Fan of the president- not a fan of the president. Doesn't matter. But there are certain things we Americans cannot deny.
Like the fact our economy is thriving.
Whether or not you think President Trump is responsible for this is beside the point. I think it is vital to understand what is going on fiscally in our country as social issues tend to take over the headlines and the state of our country can seem a bit, well, depressing.
Fiscal stories are what some, well, maybe lots would deem boring. Here is brief (hopefully not confusing) synopsis of how the American economy is doing:
Today, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers were released for the 2nd quarter of 2018. GDP is released for each of the 4 quarters of the year (similar to companies- although corporations fiscal years may not begin in January.)
1st quarter = January 1st -March 30th. 2nd quarter = April 1st - June 30th...you get the idea.
GDP is detailed in Barneys, Bergdorfs & Bill$, but basically it is the best way to measure a country's economy. It is the total value of everything produced by all the people and companies in the country- if they are located within a country's boundaries, the government counts that production into GDP.
Gross Domestic Product = Personal Consumption Expenditures (how much Americans spend on goods) + Business Investment + Government Spending + (Exports - Imports)- - hang in there, this gets simpler.
Nominal vs. Real GDP: real values are adjusted for inflation, nominal values are not- with this, nominal GDP values will appears higher.
Inflation: the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services are rising. When inflation rises, the power of your currency (our dollar)- falls.
Don't let the words confuse you- it may seem complicated but the principle is simple.
Understand inflation is why people invest their money. They invest to make a return. While it may seem more safe to stash your cash in your bank account- due to inflation, your money is devaluing. The goal is "price stability." Not too much inflation, not too little.
So what did today's report say and what does that say about our economy?
First half of 2018 results:
Tariffs. You have no doubt heard the conversation revolving around tariffs, most notably, the battle with China.
So what's the skinny and how does this factor into our economy?
In a nutshell:
And as you can see above, not everything is hunky dory but overall, fiscally, things are going well.
It is easy to be consumed by the "gloom and doom" on newspaper headlines and mainstream news.
These stories sell, and don't get me wrong, obviously not everything in this country is going swimmingly, but these figures released today are something Americans should be proud of.
You can credit whomever you like with these successes. I tend to agree with the idea that if things are going well, Presidents may get too much praise. If things are going poorly, Presidents may obtain too much flack.
A lot of what goes on is not necessarily a direct result of their actions but a combination of many elements and potentially have been years in the making.
The soon to be retiring CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, said this at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this past January and I think he nailed it:
I like a lot more stuff than I don't. The stuff I don't like is not as substantive. Some of it is, and some of it is social aspects. I've said this, but I don't want to be hypocritical either.
I've really liked what he (President Trump) has done for the economy and I think he's gone out of his way to be very, very supportive of the system.
Frankly, I want to honor that.
We are America.
I'm not a huge TV person. I'll engage in a couple guilty pleasures- Real Housewives, I'm shamelessly a sucker.
But I tend to stick with financial news on CNBC. As far as shows go, I migrate towards anything having to do with business. Succession on HBO is a newbie but, in my mind, there is absolutely nothing that touches my absolute obsession.
Billions on Showtime.
The main character, Bobby Axelrod is the hedge fund magnate behind Axe Capital. It is hard not to desire and be in awe of this Metallica blasting, sports car driving, multi billionaire alpha male.
A crash-pad with sweeping views of Manhattan to his Greenwich home base to a palatial pad in Southampton on Meadow Lane, he makes what he coins "F you money."
Many draw parallels to former SAC Capital boss, Steve Cohen. SAC Capital was fairly synonymous with insider trading. In 2010, the SEC opened a case. By 2013, the firm had plead guilty to the charges and many indicted. If you are familiar with the case and enjoy the show check out, Black Edge.
So is he corrupt? Yes. This is the entire premise of the show. How close to the law can you skirt before you get caught. How manipulative can you be to make an immense amount of money while keeping the SEC off your scent.
As narcissistic as he seems, he is a fairly likeable character many would say. He is the face of capitalism. Coming from nothing, he worked until he made it. Caddying for arrogant businessmen who now ask him for money.
The show has celebrity cameos from real life business tycoons- the likes of Sara Blakley of Spanx to hotelier Jonathan Tisch to Avenue Cap boss Marc Lasry.
The show is complicated with life, business and the insatiable desire to live on the edge. Incredibly accurate & well written, the Showtime original is directed by a slew of people familiar with financial markets, of which include Andrew Ross Sorkin of CNBC's Squawk Box.
This show is riddled with pithy one-liners that serve as major business motivation (the legal way, let me clarify.) Here are a couple quotes that embody the power, drive and lust for more that have shaped the first 3 seasons.
"You don't have to outswim the shark. You just have to outswim the guy you're scuba diving with."
"No one quits while they're ahead. This isn't France. It's America."
"Calculation is not something to be scoffed at. It's a tool. A tactic. And I use it proudly and often."
"I like nightmares. When I wake up, they leave me deeply valuing my reality."
"You know your shopper isn't your friend. Your personal trainer doesn't actually think you're making progress and all the charities you give money to don't actually honor you when they honor you."
"The fact you can't fully understand that doesn't mean he's wrong. It just means you haven't gone beyond your own limits."
