Category Archives: Financial

Leftist double-fail on economics

It is bad enough that most Leftists literally fail at basic economics, but to make it worse they deliberately implement counterproductive policies even on the rare occasions when they do understand a simple economic concept.  Via Leaked Podesta Emails Show Clinton and Co. Knew But Didn’t Care That They Would Hurt the Economy:

The head of the liberal Center for American Progress privately warned Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff against endorsing a $15-an-hour minimum wage, saying that it would be bad for the economy.Despite that, both the Clinton campaign and the center have since promoted state and local activists’ efforts to push a $15 rate, and Clinton has even said she would sign $15 federal legislation.

Go read it all.  It gets worse.

So the Leftist leaders promote causes to benefit themselves knowing that it will hurt those they claim to care about.  Because love and tolerance or something.

This is just like Obama dismissing capital gains tax cuts because they didn’t appear to be “fair,” even though they are known to increase tax revenues.  Even John Kennedy, that notorious right-wing extremist, understood simple concepts like that.

To recap:

  1. Tests show that Leftists literally fail at understanding basic economic concepts, and it drives their terrible policies.
  2. Even when the proverbial blind squirrel finds a nut and the politicians do understand a simple economic concept, they legislate against it because they know that their followers are economically ignorant (hello, government schools!) and they’d rather have votes than actually help the people they claim to care about.

Use camelcamelcamel.com to save more on Amazon

Prices fluctuate more on Amazon than you might think.  Camelcamelcamel.com (odd name, great site) tracks prices for most products on Amazon.com.  It has two primary benefits:

  1. It shows the price history for products so you can see if they are likely to reduce in price.  I’ve seen prices drop 25% or more and then jump back up.
  2. You can set up price alerts so it will notify you if the price drops below your preferred threshold.  This is great for things you don’t need right away.

You can paste in Amazon URLs at the Camel site, or you can use a Google Chrome extension that will put a camel icon in your address bar.  Just click it when you are on an Amazon page and it will show you the price history and give you other options, such as setting the price alert.

This is a great tool to use to stock up on commodities when prices are at their low points.  Here’s an example of a simple product that has surprising variability in its price: Speed Stick Deodorant.  Over a short time frame a six-pack ranges from $12 to $20, with a lot of ups and downs.

camel

And I just saved $$ on a toner cartridge.  I had a price alert for $46 and it went from $47 to $41 in one day.

Bonus tips: If you don’t have an Amazon store credit card you should seriously consider it.  It gives you 5% off all purchases!  And if you use the Subscribe & Save feature, you can save up to 15% more on your basics.

Note: I receive nothing by posting about Amazon or Camel.  I just like to save money and time.

Quicken is back to their tricks, part 2

Another update: I was forced to buy a updowngrade to Quicken 2016 to continue to use the transaction download feature.  That was bad enough.  But the incompetent software writers at Intuit somehow managed to make the product even worse.  The simplest things no longer work, such as Ctrl key shortcuts.  Example: Before you could hit Ctrl-B to backup, but now none of the shortcuts work.

And the default transaction categories no longer function.

And multiple credit cards no longer download, even though Quicken’s site insists that the problems are solved (e.g., Target Red Card).

I am embarrassed for these people and how badly they do their jobs.  If you are starting from scratch, try something besides Quicken.

—–

Update: Quicken did the same thing this year, only they made it worse by putting out a horrible upgrade in Quicken 2013.  Go to Amazon and check out some of the reviews.  So now you get to pay for a downgrade if you want to keep some of the features of the old product.  I’m amazed that they stay in business.  If you do have to upgrade, do it from Amazon and not the Quicken site.  You’ll save $$.

——

The 2011 Netflix marketing plan will be referred to for a long time as a sure way to destroy shareholder value and irritate your customers.  Sticking it to your loyal customers is not a winning strategy.

