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Robo Push Progression August 28, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in experience, finance, Uncategorized.
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With my work in valuation, I have primarily explored the fintech industry and love seeing new companies, ideas and explorations of outdated methods. The next 5-10 years will be instrumental in defining the space for many Gen X entering retirements as well as planning centralized around the largest generation going forward.

Product pushing runs rampant among firms, despite DC’s attempts at regulation geared toward protecting consumers. We need not think very hard to recall the GS issues 8-10 years ago or more recently the WF scandal that ran roughshed over accounts to hit sales numbers. Even if they don’t end up in lawsuits or other sanctions, I cannot help but question fiduciary standards. When consumers are too busy with their own lives/work to be experts in finance/insurance/investing matters, regulations should actually protect them – and fortunately for the financial services industry, the current regulatory actions say that they are protected. Most consumers are none the wiser. Hell, some professionals may not be wise enough to think for themselves about what they’re presenting. Who gets to be responsible for saying that my present self is more or less important than my future self? For an individual on their own, few people are impacted in the present moment if you do not consider time value and future values.

Thankfully, I believe robo-advisers will become a larger part of the future to come. There will be more value in what they present as the new norm: low or no fees, being aware of saving for later, and presenting more knowledge all while staying relatively easy. There is data out there that says most* robo-advisers may not beat the market, but many make investing and saving considerably less stressful/set-and-forget than an individual may feel if doing it on their own.

Even though I don’t see a market beater or a clear winner in the space going forward (just yet), what the COMBINATION of robo-advisers will do is make the whole environment better going forward. Firms are increasingly aware of the impact many fintech companies are presenting to the processes of old and their bottom lines. As a result, consumers should benefit as we go the way of easier access, more knowledge, lower fees and ultimately the best choices. Fintech and financial services affect us all, whether young or old, and consumers shouldn’t have to worry in such high-impact choices.

I’ll continue to follow what I have strong passions for and note key victories or losses!

 

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Flawed Financial Decision? February 28, 2017

Posted by bluedevil32 in finance, Uncategorized.
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This article has brought praise: SingleMomPaysRentforYearUsingTaxReturn. However, a basic understanding of future/present value is skipped in this story. I believe she’s choosing to be “responsible” in paying rent vs spending it on vacation or unnecessary items for her kids, but it also illustrates a lack of understanding for fundamental financial details (that should be MUCH more important to learn early on). Opportunity cost of losing the money for the year, or going into details of how she received so much for her return in the first place (lent FAR TOO MUCH money over the previous year).

About 5 years ago, there was a larger push in the financial services industry to bring an analyst/advisor to every high school to have “qualified” (debatable, but at least licensed) experts (this word is becoming annoying, as well) teach fundamental financial information to the future masses. I cannot attest to generations before me, but as far as my high school career went, CHEE (child, health, and something) and economics were the extent of in-school teaching. I was lucky enough to have a family that provided me an environment of numbers, games, and finances, as well as schools that pushed early for branching out. That doesn’t mean I have been without my own transgressions in a monetary realm, but can say that the high school classes didn’t scratch the surface of what I learned previously.

From students I talk to and teach in school now, I don’t believe the basic individual finances are taught, still. It could be a flawed forum in economics (as opportunity costs are discussed), and business courses go over concepts, but neither focus at an individual level. It needs to get better, and I’m not sure when anyone is or will be required to take these courses. I have friends out of MBA’s/Law School and Med Schools that never took courses on it. Luckily, for the curious and responsible ones, there is a wealth of information available now online, and as more people see larger and larger parts of networks, you hopefully become more comfortable to discuss them. For those that don’t, hopefully trial and error occurs earlier than later.
And people wonder how the debt continues to rack up…. That topic I’ll leave for another day. SingleMomPaysRentforYear

Luck versus Skill June 9, 2016

Posted by bluedevil32 in experience, social.
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On my drive home from work late this evening, I was listening to Wharton Moneyball Business XM. They had Michael Mauboussin on, author of The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and InvestingThe Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing. Fascinating stuff, discussing the difference between skill and luck, primarily how difficult it is for the human mind to differentiate the two. Humans tend to not just accept something that is, and something that may happen needs a cause or something that created it. There should be a reason for any given occurrence.

In trading or investing, we call some of these events “black swan events”. Companies and markets attempt to assess the risk of these events. Since they’re usually rare and unpredictable, it’s a tough thing to assess risk of something you may not know the cause / effect of at the time it occurs, let alone prior. So we assume that our skill and history will provide the outcome – likely incorrectly, or just by luck we may be correct.

Michael went on to discuss how in business there is a market for possibly being lucky. Using a trader who performed well as an example – recent studies show that it’s increasingly about chance/luck than skill in trading performance. However, if a trader outperforms, they could request a raise or use their performance as the expected amount to move to another company. Depending on the due diligence and statistical/skill assessment of the firms, this creates a market for production by luck.

In reading moneyball and the increasing sports analytics movement, they measure this against regression to the mean in a number of + stats. But in general, pros have a higher skill vs others, and the standard deviation, if you will, of said skills is much smaller. Minor nuances represent the differences in ‘higher’ skill than ‘lower’ at a professional level. A great year by an average pro could result in regression toward the career average. If this is not the case, then that player has probably found an efficiency level that could be affected by actions on their part to reduce the level of variance in that element.

I found the paradox of skill and luck explained very well. Typically, we see the two as a continuum – where on one end luck would play a part such as a roulette table or coins. On the other side, skill – maybe boxing, running. However, it seems to be more array/matrix-like, in that as you increase skill, you increase the dependence on luck. Separation at the most-skilled level involves all kinds of luck.

One author described it using Ted Williams’ .406 batting average in 1941. He had tremendous skill, ahead of most players in the professional leagues. However, that year, he also exhibited a tremendous amount of luck, again more than most players. That combination can attribute to some of the most heralded sporting feats. Our acknowledgement of those streaks come without luck – and that the players were just that skilled. Skilled yes, but also incredibly lucky.

Michael continued to go on about the statistics of lacrosse, and its rules are pulled from hockey and basketball. He noted that Canadian players in college lacrosse are extra efficient. Citing rules of box lacrosse (played usually on a hockey rink, much smaller in comparison to the field as is typical), they aim for smaller goals and have less space to work with. When they get on the field, the added space and larger goal sets them up to be monsters in shooting efficiency. Numbers-wise, 5% of D1 lax players are Canadian. Yet, they make up ~20% of the goals. Additionally, there was a 5% arbitrage between shooting accuracy – overall average was about 28%, non-Canadians shot 27.8% and Canadians? – nearly 33% of shots turned into goals. Astounding.

Statistical notes such as these create fascinating opportunities for further studies and team options, not just in sports but also in business. Taking note and then taking advantage will be easier with the increased abundance in acquiring data, but how much can we direct to noise, and how much is actually signal?

 

 

Keep asking “what’s next?” May 9, 2016

Posted by bluedevil32 in experience, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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Been a while since I posted anything, but that’s not for lack of material. My mind has raced, and I’ve had a number of drafts that I saved and left to the side. They didn’t seem quite right.

A list of problems that cyclically affect everyone that could use (better) solutions – of which I am working on one.

  • Traffic: especially in the Bay Area, where there appears to be more and more cars on the road each day.
    • Hard fix: A friend of mine & I joke that Musk should simply work on infrastructure in the form of a “Tesla Road” that was built on top/above existing roadways. It would appear we are headed for autonomous cars as a larger percentage within the next 3-5 years. Infrastructure could create an environment that would entice a majority of people to switch to automated cars, eliminating the minor parts that cause the initial build-up of traffic.
    • Simple fix: release the brake #RTB. It appears that too many people love using a pedal – if it’s not the gas, it has to be the brake. So wrong! Japanese researchers recreating shockwave traffic jam – simply by a brief brake or slowdown. It appears that few people have been taught (or put into action) that speeding up briefly and braking behind a slower car simply doesn’t save any time, and causes time in traffic for everyone else with an application of their brakes. Selfish. People do this when switching lanes (brake and go) or exiting off ramps. Release the break and your brake pads, people behind you, and your foot will thank you.
  • Personal finance: Credit card debt, better investing, mortgages or even small business loans.
    • I have done work with a fintech company that attempts to create an effortless process to personal lending. Granted, effortless is subjective. Growth in the industry as a whole seems to stagnant, despite a plethora of companies that have jumped in, due to a combination of minimal profit margins (investors are prioritized) along with a lack in the creative sense to alter the public’s general understanding of WHY these companies are helpful.
    • The biggest example today of a failing company in the space is how hard Lending Club has been hit since its IPO, punctuated by the resignation/firing recently of their CEO and founder. Link to CEO resignation May 9
    • From what I gather, the industry as a whole needs to focus on the education for why someone/anyone SHOULD look into how debt restructuring can be a positive thing, but it takes time and pointed goals. As it stands, unless someone does their due diligence or had a friend talk about one of these companies, many just hope for the best and don’t want to spend the time to educate themselves.
    • With a potentially impending social security / pension shortage with the increases in health and aging, this education will be paramount in coming years. Additionally, when the US doesn’t seem to care about furthering the budget into the red, why should any of its citizens care? That scares me a bit more – the possibility of an event cratering the credit system due to rates/QE and a carelessness thought of ‘too big to fail’. Technology bubble in early 2000s was (mostly) limited to stock market and companies that were popping up. Housing crisis in 2008-2009 affected many more people, but ‘only’ threatened the system. A credit shock would threaten the global set-up.
  • Education: the way that high schools and universities push forward does not appear to be as efficient a major system that educates the masses should be
    • I was lucky and had a scholarship for tuition before I took a gap year my Junior year at UC Berkeley, so my family and I were spared that expense. Up until the start of 2016, I was paying the [small but not insignificant] loans off that I took out for housing / books / living expenses from my first 2 years at Cal, totaling a minuscule (comparatively) $12k. My senior year, I paid for my final 2 semesters and a summer of tuition and saw that they were between $4500 and $5000 each, right before the big hikes of the UC System. When there are more and more applicants each year applying to the awesome and improving UC’s, the regents still decided to increase tuition for undergrad nonresidents. For the whole story from last year’s Regents Last year’s undergrad resident tuition was a base of $11,220, plus whatever the total is now for student fees / taxes. That’s an increase of over 7% in the 4 years that I’ve been out, well surpassing that of inflation over the time frame. Eesh.
    • I’m torn and haven’t seen / heard, but I believe that universities should be set up more like a vocational-type, where students enter needing work credits for graduation, either working for a company aligned with their major or through a mentor of some sort. Yes, many students do this anyway, but I feel like where universities should give advantages to others would be in the way that this could be set up. If students have active work experience from the onset of their freshman year over a semester or summer, more people would know if they wanted to continue down that path or switch.
    • In a world that appears like we’re driving toward an automated approach for many things (if we can figure out how to do so), then many jobs will be expired at some point, maybe in this lifetime. Having the necessary work experience and knowledge of multiple fields may be beneficial in the long run.

