Hot Tips from Portland's Financial Pros

Enlighten your investments, get smart with taxes, consider cash flow, and find out which local stocks are on the rise

By Eric Earle, Kate Goodling, and Keegan Clements-Housser January 5, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

The One Thing Every Entrepreneur Should Know

“We all have big, earth-shattering ideas. What makes for a truly great start-up founder is someone who can break that boil-the-ocean concept down into achievable tasks, bite-size pieces along the zigzagging line from Point A to Point B. Successful founders balance the entrepreneurial schizophrenia between changing the world and getting one simple thing done, right now.” —Rick Turoczy, cofounder of the Portland Incubator Experiment

'Hobbyists,' Beware!

“If you’re in start-up mode and not making a profit yet, or if you have an established business that has been losing money for the last few years, the IRS or Oregon revenue department may use the tax code’s ‘hobby loss’ rules to throw out several years of tax write-offs. To avoid this problem, keep good records and receipts. Auditors will also expect to see a written business plan that shows changes made each year to improve profitability.”
—Jim Jurinski, associate professor of accounting & law, University of Portland

Consider Cash Flow

“The 1950s-style retirement, where you just play golf all the time, isn’t really everyone’s goal anymore. People in Portland and the Pacific Northwest, in particular, tend to have passions they want to pursue. We see a lot of people working in one way or another—pouring wine during crush, or working a couple hours a week at that golf course so it pays for itself. We have a client who’s touring the country in an RV, playing music. But if people want that kind of retirement, the first thing they have to understand is cash flow. We do a lot of cash-flow planning that looks, in real time, at people’s assets, income, expenses, and what lifestyle they want to lead. Can you retire early, or does working just one more year make a big difference?” —Linette Dobbins, president and CEO, McGee Wealth Management

Green Shoots

Formed in Eugene in 1982 and now housed at Ecotrust’s Pearl District HQ, Portfolio 21 is a mutual fund that focuses on investing in environmentally sustainable businesses. “We go deep on environmental screening—that’s our focal point,” says Portfolio 21’s Amanda Plyley. (In practice, that means investments in everything from the East Japan Railway Company to a certified-sustainable New Guinea palm oil operation.) Want to invest? There’s a $5,000 minimum for standard accounts, a $1,000 minimum through IRAs, and an even lower minimum for automatic investment plans.

Squirrel It All Away

Lewis & Clark College alum Jeff Cruttenden cofounded the mobile app start-up Acorns because he thinks young people miss out on the financial world. “Investing is best done early,” the 27-year-old ex-math major says. “Compound interest can be in your favor if you’re young. Yet young people get credit cards and take on debt.” The Acorns app, linked to a debit or credit card, automatically rounds up every purchase to the nearest whole dollar, and deposits the “loose change” into one of five investment portfolios. It may not make fast fortunes, but at least some investors are already sold: Acorns harvested over $8 million in venture capital last year.

Hot Local Stocks

Portland General Electric (POR)

  • KEY STAT: The stock’s share price has almost (not quite) doubled over the past five years.
  • BONUS: Just like in Monopoly, utilities are known for slow growth and stability.

Willamette Valley Vineyards (WVVI)

  • KEY STAT: In 2013, the winery produced about 122,000 cases of wine. 
  • CAVEAT: One Oregon winemaker on climate change: “We have to change what we plant, where we plant, and, if unchecked, if we plant.”
  • BONUS: Shareholders get a 5 percent wine discount!

Columbia Sportswear (COLM)

  • KEY STAT: In five years, the company’s share price went from under $20 to, in late 2014, almost $40. 
  • CAVEAT: Columbia is weather-sensitive: warmer winters could hurt sales. 
  • BONUS: Gert Boyle, Columbia’s iconic ex-chairwoman, recently donated $100 million to help OHSU fight cancer.

Nike (NKE)

  • KEY STAT: The Swoosh has been on a hot streak: in November 2013, shares traded for less than $80. In November 2014, they neared $100.
  • CAVEAT: As Warren Buffett famously said: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”

Precision Castparts Corp (PCP)

  • KEY STAT: Earnings skyrocketed from $-0.02 per share in 2005 to $12.12 in 2014. 
  • CAVEAT: In 2013, the University of Massachusetts rated Precision the nation’s top industrial polluter. (Precision, meanwhile, calls the study “deeply flawed.”)
  • BONUS: Precision has acquired six companies in the past year, with purchases totaling $1.23 billion.

StanCorp Financial Group (SFG)

  • KEY STAT: StanCorp’s net asset value has more than doubled over the past 10 years. 
  • BONUS: In 2013, the Standard, its employees, and the Standard Charitable Foundation contributed more than $2.6 million to nonprofits.

Umpqua Holdings Corporation (UMPQ)

  • KEY STAT: In 20 years, Umpqua’s assets have grown from $140 million to $22.5 billion, making it the largest Oregon-based bank.
  • BONUS: Umpqua offers community members and employees everything from yoga classes to “business therapy” sessions to Oktoberfest celebrations.
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