Perry Glasser

Posts Tagged ‘Economics’

CONSPIRACY THEORY

In Business, Economics, Economy, Finance, Political Economy, Politics, Wall Street on February 12, 2016 at 1:09 pm
Janet Yellen

Wizard-in-Chief

Dollar$, always eager to explain the inexplicable world of Finance, that realm in which Wall Street Wizards and Corporate Buccaneers run rampant in their never-ending struggle to own, pervert, master, and control Political Weasels, has developed a theory.

 

Why should Plain Money Talk  be any different from every other blog?

 FACTS

2015 saw:

  • unemployment drop to new lows,
  • minimum wage adjusted up,
  • auto sales rise to recent highs,
  • home sales rise to recent highs with no speculative bubble,
  • the cost of gasoline and heating oil sink to new lows,
  • the United States become an oil exporter.

The Fed is so concerned at all this good news that Janet Yellen has begun to tighte credit, a tactic employed to throttle growth and forestall inflation. Yes, the Wizard-in-Chief, Janet Yellen, is worried things are too good.

Some apologist is sure to point out that the second largest economy in the world, China, is hurting. Dollar$ will give that point of view some quick attention.

CHINA

China’s weakening economy should mean the cost of living in the US will drop, meaning you and I will have more money in our pockets to pay off debt or buy more stuff, everything from furniture to T-shirts at Wal-Mart. The US – China trade balance is heavily weighted toward China—the US imports far more goods from China than China imports from the US. If those good become less expensive, the American consumer benefits. This does NOT harm American business.  Maintaining profit margins at lower prices is easy to do. The cost of commodities the world over is dropping because of the slowdown in Chinese demand. Commodities are the stuff that comes out of the ground from tin to lumber and to gold, the stuff from which everything else is made. Everything should be getting cheaper. Every time Wizards predict that Apple will stop selling iPhones in Shanghai, Apple sells another few million units, but at a lesser price. With inexpensive gasoline, Citizens will be driving  to Disneyworld this year, and they will be able to afford the Mouse’s uptick in prices.

This phenomenon confounds the Wizards., who have learned that bad predictions are clickbait, and clicks drive revenues. No one watches CNN until the shit hits the fan and the shelter under the table grows crowded and cramped.

In the face of positive economic news, the US stock market should be soaring. Instead, the Dow-Jones average has stepped off a cliff in 2016, shedding 2,000 points in 8 weeks, more than a trillion dollars worth of value has been erased from the books.

THE CONSPIRACY

Cui bono?

For the past 30 years,  at every presidential election, commentators complained of the choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. But this year, it ain’t so.

weasel candidates in days of yore.

US Presidential Candidates Since 1964

 

This year, on the one hand, we have a wealthy, self-funded foul-mouthed injudicious narcissist celebrity never elected to anything anywhere who is much favored by people who have felt disenfranchised for a generation. On the other hand, we have a New York Jew now from Vermont who has never accepted a dime from Buccaneers or Wizards. An older man, his followers are youth because he demands payback from the banks and companies who were too big to fail and in the past 20 years have sucked the economy dry, indenturing students with education debt. On the third hand, we have a woman who is indebted to the old politics, and on the fourth hand, we have a clown car of interchangeable Republicans who lacking economic issues promise to disallow what your neighbors do in their bedrooms while coyly ignoring that for those promises to be fulfilled they will have to rollback several Supreme Court decisions by what by any account has been a conservative court.

Dollar$ sees the common threat. The two leading candidates are not in thrall to Wizard or Buccaneers. Should either get elected, the summer house in the Hamptons, the private jet, and the 10-room Manhattan  condo are all in jeopardy.

How to dissuade Citizens from voting for either?

Scare the piss out of them. Scare the piss out of them by manipulating stock prices downward. It’s only temporary, and it’s not as tricky as it sounds.

  • Claim good news is bad.
  • Threaten us with defunded pensions, evaporating college savings, and the elimination of savings toward the American Dream, a house.
  • Imply that unless Citizens vote the status quo and allow rapacious policies to continue, grass will grow on Main Street as economic activity collapses.

The stock markets should be soaring, but never forget that 90 percent of all trading is electronic and that computer algorithms engage in a global battle to take advantage of a quarter point’s worth of arbitrage. There is no longer any such thing as investor sentiment. As they now say in Wizard country, My algorithm can beat up your algorithm!

Fear is the most potent means of keeping the harridans out of the White House. Without the creation of synthetic Terror, Weasel Business As Usual will come to a halt.

O the horror!

 

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GREEK DEBT and ANTI-SEMITISM

In Economics, EDUCATION, Finance, Political Economy, Politics on August 2, 2015 at 10:45 am

It is a fundamental understanding of Dollar$ that the only purpose a weasel has is to continue life as a weasel.

Greek Weasel

Greek Weasel

As predicted by Dollar$ a week ago it took 3 days after the Greek people vehemently rejected European demands for austerity for the Weasel-in-Chief Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, to reverse what he told Greek citizens, the same folks who elected him thinking they had one thing but who, in fact, had another.

Running out of co-conspirators at which to point his finger, Tsipras, fired a few Lieutenant Weasels and went back to the grim business of promising austerity in order to joyfully continue spending other people’s money on a lifestyle that include pensions at 60 and tax evasion as a national sport.

Reality sucks.

MEANWHILE BACK IN THE STATES

The rending of garments has nevertheless continued apace for American progressives, a crowd that when facts do not fit the narrative invent new facts.  Vowing solidarity for “poor Greece,” the victim-state, is a progressive necessity required by Left-ish mythology, that state socialism has to work but does not because of a conspiracy of bankers and capitalists who first give you money you requested and then—O Horror!—expect it to be paid back. Equally miserable is the sad fact that people whose chief knowledge of Economics is having defaulted on a car loan and mismanaging credit card debt think that international finance and their own incompetence are one and the same thing.

