Bristle Software Finance Tips

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Table of Contents (links to this and other pages):
  1. HSAs (Health Savings Accounts)
    1. Withdraw from HSA now, years later
  2. Roth IRAs
    1. Open your 1st Roth IRA immediately
    2. Convert to Roth in a low income year
    3. Convert to Roth during stock market crash
  3. Cheap or Free ObamaCare Health Insurance
  4. CARES Act -- 3/27/2020 $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Bill
  5. Google Finance
  6. Google Search Stock Ticker
  7. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents
  8. How to get bigger raises
  9. Expect to be laid off at age 50
  10. Live cheap, retire early
  11. Finance resources
    1. Finance web sites
    2. Finance tools
    3. Finance newsletters
    4. Finance books
  12. Investment mindset
    1. Buy and hold
    2. Buy what you use
    3. Rising isn't good enough
    4. Don't take chances
    5. Retire on 4%
  13. My investment history
    1. Some winners, some losers, some luck...
      1. Invesco Pacific Basin
      2. 20th Century Ultra
      3. Sector funds
      4. Bad Y2K call
      5. Rolling over my SMS 401k to a Vanguard IRA
      6. The Bush and Obama years
    2. Specific stocks
      1. Late to Amazon
      2. Not Iomega
      3. Google
      4. Yahoo!
      5. eBay
      6. Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet)
      7. UPS
      8. Not Fedex
      9. Coke
      10. Comcast
      11. Oracle
      12. Home Depot
      13. Lowes
      14. The Obama and Trump years
      15. Lowes --> Home Depot
      16. Coke --> Berkshire Hathaway
      17. Not Facebook
      18. Not Netflix
      19. Not Apple
      20. Not Microsoft
      21. Amazon
      22. Oracle --> Berkshire Hathaway
      23. Oracle --> Amazon
      24. UPS --> Amazon
      25. Comcast --> Amazon
      26. Comcast --> Google
      27. Bitcoin
      28. Dropbox
      29. Spotify
      30. Dropbox --> Uber
      31. Spotify --> Lyft
      32. Atlassian
      33. Netflix
      34. Facebook
      35. Salesforce
      36. Uber
      37. Lyft
      38. Tesla
      39. Riding Trump's coat tails
      40. Volkswagen
  14. What to buy during COVID
  15. What NOT to buy during COVID
  16. What to buy as COVID ends
  17. What NOT to buy as COVID ends
  18. NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens)
    1. NFT success story: Beeple
    2. Warning about NFT costs
    3. More info about NFTs
  19. Agents
    1. How agents SHOULD be paid
Details of Tips:
  1. Finance resources
    1. Finance web sites

      Original Version: 7/6/1996
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      What financial web sites do you recommend?  Mine are in the "Finances" and "Retirement Planning" sections of my links page:

      Any other sites to recommend?

      --Fred

    2. Finance tools

      Original Version: 4/19/2020
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      What financial tools do you recommend? 

      1. Quicken?
      2. TurboTax?
      3. Other?

      I've always been a plain ASCII text kind of guy.  Don't like trapping my data in any proprietary data format.  So pretty much all of my organizational files, financial or otherwise, are plain text or HTML files.  I manage them via some custom Unix shell scripts and small apps that I've created over the years.  See:

      Can easily view, edit, search, filter, print, sort, count, etc. on any Mac, Unix or Linux system.  Or on Windows, though the command line tools and native scripting abilities there are pretty weak.  Can also use DropBox to sync files with my phone.

      The one exception is spreadsheets.  LibreOffice Calc is too useful to resist:

      It also works fine with Microsoft Excel files, if any of you still have any of those lying around. 

      And with Google Sheets:

      They're all interchangeable.  Can view each other's files, edit, print, whatever.

      Any other tools to recommend?

      --Fred

    3. Finance newsletters

      Original Version: 7/6/1996
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      What financial newsletters do you recommend?  I read:

      1. Morningstar
        $200/year for financial e-newsletters, website, tools, ratings and analysis of stocks/bonds/funds, etc.
      2. Vanguard
        Full financial services firm.  I invest some of my money there, get their emails, read their articles, etc.
      3. Fidelity
        Full financial services firm.  I invest some of my money there, get their emails, read their articles, etc.
      4. Mr Money Mustache
        A "live cheap, retire early" guy like me.  I subscribe to his blog.

      Any other newsletters to recommend?

      --Fred

    4. Finance books

      Original Version: 7/6/1996
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      What financial books do you recommend?  I don't read much on paper these days, except novels.  But there are probably lots of great finance books other.  Any favorites to recommend?

      --Fred

  2. Investment mindset
    1. Buy and hold

      Original Version: 7/6/1996
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      I'm not a day trader.  More of a Warren Buffet style buy-and-hold guy.  I typically hold a stock for at least a few years once I buy it.

      --Fred

    2. Buy what you use

      Original Version: 7/6/1996
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      I try to keep my eyes and ears open and make conservative bets on products and companies that seem strong.  Especially those that I use personally.  Or that lots of my friends, family, neighbors and/or colleagues use.

      If you use a product every day and love it, buy the stock.  For me, examples include: Google, Amazon, Atlassian, Home Depot, etc.

      If everyone you know is suddenly using a product, buy the stock.  For me, examples include: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pandora, Spotify, NextDoor, Zappos, Uber, Lyft, etc.

      --Fred

    3. Rising isn't good enough

      Original Version: 10/3/1991
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      It's not good enough to buy a stock that's going to rise.  Sometimes you have to sell a rising stock with lots of potential.  Or even a stock that's already rising fast.  To use the money to buy an even faster rising stock with even more potential.  And sometimes you have to sell a stock that's lost money, but that you expect to recover soon.  It's hard to stomach the loss that would have erased itself.  But if you need the cash for a better opportunity, do it.

      --Fred

    4. Don't take chances

      Original Version: 7/6/1996
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      Personally, I own my own house and cars, so that's a conservative bet.  I keep about half my retirement money in major index funds like Vanguard Index 500.  The other half I've played with for 30 years or so.  Sometimes with disastrous results.  But many good results too, so I've managed to beat the Index 500 in recent years.

      Buy insurance against things you can't afford:

      • Life insurance, for the sake of your dependents
      • Health insurance
      • Dental insurance
      • Disability insurance
      • Liability insurance
      • Long term care insurance
      • Homeowners insurance
      • Car insurance

      --Fred

    5. Retire on 4%

      Original Version: 7/6/1996
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      Common wisdom is that you can count on the stock market to average at least 4% APY returns over the long haul.  So if you can live for a year on 4% of what you've saved, you may be able to retire.  Any more than that and you're likely to spend down your principal.

      No guarantees, of course.  A lot depends on how much you expect to spend in retirement.  Expensive travel/leisure adds up fast.  Also, healthcare costs, especially for a long slow terminal illness.  If you don't have enough to handle unexpected medical expenses, you might want to consider "long term care" insurance.  And don't forget disability insurance.  Anyhow, there are lots of retirement calculators:

      --Fred

  3. My investment history
    1. Some winners, some losers, some luck...

      Original Version: 10/10/1991
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      I've made some major mistakes, but also some good calls and some luck.

