(Writer’s Note: I apologize that this article was posted half-finished. Life intruded…and the article is now complete)
What’s happened in the financial sector of the Economy is a tangled knot of various issues that have come together in what some refer to as a Perfect Storm. It can appear mind-numbing to the average person who’s looking at it for the first as he or she sifts through the rubble of the 401k statement. Since much of it arises from the quantitative mathematics of Ph.D mathematicians, mind-numbing is about right.
With a college degree in Administration and a minor in Economics, I started digging in 2005 when basic economic principles no longer seemed to match the reality that I had learned and with which I’d grown up. With the internet, I encountered dozens of sites – literally hundreds are there – and sifted through them to come to the ones that I go to regularly. Some are on the wonkish side and others are more visceral in terms of tone. But the key is to find a few good ones and then not only link the referenced articles, but also read the comments and start to pull your understanding together.
I’ll take a few moments to note my top choices.
If you need a general outline of the Economics/Personal Finance arena, then I would recommend www.kiplingers.com. It is the digital equivalent of the old Kiplinger Newsletter but the articles are straightforward and written towards the layman. If you find yourself getting further into investing, then I suggest that you try www.morningstar.com for a wider variety and analysis of investment opportunities. They even go so far as to provide their own criteria for selection of mutual funds.
An insightful view of the finance and investment developments can be found at www.nakedcapitalism.com and is penned daily by Yves Smith. She is a retired investment banker who started the site after noting the disconnect between what she was reading in the Main Street Media (hereafter MSM) and what she knew was actually happening. She explains developments well and remains connected to peers within her former profession.
My personal favorite, and source of great insight, remains www.calculatedrisk.blogspot.com, hosted by CR and Tanta. CR is apparently an independently wealthy investor who also started the site in 2005 when he noted the growing disconnect between reality and economics/finance. He was subsequently joined by Tanta, the pseudonym for a retired mortgage banker who posts wonkish or scathing articles, depending upon her ability to suffer fools gladly. The key to this site however, apart from CR’s well thought out and executed "chart porn", is the collection of individuals who post regularly. The commentary is pithy, intelligent and depending upon the subject matter and poster, exceptionally educational and insightful. Even if you choose not to post – and I lurked for close to a year before posting – the education is superb.
www.londonbanker.blogspot.com is a new and increasingly favorite blog from an English central banker. His posts are infrequent as yet but they are beautifully written and provide incisive behind-the-scenes glimpses of the workings of the macro-level economic landscape. It does presume a certain level of understanding, but even if you have a thin knowledge base, the use of the English language is excellent.
A good look at general economic trends and developments is www.econbrowser.com. It was created by two Economics professors, James Hamilton of UCSD and Menzie Chinn of University of Wisconsin/Madison. Their content is topical and provides a grounded overview of the Economics developments. And while their "chart porn" isn’t always up to CR’s standards, they will readily correct and adapt them if it’s appropriate.
Finally, I tend to wander regularly to www.maxedoutmama.com for a ground level view of the situation. It’s penned by a woman with an interest in Economics and has a "boots on the ground" feel to what’s occurring. It’s thoughtful and if some nowadays consider her too political, then I simply acknowledge that everything happening now has political overtones. Bear that in mind as you read and you’ll still find useful information.
Finally, am I a proponent of Jim Cramer? Uh, no. His schtick is good for everyday trading, but the present circumstances are far from everyday and make his approach simply too dangerous.
Next up…so how does a PracticalDad approach today’s environment?