economy, retirement, risk management

Psychology and the Market

On Monday February 24th 2020 the Dow dropped over 1000 points in a single day.

 

Human behavior is driven two forces, fight or flight. When facing a dramatic event we as individuals are forced to REACT to what happens. 

When looking at the market, if a person is underinvested and it goes up day after day making new highs, that person may experience FOMO… fear of missing out. They might make the decision to invest based on emotion instead of fundamentals.

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income, retirement, Taxes

RMD: What are the Risks and How Can We Address Them?

Several recent studies show peoples number one fear is running out of money during retirement.

To prepare us for retirement the government gives workers the ability to set up qualified accounts in order to save for retirement and get tax deferred growth. By deferring taxes money saved can grow faster. You put money away, not paying taxes now, but paying taxes on the money when you pull it out during retirement.

When you get to retirement, you can start pulling money from your account. In the past it has been considered good practice to not draw more than 4% from an account during retirement in order to make sure you don’t outlive your money. In the past bond yields have been 5-7% and that makes a 4% draw down possible. Now over the past 5 years bond yields have been around 2-3% and because many retirees rely on bonds to deliver income to their portfolio, many economists and advisors have been advising clients to withdraw less from their IRAs; this is so retirees don’t run out of money when they are older.

Now what if I told you there was a government program that requires you to draw more income from your account, without any consideration for how long you or your spouse will live, and without regard for whether you will run out of money or not.

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disability, health, protection, risk management

Deaths of Despair

In recent months companies at the center of the Opioid Crisis have been fighting in court about the roles they played in the epidemic that has affected millions of Americans. The over prescription of highly addictive drugs has had severe impacts on families, businesses, and the economy as a whole. (1) But the Opioid Crisis is only part of a much larger problem facing American Society.

In March of 2017 a landmark study was released connecting opioid abuse, financial security and death rates in the United States. The information is sobering and should be the focus of policy changes at all levels of government.

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disability, economy, health, life insurance, protection, retirement, risk management

Women and Financial Security

In 2018, the government of Iceland passed a law making it illegal to pay women less than men. (1) 

According to a World Economic Forum report, “At the current pace, gender gaps can potentially be closed in 54 years in Western Europe… and in 151 years in North America (reflecting lack of progress in the region this year).” (2)

A recent study by Economic Policy Institute found that women earn 74 cents for every $1 earned by a man with similar education and experience. This wage gap has always existed and is disturbing in a society founded upon equality and justice. (3)

This wage gap has important implications for women and their financial security, especially during retirement. 

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AI, disability, economy, life insurance, new economy, protection, retirement

Jobs at Risk

A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute examined how robotics will affect labor and the economy. The study estimated that 800 million jobs (1/5 of all jobs) will be impacted by advances in robotics. (1)

Among the jobs most impacted include brokers, accountants, office staff, machine operators, and food service. Lower skilled, repetitive tasks are most likely to be replaced.

What does this mean for family finances in the years to come?

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economy, life insurance, new economy, protection, retirement, risk management

How to Deal with Being Laid Off: 5 Strategies To Prepare For Job Change

Each day we read reports that the economy is booming.

“U.S. housing and consumer are strong” (1)

“Factory output is poised to speed up.”

“Stronger global growth expectations and a weaker dollar should help.”

“The stock market hits record highs…”

With that being the case, you might find it surprising that several large corporations have recently announced they will be laying off large numbers of employees, especially managers.

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AI, Climate change, economy, new economy, retirement, risk management

The Work of Nations: 30 Years On…

When I first read “The Work of Nations” by Robert Reich in the mid-1990s I had almost no background in macroeconomics. (1) But in reading it, Reich was able to effectively describe how radically the economic system was changing as a result of Globalization. Reich at the time was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and a key member of his economic team.

As context, China’s economy in 1991 was $400 billion compared to $6,174 billion for the US. China entered the global trade organizations in 1992. Today China’s economy is $14 trillion compared to $21 trillion for the US.

