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    Ten common investment errors stocks bonds management

     

    Investment mistakes happen for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that decisions are made under conditions of uncertainty that are irresponsibly downplayed by market gurus and institutional spokespersons. Losing money on an investment may not be the result of a mistake, and not all mistakes result in monetary losses. But errors occur when judgment is unduly influenced by emotions, when the basic principles of investing are misunderstood, and when misconceptions exist about how securities react to varying economic, political, and hysterical circumstances. Avoid these ten common errors to improve your performance: 1. Investment decisions should be made within a clearly defined Investment Plan. Investing is a goal-orientated activity that should include considerations of time, risk-tolerance, and future income… think about where you are going before you start moving in what may be the wrong direction. A well thought out plan will not need frequent adjustments. A well-managed plan will not be susceptible to the addition of trendy, speculations. 2. The distinction between Asset Allocation and Diversification is often clouded. Asset Allocation is the planned division of the portfolio between Equity and Income securities. Diversification is a risk minimization strategy used to assure that the size of individual portfolio positions does not become excessive in terms of various measurements. Neither are "hedges" against anything or Market Timing devices. Neither can be done with Mutual Funds or within a single Mutual Fund. Both are handled most easily using Cost Basis analysis as defined in the Working Capital Model. 3. Investors become bored with their Plan too quickly, change direction too frequently, and make drastic rather than gradual adjustments. Although investing is always referred to as "long term", it is rarely dealt with as such by investors who would be hard pressed to explain simple peak-to-peak analysis. Short-term Market Value movements are routinely compared with various un-portfolio related indices and averages to evaluate performance. There is no index that compares with your portfolio, and calendar divisions have no relationship whatever to market or interest rate cycles. 4. Investors tend to fall in love with securities that rise in price and forget to take profits, particularly when the company was once their employer. It's alarming how often accounting and other professionals refuse to fix these single-issue portfolios. Aside from the love issue, this becomes an unwilling-to-pay-the-taxes problem that often brings the unrealized gain to the Schedule D as a realized loss. Diversification rules, like Mother Nature, must not be messed with. 5. Investors often overdose on information, causing a constant state of "analysis paralysis". Such investors are likely to be confused and tend to become hindsightful and indecisive. Neither portends well for the portfoliopounding this issue is the inability to distinguish between research and sales materials... quite often the same document. A somewhat narrow focus on information that supports a logical and well-documented investment strategy will be more productive in the long run. But do avoid future predictors. 6. Investors are constantly in search of a short cut or gimmick that will provide instant success with minimum effort. Consequently, they initiate a feeding frenzy for every new, product and service that the Institutions produce. Their portfolios become a hodgepodge of Mutual Funds, iShares, Index Funds, Partnerships, Penny Stocks, Hedge Funds, Funds of Funds, Commodities, Options, etc. This obsession with Product underlines how Wall Street has made it impossible for financial professionals to survive without them. Remember: Consumers buy products; Investors select securities. 7. Investors just don't understand the nature of Interest Rate Sensitive Securities and can't deal appropriately with changes in Market Value… in either direction. Operationally, the income portion of a portfolio must be looked at separately from the growth portion. A simple assessment of bottom line Market Value for structural and/or directional decision-making is one of the most far-reaching errors that investors make. Fixed Income must not connote Fixed Value and most investors rarely experience the full benefit of this portion of their portfolio. 8. Many investors either ignore or discount the cyclical nature of the investment markets and wind up buying the most popular securities/sectors/funds at their highest ever prices. Illogically, they interpret a current trend in such areas as a new dynamic and tend to overdo their involvement. At the same time, they quickly abandon whatever their previous hot spot happened to be, not realizing that they are creating a Buy High, Sell Low cycle all their own. 9. Many investment errors will involve some form of unrealistic time horizon, or Apples to Oranges form of performance comparison. Somehow, somewhere, the get rich slowly path to investment success has become overgrown and abandoned. Successful portfolio development is rarely a straight up arrow and comparisons with dissimilar products, commodities, or strategies simply produce detours that speed progress away from original portfolio goals. 10. The "cheaper is better" mentality weakens decision making capabilities, leads investors to dangerous assumptions and short cuts that only appear to be effective. Do discount brokers seek "best execution"? Can new issue preferred stocks be purchased without cost? Is a no load fund a freebie? Is a WRAP Account individually managed? When cheap is an investor's primary concern, what he gets will generally be worth the price. Compounding the problems that investors have managing their investment portfolios is the sideshowesque sensationalism that the media brings to the process. Investing has become a competitive event for service providers and investors alike. This development alone will lead many of you to the self-destructive decision making errors that are described above. Investing is a personal project where individual/family goals and objectives must dictate portfolio structure, management strategy, and performance evaluation techniques. Is it difficult to manage a portfolio in an environment that encourages instant gratification, supports all forms of "uncaveated" speculation, and that rewards short term and shortsighted reports, reactions, and achievements? Yup, it sure is.

         
    Ten myths of real estate investing

     

