There is currently an +/- 8% spread between the two indices [QQQ/SPY] which would make a good spread trade.
December 15, 2014
December 3, 2014
A NSW Supreme Court judge has found that art auction house Christie’s engaged in deceit and unconscionable conduct over the sale of a $75,000 fake Albert Tucker painting to a Sydney barrister 14 years ago.
Louise McBride was awarded $118,718 in damages from Christie’s and her art adviser and the dealer who consigned the painting, Fairfax Media reports.
Justice Patricia Bergin ruled that Christie’s is liable for 85% of the damages, consigner Alex Holland of Holland Fine Arts, 10%, and McBride’s former art adviser, Vivienne Sharpe, 5%.
The legal action has brought to light one of the murkier aspects of the art world, where dispute over fake paintings are often settled outside of court.
Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham launched NSW Supreme Court action over a $2.5 million Brett Whiteley painting he bought, but the matter was settled last year without the provenance of the painting being established. The authenticity of the paintings is now subject to legal action in Victoria.
In the McBride case, Justice Bergin found there was misleading and deceptive conduct by the three respondents and that breaches of the Fair Trading Acts occurred.
Christie’s attempted to argue that she was barred by the statute of limitations from bringing the claim and she was not the painting’s owner because the art collector uses a family company, but the judge ruled that the five year time limit only applied from when the fake was discovered. McBride only discovered the problem when she went to sell the painting, Faun and Parrot, and another auction house declared it a fake.
Sydney art consultant Vivienne Sharpe has been accused of being ‘selective’ in her memory of conversations with Christie’s over the provenance of the Albert Tucker painting and deceiving her client, McBride.
In preparing for the case, details emerged of Christie’s staff member contacting Tucker experts over concerns about the number of Tucker paintings from dealer Alex Holland. A Melbourne University panel concluded that McBride’s painting and two others were fakes, but Christie’s auction a second “Tucker” later than year. In 2012, it reimbursed the buyer, the Australian Club in Sydney, $69,000.
Christie’s closed down in Australia in 2006.
Justice Bergin also found against McBride’s art adviser in a separate claim over the sale of a Jeffrey Smart painting to the Menzies Art Brands auction house when the collector was forced to liquidate her collection in 2010. The painting had a guaranteed auction price of $360,000.
After advising McBride to accept the negotiated guarantee, Vivienne Sharpe did not reveal that she would receive a 30% cut of the price paid above the guaranteed figure.
While it’s common practice between auction houses and art dealers, Justice Bergin said it was a secret commission that should have been disclosed. McBride will now receive the commission, which has been kept in a trust fund by Menzies.
December 2, 2014
Bitcoin will change a lot more than finance. It could also change how software is built and upend a bunch of today’s biggest web companies, argues Joel Monegro of Union Square Ventures.
His argument starts with the block chain, the shared ledger where every Bitcoin transaction is recorded. Validating these transactions requires computing power. When each transaction is validated, a new block is added to the chain, which makes future transactions even harder to compute.
Bitcoin was designed this way to make sure that the same Bitcoin, which has no physical form, isn’t spent twice by the same person. This also gives Bitcoin some inherent value — people or organisations have to spend a lot of money to run the computers that validate transactions, and the complexity of those computations is always increasing as the chain gets longer.
But Monegro argues that these technical underpinnings of the Bitcoin system may have more long-term potential than the currency itself.
That’s because the block chain is not controlled by any one person or entity, and information in it is freely available to other software programs. So programmers are starting to build things on top of the block chain that have nothing to do with digital currency.
For instance, some programmers have developed a protocol called La’Zooz for real-time ride sharing. That could eventually disrupt Uber. Others have created OpenBazaar, a protocol for a a peer-to-peer trading network that could disrupt eBay. Both use the block chain for some basic computing tasks.
Here’s a simple way of thinking about it. The block chain itself is immutable, like bedrock. Bitcoin is like a building on top of that bedrock — it’s got a foundation where programmers have defined some of the basics of how it works, then a bunch of stories on top of that where people interact with it.
