So much misfortune in life can be sidestepped if you simply make it a rule to never stretch your finances, yet it’s a rule I see violated more than any other both through observation of those around me and through the messages I receive. Someone can afford a $150,000 house but they try to buy a $250,000 house. Another can realistically go to a college that will cause them to graduate with $10,000 in debt but they want to sign up for the program that will put them $40,000 in debt. Then, not only do they have to hustle to try and meet their legally promised payments, they have to pay rent (in the form of interest expense) on the savings they’ve temporarily borrowed from someone else through an intermediary such as a bank.
Having reached the end of the road in the third installment of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, requiring 150+ hours of game play over a four year period to climb the highest levels of power in creation and culminate in a conclusion to the series, I’m struck how the entire thing is really a well-done repackaging of Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma. In case it’s been awhile since you delved into the classics, the philosopher’s famous question posed in Greece more than 2,300 years ago can be summed up as (made singular since a majority of world religions are now monotheistic): Is something “good” because God says it is good, making it dependent upon His will or does God say something is “good” because it is inherently “right”, making goodness independent of His will?
Mental Model: Situational Knowledge Last night, I was talking with Aaron about the situational knowledge mental model and its implication for business innovation. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, situational knowledge is a type of experience-based knowledge that arises either organically or through training, creating a database of relevant facts and implicit…
I’m taking it as a given that practically everyone who reads this site has already gone through Warren Buffett’s stockholder letter, which Berkshire Hathaway released today. Personally, I love how, for only the third or fourth time in his career, Buffett essentially provides enough mathematical evidence to say to people, “You’re a moron for not buying Berkshire Hathaway at these prices, but I’ll never come right out and say it.” He did it in sort of a clever way, too, to encourage people to run the figures.
The Wall Street Journal had a recent story detailing the trend of small investors jumping back into stocks, some trading options and futures. I’m old enough now, combined with twin quirks of being interested in finance at such a young age and having my lifespan line up with some interesting times in the capital markets, that I’ve watched this play out three times. At this point, you’d think it would lose its novelty but I still find my mouth dropping open and my head shaking in disbelief, mixed in with a bit of sadness. Reading what people are doing with their hard earned money – money that they exchanged for part of their life by selling time that could have been used traveling, reading, painting, or hanging out on the beach – doesn’t compute. If you took $5 out of their wallet, they’d throw a fit, but they’ll gamble $5,000 on something they barely understand.
It’s like people never learned anything from the Oklahoma Satanist case last year. Unintended consequences matter. Yet, it seems like people don’t build them into their behavioral models. If you open that door, you’re not the only one that gets to walk through. It’s so simple. It’s so basic, yet people forget it time and…
he Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 27 No. 3 (Summer 2013) has a wonderful piece on the investment record of John Maynard Keynes, who managed to beat the market by an average of 8 percent per year from 1921 through 1946 by focusing on long-term, high quality dividend-paying stocks as well as smaller enterprises that had room to grow. When he died in his early sixties, Keynes had achieved the rank of one of the richest economists in history, amassing a fortune equal to $30,000,000 today.
On July 17th, 1981, one of the premier hotels in Kansas City suffered a catastrophic structural collapse that killed dozens of people and became a textbook case study for universities throughout the world. I still pass the building and am struck by how many people were wiped out, instantly, with only a few seconds’ notice…
I’m going through the corporate bond filings of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly just out of curiosity. They have a huge patent cliff coming up, during which time as much as 40% of their revenue base will be exposed to generic competition. I wondered what it would do to the risk metrics on the senior bonds so I pulled the Moody’s rating and reading over the figures as I listen to an old 1970s song called Snookeroo.
I spent a big percentage of my day reading indenture documents for corporate debt securities because I was helping someone pick up some additional fixed income investments for a retirement portfolio. I managed to get my hands on a nice block of high-grade, non-callable debentures from a major packaged foods company with a 4.3% yield-to-maturity on the remaining decade before maturity, but still have a bit of their dry powder left to spend.