Posts tagged ‘money’

Money Goes Where Treated Best

“The world is going to hell in a handbasket” seems to be a prevailing sentiment among many investors. Looking back, a lack of fiscal leadership in Washington, coupled with historically high unemployment, has only fanned the flames of restlessness. A day can hardly go by without hearing about some fiscal problem occurring somewhere around the globe. Geographies have ranged from Iceland to Dubai, and California to Greece. Regardless, eventually voters force politicians to take notice, as we recently experienced in the Massachusetts vote for Senator.

Time to Panic?

So is now the time to panic?  Entitlement obligations such as Social Security and Medicare, when matched with a rising interest payment burden from our ballooning debt, stands to consume the vast majority of our country’s revenues in the coming decades (if changes are not made).  It’s clear to most that the current debt trajectory is not sustainable – see also Debt: The New Four-Letter Word. With that said, historical debt levels have actually been at higher levels before. For example, during World War II, debt levels reached 122% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Since promises generally garner votes, politicians have traditionally found it easier to legislate new spending into law rather than cutting back existing spending and benefits.

Money Goes Where it’s Treated Best

If our government leaders choose to ignore the growing upswell in fiscal discontent, then the global financial markets will pay more attention and disapprove less diplomatically. As the globe’s reserve currency, the U.S. Dollar stands to collapse if a different direction is not forged, and interest costs could skyrocket to unpalatable levels.  Fortunately, the flat world we live on has created some of these naturally occurring governors to forcibly direct sovereign entities to make better decisions…or suffer the consequences. Right now Greece is paying for the financial sins of its past, which includes widening deficits and untenable debt levels.

As new, growing powers such as China, Brazil, India, and other emerging countries fight for precious capital to feed the aspirational goals of their rising middle classes, money will migrate to where it is treated best. Speculative money will flow in and out of various capital markets in the short-run, but ultimately capital flows where it is treated best. Meaning, those countries with policies fostering fiscal conservatism, financial transparency, prudent regulations, pro-growth initiatives, tax incentives, order of law, and other capital-friendly guidelines will enjoy their fair share of the spoils. The New York Times editorial journalist Tom Friedman coined the term “golden straitjacket” in describing this naturally occurring restraint system as a result of globalization.

Push Comes to Shove

Push will eventually come to shove, but the real question is whether we will self-impose fiscal restraint on ourselves, or will the global capital markets shove us in that direction, like the markets are doing to Greece (and other financially strapped nations) today? I am hopeful it will be the former. Why am I optimistic? Although more government spending has typically lead to more votes for politicians, cracks in the support wall have surfaced through the Massachusetts Senatorial vote, and rising populist sentiment, as manifested through the “Tea Party” movement (previously considered a fringe group). 

Political gridlock has traditionally been par for the course, but crisis usually leads to action, so I eventually expect change. I am banking on the poisonous and sour mood permeating through the country’s voter base, in conjunction with the collapse of foreign currencies, to act as a catalyst for financial reform. If not, resident capital and domestic jobs will exodus to other countries, where they will be treated best.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds (including emerging market-based ETFs), but at time of publishing had no direct positions in securities mentioned in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

February 16, 2010 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Bashful Path to Female Bankruptcy

The unrelenting expansion in bankruptcies does not discriminate on gender – you either have the money or you do not. Naomi Wolf, author of Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries, recently shed light on the underbelly of those suffering severe financial pain in this economic crisis…middle-class women.

How bad is it for middle class women?

“A new report shows that a million American middle-class women will find themselves in bankruptcy court this year. This is more women than will ‘graduate from college, receive a diagnosis of cancer, or file for divorce,’ according to the economist Elizabeth Warren.”

 

Wolf explores multiple factors in trying to explain this phenomenon. Surprisingly, higher education levels does not appear to prevent a higher percentage of bankruptcies in this large demographic.

If education levels are not a contributing factor, then what is? Here are some Wolf’s findings: 

1)      Awash in Debt: One explanation for the extra debt reliance is many of these positions occupied by this class of women are lower-paying, which requires women to tap credit lines more frequently. Also, many women have been targeted by luxury-goods manufacturers and credit-card companies. Repeated contacts by the marketers have led to more women succumbing to the consumerism messages shoveled to them.

2)      Credit Card Legislation: Wolf makes the case that financial credit card legislation introduced in 2005 disproportionately negatively impacts divorced wives because credit card companies get priority in the repayment line over critical child support payments. In other words, child support payments go to the credit card company rather than to the child, thereby creating an undue financial burden on the female caregiver.

3)      Skewed Emotional Beliefs about Money: The biggest issue regarding the emotional connection to finances is working-women “find it embarrassing to talk about money.” The article even acknowledges that many current generation women earn more than previous generations, but financial security has largely not improved because of the “money taboo.” I discover this taboo dynamic in my practice all the time. Part of the blame should be placed on the financial industry’s use of endless acronyms as smoke and mirrors to confuse and intimidate clients on the subject of money. I believe the better way to financial success is to empower clients through education and understanding, not deception and misinformation.

Wolf goes onto explain some of the confused financial thought processes held by this segment of women:

  • Negotiating salary increases is difficult for these women because it makes them feel “unfeminine.”
  • This class often fails to save because they falsely assume marriage will save them financially.

Unfortunately, the lack of financial literacy and dependence on the spouse leaves these women vulnerable to divorce and widowhood.

Working Class Women Better Prepared

Interestingly, Wolf’s findings point to working class women being much more financially literate and prepared in part because they have erased the notion of a knight in shining armor saving the day from their financial responsibilities. Bolstering her argument, Wolf references the success of the micro-finance programs being instituted to lower-class, working women in developing countries.

Wolf’s Solution

How do middle-class working women break this negative financial cycle? Wolf delivers the medicine directly by directing these women to break the “social role that casts middle-class women as polite, economically vague, underpaid, shopping-dazed dependents.” Opening their eyes to these issues will not erase all of the contributing factors, but women will be better equipped to deal with their financial problems.

From my perspective, there is no quick fix for immediate financial literacy. For those interested in learning more, I encourage you to read my article on personal finance, What to Do Now? Time to Get Your House in Order.

 Regardless of your financial knowledge maturity, like any discipline, the more time you put in to it, the more benefits you will receive.

Read Complete Naomi Wolf Article Here

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at time of publishing had no direct positions in any company mentioned in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

January 5, 2010 at 12:22 am 3 comments


Receive Investing Caffeine blog posts by email.

Join 1,818 other followers

Meet Wade Slome, CFA, CFP®

More on Sidoxia Services

Recognition

Top Financial Advisor Blogs And Bloggers – Rankings From Nerd’s Eye View | Kitces.com

Wade on Twitter…

Share this blog

Bookmark and Share

Subscribe to Blog RSS

Monthly Archives