Putting $400M of Bitcoin on your company balance sheet
Also posted on my blog as usual. Read it there if you can, there are footnotes and inlined plots. A couple of months ago, MicroStrategy (MSTR) had a spare $400M of cash which it decided to shift to Bitcoin (BTC). Today we'll discuss in excrutiating detail why this is not a good idea. When a company has a pile of spare money it doesn't know what to do with, it'll normally do buybacks or start paying dividends. That gives the money back to the shareholders, and from an economic perspective the money can get better invested in other more promising companies. If you have a huge pile of of cash, you probably should be doing other things than leave it in a bank account to gather dust. However, this statement from MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor exists to make it clear he's buying into BTC for all the wrong reasons:
“This is not a speculation, nor is it a hedge. This was a deliberate corporate strategy to adopt a bitcoin standard.”
Let's unpack it and jump into the economics Bitcoin:
Is Bitcoin money?
No. Or rather BTC doesn't act as money and there's no serious future path for BTC to become a form of money. Let's go back to basics. There are 3 main economic problems money solves: 1. Medium of Exchange. Before money we had to barter, which led to the double coincidence of wants problem. When everyone accepts the same money you can buy something from someone even if they don't like the stuff you own. As a medium of exchange, BTC is not good. There are significant transaction fees and transaction waiting times built-in to BTC and these worsen the more popular BTC get. You can test BTC's usefulness as a medium of exchange for yourself right now: try to order a pizza or to buy a random item with BTC. How many additional hurdles do you have to go through? How many fewer options do you have than if you used a regular currency? How much overhead (time, fees) is there? 2. Unit of Account. A unit of account is what you compare the value of objects against. We denominate BTC in terms of how many USD they're worth, so BTC is a unit of account presently. We can say it's because of lack of adoption, but really it's also because the market value of BTC is so volatile. If I buy a $1000 table today or in 2017, it's roughly a $1000 table. We can't say that a 0.4BTC table was a 0.4BTC table in 2017. We'll expand on this in the next point: 3. Store of Value. When you create economic value, you don't want to be forced to use up the value you created right away. For instance, if I fix your washing machine and you pay me in avocados, I'd be annoyed. I'd have to consume my payment before it becomes brown, squishy and disgusting. Avocado fruit is not good money because avocadoes loses value very fast. On the other hand, well-run currencies like the USD, GBP, CAD, EUR, etc. all lose their value at a low and most importantly fairly predictible rate. Let's look at the chart of the USD against BTC While the dollar loses value at a predictible rate, BTC is all over the place, which is bad. One important use money is to write loan contracts. Loans are great. They let people spend now against their future potential earnings, so they can buy houses or start businesses without first saving up for a decade. Loans are good for the economy. If you want to sign something that says "I owe you this much for that much time" then you need to be able to roughly predict the value of the debt in at the point in time where it's due. Otherwise you'll have a hard time pricing the risk of the loan effectively. This means that you need to charge higher interests. The risk of making a loan in BTC needs to be priced into the interest of a BTC-denominated loan, which means much higher interest rates. High interests on loans are bad, because buying houses and starting businesses are good things.
BTC has a fixed supply, so these problems are built in
Some people think that going back to a standard where our money was denominated by a stock of gold (the Gold Standard) would solve economic problems. This is nonsense. Having control over supply of your currency is a good thing, as long as it's well run. See here Remember that what is desirable is low variance in the value, not the value itself. When there are wild fluctuations in value, it's hard for money to do its job well. Since the 1970s, the USD has been a fiat money with no intrinsic value. This means we control the supply of money. Let's look at a classic poorly drawn econ101 graph The market price for USD is where supply meets demand. The problem with a currency based on an item whose supply is fixed is that the price will necessarily fluctuate in response to changes in demand. Imagine, if you will, that a pandemic strikes and that the demand for currency takes a sharp drop. The US imports less, people don't buy anything anymore, etc. If you can't print money, you get deflation, which is worsens everything. On the other hand, if you can make the money printers go brrrr you can stabilize the price Having your currency be based on a fixed supply isn't just bad because in/deflation is hard to control. It's also a national security risk... The story of the guy who crashed gold prices in North Africa In the 1200s, Mansa Munsa, the emperor of the Mali, was rich and a devout Muslim and wanted everyone to know it. So he embarked on a pilgrimage to make it rain all the way to Mecca. He in fact made it rain so hard he increased the overall supply of gold and unintentionally crashed gold prices in Cairo by 20%, wreaking an economic havoc in North Africa that lasted a decade. This story is fun, the larger point that having your inflation be at the mercy of foreign nations is an undesirable attribute in any currency. The US likes to call some countries currency manipulators, but this problem would be serious under a gold standard.
Currencies are based on trust
Since the USD is based on nothing except the US government's word, how can we trust USD not to be mismanaged? The answer is that you can probably trust the fed until political stooges get put in place. Currently, the US's central bank managing the USD, the Federal Reserve (the Fed for friends & family), has administrative authority. The fed can say "no" to dumb requests from the president. People who have no idea what the fed does like to chant "audit the fed", but the fed is already one of the best audited US federal entities. The transcripts of all their meetings are out in the open. As is their balance sheet, what they plan to do and why. If the US should audit anything it's the Department of Defense which operates without any accounting at all. It's easy to see when a central bank will go rogue: it's when political yes-men are elected to the board. For example, before printing themselves into hyperinflation, the Venezuelan president appointed a sociologist who publicly stated “Inflation does not exist in real life” and instead is a made up capitalist lie. Note what happened mere months after his gaining control over the Venezuelan currency This is a key policy. One paper I really like, Sargent (1984) "The end of 4 big inflations" states:
The essential measures that ended hyperinflation in each of Germany,Austria, Hungary, and Poland were, first, the creation of an independentcentral bank that was legally committed to refuse the government'sdemand or additional unsecured credit and, second, a simultaneousalteration in the fiscal policy regime.
In english: *hyperinflation stops when the central bank can say "no" to the government." The US Fed, like other well good central banks, is run by a bunch of nerds. When it prints money, even as aggressively as it has it does so for good reasons. You can see why they started printing on March 15th as the COVID lockdowns started:
The Federal Reserve is prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses and thereby promote its maximum employment and price stability goals.
In english: We're going to keep printing and lowering rates until jobs are back and inflation is under control. If we print until the sun is blotted out, we'll print in the shade.
BTC is not gold
Gold is a good asset for doomsday-preppers. If society crashes, gold will still have value. How do we know that? Gold has held value throughout multiple historic catastrophes over thousands of years. It had value before and after the Bronze Age Collapse, the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and Gengis Khan being Gengis Khan. Even if you erased humanity and started over, the new humans would still find gold to be economically valuable. When Europeans d̶i̶s̶c̶o̶v̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ c̶o̶n̶q̶u̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ g̶e̶n̶o̶c̶i̶d̶e̶d̶ went to America, they found gold to be an important item over there too. This is about equivalent to finding humans on Alpha-Centauri and learning that they think gold is a good store of value as well. Some people are puzzled at this: we don't even use gold for much! But it has great properties: First, gold is hard to fake and impossible to manufacture. This makes it good to ascertain payment. Second, gold doesnt react to oxygen, so it doesn't rust or tarnish. So it keeps value over time unlike most other materials. Last, gold is pretty. This might sound frivolous, and you may not like it, but jewelry has actual value to humans. It's no coincidence if you look at a list of the wealthiest families, a large number of them trade in luxury goods. To paraphrase Veblen humans have a profound desire to signal social status, for the same reason peacocks have unwieldy tails. Gold is a great way to achieve that. On the other hand, BTC lacks all these attributes. Its value is largely based on common perception of value. There are a few fundamental drivers of demand:
Means of Exchange: if people seriously start using BTC to buy pizzas, then this creates a real demand for the currency to accomplish the short-term exchanges. As we saw previously, I'm not personally sold on this one and it's currently a negligible fraction of overall demand.
Criminal uses: Probably the largest inbuilt advantage of BTC is that it's anonymous, and so a great way to launder money. Hacker gangs use BTC to demand ransom on cryptolocker type attacks because it's a shared way for an honest company to pay and for the criminals to receive money without going to jail.
Apart from these, it's hard to argue that BTC will retain value throughout some sort of economic catastrophe.
BTC is really risky
One last statement from Michael Saylor I take offense to is this:
“We feel pretty confident that Bitcoin is less risky than holding cash, less risky than holding gold,” MicroStrategy CEO said in an interview
"BTC is less risky than holding cash or gold long term" is nonsense. We saw before that BTC is more volatile on face value, and that as long as the Fed isn't run by spider monkeys stacked in a trench coat, the inflation is likely to be within reasonable bounds. But on top of this, BTC has Abrupt downside risks that normal currencies don't. Let's imagine a few:
A critical software vulnerability is found in the BTC codebase, leading to a possible exploitation.
Xi Jinping decides he's had enough of rich people in China hiding their assets from him and bans BTC.
Some form of bank run takes hold for whatever reason. Because BTC wallets are uninsured, unlike regular banks, this compounds into a Black Tuesday style crash.
Blockchain solutions are fundamentally inefficient
Blockchain was a genius idea. I still marvel at the initial white paper which is a great mix of economics and computer science. That said, blockchain solutions make large tradeoffs in design because they assume almost no trust between parties. This leads to intentionally wasteful designs on a massive scale. The main problem is that all transactions have to be validated by expensive computational operations and double checked by multiple parties. This means waste:
BTC was estimated to use as much electricity as Belgium in 2019. It's hard to trace where the BTC mining comes from, but we can assume it has a huge carbon footprint.
A single transactions is necessarily expensive. A single transaction takes as much electricity as 800,000 VISA transactions, or watching 50,000 hours of youtube videos.
There is a large necessary tax on the transaction, since those checking the transaction extract a few BTC from it to be incentivized to do the work of checking it.
Many design problems can be mitigated by various improvements over BTC, but it remains that a simple database always works better than a blockchain if you can trust the parties to the transaction.