      --Fred

      1. Invesco Pacific Basin

        Original Version: 10/10/1991
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        I invested in Asia in 1991.  Was leaving SPC (a software "think tank") to move to PA.  My co-workers said Asia (especially Japan) was fast surpassing the US in software development.  I didn't know how to invest in Japan directly.  Or how to guess which other Asian countries might do even better.  So, when I rolled my entire 401K into an IRA, I invested half in Invesco Pacific Basin.  Big mistake!  It rose for almost a year, then started falling steadily.  A few years later, the fund was dissolved and Invesco sent me a check for half what I'd invested.  Doh!

        --Fred

      2. 20th Century Ultra

        Original Version: 10/10/1991
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Fortunately, I'd put the other half of that IRA (plus the eventual check from Invesco) in 20th Century Ultra.  It did really well for the next decade or more, and kept me positive over all.  When it later started to lag, I moved the money to Vanguard Index 500, which has always been very reliable.

        --Fred

      3. Sector funds

        Original Version: 7/6/1996
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Meanwhile, in 1996, I left SMS and formed my own one-man company.  I left my 401K at SMS, invested in Vanguard Index 500.  And began investing new retirement money at Fidelity.  Why have all your eggs in one basket?

        I didn't know enough about specific companies to buy stocks, but I wanted to experiment a little.  See if I could beat the Index 500.  I tried some "sector funds" at Fidelity.  Over the next few years, I bought and held Fidelity Emerging Markets, since the Berlin wall was down and the world was changing fast.  Also, Fidelity Select Wireless, since everyone was getting cell phones and WiFi.  And a few others.

        But, sector funds are unreliable.  As with Invesco Pacific Basin, there were major winners in each of those sectors, but the overall sector funds both went down anyhow, or at least lagged the Index 500.  Bummer!

        Fortunately, some of my other sectors did well.  Fidelity Select Insurance (insurance companies never lose, right?).  Fidelity Select BioTechnology (lots of cool things happening in that field).  Plus a couple other index funds (Mid Cap Stock, Equity Income, and Dividend Growth) to spread the money around a little within my Fidelity account.  Seemed smarter than putting it all in one fund.  Most of them doubled or tripled over the next 17 years.  Not bad, but not great.  I've since sold the losers and kept the winners.

        --Fred

      4. Bad Y2K call

        Original Version: 1/1/2000
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Y2K was another bad bet for me.  Everyone was anxious, so I figured the stock market would struggle all through 1999.  But lots of people were working to "fix the Y2K bug".  I was pretty sure the clock would tick over to the Year 2000 smoothly.  People would then relax, stop worrying, and the stock market would soar.

        So, I didn't buy any stocks in 1999.  Just accumulated retirement money in a Fidelity money market fund.  Watched the dateline circle the globe on New Year's Eve.  No disasters.  The lights stayed on everywhere.  Good!  Moved all the money into stocks on New Years Day.

        But I got it COMPLETELY wrong.  People had been cautiously optimistic throughout 1999.  And companies had hired programmers like crazy to fix the bug.  The economy was booming.  The stock market climbed 20%.  Then on Jan 1 2000, the "crisis" was over.  So, all the companies stopped spending.  Laid off all the extra programmers.  The market dropped 13%.

        Then Bush got elected by a hanging chad, political wrangling rose, and the market swooned more.  Then the planes hit the towers on 9/11, which crashed the market (but it recovered fully within 6 months).  Then Bush started a few wars.  And deregulated the banks to cause the crash of 2008.  Yikes!  I'd moved a year's worth of retirement deposits into the market at the HIGHEST price possible.  The stock market had NEVER been higher, and wouldn't be that high again for 14 YEARS!  Doh!!!

        --Fred

      5. Rolling over my SMS 401k to a Vanguard IRA

        Original Version: 9/11/2001
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        I got lucky in 2001.  When I left SMS in 1996, I'd left my 401K there, invested in Vanguard Index 500.  But a few years later, Siemens bought SMS.  They abruptly moved all my money out of Vanguard to some other plan administrator.  Didn't ask.  Just did it.  Didn't even send me a letter.  First I heard was when I got a statement from Vanguard showing a zero balance.  Not cool!

        I called Siemens HR.  Move it back to Vanguard as an IRA?  No, not possible.  Have to call the new plan admin company directly.  Called them a few times, argued on the phone, wrote letters, beg, pleaded, threatened.  No luck.  They refused to do the transfer directly.  The best they could do was write out a check to Vanguard and mail it to me. 

        I waited anxiously at the mailbox, nervous that someone would steal the check, worth many thousands of dollars.  It arrived safely.  But, before I could deposit it at Vanguard, the planes hit the towers on 9/11.  The stock market dropped almost 12%.  But the value of my check didn't change.  Despite my best efforts, I hadn't lost any money that day!

        I wish I'd jumped back into the market immediately.  But those were uncertain times and it seemed safer to "dollar cost average".  So when I deposited the check into a Vanguard IRA, I put it in a money market fund, and gradually moved it back into stocks over the next 6 months.  But, the market was recovering dramatically for those entire 6 months, so I paid MUCH more than I could have.  Doh!

        And then Bush's wars kicked in, and the market tanked another 30% or so.  Well below the 9/11 crash price.  So over all, I lost money!  Double Doh!!

        Then, the market wandered a bit and climbed for a while.  By 2007, it was almost back to the Y2K high.  But it totally collapsed in 2008, dropping by 50% to the lowest level in 13 years.  Well, well, well below the 9/11 crash price.  Triple Doh!!!

        --Fred

      6. The Bush and Obama years

        Original Version: 1/20/2001
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Over the 8 Bush years, we all lost about 30%.  With all my trials and tribulations, I did about the same.

        Once Obama was elected, things got much better.  The market climbed steadily for 8 years.  Gained 150%, a factor of 2.5X.  By then, I'd gotten better at investing.  Had gotten bolder and started buying individual stocks.  My retirement fund went up 253%, a factor of 3.5X.  Details in my next article...

        For a graph of the market over all this time, see:

        Especially, click the "By President" tab, and then choose Trump, Obama, and Bush.  It paints a VERY clear picture of how well Obama did, versus the miserable performances of Bush and Trump:

        --Fred

    2. Specific stocks

      Original Version: 11/1/2000
      Last Updated: 4/19/2020

      Here are some specific stocks I've bought over the years.

      --Fred

      1. Late to Amazon

        Original Version: 3/26/2009
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        I bought Amazon stock because I'm such a fan and such a heavy user.  Wish I'd thought to buy sooner.  I moved all my servers and all my clients' servers to AWS starting in 2009.  But didn't think to buy stock till 2017.  I've tripled my money, but could have done 10X better than that (30X).  Doh!

        --Fred

      2. Not Iomega

        Original Version: 2/15/1996
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        I also missed the boat with Iomega (Zip drives) in 1996.  Zip drives were SO much better than floppies!  I bought a bunch.  Installed them at work, home, family, clients, etc.  Just to have one everywhere I went.  Got on waiting lists to buy them.  Sent tips to my mailing lists about them.  Etc.  Never thought to buy the stock.  Doh!

        On the other hand, Iomega was a one-trick pony.  In 1995, the Zip drive hit the market.  By 1996, Iomega stock was up by a factor of 20X.  Then 50X or more.  But within just a couple years, writeable CDs took over.  The stock quickly crashed from $100/share to $2.  If I'd bought, would I have known to sell in time?  I kept using my Zip drives for 5 more years.