The goddam nerve of some those money-lenders!

First, they wait for you to ask for money; then they structure a deal that is so smart and so devious, that all the national bankers and economists of Greece were fooled.

WE’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE

Dollar$ writes to inform the naive that the legs on that canard are rooted in anti-Semitism. The cunning that condemned Shylock now condemns Goldman-Sachs, those Jewish New Yorkers who when they are not undermining the world economy to line their own pockets are championing godless communism. When you read the phrase international bankers on the Internet, make no mistake: the writer means world Jewry.

Dollar$ has always been puzzled by the alleged partnership between Jewish communists and Jewish bankers. The fact that the goals of such groups are antithetical does not stop the fascist minded American Left. Why not? It never stopped it before.

When you bear in mind that Hitler founded a party of National Socialists, and it will all remain clear.

DEFLATION, OIL PANIC, AND THE SKIDS #2

In Business, Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, Finance on January 8, 2015 at 10:05 am
imagesHI5F8ZBL

Is the past our future?

 

 

Dollar$ gazes at the skid in oil prices and asks:  Does the precipitous drop in oil prices presage a worldwide deflationary spiral? Is the world economy contracting so as to calcify economic activity?

In a word: No.

No one will be selling apples on the street any time soon.

 

Oil.

Oil is a commodity, which is to say, like lumber, cattle, gold, and copper, it comes out of the ground to be used to create more sophisticated products like jet fuel, gasoline, nylon, and plastic. Like all commodities, oil’s price is strictly set by supply and demand, a fact less true for many goods and service where supply and demand can be artificially manipulated.

Hatless in the cold.

Hatless in the cold.

Slide11-1024x767

The entire Marketing industry, Prevaricating for Profit,  is devoted to creating false demand. When in 1933 Clark Gable wore no undershirt, the men’s underwear business went into a tailspin. John Kennedy in 1960 insisted on wearing no hat when he spoke at his presidential inauguration; the men’s hat industry has never recovered.

To be sure, hats and undershirts are not commodities. Their worth changes as a matter of fashion, not supply and demand.

OPEC

OPEC is the international oil cartel that has controlled oil’s supply for a generation, but the game changer is a recent innovation. Fracking, it turns out, is cheap enough and ideal in north central United States and southern Canada.

The cartel is losing its grip. The US is going from oil importer to oil exporter. To compete for those petro-dollars, OPEC and especially Saudi Arabia can no longer manipulate supply, but pumped as much as it could. Supply soared. Oil has become a glut on the market.

But at $40 per barrel, fracking becomes uneconomic.  Make no mistake, OPEC would like to see a price for oil that once again leaves OPEC as the only game in town. If that means bankrupting oil exporters not part of the cartel, such as Russia, so be it.

Bye-Bye Putin!

Winners in a Price War

It’s an old-fashioned price war, nothing more. As with all price wars, consumers benefit. Estimates put as much as $1,500 per year in the pockets of ordinary American citizens.

Never forget that the US economy is consumer driven—we like to spend on stuff because we are blessed to be in a places where there is stuff to buy. Expect discretionary products to fly out of stores. That new refrigerator is coming home soon.

The demand for stuff made in the USA will increase in the USA; expect hiring. Elsewhere, not so much because that strong dollar will make US goods seem expensive.

When you read dry-mouthed dire predictions of European disaster because hard-working Germans are tired of supporting spend-thrift Greeks, remember that the GDP of Greece is about 25 percent of New Jersey’s GDP. The drama is interesting, but the world economy is not going down any drain in Athens.

Since the US is an oil exporter, the US dollar grows stronger every day. Would you rather own dollars or euros?  You can’t pay for US oil with euros–it’s really not a choice. For the American consumer, tourist destinations overseas that were prohibitively expensive last year are going to seem to be on sale. Book the flight! Greece needs you money!

Big US oil consumers can lower their prices and still make big profits. Airlines and cruise lines will soon compete on price, instead of competing on service.

Losers.

What’s that Binky? You ask who are the losers? You ask why the stock market plummets with  the price of oil?

Well, oil companies aren’t happy. Along with Big Oil  the losers are the very rich, the institutions and people that had been positioned to enjoy high oil prices. Sheiks and hedge funds are madly selling to gather cash, the better to buy US stocks  when they believe oil prices have bottomed, which will be about $43 per barrel which is where OPEC can comfortably reinstate its hegemony. Much higher than that, and North Dakota gets rich–again.

So the stock market plunge does not presage a deflation spiral, but it seem that for a while we can expect a new set of winners.

DEFLATION, OIL PANIC, AND THE SKIDS #1

In Business, Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, Finance on January 7, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Ever aware that Dollar$ primary mission is to educate and only occasionally pontificate, let’s talk about prosperity, gloom, and deflation.

Economic activity is based on expectations. You buy your new car because you expect you will need it before the old jalopy breaks down completely; you buy health insurance because you expect you will someday, somehow, need it; you buy baseball tickets in January because you expect to go to  the game in April.

Balance means stable prices.

Balance means stable prices.

Prosperity

Shared expectations influence supply and demand, and therefore influence prices. If International Widget (IW) expects to sell many widgets in the forthcoming year, it will hasten to make more widgets, perhaps borrowing money to increase productivity. Under the expectation of prosperity, IW may hire more workers, and if long-term expectations are high, IW may even build a brand new, more efficient widget plant.  If widget demand increases even beyond IW’s ability to create supply, the widget shortage will drive the price of widgets higher. IW will respond by increasing volume and price, reap profits, pay dividends, employ yet more people, give key employees wage increases, and the Buccaneers who direct IW may pay themselves  bonuses that look like telephone numbers, including area codes. They will buy Caribbean islands or condos in Manhattan.  The spiral upward is called an inflationary spiral; rising prices are not terrifying if wages and employment keep pace.