But it’s now possible for other folks to build their own buildings on top of the same bedrock.
“The block chain is great at two fundamental things,” explains Monegro. “Distributed consensus, which is basically having a large network of computers agree on a value of something….that’s a key component for any decentralized system. The other thing is time-stamping, holding a chronological order of things happening.”
As new businesses crop up that depend on these functions, they will benefit from turning to the Bitcoin block chain, rather than having to build a similar system from scratch.
This concept isn’t new. Many tech companies have technology platforms that others can build on, from Microsoft to Google to Facebook.
The Bitcoin block chain is different because everything underlying it is published, and there’s no central controlling entity. The whole system works only because all the participants abide by the same set of rules, and any changes are dictated by hard maths rather than a CEO or board of directors.
“Facebook wants to own and store the data that is relevant to their operation,” says Monegro. “So does Google, so does everyone else. The data they store, they control it. The algorithms they run, they control it to serve their own purposes. A system like this, the protocols you build are open, not controlled by anybody. They work like a machine. They don’t discriminate.”
There’s still reason to be sceptical. Bitcoin itself is still in a very early and tumultuous stage, as the collapse of the Mt. Gox exchange earlier this year showed. Speculation has caused some pretty wild price fluctuations — one Bitcoin is worth about $US375 today, down from a peak of $US1,242 in March 2013. That makes it an unreliable store of value, which could eventually drive people away.
Plus, the organisations building on top of the block chain tend to speak in utopian terms that could be a turn-off for outsiders. For instance, La’Zooz describes itself as “a completely decentralized and autonomous organisation. That means that anyone can contribute towards the establishment of its goals in whatever way he or she believes would be the best. Tasks are carried out within autonomous, self-defined circles or teams.”
But that kind of utopian vision is how a lot of open-source projects started, and many of them have grown into essential technology. Take the Linux operating system, which runs most of the computers in the biggest data centres in the world, like your bank. Or Apache, which runs the majority of web servers. Or the protocols that formed the basis of the Internet itself.
Monegro and USV’s Fred Wilson think that Bitcoin could become the same kind of foundational building block within the next 5 to 10 years.
Monegro’s entire post is worth reading if you’re interested in the technical vision. Here’s a graphic showing the different layers of the platform he believes will built on the block chain, which he’s going to detail in a set of follow-up posts:
December 2, 2014
Many people have heard of the “Marshmallow Test,” Walter Mischel’s famous experiment testing the patience and self-control of preschoolers in the early 1960s. The children were seated next to a table with a marshmallow on a plate, and told if they could wait 15 minutes without eating it they would be able to get another marshmallow. The videos of these cute kids trying to resist the lure of a single marshmallow are as wonderful to watch as they are instructive in how difficult it is to defer gratification; only a third of the children were able to wait long enough to get the second marshmallow.
Interesting for sure but hardly Earth-shaking information. The study would gradually fade into scholarly oblivion and that might have been the end of it for the Marshmallow Test. Then in 2006 Mischel published a follow-up study that tracked the original subjects 40 years later—and those results blew the cover off the ball.
The follow-up study revealed that the children who were able to wait for a second marshmallow ended up with dramatically higher SAT scores, higher GPAs in college, greater earnings during their working life—even lower body-mass indexes—than those children who could not wait. The attributes of patience and self-control were not merely useful in gaining an additional marshmallow, but rather harbingers of a better, richer and more fulfilling life. The Marshmallow Test became a common metaphor for that insight.
In retrospect the lessons seem obvious and self-evident. Given the fact they are ignored regularly by so many people, one would wonder which is more notable—the lessons or the irrational behavior? Of course I am not talking about 5-year-olds. I am talking about full grown adult investors who understand the value of patience and deferred gratification, but are simply incapable of putting into action what they know in their heads.
