The MoneyWeek conference, which took place on 12 June, kicked off with editor-in-chief Merryn Somerset Webb talking about medieval tax dodgers in Hereford. Archaeologists examining remains dating back to the 12th century found that many of the men were immigrants from north Wales or Normandy, whereas the women were all locals. Why? It seems a local law was passed that meant any man moving to the area who married a local woman would not have to pay tax. Fascinating history but what's it got to do with your money?
Plenty, as it turns out. It's an illustration of the impact financial incentives have on our behaviour and the government has just introduced a big one. Chancellor George Osborne's pensions freedom rules have made pensions far more attractive, simply by making them more flexible and also increasing their value for estate planning. It's even made the MoneyWeek team reconsider our long-held preference for individual savings accounts (Isas) we still like them, but we think every investor should have a pension now too.
Inflation or deflation?
The question is, what to put in it, which is what many of our guests looked at. But first we heard two very different views on the "big picture". Our first guest speaker, Paul Hodges, demographics expert and chairman of chemicals industry adviser International eChem, may already be known to you for his view that house prices will be cut in half (see his interview with Merryn on the topic). What you may not have realised is that Paul's consultancy also predicted last year's plunge in oil prices so he's well worth listening to.
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Paul's thesis is that the boom years since the 1980s have been driven largely by favourable demographics in the Western world. That's changing consumption is set to fall sharply as the baby boomers grow old and consume less, and the overall population ages. The world's central banks have tried to fill the gap via money printing, but they are fighting a losing battle and China's reluctance to keep stimulating its economy is key to what happens next. In short, Paul is very concerned about the ability of markets to cope when central bankers pull back.
Paul was followed by another guest, former US presidential adviser Pippa Malmgren. Pippa's view on prices was quite different to Paul's her take is that the data understate inflation, andthat geopolitical risk is rising rapidly as countries China in particular scramble to secure resources as asset prices are driven higher, partly due to quantitative easing and currency wars.
She also gave us her take on Britain's high house prices and why they might last for longer than we expect. But even though they came from different angles, their overall fears are similar our heavily indebted world, with governments desperately clawing around for a way out, does not make for a forgiving environment for investors.
Crazy ideas and hot tech stocks
Money Morning regular Dominic Frisby took to the stage next. Dominic has a talent for uncovering fringe investments he's written a book on Bitcoin and he didn't disappoint with his "three crazy ideas that might just make you rich". They involved care homes, a very specific type of commodity investment and, perhaps unsurprisingly, a play on cryptocurrencies.
Then globetrotting tech investor Sam Volkering came on to look at the hottest tech trends, including how to back the fight against cyber-sabotage, while resources expert Alex Williams gave us his tips on the best precious metals stocks to buy during a gold bear market. Meanwhile, Dr Mike Tubbs, who writes the Research Investments newsletter, told us all about his techniques for picking the most promising growth stocks.
Our weird financial world
After lunch, Tim Price, of The Price Report newsletter, had promised to say only cheerful things during his presentation. He lied although he did get a good few laughs with his wry take on today's "through the looking glass" financial environment and how to cope with it.
Then James Ferguson of the MacroStrategy Partnership explained why, despite talk of a subpar recovery, our current trajectory actually matches that of previous post-banking-crisis periods pretty well. And if history is any guide, that means that, when interest rates start rising, we might well be surprised by how quickly and how far they climb. Expect the US dollar to keep strengthening, and expect more turbulence in the bond market.
Finally, our publisher Bill Bonner took to the floor and set the world to rights in his inimitable style, with a speech that reviewed why he thinks our monetary system is a massive fraud. He also told us about the time he sued the US government, but you'll just have to watch the DVDs to find out about that one you can find out how to do that below.
Don't miss out
If you missed this year's MoneyWeekconference, or you'd like to review thetalks again, you can get hold of theDVDs, containing full details of all thetactics and individual tips discussed. Don't delay though they'll onlybe on sale for a limited time.
John is the executive editor of MoneyWeek and writes our daily investment email, Money Morning. John graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in psychology in 1996 and has always been fascinated by the gap between the way the market works in theory and the way it works in practice, and by how our deep-rooted instincts work against our best interests as investors.
He started out in journalism by writing articles about the specific business challenges facing family firms. In 2003, he took a job on the finance desk of Teletext, where he spent two years covering the markets and breaking financial news. John joined MoneyWeek in 2005.
His work has been published in Families in Business, Shares magazine, Spear's Magazine, The Sunday Times, and The Spectator among others. He has also appeared as an expert commentator on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, BBC Radio Scotland, Newsnight, Daily Politics and Bloomberg. His first book, on contrarian investing, The Sceptical Investor, was released in March 2019. You can follow John on Twitter at @john_stepek.
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