Investing

If you believe the government or the popular press, the economy is out of recession and everything is business as usual again. Last month there was an increase in jobs by 162,000, home sales jumped 8.2%, the Dow is now almost at 11,000 and interest rates are inching upwards  in recognition of the economic recovery. It’s all peaches and cream isn’t it!

Unfortunately, I don’t believe the government or the popular press. I like to look at the facts and draw my own conclusions. First of all, the 162,000 new jobs includes 48,000 temporary census jobs. What happens when these jobs go away? And compared to the millions of jobs lost, 162,000 jobs doesn’t feel like anything to celebrate in the first place.

According the Associated press, in February the pending home sales number jumped 8.2%. This is not year-over-year but rather from January to February. Don’t know if anyone remembers but it was awfully cold in January. Historically home sales slow down during winter, especially when you have pretty bad snowstorms. An 8% increase doesn’t sound like newsworthy at all.  Additionally, the government has been offering a ton of incentives to home buyers, which is probably just cannibalization of future home buying. From the California Association of Realtors:

Californians have a brief window of opportunity to receive up to $18,000 in combined federal and state home buyer tax credits.  To take advantage of both tax credits, a first-time home buyer must enter into a purchase contract for a principal residence before May 1, 2010, and close escrow between May 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010, inclusive.  Buyers who are not first-time home buyers may use the same time frames to receive up to $16,500 in combined tax credits if they are long-time residents of their existing homes as permitted under federal law, and they purchase properties that have never been previously occupied as provided under California law.

And why is the DOW on the verge of breaking 11,000? Is it the fact that the government spent around a trillion dollars propping up the economy or could it be that consumer spending is back? May be its consumer spending. After all, the malls seem full around here. But did you hear that 25% of homes in the US are underwater on the mortgage on 14% of all houses are in some state of default? Being in default means that the monthly mortgage payments are not being made. Doing some back of the envelope calculations, TraderMark was able to put a figure on these numbers. By not paying their mortgage, Americans have an extra $160 billion per year to spend on clothes, cars, vacations and other random stuff.  To see the numbers, check out this post on the hidden stimulus package. No wonder the retailers have been doing well!

And are the interest rates trending higher because the market expects a recovery? Or is it because it expects inflation? If you look at the number of people clamoring for TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities), the number is trending higher as well. Seems like people aren’t big believers of the US Government’s ability to curb long term inflation.

So what is it – peaches and cream or doom and gloom? The truth is somewhere in the middle. With the government willing to spend money (it doesn’t have) to keep stimulating the economy, it looks like the economy is recovering pretty well. But it cannot come without consequence. At some point someone will have to pay the price of all these bailouts and packages. It might be us, our children or foreign bond holders, but that day will come. Just make sure you invest accordingly.

Sir John Templeton, founder of Templeton funds is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest investing minds ever. He died in 2008 at the age of 95. His son recently released a memo found among his belongings that was written in 2005.

Apparently, Templeton predicted the coming economic challenges and it seems Greenspan was wrong – it isn’t impossible to predict financial bubbles!

John M. Templeton
Lyford Cay, Nassau, Bahamas

June 15, 2005

MEMORANDUM

Financial Chaos – probably in many nations in the next five years. The word chaos is chosen to express likelihood of reduced profit margin at the same time as acceleration in cost of living.

Increasingly often, people ask my opinion on what is likely to happen financially. I am now thinking that the dangers are more numerous and larger than ever before in my lifetime. Quite likely, in the early months of 2005, the peak of prosperity is behind us.

In the past century, protection could be obtained by keeping your net worth in cash or government bonds. Now, the surplus capacities are so great that most currencies and bonds are likely to continue losing their purchasing power.

Mortgages and other forms of debts are over tenfold greater now than ever before 1970, which can cause manifold increases in bankruptcy auctions.