Being a patient investor does not mean you are absolutely certain about the future or that you have to ignore current events. Being a patient investor means that you are discerning enough and willing enough to accept the kinds of risks whose actualization and ultimate repair exist over time periods that exceed the patience of most other investors, and therefore can be exploited for substantial and recurring profit. Experienced investors commonly refer to this as “time arbitrage.”
Because of the growing popularity of behavioral economics, we now understand that we stand in the way of our own success far more often than we realize. Less well-known, but an equally persistent and powerful enemy to our patience, is a side effect of some of the impressive and useful technology most of us rely upon daily to connect to each other and the world; the same technology that has greatly improved our productivity and our lives.
I was an early adopter of technology. I bought my first PC in 1983, quickly saw the benefits of email, wireless and the Internet, was the first on my block to get a broadband connection, and became completely paperless before the end of the 20th century. I can say with total confidence that I could not run my business with anywhere close to the flexibility, efficiency or effectiveness that these incredible tools have afforded me—and without question my personal life is better as a result of advances that even to this day amaze me.
Yet with every benefit there’s always a cost—and this particular cost was one I could never have imagined.
I’ve always been an avid reader. About four years ago I noticed that my normal capacity to spend long hours of uninterrupted reading was just not there anymore. I assumed it was because I was getting older. About the same time I read Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows.” Carr related that his ability to concentrate wasn’t what it used to be and his long reading spells were becoming non-existent.
He wrote: “The very way my brain worked seemed to be changing…. I began worrying about my inability to pay attention to one thing for more than a couple of minutes…. [M]y brain, I realized, wasn’t just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it—and the more it was fed, the hungrier it became.”
What Carr was discovering was something that neuroscientists had been observing for years. The brain has plasticity: It can be trained to change—and not necessarily in positive ways. Carr noted that “the more we use the Web, the more that we train our brain to be distracted—to process information very quickly and very efficiently but without sustained attention.”
A 2009 study by Ball State University revealed that Americans spent over eight hours of their day looking at television, a computer monitor, tablet or smart phone—often a few of them at the same time. Carr wrote: “The shift from paper to screen doesn’t just change the way we navigate a piece of writing. It also influences the degree of attention we devote to it and the depth of our immersion in it.” Blogger Cory Doctorow labeled it an “ecosystem of interruption technologies.” The natural result of our spending so much of our waking hours in “screen time” is that our brains are creating new pathways, ones that allow us to feel comfortable and competent in an environment that provides us with quick answers, endless variety and limitless distraction.
Is there benefit to this? Without a doubt. I did my research for this column with incredible efficiency—accessing research, news articles, opinion pieces and data in a few hours; something that previously would have taken days, even weeks. But if I hadn’t taken the time to read Carr’s book—putting it down, letting the ideas settle and then coming back to them—my understanding of the nuances of his arguments, or how they connect to other ideas, could never happen.
Unless we retrain our brains to become accustomed to deeper kinds of thinking, today’s online, on-screen, always connected world will continue to reinforce our brains’ very happy existence in the shallow end of the intellectual pool.
An implication of Carr’s argument for us is clear: It will be increasingly difficult for investors to build the kind of foundation robust enough to withstand the powerful challenges markets inevitably pose to our deepest held convictions. And with our attention spans cut so short, the odds of time arbitrage or any long-term strategy hitting our radar screen seem increasingly remote.
Even if Carr’s argument turns out to be completely baseless, we’re not off the hook. The media regularly bombard us with this recurring and repetitive message: “What is happening right now is really important—and you need to do something about it!” The world we live in incents us to keep our attention squarely on the issue du jour.
Anyone who has been physically active knows that you can’t run a marathon unless you seriously train for it—the strength, the endurance and the aerobic capacity require time and effort to build. And while I can attest to the fact that at some point in the race, it becomes mind over matter, you can’t run a marathon without the physical preparation.
