the week in review

May 25-May 29, 2020 


a look back at this week’s essays… 

Art Collecting: Learn While You Earn* 

5 Reasons to Invest in Art: Investing in museum-quality art will make you richer financially… owning it will give you a richer life.

Click here to read more.



What We (Should) Want for Our Children 

When my children were infants, I wanted only one thing for them….

Click here to read more.



How to Get Better at What You Do Best 

The greatest challenges we face in life are obstacles that reside inside of us. When it comes to mastering a skill, the greatest challenge is not the work and time involved in acquiring it but the desire to be a master before you become one.

Click here to read more.




quick quiz 


  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

*  fractious (5/25/20)

*  serendipitous (5/27/20)

*  reproach (5/29/20)


  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

* “The only time life allows for _____is the present. Right now. In this very moment.” – Michael Masterson (5/25/20)

* “Of all nature’s gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to a man than _____?” – Marcus Tulius Cicero (5/27/20)

* “If you accept your _____ you go beyond them.” – Brendan Behan (5/29/20)


  1. Are these statements True or False? 

* The X in X-rays stands for electromagnetic. (5/25/20)

* Camp David was built as a retreat for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (5/27/20)

* Every year, the Washington Post holds a contest in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words. (5/29/20)



recommended links from this week’s blog


* “Freedom Isn’t Free” – a powerful speech by President Ronald Reagan. I don’t know enough about Reagan’s career to have a strong opinion about it, but I can think of only two other presidents in my lifetime that were as good as he was at speechifying: Kennedy and Clinton. To watch the speech – which includes Reagan’s dramatic reading of “A Soldier’s Pledge” – click here.


* “New Tennis Rules” Here


* “More Than Money: The Good Life Parable” – In this short film about a well-known fable, a fisherman teaches a young businessman about life after the young man uses his MBA knowledge to explain how the fisherman could be more successful. Here


* A TED Talk by George Monbiot – lots of interesting facts about how nature works. Here


* This is wrestling…Here




Your Question: 

I liked your essays on the Corona Economy, as you called it, especially your explanation of how the Treasury and the Federal Reserve work. For years, I’ve heard the term “printing money” and always assumed that the Treasury really printed new dollars. Now I understand how it works – how both the Treasury and also the Fed can create fake dollars out of thin air and still manage to balance their books.

One thing I didn’t understand: You mentioned that there was a difference between what the Fed did to bail out the economy after the real estate crash of 2008 and what it is doing now. What is that difference?


My Answer: 

I put the same question to Tom Dyson when I was researching those essays. Here’s what he said:

“The difference between original QE and ‘monetizing the debt’  is in the intention behind it… its intended purpose. Mechanically, they’re identical.

“The QE they did 2008-2014 was to goose the stock market and give a tail wind to the banks. They did it voluntarily. It was somewhat of an experimental new idea put forth by Ben Bernanke.

“The QE they are doing now is out of necessity. They must do it because if they don’t the government won’t be able to finance itself and it will go broke.

“It’s a subtle distinction and one that I’m sure would be lost on most mainstream economists. Most mainstream economists probably wouldn’t even entertain the idea that the US government is insolvent if not for the Fed’s money printing.”

Tom said it is a subtle distinction, but he was being polite. It is a very important distinction and one that, after you “get it,” explains a lot.

One of the arguments against the 2008-2014 QE bailout was that it was going to be inflationary. (Increasing the money supply by a trillion dollars should, in theory, make prices rise because you have more dollars competing for the same number of goods and services.) That didn’t happen. I wondered why. Now I understand.

The larger economy didn’t inflate because almost all of those extra dollars went to the financial sector, as Tom pointed out. The financial sector did inflate. Hugely. Stock prices shot up and made Wall Street (its brokers, bankers, insurance agents, their lawyers, accountants, and shrinks, etc.) very rich. And that tidal wave of newly “printed” dollars flowed into the businesses that catered to Wall Street: luxury cars, fine art, expensive real estate, etc. But the rest of the country? Main Street? They got poorer.

Now that I understand it, it’s difficult to see it as some sort of brave fiscal “experiment.” It’s hard for me to believe that the effect of it would not have been apparent to everyone behind it (all those Wall Street insiders) that so nobly volunteered their time to conjure up and direct the bailout.

But the current QE is different. It is different not only because it’s necessary rather than optional, but also because the lion’s share of it went to the American public through stimulus checks and the PPP program. So will the next $3 trillion.

That probably will cause inflation in the general economy because most of those dollars won’t be spent on stocks and bonds but on food and clothing and other basic commodities. Those are the things that will become more expensive, which means that the productive classes – the people that pay taxes – will be paying off the government’s crazy borrowing by paying more for just about everything they buy.


Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 



For a look back at the stock market, click here

Continue Reading

May 18-May 22, 2020 

a look back at this week’s essays… 


Free Is a Bad Idea, Part 1: Free Offers in Business 

After many years of mulling it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that giving away things for free is a bad idea. I’m sure that statement will sound odd or even idiotic to many people, but give me a chance to make my case.

