Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Technology Investor. Harry Newton
AM EDT, Thursday, October 8, 2009: Gold (GLD),
Apple, Google, EWA (Australia) and EWZ (Brazil) continue to go higher. But,
as I said yesterday, it's time to take some profits off the table, especially
in stocks you've owned that have had a price run-up unjustified by their earnings
21 gets rich people together to discuss their investments. Yesterday, Michael
Sonnenfeldt, founder of Tiger 21, told CNBC The wealthiest Americans have lost
between 20 and 40 percent of their assets over the last year and a half.
CNBC that the very rich have responded by taking fewer chances. "Wherever
they can, they're trying to take some risk out of their portfolio in case the
double-dip scenario unfolds," Sonnenfeldt said.
To do so, wealthy
investors have switched to higher levels of cash, shortened the maturities on
their fixed income and gone to more liquidity, he said. They're also looking
for dividend-paying stocks, preferred stocks and corporate bonds.
In the aftermath
of Bernie Madoff's billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, wealthy investors have also
gone "back to basics," getting directly involved in their finances
and eliminating intermediaries, Sonnenfeldt said. "What it's made them
realize is that for many years they were prey to sophisticated products that
they really didn't understand," he said.
The majority of
Tiger 21's members don't see underlying reasons for economic optimism, citing
competition from China and India, concerns over Iran, and most specifically,
the U.S.' enormous deficit, Sonnenfeldt said.
our members think that the market has [gotten] ahead of the reality," he
said. "They don't see on Main Street the turnaround that you see down on
the floor... They just think the longterm trend for the dollar is difficult
to predict, and it's not positive."
To watch his CNBC
interview, click CNBC
Check. Check. Why weren't the dictionaries sent out two weeks ago?
The answer from my printer, "Mis-Communication in the plant
My fault for not
following up and asking, "Did the books go out?"
fees. Credit card fees. Debit fees. Rental cars fees. They're everywhere
and proliferating like rabbits. That's the bad news. The good news is you can
get rid of some of them by negotiating and bitching. My bank hit me for an inactivity
fee. Hertz hit me for a "concession fee recovery" fee. And on and
on it goes. My wife, Susan, is horrified. She brought me this article from yesterday's
New York Times, which I've excerpted for your enlightenment:
Prepaid, but Not Prepared for Debit Card Fees
Buying a prepaid debit card these days is just about as easy as picking up
a bottle of shampoo or a candy bar. Walk into a Wal-Mart or almost any major
drugstore, and rows of plastic worth $25, $100 and even $500 beckon from kiosks
alongside prepaid phone cards and gift cards for retailers.
Check. Safer Than Cash. No Bank Account Needed, says the Green Dot Visa
Prepaid Card: Just pay at the register and the card is ready for A.T.M. withdrawals,
store purchases and online shopping.
For many people
who do not have bank accounts, or cannot get a credit card, the appeal is
irresistible, making the reloadable cards among the consumer banking industrys
fastest-growing products. But their convenience comes with a catch: fees,
often hidden in the fine print.
The MiCash Prepaid
MasterCard docks cardholders a $9.95 activation fee. Like many competitors,
it then charges numerous recurring fees, including $1.75 for each A.T.M. withdrawal,
$1 for each A.T.M. balance inquiry, 50 cents for each purchase, $4 for monthly
maintenance, $2 for inactivity after 60 days and $1 for a call to customer
Advantage Prepaid MasterCard goes further, listing an application fee of up
to $99. The Silver Prepaid MasterCard advertises that it does not charge for
overdrafts as many debit cards do, but it gives itself the option of charging
a $25 shortage fee if customers exceed their balance.
a very expensive way to bank, said Jean Ann Fox, director of financial
services at the Consumer Federation of America.
A cottage industry
only 10 years ago, reloadable prepaid cards have tapped into the vast pool
of about 80 million consumers who have little or no access to bank accounts.
The market includes college students who do not want to carry around wads
of cash and consumers who do not want to type their credit card number into
it comprises low-income people and immigrants who have fewer financial options
than other Americans. Often, they turn to these cards because they cannot
open a bank account, or they become fed up with the costs of check-cashing
stores or overdraft fees on checking accounts. ...
Like many workers,
Tyrell Blocker, 20, of Brooklyn, could ill afford the surprise when he took
such a card last week to a Pay-O-Matic Financial Services store in Manhattan
after a bank turned him down for an account because he lacked one of two required
pieces of identification. As soon as the cash from his paycheck landed on
his card, he noticed fees accumulating. Mr. Blocker returned to Pay-O-Matic
to complain and only then was provided a detailed list of more than two dozen
fees, he said.
every last dime I got; Ive got a newborn, Mr. Blocker said. A
spokesman for Pay-O-Matic said the card was fairly new and the firm was working
to make the fees more transparent. ...
