Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Worst Case Scenario for Bonds

There are two bubbles in the world of securities currently.  Many of you have already heard about the "bubble" in Treasury (long-term) bonds, spanning more than two decades.  Despite U.S. 10 year, T-note yields being at levels (2%) not seen since the 1940's, people and countries keep buying them.  Expert economist, Robert J. Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance, is coming out with a third edition adding an entire chapter to the current bond situation.  We know one thing for sure, The Fed has ceased their bond buying program (Q.E.), leaving only institutions, individuals, and nations to continue bidding up bond prices.

No one knows if The Fed will do as Yellen claims and progressively raise the Fed Funds rate, the interest rate that banks use to lend to each other.  A scenario where The Fed has to raise rates (to keep up with inflation) more aggressively could take shape.  It's not an impossible reality.  In this environment, holders of bonds with shorter maturities will benefit the most.  The consensus is for the status quo (demand for the Treasury holding and a progressive rate-hike by The Fed) to continue, however.  Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P) for the third quarter of 2014 was upwardly revised to 5%.  That's quite an acceleration in economic growth.  Is this result an outlier?  Let's hope so for the sake of all status quo believers.

Money magazine's 2015 January-February edition had an excellent article on the bond market: How 2% explains the world.  The article shared why we can expect a slow growth environment, with bond yields rising ever so slowly, for years to come.  Why?  The economies of Europe and Japan, badly in need of economic spurring, will keep their own long-term bond yields low with Quantitive Easing of their own.

"The 10-year German government bond, for example, yields only 0.6%.  That essentially exports low rates to the U.S., as foreign investors buy up Treasuries. " --author, Pat Regnier.

"Our 2% or 3% looks cheap next to Japan and Europe." --Elaine Stokes, co-manager of Loomis Sayles Bond.  Also cited in this article.

If you own bonds individually, and look to hold them to maturity, none of this (fluctuations in rates) really matters.  You'll get your capital back in the end.  However, if you own a bond mutual or exchange-traded fund..."sharp movements in rates can translate into significant capital gains or losses," said Regnier.

If you don't subscribe to Money Magazine, and are looking to up your financial literacy, you should consider signing-up.  This magazine is great for beginners.  There's an Amazon link on my left sidebar that you can click to purchase a subscription.

Worst Case Scenario for Treasuries

The worst case scenario for long-term bonds, stocks, the world in general is a sudden, panicked, shift in demand for our 10-year Treasury.  What would cause people to frantically sell their treasuries and yank out the 90+ trillion dollars currently held in the bond market?

U.S. Debt!  Washington's debt recently crashed past the 100% threshold of GDP.  Our debt is at 17+ trillion dollars and rising, not factoring in state and household debt.  If these two other factors are added, our total debt is upward of 62 trillion dollars, some 380% of GDP!  Even more worrisome, unfunded liabilities like Medicare are not included in these stats.

I wouldn't believe the chart below.  We are way past 100% fed debt/GDP!

Daily Wealth

Can we count on our politicians to address our debt problem?  I'll leave this question for you to answer.

This whole situation can best be described as a powder keg.  But what will or can light the match?

Well so far, the U.S. has been able to fund its ballooning debt by selling treasuries.  The U.S. government then uses the proceeds to pay its bills.

What if the U.S. lost all of its buyers?  Can that really happen?  We have a broke government with a spending problem, and you can imagine the often used metaphor of not being discovered in the nude until the tide recedes.  Is the 10-year Treasury (everyone's benchmark as the risk-free rate of return) truly "risk-free," as they are advertised?

Increasing demand for the 10-Year T-Note has caused yields to plummet.  Decreasing demand will cause the reverse, similar to the pattern seen from 1962-1982.

From 1962-1982, 10-year US bond yields rose some 300%!  When the current bond bubble finally busts, will we see it happening and have time to adjust or will it happen much like the 2008 credit crisis that left all of us with our pants down?

Imagine trying to finance purchases (your home, a car, etc.) at pre-1986 rates?  We've had it good for a long time!  Don't worry, the whole world is in debt practically.  Debt runs the world! the core of all of this debt is the U.S. Treasury, the world's benchmark.

