Better Taxes In 2019

Finally, good news on tax day. Every year, filing income taxes provides yet one more data point in my roller coaster ride through America’s wealth classes. This year, despite making just about the same as the last few years, I paid less in income tax. Skip the politics and other guesses and applaud my tax accountant, Tamera Lewis. Hiring a professional certainly helps, sometimes is a luxury, and sometimes is a necessity. Now to come up with the money to pay taxes for 2018 and start collecting them for 2019. An interesting process.

Add that new data point (really a datum, but I grammatically digress). In 2018 I made within a couple of thousand dollars of what I made in 2019. Not great progress, but the near-term potential has risen dramatically. Yet I paid about 20% less. In an academic environment it would be possible to quantify the various factors involved, but I’ll give credit to Tamera. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that a professional can figure out taxes better than cheaper software. I was glad for TurboTax, but I am gladder for saving over $1,500.

Despite the lower taxes, they weren’t so low that I could simply write a check for them. Income from real estate is sporadic, and two or three transactions were delayed a month or two or three or – well, we’ll see when they happen. It was back to using the credit card for a payment that can hopefully be cleared before summer.

As I’ve said before, when I was richer it was easier. It was also simpler. When I lived from investing in stocks, it was possible to fill out the forms by hand. I only traded a few times each year, only had a business license in case someone wanted to buy a book or a photo, or hire me as a consultant. It was low-key and easy. Hold stocks long enough and the tax rate goes down, too. Sell off a few losers to balance the winners and get a tax rate near zero.

Then My Triple Whammy hit. Scramble to build a business during the Great Recession while watching losses accrue in my IRA that can’t be balanced against anything. Start the seven day work week energizing those smaller revenue streams like books and photos. Jump into the Gig Economy and reach last year’s maximum of seven 1099s.Photo on 2018-04-03 at 10.37 Even using TurboTax, calculating my taxes was difficult and painful. TurboTax’s constant updates of what I might owe kicked off anxiety attacks during the process. Bad timing. And yet, trying to do the same job by understanding every nuance, cost, and benefit for about a dozen different income streams and businesses would be unhealthy. I trusted the software because I knew I couldn’t devote enough time to become an amateur accountant.

And then I became a real estate broker. Last year was a transition year as real estate stepped in as large projects like managing an online museum stepped away. That also meant yet another type of business and yet another possible set of forms. Help! Hence, hiring an accountant.

This is so much easier, almost as easy as when I was retired, a millionaire, and had an accountant because “Why not?”. Data and papers still have to be collected, but instead of agonizing over every entry, I was able to hand Tamera a folder, answer a few questions, and walk away for a couple of months. Even without knowing if I was going to pay more or less, using a professional was healthier. Stress is unhealthy, and I have more than my share, hence a fellow realtor awarded me for “clearing significant hurdles” in 2018. (The award is in my office.) Sure, I knew a professional would cost more than a software package that teased with ‘free’ yet charged over a hundred dollar fee; but establishing a new career with its required training left little time for learning another aspect of tax law.

By the way, further applause for Tamera. I finally got the call that my taxes were ready, except for a few questions. I answered all of them except one, which didn’t make sense when I read it in the email. A day or so later I called, because the spoken word is better than the written word. The confusion continued, so I dropped by because personally communicating with a person in person is better than simply hearing. She hadn’t made a mistake. I did. I accidentally gave her my data from 2017, not 2018. It was April and she’d have to start over again. Embarrassed, apologetic, and humiliated. And then impressed, again. One email and one day later and she’d updated everything. Whew. I even checked if there’d be an extra charge for such a late mistake. Nope. Whew, again.

Tamera was even nice enough to alleviate my anxiety by telling me the number before I dropped by to sign the form. The total bill almost matched my checking account balance, but that was better than I feared because if it had been the same as before, it would’ve needed my business account, too. I could pay in cash, but there’d be nothing left for – anything. The mortgage must be paid. Insurance must be paid. I must eat.

I don’t like using my credit card. There are plenty of reasons for that dislike, which will probably become yet another post, but that comes later. One big reason was that I’d finally paid it off, just a few months ago. Hopefully, I can pay it off within a few months, and get ahead to the point that it stays that way.

Thanks to being able to be paid for helping people buy and sell houses and land, I can look forward to an even easier time next year. If all goes well, I may get to pay along the way, rather than scramble at the deadline.

And then I look around and see how many other people are scrambling every day in the Gig Economy, collecting every job they can, each with yet another contract, pay schedule, reporting requirements, and eventual transition to the next gig. Our tax code is designed for paychecks from life-long careers, or income from investments, or fixed incomes from trusts or retirements. Everything else is stapled, glued, and taped on to cover the rest. The result is a mess. But the result is that those working amidst the rest get no rest because they have to keep working and pay bills, yet find time to also understand the tax laws, even the ones that supposedly benefit them.

My roller coaster ride through America’s wealth classes continues. There are no guarantees, but it seems that I am heading back into familiar territory, a place where I can hire the right guides to see me through. Roller coasters have rails for guides, but this is America which means travelers are responsible for finding their way, maybe with some help. I’m glad I found some. I hope others do too.

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Is Whidbey Changing – Spring 2019 – Langley

Well, I did it again. Last night we reprised the presentation made late last year about real estate and affordability trends on Whidbey Island. I say ‘we’ because if there wasn’t a library to host it or an audience that asked questions it would only be me talking to an empty room. That would be silly. As in many places around Seattle, along the coast, and across the planet housing has become an issue for everyone from serious investors to individuals fortunate enough to afford a house to the homeless and near-homeless. Through in economy concerns and create a topic worthy of lots of discussions, and occasional updates.

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For that previous presentation, as well as a fuller narrative and a link to the video, go to ‘Is Whidbey Changing‘ (the edition that was named before I realized this could be a recurring title.) (Also: Curses to the clash between Google and Microsoft that kept the event from being livestreamed. Maybe next time.)

That presentation was updated with new data, which filled in the winter season and answered some of the anxious questions asked late last fall. For those who like data, slides, and the ability to review them for themselves, here’s the most recent presentation.

Is Whidbey Changing – Spring 2019

Here are several of the insights about the changes.