Apparently Intuit, the maker of Quicken, hasn’t learned this lesson.  In order to “encourage” (read: “You can have your dog back once you send us some more money”) people to upgrade they are de-featuring their product.  Specifically, they will deliberately end the ability to download transactions from your credit card and banking institutions. But that isn’t a support feature, that is a core part of the product.

It is common for software companies to drop support for older versions.  I understand and accept that.  It is also common for software companies to significantly improve their products to entice you to upgrade.  Again, no problem there.

But this is a joke.  Once again Quicken throws in a few useless tools (A new cash flow graph is one of the four main reasons you should upgrade.  Woo-hoo!) and “only” requires you to pay the original purchase price again to get these great new features.  They aren’t even offering a discounted upgrade price.

Imagine if Microsoft said that if you don’t pay for an expensive Excel upgrade that you could still add, subtract and divide, but you couldn’t multiply.  Or if HP said you must pay for an upgrade or your sound system would stop working. That’s what Quicken is doing.

And it isn’t just the cost of the upgrade, it is the wasted hours installing and learning a new program to do the same things I was doing already.

I highly encourage people to use another software package.  Or if it is more cost-effective for you to give into the extortion then at least buy it on Amazon for less than Quicken charges you directly.

Please share this with others!

Side note to liberals: I think most will agree that this is a clear case of corporate greed leading to bad decisions and negative consequences for customers.  But do we need the government involved to solve our problems?  Not at all.  That would be an expensive disaster.  We just need competition and a free exchange of ideas.  Please keep that in mind.

Because bankers consider a house and a Womyn’s Studies degree to have equal value as collateral . . .

. . . uh, or in a more accurate sense, they don’t.  Unless Socialist and “Christian” Left BFF Bernie Sanders is your banker.

Source: Bernie Sanders Mercilessly Mocked for Posting ‘Economically Illiterate’ Tweet

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders asked in a tweet Saturday, “You have families out there paying 6, 8, 10 percent on student debt but you can refinance your homes at 3 percent. What sense is that?”

As if you needed more evidence that Leftists literally fail at basic economics, now we have Bernie Sanders publicly questioning how bankers could possibly consider those as different risks.  And this guy wants to be the leader of the free world — and the “Christian” Left thinks his economics ideas are great!

Do we really have to spell it out for the Left?  Apparently so.

If your job is lending money that your owners expect to get paid back, you decide whether to lend money based on those risks and you set interest rates according to risks.  In the case of a mortgage, there is a real thing — a house!! — that they can recover and sell to get money if you don’t pay.  And those silly bankers require you to make a down payment so that if they do have to repossess and sell the house that there will be enough money to cover their expenses.  Where do you they get these crazy ideas?!  How dare they try to keep their assets while providing a valuable service to the community?

With your Womyn’s Studies or whatever other degree you get, there is nothing to recover except your earning power, which, if you aren’t paying them back, is apparently not enough.  So Mr. or Mrs. Banker loses his or her job and the owners lose their money.

It is that simple.  I can teach that and more to an average group of 7th graders in a 30 minute Junior Achievement lesson.  Sanders and his followers are that economically illiterate.

Leftists should never be in charge of economic policies.  Never. Even my dog did better on economics tests than Leftists

The little things can cost you a lot

Money won’t buy you happiness, but mismanaging it will buy you unhappiness.  Sometimes modifying some small habits can make a huge difference.  That $4 per day coffee may not seem like a lot as a percentage of your gross income, but it could be a big figure as a percentage of what is left over after all your other expenses.

For example, if you make $4,000 per month that coffee is 3% of your spending.  That is actually a fairly big number compared to the value you are getting for it.  But how much do you have left at the end of the month?  A few hundred dollars?  Zero?  Negative?  Now that $120 looks even bigger.  You can have some treats but be very careful with what you buy often.

Via How Much Are Your Habits Costing You? – The Simple Dollar.

