Thursday, November 10, 2011

Clean Up Your Debt: 29% of Mortgages Are Underwater

A whopping 28.6 percent of homeowners with mortgages owe more on their loans than their homes could sell for, according to quarterly data released Tuesday by Zillow, a real estate website. That’s up from 26.8 percent in the second quarter. Home values declined only 0.2 percent from the second quarter but were down 4.4 percent year over year. The rising percentage of homes with “negative equity” or “underwater” status is due largely to how long the foreclosure sale process takes rather than home value fluctuations, said Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries. Prior to the “robo-signing” scandal around foreclosures that came to light in 2010, the negative equity rate hovered in the 21 to 23 percent range, but has been in the 26 to 28 range since due to added delays in foreclosure sales. While the rate of foreclosures is dropping, the time required for foreclosures to sell has lengthened. “We’re in uncharted waters,” Humphries said in an interview. 

“More than one in four homes underwater and about 9 percent unemployment is a recipe for more foreclosures.”

USA Today – Foreclosure backlogs could take decades to clear out
Foreclosure sales are moving so slowly in half the states that at the current pace, it will take more than eight years on average to clear the 2.1 million homes in foreclosure or with seriously delinquent mortgages, new research shows. That’s about twice as long as a year ago in the states where foreclosures go through courts — before the mortgage industry was upended by last fall’s disclosures that court papers in many foreclosure cases were improperly prepared. Since then, new checks have slowed the process. The backlogs suggest that the fallout from the nation’s worst housing-market collapse is likely to weigh on real estate prices in many markets for years to come, and on some markets for longer than on others.

Comment:  According to Census data, a total of 76.428 million owner occupied units existed in the U.S. as of 2009. Of those, 50.3 million currently had a mortgage on their property.

Recently, Core Logic estimated that 22.5% of all homes in the U.S. were underwater and another 5% had near negative equity.  Additionally, JP Morgan has estimated that 27% of all foreclosures are walkaways.
Zillow’s estimates offer another data point on mortgages, suggesting nearly a third of all homes are now underwater.

saverio manzo


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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Financial Planning and Baby Boomers

John is one of the sharpest guys I follow, so we listen to his words carefully.

Some Thoughts on Getting Older

(Source: John Mauldin)

I turn 62 on October 4 while in Geneva. I don’t feel that old, and hope I don’t look it, but the birth certificate verifies the age. I should note that my mother turned 94 last week and is still quite active. I was talking with a Rice University classmate (of ’72) and old friend, John Benzon, who has recently retired from Price Waterhouse and is trying to figure out what “Act 2” will be. I realized that when we graduated, we had barely lived 1/3 of the lives we now have.

So with that on my mind, two items hit my inbox today. The first was from Lance Roberts of Streettalk Advisors. The San Francisco Fed did a report recently that suggested that we aging Boomers will be a drag on the stock market as we sell to support our retirement (shades of Harry Dent!). From the report: 

“The baby boom generation born between 1946 and 1964 has had a large impact on the U.S. economy and will continue to do so as baby boomers gradually phase from work into retirement over the next two decades. To finance retirement, they are likely to sell off acquired assets, especially risky equities. A looming concern is that this massive sell-off might depress equity values.” 

You can read his short piece and the link to the Fed piece at financial-blog/253-boomers- are-going-to-be-a-real-drag. html.

I am not so sure, though. I think the Boomer generation is a little different from previous generations. I remember going to my grandmother’s in my early years, when my aunts and uncles were the age I am now. Even though active – and most lived well into their 90s – they had a far more sedentary lifestyle than many Boomers do today. Boomers are more active and, whether for financial reasons or simply because they don’t want to retire (that would be me!), they are going to work longer than previous generations. In fact, the only cohort that has seen their employment rates rise is workers over the age of 55! Good for them (although tough on my young kids, who need those jobs).

Then I got this picture from Jon Sundt, the president of Altegris, a close friend, and my business partner. He is 50, at the tail end of the Boomer Generation. 

This is a wave he caught at the Mentawai Island Chain, 80 miles off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. He goes there every summer. They go into the middle of the Indian Ocean to find these large waves. And it is mostly Boomer surfers. (I’m not sure how much I like the guy who’s responsible for a large part of my monthly cash flow taking these risks, but that’s another story!)

