While people question the value of a college degree a recent study by the New York Federal Reserve shows a degree is close to as valuable today as it has ever been. The costs to get that value have risen but even with the increased cost students earn on average a 15% annual rate of return on their investment.
Of course, not every student will earn that, some will earn more and some less.
The time required to recoup the costs of a bachelor’s degree has fallen substantially over time, from more than twenty years in the late 1970s and early 1980s to about ten years in 2013. So despite the challenges facing today’s college graduates, the value of a college degree has remained near its all-time high, while the time required to recoup the costs of the degree has remained near its all-time low.
So a college education is a great investment for most people. This can create a problem however, when people then assume that all they need to do is go to college and they will do well no matter what. The same thing happens in other markets. Real estate has proven to be a great investment. that doesn’t mean every real estate investment is good. It doesn’t mean you can ignore the costs and risks of a particular investment. The same goes for stocks.
Business should not be allowed to store credit card numbers that can be stolen and used. The credit card providers should generate a unique credit card number for the business to store that will only work for the purchaser at that business.
Also credit card providers should let me generate credit card numbers as I wish for use online (that are unique and can be stopped at any time I wish). If I get some customer hostile business that makes canceling a huge pain I should just be able to turn off that credit card “number.”
Laws should be adjusted to allow this consumer controlled spending and require that any subscription service must take the turning off of the payments as cancellation.
For some plan where the consumer agrees up front to say 12 months of payments then special timed numbers should be created where the potentially convoluted process used now remain for the first 12 months.
Also users should be able to interact with there credit reports and do things like turn on extra barriers to granting credit (things like they have to be delayed for 14 days after a text, email [to as many addresses and the consumer wants to enter] and postal notification are sent to the user. Variations on how these work is fine (for example, setting criteria for acceptance of the new credit early at the consumers option if certain conditions are met (signing into the web site and confirming information…).
Better security on the cards themselves are also needed in the USA. The costs of improvement are not just the expenses credit card and retailers face but the huge burden to consumers from abuse of the insecure system in place for more than a decade. It is well past time the USA caught up with the rest of the world for on-card security.
The providers have done a lousy job of reducing the enormous burden of fraud on consumers. As well as failing to deal adequately with customer hostile business practices (such as making canceling very cumbersome and continuing to debit the consumer’s credit card account).
Related: Protect Yourself from Credit Card Fraud – Personal Finance Tips on the Proper use of Credit Cards – Continued Credit Card Company Customer Dis-Service – Banks Hoping they Paid Politicians Enough to Protect Billions in Excessive Fees
I like charity that provides leveraged impact. I like charity that is aimed at building long term improvement. I like entrepreneurship. I like people having work they enjoy and can be proud of. And I like people having enough money for necessities and some treats and luxuries.
I think sites like oDesk provide a potentially great way for people to lead productive and rewarding lives. They allow people far from rich countries to tap into the market demand in rich counties. They also allow people to have flexible work arrangements (if someone wants a part time job or to work from home that is fine).
These benefits are also true in the USA and other rich countries (even geography – there are many parts of the USA without great job markets, especially many rural areas). The biggest problem with rich country residents succeeding on something like oDesk is they need quite a bit more money than people from other countries to get by (especially in the USA with health care being so messed up). There are a great deal of very successful technology people on oDesk (and even just freelancing in other ways), but it is still a small group that is capable and lucky enough to pull in large paychecks (it isn’t only technology but that is the majority of high paying jobs I think on oDesk).
But in poor countries with still easily 2 billion and probably much more there is a huge supply of good workers. There is a demand for work to be done. oDesk does a decent job of matching these two but that process could use a great deal of improvement.
I think if I became mega rich one of the projects I would have would be to create an organization to help facilitate those interested in internet based jobs in poor countries to make a living. It takes hard work. Very good communication is one big key to success (I have repeatedly had problems with capable people just not really able to do what was expected in communications). I think a support structure to help with that and with project management would be very good. Also to help with building skills.
If I were in a different place financially (and I were good at marketing which I am not) I would think about creating a company to do this profitably. The hard part for someone in a rich country to do this is that either they have to take very little (basically do it as charity) or they have to take so much cash off the top that I think it makes it hard to build the business.
But building successful organizations that can grow and provide good jobs to those without many opportunities but who are willing to work is something I value. I did since I was a kid living in Nigeria (for a year). I didn’t see this solution then but the idea of economic well being and good jobs and a strong economy being the key driver to better lives has always been my vision.
