Everything From This 1991 Radio Shack Ad You Can Now Do With Your Phone

Radio Shack Ad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw this and found it fascinating.  Show this to the kids so they can see how primitively we all used to live.

Steve Cichon of TrendingBuffalo.com bought a newspaper from 1991 and the back page had a Radio Shack ad.   Steve noticed that of the 15 items for sale have all been replaced by smartphone and therefore rendered obsolete.  He breaks it down as follows…

All weather personal stereo, $11.88. I now use my iPhone with an Otter Box.
AM/FM clock radio, $13.88. iPhone.
In-Ear Stereo Phones, $7.88. Came with iPhone.
Microthin calculator, $4.88. Swipe up on iPhone.
Tandy 1000 TL/3, $1599. I actually owned a Tandy 1000, and I used it for games and word processing. I now do most of both of those things on my phone.
VHS Camcorder, $799. iPhone.
Mobile Cellular Telephone, $199. Obvs.
Mobile CB, $49.95. Ad says “You’ll never drive ‘alone’ again!” iPhone.
20-Memory Speed-Dial phone, $29.95.
Deluxe Portable CD Player, $159.95. 80 minutes of music, or 80 hours of music? iPhone.
10-Channel Desktop Scanner, $99.55. I still have a scanner, but I have a scanner app, too. iPhone.
Easiest-to-Use Phone Answerer, $49.95. iPhone voicemail.
Handheld Cassette Tape Recorder, $29.95. I use the Voice Memo app almost daily.

I have struggled to believe in the government reported inflation figures compared to my own (purely anecdotal) evidence of rising prices.  Perhaps this highlights those less appreciated deflationary forces found within the economy.

 

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“Don’t Hold Your Breath for Amazon Prime-Air Drone Delivery”

Amazon.com was profiled on 60 Minutes this past Sunday.  The video (shown below if you missed it) features a behind-the-scenes look at this amazing (albeit unprofitable) company, and an announcement by CEO Jeff Bezos that Amazon is developing flying robots to eventually deliver their packages.

The thought of flying robots is certainly cool in a science fiction sort-of-way, and made for a great 60 Minutes piece… but we should also realize that this is NOT going to happen anytime soon.

Kid Dynamite’s World is a blog I read regularly.  Kid’s take on Amazon’s news was spot-on, in my opinion.  You can read his entire blog entry on this subject here, but this excerpt was my favourite part:

“But watching Bezos’s drone demo, I didn’t even have 2 seconds of “oh man, this is a cool idea” thoughts before I blurted out to my wife: “This is moronic.   There is no way this is going to happen.”

Who is the target audience here?   It’s not feasible for big cities, and my first thought was “people will shoot these things down or steal them.”   Then you add in the 10 mile restraint, and it seems like the whole idea is more of a word-of-mouth advertising bit than a potential reality.    Bezos mentioned that “in urban areas, you could cover very significant portions of the population.”   I don’t get it.   Look – tell me how this is going to function in New York City – convince me.  No friggin’ way.   Tell me where it works – for the people living around the Amazon fulfillment centers?     In densely packed low-crime suburban neighborhoods that are also located within range of Amazon fulfillment centers?

To the Believers out there: convince me.

Remember how in many of the movies they make about “The Future” there are 3 dimensional highways with cars traveling on rails or air?   That isn’t happening in my lifetime, and I’m not holding my breath for Amazon Same Day Delivery Drones either.    I am pretty confident that I will buy my electricity from Amazon before I get a drone delivery from them.

To have 60 Minutes profile the story (on the opening weekend of the holiday shopping season, no less) was a phenomenal piece of free publicity, I’ll give Amazon that.

This was also further proof that established businesses will have to continually do better if they are to compete with Amazon, and the online retailer’s ever-broadening scope.   As money managers, our job is to remember all of this when evaluating your potential investments.

 

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13 Tips for Jobless Grads on Surviving the Basement Years

13 Tips for Jobless Grads on Surviving the Basement Years

I feel the one of the toughest times in a young person’s life is the period between the point they graduate up until they land that first “real” job (i.e. a job related to their interests/studies and which they are proud to have).   While you are attending College/University, there is little pressure because you are doing exactly what society says you should do in order to prepare for your future.  In this scholarly time, nothing more is really expected of you.  Once school ends, however, this abruptly changes and you learn the cold harsh truth that employers are not necessarily valuing you, or your diploma/degree, the way you may have been led to believe.

Maybe I am alone in this view as I have never seen much written about this.  Here, however, is a blog entry by Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle (one my favourite business writers) sharing 13 tips for those recent graduates having difficulty landing their first “real” job.  Of the 13 tips, I thought 1, 2, 4, 8, 9 and 13 were particularly wise.

This article is great to forward to someone in this unique stage of life, or save for a student whose initial job search is looming.  Enjoy.

