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John Mauldin

John Mauldin

Financial NY Times best-selling author, pioneering online commentator. Over 1 million readers turn to Mauldin for his view on Wall Street, markets, and history.

Articles by John Mauldin

What I Learned at Camp Kotok

3 days ago

I am back from my 14th annual Maine fishing camp and the mood was decidedly different this year. The private event at Leen’s Lodge is generally called Camp Kotok in honor of David Kotok of Cumberland Advisors who started these outings many years ago. CNBC and others began calling it the “Shadow Fed” but it is really just a meeting of wickedly smart people focused on economics and markets. (I am allowed to attend for comic relief.) Throw in a little fishing, more fabulous food and wine than anyone should consume, formal debates and informal Q&A, and it really is one of the highlights of my year.
All this happens

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Larry Kotlikoff on The Big Con

10 days ago

I have a special treat for you. I’m at Camp Kotok, the annual economics/fishing retreat in Maine. Knowing internet connectivity would be scarce here, I asked good friend Larry Kotlikoff to be your guest writer this week.
For those who don’t know, Larry is a Boston University economist whose work spans an amazing breadth of fields. You’ve probably seen some of his retirement planning research or maybe used MaxiFiPlanner, the software tool his company offers.

Today, though, Larry will share some provocative ideas on what caused the Great Recession. As you’ll read, he demolishes the explanations Wall Street and

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An Opportunity in the Chaos

17 days ago

One reason the economy is so fascinating is the way things just… happen. Growth blossoms if everyone just follows their own incentives and nothing gets in the way. The courage, vision and passion of entrepreneurs and those who risk their money backing them is one of the most inspiring aspects of modern civilization. Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand of now tens of millions of businesses, small and large and giant, working to produce and deliver inventions, technologies and cures that help us all.
Think about ants. They’re marvelous creatures. No individual ant knows how to build a colony, or is even aware it is doing

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Money of the Future

24 days ago

As I work on my book about the future, I think a lot about the ways possible events will affect our money. But I’m also thinking about something else: What kind of money will we use?
The answer might seem obvious: dollars, euros, yen, all the government-issued fiat currencies that are the economic water in which we swim. Most of us have never known anything else. Yet these currencies aren’t natural phenomena. People created them. People can also abandon them for something else, just as they abandoned older currencies.

I can hear the chorus now: Fiat currencies come and go, but gold is forever. And now there is a

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Recession Rumbles

July 19, 2019

I’m often asked if recession is coming, and for quite different reasons. Some people worry about their investments. Others are worried about their employment or their kids. Political types wonder if and how recession could affect the next election.
To all those people, for quite some time now, my answer has been: “Yes, but not just yet.” That’s still what I think today, but more of the early warning signals I have used in the past are beginning to flash again.

Looking at the data, I see some good news but also some leading indicators weakening. I see smart people like Dave Rosenberg argue we may already be in

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Ray Dalio – John Mauldin Conversation, Part 6

July 12, 2019

This is the final letter of the six-part series of my reply to Ray Dalio’s essays. Here are some links to help you wrap it all together.
As Ray notes, the problems he describes really are existential. He and I agree more than we disagree, but our responses differ.

I think that we both agree that the wrong answers will cause much angst and pain for most of our fellow citizens (and that is a severe understatement). And given his reply to me in Forbes, I think Ray would agree with me there are no easy solutions, only very difficult choices vs. disastrous ones. The longer we wait to deal with the problems, the more

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Ray Dalio – John Mauldin Discussion, Part 5

July 5, 2019

“The belief that wealth subsists not in ideas, attitudes, moral codes, and mental disciplines but in identifiable and static things that can be seized and redistributed is the materialist superstition. It stultified the works of Marx and other prophets of violence and envy. It frustrates every socialist revolutionary who imagines that by seizing the so-called means of production he can capture the crucial capital of an economy. It is the undoing of nearly every conglomerateur who believes he can safely enter new industries by buying rather than by learning them. It confounds every bureaucrat who imagines he can buy the

