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Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes



Hello! This pandemic is going to have ramifications that unfold for years to come that we won’t be able to predict. But my money is, for sure, on all of us leveling up on our germophobe meters. This New York Times cough simulation burned itself into my brain when I saw it, while I’m trying desperately to erase the knowledge that speaking alone creates enough droplets to lead to potential exposure. (I’m dragging you all down with me!)

All right, on to my attempts to summarize years-worth of news that was somehow crammed into one week. Buckle up!

President Donald Trump released a three-phase plan that leans heavily on the idea that reopening the country should not be based on a one-size-fits-all mentality. Hot spots would keep their shutdown measures in place, while areas in the country that haven’t been hit could start slowly getting back to normal.

The guidance was quickly dismissed by critics as “vague and inconsistent.” And considering that governors are the final authority on when shelter-in-place orders are lifted (which Trump acknowledged, after previously drawing an outcry over claims that he alone would make that decision), it may not make a huge impact on what happens next.

Trump also announced his panel of advisers who will help him reopen the country — something that came as a surprise to some of the people he named. One of the first bits of advice to come from the business leaders? The United States is woefully behind in the amount of testing it needs to do to reopen the country. Meanwhile, conversations between Trump and his panel don’t have to be made public because only “formal outside advisory committees” fall under the transparency law requirements.

As Josh Gerstein, from Politico, notes: Notably, the White House avoided the term “committee” in its announcement.

Speaking of testing, saliva tests based on the 23andMe model are being touted as the answer to the country’s testing woes. But I think I’ve heard that promise before.

WHO became a new target in Trump’s efforts to shift blame from his own administration’s missteps in the early days of the crisis. After a few days of speculation, Trump announced he wants to cut funding for the international organization, going against the State Department’s advice that the move would be “ceding ground” to China.

Predictably, since the country is in the midst of a pandemic, the decision drew swift condemnation from Trump’s critics and the medical community. And though WHO’s response may not have been pitch-perfect, experts say, the organization consistently treated the contagion as the threat it was far earlier than some nations did.

Although Trump’s decision was based on his criticism of WHO’s early response to the current crisis, the funding cuts would be felt far beyond the organization’s efforts to fight COVID-19.

As all that was going on, many people were wondering where the CDC — once the preeminent disease-fighting body — has been in this current fight. The agency won high praise for its work helping fight AIDS, Ebola and Zika, and played a major role in eradicating smallpox, as well as the near-elimination of polio. But funding cuts beneath the Trump administration have rendered it a “nonentity.”

In an ironic twist of fate, the pandemic could shape Trump’s health care legacy into one that looks a lot like his opponents’ dream scenario. The administration has greenlighted plans that pump billions of government money into the health care system to help offset costs, including a taxpayer-generated fund for hospitals to use to cover patients’ care. (Ahem, does that sound familiar?) Anxiety is rippling through some conservative circles that Trump might oversee historic new levels of federal health spending.

In contrast to all that, though, Trump’s continued disdain for the health law could also hamper the administration’s response to the crisis.

And hospitals say that $100 billion pot allocated in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package is not only taking far too long to distribute, but also is woefully inadequate.

Thursday marked another deadliest-day record, with the death count rising by 4,591 in the span of 24 hours. Meanwhile, New York this week started counting “probable” COVID-19-related deaths, which sent its totals soaring past 10,000. The change highlights one of the issues with getting an accurate count of the nation’s losses. Not only are COVID-19 cases widely considered undercounted because of a lack of tests, some states are counting them using different criteria (while remaining adamant that their strategy is best).

There’s also been a worrisome spike in at-home deaths, which makes some experts think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg in the death toll.

In a nod to the fact that the coronavirus knows no state boundaries, governors in different regions are forming partnerships to create plans to reopen their states in the coming months. The coalitions so far: the Northeastern corridor, the West Coast trio of Washington, Oregon and California, and seven Midwestern states.

While the partnerships are in their early days, it seems the plans will rely heavily on testing and a slow rollout that takes into account more vulnerable populations.

As the general shutdown effort enters its second month, though, tensions are simmering to a boiling point for some. Protesters, driven by economic and civil liberty concerns took to the streets this week to demand governors lift specific shutdown orders. But even as they voiced complaints, cases started to spike in the very states that hadn’t seen the need to shelter in place.

