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It’s Actually Okay To Completely Ignore Bitcoin’s 1,400% Rally

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Forgive me for sounding like a crank, but it’s okay to totally ignore the Bitcoin rally.

Sure Bitcoin’s up over 1,400% this year (that’s as of the time I started typing) and its market capitalization now significantly exceeds that of Procter & Gamble, the best performing stock in Forbes’ first 100 years of existence. Despite Bitcoin’s boom, the digital currency just doesn’t seem to have any impact on the important financial issues of the day, whether that’s saving, borrowing, or conducting everyday transactions.

If Bitcoin doesn’t influence how you save, how you borrow, or how you transact, then maybe there’s no point paying attention to its staggering rise in 2017. Now might be a good time to push against fears of missing out (FOMO) on the rally, with good reason.

Does Bitcoin really impact your portfolio or your financial plans? When it comes to retirement there are two major, trillion-dollar themes for savers. Nearly a decade after the financial crisis, Americans are returning to the stock market in droves, having been generally underinvested since the 2008 carnage and the market’s bottoming a year later. As people return to the market, they’re doing so using low-cost index mutual funds or exchange-traded funds, instead of high-priced managers. Broadly speaking, this a big positive.

After all, the stock market’s 10%-plus annualized total return over the past 100-years, and a less impressive 7% annual return since December 1997, is the growing bedrock of America’s retirement system. Big-data tools now show savers how they can plan their finances to meet retirement and other financial goals with a few mouse clicks. Innovations like target-date funds and ETFs are creating new levels of precision when building these plans. All the while, fees are falling fast and Wall Street’s take is mired a steep decline. These trends are being driven by the BlackRocks, Vanguards and Fidelitys of the world, in addition to robo advisors such as Betterment and Wealthfront.

To all of this, Bitcoin is utterly non existent: It has no influence on stock market returns, it isn’t part of the fee-disruption equation, 401k plans tracking the S&P 500 are doing just fine this year despite missing on “crypto”.

There’s talk of a stock market bubble with each new record high, but some of the fastest-rising companies on the S&P 500, from Apple to Facebook and Amazon, are luring the most careful investors like Warren Buffett to Glen Kacher (read our exclusive profile) and Stanley Druckenmiller due to their fundamentals. We’ll hear from time-to-time about some hedge fund guy buying Bitcoin, and I’ve even written a story or two about the newest Bitcoin bull, but generally the smart money remains in non-crypto assets.

The S&P 500 trades at a price of 25-times earnings and it carries a dividend yield of about 2%; it’s not cheap by historical standards but anyone who entered the market in the early 1960s at a similarly expensive valuation and stuck with their plans through good and bad times would likely be enjoying a bountiful retirement. At Forbes’ 100th birthday party, Buffett predicted the Dow will exceed $1,000,000 by the time we turn 200, and that’s possibly the safest prediction he’s ever offered.

READ MORE: Bitcoin, Blockchain And Billions

The same theme emerges in the big-short and long-term financial moves people have to make in their lives, for instance borrowing to buy a home, finance an education, or in making slightly smaller auto and big-ticket consumer purchases.

These can be major decisions and the current landscape is marked by plenty of “disruption”. Virtually all of it is coming from fintech startups, not cryptocurrencies and their attendant networks. Digital-first companies are becoming mainstays in America’s largest lending markets; competition is increasing, risk assessments are improving, transparency and seamlessness is rising, consumer costs are broadly plunging.

After all, it’s a new crop of companies like  Quicken Loans, SoFi, GreenSky, Credit Karma, LendingClub that are transforming the way everything from a home loan to a college education or pile of credit card debt is handled. Improving credit access is still one of the big non partisan topics of discussion in America and waves of novel solutions are emerging. Entire financing markets, from clean software interfaces originating loans all the way to new securitization markets to distribute debt to institutional investors have emerged in recent years. Bitcoin is nowhere to be found.

Even in payments and other basic transactions, there’s a growing menu of digital-first options that casts into question whether cryptocurrencies and their associated networks are actually that relevant.

When it comes to electronic payments, it is still Visa and MasterCard who are winning on a dollar basis. Payment volumes at Visa increased 41% in 2017 to $7.3 trillion, at MasterCard volumes rose 10% to $1.4 trillion last quarter. Cryptocurrencies seek to disrupt these networks, offering no-cost transactions, but the day-to-day flow of money seems to be falling to the incumbents and it is disrupting the use of cash.

READ MORE: Will This Battle For The Soul Of Bitcoin Destroy It?

Meanwhile, the market isn’t static. PayPal’s Venmo has made person-to-person payments cost free and utterly seamless, like a social network of money. Small businesses are gaining new options; Square recently reported a 31% quarterly increase in payment volumes as it offers merchant sellers access to better and lower cost transaction networks. The world’s most valuable private financial technology company is Stripe , another distruptor in e-commerce and payments.

Behind all of this, it must be said, is the rule of law.

If you get screwed you may have your day in court. Some entities are bound by investor protections and fiduciary standards. Depending on what’s being done, there’s also careful assessments of credit risk, identity, and the like. Yes these entrenched systems are the establishment, but that’s a major advantage.

Of course, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and their associated networks promise to disrupt it all. It is presented as potentially a new way to raise capital (goodbye Goldman bankers), a new peer-to-peer sharing tool for everything from data to real estate deals, a cheap alternative to transactions (sorry, greedy MasterCard), and even a novel take on the concept of currency itself. Some view Bitcoin as a store of value like gold, or a slightly damaged and possibly fake Leonardo Da Vinci painting. Others view it as part a sort of new world order liberated from tax authorities, governments, and money-printing central banks. Maybe it is the 2017 fear and volatility trade since the Cboe VIX index remains in single digits despite a profusion of global risk?

