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

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9:00 AM EST, Thursday, January 15, 2009: Steve Jobs probably has cancer. Three of our friends have recently been diagnosed with it. I don't want to be morbid. But their stories remind me of a wonderful movie, The Bucket List and its lesson. Do what you've always wanted to do and do it fast before you kick the bucket.

Apple shares fell 10% after Jobs announced he was taking a 5 1/2 month leave of absence. There is widespread speculation he won't return to the company he founded and grew into America's most creative. Apple cannot replace Jobs. There's no one in the world with his skills. Sadly, sell Apple. Write your own bucket list. Start attacking it today.

More horrible news: After its fourth devaluation, the ruble has sunk to its lowest in ten years. Nortel has filed for bankruptcy. JPMorgan's profit has dropped 76%. The Madoff mess is making the lawyers rich. Google Inc. said it is laying off 100 recruiters and is closing engineering offices.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index wiped out more than half its gain since rallying from 11-year low in November, a sign the benchmark for U.S. equities may drop more. The S&P 500 fell 3.4 percent to 842.62 yesterday, below the 843.57 midpoint of its 24 percent advance from Nov. 20 to Jan. 6. To technical analysts, who make predictions based on price and volume history, a so-called 50 percent retracement suggests selling momentum is increasing. “Any time you break a level, it does open the risk for follow-through,” said Roger Volz, senior vice president at Hampton Securities Inc. in New York and a technical analyst since 1982. “At this point there is probably more risk, given the weakness in the financial sector.”

Bank bonds are the new safe investment: I don't know anything about these. But I'm intrigued with this story from Bloomberg this morning. I'll check them out today.

JPMorgan, Wells Fargo Lure Risk-Averse With ‘Almost’ Treasuries

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Investors seeking higher yields than U.S. Treasuries with comparable risk should consider bank bonds backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said Gary Pollack, head of fixed-income trading and research at Deutsche Bank AG.

American Express Co. issued FDIC-backed bonds in December with three-year maturities yielding 2.501 percent and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s three-year notes are yielding 1.821, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with yields of 1.027 percent for three-year Treasury notes.

“We’re buying these for our clients because they’re ‘almost’ Treasuries with better yields, said Pollack, who helps oversee $12 billion at Deutsche Bank AG’s Private Wealth Management unit in New York.

At least sixteen banks and FDIC-approved financing units, including San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co., New York-based JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Stamford, Connecticut-based General Electric Capital Corp., have raised $114.7 billion through the FDIC’s Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, based on Bloomberg data. The program, announced in October to help thaw the credit markets, assures investors they will get a timely payment of principal and interest should an issuer go bankrupt.

The FDIC protects each bank depositor up to $250,000, a limit which is set to drop to $100,000 at the end of this year. FDIC-backed bonds allow investors to maintain the federal guarantee above $250,000, according to Jonathan Krasney, a certified financial planner at Mendham, New Jersey-based Krasney Financial, LLC.

Bank customers can obtain more FDIC coverage by opening accounts in different ownership categories, such as joint accounts, individual retirement accounts and revocable trusts.

While FDIC-backed bank bonds may offer higher yields than Treasuries, certificates of deposit provide better yields than both bonds, said Debra Brede, a wealth manager in Needham, Massachusetts. “I like to diversify, but there’s no reason to include Treasuries or FDIC-backed bank bonds in your portfolio right now -- you can get the same government backing with CDs,” Brede said.

Three-year GMAC bank CDs are paying 3.34 percent with an annual yield of 3.4 percent, based on data.

The benefit of FDIC-backed bonds is they can be traded without penalty, unlike CDs, said William Larkin, a fixed-income portfolio manager at Cabot Money Management in Salem, Massachusetts, which manages $500 million in assets. Cashing out a CD that has a term of at least two years before its maturity may incur a penalty of six months’ interest, according to Bankrate.

The FDIC-backed bank bonds are generally issued in $100,000 minimums, said Pollack of Deutsche Bank, although the FDIC hasn’t mandated a minimum investment amount. The minimum purchase amount for Treasury bills and notes is $100.

Retail investors can access FDIC-backed bank bonds with bond funds, such as Vanguard’s Total Bond Market Index Funds. The securities are in the funds’ target benchmarks and are considered government-guaranteed agencies in the index, said John Woerth, spokesman for the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-based company.

Fidelity Investments can offer customers the opportunity to buy FDIC-insured bank bonds on the secondary market if they can be located, said Steve Austin, a spokesman for the Boston-based mutual fund manager. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., the third- biggest U.S. online brokerage by assets, is also offering FDIC- insured bank bonds without minimums and is seeing slight retail interest, said James Frawley, a spokesman for the company, based in Omaha, Nebraska.

The FDIC will insure bank bonds issued on or before June 30, 2009, and coverage is limited to June 30, 2012, even if the bond’s maturity exceeds that date, said David Barr, a spokesman for the Washington-based organization.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a June 2009 extension,” said Eric Jacobson, a senior analyst at Morningstar. Insuring bank bonds past June depends on banking and consumer confidence in six months, said Jacobson, who is based in Chicago.

“Maybe the government has bitten off more than it can chew,” said Larkin of Cabot Money Management. “We may look back and say what were we thinking -- FDIC-insured paper?”

In search of the perfect investment: If I were to cycle back ten years and start writing this column all over again, I'd recommend this strategy:

1. Put your efforts and your major monies into your own business -- one you control.

2. Take money "home" when the business can afford it and put the money in a portfolio of laddered, safe muni bonds.

3. Don't mess around with the stockmarket, alternative investments or anything you read about in Barrons, the Wall Street Journal or see on CNBC. That includes gold.

4. Don't borrow money. Don't lend money.

5. Keep your lifestyle modest.

My friend is 68, retired, modestly-well off -- until recently. All his assets are tied up in "alternative investments," all of which are illiquid. Yesterday he told me he just gave one son $1.25 million to meet a margin call.

"Why?" I asked.

He replied, "He's my son. When you're in your thirties, all you've ever know is up, up, up. That's what stocks have always done. That's why my son borrowed so much money to buy stocks on margin."

The retired teacher and the croissant. My friend Joel lives in Brooklyn. One morning he visits the local farmers market. There he hears a woman asking a croissant vendor if he has anything for $1. He doesn't. She look crest fallen. It turns out she's 76, retrired 10-years as a New York City school teacher with no family and living on a very tight budget. Joel muses what our society has become -- to spend billions on bailouts and Iraq and force its retired school teachers into poverty. He bought her the $2 croissant. Reluctantly, she accepted his charity.

Apricorn's EZ Gig II Backup and cloing software is a disaster. I've used it reliably for years on PCs. But it's destroying hard drives on a new ThinkPad X200 running Windows XP. I don't know why. But this is serious. Do not go near Apricorn until I find out why.

Famous quotes for 2009.

+ For every problem, there is a solution which is simple, neat and wrong. -- H. L. Mencken

+ I have my faults. But being wrong is not one of them. -- Jimmy Hoffa

+ Just let me get this straight. They get the oil and we get to cut off half our penuses. -- Moses speaking to God.

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.