DEC 31,2014

Partial to penguins

BY KEITH THOMSON

Clearly, I realize this video is a TV advert for the British retailer John Lewis.

Cleverly, it utilizes a John Lennon song to amplify the commercial’s impact.

Creatively, it is a slick piece of marketing that is directly targeted to tug on our heart strings.

And ultimately – at least from my perspective – how did the producers know that I’m partial to penguins? Taking into account all the above, I challenge you to watch this two minute Christmas advert without getting even a little bit choked up.

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Hopefully, as you wind down 2014 spending more time with family and friends you are also reflecting on who and what brings meaning into your life. It is with this thought in mind, and the moral of the story from “Monty the Penguin”, that I wish you all the best for the season and a very happy New Year.

Merry Christmas!

These monthly blog posts are sent with my hope to provide context and content around “Wealth with Wisdom”.

 

NOV 27, 2014

If you missed the rally…

BY KEITH THOMSON

There are two types of people in the world – those that are too classy to tell you, “I told you so” … and then there’s me! You may recall last month’s Wealth With Wisdom, “Another Garden Variety Correction”. It was all about how we had a very minor and very to-be-expected correction (at least in the Canadian market). I believe the article below serves as an excellent follow up piece. 

If You Missed The Rally, Then You Just Made The Most Classic Mistake In Investing

By: Sam Rao

The past two months have been challenging for stock market investors. The S&P 500 quickly tumbled 9.8% from its Sept. 19 all-time high of 2,019 to as low as 1,820 on Oct. 15.

Because of the way our brains work, most of us worried about the possibility that this correction was turning into an outright market crash. Our instinct was to dump stocks. Surely, many investors sold and told themselves they would “wait out the volatility” on the sidelines. A confident few likely even shorted the market.

However, history shows this is the most classic mistake investors make. So, kudos to those who held on to their long positions.

“Corrections are part and parcel of the investment process, they come and go, and it is imperative to take a deep breath and realize that what is most important for building wealth is not ‘timing’ the market but rather ‘time in’ the market,” David Rosenberg said on Oct. 14. The S&P has been surging since Rosenberg wrote that.

“Time in” the market is crucial, especially when things get scary for investors. There’s tons of data on this. We talk about it all of the time. Even the folks who sold the sell-off probably know about it. But let’s revisit some of the data anyway.

Missing A Few Good Days Will Destroy Your Long-Term Returns

When volatility picks up, it’s tempting to trade in and out of the market with the hope you’ll protect your wealth. Unfortunately, this increases the risk you’ll miss some of the best days in the market. And that can be very costly.

JPMorgan Asset Management illustrated how much an investor’s returns collapsed when they missed a few of the best days in the market. They found that if an investor stayed fully invested in the S&P 500 from 1993 to 2013, they would’ve had a 9.2% annualized return.

However, if trading resulted in missing just the ten best days during that same period, then those annualized returns would collapse to 5.4%.

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Missing these days do so much damage because those missed gains aren’t able to compound during the rest of the investment holding period.

“Plan to stay invested,” they recommend. “Trying to time the market is extremely difficult to do consistently. Market lows often result in emotional decision making. Investing for the long-term while managing volatility can result in a better outcome.”

Keith here – To close this month’s Wealth With Wisdom I once again quote from the wisdom of Warren Buffet,”Our capital markets are simply a relocation center; they relocate the wealth from the impatient to the patient.”

These monthly blog posts are sent with my hope to provide context and content around “Wealth with Wisdom”.

OCT 31, 2014

Another garden variety correction

BY KEITH THOMSON

As I write this, for the first time in over three years we have had a market correction (as defined by at least 10% pull back) in Canada.  Interestingly, this did not occur in the US with the broader market not quite hitting the 10% marker.

What is also interesting about this most recent spate of volatility is not that it happened, but that it took so long to happen! For more context on this most recent market “plunge” I once again turn to the wisdom of Morgan Housel.

Some Things to Remember About Market Plunges

By Morgan Housel
October 16, 2014

The funniest thing about markets is that all past crashes are viewed as an opportunity, but all current and future crashes are viewed as a risk.

For months, investors have been saying a pullback is inevitable, healthy, and should be welcomed. Now, it’s here, with the S&P 500 down about 10% from last month’s highs.

Enter the maniacs.

“Carnage.”

“Slaughter.”

“Chaos.”