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income, retirement, Taxes

First Steps to Retirement Planning

Many people are paralyzed into inaction when they start thinking about the challenge of planning for retirement. The truth is there are a few first steps anyone can take on their own to improve their chances for success.

A first step is to determine how much income you can expect to receive from social security. In years past SSA would mail annual statements for people to see their expected benefits. Things have changed… go to google and search for “my social security”. You will create an account and through this account be able to determine your numbers.

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Climate change, diversity, environment, ESG, retirement, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

What is Socially Responsible Investing?

I have recently had several people ask me about SRI. What is it? Why does it matter?

The first thing to understand is SRI means different things to different people. Several years ago I attended a gathering of advisors focused on sustainability at the Bloomberg headquarters in NYC. I talked to many of the 300 attendees and what I found was every single person had a different interpretation of what SRI meant.

Some focused on promoting clean energy, some focused on workers issues and inequality, some focused on climate change, some look to exclude alcohol and tobacco, others focused on micro lending. Each focus is unique and approaches the challenge of investing with different assumptions.

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Climate change, economy, environment, ESG, interest rates, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Mixed Economic Signals, Debt Issues and Fossil Fuel Companies

Several years ago, Bloomberg Businessweek did a bio pic on Hank Paulson, Bush’s Treasury secretary who served during the Financial Crisis of 2008. After reviewing the events that led to the Crisis, connecting the dots, and seeing the impact of what happened, Paulson had this to say at the end of the film…

“The whole reason I’m doing this, is not because I want to look back, but because I have increasingly come to the view that it’s important that there be a historical record for those that come after me, so we don’t replay this movie all over again.” (1)

Fast-forward to November 2019, and we see many positive and negative conditions developing that raise questions about the longevity of the 10-year bull market in stocks and the health of the US economy.

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income, interest rates, protection, retirement

How to Guarantee Retirement?

Several years ago I read a post on LinkedIn which sounded the alarm bells that the “time is running out” for your retirement account.

I found it offensive and in poor taste, playing on the fears of the public at large. Throughout most of 2019 there has been a palatable undercurrent of fear in the market… on the part of investors, on the part of money managers, on the part of economists…

The 20% pullback in 2018 in the market reinforces that fear for some.

There is no doubt that the current environment is challenging when it comes to managing investments and making suitable choices.

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Climate change, environment, ESG, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Socially Responsible Investing Grows

“Integrity is the essence of everything successful” -Buckminster Fuller

One of the benefits of the information age is the ability to make rational judgements about companies that you invest in. To the degree that a company fails to meet an investors expectations of what is acceptable, a company or industry becomes un-investable.

“Sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI) is an investment discipline that considers environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria to generate long-term competitive financial returns and positive societal impact.” (1)

A recent study by the US Sustainable Investment Finance Foundation revealed the tremendous growth in sustainable investing.

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life insurance, protection, risk management

The Risk To Your Child’s Future

Loss of a parent shatters the life of a child. Period.

Loss of a parent’s love.
Loss of a guide through life’s challenges.
Loss of protection and security.

These are losses that are beyond measure and replacement. But the truth is these losses can be worsened by the financial impact that comes from a lack of planning and losing a parent.

7 in 10 of all households said they would have trouble covering everyday living expenses after several months if the primary wage earner died. (1)

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Climate change, economy, environment, income, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Rising Seas and the Risk to Retirees

Florida has always been considered a favorite retirement destination. The warmer climate attracting older American’s who have health issues ranging from Asthma to Arthritis, from Heart Disease to Parkinson’s. 20% of Florida’s population is over age 65 (compared to only 15% in New Jersey).

An additional challenge facing retirees in both Florida and New Jersey is climate change risk due to rising seas, storm surge and the potential loss of property in coastal communities.

In 2013, hurricane Sandy delivered a wake-up call to many about the danger to real estate as a result of hurricane force winds and storm surge. This past summer it looked to be Florida’s turn. Hurricanes Irma and Maria threatened to make landfall in Florida with devastating force.

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income, protection, retirement, risk management

5 Tips to Make Your Retirement Savings Last

The statistics are troubling…
10,000 Americans begin their retirement every day.

