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The First Billionaire

When Howard Hughes, Sr. died, his son became a millionaire. He inherited the Hughes Tool Company, but decided to go into the movie making business. After marrying a Houston socialite, he threw himself into risky ventures.

In the late 1920s, Howard Hughes, Jr. turned his attention to aviation. He started his own aircraft company in 1932, Hughes Aviation. In 1940 he bought controlling interest in Trans World Airlines. He would buy RKO Pictures, several airlines, television stations, and several hotels and casinos in Las Vegas.

Hughes got married for a second time in 1957, but this marriage failed like the first one. Hughes eventually left the country and lived the life a a hermit. He was phobic about germs and succumbed to drug addiction.

He was the world’s first billionaire, but that did him little good when he died in 1976, while being flown back to the United States for medical treatment. He died alienated and alone. And I’m sure that in his final moments, he would have gladly traded places with anyone wealthy enough to have a phone, just so he could have some to talk to.

Lessons from Enron

One of my favorite sports memories occurred on March 30, 2000. That was the night my Houston Astros opened their incredible new ballpark with a 10-inning preseason win over the New York Yankees. I paid $100 each for three seats that were closer to God than the field. But we were there; that’s all that mattered.

The ballpark was called Enron Field. That was before Enron filed for bankruptcy amid one of America’s historic corporate scandals. That was 15 years ago today – December 2, 2001.

Under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay, the energy-trading company landed the number seven spot on Fortune magazine’s list of the top five hundred U.S. companies. In 2000, the company employed 21,000 people and posted revenue of $111 billion. Over the next year, however, Enron’s stock price began a dramatic slide, dropping from $90.75 in August 2000 to $0.26 by closing on November 30, 2001.

As prices fell, Lay sold large amounts of his Enron stock, while simultaneously encouraging Enron employees to buy more shares and assuring them that the company was on the rebound. Employees saw their retirement savings accounts wiped out as Enron’s stock price continued to plummet. After another energy company, Dynegy, canceled a planned $8.4 billion buy-out in late November, Enron filed for bankruptcy. By the end of the year, Enron’s collapse had cost investors billions of dollars, wiped out some 5,600 jobs, and liquidated almost $2.1 billion in pension plans.

Lesson 1 – There are no guarantees in this life.

Lesson 2 – Put your faith in God, not man.

Lesson 3 – Money, and the things money buys, do not last.

Lesson 4 – Be careful in naming a new ballpark after a company.

Does Money Buy Happiness?

Christina Onassis said, “Happiness is not based on money. And the best proof of that is our family.” A man explained why he bought a new car. “I was faced with the choice of buying a $50 battery for my old car or a new car for $50,000. And they wanted cash for the battery.” Here’s the question . . . can money buy happiness?

The Bible says more about money than just about any other subject. Jesus’ parables were dominated with the theme of money. Interestingly, the Bible does not condemn money. It condemns the love of money. There is nothing wrong with having money so long as your money doesn’t have you.

It is natural to look for happiness where we can find it the easiest. For many of us, that involves money. We are like the drunk who was seen crawling along the ground under a streetlight one night. “What are you looking for?” he was asked.

“I’m looking for my wallet,” he replied.

His friend responded, “Are you sure you lost it here?”

“No,” said the drunk. “I dropped it a half a block away.”

“Then why are you looking for it here?”

“Because there’s no streetlight over there!”

Time Magazine did an interesting survey. They found that people are seeking happiness more than anything else in life. The problem is that we are looking for it in the wrong place.

The Bible says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5).

The Rushmore Report: Making $63k on Minimum Wage

Should the minimum wage be increased from its current rate of $7.25 per hour? In a recent Gallup Poll, 76 percent said yes; only 22 percent said no. But hold on. Did you know that a person earning $7.25 per hour can make $63,336 per year? There’s just one caveat. He must work every hour of every day – all year.

Let’s put the minimum wage in context. It has not been raised for six years. If minimum wage had been adjusted for inflation since 1968, it would be $10.90 today. And a person working 40 hours per week will make just $15,080 a year on minimum wage. While some, like Bernie Sanders, are calling for a hike to $15, with a more modest gain as suggested by President Obama ($10.10 per hour), the salary would jump to $21,008. Adding support, Forbes Magazine says such a raise would not lead to the predicted layoffs lamented by the opposition.

The argument against any raise goes like this. There are only 1.3 million who work for minimum wage, and they are almost all part-time workers, mostly in high school or college. Further, we know that the last time the minimum wage went up, in 2009, the jobless rate for workers between age 16 and 19 jumped from 16 percent to 26 percent. Small business did, in fact, lay off workers in order to not lose money.

Good arguments can be made on either side. I have two suggestions.

