Archive for the ‘Risk’ Category

Happiness Is a Reliable Income Source

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

The content of human happiness is a subject for never-ending speculation and wonder. One aspect of this picture seems to have clarified, however. Retirees consistently say that they are happier when they have a reliable source of income than when they don’t.
Unfortunately, retirement is, by definition, that time of life when earned income ceases. How, then, should a prospective retiree find a reliable income source?
What is a Reliable Source of Income, Anyway?
Surveys of retirees are valuable but potentially misleading. Reactions to the phrase “reliable source of income” will vary not only because people have different needs for security and growth, [...]

To Bail or Not to Bail

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

That is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous equity markets, or to take rise against a sea of portfolio fluctuations – and, by opposing, end them.
Shakespeare’s portfolio decisions are not recorded. Nonetheless, his protagonist in Hamlet displays a psychology remarkably like that of non-professional equity investors. They can’t make up their mind, either. On the one hand, they can still feel the terrifying sensation of the equity downdraft in late 2008 and early 2009. On the other hand, they are obsessed with “getting back” what they lost – and how [...]

Is Health Insurance Really Insurance – Or Something Else?

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Recent passage of the Obama administration’s health-care “reform” package prompts reflection on the underlying meaning of health insurance. This leads to a better understanding of the causes of health-care inflation and proposed remedies.
What is Insurance?
Insurance is a process for the transfer and amelioration of risk. Risk is transferred from risk-averse people to risk managers. The managers are qualified professionals who either bear the risk or reduce it to manageable dimensions by pooling large numbers of risks.
Risk is defined by the variability of possible outcomes. An insurable risk is unpredictable at the individual level but predictable in the aggregate. That distinction [...]

A Worthwhile Economic Indicator

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

The April, 2010, issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine contains an article that is useful on several levels. “Should You Buy or Rent?” is intended as a primer for readers in the market for a home. It does that job well. It may be worth more, however, for something that its author did not intend – providing a leading economic indicator for our time.
Buy or Rent?
The article’s basic purpose is to dampen the ardor of would-be home buyers attracted by the promise of low prices, low interest rates, and a first-time home-buyer tax credit. The fundamental choice faced by potential [...]

The Internet and Retirement

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Some aspects of retirement are eternal and immutable. In other ways, today’s retirees are unlike any others in human history. Living standards depend on productivity, which is spearheaded by technology. Current retirees benefit from a technological revolution of staggering breadth and depth. The Internet provides the nexus to that revolution.
The Internet as Shopping Mall
If the Internet did no more than serve as a mobile shopping mall for retirees, its impact would be dramatic. Aging makes it progressively more difficult for retirees to travel and transact outside the home. Economists describe these difficulties as “transaction costs.” They consist not merely of [...]

Why Aren’t Annuities More Popular?

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Annuities have been around forever. Anybody with any experience in investments is familiar with them. They’re issued by insurance companies, the epitome of financial soundness. Fixed annuities are considered conservative investments. And, to top it all off, their signature feature and unique claim to fame is the ability to provide guaranteed income for life.
Yet, according to one reliable source, “the majority of modern annuity customers use annuities only to accumulate funds and to make lump-sum withdrawals without using the guaranteed-income-for-life feature.” Another source notes that “voluntary annuitization of income is rare.” As a source of income in retirement, private annuity [...]

“In Fed We Trust” Inspires No Trust

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

David Wessel is the Economics Editor of The Wall Street Journal. This is the most successful newspaper in the U.S. It is the leading financial publication in the world. Economics is to the Journal as algebra is to mathematics. And David Wessel is THE Economics Editor.
 That fact is at least as terrifying and depressing as his account of the financial crisis.
 AIG as “Casino”
Mr. Wessel has recently made the rounds of talk shows promoting his story of how the Federal Reserve and Chairman Ben Bernanke saved the world from the next Great Depression. In Fed We Trust is subtitled “Ben Bernanke’s [...]