I found myself recently in Charleston on a business/mini retreat. As has been my morning routine for far too many years, I got up early, started the coffee maker and then went in search of the daily news paper. Yes, in this age of getting news on small handheld devices, I actually prefer the old- fashioned printed newspaper. Just down the street from where I was staying was a Publix grocery store, and by the looks of the inside at 7am I might have been the first customer. I grabbed my two papers and went to pay for them. The cashier was a man in his late sixties or early seventies who took my papers, scanned them, and then said “staying in touch with the world I see” in a loud, energetic voice. My non-caffeinated response was something like “yeah, old habit.” To which he said, “yeah I remember before I retired, I was the same way.” I thought “retired”? Here was a man working at Publix at 7am in the morning, who sure didn’t look retired to me. So I asked, “retired?”. “Oh yeah, you probably can’t tell but I retired 5 years ago and moved to Charleston.” I asked how’s it going? He said “it was great the first two years but then I got bored, and started working at Publix.” I asked how it was working at Publix. He said “it’s great, I love the people and customers. Most of the folks are here on vacation so they all seem happy.” On the way back I thought about his comment about being bored. Many people claim that retirement is like a permanent vacation but there is quite a difference between a one or two week vacation, when it’s easy to be happy, and a retirement that could last for decades. Retirement is about a lot of things but I hope that boredom not is one of those things. We work, save, and plan for it, and retirement should be a time of enjoyment and fulfillment.
It’s brutal to watch a market go down and have to deal with the anxiety it creates. TV commentary then whips the events of the day to an even higher level of dread. Who really got hurt this week as the market sold off? Let’s look at the boring stuff first, the economic news, how bad was it? Housing Starts came out on Friday showing a strong number above 1 million units up 17.8% from a year ago, not bad. Jobless claims continue to drop to 264,000 the lowest level since the recovery began and a level not seen in 13 years. Industrial production rose 1% which was higher than analysts projected and inflation as measured by the Producers Price Index stayed in check with little signs of inflation. What about the monetary front? Our Fed once again proved they understand markets reiterating they might provide some new economic stimulus if needed. Even the start of the earnings release this quarter was positive. So what was this week’s excuse for the market sell off? One word seems to bubble to the surface, collapsing oil prices. What does it mean when a single product like oil goes down in price from $120 a barrel to $80 barrel in a short period of time? Was this a bubble bursting event?