Carnival of Wealth, Back from the Dead Edition

You can't kill a dead man, but apparently a part-timer can break his streak

You can’t kill a dead man, but apparently a part-timer can break his streak

 

If you missed last week’s Carnival of Wealth…well, you weren’t the only one.

First, the excuse: we use a couple of hosting services to organize the carnival submissions for us. One of those services has been down for a while now, the other one takes submissions and watches them disappear into the ether. So we should have been suspicious when Sunday night came around and we’d received posts from a grand total of 2 sites, one of them with only a tenuous connection to personal finance. Thank God we’ve developed the ability to filibuster. The next morning, many of our regular submitters asked where their offerings had vanished to. We couldn’t have been more embarrassed. (Shout out to anyone who has a site and wants to submit – from now on just email us.) In fact, we were so abashed by our sparse Carnival of Wealth last week that we punished ourselves with a 1-day sabbatical. So here’s how good our feature attraction, our carnival can look with an extra 24 hours of preparation behind it:

Let’s start with the man who’s done more to earn top billing at Control Your Cash than anyone, Jason at Hull Financial Planning. If you heard our most recent appearance on the Stacking Benjamins podcast, you’ll know how little we think of the “news” that high-frequency trading is a scourge created by the amorphous evil entity collectively known as Wall Street, designed to profit off everyday investors. Yes, high-frequency trading takes advantage of market inefficiencies in fantastically short time periods. The difference between buying XYZ stock at 19 and buying it at 18.999 can mean significant profits if you’re dealing in institutional-sized quantities. (It can also mean significant losses, but the kind of gullible septuagenarians who watch 60 Minutes aren’t interested in that.) For investors of ordinary means, minor discrepancies in price will have a negligible effect on the buy-and-hold strategy you should be using.

Or as Jason pointed out, high-frequency traders pocket a percentage of the total value of all stock market transactions. How big a percentage? .02. Or the equivalent of the price of Michael Lewis’s new book on an investment of $140,000.

How smart is Nelson at Financial Uproar? Too smart to have gone to college. (You people with 5-figure student loan balances didn’t think such a thing could exist, did you? What a shame that your post-secondary educations never afforded you the opportunity to exercise your imaginations.) This week Nelson pounces on some idiot ex-journalist who wrote a book about his discomfort working at a retail job, the man held me down, barely a living wage, insufficient health insurance, capitalism blows, etc., etc. Nelson, again not bogged down by a college degree and the unrealistic expectations that accompany it, managed to turn what could have been a dead-end retail career into unqualified success. Nelson also didn’t slap his ex-wife around, something the journalist should have thought of before it forced him to change careers. See how simple most of this stuff is?

Who likes uncompensated labor? Aside from every employer in the world, that is. Pauline Paquin at Make Money Your Way has plenty to say about internships; how they’re offered as an investment (12 weeks in the boiler room at Goldman Sachs will lead to a fast-track first-year salary) when the reality is something quite different. Pauline explains why you shouldn’t work for nothing to gain experience, save for very rare exceptions (specifically, what used to be called professions: medicine, etc.) Pauline is debt-free, owns multiple revenue-producing properties, and lives on the beach in Guatemala, so it might behoove you to listen to her. (Then again, she isn’t a college admissions officer or a corporate recruiter, so she can’t possibly know what she’s talking about.)

Two more submissions, both of them stellar. Justin at Root of Good retired in his 30s, and now has the rest of his life in which to trot the globe and raise his kids. Is early retirement with mouths to feed the way to go? Personally, we’d rather work and not reproduce (if forced to choose), although we do understand that we’re in a statistically insignificant minority. Justin explains how to balance the economic and parental parts of your life without compromise.

Finally, PKamp3 at DQYDJ.net shows us the ramifications of Poe’s Law in practice. The internet has desensitized us to sincerity, to the point where legitimately held extreme beliefs and parodies of the same can be hard to tell apart. If you’re a fan of horribly written blogs with uninteresting content, this post is for you, and please understand what we mean by that. (You’ll have to read his post to find out.)

Thanks for coming. Another Carnival of Wealth next Monday, we swear. And a new post later this week.

Carnival of Wealth, Andrew Pohl Edition

Andrew and his best friend, Gord

Andrew and his best friend, Gord

 

That’s the problem with being selective. You accept only the good submissions, or the stupendously awful ones, and pretty soon the number of submitters dwindles to a trickle. Presenting another edition of the Carnival of Wealth, the only personal finance blog carnival worth a damn. Even with only 2 submitters. One of whom is one of the aforementioned awful contingent, the other of whom is a rookie. When you’re the only legitimate submitter, unbowed by threats of search engine optimization punishment, the least we can do is name a weekly edition of the Carnival of Wealth in your honor.

That warrants some explanation, and excuse us if this is a little too inside baseball. The majority of blog carnivals are nothing but collections of links. Just look at this garbage. 83 indistinguishable personal finance bloggers submitting synopses of their latest genius, which this week’s designated honoree then copies and pastes with so little quality control that he included a few duplicates. Of course, no one’s going to read such an agglomeration, much in the same way that no one reads a telephone directory from start to finish. But, the submitting sites end up getting linked to, and that’s all that matters: another instance of the URL BoringPersonalFinanceSite.com clogging up the internet, and thus ostensibly improving the site’s Google PageRank. Now, the site owner can charge a few pennies more for advertising.

That’s all such an inferior carnival is, a festival of recursion. You scratch my back with a link, I scratch yours when it’s my turn, everybody profits. It’s foolproof! Those losers like the Control Your Cash team are wasting their time trying to write something entertaining and readable when instead they could showcase an insipid parade of links.

You’d be amazed at how pervasive this is. Most of our contemporaries, and we use that term loosely, fixate on Google analytics to the exclusion of everything else. You think we’re making that up? We received the following email last week (click on it to embiggen):

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 7.22.36 PM

 

He was serious, or doing a convincing impression of being so. The legalese was a nice touch. We were serious too (ditto):

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 7.22.55 PM

 

Immature? Yeah, but he started it.

You’re not going to believe this, but the folks at Google – who created this almighty algorithm in the first place – have figured out that people are trying to game the system by rounding up links and putting them on display to artificially enhance their page rankings. So some red-handed bloggers – not all, but enough, and their ranks are growing – have decided to quit submitting to carnivals altogether. Case in point, the carnival we used as a bad example above used to get over 100 submissions a week.

Well, with a carnival like the CoW, which receives fewer submissions to begin with, losing submitters is somewhat more noticeable. Not that we’re accusing our absent submitters of disappearing solely for search engine optimization reasons, mind you. But it does make for a thinner carnival. One that we’re devoting to the intrepid Andrew Pohl this week, our only legitimate contributor.

Andrew is the brains behind Finance With Reason, a site we’d never heard of before. The title of his post is a rhetorical question, or at least we hope it’s rhetorical. “Should I Invest in Penny Stocks?” Ha, trick question. You can’t “invest” in penny stocks, because penny stocks aren’t an investment. They’re pure speculation. And it appears that Andrew is self-aware enough to see penny stocks for what they are:

If you want to get rich quick with no effort at all then penny stocks are for you.  If you think it would be a better idea to climb off of your unicorn and float down to earth instead of looking for a pile of gold at the end of a rainbow then you should stay far, far away from penny stocks.

There isn’t more to it than that. Yes, a stock that sells for 6¢ a share has an excellent chance of doubling in value. More than, say, Berkshire Hathaway stock, which is currently trading at $185,149 and won’t be making it to $370,298 anytime in the short term. Of course, the obvious downside to a stock trading at 6¢ is that a 6¢ drop in its price is fatal. Andrew knows this now, but didn’t know it when he was 18. He got educated the hard way, but it’s much better that he did so earlier than later. We won’t ruin his post for you, but will instead encourage you to read it. Ahead of all the other submissions this week.

Back for a second week is AccuTech, a company that we made fun of last week but whose representatives insisted on returning for a second visit. AccuTech’s Jim Brewer is proud to announce that AccuTech offers “the most comprehensive heating and cooling services available in Warrington, PA.” You know what else AccuTech offers? Lots and lots of the same SEO nonsense we whined about earlier:

We can clean your air ducts that are used for heating

our pledge to you is to provide superior heating and cooling services

Whatever climate control comfort needs you have, no matter how large or small, we can meet your requirements.

We are your go-to full-service company for central AC and heating

Enlist our help with air conditioning and heating services near Warrington PA today.

