Perry Glasser

Posts Tagged ‘money’

THE CRUSH IS ON US – PART 3 of 3

In Business, Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, Finance, Millenials, TAXES on June 13, 2018 at 12:16 pm

THE CRUSH is not a youth problem; it’s a shared disaster.

Titanic_sinking_stu_w1Being on the upper decks of the Titanic did little to protect wealthier passengers from flood below. Passengers in steerage just drowned sooner, but eventually the entire ship lay at the sea bottom and all passengers were in the drink, a few alive but many more dead.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of THE CRUSH, Dollar$ explored the dimensions and culpability for the coming student debt crisis. But THE CRUSH is with us now. We have struck the iceberg and are taking on water. Never mind the moral bankruptcy of blaming victims, rejoinders to “Suck it up, kid,’ and “Pay your dues, punk” are not only insulting, they ignore the economic realities.

This is the rising tide that sinks all boats.

Seeking better loan programs are merely fuzzy thinking that Dollar$ will risk beating a metaphor to death by calling it the equivalent of moving deck chairs. Better loan programs remain loan programs, that is, they continue to tax the poor for being poor.

Instead, Dollar$ puts forward some substantive changes.

  1. All existing and future loans should be 50% the responsibility of the associated colleges and universities – institutions need skin in the game if they are to have incentive to stop soaring tuition and fees.
  2. Free tuition and fees at state schools through 14th grade. Naysayers will scoff at this “giveaway,” doubtlessly the same naysayers who opposed mandatory free education through 12th grade when everyone was certain a 6th grade education was peachy.
  3. Tax private university endowments. Yale and Harvard don’t need tax shelters for accumulated wealth.
  4. Eliminate tax deductions for education donations. Existing tax structures enable the rich to get richer while dumping the burden of social advancement on the rest of us.
  5. Initiate federal tax credits for tuition and fees to all schools — that’s a credit, not a deduction. If education is the key to our society’s future, why can’t all of us lift some of the burden undertaken by a few of us?
  6. In schools with more than 2500 students, cap university administration at 1/300 students by taxing the payrolls of schools with higher ratios. Someone has to step up and squeeze costs: let’s start with non-classroom personnel.

Why?

Well. . .

ECONOMIC RED FLAGS

Autos.

The auto industry is a mainstay pillar of the US economy. Rubber, glass, steel, plastics, aluminum—there is no element of car manufacture that does not support tens of thousands of people. Subsequent to sales, there is an entire service industry, everything from car washes to oil changes to mechanics employing hundreds of thousands more.

Yet the average age of the person buying a new car is up to 51.7 years; that Boomer earns $80,000 per year. “It takes four millennials to replace one boomer” in terms of economic impact,” observed Steven Szakaly, the National Automobile Dealers Association’s chief economist in 2015.

Dollar$ notes for the less financially sophisticated that auto sales on the secondary market, trading your older hunk of junk for a slightly newer pile of junk, has all the national economic impact of opening a lemonade stand in your driveway.

Sure, Whiners will eventually buy new cars. They will have to in order to get from here to there when the supply of jalopies have all turned to rust. But they will delay joining the auto market—the definitions of a demographic market slowdown. They are barred because they carry too much debt. Buying a new car either has to be postponed or requires even higher interest rates.

That, readers, is THE CRUSH that is visited on us all.

Houses.

c20_currHousing starts in the past 20 years have dipped precipitously, most during the Great Recession of 2006-07, but have never recovered. This, Dollar$ hastens to add, is a fact in the teeth of the lowest mortgage rates ever, the reason housing prices and rents are soaring.

It’s our old friend, the fact that cheap borrowed money always inflates prices.  So it is with tuition; so it is with housing.

Cheap borrowed money does little for the Whiner who can’t enter the market because mortgage qualification is out of reach—too much debt already on the books. Qualifying for a mortgage grows more and more difficult, a task like a donkey running on a treadmill for a carrot.

So what, you ask?

