Sunday, June 15, 2008

Getting More Fully Invested

Remember that cash I kept on the sidelines when I bought some mutual funds a few weeks ago? Well, I was able to put some of it to work last week then the market followed Lehman into the toilet mid-week. I bought more of both JARFX and MINDX. At this point I am fairly fully invested (at least until I sell my house). I just think cash and bond yields are too low given the completely obvious presence of inflation if you have filled up your car or gone to the grocery store lately. I would rather own almost entirely stocks at this point in time. I also believe that the U.S. market has at least begun to discount the recession we are about to experience. Stocks usually start to bounce before the economic data does. The election of Barrack Obama will probably not be well recieved by the market (I think he is likely to win) and could set us up for another more leg down in fall. Nonetheless, I think he will surround himself with smart people and will avoid being a "tax and spend" liberal, but ought to rather be a "tax and balance the budget" liberal. Furthermore, I think the fed funds rate at 2% ought to stimulate the economy by early 2009. Overall, while it may not be a straight line up, with a long-term view I think now is a good time to own stocks as they are one of the few ways to fight off inflation's devastating effects on your wealth.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

When Facebook Doesn't Cut It: The Case for Attending Reunions

Facebook is a great tool for staying in touch with old friends. With its help I have learned when my friends got married, changed jobs, moved, had a baby, or just got a little too drunk last weekend. However, there is no substitute for hearing the story about those drunken escapades from the horses mouth or meeting someone's new spouse. For some things the difference between Facebook and seeing someone in person is akin to the difference between playing Guitar Hero and actually playing the guitar. I for one can annihilate Slash in Guitar Hero, but on the real guitar the only thing getting annihilated would be my audience's ears.

In any case, I decided Facebook wasn't cutting it for me and went to my five year college reunion this weekend. I ended up being absolutely stunned at the efficiency of the event. I saw my four roommates who live in Michigan, Ontario, New York, and Washington D.C. One of my friends was in from Shanghai. I saw friends that I hadn't seen or spoken to since graduation and I even got to spend time talking with some people that I didn't know that well when I was in school. From a financial perspective (how else would I think about it?) the experience of my college reunion was extremely cost efficient. The whole weekend ended up costing me about $1,000 including a flight and lodging. It would have cost many multiples of that to see all those people in any other setting. More importantly I reconnected with lots of people that I care deeply about and had a great time doing it. The next time you get an invite to a high school or college reunion, I highly recommend going. Once you get there you will be very glad you did (and your wallet will be too because the alternative is quite costly).

The best last minute travel deals on the planet?

So if you didn't notice from the lack of an Armchair post, I needed to take an unexpected trip last weekend for family reasons. While this type of trip is not ideal, kept it reasonable for me from a financial perspective. I got a plane ticket and a car rental for several days for around $400. The process was easy and the trip came off without a hitch once I booked it. is probably not for everyone -- it does have some drawbacks. The tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable. The "packages" which include car rentals or hotels tend to be better deals than one item alone. The inventory is limited. For instance I wanted to fly into one particular city and by the time I decided to book the ticket (after about 20 minutes of deliberations) the original flight itinerary was no longer available. Instead I had to fly to another city about 45 minutes away from my ideal destination. It was a minor inconvenience, but in the grand scheme of things it was worth it to pay $400 for what otherwise might have cost me $1500.

Do you know any other websites that offer great last minute deals (or deals generally)? If so, be sure to share them in the comments.