        --Fred

      3. Google

        Original Version: 9/7/2004
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        By the time Google came along in 2004, I wised up.  I knew it was special the first time I did a search.  It found EXACTLY what I wanted.  Not lots of near misses like Yahoo and AltaVista.  Bought at the IPO, doubled my money in 4 months and sold half so I was playing with pure profit.

        Selling was a mistake.  I thought it was "only a search engine" so it seemed risky, like Iomega.  I was wrong.  There's no ONLY about it.  I ended up buying back in later at a much higher price.  Doh!  Still, my original investment is up 20X in 16 years and the rest is 6X in 13 years.  Even with the most recent #TrumpSlump.

        --Fred

      4. Yahoo!

        Original Version: 1/15/2001
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Bought Yahoo in 2001 while it was still climbing.  Good for a while, but faltered.  Sold 6 years later for the same price to buy more Google.  Yahoo got bought/sold/merged/spunoff a few times.  No idea what that stock would be worth today.  Google is 4X, so who cares?

        --Fred

      5. eBay

        Original Version: 9/5/2004
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        I bought eBay in 2004 when it seemed to be taking off, but sold (at a 25% loss) after only 2 years, to buy more Google.  Good move!  Google is 4X since then and eBay only 2.5X.

        --Fred

      6. Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet)

        Original Version: 9/14/2004
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet) has been a good buy.  Nice and steady with good returns.  Bought in 2004.  By 2017, it was 3X so I bought more.  Up another 40% since.  Struggling like most companies during the #TrumpSlump, but I'm not worried.

        Warren Buffet likes to sit on $40 billion in cash, just in case an opportunity comes along.  Recently, with the market so high and no obvious good deals, he's had to wait.  Had $140 billion in cash, safely outside the market, at the crash.  So, he was sitting pretty.

        He's probably been using that $140 billion to buy like crazy since.  Or will at the right time.  Saving companies that got into a cash crunch.  Scooping up companies at bargain prices.  Keeping people employed.

        I think I'll be very happy with him at his next quarterly meeting.  Especially after the market fully recovers for all the bargains he scooped up, and all the investments he made.  He saved a few banks and other major industries in Bush's 2008 financial meltdown.  I'm sure he's doing the same now.

        We'll see what happens when 89-year-old Warren and his 96-year old partner Charlie Munger pass away.  Seems like they're putting a good succession plan in place.  Here's hoping...

        --Fred

      7. UPS
        Not Fedex

        Original Version: 11/1/2000
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        UPS was a good buy in 2000, 2004, and 2005.  Someone had to deliver all those e-commerce packages, and I was seeing brown trucks all over the roads.  More than doubled before I sold.

        But FedEx would have been smarter (went up 5X).  Guess I should have realized that I lived nearer to a UPS depot than to FedEx, so the brown trucks thing was more of a local effect.  And Amazon would have been genius!  It went up 80X.  But UPS was still better than Index 500, so I did OK.

        --Fred

      8. Coke

        Original Version: 9/5/2004
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Did well with Coke.  Everyone was insisting on Diet Coke instead of any other soda, including Diet Pepsi.  Up 3X in 12 years.

        --Fred

      9. Comcast

        Original Version: 9/7/2004
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Bought Comcast at the right time.  It was a small local cable company, but everyone was signing up for high speed Internet access.  Now one of the biggest ISPs in the US.  Up 5X in 12 years.

        --Fred

      10. Oracle

        Original Version: 9/5/2004
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        I bought Oracle when it was really strong.  No competition except Microsoft and they were hardly a threat.  Had a strong hold on big companies IT departments.  High cost to change to another vendor. Up 4X in 12 years.

        --Fred

      11. Home Depot
        Lowes

        Original Version: 3/14/2005
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        I bought both Home Depot and Lowes in 2005 since houses are always being either built or repaired.  Bought both since I didn't know which would dominate.  They both did really well as the housing market started to rebound.

        Both went up, but by 2017, Home Depot (5X) did better than Lowes (3X), so I sold Lowes to buy more Home Depot.  Made the right call there, I think.  In the next 10 months, Home Depot went up another 38% and Lowes only 26%.  And it's still rising faster.

        --Fred

      12. The Obama and Trump years

        Original Version: 1/20/2017
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        In early 2017, I had coasted for 10 years.  During Obama's tenure, it was easy.  I did nothing, and still grew my retirement fund by 3.5X.  Once Trump showed up, things got scary again.  Clearly a crash was coming.  But I had a pretty good nest egg, so I retired and started paying more attention.

        --Fred

      13. Lowes --> Home Depot
        Coke --> Berkshire Hathaway
        Not Facebook
        Not Netflix

        Original Version: 2/1/2017
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Dumped the losers among my sector funds to buy more of those that were doing well.  Also sold Lowes for more Home Depot.  Sold Coke for more Berkshire Hathaway (it owns a lot of Coke, and Warren Buffet probably knows better than I do when to finally sell).  Didn't buy Facebook since I don't really see the value of the product.  Probably should have bought NetFlix, but it didn't occur to me.

        --Fred

      14. Not Apple

        Original Version: 7/6/1996
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Never bought any Apple, though it's done very well.  Apple makes me nervous.  It's a serial one-trick pony.  At any given time, it always has one (and only one) really successful product (iPod, then iPhone, then iPad).  No real diversity or depth of product line.  Too risky for me.  But Warren Buffet bought a bunch of Apple, so my Berkshire Hathaway stock gets me some of the benefit if it keeps going up.  And again, Warren knows better than I would when to sell.

        --Fred

      15. Not Microsoft

        Original Version: 10/10/1991
        Last Updated: 2/27/2021

        I never bought any Microsoft stock because I disapprove of the company.  Bad ethics and really sloppy software:

        1. They intentionally sabotaged my computer, forcing me to wipe the entire disk and re-install.  In support of their desire to kill off Netscape.  The Department of Justice found them guilty of this, and fined them.  But I was never compensated for my lost time and effort.

        2. They extorted $40,000 from my terminally-ill father, which contributed to the failure of his struggling company, and all of his employees losing their jobs.  It never went to court because he died of cancer first.

        3. They lowered the bar so much in software quality that users now expect computers to fail all the time.  As a computer programmer, I find this unforgivable.  They made a mockery of my entire profession.

          Several years ago, Microsoft flew me to Redmond to "show them how I did that".  I'd been doing things in their Visual Basic programming language that they thought were not possible.  I met their best and brightest -- the guys who invented OLE Automation, DCOM, and other core Microsoft infrastructure layers.  I was horrified to learn that they were bunch of young kids totally focused on "cool" new features.  I asked them 3 simple questions:

          1. Yes, that's cool, but will it be reliable and work all the time?
            Answer: No, but it will work sometimes, and it's "COOL"!

          2. Yes, that's cool, but is it backward-compatible?
            Answer: No, you'll have to re-write all your code, but it's "COOL"!

          3. Yes, that's cool, but is it secure?
            Answer: No, hackers will be able to get in easily, but it's "COOL"!

          Shortly after my return from Redmond, I abandoned Microsoft Windows, and moved to Linux, Mac, Java and Open Source.  Ah...  Much better!

