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

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9:00 AM EST, Monday, January 12, 2009: Fees. If they have your money, they take fees. And lots of them. One LBO fund of mine couldn't sell off its properties in its promised time, so it simply voted itself an extension, and more fees. A credit card company hit me with $29 late charges on a $50 bill. I wasn't late. My bank hits me for incoming wire fees. One broker often often adds a zero to his fees, jumping from $150 to $1500. My mantra remains CHECK. CHECK. CHECK. But checking and bitching to get them removed is so boring.

This email is typical of the ongoing mess in Auction Rate Securities.

Dear Mr. Newton,
My grandfather is almost 92 y/o and can't really handle his current ARPS situation. He has an account with TD Ameritrade and from what he can remember, he never agreed to putting $225k of his cash into Nuveen ARPS. When he asked his broker (at the time) why it was in these new Nuveen shares, the guy on the other end of the phone said it was 7-day paper, with a higher interest rate than his money market account. Since February 2008, TD Ameritrade has only redeemed $25k leaving him with $200,000 in Nuveen ARPS. I've emailed girrardgibbs, but have not heard from them as of yet. What should I do?

Guess why his broker put this guy's money into ARPS and not a safer money market fund? You got it. Fees. Brokers get no fees on money market funds. They used to get fees on ARPS -- initial and ongoing.

The biggest ratsnest on Wall Street for fees is muni bonds. Friends tell me of fees as high as 1% to buy and 1% to sell a muni bond. "Fair" brokers charge 1/4 of 1%. Frankly, I think a flat fee, akin to what the discount brokerage companies charge would be fair. Shop your muni bond purchases and sales. You'll be staggered at the differences.

The U.S. lost more jobs in 2008 than any year since 1945. With part-time jobs lost and illegal Latin Americans fleeing because they can't find work, the unemployment rate here is closer to 15% -- double the government's official number. Since the U.S. economy is 65% to 70% consumer, this augurs awfully. The Dow's low was on November 20 at 7552. Last week it closed at 8559, up 13%. Some people believe the horrible job losses have been fully discounted. I'm dubious. When in doubt stay out.

This chart is from Bloomberg. It reflects Friday's market. What's interesting to me is it reminds me which companies make up the Dow:

OZOcar is a new limo service. Sitting outside our building at 8:00 AM this morning was this darling little Toyota Prius.

OZOcar describes itself as "New York's first hybrid luxury car service that won't compromise your conscience because in an OZOcar, luxury and responsibility co-exist." OZOcar only has hybrids -- this one and a bigger Lexus hybrid. I have no idea if you can make money with this quirky idea. But I'm signing up for an account.

Another new boom industry. They put the first one up outside our building.

Is this New York's subtle way of telling me not to walk Winnie, the dog, in my pajamas?

More bad Wall Street humor.

Q: What's the difference between a guy who just lost everything in Vegas and an investment banker?
A: A tie.

Q: How many stock brokers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two . one to change the bulb, the other to sell off the old one at the highest price possible before CNBC reports it's burned out.

Q: How many commodities traders does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, they don't change bulbs; but the trading price of darkness plummets due to oversupply.

Q: How many real-estate agents does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Just one . but she now raises the asking-price of the house due to "recent renovations."

Q: What's the difference between a large bag of manure and an investment banker?
A: One's a lying sack of shit and the other is fertilizer.

Q: What's the difference between a bond and a bond trader?
A: A bond matures.

Q: "What is the difference between a dead cat and a bad investment?"
A: When you throw both out the window, you get a bounce from the dead cat.

Snow and Florida. I see Florida's charms. I spent half the weekend shoveling snow. God decided, in his infinite wisdom, to punish me with tons and tons of the white stuff. My back is killing me.

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.