economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

“Rising Prices in the Economy”: Inflation Post COVID

In September 2020 Jay Powell announced that the Federal Reserve would adjust how it reacts to inflation, one of its chief mandates, and allow inflation to run hotter for longer. The expectation is that it will be several years before the Fed raises interest rates. Traditionally, elevated rates of inflation indicate the economy is operating at full capacity and may be in danger overheating. Following the COVID recession of 2020 the Fed is trying to create a positive environment for the recovery.

In the Spring of 2021 signs of inflation are abundant. Since the fall of 2020 commodity prices had risen dramatically. Lumber prices had soared as supply constraints limited what was available, especially as housing prices went up and building accelerated. Copper surged to new record highs. Wheat, corn and other food commodities went up as the economy reopened and supply couldn’t keep up with demand.

Among tech businesses a shortage of computer chips affected the building of everything from cars to exercise equipment. “Just in time” supply chains showed increasing strain.

To top things off, a gasoline pipeline was held hostage by a ransomware attack in early May 2021. The result was gasoline shortages and higher prices throughout the east coast US.

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economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

“Data Dependent” Fed Changes Course and Markets React

In the Fall of 2018, equity markets sold off.

What was the cause?

Widespread view among economists was an expectation of slowing economic growth in 2019 and a Federal Reserve led by Chairman Jay Powell that was expected to continue to raise rates three more times in 2019.

As anxiety and stress built up in November and December, markets dropped. Between October 3 and October 29 the SP500 fell 9.7%. Between October 29 and December 7 the market bounced around rising 6.5% only to give it back and to fall .3%. However, in the weeks before Christmas, December 7 to December 24 the market fell another 10.7%. Showing the rapidness of the decline, on Christmas Eve the SP500 fell 2.6%.

On Bloomberg Surveillance on April 4th, Tom Keene asked Jim Paulson “Was December the mother of all cathartic events? It was so traumatic.” Jim Paulson responded, “I don’t ever remember a December like that ever in my entire career. It was original, and I think it shocked all of us, myself included that this happened in December… But it looks increasingly like the oddity, what was incorrect and inappropriate, was the December swoon… and we may be overdid the selling more than we should have.” (2)

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economy, entrepreneurship, income

In Memoriam, Alan Krueger and Raising the Minimum Wage

Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t easily shed tears. But I did on Monday March 18th, 2019. For over an hour I wept.

On this day it was announced that Alan Krueger, beloved Princeton economist, had passed away over the weekend. (1)

Michael Mckee of Bloomberg said “He was one of the nicest people in economics, always willing to sit down and explain concepts to you, to talk with you, it’s a real shock…” Peter Coy continued, “If he were just a nice guy it would be one thing, but he was also a deep scholar…” McKee explained, “There are a lot of economists doing important work, but Krueger really had an enormous impact on public policy outcomes.” All concurred, “It’s a tragedy.” (3)

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economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Are Bond Yields Moving Higher?

On October 3rd, 2018 the 10-year yield moved dramatically higher increasing 3.3% in a single day. Pundits have listed many reasons for rates and bond yields to move higher… a strengthening economy, decreasing unemployment, rising oil prices signaling inflation, a Federal Reserve committed to further rate increases into 2019. (3)

These pressures had been building for some time and signaled a good economic environment.

However, there are a few factors that some view as critically important moving forward in deciding how much bond yields could move up as well as how quickly.

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economy, income, interest rates, retirement, risk management

Where to from here? July 2020

It has been a difficult year on many levels. Given the past few months I want to catch up in several areas… with what has transpired since the spring, where things currently stand in the economy, and what I foresee going into the second half of the year and beyond. This may take a while…

As a reminder, the current economic downturn did not occur spontaneously due to COVID. In September of 2019 Repo rates indicated problems in lending markets. For several year’s companies have been borrowing extensively, especially at lower levels of credit quality. In the Fall of 2019 Morgan Stanley noted that over 20% of corporate borrowers were “zombie companies”; companies with no positive cashflow, excessive debt, and borrowing to stay afloat. This was the situation when the economy was “healthy”.

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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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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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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, 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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