Yesterday‘s column was posted late, so today just two quick life-changing items to give you time to go back and read about gummers and Hummers and puts and shorts.

INDEX FUNDS

Doug Olson: ‘I just saw last Tuesday‘s column that contained a reader critique of index funds. My own objection to them (although they are the basis of my 401k) is that almost all are market-cap weighted, so you own 50% too much of anything that’s 50% overpriced.’

☞ And, come to think of it, too little of anything that’s underpriced.

You’ll still do better than most folks, and most mutual funds. But an alternative may be coming out this fall that I will be telling you about as soon as it does. In the meantime (continues Doug), ‘What do you think of the Rydex Equal-Weight ETF (RSP) that holds 0.2% in every one of the S&P 500?’

I think it’s fine. You give up an extra two-tenths of a percent a year or so for its higher expense ratio, but could more than make that up if your thesis, above, is correct, and/or if small cap stocks outperform big cap stocks.

INTERESTING SALT

No, this is not about the book President Bush has been reading this summer, Salt: A World History, although I’m glad he’s found the time.

Salt is the spice of life, direct from the grease/salt/spice food group (which I actually prefer to the sugar/chocolate/cream food group*), and for reasons no one has yet been able to explain, it is incredibly cheap. As insanely expensive as it is to desalinate water, that is, unaccountably, how remarkably cheap it is to buy a pound of Diamond Crystal salt at the Piggly Wiggly. Yes, I know Diamond doesn’t produce its salt by desalinization, it digs it out of the salt mines – as in, ‘back to the salt mines’ – where the wages, I would guess from the context, are slavishly low. But think about it. A pound of salt is bulky and has got to weigh, oh, at least a pound – and yet they can get it to you all the way from Utah, clean as a whistle, packaged with a little metal spout, all for considerably less than a dollar? How do they do that?

Well, my point is this. Maybe you can’t afford your own jet or even a new car. Maybe you’re prudently funding a Roth IRA rather than a Rolex. But when it comes to salt, you can afford anything Bill Gates can. You can have the very best.

And even apart from the snob appeal of a fine salt – Charles and I are partial to the 48-ounce box of Morton’s Coarse Kosher salt for $1.79 a carton – there is the granularity or, in the case of Maldon Sea Salt, which we also like, the flakiness. And the taste! The taste! Bring on that tomato, Baby.

Here is a site you can make your own. Give that man or woman in your life a jar of Maine apple smoked salt this holiday season. Go crazy and make it a whole case of coarse Ittica d’Or Sicilian Sea Salt. If they like it, they’ll think of you every time they eat something – for years.

Of course, as with so many things in life, the priciest brand may not be the one you like best – witness this telling saline taste-off. But whatever your preference, what a feeling to know it’s, at most, just a few pennies a pinch. Go for it. Live a little. And no, no need to thank me. That’s what you pay me for.**

*You can tell the group toward which you are genetically predisposed by taking this simple test: Close your eyes and imagine a slice of greasy, thin crust sausage pizza on which you’ve liberally sprinkled garlic salt . . . beside a slice of chocolate cake. Which do you, in your imagination, instinctively reach for? For me, it’s not even close – get that ugly cake out of my way: I’m going for the pizza.

** No need to tell me about high blood pressure, either – ‘taste it before you put salt on it!’ I hear my mother wail, in vain – I leave that part to you and your doctor.

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