Lessons from March Madness

This year is no exception. Every spring, millions of people tune their televisions to March Madness, the annual tournament to decide the best team in college basketball. If you’ve ever watched before, you know it’s a time of great excitement as underdogs rise, giants fall, and new legends are made.

While watching a few games, it struck me how many parallels there are between March Madness and finance. The winning teams, whether they’re favorites or longshots, often display many of the same qualities that lead to financial success.

To illustrate what I mean, here are a few lessons we can take from March Madness:
1. Have a financial game plan. No winning team ever shows up to a game unprepared. They spend days, weeks, even months practicing, watching game film, and studying their opponent. The same should be true of your finances. Researching your investments, planning your taxes ahead of time, understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, laying out goals and determining how to achieve them – these are the best ways to get ahead in the game. Whether it’s sports or finance, planning beats just winging it every time.

  1. Aim for financial balance. Research shows that it’s not the teams with the best offense or best defense that are likely to win the tournament.1 On the contrary, it’s the most balanced teams – meaning those that play well on both sides of the court – that usually take home the trophy.
    Balance is important in finance as well. Some people spend all their money and time on their investments, thinking if they can just pick the right stock, they’ll be set for life. Others focus solely on saving every penny they earn without ever investing a cent. Still others think financial success is all about securing the highest-paying job.

The truth is, you’re more likely to achieve your goals when all aspects of your finance are in balance. That means paying equal attention to your income, investments, spending, saving, taxes, insurance, and so on. 
It doesn’t matter how much you earn if you spend even more. And while it’s great to save as much as you can, you won’t get as far as you would if you invested wisely. Furthermore, even if you nail every single one of those aspects, you could lose more than you can afford if the unexpected happens and your insurance isn’t in order. See what I mean about balance?

  1. It’s all about the team. Basketball is a team sport, not an individual one. A college could have the single best player in the world, yet still come up short if they played against a better drilled, better prepared, more balanced team. No one player can achieve victory by his- or herself. For a team to win, everyone must contribute. Similarly, you could be the smartest, hardest-working person in the world and yet still fail to reach your goals if you try to do it all alone. These days, having a financial team is more important than ever. That’s because there’s so much to know, so much to do. Working with experienced, caring professionals who specialize in the various aspects of your finances – your investments, your taxes, your estate, etc. – can make all the difference.
  2. Don’t blindly assume success. In March Madness, every team is assigned a seed from one through sixteen. (In this case, the lower the number, the higher the seed.) In most cases, when lower-seeded teams play higher seeds, nearly everyone expects the higher seed to win.
    But that doesn’t always happen.
    March Madness is (in)famous for upsets, where an underdog beats a favorite. This is more likely to happen when the favorite comes into the game assuming they’ll win. As a result, they may take the game less seriously or play less hard. The result? They go home early.
    Similarly, we shouldn’t just assume we’ll be financially successful. Achieving our goals takes planning, time, patience, and hard work – qualities we’re less likely to show if we just assume success is guaranteed.
  3. Always have a winning attitude. At the same time, we should never be pessimists about financial success, either. Remember what I said earlier about lower seeds beating higher seeds? When an underdog goes into a game thinking defeat is inevitable, their lack of belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But when a longshot plays with unshakeable confidence, believing they can win, knowing they can win – then suddenly, the impossible becomes very possible. We see it every year.

So, as you work toward your own goals, remember to always bring a winning attitude to everything you do. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Believe in your dreams.

It’s the surest way of making them come true.

Market Commentary – April 8, 2019

The first quarter of 2019 brought a welcome reversal.
Last year, Barron’s published a group of market strategists’ expectations for 2019 performance. The article came out in mid-December, before the steep year-end stock market decline. At that time, all of the strategists agreed: The S&P 500 Index would move higher during 2019.

Their expectations appeared to be wildly optimistic when the Index lost 3.5 percent during the last two weeks of 2018, and finished the year down 6.2 percent.

Overall, at the end of 2018, strategists expected the Index to reach 2,975 by year-end 2019. Despite starting 2019 at a lower level than many anticipated, the Index finished last week at 2,892, a gain of about 15.4 percent year-to-date, and 83 points from strategists’ full-year performance expectations.

While the U.S. stock market has delivered attractive returns year-to-date, suggesting investors anticipate strong economic growth ahead, the bond market has been telling a different story.