Click here to read more.



Free Is a Bad Idea, Part 2: Free Offers in Charity 

I know more about making money than I do about giving it away. But I’ve been inclined toward charitable giving all my life, and have been actively involved in running a charitable foundation for the last 20 years. So while I don’t pretend to be an authority on the subject, I’ve come to several conclusions about what works and what doesn’t.

Click here to read more.



Living in Fear of the Fear of COVID-19 

[My friends/family agree with me] on one thing: The Trump administration bungled its response to the threat. But [they] think the mistake was in implementing mass quarantines too late. I think the mistake was in implementing them in the first place.

Click here to read more.



quick quiz 


  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 


*  eschew (5/18/20)

*  cosset (5/20/20)

*  insinuate (5/22/20)


  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 


* “All _____ is basically about customers and marketing and making money and capitalism and winning and promoting it and having something someone really wants.” – Roger Ailes (5/18/20)


* “Too many have dispensed with _____ in order to practice charity.” – Albert Camus (5/20/20)


* “Those who would give up essential _____, to purchase a little temporary _____, deserve neither _____ nor _____.” – Ben Franklin (5/22/20)


  1. Are these statements True or False? 


* Abraham Lincoln imposed the first federal income tax to help pay the debts of the Civil War. (5/18/20)


* Leonor Fini, an artist in her own right, was married to Salvador Dali. (5/20/20)


* According to medical historians, there are basically two ways that pandemics end. One is when death rates plummet. The other is when fear about the disease wanes. (5/22/20)



recommended links from this week’s blog 


* “When Mask-Wearing Rules Faced Resistance” – an interesting account, on, of the use of face masks during the 1918 “Spanish” Flu pandemic. To read it, click here.


* In the mood for a little fun? Try this


* Here is one of Leonor Fini’s paintings – called “Rasch, rasch, rasch…” –  featured in one of Christie’s online publications.


* I was fascinated by this video explanation about how COVID-19 patients die. To watch the video, click here.


* “How One Man Circumnavigated the World By Car” – Amazing story! Here


* “The history of our world in 18 minutes” – an interesting TED Talk by David Christian. To watch it, click here.


* Jeff Allen: “My America” Here





Your Question: 

I stumbled upon your article on not giving away things for free, which I enjoyed. Although, the one exception that came to mind was giving away free food samples in the mall at the food court. It’s worked on me where I tried something I never ate before, liked it, and then went to the restaurant several hundred times over the course of a few years. (I eat lunch at the mall frequently… or at least I used to.)

Is this a valid exception?


My Answer: 

Like all rules, there are exceptions.

Costco, the mega-commodity store, gives away free samples every day. I don’t have to research Costco to know that this works for them. The fact that they’ve been doing it for so many years tells me that.

But it may not be working the way you think.

My guess is that their giveaway program doesn’t generally produce direct sales – so I’m speculating that the main reason Costco offers samples is that it is appreciated by their customers. Their marketing execs have learned from surveys that it is considered to be one of the primary benefits of being a Costco customer. I also suspect that the sampling gives them a lot of valuable information about their customers’ buying preferences.

The same is no doubt true for department stores that give away perfume and cosmetic samples. I could give you other examples, but you get the point.

Here’s the thing: Sampling almost never works for acquiring new customers.

I don’t expect you to take my word for that. I’m going to be writing more about it in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to make a statement and then leave you with something to chew over.

Giving away free things is not a good way to acquire new customers for all the reasons I enumerated in my “Free Is a Bad Idea” essay on Monday.

When you give away something for free, you are not making a sale. At best, you are acquiring a potential target. And there is a big difference between the two.

All the magic happens in business when the sale is made. How that sale is made determines how profitable the relationship will be for both the customer and the business. To acquire the kind of customers you need to grow a business, you have to design a strategy that will sell the product at full price. Until you’ve done that, you haven’t done anything that matters.


Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 


For a look back at the stock market, click here



Continue Reading

May 11-May 15, 2020 


a look back at this week’s essays… 


Money. Let’s Talk About Money! 

I collect art. I also collect books, beer bottles, and cigar lighters. I enjoy collecting them all. But there is something I get from my art collection that I don’t get from books, bottles, and lighters: I get richer.

Click here to read more.


The Simplicity Imperative 

There are probably a hundred personal productivity mistakes I have made in my business career, but most of them can be sorted into three persistently wrong-headed impulses…

Click here to read more.


