The beginnings of private equity industry can be traced back the post-World War II era as a response to the economic gloom caused by the war’s aftermath. The late 1940s, in contrast to the state of the finance industry during those times, was the golden age of the formation of the world’s very first venture capital firms: the American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC) and the J.H. Whitney & Company.
Over just a period of ten years (from the end of the 1970s through 1990s), records show thousands of leveraged buyouts, amounting to an overall transaction value of $250 billion. The same decade also produced major private equity firms like Hellman & Friedman, The Carlyle Group, Bain Capital, and the Blackstone Group.
The deterioration in economic and financial performance in the U.S., for instance, totally changed the recent history of the private equity industry and the investment industry as a whole. Before 2008, private equity firms used to have the freedom and capacity to complete huge buyouts, thanks to low-interest rates, laid-back lending procedures, and even easy access to debt-financing.
Come 2008, fewer buyouts were observed, recording only small volumes of completed deals. The figures drastically dropped, from the early years of the 21st-century value of trillions to just over $400 billion from 2008-2010. However, as soon as the economy recovered from this recession, private equity buyouts slowly found its way back to the limelight, closing billion-dollar buyout deals once again.
The Christmas season is perhaps one of the most celebrated holidays in the world and while many countries consider it as a religious festivity, other nations have created their own definition of this joyful event.
From sharing meals among one’s family and friends, exchanging gifts, to selfless giving to the less fortunate, these are just some of the ways to celebrate the essence of the holidays—and all of these typically come from careful budgeting and stretching one’s finances.
If you scratch the surface and look at it from an economic perspective, how expensive really is Christmas and how much money is made during the most wonderful time of the year?
According to several statistics, Christmas is one of the strongest economic drivers among many nations globally, reporting rapid and dramatic sales increases in almost every retail store worldwide. In the United States, for instance, the retail industry recorded a staggering three-trillion dollars in the 2013 holiday shopping season.
Image source: womansday.com
A recent study by the National Retail Federation further revealed that in 2016, an average American spent over $900 for their holiday gift list – and researchers are expecting that this year, it will go up and reach almost a thousand dollar per person.
On a comparative perspective, the spending habits of Australians—for example—are not far from that of the Americans. In fact, they’re one of the most generous in the world when it comes to gift-giving, spending over $11 billion during the holiday season. It is estimated that this year, the average Australian will spend almost $600 for gifts alone. In the developing world, however, spending can be understandably lower but also growing over time.
The commercialization of Christmas season started a long time ago and its influence as strong economic stimuli is expected to grow in the future. People are expected to spend thousands of dollars on gifts, decorations, holiday parties and more. In fact, Christmases around the world, especially in the West, are anticipated to be increasingly extravagant every year.
Is there a perfect formula to become a millionaire at a young age? While some of the richest people in the world managed to be on top of the list because of their family’s influence and wealth, others succeeded through hard work and raw talent.
Let’s take a look at the young people who dominate the list of the wealthiest teenage celebrities today:
Born on April 9, 1998, the younger sister of the iconic Dakota Fanning is making her own name in the industry. In 2005, Elle was a main part of the Studio Ghibli animated film, My Neighbor Totoro for her role as the English voice for Mei Kusakabe. The following year was the period that catapulted her to success, accepting major leading roles. It is estimated that the sisters have a combined net worth of over $21 million.
Cameron Boyce was born on 28 May 1999 in Los Angeles and is one of today’s highly recognized celebrities. Most of his projects involve film and television series, and even at a young age he was known for his talent in his craft. Included in his acting portfolio are nine TV performances, product ads, five major film roles and one Young Artist award in 2012, and lastly, an Apple Design Award in 2014. The success of his projects earned him an amazing net worth of $5 million.
Jaden Smith is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and actor and is the son of one of the most successful actors in the world, Will Smith. The young Smith has been following his father’s footsteps and it started when he landed his first acting role in the film, The Pursuit of Happyness—and many other movie projects followed. Jaden Smith was born on July 8, 1998. In his younger and early teenage years, his character was considered eccentric and one-of-a-kind.
What really defines a good movie? Is it the complexity of the plot? Is it the amount of technical effort put into each frame? While everyone has different answers to these questions, many can agree that great filmmaking does not only require a generous amount of financial capital. While having enough funding is important, many have proven that small-budget films can also win the crowd and bring home massive ticket sales. Let’s take a look at some of the best low-budget films that broke the budget norm and won back an enormous return on investment (ROI):
This low-budget suspense thriller directed by Oren Peli was actually shot at his own house for just seven filming days, working under a $15K fund.
The creators of Paranormal Activity won the box office without spending a single penny on advertisements and promotions. Instead, the disturbing handheld camera horror movie gathered a following via word of mouth.
The success of the first movie fueled the production of four more sequels, taking home a combined gross income of $805 million as of 2014.
Another spooky handheld camera film captured the attention of scary movie fans and curious viewers around the world. With a $60K budget (reports estimate less), it became a worldwide blockbuster hit and was able to pull in $248M.