"Foolishness is right next door to strength."
"A lot of guys watch Bruce Lee movies. Doesn't mean they can do karate."
"You don't try to be loyal. You just are. Or you're not."
"Get good at letting go, which is a different kind of freedom."
"It's not easy to do. But people are at their best when they feel appreciated."
"Meaning matters more to me than happiness."
"When did it become a crime to succeed in this country? People used to want to be the guy in the limousine. They still do. But now they throw eggs at it."
"The greats never sacrifice the important for the urgent. They handle the immediate problem and still make sure to secure the future."
"Nobody leaves a negotiation happy."
"What is it you do that you're the best in the world at?"
And the grand finale:
"What's the point of having f*** you money, if you never say f*** you?"
"The moral of the story is, you get one life, so do it all."
The old adage of two brains being better than one still rings true. I mean, look at these two fellas. Bill Gates has long championed Warren Buffet as being his mentor. Not a bad choice.
Some have one mentor. Some have two, ten... No matter the number, one way to think of these mentors or people of admiration is your "personal board of directors" (P.B.O.D.)
Every company, public or private, must have a least one director. The mandate of said director, or directors as per Investopedia, is to establish policies for corporate management and oversight, making decisions on major company issues. Within public companies, the B.O.D. represents the shareholders.
But that's for the company. What about for you?
In this weekend's Wall Street Journal, Microsoft Executive Vice President of Business Development, Peggy Johnson, lent her insight into the people she leans on as her system of checks and balances. "She largely relies on her gut when making big decisions but then 'validates her intuition' by checking in with valued former colleagues, mentors and family as independent advisors."
From a former colleague at Qualcomm, to the CEO of Ulta Beauty to the President of Liberty Media who helped her adjust when she was appointed to her first board seat, Peggy has stacked her roster full of people who have supported her & whose opinions she deeply values.
You only know where you've been, therefore it is vital to tap into and develop genuine relationships with those that may not always know MORE than you, but have had different experiences than you, or have been around the block a few more times.
Check out some famous duos below and their testaments to the value of a P.B.O.D.'s.
Sir Richard Branson. Founder, the Virgin Group.
Mentor: Sir Freddie Laker. Founder, Laker Airways.
Oprah Winfrey. Chairwoman and CEO, HARPO and the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Mentor: Maya Angelou. American poet, Civil Rights activist.
Tim Cook. CEO of Apple.
Mentor: Steve Jobs. Former CEO and Founder of Apple.
Tony Bennett. Jazz musician.
Mentor: Frank Sinatra. Jazz musician.
The lessons learned from mentors are endless. Configuring a personal board of directors will pay major dividends down the road. Who knows, you might even succeed them one day (David Solomon will take the reins after Lloyd Blankfein's retirement.) Mentors come in all forms:
It is important to discover the people whose personalities, integrity and work ethic you admire and then place them on your team. It doesn't always have to be an explicit "will you be my mentor"/"will you be on my personal board."
They know, and you know. Personal relationships are incredibly sacred and given constant effort to maintain & grow, can be incredibly valuable.
Wall Street Journal
Swimming, hiking, campfire songs and pitching tents are SO old school when it comes to summer camps.
Meet the new era of summertime recreational activity for your kiddos: Stocks, Entrepreneurial Skills and Personal Finance camp.
"With names like Camp Millionaire, MoolahU, Future Investors Club of America and WhizBizKids, these camps are designed to appeal to parents who want to teach their children the basics of money management, or support budding Warren Buffetts and Steve Jobses who show an interest in business"- WSJ.
One would assume, the kids going to these camps are quite exceptional children. Ages vary as does the curriculum. From active and passive income, to building investing skills to lending tools to children who one day hope to begin their own start-up...these kids will have a leg up in the future.
It only makes sense lots of these camps are popping up around the start-up capital of the United States, Austin, Texas.
Spurred by necessity, camp founders realize the lack of financial education children receive while in school. Per the WSJ article linked above, only 16 states require any economics work during K-12. Only 7 states require personal finance curriculum.
An independent program, Junior Achievement, has been offered in schools for sometime now. The non-profit relies on business men and women from surrounding communities to donate their time to speak and lend business insights to classrooms.
I have fond memories of my father being the instructor for my 5th grade class. The kids enjoy being treated like adults. Gaining knowledge on topics usually left for the "grown-ups" may be confusing at times, but empowers young minds.
As far as formal curriculum implementation, some parents are not going to wait for schools to make the first move.
Family demographics of kids attending these camps show they come from two types of parents. Wealthy couples who don't feel as if they can alone teach their children about the value of a dollar. The second are parents who wish they themselves could have been more financially successful and yearn to provide those opportunities for their offspring.
An important highlight of these camps however - lots of times it is not the parents idea. It is the kids.
15 year old entrepreneur, Ben Aubin, has attended a financial literacy summer camp since he was 8. Since then he has started miscellaneous small companies and has created 3 apps...at 15!
These camps mean business. No cargo shorts, backpacks and tennis shoes. Many require kids come suited up as they would for a job interview. They learn to work in teams as we all do in formal business environments. Developing business plans in which they present at the end of their program, these kids get a small sample of the "real world" before heading back to school in the fall.
