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Showing posts from May, 2011

Funds That Are Avoiding Commodities

David Kathman, CFA

As the world economy moves forward in fits and starts, commodity prices have continued to be among the most closely watched economic indicators. For most of the past year, commodity prices have been on the rise, thanks to anticipated demand from emerging markets and a desire to hedge against inflation and the falling dollar. In recent weeks, though, they've pulled back significantly due to various factors, notably the European sovereign debt crisis and concerns that developing markets such as China may not grow as fast as expected. This pullback has contributed to short-term declines in the broader market, but it could be good news for the U.S. economy, because high oil prices have started to crimp the budgets of drivers, potentially slowing the recovery.

Given the runup in commodities and commodity-related stocks over the past year, they've been popular with many mutual fund managers. A couple of weeks ago, we took a look at some good diversified funds with a…

'My Biggest Money Mistake'

Everybody has messed up at some point. These folks share their biggest goofs, but are now on the right path.

Bought a Vacation Home as an Investment

Christine Flood, 37
Software engineer
Denver, Colorado

"I have been in the rental market since I was in college and thought owning a ski condo would be a good idea. What I didn't know is that vacation rentals are a whole new beast that I didn't understand.

The operational costs differ greatly -- for example, you need to hire a management company for guest services and housekeeping. That's 30% to 50% of your gross rents. And my vacation home is now worth $30,000 less than when I bought it."

My fix: "My dad told me vacation homes are a rich man's game -- I should have believed him. When the market turns around, I am going to sell this baby as quickly as possible and settle with a traditional rental."

Kept Too Much Money in Employer's Stock

Daniel C., 52
Engineer and consultant
Glen Ellyn, Illinois

"I had ove…

Models, actresses get up to $8,000 an hour

RATES for social escort services vary greatly.

The New Paper on Sunday spoke to 22 agencies offering such services here and found that rates range from $200 to $2,000 an hour for escort services only.

Any additional charges, such as a discreet encounter, is charged separately.

Bigger players such as Social Escort Singapore and Singapore Exquisite Social Escort Services typically charge higher rates, from $1,000 an hour.

Fees for mid-range players start from $500 an hour, while the rest can go as low as $200.

Naturally, much depends on the "quality" of the girls offered - models and flight attendants typically command higher rates.

The owner of Singapore Model Escorts, who wanted to be known only as William, said that the most expensive booking it had was a $25,000 three-day trip to Maldives.

"It's about exclusiveness," he added.

Trips to Bali

But overseas assignments for social escorts are not common, he said.

Mr Prince Wong, owner of Singapore Escort Services, said his …

Food prices 'will double by 2030', Oxfam warns

The prices of staple foods will more than double in 20 years unless world leaders take action to reform the global food system, Oxfam has warned.

By 2030, the average cost of key crops will increase by between 120% and 180%, the charity forecasts.

Half of that increase will be caused by climate change, Oxfam predicts, in its report Growing a Better Future.

It calls on world leaders to improve regulation of food markets and invest in a global climate fund.

"The food system must be overhauled if we are to overcome the increasingly pressing challenges of climate change, spiralling food prices and the scarcity of land, water and energy," said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam's chief executive.
Women and children

In its report, Oxfam highlights four "food insecurity hotspots", areas which are already struggling to feed their citizens.

in Guatemala, 865,000 people are at risk of food insecurity, due to a lack of state investment in smallholder farmers, who are highly dependent o…

Should you start a business right out of college?

Most new grads have no money and little, if any, real-world experience. Even so, launching a startup may be less crazy than it sounds.

By Anne Fisher, contributor

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I'm a brand new college graduate and, although I have one job offer from a big company (after interviewing with many), I'd really rather work for myself. For the past couple of years, I've been earning "mad money" by selling handmade jewelry online, and it's been going well enough that I think it would really take off if I do it full-time.

