Tuesday, January 29, 2008
When it comes to money, there is a lot of hoopla. As I witness the financial frenzy that comes with each fad, I am reminded of the days of snake oil salesmen, taking advantage of the hopes and dreams of many to fill the coffers of the immoral. When I watch the late night “Get rich quick” schemes, I wonder if anyone is getting rich other than the professional, perpetrator or pastor selling the book being featured. Some of the advice shown on television isn’t bad, but as a Finance Professor, some of the advice makes me shudder. Not to say that all of the self-proclaimed “financial experts” are immoral or incorrect, but it is not hard to find flaws in their perspective.
Being mislead causes the most pain to those who do not understand money. Many people do not understand the basics, which can make them vulnerable to those who use long words to confuse them. When I teach Finance courses to my students, I enjoy finding simply ways to communicate complicated concepts. The ultimate goal is for the student to be able to discern the good advice from the bad.
I have compiled a list of quick and dirty myths about money and finance that can help you to get started on your path toward financial understanding. While this is just the tip of the iceberg, perhaps the ice will whet your appetite to learn more about the world of financial management.
Myth #1) An investment is only good if it helps you to earn more money
According to quite a few financial advisors, every penny you invest should be put into assets and ventures that are going to give you a financial return. The “gurus” tell stories about how investing your money to make more money implies that you are smarter than the person next to you. By virtue of your being smarter, you are therefore entitled to a happier life. Money is also made into the most important thing on earth, and you end up feeling bad if you are not, as you are sometimes told, hoarding every penny and allowing those pennies to dominate your personal life.
There are quite a few scenarios in which money should be used to make more money, and there is nothing wrong with that. But more money doesn’t always imply you will have a wealthier life. There are times when buying a car or taking a vacation can be much better uses of your money than buying another stock, bond or piece of real estate.
In fact, if the sole objective of money is to make more money, then that means you should just send your children to Dr. Kervorkian (the man who kills people for a living), since kids are expensive and don’t give you any of your money back. Don’t be so hard on yourself when it comes to investing. Investment is like working at the office or having sex: it’s ok, as long as it’s done in moderation.
Myth #2) Only some investors have a portfolio
What is a portfolio? A portfolio is a set of valuable investments that give you something back. When I ask my students “How many of you have a portfolio?”, only a few of them raise their hands. I then explain that making an investment is equivalent to putting a scarce and valuable resource toward the creation of something more valuable over time. Most of the students fail to realize that money is NOT the only scarce resource you can invest. You can also invest your time, your energy, your health and even your love. All of these amount to allocations of scarce resources, and most of us make these investments every single day. The decision to get out of bed is an investment, since you could easily spend your time lying around watching TV. The clothes on your back are part of your portfolio, since you have invested to obtain them, and they do provide you a return (your reward for investing in clothes is that you get the peace of mind of looking good and not having to walk around naked!).
The point here is that you should have a more complete way of thinking about investing. Money is only one type of investment, and it is sometimes the least valuable asset in our life portfolio. You have probably heard people say “time is money”. Well, that’s not exactly true. The truth is that time is MORE VALUABLE than money! If you are 22 years old, and you waste your time, you will never get to be 22 years old again. No amount of money can make up for being, say, falsely incarcerated for 15 or 20 years. However, if you lose money, you can usually get it back later. So, whether we have money or not, we are always investing.
Myth #3) The stock market is one of the best places to make money
The stock market is not a great place to make money, at least not in the short-run. It is a great place to keep the money you’ve already made. Don’t get me wrong. There are many people who’ve made their fortunes trading stocks, but that is not the norm. Additionally, even though there are many who’ve made a fortune trading stocks, more fortunes have been made using other investments. The stock market is what they call an “efficient market”, which means that it is tough to find a good bargain. This is a lot different from some other markets, where you can find a pretty good deal if you look hard enough.