Ultimate glossary of crypto currency terms, acronyms and abbreviations
$MARA + $RIOT: TA Play. Both MARA & RIOT have been in a consistent uptrend since the 7th of this month. The cryptocurrency sector as a whole has been hot, with bitcoin recently passing $13k, Jerome Powell discussing the possibility of adapting cryptocurrency in government, and paypal recently announcing the adaptation of cryptocurrency. All of these recent events have played a crucial part in the run both of these stocks have had. What I really love about the current pattern of both these stocks is how consistently the bounce off the 50-day moving average. For $MARA, we saw this bounce on both the 7th and the 16th of this months, and as of close today we are once again hitting the 50ma support level. If we stay above this $2.54 level in tomorrow’s pre-market, there is a good chance we could see this bounce again. $RIOT has almost the exact same pattern, bouncing off the 50-day moving average on both the 8th and the 19th of this month. We tested the 50ma today ($3.62/share) so if the pattern holds up, we could see a stronger up-trend going into the open tomorrow. $MARA $RIOT $CREX: TA Play. Creative Realities Inc. has had a rough couple of months, starting back on August 14th where they reported earnings which resulted in the stock tumbling for the next few weeks. We seem to have found heavy support around the $1.00 range, and we have been consolidating between $1 - $1.10 since the beginning of September. I like that the stock has fallen below the $1 support only once in the past few weeks, and it was only for a couple trading days. I like to scoop up these beaten down stocks and wait for the PR to bring them back to previous levels. Two great examples of this are $ADTX and $GRIL. Both found consolidation and popped on news. I know very little about this company, but I will be accumulating shares in my loading zone of < $1.05 and in the meantime research what might push this stock to previous highs. Swing play. Bottomed out play. Clear support zone $ISIG: Insignia Systems Inc. shares are trading higher as of yesterday after-hours, running from .80c to $1.27/share, and has continued its run this morning. The stock is running off absolutely no news, so be ready to play this like a momentum stock. Looking for scalp-able volume at open, will not enter this pre-market as it has already begun falling from its high of $1.69 this morning. Pre-Market Runner $JAKK: Today, JAKKS Pacific, Inc. (NASDAQ:JAKK) announced it will announce third quarter 2020 financial results on Monday, November 2, 2020 after the close of the stock market. The Company will also hold a teleconference and webcast to discuss the results, and may also discuss future plans and prospects. Jakks Pacific has been on a consistent downward trend since late June, but this low float stock moves quickly and sporadically with news. Looking at the 180d 4hr graph, we can see the stock began consolidating on September 1st, and for the most part the stock has stayed well above $3.75. As of October 5th, JAKK started a clear uptrend which was ironically spurred by a rogue Ryan Seacrest tweet praising the company’s toy lines. After the initial spike to nearly $6, Jakk settled and has now found support on the 50 day moving average which is quickly approaching the 200 day ma. Will be looking for an entry in the $4.20’s, I think the stock is in a good place to get a starter swing position, assuming it can hold above the 50 ma. Bottomed out + MA cross $DSS:Document Security Systems (NYSE:DSS) shares are trading higher on Monday after the company reported third-quarter EPS and sales results up from last year. Document Security Systems operates in the security and commercial printing, packaging and plastic ID markets. The company develops, markets, manufactures and sells paper and plastic products designed to protect valuable information from unauthorized scanning, copying, and digital imaging. Document Security Systems shares traded up 27.72% to $5.16 on Monday at the time of publication. The stock has a 52-week high of $15.60 and a 52-week low of $3.68. Up nearly two dollars from Monday’s open, will watch to see if the up-trend continues. https://preview.redd.it/bvfiwm80gmv51.png?width=1602&format=png&auto=webp&s=878f1a57740cd800809b282f23db92f310c8e2f9 $RCON: Incredibly similar chart to $JAKK, though the 50ma has clearly crossed through the 200ma. I personally would wait for the both moving averages to curl a bit more. During June and August the stock found a clear bottom just above $1.10. The stock did slip below these levels during most of September, but has since been on an uptrend using the 50ma as a support. I personally like the setup on JAKK better but this is also a swing opportunity. Trending up, 50ma support. Never forget to do your own DD; remember: For all you know, all the stocks that I mention here will dip 90% tomorrow; Do your own DD, I'm not some magic fairy. Trading will never come this easy to you. If all the stocks on here went up, I'd be chilling on my own Island. This is a watchlist, not a buy list.
When will there be a stable market for block space?
Bitcoin's long term security depends on sufficient compensation for miners. As the block subsidy decreases, this will require compensation from high transaction fees. Because the block size limits caps the number of transactions, high transaction fees will require high fees per transaction. The network has been congested for several years now, but evidence of a stable, increasing over time, average per transaction fee shows very little sign of emerging. If a stable fee rate doesn't develop, this will be a problem for bitcoin. What drives the emergence of a growing, stable fee rate, and why haven't we seen one yet? The 5 year chart here shows this: https://ycharts.com/indicators/bitcoin_average_transaction_fee The nightly clearing of transactions on the network is another key point here.
I have ADHD. I was diagnosed at age 12. What happened is I got to middle school, and my life fell apart. It came on like a typhoon. Things seemed alright as I started, but I still remember that October when my family went to sixth-grade check-in. My twin sister went first. The meeting lasted about four minutes. She and my parents left with smiles all around and talk of getting In N Out on the way home. Then it was my turn. Every teacher I had stood in a circle. They seemed...different. One by one, they went around and told me that I was shit. Some were nicer than others, but everyone had the same message to convey: Doesn't complete his homework all the way Distracts others trying to learn Unable to follow along in class Not sure if he can keep up I then heard my grades: C-, D+, C+, A in PE, C, and an F in Social Studies. I don't remember being ashamed or embarrassed or anything. I remember being confused. I had gone to school every day and tried hard and thought I was doing what the teacher asked. Nope. Guess I wasn't. Nobody had much advice for me. They just wanted me to know that I sucked. And that my parents should understand so. I don't know if my parents freaked out or punished me or what. But they weren't happy. The last to go was my social studies teacher, Sven. He asked me if I knew how to read. I politely nodded my head. But he wasn't sure. He talked about all the symptoms he had seen from me. To counter, I pulled a grad-level book on the Cold War off a shelf and read a page aloud while trying not to cry. People were even more confused. Some estimate that a child with ADHD will receive 20,000 more negative comments before the age of 12 than a non-ADHD child will. I can't speak to that exactly, but I can say that this was not the only time I've had a room full of people upset with me for reasons I never saw coming. It doesn't get much easier. Sven caught up to us as we walked to the car. He was cagey with his reasoning, but he told us that there might be something up with my brain. He recommended I get tested by a psychiatrist and see what she had to say. I've since come to my conclusions where he got such an idea. The testing was fun. I've always liked tests. Didn't mention it, but they also thought I couldn't read in 2nd grade. Lol. That one went away after I took a standardized exam and scored in the 99th percentile of the nation in reading. I thought standardized tests were fun, you see. I moved a bunch of colored balls into colored holes and tried to remember what color things were after 10 minutes and everything else you might expect. I didn't know what I was even doing, but I felt I could hang. Three weeks later, I got my results. The only part I remember is that my psychiatrist noted that in her entire career, she had never met someone who scored higher on specific tasks and yet lower on others. My chart looked like OJ Simpson’s polygraph. I could keep going, and in another article, I will. But this is how I got diagnosed. And the key to all of it was Sven. Everything makes perfect sense after the fact, but only when you realize that a single teacher served as the link that completes the narrative. I do not know where I am today without him. I got lucky that this story takes place in 2003, and at a private school with teachers who genuinely cared about me. For reasons a lawyer in the comments needs to help me understand better, public school teachers seem loath to alert students of disabilities of any kind. This includes ADHD but also things like autism, dyslexia, and mood disorders. Things that seem apparent to me in a way that makes it seem impossible that no other teacher in the past 13 years hasn’t also picked up on them. That means many students go through primary schooling while having no idea they have a problem at all. When I mention to a student they might have ADHD, they are first confused, but then some memories come back. The first is that someone, usually a sports or music coach, had once told them the same thing. The other is that they remember a lot of teachers saying weird stuff they didn't understand at the time. Stuff like, "You’re so talented. I just wish you could be better focused. Have you talked to anyone about why you could be having trouble?" To me, those sound like hints from a teacher who has been told by her bosses not to put the school at risk. I am not a teacher. I'm a private consultant and can pretty much say whatever I want. I am also not a doctor - people would die - but I am a concerned adult who has taken courses in spotting learning disabilities. I'm also someone who will do absolutely anything to make sure his students have the best chance for success now and in the future. I'm also someone who asked both my ADHD-psychiatrist (hi!) and ADHD-therapist (hi!!!!!) if I had the right to tell students if I suspected something; they both went, Ya, dude. Totally. So I try to be Sven. I try to pay attention to what my students do and say and provide feedback that can help them. I'd like to note what that feedback is here to make sure people don't miss it because my pieces go on for way too long. If you are a high school student who suspects he or she has ADHD, your best course of action is to talk with your parents and look into being tested by a professional psychiatrist who specializes in the topic. These tests are expensive, and mental health insurance in America sucks balls. But this is the fastest, most straightforward route to getting the help you need. Option two is to try and work with/through your public high school to get them to pay for it.This site has some good info. My guess is that this method will suck. Public schools don't have a lot of funding and will not want to spend it on you. That's not your problem. You will almost certainly need your parents to back you up on this one and sit through a lot of boring meetings. I assume a lot of people will tell you a lot of reasons why they can't help you. Your response every time should be some version of, "Sure. But I need help with this. And I'm not going to stop until I get the support I need. So what do I do from here?" Then you blankly stare at them and refuse to leave until they get you at least to the next step. I'm not sure how well this will work. If you do attempt or have attempted this method, please DM me or contact my Email with your experience. I want to know if this is even worth my student's time. If you can not afford traditional testing or do not feel your parents would support such testing, your best option is to wait until the day you turn 18 and then register for a telehealth company specializing in ADHD. The one I use and recommend isHelloAhead.com. They're neat. They do not take traditional insurance, but their rates are much lower than most doctors. They are cheap enough that I feel an average 18-year old who wants help could find a way to afford it on his or her own. The downside with these sites is the waiting times can be long. Took me like five months. Other such sites are popping up, and while I can't vouch for them, they all seem to offer a similar service. Those paragraphs are what I want every student here to know. I'm much more comfortable having a trained doctor tell you what the deal is than I am trying to do it myself. But I have to see something if I want to be Sven. The question then is, how do I see it? For spotting ADHD, it's shockingly simple. And I'll get to the real reason at the end. But for now, here is what I see when I see a student with ADHD. The best way I can describe their lives is "endless chaos" The chaos isn't always bad! Rarely it's fun chaos, but often it's just chaos chaos. This chaos exists in both physical and mental forms. Physical: Their shit is such a mess. Everything. Most of the work we do is digital, so I see the Google Doc version of their mind. Folders make no sense. Things are labeled inaccurately or not at all. Schools get combined, or separated, or forgotten altogether. It is not a single type of error, but instead a collection of small mistakes and poor decisions that make the work impossible to corral. I have some kids that are messy or lazy, but this is different. It's like if the original folder system I built for them was an amoeba in a petri dish. Leave that dish out for a weekend and come back. The patterns will be remarkably similar to the organizational gore that they then try to utilize. Mental: There's always a story. "I was late because my car has a flat tire, and the guy was late, so I had to take an Uber." "I didn't know my music essays were due a month early because the form only mentioned there being a recital." "My friend is mad at me, but it's only because she didn't tell me we were the first group presenting, so I spent more time preparing our project". These stories make sense at first. But after a few weeks, they start to pile up. Then I become the one hearing a story about why they didn't do what I wanted, and I stop being so forgiving. ADHD is a neurological disorder. Not a mental illness. It's closer to diabetes than it is bi-polar. "ADHD" is a fairly garbage name for the condition because A) it has a stigma, and B) it isn't even accurate. Both attention deficit and hyperactivity are symptoms of ADHD, but they are not the problem itself. It would be like calling clinical depression "low energy and excessive guilt disorder". ADHD is actually an issue involving improper dopamine regulation in the brain combined with under-activity of the brain's executive function component. The executive function center is the part of your brain that is in charge of making sure all the other parts of your brain play nice and communicate. When the executive function center breaks down...those other parts don't. The result is a failure to plan or coordinate + a need for impulsive stimulation, thus resulting in endless chaos. This is what I’ll ask you if you DM me, btw. Is your life endless chaos? Sometimes do you like the chaos? Sometimes do you get bored and create the chaos yourself just to see what might happen? But when that chaos stops being so fun, can you make it stop? They're very, very intelligent You've