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My simplest investment program ever. My most useful tips. My favorite things.

If you don’t run the business, diversification is your only option. To wit:

I’ve been a big investor in residential and commercial real estate syndications. Things have changed. And rather quickly:

+ Residential real estate has been hit with several important issues – rising interest rates, escalating insurance costs, overbuilding (hence falling rents) and lousy weather (floods and hurricanes)

+ Commercial real estate, after covid lockups, has been hit with “Stay at Home” employees, video calls (Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Webex Meetings and others) and rising interest rates.

So, what are the alternatives?

The simplest are two ETFs — VGT (Vanguard Technology ETF) and VOO (Vanguard S&P 500 ETF).

Here’s VGT — from Vanguard’s site today — as of 03/31/2024. These are average annual returns. Not shabby.

These are much higher returns than what our various real estate syndicators are offering us at present. And too many of them are making capital calls — basically asking their investors to dump good money after bad money.

Another alternative: The S&P 500 Vanguard ETF which is called VOO. These are average annual returns:

I took these charts directly off Vanguard’s web site this weekend.

Buying these two ETFs does not involves picking and buying individual stocks.

Buying these two funds is ideally suited to “dollar cost averaging” – what everyone and their children, who are gainfully employed at a real job, should be doing every month.

Now, please tell me where my “logic” is wrong. I wish I had figured this out 27 years ago when we sold our publishing business.

I realize I do personally pick individual stocks. It’s my lifelong love for technology.

My favorites recently are Nvidia,  Novo and LLY. I have gotten super excited about them, especially Nvidia. (Read recent blogs.)

Sadly, they’re all now super expensive. You can see other stocks I own in the listing on the blog site. Click here.

Curiously , Bitcoin has more than doubled in the last six months. My small stake will buy a small house. Maybe a bigger house in the next few months?  Who knows?

Useful Tips

+ “Send me $3. I’m begging…” Endless texts on my iPhone. I have the solution: Reply with one word — “Stop.” It seems to work. I don’t know how to stop begging emails.

+ You’re meant to get 3% (or whatever) benefits on your credit cards. But you have to “redeem” them, which means asking.

+ You can use airline miles — and get the trip for free. But you have to ask. I just paid for a trip on Delta I could have gotten for free. Dumb me.

+ All home automation will eventually fail. No replacement parts will be available when it does fail.

+ LED bulbs will save you 85% in electricity and last forever. Amazon sells fine, cheap LED lightbulbs.

+ If Delta forgets to put your TSEPre/Global Entry number on your boarding pass, go onto Chat. Ask for a human. They’ll fix your boarding passes manually. Their website can’t. Airline websites give awfulness a whole new meaning.

+ Here are two Apple iPhones I own.

The on the right uses Verizon. I bought it new from Apple. It’s an iPhone 13 Pro Max. I bought the one on the left — an iPhone 11 — from Amazon for about a quarter the price of the phone on right. I bought it because I was furious at the increasingly awful service I’ve been getting from Verizon — dropped calls, no service, no signal. etc. On the Amazon refurb, I subscribed to something called Mint Mobile, which re-sells T-Mobile. It cost me $45 for the first three months — less than half of what I pay Verizon for one month.

Mint Mobile (aka T-Mobile) has not let me down. I can speak on it. I can receive calls on it. I can set it up as a Personal Hotspot for my laptop. And the iPhone 11 is a cute little, lighter phone with the same software as my bigger iPhone 13.

There are two morals to this story: You don’t need the latest iPhone. And you certainly do not need Verizon. And after their latest hacking incident (70 million customers and counting) you don’t need AT&T.

+ I think it’s reasonable to avoid flying Boeing planes. Want more proof? Read today’s New York Times cover story:

Shortcuts Everywhere’: How Boeing Favored Speed Over Quality
Problems have plagued the manufacturer even after two fatal crashes, and many current and former employees blame its focus on making planes more quickly.

For the full gruesome story, click here.

Some of my favorite things

+ YouTubeTV — I’m now paying $83.98 a month. But it’s worth every penny. Two basic reasons: I can watch it wherever I am  — visiting the kids, in New York, in Columbia County. Second, it seems have an unlimited DVR. I can record anything I want and play it back whenever I want. From the beginning or while it’s on. I can also pause it, rewind it and fast forward it through the commercials for the skin disease I don’t have, but they’d like me to have..

+ Apple CarPlay — It’s almost an iPhone in your car. Waze, Podcasts or Google Maps are really good on your car’s display and sound system.

+ Podcasts called Acquired are my favorite. To learn more, go here. Caution: Their podcasts are totally addictive.

+ Google Chrome for Windows. Remembers IDs and passwords. And synchs everything between my various laptops.

+ Kindle. Best and easiest way to read a book, highlight your most useful pieces and take notes. And then read them for free in Amazon’s cloud.

+ The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Best laptop ever made.

+ Fidelity Active Trader Pro. Beautiful software for eyeing my portfolios and giving me the charts you see regularly in my blog.

+ Amazon Goodthreads jeans for under $40.

Weekend Update from this weekend’s Saturday Night Live 

I have researched many fun things in the past week. I’ll report on them this week. Promise — Harry Newton