Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blogging Wealthtrack - Nov 21, 2010

Consuelo Mack: Wealthtrack is fast becoming one of my favorite shows to watch on the weekend. This weekend, Consuelo had on David Einhorn from Greenlight Capital, a firm that made its name by shorting large firms during the fiscal crisis and made a killing doing so. Greenlight Capital is a hedge fund, and its investors have been quite happy with the returns. But while he is known for being short, Greenlight capital is about 1.5 long versus 1.0 long in terms of a mix of investments.

As for Quantitative Easing, Einhorn referenced the fact that the Fed is targeting inflation, but notes that there is a problem with it. The problem is that the inflation might come, but not where you expect it to. It may come in clothing, energy, food etc. These would be things that everyone needs, not things that are real luxury-type items that people are looking for to increase demand.

On Gold, to Einhorn, Gold is money. "The merit of gold is that given [the current crisis] is how we want our assets denominated." To Einhorn, "gold makes sense as a diversifier and is the type of money that Ben Bernanke cannot print more of."

All of these are insights that are quite exciting. I'm quite pleased on some level that I was able to read into these events correctly, at least according to Einhorn's statements, but the fact is, I wonder what the correct next step is; that is a real concern, especially for someone like an individual investor with only a modest sum.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Health Care Costs Climbing -- like everything else

Just this past week I was on a visit to some family a few hours away and I was pleased at how efficient the trip was. The cost of the fuel to get there was not overly expensive and good planning kept the costs down to something reasonable. Due to space constraints, I opted to get a hotel room for the night but this was planned for in advance. I use the same chain each time to accumulate reward points.

However, about half way through the weekend, I noticed that I was getting a cold and felt like I had a sore throat. Cut to a trip to the pharmacy to get a package of cold medicine. Even the store brand, which was on sale, still cost about nine dollars. The costs of these things really are increasing. That is the very reason why I find comments that there is no inflation to be dubious at best.

Statistics from the Dept. of Labor when it comes to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) tell a more accurate story than just waving-of-hands types of comments. The CPI shows, in short that there are many increases in common goods that most people buy regularly.

Furthermore, despite the CPI values, there are some reports that indicate the FED may even be targetting an inflation rate of 4-6% for a couple of years. Regardless, there is strong concern that the QE2 move of the Fed printing more money (600 Billion$ in this last round) might cause the USD to lose some of its standing as a reserve currency.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Getting Back In Control With A Regular Update

To say that this month has been difficult with the spending would be a huge understatement. Just this past weekend I went overboard on the spending with clothes and christmas shopping. What's more, the car needed new brakes this weekend--420 dollars! Yikes! Yes, Christmas shopping. I know that it is early, but I still intend to be prepared and get it out of the way. That said, there are huge cutbacks this year. I'm hoping this update with help me get some perspective.

First off, in our own families, we are keeping the gifts much smaller. Even though I normally give bonds to my nephews and neices I have decided to not do that this year. The bonds are normally quite small and we need to make sure we're being more careful with our money in this economy. No one knows what the future holds.

While the stock market has bounced back, it certainly seems like we cannot feel certain about anything. Volitility seems to be quite high over the past few years, so who knows what will happen in the future. And as for personal finances, I continue to be conservative to a point. I continue to maintain a large sum parked in non-interest bearing accounts just for safe keeping. Besides this, some money is in a relatively safe mutual fund geared toward income.

A recent check of my budget showed that I was dramatically out of whack with what my expenses and my income was and that makes me really strongly want to rethink some of the purchasing that I was planning on doing in the near future. When the home was first purchased, I was told that you should expect to put in about two percent of your home's value each year as upkeep in addition to the costs of your mortgage, insurance, taxes and fees. Even with the home prices having declined as they did recently, this seems pretty steep. I don't know. I certainly wish that I had the money to both continue to improve the house and also aggressively pay off debt.

While debt is continuing to be paid off, it has been difficult to get excited about the progress. And opportunities to make a little extra money like I did a few years back seem to be fewer and fewer so that I don't feel as confident about my ability to pickup a few hundred extra dollars to pay down a bill. But then again, it seems like this is the case with everyone.

All of those things said, I am doing the following to get back in control:

1. Bring lunch from home.
2. Attempt to eat out of the office no more than once a day.
3. Track the paydowns of loans aggressively to stay motivated.
4. Continue to stay active/positive at work and life because the implications are far-reaching.