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Animation: The Basics of the Stock Market

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Since its inception, the stock market has been one of the most powerful and consistent sources of wealth creation available.

Although stocks see more volatility than other assets, they have also averaged a real return of 6.7% per year between 1925 and 2014, compared to just 2.7% for bonds and 0.5% for cash.

And over long periods of time, the extraordinary power of compounding can turn this differential into a wealth generation machine.

But What is a Stock Market?

There is no denying the stock market’s unparalleled ability to create wealth, but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy sell to newcomers.

For most people, the very mention of the stock market conjures up images of a frantic floor at a busy stock exchange, people in suits yelling “Buy!” or “Sell!”, or even the sensational media coverage that can dominate the news cycle.

Today’s animation provides an easier reference point for potential newcomers – it comes to us from TED-Ed and it highlights the basics of the stock market, as well as how it works.

By understanding the original purpose of the stock market and also its history, we can better understand how the modern market applies to wealth creation.

In a nutshell, it provides a way for investors and companies to share the profit (and risks) of bold new endeavors, such as trying to invent a new cancer cure, discovering natural resource deposits, disrupting old business models, or innovating advanced technologies.

The stock market has allowed companies ranging from Amazon to Starbucks to succeed, and for investors to share in that success.

Basics of the Stock Market

Here are some other key questions that the animation helps to answer about the basics of the stock market:

How does a company get on the market?
A company needs to have an Initial Public Offering (IPO). This is traditionally done through big investment banks that help advise companies on the potential value of their company, and the market for their stock. More recently, companies like Slack and Spotify have IPO’d using a less traditional route.

How does going public help a company grow?
In the right scenario, listing on a stock market gives a company access to more capital. With more money, the company can make investments into new products and markets.

How is a stock price determined by the market?
By allowing millions of people to buy and sell shares of the company using the same set of information, it creates transparency and liquidity. Over time, this pushing and pulling creates a “fair” price for the stock.

What else influences stock prices?
Stock prices are not only influenced by what a company does – they are also influenced by external factors such as government regulations, market forces, competition, and changes in technology. Investor sentiment also plays a role.

Why invest for the long term?
Because short-term noise in the market can be hard to predict, most professionals promote long-term, reliable investment methods.

Some examples of this in practice would include low-cost index funds, mutual funds, or simply building your own diverse portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other investments for the long haul.

Past and Future

The stock market is very different today than it was when the first shares of the Dutch East India Company started trading in the 17th century.

Although the financial industry has increased in sophistication since those times, it still has the same general purpose – and it’s easier to get started investing than ever before.

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Personal Finance

Ranked: The Top 25 Countries for Retirement

Of the 44 nations analyzed for retirement welfare, these 25 score well on health, financial, and social support for their aging populations.

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A cropped bar chart with the top 25 countries that are the best places for retirement.

Ranked: The Top 25 Countries for Retirement in 2024

In 1881, Otto von Bismarck proposed a radical idea for retirement: people above the age of 70 would be given a state pension, encouraging them to stop working.

This model has since been adopted en masse and most countries now have a retirement age, after which workers can claim benefits paid through years of their work.

However, modern-day retirement is much more than just finances. Wealth management company Natixis analyzed 44 nations on four main categories affecting the ability for their residents to retire well in the 2023 Global Retirement Index. Each category has subindices, from which they averaged scores out of 100 to create this ranking.

The categories are:

  • Health: Per capita spend on healthcare, life expectancy, and non-insured health spend.
  • Quality of Life: Happiness levels, water and sanitation, air quality, environment, and biodiversity.
  • Material Well-being: Per capita income, income equality, and employment levels.
  • Retirement Finances: Government debt, old-age dependency, interest rates, inflation, governance, taxes, and bank non-performing loans.
ℹ️ This index quantifies general retirement welfare in a country and does not account for countries which are retirement destinations—usually because of lower costs of living or better weather.

So, with one-third of the world expected to be 65 and older by 2050, how are countries stacking up against each other when it comes to creating supportive environments for retirement?

