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Visualizing the Hierarchy of Financial Needs

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This Markets in a Minute Chart is available as a poster.

Hierarchy of financial needs

This Markets in a Minute Chart is available as a poster.

Visualizing the Hierarchy of Financial Needs

Behavioral scientist Abraham Maslow wrote “A Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943, arguing that humans worldwide are influenced by a “hierarchy of needs”.

This theory organizes human needs across five levels, where needs in the lower end must be satisfied before progressing onto the next level. At one end are physiological needs such as sleep and shelter, while at the other end are esteem and self-actualization.

This Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments explores how Maslow’s theory applies to our financial needs, pinning down the steps to creating a strong financial foundation.

The Essentials

What are the five levels in the hierarchy of financial needs?

  1. Cash flow and basic needs:
    Covering food, housing and daily expenses. Ensuring the fundamentals, including our physiological needs, are covered financially.
  2. Financial safety:
    This covers insurance and an emergency fund to help prepare for unforeseen events and risks. As a safety cushion, an emergency fund should cover three months of living expenses in case of an accident, an unexpected health or family issue, or losing a job.
  3. Accumulating wealth:
    This includes growing investments, paying down debt, and saving for retirement. At this level, the focus shifts to growing assets for long-term success and longevity.
  4. Financial freedom:
    Long-term care and children’s education are found within this category, along with retirement savings and vacations. These financial needs are linked with esteem needs, such as self-respect and personal accomplishment.
  5. Legacy:
    Estate planning, tax planning, and business succession planning all fall within this category, connecting with self-actualization in Maslow’s pyramid.

Naturally, financial needs can shift based on a given situation. But as a general rule of thumb, moving along this path can help create an enduring roadmap for financial heath.

Financial Needs Under the Microscope

While it’s easy enough to describe the theory in concept, how does the hierarchy of financial needs impact our day-to-day lives in practice?

To start, as individuals live longer, many are concerned with having enough savings for retirement—across all income levels. For Americans in the lower income bracket, 50% worry about their retirement savings, while 26% worry in upper income levels.

Worry about each of the following oftenLower IncomeMiddle IncomeUpper Income
Being able to save enough for retirement50%37%26%
Paying their bills59%35%15%
The amount of debt they have51%35%21%
The cost of health care for them and their family47%35%18%
Take a pay cut due to reduced hours or demand for their work51%25%18%
Losing their job40%21%11%

Source: Pew Research Center, survey of U.S. adults conducted April 7-12, 2020

Debt is also a primary concern among many Americans, as the cost of both healthcare and education have continued to rise. Average annual college costs, for example, have risen 25% over the last decade, while U.S. household debt has roughly doubled to $14 trillion since 2004.

It’s only once these above needs are taken care of that individuals can focus on the top of the financial needs hierarchy, taking care of legacy-focused items such as estate and tax planning, or business succession planning.

The Importance of Wealth Management

To navigate the hierarchy of financial needs, the importance of having a robust financial plan comes into focus.

Especially during times of uncertainty, individuals need a framework that accounts for changing life circumstances, such as a new job or purchasing a house. And when individuals move up each rung of the financial needs pyramid, they must also recognize how their tactics might need to change to best pursue their financial goals.

Cultivating a stronger awareness of financial needs can help individuals make more informed choices, on both a micro and macro level—from day-to-day purchases to long-term investment decisions.

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Markets in a Minute

Visualizing S&P Performance in 2020, By Sector

Who were the big winners of 2020? We rank the S&P performance of 11 sectors—and provide possible explanations on why the market had a strong year.

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Visualizing S&P Performance in 2020, By Sector

With 2020 finally over, many are breathing a sigh of relief.

Investors faced a tumultuous year. Still, the S&P 500 finished strong with a 16% gain, outpacing its decade-long average by 4%. Many sectors that provided the new essentials—like online products, communication software and home materials—outperformed the market. It was, of course, a challenging year for other sectors including energy.

This Markets in a Minute graphic from New York Life Investments ranks the 2020 performance of every sector in the S&P 500 using data from S&P Global.

S&P Performance By Sector

As the world coped with devastating losses and uncertainty, how resilient were S&P 500 sectors?

Here’s how every sector performed, from top to bottom.

S&P 500 Sector2020 Price Return2019 Price Return10-Year Annualized ReturnsP/E (Trailing)*
Information Technology42.2%48.0%18.9%31.6
Consumer Discretionary32.1%26.2%16.0%48.1
Communication Services22.2%30.9%5.6%27.5
Materials18.1%21.9%6.6%40.4
Health Care11.4%18.7%13.8%25.3
Industrials9.0%26.8%9.6%28.9
Consumer Staples7.6%24.0%8.7%25.1
Utilities-2.8%22.2%7.2%21.1
Financials-4.1%29.2%8.6%15.3
Real Estate-5.2%24.9%6.6%36.3
Energy-37.3%7.6%-5.6%N/A
S&P 50016.3%28.9%11.6%31.2

*Trailing P/E measures market value divided by the last 12 months of earnings

As no surprise, technology came out on top with over 42% returns for the year.

