Ask Banterist

Are Mutual Funds a Good Investment for Someone in Danger of Being Mauled by a Bear?

So you’re walking by yourself in the woods, thinking about the money you’ve squared away for investing. Putting it in the bank will earn you almost no interest

, if any. You want to do something smarter with your hard-earned cash. There’s a cave. Maybe you want to take a look.

If you’re not sure what to do with that money

, you’re not alone. And if you’ve stumbled into a bear cave you’re not alone either. The worst thing a mutual fund will do is tank or charge you high fees. An angry bear will bite your head and claw you up.

Mutual funds are an excellent choice for the passive investor. By that I mean someone who doesn’t follow the market on a daily basis — you have better things to do, like stay alert because you’re in a bear cave and you smell like gin.

You might not know exactly what a mutual fund is, as you stupidly reach to pet the sleeping bear cub. A mutual fund is portfolio of stocks actively monitored by a portfolio manager. Knowing not to go near a bear cub is pretty much Bear 101. An enraged mother bear will shred you alive. What are you thinking?

Let’s say you’ve opted to invest in a mutual fund. Now what? You hear a bowel-liquefying growl coming from the dark. That’s the mother. She will kill you. There are thousands of mutual funds to choose from

Choosing the right fund is where you really need to do your homework. Just pray it doesn’t come after you. There’s a chance you’ve spooked it and it won’t go full aggro on you. Run like Forrest Gump regardless.

You can choose funds based on your investment objectives

, and a mix of funds is never a bad idea. Don’t poke your eye out on a branch as you run, screaming, through this normally tranquil pine forest.

There are funds that follow aggressive strategies in the hopes of gaining higher returns, but with that comes higher risk. There are conservative funds that reduce risk but often reduce rate of return. I can’t quite tell if it’s coming after you. Don’t stop and look back. Those seconds could mean the difference between life and being torn to bits. Just run.

Some mutual funds are sector-specific, focusing on biotech or defense or consumer goods for example. If the bear starts attacking you from behind, the best thing to do is crumple up into a ball. Protect your face and head at all costs. There’s no shortage of advice on good mutual funds out there. Play dead.

Once you’ve found a fund you like, study its returns, fees and portfolio. All the research on the mutual fund is at your disposal. Granted, you didn’t know enough not to pet a bear cub, but all that means is you’re not a woodsman. You could still be a Warren Buffet. Promise you’ll never drink gin in the woods if you survive this.

Next week: Why Index Funds are better than Mutual Funds if your minivan is on fire.

Ask Banterist: Who Is Paris Hilton?

I am reading this article about Paris Hilton (this ‘Making It’) and I am asking who she is? Can you please help tell me? (sorry for the English)

