You may reach me via email:
or the voicemail of death (I may not get to your call):
Ash's favorite wedding pic
Cheat Sheet Q & A:
The topic: Starting out in personal finance
The question: I was wondering if there are any books you recommend for the financial novice that wants to learn and take control of his finances.
Bottom Line: Like pretty much everything else in life… The first step is often the most difficult. I rarely read books these days of any sort. It’s really a time thing. I joke that some read Dean Koonz and I read financial reports. In reality I read several hours per day but it is almost completely comprised of data, emails, news and materials I’m researching. With that being said there are two books in particular that come to mind that I generally agree with and think will point you in the right direction in my view. First up…
This particular Motley Fool book, which was released in 2001, is good for you to evaluate your current financial situation, create plan (including debt elimination) and to begin to invest. It’s easy to read, fun in presentation and full of good information. Next up…
Beating the Street was written in 1994 by legendary investor Peter Lynch. While much has changed in the investment world in 20 years the principals he outlines are complete relevant. Among important topics covered: How/when to buy and sell (the most difficult decision an investor has to make). What types of companies to invest in as you’re getting started. He also discusses some personal philosophy such as investing in companies with low debt, etc. that are mostly consistent with my philosophies regarding investing.
Congrats on taking that first step!
If you have a topic or question you’d like me to address email me: email@example.com
The changing demographic of the board room:
Bottom Line: By now you’ve heard that Mary Barra will be the next
So the trend is real. Women are gaining greater access and opportunity to the top positions in our largest companies. That’s great progress in my view. I never want to see quotas but I do want to see the end of the perceived “glass ceiling” which appears to have been broken. In terms of overall demographics in the
It’s the later that makes me think many companies would stand to benefit by more female influence.
Does Google or Apple have the best voice recognition software?:
Bottom Line: The answer… Neither. They’re actually tied. A Piper Jaffrey analyst conducted a controlled test of Google’s Google Voice service and Apple’s Siri. He had the programs translate 800 different queries. The results…
The good news is that both showed significant progress in the last year with Siri rising from 64% to 79% accuracy and Google from 71% to 79%. The bad news is that clearly you still have to revise a bunch of questions or voice texts.
We're the most unhappy customers ever:
Bottom Line: Maybe we’re frustrated by Siri by the time we need customer service or maybe customer service isn’t what it used to be… In any event we’re more displeased by our customer service experience right now than at anytime previous. Researchers from
Yikes! So what do we get out of that frustrating experience? More often than not… Nothing.
Saving is so much more fun than spending:
Bottom Line: Turns out that I’m not so odd after all. Ok maybe I am but not with regard to saving vs. spending.
During the Great Recession I hypothesized that one of the few good outcomes of the financial crisis would be a renewed sense of saving vs. spending. Indeed that appears to be the case.
By the numbers:
That’s awesome. Of course it’s not so much the saving but the investing upon saving that I derive great pleasure from…
Cheat Sheet Q & A:
Topics: What economic data can you trust?
The question: I'm now one of those people who have lost faith in the veracity of the government. It used to be that certain statistics were objective. They were put together by career people rather than political appointees so, at least theoretically, had no axe to grind. But now I wonder. Pollsters are suspect too. It all depends on the question being asked.
So the question is what sources would you suggest that give a more accurate portrait of the economy?
Bottom Line: I’ll take the poll question first (it’s the easiest to address). I’ve always believed in using poll averages on like questions rather than paying attention to any one particular poll. What you suggest is correct. The way a question is worded, the sample size, the composition of the sample are among the potential variables that can skew any particular poll. By the time you take an average of three or more polls from accredited firms, you’re likely to have a pretty accurate portrayal. These days it’s easier than ever as Real Clear Politics does a terrific job aggregating polling data on like questions being polled.
Economic data is inherently more difficult to trust, aggregate and project. That’s why we have so many economists and analysts. So what to do? I’ll break down some of what I track:
So while there will be revisions to those numbers the Government number mostly computes against its private sector tracking number and we can infer that apox 200,000 jobs were added in November – so that number can be trusted this month.
The most recent
So in summation, gathering good economic info is a constant effort and in my view comparing Government data with private sector comparisons can help you determine what’s valid and what isn’t. It’s because of this complexity that big money is spent by big firms and why many people and companies pay big money for research they trust.
If you have a topic or question you’d like me to address email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chick-Fil-A’s mobile order and payment app is progressing in beta & could change the way we handle fast food.
