Monday, May 31, 2010

The Power of the Purse - Using Our Spending Power to Drive Change

It should not be surprising that one of my favorite BLOGS is called "Power of the Purse." The author is Sondra Shaw-Hardy, J.D., described by Town and Country magazine as “the pioneer” in women’s philanthropy. Since 1995 Sondra has authored, co-authored or co-edited five books: Reinventing Fundraising: Realizing the Potential of Women’s Philanthropy; Creating a Women’s Giving Circle: A Handbook; The Transformative Power of Women’s Philanthropy; Youth Giving Circles: Inspiring Youth to Bring About Change; and Women’s Giving Circles: Reflections From the Founders. Her current book, "Women and Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping a Better World" will be published by Jossey-Bass in September, 2010.

Sondra's latest entry is awesome. She instructs us on how we can use our spending power to drive change. Change takes work. Sometimes it is not convenient. But. Can you imagine what the good we could do, the power we could shift if we, and I mean the big WE, would do what she suggests??

"When making our purchases as the world’s largest economy (yes, author Tom Peters did say women were the world’s largest economy), I think we should ask these six questions that I The Power of the Purse and Vera Bradley call:

Six Spending Requirements From the Power of My Purse:

1.How many women are on the corporation’s board?
2.What charitable efforts does the company support?
3.What does the corporation do to help women and girls?
4.How is the corporation working to increase women’s roles in management and corporate executives?
5.Does the company have a plan for increasing diversity?
6.How is the corporation collaborating with others to further philanthropy?"

Read her full entry by clicking here. Better yet subscribe!

Money is a power tool, let us not forget this. With every dollar we spend, we give, we invest, we have the opportunity to let it speak our values. My goal is to not only do that increasingly myself, but to guide others on how to do that as well. What do you care about? What do you want to change? Then how do you use your money, as well as your time and knowledge, to make it happen?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tax Rate Expirations


"The current top capital gains rate of 15% is set to rise to 20% in 2011. Next January also heralds both the expiration of capital gains treatment for dividends, returning them to ordinary income rates, and the return of a top 39.6% income tax bracket, up from 35%. This means that for 2011, dividend income could be subject to a federal tax rate of 39.6%, and in 2013, 43.4% (top income tax bracket of 39.6% plus 3.8% investment income tax). Likewise, in 2013, capital gains may be taxed at a top rate of 23.8%. There has been movement in Congress to maintain the capital gain and dividend rates at 15% for those with incomes under $250,000 (joint return) and $200,000 (single)." WTAS

Major tax increases are coming. Major. I cannot imagine how this is going to be a positive for the equity or credit markets. I just read the top income bracket in New York City will be paying over 52% total federal, state and local. California is giving tax refunds in the form of IOUs? NY is weeks away from running out of cash. We are already in a state budget crisis. There is going to be a battle between these three taxing bodies for dollars.

Abundance, Generosity and Friendship

"Show me who a woman's friends are and I will tell you who she is." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last night some of the people I love most in this world had a "leaving but not going away" party for me. It truly was one of the most special evenings of my life. I awoke this morning feeling so incredibly blessed and so moved to continue to try to do all I can to make the world a better place.

Friends. The people you choose and the people who choose you. When I looked around the room last night and rested on each of these amazing women's faces I thought how lucky am I to have these people in my life. The common denominator? They all use their time, treasure and talent to better the lives of others in such a generous and loving way. Ladies you know who you are, you know how much I love you and I ask yet another thing of all of you - please continue to help me be the best person I can be and expect a lot of me, as heaven knows I do not want to disappoint any one of you. Thank you for all you are, all you do, and for giving me the greatest gift we can give each other, love.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Latest News - Some Facts and Figures to Digest

I spent 10 hours on the soccer field yesterday and in between my daughter's games I had a chance to at least skim the stack of papers I had not had a chance to read this week. ( moving, injury... long story) There are about 100 topics I would like to link to, comment on, write-about ....... not going to happen. BUT... I did jot down some facts that I want to share that get behind some of these key issues affecting the markets and the economy. Food for thought...