“During the first two years after closing on the house, a typical buyer of a newly built single-family detached home tends to spend on average $4,500 more than a similar non-moving home owner. Likewise, a buyer of an existing single-family detached home tends to spend over $4,000 more than a similar non-moving home owner, including close to $3,700 during the first year.” National Association of Home Builders

Every year a Whiner postpones or is barred from entering the housing market is another year that $4,000 of spending on appliances, carpeting, lawn care, furniture, window dressing, pots, pans, wallpaper and paint is withheld from the general economy. With millions of Whiners forced to stay on the sidelines, billions and billions of dollars are withdrawn from economic activity.

That, readers, is THE CRUSH that is visited on us all

Social Life.

We are hard-wired to like babies. We are hard-wired to enjoy creating babies.

Religious imperatives implore us to be fruitful and multiply, but even if you are of the less religiously minded who believe the problems of our planet stem from the ugly fact that people (gasp!) live here, a problem best cured by having us quietly vanish in favor of a planetary legacy of dolphins, daisies and roaches, Dollar$ notes that for most of us the purpose of life is to create ever more life.

Dollar$ also notes that however unpopular the fact may be, in general, the age of women has a biological shut-off date beyond the shut-off date of men.

Yet the median age for marriage and childbirth are rising.

Women are waiting.

 

Dollar$ endorses the idea that technological and social advances have made much of that delay possible, and Dollar$  celebrates that technology has gifted women with freedoms and choices never seen before.

Nevertheless, among the Whiners, student debt diminishes those choices. Dollar$ suggests no one has children until that want to, and Dollar$ fervently hopes people will be able to afford children when they make that decision, but Dollar$ also notes the delay of expenditures associated with childrearing siphons billions from the economy.

Involuntarily delayed childrearing holds costs for many that cannot be measured because unhappiness is not quantifiable on any balance sheet.

That, readers, is THE CRUSH that is visited on us all.

Dollar$ believes that most things worth doing are worth doing to excess. No so with student debt, however. Enough, in this case is too much.

READ

PART 1 – THE CRUSH: THE COMING STUDENT DEBT CRISIS

PART 2 – THE CRUSH: WHY DOES EDUCATION COST SO DAMN MUCH?

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CITIZENS & TUMBLING STOCKS

In Business, Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, Finance, FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS, Personal Finance, Politics, ROBERT REICH, SOCIAL MEDIA, Wall Street on February 5, 2018 at 7:27 pm
jimmy-stewart

investor

Dollar$ readers have asked for a comment on the recent path of stocks falling off a cliff. Though Dollar$ seldom references perturbations in the market, in this case he will make an exception because any number of people with brains of tapioca or in possession of advanced degrees will point to this event to declare it political, a referendum of sorts on Donald Trump for whom they hold unsustainable rage.

 

THE AXE OF RAGE 

Rage as a political stance is unsustainable because it consumes its object as well as those who revel in it. We grind that axe at our own peril.

That won’t bother pundits such as Robert Reich at Berserkely. Expect his gloating to surface in a day or two while his cadre of unsalaried graduate student do his work for him.

After all, Reich persuaded thousands of Facebook followers that Spring rain, the demotion of Pluto from planet to rock and back again, and your most recent dose of athlete’s foot, were all ploys by the rich to separate you from your money because there is no bottom to the depth of their greed. (Except for St. George Soros, who sends wheelbarrows of Canadian cash to political causes in the United States out of simple generosity, something that most of us would find curious if the cash came from Outer Slobbovia or Russia.) The Professor has yet to mention the President’s promise to go after Big Pharma or his championing “the right to try” to give the sick access to medications stalled in the FDA’s long system for approval. How could Reich do so? His followers might dial back their rage, and then who’d buy the Professor’s books, subscribe to his videos on Netflix, or line up to enroll in his one class per year in a lecture hall packed with the beneficiaries of privilege, those students at Berserkeley who on cue wildly applaud before marching to deny free speech to someone else?

To be sure, Professor Reich will neglect to mention that the trillions lost on world markets in the past few business days have mostly been lost by the rich. Who did you think owned the shares of companies? Your barber?

Also, make certain you know, that Dollar$ believes our President to be at base a lout, a racist, sexist, and probably a compulsive adulterer who happened to revolutionize American politics by seizing on social media as a means to create a bridge between himself and voters when his own party and the American press gave him all the chances of a balloon in a pin factory.

