Here is the second part of my interview on RT Boom/Bust. It was recorded while the FOMC was releasing its statement, so I had no idea at that time as to what the announcement had been.

The interview covers my view of Apple (not one of my strong points), Fed Policy, and what should value investors do in this low interest rate environment. Note that not all of my opinions are strong ones, and that in my opinion is a good thing. Often the best opinions are not controversial.

If you are interested in these topics, or listening to me, then please enjoy the above video. My segment is about seven minutes long.

1. Recently I appeared on RT Boom/Bust again.  The interview lasts 6+ minutes.  Erin Ade and I discussed:

  • Who benefits from lower energy prices.
  • The No-Lose Line for owning bonds,
  • Whether you are compensated for inflation risks in long bonds
  • How much an average person should invest in stocks with any assets that they have after buying their own house.
  • The value of economics, or lack thereof, to investors today.

2. Also, I did an “expert interview” for  I answered the following questions:

  • What is your most basic advice on investing?
  • What can you tell young people to help them stay financially secure in their futures?
  • How can a potential investor go about finding the best investment professional to work with for his or her individual needs?
  • Please explain how being a good investor and a good businessman go hand in hand.
  • What is your favorite part of your job?
  • You clearly do a lot of reading, as seen from your book reviews. What other genres of books do you enjoy?

3. Finally, Aleph Blog was featured in a list of the Top 100 Insurance Blogs at number 29.  I find it interesting because my blog has maybe 18% of posts on insurance topics.  That said, I have a distinctive voice on insurance, because I will talk about consumer issues, and what are companies that might be worth owning.

Enjoy the overly long infographic.

Top 100 Insurance BlogsAn infographic by the team at Rebates zone


Photo Credit: .SilentMode || Doubts that the deal is legitimate?

Photo Credit: .SilentMode || Doubts that the deal is legitimate?

I’ve written a lot about financial fraud at Aleph Blog.  I try to encourage people to be skeptical, because it is genuinely rare when a deal is exceptionally good for an average person.  Most of the time in life, you are doing pretty well if you are getting a fair deal, particularly when it comes to financial matters.  Most people selling financial products know more about the product than the prospective buyer.

Thus, Aleph Blog has written about a wide number of deals that are bad, and those that are outright fraudulent.  (At the end of this article, there will be a sample of articles that I have written.)  Not that anyone appointed me, but I regard this as one of my sub-missions, in writing this blog.  Cleaning up the investment world should be a goal of many legitimate investors, because the cleaner things are, the better the culture of trust will be for legitimate financial products.

Now, Aleph Blog does this service on two bases: free and paid.  Free is for the simple stuff.  If you write an e-mail to me asking “Is this legit?” and it is simple enough for me to give a quick answer through a blog post, I will likely (but not certainly) write a post on it, or point you to one I have written.  I may even answer the companion question, “Is it a smart thing to do?”  Most of what I do here will fall into the free category.

The complex stuff is another matter.  I have done analyses like these for prior employers, and on a freelance basis for wealthy individuals and corporations.  Examples have included:

  • Analyzing whether the Permanent Portfolio idea works or not (and other investing theory questions).
  • Analyzing a complex tax avoidance deal that involved insurance, securitization, and other factors.
  • Analyzing whether a private business deal looks legitimate.
  • Analyzing whether a securitization deal looks legitimate.
  • Analyzing complex bonds or other securities for value.
  • Giving a second opinion on an investment question.
  • Giving a second opinion on a new investment product.
  • Giving a second opinion on a financial plan.

I like an occasional complex project because it keeps my skills sharp.  I am a good financial modeler, and though I did not go to the finals the last two years in the Modeloff competition, I placed well in the first round the last two years, and in the second round in 2013 was in the top half, and though I qualified, this year I could not compete in the second round due to a schedule conflict (presbytery meeting).

If a project does not fit my expertise, I will turn it down.  Why waste your time and mine?  If I don’t have slack time, I will turn it down — my investment clients come first.  But if you have an interesting project that you think might fit me, email me, and let’s talk.  I am willing to sign confidentiality agreements, and not publish the results if need be.

Beyond that, let’s make the financial world better, and eliminate as many scams as we can.


Hey, thanks for reading… 😉 and play it safe, please.