          These days, I host all of my servers and those of my clients at Amazon AWS.  I would never go near Microsoft Azure, even though it too runs on Linux, not Windows.

        4. They're directly responsible for most of the computer bugs and security problems in the world. 

          Windows computers have no security.  Only obscurity.  Even if they do lock a door, they always leave a key under the mat.  So anyone can get in easily. 

          If you're reading this on a Windows PC, you can be pretty sure that your computer is part of a botnet.  It's being used to attack lots of computers around the world.  So when a hacker takes down our electric grid, defense systems, or some other critical piece of infrastructure, your PC may well have been a foot soldier in the attack. See:
        5. They are dishonorable people. 

          Even the "Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation" is tainted.  It's a charitable foundation that Bill Gates is using to try to redeem himself after making a huge fortune at our expense.

          But he can't resist double-dipping.  Whenever he makes a donation to the foundation, it makes the news.  And whenever the foundation uses that SAME money for some worthwhile cause, it makes the news AGAIN.  He doesn't actually give away that much money.  He just brags about it a lot.  Typical Microsoft -- mediocre product, very aggressive marketing.

          Even worse, much (most?) of the money did not come from Bill or Melinda Gates at all.  Warren Buffet is too busy to create his own foundation, but wanted to do some good in the world.  So he donated $37 billion to the Gates foundation.  How much is the foundation currently worth?  $36 billion.  Coincidence?  I think not.

          Other companies donate more than Microsoft, and don't feel the need to brag about it.  For example, you've been to http://google.COM tens of thousands of times by now, right?  Ever heard of http://google.ORG?

          That's the web site for the Google Foundation, where Google quietly documents its philanthropic stuff.  Google donates $100 million here, $1 billion there, 1 million employee hours to the other, etc.  All relatively quietly with few or no press releases.  See:

          And Google's not the only one.  Here's a list of the top 10 US companies for charitable donations in 2017.  Microsoft just barely made the list at #10:

          1. Gilead Sciences
          2. Wells Fargo
          3. Goldman Sachs
          4. Google
          5. JPMorgan Chase
          6. Johnson & Johnson,
          7. Pfizer,
          8. ExxonMobil
          9. Bank of America.
          10. Microsoft

          See:

          But everyone thinks it's all Microsoft.  As I said, very good marketing!

        Anyhow, they've been eclipsed by Google, Amazon and so many other tech companies that I have no need to use their products.  And no interest in buying their stock.

        --Fred

      16. Amazon
        Oracle --> Berkshire Hathaway
        Oracle --> Amazon
        UPS --> Amazon
        Comcast --> Amazon
        Comcast --> Google

        Original Version: 2/8/2017
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        In early 2017, I finally realized I should have bought Amazon in 2009 when I first discovered Amazon Web Services.  As I said above, I'd moved all of my servers and all of my clients' servers to AWS, but never thought to buy the stock, which had gone up 10X by then.  If someone had offered me AWS stock, I'd have jumped on it, but I didn't know how big a piece of Amazon AWS was, so it never occurred to me to buy Amazon stock.  I've tripled my money, but could have done 10X better than that (30X).  Doh!  Anyone got a time machine handy?

        Once I thought about it, I was all in.  I realized that AWS, Amazon Prime, Alexa, AI and so many other moves by Amazon were paying off big time.  I bought a bunch of Amazon stock (now my biggest single holding) by selling all of my Oracle (which was losing in the cloud to AWS).  And my Comcast (cord-cutters were moving to Amazon Prime).  And my UPS (Amazon was starting their own truck/drone deliveries, and owning Amazon itself is a better bet than just the company that delivers their packages).

        Good move!  It's tripled since then.  And doing great during the Coronavirus #TrumpSlump since everyone's shopping from home.  2 months later, it's UP 9% while the Dow is DOWN 17%.  And with all the new successful products from Amazon all the time, I'm hoping to ride it upward for many years.

        [2/27/2021 Update]

        Still loving the Amazon stock.  I read recently that AWS has $40 billion/year revenue, and is 77% of Amazon profit.  It's really dominated the entire company.  CEO Jeff Bezos has named his successor -- Andy Jassy who has run AWS since it started in 2003.  Amazon is up another 30% since 4/19/2020, so I'm now 4X since 2017.

        [6/3/2021 Update]

        Just tripped across some info about how much Amazon donates to charity and helps the world:

        --Fred

      17. Bitcoin

        Original Version: 12/11/2017
        Last Updated: 4/7/2021

        I'm still studying this one.  It's very volatile and a huge risk.

        But there's so much buzz about it, with countries and stock exchanges and banks and vendors all starting to recognize it, make policies about it, etc.  Bitcoin, or something like it, is likely to be the way of the future, but it could crash badly if someone breaks the blockchain encryption, or if the recent hacks and thefts of Bitcoin continue.  Or if the cost and complexity of transactions keeps going up as it has been, because of the computations required to manage an increasingly long blockchain.

        Or it may just turn out to be the "Beta Max" instead of the "VHS", the "OS/2" instead of the "Windows".  There are hundreds of other cryptocurrencies, and one of them may dominate instead of Bitcoin.  It will probably be a "winner takes all" situation, with all the others crashing to zero.  But at the moment, Bitcoin has the largest market share by far.  So much that all the alternatives to Bitcoin are being lumped under the single name "altcoins".  And it's the one getting all the attention from banks, governments, stock exchanges, etc.

        There's an advisor out there saying "The dumbest thing you could do is INVEST A LOT in Bitcoin, but the 2nd dumbest thing you could do is to NOT INVEST ANY".

        So, in late 2017, I decided to invest enough that my retirement fund would grow hugely if it really takes off.  But little enough that I'm still OK if it goes to zero.  I missed the best window, since it had already gone up 14X so far that year.

        [4/19/2020 Update]

        It nearly doubled in the first week.  I was very excited.  But, pretty soon it crashed hard.  I lost all of my gains, and dropped to a 10% loss overall.  Ouch!  Since then, it's been a wild ride.  Major ups and downs, but mostly down.  It's been bouncing around lately at a loss of about 40-60%. 

        We'll see how it works out long term.  Can't really recommend it, but I've dipped my toe in.  We'll see...

        [10/16/2020 Update]

        Still very volatile.  It's been bouncing around for 2 years or so at about 30-60% of what I paid for it (a 40-70% loss).  Looks like I bought in at the wrong time.  Too close to the peak.  I'll just sit on it for a while since I've already lost most of my money...

        [2/5/2021 Update]

        Bitcoin is turning out to be somewhat of a contrarian.  For the past few months, it often goes up when the rest of the market goes down, and vice versa.  But not reliably.  Sometimes they move in sync.  They both crashed during the 3rd #TrumpSlump in March, and have both recovered gradually since then. 

        But with all the chaos surrounding the election, Bitcoin has taken some huge jumps.  Every time there's any uncertainty, it jumps a lot.  And when things calm down, it drops a bit.  All in all, an erratic but dramatic climb.  It's tripled since the election.  Now back to nearly double my original investment.

        Especially during the lead-up to the Capitol riots, when it looked like we might actually have a 2nd Civil War, and the stock market in general was kind of in "wait and see" mode.  Major climb before Jan 6, and once it all fizzled, a major drop.  But still double my investment, so I'm glad I didn't sell.

