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Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 554 with weekend update

  •   4 April 2024
  • 5

The Weekend Edition includes a market update plus Morningstar adds links to two additional articles.

Think back to when you were 10 years old – what were you like and what did you value? For me, my primary memory is of playing tennis. My life was consumed by the sport. During the school holidays, I played all day, every day at my local club. And I’d just started to play statewide tournaments. There wasn’t a lot else that got my attention, including school, back then.

Fast forward to 20 years of age, I was at university and loved learning and education. Earlier, I had a sliding doors moment, deciding that I wanted to pursue education instead of becoming a professional tennis player. I still coached some tennis to earn some money for socializing while attending university but had largely given up playing. My 10-year-old self wouldn’t have fathomed what I’d become a decade later.

By 30, I lived in Indonesia as a research analyst at a stockbroker. I’d moved to Asia when I was 29, and had short work rotations in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore. If you’d told me when I was 20 what I’d be doing when I was 30, I’d have thought you crazy. Going from studying history and politics at university, to five years as a journalist at the ABC, and then crossing over into finance – nuts. And living in Indonesia to boot...

At 40 years of age, I lived in Sydney with a wife and child. I had started my own business, though was probably a bit lost after becoming disillusioned with the corporate world. While at 30 I was focused on succeeding in a finance career, making money, and travelling a lot, that had all turned on its head ten years later.

Turning to today and I am 48, with two kids, and back in the corporate world. I enjoy my work which combines writing and investing. I enjoy my life outside of work which primarily involves kids’ activities. Three months after I turned 40, my family bought a motel, which we still own. For health reasons, I turned vegan about seven years ago. Also, for health reasons, I took up meditation and it’s changing my life. My 40-year-old self would be scratching his head if you’d told him what I’d be like just eight years later.

Why do we change so much?

How do we become different people at different stages of life? Obviously, the ageing process has a lot to do with it. Our minds and bodies change. For instance, our ability to think abstractly and deal with complex information – called fluid intelligence – peaks at 20 years of age and declines each year after that. Yet, our decision making improves through to our 50s because of experience, and the wisdom that comes from that experience.

Of course, our bodies age too. We can’t physically do the things we did in our teens when reach the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

Our environment also shapes us - where we live and work, and who we socialize with. Often, we don’t realise how much our environment influences who we are.

Genetics also play a part. Interestingly, different genes can express themselves, or become dominant, at different points in our lives.

Neuroscientists are discovering new things about why we age. They’ve found that our brains change not just due to mechanical processes such as fluid intelligence, but also because what we focus on each day, and each moment, rewires the brain over time. For example, if you decide to learn a language, your brain will physically change over time and influence thinking and behaviour thereafter. Or, if you decide to re-learn an instrument that you played when you were younger, that will alter your brain circuitry. Put simply, what you focus on changes your brain and your future self.

Implications for life and money

If our priorities, values, and goals constantly shift as we age, it has significant implications for how we should live and think about money.

It’s drummed into us from a young age that we should set goals and make plans to achieve them. Later, we’re taught that financial planning and goal setting are vital to secure our futures. Yet, if our financial goals and plans change as we get older, not once but numerous times, then the pursuit of both is likely to disappoint.

That’s not to say that financial planning and goal setting are a waste of time. It’s that both should be lightly held, with an acknowledgement that adjustments will be needed along the way.

An alternative path is along the lines of what the latest neuroscience is suggesting above. If what we pay attention to now shapes our brains and future selves, then it may be best to focus on the thinking and habits that can build a better person and financial future. Put another way, how we spend today ultimately determines both our past and our future.

James Gruber

In this week's edition...

One reason that Australia’s retirement system consistently rates highly on international comparisons is that it's mandatory. Stephen Huppert thinks it doesn't make sense to have a compulsory retirement system that switches to voluntary at the point of retirement. As an alternative, he suggests a soft-default retirement product solution

Graham Hand and his wife, Deborah, have penned a piece, five months on from Graham's brain cancer diagnosis. Graham describes how his daily life has dramatically changed, yet he's trying to stay positive through arduous and ongoing medical treatments.

Innovate or die is the mantra of most larger companies these days, especially since the rise of AI. But how can we identify the really innovative companies that will thrive in the long term? Capital Group's Matt Reynolds has some suggestions on the best ways to go about it.

While Bitcoin and gold garner the world's attention, the bull market in uranium has received less coverage. The research team at Platinum Asset Management drill down into the supply-demand dynamics that's driven the steep rise in the uranium price, and why the price may stay higher for longer.

Speaking of gold, the yellow metal is enjoying a nice time of it, even in the face of a strong US dollar. Juan Carlos Artigas explains what's behind gold's recent run, and the key things that will determine whether the rally is sustainable or not.

Fidelity's Maroun Younes ventures back in time to look at how past market leaders have subsequently performed. The short answer is: not particularly well. He says given that history is against the Magnificent Seven continuing to deliver market-beating returns, investors should look to diversify into other areas of the market.

