Tag Archives: Gainesville

Post #1000 !!!

Three and a half years ago I decided it was time for me to assert myself and take advantage of a little knowledge about social media and a desire to write. I decided to start my own blog.

What you are reading, if WordPress metrics are to be believed, is post number 1000. How I got to this point I have no idea. How many people ever read what I post is also a mystery.

But it’s now part of my dayly weekday routine to make sure something gets posted. In the grand scheme of things I want it to provide value for someone other than myself. Clearly most of the posts have to do with what I know professionally about money, the management of it, and its relationship to economics, government, politics and a host of other forces that determine the outcome.

I’ve long known that my ability with the written word far exceeds my ability with the spoken word. As these 1000 or so ideas have flowed from my fingertips with indispensable help from other writers, I hope I’ve been useful to those of you who have either run across me somewhere or know me and find these ideas useful from time to time.

There seems to be an almost inexhaustable supply of material from which to choose. Some of it’s pure blather but a lot of it is worth repeating, which means a lot to me as my creative juices run dry on a weekly basis.

One thing I have failed to do over these past many months is to pose an important question to each of you: “What do YOU want to know more about?” I’ve made a vow to focus more of my energies on your answers, so going forward, my thoughts will hopefully be more about you than about me.

Assuming you choose to make a comment about this, I’m going to report back in another post what you collectively said. If there’s a collective silence, so be it; I’ll just keep on keeping on.

Lastly, I came across a group recently that helps people create online courses. The idea is that many of us have the ability to teach others something of value. They provide a step by step process to make that happen.

Look for me to soon announce an online course. My guess right now is it will be about investing money. The idea is to help anyone with the ability to think into the future, to arrive there with a pile of money. There will be no promises, but I’m convinced anyone’s journey into the future will be helped by a better understanding of the dynamics involved when it comes to money.

Thanks so very much for listening.TK signature

The World Is Marching Back From Globalisation

question-markMy Comments: Those of you who know me well do not consider me a pessimist. But this is Monday. And while I can feel optimistic about the chances for a return to good times from Florida football, the rest of the news is essentially gloom and despair. I’d much rather bring you something uplifting and motivating. But as a very tiny piece of a very big wheel, I’m powerless to do more than share this with you, hoping one of you will lift me off the floor.

My life has been shaped by how the world changed for the better following World War II. Notwithstanding the conflicts in Korea, Viet Nam and the middle east, it felt like there was a steady progression across the planet in terms of rising standards of living, health, and happiness. My family today is a reflection of that.

According to this author, the crash of 2008 has stopped that flow. The maniacs in Iraq are not fundamental to this reversal, though it will help us all if they are simply put down, like one would do with a deranged dog. I expect civilization will survive and once again move in the direction I spoke of a minute ago, but for now, and perhaps for the rest of my life, there are likely to be more questions than there are answers.

As we move toward the elections in 2016, we need to find leaders who don’t need to blow smoke and promote their own egos at our expense.

By Philip Stephens September 4, 2014

There is a mood abroad that says history will record that sanctions against Russia marked the start of an epochal retreat from globalisation. I heard a high-ranking German official broach the thought the other day at the German Marshall Fund’s Stockholm China Forum. It was an interesting point, but it missed a bigger one. The sanctions are more symptom than cause. The rollback began long before Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, began his war against Ukraine.

The case for calling a halt to business as usual with Moscow is self-evident to anyone who considers that international security demands nations do not invade their neighbours. The valid criticism of the west is that it has been too slow to react. At every step, the Russian president has ruthlessly exploited US hesitation and European divisions.

He will do so until Nato restores deterrence to the core of European security. Mr Putin’s irredentism demands tough diplomacy stiffened by hard power. He will stop when he understands that aggression will invite unacceptable retaliation. To make deterrence credible, the alliance must put boots on the ground on its eastern flank. The Baltics have replaced Berlin as the litmus test of western resolve.

Some, particularly though not exclusively in the rising world, have seen sanctions through a different prism. By punishing Russia economically, the US and Europe are undermining the open international system. Economics, this cast of mind says, must be held apart from the vicissitudes of political quarrels. Why should new powers sign up to a level international playing field if the US and Europe scatter it with rocks in pursuit of narrow interests?