- The losses or injections of gov't money in to Fannie and Freddie is already $145 billion. Double the profit of the last 35 years.
- According to MBS 9.38% of ALL LOANS outstanding are delinquent as of Q1.
- US inflation year 4 year lows ( as it is reported by the gov't)
- A NY Police Officer retired at 44 having had a base pay of $74,000 yr and now gets $101,333 a yr for life, retired. ( NYT)
- Our National Household New Worth - $54 trillion ( 18% less then summer 2007) - NYT
- The Median Retirement Account Balance for Heads of Households ages 55-60 - $80,000 NYT
- The Median Annual Salary for Full-Time Workers with a 4 yr College Degree $55,656 (2008) NYT
-$140.5 billion - Net Foreign purchases of long-term US securities, minus open market buys in March. ( Barrons)
- US Reform Bill Clears Senate Hurdle this week
- Surprising jump in US jobless claims
- Germany surprises the market by banning naked short selling on certain instruments
- Bangkok burns and Thai protests spread after a crackdown
- Credit Spreads widening from post crisis tights
- Lots of news about the state and local budget problems - LOTS. "The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that this coming year alone states will face an aggregate shortfall of $180 billion. In some states the gap is more then 30%." (WSJ)
- The Hedge Fund dudes head to Washington to lobby against an increase in carried interest profits from the cap gains rate to ordinary income rates.
- Cost of going to Georgetown University next year - $53,006 (WSJ)
- Seth Klarman - legendary investor - Baupost Group - "More Worried then Ever." ( WSJ)
- Default rate on credit card loans 9.14% - highest rate since index began to be calculated in 2004.
- Oliver Stone's sequel to Wall Street debuts at Cannes Film Festival.

Markets

- S & P - 1087 week down 4.23% ytd down 2.46% 52 week up 22.63%
- 10 yr treasuries 3.2%
- limber down 30% over the past month
- Asian Markets lowest level in 9 months
- Canada/US dollar out to $1.07 after almost hitting parity again
- GE drops $5.8% - $16.26 share (thurs)
- Euro down 17% versus US Dollar since December
-Nikkei 225 Average closes below 10,000 for first time since Feb. (down 6.48% on week)

Off to pack...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Top Ten Risks for the Global Economy ( GS 2005 )

I am in the process of packing up our home for a big move out West and coming across some interesting things while doing it! In 2005 I attended a conference at Goldman Sachs entitled "The Top 10 Risks in the Global Economy." The speakers included heads of states, economists, investment managers and more. All these challenges continue to be extremely relevant today!

Here is what they were. ( again 2005)

1) Hedge Funds and Derivatives
2) World Oil Supply
3) Wealth Disparities in Emerging Nations
4) Global Regulatory Challenges to Economic Growth
5) Opportunities and Challenges For Growth in China
6) Trade Liberalization
7) Environmental Accords
8) Geopolitical Conflicts
9) Global Terrorism
10)World Health Conditions

There is so much to write about, so so much... but the packing boxes are calling my name !!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Washington Visit


This was one of the coolest weeks ever with respect to the intersection of so many of the things I am passionate about! Women, money, influence, finance, social change, philanthropy, networking, human capital management and more. The only thing missing was the faith component but that is coming June 3rd. A quick plug. Auburn Theological Seminary is having their annual Women’s Lives of Commitment Breakfast at 7:30 am at the Plaza Hotel, NYC. I am humbled to be an honoree this year, with other amazing women leaders who are motivated to do what they do in the world because of their faith. Following the breakfast there will be a conversation, “Women, God and Money” so please consider joining! I will do a whole entry on Auburn soon! On to this week...

I made a trip to Washington on Wednesday to meet with the White House, Presidential Personnel Office to discuss how they can access various networks to attract the best people possible to senior roles in the administration. It was fascinating to learn about the process by which they recruit thousands of people in to various roles and I was deeply impressed with the staff people we met with. We had many senior people in the administration come to speak to us to talk about their careers and I learned so much. Personally I have never thought about a role in government so it was really eye opening. The good news is the government is hiring, the bad news, there is not much hiring going on in the private sector.

Next I had a meeting with some very senior folks at Treasury to discuss the Women in Fund Management Report, which looks at the barriers and solutions to attracting, retaining and promoting more talented women in to financial services roles. The Treasury Department is perhaps the largest financial institution we have in this country. I had never really thought about that! ( If you are a person with a financial background and are looking for work, or know of others who are, the treasury is hiring! (check out the link here) ) We discussed a variety of issues and opportunities and I looking forward to staying connected with the people I met there and assist them in any way possible! A few weeks back I had the opportunity to meet the most senior woman in Treasury, the Treasurer of the United States, Rosie Rios. I am going to do a separate entry on Ms. Rios as she is truly spectacular and I women we all need to know about. Talking about powerful women in Washington Finance, there was a great article about many of them last week on Yahoo so in case you missed it, here it is. ( "Female Sheriffs of Wall Street - click here)

So what did I learn from all of this? What were my take-aways? First, our country is being largely shaped by government, so to have the opportunity to walk the streets of Washington, and have access to the buildings and the people were decisions were being made me feel like I could be part of it all. That I could have a voice. That we all could have a voice. I shared some of the concerns I had as a resident of this country, and I was listened to. That was very cool. Second, I was deeply impressed with the people I met and their commitment to the work they do. If there are ways I can assist them in doing the best they can do for all of us, I am going to do that. Third I realize the need to see government as a partner to business. I see the need for creative solutions to some very big problems and I am left imagining how to do that. Stephanie Hanbury Brown was there from Golden Seeds, and we had a great conversation with a senior person from the Commerce department on how to breakdown the barriers to accessing capital faced by women entrepreneurs. Unleashing private capital to fund new businesses has to be an urgent priority so how do we partner in doing that? How do we leverage the power of government in partnership with the private sector to improve our economy? So far I have not seen a lot of great examples of that but I left Washington believing that good things could and will happen. So..... I left inspired. I left hopeful. I left feeling like I can, we all can, make a difference.

I have so much more to blog about but this is already a very long entry.... blessings.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fannie, Freddie and Financial Markets Terrorism?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If you are a regular reader you know I have mentioned them a lot over the years. Well they reported quarterly losses late last week but the number barely made a headline. Today in Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times writes a front page article called "Ignoring the Elephant in the Room."

"Freddie — already propped up with $52 billion in taxpayer funds used to rescue the company from its own mistakes — recorded a loss of $6.7 billion and said it would require an additional $10.6 billion from taxpayers to shore up its financial position." It goes on..."Some $130 billion in federal money had already been larded on both companies before Freddie's latest request."

Gretchen questions why more people are not talking about this situation, and I could not agree more. This two agencies are barely if at all mentioned when talking about financial reform, and for those who think government might be the answer when it comes to running financial institutions, I beg you to think again. The same Washington folks who thought Freddie and Fannie could do no wrong, like ever, are the ones leading the charge for too big to fail institutions that don't include these two entities. It is nuts. It is scary and sad and nuts.

Ok on to the reason for the 1000 market crash. How is it possible that days later no one has a clue what caused this? ( "Origin of Scare on Wall Street Eludes Officials" NYT )Am I the only one out there that think this could have been an act of financial terrorism? If it was a 'fat finger' error how could officials not know from what institution the trade came? It just does not make sense and honestly, it is really frightening. First we had credit derivatives and synthetic CDOs as weapons of mass destruction and now this. We not only have to worry about dismantling physical bombs, but economic and financial ones as well? Capital markets, and especially stock exchanges, work because we have confidence in them. We assume that if you execute a trade in good faith it will be upheld. With what happened last week, including the cancelling of trades which occurred during the drop, it really makes me wonder what the heck is going on.

I think it is equally bizarre that they have no idea what caused the explosion on the oil rig and why NONE of the back-ups kicked in. I am not trying to get all Mel Gibson on you all but ..... Ok I know it is Mother's Day. I need to lighten up.

Happy Mothers Day! A Shout Out to My Mother Rose.

"Mаkіnɡ a ԁесіѕіοn tο hаνе a child–іt’s momentous. It іѕ tο ԁесіԁе forever tο hаνе уουr heart ɡο walking around outside уουr body.” – Elizabeth Stone

I want to thank my mother Rose for being such an amazing example of what a mother should be. She was always there for me as a child, and continues to be as an adult. She loves, she gives, she serves, she listens, she teaches, she guides, she cooks, she cleans, she creates, she holds. My grandmother Sadie, at 92, is the light of our lives and taught us all how to live a generous life. To my big sister Teri, the mother of two spectacular human beings, you are the best mom ever! I am blessed to have so, so many wonderful women and mothers in my lives. Wishing all the mothers out there a truly wonderful day....Pictured above is my mother Rose with my two children, Matthew and Allie.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Thoughts From John Mauldin on the Crisis in Europe and more...

John Mauldin is one of my favorite economic writers and I highly suggest you subscribe to his free newsletters. His most recent ones, that you can find here and here, put a challenging context around recent events in Greece. What he suggests is that the problems faced by Greece we face here in the US as well.

"Let me briefly sum up last week's letter. They wrote: "Today, interest rates are exceptionally low and the growth outlook for advanced economies is modest at best. This leads us to conclude that the question is when markets will start putting pressure on governments, not if.

"When, in the absence of fiscal actions, will investors start demanding a much higher compensation for the risk of holding the increasingly large amounts of public debt that authorities are going to issue to finance their extravagant ways?" "

This is the fundamental question I started asking over two years ago when I began this blog. Put another way I suggested that you cannot solve a debt problem with debt. ( yes I studied business to figure that one one.. ha ha ) Sooner or later debts must be paid off, or written down. The former is more painful for the borrower, the second of course for the lender. It seems the day of reckoning is coming sooner versus later. Time to deal with the big problems. If you want to read an insightful comment read Chris Gray's from two blogs ago....

