A report by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, Assessing the Costs and Consequences of the 2007–09 Financial Crisis and Its Aftermath, puts the costs to the average household of the great recession at $50,000 to $120,000.
The worst downturn in the United States since the 1930s was distinctive. Easy credit standards and abundant financing fueled a boom-period expansion that was followed by an epic bust with enormous negative economic spillover.
Our bottom-line estimate of the cost of the crisis, assuming output eventually returns to its pre-crisis trend path, is an output loss of $6 trillion to $14 trillion. This amounts to $50,000 to $120,000 for every U.S. household, or the equivalent of 40 to 90 percent of one year’s economic output.
They say “misguided government incentives” much of which are due to payments to politicians by too-big-to-fail institution to get exactly the government incentives they wanted. There is a small bit of the entire problem that is likely due to the desire to have homeownership levels above that which was realistic (beyond that driven by too-big-to-fail lobbyists).
“Were safer” says a recent economist. Which I guess is true in that it isn’t quite as risky as when the too-big-to-fail-banks nearly brought down the entire globally economy and required mass government bailouts that were of a different quality than all other bailouts of failed organizations in the past (not just a different quantity). The changes have been minor. The CEOs and executives that took tens and hundreds of millions out of bank treasures into their own pockets then testified they didn’t understand the organization they paid themselves tens and hundreds of a millions to “run.”
We left those organizations intact. We bailed out their executives. We allowed them to pay our politicians in order to get the politicians to allow the continued too-big-to-fail ponzie scheme to continue. The too-big-to-fail executives take the handouts from those they pay to give them the handouts and we vote in those that continue to let the too-big-to-fail executives to take millions from their companies treasuries and continue spin financial schemes that will either work out in which case they will take tens and hundreds of millions into their person bank accounts. Or they won’t in which case they will take tens of millions into their personal bank accounts while the citizens again bail out those that pay our representatives to allow this ludicrous system to continue.
I think the current investing climate worldwide continues to be very uncertain. Historically I believe in the long term success of investing in successful businesses and real estate in economically vibrant areas. I think you can do fairly well investing in various sold long term businesses or mutual funds looking at things like dividend aristocrates or even the S&P 500. And investing in real estate in most areas, over the long term, is usually fine.
When markets hit extremes it is better to get out, but it is very hard to know in advance when that is. So just staying pretty much fully invested (which to me includes a safety margin of cash and very safe investments as part of a portfolio).
I really don’t know of a time more disconcerting than the last 5 years (other than during the great depression, World War II and right after World War II). Looking back it is easy to take the long term view and say post World War II was a great time for long term investors. I doubt it was so easy then (especially outside the USA).
Even at times like the oil crisis (1973-74…, stagflation…, 1986 stock market crash) I can see being confident just investing in good businesses and good real estate would work out in the long term. I am much less certain now.
I really don’t see a decent option to investing in good companies and real estate (I never really like bonds, though I understand they can have a role in a portfolio, and certainly don’t know). Normally I am perfectly comfortable with the long term soundness of such a plan and realizing there would be plenty of volatility along the way. The last few years I am much less comfortable and much more nervous (but I don’t see many decent options that don’t make me nervous).
One of the many huge worries today is the extreme financial instruments; complex securities; complex and highly leveraged financial institution (that are also too big to fail); high leverage by companies (though many many companies are one of the more sound parts of the economy – Apple, Google, Toyota, Intel…), high debt for governments, high debt for consumers, inability for regulators to understand the risks they allow too big to fail institutions to take, the disregard for risking economic calamity by those in too big to fail institutions, climate change (huge insurance risks and many other problems), decades of health care crisis in the USA…
A recent Bloomberg article examines differing analyst opinions on the Chinese banking system. It is just one of many things I find worrying. I am not certain the current state of Chinese banking is extremely dangerous to global economic investments but I am worried it may well be.
Across the globe, saving for retirement is a challenge. Longer lives and expensive health care create challenge to our natures (saving for far away needs is not easy for most of us to do – we are like the grasshopper not the ants, we play in the summer instead of saving). This varies across the globe, in Japan and China they save far more than in the USA for example.
The United States of America ranks 19th worldwide in the retirement security of its citizens, according to a new Natixis Global Retirement Index. The findings suggest that Americans will need to pick up a bigger share of their retirement costs – especially as the number of retirees grows and the government’s ability to
support them fades. The gauges how well retired citizens live in 150 nations, based on measures of health, material well-being, finances and other factors.
