Topley’s Top 10 – December 16, 2020

1. Corporate Debt Now Matched by Corporate Liquid Assets.

Kathy Jones
, @KathyJones

The rise in corporate debt lately has been matched by an ever greater rise in corporate liquid assets.

2. Percentage of IPOs “Pre-Revenue” 30%

 Percentage of Issuers at “Pre-Revenue”


3. Vanguard Makes History With the First $1 Trillion Equity Fund-Bloomberg

History With the First $1 Trillion Equity Fund

Annie Massa and Claire Ballentine

Tue, December 15, 2020, 4:44 PM EST

(Bloomberg) — A Vanguard Group equity fund has become the first of its kind to eclipse $1 trillion of assets, a testament to the rise of index-based investing over the past three decades.

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, which includes both a mutual fund and an exchange-traded fund, had $1.04 trillion of assets as of Nov. 30, company data show.

“Given that Vanguard birthed index investing, it seems only fitting that one of their flagship funds would be the first to reach this historic mark,” said Nate Geraci, president of the ETF Store, an investment advisory firm.

While soaring U.S. stocks are fueling the fund, it’s also being bolstered by falling fees, a trend stoked by Vanguard, a pioneer in low-cost passive investing. The Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund was created in 1992, with the corresponding ETF following in 2001.

“Investors have become much more educated on the importance of fund fees and the serial underperformance of active management,” Geraci said. Those factors could further propel the fund for decades, he said.

Read more: The Unsung Art of Managing the First (Almost) Trillion Dollar Fund

Vanguard follows an unusual format, with its ETFs existing as a share class of its mutual funds. The Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF attracted the most cash of any ETF so far this year, with $30.8 billion of net inflows. Vanguard, the top issuer for ETF inflows this year, controls 28% of the $5.3 trillion U.S. ETF industry.

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4. Zoom Price to Sales Chart…..120 down to 58.

Full Zoom Assessment from Charlie Bilello

Found at Abnormal Returns Blog

5. Average Household Net Worth by Age

The average American has $90,460 of debt—but the average net worth is actually more than that

Megan DeMatteo

6. Supersonic Jet Startup Boom Technology Is Now a Unicorn

The company expects to test a prototype next year. 

By Sarah McBride

A model of a Boom Supersonic passenger jet.

A model of a Boom Supersonic passenger jet.

 Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Boom Technology Inc., a Colorado-based startup working on a new supersonic aircraft, is raising a $50 million funding round that will bring the company’s valuation to more than $1 billion, according to Chief Executive Officer Blake Scholl.

The investment, led by WRVI Capital’s Michael Marks, brings Boom’s total funding to $210 million, and takes the company one step closer to its objective of broadly accessible high-speed flight.

“Our goal is to make high-speed jets the cheapest option out there,” Scholl said. Much as Tesla Inc. started with luxury automobiles and eventually produced vehicles with price points middle-class consumers could afford, Boom plans to start with fares roughly equal to business class before bringing them down to economy-class levels.

Don’t make travel plans just yet. The plane is still in the design phase, with a scaled-down prototype scheduled to fly next year. Boom plans to break ground on a factory for full-scaled aircraft in 2022. If it can stick to its schedule, it could start a test flights for its first commercial plane by 2026. All that will require more funding, Scholl said.

Still, carriers including Japan Airlines have already placed preorders for the jets, which will be able to fly twice as fast as existing commercial aircraft.

Boom Supersonic, as the company is known, was founded in 2014 by Scholl, who previously built a mobile-shopping app startup he sold to Groupon Inc.

Boom’s existing investors include philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective, Stripe co-founder John Collison, venture firm Bolt and Y Combinator Continuity.

The Concorde, a previous supersonic carrier, stopped flying in 2003. Because Boom can tap new technology, such as using carbon fiber to build the body of the plane, it expects to use less fuel and hold other advantages over the Concorde. It will also run entirely on renewable fuels, Scholl said.

7. Fiscal Support as a % of GDP for G20 Countries.


In terms of fiscal policy, countries across the globe have enacted outsized spending programs to support economies through the COVID-19 outbreak, far surpassing the actions undertaken in the Global Financial Crisis.

Sources: IMF Policy Tracker, IMF GDP Data, Atlantic Council, DE Data Wrapper, Invesco.  Calculations based on data at various national release and announcement dates, and Atlantic Council as of 7/26/20. 2009 based on IMF, Eurostat and G20 data. NB: Calculations exclude deferrals and guarantees; include discretionary fiscal support programs (aside from “automatic stabilizers”); announced and implemented programs — all scaled against 2008 and 2019 GDP, respectively. The “World” aggregate represents G20 nations – G20 comprises 19 major economies plus the EU.

