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How to turn one dollar into a million (an economic animal story for children).

So, as a kind of apology for posting a picture of a naked woman on the site last week, we decided to write a children’s story.

That’s the way we roll. Like a WalMart cart, all Wibble-wobbly and covered in grease from being handled by weirdos wearing stretchy pants and slippers.

To facilitate, we enlisted the help of Charlie, a six year old kindergarten student. She will give us the nouns of our story. Enjoy!

P.s., We acknowledge that the geography and biology of this story are not accurate. If you are the type of person that was bothered by something like that, while reading a story about anthropomorphized talking animals, we are probably not going to please you anyway.

Poopa and Bucky, in the forest.

“Poopa and Bucky, in the forest.” Drawing by Sophie (8 y/o)

There was once a little boy Giraffe named Poopathon (its a family name). He lived in the jungle. One day, Poopa was picking succulent leaves from a tall tree, when he heard a gorilla breathing. Normally this is a very bad thing, as gorillas like to use giraffes as play equipment. In fact, Poopa’s great grandfather James Poopathon is where we get the name “Jungle Jim”. This is great fun for gorillas, but usually leaves the giraffe with a headache and a queasy stomach, which now that I think about it, may be where the family name came from. Regardless, little Poopa was beginning to run when the gorilla called, “Wait!”

Usually this was a trap, and Poopa wasn’t going to be fooled. But this was Bucky the nerd gorilla, and Poopa had never been used as a monkey bar by him. In fact, Bucky always seemed kind of sad when the others got a hold of a giraffe. So, Poopa stopped to listen, if, at a safe distance.

“Thank you,” Bucky began, pushing up his grass-rim glasses and adjusting his rainbow feather and vine suspenders. “All of the other gorillas hate me.” He held up a hand to forestall protest from Poopathon, but Poopa only nodded. In people that is a subtle acknowledgement, but for a giraffe, it is about as subtle as underwear made out of a thornbush. You will know about it, and it will not be comfortable.

Thank goodness for gorilla autism, as Bucky didn’t even notice.

“I have been doing some monkeying with some numbers …” said the Gorilla.

Poopa whistled in awe. He said, “I don’t even understand slothing with numbers, let alone an animal that moves as fast as a monkey!”

“I’m really smart”, the Gorilla agreed, “But, you would have gotten that sooner, if your brain was closer to your heart … and right now you are beginning to understand why the others don’t like me very much. ”

Poopa was still a little scared, but was now also annoyed, “I understood as soon as I saw your suspenders,” he said.

“Right, well, I see.” Bucky said. “They are holding up my fur pants”.

Poopa nodded.

This time Bucky noticed, “Ouch! It’s that obvious?”

Poopa nodded again.

“Ouch! Stop! I get it,” Bucky said, rubbing his butt, “I suffer from Gorilla pattern baldness. It’s pretty embarrassing …”

Poopa burst into laughter.

“Oh, I see … em-bare-assing. Very funny. A pun.” He pulled out a pad of leaf paper and scratched a note, “I keep a list of things that make others laugh, to try to incorporate into interpersonal communications with my peers.” He filipped a few leafs, “Like this one: I once found a hyena foot in a hot tub. A lion had put a piranha in there as a joke. But the hyena didn’t laugh.”

Poopa laughed even harder.

Bucky shook his head, “I don’t even know why that is funny. … But it works every time.” He flipped a leaf. “Try this one: What do you call a Gorilla with gorilla pattern baldness? A baboon.” He looked at Poopa, who was beginning to calm down. “Interesting. I guess that is more of a gorilla-centric joke.”

Poopa rubbed the tears from his eyes on a leaf. “Oh, oh! That was the best laugh I’ve had since Geoffrey tried to sneak into that toy store down in Cape Town!”

“Yes. I heard about that. You’re tale is infamous. That is why I am here, actually.”

Poopa was confused by this statement, “You want to hot-wire a safari van?”