        [2/8/2021 Update]

        Big news!  Tesla bought $1.5 billion of Bitcoin.  See:

        That's a major vote of confidence, so it went up by 20%.  Other major companies have been buying Bitcoin recently too.  So maybe it will finally stabilize?  We'll see...

        Recent purchases:

        • Tesla -- $1.5B
          • Also plans to accept Bitcoin as payment for cars
        • MicroStrategy -- $425M last summer
        • Square -- $50M in October
          • Also allows users to buy Bitcoin through its Cash App
          • Jack Dorsey is CEO of both Square and Twitter
        • Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co -- $100M in December

        Other company interest:

        • Overstock allows customers to make purchases with Bitcoin
        • PayPal allows users to buy/sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies
        • PayPal plans to allow its customers to make payments with Bitcoin
        • Dell experimented with Bitcoin in 2014, 2015, but dropped it
        • Expedia experimented with Bitcoin in 2014, 2015, but dropped it

        [2/10/2021 Update]

        Mastercard plans to support Bitcoin and a few other cryptocurrencies on its network soon.  Already issues crypto cards, but not yet using its main network.

        Exciting times!  Could keep climbing like crazy.  I think everyone should buy a little.  But as I said, not more than you can afford to lose.  It may still all suddenly come crashing down to zero.

        [4/7/2021 Update]

        With so many major players jumping on board, Bitcoin may have finally made it to the big leagues.  I'm now up 2.5X (150% gain).

        --Fred

      18. Dropbox
        Spotify
        Dropbox --> Uber
        Spotify --> Lyft

        Original Version: 4/23/2018
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Bought Dropbox and Spotify when they took off, but got in too late.  Sold later to break even, or at a loss.  Bought Uber and Lyft.

        --Fred

      19. Atlassian

        Original Version: 6/14/2018
        Last Updated: 2/24/2021

        In 2018, Microsoft bought GitHub, a software code repository.  I knew the FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) community that uses GitHub would hate this.  They know better than to trust Microsoft to store their code securely and privately. 

        I figured they would all bail on GitHub and move to BitBucket.  Since they both use Git as their underlying mechanism, it's REALLY easy to move an entire repo from one site to another, without losing any of the project history.  

        Atlassian owns BitBucket, as well as Jira, Confluence, and a few other best-of-breed software tools that everyone I know uses.  So, I jumped in quick and bought Atlassian stock.  Brilliant move!  As expected, it more than doubled in the next year and a half.

        Then the Coronavirus #TrumpSlump hit, and it hardly batted an eye.  As with the 1st and 2nd #TrumpSlumps (see Salesforce), it dropped a bit and quickly recovered.  It's now at an all-time high, 4X what I paid for it, and rising like crazy. 

        Because all of the Atlassian tools are perfect for WFH (work from home).  Now EVERYONE is using Jira, Confluence, and BitBucket.  Not just the software developers.  EVERYONE, in all sorts of jobs.  Just like they're all using email, Slack, and Zoom.  This is a stock to watch!

        [2/24/2021 Update]

        People were right to doubt Microsoft's ability to keep GitHub secure.  There have been a couple of breakins since they bought it.  I prefer BitBucket and GitLab because Microsoft really doesn't have a clue about security and likes to add "cool" new features without considering the security ramifications.  For details, see Not Microsoft.

        --Fred

      20. Netflix

        Original Version: 7/17/2018
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Bought Netflix late.  In 2018, because it had suddenly crashed by 13%.  Erratic for 18 months, then took off like crazy during the Coronavirus, with everyone stuck at home.  That will stick, now that people have bought subscriptions and gotten used to having it.  Up 20% in under 2 years, and climbing fast.

        --Fred

      21. Facebook

        Original Version: 7/25/2018
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        I waited a long time on Facebook because I don't really get it.  It's a great way to waste a lot of time.  But not a good way to keep up with friends and family.  There's just too much stuff there.  From too many different people.  All munged together.  You're likely to miss important things.  And people will resent you not knowing and not responding.

        I see lots of misunderstandings happening, and it's only going to get worse.  After all these years, it's too late to call Facebook a passing fad.  But I was very hesitant.  Also, their software is buggy and annoying.  I hoped a competitor like Google+ would dominate and do it better.  But that hasn't happened.  Google+ pushed Facebook to get better.  But eventually Google+ gave up.  Facebook won.

        Finally, in 2018, Facebook stock crashed by 24% for no good reason, so I bought some.  Doing OK.  It rose 27% in 18 months, then crashed 30% with everything else in the #TrumpSlump.  But it's recovering fast with everyone stuck at home.  I'm now even again.

        --Fred

      22. Salesforce

        Original Version: 11/28/2018
        Last Updated: 4/6/2021

        I watched Salesforce as its market share grew.  Wanted to buy, but waited for a good price.  And had other, even more promising, stocks to spend my limited money on.  I didn't act quick enough when the entire stock market dropped 12% in the 1st #TrumpSlump (1Q2018).  I did jump in and buy during the 2nd #TrumpSlump (4Q2018) when the entire market dropped 15%.  Salesforce then shot up 35% in 15 months.

        It's still up 15% after the 3rd #TrumpSlump (1Q2020) where the entire market dropped 37% and then pulled back to DOWN 15%.

        Got a good price, but still should have bought sooner.  Salesforce seems to have some real resilience.  The 3 #TrumpSlumps have each been worse than the previous, dropping by larger percentages to lower lows.  But Salesforce keeps climbing.

        In the 1st #TrumpSlump (1Q2018), the Dow dropped 12% to 24,100.  In the 2nd #TrumpSlump (4Q2018), the Dow dropped even lower -- 15% to 22,445.  In the 3rd #TrumpSlump (1Q2020), the Dow dropped even lower again -- 37% to 18,591.

        But at each of those consecutive lows, Salesforce stock was higher and higher -- 114, then 122, then 134.  And recovering MUCH more dramatically each time than the Dow.  Now at 162.  Nice!

        So, why does Salesforce keep climbing?  Partly because, like Jira, Bitbucket, and Confluence of Atlassian, it's a great product for WFH (work from home).

        [4/6/2021 Update]

        Yeah, Salesforce has been a good bet.  It's now at $221.  I'm up 58% in less than 2.5 years.

        --Fred

      23. Uber
        Lyft

        Original Version: 2/11/2020
        Last Updated: 4/19/2020

        Uber and Lyft were both doing well, but are getting crushed by the Coronavirus #TrumpSlump.  No one's going anywhere.  They both have a lot of cash to survive the short term.  And even if they can't transport people, they can still do deliveries of food and other items.

        They also have a lot of potential in the long term.  The food delivery business they grow now will last beyond the pandemic.  Their ride-hailing business will resume.  And they're investing in self-driving cars, which will bring their costs way down some day.

        Uber is down 32%.  Lyft is down 46%.  Both climbing fast for the past month.  I'm not worried.

        --Fred

      24. Tesla

        Original Version: 2/20/2020
        Last Updated: 2/8/2021

        Bought very late.  I'm a huge Elon Musk fan.  I'd love to buy stock in the guy himself.  Couldn't decide between Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, etc.  But SpaceX is still private, and SolarCity is owned by Tesla, so Tesla is the only real choice.  Waited and it went up.  Waited some more and it went up more.  Finally used the last of my spare cash to buy on Feb 2020, as it was climbing 6-9% PER DAY.

