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Pick a Platitude

I just turned off the television. There wasn’t anything wrong, there was just… nothing. As I go through my day, I stay tuned to CNBC, albeit with the sound down low, simply to have background activity. But today, I just can’t get there. I keep asking myself the same question when I hear their comments… so what? Usually I enjoy some of the banter, and I recognize that most of the people floating across the screen are very smart and accomplished. But I don’t feel edified. In my head I’m playing an endless loop of old quotes and comments that […]

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The Clash of Megatrends That Leaves Consumers Without a Chance

I think Dilbert is hilarious. The comic strip’s creator, Scott Adams, has incredible insight into everyday life. More than a decade ago, he showed the cartoon’s title character in a grocery store. A clerk asked Dilbert, a white-collar, micromanaged engineer by day, if he wanted to sign up for the store’s loyalty card so he could save on purchases. His reply went something like this: “So you want my personal information, which you’ll then use to track me and market to me, and in return I get the manufacturers’ rebates that I’ve always received? And if I don’t give you […]

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How I’ll Escape the Madness of the Crowds This Week

Some days I just scratch my head. Tesla CEO Elon Musk overpromises and underdelivers almost every single quarter, and yet the company’s stock goes up. Is losing money on every sale even when taking government subsidies really a winning business strategy? Let’s all drive Teslas. That’ll show the skeptics! Then the company will… oh, wait, that wouldn’t work. Tesla would still lose money! But, hey, some people clearly love the company, because they keep driving its price higher. Investors are driving many Tesla-type stocks to dizzying heights, and maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m stuck in the backseat when it comes […]

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What if Bitcoin is Fool’s Gold?

How many currencies do you carry in your wallet? OK, I’m showing my age. I actually have a wallet. And I carry it. Mostly. Inside, you’ll find a couple of credit cards, an odd receipt or two, and greenbacks. I live in the U.S., so I use dollars. But I also carry my smartphone, and I use Apple Pay wherever possible. I’m not geeking out, I just try to rack up points on my cashback credit card, and tapping my smartphone is a lot easier than dragging out my credit card and dealing with finicky swipe readers. I don’t carry […]

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What If Rocket Man Provokes a War?

Kim Jong-Un, or “Rocket Man,” as our president prefers, always looks like he just ate a sour pickle – unless he’s inspecting a missile factory. Then he looks like an evil character in a B movie, gloating over his plot to rule the world. I wish he’d move on to the monologue phase, where he talks so long that the hero of the film has time to slip out of his restraints, rescue the girl, defuse the bomb, and put the crazy little man on ice before the authorities arrive. But what’s going on between North Korea and the U.S. […]

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How We All Made More Money and Didn’t Even Know It

Thank goodness! After 17 long years, the median U.S. household income has finally broke above the previous record set in 1999. According to a Census Bureau report released last week, median income increased 3.2% in 2016, to $ 59,039 after inflation. That eclipsed the last record of $ 58,665 set at the end of the 20th century. Every news source that carried the story seemed to lead with the assertion that we’re finally on our way in terms of rising incomes, and have recovered from the Great Recession. Well, every source except one – the Census Bureau. That bastion of […]

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I’ve Seen This Movie Before: Deceit in the Financial Food Chain

I recently watched The Big Short, the 2015 movie recounting the housing crisis. I avoided the movie, and the book of the same name, for years. But I saw the title on Netflix and thought, “Now’s the time.” I didn’t sidestep it for lack of interest. Just the opposite. As a former bond trader I have a keen interest in the debt markets. I followed the crisis’ every twist and turn, starting in the summer of 2007 when a quiet little corner of the bond market – municipal bond floating-rate note auctions – blew up. I found the steps leading […]

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The Three Rules of Angel Investing: From Someone Who’s Tried

Salesmen rarely make good managers or business owners. But that doesn’t stop them from trying. It used to be a hallmark of American business that successful salesmen were promoted. The logic is obvious. Whatever makes Joe or Amy great at selling the company wares should be emulated by others, thereby making the company more successful. But selling and managing require very different skills, much like playing a sport and coaching are different. Sometimes good salesmen, people with great interpersonal skills who grasp what’s important to other parties in conversation, can successfully transition to running a business. But more often than […]

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What Labor Means in Today’s Gig Economy

Labor Day seems like a foreign concept. That’s not to say that I’m unfamiliar with the art of drinking beer while balancing a plate of barbeque as sweat gets in my eyes during the last days of summer. That one I’ve got covered. I’m referring to the idea of the labor we’re supposed to honor today, at least as I see it in my mind’s eye. In my head, labor refers to a bunch of people that punch in at a factory or coal mine, put in a long day of work, punch out, and go home. Probably carrying metal […]

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Special Update: Live From Houston

Houston, Texas – It’s not over yet. Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday night, and almost no one cared. We had rain. Big deal. Then more rain on Saturday as the storm sat, almost stationary. Harvey lost power and was demoted to a tropical storm. We went out to dinner, noting the water was over the seawall in some parts of our waterfront neighborhood south of Houston, north of Galveston. Then we had more rain. Overnight, a weakened Harvey meandered a mile this way and that, pulling moisture from the gulf, dumping it in our laps and homes. My sister […]

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