Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who's to blame for this financial crisis?

Follow the money. Where did it all go? Mortgage companies made easy cheap loans to people that should not have qualified for any loan because they could never repay them. In turn those folks used the money to buy houses and to hire contractors to build houses, which in turn stimulated the economy. The Gov't supported this - growth at all costs. It was affirmative action for housing - no one could be turned down for a loan.  

Seven years later the well ran dry. 

The subprime debacle has been the largest economic stimulus plan in history. 700 Billion and counting. And now the Dems say the gov't needs to do something for the poor homeowners. Haven't you done enough already?  

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Storm that is Sarah Palin

Wow!  How did this news get to such monumental status?  Yes, it is exciting.  I am inspired – I want to move to Alaska and become a mayor.  LOL  I am also completely amazed at the storm this has stirred up.

Some observations:

  • The media went after her aggressively because they were left standing flat-footed.  The press does not like surprises and Sarah Palin was a bolt from the blue to EVERYONE.  McCain wanted to steal the DNC convention thunder with a surprise announcement, and it worked but it also created this media attack attitude.  The press didn’t have any stories, nothing to report on her, because they had no clue.  They were left out and they hate that.
  • I never dreamed  the Republican party would have a woman on the Presidential ticket.  Ever.  And she would not be there if it weren’t for John McCain.  He is certainly a maverick and a reformer of the party for taking that risk.
  • Speaking of risk, Sarah Palin is taking a big risk - with a part of her life that many are uncomfortable risking - their families.  In this world, women are not seen as risk takers.  Some of her biggest critics are women.   They say she can’t do it – what they mean is they can’t do it.  This is way too risky for the average woman to even contemplate, meanwhile men seem to have little issue with it at all.
  • The VP job will seem like a vacation to the Palin family compared to the Governorship of Alaska.
  • Any time we are confronted with change, we do a little risk assessment.  I have to believe that she and her husband assessed the risk both to their family and the country and came to the conclusion that not running for VP posed an even greater risk to this country.  

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Risks and the Road to Early Retirement

We may not realize it, but we all make risk assessments everyday in almost everything we do.  For example, some folks will drive nothing but the safest car on the road, typically a Volvo with airbags in every direction, while others ride motorcycles without helmets. 

It’s no different with personal finance.  Some of us are very risk averse - shying away from stocks, investing in bonds, wanting to secure our futures with reliable investments.  While others love taking risks – day-trading stocks, shorting stocks, chasing returns.   Ideally, a smart investor finds a middle ground that will allow for some growth while still maintaining a strong core.

When I first started investing, I would often say that I was willing to take on more risk because I wanted to build a portfolio that would allow me to retire early.  I knew I had to invest in stocks to achieve that.  And I reasoned that if I failed, then I would simply continue to work like every other poor slob until my normal retirement! 

In those terms, it seemed like a no-brainer. Why not take discretionary income and invest it instead of spending it?  While my friends and co-workers bought bigger homes, lavish vacations and more toys, I enjoyed having a "higher goal".  Whenever I mentioned retiring early to them, they looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.  For many, the concept had never occurred to them. And as they gave it some thought, you could see the painful realization in their faces that they will never be able to do such a thing. 

Many of us have similar goals in life.  We aim to graduate from high school, then college, then we want to land a good job.  What comes next is not so well-defined.  Some wish to climb the corporate ladder, others want their own business, while others seek challenging assignments.  For me, I never desired to ascend into corporate bureaucracy, I never wanted my boss’ job ( even though I did eventually get it).  I wanted interesting work, but even more, I wanted security.  Typical woman, eh?  My goal to retire early was driven by that need and the fact that I prefer to work for myself.   I like my job, but to this day, I would much rather spend time working on one of my personal projects than going in to work.  I craved that freedom and early retirement was the answer.

The real bonus is that now that I have the means to retire early, I also have new-found powers.  I can pick and choose my work assignments, I call more shots, I take off when I want to, I don’t worry about where my career is going, what the boss might say, what co-workers might think, I can walk out any day, any time.  I am in charge!  My job is so much more fun. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Google Chrome speeds past clunky Internet Explorer

I switched my internet browser from IE7 to Google’s new Chrome, today.  And, I found Chrome  to be just like advertised: sleek and fast.  I have read some complaints that only the tech geeks will change to Chrome.  I don’t really consider myself a computer techie and I don’t usually try out new software on the first day of a release.  

My decision to give a new browser a try centered around a problem with utilizing the latest version of Macromedia Flash with IE7.  Initially I though it was a firewall or antivirus issue, or maybe an ActiveX script issue, but after much trial and error  – IE still would not play flash.  I am sure there is a way to correct that problem somewhere out there, but I don’t care to spend another minute trying to figure it out.  I was about to download Firefox, when I learned that Chrome was available.   

What’s cool about Chrome?

  • Speed – pages download much faster!
  • Less clutter on the header and the footer only appears when you hover over a link.
  • It has a bookmarks bar – you can drag your favorite site links right to the bar for easy access, similar to the home page icon.  For instance, I have my favorite weather site, sports team, netflix, etc., one click away all of the time.
  • It has tabs, similar to IE7, with the added feature that when you open a new tab, several of your recently visited sites appear as thumbnails.
  • And for those of you concerned about losing your bookmarks - all of my bookmarks transferred over from IE.

As for the nay-sayers, who think Chrome will flop, they may have discounted the strength of Google’s brand.  I would have never tried out a Microsoft product on the first day of release, yet I did not hesitate with Google.  And, of course the biggest factor – speed rules.  IE was getting so clunky and lethargic on my PC that I was considering upgrading the machine!  Instead, I switched to a new free browser, saved $1200 and left IE in the dust.