Similarly, the intellectual preparation needed to have the kind of robust patience necessary to execute and sustain a “buy and hold” strategy involves much time and effort—but as we know instinctively and empirically, the effort is worth it. Especially when the all-too-common alternative is the “buy and hope” gambit—and we know how that turns out.
November 28, 2014
November 26, 2014
Jim Rogers: If the stock market goes down — say, you pick the number, 13%, 23%, who knows — everyone will be screaming, and Mrs. Yellen and her friends will say, ‘Oh, we’re sorry, we didn’t mean to hurt you,’ and they will loosen up again. One way or the other, the markets will heave a sigh of relief, have a big rally, maybe even turn into a bubble, at which point I hope I’m smart enough to try to short stocks in the US.
Henry Blodget: We seemed to have a preview of that a few weeks ago where we had a pretty sickening plunge for a few days, and then James Bullard came out and said, ‘Hey, we’ll do what we need to do.’ And suddenly stocks took off again. So you’re expecting a bigger version of that?
JR: That’s exactly right. Wait until it gets worse and it will, somewhere along the line. At which point, the Fed will panic. It’s all they know how to do, Henry, so they will pump huge amounts of money in. It’s going to go into shares, and that will cause the top. I have no idea when that will be. That’s when I would sell short. By the way, if it happens that way, one should be long, and long big time. I doubt if I will. Either I’m too smart or not smart enough. What we need is a 26-year-old. The 26-year-old will think this is wonderful. She will think she is very smart. She will make a lot of money for a while, and then it will collapse.
HB: You said recently we’re going to pay a ‘terrible price’ for what the Fed doing is doing. What do you mean?
JR: We’re going to have economic hard times again. Next time it will be worse because the debt is so much higher and because for the first time in recorded history, all major central banks are printing huge amounts of money. So there’s this gigantic artificial ocean of liquidity that’s going to dry up some day, and when it does, we’re all going to pay a terrible price.
HB: Could the recent move in oil prices indicate a fundamental positive for the economy?
JR: It’s a fundamental positive for anybody who uses oil, who uses energy. It’s not a positive for places like Canada, Russia, or Australia. It seems to me that this is a bit of an artificial move. The Saudis, from what I can gather, are dumping oil because the US has told them to in order to put pressure on Russia and Iran. And it’s probably not a real move. I read about shale oil like you do. But at the same time, North Sea production is declining. Russian production will start declining next year. All the major oil fields that we know about — all the production is static or declining. So it doesn’t quite add up on any kind of medium-term basis I can see.
HB: You’ve been bullish in the last year or two on Russia, which is now going through something of a crisis. Has your view changed?
JR: No, no. I’ve been travelling a lot lately. I should probably try to sit down and figure out what to buy in Russia again. It has had a collapse, as you know, but I suspect if you look at things like Russian ETFs, they are down at previous lows, but not making new lows. And a lot of that is because of the ruble. To Russia’s credit, Russia has not been sitting around supporting the ruble in any big way. My view of markets is you let them clean themselves out, let the system find a clearing price. To my astonishment, the Russians are being more capitalist than the Western capitalists. They are letting the currency find its own bottom. That will change soon. It will find its own bottom, and then Russia will be a good place to invest.
HB: And you say that even given Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aggressiveness?
JR: It sounds like you have been reading American propaganda too much. This all started with America, with that diplomat in Washington [Victoria Nuland, the Asst. Secretary of State]; they have her on tape. We were the ones who were very aggressive. We’re the ones who said, ‘We’re going to overthrow this government, we don’t like this government, even though it was elected. They are fools and we don’t like them, so we’re going to get rid of them.’ We were the aggressive ones. Crimea has been part of Russia for centuries. If it weren’t for [Nikita] Khrushchev getting drunk one night, it would still have been part of Russia. That election was in process, anyway. Everybody would rather be part of Russia than Ukraine. Ukraine is one of the worst-managed countries I’ve ever seen. Of course people want to get out of Ukraine. You would, too. It’s a disaster. And Russia has been much more prosperous. Maybe Putin has been overly aggressive, but he has been subject to horrible stress in the West. The State Department says he’s a bad guy, so the American press says he’s a bad guy. They stop looking at the facts. It happened in previous wars, including Vietnam.
