Categories
Life Work

The Half Life of Knowledge

The following chart by Marc Rosenberg illustrates historical estimates and future predictions about the rate of growth in humankind’s collective knowledge.

Note: Pre-1982 estimates were by futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. The 2020 prediction was made by IBM.

IBM predicted by 2020 total human knowledge would double every 12 hours, as the Internet of Things expanded. While this is difficult to accurately measure, we all recognize that in 2020 we are drinking from a fire-hose of information. 

Knowledge today is growing rapidly as every click, search, purchase becomes a data point that forms the tapestry of our digital identity. Data aggregators have claimed to have over 5000 data points on every US voter, from which countless insights and predictions can be made. Every day, data is being collected across numerous digital platforms. However, this information is concentrated in the hands of the few.

IBM predicted by 2020 total human knowledge would double every 12 hours

For the few with access and computational power, knowledge is power. But those without access must run faster to keep up, as the half-life (the time it takes for half the knowledge in a particular area to become stale) of knowledge shrinks. This divide will grow as the ability to leverage information is powerful and profitable.

Those with power are unlikely to give it up voluntarily. Thus, the useful application of knowledge will consolidate even further into the hands of few. The majority of humans will simply remain overwhelmed by information and the inability to fully capture, interpret and analyze it to their advantage.

This has implications across many fields and industries. For example, how is an individual investor or even a boutique professional portfolio management team meant to out-store massive databases and outperform the computational capabilities of algorithms to fully exploit information?

We will need to be more humble about our abilities by recognizing the sheer volume of unknown unknowns. Unfortunately, the competitive nature of various segments of society and the economy will leave the average person behind.

So how do you as an individual compete? Continuous learning seems like a fruitless task as there is more to learn than is possible to ever grasp. Yet, it is still imperative if one is to outrun other individuals.

However, there are other ways to create value that might not be captured by the algorithms.

While computers are able to monopolize measurable bits of information (clicks, data points, dollars, etc.), humans still retain an advantage when identifying, analyzing and interpreting intangible cues. I’m talking about emotions, gut instinct. That feeling you get when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up is your brain analyzing millions of immeasurable pieces of information to warn you of danger.

Humans possess the ability to synthesize new information not captured by computational models. This is what we must exploit if we are to survive as individuals.

Categories
Real Estate

11 Signs Canada Housing On Verge of Collapse

A recent Bloomberg article provided a view of the deteriorating condition of the Canadian housing market. It’s dire and in my opinion will get worse because the economy is being pushed to the edge by the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis.

Housing crises are slow-motion train wrecks, so don’t expect the pain to be immediately obvious, like in the stock market. While this might seem to make it more manageable, it actually extends the economic pain. If you are unfamiliar with what a housing-led economic implosion looks like, you should brush up on what happened to the US after 2006 and Canada after 1989.

The US housing collapse took years to eventually bottom, resulting in massive economic dislocation, human suffering and a near-collapse of the global financial system. Coming out the other side of the collapse was a long, slow uphill battle for most.

Canada saw the same after its real estate bust in the early 1990s. Years of stagnation and relatively high unemployment.

Of course, in both the US and Canada the real estate bust eventually created massive opportunities for many.

The following key stats from the Bloomberg article illustrate the immediate vulnerability of the Canadian housing market and the overall Canadian economy:

1) Nearly one in three workers have applied for income support.

2) Canadian households are among the world’s most indebted.

3) Real estate has become Canada’s largest sector. Including residential construction, it accounted for 15% of economic output last year; energy accounted for 9%.

4) The City of Vancouver fears it’s heading for insolvency after it surveyed residents and found that 45% of households say they can’t pay their full mortgage next month and a quarter expect to pay less than half of their property tax bills this year.

5) Canadian households owe C$1.76 for every dollar in disposable income. In Vancouver, that spikes to about C$2.40

6) Canadians owe C$2.3 trillion in mortgages, credit card, and other consumer debt, about equal to the country’s GDP, which is an even higher ratio than the U.S. had before its housing bust.

7) If only 2% of the housing stock were to be listed for sale, it would trigger the kind of supply shock behind a 1990 crash, according to Veritas. That’s most likely to come from investors, half of whom weren’t generating enough cash to cover the cost of owning their rental properties, Veritas found in a survey last September.

9) 30% of apartment rent due April 1 went uncollected, according to estimates by CIBC Economics.

10) Nearly a third of Canada’s Airbnb hosts — who jointly had 170,000 active listings in late 2019 — need the income to avoid foreclosure or eviction, Airbnb said in a letter to the Canadian government last month.

11) Nearly 6 million Canadians have applied for income support. Lenders had deferred nearly 600,000 mortgages, about 12% of the mortgages they hold, as of April 9.

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Categories
Life Wealth

True Stories from the Covid-19 Front Lines: Small Business Collapse

I am posting this information to show you the devastation facing millions of small business owners right now.

The headlines make it seem like the government is providing tons of support. However, for most small business owners the support is failing them. These people are the lifeblood of the economy, yet are on their own fighting for their lives.

Authorities predict about 50% of small businesses will disappear before the Covid-19 coronavirus economic crisis is over. This is not something the economy can quickly recover from. It will take significant time, effort and risk appetite for entrepreneurs to once again start new businesses and hire staff.

I’m afraid the neighborhood landscape will look very different once this quarantine is over. Local drycleaners, restaurants, yoga studios, pet stores. Half gone.

Here are their stories:

u/rexruther99

The future is truly uncertain for small business owners.

I own a bar in Downtown Atlanta. It’s not really a residential area and 80% of our business comes from traffic going to nearby stadiums, arenas, hotels, and concert venues.