    Is real estate investing only for the wealthy? Can you buy with no money down? Do you have to know the "right" people? Let's answer by looking at some of the myths of real estate. 1. Real estate investing is for the wealthy. Money helps, but my first real estate investment was a $3,500 lot - which I sold for a profit two weeks after I bought it. Small deals, partners, low-down deals, or just putting aside $7 per day for a couple years until you have enough money for a downpayment - these are some of the ways to start with a little and invest in real estate. 2. "0 down" isn't possible. I sold a rental property for $1,000 down because I trusted the buyer to make the payments, and I wanted the 9% interest and higher price. He could have gotten a cash-advance on a credit card for another $30 per month and made it a "0-down" deal. "No money down" means none of YOUR money down, and yes, it happens. 3. "0 down" is the best way. If you don't invest some of your own money, you'll have higher payments. You'll also spend more time finding suitable properties, and pay more for them (generally cooperative sellers want more for their cooperation - I do). There are 0-down deals out there - they just aren't always worth doing. 4. You need experience. Experience helps, but you get it by investing. Start with common sense, ask how you can lose money, be willing to learn the numbers, and you can start where you are. 5. Some investors have a "knack" for making money. Sort of. More accurately, some just took the time and risk to learn the market and continue their education. 6. You need to know the "right" people. It helps, so start the process. Talk to investors, real estate agents, landlords, etc. 7. You have to be great negotiator. If you learn to run the numbers and make the offers based on them, you can be the worst negotiator and still do okay. 8. You need insider knowledge. Understand one deal, and you are on your way. Read and read more, but the best "insider" knowledge comes from experience. 9. Fixer-uppers are safe. People have the idea that doing the work themselves is the safest way to assure a profit. Not true. Mis-planned "fix and flips" have bankrupted even experienced investors. Most poorly purchased rental properties will only eat a little money every month. 10. The key is lowball offers. The numbers have to work, and you need a plan. You can offer MORE than the market price and make money investing in real estate, if you understand creative financing - and how to do the math.

         
    Ten new investment concepts the time has come

     

    There’s a rumor going around that the Mutual Funds are broken and just can’t work anymore, for a multitude of reasons. They’ve tried index funds, but these, too, have been less than impressive since they hit the street a few years back, and are now being enhanced... what does that say? Here are some new and/or forgotten ideas that can get your investment program back on track: 1. Abandon the popular averages: Over the past six years, all of the major averages are grossly negative or just beginning to get back toward their best past levels. At the same time, the NYSE advance/decline line has been extremely positive. Additionally, the last time the averages were up, issue breadth was totally negative. 2. And the basics of investing, again, are what? Most investors confuse Quality with analyst expectations and think that Diversification means getting one of every product type that’s out there. In fact, they are basic risk minimization tools that every investor needs to use. 3. Appreciate the power of income: Base Income just has to grow every year, period, for a person to have any hope of keeping up with inflation. That’s right, growing Market Value is inflationary… particularly with respect to hat size, and income paves the road to retirement income. 4. Buy low (within reason), sell higher: Profitable company stock prices fluctuate just like unprofitable ones. The difference is that the former are much more likely to move back up again. Buy quality at lower prices (just like any other form of shopping), big BUT, set a reasonable (10% or so) profit-taking target… and pull the trigger. Re-load, and do it again. 5. Embrace The Working Capital Model: For both portfolio Asset Allocation and Performance Evaluation, use the cost basis of your holdings as opposed to their Market Value. This is the only way to use short time periods (a year being the shortest for anything at all meaningful) for any kind of analysis. Also, as a bonus, you’ll never make another fixed income mistake. 6. Fall in love with Volatility, not with securities of any kind: Market volatility is one of the few things (if there are any at all) that you can be certain about. Use it wisely and it will shorten your road to investment success. All too often, unrealized gains on the loved ones become realized losses on the tax return. 7. Remember Peak-to-Peak and Trough-to-Trough: There was a time when tests like these (and variations like P to T, or T to P) where the only valid (Market Value) tests of a manager’s ability. They still are. I have never found a correlation between the calendar year and any market, interest rate, or economic cycle. 8. Corrections are every bit as lovable as rallies: In truth, profit taking is more fun, and much easier decision-making than buying stocks while in the throes of a falling Equity Market. But one is just the flip side of the other, and you need to learn the lyrics to Every Day just as you knew Peggy Sue. 9. Understand The Investor’s Creed: How did trading get a bad rep? What is a stock exchange? Buy and hold just doesn’t fit. The key is timing (not market timing) and selectivity. In a rising market you should be selling more than buying, resulting in a growing cash position. This is a good thing. In a falling market you should be buying more than selling, resulting in a smaller cash position… also a good thing. If you run out of cash while the market is still falling, you are doing it right. By the same token, if you feel stupid having taken your profits and the market is still foaming, your brilliance will not be your only reward. 10. Investing is not a competitive event: It’s all about you: your money, your risk tolerance, your goals, and your objectives. It doesn’t matter what the others are doing, why and how. Think about this. There is no average, index, or benchmark that can be compared to the Market Value changes of a properly diversified portfolio. Nadda. 11. Establish Rules and Apply Discipline… a bonus idea. Just do it. From: "The Brainwashing of the American Investor: The Book that Wall Street Does Not Want YOU to Read"

         
    The 46.3 marginal bracket

     

