My Financial Calculator recommended by AndroidPIT

Wow, I went to check my email and I’ve got this nice surprise. My Financial Calculator has been recommended as best financial app for all AndroidPIT english speakers.

I’m really proud of it. Twice on a roll this month!

You can get my financial calculator for Android and iOS here http://snipr.com/fcalc (or top link of www.joaquingrech.com if you are reading this from there).

A screenshot of the email I’ve received for posterity :)

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Just because, he is the man.

I usually don’t post financial stuff on this blog and instead direct those to my other blog: http://principleinvesting.wordpress.com

But this article by Warren Buffett is so good I almost tear.
http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/02/09/warren-buffett-berkshire-shareholder-letter/

I admire the man for many reasons but one of them is because he is able to pack complex ideas into simple explanations. Warren debunked many financial books with what he said in one single page. Also many wrote books trying to explain what he said in one single page.

Mr. Buffett. You are just awesome.

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Interview in AndroidPIT

Recently I was contacted by AndroidPIT, the wordwide leading Android site to get my point of view on Android, what makes an app stand out and talk about Dogfight.
What I didn’t know is that they recently launched the spanish section and I was picked as the first indie dev to do an interview in Spanish. I felt honored that they placed the interview on their main page.

You can read the full text in Spanish here: http://www.androidpit.com/es/android/blog/402148/Android-4-0-es-una-maravilla-Joaquin-Grech-Dogfight
or use Google Translate to read it in English (or almost-english :) http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.androidpit.com%2Fes%2Fandroid%2Fblog%2F402148%2FAndroid-4-0-es-una-maravilla-Joaquin-Grech-Dogfight

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Dogfight official release!

It’s been over a year of development and lot of iterations and additions… but today it’s the official release of Dogfight!

It comes with a new promotional video:

Which you can get at www.dogfightplay.com

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Dogfight game has its own website

Since the game has been downloaded more than 200,000 times, I’ve decided it was time to give it its own site where Dogfighters could exchange their latest tricks: http://www.dogfightplay.com

Up and running!

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Beginning a highly recommended book

“Tomorrow can be better than today and we all have a personal moral obligation to make it so.” – Enough, by John Bogle.

I ramdonly came across this small book of close to 200 pages which was lost and seemly forgotten in between the thick Legal books of the IE Library. It caugh my attention since it looked pretty old, thin and with unassuming cover. I checked the back and it was recommended by David Swensen, Alan Blinder and a whole bunch of big names. Apparently it has been a New York Times bestseller for a few years and I´ve never heard of it. Completely lost and ignored at the IE Library I was the first person to check it out in 2 years.

So here we go, beginning to what it looks like will be a great book.

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My latest stock comments

First investing post on my financial blog on a long long time. Some of you always ask me for stock advice… well these are the ones I’ve posted on fool.com during the past year.
http://principleinvesting.wordpress.com/

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Combined tanks and zeppelin ready for release

I’ve just finished the last touches on the improved parachuter, tanks, explosions and the zeppelin. I’ll release a beta for Android today and hopefully Apple will approve the final version 4.0 before the end of the week.

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Tanks and explosions

Today is a slow Sunday and since TV is not an option, I decided to do some nice explosions for the next version of the game.

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One busy year

It’s been more than a year since my last post in here. Oddly; I’ve been so busy that I was at awe when I checked the dates. What’s been going on?

For one; I’ve recently graduated with an MBA from IE Business School. IE is ranked 8th Top Business School in the World and 1st or 2nd in Europe by Financial Times but apparently it’s not that well-known outside of Europe and Latin America. I’ve had to explain that “IE” does not stand for Internet Explorer on a couple occasions.

I’m actually very proud of my country because of this. We have three business schools at the top 20 worldwide ranking. By order: IE, IESE and ESADE.  It seems we don’t “only” win World Cups!