  • The comparison between automated estimates continues: Zillow, Redfin, RealAVM, and ValueMap. If the person with two watches doesn’t know what time it is (back from the times when watches were mechanical and had errors), then having four makes things better and worse. Only having one answer can create a false confidence. Asking for several opinions is harder and requires critical judgment, but is also more valuable. (Imagine if the world ran that way.) I use the example of the estimated price of my 868 square foot house that was a view.DSCN5128 Four different algorithms (probably) developed by four sets of mathematicians and four answers for one house. At one point the differences were about $74,000, or about 25%. Another implication is that, if I trusted Zillow’s estimate, my house’s value went up by more than two year’s living expenses in less than three months. Yeehaw! At that rate I can retire in about thirty months! But, one house is not representative, which is why the rest of the presentation uses statistics based on existing home sales, not estimates.
  • One of the anxious aspects from last year was whether a Seattle slump was damaging Whidbey Island home prices. The island’s trend did quiet a bit, but managed to climb. Arguably, Whidbey Island’s real estate market was harder hit by the winter weather, and yet it continued. That suggests the market isn’t as fickle or fragile as the worst worries suggested.
  • Prices are affected by supply and demand. North and Central Whidbey reached record low inventories. South Whidbey was aimed at the same, but bounced up just enough to miss making the record island-wide.
  • The seasonal variation in houses for sale continues its bouncy downward trend, but has to change eventually. The market can’t have a negative number for the number of houses for sale. When Seattle was in a similar situation, the prices began to climb dramatically. In so many ways Whidbey Island is not Seattle, but the markets may – may – act similarly.
  • The price distribution of the number of houses for sale continues to show a dramatic reduction from several years ago. The biggest drop continues to be in the sub-$300,000 houses. On a percentage basis, that means South Whidbey has about twenty houses over a $1,000,000 (about 20% of the market) and only about ten below $300,000.
  • North Whidbey’s market actually picked up speed with Days on Market dropping below 20 days.
  • Similar when looked at as Months of Supply.
  • The Price per Square Foot trends across the island show all are rising, with South Whidbey leading the way, which may be a consequence of its greater supply of million-dollar homes.
  • A new bit of data focused on ‘downtown’ Langley where Price per Square Foot started rising two years ago, distancing itself from the rest of the island, and its zip code. ‘Downtown’ Langley may be experiencing its global awareness heightened by tourism marketing.
  • For the last few months, the rest of South Whidbey didn’t see much change in the Median Sale Price. While Central Whidbey had a drop, it was only after a surge that put it higher than North Whidbey. That may be caused by Central Whidbey’s smaller inventory where a few sales can dramatically shift numbers.
  • Whidbey maintains it ‘most affordable’ status when compared to San Juan, Vashon, and Bainbridge despite Bainbridge’s slight drop.
  • Seattle’s price drop is apparent, but small in comparison to where it was. Everywhere else was relatively flat or slowly climbing despite the news.
  • In regional supply, Seattle’s surge is so large that the uptick is larger than the entire Whidbey Island market. That extra supply in King County may mean less demand for Island County.
  • As for Seattle relative to the Pacific Rim, it isn’t the cheapest, but it’s down there. So, even as we recognize its unaffordability, globally it can look very affordable.
  • The following charts on Whidbey Island’s demographics, affordability, and vacancy rates haven’t changed. Basically, the island is getting older, earning enough money on the island to live on the island is getting tougher, and county and particularly South Whidbey have a very large number of vacant homes. The island also has a sad and developing homeless situation: people who aren’t just statistics, but are people who can’t afford housing even if they have a full-time job. No one is a statistic, but together we become one. Odd?
  • Another new bit of news comes from various cities that also face high vacancy rates and low available inventories. It is becoming common that cities charge taxes, like an extra percent of taxable value, for homes that aren’t lived in regularly. The details differ by city, but the situation and intent are the same. They may demonstrate at least one way to fund affordable housing.

During and after the talk there were several good questions. I don’t claim to know everything so I will admit to being human and having to point at other humans for those answers. When in doubt, talk to the County about official stuff. For some items, we can all guess but not know because of privacy concerns or because the analyses would require significant resources. Other brokers, bankers, and basically the rest of the community all have something to add.

One item that is easy to pass along is the influence of waterfront properties on the Median Sales Price. Surely with so many waterfront homes and their significantly higher price per square feet they’d significantly shift the overall numbers.

Price per square foot - waterfront

Waterfront properties do have significantly higher Price per Square Foot ($356 for waterfront versus $201 for the rest) and significantly higher Median Sales Price ($605 versus $320, respectively) but they only represent ~15% of the market (88 out of 572 houses).

Median Sales Price - waterfront

There are many more topics to discuss. Two more opportunities are scheduled: Freeland Library on April 23 at 2PM, and Coupeville Library on May 4 at 10AM, each with its own emphasis. By the way, I applaud the island libraries for hosting these free discussions. Housing, affordability, and sustainability are important issues as the island and the region changes. I look forward to giving similar presentations, or answering specific questions from individuals. As I said above, I don’t have all the answers, but I might be able to help.

Stay tuned. This story has been going on for decades and has no reason to stop.

Formal Disclosure:
I am a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Tara Properties in Bayview.

Informal Disclosure:
I’m happy to help.

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If Only The Money Was There

I got my hair cut today. I’d show it off, but Google auto-updated my Chromebook in a way that disabled the camera (something we now assume should be part of a normal computer.) Trust me. Diana at Chops did a fine job steering my image towards respectability in time for my affordability and real estate presentation 47532-Is WhidbeyChanging-LNG POSTERnext week at Langley Library. I’d just come from a talk with writers and entrepreneurs, where looking scruffy is acceptable. In those two conversations and a few others in the last week the same refrain was heard; “If only the money was there.”

The money is there. That’s the issue. For each of those conversations the money was there, not here. There’s enough money out there; but out there doesn’t move businesses, projects, and ideas here – wherever here may be.

This is a story that includes the poor and the rich, two four letter words that overly simplify the world because every issue is about individuals, but simplifications must be made to make conversations happen.

Whidbey Island is not alone. Plenty of people are trying to pay their bills by starting businesses.

Services are common because their expenses are low, at least compared to goods that require materials, tools, labor, storage, shipping, and maybe handling returns. The profits and the profit margins from services are high, too. Potentially. Goods, however, especially goods that can be mass-produced, can scale wonderfully. Patent an idea, get someone else to make lots of whatever it is, and enjoy royalties without further work. (See AlanBeckley.com for one friend’s success story.)