    Despite the new tax rate reductions of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, the top marginal tax bracket for many retirees is a whopping 46.3%. Why? Because Social Security benefits are subject to income tax. Those affected are Social Security recipients who have the good fortune (misfortune?) to be subject to both the 25% income tax bracket and the 85% inclusion rate for Social Security benefits. Here's how it works. First, you must understand how Social Security benefits are taxed. The income tax formula begins with the calculation of combined income. For all practical purposes, combined income equals adjusted gross income (not including Social Security), plus municipal income, plus one half of the taxpayer's Social Security benefit. So far, so good. If a married couple’s income is under $32,000 ($25,000 for a single taxpayer), Social Security benefits are not taxable. If combined income is between $32,000 and $44,000 (or $25,000 and $34,000 for a single person), the taxable amount of Social Security equals the lesser of one half of Social Security benefits or one half of the difference between combined income and $32,000 ($25,000 if single). Up until now, it’s not too complicated. Here's where the real fun begins. If the taxpayers' combined income is over $44,000 ($34,000 if single), the taxable amount of Social Security equals: the lesser of (1) 85% of the benefit, or (2) the sum of 85% of combined income over $44,000 ($34,000 if single) plus the lesser of $6,000 ($4,500 if single) or the amount of Social Security taxable under the old rules. Nobody ever said new tax laws created tax simplification. Here's how we come up with that 46.3% bracket. In order to illustrate an increase in the marginal tax, you have to compute taxable income. Taxable income, as we all know, is net of allowable deductions and exemptions. The standard deduction (that many retired people claim), personal exemptions and the tax brackets are all adjusted annually for inflation. Assume Hank is over 65, files single, utilizes the standard deduction, and has total 2006 adjusted gross income (exclusive of Social Security benefits) of $39,000 and receives $21,900 in Social Security benefits. That makes his income $49,950 (39,000 + (21,900 x .5)). He exceeds the threshold, so taxable Social Security equals the lesser of (1) $18,615 (85% of $21,900), or (2) the sum of $13,558 (($49,950 - $34,000) x 85%) and $4,500. Since $18,058 is less than $18,615 the taxable amount of his Social Security benefits equals $18,058. That makes his final adjusted gross income $57,058 ($39,000 plus $18,058). After he takes his 2006 standard deduction of $6,400 ($5,150 + $1,250 for age 65 or over) and a personal exemption of $3,300, his taxable income is $47,358. That puts him in the 25% marginal tax bracket. If Hank's income goes up by $10 of taxable income he will pay $2.50 in taxes on that $10 plus $2.13 in tax on the additional $8.50 of Social Security benefits that will become taxablebine $2.50 and $2.13 and you get $4.63 or a 46.5% tax on a $10 swing in taxable income. Bingo...a 46.3% marginal bracket. Check with your financial planner or tax advisor about how changes in your investments and income can affect your overall tax picture.

         
    The value in value investing

     

    With roots that date back to the 1930s, value investing is a price-driven discipline that seeks companies whose shares are selling at a discount to their true, or intrinsic, value. While growth-oriented investors focus on firms whose earnings are growing at a rapid pace, a quality that makes them highly sought after, value investors seek companies that are temporarily out of favor. Their shares may be depressed due to factors ranging from company-specific issues to shifting investor sentiment, poor economic conditions, cyclical trends or an overall market decline. Sometimes they're being ignored by the market for no good reason. Over the past 25 years, three factors have amply made the case for the value style of investing: performance, diversification and risk control. * Performance: First and foremost, value investing as a strategy has done well over time, rewarding investors with strong risk-adjusted performance. That has certainly been true over the past quarter-century. Additionally, it is important to note that dividends have and continue to be a significant component of the stock market's total returns - and particularly those of value stocks. In fact, according to Ibbotson Associates, a leading authority on asset allocation, dividends contributed, on average, 44 percent of the stock market's total return from 1926 through 2003. Diversification: Over time, value and growth stocks have tended to move in different cycles. When growth stocks are in favor, they tend to outperform value shares, and vice versa. That knowledge encourages many investors to construct portfolios employing both value and growth strategies, helping to ensure that they have equity investment with the potential to perform in changing market environments. More to the point, the value strategy has more than held its own against its growth counterpart. Value's outperformance has been particularly pronounced in recent years. From March 2000 through December 2004, value stocks, as measured by the Russell 1000 Value index, topped their growth counterparts as measured by the Russell 1000 Growth index by nearly 17.5 percentage points annualized. * Risk control: By their nature, value stocks generally tend to be less volatile than their growth counterparts. In addition, because their shares are typically selling at depressed prices, value firms are better positioned to withstand market declines. Meanwhile, shares of growth companies normally have higher earnings expectations built into their prices and thus are subject to wider price swings as those expectations change. American Century introduced its first value portfolio in 1993, complementing its long-standing efforts in the growth field by offering equity investors a lower-risk investment style. More than 11 years later, American Century's stable of value offerings has grown to six funds, totaling more than $14 billion in assets.

         
    The art of picking a penny stock

     

    Should Wiley E. Coyote ever get into buying stocks, I have no doubt he would stack his portfolio with shares of ACME. I'm just not so sure any savvy penny stock investor should follow the economic advice of a coyote. Investors of the two-legged kind, whether they're looking at a penny stock or a blue chip behemoth, tend to take a myriad of details into consideration before investing. And so they should. But a recent study suggests that investors of every stripe take mental short-cuts when it comes to investing...at a time when they should be more rational. Wall Street gurus and penny stock investors alike it seems, are more likely to purchase newly offered stocks that have an easily pronounceable name, say a pair of Princeton University researchers. Adam Atler and Danny Oppenheimer found that a stock's performance immediately after an initial public offering (IPO) appears to be linked to how easily investors (penny stock or otherwise) can pronounce its name and stock ticker symbol. Danny Oppenheimer, commented, "These findings contribute to the notion that psychology has a great deal to contribute to economic theory." The two said the effect also extends to ticker symbols. For example, all things being equal, a stock with the symbol BAL should outgain a stock with the symbol BDL in the first days after an IPO. "We looked at intervals of a day, a week, six months and a year after IPO," Atler said. "The effect was strongest shortly after IPO. For example, if you started with $1,000 and invested it in companies with the 10 most fluent names, you would earn $333 more than you would have had you invested in the 10 with the least fluent." Oppenheimer acknowledged that their findings do not tell the whole story about the post-IPO success of a stock, not are they good indicators of long-run performance of a penny stock. "You shouldn't make changes to your stock portfolio based on our findings. The primary contribution of this paper is to add a piece to the jigsaw of understanding how the markets operate," said Oppenheimer. So, what does this mean for the green and seasoned penny stock investor? It means you should still take an exhaustive look at any company you're interested in. It also means that, in the early stages at least, it doesn't hurt to find a company with a catchy name and ticker symbol to boot.

