Dear Investor's Daily Edge Member,
As a member of Investor's Daily Edge you've already gotten a full week of powerful, actionable advice that will change the way you grow and protect your wealth.
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And on Saturdays we continue that theme by giving you even more strategies, tips, and techniques for jumpstarting your wealth, as well as health and personal success, with the Michael Masterson Journal. The Journal is part of your subscription to Investor's Daily Edge. And it's totally free.
This is Early to Rise Founder and self-made multimillionaire Michael Masterson at his most off-the-cuff and direct. You'll get not only his no holds barred guidance and counsel, but first crack at his latest breakthrough business ideas and marketing strategies. He gives you both specific recommendations in the world of business and investing and in-depth explorations of economic issues. And when he spots something that can improve your well-being – he'll write about it.
If a myth needs busting, Michael is there… if the Wall Street Journal got it wrong, he'll expose it… if the Fed needs to be knocked down a peg, he'll be ready… and if there is something you should be doing right now to accelerate your success, Michael will tell you about it.
The Michael Masterson Journal will arrive in your inbox each Saturday. Don't miss it!
"I'm too old to start over and too young to lie down and die."
That's how Lou, a recently unemployed bond salesman, summed up his life to me and Joe last night at Joe's cigar bar, The Cigar Connoisseur.
The man was 54 years old – four years younger than I am, but he looked 65. He was overweight, out of shape, and pale. His face was the mask of a beaten man.
Lou had made good money selling for 30 years. But then, last month, he lost his job. He had spent a week angry and blaming others. Spent another weak blaming himself. Then made some phone calls and got two interviews with former competitors.
"But they didn't pan out," he said. "Every brokerage room lobby is crowded with unemployed guys like me."
Joe and I looked at each other.
"And so that's all you did?" I asked. "You gave up after that?"
"Don't you watch the news?" he barked. "There's a recession going on!"
We were silent for a while.
"Maybe you should think about starting a new business," I suggested as nicely as I could.
That's when he said, "Hey. Get real. I'm too old to start over and too young to lie down and die."
"Well that's exactly what you are doing," I thought.
I remember the moment when I almost gave into the concept of aging.
I was in a swimming pool at the edge and pushed myself up to get out. But instead of putting a foot on the coping, I put my knee on the tile instead. I realized instantly that (a) this was the first time I had ever done that and (b) if I kept doing that before too long I'd be slithering out of the pool on my belly like a sea lion. So I went back into the water and got out the youthful way.
And to this day, I still thrust myself out of a pool like a young man.
Aging may be inevitable, but giving into it is the fastest way to grow old.
Joe himself was a good example. He had a full career in the casino business and then retired and started his two cigar clubs in South Florida. He's been at them now for less than six years and he is very successful and very happy with his new lifestyle.
I mentioned this to Lou but he had an answer for that too.
"Joe stared over when he was 45," he said. "Six years from now, I'll be 60."
And now finally I had an answer for him.
"And how old will you be in six years if you do nothing?" I said.
A reader nearing retirement writes in. He's started to invest more in gold because of what's happening to the value of the dollar. He's got 5 percent of his assets in gold so far, and is wondering if he should make it 10 percent. But he's worried he might be falling prey to gold "hype."
"What's your view?" he asks.
To help him -- and you -- make a smart decision, here's my answer:
I am not an investment advisor. So I can't tell you whether I think that gold is a smart investment right now. But I can say that I have bought enough physical gold to pay my living expenses for about four years.
Physical gold, for me, is a hedge against disaster. I like it because it is portable, hideable, and non-taxable.
I have also put money into a fund that invests in gold and other natural resources. That's gone up more than 15 percent in a year's time. But I consider that type of investing to be high risk, so I would never put in more than about 1 percent of my net worth.
I don't use gold to hedge against the dollar, because more than 90 percent of my financial obligations (including taxes) are in dollars. If you use gold (or any other investment) for that purpose, you risk being wrong. The IRS doesn't care if you are wrong. If you owe them $50,000, they are going to take $50,000 -- even if the $50,000 you invested has been reduced to less than that.
