Oct 072019
 

How to spot the warning signs of a looming recession

Last year I wrote a blog post explaining that a recession may not be far away. A recession is 2 consecutive quarters of negative economic growth. The indicators at that time were still questionable. But fast forward to today and wow, the signals have become much clearer! Here are 10 economic indicators that strongly suggest a U.S. recession could be imminent.

recession indicators to keep an eye on

  1. Inverted yield curve
  2. Unemployment rate reaching an inflection point
  3. The long term unemployment is flattening out
  4. Declining GDP growth
  5. Lower expectations for corporate earnings
  6. Manufacturing index PMI falls to 10 year low
  7. Global uncertainty index at all time high
  8. Declining Cass Freight Index
  9. The Fed Bank of New York drastically raised the likelihood of a recession
  10. Rising auto loan delinquencies

Additional breakdown of each of the 10 indicators below.

The yield curve has inverted

The graph below shows the difference between the 10 year treasury yield and the 2 year treasury yield. The yield curve tends to get flatter when the economy reaches the end of an expansion cycle. The vertical gray bars on the graph represent periods of recession. How reliable is this indicator? Over the last 50 years, every recession was preceded by a yield curve inversion. 😼 The graph dropped to below 0% earlier this year in March, officially inverting the yield curve. According to Credit Suisse, a recession occurs about 22 months on average after a yield curve inversion.

US 10 year treasury against 2 year treasury yields from FRED

 

The unemployment rate is bottoming out

A lower unemployment rate is good for the economy. But at the end of every full employment cycle is a sharp increase in the civilian unemployment rate, usually accompanied by a recession. When we last looked at this graph in 2018 the unemployment rate was at 4% and heading down. Today it is lower at 3.7%, a 50 year low in fact. Practically speaking it cannot drop much more than this. Historically we can see in the chart that after the lowest point in each employment cycle, the unemployment rate shoots up abruptly, usually coinciding with a recession.

Unemployment rate cycle against past recessions. The correlation is very clear.

 

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Jan 292018
 

The Next Recession is Coming

Although not directly correlated to the stock market in the short term, the economy also experiences cycles of ups and downs. Here are some graphs that have historically been very reliable when used to forecast recessions in the United States. Recessions occur when the total economic output of the country declines in two consecutive 3-month periods.

The Yield Curve is Flattening

The graph below shows the difference between the 10 year treasury yield and the 2 year treasury yield. The yield curve tends to get flatter when the economy reaches the end of an expansion phase. The vertical gray bars on the graph represent periods of recession. Every time the yield difference falls below 0% a recession happens soon after. Looking at the chart it appears we’re approaching 0% again.

 

 

Unemployment Rate Nearing A Turning Point

A lower unemployment rate is good for the economy. But at the end of every full employment cycle is a sharp increase in the civilian unemployment rate, usually accompanied by a recession. In the past a long period of declining unemployment rate has always lead to a spike up and a recession.

This rate has fallen from 10% eight years ago to 4% today. Practically speaking it cannot go much lower than this. The lowest the rate has been over the last 60 years is 3.5%. So this downward trend in the civilian unemployment rate is almost over. It’s not hard to imagine what will follow after the rate stops heading lower.

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Apr 172017
 

A Present To Yourself

If you like to receive presents, and let’s be honest – who doesn’t? then consider giving yourself the gift of long term planning. That simply means making a plan today that will pay off dividends for you later on. Your future self will thank you for this priceless gift that you have given him or her. And best of all, making this gift doesn’t cost you any money today. 🙂

Last month, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos surpassed Warren Buffett to become the 2nd richest person in the world! How did he do it? Maybe a letter he wrote to shareholders in 1997 can reveal some secrets. 😀 In it Jeff writes that we can’t realize our true potential as people or as companies unless we plan for the long term. “If everything you do needs to work on a 3-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people,” Bezos told Wired in 2011. “But if you’re willing to invest on a 7-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few are willing to do that.”

Year 7 of the 12 Year Journey

I started this blog in 2010 with a 12 year plan to reach financial independence. It’s now been 7 years and things are progressing very well. 🙂 Back in 2013, my net worth was only $200K. And my financial details looked like the following.

Assets:
Home = $252K
Farms = $325K
Liquid investments (Including Retirement Accounts) = $161K

Liabilities
Total debts = $535K

At that time I wrote about my plans and my course of action to reach financial freedom. Without a solid plan back then, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Developing a strategy years ago was the best present I could have given my current self.

Speaking of the present, we are now only 5 years away from 2022. My net worth is currently about $610K, and here is an update of my financial details today.

Assets: 
Home = $270K
Farms = $436K
Liquid investments (Including Retirement Accounts) = $400K

Liabilities
Total debts = $495K

It appears I’m farther ahead that I initially planned for. This means I have to adjust my original plan made a few years ago. Not that I’m complaining. 😀 So here is my new revised plan for Freedom 35:

Step 1: Pay down $18K of debt per year. After 5 years my total debt should be $400K.
Step 2: Sell all farmland in 2022 for $436K. After agent fees and tax, I would keep $400K in my pocket.
Step 3: Use the $400K from selling farmland to pay off my $400K of debt. This would make me debt free.
Step 4: Re-balance my $400K liquid portfolio to earn $15,000 per year of dividend income.
Step 5: Live on passive income for the foreseeable future.

