For starters can I say thank you for the fantastic response to our GDPR “request thingy” following a new privacy law which came into force on the 25th of May.  We weren’t convinced it applied to the thoughts we send to you every month because they’re really designed as stress relievers.  But in view of the huge fines imposed if you run foul of these new rules, we thought it prudent to ask your permission to continue.  We’ve had a 95% positive response so far which is very reassuring.

Since my May LfL it’s been an exciting time for an old codger like me.  It kicked off on the 17th of May at the “Winning Entrepreneurs Conference” where I was the proud recipient of their “Lifetime Achievement Award” which should really be shared with my wonderful colleagues.  Then 2 weeks surviving Ibiza quickly followed as the main speaker at the Ned Davis Research London Conference.  Came back to win the 2018 Linlithgow Marches Annual Duck Race!  And according my Father’s Day cards I’m the “Best Dad in the World”… again.  Jings.

At both formal events I spoke of what I’d learned over the years in the hope it would be of value to those present.  And I started by saying how lucky I’ve been in life and how my Grannie McKay had prepared me early-on for greatness.  For despite her economic hardships in her wee flat with its outside toilet shared by twelve people she always had kindness in her heart.  A real radiator she was.

Despite her poverty she always encouraged me.  As a staunch supporter of royalty she’d hung above her mantelpiece a framed photograph of the Royal Family.  And In one corner she’d placed a photo of me aged 3 on my tricycle, and wearing a hand-knitted fair-isle jumper.  Until I was seventeen I thought I was fifth in line for the throne.

I was also lucky to be born with an inquisitive brain with a thirst for knowledge and learning that’s stuck with me all my life.  Which explains why at seventeen I discovered Al Koran, who wrote about how to “bring out the magic in your mind,” encouraging readers to set and visualise goals in life, to keep an open mind, and to embrace continual learning. 

In 1970 having left university, I convinced “Scottish Widows Fund” I was their missing link, but as I struggled with actuarial mumbo jumbo fortunately I discovered Edward de Bono, author and Professor of Lateral Thinking, Robert Townsend’s “Up The Organisation”, and Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock”.  Their books radically changed my career plans.  Which was just as well given that I failed the actuarial medical exam when it revealed I had a sense of humour and could communicate.

At university I was told that the chances were I wouldn’t find my ideal career until I was 26.  Which happened in 1973 when I decided my future lay in advising others on money matters.  Two years later I returned to Linlithgow to form ASAM.  43 years later, and I’m still reading and learning.

In the early 1980s I discovered Larry Wilson of “Wilson Learning” who co-wrote “The One-Minute Salesperson” and who said that life was like “Fiddler on the Roof”-- a choice between “playing the music, or trying not to fall offthe roof”. The same year I discovered Canadian Brian Tracy whose “everything counts” mantra made huge sense.  He was also an advocate of lifelong learning.  Well if it’s good enough for Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger and Bill Gates…………………

So I kept reading and learning.  Albert Einstein said the best discovery of mankind was Compound Interest.  I’m sure he wasn’t only thinking of money.  For it applies to learning too.  1991 was a significant year for my “learning compound interest effect”. I discovered John Naisbitt’s “Megatrends”, John S Graham’s “Magnet Marketing”, Professor Charles Handy’s  “The Age of Unreason”, and the “Change Formula” introduced to me by Kirriemuir-born David Cormack.

The influence of all this, together with the guidance of others, especially the advice and support of my old friend and marketing genius John Allison, led me to the “secret” of sharing knowledge openly with others, de-mystifying what for most people is the over-complicated and jargon-filled world of personal finance.

All this learning led me to discover simple yet inspiring concepts, like ASAM’s five word DNA- Knowledge, Integrity, Innovation, Fairness and Fun.  And “Nullius in Verba” the Latin motto of the Royal Society founded in 1660, roughly translated as “don’t accept their word for it, checkfor yourself”.  Or as my grannie used to say ”there’s always two sides to every story”.  Perhaps the most powerful are Roger Staubach’s “Always remember; there are no traffic jams along the extra mile” and Robert Townsend’s “If you aren’t aiming for excellence, why do it at all?”

Recent books you may wish to read if you haven’t done so are Rolf Dobelli’s “The Art of Thinking Clearly”, Matthew Syed’s “Black Box Thinking” and Hans Rosling’s “Factfulness”.  These days I spend almost all my time reading, researching and providing information to my colleagues who look after you.  Over the years I’ve also sourced expert analysis and sussed who tends to be right but rarely quoted.  And who catches the eye of headline writers but are usually wrong. You may want to check out the good guys like Scott Grannis, Ed Yardeni, Ben Carlson and Jeff Miller, to name but four.

Recent research on investment performance all the way back to 1928, has found that despite all the gloomy headlines the US market measured by the S&P 500 has compounded at 9.6% pa since 1928. Put simply, that’s doubled an investment sum every seven and a half years.  And despite our much- quoted economic underperformance since 1968, the UK stockmarket has returned 6.4%pa after inflation this last 50 years.

Now that nuclear conflict between the US and North Korea seems to have vanished off pundits’ worry lists, every effort is being made to replace it with new nail-biting concerns.  Now we’re told that global growth has peaked yet rising inflation is an accompanying problem. Work that one out.  And interest rates are rising. The UK is heading for economic oblivion.  And for the seventh year in a row worldwide recession is just round the corner. Analysts claim that stockmarket “technicals” are forecasting recession.  The same “technicals” have forecasted 35 out of the last 10 recessions… a 28% success rate. I thought you’d like to know that.

Not that any of that matters. Why?  Because “too much debt will finish us off” any minute.  So how come, in the world’s biggest economy (US), household debt relative to net worth is as low as it was 33 years ago? And despite all the hand ringing by pessimists the cost of that “debt” is as low as it was in the days of Elvis and Eisenhower? And US unemployment is the lowest for 49 years. Wow

Finally here’s four headlines on debt from Time and Newsweek magazines….

1) “Is The US Going Broke”,

2) “That Monster DEFICIT, America’s Economic Black Hole”,

3) “Are You Maxed Out? America’s Consumers Are Drowning In DEBT, How To Swim To Financial Safety”

4) “The US Economy Is Sick. And Don’t Expect It To Recover Anyday Soon”

(When were these headlines printed? In order… 1972, 1984, 2001, and 2008.)   Nuff said.

Alan Steel
This letter is the personal view of Alan Steel. Please check the appropriateness to your individual position with your advisor before taking or refraining from any action.

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