Warren Buffett, the world’s 4th or 5th richest person, famously writes a Letter to Shareholders each year published around the end of February and featured in May at his annual meeting for shareholders on a farm in Omaha, Nebraska. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, has an amazing long-term record of rewarding long-term shareholders. Buffett is now 92½ years old and nearing his 60th annual go-around with the meeting and shareholder letter.
The letter has a mild cult following and is read by seasoned, experienced investors; younger, newer investors; company CEOs; and anyone who has a few extra minutes for down-to-earth reflections from a billionaire. This year’s letter was far shorter than past years – and thus to the point. Here are a few of the highlights:
What is in store for 2023? Is the stock market overvalued? In answer to the second question: perhaps yes, perhaps no. When most people ask, “Is the market overvalued or undervalued?” what they really are asking is, “Where is the market going next?”
Of course, no one knows for sure. But a bit of historical data can offer information for comparison. Below (top) is a chart showing how over-priced US growth stocks (yellow-ish line) have been over 100 years and how over-priced US value stocks (greenish-blue line) have been over the same period. It would seem that growth stocks are still over-valued. But look at the period for growth stocks between 1974 (the last time inflation was as high as it is today) and 1998. Can you say that it was obvious in 1992 that growth stocks were overvalued? Probably not.
Fast forward to 2023. What could happen next? See the bottom chart for more data.
Will the US officially enter a recession? If so, how bad, and how long will it be?
Will there be more bankruptcies related to cryptocurrencies and trading?
What will become of the unbalanced employment situation?
The list can go on and on. For as long as most experienced investors reading this post can recall, there have always been questions that economists (similar to the weatherman/woman) attempt to answer. Readers and investors who are newer or younger can learn over time that questions regarding the economy and government/fiscal policy are what make markets operate. Everyone is entitled to her or his opinion, especially in investing:
The subject of family can apply to various aspects of financial planning. And although sensitive, there could be an entire TGIF 2 Minutes series on family and personal finance. On a positive note, and more specifically for this week’s edition: I hear often from financially comfortable – and confident – clients and friends about basic, treasured personal financial advice they received from a family member – most going back 20, 30, even 40 or more years ago!
Mixing family and money can get sensitive quickly. But over years of observing, there have been far more positives than negatives for those who were willing to step back, look at the bigger picture and accept solid, basic advice. Humility was involved. Patience is necessary. These are not my opinions but rather real pieces of feedback from people who are grateful they took certain, basic advice from a wise family member at some point earlier in life.
There is no sugar-coating it: investors in 2022 have experienced the biggest – and longest – down year for stock and bond markets since the 2007-2008 financial crisis. One of the only consolations is that over the past 13 years there have been tremendous gains overall, still with a few bumps along the way. Below I outline a few more consolations, or ways to make the best of down markets.
First a quick note: For newer, younger investors it may be difficult to not yet see long-term gains having accumulated in portfolios. Know that time horizon and future earnings potential are two huge positives working in your favor.
Here are a handful of ways to make the best of down markets – and to take advantage of higher interest rates (hint: there are more positives around higher interest rates than the media lets on).
In this issue of TGIF 2 Minutes – Crypto Quarterly, a less rosy update with the bright spot being that fees to trade crypto have gone to “free” in some cases. Binance, a world leader in Bitcoin trading volume, introduced zero-fee trading back in June. (Note that as recently as July 2022, the “CEO” of Binance still says there is no headquarters for the company, as it is “decentralized”.)
Value-wise, in a year that has been unkind to stocks AND bonds, Crypto stands out as an even bigger loser relative to traditional asset classes – by over double in a number of cases. Take for example the price of Bitcoin which started the year at approximately $46,310 as measured in US Dollars. Most recent prices of Bitcoin are around $20,098, or down over 55%. Coinbase, not a cryptocurrency but a crypto trading marketplace (among other technology functions), went public in April 2021 and is down around 78% since then. Compare these crypto-related price declines to the painful year-to-date performance of -21% in the S&P 500, -29% in the Nasdaq and -21.5% in the Russell 2000 which tracks small company stocks.
From the Archives of TGIF 2 Minutes (original post May 13, 2022) to reflect my recent purchase of I-Bonds and continued questions received:
“What are 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.)
You can skip this entire post and simply go to www.TreasuryDirect.gov and click on “How to buy Series I” under the column, “Individuals”. The website is written – literally – as if a third grader could understand it. See the * and ** footnotes below.
It is fairly safe to say that the US has entered a recession, even if the backwards looking, narrowly focused, official “National Bureau of Economics Research”, or NBER, has not declared it yet. The NBER is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1920 that somehow came to possess the distinct “responsibility” of declaring recessions in the US. Seriously?
In the case that the US has entered a recession (not yet “declared” by the NBER) then what does that mean for savers and investors? A quick bit of background: typically, economic cool-downs come in two varieties: hard landings and soft landings.
The hard landing ends a period of economic expansion in recession,
The soft landing ends a period of expansion with a smoother period of mere economic slow-down.