Doing the right thing – with conscious investments

There is lot’s of discussions about whether investing in a company does anything to support it, hence whether purchasing shares of a company puts you in a position of responsibility for what the company stands for and for what it does. Let me address this today and tell you my point of view on this highly debated topic.

If you buy stock in a company you become, to a tiny part, owner of that company. As a co-owner of a business, you obviously take on some responsibilities of that business.

The most obvious one is that you receive votes to influence major company decisions, which you can exercise once a year at the annual general meeting of shareholders. The other responsibility you take on is the financial responsibility in relation to the share price. If the company goes bust, your money will be gone. However, should the company keep succeeding, you are entitled to participate in that success through a rising share price and/or dividends.

Does your investment have an effect on the share price?

Your purchase may increases the share price, or support in stabilizing it. The effect that you as an individual with only limited purchasing power might have on the share price will be very small in most cases. Some might say it’s negligible. But, there is certainly an effect.

If you purchase shares which are rising in value, you support the move up by showing confidence in the company through your willingness to pay more for it. When the share price is falling, your purchase also supports the company. This is due to a stabilizing effect that it will have on the sellers. If you wouldn’t buy the shares at the lower price, then the seller would have had to lower the price further, thus increasing the down-turn for the shares price of the company.

So whenever you buy shares, to a tiny amount you either contribute to pushing the share price higher, or help stabilising it on it’s way down at a certain level.

How does that influence the company?

The share price of a company determines the companies value. Based on the value, the company receives a range of financial options, including loans, debt issuance, credit lines and guarantees to grow or improve its operations.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, your voting rights are a benefit and a responsibility you have as an investor.

Admittedly, with only these two main points, your influence is an individual investor is very small. With limited purchasing power and therefore a small amount of shares you might purchase, your voice doesn’t get too loud. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Your part is comparable with let’s say a presidential election. Your vote alone might not appear strong, but the more people follow those same ideas and convictions you hold and exercise their rights, the more of an impact it will have on the company.

You get a voice

Looking at the points above, the process of becoming an investor is another version of a democratic system on an enterprise level. You get actively involved in it by purchasing shares of a company, and to a tiny amount, you do influence the company by purchasing shares.

Once invested, it will be up to you whether you continue holding the shares, thus contributing in keeping the share price stable. And whether you will exercise your voting rights, thus contributing to steering the company in the direction you believe to be the right one.

Do the right thing

In my opinion, investing is the only way to get a voice and a say with even large companies. For many it doesn’t sound like much, but I see it otherwise. It’s a great opportunity to have influence beyond the small bubbles of our own lives.

For example: Just imagine, if all members of an environmental NGO would unite and purchase shares of a company which is responsible for environmental pollution.

With enough shares and votes on hand, they would very likely receive the opportunity to change the direction of a company. They would receive the rights to support or to reject decisions on who runs the company, where money is being invested, and which policies are being drawn going forward. With only as little as 10% ownership they already could assemble veto rights, and insights into the companies internal processes and decisions which they won’t get in any other (legal) way.

So, if you want to help others doing the right thing. Invest. Invest consciously in good companies to continue supporting them in doing the right thing. And if you want to contribute in bad companies becoming better (or less bad), purchase shares of bad companies and exercise your voting rights, to help the company doing the right thing.

The next downturn is coming

The last few weeks have been pretty interesting. First the stock market crashed. Then it started to rise and became “the most hated rally” in history. And now it’s back to crash again.

What I did over the recent weeks was observing which shares were rising and falling faster than others, and I did make some purchases. For most parts I bought shares of companies in the tourism and real estate sector, which fell dramatically, but which also show the most promise of rising back up swiftly once the real recovery starts.

The real recovery might take time

But indeed, the real recovery might take much longer than people, and the market, are anticipating right now. Since I work in the hospitality sector, I know very well the projections, and the expectations we are facing in the real world. And the stock market will adjust to these realities at some point.

The swings up and down right now are really extreme and show that many trades are being executed on impulse, on emotions. But in a few weeks these sporadic reactions will reduce, and real data will take over. The crazy daily swings will become moderate, and we will get back into a more stable trend.

The big question is of course whether it will be a positive, or a negative trend. And it’s really hard to determine, but personally I still expect an overall market downturn, because the recovery will take time.