The other effect it’s having is driving the Russians and the Asians together. That will hurt us — the US — in the end because the Asians have more money than the West. America’s the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. China has huge assets, as do other Asian countries. So unfortunately, it’s causing Russia to turn more toward Asia. That too will be good for Russia in the long term. There are 3 billion people in Asia. You see the Russians have made this huge gas deal with the Chinese. The Chinese and the Asians have recently started an Asian bank to compete with The World Bank. This whole thing, which we started, is only accelerating bad movements.
These sanctions are not hurting everybody, but they’re certainly hurting Europe, which is driving more and more people to look for competitors to the US dollar and the US banking system. In the end it’s good for Russia. I don’t like saying it. I’m an American like you are. But I have to deal with facts, not with propaganda and not with hope.
HB: What would make you lose faith in Russia?
JR: If Putin suddenly invaded Germany, I would certainly lose faith. If it turns out that Putin is deranged, or other people in the Kremlin are deranged. I was bearish on Russia for 46 years. I went to Russia in 1966 and came away with the idea that this will not work; this cannot work. And only in the last couple of years have I realised that something was going on and changing at the Kremlin. If I suddenly find this is wrong, that this is the same old KGB and the same old Kremlin, then of course I would change my view.
HB: You made a great call on commodities more than a decade ago. We’re in a downturn now. What is your view going forward?
JR: Great question. I certainly missed this correction. The correction has been worse than I thought. Some of it I knew — I’ve been quite vocal that gold would go down and stay down for a while during this bull market, maybe even under $US1,000 dollars per ounce. But still the overall correction I got wrong. My view, rightly or wrongly, is that this is a correction in a bull market. You will remember in the bull market in stocks between 1980 and the end of the century, we had some very serious corrections. And every time people said the bull market was over, it wasn’t. It ended in a bubble. My view is that’s what’s going to happen with commodities. We’re in a correction, a serious one, but that it will turn around. Back to what we said about oil, most major oil fields are in decline. In agriculture, we’re running out of farmers. So we’re facing a serious problem worldwide. I don’t see enough new supply to say the bear market has started again, that the bull market is over. I think there will be one more big leg.
HB: So is this a buying opportunity?
R: For sugar maybe. Rice maybe. I do own gold, I do own silver. I haven’t bought any of significance in a few years. I haven’t sold any. Gold went up for 12 years in a row without a down year, which is extremely unusual in markets. So in my view the correction will be unusual as well. Gold has not had a 50% correction in years, which too is unusual. That would be $US960 per ounce. I’m not predicting it’s going to go there. I’m just pointing out to you there’s going to be another chance to buy gold and silver in another year or two or three, I have no idea why. If America goes to war with Iran, I’ll probably buy gold at $US1,600, begging to get more.
HB: When you look back at your career, are there specific experiences, either mistakes or successes, that you feel have shaped you as an investor?
JR: I, like many people, didn’t know much when I was young. I thought I knew everything. At one point, I decided the market was going to collapse. I went and put all my money, which wasn’t much, into puts. And lo and behold, the market collapsed, the worst drop since 1938. I tripled my money when everybody else was going broke. And I thought, ‘Boy am I smart.’ I sold my puts the day the market hit bottom, waited for the market to rally. This time I sold short, didn’t want to pay the premium, and two months later, I was wiped out completely. I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t meet the margin call. One thing you better learn is about the margin clerk. He doesn’t care. He’s going to give you a margin call. The six stocks I shorted eventually went bankrupt in the next two to three years. But in the meantime, they had gigantic rallies. It never occurred to me that a company on the way to bankruptcy could go up, could double.
I learned a lot about myself. I learned about margin. I learned that markets do really strange things. I assumed that everybody knew what I knew. I now know they don’t but that I have to wait. My timing is useless and hopeless. I now realise if I want to do something, I usually wait a year or two, and even then I am wrong in my timing. When I speak at schools and universities, I explain to them that there’s nothing wrong with failing, nothing wrong with losing everything, but please do it when you’re young, when you don’t have that much money. Learn your lessons that way rather than when you’re 50 and it could be $US50 or $US100 million dollars. That was a great experience.
Iraq’s army prepares to cross the Karoun River in October 1980 while celebrating their success in the war against Iran.
A Baghdad resident walks past the rubble of buildings destroyed by an Iranian air raid, Sept. 29, 1980. Rogers says one of his biggest mistakes was shorting oil right before war broke out. He blames himself for not seeing it coming. ‘You don’t move a lot of armies and start a war without some preparation.’
Once in 1980, when oil had been booming for a decade, I came to the conclusion the bull market was over, and I shorted oil. And that weekend Iran and Iraq went to war. Needless to say, I had to scramble in panic, and I covered like every other amateur. One could say that was bad luck. But no, no. Somebody knew that was coming. You don’t move a lot of armies and start a war without some preparation. I just hadn’t done enough homework. Nearly all the mistakes I’ve made have been from not doing enough homework. Whenever I get sloppy I nearly always lose.
HB: How do you know when to actually stop doing homework and start making a trade?
JR: Well, I do try to discipline myself and realise I better wait, because my timing is hopeless. Eventually I get enough confidence. But even then, Henry, you can’t just act. You gotta keep at it. Because something can change, and things do change. As we were discussing, I decided to start buying Russia and, lo and behold, came the Ukraine. It didn’t occur to me that America was going to try to throw its weight around and try to overthrow the Ukrainian government. I should have done more homework and been more aware. When things change you need to change with it, you need to reexamine and see if you were wrong in the first place. The market constantly makes me reexamine.
HB: You have said you were poor in the beginning of your life. How has that shaped your career and the decisions you’ve made?
JR: When I went to Wall Street I was stunned by what I would hear. How trees can grow up to the sky. Stocks cannot go down. I grew up knowing it wasn’t easy to get money and it wasn’t easy to make money.
When I went to Wall Street I was stunned by what I would hear. How trees can grow up to the sky. Stocks cannot go down. I grew up knowing it was wasn’t easy to get money and it wasn’t easy to make money.
That gave me some grounding or reality or scepticism or something, which at times has stood me in good stead, because in the backwoods of Alabama if you came in and said some of the things I was told on Wall Street, they would run you out of town. They would know you were nuts. So that’s helped me.
On the other hand, it’s made me miss some bubbles. Because if you can invest in bubbles, you will make staggering amounts of money, Henry. And that’s why you need 26-year-olds, Henry, because they don’t know any better. Unfortunately since I did grow up having a sense of reality and grounding, I’ve missed some bubbles because I knew too much, if you will. I was too smart for my own good. There’s nothing more exciting than finding a bubble or two if you can if you can invest in it artfully. I cannot. I am not any good at it.
HB: You’re very humble about your timing ability. Have you met anybody who can time it well in a regular enough fashion that they don’t blow themselves up?
Financier Roy Neuberger in 2003. Rogers, who started out working for Neuberger, calls his trading skills ‘astonishing.’
JB: There are great traders. I try to differentiate between traders and investors. Roy Neuberger, whom I once worked for, was astonishing. I just could not conceive of how good he was at short-term timing and trading. Mike Steinhardt was an awfully good trader and timer of making investments. Mike might disagree, but I always viewed him as more of a trader than investor because he did have such a good sense of market timing. There must be plenty of guys, good market timers, short-term traders. They won’t survive if they’re not. But as far as someone who can time markets — go from a bull market to a bear market — I just don’t know that person. I am sure she exists. I just don’t know her.
