The two things that are most likely wrecking your retirement savings


If you earn a decent income but have trouble saving, the culprits could be the roof over your head and the car in your driveway.

Retirement savers who contribute more to their 401(k)s often spend less on housing and transportation than their peers, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Better savers also spend less on food and drink, but housing and transportation are bigger expenses that tend to be less flexible. Once you commit to a place to live and a car payment, you’re typically stuck with those expenses for a while.

“It may be decisions that you’re making as you are building your life that will ultimately crowd out saving for retirement,” says Katherine Roy, chief retirement strategist for J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

The researchers divided 10,000 households into three groups: the 25% who contributed the least to their retirement plans, the 25% who contributed the most, and the “middle savers” whose contributions landed them in the middle 50%. High savers, not surprisingly, had higher incomes than the other two groups. Middle and low savers had similar incomes, but middle savers contributed about 5% at the start of their careers while the low savers contributed about 2%.

See: What if I’m in my 40s and don’t have a retirement fund?

That 3 percentage-point difference in contributions is largely attributable to the lower savers spending more on housing, transportation, and food and beverage, the researchers found. By retirement age, middle savers had accumulated savings equal to twice their salaries. Low savers had accumulated about half as much.

A ‘beater’ truck and a fat 401(k)

Driving older vehicles and owning a modest home are the top two sacrifices cited in a study of Principal Financial Group customers ages 20 to 54 who contribute big chunks of their income to retirement accounts.

One of those savers is Erryn Ross, 30, of Tigard, Oregon. For several years after college, the accounts receivable coordinator lived at home and drove a “beater” truck, a hand-me-down from his dad. By the time he was ready to replace the truck, he had saved enough to pay cash for a new one while also maxing out his 401(k) contribution.

Ross credits his mother — who drives a 2002 Honda Accord, previously owned by her father — with getting him started.

“She said, ‘OK, you can either pay me $1,000 for rent, or you can put $1,000 in index funds every month,’” Ross says. He put the money into his retirement account.

Ross recently bought a house with his fiancée, and they chose a home that cost about half of what their lender said they could afford. They figured out how much they felt comfortable spending each month and based their purchase on that amount.

“I don’t really need a million-dollar home here,” Ross says. “I just need something that’s going to house the family.”

It’s not all about choice

Both studies have their limitations. Perhaps the biggest one is that the researchers studied only people who had access to workplace retirement plans. Before the pandemic, 55 million working Americans lacked such access, according to Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives. Access makes a huge difference: AARP found that people are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they have access to a payroll deduction plan at work.

Also see: Has COVID-19 stopped Americans from chasing early retirement? Not exactly

The researchers also didn’t factor in the cost of living, which varies widely across the country. Living expenses are 46% higher in San Francisco and 86% higher in Manhattan than in Portland, Oregon, for example.

People’s personal costs of living matter hugely as well. Someone with health problems and lousy insurance likely will have more of their income eaten up by medical bills than someone in excellent health who has good coverage. The number of people you have to support — children, elderly parents, for example — affects how much you can save. People with student loan debt have less discretionary income than those whose parents paid for college. And so on.

Income matters, of course. Some people save on small incomes, while others don’t on large ones. But the more money you make, the easier it is to save.

Also read: The pros and cons of buying a certified used car

In other words, any number of factors — such as, say, losing a job during a pandemic — can affect someone’s ability to save.

When you do have choice, though, choose wisely. The decisions you make about the big expenses now can have a huge effect on what you can spend in retirement.

“Often in our financial wellness programs, we lead with, ‘You need to have a budget’ or ‘Don’t have that Starbucks
SBUX,
-1.14%

  cup of coffee,’” Roy says. “I think it’s more fundamental than that.”

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Corporate bond issuance off to a bang in September


Corporate borrowing is off to the races.


Getty Images

Companies wasted no time going back to the borrowing trough after the long Labor Day weekend.

U.S. investment-grade companies already borrowed $46.7 billion in the bond market this month through Wednesday, a single day that accounted for $21.3 billion of the total, according to BofA Global Research.