Surplus capacity, which leads to intense competition, has already shown devastating effects on companies who operate airlines and is now beginning to show in companies in ocean shipping and other activities. Also, the present surpluses of cash and liquid assets have pushed yields on bonds and mortgages almost to zero when adjusted for higher cost of living. Clearly, major corrections are likely in the next few years.

Most of the methods of universities and other schools which require residence have become hopelessly obsolete. Probably over half of the universities in the world will disappear quickly over the next thirty years.

Obsolescence is likely to have a devastating effect in a wide variety of human activities, especially in those where advancement is hindered by labor unions or other bureaucracies or by government regulations.

Increasing freedom of competition is likely to cause most established institutions to disappear with the next fifty years, especially in nations where there are limits on free competition.

Accelerating competition is likely to cause profit margins to continue to decrease and even become negative in various industries. Over tenfold more persons hopelessly indebted leads to multiplying bankruptcies not only for them but for many businesses that extend credit without collateral. Voters are likely to enact rescue subsidies, which transfer the debts to governments, such as Fannie May and Freddie Mac.

Research and discoveries and efficiency are likely to continue to accelerate. Probably, as quickly as fifty years, as much as ninety percent of education will be done by electronics.

Now, with almost one hundred independent nations on earth and rapid advancements in communication, the top one percent of people are likely to progress more rapidly than the others. Such top one percent may consist of those who are multi-millionaires and also, those who are innovators and also, those with top intellectual abilities. Comparisons show that prosperity flows toward those nations having most freedom of competition.

Especially, electronic computers are likely to become helpful in all human activities including even persons who have not yet learned to read.

Hopefully, many of you can help us to find published journals and websites and electronic search engines to help us benefit from accelerating research and discoveries.

Not yet have I found any better method to prosper during the future financial chaos, which is likely to last many years, than to keep your net worth in shares of those corporations that have proven to have the widest profit margins and the most rapidly increasing profits. Earning power is likely to continue to be valuable, especially if diversified among many nations.

Today the baby Berkshires (BRK.B) split 50 to 1. And it’s up 4%! This was to be expected. The stock is now affordable to many small investors and there is talk about it being added to the S&P500 index.

When the stock split was first announced, I had a brilliant idea to sell my baby Berks on the news and then re-buy them just before the split. I figured that the euphoria of the split news would push the stock higher and then the enthusiasm would die down and I could buy them back lower.  So the stocks that I bought at $2,550 (split adjusted price of $51) were sold at $3,500 (split adjusted stock price of $70).

My plan worked. The stock drifted down to $3,250. I would’ve been happy to buy them at $3,300. Especially since the current price is $72.25 or just over $3,600 pre-split price. Unfortunately, with my busy school schedule, I totally forgot to put in a buy order and ended up buying the stock back at $71.

Sometimes it better to not try and optimize everything! How many of you are buying BRK-B now that it’s more affordable?

The Financial Times published an interview with Jim Rogers, who’s one of my favorite investors. He’s written incredibly interesting books on macroeconomic adventures, but more importantly managed to retire 30 years at the age of 37 after making a fortune with George Soros for his Quantum Fund:

What is your basic investment strategy?

Buy low and sell high. I try to find something that is very cheap, where a positive change is taking place. Then I do enough homework to make sure I am right. It has got to be cheap so that, if I am wrong, I don’t lose much money. Every time I make a mistake, it is usually because I did not do enough homework.

Do not underestimate the value of due diligence. In the 1960s, General Motors was the world’s most successful company. One day, a GM analyst went to the board of directors with the message: “The Japanese are coming.” They ignored him. Investors who did their homework sold their GM stock – and bought Toyota instead.

I’m not buying any stocks at the moment. If anything is undervalued now it is commodities and some currencies.

Where should people put their money in the recession?

Invest only in things you know something about. The mistake most people make is that they listen to hot tips, or act on something they read in magazines.

Most people know a lot about something, so they should just stick to what they know and buy an investment in that area. That is how you get rich.

