Category: Money

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Steve Makes a Good Case

In today’s Washington Post, AOL founder Steve Case eloquently argues that Time Warner should split into four companies. He writes that in early 2002: “I proposed to the company’s board that it was time to ‘liberate’ and split the conglomerate into four freestanding companies—Time Warner Cable, Time Warner Entertainment, Time Inc. and AOL—each with its own strategy, stock, balance sheet, management team, and board.”

He contends that the four units would “benefit from the separation” and “that other parts of Time Warner would achieve similar results if set free from the conglomerate. Time Warner has proven to be too big, too complex, too conflicted and too slow-moving—in other words, too much like a classic conglomerate—to seize new opportunities”. He sees big potential from separation, and I can’t disagree. 

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Pop!

The Dec. 19, 2005, Business Week piles on more worrisome indications that the housing bubble is deflating. The story focuses on Loudon County, Va., once one of the hottest real estate markets in the country that is now cooling off. As sales slow, sellers are cutting prices. According to Business Week, “From August to October, the median sales price for houses dropped from $506,100 to $480,000”. I expect falling selling prices and rising days on the market to be the norm in most housing markets, if not now within a short time.

I first blogged on the housing bubble in August, a year after I started warning people trouble was coming. Coincidentally, not a week following the post, a good friend asked me about real estate as an investment. She had come into inheritance money and looked to help another friend, who had been successfully speculating on houses in Pennsylvania. I strongly recommended against real estate as an investment. I hope she took the advice. 

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It's Just Too Easy

Yesterday, I received a postal mail offer from one of the local car dealers for a pre-approved auto loan. The paper had a toll-free number to call with a code to get the loan amount. Being in a curious mood, I rang and discovered that (supposedly) I was pre-approved for $22,500. Walk in and walk out with a car, no money down.

We drive a clunker 1989 Volvo 740 that my wife curses almost everyday. So the idea of a new car is appealing, and $22,500 is lots of spending power. It’s a helluva lot of debt, too. As momentarily tempted as I was, no car loan. We’ll drive the clunker and get by. 

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Greed Killed the Trojan Horse

Seems like Apple and music labels are on collision course as iTunes contract renewals approach. Steve Jobs called record labels “greedy“, over alleged plans to move digital downloads to a tiered pricing model. Right now, iTunes buyers pay a 99-cent flat rate for singles, while most albums sell for $9.99. Apple does bundle some singles with music videos for $1.99.

So, I had thought Steve Jobs was being just a wee bit over the top, until a few days later when Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. said during an investors conference: “We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don’t have a share of iPod’s revenue. We want to share in those revenue streams” [source Red Herring]. Ah, yeah. 

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Pop Goes the Housing Bubble

Last summer, my wife, daughter and I scoured the Washington suburb of Bowie for a house to buy. After a month of house hunting, we decided to stay put in our rental house, located in a nicer neighborhood and much closer to downtown Washington (We live off of Connecticut Ave. just three miles from the city).

The decision not to buy came with great angst. Rising real estate prices made the potential equity gains look promising, and we were simply ready to be homeowners. But the math simply didn’t work. When factoring in taxes and insurance, our monthly mortgage would have approached $2,200, compared to our $1,100—starting this month, $1,200—rent. We couldn’t see how our quality of life would be better doubling our monthly housing payment, even factoring in potential equity gains or tax breaks.

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Like Father, Like Son

Yesterday I sat near the water fountain adjacent to the Lakeforest Mall kids play area, while my daughter and two friends romped around nearby. Maybe 10 minutes after I plunked down near the water, a chunky kid, probably nine or 10 years old, ran by and spotted a penny on the carpet. “Is this yours?” he asked. I said, “No”. Up ran another kid, much smaller and no older than six years old. “It’s mine!” He grabbed the coin, threw it in the water and ran up the stairs.

“What a little liar”, I thought, completely taken back. I knew for a fact, the coin didn’t belong to this kid, who clearly had just arrived at the play area. Not just a liar, but he took the coin from a much bigger kid, too. The exchange really bothered me, and I wondered what kind of adult this kid might become.