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How to deal with snake oil investment salespeople. I’ve met them all. And been taken by many.

A sucker is born every day.

I had “sucker” painted all over my face the day I sold the business. I hadn’t a clue how to invest my hard-won gains. Obligingly, the snake oil salesmen came out of the woodwork.

Most of the stuff they sold me went 100% kaput. But not all. But none did as well as their previous funds, ventures, etc.

This weekend I mulled on which salesmen were the worst? And, more importantly, how to recognize them when they come calling — which they still do. Had one call this morning!

All snake oil salesmen speak and dress well (see photo above). That alone will help you pick them out of a crowd.

They also manage to weasel their way to meet you through something that’s dear to your heart — your family, your religion, tennis, golf, etc.

A few come to you through your friends. They’re usually the worst since your friends know even less about investing than you do. Trust me on that.

Above all, snake oil salesmen make you feel privileged to be getting in on something special. They tell you how their previous ventures/funds had gone.

Of course, they’ve always gone through the roof — with over 30% per year returns. 30% is the magic number that makes all investors (including me) salivate.

Of course, you’ll never beat the old returns. Nor can you match them or even get close And I never did.

Snake oil salesmen have absolutely “no skin in the game.” They have no money invested in what they’re selling. Or, if they do, it’s so minuscule that its only purpose is to say “Look, I’m investing along with you.”

They often push investments in hot areas — snake oil elixirs, biotech cancer cure pills, crypto-currencies, marijuana derivatives, miracle new energy supplies. I know nothing about any of these areas.  If I did know something, I’d know enough to ask the right questions. That would poke gaping holes in the deal. No salesman wants a knowledgeable client.

If you do invest something, know several things:

+ You’ll never hear from the salesman again.

+ You’ll never be able to contact the salesman. He’s disappeared off the face of the earth.

+ You’ll most likely never hear from the company or fund he got you to invest in. The SEC regulates only a tiny percentage — perhaps 0.00001% — of the companies, funds and ventures out there. The rest are the Wild West. No rules. No regulations. No reports. Kiss your money Good Bye the moment you write a check.

When the snake oilers come calling, say the hardest word in the English language — NO.

All this is harsh. There are exceptions:

+ Your best investment is your own business.

+ There are honest people out there who have major skin in the investment they’re pitching and will let you in for a logical reason — like they want to grow their business faster.

Working with people is a many-year venture. It’s hard work to find them. It’s hard work to learn how they work. It’s hard work to work with them.

I have a handful of great investment partners. I stick with them. I cherish them.

Oh, did I tell you about my friend the extraordinarily successful investment banker? He got entranced with biotech and started a biotech fund.

The fund went completely broke. I lost $1 million. When I queried him about my misfortune, I was told: Be happy. Your famous investment banker lost $10 million!

Remember that word “NO.”

Not losing money should be your primary investment objective.

Isn’t that one of Buffett’s most important rules?

The above is the second part of my personal experiences with investing.

The first part is the most popular piece I’ve ever written — based on the many nice emails I’ve received in the last few days. Click here.

CD Rates are slipping

No one is sanguine for an early end to Trump’s Trade War with China.

The forecast is for continued uncertainty, rattling markets and rattling business.

Hence you need more money than usual in cash. No one can predict anything in this uncertain world.

These are today’s CD rates from BankRate.  You may get a higher rate from your bank — if you beg.

It’s possible stocks will get much cheaper. Hence, put in some limit buy orders at support levels way below where we are now.

Brands I really like

+ Eagle Creek. Best luggage. Unlimited guaranty.

+ Lenovo. ThinkPad laptops. I like the X1 Carbon.

+ Apple. Thoughtful software to keep loving your family — no matter where they are.

+ Subaru. The most reliable full service cars.

+ Anker. Well designed stuff to make your new laptops work better.

+ Fidelity. The best trading platform. The best customer service.

+ Samsung. Super TVs. Super cellphones.

+ Google. Constant amazement at what I can ask and what I learn.

Speed demon 

Use the 5G setting on your WiFi.

