HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas

020 | Keep your HOA Reserve funds safe!

September 11, 2023 Hosts: Robert Nordlund, Kevin Davis, Julie Adamen Season 1 Episode 20
HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas
020 | Keep your HOA Reserve funds safe!
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Discover essential strategies to safeguard your HOA Reserve Funds with expert Dave Lynn. Prioritize safety, optimize liquidity, and ensure returns!
✅ Is a Reserve Study right for you? 👉 https://www.reservestudy.com/

In this week’s episode, we delve deep into the intricate world of HOA Reserve Funds with the accomplished expert, Dave Lynn. Dave has been at the forefront of crafting sound financial strategies for Homeowners Associations for over a decade, ensuring that communities not only have adequate funds for the future but also make the most out of their existing reserves. Join us as we discuss the importance of prioritizing the safety of these funds, learn how to navigate the complexities of liquidity management, and discover innovative ways to maximize returns without compromising on security. Whether you're a board member seeking guidance, a homeowner keen to understand how your funds are managed, or simply curious about best practices in community finance, this episode promises valuable insights and actionable advice. Equip yourself with the knowledge to make informed decisions and ensure your community's financial health

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Chapters from today's episode: Keep your HOA Reserve funds safe!

00:00 Taking risks with HOA Reserve Funds is the worst decision

01:00 Introduction to Dave Lynn

02:27 The 3 priorities of HOA Reserve Fund investing

07:41 Maximizing financial liquidity

11:06 CDs & T-bills (Treasury Obligations)

13:32 Financial safety when investing for your HOA Reserve Fund

16:39 Community Financials Ad Break

17:11 Diversification of HOA assets & FDIC limit

21:54 What does it cost to get a wealth management group to work with your HOA?

28:05 What are people currently getting in 6 month, 2 year, and 3 year CDs?

29:43 Where do you go to get in contact with a wealth management company for your HOA?