         
    The basics of value investing

     

    Value Investing refers to a philosophy or practice of buying stocks that are fundamentally sound, but the stock price is below its obvious value. There are various indicators that Value Investors use to determine that a company is both sound and the stock price is undervalued. For the Value Investor, perhaps more than any other style of investor, is more concerned with the business and its fundamentals than other influences on the stock’s price. Fundamentals, such as dividends, earnings growth, cash flow, and book value are more critical than market forces on the stock’s price. Value investors are generally buy and hold investors. They will hold a stock for long term periods and are not concerned with short term swings in the stock price. When the Value Investor determines that the fundamentals are sound, but the stock is trading at a price below its obvious value, he or she knows that this is a potential investment candidate. The assumption is that the market has incorrectly undervalued the stock. Conversely, when the market corrects that mistake, the stock’s price should increase towards the obvious value point. How do Value Investors find a potential investment? - price to earnings ratio is in the bottom 10 percentile for its sector - debt to equity ratio is less than 1 - price to book value ratio is less than 1 - PEG value of less than 1 - Stock value is trading at 60-70% of its intrinsic value The P/E (Price to Earnings Ratio) is calculated by dividing the current price of the stock by the annual earnings per share. The higher the P/E the more earnings growth investors will expect and the higher premium they are willing to pay for that anticipated growth. Debt to equity is calculated by dividing the total liabilities by the shareholders equity. Price to Book Value is calculated by taking the current price per share and dividing by the book value per share. The PEG is calculated by taking the P/E and dividing it by the projected growth in earnings. The intrinsic value of a stock is a complicated process and is considered an inexact science by most investors. The intrinsic value of a company or an asset is generally determined based on an underlying perception of the value. Brand Name, Goodwill, and barriers to entry in a market are some of the factors that will determine the intrinsic value of a stock. You may be interested in looking at MorningStar for helping you determine a stocks intrinsic value. They calculate a number called “fair value” which is similar to intrinsic value. Many investors have increased their wealth substantially using a value-based approach to investing. This overview of Value Investing suggests a philosophy that works well over time if you buy carefully and use patience to hold for the long term.

         
    The benefits of an investment club

     

    An investment club consists of a small group of individual investors who come together and contribute to a mutual fund to learn and build confidence in order for them to make educated investment decisions. Investment clubs have been around for decades and have provided people with limited funds to take part in larger investments and to get first hand experience and education. The primary motive of an investment club is make the most money possible and for investors to share ideas and learn about the market. An investment club can be established as a legal entity, either as a legal partner or as a limited liability corporation with a framework that is similar to that of a mutual fund. But unlike that of the mutual fund an investment club does not require its members to pay management fees. Benefits of an investment club One of the benefits derived from joining an investment club is the opportunity to learn since there are various researches conducted in terms of what investments are profitable and which aren’t. An investment club also helps in reducing investment risk since club members can purchase a larger amount of stock at less personal risk. Moreover, an investment club is also a great help for many club members who are finding it hard to invest their own funds. With an investment club members are usually able to make better-informed decision especially about stock purchases based from the knowledge that they gained through their participation in any investment activity conducted by the club. Likewise, an investment club does not only offer investment opportunities but also opens the possibility of developing new friendships. Most investment clubs are not required to register with US Securities and Exchange Commission but to be sure it would be best to check with two federal laws: the Securities Act of 1933 and the Investment Company Act of 1940 and while your at it why not also check some of your state laws under the office of the state securities regulator. Considering joining? Now that you know the benefits derived from joining an investment club you’re probably thinking of joining one. But before you do so there are some things that you need to do. First, some self-analysis; meaning you have to first know your current worth, monthly income and expenses. You also need to have a financial goal and you ought to know your risk tolerance level. Likewise, it would be best to sort out your finances first. If you are one of those individuals that have super high credit card debt it would be best to settle these outstanding items before joining an investment club. And once you have joined an investment club, try to invest on a long-term investment scheme since short-term investments are often times influenced by fluctuations.

         
    The benefits of high yield investment

     

    High-yield investment can turn out to be very rewarding for investors. Although there is a certain amount of risk involved in high-yield bonds investments, they can also be very profitable for investors if they are targeted towards companies that have the potential to recover from their financial instability. A high-yield bond, also known as a junk bond or non-investment grade bond, refers to debt security that has a very low rating. High-yield bonds are usually rated below BBB (according to Standard & Poor's) or Baa3 by Moody's; therefore they have a rating lower than the investment grade. Investors have access to high-yield bonds either through mutual funds or through individual business investments. High-yield bonds investments through the means of mutual funds are considered to be a lot safer, as they considerably reduce the chances of investing in non-profitable business trusts or companies. High-yield investments can become very profitable, as they can sometimes produce returns higher than those of solid, above investment grade bonds. Companies that experience a temporary regression, going through less favorable financial situations, usually offer high yields to investors, in order to gain their interest. The trick in high-yield investments is to choose the right companies! Target your high-yield investments towards companies that have the ability to recover from their financial difficulties. For instance, you should avoid high-yield bond investments in companies that are constantly having difficulties in maintaining their position on the market. It is advised to invest in more powerful companies that have the ability to overcome their financial crisis. By investing in such companies through mutual funds, the risk of failure is considerably reduced. High-yield bonds are a great opportunity to increase investors’ profits and they are also a good way of expanding business portfolios. The interest rates of high-yield bonds are also a lot more stable than those of investment-grade bonds and therefore they can build a stable, predictable income. Although high-yield bonds are exposed to some risks, investors are the first ones to benefit from debt insurance, therefore minimizing possible financial losses in case of bankruptcy. If they are carefully speculated, high-yield bonds can become very lucrative and can also expand the investors’ business portfolios. High-yield investments should be always closed through mutual funds, in order to minimize the risks of investing in financially irregular companies. If they are targeted towards the right companies, high-yield investments can be very rewarding in time!