When looking for a place to invest your money first, you should start with the investments that offer the highest return for the lowest risk. In other words, if you find something you are familiar with, you are likely to have a better outcome. One place to start might be with an investment in YOUR SELF. Do you have enough education to have the kind of career you would like? How about going back to school for that college degree or MBA? In my own research, I have determined that the returns to this kind of investing far exceed the returns generated from the stock market or other places.
You might also consider investing in Real Estate or even in the business of a relative. If you have a friend that is going into business, and you have reason to believe that this person is fulfilling an unmet need, has a guaranteed customer base, and is reliably going to give you your money back, then this kind of investment might be better than going right to the stock market. Just make sure that you sign a legal contract so there are no misunderstandings.
You can also make a lot of money by cutting your spending. Consider the following two options. Let’s say you have a credit card that charges 15% interest with a balance of $10,000. You have $10,000 available for investment, and you can either use the money to pay off the credit card or invest in stocks. Let’s also assume that you expect to earn 10% on the stock market (roughly what the US stock market earned during the 1997 – 2001 time period). There are two things you must remember about this investment:
1) The amount you are paying on your credit cards is greater than what you would earn from the stock market.
2) The amount you would earn from the stock market is risky, so it could be higher or lower than the average. The amount you are paying on your credit card is going to be the same, no matter what.
So, you have two choices: You can either a) invest the $10,000 in the stock market, earning an average of 10%, or you can b) Use the money to pay off your credit cards, ridding yourself of the 15% interest expense. If you go with option a) (investing in the stock market) and assume that you are guaranteed 10% on your money, you will earn $1,000 and have to pay $1500 in credit card interest (15% x $10,000). This leads to a net loss of $500.
If you go with option b) (paying off the credit cards and not investing in the stock market), you can save $1500. So, there is a $2,000 ($1500 – (-$500)) difference between these two choices.
The point is simple: “A penny saved is a penny earned”. You can rephrase this statement as “A penny not paid in interest is a penny earned in interest.” By using excess funds to pay off high interest debt, you have found one of the best investments around.
The point of this article is the following: Investing in the stock market is nice and glamorous, but it’s not the way to make money. If you really want to make money, you should start with investments around you: Buying a home, paying off credit cards, or going back to school. These investments give higher returns than the stock market and lead to a wealthier life.
Myth #4) Putting all your eggs in one basket might be OK
“Diversification” is an important investment concept that most investors do not think about. It is the idea that you should not put all your eggs in one basket when investing. Many investors do not follow this rule, instead putting all of their money in one place. This is a BAD idea! Consider the employees at Enron (the company that went bankrupt a few years ago). Some of the Enron employees had their entire retirement plan with one company. Many of these people lost their life savings when the company went bankrupt.
Every good thing eventually comes to an end, and if you are properly diversified, you are protected when things really do fall apart with your investments. Diversification means that you not only buy a large selection of stocks, but you keep your money in different types of investments. For example, if a person has a portfolio to invest, they should keep a few thousand in different kinds of stock, some of the money in their savings account for a rainy day, some of the money in real estate, and some of it in the family business. Spreading your money around protects you well when things go bad in the market.
Another thing about investing is that it should be GLOBAL. If you buy a portfolio of stocks, you do not want to have your money focused on the United States. There are mutual funds which allow you to invest all over the world, where many of the best opportunities are. Make sure that you are diversified across boarders, so if one country’s market fails, you will have investments all over the world to protect you.
Myth #5) If a stock has done well in the past, it will continue to do well in the future
Most people think that if a stock has a good past performance, it is going to continue to be a good stock in the future. All of my own academic research, as well as the academic research of many others, shows that this assumption is almost always WRONG. There are some rare exceptions in special cases, but for the most part, the past performance of a stock or mutual fund manager is no indicator of what is going to happen in the future.
You see it all the time: magazines will rank the best performing stocks, top industries, and best performing mutual fund managers. This publicity is great for the fund manager, because he/she knows that most investors do not know the truth. The truth is that when ranking investment managers and stocks on the prior year’s performance, there is almost no positive relationship between the performance of the past and that of the future. Notice that I say “almost no positive relationship”. That is because my research shows there are some rare cases in which there is some relationship, but this is not something worth betting the house on.
