The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Hiding In Plain Sight

08/16/2019

During my education years, I learned to use the “scientific method” in reasoning.  During my marriage years, I developed a grudging respect for “feminine intuition.” On a recent car trip, we were passing thru some no-name place and pulled off the Interstate for gas.  When I got back into the car, my wife asked “Did … Continue reading Hiding In Plain Sight

One-Handed Clap

08/15/2019

I applaud President Trump for — finally — dealing with the trading abuses of China.  However, as I’ve written many times, I wish we did not negotiate three different trade problems at one time.  Contrary to popular belief, NAFTA II is still not complete, as Mr. Trump has not negotiated with the House to pass … Continue reading One-Handed Clap

False Alarm REDUX

08/14/2019

Today, the Dow dropped over 800 points because interest rates inverted.  What does it mean?  Very little!  It was discussed in this blog on August 9th.  Take another look here: False Alarm

Still Dismal ??

08/14/2019

The nation of Argentina has been circling the drain since 1946, when Juan Peron became president.  Since then, I’ve lost track of how many crisis the nation has endured, such as depressions, devaluations, and defaults.  Their stock market dropped 38% on Monday, which is not surprising since interest rates have jumped to 74.8% from 63.7%, … Continue reading Still Dismal ??

Crazy Talk

08/13/2019

How often have you heard someone say “I can’t wait until I turn 65 and retire.”  That’s crazy talk! First, age 65 as a retirement age was set long before we enjoyed greater life expectancy. Second, with unemployment at 3.6%, the sun is shining, and it’s time to bank more money. Third, you can no … Continue reading Crazy Talk

Quick Manufacturing Update

08/13/2019

President Trump made improvement in manufacturing a campaign priority in 2016.  For two years, that sector did improve but has started to falter.  It would easy to say this is entirely due to the Trump’s trade war, but that doesn’t tell a fair story.  Worldwide, manufacturing is slipping, for reasons unrelated to the trade war, … Continue reading Quick Manufacturing Update

Agriculture Update

08/12/2019

Farmers have long been respected as tough and scrappy, working hard and facing constant hardship — true American heroes.  Today, farming is just another industry, albeit an important one.  I just read an analysis of the agricultural industry that is too dense to summarize.  However, here are some of the factoids I found interesting: The … Continue reading Agriculture Update

False Alarm

08/09/2019

If you loan me money and want repayment in one year, there are few things that can go wrong over that year, which would make me unable to pay.  If you loan it to me for thirty years, there are many more things that can go wrong, making me unable to pay, especially inflation over … Continue reading False Alarm

A Soft Number

08/08/2019

Sociologists have marveled about the increasing divorce rate for the over-60 age group.  One consequence of our increased life span is that we’re out-living our marriages. As a financial planner, people come to me for hard numbers and are disappointed when I remind them there is more to retirement planning than finding “the magic number.”  … Continue reading A Soft Number

Walk and Chew Gum

08/05/2019

Not too many years ago, I listened to a native of Fort Worth, Texas, discussing food with a person from Liverpool, England.  It was a good-natured discussion of who had the best food.  Actually, it was hilarious, because they couldn’t understand each other.  They were both speaking English, that is the English they are used … Continue reading Walk and Chew Gum

Dancing Monkeys

08/03/2019

I couldn’t bear watching more than 15 minutes of the Democratic debates.  It was painful.  While I’m sure they are all very nice people, this process morphs them into dancing monkeys, answering questions designed to entrap and defending proposals that will never be heard again.  It is little different than the equally stupid process used … Continue reading Dancing Monkeys

World’s Fed

08/01/2019

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve System of the United States of America did two things.  First, they decreased interest rates by a quarter point (25 bps).  The stock market however wanted a half point (50 bps), and the Dow promptly dropped 333 points.  The market also wanted the Fed to promise that this was only the … Continue reading World’s Fed

Deep Dive Into Racism

07/30/2019

To your Bucket List, be sure to add a visit to The National Museum of Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, which was one of the primary slave trading centers in the United States.  (Please don’t call it the “Lynching Museum” as it is more commonly known.) As a non-racist Southern boy, I was certainly … Continue reading Deep Dive Into Racism

