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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, Wednesday, July 18: I'm so happy with my Vanguard funds and my various iShares. So much easier than buying individual stocks. But that's a story you've heard before.

God bless Michael, my son, the genius: You buy 1,000 shares of ABC Corp. Three weeks later you buy some more. Then six months later you sell half. Nine months later the rest.... What's your rate of return on all this? Did you do better than simply investing the money with Vanguard? I always knew there was a way in Excel of figuring it. But it was too complicated.

Michael, my son, to the rescue. Here's how you do it. It couldn't be easier. You make two columns. The first is the dates when you bought or sold things. The second is the money. You have to start with a negative figure, i.e. when you first invest, your outflow. The formula is simple: =XIRR(the investments in and out, the dates of the investments).

Here's a simple example (I made all these numbers up). It shows the formula. I clipped this example from my Office 2003 Excel spreadsheet using Photoshop.

I took the same investment and simply asked myself "What would happen to my rate of return, if I received the final $800,000 payment six months earlier? Answer, my rate of return rises from 8.457% to 8.646%.

This began to be real fun. What would happen if, along the way, I had to spend another $100,000 (that's the second number in red)? My IRR would drop to 6.513%.

There is a formula in Excel called IRR. But my son says "nobody uses it." Moreover, he doesn't understand what it does. So use XIRR. OK. Drop everything, open an Excel spreadsheet. Try it. See how easy it is. Don't bitch you never learned anything useful from this column.

Useful links: Up top on the left are some "Useful Links." I've just added a link to Jim Kingsdale's Energy Investment Strategies. Jim is a very successful investor, averaging around 25% a year for years. He has a special knowledge of the energy sector. He's a classmate. So I've known him for nearly 40 years. He's started writing a column for the same reason I write one -- for fun. It has to be "fun" since there's no money for him. He doesn't even carry the few miserable Google ads I do.

Using Office 2007: I continue to resist using Office 2007. But I may switch... I have resisted for two reasons. I have not seen any major improvements. It saves in a new file format. If I send files in that format to my friends, they've have to download 27.5 megabytes of file conversion software, what Microsoft calls its Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.

But... there appear to be real, serious reasons for using the new file format. The files are smaller and the files more robust, less prone to being corrupted. Maybe that's all Microsoft propoganda. But I did note that you can have it save, by default, in all the old file formats. Anyone had experience with Office 2007? How is it? Please email me .

Catastrophe health insurance: My health insurance company is Oxford. They're expensive and increasingly inflexible. Lately, they've stopped reimbursing Quest Diagnostic expenses! This really annoys me off since every doctor I use seems to use Quest. I've been thinking: What I really want from a health insurance is not what I get today. I want "catastrophe health insurance." I want to be covered if an illness or an accident causes me to spend, let's say, $250,000 or more. Until then, I'll pay my own bills.

I've been looking for a health insurance policy that will do that. So far, nothing. Anyone reading this got any ideas? Please email me .

You really want the goverment taking over more of your health? Read this piece of earlier this week:

The Moore the Scarier by Jonathan Hoenig

I MAKE A BRIEF APPEARANCE, unwilling and unpaid mind you, in "Sicko," Michael Moore's new film about health care in the U.S. In it, I make the point that while Canadians are entitled to their share of socialized medicine, the quality and availability of services is atrocious. Moore might be determined to present an alternate reality, but almost on cue I just happened to hear this week from an associate whose Canadian mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer in March. By June, she still hadn't been given a date for an operation, prompting her family to bring her to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and pay $45,000 out of pocket to have the procedure done. Not surprisingly, they'd rather pay to receive a service and be cured than not pay for it and die waiting for an appointment.
First off, it's important to realize the health-care system in the U.S. is far from a free market. Between Medicare, Medicaid and a myriad of other public programs, it's estimated that the government pays for and controls nearly half the health care in the country. Even private health care in the U.S. is a highly regulated, obsessively congealed ball of red tape. Under the present system virtually every element of private health care, from who can practice medicine to how kidneys are allocated, is controlled by bureaucrats. Yes, U.S. health care is problematic, but not because it's a for-profit capitalist system. The problem stems from it not being capitalist enough. It's a little bit bewildering to suggest there's a "right" to health care considering that, all things being equal, food and shelter are more basic necessities of life. Why those aren't the subject of multimillion-dollar documentary films is because the free market has done a pretty good job of addressing those issues already. Home ownership in this country is at an all-time high and obesity, not starvation, is the major problem facing rich and poor alike.