The best way to invest in stocks is not to chase winners. The best approach is to simply invest in solid companies for the long haul and keep your portfolio diversified. If your portfolio is properly diversified and you leave money in your investments for several years, you will most likely find a natural growth which allows you to sleep at night. Those who chase every hot stock down the street end up driving themselves nuts.
Dr. Boyce D. Watkins
Monday, January 21, 2008
by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Department of Finance, Syracuse University
I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Americans are really stinking rich. Compared to the rest of the world, our financial problems are essentially non-existent. We don’t worry about having food on the table. We worry about keeping up the payments on our two cars, expensive mortgage and maybe even the rent for our 28 year old son. Relatively speaking, we are doing OK.
The bad news is that there is going to be less good news in the future. America is on its way to one of the greatest retirement crises of our time. There, I said it. I am a Finance Professor, so I think about this kind of thing all day. The baby boomers have hit the boom and they are on their way to the bust. Americans might be loaded compared to the rest of the world, but to have something and lose it can be worse than never having it at all. So, relatively speaking, we are not OK.
The baby boomers are on their way out the door of the work world, and headed for that blissful place called retirement. They had a big financial party in the 1980s and 1990s, and it’s always after the party lights go out that you find out who drank too much beer, who broke the lamp and who is waking up in jail. Let me explain the recipe for the pending retirement crisis. The ingredients should be cooked up and ready to go over the next 10 – 15 years, and you can probably smell the aroma right now, with the subprime lending crisis yanking on the purse strings of many seemingly well-off families:
1) Social security is getting very insecure: Statistics show that the average American family owes about $500,000 per household necessary to pay the government's future retirement obligations. The population is aging and the young workforce is declining in size. In most societies, young people take care of the old with their productivity. The problem is that there are going to be far more old people than before, and the dwindling youth population is going to be carrying them (and their old deficits) on their backs.
2) Pension plans are disappearing: Globalization has reduced the need for companies to have great pension plans. Why pay a huge American pension when you can buy out the American worker and hire someone in China for $2/day? Since Americans don’t save, you can easily give $100k to buy out a worker who would have earned a million dollars more over time by keeping his/her job. Many great American companies are no longer following the rules of your parents when it comes to providing long-term security.
3) Americans are pathetic savers: The net US savings rate is negative. That means that we save less than we spend. Debt is the boat keeping us afloat, and as the lending crisis taught us, the raft eventually runs out of air. We send our kids to expensive universities, mortgage our homes as many times as we can and pamper ourselves into the ground. After a while, it’s time to pay the piper for the pampers, and that time is coming soon.
4) The fountain of youth has been sprinkling on us: We are living longer, which means that there has been a dramatic shift in the retirement planning paradigm. You once expected to kick the bucket just a few years after you retire, but now you get to extend your financial challenges by another decade or so. The idea of not getting a solid paycheck for 20 years can be a frightening thing.
5) The cost of healthcare is rising like a rocket: If I were a healthcare company, I would find the nearest politician and give her a big kiss. The truth is that political “leaders” have been getting hooked up by politicians for years, and are now allowed to financially pillage American citizens. Our privatized healthcare system is unlike any other in the world and the pharmaceutical companies are working overtime to convince you that you have illnesses you’ve never thought about. Regular drug dealers are scary, but corporate, government sanctioned drug dealers are the absolute worst. Perhaps you might be turning toward some of those drugs to get through the rest of this article. I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies would be glad to recommend something.
America is not going to get it together anytime soon. We’ve overdosed on Vh-1, MTV Cribs and Lifestyles of the Blingingly Fabulous. But the fact that America has fallen asleep at the wheel doesn’t imply that you’ve got to crash along with it. Be smart, have fun and have some degree of moderation. Go see your retirement advisor right now to find out what you can do to prepare for the future.
Plan ahead and your golden years can be shiny…..and that’s without all the drugs.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The economy is threatened with a major recession. The housing crisis has caused ripple effects, as many banks have been forced to scale back their lending. Additionally, unemployment is at a two-year high. This has some wondering if the economy is headed for a major downturn.
