Wednesday, May 2, 2012

10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You

Wise words from mr. Hub: "There is a simple lesson to be drawn: Elites buy assets class when they are cheap not expensive, ordinary folks buy "things" when they are expensive as everyone is chasing. "Things" i mean referring to junk stocks that has no value."

10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You
"Class of 2012,
I became sick of commencement speeches at about your age. My first job out of college was writing speeches for the governor of Maine. Every spring, I would offer extraordinary tidbits of wisdom to 22-year-olds—which was quite a feat given that I was 23 at the time. In the decades since, I've spent most of my career teaching economics and public policy. In particular, I've studied happiness and well-being, about which we now know a great deal. And I've found that the saccharine and over-optimistic words of the typical commencement address hold few of the lessons young people really need to hear about what lies ahead. Here, then, is what I wish someone had told the Class of 1988:

1. Your time in fraternity basements was well spent.
The same goes for the time you spent playing intramural sports, working on the school newspaper or just hanging with friends. Research tells us that one of the most important causal factors associated with happiness and well-being is your meaningful connections with other human beings. Look around today. Certainly one benchmark of your postgraduation success should be how many of these people are still your close friends in 10 or 20 years.

2. Some of your worst days lie ahead. Graduation is a happy day. But my job is to tell you that if you are going to do anything worthwhile, you will face periods of grinding self-doubt and failure. Be prepared to work through them. I'll spare you my personal details, other than to say that one year after college graduation I had no job, less than $500 in assets, and I was living with an elderly retired couple. The only difference between when I graduated and today is that now no one can afford to retire.

3. Don't make the world worse. I know that I'm supposed to tell you to aspire to great things. But I'm going to lower the bar here: Just don't use your prodigious talents to mess things up. Too many smart people are doing that already. And if you really want to cause social mayhem, it helps to have an Ivy League degree. You are smart and motivated and creative. Everyone will tell you that you can change the world. They are right, but remember that "changing the world" also can include things like skirting financial regulations and selling unhealthy foods to increasingly obese children. I am not asking you to cure cancer. I am just asking you not to spread it.

4. Marry someone smarter than you are. When I was getting a Ph.D., my wife Leah had a steady income. When she wanted to start a software company, I had a job with health benefits. (To clarify, having a "spouse with benefits" is different from having a "friend with benefits.") You will do better in life if you have a second economic oar in the water. I also want to alert you to the fact that commencement is like shooting smart fish in a barrel. The Phi Beta Kappa members will have pink-and-blue ribbons on their gowns. The summa cum laude graduates have their names printed in the program. Seize the opportunity!

5. Help stop the Little League arms race. Kids' sports are becoming ridiculously structured and competitive. What happened to playing baseball because it's fun? We are systematically creating races out of things that ought to be a journey. We know that success isn't about simply running faster than everyone else in some predetermined direction. Yet the message we are sending from birth is that if you don't make the traveling soccer team or get into the "right" school, then you will somehow finish life with fewer points than everyone else. That's not right. You'll never read the following obituary:  "Bob Smith died yesterday at the age of 74. He finished life in 186th place."

6. Read obituaries. They are just like biographies, only shorter. They remind us that interesting, successful people rarely lead orderly, linear lives.

7. Your parents don't want what is best for you. They want what is good for you, which isn't always the same thing. There is a natural instinct to protect our children from risk and discomfort, and therefore to urge safe choices. Theodore Roosevelt—soldier, explorer, president—once remarked, "It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed." Great quote, but I am willing to bet that Teddy's mother wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer.

8. Don't model your life after a circus animal. Performing animals do tricks because their trainers throw them peanuts or small fish for doing so. You should aspire to do better. You will be a friend, a parent, a coach, an employee—and so on. But only in your job will you be explicitly evaluated and rewarded for your performance. Don't let your life decisions be distorted by the fact that your boss is the only one tossing you peanuts. If you leave a work task undone in order to meet a friend for dinner, then you are "shirking" your work. But it's also true that if you cancel dinner to finish your work, then you are shirking your friendship. That's just not how we usually think of it.

