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An introduction to mispricing

Use the economic concept of mispricing.  to reduce your costs and free up more money for tuition.

Mispricing occurs where sellers out number interested buyers for a particular item and where the item is able to be repriced lower based on that demand imbalance.

The example usually comes up in relation to financial assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate and so on but applies to consumables as well.

An Example: Mispricing in the stock market

Charlie Munger executed this perfectly in the 2009 financial panic as described in an article in Bloomberg News.

“By diving into stocks amid the market panic of 2009, Munger reaped millions in paper profits for Daily Journal. The investment gains, applauded by Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in May, have helped triple Daily Journal’s own share price. While Munger’s specific picks remain a mystery, a bet on Wells Fargo probably fueled the gains, according to shareholders who have heard Munger, 89, discuss the investments at the company’s annual meetings. “Here’s a guy who’s in his mid-80s at the time, sitting around with cash at the Daily Journal for a decade, and all of a sudden hits the bottom perfect,” says Steve Check, an investment manager based in Costa Mesa, Calif., who has attended the publisher’s meetings since 2004.

The stock market profits were first disclosed in a May 2009 Daily Journal regulatory filing under the heading, “Liquidity and Capital Resources.” The section outlined how the publisher was sitting on about $9 million in gains after spending $15.5 million buying common shares over six months through March 31 of that year. The results kept getting better. By the end of September 2009, they had appreciated to almost $48 million.

[1]

The five steps to benefit from mispricing

To execute a mispricing purchase you first must recognize one and then be able to act on it. This requires a number of elements to be in play at the same time:

  1. Patience
  2. Cash
  3. Analysis
  4. Flexibility
  5. Willingness to purchase an unpopular item in scale

We use the mispricing approach for our own benefit on vehicle purchases.

Early on we were striving to get the “best” instead of “good enough”.

Flexibility

So we went with a popular vehicle at the time, a Toyota 4runner. These were popular and expensive and we used the only mispricing technique we knew about at the time which was flexibility. We purchased a new 4Runner from the left over trucks from the previous model year. The $45,000 vehicle only cost us $40,000. We didn’t get the color or exact features we wanted but we saved $5000. Woot! And that popularity was not unfounded. We had the car 14 years and it is still on the road today.

Product is Currently Unpopular

For the next vehicle we got a little better at finding mispricing. The SUV boom was well under way and hatchbacks were unpopular and considered no longer cool. When we actually looked at the features they delivered enough mass and safety features to be safe, better gas mileage and all the functions of a full size SUV (that we needed). They were simply unpopular compared to the monster truck models of the day.

We combined the unpopular feature with the late model technique and got a Subaru Forester for $20,000. This was half the cost of the previous car purchase. Woot! $20,000 saved! These cars have since become popular again as more and more folks figured out the many benefits of these mid sized sport utility vehicles so mispricing affect is largely gone (on this model).  We were in style again, at least for a while.

Cash, Analysis and Patience

For our most recent purchase we added analysis and patience to the mix and to further benefit from mispricing. Many cars are rated by reliability. And they if aren’t rated top tier for reliability they really suffer in the used car market. People don’t want to own something that wasn’t best for reliability when purchasing something used. But when you do the analysis a middle tier rated car is actually more reliable than cars of the past.

We saved $30,000

We combined flexibility, our reliability analysis and the unpopular status of middle tier to watch, wait for and eventually obtain a used Volvo wagon for $12,000 dollars with very low miles. Woot! $30,000 saved! The battle wagon doesn’t have a lot of advertisments 

 

In summary

The market (us buyers and sellers) occasionally misprices goods and servies and assigns artificially high prices to the best and artificially low prices to the runner ups. You can discover and use this mispricing if you conduct the analysis, are flexible, patient and willing to select something currently unpopular (not easy as it sounds) that meets your particular needs. Just do your homework to make sure it is actually mispriced and not low cost for a reason you care about.

What about you? Have you benefited from temporary mispricing conditions?

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-07-25/berkshire-hathaways-charlie-munger-shows-a-golden-touch

Frugality is a quality of life compounding machine

 

By Julius SchorzmanOwn work, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

In my grubby little hands I am holding a wonderful 12 ounce bag of dark roasted Starbucks Café Verona coffee. This powerhouse of anti-oxidants and wakey-ness  is sustainably farmed and all of the Starbucks employees get educational benefits and health insurance. So this is the good stuff.

 

A look at the coffee numbers

Each cup of coffee we brew at home takes 2 ounces of the delightfully aromatic Starbucks grounds. And in 12 ounces there are 72 US teaspoons so that means we get 36 cups of coffee from a bag of grounds.

This bag costs us $8.59, or 26 cents a cup. A year of home brew will costs a whopping $96 dollars. For two people that is $191 bucks. We use half and half for an additional $2.29 a week or $119 a year. Total coffee expense is around $310 a year.

That same drink is a very reasonable $1.85 made by a hard working barista. For two people over a year that would be $1,317.

Wow, a savings of $1317-$310 or $1007 over a year.

Right?

Wrong!

A second look at the numbers

This is what is so counter intuitive about frugality. Frugality itself is a compounding machine. It took me years to notice it and first I shrugged it off as improbable if not impossible.

What is missing here are the secondary and tertiary by side effects.

The first is the actual financial savings.

Lets take a look.

It takes me less than a minute to scoop the coffee, add the water and push the button.

The drive, wait and drive back to our local Starbucks is 20 minutes.

While waiting for the coffee I usually make breakfast. Nothing better to do as I have plenty of time. But with a 20 minute commitment to pick up coffee in the morning I simply don’t have time to cook and I will add another $15 in breakfast vittles. Another $3750 in  annual expenses to add to the total.

And we aren’t done yet. It is a mere 4 miles to our local Starbucks and back. Sweet! Or is it? The federal government estimated cost of 51 cents per mile in car operating costs. Add another $2.04 to the cost or $532 bucks a year to the total.

  • Coffee savings – $1000
  • Breakfast -$3000
  • Car – $500

 

This results in a grand total  (and I rounded down a  lot here) of $4500 in expenses annually. That home brew actually saves you $45,000 over ten years.

The second benefit is even better. The quality of life effect is what keeps so many already financial independent people to stick with their frugal ways.

Once you have bought a coffee maker, got into the habit of buying ground coffee and then learned to operate the dang thing the actual process is easier than going to get coffee. And there is never a line.

Self taught barrista super powers

This means, after you become a coffee brewing expert, you will have a choice.

Choice 1: Stand in your kitchen drooling with one eye open until the coffee is ready about a minute or two later.

Choice 2: *Or* you can throw on some clothes, find your keys and shoes, rush out, feel the cold rain go down the back of your neck, fight for parking, wait in line and then zoom back home to reverse the process.

If both choices are available which would you choose? Yes the coffee isn’t quite a yummy as the store made stuff but your overall quality of life is so much better.

This is the power of frugality and of doing just some of the steps yourself.

The skeptics among you will note you don’t go to Starbucks 356 days a year and certainly don’t scoff down scones.  I don’t want you to believe me. I want you to try it out for a month and make your own assessment.

This is just a single example. You can find a lot more ways to pay for private school that are much bigger such as avoiding Black Friday, saving $3000 in a single weekend, or using the Granny Smith cash multiplier method.

 

The Granny Smith cash multiplier method

There is a very subtle multiplier effect which is essentially a tax free income booster that can help you pay for a private school tuition. Here is how it works.

In November my wife was looking for a tree to plant on our very (very) small yard as a screen for a nearby street. The tree had to be fairly small given the constraints of said small yard.

She happened upon one that was ascetically pleasing with a maximum height and width of 30 feet by 30 feet. Measured from the location of where we would place it with a yard stick (it’s a small yard) at full size the tree will expand 15 feet each way. Perfect!

Method Tip 1: Avoid having to earn as much income on the purchase by purchasing a lower cost item.

The ten foot tall tree, while ideal in form and habit, was half bereft of leaves with a bit of a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree look going on. The tree was originally $120 but was marked down to $30. A sale!

Enter step one of the multiplier effect. She saved $90 dollars on the original purchase.

US Currency - Source Wiki Commons
US Currency – Source Wiki Commons

That saved amount removed the need to earn that extra $90. Let’s assume a 40% cumulative, federal, state, sales taxes and mystery fees on the income. That extra $90 would have cost $126 in earned income to cover. Whew!

To restate- that is $126 in earnings we didn’t have to make to actually end up with the $90 extra we would have needed for the full price of the tree.

Method Tip 2: When making a purchase, have it solve multiple problems at once.

My mother told me that her grandmother had a purpose for every plant around the farmhouse, in addition to looking nice.

In our case we were looking for a small tree that provides a summer screen from the nearby street but still looks good and drops leaves in the winter for additional sunlight in the colder months. This works for both screening and sound attenuation in the winter as it is quite dense with branches.

What else could it do for us?

In our case the tree selected is a Granny Smith apple tree! It should produce about $20 bucks of

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By No machine-readable author provided. Fievet assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, Link

organic apples every year (ok, more like $50 but I want to be conservative here to make a point).

And we placed it on the west side of the house to shade (and cool the air) going into the AC and near the house.

What about having to pick the extra apples that we won’t eat, giving bags of them to neighbors, family, coworkers and the local food pantry and then still having to pick busted ones off the ground? What a hassle right? Sure, but we have arranged our lives such that we get regular physical activity with this sort of money saving effort all year long. Annual gym memberships were cancelled long ago but we will only count the month of apple picking and leaf raking mayhem here for another $50 saved.

And for the grand finale, our nearby park has crab apple trees. These can be used to cross pollinate Granny Smith apple trees (they self-pollinate but word in the fields is that a nearby pollinator will help with yields). That is a second $30 tree we didn’t have to buy (nor had space for) because we selected a compatible tree for our neighborhood.

Total economic impact

The first year we saved $90 on the tree and $30 on a second tree we didn’t need to purchase. The tree (fairly big already) should produce apples about three years hence and provide the shade to assist with house cooling.

Lets look at the numbers using the Granny Smith multiplier method.

Year 1: $120 saved

Year 3 on: $50 saved on gym membership, $20 on apple costs and $5 on AC costs for an annual savings of $75.

Ten year economic output: $645

And remember this is all tax free after the initial $30 we spent. That is a money tree that offers $60+ annually in savings, builds community as we gift organic apples, screens the street and provides a beautiful tree to look at. Plus it is pretty cool to have an apple tree.

Let’s assume my conservative numbers are *still* too high and it only saves us half that, or $30 a month.

Fine. An investment with a yield will take a hit of 15% on the income so I would need $34.5 in monthly income ($414 annually) to produce that same value.

A typical safe stocks yield 3%. We would need a stock portfolio with a market value of $13,800 to produce that same income. And to purchase that stock we would have had to earn $20,010 in gross income to purchase that investment.

Oh, and the yield on the Granny Smith Apple Tree is $30 a year or 100% of its original purchase price, annually.

We just trounced the stock market and avoided having to earn an additional $20,000. Thanks Granny Smith!

Don’t overdo it

The multi-purpose mindset does have its limits. Spending an extra $10,000 on a fancy pick-em-up-truck because you might need to haul a jumbo pack of toilet paper someday is just a slow way to lose money. Just think about it first and run the numbers is all I am saying.

Get into the multi-purpose mindset. You can do this.