Benjamin-Franklin-U.S.-$100-bill

Chastity?

None of that, by the way, makes him unfit to join the ranks of John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, or Bill Clinton. There were many others; the folks who brag about zero tolerance for white male sin remain eager to rewrite history by expunging ordinary men from the presidential rolls. God help us if they figure out what the Founders did with their time when separated from spouses for months, and that rascal, Benjamin Franklin, was not know for his chastity.

Fortunately, The Donald did not run for Pope.

STOCKS

Dollar$ is happy to report the sky has not fallen, at least not in my neighborhood. If Jemima Puddleduck races past your front door, Dollar$ urges you to unwrap that shotgun you received as a gift from Grandpa. Go bag yourself an inexpensive cheap chicken dinner.

Responsible financial advisers will tell you to do nothing: Dollar$ agrees, unless you have a working crystal ball in which case Dollar$ would appreciate a call. All the elephants could not get through the door without the house collapsing. That’s what happened today.elephants

DECISIONS

What now? Better to ask: Where would your money be better off?

The world economy is peachy.

The American economy is also peachy, showing healthy signs of continued growth.

Do not confuse the economy with the stock markets. After a run-up of 21% in a year, market algorithms were bound to get nervous.  (Algorithms don’t properly get nervous, but the notion of market sentiment is a joke when upwards of 90 percent of all market transactions are conducted by computers.)

The American economy is in danger of suffering wage-inflation. Prices will rise because Joe Doakes, his cousin Joe Six-Pack, and their cousin, Jane Doe, are earning more.

O, the Horror! What will Reich say if people are earning more?  What fraud is being perpetrated that will need a decade to play out?

RELAX

The past week has seen a drop of 5 percent. More is coming.

Bear in mind that historically, a 7 percent gain in a year is good news. If after the carnage we saw today and can expect for a few more days your 401-k, your kids’ 509, and your savings ratchet back to a “mere” 12% annual gain, try not to swoon.

Stay  the course. There are bulls, there are bears, and there are pigs. People who try to time the market—that is, sell now with the hope and expectation of buying it all back when things have settled—are pigs , and like pigs will be slaughtered.

BITCOIN & SAD MILLENIALS

In Business, Economics, EDUCATION, Finance, FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS, Personal Finance on February 3, 2018 at 1:18 pm

It’s hard to be sympathetic.

Several years ago, Dollar$ started plainmoneytalk to offer explanation and instruction about financial matters to the naïve and young. Someone had to.

Big honkin’ financial websites and advisory services run by Wizards have a vested interest in making what is basic seem complicated, the better to charge for magical advice no one should need.

buzzard

Credit Card Company

Personal Finance instruction at high schools is abandoned after explaining checkbooks, possibly because teachers themselves are uncertain of how banks, credit cards, car insurance and all the rest fit together. Young Citizens are left baking in the sun along the roadside, tasty meals strewn meal for carrion credit card companies who feast on the dead.

Dollar$ refrains from specific investment advice, the realm of Buccaneers and Wizards who cover their asses by couching advice in subjunctive mood: If XYZ Corp does not go up, it might go down!  Yes, well, other than standing still, there is no third alternative. There is, however, lots of deniability, and the advice applies not only to investments but to hydrogen airships navigating through lightning storms. If it does not go up like the Hindenburg, it will do just peachy.

hith-hindenburg-

Financial adviser: “But look how well they are doing at the front of the ship!”

The four personal financial functions – Saving, Investing, Spending, Insuring (SISI) — have been explained by Dollar$ in the past. Underlying the advice are a few principles, the hallmark of which is Get Rich Slowly.

BITCOIN TODAY

So it is with a heavy heart but some smug self-justification that Dollar$ observes that in the past two months, the eager sweaty Get Rich NOW! Millennials, nurtured on tales of college drop-outs making billions in weeks and because of weak toilet training remain puzzled by the concept of delayed gratification, have gotten kicks in the head and keister. (Why do we never read of the legions of Ivy League dropouts who lost Mom and Dad’s fortune by investing in systems to convert lead into gold?)

