Sunday, April 6, 2008

Full disclosure

I'm being objective when I say that I think I am probably the most objective person you have ever met. You feel me? :) And to prove my objectivity to you I will list my corporate biases:

1. American Express
Love the company but I love the Chairman/CEO even more. My favorite & most used credit cards have all been American Express. For example, in 2007 my card of choice was the JetBlue Amex of which I was able to get 2 roundtrip tickets in less than 12 mos. And now in 2008, my card of choice is the SimplyCash Amex (5% on gas, cell phone & office supplies; 1% on everything else) of which so far I have already pulled roughly $150 in cash back. As for the CEO/Chairman, Ken Chenault, I can't say enough about dude. Closest thing I have to a role model alive. I have been following his career since around 1998 and dude shines brighter each passing year. What more can I say?

2. ExxonMobil
Love the company, love management, love the gas. I know folks are reading this and wondering why would I love an oil company. Well look, I started drinking their Kool-Aid back in like 1999 when they were just Exxon and everybody was talking technology companies solely. Back then they would send me their newsletters outlining their plans to cut costs, increase dividends and increase shareholder value like every company would. But what they did different from the rest was they would provide timeframes and report back on those stated goals. Trust me, sounds simple but so few do it. They reported on successes and failures. And more often than not they would exceed their goals by huge amounts. When they said they would buy Mobil and cut X billions in costs in Y years I strongly doubted them. Hell, they came back announcing they had cut X+1 billions in Y-1 years. And right around then was when shite started popping off for the oil industry and they were primed to capitalize. Gotta give them their props. Also, as part of their industry leading technology I have had SpeedPass too long to even remember when I first got it...probably 2000-2001 or so.

3. Pfizer
I would like to believe they are my best long term play as an investment and as the guys who may find a cure to what ails us. But honestly, they have been letting me down over the last two years or so. I guess I have been drinking their Kool-Aid for so long that it is hard for me to admit that maybe the good times are gone. I mean, a company this stocked with talent and genius can't be held down for too long?? I think right now the company is moving sideways but I still see them rising to the occasion like they are so famed for doing in the past. Maybe I just don't know how to let go but I have to go with my gut on these guys.

4. AT&T
Me and Ma Bell go way back. This was my dream company to work for as a kid. You know, one of the reasons I studied Electrical Engineering in the first place was to one day be a Bell Labs Engineer (which later became Lucent which later became Alcatel). But that never happened and even though AT&T today isn't the AT&T I dreamed of as a kid the bias still lives. I guess it will all make sense when I get my 3G iPhone. Hey, what can I say? Biases die hard. :)

5. ING Direct
Large up savers anywhere dem deh! Via ING Direct Orange Checking and Savings I earn more interest a month than I earned in my prior 8 years with Bank Of America cumulative. Then lo and behold, ING went out and copped ShareBuilder, whom I have been using as my primary brokerage for the last 4 years, which further cemented my relationship with ING. I remain at this juncture however, totally ignorant of the company as an investment but you can rest assured I don't plan on finishing out 2008 that way.

6. Vanguard
Love em, trust em, and most of all I respect them. Transferred my Roth IRA over to them roughly a year ago from Ameriprise. Lets just say, the whole process was a breeze, free, and did I mention they are FREE? I mean, I was paying Ameriprise like $40/year in custodial fees and all the fund choices they gave me were like 2x the expense fees of the Vanguard fund choices. Talk about a no-brainer. So now I pay ZERO in custodial fees and 0.50% in total weighted fund expense fees.

Realizing your biases can be very helpful. Trust me, it took some time for me to realize that I was quick to listen to someone calling from Amex (which is how I got suckered into Ameriprise in the first place) but quick to hang up the phone on a MasterCard rep even when the latter was the better deal. Brand names go a long way in influencing judgment. Being cognizant of this can be very helpful against the marketing machines we all face each and every day.


Anonymous said...

How did you tranfer your Roth to Vanguard and how long did it take?

Troy said...

Good question. I started the process online at Vanguard's website. And when I had a question I called them, got someone IMMEDIATELY who was extremely knowledgeable, courteous and helpful. I honestly can't remember how long it took but it didn't take as long as I expected. Now, I must admit that since then I haven't had to call them again since I have pretty much set-it-&-forgot-it. Oh yeah, they also offer much more flexibility in terms of contributions (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.). And of course you sign up for electronic statements which then waives all fees.