Bucky slapped his hands on the ground, “No, no! I want over ripe fruit. I know you have access to it. You Giraffe’s are like the frat boys of the jungle.”

Poopa nodded his head.

“Wow, when you agree, I can really feel it!”

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Poopa agreed, “So you should probably only say things I like.”

Bucky scratched a note. When he was done he looked up, “So. I have figured out something, I think. Since we Gorillas don’t have any goods  that we can use to entice you to simply give us fruit for this so called ‘jungle juice’, I will simply give you a leaf.”

Poopa laughed again, “A leaf! That’s rediculous! Look around, there are leaves everywhere! What good would another leaf do me?”

Bucky scratched his bald butt absently, “Yes, yes. I am well aware of the preponderance of foliage in the jungle. In fact, I am sure that is the reason it is called a jungle.”

Poopa rolled his eyes.

“Right. Sorry, I get distracted. As I was saying, this leaf is special. I have scratched in the language of doctors, the ancient Hen Chicken language, on this leaf that the person that holds this leaf is entitled to one favor from anyone he hands it to. So, if I give it to you, you will do me a favor. When you hand it to someone else, they will have to do a favor for you.”

Poopa straightened his neck, “Like, when the gorillas try to use me as play equipment, I can give them this leaf and they will leave me alone?”

Bucky nodded and then pushed up his glasses, “Yes, of course. We are all in agreement on this. All Gorillas will honor this leaf with one favor whenever  it is presented.”

Poopa thought about it for a second. This may or may not work, he thought, but it will not cost me more than a few minutes of my time. If it does work, though, I won’t have to worry about having a headache every Saturday morning, and I can go do helicopter pilot training!

He said, “Then, I agree. I will get you your smelly fruit, and you will give me that leaf.”

They shook hands/hooves.

Very soon after, a group of Gorillas jumped on Poopa. He immediately produced the leaf and handed it to the biggest Gorilla, who took it and then disappeared deep into the jungle with the others Gorillas. Later that night, a small Gorilla came to Poopa,  handed him the leaf and pointed at a tree with over-ripe mangos. Poopa wondered how the small Gorilla had received the leaf.

But then he was distracted by the ripe mangoes and forgot all about this thought until one day after many leaf give and take, Bucky came back with the leaf.

“They need some more mangoes,” he said, and handed the leaf to Poopa.

“How did you get the leaf? I always give to the biggest Gorilla, and now you have it.”

Bucky stared blankly at Poopa for a second, and then appeared to pop out of a trance, “Oh, I did him a favor, and he gave it to me.”

“But, I thought it could only be passed between Gorillas and me.”

“Well, I suppose that was implied, but it was set up in such a way that any Gorilla could take the leaf as payment, and we all understood that whoever had the leaf could get mangoes from you. So, we started doing favors for each other to get the leaf.”

Poopa was thinking. There was a Giraffe that he had seen with a really nice (and large) scarf, that would look lovely on Poopa’s neck when his was piloting a biplane. (He had seen the errors of his previous goal of piloting a helicopter). “Do you think that a Giraffe would take this?”

Bucky got that blank look again, and finally blinked. He began talking all in a burst, as was his custom. “Well, I know of at least one Giraffe that took it. I can not see any reason others would not.”

“But, it sounds so silly. A magic leaf that grants wishes.”

“It is not magic, but an agreement.” Bucky said, “I do something for you, and you do something for me. But, with the leaf, it doesn’t have to be at the same time. It’s a promise that the favor will be returned. It’s like a battery for favors.”

“A what?” Asked Poopa.

“A small metal contraption that holds differences in ions in a stasis until utilized by a contraption that can transmogrify the electromagnetic energy into mechanical energy.” Bucky said, while simultaneously pushing up his glasses with one paw, and scratching his bald butt with the other.

“A what?” Poopa repeated.

“Never mind.” Bucky said, “I’ll go with you to explain it to him.”