Kids earn "pay checks" during camp and then learn to pay taxes from their earnings, balance a budget and delve into how debt works on a basic scale.
Stocks and bonds are topics many camp-goers find deeply interesting. Post camp, parents will help their children set up small brokerage accounts funded with summer earnings from their own small businesses or savings from birthdays, etc.
What about letting kids be kids opponents argue?! The majority of these kids LOVE this stuff!
Their interests differ from others their age. These camps are only for a couple weeks during the summer which leaves plenty of time for running around the park with friends.
Kids leaving these camps and have set off to start their own small businesses for the rest of the summer, empowered by what they have learned and the freedom their parents have bestowed upon them.
As the article alluded, these kids could be the next Buffett, Gates or Jobs. Or simply just financially literate, hard-working people trying to achieve the American Dream.
No matter the long term outcome, I believe it is wonderful people are championing these programs that are deeply needed.
No matter your occupation, we all have bills. Learning these skills while you're young instead of once you're thrust into adult life will pay dividends down the road.
Wall Street Journal
Future Investors of America
Dimon 2024! I can see it now...well...maybe not. Our friends at CNBC estimate a 20% likelihood that the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase stages a run for president. Couldn't be in 2020 because he has vowed to stay on board at JPM for at least the next few years.
We can dream!
Each year, like most CEO's, Mr. Dimon releases a letter to shareholders. His is more anticipated than most (Larry Fink of BlackRock generates pretty equivalent hype.)
Jamie's 47-page letter was released today. So why does the Street, politicians and business people worldwide value his opinion so much?
Remember that little recession in 2008? When the U.S. was teetering on the edge of financial collapse, 9 CEO's of the worlds largest banks were summoned by the U.S. and New York Fed Chair's, the Treasury Secretary and the head of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.)
Gathered in downtown Manhattan, these 9 men collectively controlled $9T in assets, or 70% of the U.S. financial system.
If you have seen the movie Too Big To Fail, this was that ominous scene in the large conference room. As part of many negotiations and mass lending's, the Fed teed up a deal for JPM to acquire failing Bear Stearns.
$700B later, of the 9 CEO's, only 2 survived and continued to lead their firms- Goldman Sach's Lloyd Blankfein and, of course, Jamie Dimon.
One can assume this guy "just gets it."
He is not without his controversies. From the memorable 2017 Delivering Alpha appearance where he declared Bitcoin a "fraud." To being the poster child for inflated executive compensation as he harbors a net worth of over a billion dollars. Above is his family Christmas card that raised eyebrows citing opulence. Isn't a Christmas card supposed to be fun?!
As Bobby Axelrod on Billions said: "When did it become a crime to succeed in this country? America used to salute the guy in the limousine. They wanted to be the guy in the limousine. They still want to. But now they throw eggs at it."
Whether you think he is overpaid, overrated or one of the greatest business leaders of our time, Mr. Dimon does not mince words. No one can accuse him of being anything but a staunch capitalist. Dimon has a great pulse on the economy as a whole and has provided immense value for JPM for the past 12 years.
Below is a summary of said letter. Small government, less regulations & praise for POTUS.
On JPMorgan's Initiatives:
Use of Capital. "We much prefer to use our capital to grow than to buy back stock...We currently have excess capital, but due to recent tax reform and a more constructive regulatory environment, we hope to use funds to grow our businesses, expand into new markets and support employees."
Risk Management. "When people talk about banks, it sounds like we are taking big bets...This is the complete opposite. Every loan we extend is a proprietary risk. Every new facility we build is a risk...We perform extensive analytics and stress testing to challenge our assumptions...We try to manage the company such that all possibilities including the worst case-scenarios cannot hurt the company."
Employee Opportunities. "The path to opportunity begins at a young age, but too many young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds do not get a fair shot." JPMorgan is investing $350MM to support demand-driven skills training along with re-entry programs for individuals that have been out of the workforce or incarcerated.
Diversity. "I believe the door to diversity opens when you run a great company where everyone feels they are treated fairly and with respect."
On Business as a Whole:
Brexit. "We are prepared for it to be a hard Brexit. It essentially means moving 300-400 jobs around Europe. The worst outcome would be much of London's financial center moving to the Continent over time."
Employment. "It may well drop to 3.5% this year, and there are more signals that businesses will improve CAPEX and raise payrolls. Wages, jobs and household formation are increasing."
Regulation. "Excessive regulations for both large and small companies reduced growth and business formation. Ease of starting a business worsened with small business formation dropping to the lowest rate in 30 years."
Trade. "It is not unreasonable for the U.S. to seek more equitable terms."
Corporate Taxation. "We had a hugely and increasingly uncompetitive tax system driving companies capital and brainpower overseas...the article (below- 'A Politician's Dream is a Businessman's Nightmare') provides excellent advise for our legislators and regulators...The current administration is taking steps to reduce unnecessary regulation by insisting congressional rules around cost-benefit analysis be properly applied."
On Markets, the Fed & Economy as a Whole:
Volatility (Commodities/Tariffs) "I am a little perplexed when people are surprised by large market moves. Oftentimes it only takes a an unexpected supply/demand imbalance of a few percent and changing sentiment to drastically move markets...Oil, cotton, corn, aluminum...each industry or commodity has continuously changing supply and demand."