Gloom

saupload_The-Deflationary-SpiralBut suppose IW’s best leadership expects the market for widgets is spiraling downward. Perhaps there are insurmountable problems in the supply chain. Perhaps bankers are unwilling to part with loan money for fear of never getting paid back. Rather than pay people for playing pinochle while their widget machines stand idle, 10 percent of the IW workforce is fired. The Manhattan condo market freezes, and the IW private jet makes fewer flights to the Caribbean. The price of widgets will plunge because the people who use widgets know that to meet the slowdown, IW will cut prices and hope to make up in volume what they are losing in price. The spiral down is called deflation; falling prices are not terrifying if they are gradual and do not continue for any great length of time.

The gloom and prosperity scenarios are the ordinary stuff of economic life, but Dollar$ readers only need to bear in mind that in both cases today’s economic decisions are made based on expectations of tomorrow’s conditions.

The Past

The general tone of American economic life for more than 20 years has been cautious optimism because the range of change in economic life has been modest, sure, and steady. Sure, there have been bubbles and crashes, but there is a reason that in 20 years the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen 400 percent, from roughly 4,000 to today’s levels well above 16,000. Call it the Goldilocks Economy—it’s neither too hot nor too cold, but is just right.

Home invader and thief, but she knows what she likes.

Home invader and thief, but she knows what she likes.

But America has suffered an extended deflationary spiral, a decade’s worth in the 1930s called The Great Depression. Despite interest rates at virtual zero for most of a decade, from 1992 to 2000, Japan has been in a deflationary spiral.

Playing the expectations game, in an inflationary spiral you spend or invest your money as fast as you can. After all, everything will probably be more expensive tomorrow. It’s best to buy your house, car, 100 shares of IW, or personal jet today.

But in a deflationary spiral, the expectations game makes cash King. What fool would spend a dollar today when the cost of the item tomorrow will be $.90?  But wait… suppose it will drop to $.75? Or $.60?

Where’s my Magic 8-Ball when I need it?eight_ball

What Now?

Does the slide in the price of oil herald of worldwide deflation?

Dollar$ will weigh in soon.

INVERSIONS AND OTHER DECEITS

In Business, Economy, EDUCATION, Political Economy, Politics on July 26, 2014 at 10:47 am

Inversions are the corporate strategy to avoid taxes by relocating a firm out of the United States. Inversions are under attack by the Left. The Left deems inversions unpatriotic, an evasion of civic duty, and yet another way for the rich of paying a fair share of taxes.

Dollar$ avoids partisan politics since valuable nap time is lost by heeding bloated weasels who insist their cohort of gangsters is in some way superior to another cohort of gangsters.  Weasels are weasels and gangsters are gangsters, and that is all we know on earth and all we need to know.

Nevertheless, as a selfless act of education, Dollar$ will venture into these waters.

This Weasel is so terrified of exposure, it is disguises as a  mongoose.

This Weasel is so terrified of exposure, it is disguised as a mongoose.

Despite wars in the Middle East, girls kidnaped for sexual slavery in Africa, and airliners filled with tourists being rocketed out of the skies, somehow the mainstream press has found column inches to devote to “inversions,” the practice of US companies hauling ass to foreign countries to avoid taxes in the land of the free and home of the brave.

This issue is a trial balloon, friends, a test issue to see if populist knee-jerk support can be rallied around a non-issue on the table at least since JFK was president, doubtlessly to be dropped once the next presidential election has installed a new Weasel-in-Chief.

The Problem with Inversions

Corporations are a legal machine designed for profit.  Their leadership, Buccaneers of various stripes, has the fiduciary responsibility to optimize profits. At the moment, corporate taxes in the US are the highest in the world, a confiscatory 35 percent. That tax rate is applied only to money brought to these shores by American companies. Money earned abroad is taxed at various rates in the countries where those profits are earned, but remain untaxed in the US as long as the money stays abroad.

Say you are International Widget, incorporated in Delaware. You make a billion here, a billion there, and a half billion in profit in Lower Slobbovia (with thanks to Al Capp and L’il Abner). Since world demand for widgets is predicted to rise, should you build tour next factory in Michigan or Slobbovia?

If you build in Michigan, you will need to pay union wages, benefits, and obey US regulatory laws that will bring your unit cost per widget sky-high. You will also incur shipping costs to Slobbovia as a cost of sales.

If however you build the new plant in Slobbovia, you will sell just as many widgets at the same price, but for less costs and far higher profits.

Note also that the enlightened Weasels of Slobbovia are avoiding civil unrest by attempting universal employment. Slobbovians for Slobbovia! To induce you to locate the new plant in their  country, they tax profit at a piddling 10 percent.

Buccaneers are a lot of things, but none of them is stupid. Profits are left in Slobbovia, investment goes to Slobbovia, employment rises in Slobbovia, and Slobbovia not only enjoys the fruits of capitalism but begins hesitant steps toward democracy.

The Inversion Reality & The Inversion Fix

In the above section, where you read widget, substitute Ford, or iPhone, or dozens of pharmaceuticals.

Trying to ride recent grumblings about “the rich” to political advantage, some progressives Weasels would have you believe these companies are engaged in morally reprehensible behavior. They suggest patriotism and gratitude should guide corporate activity—the same folks who also argue that corporations should not be granted the same rights as people demand human motives.