Late in the first quarter, the yield curve inverted, which means the yield on short-term Treasury bonds was higher than the yield on long-term Treasury bonds. Inverted yield curves are unusual because investors normally want to earn a higher yield when they lend their savings for longer periods of time.

In some cases, inverted yield curves have been a sign that recession is ahead. That may not be the case this time, reported Eva Szalay of Financial Times. It seems the extreme measures taken by central banks following the financial crisis may have undermined the yield curve’s predictive value: “…according to a new piece of research from Pictet Wealth Management, the curve has been sending out misleading signals for a while. The distortions created by extraordinary post-crisis monetary policies have led to the breakdown in the relationship between interest rate expectations and economic growth, the firm argues…Since central banks have injected vast amounts of liquidity into their respective economies to compensate for lackluster growth, long-term interest rates have become artificially compressed…So the old rule no longer applies.”

The yield curve has since righted itself.

While recession may not be imminent, there are signs economies around the world are growing more slowly. Capital Economics reported, “World GDP [gross domestic product] growth seems to have slowed sharply in Q1, but the latest business surveys suggest that growth has bottomed out in some parts of the world at least…there are very few signs of improvement in the euro-zone and the United States has clearly been suffering from previous interest rate hikes and the fading fiscal boost. Those hoping for an imminent rebound in global growth are therefore likely to be disappointed.”

Slowing growth isn’t a sign recession is imminent in the United States. Last week’s jobs report suggests the American economy is still healthy, reported Tim Mullaney of MarketWatch, even if it is puttering along at a slower pace than many would like. 

exercise is important – really important – but don’t get too much. Researchers tested the relationship between mental health and exercise by collecting self-reported data from 1.2 million Americans. They discovered exercise – including everything from childcare and housework to weight lifting and running – can improve mental health.

Americans who were active tended to be happier and experienced poor mental health about 35 days a year. In contrast, those who remained inactive felt bad emotionally about 53 days a year, reported Entrepreneur.com. Exercising in a social setting – team sports, classes, and group cycling, for instance – appeared to deliver the biggest mental health benefits.

The study’s findings indicated it might be possible to exercise too much. “Exercising for 30-60 minutes was associated with the biggest reduction in poor mental health days…Small reductions were still seen for people who exercised more than 90 minutes a day, but exercising for more than three hours a day was associated with worse mental health than not exercising at all. The authors note that people doing extreme amounts of exercise might have obsessive characteristics which could place them at greater risk of poor mental health.”

If you’re not exercising regularly, you may want to find ways to include it in your day.

Weekly Focus – Think About It
“I have always tried to put my kids first, and then…put myself a really close second, as opposed to fifth or seventh. One thing that I’ve learned from male role models is that they don’t hesitate to invest in themselves, with the view that, if I’m healthy and happy, I’m going to be a better support to my spouse and children. And I’ve found that to be the case: Once my kids were settled, the next thing I did was take care of my own health and sanity. And made sure that I was exercising and felt good about myself. I’d bring that energy to everything else that I did, the career, relationship, on and on and on.”
–Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States

Best regards,
John F. Reutemann, Jr., CLU, CFP®

P.S.  Please feel free to forward this commentary to family, friends, or colleagues. If you would like us to add them to the list, please reply to this email with their email address and we will ask for their permission to be added.

Investment advice offered through Research Financial Strategies, a registered investment advisor.

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

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* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.  However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
* Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.
* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.
* All indexes referenced are unmanaged. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.
* The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index.
* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
* Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce.
* The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.
* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
* The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow,” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
* The NASDAQ Composite is an unmanaged index of securities traded on the NASDAQ system.
* International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.
* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.
* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.
* You cannot invest directly in an index.
* Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.
* The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee it is accurate or complete.
* There is no guarantee a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.
* Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.
* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
* To unsubscribe from the Weekly Market Commentary please reply to this e-mail with “Unsubscribe” in the subject.