We are closed right now, and I don’t see how we could survive as a business without international travel opening back up, restrictions being completely lifted, AND people are eager to get close to each other once again without fear. I would say we have *at least* a year before that would happen.

Not to mention, this happened right at the end of the slow season. So we had completely depleted our resources and had acquired a little (~15,000) additional debt to cover us until we got to the busy season again that starts right around the middle of March.

Now bills are stacking up, I have no money, and the PPP loan really won’t help my business until we know when we can open again (so we can use the forgiven portions of the loan to help float payroll cost as we get back on our feet).

This is just a bad, bad situation. I don’t know what to do either. I don’t know if it’s smarter to begin the process of putting the business out of its misery now or “wait and see” while more bills pile up and more debtors coming after me.

I definitely feel abandoned. Like I fell off the ship that is the USA along with many others. Now we’re all stranded in the water flailing, screaming for help while the ship slowly but steadily sails away, leaving us.

u/Silvex020

The biggest problem for many businesses is the Lease. It no longer makes sense.

Revenues fall? Well, you can always cut some staff to lessen the payroll burden, and figure out other ways to survive until customers return.

    But what are you going to do about your crazy lease? You can’t downsize and ask the Landlord, “I’m only getting half the customers vs what I used to… can I change the Lease so that I’m renting only half the store now and pay you half the rent?” The LL will of course say no, especially if you Personally Guaranteed (which is most of the times for small businesses because if they don’t the LL won’t lease the space to you).

    Also, if the LLs have a mortgage on their property, even less likely they will adjust your lease since LLs have to pay their bills too. Which is why the commercial real estate market will tank.

    If I were you, i’d seriously consider bankruptcy (or closing shop if you have a Good Guy Clause in your lease). Survive the downturn. Meantime, scrounge up whatever you can and launch a new business when the time is right (once the LLs take a beating, new leases/rents will drop significantly and people will be able to find great opportunities).

    u/Farm_Boss826

    I qualify for all the loans approved by the government and have applied for the EIDL, PPP past Saturday and Monday respectively, and for the $10K (three day express funding) since March 30th. It has been now nine business days since I applied for $10k express, however, I haven’t heard from anyone. I believe at this point they are not worried about businesses with 10 employees or less. Each day trying to stay afloat makes the debt bigger. SBA classification for small business stand for 100-500 employees which makes me think there is no way they will come to the rescue of a tiny micro business of 10 or less employees. I am losing hope every hour, I am within days of running out of oxygen.

    The truth is anywhere from 30 to 50% of the small businesses will not survive this pandemic.

    u/jims2321

    The truth is anywhere from 30 to 50% of the small businesses will not survive this pandemic. A lot of the financial assistance is focused on getting thru the lockdown and the economy shutting down. But little has been focused on what happens afterwards. Do not believe what this administration is selling. The economy is not coming back instantly, nor in a few months or even this year. I have seen articles by economist saying that the US economic will snap back in the 2nd half of the year.

    It is the consensus from the medical community that continued social distance is going to be with us for the foreseeable future until a reliable vaccine is available. Which directly contradicts what the government wants.

    u/evergreenyankee

    At this point it is like screaming into the void – somewhat cathartic but ultimately useless.

    People in my state are basically 100% against anything opening up before June. There is no help, and no help is coming. No one in the general public gives a fuck about what small business owners are facing right now, or more importantly, the looming economic doom that is on the horizon because of that. Even with agriculture being “essential” we can’t get the required inputs for production because everything is shut down and we can’t get the employees to come in because everyone is paralyzed with fear. No one wants to compromise on measures to ease up on things a bit before May 20th in my state, which in this growing region the window will be missed and the damage will largely be done (although the effects of which won’t be felt until August or September). A friend of mine killed himself the other day because he couldn’t take the burden and the abandonment by everyone, not just the government but mostly the abandonment of support of the public to allow some businesses to reopen with precautions.

    At this point I have already given up. I’m doing what I can to provide for myself and my family, and when the bankruptcy comes I’m going to use this as a chance to start over in a state or country that is more hospitable to liberty and more supportive of small business owners.

    u/MasterChief813

    I’m feeling miserable myself. I’m running a hotel in middle ga and we’re hemorrhaging money. Last year was slower than usual but we got by. This year started slower than normal and turned into the catastrophe we’re in now.

    I’ve applied for the EIDL advance (was told it will take a week to get back to us if we’re lucky) and the PPP (I’ve been waiting for BB&T to send us an application for 5 days now). The rules for PPP are such a clusterfuck that I have no doubt that it will take a lot of back and forth before we get approved (i.e. they are using payroll # of employees from January and in my industry we have high turnover so I have to find 3 more employees to hire if I get approved since I’m down 3 housekeepers from Jan and I want to the loan to be forgiven given that we’re barely making any money on hotel rooms right now).

    Don’t get me started on getting the mortgage on a hotel paid every month. Thankfully there is enough money in reserves to get by but if this continues then we are totally screwed.

    u/BrioRainbows

    My business is in live events… we have no clarity on when our business will come back. We might have to wait possibly a year or more? Many in the 2.5 trillion dollar live global events business will go under. MSM is promoting this rosy picture of trillions of dollars in assistance, we’ll all get back to work in a month or two… stock market zooming back up. Not true for many of us… I don’t think anyone knows how bad it’s really going to get and the current optimism and stock market is not reflecting what’s really happening on main street.

    u/MeatPopsicle_AMA

    I own a bakery/cafe in a small town that is almost 100% reliant on tourist money. The main tourist draw is closed until September, at least. The PPP money will be minimal for us- barely covers 2 months rent if that. EIDL seems to be a bust. My partner is optimistic that once things get back to “normal” our local regulars will show up, but I doubt many folks will have disposable income to keep us going until the festival opens. It’s not looking good for us. If it was just me I’d walk away and deal with the consequences of breaking my lease, but it’s not just me.

    u/madonnaofroses

    Woke up with some anxiety this morning. Still no emails from the SBA regarding my EIDL loan. Since it was just my partner and I in our LLC with no employees, we couldn’t apply for the PPL either.