Those Constant Money Drains

It is probably okay to splurge occasionally, but what we’re focusing on here are the constant money drains that you may not even notice. These daily or weekly habits could be costing you in a big way, while not really adding value to your life, which is why it is important to identify them and figure out a way to reduce their impact.

To see how much some of the most common habits cost, let’s look at a few different scenarios:

Example 1: John smokes a $5 pack of cigarettes every day. Over the course of one week, he will spend $35. In one year, he will fork over $1,820. And during his first decade as a smoker, John will spend $18,200!

Example 2: Mary refuses to brown-bag her lunch and instead spends an average of $10 to eat at a restaurant with her friends each workday. Over the course of one week, she will spend $50. After the first year, she will spend $2,600. And if she keeps it up for a decade, Mary will spend $26,000!

Example 3: Amy pays her credit card bill late every month, resulting in a $35 late fee. After the first year, she will have spent $420. If she continues this habit for a decade, she will have flushed $4,200 directly down the drain!

Read the entire article.  There is a lot of wisdom there.

Also read the Bible :-).

Hebrews 13:5–6 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Do you use the Amazon Smile program?

If you use Amazon be sure you sign up for Amazon Smile and pick your favorite charity.  I love that every time we buy something from Amazon they give 0.5% to Stand to Reason.

About AmazonSmile

AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

Every item available for purchase on http://www.amazon.com is also available on AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com) at the same price. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages.

If you represent a charitable organization and you would like to learn more about registering your organization to receive AmazonSmile donations, go to org.amazon.com .

For more information about the AmazonSmile program, go to http://smile.amazon.com/about.

We cut the cable! Woo-hoo!

We finally did it:  We dropped cable TV and our land line phone, saving lots of money and not really giving anything up.  The only people who ever called the land line were solicitors and our parents, so we switched to mobile only.

We added HD antennas, so we still get the channels we want (we watch very, very little TV).  And we got a pleasant surprise: Our TIVO will record off the antenna.

We also bought Rokus.  Mrs. Eternity Matters found a few things she likes on the Roku, such as a Pilates channel, music channels, access to the Sirius account, and more.  And Netflix and Amazon streaming are way faster on the Roku than on TIVO.

I must say it was a lot of fun to return the TV hardware to Comcast.  We are keeping our Internet service with them.  I got a good deal for this year at least — a little less than U-verse for theoretically higher speeds, plus we don’t have to change email addresses.

Unlike Rat, I don’t care if I don’t have ESPN.
pearls cable

 

 

 

Timeless retirement investing advice: Use index funds and don’t get greedy

This is so simple but so important.  Trying to out-guess the stock market experts is for suckers.  I learned early in my career that even with loads of internal information that you still can’t predict what the market will do.  I never traded on it, of course, but there times when Compaq would release record earnings but the stock would go down because of some comments about future performance.

Just invest in broad index funds (mutual funds that mimic the overall market).  There is no need to chase stock tips or highly managed mutual funds.  The only exception would be if your employer sold you stock at a discount, which would mitigate the risk.  Just don’t be foolish like a lot of Enron employees were and put most or all of your retirement money in one company.  I knew way too many people at Compaq and HP who tried to time peaks and missed out.

As noted below, keep in mind the simple math: Index funds with minimal fees will yield 7%.  Managed funds will be more like 5%.  So you are 2 points behind, right?  No, it is much worse.  If inflation is 3%, then your net gain with index funds is 4%.  That’s double what you’d get with managed funds.

Via AAII: The American Association of Individual Investors.

Charles Rotblut CR: Since you founded Vanguard, would you explain why you think investors should use index funds?