“OK,” Poopa said excitedly.

“After you get me those mangoes, if you please.”

“Oh, right!” He said, “How’s that going for you, by the way. You making any friends with your fellow Gorillas?”

Bucky shook his head, “No, unfortunately. They are all too interested in games and food to want to do serious research, but a least being able to give them mangoes has bought me a modicum of space and quiet for my experiments.” He scratched his head. “Curious. Now that I think about it, the Gorillas have been a lot more helpful and nice to me, even when I don’t have the leaf. Hmmm.”

Poopa didn’t understand half of what Bucky was talking about, but nodded his head anyway.

“Oh, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Bucky said, surprised. Poopa even saw a hint of a smile. That’s not what Poopa had intended, but it was his philosophy that any mistake that made someone feel good, he would just pretend that it was intentional, because if he had stopped to think about it, that’s what he would have wanted to do anyway. So, he nodded again.

Bucky said, “Oh, that feels so good!”

And off they walked through the jungle.

Years later, after thousands of exchanges between the Gorillas and the Giraffes, and many more between Giraffe and Giraffe and Gorilla and Gorilla, Bucky and Poopa came together again.

“Hello Poopa,” Bucky said.

“Hello Bucky,” Poopa replied, “I have the leaf.”

“Keep it. I’ll do you a favor without the leaf.”

Poopa was surprised, “Really? Why?”

Bucky pushed up his glasses, “It has become increasingly clear that your idea of passing the leaf to others has been a catalyst for peace between our species. And I want to thank you.”

“Oh!” Poopa said, blinking in surprise, “Well, ok! Thank you too!”

“You are welcome.” Bucky said matter-of-factly. There was a few moments where Bucky just stared at Poopa, and the moment became awkward.

“Uh, OK!” Poopa said.

“Yes. Sorry. I was thinking. Have you tried giving it to a lion?” Bucky asked, scratching his backside.

“What?! No! Why would I ever go near a lion? That would be crazy!” Poopa realized he was actually crouched, ready to bolt, as if a lion were really there. Self consciously he stood straighter, but couldn’t fight the urge to look around.

“Mmm … Give me the leaf.” Bucky said.

Poopa stopped looking into the shadows. “But, you just gave it to me.” Poopa said.

Bucky nodded, “I have rethought that decision, and have concluded that it would be better if I were to take it.”

“Oh,” said Poopa, disappointed, “Ok. Here.” He handed Bucky the leaf.

“I will go talk to the Lion for you.” Bucky said, and then turned around walked back into the jungle.

Several days went by when Bucky was not seen, and Poopa became worried about him. Soon he returned, and appeared to be unharmed. He was holding the leaf.

“They wouldn’t take it?” Poopa asked when he saw the leaf.

“Oh, no. Quite the opposite in fact. They took it, and made the promise not to hunt any Giraffe for one month, if you do them a favor in return. Hence the leaf.”

Poopa was suspicious, “What do they want me to do?”

Bucky nodded, “Nothing violent, I assure you. I told them you would not help them hurt another animal. They want you to be a look out. For the Safari Truck.”

Poopa laughed, “Really? I can totally do that! What do I do if I see them.”

“Just shout,” Bucky replied.

“What if they don’t hear me,” Poopa said.

“They will, I assure you.” Bucky said, and pointed to the shadows. There, a Lioness stood.

Poopa swallowed, but managed to croak out, “Ok, I will.”

The Lioness nodded and left the clearing.

After a few minutes, Poopa spoke, “This is incredible! Do you realize what you have done? We can go back on the planes again! We can run anywhere without worrying about tripping on a vine or smacking into a tree without getting eaten!”

Bucky just nodded.

“We won’t have to be eaten anymore!” Shouted Poopa, and began to cry. “Its such a relief!”

Bucky nodded again, and reached into his pants. He retrieved a large yellow leaf. On it was the Hen scratchings he recognized, but also a picture of a Lion and a Giraffe standing side by side, each looking behind the other. Keeping each other safe.

