1.01.2005

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» MISC: Trump, Stewart face off in verbal judo
» TIP: Are you underpaid or 'overtitled'?
» TIP: If you get the dreaded audit letter from IRS
» TIP: When a shortcut falls short
» TIP: Keep your cash flowing
» TIP: When the decision gets tough - sleep on it
» TIP: First, discover your strengths
» TIP: Dance your way to a stronger relationship
» MISC: So, you've got the job.
» TIP: Ways to Watch Your Financial Weight

MISC: Trump, Stewart face off in verbal judo

via USAToday -

..."Having two Apprentices was as unfair to him as it was unfair to me," she told Newsweek. "But Donald really wanted to stay on."

Trump's blunt response asks Stewart to take responsibility for her "failed show."

"Your performance was terrible in that the show lacked mood, temperament and just about everything a show needs for success," he wrote. "I knew it would fail as soon as I first saw it - and your low ratings bore me out."

Ouch.

"Between your daughter, with her one-word statements, your letter writing and, most importantly, your totally unconvincing demeanor, it never had a chance - much as your daytime show is not exactly setting records," he wrote.

Then he really told her what he thought.

"Essentially, you made this firing up just as you made up your sell order of ImClone," said Trump, who claimed NBC did not intend to fire him on Stewart's show...

"The letter is so mean-spirited and reckless that I almost can't believe my longtime friend Donald Trump wrote it," she stated...

Trump fired back on CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, saying repeatedly that he is upset because he was "her number one advocate...and what does she do? She blames me for her show's failure."

Asked about Stewart's comments that Trump was to be fired from The Apprentice, Burnett, also appearing on Big Idea, said, "Lots of ideas are bounced around, and Martha had lots of ideas. My job is to sit and listen to them, but, really, why would NBC ever do that?"

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

Your Turn!

 

TIP: Are you underpaid or 'overtitled'?

via CNNMoney - If you think your salary's unfair, consider this before you demand a raise: It's more likely you have a job title fancier than you deserve... that is, given a fancier title than actual job description merits.

"Over-titling" was a common practice in the tough financial climate of the past few years when, Coleman says, "many people were offered trumped-up job titles in lieu of salary increases. As a result, their actual experience level and value to the company may not be on a par with the salary they expect based on their title."

Indeed, when Salary.com compared employees' job descriptions (not necessarily their titles) with what they currently earn, 30% were found to be "overtitled," while nearly 35% were earning about what they'd be worth on the open market, and 20% were overpaid relative to what they could make elsewhere. Only 15% were actually underpaid.

Obviously, this can make it hard to figure out how much of a raise you could get by changing jobs. If, for example, you recently got bumped up to assistant vice president but without any increase in your real-life responsibilities, you'll get a distorted view of your market value unless you focus your search on jobs whose descriptions match what you actually do, rather than on those whose titles include the words "assistant vice president".

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

Your Turn!

 

TIP: If you get the dreaded audit letter from IRS

via WSJ - It's the taxpayer's nightmare: Duking it out with the tax man. The Internal Revenue Service has stepped up its attempts to rake in more overdue taxes, and it isn't being shy about auditing more people and clamping down more frequently with tactics such as levies and even asset seizures when it thinks someone needs to cough up more money. IRS officials have particularly zeroed in on individuals making $100,000 and above. Last year, more than 219,000 people with incomes in that group were hit with an audit, up about 32% from the previous year...

With the IRS intensifying its crackdown, growing numbers of Americans could soon be facing a tough decision: Whether to fight back, or simply cry uncle and cut a check. While the notion of fighting the IRS strikes dread into the hearts of citizens everywhere, the fact is that many people actually stand to benefit by doing battle with Goliath. There's an array of options, ranging from a simple appeals process to taking the tax man to court...

The first step in deciding whether to fight an IRS challenge is to do a quick cost-benefit analysis. Among the key factors: How much money is at stake, how good your records are, how confident you are of winning, how complex the issue is -- and, if you need to hire a tax expert, how much that will cost... One piece of advice: Never sign a joint return if you suspect your spouse is breaking the law. Instead, consider filing separately. Because once you sign a return, you're generally on the hook if something goes wrong later, unless you can show you were an "innocent spouse" -- which can include proving that you didn't know, and had no reason to know, about any tax shenanigans. These cases are tough to win.