John Bogle JB: Let’s start off with the obvious. Imagine a circle representing 100% of the U.S. stock market, with each stock in there by its market weight. Then take out 30% of that circle. Those stocks are owned by people who index directly through index funds. The remaining 70% are owned by people who index collectively. By definition, they own the exact same portfolio as the indexers do in aggregate, so they will capture the same gross return as the direct indexers. But by trading back and forth, trying to beat one another, they will inevitably lose by the amount of their transaction costs, the amount of the advisory fees they pay, and the amount of all those mutual fund management costs they incur: marketing costs, processing, technology investments, everything. When we look at the big picture of the costs of investing, including sales loads as well as expense ratios and cash drag, it is a foregone conclusion that active investors, in aggregate, will underperform index investors. It’s the mathematics.Borrowing a phrase from Louis Brandeis: It’s the relentless rules of humble arithmetic. The 30% of investors who own index funds capture almost all of the market’s return. In a 7% return market, indexing should deliver approximately 6.95% to investors. A typical Vanguard all-market index fund charges 0.05%. The remainder—those who are trading back and forth, hiring managers, and all that kind of thing—will incur costs, in round numbers, of about 2% per year. So, the indexers are going to capture pretty close to a 7% return in a 7% market, while the active investors, who also collectively own the index, are getting the same 7% gross return minus about 2% for all those fees and costs, a net return of 5%. It is definitional tautology that the indexers win and the traders lose.

I highly recommend Vanguard for their mutual funds.  They are very easy to do business with and have extremely low fees.

A great overview on Social Security

This isn’t about how Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme.  It is about how to optimize your benefits and recover as much of what you put in over the last few decades as you can.  The HP Alumni Association sent this link that has lots of useful information — Social Security – Hewlett-Packard Alumni.

This PowerPoint presentation is easy to follow and tells you all sorts of important things.

Enjoy!

What?! AT&T did something helpful?

Yes, but they haven’t gone soft or anything.  It was just one of the benefits of capitalism.  Yea for competition!

After a couple decades of hopelessly complex and painful billing methods schemes*, AT&T now has a group plan that actually helps you.  Instead of a separate data plan for every smartphone and tablet you own, you can combine them into one.  You actually save a little bit and have the flexibility of pooled data.

We were able to add my daughter and son-in-law and my parents to our plan.  We have a 10GB data plan for seven phones and an iPad.  It helped spread our data costs a little and literally cut their bills in half.

We also get unlimited minutes (and we already had unlimited texts), so we never have to worry about those again.

* Watch your bills closely whenever you make a change.  They have a habit of “accidentally” double-charging you for the first month.  Just call and ask about it and watch how quickly they fix the “mistake.”

Please read these timeless and simple investing tips

Yes, that is the most boring title ever, but please read anyway.  This is important.

The Sheep and the Wolves: Smart Investing Made Simple had some great advice for all investors.  There are always risks — especially in the economy we’re suffering through now where a major crash is possible — but this advice should work well regardless.  The risk of completely sitting out of the market is that inflation drives stocks up for a time and you miss out on those gains.

The odds of you timing the market perfectly or even well are extremely low.  Most experts can’t even do it.

Even picking individual stocks is a challenge for amateurs and pros alike.  When I used to work for Compaq / HP I sometimes had access to earning per share results and projections, the holy grail of investment information (no, I never abused it — I always invested steadily and could only trade in narrow windows each quarter).  But even with that knowledge I couldn’t guess where the stock would go, because we would sometimes see the stock dip even after record earnings.  Why?  Because of some comment about future earnings or even a misstatement by our CEO or CFO.  The lesson?  Don’t try and be an expert about market timing.  Even with the ultimate inside information I still wouldn’t have been sure to win.

I also saw how a company could drive up a stock price by mortgaging the future.  They would rush out a new product to hit quarterly earnings then suffer for years because of quality issues and customer dissatisfaction.  Or if times were tough they would consume financial reserves that had been built up in conservative years.  That gave the illusion that things were still going well, but eventually the reserves ran out.  In theory the Big 4 auditors would have done something about that, but their value is highly overrated (I say that as a CPA who used to be in a Big 8 firm, back before they started merging).