Those are words I read in finance blogs this morning.

By my count, this is the 90th 10% correction the market has experienced since 1928. That’s about once every 11 months, on average. It’s been three years since the last 10% correction, but you would think something so normal wouldn’t be so shocking.

But losing money hurts more than it should, and more than you think it will. In his bookWhere Are the Customers’ Yachts?, Fred Schwed wrote:

There are certain things that cannot be adequately explained to a virgin either by words or pictures. Not can any description I might offer here ever approximate what it feels like to lose a chunk of money that you used to own.

That’s fair. One lesson I learned after 2008 is that it’s much easier to say you’ll be greedy when others are fearful than it is to actually do it.

Regardless, this is a critical time to pay attention as an investor. One of my favorite quotes is Napoleon’s definition of a military genius: “The man who can do the average thing when all those around him are going crazy.” It’s the same in investing. You don’t have to be a genius to do well in investing. You just have to not go crazy when everyone else is, like they are now.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you along.

Unless you’re impatient, innumerate, or an idiot, lower prices are your friend
You’re supposed to like market plunges because you can buy good companies at lower prices. Before long, those prices rise and you’ll be rewarded.

But you’ve heard that a thousand times.

There’s a more compelling reason to like market plunges even if stocks never recover.

The psuedoanonymous blogger Jesse Livermore asked a smart question this year: Would you rather stocks soared 200%, or fell 66% and stayed there forever? Literally, never recovering.

If you’re a long-term investor, the second option is actually more lucrative.

That’s because so much of the market’s long-term returns come from reinvesting dividends. When share prices fall, dividend yields rise, and the compounding effect of reinvesting dividends becomes more powerful. After 30 years, the plunge-and-no-recovery scenario beats out boom-and-normal-growth market by a quarter of a percentage point per year.

On that note, the S&P 500’s dividend yield rose from 1.71% in September to 1.82% this week. Whohoo!

Plunges are why stocks return more than other assets
Imagine if stocks weren’t volatile. Imagine they went up 8% a year, every year, with no volatility. Nice and stable.

What would happen in this world?

Nobody would own bonds or cash, which return about zero percent. Why would you if you could earn a steady, stable 8% return in stocks?

In this world, stock prices would surge until they offered a return closer to bonds and cash. If stocks really had no volatility, prices would rise until they yielded the same amount as FDIC-insured savings accounts.

But then — priced for perfection with no room for error — the first whiff of real-world realities like disappointing earnings, rising interest rates, recessions, terrorism, ebola, and political theater sends them plunging.

So, if stocks never crashed, prices would rise so high that a new crash was pretty much guaranteed. That’s why the whole history of the stock market is boom to bust, rinse, repeat. Volatility is the price you have to be willing to pay to earn higher returns than other assets.

They’re not indicative of the crowd
It’s easy to watch the market fall 500 points and think, “Wow, everyone is panicking. Everyone is selling. They know something I don’t.”

That’s not true at all.

Market prices reflect the last trade made. It shows the views of marginal buyers and marginal sellers — whoever was willing to buy at highest price and sell at the lowest price. The most recent price can represent one share traded, or 100,000 shares traded. Whatever it is, it doesn’t reflect the views of the vast majority of shareholders, who just sit there doing nothing.

Consider: The S&P fell almost 20% in the summer of 2011. That’s a big fall. But at Vanguard — one of the largest money managers, with more than $3 trillion — 98% of investors didn’t make a single change to their portfolios. “Ninety-eight percent took the long-term view,” wrote Vanguard’s Steve Utkus. “Those trading are a very small subset of investors.”

A lot of what moves day-to-day prices are computers playing pat-a-cake with themselves. You shouldn’t read into it for meaning.

They don’t tell you anything about the economy
It’s easy to look at plunging markets and think it’s foretelling something bad in the economy, like a recession.

But that’s not always the case.

As my friend Ben Carlson showed yesterday, there have been 13 corrections of 10% or more since World War II that were not followed by a recession. Stocks fell 35% in 1987 with no subsequent recession.

There is a huge disconnect between stocks and the economy. The correlation between GDP growth and subsequent five-year market returns is -0.06 — as in no correlation whatsoever, basically.

Vanguard once showed that rainfall — yes, rainfall — is a better predictor of future market returns than trend GDP growth, earnings growth, interest rates, or analyst forecasts. They all tell you effectively nothing about what stocks might do next.