Bitcoin and other “digital currencies” took a beating, dropping a bruising 60 percent from a high of $19,783 in December 2017 to (gulp) as low as $7,700 last week. That’s 60 percent, and the fun is not yet over.bitcoin

Someone will offer a postmortem—increasing regulation around the world? invisible North Koreans getting out of the game until after the Winter Olympics?—but the fact is that at any time  they could have read Dollar$. With any luck, we have seen the last of this worldwide swindle put together for the greater glory of sex traffickers, arms dealers, dope runners, and terrorists.

Dollar$ does not like saying, “I told you so” because it is like kicking  corpse, but in this case will make an exception.

 

BITCOIN IN WONDERLAND

In Business, Economics, EDUCATION, Finance, Personal Finance, Political Economy, Wall Street, Wall Street Journal on December 22, 2017 at 2:52 pm

“Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); ‘now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was!”

Bitcoin Speculator

Bitcoin Speculator

Whenever Dollar$ believes the Bitcoin mania is safely dead, someone nibbles a few crumbs of Bitcoin Cake and we hauled back to Looking Glass Land where mad creatures believe strongly that “Jam yesterday, and jam tomorrow, but never jam today,” is an economic promise and not an explanation the White Queen offers Alice.

The Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’

Beware of strange substances that are labeled Eat Me.

A Silicon Valley startup called Xapo is the White Queen of BitcoinLand.

If you think gains like these are sustainable or represent some sort of value, you must have been eating Alice’s cakes. Maybe you’ve got some of that jam from yesterday. You might also wish to contact Dollar$ who just happens to have shares in the Brooklyn Bridge he can be persuaded to sell to you, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

BTC-2010-lin

 

Xapo is headquartered in Hong Kong, safely away from pesky US regulatory agencies. Sure, they’ve got offices in California, but so does every other financial firm in the world. The Board of Directors boasts former bankers from Argentina and Brazil, not exactly world beaters for stable currencies.

Magic Beans

The bitcoin business proposition is like the story Jack and the Beanstalk. (When it comes to bitcoins, metaphors from fantasy and fairytales are unavoidable.) Give us your real cow, and we will give you magic beans! Overnight they will grow to the sky! When you get up there, you’ll probably encounter a voracious giant ! To survive the giant, you’ll need to be a thief and run like Hell! All you need is the heart of a thief!

The Xapo Proposition

Xapo claims to have constructed physical vaults, “the company says are in mountainous regions.” There are no physical coins, of course. What will be down there will be computers Xapo promises will never be connected to the Internet–you know, like your laptop with no wifi.  If so, that means an army of people doing data entry on a army of disconnected laptops, in mountainous regions that cannot be approached easily. The mountain locations are, naturally, top secret.

If this does not strike you as the premise of a James Bond plot to bring down the world currency markets, what does?

goldeneye_oddjob007_reloade

Bitcoin Security

Liquidity

The bottomless credulity of the cyber-community originates with vitamin deficiencies caused by a steady diet of cold pizza and Red Bull for breakfast, watching Goldfinger too many times, the conviction being that one can get rich without ever getting out of a chair, if armed with an unshakeable libertarian belief that the arms merchants, sex traffickers, and drug dealers MUST have an untraceable non-government issued currency for money laundering.

Bitcoin Banker

Bitcoin Banker

 

TREES DON’T GROW TO THE SKY or WHY RHETORIC WILL LEAVE YOU BANKRUPT

In Business, Economy, Finance, FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS, Personal Finance, Wall Street on December 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Simple Truths

  • The stock market neither advances nor retreats–though prices indeed go up and down.
  • For every buyer, there is a seller.
  • When buyers and sellers agree to prices, they set asset values.
  • Buyers buy with the expectation of future profit; sellers sell when they believe continued ownership of an asset constitutes a risk no longer commensurate with possible reward.
  • No one in a free market is under compulsion.
  • Wall Street is neither a battleground for territory, nor  an adversarial contest.
  • It’s a market.

