Archives For Todd Burkhalter

I was recently quoted in a Forsyth News article about New Years Resolutions. I have included a copy of the article by Crystal Ledford below. Crystal sites several local experts from various fields about what they are seeing people set out to do in 2012.


Experts Say: Take smaller steps for realistic goals



From shedding holiday pounds to saving more money, New Year’s Resolutions remain popular.

While many may fall by the wayside soon after being declared, the holiday tradition of trying to better ourselves seems to persevere.

“It’s human nature to set goals for ourselves,” said Michele Melton, Forsyth County Extension Agent. “And this is a popular time of year for it.”

The lull following the hectic holiday period is a good time for reflection, said Todd Burkhalter, a financial adviser.


“You’ve made it through the holidays, and you’re not yet being pulled in a million directions like you will be later in the spring,” he said.

Some religious leaders believe Christmas can be a reminder of transformation, leading to resolutions.

“The entire Christian faith, as opposed to other religions, is all about transformation,” said David Coombs, pastor of North Forsyth United Methodist Church. “We accept Christ into our lives and we are completely transformed.


“When you take on a New Year’s resolution, you want to be changed in some way. The difference is when you become a Christian, your entire life is changed, not just one small part such as with resolutions.”

Some of the most common resolutions seem to be those that involve losing weight or in other ways improving overall health.

“After the New Year there’s always a huge rush of people thinking about losing weight and getting healthy,” said Paul Grimm, head personal trainer at Anytime Fitness on Freedom Parkway.

Most gyms see their highest numbers of new members for the year in January, due largely to people’s resolutions.


Aman Kakkar, a cardiologist at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, said while losing weight historically has been the primary health-centered resolution, this year he’s seeing more people who want to drop their cigarette habit.


“I just saw a patient who said he’s not picking up another cigarette starting Jan. 1,” Kakkar said. “This year, I’m definitely seeing more of a trend toward smoking cessation.” 

Melton, who offers several classes throughout the year to help people learn about nutrition, said the New Year holiday and the beginning of a new school year are typically the times when people think more about healthy eating.

“There’s a mental aspect of needing a starting line, and both of those times of year are times of new beginnings,” she said. 

But Melton said the Forsyth County Extension Office can provide help year round.


“If folks are interested in learning more about good nutrition, I’m happy to help with information anytime,” she said. “We have a lot of resources here.” 

Similarly, Alicia Glassford, a registered dietitian at Northside-Forsyth, spends much of her time helping diabetics learn about making good decisions.

“After the holidays, our business always goes up a lot,” she said.

Some of Glassford’s tips to clients include incorporating more movement in their daily lives, preparing more meals at home, dropping calorie-filled beverages, and keeping a food journal.

“Research shows that those who write down everything they eat lose about 7 percent more weight than those who don’t,” Glassford said.

Besides health, Burkhalter said many people think about improving their financial lives at this time of year.

“Not only are people making resolutions, but now is also a good time to take advantage of open enrollments for different financial programs,” he said.

Burkhalter said many people want to learn how to save more of their money.

“We always encourage people to set up programs that are automatic so they don’t have to think about it,” he said. “For example, using an employee’s retirement plan that automatically deducts money from their check, or an automatic deduction from their checking account to their savings account.”

It seems a big part of keeping New Year’s resolutions rests in being realistic when setting them.

“You’re probably not going to go from being someone who doesn’t save anything to saving half your income in one year,” Burkhalter said.


Added Melton: “It’s important to have goals that are measurable and attainable. The resolution should just be the starting line to kick things into gear, and you don’t want to set yourself up for failure.”

Kakkar, the physician, and Glassford, the dietitian, both recommend small steps when it comes to resolutions that involve health.

“Don’t aim too high,” Kakkar said. “We all want to be overachievers all the time, but our aims should be modest so we don’t give up.” 

For example, Glassford said losing just 5 to 10 percent of one’s body weight can create big health benefits.

“So if someone weighs 200 pounds, just losing 10 to 20 pounds can lowered their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels,” she said.

And achieving even small goals can be mentally satisfying, Kakkar said.

“Don’t go for the gold, just settle for the bronze.”


Original article in print 1/1/2012



Weekly Update – January 4, 20112

As we close the books on 2011, many will associate the year with Europe’s debt crisis, Congress’ political gridlock, and the stock market’s volatility. And to some extent, they’ll be right. We did face a number of significant challenges during the course of the year. At the same time though, 2011 was a year of growth and healing for the United States.


Americans are spending again, as evidenced by a record-breaking holiday shopping season.[i] Factories are producing more.[ii] Companies are generating impressive profits.[iii] The housing market is showing signs of life.[iv] And with the unemployment rate at its lowest level in nearly three years[v], even the job market is improving. While blind optimism can be a dangerous thing, focusing on the negative can be equally risky. So without amplifying the problems of the past or minimizing the challenges of the future, let’s take a look back at some of the key events that made 2011 what it was.

