Posted: January 23rd, 2013 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Reviews, Scam | Tags: Opinion, puts, Scam, Stock Market, trading | No Comments »
If you’re reading this, then chances are you’ve heard on of the many radio ads for RetirementTrader.COM and are wondering if the Retirement Trader Bucket System is real or some kind of investing scam?
It’s understandable. It certainly sounds like a scam.
Retirement Trader is presented as the investment secret of a retired doctor, and he’s sharing his system with you, dear listener! All you have to do is go to the website mention about a BAZILLION TIMES throughout the ad.
Consider that depending on where and when you hear the ad it tells you to log on to some variation of RetirementTrader.COM, such as:
The number at the end varies and is used by the ad agency or the company itself to determine who is responding to their ads and in what market. It doesn’t really change where you go when you type that address into your web browser though: all roads lead to pro.stansberryresearch.com/.
This is the site that introduces the Dr’s “Bucket System“, that will allow you to “pocket hundreds – even thousands – in 60 seconds, and it’s all legal!”.
The introduction is in the form of a video presentation by the doctor himself: Dr. David Eifrig.
Who is Dr. David Eifrig?
Dr. David Eifrig was once a trader on Wall Street for one of the big investment firms. After making tons of money on Wall Street. Eifrig became burnt out on the trader lifestyle and went back to school to become a doctor. At least that’s his story. I have no idea whether it’s true or not.
He is now a major investment advisor at Stansberry & Associates Investment Research.
Who is Stansberry & Associates?
Stansberry & Associates is an investment research firm with clients on Wall Street and elsewhere, who subscribe to their analysis on stocks and the stock market. Stansberry & Associates had another well known radio ad a few years back heralding the End of America. That was about the end of the U.S. dollar’s reserve currency status, an event that was to usher in a major economic collapse in 2012. (for the record, I’m not convince their End of America ad and its proposed ways to protect your wealth is a scam, it’s just that you can really make a call of the definite date of a collapse. I think if Europe wasn’t more fiscally reckless than the U.S., then the U.S. would be in serious trouble in this regard. As long as the U.S. is less-bad than Europe, the U.S. will probably avoid catastrophe.)
So What is Retirement Trader selling?
If you follow the video presentation to its conclusion you will realize that he never actually tells you what his “bucket system” is. Instead, Dr. Eifrig shares a multitude of customer testimonials referencing how much money these people have made – “in just 60 seconds”.
This is because to learn about the system, you have to subscribe to his newsletter (which costs $99). Of course, this is also a “special price, just for you!”
And then there’s the typical pressure play of the limited time to act. He tells the viewer that this video – and this offer -may be made unavailable at any time in the future without warning. Also, this Bucket System may no longer work in the future, so get in and get yours now – while you still can!
In the end, I was able to determine that Dr. Eifrig’s Retirement Trader “bucket system” is a clever marketing scheme to teach people how to invest by selling put options.
Bottom line: If you don’t know what that is, then Retirement Trader is probably not for you.
If you’re still curious, you can Google “put option investing” or check out this excellent description of the Retirement Trader Bucket System at StockGumshoe.com.
Posted: September 11th, 2012 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Reviews, Tips | 2 Comments »
Product reviews are an excellent resource for consumers. Unfortunately, they are also an excellent resource for producers and their marketing departments. Paid advertisements in the guise of “Average Joe” reviews is nothing new, but the Internet has allowed such practices to spread like a contagion with little notice by most consumers.
What to look for in product reviews on Amazon
My first stop for product reviews is usually Amazon.com. I’ve found many web sites that specialize in product reviews are often loaded with paid reviews that lavish the product in question with the sort of praise usually reserved for Stepford Children by their parents.
But Amazon is not immune to such skewed reviews either, though they will not allow the kind of wholesale abuse of reviews found on other sites.
The best way to avoid being swayed by paid reviews is to do the following:
- Read multiple reviews
- Be sure to read 1 star, 2 star and 5 star reviews
- Look for the “Amazon Verified Purchase” label
The more and varied reviews you read, the broader the opinions will be, giving you a better idea of whether the product is worth the money or not.