The service industry is crucial – and so are spending habits

The service industry includes hospitality of all kinds. Hotels, bars, restaurants. And these businesses form not only the largest employment sector on the planet. They are also based on the idea of bringing people together. Sitting together. Spending time together.

Given that the behaviour of people has been altered due to the current pandemic, and also that it won’t likely change significantly unless there is a vaccine or cure, it’s therefore probably realistic to assume that a real recovery can only begin when this problem is solved.

Now a workable vaccine may come sometime by the end of this year, more likely during the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2021. Also, there is a high chance that the first generation of the vaccine won’t be as successful as some investors might think. The reason is simple: The first generation of vaccines is usually not the best one.

Given all these details, I would rather see any meaningful recovery to begin around the 3rd quarter of 2021. And until then, people will keep losing jobs, spendings will be marginal, travel will be restricted, and cash-flows will remain on the lower levels. Less spendings means lower revenues, lower profits, lower investments, fewer jobs, … you get the picture.

Good time to start investing

But again, as mentioned in this previous article, it might be a great opportunity for many people to start investing. While the short- and medium-term might look insecure, the long-term prospects are still in favour of investors.

Buying great companies at a fair price

Yesterday I watched an interview with Warren Buffett. It was actually from February this year, but I hadn’t that much time to focus on such a long single video then. The interview went on for over 2 hours. Now, with working from home and my hotel closed, this was an opportunity to seize.

Warren Buffett is a fascinating individual. Humble, simple, outspoken but more than often speaking in riddles. I watched several of his interviews and speeches in the past and what strikes me every single time is that he constantly keeps repeating the same 2 core messages.

His first recommendation for the average investor is to simply purchase an index fund. Not spending too much time with picking individual stocks. Not pretending to be smarter than the market by spending hours and hours analyzing shares with some sophisticated metrics. Especially when this time can be better spent doing something else.

For those who prefer to purchase individual shares, however, he does have a second piece of advice. And he keeps repeating this one over and over for many years.

Buy a great company at a fair price

As people who don’t understand the stock market like to refer to it as just another form of gambling, the fact of the matter is that when we purchase shares, we are actually becoming co-owners of that particular business. We are taking a stake in that particular venture, for the good and for the bad side of it. Warren Buffett puts, therefore, the investment thesis down to a simple formula: Do you believe that the business you want to buy will exist and do better in 10, 20, or 50 years from now?

If the answer is yes, then you should invest in it. Of course, you should still do your due diligence, research some more details about the management, structure, and check on the valuation, but these are not the key factors. The first thing to clarify is whether the company has a solid business model, whether it offers solutions to problems people have and will remain to have, and if it’s smart enough to do it in a sustainable and profitable way.

Obviously, this is not the “get rich fast” approach. And as he once famously stated, his advice is being constantly disregarded or misinterpreted because “nobody wants to get rich slowly“. Nevertheless, this approach is what real investing is all about and how he became one of the richest people on the planet.

There are always great companies at a fair price – but especially so during a recession

Every crisis offers opportunities for smart investors. With markets in panic mode, stock prices of even the best companies are often being dragged down together with the rest of the market. The now expected recession and downturn will be no different. It might be therefore a good idea to put some cash aside, and to closely observe companies that you believe have a bright future ahead. It might be your opportunity, to purchase a great company at a fair price.

About emergency funds

This post is probably 12 months late. As we are in the middle of a global pandemic, people are losing jobs, lives. But even more are coming to realize that they miss something truly important: An emergency fund.

I got to admit, I am also not a great role-model here. Over the last 5 years, every penny I got was being invested right away. Therefore I have not built up a proper emergency fund. This is changing now.

How much is enough?

I read several surveys from Germany and the US last year. While I don’t remember exactly the numbers, they were overall pretty similar in their final assessment. A majority of citizens (of each of the countries) are not prepared to handle even smaller unexpected (emergency) expenses out of the pocket. How small? We are talking about 300 Euros or 350 USD.

I was honestly shocked by reading about it, because 300 Euros is very little, especially when we are talking about the US or Germany. For most people, it wouldn’t be enough to cover monthly rent, groceries, let alone a potential hospital bill or car repairs.