In 2011, Bill Gross of PIMCO, known as the world's smartest bond investor, turned away from treasuries altogether, leaving the Total Return Fund he managed with $0 in just nine months time.  At one point, the fund held $147+ billion in treasuries.  The move proved untimely and devastating.  U.S. treasuries (prices) have gained through 2014.  He was convinced the U.S. is already in default and that it cannot pay back its debt.  Indeed, many share his sentiment, including myself.

Are T-note investors paying too much, bearing more risk then they are aware of, for such a paltry return?  The smart money has been slowly leaving the long-term duration bond in favor of shorter term duration, and equities.  This is why 2014 was a successful year for stock market investors.  Only there are many individuals still holding on to their 10-year T-Notes, just keeping up with inflation at 1.8%.  Retirees, pensions, millennials, generation x'ers, etc., with long-term duration bond allocations/exposure (in mutual or exchange-traded funds) will lose money when interest rates begin to rise.

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.--Warren Buffett

The worst case scenario for the bond market is a loss of confidence in the U.S.  If China, Japan, England, any sovereign nation for that matter, flee treasuries, for reasons that could include, fear of default and the U.S. recovery being more speedy than expected, many will be left standing naked when the tide recedes.  The U.S. government would have to make haste in raising yields to be able to continue selling treasuries to finance our debt.  Don't count on any manipulation.  Whereas The Fed controls the Fed Funds rate, and yields on short-terms, the bond market itself is responsible for rates on the T-note.

Did you know?

Eight times a year, the Treasury Department holds an auction for U.S. treasuries.  Who participates?  Nations like China, Japan, etc., big banks, and Wall Street institutions.  Again, soaring demand has bid up prices, and the U.S. government has gotten away with being able to pay low interest rates.  As of today, there is no problem, finding buyers, that is.  But what if...?

China quietly sold off $136 billion worth in treasuries it owned in a nine month period.  FPC State  Great Britain reduced its stake from $347 to $244 billion.

A bad announcement would be the fuse that lights the powder keg in the Treasury bond bubble.  A just-released announcement, after all, is what the masses react to in any market.

What if the major players who show up to one of the eight upcoming auctions decide not to buy the Treasury, seeing asking prices as being too high?  What then would ensue?  A "just-released" announcement, of course!  The failure to attract any buyer would publish to the world in minutes, causing Treasury interest rates to suddenly spike and prices to fall...a chain reaction sell-off.  The world's "safest" investment would become the "riskiest" in this bust scenario.

What can you do?

Get out of long term and get into short term maturity bonds, for starters.  I have started a position in Pro-Shares Ultra Short 20+ Year Treasury (TBT), and will continue to slowly build on my position.  By the way, this ETF has returned -37% YTD!  This is great; only a floor remains (it may be there already) before the upside begins!

Sophisticated investors may want to consider Float Funds.  These funds represent a very small, niche, market and offer investors dividends in any type of rising interest rate scenario (slow or fast).  With any investment, there are risks, and of course, these Float Fund investments are not any different.  So consult with your financial advisor.

At the start of this post I mentioned there being two current bubbles in the world of securities.  The other "bubble" I feel exists is with the Total Stock Market Index fund.  Look for my next post to read why this asset class for me is neither safe nor of any special quality.

Don't forget to subscribe to this blog on the left sidebar.  Thanks for reading!  Hasta luego!  @COsvaGomez.  Like my FB page.  Share on social media.  Help an "ese" out!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

How Your Experiences Affect Your Investor Psychology

The first emotion that serves to undermine investors' efforts is the desire for money, especially as it morphs into greed." --Howard Marks, The Most Important Thing Illuminated

When I look back at the year that was 2014 I can't help being satisfied with all I've been able to accomplish.  I set out in January, as I will again in a few days, with the same financial goal: to make it the most prosperous year of my life.  2014 has indeed been my most prosperous year.  I've made many sound investing decisions and multiple connections with businesses.  I've also expanded my network, and grew my brand.

However, I don't evaluate my life with how I've helped myself gain personal or social capital.  I like to be able to recall at least a handful of instances where I helped someone in need OR did the "right" thing.  First, although I help troubled students and their desperate guardians on a weekly basis at school, I don't consider any of these moments of my own, per se.  They belong to my employer.  I get paid a salary as compensation for providing great "customer" service.

In 2013, my most memorable moment came when a woman carrying a child into a Panda Express dropped a $20 and didn't notice.  I was in the lot, getting out of my car, and saw the bill fall to the pavement as the woman extended with her available arm to grab the restaurant's door.  Jessica and I were going to have lunch there, and instead of waiting for her so we could walk in together, I rushed to the free money on the floor.