That brings me to a quick summary of the year:

1) During the MBA I founded IE Spain Club. The team managed to grow it from zero to 250+ registered members in less than 7 months. Events included: NBA, BBVA, Santander, Microsoft, etc, etc and Capea: a semi-bull fighting event where the only ones injured are the people in the field. We’ve had a blast and we couldn’t have picked a better year to begin the club because, you know, we WON the World Cup (and the Tour of France and Nadal is #1 Tennis Player in the world and Shakira is dating Pique… damn, we spaniards are good). Visit IE Spain Club page: www.iespainclub.com to check the amazing team behind it.

2) Also during the MBA I took some time to finish up and improve my mobile applications. The Financial Calculator continues to get amazing reviews but I’ve focused more time on my game. Dogfight game is looking awesome:

It’s already achieved more than 150,000 downloads and multiplayer mode is 24/7 with people.

3) Investing wise, I can’t complain. My second hobby is acting up pretty good. I’ve been ranked 97 to 98 percentile at the Motley Fool stock picking contest for a while. That’s interesting but my real portfolio is actually much better than the Fool’s contest. This is my
performance for the past 2 years:

Remember my recommendation on Eaton at my blog? “Eaton Corp My First Public Stock Analysis” got some heat for recommending it. ETN today stands at $51, after a 2-1 stock split. In summary, it went from $30 to $102 in little over a year.

If you like it, you can follow my financial posts on Facebook, my Principle Investing blog or just spy me on Motley Fool. From time to time I post what stocks I like but that doesn’t mean I own them. I’m very picky about what stocks I choose to purchase, that’s why my Motley Fool Stock Contest (250+ picks per year) perform much worse than my real portfolio (less than 25 picks in 2 years).

And this is all I’m allowed to show-off today. I’m hitting myself and going back to humble mode.

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Entry on my finance blog: A Year After a Cataclysm, Little Change on Wall St.

New entry on Principle Investing (my financial blog):
A Year After a Cataclysm, Little Change on Wall St.

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Dogfight

Dogfight

I submitted our first iPhone game. A WWI airplane simulator that should be in the Apple Store here. I’ve put a video of the beta in here.

Also the iPhone Financial Calculator has been downloaded more than 5,000 times and I’m receiving lots of email with kind words. I’m glad it’s helping so many people with their homework and financial calculations. I will release an update shortly with all the received suggestions and requests.

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The Snowball

The SnowballFew times it happens that you are enjoying a book so much that you begin reading it slowly because you don’t want it to end. That was
the case with The Snowball, Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. A must read book for every MBA

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New financial entry: A new paradigm… for those who don’t study history

New entry at Principle Investing:
A new paradigm… for those who don’t study history

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Milestones

MilestoneI hit two milestones today. The first, the iPhone Financial Calculator (video here) that I created less than a month ago, has been purchased over 1,000 times. I was very surprised and I had no idea there were so many people looking for a financial calculator on the iPhone. I started it as a hobby but seeing the interest I will continue improving it during my free time.

The second milestone is also related to a hobby. I recently ranked above 90 percentile on the Motley Fool CAPS contest. Those are my stocks picks. I don’t own most of the stocks in that list, I just pick based on what I believe will outperform the market at the current price. I do own COP, ETN, MO, MCD, KO, GE, NRG, WFC and some european stocks at the moment but I don’t go around buying/selling like I do in the caps game. It’s just nonsensical due to dividend payments, option strategies and taxes. Nevertheless when you see a $ next to a stock, high chances I own or would like to own it if i had cash.

Let’s see how far up I can make it on CAPS. It is harder to jump from 90 to 95 percentile than from 50 to 80, but I invest for the long-term so in average I believe I’ll be OK.

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Entry on my financial blog: “Eaton Corp: My first public stock analysis”

New entry on Principle Investing:
Eaton Corp: My first public stock analysis

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Matt Sedensky

Matt, one of my closest friends, is as much of an excellent person as of an excellent writer. Today, I almost jumped out of my chair when I saw an article with his name in Yahoo Finance. His words: “I finally managed to write about something you care about!” True, true, I’m still waiting to pose as his assistant the day he interviews Warren Buffett or Joel Greenblatt. Matt doesn’t like to write about finance: nobody is perfect. He writes beautifully nevertheless.