Wizards require small investors to believe that generals understand the battlefield and so deserve your trust and your fees because they otherwise have nothing to sell.  Internet access to mutual funds, closed-end funds (CEF) and  exchanged traded fund (ETF) has made giving professional advice a media game.

Sell newsletters, attract viewers, collect advertising dollars.  You need not be wise or even right. Scare the piss out of customers, and they come back anyway, thrilled that you were wrong. If God-forbid the doom-saying prognosticators prove to be right, customers will come back chastened and ready to listen.

Market Sentiment

Basically, after getting in the game buy buying 3 to 5 broadly diversified vehicles, you should do nothing. In 2017, if you followed that strategy, so far you are making a mere 20%. Since the vast majority of investing operations on Wall Street are performed by networked machines that monitor every price tick and move great mountains of capital for millions of worldwide financial vehicles, there is no human sentiment involved.

When you as a small investor get the news of sharp price movement, it is too late to act, unless you think and make decisions at light speed and are plugged directly into markets.

  • Machines do not agonize over decisions such as Buy, Sell or Hold.
  • Machines have no hearts. Machines do not succumb to sentiment. Machines do not read the newspapers.
  • Machines do not hold on to send their kids to college.
  • Machines do not save pennies to accrue the down payment on a house.

Nevertheless modern Wizards want us to believe market sentiment exists and that t hey are plugged into that sentiment.

Yeah. Sure. Right. Got it. Roger that.

How do TV Wizards get away with recommending buying or selling new assets every day?

kramer7

Sells perpetual panic and urgency

The fact is that while our money trickles into pension funds, 401ks, college funds, health insurance funds, and all the rest of the vehicles invented by Wizards to lure us with illusions of safety in an uncertain world, machines–owned assets are being sold.  There’s a buyer for every seller, Binky. Remember that.

Machines sell in torrents. We pray for 7 to 10 percent each year, are happy to get 3%, but when the algorithms indicate “Sell,” prices drop 20 to 50 percent in minutes.
Sentiment? Level playing field?

A Warning

Dollar$ is aware that sharp price moves can be precipitated by events and non-events such as national elections. If you think the US is going to hell in a handcart, do you also believe that after crap hits the fan that the money you buried in the backyard will buy a can of tuna?

This is why reasoned investors await blood on the floor before buying, and unless you are within 5 years of a financial goal–retirement, your kid’s first year of college, that down payment on your house–sit tight, never sell.

  • Buy and hold.
  • Ignore alleged “corrections.”
  • Sleep at night.

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!

FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS: INVESTING #2 – BURN YOUR PILLOW CASE

In Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS, Personal Finance, Wall Street on March 19, 2014 at 12:30 pm

“OK, Dollar$, I have a few bucks in the bank, I have no significant consumer debt, and I have steady cash flow from a secure job. I have measured my risk tolerance in terms of my age and psychology, and I am persuaded that I want to get rich slowly to meet specific long term goals, such as buying a house, putting as yet unborn children through college, preparing for my own old age.”

Congratulations, Bunky! You are a grown-up! Its time to take your money out of a pillowcase.

photo-92-e1319326132194Tell your broke-ass friends who insist that the rich own the system and that they know they cannot get ahead that you have decided to join the Dark Side. Dollar$ adored Occupy Wall Street for its goals–who can argue with Justice? but Dollar$ sadly notes the “movement” lasted less than a year. So why not become one of those degenerate rich? While your friends bitch and moan, lusting for the next video game unit, having succumbed to the Consumer Culture that pollutes the mind by implanting false needs, you have decided to take control, take responsibility ad will rise above that.

You will never spend money frivolously or self-indulgently—that’s what children do—but you have goals, you have ambitions, and like it or not, all of us live in the sea of financial life.

You can choose to drown, float, or construct a ship to set sail.

Dollar$ wants you to set sail.

First, you’ll need to build a ship.

Save or Invest?

If you meet the Dollar$ profile, it will be plain that simply saving will have you sink not far from the dock. You work hard, so should your money.

Money in the bank is not working hard; however, it is totally liquid. You need to have some there for ordinary bills and expenses.