Go to a gym or running trail: it is not just kids out there any more. There are lots of people my age where I work out. Some of the trainers are over 50! We all have friends who are pushing the envelope – climbing mountains, biking, etc.

And the new biotech that will come out within the next five years is going to offer cures for many of the things that kill us sooner than we simply wear out. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, sclerosis of the liver, viruses are all on the short target list. I was talking about this with Scott Burns, noted author and long-time newspaper columnist (and a long-time friend). He calls it “catastrophic success” in his next book, as living longer is a “success,” but it makes our collective pension, Social Security, and Medicare problems even worse. Maybe MUCH worse. I smiled and told him there are worse problems than living longer. I intend to be writing and traveling for a few more decades.

And as my Dad used to say (he made it to 86), “God willing and the creek don’t rise” I intend to do 62 pushups on October 4th, which will be a personal best. I can’t do much about getting older (I will be very disappointed if I do not get a whole lot older!), but I don’t have to go quietly into that dark night. And neither do you, gentle reader. So, make sure you are around to read my musings a whole lot longer, as well. If you hang around long enough, you will even see me turn bullish! It won’t be that long, I promise. It will seem like just a few weeks from now.

And while I was having lunch with Scott, he asked me the question, “How many years of US corn production would the dollar reserves of China buy?” I mused, maybe 40. Wrong. It is only 12. And that is just corn. Not soybeans, wheat or rice or cattle, hogs or chickens. Think about that and stand back in awe at the productivity of the American farmer.



Monday, June 20, 2011

Growing and Preserving Wealth: Life Lessons

Money won’t buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem.
Bill Vaughan

Please excuse the very wealthy for feeling a bit under siege lately.

Taxes for the top 2 percent are very likely to go higher. Uncle Sam’s share of capital gains and dividend income might rise, and means-testing for Social Security and Medicare is probable. In the United States, the very rich hold most of that wealth in dollars, which are worth increasingly less. As income inequality has grown dramatically in the nation, the very wealthy are blamed for all manner of social ills.
Rather than pile on the wealthy, this week I’d like to approach the subject of money a little more philosophically. There are surprising insights to be gleaned from the experiences of the very wealthy regarding their investments and experience with wealth.

Some context: In my day job, I come into contact with very high-net-worth individuals. These include young technologists with modest portfolios to families that measure their wealth in nine and 10 figures. For the math-averse, that’s hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.

Over the years, I have had some fascinating conversations with people who have hospitals and graduate schools named after them. I’d like to share some of the things I have learned from these folks.

1. Having money is better than not having money.
Sure, this may be obvious, but let’s get it out of the way upfront. Money may not buy you happiness, but it buys many other important things. Like financial security, excellent health care, education, travel and a comfortable retirement. In a word: freedom.

2. Don’t become “cash rich” and “time poor.”
Devoting all of your waking hours to making money is a problem, especially in professions with a partnership fast track. Lawyers, doctors, bankers and accountants can get so caught up in the competitive nature of their jobs that they lose touch with their family. Any semblance of a normal personal life disappears, and a very unhealthy balance between work and home can develop.
Work is the process of exchanging your time for money. Remember: What you do with your time is far more meaningful than the goods you accumulate with your money. If you are working so much to become rich but you ignore your spouse and miss seeing your kids grow up, you are actually poorer than you realize.

3. Memories are better than material objects.
You may be surprised to learn that among the monied set, expensive cars, yachts, houses, jewelry and watches come at the end of the list.
Their priorities? Memories and accomplishments. This was especially true when it came to family. Toys matter less than good times.

The rule of diminishing returns is a harsh mistress with luxury goods. Do you really think $100,000 audio speakers sound 20 times better than a pair of $5,000 speakers? (They don’t). Is a $250,000 sports car five times faster than a $50,000? (It is not). These days, you can buy quite a lovely home for $1,000,000 (and much less in the country’s interior). Those $10,000,000 manses are not 10 times roomier. Anyone who has owned a $10,000 Rolex will tell you that a $39 Casio keeps better time.