Ideally, starting a business is a very American idea. The majority of wealthy people got their money from inheritances or working in finance; but many of the minority built their wealth by working. They succeeded in clearing the realistic hurdle that blocks many idealistic plans.

Getting a business started isn’t easy. It takes money to make money and the poor don’t have money, by definition. It is possible to build up from only a few hundred dollars, but those stories seem about as common as hearing about lottery ticket winners. The next most logical step is to borrow money. The rich have money, by definition, and many will make it available at a price. So, one way to become less poor is to make someone else more rich. Granted, that price reflects the potential losses from failed loans, and that price doesn’t always cover those losses.

As a consultant, one of the most common conversations I have is how someone is going to fund their idea. Now, here I have to show some discretion because appearances are important and I don’t want to reveal the reality behind confident facades. But then, I suspect we all know people wearing a bold front that’s propped up by hope, faith, or debt. That facade may be worn far past the establishment of the business because sole-proprietorships are fragile and not protected like corporations. Their owners know how easy it is to fall back down there.

The island is a good place to see the process in action. Anonymity is harder to maintain. Storefronts opening and closing are associated with people instead of businesses. If a store opens, folks know who is running it. If it closes, we lament the loss for the person more than the loss of the business. Conventional wisdom claims that the main reason young businesses don’t survive is because they didn’t have enough money at the start. They were under-capitalized, just as the poor are under-funded.

The same is true with advocacies and non-profits. Great ideas, but insufficient funds for the work that needs to be done.

One of the topics that may come up at next week’s real estate talk is similar. Affordability is directly a function of assets, debts, income, and expenses. Finding safe, clean, and sustainable housing is much easier with more money. A home means a more stable life, a chance to become part of a non-transient community, and legitimacy. With a fixed address a person can be more reliable, more likely to get a job, more likely to be healthier and have lower health care costs, and potentially have lower stress levels. Without the house, there may not be the job, there may be a wide variety of health issues, and there’s less money available for prevention or treatment.

So, it sounds simple. Get people into houses, any kind of houses. There are several people and organizations working to help, but the very fact that housing is expensive means the solution requires money. The money, and to some extent the houses, are there; but it’s not where it is needed.

Thanks to crowdsourcing and social media, there are probably more sources of funds that ever. Whidbey Island is also populated with charitable people.

On an island with fewer than 100,000 people, there are over 264 charitable organizations listed with the IRS.” – AboutWhidbey.com

Each source has its own set of rules, guidelines, goals, procedures, and limitations. To some extent, they exist because the traditional source of borrowing money from a bank is less popular than before. Banks are more cautious because of recent losses. Faith in banks has also diminished for several reasons, including scandals like the one at Wells Fargo, and personal experiences during the foreclosure crisis. I can’t compare to the situation before the Great Recession (the Second Great Depression), but I do know many people who have an aversion to being beholden to a bank, or any debt. If they can’t buy it for cash, they won’t buy it; and that includes houses.

Wealth inequality continues. Now, 0.7% of the people control 46% of the wealth.” – Pretending Not To Panic

That 46% of the wealth could do a lot more work, but much of it is held in financial instruments like stocks. Billionaires rarely make billions from paychecks. Billionaires are created by stock appreciation. As wealth inequality grows, more money flows out of the economy and into tax havens. The rich get richer and the poor have less available to help them become less poor – unless they borrow from the rich making the rich richer.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I live in a supportive community, and have received generosity beyond what I imagined. I’m in a much better situation than I was even two years ago. And yet, a few months of delayed projects and compensations could mean I’d have to sell my house and move – somewhere more affordable. I doubt that will happen, but I notice it and then look around at how many others are in less comfortable situations.

A few decades ago and relative to today, banks were seen as a source of affordable funds, government provided more services, social mobility was greater, wealth and income inequality was much lower. From what I witness, the new sources don’t compensate for the loss of the old supports. If you find that “It should be easier” you’re probably right. But, until something changes, this is the new normal – and be thankful for those who decide that generosity isn’t measured by profit and loss.

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From Writing To Real Estate

Time to switch from writing to real estate – and back, just like changing hats. I have a very busy hat rack. That’s the nature of modern entrepreneurial business.

Last week’s post was about a presentation Don Scoby and I gave at Langley Library about Modern Self-Publishing. (Go to one of my other blogs, AboutWhidbey.com, for an anecdote about what happened after the library – and the rest of Langley – closed. Closing Time) Next week I’ll be back at the library for something that takes more of my time and energy (and possibly produces a sustainable income) – real estate, a reprise and update to last years “Is Whidbey Changing?” presentation. (And then will do the same in Freeland and Coupeville.) One of the consequences of the modern work world is the necessity of multiple jobs instead of one occupation, and the ability to quickly change from one to another to whatever without losing emphasis or enthusiasm. Multi-tasking on a much larger scale.

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Real estate can be completely fill calendars and schedules. That’s not a surprise, especially when seen from the inside. I thought transactions were complicated enough when I was a buyer over ten years ago. Now, they’re more complicated, there’s more of a need for a professional, and the money involved is more likely to be measured in fractions of a million. After some retrospection I sent a thank you and an apology to the real estate broker I used for several transactions. Oh, the silliness of the demands I made back then. Shudder. Thanks, Kathryn Hawkes.

While the two vocations seem unrelated, and that both hats may not fit on the same head, there’s actually a link; and one of the attendees at the previous talk inspired me to chronicle the path from one to the other. Welcome to the world of laughing along at plans, and accepting opportunities that arise.

Too many writers/authors focus on book sales. That’s understandable. Publishing seems to be about printing books, selling books, making money from the sales, and writing the next book. That works for some, but not for many. That’s no reason to stop writing or publishing. From my Author Page on Amazon;

“I fell into writing by trying to lose weight. That’s not an obvious career path. I decided to lose weight by bicycling, and figured it would take so much bicycling that I’d be able to cross the continent. So I did. By the time I was done, I’d sent out 15,000 words of emails, which a friend pointed out was more notes than most writers have when they start a book. So I wrote Just Keep Pedaling. The emails tell one story. The rest of the book gets into what really happened each day.

After the first book I realized that I could do a better job and decided to chronicle the life of the natural world in Washington’s Cascade mountains. I’d hiked there for a couple of decades and was surprised to find that, despite the excellent writer and adventurers in the area, no one had taken on the simple task of describing a year’s worth of visits to the mountains. And so the Twelve Month series swept into my life.