Fear and Hope for Young People Today 

“I feel sorry for young people today,” a friend said to me recently. “They are growing up in a terrible time.” I gave him a sympathetic nod. I didn’t want to get into it. I don’t have the same feeling. And I’m not even sure why…

Click here to read more.



quick quiz  

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

*  dilettante (5/11/20)

*  respite (5/13/20)

*  breviloquent (5/15/20)


  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

* “There are two ways that art is judged as good: connoisseurship and _____.” – Michael Masterson (5/11/20)

* “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be _____; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” – Henry David Thoreau (5/13/20)

* “‘_____’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops – at all” – Emily Dickinson (5/15/20)


  1. Are these statements True or False? 

* Prices of investable art follow the stock market. They immediately rise when the stock market rises, and fall when the stock market falls. (5/11/20)

* COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, spreads the same way as chickenpox, measles, and the common cold. (5/13/20)

* Dr. Matthew Schmitt developed a breathing exercise to help people stop smoking. (5/15/20)



recommended links from this week’s blog 


* “Stephen King Has an Idea for the Story Joe Biden Could Be Telling” in The New York TimesA solid interview with a very good writer. Click here to read it.


* “Seymour the Squirrel and the Avocado Helmet” – Is this animal abuse? HERE

* “Lockdown is a huge mistake…” – A dull presentation, but it’s from someone (a Nobel Prize winning scientist) that understands the math. HERE

* Whether it’s caused by COVID-19 or another illness, you can help relieve mucus buildup in the lungs by following this doctor’s “rule of threes.” Click here to see how it’s done.

* “To prevent the next pandemic, it’s the legal wildlife trade we should worry about…” – In this essay from National Geographic, a biologist argues that viruses can spread as easily from the trade of legal wildlife like frogs and monkeys, a multibillion-dollar global business, as they can by bats and other exotics in “wet” markets. Click here to read it.

* This poignant video of a music teacher trying to convey her thoughts and feelings about shelter-in-place through a heartfelt song nearly brought me to tears. HERE




Your Question: 

I’m a 51-year-old actor living in Los Angeles. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on many great projects in the past 30 years, but haven’t created any savings. What advice or suggestions do you have for creating wealth at this stage of my life?

My Answer: 

Ah, to be 51 again!

Lucky you! But I get it. When you pass that 50-yard line, the end zone is no longer a distant possibility. And as an aging actor, you may be anticipating less demand than supply of your talents in the future.

But you didn’t write for my encouragement or sympathy. You want advice, or at least a suggestion or two that you can make useful. I’m happy to oblige.

The first thing I’m going to say is something you already know and may not want to hear. The bottom-line reason you haven’t saved any money till now is not because of any or all of the dozens of serious financial challenges you’ve faced in your life so far. It’s because of all the thousands of small decisions you’ve made about working and spending and (not) saving.

Take responsibility for that.

You don’t have to beat yourself up about it. There are millions of happy people that live without the burden of that responsibility. And some portion of them make it through life without a care in the world. But you have a care. You are concerned about the lifestyle you’ll have in the coming years. And with good reason. The country is broke. The entertainment industry is in lockdown. Your prospects for making good money in the future are narrowing with each coming birthday. It’s almost enough to make a person think, “Why me?”

Since I’ve written thousands of pages on your question already, I’m not going to waste your time or mine repeating bits and pieces of them in truncated form today. Instead, I’m going to recommend that you read two of the books I’ve written (under my pen name “Michael Masterson”) in a specific order.

  1. The Pledge: Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life– If you let it, this book will get you over the hurdle of making the changes you need to make to accomplish your financial goals.
  2. Automatic Wealth: The 6 Steps to Financial Independence– This is basically a blueprint for acquiring wealth. There are plenty of books out there that do this. Some of them are very good. What I like about Automatic Wealth is that I know the blueprint is real because it’s my blueprint. And I know it’s easy to follow because I hate complicated plans.

If you are willing to read these books, I am confident you’ll have the answers you are looking for. If you are not willing to read them, I’ve got another book for you. It’s called Living Rich. It’s about having a truly rich life on a modest budget

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 


For a look back at the stock market, click here.  

Continue Reading

May 4-May 8, 2020 


a look back at this week’s essays…

How to Know If Your Great Idea Actually Sucks 

I make my living by coming up with ideas. It’s a great way to pay the bills. And I’ve been doing it now for so long that the ideas come easily – on walks, in the shower, while reading, etc.

Many of them seem brilliant all the way up to the moment I write them down. Then things can get complicated.

Click here to read more.


Don’t Hire Your Friends… and Don’t Make Friends With Your Employees 

I have the good fortune to employ lots of very smart and engaging people. Every week, I meet some new employee that has the qualities I seek in a friend: intelligence, good character, and wit. I can’t stop myself from wanting to be friends with these people, even though I know I shouldn’t.

What I do to resist the temptation is tell myself, very consciously, that the desire I have to make friends with them is a sort of mental illness….

Click here to read more.


Principles of Wealth #38 

When we think of wealth, we usually think of financial wealth. But there are many other forms of wealth…. [If] one commits to becoming rich, as I did 45 years ago, it would be wise to give these other forms of wealth the consideration they deserve.

I didn’t and I paid the price for it.