    Made myself some coffee and sat outside for a and listened to the birds for a few.

    I have a small but beloved massage therapy business here in downtown Jersey City. My business partner voluntarily withdrew from the LLC last week, has taken the couch (good thing I bought everything else) and will not be renewing the lease with me in May.

    Technically, I won’t be able to renew the lease either if the EIDL loan doesn’t come through and I’m saddened by all the effort and money I put into our business the past year only for me to have close doors. I wasn’t done yet. We were building the foundation of things still.

    I’m still kinda positive about things in my heart but I’ve mostly given up on that EIDL loan. It was kinda nice to come on here and see others share my disheartened feelings as well. Got to be realistic at the end of the day and be able to adapt or cut losses.

    Tragic to have read someone took their life last week in the chaos.

    Still grateful my family and I have our health and if you’re reading this, I hope you still have that too and will continue to have it until this is over.

    God bless.

    u/PleasureDoingBiz

    I’m in Mexico, which in official terms, has reacted way worse than how the USA has, according to many criticisms.

    The President (AMLO, as we call him) textually said “don’t stay inside… I’ll let you know when you really have to stay inside.” I could write several paragraphs describing his reasons and the background, but all you need to know for context is that he divides opinion just like Trump does. And he’s trying to wash his hands from the economic recession. Just days before they acknowledged the pandemic, the US dollar jumped from around 18 Mexican pesos to 24.

    The government stance on business is this: There are no governmental aids. You’re expected to pay all taxes as normal, all bills such as electric or water. Businesses are told to close (even though the citizenship is told not to stop going out), but it’s not enforced. However, a worker that contracts coronavirus in whatever circumstances and isn’t being paid in full to stay home, can sue their employers for getting the virus. So they pretend every single business is a massive corporation that can pay full wages indefinitely. To add to this take into account that 90% of Mexicans live day-by-day and can’t afford to go a single day without pay, or else they and their family don’t eat that day.

    I have a couple small businesses where I sell flooring and window covers, plus a few other related products like awnings. Traditionally we sell in person, but I had worked a long time on trying to build an eCommerce sales channel, to some success (boomer mentality runs rampant in Mexico, where even Zoomers doubt the legitimacy of eCommerce). However, we install our products and most people aren’t interested in DIY and would rather have the technician perform the installation.

    It’s a family business, my dad owns and runs the factory that supplies about 75% of the products I sell. The factory is still operating at a limited capacity, as it has a relatively small team with large space. But mainly, the workers asked my dad to continue working because they can’t survive without steady salary. About 90% of what we call small sales vanished overnight when Mexico announced the first case, which was about three weeks before the government even talked about the pandemic. These small sales provide most of the cash flow and account for about 60% of revenue on an average month.

    My own sales dried up by about 85%. Only wealthy clients are buying, since they can survive their entire lifetime without working again (or thereabouts) and are now getting bored of looking at the same decor in their homes.

    I’m trying to complement my earnings with Appen (have waited two weeks for project validation, still waiting) and I recently opened another business thanks to my cousin. We are selling construction materials remotely (again, normally done in person) as construction hasn’t halted yet.

    AMLO is trying to pit business-owners (whom he has referred to as the cancer that’s killing Mexico even long before he was elected; he makes no distinction between tiny stores and cafés than multimillionaire CEOs) against the workforce and vice versa.

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    Categories
    Investing Wealth

    Great Depression 2.0?

    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?…”

    — John Maynard Keynes

    As time plods on, my thoughts on the economy grow increasingly dire. The reason is not the drip of horrible data releases – that was to be expected – but the mere fact that time itself makes our predicament more inextricable. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Covid-19 coronavirus exogenous shock is not a one-quarter phenomenon. 

    Governments are increasingly ‘socializing’ the idea that quarantines could last not weeks, but months. We’ve heard rumblings of this from officials in the UK, Canada and the US. Even as China appears past the peak on paper, it too continues to suffer from moderate forms of quarantine (e.g. movie theaters are still shut) and prolonged weakness as both domestic and export markets collapse. China’s experience shows that a v-shaped recovery is highly unlikely.

    Except for the occasional grocery-store mission, I have not left the house in weeks. Other than food and utilities, I have not spent a penny. My ‘win’ however, is someone else’s loss and is a microcosm of the type of world we are approaching.

    The epic collapse

    March payrolls declined by over 700,000. This is just getting started:

    Source: BLS, CNBC

    Weekly initial claims are up 6.6 million. An unprecedented number. (I’ve highlighted the increase because it just looks like part of the chart’s vertical frame otherwise.)

    Source: St Louis Fed

    The world economy has come to a standstill. 

    On April 4, 2020 the IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, said this is worse than the global financial crisis:

    “Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy come to a standstill. This is in my lifetime humanity’s darkest hour, a big threat to the whole world and it requires for us to stand us, be united. It is way worse than the global financial crisis. This is a crisis like no other.

    This is clearly not priced into the market. Currently, the S&P 500 is 27% off it’s all time high. During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the market fell 57% from it’s highs. It would seem to me that there is considerable room for downside, if this is worse than the global financial crisis.