Whatever the case, if you get an IRS letter challenging something on your return and asking for information, "the worst thing you can do is to ignore it" and hope the issue will disappear... Once you respond, if the agency won't budge or seems to ignore your point, consider asking to speak to the auditor's supervisor, Mr. Dougherty says. If that doesn't work, consider other paths, such as:

  • APPEALS: This is an IRS unit where issues may be resolved by correspondence, phone or in person. Taxpayers who want a face-to-face meeting can get one, the IRS says... The IRS appeals office receives about 100,000 cases a year, and roughly 80% are resolved, says Bruce Friedland, an IRS spokesman.
  • IRS TAXPAYER ADVOCATE SERVICE: This is a good place to consider going if you've already tried regular IRS channels and feel that you are stuck in the bureaucracy... Even though it may seem counterintuitive to seek relief from the IRS itself, the "TAS" unit has drawn widespread praise from tax professionals for its independence and willingness to help taxpayers. In the year ended Sept. 30, taxpayer-advocate offices around the nation received roughly 200,000 cases...
  • TAKING IT TO THE COURTS: Most people choose the U.S. Tax Court (www.ustaxcourt.gov3) since you don't have to pay the contested tax up front in order to have your case heard... Some people prefer going to federal district court or the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (www.uscfc.uscourts.gov4) because they think their chances are better there. But these courts generally will hear tax cases only after you've already paid the tax and filed a refund claim with the IRS... If you do go to court, remember that your case and, potentially, sensitive financial details become a matter of public record..

WHEN YOU CAN'T PAY: If you're facing major financial woes, you have a few choices. You can ask the IRS to let you pay on an installment plan. Or, if you're in such dire financial straits that you can't pay everything you owe, consider asking the agency to compromise...

Don't even think of challenging the IRS if you plan to argue that paying taxes somehow is voluntary, or that wages aren't really income. Courts have consistently rejected these and other arguments. Some people who tried have been hit with fines of as much as $25,000. As surprising as it may seem, there is a small but highly vocal number of people who have been trying it, the IRS says. In fact, so many people have tried things like this that the IRS has compiled a list of dumb arguments you shouldn't even bother with. To study up, go to the IRS Web site and type "frivolous" in the search box.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

Your Turn!

 

TIP: When a shortcut falls short

The meltdown at MassMutual Financial Group -- did it all happen because a woman fell into the trap of taking on that special role of Business Wife..., Speech Writer Jane Genova asked. ...Susan Alfano, MassMutual's top female executive was also the chief executive officer's confidant and support system. Was there romance involved? That hasn't been proved. But, that's really not relevant. What is relevant is that a woman got caught up in emotional hanky-panky. And, from my experience coaching and writing for senior executives, that always leads to trouble -- for everyone and the organization.

Call it The Special Relationship Brand.

Flattered by the invitation (usually implicit) to become a "real" insider and not stupid about the potential career opportunity involved, the woman assumes the identity the power-that-is wants her to have... Needless to say in the process, the female Zelig loses grip on her own identity. And probably also her confidence that she can get anything on her own. Colleagues notice The Special Relationship Brand getting promotions and perks... Resentment could explode in the form of some kind of whistle-blowing. Or, the end might come as it did at MassMutual with Special Relationship Brand's being forced out. Or, the even more common scenario, the organization folds, the woman doesn't have the up-to-date skills, confidence and contacts (hey, who doesn't know what when on or was assumed to have gone on) to land on her feet somewhere else...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

Your Turn!

 

TIP: Keep your cash flowing

As long as you have sales, cash will flow, and as long as cash flows, Guy Kawasaki blogged, (a) you will have the time to fix your team, your technology, and your marketing; (b) the press won't be able to say much because customers are pouring money into your coffers; and (c) your investors will leave you alone because (i) they will focus on companies with weaker sales and (ii) they won't want to jinx your success.

