Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A world turned upside down ... value of trusts at Yale and Harvard drop mega billions of dollars over past several months ... but I'm ahead

I could not believe my eyes in reading tonight's New York Times' story that Yale University has lost 25% of its massive endowment fund the past four months. Harvard has lost 22%.

These places are supposed to be center of American intelligentsia, our future leaders. Yet they've allowed themselves to be taken financially, probably by many of their own graduates now working on Wall Street.

Yet back here in Nashville inside a studio apartment -- and without an active professional title to my name -- and my less formidable investments are up for the year. So go figure. Who have these men and women of Yale and Harvard -- with heavy dinner party schedules and themselves to impress -- been listening to concerning investing?

Dave Ramsey?

Experts for The NYTIMES say the losses are not set in stone, meaning they could get worse. And officials now are talking about budget cuts.

Here is an excerpt of what The Times reported: " ... the value of Yale’s marketable securities alone had declined 13.4 percent for the first four months of the university’s fiscal year, ending in October, and that it had since fallen further. Taking into account such illiquid assets as real estate and private equity ... the endowment, which is led by David Swensen, was down 25 percent, and the school is now anticipating it will be down that much for its full fiscal year.

Earlier this month, Harvard University said its $36.9 billion endowment had lost 22 percent of its value during the four months ending on Oct. 31 and that it expected the total decline for the full fiscal year to be as much as 30 percent.

Now I don't bring up my good fortune financially compared to them to brag on myself ... well, maybe just a little. I write about it to prove to you out there that you are smart enough to invest your own money, without stockbrokers or nosy family members.

I thought independent financial advisers were the people to listen to. But the guy I hired after a free dinner gave me so much bad financial advice, that I had to fire him. Sadly for him, however, is that he took his own advice, too, admitting to his own portfolio losses of more than 20 percent.

He insisted the Dow would never fall below 10,000, which I told him he was dead wrong about and turned down any of his advice tied to that uninformed contention. I got out above 12,000.

Most of all, I told him growth mutual funds were sucker bets, created to just make up front fees for the investment bureaucracy.

Still, this financial adviser couldn't quit selling. He wanted me to get into commercial property investment, or what are called REITS. I turned him down on that, too. 60 Minutes last Sunday said such holdings are preparing to tank along with this nation's nearly $5 trillion in personal credit card debt.

Firing him was one of the best financial decisions I've ever made, next to prospering with 100 percent investment in Gannett stock during the 2001 market downturn. Now I wouldn't touch that virus of a stock and company, despite its high dividend.

Believe it or not, but most of us are the smart enough to invest correctly -- but without greed. You must do as I have, however: watch CNBC from 5 in the morning to 8 at night. Listen to the analysts and bigwigs over months and months, with the exception of CNBC entertainers Jim Cramer and Larry Kudlow, and see who continues to be right in the market's performance.

Don't let the need for greed take you over. Take your losses if you believe the market will further decline from now through 2009. Reinvest lower after more poor souls lose money.

Then realize that the only person who can best invest your money is you, educated on what is going on and not overtaken by greed. It ultimately makes poor people of us all.

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