We thought you might enjoy a look at the January issue #61 of American Lifestyle Magazine. It’s a gift that we send to clients and we’d like to share with you in “soft” form.
By Guest Blogger, Susan ScheideIt wasn’t long ago that Tim Shanahan was adamant that he wanted a mobile phone to make phone calls, and nothing else. I had a little flip phone, and I barely knew how to use it because I have very little need for a mobile phone. It was our own Susan Weschler, Operations Manager for Compass Securities, who blazed a trail into the world of the smart phone here at Compass. And now, most of us don’t know how we ever lived without them! I still don’t use my phone as a phone very often, but boy does it come in handy for so many other things.
Here are some of our favorite apps, and why we like them.
Android Phone Based Apps
1. The most useful app I have is WAZE- a socially networked navigation program. Now owned by Google and integrated into Google maps. WAZE doesn’t just give you maps and directions, it allows users to report things like police activity, traffic jams, and road debris. Very useful if you want to avoid those things.
2. Camscanner and also Google Drive- it allows me to send pdf copies of articles to anyone without clipping it out and putting it into a scanner. I can personally attest to the usefulness of Camscanner, as Tim has sent me several newspaper articles from our local Canton paper because he knows I don’t subscribe to it.
3. Google Keep- it replaces Post-It notes for the many, many things I have to do that are not part of my calendar. Also use it for a shopping list.
4. KeyRing- replaces all those key tags and loyalty cards like My Lowes, etc.
Susan writes, “Where to start? Ok here are 3 of my favorites, all freebies!”
1. Flipboard-can be customized by information category; new, business, shopping, sports, etc, to read articles you’re interested in.
2. Toodledo-Cross-platform app that synchs with your phone/computer task list. Especially helpful to schedule recurring tasks, reminders. She says she would be lost without it.
3. Evernote-Another cross-platform app that synchs with phone/computer: Designed for note taking and archiving (think scanning documents as PDFs and storing them.) A “note” can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten “ink” note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can be sorted into folders, then tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched and exported as part of a notebook.
I admit that my phone is primarily used for personal business, not work, so the apps I’ve picked as favorites are more useful for home life than as work aides!
1. The Walgreens App—Scan your prescriptions to order refills in seconds! So much faster and easier than calling the pharmacy, pressing the right series of numbers to get the refill line, keying in your prescription number, etc. I can get a prescription refill done in seconds. And I’ve set this app up so that I get a text message when my prescription is ready for pick up!
1. The Bank of America App—This one is only useful to those with Bank of America accounts, but I think most banks now have mobile apps. You can deposit checks (smaller than $5,000) with your phone, transfer money between accounts, check balances, get a daily text message with your balance.
4. Foscam Pro—I use this with an IP (internet protocol—in other words, a camera that broadcasts picture through the internet) camera to spy on my dog and cats. I can view what is going on at home from anywhere. I initially purchased the camera to figure out a behavioral issue he was having. Now I know he sleeps ALL DAY.
5. moreBeaute2—An automatic photo editing app that makes you look AWESOME before posting those selfies! Instantly smooths out your skin, etc. You’ll look fabulous!
We’d love to hear from you about your favorite apps!
Just because teenagers are good at math doesn’t mean they can manage money
News flash: 15-year-olds aren’t particularly good with money. Some are better than others, though, and kids in Shanghai are the savviest of the lot (relatively speaking). Read this article to see how our USA kids stack up vs the rest of the world, and take the sample question yourself.
We thought you might enjoy a look at the August issue #64 of American Lifestyle Magazine. It’s a gift that we send to clients and we’d like to share with you in “soft” form. We hope you like it.
This posting about The Bond Trap by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital tells how the American financial establishment has an incredible ability to celebrate the inconsequential while ignoring the vital. Last week, while the Wall Street Journal pondered how the Fed may set interest rates three to four years in the future (an exercise that David Stockman rightly compared to debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin), the media almost completely ignored one of the most chilling pieces of financial news that Peter has ever seen.
The Bond Trap ,June 23, 2014
by Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital
The American financial establishment has an incredible ability to celebrate the inconsequential while ignoring the vital. Last week, while the Wall Street Journal pondered how the Fed may set interest rates three to four years in the future (an exercise that David Stockman rightly compared to debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin), the media almost completely ignored one of the most chilling pieces of financial news that I have ever seen. According to a small story in the Financial Times, some Fed officials would like to require retail owners of bond mutual funds to pay an “exit fee” to liquidate their positions. Come again? That such a policy would even be considered tells us much about the current fragility of our bond market and the collective insanity of layers of unnecessary regulation.