This contrast to many that see giving cash and good to those in need as good charity. I realize sometimes that is what is needed – especially in emergencies. But the real powerful change comes from strong economy providing people the opportunity to have a great job.
Related: Commerce Takes More People Out of Poverty Than Aid – Investing in the Poorest of the Poor – I am a big fan of helping improve the economic lives of those in the world by harnessing appropriate technology and capitalism – A nonprofit in Queens taught people to write iPhone apps — and their incomes jumped from $15k to $72k
Looking at stock market capitalization by country gives some insight into how countries, and stocks, are doing. Looking at the total market capitalization by country doesn’t equate to the stock holdings by individuals in a country or the value of companies doing work in a specific country. Some countries (UK and Hong Kong, for example) have more capitalization based there than would be indicated by the size of their economy.
It is important to keep in mind the data is in current USA dollars, so big swings in exchange rates can have a big impact (and can cause swings to be exacerbated when they move in tandem with stock market movements – if for example the market declines by 15% and the currency declines by 10% against the US dollar those factors combine to move the result down).
As with so much recent economic data China’s performance here is remarkable. China grew from 1.8% of world capitalization in 2000 to 6.9% in 2012. And Hong Kong’s data is reported separately, as it normally is with global data sets. Adding Hong Kong to China’s totals would give 3.7% in 2000 with growth to to 8.9% in 2012 (Hong Kong stayed very stable – 1.9% in 2000, 2% in 2012). China alone (without HK) is very slightly ahead of Japan.
The first chart shows the largest 4 market capitalizations (2012: USA $18.6 trillion, China and Japan at $3.7 trillion and UK at $3 trillion). Obviously the dominance of the USA in this metric is quite impressive the next 7 countries added together don’t quite reach the USA’s stock market capitalization. I also including the data showing the global stock market capitalization divided by 3 (I just divide it by three to have the chart be more usable – it lets us see the overall global fluctuations but doesn’t cram all the other data in the lower third of the chart).
Canada is the 5th country by market capitalization (shown on the next chart) with $2 trillion. From 2000 to 2012 China’s market capitalization increased by $3.1 trillion. The USA increased by $3.6 trillion from a much larger starting point. China increased by 536% while the USA was up 23.5%. The world stock market capitalization increased 65% from 2000 to 2012.
The story of global manufacturing production continues to be China’s growth, which is the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom however is not correct in the belief that the USA has failed. China shot past the USA, which dropped into 2nd place, but the USA still manufactures a great deal and has continually increased output (though very slowly in the last few years).
The story is pretty much the same as I have been writing for 8 years now. The biggest difference in that story is just that China actually finally moved into 1st place in 2010 and, maybe, the slowing of the USA growth in output (if that continues, I think the USA growth will improve). I said last year, that I expected China to build on the lead it finally took, and they did so. I expect that to continue, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see China’s momentum slow (especially a few more years out – it may not slow for 3 or 4 more years).
As before, the four leading nations for manufacturing production remain solidly ahead of all the rest. Korea and Italy had manufacturing output of $313 billion in 2011 and Brazil moved up to $308 are in 4-6 place. Those 3 countries together could be in 4th place (ahead of just Germany). Even adding Korea and Italy together the total is short of Germany by $103 in 2011). I would expect Korea and Brazil to grow manufacturing output substantially more than Italy in the next 5 years.
Building your saving is largely about not very sexy actions. The point where most people fail is just not saving. It isn’t really about learning some tricky secret.
You can find yourself with pile of money without saving; if you win the lottery or inherit a few million from your rich relative via some tax dodge scheme like generation skipping trusts or charitable remainder trusts.
But the rest of us just have to do a pretty simple thing: save money. Then, keep saving money and invest that money sensibly. The key is saving money. The next key is not taking foolish risks. Getting fantastic returns is exciting but is not likely and the focus should be on lowering risk until you have enough savings to take risks with a portion of the portfolio.
My favorite tips along these lines are:
- spend less than you make
- save some of every raise you get
- save 10-15% of income for retirement
- add to any retirement account with employer matching (where say they add $500 for every $1,000 you put into your 401(k)
Spending less than you make and building up your long term savings puts you in the strongest personal finance position. These things matter much more than making a huge salary or getting fantastic investing returns some year. Avoiding risky investments is wise, and sure making great returns helps a great deal, but really just saving and investing in a boring manner puts you in great shape in the long run. Many of those making huge salaries are in atrocious personal financial shape.