To get the best idea, you need to read the 1 and 2 star reviews as well as the 5 star reviews. This give you an idea of what people didn’t like about the product as well as what they love about.
You’ll have to decide for yourself whether you care about the same things that drove people to give the product a 1 star review. For example, they may have purchased an mp3 player that has no belt clip and they can’t use it for running. That’s not a reason not to buy the product if you’re not going to use it while running.
The good and bad of product reviews on Amazon (a case study).
I recently came upon a blog post about the book How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street: Golden Rules Any Investor Can Learn, and decided to check it out myself.
I first checked out the 1 star reviews, to see why people did not like the book. Here’s a prime example of a bad review:
“Dumb gimmick book. I heard this jerk when he was making the interview rounds dragging his kid along who he has exploited and obviously scripted his lines. Anyone who buys into this crap advice deserves the losses they are going to take.”
What makes this review so bad is that it is utterly worthless.
He opens with accusations about gimmicks, but doesn’t give specifics, and then launches into name calling and personal attacks on the author. I’m not looking for reviews on the Author. I’m not considering whether to befriend the guy, I just want to know if his book is any good.
His last sentence appears to be about the book, but he doesn’t define what he perceives to be “crap advice.”
Unfortunately, this kind of flaming “review” is commonplace.
Now let’s look at what a review should be:
Amazon Verified Purchase
“This book is an easy read, but not an afternoon read.
Each chapter begins with a pertinent, topical, and usually humorous short quote and the chapter expands to explain in easy-to-understand detail, the tenants of the philosophy. Kevin, the second-grader, learns a basic life lesson on investing. This model provides an excellent motif for the quite knowledgeable author (an accountant and financial advisor) to explains the basics without “talking down” to the reader. There is truly something here for all levels of investing experience. And it’s a fun read.”
Already this review is light years ahead of the first review. This review is about the book. He tells us that it’s an easy read, but not a quick one and then details some of the structure and style of the book.
Another thing that makes a review more helpful is when the reviewer shares some (relevant) information about himself. For example, a review of a book on investing from a Wall Street professional is going to have a different effect than a review from an “average Joe” investor from main street.
I am an experienced investor. I had read a short article regarding the portfolio and had replicated it in a pretend-buy-and-hold portfolio in mid-2006.
Later that year, I used “real funds” and opened an equal-dollar amount in actual accounts with a fee-only broker to manage and a separate brokerage account that I actively managed. After three years, which included the market downturn of 2008 and the rebound in 2009, the set-it-and-forget-it portfolio beat myself and the broker. (I did come in a respectable second, however.)
OK, so we now know that the reviewer is more than a casual reader of investing books. He tries to apply what he reads… and in this case, what he read was pretty successful.
…I initially bought the book as a basic primer for a college-aged nephew who asked some very good questions about beginning investing. Not wanting to see him waste money on brokerage fees or see his initial investments underperform, I felt that index funds would be the best route for him and this book would explain why … and provide some investment basics. It certainly does both.
Again, more information about the book. What kind of reader this book is good for, and a little more about the general topics… i.e. index funds and investment basics.
He also gives us background on his perspective. He favor index fund investing, and this book promotes that style. There’s nothing nefarious about that, but we should file that away because the book may not appeal as much to more active investors.
I gave my college-aged nephew Oblivious Investing (a shorter, more basic introduction to investing) followed two weeks later with “How a Second-Grader Beat Wall Street.” I read both, and feel that was an appropriate starter series for a interested novice. But I also took home a lot of wisdom even as an experienced investor. I have also read Benjamin Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor” and would put “How a Second Grader Beat Wall Street” as right up there in the same league … just easier to read !”
He finishes his review with how it compares and relates to similar products, which is always helpful to me.
In general, avoid reviews that focus on elements outside the scope of the product. For example, ignore reviews that give 1 star because the product was broken in transit. This is a review of the shipping, not the product.
Look for diversity of views and be wary of 5 star reviews that don’t give specifics. You loved the product, that’s great but tell me why you loved it and why I will too!
And for God’s sake, don’t write a review calling the author a jerk or trashing the product because your delivery man dropped the package!
