robots are coming automationNever mind zombies eating your flesh and taking over, a majority of Americans believe that robots and general technological automation will replace humans in many posts throughout the economy within the next 50 years. We can certainly see throughout history that there have been reductions or eliminations of human participation in certain roles, including the telephone switch operator and numerous factory assembly positions from glass to automobile production. Households used to have ice delivered to them in blocks cut out of the insides of caves and delivered by truck. Yet, curiously enough, most (a full 80% of respondents) don’t believe their own jobs in their current form are necessarily at risk. Aside from the irony of this, there’s the matter of what the PEW Research Center study ultimately causes us to wonder, and what articles written about the study couldn’t help asking out loud the following: Will most humans one day simply be “out of work”? Well, perhaps. Continue reading

emotionalOver the last couple of years, volatility has really become the norm. And it’s gut-check time, it’s a shakeup, it’s an opportunity to check your emotions at the door and change the way you invest. If you’ve been feeling emotional lately (and you’re not alone), it’s an opportunity to drop it. If a swing of a few hundred points in a day is getting to you, then consider doing and thinking about things differently. If you’ve lost your perspective, or perhaps you never even had one, it’s an opportunity to regain it, or formulate one now, finally. And be honest in doing so, above all. Where are your one-sided stock picks and investment choices today? Where are your risky bets on marijuana stocks sitting right now? You have an opportunity right now to stop gambling and embrace passive investing.Continue reading

beached shipOnce a true asylum-seeking refugee makes the decision and takes the step to leave their country for good, their first priority is to survive the journey to their destination and ensure they can stay there. After they find a place to go, then comes the equally difficult (if not more difficult) task of beginning a new life. With the Syrian refugee crisis showing no signs of abating, the situation begs the following two questions: What does it cost to fund a refugee, and how is it best accomplished? Continue reading

gold pendulumGold is often touted as a must-have investment for the most intense of risk-mitigation situations, a “when all else fails” hedging instrument. Indeed, pick an ailment: Inflation? Hedge with gold. Economic and political crises? Hedge with gold. Collapse of modern society? Say it with me, folks, “Hedge with gold”. With the global economy as shaky as it is, multiple countries in one crisis or another, and plenty of uncertainty as to what the future holds to go around, gold continues to make the rounds as a necessary holding despite the fact that its value in US dollar terms has been steadily declining over the last four years after reaching a peak in 2011 of almost $1,900 an ounce. In the wake of the Fed’s recent decision to stand pat on interest rates and gold’s subsequent jump today, here are 3 reasons to avoid gold, both as a physical or paper holding, apart from a very small percentage of a well-balanced and diversified passive or lazy investment portfolio:

  • It’s a highly emotional and psychological asset
  • There’s no historical evidence that it hedges well against any risk
  • It has very little practical use

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pile of us dollarsWhy is the US dollar so strong these days, and what is the significance? Well, unless you’ve been reading financial news, traveling, living outside of the United States, or really paying strict attention to the cost of all the imported goods you buy, perhaps you haven’t even realized that the $USD has been on a tear in forex markets. But, I’m guessing a good number of you have noticed or have an inkling at least that the currency these days has been bulking up considerably. What’s going on? Is it a new trainer? Mega amounts of egg protein and creatine? Performance-enhancing drugs? The answer lies somewhere between central bank actions and investor sentiment. Continue reading

volatility imageThis recent article from the Upshot over at the NY Times attempts to explain why stock markets across the world have been experiencing so much volatility. Surely some of you have noticed and have even heard reports about how the “fear index” is unusually high right now, how the “VIX has jumped”, how “China is slowing”, how “Commodities are plummeting”, how the “Fed might hold on raising rates”, and so on. Basically, if you pay attention to financial news, it’s clear that something’s amiss and volatility is back. Well, to understand the why, we should first review the what. Continue reading

financial crime fingerprintOn Monday, August 3rd of this year, a single individual was found guilty in London and sentenced to 14 years in prison for profiting off certain fraudulent trades by participating in what many recognize to have been a systemic practice in the banking world of manipulating LIBOR rates. Tom Hayes, a former UBS and Citigroup trader, is more or less the first person to be convicted of financial crime essentially on behalf of the entire financial industry complex worldwide for any criminal activity that the industry has engaged in during this century. The presiding judge, Jeremy Cooke, made no bones about the sentence: “A message needs to be sent to the world of banking.” It’s not enough, though, and it’s not the ideal way to send the message. Continue reading

port, shipping, cargoThe Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is supposedly nearing its finalization today before being turned over to a vote by the governing bodies of the various 12 countries involved. Among the final hurdles recently cleared and those yet to be cleared are environmental-protection conditions, and dairy products and pharmaceuticals respectively. Late yesterday at their reportedly final meeting in Maui, negotiators reached agreements on environmental protections although organizations such as the Sierra Club continue to say not enough is being done or committed to in this vein. The Sierra Club is not alone; aside from the remaining hurdles, there are many other concerned parties sounding off, to put it mildly.Continue reading