So, breathe. Go to the beach. Hang out with your friends. Stop checking your portfolio. Life will go on.

Source: https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/10/16/some-things-to-remember-about-market-plunges.aspx

Keith here – what we have recently experienced, at least in Canada, is a garden variety correction. We have had many of them in the past and we will have many of them in the future. If you remember only one thing from this missive it is this … volatility is the price we must pay in order to enjoy the superior returns that stocks provoke over the long term.

These monthly blog posts are sent with my hope to provide context and content around “Wealth with Wisdom”.

 

OCT 2, 2014

What REALLY matters

BY KEITH THOMSON

To be frank, I find that over 90 % of what I read on the web as it relates to “investment advice” is complete nonsense. Having said that, I am always on the look out for those individuals who are worth reading and listening to and streaming them through my customized RSS feed. I use the free app Mr Reader that has saved me countless hours of separating the wisdom from the “noise”. Joshua Brown is one of those individuals worth listening to. Given that we have not had a correction for over two years of 10% or more, his comments are all the more timely.

The Challenge*
By Joshua M. Brown

“The hardest part about what we in the advice business do is managing investor expectations and behavior. The other stuff may be more interesting or get lots of attention – but it’s largely secondary. My friend James Osborne did an important post about asset allocation last summer that got me thinking more about this topic today.

Thanks to quantitative databases filled with market stats, software programs brimming with options and spectacular advances in asset management products, the portfolio allocation part is much easier than ever before. We can all create models or use the portfolios of outside managers and demonstrate their efficacy with a nearly unlimited array of backtesting and projection tools.

This is an age of miraculous efficiency, unprecedented innovation and incredibly democratized market knowledge.

But that’s the fun part. That’s not the challenge.

The real challenge is keeping our clients from acting on their worst instincts. It’s keeping the Recency Bias in check, the performance-chasing impulse restrained and the grass-is-greener wolf away from the door. Easy in theory, hard in the real world.

If we can do these things day-in and day-out, with the vast majority of our practice, we are going to be successful advisors whose clients are able to retire and fund their hopes and dreams.

If we cannot, then our clients will fail and, eventually, so will we.

It’s very simple.

I don’t care how “optimized” our models are or how much math we have behind them – if we can’t keep our clients in them, what’s the difference? A fantastic portfolio that our clients can’t stick to is worthless, we may as well be throwing darts at ETFs.

It won’t merely be the depth of the next sell-off, but the duration of it that will give us the most trouble. Investors will have the urge to sell or to trust the first charlatan they hear crowing in the media about how they called the top. They’ll be drawn to strategies and funds that happened to have done well in a short period of time because they will be convinced that they offer “the answer” – all of the upside, none of the downside. They will second-guess everything that once made sense to them once the old stress fractures of the market become visible again. They will forsake the data that tells them not to act rashly, opting instead for whatever seems to be the quickest fix – a move to cash, a move to gold, a Black Swan fund…anything!

They will, once again, ignore history and even common sense. They will forget all about the things that matter and the time frame that is relevant.

They will, in short, behave as investors always have since the beginning. And in some cases, it will cost them everything.

The automated (robo) advisors will run into this problem during the next downturn, as will I and virtually all of my industry peers. Our responses will be all over the map.

Some advisors will emerge from this period having done more for their clients than others. Some will fight the tide and work their asses off on education and communication to get their clients through. Others will fail. They will rely on email blasts or try to run out the clock or even worse – they’ll give in to the worst requests and demands of the clients they’ve sworn to protect. They’ll violate a sacred trust in the name of expediency, allowing investors to work against themselves out of a misplaced fear of “losing the relationship.”

It’s best to start thinking about this sort of thing now, in the salad days, and to be preparing ourselves for the inevitable. Even if it doesn’t begin this year or next. It’s coming. How we prepare our practices and our people in advance will be critical.

This is the challenge. This is how advisor fees are either earned or not.

Portfolios are now free – valueless. Advice, on the other hand, is invaluable – but only if it’s delivered with meaning and when it counts.”

Keith here – As I mentioned at the beginning of this missive we have not had a meaningful correction for over two years. It is not a matter of “if” but “when“. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am in no way trying to predict the short term movement of the market but only that you have to keep in mind what Benjamin Graham once said, “Bear markets are when stocks return to their rightful owners”.

