learn more about managing money? For those who feel they don’t even know the basics, the answer is to start with the basics. Read (or listen to) one of the many, easy-to-read popular personal finance books. Search for “best personal finance books” and choose one that sounds right for you. You also can look for a money management course in your community or online.

If you think you know the basics but just need to update and keep your knowledge current, popular media sources can be surprisingly helpful and generally accurate. For example, last fall TV and newspaper outlets did a great job of covering the credit card conversion from “swipe and sign” to “chip and pin.”

Learning about personal finance from the Internet can be tricky, though. There are too many who write online from a perspective that may not work for most, advocating, for example, no debt other than a mortgage or investment strategies that violate one of the most basic rules of investing—diversification or investing in many different types of assets. Search “best personal finance websites” and read the reviews. Choose experts who write for your life situation. Follow them on Twitter to learn something every day.

Even those who know a good bit about money management also rely on experts. Ask your insurance agent to explain your insurance policies to you. Call your financial institution or loan servicers and ask questions about your mortgage, car loan, and student loans. Consider an appointment with a fee-only financial planner (one who charges by the hour instead of earning money from commissions on financial products). Look for one with the designation “Certified Financial Planner.”

In 2016, none of us can afford to say, “I just don’t know anything about managing money.” Start today to change that!

The Responsibility of Acting Responsibly

The Responsibility of Acting Responsibly

By Dr. Lawrence Chonko, the Thomas McMahon Professor in Business Ethics at the University of Texas at Arlington

ChonkoMany business ethical controversies are rooted in consumer rights. A right is a justifiable claim that someone has on someone else. The “justification” of any such claim involving a business depends on standards known and accepted by the person making the claim, by the business and by society in general. President John F. Kennedy, in 1962, advocated some generally accepted consumer rights which were supplemented by the Consumer Protection Act of 1986—the rights to safety, product/service information, choice, public voice, seller education, healthy environment and redress.

As consumers, we expect that business will honor these rights and, to the extent that businesses do not, ethics issues arise.

Is it also the case that business should expect that consumers honor business rights? Consumers have marketplace responsibilities including taking care of one’s own business, accepting the consequences of one’s actions, and taking advantage of opportunities to learn about the marketplace. When those responsibilities are ignored, do questions of ethics also arise?

Consumers should heed Rudyard Kipling’s words in their purchase and consumption of products and services:

“I keep six honest serving-men

    (they taught me all I knew)

Their names are What and Why and When

  And How and Where and Who

Is the consumer acting responsibly when he/she ignores questions like the following?

  • What does a consumer need to learn about new products or product changes? It is a consumer responsibility to ask questions and learn about the quality of products and services.
  • Why do consumers ignore instructions? Should a business have a right to expect that consumers make sure they understand how to use products properly?
  • Why do consumers ignore readily accessible information? Should a business have a right to expect that consumers read materials provided by sellers concerning the use of products?
  • Why do consumers ignore the environmental impact of selected products? Should a business have a right to expect that consumers be sensitive to impact of consumption on the environment?
  • When consumers misuse products, who is really at fault? Should a business have a right to expect that consumers to properly use products?
  • How do customers make purchases—in ignorance, on impulse? Should a business have a right to expect that consumers be assertive to ensure they receive a fair deal?
  • Who are the sellers and why do consumers not check their qualifications? Should a business have a right to expect that consumers to learn about the integrity of sellers?

Now we come to the Where. Even when consumers act irresponsibly, many still feel it is their right to seek redress.  In seeking redress, whether consumers have acted responsibly or not, do they:

  • …act with sarcasm, anger or hostility?
  • …demand much more from the seller than that to which they are entitled?
  • …automatically blame the seller or manufacturer?

Further, is the consumer acting responsibly if their impressions of business activity are fueled by:

  • …the overly negative portrayal of business people in movies or on television?
  • …the consumers’ own lack of knowledge (e.g. the difference between margins and profits)?
  • …not recognizing that the overwhelming percentage of products/services consumed have truly delivered need/want satisfying experiences?
  • …not being forthright about unmet expectations—who is really at fault for products/services not delivering as promised?