And those of us who have been social distancing laughed a little nervously (without humor) at a new study that suggests it could be needed until 2022. For what it’s worth, that seemed like a worst-case-scenario projection that didn’t account for a possible vaccine or increased capacity in hospitals.

It’s so rare these days that I get to talk about good news, but today is the day! There are hopeful signs coming out of a study on Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir, the drug that’s been a front-runner since the early days of the crisis. But, a warning: The good news comes with a huge helping of salt in that there was no control group used in the study, so the patients might have been getting better on their own.

Meanwhile, studies are going forward on a drug that calms the immune system, targeting the deadly “cytokine storms” that seem to be at the root of younger patients’ deaths. But fears remain that suppressing a patient’s immune system in the midst of a battle against the virus could backfire.

While the global science community has dropped everything to race for a cure, the scattershot, all-hands-on-deck method might actually be doing more harm than good, with researchers working at cross-purposes, duplicating efforts and failing to communicate outside of their realm.

Speaking of hopeful signs, there’s also a lot of movement with Moderna’s development of a vaccine. The company is set to get an infusion of cash and expand its trials with hopes that something can get pushed to the public far earlier than the original 12- to 18-month timeframe. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci (who has been on the extra-cautious side) has said that he thinks it might be possible to have a safe and effective vaccine as early as mid- to late winter.

In the meantime, some observers wonder if the general immune boost that comes with an old TB vaccine might help bridge the gap during the long wait for a coronavirus vaccine.

And, so far, the big names in the anti-vaccination movement have not changed their tunes, even as many in the country are looking to a vaccine as the one true exit strategy from the pandemic.

In a man-our-health-system-is-complicated moment, UnitedHealth Group is actually reporting an increase in profits during the pandemic. That’s because the extra coronavirus costs have been offset by the cancellations of other procedures.

Hospitals and states where the virus has not yet struck are growing ever more frustrated with FEMA “redirecting” (or “poaching,” for the more critically inclined) equipment it needs to brace for any potential surges. Over the past few weeks, the federal government’s response to equipment distribution has been blasted as somehow too chaotic and too controlling at the same time, which seems to be a real feat.

In another attempt to address some of the shortages in hot spots, the Trump administration announced a voluntary exchange program, in which hospitals in “cold spots” send their unused ventilators to places in need.

And all this demand is driving up costs across the board. A protective mask that used to cost $0.38 now rings up for $5.75. Isolation gowns went from $0.25 to $5. (You get the picture.)

If you expected quick, bipartisan action (haha!) out of Congress during these high-stakes times, you might have to take off the rose-colored glasses. The small-business fund allocated through the $2.2 trillion stimulus package ran out this week, and even in the face of overwhelming requests, Congress can’t seem to shake the shackles of partisan disputes.

Meanwhile, a staggering 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past four weeks, sending the country into an economic nosedive that is drawing apt comparisons to the Great Depression. Images of lines of cars miles long might be our generation’s bread-line pictures, with food banks struggling to deal with the onslaught of needy Americans.

Experts say the stress from the pandemic revealed underlying vulnerabilities that suggest the booming economy might not have been all that strong to begin with. “We built an economy with no shock absorbers,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist.

Meanwhile, whatever details shake out about the reopening of the economy, one thing is certain: It will be fragile, partial and slow.

We know that health care workers represent a high number of coronavirus cases, but a new CDC report puts hard (though still undercounted) numbers on it: As of April 9, 9,282 health care professionals had contracted the virus and at least 27 had died from it.

On that note, KHN and The Guardian are documenting the lives of U.S. workers who succumbed during the crisis. If you have a story to share, please contact us here.

With each passing day, scientists are learning more about the coronavirus. Some news from this week includes a link between obesity and severe cases, as well as good news for asthma patients.

And as the coronavirus upends some ironclad medical traditions, doctors talk about what they wished they’d known about how the illness presents a month ago.

In an extremely grim snapshot of the devastation that’s hitting nursing homes across the country, an investigation following an anonymous tip found a makeshift morgue in one New Jersey facility that was housing 17 bodies.

I hate to leave you on that terrible note, so have a picture of three extremely adorable KHN dogs that will surely brighten your day, if only a little. Have a restful and safe weekend!


By: Brianna Labuskes
Title: Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 17 Apr 2020 18:17:22 +0000

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Retirement Planning

Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970



There always has been and always will be a reason not to invest or not to stay invested. This is all the mainstream media reports to us. Below you will find a list of some of the worst global events each year since 1970. I have some commentary to follow.

