How Wall Street Fools You Into Overpaying for Underperformance
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How Wall Street Fools You Into Overpaying for Underperformance

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How Wall Street Fools You to Overpay for Underperformance

Why do most people invest their hard-earned money?

Ultimately what most people really want is freedom – the freedom to do more of what they want, whenever they want, and with whomever they want.

Sadly, many people never achieve this long-desired freedom for themselves or their families. That’s because there is a silent investment killer that picks away at many investors’ portfolios, and it’s all part of Wall Street’s plan to line their pockets.

Becoming Unshakeable

Today’s infographic is from Tony Robbins, and it uses data and talking points from his #1 Best Selling book Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook, which is now available on paperback.

Specifically, the infographic dives deep into the rabbit hole of fees associated with the investing products sold to most people saving for retirement, while also showing that these same Wall Street products often can’t beat the performance of the market.

The Silent Portfolio Killer

Take a look at your investing statement, and it’s likely that your portfolio is in fact growing. Unfortunately, most people leave it at that, and they don’t question any further.

But the stats are revealing:

  • 71% of Americans believe they pay no fees at all to have a 401(k) plan
  • 92% of Americans admit they have no idea how much they are paying

In other words, they are blindly trusting the financial industry to look out for their best interests.

Meanwhile, the grim reality is that mutual funds, which are used in many 401(k) plans, have visible and hidden costs that can impact portfolio performance.

FeeDescriptionCost (Avg.)
Expense ratioThis covers marketing and distribution costs, as well as management fees.0.90%
Transaction costsIncludes brokerage commissions, market impact cost, and spread cost.1.44%
Cash dragPaying 100% of fund's expense ratio, even though fund isn't fully invested.0.83%
TaxesMutual fund gains are taxed - this doesn't apply to tax-free plans like 401(k)s1.00%
Advisory feesFor fee-based financial advisors, these fees often range from 0.25% - 2.50%.n/a
Soft dollar costA hard cost to estimate, this a quid pro quo between funds and brokerage companies.n/a

Source: Forbes

According to Forbes, the average total of all of these costs is 4.17% – though of course, costs usually vary widely from fund to fund.

When you calculate the impact of excessive costs multiplied over many years, it takes your breath away.

– Tony Robbins

Not All Fees are Bad

It is important to note that not all fees are bad. Working with the right financial advisor can help you make better decisions, and this expertise can be used to save you money in the long run.

A recent Vanguard study helps quantify the value a good advisor can bring:

  • Rebalancing portfolio – 0.35%
  • Lowering expense ratios – 0.45%
  • Asset allocation – 0.75%
  • Withdrawing the right investments for retirement – 0.70%
  • Behavioral coaching – 1.50%

In aggregate, the right financial advisor can create 3.75% in value – that’s 3X more than a sophisticated advisor might charge, and doesn’t even include the added benefits of reducing taxes, estate planning, and other areas.

A Difference Maker

One percent here, two percent there – it’s barely anything in the long run, right?

It turns out, however, that the power of compound interest is so great, that even 2% can be the difference between financial freedom and financial ruin.

Put $1 in the stock market for 50 years at a 7% rate of return, and you’ll end up with nearly $30. Get charged a 2% fee to bring your returns to 5%, and your fortune is one-third the size!

You put up 100% of the capital, you took 100% of the risk, and you got 33% of the return!

– Jack Bogle

Chasing Market Beating Returns

Investors often buy top performing mutual funds or try to time the market, because ultimately they are hoping to beat the market to achieve financial freedom.

However, it’s not clear that either of these strategies work.

Buying “Top-Performing” Funds
Industry expert Robert Arnott studied all 203 actively managed mutual funds with at least $100 million in assets, tracking their returns for the 15 years from 1984 through 1998.

And you know what he found?
Only 8 of these 203 funds actually beat the S&P 500 index. That’s less than 4%!

