Explaining Southern California's economy

Trackback: Is the California lottery's $200 million jackpot worth a shot?

Courtesy of the California Lottery

The jackpot for the Mega-Millions jackpot is now $200 million, and there's a drawing on Friday. This probably has lots of folks out there asking themselves, "Should I buy a ticket?" I tackled this question last December, and I haven't changed my thinking. So I'm reposting — and pointing out that the jackpot is TWICE as big now:

The California lottery's Mega Millions jackpot is up to $100 million (Mega-Millions is actually a multi-state lottery, an aggregate of 42 lotteries). That's a pretty nice chunk of change and should bring out many more players, even infrequent ones — and even ones who never play. What we're talking about here are the people who understand the odds against winning. So why would they change their minds, simply because the jackpot has crossed a threshold?

For starters, you have to understand why these folks don't play. The site Strange Loops explains:

Read More...

Actually, the Muppets ARE Goldman Sachs clients

Premiere Of Walt Disney Pictures' "The Muppets" - Arrivals

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

That's not a Goldman Sachs executive behind the wheel.

Yesterday's big news in the financial world wasn't Apple stock climbing above $600 per share — it was the op-ed resignation letter to end all resignation letters penned by former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith, in which he savaged the Vampire Squid and accused it of betraying its clients. 

According to Smith, Goldman clients aren't clients — they're routinely referred to as "Muppets."

Goldman lost $2 billion of market value in a hurry as the news circulated through the Muppet Theater.

No word on whether there is or ever has been a Vampire Squid Muppet in the works. They've already got Count von Count, after all. You could probably just add a few more arms and a blood funnel.

However, it turns out that calling clients Muppets, in Goldman-speak, isn't necessarily the insult that it sounds like at first. Because the Muppets are Goldman clients. I'm not kidding.

Read More...

Invest with James: Spreadsheets for kids — for real

Matthew DeBord

James can't wait to get his hands on a spreadsheet. Right after he gets done with Angry Birds.

Another great post from Fred Wilson, a successful venture capitalist and partner at Union Square Ventures in New York. This one has nothing to do with startups or high-risk/high-reward finance and any of the nice juicy VC stuff. This one is all about...budgets. Budgets...for kids! Here's Fred:

For a long time, probably the first fifteen years of our life together, [my wife and I] lived paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes it was two paychecks, other times it was one. For a brief period as I was starting Flatiron, it was none. I got shingles that year.

As our income went up and down, our spending had to do the same. I created "fredsheets" that we looked over, debated, discussed, and then adjusted and signed off on. Then we created budgets so that each of us would live to these spending plans. It worked. We always made it to the next paycheck. Many times by the skin of our teeth.

In the second fifteen years of our life together, we've had the pleasure of living in a different financial situation. But we still use budgets. We created budgets for our kids which they live up to. We created budgets for our real estate projects, our angel investing, art collecting, and so on and so forth.

Read More...

Story of the Day: Goldman Sachs hates its clients, calls them 'muppets'

Muppets.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Goldman Sachs calls them "clients."

A bomb went off on Wall Street this morning when Greg Smith, a now former London-based executive for Goldman Sachs, published an op-ed in the New York Times saying that the firm has completely betrayed its responsibilities to its clients. According to Smith, who worked at Goldman for over a decade, "if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence." 

It's the resignation email to end all resignation emails.

And just what Goldman needs! Another PR crisis, hot on the heels of yesterday's good, share-price-improving news that it had passed the latest round of Federal Reserve stress tests. As Smith puts it:

Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

Read More...

Fed stress test results for banks come two days early

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Bank of America was one of the 15 big U.S. banks that passed the Fed's latest stress tests.

The Federal Reserve has released the results of its latest "stress tests" of the country's biggest banks — two days early. Why two days early? Marketplace's Heidi N. Moore had the best quip: The Fed didn't have much choice, after J.P. Morgan Chase jumped the gun on the planned Thursday announcement and showed Wall Street its report card.

Four banks flunked the test: Citigroup, Suntrust Banks, Ally Financial and MetLife, which isn't really a bank but an insurance company with bank-like businesses. Citigroup is the most worrying of that group, as some advance handicapping had it sailing through the Fed tests. Not so, as it turns out. This may remind some of the revelations, from Ron Suskind's controversial recent book about the Obama economic team and the financial crisis, that the White House at one point wanted to shut Citigroup down. Treasury Secretary Tim Geither reportedly stalled the President to avoid executing that decision.

Read More...