Category Archives: Technology

Jeff Gundlach: Cover Your Ears, People Are Screaming

When Jeffrey Gundlach hosts a Web presentation, people listen — at least to make sure the bond trader doesn’t call them out for contributing to the current economic malaise. Gundlach, a high-profile, fixed-income expert (and a former Morningstar Fund Manager of the Year), has a habit for speaking his mind.

This week, the CEO and chief investment officer of DoubleLine Capital, gave a presentation titled Deficits Don’t Matter — in which he argued that deficits really do matter. He refuted Dick Cheney’s 2002 assertion that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter,” noting, “Obviously deficits do matter, and today they seem to matter at an accelerated rate.” And then, in a masterfully nonpartisan rant, he went on to criticize both Mitt Romney, for his support for low taxes, and Barack Obama, for overlooking the fact that low participation is compressing the unemployment rate. Read more…

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Weighing the Price of Social Responsibility

What’s the relationship between stock performance and corporate ethics? Based on an analysis of the public companies that made it onto this year’s list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies, there’s very little.

One-year stock returns among the companies that made the 2012 list ranged from more than 47% to a loss of nearly 72%.

While many investors like the idea of socially responsible investing, the results show that ethics alone are no guarantee of strong financial performance. And they make suggestions that “doing the right thing is actually good for business” — as says the head of the New York City think tank that has been compiling the annual list for the past six years — somewhat harder to believe. Read more…

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How Co-Signers Can Get Out From Student Loans

Most private student loans require the borrower to have a co-signer — some credit-worthy adult willing to put his name and money on the line for someone with no income of his own and no repayment history. It’s always risky to be a co-signer. And now the risk is even greater, and not just from the borrower’s potential default.

Why? Because the extra debt from those college loans, especially if you have multiple children, distorts your debt-to-income ratios, and a high debt-to-income ratio can mean the difference between a rejection and an approval on something like a new or refinanced mortgage application. Read more…

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College Loan Debt… Even After Death

It took six years and nearly 80,000 signatures on an online petition to persuade KeyBank (NYSE: KEY) to forgive the student loan debt of a deceased student.

Christopher Bryski was injured in a recreational accident in 2004 when he was a junior at Rutgers University. After two years in a comatose state, Bryski died with about $50,000 in student loan debt. His father had co-signed for those loans.

After years of unsucessful negotiations over the debt, the brother of the victim launched an online petition drive to protest KeyBank’s policies. Within days, the family had collected thousands of signatures, and KeyBank officials agreed to discharge the balance of the Bryski family’s loans. The bank will also review its policy as it relates to families in similar situations. Read more…

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Facing Reality


I created a Facebook page because I realized it was the most annoying thing I could do to my kids. Kids don’t want their parents on a social network they consider their own, and grow especially uncomfortable when their classmates send friend requests to their parents.

Since I’m too old for spring break and too tired to attend many all-night parties, I wasn’t worried about any embarrassing photos showing up on the site. So I was somewhat surprised to realize, with or without business questionable images, that Facebook could create potentially sticky issues. Continue reading

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Fear of Falling and Being Followed

Fear of Falling--Icarus

Fear of Falling--Icarus

If I could have the superpower of my choice, I’d take the ability to fly. But based on my impulsivity, I’d probably fly too close to the sun, like the Greek god Icarus. So I’d be better off with my second choice…invisibility.

There’s something intriguing about wandering anonymously through the day, going wherever you want, doing whatever you want-no questions asked, no calls from the office.

 And this brings me to Twitter, the impossibly popular micro-blogging service that lets users stay connected through the exchange of short status messages. It’s designed to let you answer the question “What are you doing?” -and share those updates with colleagues, family and friends. Continue reading

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Numbers Game

If you want to buy or lease real estate, find a broker. But if you just want to get a full picture of the real estate in a specific geographic area, then find the census enumerator that worked the block.

Enumerators walk from property to property, block by block, verifying addresses and sorting residential from commercial properties. They count apartment units, look for hidden units and conclude, in some cases, if a seemingly uninhabitable space is really some body’s home.

It’s a necessary, though time consuming job that legions of temporary workers perform nationwide every 10 years, in advance of the Decennial Census.

The task has remained virtually unchanged since the first US census in 1790. But the tools used to perform it have changed significantly–and the history of those changes effectively mirror the history of technological change.

When the first census was taken, slightly more than a year after George Washington became the nation’s first President, US marshals supervised assistants appointed to collect the data. The enumerators had no printed data sheets to guide them and had to provide their own supplies, including paper and pencils.

More than two centuries later, enumerators are using hand-held computers (HCCs) and GPS to plot, record and update the information on every possible living space in a significantly larger United States. It’s not the most sophisticated technology: the HCCs have little computing power. They’re slow and prone to intermittent freezes. As for the GPS, enumerators concur it’s not the best geographic  positioning system on the market.

Even with its problems and glitches, the technology represents a huge advance over the days when every piece of data was collected by hand. It helps standardize the data and make it somewhat more reliable.

It’s useful…but it’s no substitute for the enumerators themselves. They still have to walk from property or property, counting, evaluating and using their intuition as much as their technology. It confirms what everyone in real estate already knows: technology is only as good as the judgment of those who use it.


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