These monthly blog posts are sent with my hope to provide context and content around “Wealth with Wisdom”.

 

AUG 7, 2014

The gratitude principal

BY KEITH THOMSON

A couple of weekends ago my wife Tanja, my 9 year old daughter Kiera, and I traveled to Chicago to experience a little bit of what that great city has to offer. One of those newer experiences was Chicago 360° in which you are tilted 30 degrees from the top of the John Hancock Center. Our family had a wonderful time in the Windy City which had me thinking about the topic of this month’s Wealth With Wisdom…  the concept of gratitude.

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I seem to spend so much time writing about how to make and keep money that I sometimes feel that I/we don’t take enough time to be truly thankful for all that we have. Much has been written about the 1 % which, if you are reading this, you are probably a member in good standing. Then again, just being born and or living in Canada is as if  we have all won the lottery of the universe!

When I tuck Kiera into bed I have developed the habit of asking her, “What are you thankful for or what are you grateful for today?”. Perhaps it’s the kind of question we should all be asking ourselves every single day.

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Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

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JUL 17, 2014

Wealth with wisdom – some of you must fail

BY KEITH THOMSON

In a previous Wealth With Wisdom blog I wrote that Morgan Housel, who writes for the Motley Fool website, is one of the very few individuals I feel who is worth paying attention to online when it comes to investment and financial planning advice. What really bugs me is that this guys has developed tremendous investing wisdom at the ripe old age of 30! See below for another one of his classic commentaries. 

Some of You Must Fail

By Morgan Housel

Bad news, investors. Some of you must fail. Not probably, or unfortunately, but must. Professional, amateur. Hedge fund manager, day trader, indexer, 401(k) saver. Some of you must fail. It’s a necessity of how markets work. According to Dalbar and other research groups, the average U.S. stock investor has underperformed the market by between three and seven percentage points per year during the last 30 years, depending on how it’s calculated. Most of this is due to what New York Times columnist Carl Richards calls the behavior gap: a parade of dumb decisions where the average investor buys high and sells low. This classic Carl sketch sums it up:

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Avoiding this behavior is the holy grail of successful investing. And some people — many people — can be taught to behave better. But the reality is that, as a group, we never can, never will.

Why? Because markets must always crash. Decades ago, economist Hyman Minsky wrote about a paradox. Stability is destabilizing, he said. If stocks never crashed, we’d all think they were safe. If we all thought they were safe, we’d rationally bid up prices and make them expensive. When stocks are expensive, the inevitable whiff of danger, uncertainty, or randomness sends them crashing. So, a lack of crashes plants the seeds for a new crash.

And what is a crash? It’s people who bought high succumbing to selling low, falling for the same doom-loop behavior Carl’s sketch portrays.

The reason stocks offer great long-term returns is because they are volatile in the short run. That’s the price you have to pay to earn higher returns than non-volatile assets, like bank CDs. Wharton professor Jeremy Siegel once said, “volatility scares enough people out of the market to generate superior returns for those who stay in.” Those are inspirational words for investors who assume they are brave enough to stay in; but not everyone can. The volatility that sets the stage for superior returns is just a reflection of someone getting scared out of the market in real time.

Put this together, and you get an unfortunate truth that stocks offer superior returns for some because they offer a miserable experience for others. Without the misery, markets wouldn’t offer big returns, and without the prospect of big returns, markets will crash and cause misery. That’s why some investors must fail.

All investors I know say they’ll be greedy when others are fearful. They never assume that they, themselves, will be the fearful ones. But someone has to be, by definition. With stocks at all-time highs, few people will tell you, “If my portfolio falls 20%, I’m going to panic sell and cash out.” They’re more likely to say that a 20% decline would be a buying opportunity. This is the right attitude, but the reason there will be a 20% crash is specifically because investors choose panic selling over opportunistic buying. My experience is that most investors who say they’ll be greedy when others are fearful soon realize that they are the “others.” It has to be this way: When everyone thinks they’re a contrarian, at least half will be wrong.

Soon after market meltdowns, journalists and financial advisors come together and ask: When will investors learn from their mistakes? How many times must we buy high and sell low before we learn to behave better?

I’ve come to realize the answer is “never.” As a group, at least. If people stopped acting dumb, markets would be stable, and if markets were stable, they’d be expensive; and when they’re expensive, people act dumb. It’s a feedback loop that was true 1,000 years ago and will be true 1,000 years from now. I think it’s an accurate description of what a market actually is.

