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What we’re reading this week

Blackrock and Stash

Blackrock has rolled out a new investment platform aimed at millennials (people like me) and I can’t decide if it is more a commentary on millennials or how advertising executives think about millennials. Basically, it’s Blackrock ETFs repackaged to be consumed by people in their 20’s with a nominal monthly fee and a .25% annual cost. You (get to) choose your own allocation too.  Instead of using my own words to describe it I will just pull quotes from this buzzfeed article (also somehow fitting). 

“The new app, called Stash, claims to be the product of its co-founders’ consumer marketing and investing experience. Unlike traditional financial firms, it seeks to frame investing around the much-noted identity and purpose-hunger of America’s youth and transform it into small but growing deposits over time. All a person needs to start is $5.” The emphasis is on consumer marketing experience. But also, I guess it’s a trend in this industry to ask people to pay you a premium for a catchy name on a bland investment? So there they go using that investing experience. 

“The menu of investments are arranged to appeal squarely to how consumer marketing types think of young people. Yet in fact, these categories are mostly relabeled exchange traded funds from BlackRock’s iShares. What Stash tries to add, and what it’s charging users for, is both the unique framing of the funds and ease of use.” So they admit to charging for “unique framing.” At least it’s honest. 

I’ll end the same way the article does:

“If we were to put them in a standard asset allocation right away they would say ‘Woah woha woah, red flag red flag, this is a little too hard for me right off,’” Robinson said.

Debt Ceiling

Remember that pesky debt ceiling? It’s back! Possibly as early as November. Politicians and pundits are using it to forward their agendas but the truth is, our deficit is at its lowest since 2007 and right now our budget deficit is near the nation’s average. The debt ceiling is a sort of made up problem anyway. It’s designed to help curtail government spending but it doesn’t really do that. It’s been raised 74 times since 1962…95 times since 1940 and we will need to raise it again

Mike Huckabee on Slavery

I like to avoid commenting on politics and politicians but that may be harder the closer we get to the next election. Recently on an Iowa radio program presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee stated that nonviolent criminals convicted of theft could maybe, sort of, be sold into slavery. Jan Mickleson, the host, argued  ‘conservatives should look to the biblical Book of Exodus. “It says, if a person steals, they have to pay it back two-fold, four-fold,” Mickelson explained. “If they don’t have anything, we’re supposed to take them down and sell them.”’ Huckabee responded, “Sometimes the best way to deal with a nonviolent criminal behavior is what you just suggested.” I’m no expert but I think that’s “super illegal.”

Stocking Stuffers

Kmart, Office Depot, Safeway and other retailers have found a way to gouge customers over stock purchases  while the rest of the industry curtails commissions. Soon you will be able to buy gift cards of company stock at your loca grocery store.  Avi Lele, the founder of Stockpile Inc., wanted to send company stock to his nieces and nephews. He was frustrated by all the bureaucracy associated with such a purchase so he founded a company to make it easier. The Stockpile cards cost $4.95  for a $25 dollar card of stock. Yup, customers can pay a small commission of 24% for the ease of buying stock at the grocery store. I don’t want to imagine how a fiduciary standard affects Kmart. 

 

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