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Money for Nothing

People typically make investments to earn money. Seems pretty logical. But recently a number of governments, like Japan and Germany, have been issuing bonds with a negative yield, meaning an investor would lose money if they held the bond to maturity. Basically, the purchaser of such a bond is paying someone to hold their money.

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The Importance of Immigration

We are hearing a lot of passionate rhetoric about illegal immigration during this campaign year. Such talk may prevent us from recognizing the importance of legal immigration to the continued vitality of the U.S. economy. Just take a look at the problems that Japan faces with a dwindling, aging population. China is on a path to suffer a similar fate.

An extremely low fertility rate in Japan is causing its population to decline rapidly, with projections of a one-third drop by 2060. At that time, close to 40% of the people will be 65 years of age or older. This demographic atrophy will likely lead to a lowering of the national income. A smaller, older population means less productive output.

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Spend Less, Save More

 

How does someone with a graduate degree and a job that pays well end up not being able to afford a $400 emergency? What are the repercussions for him and his family? Listen to the video to hear a cautionary tale and watch for a surprise guest.

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Brexit: London Calling

When facing the famous question posed by The Clash -- "Should I stay or should I go?" -- the people in the United Kingdom collectively answered that they wanted to exit the European Union. What appears to have been a mostly political-based decision has threatened significant economic dislocation. Havoc has ensued.

I have listened in on a number of conference calls and read reports from various investment companies. Let me sum up their commentary: It's not good. We don't know how bad. The ultimate impact is unknown and in the long run it may not be horrible. In short, no one has a clue.

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Living in the Past

According to some studies recently cited by the Wall Street Journal, a large percentage of Americans believe that life was better for people like them in the 1960's than it is now. Contrast that with the overwhelming majority of economists who conclude that life in the U.S. today is much better. The economists point to significantly higher wages on an inflation-adjusted basis, superior technology, and health advances that have added 10 years to our life expectancy.

Why do people ignore these major improvements? The article suggests the following explanations for their affinity for the past:

  • Wages and jobs have deteriorated for certain groups, especially for those with limited education.
  • We recently experienced a large recession from which we are slowly recovering.
  • Material standards have improved, but we live in an age of increased uncertainty.
  • Some people focus more on social changes than standard of living improvements.
  • The current presidential campaign has increased anxiety.

We should also consider that maybe people place too much emphasis on the present and idolize the past. We tend to focus on the difficulties we may be experiencing today and discount (forget) those that occurred a long time ago.

My family sat glued to the news on television with Huntley & Brinkley every night at dinner in the '60s. This was not a time of peace, love and understanding as far as I can remember. The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights struggle are but two examples. As for elections, the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago was quite a (bloody) scene.

As I noted in my last newsletter, pessimism has its appeal. But every generation has its challenges. A more nuanced look at today and the past may lead to a different perception of both.

Words of Wisdom

The past is always a rebuke to the present. -- Robert Penn Warren

Let's go Living in the Past -- Jethro Tull (1969)

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