But people asked where I found the time to delve into these adventures. When they find out that I retired at 38 they want to know about how I did that. So I wrote one book on personal finance (Dream. Invest. Live.) and helped on another (Your Money or Your Life – revised and updated edition).

That’s what happens when I relax and follow the path the universe lays out for me.”

Becoming an author created gateways that led to avenues I didn’t expect.

Many adventures ensued, but the thread that matters here is how writing lead to real estate.

Ironically, my book on personal finance came out as the stock and real estate markets crashed. As my rainy day portfolio funds tried to create an umbrella, they soon drained to the point that I couldn’t pay my mortgage. Managing to refinance my mortgage and keep my house out of foreclosure was a story I told in this blog. Evidently, I did that well enough to get a part-time gig writing for a real estate news site (the Seattle branch of Curbed.com) that wanted someone who understood the anguish and process of maneuvering a tortuous trial. I wrote for them long enough to attract the attention of another real estate site, 360Modern.com (actually a brokerage). At the same time, many of my friends who were real estate brokers encouraged me to become one too because I evidently understood the industry, the market, and the advancing technology. After about a year of cajoling, I took the classes, passed the test, and got the license, and have been busy in real estate since then. Ironically, it led me back to the library to make presentations about houses instead of words.

Two seemingly disparate activities are actually connected. Take a look at the world. That’s usually the way it really works. Who knows what follows what?

Now, I spend most of my days checking listings, conducting analyses of the market (watch my Facebook business page, LinkedIn, or Twitter for updates) and of individual homes, and generally having months-long conversations with fascinating people who are trying to make important decisions – while also taking lots of classes to keep up to date.

HpRr-haa

My passions haven’t changed. I am passionate about people and ideas, a passion that permeates engineering, writing, speaking, teaching, consulting – and real estate. People have ideas of how they want to live. It’s an honor and can be a great joy to help.

I don’t know what, if anything, will come next. In the meantime, I follow the flow, enjoy the ride, and look forward to helping others along the way. I’m also glad I have a big hat rack at home.

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New Books With Friends

It is the season, the season for new books. Thanks to modern self-publishing, it’s always the season for new books. It’s possible to optimize publication dates, but any new book deserves a celebration, a celebration of the birth of an addition to civilization’s library. Look at it that way, and watch authors sat “Aw, shucks.” Let’s humor that response despite the fact that writing is one of the inventions that made civilization possible – some edits required. As for an income source, well, just because you furthered civilization does not mean you’ll be compensated for your work. But it could happen.

Tuesday evening was fun, at least for me. Don Scoby and I gave a talk at the Langley Library about self-publishing. Thanks to everyone who attended. Did you miss it? We live-streamed it, so all 90-ish minutes are available on YouTube.

Come back for more, because the industry continues to change. We intend to give updated versions of the same presentation at other local libraries, or wherever we reasonably can (including income and expense considerations, of course.)

The self-publishing industry has been changing in books, music, movies, art forms that were formerly gatekept by industries. Digital technologies have allowed artists to step around those gates and hurdles. When I published my first book, Just Keep Pedaling, Just Keep Pedalingfewer than 50,000 titles were published through modern print-on-demand presses.

According to the latest report from ProQuest affiliate Bowker, self-publishing grew at a rate of more than 28 percent in 2017, up from an 8 percent increase during the prior year. The total number of self-published titles grew from 786,935 to 1,009,188, surpassing the million mark for the first time.” – Bowker

That’s a twenty-fold increase in under twenty years.

Self-publishing is derided by some because the quality of the work and probability of success are highly variable. But then, the same is true with the traditional publishers. At least now, freedom of speech and freedom of the press have fewer people restricting those freedoms. As for making money at it, I see any art form as an opportunity for an artist to create their own lottery ticket. The odds are terrible, but sometimes it works. Keep that day job in the meantime.

Add another title or three (and maybe four) to the list. Since Don and I made the presentation just before Thanksgiving, Don has published his new book, Make Your Own Darn Good Cookies. To those who think he should’ve shifted that title a bit, just wait.

DSCN1790 - Edited

In the audience was another friend who recently published two books: Reuse, Recycle, Reduce Your Waist & the ZooFit Exercise Guide both by PJ (Pattie) Beaven. In some ways, she’s spreading a similar message to Don’s; ala Make Your Own Darn Good Exercise Equipment. In a previous career, she helped zoo animals stay in shape. Why not do the same for humans? If a monkey can do it…

Everyone in the audience had projects in mind, and several were already published in some fashion. One of my joys is helping people complete their projects. My passion is for people and ideas, so helping writers become authors, helping ideas spread beyond the confines of one head, makes me happy. Considering the state of the world, we need more ideas, switching from thinking to doing.

By the way, send me a note if you or a group want our help working on your project. Check out Madrona Workshop Troupe for longer events that had more time to dive deeper into the details that don’t fit in 90-ish minutes.

New ideas frequently attract foes, or at least defenders of convention. Publishing my first books and selling my art photos revealed something about what readers and patrons were interested in. Writers can critique grammar, and then spend days debating amongst themselves about things like whether writers should use words like ‘amongst’ and ‘themselves’. (Or where a period should be placed in or out of parantheses.) They are valid argument(or)s. Photographers can critique resolution, exposure, cropping, and even camera choice. I found readers want stories and ideas and emotions; patrons of  photos want something pleasing to look at, something that elicits an emotion, something that relays an idea. Readers care about story. Photo patrons care more about matching the decor.

Commas and pixels matter to writers and photographers, but not necessarily to those who buy the work. Who are you creating your art for? That’s an open question with no right answer.

As I type this post, Joe at Fine Balance Imaging is working on uploading my latest book. Usually I do so, but my computers can’t keep up with the software and hardware requirements of higher-end art photo publishing methods. Besides, he helped me produce the previous five editions, has professional equipment, and has younger eyes. Self-publishing requires significant delegation. Don’t try to do it all yourself.

This latest work is the sixth in my series of photo essays on Whidbey Island: Twelve Months at Maxwelton Beach. A glance at the books I’ve written should provide a clue about an element of my style. I am a marathoner. I haven’t run one in a while, but I bicycled across America, walked across Scotland, and even my investing strategy is based on holding stocks for years or decades. My Twelve Month studies take a simple idea that is rarely exercised.