 Excerpt from the article:

Don’t get me wrong, youngsters: I feel your pain. I graduated from business school in 2001. The job I had lined up with a management consulting firm evaporated, with the coup-de-grace delivered just as the MBA Class of 2002 began recruiting. Suddenly I was competing with kids who hadn’t lost a job — and even though the job loss wasn’t my fault (my whole class was laid off), employers didn’t see why they should take a chance on an unemployed person. To make matters worse, I spent a year doing administrative work in a trailer at the World Trade Center disaster recovery site, rather than immediately looking for a new “career” job. To make matters still worse, my previous job had been in the tech industry. There was about a year and a half when I had no idea where I was going to find another full-time job. I began to think I had inadvertently ruined my life. ~~~~~ Eventually, I got a job with the Economist magazine, which I found because of this blog I’d started while working at the World Trade Center.  Ten years later, things are pretty much all right. Okay, I got lucky … but you know what? As the Journal article shows, eventually, if you keep moving, you’ll probably get lucky too. So here are some hard-but-hopeful truths for the classes of 2008-13, inclusive:

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The Coming Retirement Burden

The Coming Retirement Burden

This is a US article but the message and facts equally apply to Canadians.  CPP is, for the most part, a pay-as-you-go wealth distribution scheme, meaning your CPP deductions are simply transferred to a current retiree in forms of benefits.  Since 1997, a small portion is now actually invested and grown to fund the future but it is small (latest published numbers can be found in 2008-2009 CPP Financial Statements here).

In the past, there were many workers who would support a small number of retirees so small amounts taken off paycheques were sufficient.  As our population ages and enjoys greater longevity, there are fewer and fewer workings supporting an ever-growing number of seniors.  Currently, there are approximately 4.6 workers paying for each person over 65, and by 2031, there will be less than 3 workers paying for each recipient.   This would require a 53% increase in CPP premiums just to maintain the status quo!

A generational divide is growing and I think it has barely started.  The most shocking example of this growing divide was seen about three weeks ago in Japan when the government Finance Minister told the elderly to “hurry up and die” to relieve pressure on the economy.

Despite the Canadian government telling me the CPP plan is sound, I remain unconvinced.   I personally can’t see how any politician could say anything else and stay elected.  Furthermore, nobody can claim to know how future working will respond to more and more of their wages taken to support someone else.

I think the safest assumption is that – one way or another – we’ll pay higher taxes and receive lower benefits moving forward.  What seniors receive today is not likely to be what seniors receive in 10-20 year’s time.  It is not fun to think about and easy to ignore, but saving more during one’s working years is really the only plausible defense I see to this economic reality.

Excerpt from the article:

If one-third of the adult population is consuming without working, that is going to place a heavy burden on worker incomes–unless the retirees take sharp cuts to their living standards.

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The Future of Shopping

The Future of Shopping

One of my favourite writers, Megan McArdle, writes about how shopping has changed with the emergence of ‘showrooming’.  Showrooming is where one visits a big-box store only to see the physical product.  They do not, however, buy from the big-box store.  Instead, the shopper scans the item’s barcode with their smartphone, an app immediately searches online for which seller offers the lowest price (this is usually an online seller – such as Amazon.com – who is not burdened by the costs associated with operating a large retail store), and the consumer then makes his or her purchase online.  So these big box stores are basically acting as free showrooms for online vendors.  It doesn’t take an MBA to know that this can’t work for too long.  The questions here are how do these large retail stores adapt and respond to this phenomenon, and will they adapt before coming insolvent.   A good read for sure.

Excerpt from the article:

Five years ago, in December 2007, a share of Best Buy was worth more than $50; today the company is trading just under $13. This may be some sort of record—from profit powerhouse to basket case in under five years.  Best Buy used to be the king of the “category killers”—the big-box stores like Blockbuster, Borders, and Toys “R” Us that dominated their market segments, driving out thousands of smaller retailers who simply couldn’t compete with each chain’s reach and buying power. But as that list suggests, it’s no longer a very safe kingdom to rule. The category killers are getting slaughtered by the competitive forces they themselves unleashed; the wave of relentless bargain hunters who once flooded their stores has now flowed onto the Internet, and especially to Amazon, where nearly anything can be purchased at bargain prices and delivered to your home in days. You might call them the “new window shoppers”: whenever they want something, from a flat-screen television to a 36-pack of toilet paper, they just open a new window in their Web browser. Their disappearance from stores has left mass retailers like Best Buy with a lot of expensive real estate that sales can no longer support. ………..

………….  How long can brick-and-mortar retailers afford to operate stores that serve as display cases for someone else? More importantly, will that be long enough to transform themselves into something less vulnerable to Internet competition?

