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Private Equity, Venture Capital Outpace Public Equities in 2022 Higher Education Endowments
Despite negative investment performance and a drop in asset values in 2022, endowments provided $25.85 billion in financial support in fiscal 2022, a NACUBO-TIAA study found.
The most important pros and cons of investing in SIPPs
A self-invested personal pension (SIPP) can be a great way to save for your retirement. There are lots of different providers out there each offering their own take on a SIPP, but what are the pros and cons of investing in SIPPs?
In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about SIPPs, from how they work, to key rules, to how to best benefit from using one. So, continue reading if you are considering saving in a SIPP but don’t know where to start.
Also consider: Best Pension Providers for Private Pensions
- A SIPP is a type of personal pension that gives you a greater amount of control over how your money is invested.
- Contributions to your SIPP offer varying degrees of tax relief, depending on your marginal rate of Income Tax.
- You may face higher fees and charges with a SIPP compared to other types of personal pension.
- Once you reach age 55 (57 in 2028), you can withdraw a 25% lump sum totally tax-free from your pension. After this, you’ll usually pay tax on withdrawals.
Some of the top SIPP providers
- Finds and consolidates all existing pensions for you
- Provides a low cost solution to all your pension needs
- No fees for transferring, combining, contributing to and withdrawing pensions
- SIPP costs £12.99 a month
- Free to join and free to leave
- Trading costs: £7.99 for UK shares and ETFs, funds, investment trusts and US shares
- Pensions Options: DIY & Ready-made
- Annual Fee: 0% – 0.25%
- Min. Investment: £1,000 lump-sum. No minimum for regular pension contributions
- Best for Self-employed
- Annual Fee: 0.4% – 0.88%
- Min. Investment: £0
The benefits of investing in a SIPP
A SIPP can be a great method for saving towards your retirement. Not only is it relatively tax-efficient, but it also gives you the opportunity to invest and potentially grow your pension savings.
Continue reading to discover the benefits of a SIPP.
You have greater control over how your money is invested with a SIPP
With a SIPP, you have a greater amount of control over how your money is invested.
With a standard personal pension, your money is typically invested for you by a fund manager.
Through a SIPP, you can choose the investments you make with your pension fund, including company shares, investment funds, and even commercial property like shops or offices.
While this does mean you may have to spend some time researching the different investment opportunities, the investment potential is almost endless with a SIPP.
There are a wide variety of investment options in a SIPP
As mentioned, you have a huge variety of different investment options with a SIPP.
Some of the instruments you can invest in include:
As the name suggests, this involves purchasing shares in companies, meaning you own a stake in the business.
The value of these wholly depends on how the market is performing at the time, so it may be prudent to diversify your share purchases across different sectors to soften the blow should a specific sector or industry take a downturn.
If you aren’t as confident choosing company shares, or simply don’t have the time to worry about doing so, you can instead invest in funds.
This involves giving your money to a specialist fund manager who then invests in shares for you.
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
ETFs are another type of pooled investment much like funds. Unlike other funds, however, ETFs typically track a particular index or commodity, such as the FTSE or gold.
They are purchased in the same way shares are and could potentially be more suited for those looking to invest for the long term.
You can also invest in commercial property with a SIPP. For example, many business owners choose to buy their own commercial premises using their SIPP.
Once the property is held in a SIPP, any rent due will also be paid into the SIPP, helping to boost your retirement fund.
Alternatively, you could buy units in investment vehicles that focus on property, such as real estate investment trusts (REITs).
You should keep in mind that the value of your investments can fall as well as rise, so you may get back less than you invested. You should also be prepared for any volatility or short-term changes in value.
Investing money in a SIPP is tax-efficient
Any returns you make from investments in your SIPP are protected from Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and Income Tax. You will only need to pay Income Tax on withdrawals made above your 25% lump sum – this makes them a tax-efficient way to save for your retirement.