Japan Quake Shakes Markets (March)

The devastating earthquake and consequent tsunamis that hit Japan in March riled global markets. The Japan earthquake sent the Nikkei Index on a downward spiral, and the U.S. stock market soon followed. The auto industry lost ground as Japanese manufactures were forced to halt production due to power outages.[i] 


Budget Problems Almost Result in Shutdown (April)

Well into April, the 2011 budget had still not been approved by Congress. Instead, lawmakers passed six short-term spending bills through March. The final extension was set to expire on April 8th, forcing Congress to come to a budget agreement or face a shutdown. Had a shutdown occurred, Americans would have faced grievous consequences, and nervous investors felt the pressure.[ii] 


Osama Bin Laden’s Death Rallies Markets (May)

Following the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of U.S. forces in Abbottabad, the stock market opened significantly higher. President Obama called Bin Laden’s death “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.” The Dow Jones industrial average rose 56 points (0.5%), the S&P 500 climbed 5 points (0.4%), and the Nasdaq Composite gained 8 points (0.3%).[iii] 


U.S Government Risks Defaulting on Debt (July)

After the U.S. debt ceiling was reached in May, the government was forced to find a solution or risk default on August 2. Though congress had over 11 weeks to come to an agreement, things came down to the wire once again as lawmakers argued over solutions, leaving financial markets on edge.[iv] 


S&P Downgrades the United State’s Credit Rating (August)

In what was perhaps the most humiliating news of the year, Standard and Poor’s decided to downgrade the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+, which marked the first U.S. credit downgrade in history. This downgrade hit stock prices hard, and the long term consequences of S&P’s move are yet to be known.[v] 


Occupy Movement Begins (September)

Activists began gathering in New York City’s Financial district on September 17th to protest social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, corruption, and the influence of corporations on government. The protests in New York City have sparked similar protests around the world. News surrounding this movement has been a regular feature of recent headlines.[vi] 


A Note About Equities

U.S. stocks slid on the final trading day of the year, with the S&P 500 surrendering its 2011 gain and settling virtually flat for the year at -0.04%. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the year up 5.5%, its second consecutive yearly rise, and the Nasdaq composite index finished down 1.8% for its first annual loss since 2008.[vii] Despite disappointing equity returns in 2011, the last three months of the year were positive, which could bode well for 2012. The S&P 500 rose 11% in the fourth quarter, and the Dow climbed 12% for its largest quarterly point gain in its history. On the bright side, stocks seem to be well-priced. The S&P 500 is trading at 12 times its expected earnings per share versus a more typical 15 times. In other words, stocks appear cheaper than normal right now.[viii] 


In Conclusion

What is in store for 2012? The answer to that question will depend on who you ask, and where they’re looking. At the end of the day, no one has a crystal ball that can be relied upon, and we should not be so arrogant as to make predictions. The indicators we are watching offer both positive and negative signs and many questions remain to be answered. How will Europe sort out its debt troubles? Will U.S. lawmakers raise the debt ceiling again in 2012? Will they extend the Bush Era tax cuts? How will China’s slowing economy affect the world? The answers to these questions and more like them have the potential to affect financial markets.


All in all, 2012 is beginning on a more positive note than many investors could have predicted given the challenges of 2011. And while we hope the economy and the stock market maintains its positive momentum, history teaches us that ups and downs are part of life. Whatever we face in the year ahead, rest assured that we will maintain a watchful eye on any factors that have the potential to affect you. May a bright and prosperous 2012 be yours! 




The Final Stretch

December 27, 2011 — Leave a comment

Weekly Update – December 27, 2011


It looks like the stock market got a shot of holiday cheer as major U.S. indexes logged better than 3% gains last week. The Dow is now up 6% for the year, and the S&P 500 is back in positive territory. While many were calling for a so-called “Santa Clause rally,” others were concerned that fears surrounding Europe’s situation would continue to be a drag on the markets.[i] Last week however, Europe’s troubles were of little account as stocks rallied to their third weekly gain in four after Congress approved an extension of the payroll tax cut to ensure taxes won’t increase on January 1.[ii] In addition, tentative signs of improvement seen in government reports on personal spending, income, and housing, all helped boost equity markets last week.[iii]


What’s in store for the week ahead? With Wall Street closed for business on Monday, a number of major players on vacation, and few economic reports expected, trading volume will probably be light. Even so, there is something interesting we would like to share with you. According to the Stock Trader’s Almanac, the five trading days before January 1, and the two trading days that follow, typically generate abnormally high returns, yielding positive returns in 31 of the last 41 holiday seasons.[iv] Of course, past performance cannot be relied upon to predict future results, and other factors must be considered, but the trend is worth noting. 


While many investors have already closed their books for the year, we head into the final stretch eager to end 2011 in the black. Regardless of what happens during the final four trading days of the year though, we encourage you to take comfort in knowing we will keep an eye on things for you. Again we urge you to relax and enjoy some well-deserved time with your family and friends.


Stay tuned for my annual recap due next week!


Monday –

U.S. Holiday Observed – Christmas Day
Tuesday –

Consumer Confidence, S&P Case-Shiller HPI

Wednesday – EIA Petroleum Status Report

Thursday – Jobless Claims, Chicago PMI, Pending Home Sales





Gasoline rose to a six-week high after a U.S. government report that durable goods orders increased last month signaled an improving economy. Prices advanced 8% this week, capping the biggest weekly gain since March.[v]


While some workers are worried about smaller paychecks next year, more than 1.4 million low-income earners will see their wages go up on New Year’s Day. Minimum wage rates in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington will rise between 28 and 37 cents per hour on January 1, thanks to state laws requiring that minimum wage keeps pace with inflation.[vi]


The total value of Americans’ retirement assets stood at $17 trillion at the end of September – a drop of 7.5% from the record high of $18.4 trillion recorded on June 30, 2011.[vii]


Shoppers will return $46.28 billion in holiday merchandise, a record high, according to the National Retail Federation. At brick-and-mortar stores, holiday returns can boost business because it gets shoppers into the store once more. “If people return something, there’s a 70% chance they will buy something else,” said Britt Beemer, retail analyst and chairman of America’s Research Group.[viii]