You don’t get rich investing in things you know nothing about.

You can read the full interview here.

This guest post comes from Kevin at 20smoney.com, a blog covering financial topics such as investing, money management and the development of income streams.

Despite the fact that most people tend to think that a market that has already booked a 60%+ rally is a great time to be invested in stocks, I tend to lean the opposite direction.  With such a massive run already in place, the risk/reward scenario is not nearly as good as it was when compared to earlier in the rally.  So, how should you play the current environment?

The sectors with some of the largest gains this year have been technology and financials.  As such, these sectors warrant extreme caution if you are currently long or are getting long any companies within these sectors.  If you want to be long the sector, but aren’t sure of specific stocks, consider mutual funds or ETFs such as Financial Select Spider (XLF) and Technology Spider (XLK).

If you’re looking to gain exposure in these sectors, I strongly encourage you to monitor some basic technical signals so that you can identify a clear exit point in case the broad market and/or these sectors reverse and head lower.  Watch the 20 and 50 day moving averages.  If the stock (or ETF) breaks through these key averages, be ready to exit the position.  If you don’t feel comfortable with such a strategy and want to take a more long term focus, I would then wait for a significant pullback, at least 5%, to enter your position.  Remember, you’ve already missed a large run in stocks, and you need to be careful entering a position at these levels.

If you have held stocks this year, especially in the sectors named above, you may consider actually selling some of your positions to lock in profits.  Taking profits is never a bad idea, and if you don’t want to pull out completely, simply sell half or maybe a third of your position.

If you are looking to enter other long term positions, I would point you towards dividend paying companies that will pay you to hold them.  This will help offset any losses in share price if there is a reversal in the markets.  Also consider multi-national companies that generate a significant portion of their earnings from abroad (this will help you hedge against weakness in the U.S. economy).  In this category, consider Philip Morris International (PM), Wal-Mart (WMT), McDonalds (MCD) and perhaps Microsoft (MSFT).

For me personally, I’m pretty bearish on the economy and the markets.  I’m skeptical on the strength and durability of the recovery and the stock market rally.  I believe that we have structural issues with our economy that have not been addressed and therefore will prevent real growth.  I’m not adding to any positions in the current environment, rather I’m “keeping my powder dry” waiting for much more attractive buying opportunities.  I do own gold related instruments such as GLD and GDX because I think gold has the potential to perform well in both an inflationary recovery and a deflationary environment (pretty much the only asset with this ability).

As I mentioned above, if you’re looking to try and make a few bucks on the continued rally in the broad markets, be extra careful and be ready to exit by monitoring some key technical sell indicators.  Protecting your money is a better strategy, in my opinion, than chasing returns, especially today.  If you’re a long term believer in the recovery and the future of the economy, get long some solid companies, but don’t be afraid to be patient and wait for better entry points.

Gold hit another record today and is currently trading over $1,100 as I write this. However, it hasn’t prevented several news stories coming out about how gold is a lousy investment. Investment stalwarts from Warren Buffet to Monish Pabrai have all denounced gold as an investment.

And despite the decent performance of gold over the past 10 years, they’re correct. Gold is a lousy investment. It creates no income and just barely keeps up with inflation.

But do you know what the best performing asset class was during the past 10 years? No, it wasn’t your stock portfolio or your real estate. It was gold, and it returned a decent 270% over that period.

10-year-returns-by-asset-class

Despite its out-performance of all major asset classes, gold still gets no respect from the investment community. That’s because it is only a store of value and typically only does well in periods of currency crisis, or times of poor monetary policy.

For example, during post-WW2 Germany and in post-Mugabe-school-of-economic-policy Zimbabwe, their currencies have faced severe devaluation and gold prices sky-rocketed against those currencies. Faced with hyperinflation and an inability to buy basic necessities, people flock to gold causing the price to soar.

But that wouldn’t happen in the US right?