When discussing the benefits of wealth, I have heard again and again about amazing experiences, family get-togethers, vacations, shows, sporting events, weddings and other events as these people’s most important life experiences. While these things cost money, nearly every family can afford reasonable versions of them.

4. Watch your “lifestyle leverage,” especially early in your career.
Those partnership-track careers? The dirty little secret: Those firms love to get their young employees leveraged up. They will even help you get that way, co-signing mortgages for big houses or even directly lending you the cash on favorable terms.
They encourage up-and-comers to spend extravagantly; they extend lines of credit to their rising stars. You need a big house with a jumbo mortgage; you cannot pull up to a business meeting in anything less than the best luxury car. It is part of their corporate culture.

Isn’t that nice of them?

Not really. The big banks, investment shops, law firms and accountants have learned how profitable it is to have “golden handcuffs” on their best employees. These highly-leveraged, debt-laden wage slaves will work harder, put in longer hours and stay with the firm longer than those debt-free workers.
Besides, overleveraged employees do not leave to work at a new start-up or a smaller, more family friendly competitor.
You recent graduates: Remember this when you are offered credit on generous terms. Your leverage is your detriment.

5. Having goals is incredibly important.
I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He was a board member in a household-name dot-com from the 1990s. He sold his stock — too early, I warned at the time — for $30 million. (It would have been worth $90 million a few months later.)
But that didn’t matter to him — he planned to use that money for his next company, which he promptly built and sold for $250 million. He rolled that l into his third venture, which he cashed out of for a cool $1 billion. His long-term goal, and the ability to execute that vision, are what led him to incredible success.

He once said something that has stayed with me: “I am always surprised at how many people have no goals. They simply let life’s river flow them downstream.”
There is a Latin phrase associated with military actions: “Amat victoria curam.“ It translates as “Victory loves careful preparation.” You would be amazed at what you can accomplish with planning.

6. You must live in the here and now.
Goals are important, but don’t miss out on what is happening today.
This is especially true among entrepreneurs, corporate execs and Type A personalities. Do not let dreams of that mansion on a hill prevent you from enjoying the home you live in.
This is an area that can easily veer into cliche. Rather than risk that, I’ll simply remind you of what John Lennon sang in “Beautiful Boy”: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

7. It helps to be incredibly lucky.
I am struck by how many very wealthy people I know — especially tech entrepreneurs – have expressed being grateful for their good luck. Again and again, I have heard the phrase: “Being smart is good, but being lucky is better.”
Rather than leave you with the impression that success is simply a roll of the dice, I am compelled to remind you what the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger was reputed to have said: “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”
I don’t know whether it’s better to be smart or lucky, but I would suggest that making the most of the opportunities takes more than just dumb luck.

By , Published: June 18

Saverio Manzo

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is Life or Disability Insurance for You?

Insurance brokers resolve challenges in claims for high-net-worth clients with a combination of clear communication and attention to detail. Life insurance claims present fewer challenges than long-term disability claims.
Brokers can head off potential issues while putting together the policy application. Insurance claim managers see non-disclosure at the root of many of the difficulties that arise in the claims process. For example, a client goes scuba-diving several years before the application is drafted and the broker omits this detail because it seems dated and irrelevant. That could be construed as non-disclosure and invalidate the contract. Though not a frequent occurrence, non-disclosure of details not connected to cause of death can lead to withholding of payment.
Notwithstanding diligence during the application, a delay can arise if the beneficiary named in the will is not the individual named in the policy, a situation that sometimes arises when the client remarries. The legal implications vary from province to province, observes Susan St. Amand, a certified financial planner and president of Ottawa-based Sirius Financial Services, but payout delays are possible and may involve lengthy and costly negotiations.
This scenario underlines the need for detailed note-taking and file-keeping, she suggests. In the event of legal proceedings, the notes and files may prove that the client mentioned in conversation an intention to change beneficiaries but had not proceeded, perhaps due to time constraints.
Another challenge occurs when the client dies in another jurisdiction, as when a snowbird dies in Florida. This can involve getting detailed documentation from several doctors or medical institutions in the foreign jurisdiction, a potentially time-consuming and expensive process, St. Amand explains, adding that fees for reports will have to be paid in advance. For the broker, that means alerting the estate executor to the possibility of a large bill against the estate and suggesting that the necessary funds be set aside.
With CI or LTD claims, problems can arise outside of the actual claims process since the client may not be psychologically prepared for a diagnosis of cancer or other critical ailment. “Any assistance you can give them to provide them with guidance and comfort around what the insurance carrier is trying to get is helpful on both sides of the equation,” St. Amand says. This helps the insurer resolve the claim and helps the client in dealing with the stress of diagnosis.
The broker may expedite the information gathering process by obtaining the client’s authorization to communicate directly with the doctor, and providing the doctor or even several doctors with a list of questions to be answered in letter form and attached to the claim forms. “Facilitation of communication between parties is one of the most valuable roles we play at claim time,” she says.
An LTD claim can become a matter of negotiation when it becomes a residual claim. This occurs when a high-net-worth client suffering from a disability elects to continue working but with a reduced schedule. An individual serving as vice president of marketing and whose ailment impedes his performance in a family firm can make a claim for the cost of hiring someone to assume some of his responsibilities.

