Topley’s Top 10 – September 17, 2020

1. Total Retail Sales Thru Financial Crisis and Covid……..Versus Total Department Store Sales.

Wolf Street

Sales at brick-and-mortar department stores fell 2.3% in August from July, to $9.4 billion, down 16.9% year-over-year, after having declined relentlessly for 20 years. The Pandemic accelerated that process, with numerous chains filing for bankruptcy, and some being liquidated. Even the survivors shed countless stores, abandoning mall after mall because Americans have abandoned department stores. Some department stores, such as Macy’s, have vibrant online sites, but those sales are not included here. This is just brick-and-mortar, a sad sight, having long been obviated by events:

How Life Changed During the Pandemic: Still Loaded with Stimulus Cash, Americans Went Shopping. But Where?=By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

2. Russell 1000 Value Best Month vs.  Growth Since 2001.


Peter Mallouk

It’s going to take a lot of months like this to close the value/growth gap.

3. Goldman Sachs Index of Most Shorted Stocks Hits All-Time Highs as Shorts Get Nutted on RALLY.


Sarah Ponczek

this an index of the most shorted stocks. It’s at a record. RIP shorts

4. Factor Returns 2020–State Street

Factor returns at high dispersion but low breadth
We often examine dispersion and breadth when trying to characterize a given return environment. In 2020, factor dispersion is elevated relative to history (19% versus long-term median of 8%, based on rolling six-month periods)1. Factor dispersion, however, is still low relative to sector dispersion (53% versus long-term median of 27% for rolling six-month returns).2  This is a reason why we favor sector rotation over styles/factors .

While dispersion is elevated, factor return breadth is low. Using the same rolling six-month return periods, the average number of factors underperforming the broader market in 2020 is 3.2, compared to a historical annual average of 2.2, as shown below. In fact, the 3.2 reading is the highest ever for a year. Such low breadth is one of the reasons why 91% of US-listed large-cap multifactor ETFs have underperformed the broad market in 2020, lagging by an average of 4.2%.3

5. SnowFlake Biggest Software IPO Ever.

 Data warehouse company Snowflake is set to start trading on the public markets on Wednesday in the largest software IPO ever, according to Renaissance Capital.

On Tuesday afternoon, the company priced its shares at $120 apiece —well above its previous IPO ranges — valuing it at $33.2 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Though it’s not necessarily a household name (it happens when you’re B2B software), Snowflake is a fast-growing, well-capitalized company that’s drawn big-name investors.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the market when San Mateo-based Snowflake starts trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, but until then, here’s what you need to know about the buzzy software company.

What It Does

In short, Snowflake is a cloud data platform. Customers can store data, exchange it, use it for data applications, and data engineering, among other things. 

In Snowflake’s own words, from its S-1 filing:

“Our platform solves the decades-old problem of data silos and data governance. Leveraging the elasticity and performance of the public cloud, our platform enables customers to unify and query data to support a wide variety of use cases. It also provides frictionless and governed data access so users can securely share data inside and outside of their organizations, generally without copying or moving the underlying data. As a result, customers can blend existing data with new data for broader context, augment data science efforts, or create new monetization streams. Delivered as a service, our platform requires near-zero maintenance, enabling customers to focus on deriving value from their data rather than managing infrastructure.”

Venture Capital Investment In Snowflake

As a private company, Snowflake has raised at least $1.4 billion in funding from investors including Sequoia Capital and Sutter Hill Ventures. The company last raised funding with a $479 million Series G round led by Dragoneer Investment Group. That round basically tripled the company’s valuation, bringing it to $12.4 billion. 

Take a look back at the company’s funding and valuation history here:

Here’s What You Need To Know About Snowflake And Its Giant IPO

Sophia Kunthara

Found at Abnormal Returns Blog.

6.Performance in Election Year Sept, Oct, Nov.


