Congratulations to the Democrats for passing a smaller, less corrupt version of Obama’s health care plan to cover the 30 million+ Americans who are uninsured. I’ve read numerous articles about the pros and cons of this plan, and I still can’t figure it all out. An Associated Press article writes, “Obama practically needs a spreadsheet to tell people what’s going on and when.” That said, progress has been made. I’d like to go over some of the basics, and end with a discussion.
The luckiest people on earth are perhaps those who don’t make a lot of money. They’ve got very little downside and can really pursue their childhood dreams. Imagine if from the moment you graduated college, you landed a plum corporate job that paid just enough to keep you motivated, but not enough to enjoy your freedom.
The longer you work the more you realize there’s really no escape, because there’s simply too much at stake. This is the problem that plagues my friend, Lyndon.
The Strategy Consultant Who Makes Bank
There’s a fun hypothesis saying that you are the average of the closest five people around you. I believe this to be true, do you? What’s interesting about the blogosphere community is that anybody with enough intention can start a website. The link gives you a step-by-step guide as to how you can get up and running in under 30 minutes. Some blogs are interesting, some are not, but regardless we can all compete with the Business Insiders, Huffington Posts, and BuzzFeeds of the web in our own niche way!
Alexa is a dynamic website ranking and information company owned by Amazon, which has over 40 million users world wide. The tool bar is free, and easy to download. The Yakezie Alexa Ranking Challenge is straight forward. If you’re outside of the top 200,000, get in the top 200,000 within 6 months. I can’t even name 100 sites, let alone 199,999 sites. Can you? If you’re already in the top 200,000, get in the top 100,000. And if you’re already in the top 100,000, get in the top 50,000.
There are some who poo poo the Alexa ranking system, and I recognize their two main arguments: 1) The system only tracks visitors who have the Alexa Toolbar installed, and 2) There are cases where some websites with bazillions of users have a worse ranking than sites with less users. We don’t know why, because we don’t fully know what goes into the calculations. It may be because readers don’t visit and just read off their RSS. That said, the Alexa ranking system continues to grow, and is the best system we got. At least 40 million webmasters around the world think so, and there has to be something to it if Google, Facebook, Yahoo and YouTube are ranked #1, #2, #3, and #4, respectively.
Since starting this site, I’ve been rejected as a guest poster, didn’t even get responded to, let alone make it as one of the 7 finalists for one site’s staff writer tryouts, denied admission to a personal finance blog network, and even got my first carnival submission rejected. But through all the rejections, I took comfort in my friend, Alexa, who is always by my side motivating me to keep going. I’m sure many of you have been rejected as well. Here’s your chance to create our own network of powerful friends by joining the challenge!
BENEFITS OF BEING IN THE TOP 200,000
If I read one more biased article pushing people to convert to a ROTH IRA I’m going to lose it! Not to be melodramatic or anything, but the lack of unbiased analysis is like seeing a sea of zombies instructed to walk off a cliff. Wake up zombies, wake up! Don’t make a decision without seeing what lies down below.
The ROTH IRA conversion idea is that those who have pre-tax funded retirement accounts such as a 401K or Traditional IRA pay taxes UPFRONT, so as to not pay taxes when you retire. This is just absolute hogwash donkey dumb for a large majority of people out there.
Proponents of the ROTH IRA conversion argue:
1) Tax rates are low and are just going to go up in the future.
2) You will likely make more money in your retirement years, and hence pay more taxes.
3) Paying taxes now improves performance in the long run all else being equal.
THE SAMURAI REBUTTAL:
With great pleasure, I announce the launch of The Samurai Fund!
Thesis: Through random selection based solely off permutations of reader’s names (personal or site title), we are able to create a long-only mutual fund that will outperform the S&P 500 index!
Fund Details: $1,672,003 billion launch, $100/share NAV, with 17 positions equally weighted. Concentrated multi-strategy portfolio with defensive names in the alcohol and utility space, as well as higher beta names in technology and health sciences. Small caps and large cap names included. S&P 500 start value 1,115 benchmark.
Investment Outlook 2010: The stock market continues to rebound, but at a slower pace. Inflation and interest rates remain benign, leading to a re-emergence of consumer spending. Housing stabilizes with 30-year mortgage rates staying below 6.5%. The government maintains record spending to stimulate the economy and the unemployment rate begins to fall in the second half of the year. The S&P 500 increases by 10-15% with a blue-sky target of 1,322.
Duration & Rules: One year. The bottom 3 performers will be up for review every quarter. To stay in the fund, one must write a convincing argument as to why we should not cut our losses. Picks down more than 20% also will be re-evaluated.
Goals: To have fun, learn something about the stock markets, prove a theory that luck plays a big part in performance, and to build better relationships with the community.
