Celebrating Hanukkah with the Light Your Lights Chanukah Song & Elmo

Tonight was the first night of Hanukkah & David & I celebrated with mom. We started things off dancing around the apartment with my favorite Chanukah video on YouTube.com Light Your Lights – Chanukah Song. Then we lit the menorah, said the blessings, then I let David pick out a present from the stack of 8. He had fun playing with the car he unwrapped while I made latkes, potato pancakes, with apple sauce for everyone to try. David wanted just applesauce & mom just the potato pancakes. Then David wanted to see something with Elmo and Chanukah and I found this real cute Elmo’s World – Chanukah Video. It was a sweet and simple evening.

Cheryl on December 14th, 2011

Benefit Cosmetics Rock

Benefit Cosmetics – Why I love them – Let me count the ways:

  1. They are easy and practical – Go to a drug store and I dare you to try to find anything that will look good on you. I tried to cut cost recently trying first the L’Oreal Visible Lift Serum Absolute Advanced Age-Reversing Makeup SPF 17 that looked like it matched my skin based on the little color swatches then the Almay Smart Shade Anti-Aging Makeup figuring the “smart shade” technology should do what it said it would do and match my skin tone. Both looked completely hideous. This is not a problem you will experience with Benefit cosmetics. Not sure why, but they naturally blend and look good whether you are Caucasian like me or a darker Filipino, like my best friend who turned me onto Benefit Cosmetics. You Rebel looks great on darker skin. Benefit Cosmetics You Rebel Lite looks great on lighter skin. Simple, moisturizing tinted foundation with SPF 15. And the Benefits Cosmetics 10 dual blush is brilliant. In one stroke you have great looking check bones.
  2. They have fun silly names – Benefit Cosmetics “Hello Flawless”, Benefit Cosmetics You Rebel Lite SPF 15, Benefit Cosmetics “Take a Picture… It Lasts Longer…”, Benefit Cosmetics Ooh La Lift, Benefit Cosmetics Smokin’ Eyes, Benefit Cosmetics Stay Don’t Stray
  3. They have wonderful gay boys at the counter – They are a party anytime you visit, doting on you and making you feel beautiful & it’s better than a trip to Italy or a club – no groping, just lavish attention and praise.

Inside Job – Not a Movie Review

Just Thoughts on the Implications & Questions about Where We Are Now & Where We, the US & World Economy are Going From Here

I just got done watching the movie Inside Job narrated by Matt Damon. (side-note: I love him. He’s wicked smart and married a girl who’s a real person. Yes, hopeful for the rest of us. Maybe Tim Ferris will do the same. He’s wicked smart &  I love him, too. Big smile.)  It got me thinking about the economy, my political views & asking myself what it all means for our future and the world economy.

2006 VC & Private Equity Investment Outlook – Uncertain

The last private equity event I went to was in 2006 at my grad school, Thunderbird. At that time the obvious man behind the curtain, noone was addressing, was the world economy. All the signs were pointing to an economic meltdown. I was asking what it meant for private equity, since the average VC and private equity investment has a 7 year time horizon from capital investment to exit. Almost everyone was making “I’ve got cards up my sleeve” faces, but no-one was really answering my question. 2008, 2009 is when the meltdown happened. They were talking a lot about BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India & China) industrialization, outsourcing, fortunes being made in the 3rd world in mobile phone apps and the success of  introducing mortgages and credit to the former soviet union and eastern block countries.

The Current State of the US Real Estate Market

Housing prices have collapsed across the US & I read in the Wall Street Journal last year that the banks are keeping 10 years worth of foreclosures off the market to prevent real estate values from falling even further. Here in Roseville housing prices fell about 50% from their highs a few years ago & are still on a downward trend, making the vast majority of home owners, who pulled money out of their homes when the economy was good, upside down on what they owe vs. what their property is worth. Looking at how this is directly affect my friends and family and what it means for the future isn’t pretty. Mom lost her lakefront home she had lived in for over 20 years plus both her rental properties and her real estate brokerage. She says it doesn’t make sense for her to go back to selling homes, since the only people able to buy right now are those with all cash and no-one has all cash except the professional real estate investors, who don’t need or want a broker. One of my best friends, a stay at home mom with 7 kids, who could have been helped by the “principal reduction” provisions that Obama supposedly enacted didn’t qualify (Applying twice her husband’s income was once too high & once too low) and lost her family’s home to foreclosure. It was sold out from under them to an investor for one third of what my friend owed on the property.  Two other investor friends of mine were able to get “principal reductions” on real estate they owned, one on an entire apartment building another on a place he was planning to flip. So families are losing their homesteads, investors are getting the benefits that were supposed to help families keep their houses and all cash real estate investors are having a field day. The only good thing for the families upside down and losing their homes to foreclosure is that the time horizons for the banks to take the properties away is fairly long – 1 to 2 years, so if they stop making payments and stockpile the cash is it enough to buy something else all cash? No, 2K / month = 24-48K, 3K = 36K to 70K – so, they’d have to go from a decent sized house to a really small condo or rent or buy something in south America – not very realistic. And since families are still holding onto their houses while they are upside down hoping for the economy to recover the market is staying depressed and overvalued. If they are forced to sell or more of the foreclosures come on the market, home values should continue going down. If you can figure out how to buy a home all cash – go for it – prices for homes at auction.com are about 1/3 to 1/2 the already depressed comparable market rates.