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Julie Adamen

Kevin Davis, CIRMS

Robert Nordlund, PE

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Associations should not take risks with other people's money. And zero risk is defined in our industry, at least as having a government backed or government agency insured in the form of FDIC insurance. The fact that three of the four largest U.S. bank failures has occurred in 2023 emphasizes the board's responsibility to again protect and maintain the assets of the association. At HOA Insights: Common Sense for Common Areas exist to help all 2 million volunteer board members nationwide have the right information at the right time to make the right decisions for their future. This podcast is sponsored by four companies that care about board members, Association, Insights and Marketplace Association Reserves, Community Financials, and Kevin Davis Insurance Services. You'll find links to their websites and social media in the shownotes. Welcome back to Common Sense for Common Areas. I'm Robert Nordland, and I'm here today with a reserve fund investment expert. We've had joining us as a guest expert on some of our webinars, talking about reserve funds and investing in an environment with high inflation, bank failures and tight budgets. It's important to know the right and wrong things to do with your precious reserve funds. This is episode number 20. Before I make the introduction, I want to encourage everyone to check out episode number 19, which was another great discussion with regular co-host Kevin Davis on another aspect of insurance coverage. That'll help you make better insurance related to decisions at your association. So today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Dave Lynn of Lynn Wealth Management. That's a firm that provides reserve fund investment counsel and placement throughout California, Texas and Arizona. Dave has worked in the financial services industry since 1991, and following his own interests, he opened Lynn Wealth Management in 2019 to focus on serving the specific reserve fund investing needs of his community association clients. So welcome to the program today, Dave. Thank you, Robert. Happy to be here. Great. Was I mentioned a moment ago. You've been a guest expert on some of our webinars and we felt we also wanted to share your expertise to our podcast subscribers. So why don't you start out by telling me the three hallmarks of reserve fund investing? Sure. I tell each of the board members within my work that they have three priorities. The first is to have 100% safety of the homeowners money. The second is to optimize the liquidity of the funds they manage. And the third is to try to get a competitive yield going back to the first priority, maximizing safety. We believe that community associations should only invest in FDIC insured CDS, FDIC insured money markets, and on occasion, individual U.S. Treasury bills and notes. When those investments are purchased, they should be purchased in the name and tax I.D. number of the community association, and they should be purchased for CDs in amounts less than the $250,000 FDIC limit, so that not only the principal but the accrued interest is FDIC insured. You know, Dave, let's I want to stop you right there. For our podcast listeners, I have a feeling that they're going to go back and back and listen to that again. But you're talking about safety. Is that possibly because who they are that the treasurer of the association or is that because of recent bank failures and concerns along those lines? Well, mostly because they are these board members have a fiduciary responsibility to protect and maintain the assets of the community association. They're not going to get a boost in their annual board members salary because they beat the Dow, but they can actually be held in breach of their fiduciary responsibility if they're managing $1,000,000 reserve portfolio and they lose a couple of thousand dollars. There's been precedents set throughout the country. Associations should not take risk with other people's money. And zero risk is defined in our industry, at least as having a government backed or government agency insured in the form of FDIC insurance. The fact that three of the four largest U.S. bank failures has occurred in 2023 emphasizes the board's responsibility to again protect and maintain the assets of the association. Okay. So you've talked about the three safety, liquidity return. Obviously, it would be nice to get maximum return, but you've talked once to me about horse racing. You can double your money or score really big on high returns, but that's inherently high risk. And so the board members should be at the other end of the scale, just making sure that they're holding on to. Maybe they need to visualize it. Unit number 13, unit number 14, unit number 15’s money. And it's their job to make sure they don't lose that money, that they are building a strong foundation. So the association has the money it needs to take care of the property. Is that more along the lines of where we're going? Exactly. And the reason that I listed those three priorities in that order is because safety is paramount. Liquidity is second. You need to have the money. And we're not talking about maximizing liquidity that is having as much money liquid as possible. We're talking about optimizing it. And that is to say that based on the reserve study and the board's anticipated upcoming expenses, we want to make sure we have enough money in the FDIC insured money markets to cover anticipated expenses and then CDS laddered or staggered so that you have several CDs maturing each year over the next couple of years. The third priority of getting the best rate of return should not come at the risk of the first two priorities safety and liquidity. So we want to make sure everything's safe. The money is laddered or staggered, so that's there to bailable when needed and then trying to get the best rate of return with those first two parameters in place. Okay. So there's you've got these three things safety, liquidity and return. And there are some trade offs between