Click here to read more.



quick quiz  

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

* specious (5/4/20)

* egalitarian (5/6/20)

* wistful (5/8/20)


  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

* “If you can’t explain it _____, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein


* “One of the most important things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that the most difficult problems to solve are _____ problems….” – Michael Masterson (5/6/20)

* “We can all… increase our wealth daily by _____ to enhance the value of our property, our knowledge, our skills, and our trustworthiness.”  – Michael Masterson (5/8/20)


  1. Are these statements True or False? 

* Unlike most countries, South Africa does not have a legally defined capital city. (5/4/20)

* According to a survey by TalentLyft, 72% of employees say they are driven more by contentment with their work environment than by career advancement opportunities. (5/6/20)

* The Spanish Flu got the name as the result of a misunderstanding. (5/8/20)



recommended links from this week’s blog 

 * “COVID-19 Compared to 6 Other Diseases” – The only thing I’ve found [this past week] that adds anything helpful to the conversation about COVID-19 immunity. LINK


* I wonder how much this guy gets paid…LINK


 * The latest issue of Independent Healing – One ER doctor says this simple at-home device saved the lives of two of his coronavirus-infected colleagues. In this issue, you’ll find out how it works… and where you can get it. Click here to read the May issue.


 * When you have no idea what you’re talking about…LINK


 * “Take ‘the Other’ to Lunch” – There’s an angry divisive tension in the air that threatens to make modern politics impossible. In this TED Talk, Elizabeth  Lesser shares a simple way to begin a real dialogue – by going to lunch with someone who doesn’t agree with you and asking them 3 questions. Awkwardly corny at points, but true. LINK


 * “Isolation” – This Canadian comedian has been on a roll lately, riffing on the Corona Crisis and its effects… LINK



Your Question: 

I’ve been a copywriter behind the scenes for many, many years… [and] now, I want to help businesses succeed in this new reality….  I’m starting a company of my own for the first time in my life – I’m 52.  Figuring it out as I go.  Any advice?

My Answer: 

My advice to anyone starting a new business is to know as much about the business as you can before you start. Not the things you can learn from Google searches, but the things you will learn if you worked in the business: where potential customers are, how they like to be reached, how sales are made, what products and offers work best with the customer base, the allowable acquisition costs, etc.

These add up to what I call the optimal selling strategy (OSS). You can read about it in Ready, Fire, Aim. Do that first, then read the entire book three times. If you have any more questions after doing that, shoot them my way.


Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 


For a look back at the stock market, click here

Continue Reading

April 27-May 1, 2020 

a look back at this week’s essays… 

The Corona Economy, Part III

What the Media and Our Representatives Don’t Understand 

2020 will be a watershed year for the US. In terms of the usual data points that measure economic health, it has already neared or surpassed numbers that are as bad as we’ve seen in 100 years…. Few in Washington or in the mainstream media are alarmed about this. The attitude seems to be: We’ll deal with it after we defeat the coronavirus.

In fact, an ethos has spread that is disturbing.

Click here to read more.


The Corona Economy, Part IV

War, Debt, and the Eve of Destruction 

The history of US debt is the history of its wars. Before the Civil War, the national debt was relatively modest, because before then there was no income tax. Wars were funded with sales taxes and the like.

The Civil War changed that. Click here to read more.


The Corona Economy, Part V

What Will America Look Like in 2021? 

Like the spectral enemies we fought before it, COVID-19 is a formidable killer of human beings. And like the wars against poverty, drugs, and terrorism, the cost of the War on COVID-19 is immense and will be ongoing. What irks me is that most of the perfectly intelligent people I speak with have no idea how expensive it will be. The fact is, it will likely eclipse the cost of all previous wars.

Let’s add up the damage so far…

Click here to read more.


quick quiz  

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence: 

* solvency (4/27/20)

* deus ex machina (4/29/20)

* carnage (5/1/20) 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations: 

* “_____ is a system whereby a person who can not pay gets another person who can not pay to guarantee that he can pay.” – Charles Dickens (4/27/20)

* “I found this _____, doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office.” – Barack Obama(4/29/20)

* “Unemployment is skyrocketing; deflation is [here] for the first time since the Great Depression. I don’t care whose fault it is. It’s the truth.” – John Mellencamp (5/1/20)

  1. Are these statements True or False? 

* The interest on Treasury bonds is 100% tax-exempt. (4/27/20)

* There are two kinds of Treasury notes: T-bonds and T-bills. (4/29/20)

*The Social Security Administration was established during Herbert Hoover’s administration. (5/1/20)


recommended links from this week’s blog 

* Rockwell International decided to get into the heavy-duty automatic transmission business and they wanted an introductory video. What they saw, initially, was this rehearsal for camera, lighting, and stage crew – strictly off the cuff. No script. Nothing written down. And it became a legend within the training industry. Click here to watch it.

* Good corona humor: “Adley on Instagram” Here

* “A Gaucho Appears in the Distance, Riding Hell for Leather…” by Bill Bonner

“There’s an advantage to spending time in a place like Argentina,” Bill writes. “It’s been through these things [economic, political, and social ruin] before. In fact, it makes a habit of it.” Read the entire essay here.