So obviously 300 Euros is not enough and wouldn’t qualify as an emergency fund. An emergency fund is meant to offer us protection in times of real need. When something happens that threatens our 3 basic needs (shelter, food, health), possibly over a prolonged period of time.

It needs to be therefore large enough to cover our regular monthly expenses for a specific timeframe. Most financial advisors recommend 3 to 6 months.

Therefore, to determine the size of your emergency fund all you need to know is about your monthly expenses and multiply this amount with a minimum of 3 months. If you are a cautious type or consider yourself for whatever reason to be more at risk, you might want to multiply it with 6 or even 12 months.

How to get there

Of course, you are not supposed to put this money aside right away. If your monthly expenses are around 1.500 Euros, it would mean that your emergency fund should be at a minimum of 4.500 Euros to cover expenses for 3 months. If people can’t get 300 Euros out of the pocket, how can they save up 4.500 Euros?

The solution to this is of course time, consistency, cautious choices, and the occasional sacrifice.

If you are saving monthly for a certain financial goal, a part of that monthly savings needs to be redirected towards your emergency fund. When you get a salary raise or a bonus payment, you might want to skip the celebrations and put the money into your emergency fund. If you are a coffee addict, how about skipping two cups of those soft lattes each week and putting 10 dollars each week in your emergency fund instead.

This step by step approach might take time, but unless you have an emergency every few months, you should be able to get to your goal within a reasonable timeframe.

The last option is to take on a side-gig. Sacrificing a little more time for a few months or a year might prove the right choice down the road. Having an emergency fund in place will protect you not only by covering any expenses that might unexpectedly pop-up. It will also protect your investments and other financial assets. Because you won’t get under pressure to sell them when money becomes an issue.

Keeping it liquid

An emergency fund needs to be liquid, which means that it must be easily accessible and not tied up to anything. Usually, you will, therefore, keep it in cash, on a simple savings account, or as a fixed deposit which can be easily withdrawn.

I have decided to split it. I keep one month of expenses in cash, and over the next 6 months I will set up a fixed deposit account with enough money in it to cover another 3 months of expenses.

No matter which way you chose, but having some money on the side for the next pandemic, the next wave of cost cuts in your industry (meaning when you get furloughed), or the next car accident, is surely worth the effort.

Who gets all the money?

As I mentioned in my last post, investing makes a lot of sense for people who want to retire earlier, safer, and with a higher degree of protection than one would have with a regular job. This is applicable to basically everyone.

I explained this with the distribution of all the freshly printed cash that is being pushed into our economy. This is especially true in times of a crisis as we are currently experiencing. The difference in the amounts of cash that ends up in the hands of ordinary people, and in comparison with how much of that money goes to companies, is astounding.

But don’t rely on my word for it. The ones who know about this best are obviously the ones who get all the money, and I recently stumbled upon an article in my Flipboard account about that topic that explains it further very well.

You can find the entire article HERE, but let me take out and quote the most important paragraph of the read:

“All the signs are that coronavirus will increase inequality even further. The government is accumulating debt to subsidise the wages of the employed and self-employed unable to work because of the lockdown. Businesses are taking out loans to keep afloat. This debt is being used to pay bills and rent to those who own assets.

The money goes to those who own assets

Now, The Guardian is not my favorite paper but every now and then there is a good article. This article also has some weak points that might be debatable, but in the essence, this paragraph as highlighted above explains it really very neatly. I underscored the key points above.

Governments are printing money, issuing bonds. Interest rates are being pushed down to make loans cheaper thus more attractive. And all this money, trillions of dollars and euros, is ultimately being pushed to and ends up with those who own assets.

It’s your choice to make

I know, it’s easy to get offended by this system. It’s easy to blame it for all the problems in the world. But as I learned early on in my career, complaining solves nothing. You need solutions. Just complaining for the sake of it doesn’t help anyone. You need to have a solution, some viable alternative. And the fact of the matter is that currently there are no alternatives to the system we live in that would assure us to end up on a better path.

Politics aside, everyone has a choice here. You can be outraged, you can complain, and you can think about alternatives, go into politics, and plan for a better future. Or do nothing.

But in the meantime, it might be smart to own some assets.