 

Sources:
https://www.barrons.com/articles/u-s-stocks-could-rally-more-than-10-in-2019-51544837183 (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/04-08-19_Barrons-2019_Outlook-US_Stocks_Could_Rally_About_10_Percent-Footnote_1.pdf)
https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/^GSPC?p=^GSPC (Historical data)
https://www.macrotrends.net/2488/sp500-10-year-daily-chart
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/22/the-rally-got-mugged-by-economic-realities-and-a-global-slowdown.html
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/invertedyieldcurve.asp
https://www.ft.com/content/15d4048e-552f-11e9-91f9-b6515a54c5b1 (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/04-08-19_FinancialTimes-Why_the_Yield_Curve_is_Not_the_Economic_Guide_It_Once_Was-Footnote_6.pdf)
https://www.capitaleconomics.com/publications/global-economics/global-economics-chart-book/divergent-surveys-offer-limited-hope/ (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/04-08-19_CapitalEconomics-Global_Economics_Chart_Book-Footnote_7.pdf)
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-jobs-report-nails-it-its-a-slowdown-not-a-recession-2019-04-05
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30227-X/fulltext
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180808193656.htm
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/331696
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221503661830227X
https://www.glamour.com/story/michelle-obama

Market Commentary April 1, 2019

“Fascinatingly counterintuitive…”
That’s how Michael Arone, an investment strategist, described the U.S. market environment to Avi Salzman of Barron’s:  “‘Stocks are rallying, but bond yields are reflecting much lower growth.’ Stocks rose during the quarter because the Fed backed away from raising interest rates, and investors grew more confident that the U.S. and China would sign a trade deal, Arone said. The market was also rebounding from a very rough fourth quarter – ‘conditions at the end of the year were wildly oversold,’ he noted.”

Through the end of last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up more than 13 percent year-to-date, despite falling corporate earnings and modest consumer spending gains.

Consumer optimism may have played a role in U.S. stock market gains. The University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers Economist Richard Curtin reported:  “…the last time a larger proportion of households reported income gains was in 1966. Rising incomes were accompanied by lower expected year-ahead inflation rates, resulting in more favorable real income expectations…Moreover, all income groups voiced more favorable growth prospects for the overall economy…Overall, the data do not indicate an emerging recession but point toward slightly lower unit sales of vehicles and homes during the year ahead.”

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its report on economic growth in 2018 last week. Real gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measure of economic growth after inflation, was revised down to 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Growth was up 2.9 percent for the year, though, which was an improvement on 2017’s gain of 2.2 percent.

Slowing economic growth gives weight to bond investors’ expectations, while consumer optimism supports stock investors’ outlook. Divergent market performance and conflicting data make it hard to know what may be ahead. One way to protect capital is to hold a well-diversified portfolio.

how much does it cost to make money? You may not have given it much thought, but it costs money to make money. In fact, the costs of the metals required to make some U.S. coins is higher than the value of the coins! George Washington and Abraham Lincoln might not approve, if they knew. Take this quiz to see what you know about the cost and value of U.S. coins.

  1. How much did it cost the U.S. Mint to make a U.S. penny in 2018?
    1. 0.5 cents
    2. 1.25 cents
    3. 2.06 cents
    4. 3.0 cents
  2. How much did it cost the U.S. Mint to make a U.S. nickel in 2018?
    1. 1.25 cents
    2. 4.97 cents
    3. 6.03 cents
    4. 7.53 cents
  3. What makes a coin valuable to a collector?
    1. Metal
    2. Age
    3. Rarity
    4. All of the above
  4. Which of these coins is the most valuable to collectors?
    1. 1849 Coronet Head Gold $20 Double Eagle
    2. 1913 Liberty Nickel
    3. 1943-D Lincoln Wheat Cent Penny
    4. 1835 Classic Head Gold $5 Half Eagle

 

Weekly Focus – Think About It
According to the Federal Reserve, the estimated lifespan of a $10 bill is 4.5 years. The estimated lifespans of a $5 and $1 bill are 5.5 years and 5.8 years, respectively. A $100 bill may last 15.5 years because it circulates less frequently.

 

Answers:

  1. It cost 2.06 cents to make a one-cent coin that few people use. A group of citizens has been encouraging the government to retire the penny.
  2. It cost 7.53 cents to make a nickel in 2018.
  3. All of the above.
  4. The 1849 Coronet Head Gold $20 Double Eagle is worth more than $16,600,000. It is one of the rarest U.S. coins.

 

Best regards,
John F. Reutemann, Jr., CLU, CFP®

P.S.  Please feel free to forward this commentary to family, friends, or colleagues. If you would like us to add them to the list, please reply to this email with their email address and we will ask for their permission to be added.

Investment advice offered through Research Financial Strategies, a registered investment advisor.

