Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NFL Playoffs - Miami is out, unless...

Miami clinches a playoff spot iff:

Miami (7-8) win vs Pittsburgh (8-7)
+ New Jersey Jets (8-7) loss vs Cincinnati* (10-5)
+ Baltomore (8-7) loss vs Oakland (5-10)
+ Houston loss (8-7) vs New England** (10-5)
+ Jacksonville (7-8) loss or tie vs (4-11)

* Clinched AFC North (3rd or 4th seed)
** Clinched AFC East (3rd or 4th seed)

Is betting on the Dolphins not to get to the playoffs at this point as
safe as investing in Treasury Bills? The transaction costs on betting
are probably higher than the costs on purchasing Government securities.

Assuming no transaction costs:
Would you put your next rent or mortgage payment in T-Bills for a week?

Would you bet it on the Dolphins not getting to the playoffs this

It might be interesting to compare the rates of return on various fixed
income investments to the pay out on the a bet against the Dolphins
reaching the playoffs. What investments would have a parity within range
of the transaction cost differences?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Church Funds

My father is a board member of Crest Community Church, in Wildwood Crest, NJ. He recently asked for my advise on how the church should invest some of its funds. He asked via a phone call in which I responded with what he probably though was an insane answer along the lines of, "...you might as well go to Atlantic City with the money if you are going to listen to advice about buying into any particular investment." My intended point being that without following a prudent investment plan the odds of obtaining a suitable return while incurring acceptable risk are against you. I realized that this advice would be tossed aside without the proper context. So, I followed up with an email that I sent to my father and Rev. Jeff Salasin, pastor at Crest Community Church:

"...the best advice that I can give you is to describe the prudent investment portfolio management process as outlined by the CFA Institute in it's Chartered Financial Analyst program and suggest that you follow it.

As you know, I passed the level I CFA Examination and studied extensively for level II. As covered in the Level I curriculum and reiterated in the level II curriculum, the investment portfolio management process has been summarized below. I have expanded only to the extent that it might be useful for someone not familiar with the 4 step iterative process. I have also added my own insights (particularly in the implementation step) and references to websites to illustrate some concepts and for a start on further reading.

Investment Portfolio Management Process

1. Create or Revise Policy Statement (annually or more frequently as needed)

The most important step in the portfolio management process is the creation (or revision) of a policy statement.

The policy statement should explain investment objectives expressed in terms of risk and return.

A careful analysis of the investor's risk tolerance should be performed, to include a list of factors that may affect an investor's tolerance for assuming investment risk.

As an individual, one can take a quiz as a first step in assessing one's risk tolerance. As an organization, the board or an appointee must assess the Church's risk tolerance.

Return objectives should be stated in absolute, relative or general terms (e.g. capital preservation, capital appreciation, current income, or total return) to provide a guideline for appropriate benchmarks.

Investment constraints should be described in terms of of liquidity, time horizon, tax concerns, legal and regulatory factors, and unique needs and preferences.

2. Evaluate Environmental Conditions, i.e. the current and projected financial, economic, political, and social conditions.

3. Implement the plan by constructing or adjusting the portfolio in the context of the Policy Statement and the Environmental conditions.

In implementing the plan, one should be familiar with investment research. Index Fund Advisers has an informative summary of historical and current research. It is presented in a facetious 12 step program format. But it is a fair and useful summary. In reading it you will find that there is strong evidence that the best odds for any particular investor to maximize their return at any given risk level over long periods of time (15 or more years) is to invest in index funds. It is extremely unlikely that you are able to do better otherwise. Further, if you can do better, it is unlikely that you will use a relatively active strategy with your investments.

Using index funds you can create a portfolio suitable for a any level of risk tolerance by adjusting the amount allocated to different classes of investments (e.g. Stocks, Bonds, Money Market instruments). Seeking Alpha has a number of articles describing examples of index fund portfolios. These examples are not the correct mix for most investors' portfolios. Note that these portfolios ignore Cash, Treasury Bills (TreasuryDirect.com) and other Money Market Instruments.