7. 43% of retail investors are trading with leverage: survey

It’s no secret retail investors have been a force in the current bull market, shoveling money into stocks and reaping the benefits of a strong market

Six months into the pandemic, the bullishness has continued. Investors are trading more and even getting into options and margin — two forms of leverage that can magnify wins, but also losses.

According to a Yahoo Finance-Harris poll published on Sept. 9, 33% of people holding stock indicated they’ve been trading more since the pandemic began and a similar number said they’re trading individual stocks more, as opposed to ETFs and mutual funds. The poll surveyed more than 1,000 Americans, from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6.

On a similarly bullish note, 36% indicated they’ve increased the amount of stock exposure in their portfolio. At the same time, just 16% and 17% own less stock and trade less stock, respectively. 

Interestingly, respondents with household income less than $50,000 said they traded more frequently since the pandemic and had more stock exposure, even more than the $100,000 or more group. The middle tier of earners, with income between $50,000 and $100,000, were more conservative.

So: Trading is up, single stock action is up, and overall market exposure is up.

Interestingly, the bullishness has pushed some retail investors into the world of leverage: 43% of retail investors said they are using options, margin, or both. Twenty-three percent of respondents are just using options and 10% are just using margin, which is borrowing money to trade — either borrowing to buy or borrowing to sell a stock short. These strategies amplify gains, but they also magnify losses, which exposes an investor to significant downside risk.

(Yahoo Finance)

Options trading is easy on platforms like Robinhood and is a very useful financial instrument to hedge risk, but many retail market observers like Chris Larkin, managing director of trading and investment product at E*Trade, are concerned they’re used too much for speculation.

The survey’s high options numbers echoed other evidence that we’re in an options boom. In 2020 so far, there has been an average of 28 million options contracts per day, up 45% from last year, according to the Options Clearing Corp. The increased options use has been accompanied by stories of riches, but also of heartbreak

Ethan Wolff-Mann

Senior Writer

8.Space Travel Yes…Day Trading No……Billionaire Drops $41m Trying Out Day Trading.

‘Deep regrets’ — Billionaire admits he lost $41 million daytrading stocks

Shawn Langlois

Yusaku Maezawa


From giving away free money to searching for a female space-travel partner, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has proven rather savvy when it comes to drawing attention on the internet.

When it comes to playing the stock market, not so much.

Maezawa, who sold his online fashion business Zozo to SoftBank SFTBY, +4.33% for $900 million in November, took to Twitter TWTR, +1.30% over the weekend to share his “deep regrets” on his ill-fated foray into daytrading with his 10.2 million followers.

“I was blinded by the virus-driven market swings and lost 4.4 billion yen through repeated short-term trading of stocks, something I haven’t familiarized myself with,” he said, according to a translation of this tweet by Bloomberg News. “With 4.4 billion yen, how many people could the money have been given out to and saved? There’s no end to this regret”:

So, he lost some $41 million. Not a huge blow for a guy with a reported net worth of $2.2 billion, but still, for Maezawa, who’s probably accustomed to winning, this one clearly left a mark.

Meanwhile, any trader buying up stocks lately can surely relate to the feeling, considering how the market, especially the technology sector, has performed in recent sessions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.13% closed Tuesday’s session down 632 points, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.46% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite COMP, -1.25% were hit even harder on a percentage basis. 

9. U.S. health officials say CDC is developing new coronavirus testing guidance for screening at schools, businesses




·         Testing has so far been used in the United States mostly for diagnostic purposes, which is when a test is used to determine or confirm what the problem is in people with symptoms.

·         Whereas diagnostic testing is typically meant for patients with symptoms or a reason to believe they might have a disease, screening is meant for seemingly healthy individuals to look for signs of illness.

·         Many public health specialists have repeatedly called on the CDC and health officials throughout the federal government to endorse and more aggressively pursue the strategies of surveillance testing and screening.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Kevin Dietsch | Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is developing new guidance on how to deploy coronavirus tests for screening purposes that could help reopen schools, businesses and entertainment venues, Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday.

