Personal finance articles aimed to educate and sometimes entertain written by highly experienced Certified Financial Planner with deep expertise in integrating retirement, investment, and tax planning into a well-integrated retirement strategy. (This site is for educational purposes only. See disclaimer.)
A recent Wall Street Journal article, citing a study by the Center for Research in Security Prices, tells us something remarkable about the times we are investing in: the number of stocks on the U.S. market has quietly diminished by more than half over the last 20 years. In November 1997, investors could choose from 7,355 U.S. stocks. Today, there are fewer than 3,600.
Most of the decline has come from vanishing companies ranging from small to microcap — the sort of names you probably haven’t heard of. Small stocks have diminished from more than 2,500 in 1997 to fewer than 1,200 today. Microcap companies that are even smaller numbered nearly 4,000 in 1997, compared to 1,900 today. Some went out of business, while others were gobbled up by larger companies or private equity firms. Meanwhile, instead of new companies going public to replace those that have retired from the market, venture capital firms are allowing younger ventures to stay private for longer.
The article talks about several possible consequences. Since the surviving companies tend to be larger and better known, it becomes harder for professional asset managers to get an information edge or find small undiscovered gems that are undervalued. The declining roster of stocks may also mean that a long era of higher returns from small cap stocks compared to larger firms could be coming to an end or somewhat diminished. But the truth is that nobody knows what the investment consequences will be from the quiet shrinkage of investment options, or for that matter, if this trend will reverse itself.
Should today’s 70-year-old American be considered “old?” How do you define that term these days? Statistically, your average 70-year-old has just a 2% chance of dying within a year. The estimated upper limits of average life expectancy is now 97, and a rapidly growing number of 70-year-olds will live past age 100.
Perhaps more importantly, today’s 70-year-olds are in much better shape than their grandparents were at the same age. In most developed countries, healthy life expectancy from age 50 is growing faster than life expectancy itself, suggesting that the period of diminished vigor and ill health towards the end of life is being compressed.
A recent series of articles in the Economist magazine suggest that we need a new term for people age 65 to 80, who are generally healthy and hearty, capable of knowledge-based work on an equal footing with 25-year-olds, and who are increasingly being shunted out of the workforce as if they were invalids or, well, “old.” Indeed, the arti…
common way to transfer assets to your heirs is also the messiest: to have a
will that is so out of date that it doesn’t relate to your property or estate,
to have your records scattered all over the place, to have social media,
banking and email accounts whose passwords only you can find—and basically to
leave a big mess for others to clean up. Is there
a better way? Recently,
a group of estate planning experts were asked for their advice on a better
process to handle the transfer of assets at your death, and to articulate
common mistakes.The list of mistakes
included the following: Not regularly reviewing documents.What
might have been a solid plan 15 or 20 years ago may not relate to your estate
today. The experts recommended a full
review every three to five years, to ensure that trustees, executors,
guardians, beneficiaries and healthcare agents are all up-to-date.You might also consider creating a master
document which lists all your social media and online accounts and pas…