When consumers engage in irresponsible marketplace behavior, do they believe they are doing what they are compelled to do? Do they become convinced they have no other options? Do they feel that their angry actions are better than those they perceive of the seller? Do they engage in self-deception by not admitting they misused products or ignored instructions, or did not conduct a seller search? Do they react in these questionable ways in order to achieve a goal that is desirable to them—companies honoring promises in spite of consumer not acting responsibly?

When ethical problems arise, both business and consumers must consider if their action respects each other’s basic rights. Both sides should ask questions like: 1) How would my action affect the basic well-being of others? 2) How would my action affect the freedom of others? 3) Does my action involve manipulation or deception, thus undermining the right to truth?

Marketplace actions are wrong to the extent that they truly violate the rights of individuals. What are consumers and businesses doing to guarantee these rights? Neither business nor consumers should expect their rights to be respected if each does not reciprocate.

The Investment Maxim We Tend to Ignore: Portfolio Rebalancing

The Investment Maxim We Tend to Ignore: Portfolio Rebalancing

 

by Dr. Robert N. Mayer, Professor, Family and Consumer Studies, University of Utah

Rob MayerVery few of us have the time, ability, or inclination to become investment experts, but we can do nicely by relying on a few simple rules: clarify your financial goals; start saving early and contribute regularly; diversify your investments within and across asset classes; and keep down costs.  There is one rule, however, that people tend to ignore—rebalance your investment portfolio (when appropriate).  Failing to following this rule can be costly and, perhaps worse, result in a lot of regret.

Rebalancing presumes that you have already followed the basic investing rule of constructing an investment portfolio that is consistent with your personal risk tolerance.  Your investment portfolio is the array of assets (e.g., stocks in individual companies; corporate or government bonds; mutual funds and exchange-traded funds; real estate; precious metals; cash equivalents) you own.  And your risk tolerance is your ability and inclination to take on a high or low degree of risk in your overall investment portfolio.

For example, a young investor is generally more able to take on more investment risk than an older investor because the young investor has far more time to recoup any short-term financial losses.  Similarly, a person who enjoys skydiving and white water rafting may be more comfortable investing in emerging markets or new companies relative to someone who spends his/her spare time playing chess and puttering in the garden.

There is nothing intrinsically better or worse about being a high-risk or low-risk investor.  That’s an individual matter.  There is something wrong, however, in building an investment portfolio that is out of step with your risk tolerance. So, whether guided by a friendly financial planning professional, a so-called robo-advisor (typically an online wealth management service that uses computer-based rules to offer financial advice), or one’s own financial acumen, the investment portfolio should reflect risk tolerance.  As time passes, it is the responsibility of the investor to “rebalance” the portfolio to make sure its mix of assets still reflects the a person’s underlying risk tolerance—and not allow the risk tolerance to change in response to the performance of different asset classes.

Rebalancing typically involves selling some of the assets that have gained the most in value and buying assets that have performed relatively less well.  This sounds counterintuitive and helps explain why so many people have difficulty rebalancing their portfolios, but if you think about it, you are “selling high and buying low.”

While some experts contend that rebalancing improves long-term portfolio performance, the main benefit of rebalancing is to reduce volatility, risk and the impact of unpleasant surprises. Let’s imagine a forty-year-old inexperienced investor, Lance, who barely knows the difference between a stock and a bond, but witnessed the stock market soar in 2003 and the bond market go up as well that year.  Lance decides to pull his $200,000 in savings out of a bank at the beginning of 2004 and invest 60 percent in a well-diversified stock mutual fund and the other 40 percent in a well-diversified bond mutual fund.  This would be considered a conservative allocation for a forty-year-old investor, but Lance, despite his name, isn’t a big risk-taker.