The Social Security Administration has said the SS Trust Fund will become exhausted by 2035, unless benefits are reduced, the retirement age is raised, or other solutions are put into action. (1)

76% of Baby Boomers are not confident they have saved enough for retirement. (2)

One third of retirees retire with mortgage debt. (2)

Women live substantially longer then men and yet have much less saved for retirement. (3)

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health, life insurance, new economy, protection

Job Change, Group Life Insurance and Russian Roulette

In the United States, there is a huge number of households which are unprotected or under protected by Life Insurance. In a recent LIMRA study 7 in 10 households believe would be in serious financial distress if an adult in the household passed away. (1)

37 million households have no life insurance.
Another 33 million households do not have sufficient life insurance to count themselves as protected.

One vehicle that many people rely upon for protection is Group Life Insurance. When offered as a company benefit, it can inexpensively provide protection for many people… but it only does so while the insured works for the company.

Currently, 1 in 5 people are only covered by Group Life Insurance.

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economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management, Taxes

Trick or Treat? Revisiting The Potential Downside of Tax Reform for Investors

There is an old story that goes “beware what you wish for…” Things don’t always turn out as expected. Two years ago the President proposed and Congress approved a huge tax cut plan… the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The results have been controversial.

Along those lines I watched a fascinating interview of Tom Lee, head of research at Fundstrat, on Bloomberg two years ago. His insight proved very valuable and accurate. (1)

His feeling is that a Tax cut, as it was being discussed, could be negative for investors long term. “There’s two reasons; First, when cutting tax rate you raise the after tax cost of debt. Leverage becomes a problem for a lot of businesses. Second, because you are cutting tax rates you are effectively giving cash to all businesses, even businesses where you want to reduce allocation.“

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economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Economic Fears and Managing Risks

The economy continues to slow and is having an effect on markets. Incoming ECB President Christine Lagarde stated the US trade war with China has “dented global economic growth.”

“You can’t adjust to the unknown. So, what do you do? You build buffers. You build savings. You wonder what comes next. That’s not propitious to economic development,” said Lagarde.

“It means less investment, less jobs, more unemployment, reduced growth. So of course, it has an impact,” she said.

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economy, income, retirement, risk management

Investing with Stocks at Record Levels

I have talked to many clients. I have read and listened to many economists and Chief Investment Officers who are nervous about investing hard earned savings when markets and indexes are making new highs.

Many people feel the market is “due for a correction”; they worry about a “bubble bursting like 2008”; they look at the political environment and feel confused by what is happening in Washington DC.

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economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Recession Risks Rise

In a recent presentation to investors, Doubleline CEO Jeffery Gunlach stated he sees a 75% chance of a recession by 2020. (1)

Many signs are popping up that point in the same direction.

In August 2019 the yield curve inverted. (2) An inverted yield curve is seen within the financial industry as a reliable leading indicator for recessions.

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health, life insurance, protection

How will your family survive?

My cousin recently died from a heart attack.

He was 48 years old. He left behind a wife and two teenage children. Their plans for the future were shattered and his family is left to pick up the pieces.

My son was born when I was 30 years old. Honestly, I didn’t get life insurance until I was 36. I had never been taught the importance of using Life Insurance to manage risk and protect your family. Recent studies show that I’m not alone. There is a huge gap in the level of financial literacy in the United States.

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charitable giving, life insurance

Creating Social Impact Through Giving

Every day millions are helped to improve their lives due to the generosity of others. As a community we each have a stake in the success of every individual, every family. Many organizations that make massive positive contributions are struggling due to cutbacks in government supports.

We as stakeholders in American society have a responsibility to give back and help those less fortunate. A recent example of this ethos:

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economy, entrepreneurship, new economy

“Morning in America…”

I was driving into work today and a Chevy Volt sped by me. Yesterday a Fisker Karma was parked in front of my office. In Q2 of 2019 Tesla produced over 72,000 cars, including the mass production version Model3.