Dollar$ Recommendation: a balance of at least 3 months for the young (under 40), and as much as 6 months for the not very young. The Book of Ecclesaistes tells us:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Or, as Dollar$ interprets The Good Book: Shit happens.

So DO Insure and save against the ay you will have bad luck. Everyone does. Do not let time and chance happenth on your watch.

Say you are minding your own business at a stop light when you get your leg crushed by a cement truck with failed brakes. If you have a disability policy or disability rider on your auto policy that kicks in after 6 months, it is a LOT less expensive than a policy that kicks in after 6 weeks. No sweat for you if you have some liquid assets in the bank, but a disaster if you are living check to check.

If you believe you are trapped, read Dollar$ on how to save more.

The Name of the Game is Averages

If someone offer you Magic Beans and a quick rich scheme, run. But the simple fact is that stocks show an average return of near 10 percent per year over the long term.  In this chart, the red lines are averages: notice, however, that some years are awful, and others are terrific.

Now you know what AVERAGE means.

avg-mkt-rtns-1926-2008-600x409

Some years are dogs; some are stellar.

Compare that average to current bank account returns, which as Dollar$ writes are less than 1 percent. Taking on some risk to average 10 percent seems mandatory instead of accepting a pittance.

Since you are following the Dollars motto, Get Rich Slowly, year-to-year gains and losses are of mildly passing interest. If losses of 10, 20 or even 40 percent trouble you—reset your gauge of Risk Tolerance.

The Marathon

We do not quit running after 2 miles because of a leg cramp. Shooting for an AVERAGE of 8 percent each year is realistic, possible, and will make you rich—slowly.

Think not?

This chart from JP Morgan shows three investors compounding their investments over time. One of them, Susan, starts at 25 and quits at 35.  She still winds up with a mere $850,000, enough dough to rent a tennis pro or two.

Growth over time

 

Dollar$ RecommendationWHAT ARE YOU WATING FOR????

Reassuring the Nervous

Suppose you are 25 years old and are able to invest $2,000 each year, maybe in an IRA, maybe in stocks–just keep it out of that pillowcase.  And after five years, you look with pride at your tidy pot of money. You are now 30, but just then the stock market crashes. They are leaping out of buildings on Wall Street. It’s as bad as the Great Depression—maybe worse.  The Depression lasted 12 years; it was 15 years of investor misery.  What happens to your Dollar$ plan?

Well you are all of 45 years old, a good 20 years from a youngish retirement.  If you’ve maintained investor discipline, you’ve accrued 15 years of investments at bargain basement prices. When the stock market recovers–and it will, since the United States is not going bankrupt any time soon– you may be lucky enough to enjoy a year like 2013, a whopping 32 percent gain in a single year.

All those cheap investments you made for 15 years are paying off! Buy cheap; sell dear! as log as you are dedicated to Get Rich Slowly, down markets are a buying opportunity, Bunky!

The sissie who bailed in 2008-09 go screwed. Those were bad years, and those investors with short term vision took it in the neck. They ran for the exits and took permanent losses because they took the short term view.

Now before someone tells Dollar$ that they were protecting themselves and, perhaps, were too close to retirement, Dollar$ will remind readers that being 65 these days is not old. Folks who are retired should prepare for at least 20 years more of life and so accept judicious risk. Any investor was over 70 in 2008 and had a significant pot of cash at risk….why? What are you? Invulnerable?

For the Dollar$ reader, the Clueless who are not H0peless, the lesson is plain:  Buy and hold, and do not let the vagaries of the markets year to year bother you.

Take a lesson from Monty Python.

Never bury what ain’t dead yet.

Convinced?

Watch for Finance for the Clueless: Investing #3 – Nuts and Bolts

PERSONAL FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS–INSURING

In Business, Economics, EDUCATION, Finance, FINANCE FOR THE CLUELESS, Personal Finance on March 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm

 

WIZARD OF FINANCE

WIZARD OF FINANCE

 

Four Financial Functions

Of the four personal financial functions, Saving, Insuring, Spending, and Investing, Insuring may be the least well understood.

