We’re not writing about cappuccinos, champagne, or bubble bath.
We’re talking stocks.
You may have noticed that the shortest bear market in history is over, and markets recently hit new record highs.
Will stocks keep going higher? Will they stay volatile?
Is another bear market around the corner?
Maybe. Maybe not.
As is pretty common in these situations, market strategists are split.
Some see a new bull market that reflects a recovering economy.1
Others see troubling signs of a bubble that could burst.2
What could push stocks higher?
- A market-ready COVID-19 vaccine or major treatment breakthrough that reignites optimism.
- More government stimulus that supports consumers and businesses.
- Good economic numbers that suggest we’re on the other side of the recession and the recovery continues.
What warning signs are flashing?
- A rally mostly powered by tech mega stocks that isn’t reflected in the broader market.
- Uncertainty around a November election that’s already contentious.
- A possible “Minsky moment” market collapse fueled by the Fed’s easy money policy and unsustainable stock prices.3
- Predictions of a second wave of infection that could provoke more shutdowns.
Bottom line, we can’t predict what comes next in the market and that’s okay. Why? Because it’s all short-term “noise.” History shows that all stock market declines are temporary interruptions in a perennial uptrend.
Since we no one can predict the future and no one can time the market, we’re focused on helping our clients stay fully invested which is the only sure way to capture the entirety of the market’s permanent advance. Those powerful portfolio returns over the long term are the reward for staying calm.
2020 has been the strangest year of our lives (probably yours, too), and it’s foolish to try to time markets right now — or any time for that matter. If you’re thinking about big moves or feeling anxious about what comes next, please reach out. We’ll talk through your ideas or concerns.
If you could be alive at any time in history, when would it be? Would you choose to live right now? Objectively, things aren’t easy for most of us right now. We’re facing social, economic, health, and environmental crises. With all the chaos of today, it can be tempting to lean on nostalgia and believe previous generations had it better or easier. And it can make us long for what seem like simpler times.
We may be too focused on the details to see the big picture. With a look at how far we’ve come, we can more clearly see how good we have it and how things, in many ways, really are getting better.
Consider these seven reasons life is actually the best it’s ever been.
#1 Life Expectancy
We’re living long than people have ever lived before. Worldwide, more than 3 in every 4 people live to be at least 65 years old. In the US, life expectancies for men and women have increased by more than 10 years since 1950. That’s 10 more years the generations before us didn’t have to enjoy retirement, spend time with family, and take in more of the life’s wonders.
#2 Health Care & Medicine
Progress in medicine and health care is one of the reasons we’re living longer than ever. In fact, since 1980, MRIs have been invented, smallpox was eradicated, artificial hearts were developed, and the human genome was sequenced. These and other advancements have done more than just extend the length of people’s lives. They’ve also compressed end-of-life decline, meaning people live better lives longer.
#3 Poverty & Income
Globally, poverty rates have dropped by more than 50% since 2000. In the U.S., 8.4 million people have risen out of poverty since 2014. Also promising, average earnings in the U.S. have increased nearly 20-fold since the 1950s. Adjusting for inflation, some experts say wages have grown by at least 35%, increasing Americans’ purchasing power today when compared to 70 years ago.
Technological advancements have changed so much of how we live and navigate the world. Since 1950 alone, new technology has brought us credit cards, artificial intelligence, the internet, electric cars, cellphones, and GPS technology. These and other innovations have made our lives easier, safer, and better. In fact, while new tech can save time and reduce effort, it can also help save lives.
Despite the headlines, over the last 25 years, crime has dropped dramatically in the U.S. Violent crime, like assault, robbery, and homicide, has fallen by more than 51% since 1993. Over the same period, property crime, like theft and fraud, has followed the same trend, dropping by more than 54%.
#6 Working Conditions
Labor conditions and laws have come a long way since the early 1900s, creating safer environments with better protections for workers. From safety regulations and wage laws to discrimination and child labor laws, U.S. workers are better protected than ever. Beyond safety, workplaces are also more diverse than ever before. In fact, the U.S. workforce has seen a surge of older workers, minorities, and women over the past 25 years.
