Archive for August, 2007

Got money? Want a $730K pen?

Personal finance

While listening to the Economist on the way to work today, I came across an article that referenced the existence of some luxury goods I had no idea existed: A $730K Montblanc pen called the “Mystery Masterpiece” which you can put in a Louis Vuitton purse that costs $140K. Actually, in perusing the internet, the Louis Vuitton bag isn’t even the most expensive one out there. That fine distinction seems to be held by a Chanel bag that costs $261K.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I know, but I find both the pen and the bag ugly and unappealing, independent of their price tags. They’re just not aesthetically pleasing designs. Maybe it’s just me.

The pen reminds me of , which I think is best suited for for sci-fi films like Alien. It doesn’t look comfortable to use.

At first, I decided that there was absolutely no question that the psychographic target market for this pen were people who want to collect brand-named, ultra-luxury goods for the sake of showing off or having them. So what if that’s a narrowly defined set of people? Just find the handful who are willing to buy the 27 limited editions you made and your done with your pen sales for the next 5 years.

And then I read this article, about how another Montblanc limited edition pen called the Solitaire Royal that sold for $175K when it was first released is now worth up to 10 times that amount. That’s a CAGR of nearly 20% over 13 years. Sheesh.

This week’s T-bill auction results – I got schooled


Following up on my post of a few days ago, in which I wrote that I’d decided not to invest in the 4- and 13-week T-bill auctions this week, I present the results of yesterday’s and today’s auctions:

13-week T-bill (auction date: 8/20/2007): APY = 2.95%
4-week T-bill (auction date: 8/21/2007): APY = 4.96%

What’s perplexing is that the Daily Treasury Yield Curve for the 4-week bill dipped to 2.47% (!) just yesterday, August 20, 2007.

I was feeling good about my decision yesterday, but I was really surprised today.

I guess I’ve learned my lesson: for the 4-week T-bill, I might as well stick to laddering. I only lock up my money for a month’s time, and it seems the yield curve is not necessarily a good predictor of results.

Review: The Economist’s weekly audio edition

Personal finance

A month or two ago, I received an email from informing me that they’d started to offer a weekly audio version of their magazine to subscribers. I signed up, forgot about it for a while, then began receiving email from them telling me that this week’s audio edition was available for download.

Last week, I gave it a try and wasn’t disappointed. Their audio downloads are spoken word-for-word versions of each issue. Since my car can play mp3 CDs, I now have a great system for keeping up with a great magazine I never had enough time to read each week: I download each issue, copy each one over to a CD-RW disc, and listen to it to and from my drive to work each day. There are usually 70+ chapters, which pretty much fits into a week’s worth of commute. Each week, I overwrite the previous edition for the next week’s drive. (Supposedly, each CD-RW these days can be erased and rewritten 1000 times.)

At $8.99 for a 10-pack of CD-RWs at Target, this turns out to be a pretty cheap way to stay informed.

Truth be told, prior to using the audio edition, I don’t think I’d ever actually read every single article each week in that magazine. Now, no more.

In a way, I find listening to the politics and regional news a bit like reading a geeky version of tabloid magazines. What worldwide leaders are abusing power? Who tried to do what this week? I’d never noticed the dry humor in these articles as much when I was reading them, which I guess is a compliment to the readers. That they can make articles about governments, politics, and even economics worth listening to is saying a lot.

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You have $500 to spend on anything and then get reimbursed for it. What would you buy?

Personal finance

My manager surprised me this week with a team recognition award that comes with a $500 “cash” award.

The catch is that the mechanics of the award are a bit unusual: rather than getting $500 as part of my next paycheck or receiving some sort of gift certificate, what I have to do is buy something (or some things) and then file an expense report with receipts to get $500 reimbursed.

The good thing about this, I’m told, is that this avoids payroll taxes. On the other hand, it also means I have to actually buy something.

Being the inefficient decision maker that I am when it comes to actually spending money on myself, the most pragmatic thing I’ve come up with is to purchase a Visa gift card at Safeway for $500 and pay the processing fee ($5?) so that I can spend the money at my leisure and wherever I’d like. (Or at least spend it at a more leisurely pace than if I had to buy something for $500 in the next month and half. I understand most these gift cards come with other hidden fees depending on when and how you use them. Er, if anyone has advice on which gift card with the best trade offs between flexibility of use and fees, let me know.)

The award certificate clearly states that I’m free to expense $500 for whatever I’d like, but obviously, my manager and Accounts Payable will get to see what I buy when approving my expense report. Not that I’d buy anything that weird, of course.

What would you buy?

Suspending my investment in 4- and 13-week T-bills next week


T-bill yields have taken a big hit in the last couple of days. On Thursday, .

Below is a table I pulled from the showing daily yield curve rates for 4-week through 30-year Treasuries:

I’ve been continuing my laddering and buying 4- and 13-week treasuries on a recurring basis for several weeks now since, being a resident of California, I benefit from T-bills’ nice feature of being exempt from state income taxes.

But if the current yield is any indicator of upcoming auction results next week, the 9.6% tax shield on interest that I get is no longer a sufficient enough benefit to overcome the big drop in rates, especially when taxable money market funds and CDs are yielding around 5%.

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