Everyday, price graphs that resemble the textbook definition of every bubble ever in history are bandied about as evidence of Bitcoin’s validity. Judging by the relentless and inexplicable gains, there are likely new converts to Bitcoin by the minute, or hour. The price rise may also cause skeptics to dig their heels further, increasing their bubble talk.

There’s another, possibly better option: You can simply stick to your plans and ignore Bitcoin. – Written by 

Current Affairs

Why Zimbabwe Is Not There Yet

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Despite the ample investment opportunities in Zimbabwe, post-election setbacks challenge its economic recovery

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First African Elected Female Head of State Urges Women to Be Bold

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has an iconic status in Africa and the world. As the first elected female head of state in Africa, she served as the leader of Liberia for two elected terms.

Those terms saw Liberia’s slow and steady march from what was considered a pariah state to a country with what the Mo Ibrahim Foundation calls a “trajectory of progress” that has helped transform its economy, survive the shock of Ebola, and restructure public institutions to respond to the needs of the people.

READ MORE: The People’s President

It is only fitting that FORBES WOMAN AFRICA gets to meet the Nobel Peace Prize winner in Rwanda, a country known for its high representation of women in Parliament, and where Sirleaf is awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at a special ceremony.

Q. Please share your thoughts on the African Union (AU) self-funding reform goal, the Kaberuka Proposal.
The dependency of the AU on external sources has been the subject of debate for many years, and the thinking of our leaders is that it is better to finance our operations by ourselves and alleviate pressure and dictation from these external sources. On the other hand, we know that to have financial autonomy, every country must be able to contribute consistently. So, the crux of the reform is to change the payment formula and make sure everyone knows they have to pay their part.

When it comes to the Kaberuka suggestion, it meets our objective of financing our organization ourselves. However, it does place a burden on the poorer states… So, our position with the Kaberuka plan is to study it some more so when we commit, we do not fall into arrears. We want to see the reform implemented, and for it to include cost-reduction in structural aspects such as travel and positions etc., thus reducing the burden on poorer countries.

Q: Will Africa really be able to tackle illicit financial flows? And with women being conspicuously absent from financial decision-making, yet being the greatest losers on such issues, how do we tackle these discrepancies?
We have to become more accountable and pass stringent mandates in institutions, as well as instill practical capacity to understand the complexities of these financial transactions. Also, we must implement a legal system that will enforce against such flow violations.

Access for women is difficult even in the case of legitimate flows. Even with a growing manufacturing sector and agri-industrial activities usually manned by women, access is still limited, for rural women particularly.

There is a big effort being put in by different regional institutions; in Liberia’s case, GIABA, the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, has been analyzing the flows and determining what is illicit.
But it is up to women to stand up and put other women in leadership roles, because the record is clear: women are more credit-worthy when it comes to financial transactions, and this suggests the more women there are heading these institutions, the more we can be assured that regulatory laws will be more effective.

READ MORE: ‘Women’s Leadership Is Under Attack Globally’

Q: What are your plans? How would you encourage young women to follow in your footsteps, or even create their own path?
We are establishing the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development. The activities will center around five themes that will promote women in business; women in leadership; women in fragile states; women in migration; and education for women and girls. We will use the life experiences of women who have excelled in these areas. For the young women, I say to all, be self-confident and pursue your goals…Let us be bold as women.

– Interviewed by Laura Rwiliriza

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Prosecution And Praise For Jacob Zuma

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It proved a day short on time in court and big on political posturing and speeches. The former president of South Africa Jacob Zuma’s appearance lasted a mere 10 minutes, on April 6, and the trial postponed until June 8 – yet he managed to make political capital out of his day in court in Durban.

On a bright sunny day in the coastal city of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province of South Africa, the former head of state stood trial in his own court. Almost 10 years ago, 10 days after this day, 18 charges on 783 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering were dropped against Jacob Zuma by former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Mokotedi Mpshe.

This decision was said to have been based on the recordings of the so-called ‘spy tapes’, which were presented to Mpshe by Zuma’s legal team. And almost a decade later, Zuma stands trial in the same court for the same charges which were reinstated by now NPA boss Shaun Abrahams.

The court was packed to full capacity with only 25 journalist allowed inside. Media came from all over the country, the continent and the world. Night vigils and pickets were held outside the night before the court case and on the day the case took place, led by different organizations supporting the former president. These organizations included Transform RSA, Black First Land First led by Andile Mngxitama, student groups from various KZN universities and members of the African National Congress (ANC) ruling party who claimed not to be operating under the party’s name.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC made an announcement a week before the trial that members of the party who liked to support Msholozi, as Zuma is affectionately called, could do so in their own personal capacity and not wear any party regalia. However, ANC members who attended actually did the opposite and when asked if they were defying their own party, countered “you cannot have an ANC without Jacob Zuma”.

Thousands of supporters in front of the Durban High Court chanted struggle songs and praised Zuma.

Zuma addressed the crowds after spending close to 15 minutes inside the court room.

“I keep asking them what have I done for them to keep trying to bring me down but they have no answers but one day they will,” he said.

Among the top-ranking ANC officials in KZN was the province’s MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Sihle Zikalala who vowed to aid in defending the former president.

What is clear is that the ANC in KZN is still divided, with its members committing to prove Zuma’s innocence and unseating current president Ramaphosa before the 2019 elections. On the other hand, some others are calling for his prosecution by the court of law.

This case may take years to be concluded and political wars in the province may not augur well for the ANC.

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