On Thursday, November 23rd, I was recorded to be on RT Boom/Bust. The first half of it played that day, and the video of it is below:

We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time.  Here are the topics, with articles of mine that flesh out my thoughts in more detail (if any):

The second half of it played today on October 31st, and the video of it is below:

Here we talked about the following:

I really appreciated being on the show.  Hope you enjoy the videos.  Thinking fast is a challenge, and you can often see me trying to gather my thoughts.

My thanks to Erin, the producer Ed Harrison, and their segment producer, Bianca.

Full disclosure: long LUKOY, ESV, NAVI and SBS for clients and me

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012

No one knows their financial “risk tolerance” outside of the context of losing money.  Part of the trouble is that risk and return are often described in the same breath as if they are inseparable, when they are more weakly related than most think, and certainly not linear.

Surveys, no matter how well-intentioned or -designed do not typically grasp the asymmetry of gain and loss.  People feel losses much more acutely than gains, and are far more likely to change their behavior after losses.  Can’t tell you how many times I have had people say to me, “I’m never buying stock again,” after 2000-2 and 2008-9.

Nothing can prepare you for the event of loss except prior losses.  Those who have made it through losing money have coping strategies ranging from diversification to rebalancing to benign neglect, etc.  The best look at it as a cost of doing business, and try to view it together with all other investment decisions made — there will always be losses, but were there gains as well, and more of them over the long haul?

Risk is best faced in prospect, and not retrospect: ask yourself if the current assets that you hold offer fair compensation for the risks that they have.  Are they building value even if the market is not reflecting it yet?

I’m going to be starting a new irregular series at Aleph Blog, where I go through my past tax returns and pull out all of the blunders over the past 25 years.  I hope it will be instructive to my readers in many ways, but perhaps the most important of those ways is that you have to get up and fight again if you have been knocked down.  Don’t give up!  If you leave the game, it is typically at the time prior to gains.  Rather, ask whether what you are doing now is the right thing to do on a looking forward basis.  The past is gone, and the only time to affect the future is now.

So look for the new series, and appreciate my packrat tendencies that I still have the records for these matters.  Hopefully it will be fun, and particularly instructive for younger readers because I was young once too, and I started in this game as an amateur.  I made a lot of mistakes, but I did not compound my mistakes by leaving the game.

I’m going to be away for a few days.  Maybe I will have time to post; most likely I won’t.  Before I go, I want to thank my readers who have endorsed me at LinkedIn.  You are most generous in your assessments of my abilities.

But as for now, until there is better clarification of whether it is legitimate for advisors to accept endorsements at their LinkedIn profiles, I am disabling endorsements on my profile.  For those that want to do the same thing, you can find out how to do it here.

I would just rather be safe than sorry.  Aside from that, how many people use LinkedIn to find or vet out an investment advisor?

As an aside, I’ve been blogging for about 7.5 years and for the most part, I haven’t hit many dry spells.  I’m feeling a little dry at present.  If you have an idea for me on what to write about, you can send it to me here.  Thanks!

Every 100 posts or so, I take a step back and think about where I have been, and maybe, where things are heading.  This time, things are a little different.

It started when there was a series of articles published where they were measuring the amount of social media influence various RIAs that blog have.  The early ones placed me twelfth, and then one placed me fourth, without making a big thing that the group was limited to RIAs.  At present (thanks Michael Kitces!), I may be ranked fifth, for what it is worth.

That said, I don’t blog to be at or near the top of anyone’s rankings.  I’ve learned over the years that blogging is a fickle thing.  It’s one reason why I keep a wide variety of topics on hand, because those that specialize in one area (such as scandal or crisis) get put out to pasture when everything normalizes.

After that, I decided to write one post to explain my blog to those who were new readers, because there were a lot of them.  Okay, that was the last century post.  For what it is worth, that one was around 2530, and this one around 2615.

In the middle of this, I decided to update the WordPress software at my blog, and improve the ability of people to comment here using Jetpack, enhance social sharing, and allow people to log in using WordPress, among other things.  If the ability to use my blog as a reader hasn’t improved, please let me know.

Then another weird thing happened.  Yahoo Finance finally decided to cleanse the shire, and tossed out what I felt were a number of subpar content providers.  That’s when I noticed the replacement which was Yahoo Finance Contributors.  I asked to be admitted, and I was happily waved in.

What I didn’t expect was that it would roughly double the readers coming to my blog natively.  Email and RSS are up also.  I suspect that there will be some fall-off from these levels, but it is interesting to see this happen after 7.5 years of blogging and a relatively stable audience over the last five years.

