Sorry I missed a day . . . today is the day a sailor aboard the Pinta sighted the Bahamas thinking it was China, so today is the day I should have skipped.
Jerry Minkoff: ‘For truly long-time holders of CMM, it’s been a long, strange trip. I bought it in the mid-1980s on the recommendation of a Merrill Lynch broker who touted it as a high-yield investment, at the time something like 10%. I think I was interested in zero-coupon bonds but I don’t exactly remember what I told him when I spoke to him at the Merrill Lynch booth in Grand Central Station. So for several years my $2,000 was throwing off about $200 a year. Then it became a stock, paying a high dividend, if I’m not mistaken, and that went on for a while, and then Merrill called some of the mortgage-backed securities CMM had parked with them and the company had to declare bankruptcy. Well, I stuck with them through thick and thin, and my current 27 shares, at twenty bucks each, are going to be worth $540. [The same money compounding at even 5% over those years would be worth $5,306.] Lessons of the story: Trusting brokers can be an expensive proposition. Buy-and-hold isn’t always the best idea. Index funds are your friends.’
Helene: ‘Every now and then you talk about stocks and when ‘we’ should sell and what is happening to ‘our’ profits. I feel left out as I am not sure what you are referring to. Do you have a recommended portfolio?’
☞ No, but every so often over the last 2,380 columns, I’ve – gently! – suggested a stock or two. And every so often I update those suggestions. In the early years, there was much more about personal finance. But how many columns can you write urging people to pay off their credit cards? (Really: pay off your credit cards.)
Anne O’Connor: ‘My favorites were Peach Ooh-La-Long and Lori’s Lemon, but yesterday I tried Pearfect White Tea – a new favorite. I don’t buy sugar, so my own iced tea is always strong and harsh, and I would never dare serve it to anyone. Thank goodness for Honest Tea, which is forcing me to be more civilized towards myself and my guests. The labels are so simple and elegant that the bottles can hold flowers on your kitchen table.’
Mike Schumacher: ‘Our new supermarket has been offering Honest Tea on sale (8 for $10). I tried it and enjoyed it a lot. I looked to see if it was public and couldn’t find anything.’
☞ It’s a private company started by a Yale B-school professor and one of his students. In hindsight, the valuation at which we invested was probably too high (the investors should probably have held out for a bigger slice of the pie). But we could still wind up doing nicely – and it’s fun, in any event, to be backing something with such good karma (and so few calories).
JIM CRAMER’S CASE FOR GOLD
Several of you sent me this, which I had clipped, too. I’m not a big fan of gold (its value derives from its scarcity – what good does it do the world to dig up more of it?), but the big picture Cramer paints rings all too true.
Linda Tam: ‘My son is 7 and here is the joke he told me:
Him: Knock, knock.
Me: Who’s there?
Him: Interrupting Cow.
Me: Interrupting Co–
‘I’d never heard this one when I was knock-knock-joke age and it cracked me up.’
Gray Chang: ‘I liked the joke about the rabbi, but it could come across as anti-Semitic. You might have mentioned that you’re Jewish.’
Jonathan Levy (who is probably also Jewish): ‘A rabbi, a priest, and a minister are playing poker when the game gets raided by the police and they get hauled before the judge. The judge says, ‘I feel really bad about this and since you are men of the cloth, I don’t think we need a full trial. I am simply going to ask you whether you were gambling and accept your answers.’ He turns first to the priest and says, ‘Father, were you gambling?’ The priest replies, ‘Well, it depends on your definition of gambling. There was money on the table but it remained to be seen whether it would change hands at the end of the night or if it was just a convenient way to mark the progress of the game. So, no, I was not gambling.’ The judge says, ‘Ok, case dismissed.’ Turning to the minister, he says, ‘Reverend, were you gambling?’ The minister says, ‘Again, it depends on your definition of ‘gambling.’ Does the amount involved have to be enough to affect your life or is it otherwise just sort of a variable entrance fee into the game so, no, I was not gambling.’ ‘Ok, case dismissed,’ the judge says. ‘Rabbi, were you gambling?’ The rabbi looks to his left, then to his right, and says, ‘With whom?”