Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse and the 27 Club

I doubt there's all that much surprise, shock yes, regret yes, but surprise perhaps not, about the death of Amy Winehouse. The thing is though, given the age of her death, Amy Winehouse is in the 27 Club.

That's the club you really don't want to belong to, of musicians who have died at that young age.

Now it all might just be coincidence but perhaps it isn't:

Almost all of us go through a wild stage at some point but almost all of us are financially constrained when we do. Not so for those who earn millions in their teens or soon after. That spike in the death rate at age 27 can thus be seen as a marker of how long unconstrained excess takes to kill.

That's one theory anyway.

The other question that arises is that she left a large fortune behind her. So who gets Amy Winehouse's money?

Even in the presence of a will written pre-marriage which states otherwise the surviving spouse, or ex-spouse, will again be the natural inheritor. Only if, and I repeat only if, there was a new will written post-divorce which specifically left the estate elsewhere would Blake Fielder-Civil not be the natural inheritor of Winehouse’s estate.

While a marriage is a contrat that over rides all previous wills, divorce isn't a contract which over rides the marriage contract assumptions about inheritance.

So, unless she wrote a new will after the divorce then it looks like it could be her ex, Bruce Fielder-Civil, who gets all the money.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weaponry sales

One of the weirder episodes of my life was when I went into weapons sales.

No, not quite like that, I wasn't shipping tanks off to Ethiopia and places like that. Rather, it was at the end of communism and I was working in Russia. The military factories there, given the end of the Soviet military altogether, were simply lost. Didn't have any orders, weren't getting any money: but given the way the old system rumbled on for a few years, they were still getting raw materials.

This led to some pretty strange decisions by certain factories: there was one that used their plastic injection moulding machines to make sex toys. Didn't work very well as they didn't really know all that well what sex toys were. I didn't get involved with them but I did with the guys making night sights. It was extremely frustrating actually: there was more money to be made (by everyone) by simply taking the germanium metal they were using and selling that. They got it at such a subsidised price that the profit was larger doing that than actually making a night sight.

We got that fixed though and ended up shipping quite a few off to various places. Then, of course, everyone started tightening up on the rules and we ended up in a morass of paperwork so bad that the entire business just wasn't worth the while.

The whole experience made me rather jealous of people doing the same sort of work in the US. Those Second Amendment protections mean that they simply don't face the same sort of problems. They can ship ar 15 accessories, m4 accessories, these sorts of things, as they please and to whom they wish.

All just so much easier, you know?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Understanding the American medical system

It can be confusing when you first try to understand the American medical system: it's so different from what happens across the rest of the world. The important point to remember is that it is, despite the government actually paying for a good chunk of it and the insurance companies most of the rest, a free market medical system. This means that the various providers are all in competition with each other to try and get the business of tending to your medical needs.

So, unlike the UK for example, where if you need travel vaccinations you just go to the local general practitioner who deals with almost all of your other first line medical care, if you were in say San Francisco, you'd need to do a search for a travel clinic sf. This would give you those groups and physicians in San Francisco who specialise in travel vaccinations.

This is pretty much true of all of the US medical system. That specific tasks are handled by experts and specific clinics much more than is common in the health care system of other countries.

Yes, of course, they do have general physicians, you don't need to try and work out what problem you've got on your own before you can find the correct specialist. For example, a search for doctors manhattan would give you a listing of such general purpose physicians in that part of New York.

But as I say, the general way to look at the US medical system is that there's a huge network of different specialists, each chasing your custom. Which is one of the reasons why, as long as you can afford it or have the right insurance, the system is so good of course.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Stick gold in your IRA

One of the things that few people seem to realise is that it's possible to have a gold IRA. There are some limitations and specific rules that have to be followed but is possible to have part of your savings as IRA gold.

It's also possible to have a gold 401k, this meaning that you can have as part of your 401k gold.

The real question of course is whether something like this, or a gold IRA transfer, is a good idea or not?

Leave aside the vagaries of the gold market, that we're at an all time nominal high (although not yet in real terms) and think about the basis of any decent savings plan: diversification.

There is no such thing as an absolutely secure investment: there is also no such thing as an absolutely, no doubt about it, profitable one nor is there one that is entirely inflation proof. All investments are a mixture of the three.

And the point of diversification is to make sure that we have a series of different investments, each of which has a different mixture of the three characteristics. We do want to have some "high growth" stocks despite the risks attatched to them. We do want to have some Treasury bonds, despite the low returns, for they are also low risk. But the risk to bonds is inflation: so we also want to have some gold, for while gold might not earn us investment income it has historically been a very good hedge against inflation.

Having all your retirement funds in gold probably isn't a good idea, just like having all your savings in the latest internet darling that's going to replace Google real soon now isn't a good idea.

But a judicious mix of different investments, diversification, is a good idea.