DSC_9020_clean_bright - Joe Edits 030719 - FRONT COVER

My few visits spread across twelve months are one small slice of a very long story, yet more than a single Saturday visit and therefore tell more of a tale. Visit it yourself and know that there is much more for you to see than I have shown. I hope you enjoy it all.

Also,

My books and photos are the products of my curiosity and my search for insights into our world, or at least my world. We live on a fascinating planet and in intriguing times. Whether that is for a reason, or just by chance, such a life is amazingly rich with experiences and connections. The best way to feel, to sense, the world and its complexities is the be active enough to get out into it, and quiet enough to observe it.

Modern self-publishing is helping deliver the ideas and inspirations the world needs. Whether the author gets paid in money, acclaim, or simply the satisfaction of helping spread the word has less to do with their work in the world and more to do with a disconnect between the world and our economy.

Keep writing.

DSC_8749_tilt_bright - Joe Edits 030719 - BACK COVER

PS

If you want prints of any of the photos, contact Joe at Fine Balance Imaging.

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But When You Say It

Selfish self-promotion? Trust friends. They can do a better job describing what you do better than you can because they have a better chance of seeing you the way others will. Too frequently, self-promotion becomes a litany of caveats, apologies, and disclaimers because the self sees the cracks from the inside, including the flaws that others will never notice. Don Scoby and I met for yet again because we’re cooperating on so many projects. Reading his blog about our discussion surprised me, and made me realize that most of us probably don’t realize how busy we are and how much we’re accomplishing.

Before I forget, I’ll insert our next public event. Tuesday, March 19, 6:30, almost exactly a week from now as I type, Don and I will reprise our presentation about self-publishing. If you can drop by the Langley Library (the one on Whidbey Island, not the one for the CIA or the one in BC), drop in for about an hour of how the publishing world has changed, making it easier for writers to become authors.

47736 Self Publishing LNG POSTER

If you can attend, great! If not, check my YouTube channel. We may live-stream the event. Watch it real-time or later at your leisure.

In my head, he isn’t Don. He’s the bagpiping biscotti baker. There are a couple of clues. He plays the bagpipes professionally. (Got a gig that pays him appropriately?) He started Whidbey Island Baking Company, and launched a line of biscotti and cookies, at least. That led to his cookbook, Make Your Own Darn Good Cookies. (Available now!) Let’s see, comfortable on stage, current experience self-publishing, and a good reason to reprise my talks on Modern Self-Publishing, but as a duet (metaphorically.) But hey, we’re creative folks; so, we may take the presentation on the road, may extend it into a workshop, and may use this opportunity to reinvigorate the previous and grander workshop (Madrona Workshop Troupe). And, we’re writers so while we played with more ideas based on his bagpiping and baking, we also found overlapping interests in our independent sci-fi series that may work better in the same literary universe, as well as a foodie anthology that I’ve been working on.

Ironically, or maybe typically, I’ve been so busy with those various projects that I don’t mention them as frequently as marketing experts would recommend. It’s nice to have someone help, and it’s nice to see my efforts mentioned without all of the cracks I see from the inside.

After my “gee” and “aw, shucks” moments I laughed. He described the list he saw that we could work on in the time it took him to eat a burger (not as sloppily as he suggested) and for me to eat fish & chips (my standard choice when eating in a bar by the water.) I laughed because I know I am also working on the sequel to the Dream. Invest. Live. Dream Invest Live cover(the book that is the basis for this blog, a book that needs a new title, too), and my next book in the photo essay series of Twelve Months at fill-in-the-blank. I hope to have Twelve Months at Maxwelton Beach produced and published (but not necessarily delivered) by our talk on Tuesday.

What could get in the way of finishing a book within the next seven days? Real estate is getting busy as the snow melts away. I’m also writing for 360Modern.com, and considering a part-time writing gig (that probably pays well, but can I set aside my other tasks and get back to them later? Maybe not.) There’s also taking photos for the next essay, because twelve month studies require attending to them every month. In the meantime, I also am helping non-real estate clients with their promotions and art projects.

It’s all good. It’s also the source of inspiration for the previous post It Should Be Easier, because all of that work does not add up to paying all of my bills. The potential is there, and I’m in far better shape now that I’ve paid off my credit card; but potential doesn’t come with checks attached.

There are limits. I don’t expect anyone to remember that entire list of tasks. I can’t recall every item either. I simply jump from task to task to task, being thankful for sales and receipts that follow some of the work. Hopefully the rest of the compensation comes later, but not too much later. Taxes are too near.

I know that I am not alone.

Go back to that post I just mentioned; It Should Be Easier.  I have trouble remembering my entire list, and don’t give each endeavour the attention it deserves. Don (and others) help with that. I can’t know everything Don (and others) is working on. I can celebrate the bits I know, but each of us is working harder than others can know. Rather than take on the impossible task of understanding everything someone is doing, it’s easier to applaud them for things they may not emphasize enough, to introduce them to others who might help, and maybe even buy what they’re creating (as finances allow.)

Writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and advocates frequently ask me for advice about which tool to use, which web site is best, which marketing avenue to pursue. I’m impressed with people. The most powerful tool for such creative people is other creative people. They best understand the situation. They can help find what’s being overlooked. They can provide experienced advice, sympathy, and also know when to lend a hand to either support or applaud. I’m glad I live in a community of such people.

And, Don, don’t worry about sloppy burgers. I was concentrating on my own flaws and foibles. Imperfections are proof we are human. Celebrate that.

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It Should Be Easier

That’s the chorus I’ve been hearing, lately; “It should be easier.” Business owners, real estate brokers, artists, even retirees are echoing the same refrain. This much work and sacrifice should produce much more ease. Not luxury, not opulence, not even effortlessness – but at least progress after years of schooling, working, and saving. Is this the new normal? What do people have to look forward to? If I knew, I’d probably be in politics or starting just the right business. Maybe all of that work will create more than enough, later.

A recent meme showed a matrix of smiling faces, all were celebrities that were tragically depressed. They wore smiles and laugh lines, but fell in their struggles despite fame and fortune. I know many non-celebrities wearing similar facades by necessity. If your business deals with the public, keep smiling. If you’re running a non-profit and need to raise money, keep smiling. If you don’t want to bore your friends with yet another repeat of how your day/year/life is truly going, keep smiling. Keep smiling, and find two things: someone who will listen to the real story, and something that will truly make you smile.

