Friday, October 10, 2008

What are you doing? Is this a time of crisis or an opportunity?

I'm curious to know how you view the current economic situation. Do you see the market, now trading at a level around 40% off it's high of last year as an opportunity or do you believe it's too risky, implying that there are no companies worth owning at this point? Are you worried about keeping your job? Have you tried to get a loan and been denied?

For myself, I put a little money in the market last week, and of course it went down. I did not sell into the downfall. Last November and again in January I talked to my broker about selling since I started to feel uncomfortable with being in the market. He talked me out of selling and I paid no further attention to it.

I'm fortunate that I don't need the cash right now and as such, I just left it in. I put a little more from my last paycheck into the same funds last week feeling that I would start putting a little more in every paycheck. If it keeps going down I'll just continue to buy all the way down. Hell, I'm buying at levels I haven't been able to buy at in 10 years. I only wish I had more cash. In my opinion there are a number of good companies selling at once in a lifetime levels. And they may get cheaper!

The US Treasury and the Federal Reserve are at their wits end having pulled the trigger on a number of spending initiatives, loans, and rate cuts. Where were they in July when rate cuts might have kept the flow of credit open?

I'm not particularly worried about the business... yet. Many companies are continuing spending in essential initiatives. However, we're seeing all good companies begin to cut non essential spending including projects and headcount. It's not a good time to be a corporate ornament, a.k.a. dead weight. We're also seeing an increase in sales and marketing efforts. It will be interesting to see when marketing budgets get wiped out. I fully expect to continue to see massive layoffs through the remainder of the year in large and publicly traded companies. Small business usually don't operate with the same level of overhead, but we will all be taking haircuts.

I don't personally know anyone who's been foreclosed, but given the statistics I expect that many of you do. My aunt emailed me the other day saying that one of the kids had gotten a mortgage that was more than they could afford then complicated things by running up their credit cards. Before anyone could help them they had dug their hole too deep and they got foreclosed. It's unfortunate, but probably a lesson they needed to learn.

I do acknowledge that there are going to now be a lot of people swept up in this debacle who took on debt that they could afford when they assumed it but will have either lost their job or suffered setbacks in their income forcing them into situations where their debt burden is unsustainable. It's really all of our fear to be caught in this situation. Normally, financial institutions will work with their customers to keep from assuming the financed assets. It will be interesting to see how well this works in this new economy.

Today I heard of a physician friend who was having some difficulty acquiring a mortgage for a home, saying that the amount of down payment was 80%. I suspect he was exaggerating, but I believe that the money required for a down payment is much greater than it used to be.

I have 2 car payments and a home mortgage at the moment. Happily I've paid off my credit cards over the year and have minimal debt in that regard. My cars were financed at 0% and 3.9% respectively and I had a 30 year fixed mortgage at 5.65% as I never trusted adjustable rates or brokers and banks that were unknown to me. I don't have nearly enough cash should something happen to my business or job, so that concerns me and I have to remain optimistic but guarded that we will continue to prosper through the turmoil. As a result, I am focusing efforts on increasing sales on essential items and those that reduce cost or increase sales for our customers.

I'd love to hear your perspectives; what you're seeing; what you're experiencing at home and at work.

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