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

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Research Financial Strategies specializes in providing financial advice using a proprietary investment methodology that leverages technical analysis to identify and protect our clients against stock market risk. Research Financial Strategies provides our...

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* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.  However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
* Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.
* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.
* All indexes referenced are unmanaged. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.
* The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index.
* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
* Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce.
* The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.
* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
* The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow,” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
* The NASDAQ Composite is an unmanaged index of securities traded on the NASDAQ system.
* International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.
* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.
* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.
* You cannot invest directly in an index.
* Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.
* The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee it is accurate or complete.
* There is no guarantee a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.
* Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.
* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
* To unsubscribe from the Weekly Market Commentary please reply to this e-mail with “Unsubscribe” in the subject.

Sources:
https://www.barrons.com/articles/the-s-p-500-is-off-to-its-best-start-since-1998-51553908143?mod=hp_DAY_1 (or go to https://www.barrons.com/market-data/market-lab
http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu (or go to http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-spending/u-s-consumer-spending-soft-inflation-benign-as-economy-slows-idUSKCN1RA1EK
https://www.bea.gov/news/2019/gross-domestic-product-4th-quarter-and-annual-2018-third-estimate-corporate-profits-4th
https://www.usmint.gov/about/reports (Click on 2018 Annual Report, go to page 10)
https://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/how-long-is-the-life-span-of-us-paper-money.htm
http://www.retirethepenny.org
https://www.usmint.gov/learn/kids/collectors-club/ten-facts-of-collecting#nine
https://www.usacoinbook.com/encyclopedia/most-valuable-coins/
https://www.usacoinbook.com/coins/4291/gold-20-double-eagle/coronet-head/1849-P/unique-smithsonian-collection/

There’s Still Time to Contribute to an IRA

If you haven’t already contributed to an IRA (Individual Retirement Account), there’s still time to do so.  Many people don’t know that the 2018 contribution deadline is actually the 15th of April.  However, if you do decide to contribute, you must designate the year you are contributing for.  Your tax preparer should be able to help you fill out the necessary forms.

For 2018, the maximum amount you can contribute is $5500 or $6500 if you’re over the age of 50.  This applies to both traditional and Roth IRAs. If you’re unsure whether to contribute or not, remember:

  • Contributions to traditional IRAs are often tax-deductible. While distributions from IRAs are taxed as income, your tax-rate after retirement could possibly be lower than it is now, lessening the
  • Contributions to a Roth IRA, on the other hand, are made with after-tax However, the advantage of a Roth IRA is that withdrawals are usually tax-free.
  • Whichever type you use, IRAs provide a great, tax-advantaged way to save for

If you have yet to set up an IRA for 2018, you can still do that. The deadline to establish an IRA is April 15th as well.  In other words, if you want to take advantage of the benefits an IRA has to offer, there’s still time to do so, either by contributing to an existing account or by establishing a new one.

If you have any questions about IRAs—whether it’s the right decision for you, how your IRA should be managed, or anything else—please give us a call at 301-294-7500. We would be happy to speak with you.

Market Commentary – March 25, 2019

Wonder what the Federal Reserve’s 40-yard dash time is?
On Wednesday, the Fed juked like an NFL running back and left investors wondering whether they should buy or sell. Heather Long of The Washington Post reported the U.S. central bank:

  1. Lowered its 2019 estimate for U.S. economic growth to 2.1 percent
  2. Announced its intention not to raise rates in 2019
  3. Indicated it will stop shrinking its balance sheet in September

Fed Chair Jerome Powell explained, “My colleagues and I have one overarching goal: to sustain the economic expansion with a strong job market and stable prices for the benefit of the American people. The U.S. economy is in a good place and we will continue to use our monetary policy tools to keep it there…We continue to expect that the American economy will grow at solid pace in 2019, although slower than the very strong pace of 2018.”

The Fed’s decision to adopt a looser monetary policy was informed by a variety of factors, including slower economic growth in the United States, China, and Europe, as well as unresolved policy issues like Brexit and ongoing trade negotiations.

Investors weren’t sure what to make of the Fed’s moves. Initially, major U.S. stock indices trended higher as investors celebrated the benefits of accommodative monetary policy. By the end of the week, though, many investors had changed their minds and fled to ‘safe haven’ investments, pushing long-term Treasury rates lower. Alexandra Scaggs of Barron’s reported:  “When short-term yields rise above long-term yields, it’s known as an inverted yield curve, which is seen even by central bankers as a sign that an economic contraction could be on the way…Benchmark 10-year Treasuries rallied Friday morning, driving their yields below those of the three-month U.S. Treasury.”

