Outside the Box: 15 Surprises for 2015

by John Mauldin, Gold Seek It’s that time of year when people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and investment planning for the future. It’s also the time of year when analysts feel more or less compelled to offer up forecasts. My friend Doug Kass turns the forecasting process on its head by offering 15 potential surprises for 2015 (plus 10 also-rans). But he does so with a healthy measure of humility, starting out with a quote from our mutual friend James Montier (now at GMO):

(E)conomists can’t forecast for toffee … They have missed every recession in the last four decades. And it isn’t just growth that economists can’t forecast; it’s also inflation, bond yields, unemployment, stock market price targets and pretty much everything else … If we add greater uncertainty, as reflected by the distribution of the new normal, to the mix, then the difficulty of investing based upon economic forecasts is likely to be squared! Lessons Learned Over the Years “I’m astounded by people who want to ‘know’ the universe when it’s hard enough to find your way around Chinatown.” – Woody Allen There are five core lessons I have learned over the course of my investing career that form the foundation of my annual surprise lists:

1. How wrong conventional wisdom can consistently be. 2. That uncertainty will persist. 3. To expect the unexpected. 4. That the occurrence of black swan events are growing in frequency. 5. With rapidly-changing conditions, investors can’t change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails (and our portfolios) in an attempt to reach our destination of good investment returns.

Quoting from a very eclectic group of names, Doug does indeed give us a few surprises to think about, and I pass his thoughts on to you as this week’s Outside the Box. (Doug publishes his regular writings in RealMoneyPro on theStreet.com.) As a bonus, and as a thoughtful way to begin the new year, we have a letter that my good friend and co-author of my last two books Jonathan Tepper wrote to his nephews. He began penning it on a very turbulent plane ride that he was uncertain of surviving. It made him think hard about what was really important that he would want to pass on to his nephews. As the song goes, I found a few aces that I can keep in this hand. I think you will too. His letter made me think about what I want to be passing on to my grandchildren, including the newest one, Henry Junior, who showed up less than 24 hours ago. They are going to grow up in a very different world than the one I grew up in, and I mostly think that’s a good thing. But the values that I hope can be passed on don’t change. Good character never goes out of fashion. My associate Worth Wray came down with a very nasty bug this past weekend, so he missed his deadline for delivering his 2015 forecast to you. We’re giving him a few more days and will run it this weekend – which also of course gives me a little more time to mull over my own forecast. Taking to heart James Montier’s quote above, I’m going to forgo the usual 12-month forecast and look farther out, thinking about what major events are likely to come our way over the next five years. I actually think that approach will be for more useful for our longer-term planning. Thanks for being with me and the rest of the team at Mauldin Economics this past year; and from all of us, but especially from me, we wish you the best and most prosperous of new years. You’re staring hard at crystal balls analyst,

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