Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Past

As the holiday season approaches its crescendo, one can’t help taking a trip down memory lane. Just a few years ago televisions were filled with commercials featuring nice middle-class driveways being populated by two Lexus luxury cars, adorned with giant red bows. Those bows should have been a warning, a form of theatrical foreshadowing, representing the massive amount of debt resting so precariously on those essential luxury mobiles. We could afford the Lexus today, but we would have to pay for the bow later. When that time came, we realized our whole lives, from our homes to our banks were wrapped in similarly styled red tape.

So the season is here when red tape is at its highest demand and everyone gears up to wrap some new gadget or non essential item in it. Even Santa shows up wearing a massive red suit, riding a red sleigh, guided by a reindeer with a red nose. For heavens sake the holiday colors are red and green, debt and cash! This particular year seems the perfect time to take a long honest look at our past, present and future.

No longer can we afford to strip ourselves of equity and finance it into oblivion, for it seems that oblivion actually shows up at some point.

Perhaps it is not a good idea to leverage investments with “ZERO money down” or for banks to fill their balance sheets with assets whose debt to equity ratios would send a seesaw shattering into the ground.

And maybe, just maybe, we should invest in assets which are somewhat safe and secure. Like a well positioned grocery store as opposed to manufactured islands (made out of sand) in the middle of the sea which serve as play grounds to the fabulously opulent.

If you want to look at someone who has staying power, look at Walgreens, its 1Q profits just rose 20%! And who does Walgreens cater too? Only any person who needs some sort of medication at some point in their life. In other words, pretty much everyone. Dollar General, a few years ago the most unheralded name imaginable, is experiencing never before seen growth. McDonald’s and Wal-Mart both continue to prosper. The key point in all of this is that the best investments are the ones which will be there when the weather gets rough, the ones that have staying power. So this year, if you’re going to invest, make sure it is in something that’s lasting, not a heap of red tape.

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