While I am not qualified to discuss psychology, I can still wonder about it. For example, I don’t understand the sadness and exasperation at the loss of sports this season, due to Covid. One pundit estimated college football alone contributed $4 billion to our annual GDP, a paltry contribution in a $22 trillion economy. Of … Continue reading Enthusiasm in a Cynical World
The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions
Because the bond market is so much bigger than the stock market, it has long been the accepted-wisdom that you could “read” the bond market for a reliable understanding of change in the financial markets. For example, one could learn a great deal about risk appetite and about inflation expectations. That is no longer true. … Continue reading Tea Leaves . . .
It will be a long time before we get meaningful estimates of the total monetary cost of the pandemic, but I’m confident TEN TRILLION DOLLARS will be low. If you measure only the 6% GDP drop in Q1 and the 33% drop in Q2, you get about $3 trillion. Now, let’s assume that was the … Continue reading Taking Our Medicine Now?
A gun lover is NOT the same thing as a gun-nut. I have had guns since I was a boy and am not sure how many guns I have today. After the Army, I even joined the National Rifle Association for a few years. In those days, it was primarily an interest group and sponsored … Continue reading Good Riddance!
Mark Warner is the senior Democratic U.S. Senator from Virginia. When he was running for the office in 2008, he described himself as an “extreme moderate.” While I always liked that philosophical description, I was slightly suspicious that it might be self-serving, as Virginia was still a fairly Republican state at the time. Recently, I … Continue reading Moderates, Unite!
The stock market can handle bad news, but it hates surprises. No economic data is more closely watched than the monthly “Jobs Report” issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the first Friday of each month. It is always a comparison against expectations. If the data is better than expected, the market will go … Continue reading Quick — tell the President!
First, there is an increasing certainty of future tax increases. Both Republican economists and Democratic economists agree on one thing — an over-concentration of wealth is bad for democracy. Of course, that’s where the agreement ends! The Republicans think it is a small problem that will eventually fix itself, as succeeding generations divide up the … Continue reading Opposing Forces
Every business has a seedy side. Not even the church business is spared. In the financial world, I’ve always found the world of offshore asset-protection-trusts (APT) to be one of the most seedy places. There are many legitimate financial planning reasons for asset protection, such as protecting a kid’s inheritance from bad marriages, etc. The … Continue reading A Tiny Bit of Good News
Everybody knew that our GDP would drop badly in the second quarter, following a 7% annualized drop in the first quarter. Estimates were that our GDP would drop 30-35%, and it dropped 32.9% – the biggest drop in history, by a factor of three times. The lockdown from mid-March to Mid-May was costly indeed. Estimates … Continue reading Worst in History
From my first investment course many years ago, I’ve known Warren Buffett as a legendary investor. I learned he was clearly one of the best investors of all time, if not the best. However, from 2009 through last month, he has under-performed the S&P by 4.4% each year. More recently, that under-performance was even worse … Continue reading A Good Guy and/or Great Investor
Even before 2002, when former Vice President Cheney famously said “deficits don’t matter”, economists have begged the question of whether deficits actually do matter. Out of that discussion, a new isolationist school of thought has emerged, i.e., Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). It has also been widely popularized by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. … Continue reading Economic Narcotic
Given my love of the outdoors, nobody was surprised when I volunteered for the infantry in the Army. Backpacking with a buddy in the Appalachian mountains as a boy eventually led me to the majestic Muir Woods north of San Francisco as a man, where I developed great respect for John Muir, the iconic founder … Continue reading Saluting A Racist ??
One would not immediately think that the coronavirus would impact Social Security, but it will. Here’s the good news: From near bankruptcy in 1980, the Social Security Trust Fund now has $2.9 TRILLION. (Yea, Congress!) Here’s the bad news: This is the year – 2020 – that cash flow turns negative. From now until 2035, … Continue reading The Virus & Social Security
I live in a perfect world, don’t you? Whenever you look out the window, don’t you see rainbows and lovely unicorns? In fact, at ground-level, little girls throw pretty flowers from their little baskets and sing pleasant little songs. It is a perfect world, indeed! One characteristic of this perfect little world is that shareholders … Continue reading Important . . . theoretically
There is an anti-mask rally in Dallas today. People, who feel they have a right to spew water droplets on other people, will mass and swarm into various retail stores, overwhelming the store policy about wearing a mask. This is sick! Having been raised in an area with many Revolutionary War memorials . . . … Continue reading “Just Wear A Damn Mask”
I love capitalism! Government can never be as resilient as business. As an example, with fewer people going to malls, there are many large parking lots being ignored. Brookfield Properties is turning those unused assets into pop-up drive-in movies with great success. (Can you believe that many people are too young to remember drive-in movies?) … Continue reading As An Example . . .