Testing has so far been used in the United States mostly to diagnose people who are sick or have been exposed to someone with a confirmed Covid-19 case. Screening would test virtually everyone in a given community, looking for potentially infectious people.

“Screening can be very powerful for maybe non-public health reasons, maybe getting us back to life, and screening in schools, K-12 screening and university screening,” he said at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing. “We’ll be coming out with some guidance around screening.”

Redfield said the CDC would make it clear that testing asymptomatic and presymptomatic people, Covid-19 patients who either never develop symptoms or who are in the early stage of the infection before symptoms start, is important. The agency will have that guidance out within the week, he said. It’s also working on new guidance around surveillance testing “where you can actually systematically begin to look at random individuals to get an idea is this outbreak starting to pop into the community,” he said.

Redfield said the agency will eventually roll out guidance for how states and local health officials can best deploy resources to implement all three testing strategies.

Many public health specialists have repeatedly called on the CDC and health officials throughout the federal government to endorse and more aggressively use surveillance testing and screening. Redfield said Wednesday that the technology didn’t allow for that kind of widespread testing before. 

“It really wasn’t possible to really have a lot of that guidance when there was no test,” he said, adding that due to recent advances in Covid-19 testing technology, the nation is approaching a point where such methods can be used. “We’re going to try to give guidance to screening, particularly in K-12s and universities, but it’s also going to have a role in businesses, and also entertainment activity, like sports.”

The new guidance will clarify the CDC’s position on testing asymptomatic people, he said. Last month, the CDC revised its testing guidance to say that people who don’t have symptoms “do not necessarily need a test.”

Redfield said Wednesday that many people “misinterpreted” that wording and that the CDC was not suggesting people without symptoms should not be tested. He said the agency will continue to clarify its stance that more testing across the country will help detect the coronavirus and ultimately contain it.

Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said he agreed with Redfield’s sentiment on the importance of screening and surveillance testing. He specifically mentioned Abbott Labs’ BinaxNOW test, which is an antigen test that’s cheap and can provide results in minutes. It was authorize by the Food and Drug Administration last month and the U.S. government secured essentially all available tests through the end of the year. 

Giroir, who is in charge of the Trump administration’s testing efforts, added that more cheap and rapid tests could be coming to market in the weeks and months ahead. Such tests, he said, could be “layered on top” of the BinaxNOW test.

“Our goal is to provide as many tools as possible in the right domain. So we can implement this type of guidance,” he said. “In March, it didn’t make sense to talk about random screening of children going to school, because you didn’t have that available.”

He added that now the U.S. has a “very robust ecosystem” of testing and it “is the exact right time” to be considering screening and surveillance testing. Giroir previously said the federal government is distributing the 150 million BinaxNOW tests secured by the U.S. to states for them to determine how best to deploy them. However, Giroir added that he strongly encourages governors and state health officials to use the tests to protect their most vulnerable residents in nursing homes and then to help reopen schools.

“Within a couple of weeks, they’re going out to states to support school reopening and other infrastructure, according to their priorities,” he said of the tests. “We are at that point. We are at that inflection.”

10. Low-Stress Management of Stress

3 simple, highly-effective stress management tactics for busy schedules.

Ironically, people in helping professions tend to be the first to neglect their own well-being. How many readers know physicians that don’t exercise? How many therapists can’t say no to helping “just one more” person in distress?

We say to spent caregivers, “How can you optimally help (insert person cared for) if you’re not feeling well yourself?” We ask this as we chip away at our own wellness, sacrificing one more hour a week to help Betty deal with caring for her ill mother-in-law. Then Bob, then Jane. Eventually, we may hit a pace where burnout is inevitable, but shrug it off with the idea of vacation salvation.

All of a sudden, your half-hour of daily morning meditation is only a few days a week; then 10 minutes when able, then gone. Working later and thus getting to bed later, rising at 6 AM for the gym doesn’t sound so good anymore. “Working out” becomes the walk to the take-out joint that replaced the healthy lunches you once so carefully prepared. Vacation? “I’ll fit in a 3-day conference to finish my CEU’s. I just haven’t had time.”