The VIX. "Same for stocks, bonds, interest rates and currencies. Changing expectations whether around inflation, growth or recession, supply and demand, sentiment and other factors can cause drastic volatility."
Economic Growth. "We have had subpar economic growth over the last 8 years. Our growth cumulatively in this expansion has been about 20%. A more normal recovery would be 40% by now."
Quantitative Easing (QE). "As long as rates are rising because the economy is strengthening and inflation is contained, it is reasonable to expect the reversal of QE will not be painful...QE has never been done on this scale before so the effect on asset prices, confidence, CAPEX, and other factors cannot possibly be known."
Rate Hikes. "We have to deal with the possibility that the Fed and other central banks will need to take more drastic action...People underestimate the possibility of higher inflation and wages, which means they might be underestimating the chance the Fed will have to raise rates faster."
On Government Inefficiencies. The full article above can be read here.
Labor Force Participation. "Especially men aged 25-54 has dropped dramatically. An estimated 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids...a main cause. 70% of todays youth are ineligible for military service due to lack of proper education or health issues."
Infrastructure. "It took 8 years to get a man to the moon (idea to inception,) yet it now can take a decade to simply get permits to build a bridge or new solar field. We are now not even ranked among the top 20 developed nations."
Immigration. "Policies fail us. 40% of foreign students who receive advanced degrees have no legal way of staying here...One of our largest exports is brainpower."
Healthcare. "Nations costs are twice the amount per person compared with most developed nations."
Debt. "America's net debt stands at 77% of GDP...Hopefully with the right policies we can grow GDP at faster than 2%."
We have an incredible country but, as seen above, we are not without our flaws.
Jamie Dimon's perspective lends to the idea of more rational and comprehensive moves from our government.
More ways to make America competitive. Stop practices that are hindering us and start enacting change to grow our country for years to come.
Not all credit cards are created equal. In fact, not all credit cards are credit cards. Some are what is known as "charge cards."
Charge cards are different from a credit card and different than a debit card.
A debit card is essentially a direct withdrawl from your bank account. Swipe your debit card and automatically this money is deducted. A debit card is used at ATM's etc. There is a bit of a risk to using a debit card for all of your purchases.
Think about it. If someone obtains this number, they essentially have direct access to your bank account. Although banks have safeguards and would usually alert you in the event of someone withdrawing large amounts of money.
If you bank with Wells Fargo, for example, your debit card will be with Wells Fargo.
Your charge and credit cards will be linked to your bank account but when you swipe either of these, the money is not automatically withdrawn.
So something I have experienced first hand (I like to share my poor choices with you all so you don't make the same!) is I am severely lacking in proving my creditworthiness for a few reasons.
Post college I was fortunate to have no student loans. No home (AKA no mortgage). No car note, etc. Basically, this just means I have no debts or money borrowed in which I have to repay. Which is DEFINITELY good in many ways.
One way it is bad, is that if I were trying to purchase a home, rent an apartment, lease a car, I have nothing to show that I am a good risk and that a bank should lend money to me.
I knew I needed to start building credit, so fresh out of college I applied for a credit card.
SYDNEY CORRECTION. I applied for a charge card.
Thinking I had done sufficient research, I sprung for the American Express Gold card. This card came with massive reward travel points therefore it was a no-brainer.
Now, American Express cards are NOT credit cards. They are charge cards. What's the difference?
A charge card MUST be paid in full every month. This was not an issue for me as I was only ever spending what I had in my bank account. You cannot roll your balance month to month as you can with a credit card.
This card forces you to watch your spending. If you can't pay, then you face a penalty. The benefit is that you never have to worry about paying interest on your balance.
The card above, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a CREDIT card. Credit cards only require you pay some set minimum amount each month. As long as you make the minimum payment, you are able to rack up charges and carry them month to month.
This is beneficial if you are in a situation where you cannot pay your bills each month. You are buying on CREDIT; essentially being given a loan.
But this is not free. You are charged an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on your outstanding balance.
Generally, if your credit score is lower, you will pay a higher APR as a penalty.
Quick recap on credit score. The FICO credit score scale goes from very poor at 300 to perfect at 850.
Your credit score is something you consistently need to work on because having a better credit score saves you money. A higher credit score shows you are a responsible borrower, therefore you will be charged a lower APR, insurance will be cheaper, etc.
So how did I find out my credit score is v mediocre?
So, this is also a note for people who live in large cities like myself who might not have a vehicle. I am no longer covered under my parents insurance. I had rental insurance on my condo and that was it.
Even though I don't have a car, I will occasionally drive my friends or families cars. Guess what? I wasn't covered. Long story short, if you live in a city and don't have a car you obviously don't need auto insurance because there is no car to insure. Be sure to look into an umbrella policy for liability suits and/or a non-owned policy (besides the point, just food for thought.)
Anyways, trying to purchase this insurance, I realized my credit score was extremely low. How? I pay my bill on the dot every month.
However, I have never been BORROWING any money. I have been using a charge card, my AMEX. Therefore even though it is borrowing in a sense, it is not figuring into my credit utilization rate.