* Very interesting. With all the research I’ve been doing, I didn’t know some of these “facts.” Here

* “My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?” in The New York Times

“On the night before I laid off all 30 of my employees,” Gabrielle Hamilton writes, “I dreamed that my two children had perished, buried alive in dirt, while I dug in the wrong place, just five feet away from where they were actually smothered. I turned and spotted the royal blue heel of my youngest’s socked foot poking out of the black soil only after it was too late.” Read the entire article here.

* Great song… great ensemble performance. Here



Your Question: 

I wonder if any of the analysts you talk to have looked to see what if any parallels in market action/reaction there was in ’29 as compared today’s events. I would wager human nature being immutable that the two may graph similarly.

I note that quite a few are theorizing that timing may be right for a few good stocks to be in buy territories. I am actually too chicken to sell everything, but I honestly believe this is going to get worse and the turnaround is going to take years. The more money the Feds throw at it, the longer it will take to recover.

My Answer: 

Re the ’29 Depression: The analysts I talk to are a motley crew. But one thing I’m convinced of: All the great economic collapses have the same essential causes. Unbridled debt, uninhibited spending, and foolish speculation.

Re the stock market and your/my stock portfolio: I’m not selling, but I have a long-term perspective (10+ years) and I don’t own many growth stocks. I do think there are good speculations out there, but I’d never risk more than 1% of my investible net worth on them. I invest in speculations for ego satisfaction, not to preserve or enhance my wealth.

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 


For a look back at the stock market, click here

Continue Reading

April 20-April 24, 2020

a look back at this week’s essays…

The Corona Economy, Part I:

Will America Survive It? 

The trouble with mixing ethics and economics is not that they are incompatible. Quite the contrary, they are inextricably linked. The problem is that if you talk about them simultaneously, you never get anywhere.

Click here to read more.

My Last Essay on the Coronavirus (I Promise!)

5 Important Questions; 5 Conclusions 

Today, I’m going to try to answer the question of how deadly this novel virus is as part of what I promise will be my final essay on the virus itself.

Click here to read more.

The Corona Economy, Part II

Will America Survive It? 

America will soon be “opening up again.” Not because Donald Trump wants it to.  Nor will it happen because we’ve passed the peak of the contagion. (There will be a second wave.) State governors will have lots to say about it, but they won’t actually make the important decisions. America’s people – its entrepreneurs, professionals, corporate executives, and employees will.

Click here to read more.


quick quiz 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:

* peremptory (4/20/20)

* perfervid (4/22/20)

* hyperbole (4/24/20)

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:

* “_____ is a subject that does not greatly respect one’s wishes.” – Nikita Khrushchev


* “Imagine preventing health crises, not just _____ them.” – Nathan Wolfe


* “Performance is better than promise. Exuberant _____ are cheap.” – Joseph Pulitzer (4/24/20)

  1. Are these statements True or False?

* In 1920, quarantined in the South of France during the Spanish Influenza outbreak, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a letter to a dear friend describing what he was going through. (4/20/20)

* Coronavirus is the biggest killer in America. (4/22/20)

*The Dow Jones Industrial Average has not yet rebounded from its pre-Great Depression levels. (4/24/20)


recommended links from this week’s blog 

* “Questioning Conventional Wisdom in the COVID-19 Crisis” LINK

* “Provisional Death Counts for COVID-19” LINK

* “COVID-19 risk factors: Age, underlying conditions, genetics, and unknowns” LINK

* “How deadly is the new coronavirus?” LINK

* “Odds of Hospitalization” LINK

* “The Deadliest Viruses on Earth” LINK

* “Beware of the World’s Most Deadly Infectious Disease: Tuberculosis” LINK

* “Causes of Death – Our World in Data” LINK

* “Perspectives on the Pandemic, Episode 2”

* “Perspectives on the Pandemic, Episode 3” LINK

* “List of human disease case fatality rates” LINK

* “Matchstick Art” – Got some spare time on your hands? Here’s an idea… LINK

* “How COVID-19 Kills – I’m a Surgeon – and Why We Can’t Save You” LINK

* “Happy Feet!



Your Question:

What do you think about real estate as an investment, given what seems like an inevitable recession and possibly worse?

My Answer:

It depends on the sort of real estate investments we are talking about. If I had a large position in REITs, for example, I’d be concerned because REITs are basically stocks, and the value of stocks is half-dependent on the trust investors have in the stock market generally. If stocks go down further and stay down for five or 10 years, some of the underlying businesses would almost surely go bust.

If, like a good friend of mine (who became very wealthy through real estate) I had a large position in high-end malls, I’d be very concerned. If we go into a deep recession, some of those properties will be all but abandoned. I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes now.

If I were invested in higher-end residential properties, I’d be worried, too. Generally speaking, the more expensive properties carry more debt. (In 2017, the most recent available data, West Virginia had the highest share of “free and clear” ownership at 54%. Maryland and the District of Columbia were on the other end of the spectrum with rates of 27% and 24%, respectively.) More debt means less resiliency in tough economic times and a greater risk of default.