Sound familiar?

The Stress of Stress Management

The funny thing about stress management is that it can be stressful. People complain, “I hate feeling stressed, but where am I going to find the time to sit on a mountain top in the clouds with a meditation guru (or find a mountain top in the clouds, for that matter)!?”

I press the matter of self-care with new practitioners from the start. What better time to learn to work wellness into a busy routine? School, job, internship, family. It’s not far off from what they’ll be experiencing in their pending professional life. Being one for metaphors, I like to offer, “Just like on a flight where you’re instructed to tend to your own safety first, as therapists, we have to care for ourselves first if we’re going to save anyone else.”

In response, some roll their eyes with attitude: “It’s another thing I have to do!” 

Don’t Fret!

Pop culture tends to push the idea that stress management revolves around mindfulness meditation in idyllic settings (judging from magazine covers at the check-out aisle). However, there are so many easily-integrated, no-guru-required stress management approaches it could be hard to decide on which to try. Lucky for readers, I once provided “no stress, stress management” talks, and handpicked a few perennial favorites for you…

One, two, three

1) Plants: Did you ever notice that doctor offices and hospitals tend to have plants or pictures of trees and gardens, and that many surgery recovery rooms have a great outside view? Well, it’s more than just bucolic scenery. A cursory look at research (e.g. Park & Mattson, 2009; van de Berg, 2015;

Source: Uknown Wong/Unsplash

Toyoda et al. 2020) tells us plants, and even pictures of them, are popular because they induce calming effects. Shoppers report less stress waiting in check out aisles where there are plants. University of Exeter (2014) researchers noticed that employees feel better and are more productive when they have a plant. Students have even been known to perform better on tests when plants are part of the testing environment (Lee et al., 2015).

If you feel you’re a black thumb and will kill anything with leaves, hang a couple of pictures of plants/trees in your work area. van de Berg (2015) discovered this alone is enough to elicit a downshift in stress. The bottom line: put plants everywhere, even desktop backgrounds.

2) Tea: Another easily-integrated stress buster is green, oolong and black teas. Green tea especially is high in L-theanine, a substance that enhances calming neurotransmitters. But be careful! It may be best to go with the decaffeinated version (Keiko et. al, 2017). 3-5 cups with the caffeine could nix the calming benefits.

Matcha & CO/Unsplash

Source: Matcha & CO/Unsplash

Teas also provide epigallocatechins, which can clean our bodies of free radicals that cause cellular damage and inflammation. Psychologically, inflammation is correlated to poor cognition and depression. Interested readers may enjoy The Inflamed Mind by British psychiatrist Edward Bullmore.

The catch with tea is that you’ll have to stock up at the wholesale club. Most experts indicate you likely need  3-5 cups a day to optimize mental rewards. Of course, check with your physician about what may be optimal for you. If it is OK for you, perhaps make a couple of gallons at home on Sunday and have them in your office for easy access during the week. Just pour and sip; no dashing to the microwave down the hall and making it a chore.

3) Exercise: You’re probably thinking, “Here it comes. I’m supposed to work out at lunch instead of catch up on documentation.” I’d never suggest such a thing! This is about fitting easy stress busters into the day’s routine, remember? Lucky for busy professionals, a rather wide body of research (e.g., Hansen et al., 2001; Chase & Hutchinson, 2015; Crush et al., 2018), has shown us that a half hour or less of moderate-intensity aerobic or resistance exercise is enough for mental benefit.

You can easily sneak in a 20-30 minutes daily, because the kicker is, it doesn’t have to be a solid 20-30 minutes! Many researchers tell us that 10-minute bursts of moderate-intensity physical activity immediately boosts cognitive ability, decreases fatigue, and improves mood. If you’re prone to working yourself silly, you may as well do it with energy, thinking clearly and with pep!

How easy is sneaking in 10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise?:

·         Take the dogs on a 15-minute brisk walk before and after work.