You can blow all the smoke that you like about brand awareness, corporate image, and feedback from early adopters, but you either make it rain or you don't... here is the art of rainmaking

  • "Let a hundred flowers blossom." ...the dictum (from Chairman Mao) means that you sow seeds in many markets, see what takes root, and harvest what blooms...
  • See the gorilla... Daniel J. Simons of the University of Illinois and Christoper E. Chabris of Harvard University ran an experiment in which they asked students to watch two teams of players throwing basketballs. The students were told to count how many times one team passed the basketball to their own teammates. Thirty-five seconds into the video, an actor dressed as a gorilla entered the room, thumped on his chest, and remained in the room for another nine seconds. Fifty percent of the students did not notice the gorilla! If you want to make it rain, you have to see the gorilla markets in the mist, so to speak. Decades ago Univac was a leader in computers, but it believed that the market for computers was scientists; it did not see that the gorilla market for computers was business people. That's why everyone knows who IBM is and few people remember Univac.
  • "Sell," don't enable "buying." For example, these days an iPod is bought: people walk into the Apple store intending to buy it. By contrast, much to my continued disappointment, a Macintosh is still sold: the hardworking Apple store employee has to convince people that a Macintosh is fast, safe, easy-to-use, and runs the software that they need...
  • Find the key influencers. The higher you go in most organizations, the thinner the air. The thinner the air, the more difficult it is to find intelligent life... don't go after the biggest titles. Instead, go after the key influencers. They have humbler titles like "secretary," "administrative aide," "database administrator," or "customer service manager." They usually do the real work, so they know what products and services are needed, and the CXOs ask them for their recommendations. The logical question is now, "How do you find the key influencers?" The answer is that you ask people at the company to answer this simple question, "When there are problems, who does everyone go to at this organization?"
  • Go after "agnostics," not "atheists." Ahh, the reference account: big, rich, and prestigious. It is the high-hanging fruit that every rainmaker dreams of picking because closing this sale brings credibility to the organization and makes every sale thereafter easier... By definition, reference accounts are already successful, and therefore probably fat, dumb, and happy. They are the least likely to try something new and different. Sure, give them your best shot--once. But then cut your losses and move on to the "agnostics." In the mid-eighties, the atheists denied the Macintosh religion, and they refused to convert to the Mac. The agnostics--people who had never used a personal computer before--were the rich and fertile market for Apple.
  • Make prospects talk. If prospects are open to buying your product or service, they will usually tell you what it will take to close them... Most salespeople can't do this because (a) they're not prepared to ask good questions; (b) they're too stupid to shut up; and (c) they don't know their product or service well enough to know whether it can in fact fill these needs. When it comes to rainmaking, there's clearly a reason why God gave us two ears but only one mouth.
  • Provide a safe, easy first step. Unfortunately, "unsuccessful rainmakers" (an oxymoron?) make it hard for prospective customers to adopt their products or services. I've been guilty of it myself--for example, asking Fortune 500 companies to throw out all their MS-DOS machines in favor of a new IT infrastructure based on Macintoshes. What can I say? I was young then... If your prospects have to jump through loops to adopt your product or service, then your must convince them that doing so is worth the effort.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

Your Turn!

 

TIP: When the decision gets tough - sleep on it

via NYTimes - Snap judgments about people and places can be remarkably accurate, and there is no substitute for simple logic and reflection in determining questions like which alarm clock or cellphone is the best value.

But many more important decisions - choosing the right apartment, the optimal house, the best vacation - turn on such a bewildering swarm of facts that people often throw up their hands and put the whole thing temporarily out of mind. And new research suggests that this may be a rewarding strategy.

In a series of experiments reported last week in the journal Science, a team of Dutch psychologists found that people struggling to make complex decisions did best when they were distracted and were not able to think consciously about the choice at all.

The research not only backs up the common advice to "sleep on it" when facing difficult choices, but it also suggests that the unconscious brain can actively reason as well as produce weird dreams and Freudian slips... Psychologists have known for years that people process an enormous amount of information unconsciously - for example, when they hear their names pop up in a conversation across the room that they were not consciously listening to. But the new report suggests that people take this wealth of under-the-radar information, combine it with deliberately studied facts and impressions and then make astute judgments that they would not otherwise form.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness

Your Turn!

