The Digest #97
Microsoft's Future, Ackman's Triumph, Benjamin Graham, Jon Stewart Interviews Thomas Hoenig
“Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, universal, aims of humanity. A deed done is irrevocable, and its result coinciding in time with the actions of millions of other men assumes an historic significance. The higher a man stands on the social ladder, the more people he is connected with and the more power he has over others, the more evident is the predestination and inevitability of his every action.”
— Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
Don’t Forget Microsoft by John Luttig, January 30, 2022. “So what is Microsoft? It was the Windows company in the 2000s, became the Office company in the 2010s, and is becoming the cloud company in the 2020s. It is the sum of its core advantages: enterprise distribution, user trust, and an engineering talent vortex. With these advantages on its side, my money is on Microsoft as the first $10T company.” (Luttig’s Learnings)
Gaming the Smiling Curve by Ben Thompson, February 1, 2022. “… So much of our thinking about competition is rooted in the analog world, a world of scarcity where there really was limited shelf space or limited telephone lines or limited railroad access; that just isn’t the case on the Internet, where anyone has access to everyone. This has dramatically increased the power of creators, who can not only go direct, but also plays Aggregators off against each other — that is the realm of competition that matters.” (Stratechery)
Reality Tunnels by Frederik Gieschen, February 1, 2022. “… We all live in our own versions of reality. A useful metaphor I picked up from Jim O’Shaughnessy is that of the “reality tunnel” - our very own tunnel vision of reality shaped by our beliefs and past experiences. While the term emerged from figures of the counterculture, it seems even more applicable today when much of our view of the world is shaped by whatever social media echo chamber we choose to step into.” (Nektar’s Insecurity Analysis)
Bill Ackman Scored on Pandemic Shutdown and Bounceback by Liz Hoffman, January 31, 2022. “In two complex debt investments—one presaging the economy’s swift shutdown and the other its fevered reopening—Mr. Ackman made nearly $4 billion in profit on an outlay of about $200 million, according to fund documents and people familiar with the matter. In short, he called the pandemic’s economic fallout coming and going.” (WSJ)
Warren Buffett could have been richer than Elon Musk by Theron Mohamed, January 31, 2022. Over the past sixteen years, Warren Buffett has given away half of his Berkshire Hathaway stock. If he had not given away the stock, it seems plausible that Mr. Buffett would be the richest man in the world today. This possibility is rarely mentioned in the business media, so it was interesting to see an article bring up this possibility. Mr. Buffett appears to have no regrets. (Markets Insider)
Should You Max Out Your 401(k) Earlier in the Year? by Nick Maggiulli, January 25, 2022. If you are able to max out 401(k) contributions early in the year, this could result in advantages over time. However, there are important caveats to consider. “… If you were to max out your 401(k) earlier in the year for 20 years (at an annual contribution of $20,000), you should expect to have about 5% more than if you didn’t max early. On $400,000 in contributions (over 20 years) that means an extra $20,000. I ran the numbers as a sanity check and the median outperformance of Max Early for every 20-year period since 1978 was $22,000 (a little above 5% of total contributions).” (Of Dollars and Data)
Create for Just One Hour Each Day by Lawrence Yeo, January 2022. I can vouch for the truth behind this article. Creating something, even a compilation of articles like this newsletter issue, provides an important sense of accomplishment. This is even more true when shared in public. “Here’s a reality that’s both depressing and empowering: Most people spend far less than an hour a day creating something. The depressing angle to this is quite obvious. The fact that so much potential is left untapped within vast stretches of humanity is a shame. One can only wonder what the world would look like if everyone took an hour each day to work on something that excites them.” (More to That)
The Two Things to Do When the Stock Market Gets Crazy by Jason Zweig, January 28, 2022. All of Jason Zweig’s columns are must-reads, but his latest is exceptional. “In a speech in 1963, the great investment analyst Benjamin Graham said: ‘In my nearly 50 years of experience in Wall Street I’ve found that I know less and less about what the stock market is going to do, but I know more and more about what investors ought to do.’ You ought to do two things. First, put the market’s recent fluctuations in long-term perspective. Then, recognize that what kind of an investor you are matters more than which investments you own.” (WSJ)
A Rediscovered Masterpiece by Benjamin Graham by Jason Zweig, March 31, 2015. “Here is the speech Benjamin Graham gave in San Francisco one week before John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In this brilliant presentation, Graham explores how an investor should go about determining whether the market is overvalued, how to tell which asset allocation is right for you, and how to pick stocks wisely. This speech is a rare opportunity to see the workings of Graham’s mind in the raw.” (JasonZweig.com)
Society has a trust problem. More censorship will only make it worse. by Hamish McKenzie, Chris Best, and Jairaj Sethi, January 26, 2022. One of the reasons I decided to host Rational Reflections on Substack is because the platform has vigilantly defended freedom of speech and resisted efforts to censor content. Substack’s leadership team has reaffirmed their stance on censorship: “… We make decisions based on principles not PR, we will defend free expression, and we will stick to our hands-off approach to content moderation. While we have content guidelines that allow us to protect the platform at the extremes, we will always view censorship as a last resort, because we believe open discourse is better for writers and better for society.” (On Substack)
Business Insurance After Covid, January 25, 2022. “Covid was a mass-extinction event for businesses, from restaurants and bars to concert venues and landlords. Many were blindsided to learn that their business-interruption insurance did not cover a pandemic. Risk advisor John Pendleton of Scott Insurance (est. 1864) and Penn Law Prof. Tom Baker discuss the tricky subject of what coverage will look like after this global shock.” (Full Disclosure)
Spencer Jakab on The Revolution That Wasn’t: GameStop, Reddit, and the Fleecing of Small Investors, January 30, 2022. This was an interesting discussion with Spencer Jakab, the author of The Revolution That Wasn’t, a new book that was released today. I reviewed the book on The Rational Walk in December and recommend it. “In this special episode, co-hosts Phil Ordway and Elliot Turner speak with award-winning investing columnist Spencer Jakab about his new book, The Revolution That Wasn't: GameStop, Reddit, and the Fleecing of Small Investors.” (This Week in Intelligent Investing)
Louisa Nicola — Neuroscience for Your Physical & Financial Health, January 27, 2022. This is an interesting discussion of several health-related topics including the benefits of going to bed relatively early and sleeping at least eight hours. “Louisa is a Neuroscientist & Neurophysiologist, and a performance advisor to pro athletes, teams & portfolio managers. Our discussion with Louisa includes: The origin of Neuro Athletics, Goal setting done right, How light and melatonin affects sleep, Impact of sleep on your cognitive abilities, Ice baths, sauna, performance myths, And MUCH more!” (Infinite Loops)
Jon Stewart Talks to Thomas Hoenig: Our Economy is a Delusion, January 20, 2022. Jon Stewart does not have a PhD in Economics, but he’s nonetheless clearly an intelligent man. So it was interesting to listen to him grapple with the concept of quantitative easing in this discussion with Thomas Hoenig, former President of the Kansas City Fed. “You've probably heard that inflation is getting worse—and not just from your grandpa who remembers when soda cost a nickel and movies were movies. Jon talks with Thomas Hoenig, former president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, about how the Fed has destroyed everything we hold dear.” (The Problem with Jon Stewart)
Value Investing with Vitaliy Katsenelson, January 26, 2022. “In this interview with investment website GuruFocus, Vitaliy shares the full gamut of how he invests, where and why. He touches on the role of being eclectic when investing, how to invest abroad, and how value investors should think about macro, among many other important topics.” (The Intellectual Investor)
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