About multiple income streams

People all around the globe face unprecedented challenges. Well, at least it’s unprecedented for my generation (Gen X), and certainly for Millenials and anyone younger than them. Millions are losing jobs, are forced into quarantine. Many are in dire need of some kind of assistance, whether it’s cash, food, or both.

Here in Thailand, we just passed through the first month of the lockdown. When I drive through the streets of Bangkok or Pattaya where I am currently working, I see people lining up (with social distancing) for food support from the government and from some private institutions.

The Thai government is issuing cash support of THB 5.000 per month to those who need it most. It’s not much, but it’s enough to survive on a very low bar. Together with the support from private institutions, NGOs, and hundreds of those who are more fortunate and who are volunteering to support, I have no doubt that the country will get through the event.

I am also always astonished by the amount of support among Thais in times of crisis. My wife is getting postal packages from friends and family with food, face masks, and snacks. We pass on the favor by sending things to others who need it more than us. I am fortunate enough to still have my job and my monthly salary intact, albeit slightly reduced.

About income and unexpected situations

But not everyone is lucky. Similar to other places around the globe, unemployment in Thailand is on the rise on a massive scale. This is dire in a country with very limited governmental social protection in place, and where most people live paycheck to paycheck.

Which brings me to the main point: Unemployment means for many people to lose their only source of income. And we can see right now more clear than ever, how many people’s lives really depend on their job. Being without work and without an opportunity to find new employment within a short time has now turned into an existential threat for millions of people.

Also, only very few of them could have even imagined such a situation two or three months ago. Yes, some might have an emergency fund and savings to ride out bad times. But would they have expected that they can lose their job, their income, and their benefits within such a short period of time? Hardly.

Building up multiple income streams

This is where the lessons of FIRE become such a powerful reminder, because having multiple, passive income streams is what FIRE is all about! The whole point of becoming financially independent means not being dependent on your job.

Building up passive income streams is best done by investments. Sure, the stock market is crashing and we are sliding into a recession. But out of the 33 companies in my income portfolio, so far only one of them has canceled the dividend, and only two announced to reduce it for this year.

Thanks to this, I am never worried about losing my job. Sure, my monthly dividends can’t compare with my salary, but that’s not the point. The important part for me is that I won’t need to rely on government support and on charities. I will be able to fulfill my main responsibility of providing shelter, medical protection, and food to me and my family on my own.

Personally, this is a very important factor to me, as this defines my perception of freedom and independence.

Who gets the money

And just to add another layer of understanding of why investing is a safer bet than your job, let me explain here one thing. While our savings and jobs are being destroyed, a crisis like this also generates unimaginable amounts of money. While stock valuations may be nosediving right now, governments all across the globe are printing cash like there is no tomorrow.

And where does this cash go to?

In the US, every US national is receiving a one time check of USD 1.200. There are 328,8 Million people in the US, so this sums up to roughly 395 Billion USD. Yes, it’s a lot of money.

But you know who gets more? Companies. Especially the big ones. They get bailed out when they get in trouble, they receive grants, and the FED is reducing interest rates so they can borrow money almost for free. This may sound very negative, but I don’t mean it that way. That’s just how it works for plenty and a variety of reasons.

The important thing is that you have a choice to make. Do you stick to your job and when you lose it, wait for your one-time check of USD 1.200? Or do you invest, and build up multiple and passive sources of income?

Having the knowledge that governments across the globe will put significantly more effort into protecting your investments and your sources of passive income (in comparison with taking care of you directly), this shouldn’t be a complicated choice to make.

5 Tips how to manage your time (and budget) now

These are tough times. The world is on lock-down. People are losing jobs or are getting pay-cuts. And the probably worst thing of all is that we don’t know when this is going to end. Therefore, now more than ever, it is important to manage the money we have in the most cautious and structured way possible. Frugal living and strict budgeting can’t be a hobby now. It’s a must. So here we go, 5 things that you should consider doing today to navigate your finances and your well-being through these difficult times.

black calculator near ballpoint pen on white printed paper

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. Review your essential spendings

If you never had a personal budget, now is a great time to start. A personal budget plan sounds complicated, but it’s really a simple calculation of income and expenses. The more details you put into it, the more aware you will be about your essential and non-essential spendings. In a situation like now, this information is vital to make smart money decisions.

