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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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, 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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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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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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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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