Have you ever had a summer drink, perhaps lemonade or sweet tea that just had an unreasonable amount of sugar in it? I have, and it wasn't the best taste.
Recently I've been thinking a lot about the frequency and size of publicly traded companies merging or taking each other over. A few examples include AstraZeneca's takeover of Takeda's respiratory business, Agrium selling to Potash, and now my favorite... U.S. Geothermal is selling out to Ormat Technologies.
Why is this bad? It decreases the number of players in each field, which can harm competition. It also concentrates money (read power) in fewer hands. Yes, I know a few of you will clamor about economies of scale and yada yada, but that is hardly the point at all. My main concern is, why are these companies agreeing to sell out? Are they looking to make a quick buck? Are they suffering of exhaustion from fighting larger firms year after year? Perhaps in the age of money in politics firms need to band together to put together enough cash to lobby for themselves, and against others, meaning the field of competition has simply shifted? Instead of fighting for lower prices and market share they now compete for favorable litigation. Though that is only a suspicion.
Having held U.S. Geothermal (HTM) stock for a few years I felt attached to it. I read their updates, knew their site, had scouted their locations on Google maps, read Glassdoor reviews from employees, and had spent hours pouring over their financials. I felt attached to the success or demise of this little Idaho company fighting the underdog fight against big oil. Just last weekend I was telling my closest confidant how I wished to increase my stake in the company by 40 more shares on Friday. All of that is now gone as they are absorbed into another firm whom I have no loyalty. The same could be said of my new found NTR shares.....
For now I will hold on for the ride, but know, I do so in protest.
Look at the world "wrapped" what a strange assembly of letters to create a word which I can type and you can interpret to arrive at the same meaning. Though, if we both spoke English, with different backgrounds, would we of come to the same conclusion? Language is a powerful trick we've created, no doubt the single most important thing in cumulative learning which enabled us to advance as a species. Anyways, enough on that.
Let's take a moment to reflect on the year, what an interesting year it has been indeed. I finished a significant portion of my university studies and traveled throughout Iberia and the Atlas Mountains. I've also saved and managed my workload well. However, this has also been a year of goodbyes. I've said goodbye to three of my closest brothers out here, a sobering reminder of why I am going home. To find and build more stable relationships, for my heart can no longer take the coming and going of friends. But alas, I still have a stock of close friends remaining here, at least for now, and have added to it since Spring. Though with the transient nature of this location the sand in their hourglass grows smaller every day. Is this the reality of modern America?
Just last week I finished university obligations for the year and found myself with little to do over the weekend between visits with friends. One ominous creature kept calling my name. The television. I couldn't believe how powerful the allure to sit in my warm bunker and passively absorb hours of nonsense was. Of course, using the winter chill as my excuse not to be outside. Wait a second. I was being tempted to do something that I didn't really want to do, and knew was bad for me. Then made an excuse as to why it was okay. All the warning signals of an addiction. I made a prudent decision, canceled all streaming services and lowered my internet package to one that was so slow I couldn't stream if I wanted to. Perfect.
After a few days of thinking, I can't help but come to the conclusion that television is a huge contributing source to the apathetic melancholy that seems to plague so many people I know. Not to mention their void of any information that is actually important. Ask one of the television zombies in your life about current world affairs, economics, or anything of real value. Be polite, and patiently listen to their answer, which luckily for you will be short. But the television zombies find themselves a stroke of luck, our current president has turned the nation into a reality television series so they can bear to make it through the news. Unfortunately the cost for this entertaining tirade will be all too high.
I do not actually know what people think about all the time. Do they think? I often wonder what is going on, and try to understand it. But it seems whenever I ask my peers these questions, they either have no interest or simply don't know. There are of course rare exceptions, and if you are reading this you know who you are. However, the rest seem content scraping by and living in a bubble of nonsense to avoid facing the obstacles holding them back. Though honestly, who am I to say? Perhaps I am merely another overeducated, inexperienced millennial. I guess time will tell.
When you first start investing it can seem like there is an overwhelming amount of data out there for you to sift through. However, we can distill the basics of investing into a few key points. Let's look at some of the ones that influence my choices.
1. What is the expense ratio? Vanguard and Schwab are known for having very cheap, but very broad ETF's. You can also go with Investico or Global X if you want more targeted - thematic ETF's, but that customization will come with a higher expense ratio. So you have to weigh what means more to you.
2. How much does the ETF cost? Not in terms of it's purchase price for share, but how expensive is it? I would avoid buying ETF's that are at all time highs or within a close range of all time highs.
