overreach

What’s a Win?

photo shows a person with a hat and ponytail sitting on a cliff's edge

Maybe you’ve seen this type of picture on social media lately: the family perched on big rocks in the hillside or an orange sunset over the shoulder from the peak of a mountain. Plenty of our friends and relations have been enjoying more of the great outdoors in the past few weeks. Some have even been inspired to hike for the first time!

Those majestic views are such a treat, even experienced vicariously through my screen. But they had me thinking about those hikes and the challenges they pose.

Say you were planning a hike on a new trail. Maybe a two-mile trek would be a reasonable goal: challenging given the terrain, but totally possible. Yeah, it could actually be exciting to push yourself and make that happen! Two miles of work, the corresponding exercise endorphins, and gorgeous views?

That hike would be a win.

So you set off. After feeling the initial burn, you settle into a rhythm and are enjoying yourself. Maybe there’s more to gain here than you expected.

At the end of your planned route, you still feel like you have gas in the tank: on a whim, you travel on for two more miles.

You can’t believe it! This is farther than you’ve ever hiked in your life, more steps than you could ever have imagined! It is totally thrilling.

You check your watch. Time to head back, you suppose, but what a ride! It’s only once you look up that you realize what you’ve done. The gas in the tank was supposed to be for coasting back to comfort and safety.

Your reasonable win has become a burden. Your resources are low; it’s hard to enjoy what you did accomplish because of how little you’re left with now.

Mistakes like these aren’t always deadly or catastrophic—but they can certainly harm your goals and your wellbeing. For investors, the instinct to throw everything in on the way up (and up and up and up!) can mean that much harder of a fall when the reality sets in.

What’s a win? If you set your terms going in, you may be less tempted to risk your goal for some moonshot you didn’t need in the first place.

Clients, remember: we are all about your goals. If you feel them shifting or want to talk, call or email any time.

Too Close to the Sun

© Can Stock Photo / Paha_L

In Greek mythology, Daedalus constructs wings of feathers and wax so he and his son Icarus may escape from the island of Crete. Although warned against flying too close to the sun, Icarus becomes giddy with the sensation of flight. His wings melt when he gets too close to the sun, and he crashes into the sea and drowns.

This tale of hubris is perhaps mimicked in our time by central bankers around the world. Central banks including our Federal Reserve Bank are charged with conducting monetary policy to achieve stability of prices and favorable economic results. The stresses of the last global recession induced some of these authorities to adopt unprecedented policies.

Among these ideas, the most unusual might be negative interest rates. If we think of the rate of interest as a price – the price of money – then the concept of negative rates seems insane. If bananas had negative prices, producers would have to pay you to take them.

There are practical problems, too, for savers and investors. Imagine having $100,000 in the bank today. After a year of -1% interest, you would have, say, $99,000. “Money in the bank” would no longer be like money in the bank.

Why would central bankers consider such a policy? Like Icarus with his wings, they seem intoxicated by their apparent power to manipulate the economy. Negative interest rates would be a strong incentive to reduce savings and increase spending. This could theoretically boost the economy.

The unintended consequences of their actions could create real problems. Average folks trying to save for the future were severely disadvantaged by the zero interest policy of the last decade. Negative rates would make that even worse.
The Federal Reserve has not yet gone below zero. But a research paper published by a Fed official earlier this year concluded that “negative interest rates might be a useful tool…”1

Clients, our concern over this trend in Fed thinking bolsters our conviction about the investments we hold that would potentially benefit from the unintended consequences. No guarantees: we wish central bankers would simply avoid flying too close to the sun, so to speak.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Notes & References

1. “How Much Could Negative Rates Have Helped the Recovery?”, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. https://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/publications/economic-letter/2019/february/how-much-could-negative-rates-have-helped-recovery/. Accessed June 25th, 2019.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.