Lifelong learning. It’s a core belief here at our firm, and we regularly read across a variety of topics. I recently asked the team to share any of their favorite books from the past year, business or otherwise. Below is what we’d offer up as our recommendations from 2017, and if you have any good book recommendations from the last year, please let us know!
As my clients know, planning for the future eventually includes a conversation about mortality. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a powerful memoir that tackles this topic to its core. This story made me reflect on how the human spirit allows us to re-imagine a new future that includes hope, faith, love and joy – no matter what the circumstances and regardless of the uncertainty. There is so much about this story that lingers, leaving each reader a new set of ideas, and most likely questions, that will, no doubt, leave you changed.
My favorite book of 2017 was The Obsession by Nora Roberts. While Nora Roberts is probably better known as a romance writer, her last several books are more mystery/thriller types that appeal to me. This story is a mystery about woman who (as a child) discovered her dad was a serial killer. Fast forward to her adulthood and she is being stalked by a serial killer who is mimicking her father’s style. The setting is the islands of Puget Sound, and I liked the story and flow of the book.
I thought Principles by Ray Dalio was a great read not just from a business perspective (Dalio founded what is now the world’s largest hedge fund), but also life principles. Obliviously he has been vastly successful in the business world, but he also shares valuable thoughts on how he lives his own life, and I think most would take something meaningful away from this book. As Dalio writes, “Time is like a river that carries us forward into encounters with reality that require us to make decisions. We can’t stop our movement down this river and we can’t avoid those encounters. We can only approach them in the best possible way.” Good stuff!
This year, I re-read The Power of TED by David Emerald because it provides great guidance on how to best interact with others in more effective ways. It explains the undesirable roles and techniques we often find ourselves in and provides an empowering alternative. For anyone who wants to lead, manage, coach, parent or help others with greater impact and results, this book is for you.
One that caught my attention earlier this year and challenged many of my longstanding beliefs was Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. It’s a book about human behavior and how we consistently act irrationally. So consistent, in fact, our irrational behavior is predictable. Many of his illustrations point out the ways we repeatedly act irrationally in every day behavior and makes the reader much more conscious of these actions.
The most common question clients ask me in meetings these days is, “When will this run end, and how bad will the downturn be?” Published in 2008, “The Great Depression: A Diary” is part history and part finance that offers some perspective for today’s environment. Authored by a young attorney who was fascinated with the 1929 stock market crash, this story offers an in-the-trenches account of the ugliest recession our country has ever faced. My takeaways include not only the changes in our economy and markets since the 1930s that will help prevent another 10-year depression, but also the things that remain the same, such as fear, greed, and the folly of relying on predictions in managing one’s money.
JUDGMENT UNDER UNCERTAINTY
Behavioral Economics Takes Center Stage in Q3
I will be very impressed if the title of this latest edition of Portfolio Matters sounds familiar to anyone. It’s actually the title of the research paper by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky back in September of 1974 that brought the field of behavioral economics into the mainstream mindset we know today. (We credit writer Jason Zweig for bringing this anniversary into spotlight.)
What this research paper really did was to question our understanding of how we think, or at least, how we think we think. The paper shed light on powerful thought patterns that likely affect us all. And when it comes to investing, these thought patterns and resulting behaviors play a far greater role in the markets than most folks realize…read more
In 2017 thus far, the only thing more dominant than the L.A. Dodgers may be large cap growth investing.
Through July, large cap growth is up over 17%, beating the S&P 500’s impressive 12% return. At the other end of the spectrum, small cap value investors have seen a minuscule 1% return, as seen in the chart below. But there’s something eerily familiar about these year-to-date results …
A SMOOTH RIDE IN Q2
But Don’t Fall Asleep At The Wheel
On May 16th, there was a Wall Street Journal column by Jason Zweig that may have gone unnoticed, if not, underappreciated. The article discusses Amazon’s 20th birthday as a publicly traded company. Since its IPO in 1997, Amazon generated a total return of nearly 49,000%, or over 36% annually for its shareholders. No doubt that a performance number of 49,000% will make anyone stop dead in their tracks, either in amazement, disbelief, or both. But the rest of the article had some far more important points that may not have sunk in for most readers.
We’ll return to this story later, but suffice is to say that the Amazon story was likely lost among the many negative stories that embodied the most recent quarter. In this issue of Portfolio Matters we’ll discuss what all these moving parts mean for investor returns and, more importantly, the future for our clients and friends…read more
Ready for the next market correction? Today’s drop rekindles questions of whether this bull market is finally over. To be sure, stocks are up over 7% in the first 4 months, extending the 8-year run from the 2009 low.
But the bull market run has resulted in some expensive prices. Regardless of whether one uses multiples relative to sales, book value, trailing earnings, or normalized earnings, stocks aren’t cheap. The Shiller P/E ratio, which compares stock prices to normalized earnings over a 10-year cycle, is at its third highest dating back to 1887. The top two instances were 1929 (before the Great Depression) and 1997 (during the Tech Bubble).
“Every deal is unique and has its own detours and surprises, but selling your business has discrete steps that all business owners should know.”
This how Kevin Cudney, M&A attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schrek, opened last week’s “Selling Your Business” program held with Janiczek Wealth Management.
Is The Market Getting Ahead of Itself?
I recently attended an event at which General George W. Casey spoke to a crowd of emerging business, civic, and non-profit leaders. General Casey served as U.S. Army Chief of Staff and was Commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq from 2004 through 2007. He described his experiences in the Middle East, and his words offered some key truths for us all.
In his remarks, he referenced the “vuca” world in which we live: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. He then stated how important relationships are to the success of any objective in such a world, in his case, peace in Iraq.
Passive indexing has long been popular among the smaller investors. But wealthy investors often pursue more active strategies, either with active managers or on their own. After all, they didn’t accumulate their wealth by sitting back and doing what everyone else does, right?
But the evidence against active management is strong, with the most managers failing to beat the index over time. So why do wealthy investors tend to shun a passive approach to managing their money?
It’s a foregone conclusion in the markets that the Federal Reserve will raise short term interest rates on Wednesday. But more importantly, investors will be looking for hints for future rate increases.
Why is this so important? The consensus view is for 2-3 Fed increases this year, but anchoring into this expectation comes with risks. For example, in 1994 the Fed surprised investors by increasing rates 6 times, resulting in a 3% loss for bonds that year. Of course, bonds recovered in following years, thanks largely to the long-term trend of falling interest rates since 1981.