• A TYPICAL ADULT IS NOW SPENDING 13 HOURS DAILY ON COMPUTER SCREENS – some 300,000 hours over their age 18 – 80 lifespan. According to a recent 2000-adult British survey, time is being spent on average: 4 hours laptop, 3½ TV, 2½ cellphone screen, and the rest on tablets, gaming devices & e-readers. Other stats: “a third said they switch on a device within five minutes of wake up, the average within 20 minutes; 40% said they rarely stop to rest their eyes, and another 12% said they never take a break; also, four in ten parents say their kids spend too much time on devices, but 2/3 admitted they feel like hypocrites telling kids to turn off screens.”  [LBN EXAMINER -5/20/20]
  • COVID ‘UNEMPLOYMENT’ BENEFITS NOW APPLY TO PREVIOUSLY INELIGIBLE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS, self-employed, free-lancers & gig workers who have two or more income streams (some 16 million Americans) even if they also maintained reduced-hour jobs. State laws vary, but generally: (1)  if laid off or working hours are reduced, State benefits are related to the combined income reduction, and the four-month Federal benefit of $600/week still applies for those earning even partial unemployment under State rules. (A reminder that reporting of income earned during this period is mandatory, and failure to do so is classified as ‘fraud,’ with penalties which can include ineligibility for future benefits and/or criminal prosecution); (2) If a person still has a job or earns the majority of income thru contract work (like actors), then unemployment aid is not available; (3) If eligible, but a person “refuses suitable work” they become ineligible – and “neither a general fear of exposure to the virus, nor earning more from benefits than working, are grounds for refusal”; (4) Loss of passive income (like renting a room out) is not considered ‘employment’ income. [CNBC .com – 5/15/20]
  • THE PANDEMIC IMPACT ON CHILDREN HAS YET TO BE DEALT WITH. Some 56 million kids, out of school for an indefinite time, “have had their worlds turned upside down…and regardless of economic status or neurodiversity, are experiencing massive social regression in the absence of their peer and teacher connections, which is of more concern to many parents than academic regression… By most schools continuing their curricula focus as if the entire world weren’t imploding, and by failing to consider social-emotional learning – reminding kids they are part of a class, a community and that school is a safe place for them to connect – students’ well-being is not being served… There is no one-size-fits-all for remote learning, any more than there is for in-person learning, but students need to learn how to learn in an entirely new way, and nothing replaces the value of face time with teachers or the social learning that comes from interacting with peers.”  [CNN .com – 4/29/20]
  • LIVING DOWNTOWN IN MANY CITIES HAS EXPANDED IN RECENT YEARS as Millennials & iGen kids sought nightlife access to bars/restaurants/theaters/museums and ability to avoid lengthy commuting congestion. But nearly a third of Americans are now “considering moving away to less densely populated areas in the wake of the pandemic.” According to latest Harris polling, city-dwellers are now without those amenities, especially those in high rise buildings, or with health issues and/or anxiety from common-area interaction even after Social Distancing inconveniences, so are now browsing suburban real estate websites at double the rate of rural or other suburban dwellers. Southern CA brokers report strong activity particularly from New Yorkers “looking to buy properties with home offices, gym space, outside space and a pool, rather than being stuck inside their high rise building… People are also becoming more comfortable interacting through video conferencing which could push more employers to allow working from home” when New Normal business resumes… All this may foreshadow a shift with major impact on residential real estate sales & home prices.”  [USA TODAY – 5/1/20]
  • ‘RESCUE CAPITAL’ IS THE NEWEST INVESTMENT FUND PURSUIT, searching ‘distressed debt’ opportunities for “otherwise-healthy businesses squeezed temporarily by shutdowns.”  2020 is on track to become the worst bankruptcy filing year since the 2009 global financial crisis – so far led by department store, retail & exercise chains, with Hertz on the brink. But “few want to force liquidation because if you can kick the can down the road, maybe a vaccine comes, and there is a better chance of getting recovery for creditors, so many hedge funds and non-traditional lenders, along with Rescue Capital Funds, are opting for debt-for-equity exchanges… Since the nature of this pandemic makes it impossible to know when the economy might return to normal, and it’s very hard to value a company that doesn’t have clear cash-flow and visibility on its future markets… expect to see a wave of defaults — perhaps exceeding 20% — unfolding with varying severity across different industries,” and major opportunities for risk-oriented investors. [ECONOMIST – 5/16/20]


A Shame It Couldn’t Last

Financial times for the wealthy-enough were mostly pretty great until the global economy badly crashed in 2008.

Most had become accustomed, at simple beck and call, to Objects of Desire – opportunity to ‘have it all.’

Ensconced in Material Comfort and pursuit of constant Pleasure, pursuing just to maximize, in no uncertain measure,

the toys, tools and time to fully appreciate life –  unaware the world would soon transform to total strife.

Those of us, lucky enough in recent decades past, certainly had a ‘Good Run’ – what a shame it couldn’t last.

First greed and avarice won out; ‘haves’ didn’t have enough, and allowed Houses of Cards to topple rather than share their stuff.

A decade later, things were better, the economy turned around, and once again capitalism was on pretty solid ground,

until along came Covid, a nasty pandemic virus, which imploded everything financial, and is far from long behind us.

So now it’s indefinite topsy-turvy, with fortunes upside down, the Future mortgaged for trillions. But with luck, we won’t be around

to deal with the aftermath, these Crises from the past. Our Good Times are gone for quite some time.  A shame it couldn’t last.

                DENNIS GRAY