Tell me what I missed in the comments section.
Posted: January 16th, 2012 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Investing, Reviews | Tags: Investing, Kiyosaki, Real Estate, Review | 1 Comment »
I’ve been reading Rich Dad’s Increase Your Financial IQ: Get Smarter with Your Money, by Robert Kiyosaki and while I like the general gist of the book (especially the first half), Kiyosaki rubs me wrong way in several places. One of these is in his use of math to support his opinions on real estate.
Much of the second half of the book focuses on real estate as a means to grow wealth, but Kiyosaki does make an important distinction between speculating for growth or flipping a house, and buying property as an investment. In other words, Kiyosaki espouses buying real estate for the purpose of renting it out and creating a cash flow, not hoping for the market to rise and create capital gains. I’m not really interested in becoming a renter, but his approach makes a lot of sense to me, especially with the current economy, housing market and demographic changes.
The problem with Robert Kiyosaki’s math in Financial IQ
Where I have problems is when he gets into things like OPM (Other People’s Money). Here is one of his examples:
- He buys a rental property for $100,000 in cash.
- He is able to rent this property for an annual income of $10,000.
- He has made a 10% return on his investment.
So far, so good. He’s using very simple math and ignoring taxes, repairs, etc.. but that’s fine – he states that in the example. His problem is in his comparison to the same scenario but using OPM. Here’s his example using OPM (i.e. money from the bank – a mortgage):
- He buys a rental property for $100,000.
- He puts $50,000 down and the bank loans him the other $50,000 at 6% interest.
- He is able to rent this property for an annual income of $10,000.
- He has made a 20% return on his investment.
The problem is that he has not made a 20% return on his investment – unless he is a deadbeat and doesn’t pay his mortgage! While it is true that $10,000 in profit would be a 20% return on $50,000 invested he is ignoring the mortgage payment entirely!
Using the Mortgage loan payment calculator at BankRate.com, I plugged in a $50,000 mortgage over 30 years (I’m being generous in giving him a low monthly payment) at 6% (his figure in the book) I determined the monthly mortgage payment to be :
This works out to be $3,597.36 annually, which makes his actually profit in the OPM example $6,402.64 not $10,000. That means his return on investment (ROI) in that example is 12.8% not 20%.
Granted, 12.8% is better than 10% but it’s a far cry from 20%!
This makes me wonder about the rest of his examples and stories. What if the mortgage were larger or the rent less? Someone reading this book may think it’s a slam dunk only to find that his property and mortgage alter the numbers to a point where he’s not profitable. Kiyosaki neglects to mention that part of the financial equation altogether.
Still, Robert Kiyosaki’s Financial IQ book is quite motivating and offers much food for thought and for that alone it is worth the read in my opinion.
Posted: May 23rd, 2011 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Reviews | Tags: Quicken, Reviews, Software | 1 Comment »
Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, have released this year’s version of their popular personal finance software: Quicken.
Here’s a review of Quicken Deluxe 2011, available in stores and download from Amazon.
The many flavors of Quicken.
I’ve been a fairly heavy user of Quicken for about 6 years now. I’ve only ever used the Deluxe version, though the product comes in many different flavors (Deluxe, Premier, Home & Business, Essentials and now there’s even a Rental Property Manager!). I’ve only ever used the Deluxe version and when I was researching the 2011 version I discovered that the majority of people who buy Quicken buy the Deluxe version anyway. Some 85+% of shoppers buy Quicken Deluxe. So, that made it easy to review since my product choice also happens to be the choice of most shoppers.
But if your situation is more specialized (i.e. you have rental property or a home business) then you may want to investigate the other flavors that Intuit has to offer.
As for the Deluxe version, here’s what it features:
- Money management and budgeting tools that enable you to track your spending and increase your savings.
- Save time categorizing your spending with auto-categorization.
- Download your financial data and manage all your accounts together in one place.
- Helps you stay on top of bills and create a budget.
2011 vs 2010.
