“What are I Bonds?” Thank you to a growing number of curious and smart clients, friends and colleagues for hammering this question enough over the past several months to warrant a TGIF 2 Minutes dedicated to I-Bonds. The “I” in I Bonds stands for inflation, which is why these bonds are so HOT at the moment. (Note: inflation overall is clearly not a good thing; I Bond interest rates may be one of the only things that benefit from skyrocketing inflation.)
Inflation is higher in 2022 than it has been in over 40 years – longer than lots of TGIF 2 Minutes readers may have been alive, and certainly longer than lots of readers have been working for, earning, and spending “real money”.
Stagflation. An economic condition not experienced since the 1970’s – which was also the last time that inflation was as high as it is today.
Stagflation is an understandable word: stagnated growth coupled with persistent, high inflation. Often high unemployment is also part of the picture but presently is not the case. The reason stagflation is currently in the conversation is that in addition to current high levels of inflation, there are potential factors that could weigh even further on the US economy: tax increases and greater government spending. Stagflation could result – or could be inevitable no matter what.
One of the most critical factors of long-term personal financial success is… guess:
And the answer is…. SPENDING. This fact is why a truly competent financial planner will spend the most time on discussing spending, both today and future projected, along with GOALS. (Goals are what people spend money on.)
Yup, it is tax season. This year as clients and friends were completing their 2021 tax returns* the cries of, “Are you kidding me?” and “This is by far the most taxes I have ever paid in my life!” were louder than ever. There were valid reasons for wealthier taxpayers paying more taxes for tax year 2021 – far more than for tax year 2020. A few reasons were somewhat UN-related to the coronavirus pandemic, and a number of reasons were directly pandemic-related.
The majority of my clients and friends simply made more money in 2021 than 2020. (Is that a bad thing? Most likely not.) The pandemic, in a delayed fashion, led to promotions and opportunities in 2021 for lots of individuals in corporate America and at companies that “dug in” amidst epic challenges in 2020. Retention and performance bonuses wound up being paid in 2021 (continuing in 2022), following a time in late 2020 when it seemed basic compensation and jobs were at serious risk. This turnaround was a huge irony and welcome relief to a number of people – and the “flip side” became higher taxes for tax year 2021.
These are crazy times, almost chaotic. Chaos is defined as complete disorder and confusion – and parts of the world and our lives may be nearing that point, or at least feel that way. How does an investor get financial satisfaction in times like these? Carefully and patiently.
“Carefully” can equate to:
having a plan that addresses saving, spending, taxes, & investments
being able to monitor and adjust the plan, perhaps with an adviser
then continually executing the plan.
The “patiently” part can be more difficult and is just as critical.
A high-level update & follow-up on cryptocurrencies
Brief comments on Inflation & 1st quarter 2022
Continuing with the whirlwind of interest generated by “To Crypto Or Not To Crypto” and “Crypto Superbowl” there is more to say including highlighting the recent 36% decline in Bitcoin since November 2021. There is broad evidence that high-profile, fiduciary financial advisers are hesitant – for good reason – to include cryptocurrency across the board in client portfolios. At the same time, a good number of high-profile, responsible, fiduciary financial advisers are including cryptocurrency in some – emphasis, “some” – client portfolios, depending on the client’s goals and risk tolerance.**
Another quick edition today, as the message is a cautionary one.
The rate of inflation has continued to increase recently. The Wall Street Journal quotes the nationwide inflation rate now at 7.9%. Most clients and friends with whom I speak say they feel little pain and that all they notice about inflation so far is the rising cost of gas and higher grocery store bills. How much longer will inflation continue “not to matter”? What if the US Federal Reserve gets impatient and starts raising rates more aggressively?
As the country and our world emerge from the battering of the pandemic, the Russian aggression in the Ukraine has now added a different, far-away, uncontrollable stress on our minds. Not to mention the markets’ reaction and inflation, although markets naturally experience up & down cycles. In light of all this, one of my best – and as it turns out most insightful – clients sounded in on the following:
Now more than ever, our health and survival in the short- and long-term depend on Self-Care. (I would add that self-care includes having personal finances somewhere near “in order”.)
Realize, though, the financial stability part can only come about after the self-care part is addressed.
Before deleting this message, please read on… to Part One of this edition of TGIF 2 Minutes.