Top Countries for Retirees
- 1 – Norway
- 2 – Switzerland
- 3 – Luxembourg
- 6 – Finland
- 9 – Germany
- 10 – France
- 11 – Australia
- 13 – Canada
- 15 – Japan
- 19 – USA
- 20 – United Kingdom
Western European nations – backed by robust health care and retiree social programs – dominate the top of the rankings, taking the first 10 spots, including Sweden, Austria, Netherlands and Denmark. The USA finished ahead of the United Kingdom, but trailed the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Globally, the number of people aged 65 or older is on track to triple by 2050. By that time, the ratio of the working-age population to those over 65 in the USA is expected to drop from 5-to-1 to 2.8-to-1. The USA actually does much better demographically (not aging as quickly) as other rich countries mainly due to immigration. Slowing immigration going forward would make this problem worse (and does now for countries like Japan that have very restrictive immigration policies).
The economic downturn has taken a major toll on retirement savings. According to a recent report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the country is facing a retirement savings deficit of $6.6 trillion, or nearly $57,000 per household. As a result, 53% of American workers 30 and older are on a path that will leave them unprepared for retirement, up significantly from 38% in 2011.
On another blog I recently wrote about another study looking at the Best Countries to Retirement Too: Ecuador, Panama, Malaysia. The study in the case was looking not at the overall state of retirees that worked in the country (as the study discussed in this post did) but instead where expat retirees find good options (which stretch limited retirement savings along with other benefits to retirees).
See the full press release.
Related: Top Stock Market Capitalization by Country from 1990 to 2010 – Easiest Countries in Which to Operate a Businesses: Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, USA – Largest Nuclear Power Generation Countries from 1985-2010 – Leading countries for Economic Freedom: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland – Countries with the Top Manufacturing Production
No, it is not time to sell Apple, if your portfolio is not already too heavily overweighted in Apple it would make sense to buy. There is about as much wrong with Apple today as Toyota 3 years ago, which means essentially nothing is wrong. Yes, neither company is perfect. Maybe people were carried away with how awesome Apple was, but I don’t think the stock price every was.
Apple was a great buy at $700. Of course in the same situation buying it at $500 would be even better. I think it is a great buy at $500 today. I think Apple is going to move ahead just as Toyota has the last few years. The people jumping around at every single rumor of a data point are going beyond reacting to each data point they are reacting to rumors of data points.
I could be wrong. If Apple’s earnings cave over the next 5 years people can claim they say early signals. After a long time watching investors react to data and rumors and speculation I think they are just being foolish. Even if Apple is deteriorating, there needs to be a much better explanation for why investors should believe that than I have seen.
The best reason to question Apple is how long of a run they are on. Figuring the “law” of convergence in mean should make investors wary. That isn’t really true but that idea – that you just don’t stay on such a run (especially when you are huge and the have the largest market capitalization in the world).
But that is more just saying Toyota can’t keep being awesome. There is some sense that most likely they will stumble. But the problem is it is more likely about every other company will stumble first. The winners keep winning more than they start failing. But they also do often start failing. 100 years from now there is a decent chance Apple doesn’t exist. But there is a greater change most of the other companies you can invest in won’t. And there is a greater chance most other investments will do worse than Apple. That is my guess. Other investors get to place their money where there mouth is and we will see in 5 and 10 years how things stand.
I’ll stick with Apple and Toyota and Google and Danaher and Intel and….
Bain Capital is a product of the Great Deformation by David Stockman
Except Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he was a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. He did not build enterprises the old-fashioned way—out of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market fostering a new product, service, or process of production. Instead, he spent his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase the pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt, gussy them up as reborn “roll-ups,” and then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale—the faster the better.
That is the modus operandi of the leveraged-buyout business, and in an honest free-market economy, there wouldn’t be much scope for it because it creates little of economic value. But we have a rigged system—a regime of crony capitalism—where the tax code heavily favors debt and capital gains, and the central bank purposefully enables rampant speculation by propping up the price of financial assets and battering down the cost of leveraged finance.
So the vast outpouring of LBOs in recent decades has been the consequence of bad policy, not the product of capitalist enterprise.
I abhor the subsidies provided to those that saddle corporations (that build up value through decades of hard work by employees) with huge debt. The actions of leveraged by out firms are atrocious. They seek to pretend that business is once again the land of the amoral behavior, as the robber barron’s sought to convince society of long ago. Those that saddle corporations (that have an obligation to those that built them up) with huge debt are despicable.