         
    The bursting asset bubbles

     

    The recent implosion of the global equity markets - from Hong Kong to New York - engendered yet another round of the semipternal debate: should central banks contemplate abrupt adjustments in the prices of assets - such as stocks or real estate - as they do changes in the consumer price indices? Are asset bubbles indeed inflationary and their bursting deflationary? Central bankers counter that it is hard to tell a bubble until it bursts and that market intervention bring about that which it is intended to prevent. There is insufficient historical data, they reprimand errant scholars who insist otherwise. This is disingenuous. Ponzi and pyramid schemes have been a fixture of Western civilization at least since the middle Renaissance. Assets tend to accumulate in "asset stocks". Residences built in the 19th century still serve their purpose today. The quantity of new assets created at any given period is, inevitably, negligible compared to the stock of the same class of assets accumulated over decades and, sometimes, centuries. This is why the prices of assets are not anchored - they are only loosely connected to their production costs or even to their replacement value. Asset bubbles are not the exclusive domain of stock exchanges and shares. "Real" assets include land and the property built on it, machinery, and other tangibles. "Financial" assets include anything that stores value and can serve as means of exchange - from cash to securities. Even tulip bulbs will do. In 1634, in what later came o be known as "tulipmania", tulip bulbs were traded in a special marketplace in Amsterdam, the scene of a rabid speculative frenzy. Some rare black tulip bulbs changed hands for the price of a big mansion house. For four feverish years it seemed like the craze would last forever. But the bubble burst in 1637. In a matter of a few days, the price of tulip bulbs was slashed by 96%! Uniquely, tulipmania was not an organized scam with an identifiable group of movers and shakers, which controlled and directed it. Nor has anyone made explicit promises to investors regarding guaranteed future profits. The hysteria was evenly distributed and fed on itself. Subsequent investment fiddles were different, though. Modern dodges entangle a large number of victims. Their size and all-pervasiveness sometimes threaten the national economy and the very fabric of society and incur grave political and social costs. There are two types of bubbles. Asset bubbles of the first type are run or fanned by financial intermediaries such as banks or brokerage houses. They consist of "pumping" the price of an asset or an asset class. The assets concerned can be shares, currencies, other securities and financial instruments - or even savings accounts. To promise unearthly yields on one's savings is to artificially inflate the "price", or the "value" of one's savings account. More than one fifth of the population of 1983 Israel were involved in a banking scandal of Albanian proportions. It was a classic pyramid scheme. All the banks, bar one, promised to gullible investors ever increasing returns on the banks' own publicly-traded shares. These explicit and incredible promises were included in prospectuses of the banks' public offerings and won the implicit acquiescence and collaboration of successive Israeli governments. The banks used deposits, their capital, retained earnings and funds illegally borrowed through shady offshore subsidiaries to try to keep their impossible and unhealthy promises. Everyone knew what was going on and everyone was involved. It lasted 7 years. The prices of some shares increased by 1-2 percent daily. On October 6, 1983, the entire banking sector of Israel crumbled. Faced with ominously mounting civil unrest, the government was forced to compensate shareholders. It offered them an elaborate share buyback plan over 9 years. The cost of this plan was pegged at $6 billion - almost 15 percent of Israel's annual GDP. The indirect damage remains unknown. Avaricious and susceptible investors are lured into investment swindles by the promise of impossibly high profits or interest payments. The organizers use the money entrusted to them by new investors to pay off the old ones and thus establish a credible reputation. Charles Ponzi perpetrated many such schemes in 1919-1925 in Boston and later the Florida real estate market in the USA. Hence a "Ponzi scheme". In Macedonia, a savings bank named TAT collapsed in 1997, erasing the economy of an entire major city, Bitola. After much wrangling and recriminations - many politicians seem to have benefited from the scam - the government, faced with elections in September, has recently decided, in defiance of IMF diktats, to offer meager compensation to the afflicted savers. TAT was only one of a few similar cases. Similar scandals took place in Russia and Bulgaria in the 1990's. One third of the impoverished population of Albania was cast into destitution by the collapse of a series of nation-wide leveraged investment plans in 1997. Inept political and financial crisis management led Albania to the verge of disintegration and a civil war. Rioters invaded police stations and army barracks and expropriated hundreds of thousands of weapons. Islam forbids its adherents to charge interest on money lent - as does Judaism. To circumvent this onerous decree, entrepreneurs and religious figures in Egypt and in Pakistan established "Islamic banks". These institutions pay no interest on deposits, nor do they demand interest from borrowers. Instead, depositors are made partners in the banks' - largely fictitious - profits. Clients are charged for - no less fictitious - losses. A few Islamic banks were in the habit of offering vertiginously high "profits". They went the way of other, less pious, pyramid schemes. They melted down and dragged economies and political establishments with them. By definition, pyramid schemes are doomed to failure. The number of new "investors" - and the new money they make available to the pyramid's organizers - is limited. When the funds run out and the old investors can no longer be paid, panic ensues. In a classic "run on the bank", everyone attempts to draw his money simultaneously. Even healthy banks - a distant relative of pyramid schemes - cannot cope with such stampedes. Some of the money is invested long-term, or lent. Few financial institutions keep more than 10 percent of their deposits in liquid on-call reserves. Studies repeatedly demonstrated that investors in pyramid schemes realize their dubious nature and stand forewarned by the collapse of other contemporaneous scams. But they are swayed by recurrent promises that they could draw their money at will ("liquidity") and, in the meantime, receive alluring returns on it ("capital gains", "interest payments", "profits"). People know that they are likelier to lose all or part of their money as time passes. But they convince themselves that they can outwit the organizers of the pyramid, that their withdrawals of profits or interest payments prior to the inevitable collapse will more than amply compensate them for the loss of their money. Many believe that they will succeed to accurately time the extraction of their original investment based on - mostly useless and superstitious - "warning signs". While the speculative rash lasts, a host of pundits, analysts, and scholars aim to justify it. The "new economy" is exempt from "old rules and archaic modes of thinking". Productivity has surged and established a steeper, but sustainable, trend line. Information technology is as revolutionary as electricity. No, more than electricity. Stock valuations are reasonable. The Dow is on its way to 33,000. People want to believe these "objective, disinterested analyses" from "experts". Investments by households are only one of the engines of this first kind of asset bubbles. A lot of the money that pours into pyramid schemes and stock exchange booms is laundered, the fruits of illicit pursuits. The laundering of tax-evaded money or the proceeds of criminal activities, mainly drugs, is effected through regular banking channels. The money changes ownership a few times to obscure its trail and the identities of the true owners. Many offshore banks manage shady investment ploys. They maintain two sets of books. The "public" or "cooked" set is made available to the authorities - the tax administration, bank supervision, deposit insurance, law enforcement agencies, and securities and exchange commission. The true record is kept in the second, inaccessible, set of files. This second set of accounts reflects reality: who deposited how much, when and subject to which conditions - and who borrowed what, when and subject to what terms. These arrangements are so stealthy and convoluted that sometimes even the shareholders of the bank lose track of its activities and misapprehend its real situation. Unscrupulous management and staff sometimes take advantage of the situation. Embezzlement, abuse of authority, mysterious trades, misuse of funds are more widespread than acknowledged. The thunderous disintegration of the Bank for Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) in London in 1991 revealed that, for the better part of a decade, the executives and employees of this penumbral institution were busy stealing and misappropriating $10 billion. The Bank of England's supervision department failed to spot the rot on time. Depositors were - partially - compensated by the main shareholder of the bank, an Arab sheikh. The story repeated itself with Nick Leeson and his unauthorized disastrous trades which brought down the venerable and veteran Barings Bank in 1995. The combination of black money, shoddy financial controls, shady bank accounts and shredded documents renders a true account of the cash flows and damages in such cases all but impossible. There is no telling what were the contributions of drug barons, American off-shore corporations, or European and Japanese tax-evaders - channeled precisely through such institutions - to the stratospheric rise in Wall-Street in the last few years. But there is another - potentially the most pernicious - type of asset bubble. When financial institutions lend to the unworthy but the politically well-connected, to cronies, and family members of influential politicians - they often end up fostering a bubble. South Korean chaebols, Japanese keiretsu, as well as American conglomerates frequently used these cheap funds to prop up their stock or to invest in real estate, driving prices up in both markets artificially. Moreover, despite decades of bitter experiences - from Mexico in 1982 to Asia in 1997 and Russia in 1998 - financial institutions still bow to fads and fashions. They act herd-like in conformity with "lending trends". They shift assets to garner the highest yields in the shortest possible period of time. In this respect, they are not very different from investors in pyramid investment schemes.