Similarly, some ailments that qualify for LTD, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, can be progressive, meaning a transition over time from partial disability—during which the individual can delegate some responsibilities—to complete disability. For the broker, this again means guiding the client, or, with the client’s authorization, communicating directly with the doctor about the documentation required.
When an insurer declines a claim the broker and client have several choices, including litigation and case management, which may turn the tide in the client’s favour.
Dr. Raymond Rupert, founder of Toronto-based Rupert Case Management Inc., notes one case where two insurers declined claims for CI and LTD. The client had become confused and unable to work or function well for two years, but doctors had not arrived at a clear diagnosis that conformed to the language of the client’s policy. “He couldn’t remember things. There was clearly a cognitive issue,” Rupert recalls.
Rupert examined “four inches of medical files” looking for gaps in the analysis. Examination of the client’s background revealed a period where he played semi-pro hockey, and received several blows to the head. Medical scans provided evidence of multiple areas of stroke in the brain—he had suffered hockey players’ concussion syndrome. His online journal provided further evidence. “He had developed several areas of damage that were stroke-like and the sum total of all of these strokes was this thinking disorder,” Rupert says.
This work provided enough evidence to underpin the successful claim for the payouts.
Al Emid, a financial journalist, covers insurance, investing and banking.

About me: I give Economic, Social and Global trend briefings from some of the world's brightest minds at my blog and I also provide true and tested financial planning and wealth advice. Most recently, over the past few years, I have become socially conscious and have been attempting to practise ways in which I can live my life more environmentally friendly.   Along with some truly exceptional friends, we provide consulting and business development for small-medium sized businesses.  In addition, I truly believe in being philanthropic, giving and doing unto other as we would have them do unto us. Some of my fondest resources are from Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture, David Rosenberg and what Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway is up to behind the scenes, as an example. saverio manzo

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Smart Financial Management

If you are unable to take care of your finances and you desperately want to take control over it, you must use money management tips. Gaining the knowledge of practical money management tips not only enables you to gain peace of mind by helping you live within your means but also helps improve your monetary condition. This article provides you with information about how you can manage your money on your own in a better way.

Tips to manage money
If you want to take control over your finances, you can either manage it on your own or you may hire a credit counseling agency to provide you with professional help to manage money in a methodical way. However, if you have time to do it on your own, you can save a lot of cash by not hiring a credit counseling agency to assist you to manage it.
Thus, here are some tips you may use in order to manage your money on your own.

1 . Create a budget – Track your income and your expenses and find out if your expenditures are more than your income. Also make sure to start a spending plan and take note of your daily expenses regularly. This may be time consuming but it will help you analyze your financial situation. List your spending, both the fixed ones like house and car payments as well as the flexible ones such as the electric and phone bills. This kind of a breakdown will help you get an idea about your financial standing.

2 . Review your credit report – Get a copy of your credit report and review it thoroughly. Investigate if there are any inaccuracies in your credit report such as typing mistakes or out-dated information. Immediately take up steps to remove such erroneous information from your credit report.