    Chart
    Data by YCharts
    Chart
    Data by YCharts

    Notably, during the global financial crisis S&P 500 earnings per share bottomed roughly the same time as the market. Given the current Covid-19 lockdowns could continue for at least several more weeks, it is entirely plausible that S&P 500 earnings – and the S&P 500 Index – won’t bottom at least until early summer 2020. 

    There is clearly more room for downside. Perhaps 30% more downside, if the global financial crisis is our yardstick.

    Chart
    Data by YCharts

    Great Depression 2.0

    Even more troubling, however, is that this isn’t a normal cyclical downturn that can simply reverse after inventories are liquidated, companies create new efficiencies and new investment opportunities arise. Like during the Great Depression, the entire world economy is unraveling due to a sudden and widespread shock. This will only worsen with time.

    Think of it like a cat playing with a ball of string. If some of the string comes unraveled from the ball one can easily re-wrap it around the remaining ball. However, the more the string comes unraveled, the harder it is to re-wrap.  Eventually, the ball ceases to exist and you’re just left with a pile of string. 

    The longer the Covid-19 shutdowns continue, the more difficult it will be to put the economy back together. The economy will experience a permanent destruction of aggregate demand.

    If I could snap my fingers today and return everything to normal, enough animal spirit still exists to spring the economy back to life. Restaurants could quickly re-hire staff with confidence customers would return. There are plenty of fully employed people to fire up aggregate demand once again. 

    However, as time goes on more restaurateurs will throw in the towel. More businesses will disappear. More people will become unemployed – many permanently so. The knock-on effects on commercial mortgages, loan losses, homelessness and wealth erosion will increasingly get out of control.

    After a prolonged drought, people become very conservative about water usage. The same will happen with money. Those who do have discretionary income will stuff it in their mattress in fear that their time will come. Businesses won’t invest or hire. Even if banks are willing to lend, who’s going to borrow and invest?

    This is our WWII moment. Even after the virus is defeated, if the battle is long and difficult the fear will remain. Everyone will be waiting for the other to make the first move to spend, invest or hire. In doing so, nobody will make the first move.

    The world will enter a liquidity trap not seen since the 1930s. 

    Luckily, today’s world might by-pass some of the policy mistakes made during the 1930s. We have faster access to information and broader understanding of monetary and fiscal policy. There might not be bread lines, but the scale of economic devastation could certainly surpass that seen after the 2008/2009 crisis, looking more like a Great Depression 2.0. 

    Even after we won WWII, many feared a return to the depression economy. At that moment, however, the United States became the most powerful nation on the planet. It retained massive production capacity and became the cornerstone of a new global monetary system. Moreover, huge global fiscal spending to rebuild Europe and Japan began, which helped prevent the world economy from slipping back into depression. 

    Today, if the world economy remains shut for much longer our only salvation will be massive government fiscal stimulus not seen since the WWII era.

    Chart
    Data by YCharts

    How to Survive the Coronavirus Economic Catastrophe:

    Categories
    Life

    US Hospitals Collapsing

    As the Covid-19 coronavirus case count in the United States grows, the health system is coming under increased pressure and is on the verge of collapsing.

    Cases in the United States are now growing by over 10,000 people per day, with New York City being the worst hit region.

    Whether or not you’re scared of catching Covid-19, you need to consider the hospital system as CLOSED FOR BUSINESS.

    Essentially, if you need to access a hospital you’ll soon be competing against 4.8 million Covid-19 hospital admissions, of which 1.9 million will require intensive care. There aren’t enough beds or ventilators to support this. Soon, doctors will have to choose who lives or dies. This means if you’re older or have pre-existing conditions you’re out of luck. This is what happened in Italy and China.

    Screen Shot 2020 03 06 at 1.41.37 PM

    DO NOT GET SICK!

    Healthcare resources throughout the US are increasingly at max capacity, and now is not the time to suffer some preventable injury. Hospitals in America are quickly becoming hot zones for the virus and many are not equipped to take adequate precautions against the spread within hospitals.

    I am extremely disappointed in our ‘leaders’. We saw this coming a mile away. Yet, officials remained blindly optimistic that their districts were somehow immune. Honestly, I question the intelligence of anyone who didn’t at least consider the possibility of a local outbreak. Really, it comes down to basic math and observation. China doesn’t lock down 60 million people for nothing.

    Worse yet, there ARE people who knew the virus would spread but still denied it so businesses could stay open. They chose to trade human lives for the almighty dollar.

      Well, here we are. Experiencing a health crisis, financial crisis and economic crisis wrapped into one shit-storm. Predictably, the hospitals are already imploding – and it has just begun.

      Here are some quotes from various healthcare workers on the current situation in US hospitals:

      “We’re really at the beginning of this outbreak. And you can feel that. You can sense that. It’s palpable on the front lines in the emergency department. Hospitals are nearing capacity. We are running out of ventilators. Ambulance sirens don’t stop.”

      “If we have multiple frontline health care workers, ER physicians, nurses go down in this epidemic — a situation where you have colleagues taking care of colleagues in the intensive care unit — there’s nothing more destabilizing for the United States.”

      “You have an elderly couple that is having chest pain sitting right next to someone who has a cough and flu. I think that’s extremely reckless.”

      “Last week when I went to work, we talked about the one or two patients amongst the dozens of others that might have been a Covid or coronavirus patient. In my shift yesterday, nearly every single patient that I took care of was coronavirus, and many of them extremely severe. Many were put on breathing tubes. Many decompensated quite quickly. There is a very different air this week than there was last week.”