On the plus side, I have no student loans to pay off and my expenses are minimal because I can live with my parents while I build the business. On the other hand, my mom and dad are urging me to take the "real job" because, according to them, starting a business right out of school is crazy. What do you and your readers think? — Mary Ann

Dear Mary Ann: Far be it from me to contradict your parents, particularly since they're evident…

At which point does it become a bad move to work for Goldman Sachs?

Sarah Butcher

If you’re alert to the media, you will be aware that Goldman Sachs is not getting a good press.

First, there was a recent article blaming it for the food crisis. And then there was another article by the Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi who first concocted the ‘Vampire Squid’ moniker, calling for criminal charges to be brought against Goldman Sachs. More recently, there’s been something accusing it of involvement in ’death derivatives’ and then the Financial Times cites Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate investigative subcommittee, as saying there’s “real hope” law enforcement authorities will act on his panel’s report accusing Goldman Sachs of misleading investors and Congress.

All of this has been seized upon by the public at large. On Twitter, Goldman is regularly vilified as the source of much that’s wrong in the world.

Does any of this matter if you intend to join Goldman Sachs as an employee?

It's inadvisable if…

1) You care about the share price and think it wil…

3 Keys to a Richer Retirement

by Larry Katz

How to handle market declines early in your golden years.

Stock prices are up substantially from their March 2009 lows, but there is always the possibility that markets will retrench. What will happen if stocks tumble soon after you retire?

Let's use an example of two unrelated individuals, Sue and Joe. Each one has $1 million and retires at the age of 65 with a portfolio comprised of 50% global stocks and 50% bonds. Each plans on withdrawing an initial $50,000 (5% of beginning portfolio value) and will increase this amount with inflation each year. Each expects to live to 100. They retire at different times.

Sue's portfolio supported her as she planned for 35 years, with enough money left so she could leave a large legacy. Joe, on the other hand, ran out of money prematurely.

Why the difference? It's all due to the randomness of returns in retirement.

Sue was fortunate enough that, in the first few years of her retirement, her portfolio earned relatively high retu…

Financial Markets Hate You: Opinion

By Ali Meshkati,

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The market hates you. If investors made this profoundly simple premise the basis for every investment decision they made, it would vastly improve investment results.

All of the organisms that make up the financial markets hate you. John Paulson hates you. Goldman Sachs loathes you. Morgan Stanley wants you to drop off the face of the Earth. Paul Tudor Jones likes you a little bit, but he still wouldn't mind seeing you blowup.

Wall Street has a peculiar relationship with the individual investor, small to medium-sized hedge funds and anybody else who doesn't make up the billion-dollar club. Your capital is sorely needed in order to insure proper lubrication of the financial engine that runs the markets.

At the same time, the feeding mechanism at the top (Gol…

Post-Recession, the Rich Are Different

by Christina Binkley

Bentleys and Hermes bags are selling again. Yet the wealthiest Americans are emerging from the financial downturn as different consumers than they were.

Lyndie Benson says she now mentally calculates the "price per wear" of designer clothing. As the wife of saxophonist Kenny G, Ms. Benson, a photographer, can afford what she wants. She used to make a lot of impulse purchases, she says. But when shopping in Malibu, Calif., recently, she stopped herself before buying a gray Morgane Le Fay suit she'd tried on. "I walked outside and thought, 'Hmmm, I don't really love it that much,'" she says with contentment.

A number of surveys released in the past six weeks suggest Ms. Benson's new selectiveness is widespread among the wealthiest Americans. Though many of these people might seem unscathed by the financial crisis -- they didn't lose their homes, jobs or retirement savings -- they were deeply affected by what took place around…

How to tell if you have a really, really bad boss

Chances are that like me, some of you have worked with a bad boss (BB), and it hasn’t taken you very long to recognise them for who they are. Depending on your experience, a BB could range from being a micro-managing freak who takes the credit for a team effort, to someone who is not there when his team needs him the most.