“It’s beautiful!” The Giraffe said.

“You can use it exclusively for the Lions, if you wish.” Bucky said. He handed the leaf to Poopa took the green leaf in exchange. and put it into his pocket.

“And we can keep the green leaf for Giraffes and Gorillas,” Poopa agreed, nodding.

“No,” Bucky said, almost sadly. He took out the green leaf and showed it to Poopa. It was worn and tattered, and had holes in several places. “It’s too old to use anymore. I estimate we have used this leaf a million times.” He smiled his small little smile, and then tore the leaf in half.

Poopa was horrified, “No,” he cried, “What are you doing!? That is the most important thing in the jungle!”

Bucky handed one half of the leaf to Poopa, keeping the other for himself. “No, it’s not. Friendships are the most important thing in the jungle. Friends that will help you achieve your dreams. Friends that you can help achieve theirs. This was just a tool for letting us realize that.”

Poopa nodded, feeling like this time he had understood what his smart friend was saying.

Bucky smiled, “Besides,” He said, pointing to the jungle all around them, “There are leaves everywhere.” And then he laughed.

 

 

 

 

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Invest in fun s***, and tap dance on hard-work’s face.

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Here is a secret: If you are having fun, you never have to work hard. Or, to put it another way, if you are having fun, working hard is not an ordeal — it can even be a rewarding, enjoyable way to spend your time.

This goes for:

  • Work, work: Work for yourself; work at Pixar; work doing what you love …
  • Exercise: Tramplines, sports (basket ball, soccer), paint ball, rock climbing .. .
  • Other boring, annoying, scary, tiresome, awful, painful and/or smelly stuff: E.g., Raising children.

Examples of hard work being fun:

  • Sex (although, I bet you had already figured this one out)
  • Showering (stop and think about how much work you do in there! I bet you never noticed, as it feels so nice).
  • Games/puzzles …
  • Misc. (i.e., punching a pillow, chewing gum or running from small woodland animals while drinking Boons Strawberry Hill with your friends in the woods).

One of the secrets in this life is to learn basic life-hacks, such as the example above, and creatively, (and actively) apply them to other areas of your life. So how do we apply this “fun can distract from annoying/tiring/painful work” theory to investments?

Here is a list of five things you can do to make investing fun:

1)  Invest with friends: Get a group of people together, pool your money, and buy lots of stocks. Advantages of this route include: diverse knowledge and fresh leads; lowered fees, due to buying in bulk, and splitting the costs; more brains working on the problem; rapid diversification; it can be an excuse to get together and have fun!

2) Invest with your kids: Have your kids help you invest, and teach them a valuable skill at the same time.

3) Play “fantasy investing” (i.e., paper trading or paper investing). Get a bunch of fantasy football addicts, ante up, and win a pot of money at the end of a set period — then use your research to invest for real …(also, all of your competitors are giving you their research for free! Suckers!). My infomercial: Stop wasting your time on Baseball, Basket Ball, Football, Soccer, or Hockey, which only take your money! Play a game that can make you REAL money! Just send me three easy payments of $19.95! Act now! Supplies are limited to the first 6 billion! 

4) Buy companies you love: Guitars, watches, motorcycles, helicopters,  Hollywood, cosmetics, fashion, theater, whatever turns you on! My wife watches Charlie Hunnam on Sons of Anarchy, and begged me to buy Harley (HOG). I love music, so I bought a stock of a company I had heard of, Avid (NYSE: AVID), which makes Protools, a software used by every professional musician in the world. There is also Porsche (OTN: POAHF), Virgin Media (NASDAQ: VMED) and TakeTwo Interactive Inc. (TTWO) which owns RockStar & 2K Games, two well known video game companies. Your imagination is your limit, from Barbie (MAT) to Dungeons & Dragons (HAS) to Phineas & Ferb (DIS) to parachutes to Mythbusters (Discovery Communications, NASDAQ: DISCA) to L’Oreal (NASDAQ: LRLCY).