I experimented. My 5Ghz WiFi turned out to be 87% faster than my 2.4 Ghz setting.

Don’t do stupid

+ In 2015, more people died from taking selfies than from shark attacks.

+ Don’t extend your selfie stick in a lightning storm.

+ Don’t pose for selfie with a loaded gun or a live grenade.

+ Don’t do selfies with live running bulls.

For the full selfies story, click here.

+ Before you locate your home office in your basement, check for radon. It can kill. And it has.

HP is a thoroughly dishonest company.
You may disagree. Here’s the story. This is one of three identical HP printers I own:

It’s 20-years young and works perfectly — with my Windows 7 laptop.

I have “upgraded” to Window 10. The old printer now needs new software.

HP doesn’t make Windows 10 software (called a driver) for this machine.

Why? HP’s nice technical support said HP simply didn’t make the software for my old machine.

They had a better idea:

He offered to sell me two new HP printers at a “discount.” He called me three times to close his sale.

It turns out:

+ His machines weren’t at a discount. Amazon (and others) is selling them at the same price.

+ One of the machines he was offering had lousy reviews. And the other was too new to have any reviews.

+ My Subaru Outback is 17 years old. I can still buy spare parts for it. My friend still buys spare parts for his ultra-old cars. He calls them “classics.”

I’m thinking: HP is forcing me to buy a new machine, by simply not supporting their old, excellent, functioning machine. I would have paid for the new Windows 10 driver software. I would have paid them money. Cash.

I find this whole thing dishonest. I’ve been in tech for 50 years. I’ve never encountered a tech support fellow who’s really a salesman — and probably gets a commission on my sale.

My solution? Simple: I’ll simply keep my old Windows 7 laptop alive — it works fine — and use it for printing to my HP printers.

And I will never buy another Hewlett-Packard printer ever again. So there!

The Irish Divorce, Technical Problems

The mother-in-law arrives home from shopping to find her son-in-law, Paddy in a steaming rage and packing his suitcase.

“What happened Paddy?” she asks.

“What happened? I’ll tell you what happened! I sent an email to my wife telling her I was coming home today from my fishing trip.

I get home… and guess what I found? Your daughter, my wife, Jean, naked with Joe Murphy in our marital bed! This is unforgivable!

The end of our marriage. I’m done. I’m leaving forever!”

“Ah now, calm down, calm down Paddy!” says his mother-in-law. “There is something very odd going on here. Jean would never do such a thing!

There must be a simple explanation. I’ll go speak to her immediately and find out what happened.”

Moments later, the mother-in-law comes back with a big smile. “Paddy, there, I told you there was a simple explanation. She never got your email!”

It happened in Portland Maine

Ted is searching the parking lot for a shopping cart to put Zoe in.

A nice lady approaches. “Are you Harry’s son?”

“No,” says Ted. “I’m his son-law-law. Why do you ask?”

“I recognized Zoe from Harry’s blog, which I love and read.”

Nice lady.

If you see Zoe in a parking lot, say Hello to one of Zoe’s handlers, who may be Claire, my daughter, or Ted, my son in law, or Susan, mother of Claire, or even me. Occasionally I’m allowed to take care of Zoe, who is, of course, totally awesome:

The first picture is from her seventh second birthday party. Every family member is making Zoe a second birthday party, replete with cake and ice cream, and even more ice cream.

I wish I were two. — Harry Newton

The U.S. Open Tennis continues on ESPN2. Tennis is a wonderful game. You get free energy by running around. You great free brainwork by figuring how to outfox your opponent. Better than Prevagen. You don’t need a pricey golf course. Every town in the U.S. has community courts. If you’re lucky, you’ll see future U.S. Open tennis stars in training. The Williams sisters grew up on community courts in California.

One Comment

  1. Lucky says:

    HP and many, many other companies that no longer support their lines most likely have taken their lead from Microsoft…just try getting support for Windows-7 or 8 or anything else Microsoft created. It seems to me there used to be (maybe still is a law) that automobile manufacturers had to guarantee to supply parts for cars for X number of years…7 or 10 or something like that.