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Chicken or Egg

You aren't smarter than the market. It really is that simple.


There have been a few articles recently on the financial meltdown with the same theme. That is that the housing bubble lead to the collapse of the financial markets. The reality is a little different. The financial markets, specifically the creation of derivatives based on real estate loans, created a housing bubble.

Beginning in the late 1990's trillions of dollars poured into the housing market, forcing prices well beyond what people could afford for housing. In most parts of the country, the median price of a home was no longer affordable to someone with a median income. Renting was far cheaper than owning. How did that happen? Where did the money come from.

The answer is that the Wall Street bankers had figured out a way to hedge most of the traditional risk of real estate. Instead of directly investing in real estate themselves, they loaned money to people who were buying a home. Then they took the resulting loa…

Why Cost Averaging Really Does Work

You aren't smarter than the market. It really is that simple.

There are a number of places on the internet and in the media where people have questioned the value of "cost averaging". Cost averaging is investing in regular amounts over time, rather than in one lump sum all at once. It has been standard investment advice, but now some critics are arguing that, since the market in the long run tends to go up, the earlier you invest the better. Cost averaging will reduce your return in the long run.

They are, of course right. On average, you will get a lower return. But cost-averaging is not done to maximize returns. Its used to minimize risk. It is a strategy to make sure you get an "average" return instead of hitting just one peak or one valley.

Think about it this way. Suppose someone offered to flip a coin and pay you $51,000 if it was heads, but you would have to pay them $50,000 if it comes up tails. Would you take that bet? On average, you would come out ahead…

Now is a good time to roll over your IRA to Roth IRA

You aren't smarter than the market. It really is that simple.

One of the interesting aspects of the recent collapse in stock values is that it makes it a good time to consider rolling your traditional IRA over into a Roth IRA and paying the taxes on the lower valued stock before they go back up. Of course, that assumes they will go back up before you retire.

For people who don't pay attention to this sort of thing, the basic difference between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA is how you pay taxes on them.

With the traditional IRA you put your money in an account for retirement and you don't have to pay any taxes on it. Or, looked at another way, you can deduct the contribution from your income taxes. You also don't have to pay taxes on any of the earnings from the investment while they accrue. But when you go to take money out of that account, you have to pay income taxes on the money you withdraw just as you would any other income you had earned. So, while you save money…

You Try to Live on 500K in This Town

You aren't smarter than the market. It really is that simple.

This article in the New York Times, You Try to Live on 500K in This Town , makes it easy to make fun of the perils of having to live on only the $500,000 Obama is suggesting be the limit for executives of failing banks who take federal dollars. But there is really something far more disturbing in the discussion as it takes place throughout the newspaper. It becomes apparent that there is the sense that even if you have lost trillion's of dollars of other people's money, you are still entitled to live an extravagant lifestyle.

Having left thousands of people losing their homes, jobs and feeding themselves at food banks, these people genuinely don't see why they would ever have to suffer the same fate. In 1929, wall street losers jumped out of windows. They understood that there was nothing to insulate them from their fate. Today's financiers have no such belief. And with good reason.

One of the reason the Ob…

Is Now the time to Buy a House?

You aren't smarter than the market. It really is that simple.

The real estate industry is putting on a full court press for the notion that real estate is now a bargain. But the reality is that housing prices still have a long way to fall before they reach historic norms. And there are plenty of reasons to wonder even once they hit those norms, whether that will be the bottom of the market. The bad economy, huge amounts of other consumer debt, the tightening of credit and the hangover from the binge of new houses built at the height of the bubble would all argue that the immediate future is likely to see prices stay well below those historic norms for several years even once the current price bubble has fully deflated.

So if you are renting and thinking about buying, you are probably better off waiting until at least 2010 and probably 2011. Buy now and it may be 5 years or longer before your house gets back to the current price you paid for it.

On the other hand, if you already own …

Is Lawrence Yun Really an Economist?

You aren't smarter than the market. It really is that simple.

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Update:

Here is an article about Yun's predecessor essentially admitting his job was "spin".
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Is Lawrence Yun, the Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors, really an economist? No, I don't mean does he have a degree and training in economics. I assume that he does. The question is what services of an economist does the National Association of Realtors provide.

In case you haven't noticed Yun before, it seems every time there is an article about the housing market in the New York Times, Associated Press and other media, Yun appears with his usually rosy prognosis of the future of real estate. That is not surprising, given who he works for, but it is not really the job of an economist. Its the role of a PR flak who is delivering the message that suits his employers. I suspect the job title of "economist" is also a part of that message. Afterall, identify…