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FAQ Me - James Altucher


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[amazonsearch]FAQ Me[/amazonsearch]


This 'book' is a collection of blog posts, but I'm enjoying it a lot. James let his Twitter followers ask him questions on virtually any topic, and he answered them on this blog.


While the topics covered include everything from kids, to politics, religion and much more, a substantial part of it revolves around business and investing. I had read some of his articles in the past, but had never really read his blog. He's a great writer (although the book does contain a decent amount of typos).


A couple sample posts:


What makes you so optimistic about the economy?


What makes you so optimistic about the economy? –@billtheimpaler


There are really two answers to this: personal and public. The personal side is “why should you and I be optimistic right now about finding opportunity?”


Right now, with everyone so pessimistic, is the best time to be optimistic. There’s $1.6 trillion extra dollars lying around in the banks. Corporate America has an extra $2 trillion and there’s untold trillions in pension funds, retirement accounts, etc that are completely in cash. All of that money will eventually hit the economy. Any business started now that is halfway good will get their hands on that money.


“Getting that money” is the equivalent of “the Olympics.”


You can’t just hold your hand out and get an Olympic gold medal. You have to get in shape. You have to start coming up with ideas. You have to get rid of the crappy people in your life http://bit.ly/jyJFzP. You have to plan your exit from your corporate job which sucks 10 hours of life (and 50% of your money via taxes) out of you each day. You have to have gratitud http://bit.ly/pY3Qvs) for your health and for the loving people around you.


Then you have to start coming up with ideas. What do 76 million retiring baby boomers need? What do 750 million people on Facebook need? What do hundreds of thousands of returning veterans need? And so on. Find the demographic trend, any of them, and feed it. You will get paid for that.


But on a more public level: what makes me an optimist?


A)    Rail traffic is up! What does this mean? It means people are shipping commodities all over the country. Steel, oil, food, etc. Which means companies are about to start building things, which means companies are seeing demand pick up so they are getting ready to restock inventories, which are at lows. This indicator is almost never talked about in the media outlets. All they talk about is a beach resort in Europe called Greece which has nothing to do with us.


B)    Hotel occupancy is up. What does this mean? It means business people are traveling again. They are traveling because they are selling something. They don’t travel to sell without companies asking for those sales, putting out proposal requests, etc. Things are moving.


C)    Look at the statistics for Fedex.com (using a site like Compete.com). It’s up. It slipped a little when manufacturing dropped 15% in the summer in Japan because of the Earthquake but now it’s back up. This means things are being shipped. Goods are being sold. This doesn’t mean the economic statistics will be good for last quarter. It means it will be good for next  quarter.


D)    Housing starts up huge. Huge.The biggest since 2006. That means people will get hired again to build houses. That’s a huge part of our economy.


E)    Earnings are killing it. Intel is the bellwether for all technology. Technology has driven the market (for better or for worse) for fifteen years. Intel is killing it. This means people are buying computers and phones. Which means businesses are expanding. AAPL, one of the fastest growing companies, trades for just 8 times forward earnings and has $116 billion cash in the banks. These companies aren’t going bankrupt and demand is not going down for their products.


And let’s forget all about the basic economic statistics. Google is making cars that drive around on highways without drivers. MIT scientists are working on quantum computers. Every day there’s more evidence on how to diagnose and cure various cancers.


We are a smart country, filled with innovators, and nobody comes even close. Sure, maybe China will get close to us by 2050 but that just means they will become our customers instead of just some random country selling us cheap goods.


Don’t be a pessimist and hold a sign up and get angry. The time for opportunity is here. Start planning for it.


You can say, “Well, what about the Eurozone?”


Let me tell you something about Greece:


Greece has only survived by the grace of its good friends since 40 BC. Julius Caesar supported it, other countries supported it, all the way through Ronald Reagan who supported it because of his terror of the Soviet Union. Since then, the Eurozone has supported it. So everyone since 40 BC has known that Greece is what it is: a beach resort on the Mediterranean. Nothing more, nothing less. They won’t make the next Google. And maybe they’ll pay down their debt, maybe not. And then China will support it. Who knows? But their issues, which have been known for 2000 years, will not bother us one bit.


Wow, that was a big answer. It’s almost a post by itself. I’m going to get some seaweed crackers before continuing onto the next questions.


What are your thoughts on Greece?


What are your thoughts on Greece? –@jamesketchell


AAAARGH! Greece! I am so sick of this country already. We first even heard of Greece in May 2010. There were some rumblings. They couldn’t pay their debt and everyone wanted to retire by some early age – what? 24 years old they wanted to retire. And then hang out on the beach and get paid by the government.


Then suddenly everyone in the media became experts on the word “contagion.” Somehow these beach-goers were going to spread their vile debt contagion throughout the rest of Europe, then the US, then China and Asia and the entire world would collapse. “But James”, anchors would say to me on TV, “can’t you see how Greece could create a domino effect” Blah blahblah. One more blah: Blah!


Let me tell you some fun facts about Greece:


A)    It’s 0.15% of the world’s population.


B)    If you go to Greece (or, in my case, if you go to a pool hall in Astoria, NY which is almost entirely populated by Greek people, and many of the waitresses at the Greek diners were too beautiful for me despite the fact that I wrote my phone number down on $2 bills that I gave out as tips) they have three types of backgammon that they play as opposed to our one. No wonder they want to retire so early!


C)    The Greek debt divided by the Eurozone GDP is similar to Rhode Island’s debt divided by the US GDP. If Rhode Island defaulted I wouldn’t care either. Rhode Island, also btw, is a beach resort. Just like Greece.


D)    Most  important: Since the time of Augustus in 20 BC, Greece’s bills have been paid by other countries. All the way up to Ronald Reagan in 1989 who was terrified the Soviet Union would have access to the Mediterranean so kept paying Greece’s bills. So the EU knew this going into the situation that Greece can not live without the kindness of strangers. This has been known for 2030 years!


E)    In 1981, the top 5 banks in the US were 263% exposed to South American countries that totally defaulted! Zero!  Thank god the word “contagion” had not been invented yet by some media Einstein. What happened next in the US? 20 year Stock market boom!


So okay, what’s our exposure to not only Greece but let’s throw in Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy. Other than Ireland, all prior leaders of the world.Total exposure in the top 5 US banks? 8% Glory Be! You know what this means? It means I should never be able to turn on the TV and hear the word “Greece” unless I am watching some backgammon tournament on ESPN 3.



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I like this part:


E)    In 1981, the top 5 banks in the US were 263% exposed to South American countries that totally defaulted! Zero!  Thank god the word “contagion” had not been invented yet by some media Einstein. What happened next in the US? 20 year Stock market boom!


However, there was a Fed willing to act for that one--not clear if that is true with the EU.

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