Archive for finance

THE SNOWBALL: WARREN BUFFETT AND THE BUSINESS OF LIFE By Alice Shroeder – Reviewed

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Despite this being an epic book, I expected more.

How can you sum up the Oracle of Omaha? The most successful investor in the history of investing?

For a man over seventy years old, having his life described in a little over 700 pages gives us about a 100 pages per ten years. Even though the first page is so awash with description (of Buffett sitting in his office) that it’s difficult to read, what we don’t get in the full Warren Buffett. We get a version, the tight-fisted, thrifty, intelligent, teacher, who’s more at ease with numbers than he is with human beings, and certainly more comfortable dealing with a class room full of students than he is with his own children. A man obsessed with making money and keeping it. To the point where much of the time his family acted almost, but not quite, as a distraction, and Buffett doesn’t particularly like distractions.

The failure of this book is the lack of detail about some of Buffett’s investments. Probably the most important part of his life, not only for him but also for most of his readers. We get the glamorous stuff, and we also get the dirty stuff, but where’s the detail of the stuff that made him his money?

Most of the information contained in the book can be found on Buffett’s wikipedia entry. The details of his earlier life are interesting, and the milestones he achieved in his early years are quite extraordinary. But I want a map. I want to see what he invested in, at how much and why: I want a description of how he made his billions. I don’t understand how a book so huge and detailed about Buffett’s life but be so bereft of such important details.

For a financial analyst Shroeder doesn’t seem very interested in the money.

This is certainly an interesting book, and Warren’s life as a self-made man certainly holds your attention. But the missing details of his investments, the things that are skipped over, or just not even mentioned, serve to give us only half an image of this great investor.

Buffett is still my hero, with the knowledge gained from this book even more so. We share much in common, he had a paper-round, as did I. Buffett was making money as a child, as did I, once getting in trouble at school for telling my friends toys. Buffett also skirted a bit too close to the law, well, I’m refusing to comment on that! He was also buying shares before he was sixteen. I bought shares in my mother’s name because I was too young to have them in my own. Unfortunately, and I really don’t know what happened (perhaps discovering horror novels), but our paths diverged and I’m not a billionaire.

This is a personal and probably the most detailed of the books on Buffett, and yet it still doesn’t manage to capture the complete man. It does capture most of him, and it’s a moving story, but I almost feel short changed.

Amazing book, and yet still slightly disappointing.

Credit Crunch: Saving money without going without. The no pain savings plan.

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by stanleyriiks

You need to start thinking about how your money is spent and being aware of waste. Most of the things I’ll mention are just common sense. All of us waste money to a certain degree, and don’t think you don’t. If you are paying more than you should for something then that’s a waste. If you’re using something you don’t need to use then that’s a waste. If you can cut out as much waste as possible and live more efficiently then you will save money.

Get loyalty cards for everywhere that offers them for free, Sainsbury, Tesco, Iceland all offer loyalty cards. What better way of saving money than getting something for free, even if it is only one week’s worth a shopping a year, it all adds up!

Turn the light off when you leave a room (providing no one else is in there!). This can save you upwards of £5.00 a month.

Use Energy Saving light bulbs, good for the environment, good for your wallet! (can save you another £5.00 or more a month).

Reuse plastic bags, particularly in Sainsburys (where you can receive nectar points for using them) and Tesco (where you get clubcard points). (Can gain you £1.00 or more a year depending on how many shops you do a month).

Put on a jumper when it gets cold. Ok, so when it gets really cold you need to put on your heating, but only use your central heating to heat, then turn it off until the temperate gets low again, then turn it back on. Set your timer for the minimum time you need it and make sure you never have it on when nobody is home. (can save £20.00 or more).

Never put things on the radiator to dry! It will suck the into the wet towel and the room will not be as warm as it should be!

If there are rooms you don’t use, such at the hallway or spare room, shut those doors and turn off the radiators. Don’t heat rooms you don’t need to. It might also be worth turning it off in the kitchen, normally when you are in there (whilst cooking) it’s warm enough.

Go to bed early. Not only will you benefit from all that extra sleep, but you can turn off the lights and heating while you’re in bed.

You think that’s all a waste of time? That little lot could save you over £500.00 a year!

Credit Crunch: A Survivor’s Guide – Bills

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2010 by stanleyriiks

The easiest way to save money is to look at your regular outgoings (bills) and see if any of these can be made smaller.

Rent is a difficult one unless you’re willing to move, but downsizing or moving further out-of-town can help. Remember to check to see if commuting costs will increase and whether the cost of moving and the hassle is really worth it. I wouldn’t want saving some rent money to be my prime motivation for moving. Although my sister moved back in with our parents when she was younger for a couple of years to sort out her finance and get herself into a position to buy a house.

Electricity and gas can be easily compared on websites like uswitch.co.uk and www.moneysupermarket.com. You may also be able to save money on your insurance, whether it be home insurance, contents insurance, car insurance, travel insurance, you get the idea… Basically with any kind of insurance you have the potential to save money just by shopping around.

Look at packages of insurance, home and contents together, or annual travel insurance instead of individual holiday insurance if you go away more than once. Never buy the travel-agents insurance as it will probably be the most expensive.

I saved nearly 50% on my annual worldwide travel insurance.