them and they are in a specific order because you want to make sure they're there. Your job is to have the money. They are for the roofing project, the asphalt project, the elevator remodel. And as you reminded us all, they don't get an annual bonus. The Treasury or the Management Company doesn't get an annual bonus for getting a little bit more return on the investment. The deal is to make sure that it's there. They're responsible. They’re fiduciaries is at the right word. Exactly, Yes. So as you're a fiduciary, someone holding on to the assets of someone else, you have a legal responsibility, a liability exposure if you're doing risky things, if you're trying to achieve an objective that projected a year three return high return, if you're compromise ing number one and two, safety and liquidity. Right. That's correct. Okay. Tell me more about liquidity. When I think about liquidity, the first thing that comes to mind is water. And we're not talking about water, we're talking about money. So let's make sure our audience is on track with all this. When I think of liquidity in money terms, I think of like the checking account. Right. But then we get into trade offs. If I want to maximize my return, I want to give it to the financial institution for a longer period of time. And that way they can count on it and they can reward me with higher return fare. Yes. And in our industry, liquidity would mean how easily and quickly funds can be accessed. So cash or FDIC insured money markets are the most liquid in that. You can write a check on them on any given business day, something less like what would be a one year CD in where where your funds are locked up for that year period. So that would be less liquid, obviously, than than just funds in a money market. What happens if you have money locked away a one year CD, a three year CD, or whatever it is, and you have a terrible hailstorm and insurance pays most of your roof, but you need another 100 or $200,000 to pay the deductible. What happens if you need to draw that out? Well, ideally, you'd have enough money in the money market. And our the laddering strategy our firm employs keeps between ten and 15% of the total reserves on average in the FDIC insured money markets and the other 85 to 90% are laddered or staggered into CDs. But in your example, if you have 100,000 in the money market and you have an unexpected $120,000 expense at brokerage firms, you can sell in thousand dollar increments. The CDs prior to maturity without an interest penalty. So if you have a $100,000 CD that doesn't mature for another six months, but you're coming up$20,000 short in the money market, you can sell just $20,000 worth of that CD. You pay the interest earned up until the day you sold that CD and the remaining unsold portion of that CD. And this example would continue to earn interest until it matures. The the only caveat there is that when you sell that CD, you sell it at what the fair market value is. That is what another investor would be willing to pay for that $20,000 CD. If you sell a CD at a bank, typically you'd have to sell the entire portion. In this example of that $100,000 CD. You can't sell a portion of a portion of you have to sell the entire amount and you would be hit with interest penalty again, typically between three and six months worth of interest. So it depends on with what firm you're working, whether it's a bank or a financial services firm. So you're opening that entire nuance that if you're getting assistance from someone outside, if you're working with your bank, they may have a tougher rules or just not as much flexibility. But if you're working with a financial counselor who has access to a lot of options, they may make life a little bit easier for the association if things don't go exactly according to plan. That's correct. Yeah. You talked about CDs. Tell us about those investment vehicles and I'm going to go back to safety. I've got notes here. FDIC and safety. You mentioned CDs. Those are purchased in increments of time and T-bills. Same thing. And what's the difference? What are those options? CDs are issued by FDIC insured banks around the country. They're typically issued in thousand dollar increments, although they can be issued in dollar increments as well. And they have specific terms three months, six, nine, 12 months and so on. So what you're doing is you're loaning money to a bank. Let's say you're loaning $100,000 to a bank for one year, and that bank promises to pay you back the $100,000 a year from now. And they also promise to pay you back, pay you interest periodically. It could be monthly, quarterly or at maturity. If the bank fails. The FDIC will step in and make the depositor, the owner of that CD, whole the A Treasury Security is a direct obligation of the U.S. government. There are several different types of Treasury securities, but typically it would be bills. Those are Treasury obligations issued one year or less. Or note what. We call a T-bill. A T-bill? Yes. Got it. Okay. But Treasury notes, when you buy a T-bill, you're buying the this bill at a discount to its face value. So if you wanted to buy a one year$100,000 T-bill, you might pay $95,000 for it, as an example. And each day it will accrue towards its face value. So if you sell it six months later, you should get something more than the $95,000 you paid for it, but less than $100,000 faith based value. Got it. Okay. And either way, we're talking about safety. You get your money back. It's not like putting money in the stock market that or cryptocurrency that could go up significantly 20% a year, 30% a year. And you could be racing towards being ready for that asphalt resurface project or it could crash and be worth half of what it is. That's the kind of things that we want to avoid. That's correct. Any investment that has a potential for higher rate of return also has a higher risk associated with it. So it was not backed by the government in the form of a direct obligation T-Bill out Treasury bond or an agency of the government, that being the FDIC, then you are subject to some risk. And if and I get this on occasion less now than than maybe 