From virtual assistants and transportation to eCommerce and even healthcare, AI is continuing to expand its applications. Adrian Lu from Magellan says it's vital that investors understand the the new technology, and the opportunities and risks that it brings.

Two extra articles from Morningstar for the weekend. Mark LaMonica details lessons from the top performing ASX share, while Mathew Hodge reveals a new ASX company that's joined Morningstar's best ideas list.

Lastly, in this week's whitepaper, Capital Group believes that healthcare stocks present a wealth of opportunity as we enter a ‘golden era’ of industry innovation.


Weekend market update

On Friday in the US, another strong payrolls report helped the bulls shake off yesterday’s late hiccup, as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 rose 1% and 1.2%, respectively, to each settle lower by about 1% for the week. Treasury yields backed up across the curve with the 2-year note climbing eight basis points to 4.73% and the long bond closing at 4.54% from 4.47%. WTI crude tested US$87 before retreating a bit, gold snapped back to another closing high at US$2,324 per ounce and the VIX ended only modestly lower, finishing at 16. 

From AAP Netdesk:

The Australian share market on Friday finished lower with each of the ASX's 11 sectors either flat or losing ground.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Friday finished down 44 points, or 0.6%, to 7,773. The broader All Ordinaries fell 46.5 points, or 0.6%, to 8,026. For the week, the ASX200 dropped 1.6% after reaching an all-time high on Easter Thursday.

The energy sector was basically flat, still benefiting from the boost to oil prices. Woodside finished up 0.2%, Santos rose 0.6%, Ampol 0.9% and Viva 1.3% while Beach Energy fell 1.3%.

Real estate was down only 0.1%, likely buoyed by the US Federal Reserve's promise to cut interest rates later this year.

The materials sector ended 0.8% lower. Industry leader BHP was down 0.9%, Rio Tinto fell by 1% and Fortescue by 0.7%. However, gold miners have continued to do well. Northern Star rose by 0.5%, Newmont was up 0.1%, and Evolution Mining rose 2.4%.

The Big Four banks were mixed, with Westpac and ANZ finishing flat, NAB dropping 0.1% and CBA falling 0.3%.

The financial sector as a whole was down 0.4%.

In small caps, Vitura Health rose 3% to 17 cents after announcing its joint venture Cortexa would begin manufacturing MDMA for clinical use, making it the first Australian company to produce the drug.

Curated by James Gruber and Leisa Bell

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Paul Humphrys
April 11, 2024

At 10 my parents had told me they couldn't afford for me to play tennis. At 20, no one in my family valued or had been to uni so I got a trade and proceeded to receive an annual pay as a fully fledged tradeseman qualifying me for a low income rebate at tax time.

I find it hard reading about another's early successes when mine was so stunted. It wasn't until my 30s and more fully my mid 40s that I realised I was following in my family's footsteps of financial and career underperformance. So I got to doing something about it, albeit from a low base. I do get resentful at times when I hear someone get so much support from a young age in to sport and education, which can be so important to a good start in life.

James you have no doubt extended on these early successes through your own grit and drive.

I'm 53, have 500k in super, renting after recently separating, have 17k in cash and I earn 98k per year. I won't be getting an inheritance of any significance. I'd like to be financially better off but I have to remind myself I'm doing okay from where I started.

James I hope you understand how your early privelege has been so very beneficial, just as my upbringing has given me a privelege compared to others less fortunate than me.


Tony Dillon
April 08, 2024

Interesting James.

Recently I received an invite to a 40 year football premiership reunion, and having lived interstate almost entirely since, I haven’t seen nor heard from nearly all of those teammates in that time. It will be fascinating. Chatting about it to my wife, I said I felt like I’d lived a couple of lifetimes since then, given that so much had happened and changed in my life since those days. In fact, having recently turned 60, I realised I had actually been on the planet twice as long as my age at that point in 1984. So there you go.

April 05, 2024

Something like... Humans being...or Humans doing !
You are certainly having a good run at it

April 05, 2024

Thank you for sharing your life experience. Agree totally and that’s why it’s called LIFE.

We can make plans but LIFE happens and aging and change is inevitable.

It’s true your mind rules your body and hence keep your mind surrounded by the right people and well wishers to keep on going the right track.

Much too often we get the inquisitive waysiders pulling you down stay clear of these people and nothing will go wrong with you.

April 04, 2024

"That’s not to say that financial planning and goal setting are a waste of time. It’s that both should be lightly held, with an acknowledgement that adjustments will be needed along the way."

Yes, make plans but be prepared for changes outside your control and changes because your values or objectives change. Having enough funds will always help even with changing goals, so having a plan and the discipline to save will help you. Being aware that your goals or outlook might change is important, so your plans allow for flexibility, even if it means forgoing maximising returns.


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