1970: War: US troops invade Cambodia.
1971: Civil Unrest: Anti-war militants march on Washington.
1972: Political: Start of Watergate Scandal.
1973: Economic: OPEC raises oil prices in response to US involvement abroad.
1974: Political: Nixon resigns as President of the United States.
1975: Political: Multiple assassination attempts on President Ford.
1976: World: Ebola virus.
1977: Political: Government shutdowns.
1978: Market: U.S. Dollar plunges to record low against many European currencies.
1979: World: Iranian militants seize the U.S. embassy in Teheran and hold hostages.
1980: Economic: Inflation spiked to a high of 14.76%.
1981: Political: President Reagan assassination attempt.
1982: Economic: Recession continues in the U.S. with nationwide unemployment of 10.8%.
1983: Economic: Unemployment in the U.S. reaches 12 million.
1984: Economic: 70 U.S. banks fail during the year.
1985: World: Multiple airplane hijackings around the world.
1986: World: Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station explodes.
1987: Market: DOW drops by 22.6% on October 22.
1988: Environment: Awareness of global warming and the greenhouse effect grows.
1989: Environment: Exxon Valdez dumps 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
1990: World: Persian Gulf War starts.
1991: World: Mass shooting in Killeen, TX.
1992: Human Rights: Los Angeles riots following the death of Rodney King.
1993: Terrorism: World Trade Center bombing.
1994: World: Mass genocide in Rwanda.
1995: Terrorism: Oklahoma City bombing.
1996: Terrorism: Olympic Park bombing.
1997: World: Bird flu.
1998: World: Multiple U.S. embassy bombings.
1999: World: Columbine shooting.
2000: Economic: Start of the Dotcom Market Crash.
2001: Terrorism: Terrorist Attacks in NYC, DC & PA.
2002: Economic: Nasdaq bottomed after a 76.81% drop.
2003: World: The U.S. invades Iraq.
2004: World: The U.S. launches an attack on Falluja.
2005: World: Hurricane Katrina
2006: World: Bird flu.
2007: Economic: Start of the Great Recession.
2008: Economic: Great Recession continues.
2009: Economic: S&P bottomed after a 56.8% drop.
2010: Market: Flash crash.
2011: Market: Occupy Wall Street and S&P downgrades U.S. Debt.
2012: Political: Fiscal cliff.
2013: Political: Taper tantrum.
2014: World: Ebola virus.
2015: World: Multiple mass shootings.
2016: Political: Divided U.S. Presidential election.
2017: World: North Korea testing nuclear weapons.
2018: Economic: U.S. & China trade war.
2019: Economic: Student loan debt reaches an all-time high of $1.4 trillion.
2020: World: COVID-19.

While many of these events were undoubtedly terrible (and there are certainly others not named here that were worse), most of these were broadcast as end-of-the-world events for the stock market. Despite that attention, it is worth noting that these were, for the most part, one-time events. In other words, most faded into the newspapers of history. We moved on.

Obviously, some caused monumental shifts in the way the world works. Just think about how much air travel continues to be impacted by the events of 9/11. But, outside of the resulting inconveniences (if we want to call safety protocols inconveniences) associated with air travel, flying is safer than ever before.

Take a look at just about any of the events and you will find there are many that people will hardly remember. My point here isn’t that these events are to be ignored or that they were easy to stomach at the time, but that they have become a distant memory.

I want to also make the point that we should expect these types of negative events. As investors, we know these types of crises, economic catastrophes, and global phenomena are going to happen.

But in almost all cases, here is what we can say in the next breath – this too shall pass.

Will there be legal, humanitarian, economic, or some other aid required as a result of these events? Almost certainly the answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it they won’t eventually fade into history.

Lastly, what’s worth noting is how the market has performed over these last 50 years despite the continual advertisements of the world crashing down around us. On January 2, 1970, the Dow Jones stood at 809 and the S&P at 90 -> those are not typos. These same indexes have grown (not including dividends) to 26,387 and 3,232 respectively. Amazing, no?

Perhaps what gets overlooked more than anything else is what separates the above one-time negative events from the positive stories that go largely ignored over our lifetimes. And that is a story worth telling. See the companion post below:

Unheralded Positive Events Every Year Since 1970

Stay the Course,

Retirement Field Guide Mission:

“To help 10 million people make better retirement decisions.”

If you would like to join us in achieving our mission, I hope you will consider sharing our site if you have found it helpful in your own retirement planning.

