One Great Stock
This is a picture of my dog, Layla.
She's a Weimaraner. She's eight years old and she weighs 65 pounds. And though she looks serious, she loves people. She's a perfect specimen of the breed.
In fact, when my wife and I acquired her as a puppy eight years ago, the breeder wouldn't sell her to us. If we wanted the dog, we had to consent to a co-ownership deal, in which we'd own half the dog and the breeder would own half, showing Layla at dog shows until she became a Champion, and then breeding her. After two litters, we'd be allowed to claim the whole dog. Plus, we'd get a puppy from the second litter.
My wife, the driving force behind the whole idea, signed the contract.
Here's a picture of the puppy we brought home.
Cute, yeah, but she didn't stay small for long. And those first couple years were very busy, and not just because of the five-times-a day walks.
As Layla racked up her points on the way to Champion status, we were at the mercy of the breeder, meeting her--often on short notice--at various roadside locations to transfer Layla to her van and collect her a day or more later.
But Layla never became a Champion. After accumulating 14 of the required 15 points, she was diagnosed with a thyroid condition. That made her unsuitable for breeding, so she retired from the circuit.
Which made my wife and me very happy. We didn't want a Champion; we wanted a pet. We think she's the best.
As to the thyroid, Layla gobbles up a tiny pill twice a day along with her food, and all is well.
But some dog owners aren't so lucky.
Not long ago, a new company insured my home.
And last week, for the first time ever, I had to fill out a K-9 form, to inform them, in effect, about the presence of any dangerous dogs in the house.
If they found I had a dog that had ever bitten anyone or acted like it might bite someone, they would cancel my insurance.
And if I had a dog that was even partially derived from one of the following breeds, they could cancel my insurance.
Here's the list:
American Staffordshire Terrier
Wolf HybridI told them Layla was as gentle as a lamb--as well as not being on the list--but I wondered about the whole idea of denying coverage based on dog bite liability. So I did some digging and here's a brief summary of what I found.
On average, dogs bite more than 4.7 million people per year in the U.S., with 800,000 bites requiring medical attention.
386,000 of those people require treatment in an emergency department.
Most of the victims who receive medical attention are children, half of whom are bitten in the face.
In 2010 there were 34 fatal dog attacks in the U.S.
More than half of dog bite incidents occur on dog owners' property.
Dog bite losses exceed $1 billion per year, with over $300 million paid by homeowners' insurance
The average dog bite claim costs the insurance company nearly $25,000.
Dog owners in 33 states are legally liable for injuries or death caused by their pets.
As a result, many municipalities have banned particular dog breeds, and if renters or homeowners own a dog breed banned by local law, insurance companies may not be able to insure them.
Ohio, for example, has strong regulations for Pit Bulls.
Other insurers refuse to sell insurance to anyone who owns any dog whatsoever.
But in some states, notably Maryland and Virginia, an owner may be liable for injury caused by his dog only if he knew the dog had a propensity to bite. This is known as the "one free bite" rule.
And some state legislatures, notably Michigan and Pennsylvania, have banned insurance coverage discrimination based on dog breed, in part because it's frequently difficult to determine a dog's true breed.
The practice of breed discrimination has drawn protests from the American Kennel Club, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Medical Veterinary Association, the American Dog Owners Association, the Westminster Kennel Club and the American Humane Society.
Yet it persists because, well, the insurance companies have the power.
I've been talking to people about this issue of dog bites and insurance for a couple days, and I've found that people divide into two roughly defined camps.
In one camp are those most concerned about reducing risk. They would never own a dog that might bite someone. They are very careful to have insurance that protects their own assets. And they worry that people who are less conscientious pose risks to the rest of society. One gentleman, for example, noting the ongoing wave of housing foreclosures, asked whether a person who was no longer paying a mortgage or home insurance would have any reason to care about insuring his dog.
In the other camp are those concerned about losing the freedom to own any dog they want. To these people, there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners; they cite dog shows as proof of that. And they note that aggressive people tend to buy dog breeds that have been bred to be aggressive, and then raise them to be aggressive ... which is good if you need a watchdog to guard your livestock, but risky if you allow the dog in the house with a young child.
Practically, I appreciate the concerns of those in camp one. My house and my dog are covered.
But looking at the trends in place, I fear that as a country, we are slowly ceding one more freedom to the insurance companies, in the name of protection.
We've already ceded many of our medical choices to the insurance companies, with the result that we have the highest health care costs in the world, yet lag far behind most of the developed world in life expectancy and infant mortality. The biggest (some would say only) winners in our current health care system are the insurance companies.
So what will we get if we allow the insurance industry increasing influence over the dogs we own? More complexity of paperwork is guaranteed. Discounts for dog obedience classes are possible; even required dog obedience classes are possible. Will there be restrictions on the dogs you can own if you have a baby in the house? Will there be states where Rottweilers are banned and states where they're allowed, in the same way that states have different gun control laws?
It's well documented that dogs, in general, have a positive influence on their owners' health and happiness. And it worries me to see this evolving trend, because I know trends tend to persist for far longer--and go much further--than people expect, and I've seen what happens when you cede responsibility to the insurance industry.
Your feedback is welcome.
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Why the Next 90 Days Will Rock Wall Street Again
With unemployment rising and real estate prices spiraling south, it's clear the market's volatility is about to increase exponentially--especially headed into the new year.
For these reasons, the next market move we see headed our way in the next 30 days could be the biggest shocker of 2011.
My free report reveals what you must do now to protect yourself and profit. Click here to download your free copy.
Moving on, the past week has brought a fine rally in the market. You know the purported reasons: Europe, China, unemployment, consumer confidence, blah, blah, blah.
My two cents says the market was ready for it! It had been down long enough. People were discouraged enough. And there were bargains enough.
So it's time to be less defensive, and more aggressive, in particular by seeking out the leaders of this new bull market.
Leaders are favored, rather than laggards (which may look cheap) because history tells us the leaders are most likely to be higher in the months ahead. Inertia tells us that stocks sitting at lows are likely to stay near their lows.
And leaders are favored especially in the early phases of a bull market because they have far more potential buyers than sellers. Institutions are still climbing on board, building their positions. And the buying of all these new investors pushes these stocks higher.
One of my favorites today is Ulta Salon (ULTA), which has been recommended several times in Cabot newsletters in recent months.
Here's an excerpt from the latest Cabot Top Ten Trader written by editor Michael Cintolo:
"Ulta Salon is aiming to be a national beauty products chain, selling itself on having the widest selection with constantly changing inventory, rather than top-of-the-line products that demand super-premium pricing. There's nothing revolutionary there, but investors have had a lot to be excited about in the company's consistent expansion, which has led to outstanding growth numbers. In the just-announced third quarter (which ended October 31), Ulta saw sales rise 22%, same-store sales rise 9.6%, profit margins rise, and earnings boom. Just as important for investors, Ulta opened 28 new stores in the quarter, and has already opened another seven this quarter, completing the company's 16% planned increase in square footage for the year. Better yet, the top brass expects 15% to 20% square footage growth for many years (probably closer to 20% in 2012). ... Given ULTA's monster run during the past few years (up from 4 to 74!) and its lofty valuation, you would think that shares would have been walloped during the market's downturn since mid-July. Instead, the stock has some of the best price-volume action we can find, with repeated big-volume rises and just a couple of mild-volume declines during the past few months."
For more, including specific advice on exactly where and when to get on board this hot stock, I recommend a no-risk trial subscription to Cabot Top Ten Trader.
For more details, click here.
Yours in pursuit of wisdom and wealth,
Cabot Wealth Advisory