One of the nicest features of Quicken since I’ve been using it has been the ability to download your account transactions online – right from the Quicken program itself. They call it “One-Click Update” and if your financial institutes allows for it (i.e. they’ve partnered with Quicken) then you get your transactions automatically downloaded to the correct account in Quicken – retirements accounts, bank accounts, credit card activity, auto loans and more.
This has at times been a draw back for me if my financial institution was small and not partnered with Intuit. With the 2011 version, Quicken Deluxe now automatically downloads transactions from over 12,000 banks, brokerages and other financial institutions–including PayPal.
The “guided setup” wizard has also been revamped, in an attempt to make learning to use the features of Quicken a bit easier too.
Intuit has also worked to increase the integration between Quicken and their other popular product: TurboTax Your financial information in Quicken can be imported into Turbo Tax, making tax time preparation a bit less painful. This ability has been around for a few years now, and I haven’t tried it myself yet. My taxes just haven’t been that complicated to begin with, though I think I may be giving it a try next year.
Perhaps due to pressure from online competitors, Intuit has made Quicken 2011 more “socialable” by integrating Quicken Live Community, an online forum for advice and interaction with other quicken users. This new community forum is integrated seamlessly into the program itself (you can view the online community from right inside Quicken).
Quicken 2011 does a better job of categorizing your spending automatically, and it’s much quicker for situations where you need to enter the category yourself. Often times, simply typing the first few letters of the category is enough to accurately select the proper category. This alone can be a major time saver.
They’ve done a nice job redesigning the cash flow feature, improving the graphing and making it easier to project your future savings or shortfalls.
The layout of the program has been redesigned in an attempt to make commonly used features easier to access. This will likely be helpful for most people, but may be annoying if your most commonly used features don’t match what “most people” commonly use.
They claim that transaction updates for account downloads are faster, though I didn’t see a noticeable difference. That could be dependent on your connection or your institution’s connection speed as well.
Here are the system requirements to run Quicken Deluxe 2011:
Processor: 1 GHz
Operating System: Windows XP SP2+, Vista, Windows 7 (32- and 64-bit)
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Disk Space: Up to 450 MB free space; up to 1 GB if .NET not installed
Display: 1024×768 or higher resolution
CD-ROM Drive: Required
Internet: 56 Kbps (broadband recommended for online services)
Printer: Any printer compatible with Windows XP SP2 or later
Additional Software (included in Quicken installer): Microsoft .NET 2.0 or later;
Windows Installer 3.1;
Internet Explorer 6.0 or later
As I write this, you can buy Quicken Deluxe 2011at Amazon for $39.99 (33% off!)
Good personal finance software can help you create a budget and stick to it. It can help you set goals and meet them. After all, if you don’t know where your money is going and you wonder why there isn’t much left of your paycheck at the month’s end, how can you save for the future?
Beside the basics, good personal finance software can help you find extra savings or eliminate expenses you forgot you had. It can help you manage your money more effectively and help to pay off debt quicker or save for the big things like retirement or a new home or a new car.
Is Quicken Deluxe the best personal finance program out there? That depends on how you use it and what you’re using it for.
I honestly can’t tell you how it stacks up against online sites like Mint because quite frankly the idea of putting all of my personally identifiable financial information out on the web frightens me a little. But I know millions of people don’t have a problem with it. That’s your call.
Also, I’ve been using Quicken for years now, and I don’t particularly like the idea of re-entering my information and starting over with a new product.
Bottom line: Quicken Deluxe is a great program if you are looking for personal finance software that is not web-based, or you’re looking to replace Microsoft Money.
Why not to buy.
So those are the reasons you may want to buy Quicken Deluxe. Here are some of the downsides (or why you might not want to buy it).
Intuit has made the unfortunate choice to include advertisements in their product for their partners as well as other Intuit products. Advertising for your other products is nothing new, but the way in which Intuit does this in their Quicken products can become tiresome, at best. It is possible to ignore the banner-ad style product placement for Quicken Loans, Free Credit Reports and the like but it’s frustrating to have to do so in a retail product.
If you’re a Quicken 2010 or even a Quicken 2009 user you may not want to upgrade just yet. Many of the improvements are relatively minor and may not be worth the full price of the 2011 version.