 

TIP: First, discover your strengths

via Wharton - ...According to Buckingham, the best managers share one talent -- the ability to find, and then capitalize upon, their employees' unique traits. "The guiding principle is, 'How can I take this person's talent and turn it into performance?' That's the only way success is possible."... Bad managers play checkers. Good managers play chess. The good manager knows that not all employees work the same way. They know if they are to achieve success, they must put their employees in a position where they will be able to use their strengths. "Great managers know they don't have 10 salespeople working for them. They know they have 10 individuals working for them .... A great manager is brilliant at spotting the unique differences that separate each person and then capitalizing on them." ...

(the world at large) is obsessed with weaknesses and finding ways to fix them. Buckingham cited a recent poll that asked workers whether they felt they could achieve more success through improving on their weaknesses or building on their strengths. Fifty-nine percent picked the former. "A great manager sees the folly in this," said Buckingham, who has interviewed some of the business world's most successful leaders for his books. "A great manager knows he or she will get the most return on investment by working on strengths." ..."Most people are not using their talent at work at all," Buckingham said. So how can managers tap into the talent they have in their organizations? Buckingham said a good first step is to determine what employees are good at. The tasks they learn quickly, the talents they naturally exhibit and the jobs they feel good about doing are hints about their inherent strengths. Once those strengths are uncovered, a good manager will put them to use. "You can only win as a company when you get your people into positive numbers," Buckingham said.

Managing employees successfully is a rare talent. Even rarer, Buckingham said, is the ability to lead. And all good managers are not necessarily good leaders. "I do think there is a rather keen and distinct difference between managing and leading," Buckingham said. The chief responsibility of a leader, for example, "is to rally people for a better future. If you are a leader, you better be unflinchingly, unfailingly optimistic. No matter how bleak his or her mood, nothing can undermine a leader's belief that things can get better, and must get better. I believe you either bring this to the table or you don't." Along with that optimism, great leaders can also bring big egos -- and that's not a bad thing... "If you are going to lead, you better have a deep-seated belief that you should be at the helm, dragging everyone into that better future," he said. "Virtually nothing about a leader is humble. I'm not saying they are arrogant, but their claims are big." Buckingham said successful leaders must find a "universal truth" to rally their followers. These universal truths stem from the basic human needs, fears and desires that unite all people, across all cultures. They also happen to be great tools for leadership.

Take, for example, one of the great human fears -- fear of the future. "We all share a fear of the unknown," Buckingham said. "The problem for the modern-day leader, of course, is that you traffic in the future." Buckingham says some the best leaders can overcome this fear -- and build confidence among their followers -- with a weapon of their own: clarity.... "The best way to turn anxiety into confidence is this: Be clear. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear." Former New York City Mayor Giuliani provided a good example of effective leadership through clarity, Buckingham said. When Giuliani took office in 1993, he could have turned his attentions just about anywhere; America's largest city certainly had its share of problems. But Giuliani set one specific, clear and focused goal for his administration. He would reduce crime and improve quality of life for residents. Then he laid out three simple ways he was going to start making that happen: He announced he would get rid of the window washers who pestered New York City drivers; clean subways of graffiti and then keep the vandals away; and make all cab drivers wear collared shirts. The issues were, on their surface, minor. But they were relevant to his citizens. And by setting three immediate goals -- and then achieving them -- Giuliani was able to build trust among residents and respect among his workers. That trust carried over as he tackled larger challenges, and within a few years of his arrival, the FBI named New York the safest big city in America. "You can do a lot worse than pick just a few areas you want to take action on right now," Buckingham said... "When you want to lead, start with the future." Buckingham said. "Get specific. And get vivid."

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness

Your Turn!

 

TIP: Dance your way to a stronger relationship

via Oprah - The best way to seduce a man the first time is to let him know you're interested-but not easy-with the word maybe. Maybe you should get together, maybe you'll have a drink with him, maybe you'd like to see his place. There's enough yes in maybe to keep a man from feeling rejected and enough no to keep him challenged.

If it's a long-term relationship, the approach is different, but you'll do well if you still think of it as a dance. Get him to snuggle, kiss, and play but once you are there, let him take the lead. Whether it's a date or your 30th anniversary, a man likes to think it's his idea.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Opportunity vs Trap

Your Turn!

