Articles

China chips away at U.S. dominance

We are about half way through President Trump’s twelve day visit to Asia. The main event, another meeting between Trump and President Xi Jinping, underscores the importance of how both nations view China-U.S. relations. read more…

Cracks in the House of Saud

Over the weekend, the government of Saudi Arabia announced multiple arrests of royal family members as well as other governmental officials. The official explanation was a new campaign to root out corruption, but many believe the raid was a power grab by the reigning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. read more…

Investors underwhelmed by tax reform

With great fanfare, House Republicans rolled out a tax reform proposal that they promised would get this country going again and invigorate business, while creating jobs and huge savings for the middle class. What are they smoking?

Clearly, the entire reform package was simply a smoke screen to reduce taxes for American corporations with the majority of benefits directed at the country’s largest companies. For the individual, depending on what you make and where you live, taxes will remain the same or go up.

Several legislators used a postcard as a prop claiming your individual tax return will be so simple it will fit on a postcard. The reason is simple. This plan will greatly reduce the few tax deductions we have left. State and local taxes will no longer be deductible, property taxes will be capped and a slew of other credits and deductions have been reduced or eliminated. read more…

Are you ready for a down market?

It has been some time since we have had even a tiny decline in the stock market. Human behavior is such that we expect what has come before to continue into the future. When it doesn’t, a whole host of emotions arise and most of them will be detrimental to your financial health.

A new survey by E-trade Financial, a discount broker dealer, reveals that well-heeled investors (those with $1 million or more in equity investments) are as bullish as they have been all year. Almost 75% of million dollar players are now bullish as we enter this final quarter of the year. Most of these investors are 55 or older and are significantly more optimistic than younger investors.

Some of that bullishness is understandable given the fundamentals of the economy. Gross domestic product continues to grow slowly and some estimates (such as the most recent survey from the Atlanta Fed) indicate that we could see a greater than 4% growth rate in the fourth quarter. Couple that with a fairly consistent improvement in corporate earnings and we have an almost Goldilocks environment for stocks. read more…

Markets look ahead

As earnings season gets underway, the upside surprises continue to overwhelm the disappointments. As long as that trend continues, the markets are in good shape. read more…

Taketh care of your workers, and they will taketh care of you

 

Employers have had it all their own way for a decade or more. They have been able to freeze wages, cut benefits, force overtime and even deny vacations with impunity. Now, for many, it’s time to pay the piper.

There is a saying, “what goes around, comes around,” which means in this case that if you have spent years abusing your employees, the first company that offers them even the slightest uptick in benefits or salary will pick off your best workers in the time it takes to sign on the dotted line.

I can walk into a company and tell you within seconds whether or not its employees are well treated and happy. I’m sure you can too. It shows on their faces, in their body language. Spend a little time talking to them, and you can easily measure a worker’s engagement, warmth and sense of shared purpose.

As unemployment declines, wages rise, and good workers become critical to your bottom line, you might want to consider that happy employees are critical to on-going productivity and talent retention. It has been shown over and over again that the better the corporate culture, the more a company will earn.

Don’t just take my word for it. The 100 best companies to work for, according to Fortune Magazine, consistently outperform their competitors in sales and profits. They also add new employees at five times the rate of the national average. Fortune uses a “Trust Index” which measures employees’ workplaces, including the honesty and quality of communication by managers, degree of support for employees’ personal and professional lives, and the authenticity of relationships with colleagues.

While Fortune 500 companies, for the most part, strive to offer employee benefits such as retirement plans, healthcare insurance and the like, what really wows employees are the perks that many small and medium-sized businesses provide. Unlike the cookie-cutter benefits of mega-firms, these are a more tangible sub-set of service-oriented perks, each customized to address individual employees’ everyday needs.

What, you may ask, are some examples of these kinds of perks? Take my company as an example. When I went into surgery for six hours for prostate cancer last year, the company’s management team sat with my wife in the waiting room for the entire operation.

When our dog, Titus, required spine surgery this winter, both my wife and I were paid for the two days we were out caring for him. In addition to our 401(K) and health insurance, we also have a SEP IRA, dental insurance, unlimited time off, first class travel, company pets come to work (unpaid), unexpected bonuses, financial help for our parents in time of need, gifts, parties, presents etc. Naturally, everyone in the region wants to work for us.

But here’s the point. None of us take off more than 2-3 weeks a year because we love it here. Prospective clients are struck by the attitude and team-work of our employees. This is no accident. We have practically no turn over, despite constant offers from other firms.

The power of these perks cannot be understated. You may not be able to provide the level of personalized incentives that we enjoy here, but that does not mean your firm must settle for simply “me-too” kinds of incentives.   Remember, aside from showing that you care, these efforts go right to the bottom line. And who among us would not want higher sales, profits and return on investment?

In the middle of a melt-up

Greed is rising. Fear is falling and all is well within the world of equities. What does that tell you? It tells me that complacency is the order of the day among investors. And that fear of missing out (FOMO) is gathering steam as every minor daily dip is met with buying.

read more…

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About Bill

Bill Schmick was born in a blue-collar neighborhood of Philadelphia, just a few blocks north of “Rocky Balboa” territory where most of his Catholic schoolmates grew up to be either cops or criminals. He narrowly escaped both professions by volunteering to fight in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine... Read More

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