They also seem to forget that international business makes the definition of American company impossible to fix.  It’s a global economy, Weasels!  Wake up!

The fix requires Weasels bold enough to suggest a corporate tax rate closer to 15%, one that might induce foreign companies to locate in the US to take advantage of the most stable economy in the world.  US companies might be induced to repatriate profits now lying fallow worldwide. This is a no brainer. Fifteen percent of something is fare better than 35% of nothing.

We need to stop exporting jobs because the simple-minded cannot grasp how business is different from running a household budget.

STUDENT DEBT – THE NATIONAL ROAD TO PALOOKAVILLE

In Business, Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, Political Economy, Politics on May 7, 2014 at 11:05 am

Buccaneers, those captains if industry who have offloaded their training costs to trainees, are sending themselves and the United States on a one-way trip to Palookaville.

If we create a generation that cannot afford new housing, cannot afford new cars, are unable to purchase or  enjoy the fundamental goods and services our economy provides, hesitate to marry, delay child-bearing, we will arrive in Palookaville.

The American economy is choking itself to death, and is doing so at the expense of youth.

The Crisis

Evidence that we face a crisis abounds. Dollar$ does not have to work hard to make the case. Student debt is now greater than all credit card and mortgage debt, surpassing a trillion dollars.

student tuition earning Fortune Magazine

student tuition earnings
Fortune Magazine

 

Dollar$ does not imagine this calls exclusively for a financial remedy.

Yes, for a decade and more, the cost of higher education rose faster than any other sector of our economy. Policies pump money into Education with no incentive on Education to reduce costs. Administrators proliferate, non-teaching personnel pop up faster than toadstools in Oregon after rain, the teaching-productivity of professors decline.

But blaming the greed of higher education for the debt crisis is like complaining that ticket prices at sports events are too high because professional players are overpaid.

This is America: wages and compensation are set by markets, and the rule of markets is whatever the traffic will bear. Every CEO loves that rule.

Mortgage and Students

Consider: when money was pumped into the mortgage market, the resulting balloon and eventual collapse rocked the world economy in ways from which it has still not recovered.

The similarities between that mortgage market and the market for student debt are breathtaking—quasi-government agencies, favorable loan rates, and loose regulation.

But there is a difference: a mortgagee can walk away from real estate and leave banks owning worthless property, students cannot walk away from their education. They get to keep what is in their heads.

In fact, we have passed laws that safeguard student debt — not students — even in bankruptcy.  Should a former student go broke, they can seek financial relief in Bankruptcy Court, but no court will release anyone from student loans.

The only way out of student debt is death.

So with apologies to followers of Senator Elizabeth Warren, other well-intentioned Weasels, and the legions of Wizards ever-eager to brew a new potion of loan and grant combination to foist on youth, Dollar$ maintains the solution is not to make higher education “affordable.”

The solution is to champion higher education as an entitlement.

Education must be free.

The Platform

Access to two years of higher education is a right of every citizen.

This is no money giveaway, though the usual Blue Meanies will choke on it.

The program is necessary for the preservation of our democracy, the maintenance of our standard of living, and to liberate forthcoming generations from a lifetime of debt.

In 1944, The United States passed the GI Bill, which promised every veteran free tuition and living costs while in school. Who among us would call that bad policy?  The United States embarked on a rising tide of growth that benefited every economic class.  The lesson was plain: general education benefits us all.

If Buccaneers tell us the United States is engaged in economic war, why are we taxing only youth in our war effort?

Why do the same patriots who grouse that in terms of education “America is falling behind,” insist that the cost of keeping educational pace with the rest of the world is one that must be borne by students?  When did accruing debt to the point of guaranteeing a lifetime of indentured servitude become an act of patriotic obligation?

Why do the same Buccaneers who grouse they cannot find sufficient employees with the “right” job skillset insist that the cost of training be borne by trainees who are speculating about what higher order skills will be needed in the near and distant future?   When did the phrase “will train” drop from the language of employee recruitment?

 Dollar$ calls for free higher education through the 14th grade.

 

MINIMUM WAGE LAWS: THE BIG BUCCANEER BIG LIE

In Business, Economics, Political Economy, Politics, Uncategorized on April 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Big Lie Propaganda embraces the idea that the more preposterous a lie and the more it is repeated, the more likely some fools will be bound to believe there is something to it.  After all, they can’t keep saying such bullshit unless it is at least partially true, right?

The current debate on minimum wage is a case study in Big Lie operation.

This Weasel is so terrified of exposure, it is disguises as a  mongoose.

This Weasel is so terrified of exposure, it is disguises as a mongoose.

THE WEASELS

Owes allegiance only to profit

Owes allegiance only to profit

Weasels, who only live to be re-elected, are running in small circles trying to figure out which way to go on the minimum wage issue. On the one hand, Buccaneers will be displeased should they vote or utter words that might displease their Masters; on the other, a LOT of people in the service economy–the same economy those Buccaneers created–get to vote.

What’s a poor Weasel to do?

Go for votes or go for the money?

Weaseldom is no easy life.

 

FACTS

As John Cassidy has eloquently shown in The New Yorker, there is no relationship between minimum wage and unemployment. None. Not a scintilla.

Nor is there any negative relationship between unemployment among teens and any rise in minimum wage: in fact, the opposite seems to be the case according to research conducted by John Spenser.

There will be lies often repeated. That just makes them Big Lies. It does not make them true.

LOGIC

Let’s suppose you won and run a Mom-and-Pop store in a strip mall, party goods, perhaps. You employ 4 local people kids at 30 hours each, a total of 120 hours each week of sales and service employees. You deploy them as you need them. Two of them are smart and honest enough that they operate the register when you do not.