        [4/19/2020 Update]

        It crashed with everything else during the 3rd #TrumpSlump.  But, it's more than doubled in the past month, nearly back to its all-time high.  Also, Telsa is making a good name for itself.  Manufacturing medical equipment for Conoravirus.  Treating employees well during forced plant shutdowns.  Will come out of this strong.  I'm down 14% but not worried.

        [2/8/2021 Update]

        Tesla came roaring back after the March crash.  Re-gained all of its losses by June, and then started climbing even faster.  It's now worth 5X what I paid just a year ago.

        --Fred

      25. Riding Trump's coat tails

        Original Version: 3/29/2018
        Last Updated: 4/20/2020

        I've managed to ride Trump's coat tails for some of my purchases.  Kept some cash handy to buy companies like Amazon as soon as he bashed them on Twitter.  Like him, I bought just after he'd knocked the price down a bit, just before they continued their climbs.

        Stock market "froth" is extremely profitable if you can cause it!  I can't cause it like Trump can, but I can observe it and draw conclusions.  He tosses a rock in the water, knowing he'll cause ripples.  I'm sure he and his cronies sell just before tossing the rock, and buy just after.  I can't know when the rock will hit, but I know the ripples will die down as he gets distracted and lumbers off.  I'm not raking in the profits that he must be, but I have done pretty well.

        See:

        --Fred

      26. Volkswagen

        Original Version: 12/30/1982
        Last Updated: 4/6/2021

        I've been a Volkswagen fan my whole life.  My family owned VW buses and VW Rabbits when I was a kid.  The 1st car I bought for myself was a 1982 VW Rabbit that I drove for the next 18 years.  My 2nd car was a 2000 VW Golf (new name for Rabbit) that I drove for another 17 years.  I love driving them.  Some summers, I took them on 5-week driving tours.  All the way to California and back, seeing lots of national parks.  (Of course, having a cheap, reliable and competent auto mechanic is key!  I strongly recommend Gallagher's Auto in Malvern PA and K&S Auto in Frazer PA.)

        Aside from the durability and reliability of both cars, I really liked the low maintenance costs.  And the overall well-engineered feel.  All the controls, indicators, meters, etc., were exactly where they belonged.  Little things that most cars ignored were well done.

        Even trivial details like the fact that all 4 of the meter needles typically pointed straight up, so it was easy to spot if something was a little off.  Normal engine temperature was vertical.  Speedometer and tachometer were both vertical at normal highway speeds.  Even the gas gauge was vertical at half a tank of gas.

        But, my wife bought a used Toyota Prius in 2013, and we loved the fact that it was a gas-electric hybrid.  She got 50 MPG, compared to the 30 MPG of my VW.  So, when I took a "half" road trip in 2015 (flew to Oregon and drove home with a nephew), I rented a Prius hybrid.  Paid $10/day more to rent it, compared to the econobox I had originally considered.  But saved $15-20/day in gas costs!  Nice!

        Even better, the Prius had REALLY good performance.  Great acceleration!  An electric motor has MUCH higher torque at low speeds than a gasoline engine.  Ever notice the sudden jerk when you hit the trigger of an electric circular saw?  Zero to "Oops, I cut my hand off!" in just a second or 2.

        Same for the Prius, starting up at a traffic light or accelerating to pass someone in traffic.  I'd be sitting in the right lane at a light and realize I needed to be in the left lane soon for a turn.  No problem!  Just floor it when the light changed, and easily pass the guy to my left.  Pull in to his lane way ahead of him in plenty of time to make my turn.  Nice!

        And at highway speeds, with both gas engine and electric motor, the acceleration is also great.  My nephew and I drove through some pretty empty countryside on the way home from Oregon.  The ground was flat, the roads were straight, and the traffic was non-existent.  So, the speed limits were higher.  Typically 80-85 MPH, not 55-65 like the East Coast.  And with the ground so flat and no trees, there's absolutely NOWHERE for a speed trap to hide.  So everyone drives even faster.

        Since the roads are so empty, there's often only one lane in each direction.  So, you occasionally come up behind an 18-wheeler lumbering along at the painfully slow speed of only 95 MPH.  Whatcha gonna do?  Want to drive 500-700 miles today.  Can't just sit here waiting.  No problem!  Tap the accelerator, bopping up to 110 MPH, and pass the truck.

        So, now I had a dilemma.  My aging VW Golf was running fine, but I liked the hybrid better.  I figured I'd wait till the VW died, and then buy a hybrid.  Maybe VW would be making one by then.

        Or if Tesla would build more charging stations around the country, maybe I'd buy an EV (electric vehicle) and never have to buy gasoline again.  The prices were getting tempting.  Teslas no longer cost $80,000 and up.  They introduced the Model 3 for only $35,000.  About the same price as most SUVs.  But the charging stations were key for my road trips.  Don't want to be scrambling to find a charging station in beautiful downtown LookAtAllTheCows, Wyoming. 

        In 2017, it got decided for me.  My aunt passed away, and the family was looking to sell her 2011 Toyota Prius.  I bought it and gave the 2000 VW Golf to a nephew.

        I'm loving the great gas mileage and the performance.  From Malvern PA, I can drive 150 miles to Reston VA to visit my brother, and back.  And then 100 miles to the Jersey shore for a beach day, and back.  And then finally pull in to the local Malvern gas station.  500 miles on one 10-gallon tank of gas!  Nice!

        But, I do miss the well-engineered feel of a VW.  I've watched for them to get into the hybrid or EV market.  They've dabbled it in, but not committed like Toyota and Telsa.  So, I keep driving the Prius.

        VW stock has been tempting for years.  They now own Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Ducati, etc.  Very solid financials.  May eventually buy BMW, Mercedes, and other German brands.

        Yesterday, 3/15/2021, I spotted the announcement that VW is jumping into EVs with both feet.  Building 6 "gigafactories" to produce car batteries.  Planning to install 18,000 charging stations.  Wants to overtake Tesla as the #1 EV company.  Hoping to sell 1 million EVs in 2021, and 5 million/year soon.  Seems entirely possible.  The whole world is going electric.  The UK and the entire EU are planning to stop sales of gasoline and diesel cars by 2030.  See:

        Just what I'd been waiting for!  I bought a bunch of VW stock (VWAGY).  No cash left, so I had to sell some Amazon stock to do it.  But Amazon has grown so much in recent years that it had gotten to be well over 20% of my entire portfolio.  And has been growing much slower for the past 6 months or so, after its huge COVID bump.  Not a bad time to sell.

        Brilliant move!  VW popped almost 20% overnight.  My profit in one day is more than the combined cost of my first 2 cars.  Nice!  It will probably settle some today and tomorrow.  But I think it'll keep climbing after that.

        [3/17/2021 update]

        Yeah, it settled a bit before the end of the day yesterday.  Finished only 11% up.  But it's jumped another 33% today, so I'm not complaining.  Now up 48% since I bought it 2 days ago.  We'll see where it goes from here.  I think the EV potential is huge, and VW is well positioned to dominate the market for many years.

        I'm not a day trader.  As usual, I plan to hold on to it for a long time.

        [3/18/2021 update]

        Dropped 15% today.  What a ride!  I'm not sure why it's so volatile.  Too many day traders trying to time it, perhaps?  I'm still up 25%.  No worries...