Scarcity is not a new principle for economists and investors. The less there is of a commodity, the more valuable it becomes. But what if there were a commodity with a "value" measured not only in dollars ... but in something far more critical? What if there were a commodity so precious that, without it, EVERYTHING would die?
If you are an employee, there is at least one thing you should be doing to get through the economic meltdown in one piece: Make yourself invaluable to your boss.
This is not a good time to goof off or try to coast by. Expect that your company will fire a big percentage of its workforce. Make sure you are not among those who are sent away. It will be awfully hard to get a new job in the next few years, as the economy continues to shrink.
The music industry, like the book industry, is failing fast. Its only hope is to adapt to an Internet-based model. One idea being tested by the social networking site MySpace is a joint venture with the music labels.
Matt Furey has good advice about how to get motivated to work out when you don't want to.
"All I do," he says, "is live life in the smallest chunks I can."
Here's an example of what he means:
Matt hates long flights. But when he must take one, he asks himself if he can stay sane for one minute. Of course, he can do that. So he gets through that one minute and then goes on to the next. Before he knows it, he is calm and enjoying himself.
He uses the same technique with his morning exercises. Instead of getting agitated over the thought of 60 minutes of hard work, he asks himself if he can do 60 seconds of wall chair. The answer, of course, is yes.
After he's done a minute of wall chair, he challenges himself to do a minute holding the push-up position. As the minutes go by, his resistance diminishes.
This is exactly how I get books written. I write and publish at least two books a year writing them in small chunks, sometimes as small as 100 words at a time. This is also the way Bob Bly has become so successful, writing one breakthrough marketing package at a time for several clients and writing books on the side.
"Use this method," Matt says, "and I assure you that you'll be kicking butt in no time flat."
Where do you look for new marketing ideas?
When I look for new marketing ideas, I look in three directions: forward, backward, and sideways.
Looking Forward: By looking forward, I mean brainstorming about what the market will want in the future. Forward thinking is in some ways the most enjoyable form of brainstorming. It is certainly the most common. Who doesn't like a good conversation about "the way things are headed" and imagining the opportunities that will emerge?
The truth, though, is that this is the least productive of the three. For many good reasons (some of which are explained in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point), speculating about future business opportunities is a game for failed inventors, amateur entrepreneurs, and cultural outsiders.
Prudent entrepreneurs do some forward planning, but they keep their projections to the near- and medium-term. They know from experience that the biggest moneymaking opportunities are the ones closest at hand.
I enjoy longer-term speculation as much as the next guy. But I save it for the golf course and invest no money in my grandiose, far-fetched ideas.
Looking Backward: Backward thinking is much more useful than forward thinking. Yet it is often neglected by entrepreneurs. By backward thinking, I mean studying past marketing masters for ideas. That so few marketers today read and know the classics is one of Dan Kennedy's pet peeves. He sees it as arrogance. He points out that the greatest marketing secrets are eternal. The best stuff is still buried in those old, great ads. Go back and read them. You'll be astonished by how much you learn.
Looking Sideways: Sideways thinking is my preferred method for generating useful new ideas. It is also the method most often used by successful entrepreneurs. By sideways thinking, I mean looking at the products and marketing campaigns of competitors and -- even more productively -- looking at marketing efforts outside your own industry. Jay Abraham is a big proponent of this type of brainstorming. In Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got, he says:
"You probably spend too little time studying the most successful, innovative, and profitable ideas people in other industries use to grow and prosper.
"Yet, if you start focusing on other industries' success practices, you'll be amazed at how easily you can adapt these ideas to your own business situation. Suddenly, you'll see significantly better results from the same time, manpower, effort, activity, and capital."
There is, of course, a fourth direction that master marketers take. And that is looking inside to try to understand the core emotions of their prospective customers.
So I lied. There are four directions -- not three. Sue me.
Seriously, if you want a recipe for market research, I'd suggest the following:
* One cup of forward-looking brainstorming
That's the recipe. Use it and prosper.
[Ed. Note: Michael Masterson welcomes your questions and comments. Send him a message at AskMichael@ETRFeedback.com.]
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