2021 US outlook: The recovery takes holdPosted byBrian LevittGlobal Market StrategistPosted byTalley Légernvestment StrategistDec. 10, 2020

8. The Ultimate Riding Machine

Morning Brew

Yesterday, Amazon-owned Zoox unveiled its first electric robotaxi in its push to eliminate awkward small talk in Ubers forever. Here’s what’s under the hood.

  • It’s driverless: In fact, the vehicle doesn’t even have a steering wheel or pedals.
  • It’s safe: In the event of a crash, airbags envelop individual passengers to prevent any painful knee-knocking in the four-person cabin.
  • It’s fast(ish): Topping out at 75 mph, it’s the speediest robotaxi in the industry.

Zoox’s ties with Amazon mean it will likely be called into action to help optimize that last mile of delivery that keeps Bezos up at night. But for now, Zoox is 100% focused on people, not packages. “In a nutshell, we want to eventually move people around a city,” CEO Aicha Evans told journalist Kara Swisher in an interview. “It’s purpose built.”

Bottom line: Zoox is not yet ready for commercial use, but the ultimate goal is to launch a ride-sharing app in a few major cities.

9. Student Debt—Upper Income Households Hold 60% of Outstanding Debt.

To further illustrate the debt burden, this chart shows that upper-income households owe about 60% of the outstanding student debt, and an even larger share of monthly out-of-pocket payments.

But the most indebted households with student loans also tend to have the lowest rates of unemployment and highest incomes, “so forgiveness might be better targeted towards those with some college,” or those who did not graduate,” the BofA team wrote.

“The focus of any loan forgiveness program will likely be on borrowers who are struggling to repay loans.”

Cancel student debt? This chart breaks down who owes what-By Joy Wiltermuth

10. Is the 60-Year Curriculum the Future of Learning?

Why some say: Goodbye, lifelong learning and hello, “long life learning”

By Richard Eisenberg

Traditionally, we’ve led linear lives: going to school when we’re young, working for decades and then retiring. But what if we went non-linear and our education didn’t stop at college or high school? What if, instead, we kept up learning throughout our lives, especially the 150 million of us now in the second half?

That novel idea, fostered by thought leaders at the University of Washington, Harvard University, University of California at Irvine and others is sometimes dubbed “the 60-year curriculum.”

As University of Washington Continuum College Vice Provost Rovy Branon says: A 60-year curriculum is “a modern approach to the learning that carries you through your working life. There is no set path. The educational journey is unique to each learner.”

How Colleges Could Offer the 60-Year Curriculum

Branon says the 60-year curriculum requires colleges to change their traditional ways — by knowing what their graduates need throughout their careers; creating digital credentials with the degrees, certificates and other programs their students can show their current and prospective employers and helping older students fund their educations.

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My favorite of Branon’s ideas: colleges should have “learning concierges” who look at where you are in your employment and give you suggestions on how “to help you move to your next great thing.”

Chip Conley, a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging and co-founder of the Modern Elder Academy, thinks of this as “long life learning.

Chart from 'The Emergence of Life Learning'

The Emergence of Life Learning, Chip Conley and Ingo Rauth Ph.D.

That’s the term he and management and design professor Ingo Rauth use in their recent White Paper, “The Emergence of Long Life Learning,” built around the longer lives we’re fortunate to have compared to earlier generations. They say it’s far more appropriate these days than traditional lifelong learning offered by colleges through disparate adult education programs.

Lifelong Learning vs. Long Life Learning

“Most lifelong learning programs focus little on the unique challenges and needs experienced by those navigating midlife,” Conley and Rauth write. “Long life learning focuses on developing a sense of purpose and personal well-being by understanding the positive aspects of aging.”

“Long life learning focuses on developing a sense of purpose and personal well-being.”

Gary Matkin, dean of University of California at Irvine’s Division of Continuing Education and vice provost of the school’s Division of Care Pathways, says: “The university, to fulfill its role, doesn’t finish when the student graduates. We’ve got to continue our goal to be there for people hitting life transitions, wherever they are.”

Not only is the 60-year curriculum and long life learning good for the mind (potentially helping to stave off dementia). It can be extremely beneficial — no, essential — for older workers, by keeping their knowledge and skills up-to-date. A McKinsey Global Institute paper estimated that 80% of the workforce lacks the skills for most jobs that will be available in the next five to 10 years.

