In the heat of summer, lawmakers are trying to keep America liquid. As we went to press in late July, Congress was scurrying to come up with new plans to prevent the spectacle of the U.S. running out of cash on Aug. 2.
By the time this issue is out, hopefully that will be behind us. To be sure, even if the U.S. were to hit its debt ceiling, it doesn't necessarily mean it would default on its bonds. It could stop paying other obligations first.
But this idea has always been unthinkable. The fact that this was even a topic of discussion earlier this summer is beyond belief. (I'm assuming there will be last-minute remedy and it will not, in fact, be a threat by summer's end. Although simply raising the debt ceiling doesn't address the underlying issue of deficits that are too high.)
There is nothing in economic theory that says a country can't run out of money, of course. But it's never been a real threat in the U.S. The U.S. Treasury bond, backed only by investors' faith that they'll get their money back, is the bedrock of the credit markets.
It was against this backdrop that we decided to dedicate this month's cover story to the economy. Freelance writer Elizabeth Wine talked to some of the top thinkers at banks, investment banks and asset managers to get their opinions.
Are clients asking you what the future holds? Well, you now can read what some of Wall Street's brainiacs are saying. Will there be a downturn? Are TIPS a good investment? How about small-caps? As you may guess, there were a lot of differences of opinion, but there were some similarities on the big picture. For one, everyone was worried about the debt crisis in Europe. As to when things will come back, and how strongly, you'll have to turn to our cover story, "Plotting an Investment Course."
Our second feature story, "The Clients You Never Knew You Had," details the challenges in providing financial advice to families with a member with a disability. A nice contrast to the numbers-heavy economy story, and one that's every bit as important for clients in this situation, it highlights the family responsibilities weighing on clients and how those obligations can affect its financial needs. Writer Mary Anne Ehlert speaks from experience on this issue. An advisor and president of Ehlert Financial Group, she focuses on these families (she has a sister who is disabled), so she knows the issues they're facing.
After that inspiring story, if you're looking for a purely fun read, check out our Producer Profile. It illustrates how life in rural Louisiana is dominated by sports and how one advisor has used his role as a coach to his advantage in getting new clients. Frank Smith says he is careful not to actively pursue the parents of his players. But the visibility from being on the field is unparalleled for out-of-the box marketing. When local parents walk into Smith's bank and happen to see the man they know as Coach Smith, there is an instant connection that can parlay into business, he says.
And finally, for those who like simplicity, check out our second Portfolio story, "Keeping it Simple." Written by Morningstar's Paul Justice, it relates how you can help clients achieve a broad-based, global portfolio with as few as four ETFs.
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