A blog to share my thoughts about trading, frugal living, money and the economy. Occasionally I might even throw in a few things about better living, technology, futurism, and science but these are always in some way related to finances or speculation.

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Location: Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, United States

"I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Three Market Idiots

Three Market Idiots
by Brett Steenbarger

Idiot #1: The True Believer - You've probably encountered at least one of these dolts during your market sojourns. They are the ones who have figured out the answer to the market. Not an answer, mind you. *The* answer. It usually is some kind of numerological or astrological scheme, and it is always a hidden secret. Unfortunately, True Believers don't seem content with keeping their knowledge hidden. They're always after you to "unlock the mysteries" of the market by sharing in their discoveries. A surprising number of True Believers are also True Bears, which means that they're forever predicting the end of the financial universe as we know it. They predicted it in 1980, 1990, 2000, and they're still predicting it. And when the market rallies and proves them wrong? Well, that just means the bubble is getting even bigger and the implosion of the universe will be even more profound. My take on True Believers? This is not investing or trading; it's cultism. And true believers are at the point where they *have* to believe, or they'd come face to face with the awful realization of the utter waste of time and money their beliefs have brought, as the Dow has risen from 775 to over 12,000 within a 25-year period.

Idiot #2: The Gambler - This is the "I'm-giving-up-my-job-to-become-a-trader-because-I-don't-like-working-9-to-5" idiot. Observe that this bottom-dwelling resident of the phylogenetic scale is not giving up his job because he's had success at trading. He's also not giving up his career because he so loves trading that he researches it day or night and has found a winning edge. No, The Gambler doesn't do anything beyond 9-to-5, because what he's after are easy riches, not effort and earned success. He hears that others have been successful (usually from Idiot #3), and he figures, "That means I can do it too". Invariably, the Gambler is attracted to daytrading. Why? It gives him a sense of action, and it justifies his decision to abandon all efforts at productive work. Besides, you can't really explain to your wife and kids why you're not out there with working humanity supporting your household when you're sitting around doing nothing, holding positions for weeks at a time. So the Gambler actively trades in and out of markets, pretends like he’s got a job, and every so often berates his spouse when she wonders when the family will be able to pay its bills. My take on Gamblers? They're not interested in trading; they're interested in their fantasy. So interested that they'll take their bank accounts and families down with them.

Idiot #3: The Self Promoter - It's easy to find the Self-Promoters. By their very nature, they're in your face hawking their wares, lauding their recent market calls, and promising easy trading success. Open any trading magazine and you'll see their well-coiffed, grinning idiot faces leering at you, usually as part of a trading "event" that just happens to be selling all their products. The key to recognizing Self-Promoters is that they promote themselves, not ideas or methods. Indeed, a substantial number of them don't trade. Those include the "Trading Coaches" who promise to improve your confidence, but offer no concrete trading guidance that you could ever feel confident in. They also include the "Gurus" who tout simple chart patterns and indicators, carefully avoiding any possible objective testing of their wonderful setups. Self-Promoters never talk about how hard it is to achieve trading success; that would not sell well, especially among The Gamblers. Instead, they borrow their pitches from the "no money down" real estate guys and tell you how easy it will be to succeed with no capital. My take on Self Promoters? I don't mind people who deceive others; they're merely dishonest. It's the ones that deceive themselves that frighten me. That's when dishonesty becomes delusion.

So there you have it: a rogue's gallery of trading idiots. Once you tune your mind to this threefold taxonomy, you'll have no problems at all recognizing them within moments of their opening their mouths. And, if you want to be happy, you'll follow the advice of literary critic Dorothy Parker and not toss these idiots aside lightly. Rather, you'll hurl them with great force.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The healthier you are the richer you'll get

We already know that frugal living can lead to wealth, but does it also lead to superior health and long life? Probably... (don't confuse cause and affect though)

Lean times: The healthier you are the richer you'll get

By Thomas Kostigen, MarketWatch Nov 14, 2006

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- In the immortal words of Dean Vernon Wormer in the film "Animal House:" "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son." And it won't make you rich either.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal finds the healthier you are, the richer you will be. Researchers examined the link between health and wealth in rich countries and found that healthier people are more productive at work, earn more and spend more days in the work force because they don't take as much sick leave.

It may seem obvious but an investment in health produces big returns for individuals, their families and the economy as a whole.

It's been widely accepted by economists that better health increases economic growth in poor countries. But the health-wealth correlation hadn't been examined in rich countries. That was until Prof. Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and several of his colleagues took on the task in a study for the European Commission, the results of which were released this week.

They found some truly curious factors that lead to wealth, the first among them height. That's right, the taller you are the more likely you'll have more money than short people. Napoleon complex aside, height, it seems, has to do with childhood health.

"Some studies have examined measures such as height, which reflects health in childhood, and body mass index, which provides an indirect measure of health. All other things considered, taller people earn more than average whereas obese people tend to earn less, although the adverse consequences of obesity are greater for women than for men. However, these findings could reflect biases linked to the social acceptability of body images rather than a direct link to productivity," the study says.

Whether linked to social acceptability or not, the fact remains, at least according to this data, that being a tall guy provides a far greater advantage for earning more money than being a fat woman.

This type of information may be upsetting to some, especially if you are, say, short and fat and a woman. But overall it points to the importance of public health in society. Indeed, the rationale for the study was to showcase that point.

Five years ago, a major international study concluded that ill health was contributing to the low level of economic growth in poor countries. The landmark report showed that investment in some basic health interventions would lead to substantial economic growth. Simply put, its conclusion was that a sick population is an expensive population.

Just look at Africa, where scant immunization, lack of access to health care and drugs, and communicable diseases add up to lower life expectancies, a drained work force and disabled economic growth.

Conversely, a study of 10 industrialized countries from the beginning of the 20th Century through the mid-1990s found that better health increased the rate of economic growth by about 30%. This has to do with better dietary and health standards instilled on these populations, as well as better medical care.

Here's an even better example: "In an analysis of 26 rich countries during 1960 to 2000, reductions in cardiovascular mortality emerge as a robust predictor of subsequent economic growth. In one model, a 10% fall in cardiovascular mortality is associated with a 1% increase in per capita income. Although this may not seem large, it amounts to a substantial contribution over the long term," McKee's study says.

Many studies show that better health increases both the number of hours worked and the probability an individual will be employed. Poor health, on the other hand, increases the likelihood that someone will be out of work or retire early.

Ill health also extends its effects to family members. In general, men whose wives become ill reduce the amount they work whereas women work more if their husbands become ill, the study finds. In either scenario, economically the family suffers.

Meanwhile, healthy people can put their money to work in other ways, namely to increase their quality of life. They are, for instance, more apt to invest in their own education, which will increase their productivity, and save more in expectation of a longer life -- for example, for retirement -- increasing the funds available for investment in the economy. This helps not only their prosperity, but also society.

So don't be stupid: Get in shape to get rich.