Yet collectivists like Moore, along with politicians on both sides of the aisle, are now calling for even more government involvement in health care by setting up a "universal" system. Of course, universal health care is just another name for socialized medicine. Under socialism, health care is a right, just like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everybody has a right to health care in their view, not because they've done something to deserve it, but simply because of the fact they need it. Men like Moore believe that the fact that you lawfully earn your money doesn't entitle you to it, yet the fact that a cancer patient needs chemotherapy does entitle him to it.

The reality is that from Canada to Cuba socialized health care's record is appalling. It's impossible to tally how many patients die waiting for routine preventative procedures or how many innovations go undiscovered because precious resources are squandered. If you think the Post Office, IRS and Social Security are run poorly, then you can only imagine how horrific a national health-care system would be.

Yet the real reason to oppose socialized heath care isn't that it's impractical, but because it's immoral. As properly defined in the Declaration of Independence, we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So while you have an absolute right to your life, you don't have the right to demand society at large provide you with food, shelter, four weeks of vacation, a laptop computer or any other entitlement that populist politicians or socialist filmmakers care to propose.

Of course, a right is a right to action, but not to a freebie owed to you simply by being born. In America, individual rights mean you're free to pursue your own life just as others are free to pursue their own. To the extent you'd like to contribute glasses for the blind or pay for operations for the poor, you're welcome to voluntarily. But man is not born owing thy neighbor anything, only the obligation not to interfere with his own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Your right to free speech, for example, doesn't obligate me to listen.

But establishing a right to health care is enslaving someone else with the obligation to provide it. A right to health care means that in fact, I don't have a right to my own pursuit of happiness, because I have a legal duty to work to fulfill your rights. If you need an aspirin, I work an extra 15 minutes a day. If you need a respirator, it might be an extra 15 days. Forced to serve the collective, the individual no longer has any rights at all.

Last fall I wrote that "political winds have prompted me to increase my allocation to foreign exchange beyond the good ol' greenback. You can debate if higher taxes and minimum wage, along with a move toward expanding entitlements such as Social Security or universal health care are worthy goals, but one thing is certain: They aren't free. As the anticapitalist, welfare state expands, it's my belief the value of the dollar will undoubtedly decline." Lo and behold, the dollar has already fallen sharply as the country has moved more toward an entitlement state and socialized health care. The trend shows no sign of shifting anytime soon.

The success of Moore's film and the widespread movement toward socialized health care by members of both political parties will only mean further declines for our nation's currency. Of course, that's the one risk I can hedge. The sad part is the quality of the health care for all Americans, rich or poor, will fall right along with it.

Jonathan Hoenig is managing member at Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC.

What can't Apple's iPhone do? Based on the hype, not much. Based on this totally charming video, absolutely nothing. Click here.

Unsubscribe. Unscubscribe: Yippee. It's working. I'm unsubscribing from Nordstroms, LLBean, Eddie Bauer, Duluth and zillions of "free" newsletters. Go down to the bottom of each email receive. Check the small type. Everyone has a different way of unsubscribing you. Most seem to work. My favorite:

By clicking the UNSUBSCRIBE button you will add
(my email address) to our Unsubscribe database.

The hardest list to get off is Microsoft. I could have figured that.

Perfect logic:
At a U2 concert in Ireland, Bono (the lead singer) asks the audience for some quiet. Then he starts to slowly clap his hands.

Holding the audience in total silence, he says into the microphone...."I want you to think about something. Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies."

Suddenly, a voice from the front of the audience yells out...."Then stop clapping, ya asshole!"

You got To love the Irish.

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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