Technology is bringing a renaissance to American manufacturing. (1) New industries and new job descriptions are being created, even as “old economy” jobs become antiquated and outsourced to robots. (2)

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economy, new economy, risk management

Management Flaws in Corporate America

The most recent rounds of corporate earnings reports for retail companies has by and large been very disappointing. Many companies are struggling to survive in an environment dominated by a few large ecommerce companies. (1)

Disappointing earnings have resulted in lowered outlooks and fallen stock prices of many retail companies. (2)

I recently had the opportunity to talk to several people who work in corporate America, particularly retail. What I learned is scary.

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Climate change, economy, environment, ESG, retirement, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Divestment From Fossil Fuels Gathers Steam

As an investor in todays economy, you have a say in what companies you invest in and support. By investing in a company, you are effectively voting with your dollars.

By the same token, as an investor you also have the right to the purposefully refuse to invest in a specific company or industry. Perhaps you disagree with their business model or you oppose the negative impacts they are having on society. This act of withholding investment is at the core of “Divestment”.

Without access to capital markets, fossil fuel companies cannot finance their operations. As fewer buyers come in to buy shares of fossil fuel companies, the potential value of these companies decline.

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Climate change, economy, environment, health, new economy, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

Pending Meat Tax Could Change Economic Behavior

In recent weeks plant-based meat products have made real inroads into many popular restaurant chains. Many plant-based brands have developed models that make them cost competitive and flavor competitive with animal-based meat products.

Animal-based meats have been criticized on several levels. The role that CAFOs (concentrated animal farming operations) play in deforestation, methane release, pollution and accelerating climate change. In addition, several recent studies have shown that meat products have many negative health consequences, including cancer. (1)

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economy, new economy, risk management

New Employment Realities As Recession Risks Rise

“I’VE BEEN LET GO…”

It’s a terrifying experience… being fired or laid off from a job you have done well for a number of years. It seems daily that you see headlines of such announcements.

While the monthly jobs numbers are heralded as a sign of a strong economy there are undercurrents of weakness. More than half of all American’s have little or no savings.(1) Many companies report a weakening expectation for revenue and growth.(2) CEOs are concerned about the effects the trade war and it has caused many companies to delay capital investments and expansion.(3)

Many analysts have already indicated that Europe is in a recession. Some expect a recession in the US within the next 6 to 12 months.(4)

With that being the case, it pays to be prepared and understand what unemployment means in this new economic environment.

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income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Being Too Fearful Can Hurt Financial Security

I have spoken to many people in the past year who are fearful in the current market environment… High market valuation, trade war fears, warnings from pundits, Fed policy moves, volatility… Because of fear, many people have decided to sit in cash or even liquidate their retirement savings.

In a recent study the World Economic Forum examined the savings shortfall around the world… the situation where due to increasing longevity people are expected to outlive their savings. One of the key findings was the demonstration that Japanese savers are extremely conservative in their investing style, avoiding equities and only using cash and bond equivalents for saving. The result is Japanese women face a savings shortfall of 20 years compared to American women who have a savings shortfall of 10.9 years. A lack of growth in assets hurts financial security. (1)

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AI, economy, new economy, retirement

Productivity and Robots

For decades the US economy has suffered from stagnant wages and stifled productivity. While the economy has grown in GDP since 1970 growing from $1 trillion to $18.5 trillion in 2016 and $20.513 trillion in 2018, the American worker has not enjoyed commensurate benefits. Wages have remained flat for decades. 

In the past, studies have shown that part of the reason for this was the development of the computer and its influence on businesses improving efficiency. 

In a new study from London’s Center for Economic Research, the analysis offered by George Graetz and Guy Michaels of Uppsala University and the London School of Economics, respectively, offers some of the first rigorous macroeconomic research and finds that industrial robots have been a substantial driver of labor productivity and economic growth. (1)

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Climate change, economy, environment, interest rates, retirement, risk management, SRI

Climate Change impacting Economic Growth

In the past decade the global economy has struggled to produce sustained economic growth. While the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and the Great Recession left a lasting impact on companies and decision-makers, the structural changes to the economy since then have been substantial.

