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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Technology Investor. Harry Newton

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9:00 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 run-up.

Tiger 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.

Sonnenfeldt told 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.

"Many of 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 here.

Check. Check. Check. Why weren't the dictionaries sent out two weeks ago? The answer from my printer, "Mis-Communication in the plant…sorry."

My fault for not following up and asking, "Did the books go out?"

Bank 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.

“No Credit 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 industry’s 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 service.

The Millennium 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.

“It’s 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 the Internet.

More typically, 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.

“I need every last dime I got; I’ve 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. ...

Damon Saxton, 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. Saxton’s tax return, which was directly deposited onto the card, he said.

A spokesman for the Vision Premier said Mr. Saxton’s experience was not the norm. The company eventually refunded the fees.

“I wasted countless hours dealing with this problem, not to mention the stress,” Mr. Saxton said. “I think the whole business is based around nickel and diming.”

A 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 be erased

I 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.

So, 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.

An afterthought: Apple Mac computers don't typically get viruses. If you have a choice, buy one and skip the Windows nightmare.

And now, for another warning: This one from a newsletter called Windows Secrets:

Sponsored 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.

Neither Bing 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 your machine.

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.

Windows 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."

That's lovely. But know four things (Newton's advice):

1. All new versions of Windows are buggy when they first appear. It takes a few bug fixes before they're useable.

2. Windows 7's big advantage is that it's a lot better than Vista. Which is great for the poor folk using Vista.

3. 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.

4. There's an old adage in computing: "If it works, don't mess with it."

Afghanistan -- get out. If you believe we should not be sending more troops and should be out ASAP, please send the White House a note.

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Reasons to be out of Afghanistan are on my web site:

Life in four bottles. Where are you?

At the beach.
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.