Economic Evolution

07/26/2019

No animal ever had an opinion on evolution.  No plant was ever asked to vote on evolution.  But, they changed over time — they evolved anyway. Originally, there was no study or discipline known as economics.  It was a period of  chaos, with extreme boom/bust and with harsh economic consequences during those inevitable downturns.  Then, … Continue reading Economic Evolution

Loose Thoughts on Immigration

07/16/2019

No serious person thinks we should have zero border security – none! The political perspective is that (1) if you worship at the Republican altar, you must believe as instructed and (2) if you worship at the Democratic altar, you also must believe as instructed.  Nonpartisan thinking cannot be tolerated! The religious perspective on immigration … Continue reading Loose Thoughts on Immigration

Persistence

07/16/2019

“Past performance is no guaranty of future performance” — how many times have we heard that? Standard & Poor’s just released a report on “persistence” or how long does a high performing mutual fund continue to perform so well.  They looked at all 546 equity mutual funds that were in the top quartile (top 25%) … Continue reading Persistence

Eyes on the Prize

07/12/2019

I had a roommate in college that was obsessed with women’s hair.  If he met a nice girl in English class, he wouldn’t say that.  He would say he met Brunette in English class.  He never used their names.  All women had just three names – Blond, Brunette, or Redhead.  He was not interested in … Continue reading Eyes on the Prize

Jim’s Safe Deposit Box

07/09/2019

Years ago, my parents gave me a little “lockbox” with a key about the size of a loaf of bread, for my important papers and other treasures, like my collection of baseball cards.  When I returned from the Army, the key was nowhere to be found.  Drilling it open cost more than the original cost.  … Continue reading Jim’s Safe Deposit Box

“Why Liberalism Failed”

07/08/2019

Raghuram Rajan recently wrote The Third Pillar:  How Markets and the State Leave Community Behind, and I attended the lecture he gave in Las Vegas.  He explained a healthy society needs three strong pillars, i.e., government, economy, and community.  He argued that we have a strong government and strong economy but community no longer exists for … Continue reading “Why Liberalism Failed”

Good = Bad

07/05/2019

For my inner economist, the first Friday of each month is the most interesting, as that is when the monthly “jobs report” is released by the Bureau of Labor Standards or BLS. This morning’s report (it is always released at precisely 8:30 AM.) showed a slight uptick in the unemployment rate to 3.7 percent.  More … Continue reading Good = Bad

Thanksgiving for Independence

07/03/2019

When I went to Hong Kong in 1984, that city-state was still governed by the British but long-coveted by China.  I found that city to be a vibrant, exciting international financial center, with heavy traffic, crowded sidewalks, and excitement in the air.  One day, when I went on my morning run, the city was suddenly … Continue reading Thanksgiving for Independence

To Tariff or Not to Tariff

06/29/2019

For those who want to read my latest column in Inside Business before it hits the presses, you can find it here:  https://pilotonline.com/inside-business/news/columns/article_9527f304-99ad-11e9-a8cc-c7a905cada61.html

Education Exercise

06/28/2019

There are many ways to spend time, without watching well-meaning windbags pretend to debate each other.  Last night, when changing channels, I landed on such a “debate.”  During the five seconds required to enter another channel number into my remote, I heard one windbag suggest that community college should be free.  I remember thinking “fat … Continue reading Education Exercise

Mixed Signals

06/25/2019

Sparing you the many details, the relentlessly positive economic data over the last few years has taken a turn during the second quarter (Q2).  The first look at Q2 GDP growth will not be available for another three weeks, but I expect it to be substantially less than Q1 growth rate of 3.1 percent, which … Continue reading Mixed Signals

Retirement Income

06/23/2019

So, you have searched your soul, looking for the real reason you think you want to retire . . . And, you have verbalized your thinking to a trusted loved one, giving airtime to both your thoughts and their thoughts . . . And, you have prepared a budget for a good economy and another … Continue reading Retirement Income

Propped-Up ?

06/20/2019

It seems like a long time since December, which was the last time the Fed raised interest rates.  The stock market promptly had a “hizzy-fit” (whatever that is?), and the President began threatening to fire the Chairman of the Fed.  This week, the Fed had its normal policy meeting and strongly suggested it would cut … Continue reading Propped-Up ?

