Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Yearly Questions

Here we go again. January rolls around, the world turns to look at the financial markets and people have a million questions. Not only do the questions come from the media and clients, but every cousin of your sister-in-law's maid wants an answer to the "Question of the Day". Here are a few things that are going bump in the night right now:

Will the price of oil go higher this year?

Will I get a good return on my stock portfolio this year?

What are the top five picks of the top, well-known investing personality this year?

Will the value of my house keep going up like it has the last four years?

What is the best mutual fund to own this year?

Will the economy keep expanding, or are we headed for a recession?

Will the Fed keep raising interest rates?

I love to read the opinions and predictions in January about these topics. There are just as many opinions on which team will win the World Series next year. Unfortunately, the World Series predictions may be more accurate. Predicting the direction of the economy, the markets, or even the price of oil is a guessing game. Nobody has a perfect crystal ball, but it's still fun to play the prediction game.

As for the answers to those questions above, I would say yes, yes, no, maybe, it's possible, probably so, and no, but the answers aren't in any particular order. If you need to know more, call my assistant and we can set up an appointment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bored at the Office

We were very bored today. Not much going on in the way of finances, other than clients spending money. This makes for fun days in the office. Seriously, I think some of the assistants could have stayed at home today. I bet their husbands were glad they had to work, because going to the mall was probably their alternative. Since I'm done with my lists, maybe I'll post some random thoughts I've been wondering about in the last few days.

I thought we took Solitaire off the computers in the office. Some of the guys still have it on their laptops, but I don't worry about them playing Solitaire. They are all using their laptops to play poker online. I guess the ladies need something to do, so I won't press the Boss about removing Solitaire.

How many times was the sports page read today? I put it in the break room this morning, and by lunch it looked like it was 50 years old. I used the hockey page to wrap a gift, but apparently, nobody missed it.

I'm really tired of fudge, cookies, candies, and other sweets. I think the reason these weight loss places do so well in January has nothing to do with resolutions. Nope-- it's all because we are all SICK of eating 5 pounds of sugary treats by January.

How lucky are all you brokers in those warm areas of the country? REAL lucky. While the rest of your brothers in the business freeze all December, I know you guys are out playing golf. Don't lie about it. I got an email from a fellow broker in California today saying he has a tee time set for Thursday morning at 10:15. At least some of you have options.

Is there a better time than December for football? It's a great time for the playoff races in the pros, and the bowl games kick into full gear at the end of the month. Thank God we have something to talk about in the office. It's been great watching the Indianapolis Colts try to keep their record unblemished, and the college National Championship game should be really good this year. Anyone know the point spreads?

Happy Holidays! Enjoy the football, family and friends, football, golf (for some of you), the traditions, and the New Year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Time to Make a List

Check the calendar at the Brokerage and you'll see that at this time of year, the work slows down and the clients focus on things other than their portfolios. Generally, they begin to pay attention again after the holidays. What do we brokers do during the time when it gets slow? We make lists. We make lists of people to call, lists of clients to chat with, lists of gifts to buy, lists of plans for the next year, and lists of lists. I got tired of making business lists today, so I made a list of Holiday Issues to Discuss. Feel free to talk about these things around your office as well.

The Holiday List of Issues to Discuss

1. These commercials with supermodels hopping around in halos, bras and panties: Don't most men agree that this is false advertising? How many guys have run to the mall and made that purchase, only to see no results from our efforts? I'm not complaining about the commercials, mind you. In fact, if they had a TV channel devoted only to this one commercial, sign me up. I just expect the product to produce a better result at home.

2. While we discuss commercials, how many years are we going to see these beer commercials with horses in the snow, or with all the smiling people coming into a holiday party? It's time to see how these people are acting after five or six beers at that party. Let's see those same people slap-happy buzzed and making a fool of themselves over the crab dip. It might even be fun to see how fast those horses fly around in the snow after having a few beers of their own. Talk about a fun sleigh ride!

3. Does every town have one guy with too much money to spend? You know the guy, right? He decorates his house with so many lights and figures and candy canes and whatever else he can get that needs electric power. I would hate to pay his January electricity bill! There he is, in the paper or on TV with the local weatherman every year, showing off his power-sucking, personal Disneyland. Is there a town in this country that does not have that guy? Are they all related? They may be. If you are that guy in town, you obviously have too much money on your hands, so you probably need to be talking with me. Call my assistant for an appointment. Before January, please.

4. Is there a better Christmas special than "A Charlie Brown Christmas"? Nope. And what's up with that "Frosty Returns" special? Sorry Frosty, you got nothing on Charlie Brown and Linus. I've even seen a replica "Charlie Brown tree" for sale this year (with one red ornament).

5. It's Christmas here in December, which is winter. But Christmas in Australia is in the summer. How do the Aussies like singing about snowmen and sleigh rides while tanning at the beach? I guess swimming suits are the traditional holiday garb of the folks in Sydney during Christmas. I'm not sure I really want to see that much of Santa after thinking about it.

6. How many of you people think that bosses are buying that crappy excuse of, "I've got the flu", during the last two weeks before the holidays. You aren't fooling anyone. We all know you are out trying to finish your shopping for presents. We had two people gone with the "flu" today. All I know is that you better have used the time off to get me something good this year, and it better not be that five-gallon can of stale popcorn.