My hero is dying. Over the last forty years, I have admired him and prayed for him, which makes it so painful to watch him now, crippled with arthritis and writhing in pain. Before he graduated, his professors adored him, especially his mathematical ability. Sadly, at his graduation, on January 1, 1994, he was shot … Continue reading Watching A Hero Die
YOU – yes, YOU – need a Certified Financial Planner! Nobody else can coordinate and synthesize the myriad advice thrown at people. I should know – after all, I was a CFP over 30 years. When I voluntarily relinquished that certification earlier this year, some friends thought I was retiring, which is not true. Some … Continue reading Make No Mistake
Traditional conservatives (as opposed to Trump Republicans) tend to support the Austrian school of budgeting, largely based on the economic teachings of F.A. Hayek. He often pointed to the problem of economists and other scientists in predicting the future, particularly with quantitative models that presume human behavior. He called it “an ambition to imitate science … Continue reading Forecasting . . . What Else?
For many years, I have enjoyed writing a quarterly column for Inside Business, the business journal of southeastern Virginia. My latest column can be found here: https://www.pilotonline.com/inside-business/vp-ib-expert-flinchum-0713-20200710-y7nfhs2dzjczbbtweon2lfou7q-story.html
For many years, I would buy or sell stocks only when the market opened at 9:30 each morning, because that was the only time of day that I could predict the market price, as indicated by the futures market. The world has changed. Futures are no longer a reliable indicator of market action. They flop … Continue reading The Joy of . . . Economic Measurement?
Despite being crushed by the pandemic, the stock market just enjoyed one of the best quarters in 22 years, with the S&P 500 rising a whopping 20.54%. Before popping champagne corks, let’s look a little deeper. One of the most useful ways to look at stocks is the distinction between value stocks and growth stocks. … Continue reading The S&P 6–
If you want to see a grown man cry, just watch my eyes when they play “taps” at a military funeral. As an existentialist, I don’t grieve for the veteran, as death is only one side a coin . . . one side with pain and one without. Of course, as a human, I do … Continue reading Unforgivable ?
If I had to say something nice about the current economic collapse, I would say — at least, it is NOT also a financial collapse. Our banking system has remained relatively strong, thank goodness. If not, this “flash-depression” would easily turn into another Great Depression. Keeping our financial system solid is desperately important. After the … Continue reading Right Hand/Left Hand
On Wall Street, the favorite game is guessing what outcome is already “priced-into-the-market.” It is a game of guessing expectations. For example, I think the stock market currently expects Trump to lose the Presidency, while Republicans hold onto the Senate. Remember, Wall Street always over-reacts to surprises! If the Senate remains Republican, the Trump tax … Continue reading Guessing Expectations
One of my favorite thought leaders is the brilliant but affable Jeremy Siegel of Wharton. In his latest commentary, he thinks the stock market will remain relatively range-bound for the next 3-4 months before a breakout upwards. The continued flow of cash from the Fed is the major support of the economy. For example, M2, … Continue reading Your Favorite Foot?
One Sunday morning many years ago, I sat in a pew, listening to a minister who preached that God loves all people, even bad people — because every person has some good in them. Unfortunately, he went on to say God even loved Hitler. Everybody sitting in the pews immediately straightened their back and listened. … Continue reading A Stain on our Soul
There’s more to investing that mere numbers. There’s more to accounting than mere debits and credits. There’s more to financial planning than canned software programs. Clients are human. They need fewer numbers and more human advice, even young millennials . Alexander Kearns was a 20-year-old resident in Illinois. Like so many, he signed up with … Continue reading Damn Shame
Do you remember the year of 2010? That was the year of the “Flash Crash”. It happened on May 6th, when the stock market suddenly fell almost a thousand points, losing a trillion dollars, before recovering 36 minutes later. It was a market event . . . of temporary significance. Do you remember the year … Continue reading In A Flash
Without numbers, an opinion is nothing more than a gut-feeling. So, here’s my gut feeling: 1. The stock market hit a bottom in March. 2. A modest rebound was expected. 3. Instead, the market rebounded very, very strongly. 4. Market watchers could not explain the strength of the rebound. 5. However, an increase in retail … Continue reading Gut-speak
Imagine looking out your front window. On the sidewalk across the street, a man, an auditor-looking man in a trench coat sits in a lawn chair with a clipboard on his lap. When your lights come on each morning, he makes a note on his clipboard. When you get the newspaper off the front porch, … Continue reading Creepy
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their monthly unemployment report. It was much better than expected, showing unemployment dropped 1.4% instead of increasing 4-5%. I wrote “Something Smells” about this. After all, how could 30 million workers be receiving unemployment benefits, when the BLS said only 20 million workers were unemployed? Later … Continue reading “miscalculation error”
Incivility in politics runs in cycles. Believe it or not, this is not the worst partisanship in our history, although I do suspect we are near the low point in this cycle. Tracing this cycle back to its beginning, you might find Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich instructing freshman congressmen to avoid fraternization with … Continue reading Slant-Seeking
