Author Archives: Mark Freeland

About Mark Freeland

Hi, I’m Mark Freeland and if you read the MFO Discussion Board (as you should), you’ll know me as msf. I too am a personal investor who learned about investing over time, following the adage that if you want something done right, do it yourself. At least if one can. Mathematical, scientific, software background, so analytics come pretty naturally to me. I fell into a CFO role at a four-person startup a few years ago, I think because I was the only one who could open a spreadsheet. Prior to that, I'd been on employee committees (again in small companies) recommending 401k investment options. My hope for the months ahead I might share my thoughts about the mechanics of investment vehicles and new developments as they arise.

The Young Investor’s Secret Weapon: The HSA

By Mark Freeland

Many things in life suck. High on anyone’s list would be:

  1. Health insurance costs
  2. Taxes
  3. Being poor
  4. Ketchup-flavored Doritos. (And you know some mad scientist will have, like, mayo-flavored ice cream in the pipeline next.)

When it comes to Frankenfood, you’re on your own, but there’s major good news about the other three. It’s called a Continue reading →

An ESG Primer

By Mark Freeland

There are days when the world seems unnecessarily out of whack. Runways in London are melting, doctors and pharmacies are denying basic legal reproductive care to women because of fear of prosecution, and corporations are hiding more and more dark money contributions.   It doesn’t matter where you stand politically; both parties are rollicking in the dark. Many people are working to make the world a better place, and many more seem stunned and appalled. One of the strategies that was very much in vogue last year was Continue reading →

Your portfolio … in the Disco Inferno!

By Mark Freeland

Rapidly rising inflation, bear markets, Congressional hearings over political misdeeds, geopolitically related energy price spikes. What next? Bell-bottom pants? The return of disco? These are not echoes of the 70s that people might have hoped for.

We are living in a time with many similarities to that era, including concerns about how to protect one’s portfolio – with cash losing value to inflation and the stock market suffering the worst six-month start of a year since 1970. There are also some differences. The unemployment rate is lower than during the stagflation of the 70s. On the other hand, at least on a nominal basis, bonds in the 70s paid a fair amount of interest unlike Continue reading →

Getting Real

By Mark Freeland

Real estate investing has always been haunted by charlatans and scandals. Timeshare condominiums, swampland (ummm … critical wetlands) in Florida, bridges near Manhattan … heck, the whole reason that Greenland is called “Greenland” and not “utterly f’ing desolate wasteland covered with 1000 carnivores who scare even grizzlies land” was a real estate marketing scam.

The cold coast of Greenland is barren and bare,
No seed-time nor harvest is ever known there.
And the birds here sing sweetly in mountain and dale
But there’s no bird in Greenland to sing to the whale.

There is no habitation for a man to live there
And the king of that country is the fierce Greenland bear.

                                “Farewell to Tarwathie,” ca 1850 Continue reading →

Recipe-based investing

By Mark Freeland

Step One: Find the right recipe.

Indexes are recipes. By that, I mean they’re really precise sets of instructions that direct you in what ingredients, in what amounts, need to be treated, in what way to achieve a particular, predictable outcome. In investing, as in cooking, recipes are relatively recent inventions. Once upon a time, both activities were dominated by the notion that “experienced old guys do their thing, the rest of us watch in awe.”

Take luce or tench or fresh haddock, & boil them & fry them in olive oil. And then take vinegar and the third part sugar & onions minced small, & boil all together, & mace & cloves & cubeb. And lay the fish in dishes & pour the sauce above & serve it forth. Continue reading →

Death, taxes and childbirth

By Mark Freeland

As we head into March, it will soon be spring. A young man’s fancy lightly turns to love, while young and not so young investors’ thoughts turn more solemnly to taxes. This seems like an appropriate time to look at one corner of taxation – curiosities of ordinary income dividends distributed by funds.

I’ve been told that some people find taxes numbingly dull and perplexing. Who could imagine? Just to help you target your attention, Continue reading →

On Risk

By Mark Freeland

On Risk

Justice Potter Stewart’s most famous line is the one that he most regretted:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. Concurring Opinion, Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 @ 197 (1964)

In 1981 he lamented “having said what I said about obscenity—that’s going to be on my tombstone.”

Many investors have the same difficulty with risk that Justice Stewart had with “hard-core pornography,” they are not quite able to define it though they’re pretty sure they know it when they see it. Given that we seem to have entered a period when risk is going to be on a lot of minds, it’s important to understand what it actually is Continue reading →