Archive for July, 2008

The other day I bought some video editing software for my Mac.  The reason it’s for my Mac is because my digital camera takes videos in *.mov (Quicktime) format, and none of my Windows editing software plays/edits .mov files by default.  I have to convert them all.  This is unreasonable because I have over 100 clips and I can’t possibly convert all of them to .wmv or something similar.

Anyhow, on Sunday I went to the store and picked up Final Cut Express for $200.  I knew that I might be able to get a discount because I worked for Microsoft but I didn’t have my ID card on me so I bought it anyhow.  However, I didn’t open the software up.

Later, I found out that Microsoft employees get a discount on software at the Apple store.  I wondered if it was worth going back out of my way for it.  For a 5% discount I wouldn’t bother, but I learned it was actually 17%.  A 17% discount on software came out to $33.  For $33, you better believe I headed back there and got my refund.  Not too shabby considering that the Apple store is not far out of my way on the drive home from work.

Read Full Post »

A few months ago, one of my co-workers traveled to India to get married.  His was an arranged marriage.  At the time, my other co-workers, who are about my age, asked me when I was getting married (almost like it was a challenge… or maybe a gentle needle?).  At the time, I lamented that theirs was a loaded question because they come from cultures where their marriages are arranged.  In western cultures, we select our own partners.

Last November, we went out to dinner to celebrate my co-worker’s marriage.  At the time, there were seven of us who went out.  1 was married, 1 was getting married (the guest of honor) and 5 of us were single.  So, my situation was pretty much the same as everyone else’s.  The question I was asked was loaded but at least we were all in the same boat.

Now, here I am seven months later.  Of the 7 of us who were there, 2 are married, 2 singles have left the team and 2 others have gotten married or engaged (via arrangement).  In other words, whereas before there were 5 singles, now there is just one — me!  How quickly these things can change.

By no means am I complaining about my situation or expressing my desire to change it.  As I have always said, there are advantages to being married and there are advantages to being single.  I am merely pointing out that circumstances can change in a relatively short period of time.  Oh, I guess I’m also pointing out that their questions indeed were loaded!  Pfft.

Read Full Post »

This nicely sums up the stock market picture over the past year.


Read Full Post »

The dilemma

So I’ve been talking about the Nouveau Riche program and my inability to weigh the risk/reward ratio.

The first thing I did when I got home is do a Google search, I mean Live Search, about a review of the program.  I found some negative reviews and then I found some rebuttals to those reviews.  I saw new members say how excited they were about the program, I saw disgruntled members, but I didn’t see a lot on long time members and how much success they had with the Investor Concierge program, which is what interests me the most.

I have a lot of experience in investing, I am not a newbie.  I have a good idea about how equities move (or maybe not since every investing decision I have made lately has been wrong).  What concerned me was how one of the presenter said a few things regarding investing that are popular with the public but are actually a myth.

He said that he invested in gold and it was a great time because gold is now trading at an all-time high.  Because the dollar is going down (and presumably will keep going down), gold is a great investment.  The problem is that this is a myth.  The first problem with this is sure, gold is a good investment but if you bought back in the 1980s you had to wait nearly twenty years for your investment to actually pay off.  That’s a lot of opportunity cost.  It wasn’t such a good investment for a long time.

Secondly, gold is a commodity.  It is subject to supply and demand like any other commodity.  It may have run up quickly but it can correct just as sharply as the rally.  In other words, it is not a done deal that gold is a great investment.  Different US administrations can promote a reverse dollar policy (like the strong dollar policy under the Clinton administration) and suddenly gold as an investment is not so good anymore.

My point is that if you are going to spout investment strategies, you need to support them with facts.  Real estate has averaged 6.5% appreciation historically, but stocks have averaged 9% (not sure if that is including dividends).  Oil may be going up and the dollar is going down, but they don’t have any significant historical correlation.  When the bond yield is higher than the earnings yield of the stock market, stocks are cheap and tend to outperform bonds and vice versa.  And finally, real estate investment trusts (REITs) do not show to significantly increase your total portfolio if you own them in addition to stocks, but they can smooth out the volatility.