These critics are right to say an integrated global economy needs a co-operative political architecture. Sanctions against Ukraine, though, fit a bigger picture of the unravelling of globalisation since the financial crash of 2008. They testify to a profound reversal in US attitudes. Washington’s steady retreat from global engagement reaches beyond Barack Obama’s ordinance that the US stop doing “stupid stuff”.

The architect of the present era of globalisation is no longer willing to be its guarantor. The US does not see a vital national interest in upholding an order that redistributes power to rivals. Much as they might cavil at this, China, India and the rest are unwilling to step up as guardians of multilateralism. Without a champion, globalisation cannot but fall into disrepair.

Not so long ago, finance and the internet were at once the most powerful channels, and visible symbols, of the interconnected world. Footloose capital and digital communications had no respect for national borders. Financial innovation (and downright chicanery) recycled the huge surpluses of the rising world to penurious homebuyers in Middle America and dodgy speculators on the Costa del Sol. The masters of the banking universe spun their roulette wheels in the name of something called the Washington consensus.

Then came the crash. Finance has been renationalised. Banks have retreated in the face of new regulatory controls. European financial integration has gone into reverse. Global capital flows are still only about half their pre-crisis peak.

As for the digitalised world, the idea that everyone, everywhere should have access to the same information has fallen foul of authoritarian politics and concerns about privacy. China, Russia, Turkey and others have thrown roadblocks across the digital highway to stifle dissent. Europeans want to protect themselves from US intelligence agencies and the monopoly capitalism of the digital giants. The web is heading for Balkanisation.

The open trading system is fragmenting. The collapse of the Doha round spoke to the demise of global free-trade agreements. The advanced economies are looking instead to regional coalitions and deals – the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact. The emerging economies are building south-south relationships. Frustrated by a failure to rebalance the International Monetary Fund, the Brics nations are setting up their own financial institutions.

Domestic politics, north and south, reinforces these trends. If western leaders have grown wary of globalisation, many of their electorates have turned positively hostile. Globalisation was sold in the US and Europe as an exercise in enlightened self-interest – everyone would be a winner in a world that pulled down national frontiers. It scarcely seems like that to the squeezed middle classes, as the top 1 per cent scoop up the gains of economic integration.

Much as the south has prospered within the old rules – China’s admission to the World Trade Organisation has been the biggest geopolitical event so far of the present century – yet the new powers show scant enthusiasm for multilateralism. The old order is widely seen as an instrument of US hegemony. India scuppered the latest attempt to reinvigorate the WTO.

Globalisation needs an enforcer – a hegemon, a concert of powers or global governance arrangements sufficient to make sure the rules are fairly applied. Without a political architecture that locates national interests in mutual endeavours, the economic framework is destined to fracture and fragment.

Narrow nationalisms elbow aside global commitments. Sanctions are part of this story, but Russia’s contempt for the international order is a bigger one. Sad to say, we learnt in 1914 that economic interdependence is a feeble bulwark against great power rivalry.

The Euro Is In Greater Peril Today Than At The Height Of The Crisis

My Comments: Here in the US we tend to think of Europe as a mis-directed older sibling, someone who can’t quite make it, by our standards. We forget that most of our laws and even the language we speak came from Europe. And those foundations were forged in a melting pot as violent and as culturally diverse as the chaos we see today in the Middle East. Talk about tribal warfare!

The European Union is an effort to eventually federalize the countries of Europe that emerged and existed following World War II. A common currency was thought to be a mechanism that echoed what we have here in the US among all 50 states. It’s in our best interest as a global peacemaker and economic engine of the future that we help Europe evolve and thrive.

Wolfgang Münchau / November 9, 2014 / The Financial Times

The eurozone has no mechanism to defend itself against a drawn-out depression.

If there is one thing European policy makers agree on, it is that the survival of the euro is no longer in doubt. The economy is not doing great, but at least the crisis is over.

I would challenge that consensus. European policy makers tend to judge danger in terms of the number of late-night meetings in the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels. There are definitely fewer of those. But that is a bad metric.

