Monday, November 25, 2013

On Being Selfish for Christmas

In this traditional season of holiday giving, how can “being selfish for Christmas” possibly be worth considering?

We make so many unconscious choices with money throughout the year, but during the holidays, no sooner does the mania of Black Friday strike, than we race out to shop. We spend because others bought us something last year. We buy for people at the periphery of our social or business network. We buy because we can’t disappoint the kids, or our friends’ or relatives’ kids. Pretty soon we have a buy list a mile long and are thinking about how we can get it done in the least amount of time for the least amount of money. Where is the joy in that?

Savory Holiday Stuffing with Quince and Chestnuts

This stuffing is especially delicious with Thanksgiving turkey.
It is a variation on a "traditional" sage stuffing. Its success depends on a nice balance of savory and sweet components. Bake it in a casserole or stuff it into a bird. Quinces and chestnuts are in the markets now. And for those of you in Marin, there is a vendor at the Sunday Civic Center farmer’s market who sells roasted chestnuts!! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Diversification of Your Investments: The Closest Thing to a Free Lunch

When I was younger, one of my favorite cartoon characters was Yogi Bear. Yogi and I share a passion for food. If you remember his antics, you recall that Yogi was always trying to find ways to steal picnic baskets. Here was a guy looking for the proverbial “free lunch.” Now we all know there is no such thing. Yet, as I get ready to write about diversification of investment portfolios, Yogi somehow comes to mind. Diversifying your investments is in some ways analogous to getting a free lunch. With a well-diversified portfolio, one or even several bad investments won't ruin you. Your portfolio will have fewer wild swings in value that make you queasy. And, you will experience more steady progress toward your investment goals.

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Is A Hedge Fund? Part II

According to Webster, the word “hedge,” as it relates to investments, originally meant “a means of protection or defense (as against financial loss.)” Hedge funds can be used to diversify a portfolio and reduce risk by providing investments that do not move in the same direction at the same time. If your portfolio consists entirely of U.S. stocks, you might choose to invest in something else that cushions the blow when stocks decline – an alternative investment that would appreciate when stocks decline. 

In this way, you’ve lowered the risk of your portfolio; you can think of hedging, then, as taking out insurance in case you are wrong.

What Is A Hedge Fund? Part I

When a friend recently asked me this question, I realized the answer was complicated! In a way, hedge funds are similar to mutual funds – baskets of securities (stocks, bonds, cash) managed by professionals – but there the comparison faltered. A hedge fund is an alternative investment (to stocks and bonds) that can utilize a broad range of strategies and financial tools to reach its objectives. Hedge funds have greater latitude (than mutual funds) to invest in any and all markets across the globe.

What does this really mean, you may wonder. Here is a sample of self-descriptive language from a hedge fund website: 

Sorrel Soup with Leeks and Potatoes

Sorrel is something to seek out and treasure. I was first exposed to it back in 1979 working at Fourth Street Grill in Berkeley. Chef Mark Miller had left Chez Panisse to open his own place. Mark heavily influenced my choice to pursue cooking as a first career. At Fourth Street Grill we cooked fresh local salmon over a mesquite charcoal fire and served it with buttery sorrel sauce. It was truly a revelation and an indelible food memory! 

Sorrel has been described as “sour grass” which may not excite you but it has a very unique flavor and pairs up deliciously with stewed leeks. You may have to scour farmers’ markets or your better produce stores to find it, but it is worth the effort! I was astounded how much I enjoyed this soup.