3 . Automate your finances – In order to automate your financial life, you must contact your mutual fund or broker to have monthly investments routed from your bank. Make sure to do the same for all your monthly utility, phone and cable bills. This will ultimately help you stick to your budget and you will never have to pay a late fee again.

4 . Check your bank statement – Be careful to read your bank statement regularly. Though each checking statement may differ according to the specific kind of account or bank, yet there are some basic types of entries that you must take note of. Be cautious about any transactions that you think is not yours as they signify that your checking account is in trouble.

Apart from managing your present finances, you must start accumulating cash for your future. It is preferable to start saving for your future as soon as you have got your first job. This will help you attain a considerable growth in your savings over the time.
Submitted by gweston, Advisor World

About me: I give Economic, Social and Global trend briefings from some of the world's brightest minds at my blog and I also provide true and tested financial planning and wealth advice. Most recently, over the past few years, I have become socially conscious and have been attempting to practise ways in which I can live my life more environmentally friendly.   Along with some truly exceptional friends, we provide consulting and business development for small-medium sized businesses.  In addition, I truly believe in being philanthropic, giving and doing unto other as we would have them do unto us. Some of my fondest resources are from Barry Ritholtz of The Big PictureDavid Rosenberg and what Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway is up to behind the scenes, as an example. saverio manzo

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Close Deals Like Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett might be catching a lot of flack these days, but I think if you want to know about closing big deals, he’s still the guy to watch. Why? The man knows how to talk about money when he’s dealmaking.

Buffett is famous for doing ginormous deals with as little information as a few pages of business plans and the standard financials a company would submit to a bank to qualify for a loan. What he has when he goes into any conversation is an encyclopedic knowledge of how businesses work financially. He knows “their money,” “their wallet,” and how investments and outcomes should work. Follow his lead and you will close more business.

Here are seven things I’ve learned as I’ve watched Buffett from afar:

  1. Know the other guy’s money - How they make it, how they count it, how they spend it. This is obviously much easier to do for publicly traded companies. For privately held companies, the numbers are fairly easy to estimate, at least the cost of goods sold and probably the cost of sale. These numbers are critical to discussing the possibilities of working together. Too often the discussion stops at budget. When you don’t know, ask. Not the trade secrets, but at least the industry averages. This provides a basic framework for the discussion.

2. Know the other guy’s wallet - How does this sale impact any of these critical numbers? The terms of the deal should be looked at from their side of the table first, then yours.

3. Start discussing the money early - You know you are going to discuss the money later. Early in the conversation, you do not have enough information for precision. Instead, you have an understanding of the economics of the prospect’s industry, so you have enough to determine if a deal makes any sense at all. Use that economic information and industry knowledge to frame a shared understanding of the reality of the money for this opportunity.

4. Use ranges to qualify and disqualify - Understand early (and throughout the discussion) whether you and your prospect are in the same arena. By using ranges of prices, cost structures, yields, and performance you can both be sure that you are dealing in a shared reality rather than getting to the end and finding yourselves so far apart that there is permanent damage done to the relationship.

5. Speak the language of investment and outcomes - Every large sale is an investment on both parts in an outcome. When you move the conversation from price to investment and cost to outcomes you are focusing on the business impact rather than budget impact. This is the language of large sales.

6. Don’t discount early - I regularly hear fearful “deal makers” use language like, “Let’s not let money get in the way of working together.” There’s a word for this that is not used in polite company. This is the language of discounting before the scope has been clearly defined. The sales person believes that he is being clever by taking money off the table. What he has really done is to take margin off the table, his and his company’s margin. If qualifying investment and impact has been made up front, then this point does not need to be made again.

7. Don’t negotiate until it’s time - Work on the deal points one at a time. Work through the investment and outcome ideas clearly, then negotiate. True, all of these points require negotiation. However, too often the conversation turns to negotiations too early before real scope and deliverables have been defined. Which means that the whole is reduced to the little parts before the shared picture of the whole has been established.