·         Speed walk to and from the take-out place instead of drive or get delivery. If it’s around the corner, take the scenic route around another block.

·         Have resistance bands in the office and take advantage of canceled appointments, or make a rule that you use them for 10 minutes before seeing your first client and before eating lunch. Considering the average person spends over an hour a day on social media, that’s at least six, ten-minute opportunities to trade for something more salubrious.

·         In a tall building? No excuses for not walking in the winter or super-hot weather! A couple of trips bottom to top will get you what you need.

·         Make a queue of brief YouTube yogalates or power yoga tutorials and try a new one each day.

There you have it! No long drives to the mountains for the benefits of nature. No sticking to fancy, de-stress diets. No 6 AM awakenings for an hour in the gym.

No more stressing about stress management. No excuses. Easy as 1,2,3!


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Topley’s Top 10 – September 16, 2020

1. Short-Interest in NYSE Stocks at Multi-Year Low.

BloggersnoteShort interest in equities at multi-year lows

From Dave Lutz at Jones Trading

2. Triple Levered Nasdaq ETF Hitting Record Inflows.

Levered Tech

Not only has bullish activity ramped up again in the options market, leveraged bets are soaring in the exchange-traded fund space. A triple-leveraged ETF that tracks the Nasdaq just notched its best streak of inflows on record — throughout the selloff. The $7.8 bln ProShares UltraPro QQQ fund attracted over $1.5 bln in the eight days through Friday, the most for such a span since trading began in 2010. It has become a popular vehicle for day traders, who pushed volume to a record earlier this month. After steadying Monday, the Nasdaq is down 7% so far this month (the TQQQ fund -21%). – BBG

Christopher Preston

ILC/Trading and Operations

River and Mercantile Solution

3. U.S. Municipalities Selling Taxable Bonds at Near Record Pace

Danielle Moran

U.S. Municipalities Selling Taxable Bonds at Near Record Pace

(Bloomberg) — State and local governments haven’t sold this many taxable bonds in a decade.

The sellers have issued $92 billion in debt subject to federal income taxes so far this year, according to data collected by Bloomberg. That’s almost a third of all the long-term municipal bonds sold in 2020 and is the most since 2010, when the Build America Bond program sunset at the end of that year.

“I’m astonished at the pace of taxable municipal bond sales,” said Kathleen McNamara, a senior municipal strategist at UBS’s wealth management arm.

4. U.S. Household Income Hits A Record.


Holger Zschaepitz


We’ve never had it so good: US Household Income hit a fresh record high before the pandemic recession. Household incomes increased by 8.7% to $68,700. That record came as individual workers saw their earnings climb and as the total number of people working increased.

5. Real Median Household Income By Education Level.

6. What’s Driving Inflation? The Irrelevant Investor

Posted September 13, 2020 by Michael Batnick

One of the basic concepts in economics is that things get more expensive over time. But there is a lot of nuance in such a simple idea. Not everything goes up by the same amount, and in fact not everything goes up.

As you can see in the table below, Televisions, toys and furniture have all gotten less expensive over the last 20 plus years,. What makes the cost of some items go up while others go down?

Sponsored by Advertising Partner

This idea, among others was explored in a new piece by “Jesse Livermore”, called Upside-Down MarketsIn it he said:

Industries that aren’t able to appreciably increase their productivity tend to experience above-trend inflation. They rely on a labor supply whose cost is increasing faster than inflation, but they aren’t able to use that supply any more efficiently to generate output, so they have to pass the cost on to consumers, raising prices at a pace that exceeds inflation as well.

One of the areas that has increased prices faster than the overall economy is colleges, which Livermore says:

Are in the business of selling a prestigious credential, and one of the determinants of the prestigiousness of the credential is a low student-to-teacher ratio. In 1998, it took one professor to teach a college course at a specified student-to-teacher ratio. Today, it takes that same number, by definition.

