In a stunning memoir (Beer Money), Frances Stroh, the great-great-granddaughter of beer magnate Bernard Stroh, catalogs the collapse of the family business and family wealth in less than one generation.  The Stroh’s were one of the richest families in America as recently as the 1980s, worth $700 million according to Forbes Magazine.  Refusing to bring… Read more

Susan Gates, a long-time executive at the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Company (Freddie Mac), has written a riveting account (The Days of Slaughter) of her years at the company, leading up to and through the financial crisis of 2007-2008.  As you may recall, the two major Government Sponsored Entities (GSES) Freddie Mac and older and… Read more

A typical device used in designing company strategy when financial outcomes depend strongly on a market price is a so-called “hedge report” or “sensitivity report” that shows the change in profits or market value associated with a positive or negative change in the underlying market price (which is sometimes called a “risk factor”).    When portrayed… Read more

You may recall the movie Forrest Gump in which the title character, played by Tom Hanks, was a simple person who happened to have a ringside seat on many of the major events in American history in the 1950s through the 1970s.  Forrest may have had a low IQ, but he was extraordinarily successful –… Read more

In a recent essay (“Investment Advice for Ray Kurzweil”), I extolled the benefits of the “1% Ratchet Rule” under which a family would spend each year 1% of the high-water mark of family wealth.  The rationale for this rule is simply that it works for someone who plans to live forever, like Ray, or for… Read more

Previously published on December 16, 2016 in the California Economic Forecast publication. United States housing sales have been climbing since the recession, but are still relatively low. This is particularly true once the home sales are adjusted for population. Household formation has shown some signs of life lately, especially since early 2015. New home starts… Read more

Previously published on December 16, 2016 in the California Economic Forecast publication. The United Sates economy continues to grow at less than its potential. The 12-month moving average of job creation has been falling steadily since February 2015. In seven of the last eight quarters, investment growth has been negative or near zero. Productivity declined… Read more

The Financial Analyst Journal (FAJ) is a terrific publication put out by the CFA Institute.  This group also sponsors the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.  In a recent issue (September/October 2016), a panel of leading financial experts (Professors Andrew Lo, Robert Merton, Stephen Ross, and Jeremy Siegal) discuss the future of finance and how it… Read more

Ray Kurzweil is a brilliant inventor and author and is currently Chief Scientist at Google.  He is known for many things, but perhaps most notably for the idea of the “Singularity.”  This is a time in the fairly near future, according to him anyway, when processing power of computers will have developed to the point… Read more

In 1693, as related by economist Moshe Milevsky in his book King William’s Tontine, King William of England (actually a Dutchman and formerly William of Orange) sold to investors an interesting financial product.  Each buyer was a member of a pool of buyers that immediately received a “dividend” on their investment of 10% per year. … Read more

Previously Published in CERF’s September California Economic Forecast There are no surprises in our California forecast.  There aren’t any changes either.  We expect California to continue plugging along as it has for several years now.  The growth on average will be slow, but the Bay Area will do better. We don’t see much upside potential. … Read more

Previously published in CERF’s September 2016 Economic Forecast publication: I have complained for years that California’s economy is not performing as it should, and it’s not working for a large part of the population, young people, minorities, less educated workers, even much of the middle class.  Those who disagree with me point out that, measured… Read more

Previously Published in CERF’s September 2016 California Economic Forecast: It’s time for another presidential election.  Each candidate is promising new initiatives that will bring prosperity to Americans.  So, we’re forecasting vigorous economic growth?  No. Our forecast is pretty much the same as it’s been for years, anemic economic growth as far as we can see.… Read more

Previously Published by Bill Watkins in the September 2016 California Economic Forecast A decade of slow or declining economic and job growth has been accompanied by fundamental changes in America’s job composition.  Those changes have caused profound disruptions in the lives of millions of workers, primarily low-educational-attainment workers, and their families. The situation is not… Read more