Rise of Populism?

06/18/2019

You’ll recall the President’s famous boast that he could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose a single member of his “base.”  That was an interesting comment, and I started thinking about the origin of his base.  At first, as a student of Hillbilly Elegy, I thought it was logical that … Continue reading Rise of Populism?

The “Real” Number

06/16/2019

Ever since Lou Eisenberg wrote The Number in 2006, those thinking about retirement have focused on the one big magic number that will take care of them the rest of their lives.  How big a “nest-egg” is big enough?  Unfortunately that number is income-focused.  You don’t know if any number is big enough, if you don’t … Continue reading The “Real” Number

Exercise

06/14/2019

As people contemplate retirement, they often go to a bank broker to see if they will be prepared for it, financially.  The broker will plug a few numbers into his laptop and tell you the odds or probability that you will be prepared, measured to two decimal places, such as a 72.84% probability, for example.  … Continue reading Exercise

The Fundamental Flaw

06/13/2019

Supply-side economists argue that tax revenues will increase if you cut tax rates.  Since passage of the Trump tax cut, revenues have indeed increased . . . a whooping 2%.  Unfortunately, expenses or spending increased 9%, primarily for federal retirement and health benefits, the military, and interest payments on the national debt.  (Notice that only … Continue reading The Fundamental Flaw

Offshore Crooks

06/11/2019

Every profession has its crooks and charlatans, even doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs.  In financial planning, I trust nobody who deals with offshore asset protection trusts. Originally, they were used to protect assets from ex-wives or creditors or the IRS.  Of course, the way to accomplish this was to transfer title or ownership of those … Continue reading Offshore Crooks

Retirement Choice ?

06/10/2019

There are many reasons to retire.  You might retire for health reasons, or you might retire because you already have plenty of money.  You might retire because you want to do charity-work.  I think most people retire, because society expects us to WANT to retire.  Why do you want to retire?  Who told you that?  … Continue reading Retirement Choice ?

Bad News = Good News

06/08/2019

Yesterday’s employment report was considered bad news, as only 75 thousand jobs were created in May, while 180 thousand had been expected.  Bad News!  So, why did the Dow rise 263 points?  Because that increases the probability that the Fed will cut interest rates.  Clearly, the market believes that short-term interest rates – the only … Continue reading Bad News = Good News

Anomaly #2

06/06/2019

We recently noted the unusual under-performance of small-cap stocks, which were getting trounced by large-cap stocks this Spring.  Now, we look at the two ISM Indexes and see continued growth in the services sector, as well as employment, but a sudden slowdown in manufacturing.  It is still increasing but only barely.  Obviously, the new tariffs … Continue reading Anomaly #2

A Little Good News

06/05/2019

Did you notice?  A little bi-partisanship has broken out in Congress!  It can happen!  Dogs and cats can get along, after all.  Who knew? The cause is an interesting re-alignment going on.  Historically, we have viewed our leaders as “right or left” or as Republicans or Democrats.  That may be changing to globalists or nationalists.  … Continue reading A Little Good News

His Way or The Highway

06/04/2019

When I was a boy, my parents forced me to wear nice clothes every Sunday morning to attend Sunday School and Church.  They taught me the key to life is what you believe. When I was in college, my professors insisted that I learn more about things I care little about.  They taught me that … Continue reading His Way or The Highway

Anomaly

06/03/2019

Looking at the global markets this year, there is one anomaly worth pondering.  Since the early 1990’s, the benefits of globalization have largely accrued to the large companies.  Two years ago, 52% of total revenues for the large companies were derived from international sales.  Therefore, one can assume large cap companies would be more sensitive … Continue reading Anomaly

Our Turn

06/01/2019

Now that my hometown has joined the “Mass-Killing-of-the-Month” Club, I feel the need to comment, both as a native-son and as a “gun-lover”. First, we already have enough guns.  We have less than 330 million people, including children and infants, but over 375 million guns.  How many do we need anyway?  Plus, we manufacture over … Continue reading Our Turn