5) Buy companies you hate (and get your money back!): Microsoft is a dirty thief. I am determined to get my money back (see article related to this: here).

10 ways to over-complicate investing and lose money while doing it! Or, Why my five year old can pick stocks better than you.

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The number one rule in stocks is: Buy low, sell high.

Listen, stocks are scary, because you are investing money and you may lose some of it. But, you go to Vol*dMart to buy groceries every other week, and your probably spending a lot more on those goods than you are on stocks. Why is it so hard to buy stocks?

There are a lot of psychological reasons why buying stocks is hard:

1) You want the perfect stock! The more choices there are out there, the worse you’ll believe your final choice is (seriously, watch this. It will blow your mind); so you hesitate and lose all initiative.

2) You want to buy it at the perfect time! There is no way to know when the perfect time to buy was, until it is in the historical record. Just buy when a stock is really low, and hold the sucker till your 59. I.e., It’s like, you go into Target and see a winter jacket on sale for 33% of it’s previous price, but its June. Since you needed a jacket the previous winter, and had been planning on buying one anyway. You buy it, and next winter you have a good coat. 

3) You don’t know what your doing: I get this, but really, it’s no more complicated than buying a cart full of groceries. It’s way simpler than buying a car, because, heck, if you don’t like it, you just sell it right back and the price is pretty much the same!

4) You worry about the company going out of business. OK, read up on the company, a little.  But don’t over think this. If 5 professionals say, “Hey this company rocks!” It’s probably not going anywhere.

5) You see a company on MSNBC/FOX Business/CNN Business etc., in trouble, and you shy away from it — but those are the only bargains you see. Well, you don’t get $0.15 off a dented can of soup cause it’s pretty! And it’s still the same soup! 

6) You want to buy the next Google, Amazon or Microsoft, with penny stocks, but don’t know which one to buy. Here is the truth, all of them are extremely risky, and 99% of them are garbage. Do you have time to look into these companies? I don’t, and this is one of the two mutual funds I own (small cap and medical insurance). Let the pros figure this out.

7) Your friends/coworkers/relatives/bus boy know more about stocks than you, and you know you can’t compete, and so you don’t. Well, that solves your problem of having to compete with them! But there is a simpler method: Don’t judge your portfolio/decisions/life by other people. Judge it by itself: is it getting better? Just ignore other people. There will always be people smarter, richer, and better at anything/everything than you. But, there will always be someone better than them too.

8) Too many numbers, graphs and ways of looking at this crap! Seriously, there is. Ignore most of that it (look at market cap, dividend, P/E ratio, price and some ratings — done!). Again, if the professionals are saying buy, it is probably OK to just go and buy it. I know there are a lot of serious investors out there who will need some knappy wipes after reading that last sentence, but just because She/He doesn’t know if a company is good or not, doesn’t have any bearing on whether the company’s good! Other people can be right! And another thing these “super knowledgeable” investors seem to forget: It’s pretty easy to buy and sell stuff. If you buy it low, and it goes even lower, you can just wait (or even buy more!). If it goes up, great! Whats the big risk? I don’t understand it …

9) Stocks aren’t safe! Look, if I had bought 10 share of the S&P 500 when I graduated high school in 1993, it would have cost me $4630 at its highest point – at it’s lowest point in the past 10 years, it would have been worth $6830. That is still a profit of $2200. If I had kept it until this very moment, it would be worth: >$15,000, and that is after TWO horrible stock market crashes and the biggest depression since 1930! Lets see your savings account do that!

10) Investing needs to be super-sophisticated. Well, hate to tell you buddy, but you’ve been lied to your entire life. The best diet? Eat less.  The best pickup line? “Hello, I find you attractive. Would you like to have coffee sometime?” Best solution to a mathematical/scientific conundrum? The simplest explanation  The best way to make money in stocks? Buy something.