I'm so glad I didn't hesitate.  Though I wouldn't blame someone if they did stall a few seconds before deciding on the right thing to do.  I've worked with teenagers that would have kept the money knowing the owner, walked into the restaurant, seen the woman completely mortified at the register, and used the found cash to pay for their own food.  There are adults too, unfortunately, that would behave this way.  Inside the Panda Express I saw the woman ordering her meal, walked up to her, and said,

"Mam, you dropped this outside."  The look on her face was a mix of surprise and confusion.  With her little girl still in her arms she said,

"Thank-you so much.  I didn't bring anything else to pay for our food."

Jessica then walks into the restaurant, finds me in line and says,

"What happened?  Why'd you walk inside so quickly?"

I said, "Oh nothing, that woman just dropped something on the floor and I returned it to her."

I made a lot of money, wrote an E-book, etc... in 2013, but this is the most vivid memory I keep of that year.

Credit for Pic
This year my most memorable moment came when on a drive out to Chili's for lunch, I noticed something not right from the corner of my eye.  Have you ever seen something that just didn't look and feel right?  Well, something went off for me and I slowed our Nissan Rogue to a stop.  Jessica said, "What's wrong?  We're in the middle of the street."  I looked in the rear view mirror for cars, and luckily none were behind me so I put the vehicle in reverse.  When I got to the end of the sidewalk, on a curb, there he was, a feeble old man.  I put the car's hazard lights on, and said to Jessica, "That man outside your window has fallen and he can't get up."

Who knows how long he'd been there struggling.  He was upright on the curb so from appearances someone could've perceived him to be resting.  I got out, making sure it was safe to do so, and ran to him.  Jessica opened her door and stood just outside the car, keeping a close eye on Rehani and Ajani, yet within reach if help was needed.  I got to the gentleman.

"Sir, it looks like you need help.  Can I help you?"  I said.

He said, "Uh, yes, I fell on my knees but was able to take a seat right here on this curb."

I got him to his feet very easily.  He probably weighed less than 120 pounds, standing at around 5'8''.  Holding his arm so he didn't fall again from the rush of blood to his legs, I said,

"Where do you live?"

He said, "Oh, not too far from here.  I didn't tell my daughter I was going to the store."

There's a shopping center nearby we frequent ourselves.  The community he lived in is about half a mile from our home, made up of many condominiums and apartment complexes.

I walked him to where Jessica was and said, "I gotta take this gentleman to his house."  Not giving it a second thought, Jessica said, "Let's put him inside.  I'll just wait here while you do that."  Parents will attest that even in an SUV, there is not much you can put in between two toddler car seats.  So we helped this gentleman climb onto the passenger seat, strapped him in, and I headed out, following his direction.

We got to his condo, a little under a quarter mile from where we were before, and parked.  I helped him out.

"Can you walk?" I said.

He said, "Yeah, I'm just right here," pointing to the front door of his place.

I walked beside him anyway, spotting him.  Seeing him walk so gingerly, carefully measuring each step, I thought, Why would he ever think he could walk so far from home on his own?  Of course, people, no matter the age, make terrible decisions all of the time.  He took out his house key, struggled with it on the lock for a few seconds, opened the door, and said, "Thank-you."  I said, "No problem, sir.  You take care."  I got in the Rogue and drove back to Jessica.

Jessica's first question once we were reunited was, "How did you see him down there?"  We were making a left turn when I first spotted him.  Before starting the turn at my stop, I'd looked left for oncoming traffic, right, for traffic on the lane I would be merging onto, and then left again to confirm I had enough time to begin.  When turning left, one is essentially narrowing their vantage point (angle) on what's in front and to the right, while gaining view on everything to one's left.  Jessica on my right, and the cars parked along the street, would've blocked my view of the man even more.

I said, "I'm not sure.  Maybe it was my grandpa."

"Your grandpa?" Jessica said, confused.

"Yes.  I believe it was my grandpa who gave me the eyes to see him."

My grandfather, Jose Gomez, died about eight years ago.  He met his demise from a fall out on his backyard.  The fall itself didn't kill him, obviously.  It was his inability at his age to get up from the ground.  He yelled for help, but no one heard him for some time.  My grandmother, Luz, was napping.  It wasn't exactly the hottest month of the year in Chihuahua, Mexico, but it was hot enough out there for my grandfather to start succumbing to exposure.