I know, Mafee. It's confusing. Credit (or debt) Utilization Rate is what portion of your credit limit you are using to borrow (charge cards don't have credit limits.) If you have a $10,000 credit limit on your CREDIT card and have a balance of $1,000, your CUR is 10%. Lower is better. Spending less is better. Showing you are a controlled spender is key.
Having a charge card (as long as you pay it off,) doesn't hurt your credit score. It just doesn't help as much as a credit card. Credit limits are the main things reported to credit bureaus, hence the main way your credit score is calculated.
As it makes sense, getting a CHARGE card is more difficult than a CREDIT card. Being required to pay off your debts each month makes it necessary to have credit score of at least 700 in order to qualify.
Credit Card Insider
"They were practically GIVING it away." "I couldn't afford NOT to buy it!"
Sound familiar? I have definitely said both of these things before...OK...maybe more than once. Although, sometimes it might be said in jest...see below Birkin "sale".
WOW...a whole dollar! Makes a $13,500 purse look like a steal (kidding!)
The principle is true, however. When you see the word "sale" or "clearance," shoppers are more likely to buy said product because they feel like they are getting a deal. Bartering without the hassle of actually negotiating.
Our brains are manipulated into thinking we are getting a good deal by a thing called "anchoring." Behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, asked a class of MBA students to write down the last 2 digits of their social security number. They then held a mock auction. Students with a high number bid 346% more than students with a low number. A completely random number manipulated what they were willing to spend.
Now think back to the last time you were in a department store. One pair of shoes were $400, full price. Another were $2,500 but had been marked down to $999...which do you choose? The cheaper pair or the pair where you feel you're getting a deal?
Just like in the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic (can anyone believe it didn't win an Academy Award?) Isla Fisher and the crowd of women above, flock to a sample sale where things are supposedly, massively discounted.
Whereas if you were at a department store, you might take a step back and think about the item. If you are led to believe everything is an incredible deal, you are much more apt to throw down your card immediately.
This is true for designer goods, TV's, cars etc. The MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) is just that...suggested. $87,350 is the MSRP for the above Range Rover. If the dealer was willing to sell it to you for $7,000 less than the sticker at $80,000, would you think it was a deal? What makes you believe this ride is truly worth that amount? Because the company said so? Because celebrities push them around L.A.?
A lot of this has to do with comparisons. An article by USA Today discusses how comparisons make us feel superior. Having a nicer car than friends, living in a nicer house than our neighbors, carrying more expensive bags, etc. Call it human nature and human flaws!
Money does not buy happiness, but it sure buys everything else. However, living beyond your means or constantly buying, solely to "Keep Up With The Joneses", will probably lead to an unhappy life and an empty wallet.
Remember these "anchors" next time you're in the market for anything, big or small.
Original Piece: Jeff Stibel, author of "Breakpoint" and "Wired for Thought"
Most people have a bucket list or some version of a collection of places or things they would like to experience in their lifetime.
Davos, Switzerland is my nirvana. Now, although it is simply put, just a stunning place, I want to go for a specific reason. The World Economic Forum held each January.
This may sound like a real Sophie's Choice to many people, but this is a week I look forward to every year. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss non-profit foundation. The international body cites it's mission as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".
In layman's terms, it is a gathering of about 2,500 businesspeople, celebrities and journalists to discuss the state of the world. The theme for the 2018 forum is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World."
The subsidiaries of the company I work for, Marsh & McLennan Companies, are instrumental in helping put together the Global Risks Report. The report is about 70 pages discussing the worlds largest risks. I think it is vastly important to be aware of the emergence and development of these risks overtime. In this post, I am going to present a synopsis of what was included in this years report.
CNBC plays an integral role in the forum. Coverage of the panels and discussions with global CEO's begin around 2 A.M. EST. As an early bird, and this week being my equivalent of Christmas (I am that much of a geek!,) I am aggregating some of the most poignant and interesting comments and views from Davos 2018 which I will include following the risks.
The 2018 report begins with the top 5 global risks in terms of likelihood and impact. The charts date back to 2008 to show how risks change year over year. A risk, such as oil and gas price spikes were the highest in terms of likelihood in 08'. In 2018, cyber attacks and natural disasters take the top spots.
In terms of impact, 2008 was when we saw the Great Recession. Triggered by a large decline in home prices after the collapse of the housing bubble, this led to foreclosures nationwide. With this, the greatest risk in 08' was a collapse in asset prices. In 2018, weapons of mass destruction have made a comeback. This time, not as much from the Middle East, but from growing tensions with North Korea.
Personal Debt. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts global GDP growth of 3.6% for 2017 up from 3.2% in 2016. This has led to improved sentiment. However, over the past 3 decades, 53% of countries have seen an increase in economic inequality. So what does that mean? High levels of personal debt, inadequate savings, and scaling back of pensions, are all reasons to proceed with caution in the years ahead, regardless of current positivity.
Income Inequality. This tends to go hand-in-hand with rising income and wealth disparity. The "rich get richer" argument. Experts are bullish on the positive effects technological innovations will have on businesses. It does, however, raise concerns of automation pushing down on levels of employment and wages, which could further deepen the divide between the rich and the poor.