3. Dividends. In a taxable account you may want to minimize your dividend's since they will be taxed. Instead you might opt for a growth ETF that will earn value in capital appreciation (price appreciation) instead of realized dividends.
1. Do people need it? This really came to light for young investors who bought into Snapchat (lol). People do not "need" Snapchat so it has little value. However people do need basic materials, utilities and the like, because services are built on industry.
For example, I wouldn't buy American Airlines or Delta Airlines stock, instead I would buy Boeing and Airbus, because they are the manufactures. People are not going to stop flying, but the companies flying people can change over time (Pan American anyone).
2. Now you have found the sector you want to buy in. Time to do some research. What company leads in that field? Do they have a strong track record of stock price increase? If they have a dividend do they increase it? Have they haver cut their dividend? Check their P/E ratio against the average for their industry, if its the same or lower, thats a good sign.
3. Don't buy at the top! I don't buy any stocks when they are trading above their 52 week average, and I avoid buying them if they are at or near all time highs.
4. Now you have found the sector / industries you want to invest in and have narrowed your list down to a few companies. You can add them to your watch list and wait for them to dip below 52 week average, or buy any that are currently trading for a discount.
These are just my strategies, but I think they provide a good overview for investors.
>> A lot of this research can be done using Google. Doing searches such as " K stock" and getting back the chart of Kellogg stock, you can then analyze it's all time high, and where it is in the last 5 years etc. You also get it's P/E ratio and dividend yield. Then you could do something like go to Morning Star and look up Kellogg then click the page for "industry peers" and compare it to other companies. Remember, Google and time are your friends use them to make your decisions!
-Good luck and Happy Investing!
Over the past decade ETF's have seen a huge rise in popularity. This could be due to any number of factors, the largest I believe are availability and ease of use. A passive investor can simply buy into a diversified ETF and sit back. If they are feeling sophisticated they can buy ETF's that target certain sectors, then continue to sit back. Offering diversified ETF's and mutual funds has been a popular strategy for employers looking to furnish tax advantaged accounts to employees.
However, I am beginning to see a problem with this model. The loss of market democracy. When I own shares of SDY or QCILIX I don't get to partake in the voting for the underlying securities. Instead SPDR and TIAA take care of that. As people buy into these funds, the fund goes out and buys more shares and continues to grow its voting rights in those perspective companies. As this continues companies such as Blackrock, Vanguard, TIAA, etc hold almost all the say in how companies are governed. They choose who is appointed to the board, which accounting firm is used, and more.
Is this a good thing? I don't think so. I think when a small number of investment firms can dictate how a huge number of public companies are run, we can end up in trouble. Are we getting the best board members? Are we getting to vote for greener manufacturing processes?
However at this point, can we convince the larger investing community to directly invest? It is possible to build a diversified portfolio of individual stocks, you just have to work at it. But it's harder than that, for instance I simply don't have options though TIAA to choose funds outside of theirs. I also have ETF's which are doing really well in my taxed account and I would be sad to see them go. But the reality is, I don't need the middle man taking an E/R every year and we don't need them having all the voting rights. I think from here on I will probably try to stick to buying direct securities as often as possible.
The saying was #DrainTheBanks, perhaps we should have #DrainTheETF's
For this post we will focus on bonds. U.S. Treasury bonds to be exact.
You can purchase bonds in a variety of ways, through a marketplace or directly from the Treasury. To buy bonds directly from the U.S. Government you go to treasurydirect.gov, create an account and you can purchase bonds in $100 increments as you please (while there you can also buy notes and t-bills, but those are for another discussion). You can also purchase bonds through ETF's and Mutual funds that have been curated and managed by various companies (say Vanguard).
How you purchase your bonds will determine how you accrue interest on them. If you buy direct then you will get interest every 6 months until maturity (say 30 years) at which time the purchase price of that bond will be returned to you (say a $100 bond). If you buy your bonds as part of a product (ETF) then you will receive a distribution (dividend) every so often, into perpetuity, until you sell your shares of that product.
Now, things can get tricky when you go to sell your bonds. If you purchase your bond at $100 and 2% interest, and rates go up to 2.5%, no one is going to give you face value ($100) for a 2% bond, when they can go get a new bond at the current rate. That means if you want to sell your bond, you will have to sell it for lower than face value (less than $100) to create an artificially higher yield for the new buyer, so they can have a competitive rate. This really leads to danger if you have large bond holdings and rates increase, your ability, and profitability of selling those bonds goes way down.