On the other end of the spectrum are things like sporting goods and televisions, which has seen prices fall due to globalization. Livermore says:

Durable goods industries such as clothing, toy, furniture, and electronic manufacturing are more able to arbitrage differences in international labor costs than services industries such as child care that can’t offshore their production as easily. As a consequence, durable goods industries have experienced less inflation, if not outright deflation.

As we’ve seen over the past decade, inflation is one of the least understood concepts in all of economics. We can’t predict it, can’t control it, and don’t even know for sure where it comes from. Thanks to this brilliant post, I know a little more about this topic than I did yesterday.


Upside Down Markets: Profits, Inflation and Equity Valuation in Fiscal Policy Regimes

7. Amazon Workforce from 2010-2020

Two charts show Amazon’s explosive growth as the tech giant prepares to add 133,000 workers amid record online sales

Áine Cain and Hayley Peterson 

3 hours ago

8. Snapshot of World Economy

No alternative text description for this image

9. Four Questions to Help Demystify Your Relationship With Money

An author seeks to prompt critical thinking about money and the status and power that are accrued from it. Several experts offered their own take.

“Wealth doesn’t look anything like what Hollywood is selling us,” said Jennifer Risher, who wrote a book about her experiences with wealth.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

By Paul Sullivan

Jennifer Risher took a job in campus recruiting at Microsoft in 1991. She was 25 and given stock options worth several hundred thousand dollars. While working there, she met her husband, David, who had more stock options than she did. He later left to work for Amazon when it was still just selling books and got even more valuable options there.

In a few years, they were worth tens of millions of dollars and on their way to a comfortable life. When Ms. Risher looks back, was it luck or good decisions that helped her land that Microsoft job?

She poses that question and others in her book, “We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth,” which is out next week. They are an effort to prompt critical thinking about money and the status and power that are accrued from it.

“Wealth doesn’t look anything like what Hollywood is selling us,” Ms. Risher said. “I want to demystify wealth — an experience millions of people have but can’t talk about. There’s a normalcy to it when all your friends are similarly wealthy.”

In a country that is politically, economically and racially divided, Ms. Risher is asking her readers for a level of introspection that can be difficult. The timing of her book could end up making her a target of anti-rich opprobrium, several wealth advisers told me.

But asking tough questions about money is an important exercise in understanding what we have, how we got it and how we feel about it.

Of course, the questions people typically pose about their wealth depend on their perspective. Ms. Risher, for example, grew up white and middle class, with a father who worked in the insurance business and a mother who worked at home when Ms. Risher and her brother were young, before resuming a career as a librarian.

That upbringing set Ms. Risher up to attend a private liberal arts college on the East Coast. It did not set up her to understand the tens of millions of dollars that she and her husband would acquire.

The approaches also differ among academics and advisers whose job it is to prompt families to be introspective about their wealth. I reached out to several this week to get their views on Ms. Risher’s questions and ask them what difficult ones they recommend people ask themselves.

Why is it OK for you to have money when other people don’t?

“I think that’s a really important question, particularly if you come into money fast,” said Bradley T. Klontz, associate professor of financial psychology at Creighton University. “If you don’t have a good answer to that, you’re going to sabotage yourself. You’re going to find ways to get rid of it.”

Ms. Risher is looking to demystify wealth in her book, “We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth.”Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

One thing to understand in answering that question is the risk of social comparison. No matter how much money you have, people are wired to compare themselves with others.

“It’s the deep subconscious terror that if we feel we’re going to be separated from our tribe, we’re going to die,” Dr. Klontz said.

It’s also something that can cause people with money to do less than they could, he said. His follow-on question is about what meaning a life of wealth should have.

How can we help you lead a better, more fulfilling life at home during the pandemic?

Ask us a question or tell us what’s on your mind.

“Our built-in purpose is to fight for our daily survival,” he said. “What is my purpose when that purpose is taken away?”

Without having intention, the wealthy tend to become disconnected from the variety of people they knew before they became affluent.

“We’re here to make the world a better place, however we’re defining the world,” Dr. Klontz said. “It’s the responsibility and the opportunity.”

