Tag Archives: Investing

Gladwell (and Drucker) on Pensions

The Risk Poolhttps://management.curiouscatblog.net/2006/08/21/gladwell-and-drucker-on-pensions/ by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point and Blink):

The most influential management theorist of the twentieth century was Peter Drucker, who, in 1950, wrote an extraordinarily prescient article for Harper’s entitled “The Mirage of Pensions.” It ought to be reprinted for every steelworker, airline mechanic, and autoworker who is worried about his retirement. Drucker simply couldn’t see how the pension plans on the table at companies like G.M. could ever work. “For such a plan to give real security, the financial strength of the company and its economic success must be reasonably secure for the next forty years,” Drucker wrote. “But is there any one company or any one industry whose future can be predicted with certainty for even ten years ahead?” He concluded, “The recent pension plans thus offer no more security against the big bad wolf of old age than the little piggy’s house of straw.”

Pension plans did work well for a short period of time. But recently they (along with the attached retiree health care) are one of the big problems facing large old companies: like GM. Gladwell talks about the dependency ratio for an economy and the dependency ratio of companies. Worsening dependency ratios can cause pension plans to kill companies (if they are not funded when the obligation is incurred) – as the company is forced to pay for more and more retirees with fewer and fewer workers.
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The Future for Investors

I completed The Future for Investors: Why the Tried and the True Triumph Over the Bold and the New by Jeremy Siegel today. It provides a great deal of analysis of what historical stock market returns for various strategies have been. The subtitle captures the basic theme of the book. Investing in the boring old stocks that people are not excited about is what have performed best.

His basic advise is still to buy the broadest market index fund (such as the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund [the broken link was removed]). He also concludes with the advice that those returns have been beaten historically by focusing on stocks with high dividend yields and low price earnings ratios.

To me you can skim though the book pretty quickly. The book is not full of subtle concepts you might miss. Warren Buffet is quoted as saying “Jeremy Siegel’s new fact and ideas should be studied by investors” and his advise is probably is more useful than what I think.

I recommend other investing books more but The Future of Investors is also worth reading.

Employee Ownership

H.C. Miller workers to earn ownership [the broken link was removed] by Richard Ryman.

I have always liked the idea of employee ownership. To me this can be a great help in creating a system where employees, owners, customers, suppliers work together. Alone an ESOP does little. But as part of a system of management it is something I think can be beneficial.

Employees of H.C. Miller Co. have learned to look at their company differently. And because they did, on July 31 they will become its owners.

The 120 or so employees of the 118-year-old company will implement an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. An ESOP is a retirement plan in which employees are assigned shares in the company annually. Those shares accumulate in a retirement account.

Employees shouldn’t allow too much of their savings to be tied to the company (see Enron). Of course those ignoring this advice that worked for Microsoft, Walmart… in their early days did quite well. Continue reading

Financial Education

Federal Reserve System: economic and personal financial education [the broken link was removed]

“Financial education is a critical component of a robust and effective financial marketplace but it is not a panacea. Clear disclosures, wise regulation and vigorous enforcement are also essential to ensuring that financial service providers do not engage in unfair or deceptive practices,” Bernanke said.

Outlining the various initiatives that the Fed already sponsors to boost public understanding of financial matters, Bernanke pledged to keep up the work.

The financial decisions we make have huge impacts on the quality of lives. This blog focus largely on management improvement: in such posts we often mention the importance of long term thinking and systems thinking. When planning our personal financial paths long term thinking and systems thinking (to optimize our long term financial well being given the options available in our individual situation) are necessary.

One advantage over attempting management improvement is when working on your financial plans you don’t have to convince others to change: you have the ability to implement your personal financial plan.

Financial information:

Invest for the Long Term

Invest Like a Simpleton [the broken link was removed] by Tim Beyers, fool.com:

Ten years ago, Tom Gardner boldly picked 10 stocks to buy and hold for the next decade.

Even with a tough week in which Silicon Graphics filed for bankruptcy and Dell admitted its business is not at all like it used to be, the Simpleton Portfolio would have returned more than six times your money had you invested on day one. For context, consider this: Over the same period, the S&P 500 gained approximately 135%.

Quite a nice record. Fool.com is an excellent web site worth reading for investing education (they do force you to provide an email address, which I think is a bad practice for web site usability, but the content on fool.com is worth putting up with the bother – just use the email address you have to deal with these types of hassles).

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Energy Future

image of oil chart

Interesting chart from: The Oil Age Poster [the broken link was removed] . There are all sorts of opinions on the future price of oil.

My view is based in the capitalist/market model – I believe that if it becomes obvious we are running out of oil the price will go up drastically. Those who own it will feel if you don’t buy it today they will sell it to you for much more later. And those that want it don’t have much choice (as the last several spikes in oil prices show – demand does not decline without enormous price increases).

Huge price increases will provide incentives to those in the market to innovate to find alternative ways to make money by providing usable energy sources. If the market, overall, chooses to look forward over a long period of time, then investment in alternatives will begin in earnest early and prices of oil will slowly rise. And as prices rise slowly new alternatives (including ways of reducing consumption) will slowly come into the market. Those alternatives will slowly substitute for oil as a smooth transition is made.

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The Greatest Wall Street Danger of All: You

re: Born SuckersThe greatest Wall Street danger of all: you by Henry Blodget.

Henry Blodget mentions two profoundly (though simple) important factors that lead to poor investment decisions: Prospect Theory and Outcome Bias. He lists 7 factors, I find two profound.

Prospect Theory (more details) essentially states people are eager to “lock in gains” (sell positions with profits to realize gains) and hold losses (deffer selling positions in which they have losses so as not to “realize” the loss). Like many profound ideas the simplicity of the idea undermines the importance. This factor can make a huge difference in investment results. Many of the most successful investors understand the importance of this idea. And they repeat the importance of taking action to avoid falling into the patterns prospect theory predicts.

William O’Neil (founder of Investors Business Daily) – “Remember, 7% to 8% is your absolute loss limit. You must sell without hesitation – no waiting a few days to see what might happen or hoping the stock rallies back; no need to wait for the day’s market close” page 90, How to Make Money in Stocks: a winning system in good times or bad, 3rd Edition, 2002.
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Adventure Capitalist and China Wakes

I recently read two books that offered perspectives I found worthwhile and were enjoyable to read.

Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers tracked his trip around the world by car. Previously he had documented his around the world motorcycle journey in Investment Biker. His views offer a worthwhile perspective that is often missed, in my opinion. That said I wouldn’t accept his views as the final truth they are valuable as one perspective to shed light on areas that are often overlooked.

China Wakes, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn documents their time as Journalists in China (1988-1993) and again offers valuable insight into China. Obviously even gaining an incredibly oversimplified view of China would take a great deal more than one, or even ten books. Still the authors provide viewpoints that I found added, in a small way, to a picture of what China, was, is and may become. I plan to read their book: Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia.