What Ails the Economy
With confidence and certainty running low, we're suffering from a huge deficiency of vitamin C.
Investors lack confidence in the course of the recovery and the ability of the little guy to get a fair shake in the stock market. Consumers and businesses lack certainty about the future impact of taxes, so they're reluctant to spend and hire. One reader, Len Maurer of Madison, Wis., expresses the angst: "We have come to believe that there are two financial worlds out there. One is run by insiders for the benefit of the few. The other operates largely [to keep] the many individual investors in the dark. They provide the 'marks' for the insiders to periodically pluck."
With confidence and certainty running low, you might say we're suffering from a huge deficiency of vitamin C. So we'd like to show you how to make lemonade out of lemons. From the helm of our Ahead section, senior associate editor Anne Kates Smith starts things rolling with the surprising news that the May 6 "flash crash" may actually turn out to be a blessing for small investors. "This isn't the first time stocks have been in a holding pattern for a long time or investors have felt disillusioned," says Anne, who has been observing the stock market over most of her career as a financial journalist.
Perhaps it would be re-assuring for Maurer and other readers to know that sometimes the big guys are in your corner. That was my reaction recently when investing editor Manny Schiffres and I visited Saturna Capital, in Bellingham, Wash., to meet with the managers of Amana Growth and Amana Income. The two stock funds, with combined assets of nearly $3 billion, have compiled impressive records despite (or because of) the requirement that they adhere to Islamic law (see Making Money the Islamic Way). But I found them investor-friendly for other reasons. First, Saturna is a family-run company.
Fund manager Nicholas Kaiser is Saturna's chairman; his daughter, Jane Carten, is president. Carten has developed information material for investors that is noteworthy for being easy to understand. The funds' Islamic principles prohibit gambling or speculating, so portfolio turnover is low and the funds don't invest in companies that take on a lot of debt. They aren't permitted to invest in bonds and other instruments that pay interest, so the Income fund focuses on companies that pay dividends -- the sweet spot in today's market. "I've been doing this a long time, and I guess I'm a careful investor," says Kaiser. And he invests more than $1 million in his own funds, meeting one of columnist Russ Kinnel's standards for endorsing fund managers.
Seize the moment. Kiplinger's once had as its motto a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it." In our cover story, we identify five financial trends that we believe you can count on in an uncertain economy and tell you how to take advantage of the opportunities they present. Then check out our tax coverage to get in on smart moves that will save you money no matter what Congress does. (We think that if lawmakers don't act before the election, it's a good bet that the lame-duck session will approve a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for everyone.) Bottom line: We'll do our best to keep your finances healthy with a megadose of vitamin C -- for clarity.
P.S. Whether you're just starting out on your own, starting a family or getting ready to retire, you'll benefit from our get-rich-slowly advice in the 2010 edition of Success With Your Money.