I do not have the foggiest idea what the probability of a break-up of the euro was during the crisis. But I am certain that the probability is higher today. Two years ago forecasters were hoping for strong economic recovery. Now we know it did not happen, nor is it about to happen. Two years ago, the eurozone was unprepared for a financial crisis, but at least policy makers responded by creating mechanisms to deal with the acute threat.

Today the eurozone has no mechanism to defend itself against a drawn-out depression. And, unlike two years ago, policy makers have no appetite to create such a mechanism.

As so often in life, the true threat may not come from where you expect – the bond markets. The main protagonists today are not international investors, but insurrectional electorates more likely to vote for a new generation of leaders and more willing to support regional independence movements.

In France, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, could expect to win a straight run-off with President François Hollande. Beppe Grillo, the leader of the Five Star Movement in Italy, is the only credible alternative to Matteo Renzi, the incumbent prime minister. Both Ms Le Pen and Mr Grillo want their countries to leave the eurozone. In Greece, Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party lead the polls. So does Podemos in Spain, with its formidable young leader Pablo Iglesias.

The question for voters in the crisis-hit countries is at which point does it become rational to leave the eurozone? They might conclude that it is not the case now; they might oppose a break-up for political reasons. Their judgment is prone to shift over time. I doubt it is becoming more favourable as the economy sinks deeper into depression.

Unlike two years ago, we now have a clearer idea about the long-term policy response. Austerity is here to stay. Fiscal policy will continue to contract as member states fulfil their obligations under new European fiscal rules. Germany’s “stimulus programme”, announced last week, is as good as it gets: 0.1 per cent of gross domestic product in extra spending, not starting until 2016. Enjoy!

What about monetary policy? Mario Draghi said he expected the balance sheet of the European Central Bank to increase by about €1tn. The president of the ECB did not set this number as a formal target, but as an expectation – whatever that means. The most optimistic interpretation is that this implies a small programme of quantitative easing (purchases of government debt). A more pessimistic view is that nothing will happen and that the ECB will miss the €1tn just as it keeps on missing its inflation target. My expectation is that the ECB will meet the number – and that it will not make much difference.

And what about structural reforms? We should not overestimate their effect. Germany’s much-praised welfare and labour reforms made it more competitive against other eurozone countries. But they did not increase domestic demand. Applied to the eurozone as a whole, their effect would be even smaller as not everybody can become simultaneously more competitive against one another.

Two months ago Mr Draghi suggested the eurozone fire in three directions simultaneously – looser monetary policies, an increase in public sector investments and structural reforms. I called this the economic equivalent of carpet-bombing. The response looks more like an economic equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

These serial disappointments do not tell us conclusively that the eurozone will fail. But they tell us that secular stagnation is very probable. For me, that constitutes the true metric of failure.

‘Risk On’ for Now

financial freedomMy Comments: Continuing with the theme that if you have exposure to the markets you need to be very careful, here is another metric from someone who knows how to read the tea leaves.

I’m reluctant to continually use fear to motivate people to act. But if you are not now in cash, then you need to be able to move to cash quickly. As an added benefit, if you also have the ability to move further and make money while others are losing theirs, you just may come out the other side as a happy camper. At least that’s the plan.

November 07, 2014 Commentary by Scott Minerd, Chairman of Investments and Global Chief Investment Officer – Guggenheim Investments

Last week’s investment roller coaster was something we had been expecting—U.S. stocks delivered their usual bout of seasonal volatility right on cue. For now, recent spread widening in high-yield bonds and leveraged bank loans seems to be over, and it also appears that equities have regained their footing after a turbulent week.

With the anticipated seasonal pattern of higher volatility in September and October now largely fulfilled, we anticipate more positive seasonal factors over the next two months. Over the last 68 years, the S&P 500 has averaged monthly gains of 0.9 percent in October, followed by even stronger increases of 1.2 percent in November and 1.8 percent in December.

The current dark cloud that hangs over Europe is a serious threat and something that investors should closely monitor. If the anticipated seasonal strength—which is typically driven by an influx of cash into pension funds that their managers are keen to put to work—is not forthcoming, investors should seriously question how much further the current bull market can run. As of now, we remain cautiously optimistic as we await some crucial economic data.