Trying to Time the Market
Researchers Richard Bauer and Julie Dahlquist examined more than a million market-timing sequences from 1926 to 1999. Their conclusion: just holding the market outperformed more than 80% of market-timing strategies

The Moral of the Story

Wall Street tries to fool you into overpaying for underperformance.

Overpaying: Fees and taxes can be silent portfolio killers. Even 1% or 2% makes a big difference over time.

Underperformance: Only a small percentage of funds beat the market over time, and much of this can be attributed to randomness.

Only being in the market, while minimizing costs, can empower you to getting the real financial freedom you deserve.

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Energy

Ranked: The Largest Oil and Gas Companies in the World

Oil still makes up the largest share of the global energy mix. Here are the largest oil and gas companies by market cap in 2021.

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The Largest Oil & Gas Companies in 2021

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

The pandemic brought strong headwinds for the oil and gas industry, and oil majors felt the blow.

Global primary energy consumption fell by 4.5% relative to 2019 and oil demand declined by 9%. For a brief period in April 2020, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures went subzero, marking the largest one-day price plunge since 1983.

Some expected the demand crash to have a lasting impact on the industry, but it’s safe to say that 2021 has proved otherwise.

Oil Resurfaces as Energy Crisis Deepens

The world is facing a shortage of energy, and peak winter is yet to hit most parts of the globe.

Pandemic-induced supply restraints from producers, in addition to rising energy demand from recovering economies, have sent nations scrambling for petroleum products. Consequently, oil prices are resurfacing to pre-pandemic levels.

As of today, prices of WTI crude futures are at their highest levels in the last five years at over $80 per barrel. Furthermore, U.S. natural gas prices hit a 7-year high of $6.5 per million British thermal units (BTU) earlier this month. Elsewhere, European benchmark natural gas futures have surged 1,300% since May 2020.

Of course, the largest oil and gas companies are riding this wave of resurgence. Using data from CompaniesMarketCap.com, the above infographic ranks the top 20 oil and gas companies by market cap as of October 7, 2021.

Big Oil: The Largest Oil and Gas Companies by Market Cap

Given that we often see their logos at gas stations, the largest oil and gas companies are generally quite well-known. Here’s how they stack up by market cap:

RankCompanyMarket Cap* (US$, billions)Country
1Saudi Aramco$1,979Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦
2ExxonMobil$257.30U.S. 🇺🇸
3Chevron$205.29U.S. 🇺🇸
4Shell$175.28Netherlands 🇳🇱
5PetroChina$162.55China 🇨🇳
6TotalEnergies$130.56France 🇫🇷
7Gazprom$121.77Russia 🇷🇺
8ConocoPhillips$95.93U.S. 🇺🇸
9BP$93.97U.K. 🇬🇧
10Rosneft$84.07Russia 🇷🇺
11Equinor$83.60Norway 🇳🇴
12Enbridge$82.82Canada 🇨🇦
13Sinopec$80.48China 🇨🇳
14Novatek$79.18Russia 🇷🇺
15Duke Energy$78.08U.S. 🇺🇸
16Petrobras$69.91Brazil 🇧🇷
17Southern Company$66.64U.S. 🇺🇸
18Lukoil$64.70Russia 🇷🇺
19CNOOC$52.04China 🇨🇳
20Enterprise Products$50.37U.S. 🇺🇸

*As of October 7, 2021.

Saudi Aramco is one of the five companies in the trillion-dollar club as the world’s third-largest company by market cap. Its market cap is nearly equivalent to the combined valuation of the other 19 companies on the list. But what makes this figure even more astounding is the fact that the company went public less than two years ago in December 2019.

However, the oil giant’s valuation doesn’t come out of the blue. Aramco was the world’s most profitable company in 2019, raking in $88 billion in net income. Apple took this title in 2020, but high oil prices could propel Aramco back to the top in 2021.

