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

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8:30 AM EST Thursday, December 7, 2006: A $10 billion private equity fund I've applied for is heavily oversubscribed. $10 billion! That's big. There's so much money sloshing around at present looking for a happy home. Now I'm scrambling to form an LLC and cram some friends in to meet a higher threshold. There's got to be an easier way. Tennis is more appealing than paperwork.

Cramer likes Level 3 Communications: Reasons include:

1. Level 3 is one of the leading Internet backbone providers.
2. Video and voice is exploding. You could call it Internet Phase 2. Phase 1 was data.
3. Good management. Probably the most entrepreneurial of all the telecom carriers. (That's not saying much.)
4. Slowly -- ever so slowly -- improving financials. They're miserable at present, though Level 3 does have some cash. There's so much debt the bankers effectively own the company.

The long-term chart is fascinating. Remember LVLT was a victim of the Tech Wreck of 2000-2002.

Lately there's been a "pop."

I highlight Cramer's choice of Level 3 as the desperation he (and other "columnists") have to find good "picks." I know telecom. Cramer's logic is OK. I'd give this one a fifty-fifty chance of panning out. I wouldn't back up the truck -- Wall Street gibberish for buying a lot.

End of year tax moves: First, check out what you have made this year on your investments. It may be more than you think. A lot more. Watch for the dividends and short-term gains. To save on taxes:

1. Sell some losers.
2. Send your favorite charities some money.
3. Prepay some expenses.

4. Give your kids some money.
5. Spend for a promotion campaign for your business that will bring in sales next year.

Some of our biggest companies are our biggest crooks: Nothing is new. From today's Wall Street Journal: "Home Depot Inc. said an internal investigation found that the company routinely backdated stock options for 20 years, from 1981 to 2000, and as a result it understated compensation expense by $200 million."

What were they thinking? Backdating options.

My wife thinks I'm miserable. It's not easy being semi-retired. It's not easy being involved with something you have little control over -- like your investments. It's painful when one or two screw up. You convince yourself that on balance, you've done well (and you have on paper, too). Still, the failures make you feel bad. In a broad portfolio, the roller coaster ride is par for the course. Hence I was fascinated with the Wall Street Journal's investigations into happiness. (What else do they have to write about?)

The Pursuit of Happiness: Six Experts Tell What They've Done to Achieve It
Yes, money can buy happiness. But you have to spend it with care.

Take your dad to the Super Bowl. Buy a home near the office. Get married. Go out to dinner with the family. Take a memorable vacation, and be sure to buy souvenirs.

Where does this advice come from? I talked to half-a-dozen academics who specialize in "happiness research" -- and asked what changes they had made in their own lives.

• Relishing the day. Possibly the biggest obstacle to greater happiness is so-called hedonic adaptation. Sure, you are thrilled when you first get promoted or get a pay raise. But soon enough, the thrill fades and you are lusting after something else.

"When something good happens, you want to find a way to hold on to it for longer," says David Schkade, a management professor at the University of California at San Diego. For instance, you might go out to dinner to celebrate even modest career accomplishments. Similarly, you should purchase souvenirs or take photos when you're on vacation, so you remember the trip for longer. ...

"You have to combat adaptation," Prof. Schkade says. "You want to celebrate the small things, not just the big ones. If you save all your celebrations for getting married or becoming vice president, you won't celebrate very much."

• Dodging traffic. Studies have found that commuting ranks as one of life's least enjoyable activities. The reason: While folks often adapt to changes in their lives, both good and bad, it's tough to adapt to commuting, because you can never be sure how much traffic you'll hit.

"Lack of control is what tends to induce stress in human beings," notes Andrew Oswald, an economics professor at England's Warwick University. "It made me re-evaluate whether I should be a long-distance commuter." A few years ago, Prof. Oswald moved closer to his office, slashing his commuting time from 60 to 20 minutes.

• Seeing friends. If commuting makes people so unhappy, why do they take jobs or buy homes that will mean a long commute? Folks rely on their initial reaction -- and, at first, the long commute may not seem so bad. "People don't think about how things will play out over time," says Cornell University economics professor Robert Frank.

Suppose you have the chance to take a higher-paying job that will leave you with less time for socializing. At first blush, that might strike you as a reasonable trade-off. But in all likelihood, you will quickly take the larger salary for granted.

Meanwhile, you'll miss out on seeing friends and family, which surveys suggest are among our happiest times. ...

• Buying memories. Some folks are inherently less happy and some more so, and this basic temperament seems to be remarkably enduring.

Nonetheless, you may be able to boost your level of happiness by thinking carefully about how you spend your time, says Princeton University economics professor Alan Krueger. On that score, try "buying memorable experiences," he suggests.

As an example, Prof. Krueger cites taking his father to the 2001 Super Bowl, which pitted the New York Giants against the Baltimore Ravens. "I got a lot of mileage out of that," he says. "I had the anticipation of the game, as well as the game itself. I framed my ticket, which reminds me of the trip." Still, he adds, "it would have been better had the Giants won."

• Limiting options. Having lots of choice might seem like a good thing. But in fact, it can lead to unhappiness.

Consider a study conducted by professors Jane Ebert and Daniel Gilbert. Participants were allowed to choose an art poster to take home. Some were told that, if they didn't like the poster, they could exchange it for another. Others were told their decision was final.

"Who was happiest with their choice?" asks Prof. Gilbert of Harvard University. "Those for whom the choice was irrevocable. When options are open, the mind generates debate. When options are closed, the mind generates satisfaction." ...

My favorite Rabbi story:
It was a beautiful Shabbos morning and the rabbi, pretending to be sick, snuck out to the golf course instead of conducting the service.

Moses in heaven reported the rabbi's indiscretion to God, who sent a strong wind in the rabbi's direction as he teed off on the difficult fourth hole.

The ball soared and landed directly in the hole.

Moses was perturbed. "God, the rabbi is not fulfilling his responsibilities to his congregation and you give him a hole in one. You call this a punishment?"

"Sure" replied God, "Who can he tell?"

My favorite lawyer story
The United Way realized that it had never received a donation from the city's most successful lawyer. So a United Way volunteer paid the lawyer a visit in his lavish office. The volunteer opened the meeting by saying, "Our research shows that even though your annual income is over two million dollars, you don't give a penny to charity. Wouldn't you like to give something back to your community through the United Way ?"

The lawyer thinks for a minute and says, "First, did your research also show you that my mother is dying after a long, painful illness and she has huge medical bills that are far beyond her ability to pay?"

Embarrassed, the United Way rep mumbles, "Uh... no, I didn't know that."

"Secondly," says the lawyer, "my brother, a disabled veteran, is blind and confined to a wheelchair and is unable to support his wife and six children." The stricken United Way rep begins to stammer an apology, but is cut off again.

"Thirdly, did your research also show you that my sister's husband died in dreadful car accident, leaving her penniless with a mortgage and three children, one of whom is disabled and other that has learning disabilities requiring an array of private tutors?"

The humiliated United Way rep, completely beaten, says, "I'm so sorry, I had no idea."

And the lawyer says, "So...if I didn't give any money to them, what makes you think I'd give any to you?"

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. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty 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 Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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