probably heard about the "gifted ADHD genius" thing before. I don't think it exists. My theory has always been that the "gifted ADHD child" is a victim of survivorship bias. The research states that ADHD has either no or a negative correlation with intelligence. There is also a startling overlap with ADHD and incarceration. This means that students who still manage to succeed despite their disorder tend to have advantages that keep them in the game. Namely that they're smart as hell. The other saving grace is that they come from secure support networks that prevent them from unraveling completely. I've heard from such students that their mom or dad works tirelessly to keep their life in order and to make sure they're getting things done. I do not think it is a coincidence that when ADHD students leave for college, things often fall apart. The fact that there are ADHD kids that others know and still like makes some think ADHD isn't so bad or comes with natural cognitive advantages. Those same people do not become friends with the ADHD dumb kids who would disprove those perceptions. Do you remember that kid in elementary school who was his own worst enemy? He never had friends, and everyone was kind of afraid to even talk with him? He was kind of a bully but mostly just awful? He invited you to his house one time, but your mom wouldn’t let you go? That is my best guess of what a dumb kid with ADHD is like. It sounds cold writing it, but you know which kid I'm talking about right now. Where do you think that kid is today? I end up with the smart ones—the ones with parents who care. And God damn are these kids smart. They're brilliant, and funny, and likable, and charming. They have something different about them that makes them undeniable. And it's not just me. I worry I play them up too much in my mind, but then I chat with a teacher or coach of theirs. It's always the same thing: Oh, she's brilliant. She can be so frustrating sometimes, tho. They can be so frustrating sometimes, tho The word is frustrating. Now bad. Not nasty. Not unlikeable. Frustrating. I have some students I just don't like that much (no, not you). What tends to be the common theme with them is that they don't have much interest in my help and display a work ethic to match. On the other spectrum are the world beaters (totally you). These kids kick ass and not only follow my advice but often take that advice to the next level in ways that awe and inspire me. And then there are the kids I think have ADHD. They don't do stuff all the time. They don't finish an essay, or they forget to spell check like I asked, or they write about something that has nothing to do with the outline we built the week before. That's not necessarily the frustrating part. You kids are 17; you make mistakes. Early on, I try to spot these mistakes and point them out. Even the students who don't like me seem to get my point after enough prodding and the problem goes away. With these kids, the problem does not go away. Or if it does, another problem pops right back up to replace it. It makes me feel like there's nothing I can do. It would be easier if the student was just a brat. Then I could either become a brat myself or mentally check out because "hey man, your future”. I need a name for kids I suspect have ADHD…"MaybeHD"? Ya. That’s super funny. Say it out loud and try not to laugh. But these MaybeHD kids do like me. And they do want to get into school. And they do feel bad when I get upset with them. I end up in long, drawn-out conversations with them about why this is important and why they need to make specific work a priority to get into the schools they want to go to. Then they nod meekly and head home. Then they come back next week, and it's the same story. Frustrating. They are randomly awesome at the weirdest things I love weird talents. Things that no one offers up immediately, but then you're chatting, and it comes up naturally. "Oh ya, I love animals! I raise baby pigs in my backyard!" "You do?" "Ya!" At some point, the MaybeHD kid read something or watched a Youtube video that he or she liked. Then they wanted to try it. Six months later, they're making 4k a month selling custom bathrobes on Etsy. There's rarely any logic. "Do you like baths? Or making clothing? "Not really. I just thought it looked fun, so I bought a sewing kit and started making things." There is a noted link between ADHD and entrepreneurship. I see it with my MaybeHD students. They have an insatiable drive and passion for following up on curiosities that other students don't possess. Passion is the wrong word. They have obsessions with mastering concepts in a way that feels beyond their control. The obsession itself drives them to be great. The literature on the subject is cloudy. But there exists a term in ADHD circles called "Hyperfocus". If you know what "flow" is, it's kind of like that. Only more intense and less controllable. I often see the remnants of past hyperfocuses in their stories. They used to run that pig farm. They used to sell bathrobes. They used to be really into getting good grades at school. But then one day, just as quickly as they picked the skill up, they dropped it. They can seldom tell me why. Their priorities are completely out of whack The downside of hyperfocus is that it can be so all-encompassing that other priorities fall by the wayside. One of my favorite students ever is named Elleway. We chatted in our first meeting, and I was instantly intrigued by her background. She said she had designed and prototyped a unit that would automatically roll under parked electric cars for hands-free charging. I hear a lot of impressive stuff in my job, and a lot of it ends up being not that impressive. But then Elleway showed me the prototype video she made back when she was a high school freshman and it blew my mind. https://youtu.be/Y5Ap2uMbWL4 Can you do that? I sure as hell can't. She wasn't even an engineer. She calmly explained that she had partnered with several older male engineers who had helped turn her idea into reality. Then she had done all the promotional and marketing work herself. Then she got second out of 300 students at a young entrepreneur contest held at Columbia University. Shortly after, a tech CEO came up to her and asked if she would like to work with him to file a patent for the invention. She agreed and is now a trademark holder. That was all in our first 10 minutes. She then went on to share the half dozen corporations she had worked for. And the three businesses she started. And the graphic design work she made for her website. She told me how she was a Nationally ranked fencer until she lost interest. She was now merely a Nationally ranked golfer. Then I saw she had a 2.9 GPA and thus zero shot at getting into NYU like she hoped. I did not initially think Elleway had ADHD. I thought she was a pathological liar. It seemed impossible to me that this same girl who had already taken a grip on the world was then unable to keep up her grades in math. That just isn’t how any -any- of my other ultra high-achieving students behave. Then Elleway showed me pictures of her casually hanging out with Andrew Yang. And then her LinkedIn With a lot of people who do not accept your request unless they want to. I had to figure out what the hell led to all this. Elleway’s patent and ambition to work on it had taken up all her time. She was so singularly focused on doing what she cared about that the world behind her didn't seem to exist. She was hyperfocused on a goal, but once she reached it, she woke up to a reality that punished her for ignoring everything else. That's the longing writer's version of the story. The more popular one is that she didn't give a shit about school, was warned repeatedly about the consequences, and ignored them. She got what she deserved. That’s the version the rest of the world had for her. It goes back to frustrating. I've gotten kids into NYU that don't show a fifth the potential that Elleway did. Those kids went to all the camps their parents paid for and entered competitions with a tech doorbell or something lame, and they're just fine. But MaybeHD students are often world-beaters in ways that make them seem so special. They talk endlessly not just about what they're into but how they figured it all out and why it is all so important to them. I believe them, and I want to fight for them. So I give them as much assistance as I possibly can. But then they don't do the increasingly easy tasks I ask for them to complete. Then they suffer the consequences. Elleway didn't get into NYU. She didn't get in much of anywhere. It eats me up inside, and I feel like I failed her. I don't know how many other people in my position would feel the same way. That's why I have to be Sven. This is getting long, and I'm getting depressed. Here's the TL: DR of what I see when I see a student with ADHD ... Me. I see me. And it can hurt really bad knowing what a condition like ADHD does to a young person's life. My life is endless chaos. I've been out of food for nine days. My house looks like Badger from Breaking Bad bought a loft in Palo Alto. I am still writing this at 3:25 AM when I have to be up for work at nine. My cat has started doing this thing where she sleeps in her food bowl when it gets empty. It's equal parts adorable and humiliating. I'm smart as shit. I know it. I made up half-ideas. That article is absolute fire. I got published on Cracked.com five times in 2011 when that meant something. I went to Tulane on a half-ride merit scholarship, used to win creative writing contests, and have done a bunch of other writery stuff that made people stand up and go, "Woah". But I only made it to college because my mom carried me there, kicking and screaming. She packaged my life together, and I held on for the ride. Then I got to school and made it two months before she got an Email alerting her that Tulane was planning to revoke the remaining $70,000 of my $80,000 scholarship due to my grades. I barely scraped by and survived. But the shame and frustration in her voice when she read me that letter over the phone haunts me to this day. I analyze handwriting. And I turned a Reddit account into a successful business in four months. And I collect college T-shirts from schools my students go to. And I own Bitcoin I bought in 2011 for $4.50 each. And I'm teaching myself piano with a video game. And I'm exercising with a video game. And I'm ranked 42nd in Northern California at Super Smash Bros Ultimate. And I’ve tried the nachos at over 100 Taquerias in the Bay Area. And I own a really cute cat. But I've spent 15* hours this week writing this instead of a sequel to that Costco piece. I have one coming where I edit my Common App essay from 2009. It's a great idea and a great article. One that will drive significantly more business to my site than this piece will. Hell, I predict this piece is likely to lose me business because I come off like a mess in it. But it's what I want to write, so I feel like I have no choice. *The 15 hours is a guess. I have no idea how long it takes me to write and edit these things. I start typing and X hours later look up and realize how hungry I am and how much I need to pee. The writing controls me. I see myself in my MaybeHD students. I see their unfettered curiosity and flair for taking as much good from the world as possible. I see their infectious enthusiasm and ability to quickly forgive others because they know too well how it feels to want forgiveness themselves. Yet I also see their inattention to detail, their weak excuses, and their general confusion that makes me realize they couldn't fix some problems if their lives depended on it. I see their sadness and shame when those mistakes pile up. I see when the chaos stops being fun, and they want out, but they don't know how. I don't know what I, as their consultant, can do. But as Sven, I can recommend they go talk to someone else... Hey, so, I was considering hiring you and all...but you seem kind of bad. Why should I trust you? Because a couple of years ago, I got back on my medication and turned my life around. You aren't reading this if I don't reach out for help and trust a trained psychiatrist to guide me. There are no groups of friends in Delaware or Connecticut comparing their half-ideas lists. There sure as shit isn't a CollegeWithMattie.com. I still have ADHD. But one of the greatest things about ADHD is that it is -without rival- the most treatable form of mental illness or dysfunction known to man. It is not curable, but there are endless medical and non-medical options available for those willing to reach out and get the help they need. My story is that it was only by getting re-medicated that I then could learn and use coping mechanisms that allow me to achieve the type of life I've always wanted. Christ, 4,400 words. You know, I'm also submitting this for a class I'm in. That's why all the backlinks are to actual sources instead of links herding you into my website. Hi Amy! That's one more thing. ADHD people are hyper-efficient...Kind of. Alright. If you're still here reading this, you might be suspecting some things about yourself. My DMs are open if you want to chat, but again, I am not a doctor. I will say that right now, as you prepare to head to college, is a really good time to get this all figured out. College is a giant reset button on your life. Figure these problems out now so that by the time you head off for your next chapter, you will have given yourself the best possible chance to succeed. Endless chaos. Here is the bold part again: If you are a student in high school who suspects he or she has ADHD, your best course of action is to talk with your parents and look into being tested by a professional psychiatrist who specializes in the topic. These tests are expensive, and mental health insurance in America (still) sucks balls. But this is the fastest, most straightforward route to getting the help you need. Option two is to try and work with/through your public high school to get them to pay for it.This site has some good info. My guess is that this method will kind of suck. Public schools don't have a lot of funding and will not want to spend it on you. That's not your problem. You will almost certainly need your parents to back you up on this one and sit through a lot of boring meetings. I assume a lot of people will tell you a lot of reasons why they can't help you. Your response every time should be some version of, "Sure. But I need help with this. And I'm not going to stop until I get the support I need. So what do I do from here?" Then you blankly stare at them and refuse to leave until they get you at least to the next step. This will suck and I'm not sure how well it will work. If you do attempt or have attempted this method, please DM me or contact my Email with your experience. I want to know if this is even worth my student's time. If you can not afford traditional testing, or if you do not feel your parents would support such testing, your best option is to wait until the day you turn 18 and then register for a telehealth company that specializes in ADHD. The one I use and recommend isHelloAhead.com. They're neat. They do not take traditional insurance, but their rates are much lower than most doctors. They are cheap enough that I feel an average 18-year old who wants help could find a way to afford it on his or her own. The downside with these sites is the waiting times can be really long. Took me like five months. Other such sites are popping up, and while I can't vouch for them, they all seem to offer a similar service. Update: The lines aren't that long anymore! Monday was Elleway's 18th birthday. She sent me a screengrab of her upcoming Ahead appointment in early September. She told me she spent the entire day crying because all her friends were going off to great schools and that she was stuck at home. I've told Elleway that I plan to help her reapply to NYU this year. I doubt I will ever want to see another student succeed as much as I will with her.