I was glad to see that two of the Vanguard Funds I’ve used for years were listed (VGSTX and VTSMX).  Vanguard is easy to use and their low cost model is crucial, especially in down years.  If your broker is churning your investments and charging you upwards of 2% over the course of a year, then in a year of 5% returns he has taken 40% of your gains, leaving you with nothing after inflation.  Buying a mix of mutual funds and holding them is the key.

The other key, of course, is to start early.  There are lots of ways to convey the benefits of compound interest, but no matter how much you make I urge you to start young.  If you save 10% per year for your career you will be fine in retirement.

Here’s a sample of the link.  I encourage you to read it all.

Stock-market investors are like these sheep farmers. Collectively, they enjoy investment returns of roughly 10 percent per year. Individually, however, things are different. Most investors suffer severe losses from the wolves of Wall Street. Wolves, by the way, who don sheep’s clothing to convince investors to trust them. (These investors also have a tendency to make things worse by selling their flocks when sheep prices fall and expanding them when prices rise.) If you want to be a successful farmer, you have to understand how farming works, and how to protect yourself from the wolves. Fortunately, it’s not as tough as it seems.

The financial industry wants you to believe that investing is difficult. If you buy into their message, if you accept the premise that you need help to invest wisely, they can charge you big bucks to handle your money. The truth is somewhat different. Investing is simple. In fact, it can be one of the easiest things you do while managing your finances. How simple? Let’s boil it down to just a few sentences.

Here’s how to invest wisely:

Set aside as much as you can in investment accounts. Prefer tax-advantaged accounts (like a 401(k) or Roth IRA) before taxable accounts.

Invest all of your money in a low-cost stock index fund, such as Vanguard’s VTSMX or Fidelity’s FSTMX.P

If the stock market makes you nervous, allocate some portion of your money to a bond fund. Or invest instead in a low-cost combo fund like Vanguard’s VGSTX or Fidelity’s FFNOX.

Continue investing as much money as possible. Never touch it. (Nothing makes a bigger difference to the size of your flock investments than how much you contribute.)

Ignore the news and ignore your fund.

That’s it. Seriously. That’s all you have to do to earn returns better than 90 percent of other investors.

There are scores of books and published research papers that support this strategy. It’s also the strategy that Warren Buffett (and other top pros) recommend for 99 percent of investors. If you’d like, you can spend days or weeks or months reading about why this works. Or you can trust these folks and do it.

No, this is not a commercial: How to save on home & auto insurance

I really don’t like shopping for insurance, but after my current vendor raised my homeowner’s insurance by $1,200 I figured it was time.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (Motto: “As boring as it sounds!”) has various affinity programs so I checked them out and found Liberty Mutual.  I’m really glad I did.

I saved $540 from what I was paying for home & auto and $1,660 from what I was about to be paying, with lower deductibles.  I also got much simpler billing and “first accident free forgiveness” as well.

If you are in the market, call Rizwan Jaffer at Liberty at 877-750-3033.  He was very helpful.  They have other discounts besides the AICPA one that I used.  Note: It won’t benefit me in any way.  I just like to see people save money and I like to reward good businesses and employees.

One friend said he has been very happy with Liberty, especially when he had a claim after hurricane Ike.  And another friend just switched to Liberty and saved a lot.

Should Food Stamp Purchases Be Limited to Healthy Food?

Fooducate (a great app to use in the grocery store to see
how healthy your food really is) asked the title question on their
blog
. My response: The choices should be limited to
healthy foods. They listed these potential objections, to
which I would ask people to simply consider a parallel of neighbors
helping each other.