And if I were invested in hotels, I’d definitely be worried. Wait! I am invested in hotels! My worry is not for myself, because I limited my investment to what I can afford to lose. I’m worried about the managing partner. He is jumping through hoops to keep the doors open right now. If things do not go back to “normal” by, say, a year from now, he’s going to be in trouble.

What I’m not much worried about are the apartments I own in working-class neighborhoods (usually referred to as “workforce housing”). The rent rolls would certainly go down in an extended recession. But since my total debt load on those properties is less than 5%, I’m confident I’ll be able to maintain them even at a rent reduction of 40% or more. Plus, the asset value should return when the economy returns because there won’t be much building during a serious recession.

The other type of real estate I favor is buildings that house businesses I own. So long as those businesses stay in business, I’m not worried about rental payments because they account for less than 5% (and usually only 2%) of expenses.

And finally, I’m not worried about my land-banking portfolio. It isn’t designed to have an income, and the maintenance costs, because of the locations, are very low. I will hold onto these properties until prices start climbing. I’m in no rush.

What all this amounts to is this: When it comes to real estate, I’ve always been very conservative. I invest primarily in income-producing properties for which there will always be a demand. And I use leverage (mortgages) on a temporary and limited basis.

My formula is not optimal for increasing wealth in an up market. But it is good for reducing my exposure to a long down market.

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

A look back at the stock market LINK

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April 13-April 17, 2020

a look back at this week’s essays…

Coronavirus Update: Bad Math, Dumb Reporting, Unthinking Citizens 

The two questions no one as yet has been able to answer: How many Americans will get infected? And how many will die?

Click here to read more.

Corona Crisis: Business Survival Tactics 

We are in a crisis. A pandemic-triggered, macro-economic, business-demolishing crisis. My guess is that the virus won’t end up being as deadly as many fear. But my fear is that the economic repercussions will be great.

Click here to read more.

The Questions Nobody Is Asking 

Here’s a question: If knowing that the lethality rate is important in plotting a strategy to deal with coronavirus, why haven’t we done the right kind of testing? Why are we testing only frontline workers and people that are exhibiting symptoms?

Click here to read more.

quick quiz 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:

* morbidity (4/13/20)

* furlough (4/15/20)

* verbing (4/17/20)

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:

* “Facts are stubborn, but _____ are more pliable.” – Mark Twain (4/13/20)

* “The pessimist sees _____ in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every _____.” – Winston Churchill(4/15/20)

* “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop _____.” – Albert Einstein(4/17/20)

  1. Are these statements True or False?

* In 1631, the population of the northern Italian town of Ferrara was wiped out by an epidemic of the plague. (4/13/20)

* According to a Harvard Business Review study of companies before, during, and after several recent recessions, many of them responded to the challenge by relying too heavily on reducing the number of employees. (4/15/20)

* Health officials in China reported the coronavirus outbreak in the country to WHO at the end of December 2019. (4/17/20)

recommended links from this week’s blog

* Click here for a detailed explanation of the difference between “morbidity” and “mortality.”

* Click here to read an article on about a remarkable success story in 17th century plague-ravaged Italy.

* Click here to read the April issue of AWAI’s Barefoot Writer.

* The Marsh Family goes viral with a lockdown version of “One Day More” from Les MizHere

* From Rich Schefren: “Online Business Profits Are Up During the Pandemic. Are Yours?” Here

* From Simon Sinek:“5 Minutes on Why COVID-19 Is an Opportunity” Here

* From “Coronavirus’ business impact: Evolving perspective”  Here

* A sports star talks about his experience with COVID-19…Here

* “Hozier Sings ‘The Parting Glass’”  – a beautiful rendition of a beautiful Irish song that might bring some thoughts and feelings back into a larger perspective. Here


Your Question:

One of our newest employees – a budding superstar, in my opinion – is always coming up with great ideas for new products and promotions. I’m remembering what you’ve said about the difference between “growers” and “tenders,” and he is definitely a grower. I’m also remembering that you’ve said that growers are rare birds, with superpowers that need to be nurtured. We want to reward him in some way, and that’s the problem. My partner thinks a promotion might be in order – maybe put him in charge of one of our creative teams. But I’m not sure. I don’t want to push him into something he’s not ready for. On the other hand, we want to do everything possible to encourage him to keep using his natural abilities to create opportunities for the business to grow. What should we do?

My Answer:

In general, I agree with you.  I have many times said the same thing about a potential superstar: “He’s good, but he’s not ready. He needs more training before we put him into a management role.”

But when it comes to growers… I have a very different attitude.

Because growers are so rare… and so valuable.

They typically…

* Don’t like to be told what to do

* Love to be in charge

* Thrive on challenges

* Like to prove others wrong

* Like to be acknowledged for their accomplishments

When I discover a grower, I don’t want to spend more than, say, a week, getting them ready to advance to the next level. That’s because I believe that growers lose their edge if they have to go through months or (as sometimes happens) years of training.