So you see, my worry is that people who have gotten wealthy get wealthy by chance and are on the leading edge of the bell curve.  Investing should be supported with actual facts, not feel goodism and investment myths.

Read Full Post »

As I was saying in my previous post, I attended a seminar put on by Nouveau Riche, a company that teaches how to do real estate investing.

The part that interested me the most is a program called Investor Concierge.  This is a program restricted only to members.  The founders of the program are primarily real estate investors so they buy properties wholesale (ie, deep discounted because of motivated sellers) and then sell them again to students of the program.  They assist in finding tenants and property managers and so the properties all generate positive cashflow, between $200 to $500 per month.  This is the part that interested me the most; all I have to do is plunk down the money and I can browse real estate at my leisure without doing much work.

All of this sounds great, of course.  But yet, I remain skeptical.  Are these people who are saying they are succeeding in the program a representative sample of students?  Or are these students on the far right side of the Bell-Curve?  You can make any program look good if you cherry-pick who you want to represent you.

Secondly, $16,000 is a lot of money to plonk down for the full tuition package.  I have no doubts about the quality of the education, investing in real estate is hard.  However, am I better off doing that and not learning on my own by reading books and gaining practical experience?  While the Investor Concierge is tempting, the problem is that if I put down $16,000 it will eat up most of my available capital.  So much so that I wouldn’t have much room to maneuver into a quick real estate deal.  So on the one hand, if I don’t do the course, I have to rely on my own experience and knowledge.  If I do it, I have way more knowledge but no flexibility to do a deal.

Third, if I put down $16,000 and I be lazy and don’t do much with it, I’m out a substantial amount of money.  $500 I could live with, even $2000.  But 8x that amount would hurt to fork it out and not do anything with it.  So if I went for it, I’d be in it all the way.  $16,000 is enough for a new car.  And that’s tangible.

I need to evaluate the risk/reward ratio.  Real estate is a slow, long-term investment but requires the ability to make decisions quickly.  Joining the program will affect my ability to make decisions quickly.

Read Full Post »

The other day, I went to an investment seminar put on by a company called Nouveau Riche.  They are an education company that specializes in teaching people how to invest in real estate.

This particular seminar was on investing in foreclosures, or rather, pre-foreclosures.  The idea is to search country records, put ads in newspapers, posters, etc, and find people who are at risk of foreclosure.  If they are, they come and talk to you.  You go and show them their options (there are a bunch) and if none of them work for them, the last option is to sell to you and that’s where foreclosure deals are made.

However, the company put on this seminar but it’s not just a single-day seminar.  They are a real estate education company.  You don’t get to go to free seminars without getting to endure a little advertising and these guys are the same.  They teach people how to invest in real estate under the following topics:

  • How to do short sales
  • How to manage property managers
  • How to manage tenants
  • How to finance properties
  • How to raise capital

And so forth.  In other words, if you haven’t done it, they will teach you if you sign up for their courses.  If you buy their product, you get to go down to their complex in Phoenix and take a week’s worth of courses, depending on what package you buy.  More expensive packages allow you to take more courses. 

There is also a secondary marketing package where if people sign up to the program through you, you can earn a commission of $8000.  The first five sign ups you get, you don’t get paid, but you do on subsequent ones.  The people above you earn the commission on the first give you do; so if people you sign up sign others up, you get a commission from that.  It’s a bit like MLM.  They say it’s not, but I really think it is.  Of course, I don’t have any problem with MLMs… but at the same time I have absolutely no interest in getting involved in the marketing side of it.

I really didn’t believe that people could actually make money on this but they had a bunch of people in the Seattle area who are doing this go up there and talk about how much money they made and that it was verifiable.  Though I am skeptical, this does lend them some credibility.

More in my next post.

Read Full Post »

Funny picture

I came across this today while searching for a different image.  It’s very funny.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »