PHONETAG.COM

This is so cool – I wish I needed it. Basically, for $30 a month, PhoneTag converts your voicemail into text and delivers it directly to your handheld and/or your email. You can still hear it as voicemail, but it sure is faster just to read through it all. And what’s so neat is the quality of the transcription – at least judging from a few samples a friend who does use it sent me. Amazing. ‘With PhoneTag,’ reads the website, ‘you can read every voicemail that comes into any of your phone numbers – from anywhere.’

PENNYTALK.COM

Another friend was horrified to see a $378 phone bill for a handful of calls to China on his iPhone – at $3.49 a minute. With pennytalk.com, those calls – from the same iPhone – are now 49-cents each plus TWO CENTS a minute. (So about $4 instead of $378.)

OTHER CURRENCIES

Mike Woolen: ‘I am one of those rare conservative Republicans who read your column without fail. Thanks for the link to the ‘bubble’ video. I ended up watching all fifteen videos and feel like I have a better understanding of what is really going on in the country. Indeed, hard times are coming. Mr. Martenson says in one of the videos that he decided to ‘place my wealth out of the path of a potential dollar collapse.’ But he would not suggest a specific strategy to do so. I was hoping that you might.’

☞ The first thing to say (other than that I’m really happy you come here, despite our differing views) is that part of the collapse (or perhaps most of it, we’ll someday look back and realize) is behind us. The dollar has lost more than half its value, versus the euro, since conservative Republicans swept George W. Bush into office January 20, 2001. So there could be an element of horses and barn doors in this.

But I expect the dollar may have farther to fall, so the second thing to say is that I keep some of my own cash in foreign currency Exchange Traded Funds with the symbols FXA, FXC, FXE, FXF, and FXY. Will this turn out to be smart? I hope not.

(In addition to foreign currency, lots of investments – including some mentioned yesterday – might be unscathed or even helped by further erosion of the dollar.)

FANNIE AND FREDDIE

Tom Knapp: ‘I’m an English teacher, not an economist, so of course I don’t know too much about these corporations, but I’m puzzled why FNM and FRE wouldn’t seem like good buys now – down from highs of 70 to 8 and 67 to 6 respectively and paying about 13% at that rate. All the Jim Cramers say they are ‘too big to fail,’ the government seems to agree, and some are even talking about having the U.S. buy shares. What’s not to like here? (Of course with MYCTATL…)’

☞ I hear you, and you could be right. But the government may not be eager to bail out the shareholders, only to recapitalize the companies. One way to keep them from failing would be to put up (say) $500 billion for a new set of strong companies into which the existing companies would be merged on terms that left the current shareholders with just (say) a 1% token stake.

HISTORICAL ANALOGIES

Chip Ellis: ‘You write, ‘Inevitable antidote to nutty inflation is a wrenching recession (does anyone remember 1981?).’ I think that you really should be looking back a decade further. Johnson gave us guns and butter (Great Society) that combined with oil price hike led to stagflation in early 1970’s. W has given us guns and tax cuts and oil prices have again jumped – this seems pretty similar so shouldn’t we expect a similar stagflation? What investment strategies can be learned form the 1970’s?’

☞ Quite possibly. Inflation got worse and worse, interest rates peaked at 15% in the summer of 1982, and the Dow – which had first touched 1,000 in 1966 – didn’t touch it again until 16 years later. (One investment strategy that can be learned is not to buy 30-year 4.5% Treasury bonds at the outset of what could be a long struggle with inflation.)

 

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