        [3/24/2021 update]

        Still volatile.  Down 5% Friday, up 12.5% Monday, down 6% Tuesday, down 7% so far today (at 2pm).  I'm still up 17% since I bought 9 days ago.  No worries...

        [4/6/2021 update]

        Stabilizing some.  Especially, big gains, but no more big drops.  Down 2% Thursday, down 1% Friday, up 7% Monday, up 9% Tuesday, down 4% Wednesday, down 2% Thursday, up 5% Monday, flat today.  I'm up 29% in 3 weeks.

        --Fred

  4. What to buy during COVID

    Original Version: 4/20/2020
    Last Updated: 3/22/2021

    Keep in mind that I'm not a CPA, CFP, or any other kind of "certified".  And keep in mind that I've made some bad calls.  But I'd recommend any of the stocks I'm currently holding.  (At least I put my money where my mouth is!)  See my buys and sells at: "Specific stocks".

    I'm now out of cash.  Except for the 2 years living expenses that I always keep to the side so I can to ride out any storms without having to sell stocks.  So, I can't buy anything new, unless I sell something first.

    I've always kept 1/2 of my total in Vanguard Index 500 and just "played" with the other half, buying and selling the stocks above.  So, I COULD sell some of that to buy more stocks.  Bad idea.  Not gonna do it.

    Also, I own my house free and clear.  So I COULD take out a mortgage and use that to buy more stocks.  That's a form of "leveraging".  Bad idea.  Not gonna do it.  But the interest rates are SO low now!  How could you NOT?  Bad idea.  Still not gonna do it.  I have a low tolerance for risk, and want to be able to sleep at night.

    If I WERE buying new, I'd be looking at things like the following.  My specific recommendations are tagged with [Fred].  Those from other people are tagged with their names.

    Recent additions/updates:

    --Fred

  5. What NOT to buy during COVID

    Original Version: 5/15/2020
    Last Updated: 7/17/2020

    Keep in mind that I'm not a CPA, CFP, or any other kind of "certified".  And keep in mind that I've made some bad calls.  But my stock picks over the past 10 years seem to have been pretty solid.  See my buys and sells at: "Specific stocks".

    Like everyone else, I took a big hit when the 3rd #TrumpSlump hit suddenly in 1Q2020.  I dropped almost 30%, while the Dow Jones dropped 37% and the S&P 500 dropped 34%.  But I'm now fully recovered (up 1%), while they're still down 14% and 10%.  So maybe I HAVE learned a thing or two.

    Anyhow, here are some stocks I'd stay away from.  I don't own any of them, so I'm not selling.  Just sitting tight with what I've got.  My specific sell recommendations are tagged with [Fred].  Those from other people are tagged with their names.

    Recent additions/updates:

    --Fred

  6. What to buy as COVID ends

    Original Version: 3/9/2021
    Last Updated: 3/10/2021

    Keep in mind that I'm not a CPA, CFP, or any other kind of "certified".  And keep in mind that I've made some bad calls.  But I'd recommend any of the stocks I'm currently holding.  (At least I put my money where my mouth is!)  See my buys and sells at: "Specific stocks".

    Some of the stocks that were temporarily crushed by COVID may get a big bump as the vaccines roll out, and as Biden and Fauci safely re-open the economy.  So there are some buying opportunities as depressed stocks climb back to their former levels, and as new companies emerge.

    Here are some specific recommendations.  Mine are tagged with [Fred].  Those from other people are tagged with their names.

    Recent additions/updates:

    --Fred

  7. What NOT to buy as COVID ends

    Original Version: 3/9/2021
    Last Updated: 3/10/2021

    Keep in mind that I'm not a CPA, CFP, or any other kind of "certified".  And keep in mind that I've made some bad calls.  But my stock picks over the past 10 years seem to have been pretty solid.  See my buys and sells at: "Specific stocks".

    The end of the COVID crisis will hurt some stocks, or at least not help them.  4 reasons:

    1. High-flying stocks may settle

      Some companies that got a real boost from COVID will settle a bit.  But others will continue to grow since COVID got them over the hump, with people now in the habit of using them, signed up for subscriptions, etc.  Have to consider each company separately.

      Companies to watch:

      • High-flying tech and communication companies
      • WFH (work from home) companies
      • e-Commerce (shop from home) companies
      • Delivery companies
      • Learn from home companies
      • Other company categories listed in "What to buy during COVID"

      I'm not selling any of mine yet, because I'm pretty satisfied with their fundamentals, and future growth potential.  But I'm lowering my expectations for growth in the next few months.

    2. Glutted the market with their products

      Some companies sold so much product during COVID that there's now a glut on the market, so sales will lag for a while.

      Companies to watch:

      • Furniture
      • Home appliances
      • Electronics
      • Home improvement
      • Bicycles
      • Home exercise equipment
        (Sales of physical equpment will drop, but ongoing subscriptions to workout programs will help.)
      • Survivalist supply companies
      • Other company categories listed in "What to buy during COVID"
    3. Slow-recovering companies may be overtaken

      Some companies that were hurt by COVID will recover too slowly to keep up with their rapidly recovering competition.

      Companies to watch:

    4. Lost their market permanently

      Some companies permanently lost their markets, or at least a large piece of it.  People bought alternatives, and will stay with them.  Or just learned to do without.  Such companies won't recover unless they pivot to a new market.

      Here are some stocks I'd stay away from.  I don't own any of them, so I'm not selling.  But I sure wouldn't be buying right now, unless you think they've bottomed out and have nowhwere to go but up.  My specific sell recommendations are tagged with [Fred].  Those from other people are tagged with their names.

      • Commercial office space
        • Short term: Employees are not going back to the office.  Not in the numbers they were.  People have learned they prefer to work from home, at least a couple days per week.  Companies are seeing the advantages.  Both have gotten over the hump of setting up the infrastructure.
        • Long term: Companies will reduce office sizes, assigning less space per employee, and having more space shared by different employees on different days
        • Long term: No one will be renting the space given up by shrinking companies, so there will be a glut on the market
        • [Fred] Specific companies to avoid?

      • Some of the other company categories listed in "What NOT to buy during COVID"

    Others?  Send me your thoughts and I'll update this list.

    Recent additions/updates:

    --Fred

  8. NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens)

    1. NFT success story: Beeple

      Original Version: 3/27/2021
      Last Updated: 4/9/2021

      Are you an artist?  Interested in selling your artwork for profit?

      Have you been following the buzz about NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens)?  It's a way to use blockchain technology to provide a "certificate of authenticity" when you sell your artwork, or other collectibles.

      That makes them much more valuable.  And allows you to collect additional royalties each time the same item is resold to a new buyer.

      Here's an interesting story of an artist who made a fortune (over $73 million) in the past 6 months...

      Beeple without NFT: $100

      Digital artist "Beeple" (Mike Winkelmann) started producing digital artworks (drawings, edited photos, and short videos) in 2007.  One per day, every day, for nearly 14 years.

      He now has over 5,000 artworks.  Was selling prints for up to $100 through his social media network which grew to 2.5 million followers.  Made a name for himself.  Did some concert visuals for Justin Bieber, One Direction, Katy Perry, Eminem, Nicki Minaj, Zedd, deadmau5, etc.