Better yet, any contributions you make will qualify for tax relief at your marginal rate of Income Tax. This means a £100 contribution only “costs” you:
- £80 if you pay basic-rate Income Tax.
- £60 if you pay higher-rate Income Tax
- £55 if you pay additional-rate Income Tax.
You’ll need to claim higher- or additional-rate tax relief through a self-assessment tax return.
You can consolidate your pension savings in a SIPP
A SIPP is also a great way to consolidate your existing pensions under one roof.
Not only will consolidating your pensions make them less of a headache to deal with, but you may also be able to reduce the charges and fees you need to pay.
By switching to a pension plan with a better deal or set of investment options, you could even boost your retirement income in the long term through smart investments or better rates.
The disadvantages of investing in a SIPP
Even though SIPPs can be a great way to save toward your retirement, they do come with some downsides that you should keep in mind before contributing to one.
Read on to find out more about some of these disadvantages.
You need to know what you’re doing
As mentioned, SIPPs give you access to a wide variety of choices when it comes to investments. This is a double-edged sword, however, as you will be responsible for making all your own investment choices.
If you were to make some poor investments due to a lack of knowledge or research, for example, there is a chance your fund will not grow to the level you need to achieve your desired retirement lifestyle.
The good news is, however, that some SIPP providers may offer to manage your investments for you, though this may come with additional charges.
You may face additional costs or charges
There are quite a few different potential costs or charges you may face when using a SIPP. You should shop around when looking for SIPP providers, as some may offer a low-cost SIPP that has lower fees and charges.
Of course, these may vary between providers, so it may be worth finding these out before opening an account.
Some of these fees may include:
Some SIPP providers may charge you simply for using their platform. This may come in the form of a monthly, quarterly, or yearly flat fee, or a percentage of your investments.
Share trading charges
Some SIPP providers may also charge you for trading company shares or investment funds.
This is typically presented as a percentage of the amount you invest in a company or fund. Again though, some providers may have differing fee structures, so you should double-check this before you invest.
Fund manager charges
If you would prefer to steer clear of company shares and instead invest in funds, there’s a chance you may have to pay a management charge.
This is understandable, as these fund managers are handling your money for you. Again, this will usually be a percentage of the amount you have invested in them.
Your investments could lose value
As with all types of investing, there is a chance your investments could decrease in value.
Of course, there are ways to limit potential loss, such as diversifying your portfolio or doing proper research before you invest, but sometimes there’s inevitable loss.
Take Covid, for example – it would have been difficult to predict an event that would have such negative effects on the global markets, regardless of industry or sector.
Market downturns like this could have a severe impact on your retirement savings, potentially affecting the lifestyle you can afford.
There is a limit on tax relief and tax on withdrawals
As mentioned previously, contributions made to your SIPP receive tax relief. However, this tax relief is only applied up to the pension Annual Allowance. In the 2022/23 tax year, this is up to £40,000 or 100% of your earnings, whichever is lower.
Fast forward to age 55 (57 by 2028), and the good news is that you can withdraw 25% of your pension as a tax-free lump sum. The bad news is that this is the only time you can make a tax-free withdrawal throughout your life.
After you have withdrawn your 25% tax-free lump sum, you will typically be subject to Income Tax on withdrawals from your pension fund that exceed your yearly Personal Allowance.
In the 2022/23 tax year, your Personal Allowance stands at £12,570.
Once you have reached your Personal Allowance, you will typically pay tax on withdrawals depending on your Income Tax band.
The pension Lifetime Allowance
There is also a pension Lifetime Allowance (LTA), which puts a limit on the total amount you can save in all your pensions including a SIPP over your life while still reaping the benefits of the tax efficiency.
As of the 2022/23 tax year, this Lifetime Allowance stands at £1,073,100 and has been frozen at this amount until 2025/26.
While you can go over your LTA, you will typically pay tax on the excess. If you do go over your Lifetime Allowance, you can withdraw the excess as a lump sum, though you will pay a tax charge of 55%.