My grandmother would be eventually roused by the screams: "Luz!...Luz!"

She too was too weak to help him rise.  She had to make a phone call to a friend who then sent from her home a strapping man to my grandma's door.  As my father, Carlos Sr., would later tell me, this young man easily lifted my grandfather from the dry ground and took him inside.  Once inside the cooler adobe, and on his bed, my grandfather went into cardiac arrest.  Even with Uncle Ruben, an anesthesiologist, there at his side by this time to administer CPR, Grandpa Jose would not wake from his heat induced sleep.

I felt guilty.  I felt bad about not having been there to help grandpa during his time of need.  You see, I like to believe we shared a special bond.  I was his first grandson.  I spent more time around him as a child than I did around my own father, until we left Mexico for the U.S.  The bond was weakened and broken by distance.  But the love I had for him was not.  In January, I wrote two pieces to celebrate the memory of my Abuelo Jose.  One, a short story, was first runner-up in a contest: The Freight Train.  The other piece, a poem, was published in my latest E-book: The Scars Have Names.  I am sharing it with you below:

The Day I Lost A Great Man

The day I lost a great man
I thought back of that crank handle, grinding maize
of the time you swung my tiny arm like a fan
of following your every move and that mysterious gaze

you shared with the sun
below the tarp of your sombrero, we crossed
the lands your forefathers toiled where I spun
the string of my spinning top and tossed

the lasso of my childhood innocence.
Abuelo, I lament your passing grace
on your back looking up, your Pecan tense
wishing its limbs and leaves could cover your disgrace.

The youthful arms that finally lifted you
from the desiccate Chihuahuan soil were not mine
but I imagine they were strong like the hue
of my memories, of that sublime

time I spent ignoring the infernal heat
enjoying your stories of a time long past
when men stood their ground and wouldn't retreat.
Of that final breath of life their noble lives made last.

On Investor Psychology

As you can see by now, this post has had very little to do with financial literacy, money, stock tips, etc.  But it has had everything to do with human literacy.  It has many parallels with the one aspect of investing that determines whether you will be successful or not long term: your psychological profile.

Knowing who you are, and how you react under certain circumstances, trumps everything you could have possibly learned in books about investing.  Having done the right analysis on an investment means absolutely nothing if you can't carry out the right decisions objectively.  In his book, The Most Important Thing Illuminated, Howard Marks talks specifically about the metaphorical oscillating pendulum that swings between greed and fear, euphoria and depression, and so on.  Mr. Marks makes it very clear that the pendulum spends most of its time moving to either extreme and the least amount of time hanging in the middle.  Your decision making ability also swings from optimal to outright destructive.  Your life experiences, therefore, especially those that tested your character, integrity, and response, are the teachable moments of your investing psychology.

2014 for me was great, not because of what I accomplished on a personal level, but because I have this moment to always remember.  I know Grandpa Jose had a part in it and I am very thankful.

We all have opportunities to safely intervene and help others.  Indeed, many of us do.  And this is what makes humans awesome, not being glorified by their money performances, but rather by doing great things without the expectation of compensation or recognition.  Just because we can.  Investing to make money should come second to investing to make your life meaningful.  Keep this always in mind and I have no doubt you will come out ahead!

I hope you had a memorable 2014 of your own!  Thanks for reading. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

My Worst Trades And Their 4 Key Lessons

I used every single one of the 100 free trades my Wells Fargo Brokerage account provides.  That is a lot of trading for an investor.  I'll be the first to admit that I traded way too many times in 2014.  My results?  See my Historical Performance & Realized Gains/(Losses) below:

I'll have to write a post about my historical performance sometime in the near future.  I'm sure you will all like to know what the heck I was doing in 2011.  14.6% since 2011.  Better to have been in an index fund?

Brokerage (Taxable) Account.  "Detail+" = shares bought (second column) & sold (third column) in varying amounts on different dates.  I ran out of free trades early in December of this year.  The counter resets at the end of the month.