COVID-19’s economic impact benefited the sector as activities, from work to socializing, moved online. In 2020, the tech sector’s returns were more than double its 18.9% average over the last decade.

Consumer discretionary was also one of 2020’s top sectors. Home to online marketplace giants along with electric vehicle companies, it posted a 32.1% return—surpassing its 2019 gains.

With -37.3% returns, energy was the hardest hit of all. Historic demand disruptions, along with OPEC tensions led to sector weakness. Like energy, real estate had a difficult year. Still, after declining 40% in March, by year-end, the sector mostly rebounded with just 5% losses.

Why The Market Had a Strong Year

Looking back, one of the biggest questions baffling investors is: why did the market perform so well? A number of factors, including government stimulus, low interest rates, and vaccine expectations can all help explain some of its behavior.

Government Stimulus

In March, the U.S. government approved a $2.2 trillion CARES-Act relief package, breaking historical records for stimulus. This helped create optimism in the market as individuals, small-businesses and corporations received financial relief.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve extended its “quantitative easing” policies that it introduced in 2008. Quantitative easing is when the central bank buys a number of longer-term securities. This type of measure is designed to boost economic activity through injecting liquidity into the market.

In 2020, the Federal Reserve began purchasing corporate bonds and other assets—on top of treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS)—for the first time ever. In fact, the Federal Reserve is now estimated to 34% of MBS in the U.S. to help protect American homeowners.

Low Interest Rates

Another force that may have contributed to S&P performance in 2020 was the Federal Reserve’s low-interest rate policy.

Low interest rates mean that borrowing costs are low, which can be favorable for business conditions. In September, the Federal Reserve announced a “lower for longer policy”, stating that it won’t raise rates until 2023.

Vaccine Expectations

The promise of a vaccine rollout has contributed to S&P 500 performance momentum, along with expectations that things could return to normal in 2021. It also corresponded with double-digit gains for the health care sector.

Though roadblocks and uncertainties remain, vaccine announcements in November also helped spur an uptick in the energy sector, which will be influenced by global vaccine efforts in the months ahead. This, in turn, will help travel resume to normal and spark oil & gas demand.

S&P Performance: What Comes Next in 2021

With the first year of the pandemic behind us, it’s hard to say how the story will continue.

As countries acquire vaccines, there is hope for S&P 500 performance, and future stimulus measures could prop up the stock market. Of course, both the containment of the virus and people feeling safe will have an outsized impact on S&P sectors in the shift to a post-pandemic world.

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Markets in a Minute

How Do Countries Around the World Compensate for Equity Risk?

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Equity Risk Premiums

How Do Countries Compensate Investors for Equity Risk?

When investors purchase stocks internationally, they are exposed to additional risks. Companies may have higher volatility based on a country’s economic, political, and legal conditions. In exchange for taking on the additional risk, investors demand a higher return potential, known as an equity risk premium.

Which countries have the highest premiums? In this Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments, we explore equity risk premiums for countries around the world.

Behind the Numbers

The premiums are based on a study by a New York University researcher, Aswath Damodaran. All data is as of July 1, 2020.

Here are the steps Damodaran took to determine a country’s equity risk premium:

StepExample - Brazil
1. Find a country’s credit (bond) risk rating.Credit risk rating: Ba2
2. Based on that rating, determine the credit spread, which is the additional yield over a risk-free investment.Credit spread for Ba2 rating = 3.53%
3. To account for the additional risk stocks carry over bonds, multiply the credit spread by the relative equity market volatility.

This is the country risk premium.
3.53% credit spread x 1.25 relative equity market volatility

= 4.41% country risk premium
4. Add the country risk premium to the mature market risk premium (obtained by using the S&P 500 risk premium).4.41% country risk premium + 5.23% mature market risk premium
5. The resulting value is the country equity risk premium.9.64% country equity risk premium

Premiums will shift over time as a country’s credit rating, credit spread, and equity market volatility changes.

Equity Risk Premiums by Country

Below, we look at how equity risk premiums break down for 177 countries and regions, organized from highest to lowest.