I had the distinct displeasure of working with such a BB in my last role at a prominent financial services firm in Australia. While he was not the primary reason for my leaving, he certainly made my (already long) hours at work interminable.

As most of you already know, what a BB says and what he does can be poles apart. I’ve picked out three examples from my career here.

BB Example 1: Delegate then don’t

The BB said
“I want you to own this project. You are responsible for its successful delivery.”

The BB did
• Provided step-by-step instructions on how the project should be delivered.
• Was critical of any approach that didn’t match his views. Did not accept alternatives.
• …

The Candidate: Four non-financial skills that will help you nab a financial job

In order to secure a financial services job in Asia, you need to possess a range of critical, non-financial skills. On your CV and during interviews, make sure you show off all your abilities, not just the technical ones required for the specific role you’re applying for.

Here are the top-four soft skills I believe you must have if you want to succeed in banking, and my thoughts on how best to demonstrate them to prospective employers.

1) Communication and relationship management

Communication skills involve strong speaking, writing and presentation. It is important to communicate knowledge in a way that people understand. Communication also plays a part in marketing yourself. Building relationships and managing them is part of any role, whether you are dealing with clients, bosses or colleagues.

2) Project management

Project management skills such as time management, meeting deadlines, managing budgets and even keeping your files organised are requirements to completing a task successfull…

5 ways to manage your autocratic boss

Got a boss who's too bossy? You can turn that to your advantage, says a veteran HR executive. Here's how.

By Anne Fisher, contributor

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: I am a senior software specialist with decades of experience. Yet the manager I'm working for still doesn't trust me and won't grant me any decision-making flexibility. In fact, he treats me like one of the enlisted men who worked for him in his previous career in the military.

I've consistently kept my skills up to date through multiple technology evolutions, and my knowledge of my field is far superior to his. Nevertheless, he limits my "bandwidth" to what he understands, which is nowhere near my potential. As a team, we've paid the price for his ignoring my technical advice. How can I get him to loosen up and treat me like a senior team member, if not an equal? — Seething in Silence

Dear Seething: Yikes. It sounds like you have two separate problems here -- your manager's top-down, command-…

The New Class of Billionaires

by Robert Frank

Giant initial public offerings and a surge in mergers and acquisitions are spawning a new generation of billionaires and millionaires.

The eight biggest global IPOs launched since January have a combined corporate value of $75 billion, according to Dealogic, creating billions of dollars in wealth for company founders.

Even on its own, the initial public offering of Glencore International AG will likely create six billionaires, marking the start of a new global wealth boom driven by rising financial markets and tech-sector euphoria.

The new generation of the ultrawealthy includes a Swiss medical-device tycoon and a California surfer who netted $60 million from the sale of his clothing company.

The deals and IPOs mark the official return of the "liquidity event"—a one-time windfall of cash that rains down on company founders or shareholders when they sell their stake. Liquidity events were common during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s and the real-estate boom o…

10 Retirement Issues That Are Here to Stay

by Philip Moeller

It's impossible to know what tomorrow may bring. We don't know how much gasoline prices will rise, how the various Mideast peoples' movements will turn out, or whether Donald Trump will turn his presidential polling numbers into a new reality show. Wait — we may know how that last one turns out. But for the most part, we turn the page on each new day and wait to see what the sunrise brings.

Life is different in Retirement Land. Here, there is a lot more certainty in sniffing out the major issues that will confront retirees and people getting ready to retire. Regularly, a common group of core issues is studied, reported, blogged, and tweeted about — day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and, well, you get the picture.

Here are 10 of the most commonly aired retirement issues. Beyond getting a jump on tomorrow's news, it can be to your advantage to consider these issues in your own retirement plans. Regardless of whether you're 20 years into…

Number of millionaires is projected to rise rapidly

Despite the Great Recession, which wiped out $15.5 trillion in household wealth in the United States alone, the number of millionaires in this country and abroad will grow rapidly over the next decade.

In the U.S., the total number of families with a net worth of over $1 million, including real estate, will double by 2020, according to a report by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services.

