December 19, 2014

Make Sure You Measure the Right Things in Life

Retail Gasoline Real vs Nominal Inflation Adjustment Prices

With all of the talk of gas prices falling, I'm reminded of the situation a couple of years ago when fuel costs were on an upward trajectory.  Everyone from the little old ladies at church to major economic commentators were lamenting the "record high" energy expenses.  Very few people noticed that, as per the U.S. Energy Information Administration data, the actual cost of gasoline in inflation adjusted terms was still very cheap up until the height of the real estate bubble.  Though the nominal … [Read more...]

Investing in The Hershey Company Has Made Generations of Investors Rich

Hershey Icon for Investment Post

As we approach the end of 2014, I'm looking back on the year.  One of the major changes from an investing perspective what a modification Aaron and I made in the investment policy manual.  That doesn't happen often.  We added a handful of companies to the list of permanent business; those companies we consider so exceptional that we buy them with no intention of ever selling.  The Hershey Company was one of those firms. One of the biggest mistakes of my investing life, and a lesson that took m … [Read more...]

Is It Moral for Society to Protect Spendthrift Trust Assets from Tort Claims?

Gratuitous Transfers Wills Intestate Succession Future Interesta nd Estate and Gift Taxation American Casebook Series West Fifth Edition Cover

I told you two nights ago, in a post about digital price tags and retailing, that one of my cousins was getting married yesterday.  On the drive to the ceremony, I was reading a book I bought sometime in the past few months (I can't remember when or where I purchased it - it just showed up and was in one of the boxes that routinely pile up as I find things interesting I want to study and figure I'll get to them someday).  It's called Gratuitous Transfers: Wills, Intestate Succession, Trusts, Gif … [Read more...]

Are Digital Price Tags the Future of Retail?

Digital Price Tags

A cousin of mine is getting married tomorrow.  Aaron and I were out shopping for the wedding gift, coordinating with other members of the family on the phone to decide if we should all get separate gifts, combine certain gifts to get something much nicer, or what.  We ended up going to Kohl's and settling on one of those Keurig K550 machines everyone is so crazy about (except the old owners - apparently, if you read the reviews, the new ones only accept certain pods so the old owners with the no … [Read more...]

Case Study: Read a Group of Stockholders Realize In Real Time They’ve Lost Their Entire Life Savings When GT Advanced Technologies Declares Bankruptcy

GT Advanced Technologies

Are you in the mood for a case study resource for your own investment policy manual?  If so, brace yourself because this one is heartbreaking.  You can learn a lot from it, and save your own family a great deal of tragedy, but it's going to involve surveying the ruins of the lives of others so you might want to steel yourself. I found it courtesy of one of you - thanks Andrew! - who sent this to me in the contact form.  I happened to see it while following up on a promise I made to a few of yo … [Read more...]

The Standard Life Insurance Demutualization (Or How 72,000 Former Policyholders in the United Kingdom Are About to Forfeit £113,000,000 in Unclaimed Stock and Cash)

Standard Life Demutualization

Imagine you have a policy with an insurance company.  This insurance company is mutually run, which means there are no stockholders.  Instead, the policyholders own the business and the enterprise is managed to give policyholders the best service, at the lowest possible price, as a cooperative undertaking.  Now, imagine that one day, the policyholders' representatives decide they want the business to become a for-profit corporation.  The representatives convert the company and send the polic … [Read more...]

Lewis David Zagor Leaves Behind an $18,000,000 Secret Fortune Amassed from Investing in Stocks and Mutual Funds

Park Avenue Millionaire

It's no secret that most wealth in the United States is so-called stealth wealth.  We now live in a country where roughly 1 in 5 families earns six-figures a year or more, which most people wouldn't believe, and for those who put aside money, something like 80%+ of millionaires hide their net worth from friends and family, who are clueless as to the capital they have amassed, often living in normal houses, driving normal cars, and doing normal jobs.  Interestingly, it is not just the six-figure f … [Read more...]

Dealing with Business Rejection, the McDonald’s Franchise Disclosure Document, and a $114 Million Coffee Fortune

McDonald's Counter In New Store Copyright Joshua Kennon

From time to time, I get messages from business owners or entrepreneurs who are discouraged and upset.  Their family, friends, colleagues, bank officers, or suppliers don't believe in what they are trying to do and they take it personally.  This afternoon, as I sat in a McDonald's restaurant having coffee and revisiting an excellent book called McDonald's Behind the Arches that details the historical rise of one of the world's largest real estate portfolio masquerading as a hamburger chain, I was … [Read more...]

Location, Location, Location

Capitalism Summed Up

Remember rule number one on late billionaire Estee Lauder's strategy list?  I just came across an exchange about the merits of Costco vs. Sam's Club on this thread.  It sums up capitalism, consumer choice, and individual economic autonomy perfectly. Whether building a military fort or a fast food joint, location matters.  Paying more for the better location is often the best strategy.  It's one of the few areas in life you don't want to try and take the low bid. … [Read more...]

15 Rules for Success by Estee Lauder

Estee A Success Story Estee Lauder Autobiography 1985

Estee Lauder couldn't get an ad agency to accept her company as a client because her budget was too small.  Facing rejection after rejection, she decided to take the $50,000 she had set aside for marketing and try something new.  Undeterred by the endless stream of "no", she mailed direct samples to consumers, launched a virtually unheard of "free gifts with purchase" promotion, and made donations to charity to raise brand awareness.  Over the years, it is this sort of thinking that turned her bu … [Read more...]

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