Now, I was going to include another bullet about misinformation, but I can save that for another post. I plan on making this push in momentum to continue posting about how I may improve or reach out to figure out how to inform myself of progress in these areas. And I encourage everyone again, #ReleaseTheBrake

Fiduciary Standards – ’bout time April 8, 2016

Posted by bluedevil32 in finance, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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Well, it’s a start. The US has passed a law that is set to go into effect by, *drum roll, please!*, early-2018 for fiduciary (client’s best interest) standards for some 300,000 financial advisers who deal with retirement plans (401k’s, IRAs, Roths, etc…). So, come 2018, your adviser may now only legally act in your best interest and give objective advice on your options – you know, what lawyers and bank trust officers have had to do for decades.

Don’t hold your breath just yet, however. It seems that this will be fought, as appeals are thought to be in the works. Why would advisers want to act in your best interest if that doesn’t make them the most money?? Currently, advisers are only limited to giving advice on products/plans that fall into ‘appropriate age and risk-tolerance’.

So basically this means you cannot get straight sleazy sales – any adviser would have to produce all of the options and give an objective opinion on what would be the best – cost and plan-wise. How that will be determined is anyone’s guess since it’s their job to know all of the options. I do not expect someone that works and is an expert in their own field to also know about finances and everything that goes into them – which is all the more reason to make sure you vet the experience and practice of any adviser that you wish to go with.

The Time article that mentioned this article Fiduciary Standard approximated that it could save $17 billion for retirement investors. In a country that holds a dumb amount of debt in the form of student loans / credit card debt, this seems small (Trillions of debt vs billions saved), but it’s certainly not insignificant.

Something around 3-5% of people currently retired have more than $60k a year. I would hope that this action helps that poor statistic, and that in the near-future, with the amount of knowledge and technology available, that costs come down and everyone can either automate or receive the pointed help that they deserve.

Note: Licensed Life, Disability, LTC Insurance

Thoughts of the Day – GenY finance, Daily fantasy ‘expert’-testing, other questions September 17, 2015

Posted by bluedevil32 in Altucher, DFS, experience, finance, gym, PGA, questions, Scutify, social, training.
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Every day I receive a post from James Altucher @jaltucher – he’s an author of one of USA Today’s “12 Best Business Books of All-Time” Choose Yourself, which describes at length the power of one’s self, as well as a successful (and that does not mean he hasn’t failed) entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, asset manager, columnist, as well as podcast producer. His valuable insights, podcasts and publications enlighten us to choose yourself and your passions to create revenue streams aplenty. He simply asks a lot of questions of many people to see what has driven them, and in turn, learn for himself.

In my recent conversations, I have noticed that this is a skill that is falling out of favor very easily of many people – and more so, whether they’re just more of who I come into contact with, but Gen Y and Millennials. So, in light of my observations, I would like to go over what I observed/questioned today.

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