People have been drinking alcoholic beverages for a very long time. Recently, a team of researchers found evidence of large-scale wine making in 6,000 BC—in clay vats big enough to hold 400 bottles of wine, in the Caucasus mountains in the modern nation of Georgia. The grapes came from vitis vinifera, the only grapevine species known to have been domesticated, and the grandparent of all 8,000-10,000 modern wine-making grape species.
The period between Thanksgiving and the end-of-year holiday season would seen like a sleepy time for financial planners, but in fact it is anything but. You might be surprised at how much activity takes place on behalf of you and your investments in the final month of the year.
One of the oddities of a significant bull market—and this one we’re in today qualifies, as the second-longest in modern American history—is that they tend to go on longer than you might expect from the pure market fundamentals. The last leg of a bull market tends to be driven by psychology; people have recently experienced an up market, and so they tend to expect more of the same. They buy at prices they would never consider buying at when the markets have experienced a downturn, driving prices ever higher without regard to the price. As a result, the long tail of the bull market will also see some of the greatest, fastest increases.
Have you ever wondered whether social media was having a positive or negative impact on our mental well-being? The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a warning about the negative effects of social media on young kids and teens, and of course it mentions cyber-bullying. But it notes that the same risks may be true for adults. The key issues include:
Does it seem to you that America is experiencing more than its share of natural disasters, and that there are more extreme weather events happening today than ever before? Turns out you’re right. Since 1970, the number of major storms, floods, earthquakes and heatwaves that cause at least ten deaths or prompt the declaration of a national emergency has quadrupled worldwide, to around 400 a year. China, India and America suffer the greatest number of natural disasters—not always in that order.
You don’t hear much about America’s personal savings rate these days, and the reason may be because the news is discouraging: collectively, the percentage of our income that we save is trending downward again, and may be about to hit record lows. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis tracks the U.S. personal savings rate, going back to the late 1950s, when when people were setting aside a thrifty 11% of what they made. Americans achieved a record 17% savings rate in the mid-1970s (see chart) before a long decline set in. In 2013, the rate briefly spiked again above 10%, but as you can see from the chart, Americans have become less thrifty since then. The most recent data point shows Americans saving just 3.6% of their income.
Chances are, you’ve heard that tax “reform” is right around the corner—that is, if you can call it “reform” when hundreds or perhaps thousands of new pages are about to be added to the tax code. First, the White House released its tax legislation wish list. Now the Republicans in the House of Representatives have released a proposal called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” which fleshes out some of the details.