Wall Street seems to think so. Known as a "leading indicator" for the economy as a whole, the recent slide in stock prices is a signal to some that the economy and corporations are headed toward lower future earnings.
At the beginning of 2007, economists surveyed cited a 1 in 3 chance that the economy would go into a recession. Now, they say it's 50/50. Some think that a recession is a sure thing.
President Bush and Congress are exploring options to avoid a recession, including tax rebates. Lower taxes encourage spending. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is proposing lowering interest rates. Lower taxes and lower interest rates encourage two economic stimulants: more spending and greater investment.
"The recession gorilla is there. The question is can the Federal Reserve do enough to avert a recession?" stated Brian Bethune, economist at Global Insight. "We think the odds are close to 50 percent that there will be a recession. It is high — no question about it."
There is a question of whether the Federal Reserve, the financial governing body for the US, agrees that a recession is on its way.
"The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession," Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week. "We are forecasting slow growth."
Technically, a recession is a period of two straight quarters of negative economic growth. In other words, six months of slumping.
Some have concerns for African-Americans, who tend to feel the greatest effects of economic downturns. They have also been hit disproportionately by the housing and foreclosure crisis.
Additionally, there is fear that if consumers expect a recession to occur in the near future, they are going to stop spending in order to prepare. Businesses may also stop investing to prepare for the recession. If this is done on a large scale, the effects of the recession will worsen.
Friday, January 11, 2008
There’s nothing wrong with a little shine in your life, especially since you have worked hard to get that degree. But shining too hard can have you rolling on 24s to bankruptcy court. Whether you earn 10 dollars per year or 10 Million, you are a financial slave if you are not saving, investing and letting your money grow. As I like to say, “To ‘floss’ at 23 is human, but to floss till you’re 90 is divine”.
As a Finance Professor and your personal Financial Physician, let me give you a list of rules to live by, so that your grandkids will be riding high on the hog after you have cooked up the pork chops. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and you are wasting your mind if you have not used it to build, invest and teach in your community:
Rule #1: The easiest way to stay poor is to never own anything. Renting an apartment will help your landlord get a house, not you. Buying cars helps the auto dealer get a new limo, not you. The candy apple paint on their new Mercedes is being peeled right off your black butt. Get on the other side of that deal! Buy a house as quick as you can, buy stocks, buy bonds, own ASSETS. Don’t believe the hype about having a high paycheck; It means nothing if you don’t own anything.
Rule #2: The quickest path to getting pimped is to always work for someone else. Don’t just try to find a job, put yourself in position to CREATE a job. Start your own business as soon as you can. Remember: when you are working for someone else, they are usually earning 10 dollars for every dollar they pay you. Now THAT’S pimpin. Get with the GRAND hustle, not the BLAND hustle by using the PLANNED hustle to start your own business.
Rule #3: Save at least 10% of your money every time you get paid, NO EXCUSES. You should pay yourself first by having the money come right out of your check. A person who saves $200 per week starting at the age of 22 and invests that money in the stock market for a 10% return every year will have roughly $43,000 by the time they are 32, $434,000 by the time they are 52, and $1.6 million when they are 65. That’s enough money to help Flava Flav get a new girlfriend.
Rule #4: Create multiple streams of income. Your salary should only be one. I don’t care if you sell comic books, Avon or rotten fish. Remember the words of the rapper TI: “If the grapes don’t sell, I dry em up and sell raisins.” Side hustles provide job security, in case your boss hands you the pink slip. If you are smart, you can hand the pink slip to your boss.
Rule #5: Love is creepy sometimes, so watch who you hook up with. Merging your money with someone is like having sex with them: it can be an amazing experience, or it can leave you burned and bitter. Whether it is marriage or starting a business together, only merge your money with someone who cares about your best interest. In other words, don’t waste your life with losers.