Risk of Conflict. Your mind probably jumps to President Trump and Kim Jong Un and the threat of nuclear weapons. The World Trade Organization (WTO) worries about this because of worldwide trade partnership agreements. If conflicts are unable to be resolved and appointments to the 7-person WTO appellate body remain unfilled, we could be facing increasing issues with trade. This could hurt not only economically, but geopolitically if relationships are strained as a result (which they inevitably would be.)
Currency Weakness. Along with this, the dollar is exceptionally weak currently. When the dollar is lagging, as compared to other currencies, it diminishes our purchasing power of foreign goods, EX: oil. This then trickles down to the consumer as prices will rise.
Natural Disasters, Weather & Climate. In 2017 when discussing devastating weather events, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't automatically say hurricanes. From Harvey to Irma to Maria, the destruction bill from last seasons storms could near $200B. Temperatures were the hottest on record. Wildfires across the U.S. were 46% above the average.
Air Quality. The WHO estimates 90% of the worlds population live in areas where air quality levels fall below guidelines. Fossil fuels are still mainly to blame, as the world moves towards more renewable energy.
Food Sustainability. The main concern with temperatures is the sustainability of the agriculture system. Heat is not the only concern of killing crops. As we saw last month in Florida, a cold-snap hurt the already debilitated orange crops after the string of hurricanes. Reduced crop diversity and potential water supply issues, could lead to a smuggling of food causing, once again, geopolitical tensions. A solution posed is to implement stress-tests to avoid this happening.
Cyber. In Davos, Marsh & McLennan CEO Dan Glaser discussed the cyber threat as what he deems one of the largest risks we, as a world, will face in the near future. With hacks being ever-prominent, our cyber-defenses will be tested. Cyber breaches by businesses have almost doubled in 5 years. IoT devices now outnumber the global population. There are 8.4 billion devices to 7.6 billion humans. The cost of cyber crimes to businesses over the next 5 years is estimated to be $8T.
Government Internet Regulation. To follow, with cyber attacks increasing, it could lead to government-led Internet break-ups into national or regional divisions.
Trade. Following government regulation is the notion of a move away from globalization (businesses operating on an international, global scale) to more of a protectionist (shielding domestic industries by heavily taxing imports.) Most recently this has been seen with President Trump's move to heighten the tax on solar panels and washing machine parts, both generated in China. This move towards protectionism, experts worry, may roil supply chains and unequally disperse employment between countries. Something that could potentially follow this would be greater income disparity. Although America would profit from this, the long term effects are the worry.
Taxation. With the recent Trump Administration move to push corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%, we believe we will see more competition between countries. A large swath of companies are expected to repatriate to the U.S. with new laws in place pledging less tax penalties.
Geo-Economics. Formerly, the notion of globalism was prevalent in Western countries that benefited from low-cost manufacturing to lift economies. The positive sentiment around this has dwindled. The U.K. and the U.S. notoriously were two countries that held this in the highest of esteem. We now have seen a shift with Brexit and the election of President Trump towards more protectionist views, which seemingly, has benefited both economies.
Prescription Drugs. Resistance to prescription drugs has been an issue in the making for some time now. The cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been the over and misuse of prescription drugs and the fact no new classes of antibiotics have been invented since the 1980s. With this, concerns have been raised about immunity issues to come. The development pipeline is a key focus for the World Health Organization.
Financial Markets. In 2017 the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 25%. The S&P and the Nikkei in Japan by 19% and the German DAX by 11%. History shows stocks have only been higher twice; 1929 and 2000. If your memory serves you correctly, both of those were right before market crashes. However, analysts argue, we are posed to continue the 8-year bull run.
Global Debt. Compared to 2008, global debt-to-GDP is remarkably higher now. Global debt across the G20 (international forum for 20 countries ranging from Australia to France to the U.S.) totaled $125T up from $80T in 2007. Corporate debt has sky-rocketed and is showing some signs of strain. Emerging market debt which was barely there in 2008 has increased sharply. The U.S. is not alone in this. China is another leader in debt. A large discussion in the U.S. is what is an attainable and sustainable GDP. 3% is the current goal.
As you can see, Davos is chock-full of discussions and gives a good feel of sentiment for the year ahead. I will leave you with a few interviews with the CNBC anchors and some of the most influential business people in the world.
Brilliant people, in a beautiful place.
Hope you are as inspired by their insights as I am. Being amongst them is motivation for me each and every day!
Knowledge is power & I leave you with this:
"Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious."- Stephen Hawking
Bloomberg, CNBC, Investopedia, CNBC, CNN, Google Images, Marsh & McLennan Companies
Did you hear? Did you feel it? Yesterday at 12:01 AM the government shutdown. Didn't know? You're not alone. It has been fairly muted since it is the weekend.
Turn on any news channel today and it is the talk of every anchor from Fox to CNN to MSNBC. So what actually IS a government shutdown? Here are some basics:
Why did it happen? On Friday evening, Congress failed to act on a short-term budget. No budget? No paychecks.
It is a bit of a political mess right now, but the main blame is being cast amongst Senate Democrats who refused to pass a bill without forward movement on their DACA agenda.
This is largely being spurred by what many are considering to be inaction on the part of Republicans. Congressional members spent the weekend scurrying around Capitol Hill trying to find a resolution before Monday.
Has it happened before? Yes. 18 times.