Economic research has shown that consumer psychology is affected by the amount of wealth people feel they have. If they’re broke and living pay-check to pay-check, but have tons of equity in their homes, they still feel wealthy. But even if they still have a job, but are upside down on the mortgage and have negative equity in their home, they feel poor and their spending decreases. Since the US is a consumer spending driven society, with spending constituting 70% of our GDP, the Federal Reserve has been trying desperately to get the consumer to start spending again.  Part of this entails propping up housing prices by keeping mortgage rates low, and another part is keeping interest rates low on non-collateralized consumer debt (that’s credit cards and student loans).

In an effort to stem the free-fall in the housing market, the Federal Reserve has been trying to keep the interest rates for mortgages as low as possible. Historically, the Fed has tried to manipulate the short-end of the yield curve by adjusting the shortest of short-term rates – the Inter Bank Overnight Rate (also called the Federal funds rate in the US. The UK has something similar called the LIBOR). This is supposed to have a trickle down affect the interest rates of long-term interest rates (such as the 10 year and 30 year Treasuries).  The rates for 3o year fixed rate mortgages are impacted by the rates on the 10 year Treasuries. So by keeping the federal funds rate at zero (or 0.2% which is close to 0%), mortgages rates should stay quite low. However, given the fact that this is not a typical economic scenario, the fed isn’t quite sure that mortgage rates would stay below 5%. So it has been buying billions of long-term Treasury bonds as well as mortgages, which is a quite a bold move away from its historic stance. When the 800 pound gorilla starts buying bonds, the prices rise and the yields go down.  When the Federal Reserve decides to buy $300 Billion dollars worth of mortgages and government bonds, something is definitely wrong with the economy.

I’m  interested to see the effect on mortgage rates once the Fed stops buying Treasuries and mortgages.

The government is increasing its deficit spending at a steady clip. If this continues, eventually we will be unable to repay the debt and barely just able to service the debt. Obviously this is not a viable long-term strategy, but it doesn’t look like there is any other back-up just in case helicopter Ben’s strategy of throwing money at the problem doesn’t pan out.

Clearly, we are currently in a crisis period in regards to fiscal policy and gold prices are likely to keep going up. During times of good fiscal policy, gold does nothing. This does not seem to be one those times.

A well-known hedge fund manager (and world poker champion) David Einhorn shares the sentiment.  And someone else who agrees with him is Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission. He recently said, “Low U.S. interest rates and a weaker greenback have “seriously affected global asset prices, fuelled speculation in stock and property markets, and created new, real and insurmountable risks to the recovery of the global economy, especially emerging-market economies.”

Someone I know who works at a very well-known bond fund company recently advised me to sell my gold holdings. He advised me the same thing last year when gold was only $800/ounce. And I told him the same thing I said last year – Not yet.

Disclaimer: I’m long gold/silver bullion, gold mining stocks and short long term treasuries.

The following is a guest post by Saj Karsan. Saj regularly writes for Barel Karsan, a site dedicated to finding and discussing current value investments.

Stocks with higher dividend yields do outperform the market. Having said that, however, it’s important to be able to determine if a company’s dividend yield is sustainable.

Consider World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE). CEO Vince McMahon’s antics are well known, both in the boardroom and as an entertainer himself! For those unfamiliar with his antics (or those who enjoy re-living WWE moments), a video example of McMahon in action is portrayed below:

WWE pays a dividend yield above 10%. However, the following chart demonstrates why you can’t choose a stock on dividend yield alone:

wwe

Clearly, WWE has been paying out more than it has been earning! Over the last four fiscal years (“2006 T” representing an 8-month transition year to a new fiscal year-end), WWE has paid out $1.06 more per share than it has earned!

How does it do it? Balance Sheet strength! The company has virtually no debt, and more than $2.80 of cash (including short-term investments) per share. That means it could continue to pay out cash over and above its net income by 25 cents per share for the next 10 years!

