A Few Ideas Worth Sharing for May 11, 2017

I just published my monthly newsletter with a few ideas worth sharing.  In this edition I included an article which explains how two major economic forces could collide and cause mortgage rates to increase later on in 2017, how technology is reshaping the way we live in our homes, and how to reduce stress and live life with greater purpose with a two minute daily habit.

You can check it out and subscribe to my newsletter HERE.

Are Video Games The Reason Why Mortgage Rates Are So Low?

OK, OK…I realize the headline might be a little far-fetched, but I ran across this article in 1843 Magazine, The Economist’s lifestyle magazine, and was fascinated. The entire article is definitely worth a read.

Of significance to this blog is the thesis @ryanavent contributes to the great mystery as to why the unemployment rate is at a historically low level yet inflationary pressure remains weak. 

Effectively, the article argues that one of the reasons why the Labor Force Participation Rate is so low is because there is a large pool of eligible workers who are posted up in their parents basements addicted to video games. 

Since the unemployment rate only accounts for those who are looking for work and excludes those who are out of the Labor Force (i.e. addicted gamers), the rate of those out of work who want work is artificially low.

Young man usingh soccer ball for a pillow plays video games.
We can thank this chap for historically low mortgage rates.

Since inflation is one of the primary drivers of mortgage rates and because wages have remained relatively stagnant given the low labor force participation rate, one can argue that low mortgage rates have effectively become a beneficiary to the addictive nature of video-gaming. Thanks Nintendo!

Thanks to my team and customers! #184 in the US!

Thank you to my hardworking team (Amanda Harvey, Camy Platt, and Michael Nardoni, and the entire support staff at Mortgage Trust)!  Furthermore, thank you to my customers and professional partners who place trust in our work!

I am happy and honored to announce that we ranked #184 in the entire United States for 2015 residential loan origination volume according to National Mortgage News.

orange metallic number 184 on white background.digitally generated image.
Thanks to everyone for their hard work and support. In 2015 we were ranked #184 in the nation for residential loan origination volume.

We look forward to continuing our service to customers in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho with professionalism and integrity.   Hopefully in 2016 we can march down that list!

 

August 2011 Newsletter

I forgot to post this back in November when I originally wrote and sent this out to my customers.  In this issue…..

…I wrote a piece entitled ‘My Case for Home Ownership’ in which I report on real estate affordability in the Portland-Metro region.

…I wrote a piece about the neuroeconomics and why our emotions and instincts often cause us to make poor financial decisions.

You can download the newsletter by clicking HERE.

May 2011 Newsletter

The latest “My Mind on Mortgages” newsletter should be hitting mail slots early next week.  HERE IS A LINK if you want to download a copy now.  In this issue……

*I explain “My Why, How, and What”

*I also offer my clients a new free financial resource @ www.myfinancialindependencecoach.com/eswanson

If you’d like to get added to my mailing list for my newsletter please shoot me an email!

Cool Video Portrayal of Portland

A local creative branding company called Sockeye Creative put together the following video of Portland.  It captures a lot of the highlights!

Zweig’s “Your Money & Your Brain”-Post #1

I’ve blogged a few times in the previous months about my recent fascination with the subject of “neuroeconomics”.  This is a field of study that looks at the role a person’s pschye, emotions, and/or subjective-self plays in making economic decisions.  I’m fascinated by this subject because of the gap between the body of fiscal knowledge that is readily available to households and the widespread lack of financial health.  I used to believe that the primary reason for this gap was a lack of significant fiscal curriculum in our schools.  The idea being that people were never taught how to properly manage their finances and therefore didn’t practice healthy habits.  I still believe that our society could benefit from better education but I now recognize that the issue isn’t necessarily knowledge-based.

The reality is that most households know they should spend less than they make so that they can save for future needs (i.e. retirement, rainy day fund, etc.).  Furthermore, most households have a desire to put their financial lives in order.  The problem is not knowledge it is pschological.  As Jason Zweig points out in his book “Your Money & Your Brain” the human brain has evolved over millions of years and only in very recent history has it been exposed to rational, analytical reasoning.  It’s no wonder that despite our understanding of concepts it is still very difficult for us to put theory into practice.  Here is an excerpt:

…our investing brains often drive us to do things that make no logical sense-but make perfect emotional sense….Our brains were originally designed to get more of whatever would improve our odds of survival and to avoid whatever would worsen the odds.  Emotional circuits deep in our brains make us instinctively crave whatever feels likely to be rewarding- and shun whatever seems liable to be risky….That’s why knowing the right answer, and doing the right thing, are very different.

I look forward to completing this book and gaining a greater understanding of the biology of how decisions are made.  I plan to share other thoughts and excerpts over the course of the next few weeks so please stay tuned.  If you have any interesting thoughts or resources to share on this subject please do so below in the comment section.