This post is not advice. Please see additional disclaimers.

The post Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970 appeared first on Retirement Field Guide.


By: Ashby Daniels, CFP®
Title: Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970
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Published Date: Tue, 04 Aug 2020 13:26:19 +0000

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Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing



The post Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing appeared first on Live Insurance News.

The bill is expected to be heard in upcoming weeks as opposing sites prepare for major battle.

A new California bill, the outcomes of which will have a lot to say about coverage for wildfire prone property in the state, will soon be headed for hearing. The hearing is expected to be a heated one as strong opposing opinions have the opportunity to be voiced.

Opponents of this bill are calling it a direct attack on consumer protections in insurance.

That said, proponents of the bill claim it is the best method for making coverage available to wildfire prone property in California. The bill in question is Assembly Bill 2167. It was written by Assemblyperson Tom Daly (D-Anaheim). If it passes,it will create the Insurance Market Action Plan (IMAP) program. The IMAP program is meant to protect residential properties.

So far, AB 2167 has progressed quickly, when taking into consideration that a chunk of the legislature has been considerably restricted by pandemic crisis precautions. It was first presented in early June and backers have been saying that it was brought forward in good timing and that it has all the momentum it needs to be passed.

That said, AB 2167 has not been without opposition. In fact, it has faced considerable opposition, having been called an attack on Proposition 103, insurance consumer protection law. California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara lobbed that argument at it, calling it an “insurance industry wish list, with nothing to help consumers,” and Consumer Watchdog, whose founder, Harvey Rosenfeld, was the original author of Proposition 103.

The insurance industry strongly supports the bill, saying it will help wildfire prone property coverage.

Insurance organizations such as the American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the Personal Insurance Federation both support AB 2167. The bill also has the support of the California Association of Counties (CSAC), as well as Fire Safe Councils of California, and the CalFIRE union.

The Consumer Federation of America, another watchdog organization, has predicted that if AB 2167 passes, it will cause 40 percent increases in insurance rates. On the other hand, insurance groups claim that the bill offers owners of wildfire prone property a greater opportunity for choice and competition among insurance companies based on coverage and premiums while avoiding the limitations and high costs associated with FAIR Plan coverage.

The post Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing appeared first on Live Insurance News.


By: Marc
Title: Wildfire prone property insurance bill in California due for hearing
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Published Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2020 09:00:14 +0000

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Is this the last hurrah for bonds?



Recently, I have written quite a bit about the long-term return expectations for investing in bonds. See here, here, here and here.

Spoiler alert: I don’t think it’s good.

But long-term bonds this year have been quite an amazing story as the COVID pandemic has caused the Fed to take historically monumental actions. As a result, we’ve watched long-term Treasuries tear the roof off the market. For instance, a 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (name withheld for compliance purposes) is up more than 31% YTD as of July 31st.

That is insane!

But there is a good reason for this increase shown below.

The red circle shows a decrease in the 30-year Treasury rate of almost 40% over a span of six months. That’s practically unprecedented with only two periods (2008 and 1981-1982) having similar declines over such short periods.

But this begs the question: Is this the last hurrah for bonds as a driver of any meaningful return? Below is the 30-Year Treasury rate over the last 40+ years.

For what it’s worth, people have been forecasting the end of the bond bull market since 2012 (maybe even earlier) and yet it has continued despite those predictions. But at some point, the bond party will come to an end.

The Fed has been clear that they are going to keep rates stable until at least 2022 which means this may not change for a little while longer. Or in the near term, I could even see the high returns continuing if we experience pandemic economic shutdown round two.

But, I can’t see a world where this is the case for much longer than that – most importantly over the span of a 30-year retirement.

The official end of the bond bull market depends on a recovery from the pandemic economy as well as a few other factors causing rates to rise. But when they do, it seems likely to me that this may be the last great hurrah for bonds for quite some time.

The question is when to get off that train and that undoubtedly requires a personal answer.

Stay the Course,

Retirement Field Guide Mission:

“To help 10 million people make better retirement decisions.”

If you would like to join us in achieving our mission, I hope you will consider sharing our site if you have found it helpful in your own retirement planning.

This post is not advice. Please see additional disclaimers.

The post Is this the last hurrah for bonds? appeared first on Retirement Field Guide.


By: Ashby Daniels, CFP®
Title: Is this the last hurrah for bonds?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2020 13:47:16 +0000

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