Does that make it a buy? Not quite. At a share price of $14, even if management immediately paid out that entire $2.80 to shareholders, one would still be paying $11.20 for a company that earned 62 cents / share last year, representing a P/E of 18.

When a dividend yield looks appealing, make sure it’s not too good to be true!

Disclosures: None

If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to Barel Karsan.

Personal Finance blogger Lazy Man & Money is being sued by a multi-level marketing company called MonaVie that sells a very expensive juice. The crux of the matter is that Lazy Man is highly skeptical of the claims the company makes about the product and the company is trying to shut down his freedom of speech on the basis of a very flimsy trademark infringement case.

While I am no lawyer and the extent of my legal knowledge is limited, I have been sued, involved in lawsuits and have been sent threatening letters that required legal opinion. Did I say I was sued – that’s only partially correct. The company I had a minority ownership stake in was sued.  My friends and I started an internet telephony company together to sell prepaid calling cards and pinless dialing services. When we started it several years ago, we were tired of paying outrageous per minute fees for international calls and we just wanted to make free telephone calls. We also wanted to make some money off of it and after raising about $30,000 and co-signing $75,000 worth of loans for telecommunications equipment we realized we didn’t have any money left for marketing. So we deliberately decided to infringe on an existing trademark of a foreign company that does not do any telephony or telecommunication business in the USA. We knew we were going to get sued in a year but since we didn’t have any money left we didn’t really care.

We were able to use the goodwill of the foreign company to bootstrap our small outfit to the point where we hired about a dozen people in India to do all the back-end work.  A year later the company sent us a cease-and-desist letter and we complied and changed the name. However, I didn’t know that the main partner re-inserted the company in to the website after a month or so. About 6 months later, the company came back and sued us for trademark infringement, all our domain names, $50,000 and 30% royalties on all income.  When you fight a legal battle against people with deep pockets, you usually lose! Especially when you are wrong. Long story short we lost our domain name and we settled for $1,000. Was it worth it? In terms of return-on-investment, yes. There’s no way we could have gained that sort of traction with a $1,000 marketing budget. But would I do it again – definitely not. However there is a lesson here, the same lesson I learned from working for Michael Robertson a few years ago – you should never back down from a good fight.

On to the next story. A few years ago, I had put down a deposit on a spec home in Florida. It was a small deposit and it was pure speculation. If the home prices increased, I would close on it else I would walk away from it and my deposit. Unfortunately for the builder, the market turned sour and it seems everyone was walking away from their deposits. So I got a letter in the mail saying that if I didn’t close on the home he would sue for damages on various technical aspects of the contract.  I showed it to my lawyer and he said its a shake-down. His advice was to ignore the letter since the cost of pursuing this line of reason was too expensive for the builder.  He was right. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that this goes both ways. Someone I know embezzled money from me and some investors by arranging  a sale of assets to an out-of-state entity. He set up a dummy corporation with the same name and deposited the check from the buyer into that account. He was then nice enough to wire us some of the money but then he skipped town with the rest. After talking to lawyers and the DA’s office in that town we realized that it would probably cost us between $25,000 and $50,000 to get a judgment against him, and if he’s spent the money, we’re out of luck! The lesson here is that suing people can get to be very expensive.

The third story is about me and a group of investors suing a group of real estate developers for deliberately misleading investors on an investment. The gist is they lied and withheld materially important information. Obviously we formed a group and sued them all. 1 of them settled for a third of the amount owed (plus interest and legal fees), 1 of them went underground and the 3rd is claiming she has no assets. The legal cases involved the last two are still underway so I can’t really say much about it except that suing people really does get very expensive, especially when you’re paying an attorney $375/hour to fly to another city and take a deposition!