Read my lips and follow these tips, and your future will have so much shine that Stevie Wonder will need to put on his sunglasses. Now that’s pimpin.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
15 Quick Tips on How to Save Money
Using these tips on how to save money can literally save you thousands of dollars a year You may think that these tips sound like prison camp rules, however there are a lot of ways to have fun without spending money. I guarantee you will be stress free if you follow these money saving tips.
Don't buy your lunch, pack it yourself. It won't kill you. Stop going out to dinner. Going out to dinner used to be a planned and special outing but now people eat out because they do not feel like cooking.
Cut down on certain luxuries like cigarettes and alcohol. I bought a packet of cigarettes for a friend the other day and I nearly died when I heard the price. Stop buying coffees at the cafe when you can make it yourself. Do not buy bottles of water.
Save money on your gas or petrol bills by not driving to the shop for one item. Be prepared and have what you need, and if you run out, bad luck!
If you have a garden, grow something. Lettuce is easy and is good for salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, and tacos. You could even grow herbs in pots on a window ledge with sun. Swap your surplus produce with others. My neighbours give me eggs in exchange for vegies from my garden.
Reduce the monthly bills you have to pay. Do you really need the premium internet account or the pay TV. What else are you paying for that you really don't need. Turn your electrical items off at the wall. Simply turning the on off switch will not stop the device from using power.
Go shopping once a fortnight. Stick to a shopping list. Buy items in bulk and when on special. If chicken fillet is on special, have that for dinner. Don't buy Premium Lamb cutlets at $25 a kilo just because you want them.
Buy second-hand items. I bought a used play station 2 console. The kids were very happy and I saved around $200. Well looked after, used cars can save you thousands of dollars.
Don't buy anything unless you have the cash in your pocket. Credit cards and interest free loans are a trap!! The interest rates make your repayments a lot larger than what you actually spent.
Cut down on waste. Use food in your fridge before it turns bad. Freeze what you can. Eat leftovers.
Buy your clothes when they are out of season. You can get them for half price or less. School uniforms are great to buy second hand as your child grows so quick.
Look after what you already have. A little bit of maintenance goes a long way.
Develop a budget and try to stick to it. Its not easy but once you master it, you will never look back.
Get rid of that extra car. Some families have more cars than they need. They cost registration, insurance and petrol. Maybe you could do with one family car and one motorbike. You can also get a smaller car that does not chew the petrol or gas like a big one.
Use your computer to communicate with family and friends around the world. If you have a web cam Windows Live messenger lets you chat to people and they can see you at the same time.
Play music from the internet. My children play video clips on youtube. You can also do internet banking. Read newspapers online.
Don't carry cash in your pocket because you will spend it.
This article is free to re-print as long as the authors bio is intact and the links clickable.
About the Author:
Mitz Pantic wrote this article for Fill Your Money Box.
Saving Money can be tough, but it's not impossible. So, I figured that, in order to help us get our January started off right, I would give you some quick tips to save cash. The motto for today is "You have to have your mind right to keep your money tight", so think of this as every bit of a psychological exercise as much as it is a financial one:
1) Keep a budget - if you don't know where your money went, it's hard to know where it's going. Plan your spending and make sure that you are aware of just how much is coming in, going out and expected to be made in the future. This can help you plan cut backs or extra spending.
2) Take your lunch - did you know that by spending $7 per day for lunch, 5 days per week, you are spending $1,820 per year? If someone were to take that money and invest it in a portfolio earning 8% per year for 30 years, they would have $206,175.44. Now go snack on THAT.
3) Cut 10% out of your spending right now. Find that bill that you don't need or whatever else, and force yourself to make it happen. Pretend that your boss just gave you a 10% paycut and you have to take things out of your budget. Come on, you can do it!
4) Slice up a credit card or two - credit cards are America's financial poison and we are all addicted on some level. Get off the credit card crack pipe and start making healthy financial decisions.
5) Use a grocery list - don't shop without a list, so that your spending can be focused. Overspending at the grocery store gets me in trouble, which is why I have been getting fat. But not anymore, I am going to keep that list in my pocket. So, you see? We all have our vices, but it is up to each of us to work through our personal demons.