Everyone I know is sick of this recession, and sick of hearing about this recession. For one, the media’s attention to the global financial situation is depressing. But as many have pointed out, we are in this situation because of our own devices. On the individual level, poor financial and debt management, have exacerbated outside factors such as the housing market collapse and high rates of unemployment. For others, indiscriminate consumer debt has led to a number of individual crises. But in such a climate, there is a lot that can be learned. While it would have benefited everyone to know this several years ago, here are twelve personal financial lessons that can and should be learned during this recession.

Learn How to Plan Ahead
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It’s no secret that poor planning contributed to why so many people are currently in untenable financial situations. Don’t Panic. Figure out where you are at, where you want to be and put in place a realistic plan for getting there. The majority of businesses without plans in place before they start operations do not succeed. So if you are serious about creating a way to get ahead, or even just caught up, this step could not be more necessary. Unique circumstances will come up and cause you to stray from your plans temporarily, but structure is necessary in order to monitor your progress, and stay focused.

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The Working Capital Model (WCM) looks at investment performance differently, less emotionally, and without a whole lot of concern for short-term market value movements. Market value performance evaluation techniques are only used to analyze peak-to-peak market cycle movements over significant time periods.

Security market values are used for buy and sell decision-making. Working capital figures are used for asset allocation and diversification calculations. Portfolio working capital growth numbers are used to evaluate goal directed management decisions over shorter periods of time.

WCM tracking techniques help investors focus on long term growth producers like capital gains, dividends, and interest— the things that can keep the working capital line (see Part One) moving ever upward. The base income and cumulative realized capital gains lines are the most important WCM growth engines.

The Base Income Line tracks the total dividends and interest received each year. It will always move upward if you are managing your equity vs. fixed income asset allocation properly. Without adequate base income: 1) working capital will not grow normally during corrections and 2) there won’t be enough cash flow to take advantage of new investment opportunities.

The earlier you start tracking your dependable base income, the sooner you will discover that your retirement comfort level has little to do with portfolio market value.
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It matters not what lines, numbers, indices, or gurus you worship, you just can’t know for certain where the stock market is going or when it will change direction. Too much investor time and analytical effort is wasted trying to predict course corrections— even more is squandered comparing portfolio market values with a handful of unrelated indices and averages.

Annually, quarterly, even monthly, investors scrutinize their performance, formulate coulda’s and shoulda’s, and determine what new gimmick to try during the next evaluation period. My short-term performance vision is different. I see a bunch of Wall Street fat cats, ROTF-LOL, while investors beat themselves senseless over what to change, sell, buy, re-allocate, or adjust to make their portfolios behave better.

Why has performance evaluation become so important short-term? What happened to long-term planning toward specific personal goals? When did it become vogue to think of investment portfolios as sprinters in a race with a nebulous array of indices and averages? Why are the masters of the universe rolling on the floor in laughter?

— Because an unhappy investor is Wall Street’s best friend.

By emphasizing short-term results and creating a cutthroat competitive environment, the wizards guarantee that the majority of investors will be unhappy about something, most of the time. In the process, they create an insatiable demand for an endless array of product panaceas and trendy speculations that regulators fall bubble-years behind in supervising.
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header_2Every correction is the same, a normal downturn in one or more of the markets where we invest. There has never been a correction that has not proven to be an investment opportunity. You can be confident that governments around the world are not going to allow another Great Depression “on their watch”.

Every correction is different, the result of various economic and/or political circumstances that create the need for adjustments in the financial markets.

While everything is down in price, as it is now, there is actually less to worry about. When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

In this case, an overheated real estate market, an overdose of financial bad judgment, and a damn the torpedoes stock market, propelled by demand for speculative derivative securities and Hedge Funds, finally came unglued.

But it is the reality of corrections that is one of the few certainties of the financial world, one that separates the men from the boys, if you will. If you fixate on your portfolio market value during a correction, you will just give yourself a headache, or worse.

Few of the fundamental qualities that made your IGVSI securities sound investments just two years ago have permanently disappeared. We’ll be using credit cards, driving cars and motorcycles, drinking beer, and buying clothes twenty years from now. Very few interest payments have been missed and surprisingly few dividends eliminated.

Only the prices have changed, to preserve the long-term reality of things—and in both of our markets.
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earns_citigroupsffmi_embeddedprod_affiliate3Citigroup became the latest bank to post better than expected results for its first quarter. The bank on Friday said net income of $1.6 billion, compared with a loss of $5.11 billion in the quarter a year ago. Citigroup’s problems are far from over, but it had its best quarter since late 2007.

The bank reported a loss to common shareholders of $966 million after massive loan losses and dividends to preferred stockholders. But before paying those dividends, the bank had net income of $1.6 billion.

Overall, Citigroup’s results were better than expected. The company reported a loss per share of 18 cents, which was narrower than the 34 cents analysts predicted. A year ago, Citigroup suffered a loss of more than $5 billion, or $1.03 a share.

Citigroup’s revenue doubled in the first quarter from a year ago to $24.8 billion thanks to strong trading activity. Its credit costs were high, though, at $10 billion, due to $7.3 billion in loan losses and a $2.7 billion increase in reserves for future loan losses.