You do not hire 3 full-time employees working 40 hour weeks. For one thing, if you do, the Fed is going to require you to offer benefits you cannot afford. For another, you are smart enough to know your employees come and go: they graduate from high school and go off to college or, if they are older, they want and take long vacations when the grandchildren are in town.  Anyone in the demographic middle is, as you know, looking for a 40-hour-week job, and will give notice in a heartbeat.

You wish them well, and you consider your cost of training a rolling cadre of new employees a cost of doing business.

So if the minimum wage rises, will you fire anyone?

Of course not. If you have the brains of a carrot, you are not employing anyone out of some charitable impulse. You are in business to make money, not employ people.  You run your business with as few people as possible.

Will you endure less profit to meet a new law?

No, you’ll raise prices here and there.

It won’t matter if you have competitors: they are in the same boat.

If you have huge competitors, they may be able to endure the new wage with less profit for a while longer than you, but ultimately they, too, will have to follow suit.  You cannot compete with Wal-Mart or Target on price, buy you can kick butt as a matter of service.

WHY THERE IS RESISTANCE

Buccaneers are aware that they own most Weasels, but that Weasels have to be re-elected, so they issue solemn warnings of ruin and destruction if the 16-year-olds at McDonald’s get a 25% raise. Most Buccaneers have trouble envisioning any time beyond the next quarter, anyway.

At issue is only how large a profit can be made without any raise in prices.

Do you know anyone who will pass on the fries if the price goes up a nickel? Me neither.

The Weasel-Buccaneer Dance will go forward, and wingnuts on the right will see the Death of Democracy in the debate.

Try to ignore that crap. It’s been decades since we saw a minimum raise hike.

It is time.

 

FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS: INVESTING –THE EIGHT DO’s

In Business, Economics, EDUCATION, Finance, FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS, Personal Finance, Wall Street on April 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm

If you are unsure you should dip your trembling toe into investment waters, reread FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS: INVESTING – THE DON’TS right here at Dollar$.

 CAUTION TO THE HARDHEADED 

If you are persuaded that the game is rigged and that age hates youth, deliberately having made money management and life-planning a cruel losing joke, consider that the bad guys will someday kick the bucket.  When they do, will you be among ageing schmucks still claiming injustice or do you want to position yourself to take your place as a leader?

The choice is yours.

If you are a twenty-something ready to grow up, or a thirty-something ready to take your share of the American Dream, you have  come to the right place.

Dollar$ will not equivocate. Here is what you must do to GET RICH SLOWLY.

Should you discover you need to get rich quickly, Dollar$ urges you to bet on race horses. At any racetrack, you will breathe fresh air, find friendly company, free parking, and can probably purchase a half-decent meal. You will quickly go broke, of course, but during the 1:12 it takes for a decent thoroughbred to run 6 furlongs you can scream yourself silly and dream of riches. Quarter horse racing is even faster!

OPEN AN ACCOUNT

Choose a brokerage like Schwab or Ameritrade, any organization that fits your digital lifestyle. Investigate apps or web sites; choose the brokerage that seems most navigable to you for research, purchasing, and tracking your holdings. You will want more as you learn more, but you need to be comfortable with an interface.

The Internet has leveled the cost of doing business, about $7.95 for any online stock trade, so in terms of costs brokerage firms are interchangeable.  At issue for you is service and minimums.

Most brokerages require a minimum amount to open an account: as this is written, Schwab is asking for a measly $500—perfect for the Clueless.

FEATURES

  1. Options. If you can get approved for Options trading, get it.  You will not use this until you have considerable wealth, but it costs nothing to check a box.
  2.  Margin.  Again, check it off and leave it the hell alone until you know what the hell you are doing, and even then think very, very, carefully about borrowing money from your broker to make an asset purchase—which is what Margin trading is about. Remember, your broker is not your partner. Your gains are your gains alone (W00t W00t!), but your losses are your losses alone. If you owe a margin debt, you will owe what you owe no matter what happens.
Margin accounts may have uses, but can be dangerous.

Margin accounts may have uses, but can be dangerous.

You know Tony down at the docks? The guy who lends money to people with no collateral? He is happiest when you pay him, but he does not care if your team lost, the deal went south, or your honey made off with your boodle—he only wants his money and interest back. When he does not get it, he becomes surly. He makes you sell your car, cash in in your kid’s college fund, and if necessary persuade you to these measures by realigning your knee caps with a baseball bat he keeps handy for just that purpose.

Think of your Margin account as Tony. Don’t let anyone get medieval on you.

3. Check Writing. Take it.  Add a measure of liquidity to your assets. You can write an emergency check if you need to—which you should not, but shit happens.

4. Reinvest Dividends. Absolutely. Dividends are how companies share profits with shareholders. Dividends are not interest, but in effect, reinvesting dividends is how your account will draw compound interest.

“He who understands compound interest , earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.” Einstein

“He who understands compound interest , earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”
Einstein

 

THE EIGHT DO’S AND WHY

1. Buy stock in at least 3 companies traded on either the New York Stock exchange or the OTC (Over the Counter) markets. Be sure these companies are in very different economic sectors. In other words, do not buy 3 media companies, or 3 retail companies, or 3 technology companies, but perhaps buy 1 of each.

You require a measure of diversity. You can buy diversity in a mutual fund, of course, a basket of stocks managed by professionals, but then you pay fees for professional management. Dollar$ cautions the clueless, who by definition are starting small, that the fees will bleed you white. Why start your financial life with a tapeworm?