So what’s my 2 cents on Lazy Man’s case? I don’t think MonaVie has a strong case and they know it too. Otherwise they would be wasting time with multiple cease-and-desist letters, they’d just sue him. Secondly, I think its just going to create more bad publicity for the company as multiple bloggers write about this and link back to Lazy Man’s site (boosting his rankings in the search engine for the search term – MonaVie is a scam). However, they’re obviously well capitalized so they’ll probably take this a lot further than they should. If it was me, I’d just pay Lazy Man to advertise on his site. That would just make him lose credibility in the eyes of the “faithful” MonaVie followers.

Please go visit Lazy Man’s site and try to link to it with the word MonaVie in the anchor text! Or if you want some entertainment, go visit Help You Sue.

What Every Investor Needs To Know About Tax Liens!

Today’s guest post comes via Blunt Money, an Arizona-based wife and mother, who’s had experience with being divorced, unemployment, under-employed, employed and self-employed!

What are Tax Liens?

Tax liens are liens placed against real estate to secure the debt from unpaid taxes. They are first liens, which means that they (in theory) must be repaid before any other debts that the property might be collateral for. Like everything else regarding tax liens and investments, there are a few exceptions to this — nothing is guaranteed.

The process of investing in tax liens and the amount of interest you can earn from them varies from county to county, so it’s best to get specifics on the exact requirements from the particular county you’re interested in.

My experience is with buying them in Maricopa County, Arizona. Here, the auction is held online once a year in February. The highest you are allowed to bid is 16% interest, and the lowest is 0% interest. If you win the bid and the tax lien is repaid, you earn the amount of interest you bid that was charged during the time you held the lien. If the tax lien is not repaid within 3 years, you have the right to start foreclosure proceedings.

This means that there are two basic ways to think about tax liens: either you hope to end up with the property itself eventually, or you hope to receive interest when the liens are redeemed. I try to split the difference — I look for good properties that I believe would be worth owning if I ended up with them, and I also try to earn a better interest rate on them than I could receive elsewhere. I’ve had several liens o ver the years, all in the 5-7% range. One set of liens got close to being eligible for foreclosure, but was paid off a few months before that date. The rest have all been repaid fairly quickly, usually in under a year or two, which is more typical.

Do Your Research Before You Buy

If you want to increase the probability of you owning the property if the lien is not repaid (and if you want to increase the chances of actually being repaid) you also need to pay the subtaxes on the property for subsequent years. This is handled by calling up the county and arranging to make payment for them once they have become delinquent.

Investing in tax liens requires a commitment because you could end up owning 3 liens at a time on a single property, and you need to watch to see if the current year’s taxes become delinquent. The liens that I’ve purchased have ranged from about $400 to $1500 each, but they go for a very wide range of amounts.

The most important thing when investing in tax liens is to do your due diligence before bidding on a property’s lien. This is a time consuming part of the process, but it’s critical. Be certain of exactly WHAT You are bidding on. Dangers include ending up the owner of a property that requires you to pay for toxic cleanup, or (not quite as bad) ending up the owner of a worthless piece of property that you can’t sell. There’s also the ever-present investment danger of losing your entire investment.

As far as due diligence goes, the satellite view in Google maps is a good starting point. For properties that look interesting beyond that point, I then check the county assessor’s site to find out the property owner’s name. I also generally take a look at the county recorder’s site to see what other properties they may own, and to get an idea of the owner’s general financial shape. I try to judge the odds; and bid lower on liens I feel I’m more likely to end up with the properties on, and higher on liens that look likely to be repaid. Anything that looks bad, has problems, or that I just have a bad feeling about gets eliminated at this point. The next step is to drive out to the remaining properties. I do basic things like make sure that they’re still standing, look decent and are in a decent neighborhood, etc. (Talking to the owners is a no-no.) The last step I take before bidding is to check PACER to make sure that the owners have not started bankruptcy proceedings, as not getting repaid in that situation is also a danger.

From that point out, it’s just a matter of following the bidding proceedings and being certain that I don’t go over budget if I should win all of my bids.