That’s pretty much it. 🙂 A $15,000 income from a $400,000 portfolio represents a sustainable 3.75% withdrawal rate.

Here is a look at my projected monthly expenses after I reach financial independence in 2022, assuming 2% annual inflation rate from today.

  • 300 – strata fee
  • 30 – gasoline for car
  • 100 – car insurance
  • 30 – home insurance
  • 100 – property tax
  • 70 – internet
  • 40 – cell phone
  • 300 – food
  • 30 – electricity
  • 250 – discretionary

Total monthly spending = $1,250

Discretionary spending will be clothing, entertainment, and other things like that. I won’t have to pay into the MSP healthcare system anymore because I wouldn’t be making enough income to be charged the monthly insurance premium. I also don’t have to move to a small city or change my lifestyle. I can stay in YVR. 🙂

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Feb 062017
 

Index investing is a great way to build long term wealth. It’s simple to implement, convenient, and you are guaranteed to make the same returns as the market, minus any fees. But is it right for everyone?

Taking a closer look at Index Investing

How Indexes Are Managed

There’s a common theory that retail investors shouldn’t try to beat the market since it’s almost impossible to do over time. But I’m not sure this is true. The “index” isn’t the holy grail of stock selection. Some folks from the S&P Index Committee sit in a room and decide which stocks to include in their index based on a set of criteria with arbitrary measurements. It would be preferable if prominent investors such as Ray Dalio or Warren Buffett were on this committee, but they aren’t. Lol.

The S&P/TSX Composite index is made up of 250 stocks, chosen by the committee. It’s intriguing how only 250 stocks are selected out of the possible 1500+ on the entire Canadian stock market. The methodology for selecting stocks to be included in an index contains guidelines for minimum weight in the market, price per share, market cap, and sufficient liquidity requirements. The index is reviewed quarterly and all Index Securities that, in the opinion of the Index Committee, do not meet certain requirements are removed. And for the S&P 500 stock market index in the United States, anywhere from 25 to 50 changes are made every year. It’s basically a handful of people getting paid to actively manage a list of stocks that they believe represents the overall equity market.

The Paradox of Index Investing

From what I’ve heard, the whole idea of index investing is to match the market’s performance using a passive methodology. But if picking individual stocks will underperform the market most of the time, according to the mainstream, then how can index investing work if it’s based on a managed list of stocks that is updated every quarter based on the decisions of some individuals on Wall Street? Why are they more qualified to pick stocks for the index than let’s say, personal finance bloggers? 😀

I don’t think it would be hard for a handful of competent value and dividend investors to get together, create their own list of 250 stocks, and then beat the S&P/TSX Composite index. Last year Nelson from Financial Uproar hosted a stock picking contest for personal finance bloggers. There were 14 participants, including myself. Our average investment return for 2016 was 30%. We beat all the major indexes in both Canada and the U.S. Since an index is meant to represent the average of the stock market, then all we had to do to beat the market was to just be better than average. 😉 Easy peasy.

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Jan 122017
 

What’s 6 inches long and gets Kim Kardashian excited? That’s right. It’s money. 😀 Especially the one with Benjamin’s face on it. There is certainly no shortage of liquidity in the world today thanks to central banks. As investors, our priority is to increase our expected returns while reducing our anticipated risks. A good way to go about doing this is by setting goals. Making smart decisions and taking appropriate action is easier if we have defined a target to aspire to. 🙂 If we don’t take control of our money, then someone else will inevitably try to use money to control us.

Here are my financial goals for 2017.

  • Grow my TFSA to $80,000.
    I currently hold $72,000 across all my tax free savings accounts. I have $3,000 contribution room remaining for the year. All the investments inside my TFSAs have performed well, except Bombardier stocks BBD.B. Overall I’ve been quite lucky with my stock picks. 🙂
  • Grow my RRSP to $100,000.
    I currently hold $86,000 in my RRSP. I have $10,000 contribution room remaining for 2017.
  • Grow my net worth to $750,000.
    I hope to grow my wealth by $180,000 this year. $60,000 of this increase could come from savings and debt reduction. The remaining $120,000 would ideally come from investment returns. 🙂 This isn’t an unreasonable expectation considering last year’s market performance, and I currently have over $1 million worth of assets.
  • Increase my passive income rate by $2,000/year.
    I plan to invest at least $35,000 into a mix of fixed income securities and dividend stocks. The average yield on new investments would be 4% to create $1,400 of new passive income per year. The remaining $600 growth should come from dividend increases from investments that I already have in my current portfolio.

That’s pretty much it. As usual, the likelihood for me to reach my goals will depend on many factors, including how the financial markets perform which is largely out of my control. We’ve had a great Q4 in 2016 to finish the year on a high note. But who knows how this year will turn out. Setting goals is important because it gives us something to focus on and look forward to. It guides our behavior so we feel a sense of purpose when making financial decisions. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

There’s a man in east India who has 39 wives, 94 children, and 33 grandchildren so far. They all live in a 100 room mansion. It takes 30 whole chickens, 132lb of potatoes, and 200lb of rice just to make a family dinner.