         
    The condotel investment opportunities

     

    The buyers are investors in hotel-condos, a real estate product that combines the flexibility of ownership of a condo in ahotel setting. Popular in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, hotel-condos are just starting to pop up in the Philippines for the first time. Unlike simple condominiums -- which owners can use as they please -- hotel-condo units are both investment and residential units that can be used by their owners for up to 30 days per year. The plus is that the owners can invest in real estate while having access to hotel amenities like a spa, gym, room services. The remaining time, the units' owners return the rooms to a rentable pool run by the hotel. As the units are rented out, the owners receive a split of the income. Alternatively, unit owners can live permanently in their suites and enjoy hotel living 365 days a year. One such project recently announced, with Pacific Concord Properties Inc -- among the first developers to do a hotel-condo in Metro Manila -- submitting plans to build a 42-story twin high-rise at Shaw Boulevard, will be called Lancaster Suites - The Atrium. The Lancaster Atrium is a twin tower development that sits on a common podium with the Lancaster Suites Tower I, which was sold out in less than 18 months and is part of its hotel-condo program. Beth Collingz, Marketing director for PLC International Marketing Networks, which is exclusively marketing the Lancaster Suites and Lancaster Suites - The Atrium Hotel Condominiums in Metro Manila, said condotels started appearing on the market following PCPI’s launch of the Lancaster Suites back in 2004. We see a marked increase of interest from buyers who live Europe as well as from corporations looking to invest in Philippine real estate. There have been a plethora of residential properties coming on the market, but not many Condo Hotel developments adding that, in the currently hot Philippine real estate market no one felt the need to try out a product that had not been tested in the country before." The market for investment properties has shifted in part because of a booming demand for hotel rooms in Metro Manila and a weak dollar internationally. On a broader scale, baby boomers are retiring and buying second and third homes, and interest in real estate as an investment remains strong, when it comes to the market for hotel-condos, the Lancaster project is attracting international customers familiar with this type of investment opportunity. Collingz said The Lancaster Atrium Tower A development will have 450 hotel-condo rooms and suites, a spa, swimming pool, business center, its own mini mall, shops and convenience stores and several restaurants. The project, located atop a common podium with Lancaster Suites Tower I is only one block from the Ortigas Center, Shangri-La Mall, Edsa Plaza Hotel and SM Mega Mall, will continue construction of its superstructure this year having already completed foundation works and put in place 5-levels of basement parking. While it is possible to secure easy no prequalification, no down payment 6 year no interest payment plans for the Lancaster Atrium suites, Collingz said that most buyers purchase these properties with a small down payment of some 30% to reduce the monthly payments to around $400 a month for a Studio unit or take advantage of a 20% discount for outright cash purchases. Unsurprisingly the hotel-condo investment trend in the Philippines will accelerate -- from Metro Manila to other major metropolitan hubs such as Cebu. PCPI’s Lancaster Cebu development is already sold out with Condotel operations will commence this March. PCPI has appointed Lancaster Hotels, Land and Properties, Inc (LHLPI) to oversee the operations, sales and marketing, and asset management of the condotel. Guided with a clear goal of maximizing profitability, LHLPI will spearhead the management of the condotel as well as that of the entire condominium building. Statistics from the Department of Tourism indicate that the number of tourist arrivals to the Philippines has been consistently growing by double digit percentages for the past three years. In 2005, of the 2.3 million tourist arrivals, 1.7 million visited Cebu. In fact, an additional 40,000 hotel rooms are needed to accommodate the expected five million tourist arrivals by 2010. The Lancaster brand of Condotel developments further validate the increasing demand for hotel rooms which make us more confident that our market and financial projections will be achieved. Further info on Lancaster Condotels in the Philippines can be found on the firms website Beth Collingz - Director PLC International Marketing Networks