Who does it affect? At least 800,000 federal workers. Federal workers are paid by the federal government. Some government workers will be exempt. Workers will arrive Monday morning, as they usually would, to find out if they are subject to furloughs (exempt and will be working.)
Also paid by the government? Our troops. The military members will still be going to work they are just not paid automatically. Once Congress is back in session, they have to vote to pay them for their time worked. Each time this has happened, they have retroactively voted to pay, of course.
Can federal employees still work if they want? No. It is against the law for the government to accept any voluntary work. Even if government workers have a large project, they are prohibited from working. Seem silly? It is.
Are some federal agencies open? Yes. Some that are deemed essential. However, operations are usually quite scaled back.
How could this affect me? The big thing is if this lasts for more than 10 days, it will prevent the processing of tax refunds by the IRS. With this, you will receive those refunds later than usual.
Social security is still paid during a shutdown as it is mandated, not appropriated.
What about the stock market? During the last shutdown in 2013, the S&P 500 actually gained 3.1%. A new factor however, is that we are in the middle of earnings season. On Tuesday, more than 50 companies including Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, State Street and Verizon are set to release.
The stock market relies on several federal agencies to function, most notably the Securities and Exchange Commission. From Business Insider, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission has contingency plans furloughing (allowing to work) all employees responsible for managing and stabilizing financial markets.
Isn't there a better way to get things done? One would think. John Dickerson posed this question to Minority Whip Dick Durbin this morning on Face the Nation. At the end of the day, this is taking a stance. The Democrats are tired that in their view, nothing is getting done on DACA.
They are simply holding out to get a resolution they deem acceptable. Choosing to force this into a shutdown situation appears to be dividing Congress and the President even more. "Open the government and we'll open negotiations" was the argument formerly used.
How Is This Different Than When Republicans Were to Blame in 2013? 2013 was the last time the government shutdown and in this case, it was the Republicans voting "nay" on the budget. However, they were voting NO solely on the budget. In 2013, the proposal included a large portion that was set to fund Obamacare. The Republicans, of course, disagreed with this policy and therefore rejected the budget.
Enter the 2018 shutdown. Democrats are actually in agreement with the budget. They are simply voting to not pass it based on an (arguably) unrelated agenda.
Now that I have your attention... This post is not going to focus on my expertise in Bitcoin mainly because it is quite foreign to me. It is fascinating. Intriguing. A seemingly get-rich-quick scheme to nab a G550 one day. The Winklevoss twins are Bitcoin Billionaires...so why not you? On another note...sweet, sweet revenge, Mark Zuckerberg.
Before we delve into the excitement of Bitcoin, I want to run through some more...should we say, traditional ways of investing. These different platforms are tailored towards millennials who may not have large sums of money to invest.
Back "in the day," older generations called their broker to execute an order to buy a stock or bond. Word of which stocks were hot, were found in the newspaper, the workplace and spread by word of mouth. Today, you have the world at your fingertips. Within moments you can Google NYSE or NASDAQ followed by the ticker symbol and have a plethora of information.
Once that information is garnered, you can head to your online broker, deposit money from your bank account and within a day or so, execute a trade and become a new shareholder. So how should you go about this? I discuss in Barneys, Bergdorfs & Bill$ that I use CapitalOne Sharebuilder. It functions like a normal online brokerage but there are now apps dedicated specifically to millennial investing. Let's check a few out...
In this week's edition of Barron's, the article "Scroll, Tap, Trade: Apps That Target Millennials" kicks off this discussion. Here are 3 apps the article discusses:
Acorns. 2.5 million users. 70% are ages 18 to 34. $1/month.
Stash. 1.5 million users. 66% are ages 18 to 34. $1/month. Began as strictly an investing platform and has now grown into retirement accounts with plans to "evolve" with their investors.
Robinhood. 3 million users. 77% under 36. No fees.
Now, as I have stated, I do not use these apps. I began my investing on CapitalOne and have simply kept my portfolio there so I do not have first hand knowledge of using these. From a glance, it appears these all basically do the same thing: make investing quick and simple.
A big misconception with investing is you need to be rich starting out in order to jump in. Not the case. If you're having trouble making your monthly mortgage or car payments, then maybe this isn't the time as you don't want to drive up your debt obligations. However, you by no means have to be flush with cash. Putting in $100 or $200 is a fine way to start. An important thing to note are fees associated with investing. Either a monthly fee or a per trade fee will usually apply. Read the fine print!
Just from a bit of research, Stash looks to have a great "Learn" portion of their site. Their staff and contributors write articles on the principles of investing and other strategies.
So what should you invest in? The stocks millennials overwhelmingly invest in probably wouldn't surprise you: Apple, Tesla and Snap (Snapchat) are a few. Warren Buffet talks about the investment strategy of buy what you use and know. Wear Nike? Buy Nike stock. Now, you will want to go about this with research as well. Just because you really love Under Armour's under shirts doesn't mean you should dive in head first (the company was the worst performer in the S&P 500 in 2017. But, hey, don't underestimate Kevin Plank...maybe it'll bounce back!)
The best and most important thing you can do is, well 1, do NOT invest money you don't have. Everyone has different risk tolerances, but taking out loans to jump into the stock market is generally not the way you way to start out. Also, do not neglect your current obligations. People have risked and struck it big but the ones who end up upside down in their debts outweigh those success stories.