Diversity is insurance against misfortune. While one sector of the economy may take a hit from unexpected circumstances—such as a change in a government regulatory posture or a political event in a faraway country— the only circumstance that will affect all 3 of your sectors are changes in the overall economic picture, such as a change in interest rates.  For the investor who wants to GET RICH SLOWLY, those dips can be shrugged off because unlike you and me, companies that sell goods and services can within limits raise their prices to recoup what was lost. The price of lumber goes up, the furniture business takes a hit, but next year the price of furniture rises. It’s not as though people will start sitting on the floor.

What constitutes a sector is very subjective. Is Walt Disney a service company or a media company?  Different online research will yield different sector guides. Here is one website that will allow you to bore down to Market Cap leaders by sector.

The final arbiter of what is what is you, Binky, so give special considerations to companies that are conglomerates. General Electric, the oldest company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, founded by Thomas Edison, makes washing machines, jet engines, and runs an insurance business.  What sector is that?

2. Buy stock in companies that are at least 20 years old.

Ten-year-old companies have a modest track record of survival; twenty-year-olds are even better.

Yes, Dollar$ is aware that young companies are set to grow quickly, but they frequently are headed by untried management and are closer to going broke. Most corporations live little more than a person’s lifetime though the exceptions are remarkablebecause they embrace a culture of change and innovation. 3M Corporation was founded in 1902 to make sandpaper; now they make Post-It notes and Scotch Tape.

Young companies will also gather imitators, which mean ever-increasing competition will drive revenues, but not costs, downward. Someone is bound to improve on the original idea.  If the good Lord in 1985 had whispered in your ear, “Computers,” you may have chuckled at the Divine Wisdom that loaded your portfolio with Kaypro, Atari, Commodore, and Wang. Like last winter’s snow, those companies are now gone.

Avoid the bleeding edge.

3. Buy stock in at least two companies that are multinationals.

DSC_0230Doing business in places where general economic growth is not dependent on the value of US currency is simply prudent. Dollar$ would never bet against the financial muscle of the United States, but Dollar$ is aware that infrastructure build-out in the 3rd world is inevitably followed by consumer demand for a higher standard of living. You do not have to buy stock in a Chinese company to participate in the Chinese economy; you do not need to need to buy stock in a Chilean company to participate in the Chilean economy.  Logos and trademarks Americans see every day are all over the world: UPS, Disney, Starbucks, Pizza Hut… the list is endless.

If you have qualms about such things and think they are imperialistic, ask the folks in Red Square how they like burgers at McDonald’s, or ask Chinese citizens if the prefer iPhones to ‘Droids.

4. Buy stock in companies that pay dividends or, even better, have a history of raising regularly dividends.

Many companies do not share their profits with shareholders via dividends because managers hoard cash for future business investment. While Dollar$ respects the managerial strategy, Dollar$ notes such companies do not suit a strategy to get rich slowly. The Clueless want an opportunity to have their dividends accrue ever more stock.

Better yet, companies that pay dividends suffer less in a downturn because their dividends offer investors a yield, a cushion against losses.

5. Buy and Hold—even if it means going white-knuckled.

On September 16, 2008 the general stock market as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average crashed 10 percent in a single day. The Buccaneers who ran major financial institutions were competing to take greater risks for greater profits than any responsible bank should, fudging on what “banking” meant. On Sept 12, 2008 the DJIA was at 11,421.99.  By November 21, it was down to 8046.42 a breathtaking loss of 29 percent in 6 weeks.

Iceland went broke, Lehman Brothers went out of business, and for the first time ever, US citizens heard the phrase, “Too big to fail.”

Anyone who sold to defend his or her assets for fear of total ruin took themselves out of the game. They may have felt safer, but by doing so, they gave up any chance of recovery.

As Dollar$ writes, the DJIA stands above 16,000—which means sellers in 2008 have missed 100 percent gains measured from then, only six years. By selling into a panic, they gave up every opportunity to gain back all they lost and more.

True, if you owned stock in Lehman Brothers you took it in the neck, but if you had a diversified portfolio, over all, you survived and may have even made money.

A wise man once said, “You can’t go broke on a small profit.”

6. Buy shares and add to your portfolio regularly.

Ideally, you may be able to invest with a check-off system from your salary, an arrangement that will allow even those of us lacking personal discipline to take advantage of the maxim: Pay Yourself First.

Regular investing will allow you to take advantage of “dollar-cost averaging.” When stocks are up, you’ll buy fewer shares: when stocks are down, you’ll buy more shares. On average your cost will be somewhere in between. Free yourself from trying to guess if today or tomorrow are better days to buy; let time be your friend.

If your companies thrive and move steadily upwards, your average cost will always be below their current price level.  Over the long haul, stocks historically have gained 7-9 percent annually. Never try to time the market—just be a steady buyer and Get Rich Slowly.

7. Buy Mid and Large Cap companies.

“Cap” refers to capitalization, the sum total of the value of all the shares issued by a company.  Every company issues a different number of shares, so a company floating a million shares priced at $100 per share is worth $100 million dollars, but a company with 5 million shares priced at $50 per share is worth $250 million.  That’s right, the company trading at the lower price is worth more.

Large Cap companies are slow as battleships, but not likely to sink quickly; Mid Cap companies are more nimble and want nothing more than to grow to be Large Cap. They will take more risk, but have a record for taking risks and winning because they really were once Small Caps.

There are plenty of Small Cap companies, and investing in them is a respectable strategy, but Dollar$ does not recommend that to the Clueless: one needs a larger portfolio to overcome the inevitable losses small companies encounter. While a few Small Caps will experience spectacular growth, more will fail or stay stagnant. On average, an investor might do well, but only if the investor has a sufficiently diverse portfolio, unavailable to the Clueless without professional management—which must be paid for.