Michael Steinhardt, Rogers says, is a master market timer.
HB: You’ve referred to the 26-year-old investor who thinks they know everything, thinks they are incredibly smart, and many of them are incredibly smart. What’s your best advice for young, smart professionals who clearly have a lot left to learn?
JR: Two things. One, they have to understand the numbers and the accounting. They have to read the 10ks and the notes to the 10ks. That’s true no matter how wonderful the story is, and it might be wonderful. But they had better understand the numbers or they won’t last too long as investors. And secondly, understand history. Go back and read about previous markets, bull and bear, read about the ’20s and the ’30s. Read about the Panic of 1907. Read about all this stuff because it’s exactly the same!
One reason, other than the fact that I grew up in the backwoods of Alabama, that I could recognise bubbles is because I had read about them. I realised, ‘Oh my God, they said the same thing in the ’20s!’ They said the same thing in previous bull markets, no matter where it was. ‘This time it’s different.’ They’re always talking about this new technology, or new genius or new methods. Just go back and read market history, economic history — history. I tell kids all the time that they should study history if they want to be successful at just about anything, because it has all happened before.
Mark Twain said it rhymes, well, it does, if you understand history, all the big forces. I don’t mean when the First World War started, but if you understand why the First World War started, the real reasons, not because somebody was assassinated. If you can understand the real workings of previous times, you’re going to be much better able to understand our time because it’s the same stuff. We’re all the same people! We haven’t changed. We still put our trousers on one leg at a time.
HB: Talk a bit about living in Singapore. What drew you to it? What do you like, and what’s toughest about it?
JR: I am keen on Singapore. I moved here because I had been lecturing for many years that everybody should teach their children Mandarin because it would be the most important language in the 21st century, eventually. And then suddenly I had a child and I said, ‘What do I do now?’ We had a Chinese governess, and it became clear it wouldn’t work long-term. There comes a time when every 9-year-old refuses to speak the language because their friends say it’s not cool. So I realised we had to move to a Chinese-speaking city where our daughter wouldn’t have any choice but to speak Mandarin.
We looked at all the Chinese cities. They were too polluted. Singapore seemed perfect. They speak both Mandarin and English. Everything works. There’s fantastic healthcare and education. My kids like it here very much. My wife, Paige, and I both feel it’s a great place to live. It’s certainly an easy place to live compared to New York, which I loved and still do, even though every time I go, I see it deteriorating. As for complaints about Singapore, they’re minimal. It’s not as bicycle friendly as I would like. And to my amazement, when I travel, my Singapore mobile phone gives me trouble. Even AT&T phones don’t give me problems when I travel.
HB: Do you get homesick?
JR: My wife says I’m a gypsy, a wanderer. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten homesick in my life. I remember as a teenager I said I wanted to see the world, I want to taste it all.
HB: Given the contrast in the way you grew up, how do you talk to your kids about money? What do you tell them?
JR: Oh, boy. I’ll tell you, Henry, somebody is spoiling my kids. I hope it’s not me. It’s hard, living in Singapore, since everything is so prosperous. People do expect good times or nice lives, even people who are not very well off. It’s a problem that I grapple with all the time. I have never been a parent. Certainly my kids are growing up different than me. They see the cars we have. Friends tell them, ‘that’s an expensive car, or, ‘that’s an expensive house,’ no matter how much I tell them we’re not well off.
You and I both went to Yale. There were certainly kids when I was there who had grown up quite spoiled, from a life different than anything I had ever conceived of. And some of them didn’t do well in life, partly because of that. I don’t know how to solve this problem. I tell my daughters all the time that money is hard to get. I try to show them that. I try not to buy them everything in sight, which they want and they expect.
When they were born I got each of them six piggy banks for 6 currencies. I am not trying to teach them to be currency traders. But I am trying to teach them you have to save, and these are different kinds of money. I do try to give them money when they do something, when they do a chore or when they do something terrific. But I don’t have an answer. I wish I did.