Jan 022019
 

Happy new year, everyone. 1999 was already 20 years ago. That was the year when The Matrix and Star Wars Episode 1 movies came out. Darn, I feel old. 😐

I think the financial markets are in for a very eventful year in 2019 as issues in the economy may expand and bleed into the real estate and bond markets. Here are a few things to consider as we kick off January.

  • According to hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, since 2010 actual corporate earnings have only climbed 27%. Yet somehow the S&P 500 index has doubled in price. If stock prices are meant to reflect corporate profits then something doesn’t add up. Druckenmiller attributes the gap to buybacks and mergers financed by corporate non-financial debt, which climbed 60% to $9.6 trillion from 2010 to the end of 2018.
  • High yield and leveraged loans are growing. In late 2018 Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned the Federal Reserve’s vice chair that leveraged loans pose an economic threat on scale with subprime loans from a decade ago. “The Fed dropped the ball before the 2008 crisis by ignoring the risks in the subprime mortgage market,” Warren said. Simon Macadam, global economist at Capital Economics, also said leveraged loans, which generally are issued to lower-quality borrowers that already have a substantial debt load on their balance sheets, pose a danger. This has not become a crisis just yet, but I would keep an eye on it.
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Dec 212018
 

Stock markets are down around the world in December. The Nasdaq Composite which is a barometer for tech companies has fallen 15% so far this month. Top economists and investors have been sounding the alarm for months on an economic recession. A New York Times survey discovered that 48% of business leaders at the Yale CEO Summit expected a recession to strike by the end of 2019. It said this finding was the “direst yet,” and shows just how worried companies are about an imminent recession. 😮

The S&P/500 is already in a bear market, which means it has dropped at least 20% from the last highest point. The Canadian S&P/TSX Composite index is only down 18% since its high point in July. But it could very easily enter bear market territory by next week.

Recently 82% of corporate CFOs surveyed in the Duke Global Business Outlook saw a recession starting before the end of 2020. But nearly half of them believe it will actually occur by the end of 2019.

A little pullback once in awhile is normal. When you have nearly 10 years of financial growth it shouldn’t be a surprise when growth finally decelerates. That’s why it’s necessary to always maintain a recession resistant financial plan. 🙂

The writing has been on the wall for a long time. About a year ago I explained how we are near the end of an economic cycle, and by using some charts, I predicted that the next financial downturn will probably happen sometime between 2019 and 2021. So I’m in agreement with most of the business people surveyed above.

Instead of choosing stocks that are largely recession proof, the best way to protect ourselves from a falling stock market is to own other types of investments such as bonds or prime real estate. Continuing to earn a steady stream of income also helps bolster one’s financial situation. Only 1/3rd of my assets are in stocks. So despite the double digit stock market pullback, my net worth is only down about 1% compared to July.

It is hard to know whether this current trend will continue to push stocks further down, or if we will see a bounce back soon. If I had to guess, I think there is still some time to prepare before things start to look really bad. Here’s a chart that shows the change in corporate income tax the U.S. government earned over the last 50 years. ~Notice how just about every time the line drops below the 0 point and reverses direction we see a vertical grey bar? Well those bars represent times of recession (or shrinking GDP.)

corporate income tax

At this moment the U.S. could already be in the beginning of a recession. We won’t know for sure until the economic data is released many months later. But what we can determine right now is that the line has crossed below 0, and it hasn’t reversed direction yet. That’s why I think the next financial downturn will not be this year. 🙂

But in the meanwhile I am being weary and staying away from buying new stocks. It’s not a good idea to catch a falling knife, as a stock market in decline is most likely to continue falling in the immediate future. So I will be enjoying the holidays sitting on the sidelines. At the same time I am also not selling any of my stocks. And lastly I am continuing to pay down debts, saving up cash, and looking at bonds. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

Aug 152018
 

The idea that higher minimum wage helps the working poor is utterly ridiculous. It’s a lie spread by liberal politicians and their supporters so they can take more tax money from individuals.

According to the Calgary Herald, rising minimum wage was the cause of 25,700 jobs disappearing in the city. But things will likely get worse as Alberta’s minimum wage will soon grow to $15 an hour. The Bank of Canada warned that minimum wage hikes could cost the country up to 136,000 jobs by 2019. Ouch. That’s some hard cheese. 🙁

Minimum Wage is a violation of basic human rights

Instead of protecting our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness the government actually violates our rights by creating a minimum wage law, which prevents mutually beneficial, voluntary labour contracts between two parties from taking place. It’s absurd that some government official can think they have the right to prevent others from offering their personal services for pay.

You have to be an egotistical control freak to believe that you somehow know the magic amount of what a minimum wage should be. You also have to believe that this one arbitrary number can be fairly applied to millions of agreements and transactions between people living in different cities, with different costs of living. That kind of patronizing thinking is pure buffoonery to me.