Dollar$ broods on the why this is so. Insurance is not hard to understand, but Wizards who specialize in selling financial products lie awake at night dreaming up complicated products to befuddle the Clueless, which products more efficiently separate the Clueless from their dough.And so we come to the First Dollar$ Law for the Clueless.

NEVER BLEND FINANCIAL PURPOSES IN A SINGLE VEHICLE

Someday you will meet an Insurance Broker Wizard who will tell you that the best way to save for your retirement is with a life insurance policy. You may also meet his cousin, the Real Estate Broker Wizard, who tells you to purchase a house you cannot afford because it is an investment; you will meet another Credit Card Wizard who will happily point out that with this wonderful card that costs next to nothing, whenever you incur debt, you buy free airline miles, nights in a hotel, or tickets to see Bruce Springsteen while enjoying a free trip to the Poor House!

Do not work with these Wizards. They are sharpies presenting proposition bets, but as Marlon Brando explained to Frank Sinatra, do not take a proposition bet. Ever. You willhave a wet ear.

 

Wizards charge fees for a service, to which they are entitled, but a Wizard who sells additional services will want to collect MUST do so for a higher fee than you might pay for buying each of those products separately.

Over the life of a policy, which can be decades, even small fees mount up.  You are ALWAYS better off paying for pure products.

Rather than plagiarize, Dollar$ is happy to refer you to a short, lucid explanation from CNN talking about Universal vs. Term Life. CNN concludes, “The lesson: If you need life insurance, get term insurance. If you want to invest for retirement, invest in IRAs, 401(k)s or similar retirement plans.”

Smart folks at CNN.

The Industry

To understand what you should or should not personally do, you first have to understand the industry.

Dollar$ swears the explanation will be short.

Let’s say we live on a nice, tree-lined street. Beyond ordinary town services, our neighbors agree it is to everyone’s benefit to preserve the neighborhood’s good looks, so we form The Dollar$ Neighborhood Association. Everyone throws in a few bucks every year as a matter of civic duty. From time to time, you sponsor a block party, and the DNA buys a keg of beer.

One terrible day, a storm comes through town, and three of those trees are torn up. Luckily, no one is hurt, no homes are damaged. Town workers haul the downed trees away.

The DNA checks its accounts. If we skip the beer this year, we can afford to replace the 3 downed trees.

Property values are preserved. Our lives remain lovely.

  • The DNA is a very small scale mutual insurance company.
  • The stockholders are the people of the neighborhood.
  • The beer is the annual dividend paid to shareholders.

For Profit

A for-profit insurance company works the same way, but they charge larger fees, invest all the money they get, and need millions of clients to spread the risk.  After all, a tornado could wipe out the whole neighborhood. Better to make our community at least statewide.

Whatever a for-profit does not have to pay out, is profit that they keep.

Actuaries, skilled mathematicians, calculate rates by studying masses of data and crunching numbers. Do you know what percentage of women between the ages of 11 and 40 will break a leg next year?  Neither does Dollar$, but there are actuaries who do. They also know how much it takes to fix a busted leg, and they build all those data into health insurance rates for women between 11 and 40.

For-profits may pay dividends to shareholders (who may not be policyholders). It won’t be beer.

If a for-profit does not invest well, it may go bankrupt. Consider what might have happened to the DNA if 10 trees were destroyed. What happens if a hurricane hits New Jersey, the Mississippi overflows it banks, or an earthquake hits Manhattan? Lesson: Buy life insurance only from a well-established company that has been doing business at least 75 years. Anything else is an upstart liable to go belly-up the day you need them.

Action Items

Insurance protects the purchaser from man-made or natural accidents that have financial repercussions.

Dos and Don’ts for the Clueless

Insurance is not:

  • A guarantee that a loved one will live forever;
  • A bet that should things go wrong your heirs will become rich;
  • An investment;
  • It is never a gamble you win by losing. “Great news! I died and now my family is rich!’

The more people swim in the risk pool, the less expensive insurance is for everyone. The more neighbor in the DNP, the more trees can be replaced. The more low risk people buy health insurance, the happier Democrats will be because they will be paying in, but not taking as much out. If that sounds like a scam to you, you are probably younger than 35 and have never been sick.

Do not worry: you will be sick someday.

