We lost two great Americans over the weekend: Walter Wriston, who headed Citibank for many years, introduced ATMs to the world, and once handed me a gold Atmos clock to recognize my supposed prowess of prediction (I had just added 10% to everything, not even quite sure what it was we were predicting, and sure enough, a year later I emerged the big winner) . . . and Johnny Carson, who had me on his show twice to talk about the savings to be had in buying household staples in bulk when they were on sale (the first time, I forgot to unbutton my jacket when I sat down and looked so earnestly geeky he invited me back; the second time, I did even worse).
I will spare you the long form of all this, but wanted to say thanks to both.
As seen on the inside of a Peach Oo-La-Long Honest Tea cap: ‘Optimism can make you look stupid, but cynicism always makes you look cynical. – Calum Fisher’
Jay Glynn: ‘I recently flew on a Lufthansa flight equipped with on-board Internet and, thanks to Skype, was able to talk for free with a friend in London while cruising over the wilds of Canada. That was some savings over the normal $6 per minute air-phone charge!’
Anon: ‘Particularly in conversation between people using second language, Skype is great. One can mail files (.doc, .jpg, .gif) and Instant Message (clarify by writing out misunderstood items dessus not desous; a la bourre not a la beure) all while talking on the phone.’
SAVING IN FOREIGN CURRENCY
E. Dieter Martin: ‘Would you actually advise putting a considerable part of your retirement savings into a foreign currency fund? Isn’t that contrary to the common wisdom to take less risk as you approach retirement age? To me the only reason to invest in a foreign currency for retirement is when you plan to live there.’
☞ Well, I’m not saying this is practical or worth the hassle for everyone. But think of it this way. Is it wise to bet 100% of your funds that the US dollar will be the strongest currency in the world? That’s a bet, too, even though – because it requires no action – it doesn’t feel like one.
John Williams: ‘Marc Faber says the Singapore Dollar (also available at Everbank) is undervalued and a good currency play.’
Dan Carraco: ‘You say you would hate to give up 88 basis points to the T. Rowe Price International Bond Fund, but the Everbank folks told me they take .75% each way on buying and then cashing in their international currency CDs. That’s 150 basis points, if I’m not mistaken. Ouch!’
☞ Ouch, indeed! Pays to read the fine print – or, in this case, to call the toll-free number to ask. I didn’t see this on the web site.
E. Uprichard: ‘GIM is a Franklin-Templeton closed-end international bond fund that trades as a stock. Since it is a stock, it has no expenses per se, just the commission.’
☞ Well, not exactly. Closed-end funds deduct annual management and administrative fees from their results (which is one reason it makes sense that they normally sell for a little less than their net asset value). If I read GIM’s annual report right, the fund has performed very well – even after charging about 75 basis points annually in management fees. Then again, it currently sells at a 4% premium (meaning you have to invest $1.04 to own $1 worth of the fund), and that’s another ‘fee’ of a sort for getting on board.
STICKY LAPTOP SPACE BAR
Clint Chaplin offers this clip – worth a look if you have broadband. (And thanks, separately, to one of you who found me a new keyboard for $19.95 on eBay.)