**

Take home message: Buy stocks of companies you know. Don’t think a lot about it. Really, that’s it.

Don’t watch the market news, don’t dither, don’t read the WSJ. Don’t log-in and look at your account all the time. Just buy a solid company, and play with your kids. Simple.

And tell your self this: If you were explaining to your child about a company and you said, “You know, ___, where we have shopped your entire life, and where mommy and daddy shopped with their grandma and grandpa? The one that’s on every corner in America? Yes, that one. Do you think it will be there tomorrow?” My 5 year old could pull the trigger on that one!

How to invest like a big-time, Cristal guzzling, yacht cruising, hairy-chested hedge-fund manager — on a teachers salary. AKA The StockGuilt manifesto.

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“I’ll take that one …”

The name of the game is: Beat the S&P. The S&P 500 is an index, a lump, of the largest 500 companies on the Dow-Jones market. And we have to beat them! Beat them?

How the heck can we beat the biggest companies in the world? Do we really have to beat them? Why?

Well the answers are, in order: You probably can’t, and no. Why? Why, is because that is the baseline everyone else is trying to pass. You may have heard this, or, if you are serious about investing in the stock market, you will hear about it: the S&P grows (or declines) in a given amount of time, and you compare your portfolio to it. If you are better than the S&P, you polish up your trumpets and sell seats to your carnival show. If you don’t, you just don’t mention it.

But, here is the truth: The line in the sand is arbitrary (why not every other company listed on the NYSE, numbers 103 till 2175?). Clearing the  hurdle is based on chance (i.e., luck) and really doesn’t mean anything. It is — (get ready for a swear word) — bullshit. 

Let me tell you right now, you may beat the S&P for one year. You may beat it for two. You may beat it for 10 years. You may throw heads on a quarter 14 times in a row. But it ain’t skill, its dumb luck.

So get the image of the swaggering, uber-intelligent, market savvy stock trader out of your mind. You aren’t her, just like you aren’t Beyonce or Jessica Flecher (Murder She Wrote reference … I lost a bet. ).

What we want to do is about as lucky and glamorous as making a brick out of mud. We take the ingredients,  use a system someone else taught us, slap it together, and build a house. We don’t really think too much, because we know we can’t outsmart the market. We just build bricks and make a strong foundation, and shore up walls, and build a future. It’s slow, boring, messy and unglamorous, but, fortunately, it’s pretty foolproof, and it makes more money, and is nearly as safe as your savings account or a CD (or even Bonds). Besides, we don’t have time for this crap. The reason we are doing this is for our families; it would be pretty dumb to ignore them while you are planning for their futures!

So, here are the basics, no messing around. Each of these will be expanded and explained in detail later, but for now, just make a checklist:

  • Buy individual stocks!
  • Keep fees down! 
  • Do your own financial planning!
  • Don’t move your money around, plan to buy and hold for at least 10 years.
  • Use an online brokerage … and if someone wants to give you $600 for putting your money in there, do it. 
  • Save as much as you can — remember, $1 today is $100 when you retire! Every penny counts. 

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: How to invest like a super-smart, Ivy league educated, platinum TAG-Heuer watch wearing  mutual fund managing superstar! 

  • The secret is you simply buy the companies listed on their prospectus (a document they make for number’s geeks, that tells all the financial voodoo, wizardry and statistics; this document shows what their mutual fund is buying). Why pay them, when they are giving you their expertise for free? 

So, about that S&P. The funny thing is, the S&P does just fine. So fine, in fact, there are funds you can purchase (which we discourage, due to fees) that do nothing but mimic the S&P. You would do well to come close. Everything else is luck and should be cherished like gold found on the sidewalk. 

Now, send me $1000 every year until you retire, like a financial planner. Yeah, I didn’t think so. Still think people that invest have to be super-smart? You are now smarter than 90% of them.