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From RFG Advisor, Tommy Williams | Where Are the Happiest People?

by: Tommy Williams
published: July, 19th 2017


Where Are the Happiest People?

By: Tommy Williams, President and Founder, Williams Financial Advisors, LLC

It has been a very good year, so far. 

Through the end of last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index posted 24 record highs and delivered returns in the high single digits. The MSCI World ex USA Index was up more than 11 percent, and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index gained more than 17 percent. 

After reading those numbers, many people would assume bond markets are down for the year. After all, stock and bond markets tend to move in different directions. Zacks explained. 

“Stock and bond prices usually move in opposite directions. When the stock market is not doing well and becomes risky for investors, investors withdraw their money and put it into bonds, which they consider safer. This increased demand raises bond prices. When stocks rally and the risk seems justified, investors may move out of bonds and into stocks, driving stock prices up further.” 

That hasn’t been the case recently. Bonds have been delivering attractive returns, too. The Bloomberg Barclay’s U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is up 2.9 percent year-to-date, while its Global Aggregate Bond Index is up 4.7 percent, and its Emerging Markets Aggregate Bond Index is up 5.5 percent. 

So, why are stock and bond markets both showing attractive gains for the year? 

There are a number of possibilities. Zacks described one of the most straightforward. “When stocks are doing well but investors remain skeptical about how long they will do well, stock and bond prices can rise together. This is because investors continue to put money in stocks but also put money into bonds just in case the stock market drops.” 

There is nothing wrong with a little skepticism, as long as you don’t let uncertainty turn to stress. However, if you are someone who maintains a high level of stress, you may need to consider a vacation to Scandinavia. If that seems like a geographically random choice, then you may be surprised to learn that people who live in Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, or Finland, are among the happiest people in the world, according to the United Nation’s World Happiness Report 2017. 

The report relies on six measurements to “explain happiness differences among countries and through time.” These include: 

  • Income (GDP per capita)
  • Healthy life expectancy (Relative to other nations)
  • Social support (Having someone to count on in times of trouble)
  • Generosity (Charitable donations)
  • Freedom (To make life choices)
  • Trust (Defined as the absence of corruption in business and government)

While measuring ‘happiness’ or ‘satisfaction with life’ may seem frivolous to some, others believe it should be a cornerstone of governance. The report’s authors explained, “Happiness is increasingly considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy.”

The United States ranks 14th in the world. While our country’s income and healthy life expectancy remain high, keeping us at the top of the list, other factors have caused Americans’ happiness to deteriorate. The study found “less social support, less sense of personal freedom, lower donations, and more perceived corruption of government and business.” America’s issues, the report contends, are social rather than economic. 

Perhaps we now know the origin of the popularity of one of the most beloved songs of all time – The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction.” Mick Jagger spoke for all of Great Britain and apparently the U.S. when his refrain “I can’t get no satisfaction” topped the charts in the 1960’s. It continues to capture our imagination today. Obvious evidence of seeking happiness in the wrong places. 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful. This material was prepared in part by Peak Advisor Alliance. 

Stock investing includes risks, including fluctuating prices and loss of principal. Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price. International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets. 

Visit us at www.williamsfa.com. Tommy Williams is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional with Williams Financial Advisors, LLC. Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through RFG Advisory Group, a registered investment advisor.  RFG Advisory Group, Williams Financial Advisors, LLC, and Peak Advisor Alliance are separate entities from LPL Financial. Branch office is located at 6425 Youree Drive, Suite 180, Shreveport, LA 71105. 


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