What do I mean by “essential” spendings? We are talking about survival here. So it’s the 3 basics: Shelter, food and health. Your rent, including electricity, water, and internet. Your spendings on food and drinking water. And your expenses to maintain your health.

Every non-essential spendings need to be put under review and you should consider cutting or minimizing them.

2. Plan ahead with weekly limits on your expenses

After having reviewed your budget, you will know the amount of cash that you have (or that will be available for spending), and how much you need to spend for your essentials. Now plan ahead and split your cash and/or income in a way to keep your essentials going for as long as possible. I guess it’s safe to say that the goal should be to try to sustain your expenses for up to 6 months.

Any remaining cash should be split into equal weekly amounts for the same total period of 6 months. Putting a strong limitation on your weekly spendings is a good way to ensure that you don’t overspend and keep track of your budget.

When I was a student and had hardly any money to live on, I had a very simple system which I still recommend: Withdraw cash for a month ahead for your spendings, divide it in 4, and put each amount in a separate envelope. Each one envelope is for each week of the month, and no matter what happens, be strict with yourself not to open any of the envelopes ahead of time. This method will greatly keep you aware of the money you have and what you can or cannot afford.

3. Get your family on-board

This point doesn’t apply for singles, but for anyone living with a family, this is a crucial one. The whole family needs to be on-board with this. It won’t help if you set up the most delicate and strict plan for yourself while your partner is clueless and keeps on living as if nothing would have changed.

If you have kids, this is a great time to teach them about the value of money. They might cry if they don’t get a toy or some ice-cream, but they will remember this as a “tough” time when the family had to stay strong together. Chances are that you will emerge from this stronger as a family. And it’s never too early to teach kids about the value of money. Trust me, the school won’t do it for you.

4. Consider a side-gig

Financial advisors are preaching to their customers the necessity of having an emergency fund, which should cover at least 6 months’ worth of expenses. The reason that this topic is coming up so often is that there are so few people who actually do it. And to be fair, even most companies don’t follow suit. Just take a look at the world right now: As our economies come to a halt, after only one or two months of missed revenues, millions of restaurants, hotels and even airlines are declaring bankruptcies or are in need of bailout money. They clearly didn’t have any emergency funds whatsoever.

So in case, if you are late on this and can’t see a way to make your finances work over the next 3-6 months, you might have no choice but to consider a side gig. The good news is that if you are reading this, it means that you have a working internet connection, and luckily, there are millions of jobs available online.

Check-out online freelance jobs through platforms like “UpWork” or “Fiverr” which may have jobs matching your skillset. But even if your skills are from completely different fields, consider teaching/tutoring English (or what else you speak), doing transcriptions or translations. There are lots of opportunities out there.

These jobs will hardly make you rich, but they can be of great support to prop up your finances and to get you through this difficult time. Another positive aspect of having a job will be that you won’t go mad while sitting at home doing nothing.

Last but not least, there is a good chance that you might end up keeping your side gig even when this crisis will be over and we get back to our regular lives.

5. Don’t slack off

And finally, no matter how long this may go, I recommend that you don’t slack off. You might relax a little for a week or two, but after that, get a routine in place. You don’t need to wake up at 6 AM, but you shouldn’t sleep until noon either.

Set a proper routine when you wake up, take a shower, shave, have breakfast, dress properly. Then work on your side gig, perhaps study a little bit. Coursera, EdX, and Udemy offer plenty of opportunities to learn some new things for free these days.

Having set times for breakfast, lunch and dinner is good for your inner clock. Set some time aside to exercise at home. Body-weight workouts are a great alternative to the gym. Any other hobbies you may have will keep your body and mind sharp and ready to get back on track immediately when all of this is over.

Is this THE opportunity for the next decade?

People were talking about the possibility of an economic collapse for a few years now. Over the last two or three years, whenever I visited a bookstore (yes, I do that) I saw countless books from economy professors, advisors, and other professionals talking about the next crash. I read some of them and I agree that there are many valid arguments that could justify a market crash. But I don’t ever recall reading anything about a possible impact of a pandemic on the world economic system.

wood black and white office business

Photo by Recal Media on Pexels.com

I should probably have read the “Gates Notes” more often. Bill Gates is obviously a guy you want to follow. He is smart, he is rich, and he likes to share his ideas. And yes, we should always be open to learning from the best, whatever our personal opinion about that person might be.

