The obsessed business owner is never really far from business, regardless of where the body lies. Late last month, as I was frying under the Bermuda sun, my mind started to surf through a lot of the things I had experienced so far this year. Here are some of my observations.
I remember back to 1994, when the
S&P was up about 1.3%, but most stocks were under water -- a terrible year. One day, I was percolating through the business section at a nearby
Barnes & Noble
, looking for some kind of optimistic transfusion. All of a sudden, there it was, Harry Dent's book,
The Great Boom Ahead, written the previous year. I thought, "This guy's got a great sense for marketing. Everybody is talking gloom and doom and he's writing about a boom." I bought the book, read it and felt a lot better. Dent is the well-known economic demographer who is riding the crest of the baby boomer phenomenon. Almost everything he predicted in that book has come true.
His next two books,
The Roaring 2000s and
The Roaring 2000s Investor, develop the same theme: The tremendous number of baby boomers is a major force in driving the market up and up, until the end of the decade. Dent is riding an unbelievable commercial high right now, but I'm bothered by the way he is selling himself.
He is now an adviser to at least two large mutual fund companies. One even has a fund with his name on it. He picks the particular sectors to invest in, and the managers of the funds pick the stocks. The thing that got to me came in the mail about a month ago. Dent wants me to become part of his new "exclusive territory" national financial adviser network. For $10,000 a year, I'll have access to videos, tapes, books, intensive quality-controlled training programs, etc. By joining the network I could even give seminars in Dent's name and get lots of new clients. The thing that disappoints me is how highly qualified academic innocence gradually morphs into capitalistic opportunism. I am not passing moral judgment here, but when thoughts of
start flashing across my mind, I feel somebody has crossed the line of innocence. I am not sure if crossing this line into obvious commercialism requires compromises, but I'm reminded of one of the arguments against load funds, "Can you really be objective and take a commission?"
By this point, the sun was undoubtedly starting to affect my mind, but I started thinking about a couple of interesting panels at a recent portfolio managers conference in San Francisco. The first was a luncheon panel, moderated by Louis Rukeyser, of
Wall $treet Week
fame. He gave a presentation that would have made George Washington proud. Of the people on his panel, Ned Riley of
and Joe Battipaglia of
Gruntel & Co.
shared a very optimistic perspective on the fourth quarter. Ken Fisher, columnist for
, was the lone contrarian who thought everything could fizzle out by the end of the year.
The other panel was on technology. The three most memorable participants were Kevin Landis (
), Garret Van Wagoner (
Van Wagoner Funds
) and Michael Murphy, author of a couple of highly respected technology newsletters. In Murphy's September 2000 issue of
, he says, "The worst is over. This has been a difficult year so far for technology stocks, and I know that the seasonal weakness we've seen recently tends to overshadow the fact that we've got a year-end rally coming, and that the outlook for the next year is strong." That coming from a guy who actually went to cash twice earlier in the year is a pretty significant statement. Landis and Van Wagoner agreed on the very optimistic view that tech is the place to be. They suggested, that while tech is the best sector, people must have the fortitude to stay with it long term, because it can be volatile in the extreme in the short term, as we found out in March and April. It's been my experience that few people can really do this at home, so these are two guys that you might consider adding to your offense.
Perhaps the most rewarding memory from this year was the one-hour interview Don Phillips did with the great John Bogle,
founder, at the
conference in Chicago. Bogle is the
of the mutual-fund industry. He does his best to keep the cost fair -- making his index funds an efficient, effective and productive service for mankind. Agree or disagree, you know this is a man that will never cross the line. He doesn't even need to. A nice guy who finishes first.
Vern Hayden is a certified financial planner in Westport, Conn. He is a financial consultant and advisory associate of Financial Network Investment Corp. He also is an owner of Hayden Financial Group. His column is not a recommendation to buy or sell stocks or to solicit transactions or clients. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks or funds. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, Hayden welcomes your feedback and invites you to send it to
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