However that DOES NOT mean your bonds are actually worth LESS than they were the day before. They simply cannot be RESOLD in the market place for their full face value anymore. However, if you hold on to them, they still maintain their same face value to you, and their same yield. So don't let anyone tell you that your existing bond holdings are worthless if the Fed raises rates. Your bonds have the same value, so long as you retain them. This is different for packaged products such as ETF's and mutual funds, since they are traded in the market place, and can lose significant market value.
There are also corporate bonds and other forms of debt issuance that we can discuss in a later article.
Living in the suburbs is a selfish thing to do. Not only does it cost you more, it costs your neighbors and the entire planet more. The cost to build individual stand alone homes is significantly higher per person than living in the urban core. Today we will be exploring some of the costs associated with living in the suburbs.
Phase 1: The city has to run utilities all the way out to these neighborhoods to service them. This has a high initial cost and significantly higher maintenance cost due to the distance covered, and the number of people served per foot of piping.
Phase 2: Building the houses. Each house has a minimum of 5 sides exposed to the outside ambient temperature. This means they are far less efficient. They also lack common resources (one primary sewage pipe going into an apartment building can service many apartments) and individual wall structures, and roofing.
Phase 3: Living in your McMansion (if the bank paid for it, you cant afford it, so get over yourself debt slave). Daily costs such as heating and cooling rooms that you hardly use, watering a lawn you probably don't use. The pathetic attempt to plant generic trees in the spirit of "being green". Lack of any properly sized porch or community amenities that bring neighbors together. Over sized appliances which say "HE" on them, but reverse that by being gargantuan.
Phase 4: The joys of commuting. You wake up early and hop in your bank financed vehicle, crank up the Pandora and prepare to spend the next 45 minutes trapped in your mobile planet destroyer. Well done. Just to get to work you needed to waste all the C02 to build the vehicle in the first place, now you get to spend every day filling the air with more C02, just so you can get to work. Lets do some math! 45 minutes, twice a day, 5 days a week, for lets say 49 weeks a year (you work for a company with paid time off, which is how you think you can afford the McMansion and car)! That totals: 367.5 hours a year or 15.3 days per year sitting in your car, literally just trying to get to work. This doesn't count fuel stops and maintenance trips either. So you've wasted over 2 weeks of your life, loads of money, and helped destroy the planet. All so you can have a white picket fence and SUV.
The cost: You're a bank slave and waste so much money on this nonsense that retirement, especially early retirement is improbable. Even if you make enough money, you've heavily contributed to the destruction of our one planet.
Now lets talk about the urban dweller:
Phase 1: The city runs piping from the street where it already existed to your lot where the apartment complex is located, so maybe 50-70 feet of pipe from street to building main.
Phase 2: A 6-10 apartment complex is built where everyone uses the same utility mains, and can have anywhere from 2-5 common walls depending on where in the structure your particular apartment is.
Phase 3: Living in your apartment. You share walls with your neighbors and protect each other from outside exposure to ambient temperatures. Your rooms are appropriately sized and there is a community lawn. Between the 6-10 of you the lawn finally gets some use. To save space you have smaller more efficient appliances.
Phase 4: The joys of commuting. You get to wake up early and stroll down the beautiful sidewalks, with street trees and sining birds. The early morning sun warms your cheeks as you sip your coffee. You see your neighbors on their jog and wave hello. You've burned calories and raised your moral on the way to work. You walk in stress free and energized. If you live in the urban core, but a bit further from work you can bike, which is great cardio, and if you go slow you can avoid sweating in your nice clothes! Or you can take city transport where the C02 emissions of that vehicle are divided among all the passengers, and per person it emits much less than individual transportation. All in all, you saved money, saved the planet, and had a healthier happier life.
The cost: New shoes every 2.5-3 years.
Make your choices, but I'd rather live near other people and have more money, instead emitting an excess of C02, and having less money.
Money buys you options.
Thats no joke. When you have money you have the freedom to choose. You can choose where you live, choose where you get healthcare, choose where you go to school.
Without money you are restricted to a very narrow set of options and have lost some freedom. You have lost the freedom of mobility (whether it be socially, economically or physically). You have also lost your freedom of choice, which I think is the most important.
With money I can make the choice to eat better. I also have the choice to move or change certian aspects of my life. Money is choice, choices are freedom.
When people ask me what I want, I tell them the truth "I want to be free". Sometimes they think I am joking or giving them a hard time, but it's absolutely true. Right now I have nowhere near enough money to make that choice. So I forego my freedom now, in hopes of attaining it later.