Companies have adapted by changing the employment structure of how they operate. Many companies, to cut costs, have changed many jobs from w2 positions to contractor or out sourced positions. This has allowed large companies to pay less in terms of benefits to their workers; benefits such as health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance and retirement savings.

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economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Negative Yielding Bonds and Risk

Bonds are traditionally used within investment portfolios to reduce equity risk and generate income through the yields they carry. For example, a 10 year bond with a face value of $10,000 with a 5% yield generates $500 in income. Most recently the US 10 year yield was 2%.

However, over the past few years central banks in Europe and Japan have experimented with Quantitative Easing and driven rates below zero%. In late June 2019, the amount of negative yielding bonds reached over $12 trillion. Yields in Europe continue to fall as the ECB in June indicated its plans to lower the discount rate further in upcoming meetings. A slow-down in the European economy and low inflation has left businesses and economists frustrated. (1)

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Climate change, economy, environment, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Rising global temperatures will hurt global GDP

A study released by the science journal Nature makes the connection between the rise of global temperatures and the negative impact this has on GDP around the world. In the study, titled “Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production”, researchers found that “fundamental productive elements of modern economies, such as workers and crops, exhibit highly non-linear responses to local temperature even in wealthy countries.” Meaning as temperatures rise, the effect is much greater and accelerates in ways that are potentially disastrous. (1)

One of the lead authors, Marshall Burke of Stanford’s Department of Earth System Science, calls their study “the first evidence that economic activity in all regions is coupled to the global climate.”

The study continues, “If future adaptation mimics past adaptation, unmitigated warming is expected to reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality.”

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Climate change, economy, environment, ESG, new economy, risk management, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

David Hume, “State of Nature” and Climate Change

When you examine the behavior of corporations today you begin to wonder… Is there a moral philosophical underpinning to their behavior? What determines right and wrong? And in an age of anthropogenic climate change what is the responsibility of business to the larger society?

I decided to revisit the philosophy of David Hume and see if I could scrape together some clues to better understand what we are experiencing. Hume was an English philosopher in the 18th century. Along with John Locke, Hume wrote several treatises that became the foundation of philosophical thought in England, but also importantly, for the United States. Hume’s insights can be found in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. As a result, his thinking played a crucial role in the development of business and industry, and the policies that supported their development.

To understand how government developed and the role it played in regulating behavior, Hume and others described an original condition (prior to government) he called the “State of Nature”.

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Climate change, environment, ESG, Socially Responsible Investing, SRI

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

People are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of climate change. In October of 2018 the UN Panel on Climate Change stated we have 12 years to halt the growth of CO2 if we hope to avoid the worst possible consequences of global warming. (1)

This awareness has led to many projects that are working to effect change. Greta has raised the awareness of students and led to student walkouts on Friday’s to protest the inaction of adults on Climate. John Lui and others have organized eco-restoration camps to foster regenerative agriculture and to plant many more trees in degraded environments. Many foundations and pensions are pursuing divestment strategies from fossil fuel companies to reduce the capital available to produce carbon intensive projects. More people are turning to socially responsible investing as a way to have their own investments impact what the future will look like.

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economy, entrepreneurship, new economy, risk management

A Guidebook for the Anthropocene Era

I have written before the current age has been called the Anthropogenic Era, the human era, because mankind is reshaping the geology and environment of the world. The economic system is adjusting to these changes taking place. The economic system set up 100 years ago does not behave or react the same way because the environment is different in which it operates.

The internet is revolutionizing the economy.

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income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Closing the Retirement Savings Gap

A new report from World Economic Forum shows that retirees could outlive their savings by a decade or more due to higher life expectancy. “Women should prepare to bear the brunt of such shortfalls, going without retirement savings for at least two years longer than their male counterparts.” (3)

“The size of the gap is such that it requires action,’ says report co-author Han Yik. (1)

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Climate change, economy, environment, retirement

Climate Change Affecting Crops in 2019

Thanks to endless rain and historic flooding that has stretched on for months, many farmers have not been able to plant crops at all, and a lot of the crops that have actually been planted are deeply struggling. What this means is that U.S. agricultural production has the possibility of being way, way down this year.

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