7. Do we really need to know how egg nog is made? It's probably best not to know what is in it either. I think the rum helps.

8. Finally, don't change your cell phone ring to any Christmas song. If you do this, you're advertising to everyone that you crave attention, even from people that don't know you. Trust me, every 13-year old girl has her cell phone with a Christmas song ring. There's only so many "totally awesome" phone rings to go around. And put the phone on vibrate when you sit next to me at the movies. Either that or plan on a trip to the cell phone shop the next day to get your phone replaced.

9. Have a nice holiday. Don't make me make another list. No jokes about checking it twice either.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Brokerage Holiday Party

We all have the picture of the typical office holiday party: The old guy getting lit up and hitting on the new secretary, the catered stale lunch meat platters, the copying of the butt, and the gag gifts the boss gets. It's a bit different at The Brokerage.

As the holidays near, the fun begins. One afternoon, the ladies in the office dig the fake tree out of the supply closet and put it up. Do trees from a box EVER look that great? Ours looks like it was in a wind tunnel for the last month. There are more "pine needles" in the box than on the branches. The light strings work about half the time. Finally we have the decorations that were first used in 1974, so avocado green and banana yellow ornaments give the tree that special holiday luster. On the day of the party, someone suggests moving the tree into the conference room, and every year, someone tries to move it. The remainder of December is marked by little green and yellow glass shards munched into the carpet. Unfortunately, the decorations reproduce after the holidays and are plentiful for next year.

The party begins with the food platters brought in and the non-alcoholic drinks being shared. The Boss of the Boss joins in the fun, coming to our office to celebrate with us. Somehow, he thinks it is important to be there and be seen. We have the white elephant gift exchange between employees (with stealing of gifts allowed) and the "gifts" get traded. Some of the better gift offerings in the last few years include a framed picture of the Boss, a box of golf balls with good balls replaced by old cruddy balls, a candle set that had been melted in the box, a 5-pound chocolate bar, and a DVD of "Fools Rush In". (What was Matthew Perry thinking?) This year, I'm thinking of wrapping up a box of my older ties from the 80's. I need to clean my closet anyway.

After the gift trade, the Boss of the Boss leaves and the real fun begins. The office alcohol expert brings in his portable bar and the drinks are poured. A few of the older guys leave (mostly due to their objection to drinking) and the party gets loud. Some people began a poker game last year, and the big winner was the oldest lady in the office. She cleaned up while the younger guys in the office that thought they were the next poker champion lost big. There were five people that were telling their best dirty holiday jokes also. How many reindeer does it take to blah blah blah, and you can imagine the punch lines. Our newest female employee got loopy and tried to sing along with the holiday music, but got mad when she got booed during "Jingle Bells". Seriously, how can someone screw up the singing of "Jingle Bells"? Haven't we all been singing it since the first grade? She deserved to get booed. Besides, I was working on a flush at the time and she was distracting me.

This year, some of the guys have already reserved a keg and I know donations have been requested to get the hard alcohol and mixers purchased. I'm looking forward to seeing the Boss get a bit loose again this year. He tends to get quite emotional when he drinks, and the secrets he tells and comments he makes can be hilarious. We are just waiting for him to get blitzed and suggest that our older secretary think of retiring next year. The idea of her retiring gets her all upset, and we have a bet going that she just may slug him if he suggests retirement. I'm getting 4-to-1 odds that she hits him. Besides, it will be a good temporary distraction if I don't have a pocket pair. At any rate, I'll have more material after the party. Our holiday party never disappoints in the creation of goofy memories.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Giving Thanks

It that time of year again-- time to give thanks for the things that we enjoy in our lives. The Thanksgiving weekend is a good time to look around at your life, your family, and the world at large and pass the gratitude bowl.

This year I gave thanks for the usual things 97 percent of all Americans gave thanks for: Living in the United States, health, happy families and friends, and our basic freedoms we enjoy.

But what about giving thanks from a broker's point of view?

Brokers are always thankful for more, bigger, and trusting clients being referred to us. We all would be thankful for the new client that brings in their $5 million trust account. We may not be so thankful for the nephew of a friend of a client that wants to "invest" his $1000.

Brokers are thankful for the guy that invented golf, even if we aren't so thankful for the graphite shaft on our driver.

Brokers are thankful for 24-hour sports channels, but we are not as thankful for having to watch a chick flick. Who writes that stuff?

Brokers are thankful for capitalism, but not as thankful for Friday-after-Thanksgiving sales. However, it is pretty funny to watch people on the news reports fighting over the Thanksgiving sales items at 5:00 in the morning! It happens every year.

Brokers are thankful for having football to watch during a long cold winter. Brokers are not thankful for hearing the football stories from the boss of the boss who thinks he was a great player when he rode the bench at a Division XXII college.

Finally, the senior brokers will be happy to see what gifts the newbies offer up this season in order to suck up to us, but we may not be thankful for some of their offerings. After all, if they want to have any hope of possibly working with us in the future, the holiday season is prime suck-up time.

And by the way, for you new guys in the office, I don't need another dozen golf balls. I have more than 30 boxes in my garage. How about a nice 20-year old Scotch and a trip to the spa for the wife? I would be thankful for that.