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Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 566 with weekend update

  •   27 June 2024
  • 18
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The Weekend Edition includes a market update plus Morningstar adds links to two additional articles.

Recently, I came upon a book called Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp. It’s authored by US-based scientist, John Medina, who specialises in human brain development and the genetics of psychiatric disorders.

We all know that our minds and bodies deteriorate as we age. The good news is that our brains are highly malleable. That is, they can change and adapt due to experience. Medina gives an overview of the latest findings in neuroscience, and he writes with humour and good grace, with references to the likes of Captain Kirk and the ‘I Love Lucy’ show - which I particularly enjoyed.

Here are some of Medina’s top tips for keeping our brains sharp as we age:

1. Socialise a lot

I have a seven-year-old son and like most kids, he makes friends easily. It doesn’t require much for children to become friends. In my son’s case, get any kind of sporting ball out and he’s bound to quickly become best buddies with you.

Contrast that with myself. I’ve known people from work or sport for years and have never bothered to get closer to them and become friends. It seems that as I get older, it almost requires a 20-point checklist for someone to become a new friend.

Medina says be more like my son and not me, because friendships extend lives while loneliness kills them.

He says the latest research reveals three things about loneliness:

  • It increases with age. Depending on the study, the proportion of older adults experiencing at least moderate amounts of loneliness is between 20% and 40%.
  • It’s uneven throughout a person’s lifetime, following a U-shaped curve.
  • It’s the greatest risk factor for clinical depression.

Conversely, socialising is like exercise for our brains. Social interactions take so much energy to maintain that they give you a bona-fide workout. Because of this, they help to reduce stress, which improves your immune system and health.

But the science doesn’t just say to spend time with everybody. Overall social interaction levels don’t benefit health – it’s the net quality of those interactions that counts. Note also that face-to-face socialising is deemed best, though video calls with friends is better than nothing at all.

Also, dancing is one of the best forms of socialising that you can do. Many scientific studies suggest it helps cognitive abilities though they can’t pinpoint why. Medina suggests it’s perhaps a combination of exercise, touch, and face-to-face interaction.

2. Practice gratitude and optimism

The stereotypical grumpy older person isn’t generally true, according to the science. Subject to life experiences, most people become happier as they age. They tend to pay more attention to positive things during their day. They are also more likely to remember positive experiences over negative ones. As people age and realise their own mortality, they’re inclined to prize relationships, and that makes them happier.

According to Medina, practicing gratitude daily can strengthen these tendencies. For instance, scheduling gratitude visits with people who mean a lot to you. Or each evening, writing down three positive things that happened that day, and looking at the list first thing the next morning.

3. De-stress

It’s no surprise that stress is bad for us as we age. Our fight or flight system is designed for short-term stress. Chronic, or long-term, stress increases cortisol, which damages our brains if it hangs around too long.

Medina says mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to de-stress and help our brains. It can extend our lives by improving sleep and reducing the likelihood of depression and anxiety. Fascinatingly, it can also help our ageing brains to switch between tasks, which makes our brains more efficient.

Many people think of meditation as unproductive, though Medina suggests it’s anything but. Though he acknowledges it isn’t easy:

“It reminds me of a poster where a serene-looking woman practicing meditation says: “Come on, inner peace, I don’t have all damn day!”

4. Learn a demanding skill

Medina says there are many different types of memory. Some get better as we get older, while others go downhill. For instance, working memory (a type of short-term memory) and episodic memory (stories of life events) deteriorate. However, procedural memory (for motor skills) and vocabulary improve.

What can improve memory? Put simply, it’s learning and teaching.

Learning a demanding skill is the most scientifically proven way to reduce age-related memory decline. That skill can be:

  • Learning a language. Bilingual people perform better on cognition tests – no matter when a language is learned. And those who know three languages outscore those who know two.
  • Reading books. One study shows that if older people read at least 3.5 hours a day, they are 17% less likely to die by a certain age compared to those who don’t read. Reading books is best, newspaper articles less so.
  • Learning a musical instrument.

Teaching has similar effects. Studies show older people who teach elementary schoolchildren basic skills like literacy, library usage, or proper behaviour in the classroom, have dramatic improvements in specific memory functions.

5. Argue with people

In psychology, there are two types of learning: passive and active. Active learning is where you experience a novel idea and actively, even aggressively, engage it. Medina calls this type of learning “the Energizer bunny of memory learning”.

He says the best exercise is to find people with whom you do not agree and regularly argue. Studies have shown that active learning has a tremendous impact on episodic memory (memory of life events, as mentioned previously).

That said, having heated arguments may not be to everyone’s taste...