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thoughts on the Market from Merrill Lynch's Michael Hartnett

This just in from Merrill Lynch about the sell-off yesterday. The piece is called "While Athen Burns..." - Head Strategist Michael Hartnett

"Drivers of the sell-off: earnings, interest rates/liquidity and positioning. China
growth fears and European credit contagion & deflation are the key macro drivers."

"Global equities are off over 10% from their April 15th highs. Three reasons why:
earnings, interest rates/liquidity and positioning."

"New lessons
�� The excess liquidity phase of the bull market is coming to an end
�� European deflation a huge risk
�� Market is now differentiating between creditors & debtors; companies with
ambitious funding schedules may be penalized.
�� Companies are safer than countries
�� Best of breed stocks to outperform"

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Greece Problems and the Markets Takes a Big Nosedive

Greece. Spain. Portugal. Contagion. European Banking Crisis. Sovereign Defaults. These were some of the words being thrown around today to explain the big downward dive in global equity markets. A few weeks ago I mentioned Greece and made reference to John Mauldin saying "there is not a happy ending here." Still true. There is no happy ending to countries spending way beyound their means.

I have to say I had a sinking feeling on my way in on the train this morning. Why? Because I read the newspaper. The article that really caught my attention was yesterday's piece in the FT by Martin Wolf ( love him )"A bail-out for Greece is just the beginning." ( love the FT) The article describes the bailout package for GREECE and why they are unlikely to avoid a debt restructuring. Greece is certainly in the worst situation "but several (others )have unsustainable fiscal deficits and rapidly rising debt ratios." Just like the US subprime problem, there is a lot of debt that is going to need to be written down and it mostly the European banks that own it. Is round two of the financial crisis about to unfold? How the heck do I know, but I certainly think there are some very big problems out there that would argue for a more defensive posture.

Monday, May 3, 2010

HUMANITY CALLS AND EBAY LAUNCH FUNDRAISING TOURNAMENT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

$50,000 from eBay for Fundraising Tournament. Top-voted Nonprofits Win.

I want to share with you some information about a remarkably new and fresh way to make giving fun! It’s a social fundraising movement and the culmination of over 50 people's collaborative efforts, tens of thousands of entirely volunteer hours and less than $5,000 in capital. This platform speaks to and truly engages younger audiences and is BIG and BOLD enough to tackle major world issues and challenge how people really think about fundraising. Humanity Calls is what the world needs now!

Specifically, Humanity Calls is the world’s first fundraising tournament platform designed to bring together nonprofits, companies, and individuals focused on global challenges such as health, education, women and girls and poverty. Its initial fundraising tournament for the environment just recently launched with $50,000 from eBay. For 8 weeks, a global community will vote on the top environmental nonprofits around the world to determine how this money, and much more, will be split up. Currently, over 115 environmental nonprofits have signed up for the tournament, with more expected to join. And last week alone, over 5,000 votes were cast for these nonprofits in the system!

The tournament is at the heart of a movement in which organizations use online voting to inspire philanthropy. Unique to Humanity Calls, however, is a focus on social media and game mechanics, which drive participation and charitable giving and ultimately increase the amount awarded to multiple nonprofits over the course of each Humanity Calls tournament. Nonprofits vie for votes that determine their share in a donated cash pool and individuals from around the world earn votes by taking action, such as donating and spreading the word through Facebook and Twitter.


Humanity Calls is a completely 501(c)3 registered nonprofit organization entirely powered by volunteer efforts and . Top-voted nonprofits receive 100% of individual donations (less third party payment processing fees for donations) at the close of the tournament.

I’ve been following the Humanity Calls story for some time and personally know the outstanding team behind this immense effort!!! To achieve their vision, which is to raise dozens of millions of dollars every year for the world's best nonprofits, Humanity Calls needs your participation! Simply logging in to Humanity Calls provides ANYONE with one initial vote to cast in favor of the organization they believe to be most worthy to share in the +$50,000 tournament cash pool. Additional votes can be earned by donating directly to participating nonprofits, donating to the larger tournament cash pool and referring others to HumanityCalls.org. I urge you to go the website, watch hundreds of nonprofits vying for votes and earning thousands of dollars in donations while engaging tends of thousands of supporters right before your own eyes!
Please pass on the news about this amazing new organization and help Humanity Calls help Humanity.