Favorite Big Picture Posts of 2020

Photo by Vintage RS from StockSnap



2020 was both a productive and frustrating year of writing. I worked on a number of big projects, revamped the company website, reworked a longstanding idea for a book, and cranked out a lot of columns, pods and posts.

Way back when, it was easy to see what the most significant posts: Look for the ones with the highest traffic and/or the most comments. Today, it’s a little more complicated, with comments gone, replaced in part by social media.

As I put together my annual mea culpas, I also came across a few that were standouts. Here are some of my favorite post from my least favorite year:

15. The 10 Most Useless Phrases in Finance (September 25, 2020)
This was my way of dealing with those trite, cliched or just plain wrong things we hear all the time. Its good therapy to get that off of my chest.

14. Polls Were Wrong (again). They Often Are (November 4, 2020)
Ever get something right and wish you had been even more emphatic? That’s what drove this post: Expanding on a pre-election post explaining the fundamental flaw inherent in all political polling: asking sentiment questions to predict future behaviors.

13. Understanding the Appeal of Conspiracy Theories (October 8, 2020)
There always have been people who are more susceptible to believing nonsense. I really enjoyed writing this one, even though it will not change anyone’s mind.

12. How Much Has the World Changed? (Not much) June 16, 2020
This changes everything!” is a phrase you should greet with skepticism. As the forecasts of a full society remake poured in, what seemed more likely was an acceleration of existing trends already in place. That’s become fairly accepted today, but 7 months ago it was a radical belief.

11. Thinking About Buying: Making Better Purchases (October 6, 2020)
Yet another in a series of anti-scold columns, focusing how to be smarter about spending your money, including both what and how.

10. What is a Recession? (November 25, 2020)
How is it possible that there are still professionals working in finance that do not know what a recession is?

9. Don’t Like USPS Losses? Blame Congress (April 4, 2020)
The disaster that is the USPS is a self-inflicted legislative wound, imposed on the country by those who would ignore the Constitution and eliminate the US Post Office.

8. The Hidden World of Failure (October 23, 2020)
I am fascinated by the idea that everything we see is the result of hidden survivorship bias. It was one of those loose threads in a column that time and space do not permit you expand on. I addressed it in part here, but will definitely come back to this again.

7. FAANMG Stock Prices Reflect Global, Not US Recovery (July 17, 2020)
The first in a series of columns explaining why the markets were rallying in the face of an awful economy. One aspect: Big tech stocks derive half or more of their revenue from overseas.

6. The K-Shaped Recovery (September 4, 2020)
A simple explanation as who was doing well, who was not, and why. Multiple readers emailed me this was subsequently quoted by then candidate Biden that weekend. (color me skeptical)

5. Why Markets Don’t Seem to Care If the Economy Stinks (August 7, 2020)
Recall over the summer when it seemed no one could figure out WTF was going on with the markets decoupling from the economy. The answer, it turns out, was to look at it not from personal experience but by cap weighting. Huge assist from Michael Batnick on this one.

4. BusinessWeek: It’s Time to Go Big (April 30, 2020)
My giant, 3,000-word piece for business week on what we should do to try the recovery for the next decade. I was pleased with how this came out. Here is the TL;DR version.

3. RWM: Upside Surprise (September 15, 2020)
I don’t use this space to directly shill RWM, but on the occasion of our 7th anniversary, I had to share my thoughts on all the things that had surprised me since we launched.

2. The Halfway Point (November 20, 2020)
As the vaccines began to get approval, I came to a shocking conclusion: From the March 2020 lockdown to a June 2021 re-opening, we were precisely at mid-point. What should you do with the next 8 months of remote work? I was surprised how much this resonated with people.

1. End of the Secular Bull? Not So Fast (April 1, 2020)
My most intensely disliked column (Is this an April Fool’s joke, or are you just an idiot?). It is everything I want in a column: Contrarian, historically based, insightful, and a money maker. Also, the biggest surprise for readers that it turned out to be correct.

A few honorable mentions include The Spock Market, “Unprecedented” Uncertainty, You Are Not Jim Simons, Return of the Inflationistas and lastly, American-Style Capitalism is a Joint Venture.

That is my list for 2020. I hope to get to a few other lists — best of MiB, 20921 books to read, and of course the mea culpas. Here is looking forward to 2021!



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