      “We don’t have the machines, we don’t have the beds. To think that we’re in New York City and this is happening. It’s like a third-world country type of scenario. It’s mind-blowing.”

      This is a sad moment for humanity. It didn’t have to be this way.

      Subscribe now to get your free copy of CoronaCrisis

      The Covid-19 economic crisis is gripping the world. After 20 years in the asset management business, it looks like we are fighting through unprecedented territory.

      This is war. I created a 17 step, 47 page guide to help DumbWealth subscribers get through this.

      I originally planned on printing the guide and selling copies for $20+. Instead I’m giving this away free because I think we all need to help each other during these difficult times.

      Categories
      Work

      True Stories from the Frontlines of the Covid-19 Economic Collapse

      Earlier today, billionaire entrepreneur Marc Cuban offered his services to small businesses under pressure by the coronavirus. He received hundreds of responses.

      These are cries for help from small business owners as they sink below the black. These are family people supporting family people. They know every one of their employees and are forced to make heartbreaking decisions about their fate.

      Below is a selection of true stories from the frontlines of the Covid-19 economic collapse:

      I run a cell phone store and we are seeing lower and lower traffic counts. Our people are paid based on sales and with the low amount of traffic the idea of cutting hours and headcount is becoming more and more likely. I’m working the trenches with my people to keep morale high but at the end of the day morale won’t pay our bills. Thoughts?

      My wife and I own a boutique fitness studio in NYC which was ranked as one of the best fitness studios in NYC by Financial Times and other media outlets. We tried to speak to the landlords – both are billion dollar companies about rent and they refuse to work with us. Our staff relies on us for that extra income and we are giving issues because people simply are told not to go to gyms. “At this moment we are not extending any rent relief. Unless you hear otherwise, please make sure to continue paying on account as per your lease.” We have 13 instructors and staff, which we would essentially cover for as long as we can; however we cannot offer it since the landlords won’t. Our rents are roughly $20K a month. Our entire philosophy is sweat and be push beyond your limit. We are in a growth period with no investors or debt, yet these landlords do not care. We believe it is our civic duty to cut classes and capacity even more than required. We need advice on these landlords both are billion dollar companies. They have insurance for this aspect and our insurance company has a clause that actually voids are contract for something of this sort. Thoughts?

      We survived last major down turn with reducing salaries until things turned around but this is worse

      We manufacture upstream parts for oil rigs in China. 23 employees Texas company. Majorly affected our business as we can not receive parts even if we sell them. Along with Coronavirus the drop in oil prices has greatly affected us as parts we DO have in stock won’t be as needed as rigs stop drilling in the U.S. We do NOT want to lay off or even reduce hours if we don’t need to but have to make some decisions here soon. We survived last major down turn with reducing salaries until things turned around but this is worse 😦 My husband has given his life to his company and we’re sick over having to make decisions that will affect families.Any guidance is appreciated. I suggested possibly a fractional CFO to help? 

      Mark my business designs and manufactures custom awards for the NCAA College Conferences; MLB teams; ESPN; Colleges and Universities and major corporations. With the cancellation of all sporting events and major conventions and conferences my business which is usually at the peak season right now has come to a screeching halt with people trying to cancel orders and no new orders. I do not see this turning around until at least the new academic year starts in the fall of 2020. In the meantime I will need to lay-off the majority of my 31 employees. Given the skill set needed it will be difficult to recover from losing my skilled labor. What would you recommend I do?

      Here’s my question: if I have sent my employees home to work from home, and encouraged them to practice social responsibility and social distancing to do their part in reducing the spread of the virus. But instead you see on social media that they’re out partying with their friends in large groups. Being part of the problem, not the solution. How we can as employers enforce the right behavior? Can I as an employer take disciplinary actions? Or set some ground rules for our newly distant working relationship? Pretty soon the cities/states will shutdown and make this a legal enforcement, but I have educated my employees to do their part NOW! I wonder if Apple (who closed all stores) sent everyone home with “care for the world” packet with instructions. If they did, I’d love to read it! By the way, I run a social media agency so my employees and I are connected thru various social platforms.

      I buy and sell Mobile Homes, I’m doing really good, but I have to purchase agreements for the end of this month. I guess I’m having to buy and hold since in 2 weeks the economy may be in worse shape than now and not many buyers will be willing to drop $20k-$30k for each. Or should I cancel and hold my capital. (Best case scenario, I sell them both within days/weeks and continue to build up in capital during this “recession”)

      Mark, my Dad owns a small salad shop in downtown Denver and he has already laid off 3 people. Do you know how he can apply for governmental funds to help recoup his losses?

      9 yrs ago I started an education resource company. We work with Schools, Libraries, and Afterschool Programs all over the World to make STEM/STEAM accessible to students from all walks of life. As you know, many schools are shutting down and could potentially cause some big challenges for our small business. We currently are running business as usual but expect the school shutdowns to slow business drastically. Any suggestions on how to “flatten the curve” for small businesses? Thanks in advance!

      Mark if my company shuts down and there is a way for me to work from home, are they obligated to let me do my job at home so I can get paid and not laid off ??? I am receptionist for a law firm in NY and can have the calls forwarded to my home landline. Thank you anyway if my question does not get answered but I’m sure your helping so many !!!!

      We have an award-winning Italian olive oil company. For the most part we sell only online. Our product arrived before the Coronavirus outbreak. We were planning on doing wholesale and events with local businesses in addition to e-commerce but doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon. We are concerned about our e-commerce shop and launching our new products because people might be biased against italian products at the moment. Any thoughts?

