8 Fascinating Reads

Good reads, short quotes.

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:15PM


There are more good articles on the Web every week than anyone could read in a month. Here are eight fascinating things I read this week.

A private equity firm uses a personality test to hire workers, finding it more effective than typical credentials:

One of Vista's best software salesmen used to be a roofer. Another previously worked at a Verizon store, and went to making $240,000 a year, from $22,000. In Iowa, a pizza deliveryman took the Vista aptitude test, got an A, and was offered a job paying $43,000 annually.

Not only are many of these workers less expensive than their better-credentialed peers, but to Mr. Smith, they are often more driven to succeed. And employing them, he believes, provides a social good.

Clocking in
A lot of people say we have a skills shortage. But ask American businesses, and what we really have is an effort shortage. Businesses say one of the greatest problems is finding punctual workers:


As one analyst sarcastically put it, basically nobody got into Stanford this year. There are a lot of good stats in this article:  

Stanford received 42,167 applications for the class of 2018 and sent 2,138 acceptance notices, for a first-year class that, ultimately, will number about 1,700.

The University of California, Los Angeles, the national leader in applications, had more than 86,000 requests -- twice as many as in 2005 -- for space in a first-year class of about 6,000, and it also received 19,000 applications to transfer from other colleges and universities. This year, for the first time, the admission rate for first-year applicants at U.C.L.A. and the University of California, Berkeley, could drop below 20 percent.

Warren Buffett is tired of hotels jacking up prices during Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-B) annual meeting in Omaha. This year he has a recommendation: AirBnB. 

The billionaire investor is planning to mention the website at Berkshire Hathaway's upcoming annual shareholders' meeting on May 3 as a low-cost alternative for shareholders who don't want to pay the jacked-up rates that Omaha hotels charge while the gathering is taking place every year ...

Mr. Buffett, who said he's a bit of a "mother bear [who] can get fierce about protecting shareholders," said in a recent interview he thought Airbnb could provide a cheaper option. "I want to protect my cubs, make sure shareholders are well taken care of," he said.

Young money
Millennials -- those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s -- are viewed as a broke generation, drowning in student loan debt and a sour job market. But a lot of them are doing just fine:

A report from The Shullman Research Center, titled "Millionaires Have Their Own Generation Gap," found that 23 percent of today's millionaires are millennials. There are now about 5 million millennial millionaires. That's half as many as the boomers. But it's more than the older and more established Gen-Xers, who count only 4 million millionaires among their ranks.

Tracking your performance as an investor is really important. Amazingly, a lot of smart people don't do it. Here's recent Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller:

Q: Do you think of yourself as someone smart enough to pick winners in the stock market?

A: Well, I actually think I'm smart enough to pick winners. I've always believed in value investing. Some stocks just get talked about, and people pay all sorts of attention to them, and everyone wants to invest in them, and they bid the price up and they are no longer a good buy. Other stocks, they are boring. There is no news about them -- they are making toilet paper or something like that -- and their price gets too low. So as a matter of routine, you buy low-priced stocks and sell high-priced stocks.

Q: What's your personal track record: Are you more up than down?

A: I have never done a personal analysis. I have to do that. But I believe that I've done well in timing the market, although not perfectly.

Many are thrilled at the prospects of America becoming energy independent. Some think that's a fantasy:

As the EIA explains at length here, you need to lay on a whole bunch of assumptions to get to zero net imports. Oil prices would have to stay high enough that companies find it profitable to seek out difficult deposits. Offshore fields in the Gulf Coast and elsewhere would need to have more recoverable oil than forecasters currently think -- and these areas still haven't been explored very thoroughly. Drilling technology would also need to continue to improve, with companies able to pack more wells closer together in oil and gas fields.

Some experts are skeptical that drilling productivity will keep improving so dramatically. Case in point: David Hughes, a geoscientist at the Post Carbon Institute, has argued that individual fracking wells are declining more quickly than people thought -- which will make it harder to increase overall production. Other energy analysts think that oil forecasting is more akin to astrology than science, and we shouldn't put much stock in any medium-term predictions of these sorts.

Satirical site The Onion writes about the job market of yesteryear:

According to a Gallup report published Tuesday, over 95 percent of the nation's grandfathers began their careers by walking straight into a place of business, saying "I'm the man for the job," and receiving a position right there on the spot. "I just went right up to the owner, looked him dead in the eye, and told him I was the person he was looking for," said 78-year-old William Chambers, whose story was nearly identical to accounts given by thousands of other grandfathers interviewed for the report, each of whom emphasized that they placed both their hands firmly on the businessman's desk, explained that they were "go-getters," and concluded by saying that, if hired, they would be the hardest worker the company had ever seen. "Right away, the fellow told me he liked my gumption, and then we sealed it all with a handshake. I had that job until the day I retired."

Enjoy your weekend. 

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Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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