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

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9:00 AM EST, Friday, May 15, 2009. The overarching lesson from yesterday secondaries story was how heavily stacked against the private investor the stockmarket actually is. You spent major time researching a stock, decide you like it and then this sort of nonsense happens:

We know how the institutions make money on this. They sell short when the secondary is rumored. They buy the secondary (this one at $7) and dump it instantly.

We know how the brokers make money on this -- they get 20 cents a share commission for secondary shares they sell their clients.

How do you and I make money? According to my best hedge fund manager, "Buy on secondaries, like LINE. They almost always trade higher over the next few weeks. But make sure you buy only companies you really like."

For your amusement, here are the secondaries which were priced last night:

Price of secondaries.
Priced last night
1-year high
Last night's close
American States Water
Energizer Holdings
Fortress Investment
Protective Life
Smithtown Bancorp
Western Alliance Bancorp

I do like Smithtown Bancorp. I have their annual report in my hot little hand. It's a seriously impressive local bank -- I need to do a little more reading before I buy.

If you didn't read yesterday's piece on syndications, please do. I was impressed with my own work. Dan Good, my Wall Street maven, yawned and quipped, "So what's new?" For yesterday's piece.

What makes us happy? Studying happiness yields no easy answers. That has made it a new academic discpline. Because it is part of "The Search For the Perfect Investment," I'm fascinated and have gobbled up much of the literature. Until recently the conventional wisdom said comparative wealth was key. It wasn't how much money you had -- but whether you had more than your friends. Demonstrating how much you had became a key driver of the McMansion, European-car, Rolex watch crowd of the 1990s boom. None of that stuff really made anyone happier. It simply showed you were "happier" to your friends.

The recent reduction in everyone's wealth should, theoretically, help with the comparative wealth happiness measure. But I suspect not. You can never win this game since there's always someone with more. So you'd better find your own happiness in something else -- accomplishments, friends, family, etc.

For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining the happiness question. They've been following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. A peek at the results are in the latest Atlantic. Excerpts:

What allows people to work, and love, as they grow old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant, who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically.

Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors.

What factors don’t matter? Vaillant identified some surprises. Cholesterol levels at age 50 have nothing to do with health in old age. While social ease correlates highly with good psychosocial adjustment in college and early adulthood, its significance diminishes over time. The predictive importance of childhood temperament also diminishes over time: shy, anxious kids tend to do poorly in young adulthood, but by age 70, are just as likely as the outgoing kids to be “happy-well.” Vaillant sums up: “If you follow lives long enough, the risk factors for healthy life adjustment change. There is an age to watch your cholesterol and an age to ignore it.”

The study has yielded some additional subtle surprises. Regular exercise in college predicted late-life mental health better than it did physical health. And depression turned out to be a major drain on physical health: of the men who were diagnosed with depression by age 50, more than 70 percent had died or were chronically ill by 63. More broadly, pessimists seemed to suffer physically in comparison with optimists, perhaps because they’re less likely to connect with others or care for themselves. ...

Again and again, Vaillant has returned to his major preoccupations. One is alcoholism, which he found is probably the horse, and not the cart, of pathology. “People often say, ‘That poor man. His wife left him and he’s taken to drink,’” Vaillant says. “But when you look closely, you see that he’s begun to drink, and that has helped drive his wife away.” The horrors of drink so preoccupied Vaillant that he devoted a stand-alone study to it: The Natural History of Alcoholism.

Vaillant’s other main interest is the power of relationships. “It is social aptitude,” he writes, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.” Warm connections are necessary—and if not found in a mother or father, they can come from siblings, uncles, friends, mentors. The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

The authority of these findings stems in large part from the rarity of the source. Few longitudinal studies survive in good health for whole lifetimes, because funding runs dry and the participants drift away.

There's more. Read the entire piece -- TheAtlantic.

Wash your hands. And other precautions. Send this PowerPoint to your family, friends, and co-workers. It comes from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It tells the entire story on swine flu. You must watch it. Click here.

The insanity of this IPO. This should be fun. OpenTable (OPEN) is going public today. This is one of those 1990s Internet stocks. It's ridiculously overpriced -- five times 2008 revenue. It purports to get you reservations at local restaurants. It stinks. I checked six of my favorite local Manhattan restaurants. It didn't list one. The shares are coming at $12-$14, allegedly. I wish I could short the thing. But I gather there's some rule about shorting new IPOs. The Journal has a piece on OPEN in Heard on the Street. The Journal has "reservations on OpenTable Share Offering." I bet they ran the story just to be able to publish the bad pun.

Flat screen TVs have sucky sound. It’s always better to pump the sound through a stereo receiver – or even better a receiver with five channels, which you can also use to pump your DVDs through. Avoid the TV's speakers. As they get flatter, they sound suckier.

Favorite recent New York cartoon:

Seriously bad locker room humor. (But I can't stop laughing.)

Two guys are in a locker room when one guy notices the other guy has a cork up his ass.

He says, "How'd you get a cork in your ass?"

The other guy says, "I was walking along the beach and I tripped over a lamp. There was a puff of smoke, and then a red man in a turban came out."

He said, 'I am Tonto, Indian Genie. I grant you one wish.'

And I said, 'No shit.'"

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.