Yvonne Sonsino, author of “The New Rules of Living Longer,” talks about what she calls “the camel-hump” model of careers, where workers take a break to learn or relearn something somewhere before heading to their next work hump

The pandemic boom in online classes, webinars and conferences shows there’s an appetite for education.

Mitchell Stevens, a Stanford Graduate School of Education sociologist who helped design a May 2020 Longevity Project/Morning Consult online learning poll, said: “The quarantines may prove to be a watershed in the progress of online learning for many Americans.” In that survey, 90% of boomers rated online webinars and conferences beneficial.

In his recent excellent PBS pledge drive special, “Life’s Third Age,” AgeWave CEO Ken Dychtwald asked: “What are you going to do to make the most of your longevity? Where will you spend your longevity bonus?”

The Pandemic Makes This More Urgent

One good answer could be: on a 60-year curriculum. The pandemic’s devastating toll on jobs is making that idea even more compelling.

“This is decision-making time for people wondering whether now is the time to do something to make themselves more marketable by skilling up in their profession or learning new skills to make a career change,” Branon said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean going back to college, although that’s one way to soak in the learning (virtually or, if pandemic-safe, in person). Just 0.2% of college students are 55 and older, incidentally.

If you do want to take college classes, AARP and Kiplinger’s have published useful lists of free or cheap ones for people over 50 or 55 in all 50 states.

Best Colleges for Adult Learners

And The Washington Monthly has its 2019 Best 4-Year Colleges and 2-Year Colleges for Adult Learners, rating schools on things such as services for adult students and percentage of students over 25 (yes, that’s how higher ed typically defines “adult students”). Its top 4-year college: Golden Gate University, which specializes in helping adults reach their professional goals and is based in San Francisco. Its top 2-year college: Renton Technical College, a community college in Renton, Wash.

Aside from the universities mentioned earlier with 60-year-curriculum offerings, there are also a growing number of colleges, universities, institutes and academies with programs specifically for midlifers.

Many MOOC classes teach students skills to help them in their careers.

Next Avenue has written about a number of them — Stanford University’s Distinguished Careers Institute, in “Stanford Is Looking for a Few Good Midlifers” and, in “Coming Soon, 2 New Encore Career Programs at Colleges.” Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, Notre Dame’s Inspired Leadership Initiative, University of Minnesota’s Advanced Careers Initiative, the University of Texas’ TOWER Fellows Program (full disclosure: it is a sponsor of Next Avenue), the Encore Transition Program at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, the Encore Hamline Fellows at Hamline College in St. Paul, Minn., Encore!Connecticut at University of Connecticut in Hartford and Fairfield counties.

Northeastern University in Boston has a strategic plan for expanding its lifelong and experiential learning opportunities. And, as I wrote in 2019, more than 50 colleges and universities around the world are part of the Age-Friendly University Global Network, following 10 principles to better serve older students.

Adult Classes Go Virtual

David Jarmul wrote for Next Avenue in “No Way to Go to Adult Classes? No Problem” that the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (maybe one day it’ll be the Long Life Learning Institute?) and One Day University — where top professors give popular lectures to adults — lately have been teaching virtually.

Recently, Conley’s 100% in-person Modern Elder Academy, in Mexico’s Baja peninsula, altered its program, too, due to pandemic. Now, students take “sabbatical sessions” for two weeks or longer (two-week cost: $3,500 for tuition, lodging and meals). Previously, participants came for a week and the fee was $5,500.

But maybe you’d rather look into a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). That’s a course open to an unlimited number of students, typically free and taught by college professors or other experts. Many MOOC classes teach students skills to help them in their careers. CourseraEdX and Udacity are some of the big players in MOOCville, which has been seeing triple-digit enrollment spikes and millions of new users during COVID-19.

In May, I enrolled in a terrific MOOC  from Journalism in the Americas: “Journalism in a pandemic: Covering COVID-19 now and in the future.” It taught me a good deal about the coronavirus and previous pandemics. One of its guest speakers was epidemiologist and Next Avenue Influencer in Aging Michael Osterholm, who’s now a household name but was new to me and much of America back then.

Or you could teach yourself. Watch YouTube tutorials or read books to widen your knowledge and maybe get some DIY job training.

Whether more colleges and universities will adopt the 60-year curriculum is an open question.

“Higher ed needs to pivot to a model that recognizes the new need of the individual learner to access education continuously, though episodically,” said Branon.

But Matkin, of UC Irvine, is optimistic. “Even people using the sixty-year curriculum in their vocabulary is an indication that the idea is catching on.”

Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch. Read More


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