6. Play video games

This one is a surprise and something I haven’t heard of before. Medina writes of certain video games that can improve your ability to solve problems. They in turn help parts of your brain to stay strong and can aid in preventing dementia.

To be clear, Medina isn’t referring to video games such as Fortnite and others that your kids or grandkids might play. Instead, he’s referencing special types of games, called brain training programs. Examples include commercially available games such as Beep Seeker [also called Hear, Hear], Night Driver, and Neuroracer [Note: The next generation of Neuroracer, a game called Project: EVO (or Endeavor) has been developed by Akili.].

Studies have shown that these games can reduce the likelihood of getting dementia by up to 48%. The science is too definitive to ignore, Medina believes.

7. Mind your meals and get moving

Exercise improves intellectual vigour, regardless of age. It’s especially helpful with executive function – the part of the brain that does everyday tasks.

You don’t have to be an Olympian to reap the benefits. As little as walking 2-3 times a week makes a big difference to your brain. Strength training a similar amount each week helps too.

Medina puts it bluntly:

"Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness."

Eating the right foods improves brain health too. One great statistic he cites: the brain is only 2% of body weight yet consumes 20% of what we eat. Medina advocates a largely Mediterranean diet, with lots of whole grains, vegetables, berries, nuts, and fish.

8. Get enough, though not too much, sleep

New research has found that sleep isn’t just to restore energy. It’s also so we can learn by consolidating the day’s experiences into memories. And, sleep allows waste and clutter (of the mental kind) to be removed from our brains.

Sleep does vary a lot between individuals though as a rule, it gets more fragmented as we get older. That results in waste not being removed from our brains to the same degree as when we’re young.

How do we get a good night’s sleep? Medina says it’s best to start accruing positive sleep habits when younger as it helps reduce cognitive decline as we age. However, it’s never too late to improve our sleep:

  • Commit to getting 6-8 hours a night.
  • Take it easy on the caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
  • Dim the lights long before you’re ready to go to bed.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day. This means weekends as well!

9. Never retire

Ok, this is a controversial one. According to scientific studies, retirement has the following health effects:

  • Memory scores drop by 25%.
  • A 40% increase in cardiovascular incidents like heart attack or stroke.
  • It increases blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass, chance of cancer and likelihood of diabetes.
  • It lifts the chance of any chronic health condition by 21%.
  • The chance of major depressive disorder increases by 40%.

In contrast, if you stay working:

  • It keeps your social network 25% larger.
  • For every year you work after 60, your risk of dementia drops by 3.2%.
  • It reduces mortality risk by 11%.

Still not convinced by the benefits of continuing to work and never retiring? Don’t worry, neither am I.

10. Be sure to reminisce

Recently, I was taking my kids to their respective junior soccer matches and to get them in the right frame of mind, I put on a song called 'Eye of the Tiger'. It was released as the theme song for Rocky III in 1982 and became a big hit.

My memory of it doesn’t come from the movie, but later when it was played before National Soccer league games that I’d go to with my Dad in Adelaide. Playing the song brings me back to that time and the time I got to spend with my father.

It turns out that this type of nostalgia is good for our brains as we age. Nostalgia boosts ‘social connectedness’ scores, positive memories and feelings of well-being.

So, take the time to reminisce and your health will thank you.

----

In my article this week, I look at the best way to build wealth by inverting the problem and first analysing the sure-fire methods of losing money in the market. These methods primarily revolve around pursuing things that aren't sustainable, like the current stock or market fad. I suggest that choosing a timeless investment strategy which won’t be swayed by market gyrations or your circumstances is a better way to make money in the long-term.

James Gruber

Also in this week’s edition…

Australian consumers have held up relatively well since the abrupt end of ultra-low interest rates. Fidelity’s Casey McLean thinks this resilience is starting to crumble and could be replaced by a sustained pullback in spending. While this could have grave consequences for one sector of the Australian stock market, he thinks the outlook for three other industries is a lot brighter.

There aren't too many bigger or more recognisable names in Australian investing circles than AMP's Chief Economist Shane Oliver. Shane looks back at his 40 years in markets and the nine key lessons he's learned about investing, including there's always a cycle, the crowd gets it wrong at extremes, markets don’t learn, and you need to know yourself to be a good investor.   

As the financial year comes to a close, a lot of investors are selling stocks at a loss to offset other capital gains. Ron Shamgar from TAMIM points out that selling shares for this reason alone can leave tax loss harvesters on the wrong side of the trade. Meanwhile, this can present opportunities to investors with a keen eye for value and a long-term mindset. In his opinion, three ASX shares look especially compelling.