Meanwhile, drawing income that exceeds the LTA will incur a 25% tax charge on top of your marginal rate of Income Tax.
How exactly does a SIPP work?
A SIPP, standing for “self-invested personal pension” is a pension that gives you a larger amount of flexibility and control over how your money is invested and how much you contribute. It is for this reason that you may see a SIPP being described as a “DIY pension”.
A SIPP is also completely separate from your existing State Pension and can be contributed to alongside a workplace pension.
Bear in mind that your Annual Allowance applies to all pensions you have.
You can even use a SIPP to replace a workplace pension altogether by asking your employer to pay into your SIPP instead of your workplace pension.
Ask your employer if they would be willing to contribute to your SIPP instead if this is something you’re interested in.
What are the rules for a SIPP?
Anyone under the age of 75 can contribute to a SIPP.
As with other types of pensions, you will need to wait until you reach the age of 55 before you can withdraw money from your pension without facing a tax charge of 55%. This minimum withdrawal age is set to rise to 57 in 2028.
How much do SIPP providers charge?
As mentioned previously in this article, SIPP providers charge a range of different fees.
However, depending on the provider, the fee structure can often vary.
For example, some providers may charge you a fixed flat monthly or yearly platform fee for using their SIPP, whereas some providers may charge you a percentage of your held assets and savings.
It is for this reason you should shop around for the different pension plans on offer to compare and find out which one would best suit your needs.
Read my article on some of the best SIPP providers if you would like to discover some of the different plans on offer.
Can a non-UK resident open a SIPP?
Unfortunately, if you are not a UK resident, you won’t be able to open a SIPP. This is because you need a UK address in order to open one.
There is, however, the option of an international SIPP. This operates much like a UK-based SIPP except you can open it as an expat.
You should keep in mind that, unlike their UK-based counterparts, international SIPPs aren’t regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Are SIPPs good investments?
A SIPP has the potential to be a good investment, depending on your reasons for investing in the first place.
For example, if you want to invest to turn a quick profit, or you want to grow your savings in order to make a milestone purchase such as a house, a SIPP may not be the best choice for you.
As far as saving for your retirement, however, a SIPP can be an effective way to invest for your future. The huge variety of investment decisions SIPPs offer you mean that you can really diversify and try to spread risk.
Of course, the SIPP in itself isn’t an actual investment, but rather a “wrapper” in which you hold your different investments.
How do I choose an investment for my SIPP?
Before investing in anything through your SIPP, you should first do some research. This could involve reading a company’s historic performance, keeping up with industry news, reading share tips, or seeing how other people are investing.
If you would prefer a longer-term investment with lower risk but less reward, you might want to consider investing in an ETF that tracks a specific index, such as the FTSE 100.
This way, you can invest in a single basket of investments at once, rather than selecting individual ones.
Are SIPPs better than other types of personal pension?
There are some slight differences between SIPPs and other personal pensions.
With a personal pension, for example, you’ll likely have less control over how your money is invested. You may be able to influence the investment decisions, such as picking a particular fund or plan, but overall, the pension provider will typically manage the investing.
You may find fees and charges may be slightly lower in a standard personal pension too, though both types benefit from the same tax-efficiency and tax relief on contributions.
This means that, if you’re more experienced in investing and know how to make investment decisions, a SIPP may be better for you. Otherwise, you may want to consider another type of personal pension.
Can you lose money in a SIPP?
Since you are making your own investments with a SIPP, there is always the chance that these will fall as well as rise in value.
Unfortunately, there is no protection against loss of investment value in a SIPP. It is for this reason that you should properly research a company before you invest, make long-term investments, or properly diversify your portfolio to try and limit losses if markets take a downturn.
Is money held in a SIPP protected?
Luckily, your money held in a SIPP is quite well protected. As mentioned, many SIPP providers are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
They are also generally covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which protects your money in the event that a provider is unable to pay out to you, such as if they fail.
Even better, investments in your SIPP are “ring-fenced” from the SIPP provider, meaning if the provider fails, your investments are safe.