Wandering From the Path? | Monthly Portfolio Update - August 2020
Midway along the journey of our lifeI woke to find myself in a dark wood,for I had wandered off from the straight path. Dante, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto I This is my forty-fifth portfolio update. I complete this update monthly to check my progress against my goal. Portfolio goal My objective is to reach a portfolio of $2 180 000 by 1 July 2021. This would produce a real annual income of about $87 000 (in 2020 dollars). This portfolio objective is based on an expected average real return of 3.99 per cent, or a nominal return of 6.49 per cent. Portfolio summary
Vanguard Lifestrategy High Growth Fund $733 769
Vanguard Lifestrategy Growth Fund $41 794
Vanguard Lifestrategy Balanced Fund $78 533
Vanguard Diversified Bonds Fund $110 771
Vanguard Australian Shares ETF (VAS) $216 758
Vanguard International Shares ETF (VGS) $64 542
Betashares Australia 200 ETF (A200) $237 138
Telstra shares (TLS) $1 540
Insurance Australia Group shares (IAG) $6 043
NIB Holdings shares (NHF) $5 532
Gold ETF (GOLD.ASX) $121 976
Secured physical gold $19 535
Ratesetter (P2P lending) $8 998
Bitcoin $177 310
Raiz app (Aggressive portfolio) $17 421
Spaceship Voyager app (Index portfolio) $2 759
BrickX (P2P rental real estate) $4 477
Total portfolio value $1 848 896 (+$48 777 or 2.7%) Asset allocation
Australian shares 41.5%
Global shares 22.6%
Emerging market shares 2.2%
International small companies 2.8%
Total international shares 27.6%
Total shares 69.2% (5.8% under)
Total property securities 0.2% (0.2% over)
Australian bonds 4.4%
International bonds 8.9%
Total bonds 13.3% (1.7% under)
Gold and alternatives 17.2% (7.2% over)
Presented visually, below is a high-level view of the current asset allocation of the portfolio. [Chart] Comments The portfolio has increased in value for the fifth consecutive month, and is starting to approach the monthly value last reached in January. The portfolio has grown over $48 000, or 2.7 per cent this month, reflecting the strong market recovery since late March [Chart] The growth in the portfolio was broadly-based across global and Australian equities, with an increase of around 3.8 per cent. Following strong previous rises, gold holdings decreased by around 2.2 per cent, while Bitcoin continued to increase in value (by 2.5 per cent). Combined, the value of gold and Bitcoin holdings remain at a new peak, while total equity holdings are still below their late January peak to the tune of around $50 000. The fixed income holdings of the portfolio continue to fall below the target allocation. [Chart] The expanding value of gold and Bitcoin holdings since January last year have actually had the practical effect of driving new investments into equities, since effectively for each dollar of appreciation, for example, my target allocation to equities rises by seven dollars. New investments this month have been in the Vanguard international shares exchange-traded fund (VGS) and the Australian shares equivalent (VAS). These have been directed to bring my actual asset allocation more closely in line with the target split between Australian and global shares set out in the portfolio plan. As the exchange traded funds such as VGS, VAS and Betashares A200 now make up nearly 30 per cent of the overall portfolio, the quarterly payments they provide have increased in magnitude and importance. Early in the journey, third quarter distributions were essentially immaterial events. Using the same 'median per unit' forecast approach as recently used for half yearly forecasts would suggest a third quarter payout due at the end of September of around $6000. Due to significant announced dividend reductions across this year I am, however, currently assuming this is likely to be significantly lower, and perhaps in the vicinity of $4000 or less. Finding true north: approach to achieving a set asset allocation One of the choices facing all investors with a preferred asset allocation is how strictly the target is applied over time, and what variability is acceptable around that. There is a significant body of financial literature around that issue. My own approach has been to seek to target the preferred asset allocation dynamically, through buying the asset class that is furthest from its target, with new portfolio contributions, and re-investment of paid out distributions. As part of monitoring asset allocation, I also track a measure of 'absolute' variance, to understand at a whole of portfolio level how far it is from the desired allocation. This is the sum of the absolute value of variances (e.g. so that being 3 per cent under target in shares, and 7 per cent over target in fixed interest will equal an absolute variance of 10 per cent under this measure). This measure is currently sitting near its highest level in around 2 years, at 15.0 per cent, as can be seen in the chart below. [Chart] The dominant reason for this higher level of variance from target is significant appreciation in the price of gold and Bitcoin holdings. Mapping the sources of portfolio variances Changes in target allocations in the past makes direct comparisons problematic, but previous peaks of the variance measure matches almost perfectly past Bitcoin price movements. For a brief period in January 2018, gold and Bitcoin combined constituted 20 per cent, or 1 in 5 dollars of the entire portfolio. Due to the growth in other equity components of the portfolio since this level has not been subsequently exceeded. Nonetheless, it is instructive to understand that the dollar value of combined gold and Bitcoin holdings is actually up around $40 000 from that brief peak. With the larger portfolio, this now means they together make up 17.2 per cent of the total portfolio value. Tacking into the wind of portfolio movements? The logical question to fall out from this situation is: to what extent should this drive an active choice to sell down gold and Bitcoin until they resume their 10 per cent target allocation? This would currently imply selling around $130 000 of gold or Bitcoin, and generating a capital gains tax liability of potentially up to $27 000. Needless to say this is not an attractive proposition. Several other considerations lead me to not make this choice:
The problem may solve itself as portfolio grows - Growth and continued investments in the portfolio will tend to reduce the variance caused by gold and Bitcoin. The asset allocation targeting approach I adopt has seen continued contributions to equities, reducing the ability of these alternative assets to add to future variance.
Falls in Bitcoin or gold values will also solve the problem - Conversely, price falls in Bitcoin or gold will tend to reduce the variance issue, and such price falls have significant precedents, with for example Bitcoin holdings falling to a value of around $50 000 as recently as January 2019.
If neither of these happen, there may be bigger issues to solve - The only scenario where neither of these alleviating factors occur is should gold and Bitcoin continue to rapidly appreciate compared to other assets, in which case it is difficult to see the value of reducing exposure now.
Does Bitcoin even fit the asset allocation model? - Bitcoin in particular is not a well established or accepted asset class as yet, so it may not be appropriate to apply traditional allocation rules to it - it may be functioning more as a hedge or option against extreme states of the world. Linked to this is the high degree of volatility in Bitcoin. Adopting too tight a target on Bitcoin holdings would potentially see a need to buy and sell Bitcoin frequently, where my intention is to actually never purchase any more.
This approach is a departure from a mechanistic implementation of an asset allocation rule. Rather, the approach I take is pragmatic. Tracking course drift in the portfolio components As an example, I regularly review whether a significant fall in Bitcoin prices to its recent lows would alter my monthly decision on where to direct new investments. So far it does not, and the 'signal' continues to be to buy new equities. Another tool I use is a monthly measurement of the absolute dollar variance of Australian and global shares, as well as fixed interest, from their ideal target allocations. The chart below sets this out for the period since January 2019. A positive value effectively represents an over-allocation to a sector, a negative value, an under-allocation compared to target. [Chart] This reinforces the overall story that, as gold and Bitcoin have grown in value, there emerges a larger 'deficit' to the target. Falls in equities markets across February and March also produce visibly larger 'dollar gaps' to the target allocation. This graph enables a tracking of the impact of portfolio gains or losses, and volatility, and a better understanding of the practical task of returning to target allocations. Runaway lines in either direction would be evidence that current approaches for returning to targets were unworkable, but so far this does not appear to be the case. A crossing over: a credit card FI milestone This month has seen a long awaited milestone reached. Calculated on a past three year average, portfolio distributions now entirely meet monthly credit card expenses. This means that every credit card purchase - each shopping trip or online purchase - is effectively paid for by average portfolio distributions. At the start of this journey, distributions were only equivalent to around 40 per cent of credit card expenses. As time has progressed distributions have increased to cover a larger and larger proportion of card expenses. [Chart] Most recently, with COVID-19 related restrictions having pushed card expenditure down further, the remaining gap to this 'Credit Card FI' target has closed. Looked at on an un-smoothed basis, expenditures on the credit card have continued to be slightly lower than average across the past month. The below chart details the extent to which portfolio distributions (red) cover estimated total expenses (green), measured month to month. [Chart] Credit card expenditure makes up around 80 per cent of total spending, so this is not a milestone that makes paid work irrelevant or optional. Similarly, if spending rises as various travel and other restrictions ease, it is possible that this position could be temporary. Equally, should distributions fall dramatically below long term averages in the year ahead, this could result in average distributions falling faster than average monthly card expenditure. Even without this, on a three year average basis, monthly distributions will decline as high distributions received in the second half of 2017 slowly fall out of the estimation sample. For the moment, however, a slim margin exists. Distributions are $13 per month above average monthly credit card bills. This feels like a substantial achievement to note, as one unlooked for at the outset of the journey. Progress Progress against the objective, and the additional measures I have reached is set out below. Measure Portfolio All Assets Portfolio objective – $2 180 000 (or $87 000 pa) 84.8% 114.6% Credit card purchases – $71 000 pa 103.5% 139.9% Total expenses – $89 000 pa 82.9% 112.1% Summary What feels like a long winter is just passed. The cold days and weeks have felt repetitive and dominated by a pervasive sense of uncertainty. Yet through this time, this wandering off, the portfolio has moved quite steadily back towards it previous highs. That it is even approaching them in the course of just a few months is unexpected. What this obscures is the different components of growth driving this outcome. The portfolio that is recovering, like the index it follows, is changing in its underlying composition. This can be seen most starkly in the high levels of variance from the target portfolio sought discussed above. It is equally true, however, of individual components such as international equity holdings. In the case of the United States the overall index performance has been driven by share price growth in just a few information technology giants. Gold and Bitcoin have emerged from the shadows of the portfolio to an unintended leading role in portfolio growth since early 2019. This month I have enjoyed reading the Chapter by Chapter release of the Aussie FIRE e-book coordinated by Pearler. I've also been reading posts from some newer Australian financial independence bloggers, Two to Fire, FIRE Down Under, and Chasing FIRE Down Under. In podcasts, I have enjoyed the Mad Fientist's update on his fourth year of financial freedom, and Pat and Dave's FIRE and Chill episodes, including an excellent one on market timing fallacies. The ASX Australian Investor Study 2020 has also been released - setting out some broader trends in recent Australian investment markets, and containing a snapshot of the holdings, approaches and views of everyday investors. This contained many intriguing findings, such as the median investment portfolio ($130 000), its most frequent components (direct Australian shares), and how frequently portfolios are usually checked - with 61 per cent of investors checking their portfolios at least once a month. This is my own approach also. Monthly assessments allow me to gauge and reflect on how I or elements of the portfolio may have wandered off the straight way in the middle of the journey. Without this, the risk is that dark woods and bent pathways beckon. The post, links and full charts can be seen here.