Those same despicable people then take huge amounts of cash (for themselves) from the debt they saddled the corporation with.
Quite a few smart people have figured out how to pay congress to allow those smart people to take huge profits out of businesses. By being smart enough to have congress create laws to allow their behavior they can say it was just doing what the law allowed. When you conspire with the authorities to create a system to drain cash from legitimate businesses into your pocket you can claim you are acting legally (if you do so by having them change the law, instead of having them just ignore the existing laws). But what is being done (for decades by both parties) by those we continue to elect to allow this behavior shows just how corrupt the system is.
It is sad we allow those politicians who payoff those that give them large amount of cash, at the expense of our society, to remain in office. But we don’t even discuss the issues in any significant sense. Those using this cronyism and corruption know they are continuing to be given the open door to continue their very destructive ways. These are smart people. They know how to use public apathy and rhetoric to keep from discussing the important issues. It is going to take us to stop the corrupting cronyism that has taken over our political parties.
Related: Too Much Leverage Killed Mervyns – Failed Executives Use Leverage to Increase Their Pay, Let Others Bailouts Later – Executives Treating Corporate Treasuries as Their Money, A Sad State of Affairs – CEOs Plundering Corporate Coffers – Leverage, Complex Deals and Mania – Looting: Bankruptcy for Profit
I do think there is merit to reducing yearly hours worked in the USA. The problem is this is all within a larger system. The USA’s broken health care system makes it extremely expensive to hire workers. One way to deal with the health care system failure is maximizing hours worked to spread out the massively expensive USA health care costs.
Also the USA standard of living is partially based on long hours (it is but one factor). We also have to work quite a few hours (about 5% of the total hours) to just bring us equal with other rich countries, in order to pay for our broken health care system.
Still reducing our purchases by cutting out some fancy coffee, a few pairs or shoes, a few cable channels (or all of them), text messages from overcharging phone companies… in order to have a couple more weeks of vacation would be a great tradeoff in my opinion. And one I have made with my career.
I have changed to part time in 2 of my full time jobs (to make my own sensible yearly hour model even if the bigger system can’t. Another time I bargained for more vacation time over more $. It isn’t easy to do though, most organizations are not willing to think and accommodate employees (hard to believe they respect people in this case, right?). The system is not setup to allow people to adjust total hours to maximize their well being.
Another option in the USA is to live within your means and then make your own sabbaticals during your career. Take a year off and travel the world, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or read trashy novels, or whatever you want.
Studies show that a 20 year old has a 30% chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. In the USA, the Social Security Administration provides disability benefits for total disabilities. You still want to get your own long term disability insurance (this can cover for partial disabilities), but here is some information on the SSA disability coverage.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In general, they pay monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.
Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called “work incentives,” that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.
If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same.
Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. You earn essentially 4 credit each year you work. There are reduced requirements if you are young and haven’t had a chance to earn 10 years worth of credit. So essentially you have to have worked 10 years (and 5 years in the last 10 years) paying social security tax.
The definition of disability under Social Security is different than other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.
“Disability” under Social Security is based on your inability to work. The Social Security Administration consider you disabled under Social Security rules if:
- You cannot do work that you did before;
- We decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
This is a strict definition of disability. Social Security program rules assume that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers’ compensation, insurance, savings and investments.
The benefit amount is calculated based on your average annual earnings and is subject to a maximum of $2,346/month (in 2011). The average benefit payment, last month, was $1,111. Minor, dependent, children are also eligible for a small monthly payment.
In June 2012, 8.7 million people received disability benefits. Theoretically the number of recipients shouldn’t increase just because there is a recession, but they generally do increase in recessions.
There is no means testing on receiving the disability payment from the SSA. It is based on your income and disability. There are other Social Security programs (SSI, Medicare) where you must show you have very few assets before you are eligible for benefits.
When critics say that Europe is running out of time to deal with the financial crisis I wonder if they are not years too late. Both in Europe responding and those saying it is too late.
It feels to me similar to a situation where I have maxed out 8 credit cards and have a little bit left on my 9th. You can say that failing to approve my 10th credit card will lead to immediate pain. Not just to me, but all those I owe money to. That is true.
But wasn’t the time to intervene likely when I maxed out my 2nd credit card and get me to change my behavior of living beyond my means then? If you only look at how to avoid the crisis this month or year, yeah another credit card to buy more time is a decent “solution.”