      Hi Mark, I own a wholesale optical frame business that will be 50 years old next year. It is a family business, and I have been in it almost 40 of those years. I have about 80 people that are on my payroll, and I consider every decision I make as affecting 80 families. While these times are very challenging, I am most concerned about the slow down of the economy and the effects on my employees. I am hoping this is a very short term situation with this virus, and I will work through this one way or another. I do not want any layoffs, if possible. I wish you and the Mavs organization a healthy future. I am a MFFL and am struggling not being able to watch my sports. Let’s all pray for the safety and health of all American citizens and those across the world that are infected by this virus.

      I consider every decision I make as affecting 80 families

      Dear Mark Cuban, I own an event/experiential marketing company. We design and build consumer experiences for agencies, brands, pro athletes, major sports leagues and high traffic events across America. Our business model and solutions are 100% relied on sold-out stadiums and events to drive sales, loyalty and advocacy for our clients. I would be grateful to hear your thoughts on how we can save our business from going under now that all leagues and events have been cancelled.

      I’m in the juice & smoothie industry. Do you think it’s smarter for me to go ahead and close or seek to strategize around it? I’m thinking of delivery and pickup only. Also thinking of discounting and shifting towards immune boosting juices & food. I’m also considering a transparent cleaning process and preparation process via video to ease concerns. I’ve had people text and say they aren’t consuming anything they don’t prepare. Also organizing my financial docs for SBA support as it becomes available.

      So I am an independent tennis coach in Los Angeles, people everywhere are freaking out.. kids going online school- I can’t offer that since it’s an athletic game with repetitive motions. I am going to try to offer online knowledge, but my hunch says parents and players will say wait til this passes.

      I own a small vape company with 2 locations in San Antonio. The issue with the Coronavirus has been affecting me for 2 months already now. Nearly all our products (except e-liquid) comes from China and we have been unable to get inventory since the outbreak in China came on the heels of the Chinese New Year, so it was a double whammy. Sales have been severely impacted due to the inability to acquire inventory. Unfortunately, now that inventory is finally starting to slowly flow in, customers aren’t really coming in because they either think there’s no inventory to buy, or they are social distancing themselves. Worst case scenario for us. The one thing that is NOT going away are our COSTS. Rent, lights and payroll are still there, but sales regrettably are not. Thoughts?

      Dear Mr. Cuban, I own a food startup and have paid to attend the Sweets and Snacks Tradeshow in Chicago in May. We are very small and family owned. Would you recommend we still attend the show, if they hold it? Or fight to get our money back, save the expense of travel and prevent the risk of getting sick?

      I am in the process of buying a duplex. Some friends told me I should proceed while interest is low, and others suggest to not; because who would live in other half at this time? Well- curious to see what you all think about investing in real estate. Would be my first time buying a home… been planning this for a year- but now I’m confused.

      …my whole family depends on this company. Very scary times.

      I’m a consultant, contractor, and some might say idea leader in the mass participant events industry (especially racing, especially running).  We’re dead in the water, many of us may fully go bankrupt or get out.  A community that relies on people being excited to get together in a crowd and encourage each other to be healthy and happy has had its, pun horribly intended, legs cut out from under it.    Obviously you know a thing or two about getting people to get together and have a good time at a big event – what do you see as an opportunity to leverage the reasons people go to events into something that the community can use to keep the fire alive, and support us until the (???) time that events can go on?

      I’m a commercial kitchen designer that specializes in workplace dining. With everyone working from home, I am worried that companies will realize it is cheaper for them to continue this and begin closing and consolidating offices and shutting down these food programs. We were already seeing some movement toward this but thought we would have the better part of a decade before this actually happened. COVID-19 May accelerate this. How does not only my business but this industry survive especially if this becomes accelerated?

      Own a sampling company in CA, all demos cancelled until further notice. Now my 300+ employees all out of work. Going to try and take loans to keep things going as long as possible. My one year old is now out of daycare and my whole family depends on this company. Very scary times.

      I must say, these anecdotes are quite distressing to read. It really does seem like we’re hitting another ‘Great Recession’.

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      Categories
      Life

      Covid-19 Quarantine: Don’t Panic Buy, Prepare

      With the relentless flow of Covid-19 coronavirus news, over the past 48 hours I have read a growing number of reports of panic buying across America and Europe. People are understandably scared of a quarantine and inability to buy groceries.

      Some pics I’ve seen:

      Personally, I haven’t witnessed panic buying but I have seen more shoppers buying party-sized packs of toilet paper. Even if it hasn’t hit the public consciousness yet in your area, there is a segment of the population quietly preparing for the worst.

      I don’t want anyone to panic, but I also think it’s irresponsible to not prepare at all. By not preparing as individuals we could place a greater burden on public health and social services if a crisis occurs, diverting resources from more critical needs.

      While I don’t suggest unnecessary hoarding, I do recommend stockpiling some extra non-perishable goods to get through one month of quarantine. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But as we’ve seen elsewhere, things can go from normal to crisis within days.

      By the time the panic button is pressed you’re shit out of luck. Store shelves will be cleared within hours. We haven’t even reaches crisis levels and Costco crowds are already putting Black Friday mayhem to shame in some parts of America.

      If you’re reading this and you haven’t prepared at all, don’t worry. Take some action instead.

      Here’s a list of items you should get to almost immediately prepare you for the worst:

      • Required medicines
      • Quick oats
      • Rice
      • Crackers
      • Peanut butter
      • Toilet paper
      • Honey
      • Feminine hygiene products

      That’ll probably take care of most of your critical needs if you get stuck at home.

      You won’t be running a 5 star restaurant but you won’t starve either. Treat this as a starting point.