Chart of the Week


Can U.S. Equities Sustain this Rally?

Despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average high made on Nov. 6, the New York Stock Exchange Cumulative Advance/Decline line remains 1.1 percent lower than its peak on Aug. 29. Historically, a persistent divergence between the DJIA and the Advance/Decline line usually leads to a major correction in equities. Whether or not the Advance/Decline line can catch up with the increase in equity prices over the next few weeks will determine whether the current rally is sustainable.

Guess Who’s Back? The Middle Class

My Comments: There is lots of handwringing about last Tuesdays election results. And lots of people looking for someone to blame if it didn’t meet hopes and expectations.

One of my long time concerns has been the growing inbalance between the haves and the have-nots. Statistically it’s very real with the middle class that evolved and grew after WW2 now faltering and fading. That has huge implications for all of us and the quality of our lives going forward.

This article has been on my post-it-someday list since this past summer. It suggests the middle class is making a comeback. What is so perverse for me about the election results is that while I understand why the “haves” are naturally Republican, I find it difficult to understand why so many of the “have-nots” vote Republican. They are the ones most likely to fall down the economic rabbit hole and yet they seem happy to do so.

posted by Jeffrey Dow Jones July 31,2014 in Cognitive Concord

This has been a very important week for economic data. I know everybody saw yesterday’s GDP report coming, but it’s great news nonetheless. It was a blowout, a 4% real increase in the second quarter.

There is no negative way to spin this one. Even personal consumption expenditures rose at a 2.5% rate. Housing bounced back in a big way, with a 7% increase in residential investment. The consumer is alive and well, and given the fact that inventories, durable goods, and other investment all shot much higher, the business world is betting he’ll stay healthy for a while longer.

What’s interesting is what happens when we marry that data to what we saw in the July consumer confidence report. Consumer confidence surged to yet another post-crisis high and is now officially back in the range that, before 2008, we would have called “normal”.
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Short-Term Optimism, Longer-Term Caution

profit-loss-riskMy Comments: You by now know that I’m expecting a signficant market correction in the near future. However, when I say that, one has to wonder what I mean by “near”. An analogy I sometimes use is a comment by a currency trader I knew years ago. His idea of “near” was in the next 24 hours; for him a long term hold has 3 or 4 days.

U.S. stocks will likely move higher as pension fund managers go bargain hunting in an effort to put seasonal cash inflows to work.

October 23, 2014 Commentary by Scott Minerd, Chairman of Investments and Global Chief Investment Officer, Guggenheim Investments

Last week’s investment roller coaster was something we had been expecting—U.S. stocks delivered their usual bout of seasonal volatility right on cue. For now, recent spread widening in high-yield bonds and leveraged bank loans seems to be over, and it also appears that equities have regained their footing after a turbulent week.

With the anticipated seasonal pattern of higher volatility in September and October now largely fulfilled, we anticipate more positive seasonal factors over the next two months. Over the last 68 years, the S&P 500 has averaged monthly gains of 0.9 percent in October, followed by even stronger increases of 1.2 percent in November and 1.8 percent in December.

The current dark cloud that hangs over Europe is a serious threat and something that investors should closely monitor. If the anticipated seasonal strength—which is typically driven by an influx of cash into pension funds that their managers are keen to put to work—is not forthcoming, investors should seriously question how much further the current bull market can run. As of now, we remain cautiously optimistic as we await some crucial economic data.

Economic Data Releases / U.S. Housing Market Data Is Solid

  • Existing home sales rose 2.4 percent in September to an annualized rate of 5.17 million homes, the highest in one year.
  • Housing starts rose 6.3 percent in September to an annualized pace of 1.02 million.
  • Most of the gains were driven by a 16.7 percent jump in multi-family starts.
  • Building permits increased by a modest 1.5 percent to 1.02 million in September.
  • The FHFA house price index rose a better-than-expected 0.5 percent in August, a five-month high.
  • University of Michigan Consumer Confidence rose to 86.4 from 84.6 in the initial October reading. The reading was the highest in seven years and was driven by better consumer expectations.
  • Initial jobless claims rose off a multi-year low for the week ending Oct. 18, increasing to 283,000, the fourth lowest reading this year.
  • The Leading Economic Index expanded by 0.8 percent in September. Nine of 10 indicators were positive.
  • The Consumer Price Index was unchanged on a year-over-year basis at 1.7 percent in September. The core CPI also remained at 1.7 percent. Falling energy prices were offset by higher food and shelter costs.