Vulnerable

05/29/2019

There are seventeen little-known but terribly important minerals known as “rare earth minerals,” which are used for jet engines, missile guidance systems, electric car batteries, antimissile defense systems, satellites, cell phones, lasers, etc.  81% of all rare earth minerals are mined in China, and there is rising concern that China would use our dependence on … Continue reading Vulnerable

Like A Baby

05/26/2019

Memorial Day is the most meaningful holiday of the year . . . but I hate it, because it is the only day of the year that I always cry. Yes, it is a colorful day, with red, white, and blue flags and balloons.  Politicians preening for votes behind red, white, and blue bunting.  Hopefully, … Continue reading Like A Baby

The Conceit of Choice

05/25/2019

Carl Richards is a long-time financial planner and my favorite columnist for The New York Times.  (Truth-in-blogging:  I took his course on behavioral finance a few years ago and have been a fan ever since.)  In his latest book, he shares an interesting personal story, which I quote: Take my recent experience with my dog, Zeke.  … Continue reading The Conceit of Choice

One-Handed Clap

05/23/2019

Kudo, Mr. President! There are two types of immigration:  legal and illegal.  Looking at legal immigration, there are two main categories.  One is family reunification, accounting for 66% of legal immigrants, and the other is “merit-based”, accounting for 12%.  The President has proposed the “merit-based” allocation be increased to 57% of legal immigrants, while reducing … Continue reading One-Handed Clap

Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time

05/21/2019

In 19th century England, textile workers were threatened by the development of new automated textile equipment.  They rioted several times and destroyed many of the new machines.  They were called Luddites, which has come to mean anybody who is distrustful of new technology.  With respect to technology, there seems to be only two opinions – … Continue reading Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time

“The Big Four”

05/20/2019

Carolyn McClanahan is both a medical doctor and a CFP(r) Professional.  I first met her at a NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) convention some years ago and have been a fan ever since.  She recently wrote about the importance of planners helping clients make “The Big Four” decisions. The first decision is when … Continue reading “The Big Four”

An Expected Slowdown – No Big Deal

05/17/2019

The first quarter (Q1) of GDP was surprisingly strong at 3.2%.  This was higher than expected, due to two things.  One, imports dropped considerably, showing the impact of tariffs.  Two, inventories increased more than expected, also reflecting the build-up before tariffs took effect.  Only one person thought that growth rate was sustainable. The early second … Continue reading An Expected Slowdown – No Big Deal

Divided Loyalties ?

05/16/2019

Recently, I attended a lecture by Raghuram Rajan, formerly chief economist of the IMF and the central banker of India and currently at the University of Chicago.  He spoke about his new book The Third Pillar, which argues a strong, long-lasting nation needs three pillars.  The first is efficient, effective government, along with a growing, … Continue reading Divided Loyalties ?

Who’s the Client ?

05/15/2019

As we sit here, waiting for the next school shooting, it might be useful to consider the NRA’s deepest fear – allegedly – which is that the slippery-slope of responsible gun ownership leads to total confiscation of our weapons by “the” government.  Okay, let’s suppose that’s true and that gun ownership is outlawed. There are … Continue reading Who’s the Client ?

The Price of Truth

05/14/2019

Larry Kudlow is my favorite Supply-side economist.  A long-time CNBC contributor, he is a gentleman, in the finest sense of the word.  He is a master at disagreeing agreeably.  I like him and respect him! Today, he is the President’s principle economic advisor and must help advance the President’s economic agenda.  Last weekend, he admitted … Continue reading The Price of Truth

The Approach of Doom ????

05/13/2019

As I write this, the Dow is down about 700 points.  One of my favorite market sages pointed out this morning that “we’re only one tweet away from a new high!”  Yes, the market is just that volatile now and could turn around quickly (which means it is dangerous to short anything).  Obviously, the market … Continue reading The Approach of Doom ????

A Really Expensive Good Idea

05/13/2019

Efficiency is a good thing, right? Is increased efficiency a good thing?  Depends on the price, of course. Blockchain is a digital platform where buyers and sellers can separately enter information, confirming each other’s info.  It will increase efficiency and reduce accounting costs, especially with international trade finance.  Therefore, “good guys” like it.  It is … Continue reading A Really Expensive Good Idea

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