Notable among the week’s deluge was a debut $1 billion green bond issued by JP Morgan Chase & Co.
JPM,
-1.03%
,
putting it alongside other major corporations from Google parent Alphabet
GOOG,
-1.60%

GOOGL,
-1.36%

to Visa Inc.
V,
-1.23%
,
which in recent weeks have raced to borrow with do-good purposes.

September often can be a busy month for corporate borrowing, as companies focus on the remaining weeks left in the year to lock in optimal financing — meaning before Thanksgiving, when the typical year-end lull begins to take hold.

Here’s a look at how September bond issuance stacked up over the past five years:

The pandemic has made this year anything but typical, including with a record $1.5 trillion already borrowed by investment-grade companies so far in 2020 to help fund their operations through the year’s end.

Many highly rated businesses borrowed fresh mounds of debt at lower rates than ever before, even though they are now carrying record levels of leverage.

Read: U.S. corporate debt soars to record $10.5 trillion

However, with the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented pandemic support, there’s little reason to think big businesses have had enough of today’s ultra-low borrowing rates.

“It’s a very busy September,” said Wendy Wyatt, a portfolio manager at DuPont Capital, of investment-grade bond supply. While she doesn’t expect to see the same eye-popping borrowing boom as in March, April and May, when companies were panic-borrowing, Wyatt has been encouraged by the recent trend where bond issuance has been used by more companies to kick their debts down the road or to repay near-term maturities.

“It’s not hideous. It’s a smart business decision,” she said of the debt replacement or reduction strategy, even through she’s also keeping an eye on companies that look to take on more debt to fund mergers and acquisitions.

“M&A has picked up and you’ve got to be cautious about that,” she said.

Related: Coronavirus slashes deal-making globally: What to expect next

To be sure, some of the big winners of the pandemic debt boom have been investment banks hired to arrange the funding.

Revenue at investment banks jumped 32% to $101.6 billion in the year’s first half from a year prior, its highest level since the first half of 2012, according to Coalition, a global analytics company.

What’s more, Coalition expects the year’s swift uptick in investment banking business, particularly in fixed-income, currencies and commodities, to combine with further head-count reductions at banks and produce an 12% return on equity for institutions it tracks in its index.

That would mark a significant reversal of a trend where ROE for banks in the index have declined each year since 2016, when it hit 9.5%.



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UBS is first to make sustainable investments the preferred path for clients of its $2.6 trillion wealth management business


UBS Group, which manages $2.6 trillion in assets for some of the world’s wealthiest people, will now advise private clients to opt for sustainable investments over more traditional options when appropriate, the first major financial institution to do so.

While traditional investments will remain most suitable in some circumstances, UBS
UBS,
-0.89%

  believes a 100% sustainable portfolio can deliver similar or potentially higher returns compared to traditional investment portfolios and offer strong diversification for clients investing globally, the company said Thursday. Year to date, major sustainable indices have performed better than traditional equivalents, in some cases because of falling oil prices
CL00,
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  as the global economy softens under the impact of COVID-19.

In fact, the timing of the UBS announcement is linked to wider adoption of the “build back better” mindset favoring sustainable practices as the global economy recovers from the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has put the exclamation point on one of the most important shifts in financial services in a generation,” said Tom Naratil, co-president of UBS Global Wealth Management and president of UBS Americas. “The pandemic has brought the vulnerability and interconnected nature of our societies and industries to the forefront of investors’ minds and shown that sustainability considerations cannot be ignored.”

Still, clients will remain in the driver’s seat, UBS said.

“Clients will have an ample set of choices and, in conversation with their advisor, will be able choose the approach that best fits their need. They may opt to include sustainable solutions alongside traditional ones in their existing portfolios, or switch to a completely sustainable asset allocation, or stick to traditional investments if that is their decision,” said Andrew Lee, head of sustainable and impact investing at UBS Global Wealth Management.

UBS clients currently have nearly $500 billion invested in its “core” sustainable assets, such as green bonds and low-carbon index funds, according to company data.

