The Stingy News Weekly (03/04/2012)
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Where to invest $100,000
"Standing in front of a giant glassed in freezer at the sweet shop in Tobermory, Ont., I was faced with a plethora of choices. Which sinful ice cream should I indulge in on a fine summer day? The selection of flavours, toppings, and cones was daunting. Thankfully, I had time to consider the fattening possibilities because the wee nippers in front of me were similarly perplexed. And, as important a choice as it may be, it was only ice cream. But when it comes to investing, the possibilities are vast once your portfolio grows beyond $100,000. Problem is, much like Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (a devilish Harry Potter confection) the investing flavour you choose might wind up tasting like earwax. Alas!"
Where to invest $10,000
"Can you imagine anything better than studying calculus in the summer? I bet you can. But I found myself doing exactly that, late in my high school days, in a nerdy effort to graduate six months early. Aside from picking up an infinitesimal amount of calculus, I met a fellow keener in class who had the investing bug. He rattled on and on about odd things called mutual funds and how you could make a pot load of money from them. Naturally enough, I promptly forgot about funds for about a decade while exploring calculus a bit more. But I rediscovered them after I had amassed just over $10,000 by playing the part of Beaker to a series of loveable Dr. Honeydews in a variety of laboratories. At the time, I felt that $10,000 was a tidy sum for a young fellow. Not a fortune to be sure. But, just like today, more than a little walking around money. It was also enough to think about alternates to the old bank account and, after some pondering, I moved my grubstake into mutual funds. If only I knew then what I know now. But you can profit from my experience. Here's what I'd tell a younger me about investing, if I had the chance."
Time to panic
"More worrisome is where consumers have been getting their spending money. As wages stagnate and credit card use levels off, Canadian consumers have increasingly turned to their homes as a source of cash. As of last year, Canadians had pulled roughly $220 billion from their houses in revolving home equity lines of credit, a per capita amount three times larger than the U.S. at its peak."
Raiding the coffers
"The New York Times has an excellent piece today on how state pension plans are borrowing from their pension plans to fund their own pension contributions. This Alice-in-wonderland approach is a salutary reminder of the dangers of funded pension plans they create a pot of money that politicians are tempted to use for their own devices."
Warren Buffett Interview
"If anybody is thinking about buying a home— five years ago they couldn't buy them fast enough because they thought they were going to go up, and now they don't buy them because they think they're going to go down. And interest are far lower. It's a way, in effect, to short the dollar because you can— you can take a 30-year mortgage and if it turns out your interest rate's too high, next week you refinance lower. And if it turns out it's too low, the other guy's stuck with it for 30 years. So it's a very attractive asset class now."
Another look at the performance of active funds
"In this study we evaluate the performance of actively managed equity mutual funds against a set of passively managed index funds. We find that the return spread between the best performing actively managed funds and a factor-mimicking portfolio of passive funds is positive and as large as 3 to 5 percent per annum. Our findings are inconsistent with the view that active funds have little or no incremental economic value over low-cost index funds."
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