Look at your transport situation. If you travel on public transport, look at travel-cards, Oyster cards, or if you’re lucky enough you might be able to walk to work. I gave up my motorbike and a ten-minute journey to and from work, and instead walk for half an hour there and back. It not only saves me money but it keeps me fit! That’s what I tell myself as I trudge home on a Friday in the pouring rain in the dark on a winter’s evening!

THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME By Paul Teutil, Sr with Mark Yost – Reviewed

Posted in Personal Finance, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2009 by stanleyriiks

If you’re coming to this book as a fan of the show, as I was, if you’re thinking this is a business book, as I was, and are looking for insights into running your own business, as I was, then you’re in the wrong place.

This is a very basic management book. It contains very few business tips, there are a few time-worn management skills, many of which are basic common sense, and most of which are fairly obvious. The depth of the book, at nearly a hundred and fifty pages, isn’t worth mentioning. Reading the chapter titles will give you a very good idea of what to expect as Paul gives us his own person take on management. He’s obviously a big man with a good strong head on those broad shoulders, who tries to surround himself with good people.

He also has some serious issues with his parents and his troubled childhood, and he’s rightly proud of doing so well considering his upbringing and dealing with his own demons, in the form or drugs and alcohol, which he was addicted to for twenty years.

What comes across more than anything is that this is a hard-working man. He doesn’t have any special secrets or any special talent, but he does have the drive to succeed and a passion to do his best.

As a fan of OCC and American Choppers I can’t help but think of this as a cash-in. Perhaps not by Paul, who seems to think his wisdom is worth sharing, but more by the publishers, who haven’t pushed Paul at all to reveal how he managed to be a functioning alcoholic, and build two successful businesses.

If you’re looking for business insight then you would be better served with another book. If you’re looking for an OCC book then look elsewhere too. This is not a bad management book, but it’s not a bible, and it’s only one man’s opinion. And it’s very basic, barely backed up by experience.

This book is for those really interested in OCC and how Paul got started, and his management style. Which I would imagine is really only a few people.

The book doesn’t fail because of the OCC tie-up, it’s the only thing it has going for it. I can’t help thinking that as the season of American Chopper ends, with the family going in their separate direction, the future of OCC is going to be very different. Apart from the unknown daughter, the sons don’t particularly come out too well in the book either. And despite appearing so important to Senior in the book, the arguments and the way two of his sons are treated in the series and described in the book, it seems that his children won’t stand in the way of his success either. It seems that it is the end of OCC as it was, and that Senior is powering on by himself, and with his management tenets behind him, you have to worry that the future may well not be as bright as he thinks it is.

Credit Crunch: A Survivor’s Guide – Budgeting

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Budgeting is not scary, it’s not difficulty and it doesn’t take a genius to do it. You don’t need a degree in finance, or 25 year experience as an economist, nor to you need a financial advisor or book-keeper do it for you.

Budgeting is about knowing what your incomings are (wages normally), and your outgoings (mortgage/rent, utilities, telephone, cable, shopping, credit cards, etc).

Start out by printing off your monthly bank statement. If you haven’t got internet banking then sign-up now. The easiest way to have control of your money is to know how much you have and how much is coming out. This is budgeting.

Make a list of your income:

To make it simple and give you an example we’ll say you receive £1000 wages a month and you have no other income.

Now make a list of your direct debits, standing-orders, and any other monthly payments that you can’t get out of, this should not include any spending on shopping or food:

Rent:               £300.00

Electricity:             £100.00

Gas:                £100.00

Water:                         £20.00

Taxes:             £50.00

Insurance:             £10.00

Travel:             £20.00

So you start with £1000

When you’ve paid all of the above you’re left with: £400.00

This is your working budget. Spend more than this and you’re going into debt. Debt is the enemy! You should always try to spend within your budget. Food, clothes, going out, holidays, petrol, everything that is not a regular bill will come out of your working budget.

Check your bank regularly, internet banking and telephone banking are very helpful in making sure you are aware of your spending.

Budgeting is the opposite of dieting, but both work in the same (although opposite) way: there are only two ways to improve your situation, get more money in or spend less money. (Dieting is use more calories up or take less in).

Being aware of your financial situation, however bad it may be, is always helpful. Remember that knowledge is power.

Next time: Bills

Credit Crunch: A Survivor’s Guide

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2009 by stanleyriiks

The credit crunch has hit me hard. I haven’t lost my job (so far), but my income has decreased significantly (about 25%), the threat of redundancy has loomed over me for the whole of 2009 and is likely to be an issue again in 2010. During this time of difficulties I’ve had to tighten my belt, to cut costs, I’ve had to crunch my own credit, look at my needs and expenses and try to put together a back-up fund for emergencies.

It has been hard. The credit crunch was unexpected by most people, including me, and because there was no warning I found myself unprepared.

To give you some background, I have a full-time job (the joy!), I live in rented accommodation (which until recently I enjoyed alone). I enjoy good food, regular holidays, lots of tv channels, unrestricted broadband internet access, buying things when I want them, not having to save forever to get an iPod touch, and being in control of my money.

That is until I realised how precariously balanced I was on the financial divide. The divide between the haves and have-nots. Because of the credit-crisis it’s not so much of a divide any more, and there’s no border patrol stopping you going over to the other side now.

I plan to put together a series of articles aimed at making you look at your money and getting you to think about how you spend it. This isn’t a get rich quick scheme, it’s not a 12-step debt removal system, it’s just a common-sense way of looking at money and how you use it. The idea is to take in this information and use it to save yourself some money without having to go without too much.

Next time: Budgeting