Side Note: I watched a deal unravel recently because the players did not observe these guidelines. The sale involved the installation of a point-of-sale system into a retail chain. The details are complicated as many large deals are, but the numbers were simple:
If you calculated the investment necessary for the system, the transaction cost was going to be >5% of the transaction revenue value. That’s more than the cost of the charge card processing fee! Never going to work regardless of the reporting bells and whistles, speed to data consolidation and so on.

This violates rules 1-5. The selling team did not understand the fundamental money issues of their prospect. They had not asked, done their research or even estimated. They were focused on the features of their system and what they had heard the IT people say would be the selection criteria without working through the money issues. That always leads to disaster.

saverio manzo

About me: I give Economic, Social and Global trend briefings from some of the world's brightest minds at my blog and I also provide true and tested financial planning and wealth advice. Most recently, over the past few years, I have become socially conscious and have been attempting to practise ways in which I can live my life more environmentally friendly.   Along with some truly exceptional friends, we provide consulting and business development for small-medium sized businesses.  In addition, I truly believe in being philanthropic, giving and doing unto other as we would have them do unto us. Some of my fondest resources are from Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture, David Rosenberg and what Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway is up to behind the scenes, as an example. saverio manzo

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rich Man, Poor Man (The Power of Compounding)

by Richard RussellDow Theory Letters
Recently by Richard Russell: The Red Arrows

MAKING MONEY: The most popular piece I’ve published in 40 years of writing these Letters was entitled, “Rich Man, Poor Man.” I have had dozens of requests to run this piece again or for permission to reprint it for various business organizations.

Making money entails a lot more than predicting which way the stock or bond markets are heading or trying to figure which stock or fund will double over the next few years. For the great majority of investors, making money requires a plan, self-discipline and desire. I say, “for the great majority of people” because if you’re a Steven Spielberg or a Bill Gates you don’t have to know about the Dow or the markets or about yields or price/earnings ratios. You’re a phenomenon in your own field, and you’re going to make big money as a by-product of your talent and ability. But this kind of genius is rare.

For the average investor, you and me, we’re not geniuses so we have to have a financial plan. In view of this, I offer below a few items that we must be aware of if we are serious about making money.

Rule 1: Compounding: One of the most important lessons for living in the modern world is that to survive you’ve got to have money. But to live (survive) happily, you must have love, health (mental and physical), freedom, intellectual stimulation – and money. When I taught my kids about money, the first thing I taught them was the use of the “money bible.” What’s the money bible? Simple, it’s a volume of the compounding interest tables.

Compounding is the royal road to riches. Compounding is the safe road, the sure road, and fortunately, anybody can do it. To compound successfully you need the following: perseverance in order to keep you firmly on the savings path. You need intelligence in order to understand what you are doing and why. And you need a knowledge of the mathematics tables in order to comprehend the amazing rewards that will come to you if you faithfully follow the compounding road. And, of course, you need time, time to allow the power of compounding to work for you.

Remember, compounding only works through time.

But there are two catches in the compounding process. The first is obvious – compounding may involve sacrifice (you can’t spend it and still save it). Second, compounding is boring – b-o-r-i-n-g. Or I should say it’s boring until (after seven or eight years) the money starts to pour in. Then, believe me, compounding becomes very interesting. In fact, it becomes downright fascinating!
In order to emphasize the power of compounding, I am including this extraordinary study, courtesy of Market Logic, of Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33306. In this study we assume that investor (B) opens an IRA at age 19. For seven consecutive periods he puts $2,000 in his IRA at an average growth rate of 10% (7% interest plus growth). After seven years this fellow makes NO MORE contributions – he’s finished.
A second investor (A) makes no contributions until age 26 (this is the age when investor B was finished with his contributions). Then A continues faithfully to contribute $2,000 every year until he’s 65 (at the same theoretical 10% rate).
Now study the incredible results. B, who made his contributions earlier and who made only seven contributions, ends up with MORE money than A, who made 40 contributions but at a LATER TIME. The difference in the two is that B had seven more early years of compounding than A. Those seven early years were worth more than all of A’s 33 additional contributions.
This is a study that I suggest you show to your kids. It’s a study I’ve lived by, and I can tell you, “It works.” You can work your compounding with muni-bonds, with a good money market fund, with T-bills or say with five-year T-notes.