9. It's all borrowed time. You shouldn't take anything for granted, not even tomorrow. I offer you the "hit by a bus" rule. Would I regret spending my life this way if I were to get hit by a bus next week or next year? And the important corollary: Does this path lead to a life I will be happy with and proud of in 10 or 20 years if I don't get hit by a bus.

10. Don't try to be great. Being great involves luck and other circumstances beyond your control. The less you think about being great, the more likely it is to happen. And if it doesn't, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being solid.

Good luck and congratulations."

— Adapted from "10½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said," by Charles Wheelan. To be published May 7 by W.W. Norton & Co.
A version of this article appeared April 28, 2012, on page C3 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: 10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won't Tell You.
Interesting article shared by Moo Mo:

Yes, you can become a millionaire farmer

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

"SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — “‘If you want to become rich,” Jim Rogers, investment whiz, best-selling author and one of Wall Street’s towering personalities, has this advice: Become a farmer.”
That was in Time magazine last summer. So did you make the leap? Listen to Rogers? Leave Wall Street? Leave that stuffy ol’ bank? Get on the road to becoming a millionaire farmer?Still thinking? OK, let’s examine four possible ways you could get into farming this year:
  • You could buy some natural resources and commodities mutual funds
  • You can get into a hedge fund, trust, partnership or private equity firm investing in farmland
  • You might actually bite the proverbial bullet, buy a working farm and live off the land or
  • You can have your cake and eat it too, like Michael Murphy who publishes the highly-successful New World Investor biotech newsletter and also operates a unique permaculture farm.
There’s an even bigger reason for abandoning the financial world for farming. “We don’t need more bankers. What we need are more farmers,” says Rogers. “The invisible hand will do its magic.”
In short, farming’s not just another great way to get rich. There’s a higher calling in it, a mix of money, enjoying life, fulfilling your destiny, and a dose of altruism: “The world has a serious food problem,” says Rogers in Steve Gandel’s exciting Time article. And “the only real way to solve it is to draw more people back to agriculture.”
Hopefully this will inspire more bankers to say bye-bye Wall Street, hello “best job of the 21st century.”

Opportunity knocks: world need more farmers, can’t feed 10 billion in 2050

Just how badly does the world need more farmers? Jeremy Grantham’s firm manages $100 billion, warns of an “inevitable mismatch between finite resources and exponential population growth,” plus a “bubble-like explosion of prices for raw materials,” plus commodity shortages that will become a huge “threat to the long-term viability of our species when we reach a population level of 10 billion,” making “it impossible to feed the 10 billion people.” See 5 money moves on commodities bear is making now.
Impossible? Yes, the planet’s “carrying capacity” cannot feed the 10 billion people UN demographers predict on the planet as we add three billion more by 2050. So that’s a constraint on the world’s future. Grantham concluded, “as the population continues to grow, we will be stressed by recurrent shortages of hydrocarbons, metals, water, and, especially, fertilizer. Our global agriculture, though, will clearly bear the greatest stresses.”
In short, agriculture is the world’s biggest commodity problem, biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity, bigger than Wall Street banking on the path to a successful and satisfying life. Below are some ideas and leads on the four paths to success.

Invest in farmland, local, national and worldwide

Here’s another way to leveraging your talents and passion for agriculture, investing in farmland. Bigger players include Canada’s Agcapita, Brazil’s Agrifirma plus American investors like Ceres and Chess Partners. Earlier we wrote about 416 agricultural real estate deals across the world .
Why are these operators crucial to farming? Water and wind erosion are wiping away crop soils 10 to 40 times the rate of soil formation. Forestlands are disappearing at rates over 500 times the replacement rate, a trend accelerated by today’s new age of 100,000-acre mega-fires.
So farmland operations like CeresPartners and ChessCapitalPartners are making valuable contributions by financing and owning smaller farms.
And also on the plus side, remember, throughout history successful farmers often created local banks. They become farmers first, then got rich, then become bankers too.