I smile when I dance. Swing, waltz, latin, free-style, I like to go social dancing. Social dancing is social + dancing. It isn’t competitive. If you’re smiling, and you did the steps wrong, you did it right. If you did the steps right, but aren’t smiling, you’re doing it wrong. Dance to have fun with a partner and other people. I purposely don’t teach dance because I need to preserve it as something that is just fun. The socializing is good, too.

I smile when I’m climbing a peak. Some of my biggest grins have probably happened where no one could see them. Just me, a bit of rock, and a lot of sky. Blame the endorphins, I don’t care. It’s something that feels good. Don’t expect me to start a guide service. The only aspect that touches on business are a series of books and photos, work that is available but not something I’m actively selling.

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I smile when I meet with friends. People fascinate me. While I am a writer with many stories to tell, I find myself listening more. I already know my stories. The easiest way to hear new ones is to listen. I’ve confused some people who think I’m always happy because I’m always smiling when they see me. Flip that. I’m smiling because I saw them. The only business skill that comes from that is actually the most valuable: active listening with some insights thrown in as appropriate.

Unfortunately, I’m too busy working to dance as much as I want, spend time in the mountains, or hangout with friends. There’s that certain lack of ease.

Yet, it is from my friends that I’m hearing that refrain of; “It should be easier.” They’re saying it when chance puts us in the same place at the same time. The conversations are bracketed by tasks and chores wedged aside as we open up with similar frustrations – frustrations that are set aside as soon as a customer, client, or donor drop by. Up goes the facade as they return to managing their official duties.

We all have things we want to do that aren’t on the list of things we have to do. Lately, the consensus is that the list of things we have to do is long enough to overwhelm the time available for the things we want to do.

Yet, in there I find hope.

People fascinate me, and they impress me. So many people are working so hard on so many things that there’s a good chance something good will come from it. Much of the perseverance has been from necessity, not from choice; but the work has been meaningful. Today’s economy has disconnected work from compensation. If work was the main determinant of compensation, then inherited wealth wouldn’t be such a major determinant of the ultra-wealthy’s net worth. Monks rather than trust fund babies would make more money.

Within the last few years my net worth has increased to encourage me to take a day off every week (or so). My work has maintained my frugal lifestyle. My net worth has grown from passive asset appreciation; i.e. my house’s value increased significantly. I hope my various ventures lead to my efforts being compensated sufficiently to encourage more dancing, climbing, and socializing; but for now, that’s a hope, not an expectation.

Hope may be as necessary as perseverance.

The relationship between work and compensation is built into our economic model. There are no guarantees, but there are opportunities. Luck is a powerful force, and work can create opportunities. Maybe our economic model is about to change. Extremes of wealth and consumption versus subsistence and frugality are more visible thanks to the free flow of information. Maybe politicians will implement reforms, or even just re-establish best practices that were recently dismantled. Maybe disruptions will create chaos out of which innovations can advance our maturing civilization. Maybe things will stay the same, though I doubt it. The systems are too unstable. Change is inevitable. It always is.

The optimist in me sees great efforts temporarily unrewarded. The optimist focuses on ‘temporary’ and hopes those efforts will eventually bear perennial fruits, not just a one-time harvest. The pessimist in me knows that dysfunctional societies have amazing persistence. North Korea isn’t healthy, but it also has persisted for decades. In the meantime, it should be easier, but it isn’t.

Who knows? Maybe all of this work will lead to affordable day care, education, housing, health care, day care, retirements, and a more equitable society because their lack has reinforced our appreciation of their value. Maybe that will finally turn all of that work into sustainable ease.

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HoloLens2 And MicroVision

What’s this worth? The news, the company, the stock. Microsoft announced the HoloLens2 yesterday. The MicroVision investment community began popping corks. The stock, MVIS, moved up; but not by as much as many expected. I am a bit disappointed, not surprised, and have seen such things happen before. Guessing which way a stock will go based on news about the company should be methodical and logical, but humans are involved so go back and emphasize the word ‘guessing’.

Congratulations to Microsoft. HoloLens2 looks like a logical evolution in the market of augmented reality (or mixed reality, or muddled reality, or yet another new set of headwear in the world of trying to make good and useful wearable computers.) To those not familiar with the concept, HoloLens2 is a transparent visor that allows a person to see a mix of the real world and a computer generated world. It may sound silly, or like some game, but Microsoft is targeting companies. The idea is to buy some for their employees, and make it easier for them to visualize things like: which part to fix, where a building will be built, or where a patient needs treatment. At $3,500, it’s expensive for most people; but that’s cheap for a company if it saves them one trip or avoids one mistake.

I’ll leave the intriguing consumer applications for another post, someday.

So, why would the MVIS community be popping corks? Look at one of the first graphics in Microsoft’s presentation.

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That looks very much like, and could very well be, MicroVision’s key component that they’ve been supplying to various companies. MVIS is the stock for MicroVision; but MicroVision has disclosed very little about the companies, the products, the quantities, and the contracts involved. This leaves MVIS shareholders (the owners of MicroVision) unaware of what their company is producing and selling. MicroVision management has even said the company’s involvement will probably be announced by someone who buys a product, tears it down, and posts the report. Don’t expect an announcement from MicroVision nor from their customers. So, investing becomes a guessing game, which means owning MVIS is more properly termed a speculation. It also means that an image in some other company’s presentation attracts a lot of interest from one of the most active investment/speculation communities I know.

Any announcement would be welcome. An announcement from a company like Microsoft pops those corks. A major announcement like HoloLens2 make owners giddy, even without consuming the bubbly.

Guessing, speculating, evaluating the possible stock price kept many busy on Sunday. Euphoria and optimism had a grand time with estimates of doubling give or take wide margins. I had hopes, but I had doubts (which were not welcomed in the midst of the celebration.)

Monday morning the stock started high, rose for about half an hour, then fell down to ‘only’ being up about 10%. Not, 100%. Just 10%. I admit, I’ve seen other stocks on similar news rise as much as 140% several times, 240% a couple of times, and saw someone else’s stock rise 640% – in one day. Those are heady days, and MVIS was a candidate for it to happen again.

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Why didn’t it?

There’s more than one reason because there is more than one investor.