There are many index funds to invest in that are traded just like other stocks.

When investing in index funds, an investor's primary concerns are:

  • Maintaining an appropriate allocation to different asset
    classes to manage the portfolio risk level
  • Minimizing tracking error of index funds (only buy funds that
    have the smallest of margins between the index level and market
    and net asset values of the funds).
  • Minimizing management and other fees charged by the funds.
  • Minimizing transaction costs from buying or selling shares of
    the funds.

When investing in individual assets the investor has the added concern to obtain a better return than a portfolio of index funds with the same or similar risk level.

4. Feedback Loop. Evaluate portfolio performance. Reassess the investor's Objectives and Constraints. Return to step 1.

Even though I cannot give any specific recommendations, I hope I've helped."

I hope this post finds its way to inform someone unfamiliar with this process that will be managing investments.

For further reading, you can find a copy of "Fundamentals of Financial Management" by Eugene f. Brigham and Joel F. Houston. I purchased the 8th Edition. The current edition is the 12th. (There is no Amazon referral deal with these links.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Topics, Lables and Tags

Blogger uses the term label for what is normally called a tag. Either way I intend to use them in a specific manner.

I will use at least one of the following tags in each of my posts.

- Financial Intermediaries, Cooperative Associations
Government - More on legislation than politics.
- Ingredients, Restaurants, Recipes, et cetera.
- Mostly NHL and New Jersey Devils
Football - American Football (mostly the NFL and Miami Dolphins); Also FIFA style Association Football or Futbol (mostly MLS and New Jersey Red Bulls)
Software - Libre Licensed Software, Computer Science, Programing
Off-Topic - Everything else

You can subscribe to a feed of any of these categories using the links to the right.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lawrence Lessig and the United States Congress

Lawrence Lessig has a knack for bringing abstract legal theory into the realm of the everyday. Generally, he speaks (or writes) and I understand. But one at one significant point, he stopped making sense. That is until recently when I finally caught up with his thought process.

The point where his words became incoherent to me was on June 19, 2007 when he posted on his website a statement entitled "Required Reading: the next 10 years". In which he writes:

From a public policy perspective, the question of extending existing copyright terms is, as Milton Friedman put it, a "no brainer." As the Gowers Commission concluded in Britain, a government should never extend an existing copyright term. No public regarding justification could justify the extraordinary deadweight loss that such extensions impose.

Yet governments continue to push ahead with this idiot idea -- both Britain and Japan for example are considering extending existing terms. Why?

The answer is a kind of corruption of the political process. Or better, a "corruption" of the political process. I don't mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean "corruption" in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can't even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to

He continues on to make his defining statement:

I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of issues: Namely, these. "Corruption" as I've defined it elsewhere will be the focus of my work. For at least the next 10 years, it is the problem I will try to help solve.

I do this with no illusions. I am 99.9% confident that the problem I turn to will continue exist when this 10 year term is over. But the certainty of failure is sometimes a reason to try. That's true in this case.

If you are anything like me, Lessig's statement went right over your head. It did for me for a number of reasons. First, "corruption" is such a broad term that it doesn't effectively convey Lessig's intention without context. Second, the context provided by Lessig is only tangentially related to any of his academic and public work. Finally, I've followed Lessig's work because it has interested me, but now there will be a vacancy in the public discourse concerning Copyright, Patent, and Trademark Law. This imminent void distracted me from the context he provided for his future direction.

So what was Lessig actually tying to say?

Generally, by "corruption", Lessig means the disproportionate influence that those with enough money have over the legislative process in the USA compared to collectively all other Citizens and constituents that are to be represented by Congress. Lessig wants to address this discrepancy as best he can.

Almost a year after he made his defining statement about shifting his focus, Lessig, with some help from others, started change-congress.org, a project to support what Lessig considers a first step toward a more equitable system; to institute a publicly funded campaign option that allows qualifying candidates for national office to receive matching campaign funds from the US treasury thereby providing a fair chance to win primary and general elections against a corporately or self funded candidate. A candidate would be able to choose to accept only small donations from the public along with matching funds or special interest money, but not both.