Hello D,
Your English is better than my German.
Allow me to express my mixed emotions at exporting this kind of knowledge to people outside our borders. Like weapons-grade uranium and McDonald’s, I think the world is a better place when such things are contained to the domestic arena, to be better policed. But, like weapons-grade uranium and McDonald’s, these things have a tendency to find the cracks and escape. Especially when they have a marketing and public relations force.
No doubt, I’m playing right into her publicist’s hands to assist in the dissemination of Paris-related information, whether or not it’s negative. However, since you came all the way from Hamburg and asked, I feel it’s only fair to answer your question. Perhaps you can start assembling the defenses in Germany, for I feel all is lost here. If I could contribute in some way to the establishment of a cultural Maginot Line ‘ one that works – I would consider my life more worthwhile.
Paris Hilton is the daughter of one of the sons of Conrad Hilton, a hotel magnate. An ‘heir’ being simply a son or daughter with a boatload of cash. If you’ve stayed at a Hilton, you have indirectly contributed to her heiress lifestyle. I have an awkwardly-named ‘Hilton HHonors’ card, so I have also contributed to her heiress lifestyle, but I plan on getting my revenge. My goal is to at least save enough points that I can at least cheat her out of a free night’s stay, or a deluxe upgrade. Unfortunately her grandpa has a ton of blackout dates, so it’s taking longer than expected.
I believe her personal worth is somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million US dollars or so. Don’t take my word on that figure, I’m not sure where I got that statistic. Regardless, she has a lot of money, which in the U.S. is the only pre-requisite for showing up anywhere and doing whatever you feel like without any scrutiny or repercussions.
She is like what Stephen Hawking might call a black hole: her mere presence sucks the brightness out of everything for miles.
Much like a former child star who lost the spotlight, she has an incredible, consuming need for attention. That’s not unique, but most of us in need of attention pursue acting careers, create weblogs, spray-paint ‘Neck Face’ on walls, or join improvisational comedy troupes. As an heiress with a gaggle of publicity agents, she has the luxury of bypassing all that nonsense and heading straight for the higher-bracket jobs for the attention-starved.
What is frustrating to many, except readers of Us magazine, is that there is obviously no reason for her to receive any attention whatsoever. Were you to remove her fortune, you’d have a skinny half-wit who liked to go to clubs and have sex with celebrities. No biggie. But add wealth, and you get a four-page spread on who last sodomized her.
There are many heiresses in the world with whom we are familiar, but usually more than wealth is required as a reason for their being in the public eye . For example, when my wife forced me (at gunpoint) to watch the Sex And The City finale’s pre-show, I was introduced to Ivanka Trump for the first time. She was offering her take on why such a bad television show was empowering to single, lonely women. At first, my thoughts were Why the hell would they interview her? but then I realized that it was because she was a well-spoken, attractive, schooled heiress who came across as smart and classy. Kudos to the nanny who passed that on to her.
In the United Kingdom, wealth seems to come with class. They have a highly dysfunctional and symbolic monarchy with a ton of money, but their bisexual Prince is well-behaved and the Queen is quiet and waves a lot. Classy. They have Lords and Ladies who have lived privileged lives, but they’re educated and say clever things and know a what a good tawny port should taste like. I like such people and wish they’d invite me to their estates.
In the United States, which is younger and a little more rough around the edges as countries go, wealth does not necessarily mean class, and vice-versa. I have a friend who loads bags for an airline whose lineage consists of a U.S. Marine and a little Japanese lady, yet the way he carries himself suggests a better pedigree than Paris or the daughters Bush. But here, a dollar buys you forgiveness. A lot of dollars buys you a lot of forgiveness. And a lot of dollars and a publicist gets you forgiveness and a reality TV show. That’s the only reason I can imagine Paris Hilton has survived being blatantly desperate for attention, not smart, absurdly shallow, and amazingly whorish.
In fact, in the face of obstacles that would doom a mere mortal, she’s more than survived. She’s bloomed.
It wasn’t too long ago that being humped on video by another publicity-seeking sleaze-bag would have been a career-killer. Amazingly, these days such mischief would seem to be empowering. She’s like a creature from a ’50s Sci-Fi flick that actually grows when you shoot it.
There seems to be no stopping her. Ironically, the Democrats complain about tax cuts for the rich, yet their constituency has assisted in handing an heiress a lucrative career as an heiress. I honestly don’t know what to tell you. While I pray that this is all you ever learn about her, there is certainly no guarantee she won’t spread into Rumsfeld’s Old Europe.
To paraphrase Nietzsche: what does not kill her gets her a book deal.
Hope that helps.

Ask Banterist: Taxing Question

Dear Banterist,
I am still a relatively new member of the New York community. There is something which puzzles me, and I require your help in resolving this matter.
New York City taxis are remarkably inexpensive. I therefore deduce that the drivers thereof, typically of international stock, are not well paid. So why are they always talking on their cellphones, which are expensive?
My wife and two children (I believe they are mine) enjoy a cellphone each. They have a combined plan which the woman at Verizon swore on her ovaries was the best deal in town – $102/ month. This has neither rollovers, legovers or leftovers. So how can Nassir Malik (W17th Street -> Central Park West & 89th street -> Madison and 60th = $13.20) and Michael Fontainive (5th Avenue and 47th -> Prince and Mercer = $4.40) afford to jabber away in distant tongues all day? What plan are they on? Do they represent a key demographic which Verizon’s Marketing Department has been successfully mining for the past years?
When I first arrived in NYC from London, I was confused by the chattering from the cab area. Not seeing the headset, I would assume that the driver was addressing me. I would reply to the chatter from the front of the cab with a classic ‘Excuse Me’ or ‘I’m Sorry’ (Hugh Grant has made a fortune out of the disorientated Englishman manoeuvre) only to be met with an icy stare from the orient.
Do NYC taxi drivers have a special plan, or do they spend their days driving around the city simply to finance their expensive habit.
Banterist – Please help me.
Jonathan M.
Dear Jonathan,
Very easily explained. New York taxi drivers enjoy a supplemental income from Al Qaeda.