What gives them the right to decide how much my service is worth? Apparently these politicians think it doesn’t matter if the work is shoveling snow, teaching calculus, or giving CPR, because everyone’s time and labour is magically of equal value! But anyone who reads this blog regularly is smart enough to realize this is simply not true in the real world.

When I worked at a warehouse earlier this year I was making about $14/hr. My coworkers and I were pleased with our pay. Nobody talked about unionizing because we were all treated fairly. But if minimum wage were to increase then some of us would lose our jobs for sure. Even if we want to come back the law would make it illegal for the company to hire us at $14/hr. It would be very difficult for laid off workers to find a similar job that pays better. Raising the minimum wage displaces workers and increases the incentive to leave the job market altogether to live on social assistance. This is very damaging to the lives of low income workers.

 

How Minimum Wage hurts the poor the most

There is a myth being spread that governments can somehow mandate employers to pay all their minimum wage workers more money. And therefore, an increase in the minimum wage will benefit those workers.

Unfortunately the reality is not that simple. The actual fact is that governments can only give employers the choice of either paying their workers more or employing fewer workers – both scenarios are bad news for low income earners.

  • If the owner employs fewer workers, the least skilled employees are the first to get canned.
  • If workers are paid more, the least productive employees will lose their jobs and be replaced by other people who are more qualified and can provide more value to customers in the marketplace.

If an employee only creates $12/hr of value then it wouldn’t be sustainable for a business to pay him $15/hr for his labour. Either that worker’s productivity/ skills/ efficiency have to improve, or he will be laid off. Companies can also invest in new technology to bypass human workers altogether.

When minimum wage is forced onto employers it's the busines sowners that hurt the most.

Furthermore increasing the minimum wage across the board will create inflation and raise the price of goods and services. The people who are most disadvantaged by rising minimum wage are the working poor because their cost of living will increase disproportionately to everyone else. The dollar is devalued and the affordability gap widens between the rich and poor.

So if the idea is to help low income workers, then increasing the minimum wage is the antithesis of what we need to be doing. If you are making around minimum wage, then logically speaking you should be the most against raising it because you are most at risk of losing your job.

 

Why the Minimum Wage is Racist

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Jul 272018
 

According to a Fox article, millennials now make up the largest generation in America, and we’re seeing some troubling trends as they are increasingly turning away from capitalism and favouring socialism instead. Based on a study of over 2,000 people, nearly 45% of millennials polled said that they would prefer to live in a socialist country compared to the 42% who said they preferred a capitalist one. Another 7 percent said that the preferred living in a communist country. Oh dear. 🙁

By comparison, most baby boomers polled favor capitalism, compared to 26% who said they prefer a socialist system. Socialism never works in the long run because you eventually run out of other people’s money to spend. For a recent example we can turn to Venezuela, which has a socialist government. Venezuela’s currency has lost 99.9997% of its value in the past 6 years. In the span of a few months, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has gone from forecasting that Venezuela’s inflation rate would hit 12,875% by the end of the year to now saying that it will get to 1,000,000%. Yikes! The country’s economy is on the verge of collapse for the past year. People often struggle to find food, medicine, and other essential goods.

If socialism is better than capitalism then all the socialists should get together and redistribute their properties fairly among themselves. But that has never happened, lol. As Winston Churchill once said, “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

 

 

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Random Useless Fact:

Eating healthy can cost more money

 

 

Jun 152018
 

Lifestyle inflation is when we spend more money when our income increases. This can feel natural because the more we earn the more we can afford to spend. But this can make it very difficult to save for retirement or meet other financial goals. Lifestyle inflation is what causes many folks to get stuck in the rat race instead of being able to retire sooner. Here are some ideas to help curb lifestyle inflation when we get that big raise next time. 🙂

  1. Visualize the net amount of a raise after paying payroll and income tax.
  2. We don’t necessarily deserve nice things. But we deserve to be happy – which can be jeopardized if we overspend on nice things by sacrificing financial security.
  3. Hang out with friends who have similar spending habits to ourselves.
  4. Pay ourselves first. Set up an automatic transfer for a fixed amount of money from our bank account to an investment account every month.
  5. Define our goals and only spend new money if it will get us closer to those goals.
  6. Have inexpensive hobbies such as reading, blogging, hiking, playing music, and cooking.
  7. Realize that success doesn’t equate to material possessions. Better indicators of success are health, love, friends, family, and experiences. We should be happy with our quality of life without feeling the need to prove it to others.

Reaching a good balance of spending and saving is a personal journey for everyone. There are some people who save too much without enjoying life as it comes. There are others who impetuously spend too much without thinking of their future. Finding the sweet spot between the two extremes will bring us financial happiness. 🙂 Happiness is like peeing our pants. People around us can see it, but only we can truly feel the warmth of it. 😀 Live for today but don’t forget to plan for tomorrow.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

QiZai is the only giant brown panda in the world left. He is literally one of a kind.