Friday, April 25, 2008

Quote of the Day: Lincoln on Happiness

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
--Abraham Lincoln

Ironically enough, Lincoln suffered from clinical depression. Remember kids, depression is a physiological condition--check with your physician!

F--k Stress, Live Life

Something I learned back when I started my first company is that there is always more you can do. There's always one more email, one more phone call, one more Google search that might help your business.

In the end, however, each day has only 24 hours, and when those hours are gone, they are gone forever. Moreover, you have only so many days to live, and each day that passes brings you one step closer to the cold embrace of death.

Starting companies (or investing in them) is hard work. But stress, however justified, does not help your productivity. It's better to compartmentalize and make sure that you leave enough of your time and energy to actually live your life.

The best way to find happiness is not to defer it to a far-off, continually receding future, but to seek it in the here and now.

(originally posted as a comment on Brad Feld's blog)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Quote of the Day: Davos

"Davos is the factory that manufactures the global conventional wisdom."
--David Rothkopf, Superclass

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chick Hearn on Hillary Clinton: This Game Is In The Refrigerator

Hillary Clinton has done the impossible. As a confirmed political junkie, I had been looking forward to the 2008 elections for years. I thought that I enjoyed the cut and thrust of politics, the oratorical flourishes, the careers made and destroyed.

But if there's anything I can't stand, it's pointless activity.

Like him or not, Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination. In the absence of a blowout victory in Pennsylvania, there's no probable way for Hillary Clinton to make up her delegate deficit. But in the absence of an Obama victory in PA, Hillary Clinton also has the ammunition to stave off her final surrender.

In other words, the primary from hell will continue, as the Democratic Party continues to display its usual indecisiveness and remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (No endorsement of either major political party is intended, just a practitioner's critique)

If this primary were a football game, Hillary Clinton would have started the contest as a two touchdown favorite, only to have a surprising underdog, Barack Obama, shoot out to a 10-point lead based on superior coaching and execution.

Now we're at the two-minute warning. Obama has the ball, and all he has to do to guarantee victory is to grind out a couple of first downs. Even if he has to punt, Clinton still has to score a touchdown, recover an onside kick, and connect on another Hail Mary to win.

Bottom line? This game is in the refrigerator. Mark it down right now, Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee (and if you disagree, I will take all bets of *any* size that Hillary Clinton will win, and will even offer 2:1 odds). And as I've done with many of Superbowl blowout in the past, I'm going to grab the remote and try to find something more interesting on the Discovery Channel.

I'm done with you Hillary. You won't be wasting any more of my precious time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Checkout Line Bingo: Why You Should Invest in Index Funds

Time and time again, financial experts recommend that we invest in index funds. But despite their carefully reasoned arguments, index funds and ETFs only account for 17% of equity assets. Despite being the cheaper, better performing solution, most investors don't seem to buy into the pro-index arguments on a visceral level.

And while John Bogle, Peter Lynch, and Warren Buffett may have failed to make people index believers, I thought I'd take a crack at fixing the problem with what I jokingly call "Checkout Line Bingo." (Ramit, feel free to use this concept for a future post)

Everyone has played Checkout Line Bingo. You glance across the lines, trying to factor in the speed of the checker, the number of people in line, the items in their cart, and whether or not they look like they'll slow things down by writing a check or disputing a price scan.

And if you're like me, you usually lose. I hate playing Checkout Line Bingo. It's one of those things where I know I just can't win.

Investing is like picking a checkout line--it is a zero sum game. The checkers can only check out so many people per hour, and which line you pick doesn't affect the overall number, just as choosing which fund or stock you buy doesn't affect the overall market (for every buyer, there is a seller; for every killing, someone gets killed).

If it were an option, I'd much rather there be a single checkout line where the first person in line gets to go to the next open register (a la your local bank branch, or checking in at the airport). That's the equivalent of index investing--you're not going to magically cut to the front of the line, but you're not going to get stuck behind someone asking for a price check on stuffed olives.

What's more, making investment choices is far tougher than picking a checkout line. Rather than 5-10 choices, you have thousands of funds and stocks to choose from. And rather than competing with your fellow shoppers to see who checks out first, you're going up against legions of professional money managers who spend every minute of every day trying to squeeze out the best possible return...and charging you hefty management fees.

Plus, if you pick the wrong checkout line, the worst that can happen is that your Haagen-Daaz melts. If you pick the wrong fund or stock for your retirement savings, you may end up with a one-way ticket to a cardboard box under the nearest overpass.

So when you're feeling bored with index funds, and are tempted to go for "sexy" funds or stocks, think about whether you really want to play Checkout Line Bingo with your life savings.