Citigroup has been one of the weakest of the large U.S. banks, posting quarterly losses since the fourth quarter of 2007. But in March, CEO Vikram Pandit triggered a stock market rally after he said that January and February had been profitable for Citigroup.
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bsnicon1In light of the current Keynesian-style government fiscal stimulus measures introduced to try to tackle the economic slowdown, the series looking at economic theories within the context of the present situation examines the work of Jean-Baptiste Say and classical economic theories.

Say’s Law, one of the core tenets of classical macroeconomics, states that “aggregate supply creates its own aggregate demand”. Classical economics emphasises the equilibrium between supply and demand as key for a balanced economy and suggests that recession and unemployment are caused by a mismatch between supply and demand rather than, for Keynesians, a lack of consumption.

Say (1767-1832) was a French economist who advocated saving rather than spending and a focus on production instead of consumption. In fact, he believed that  consumption destroyed wealth and only production could create it. Say’s Law makes supply a precondition for demand because, in order to buy something, he believed that you must first sell something.

This is crucial for economic growth, because the desire to generate purchasing power motivates productive effort and invention. It also has major implications for how governments respond to downturns and periods of high unemployment. While Keynes wrote that aggregate demand and the use of fiscal spending is the key to economic recovery, classical economists believe that spending capital on Consumption without saving and investing it in production could mean slower potential future growth.
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goldbars400x282With gold prices topping $1000.00 plus per oz., one has to question, is now the time to buy gold or has the buying opportunity already passed? Should you invest in the actual commodity of gold itself or is there an alternative that could prove to be more profitable?

The rise in gold prices from $250 per ounce in 2001 to over $900 today has drawn investors and speculators into the precious metals market. However, buying gold per se should not be considered an “investment”. After all, gold earns no interest and its quality never changes. It’s static, and does not grow as sound investments should.

“It’s more accurate to say that one might invest in a gold or silver mining company, where management, labor costs, and the nature of new discoveries all play a vital role in determining the quality of the investment and the profits made.”, stated Congressman Ron Paul (TX-R) in his address before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Both gold and dollars are considered money, and holding money does not qualify as an investment. However, there is one big difference between the two. By holding paper money one loses purchasing power. The purchasing power of commodity money, e.g., gold, however, goes up if the government devalues the underlying currency.

Many believe the United States is the cause of the global financial crisis we are currently experiencing and consequently, they are looking to the US to provide leadership in escaping this crisis. The US Dollar is currently experiencing strength over other currencies because it is presumed that since we are leading the pack with recovery initiatives, it stands to reason that our economy will recover before those who are following our lead.
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The latest news on inflation and unemployment seem to be pointing to a gathering storm in the U.S. economy. A lot of readers are wondering: Just how bad is this downturn going to be?

Economic forecasters and weather forecasters have a few things in common. Since no one can see into the future, both kinds of forecasters look at the forces that have created and shaped storms in the past — and then look at current data to help guide their predictions. When you see a sharp drop in the barometer, it’s a pretty good bet there’s a storm coming.
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bailout5_180Five banks have repaid millions of dollars they received from the government’s $700 billion financial bailout pot, the Obama administration said Thursday.

The Treasury Department, which oversees the bailout program, said the banks returned a total of $353 million.

The banks are: Iberiabank Corp. of Lafayette, La.; Bank of Marin Bancorp of Novato, Calif.; Old National Bancorp. of Evansville, Ind.; Signature Bank of New York; and Centra Financial Holdings Inc. of Morgantown, W.Va.

They were the first banks to repay the government, wanting to escape the increasingly tough restrictions placed on participants in the rescue program.

In addition to the $353 million, the banks paid the government a total of $5.4 million in dividends, Treasury Department spokesman Andrew Williams said.

The program was enacted in early October after the financial crisis — the worst since the 1930s — intensified. The goal of the program was to inject capital in banks so that they would be in a better position to boost lending, a crucial ingredient to any economic recovery. Nearly $200 billion has been injected into banks thus far.

The five banks have 15 days to buy back warrants from the government. If they don’t, the government will sell them to private investors, Williams said.

blackfridayRisk is the probability of loss. It is best to estimate it and to adjust your purchase and sell strategies to it in order to control loss before the purchase is made. Correct timing of purchases, buying near support, limiting loss potential, and stopping the decline by using volatility stop losses are all ingredients of a good risk control system. Let’s look at a few of these loss control discipline components.

One method of controlling risk is by timing purchases so that they occur at or near support. That way, your stop loss can be a very small distance away from your purchase price. If you buy when the stock is 5% above its trendline, for example, it will mean little if the stock declines 5% to reach its trendline. Since stocks often return to support, why would you sell? You would sell only if it broke to the downside through its rising trendline. Therefore, your loss would be calculated by adding the distance the sell point is below the trendline to the distance the purchase price was above the trendline. Buying at the trendline instead of above it would eliminate that unnecessary 5% loss.

However, stocks often make a small temporary penetration through a support line and then resume their climb. When, precisely do you sell? Let us use the suggestions offered in Technical Analysis of Stock Trends by Edwards and Magee as an example. If you are using stops that are based on closing prices, they suggest a trendline penetration of 3% would warrant selling. If your stop loss is placed with a broker, they recommend that the stop be placed 6% below the trendline because of the possibility of inconsequential intra-day spikes. Therefore, if you buy when the stock is 8% above its rising trendline and place the stop loss 3% below the trendline, you will lose 11% before your stop is triggered. On the other hand, if you wait for the stock to return to its trendline before buying, you will lose only 3% if your stop is triggered. It is important to buy right so that you can sell right.
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