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The Insourcing Boom

The Insourcing Boom

An economic axiom has prevailed that America would  never again be able to compete for manufacturing jobs against rival countries with their rock-bottom labour costs.   This Atlantic article talks about General Electric and their storied Kentucky ‘Appliance Park’.  This manufacturing mecca from long ago is awakening as companies realize that their strategy to outsource everything to Asia is not as sound as once believed.

The key takeaway for me was that markets (including labour markets) have a remarkable ability to adapt.   Not only do markets adapt, but human beings seem hardwired to repeatedly underestimate the ability of markets to adapt.  Anything you can read to be reminded of markets ability to adapt is worth reading.  Make time for this article.

Excerpt from the article:

What has happened? Just five years ago, not to mention 10 or 20 years ago, the unchallenged logic of the global economy was that you couldn’t manufacture much besides a fast-food hamburger in the United States. Now the CEO of America’s leading industrial manufacturing company says it’s not Appliance Park that’s obsolete—it’s offshoring that is.

Why does it suddenly make irresistible business sense to build not just dishwashers in Appliance Park, but dishwasher racks as well?

 

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Khan Academy: The Future of Education?

Recent postings have questioned whether college is a lousy investment and predicting that college would be free in ten years .   Along this topic, I feel Khan Academy is one of the coolest websites today.   Khan Academy offers online courses in Math, Science, almost every subject you would learn about in school – all for free.  They envision the future world of education to be one where lectures and homework are reversed.  In other words, the child receives the lecture by themselves at home (via these free videos), and they in turn work on problems (i.e. traditional homework problems) while sitting in the classroom with a teacher who serves to help them when they get stuck.  Brilliant in its simplicity and sure makes sense to me.  Change, particularly by those who profit by the status quo, is always fiercely resisted.  This video is a CBS 60 Minutes segment featuring Khan Academy.  It is only 13 minutes long and will give you a good idea of how it all works.  The website www.khanacademy.org is also worth visiting or sending your child to should their homework prove difficult.  Enjoy.

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Why College May Be Totally Free Within 10 Years

Why College May Be Totally Free Within 10 Years

After a prior posting discussing “Is College a Lousy Investment” I thought this related to that and was interesting.  Some will look at this as a positive and some will say this is a negative.  It is positive to me, as I prefer more choices as opposed to less.  The other article discussed the cost benefit of going to college or foregoing college, this article shows how technology may bring the cost of an education to zero.   Amazing.

Excerpt from the article:
……there will always be students able and willing to pay for a traditional college experience and for them it will be a worthwhile investment. But for the vast majority, from a financial standpoint that kind of education makes no sense and is fast becoming unnecessary. He believes the higher education revolution is coming soon and will happen fast—perhaps fast enough to keep the next generation from finishing school with debts they may never be able to pay.

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Should We Worry About Rising Interest Rates?

Should We Worry About Rising Interest Rates?

The math of bonds is as follows:  When interest rates go down (like they have now for such a long period) bond prices rise and investors can enjoy capital gains in addition to interest payments.  Conversely, when interest rates rise, bond prices fall and investors can incur capital losses often much larger than the interest they may receive.  The greater the number of years until the bond matures, the greater the risk. 

In other words, short-term bonds (2-3 years or less) will mature soon and therefore rising rates can’t affect prices all that much.  Long-term bonds, on the other hand, move dramatically when interest rates change.  

I worry that most retail bond investors today have no idea of the inherent risk in their fixed-income portfolios.  I feel they will be shocked and pained should interest rates rise. 

The last thing the government wants is for interest rates to rise.  So much so they are printing enormous sums of money just to keep interest rates low.  We could very well reach a point where the government loses control of bond prices and interest rates could sharply rise. 

This could happen soon, or it could happen a long time from now.  Regardless, we are very worried about this.  To protect our clients from rising interest rates, we have kept our client’s fixed-income investments very short-term.  

 Excerpt from the article:

But the Fed has only limited power to control interest rates. And sharply higher yields would be far from unusual. For instance, 30-year Treasury bond yields are currently under 3 percent. As recently as last year, they topped 4.5 percent, and in early 2000 they briefly exceeded 6.5 percent. Because of the long maturity, a single percentage point rise in rates would translate into roughly a 20 percent decline in the value of long bonds.

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The Costco Craze Inside the Warehouse Giant

After so many doom and gloom postings of late, it is nice to finally post a positive message.  This video produced by CNBC describes my favourite retailer, COSTCO.   This video describes how – and more interestingly why – the typical COSTCO stocks only 4000 products (compared to WalMart’s 100,000), their strict 15% markup limit, and how they make almost all their money not on goods, but rather via selling annual memberships.  Finally, they highlight the efforts suppliers are put through to earn a coveted spot on COSTCO shelves. (fascinating to me).  If you like the store, you’ll likely love this video.

 

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