Another way you can boost savings is to do so when you pay off a monthly bill. So when I paid off my car loan I just kept saving the old payment. Then I was able to buy my new car with the cash I saved in advance when I was ready for a new car.
The largest manufacturing countries are China, USA, Japan and then Germany. These 4 are far in the lead, and very firmly in their positions. Only the USA and China are close, and the momentum of China is likely moving it quickly ahead – even with their current struggles.
The chart below shows manufacturing production by country as a percent of GDP of the 10 countries that manufacture the most. China has over 30% of the GDP from manufacturing, though the GDP share fell dramatically from 2005 and is solidly in the lead.
Nearly every country is decreasing the percentage of their economic output from manufacturing. Korea is the only exception, in this group. I would expect Korea to start following the general trend. Also China has reduced less than others, I expect China will also move toward the trend shown by the others (from 2005 to 2010 they certainly did).
For the 10 largest manufacturing countries in 2010, the overall manufacturing GDP percentage was 24.9% of GDP in 1980 and dropped to 17.7% in 2010. The point often missed by those looking at their country is most of these countries are growing manufacturing, they are just growing the rest of their economy more rapidly. It isn’t accurate to see this as a decline of manufacturing. It is manufacturing growing more slowly than (information technology, health care, etc.).
The manufacturing share of the USA economy dropped from 21% in 1980 to 18% in 1990, 15% in 2000 and 13% in 2010. Still, as previous posts show, the USA manufacturing output has grown substantially: over 300% since 1980, and 175% since 1990. The proportion of manufacturing output by the USA (for the top 10 manufacturers) has declined from 33% in 1980, 32% in 1990, 35% in 2000 to 26% in 2010. If you exclude China, the USA was 36% of the manufacturing output of these 10 countries in 1980 and 36% in 2010. China’s share grew from 7.5% to 27% during that period.
The United Kingdom has seen manufacturing fall all the way to 10% of GDP, manufacturing little more than they did 15 years ago. Japan is the only other country growing manufacturing so slowly (but Japan has one of the highest proportion of GDP from manufacturing – at 20%). Japan manufactures very well actually, the costs are very high and so they have challenges but they have continued to manufacture quite a bit, even if they are not growing output much.
I’m really too lazy for any ongoing budgeting. This is the model I have used: write down your big expense (rent, car payment, required student loan payment…). Get the total take home pay each month subtract your big expenses. If that is negative you better do something else (make more money, get rid of big expenses).
Big monthly expenses:
- Rent: $900
- Car payment + insurance: $300
- Cash (miscellaneous spending food, gas, cloths, books…): $450
- Utilities+ (heat, electricity, phone, internet…): $250
Take home pay: $2,800.
That leaves $900/month ($2,800 – $1,900). Decide how to allocate that – toward your IRA, saving to buy a house or take a vacation, eating out (above what was allocated above for cash), pay off debt (if you have it…), build up an emergency fund, save to buy a new MacBook Pro with Retina display…
If I decided to allocate $300 to my IRA (or increase my 401k) I would just set that up automatically each month. Then say I decided to put $400 toward other savings I would have that go to my savings account each month. And I decided I could use the $200 to pamper myself I just leave that in my checking account and what is in checking is what I have to spend.
I just don’t spend more than that. Just like when I was in college I had little spending money. I could spend that. I couldn’t spend any more, I didn’t have it. If I were to go over (I never did), but if I were to have (say my credit card bill exceeded my checking account balance), I would have had to reduce my cash the next month. I reality I would have something like $2,000 extra in the checking account so no bills would be a problem (and just view $2,000 as 0).
In 6 months see where things stand. Is it really working? Did you mess up and forget some expenses… If you need to adjust, do so. Re-examine every 6 months (or every year, if you are doing pretty well).
Take a portion of each raise (50% maybe) and devote it to personal finance goals (paying off debt, retirement savings, building up emergency fund, saving for big purcahse, investing, give more to charity…); don’t just use it to increase spending. Use no more than half (or whatever level you set) of the raise to increase your current spending.
The basics of retirement planning are not tricky. Save 10-15% of your income for about 40 years working career (likely over 15%, if you don’t have some pension or social security – with some pension around 10+% may be enough depending on lots of factors). That should get you in the ballpark of what you need to retire.
Of course the details are much much more complicated. But without understanding any of the details you can do what is the minimum you need to do – save 10% for retirement of all your income. See my retirement investing related posts for more details. Only if you actually understand all the details and have a good explanation for exactly why your financial situation allows less than 10% of income to be saved for retirement every year after age 25 should feel comfortable doing so.