The film seemed very realistic and it was able to convince many viewers that the footage was actually real until creators and actors revealed themselves to the public after its huge success.
The reputation of this movie has gained it an international following and its fandom endures even after years since it was first released in the 80s. However, not everyone knows that the production cost of Friday the 13th was only $500k.
The story revolves around a group of camp counselors who attempted to open an old summer camp that was once the site of drowning accident. The horror started when an unknown attacker began stalking and murdering them one by one.
The car manufacturing industry is undergoing a major overhaul. With evolving market demands and the advent of new design technologies, carmakers are now capable of creating unique concept vehicles quite more easily. Symourpowell has developed an amazing software wherein people can freely conceptualize their designs within a short amount of time. Here’s an article from CNN to know more about this groundbreaking technology:
Google opened a new world of VR possibilities when it introduced the 3D painting app Tilt Brush in 2016. Targeting the worlds of art and design (Google recently launched its own artist in residence program), the software has shown what can happen when creativity is let loose in a virtual environment.
Now, London-based design studio Seymourpowell is hoping to do the same in the automobile sector with a new 3D sketching tool. Wearing an HTC Vive headset, users are able to draw, manipulate and augment car models in virtual reality.
The software is designed to speed up the design process, with adjustments quicker to make than if modeled in Photoshop or in traditional 3D-imaging programs.
Streamlining the process
Seymourpowell’s lead automotive designer, Richard Seale, hopes the tool will bridge the longstanding divide between designers (who are paid to shoot for the stars) and engineers (who are meant to keep them grounded).
“As an engineer, it’s very frustrating to (produce) cars with designers, because designers and engineers are typically at loggerheads,” he said at the firm’s south London studio. “It’s the same for designers, (who say) ‘I want to do this — why can’t I?'”
The typical design process begins with a meeting — or three — followed by concept sketches. Once a design is approved, a clay model is created. After that, a costlier model is used to further refine the design.
Being an author entails hard work and intense dedication. Before becoming successful, they often need to deal with several challenges and break barriers. From submitting their work to their editor alone, for example, they need to write tens to hundreds of thousands of words and mold it into an interesting story. During the entire process, they are faced with pitfalls such as writer’s block and diminished productivity.
When they do finish their work, it still isn’t guaranteed that they’ll be making money off of it. Their fate is literally dependent on whether or not the public will view it favorably. However, despite the countless trials, some authors were able to make a name for themselves and millions of dollars in the process. More interestingly, a few of them were self-published and didn’t rely on the help of any major publishing house!
One name in this category which will continually pop up is Amanda Hocking. She is one of the first authors who was able to make millions by self-publishing and independently selling e-books. Some of her most famous works include the ‘My Blood Approves’ series and the ‘Trylle’ trilogy.
Another impressive self-published author goes by the name of Hugh Howey. Before writing dystopian sci-fi trilogies, he was creating short stories. After adding more content to his masterpieces, he then decided to publish them through Kindle’s Direct Publishing system. He became a huge hit and rose in popularity.
Many might not know but E.L James herself was a self-published author, with her ‘50 Shades of Grey’ novels reaching the top of many best-seller lists. The trilogy actually started as a fan fic of Twilight which was published online. One thing led to another, and a whole new world of eroticism was born.
Today’s age of e-books and self-publishing platforms (such as CreateSpace, Lulu, and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing) has made it possible for almost anyone to become an author without the need for a traditional publisher or literary agent. It might require heavy promotional efforts but rewards (especially on the financial side) can be potentially lucrative (as authors tend to get higher cut on each work sold as compared to royalties they earn from a conventional publishing setup).
I trade a lot in the stock market and I’d like to think I have the stomach to face the usual risks involved in trading equities. I’m actually more of a day trader, a momentum trader at that. At the opening bell, I would already be on the lookout for any steep movements in price. If I find one that has gone up with significant volume in the first two hours of trading, that’s my target. Feeling the momentum, fingers on the mouse, I try to buy at the right time, ideally at a price retracement point. And then once it goes up a few fluctuations, I’m out. All in a day’s work.
But the market hasn’t been so friendly these past months. It’s actually a wreck right now. We’re waiting for Santa Claus to bring in a rally. I guess, he’s our only hope now because the Federal Reserve is just as desperate as us traders.
And so, I’m thinking, maybe it is possible for the art market to rally. Maybe I can make some money there. That’s the news that has been going around since 2014. The new money in China, plus all those museums in the Middle East are queueing up their bids. And it makes sense. At a time when forex traders are getting whipsawed and we seem to be at risk of a full blown currency war, when the sovereign bond bubble is just about ready to burst, with gold and oil in a downtrend, and with real estate prices in limbo, you have to find other options. Where else can you put your money? Some put their money in art.