8. Sell when the reasons you bought a company change or the fundamentals of the business change.

You selected  XYZ company for your portfolio for reasons. Maybe you personally liked the product or the service; maybe liked the company’s competitive position; maybe you liked the company’s record for paying dividends; maybe you read and were persuaded by  the company’s strategic plans; ideally, you liked some combination of all of those.

But if those any of those change, why are you still holding the company? Never fall in love with a stock; review your portfolio regularly, at least every 3 years. Save your loyalty for a lover.

NOW WHAT

Discovering companies that fit the Dollar$ profile from the universe of thousands of companies is, in fact, easy.  You chose your broker because it offered digital tools for Research. Try the “screening” or “filtering” system—pick an economic sector, indicate your requirements in terms of dividends, choose from Large Cap or Mid Cap, etc.

  • Read about the company’s businesses. If you do not understand what they do, go no further. Invest only in what you understand.
  • Invest only in companies that sell services or products you would buy whether you were a business or a consumer.
  • Buy shares in companies that are ranked first or second in their industries.  
  • Be disciplined. Avoid trendy and hot stock tips, whether from your Uncle Fred or a TV pundit who is obliged to scream “news” at an audience every evening. Near term, they may be right: let someone else make that money while you sleep soundly.
  • Invest and relax—let your money work while you sleep and pay no attention to daily, monthly, or even annual trends. You are going for the long haul, and the long haul is steadily upward and has been for hundreds of years.

FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS: INVESTING – THE DON’TS

In Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, Finance, FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS on April 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm

OK, Binky, let’s check.

  • You have:
  • Paid off your consumer debt;
  • Are paying off your leveraged debt, such as student loans;
  • Measured and understand risk tolerance as a function of age and psychology;
  • Have wrestled the Beast of Consumer-Celebrity Culture to a stand-off and so are able to resist its psychological hold on you to impulse-buy consumer goods you neither want nor need,
  • Have for emergencies banked at least 3 months of expenses in a purely liquid account (6 months is better);
  • Insured against catastrophe—possibly through your employer; and
  • A reliable flow of revenue.
  • Accepted the Dollars$ plan to GET RICH SLOWLY.

Should you lack any of the above, Dollar$ wishes you well, but advises you to take control of your financial life before attempting to aggregate wealth by investing.

SHOULD NEVER HAVE SET SAIL

SHOULD NEVER HAVE SET SAIL

You do not want to attempt to sail across a stormy ocean in a vessel that leaks. If you are sailing with a partner, you may also risk thinking you need to jettison the love of your life—but that won’t plug the leaks in your boat.

Dollar$ is well aware of the gazillion investment gurus offering all manner of “free” advice designed to give the Clueless investor an illusion of control by suggesting investment strategies that invite Wizards into their lives. Wizards cast arcane spells that universally reduce to one spell.

Binky, since you are too stupid to be a Wizard, give us your money and for a modest fee we will take care of your investments for you.

Dollar$ maintains that  the basics of money management are simple enough for a carrot; he is also certain that Wizards blow smoke the better to separate the Clueless from their money. Further, he does not doubt for a moment that their pals, the Weasels, elected officials, structure American education so that Citizens remain ignorant of how they are getting screwed by Buccaneers.

Dollar$ fights the Power.

Expensive Necromancy

Wizards who take what seems like a pittance: 1.5 percent each year for money management are parasites sucking your lifeblood.

But they are not stupid. If they bleed you to death, they will require a new host. It is far better from the Wizard’s perspective to keep you walking around in a weakened state. That way, they feast forever.  They have this philosophy in common with tapeworms.

If the stock market goes up 7 percent in a year, but a Wizard takes 1.5 percent of that, the Wizard is skimming more than 20 percent of your gains. By the way, if the stock market goes down, the Wizard will mumble apologies, and still take his percentage, accelerating your losses. Your Wizard partner wins even when you lose.

Avoid Wizardry!

It’s your LIFE we are talking about!  If you are unwilling to take control of it, someone surely will!

DON’T hand your money over to someone or some institution, not even a mutual fund manager. If the benchmark of a mutual fund performance is, say, the S&P 500, or the Dow Jones Industrial Average, it stands to reason that managed funds MUST do worse almost every year because no manager is taking a percentage. In fact, 70 percent of all managed mutual funds under-perform their unmanaged benchmarks.

The Exceptions

Nothing beats an employer-sponsored retirement plan—a 401k for example. 401ks have rules that require professional money-management, so accept that.

Nothing beats an enforced, pre-tax investment vehicle for wealth accrual. Pony-up every dime you can up to the employer sponsored maximum. Tattoo on your leg the Dollar$ maxim: LEAVE NO MONEY ON THE TABLE. If your employer is matching even as little as $.25 on the dollar, why would you leave it in your employer’s pocket?

Even better, since a 401k is pre-tax money, it reduces your Federal taxes. Look, Binky, if you are in a 20 percent tax bracket, you have no other investment that pays a guaranteed 20 percent the moment you make the investment.

So let professional money management manage your 401k. If you are young, this is no time to be timid. Create a mix of aggressive mutual funds. When you get to 45-ish, you can become more defensive. But there will only be one time in your life when you can sustain and endure bad luck–NOW.

The other exception to resisting professional Wizard management is after you accrue $100,000 in investable money. Dollar$ would then reconsider your portfolio, as life will get complicated and you do not want to be worrying about finance while you are sipping rum drinks from coconuts on your vacation.

Then again, if you accrued $100,000, you are no longer among Clueless, are you?

DON’Ts

DON’T shake with envy over someone making a killing on a hot stock—your goal is to get rich slowly. Congratulate them; take solace in your slower but surer path to a comfortable old age or to aggregating the down payment for that first house.