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Financial Calculator

My first public iPhone application. Just for fun. You can download it from Apple’s iTunes store here or watch it in action here

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Oh Berkshire

I’ve been courting Miss Hathaway for three years. We were introduced by a common friend and I developed an instant crush. I’m not sure her father would approve, but every few months I managed to get the guts to arrive with flowers to her door.

She has hardly noticed me. The always beautiful and refined Berkshire moves in higher circles surrounded by majesty, hedge fund managers and famous CEOs. She is in the A list of every major club. I watch her flirt with Mr. Cola and go out with Miss Eaton and Miss Ir to chic restaurants. Jealousy is killing me. Her status hasn’t deterred me from trying to impress her. I’ve saved money, I’ve let her known about my business education plans and I’ve even written a letter to her father complimenting his work raising her. All I managed to achieve was to take her out for dinner where she gave me a few B-kisses before dropping her back at home.  It was a very expensive night with little results.

But times are changing. Her latest flings are provoking envy among her friends. They say she is uptight, that she is expending money unwisely and confident in her status-quo as the most desired lady in town. Some of her closest friends are turning their back on her. They are just jealous of her success. All the while I’m here waiting for her to notice me, enjoying Eaton’s company in private. But my heart belongs to you Berkshire. I hope one day you look down and bring me up to your A list.

Oh Berkshire, when will you notice me?


Berkshire Hathaway lives in Omaha with her adoptive parents Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. She’s currently offering her services at $80,000

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NYU Spain Alumni Club

To all NYU Spain students/alumni, a call to join the NYU Spain group in facebook. I’ll keep you posted in events and meetings. Let your friends know and invite them to http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=24520328783&ref=ts.

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Principle Investing

Finally, after annoying everybody with my financial ramblings I decided to spare the pain to my loved ones and create my own financial blog: Principle Investing and my Principle Investing – Introductory Post
I followed Mona‘s advice and created my blog at WordPress. After all; she is a pro blogger and no one could be better advicer.

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Trust Your Research

Investing is a peculiar beast: just as one can sin from overconfidence, one can also sin from the lack of. An investor has no guarantee that getting 10 calls right is not due to pure luck and when things go
wrong for an extended period of time, it’s not easy for the investor to stick to his or her approach. Unfortunately, there is not an easy way: learning to distinguish right from wrong in your investing research comes with experience. With that in mind, I decided to summarize my predictions and outcomes of 2008.

My bragging rights:

Around January 2007 I wrote an email to my family telling them to get off the stock market. Rising inflation, mortgage applications on the rise, oil prices skyrocketing, and S&P 500 on the 20s P/E. I was just amazed the stock market was still going up! The Dow Jones shot up 15% before falling 40% from its peak. 30% lower from the moment I made the call.

Nov 5, 2007; I wrote about Credit Derivatives: “If things get worse politicians will try to regulate this largely unregulated business”. I nailed this one. When I wrote about CDS/CDO in 2007 I had to explain them. Nowadays even Joe the Plumber seems to know about them. On September Christopher Cox called for regulation and on November, regulators gave the CME the go-ahead sign.

March 31, 2008; “I’m surprised that not many small hedge funds have collapsed. I would expect a round of bankruptcy declarations coming up soon.” Do you really need links for this one?

The dollar. I was bearish on the dollar for quite some time. Unfortunately I don’t have a specific date but switching currencies gave me about 30% profit in the
past 2 years. Nowadays; I can’t make a call on the currency and I don’t like to gamble.

A whole list of stocks to buy and sell. I was bearish on oil after hitting $100 per barrel. Bullish on pharma and food which outperformed the market by a wide margin. Even though it was considered extremely cheap, I got out of Washington Mutual for the simple fact that I realized I had no idea where I had put my money on.

My whoops:

I can’t time the market. March 31, 2008 “we are near the bottom of the credit crisis”. Oops. Define “near”.

I failed to trust my own research. I made the call for a stock market crash on early 2007 but when by the end of the year the stock market was up 15%, I doubted myself. I got into the stock market again. A painful experience not only because I lost money but because “I told myself so, dummy!”.