CountryEquity Risk Premium
Sudan27.14%
Venezuela27.14%
Yemen, Republic27.14%
Algeria22.86%
Argentina22.86%
Guinea22.86%
Haiti22.86%
Korea, D.P.R.22.86%
Lebanon22.86%
Liberia22.86%
Somalia22.86%
Syria22.86%
Zambia22.86%
Zimbabwe22.86%
Ecuador19.92%
Congo (Republic of)18.46%
Cuba18.46%
Iran18.46%
Libya18.46%
Malawi18.46%
Mozambique18.46%
Sierra Leone18.46%
Barbados16.25%
Belize16.25%
Congo (Democratic Republic of)16.25%
Gabon16.25%
Guinea-Bissau16.25%
Iraq16.25%
Angola14.79%
Belarus14.79%
Bosnia and Herzegovina14.79%
El Salvador14.79%
Gambia14.79%
Ghana14.79%
Madagascar14.79%
Maldives14.79%
Mali14.79%
Moldova14.79%
Mongolia14.79%
Myanmar14.79%
Nicaragua14.79%
Niger14.79%
Pakistan14.79%
Solomon Islands14.79%
St. Vincent & the Grenadines14.79%
Suriname14.79%
Tajikistan14.79%
Togo14.79%
Ukraine14.79%
Bahrain13.32%
Benin13.32%
Burkina Faso13.32%
Cambodia13.32%
Cameroon13.32%
Cape Verde13.32%
Costa Rica13.32%
Egypt13.32%
Ethiopia13.32%
Guyana13.32%
Jamaica13.32%
Kenya13.32%
Kyrgyzstan13.32%
Nigeria13.32%
Papua New Guinea13.32%
Rwanda13.32%
Sri Lanka13.32%
Swaziland13.32%
Tunisia13.32%
Uganda13.32%
Albania11.84%
Bolivia11.84%
Cook Islands11.84%
Greece11.84%
Honduras11.84%
Jordan11.84%
Montenegro11.84%
Tanzania11.84%
Turkey11.84%
Uzbekistan11.84%
Armenia10.52%
Bangladesh10.52%
Côte d'Ivoire10.52%
Dominican Republic10.52%
Fiji10.52%
Macedonia10.52%
Oman10.52%
Senegal10.52%
Serbia10.52%
Vietnam10.52%
Azerbaijan9.64%
Bahamas9.64%
Brazil9.64%
Croatia9.64%
Cyprus9.64%
Georgia9.64%
Namibia9.64%
Guatemala8.90%
Morocco8.90%
Paraguay8.90%
South Africa8.90%
Trinidad and Tobago8.90%
Hungary8.46%
India8.46%
Italy8.46%
Kazakhstan8.46%
Montserrat8.46%
Portugal8.46%
Romania8.46%
Russia8.46%
St. Maarten8.46%
Andorra (Principality of)8.03%
Bulgaria8.03%
Colombia8.03%
Curacao8.03%
Indonesia8.03%
Philippines8.03%
Sharjah8.03%
Uruguay8.03%
Aruba7.58%
Mauritius7.58%
Mexico7.58%
Panama7.58%
Slovenia7.58%
Spain7.58%
Thailand7.58%
Turks and Caicos Islands7.58%
Laos6.99%
Latvia6.99%
Lithuania6.99%
Malaysia6.99%
Peru6.99%
Bermuda6.48%
Botswana6.48%
Brunei6.48%
Iceland6.48%
Ireland6.48%
Malta6.48%
Poland6.48%
Ras Al Khaimah (Emirate of)6.48%
Slovakia6.48%
Chile6.26%
China6.26%
Estonia6.26%
Israel6.26%
Japan6.26%
Saudi Arabia6.26%
Belgium6.12%
Cayman Islands6.12%
Czech Republic6.12%
Guernsey (States of)6.12%
Hong Kong6.12%
Jersey (States of)6.12%
Macao6.12%
Qatar6.12%
Taiwan6.12%
Abu Dhabi5.96%
France5.96%
Isle of Man5.96%
Korea5.96%
Kuwait5.96%
United Arab Emirates5.96%
United Kingdom5.96%
Austria5.81%
Finland5.81%
Australia5.23%
Canada5.23%
Denmark5.23%
Germany5.23%
Liechtenstein5.23%
Luxembourg5.23%
Netherlands5.23%
New Zealand5.23%
Norway5.23%
Singapore5.23%
Sweden5.23%
Switzerland5.23%
United States5.23%

Venezuela, Sudan, and Yemen are tied for the highest equity risk premium. While Venezuela battles hyperinflation, Yemen is suffering from a humanitarian crisis and Sudan has high perceived corruption.

In the mid-range, emerging countries such as Brazil, South Africa, and India carry moderate risk. However, they may also provide investors with higher returns than can be expected in mature markets.

On the low end of the scale, countries such as the United States, Singapore, and Germany have AAA credit ratings and the lowest premium of 5.23%.

Applying Risk Premiums to Companies

How can investors determine the equity risk premiums for individual companies?

One method is to assume that all companies incorporated in a country have equal exposure to that country’s risk. However, this is a simplified approach and does not account for the fact that a company’s operations may extend into other markets.

Alternatively, investors can calculate a weighted-average premium based on the location of a company’s revenue or production. For example, a consumer products business may weigh exposure based on the location of their revenue. An oil and gas company, where true risk lies in their reserves rather than where they sell, may instead be weighted by production.

Here’s a hypothetical example for an oil & gas company that has reserves in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela:

CountryProduction (in kboed)*% of TotalEquity Risk Premium
Total300100%14.41%
U.S.6020%5.23%
Saudi Arabia12040%6.26%
Venezuela12040%27.14%

* Kilobarrels of oil equivalent per day.

The weighted-average equity risk premium is 14.41%.

Importantly, even countries headquartered in mature markets have international risks if they carry out operations in other countries.

Risk Vs. Potential Reward

Every country presents varying degrees of risk based on local conditions. As investors look to diversify internationally, it’s critical to consider two factors:

  • The additional risk
  • The potential additional return

Equity risk premiums serve as a guide that can help investors compare country risk, and the additional return potential they should expect for tolerating that risk.

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