What the experts say
Getting annuities satisfaction
The Rolling Stones have found an age-appropriate sponsor for their current North American tour, said Jeff Sommer in The New York Times: “A trade association that promotes the sale of annuities.” The once rebellious Stones are now all in their 70s, as are many of their fans, “and that has commercial consequences.” Like signing an exclusive endorsement deal with the Alliance for Lifetime Income, which tries to educate older, mainly middle-class investors about the options for annuities—financial instruments that provide a regular income stream in exchange for an investment. The tie-up makes sense, but as a Stones fan, “I’ve started to feel as though I’ve wandered into a strange zone.” It makes me wonder who might sponsor the band’s next tour: perhaps “a co-op for cemetery plots”?
Why the Dow still matters
The Dow Jones industrial average may be 123 years old and full of quirks, but it is “far from obsolete,” said James Glassman in Kiplinger.com. I’ve long had a fondness for this strangely structured index. Unlike the Nasdaq or S&P 500, the Dow “weights its component stocks by price rather than by market capitalization,” which could produce serious distortions in an index with only 30 stocks. Furthermore, the “Dow’s membership criteria are, to say the least, vague” and generally revolve around reputation and track record. Decisions are made by “a committee of three representatives from S&P and two from The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Dow Jones.” Despite this, the Dow’s average annual return over the past 10 years has been a decent 14.1 percent. The S&P 500? 13.9 percent.
Shaking up corporate travel
A handful of startups want to “consumerize” corporate travel, said Alice Hancock in the Financial Times. Companies around the world spend some $1.3 trillion a year on travel, but the platforms that many businesses use to arrange those trips are archaic compared with regular consumer travel sites. Some travel startups are trying to change that. TripActions, which recently raised $250 million from investors, claims it can predict employees’ travel preferences by using artificial intelligence to comb through their past bookings, and says its program can cut “the time spent booking the average business trip from an hour to six minutes.” Another startup, Rocketrip, “encourages employees to book cheaper hotels and flights” by letting them share in the savings if their trip comes in below budget.