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Habitat For Humanity

My friend Kyle and I are going to spend the coming week in New Orleans helping out at a Habitat For Humanity project. If you would like to help out construct a house for a family in need, don’t hesitate to click on the link and check out their different projects. I will post pictures of the progress when I get access to an internet connection.

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Regulation On The Way

I ended up my “Credit Crunch” blog entry on Nov 05, 2007 like this: “If things get worse politicians will try to regulate this largely unregulated business, but for now, these are interesting times to be in the financial industry” and today I wake up to these news from Yahoo Finance “the recent credit market upheaval is spurring new proposals to better regulate the financial markets”. You can find today’s articles in here and here.

Historically this means we are near the bottom of the credit crisis (not the economic crisis, I think we are already in a recession). I believe fed rates will be held steady and even rise in the coming months while big financial institutions are going to take advantage of the situation and make an incredible amount of money borrowing cheap and lending rich. Still, I’m surprised that not many small hedge funds have collapsed. I would expect a round of bankruptcy declarations coming up soon.

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Credit Crunch

It’s all over the news, we see investment banks all around the world losing billions because of subprime and credit crunch and the sporadic use of the word “CDO” in between. For the finance illiterate this is the most cryptic any news headline can get. In fact, few finance experts actually know what it means. How is possible to lose $8 billion and notice it last minute?

Common agreement is to blame a real estate bubble that provoked billions in loses, and although true, this is only part of the story. The real problem is greed and the use of derivatives and how investment banks, rating agencies and hedge funds tried to utilize them to gain quick profit.

To my friends I’m talking geek speak, so let me explain how this all works using human language.

Let’s suppose you are an online used cars seller “CARS A FULL”. You want to sell 100 Mercedes D this month. This will be a simulated scenario for the sell:

- You go to ebay and search for the model you are trying to sell. See similar sales and come up with an average sell price of $25000 (I have no idea about cars so bare with me). You also see a lot of people asking for a Mercedes D and willing to buy at that price.

- Knowing the average sell price, you call up your dealer and ask for 100 Mercedes. If the dealer gives you a price of $25000 or more, you know it’s not worth the effort to even try this whole sell, they either lower the price or you don’t want the deal.

Pretty simple, this is more or less how you trade stocks. You have an index where you see the average bid/ask price (sell price) of shares, so you know you can buy or sell Microsoft at certain amount. There is no doubt about it, if you were to execute the sell at this moment you know how much money you’ll be getting. It’s an open market and very liquid: you can sell almost instantaneously and everybody sees the price you are willing to buy or sell for.

Now, let’s go back to the online used cars seller example. Imagine now that ebay doesn’t exist. No online site where you can actually see what’s the average price or how many people is willing to buy a Mercedes D. Things get a little interesting. You know for sure people want a Mercedes D, there is definitely market for it but you need to figure out a fair value. You neither want to sell cars at a lost nor set a price too high for anyone to buy them.

What do you do? Well, you hire 5 people that all they do is randomly call customers, potential buyers and recent buyers to try to figure out the current cars’ value.

This is the situation with banks and CDOs. There is no common place where they can all look and see a price. Most of the time, this actually works to their advantage because customers can’t see others banks prices and they can rip customers off easily.

Business is good and several years later your monthly sells has grown from 100 to 2000 cars. But competition is fierce against 200 other car dealers around your area. Not only that, sometimes a couple of cars come defectious and you lose money because you can’t sell those for a profit. Other times the car comes with 0 miles of usage, completely like new but you already agreed to sell them at certain price and you could have made more profit. You need an edge in the business.

You think about it and come up with a great idea. You call up your dealer and put a condition on him: He has to hire an independent rating company that will check the cars and notify of their conditions. Depending on their usage, scratches, miles, defects and so on they can get ratings ranging from AAA to DDD. This will help you to know beforehand which cars are in what conditions.

Now you hire a team of experts that write the “cars model book”. In this book, given the year of manufacture, miles and rating (AAA-DDD) of the car, you can come up quickly with an estimated sale price.