 

MISC: So, you've got the job.

Wait, you are not of the hook yet, according to a recent study by Leadership IQ. 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months... contrary to popular belief, technical skills are not the primary reason why new hires fail; instead, poor interpersonal skills dominate the list, flaws which many of their managers admit were overlooked during the interview process. The study found that 26% of new hires fail because they can't accept feedback, 23% because they're unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills...

While the failure rate for new hires is distressing, it should not be surprising: 82% of managers reported that in hindsight, their interview process with these employees elicited subtle clues that they would be headed for trouble. But during the interviews, managers were too focused on other issues, too pressed for time, or lacked confidence in their interviewing abilities to heed the warning signs. "The typical interview process fixates on ensuring that new hires are technically competent," explains Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ. "But coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament are much more predictive of a new hires' success or failure. Do technical skills really matter if the employee isn't open to improving, alienates their coworkers, lacks drive and has the wrong personality for the job?"...

The following are the top areas of failure, matched with the percentage of respondents.

  • Coachability (26%): The ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others.
  • Emotional Intelligence (23%): The ability to understand and manage one's own emotions, and accurately assess others' emotions.
  • Motivation (17%): Sufficient drive to achieve one's full potential and excel in the job.
  • Temperament (15%): Attitude and personality suited to the particular job and work environment.
  • Technical Competence (11%): Functional or technical skills required to do the job...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

Your Turn!

 

TIP: Ways to Watch Your Financial Weight

via WSJ - Want to get a better grip on your investment portfolio and your overall finances? Try doing the splits. Your goal: To divvy up your money in a slew of different ways, so you look at your financial life from a variety of angles. To that end, try these 10 simple calculations.
  • Stocks vs. Bonds. Start by figuring out your portfolio's basic split between stocks and more conservative investments, like bonds, money-market funds and certificates of deposit. This is the biggest driver of your portfolio's risk and return...
  • Taxable vs. Tax-Sheltered. Next, calculate how much you have in your regular taxable account and how much in tax-sheltered accounts, such as 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts and Roth IRAs... if you spend your Roth's investment earnings or you pull money out of any other type of retirement account, you could get slapped with income taxes and tax penalties.
  • U.S. vs. Foreign. ...A decent helping of foreign stocks is critical to a well-diversified portfolio, so I would aim to have 25% or 30% abroad...Consider 2005. Sure, both U.S. and foreign stocks climbed. But there was a huge disparity in performance, with the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index up just 4.9%, while Morgan Stanley Capital International's Europe, Australasia and Far East index leapt 13.5%.
  • Large vs. Small. ...Three-quarters of the U.S. market is accounted for by the big blue-chip stocks in the S&P 500, with smaller companies accounting for the other quarter... If you're an investment junkie, also diversify your foreign stocks. Begin with a core position in a foreign fund that owns large companies in developed markets. Next, tack on exposure to small stocks, through an international small-cap fund, and small markets, through an emerging-markets fund.
  • Growth vs. Value. ...You really want to own both types of stocks. My advice: Purchase a total-market-index fund. That will give you exposure to all U.S. stocks -- large, small, growth and value -- in a single mutual fund.
  • Active vs. Indexed. When you invest, there isn't just the risk you will lose money. There's also a chance the markets will roar ahead -- and your investments will be left behind. To gauge your "active risk," tote up your holdings of actively managed mutual funds and individual stocks and bonds. Want to reduce the risk of market-lagging performance? Stash more of your portfolio in index funds, thus locking in the performance of the underlying markets.
  • Financial vs. Real. Financial assets, like stocks and bonds, offer a low-cost, convenient way to build wealth over the long run. But these investments will likely suffer steep short-term losses if inflation takes off. In that scenario, however, you should see decent gains from real assets like gold, commodities and real estate. Inflation-indexed bonds, while technically a financial asset, would also fare well. The lesson: While conventional stocks and bonds should be your core investment, consider buying yourself some inflation protection by allocating a little money to real assets.
  • Assets vs. Liabilities. Add up the value of your home and all your investments, and then compare that to your total debts, including your mortgage, student loans, credit-card balances and auto loans...

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

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