Recently Federal Reserve Governor Jeremy Stein commented on what has become obvious to many investors: the bond market has become too large and too illiquid, exposing the market to crisis and seizure if a large portion of investors decide to sell at the same time. Such an event occurred back in 2008 when the money market funds briefly fell below par and “broke the buck.” To prevent such a possibility in the larger bond market, the Fed wants to slow any potential panic selling by constructing a barrier to exit. Since it would be outrageous and unconstitutional to pass a law banning sales (although in this day and age anything may be possible) an exit fee could provide the brakes the Fed is looking for. Fortunately, the rules governing securities transactions are not imposed by the Fed, but are the prerogative of the SEC. (But if you are like me, that fact offers little in the way of relief.) How did it come to this?
For the past six years it has been the policy of the Federal Reserve to push down interest rates to record low levels. In has done so effectively on the “short end of the curve” by setting the Fed Funds rate at zero since 2008. The resulting lack of yield in short term debt has encouraged more investors to buy riskier long-term debt. This has created a bull market in long bonds. The Fed’s QE purchases have extended the run beyond what even most bond bulls had anticipated, making “risk-free” long-term debt far too attractive for far too long. As a result, mutual fund holdings of long term government and corporate debt have swelled to more $7 trillion as of the end of 2013, a whopping 109% increase from 2008 levels.
Compounding the problem is that many of these funds are leveraged, meaning they have borrowed on the short-end to buy on the long end. This has artificially goosed yields in an otherwise low-rate environment. But that means when liquidations occur, leveraged funds will have to sell even more long-term bonds to raise cash than the dollar amount of the liquidations being requested.
But now that Fed policies have herded investors out on the long end of the curve, they want to take steps to make sure they don’t come scurrying back to safety. They hope to construct the bond equivalent of a roach motel, where investors check in but they don’t check out. How high the exit fee would need to be is open to speculation. But clearly, it would have to be high enough to be effective, and would have to increase with the desire of the owners to sell. If everyone panicked at once, it’s possible that the fee would have to be utterly prohibitive.
As we reach the point where the Fed is supposed to wind down its monthly bond purchases and begin trimming the size of its balance sheet, the talk of an exit fee is an admission that the market could turn very ugly if the Fed were to no longer provide limitless liquidity. (See my prior commentaries on this, including may 2014’s Too Big To Pop)
Irrespective of the rule’s callous disregard for property rights and contracts (investors did not agree to an exit fee when they bought the bond funds),the implementation of the rule would illustrate how bad government regulation can build on itself to create a pile of counterproductive incentives leading to possible market chaos.
In this case, the problems started back in the 1930s when the Roosevelt Administration created the FDIC to provide federal insurance to bank deposits. Prior to this,consumers had to pay attention to a bank’s reputation, and decide for themselves if an institution was worthy of their money. The free market system worked surprisingly well in banking, and could even work better today based on the power of the internet to spread information. But the FDIC insurance has transferred the risk of bank deposits from bank customers to taxpayers. The vast majority of bank depositors now have little regard for what banks actually do with their money. This moral hazard partially set the stage for the financial catastrophe of 2008 and led to the current era of “too big to fail.”
In an attempt to reduce the risks that the banking system imposed on taxpayers, the Dodd/Frank legislation passed in the aftermath of the crisis made it much more difficult for banks and other large institutions to trade bonds actively for their own accounts. This is a big reason why the bond market is much less liquid now than it had been in the past. But the lack of liquidity exposes the swollen market to seizure and failure when things get rough. This has led to calls for a third level of regulation (exit fees) to correct the distortions created by the first two. The cycle is likely to continue.
The most disappointing thing is not that the Fed would be in favor of such an exit fee, but that the financial media and the investing public would be so sanguine about it. If the authorities consider an exit fee on bond funds, why not equity funds, or even individual equities? Once that Rubicon is crossed, there is really no turning back. I believe it to be very revealing that when asked about the exit fees at her press conference last week, Janet Yellen offered no comment other than a professed unawareness that the policy had been discussed at the Fed, and that such matters were the purview of the SEC. The answer seemed to be too canned to offer much comfort. A forceful rejection would have been appreciated.
But the Fed’s policy appears to be to pump up asset prices and to keep them high no matter what. This does little for the actual economy but it makes their co-conspirators on Wall Street very happy. After all, what motel owner would oppose rules that prevent guests from leaving? The sad fact is that if investors hold bond long enough to be exposed to a potential exit fee, then the fee may prove to be the least of their problems.
Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show.