Whether or not you've had time yet to plow your way through David Collum's excellent 2016 Year in Review, our annual podcast with Dave always brings additional color to light -- and this year's is no exception.
Any model based on an assumed 7.5% return is doomed. As you get low returns, our pensions get in trouble. And whenever the returns shoot above the norm they say "Well, this is excess." And they scoop it up. So every time they are above water they scoop it up. How? They stop contributing. They start using the money for other stuff. Think of a sine wave oscillating about the mean -- even if you guessed the mean correctly, if every time it is on the high side you skim it you'll never get the mean; and that's what the pension managers have done. And companies just stop contributing to pension plans and started calling the retained funds "profits", which causes equities to go up and makes the thing get out of whack.
We've got a recession coming, one of the full-blown kind. And I don’t know what will happen. My prediction is that it is going to be a bad one. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that is when things start unwinding, counter party risk kicks in and faulty business models start showing up as bad and they start collapsing. All the accounting problems that built up behind the scenes so that the people cook the books to get their bonuses up and they made these crazy assumptions -- under the protective cloak of a recession, CEOs can get away with announcing anything because they say Hey, don’t look at me. It’s a recession. So they write down huge blocks of cost. This actually exacerbates the downswing because people are dumping all their cooked books and getting all the fraud off their books so they don’t have to fess up to the fact that they cooked them. In actuality, they're getting ready to then start building up their stock options again from some bottom somewhere.
This is going to unwind. It has to unwind. This is like a person who weighs 850 pounds -- they're not going to make it into their 90s, right?
Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with David Collum (49m:26s).