1. Let the states decide. There are two huge problems with any national minimum wage. First, it limits competition. By letting each state decide its own rate, competition, a foundation of capitalism, ensues. Let the more liberal states that want a $15 wage (Oregon, California) do their thing, while the more conservative states set their rate between $7 and $10. Then theory will become reality.

The other problem with any national minimum wage is that it doesn’t take into consideration cost of living. It is much, much cheaper to live in Texas than California. $7.25 goes a lot further in most states in the South than it does in New England. So, to be consistent, a $7.25 wage in South Carolina, for example, would need to be more like $12-15 in New York to put them on an even playing field.

2. Just work harder. I remember my dad making $30,000 one year and being grateful for it. So you minimum wage workers, you can make $63,336 per year if you want to. Just work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. It’s not that difficult!

Comedian Chris Rock once said on Saturday Night Live, “You know what it means when someone pays you the minimum wage? You know what your boss is trying to say? He is saying, ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.'”

Minimum wage was put in place during the Great Depression, in 1938. It was set at 25 cents per hour. When adjusted for inflation, that would be $4.19 today. So be grateful, minimum wage workers. The great thing about America can be summed up in one word – freedom. At $7.25 per hour, you can make anywhere from $15,080 to $63,336 per year. It just depends on how many hours you want to work.

The Rushmore Report: Does Dow Jones Do Better Under Republican or Democratic Rule?

Has the stock market been better, on average, when a Republican or Democrat has been in office? Many investors assume that Republican presidents are better for the stock market. That’s not true. Before I get to the particulars, a disclaimer: This answer is not a political statement. By answering this question, I am merely conveying the cold, hard facts regarding stock price performance under both Republicans and Democrats. I endorse no political party and have no vested interest in the results.

To get the answer to this question, I turned to the respected Stock Trader’s Almanac by Yale and Jeffrey Hirsch. This book tracks and organizes historical facts about the stock market. Using the Dow Jones industrial average as the benchmark, Stock Trader’s Almanac shows a $10,000 investment compounded during Democratic presidencies since 1901 would be worth $279,705 after 48 years.

The same $10,000 investment during 56 Republican years would have been worth just $78,699. If you adjust for inflation, the value of a $10,000 investment under Democratic presidents is $33,426. The inflation-adjusted value under Republican presidents is $26,145.

Many factors affect these results besides the president’s party. The Republicans got a big lift during the Eisenbhower and Reagan years. Democrats Roosevelt and Truman benefited from the recovery that followed the 89% fall in the Dow during the Depression. The Democratic lead was solidified by the tremendous run-up in stocks during the Clinton administration.

If these types of statistics interest, I really suggest you pick up a copy of Stock Trader’s Almanac. The book contains hundreds of fascinating historical records spotting trends and patterns in the stock market.

In conclusion, the average annual growth in the Dow under Republican presidents has been 6.9 percent, and 13.3 percent under Democratic presidents.

About the Author

Matt Krantz is a nationally known financial journalist who specializes in investing topics. He serves as the markets and stocks reporter for USA Today, and writes a daily investing column called “Ask Matt,” in which he answers questions posed by his website audience. His books include Investment Banking for Dummies, Fundamental Analysis for Dummies, and Investing Online for Dummies.

Man Credits Gallon of Milk for $22 Million Lotto Win

A gallon of milk has made a Milwaukee man the biggest winner in Wisconsin Megabucks history. John Rumpel, a high school teacher, claimed his $22.2 million check Friday. And he gives the credit to his wife, who sent him to a convenience store for a gallon of milk. While he was there, he decided to buy a ticket.

“It wasn’t until after the drawing that I flipped on the news and saw that the winning ticket was sold in Milwaukee,” he said of the May 30 drawing. “I looked up and saw this convenience store and went, ‘Oh man, that might be me.'” Rumpel had 180 days from the drawing to claim his prize at the Lottery’s headquarters in Madison.

Rumpel took the cash payment option, and walked away with $15.7 million. The store, A&I Services, also received a $100,000 check for selling the winning ticket. The jackpot was the largest in Megabucks history. The game was first introduced in 1992. Drawings take place every Wednesday and Saturday night.

We can take three things away from Mr. Rumpel’s story. First, he is now a former high school teacher. Second, he is very, very, very rich. And third, he has forever discovered the value of a man doing exactly what his wife tells him to do. I know a lot of men who would have told their wives, “You get the milk!” But not John Rumpel.

Here’s the deeper lesson. Marriage is a partnership. Paul said that love asks what it can do for the other person, not what is can receive from the other person (1 Corinthians 13). And when a man loves his wife in deed and not just words, blessings will follow. Try it, guys! You may not win $22 million. In fact, I’m pretty sure you won’t. But you will win something far greater – the appreciation of a wife who you probably don’t deserve in the first place. It is truly amazing . . . the blessing you can receive . . . all for the price of a gallon of milk.