Thought for your weekend…

My sister & brother-in-law gave me a subscription to Lapham’s Quarterly for my birthday last year.  If you’re not familiar with this quarterly periodical it is literary magazine founded by former Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham.  Each issue he picks a theme and then searches historical & contemporary literature for inclusion in the issue.  It’s a great magazine but that’s not why I chose to write this post.

Lewis Lapham

His latest issue is entitled “Lines of Work” and deals with employment.  In Lewis’s opening essay he survey’s the US’s historical connection to employment and raises a very interesting point about employment and debt that I had never thought about before.  I thought I would blog about it today in case you wanted something to ponder over the weekend.

Here’s the excerpt:

“…somewhere in the middle of the 1980s on the yellow brick road with Toto and the Gipper… was easy access to conspicuous credit.  For how else could the American Leaves of grass join their top-dressed companions on a golf course unless they borrowed money?  The country’s working and middle classes discovered that it wasn’t the value of the work itself, or its manufacture of a decent living…that made up the sum of a country’s wealth and well-being.  Their great collective enterprise was the labor of consumption, and with it the derivative of debt…”

Leading up to this point in the essay Lewis had painted the US’s connection to work & employment much like the “protestant work ethic” you might imagine.  When American’s wanted something they worked long & hard, saved their money, and eventually purchased that house (if they didn’t build it with their own 2 hands) or car or ________.  In this instance the workers labor & unemployment was a direct means to an end.

But in the 1980s US workers now had the option to work for years and years and years OR purchase that item today using credit and then pay for it over time..  My question is, did the onslaught of widely available credit in our culture create a disconnect between our labor & consumption?

I’d love to hear your comments below.

Bar-Or’s “Play to Prosper”-post #1

I’ve elected to do my book reviews a little differently.  In the past I’ve waited until I completed a book before I recorded thoughts and excerpts that I found interesting.  The problem with this approach is that it is very time consuming because I save all the work for the end.  Therefore, from now on I will record thoughts as I read.

I just started a new book by Yuval Bar-Or entitled Play to Prosper.  I had blogged about Dr. Bar-Or back November HERE.  He is an expert in decision-making in the context of risk and caught my attention because of my interest in the role emotion plays in how we make economic decisions.  His new book is a guide for individual investors to navigate the complicated world of investing.  In his writing he uses sport & games as analogies for explaining the different roles that individuals play in the world of finance.

In the first few chapters he stresses the importance of engaging professionals who are upheld to a fiduciary standard.

“The key is to find those coaches who are fiduciaries, meaning that they have a legal obligation to place your priorities ahead of their own.”

I am proud to mention here that as a CFP® I am required to act in this manner.

Recently it’s become apparent to me that most individual investors believe that financial planners are synonymous with investment advisers.  However, this is not the case, only a minority of investment advisers carry the CFP® designation.  Furthermore, most do not want to spend the time planning.  This book provides a nice summary of the role of a financial planner:

Financial Planners take a comprehensive view of the client’s financial situation and develop a plan to achieve the client’s intended overall objectives.  Rather than focusing only on investing, their advice may encompass investments, insurance products, educational trusts and, in some cases, taxation and wills.  (They provide a game plan, but don;t execute it).

I should point out that some planners do execute the plan but often they do not require the client to do so with them.

Lewis’s “The Big Short”

I’ve been meaning to do a quick book review post on “The Big Short” for the past few months but these posts are kind of time consuming.  A couple weeks ago NPR’s Planet Money team did a ‘Deep Read’ interview with the author Michael Lewis.  If you’re not familiar with Lewis he is an author who wrote an iconic book about Wall Street Finance in the late ’80s called “Liar’s Poker” which I reviewed HERE.  It just so happened that Lewis was working for Salomon Brothers in the ’80s where the Mortgage-backed bond was created.

“The Big Short” deals with the collapse of the subprime mortgage-backed bond market so as NPR’s Jacob Goldstein points out he basically wrote books about the alpha and omega.  Although this topic may sound dry and boring Lewis writes in a narrative style and does a great job of capturing the culture of Wall Street then and now.  Lewis himself claims in the interview that he doesn’t like writing about money but instead likes writing about subjects which offer an insight into the social culture of a specific time and place.

I have too many notes to list in this post but I highly recommend the book.

Here are just a few excerpts that I’ll share:

*Quoting a financial professional: “…Any business where you can sell a product and make money without having to worry how the product performs is going to attract sleazy people.

*A hedge fund manager pontificating on Buffett (had to include this quote): “At one point I recognized that Warren Buffett…did not copy Ben Graham, but rather set out on his own path, and ran money his way, by his own rules…I also immediately internalized the idea that no school could teach someone how to be a great investor.

*A recount of the madness: “In Bakersfield, California,  a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $724,000.

*Monetary losses caused by the sumprime era: “…the International Monetary Fund…out losses on US-originated subprime-related assets at a trillion dollars.” (Keep in mind that this was not the amount of the underlying mortgages.  This tally got so high because investment banks were selling Credit Default Swaps and other derivatives that were effectively bets on how the underlying mortgages would perform.)