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School Daze

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I think of all the education that I missed.
But then my homework
Was never quite like this.

(Van Halen)

Good morning and welcome to the swarming. A new dawn arrives tonight in the 'Ville as the critters prepare to dance on the grill. It's been a tough quarter for all those involved as the mystery twists but remains quite unsolved. "Will oil and earnings and Elmer come through?" asked Hoofy the bull to his large bovine crew, "An old fashioned ramp is way overdue but I've gotta get through my stubborn friend Boo!" Can our bear put a scare in this upside affair or will he be chased right back to his lair? It's Thursday, it's minxy, there's no time to waste so pull up a chair and let's take a fresh taste.

I was having dinner last night with a professor from a distinguished university as he's a die hard Minyan and wanted to explore commingling our respective critters. After discussing the state of collegiate education (and listening to his trailblazing ideas for the "crosspollination" of course loads), he asked me one of the more difficult questions I've fielded in recent years. "If you were graduating from college, what would you do?" As I'm not usually one to be at a loss for words, the silence was deafening as we stared at one another.

It wasn't that I didn't have a thought on the matter, I was more concerned with offering an eloquent answer that would stand the smell test. I began by discussing the secular trend that is already underway--from subjective valuation arenas to commodity based "stuff"--and opined that both the financial and technology area sectors will play salmon to the broader stream. "While I respect the power of productivity and the emergence of next generation applications, it boils down to supply and demand. That's why energy and metals are likely winners in the long run and why things with a supply glut--like the dollar--will lose their relative value."

Those thoughts segued into the topic of money and, more specifically, debt. With the average college freshman receiving 18 credit card applications, the forbidden fruit is offered from the moment they leave home. "It's not like our government is setting a good example," I offered, alluding to the eye-popping deficit and the reliance on further debt to service current obligations, "and corporate America has a mountain of IOU's due in 2006 as well. We've become the largest debtor nation in the world and our collective psyche is conditioned to believe that it's alright. There's a reason why my grandfather never touched debt and I've carried that mantra forward to my lifetime."

I took a sip of my mineral water and reminded myself that nobody likes a Debbie Downer. "There will be opportunities to prosper," now forcing a smile and attempting to be more upbeat, "if you're aware, disciplined and cogent. Take this last year, for instance. If you bought energy and metals and shorted tech and financials, you'd be sitting on 50-60% gains. Yet most fund managers are clawing for basis points while trading the usual suspects of tech names. The market is evolving and those who want to survive and prosper must adapt to the climate."

"But what would you do?" He asked again.

"I would be a teacher," I said, "and try to make a difference in the world helping others prepare for what's to come. While there was a time in my life that I fell into society's most common trap--believing that net worth and self-worth were one and the same--I've come to find that internal compensation has nothing to do with a bank account. That's not to say it doesn't matter--clearly--but if you judge yourself by your Benjamin's, you'll never truly be in control of your own destiny."

Good luck today.

R.P.

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