What does living well mean to you?

What comes to mind when you hear this question says more about you than the question itself. It’s open ended, which makes it great for discussion. But it also forces people to be contemplative.

“People can find surprises about themselves,” said Keith Whitaker, president of Wise Counsel Research, a consultancy on family wealth and philanthropy. “Living well at one point meant success in my career. Or it meant being the best parent I could be. Or living well meant forgiving myself for mistakes or choices that turned out differently.

“All these things don’t have anything to do with money, but money can be a means for happy choices or unhappy choices,” he added. “Knowing what living well means provides the North Star for those choices.”

Dr. Whitaker said that even the most introspective people started by listing the superficial trappings of living well — homes, cars, boats, trips. But when people are allowed to sit with those answers, they often come up with more.

“It’s then that they realize, ‘I don’t just want those things,’” he said. “‘I want those things with good friends, or good relationships with my children and grandchild.’ Or ‘I want those things with a sense of integrity.’”

That’s where these questions can move people to think about their money as more than just a way to buy what they want. It gets people to think about how they want to be involved in their family, their community and the world.

“Many of the families and individuals I work with are really questioning the withdrawal from the world that wealth can buy you,” Dr. Whitaker said. “With the pandemic, people are saying: ‘I don’t want less responsibility. I want more responsibility with wealth.’ But that requires first asking, ‘What do my responsibilities entail?’”

What is the No. 1 job you want money to do?

For Michael Liersch, head of advice and growth strategies at Wells Fargo Private Bank, this question is the first of three related ones that he puts to every family he works with. (The others: Do you feel that you have enough? Who should be involved in these conversations?)

Dr. Liersch pointed out the importance of framing the question. Finding the most neutral, open-ended way to ask the question creates a greater likelihood of getting a more productive response.

“You can frame questions in a way that will drive you to or from a certain situation,” he said. “You want to bring people into that conversation, not push them away.”

One thing Dr. Liersch tries to do in these conversations is set the stage to get answers and ideas out there for family members to discuss. But he also tries to show people that answering these questions just once isn’t enough, particularly now, when views on wealth and privilege diverge greatly.

“Research would suggest the more intentional we are with creating our guiding principles, the more likely we are to achieve them,” he said.

How does money connect you to other people?

This was a question Ms. Risher asked herself as she looked back on major life choices, including living in the same neighborhood as fellow tech workers, sending her children to private school and sharing her wealth with family and friends.

“Even with people who have a lot of wealth, money isn’t connecting us,” she said. “When money is a barrier to those connections, that’s a problem. Our silence around money just makes it more powerful than us. We aren’t able to see reality.”

In her book, she wrote about a friend who later told her that Ms. Risher and her family hadn’t been invited to the circus because the friend was afraid they would want to sit in expensive front-row seats. Ms. Risher said she was shocked at first, but then heartened that the friend could raise the issue with her.

“The fact that she trusted me enough to talk about money made me feel closer to her,” she said. “It also woke me up and showed me how out of touch I could be. If we talk more, it raises awareness of how broken our country is right now.”

Paul Sullivan is the Wealth Matters columnist. He is also the author of The Thin Green Line: The Money Secrets of the Super Wealthy and Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t.  @sullivanpaul

10. These 5 Habits Will Help You Stay Focused All Day. A Psychologist Explains Why

Finding it hard to concentrate these days? Here’s how to get back on track.


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Are you having a hard time staying focused on work, especially in these high-stress days? Some simple techniques can make a big difference, psychologist Traci Stein explains in a recent Psychology Today post. Give her techniques a try and see how your own focus improves, and build them into daily habits to keep that benefit going into the future. You can find the full list here. These are some of her best tips.

1. Take care of your physical needs.

“Of course, the most basic foundation for focusing is to take good care of yourself,” Stein writes. This means getting regular exercise, which has been shown to help you increase focus later on, as well as other cognitive benefits. A few minutes a day of meditation — which Bill Gates does — will also enhance your ability to stay focused.