         
    The dow jones industrial average failing the average investor

     

    In addition to a well thought out Investment Plan, successful Equity investing requires a feel for what is going on in the real world that we all refer to as "The Market". To most investors, the DJIA provides all of the information they think they need, and they worship it mindlessly, thinking that this time tattered average has mystical predictive and analytic powers far beyond the scope of any other market number. A cursory review of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Issue Breadth figures (93% of the Dow stocks are traded there) clearly shows how the Dow has neither been prescient nor historically accurate with regard to broad market movements for the past eight years. Additionally, this financial icon that investors revere as the ultimate "Blue Chip" Stock Market Indicator has lost its luster, with less than half its members achieving S & P ratings of A or better, and 20% of the issues ranked below Investment Grade. Is the 120-year-old DJIA impotent? No, it's certainly helpful for Peak-to-Peak analysis right now, for example, to see if your Large Cap only Equity Portfolio is as high as it was six years ago. But it's based upon a seriously flawed Buy and Hold investment strategy and universally used as a market barometer, when its original role was as an economic indicator. This is not just semantics. It's Wall Street's rendition of "The Emperor's New Clothes". Possibly, a weighted average of investor perceived business prospects for thirty major companies is a viable economic indicator, but leading or lagging? Clearly, there is no conceivable way that any existing average/index can measure the progress of the thousands of individual securities (and Mutual Funds masquerading as individual securities) that, in the real investment world, are "The Market". And is there just "a" Market, when REITs, Index ETFs, Equity CEFs, Income CEFs, and even some Preferreds are all mixed together in such a way that most brokerage firm statements can't quite distinguish one from the other? Investors are dealing with multiple markets of different types. Markets that don't follow the same rules or respond to the same changes in the same ways. The Dow is dead, long live reality. Feeling statistically naked? Don't fret Nell, here are a few real market statistics and lists that are easy to understand, easy to put your cursor on, and useful in keeping you up to date on what's going on in the multiple Markets of today's Investment World: 1. Issue Breadth is the single most accurate barometer of what's going on in the markets on a daily basis! Statistics for each of the Stock Exchanges are tracked daily, documenting how many individual issues have advanced versus how many have declined. Rarely are these important numbers reported, especially if they are painting a picture different from that being jammed down investors' throats by institutional propaganda. Would you believe, that in 1999 (when the DJIA and other indices) last achieved All Time High (ATH) levels, monthly Issue Breadth on the NYSE was positive only in April, followed by a 12 month paper bloodbath extending through May of 2000. Since then, Breadth has been positive for six consecutive years. Surprise! 2. Pay close attention to the number of issues hitting New Fifty-Two Week Highs (52Hs) and Lows each day: a) for trend corroboration, and b) to obtain a wealth of important information for daily decision-making and periodic performance understanding. The recent NYSE Bull Market (not a typo) is clearly evidenced by six consecutive years (from 04/00) with more issues hitting new 52Hs than new 52Ls... New Highs nearly tripled New Lows. So much for the standard market tracking tools... not to mention Wall Street manipulation of all the news that's fit to print for investors. Looking at the daily lists of 52Hs and 52Ls will help you determine: a) which sectors are moving in which directions, b) if interest rate expectations are pointing up or down, c) which individual issues are approaching either your Buy or Sell targets and, d) which direction your portfolio Market Value should be moving. In recent months, REITs, metals, and energy stocks dominated the hot list while regional banks, utilities, and other interest rate sensitive issues were notsos (sic). These lists always indicate what's going on now, without any weighting, charting, or hype, making your job almost simplistic. Take your reasonable profits in the issues that have risen to new peaks (Sell Higher), and purchase the quality issues among those that are at 52Ls (Buy Lower). High prices often reflect high speculation with Bazooka potential, while lower priced value stocks often turn out to be bargains. Ishares, foreign Closed End Funds, Mining and Energy bloat today's 52H List while preferred shares and Utilities occupy the 52Ls... a bit more meaningful than "the Dow is near an All Time High", and a bit scarier as well. 3. Throughout the trading day, periodic review of three lists called "Market Statistics" will keep you current on individual issue price movements, active issues, sector developments, and more. How you interpret and use this information will eventually affect your bottom line, weather you are a Value Stock Investor or a Small Cap day trader. The Most Active and The Most Declined Lists describe individual and group activity, identify where some more detailed research might be appropriate, and provide potential additions to your Daily Stock Watch List. The Most Active and Most Advanced Lists will identify the hottest individual issues and sectors, identify areas where news stories may be worth reading, and instantly make you aware of profit taking opportunities. I know you are tempted to shout "Blasphemy" at the top of your lungs, but the DJIA was developed in a pre-internet world (actually, pre-automobile) where the statistics discussed above were unavailable, only the wealthy cared about the stock market, there were no Mutual Funds, and, frankly Scarlet, 95% of the population just didn't care. Now here's some blasphemy for you: It is likely that not one person reading this article has an investment portfolio that closely resembles the composition of the DJIA. It is just as likely that nearly everyone reading this article will use the Dow to evaluate portfolio performance. I've never understood this phenomenon, and I know that change takes time... but really, the Dow (and the other averages) have had their day, and far too much of your nest egg, for you to ignore this reality any longer.

