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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Harry Newton Previous Columns
9:00 AM EST, Wednesday, July 8, 2009. The hardest thing today is recognizing our reality has changed. We are no longer as rich as we were. We may never again be. We may no longer be able to afford our lifestyles. And we may not presently have the skills we need.

Many of my friends are selling their houses; they can no longer meet their mortgage and other expenses. Many of my friends have lost their jobs. Many will never find another job. They are too old.

My friends call it "deleveraging" -- reducing their debts and their lifestyles.

Some are finding incredible opportunities in today's explosion of startups. Some are bewildered that their old corporate skills don't work in this downsized corporate world.

What works are skills that "make it happen." These are also called "entrepreneurial" skills. Many of us recoil. We have no money. That's the big bugaboo I hear. I counsel them: there's plenty of money available. In fact, people who still have it have no idea what to do with it. All conventional investment vehicles suck -- from the stockmarket to private equity funds run by the likes of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Don't believe me? Ask Harvard about its brilliant alternative investments. (See page 108 of the August, 2009 issue of Vanity Fair.) Everyone is desperate to stick $25,000 into something different. It won't make a huge difference to their net worth. But it will restore their faith in American capitalism -- especially if they can have some minor role.

To corporate functionaries, starting a small business seems hard. They run the numbers and find $15,000 a month won't pay their overheads. Is it better, I suggest, than nothing -- the present looming alternative? Apparently not. That reality hasn't dawned.

A friend is installing Quickbooks for startups. He's so successful he's about to hire employees.

I suggest ideas. Friends tell me others must be pursuing my ideas. I say, "Who cares. Do it better, cheaper, faster, with more enthusiasm."

But they're fearful.

Fear is a corrosive force.

Take a 20-foot plank of wood, two feet wide. Place it on the floor. Place a $20 bill at one end of the plank. Ask your friends to walk along the plank.
Those who do will receive the $20. They all will.

Now take the plank outside. Suspend it between two ladders 20 feet in the air. Challenge your friends again. Walk along the plank and the $20 bill is theirs. Most will hesitate. Few will take the challenge.

One friend proclaimed, "The plank might break!" Since he weighed 275 lbs. I felt he had a legitimate concern. But for the others?

Fear is the most destructive force in the world.

Fear is holding mental pictures of what we don't want to happen. Fear is not starting something because someone else is doing it, or because we don't have the money or the skills.

I counsel my friends on starting a new business or buying an old, one that's not doing too well. There are business brokers with a million businesses that need saving. But they demur. They fear. I fear for them, for their heavy mortgages, for their heavy debts and for their expensive lifestyles. I fear for their "retirement."

This is not the time to be long in the stockmarket. It's rolling over, depressed by increasing unemployment and lousy corporate earnings. Best Buy dropped yesterday but so did everything else. We could be on our way to testing the mid-March lows.

I don't frnakly know. But a lot of serious observers are fearful. Remember my mantra: When in doubt, stay out. Meantime I'm visiting a distress hedge fund this morning. They've doubled in the past nine months. They speak only opportunities.

Get yourself a regular colonoscopy.Many readers have implored me to nag my male readers into getting a colonoscopy Some readers have told of friends who've died because they fear the procedure and put it off. Reader Tom Henson writes:


I had heard all the horror stories about doing the prep and put it off. Heard all the stories about the flex sig and how uncomfortable that was etc. and put it off.

In February 2003 when I was 60 I noticed a little blood. Had the colonoscopy and discovered a bad polyp that was diagnosed as rectal cancer. After picking myself up after hearing the C. word, I searched the Internet and found a procedure that was only performed at the time in like four or five medical centers. (Not available at Duke, UNC, or Hopkins.) But I ended up at George Washington University where a super doctor, Bruce Orkin, who is now at Tufts, performed a procedure called TEM (Transanal Endoscopic Microsurgery). The procedure is exactly what it sounds like in that they attack through the rectum rather than abdominal which avoids all of the potential problems of an abdominal approach. As a matter of fact, I went to a hotel in Washington prepped that night, went in early in the morning for the surgery, came back to the hotel that afternoon and left DC the next morning. The pathology was suspicious but not conclusive and the experts put it at a < 20% recurrence without chemotherapy and radiation. But I elected chemotherapy and radiation anyway and have been cancer free for over five years. I was lucky. And every chance I get, I preach to men don't be so damn foolish. The prep just isn't that bad and if you have had the procedure don't do your fellow man a disservice by overplaying it at the water cooler or at the club. A little bit of discomfort really results in a lot of peace of mind.

I made the comment about women because when you talk to many people including women their reaction is oh you mean women can have that too. And the statistics really are 50-50.

I got tested in 2004, 2005, then in 2007 and I plan to have another in late 2009 or early 2010 and then we'll probably go to a five-year cycle. I'm alive and grateful.

Life in Canada: From a friend of a friend:

I have been in Toronto. Quite an interesting town and multi-ethnic even by New York standards with many full-burka women in the streets. An interesting law case features one of these women as a material witness to a serious crime. At issue is whether she can wear this full burka while giving evidence, i.e., not allowing the jury to see her facial expressions as she is questioned. Toronto has municipal labor problems that are sizable even by NY standards—the town is in its third week of a nasty garbage strike. But garbage, water and sewage are not, according to the courts, essential municipal services, so the unions can strike.

The bargain A little old man is walking down the street one afternoon, when he sees a woman with perfect breasts.

He says to her, 'Hey miss, would you let me bite your breasts for $100?'

'Are you nuts?!!!' she replies, and keeps walking away.

He turns around, runs around the block and gets to the corner before she does. 'Would you let me bite your breasts for $1,000 dollars?' he asks again.

'Listen you; I'm not that kind of woman! Got it?

So the little old man runs around the next block and faces her again; 'Would you let me bite your breasts just once for $10,000 dollars?'

She thinks about it for a while and says, 'Hmmm, $10,000 dollars; Ok, just once, but not here. Let's go to that dark alley over there.'

They go into the alley, where she takes off her blouse to reveal the most perfect breasts in the world. As soon as he sees them, he grabs them and starts caressing them, fondling them slowly, kissing them, licking them, burying his face in them, but not biting them.

The woman finally gets annoyed and asks, 'Well? Are you gonna bite them or not?'

'No, says the little old man ... 'Costs too much ...'

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.