7 Things You Need to Know About Term Life Insurance

life insuranceMy Comments: It’s very easy for financial professionals of all stripes to get into heated arguments about the merits of life insurance. Or the lack of merits, depending on your perspective.

A story I tell is about someone who in all seriousness asked “When is the best time to buy life insurance?”. And the answer was “About three months before you die. When would you like for me to come by and take your application?”

Therein lies the crux of the matter. And it is further complicated by the fact that even if I come by and take your application, three months before you die, there is no assurance the insurance company will accept your application and make an offer to insure your life. It only becomes a contract when the legally competent parties to the contract meet all the criteria of a legally binding agreement.

Now add in all the likely variables today, such as your health, your family health history, your age, your ability to pay premiums, the different kinds of life insurance, the tax consequences, your credit history, for how long you want or think you need coverage. All these variable conspire to make a problematical decision process.

But you have to start somewhere. I recently posted an article on Whole Life Insurance; here is another, this time about Term Life Insurance.

Sep 26, 2014 | By Stephan R. Leimberg, Robert J. Doyle Jr., Keith A. Buck

The two principal characteristics of term insurance are: the insured must die for any benefits to be paid and, by definition, the contract expires at the end of the term. Stated more specifically, a term life insurance policy promises to pay a death benefit to a beneficiary only if the insured dies during a specified term.

The contract makes no promise to pay anything if the insured lives beyond the specified term.

Generally, no cash values are payable under a term life insurance contract. If the insured survives the specified term, the contract expires and provides no payment of any kind to the policyowner.

1) When should term life be sold?

In general, some type of life insurance is indicated when a person needs or wants to provide an immediate estate upon his or her death. This need or desire typically stems from one or more of the following reasons:

A. Providing income for dependent family members until they become self-supporting after the head of household dies.
B. Liquidating consumer or business debts, or to create a fund, enabling the surviving family members to do the same when the head of household dies.
C. Providing large amounts of cash at death for children’s college expenses or other capital needs.
D. Providing cash for federal estate and state inheritance taxes, funeral expenses, and administration costs.
E. Providing funds for the continuation of a business through a buy-sell agreement.
F. Indemnifying a business for the loss of a key employee.
G. Helping recruit, retain, or retire one or more key employees through a salary continuation plan, and finance the company’s obligations to the dependents of a deceased key employee under that plan.
H. Funding bequests of capital to children, grandchildren, or others without the erosion often caused by probate costs, inheritance taxes, income taxes, federal estate taxes, transfer fees, or the generation-skipping tax.
I. Funding charitable bequests.
J. Preserving confidentiality of financial affairs. Life insurance proceeds payable to someone other than the deceased’s estate are not part of the probate estate and are not a matter of public record. It is not unusual for a beneficiary to be a lover, illegitimate child, faithful domestic servant, or have some other type of relationship with the insured that he or she may not want to be publicly acknowledged.
K. Assuring nearly instant access to cash for surviving dependents. Life insurance proceeds are generally paid to beneficiaries within days of the claim. There is no delay, as might be the case with other types of assets, because of the intervention of state or other governmental bodies due to settlement of tax issues, or because of claims by the decedent’s creditors.
L. Directing family assets to family members in a way that minimizes state, local, and federal taxes.

Generally, term insurance is not the most effective type of life insurance for all of these death benefit needs. However, term insurance may serve the insured’s needs in many circumstances. Because term insurance is not just one product, but rather many variations on a general theme different types of term insurance are indicated for different types of needs.

Keep in mind, term insurance, more than any other type of insurance, is pure death protection with little or no ancillary or lifetime benefits. Therefore, the two overriding considerations in the use of term insurance, regardless of the specific application, are:
• Will death protection alone meet the need?
• Will the coverage last as long as the need?

In short, with term — as with any other decision about the appropriate type of coverage — the product must match the problem.
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