The world is having far fewer babies, which spells big challenges ahead for healthcare and retirement systems globally. Paul Zwi from Clime explains why Australia is in a luckier position than most and ponders the impact falling birth rates could have on politics, labour markets and migration worldwide. 

Australians are paying almost two billion dollars in credit and debit card fees each year and the RBA wil now probe the whole payment system. What changes are needed to ensure the system is fair and transparent? Professor Steve Worthington has some ideas.

Transferring wealth between generations doesn’t have to be complex nor does it have to involve huge amounts of tax leakage. When it comes to passing down assets, investment bonds have tax advantages that set them apart from managed funds and shares. Josh Chye explains why this overlooked asset class can lead to simpler and more tax-efficient estate planning.

Two more articles from Morningstar today. Mark LaMonica highlights five ASX and global shares with high dividend yields and Johannes Faul weighs in on Myer’s big potential acquisition.

Lastly, in this week's whitepaper, Eastspring - an affiliate of GSFM - examines how the rebalancing of global supply chains will impact markets.

***

Weekend market update

On Friday in the US, stocks came under modest pressure after an early ramp to leave the S&P 500 some 40 basis points in the red, trimming year-to-date gains to 15% and change at the halfway point of 2024. Treasurys came for sale with the long bond jumping eight basis points to 4.51% to mark a near-three-week high. WTI crude remained slightly below US$82 a barrel, gold edged lower at US$3,225 an ounce, bitcoin ticked to US$60,100 and the VIX remained south of 13.

From AAP Netdesk:

The Australian share market on Friday finished the last day of the financial year barely in the green, with its morning gains fading amid uncertainty about Joe Biden's political future.

The S&P/ASX200 had been up by as much as many as 59.4 points, or 0.7%, around lunchtime, but faded into the close. The benchmark index finished the day up 7.9 points, or 0.1%, to 7,767.5, while the broader Ordinaries gained 11 points, or 0.14%, to 8,013.8. For the week the ASX200 lost 0.4%, to finish June up 0.9%. It lost 1.6% for the quarter, but is still up 2.3% in 2024. It closed out the financial year up 7.8%, outperforming savings accounts, but underperforming other global indexes.

Five of the ASX's 11 sectors gained ground on Friday, three were flat and three lost ground.

In the financial sector, Suncorp rose 3.6% to $17.41 and ANZ dipped 0.2% to $28.24 after Treasurer Jim Chalmers approved Suncorp's $5 billion sale of its banking arm to ANZ. The other big retail banks finished higher, with CBA up 0.6% to $127.38, NAB climbing 0.6% to $36.23 and Westpac adding 0.5% to $27.23.

IAG added 7.2% to $7.14 as the insurance giant announced it had bought reinsurance protection from global insurers to mitigate natural perils volatility for the next five years.

The heavyweight mining sector finished one per cent lower as losses for the iron ore giants outweighed gains by the goldminers. Rio Tinto lost 2.1% to $119, Fortescue dropped 1.2% to $21.41 and BHP fell 1.1% to $42.68. Newmont added 1.7% to $63.47, Evolution grew 1.5% to $3.50 and De Grey Mining had climbed 4.6% to $1.14 after lining up $1 billion in financing to develop its Hemi gold project in WA.

In the property sector, Mirvac grew 3.3% to $1.87 after the real estate developer said it had completed the sales of $1 billion in assets, including 367 Collins Street in Melbourne, one of the city's most prominent office towers.

From Shane Oliver, AMP:

  • Share markets mostly fell over the last week. US shares were down 0.1% being buffeted by bouts of profit taking in tech stocks and Nvidia and rising election uncertainty after the presidential debate but with economic data and more news of lower inflation remaining supportive of the Fed cutting rates this year. Japanese shares rose 2.6% for the week, but Eurozone shares fell 0.6% remaining under pressure ahead of the French parliamentary elections with French shares down 6.5% since the election was called. Chinese shares fell 1%. Australian shares fell 0.4% not helped by news of higher inflation and fears of another interest rate hike with IT and energy shares up sharply, but retail and property shares down. Bond yields mostly rose. Oil and metal prices fell, but the iron ore price rose slightly. The $A rose, and the $US also rose but mainly against the Yen.
  • Despite a soft week the past financial year saw strong investment returns, but can it continue? Shares were star performers over the last financial year with US shares returning around 25% and global shares around 21%. Cash returned around 4.5% and bonds returned around 2-3% but unlisted commercial property remained negative as office valuations remained under pressure. Key drivers of the strength in shares were the anticipation of lower interest rates on the back of lower inflation, stronger than expected economic activity and profits particularly in the US and, for US shares, the enthusiasm for AI. Australian shares did well but were relative laggards on the back of ongoing China worries and concerns about the impact of rate hikes on Australian households.
  • More constrained and more volatile returns are likely over the 2024-25 financial year reflecting: poor valuations evident in the narrow earnings yield less bond yield gap; elevated levels of investor sentiment; and technically overbought conditions with narrowing breadth in the critical US market at a time when Nvidia and the tech sector is seeing some wobbles; and high geopolitical risks around France and the US as the first presidential debate focusses attention on the big negative of a renewed trade war if Trump is re-elected with Biden’s shaky performance not helping his prospects at a time when Trump is already ahead in the polls. The PredictIt betting market now has a 57% probability of Trump winning versus Biden on 35%.
  • High May CPI inflation makes the August RBA meeting 'live' for a rate hike. The sad reality is that Australia’s Monthly CPI indicator has now gone up for three months in a row driven by an upswing in services inflation at a time that goods inflation has stopped falling. While headline inflation may still be in line with the RBA’s forecast for 3.8%yoy in the June quarter, trimmed mean inflation based on monthly data so far risks being materially above its forecast which is also at 3.8%yoy and implies a 0.8%qoq rise. See the next chart. If confirmed in June quarter inflation data to be released late July – with a trimmed mean rise of 1%qoq/4%yoy or more - this would be troubling for the RBA and likely prompt an upwards revision to its underlying inflation forecasts through next year and given the RBA’s low tolerance for any further upside surprises on inflation and any slowing in the pace at which inflation returns to target could set the scene for another rate hike at its August meeting.

Curated by James Gruber and Leisa Bell

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18 Comments
Patty Rockwell
July 07, 2024

My Brother in-law John passed 2 months ago on south of California while skiing and his girlfriend couldn't wait nor genuinely grief with the family, she had access to John's finances and took so many of his finances out by getting stuffs online for herself and her other boyfriend whose name is Max.
We found out about all these after the next of kin info and procedures has been fully processed and found the debits through the statements. We filled the missing links and discovered she was behind it. We found out she also withdrew from his crypto wallet to hers and she was a cheat. We made research on ways for us to recover and get the whole assets back. We found Refundd Polici Recovery and got in touch with them. They really played pivotal roles and got the whole funds back after we provided the necessary and required info needed.
We had doubts from the onset but on a second thought and being focused and getting the right thing done, we stuck with him and to God be the glory we accomplished our aim because he recovered the funds and returned it back to us. Here's the contact info we used incase you ever find yourself or loved ones in similar situations (Telegram- Refunddpolici)
Emel-Refunddpolici @gmail Dot com
Watsap-+1 605 963 9055

Chris
July 03, 2024

"Socialise a lot". Good luck with that one; as an expat resident of 25 years here, I've found most Australians sadly have the attitude that "I've got enough friends already, thanks" and aren't really that interested in making new ones, especially from outside of their immediate circle of "who they went to school / university with". I know, I've tried, hence most of my friends are expats from other countries because (shock), they find the same.

Workplaces aren't much different; Australians will socialise with each other outside of work but after work drinks (if you're not in the CBD) aren't "a thing" as they are in the UK.

John Hoare
June 30, 2024

Retirement is a tricky one. Some people handle it well and some people find it so hard. Often the most driven people find it the hardest. I retired youngish about 50. Sure I have done other things many people would consider work and am still active in looking after some properties and investments but nothing like the pressure of work I once carried out. My advice and strangely people often ask me. That is important because most people do not welcome gratutitous advice from a retiree! My advice is accept the fact that you have lost relevance in the world about you and you need to address the world you have entered into on its terms. You are not the person you used to be. You are not the job you used to work in. You are not the big wig you may have been. You need to confront the person you are at this stage in your life and work on being the person you would like to be. I shy away from asking " What did work did you used to do before you retired ?" I avoid answering the question when asked of me. I am singularly unimpressed when a person volunteers details of what school they attended in Sydney < and whether as a border or day student>
If you cant leave your self importance behind you then you will have trouble in the retirement phase. To quote Bob Dylan " You may not know to look at him but he was famous long ago for playing the electric violin on Desolation Row". Move on and get a life and be an interesting person by virtue of the life you have in retirement. You have been given a chance that many dont get. Make the most of it.

Ramy Tadros
June 30, 2024

Excellent advice. We are not what we did in the past; we are what we are doing right now. The past may shape our present, but the past is exactly that: it's past and in reality it no longer exists. It's fiction.

