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On LinkedIn Endorsements and Registered Investment Advisors

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

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!

Post 2600

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

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!

Enjoying Yahoo Finance Portfolio News

Friday, September 5th, 2014
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!

My Time on RT America’s Boom Bust

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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.

Regarding Sorted Tweets

Friday, July 4th, 2014

I received the following from a reader of mine:

Dear Sir:

Have you removed your weekly Twitter digests? They were fantastic reading – please bring them back if you can.

I’m a huge fan of your work.


I’ve been really busy, and I haven’t been tweeting much.  I regard my blog audience as my main audience, and so I want to ask my main audience one simple question.  Do you value my “sorted weekly tweets” or not?  You can email me, and I will consider the requests; the more that email me, the more likely I continue to do it.




Business Website

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

I am not asking for any asset management business, but I set up a website for my asset management business.  You can visit it here.  It is crude and basic, compared to Aleph Blog.  If you are curious about what I do to make a living, you can find out about it there.  That’s all.

Peterson’s Guide to Financial Blog Commenters

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

I’ve been blogging for over seven years… this is just an experiment, and unlikely to be repeated.  Here goes:

Have you ever read through comment streams on major financial news and blogging websites?  Or the Message Boards at Yahoo?  It is often ugly, bitter, and uninformed.  That’s why I am bringing to you the Peterson’s Guide to Financial Blog Commenters!  Let’s have a look at the zoo:

The Insult Masters

Couple arguing

There are many who can’t argue the details of an article, so it saves time and face to insult the author or other commenters.  These are all too common, and make life dreary for serious thinkers.

The Person with a Little Insight



There are well-meaning and knowledgeable commenters, and they are a breath of fresh air compared to most of those who comment.  Would that we had more of them.  More often found in places where authors don’t write offensively.

The Person with a Lot of Insight



This is rare, but occasionally you get commenters that know more than the writer, or at least are on a par.  If you spot them in the wild, take a snapshot of them, and send it in to the Aleph Blog.  I appreciate great wisdom wherever it is found.  Usually found as blogs that take a studious and serious tone.

Cult Members / Victimhood





The internet has many nooks and crannies, more than a mountain of English muffins.  Let me point out a few with respect to cults & victimhood:


  • Bitcoin
  • Xenophobia
  • Guns


  • Bush
  • Obama
  • 1%
  • Bankers
  • Government
  • Big Biz & Big Government
  • The Purple Party (I.e. “there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between the Republican and Democrat parties.” George Wallace)
  • Jews — Really?  We haven’t gotten past this?  Anti-Semitism is so 20th Century.

Partisan Hacks



You know how the world works, and you talk down to the unwashed who don’t agree.  Though they may deprecate religion, they are as bad as the worst of the religious in not listening to the views of the other side — after all, they have the knowledge that few do.

Too Much Time on Your Hands



I don’t know why some people leave incredibly long comments at a website or blog.  It would be far better for them to start their own blog where they can showcase their work, and put it forth positively, rather than merely reacting.

The Writer is a Shill



There are some commenters that exist only to push a view for which they are compensated.  Be wary of those who stridently comment in areas where there is some financial advantage to do so.

Pushes Pet Issue

pushes pet issue


Much like the cult members and victims, there are those that will push their pet issue, because that is a main goal of theirs.

Tells Sob Story

sob story


Cute kid, huh?  But some people use comment threads to grieve over their story where they allege they were abused by powerful corporations, governments, etc.



Some just make jokes about the article or comments, and this is perhaps the most common of all… after all, who doesn’t like a good joke?  Unless, of course, you are the target…

Pot Shots

pot shot


There are many who go for quick hits on authors or commenters.  After all, in an anonymous culture, there is no cost to being insulting or rude.  So take a pot shot, right?




Like those that have to much time on their hands, those that rant have a lot to say, and you are entitled to all of it.




Finally, the least valuable — those that insist on points of grammar, when the sense of the communication is easily known.


My main point here is that most who comment on financial websites and blogs should not do it, or they should change, so that they comment in such a way that they elevate the discussion above the analogy of a common brawl.  Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  Aim for the good of others, rather than putdowns.  It’s that simple.


Why I Don’t Write a Newsletter

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

At various points over the last 20 years, various friends have encouraged me to write a newsletter.   I have resisted these requests, because in general, I don’t have respect for newsletter writers.

If you’ve got great ideas, invest in them, and start a firm to do so for others.  Don’t hide behind the virtual sham of “this is only entertainment.”  I’ve been blogging for seven years, and I am not trying to entertain but to educate.  I don’t give financial advice because I don’t know who I am speaking to; everything is general, so what I write may be applicable to some readers, but certainly not all readers.

Second, since I have created my own firm, I owe a duty to my clients that they get my best insights, implicitly or explicitly.  Implicitly: I no longer mention what my holdings are, unless I write about them.  At present, the sharpest reader who is not a client knows 20% of my equity portfolio at best.  Explicitly, I write to my clients once a quarter, and tell them what I am thinking, and why I have taken the actions that I have in their portfolios.

It is simpler for me from an ethics and compliance standpoint to keep public and private information separate.  It gives my clients the focus they deserve, and allows me to write on a wide amount of topics of interest to many people, without doing damage to either side.  As always, if I have a position in something I write about, I will disclose it.

Post 2400 — Seven Years at the Aleph Blog!

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Two million or so words ago, I started this blog.  I wanted to do something different; something that reflected my character, and would be an aid to many.  I wanted it to be a bit of a “brain dump,” so that I could impart what I have learned to many.  After seven years, I think the task is mostly complete.