The U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission, banks, investment managers and investors themselves this week released a groundbreaking call for unified regulation in the U.S. around sustainability investing and called for a carbon tax; the U.S. has largely lagged Europe in getting financial agencies on side when it comes to climate-minded investing.

“As consumer preferences and policy goals shift towards sustainability, new revenue opportunities are created for more sustainability-focused companies,” said Lee. “Robust sustainable investments incorporate these sustainability considerations into the analysis alongside traditional metrics such as valuations or earnings growth, thus granting investors a broader, more holistic view of factors that can impact performance of investment portfolios. Therefore, rather than seeing them as tradeoffs, from a pure financial return perspective, we view these two goals as being in lockstep.”



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JP Morgan enters green bond push with $1 billion debut debt deal


The San Francisco skyline is obscured in orange haze Wednesday.


AFP/Getty Images

JP Morgan Chase & Co. entered the green-bond world on Wednesday, offloading the bank’s first set of bonds specifically to fund projects with a sustainability bent.

While the banking giant has arranged debt with an environmental or social-good purpose for its clients and other companies, this was JP Morgan’s first $1 billion foray into issuing such bonds on its own behalf.

Many investors welcomed the move, not only because of the weight JP Morgan
JPM,
+0.95%

carries in the market as the nation’s biggest U.S. bank by assets, but also because of a growing acceptance within the U.S. that a climate crisis threatens both environmental and financial instability.

Read: CFTC’s groundbreaking climate-change report sounds a bipartisan alarm on costly risks for U.S. financial system

JP Morgan’s bond deal hit as wildfires raged along the West Coast, with smoke from fires shrouding the San Francisco Bay Area on Wednesday in an eerie orange haze and underscoring how climate change threatens to make extreme fire events, power outages and forced evacuations the norm.

“The more the larger players come along, the larger the scale to move things along faster,” said Steve Liberatore, Nuveen’s lead portfolio manager for environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and impact investments.

But Liberatore also stressed that a key part of tackling the unfolding “climate disaster” is to mitigate it in an “economically beneficial way for the average person.”

That can mean achieving a lower cost of capital for renewable energy projects than what’s available for funding fossil fuels.

To that end, JP Morgan was able to pull in pricing Wednesday amid high investor demand, clearing the bonds at a spread of 48 basis points over Treasurys BX:TMUBMUSD10Y, after they initially were floated in the range of 65 basis points.

A bond spread is the level of compensation investors get paid above a risk-free benchmark to act as a creditor, with lower spreads often indicating high demand or a lower expectation of default.

“Generally, green bonds yield less, meaning the cost of financing is lower,” said Pri de Silva, senior corporate credit analysts at Aware Asset Management, adding that JP Morgan priced similar bonds in May that were trading on Wednesday closer to 58 basis points over Treasurys.

“From a funding perspective, I’d say there was a 10-basis-point advantage,” de Silva said, even though he noted the “sunk costs” involved in setting up the new green issuance platform, including providing the “belts and suspenders” to ensure there’s a process in place to track that only eligible projects are funded.

To that end, JP Morgan said proceeds from the debut green bond would finance a range of projects from green buildings to renewable energy, in a public filing.

Notably, the bank also listed areas that will be excluded from the funding from bond proceeds, including coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy projects, as well as activities that involve modern slavery, child labor and human rights exploitation.

Amid an overall corporate debt boom, the second quarter also saw a record $99.9 billion of “sustainability bonds” issued globally, according to Moody’s Investors Service, a category that encompasses green, social and sustainable bonds.

JP Morgan’s debut follows on the heels of Citigroup
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+0.70%

and Bank of America
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,
which issued green and social-good bonds earlier this year.

See: Bank of America sold a first-of-a-kind Covid-19 bond

“Banks are in a unique position to issue green bonds as they are interrelated with the broader economy,” said Brian Ellis, portfolio manager, Calvert Green Bond Fund.

“From an investor’s perspective, growth in green bond issuance provides increased opportunities for portfolio and project diversification, but also the ability to be more selective because there’s a larger group to choose from.”

JP Morgan declined to comment.



