Financial Articles I’m Reading This Week – 31 May 2019

Mostly off-topic stuff this week. Some great articles here though!

  • A shocking share of the public thinks randomized trials are immoral. Vox. Very surprising– especially the fact that science education doesn’t appear to change this belief.
  • Is the U.S. budget deficit sustainable? MacroMania. Don’t be put off by the mathy parts. You can skip them and get the gist. Here’s a good summary: “What does this mean for fiscal policy going forward? The main conclusion is that the present rate of deficit spending and high level of debt-to-GDP is not something to be alarmed about (especially with inflation running below 2%). The national debt can, will, and probably should continue to grow indefinitely along with the economy. What matters more is how expenditures are directed and how taxes are collected. Of course, this should be done with an eye to keeping long-term inflation in check.”
  • The Mueller Report. U.S. Dept. of Justice. For the past few weeks I’ve heard a lot of people arguing about the contents of this report but very few people have taken a peek themselves. There are two volumes. The first covers Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election in order to benefit the Trump campaign and hinder the Clinton campaign. The second volume covers President Trump’s efforts to hinder the FBI/DOJ investigation of these Russian efforts. Each volume has a six to seven page executive summary. The summaries are extremely readable– no legalese. Read the summaries yourself and don’t be at the mercy of the pundits for your knowledge. Seriously, thirteen pages.
  • How I Would Have Fared on the SAT’s Adversity Score. New Yorker. Controversial subject– I don’t have a comment, I just really liked the article.

Financial Articles I’m Reading This Week – 24 May 2019

Here are a few financial and economic articles that I found interesting this week. Lots of good stuff to read about the US – China trade dispute.

Cognitive Bias Series: Confirmation Bias

This is Part 1 of a series of posts about various cognitive errors that lead to poor investment decisions. Part 1 deals with confirmation bias.

I know that most men—not only those considered clever, but even those who are very clever, and capable of understanding most difficult scientific, mathematical, or philosophic problems—can very seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as to oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty—conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

Tolstoy, What is Art, 1897

The average investor isn’t very good at it

The modern middle class investor beginning their retirement savings has full access to the same investments as the wealthiest and most sophisticated investors. Index funds and ETFs provide a cheap way to invest in the vast majority of global liquid assets. This has made the playing field for investing mostly flat, for the first time in history!

Despite this historically flat playing field, most investors don’t come anywhere close to a “market return”. Blackrock has compiled some data from 1997-2016 showing annual individual asset returns compared to the average investor:

investor underperformance
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Financial Articles I’m Reading This Week – 17 May 2019

Here are a few financial articles that I found interesting this week. Let me know if I missed some!

Stock Buybacks Aren’t Evil

I have read several articles over the past year that include some harsh criticism of corporate stock buybacks. Most include a version of the argument: “President Trump’s tax cuts went primarily to wealthy Americans and corporations. Corporations squandered this windfall with stock buybacks to pump up their own stock price.” This sentiment is a little off-the-mark, but I understand the impulse. So I wanted to take a minute to work out the details on why stock buybacks are not so bad.

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401k Selection: Focus on These Two Things

401k investments are often the entry point for young investors into the market. There are a lot of factors that can and should influence an investor’s strategy for 401k selection, but the two most important decisions are:

  1. Should I invest in a Roth 401k or a Traditional 401k?
  2. What types of assets should I pick within it?
tablet and printed sheets of investment analysis for 401k selection

This article was originally published May 4, 2019 and was updated on September 5, 2022.

Continue reading “401k Selection: Focus on These Two Things”