Not with a bang but a whimper. And we’re done, hopefully not permanently. Catch us on Investopedia. And on the Stacking Benjamins podcast, weather permitting. See you tomorrow.

Carnival of Wealth, Ockham’s Razor Edition

Includes an attachment for those hard-to-reach places

Includes an attachment for those hard-to-reach places

 

So the Malaysian government has determined that an airliner that was lost over the ocean did, in point of fact, crash into the ocean. Thanks for that. Next up, how was the Empire State Building erected: 1930s-era work crews, or visitors from Tau Ceti?

Excuse us as we go off on the absurdity of journalists in general. They deserve it. Last week a CNN anchor entertained the notion of Flight 370 being swallowed by a black hole. One localized entirely within a segment of the Indian Ocean. A Mother Jones writer blames the failure to find remnants of the flight on anthropogenic global warming. Sure, why not? How about this – be it resolved that it’s impossible to find a denser-than-water structure, the size of a baseball infield, in an area the size of Maryland? Oh, and let’s not forget the Fox News anchor who helpfully pointed out that the Indian Ocean is “one of the deepest oceans on Earth.” Well, it’s definitely in the top 5. And what does that mean: that it’s easier to find a plane in an ocean that averages 10,000 feet of depth than in one that averages 12,000 feet? The recovery effort, much like its Air France Flight 447 counterpart, represents millions of dollars spent purely for public relations without the intention of doing anything concrete. The proverbial needle in a haystack has a better chance of being found. The ocean is large. In Flight 447′s case, someone turned up some debris a year and 9 months after the crash. Not sure what the point of that was.

And now, the always awkward transition from a general knowledge topic to the Carnival of Wealth. We do this every Monday, in case this is your first time here. Personal finance blog posts from everywhere, varying in content from stellar to abysmal. Fortunately, most of the submitters whose posts are in the latter category have been shamed out of existence in recent months. What remains is the wheat. Let’s get started, shall we?

Pauline Paquin at Reach Financial Independence asks if you’re richer than your grandparents. Even though they’re had the capacity for building wealth for decades, while you’re young enough to have grandparents who are still alive. Pauline explains the concept of division of labor better than Adam Smith himself could do it, illustrating how a society that’s progressed beyond subsistence agriculture lets its denizens multiply their productivity just by doing whatever the marketplace offers rewards for. If this sounds like nothing more than an academic economics treatise, it isn’t. For millions of us, any productivity advantage enjoyed over our grandparents just by virtue of us being born later is more than negated by our appetite for buying (and financing) stuff we don’t need. Pauline, by the way, is richer than her grandparents ever dreamed of – both in terms of net fiscal worth and of the freedom that said worth brings.

SAFEMAX sounds like a prison classification. “Once they catch Robert William Fisher, he’ll be looking at 40-to-life in Florence, Colorado at SAFEMAX.” Not quite. It’s an attempt to measure how quickly you can withdraw money in retirement without being stuck with too many remaining heartbeats and too few dollars to spend maintaining them. Jason at Hull Financial Planning found one glaring flaw in the methodology behind the calculation of SAFEMAX, one that its originator either never thought of or never thought important.

Harry Campbell at Your PF Pro wrote a book, The Ultimate Guide to Understanding your 401(k). How many of you have only a vague understanding of your 401(k), and think of it as merely a place where a portion of your paycheck disappears to every couple of months, returning so far off in the future that you can’t even comprehend it with your human brain that’s inexorably wired for the short term? Best of all, Harry is giving the book away. Plenty of tips complemented by plenty of royalty-free illustrations.

Finally, a company called AccuTech submits every few weeks, and doesn’t seem to understand how this whole personal finance blog carnival thing works. That’s OK, many of our regular submitters don’t. Anyhow, AccuTech has “up-front pricing and 24-hour service”, making them “your top choice for air conditioning and heating services near Warrington, PA.” Do you need your AC unit fixed or your heating ducts cleaned? They’re here (well, there) to help.

And we’re done. (Do you want quantity, or quality?) As for our other appearances, we wrote one article after another on technical analysis at Investopedia in the last few weeks, but encourage you to take such numerical alchemy for what it is. Also, we’re on the Stacking Benjamins podcast more often than not. Back here tomorrow with an Anti-Tip of the Day, new posts every Wednesday and Friday, and a new Carnival of Wealth every Monday. ‘Til then.