Given the number
of people who have little or no relationship with a bank, both in the United
States and abroad, the financial industry is betting on a boom. In 2008, for
instance, customers loaded about $8.7 billion onto prepaid cards, a 125 percent
increase over the previous year, according to the Mercator Advisory Group.
The industry is expected to balloon to $119 billion by 2012, Mercator predicts.
34, said he had given up on prepaid cards and hoped to return to a bank, if
they will have him. Mr. Saxton began using a prepaid card after being barred
from getting a bank account for cashing a check from an eBay sale without
realizing it was fake.
But Mr. Saxton,
who lives in Florida, said that the two years he used his Vision Premier Prepaid
Visa Card were marred by petty fees and horrible customer service.
Mr. Saxton said
that when he punched the wrong code into an A.T.M., the bank charged him $2.95
for a declined A.T.M. transaction. When he called to complain, he said, they
charged him an additional $1.95. When someone got hold of his card number
and racked up several hundred dollars in shortage fees, Vision Premier covered
the fees with Mr. Saxtons tax return, which was directly deposited onto
the card, he said.
for the Vision Premier said Mr. Saxtons experience was not the norm.
The company eventually refunded the fees.
countless hours dealing with this problem, not to mention the stress,
Mr. Saxton said. I think the whole business is based around nickel and
little more about viruses. If you own a PC,
you will get them. It's not "maybe." It's "when." You will
get infected. A good virus checker -- like Norton -- will catch most viruses.
But not all of them. Some will sneak through.
I got one because
I was stupid. Norton identified the offending file, but couldn't delete
it. Neither could I. While I checked around for a way to delete it, the file
disappeared. It had morphed into something else. It was still there. But Norton
now couldn't find it and said my hard drive was clean. It wasn't. I was getting
error messages. At that stage I knew it was all over for that disk. It had to
replaced the infected hard drive with a clone and today I'll use the clone to
completely re-do the old, infected one.
If I had not had a clone, I would have had to prepare the infected drive from
scratch -- formating, installing Windows and your software, then setting everything
up the way I like. That's a huge 10-hour job.
I once again harp on the necessity for cloning hard drives and backing up working
files. You need to clone every time you change or add software to your hard
drive. And you need to back up files every day -- preferably twice a day.
afterthought: Apple Mac computers don't typically get viruses. If you have a
choice, buy one and skip the Windows nightmare.
now, for another warning: This one from a newsletter called Windows
search results lead to malware
The ads served
by Bing and Google along with your search results are linking more and more
often to sites trying to infect your machine.
nor Google effectively prescreens these bogus advertisers, so it's up to us
to detect and avoid them.
You may recently
have used either Google or Microsoft's new Bing search engine to find the
popular Malwarebytes Anti-Malware utility. If so, chances are good that the
sponsored ads alongside your search results contained links to the very malware
that the security tool is designed to remove.
The three largest
search sites Google, Yahoo, and Bing regularly sell security-related
keywords to criminals looking to trick you into downloading and installing
fake anti-malware products. The crooks then steal your personal information
or hold your system for ransom before letting you remove their malware from
The search providers
have been aware of this for years. To their discredit, they've done little
to end the practice, even though it's in their power to do so. The reason?
They're making money hand over fist from those sponsored text ads and don't
want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
7 is here. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal
says today, "After using pre-release versions of Windows 7 for nine months,
and intensively testing the final version for the past month on many different
machines, I believe it is the best version of Windows Microsoft has produced."
lovely. But know four things (Newton's advice):
All new versions of Windows are buggy when they first appear. It takes a few
bug fixes before they're useable.
Windows 7's big advantage is that it's a lot better than Vista. Which is great
for the poor folk using Vista.
Upgrading to Windows 7 from the old, reliable Windows XP is a huge pain. Half
of your tried and true software and many of your old peripherals (e.g. printers
and scanners) simply won't work. You'll have to buy new stuff -- and much of
what you want won't be available.
There's an old adage in computing: "If it works, don't mess with it."
-- get out. If you believe we should not be sending
more troops and should be out ASAP, please send the White House a note.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
to be out of Afghanistan are on my web site:
in four bottles. Where are you?
A man was sunbathing naked at the beach.
For the sake of
civility, and to keep it from getting sunburned, he had a hat over his privates.
A woman walks
past and says, snickering, "If you were a gentleman you'd lift your hat."
He raised an eyebrow
and replied, "If you weren't so ugly it would lift itself."
This column is about my personal search
for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have
to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter
and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available
for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second,
the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the
Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their
ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email
address is .
You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects
me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no
role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though
some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please
note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's
business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click
here and here.