How Trump worked hard and lost 177 Billion Dollars!

Donald Trump enjoys bragging about his business wizardry and his wealth. Yet it is well known that he has been close to bankrupt….or at least not even worth a measly billion….as recently as a decade or two ago. Some reports say he would have made more money if he simply sold his Dad’s company and took that – and any cash inheritance – and invested it into the S&P (stock market).

If so – all these decades of bankruptcy, investment losses for banks and bonds, stiffing contractors and poor people (Trump U), etc…..would only be an exercise in poor management! This can’t be true – right? After all, the many is a business genius…or is he?

Let’s apply two well know scenarios to his life and investments.

Firstly, there is no final figure as to the value that Trump received from his father and mother. Estimates of the value of their companies were in the average range of 200 Million – plus whatever they had in cash and other investments. Donald took over most control in 1973. For the purposes of our calculations, we will be very conservative and say that he had only a small fraction of that money – say 60 Million dollars, by 1975.

Investing 60 Million in the S&P in 1975 would result in a 10,000% gain, or put another way, he’d have 6 BILLION dollars instead of the 3 or so he has today. Worse yet, depending on when you “stopped the clock” he did even worse at many times.

Just imagine if Trump would have put the money into Berkshire? Then he’d be a real billionaire and wouldn’t have had to sell out to Putin and friends.

Just for fun, taking a lower level of 100 Million total that Trump got from inheritance and initial value increase in Dad’s real estate empire – Don became truly active and President of the companies in 1973.

If, in 1975, he invested 60 Million in Warren Buffer, that would be worth…

Well, it works out this way. $1,000 invested in Buffet in 1975 would be worth over 3 MILLION today.

So for each MILLION Don the Con might have trusted to Warren, he would get 1,000X that 3M, or 3 BILLION. Since he could have invested 60 Million easily, that would mean he would be worth 180 BILLION today, more than double what Buffet himself is worth and probably 60X or more what Trump is.

Think of all those bondholders and investors and contractors who would have not been screwed….and now think of how bad WE are getting screwed.

No wonder they call Buffet The Oracle. Trump lost 177 BILLION dollars by relying on himself rather than investing his money sanely with a mutual fund run by a well known investor.

Please correct my math if I am wrong!

Taking Advice as opposed to giving it….

Those of us in the consulting biz give advice for a living. This tendency also bleeds over in regular everyday life – especially as one grows older and presumably wiser. After many decades of making mistakes, it’s fairly simple to look at younger people and see where they might be going wrong…but sometimes the tables get turned…

We recently started using a new plumbing contractor for a remodeling job – a very friendly young man who wears a sincere smile most all of the time. That in itself seems a rare thing these days. I could tell right away that he was the type of fella who doesn’t take advantage of anyone and shows up as promised. My instincts proved correct when he gave a very low price for what I considered a fairly tough job.

He showed up at the agreed upon time and got to work digging up the ground to work on a plumbing connection. He was using guesswork to determine where to dig (hopefully to find the waterline) and I was joking with him about divining for water. He laughed and said what we needed was good luck. I asked him if he was a lucky guy…and he answered most affirmatively YES.  Lo and Behold, he found the waterline quickly so the job cost me less!

As he was finishing up he was talking with me and his helper about how a nearby Casino treats him royally – giving him free transportation (including in their airplane!) and free rooms and food. Knowing that such perks are only given to those who wager fairly large, I asked him how much he gambles on weekend trips…he said it was in the thousands of dollars each trip. I couldn’t help but think – here he was standing with a shovel in this hand and working hard for a few hundred dollars – and then pissing it away at the tables! And so – I couldn’t help it – I dispensed my advice. I said “someday you will remember how hard you worked for all of that money and think to yourself that you could REALLY use those extra bucks in your account”.

At that he explained “Ah, I really enjoy it. I bring the wife up there and we have a couple drinks and I’ve only lost about $10,000 total in the 7 years I’ve been going to the Casino. I work hard and I also like to relax and play hard when I have some down time”……well, once I heard it was less than $1500 (probably 3 days pay for him) which he was losing per year, I remarked that it wasn’t so bad – habits like a boat or a motorcycle or going to fancy concerts would cost as much or more…

“You have to enjoy life – because you never know what tomorrow brings” he said. It wasn’t with the usual defeatist attitude, but with the conviction of someone who knows. After he said that, he lifted up his T-Shirt and showed me the vast scars down his side and his front. He told me he had congenital heart defects which required multiple open heart surgeries….as well as some other surgeries. A generation or two ago he would probably never have made past childhood – but here he was at 35 (approx.) with a his own business and a loving family – and a life which he has decided to make the most of.

He left with the same smile he came with – after charging me on the very low end of his estimate range.

He was right. He has good luck. But he gave some of that to me with his presence and outlook on life…and I suspect he gives the same to all the people he comes in contact with.

The Amish and Mennonites in Sarasota, Florida

“Oh, I’m from Lancaster, PA but I winter here (in sarasota)” said the Amish woman eating the food bar stuff in Whole Foods downtown. “I went to school up your way – in Northampton, MA – and I love Great Barrington – does the Boston Symphony still summer at Tanglewood?” – turns out she went to school less than 2 miles from our house in MA….
She proceeded to tell us how excited she was that a Whole Foods is going to open in Lancaster, PA in two years (I guess she’s patient) and that a bunch of townhomes were being built along with it – she’s very excited. Then she whips out the cellphone and calls a friend to brag “Yeah, I’ve got a big plate of food and it’s ALL organic!”

