In the Greek poem, The Odyssey, Homer illustrates an age old flaw in human nature. Odysseus, the hero, is warned by goddess Circe that when his ship is sailing by the island of the Sirens, the irresistible songs of the Sirens will lure him towards the island and destroy his ship.
The sirens are symbolic of the flaws and biases that seem to be a natural part of our brain’s chemistry. Homer suggests a solution to keep these flaws in check. To counter the allure of the Sirens, Odysseus orders his crew to tie him to the mast of the ship and to ignore his future pleas for release until they have passed the dangerous islands. Odysseus commits himself to a rational course of action at a neutral time to ensure that he does not get swayed by emotions during the time of distress. Read the rest of this entry »
History books are filled with examples of what can happen to investors under the direction of poor national governance. The real challenge is, once we are aware of poor governance, how do I respond as an investor?
Recent events have highlighted the potential for trouble in an investment portfolio. Commonly known as political risk, this may be any event triggered by a government’s executive, judicial or legislative decisions that has the potential to negatively affect the stock or bond holders of that country.
As international investing has become broader and more accessible to investors, these issues have become front-and-center questions for the average investor. A recent Economist article sought to quantify the impact of “bad governments” on that same nation’s investors, and cited some specific examples (Argentina, Iran, and Russia in this research) to study their impact relative to their global peers. Read the rest of this entry »
The relationship between supply and demand is widely understood in economics. But does an aging America mean future stock returns will be lower as older Americans sell stocks for day-to-day needs in retirement?
Most economists I’ve spoken with on the matter in recent years have expressed concern about this very dynamic. It’s also a rational, simple explanation for several things. But while supply and demand are still present forces, this thesis makes a number of implied assumptions. The foremost being that baby boomers will be the only supplier of savings (capital) to the productive businesses that need it (in the form of stock purchases in the primary/secondary markets). Read the rest of this entry »
The employer retirement plan (commonly known as a 401k/403b) is an essential savings and investment vehicle available to many individuals today. These plans provide significant benefits to employees, such as tax deferral on employee contributions, employer matching contributions, Roth contribution and greater annual deferral limits than an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
However, a 401(k)’s features, investment choices and service providers are determined by the employer and offer employees little flexibility. Investors must choose among the investment vehicles offered and work within established rules and limits within their respective plan(s). Choosing the right investments within your plan can be difficult as plan data is not always readily available, and many HR departments often do not understand their own plans well enough to provide guidance to plan participants regarding their investment decisions.
What does the financial news media mean when they say, “brace for more market volatility”?
Over several decades in the investment business, I have consumed many thousands of hours of financial news from the likes of CNBC and Fox Business News. Over that same time period I have heard the term “market volatility” used ad nauseam by news anchors and Wall Street analysts in reference to every kind of investing situation. I would guess you have, too.
Here are several recent examples from a CNBC print article on their website Brace for More Market Volatility in the Second Half of 2013. http://cnbc.com/id/100848558
“Investors, buckle your seat belts. Markets in the second half could be driven by more volatility, though most strategists expect equities to ultimately end the year higher than their current levels.” Read the rest of this entry »
One of the most confusing and least understood terms for the investing public is annuitization. Unlike stocks, bonds, mutual funds and exchange traded funds (“ETF’s”), annuitization does not come up in cocktail party or water cooler conversation very often. What does it mean?
Many investors have money saved and invested in a fixed or variable annuity – two types of contracts issued by insurance companies. Annuitization is the process of converting annuity funds into a stream of income, usually paid on a monthly basis. Choosing whether to annuitize or not is very important because often you can’t change your mind once payouts begin.
Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages. – General George Washington
Have you read David McCullough’s book 1776? If you haven’t, you might not find a better addition to your summer reading list – particularly over this long holiday weekend. First published in 2005, it’s an entertaining must read not only for its historical recounting of our nation’s first year, but for its lessons in courage and perseverance.
For today’s investors, the book is a reminder of the old saying, “that which is well achieved is usually well earned!” Read the rest of this entry »