Make sure you choose a firm that’s regulated by the FCA and covered under the FSCS.
What is a SIPP scandal?
One thing you should keep an eye out for is the SIPP mis-selling scandal.
This is when people are targeted by cold callers and are then sold high-risk pension schemes. What they usually don’t know, however, is that these schemes are usually unregulated.
Some people may also be given wrongful pension transfer advice, usually from a financial adviser or a pension provider, to try and get customers to make high-risk and unregulated investments.
In fact, according to The Times, the problem was so bad at one point that the FSCS reportedly paid out £695 million for SIPP-related claims.
How long does it take to withdraw money from your pension FAQs
Is a SIPP a good idea?
If you are confident with making investments and know what to look for in a company before you invest, then a SIPP could be a good idea. Otherwise, you may want to consider a more general personal pension in which the provider makes the investment decisions for you.
Are SIPPs safe?
SIPPs are generally quite safe – as mentioned, many providers are regulated by the FCA and your money is typically protected by the FSCS up to the value of £85,000.
One thing you should look out for is pension mis-selling, which involves being given bad advice about unregulated high-risk investments.
Which SIPP provider is best?
The best SIPP provider for you depends on how you plan on saving and investing. Since different providers have different fee structures, you may want to shop around for different deals.
For example, some may charge a monthly or annual fee based on how much you have invested. If you are planning on investing large amounts of money, you may want to consider a pension provider that charges a fixed flat fee instead.
Read my guide on some of the best pension providers if you want to find out more.
A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension pot withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.
Out of contract? Save up to £200 on mobile, broadband or TV packages
As the cost of living soars and monthly bills with some providers are set to rise, our latest research shows that customers who haggle with their broadband, TV or mobile provider can save nearly £130 a year – and savings could top £200 for those willing to switch away.
It’s now compulsory for telecoms providers to share end-of-contract notifications (ECNs) so you won’t forget that your deal is coming to an end. When you receive yours, you’ll ultimately need to decide between two options: is it worth taking a punt with someone new or should you stick with the provider you’re with?
We asked more than 5,000 customers who had their contract end on either their mobile, broadband or broadband and TV package whether they had switched or haggled – and found there are compelling potential savings on offer.
Discover the best and worst broadband providers and best and worst mobile providers for 2022.
Not happy? Switch provider
If you’re in any way unhappy with the broadband or mobile service you’re getting, switching provider is the obvious option.
One in five people told us they’d switched to a different provider, with the vast majority doing so because they felt they had been paying too much.
But if your service has been substandard for any reason – poor customer service, sluggish connections, or patchy mobile coverage in your home – then it’s worth weighing up a move.
Average savings made by those who switched telecoms providers
- Mobile network – £40 per year
- Broadband – £35 a year
- Broadband and TV – £65 per year
However, we found that customers who switched away from a large provider saved even more.
Big savings if you’re with a ‘big four’ provider
When it came to mobile services, customers who switched away from Vodafone, Three and O2 told Which? they saved as much as £100 a year.
Broadband customers who departed Virgin Media saved over £190 a year, while those who left BT reported a saving of almost £160 a year and those who left Sky saved almost £100. TalkTalk was the only large provider where customers who switched away reported paying slightly more – though this was just £8 over the course of a year.
When it came to broadband and TV packages, we found that those who left Virgin Media reported saving over £200 a year and above-average savings were also made by those who left Sky (£180), Talk Talk (£90) and BT (£80).
How to haggle with your provider
If you’re happy with the provider you’re with, you might feel reluctant to switch away just to get a better price. Negotiating a better deal with your provider means you can stick with your current deal and pay less.
We found that nearly half of those surveyed had haggled with their existing provider when their contract ended. You’ll usually
be asked to commit to a new fixed contract when you haggle but, in most cases, hagglers end up both paying less and getting an upgraded deal.