1.  Don't be a forced seller!  The forced seller of the year award goes to:

This lesson is about making sure you arrange your affairs so that you don't sell your shares forcibly at someone else's price.  That's what happened to me.  I bought shares of Ford (F) early in 2014 despite having a plan to purchase my third rental property sometime in April.  The deal ultimately fell through due to a low appraisal, see: Appraisals-matter.   I thought: I have enough time to make more money.  I'll buy these Ford stock shares here and sell them at the next opportunity (once I was in the green at least 3%).  That opportunity never materialized.  I held onto the shares all the way until the Loan Officer called to tell me: "It's time to liquidate...the Underwriter will want to see your checking account have the necessary funds to make the down payment and closing costs."

2.  Real Estate Investing and Stock Market Investing Don't Mix!

Loan Officers can't guarantee that the Underwriter will approve your loan application for full funding.  Loan Officers can't guarantee that the independent appraisal will come in at or near the sales price to make the deal work.  Don't you just hate that?  I strongly recommend that if you intend on using stock to fund a real estate deal, that you liquidate shares and place the cash in a Money Market account until the deal closes or fails to close.  Why?  So you're not like me and get tempted to make one last "investment."  If the RE deal falls apart then you have a decision to make: Try another lead/deal or let it be, placing the cash back in your taxable account for trading purposes again.

*I did indeed find another deal, but not before the first one cost me $886 and two months of dead time in the market.  I purchased my third rental in June, using $25K for the down payment and closing costs.  This left my Brokerage account with less that $5K to work with for the remainder of 2014.  I only "realized" $445 in profits and my year to date (YTD) return is 7.5%, well below the S & P's return thus far, 12%.  I do, however, have other winners in my portfolio currently that I could sell, and I would too if I were a fund manager.  Then I could pad my results.  Thankfully, I have better sense and ethics.

Investing in a tax free retirement account:  See: A-comparison-of-retirement-accounts for more info on retirement accounts.

Retirement Account (Roth IRA).  I also get 100 free trades with this account and have yet to use them all.  Some people buy tangible RE in their self-directed IRA, but this is a more intricate process with must heed tax restrictions.

I had the makings of a solid decision with Target (TGT), buying the shares right after their worst time in history as a publicly traded company: The Target data breach of Thanksgiving 2013.  Here you have a clear example of a panic job.  I knew the shares would rebound and that the company would not go bust, but I let the talking heads discourage my ownership of the shares.  Do you remember all that talk of Target having seriously injured its relationship with customers whose information was stolen?  It went on and on.  And of course the stock price fell further.  Instead of sticking with my conviction of the shares coming back inevitably, and buying more of them, I panicked and sold low.  How are the shares doing today?  First, they hit a low of $54.66 on 2/5/14, less then fifteen days after I sold.  I must have felt vindicated (limiting my losses) at the time.  Mr. Market made a fool out of me though.  The bull continued to charge and now the stock is at $73.69!

I admit, I was spooked.  I thought: Maybe there is no recovering from this data breach.  These guys on television keep saying TGT is losing its customer base and new customers are too scared to shop there.  Lessons to be learned: 3) Don't listen to the talking heads.  4) Unless a company is burning cash and can't cover its debt any longer, don't give up on a great company that gets mis-priced as a result of a fixable mistake versus a core business one.  What should I have done?  Bought more shares of course, all the way down to its low in early February.

*My YTD return for my Roth IRA is only 5.3%, and my net profits as you can see above, were only $1,299.  Below are my historical returns.

Yeah, 2011 was interesting.   16.8% since 2011.  Better to have been in an index fund?  

Thanks for reading!  

Friday, December 19, 2014

How Baseball Relates to The Stock Market

"Take me out to the ball game...Just buy me some peanuts (Kraft-KRFT) and Cracker Jack (PepsiCo-PEP)...

Believe it or not, the game of baseball and trading/investing in stocks have many similarities.  I'm a baseball fan.  My favorite team is the Oakland Athletics.  Growing up in San Jose, CA, I could've been a Giants fan.  But the Bash Brothers (Canseco and McGwire) were too exciting to miss on television.  Best part of watching baseball, is watching baseball with your father.  My dad and I saw many games together sitting in the living room of the duplex he and mom rented.  We even went to the Coliseum a few times.  I looked forward to eating my "dollar hot-dog" from the nosebleed sections; the only tickets we could afford to buy were in the rows with the birds and the broke.  The experience was ultimately the only thing that mattered.  I miss those days...

I have taken to comparing the duel between pitcher and batter with known investing elements when buying and selling a stock.  Are you ready to play ball?  You shall soon see.