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Ray Dalio-John Mauldin Discussion, Part 4

June 28, 2019

This week is the fourth in a series of five open letters responding to a series of essays by Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates. His original letters are Why and How Capitalism Needs to Be Reformed, Parts 1 and 2 and It’s Time to Look More Carefully at ‘Monetary Policy 3 (MP3)’ and ‘Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)’. My replies are here, here, and here. Today I continue my response.
I was quite pleasantly surprised to read a very generous and gentlemanly reply from Ray in Forbes last week, in which he clarified some of my understanding of what he wrote. I encourage you to read it after this letter for

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Ray Dalio Is Kinda, Sorta, Really Wrong, Part 3

June 21, 2019

Two weeks ago I started a mini-series in the form of an open letter responding to a series of essays by Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates. I wrote here and here that he was kinda, sorta wrong in Why and How Capitalism Needs to Be Reformed, Parts 1 and 2 but really, really wrong in It’s Time to Look More Carefully at ‘Monetary Policy 3 (MP3)’ and ‘Modern Monetary Theory,’ in which he basically endorsed MMT. Today I continue my response.
If reader feedback is any indication, you are also passionate about this conversation. Last week’s letter generated many long, thoughtful reader comments. Clearly,

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Ray Dalio Is Kinda, Sorta, Really Wrong, Part 2

June 14, 2019

Last week we started a mini-series in the form of an open letter responding to a series of essays by Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates. I wrote that he was kinda, sorta wrong in Why and How Capitalism Needs to Be Reformed, Parts 1 and 2 but really, really wrong in It’s Time to Look More Carefully at ‘Monetary Policy 3 (MP3)’ and ‘Modern Monetary Theory,’ in which he basically endorsed MMT. Today I continue my response.
As I noted, Ray has done us all a service by pointing out some rarely-mentioned elephants in the room (some tinged with pink). We discuss various parts but seldom the entire

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Ray Dalio Is Kinda, Sorta, Really Wrong

June 7, 2019

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.”—John Maynard Keynes
“Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview—nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation, more destructive of openness to novelty.”—Stephen Jay Gould

“Inequality has emerged as a major issue in the US and beyond. A generation ago it could reasonably

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The Trump Trade War Recession?

May 31, 2019

Publisher’s Note: John Mauldin is recovering from a minor illness. He’ll be back next week. Meanwhile, with trade disputes still roiling markets, below is a still-timely letter he wrote last year. You should definitely read it again. —Ed D’Agostino
“A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”—William F. Buckley, Jr., 1955

I will never compare myself to Bill Buckley, as a writer or anything else. He was one-of-a-kind and a personal hero who I am disappointed to say I never met but who I read a

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Why Debt Won’t Spark Inflation

May 24, 2019

Modern technology was supposed to make travel less necessary. We can meet by phone, video, and now in virtual reality. But we’re still traveling more than ever. I certainly am.
The reason is simple: Technology can’t yet replace face-to-face conversation, and especially group conversations. It is genetically hardwired in our species. We spend more time on the phone and Skype than ever but technology also makes information more complex and nuanced. Conveying it often requires a personal presence, so we fly around and talk in person.

I thought of that last week at the Strategic Investment Conference. I’ve been

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Takeaways from the SIC

May 17, 2019

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

—David Foster Wallace, This Is Water
Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhereThe ceremony of innocence is drowned;The best lack all conviction, while

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Your Pension May Be Monetized

May 10, 2019

One difficulty in analyzing our economic future is the sheer number of potential crises. When so much could go wrong (and really right, when the exponential technologies I foresee get here), it’s hard to isolate, let alone navigate, the real dangers. We are tempted to ignore them all. Ignoring them is usually the right response, too. We can “Muddle Through” almost anything.
But muddling through isn’t the same as smooth sailing. It’s difficult, unpleasant, and often keeps you from looking for better opportunities. Then there are times when you can’t even muddle through. Instead, you find yourself emotionally at a

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Time to Change Strategy

May 3, 2019

My recent letters described what I think the future will look like. I hasten to add, it isn’t what I think the future should look like or what I want to see. Almost the entire developed world has painted itself into a corner.
It won’t necessarily be terrible. I don’t expect another Great Depression or economic upheaval, but we will have to adapt our portfolios and lifestyles to this new reality. The good news is the changes will happen relatively slowly. We have time to adapt.

