I started formulating my semi-retirement plan 5 or so years ago, when my kids were leaving for college. I‘ve never really entertained the idea that I’d just quit working altogether. Market and economic analysis, investing and trading and writing about it is in my blood, and I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.
When I started Pro Trader Today with my long-time friend and colleague Dave Roberts, the idea was that we could both continue to do the work we love, but we could do it on our schedule, we could be masters of our domain.
You may have noticed that we keep a publishing schedule that is somewhat unique in the world of financial publishers. Like, every financial publisher is well aware of one particular aspect of most people’s daily routine: within approximately 2 hours of getting up in the morning – probably between 7:30 and 9 AM – you will check your email.
Every single day, I have email letters and promotions from a couple dozen financial publishers stacked in my email inbox – all with time-stamps that show they were delivered between 5:30 and 9 in the morning, all vying for my attention with dramatic and often over-the-top headlines.
I expect your inbox looks similar.
But the thing that really stands out to me is how uninteresting most of the messages are. And, I know and have worked with many of the names that show up in my inbox. And even with emails from people I consider friends, I usually come away feeling that I’m being talked at, instead of being talked to…
Now, I’m no commie. I love marketing, and I sincerely believe that a really good marketing campaign is a high art form. Still, the number of letters I get that really give me something to think about are too few…
So, while it’s true that Dave and I run a few ads every week from other companies (cuz we got a few bills to pay), you’re not gonna see many of our emails bunched in with the other 5:30 to 9 AMers, jumping up and down to get your attention every day…
Because that just doesn’t fit with my semi-retirement plan.
Oh, you’re still going to hear from me every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But the delivery times for Pro Trader Today simply aren’t going to be like all those other letters. I’d rather spend as much of my day as I need to in order to share something interesting with you, than trying to hit some arbitrary delivery times to your inbox.
Now, I hope that’s ok with you. I hope I don’t come across as arrogant or insensitive or something. But I do think the fact that a thousand or so new readers are signing up for the Pro Trader Today letter every week is a decent confirmation that Dave and I are doing what we set out to do: delivering something of value.
My Semi-Retirement Plan
With all that said, there is another reason that my work schedule is somewhat, um, variable. I thought I would have implemented the other part of my semi-retirement plan by now, that I’d be spending a couple hours every morning snorkeling around a reef on some tropical island, and working inside during the hot hours of the day.
My daughter graduated. from Tulane last May. My son is finishing his junior year at University of Maryland. If you’ve had kids go off to college, then you understand how day-to-day parental duties pretty much end the minute they walk into that dorm room.
I don’t wanna give off the impression that I’m lazy, exactly, but I figured the start of their college careers would be the right time to do what I want, when I want – and floating around a Caribbean reef looking at cool fish is a pretty good way to grow old. And if I needed a little excitement, I could always get a spear gun…
My first choice was the second Puerto Rican island, Vieques. But Hurricane Maria pretty much killed that plan.
My next choice was one of the Islands off the coast of Honduras – Roatan or Utilla.
Those islands have reefs that are as pristine as you can find in the Caribbean, they have large ex-pat communities, and because of how they are situated geographically, they do not get hit by hurricanes.
But then, a couple weeks ago, the Honduran government decided to join El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic and throw in their lot with China.
A New Monroe Doctrine
On March 26, the Honduran Foreign Ministry declared:
“The government of the Republic of Honduras recognizes the existence of one China in the world and that the government of the People’s Republic of China represents China as a whole…
Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory and as of today, the government of Honduras has informed Taiwan about the rupture of diplomatic relations…”
Of course it was about money. Before ditching Taiwan as an ally and hooking up with China, Honduras had asked Taiwan for a $2.45 billion investment (bribe) as well as some debt forgiveness.
Taiwan apparently didn’t let its money talk, and Honduras walked.
I don’t know if the U.S. had any input on Honduran/Chinese negotiations, or even had the opportunity to weigh in with the Honduran government. But it seems like a big mistake to just sit back and let China grow its influence with our neighbors to the south…
As the non-profit think tank Centre for International Maritime Security writes:
“China’s military influence in Latin America is mainly through soft power, not physical presence. China has fostered significant military relationships through arms sales, exchange programs, and training engagements. China has found a fruitful market for arm’s sales in Latin America… Military sales may have started as simply small arms, but China’s expansion in this market now includes ‘aircraft, armoured vehicles, and radars’. But these sales are not simply about the equipment; the sale is just the beginning of a relationship. Opportunities for training and maintenance follow each transaction — leading to greater interaction between these countries, their militaries, and China. As these deals continue to grow, Chinese personnel and military bases in the region could follow.
“China has also made major inroads with Latin American militaries through professional military education (PME) programs and exchange officer programs of significant scale. These programs steep Latin American service members in Chinese military and political doctrine and anti-US sentiment, while creating stronger relationships between the respective country and China. To attract military talent to these programs, China has also offered perks to Latin American military personnel. China will pay for business-class travel for exchange students, provide five-star hotels, and pay for other expenses while they live in China.13 Since 2015, China has trained more Latin American military officers than the United States, and the difference has grown every year since.”
Now, America’s training of Latin American military personnel hasn’t exactly been anything to brag about. But turning Latin and South America over to Chinese influence does not seem like a very good idea.
I’m no warmonger. And I can somewhat sympathize with the growing number of Americans who may prefer to abandon Ukraine to Russia and Taiwan to China rather than risk escalating military conflict. Still, the last time America chose to ignore geopolitical realities and stand by while military dictatorships run rampant, we were rewarded with Pearl Harbor and nukes in Cuba.
It’s pretty easy to put a dollar value on what a renewed Monroe Doctrine might be worth. In 2021, trade between China and Latin was worth $450 billion. And at the rate it’s growing, China will supplant the U.S. as Latin America’s biggest trade partner. China’s already the biggest trading partner with Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay.
Given the importance of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry to the U.S. and the potential importance of Latin and South American oil, lithium, copper, rare earth minerals, etc, we really shouldn’t risk losing more of our backyard to unfriendly countries.
Plus, I wouldn’t mind getting some clarity on where the next phase of my semi-retirement will take me…
That’s it for me today, take care and I’ll talk to you on Friday…
Chief Investment Strategist