Although Standard Oil was split up a century ago, its legacy lives on today in the form of Big Oil. ExxonMobil and Chevron—the second and third-largest companies on the list—are direct descendants of Standard Oil. Furthermore, Shell and BP both acquired assets from Standard Oil’s original portfolio on the road to becoming global oil giants.

The geographical distribution of the largest oil and gas companies shows how global the industry is. The top 20 oil and gas companies come from 10 different countries. The U.S. hosts six of them, while four are headquartered in Russia. The other 10 are located in one of China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, or Europe.

Big Oil, Bigger Emissions

Due to the nature of fossil fuels, the biggest oil and gas companies are also among the biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters.

In fact, Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest corporate GHG emitter and accounts for over 4% of the entire world’s emissions since 1965. Chevron, Gazprom, ExxonMobil, BP, and several other oil giants join Aramco on the list of top 20 GHG emitters between 1965 and 2017.

Shifting towards a low-carbon future will undoubtedly require the world to rely less on fossil fuels. But completely shunning the oil and gas industry isn’t possible at the moment, as shown by the global energy crisis.

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Markets

The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2021

According to UBS, there are nine real estate markets that are in bubble territory with prices rising to unsustainable levels.

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Ranked: The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2021

Identifying real estate bubbles is a tricky business. After all, even though many of us “know a bubble when we see it”, we don’t have tangible proof of a bubble until it actually bursts.

And by then, it’s too late.

The map above, based on data from the Real Estate Bubble Index by UBS, serves as an early warning system, evaluating 25 global cities and scoring them based on their bubble risk.

Reading the Signs

Bubbles are hard to distinguish in real-time as investors must judge whether a market’s pricing accurately reflects what will happen in the future. Even so, there are some signs to watch out for.

As one example, a decoupling of prices from local incomes and rents is a common red flag. As well, imbalances in the real economy, such as excessive construction activity and lending can signal a bubble in the making.

With this in mind, which global markets are exhibiting the most bubble risk?

The Geography of Real Estate Bubbles

Europe is home to a number of cities that have extreme bubble risk, with Frankfurt topping the list this year. Germany’s financial hub has seen real home prices rise by 10% per year on average since 2016—the highest rate of all cities evaluated.

housing bubble index 2021

Two Canadian cities also find themselves in bubble territory: Toronto and Vancouver. In the former, nearly 30% of purchases in 2021 went to buyers with multiple properties, showing that real estate investment is alive and well. Despite efforts to cool down these hot urban markets, Canadian markets have rebounded and continued their march upward. In fact, over the past three decades, residential home prices in Canada grew at the fastest rates in the G7.

Despite civil unrest and unease over new policies, Hong Kong still has the second highest score in this index. Meanwhile, Dubai is listed as “undervalued” and is the only city in the index with a negative score. Residential prices have trended down for the past six years and are now down nearly 40% from 2014 levels.

Note: The Real Estate Bubble Index does not currently include cities in Mainland China.

Trending Ever Upward

Overheated markets are nothing new, though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dynamic of real estate markets.

For years, house price appreciation in city centers was all but guaranteed as construction boomed and people were eager to live an urban lifestyle. Remote work options and office downsizing is changing the value equation for many, and as a result, housing prices in non-urban areas increased faster than in cities for the first time since the 1990s.

Even so, these changing priorities haven’t deflated the real estate market in the world’s global cities. Below are growth rates for 2021 so far, and how that compares to the last five years.

housing bubble price increases 2021

Overall, prices have been trending upward almost everywhere. All but four of the cities above—Milan, Paris, New York, and San Francisco—have had positive growth year-on-year.

Even as real estate bubbles continue to grow, there is an element of uncertainty. Debt-to-income ratios continue to rise, and lending standards, which were relaxed during the pandemic, are tightening once again. Add in the societal shifts occurring right now, and predicting the future of these markets becomes more difficult.

In the short term, we may see what UBS calls “the era of urban outperformance” come to an end.

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