TL;DR: Twitter has a horrible execution history and negative surprises on the most recent earnings call, but company has real long term value that has yet to be unlocked. The bet here is that TWTR has run up based on pin action from SNAP, but fundamentals and peer comparison cloud the picture. I read this post calling for a short on Twitter and it became a bit of a WSB ear worm. I generally agreed with OP's assessment, but he was a bit short on DD and most of my thoughts are based on biases against the company's horrible execution/monetization history and a general disdain for Jack Dorsey wanting to move to Africa for a year rather than focusing on the TWO companies that have made him a billionaire. I thought about it, researched some short term puts (high premium as expected given recent run up into all time high today, earnings Thursday) and basically ATM puts are running $2.76 for $51's expiring Friday or $3.36 if I want to give myself the extra week (ELECTION MADNESS!) for an extra swing at the payoff. My initial thought is that Twitter has run up with SNAP and PINS after SNAP crushed earnings. I had started to look at PINS for an earnings play but didn't get to it before SNAP sent them all (and FB) off to the races. With that said, Twitter has a history of disappointing and I'm not aware of anything they've done recently to better monetize the site. I also haven't done any DD on them in forever after getting stuck long a few times and having to wait a quarter or so twice for what should have been a short term trade. So, thanks to OP Justaryns, here's some follow on DD. Now I'm more conflicted. Financials. Strong balance sheet. Company had $7.8 Billion cash on hand end of June, adding $1 Billion of that during the first six (crash/shutdown) months of the year. Only $831 Million of current liabilities and total debt is $4.1 Billion. Market Cap is less than 4x book value. No issues here. Income statement is a bit more hokey. They took a major charge last quarter for a "non-cash tax deferred asset". That messed up a slow but steady growing trendline. How much so? Check the CNBC graphic: 2Q: Whoops Also during the last quarter, Twitter had a massive hack where some moron tried to use the accounts of famous people to try and sell (Edit; The currency that we doth not speak its name). No word on which autist here did that. The problems continued into the last few weeks, when Twitter had a massive outage that the President blamed cited the Babylon Bee as Biden protection. That's more of a reminder that headline and political risk remains in all communication services stocks, and tomorrow we'll get a better reminder as the CEO's of Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft testify before a Congress that hates them more than their own voters. So Twitter has execution problems, political risk, and a CEO that is still trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up. Yet it's had a massive run up as pin action from SNAP. Does it have further room to run? Chart comparisons suggest it could. Relative Performance of SNAP, PINS, TWTR, and FB This is where I get heartburn on the short. Over the past year, PINS and SNAP have had over a 150% return. FB, much more established and with a market cap 20 times that of Twitter, has still given a respectable 46% return. Twitter is up 73%, which is a lot...until you compare it to peers like SNAP and PINS. Further, analysts are sour on Twitter, with 32 of 41 giving hold or underperform ratings, and a stock price 20% below current prices. I tend to consider them a contra-indicator, in that they move after sentiment does, usually not before. CNBC analyst summary So, I'm torn. If Dorsey can demonstrate he has finally decided to execute a business plan and fix the recurring technical/security issues, there's real value to unlock here. Short term....I'm probably willing to take a gamble that he hasn't, and buy a few puts. What say y'all? Related Positions: 6 FB 275 Nov 20 calls. No positions yet on TWTR.
DDDD - The Rise of “Buy the Dip” Retail Investors and Why Another Crash Is Imminent
In this week's edition of DDDD (Data-driven DD), I'll be going over the real reason why we have been seeing a rally for the past few weeks, defying all logic and fundamentals - retail investors. We'll look into several data sets to see how retail interest in stock markets have reached record levels in the past few weeks, how this affected stock prices, and why we've most likely seen the top at this point, unless we see one of the "positive catalysts" that I mentioned in my previous post, which is unlikely (except for more news about Remdesivir). Disclaimer - This is not financial advice, and a lot of the content below is my personal opinion. In fact, the numbers, facts, or explanations presented below could be wrong and be made up. Don't buy random options because some person on the internet says so; look at what happened to all the SPY 220p 4/17 bag holders. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions on what you should do with your own money, and how levered you want to be based on your personal risk tolerance. Inspiration Most people who know me personally know that I spend an unhealthy amount of my free time in finance and trading as a hobby, even competing in paper options trading competitions when I was in high school. A few weeks ago, I had a friend ask if he could call me because he just installed Robinhood and wanted to buy SPY puts after seeing everyone on wallstreetbets post gains posts from all the tendies they’ve made from their SPY puts. The problem was, he actually didn’t understand how options worked at all, and needed a thorough explanation about how options are priced, what strike prices and expiration dates mean, and what the right strategy to buying options are. That’s how I knew we were at the euphoria stage of buying SPY puts - it’s when dumb money starts to pour in, and people start buying securities because they see everyone else making money and they want in, even if they have no idea what they’re buying, and price becomes dislocated from fundementals. Sure enough, less than a week later, we started the bull rally that we are currently in. Bubbles are formed when people buy something not because of logic or even gut feeling, but when people who previously weren’t involved see their dumb neighbors make tons of money from it, and they don’t want to miss out. A few days ago, I started getting questions from other friends about what stocks they should buy and if I thought something was a good investment. That inspired me to dig a bit deeper to see how many other people are thinking the same thing. Data Ever since March, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of money pour into the stock market from retail investors. Google Search Trends \"what stock should I buy\" Google Trends 2004 - 2020 \"what stock should I buy\" Google Trends 12 months \"stocks\" Google Trends 2004 - 2020 \"stocks\" Google Trends 12 months Brokerage data Robinhood SPY holders \"Robinhood\" Google Trends 12 months wallstreetbets' favorite broker Google Trends 12 months Excerpt from E*Trade earnings statement Excerpt from Schwab earnings statement TD Ameritrade Excerpt Media cnbc.com Alexa rank CNBC viewership & rankings wallstreetbets comments / day investing comments / day Analysis What we can see from Reddit numbers, Google Trends, and CNBC stats is that in between the first week of March and first week of April, we see a massive inflow of retail interest in the stock market. Not only that, but this inflow of interest is coming from all age cohorts, from internet-using Zoomers to TV-watching Boomers. Robinhood SPY holdings and earnings reports from E*Trade, TD Ameritrade, and Schwab have also all confirmed record numbers of new clients, number of trades, and assets. There’s something interesting going on if you look closer at the numbers. The numbers growth in brokers for designed for “less sophisticated” investors (i.e. Robinhood and E*Trade) are much larger than for real brokers (i.e. Schwab and Ameritrade). This implies that the record number of new users and trade volume is coming from dumb money. The numbers shown here only really apply to the US and Canada, but there’s also data to suggest that there’s also record numbers of foreign investors pouring money into the US stock market as well. However, after the third week of March, we see the interest start to slowly decline and plateau, indicating that we probably have seen most of those new investors who wanted to have a long position in the market do so. SPX daily Rationale Pretty much everything past this point is purely speculation, and isn’t really backed up by any solid data so take whatever I say here with a cup of salt. We could see from the graph that new investor interest started with the first bull trap we saw in the initial decline from early March, and peaking right after the end of the crash in March. So it would be fair to guess that we’re seeing a record amount of interest in the stock market from a “buy the dip” mentality, especially from Robinhood-using Millennials. Here’s a few points on my rationalization of this behavior, based on very weak anecdotal evidence
They missed out of their chance of getting in the stock market at the start of the bull market that happened at the end of 2009
They’ve all seen the stock market make record gains throughout their adult lives, but believing that the market might be overheated, they were waiting for a crash
Most of them have gotten towards the stage of their lives where they actually have some savings and can finally put some money aside for investments
This stock market crash seems like their once-in-a-decade opportunity that they’ve been waiting for, so everyone jumped in
Everyone’s stuck at their homes with vast amounts of unexpected free time on their hands
Most of these new investors got their first taste in the market near the bottom, and probably made some nice returns. Of course, since they didn’t know what they were doing, they probably put a very small amount of money at first, but after seeing a 10% return over one week, validating that maybe they do know something, they decide to slowly pour in more and more of their life savings. That’s what’s been fueling this bull market. Sentiment & Magic Crayons As I mentioned previously, this bull rally will keep going until enough bears convert to bulls. Markets go up when the amount of new bullish positions outnumber the amount of new bearish positions, and vice versa. Record amounts of new investors, who previously never held a position in the market before, fueled the bullish side of this equation, despite all the negative data that has come out and dislocating the price from fundamentals. All the smart money that was shorting the markets saw this happening, and flipped to become bulls because you don’t fight the trend, even if the trend doesn’t reflect reality. From the data shown above, we can see new investor interest growth has started declining since mid March and started stagnating in early April. The declining volume in SPY since mid-March confirms this. That means, once the sentiment of the new retail investors starts to turn bearish, and everyone figures out how much the stocks they’re holding are really worth, another sell-off will begin. I’ve seen something very similar to this a few years ago with Bitcoin. Near the end of 2017, Bitcoin started to become mainstream and saw a flood of retail investors suddenly signing up for Coinbase (i.e. Robinhood) accounts and buying Bitcoin without actually understanding what it is and how it works. Suddenly everyone, from co-workers to grandparents, starts talking about Bitcoin and might have thrown a few thousand dollars into it. This appears to be a very similar parallel to what’s going on right now. Of course there’s differences here in that equities have an intrinsic value, although many of them have gone way above what they should be intrinsically worth, and the vast majority of retail investors don’t understand how to value companies. Then, during December, when people started thinking that the market was getting a bit overheated, some started taking their profits, and that’s when the prices crashed violently. This flip in sentiment now look like it has started with equities. SPY daily Technical Analysis, or magic crayons, is a discipline in finance that uses statistical analysis to predict market trends based on market sentiment. Of course, a lot of this is hand-wavy and is very subjective; two people doing TA on the same price history can end up getting opposite results, so TA should always be taken with a grain of salt and ideally be backed with underlying justification and not be blindly followed. In fact, I’ve since corrected the ascending wedge I had on SPY since my last post since this new wedge is a better fit for the new trading data. There’s a few things going on in this chart. The entire bull rally we’ve had since the lows can be modelled using a rising wedge. This is a pattern where there is a convergence of a rising support and resistance trendline, along with falling volume. This indicates a slow decline in net bullish sentiment with investors, with smaller and smaller upside after each bounce off the support until it hits a resistance. The smaller the bounces, the less bullish investors are. When the bearish sentiment takes over across investors, the price breaks below this wedge - a breakdown, and indicates a start of another downtrend. This happened when the wedge hit resistance at around 293, which is around the same price as the 200 day moving average, the 62% retracement (considered to be the upper bound of a bull trap), and a price level that acted as a support and resistance throughout 2019. The fact that it gapped down to break this wedge is also a strong signal, indicating a sudden swing in investor sentiment overnight. The volume of the break down also broke the downwards trend of volume we’ve had since the beginning of the bull rally, indicating a sudden surge of people selling their shares. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we will go straight from here, and I personally think that we will see the completion of a heads-and-shoulders pattern complete before SPY goes below 274, which in itself is a strong support level. In other words, SPY might go from 282 -> 274 -> 284 -> 274 before breaking the 274 support level. VIX Daily Doing TA is already sketchy, and doing TA on something like VIX is even more sketchy, but I found this interesting so I’ll mention it. Since the start of the bull rally, we’ve had VIX inside a descending channel. With the breakdown we had in SPY yesterday, VIX has also gapped up to have a breakout from this channel, indicating that we may see future volatility in the next week or so. Putting Everything Together Finally, we get to my thesis. This entire bull rally has been fueled by new retail investors buying the dip, bringing the stock price to euphoric levels. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been seeing the people waiting at the sidelines for years to get into the stock market slowly FOMO into the rally in smaller and smaller volumes, while the smart money have been locking in their profits at an even slower rate - hence an ascending wedge. As the amount of new retail interest in the stock market started slowed down, the amount of new bulls started to decline. It looks like Friday might have been the start of the bearish sentiment taking over, meaning it’s likely that 293 was the top, unless any significant bullish events happen in the next two weeks like a fourth round of stimulus, in which case we might see 300. This doesn’t mean we’ll instantly go back to circuit breakers on Monday, and we might see 282 -> 274 -> 284 -> 274 happen before panic, this time by the first-time investors, eventually bringing us down towards SPY 180. tldr; we've reached the top EDIT - I'll keep a my live thoughts here as we move throughout this week in case anyone's still reading this and interested. 5/4 8PM - /ES was red last night but steadily climbed, which was expected since 1h RSI was borderline oversold, leaving us to a slightly green day. /ES looks like it has momentum going up, but is approaching towards overbought territory now. Expecting it to go towards 284 (possibly where we'll open tomorrow) and bouncing back down from that price level 5/5 Market Open - Well there goes my price target. I guess at this point it might go up to 293 again, but will need a lot of momentum to push back there to 300. Seems like this is being driven by oil prices skyrocketing. 5/5 3:50PM - Volume for the upwards price action had very little volume behind it. Seeing a selloff EOD today, could go either way although I have a bearish bias. Going to hold cash until it goes towards one end of the 274-293 channel (see last week's thesis). Still believe that we will see it drop below 274 next week, but we might be moving sideways in the channel this week and a bit of next week before that happens. Plan for tomorrow is buy short dated puts if open < 285. Otherwise, wait till it goes to 293 before buying those puts 5/5 6PM - What we saw today could be a false breakout above 284. Need tomorrow to open below 285 for that to be confirmed. If so, my original thesis of it going back down to 274 before bouncing back up will still be in play. 5/6 EOD - Wasn't a false breakout. Looks like it's still forming the head-and-shoulders pattern mentioned before, but 288 instead of 284 as the level. Still not sure yet so I'm personally going to be holding cash and waiting this out for the next few days. Will enter into short positions if we either go near 293 again or drop below 270. Might look into VIX calls if VIX goes down near 30. 5/7 Market Open - Still waiting. If we break 289 we're probably heading to 293. I'll make my entry to short positions when we hit that a second time. There's very little bullish momentum left (see MACD 1D), so if we hit 293 and then drop back down, we'll have a MACD crossover event which many traders and algos use as a sell signal. Oil is doing some weird shit. 5/7 Noon - Looks like we're headed to 293. Picked up VIX 32.5c 5/27 since VIX is near 30. 5/7 11PM - /ES is hovering right above 2910, with 4h and 1h charts are bullish from MACD and 1h is almost overbought in RSI. Unless something dramatic happens we'll probably hit near 293 tomorrow, which is where I'll get some SPY puts. We might drop down before ever touching it, or go all the way to 295 (like last time) during the day, but expecting it to close at or below 293. After that I'm expecting a gap down Monday as we start the final leg down next week towards 274. Expecting 1D MACD to crossover in the final leg down, which will be a signal for bears to take over and institutions / day traders will start selling again 5/8 Market Open - Plan is to wait till a good entry today, either when technicals looks good or we hit 293, and then buy some SPY June 285p and July 275p 5/8 Noon - Everything still going according to plan. Most likely going to slowly inch towards 293 by EOD. Will probably pick up SPY puts and more VIX calls at power hour (3 - 4PM). Monday will probably gap down, although there's a small chance of one more green / sideways day before that happens if we have bullish catalysts on the weekend. 5/8 3:55PM - SPY at 292.60. This is probably going to be the closest we get to 293. Bought SPY 290-260 6/19 debit spreads and 292-272 5/15 debit spreads, as well as doubling down on VIX calls from yesterday, decreasing my cost basis. Still looks like there's room for one more green day on Monday, so I left some money on the side to double down if that's the case, although it's more likely than not we won't get there. 5/8 EOD - Looks like we barely touched 293 exactly AH before rebounding down. Too bad you can't buy options AH, but more convinced we'll see a gap down on Monday. Going to work on another post over the weekend and do my updates there. Have a great weekend everyone!
I keep hearing "Deflation before massive inflation"
So what can we do about it? Any ideas are welcome. It has a lot of "what if's"... It depends how tax and law play out with it.Historically speaking:
Commodities and things people use every day become expensive,
Luxury goods fall in value.
Inflation wipes out all savings, there is often a rush to spend money while it has value. "Bank runs" and "Bank Bail in's" where the bank will limit your withdraws to prop up the bank temporarily. Sure here the FDIC may insure it, but its nothing if your money is losing value by the hour and it takes months to get it actually into your hands. And many countries have issues with a person holding cash..."You're automatically a drug dealer! >your money is now drug money! >Asset forfeiture" ...I cant count how many times this happens.
People yell " physical gold and silver!" ... yeah, those do hold value well, however the gov does tax that at 26-30% when sold, and will often ban its use in dire times. ....huge grey / pirate area.
Mining stock is the same in the tax range, and nearly anything you "resell", imposed taxes and royalties can be added leaving you high and dry.
Precious metal holdings have been banned in the past, even here in the USA...aka Government confiscation.
Nationalization of Precious metals mines have happened.
Edit: I now realize there are many ways stocks can play out.
Real Estate will raise in value hugely, However so will the taxes, longer contracts at fixed rates benefits the lendee.
Things that you use, if you can stock or invest in it.
-I stock bulk diesel for my cars while following historical averages to buy cheap.
-Rotating food stock
-Extra maintenance items, including the big things like a roof on your home if its coming time. Not joking I have a spare water heater and backup heating options, along with minor parts and filters to fix them. Same with cars and engines, (spark plugs, filters (all different filters), oil, cheap sensors that usually go bad and are only 4-10$ each, 1-2 extra alternator per vehicle, belts, mowing belts, bearings, grease, ... and I've literally had to use everything on that list and reorder.)
Things that directly pay you back or are insurance. Saving money is making money.
-Security, Locks, Alarms, Cameras, people steal.
A deep freezer for instance can stock food you use and buy on sale.
Solar energy and solar heating supplements energy you use anyways
Rainwater can be collected and used rather than buying from a source.
A cooking gadget vs eating out.
Tools and learning to fix things vs hire.
House insulation.-Better insulative windows, and sealing.
Bidet on toilet (lol serious though...)
Your education can be a huge one, not just for prepping but also in your work.
Things that prevent rot, fire, flood / humidity, or failure. Humidity is a silent killer to many preps. (water sump pumps, dehumidifiers, leak prevention, fire extinguishers / sprinklers, )
Things that last and can be resold on the street if need be. This list can be huge, you have to balance it with liquidity, what you use but can also sell before it goes bad / fails.
Honestly and unpopularly, Things that can avoid tax when the price inflates out of control and you wish to sell. The numbers can be so distorted in both price and taxing of income. Eggs for instance, in many countries from Weimar Republic of Germany to Venezuela, increased 15,000%+, So that $15,000 egg / $150,000 dozen that you sold from your chickens gets taxed in the highest tax bracket? (which can go into the 90% range if rules aren't changed for the massive inflation) Taxes usually try raising during this and many companies flee the country, add robots / machines, or downsize as the result of more taxes making work and jobs even more of an issue. .. honestly history shows the whole thing being a cluster-duck in so many ways. Alternative currencies pop up, actual trades happen and go unreported, crime even shifts when things get too bad, again with Venezuela, I read that criminals were moving to other countries because the people were too poor to even make anything robbing! You can also have a business where you write off so many things that you would use anyways. The numbers get... err... odd, play the game.
It is usually around 10 years of chaos before things start "stabilizing." and even then, so much damage has occured.
This is a serious thing that has happened to once prosperous people / civilizations in the past...don't think you're exempt, especially when the numbers are at historical limits in many countries. Invest in yourself and what you use regularly.
Best Cryptocurrency Multi-Exchange Trading and Portfolio Management Platforms Ranking 2020
Trade on multiple exchanges from a single platform and avoid the hassle of multiple logins, different interfaces, constant tab changing and overall keeping track of balance holdings and trades. https://preview.redd.it/ksar6fkxmfv51.jpg?width=1200&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=b8629b0f29aefd9546d816413cc82de9656ef7f9 With more than 300 cryptocurrency exchanges today, most traders have to manage multiple exchange accounts. The need for more than one account usually rises because of the variety of offered crypto currency pairs, market liquidity, having to diversify the risk of being hacked, as well as the different trading tools and terms each exchange offers. Trading and keeping track of your portfolios on multiple exchanges is time consuming, inefficient and frustrating. Having to log on different platforms, use different interfaces, keeping track of multiple portfolios and all trading related activities become increasingly difficult with each new account. It would be simple and easy if you could connect all those exchange accounts into a single multi-exchange platform which combines all the data in real time and provides a single interface to control all remote exchange accounts.
A multi-exchange platform allows the traders to connect all their exchange accounts into a single account through the user of API keys generated from the account of each exchange. Once all accounts are connected into a single one, using the exchanges interfaces becomes obsolete. The unified account will now track and combine all portfolios and traders will be able to track prices, order statuses and other data across all exchange accounts from a single interface. In addition, most multi-exchange platforms provide various information tools such as news aggregators, sentiment tools, arbitrage matrix and price alerts. With regards to API keys security, these platforms do not require withdrawal or deposit permissions which limits the possibility of fraud and loss of funds. Finally, multi-exchange platforms do not typically charge additional trading fees and do not require lengthy verification procedures.
