The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

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

Three Brainy Thoughts

05/10/2019

There were three interesting takeaways from my recent class on brain health.  One was, if a person is very concerned about approaching brain disease such as dementia, make sure they have completed their financial and estate plan BEFORE getting the medical diagnosis.  If they do have onset of brain disease, they may lack the ability … Continue reading Three Brainy Thoughts

Existential Economics

05/07/2019

I have been a financial planner since dinosaurs roamed the land.  Okay, maybe not that long, but I have watched the evolution of financial planning for a very long time.  In the early years, our focus was on rationalizing or making sense of a person’s financial assets and coordinating that with their estate plan. With … Continue reading Existential Economics

Save NAFTA II

05/06/2019

Back in 1972, I worked through the math supporting the economic Law of Comparative Advantage, which explained how globalization increased GDP, and I have been a “globalist” ever since, even now when it is an unpopular position.  In fact, most economists are still globalists, even if they won’t currently admit to it.  But the globalization … Continue reading Save NAFTA II

Because Decency Matters

05/02/2019

William Weld was the governor of Massachusetts and is now a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2020. I made a donation to his campaign this morning and urge others to consider doing likewise. Go to: https://www.weld2020.org/donate

Debt Ceiling

05/01/2019

In case you missed it, my last quarterly column for Inside Business argues that the debt ceiling does more harm than good. The column can be found at: https://pilotonline.com/inside-business/news/columns/article_fecaf2c0-5ace-11e9-a648-33d438ae14b0.html

Mini-Cycles?

04/30/2019

Neither economic cycles nor market cycles have a brain. They don’t know if they are young or old. They just keep going . . . until they stop. Strategists are fond of saying bull markets never die from old age – they are killed by some exogenous event, usually by the Fed or a bubble, … Continue reading Mini-Cycles?

R.I.P. N.R.A.

04/29/2019

I was raised in a gun-friendly family and received my first rifle at age 13.  It is not surprising I qualified as an expert marksman in the Army.  Further, infantrymen develop an almost intimate relationship with their weapon, especially when they realize that weapon may save your life.  I still love guns! When I was … Continue reading R.I.P. N.R.A.

About Time!

04/26/2019

One Sunday when I was a boy, I was attending a Sunday School class, when the teacher told us that a bad thought and a bad deed were equally bad. When I objected, the teacher informed that, in a most patronizing voice, that men, older and smart than any little boy, had already decreed it, … Continue reading About Time!

True Lies ?

04/25/2019

Most Republicans will agree that the President has a different standard of truth, chuckling as they say “Trump’s just being Trump.” I understand that and normally chuckle myself. The problem is that many Americans, not just Democrats, assume everything the President says is untrue, which is not true. That was the case when he said … Continue reading True Lies ?

Understandable or Not ?

04/16/2019

While I have agreed with my Republican friends many times, they are dead wrong on the subject of the Fiduciary Standard. For years, there have been two types of financial advisors. One are the Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs). They are held to a fiduciary standard, which requires the advisor to always act in the best … Continue reading Understandable or Not ?

Contentment

04/08/2019

I always assumed that I would become an armed guerrilla, if I ever found myself living in a non-democratic country.   However, during recent years, we have been in three countries ruled by dictators — China, Cuba and Egypt.  To our surprise, we never saw any resistance nor any desire to resist their dictators.  We never … Continue reading Contentment

Taking Their Keys Away

04/03/2019

Anybody who has cared for an aging parent knows how difficult it is to “take their keys away.”  Hartford Funds has just published a helpful resource for this problem.  You can find it at: https://www.hartfordfunds.com/dam/en/docs/pub/prospectingmaterials/Whitepapers/MAI166.pdf Fortunately, “taking their keys away” may have become easier, by ride-sharing with companies like Uber and Lyft.  Only 13% of … Continue reading Taking Their Keys Away

British Sympathy

04/01/2019

If you were tired of the breathless coverage of the Mueller report over the last two years, then find some sympathy for our British friends, who have dangled at the end of the Brexit string even longer.  Their angst is clearly worst than ours.  After failing as badly as any elected body in modern history, … Continue reading British Sympathy

WhipSaw

04/01/2019

In the fourth quarter, the Fed looked hostile.  I argued Quantitative Tightening would kill the market.  Q4 was the worst quarter in 20 years. In the first quarter of this year, the Fed turned neutral and the Chinese tariff negotiations turned optimistic.  Q1 was the best quarter in 10 years. Tech stocks, real estate and … Continue reading WhipSaw

Random Thoughts on Egypt

03/29/2019

Egypt is a relatively large country, with a population approaching 100 million.  Tourism is its leading industry, employing one of every seven Egyptians.  The Nile region is also a major agricultural producer.  It is the only non-OPEC oil producer in the Mid-East.  After passing South Africa last year, Egypt is now the fastest growing economy … Continue reading Random Thoughts on Egypt

MPT & MMT

03/13/2019

I believe in Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), which is the investment philosophy of virtually all institutional money managers in this country.  This Nobel Prize-winning theory found that a portfolio can achieve higher returns with lower risk – the “Holy Grail” — by allocating the portfolio across many asset classes, such as big company stocks, small … Continue reading MPT & MMT

A Voice From 2009

03/12/2019

Ron Pearson is a long-term friend, a retired financial planner, as well as a retired Navy fighter pilot.  Ten years ago, he wrote about the sad state of Social Security.  With his permission, I’m republishing it here – to show how the problems of Social Security are not new, and that we have been writing … Continue reading A Voice From 2009

Definition of Idiocy

03/11/2019

I have a great deal of respect for Ric Edelman, who was one of the financial planning pioneers in the Washington area.  Having done well, he is now focused on doing good.  He sees the greatest medical disaster approaching us as the rising cost of Alzheimer’s disease, and I have no reason to disagree with … Continue reading Definition of Idiocy

Wrong Deficit

03/08/2019

The December trade deficit was the highest in ten years.  The hand-wringing was immediate and painful.  You’ll recall the President campaigned hard that he would cut that deficit in half.  However, we should give the President a pass on this promise.  The deficit for that one month was not too worrisome, given we’re in the … Continue reading Wrong Deficit

Parsing Socialism

03/07/2019

In the last century, when I took my first course in economics, I learned that socialism was an economic system calling for public ownership of the major means of production and transportation.  The important point was that it was an economic system, not a political system.  Today, Wikipedia describes it as: Socialism is a range of economic and social … Continue reading Parsing Socialism

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