Amidst the cheers and the encouraging news I noticed something, or a lack of something. There was no confirmation that MicroVision is specifically involved. It certainly looks like a MicroVision component, but patents aren’t perfect and can be circumvented. There are competitors, and there’s a strong reason to do whatever it takes to close such a deal with Microsoft. I didn’t expect Microsoft to mention MicroVision. There’s no reason to. I didn’t expect MicroVision to make an announcement given their demonstrated history of saying as little as possible. I did hope they would at least acknowledge Microsoft’s accomplishment, like a team member may applaud without asking for credit, or a neighbor cheering on an neighbor as the two companies are close geographically. One competitor at least confirmed that they were not involved, so that helped. Without confirmed involvement, investors may decide to not commit their investment capital.

But, let’s assume MicroVision is inside HoloLens2.

If MicroVision’s technology is inside HoloLens2, then tiny MicroVision may have enabled one of massive Microsoft’s key initiatives. That’s good for Microsoft, and also may make MicroVision’s technology attractive to Microsoft’s competitors. Excellent.

What’s that worth?

We don’t know.

Owning stock in small companies frequently involves that “Guessing, speculating, evaluating” mentioned above. Is MicroVision involved? How many HoloLens2’s will be sold? How much will MicroVision make on each one? When will revenues be recognized? There are four unknowns that are four reasons to not be as enthused about buying the stock. From the various guesses et al, the median seems to be that the early revenues are already accounted for as one of the unnameable customers, that near term revenues are also already accounted for, and that long term guidance has little to guide it. The most positive and verifiable observation is MicroVision’s CEO’s claim of profitability in the fourth quarter of 2019. This would explain that.

That’s good news for the end of the year, but what about now?

Dream Invest Live coverThere’s an aspect of market psychology that I refer to in my book (Dream. Invest. Live.). Some stockholders have a tendency to limit themselves to percentage changes in the stock price. If a stock is trading at $1, it is hard for them to imagine it quickly rising to $5. It is a powerful tendency, and one that is emphasized by reports of the biggest gainers and losers every trading day. Such assertions make more sense with large companies like Microsoft. They are highly unlikely to suddenly and sustainably increase revenues by 100%. Small companies like MicroVision, however, can see much larger rises in revenues and profits because they start with numbers that are much closer to zero.

I prefer to guess, estimate, value small stocks by doing the same for the company first. My preferred technique is to use ‘Present Value of Future Revenues Discounted for Risk’. If a company is about to make a lot of money, reflect that in the current value, with a discount based on how likely that revenue event will occur. It’s possible that major investors feel that 1) the value of the near term revenues are already included in the price, and 2) that the risk of MicroVision making that money is sufficiently large enough that the future revenues are discounted to zero. If so, the stock wouldn’t move much on news from an existing customer, while also providing an opportunity for investor/speculators who have more faith in the company.

Does today’s price properly reflect the stock’s and the company’s value?

Of course not, except by chance. There are so many unknowns that it is only by luck that a proper valuation can be made. Even the management doesn’t know which contracts will be expanded, added, or curtailed.

The market’s measure of a company is the price of the stock. Traders may only care about the stock price regardless of the company behind it. Investors, however, help value a company with every purchase and sale. Every purchase and sale was one person thinking the stock is worth buying and one person thinking the stock is worth selling. Their motivations may be more than financial, but stocks bounce around a lot because there’s little agreement about the proper price.

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MVIS closed today at $1.29. That’s up 10% from Friday’s close. In September 2017 MVIS was over $3. A 100% rise tomorrow wouldn’t bring MVIS up to the price many thought was proper back then. Ten years ago MVIS was over $20. Twenty years ago it was over $100. Those folks thought those prices made sense, too. (I was one of them, though the stock price as $35 for my shares, before the reverse split.) Those last twenty years were a long string of disappointments (hence the possible lack of credibility to future revenues), and massive dilution. As one shareholder shared, back then they owned 1% of the company. Now they own about 0.01%. And they continue to hold, just as I do.

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Buy 1% of a $30M company that you think will eventually be worth $3B and your $300K investment can make you worth $30M. That’s rather circular. I was happy enough to possibly work myself up to 0.01% and hope for $3M. MicroVision is currently a $132M company. If they become valued at $1.32B, then the stock (without further dilution or splits) will be worth $12.90. That’s an unbelievable percentage rise for folks fixated on today’s $1.29 stock price, reasonable value for an electronics component maker, and far below the very old estimates that were easily ten times higher.

At this point, I’ve bought more an invested a few years of living expenses into MVIS, which now has a value of a few months of living expenses, while my re-retirement plans require a few decades of living expenses. I doubt that MVIS can provide that soon, if at all. At least, it can greatly aid those efforts.

As I type, the debate continues. Shareholders continue to ask for clarification from the company. I suspect those with sufficient resources may find the best research will be to buy a unit, tear it down, and tell us what’s inside. The price may be low for a company and high for a consumer, but for some investors it may be an excellent piece of due diligence.

MicroVision and MVIS continue to be an archetype of investing/speculating in small companies in today’s America. Every company is different, but they all deal with balancing news, required disclosures, competitive pressures, and the investment community. Such stocks are risky. Hopefully, they are also sufficiently rewarding. I certainly hope so.

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Small Frugal Emergency Celebrations

The power will probably stay on. Propane is in the tank. Firewood is in the shed. Water flows from the faucet when I turn it on. The toilet works. I don’t even have to watch for snow or ice on my deck or driveway. That’s normal, and rarely mentioned; but normal is highlighted by weeks of storms, outages, and road hazards. Maybe I should celebrate this.

Missed the news? For the last few months the Pacific Northwest (which is a misnomer from the perspective of the Pacific and places farther north and west of here), the area around the Salish Sea, was hit with wind storms and snow storms with barely breaks between them. Each storm knocked out power for hundreds of thousands, though that was shared around. Whether from downed trees or unplowable roads, thousands were trapped for days.

This region usually doesn’t get noticed by the Weather Channel. Our storms aren’t named. ‘Wind’ and ‘snow’ don’t gain the same recognition as Hurricane Whoever. The Pacific Ocean doesn’t care. It uses thousands of miles of open seas to build assaults that would regularly be headline news on the east coast. And that’s OK. We’re not trying to scare anyone away. Well, maybe.

I’ve been eating my way through my freezer and pantry. A couple of those outages helped partly melt some of the frozen goodies. Maybe marginally knocked the frost off them is more accurate. I didn’t open the freezer or the fridge when the power was out, and had at least one food cache outside in the cold, instead. Still, Use By dates are good suggestions, and a regularly clearing of the contents is a good idea. It’s also an excuse to experiment in the kitchen, but that can be a different post.