Lawrence Lessig probably does a better job at explaining the concept in the video at Change-Congress.org and on the information page.

According to Change Congress the first step to change takes the form of the Fair Elections Now Act as proposed in the Senate and House in the following bills:

The 111th United States Congress (January 3, 2009, until January 3, 2011):

S752 - Applies to Federal Election Campaigns for the Senate

H1826 - Applies to Federal Election Campaigns for the House of Representatives

I can't think of any reason that might indicate that these bills would not effectively alter the economy of influence currently controlled by corporations and the most wealthy of Americans in favor of everyone else. Nor can I think of a better idea to try first. I do know that there is a fundamentally inequitable balance of influence that encourages Congressional Representatives to consistently vote against best interests of their constituents against all other reason and logic. The Fair Elections Now Act is the only practical option I know of to compensate, even if only partially, for the existing imbalance of influence. I'd love to hear other ideas both complimentary and rebuttals. Which is why I'll continue to follow Lawrence Lessig's posts.

To take the idea of publicly funded campaigns further, I think it might be applied in New Jersey to all levels of government. However, the potential for corruption is more limited at smaller levels of government. Maybe it is only appropriate on a state level. I don't know who to talk to about this. I doubt that I'd be able to start a grassroots effort to effectively promote this idea. But I'll keep it in mind and research the issue until I can demonstrate a good case for New Jersey to adopt similar policies. Until then, this idea will exist isolated on my weblog....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's a Bluetooth Gateway?

I'm thinking about dropping the phone service and buying a Bluetooth Gateway like this "Cell2Tel" one, when my current FIOS package expires.

From the Cell2Tel site:
easily combine your land line service (VoIP, traditional or cable company) and home or small office telephone system with up to two Bluetooth™ mobile phones. You can even cancel your home phone service completely
http://www.cell2telgateway.com/ [cell2telgateway.com]

Also available on Amazon.com for a little less $.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nobody Knows...

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hockey Overload

This weekend I may suffer from hockey overload.
The Devils (close to finishing 1st in the conference) play at 20:30 EDT tonight and 19:00 EDT Tomorrow.
Remaining Schedule

For good measure, the Islanders are also televised in my area tonight. And the Devils play their final regular season match with the Rangers on Monday.

The 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament Started today.
There are more Televised Games than I can record today.

Friday, March 27

(4) #3 Michigan vs. #18 Air Force, 3 p.m. (NCAA First Round) - ESPNU
(3) #4 Denver vs. #13 Miami, 5:30 p.m. (NCAA First Round) - ESPN2
#5 Yale vs. #11 Vermont, 6:30 p.m. (NCAA First Round) - ESPNU
#8 Minnesota Duluth vs. #10 Princeton, 9 p.m. (NCAA First Round) - ESPNU

Saturday, March 28
#7 North Dakota vs. #12 New Hampshire, 2 p.m. (NCAA First Round) - ESPN2
#6 Northeastern vs. #9 Cornell, 4 p.m. (NCAA First Round) - ESPNU
(1) #1 Boston University vs. #14 Ohio State, 5:30 p.m. (NCAA First
Round) - ESPN2
NCAA Second Round (Bridgeport, CT), 6:30 p.m. - ESPNU
(2) #2 Notre Dame vs. Bemidji State, 7:30 p.m. (NCAA First Round) - ESPN
NCAA Second Round (Minneapolis, MN), 9 p.m. - ESPNU

Sunday, March 29
NCAA Second Round (Manchester, NH), 5:30 p.m. - ESPNU
NCAA Second Round (Grand Rapids, MI), 8 p.m. - ESPNU
(Times are Eastern)

My head hurts.

BTW - I'd like to see Princeton and Yale or Air Force do well in the tournament.

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Glodime Weblog authored by Eric Morey is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.