When I discover a grower, I want to put them in charge of something right away. And by that I mean within a month. I want them to learn whatever they can in four weeks about the job they’re going to be doing… but that’s all.

I believe that every month a grower is not trying to grow something is a week they are falling behind. I want to get them away from their peers (because they really have no peers) and get them working on growth projects… give them access to whatever they need… and let them go at it. Let them learn from experience. (Of course, you have to be careful what you give them. You have to give them responsibilities they can screw up without causing a major problem.)

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

A look back at the stock market Here

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April 6-April 10, 2020

a look back at this week’s essays…

When I’m Going to Get Back Into Stocks 

I’m not an investment advisor. I don’t feel comfortable telling others what to do with their money. I prefer to say what I’m doing and why, and then let my readers decide if it makes sense for them.

So: Am I getting back into stocks? Not now. I’ll tell you why.

Click here to read more.

Coronavirus Update: New Estimates and Answers 

Today, I’m going to cover some aspects of the pandemic that are not reported, are underreported, or are misunderstood.

Click here to read more.

Coronavirus Pandemic: Hope and Progress

Today, we are going to take a break from all the noxious news and daunting data about the Corona Crisis to give you some hopeful facts.

Click here to read more.


quick quiz 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:

* protean (4/6/20)

* antibiotic (4/8/20)

* sedentation (4/10/20) 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:

* “Every step of life shows much _____ is required.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4/6/20)

* “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and _____.” – John Adams (4/8/20)

* “Every glittering ounce of _____ should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond.” – Hunter S. Thompson (4/10/20)

  1. Are these statements True or False?

* Italy has been ravaged by the coronavirus, but the reasons are linked more closely to globalism than to the age of the infected. (4/6/20)

* “Coronials” is a new slang term referring to the hypothetical generation conceived during COVID-19.” (4/8/20)

* The “Waffle House Index,” based on the total number of waffles served at Waffle Houses across the country, is an informal measure of the amount of weight being put on by Americans. (4/10/20)


recommended links from this week’s blog

 * I referred to the coronavirus as a “black swan” event in my March 25 essay. In this video, Nassim Taleb, who invented the term, corrects me. Check it out here.

 *  A really cool and easy way to make a mask…here.

* Click here to read a full explanation of how antibiotics, antibodies, and antigens work in your body to help you fight off disease.

 * “Seven ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes that are eerily timely during the coronavirus pandemic” – Click here to read this thought-provoking article from The Washington Post.

* Click here to watch Bill Gates’s chilling warnings to Trump – before the coronavirus outbreak hit.

 * “John Krasinski launches ‘good news’ network from quarantine” Here.

 * “Zoom Surprise: Good News With John Krasinski, Ep.2”


* “The Good News Dashboard” Here.

 * “A look at some ‘good news’ across the US” Here.

* More corona humor: a “relaxing” guided meditation with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s J.B. Smoove on YouTube Here.


Your Question:

I know from what you’ve written that you are busier than ever right now and don’t have any free time. But if, like many of us, you did have time on your hands every day, what sorts of worthwhile goals would you set for the next month or two?

My Answer:

Funny you should ask… I began to write an essay on this a few days ago. I haven’t had time to finish it, but here are 17 quick ideas I came up with:

  1. Get up an hour earlier.
  2. Spend that extra hour working on a project or long-term goal that you value.
  3. Spend at least a half-hour walking. Not speed walking. Strolling.
  4. Perform one act of service or kindness each day – even if it’s just writing a letter.
  5. Say thank you to someone that has helped you in the distant past.
  6. Discover your core values by imagining your own funeral.
  7. Do something – it doesn’t have to be big – that you’ve been putting off.
  8. Start or continue to learn a new skill – one that will increase your net worth.
  9. Start or continue to learn another skill – one that will increase your self-worth.
  10. Do something worth writing about.
  11. Write something worth reading.
  12. Read something worth recommending.
  13. Start a ritual.
  14. Confront a fear.
  15. De-clutter your home, your office, and your relationships.
  16. Make a new friend or reconnect with an old one.
  17. Start a second income.

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 

 A look back at the stock market Link

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March 30-April 3, 2020


a look back at this week’s essays…

Reading the News Again: How Many Could Die? 

If I’m going to write about the virus, I’m going to have to study it. And that means relying on information I am not qualified to evaluate. Are the data accurate? Is the logic sound? Are there missing pieces?

Click here to read more.

Tough Decisions 

With each passing day, I look at the numbers – the CDC numbers, the Dow, and the business sales reports – and I ask, “Will things ever get back to where they were?”

Click here to read more.