So, is recession imminent in the United States? It’s possible but unlikely. According to a source cited by Barron’s, the last six times the yield curve inverted for 10 days or longer, recession occurred within the next two years.

No matter how the economy and/or markets perform, it may not be a good idea to make sudden portfolio changes. If you’re feeling uncertain, give us a call. We can discuss changes you may want to make to your portfolio.

Scandinavia sweeps again. The 2019 United Nation’s World Happiness Report was published last week. The Finns remain the happiest people in the world. In fact, happiness in Finland has been trending higher since 2014.

People in Denmark and Norway also are happier than they were previously. The average score for the Danes increased by more than the average score for the Norwegians, so Denmark is now second and Norway third.

The report’s authors explained, “…the top countries tend to have high values for most of the key variables that have been found to support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity.”

The 10 happiest countries in the world, according to the report, which aggregated data on 156 countries from Gallup World Polls, are:

  1. Finland (7.769)
  2. Denmark (7.600)
  3. Norway (7.554)
  4. Iceland (7.494)
  5. Netherlands (7.488)
  6. Switzerland (7.480)
  7. Sweden (7.343)
  8. New Zealand (7.307)
  9. Canada (7.278)
  10. Austria (7.246)

Since the report began, happiness has increased most dramatically in Benin (#102), Nicaragua (#45), Bulgaria (#97), Latvia (#53), and Togo (#139).

The United States came in at #19. Overall, happiness levels in the U.S. have declined by almost 0.5 since the report was first issued. The report stated:  “Several credible explanations have been posited to explain the decline in happiness among adult Americans, including declines in social capital and social support (Sachs, 2017) and increases in obesity and substance abuse (Sachs, 2018)…I suggest another, complementary explanation: that Americans are less happy due to fundamental shifts in how they spend their leisure time…the way adolescents socialize has fundamentally shifted, moving toward online activities and away from face-to-face social interaction.”

Weekly Focus – Think About It
“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
–Mark Twain, American author

Best regards,
John F. Reutemann, Jr., CLU, CFP®

P.S.  Please feel free to forward this commentary to family, friends, or colleagues. If you would like us to add them to the list, please reply to this email with their email address and we will ask for their permission to be added.

Investment advice offered through Research Financial Strategies, a registered investment advisor.

S&P 500, Dow Jones Global ex-US, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods.
Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s, djindexes.com, London Bullion Market Association.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.

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* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.  However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.
* Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.
* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.
* All indexes referenced are unmanaged. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment.
* The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index.
* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.
* Gold represents the afternoon gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The gold price is set twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 and 15:00 and is expressed in U.S. dollars per fine troy ounce.
* The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.
* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.
* The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow,” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
* The NASDAQ Composite is an unmanaged index of securities traded on the NASDAQ system.
* International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.
* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.
* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.
* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.
* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.
* You cannot invest directly in an index.
* Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.
* The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee it is accurate or complete.
* There is no guarantee a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.
* Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.
* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.
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Sources:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/03/20/federal-reserve-cuts-growth-forecast-predicts-no-more-rate-hikes/?utm_term=.3ead92852b27
https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents.htm (Video timestamp 0:15 to 3:00 minutes)
https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/^DJI?p=^DJI&.tsrc=fin-srch (5-day chart or historical pricing)
https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/^IXIC?p=^IXIC (5-day chart or historical pricing)
https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/%5EGSPC?p=%5EGSPC (5-day chart or historical pricing)
https://www.barrons.com/articles/the-yield-curve-just-inverted-that-doesnt-mean-sell-stocks-51553267161?mod=hp_BRIEF&mod=article_inline (or go to https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/peakcontent/+Peak+Commentary/03-25-19_Barrons-The_Yield_Curve_Just_Inverterted-Thats_Not_as_Scary_as_You_Think-Footnote_6.pdf)
https://s3.amazonaws.com/happiness-report/2019/WHR19.pdf (Pages 22-27, 34-37, and 88-89)
https://www.goodreads.com/search?page=5&q=twain&search%5Bsource%5D=goodreads&search_type=quotes&tab=quotes

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