Beyond that, make sure you’re getting good nutrition which also supports brain function. Most important of all, get plenty of sleep. Sleep has fantastic benefits for both your brain health and your overall health. And when you’re tired, it’s much harder to focus on anything.

2. Plan for your “escape behaviors.”

What are escape behaviors? Stein defines them as “those things you do to alleviate the stress or boredom that crops up whenever you have to work on a specific task or assignment.” They vary from person to person but can include things like mindless snacking (I do that), getting sleepy, checking your email (guilty!), checking social media, or suddenly getting very sleepy.

The key to dealing with escape behaviors is to anticipate them because you know yourself well enough to know which are likely to crop up during any given workday, Stein writes. If you’re liable to get sleepy, try switching to a standing desk for a while (I find upbeat music helps too). And have tea or water on hand because sleepiness is often dehydration in disguise. If you’re liable to snack, prepare a reasonable portion of a healthy snack to keep by your desk for that day. If you’re tempted to read email or check social media, anticipate that by turning off notifications. Consider signing out of your email program while you’re focused on other work, and/or putting your smartphone someplace out of reach.

3. Plan regular breaks.

It’s often difficult to stay fully focused for lengthy periods of time and trying to force yourself to do that will only work against you. So plan for frequent breaks. One popular approach is to use the Pomodoro Technique, which calls for 25 minutes of focused work followed by a 5-minute break, with at least a 15-minute break every two hours. Or, work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break, which one experiment showed is the ideal rhythm for maximum productivity.

Whichever approach you use, it’s important that you don’t skip taking a break once you’ve worked for your allotted time. Those breaks can be a good time to indulge in your escape behaviors so you don’t feel too deprived when you deny them to yourself during work times.

4. Give binaural beats a try.

“Binaural beat technology is a type of brainwave entrainment that uses auditory tones to shift one’s predominant brainwave state into something more appropriate or relevant to the task at hand,” Stein explains. It works by playing different frequency tones in each ear. “The brain will hear the difference between these tones, rather than hearing each one separately,” she explains.

With your brain listening to the frequency difference between the tones, you can calm and relax your mind with a lower-frequency difference, or improve your alertness and focus with a higher-frequency difference.

You can find binaural beats in many places, including YouTube and Spotify. For obvious reasons, you need to listen to binaural beats through a headphone for them to work properly.

5. Forgive yourself for losing focus.

These are stressful times. Most of us are stuck at home more than we’d like to be, and we may be working remotely, sometimes with school-age children around. So you can’t expect yourself to maintain the same level of focus and productivity that you would in a more normal era — it’s unrealistic and it’s unfair. “Understand that it’s normal to feel fatigued, and scattered, and wish things were different right now,” Stein writes.

However productive or unproductive you are at any given moment, getting angry or upset about it will only make things worse. So accept the fact that you won’t always live up to your own expectations of focus and productivity. Those expectations were probably unrealistic anyhow.

Instead, praise yourself for whatever level of focus you are able to maintain, and whatever work you manage able to get done. That will make the workday more pleasant. And being happier may help you get more done. 

SEP 14, 2020

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Topley’s Top 10 – September 14, 2020

1. Bond Prices Did Not Move in Opposite Direction of Stocks During Recent Nasdaq -10% Selloff.


Inker’s thesis played out in markets just a few days later. On Sept. 4, as the tech-stock selloff got under way, the Nasdaq Composite sold off by as much as 5.1% to close with a 1.3% loss. And Treasury bond prices, which move opposite to yields, also sank. The 30-year Treasury yield rose 0.12 percentage point to 1.46%, in one of the largest single-day increases since the height of the pandemic panic. The 10-year yield jumped, as well, climbing 0.09 of a percentage point.

Treasuries Lose Some Haven Luster. Here Are Some Alternatives for Safety.-By Alexandra Scaggs

10 Year Treasury Yield….Will it go lower if stocks continue sell off?


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