Lars von Trier is the greatest film director you’ve probably never heard of. Maybe that’s because he is Danish, or maybe because he doesn’t make movies for the mainstream. Those movies are existential to the core, with a stream of surrealism meandering between the comedic and the absurd. A-list actors beg for the experience of … Continue reading The Burden of Good Intentions
As people approach retirement, their anxiety rises, and this is natural. After all, retirement is a great unknown. Most people focus solely on income replacement, but there is so much more to consider. In fact, that’s not even close to the beginning point. Start with identifying your risks, keeping in mind that risk is a … Continue reading Hope Is Not A Plan
My Democratic friends are understandably concerned that there are unidentified soldiers roaming the capital. These are soldiers without any apparent identification. It is unknown what military service or what unit they represent. There is no way to determine where they came from. I understand how unsettling that can be, but it is not the first … Continue reading deja vu
I remember reading that marriages during the year of 1968 had the highest rate of divorce. The theory was that marriages during heightened levels of unrest stressed relationships too much? Maybe . . . ? After all, 1968 was the year of the Hong Kong virus, which killed a million people worldwide. That was an … Continue reading 1968 vs 2020
During my time at the Kennedy Special Warfare Center, I learned that only dinosaurs believe the atomic bomb is the ultimate weapon. We learned the ultimate weapon is the guerrilla — highly motivated individuals who can operate independently behind front lines for long periods, to damage and confuse superior military forces. Defeating a guerrilla force … Continue reading Whack-A-Mole
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick was quarterback for the San Francisco 49er’s. During the playing of the National Anthem, he refused to stand and “took a knee,” saying any country who tolerated such racism was not worthy of respect. To me, I saw disrespect to the flag and strongly condemned him. My binary view was the … Continue reading This Time Is Different
After spending decades studying the economy, it is understandable that this blog is usually about the economy, but it hasn’t been that way recently. That’s because all the data has been relentlessly dismal – the worst I have ever seen. What’s the point of elaborating the obvious? The current economy sucks! Here is some of … Continue reading The View from the Bottom
Today is May 29th – traditionally financial planners use this date to remind their clients about 529 plans, which are tax-efficient ways to fund education expenses for kids and grand-kids (and other relatives). These plans were initially very popular and still should be. The very wealthy can put $150 thousand in an unlimited number of … Continue reading Quarantine Chore #5
For some reason, I took a sophomore course entitled “The Philosophy of Logic” and have always been glad I did. The concept of syllogism has been helpful to me over the years. (You’ll remember that as – if A, then B – if B, then C – therefore, if A, then C) Still, it was … Continue reading Logic-Dope
For some long-forgotten reason, I still have a checking account at Bank of America. With their latest monthly statements, there was an insert suggesting the seven questions you should ask a potential financial advisor, which are: What types of clients do you work with? Okay, that’s a fair question. One example would be increased familiarity … Continue reading Oh, did I forget . . . ?
In early 1992, I was appointed by the governor to the Texas State Depository Board. It was a four-member board composed of the State Treasurer, State Controller, State Banking Commissioner, and myself. As it was during the Texas Savings and Loan (S&L) scandal, when taxpayer losses would exceed $300 billion, I met a great many … Continue reading Presidential Protection ?
Most market watchers are familiar with the old rule-of-thumb that the stock market changes directions about 6 months or so before the overall economy, based on the assumption that investors study the economy more closely than most people. There is a lesser known rule-of-thumb that the art market changes directions about 3 months or so … Continue reading We’ll Never Know . . .
Ian Bremmer is the founder & CEO of Eurasia Group, an international risk consulting firm. He is also one of the most original thinkers I follow. You know he must be an original thinker, if he sees a silver lining to the current pandemic and economic collapse. Like pain is “good training” in the Army, … Continue reading Silver Lining ?
Even after all these years, I’m still pretty good with guns and have to roll-my-eyes whenever I see these hot-headed, gun-totting wannabe-protectors demonstrating for the freedom to congregate in churches and bars. Or, maybe it is to strut around with their macho-guns? For years, I have railed about Americans losing their privacy. Where are these … Continue reading Our “Protectors” ??
My father always cautioned me to never discuss politics, religion, or how to raise children. Unfortunately, I must often discuss politics, as it is scrambled with economics, but I still avoid partisanship. On the other hand, I never discuss child-rearing, because I frankly don’t have a clue. I do take his advice about religion and … Continue reading Nature’s Forgiveness
How much fiscal assistance does our economy need? The Democratic programmed response is “more” and the Republican programmed response is “less.” Neither is helpful. Here’s a different way to look at it. Assume our GDP is about $20 trillion per year, and it is. Assume our first and fourth quarters (Q1 and Q4) are about … Continue reading Filling-Up
One way to estimate the size of our economy is this: GDP equals the average number of transactions each year times the average price of transactions. (GDP = TP) Another way is this: GDP equals money supply times the velocity of money. (GDP = MV) The velocity of money is the number of times a … Continue reading A Little Algebra . . .
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