      As you make future trips to the grocery store to buy regular stuff, add a couple extra items for storage. In fact, you can just skip the trips and buy what you need online in the next hour without stopping your Kim’s Convenience binge. Genius.

      In this just-in-time delivery world, society is always just 3 missed meals away from total anarchy. Covid-19 or no Covid-19, you should always have some sort of emergency stash of food in your house.

      While I’m sure I sound like some nut job doomsday prepper, storing a little extra food was the norm throughout human history. It’s all stuff you’re going to use anyway.

      Wealth isn’t just about money. It’s about resources, health, balance. So help protect you and your family by being prepared.

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      Categories
      Investing

      Why Gold is Declining

      The number one question I’ve received this week: why is gold down with the stock market?

      Fair question. Gold is sold as a form of protection against calamity. Were we really sold ‘fools gold’?

      Probably not.

        Gold has a tendency to decline during crises. One only has to look at 2008 for a recent example.

        In 2008, gold prices declined along with everything else. However, after the immediate crisis ended gold prices started a dramatic rise, reaching a record high (around $1900) in 2011.

        So why does gold fall during severe market stress? There are a few possibilities:

        1. Forced selling to cover margin calls.

        As markets collapse, anyone who bought stocks on margin (i.e. borrowed from their broker) will need to put up additional collateral or sell their holdings. Those who don’t want to sell need to add cash to their accounts. On way to do this is to sell holdings that have performed well. Up until last week, gold was performing exceptionally well.

        2. Sell winners.

        Investors sell their winners not only to fund margin calls. They might sell winners so they have cash to redeploy into cheaper stocks. Or they may simply want to increase their cash buffer. Investors tend to sell winners because it is psychologically easier to lock in a gain than a loss.

        3. Rising dollar.

        Most financial crises are accompanied by a dollar shortage. One reason is because investors are reallocating to US Treasuries (which require dollars to buy). The US dollar (and the dollar-denominated Treasury market) is viewed as a safe haven in times of crisis. This causes the value of the dollar to rise. When the value of the dollar rises, the number of dollars required to purchase any asset priced in dollars declines. Gold is priced in US dollars.

        What’s next?

        If this crisis plays out like the last one, central banks will eventually inject massive liquidity into the financial system, which is ultimately good for gold.

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        Categories
        ETFs and Funds

        4 Gold Bullion ETFs in Canada for 2020

        Dig gold? Gold is hot again and the number of supporters is quietly on the rise. Famously, billionaire investors Ray Dalio and Jeff Gundlach have both recently announced their support for the metal but there are many others coming out of the woodwork. After a multi-year hiatus it seems like the case for gold is strong again.

        According to Dalio:

        “…the world is leveraged long, holding assets that have low real and nominal expected returns that are also providing historically low returns relative to cash returns (because of the enormous amount of money that has been pumped into the hands of investors by central banks and because of other economic forces that are making companies flush with cash). I think these are unlikely to be good real returning investments and that those that will most likely do best will be those that do well when the value of money is being depreciated and domestic and international conflicts are significant, such as gold. Additionally, for reasons I will explain in the near future, most investors are underweighted in such assets, meaning that if they just wanted to have a better balanced portfolio to reduce risk, they would have more of this sort of asset. For this reason, I believe that it would be both risk-reducing and return-enhancing to consider adding gold to one’s portfolio.”

        I have also illustrated the case for holding gold in my article “The 60/40 Portfolio is Dead“. In this article I looked at various portfolios (some including gold, others not) across different investing paradigms.

        The past 40 years benefited from the tailwind of declining inflation and interest rates. Clearly, with interest rates near zero today, what worked over the past 40 years won’t work over the next 40 years. So I examined these portfolios going back to 1970 when inflation and interest rates were rising. When examined across both investing paradigms, Gold exposure was shown to stabilize returns and reduce downside.

        Canadian investors looking to buy gold first have to decide whether they want to own gold mining stocks or gold bullion. My preference is gold bullion since it is a pure play on the price of gold. In contrast, gold mining stocks are influenced by extraction costs, equity risk premiums and management decisions, in addition to the price of gold. However, gold miners can be used as a leveraged play on gold since they tend to rise and fall faster than the actual metal.

        For my portfolio construction purposes, an allocation to gold bullion makes the most sense.

        There are a number of ETFs in Canada that buy and hold actual gold bullion stored in vaults. There are also ETFs that gain exposure by purchasing gold futures contracts. I prefer a fund that owns bullion to gold future contracts because I don’t want exposure to the added complexities introduced by the the futures market (e.g. counterparty risk, negative roll yield).

        What Gold Bullion ETFs Exist for Canadian Investors?

        Below I have identified 4 low cost gold bullion ETFs available on the TSX. Note that some are hedged and some are not. For a Canadian investor, owning an unhedged gold ETF, in my opinion, is the purest way to own the metal:

        1a) iShares Gold Bullion ETF CAD Hedged: CGL (MER = 0.56%)

        1b) iShares Gold Bullion ETF Unhedged: CGL.c (MER = 0.55%)

        2a) Purpose Gold Bullion Fund CAD Hedged: KILO (MER = 0.28%)

        2b) Purpose Gold Bullion Fund Unhedged: KILO.b (MER = 0.28%)

        3) Sprott Physical Gold Trust: PHYS (MER = 0.48%)

        4) Canadian Gold Reserves Exchange Traded Receipt: MNT (MER = 0.35%)

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        Categories
        Investing

        Jeff Gundlach on the Next Economic Collapse

        Jeff Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine Capital predicted the election of Donald Trump and the 2007 housing crash. He is now providing insights into the next economic collapse.