US Debt, Retirees, Globalization, US Education, Commodity Prices & Market Manipulation – What Does it Mean?

The US Debt projections are very scary. They basically show most of the US government spending will be consumed by entitlement spending and servicing the debt within the next 20 years, since nothing is being done to reduce our debts or balance the budget.  Of course, US debt is still getting a AAA rating just like the financial institutions were in the movie, meaning the ratings are meaningless and the US will probably have to start printing money & move toward inflation instead of defaulting on the US debt and sending the world into another economic tailspin. So everyone will keep getting their social security and unemployment, but it will be devalued. Will it be to the point where our unemployed, retired, and underemployed will stop being rich in the eyes of the rest of the world? Unable to afford Starbucks or having to live on rice and beans? Will we start to help our own friends and family like is expected in the rest of the world? If inflation goes crazy while Social Security and Retirement payments stay the same what will happen to all our parents and grandparents. Will they move in and start helping with child care? Will everyone be grouchy at having to help each other or get over it and be happy to have more time together? World Globalization trends point to economics around the world equalizing to some extent. The educated around the world making more, while the uneducated make less and location not mattering as much. The poor here should be getting much poorer to match the rest of the world. Our educational system and health care systems are broken. Labor should be cheap, so it will make more and more sense to be an employer rather than an employee. Public schools that have adopted “no child left behind” have created society with public schools as day care centers with every child dumbed down. Commodity prices are rising with international industrialization and globalization, but at the same time derivative ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) & speculation is huge in the commodity markets. Silver and Gold which had been the safe havens in inflationary times are being strongly affected by market manipulation & margin calls. Silver has been all over the map this year & no-one knows for sure if we are already in the middle of an overinflated bubble or if the inflationary measures will happen anytime soon and cause Silver to keep going up.  Silver ran up a couple of times this year and fell very quickly once margin calls were put into affect, which means those holding physical silver probably would have been hard pressed to sell in time and hold onto their gains.

Stability & Happiness – What I Want

What do I want? Stability, happiness and paths towards the pursuit of happiness I can count on for my friends, family and those I love and respect. As an extension of that: I want economic policies that help with that for the whole world. So what does that look like in terms of laws, government structures or policies. I want things that help families save, start businesses, own their own homes, get an education, maintain basic health services, incentivize helping their own friends and family rather than living independent me, me, me oriented lives. I’d like to see tax cuts for extended families living together, money toward college funds & small business expenses. I’d like to see the education system completely reformed. I’d like to see more small business friendly incubators in place of unemployment. I’d like basic budgeting & business taught in school. I want governments and business to be accountable, responsible and rewarded based on long-term results rather than short-term gains. I would love to eliminate all government pensions. Banks and credit rating institutions need to go back to being local, unleveraged & non-speculative. Regulation tends to strike me as a bad thing, but policing and disciplining businesses and their executives that defraud the public is definitely needed. Incentives need to exist for doing the right thing. Most of the economic meltdown happened because the incentives in place currently are not focused on what is good for society, but what is good for individuals, lobbyists and politicians. Lobbyists are well paid and good at what they do. Politicians & even the individuals paying the lobbyists tend to be very short-term oriented to the extent they don’t bother to look at the ramifications of their actions. We need longer term views.

What You and I Can Do – Individual Action and Personal Responsibility

We can’t depend on the governments to act in our best interest. It tends to be every man for themselves. Or every woman for her family, so what does that mean you and I can do to make the world a better place?

  1. Happiness & Stability – What do you Want?
    1. What makes you happy? What do you need to be happy no matter what’s going on with the economy?
      1. Usually happiness is a function of gratitude – count your blessings everyday
      2. The more daily acts of kindness you do the happier you will be – find ways to be kind and help others everyday
    2. What do you need to feel stable and secure? Skills, relationships, cash flow, a business, your own home, dual citizenship, family nearby – set it up
  2. Get your own finances in order – Our government should do the same:
    1. Be cash flow positive – Stay out of debt, make more than you spend, save and invest
    2. Invest in income producing assets, businesses, education, etc.
    3. Be a rainmaker, innovator, employer – not a follower, employee or dependent
  3. Plan and invest long-term
  4. Help family, friends & your community
    1. Be there for friends & family and your community
    2. Help them create the things in their life that make them happy and more stable