About the only change long time readers should see is a picture at the top of almost all of my pieces from now on, unless like this post, I am not sending it onto Yahoo Finance via my intermediary tumblr blog.  Additional note: if you want to comment at my blog using DISQUS, it is operational on the tumblr site.

I don’t intend on changing anything else at this blog — not topics, style, etc.  I remain happy to answer questions via blog posts, and I have a number of book reviews coming, but the one thing I don’t have any more of are long series of posts on a related topic.  I think all of those are out of my system.

As I end many of these memorial posts, I thank you for spending time on my blog reading my musings.  I hope you always find it valuable, but I realize there are seasons in life, so if you eventually find me not as useful, well, that’s normal for many.  My topics change over time, usually in sync with the markets.  Phrasing it another way, if you find me less useful, you might want to check back in when market events change, because you might find me relevant again (or not).

One final note: if anyone knows a cartoonist that might like to work with me, let me know.  No guarantee that I will do anything there, but I have been musing about a few ideas.  Bye for now!

Title: Neat and Tidy | Photo Credit: dolanh

Title: Neat and Tidy | Photo Credit: dolanh

I would like to thank Yahoo Finance for cleaning up their news stream that accompanies portfolios that are set up at their site.  It used to be that I would have to copy the news flow from Yahoo Finance, drag it into an Excel spreadsheet, and do some complex operations to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Eventually, I got good enough at doing so, that it only took me five minutes a day to do that.

Fortunately, that only lasted for 18 months.  Now I can just look at the news flow on the portfolio pages, because almost all of the news-clutter is gone.  I’m not asking for perfection from Yahoo Finance.  It’s good enough that I can skip over the few remaining low-quality news sources.

I say this with some hesitation, because after writing for enough time on the web, I have friends in many publishing organizations on the web.  Thus, I would rather not publicly mention names of those excluded, or those who possibly should be excluded from those still allowed into the feed at Yahoo Finance.  I will only say to avoid robotic content.  Yes, we can create programs that can fully or partially automate the writing of certain news stories, but from my experience, those stories are low value, and frequently contain errors that a human specialist could have culled out.

To close: Thanks to Yahoo Finance for making the portfolio news feeds far more useful!

You can never quite tell where blogging may take you.  I know that if I lived near New York City, some opportunities would open up that presently aren’t likely.  Living near Baltimore/DC has had its share of opportunities, though.

In general, if I get asked to appear somewhere, I’ll try to make time on my schedule for doing so, whether it is:

  • Internet TV
  • Internet Radio
  • Local Radio
  • Fox Business News (with Cody Willard)
  • Speaking at a local High School
  • Speaking to a local College
  • Speaking to meetings of the Society of Actuaries, local Actuarial Societies, local CFA Societies, etc.
  • Talking to the staff at SIGTARP, giving a lesson on how insurance companies work
  • And more… if someone had told me all of the things that I would do as a result of saying “yes” to Jim Cramer’s invitation to write for eleven years ago, I would have been surprised.  The thing I would have been most surprised at would have been the total amount of words that I have written.  I viewed myself eleven years ago as a mathematical businessman, but not a writer.

About five days ago, I was invited to appear on RT America’s show Boom Bust.  What I did not know at the time was that Ed Harrison of Credit Writedowns was behind getting me onto the show.  I’ve known Ed for some time — he was one of the original attendees at the only Aleph Blog Lunch.

I also didn’t know what I would be talking about on the show, so when I got pulled into the makeup room (me?) ten minutes prior to airtime, I was saying to myself, “I guess I have to ‘wing it.'”  Then Ed popped his head through the door and said “Hi,” and explained everything to me.  What a relief!  I went back to the Green Room, scribbled out a few notes — not that I could take it with me, but just to get my mind in order for what I *might* be asked about.

As it was, it went fast, like every other time that I have been on live TV or radio.  What was eight or so minutes felt like two.  Are there things I would have said differently with more composure?  Yes.  But that’s part of the fun of it: thinking on your feet, because I knew little about what the actual questions would be.

If you want to, enjoy watching the video of RT America Boom Bust.  My particular portion is on from 3:30 to 12:00 or so.  Ed Harrison is on at the end.  I stayed to watch that segment live, and talk with Ed and the charming host Erin Ade afterwards.  It was a fun end to my workday.