TV and broadband customers in particular may feel reluctant to switch providers (their offerings can differ substantially) but our research shows that haggling can secure an impressive discount.
Average savings made by haggling with telecoms providers
- Broadband – £85 per year
- Broadband and TV – £128 per year
- Mobile network – £35 per year
Haggling can feel daunting, but the reality is that both broadband and mobile providers both expect and invite it. And if you don’t fancy a long phone call, many providers will allow you to do it online using live chat instead.
Get started using our guides on how to haggle on your broadband deal to discover the simple steps it takes to negotiate a better price.
Don’t do nothing when your contract ends
Our survey also found one in five people did nothing when their contract ended. These people are at greatest risk of overpaying on their broadband and mobile bills.
Many broadband providers and mobile providers have confirmed they will be hiking their prices this Spring – some by more than 9 per cent.
As these inflation-related increases are baked into customer contracts, they will leave many with no choice but to pay them or face costly fees to leave their provider mid-contract.
But if you’re an out-of-contract customer, it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Switching or haggling will help you save on your bills.
Respondents in our survey were generally positive about how easy it is to switch or haggle. Just 20% of broadband customers said switching was difficult, and less than a third had trouble haggling. Across all three services, a majority agreed the process was easy, with little variation between providers.
If you’re still wary of taking the plunge, our in-depth advice can help get you started.
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Testing a SPY-EEMV-VT-TLT-PBBBX Allocation Strategy [PREMIUM]
In reaction to “Testing the EFA-SPY-TLT-PBBBX EW Strategy”, a subscriber asked about the performance of a strategy that each year rebalances to 25% SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), 10% iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Min Vol Factor (EEMV), 15% Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund (VT), 25% iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) and 25% PIA BBB Bond Fund (PBBBX)....... Keep Reading
The post Testing a SPY-EEMV-VT-TLT-PBBBX Allocation Strategy appeared first on CXO Advisory.
ESG Push for Corporate Tax Disclosures Gaining Momentum in US
Ex-ASI multi-asset PM Wiles joins LGT Vestra for analyst role
Former multi-asset portfolio manager at Aberdeen Standard Investment Matthew Wiles has joined wealth manager LGT Vestra as an investment analyst.
Wiles departed ASI in May alongside multi-asset colleague Joe Wiggins, just five months after the launch of the MyFolio Sustainable Fund range.
At the time, an ASI spokesperson confirmed the pair - who had both been at the firm since 2014 - left "to pursue new opportunities".
Wiggins revealed that he would "resurface" in a new role in July.
Wiles, who confirmed the appointment on LinkedIn, spent more than 12 years at Lloyds Banking Group, most recently as a senior investment specialist.
Investment Week has contacted LGT Vestra for comment.
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Register now: Sustainable Investment Festival attracts asset management CEOs and industry leaders
Investment Week's parent company Incisive Media is excited to bring together a compelling line-up of asset management CEOs and senior figures from leading fund groups specialising in sustainable investing for our must-attend Sustainable Investment Festival in June.
The inaugural Sustainable Investment Festival is now open for free registration and delegates will then be able to access all the sessions over the interactive four-day online event between 22 and 25 June, and on demand.
We are excited to be giving Investment Week readers unrivalled access to leading fund managers specialising in this area from more than 25 asset managers from across the industry in one place.
Our speakers are setting the agenda when it comes to sustainable investing and they will be sharing their insights on how this important sector is evolving and the key trends to look for in the months and years ahead.
The festival is also a great opportunity to hear how leading asset managers in this space are approaching sustainable investing across their wider fund ranges, as well as taking advantage of opportunities through specific funds and strategies.
Our delegates will also have the chance to pose their questions to the asset manager CEOs and industry experts during our interactive sessions to get the inside story on the big debates gripping our sector, as well as benefit from valuable networking opportunities.
The Festival will include our CEO Insight panel, entitled: How are frontrunners in asset management supporting and promoting the transition to a sustainable economy and inclusive society?