Many people are surprised to hear that Sarasota, Florida is the favored getaway for many of the “plain people” who live in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other midwestern and northern states. We “english” (the name for non-Amish) like to think the Amish are always hard at work milking the cows, working the land or creating furniture and other wooden items. Not so…the want and need to take a break and enjoy the sun is a universal one in modern times!

So…where are the horses, buggies, farms and cows?

Not in Sarasota! The preferred method of transportation is the bike – with the 3 wheeled variety being the most popular due to a larger payload and the ability of older folks to easily operate.

Thousands of Amish and Mennonites live in the communities along Bahia Vista street – the center of the community is an area called Pinecraft, which has it’s own small post office. There is a park as well as a large produce business and restaurant which serve as somewhat of a center to the community. Pinecraft park has a very nice shuffleboard setup as well as picnic facilities for large community meals and concerts.

Basketball and Volleyball are popular with the younger set – and it certainly seems as if the volleyball players are quite competitive.

Want to read more about the Amish in Sarasota? Here are some links:

What goes on in Pinecraft – stays in Pinecraft

Great NY Times article on the migration to Sarasota

The residents in Pinecraft are probably of three different groups:
1. Vacationers – folks of all ages, including young people, come down for some sun and fun.
2. Retirees – after a life of very hard work, they spend a number of months here just like some “english” snowbirds do.
3. Relocated – many of the businesses are year-round. Retail, service, builders, etc….have drawn some year-round residents from the ranks of the plain people. Many may be “former Amish” in that their parents or grandparents may have been, but they are not (officially).

Use of Technology

As you will read in the articles and the initial quote of this story, the Amish use varying amounts of technology…often depending on their exact sect and what their bishop says. Their ideal is to live simply…they don’t seem to mind using technology as a tool, but at the same time they don’t want to live a life where technology – rather than simplicity and nature – rule. Here’s a short vignette which may illustrate the point….and could also point to a potential problem going forward as the world becomes more knowledge based.

——–Flying My Drone at the Park———

I run a web site about consumer quadcopters and drones –

I walked down to the park near sunset to fiddle around with one of my smaller flying machines and was doing some flying when one teen on a bike stopped and admired the machine. He was about 14 years old and we got in a short conversation about drones….turns out he has a cheapo one and also an R/C helicopter. As he is about to leave, he tells me “But what I am really into is IT and Computers”. Keep in mind this is a 14 year old on a bike! He then tells me how he buys and sells computers, runs about 20 internet servers (sells web site hosting) and is busy learning complex web technologies! As a “webmaster” myself, I told him he’ll have plenty of work his entire life if he continues on his path.

Soon after he left, another kid about the same age started talking to me..asking about the drone. He was extremely interested in getting one and asked how he would go about it. I told him Amazon had them. He lamented that he didn’t have a credit card and asked if maybe Wal-Mart sold them. I answered in the negative but said I thought there was a shop somewhere in Sarasota that sold them. He was very excited, but I didn’t know the name, etc. of the shop! I asked him for his email so I could send him the shop name….turns out he doesn’t have an email address! At this point, I realized he was probably Amish. I then commiserated with him…after he told me he was not allowed online at all. “Well, there’s good and there is bad in that” I said. “Nah, he said “It’s all bad”. I answered “Well, you’ll be online sooner or later”….and that was that.

I left thinking that one of these two kids is going to excel in just about everything…and the other may be limited to farming, woodworking or another “approved” trade. I won’t put a judgement on it….but it did seem as if potential was being wasted.

A walk on the beach – two dead(?) guys – the police and the actual story…

This morning I decided to take an early walk down the beach – a nice morning and the tide was low enough to allow me to walk north along the beach and then to the rocks. My walk would take me through the grounds of a nearby Manor House and gardens (public) which abutted the bay.

This is the walk headed north on the bay

This is the walk headed north on the bay

As I neared the pier in the picture – I saw a man walk onto the pier and heard him shouting. He continued to shout…but no other voices were heard. Suddenly, he exclaimed “Oh my God” and walked off the pier and quickly in my direction.

“Do you have a cell phone” he asked. “Yes” I said as I pulled it from my pocket. “Call 911 now – there are two bodies on the pier and they did not respond to my shouting. One of them has a rifle cradled in his arms and I see shotgun shells next to him”. 

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The future of work, part II

Years ago I wrote about the Future of Work here….

Rather than expound on that, let me add a quote from the futurist – Bucky Fuller.

Think carefully about this when you go to get that job you don’t like…..

““We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because…he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.” -Buckminster Fuller”

A common sense discussion and opinion on the Gun Culture and the 2nd Amendment

As you have probably noticed, the recent mass shootings have once again brought the gun control debate back to the news cycle. In light of all the misinformation and propaganda being thrown about, I decided to put down some thoughts, opinions and…yes, facts, into a post! First let me state my qualifications – or lack of such! I am not a lawyer. I am not a constitutional scholar. BUT, I have been an avid amateur historian since I was 8 years old, having devoured the entire world book in the few years following and MANY tens of thousands of pages since. Much of my reading involves the actual words of the founders of this country, as well as the events of the Revolution as well as many events that have followed. Adams, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, etc. are all personalities I have read extensively on. I also have read quite a bit on the writing of and the amending of the US Constitution.
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Review – Corsair Trimaran Sprint 750 sailboat

Prior to the summer of 2012, I sailed a small sloop – a Precision 18, which I reviewed here on this blog. I sold this boat earlier this year and purchased a Corsair Sprint, a 24 foot trimaran based on the famous Farrier “f-boat” Designs. The boat hit the water on July 3rd, giving me plenty of time to learn the ropes. Following are my first impressions of the boat.

Sprint 750 at Mooring in RI

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