Have you ever wondered what stock market professionals and equity analysts talk about in their spare time? Recently, the Bloomberg website featured a debate about something that is getting a lot of attention recently: the historically high, and still-rising U.S. stock market valuations. People have been willing to pay more, and more, and more for a dollar of corporate earnings. What does that mean about future returns?
Chances are you’ve never paid anybody to have lunch with you, but chances are you aren’t Warren Buffett either. Every year, the Sage from Omaha hosts an auction, with the highest bidder getting to join Buffett for lunch and bring seven guests—with the proceeds going to charity. The winner in this, the 18th year of the auction, came in at $2.67 million, which is actually below last year’s winning bid, of $3.46 million.
You receive portfolio performance reports every three months—a form of transparency that financial planning professionals introduced at a time when the typical brokerage statement was impossible to decipher. But it might surprise you to know that most professionals think there is actually little value to any quarterly performance information, other than to reassure you that you actually do own a diversified portfolio of investments. It’s very difficult to know if you’re staying abreast of the market, and for most of us, that’s not really relevant anyway.
It’s not uncommon to hear people wish that we could return to the “good old days,” when the world seemed more prosperous. Of course, depending on how far you go back, the “good old days” might cover a time when the world was poised on the edge of a nuclear precipice, when the Soviet Union and other communist governments basically enslaved more than 50% of the world’s population, when racism was practiced openly and codified in the legal system, when there was no Internet or smartphones, and when TV entertainment consisted of three or sometimes four channels on a heavy, small-screen device that didn’t include a remote.
Defined contribution plans for public school teachers are notoriously poor retirement plans, often described as a Wild West of sorts that’s plagued by minimal plan oversight, subpar investment options, and fund and insurance brokers who are free to walk into schools and sell products to teachers.
In an effort to secure the U.S. borders, the President has attempted to ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, and is meanwhile quietly instituting “extreme vetting” of visitors from other nations—asking them to turn over their phones, social media passwords and financial records. Even U.S. citizens are experiencing more scrutiny when they attempt to return to their home country.
One of the strangest investment vehicles ever designed is something called the Bitcoin, which is at once an exciting new technology for managing online transactions and an alternative currency to national currencies like the dollar, yen and euro. Last week, people who owned bitcoins discovered that electronic “coins” worth $1,350 were suddenly worth just under $945. Around the same time, U.S. regulators rejected an effort to create a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).