Coming to terms with this taught me a couple things.

One, nothing that most people fail at is easy, so we shouldn’t assume it’s easy to watch our portfolios crash and remain unshakably calm, or stay levelheaded during a big rally. When the average investor doesn’t come within hailing distance of an index fund, you’re fooling yourself if you think investing will be an emotional cakewalk. Over time, the investor willing to endure the steepest emotional roller coaster will win.

Two, the best thing you can do to up your odds of success is to repeat to yourself, over and over again, that a market crash is not a bug or an indication that something is wrong. It is, quite literally, the admission fee for being able to earn superior long-term returns — like a stressful work project that lets you earn a big bonus.

Best of luck to all of you, but my deepest sympathies to some of you.

For more articles by Morgan Housel, please click here.

These monthly blog posts are sent with my hope to provide context and content around “Wealth with Wisdom”.

 

JUN 10, 2014

Peculiar traits of rich people

BY KEITH THOMSON

One of the ways I filter out 99.9% of the media noise all of us are exposed to on a regular basis is to have set up an RSS feed on my computer that I check once a day. In this way I can access the wisdom of only those individuals who, over the years, I feel have something truly worthwhile to say. One of those individuals is Morgan Housel who writes for the Motley Fool website. I had one of those “I wish I wrote that” moments when I read the following article. One of the ways I filter out 99.9% of the media noise all of us are exposed to on a regular basis is to have set up an RSS feed on my computer that I check once a day. In this way I can access the wisdom of only those individuals who, over the years, I feel have something truly worthwhile to say. One of those individuals is Morgan Housel who writes for the Motley Fool website. I had one of those “I wish I wrote that” moments when I read the following article.

Peculiar Traits of Rich People

By: Morgan Housel

Three things the rich do differently

The funniest thing I’ve noticed about rich people is how little their income has to do with their wealth. Mike Tyson earned $300 million during his career and went broke. An orphaned, unmarried administrative assistant died with millions in the bank. A lot of rich people aren’t exceptionally talented at what they do. They just have quirks and habits that let them think differently about money than the rest of us.

Here are three I’ve noticed.

They are (mostly pleasant) sociopaths

I’m convinced that nearly every rich person has the characteristics of a sociopath. Not in a cruel, soulless way. But sociopaths can disregard emotional events that cause normal people to worry and panic. Great investors can do that, too. They can watch stocks fall 50% and shrug their shoulders or see 10 million people lose their jobs and remain unshakably calm. In her book Confessions of a Sociopath, M.E. Thomas writes:

Sharks see in black-and-white. Scientists have suggested that contrast against background may be more helpful than color for predators in detecting potential prey, helping them to focus on crucial spatial relationships rather than extraneous details. I’m color-blind in a way that makes mass hysteria seem particularly striking in contrast to normal, expected behavior. My lack of empathy means I don’t get caught up in other people’s panic. It gives me a unique perspective. And in the financial world, being able to think opposite the pack is all you need.

Napoleon’s definition of a military genius was “The man who can do the average thing when all those around him are going crazy.” Rich people are similar. They remain normal when everyone else can’t.

They care about time periods most can’t comprehend
There are four ways to invest:

  1. Unsuccessfully

  2. Long-term (varying degrees of success)

  3. Short term, successful due to luck

  4. Short term, successful due to manipulation/fraud

That’s the complete list. Nos. 3 and 4 eventually become No. 1.

Long-term investing is the only sane choice. But it’s unnatural. We’re hardwired to grab immediate gains and avoid immediate threats. That’s why we eat donuts and watch CNBC.

My friend Carl Richards made a great sketch last week:

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As Carl notes, studies show that we have the same emotional connection to ourselves 30 years in the future as we do an unknown third-party today. Rich people have the rare ability to bridge that emotional gap. They are allergic to the short run. “If you look carefully,” Bill Bonner writes in his book Family Fortunes, “almost all Old Money secrets can be traced to a single source: a longer-term outlook.”

In August 1929, John Raskob wrote an article called “Everyone Ought to Be Rich.” All you had to do was buy stocks and hold them for a long time, he wrote. Two months later, the market crashed. It fell 88% over the next four years. To this day, people cite Raskob’s article as a sign of irrational hype. But was it? Anyone who bought stocks the day it hit the stands increased their wealth sixfold over the next 30 years, adjusted for inflation. Missing this is why everyone ought to be rich, but few are.

