Reference Materials

One of the very nice things about not having to worry about my credibility is that I really don’t need to reference my material.

It’s such a welcome relief from the days past when my every word and opinion had to be referenced and sourced. Sometimes science, health care and other endeavors that require a factual basis and knowledge of those facts can be a real drag.

Although, to give myself some well-deserved credit, I was always reasonably good at fabricating supporting facts that sounded as if they were equally reasonable.

Often, people wouldn’t question me, likely because they respected the fact that I had previously served as Prime Minister of Togo. That buys instant credibility, being in the 37th percentile of past public servants that are also faintly knowledgeable in basic stock investing.

Look it up.

Now, whatever I write is essentially no different than the unfiltered words and thoughts that may emanate from a child or an idiot, including the drool.

These days, just about the only time I avail myself of the vast informational database that is so readily available is to check my spelling. That in itself confuses me, because I really don’t care very much about that level of detail. Besides, the human mind, when reading is really indifferent to spelling. Key mis-spellings, in fact, help to focus attention.

Szelhamos always used to say “it’s good enough,” when referring to any accomplishment related to a task at hand.

There was a time, like for so many of us, that I was a wunderkind in both math and spelling.

Obviously, technology made those portions of the brain go dormant. What’s even worse is that despite looking up the correct spelling of words, I seem to continually have to return for the very same word each and every time I can’t think of a synonym whose spelling I already know.

The ability to learn or retain is gone, as is my bank of ready to go synonyms.

The word that I find myself checking most often is when I’m making a reference to the “Oracle of Omaha.”

Chris Christie Finally Meets a Buffett he doesn't LikeToday, Governor Chris Christie, the man who had New Jersey’s flags fly at half mast in honor of Whitney Houston, was pretty blunt about how he felt regarding the wealthy paying more in taxes than they were required by the existing tax code.

Whereas I may have some difficulty with the spelling of the name, Governor Christie clearly knows the difference between “Buffett” and “Buffet.”

In at least one regard, I don’t.

Neither the politics nor the fairness of the tax code really interests me, although I suppose it should, as increasingly I’ve become dependent on short term capital gains and dividends.

Instead, I’m focused on the buffet.

Over the course of a lifetime I’ve had the opportunity to try a wide range of those all you can eat delights, ranging from the “truly hideous” to the “beyond elegant.”

At it’s most basic, the “all you can eat” strategy at the Howard Johnson restaurants of generations ago was a great deal, as long as you liked fried fish on Tuesday night or fried chicken on Thursday night and didn’t mind the embarrassment of asking the waitress for more.

And more.

If you didn’t mind putting it all in one basket and relying on a server, life was great on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Sort of reminds me of what it was like when I first started investing and didn’t really have very much in the way of assets to simultaneously own shares in a second or third company. You lived dangerously when it was all riding on one company. I guess, the stockbroker was a bit different from that HoJo waitress in that he always kept coming to me to see if I had more.

For a long time I didn’t.

I wanted more, just didn’t have it. Just like at HoJo, ice cream dessert cost extra.

Maybe it’s “desert.” The buffett didn’t include desert.

The buffet is the perfect example of how great it is to have the ability to be diversified in your choices.

Not mutual fund diversified. That’s just throwing everything into a single pot without the opportunity to take more of the good and less of the chicken necks. ETF’s are probably very much the same, just cheaper and you can dip in or out whenever you like..

Of my two sons, the oldest one is now at the stage that I was in a long time ago. He’s still at the undiversified stage of his investment life, but he has so many more options available to him, including options. Making me especially proud is that he’s taking advantage of the ability to trade in different vehicles without really doing the legwork.

We’re a lazy stock of people.

Back when I first started investing I thought that I would conquer every bit of data and would understand all of the nuances in assessing the potential of any stock that I wanted to include in the buffet that I wanted to create.

Back then, if you were lucky enough to live near a large enough library, you could access the old Value Line publications and their bi-weekly updates, if someone hadn’t already ripped them out of the binder. For the most part, whatever reference materials were available were hard to obtain, but at least they had a relatively long half life.

Things just didn’t change that quickly. Bi-weekly updates of the Value Line were more than enough.

Still, the reference materials were out of reach for the most part, unless you were in that hallowed group that subscribed. Think of that group as those that would go to sophisticated sit down dinners, but still having as many delectable courses from which to choose, as you had from your cheap buffet line.

I never made it to that august group, mostly because I never really came to appreciate the value of the reference materials.

Besides, unlike the science and health care related materials, investing reference materials were much more like alchemy or pseudo-science.

That was then.

Now, I think the world of investing reference materials has devolved by so drastically increasing the offerings. Just like ETF’s.

Just as many argue that expansion of sports leagues to include more teams dilutes the quality of the product, the  creation of various metrics to assess stocks and sectors has grown exponentially. Do you really need 25 different variety of bland and tasteless pastries?

Not only do you need to choose from among the metrics, but you have to wonder about their validity and their fleeting half life.

In science, you validate first and apply second.

With change coming so rapidly, I increasingly wonder just how important reference materials and basic information really is within the context of a stock portfolio.

Instead, the buffet approach seems to be the most appealing.

Sample as much as you want, but then start to focus down on the offerings that give you the greatest satisfaction, because at some point you will have exhausted your gastric capacity.

The next time you go back to that buffet your past experience lets you bypass the offerings that look good, but whose taste doesn’t match up with the appearance.

I tried McCormick once.

Now, I skip right by. I don’t need spice. Bland and predictable is just fine

Today, I added Goldman Sachs and Freeport McMoRan, two of my favorites back onto the plate.

But that’s not to say that I wouldn’t try something new.

I just recently tried Aflac for the first time and added more to the plate today.

And then there are those times that you just grow tired of your old favorites or sometimes even wonder what you saw in them in the first place

I used to like ProShares UltraShort Silver ETF, but lately its been giving me a bad case of something. I tried scraping it off my plate and returning it, but that’s frowned upon.

“Take all you want, but eat all you take.” There’s nothing like some unknown force trying to remind you of the proper behavior required to maintain profit margins.

Throwing it out, taking a loss on the shares, despite the great past of collecting options premiums just doesn’t seem right, but even good things can go bad and you have to maintain your personal profit margins.

There must be a reference that will back me up on that.



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