CARS A FULL is rocking, every first of the month you order a couple hundred cars, the dealer gives you a list of car’s ratings and prices. You look up in your cars model book what is a good sell price and either accept or reject the dealer’s offer. Business is good, the idea is brilliant and soon it catches up with other cars sellers. They also start requiring a third party rating agency and create their own “cars model book” to get an idea of what is a “good” price. They all pool customers and other companies to try to see how well their models actually match the market (practice known as mark to market in finance). And this is how most banks operate.

So what went wrong?

Back to our online car seller. As the happy owner of CARS A FULL you wake up a common morning just to see the news: “Manufacturer of Mercedes D mixed engines and a half of them were sent out to dealers with a Honda engine”. You think, this is going to suck for the dealers. CARS A FULL should be in good standing because the cars pass through the third party rating company and they are all AAA. Good to go, we are safe.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. You arrive to the office to find the phone ringing non-stop, your employees going crazy and a long list of complains. It seems half of your last month sales had Honda engines. But this is impossible! Pissed at the madness you decide to open the hood of one of the cars that you were about to ship today. You’ve never bothered to check any car, you fully trusted your dealer and rating agency, but to your surprise you find a Honda inside the Mercedes.

Things get worse. One employee comes running to you with a printed page from the New York Times. It appears that some Mercedes D were shipped with the right engine but they got a defectuous steering wheel that might get stuck during driving if not exchanged. In addition, the only way to detect the steering problem is with special equipment and expertise which you don’t have and can’t get at the time. So not only you have Hondas in your garage but you might have defected steering wheels with no way to tell them apart.

More news come in: “Rating agencies purposely ‘failed’ to detect the issues because of shared commissions with dealers.” Now you know what happened. The dealer wanted to sell the cars, they hired rating agencies to inspect the cars. Dealers wanted to get the better prices with better ratings so they offered commission to the rating agencies for the amount of sales. It was convenient for the agencies to fail to detect these car’s issues.

You are fuming. You call up your dealer who doesn’t pick up the phone. You call the rating agency to find busy signal. You are just starting to realize the consequences, you got more than 1000 cars in your garage to sell and you can’t price them correctly. Your “cars model book” is useless without the correct input data. You need to first find out the situation of every single car in your garage. This is going to be expensive but it’s the only way to get out of the hole, or so you believe. After spending an extraordinary amount of money to figure the cars’ condition, you find out you can’t sell them at the price your book is suggesting. The word has spread on the market and all other online car sellers are in the same situation, all your competitors are in trouble too and nobody wants to buy Mercedes D because they are afraid to get a Honda or a defected steering wheel. Your book is clearly useless at this moment and you can’t figure out a good sell price.

You only have an option, try to sell a couple cars and see what they sell for. (Mark to market). You put some cars out for sale and you don’t see any bids coming in. You know your cars are not worthless but there are no offers at the moment so you have no clue what a decent sale price is. There is no liquidity, you are trying to sell completely blind.

This is the current situation at banks. They got into the business of selling and buying derivatives without checking under the hood. The business was doing great and earnings skyrocketed but they built their business on models with incorrect input. When the news about mortgages defaults broke, they found that their supposedly safe AAA investments were in reality BBB or CCC and they tried to get rid of them as fast as possible just to realize that the whole finance industry was under the same umbrella. Every investment bank wanted a way out but nobody wanted to buy. Nobody trusted anyone and nobody was lending money to anyone. The federal reserve tried to add billions to add liquidity but it hasn’t help much. Nobody wants to buy unknown instruments with high risk and the people selling are selling way undervalued, losing billions in the process.

Whose fault is it? The rating agencies who ignored the warnings? The dealers who looked left while this happened just to get a nice paycheck? Or the seller that didn’t bother to open the hood and sold cars without having some basic knowledge?

They all had their part on it and they are all trying to recover their losses, praying for the Fed to come to their rescue. If things get worse politicians will try to regulate this largely unregulated business, but for now, these are interesting times to be in the financial industry.

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