This discussion will examine the role and approaches of asset managers for bringing about real change and having a lasting impact on areas including diversity and inclusion, climate change and the sustainable economy.
It will also cover the following topics:
What can asset managers do to drive real sustainable and societal change?
How can positive impact be measured and demonstrated?
What does the investment industry still need to be better at and how can we get there?
How can fund selectors hold asset managers to account in this area?
Click here to register and to see the full agenda, including more information on our keynote speakers and breakout sessions.
Asset management CEOs and industry leaders joining us for the Festival for speaker sessions and panel debates include:
Peter Harrison, CEO at Schroders
Jens Peers, CEO and CIO at Mirova US
Andy Clark, CEO at EdenTree Investment Management
Fiona Frick, CEO at Unigestion
Ian Simm, founder and chief executive at Impax Asset Management
Mark Versey, CEO at Aviva Investors
Sindhu Krishna, head of sustainable investments at Phoenix Group
Maria Nazarova-Doyle, head of pension investments at Scottish Widows
Gareth Trainor, head of unit-linked investment solutions at Standard Life
Abbie Llewellyn-Waters, head of sustainable investing at Jupiter Asset Management
Michael Viehs, head of ESG integration at Federated Hermes
Three quarters of financial institutions unprepared for LIBOR transition - survey
More than three quarters (77%) of financial institutions lack a comprehensive plan for the LIBOR transition, which is due on 31 December, according to a survey from Duff & Phelps.
More than half (54%) of firms surveyed said they had identified LIBOR exposures but are yet to take any necessary action to resolve their liability, of which 42% were "unsure what to do next", while a quarter (23%) have not begun any formal processes to identify exposure.
Act now on LIBOR transition: IA's stark warning to FTSE 350 bosses
Jennifer Press, managing director for alternative asset advisory services at Duff & Phelps, said it was "quite surprising" that nine months out from the deadline, houses with a comprehensive plan are in the minority.
"The LIBOR transition is one of the greatest regulatory-driven changes ever, and inevitably it requires complex planning, thought and analysis," she added.
Despite this, a third (34%) of institutions believe they are on track to meet the year-end deadline, while a similar number of firms (31%) have "only just begun thinking about" their transition and are "unsure whether they are on track".
A further 14% have not begun planning at all, with another 14% concerned they will not be ready before Q1 2022.
Marcus Morton, managing director, valuation services at Duff & Phelps, said: "The results indicate that although the majority of firms have identified their LIBOR exposures, many have yet to formally catalogue the transition provisions.
"There is a real fear that many are pinning their hopes on fallback provisions written within existing contracts. The reality is that fallback language may not suit each and every party, and in some cases, contracts will fail if such provisions are inadequate.
"It will pay in the long term to properly assess exposure of each and every contract, even if firms are under the impression fallback language is sufficient."
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The Stay Rich Portfolio
This is Part II in our series, Part I can be found here: The Get Rich Portfolio Welcome to the second installment of our new series on generating wealth, preserving it, and then looking at a real-world illustration of strategically implementing these concepts. In our first essay, we discussed generating riches through a high-paying career, […]
The post The Stay Rich Portfolio appeared first on Meb Faber Research - Stock Market and Investing Blog.
Speakers announced for Women in Investment Festival
Incisive Media – Investment Week’s parent company - is delighted to reveal the list of speakers that will attend its first Women in Investment festival on 3 March this year.
The one-day festival, which aims to celebrate successful women in the industry and is sponsored by HSBC Global Asset Management, will take place at The Brewery in London.
The day begins with a breakfast at 8.15am and an opening keynote speaker at 9.10am.
From here, there will be a series of roundtables, panels, interactive discussions, and opportunities for networking.
For more details and to buy tickets for the festival, please click here.
The opportunity to purchase Early Bird tickets expires 31 January. Group booking discounts are available for parties of three or more.
