Dear Mr. Berko: I teach school and earn $44,000 a year. Florida's retirement program is lousy. Fortunately, my husband, a long-haul trucker, unexpectedly inherited $287,000 from his daddy. We need advice on investing this. We also have $52,000 in certificates of deposit, which we want to keep liquid. We are both 43, have two children and have no debts. My husband built our home, and we only have a $12,000 mortgage. We will be conservative with this money. What are your recommendations? Also, can we buy Uber stock? It's not public, but someone told us we could buy small amounts. A friend at Microsoft told me his company invested $100 million in Uber, and one of his colleagues bought $25,000 of Uber. We'd like to invest about $5,000 of our money in Uber. If that's possible, would it be a good investment? — SS, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Dear SS: I think Uber is a lousy, stinky investment! Speculators are rushing to buy Uber, frantic they'll miss a Golconda. Uber is having such a gay time raising private money from suckers and gamblers that there's no reason to go public. Uber is easily getting all the cash it wants. Merrill Lynch is offering shares of Uber to clients who have a $100 million net worth, but they must invest a minimum of $1 million in Uber. Morgan Stanley is offering Uber to wealthy clients who are willing to make an investment of at least $250,000. And Elite Crowdfunder is offering minimum $25,000 investments in Uber at $38 per share.
Forgetaboutit. Uber has no economic moat, so the competition will eventually be scorching. Uber isn't profitable and burns through cash the way a SpaceX launch burns fuel. I'm told Uber's income statement and balance sheet have more holes than a sheet of Swiss cheese. And if there's an initial public offering, pre-IPO investors will dump Uber like live grenades and you'll end up with fragments.
It's unpatriotic to have no debts; you're not spending enough money. Some 70 percent of our gross domestic product is driven by consumer spending, and financially stable families such as yours are failing the economy. You must spend money and go into debt. You should, like most Americans, stop being responsible for your retirement future. Folks such as you — those who refuse to borrow, spend and buy — are the reason the economy is sluggish.
There are three investment options I'll recommend. Employ a money manager whom you can trust to help you build a suitable retirement portfolio. The costs should not exceed 1.25 percent annually. Failing that option, consider Warren Buffett's advice for the trustees who will manage his wife's account after he dies: "I want to be sure she gets a decent result. She doesn't need to get a sensational result. ... I've told the trustee to put 90 percent of it in an S&P 500 index fund and 10 percent in short-term governments." Failing that option, I'll recommend the following stocks, which you can keep for the rest of your life.
AT&T (T-$40.60), yielding 4.7 percent, has increased its dividend for 32 consecutive years. This is a modest growth and income stock that needs no introduction. I have, since 2009, advised many readers to use T as a proxy for a bond. I still do. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ-$116) is a very impressive health products company that has increased its dividend by more than 8.5 percent annually for 35 consecutive years. Procter & Gamble (PG-$82) has 58 years of consecutive dividend increases, averaging over 7.3 percent. Alphabet (GOOG-$693) needs no introduction. GOOG doesn't pay dividends yet, but its revenue and earnings potential are nonpareil. Visa (V-$77) needs no introduction, either; almost everyone has a Visa. In the past 10 years, Visa has tripled revenues and earnings and share price. It could happen again! American Water (AWK-$74) is the largest investor-owned water utility in the U.S., yielding 1.8 percent. Revenue, earnings and dividend growth are impressive, and future acquisitions should propel AWK to a record level each year. Then add General Electric (GE-$30), Pfizer (PFE-$34), Air Products (APD-$143), Sysco (SYY-$50) and Cisco Systems (CSCO-$28).
Those issues are a swell beginning. I urge you to find a money manager who can complement and complete this portfolio with other solid dividend growth issues.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at [email protected] To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.