Humans, you may have noticed, have an irrepressible desire to find patterns in the world: "If I do this, that usually occurs." "If event A happens, it's often followed by event B." They may not be cases of direct cause and effect, but recognizing them gives us a feeling of having a bit more control in a confusing universe.
In the "What's Up, Bro?" segment of this Motley Fool Answers podcast, Robert Brokamp is picking up on some patterns that he thinks will interest co-host Alison Southwick -- and their listeners. First, the stock market has been unusually strong through the first four months of 2019, which sounds like great news for investors. And it is...unless we get a repeat of what usually follows this sort of early-year performance. Second, there's a newish study out that looks into the long-term effects of entering the workforce during a recession, and they are worse than you might expect. Third, Brokamp reflects on an individual's case of bad timing that might hold a lesson for many of us -- or rather, a case in which someone's time came before they were ready. We recently passed the third anniversary of the death of music legend Prince, and his failure to plan for the inevitable is still resonating expensively for his heirs.
To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on May 7, 2019.
Alison Southwick: So, Bro, what's up?
Robert Brokamp: Well, Alison, I've got three things and then maybe one fun fact. I counted two facts. But anyways, it's fun, nonetheless. Let's start with No. 1. Party like it's 1987 again!
Well, it's been quite a year for the stock market. Going through the year, performance in January was the best January since 1987. Then came February -- as it always does after January -- and those were the best first two months of the year since 1991. Then came March. Put those three together and you get the first quarter. We had the best first quarter since 1998. Now we're done with April, a month that saw the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq hit all-time highs.
Look at those first four months and we have the best performance since -- we're back to 1987. In fact, Ryan Detrick of LPL told CNBC that there have only been four years since World War II that had better performances in those first four months. They were 1967, 1975, 1983, and 1987. And for three of those years, the performance of the subsequent six months was about flat. The one outlier was 1987. The market was down 13% thanks mostly to what became known as Black Monday, that day in October when the Dow dropped 22.6%, but still the market was up for that year.
So put some other numbers on what we have seen so far in 2019. The S&P 500 is up 18% so far this year. The Nasdaq is up 22%. This is all, by the way, as of the end of April. The Nasdaq being up more shows that bigger, techier, growthier stocks are still doing very well. Outperforming the market. Small caps are doing well -- but not quite as well -- up 16%. International stocks up 14% and boring, old bonds up 3%. Not great compared to stocks but still pretty good...
Brokamp: ...for four months' worth of work. So all in all, 2019 has been a great year to be an investor -- so far.
Southwick: See, there we go. There he is. There's my awfulizer.
Brokamp: Thank you! Well, let's get to some more awfulizer then, shall we?
No. 2. The secret to getting ahead is be born at the right time. So a lot of financial success does come down to luck or, in some cases, bad luck. For example, research has established for a while now that entering the workforce as a college grad during a time of recession can have lasting effects...effects that last up to 10 to 15 years.
But do those effects last longer? And what if you didn't graduate from college?
Well, a couple of researchers looked at these questions: Hannes Schwandt of Stanford and Till von Wachter of the University of California. The results are pretty depressing and to quote from their research, "Negative impacts on socioeconomic outcomes persist in the long run. In midlife, recession graduates earned less while working more and they were less likely to be married and more likely to be childless." And then on top of it -- and again, this is a quote from the research -- "...recession graduates had higher death rates when they reached middle age. These mortality increases stemmed mainly from diseases linked to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and eating poorly. In particular, we discovered a significantly higher risk of death from drug overdoses and other so-called 'deaths of despair' among those who left school during a downturn."
It's pretty depressing. Now, obviously this doesn't apply to everybody, and if you enter the workforce during a recession it doesn't mean you're doomed. For example, my wife and I graduated from college at the end of the 1990-1991 recession. We turned out all right, although my wife did start training for a job as a UPS driver because it was the only job that was available to her.
Southwick: Wow! You could not pay me enough to drive a big truck around D.C.
Brokamp: She eventually ended up not finishing it, because she got another job. Regardless, you're not doomed, but it does explain a couple of things.
First of all, I think it partially explains why many millennials -- particularly the older millennials -- feel a lot of angst, because they came of age either during or after the Great Recession and had more college debt than any previous generation.
But another thing is it validates something we've talked about before on this show in that there is a connection between health and wealth, and it's a two-way street, where if you're experiencing some sort of financial distress it can lead to basically bad behaviors. Just something to keep in mind.
No. 3 is purple pain. April 21st marked the three-year anniversary of the death of Prince Rogers Nelson, better known as just Prince. Apparently when he was young he didn't like that name. Do you know what he went by as a kid? Skipper. Who would have known? And Prince was his name. His father's stage name was Prince Rogers, and he passed it along to his son.
Anyway, as reported by USA Today, despite three years transpiring since Prince's expiring, his estate is still not settled. Why not? A few reasons. First of all, he didn't have a will or an estate plan, and that will always cause delays, confusion, and problems, especially, when as in Prince's case No. 1, you don't have any kids and No. 2, you're very rich. So after he died, up to 700 people came out of the woodwork claiming to either be forgotten descendants like half-siblings. One guy claimed he was Prince's long-lost son.
Eventually it was whittled down to his six siblings. Now the estate is estimated to be worth $200 million to $300 million, but we don't know for sure, yet, because it hasn't been officially valued, yet -- three years later by the administrators. But we do know that it's a lot less than it was three years ago because the heirs claim that the administrators of the estate have already spent $45 million on legal fees and other expenses. And it's going to go down even more because the estate still hasn't paid the federal estate taxes and the Minnesota estate taxes, which is going to cost the heirs tens of millions of dollars.
And the final complication, here, is that obviously the estate is an ongoing business, because they still have to manage his recordings as well as Paisley Park, which is now a museum. It's not like a normal estate where everyone gets a little bit of something and goes their separate ways. It's an ongoing business, so the heirs have been fighting it out. The lesson, of course, here, is had he had an estate plan, it would have saved his heirs a lot of time and a lot of money. If you don't have an estate plan, go ahead and get one.
Final fun fact. Are you in the middle class?
Brokamp: That's what most Americans think -- that they're in the middle class. Like 70% of people think they're in the middle class. But a recent article from Fast Company...
Southwick: Depending on how big a middle it is, they could be right. It could be 70% middle and 15% upper. I mean, the math works out. It works out.
Brokamp: It works out. Well, I'll give you, at least according to this Fast Company article, some definitions of the middle class.
Brokamp: According to the Pew Research Center, which came out with a report toward the end of 2018, a middle-income family with three people in the household earns between $45,200 and $135,600.
The Brookings Institution offered a broader range -- $37,000 to $147,000. But a lot of it depends on the size of your household and where you live. So to see how you stack up to other households in the U.S. as well as other households in your state or even in your general area -- like your county -- you can visit the income calculator at PewResearch.org. And that Alison, is what's up.