But the art market had always seemed intimidating for me. I appreciate art but I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve considered investing in art many times. But as I’ve said, I get intimidated time and time again. The art market is so opaque. It’s unlike the stock market where anyone can see all the prices as they move by the second. At the same time, art is a long-term hold so it doesn’t match my day trading set of skills.
What’s attracting me to art investing right now though is the possibility of an art market bubble in the making. Maybe I can bet at least five percent of my portfolio on that right now. I would lump together gold and real estate with art investments.
Why am I optimistic about an art bubble? During times of economic uncertainty, when investors are fearful with their currencies and worried about the stocks and bonds they hold, art and jewelry tend to appreciate in value. The US Federal Reserve “saved” the world from economic catastrophe seven years ago when it bailed out the big banks and absorbed a lot of their subprime mortgage exposures. But the Fed seems to be running out of tricks now. Near zero interest rates and a ballooning federal credit card have made the chances of the US saving the world’s economies this time around is a little bit slimmer.
Also favoring higher art valuations are the political and social uncertainties we are experiencing globally right now. Refugees streaming across Europe. Terrorists in Paris. Russia striking at ISIS. Turkey striking at Russia. Putin hating on Obama. Obama, well, he’s at an In-N-Out Burger right now, practicing his official statement on all those things. Some are even crying out World War III! I don’t know if it’s going to be World War III. But just in case, I think I’ll do better with a painting than a paper bill if ever that pushes through.
And so, intimidating as it may seem, I think I’ll take the plunge and invest in some art. Lots of research and advice-seeking will hopefully guide me in the right direction. So many questions right now. How much of my portfolio should I allocate to my art investments? Which art advisor should I go to? What works of art should I focus on? Which artistic period? Which artist? Which painting?
Unlike buying equities, there is no balance sheet to analyze. There are no ratios to help me compare one work against another. No profit and loss statements, no cash flow reports here. No history of stock or cash dividends. No annual reports or SEC filings. It’s a different animal.
But just like equities, there is risk, there is a holding period, there is a bid and ask and there are taxes involved. And you also need guts. And a bit of luck.
Art is a form of expression. It communicates the emotions of the one who created it. But for some people who buy a piece of art, the primary consideration is oftentimes investment value and returns. Art has become an asset class that not only gives enjoyment but also provides a chance for the owner to reap some capital gains.
Current circumstances surrounding the global economy – primarily the influx of cash that has resulted from quantitative easing in the US and Europe, as well as the rise of the wealthy class in China and in certain Middle Eastern countries – have resulted in a significant increase in art sales over the past three years.
Market uncertainties in the western economies have also pushed fund managers to look to the art world as a way for them to diversify their portfolios. Art now serves as a hedge against certain black swan events and possible declines in currencies, equities or fixed instruments.
With the possibility of a bubble in the art market, investors now have an opportunity to ride with the trend of rising art prices.
Here are some pointers on how to go about investing in art:
Determine how much you are willing to invest. Just the same way you would treat an investment in fixed income or in equities, you have to decide on how much of your portfolio will be allocated to art. Art is highly illiquid so once you sink your funds into it there’s no turning back. At least not for a long time. Some funds allocate five to twenty percent of their portfolio in art.
Get help from a reputable advisor. You can go to established museums and galleries that can refer you to art consultants. A well-connected advisor can give you sound advice about trends and pricing. An art advisor has inside information about what sells, whether a piece of art is undervalued or overpriced, or which is more likely to hold its value over time. Since works of art are luxury items, the prices can at times merely reflect the buyers’ whims. And, because there are just a few sellers or buyers in the art market, prices can also be subject to wild swings.
Find out which artist’s period has the best prospects for value appreciation. In the past few years, post-World War II artists have attracted a significant amount of buyer interest. The money that is currently flowing into the art market comes from the new rich and they are attracted to the relatively new works of art that were created only within the past seventy years.
Get to know the artist’s life and accomplishments. When was he born? When did he die? Who trained him? Who else did he work with? Who are his contemporaries? Where did he study? Which museums or galleries hold his works? What awards or honors has he received? Who are the other collectors who own his works? What is his life story? All these considerations affect the value of an art work.
An art investor also needs to be aware of certain characteristics of the art market before he decides to invest.
Art is illiquid and to be considered as a long-term investment. For this reason, you should also buy something you would be happy to live with and see hanging on your wall for a long time. It would be nice if you have an emotional connection with the art you buy.
Art is a luxury item. As such, it can be affected by people’s subjectivity.
Art is cyclical. It moves in the same way fashion trends do. Art trends come and go and then resurface again. If you are a value investor, you might consider buying something that was once in the spotlight but has gone out of favor for a while. That way, you have a bigger upside in terms of your investment’s growth potential.
Art can be used as a store of value or a hedge against financial market declines. The average prices of art works were plotted against the S&P and they seem to follow the same trend. However, during times when the stock market plummets, art values have remained relatively intact. Of course, this goes hand in hand with art’s other characteristic of illiquidity. Together with antiques and jewelry, the price of certain works art would go up even more when the market for financial instruments sees a decline in value.