15 or 20 years ago, but I'll have some association sake. And there's an investment that has achieved a 20% return. Anyone that wants to invest in something other than CDs and Treasuries, I strongly encourage them to communicate with their CPA and their attorney, the association's attorney, and get something in writing that says that those two professionals believe it's a prudent idea to do so. I say that almost tongue in cheek, because I'm fairly certain those professionals, the CPAs and the attorney will not give their their approval. But that's the only way that I believe an association should take risk with other people's money because then they have some sort of coverage there. They have directors and officers, insurance of the board member, but you will still be subject to a lawsuit. I'm fairly certain that you lose other people's money. Yeah, well, I guess we have to be careful here because I'm a reserve, a professional. You're an investment counselor, and neither of us are attorneys. Right. So we have to be careful. That said, this is what we know. This is what we understand. We've never seen it. Wow. Think back to what I've heard. I've heard the acronym Pop Protection of Principle. And that is that another way to talk about safety, Just making sure that it's it's never going to go negative. Yeah, there's something we can get into some more detail about. About the risks that an investor would have. We're talking primarily about credit risk. That is the risk of losing principal guided by CD or Treasury Security. You eliminate a credit risk. There's other there's inflation risk and reinvestment risk, which we can talk about, but we mitigate those by laddering or staggering maturities of CDS. Inflation risk would be buying a ten year CD right now and then being locked into it for a period of time where rates may be considerably higher four or five years from now. Now you're stuck with this lower yielding investment or reinvestment risk where some associates would say, well, let's just put everything in a six month CD and reevaluate in six months. The reinvestment risk there is that six months from now, rates could be considerably lower. And then you have all this money that now has to be reinvested in a lower interest rate environment. So those risks to inflation and the reinvestment risk we mitigate. But the risk of default, we all but eliminate by again counting on the US government and the agencies of the US government to insure or back those investments. Yeah, if we can't count on the U.S. government, all bets are off. So that's a that's a safe bet. Is your home or condo self-managed? You don't want to work as hard volunteering. Are you full, managed and looking to save money or are you looking to split the accounting from a managers role for better service? Let community financials handle the monthly accounting for you. We collect dues, pay bills, produce financial reports, include portals and help with other support services, all while providing awesome service. We love the opportunity to help you make your community accounting stress free. With our industry leading systems and expert team, visit our website Community Financials Dotcom to learn more. Another note that I'm writing here, When I think about investments, I think about diversification. And that came to mind when you were talking about putting all your eggs in one basket with a six month CD. That might not be optimum for your association. So spreading things out is another way of both optimizing and keeping your decisions safe. Is that fair? That that's that's exactly fair. Right. So an association portfolio should only have CDs and insured money markets, and yet you're not putting all your eggs in one basket by having everything in CDs because you're purchasing CDs from various financial institutions with various maturity dates. She'll have CDs maturing again several times a year over the next few years. Each of those CDs would, of course, be in increments, less than the FDIC insurance per that financial institution. Got it. Okay. You've mentioned the word FDIC or the acronym FDIC many, many times. There's a magic number associated with the FDIC insurance limit, isn't there? The FDIC limit for community association and individual accounts is $280,000. So if you have $249,000 at a bank in that bank fails, you have nothing to worry about. The FDIC will make you whole. If you have $300,000, whether it's in one account at that bank or in three different accounts, you might have three bank accounts at ABC Bank, each having $100,000 or that ABC Bank has one. FDIC certificate number. So you are over the $250,000 limit at that bank, if the bank goes under the FDIC is not obligated to make you whole. They're only obligated to pay you the $250,000 up to the $250,000 limit. That starts to sound like there are different rules, almost minor leagues and major leagues. So if we have a small association that's running a $10,000 a month operating budget, and if they if they have $150,000 in reserves, their operating budget and their reserve excuse me, the operating fund and where they're keeping a couple of three months worth of operating costs in the checking account. So we'll call it $30000 to $30000. If they have $150,000 in reserves, then they're well underneath the FDIC limit. And so they can feel safe. Right? Right. They can work have both of those funds, the operating reserve at one financial institution, and then the reserve funds at that financial institution. They may have five or six different CDs. Maybe they're in five or $10,000 increments. Insurance plays comes into art, into importance for associations that have obviously more than 250,000. But certainly there's associations out there, clients mind, that have $3 million in which case we have to work with 13 different banks at a minimum, keep everything FDIC insured. That becomes more of a challenge for individual associations to do that on their own because that's 13 different banks and cards, 13 different bank statements, and then figuring out at your board meeting who's our what card and who's going to roll over what at what time. That's when the financial