Besides that...RESEARCH. Read the newspaper. Watch CNBC. Subscribe to Barron's. If you are serious about investing and want to use the markets as a way to help fund a strong financial future, it is going to take some work. Unless you are trading day-in and day-out, you should think of your stock market plays as investments, not your income. Your day-to-day job is your income, this is a way to help give you some more cushion for the future. There is little substitution for good old fashioned hard work! Shortcuts have pitfalls.
It is not a sure thing. You've gotta risk it for the biscuit but keep in mind...you could lose it all. There are no guarantees when putting your money in a stock. The money you invest is not guaranteed to you. Putting your money in a bank is guaranteed you'll get it out. Funds are insured by the FDIC. Deposits up to $250,000 are safe by insurance.
When you pick a stock, you're picking a company. You're picking it's culture, it's employees, executives and betting on its longevity. Now, there is a snowballs chance in hell Apple or GE won't be around in 25 years. But a good lesson (and obviously a very rare occurrence) was Enron in 2002. The stock price had soared, being propped up by falsified accounting practices. From 2001 to 2002, the stock price fell to $0 taking their shareholders down with them.
If something sounds too good to be true...it usually is. Bubbles are something to be aware of and leads us back into the topic of the fad of the year, Bitcoin.
A bubble, from Investopedia, "occurs when investors put so much demand on a asset that they drive the price beyond any accurate or rational reflection of its actual worth. In the case of a stock, the actual worth would ideally be determined by the performance of the underlying company. Like the soap bubbles a child likes to blow, investing bubbles often appear as though they will rise forever, but since they are not formed from anything substantial, they eventually pop. And when they do, the money that was invested into them dissipates into the wind."
Now, I am not calling Bitcoin a bubble but there are massive parallel's with the cyrptocurrency to the definition above. From this week's edition of Barron's: "Here's one cyclical, but largely accurate, view of market cycles. Wall Street spots an exciting trend. Financiers fund companies and create financial products to play that trend. They get their pals, high-rollers, and insiders in early. Just as the trend starts to peak, the average Joe gets interested, and Joe's grandma too. Then the market crashes."
If you have observed the rise of Bitcoin, you will know it is just the opposite. Bitcoin was invented in 2009. The now billionaire Winklevoss twins invested in April of 2013 when the cryptocurrency hit a high of $266. It now sits at $17,434 (12/12/2017; 12:01 PM EST.)
Banks have not been at the forefront of this trend. Possibly the greatest example of this was JPMorgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon slamming it as a fraud at one of the most prestigious investor conferences of the year, Delivering Alpha.
Banks are now jumping on board to start offering the currency to their institutional investors. The CBOE (Chicago Board of Exchange) Futures Exchange began listing Bitcoin futures yesterday. This is a good sign because it lends legitimacy to the currency.
The price of Bitcoin has been very volatile (moves up and down rapidly.) Bitcoin can fluctuate against fiat currencies because of its perceived value vs. the currency. Fiat currency is currency that a government has declared to be legal tender, but not backed by a physical commodity. The dollar used to be backed by gold (a physical commodity) known as the "Gold Standard". From 1971 on, it is no longer backed by gold, making the U.S. dollar a fiat currency. Fiat money is managed by governments that favor low inflation, high employment, and satisfactory growth through investment in capital resources.
As a country's economy begins to show weakness, investors may move their assets into Bitcoin. When this has happened in the past, investors moved their money into gold. See the similarities?
This is all relevant to Bitcoin's volatility.
Since fiat money is not "backed" by anything, it risks becoming worthless due to "hyperinflation." Hyperinflation basically causes a country's currency to be worthless. How? In countries like Zimbabwe and Venezuela, there has been a significant increase in the money supply but is NOT supported by gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Those two countries are in such disarray that when you receive a paycheck, because of hyperinflation, it might at well be Monopoly money!
It's like making 100 widgets and no one wants to buy...if there is no demand, your supply is worthless.
We are REALLY getting into the weeds here but I think it is important to understand how currencies work. The bottom line, and why proponents argue Bitcoin is far from a bubble is, like gold, there is a finite amount of the coins. 21 million BTC. Just as there is a finite amount of gold. This lends to both Bitcoin and gold's perceived "store of value." Countries can print infinite amounts of paper currency but gold and Bitcoin have a firm amount.
If you were reading this in hopes of tricks to get into Bitcoin and have your own Yacht A one day, I apologize for my lack of assistance!
There have been bullish projections that the cryptocurrency could be worth $1,000,000/BTC by 2020. If it reaches that, there may be lots of people disappointed they didn't jump in, but as of now, I am not a Bitcoin investor.
Mining of coins, cold storage (drives not connected to the Internet,) multiple copies of your Bitcoins stored in safes...all a bit too out of the box for me, but I do enjoy understanding it and I hope this made at least a little sense.
If you have $17k to spare or want to try for a futures contract, go for it! For everyone else, I encourage you to take the step and look into Acorn, Stash, Robinhood, or any other platform that intrigues you to begin forming your portfolio. Go into investing eyes wide open and only invest what you're not afraid to lose.
Investopedia. Stash. Acorn. Robinhood. Barron's. Dow Jones. Google Images.