In war movies, it’s common for the dashing leader to make bold promises like, “We will never retreat!” ahead of a glorious victory. The

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How I Learned to Love the Debt

April 26, 2019

The US, Europe, and most of the developed world on are the road to Japanification. Like I wrote last week, we will see financial repression, ever increasing deficits, slower growth, etc. Essentially, the rest of us will begin to look like Japan with its astronomical deficits and ultra-dovish monetary policy.
I tried to emphasize this is not the end of the world. It’s not the best world, either, but we’ve gone too far to come back now. There is no significant constituency for any of the things it would take for the US government to balance its budget. Neither party wants to reduce the deficit, and the MMT fans

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The Rules Will Change but That’s (Probably) OK

April 19, 2019

“But the emperor has nothing at all on!” said a little child.
“Listen to the voice of innocence!” exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another.

“But he has nothing at all on!” at last cried out all the people. The emperor was suddenly embarrassed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up the robes although, in reality, there were no robes at all.

—“The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen

When you write about controversial topics for

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Japanified World Ahead

April 12, 2019

Regular readers may have noticed me slowly losing confidence in the economy. Your impression is correct and there’s a good reason for it, as I will explain today. The facts have changed so my conclusions are changing, too.
I still think the economy is okay for now. I still see recession odds rising considerably in 2020. Maybe it will get pushed back another year or two, but at some point this growth phase will end, either in recession or an extended flat period (even flatter than the last decade, which says a lot). And I still think we are headed toward a global credit crisis I’ve dubbed The Great Reset.

What’s

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Capitalism Gone Wild

April 5, 2019

Recession is coming. We can debate the timing, but the economy will turn decisively downward at some point. My own analysis, looking at the data available on April 4, says recession isn’t likely this year but unfortunately looks very probable in 2020.
In addition to when it will happen, there’s also the question of how deep the next recession will be. A shallow downturn wouldn’t be fun, but compared to the last one might feel relatively refreshing.

Alas, I don’t think we will be that lucky. I think the opposite: The next recession will be deeper, longer and far more painful to many more people than your average

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Recession Signs Everywhere

March 29, 2019

This month, the Federal Reserve joined its global peers by turning decisively dovish. Jerome Powell and friends haven’t just stopped tightening. Soon they will begin actively easing by reinvesting the Fed’s maturing mortgage bonds into Treasury securities. It’s not exactly “Quantitative Easing I, II, and III,” but it will have some of the same effects.
Why are they doing this? One theory, which I admit possibly plausible, was that Powell simply caved to Wall Street pressure. The rate hikes and QT were hitting asset prices and liquidity, much to the detriment of bankers and others to whom the Fed pays keen

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No Free Lunch, Part 2

March 22, 2019

Matching the stock market’s long-term average returns sounds like it should be easy, if you’re patient enough. But in fact it is remarkably difficult. In last week’s letter, Ed Easterling and I showed you why it is a longshot bet in almost every market environment. Returns over a decade or two are usually well above or well below average. Most of all, it’s fairly predictable which side of average will occur.
This has serious implications for retirees, near-retirees and accumulators. Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do to still achieve investment success. Today Ed and I will expand on that discussion. If

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No Free Lunch: Valuation Determines Return

March 15, 2019

Last week, I described the enormous challenges retirees face. One reason for that, aside from insufficient savings, is that markets haven’t delivered the returns many experts said we could plan on.
Back in the late 1990s, we were told that the long-term average return (~10%) was a reasonable long-term assumption—even if the market cooled down from the tech boom. Instead, the S&P 500 index gained about 3% annually since 1999 with total return just over half of the historical average. As a result, Baby Boomers are having to work longer and harder to retire, as well as save more of their income.