         
    The effectiveness of high yield investment programs

     

    One of the basic rules of investing is that the higher the risk, the more potential for gain. A high yield investment program (or HYIP) is one such program. By investing a small amount, a HYIP offers the possibility of high gain, with some risk. One of the biggest problems with HYIP’s is that they can represent a lot of money placed at risk for a high potential gain. Although they can involve small amounts of money, most investors will invest as much as they figure that they can risk, in order to take advantage of the high potential return. Read: Although they don’t require the huge start-up that other investments do, people do spend as much as they can afford. (Some put in more than they can afford, but this is never recommended.) Also, some HYIP’s are just well disguised ponzi schemes, and are thus highly illegal. (Investigate any investment opportunity, with special care as to the background of the group or person presenting it. Normally, “too good to be true” would be good advice, but that doesn’t always prove true when it comes to investing.) Some HYIP’s are in fact defined as “ponzi games” in order to skirt legislation that prohibits ponzi schemes as well as uninsured investments; bear that in mind when investigating any HYIP. However, the problem is that not all investments pay off. With HYIP’s, that’s actually the nature of the investment; although they all promise high gain, the problem is that high risk does mean a strong chance of losing any funds involved. Thus, any potential investor is advised to not invest any more than he can afford to lose. When debating the effectiveness of a HYIP, be advised that that the nature of the investment itself makes gauging that difficult, and that only the investor himself can make that decision. What makes them effective is that they can create a nice profit for the price entailed, but the risk involved makes arguably effective. There is no real way to cushion the investment, as there would be for most investments; again, the nature of the HYIP denies that. However, HYIP’s can be effective if the investor limits his activity to just one or two HYIP’s at a time, and invests conservatively otherwise for the time that he is involved in the HYIP’s. That way, the investor has the other investments to fall back on in case the HYIP falls through. This strategy makes the investment more effective, and decreases the risks involved, making them more attractive, and more effective. HYIP’s can thus be very effective investments, especially if the person can afford to lose any funds invested. If the investor is investing assuming that they will get the money back, and with a high yield, and doesn’t allow for the possibility of loss, however, a HYIP can be a potential issue. Investing in general isn’t for the weak; that definitely applies to HYIP’s.

         
    The first step you have to take to get rich in the stock market

     

    I am widely recognized as a leading expert in the stock market and especially at teaching you how to become your neighbor’s millionaire next door. I didn’t start out as knowledgeable and skilled as I am now. I started out knowing nearly nothing. I was so inexperienced in my early twenties that I could only stand by when a full service stock broker stole $85,000 from my eighty year old grandmother. I watched the nationwide stock brokerage protect the interests of the full service broker and my grandmother lost everything. The pain of this was so intense that it drove me to complete my Ph. D. in finance — less than a hundred of us graduate in this degree worldwide annually because it is so mathematically difficult. My frustration and anger at the big rich forces behind Wall Street drove me to become a modern day master of money. This is what you have to do — wake up!!! Wake up to the fact that you can make it as a stock investor. Wake up to the fact that you control your destiny and that you can stop handing all of the control over to the Wall Street machine that could absolutely care less about your financial future. This is the first step — take full responsibility for you earnings, savings and investment. I learned years ago from a friend of mine, Dr. Van Tharp, Ph. D., that if I didn’t take full responsibility for my investing that I would never progress — I would simply break the fragile feedback loop that allows all of us to learn from our mistakes. Any time you blame anyone for a financial mistake you destroy the opportunity to learn and thrive from the situation. The simple decision you must make is to deeply, totally, firmly, and finally, say to your self, “I am the master of my universe — I am in control — Wall Street has no power over my mind” is the key critical change you must make in your thinking. Some people will think that you are arrogant but just blow them off and laugh all the way to the bank. Stop listening to people — are these nosy little bug a bugs in your life that so quickly nay say your investment dreams paying your bills or giving you money to move ahead — no so blow them off! They just want to give you bad advice so that you fall into their same financial loser traps. In terms of investing become an island unto yourself and very carefully cultivate relationships with people who really do know what they are doing in investing. This is exactly what I did. I started seeking out people who really understand the markets. I found them over time and I asked them lots of questions.

         
    The gambling of investment options

     

    Forex. For knowledgeable investors, or for the gunslinger-gambler type of investors, this is a familiar word that will probably bring either a smile or a scowl and not much in between the two. For everyone else Forex can sound like anything between a delivery service ripping off a more familiar name to a strange science fiction type of alien monster. Obviously it is neither: forex is referential to currency trading. Basically, when investors talk about forex, they are talking about trading one nation’s currency for another, and then selling down the line in the hope that changes in international markets will cause a profit. These are also sometimes referred to as currency speculations. There are an increasing number of trading companies that are moving to online web pages that allow for currency speculation online. These companies provide an online trading platform for investors, or any individuals that want to speculate on the exchange rate between any two world currencies. The obvious hope is to make a profit when the value of the currency changes in the investor’s favor. The forex market is familiar to a lot of people, as it is considered the largest market in the world with daily reported volume of over 1.8 trillion. The interesting thing about forex trading is that since it is an international trading scheme, a web site that is set up internationally can be open since 24/7 since somewhere in the world there is always a market open. Somewhere around the world, a financial center is open for business, and banks and other institutions exchange currencies, every hour of the day and night with generally only minor gaps on the weekend. Basically foreign exchange markets follow the sun around the world, giving traders the flexibility of determining their trading day. While there are a lot of different ideas and strategies for how to best go about trading, the end goal is fairly simple. Buy a currency when it is low, and then sell it when it is high. For example, suppose one dollar is worth one hundred yen. $100 then equals 10,000 yen. Now wait for a year. Suppose the United States economy slows down, has some major warning signs, but Japan is doing great. Now one dollar does not equal 100 yen, but 75. Another way to look at this is that a year ago 100 yen equals $1, but now 75 yen equals $1. Now your 10,000 yen can be sold for $133.33. The investor just made 33% in one year! That is forex, and the promise of this type of one year turn around is what has investors from all walks of life playing the table in hope of making a Vegas type score.

         
     
         
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