Invest in a farm, get your hands dirty, operate your own farm

Can you combine farming and Wall Street? You bet. Back when I was on Wall Street at Morgan Stanley one of the top three men commuted from his large working farm in Princeton. Another key man was Barton Biggs, chief global strategist for 30 years. Smart Money said he was “without question the premier prognosticator on the international scene.” Institutional Investor magazine put him on its “All-America Research Team” 10 times.
Biggs now runs the Traxis Partners hedge fund. In his best-seller, “Wealth, War and Wisdom,” Biggs advises investors to prepare for “the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.” How? Be a farmer. Seriously: “Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food ... It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes. … Think Swiss Family Robinson.” 

Michael Murphy is another great example: For decades Murphy has been advising investors on “mega-shifts” in technology, in his New World Investor newsletter and his recent “Survive the Great Inflation.” We detailed his unique operating farm in “12 Tips for Profiting on Commodity Demand.”
Murphy “walks the way he talks,” combining his world of finance with the unique process on his operating farm, a commitment that led to “permaculture” farming certification.

Finance insiders can get ‘rich’ farmers on a ‘permaculture’ path

“Though the problems of the world are increasingly more complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple,” says Bill Mollison, co-founder of the global “permaculture” movement. What’s really impressive is the peaceful Zen sense about this spiritually rich permaculture way of life.
That’s right, it’s really not just living in two separate worlds for guys like Murphy. This is a commitment, a way of living. Here’s how the permaculture course describes this way of life:
“Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of our lives. Permaculture teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities, take care of waste and much more.”
“The philosophy within permaculture is one of working with rather than against nature, and of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than premature and thoughtless action. Permaculture design techniques encourage land use which integrates principles of ecology and applies lessons from nature. It teaches us to create settings and construct ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and the resilience of natural ecosystems. In the spirit of sustainability, it also teaches us to allow natural and designed ecosystems to demonstrate their own evolutions.”
In short, permaculture farming is a way of living, in a different world from agribusiness giants Monsanto and Cargill. Farming is a lifestyle that fits biotech expert Michael Murphy who merges both, much like the great Zen masters and the guys I knew from Morgan Stanley. But most of all, this way of farming is a worldwide movement. And if you want to explore it further, check out all the courses offered by the Permaculture Institute .

15 agricultural innovations to help you be a millionaire farmer

A couple weeks ago, just before the annual Earth Day celebration, the Worldwatch Institute published an impressive list of “15 sustainable agricultural practices that are protecting the environment while also improving people’s livelihoods.” That’s important because these innovations protect the future of our world.
The world of “agriculture provides food for all of us and income for more than one billion people around the world,” says Worldwatch’s Danielle Nierenberg: “Relatively simple innovations to reduce the amount of food we waste, or to help the urban poor become more self-sufficient, can help agriculture feed the world without destroying the planet.”
What an opportunity: Global population is rapidly accelerating, from just six billion 12 years ago to seven billion last year, adding three billion more in the next generation. Rogers got it right: “We don’t need more bankers. What we need are more farmers.”

Alternatively, natural-resources funds or commodity trading

The simplest way to get your feet wet (while you’re thinking about a bigger move into farming and agriculture) would be to get a feel of the market. Invest in some natural-resources funds. We asked analyst Michelle Swartzentruber to compile a top-10 list from the Morningstar database:
You might also take Jim Rogers other suggestion from his 2007 best-seller “Hot Commodities,” where he called commodities the “world’s best market.”
More on this later, but if you look closely at our list of the top-10 best natural resources funds you can see how volatile the underlying commodities have been in recent years: Positive on the short-term year-to-date basis and the longer 3-year annual average basis, but in negative territory on a medium term one-year basis.
Bottom line, if you really want to become a millionaire farmer, my guess is that neither passive funds nor active commodity trading will satisfy a passion for farming. So if you really want to invest in agriculture … if you believe farming is your calling … if you see an opportunity to get rich … and if you have a strong desire to make a contribution to the world’s need to feed billions in the next generation … then at some point you might just walk out the door, into the world of agriculture and become a farmer."

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