Nonetheless, hope

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Retirement Isn’t Happening

March 8, 2019

I have long said I don’t want to retire. I enjoy my work. It’s not too physical, other than the travel (which is finally beginning to wear on me). Also, my savings are not yet sufficient to sustain the retirement lifestyle Shane and I want. I could retire now but would rather wait.
Fortunately, I have the choice of continuing to work and adding to those savings. I realize many Americans don’t have that luxury. Some have to retire because of illness, or because their work requires more physical ability than their age allows. Many others don’t retire because they just can’t afford to.

TV commercials suggest a

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The Fed Is Playing a Dangerous Game

March 1, 2019

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to read the Federal Reserve’s rabbit entrails to discern the economy. But Since the Fed exists in the real world, and its decisions matter, we have to pay attention.
Just so new and perhaps even old readers know my views on the Fed: I believe we need it to handle the practical matters of the banking system plus interact with other international central banks (we live in a complicated world) and, in the midst of crisis, act as a lender of last resort and liquidity provider. I agree with Walter Bagehot’s (pronounced badget) very important pronouncement (often called "Bagehot’s

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Recession: Are We There Yet?

February 22, 2019

An old joke says economists predicted 15 of the last 10 recessions. In other words, they’re frequently wrong and often too pessimistic.
I think it’s not so simple. Every recession prediction is eventually correct; some just get the timing wrong. That’s because, so long as we have a business cycle, a recession is always coming. The only question is when it will strike.

There’s also some dispute about what, exactly, counts as “recession.” The usual definition is two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP. But as I’ve written, GDP itself is a nebulous statistic with substantial margin of error. We can never be

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Modern Monetary Madness

February 15, 2019

More than 10 years ago some Australian readers begin regaling me with the ideas of economist Bill Mitchell of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales. He was teaching about something he called (and he coined the term) Modern Monetary Theory. I looked into it and fairly quickly dismissed it as silly. Actually printing money as an economic policy? Get serious.
MMT is a revival of an early 1900s idea called chartalism. Now it is influencing the thinking of new socialist-like movements in the US and other places and cited by politicians. MMT is increasingly appearing in mainstream media like this sobering

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Capitalism Without Competition

February 8, 2019

The Soviet Union’s collapse and spread of semi-free markets through Eastern Europe seemingly ended the socialism vs. capitalism argument. Capitalism had won. Collectivist economies everywhere began turning free. Even communist China adopted a form of free market capitalism although, as they say, with “Chinese characteristics.”
The fruits of capitalism: millions of people freed from abject poverty and a few who got rich indeed. Nor is this a recent phenomenon. Capitalism in the last three centuries, with all its faults and problems, with all its contradictions, generated the greatest accumulation of wealth in

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What Should We Then Expect (From Investing)?

February 1, 2019

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

—US President Dwight D. Eisenhower
There are many versions of that Eisenhower quote he learned in the Army. Nixon, who probably heard it from Eisenhower directly, modified it to “… plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Both are variations on the theme, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

Today we’ll look at what we should expect from our investing. In case you haven’t noticed, financial markets are really a giant expectations game. A company can report great quarterly results and still get crushed if earnings are less than

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How Should We Then Invest?

January 25, 2019

"To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it."
—Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State

This month I’ve discussed some possible pathways for 2019. But beyond that, for the past year or so, I have been talking about what I think may unfold over the next decade. The term I often use is The Great Reset, but in my mind it’s more than just resetting global debt.

I think a number of equally important trends, all extraordinarily eventful, some amazingly positive and some frustratingly negative, when taken all together (which we’ll have to, like it or not) will produce

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