Now I Know Why I’m Feeling Bad

Well after yesterday’s disaster of index performance I decided to do a little digging.  Exactly how bad has it been lately.

Well the following is the major stock indexes that make up my portfolio and their performance for the last few months.


  • June 18, 2008 – 15073
  • Sept 29, 2008 – 11285
  • Down 25%

S&P 500

  • June 18, 2008 – 1337
  • Sept 29, 2008 – 1106
  • Down 17%

MSCI EAFE Total Return Index

  • June 18, 2008 – 1468
  • Sept 29, 2008 – 1163
  • Down 20%

Wow that sucks!  What is really scary is the US and world index have been falling since the start of the year.  If you take that in to account the loses are closer to 24% for the S&P and 26% for the MSCI Total Return.

And I’m just left sitting here with two thoughts on my mind.  Damn I wish I had more cash to go shopping right now.  Panic sellers can be good deals if you can stand the downside.  The other thought is bonds were a good idea to include in my portfolio for the sleep at night factor.  Best of luck everyone.

Out of Toner My Ass!

My laser printer recently died.  It stopped at page 93 out of 103 of the document I was printing.  The display said my printer was out of toner.  I picked up the last page.  It looked perfect.  Not a hint of fading.  At this point I’m getting suspicious that my printer thinks it is smart when it isn’t.

So I open the toner cartridge and give it  shake and load it back in the printer. The toner display light goes back out for a second, but not before I can finish my print job.  I take out the toner cartridge again and listen as I shake it.  It’s got a fair amount of toner left that I can hear sloshing around.

So rather than accept what my printer tells me.  I investigate on the internet.  I unfortunately didn’t remember to bookmark the site and I can’t see to find it again otherwise I would post it here.  Yet basically I discover Brother laser printers are infamous for showing they are out of toner before they really are out.  The solution to many more pages of fine looking text is to simply put black electrical tape over the optic sensors on the side of the toner cartridge.  I find some black electrical tape.  I investigate the cartridge and find the sensor.  I cut one small piece of tape and put it on then I load it back in the printer.

The toner light is now out.  I do a print job.  It looks great.  To test my theory I show my wife and cover up the page numbers.  Which one was printed last?  She says “I cant’ tell.”  Exactly, my point.  Out of toner my ass!

So the moral of this little tale is don’t believe what people or machines tell you if it sounds wrong to you.  Often when planning an early retirement I hear people saying ‘You can’t do that.’  I just think to myself, why not?  If my printer is that dumb, why should I believe much from people that thought I would accept a stupid light on my display telling me to buy something?  The world doesn’t revolve around buying more stuff or having the most money in retirement.  Just remember to be smarter than the out of toner light.

The Green Spot: Green Products

Alright one aspect of everyone trying to live a bit better with respect to the environment is a huge surge in ‘green’ products.  I see the world green put on cleaners, paper towel, dishwasher detergent and even reusable bags.  Which is good to have a choice, but I do have a problem.

The issue I have with this surge is the lack of transparency on backing up the claims on the products.  What exactly makes a cleaner ‘green’ or not?  What does ‘all natural’ really mean?  After all uranium ore is ‘all natural’ and I would hardly call that safe for use in the home or good for the environment.  Green has turned into a marketing game with little rules to help to determine what really is useful or not.

So in a maze of products how do you tell what is good or not?  Well here are a few of my rules of thumb.

  1. Recycled Content – If a paper towel is 80% recycle fibers it is likely a good choice.  Using less raw materials in anything is typically a good idea.
  2. Use Less Energy – Energy Star is a good starting point to compare energy use between products, but also consider what features you need on the product.  If you can get away with less things on a stove you can often find a base model that uses less energy.
  3. Use the Ecologo – One actually useful logo to look for on products is the Ecologo which was started in 1988 well before green become in fashion.  For a list of products see here.
  4. No Claims – If a product has ‘green’ in the label but makes not claims on why you best put it back and find something else.
  5. Avoid Once Use Items – An unbleached coffee filter is a good idea, a better one is to buy a reusable filter and skip the once use item all together.

So that’s my short list of ideas.  What do you use to help determine what is useful or not?