The summer is full. Beaches and mountains are crowded, as are malls and stores. School begins soon for many , very soon for some. Vacations are family times, hopefully fun times. The world continues, our lives revolve around each day’s gifts and challenges. We are blessed with our families, our lives, our abundance, our nation.
Yet, there is much concern on the airwaves, in print, at BBQs and dinner parties. Many in our nation remain ignored by the economic recovery. Many are just getting by – and have been just getting by for a decade or more. Many are worried about the direction our nation is facing, much less moving towards.
Despite the largesse of many programs, both governmental and charitable, millions seem to fall through the designed safety nets.
Inequality has become a new worry. We seem to forget that it is equality of opportunity – rather than outcome – that was designed into our country’s system.
Education reform seems to lead to worse rather than better schools and teaching. CA led the world in the 1960s. Today it doesn’t even show up on the radar of education excellence.
Politics is a disruptive discourse – it has been so since Washington’s 2nd term in the 1790s. The word mudslinging was first used more than 130 years ago. It’s just the way democracy works – although decency would be nice.
Health is our most important asset. With it, we can enjoy life; without it, like Steve Jobs, we are at life’s mercy. Obesity, Ebola, you name it, we are encouraged to worry about it.
International news remains full of war and retribution. Despite the fact that far fewer people die in shorter, fewer wars than ever in recorded history, we see horrific images daily.
The markets are in turmoil. Having been a ‘deep participant’ in the markets for nearly 30 years, this is the oddest worry of all. They have been in turmoil since 1796, when a few men traded ‘shares’ beneath a tree in New York. We have seen outrageous disasters impact our economy – just since I graduated from High School in 1966. Yet long term investors with the courage, skill and moxie to survive have done so.
We are aging. Those of us who are the Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 – are greying and slowing; we are spending and seeking help. Our ears and paunches are giving out, while our wallets and eyesight are diminishing. When will this decrepitude, this demise finally stop? When shall we ‘loosen these mortal coils’?
Well, I have chosen a different pathway today. I will always love Bing Crosby’s song, ‘Accentuate the Positive’
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
Dated? Yes. The 1930s were far harder times than anything we have experienced.
Religious? Yes. The nation was then (and remains) a religious nation.
Improper in its deflection towards the slang of the poor, the South and blacks? Yes. It celebrates the difference between races, locales and people by diminishing it – and accentuatin’ the positive!
My point here is simple. We have our health, our wealth, our nation and our abilities.
Applied science has given us everything we use today. If you have visited parts of the world surviving in absolute poverty (as I have, repeatedly), you will appreciate simple, invisible events: fresh, clean tap water; electricity; books; paved streets; medicine; clothing; autos; sewers; hospitals – the list goes on.
These are simply our basics. We also enjoy property rights; direct and transferable asset ownership; voting rights; education and health rights; clean air, water, land, cities and beaches. While we may disagree with the relative definitions of ‘clean’, ‘rights’ and ‘ownership’, we do all enjoy these. I have been to a dozen countries where everything on these lists is absent. Where death stalks the day and the night.
We also live in the second decade of the 21st Century. The computer I write this on, the one you read it on and the manner in which the electrons travel between these two pieces of plastic are far younger than most of us. The brains inside these pieces of plastic are far more powerful than their cousins of just a decade ago – do you recall typewriters, slide rules or pencil and paper? These simple devices, that cost us perhaps one week’s wages, have the intelligence equivalence of a mouse today. In a decade they will have the ‘IE’ of a dog. A decade hence and they will be on a par with dogs.
Your car today is far lighter and more fuel efficient than your first car – more so than even your previous car. The nation is consuming far less hydrocarbons today because of these two factors. Add in the increasing presence of computers in every component of cars (as well as in their manufacture) and you have a vehicle that emits less than 9% of what your 1966 Thunderbird, Chevelle, or Galaxy emitted.