Overall, the U.S. and Europe have the greatest concentrations of wealth than any other region, although emerging markets are narrowing the gap.

China will lead the way in millionaire growth, the report said, followed by Brazil and Russia.

By 2020, China and South Korea will rank in the top 10 of countries with the greatest total number of families worth more than a million dollars.

"There is going to be very fast growth, but it will take a lot longer to reach anything like the wealth in the developed world," said Andrew Freeman, lead author of the report. (Calculator: When will you be a millio…

Save $100 a Week with These 22 Tips

With the dramatic increase in gas and food prices, most of us can barely make ends meet, let alone think about saving money. The good news is, with a little imagination and perseverance, there are still plenty of ways to pocket extra cash.

Follow these 22 simple tips and save at least $100 a week:

Buy a Water Filter

Purchasing bottled water hurts not only the environment but your wallet as well. According to the Learning Channel, a family of 4 can save up to $55 a week by making the switch from bottled water to water filters.

Take Advantage of Power Strips

You can cut down on your utility bill by unplugging your appliances when you aren't using them. Make the unplugging process easy by purchasing a power strip for your appliances.

Make Shopping and To-Do Lists

Make a list of everything you need before you shop. Make sure your list only consists of needs, not wants. Then, be sure to stick to your list. You can also use to-do lists to save a ton of time. By grouping together all your erran…

Is The Market Rigged? Survey Says … ‘Yes!’

It's back to square one for the jurors in the insider trading case of hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam. Jurors will have top start the process all over again starting today after a juror was dismissed for "medical" reasons.

Meanwhile, more evidence the stock market is not a level playing field: 47% of respondents in a survey of 400 investors from across the world found one-on-one meetings with companies regularly lead to price sensitive information being divulged, according to the Rotterdam School of Management.

Surveys like this, along with the Rajaratnam trial, the saga over David Sokol's Lubrizoil trades and a overwhelming sense the market is stacked against them helps explain why mom & pop haven't piled back into stocks even after a more-than 2-year bull market.

In the accompanying interview The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Daniel Gross discuss just how prevalent insider trading is on Wall Street with Barry Ritholtz director of research at FusionIQ…

7 Ways to Sink in a Stagnant Economy

Rick Newman

A lot of Americans are wondering why the so-called economic recovery hasn't paid a visit to their neighborhood.

The economy is growing and finally adding more jobs than it's shedding. Corporate profits are strong, and workers in favored sectors seem to be buying cars, iPads, restaurant meals, and luxury items. But it's a scattershot recovery. Nearly 14 million Americans remain unemployed. Many others can't find the kinds of jobs they want, or are earning less than they were before the recession began at the end of 2007. Home values continue to fall, eating away at household wealth. Many families feel like they're falling behind, with rising gas and food prices making the sting worse.

The recovery, unfortunately, doesn't apply to everybody. Workers with up-to-date skills and the vigorous energy it takes to adapt constantly are poised for a return to prosperity. But many others are stuck flat-footed in a confusing, Darwinian economy, out of good options …

Retirement Savings Advice: Age 30's and 40's

by Ray Martin

A few days ago I wrote about retirement savings advice for folks in their 20's and 30's.

But folks in their 30's and 40's confront many challenges than can interrupt a good retirement savings strategy. This is the time when other life events, like getting married, buying a home, having children, etc., can compete for more of your income, leaving little if any to save for retirement which is a long way down the road.

A Milestone to Reach in Your 40's

According to the National Savings Rate Guidelines study, assuming you are looking to retire at age 65 and earn an average income, by the time you are age 40 you should have accumulated 4 to 6 times your annual pay in retirement savings be saving 15 percent or more of your income in your 401(k). Check to see how you compare.

Here are some guidelines for folks in their 30's and 40's to consider.

Don't Interrupt Retirement Savings

It is all too easy to allow other priorities to crowd out your retirement …