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Monday, September 19, 2016

How to invest like a racketeer

How to invest like a racketeer

By Aaron S. Robertson 

Please note that the following article is purposely written the way it is for the sake of pure entertainment value. No suggestion is being made whatsoever that these companies or funds are somehow illegitimate and/or criminal in nature. Please also understand that this article is written solely by a layperson that is not licensed in any way to provide any sort of investing or other financial advice. Invest at your own risk.

The author either holds these stocks and other investment vehicles himself, or is actively working to acquire them for himself. Check back from time to time, as there may be new investment picks presented!

Like so many others, I grew up watching plenty of mob movies and curiously reading about the major players in books and in the newspapers. It's why I fell in love with Ford's finest, the Lincoln brand (Cadillac? Fuggedaboutit!). It's why I use curse words in casual conversation, even when I'm not upset at anything. It's why I consume pasta and coffee/espresso like it's going out of style. It's why, perhaps, I see opportunity in just about everything...

Do you want to own a piece of the traditional mob rackets in a legal, fully legitimate way? Are you libertarian enough in both your moral philosophy and your investing strategy to understand that people will engage in activities and purchase products and services that you may personally disagree with, but you might as well capitalize off of all of it anyway? After all, if you feel bad, you can simply "launder" your gains years from now through your favorite charitable donations and scholarship funds, becoming an upstanding citizen. 

Do you want "loan sharking" (a big emphasis on the quotation marks), gambling, porn, vending machines, gentlemen's clubs, resorts, booze, construction, and more?

If so, here's a good list to start with...

RCI Hospitality Holdings, Inc. (RICK) - Among other holdings, the company owns and operates upscale gentlemen's clubs and restaurants under various brands across the country, as well as an online and print media division.

VanEck Vectors Gaming ETF (BJK) - Among this exchange-traded fund's vast holdings are stocks of well-known companies with significant operations in Las Vegas, which is to be naturally expected. Perhaps making this fund a little more fun and interesting, though, is that it also holds a good-sized stake in Irish bookmaker Paddy Power.

PowerShares Dynamic Building &amp Construction ETF (PKB) - If you're feeling nostalgic for the days when not a single building could go up in New York (or the major metropolitan area of your choice) without mob approval, then this fund is for you. A diverse offering of holdings in major, well-known construction and building trades companies.

Full House Resorts, Inc. (FLL) - Based in Las Vegas, Full House Resorts develops, owns, and operates a number of fine casinos and resorts across the U.S.

Generation Next Franchise Brands, Inc. (VEND) - These days, more and more consumers are demanding fresher, healthier convenience foods on the go, and that's the angle that this vending machine company is going with.  

Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund, Inc. (CUBA) - If you're hoping (and want to bet) that Cuba may once again become a destination playground, this fund may very well be for you. The fund's focus extends far beyond Cuba, though. From the fund's own Web site:

"The Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund's investment objective is long-term capital appreciation. To achieve its objective, the Fund invests in issuers that are likely, in the Advisor's view, to benefit from economic, political, structural and technological developments in the countries in the Caribbean Basin, which consist of Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Aruba, Haiti, the Netherlands Antilles, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. The fund invests at least 80% of its total assets in a broad range of securities of issuers including U.S.-based companies that engage in substantial trade with, and derive substantial revenue from, operations in the Caribbean Basin Countries."

Constellation Brands, Inc. (STZ) - Taken from its company profile:

"The Company is an international beverage alcohol company with many of its products recognized as leaders in their respective categories and geographic markets. Its wine portfolio is complemented by select premium spirits brands and other select beverage alcohol products. The Company is a multi-category supplier (beer, wine and spirits) ("Multi-category Supplier") of beverage alcohol in the U.S. It operates in three segments: (i) Beer (formerly Crown Imports), (ii) Wine and Spirits (formerly Constellation Wines and Spirits) and (iii) Corporate Operations and Other. The Beer segment imports, markets and sell Mexican Beer Brands in all 50 states of the U.S.: Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Pacifico, Negra Modelo and Victoria. In the U.S., it has five of the top-selling 15 imported beer brands."