Save money and discover new choices for yourself. Good luck.
In this article I will discuss how market crashes / corrections (or whatever else you want to call it) actually help young people.
A market crash is when markets shift downwards faster than anticipated, and go lower than people expected. The most recent cases would be the 2001 and 2007-2008 crashes / corrections.
"GenY, wtf man, I have a lot of money in markets we can't have a crash!"
Agreed, for people who are already heavily invested, or close to / in retirment a market crash is the last thing they want happening. A crash near retirement could delay someones dreams of escaping the work place. And worse for already retired people they may have a hard time financing thier lifestyles.
However, there is another side of the coin we should look at. The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF - VOO is up 96% in the last 5 years currently costing around $207 a share. Thats a lot of money for the same product people were buying for $105 just 5 years ago. Basically that means you are paying $102 more for the same product, with the same returns and distributions as someone who paid $105. Thats simply too expensive for many young investors.
Let's imagine there is a 15% market crash (markets drop by 15%). So theoretically that fund would cost $176. So you get a 15% discount, and the people who bought in 5 years ago have still made $71 or 68% profit in 5 years, giving them an average yearly increase of 13% < still excellent.
This same principal applies to housing markets. During the 2007-2008 crash a lot of people lost their homes. However, there were savers who could finally afford a home once prices came down.
So are market corrections (as we will now call them) a completly bad thing? No, I don't think so. So long as it is within the bounds of reason, and the drop is not so steep that it ruins people. Because honestly, should we be expecting more than a 13% retun on investment year over year? A 19% average increase year over year does seem a bit exaggerated. It's great if you are already on the party train, but for everone else, they get left in the dust.
Negative Externalities are everywhere, but what exactly are they?
"A negative externality is a cost that is suffered by a third party as a result of an economic transaction."
This basically means a transaction happened that you were not part of, however it still had a negative effect on you. Such as someone who does not own a car having to breathe car polluted air.
Should people who cause negative externalities be required to pay for their effects? It would be incredibly hard to track who is affected by who, but on a general level we could impose penalties for people who are creating negative externalities for other members of society. Such as a pollution tax based on how much pullution your car puts out, charging for plastic grocery bags, or increased rent for tenents with pets. These increased costs could pay for mitigation efforts to help offset the problems created for other people. Such as more money for green energy, litter clean up projects, or sound proofing the walls for other tenants.
These increased costs could be considered unfair for the people paying them, but is it fair for them to degrade the quality of your life because they want to do things that are not confined to only affecting themselves?
I think just about everyone creates negative externalities in some way. However you should always try to be considerate, and mitigate the reach and damage of your activities.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Is spending money a crazy thing to do? Why do people spend money? What do we get out of it?
In this article I will try to understand those questions.
Why do people spend money? Well for lots of reasons, first you have to spend money to live. Food and housing are not free, and some how healthcare isn't either, so to live in this country to must spend money.
There are however reasons to spend money beyond covering your subsistance. Many people I know, including myself will spend for pleasure. Whether it's to go out for a night with the guys or spending on some frivilous consumer item, we tend to spend money on all kinds of nonsense, but why? In the moment it is hard to resist the urge to spend, the urge to be like those near you, and to be able to partake in the activities they are partaking in. But do you need it? I think the answer is usually no. However we need to evaluate what you get out of spending to understand why you want to spend.
What do you get out of spending money? You get to participate, you get to be apart of whatever activity everyone else is doing. Spending money is also powerful, it gives you the ability to request something, and someone give it to you. People can also buy things to try and show status or success, (though a truy successful person will not feel so empty that they need to project it onto other people) they are seeking attention or approval, perhaps both.
GenY, I think you're talking bullshit mate, you buy stuff all the time. Right you are. It's a process, to migrate from the cult / religion of mass consumerism to the world of sanity and logic is not instant. But I am working on it, I've got a nice reserve of capital buit up that I am not wasting on an Xbox One (I've got a 5 year old 360), or a better car (same car since I was 18 - 5 years ago) so when it comes to big purchases (wastes) I am improving. However I still struggle to deny smaller items that are just as worthless (eating out / partying).
So if you're spending money, what should it be on? Well that is entirley up to you. However, I think it's logical to spend money on education and experiences (within the bounds of reason). Especially if you can mix the two :) .
All right, what's the summary here? Avoid buying nonense, don't buy worthless consumer junk, and try to find something more valuable than happyness via cheap trinkets. A smart man told me "happyness is a fleeting feeling, so I dont chase it, instead I chase peace".