      Beeple with NFT: $67,000 times 2

      He recently started selling his artworks as NFTs.  Sold a pair in Oct 2020 for $66,666.66 each. 

      Beeple with NFT: $3.5 million

      He sold another series in Dec 2020 for $3.5 million.

      Beeple with NFT: Additional $660,000

      The buyer of one of the Oct pair has already re-sold it for 100 times as much as he paid: $6.6 million.  Here's the artwork (a 10-sec video):

      Beeple gets a 10% royalty via the NFT each time the artwork is re-sold from one owner to another.  So, in addition to the $66,666.66 that he originally sold it for, he got another $660,000.00 (10 times as much) from that re-sale:

      Beeple with NFT: $69 million

      Most recently, Beeple sold a single artwork (a collage of his first 5,000 artworks) as an NFT for $69 million through an auction at Christie's:

      Here's the collage (click the "Super Zoom" link at the bottom to see it better):

      More about Beeple

      Jack Dorsey

      And of course, it was big news when Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter) recently sold his very first tweet (from March 21, 2006) for $2.9 million:

      Interesting times...

      Costs

      But there are some startup costs, and some recurring costs, so, it's not all pure profit.  See the tips below.

      --Fred

    2. Warning about NFT costs

      Original Version: 3/27/2021
      Last Updated: 3/27/2021

      Here's an article by my Philly friend Peter Erickson about selling his own first NFT artwork, and the costs that cut into his profit:

      Here's the artwork Peter sold:

      Also, subscriber Jody Rabenau points out that NFTs are "VERY polarizing, especial among gen Z artists.  The massive carbon footprint for this and crypto in general is very much a concern that's heatedly discussed." 

      Jody is absoltely right.  The whole power consumption aspect of blockchain is pretty bad.  Has to be addressed.  I think there are technology answers.  But people aren't looking into them hard enough yet.  See:

      --Fred

    3. More info about NFTs

      Original Version: 3/27/2021
      Last Updated: 3/27/2021

      Here's more info about NFTs:

      1. An article about the local Philly community of artists, and some success stories:
        https://technical.ly/philly/2021/03/16/aaron-ricketts-non-fungible-tokens-nft-explainer/

      2. An NFT Explainer:
        https://www.theverge.com/22310188/nft-explainer-what-is-blockchain-crypto-art-faq

      3. NFTs are supported mostly by Ethereum.  Not yet Bitcoin, but probably soon.  Here's info on support by TRON cryptocurrency:
        https://dappradar.com/blog/tron-introduces-nft-standard-trc-721

      4. NFTs are a form of "dapps" (trustless "decentralized apps") using blockchain:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decentralized_application

      --Fred

  9. Agents

    1. How agents SHOULD be paid

      Original Version: 11/1/1991
      Last Updated: 4/6/2021

      Here are my thought on how realtors, financial advisors and all other agents SHOULD be paid.

      Currently they get paid a percent of your ASSETS that they're working with.  Instead, they should be paid a percent of the PROFIT they make you.

      How realtors are currently paid

      For example, I bought my first house in 1988 for $143,000.  Sold it 2.5 years later for $157,000.  Put over $15,000 into it meanwhile -- tile floors, new roof, tore down and rebuilt defective chimney, realtor commissions for purchase and sale, etc.  So I actually lost money overall.

      When I first chose a realtor, she suggested a price of $160,000.  Total realtor commissions paid by me for the sale were to be 3% ($4,800).  I'd have come out about even.  And since I'd already spent the money on the improvements, I'd have walked away with about $15,000 to use as a down payment on my next house.  Fine.  Not great, but acceptable.

      When she had trouble finding a buyer at that price, she quickly suggested I drop the price to $150,000.  Didn't bother her a bit.  Her commission was still 3% ($4,500), so she would lose only $300.  But I would lose $10,000, and would not have a down payment for my next house!

      If she later had me drop the price another $10,000, that also wouldn't have bothered her much.  Her commission would still be 3% ($4,200), so she would lose only another $300.  But I would lose another $10,000!  I'd be "upside down" -- owing more to the bank than the sale price of the house.  I wouldn't even be able to pay off the mortgage!

      That's when I knew there was a problem.  Her interests were not at all aligned with mine.  I wanted to sell the house for enough to be able to buy another house.  She just wanted to sell the house -- for any price that happened to come along.  She was counting on selling lots of houses that year and not putting too much effort into any one house.  I was counting on selling one house that year, and was willing to work to get a good price.  Totally different!

      How realtors should be paid

      Instead of paying her 3% of the TOTAL sale price, I should have been paying her a much larger percent of the PROFIT I made on the house.  That would have aligned our interests and she would have started working FOR ME, not just to close the deal at whatever price was easy.

      She knew how much I owed on the house and how much I had put into improvements.  She should have been trying to help me get at least that much money from the sale.

      Even if we left aside the improvements, and just focused on the balance of the mortgage, she should have been trying to sell for at least that much.  But she just wanted to close this deal and move on to her next deal.  "Time is money!"...

      We should have changed our arrangement.  Instead of 3% of the sale price, I should have offered her 30% of the cash I got from the sale.  My mortgage balance was just over $140,000.  If we sold for $160,000, I'd have walked away with $20,000 and given her $6,000 of it.  If she talked me into lowering the price to $150,000, I'd get $10,000 and give her $3,000.  At $140,000, I'd get nothing and she'd get nothing.  Now that's motivation!

      How financial advisors are currently paid

      I feel the same way about financial advisors.  Why should I pay them 1% of my total assets each year?  If my total nest egg for retirement is $1 million, they get paid $10,000/year.  If it doesn't grow at all, they still get $10,000.  If it drops to $800,000, they still get $8,000.  I lose $200,000 and they lose only $2,000.  If it grows to $1.2 million, they get $12,000.  I gain $200,000 and they gain only $2,000.  So, they don't really care much how my investments do.

      Assuming they want to earn $100,000/year, they just need to find 10 clients like me.  In a bad year, they can recover their losses by picking up a couple more clients.  There's no difference between 12.5 paying $8,000 versus 10 paying $10,000.  They still make $100,000, despite the fact that each client lost $200,000.

      How financial advisors should be paid

      My realtor above was motivated to sell my house at any price, doing as little work as possible and moving on to the next sale.  In the same way, my financial advisor would be motivated to take on as many clients as possible, do as little work as possible for each, and collect about $10,000/year from each.

      The same fix I suggest for the realtor works here too.  Instead of paying the financial advisor 1% of my total ASSETS, I should offer her 10% of my total GAIN.  That would align our interests.  In a year when I gain $200,000, she'd be paid $20,000.  When I break even or lose money, she gets nothing.  Suddenly, she DOES care how my investments do.

      If she has 10 clients, she can't recover the slight drop in fees by picking up a couple additional clients.  12.5 times zero is no better than 10 times zero.  Instead, she has to work harder to actively and intelligently manage my investments.

      Anyone know a financial advisor who works that way?  Let me know!

      Like their clients, they'd need to keep a cash buffer to be able to survive the bad years.  But they could probably make a LOT more money overall.

      Same for all agents

      The same should be true for all agents, of all sorts.  It's already true for most salespeople.  They get paid a percent of the price of the items they sell.  Not a percent of the total value of the company!

      --Fred