The current top platforms
Currently there are a handful of multi-exchange platforms with a variety of services. They range from a simple crypto portfolio tracker to an advanced trading and portfolio management platform. A detailed list of all major multi-exchange platforms and their features can be found here: www.AltXpert.com Here is an overview of the top 9 multi-exchange trading and portfolio management platforms:
New York Lawyers Propose Toolkit for Keeping ‘Decentralized’ Blockchains Honest
Image: Tom Adams - Unsplash A New York law firm is trying to test blockchain projects’ decentralization claims against their perhaps not-quite-so-distributed realities. Called the “Ketsal Open Standards” rubric, the toolkit, developed by the Ketsal law firm and revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, proposes using hard, measurable data points to either bolster or burst a blockchain’s decentralized credentials. It’s the latest contribution to a long-raging debate in crypto: when, and how, is something truly decentralized? Finding that key, said toolkit co-creator and Ketsal partner Josh Garcia, can help investors, security researchers and even securities regulators root out blockchain projects’ sometimes bogus claims. “It’s a tool to push along an informed discussion on what you’re talking about when you’re saying, ‘my network is decentralized.’” “Now you can push back” with evidence the assertion is demonstrably false, he said. Garcia and co-author Jenny Leung’s Open Standards is hardly the first decentralization measurement toolkit. But a review by CoinDesk shows it to be one of the most robust. Thirty-three data points probe the hard facts behind blockchain decentralization. Many are obvious. For example, the focus network’s node count – a decentralized network should have plenty – and its underlying code’s licensure status – open source or bust – are clear benchmarks. But others appear to be more novel. Ketsal’s framework proposes weighing the network’s GitHub statistics, measuring inter-node communication times, determining how large a stake of the cryptocurrency rests in wallets (and with the big-investing whales) – and even the theoretical cost of mounting a 51% attack, among others. Compiling these statistics can help researchers better understand a blockchain’s in-the-moment distribution even if reaching an up-down verdict on its decentralization is impossible, said Garcia. “It’s not an answer to the question, ‘What is decentralization,’ but it’s a way to find that answer,” he said. “If people can decide whether or not some of these metrics are valid,” they can use their chosen set to test for the type of decentralization they’re looking at. Providing a broad selection of diverse metrics is critical, he said, because of the political, computational and economic analysts searching for a “decentralization” particular to them. A securities regulator concerned with the Howey Test would likely choose different data points than a security researcher probing the network for holes. But different analysts also might hone in on similar points. For one, mining power concentration, or the concentration of miners whose computational efforts cryptographically secure proof-of-work blockchains, is a critical benchmark for any decentralization hawk. If all the key miners are geographically concentrated or grouped into a single pool, a blockchain may face mounting centralization and security risks, according to Ketsal. Just four pools mined 58% of Bitcoin blocks in the past year, the rubric shows. Garcia said his team spent months compiling all the relevant data points from the world’s best-known blockchain network. Bitcoin’s resilience as well as the consensus agreement that it is decentralized make it an ideal case study, and Garcia said it’s the obvious benchmark to hold other projects against. “If you do the same exact chart for another blockchain network, and you compare it side by side to Bitcoin … you know how far off you are from [decentralization]” he said. Originally published by Danny Nelson | October 21, 2020 Coindesk
Lines of Navigation | Monthly Portfolio Update - July 202
Our little systems have their day; They have their day and cease to be - Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H. This is my forty-fourth portfolio update. I complete this update monthly to check my progress against my goal. Portfolio goal My objective is to reach a portfolio of $2 180 000 by 1 July 2021. This would produce a real annual income of about $87 000 (in 2020 dollars). This portfolio objective is based on an expected average real return of 3.99 per cent, or a nominal return of 6.49 per cent. Portfolio summary
Vanguard Lifestrategy High Growth Fund - $716 680
Vanguard Lifestrategy Growth Fund - $41 103
Vanguard Lifestrategy Balanced Fund - $77 788
Vanguard Diversified Bonds Fund - $111 667
Vanguard Australian Shares ETF (VAS) - $202 336
Vanguard International Shares ETF (VGS) - $54 872
Betashares Australia 200 ETF (A200) - $230 058
Telstra shares (TLS) -$1 785
Insurance Australia Group shares (IAG) - $6 449
NIB Holdings shares (NHF) - $5 316
Gold ETF (GOLD.ASX) - $124 756
Secured physical gold - $20 070
Ratesetter (P2P lending) - $9 881
Bitcoin - $173 010
Raiz app (Aggressive portfolio) - $17 258
Spaceship Voyager app (Index portfolio) -$2 619
BrickX (P2P rental real estate) - $4 471
Total portfolio value: $1 800 119 (+$34 376 or 1.9%) Asset allocation
Australian shares - 41.1%
Global shares- 22.2%
Emerging market shares - 2.2%
International small companies - 2.9%
Total international shares - 27.3%
Total shares - 68.4% (6.6% under)
Total property securities - 0.2% (0.2% over)
Australian bonds - 4.5%
International bonds - 9.1%
Total bonds - 13.6% (1.4% under)
Gold - 8.0%
Bitcoin - 9.6%
Gold and alternatives - 17.7% (7.7% over)
Presented visually, below is a high-level view of the current asset allocation of the portfolio. [Chart] Comments The portfolio has substantially increased this month, continuing the recovery in portfolio value since March. The strong portfolio growth of over $34 000, or 1.9 per cent, returns the value of the portfolio close to that achieved at the end of February this year. [Chart] This month there was minimal movement in the value of Australian and global equity holdings, There was, however, a significant lift of around 6 per cent in the value of gold exchange traded fund units, as well as a rise in the value of Bitcoin holdings. These movements have pushed the value of gold holdings to their highest level so far on the entire journey. Their total value has approximately doubled since the original major purchases across 2009 to 2015. For most of the past year gold has functioned as a portfolio stabiliser, having a negative correlation to movements in Australian equities (of around -0.3 to -0.4). As low and negative bond rates spread across the world, however, the opportunity cost of holding gold is reduced, and its potential diversification benefits loom larger. The fixed income holdings of the portfolio also continued to fall beneath the target allocation, making this question of what represents a defensive (or negatively correlated to equity) asset far from academic. This steady fall is a function of the slow maturing of Ratesetter loans, which were largely made between 2015 and 2017. Ratesetter has recently advised of important changes to its market operation, and placed a fixed maximum cap on new loan rates. By replacing market set rates with maximum rates, the peer-to-peer lending platform appears to be shifting to more of a 'intermediated' role in which higher past returns (of around 8 to 9 per cent) will now no longer be possible. [Chart] The expanding value of gold and Bitcoin holdings since January last year have actually had the practical effect of driving new investments into equities, since effectively for each dollar of appreciation, for example, my target allocation to equities rises by seven dollars. Consistent with this, investments this month have been in the Vanguard international shares exchange-traded fund (VGS) using Selfwealth. This has been directed to bring my actual asset allocation more closely in line with the target split between Australian and global shares. Fathoming out: franking credits and portfolio distributions Earlier last month I released a summary of portfolio income over the past half year. This, like all before it, noted that the summary was prepared on a purely 'cash' basis, reflecting dividends actually paid into a bank account, and excluding consideration of franking credits. Franking credits are credits for company tax paid at the company level, which can be passed to individual shareholders, reducing their personal tax liability. They are not cash, but for a personal investor with tax liabilities they can have equivalent value. This means that comparing equity returns to other investments without factoring these credits can produce a distorted picture of an investor's final after-tax return. In past portfolio summaries I have noted an estimate for franking credits in footnotes, but updating the value for this recently resulted in a curiosity about the overall significance of this neglected element of my equity returns. This neglect resulted from my perception earlier in the journey that they represented a marginal and abstract factor, which could effectively be assumed away for the sake of simplicity in reporting. This is not a wholly unfair view, in the sense that income physically received and able to be spent is something definably different in kind than a notional 'pre-payment' credit for future tax costs. Yet, as the saying goes, because the prospect of personal tax is as certain as extinction from this world, in some senses a credit of this kind can be as valuable as a cash distribution. Restoring the record: trends and drivers of franking credits To collect a more accurate picture of the trends and drivers of franking credits I relied on a few sources - tax statements, records and the automatic franking credit estimates that the portfolio tracking site Sharesight generates. The chart below sets out both the level and major different sources of franking credits received over the past eleven years. [Chart] From this chart some observations can be made.
The level of franking credits has grown substantially over the past ten years - from a total of under $1 000 per year to around $8 000 annually.
Recent years have seen a particularly high accrual of franking credits - such that by value, over half of the total value of franking credits has been received over the past three financial years.
These credits now constitute a significant element in total realised returns - in the last financial year the value of franking credits represented a 12 per cent boost to the total level of cash distributions, and over the past two years they have contributed around $8 000 each year to the total level of after-tax returns. This is the equivalent of the portfolio paying nearly $700 per month in tax liabilities.
The key reason for the rapid growth over the recent decade has been the increased investment holdings in Australian equities. As part of the deliberate rebalancing towards Australian shares across the past two years, these holdings have expanded. The chart below sets out the total value of Australian shares held over the comparable period. [Chart] As an example, at the beginning of this record Australian equities valued at around $276 000 were held. Three years later, the holding were nearly three times larger. The phase of consistently increasing the Australian equities holding to meet its allocated weighting is largely complete. This means that the period of rapid growth seen in the past few years is unlikely to repeat. Rather, growth will revert to be in proportion to total portfolio growth. Close to cross-over: the credit card records One of the most powerful initial motivators to reach financial independence was the concept of the 'cross over' point in Vicki Robins and Joe Dominguez's Your Money or Your Life. This was the point at which monthly expenses are exceeded by investment income. One of the metrics I have traced is this 'cross-over' point in relation to recorded credit card expenses. And this point is now close indeed. Expenditures on the credit card have continued their downward trajectory across the past month. The three year rolling average of monthly credit card spending remains at its lowest point over the period of the journey. Distributions on the same basis now meet over 99 per cent of card expenses - with the gap now the equivalent of less than $50 per month. [Chart] The period since April of the achievement of a notional and contingent form of financial independence has continued. The below chart illustrates this temporary state, setting out the the extent to which to which portfolio distributions (red) cover estimated total expenses (green), measured month to month. [Chart] An alternative way to view the same data is to examine the degree to which total expenses (i.e. fixed payments not made on credit card added to monthly credit card expenses) are met by distributions received. An updated version of this is seen in the chart below. [Chart] Interestingly, on a trend basis, this currently identifies a 'crossing over' point of trend distributions fully meeting total expenditure from around November 2019. This is not conclusive, however, as the trend curve is sensitive to the unusual COVID-19 related observations of the first half of this year, and could easily shift further downward if normal expense patterns resume. One issue this analysis raises is what to do with the 'credit card purchases' measure reported below. This measure is designed to provide a stylised benchmark of how close the current portfolio is to a target of generating the income required to meet an annual average credit card expenditure of $71 000. The problem with this is that continued falling credit card spending means that average credit card spending is lower than that benchmark for all time horizons - measured as three and four year averages, or in fact taken as a whole since 2013. So the set benchmark may, if anything, be understating actual progress compared the graphs and data above by not reflecting changing spending levels. In the past I have addressed this trend by reducing the benchmark. Over coming months, or perhaps at the end of the year, I will need to revisit both the meaning, and method, of setting this measure. Progress Progress against the objective, and the additional measures I have reached is set out below. Measure Portfolio All Assets Portfolio objective – $2 180 000 (or $87 000 pa) 82.6% 111.5% Credit card purchases – $71 000 pa 100.7% 136.0% Total expenses – $89 000 pa 80.7% 109.0% Summary One of the most challenging aspects of closing in on a fixed numerical target for financial independence with risk assets still in place is that the updrafts and downdrafts of market movements can push the goal further away, or surprisingly close. There have been long period of the journey where the total value of portfolio has barely grown, despite regular investments being made. As an example, the portfolio ended 2018 lower than it started the year. The past six months have been another such period. This can create a sense of treading water. Yet amidst the economic devastation affecting real lives and businesses, this is an extremely fortunate position to be in. Australia and the globe are set to experience an economic contraction far more severe than the Global Financial Crisis, with a lesser capacity than previously for interest rates to cushion the impact. Despite similar measures being adopted by governments to address the downturn, it is not clear whether these are fit for purpose. Asset allocation in this environment - of being almost suspended between two realities - is a difficult problem. The history of markets can tell us that just when assets seem most 'broken', they can produce outsized returns. Yet the problem remains that far from being surrounded by broken markets, the proliferation appears to be in bubble-like conditions. This recent podcast discussion with the founder of Grant's Interest Rate Observer provided a useful historical context to current financial conditions this month. One of the themes of the conversation was 'thinking the unthinkable', such as a return of inflation. Similar, this Hoover Institute video discussion, with a 'Back from the future' premise, provides some entertaining, informed and insightful views on the surprising and contingent nature of what we know to be true. Some of our little systems may well have had their day, but what could replace them remains obscured to any observer. The post, links and full charts can be seen here.
