January 2010

Working From Home

When I started my investment firm, Gramercy Capital Management Corp. in 1986 the thought of working at home was not something I ever considered.   In the 20 years I had worked on Wall Street I had worked in large companies and small but never at home. My children were young and I wanted to get out of the house to work. But the internet has changed everything and opened new options for service businesses that must be seriously considered. 

Nose Above Water and Not About to Drown

This horoscope appeared in the paper the very week my life was upended in April 2009:

Wednesday, April 15th 2009: Life is full of situations that support or challenge you, Scorpio. However, one thing seems to be true for everyone: Your attitude can dictate the way you feel. Even when things feel stagnant in your life, stay positive. A surprise piece of news is headed your way, and whatever it is, it'll give you a lift.

The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River

My big trip in 2008 was one I had dreamed about for about 40 years, a 13 day rubber raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. When I decided to go in early 2008, I knew I was in no shape to undertake such a difficult trip. I enrolled at the JCC and promptly got myself a trainer. I lost weight and more than a dress size over the first few months of the year as I was working hard to build up my legs for climbing and hiking in the Canyon. I recently reread my journal that I kept on the trip. I am sorry now that I didn’t write more than I did.

Let Fitness Postpone When You Become Old?

Now that I’ve arrived in senior citizen land I’m finding a vast array of emotions go with that territory. To celebrate turning 65, I embarked on a journey that I had waited a lifetime to take. When I was 24, I took a side trip to the Grand Canyon on my way to California for business. I flew to Phoenix, rented a car and drove to the Canyon. While there I picked up a copy of Arizona Highways, a magazine published by the State of Arizona. In it were descriptions of rafting trips down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. I kept that magazine for 40 years because I knew that someday I would return.

You Can Reinvent Yourself

Case 1: The Lawyer

Flashback to 1969, It’s early in my career as a media and entertainment analyst. The Times Mirror Company had recently gone public and I had decided to write a report about the company. since nobody on Wall Street was following it as yet. I spent three months and a few visits to California in writing the biggest institutional report on the company published to that date. In the process, I met Martin Levin who ran the $200 million Times Mirror book group including a collection of a dozen book publishers with names you may remember such as New American Library, New English Library, Harry Abrams Art books and Southwestern Publishing which sold bibles door to door. Adjusted for forty years of inflation, just add another zero and that would be equivalent to managing a $2 billion business today. In the process, Levin and I became fast friends.

Can I Really Be An Entrepreneur?

When times are tough we often find ourselves trapped in a work environment which we would rather escape. We have bills to pay, debts to dispose of and we are just grateful for a paycheck coming in even though we hate what we do. It can also disrupt your health. In January, I gave a talk to the Financial Women’s Assn. of N.J. at the Harborside Financial Center in Jersey City. It’s prime real estate right along the Hudson River with beautiful views of the downtown NY skyline and the harbor. A big financial firm was the kind host of the event and provided a room and AV equipment. The floor where the room was located was huge and just about empty. It had been a call center for the firm’s customers until all the jobs were shipped to Manila.

You Need Stocks, Not Bonds, To Rebuild Your Nest Egg

Of Course Your Retirement Funds Are Dented?
Three years ago stocks were it! The Dow was at an all time high. It was all about E-trading, hanging out in on-line chat rooms, stock tips at the water cooler, bragging about your winners. Everybody was feeling rich and thinking about early retirement. Not now! Perhaps you have had to postpone your retirement or totally rebuild your life. Maybe you did retire and now find you must return to work.

The Mutual Fund Industry: A Mountain of Abuses

If you thought the investment research scandal during the tech bubble was the only corrupt corner of Wall Street, think again. Either through investment plans at work or through funds purchased directly, most individuals now own portfolios of mutual funds much as people owned stock portfolios decades ago. Mutual funds are a very big business and that always invites opportunity for chicanery. Some years ago when former Governor Eliot Spitzer was still Attorney General of New York, he uncovered widespread abuses in the mutual fund industry that the SEC had just ignored. What first seemed to be a molehill had turned into a mountain of abuses.

Information is All Around You, But Can You See It?

Recently, I was exchanging emails with the man who gave me my start as an investment analyst three decades ago. That firm Equity Research Associates, was a vibrant, sassy upstart that was known for first-rate, highly original, forward-thinking research. I learned from him that investment success is about figuring out what’s going to happen next not what happened last week or last month. Success demands that you figure out trends before they are well observed. There are huge rewards for being early to the party and gigantic penalties for being the last one to leave.

When Less Is Truly More

We’re Americans. We were raised to shop ‘til we drop. Remember when we would buy a new car every year. We got over that idea a long time ago. We see things, we want them, we buy them. Or we used to. Recent circumstances in the economy have shown us, however, that a revised point of view is needed. Americans have shut their wallets and left their credit cards home for the last year. November 2009 was the 14th straight drop in credit card borrowings, the worst decline since 1943. So collectively we are getting the message and taking action.