DON’T pay attention to TV personalities who nightly scream about investments: they are under compulsion to say something new 5 nights each week. Surely, the investment landscape does not change so radically every 24 hours that yesterday’s strategy should be thrown out today.

DON’T pay attention to annual columns in magazines, online, or newspapers in which a bevy of Wizards name their top 3 or top 5 picks for the coming year. How is it that no two Wizards name the same list? Are they throwing darts or do they have a strategy? Could it be the publications want to annually run a second column about how they offer great advice because one of their professional touts will pick winners?

DON’T churn your portfolio. Make strategic plans and review them every 3 years. Markets will go up and down. Hold for the long haul.

DON’T sell in a sharp downturn: they call such moments “Panic” for a reason. Once you sell, you cannot recover. Investors who panicked in 2008 when the markets dropped and the Dow Jones Industrial Average left investors gasping after a plunge from above 14,000 to about 6,500 saw losses of 55 percent! Aaaagh!  Barf!  Rats! If they sold to defend what was left, they missed the subsequent rise that a mere 6 years later has the DJIA over 16,000.  What might have happened if they’d stayed the course and at deep discounts bought more?

If you are among the Clueless but setting out in a secure rowboat, pull at the oars and do not let the occasional storm swamp you.

There will be storms.

You will survive them.

 Coming Soon: The Dollar$ The Dos!

MINIMUM WAGE AND JOBS – PITY THE WEASELS!

In Business, Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, Finance, Political Economy, Politics, TAXES on March 29, 2014 at 10:59 am
FINANCIAL RHETORIC

FINANCIAL RHETORIC

Business leaders and their in-pocket legislators are raising their voices to crescendo levels about how a rise in minimum wage laws will destroy jobs. This contempt for logic once again brings Dollar$ to the keyboard to dispel the fog of self-serving rhetoric.

Raising the minimum wage reduces profit; it has nothing to do with the number of jobs. Dollar$ knows of no successful business operated as a public service to create employment opportunities.

Weasels are chasing their tails in fits of anxiety. On the one hand, all those underpaid Citizens vote, on the other hand, Buccaneers fund re-election campaigns.

What to do, O what to do?

Pity the poor Weasels!

This Weasel is so terrified of exposure, it is disguises as a  mongoose.

This Weasel is so terrified of exposure, it is disguises as a mongoose.

Minimum Wage

Minimum wage laws are safeguards against worker exploitation, allegedly set at a level that guarantees a living wage. What constitutes a living wage is open to debate, but whatever that may be, it stands to reason that over time, as inflation makes the cost of living rise, minimum wages must rise to keep pace. They are regional, as they should be, matters of state law. Federal guidelines for federal workers set a benchmark. The current federal minimum wage for non-military projects is $7.25 per hour and goes back to July, 2009.

Everyone knows this. Even Weasels and Buccaneers.

Everyone also knows that the purpose and function of business is to make profit. Dollar$ loses no sleep over this, and Dollar$ implores you to sleep soundly as well. Making money threatens nothing you hold dear. Profit is the engine of every aspect of our society. Irving Berlin wrote music to make money; Shakespeare wrote plays to sell tickets. Michelangelo sold his skills to Renaissance patrons who bid for his services.

Organizations pursue profit like water flows downhill or electrons through wire, following the path of least resistance. Effective management will deploy labor in the most efficient way possible to maximize profit. That’s simply good business practice.

Everyone knows all this, too.

The Buccaneer-Weasel Chorus

So Dollar$ reads with wide-eyed wonder when the Buccaneer-Weasel Chorus lifts their voices to sing about the perils of a raise in the minimum wage laws and how that will cost jobs.

Even Weasels and Buccaneers know this cannot be true.

If it were so, then lowering the minimum wage would create more jobs, and none of us believe for a minute that Ronald McDonald, Mickey Mouse, or your kid on the corner selling lemonade would be hiring if they could pay the help less: they would, instead, be pocketing the difference in wages as increased profit.

No real Buccaneer runs an organization to create jobs. True, the pursuit of profit will make a successful organization expand, and this expansion will incidentally create opportunities and jobs for employees, but Mickey Mouse does not open theme parks in China, France, and Tokyo as a public service to out-of-work Chinese, French, or Japanese workers—Mickey sails under the Jolly Roger and owes allegiance to no nation.

Flag of Business Loyalty

Flag of Business Loyalty

  • Like Mickey, your kid is selling lemonade on the corner because your kid wants profit. Like Mickey. your kid sets prices by calculating the cost of sugar, water, lemon juice, and ice, and then calculating a sales price that makes her labor worth her time—that’s the pursuit of profit.

Neither Mickey nor your kid hires additional labor as an act of charity or public policy because the pursuit of profit requires efficient deployment of labor.

Why hire three lemon-crushers when one will do? What’s the minimum number of ticket-sellers at the gates to the Magic Kingdom on a Fall day in Tokyo?

Raising the Minimum Wage

  • Raising the minimum wage will not put high school kids dishing ice cream out of summer work—someone has to do it because summers do not last.
  • Raising the minimum wage will not put sales people out of work at WalMart—WalMart hires no floor help as an act of public spirited charity; they already hire the fewest number of people they can.
  • Raising the minimum wage will not mean be fewer people in food services—someone still has to flip the burgers and Ronald already they already hire the fewest number of people they can.

Raising the minimum wage reduces profit, and this is why Weasels are chasing their tails. On the one hand, all those underpaid Citizens vote, on the other hand, Buccaneers fund re-election campaigns.

What to do, O what to do?

Pity the poor Weasels!

Send your personal Weasel a note indicating you are willing to pay a nickel more for your next cheeseburger so that the person serving it to you can buy her kid eyeglasses or can make the rent.

Who among us would not?