During 2004, let’s suppose (and these number are very close to what actually happened) the stock portion of Lance’s portfolio went up by almost 11 percent while the bond portion rose by 4 percent. By the end of the year, Lance had $133,200 in stock and $83,200 in bonds.  As a result of the different rates of increase, Lance now had 61.6 percent of his portfolio in stock and 38.4 percent in bond – not too far off from his target of 50 percent in each.

Now let’s let a few more years pass and assume that stocks continue to outperform bonds at about the same differential.  By the end of 2007, the stock portion Lance’s portfolio would be $182,168, and the bond portion would be $93,589.  Lance is feeling really good about the overall performance of his portfolio.  It has grown from $200,000 to $275,757—or 37.9 percent— in the course of only four years.  The stock portion of the portfolio has grown to 66 percent, but Lance doesn’t mind.  Indeed, he regrets not putting a higher percentage in stocks at the beginning of 2004.  So he sits tight and waits for continued growth in 2008.

Unfortunately, 2008 was a really lousy year for stocks, as they declined 37 percent.  Bonds increased in value by 5 percent.  At the end of 2008, Lance’s portfolio is worth $213,034—not bad considering that he just went through one of the worst stock market drops in U.S. history.  The stock component of Lance’s portfolio is now worth only $114,766 (54 percent), while the bond component is worth $98,268 (46 percent).

What would have happened, though, if Lance hadn’t fallen in love with his rapidly rising stocks and remembered to rebalance his portfolio at the end of 2007, when his overall allocation exceeded a 5 percent deviation from his pre-determined 60-40 mix?  At end of 2007, Lance would have sold approximately $17,000 in stocks and purchased $17,000 in bonds.  The renewed 60-40 split would have meant that he had $165,454 in stock and $110,303 in bonds.

Where does Lance stand now after the awful stock market performance of 2008? His stock losses are on a smaller base than before, and his bond gains are on a larger base.  Instead of seeing the value of his stocks drop by about $67,000, they dropped by about $61,000.  Moreover, the overall balance in his account is $220,054—a $7,000 improvement relative to the portfolio with rebalancing.  Seven thousand dollars may not seem like a large amount, but remember all that it took to “earn” it was one instance of rebalancing.  The difference between the un-rebalanced and rebalanced accounts would, of course, be more dramatic if the original allocation had 70-30 or 80-20 between stocks and bonds.  Or suppose that Lance, instead of being forty years old, is a recent retiree who has $2 million in his retirement account at the beginning of 2004 rather than $200,000. Then rebalancing would have done far more to cushion the blow of the stock market swoon.

How often should an investor rebalance his or her portfolio?  There is no right answer, but one rule of thumb is to rebalance once one of your major asset classes has changed by five percent or more from your original allocation.  Other experts recommend rebalancing every 12 or 15 months.  Some investment accounts can be set to rebalance automatically at a given time interval or a specified change in the value of an asset.  It doesn’t make sense, though, to rebalance after small changes because there can be transaction expenses associated with buying and selling assets.  The main lesson is not to be your own worst enemy by assuming that just because an asset has gone up substantially in value that it has earned a larger portion of your investment portfolio.  If you set your initial asset allocation based on a careful examination of your risk tolerance

Welcome to NCPW 2016

For more than 40 years, the Direct Selling Education Foundation has championed the rights of consumers through its work with leading consumer advocacy groups, academics and public policy leaders. A key component of the gary-200x300 (2)Foundation’s efforts is its annual support of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held this year from March 6 to March 12.

NCPW is a coordinated campaign among federal and state government and non-profit partner organizations that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. Each year during NCPW, the FTC and its partners offers a wide range of free events and resources on topics like finances, health, privacy, technology, and much more.

In celebration of NCPW 2016, DSEF created a dedicated webpage to showcase a selection of resources to help you navigate common consumer issues that you face every day. We also invited our academic partners and the Council of Better Business Bureaus to provide information on a variety of consumer issues, and we’ll post these contributions to our blog each day this week.

All of us at DSEF hope you’ll take advantage of the wealth of information available on our website, and we encourage you to share these resources with your friends, family and colleagues.

Gary M. Huggins

DSEF Executive Director