The Next Crypto Wave: The Rise of Stablecoins and its Entry to the U.S. Dollar Market
Author: Christian Hsieh, CEO of Tokenomy This paper examines some explanations for the continual global market demand for the U.S. dollar, the rise of stablecoins, and the utility and opportunities that crypto dollars can offer to both the cryptocurrency and traditional markets. The U.S. dollar, dominant in world trade since the establishment of the 1944 Bretton Woods System, is unequivocally the world’s most demanded reserve currency. Today, more than 61% of foreign bank reserves and nearly 40% of the entire world’s debt is denominated in U.S. dollars1. However, there is a massive supply and demand imbalance in the U.S. dollar market. On the supply side, central banks throughout the world have implemented more than a decade-long accommodative monetary policy since the 2008 global financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the need for central banks to provide necessary liquidity and keep staggering economies moving. While the Federal Reserve leads the effort of “money printing” and stimulus programs, the current money supply still cannot meet the constant high demand for the U.S. dollar2. Let us review some of the reasons for this constant dollar demand from a few economic fundamentals.
Demand for U.S. Dollars
Firstly, most of the world’s trade is denominated in U.S. dollars. Chief Economist of the IMF, Gita Gopinath, has compiled data reflecting that the U.S. dollar’s share of invoicing was 4.7 times larger than America’s share of the value of imports, and 3.1 times its share of world exports3. The U.S. dollar is the dominant “invoicing currency” in most developing countries4. https://preview.redd.it/d4xalwdyz8p51.png?width=535&format=png&auto=webp&s=9f0556c6aa6b29016c9b135f3279e8337dfee2a6 https://preview.redd.it/wucg40kzz8p51.png?width=653&format=png&auto=webp&s=71257fec29b43e0fc0df1bf04363717e3b52478f This U.S. dollar preference also directly impacts the world’s debt. According to the Bank of International Settlements, there is over $67 trillion in U.S. dollar denominated debt globally, and borrowing outside of the U.S. accounted for $12.5 trillion in Q1 20205. There is an immense demand for U.S. dollars every year just to service these dollar debts. The annual U.S. dollar buying demand is easily over $1 trillion assuming the borrowing cost is at 1.5% (1 year LIBOR + 1%) per year, a conservative estimate. https://preview.redd.it/6956j6f109p51.png?width=487&format=png&auto=webp&s=ccea257a4e9524c11df25737cac961308b542b69 Secondly, since the U.S. has a much stronger economy compared to its global peers, a higher return on investments draws U.S. dollar demand from everywhere in the world, to invest in companies both in the public and private markets. The U.S. hosts the largest stock markets in the world with more than $33 trillion in public market capitalization (combined both NYSE and NASDAQ)6. For the private market, North America’s total share is well over 60% of the $6.5 trillion global assets under management across private equity, real assets, and private debt investments7. The demand for higher quality investments extends to the fixed income market as well. As countries like Japan and Switzerland currently have negative-yielding interest rates8, fixed income investors’ quest for yield in the developed economies leads them back to the U.S. debt market. As of July 2020, there are $15 trillion worth of negative-yielding debt securities globally (see chart). In comparison, the positive, low-yielding U.S. debt remains a sound fixed income strategy for conservative investors in uncertain market conditions. Source: Bloomberg Last, but not least, there are many developing economies experiencing failing monetary policies, where hyperinflation has become a real national disaster. A classic example is Venezuela, where the currency Bolivar became practically worthless as the inflation rate skyrocketed to 10,000,000% in 20199. The recent Beirut port explosion in Lebanon caused a sudden economic meltdown and compounded its already troubled financial market, where inflation has soared to over 112% year on year10. For citizens living in unstable regions such as these, the only reliable store of value is the U.S. dollar. According to the Chainalysis 2020 Geography of Cryptocurrency Report, Venezuela has become one of the most active cryptocurrency trading countries11. The demand for cryptocurrency surges as a flight to safety mentality drives Venezuelans to acquire U.S. dollars to preserve savings that they might otherwise lose. The growth for cryptocurrency activities in those regions is fueled by these desperate citizens using cryptocurrencies as rails to access the U.S. dollar, on top of acquiring actual Bitcoin or other underlying crypto assets.
The Rise of Crypto Dollars
Due to the highly volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, USD stablecoin, a crypto-powered blockchain token that pegs its value to the U.S. dollar, was introduced to provide stable dollar exposure in the crypto trading sphere. Tether is the first of its kind. Issued in 2014 on the bitcoin blockchain (Omni layer protocol), under the token symbol USDT, it attempts to provide crypto traders with a stable settlement currency while they trade in and out of various crypto assets. The reason behind the stablecoin creation was to address the inefficient and burdensome aspects of having to move fiat U.S. dollars between the legacy banking system and crypto exchanges. Because one USDT is theoretically backed by one U.S. dollar, traders can use USDT to trade and settle to fiat dollars. It was not until 2017 that the majority of traders seemed to realize Tether’s intended utility and started using it widely. As of April 2019, USDT trading volume started exceeding the trading volume of bitcoina12, and it now dominates the crypto trading sphere with over $50 billion average daily trading volume13. https://preview.redd.it/3vq7v1jg09p51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=46f11b5f5245a8c335ccc60432873e9bad2eb1e1 An interesting aspect of USDT is that although the claimed 1:1 backing with U.S. dollar collateral is in question, and the Tether company is in reality running fractional reserves through a loose offshore corporate structure, Tether’s trading volume and adoption continues to grow rapidly14. Perhaps in comparison to fiat U.S. dollars, which is not really backed by anything, Tether still has cash equivalents in reserves and crypto traders favor its liquidity and convenience over its lack of legitimacy. For those who are concerned about Tether’s solvency, they can now purchase credit default swaps for downside protection15. On the other hand, USDC, the more compliant contender, takes a distant second spot with total coin circulation of $1.8 billion, versus USDT at $14.5 billion (at the time of publication). It is still too early to tell who is the ultimate leader in the stablecoin arena, as more and more stablecoins are launching to offer various functions and supporting mechanisms. There are three main categories of stablecoin: fiat-backed, crypto-collateralized, and non-collateralized algorithm based stablecoins. Most of these are still at an experimental phase, and readers can learn more about them here. With the continuous innovation of stablecoin development, the utility stablecoins provide in the overall crypto market will become more apparent.
In addition to trade settlement, stablecoins can be applied in many other areas. Cross-border payments and remittances is an inefficient market that desperately needs innovation. In 2020, the average cost of sending money across the world is around 7%16, and it takes days to settle. The World Bank aims to reduce remittance fees to 3% by 2030. With the implementation of blockchain technology, this cost could be further reduced close to zero. J.P. Morgan, the largest bank in the U.S., has created an Interbank Information Network (IIN) with 416 global Institutions to transform the speed of payment flows through its own JPM Coin, another type of crypto dollar17. Although people argue that JPM Coin is not considered a cryptocurrency as it cannot trade openly on a public blockchain, it is by far the largest scale experiment with all the institutional participants trading within the “permissioned” blockchain. It might be more accurate to refer to it as the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) instead of “blockchain” in this context. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that as J.P. Morgan currently moves $6 trillion U.S. dollars per day18, the scale of this experiment would create a considerable impact in the international payment and remittance market if it were successful. Potentially the day will come when regulated crypto exchanges become participants of IIN, and the link between public and private crypto assets can be instantly connected, unlocking greater possibilities in blockchain applications. Many central banks are also in talks about developing their own central bank digital currency (CBDC). Although this idea was not new, the discussion was brought to the forefront due to Facebook’s aggressive Libra project announcement in June 2019 and the public attention that followed. As of July 2020, at least 36 central banks have published some sort of CBDC framework. While each nation has a slightly different motivation behind its currency digitization initiative, ranging from payment safety, transaction efficiency, easy monetary implementation, or financial inclusion, these central banks are committed to deploying a new digital payment infrastructure. When it comes to the technical architectures, research from BIS indicates that most of the current proofs-of-concept tend to be based upon distributed ledger technology (permissioned blockchain)19. https://preview.redd.it/lgb1f2rw19p51.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=040bb0deed0499df6bf08a072fd7c4a442a826a0 These institutional experiments are laying an essential foundation for an improved global payment infrastructure, where instant and frictionless cross-border settlements can take place with minimal costs. Of course, the interoperability of private DLT tokens and public blockchain stablecoins has yet to be explored, but the innovation with both public and private blockchain efforts could eventually merge. This was highlighted recently by the Governor of the Bank of England who stated that “stablecoins and CBDC could sit alongside each other20”. One thing for certain is that crypto dollars (or other fiat-linked digital currencies) are going to play a significant role in our future economy.
There is never a dull moment in the crypto sector. The industry narratives constantly shift as innovation continues to evolve. Twelve years since its inception, Bitcoin has evolved from an abstract subject to a familiar concept. Its role as a secured, scarce, decentralized digital store of value has continued to gain acceptance, and it is well on its way to becoming an investable asset class as a portfolio hedge against asset price inflation and fiat currency depreciation.Stablecoins have proven to be useful as proxy dollars in the crypto world, similar to how dollars are essential in the traditional world. It is only a matter of time before stablecoins or private digital tokens dominate the cross-border payments and global remittances industry. There are no shortages of hypes and experiments that draw new participants into the crypto space, such as smart contracts, new blockchains, ICOs, tokenization of things, or the most recent trends on DeFi tokens. These projects highlight the possibilities for a much more robust digital future, but the market also needs time to test and adopt. A reliable digital payment infrastructure must be built first in order to allow these experiments to flourish. In this paper we examined the historical background and economic reasons for the U.S. dollar’s dominance in the world, and the probable conclusion is that the demand for U.S. dollars will likely continue, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, accompanied by a worldwide economic slowdown. The current monetary system is far from perfect, but there are no better alternatives for replacement at least in the near term. Incremental improvements are being made in both the public and private sectors, and stablecoins have a definite role to play in both the traditional and the new crypto world. Thank you. Reference:  How the US dollar became the world’s reserve currency, Investopedia  The dollar is in high demand, prone to dangerous appreciation, The Economist  Dollar dominance in trade and finance, Gita Gopinath  Global trades dependence on dollars, The Economist & IMF working papers  Total credit to non-bank borrowers by currency of denomination, BIS  Biggest stock exchanges in the world, Business Insider  McKinsey Global Private Market Review 2020, McKinsey & Company  Central banks current interest rates, Global Rates  Venezuela hyperinflation hits 10 million percent, CNBC  Lebanon inflation crisis, Reuters  Venezuela cryptocurrency market, Chainalysis  The most used cryptocurrency isn’t Bitcoin, Bloomberg  Trading volume of all crypto assets, coinmarketcap.com  Tether US dollar peg is no longer credible, Forbes  New crypto derivatives let you bet on (or against) Tether’s solvency, Coindesk  Remittance Price Worldwide, The World Bank  Interbank Information Network, J.P. Morgan  Jamie Dimon interview, CBS News  Rise of the central bank digital currency, BIS  Speech by Andrew Bailey, 3 September 2020, Bank of England
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