• Current Events

    January 2016

    The outlook and predictions for 2016 are, frankly, awful. Between oil prices dropping, China’s repeated troubles, and the market opening only to drop 400 points, no one seems to have anything good to say about 2016. But how accurate is all the doom and gloom? Last December, Richard Bernstein published an article in Financial Advisor Magazine titled “Mute the TV,” in which he said “…2016 might be a difficult year for investors…not necessarily for investing.”[1] Again, it could be a hard year for investors, but not for investing. Why will it be so hard to be an investor, and why is the best advice you’ll get “mute the TV”? Because…

  • Current Events

    Chinese Mercantilism and Yuan Devaluation

    Only 40 years ago, China was an agricultural nation, and yet in what seems like no time at all they have become the world’s second largest economy – second only to the US. How is this possible? I have drawn the comparison both on About Money and on my blog about the methods China has used to burst into heavy industry and those Louis XIV and John Baptist-Colbert employed in 17th century France. In fact, there are many, many parallels that help us understand why China is where it is today. Like France in 1661, China’s economy was agricultural and found it difficult to compete on the world market. Both…

  • Return on Investment

    Conferences and Comparative Money Making

    Every year, I go to several investor conferences with 2,000 to 3,000 of my closest friends. Each conference has companies who underwrite part of the cost by taking the opportunity to hawk their products at exhibitor booths. I am always attracted to the trading booths with their elaborate displays – multiple computer screens displaying the latest technical analysis of stocks and markets, the latest prices, and charts with all the most sophisticated analytical tools. There are the stochastic charts, the candlestick trend lines, the moving averages, and on and on. Surrounding the screens are the testimonials of who have made money using the tools and programs the vendors are showcasing.…

  • 401ks,  Current Events,  Return on Investment

    Lessons Investment Advisers Need to Learn from Robo-Advisers

    On May 1st, 1975 the government deregulated fixed commissions in the brokerage industry. At the time, I don’t believe many in the industry would have said this would make any great impact on revenues, and history shows most chose to carry on with the status quo. Few stock brokers (that was the title financial advisers used back then) felt there would be much change in their business. One man did see an opportunity, though, and moved to found a firm that charged significantly less in transaction fees. That man, of course was Charles Schwab, who would build a significant and competitive that would capture one-third of portfolios by 1999. I…

  • 401ks

    We’re Getting Old

    In 1965, a Frenchman by the name of Andre-Francois Raffray thought he had made a very good deal; he had purchased an apartment from an elderly widow for about $500 a month. Up until 1975, France had no form of Social Security, and retired individuals had to rely on their savings and a process called En Viager. En Viager allowed a younger person to purchase a home in monthly increments paid until the death of the current resident. Mr. Raffray offered the 90-year-old Jeanne Louise Calment $500 each month in exchange for her apartment, which was worth about $90,000 in ’65. Unfortunately for Mr. Raffray, Ms. Calment lived to be…

  • Mile High View

    Climate Change and Energy Consumption

    Watching the reports on Irma and Harvey, rubbing my eyes from the haze that covered much of Seattle, and having the wettest winter in Seattle’s recorded history to this summer’s longest period without rain all feels like climate change to me. Yet we seem to be plunging forward into a future which will require more natural resources and more energy than ever. I am an optimist, and am confident that we will solve the problem – we will find a way to produce more energy with less damage to the climate. There will be investment opportunities on both sides (energy needs and climate change), and that is what I wanted…

  • Current Events

    Impeachment

    What happens to the markets if President Trump is impeached? It isn’t my intention to give a prediction on if he will or will not be impeached. I am writing this to analyze what would happen if he is impeached, so that you will be prepared in the event. My philosophy is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. You can decide for yourself what the best- and worse-case scenarios are. That is not the purpose of this eletter; this is about the markets, not the merits (or lack-thereof) of impeachment. Prior to his election as Vice President, Andrew Johnson had been a Senator from Tennessee, and…

  • Current Events

    New Year, New Everything

    The New Year is traditionally a time for self-reflection and New Year resolutions: You’re going go on more walks, lose some weight, cook more, and really buckle down on work – at least until March. It’s not all that different in the financial world. For the months on either side of January 1st, everyone from Barron’s to CNBC is releasing lists of stocks to own or avoid in the New Year. There’s a push to analyze your portfolio and make your predictions for the next twelve months. Honestly, I normally don’t put too much emphasis on the New Year – you shouldn’t be putting together a portfolio once a year…

  • Current Events

    Trump Trade War

    These last few weeks have been a roller coaster, no matter who you voted for. You may be surprised to know that the DOW doesn’t reflect this. On Monday and Tuesday November 7 and 8, when polls were showing Clinton was going to be elected President, the DOW was up over 400 points. On Wednesday, once we knew it would be Trump who was going to be the next President, the DOW was still up over 400 points. The lesson, in my opinion, is that the economy has significant inertia and momentum. Whether the election of Trump will be positive or negative for the economy, we will only know months…

  • Mile High View

    Inflation to Escape Depression

    Howard Marks, investor and writer, said “you can’t predict but you can prepare.” So, today I’m taking a mile-high view of the supercycle (what’s a supercycle? Read more about it in “The Third Supercycle Is Now”) and how I believe it will end, so that we can all be prepared. I believe that we will be able to speculate on how this supercycle will end by looking at previous cycles and the way they ended. By doing so, we’ll have the knowledge we need to prepare for whatever comes. Mind you – I believe that we still have a number of years left in this secular bull market, but it…