But I am not at all sure that bailing out more bankers and politicians for bad financial decisions is a great long term strategy. It has been the primary strategy in the USA and Europe since the large financial institution caused great recession started. And, actually, for long before that the let-the-grandkids-pay-for-our-high-living-today has been the predominate economic “strategy” of the last 30 years in the USA and Europe.
That has not been the strategy in Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Brazil, Malaysia… The Japanese government has adopted that strategy (with more borrowing than even the USA and European government) but for the economy overall in Japan has not been so focused on living beyond what the economy produces (there has been huge personal savings in Japan). Today the risks of excessive government borrowing in Japan and borrowing in China are potentially very serious problems.
I can understand the very serious economic problems people are worried about if bankers and governments are not bailed out. I am very unclear on how those wanting more bailout now see the long term problem being fixed. Unless you have some system in place to change the long term situation I don’t see the huge benefit in delaying the huge problems by getting a few more credit cards to maintain the fiction that this is sustainable.
We have seen what bankers and politicians have done with the trillions of dollars they have been given (by governments and central banks). It hardly makes me think giving them more is a wonderful strategy. I would certainly consider it, if tied to some sensible long term strategy. But if not, just slapping on a few more credit cards to let the bankers and politicians continue their actions hardly seems a great idea.
Related: Is the Euro Going to Survive in the Long Run? (2010) – Which Currency is the Least Bad? – Let the Good Times Roll (using Credit) – The USA Economy Needs to Reduce Personal and Government Debt (2009 – in the last year this has actually been improved, quite surprisingly, given how huge the federal deficit is) – What Should You Do With Your Government “Stimulus” Check? – Americans are Drowning in Debt – Failure to Regulate Financial Markets Leads to Predictable Consequences
The expenses for long term care is exactly the type of financial risk insurance is best for. The problem is the whole area is so uncertain that what you buy may not provide the coverage you planned on (the health care system is so broken that it is not certain insurance will cover the costs, companies can go bankrupt, change coverage rules drastically…).
The questions about long term care insurance are not about the sensibility of the coverage abstractly, it is very wise. But the complexities, today, in the real world make the question of buying more a guess about what coverage you will actually receive if you need it.
Many of my posts here are focused on the USA but applicable elsewhere, or just applicable wherever you are. This post is mainly focused on the USA, long term care insurance options in other locations will be very different and have different considerations (in many countries it may not even apply, mainly due to a less broken health care system than the USA has).
Long-Term-Care Insurance: Who Needs It? by Marilyn Geewax
Such care can be crushingly expensive: Just one hour of home-health-aide care costs roughly $20, while the average private nursing home room costs $87,000 a year. Neither routine employer-based medical insurance nor Medicare will pay for extended periods of custodial care.”
Also, some people pay their premiums for years, and then get hit with rate hikes they can’t afford.
Insurance has a transaction cost. Paying that transaction cost for expenses you can afford is just waste. You should pay the cost directly. This is why higher deductibles are most often wise. It doesn’t make sense to cover pay insurance costs every year to pay for a $500 risk you can afford to absorb yourself.
But huge expenses are exactly what you want coverage for. Long term care expenses are huge. However, long term care insurance is still in flux, which isn’t good for something you want to provide long term protection. A huge risk is paying premiums for years, and then getting hit with rate hikes that may well be designed primarily just to get people to drop coverage (or be so expensive that those that stay pay enough that the insurance company makes money).
Ideally such insurance would be set so maybe the cost rose at some preset limit when you signed up. The problem is the USA health care system is so broken this won’t work. No one can predict how much more excessively expensive long term coverage will be in 30 years so the insurance companies can’t predict. It leaves consumers in a risky place.
Insurance is regulated by the states. There are huge differences in which states do a good job regulating long term care insurance and those that don’t. The majority don’t.
This is one of the more important areas of personal finance. Unfortunately there is no easy answer. If the system were stable, reliable and predictable, long term care insurance would be a definite requirement for a sound financial plan. Today it is wise to insure yourself from those risks, the problem is determining whether any of the options available are worth it. The risk of needing this insurance is high: it is both likely and costly. So getting coverage is definitely wise if you can find some you think is reliable over the long term. Because of the uncertain nature of the options, this will require much more effort on your part than many personal finance actions (I included several links below to help your research).
Also look at how long the coverage is for. This is another limitation insurance companies have put in place that makes it much less worthwhile.
Related: Personal Finance Basics: Long-term Care Insurance – National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information – AARP advice – Disability Insurance is Very Important – How to Protect Your Financial Health
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.