Contributors: Please retweet and spread the word to any of the social media sharing sites below. We need all the support we can get to outperform the professionals! Contributors are encouraged to provide updates and commentary as the months progress. If anybody wants to do a portfolio analysis below, please feel free to do so!
*** STOCK PICKS SUMMARY WITH CONTRIBUTORS ***
Company (Ticker): Boston Beer Company (SAM)
Market Cap: $668 Million at entry price $46.60.
Commentary: Love Samuel Adams beer, but with no dividend, lofty valuations and minimal earnings growth, it’s hard to see this defensive stock providing alpha to the fund. People need to drink in good times and bad!
DAVID AT MBA BRIEFS
Company (Ticker): ABM Industries (ABM)
Profile: A building maintenance and facility services company.
Market Cap: $1.09 Billion at entry price $20.65.
Commentary: The stock doesn’t look like it’s going to do anything spectacular in the short term but ABM is predicted to have consistent earnings growth throughout the year and has beat the analyst’s estimate every quarter for the last 4 quarters.
ABM is currently trading at $21.14 and the 1 year target estimate is $25.50. Volume peaked at 700k shares the week before Christmas and then dropped way off, and its trading well above the 50 day and 200 day moving averages, so it’s hard to tell if the stock price is going to continue to rise, trade sideways, or drop this week.
Not exactly a sexy stock but facility services should be fairly recession-proof and should do even better now that we’re supposedly heading into a bull market.
Company (Ticker): Harman International Industries (HAR)
Market Cap: $2.44 Billion at entry price $35.28.
Profile: Engages in the development, manufacture, and marketing of audio products and electronic systems in the United States and internationally.
Commentary: Don’t know a thing about the company but will be interesting to find out!
CREDIT CARD CHASER
Company (Ticker): Calgon Carbon CP (CCC)
Market Cap: $786 Million at entry price $13.90.
Earnings Growth 2010: 47.2%
Profile: Manufactures and markets products and services employed for separation, concentration, and purification of liquids and gases (huh?). Drinking water and wastewater treatment, enviro remediation, and industrial process apps are its customers.
Commentary: Better than average predicted earnings growth for 2010 and trading right around the middle of its 52 week high so it could have some potential. I don’t pick individual stocks but this will be a fun one to watch!
Company (Ticker): Monsanto Co (MON)
Market Cap: 45.03 Billion at entry price $81.75.
Dividend (yearly): 1.30%
Earnings Growth 2010: 34.7%
Profile: Monsanto Company, together with its subsidiaries, provides agricultural products for farmers in the United States and internationally. It has two segments, Seeds and Genomics, and Agricultural Productivity.
Commentary: Monsanto has been beaten down pretty badly (it was at it’s high, over $145 per share), so it has some room to rise! People need to eat, and MON has some of the best engineered seed available.
Company (Ticker): Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A)
Market Cap: 152.89 Billion at entry price $99,099.
Profile: a holding company owning subsidiaries engaged in a number of business activities. The most important of these are insurance businesses conducted on both a primary basis and a reinsurance basis. Berkshire also owns and operates a number of other businesses engaged in a variety of activities.
Commentary: Can you bet against the Oracle of Omaha? Until recently, Berkshire has done remarkably well year after year, investing in well known companies such as Coke, American Express, and P&G.
Company (Ticker): Steris Corp (STE)
Market Cap: $1.65 Billion at entry price $27.97.
Dividend: 0.44 (1.60%)
Estimated Growth in 2010: 4.1% (ouch!!)
Profile: Steris Corp develops, manufactures, and markets infection prevention, contamination control, microbial reduction, and surgical support products and services to healthcare, pharmaceutical, scientific, research, industrial, and governmental customers worldwide.
Commentary: With the hysteria of swine flu in the past and Lord knows what kind of mutation it will bring in the future, the company will stand strong in years to come. Medical tech stock tends to be a defensive stock during the bear market and move steadily in a hot market. You would DEFINITELY want it in your portfolio!
Company (Ticker): Big Lots Inc (BIG)
Market Cap: $2.42 Billion at entry price $28.98.
Earnings Growth: 11.5%
Profile: Big Lots, Inc. operates as a broadline closeout retailer in the United States.
Commentary: As a discount retailer, it does well when the economy struggles. In 2010, as the economy only begins to improve, Big Lots should continue to have success in the discount market.
THRIFTY GAL AT CHASING PROSPERITY
Company (Ticker): PG&E – Pacific Gas and Electric (PCG)
Market Cap: $16.89 Billion at entry price $44.65.
Earnings Growth 2010: 7.6%
Dividend yield: 3.7%
Profile: PG&E is a public utility company that provides electicity and natural gas to northern and central California.