Bill Gates had a Ted Talk back in 2015 presenting a simulation of a very comparable scenario and urging governments worldwide to invest more into possible preventive measures to fight such a pandemic. His experience due to his work at the Gates Foundation together with his experience in the software industry gives him a unique set of skills that qualifies him to make valid assessments in this field. Additionally, he is well known as one of the richest people on the planet. So if anyone could grab some attention on this kind of topic from governments across the globe, it would be him.

He wasn’t as successful as he hoped for, so the Gates Foundation followed up in 2019 with the support of a simulation of such an event. The target was to highlight the impact of a pandemic event on every possible part of society, economy, politics. For those interested, search online for “Event 201”. It is quite impressive. Most things that were simulated during this event are right now developing “live” pretty much according to that playbook.

While some are already bringing up conspiracy theories, the truth is that this is just what scientists do. This is the power of science. A few smart people, computing power, and big data make it possible to foresee and to predict possible events, impacts, effects, and results. Those who see conspiracies at play here are those who don’t understand science.

So while the President of the United States of America keeps repeating that no one could have seen this coming, the truth is that many people did. They just didn’t have the audience, they didn’t get the government support, and they didn’t have access to the cash required to prepare the world for what we have to get through now. Even for Bill Gates alone, this check would have been too large.

Back to the markets

But enough politics, let’s get back to the markets. My income portfolio is currently down 40%. That hurts. My speculative portfolio is down 34%. My portfolio here in Thailand is down 35%. It’s looking not great. And all of this happened only during the last 4 weeks.

So what am I doing? I am losing lots of sleep. Not because of the losses on paper, but mainly due to the time I am spending now on analyzing where I am going to invest next.

I don’t want to rush into it, especially as I think that this recession (yes, we got into a recession by now) might hold on for a little longer. But, as soon as the virus situation starts clearing up markets will start to recover. And there are lots of companies out there that will get back on their feet.

The big question & the strategy

The big question is of course which companies will get back on their feet faster and stronger than others. And while I am analyzing and working on this almost daily, there is a simpler alternative for everyone who doesn’t have the time and knowledge to do that: Index ETFs.

It’s almost impossible to time the market. I don’t know when the lowest point will be reached. No one does. The recession could hold on longer. It could also end as quickly as it started. History has just no precedence to compare this with.

And this is what makes Index-ETFs so attractive. Instead of picking a company, I trust in the market. I intend to invest half of my available cash in just two ETFs. One ETF focusing on small & medium-sized companies in Germany. And another one focusing on major dividend-payers in Europe. I don’t buy them as a one-time investment. Instead, I set up a savings plan that will stretch over the next 8 months putting in equal amounts of cash into each ETF every first day of each month until the end of this year.

The second half of my available cash will be distributed in US and Thai stocks. I can’t say yet which companies I will choose, but to give a direction, it will be mostly in the technology sector. Software. Digital payments. Digital marketing. Telecommunications. But I am looking also at some companies that offer essential services, like food, water, energy, waste management. If anything became clear during the current crisis is that in any event, these are the companies that will sustain their operations (and cashflows) the longest.

More updates will follow soon. But no matter how the next few months will turn out, I see this as a great opportunity. I might of course also be wrong, but if I am right, then this will give my FIRE goal the kick that comes only once every few years.

Unchartered Waters

Things are looking grim. As economies across the globe are setting record after record on rescue-efforts for companies and individuals alike, more people get infected and are dying by the hour. Here where I live in South East Asia, things look currently like this:3580795

But, this is not a medical blog, it’s about personal finance. So let’s talk briefly about the spread of the virus as shown above, and what it means for our personal finances.

Unemployment is on the rise

Two weeks ago, I had one of the most difficult moments of my entire career. I sat down with 25 team members, explained to them what is happening with the tourism industry, and then told them that I have no choice but to let them go. They were not full-time employees with my hotel. They worked for an outsourced supplier on a temporary contract. I worked with them since the hotel opening last year and they proved to be a dedicated and hard-working team that would always do their best.

And yet I had no choice. With the operational losses mounting up day by day, a full hotel closure became a realistic expectation, which would put all of my 60 employees on the street. No matter how many tears I would shed, there was simply nothing else left where I could cut costs to keep the ship afloat.

