Excerpts from a TGIF 2 Minutes written 11 1/2 months ago follow.
Today, the US Fed is not finished raising interest rates.
Inflation is still around for multiple reasons.
Note the emphasized comments in bold.
Wind back to October 2022: A question that may be on a number of people’s minds was, “How long will it take to tame inflation?” Unfortunately, there was very little telling. Part of the reason is that inflation is always part of a complicated economy. Predictions about the timing of inflation (and hard-landing/soft-landing) are nearly impossible.
To add to the confusion, emotions – specifically people’s expectations of inflation – are part of what keeps inflation around. In this inflationary cycle (as of October 2022), inflation had already stuck around longer than at almost any time in US history; long enough to increase people’s expectations that inflation would not go away quickly. The US Fed had stated one of its original intentions was to lower consumers’ inflationary expectations. But the Fed may have missed that boat late in 2021 due to forces out of its control, namely, the pandemic aftermath. Note that today in late September 2023 inflation is still running strong.
From the 2022 Archives of TGIF 2 Minutes with a few updates…
Record-breaking, big outlier events tend to move the needle to extremes in the economy and stock market. Note the word, “outlier”. Outlier events typically are surprises and are often unlikely. In his beyond excellent book The Psychology of Money* author Morgan Housel lists five events that were outliers over history in the US with world-changing consequences:
The Great Depression
World War II
The dot-com bubble
The housing crash of the mid-2000’s.
A conclusion could be drawn from the book’s chapter titled, “Surprise!” that surprises are perhaps the most reliable thing going. But the irony of the reliability of surprises is we do not know what the surprise is until after it has unfolded.
Part 2 of “under the radar” tax law changes. These changes lead to a needed discussion of current, related tax topics applying to ALL ages of savers with 401k accounts – and possibly IRA accounts too. There is still a decent amount of time remaining in 2023 to make a difference in 401k saving.
Remember that Roth 401k plans have slightly different income requirements than Roth IRA accounts:
Roth 401k accounts (which run alongside regular 401k accounts) have NO income limits.
Consider this edition of TGIF 2 Minutes an “automatic Part 1” in a 2-part series on changes to the taxation of 401k contributions.
Calling these tax changes “under the radar” may be underestimating the level of attention paid by the average TGIF 2 Minutes reader to tax news. But fear not! Missing these tax changes is common and mostly due to
the IRS typically making substantial tax law changes overnight in the last two weeks of December (see: 2015, 2017, 2020, 2021, 2022 and prior) thus easily missed by the most attentive of savers amidst year-end and holiday activity,
the complicated language used in the changes, confusing both savers and employers and their HR departments.
Superstition is not a strategy, although elite, professional athletes subscribe to superstitions all the time*. The reason for bringing up the topic is that talking about the stock market’s positive performance year-to-date in 2023 could warrant dialing back the optimism – for superstitious reasons! Hence, the “…” in the title “So Far So Good…”.
This said, the US stock market just finished a strong 2-month set of returns, in addition to an excellent January and stable returns in between. This positive performance has no guarantee of continuing but is evidence that staying in the stock market for the long-term – with a plan – can have positive long-term consequences.
The S&P 500 is up 16.4% year-to-date.
The Nasdaq over the same period is up over 31%.
The Russell 2000 Index of small companies is up 9.2%.
What happens when the house down the street suddenly sells for over $1 million dollars?! (And all the other very nice homes on the street were purchased for $550,000 or less within the past 10 years or so, maybe $700k for a couple of more recent sales?)
A couple of possible answers with explanation:
Real estate in desirable areas is still white hot. And while areas in the US northeast, California, and Florida (among other high-priced areas for homes) commonly see homes priced in the $3 million to $5 million+ range, homes nationally sell for an average of much less. Depending on which source or what inputs (new or existing, list price, sales price, or market price, etc.) the average home sale price in the US is between $391,000 and $507,000*. Therefore, in most neighborhoods when a home suddenly sells for $1.1 million (or $2.1 million) dollars it is consequential for the local market, especially the neighbors!
From the TGIF 2 Minutes Archives… with an update on buying cars for kids.
There are few things as exciting as getting a new car: the “new car smell”, the test drive, sound system, sunroof, heated seats… the feeling of “everything is new”. And these days cars are advanced computers on wheels and can be very cool.
With that said (back in mid-2021) yours truly bought a new car – the first new car in 15 years! The 2005 (Certified Pre-Owned) B-mer went 180k miles and could have gone another 100k but with too much maintenance. It was time for a new vehicle. But what new car to buy? New or used? Sedan or SUV? Buy or lease? And the cost: go expensive or go reasonable in cost?
Any major purchase – housing, appliances, transportation, kids’ education, family vacations, etc. – needs to be evaluated both from a financial and emotional perspective. The emotional side is fairly obvious, but the financial side has both obvious and not-so-obvious factors. Cash flow considerations are obvious and not-so-obvious too.
On balance, the news regarding cryptocurrency is still fairly skewed to the negative. But crypto remains alive, although widely a mystery to most of the population (including yours truly). Reporting on crypto is thus difficult – but even a small amount of information can be worthwhile.
One of the key events of the tragic crypto downturn remains the November 2022 fall of FTX and arrest of its founder. Interest rate increases also gradually revealed weaknesses in various cryptocurrency exchanges and functionality.