Commentary: Pop culture reference: villan in ‘Erin Brokovich’
Company (Ticker): Toyota Motors (TM)
Market Cap: $140 Billion at entry price $84.16.
P/E ratio (ttm): Nada – They’ve been losing money for the first time in over 50 years!
P/E ratio (fwd): 25X
EPS Growth: Yahoo lists 1200%? From zero that won’t be too hard!
Profile: One of the largest car companies in the world.
Commentary: Challenged by some quality issues they will likely continue to suffer for a few more months but I believe their commitment to continuous improvement (Kaizen) will help them out of this rut.
The continue to build good cars that have generic styling that appeals to a wide market. They are coming out with some new technology including plug in hybrid and are revamping the Lexus brand to draw in the younger crowds. If you like fast cars check out the Lexus all carbon body LFA!
Company (Ticker): Compellent Technologies, Inc. (CML)
Market Cap: $704 Million at entry price $22.68.
Earnings Growth 2010 (estimate): 31.0%
Profile: Compellent Technologies, Inc. is a provider of enterprise-class network storage solutions. The Company’s storage center is a Storage Area Network (SAN), that is designed to significantly lower storage and infrastructure capital expenditures, reduce the skill level and number of personnel required to manage information and enable continuous data availability and storage virtualization.
Commentary: Aggressive earnings estimates for a company that has yet to register large profits. I guess my entry will mimic the elements of the S&P that drags down the rest.
Company (Ticker): Lenar Corp (LEN)
Market Cap: $2.4 Billion at entry price $12.77.
PE: N/A (divide by zero – never a good sign)
Dividend Yield: 1.2%
Earnings Growth 2010 (est): showing losses
Profile: A leading home-builder in America.
Commentary: As I mentioned earlier, I think housing is on very flimsy stilts. The current anemic upturn (if you can call it that) only propped up due to government subsidies and bailouts so I would never recommend a home builder as a stock pick in 2010. But the rules are the rules, and as such I expect this component of your honorable Samurai fund to weigh it down like an old rusty boat anchor. LOL
Company (Ticker): General Electric Co (GE)
Market Cap: $162.5 Billion at entry price $15.13.
Commentary: With the recent pending sale of NBC Universal to Comcast this might be an interesting stock as GE attempts to get leaner, but really how lean can you make a company that has more than 323,000 full time employees. I suspect GE won’t be outperforming much other than say GM.
Company (Ticker): Monster Worldwide (MWW)
Market Cap: $2.2 Billion at entry price $17.40.
Earnings Growth: 167% for next year
Profile: Monster.com, a popular job search and placement site.
Commentary: I am picking this stock to keep with the play-on-the-blog-name theme, but I actually am pretty bullish on economic recovery so this recruitment giant isn’t entirely unattractive. I haven’t looked at the accounts or the balance sheet etc, though, and I’m not wildly familiar with US stocks (though I know many of the companies superficially) so I recommend it only for the FS fund, nothing more!
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Updated on 2/8/2015. Let the bull market continue!
Raging against the machine is in my nature. It annoys me to no end when I read about injustices such as government raises during our recent implosion. I once skipped a morning of work to demonstrate against an apparel company which used racist slogans. Up yours Abercrombie! As I age, I’m discovering a more peaceful side that just accepts things the way they are.
There’s a lot of messed up things in the world such as war, poverty, and corruption. Some things we can try to explain, and some things we can’t. And yet, I wonder if every irrational thing has a rational reason? Let’s look at some examples and decide for yourself.
The Kid Who Just Wants To Have Fun
Everybody knows that grades start accumulating in the 9th grade, and without good grades and SAT scores, the chances of getting into a good college, and therefore landing a desirable job goes down. Is it really so bad that Johnny High doesn’t go to Yale, and become a rich physician? What’s so bad about community college and working for $20,000/yr at a dead end job which he enjoys? Nothing at all!
Johnny High’s decision to not study hard in high school is perfectly rational. He chose to have a whole lot of fun, while other kids were miserable studying and participating in extracurricular activities to boost their resumes. When he’s 35 years old and still working at his job with the same salary, he’ll think back at all the fun he had in high school and smile.
Who’s to say that being a multi-millionaire physician and going to Yale is good anyway? He could end up incredibly miserable, with tremendous amounts of anxiety everyday as a doctor. Instead, Johnny High chooses to live a more relaxing life, and doesn’t care about money. If he did care about money, he would have studied harder. And if Johnny starts to care about money, he may go to grad school and give himself another shot.
The Lady Who Loves To Eat
Unless you’re perfect, there will be times when things don’t go your way. You’re last to be picked in PE class, Yale says, “thank you, but no thank you”, and your girlfriend/boyfriend dumps you for another man/woman. Do you start sulking? Or do you get up, get angry, and prove to yourself you’re worth it?