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Millennials to redistribute wealth from older generations to the young in new ‘age of disorder’, warns Deutsche strategist


It probably won’t take a great deal of persuasion to convince investors that there’s an “age of disorder.”

That’s the title of a new Deutsche Bank research note, which says the world is entering its sixth distinct era of modern times.

So say goodbye to the “era of globalisation” and brace yourself for the “age of disorder” where millennials, firmly established as the generation of ‘have nots’, take their revenge and redistribute wealth from the old to young. Millennials are usually defined as those between the ages of 22 and 38 years old in 2019, according to Nielsen Media Research .

The note by strategist Jim Reid warns the discussion of inequality within and between countries will not be limited to wealth and income.

“In fact, an issue that is quickly emerging as a political force is the intergenerational gap,” the report says. “Assuming life does not become more economically favourable for Millennials as they age (many find house prices increasingly out of reach), this could be a potential turning point for society and start to change election results and thus change policy.”

Read: Millennials’ shifting tastes are boosting sales of whiskey and tequila

The votes for Brexit in the U.K. and President Donald Trump in the U.S. in 2016 left many younger people feeling angry and alienated by political decisions that a sizable majority of them were against, the report says.

This could see the revenge of the millennials as they take more control and skew policies to redistribute wealth away from older generations to the young.

“Such a shift in the balance of power could include a harsher inheritance tax regime, less income protection for pensioners, more property taxes, along with greater income and corporates taxes . . . and all-round more redistributive policies”, the Deutsche Bank report said.

The ‘new’ generation might also be more tolerant of inflation insofar as it will erode the debt burden they are inheriting and put the pain on bond holders which tend to have a bias towards the pensioner generation and the more wealthy.

“The older generation may also have to be content with lower (or even negative) asset price growth if the younger generation does not have a sudden income boost. This will be a big break from the status quo and lead to far more disorder than in the prior era of globalisation.”

Read: Gen Z, Millennial Investors Embrace Risk Amid Covid: E*Trade

The report suggests 2020 may be the start of a new era, as the coronavirus pandemic brings the era of globalization since 1980 to a close.

“The era of globalisation to we are likely waving goodbye saw the best combined asset price growth of any era in history, with equity and bond returns very strong across the board. The Age of Disorder threatens the current high global valuations, especially in real terms,” said the report.

What will this new age bring?
• Deteriorating US/China relations and the reversal of unfettered
globalisation.
• A make-or-break decade for Europe, with muddle-through less likely
following the economic shock of COVID-19.
• Even higher debt.
• Inflation or deflation? As a minimum, it is unlikely it will calibrate as easily as we saw over the last few decades.
• Inequality worsening before a backlash and reversal takes place.
• The intergenerational divide also widening before millennials and younger voters soon start having the numbers to win elections and, in turn, reverse decades of policy.
• Linked to the above, the climate debate will build, with more voters
sympathetic and thus creating disorder.

We’re in the midst of a technology revolution with astonishing equity valuations reflecting expectations for a serious disruption to the status quo, the report says, questioning whether this is a revolution or bubble?
Much depends on whether working from home becomes more permanent, and if so it predicts it will cause major changes to societies and economies.

Tesla
TSLA,
-21.06%
,
Amazon
AMZN,
-4.39%

and Facebook
FB,
-4.09%

are all companies that have seen their valuations soar in recent times on Nasdaq
COMP,
-4.11%
.

Read: Opinion: China’s economy may be back on track, but problems plague it elsewhere

The most worrying prediction is an economic battle between the U.S. and China.

“The result of the US election in November is unlikely to change the direction of travel,” the report says. “Over the course of this decade, relations will likely deteriorate into a bipolar standoff as both the US and China seek to prevent encirclement by the other. Companies that have embraced globalisation will be stuck in the middle if relations sour as we fear.”

There have been 16 occasions over the last 500 years, when a rising power has challenged the ruling one, and on 12 occasions it ended with war. One piece of solace is the report notes that military conflict is unlikely.

Watch: Donald Trump suggests ‘decoupling’ US economy from China



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