Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
8:30 AM Wednesday, February 22, 2006: I'm
63. I don't have a job. I must live on my investments. Over the years I've had
many "brilliant" ideas:
1. Buy stocks.
Hold them for a year and a day (or longer). Watch them go up. Sell what I need
to live on. Get taxed at capital gains rates. Good idea!. Except that the stocks
didn't always go up.
2. Buy real estate syndications. Live on the income. I have four properties
with one syndicator. One is paying 9%. Three are "on hold" due to
a pending sale or refinance. When these joyous events happen I'll get oodles
of cash. But, meantime, I'm cash-poor. The syndicator never said he'd put three-quarters
of my dividends on hold. Yuch.
3. Buy bonds. Since I live in a city/state with high taxes, the best
bonds for me are muni bonds. Years ago I had a bunch of bonds and lots of triple
tax-free income (no federal, state or city taxes). But I got "smart"
and sold them as their prices went up (and their yields went down). Though I
made money with this "strategy," I was stupid. It screwed me long-term.
The only strategy with muni bonds is to buy sufficient bonds to live
on their interest and collect the interest to the maturity of the bond. By doing
this, you don't obsess with short-term interest rate movements. Obsess is a
good word. A better expression is drive yourself nuts. I'm a master of driving
myself nuts. Todd says no one does it better than me.
So it turns out, I'm back to buying bonds. I can get 4.20% to 4.25%
on triple tax-free New York muni bonds, triple A/intermediate term. If you're
in a non-tax state (also called Paradise), you can get maybe 4.50% to
4.75%. I'm talking decent quality. I'm not talking the California
Airport bond backed by revenue from American Airlines which is paying 6.5%.
Flying American is enough of a risk.
"But, Harry, rates are rising and in a few months, bonds will pay more."
Short-term rates are rising. I expect another two Bernanke quarter point
interest rate hikes. But Mr. Bernanke can't affect long-term rates. You've read
about the inverted yield curve. Long-term muni bond interest rates are affected
by supply and demand. (Surprise, surprise.) And right now, there's huge money
on the sidelines awaiting higher rates and a real shortage of bonds, especially
this year when fewer are scheduled to come to market. Muni bond rates aren't
In short, Harry's about to buy sufficient bonds to finance his present life-style
-- if he can ever figure out what it is. I once asked Susan, my wife, for a
"budget" on what she thought she would spend one year. I got an enigmatic
smile. I stopped asking that question when I figured that, by asking the question,
I was actually stimulating the spending! In philosophy, they call this The
Law of Unintended Consequences.
New Scams to Avoid: Readers Digest,
the authoritative financial digest, leads their March issue with scams to avoid:
Child identity theft. Somebody in your family steals your kid's ID. Keep
your records locked.
2. Work at home swindle. I'll send you a check to cash. You send me a
"commission" of 5% to 20% when you get the check, which is, of course,
3. Fake jury con. Your phone rings. You're about to be arrested because
you didn't report for jury duty. To check, I'll need your social security number
and date of birth.
4. Medicare fraud. Here's a great plan. Give us your social security
number, credit card and bank account.
5. Pretexting. The caller is doing a "survey" for your bank.
What's your social...?
6. IRS phishing scam. Click on this link from the email I sent. Fill
in all the information...
7. Pharming. The crooks hack your computer. Keep your anti-virus and
anti-spyware software up to date. I use a physical firewall from a company called
WatchGuard. Works well.
8. VoIP telephony tricks. VoIP callers can appear to be in New York,
when they're really in Belize. "The days are gone when consumers could
rely on a phone number to know where someone is located," says Lydia Parnes
of the FTC Bureau or Consumer Protection.
9 . High-tech ATM snooping. Crooks put wireless cameras on ATM machines
and collect your numbers.
10. Scholarship and government grant flimflans. Your kid has just won
a great scholarship. Please pay a processing fee or give your social security
and credit card numbers to "hold" the award.
The moral of this story: If they call you, don't give anyone any numbers.
When in doubt, call them back.
once again bounces: There's another point or
so here. My friends love the chart and the fact that the chairman is buying
a lot of shares, most recently 50,000 at $4.
Good lesson: A job opened up in Jacksonville,
Florida. I asked a friend if she knew of a candidate. She did. He sent me a
resume. Last night he emailed me:
To date I have
not heard from anyone either way. I can only surmise that the Jacksonville
company decided to go in another direction. In the event that they have not
I an withdrawing my name for consideration.
This morning I
You should never
make assumptions based on lack of information.
You should always ask. I note, however, you've withdrawn your name. Pity.
only it were true
The Pentagon announced today the formation of a new 500-man elite fighting unit
called the United States Redneck Special Forces. These Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia,
Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri,Oklahoma,Tennessee and Texas boys will be dropped
into Iraq. They have been given only the following facts about terrorists.
1. The season
2. There is no limit.
3. They taste just like chicken.
4. They don't like beer, pickups, country music or Jesus.
5. They are DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for the death of Dale Earnhardt.
We expect the
problem in Iraq to be over by Friday.
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
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