professionals such as myself come in handy because we can keep 13 CDs or 50 CDs all in one account and each CD is FDIC insured. And we advise the clients periodically on what's maturing and what we recommend doing with those maturing investments. Yeah. When you were painting that picture of 13 different accounts, all of a sudden the Treasurer has a full time job just managing the reserve investments and that's probably not what that person signed up to do. So the complications starts to really happen when your association is sitting on or close to $250,000 or more. That's when it sounds to me like they really need to start to consider having someone like you on their team. Yes. Got it. Okay. You convinced me someone like you is great to have on your team when you are maybe even the average association in this country is you should have reserves. Significant six figures. There is plenty of large associations that have millions of dollars in reserves. We see plenty of those. What? What does it cost for them to get someone like Dave Lynn or Lynn Wealth Management on their team? Well, if you're working with either my firm or other firms like mine, it should cost nothing. I would say avoid any firm that wants to charge a rap fee or an annual fee. Well, they've got to stop you right there. Nothing is a great answer. I like that. If I was a treasurer and I got 13 CDs and 13 different banks and they and I am busy, I'm busier than the president and the vice president and the the member at large and the secretary. I'm busier than all those combined for you to say. It costs nothing is wonderfully reassuring. Or it can. It can cost nothing. That's right. Yeah. We are not nonprofit, though. We do make a living rolling CDs for association, but we don't get paid or compensated by the community association. We are compensated by the banks which participate in our nationwide CD inventory. So the bank is well-capitalized, an investment grade rated, and they want to sell their CDs. They want to do so in a volume greater than they could selling it through their each individual bank branches. They can sell not just a $100,000 CD, but a five or $10 million block into our CD inventory. So for the privilege of having their CDs made available throughout the entire country, they will pay an underwriting fee to the custodial bank. And then when we take a portion of that $5 million CD and put it into the name and tax number of a community, we get a portion of that underwriting. fee it doesn't come out of the the yield or the principal of the of the CD itself or the association. Fantastic. That's a way for the the financial institution to say. Thank you Lynn wealth management for increasing our sales. Here's a yeah that's a way for them to financially incentivize you to exit that financial incentivize to thank you for participating in the investment vehicles they have. And you can pass that on to the client and you can get, I would imagine, commercial rate returns. Right. It's actually what you would call an institutional rate, because if you buy a $50,000 CD from a bank, I'll tell you a stated rate and everyone gets that rate. If that same bank sells a $5 million block at that CGT, they may offer a higher yield than they would through their individual bank branches in $50,000 increments. So then when we purchase for a client portion of that $5 million block They will oftentimes get a rate or a yield better than the individual would get going to that individual bank on their own. So it's a net win for the association. Yes. Yeah. I would say rather I don't want to focus too much on the fees or the rates. I want to focus more on that. This is a way for an association to make sure that everything's FDIC insured and there's someone else out there looking after them and making sure that happens. If you're doing it on your own, what often happens I see this day in and day out, an association will come to us and they had CDs at various banks. There are managing it very well. But then remember it was on the board that was managing that got off the board and before you know it they’re over the FDIC, limit at two banks and they have four banks that the money is just sitting in a 0.1% money market. So we come in and keep that continuity as boards change through over time and make sure first everything's insured. Secondly, that the portfolio is properly structured based on anticipated expenses as outlined in the Reserve Study Yeah, I think the two things I want to touch on and that's kind of the bigger picture. The board members quite often realize there's a lot of work taking care of the association, so they reach out for help and get a management company. And the same thing in my world. The reserve side is the the board, the Physical Plant Committee realizes, wow, what do I do next? What how much do we need to be setting aside? And they reach out and get an outside expert to help with the reserve study. They have an outside expert helping them with their governing documents. Is this common area or not? So they have an expert attorney. They have a CPA that can help them make the financial decisions and make sure they're tax compliant. So, you know, it's this is not anything strange and different. This is just part of what board members do to get outside expert help to help their life go a little smoother and also to help the association's life run a little smoother. Is that also fair? Yeah, Yeah, exactly. You know, I chuckle sometimes when I see these associations that when it when it's time to paint the wrought iron fence, they don't say, okay, Vice president, you go get the sandpaper treasure, you get the paint, you get the drop cloths, you know the sector. They hire professional, they get out, they get bids are professional painted, thousands of those wrought iron fences. And it's going to, you know, have some kind of credentials for what they're doing. And yet what I would argue is the most important part of the reserves, that is the reserves themselves, that they they oftentimes will try to do it on their own. You go down to the bank and get this CD, you pull the money out of this bank and find another bank. And I think