Emergency preparedness isn’t just a prepper’s hobby, not on an island in a tsunami zone, over a series of earthquake faults, with a line of volcanoes on the horizon. Food caches, backup heat and power sources, generally the stuff that mimics camping, but at home, are handy. As long as I was able to sit at home, the hazards were fewer than the discomforts.

The first day after the wind dies, the power returns, the snows melt off the roads it is easy to sigh in relief. Relief doesn’t come to everyone simultaneously. I can think of a few folks who probably still have trenches or obstacle courses for driveways. Relief is both emotional and practical as those out of danger (or just discomfort) relax and turn to helping those in need. I like people who treat people as people without judging whether they should or shouldn’t have been in their situation.

I sit here, in my most comfortable chair, typing this post while safe – and have to remind myself of what things were like just a few days ago.

I also sit here realizing that the room is a little chilly. In island fashion I didn’t flush as I let the yellow mellow (which it really doesn’t do, but a flush is inevitable). A few lights are on, which is easier thanks to LEDs. Dinner is simmering in the background, a mix of meat bought on sale with some veggies that probably never truly thawed. Except for little noises from the kitchen and a room heater, the house is mostly quiet.

Frugality and environmental sensitivity mean I’m wearing a vest rather than cranking up the heat. Some houses turn on every light inside and outside, and look like concentration camps if they’re also ringed by fencing. Later I’ll watch a show, letting the internet leak in on command. That will be the noisiest part of the day. Eventually, the evening will end and I’ll retreat to my futon couch, snuggling under a nice thick comforter.

To balance all the complaining and worrying during the recent interruptions would require more of a celebration. I’m warm, enough. I’ll be fed, well enough. I have bathroom facilities that would considered luxurious in most of the world. My house isn’t perfect, but I can be perfectly comfortable here.

I can be perfectly comfortable. That doesn’t mean I am. I’m too aware of the daily struggles to exist in this society. It’s too easy to focus on the lack rather than what’s available. I’m at least imperfectly comfortable enough.

I write this to applaud those who help provide all of the services I enjoy, both explicitly and implicitly. I also write this to applaud those who, in the midst of a series of disasters, saw downed trees as firewood and maybe an opportunity for art, piles of snow as refilling the aquifers and as an opportunity to make snow sculptures, and helped those around them as they could.

It is human nature to complain, or at least seems that way. Beowulf and the Iliad weren’t butterfly and rainbow stories. I wonder if our society will evolve to focus more on the positive than the negative, or at least to balance a complaint with a solution, turning problems into opportunities.

Being frugal provides those small reminders of what can be taken for granted. A vest, a culinary adventure, time spent writing rather than watching a story, maybe those are just another version of small celebrations.

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AMSC Delivers Hope

Thank you, whoever is buying AMSC. I don’t know why you’re doing it, but it is providing hope where hope’s been dwindling. This may be about stocks, but it is also about good times coming out of bad.

There are technologies that can positively disrupt entrenched industries. I try to invest in some of those. One is AMSC, which originally was called American Superconductor. Without getting into great detail (see my semi-annual portfolio reviews for links to that) the company has the potential to do for power what fiber optics did for telecommunications: use new tech to dramatically increase capacity, efficiency, and reliability. With superconducting cables that means better transmission lines, motors, and regulators. Great idea. It hasn’t worked as planned.

For years the company was shadowed by the financial implosion of a very lucrative market and one of their divisions: wind power. Unfortunately, one of their main Chinese customers decided to use the same tech to turn from customer to competitor. Court cases became more important than marketing and sales, at least within the investing community. Recently, the court case was solved. Damages were much greater than the award, but the case finally was resolved.

In the meantime, the company’s promise for its main product hasn’t been making headline news or disrupting anything. Regardless of the court case, the business could’ve progressed, but it didn’t exhibit stellar growth or gain attention from technological achievements. Hope faded, but my investment was in an IRA so there was no benefit to balancing the loss against some other gain. I continued to hold the stock.

There wasn’t another gain to balance against, anyway. My portfolio of potentially positively disruptive technologies wasn’t disrupting anything.

Despite that, in the last year AMSC has more than tripled from $4.68 to $15.42. Look back a bit further and the stock has almost quintupled from $3.13. All without making much of a headline.

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It’s tough watching good ideas languish. Whether in stocks, the arts, social justice, the environment, good ideas exist but most don’t receive recognition or traction. And then, something simple and quiet can happen that propels the idea. Without a real example, it can feel as if nothing positive is going to break through. And yet, we hope.

Hope is not a strategy. It is a gamble, a speculation, an attitude. And yet, people win the lottery.

My portfolio has become entertainment as much as investment. When stocks fall too low they can go through reverse splits, delisting, and dilution. I continue to watch my stocks because I am interested in how the system works, and how it is changing. I’m also interested because I have hope for energy efficiency, treatments for cancers and accidents, and the elimination of millions of resource-intensive computer screens. AMSC, AST, GERN, and MVIS represent some of those companies. All have great potential. All have languished – except AMSC’s price.

Distressed stocks can be like distressed houses, their prices may be much lower than their market value, or the market may actually be overvaluing them. It’s hard to tell. That’s why there is risk in investing, and in flipping houses.

Most of the stocks in my portfolio are at least somewhat distressed. If they were all to experience the same quintupling like AMSC that would be good, but it wouldn’t mean a re-retirement for me. Five times a small number can still be a small number.

Gains aren’t limited to simple figures that we have names for, like 5X = quintupling. FFIV, the holding I sold to pay for the downpayment on my home, rose from under $3 to almost $200. What do you call that? These things do happen; especially, with stocks that are undervalued by emotion rather than arithmetic.

I don’t know if something similar will occur with any of my other stocks, but they’re all targeted at large markets with high barriers to entry and large unmet needs. Such stocks can gain premiums. As I said over on the MVIS Reddit board;

And then, dilution. The top line revenue estimates are as impressive (and speculative) as ever. The number of shares, however, has ballooned to the point that $200 is more like $10; and I suspect many would accept a buyout at $5.

The upside potential isn’t necessarily limited by the market. Sometimes it is limited by the investment community.

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If, however, ideas are allowed to grow, gain acceptance, and become important in the new necessities of our world, then a $1 stock may rise much higher than $5. Whether they get to $200 or higher is less likely, but it would be very welcome. Then that re-retirement becomes much more likely. I can hope.

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