Tonight I would like to thank one group of people I have not thanked before — my clients.  I don’t advertise my services, at least I haven’t so far, though that may change in the future.  My clients provide me with my living, and I appreciate it.

Aleph Blog is fun, and it turns a profit, but is enough to fund my family for three weeks per year.  Those that blog for a living have to be far more promotional than I would like.  I’m happy writing about the things that move me the most, and hopefully, provide the best information for readers.

But if anyone would have asked me where my readers would be coming from seven years ago, I would have said almost entirely from the US & Canada.  That’s almost true — 30% of my readers, as measured by Quantcast, hail from outside those two nations.  Here’s a table, based off of January blog activity:


Uniques %

Uniques Index

United States






United Kingdom















Czech Republic






Hong Kong










































New Zealand






South Africa















Korea, Republic of















United Arab Emirates













































Rest of the World



The “Uniques Index” adjusts to show how popular I am per capita in each country.  100 would be the average popularity.

I’ve been impressed over the years with how many people have written to me from across the Earth, asking questions, thanking me, etc.  Many I have turned into blog posts.  Don’t be shy to write; I may not respond — I can’t get to everything.  I read them all, and about half become blog posts, because they address ideas that many need to hear about.

The Future as I see it Dimly

I have more book reviews to write.  I would like to write a piece asking what is the most fragile significant element on the global economic scene, but so many things are fragile that it is hard to pick one out.

This may take more than one part, but I want to do a review, category by category, of the main ideas I have tried to propound over the last seven years.  I’d like to start that series over the next month.

I’m almost finished with my “The Rules” series — only 1-3 to go.  As I get closer to the end, I find my remaining topics aren’t so compelling.  I used the best ones first.

Aside from that, Buffett season is here, so expect to see an analysis of his letter, annual report, and 10-K.  Lord helping me, and with aid getting the statutory statements, maybe 2014 is the year I write the piece that details his holding company structure.


Wherever you live in the world, whatever your first language is, thanks for reading me.  I am grateful and humbled that I have such a large audience.  I only hope that I can continue to earn your trust by writing great stuff month after month, year after year.

Finally, thanks to those who link to me, and those who mention me on Twitter.  May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you all.


Book Review: Financial Blogging

Friday, January 24th, 2014


This is a practical book that is a very good book.  Do you want to write things that people want to read?  This book will help you do it.

Coming out of US public schools, not everyone is prepared to write for a broad audience because:

  • They aren’t good with spelling and grammar.
  • They can’t make it interesting.
  • They don’t know what to write about.

This book can help with many of the deficiencies, aiding writers, to write and rewrite tight prose.

This book will help you source ideas.  It will help you refine ideas, as you write and rewrite ideas.

It will help you map out ideas before you write, so that you have a visual outline of what you want to say, which will aid you in expressing your ideas.

Now if you read this book does it mean that it will guarantee that you write great stuff? No.

You have to have some edge that you want to express.  Most investment commentary is garbage.  Those the have a differential insight might be able to create value.  But that is not generally true, unless we are at Lake Wobegon, where all of the children are above average.  Lake Wobegon is fictitious, easy excess returns are hard.

The main idea is start blogging, and start improving.  Start with a good idea that would have broad interest. Then write, revise, revise, revise.  Writing gets better with effort and editing.

Beyond that, you will have to think of compliance.  Disclose all relevant interests that you the writer might have.  If you own or short a stock that you write about, disclose it.

This book will improve your blogging.  It will sharpen what you write about, the frequency at which you write, and how you write.  This is a great book for financial bloggers.



Who would benefit from this book: Almost all financial blogger could benefit from the book.  Though I am experienced, there are many places where I learned more.  If you want to, you can buy it here: Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

Full disclosure: I asked the author for a review copy, because I respect her to a high degree.

If you enter Amazon through my site, and you buy anything, I get a small commission.  This is my main source of blog revenue.  I prefer this to a “tip jar” because I want you to get something you want, rather than merely giving me a tip.  Book reviews take time, particularly with the reading, which most book reviewers don’t do in full, and I typically do. (When I don’t, I mention that I scanned the book.  Also, I never use the data that the PR flacks send out.)

Most people buying at Amazon do not enter via a referring website.  Thus Amazon builds an extra 1-3% into the prices to all buyers to compensate for the commissions given to the minority that come through referring sites.  Whether you buy at Amazon directly or enter via my site, your prices don’t change.


David Merkel is an investment professional, and like every investment professional, he makes mistakes. David encourages you to do your own independent "due diligence" on any idea that he talks about, because he could be wrong. Nothing written here, at RealMoney, Wall Street All-Stars, or anywhere else David may write is an invitation to buy or sell any particular security; at most, David is handing out educated guesses as to what the markets may do. David is fond of saying, "The markets always find a new way to make a fool out of you," and so he encourages caution in investing. Risk control wins the game in the long run, not bold moves. Even the best strategies of the past fail, sometimes spectacularly, when you least expect it. David is not immune to that, so please understand that any past success of his will be probably be followed by failures.

Also, though David runs Aleph Investments, LLC, this blog is not a part of that business. This blog exists to educate investors, and give something back. It is not intended as advertisement for Aleph Investments; David is not soliciting business through it. When David, or a client of David's has an interest in a security mentioned, full disclosure will be given, as has been past practice for all that David does on the web. Disclosure is the breakfast of champions.

Additionally, David may occasionally write about accounting, actuarial, insurance, and tax topics, but nothing written here, at RealMoney, or anywhere else is meant to be formal "advice" in those areas. Consult a reputable professional in those areas to get personal, tailored advice that meets the specialized needs that David can have no knowledge of.

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