¿De dónde eres? Where are you from?

As I sit on a packed flight from Denver to Chicago, I contemplate the micro-economic vignettes I see.  From paying extra for covered parking, to getting my shoes shined by a gentleman from Chihuahua Mexico, to the extra payed for priority boarding and expedited security screening.  My trip is a series of microeconomic choices.

As I was getting my shoeshine, I chatted with Miguel.  I wanted to practice my broken Spanish so I asked “¿Cómo se dice? ‘Where are you from?'”.  He replied “¿De dónde eres?”.  After several tries I managed to repeat the question with satisfactory pronunciation.  Then I asked “¿De dónde eres?” and he replied “Mexico”.

During the next couple days in Chicago I met two people on separate locations who were from Bulgaria but spoke better German that I do (I studied German for 4 years and can converse enough to feel reasonably comfortable at a German dinner table conversation).  And, Chicago, being Chicago, I encountered a wide variety of people from various and sundry places around the world.

In general the primary reason they are here in the States now is economic.  The economic opportunity here, even in the current abysmal economy, is better than most places in the world.

The financial literacy of folks also varied widely.  I heard a comedian quip that she thought a 401K was some kind of marathon run.  Many of the folks I interacted with probably were close to that end of the financial literacy spectrum.  The did, however, know that they could make much better dinero in Denver or Chicago than in Chihuahua or Bulgaria.

Other folks I had longer interactions with were financial professionals of various stripes.  A couple were traders focused on interest rate futures and options.  I had long conversations with a financial software developer who also does extensive corn futures trading.  He has seen the financial trading floor evolving over the years.  The floor is a bit quieter and littered with half as many discarded bits of paper because more and more of the action is moving towards electronic trading.

Primary Election Day

Tomorrow is primary election day in Colorado.  The turnout is very high, and I am happy to see that.

There are 3 finance-related issues on my mind this election cycle:

  1. Fiscal discipline.
  2. Treasurer races.  How does Colorado invest for pensions?
  3. Taxes.  How does Colorado structure its tax code?  Especially sales taxes and the internet.

These are the financial investment issues on my mind.   What are yours?

Financial Baseball

While discussing synthetic CDOs one of my colleges suggested that they reminded him of fantasy baseball.  He said that creating synthetic CDOs is like creating a virtual baseball team, and that betting on this virtual team is like writing credit default swaps on synthetic CDOs.

I liked the analogy and thought it might be helpful in explaining some of the details of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Applying this analogy to credit rating agencies who gave AAA ratings to crappy securities is like creating a fantasy baseball team that is rated to be as talented as the Yankees but is actually made of mostly minor league players.