Batter: You
Pitching: The Market
Stock Market Investing
1. Walk to the plate 2. Stand ready & wait for the pitch 3. The pitch 4. The swing 5. Hear if contact is made 6. See if the ball is in play 7. Decide to run 8. Make it safely to a base on the field  
Doesn’t care if you’re Ted Williams on steroids with bionic eyes and limbs and the patience of a Zen master.
Use both fundamental & technical analysis to value a company’s stock = your bat, bat speed, eyesight, experience, etc.  The price of the stock, readily available to you = the pitch.
1) Walk to the plate

Tries to deter you by showing off its super human pitching speed, accuracy, control, and other undefined pitches (Bugs Bunny curve balls resembling electron motion at times).  Beyond intimidating!
Attempt to determine your risk.  Gather as much information as possible about the company that is also available to The Market.  Come up with a unique investment thesis.  Have predefined exit criteria.
2. Stand ready & wait for the pitch
Has limitless time to keep you on the plate, standing in vain.  Doesn’t care.  Knows you’ll either leave the plate or worse, get impatient.
Your Watch-list.  Monitor it daily.  Your liquidity.  Always have cash on hand.  Your limit orders.  Use them!

3.  The pitch
Messes with your mind and emotions.  Makes you believe you see the ball coming.  Makes you believe you’ve gauged the trajectory correctly.  Makes you believe you have a strong sense of timing from release of the ball to your bat’s reach. 
Understanding investor psychology.  Keeping your emotions and ego in check.  Not being overconfident about your intrinsic value calculations.  Adjust for inflation and both systemic and non-systemic risk.  List these!
4. The swing
Makes you doubt yourself, sometimes right away.  Too high, too low, not enough strength, etc.  Confuses your swing with those of thousands of others.  Makes you grip the bat tightly.  Makes you uncertain of where your hands should be on the bat.
Wait for YOUR pitch = your price.  Don’t buy when the mob is buying, better yet, buy before everyone else does if your conviction is high.  Know something about the price/pitch that others do not.  Think outside the box.  If the price looks good, buy.  If it drops right away, buy more.  Who’s the dope?  You or the pitcher?  Know this!
5.  Hear if contact is made
Has the crowd scream louder than people at Arrowhead stadium.  Makes you think you’re hard of hearing even when your hearing is perfect.  Makes both copycat and false noises to throw you off.
Read earnings reports, company statements, forensic accounting statements, and value these over media comments, articles online, guru comments, etc.  Use metrics that matter most for the company in question, ROE, ROIC, Cash from Operations, Earnings, etc.

6. See if the ball is in play
Will define “play” for you as being between the foul lines, but nothing else.  Won’t tell you if it’s a pop-up, line drive to a fielder, ground ball heading out of the infield, etc. 
Realize if you’re averaging down makes sense or if you’re trying to catch a “falling knife.”  Realize if the stock’s appreciation momentum is not as a result of the last buyers coming in versus new buyers re-discovering the hidden value in the stock. 
7.  Decide to run
Tolerates you leaving home plate but will remove the chalk demarcating the lane to first base in reprisal.  Will make you feel as if you are running toward first base in a wind tunnel with a jet turbine on the other end blowing you back.
Don’t capitulate unless something fundamental has changed, your thesis no longer is valid, or your financial situation has changed, making you a forced seller.  If you’ve reached your pre-determined sell price, decide if doing it all at once, or in blocks makes better sense in relation to what you believe the stock will fetch in price in the following days.
8.  Make it safely to a base on the field
Will limit you to a single, double, triple, or home run.  It will statistically favor you getting a single i.e. to first base only.
You can make money but it doesn’t mean you will beat the indexes.  You may have some winners but you will most likely also have losers.  Diversify!  Limit your losses.  Take gains and don’t be greedy.  Allocate appropriately.  Limit your trading costs.  Better yet, get low-fee/passive index ETFs or mutual funds and leave the “game” to others.

There is actually more science involved in baseball than there is in investing in the stock market!  Being at bat is a very lonely place, but so is being at your computer about to make a trade.  The only way you're ever going to make a great investor is by putting in the work!  Read, read, read!  If you strike out, don't quit.  Learn from your mistakes and get back up to the plate.

Thanks for reading!  I will be on vacation next week, enjoying some much needed time off and spending quality time with my family.  Look for me to be back the week of the 29th.  Happy Holidays!