        Headshot of Jeff Gundlach

        In 2011, he was featured as “The King of Bonds” in Barron’s, and named one of “5 Mutual Fund All-Stars” by Fortune Magazine. In 2012, he was named one of the “50 Most Influential” by Bloomberg Markets magazine. In 2013, he was named “Money Manager of the Year” by Institutional Investor.

        When Jeff Gundlach speaks, people listen. Unlike most investment managers, he doesn’t hold back and is willing to tell it like he sees it. Listening to Gundlach is like getting a bucket of cold harsh reality poured on your head.

        He was recently interviewed by a Swiss newspaper on what the next recession might look like. Gundlach warns investors to prepare because it will lead to big changes in the market. He argues investors need to reduce risk and own their house free and clear. (in fact, he says anyone with a mortgage should not own stocks.) While there might still be market gains over the near term, when the downturn does come people will be “overwhelmed by problems” with their investments. In particular, he sees big problems with the US corporate bond market.

        “This time the liquidity is going to be very challenging in the corporate bond market. The corporate bond market in the United States is rated higher than it deserves to be. Kind of like securitized mortgages were rated way too high before the global financial crisis. Corporate credit is the thing that should be watched for big trouble in the next recession. Morgan Stanley Research put out an analysis about a year ago. By only looking at leverage ratios, over 30% of the investment grade corporate bond market should be rated below investment grade. So with the corporate bond market being vastly bigger than it’s ever been, we’ll see a lot of that overrating exposed, and prices will probably decline a lot once the economy rolls over. Furthermore, central bank policies have forced investors into asset classes that they usually would be a little bit more hesitant to allocate to.”

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        Gundlach also sees major problems with the US stock market, arguing it will be the worst performing equity market in the world. Why? Partly because it is currently the strongest.

        “The late 1980s saw Japan as invincible with the Nikkei tremendously outperforming every other market to the point where there was incredible overvaluation of Japanese real estate when the recession came in the early 1990s. The Japanese Market was the worst performer. It never made it back to that level. In the advent of the Euro, there was a lot of enthusiasm about the economic prospect of the Euro area, and the stock market in Europe was incredibly strong in 1999, outperforming every other market. When the recession began, it was the worst performing market and never made it back again, broadly speaking. This time US stocks are crushing every other area. It’s due to some fundamentals like the better economy, but also due to tax cuts and share buybacks. In the next recession, corporate bonds will collapse, and buybacks will stop. The dollar has already topped. It may begin falling in earnest during the next downturn and US equities will lose the most. They will probably not make it back to the peak for quite a while. When the US market drops, it will drop a lot.”

        The next recession will see deficit spending balloon. The US is already running $trillion+ deficits and this is supposed to be the best economy ever. The next recession could put upward pressure on interest rates, as demand for funding rises. Of course, the Fed will do everything in its power to combat this, but possibly not until after a crisis emerges. The firefighters don’t show up until the house is ablaze.

        “Powell said he’s going to use large scale asset purchases to fight the next recession. That’s what he said at his last press conference. He could introduce negative interest rates, but I think Powell understands that the US cannot introduce negative interest rates without the entire global financial system collapsing. Because where’s all that capital going to go? Which markets are big enough? Negative rates are the worst thing that could happen in the US. You can see what negative rates have done to the banking system of Japan and Europe. All you’ve got to do is look at the relative performance of bank stocks. The underperformance of European banks is correlated to the yield of the 10-year German Bund. I don’t know if the politicians understand that negative rates are fatal. It’s fatal to Deutsche Bank and insurance companies in Switzerland.”

        So what happens post recession when US public debt levels skyrocket due to massive deficit spending? Suddenly, the problem everyone has ignored could smack the US right in the face, and the US government will look for solutions.

        You could create inflation through universal basic income. That would debase everything. Or you could default on Social Security benefits and welfare benefits. These are the options. We’ll do some combination, maybe raise the eligibility age from 65 to 75. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but what we have now is unsustainable. The debt is unsustainable. Interest rates are unsustainable. The wealth inequality gets worse every minute. It’s already beyond the point of sustainability, and when the next downturn comes, there will be a lot of anger and unrest. …the misery is going to be apparent for a considerable fraction of the population. It’s going to be pretty intense, and the response will be money printing. When Ben Bernanke said, we’ll never have deflation because we have the printing press and when he used the word helicopter money, people thought it was some euphemism, some joke. People thought that that could never happen. Now we have candidates running on it. Kamala Harris has a version of it, Cory Booker has a version of it. And for Andrew Yang it’s the centerpiece of his campaign.”

        Gundlach is not talking about a garden variety recession. This situation – massive debts, slowing growth, rising wealth inequality – has been building for decades and the world is approaching a point at which seismic shifts will occur.

        This situation has taken since 1945 to develop. And it really got going with US-President Ronald Reagan. So I started in this business when the scheme was starting. And we used to think that 8% interest rates were set to last forever, and it was unthinkable that the Fed would buy bonds, inconceivable! And now it’s normal. And free money used to be unthinkable. What people got themselves fooled by was feeling somehow that there’s real stability to societal institutions because they’ve experienced it most of their life. Some still think they’re experiencing it. But they’re not.”

        So what does normal look like?

        In 1970, there were no credit cards. In 1970, there were no car loans. People saved money and bought things. That was normal. The debt-to-GDP ratio was stable. Economic growth was real. It really happened. In 2018, the dollar growth of nominal GDP was less than the dollar growth of the national debt. That means that there is no growth. We’re having an illusion of growth. It means that we’re issuing IOUs and spending it, and it shows up in the calculations as growth. But spending is not growth.