Protect Yourself From Corona Scams (and All Scams, for That Matter) 

Getting scammed sucks. I’ve probably been scammed dozens of times. I can’t say for sure, because I don’t like to carry grudges. But there is one that I can’t forget…

Click here to read more.


quick quiz

1.- How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:

* epidemiology (3/30/20)

* moratorium (4/1/20)

* quarantine (4/3/20)

2.- Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is _____.” – H.P. Lovecraft (3/30/20)

* “Quick decisions are _____ decisions.” – Sophocles (4/1/20)

* “A scam is a ____. A fraud is a ­­­­____.” – Emily Thornberry (4/3/20)

3.- Are these statements True or False?

* The seasonal flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people a year. (3/30/20)

* Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc. will call you to notify you if your license is out of date. (4/1/20)

* Before there were vaccines, doctors used a treatment method called “convalescent plasma” to fight infectious disease. (4/3/20)


recommended links from this week’s blog

 * The latest issue of Independent Healing – “How to help yourself and your loved ones during the COVID-19 outbreak.” Click here to read this special issue.

 *  Here’s why you SHOULD be wearing a face mask.

 * More viral humor: “Butt-Cleaning Robot – No More Toilet Paper!”



Your Question: You said in your recent essay on what you’re doing to safeguard your wealth that you are not selling your stocks or bonds. I understand that. My question is: Are you planning on buying stocks or bonds in the near future? Also, what about cash?

My Answer: Good question.
As I said, I’m stockpiling cash now, but I don’t see cash as a long-term value. The inevitable result of the Fed’s uninhibited check-writing campaign will be inflation. So I will certainly be using that cash to buy stocks that will benefit from that inflation, as well as real estate and other tangible assets when the prices are right. I’ll  be writing about that in some detail. Watch for it!

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page. 


A look back at the stock market. Click here



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March 23-27, 2020


a look back at this week’s essays…

A Challenge That Every Business Owner in the World Is Facing Right Now

JS has a dilemma.

“Right now,” she writes, “I strongly believe in self-isolation… which brings me to a question about the young woman who cleans my apartment. I want to tell her to stay home. And I want to tell her that I will pay her even if she doesn’t clean. But for how long? I don’t want her to think that this ‘offer’ (if I make it) is open-ended. What is the right thing to do? I don’t really know. What do you think?”

This is what I told her…

Click here to read more.

The Stock Market Collapse, and What We Can Learn About Economics

The cause of the current financial crisis is the same as every financial crisis we’ve ever had. What’s different is this widespread government shutdown of businesses. This didn’t happen in any of the other virus outbreaks. It didn’t happen in 1987 or 2000-2002 or 2008. It didn’t even happen in 1929.

What happens when you have a widespread shutdown of private enterprise?

Click here to read more.


quick quiz

1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Can you use each one of these words in a sentence:

* promulgate (3/23/20)

* Black Swan event (3/25/20)

* anomaly (3/27/20)

2. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:

“Government is like a ______. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” – Ronald Reagan (3/23/20)

“_____are not paid on profits not made on sales of products never produced by workers not working, truckers not trucking, and buyers not buying. And we are just at the beginning.” – Bill Bonner (3/25/20)

“O Gold! I still prefer thee unto _____, which makes bank credit like a bark of vapour.” – Lord Byron (3/27/20)

3. Are these statements True or False?

* If you counted 24 hours a day, it would take more than 30,000 years to reach a trillion. (3/23/20)

* If stocks rise on all the bailout news, then give up another 50% of their value, old timers call it “a dead cat bounce.” (3/25/20)

* The lion’s share of the world’s gold is held in storage by individuals or worn as jewelry. (3/27/20)


recommended links from this week’s blog

 “Coronavirus Explained: How It Shut Down the World” – In this video, Patrick Bet-David talks about the coronavirus, how it spreads, the most deadly epidemics in history, and how viruses affect the stock markets around the world. (The guy is mesmerizing!) Click here.

“Please Pass the Salt” – Got some spare time now that you’re stuck in the house all day? Here’s something you can try…

How good are you at punctuation? To try a 10-question test designed for middle-schoolers, click here.

Ready for a little coronavirus humor? Click here.

“An eventful week at the Masaya Volcano” – Nicaragua’s Masaya volcano – which we often fly over on our way from Managua to Rancho Santana – was recently featured as part of Good Morning America’s Extraordinary Earth series. You can watch the GMA segment here.

More viral humor… click here.



Question: Are you concerned about government trying to take too much control during this crisis?

Answer: In times of national crisis, those that have faith in central governance want to see more of it. In business, you centralize things when you want to exert control and decentralize things when you want to stimulate growth. Central planners thrive on power. Decentralizers thrive on freedom.

Our federal, state, and local governments are centralizing power at a scope and pace I haven’t seen in my lifetime. And although I don’t dispute the occasional need for it (just as I don’t in business), I worry that all these newly empowered politicians will find it difficult to give up that power after the current crisis has abated.

This brief article from sheds some light on that: “Why Congress Passed the Defense Production Act in 1950” To read it, click here.

After you read it, let me know what you think. Are you concerned about government trying to take too much control during this crisis? Post your answer on our Contact Us page.

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us  page.


Take a look back at the stock market for the last week here.

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