We eat far better (perhaps too much) than we did in 1976 or 1986. We are more aware of healthy choices and are buying what we can afford – to enjoy our healthy lifestyle. We may workout, play, walk or enjoy our children and grandchildren. We sleep better, on excellent mattresses and nicer sheets, washed in more efficient machines using less detergent than has far less impact on the water and environment.
Clothing is made better, lasts longer and is less costly. The workers who make it around the world are both glad to have the work and are better paid for their efforts. While different from our work world, theirs is far safer and cleaner. They can afford electricity rather than wood or dung for fuel, heating and light.
At the cutting edge of today (wasn’t there a TV show in the fifties called, The Edge of Tomorrow – a soap?), genomics, molecular biology, nano-science and quantum mechanics are leading, very quickly, to efficiencies well beyond our imagination. New resins, ceramics and ‘silicos’ will move the design and manufacturing process in post-industrial society farther and faster than steel and plastics did in the 1880s and 1950s. Ever heard of graphenes? You will, soon. Genetic modification (whatever your views towards GMO) has been with humans since we learned to plant seed. The newest forms will greatly reduce water and fertilizer use while further enhancing crop yields – particularly for those living beyond the edges of poverty.
In a decade you will be able to buy wall paint that changes color, that reflects heat and knows when you are in the room. You may stop driving cars in less time. Health care is today being designed specifically to your body. Energy efficiencies are being built into the Grid today that will further reduce our energy consumption – and change our habits. Agricultural water use – far and away the greatest waste of water in post industrial society – will see the greatest improvements, but urban choices will be more directed, cost conscious and efficient too.
In my two specialties (money and energy), the changes are happening faster than many had expected. Management fees are going down as technology improves our abilities to service your financial planning needs in real time. Your choices for investment, efficiency of trading and ability to explore all the equities of the world are far greater than when I started with three decades ago. Energy production and distribution costs are rapidly declining too. These costs are passing on to consumers, indirectly today, but more direct as time rapidly passes. Gas prices at the pump are not reacting to the internecine warfare of the Middle East, nor did they react excessively to the y cold winters of the past few years.
On the environmental front, the nation’s CO2 emissions are today lower than at any time since measurements began by the EPA in 1992 – this is according to the EPA. Three reasons: the recession, greater vehicular efficiencies and hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas in the U S. The latter has allowed the substitution of natural gas (methane) for coal in electricity production across the country.
Natural gas is working its way into the truck world in a bigger way each year as new engines that burn CNG/LNG are used at airports, on city buses and by long and short haul truckers. The EPA has called the Honda Accord natural gas car ‘the most fuel efficient car with the lowest carbon footprint of any vehicle on the road today’. There are 15 models of personal cars and trucks in the 2014 lineup, with two dozen more in 2015. By 2025, 1/4 of the U S vehicle fleet may be natural gas powered. The figure for Brazil, Australia, Malaysia and Iran is greater than 80% – today.
Fear and loathing sell advertising in the media. Hope and change sell little, anywhere. We are deluged with fears. This is nonsense! I’d be glad to send you one or a dozen books, articles or web-links telling a far different tale. Just ask.
The economy and the markets are doing quite well, thank you. Investors – at least my clients – are living comfortably off their portfolios – at far lower fees. Energy stocks continue to lead the way forward. They pay lovely dividends, have low debt, are responsive to their communities and are very reasonably priced. Technology stocks may redefine the world of tomorrow – today. Information technology and medical technology are the leading edge of a storm of change.
Imagine you and I are talking in my office in 1997, just 17 years ago. Cell phones, internet TV and electric cars are science fiction. Russia is the new investment of choice for many. Politicians are getting the long term unemployed back to work. Environmental folks can’t decide whether cooling or warming is the real global threat. Food production and democracy advances leapfrog across the globe. Could we then imagine our world today? I think we would miss the mark.
Enjoy your summer days!
Eat wisely. Sleep well. Love with abandon!