Of the countries analyzed for the best retirement conditions, here are the top 25.

What Are the Best Countries for Retirement?

Norway ranks first as the best country for retirement in this study, helped by top scores in health and material well-being.

For health metrics, Norway was one of the few countries to see life expectancy improve over the pandemic. It now sits at 83.3 years at birth, and is one of the highest rates in the world. This is in contrast to many other countries in the index (Canada, Austria, the U.S.) that saw life expectancies drop recently due to the higher mortality rate during the pandemic.

For well-being, Norway’s current low unemployment rate (3.8%) reduces undue pressure on their social security net.

In fact, Norway along with the next top three countries (Switzerland, Iceland, and Ireland) all retain their rankings from last year, along with Estonia, which is ranked 25th. Every other country gained or lost a spot as seen below.

RankCountryScoreRank Change
(from 2022)
1🇳🇴 Norway83%0
2🇨🇭 Switzerland82%0
3🇮🇸 Iceland81%0
4🇮🇪 Ireland80%0
5🇱🇺 Luxembourg79%+2
6🇳🇱 Netherlands79%+2
7🇦🇺 Australia78%-2
8🇳🇿 New Zealand77%-2
9🇩🇪 Germany76%+2
10🇩🇰 Denmark76%-1
11🇦🇹 Austria75%+3
12🇨🇦 Canada74%+3
13🇫🇮 Finland74%-1
14🇸🇪 Sweden74%-1
15🇸🇮 Slovenia73%+6
16🇬🇧 UK73%+3
19🇧🇪 Belgium72%+1
17🇮🇱 Israel72%-1
18🇨🇿 Czech Republic72%-8
20🇺🇸 U.S.71%-2
21🇰🇷 South Korea70%-4
22🇲🇹 Malta69%+1
23🇫🇷 France69%+1
24🇯🇵 Japan68%-2
25🇪🇪 Estonia67%0

Other highlights in the top 25 include: Australia, at 7th, which is the highest-ranked non-European country in the index. The country scores well in retirement finances due to its superannuation pension fund system, currently worth $3.5 trillion, fifth-largest in the world.

Meanwhile, France, just outside the top 20, saw widespread protests in early 2023 when a law to raise the retirement age to 64 was passed through special constitutional powers. Raising the retirement age will presumably keep people working longer, paying mandatory payroll tax to fund retirement benefits, and will improve their steadily worsening old-age dependency ratio.

A worsening old-age dependency ratio is where the share of older, dependent people to younger, employed people keeps increasing, reducing the sustainability of retirement benefits.

How Countries are Preparing for the “Silver Tsunami”

France is not the only country trying to keep its population working longer. The Chinese government is also looking to raise its retirement age in gradual shifts, as it grapples not only with an aging population but also a declining one.

Immigration has also been frequently cited as a near-term measure to boost the working-age population and increase the benefits pool. Canada, for example, had 6 workers for every retiree in 1980. In 2015 that had dropped to 4. By 2030, it will drop further to 3. As a result the country has pursued aggressive immigration for more than a decade now and has grown its population by 10 million since 2010.

Finally, there has been a push towards increasing overall productivity by targeting technological advancements and automation. However both need to occur in tandem with re-skilling so that they don’t result in net job losses, which will only further burden social security systems.

Where Does This Data Come From?

Source: Global Retirement Index.

Methodology: Under 18 metrics, a score from 0.01 to 1 is determined for each country in each indicator, which is then averaged to an overall percentage. The geometric mean is used for all averages to ensure consistency in results across variable scales. Furthermore, the index uses unit-elastic substitution. Thus, if a country has very low scores in certain subindices, improving another subindex to a high score will lead to a less-than-proportional increase in the overall index score. This is necessary since the underlying assumption of the index is that at least a basic level of health, finances, well-being, and quality of life is needed to enjoy retirement. To read Natixis’ full methodology, refer to page 54-58 in the linked report.

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