Negativity has permeated our society of late. Predictions of disastrous consequences from the federal debt ceiling impasse abound. Some pundits worry that inflation arising from dramatic increases in the monetary supply will surely diminish our future lifestyles. European sovereign debt crises will eventually contaminate the American banking system, and global warming will cause our coastal cities to flood, etc.
Not everything is wonderful, I admit. But it is pretty clear to me that the dire predictions we read every day may, like so many previous dire predictions, turn out to be laughably wrong. A few of my favorites:
· 2011 – Japanese Tsunami will cause breakdown in world supply chains, economic calamity and total market collapse.
· 2005 – Asian bird flu to trigger 1930s-style economic catastrophe.
· 1974 – Jimmy Carter warns that we will use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade. In 1970, the world had 550 billion barrels of proven reserves.
Between 1970 and 1990 we actually used 600 billion barrels, so theoretically, we should have already run out. Instead, actual U.S. crude oil production is expected to exceed Saudi Arabia’s somewhere out in 2015 or so.
The list goes on and on, but you get the point. Dire predictions are a dime a dozen these days and most are overblown or just wrong.
In an article written in Advisor Perspectives this past August by Bob Veres, advisor to financial advisors, he notes that “Clients and the world at large give inordinate attention to downside scenarios, and nobody is calling our attention to the much larger upside of our business and investment landscape. The human brain amplifies this effect, because it is hardwired to notice threats much more than opportunities.” He notes how important it is for investors to look beyond the negative headlines to see the positive economic stories out there.
For example, Veres quotes David Sterns of Sterns Financial Services in the article, “The natural gas situation could hardly be more favorable. Within three to five years, the U.S. will become the largest natural gas exporter in the world. It is estimated that the U.S. will be totally energy-independent within five years, perhaps sooner.”
Sterns believes this will lead to other beneficial effects that are the exact opposite of the discouraging projections you see in the papers. “Manufacturers are quietly bringing their plants back into the U.S., and using natural gas to run them,” says Stearns. “This gives them a more stable energy footprint, and in some cases even a lower-cost footprint. I sit in on a lot of those meetings with companies,” Stearns adds, “and I can tell you, they want stable even more than they want cheap.”
So, while there is always something to wring our hands about, let’s not forget to notice the beneficial economic forces that are building while we are hand wringing. There is a lot of good stuff coming our way. Sometimes you just have to look for it.