- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2008

Time and possibilities are a jumble in the 2008 investment world, but looking ahead rather than behind is what investing is all about.

Experts agree that fundamental changes under way in our financial system will provide a different scenario for tending to our money in the year 2020. The united resolve of International Monetary Fund nations to “use all available tools” to prevent major financial-institution failures indicates the global nature of that scenario.

A lot will depend on financial institutions, on government and on us. Either we learn from what went wrong and revise our credit and saving habits, or we’re doomed to repeat mistakes.

Some believe the current shakedown bodes well for the future.

“Investing will have changed significantly for the better by 2020,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist for Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. “We’re in the position we are today because the country over several decades had become a nation of consumers, not savers, who had been borrowing to buy foreign goods.”

A dozen years from now, U.S. consumers will have returned to a more traditional savings ethic and will save 8 percent of their income, which was the savings rate until it began eroding in the 1990s, Mr. Bittles said. Also, don’t worry too much about a slow economy, he added.

“A protracted slow economy doesn’t mean the stock market can’t do well because the market typically does well in a slow-growth economy,” Mr. Bittles said. “It will be very bullish long-term if we move back into a savings ethic in which we fund our own liabilities and loans.”

The investor mind-set must be patience because it will take a while to get through current woes, said Chris Brown, chief investment strategist for Pax World Management Corp. in Portsmouth, N.H. Companies that survive as winners will be stronger and face less competition.

He noted that Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is obviously excited about possibilities because he invested in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and General Electric Co. as seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

“We’re going to see people saving more for retirement, but they’ll also be working longer because they hadn’t saved enough early on,” Mr. Brown said. “By 2020, there will be a huge shift in spending habits in which saving, not spending, is rewarded and you’ll no longer be punished for saving by low interest rates.”

We must remember not to have short memories.

“I would assume that people and investment firms in 2020 will remember the dangers of leverage,” said E. William Stone, chief investment strategist with PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia. “We may have a better appreciation for seemingly hidden risk or the risk of chasing excess returns.”

Because investment returns will revive at various times throughout the 2010 decade, there’s a chance this could energize investors to chase returns once again, Mr. Stone said. The lessons of today may be forgotten and greed will take over again.

The undeniable staying power of greed has other experts worried.

“By 2020, peoples’ tolerance for risk will return,” said Lawrence Harris, professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

• Address inquiries to Andrew Leckey, 555 N. Central Ave., Suite 302, Phoenix, AZ 85004-1248, or by e-mail at andrewinv@aol.com.


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