Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fannie, Freddie, Merrill, Lehman, WaMu and AIG


Get a Nashville songwriter and a sad R & B can be composed out the these names.
I bought my first house in a rather circuitous but careful manner. I chose three wise men and asked for their counsel. They were prudent and were owning a few houses already. No, they were not in business. Just professional. One was a senior editor in a local daily, another was senior manager in a manufacturing concern and the last was a helicopter pilot.

The common denominator of their advice to me was, “If you have the 10% for down payment you can afford it.” However, this advice is for the first house and assuming one is presently renting.
Armed with that confidence of good counsel, I went for it. The buying part was fast. We bought a 2 years old house off an outstation owner who has never rented or occupied it. We were the second mover. We paid a premium of 15% on the developer’s price which was a good buy. Within 3 months the house shot up another 30% from the S & P price.

However, a caveat emptor here. Do not follow this advice for investment purposes. For those who intend to invest think of the advice from late Loh Boon Siew. I remember him saying in an article that he will always pay at least 40% of any property he purchased for investment. Off course some thinks that is not the best way to leverage one’s cash. To some a Ringgit can be stretched more than 10X its face value. Which end of the spectrum one want to be will depend on motivation and inclination to risks. However, not many understand risks and the exposure to it when the motivation is greed.

The sub-prime crisis seems to have precipitated into a bailout of upwards to USD700billion. According to CNN, “The plan calls for the government to buy from firms up to $700 billion in troubled assets -- mainly mortgage-backed securities -- whose values declined as the housing market imploded. The goal is to stabilize the companies and prompt them to lend again.

U.S.A is now facing one of its worse crisis. Just hours earlier President George Bush warned his people in his televised address that “our economy is in serious danger” and “Without immediate action by Congress, America can slip into a major panic.
Universal Studios - Will the lines thin out?
Las Vegas - Will the lights go out?
Even my son who has just studied American history came and asked me whether this current financial crisis will be worse than the 1929 Depression. Kids nowadays know the value of money and are concern if their present lifestyle will be crimped by a crisis in a far-away country as well as how they can do their bit to help. Since he heard about the crisis a few weeks ago, he is helping out by not eating out and also reminding us not to eat out often in posh eateries.

It is frightening to hear that American can afford to eat out only at McDonald and only when they have the 49cent hamburgers special offers. Worse some my have to spent cold winter nights in 24 hours McDonald restaurants as they can’t afford the heating.
As a consumer I have been taught not to have my mortgage exceeding 30% of my take home pay. Indeed it is a risk to do that. In the U.S.A.15% of Americans homeowners now spend more than 50% of their income on housing costs. Another 23% spend more than 30%. It come up to a whopping 38%. Many are struggling to keep their homes. The margin for error is narrow. Any more increase in the oil or even changes in their work places may contribute to this end. It's a frightening thought.

There is 2 side of the story here. The consumers and the big business. One jumped in without checking the fine print and taken in by easy credit and special offers. The other forgot and did not foresee that bubble/dam could burst and they were left with properties whose owners could not afford to pay anymore and property prices well below previous values.

In an eight years of Presidency that is dominated by foreign policies and the lack of focus at home the chickens are coming home to roost. It is ruining George Bush legacy as well as spoiling John McCain chances for another 4 years of Republican rule.

No wonder in the tail-end of his 2nd term of as President, George Bush is fighting to solve this financial crisis so as not be remember in the negative light. But as a lame duck President and leaving by end of the year he will not be riding into the sunset but rather a gathering storm.


1 comment:

Life for Beginners said...

"Worse some my have to spent cold winter nights in 24 hours McDonald restaurants as they can’t afford the heating."

Times like this I give thanks for a roof over my head and the food on my table.

Thanks for sharing this sensible insight into the current crisis (or crisis-to-be if it worsens?).