  • Never insure your children’s lives, unless your kid is Shirley Temple and so provides a revenue stream.
  • Term life insurance is a pure insurance product. In the event of disaster, it pays big bucks. At the end of the term, it pays bubkis. Buy it.
  • Take the difference saved by buying inexpensive insurance and invest or save it to provide wealth or revenue later.
  • Buy term life for as long as dependents will need to replace any income lost to death. That’s usually 20 years after the birth of the last newborn child in a family.
  • Buy enough life insurance so that survivors can continue their lives uninterrupted—do not underestimate this. If a spouse will need to pay for childcare, insure the spouse is cared for.
  • If you have no dependents or heirs, you need no life insurance; but you should consider disability insurance.
  • Disability insurance is more crucial than life insurance. It does not have to be your fault, but if your neck breaks in a car accident, you might survive for decades and need financial resources for all that time. Social Security will no pay what you want or need.
  • Mortgage insurance does NOT protect you: it protects the mortgage holder, not your heirs. You kick the bucket, the bank collects.
  • In America, health insurance has become mandatory. This is controversial, but is no different from mandatory auto insurance about which no one complains. Dollar$ suspects the Weasel mindset is at work here.
  • Insure revenue-producing property from fire and theft. Your auto provides you with  the means of getting to and from a job. Be sure your auto insurancee will be for a renter if you lose your car temporarily.
  • Insure your house from fire and flood. Flood insurance is tricky and varies from state to state. Do your homework.
  • Insure your possessions that would need to be replaced, and insure for replacement value. If your house burns down with a 10-year-ol refrigerator in it, will you be buying a 10-year old refrigerator, or will you need a new one?
  • Liability insurance makes sense if you own assets someone else can attach in the event of your negligence. Someone trips over your rug, takes a header down the stairs, and sues for financial assistance for a lifetime in a wheelchair. Will they go after your kid’s college savings account?  (Yes.) Will you want insurance against that personal liability (Double Yes). Should you put assets in places they cannot be attached? (Maybe—now you need an attorney, but if you have that much dough, why are you reading “For the Clueless?”)
  •  NEVER buy a warranty extension on an appliance. A defective product can be returned. If it breaks too late to be returned, take the money you saved buy not buying extended warranty protection and apply it toward the purchase of a new product.
    Carry as little personal liability on your car insurance as you can. Brokers are going to disagree, but in a world where health insurance is now a legal responsibility of every Citizen, why are you paying for someone else’s health insurance?

BITCOIN DENOUEMENT

In Business, Economics, Economy, EDUCATION, Finance, Old Farts Financial Network, Personal Finance on February 28, 2014 at 2:43 pm
Mt Gox Depositors

Mt Gox Depositors

Mt Gox sought bankruptcy protection in Japan today. The Bitcoin exchange is no more.

Dollar$ wonders if Japan can supply sufficient protection from a mob of angry depositors carrying torches and pitchforks led by CEO Mark Karpeles’ mother. A half billion worth of the non-currency has vanished.

Poof!

 

20-Something Thinking

Dollar$ admits to little sympathy to the casual 20-Something investor who figured the Old Farts Financial Network needed some shaking up.  After all, everyone knows that sex traffickers, pornographers, drug dealers, and arms merchants in dire need of a traceless currency would never steal. They have financial rights, too! Bitcoin was a product that was needed!

The OFFN plainly did not understand how the internet is a network of stalwart enlightened libertarians.

The 20-Somethings also believed that profits of 1,000 percent in a year was the justified return to them for their courage, foresight, minor hygiene problems, and a steady diet of cold pizza and Red Bull while sitting in front of a computer screen.

Really, kids, you have to get out more.

They know for sure that to get wealthy in America today is a plausible idea and a hell of a marketing department.  Anyone knows that!  Just ask the good people  at WorldCom, Pets.com, Enron, Furniture.com, or any other get-rich- quick scheme the OFFN lived through in the past few decades. 

Could Boomers have all the good stuff because they worked for it? Why know anything when you can invent a brave, new world and hope to be the last fool out the door before the collapse.

Looks like it is too late, now.  bitcoin