Dear Mr. Berko:
We just had our taxes done by Jackson Hewitt, and I was told that we will get a tax refund of $1,340. The certified public accountant who did our return recommended that we invest in stocks. He said we could make a lot of quick money if we used his friend who buys stocks that are less than $1 for his customers. This CPA told us his friend made him $14,000 last year, and this year, he is ahead by $8,000. He offered to get us a short-term loan from Jackson Hewitt to get our refund immediately and start making money without waiting months for the refund. He said I could repay the loan with the refund from the Internal Revenue Service.
Our last question comes from my wife. When we got married in June 2002, her uncle gave her 25 shares of Microsoft. We now have 50 shares, and we can’t figure how that happened, because we never bought more shares. My wife wants to know whether we should sell that Microsoft and use the money to buy stocks at a dollar or whether we should keep it. We know little about stocks and need your advice.
F.W., North Port, Fla.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT-$32.96) continues to increase its revenues, earnings, dividends and book value every year, and its brand image has the same name recognition as Coke, the pope and Nike. However, MSFT’s Surface Pro, a combination laptop and tablet, is a costly joke, which should become very apparent in a year or less. Surface Pro is one of the reasons I seldom watch TV. I was having dinner with my grandchildren at our favorite barbecue joint, the perimeter of which is ringed with loud TVs. My 12-year-old granddaughter was watching a 30-second Surface Pro advertisement, which cost MSFT $37 million to produce – and the 30-second spot cost $300,000. The advert featured a dozen youngsters sitting at a boardroom table in colorful unisex business attire. Then, in unison, they began high-stepping to lively music while twirling their Surface Pros like dinner plates on a stick. The dancers had great moves, but I still can’t figure why anyone should buy a Surface Pro. The name Surface Pro was spoken once during the commercial, and my granddaughter scowled: “That’s the stupidest computer advertisement in the world.”
MSFT does not do hardware well, and I’ll wager nuts to bolts that within a year, Surface Pro will flop like Kin, Zune and Vista. MSFT was $30 10 years ago, and it’s $32.96 today. And the reason you have 50 shares is that a year after you got the stock (it was trading at $58), it split 2-for-1. If you think about it, 25 shares at $58 is about the same dollar value as 50 shares at $30. Visit Schwab or Fidelity or Vanguard, and sell it.
Jackson Hewitt, which declared bankruptcy in 2011, doesn’t employ CPAs to do your tax return. That’s like hiring a rocket scientist to fix a Model T. And please don’t borrow your refund from Jackson Hewitt. Its refund program is designed for stupids who pay 36 percent interest, a $6.25 monthly credit line availability charge and a $10 fee each time they access their accounts. Last year, 83 percent of Jackson’s 2.3 million clients fell for that obscene scheme. Only liars, brokers and a few lucky people make money in penny stocks. And I wager a dollar to a road apple that your tax preparer is a bloody liar. It’s common for the broker and some tax preparer to share the stock commission someone pays, which can be as high as 50 percent. Again, only stupids invest their money in cheap stocks, and there are plenty of them around. Don’t join the club.
After you get your tax return, combine it with the MSFT proceeds, and then purchase the Yacktman Focused Fund (YAFFX-$23.46). And be careful out there. Today most American businesses have a high disdain for the American consumer.