Musings On Markets


The latest issue that has emerged in the talks on the bailout is whether the practice of marking to advertise, required of financial service establishments under FASB rules, should be suspended or ended even. Financial service companies currently are required to revalue the securities they hold as assets on the books at market value each period.

As the markets for most mortgage-backed securities have dried up, their ideals have plummeted, which in turn have put the limited capital that banking institutions and investment banks in danger. I have mixed feelings about the rule. I am a believer that investors should be provided with information which allows them to make better judgments on value. Thus, restating resources to reflect their current value seems such as a good thing to do. 1. Accountants have plenty to do in conditions of estimating earnings already, debt excellent and capital spent.

Adding yet another item with their to-do list can be considered a distraction. 2. By their very character, accounting estimates of value have to be based on defined rules and standards to prevent game playing clearly. That ongoing is effective for conventional accounting however, not for valuation. For each rule in valuation, there are dozens of exceptions and it is impossible to write a FASB rule that captures the exception.

3. The notion of fair value is a nebulous one, because the fair value of even the easiest assets may differ depending upon what parameters you put on it. For example, the fair value of an organization run by its existing managers can be quite not the same as the reasonable value of a company run optimally. Similarly, the fair value of an exclusive business accessible in a private deal can be quite not the same as the fair value of that business to a open public buyer.

4. Illiquidity is a crazy card in the entire process. Traditional valuation models capture the intrinsic value of a secured asset, but what someone is prepared to cover that asset will reflect the illiquidity on the market. The problem with pricing illiquidity is it can not only vary across time but also across investors. A long term investor with a considerable cash pillow, will care and attention less about illiquidity when compared to a short term investors, and all investors caution more about illiquidity during crisis. 5. Marking to market is applied inconsistently across asset classes.

For example, marking to advertise seems to implemented more religiously as it pertains to security holdings than it has been loan portfolios. Thus, financial service firms that have securities on their balance sheets appear to be held to account but banking institutions with bad loans get a pass. So, is there an intermediate solution?

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I think accountants should steer from estimating the reasonable value of possessions that are long term resources; let’s dispense with this move towards balance bed sheets reflecting the ideals of brand, customer lists and other such assets. Fair value accounting is an oxymoron: what you would end up with will be neither reasonable value nor accounting.

Concerned relatives of an older person or couple that may have inadequate retirement savings. A complete great deal of this information is US-specific, but the general principles shall apply well to many developed countries. I’ve included some resources for other countries and if you have significantly more information for your country, please leave a comment below. It’s important to avoid making assumptions.

Some people forget about an old 401(k), IRA, or pension from years back. It’s unlikely that any “found money” will be significant, but every bit helps. Also apply for Medicare, Medicaid, and any other assistance programs if eligible and suitable. Gather information on all savings, investments, pensions, annuities, home equity, and some other assets.