Ros Adler, co-founder, The Confidence People
Gretchen Betts, managing director, Magenta Financial Planning
Andy Clark, CEO, HSBC GAM
Emma Douglas, head of DC, Legal and General Investment Management
Tamara Gillan, co-founder, WealthiHer Network
Marisa Hall, director, Thinking Ahead Institute, Willis Towers Watson
Ayesha Hazarika, comedian, broadcaster journalist and political commentator
Henrietta Jowitt, deputy director-general, CBI
Michael Kinney, principal, Mercer
Mandy Kirby, co-founder, City Hive
Justin Onuekwusi, head of retail multi-asset funds, Legal & General Investment Management
Jane Portas, partner, PWC
Lea Sellers, co-founder, The Confidence People
Bev Shah, CEO and founder, City Hive
Anna Sofat, founder and managing director, Addidi
Karis Stander, managing director, Investment20/20
Davinia Tomlinson, founder, Rainchq
Jane Welsh, project manager, Diversity Project
Liz Field, chief executive, PIMFA
Alexandra Noble, director, Noble & Associates Limited
Rachael Ferguson, managing director, Leverton Search
Karen Walker, yoga and mindfulness instructor
Scary Similarity: The Roaring Twenties and Today
An eerie thought: The decade that began 100 years ago, known as the Roaring Twenties, was awash in prosperity amid a booming stock market—and came to a nasty end.
“Can’t repeat the past?” asked Michael Arone, chief investment strategist for State Street Global Advisors US Intermediary Business Group. “Why of course you can!” Writing in a recent market commentary, Arone sketched out the parallels between the decade we’re now entering to the one from a century before, with its financial excesses.
Arone emphasized that just as now, the 1920s started with a surge of new technology, such as radios and vacuum cleaners. Electricity use became widespread. So did automobile ownership. More important, that decade’s soaring stocks had three catalysts: low inflation, tax cuts, and an easy-money Federal Reserve. That’s the same as now.
Inflation at the outset of the 1920s was similar to today’s, at 1.4% annually. Congress cut taxes, which had been hiked to a top rate of 75% during World War I, in several stages to 25% by the 2025 tax year. For 2020, the highest level is 37%, following the late-2017 tax reduction. Back in the day, the Fed chopped rates from 6% at the decade’s outset to 2% by 1925. The current Federal benchmark range is 1.5% to 1.75%.
And the market loved all this, then and now. “Low inflation, tax cuts, and an accommodative Fed supported the market in the 1920s, obscuring the asset bubble forming beneath the surface,” Arone recounted. “With the same forces bolstering today’s market, major US stock benchmarks are at all-time highs and market volatility remains low.”
The Fed made some big mistakes, of course, at the end of the 1920s. In mid-1929, to take the momentum out of rampant market speculation and escalating debt, the central bank lifted rates to 6%. That action proved to be disastrous. As the saying now goes, the Fed often causes recessions by over-reacting.
The 1929 stock market crash followed, with stocks losing half their value in one month. The Great Depression hit soon.
The present-day Fed seems to have learned the lesson of 100 years ago, although last year it needed a reminder, as President Donald Trump, other pols, and many on Wall Street protested. The Fed interrupted its campaign to raise rates, and in three successive moves, it lowered them to where they are in 2020. As the market surged anew on the monetary loosening, the Fed said it won’t consider raising them unless excessive inflation shows up.
Ben Bernanke in 2002, then a Fed governor and four years away from becoming chairman, stated, “Regarding the Great Depression … we did it. We’re very sorry. … We won’t do it again.” The occasion was the 90th birthday party of economist Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winner who was critical of the Fed intervention in general and its policies in the late 1920s in particular.
To State Street’s Arone, “At the dawn of a new decade, governments and central banks seem committed to keeping the party going, but risks seem heavily skewed to the downside.” In his commentary, he evoked the distant green light at the end of a dock in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a novel that chronicled the wild times of the Roaring Twenties. The green light symbolized dreams for the future.
“Yes, the light on the horizon is still green,” Arone wrote, “but it could soon start flashing yellow.”
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