Thorsten Kril: “There is a much better broker available where trades are free — American Express. You wrote about it yourself some time ago. I have been using it for 5 months now, and it works fine. Fine service — no commission. [Others have reported Amex being overwhelmed, at least temporarily, by all the demand for its no-commission accounts, and not such fine service.] Of course, you need a minimum balance of $25K there for free buys, but on Freetrade you can only buy round lots for free [so small investors do have to pay, just as with Amex]. With American Express, I can take my monthly investment money of a few hundred bucks and evenly distribute it among the dozen or so stocks where I already have a position for free. That’s perfect dollar-cost averaging for me, especially in these volatile days.”
LOWER UTILITY BILLS?
Jeff: “SmartEnergy.com constantly shops for energy — gas, oil, electricity, etc. — from the cheapest source (which it can do thanks to deregulation), and passes it on to you. All you have to do is enter your zip code and they will tell you if they can save you money — or put you on an emailing list to let you know when they serve your area and can save you money.”
Jeff has a small stake in this enterprise, and I’m not recommending it. But it is interesting to take a look.
(RELATIVELY) CHEAP ART
Craig: “My mom and I were at a Martin Lawrence gallery recently, and she was eyeing an Andy Warhol signed print. (She owns some Warhols that have gone up a lot since she bought them). It was selling for just over $14,000. Back at her computer, we surfed the Internet, and found the same print for sale for just over $8,000. Such is the ease of comparison shopping on the Internet! The owner of that site (artbrokerage.com) says, ‘don’t pay retail.'”
I say: Tear off some old magazine covers and frame them as a collage.
MYM DOS USERS
Well, the easy quote updates from CompuServe seem finally to be over. But . . . Gregory Lawton: “The freeware program authored by Kurt Wolfsberg (YAH-MYM2.ZIP) works quite well. It is available on the CompuServe Moneyforum in the section 18 library. You download portfolio quotes from Yahoo Finance in CSV format, then run a batch file that runs programs to convert the Yahoo CSV data file to compuserve.out. A little bit of extra hassle, but I can’t do without MYM. I doubt that I would be as well off today as I am if it had not been for MYM.”
Jane Balk: “Thank you for pointing die-hard MYM12 for DOS users like me to the ConvertTrack software, so we can continue to download prices from the Internet to our MYM12 software. It works great. I will use MYM12 for DOS as long as I have a computer that can handle it. I’m not a Windows hater; but nothing gives me the information as fast and well-organized as MYM12.”
No sane person, even if he could find a copy, would switch to this dinosaur. But for those of us who already have our lives in it, it works well.
NOTES FROM THE MARCH
Robert Sartain: “Coolest T-shirt slogan: I can’t even march straight! Coolest hand-lettered sign: If God hates fags, why isn’t it raining? [Those people were there with their signs. It was a spectacularly sunny day.] Coolest story: Saturday night before the march Chris and I were at the Metro Center Metro station waiting for a train to take us back to our hotel. We struck up a conversation with a man carrying a tuba. (A tuba in a Metro station is a great conversation starter.) We talked with him for ten or fifteen minutes, then talked with a bit with a woman who asked us how long we’d been waiting for a train. Here’s where the story gets cool. She is a high school English teacher who was one of several chaperones escorting kids from her school to the march. The TWO kids were the ENTIRE Gay-Straight Alliance in their high school of 350. The kids held raffles and raised money to come to the march, and when they were still a few bucks short, their principal kicked in the difference. She told us of how the kids’ faces lit up when they saw the pride rainbows and balloons at the festival and the march, and how the kids felt so great to be part of a community, not to be freaks or outcasts, at least for a weekend. When someone asks me why I marched, I think of those kids.”
Next week: I really, really promise to do the Treasury Inflation Protected Securities column.