  • Limiting the food choices
    is paternalistic nanny state oversight.
Limiting choices on drink
sizes is ridiculous. That is true nanny-statism. But
this is vastly different: You have a choice to accept or reject the
free food offered by fellow citizens.
Would you accuse your neighbor of such things if they only
offered you free healthy food?
  • Eliminating food
    choice would create a stigma and shame SNAP
    beneficiaries.
What stigma? You are getting free food.
You should be grateful.
  • The diets of SNAP
    participants are generally comparable to the diets of Americans of
    similar economic means, so why single poor people out?
Because taxpayers are paying for their food.
  • The cost of reprogramming computers and retraining
    grocery store staff for the hundreds of thousands of food items in
    stores is prohibitive.
It would be worth it to help those people.
And it would save on the medical
costs.
  • Where will the line be drawn between healthy /
    non-healthy foods? Is a cereal with 12 grams of sugar nutritious? 8
    grams? 4 grams? What if it has added fiber?
The details could be worked
out. I would make things really simple and focus on things like
oatmeal, milk, bread, cheese, fruits, etc. And I wouldn’t let
them have cards that they could sell for cash and use it for drugs,
cigarettes, bad food, etc. Part of our problem is that by
trying to save money with technology (normally a good thing!) we’ve
made it too easy to abuse the program. That kills the cost
savings.

Some good questions to ask in an interview

First off, just in case my boss is reading this, I am not looking for a job.  I am very blessed where I am.  But The Ladders does put out some good, free tips if you get on their email list (they have some fee-based services as well, but I don’t get those).  These are pretty universal so I encourage you to save them and share with kids as well.

I thought these were great questions to send the message to your prospective employer that you “get it” — that is, that you are there to make them successful.

I’ve put this list together because so often we can forget what an interview’s all about. It sure feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not.

An interview is actually about how you can help your future boss and future employer succeed. It’s about finding out what their requirements and hopes are and matching up your background and experience with what they need.

Overlooking these basic facts about the interview is easy. There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. And that’s a shame, because you need the interviewer to walk away from the interview thoroughly impressed.

When I ran these questions previously, commenter “spiderji” wrote in and said:

Marc, I used some of your questions in a job interview today. When I asked how to get a “gold star” on the evaluation, the interviewers faces lit up!” I contrast today’s interview with others I’ve been on where I didn’t have any meaningful questions at the end. This one was electric! I won’t know the results for a couple of days, but if they hire me I’ll owe you a drink! Thank you!

And reader LBRZ shared:

I have to thank you! I had an interview yesterday and it went great. When I asked about his leadership style and reward system his face lit up like a christmas tree.

After he answered the question “how can I help you receive your next promotion?”, he began to give me advice on how I should negotiate for a higher starting salary.

And that’s exactly the point, Readers. By asking these questions, which focus on the needs, traits, and preferences of your future boss and future employer, you’re demonstrating that you are somebody who is genuinely interested in their well-being. And the more interest we show in others, the more commitment they show to aiding our cause.

With that in mind, here’s the twice-a-year update to my collection of “twenty best interview questions” below. My aim here is to arm you with easy-to-ask, revealing-to-answer questions for you to take with you to an interview:

1. What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like the tough times are over and things are getting better, or are things still pretty bleak? What’s the plan to handle to either scenario?

2. If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?

3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?

4. About which competitor are you most worried?

5. How does sales / operations / technology / marketing / finance work around here? (I.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for.)

6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?

7. What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?

8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?

9. What are your group’s best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company?

10. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?

11. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?

12. These are tough economic times, and every position is precious when it comes to the budget. Why did you decide to hire somebody for this position instead of the many other roles / jobs you could have hired for? What about this position made you prioritize it over others?

13. What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What do you guys hope to get out of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and the negatives of your reward system? If you could change any one thing, what would it be?

14. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an “open book” shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?

15. If we are going to have a very successful year in 2014, what will that look like? What will we have done over the next 6 months to make it successful? How does this position help achieve those goals?

16. How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?

17. What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week / month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week / month, or are there crunch days?

18. What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see? What is your (or my future boss’) hiring philosophy? Is it “hire the attitude / teach the skills” or are you primarily looking to add people with domain expertise first and foremost?

19. In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?

20. Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and of the flame-outs?