Bottom Line: The fast food process has been slowing down. We’re spending more time in fast food drive thrus. What Chick-Fil-A is working on could reverse that process permanently. Chick-Fil-A’s mobile order app is entering the final phase of beta before going live. They picked six locations in the country and one is the
When you arrive it’s waiting for you. Pretty cool. That’s fast food…
If you own your home & stocks you're worth more & are part of a record:
Bottom Line: Driven by the continued housing recovery and especially the rising stock market household net wealth reached a new record of $77 trillion in the 3rd quarter. Wealthy increased by $1.9 trillion in the quarter, a huge three month increase. Of the increase:
The Federal Reserve through 0% interest rates and QE having been pushing people towards housing and stocks for years. If you haven’t fought the Fed you’re likely wealthier than you were just a few months ago.
We're shopping local for mortgages:
Bottom Line: If you’ve been turned down by a big bank… Look to a local mortgage company before you give up… Or you could just start there. For the first time on record more mortgages are being originated by local mortgage companies than through the big banks. About 60% of all mortgages are now being originated by the local and/or mortgage origination only companies. As recently as 2009 only about 39% were originated by these companies.
Often the bigger banks will add their own mortgage origination restrictions, beyond Government regulations, that the local companies won’t place on mortgage products. For many people it can be the difference between a rejection and a home mortgage.
The real unemployment rate:
Bottom Line: So many are more skeptical than ever with regard to the Federal Government unemployment rate. After a dramatic drop from 7.3 to 7% without any dramatic job growth to support the drop. The biggest issue, among many, in the calculation of the percentage is what happens to the people who exhaust their unemployment benefits. Suddenly in the eyes of the government they are in effect counted as employed because they aren’t factored in as unemployed any longer. We continue to languish with a historically low labor participation rate of 63%. So what is the real unemployment rate if you factor these people in the number?
Quite the difference from 7% isn’t it?
The top 1 & 2% isn't what it seems... New research shows that 20% of Americans meet the "wealthy" threshold at some point in their lives:
Bottom Line: Class warfare has been alive and unfortunately well in recent years. As the President, political allies and fringe groups like “Occupy” have banded together to portray the top 2% as rich fat cats taking advantage of everyone else. Never mind for a moment that the top 2% account for about 36% of all Federal income taxes paid. The implication is the same people continue to rake year after year at the expense of everyone else. In reality a majority of the 2% are different people year after year…
The threshold for the top 2% (as defined by the Federal Tax code and targeted for tax increases this year) are those who earn $250,000 or more in a year. Here’s where the narrative gets interesting.
The top 2% are not the same people year after year. Far from it… In fact more than 20% of Americans are part of the top 2% at some point in their lives. It could be for a year or several years or an occasional year but the point remains that it’s not an exclusive club of fat cats that have been perpetuated by interest groups and Socialist politicians. So how/why does this happen?
Some have investment gains in a year or certain year that put them in this group. Some are paid on commissions and will have a huge year. Some are in business for themselves and will have good years and bad. Some have will have good paying careers only to lose that job. So our progressive tax policy really is regressive for the overwhelming majority of the top 2% in any given year that are trying to make the most out of their most productive years.
Company holiday party or cash? It's not even close:
Bottom Line: The company holiday party isn’t what it once was for many. It’s part economic and part changes of what’s acceptable in society today. If you ask a majority of employees, they’d much prefer to just stop the party altogether and take the money that would have been spent on the party instead. MetLife studied employees and found that:
So the end of many company holiday part traditions isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the eyes of a majority of people in the workplace. Actually they may welcome the end of the party.
Weight gain & cardiac events during the holidays:
Bottom Line: This isn’t a positive story but it may be better than you’d expect. I’ll explain. How many pounds do you think the average American will gain from Thanksgiving thru Christmas? This is the silver lining…
I’d imagine that’s less than you guessed… So that’s potentially a positive. This next number isn’t as positive…
So… We’re not adding 5% to our waist line so it must be the stress…
Spending per student tops $115,000 - 2nd highest in world and what we get is...:
Bottom Line: So the annual
Average it all together and we have about the worst performance of any developed country (and lose too many developing countries).
What’s worse… We now spend more than $115,000 per student in public education in the
A Christmas Story" House is open for you on the 30th anniversary of the movie... You can stay for a few nights via winning the EBay bid: