Month: April 2013

F.T.W.S.I.J.D.G.I.G.T.

(For those who say I just don’t get it…Get this!)

Sometimes It’s All About Timing.

There are times one just can’t help oneself from contemplating just how ignorant (or down right stupid) people are. You might think I’m speaking about the “mis” or uninformed. Or, the “under” as well as uneducated in matters of business, finance, politics, and more. Oh contraire!

I’m speaking of the people whom fill some of the highest positions within those very industries. Once again I have been left with my jaw planted firmly on the floor by some of the revelations or “explanations” from the so-called “smart crowd.” To paraphrase an old adage: “It’s better to keep ones mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than open it as to remove all doubt.”

First a little politics. (please save the emails I blame both sides and ALL players equally.)

In the midst of terrorism once again rearing its ugly head. Showing us just how brutally savage, and spontaneous it can be. We have politicians arguing, pointing fingers and more at their fellow law makers, as well as other government agencies. Each laying blame on one and other as to why, when, or what they knew, didn’t know, and – still don’t know.

All the while seemingly forgetting we have spent hundreds upon hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars. Created new agencies such as Home Land Security and more. All for the very reason so that agencies from the FBI, Border Patrol, ATF, TSA, State and local authorities could gather and seamlessly share data with one and other because of the lessons we supposedly learned from September 11, 2001.

As more and more news comes out regarding what and how the time prior to the Boston tragedy unfolded.  We’re beginning to realize not only have we seemingly wasted those BILLIONS – we didn’t even get the proverbial T-shirt. (aka: Billions spent and all I got was this lousy T-shirt)

The details of what was or wasn’t known before the incident leaves one more than stupefied. A great many are beginning to get down right pissed. (as we all should) What’s even more troubling is the call for even more BILLIONS to fix the mistakes that were supposedly fixed the first time as to not let this disorganization of resources ever happen again. You can’t make this stuff up.

The reason and rationale I’ve seen across the media reminds me of the clarity in an explanation of insanity expressed by Einstein: (paraphrasing) “To do the same thing over and over again as to expect a different result is the mark of insanity.”

Let’s move on to the markets.

A little more than a week or so has passed since I mused over what I believed was not only being brushed off by many involved in trading the markets. But rather, was being blatantly disregarded by many more that might have only been managing (or trading) their own 401K’s over the last 4 or 5 years.

I expressed points one needed to not only ponder as to think about “what if?” Rather, what one would do if these scenarios were ever to happen. Because – when they do, you had better be ready. The markets can be unforgiving.

As usual I had a lot of people go on to tell me how I was mistaken. I was given all the “it’s different this time” requiems from the choir and more. Then a funny thing happened. What I was told wouldn’t happen – happened.

Out of the so-called blue the futures market tanked. Not only tanked they spiked down in a fury of HFT (high frequency trading) headline reading, algorithmic sell programs. All firing at once relieving almost nearly if not all so-called “liquidity” from the market. (For those not familiar with the term “no liquidity.” In its purest form it means… Nobody’s there to buy what you are selling and vice versa.)

What set this frenzy off was a hacked AP Twitter account which sent the social media world ablaze, which in turn the HFT machines read and reacted to in nano seconds. Dropping the S&P futures market some 20 points in mere moments. If you weren’t a veteran trader actually watching one’s screens – you might not have even noticed.  However, many veterans themselves were left shaking their heads. It hit out of nowhere. No charts, no patterns, no nothing could predict what happened. It was just one of those “things.”

What happened next was almost as bewildering as the actual incident itself. I watched in absolute amazement when I came upon what I deem one of the most dangerous people to the lay persons 401K. The buzzer banging “investor extraordinaire” known as Cramer.

As I’m typing this I’m still shaking my head as to what I heard him express on CNBC® on one of their programs.

First: (I’m paraphrasing. You can go here to view his exact words via a ZeroHedge™ article here.)
The use of Stop Loss orders are foolish. (For those not familiar with jargon it basically means how much money you’ll accept as a loss before your preset order is activated as to get you out of your position.)

OK, that’s fine. Only one problem. That’s only relevant if the market comes back. If it doesn’t. Oh well…You lose till you can’t lose no more. Meaning – wiped out entirely.

Maybe stops aren’t for professionals that don’t leave their screens till they’ve closed any and all positions – even for a bathroom break. However, for the casual investor or trader? Stupid is as stupid does is all I’ll say on that note.

Second: (Again I’m paraphrasing. Hear and see above the exact wording for yourself. It starts in at about the 13 minute mark.)
I near fell out of my chair as this was said. “I want everyone to play that game at home by recognizing that fraud is part of the equation and the government cannot stop it.” We have to accept that basically the markets are rigged, broken, manipulated, or some other term he used. And… (wait for it) We’re going to have to accept that this type of manipulation is now “the market” and trade and deal with it. Huh?

Are you kidding me? You just basically told viewers the markets are rigged, it is a Casino, the Casino is rigged…So invest your hard earned money and sleep well tonight because – now you know. No wonder they’re losing viewers. I mean really…are you kidding me? I bet the remaining viewers are glad they tuned in for that. No wonder it seems there’s more drug commercials on there than anything else. You need something after listening to these “financial wizards.”

Do they not know he just espoused what many of us have said for years? That it’s all been no more than a crap shoot of late. Because, if what he just said is true. (which many of us have known for years)  then by ipso facto everything he’s ever said or advised one to do has been by luck of the draw. Nothing more. He better hope his viewers in prime time don’t see that clip. “Booya!”

As for closing, stopping, or the myriad of other things one needs to plan on when partaking in the markets. I caught a little flack from some people that expressed my calls about what happens when your connection goes down or can’t get your broker on the phone. That I was a being a little hyperbolic in my thesis. Fair enough. So I’ll end here with 2 messages that address just that which transpired this same week.

Alerts regarding all options traded on the CBOE (Chicago Board Option Exchange) The worlds largest option exchange: “The CBOE is experiencing technical issues. Due to this issue products listed on the CBOE only are not open at this time.” (emphasis mine) This outage was approximately over 30 minutes. Good thing it didn’t happen during the sell off earlier I guess.

And finally from The Wall Street Journal®
4/23/2013 Brett Philbin (link to original article here.)

Customers of Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW) were unable to access the discount brokerage’s website or log on to their accounts through mobile devices late Tuesday.

The San Francisco company told customers in a Twitter message, “we are experiencing technical issues with our site and mobile app and are working on resolution. We apologize for inconvenience.”

Charles Schwab had roughly 8.9 million active brokerage accounts, 888,000 banking accounts and $2.1 trillion in total client assets as of March 31.

Representatives for Charles Schwab didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

I’ll bet some customers had a few comments. Ya think?

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

A Heartfelt Thank You To All

Dear Subscribers,

(For those who’ve been with me awhile you already know the following paragraphs. So let me state right upfront so you needn’t read more.  I am eternally grateful for your continuing support as to find my writings of any value to you. And, never will I take any of it for granted. – Mark)

Many know I don’t do “social media” personally. Or, use all the various other tools everyone else says, “must be used.”
I have sharing tools on my site so you or others can share if you feel appropriate. Which by the way is the way it should be. Not begging or asking you to share, like, or follow as far too many now do.

However, that should not give you the impression that I don’t appreciate every one of you that subscribe, share, or visit this blog from around the globe.

With new subscribers and more arriving daily, I wanted to make clear so that no one takes any offense or thinks I’m unappreciative by not subscribing, liking, or what ever else in reciprocity. That’s not the way I work. If I did One, I would need to do all, and that would be pandering. Which I wont or don’t do.

This blog has now grown and is both routinely visited and currently read in well over 60 countries with international visitors at times outnumbering US domestic readers. (I’ve also seen my writings translated into other languages) It also has been referenced in, as well as by, some of the largest names and publications in media today. Again – around the globe.

Not using social media the way others profess goes 180 degrees against all the conventional wisdom or what the so-called “social-media guru’s” will tell you. (or try to sell you) I believe, if you try as to provide honest content that readers find useful – it will spread. The tools are in their hands to use. At least that’s my perspective.

If you want more on how I view this blog you can read the, “About This Blog” page here. (if you haven’t already) It pretty much sums up my approach and where I’m coming from.

So once again this has only been a long way of saying something very simple.

Thank you.

Respectfully,

Mark

To All...Thank you!

To All…Thank you!

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Audio Podcast from Mark’s “Prose Series”

Being Proficient in Bad Habits

This podcast and more available in iTunes®

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr in association with StreetCry Media. All Rights Reserved

The quick hitting no holds barred series based on “Mr. Engineer, please hit the record button and let’s go!” Designed and delivered to be thought provoking and unique for its forget about edits and retakes format.

Can’t see the media player on your mobile device? Click here.

If Reading Is Dead – Then I’m Long Since Gone

You will meet more and more people today that will tell you, “Books are dead.” Or, they’ll give this or that excuse why they don’t read. (Maybe even someone you know personally?) It’s a load of bunk.

If you want to be ahead of the pack in not only today’s world rather, any time this little blob of rock has been revolving. Readers more often than not are leading the way. Period.

Although I have no idea of some mathematical formulation or other statistical way to make my point. (although for this discussion it’s more intuitive than needing numeration) I will add this caveat:

  • “Reading, as to utilize or dismiss plans of action whether in life, or the market place with an eye towards immediacy – trumps reading volume. One book. One idea. Put into motion, is far more valuable than reading 1000. Only to do nothing.”

It’s never been about what or how much you read. It’s about what you do with what you read that counts. You don’t need to read this weeks newest and greatest treatise on, “Left brain, right brain, middle of the road brain confusion for the dummies.” (albeit tongue in cheek. With what’s published today, that’s probably on some book shelf)

If you’re serious about entrepreneurship. If you say you want to be in charge of what your worth. Then you need to be better at it than most others. And, that only comes from a lifetime of learning.

When you open the door to entrepreneurship, you also bust open the doors to any and all libraries. Be it Goodwill® stores, discount stores, flea market, B&N®, Amazon®, and more. You should be immersed in learning what ever subject or business has struck your fancy. Regardless of what that fancy may be.

Would any motorcycle mechanic or builder worth their salt not be looking high and low for books related to that subject? Old motors, future motors, welding techniques, leather and saddlery work. New books, out of print books, used books, etc. The list goes on, and on. How about your profession?

Too many think to begin the entrepreneurial path or mindset they need to start reading business books. I will state to you emphatically: Don’t!

Most business books are terrible. And, far too many are what I refer to as, “Romance novels.” Most books written for CEO’s, by CEO’s, are sold to CEO’s, and the spine never gets cracked. There’s a reason for that. (re-read the first sentence)

Go find books that interest you. Books that pertain to what ever you’re involved with. Whether you own or run a multimillion dollar enterprise. Or, you’re an employee with the entrepreneurial mindset. Just get immersed. You’ll whittle out the particulars as you get deeper into your subject matter. You’ll also be amazed just who, or where, you’ll find relevant info. Think I’m off base?

Let’s just say all you do is make and sell baskets at your local craft fair. You say, “Oh well. I’ve read everything on weaving, and considered among peers as an expert. There’s nothing more for me to read on the subject.” I’ll answer with…”BS.”

What about books on different plants that produce different materials? Or, baskets of the ancients, farming methods that produce unseen variations of straw, military applications of weaving styles before the common era? I could go on however, I believe you can see my point. As I said earlier, “How about your profession?”

As always I like to use examples that I can show from personal experience. Below is a photo I just took that inspired this whole rant.  It’s the current “stack” I’ve read since last Nov. or about the last 6 months. (I’ll now clear this stack, keep one or two for future reference, and donate the rest to make way for the next “stack.” Rinse-Repeat.)

This current stack are all non-fiction whether biographical, or business related. This doesn’t include the other titles I’ve also added in this time period to my iPad® from Amazon. Nor, does it include the fictional works I listen to on my iPod® as I run. If they were physical the stack would be about 1 and 1/2 times taller.

So if you’re really serious about being an entrepreneur. Ponder this one point as you dream of riches…

Nearly all your competition believes either books are dead or, offer little to no value as to replace their “social media time.”

I say, if that has even a molecule of truth, you have a leap-frog opportunity unrivaled in recent years that should be exploited to one’s benefit.

What you do with the opportunity is up to you.

IMG_0071

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

The Reality of Reality

One can’t sit back this weekend without feeling a little overwhelmed with what took place in Boston. Being a person whom both worked and lived around Boston, I like many watched intently as everything unfolded.

To see streets you know intimately shown across the television while explosions are going off. Then to view one of the busiest cities traffic wise shut down resembling as one reporter put it “The streets of Chernobyl.” You just can’t help but shake your head in bewilderment.

As I was watching the drama unfold during the capture I was taken aback when the local reporters cut in to air “an eyewitness account” of what was transpiring. (at this time gunshots were fired and more) On the phone was a woman giving details about how she was walking her dog “in and around” the area. As if she had something she saw, or knew.

It became abundantly clear as she spoke she wasn’t privy to anything that both you or I were watching on television. She lived blocks away, was still blocks away, and witnessed nothing except the movement of law enforcement to the area.

She then related to reporters for as many times as she walked her dog down the very same street where the suspect was held up. “She never noticed a boat.” Fair enough…“So what in world are you doing calling television stations?!”

I could hear the frustration in the reporters tone as he was trying to elicit anything of value. There was none. Yet, there she was. One couldn’t help but wonder if she also calls 911 to report any outages of Chicken Nuggets®.

This is the reality today. With all the technological innovations and the strides we’ve made to gather information. Information that can be at times far more in-depth (or raw) than most media outlets would dream of printing or showing. We’ve also created a megaphone only surpassed in size by the sheer number of self-absorbed individuals enamored in their stupidity striding and lining up as to take their turn to shout into it. (other than that, I have no strong feelings)

The trouble with this new world or “reality” we live in is far too many think because they can reference a myriad of news sites, twitter accounts, Facebook® postings et al. They’re somehow either intimately involved in what is taking place or now some form of “expert.” All the while, all of us grown-ups know – they haven’t a clue.

Some may think I’m only speaking of incidents such as the tragedy that took place at the Boston Marathon. I’m not. This happens just as often and sometimes with just as much stupidity across all media. As the old saying goes, “Some of the dumbest people are the ones who think they’re the smartest.”

Another issue I’m beginning to notice a lot more today than earlier are “traders” engaging in chat rooms or sites (many are of the self directing or trading their personal 401K’s not the professional) who’ve been trading actively for the last 4 or 5 years increasingly brushing off warnings that could not only take them off guard rather, could wipe them out entirely in mere minutes. As if sudden catastrophic events can’t happen anywhere, at any time, without warning. People forget or turn a blind eye to it far too often.

Prices can plunge or skyrocket in the blink of an eye jumping right over your stops. Trading platforms lockup. Brokers can’t answer the phones quick enough or can’t be reached. Then you’re watching on television only to realize that naked short position you have on that was deep in profit is now so deep in the money – you’re exercised. All in a matter of minutes before you can even get to your screens let alone your broker.

Or, you’re trading the futures market only to have your internet connection go down only to find out the markets have reversed because of some news pushing them to levels you never believed they’d ever see again. All this and more right smack dab in the late afternoon when the margin clerks look and say, “Close that account or position now!” Leaving one not only with a lost profit, rather – you’re wiped out, and OWE!” That’s reality.

This general theme I’m witnessing nearly everywhere. Again, its this often made assumption that it won’t or couldn’t happen to them. I’m here to state not from hearsay, but from actual personal experiences. It not only happens rather, just because it did – doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen again. Lightning may have its own cliché. However the world doesn’t revolve around only lightning.

I remember when I wrote an article on being prepared for emergencies as an entrepreneur of any stripe. What one should think about, consider, plan for, etc. This was before events such as the Occupy movement took shape. Many at first gave me the proverbial “sounds good” but basically brushed it off. Then businesses were shut down and more. (You can read the original article here)

I’ve personally traded through the market meltdown of 2008. I watched others as well as heard the horror stories of people who were crushed believing they always could close or reverse a position in time. You can’t. So you had better have alternatives. And, understand what your “worst case scenario” can truly be. While more importantly knowing if it were to happen – you could survive it. Let alone – live with it.

The true professionals that trade for a living in order to feed their families, they themselves have hard times in trying to cover every base, or enacting contingency plans in times of panic. (Alternative brokers, accounts, strategies to cover run away positions. etc.)

I’ll contend most people managing (or trading) their 401K while working their full-time job doesn’t really understand the true ramifications involved.  I’ll also contend they don’t fully appreciate or understand that in the blink of an eye: It can be all gone, and there’s no do-over. That’s the reality of reality.

There’s nothing wrong with chatting up a chat room or more with one’s prowess on this or that. However, if you truly have a grasp of reality you would not be doing so until at the very least you have answers to very real questions for when reality hits. Because – it does hit. And when it does its usually not with kid gloves. (Ask any gold futures or Forex trader in the Yen or Euro how they feel this week?)

Now that reality is back on full display are you contemplating or reassessing that your backup plans or resources are adequate? Or, are you shrugging it off as in some form of, “Happens else where – not to me.”

When you or a family member go to an event, vacation, or even just shopping, do you know what each would do if the worst ever happens? I personally ask my wife when she goes out shopping or milling around with her mother where she’s going. Or what side of town she’s going to be. Not because I’m possessive rather, just so I know if anything ever happened where I would begin enacting my plans.

In my business life, writings, speaking schedules, flights, cars, hotels, and more. I have plans for the “what if” moments. Or, if something were to happen what both of us would do if no communication were available. I’m not saying they’re perfect. However, I have actually thought and put them to paper in the event of reality hitting. Have you?

Having backup plans for life, loved ones, business, and more is the first thing of all things to be considered in today’s new reality. I believe once again a “wake-up call” has been placed squarely in front of us as to make sure we truly are paying attention.

You see things like this not only hit home for me because I once lived in Boston or follow the markets. It’s because I’ve personally received not one but, on three different occasions my wife calling me letting me know once again she’s being evacuated because of another “bomb threat” in her building. And not with the same employer or building. Rather, totally separate occasions.

Now you know why I referenced lightning. Everyone thinks it never will, never happen twice, or never happen to them. I felt the same way once. (You can read my thoughts when the last one took place here if you wish.)

However, reality showed me otherwise.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Why is Simplicity So Complicated?

The main reason why the simple act of anything becomes complicated is this:

“Simplicity leaves no room for one not to do, what is needed to be done.”

We’re all familiar with the saying: “If it were that simple – everyone would be doing it.”

Yes. There is truth in that statement however, it is not to be used as some blanket statement as to cover inaction. The inaction that usually puts one into that state is fear. Fear of losing, fear of looking foolish, fear of __________ (fill in the blank.)

Just think of how many times you’ve either seen or experienced some new breakthrough or product that by all appearances makes you sit and ponder, “Wow, how did no one else see that? It’s so simple.”

The answer to a great many of those instances were; many did – however more often than not; only one had the guts to pursue bringing the answer to market.

Making more sales means seeing more people. Building a better mousetrap means sitting down and starting to build it. Writing a book means sitting down and begin typing. I could go on however, I believe you see the point.

Sitting down gathering information and working out a detailed map of how efficiently you’re going to canvass a city block by using measurements derived from satellite data supplied by NASA before you call on someone is laughable. Yet, many do the equivalent as to not do the simplest thing first. Walk out the door and call on a prospect.

Yes, things can get more complicated as the process goes on however, the process doesn’t begin with the most complicated action first. It begins with the simplest. And that it to start. Period.

Use resources you have currently. You’ll acquire even more along the way as you’re moving along. Just remember, you don’t move along until you start. So start.

It’s that simple.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Marketing Tricks of The Pathetic

In the race to find money (any money) in revenue starved websites. The marketing ploys better known as “tricks” is becoming more, and more pathetic.

There was a time banner ads were annoying. That has morphed faster and more disturbingly than the faces they use in these ads as to try to draw eyeballs. i.e., “Cut your insurance rates with Discount Disco Dan The Dancing Insurance Scam Man.” Along with some imbedded or flashing image of someone (or something) who would look more comfortable on a poster for a traveling circus show of the bizarre.

However, what I’ve now noticed are some oh so subtle changes happening from both the desktop side, as well as the mobile end. It seems this tactic whether originally constructed to work as seen or, by accident is beginning to be implemented anywhere, and everywhere.

Quite possibly you’ve noticed it also then just brushed it off or chalked it up as something unavoidable on your part. What I’m referencing is what I’ve deemed the “Tricky Clicky.” (yes an attempt at pun)

Have you noticed when you try to click as to close some annoying pop up ad on a site, it seems you just missed the close button (or whatever they use if anything) only to have clicked right onto something that whisked you off to another site? Everything you did as to try in avoiding this garbage somehow magically turned into doing exactly what they wanted; for you to click on something – anything!

I noticed (maybe you have also) this was happening more, and more on my mobile devices. Personally I’m one of those people who deplores the way advertising is done on the web. I believe it started at the lowest of low-brow thinking and, has done nothing but go downhill from there. You can read an earlier article here.

Some sites or blogs are primarily built around the idea of using free web sites, hosts, and more for the sole purpose that someone, somewhere, will click on an ad so they can collect a penny. Putting my money where my mouth is. I spend actual dollars so readers or visitors to my blog or site receive no advertising. I also wont share, sell, rent, or give subscribers email addresses to any other party as some way to “enhance revenues.” Doing so in my book is not only foolish – its dumb. Unless you’re in the marketing camp along with other such nobles as Nigerian Prince’s et al.

As I said earlier. This came to my attention when using my iPad®. I began to notice more, and more that when I would try to close the annoying pop up; I seemed to have clicked on something else. As the old saying goes it seemed, “I missed it by this much!”

I noticed because I am one who is diligent on cleaning cookies and more. So most sites I visit I’m always considered a “new” hit. So I’ve closed these very same pop-up ads hundreds if not possibly thousands of times. Then all of a sudden I seemed to be missing the close prompt or something because, “Bammmo!” I was whisked away to some site where I could find exotic cars, exotic ladies, Nigerian Prince’s, and more. All at discount prices.

So much so I began to really take notice on my other devices. Sure enough, same thing. No matter how painstakingly careful I was, it seemed 50% of the time, I couldn’t close it without clicking on something else. Now I’ve noticed it happening on my desktop. Here is where I can be far, far, more careful. However, it’s happening here also.

This is not by happen stance in my opinion. I am now convinced it’s by design. And, as the headline states – it’s pathetic.

Hopefully none of you are employing, or allowing this type of marketing tactic to be placed on any of your sites if you have one. If so remember, when this happens to you just how infuriated you can become – so too are the very people who are visiting anything you’ve built when it happens to them.

Because once people realize it’s not them – but you. They might never click to get to your site ever again. Let alone some ad on it.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Welcome To Keynesian Shangri-La

Welcome to your new destination. A place once believed only to exist in the imaginations of dreamers, and Keynesian’s the world over. A place where market fundamentals, free markets, and more seem to no longer have relevancy in the world. However, make no mistake about it – we have now arrived.

The Keynesian argument has been made for decades. I wonder if the man (John Maynard Keynes) would be impressed with just how much his ideology is so vehemently held in the halls of academia and political circles. Many religious devotees pale in comparison.

Once upon time people believed in free market capitalism. The relationship with the money supply. The economy, markets, interest rates and their effects on keeping governments spending in line. All that and more is now out the window along with the old draperies. No need for those silly viewpoints nor those curtains because there’s no longer a need to try to hide. We all know who is (or was) behind them, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Without the Federal Reserves involvement in the markets, we would not be where we are today. Period. And, just where are we? Both the S&P 500, along with the Dow Jones Industrial Average are at never before seen in human history levels. (You really need to re-read that last sentence and let it sink in. Yes, it’s that important.)

If that wasn’t enough so is the benchmark that used to be the touch stone of small business health. The Russell 2000. That also has reached and remains at levels never before seen in history. But, as the old saying goes, “There’s always a price to be paid.”

Now many that screamed for Keynesian styled involvement always shouted the reason why they needed to be in charge or, why their ideas needed to be implemented for what they like to call, “The failures of capitalism.” The problem now is,” OK -Now what?” For as you might notice. This all now belongs to the Keynesian. Take a bow, but not to long because like I said before, “Now what?”

You see in actuality you can’t blame free market capitalists any longer. By empirical evidence they are no longer in charge. If the Fed. cuts down the size of QE at any time. The markets will roil in a fit of anger more in line with a tantrum held only in severity with most two-year old’s. There’s nothing fundamental that says the current levels in the market have any reason to be at these heights except for out right monetary manipulation.

Valuations – schmaluations. Please spare me. It might make for good time fill in the financial media’s “power rotation” of talking heads however, to anyone with just a fair understanding of business. The economy can’t be spitting out numbers just over stall speed of a recession with all time highs in the stock markets as something that’s even close to resembling healthy.

All one needs for a window to view just what is taking place are snapshots once again being shown for display from the likes of JP Morgan Chase™. Their earnings “beat.” However, their profits are coming from the ties they have to derivatives or trading. (I’m over simplifying of course. You really should read them for yourself to understand my point) As far as what you or I think a bank is actually for – like making loans? Their results are pitiful. There’s not only no demand, what demand there is most times can’t qualify.

All this along with governments implementing all kinds of new rules, procedures, and more. If they’re not already in effect, they’re being anticipated and acted upon “as if” for their impending disruption. All these new rules are suppose to protect in a manner of – Bigger – bolder – faster. (cue Bionic Man® theme here)

To the Keynesian or the government has all the solutions devotee, everything looks just as it should. Turn on the television, radio, or pick up a paper and the headline reads, “Record High!” Problem is it just doesn’t feel right.

Last time we were at these type of levels unemployment was statistically within FULL employment status.(under 5%) If one had a breath (and I think for some it was an option) you could get a loan. Any type of loan. Housing was being bought and sold hand over fist. You could buy a house, buy a car, sell the house, payoff the car, and start again almost every other year. For some it was every. Babysitters used their weekend earnings became real estate agents and made a ton. Now far too many former real estate agents are looking for daycare gigs for employment.

People who thought gold was a safe haven against the money printing ramifications of central banks are wondering if rumors are true. That these very same central banks are manipulating the gold markets with out of the blue (of HFT) sell programs crushing gold enthusiasts holdings as witnessed in this weeks gold futures. Once again a sell off seemingly triggered out of no where.

Market moving data and information supposedly embargoed from any “wanting” eyes because of the implications it could have on giving others an unfair advantage, is released to major market participants in an “Oh, sorry bout that” moment as witnessed with the early release of the Fed. minutes.

It is now a well know fact that in most offices in congress their TV’s are tuned to  CNBC®  throughout the day. (As stated on TV by the former Speaker of The House) Is it any wonder why more politicians now appear on these types of channels than anyone else? If the markets aren’t now Keynesian than what are they? Capitalistic? Sorry, it just doesn’t fit any longer.

However for this new-found land of Shangri-La credit can be given where credit is due. We are here. There is absolutely no one or anything that can dispute that. Yet, along with finding this new land one thing is also self-evident. Keynesians now own it.

If it falls apart from here you can’t blame the free markets. You can’t blame all the people who ran around huffing and puffing saying “It’ll never work.” You’ve proved them wrong. But, (and it’s a very big but) as I said earlier, “OK. Now what?” Because the ball is now clearly in your court. You wanted the ball – and you’ve got it. We all just hope for everyone’s sake you know what to do with it from here. Because for most of us – we now haven’t a clue.

What was once the touch stones we understood as free markets has been ground to shifting sand. This paradise isn’t on any of our maps. We all thought this was only possible in fairy tales. Yet, as I said earlier – “here we are.”

Just remember one thing in this new found paradise. One thing still remains to be seen. Can it be sustained? For if it can’t my old saying might just once again come back to haunt.

“Markets right themselves with pain… That’s Capitalism.
Back room manipulation to avoid pain only increases the severity of the pain to be felt down the road.”

Only time will tell which one of us is correct in the long run.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Adventures In Stupidity

Today’s adventure is my recent experience with Paypal®.

I have been a customer or a user of Paypal for years. In all my time, I really have not had an issue where I needed to contact their customer service for any reason. I like most use them for Ebay® purchases. I also have used them for some other transactions. One time I tried their invoice service. It went off pretty much without a hitch. As I said, I never needed to contact anyone before – till now.

I made a purchase from a vendor I use consistently for accoutrements of electronic devices. (phone case etc.) Usually I buy an item at a time as needed. Pay instantly. Never have an issue. However, this transaction I purchased multiple items and put them in the “cart” for one final price. Hit pay, then closed my browser.

To my surprise when I received notification of payment the term “pending” appeared. “Pending what?” I murmured. Seems for some reason my payment is in a “clearing” process and the seller won’t receive payment for up to a week! Thinking there’s a mistake or something awry I go to my account and attempt to find more information. Let the stupidity begin.

It seems for whatever the reason my instant payment has been turned into an “echeck.” Come to find out these echecks take up to 7 days to clear. And, Paypal advises the seller not to ship until these checks clear. Fair enough. But I didn’t choose this!

I spent nearly 20 minutes looking through their “Frequently Asked Questions” resource trying to figure out what is going on. It would have been easier with less frustration if I were handed the book War And Peace and asked how many times if any the word pathetic was used. At least I’d have a fighting chance of coming up with an answer.

Then, as I would guess most normal people who went through all the trouble of trying to resolve such an issue on their own only to end in frustration, now decide it was time to hit the “Contact Us” button. And what greets you after you do this? “Have you tried using our FAQ’s help menu? You can imagine at this moment, like you, I am about to scream.

After typing in the requisite details I receive just the type of statement that makes it all just seem worth it. (paraphrasing) “We will respond promptly to your request – in 24 to 48 hours!” Are you kidding me? Really?…I mean, really!

I contact the seller and inform them of what’s transpiring on my end. Four days have now passed since I’ve made this purchase and I’ve yet to resolve the issue. One of the sticking points Paypal keeps recommending to me via their wonderful automated customer service is to have a credit card on file. This way you avoid these types of issues. Problem is…I do! Up to date information, current and was just used. Even their website shows no issues with my card on file. Verified and all. Yet – here I am.

Then I do what every frustrated customer would do after exhausting all other options. Call the dreaded “help line.”

I listened to nearly 20 minutes of (I’m paraphrasing) “Your call is important to us. A representative will be with you shortly. Have you tried our easy online FAQ’s center?” Then it went on and on. Over, and over again about “how easy” they make their service to use and why you should us their other services for business and more.

During all this time no one ever came on the line. I guess the reminder of: “This call may be recorded for quality assurance” is a moot point now. Because the recording would only feature their recording telling me they may record the recording.

As I’m waiting, looking at my computer, my payment status turned from pending to cleared. It was like a religious moment. I hung up the phone and if not for the windows being wide open, I might have broke into a hymn or song. If there was a moment of epiphany to be marked is was this: There is absolutely no way I would even think of Paypal as a first, second, third, or any other choice in expanding my use with them. Only if there was no other way available on this planet. Even then I would weigh my options.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, then comes the coup de gras…

I receive an email survey asking how my experience using their website to resolve my issue. While feeling purely indignant, I reluctantly decided to attempt filling it out. Maybe, just maybe someone might read it.

Every time when I answered the “rating” I was asked (paraphrasing)”Explain how we can improve this” after 5 questions I was spending far too much just typing. And I was being succinct! Not writing War And Peace.

Then I looked up and noticed the bar stating how much of this survey I had completed was about 1/3. Meaning I have 2/3rds more to go! Enough of this stupidity. I jettisoned the survey, closed my browser and ended the madness.

Which now by all accounts might be the exact response they wanted to begin with.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Understanding True Wealth And Riches

There is probably no other subject people want to know more about – than money. How do they acquire it. How do they get so much they can roll around in it like some caricature portrayed in movies. All the while I’ll venture to say 90% (if not more) have really no clue what they would do with it once they had it.

The problem with most perceptions is their “perception” is usually unhinged from the true reality of wealth, riches, and yes – money.

I once heard Dr. Alan Weiss author of Million Dollar Consulting (McGraw-Hill) ask a very pointed question to an audience seeking insights on money and wealth. (I’m paraphrasing) “What would you do with your second million dollars?” There’s more to how one answers than most think.

The reason? Everyone “thinks” they know what they want. However, once you buy the cars, the house, the jewelry, what ever. Then what?

This is where the rubber hits the road in my view. If you can’t sit down and list out what you’ll do next with all that “extra” money, then I’m here to tell you not only will you probably never attain the first million, your chances at true wealth or riches will be even less attainable.

Wealth and riches are not about a bank balance. Bank balances have absolutely no relevance to wealth or riches for one’s life. (Yes I said that) Wealth, true wealth is what you can or can not do with your time as you see fit. Period.

I know more than half of you right now are shaking your heads, or groaning in displeasure. Fair enough. So I’ll ask this: Who is wealthier, and even richer?

A person earning $1000.00 per month with no bills with the ability to do what ever they decide with the day ahead of them. Or?
A person earning $100,000.00 per month with $90,000.00 worth of bills yet, has to report to someone somewhere or they can be fired? (And yes, I deliberately made the example to leave person #2 with 10 times the amount of free cash at the end of month than person 1. It’s not a math error)

I would venture to say a great many of you looking at this example did two things right off the bat before you truly contemplated how you would answer. I’ll wager many in a knee jerk form questioned things like, “What about retirement savings?” Or questions that pertain to that subject. Others immediately went to the $10K left over and thought how that would change everything and prove them right because investing that amount of money, making X% for blah, blah, blah.

Believe it or not it’s knee jerk responses to money questions such as this that prove more often than not why most have so many issues with accumulating wealth or riches.

Money is a tool. The amount is determined by the size of the tool needed. Knowing what tool, what size, and how to properly use it is the only way to wealth or riches. Not the other way around. (I would advise re-reading that last statement and letting it truly sink in. Yes, it’s that important.)

The person represented first is far wealthier and richer than the second. Why? Because, they are in direct control of their life. Person two is in a situation where far more of their time and resources are controlled externally. If both were to be on the beach for a week and both wanted to stay for another week person one just stays. That’s probably not an option without hurdles so high to clear “The Hoops of Fire” at a carnival look easier to maneuver for our second person.

Now don’t assume I’m insinuating working and making a million dollars a year is flawed or there’s something inherently wrong with it. Far from it. What I am saying is most don’t realize what earning a million dollars really entails. From the responsibilities of work, tax obligations, employees. subordinates, and more.

You might be trying to obtain a dollar amount that you set arbitrarily because it sounded good years ago. Or, that was a figure you grew up with which represented wealth or riches to you back then.

A million dollars doesn’t buy what it did 10 years ago nor, does it throw off even half the income it did just 5 years ago. Maybe you now need 2 or 5 million dollars to obtain that lifestyle set as a goal 10 years ago. Either way less or more – do you know?

The reason why this question became forefront in my mind is for reasons taking place currently in my own life.

As of this writing I am in the middle of moving from my residence here in Lexington, KY and moving to Columbus Ohio. There are opportunities there my wife wants to take advantage of so – off we go.

Unlike most where this would be the equivalent of bedlam and mayhem uprooting families, selling property and more we’re relaxing and looking forward to it. The reason?

We are in control of what true wealth represents. Complete control of our time and choices. There is no dollar figure now on this planet worth giving that up. Nor, is there a dollar figure that fits everyone to obtain it. It’s a personal choice made by sitting down and contemplating what you truly want out of life. Not some thing arbitrary.

We personally have done this type of contemplation or thinking that I suggest or ask you to do. And, we live the actual results. Not something I read in some “guru’s” book that they read from someone’s book and now profess their opinion as some “expert.”

I’m also aware there are many here new to my writings or, my way of thinking and want to see or hear something tangible. Something they can see or believe that represents to them “Why listen to you?” It’s a fair question, so I’ll offer this brief example. (There’s more than one point in here however, take away what you like and apply it to your own thinking.)

In 2006 I asked my wife a question, “If we were 62, would we stay here retired?” (We lived in a beautiful home in one of NH’s top ranking towns.) The answer came back, “No, I’m done with snow.” So I said, “Then why are we here now? Why don’t we go  where we would be then – now?” That was the first question that opened the door to question, 2-3-4-5-6-7, and so forth. However, that is the question that has the same weight or equivalence to asking, “How much money does one need to do X?”

Once we answered our questions we “moved.” I did some research and with the equivalent to throwing a dart at a map Lexington, KY was our choice.

One of the questions we asked was,”Why should we buy another house or plan around taking vacations any longer? Why don’t we move in a complex that is like being on a hotel property with no worries like maintenance and more. This way we enjoy the pool rather than cleaning it.”

And with that we moved onto an exclusive property that has had an almost unheard of 100% occupancy rate since I’ve lived here. This property has also won “Best Property” for appearance, staff, amenities, and more on a  consecutive basis since I’ve been here. I’ve seen so-called “resort properties” that aren’t as clean or maintained as well as this property. With our new residence looking equally as attractive.

All while not needing to pull the hair out of our heads lining this date up to that date in regards to our next move. If something has to be Wednesday 10:30am or Thursday 1:15pm. its no issue on our end. I needn’t call someone as to ask permission if I can have time away or available because I need to do this, that, or the other thing. It’s mine to decide. No one else. (Can one put a price tag on that?)

However, although some might shrug and say, “So what.” It’s in the other finer details. i.e., The ability at will to sit by the pool writing articles like this at 11:00am because I decided that was what I decided to do. Rather unlike so many others whom are running around wondering if they can get an extra day of vacation time just in case their plane gets caught in an unexpected layover. Causing them to be late for Monday’s meeting. (Is there a $ amount one would give for this one alone?)

That is just one facet of true wealth or riches that needs to asked honestly by oneself in order to actually obtain it. Because, if you don’t ask the right questions you’ll end up trying to catch flights to make it back to the rat race without a day to spare. Instead of being able to call the hotel saying you decided to stay an extra week because – you can.

That is when you know you have reached true wealth and true riches. Bank balances don’t cover it. Until then, you’re probably running around like the proverbial chicken running around not knowing which way is what any longer.

No matter what amount of money you have in the bank, or trying to accumulate. Without knowing the right questions to answer to oneself that give clarity for what you want. You’ll never attain it. Again – regardless of your bank balance.

Money is a tool. And all tools have one thing in common.
Tools are only efficient when it’s the right size, at the right cost, for the right purpose.

Knowing – makes all the difference.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

For those who believe a picture is worth a thousand words. Her’s my old summer office (on left), and my new. Personally you can keep the so-called coveted “corner office.” The best most can do is maybe open windows. If they’re not sealed shut.

Pool Old Pool New