they're better off hiring professional, professional again, if they have over the 250,000 and have someone kind of in their corner watching out for them and making sure that they're properly invested. Now, what we're talking about a lot of money here, and that's a lot of money that you want to make sure you're doing the right thing with. Well, Dave, we're getting near the end of our time, but I got a couple of important questions. One is talked about CDs we talked about. I've learned T-bills are kind of short for Treasury bills. And you've mentioned the the low interest rate that you're getting in a money market account or a savings account or a local bank, a 10th of a percent, something like that. What are people getting right now as of the time of the recording, this podcast? What are they getting in six months or two or three year CDs? Well, yeah, we've seen an unprecedented increase in rates by the Federal Reserve over the last year and a half, and we went from a near zero interest rate environment in 2020 to now know halfway through 2023, from three months to 36 months, you're looking at about 5% plus or minus a quarter percent. It's been a long time since we've seen rates like that, you know, almost 20 years. The yield curve right now is fairly flat in that you can get roughly 5% for a three month CD and a little bit more than 5% for A three year. And B, and that's because rates again have come up so high. And now I think the Fed is starting to slow down in considering holding off on any further increases or not increasing at the at the rate they had up to this point. Well, I'm wondering, we should have led out with that kind of information, because the difference between getting a 10th of a percent and three or four or 5% is just fantastic. I think of that as an incredible win because every dollar that you get from your financial institution is one last dollar that your homeowners have to put in for the asphalt project, for the roof project, for all the reserves that you're collecting. So that's a that's a great thing. We should probably also say is caveat that these are the numbers as of today and it'll be a few days or weeks until this actually hits drops as a podcast episode. So contact your investment counselor. But that's my final question. Dave, you operate. Lynn Wealth Management operates in California, Texas and Arizona. Where does someone from another part of the country go if they say, I want to get more than a 10th of a percent, I want a investment counselor. I want someone who knows what they're doing. I want a Dave Lynn. I want to. Lynn Wealth Management. I think my best recommendation would be to contact your local community associations, institute chapter CAI chapter there throughout the country. You call them up, they'll have a list of vendors with whom they've had relationship for many, many years. I would emphasize financial services rather than just banking, but I would start there at CAI, your local chapter, and ask I names of any individuals or firms that specialize in managing reserve funds for associations. Fantastic. Yeah. Yeah. I wonder if we should have led out with that information that they need a whole lot more than the 10th of a percent that they've been getting lately. Well, Dave, I want to thank you for taking some of your time today to share your insights about reserve fund investing, how to keep those funds safe, how to keep them liquid, how to keep them growing, because every dollar of interest earned means $1 less that you need from the homeowners to take care of the property. Well, it's great to hear that there's viable ways and people that help to help you get all this information figured out. So please tell us please tell the audience how the best way they can get in touch with you. Either look me up on LinkedIn or the go to my website. LynnWMcom. Email me. Dave@lynnWM.com and we'll probably have that those details listed in the podcast notes with along with the episode. Again, that's just fantastic. It just warms my heart to hear this kind of good news. Well, to our audience, we hope you learn something useful today from our discussion, something that helps bring common sense to your common areas. If you have a topic you'd like to have us address or questions you'd like us to answer, please call Hazel. 52033130 or email us at podcast at Reserve Steady Income. We look forward to having you join us for another great episode next week. You've been listening to HOA insights. Common Sense for Common Areas. You can listen to the show on our podcast website. HOAinsights.org or subscribe on any of the most popular podcast platforms. You can also watch the show on our YouTube channel. Check the show notes for helpful links. If you like the show and want to support the work we do, you can do so in a number of ways. The most important thing you can do is to engage in the conversation. Email your questions or voice memos to podcast at Research Telecom, or leave us a voicemail at 8052033130. If you gain any insights from the show, please do us a huge favor by sharing a show with other board members, you know. You can also support us by supporting the brands that sponsor this program. Please remember that the views and opinions expressed by the podcast do not constitute legal advice. You'll want to consult your own legal counsel before making any important decisions. Finally, this podcast was expertly mixed and mastered by Stoke Light video and marketing with stock line on your team. You'll reach more customers with marketing expertise that inspires action. See the show notes to connect with Stoke Light.

Taking risks with HOA Reserve Funds is the worst decision
Introduction to Dave Lynn
The 3 priorities of HOA Reserve Fund investing
Maximizing financial liquidity
CDs & T-bills (Treasury Obligations)
Financial safety when investing for your HOA Reserve Fund
Community Financials Ad Break
Diversification of HOA assets & FDIC limit
What does it cost to get a wealth management group to work with your HOA?
What are people currently getting in 6 month, 2 year, and 3 year CDs?
Where do you go to get in contact with a wealth management company for your HOA?