It was hard. But I also know, I am not the only one. In my area here in Pattaya almost 20 hotels already closed their doors. 20 hotels that I know of. On top of that, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, massage parlors. Empty. Thousands of people are now either unemployed, on leave without pay, or on leave with reduced salaries.

In the USA, last week alone more than 3,2 million people filed for unemployment – within a week! Just imagine that. A country that just celebrated being once again the strongest economy in the world, had a sudden jump in unemployment by the millions.

The same is happening all across the globe. And my industry is being hit the hardest. Hotels, restaurants, and bars employ 1 out of 10 people worldwide. We are the single largest employment industry across the globe. And we are being hit the hardest by people staying at home.

No Money, No Spending, No Income, No Taxes, No Profits

Don’t get me wrong. We need people to stay at home. Because we also can’t afford to get sick. Most of us work on minimum wage. Many of us have limited or no insurance. And many of us have no savings. No financial security to speak about.

This means that once people are sick and unemployed on a large scale, they obviously stop spending money. This leads to other businesses losing income, scaling down and ultimately profits across all industries start to dwindle. If this lasts for as little as even only a few weeks, chances are high that this turns into the beginning of a recession.

No money means no Spending. No spending for some means no income for others. This will result obviously in no taxes paid and cripple public budgets. It also cripples private businesses cash-flows and profits. Investors will therefore start observing a lot of companies losing value. Stocks start to slide and portfolios turn red. Except in China, where the colors for positive and negative are reversed.

Unchartered Waters

We had recessions before and so far, we always found a way out of it. After every recession there was a bull market that would usually rise higher and beyond expectations.

History is a great advisor, but there are no guarantees. There are just so many things that we don’t know. We don’t know how long this pandemic will endure. We don’t know, how a shut-down of the economy on such a large scale will affect our economy in the long-run. We also can’t reliably estimate which sectors will be dragged down together with the most obvious losers.

But there are reasons to be optimistic. Every recession is like a clean-up. Bad and mismanaged companies get quickly in trouble and are either bailed out or forced out of the market. Great companies adapt, adjust, and come out stronger than before. The clean up also creates ample space for new players and new competitors. This is why markets usually come back stronger and better after every crisis.

So let’s stay positive, observe, and get ready to continue investing. Preferably, when some stability comes back to the daily news, and when expectations from all market participants start to become a little less speculative, and more solid instead.

Black Swan Events

The world of finance has its own set of terms to describe whatever is happening in the market. And given the current situation, just talking about “Bulls” and “Bears” is not enough. Let me introduce to you another term. The Black Swan.

Black Swan events happen every now and then. Like now. Since this is a rare event, let me also do something rare. Let me add a visualization from my favorite visualization website, www.visualcapitalist.com to this post:

mm_black_swan_events_main-2

I love this website and I can only recommend anyone interested in understanding how the world works to be a frequent reader and/or to subscribe to their free newsletter. It’s awesome. And no, I am not getting any commission or compensation for writing this.

Having said all that, there is some great information on this graph. Let me point out one negative, and one positive.

First of all, on a slightly negative note, while the markets crashed heavily in recent weeks, there is still room to fall. It may be hard to imagine, but share prices might still not have reached the bottom. We certainly have not reached the same proportional drop as back in 2007/2008 during the financial crisis. In the long-term chart most investors who are more than 10 years in the market, are still very much in the greens.

Secondly, on a more positive note, we can learn here that every crash is followed by a recovery. Investors do well to keep their shares, not to panic, and instead to look out for opportunities to continue investing even as the crisis keeps evolving.

Is a recession coming?

This is a complicated question and there are many factors involved. But the chances are, in my humble opinion, pretty high. The current crisis is forcing major industries to shut down operations. Hotels, airlines, restaurants, bars, events… we are talking about millions of jobs worldwide. All the lost income, disappearing pay-checks, lost taxes, depleted savings accounts. We will feel the effects of this crisis far beyond the time when the Covid-19 Virus will take its place in history books.

Our entire world economy is based on consumption. People need to spend money to help us generate cash flows, profits, and to pay wages and taxes to keep this machine running. This won’t stop, but it will definitely slow down over the next couple of months. Therefore, it might very well be that we will have a couple of rough weeks or even months ahead of us.