There is value in the simple rules, when you know they are vast oversimplifications. I am amazed how many professionals don’t understand how oversimplified the rules of thumb are.
Here is one thing I see ignored nearly universally. I am sure some professions don’t but most do. If you have retirement assest such as a pension or social security (something that functions as an annuity, or an actually annuity) that is often a hugely important part of your retirement portfolio. Yet many don’t consider this when setting asset allocations in retirement. That is a mistake, in my opinion.
A reliable annuity is most like a bond (for asset allocation purposes). Lets look at an example for if you have $1,500 a month from a pension or social security and $500,000 in other financial assets. $1,500 * 12 gives $18,000 in annual income.
To get $18,000 in income from an bond/CD… yielding 3% you need $600,000. That means, at 3%, $600,000 yields $18,000 a year.
Ignoring this financial asset worth the equivalent of $600,000 when considering how to invest you $500,000 is a big mistake. Granted, I believe the advice is often too biased toward bonds in the first place (so reducing that allocation sounds good to me). To me it doesn’t make sense to invest that $500,000 the same way as someone else that didn’t have that $18,000 annuity is a mistake.
I also don’t think it makes sense to just say well I have $1,100,000 and I want to be %50 in bonds and 50% in stocks so I have “$600,000 in bonds now” (not really after all…) so the $500,000 should all be in stocks. Ignoring the annuity value is a mistake but I don’t think it is as simple as just treating it as though it were the equivalent amount actually invested.
I really can’t figure out which currency is something I would want to hold if I had the option. It doesn’t really matter, since I am not going to act on it in a very direct way (maybe if I felt very strongly I would do something but it would probably be pretty limited), but I still keep thinking about this issue out of curiosity.
The USA dollar seems lousy to me. Huge debt (both government and consumer). Government debt is huge on the books and huge off the books (state and local retirement – and federal medical care [social security is really in much better shape than people think, though it also has issues 30 + years out}).
The Euro seemed a bit lame 3 years ago. Today it seems crazy to think at least one Euro country won’t default in the next 3 years – and likely more. And if they take steps to avoid that it seems like it is going to make the case for the Euro worse).
The Japanese Yen is much stronger than makes any sense to me. I think it is mainly because of how lousy all the options are. The huge government debt (worse than almost anywhere) and lousy demographics (and the refusal to deal with demographics with immigration or something) are big problems. The biggest reason for strength is that the individuals have huge savings (when your citizens own the debt it is much less horrible than when others do – especially when you are looking at currency value).
The Chinese Yuan is the best looking at the economic data. The problem is economic data is questionable for the best cases (looking at the USA, Japan…). China’s economic data is far from transparent. There is also great political and social risk. The current worries of a real estate bubble seems justified to me and China just this week took exactly the wrong action – trying to prop up the bubble (in order to decrease the economic slowdown). I can see either of these cases playing out 10 years from now: It was obvious the Yuan was the strongest currency you are an idiot for not being able to see that or It was obvious China was a bubble with unsustainable policies and likely social upheaval thinking that was anything but a sign to sell the Yuan was foolish.
Given all this I think I weakly come down on the side that the Yuan is likely to be the strongest.
The safest play I think is the US dollar (as lousy as it is on an absolute basis the options make it look almost good). It could get clobbered. But that seems less likely than the others getting clobbered.
Smaller currencies have some promise but they can be swamped by global moves. I really have no idea about the Brazilian Real. That might actually be a really good option. The Australian Dollar and Canadian Dollar may also. But those economies are really small. I don’t trust India: they have many good macro-economic factors but the climate for business leaves far too much to be desired (as does the pace of progress fixing those weaknesses). Many economist like them due to demographic factors. I understand that demographic factors will help, but without systemic reform I question how well India can do (it certainly has the potential to do amazingly well, but they seem to be significantly farther away from reaching their potential compared to many countries).
The Singapore Dollar seems good on many levels, but the economy is small. I am not really sure about emerging economies, there currencies can get swamped in a hurry. Thailand and Indonesia experienced this recently. Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are interesting to me in thinking about what their currencies may experience, I would like to read more on this.
This is more an intellectual and curiosity exercise than something I see directly tied to my investing strategy. But having clear answers of what I thought reasonable scenarios were for currencies going forward that would factor into my investing decisions. Right now, the confusing this causes me, leads me to favor companies that should be fine whatever happens: Apple, Google, Toyota, Intel (I don’t really like Facebook overall but in this way they fit). Lots of the stocks in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio, you might notice.