It's the opposite problem of young people who are not living in the present, instead waiting for some future hypothetical event to "ignite" and "start" their lives. For instance, when I was younger, I had many friends who said that their lives would start when they bought a home or found a partner. So they were waiting to start life after a hypothetical and fictional future would arrive. In the meantime, they were not living in the present, wasting their time, and ironically reducing the chances of that future eventuating. One friend, in particular, is now in his mid-50s, never married, and never bought a property, because he was always daydreaming of the hypothetical future and never living in the present, to make that future reality. He wasted his life and today lives in misery, because he never achieved his goals. And he never achieved his goals, because he never lived in the present. Till this day, he doesn't live in the present. But now his problem is that he daydreams of the past and all the missed opportunities of the past! So he swapped forward-based daydreaming for past-based daydreaming—while never living in the present.

Live in the present. Find what you enjoy and become the best you can at it. Savor it. Make the most of it. And never define yourself by your past or potential future. The past and the future do not exist. Only the present does.

Nic
June 30, 2024

Regarding "video games" for brain survival check Brain HQ . Type into the browser and it will take you to the website. You have two options i) free access however only one "game" per day (which is what I do) ii) paid access and much greater access to progress. I have been using it a few months now and it is a superb program to stimulate the brain. The website/exercises/"games" are well constructed and the difficulty always resetting to continually challenge you and keeping you right on the edge of comfort/discomfort. Check it out.

Muz
June 30, 2024

Life is not about never retiring. Most people only work to pay their bills. Retiring allows you to work on projects that you enjoy doing instead of being hostage to a boring daily job grind you hate just for the money to pay the bills. Everybody should hurry to get to a financial position where thet can retire so they can fully enjoy every second of their life.

Tony Brown
June 30, 2024

When he says Never Retire, I think he means "paid or unpaid work." My mates and I have been "retired" but doing non-profit and charity work for many years: much social activity, a reason to get out of bed, freedom to quit or change any time, and a sense of purpose doing good for the community. And we're allowed much laughter when "on the job"...

Alexander Stitt
June 29, 2024

Could not find any of the 3 games mentioned as available, on either PC or Android Play store. Have I "lost it" already?

Leisa Bell
July 01, 2024

Links to the brain training games mentioned have now been included.

Michael
June 29, 2024

Can't find any of those viveo games??

Leisa Bell
July 01, 2024

Hi Michael, Links to the brain training games mentioned have now been included.

Jeff
June 29, 2024

My wife and I went on a cruise around Australia in 2019, we were some of the youngest on board (in our 60's), the most comments/advice we received was never to retire.
I should live to a ripe old age...My kids call me a grumpy old man, cause I like to argue a point (I was getting worried about it years ago so mentioned it to my doctor, he said don't worry, his kids are the same, it's their problem)
I often reminisce (now when i was your age) and now after reading this, have an official excuse for playing video games :)

DougC
June 28, 2024

The generalities and confusion of cause and effect in this article are many. Few recommendations seem appealing or relevant to me, and I think also of my aunt who, in lifetime good health, lived to 104. Socialised very little, retired as soon as she could, never learned another language, most certainly did not enjoy a vegetarian diet, wouldn’t have known what a video-game was, and could have been a candidate for the “Come on, inner peace, I don’t have all damn day!” poster.

Col
June 28, 2024

DougC, hmm, the writer is merely suggesting what the science tells us about what benefits the brain and ageing.

Think your anecdote may be confusing cause and effect, instead.

CC
June 27, 2024

Never retire, stuff that !
Plenty of other better ways to stimulate one's mind and body

Peter.C
June 27, 2024

I’m not sure of the never retire ,as a just retired tradesman I can tell you that my body thanks me every day so I’ll risk the rest ??

James Gruber
June 28, 2024

Peter C,

I agree. I feel like many authors today write about, and for, white collar workers. And that can lead to ideas such as this, which really don't apply to a lot of people.

Kevin
June 28, 2024

I had a good laugh at John Howard on his brisk morning walks for the camera ( before jumping back into the Comm car ? ).Everybody should do this,we can all work longer than retirement age.

I'm working a 12 hour shift on an urgent job,it is very hot,40C.Thinking this bloke has no idea what reality is

Retirement is wonderful,no,better than that for most of the things mentioned.
Blue skies,sunshine,the bike and the outdoor gyms close to the bike paths are screaming at me to use them.New people to meet,dogs to pat. Music,a podcast or an audio book to listen to,what to choose.

Never did I think that retirement could be so good. You wouldn't be dead for quids.

Load the water bottles up and yahoo,off we go.You still dehydrate in winter so don't forget the water

 

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