Rule 2: DON’T LOSE MONEY: This may sound naive, but believe me it isn’t. If you want to be wealthy, you must not lose money, or I should say must not lose BIG money. Absurd rule, silly rule? Maybe, but MOST PEOPLE LOSE MONEY in disastrous investments, gambling, rotten business deals, greed, poor timing. Yes, after almost five decades of investing and talking to investors, I can tell you that most people definitely DO lose money, lose big time – in the stock market, in options and futures, in real estate, in bad loans, in mindless gambling, and in their own business.

RULE 3: RICH MAN, POOR MAN: In the investment world the wealthy investor has one major advantage over the little guy, the stock market amateur and the neophyte trader. The advantage that the wealthy investor enjoys is that HE DOESN’T NEED THE MARKETS. I can’t begin to tell you what a difference that makes, both in one’s mental attitude and in the way one actually handles one’s money.
The wealthy investor doesn’t need the markets, because he already has all the income he needs. He has money coming in via bonds, T-bills, money market funds, stocks and real estate. In other words, the wealthy investor never feels pressured to “make money” in the market.
The wealthy investor tends to be an expert on values. When bonds are cheap and bond yields are irresistibly high, he buys bonds. When stocks are on the bargain table and stock yields are attractive, he buys stocks. When real estate is a great value, he buys real estate. When great art or fine jewelry or gold is on the “give away” table, he buys art or diamonds or gold. In other words, the wealthy investor puts his money where the great values are.
And if no outstanding values are available, the wealthy investors waits. He can afford to wait. He has money coming in daily, weekly, monthly. The wealthy investor knows what he is looking for, and he doesn’t mind waiting months or even years for his next investment (they call that patience).
But what about the little guy? This fellow always feels pressured to “make money.” And in return he’s always pressuring the market to “do something” for him. But sadly, the market isn’t interested. When the little guy isn’t buying stocks offering 1% or 2% yields, he’s off to Las Vegas or Atlantic City trying to beat the house at roulette. Or he’s spending 20 bucks a week on lottery tickets, or he’s “investing” in some crackpot scheme that his neighbor told him about (in strictest confidence, of course).
And because the little guy is trying to force the market to do something for him, he’s a guaranteed loser. The little guy doesn’t understand values so he constantly overpays. He doesn’t comprehend the power of compounding, and he doesn’t understand money. He’s never heard the adage, “He who understands interest – earns it. He who doesn’t understand interest – pays it.” The little guy is the typical American, and he’s deeply in debt.

The little guy is in hock up to his ears. As a result, he’s always sweating – sweating to make payments on his house, his refrigerator, his car or his lawn mower. He’s impatient, and he feels perpetually put upon. He tells himself that he has to make money – fast. And he dreams of those “big, juicy mega-bucks.” In the end, the little guy wastes his money in the market, or he loses his money gambling, or he dribbles it away on senseless schemes. In short, this “money-nerd” spends his life dashing up the financial down-escalator.

But here’s the ironic part of it. If, from the beginning, the little guy had adopted a strict policy of never spending more than he made, if he had taken his extra savings and compounded it in intelligent, income-producing securities, then in due time he’d have money coming in daily, weekly, monthly, just like the rich man. The little guy would have become a financial winner, instead of a pathetic loser.

RULE 4: VALUES: The only time the average investor should stray outside the basic compounding system is when a given market offers outstanding value. I judge an investment to be a great value when it offers (a) safety; (b) an attractive return; and (c) a good chance of appreciating in price. At all other times, the compounding route is safer and probably a lot more profitable, at least in the long run.
Reprinted with permission from Dow Theory Letters.

About me: I give Economic, Social and Global trend briefings from some of the world's brightest minds at my blog and I also provide true and tested financial planning and wealth advice. Most recently, over the past few years, I have become socially conscious and have been attempting to practise ways in which I can live my life more environmentally friendly.   Along with some truly exceptional friends, we provide consulting and business development for small-medium sized businesses.  In addition, I truly believe in being philanthropic, giving and doing unto other as we would have them do unto us. Some of my fondest resources are from Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture, David Rosenberg and what Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway is up to behind the scenes, as an example. saverio manzo