See this page to buy tax liens or learn more about investing in tax lien certificates.

[AffomaticEbay]Tax Lien[/AffomaticEbay]

In the last post we saw that China was slowly diversifying away from it’s usual investments in US Treasury Bonds and investing in hard assets, natural resources and maybe other currencies.

There probably a very good reason why the world’s second largest holder of US Dollars is weaning itself away from bonds issued by the world’s largest debtor nation.  If you believe the Chinese know what they are doing, it might make sense to imitate their investment strategy.

While you don’t need to buy $80 Billion worth of gold, you might do well buying gold equal to at least 5% of your net worth. Gold is not an investment in itself but a historic store of value. Regardless what anyone tells you, the US Dollar is not a store of value. During times when governments print money hand-over-fist, gold typically does well. In fact, over the past 10 years, gold has appreciated against every single currency.

You can either buy the physical gold, gold ETF(GLD) & gold mining stock ETF (GDX), gold certificates or a custodial account. You can also buy silver and silver ETFs in a similar fashion. There was a recent Chinese news report recommending Chinese investors buy silver since its a better value than gold!

You can also exchange your US dollars directly for foreign currencies. Everbank currently has a Marketsafe BRIC CD, which invests in a basket of Brazilian Real, Russian Ruble, Indian Rupee and Chinese Remnimbi.  This CD doesn’t pay any interest but the principle is protected against loss! But if you’d rather take a risk and earn some interest, Everbank has a slew of CD products in several European and Asian currencies.

Another option are the CurrencyShare ETFs for Australian Dollars(FXA), British Pounds(FXB), Swiss Francs(FXF), Japanese Yen(FXY) and Euros(FXE).  Another ETF worth considering is UDN, an inverse US Dollar ETF, which is a basket of the above mentioned currencies. (However, inverse ETFs may not accurately follow the downward movement so you’re cautioned to do some research).

I do not recommend forex-trading as a means of hedging yourself against Dollar devaluation. Forex trading is a highly leveraged, zero-sum speculation. In a zero-sum game, a participant can only win at the expense of another participant. In fact, it may be considerably less than zero-sum becauase your brokerage can run your stops (which it can see) and effectively trade against you.

If you are thinking of investing in currencies, definitely check out Everbank’s free newsletter, the Daily Pfenning. It provides a very informative (and entertaining) look at global economics and investing. Actually, you should subscribe if you do any sort of investing! Everbank also has a low-cost custodial account for gold and from time to time (whenever the price of gold drops dramatically) they offer a MarketSafe (which means principle-protected) Gold CD. Sign up for the newsletter and they’ll inform you whenver they come out with new products.

If you have a penchant for natural resources, you should look into Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) like Tortoise Energy (TYY) or Kinder Morgan (KMP). Both pay a juicy dividend that is considered a return of principle and thus non-taxable (although it does alter cost-basis). However both have appreciated significantly this year. Canadian Royalty Trusts like Enerplus Resources (ERF)  are also an option.

You can also buy natural resource stocks like Rio Tinto (RTP) or BHP Biliton(BHP). China has been trying to buy multi-billion dollar stakes in companies like these and is currently unsuccesful. If you think that a day may come where Chinalco will be successful, you might want to get in before that happens.

IRSA International (IRS) is an Argentinian company that trades on the ADRs.  It owns farm land, resorts, hotels and shopping malls in prime locations.  After decades of “quantitative easing” (another word for printing money) wreaked havoc on their economy and standard of living, Argentinians don’t trust banks or central bankers. They trust gold and farmland. The way the US economy is going, we too may come to that same conclusion. Just to be safe, I bought some of the stock. On the other hand, you might be better off buying farmland or a ranch for hunting. I’m pretty sure, buying farmland is next on China’s list!

Disclosure: I own ERF, TYY,FXA, IRS, Everbank MarketSafe Japanese REIT CD, GDX and physical gold/silver.