#8 Quality of Life
Quality of life has improved sharply over the last 100 years, with astounding improvements in living standards across all socio-economic divides. In fact, the average standard of living in the U.S. today would have been envied by even the greatest rulers two centuries ago.
By most standards, we’re living longer, happier, better lives than our great-great-grandparents did.
Heading off to college is an exciting life transition and a major growth opportunity. For many young people, it’s their first chance to manage their own finances. Parents and students who invest a little time, planning, and partnership up front will reap profound benefits for life. Follow these four tips to ensure that you have a great financial launch!
Open a checking account
Often the university credit union or local counterpart is a trustworthy, low-cost option. Download the bank’s mobile app to make easy deposits and to check account balances. Set automatic alerts to provide low-balance notifications or other helpful information. Parents will likely find it convenient to link their bank account to their child’s to provide monthly allowances, etc.
Build a budget
Discuss sources of money and allowances. Know what money is coming in and going out by tracking it. Sign up for Mint.com. Draft a simple spending plan and follow it. Don’t overspend. Don’t forget to budget for an occasional indulgence (within reason!). Resist temptations and impulse purchases. Learn to differentiate between wants versus needs. Expect to iterate a few times on your budget as parents and students adaptively learn the reasonable costs of college life.
Get a credit card
Credit cards are for the convenience and security of not having to carry large sums of cash. Credit cards are NOT for spending money you don’t already have. If you can’t pay off the entire credit card balance each month, you are OVERspending. Avoid on-campus promotions that covertly proffer high-interest-rate cards via enticements of free t-shirts, tumblers, or other trinkets. Again, the university credit union is often a safe space. It’s ideal to have a checking and credit card at the same bank to make payments and management easier. Set alerts (e.g., purchases > $100) to flag transactions above normal spending patterns and protect against fraud.
Start Saving and Investing NOW
I know it’s hard, but having the foresight and the discipline, as a college student, to save and invest will be LIFE CHANGING. No one ever told us this and it is our greatest financial regret. Committing to saving even a small amount each month will add up quickly over time and instill a good habit of saving. Compounding growth is magical — save $20 per month starting at age 18, invest it to grow at 8% per year, and keep doing this for 40 years. You will have contributed $9,600, but your account will have grown to $64,422 thanks to compounded growth. This is your “army of dollar bills” working and growing for you. To get started, open a Roth IRA at a low-cost provider (e.g., Vanguard or Fidelity) and invest your earned income in an S&P 500 index fund. Long-term success is predicated on time in the market, not timing the market.
The budgeting, spending, and savings habits that students form in the coming months and years in college will likely establish their money management persona for life. By cultivating this money-centric parent-student learning partnership, you’re making an investment in your long-term security and happiness.
If you purchased your house years ago, you might be wondering: is now a good time to refinance?
You’d think the answer would be simple: getting a lower interest rate on a loan is better, right?
However, the right choice really depends on your situation. And with the way fees and mortgage interest work, a refinance is often a bad deal for a homeowner.
We made a short video walking through the key questions you need to ask before jumping into a refinance.
I’m sure you saw the headlines:
“Record Economic Plunge”1
“Second-Quarter GDP Plunged by Worst-Ever 32.9%”2
“U.S. Economy Contracted at Record Rate Last Quarter”3
It sure sounds like the sky is falling.
Is it really? Let’s take a step back and put the news in perspective.
The coronavirus shutdown thumped the economy, businesses, and workers badly over the last two quarters, and it’s uncertain how quickly we’ll recover.
We knew that Q2 GDP numbers (Gross Domestic Product) were going to be horrible. In fact, in May, the Federal Reserve thought they were going to be even worse.4
So, ~33% down is actually better than expected.
But, despite the headline, we didn’t actually “lose” 33% of economic production last quarter. The Commerce Department reports data on an “annualized” basis to make it easier to compare; so, if you looked at it quarter-over-quarter, the economy lost 9.5% since Q1.5
That’s still an eye-watering blow to the economy, but it’s not an apocalypse.
The largest contributing factor to the economic losses was a steep drop in personal spending, particularly on services, which makes complete sense in a shutdown.6
Three points before we move on:
- This is an advance estimate for Q2, and we will see revisions as more data are finalized.
