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The Price of Admission

Everything is down this year except cash and municipal bonds. Headlines are dismal.  Volatility is rampant.  This isn’t some freak event.  It’s the price of admission. Taken as a whole, yes it is unusual to have almost every asset class down in a calendar year.  What’s not unusual is the negative movements themselves.  Stocks go down.  Bonds go down.  Commodities go down.  Real estate goes down.  They will also go back up.   While the S&P 500 only got a bear kiss (down 19%, not a full 20% bear), we’ll eventually see another full-on bear market.  The longer we go without one, though, the more hysterical the news will be.  Each year that passes without a bear market is a year that experienced, seasoned folks retire and bright-eyed neophytes file in.  We’ve had ten years of this.  If your financial advisor is younger than 32, they haven’t navigated a bear market. …

whose line

Scoring Points

In the short-term, the market is like Whose Line Is It Anyway, the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.  Yes, the points don’t matter just like the nutrition facts on a Happy Meal.  If you’re looking for proof, check out October.  More than 80% of S&P 500 companies beat their earnings estimates, yet the index was down almost 7% for the month. Not only are earnings strong, but unemployment is incredibly low and the economy is doing much better than the experts told us was possible.   Just like the pictures of food on a Denny’s menu, that doesn’t matter.  Day-to-day, the markets are linked to the whims of an irrational crowd of humans.  There are already plenty of irrational reasons (ETFs, “trade wars”, and politics) for the October decline, but just like the Do Not Disturb sign on your hotel room door none of these really matter….


Investing in Relationships

Investors must believe that investments will continue to rise in value.  There is no guarantee this will be the case.  It’s a leap of faith.  There is a rational reason why stocks should go up in the future – the objective of a business is to make money and that should create value for shareholders.  However, in the short-term stock price is based on the irrational passions of the market.  We can even cherry-pick cases like Japan or time periods like March 2009 to show that sometimes even the long-term isn’t a sure bet for stocks.  Why would you bet your hard-earned money on something that’s not guaranteed to work? Why do we date?  Get married?  Have friends?  Adopt pets?  In the short-term, all of these relationships can cause us stress.  Try explaining how cheeseburgers work to an 8 year-old who wants a cheeseburger for dinner, but “without meat”.  These…

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Stop, Drop, and Roll

There are many milestones on the path to adulthood: turning 18, graduating from school, landing that first job, having a baby.  There are also less tangible markers of adulthood such as a shift in our perception of threats.  Saturday morning cartoons implied that quicksand would be a real and ever-present obstacle to daily life.  School assemblies left us wondering just how often we’d be catching fire.  Hollywood warned us about the Commie Reds invading our neighborhoods and training montages.  All of these threats were overblown.  Quicksand and catching on fire are extremely remote issues.  As we all know, Head of the Class planted the seeds of the Soviet Union’s destruction when they traveled to Moscow in 1988.  The USSR only lasted 6 months after the last episode of America’s favorite classroom comedy in 1991. Adult Problems Now that we’re older, we worry about adult things like jobs and babies.  One item…


I Blame SportsCenter

The market was down 3% yesterday although you’re more likely to see this as DOW PLUMMETS OVER 800 POINTS.  I don’t know why it’s down, but neither does anyone else.  No one knows what it will do from here, either.  However, I do know how things will play out on CNBC as every perma-bear in New York City is wetting their pants waiting for their booking agent to tell them what time to arrive on set.  I expect doom n’ gloomers making victory laps and appealing to our baser instincts. It’s All SportsCenter’s Fault The golden age of ESPN was wall to wall SportsCenter and actual sporting events.  Today it’s talk shows and even SportsCenter is less focused on actual sport and more story-driven.  Why?  Drama sells.  The WWE is basically soap operas for rednecks and you’re smarter than a redneck, right?  ESPN is the WWE of sports.  What’s really…

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Your Bad Taste in Music Isn’t Helping You Invest

Spotify’s algorithm recently uncovered a gem (to me, anyway) from my youth, adding Gilby Clarke’s “Cure Me Or Kill Me” to one of my playlists.  I admit that this is not a great song, but seeing as how our musical tastes are developed in our teenage years, this track scratches an itch for me.  It brings me back to laying in bed, headphones cranked too high, listening to 106.9’s Top Ten at Ten.  Tremor Christ, Volcano Girls, Counting Blue Cars, Loser, Andres – all on ROCK ONE OH SEVEN WRQK, CANTON’S ROCK STATION!!! Like our taste in music, our perspective on risk can be overly influenced by our early investing experiences.  Vanguard found that Millennials who started investing with them after the global financial crisis were more than twice as likely to hold zero-equity portfolios as those who started investing before.  They also found that older investors held more equities…

Matt jr

Left of the Decimal

Dow Jones has removed General Electric from the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and replaced it with Walgreens Boots Alliance.  GE was an original Dow stock and was part of the index for over 100 years.  The Dow is how your parents consume the stock market which is why newscasts tend to report that information in Dow points.  This is a huge deal, right?  Not from an investing standpoint. The DJIA is price-weighted, meaning that stocks with higher prices make up a larger portion of the index than stocks with a lower price.  This is different than an index like the S&P 500 which is market cap-weighted (the size of the actual company).  It’s interesting to note that GE is getting replaced by a company about half its size by market cap so it’s not like GE is getting the boot (pun intended) because of its size, it’s because the…

Run Rich Run

Pros Versus Casuals

One of my favorite events at the NFL Combine is when NFL Network’s Rich Eisen runs the 40 yard dash.  He uses the Run Rich Run event to raise money for St. Jude’s.  It also helps give perspective to just how talented the athletes at the combine are.  Viewed on the field of play, athletes usually don’t look all that different from one another so when someone sees that Denzel Ward is 5’11” and 180 pounds, they may be tempted to think, “I could compete with that guy!”  No, you could not.  Eisen runs a 6-second 40.  Ward is at 4.3 seconds.  Rich provides the average fan a service that should be available in every sport.  I want to see an average guy swim against Michael Phelps or a group of randoms take on an Olympic curling team. Seeing the difference between a professional and an amateur on screen is helpful. …

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How Yale Beat the Market

The Yale Endowment released their 2017 report, taking a victory lap over their 20-year returns.  In their hubris, the endowment’s management team let slip the secret to beating the markets.  “[A]ctive management can be a powerful tool for institutions that commit the resources to achieve superior, risk-adjusted investment results.”  If only Harvard had thought to commit the resources to achieve superior, risk-adjusted investment results! What’s happening here is two of the planet’s greatest active managers disagree about passive investing.  Warren Buffett says most individual and institutional investors would be better off indexing.  Yale’s David Swenson argues that institutional investors with the resources to do so should just pick good funds. Check out this gem of a footnote in the report: “Yale’s 106.3% venture capital return over the past twenty years is heavily influenced by large distributions during the Internet boom. Since such a calculation assumes reinvestment of proceeds from the…

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My “Bad” Personal Finance

“Dad, can we go speed?” I always wondered if my kids would be like me.  So when William asked that question on the way to swimming lessons, I knew I could check that box.  Yep, this kid inherited the car gene.  My dad is a car guy.  By today’s standards (I enjoy driving stick), I am a car guy.  And now it seems the next generation has the bug.  What’s this got to do with personal finance?  Cars are one of the biggest targets for personal finance bloggers.  If you’re trying to live the FIRE (financially independent, retire early) lifestyle and do the whole retire in your 30s/40s thing, a car can be a huge burden on this journey. Car FIRE The FIRE crowd isn’t necessarily against cars so much as car payments.  Their arguments are air-tight and their logic is flawless.  Yes, it makes sense to buy a used…