Some people are so afraid of rejection, they never put themselves out there. They reject themselves before even giving others a chance!
“Why would this school accept me?”
“Why would she want to talk to me?”
“I don’t deserve a raise so I’ll never ask.”
“I’m not good enough to work for this firm, so I won’t bother applying.”
“What if everybody thinks what I say is stupid?”
“My writing is horrible, why would anybody want to read anything of mine?”
These types of thoughts crush dreams, lead to low-self esteem and mediocrity.
Change the way you view rejection with these 5 strategies:
For some reason, I generally get stuck in a middle seat close to the bathroom every time I go on a business trip. It’s probably because I leave so little time between take off and check-in that I usually end up screwed!
The worst is when you’re just about to fall asleep and you get nudged by your neighbor for hogging the arm rest. Come on neighbor, I’m stuck in the middle, the arm rest is mine! The second worst thing is inhaling the lovely toilet aromas every time someone walks in and out. Finally, add a crying baby next to you, and air travel is just lovely.
Despite my constant bad fortune on airplanes, the one thing I do recommend is sitting close to the bathroom at work. We discussed strategic seating in business school one day, and if you think about it, sitting closest to the bathroom, whether you have a cubicle or office is the absolute best place to be. No matter how senior or junior someone is, they must go to the bathroom and walk by your desk at least a couple times a day!
Unlike the mysterious guy sitting in the corner who everybody thinks is surfing the internet all day, you get a constant stream of opportunities to develop relationships with your colleagues and bosses if you sit near the loo.
“Hey Jim, how about Mark Sanchez of The Jets the other day huh?”
“Hey Pete, so sorry Colt got injured against Alabama. You still owe me lunch sucker!”
“Nancy, I just love your new hairstyle! Where you get it done?”
“Susan, want to grab a coffee this afternoon? I have something to share.”
“Christine, any tax consultant suggestions? I can’t for the life of me figure these numbers out!”
BINGO! All easy lines to develop your relationships internally.
The biggest risk for employees during recessions and promotion season is to be out of sight, and therefore out of mind. By sitting near the bathroom, you are unavoidable and everyone must acknowledge your presence. Just don’t stop folks who have visible pains on their faces!
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- Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s a ~$650 value right there.
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Updated for 2017. See the world!
Someone once said, “nothing is certain except pressing the reply all button by mistake and taxes.” How true the saying as we face rising taxes under the new administration. Supposedly 32% of Americans filers pay ZERO TAXES! I doubt this statistic sits well with the other 68% of files who pay taxes. I also doubt the percentage of non-tax payers could be that high, but either way, even 15% is a lot. The good thing for high income earnings is that the highest marginal tax rate has come down by almost half since the 70’s. Furthermore, generally if you are paying no taxes, your adjusted gross income is less than $8,350 as a single, or $16,700 as a married couple. Wouldn’t you rather make more money and pay taxes than make little money and pay nothing?
Given we don’t blog for a living, and several readers asked me this afternoon “whether I think higher taxes lead to Socialism in America, Yes or No only”, my answer and thesis is therefore: “Yes, higher taxes do lead to socialism in America.”
At the beginning of every year, I tell myself that I’m going to eat better and exercise more. Yet, every December, I look and weigh exactly the same and get frustrated until the New Year, when the cycle starts anew. My theory on weight is simply that we all have a weight range we fluctuate in, and every 5 years that band increases towards the heavier side! That was my excuse for my lack of improvement.
I used to also think that our weight was 70% hereditary and 30% diet and exercise until I saw the show “The Biggest Loser!” Now I think the ratios are the complete opposite. If you really want to get motivated and cry at the same time, you’ve got to watch the show. The show’s concept is simple. After 3 months of boot camp, whoever loses the most weight wins gobs of money! The results are astonishing. Season 7’s winner, Helen lost an amazing 140lbs from her original 255lbs start weight. Go Helen!
The Biggest Loser show demonstrates that with enough motivation and discipline we can lose a lot of undesired weight. In fact, for 7 seasons in a row each of the winners have lost over 100lbs!
FOOD EXPENSE & GOALS
On average, I spend about $20 a weekday for food and $100 per weekend for a total weekly cost of $200 and a total monthly cost of around $800! I had no idea how much I was spending until I decided to write everything down for two weeks and annualize accordingly. $800 was clearly overkill, especially since it accounts for over 65% of my then, discretionary spending.
When the downturn hit, I decided to do an experiment partly to bring down my food expenses by 30%, and partly because I was inspired by The Biggest Loser, to shed 15lbs and get down to my college fighting weight of 160. At 160 lbs, my
Body Mass Index would be 23 (18.5-24.9 is normal weight) from slightly overweight at 25.5. If Helen can lose 140 pounds, why can’t I lose a lousy 15?!