- Though this is the sharpest drop in the shortest time in history, it was caused by the shutdown, and we’re already climbing out of it.
- 63.8% of economists think Q3 is when we’ll see the recovery really pick up steam, and the current forecast is for 15.2% annualized growth this quarter.7
So, what’s up with markets?
I think markets are being driven by a few big trends.
In a previous note, I mentioned what a Nobel-laureate economist calls “FOMO mania” by investors who fear missing out on the bounce. I think that’s still in effect as investors continue to pile into stocks, especially in the tech sector.8
I also think the market is being supported by massive government spending and Federal Reserve intervention.
And thirdly, I think a lot of traders are betting heavily on the recovery. If states have to shut down again, the collective delusion may collapse and trigger a correction. We’re watching for that.
How long will the rally last? That’s anyone’s guess. I’ve seen many cheerful forecasts predicting new all-time-highs. I’ve also seen plenty dolefully predicting the next crash.
With so much unknown, they’re all guesses. Even in less-murky circumstances, the market gurus are only accurate about 47% of the time.9
So, since we can’t predict what’s going to happen in Q3 and Q4, we’re staying agile and focusing on the fundamentals of good planning.
I know, it’s a really boring answer. But that’s how we give ourselves the best opportunity for success in chaotic times.
Let’s talk about you.
How are you doing?
What kind of decisions are you making right now?
Can I help? Shoot me an email at email@example.com and let me know.
|Chris Mullis, Ph.D., CDFA®
So, what’s going on with the economy?
Well, hopes for the “V-Shaped” recovery economists wanted seem to be fading.1 Though businesses reopened and millions of people got their jobs back, millions more are still unemployed.2 And more layoffs are likely coming.3
Does that mean we’re still in a recession?
Technically, we won’t know until Q2 and Q3 economic data are released.
Best guess? We’re probably still in a recession.
The more optimistic recovery scenarios depended on containing COVID-19 infections so Americans could safely get back to business.
The question now is whether rising infection rates will put us in a “W-Shaped” double-dip recession, or a slower “L-Shaped” or “Swoosh-Shaped” climb back.
That’s all very interesting, but how does it affect us in Charlotte?
In many ways, our local economy is a microcosm of the larger state of affairs.
As COVID-19 cases have drifted back higher in the Queen City and North Carolina, we’ve still got a ways to go before we’re on solid ground.
Our ability to bounce back depends on a few things: 1) keeping infection rates down; 2) workers keeping the jobs they have and returning to the ones they lost; 3) folks shopping, eating out, and spending money locally.
In terms of markets, the recent gains make it clear that investors are looking past the current gloom to a hopefully rosy future.
Are they clairvoyant? Foolishly optimistic? Not optimistic enough?
I agree with Yale economist Dr. Robert Shiller’s take: he thinks this is a FOMO market driven by the Fear Of Missing Out.
Many investors regret not participating in the 2009 rally and are determined not to miss out again. That psychological narrative is pushing up the market even in the face of bad news.4
Will it continue?
We’re in earnings season and investors are waiting to see how badly U.S. companies were damaged last quarter.
Since many companies have refused to release earnings forecasts, we’re prepared for surprises. Positive and negative.
Bottom line: Buckle up, I think we’re in for a choppy ride.
Ok, so where’s the good news you promised?
When times are tough and headlines are overwhelmingly negative, it becomes harder to find the good news. But it’s there:
- A New Jersey hospital once described as a “war zone” now has zero COVID-19 patients.5
- 17 COVID-19 vaccines are in human trials. At least one may be ready for approval by the end of 2020.6
- 2 million folks gathered to plant trees in Northern India (while maintaining social distance).7
- A young man who lost hope of attending college is headed to Harvard Law after the good people he met as a sanitation worker took him under their wings.8
Uplifting stories are out there if we look for them.
We’re dealing with more uncertainty than most of us have ever faced before. And as the months drag on, the stress of not knowing what comes next is taking a toll.
How do we make smart decisions when we’re stressed out and everything is uncertain?
We made a quick video talking about what we can learn from how Navy SEALs deal with stress and uncertainty.
|Chris Mullis, Ph.D., CDFA®
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