Lending Club Corp. (LC) - This is where my "loan sharking" joke comes in. Lending Club provides a marketplace where qualified borrowers can receive consumer loans backed with funds provided by other everyday people (the peer-to-peer lending concept). Like any other reputable lender, rates and other terms for borrowers are going to depend on the borrower's credit rating.

Now, there are a couple of ways you can get in on the action with Lending Club. Owning stock in the company is one option. I do not own shares yet, but plan on purchasing some in the near future. The second path, which I am in on, is to become an investor in the company's marketplace. With this option, you do not own a stake in the company like you would if you purchased stock. Instead, the money you are investing is going directly toward providing loans to borrowers, for which you earn interest.

Happy investing, and best of luck to you!        

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

A Reflection on Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why
By Aaron S. Robertson, MSM

Watch Simon Sinek's TED Talk on the book at YouTube:

From the end of 2007 to the end of 2013, I served as president of a small Web design and online marketing company called Intrepid Innovations, Inc. My two partners were old friends from college. We knew we wanted to go into business together at some point, but we struggled in the beginning phases of brainstorming our business plan with the how we were going to go into business with one another. We all had different majors in college. And while we shared some similar interests, we were also very different from one another in interests, talents, and basic skill sets.

Finally, we figured out how we were going into business. Though my major was in political science (rounded out nicely by minors in sociology and philosophy), I had a strong passion for online marketing, search engine optimization, and writing. I was also a big networker and all-around schmoozer with some good connections. My partner Phil was a graphic designer by major and picked up on Web design along the way, and my partner Dan was a writing major with a knack for copy writing. That’s essentially how the formula came about for the services we were going to offer. But looking back on it all, we never really developed the why, and I suspect that explains many of the challenges we ran into further down the road, and why we eventually scrapped the business.

Over the course of all the years we were in business, we constantly struggled to compete on price. For Web design, graphic arts, and writing services, there was simply too much competition. Everyone out there claimed to be some sort of online marketing wizard, or copy writing guru, or social media genius. Online marketplaces that brought freelancers and buyers together allowed those buyers to get dirt-cheap rates from freelancers overseas, primarily from India, and there was no way we could reasonably match those prices. Finally, on that note, many DIY Web design services sprang up, allowing buyers to create their own Web sites quickly and cheaply without having to know complicated code. The result of all of these factors combined was that we continuously found ourselves nickeled-and-dimed to death. And it was very difficult to build long-lasting, repeat business from clients. They seemed to always look for the immediate fix, and they often had little money and/or understanding to invest in their marketing efforts for the long haul – many of our clients were small mom-and-pop shops and one-person professionals like consultants of all stripes, accountants, attorneys, contractors, etc.

The bottom line, to sum this all up, we failed to figure out the why. In the end, we were just another commodity out there, competing with an endless sea of other similar providers. There was nothing particularly outstanding that truly differentiated us, that made us really stand out from the rest, and we allowed ourselves to become victims of pricing wars. We ended the business in 2013 after we finally realized it was no longer fun or rewarding.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Some Resources for Personal and Professional Development and Well-Being

Some Resources for Personal and Professional Development and Well-Being

By Aaron S. Robertson

Khan Academy

Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The site features courses in math, science and engineering, computing, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, and more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.

A big thanks to my co-worker, Andy, for bringing this site to my attention. This Web site has been around for quite a while now. I had heard of it. It was planted somewhere in the back of my mind. But it was really Andy's recent recommendation that prompted me to actually look into it, and I'm glad I did, because I love it! In particular, I really enjoy the economics/finance/investments offerings, but there's something for just about everyone.

TED Talks

Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”.

From its Web site:

TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Credit Karma

A free resource allowing you to regularly monitor your credit via access to your credit reports, weekly updates to your credit scores, and alerts if something seems suspicious. Also features articles and tutorials on a wide array of credit subjects, and offers you customized recommendations on credit cards and loans based on your current scores. Recently, the site added a mechanism that allows you to directly dispute with the credit bureaus any negative listings on your credit reports with just a few clicks of the mouse!

Like a lot of young people, I had run into credit card trouble in college. I've managed to clean it all up since, and it's great to have a resource like Credit Karma at my disposal to help me stay on top of my credit. I have made use of the Direct Dispute tool recently to challenge three old negative listings on my credit reports, and have managed to have all of them removed, quickly and easily. I have also taken up a few of the customized recommendations on credit cards. I’ve had a Credit Karma account for a couple of years now, and I highly recommend it.

