Volatility in investing can be a great thing. The attraction to Bernie Madoff's scam can be better understood by its lack of volatility. His funds showed annual returns of an eerily consistent 10-12% and at one point reported 72 consecutive months of positive returns. His strategy used a split-strike or collar options strategy (not related … Continue reading On Hidden Risks and Volatility
Some call them clients, others guests or customers. Costco (Ticker: COST, revenue $141B) calls them members, a term that makes you feel like you're part of a special club. It's a club that will not sell you junk*. They do not exaggerate. Theirs is not fake-Enron-style-ethics-bragging, and they actually list shareholders' interests last. Focus on the … Continue reading Costco: Lessons from Member Obsession.
Financial valuation uses multiple approaches to estimate the value of a company, whether a shoe factory, a chain of Tex-Mex restaurants, a software company, a bank, or a law firm. The questions are framed around what a firm is worth relative to cash flow, book value, relative to similar assets, recent industry transactions, or others. … Continue reading Medical Bankruptcies in America
Mothers and psychologists remind us that we have a built-in bias to do what's easiest or to follow the path of least resistance. Water and electricity are like this. We are naturally lazy so to stick to an exercise plan, it should be something we like, with shoes left by the bed, perhaps done with … Continue reading Cadillac Consequences
In 2008 Warren Buffett made a bet against active investing, or more specifically the active-active, triple-fee side of investing, the hedge funds of funds. This group charges fees for placing money with hedge funds, who typically charge their own two types of fees. hedge fund's ability to pick funds that would outperform the S&P 500 … Continue reading Why I’m Betting Against Berkshire
I've always liked understanding the world through numbers, and markets are the beautiful impartial scorekeeper. When I was a teenager I used to compare the price of things to Wendy's cheeseburgers. "That's like 35 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers!" I would say in disbelief. When I was hungry I was more price sensitive of the ratio of … Continue reading Averages are Overrated
Businesses love metrics. One form or novel way (a 5 on the hack prowess scale) is to find the perfect metric that makes the future a little more predictable. The eager student tells the elderly person, "Teach me to be wealthy, only quicker" to paraphrase C.T. Munger. A year after the financial crisis of 2007-2008, … Continue reading On RVs and Write-Offs
$4,537 can buy a lot of Skittles*. Or it can buy you the average single deductible for an unsubsidized enrollee with healthcare coverage on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. At 3.4x less, the $1,350 average deductible for the 152 million who get their insurance through an employer looks benevolent. In spite of having the word "affordable" … Continue reading The $4,500 Deductible
Today the cost of healthcare landed on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, just below a story on bond yields, and next to the dancing UK Prime Minister, Teresa May. The angle of the story is how the cost of family healthcare premiums in the United States now approaches $20,000. The genesis of … Continue reading The $20,000 Price Tag: Insights into the 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Survey.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon is famous for being customer-centric, so much so that Amazon's annual letters proudly say, "We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company." Shipping, easy returns, streaming, and Kindle are proof. "Free" 2-day shipping for Prime membership is a big part for me. So far this year I've ordered 54 packages, or … Continue reading In Praise of the Six Page Narrative