Poor Health Saps Retirement Budgets

by: SA For FAs

Baruch Lev: Large acquisitions by large companies often fail.

Jeff Miller: REITs' rise has been fueled by a more accommodating Fed and a risk-off market.

Thought For The Day: Increased longevity would reduce the cost of healthcare if were attained by avoiding the harshest and most expensive maladies.

Kraft-Heinz Merger

"From the spectacular failure of Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) acquisition by AOL in 2000, to recent debacles, like Teva's (TEVA) - the world's largest generic drug manufacturer - acquisition of Allergen Generics for $40.5 billion in 2016, or General Electric's (GE) problematic acquisition of Alstom in 2015 for $9.5 billion, large acquisitions by large companies often fail…Acquiring managers always gushed with optimism, extolling the huge synergies from the merger ('stronger together'), the market power to be gained, and the 'particular fit' of the merger partners, only to disclose to shareholder 2-3 years later that 'Unfortunately we wasted a lot of your money.'" (Baruch Lev)


"The Fed got much less hawkish in December, and that is a very good thing for REITs. In fact, it was a double dose of near-term momentum for the sector when you consider it in combination with the risk-off phenomenon that was also happening in the market." (Jeff Miller)

U.S. - 35th Healthiest Country!

"Meanwhile in North America, Canada's 16th-place ranking far surpassed the U.S. and Mexico, both of which dropped slightly to 35th and 53rd. Life expectancy in the U.S. has been trending lower due to deaths from drug overdoses and suicides." (Bloomberg)

Thought For The Day

For many decades now, one has heard the hue and cry of U.S. educators concerned that Americans were falling behind in international comparisons of abilities in math and science. The unflattering numbers were (and are) an affront to a proud nation accustomed, because of its superpower role, to thinking of itself as No. 1. Perhaps America's preeminence has lulled some people into thinking the international math ranking (No. 40 out of 79) doesn't really matter all that much.

But along comes Bloomberg (see quote above) with an almost as unflattering report ranking the U.S. No. 35 among 169 countries in overall health, with Spain taking the top spot away from the previous holder of the title, Italy (now No. 2).

I don't think the implication here is that Americans should start eating gazpacho, as Bloomberg's lead sentence hints at. Japan ranks No. 4 and I have a suspicion the Japanese would not favor themselves by adopting a Mediterranean diet. It's not necessarily the food that is at issue: No. 3 on the list is Iceland, where lamb, cured meats and fish, and dairy products top the menu. I won't practice medicine without a license except to say what doctors say universally - that diet and exercise are key, and to add what travel agents the world over know - which is that Americans are exceptionally generous, something I first learned when examining a "sandwich" I purchased on my first trip to England after college. A microscope might have helped me find it. Every other country I visited subsequently demonstrated the extraordinary generosity of America. While I found my meals less than fully satisfying as a young traveler, decades later I recognize that U.S. portions have gotten out of hand.

The point here is that America's low health score, not unlike its low math score, has financial implications. One quarter of all Medicare spending occurs in the last year of life. There are numerous factors involved and it's likely that expensive high-tech care that might not take place in Spain, Italy and Iceland have something to do with it. It also bears mentioning that not everybody is lucky in the genetic lottery. However, a country with the wealth of the United States and one that is reputed to have the finest doctors, seemingly should surpass Cuba (ranked # 30) on this index. Whereas superficially one might think that increased longevity would add to the cost of healthcare, my suspicion is that it would reduce the cost - by avoiding the harshest and most expensive maladies and by giving people more time to compound their wealth.

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