Friday, August 12, 2016

2016 Green Bay Packers Schedule

2016 Green Bay Packers Schedule
Preseason schedule

Sunday, August 7, 7:00 pm, Indianapolis Colts, ESPN
Friday, August 12, 7:00 pm, Cleveland Browns, State
Thursday, August 18, 7:00 pm, Oakland Raiders, State
Friday, August 26, 8:30 pm, at San Francisco 49ers, State
Thursday, September 1, 7:00 pm, at Kansas City Chiefs, State

Regular season

Sunday, September 11, Noon, at Jacksonville Jaguars, FOX
Sunday, September 18, 7:30 pm, at Minnesota Vikings, NBC
Sunday, September 25, Noon, Detroit Lions, FOX
Sunday, October 2, Bye Week
Sunday, October 9, 7:30 pm,** New York Giants, NBC
Sunday, October 16, 3:25 pm,** Dallas Cowboys, FOX
Thursday, October 20, 7:25 pm, Chicago Bears, NFL/CBS
Sunday, October 30, Noon,** at Atlanta Falcons, FOX
Sunday, November 6, 3:25 pm,** Indianapolis Colts, CBS
Sunday, November 13, Noon,** at Tennessee Titans, FOX
Sunday, November 20, 7:30 pm,** at Washington Redskins, NBC
Monday, November 28, 7:30 pm, at Philadelphia Eagles, ESPN
Sunday, December 4, Noon,** Houston Texans, CBS
Sunday, December 11, 3:25 pm,** Seattle Seahawks, FOX
Sunday, December 18, Noon,** at Chicago Bears, FOX
Saturday, December 24, Noon, Minnesota Vikings, FOX
Sunday, January 1, Noon,** at Detroit Lions, FOX

**  Start time may shift due to the NFL’s flexible scheduling.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hales Corners Annual Night Out

Mark your calendars for the annual Hales Corners Night Out! Lots of fun planned!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016
5pm-9pm at Hales Corners Park, 5765 S. New Berlin Road

Want to have EVEN MORE fun in Hales Corners during this week? Attend the Annual Night Out on 8/2, and then check out Augustfest, featuring a car show and a whole lot more, on 8/7!

This year's Annual Night Out features: 
  • Live music by On the Rebound  (Click here for info on On the Rebound)
  • Police personnel, police squads, and police equipment 
  • Firefighters, fire engine, ambulance, and emergency response vehicles 
  • Numerous local businesses and organizations 
  • Food and refreshments available at the Hales Corners VFW tent
  • Inflatables
  • Balloons
  • Face painting 
  • Speleo cave
KIDS FUN RUN: A fun run around Hales Corners Park! Please Register at the Instep tent by 7pm. Races start at 7:05. Prizes for all participants!


1st Wave - Diaper Dash
2nd Wave - Toddler Trot
3rd Wave - 3-5 years old
4th Wave - 6 - 8 years old
5th Wave - 9-11 years old

  • Village of Hales Corners Police Department 
  • Village of Hales Corners Fire Department
  • Friends of Hales Corners Park & Pool
  • Hales Corners Chamber of Commerce
  • Holz Motors
  • WaterStone Bank 
  • Bluebill Electric
  • Milwaukee County Parks
  • Prime Printing & Signs
Watch for more details around town!

Augustfest in Hales Corners

Mark your calendars for this fun-filled day on Sunday, August 7, 2016, from 11am-4pm!

10627 W. Forest Home Ave., Hales Corners, WI 53130 (414) 425-1515

Emanuel Church and Park’s Edge Preschool are celebrating AUGUSTFEST with their First Annual Car Show. The first 20 Pre-Registrations will receive dash plaques.

Enjoy music and bingo!

There will be food including chicken on the spit, brats, hot dogs, and authentic German potato salad, along with FREE Roasted Corn! Beer and wine will also be available. NO carry-ins please!

Entries for the car show should be in by July 23. To register for the car show, or for any questions and concerns, please call Lonny at (414) 427-6974.