Author: Douglass Gaking

Book Review: Flash Boys

Flash Boys pbk mech.inddMichael Lewis is one of the great non-fiction authors of our time. He brilliantly tells tales involving highly technical details in ways that are entertaining and engaging, and–like any great artist–he makes the feat look easy. Lewis uses the colorful character and language of his subjects and weaves their personal stories into the greater picture.

The topic of Flash Boys is high-frequency trading (HFT). High-frequency traders utilize the fastest hardware, software, and internet connections–all carefully located–to engage in arbitrage schemes that suck billions of dollars from investors by beating their trades to the exchanges and raising the prices. What is most disturbing is how so many of the exchanges, banks, and brokers enable it, profit from it, or are complicit in it.

Flash Boys follows the men who exposed this dark underworld of Wall Street and set out to create their own alternative stock exchange that would play by its own rules, rules that are fair to investors. It also follows two other stories connected the HFT movement. This is a great story told by a great storyteller, and it is essential reading for anyone who desires a better understanding of how the world works.

Advertisements

The Net Worth Mindset

I didn’t get into studying finance until I was in my 30s, but when I did I studied hard and tried to make myself an expert in it. I had to, because I had to teach it. One of the things I latched onto early was the balance sheet. It fascinated me and continues to command my attention. Predictably, when I learned to look at my own personal balance sheet, my personal financial life literally started to come into balance. Continue reading “The Net Worth Mindset”

My Year with a Cash Back Credit Card

Like many consumers, my wife and I have long been suspicious of credit card companies. We are generally cautious about debt, not wanting to add to our massive student loan obligations. Credit cards, of course, are among the worst kinds of debt: with high interest rates compounding at a rapid rate.

Up until the end of 2016, the only credit cards we ever had were from making a large retail purchase on credit. For example, I purchased my Macbook Pro with Apple Credit, which is really just a Barclay credit card. The first year has no interest, so I paid off the account in one year and paid no interest. I wanted to keep that line of credit open to build my credit rating, so I set up automatic bill-pay on a bill that is $15/month. I pay off the balance every month, and I don’t use that card for anything else. It has been great for building my credit at no cost. Otherwise, it not very useful and adds to my stress sometimes when I worry about forgetting to pay it.

blue-cash-everydayWhile teaching my high school personal finance class about credit cards and credit ratings, I decided to do an experiment and try using a cash back card. I compared some cards and decided to apply for the American Express Blue Cash Everyday rewards card. Credit Karma informed me that with my credit history, my application would have a good chance of being accepted, and it was. Continue reading “My Year with a Cash Back Credit Card”

Book Review: Business Adventures

Business AdventuresThis is a neat book of magazine-style business stories. There are 12 stories about 25-100 pages each. They don’t relate to each other at all, other than all being related to business, finance, and economics.

The stories are all interesting and well-written, so it is both entertaining and informative. This gave me some lesson ideas for my entrepreneurship class.

This is a great way to learn some new business content in a fun and engaging way.

Economies of Scale

Is your business idea scalable? How can you increase production, increase profit margins, and decrease the consumer price all at the same time? It’s all about learning strategies for scaling the business, like lowering input costs by buying in bulk and taking advantage of division of labor to hire specialists.

Here is a slideshow I used to teach this to my Intro to Entrepreneurship class:

Book Review: Stress Test

stress testTimothy Geithner was President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2003 to 2009 and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under from 2009 to 2013. Many people would have loved to be a fly on the wall in some of the meetings that Geithner was in during the financial crisis, the Great Recession, and the recovery. Geithner provides some insights, but he is also overly concerned with addressing his critics, especially those he calls “moral hazard fundamentalists.”

He makes some good analogies, although he repeats the same ones again and again, and I don’t think he addresses the fundamental problems that his critics are trying to get to. Sure, TARP assuaged the market by injecting capital into the struggling financial sector, and the taxpayers made a profit off the program in the end. Perhaps moral hazard arguments in reference to TARP are overblown. However, does this really settle the argument about whether or not the government should be bailing out companies? Should calming a volatile market really be the role of the federal government? Continue reading “Book Review: Stress Test”