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The 'urban myth' of President Obama

One of the great so-called “urban myths” is the one about alligators prowling around in the sewers of New York City. The myth has its roots in the ‘50’s when tourists, coming home from Florida, would bring home baby alligators that they would eventually flush down the toilet when the novelty wore off. I know for a fact that this myth has an element of truth. Improbable as it seemed in Vermont, our neighbors brought one back from Florida and had it as an in-door house pet for their four children until, lumbering around at about four feet in length, they had it euthanized.

Feeling the pinch of changing times

One of my sources pointed out that a long-time family-owned delicatessen in Oakland was closing for reasons they cite as the rise in the minimum wage coupled with increasing rent. The owners apparently didn’t see a way to compete against the chains like Subway. So I’m left wondering if they: 1.) stopped to realize that competitors will all have the same problem, and 2.) had they considered raising their prices to accommodate their increased costs.

Mindful of my visit to India, Hamilton's accomplishments

Not to further bludgeon readers with information about my trip to India, but those who are inclined to hop on a plane after reading last week’s enthusiastic column may want to think twice after reading this update on highway fatality statistics sent to me by a reader. The death toll on Indian highways in 2013 was 238 per 100,000 (that must include pedestrians) and the US equivalent was 13 per 100,000.

Take a deep breathe with investments

Rereading dusty copy of W. Timothy Gallwey's 1979 book, "The Inner Game of Golf," I found some insight applicable to successful investing. Golf and croquet are unique in that they are the only sports that involve hitting a stationary ball, which leaves way too much time to think. Sam Snead used to suggest that struggling golfers hit the ball with their practice swings instead of the actual lousy swing that was the product of too much thought.

The rise of robo-advisors

The San Francisco Bay Area is a hot house for the so-called "robo-advisor" industry. These are the firms that offer to manage money at a fraction of what investors would pay if they hire individual financial advisers, mutual fund companies or brokerage firms that offer similar services. The holy grail of the industry is the reality of having an Internet-based algorithm succeed at allocating a mix of investments productively so that the outcome is clearly better than average over a sustained period of time that includes several economic cycles.

The rebalancing act with stocks and bonds

The wisdom of rebalancing a portfolio tends to peak investor interest during and after a stock market down draft --- after it’s too late. The basic idea is to sell incremental amounts of our winners as they are going up and add those dollars to our relative losers --- because today’s winners tend to be tomorrow’s losers and vice versa. The problem is that we love our winners and can’t stand to give up even small amounts of them. Those winners, unfortunately, have no idea how much we love them, so they often drop like stones caring little for the damage they do to our self esteem.

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