They don’t give a damn what you think of them
Dilbert creator Scott Adams once wrote: “One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard goes something like this: If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. It sounds trivial and obvious, but if you unpack the idea it has extraordinary power.”

The price of being rich is really simple: You must live below your means.

But living below your means is hard. Most people want to be rich to impress other people. They do this by spending money, which is the surest way to have less of it.

The reason so many Americans are in dire financial shape is because their aspirations, desires, and wants have grown faster than their incomes. That’s why the size of the median home has increased by 30% over the last 25 years while the median income has barely budged. For every $1 raise most people receive, their desires grow by perhaps $1.10. This is the express lane to disappointment.

Rich people avoid this trap. They care less about what others think of them than ordinary people do. They don’t give a damn, actually. They can get a raise without buying a new car or have a great year in the market and not blow it on a new watch. A lot of them are after control over their time, which comes from having a wide gap between what they can afford to buy and what they actually buy. They are more impressed with retiring early than $90 T-shirts or $20 cocktails. It’s classic Millionaire Next Door stuff.

Having the emotional backbone to drive an uglier car than you can afford, live in a smaller house you can afford, eat out less often than you can afford, and wear cheaper clothes than you can afford is rare. In my experience, less than 10% of people can do it in a meaningful way. It’s the cost of being rich, and most people have no desire to pay the price.

“A miser grows rich by seeming poor,” poet William Shenstone wrote. “An extravagant man grows poor by seeming rich.” I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.

For more articles by Morgan Housel, please click here.

These monthly blog posts are sent with my hope to provide context and content around “Wealth with Wisdom”.

 

FEB 24, 2014

It’s getting better all the time

BY KEITH THOMSON

Last month I had the opportunity to travel down to L.A. for a conference hosted by Peter Diamandis. For those of you not familiar with Diamandis, he is best known as the founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation. This $10 million competition was intended to inspire a new generation of private passenger carrying spaceships. Ultimately the winning team sold their technology to Richard Branson’s company under the name of Virgin Galactic  which expects to carry the first passengers into space later this year. Besides covering new developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, 3-D printing and robotics, much of the conference was devoted to the improving state of the world.

Ironically, in 1958 economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s best-selling “The Affluent Society” assured us that living standards had risen so far they couldn’t rise any further. In 1960 Professor Paul Erlich concluded that 65 million Americans would perish from famine in the 1980s and food riots would kill millions more. “Scientific America” predicted in 1970 that in 20 years the world would be out of lead, zinc, tin, gold and silver. And Jimmy Carter’s 1980 “Global 2000” report forecast that mass starvation and super plagues would ravage the globe in the final year of the millennium.

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Peter Diamandis, me, and the world’s largest name tag. 

They all more or less agreed with English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, that our lives would be “solitary, nasty, brutish and short”. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite has turned out to be the case. Optimists have turned out to be mostly correct, pessimists, alarmingly misguided, consider the following; life expectancy in Canada has increased from 50 years at the beginning of the 20th century to 81 in 2009; infant mortality  alone is down 45% since 1980.

Incomes are up. Inflation-adjusted per capita income has doubled since 1960 and we’re working less for more money. The average North American worked 66 hours a week in 1850, 53 hours in 1900, and 42 today. Poverty is down. Twenty-two percent of North Americans lived in poverty in 1960. By 2005 that rate had declined to 10.8%.

All this progress is not just in Canada, the U.S. or other wealthy nations. Middle-class men and women in Europe and North America live better than 99.4% of humans who have ever lived. In 1975 the average income in developing nations was $2,125 per capita. Today (inflation adjusted) it is $4,000. Global adult literacy was 47% in 1970. Thirty years later it was 73%. Democratic capitalism triumphed over communism without a shot being fired. The best governmental and economic system the world has ever known simply crushed the century’s worst idea. Of course, there are calamities – terror attacks, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and famine – but they are not caused by global progress or democratic capitalism. No doubt today’s world can be improved – and is constantly improving – but that is no reason to insist falsely that it is calamitous, dysfunctional, or doomed. Rather than nasty, brutish and short, 21st century life is good, comfortable and long, and getting better all the time.

These monthly blog posts are sent with my hope to provide context and content around “Wealth with Wisdom”.