Surrounding yourself with quality means not only quality people but it also means quality things, and it means quality services. What defines quality? Usually it’s when something has its interests aligned with yours to reach a fair medium. In the business realm, you can usually spot it because they tend to treat their employees fairly and well and develop an inspired, dedicated, and competent workforce. They are a pleasure to do business with and they add extraordinary value to the consumer (YOU). They are a great part of living a life surrounded by quality. It stands to reason that if you eliminate the poor quality things in your life, and align yourself with good, that you will improve your own quality of life and remove a ton of stress. One thing that many of the businesses below have in common is that they are disruptive to the status quo. Why? Because they tend to be the low cost provider in a certain niche which always challenges the higher priced, less efficient, members of the status quo. Those low costs flow directly to you, the consumer, and increase your personal operating efficiency which goes straight to your bottom line.
Justification: It’s a tossup between Costco and USAA but Costco has more day-to-day impact. In short, we could not live as we do without it. I gladly pay the $100 annual membership fee to be an Executive Member which comes with perks that easily reimburse the full cost of the fee plus a lot more. I have studied the fundamental business for some time and there are key reasons why there is so much value associated with the place. They pay their employees quite well and have extraordinarily low turnover – you’ll see the same faces for years. They have corporate philosophy that they will never charge customers more than 14% above cost – it’s a sale every day on every item. A typical Wal Mart Supercenter will stock over 400,000 items and a typical Costco just over 4,000 – with a far simpler inventory stream the cost savings go to you. There are monthy special deals on select items to add even more savings. If you sign up for the new (June 2016) Costco Citi Card you can get 4% on all gas purchases, 3% on travel and restaurants, and 2% on Costco purchases which is returned to you in an annual check that you can spend in the store. Hard to beat that folks. I’ve used Costco points BIG TIME to add stuff for our home and improve our daily life – most prominent being the high quality table and chairs on our back deck. The quality of the meats are incredible and it’s not easy to beat the price. The wine selection is top notch and priced in your favor. Daily items like detergent, toilet paper, shampoo, etc. are not going to be beat. You can buy food staples in bulk and buy months of supply lowering your daily food costs considerably. New tires for the car? It’s typical to get a $70 coupon to take off of an already good deal. I could go on but you get the point. You will fill your life with quality things and quality food for a very fair price.
Justification: An absolutely fabulous company well known to bend over backwards for its customers. Run by former military officers the place is a tight ship, conservatively run, with a customer focus. Nearly every market they try (first insurance, later banking and brokerage) they become trend setters for customer service and quality. Our family auto policies are exceptionally low compared to the average and a large part of that is that the USAA risk pool has far fewer accidents and far fewer fraudulent claims than the competitor companies.
Justification: What a great, disruptive company that has empowered millions of consumers worldwide. Amazon is empowering in numerous ways but for starters its streamlined logistics operations mean low costs get passed to the consumer. You are less likely to do impulse purchases if you use Amazon. Sign up for Amazon Prime and save a bundle on postage. You avoid the silly expenditure of gas and car wear getting to the store. There are no crowds to deal with. There are no long, slow, stupid lines to endure. Your time is spent far more efficiently and frees you up to do more important things. It’s especially great at Christmas when brick and mortar stores are a crowded mess.
American Express Card
Justification: Even if you don’t use it, it can pay to have this card (can help your credit score). These cards come with all sorts of perks – especially during times of travel. The awards program I would call average considering that you pay a fee for the privilege and the rewards point system is fairly pedestrian. On the other hand, American Express credit cards have some of the best rewards points in the industry. For example, the Blue Preferred Cash card offers 6% on grocery store purchases. The Gold card has more perks than the standard green card as well – to include an additional year added to manufacturers warranty on items purchased with the card (check details).
Justification: To the best of my knowledge, this is the only mutual fund company which has its interests aligned with its customers and there are minimal conflicts of interest. Their index funds are the industry standard. They tend to charge the lowest fees. The Vanguard Admiral series of index funds can charge 0.05% which is incredibly low – your hard earned money is not being wasted on some stupid fee that is killing your returns and your money stays working for you. They have a nice, broad collection of index funds to choose from and the customer service is top notch.
Wall Street Journal Wine Club
Justification: They have an enormous selection of quality wines – both red and white and it’s a great way to build a well-balanced wine collection. They ship a case quarterly and often provide special deals in the interim. Each shipment comes with a booklet which describes each bottle in detail. You can always select which ones you like and instruct them to ship more the next time. Another option is to pay a one time postage fee and then order more cases with no additional postage (similar to Amazon Prime). Not all states allow wine shipment so be sure to check. As with Amazon, it can keep you from running to the store and wasting gas – buy your wine from home.