Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stock Market Sectors: Is This a Wise Investment Move?

There are some investment advisors who scare away from the idea of sector investing. However, with adequate research, one might find that certain areas of the overall market tend to outperform others in various economic seasons. But is the risk of overexposing ones’ self to sectors worth it?

Before I answer this question I’d like to list the 11 major stock sectors:

1. Industrials

2. Real Estate

3. Consumer Discretionary

4. Consumer Staples

5. Healthcare

6. Financials

7. Tech/IT

8. Telecommunication

9. Utilities

10. Materials

11. Energy

Before someone considers investing in specific sectors, they must recognize that over time there are periods and seasons in which one sector performs better than others. Some of the worst sectors to own in bear markets is Technology stocks like Google, FaceBook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. However as times get better, this sector usually outperforms the rest of the market.

My recommendation is to not invest in specific sectors and sector funds unless you are comfortable risking a significant portion of your portfolio. If you do decide to invest in sectors, pick one that is both posed to do well over the next few months as well as the next decade. You want both the fundamental and technical analysis working in your favor. Overall, stock sectors can be a very lucrative strategy for investing.

6 Types of Financial Institutions and Which are Important

The following is a list of institutions that are useful to understand when dealing with money on a regular basis.

1. Conventional Bank (Retail, Commercial and Online Banks)

These are financial institutions that take up the task of performing regular financial functions for both businesses and individuals. The provide services like setting up savings and credit accounts, issuing credit cards, certificates of deposit, mortgages and taking deposits.

2. Credit Unions

These do practically the same thing as conventional banks yet are geared towards a specific group of people. For example a military credit union would be geared towards veterans or active members of the armed services.

3. Insurance Institutions

These companies provide wide rages of insurance intended to decrease the chance of loss. When you go to get car insurance this is where you go.

4. Brokerage Firms

These companies administrate the investing process. Whether someone is investing in bonds, stocks, mutual funds or ETF’s this subset of financial groups likes to help the individual or business execute their purchase of securities.

5. Investment Firms

These Banks or Companies are funded by issuing shares. These funds are mutually owned (thus the name mutual fund) and are usually invested in stocks, bonds and other securities.

6. Mortgage Firms

Generally these companies are geared towards individual mortgage seekers but there are some that specialize in commercial properties. These companies either fund or originate loans and mortgages.

Each of these institutions has their place in the financial world. See where you can recognize them in your daily or monthly financial activities.

Inflation: What it is and How to Use It

Inflation has essentially been around since currency was created. But what is it? The Marriam Webster dictionary defines inflation as:

“a continuing rise in the general price level usually attributed to an increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods and services”. That’s nice to know but how does this effect us in our daily lives?

Well the “rise in the general price level” can mean things like groceries, fast-food, restaurants, as well as other things like insurance, utilities and housing (both for buyers and renters).

With this cost increase usually happening year over year, what are some things we can do to minimize this?

Well the first big thing is planning. If you are considering retirement in a decade, realize that the cost to live then will be higher than the cost to live now. Do a rough calculation on the average rate of inflation (roughly 3.5%). Over ten years the cost of everything will most likely rise 41%!

After understanding the impact of inflation and incorporating it into your estimated retirement costs, it’s time to talk about investing. The best types of investments for inflationary periods are stocks and real estate. The reason for this is because stocks’ value (in the long-term)is based on the earnings of the company and earnings generally go up with inflation. So off the bat you have a built in inflation protector.

The second ideal investment, real estate, is a little more complicated to invest in. A common “investment” people choose to make is in their home. While it is certainly the case that homes usually go up in value, the decision isn’t a clearcut one. (Check out my blog on the rent vs buy debate)

Another way to invest in real estate is to buy rentals. This is more hands on and therefore takes more time and energy. If you are comfortable with this then by all means go forth and invest! However a lot of people find the intensive commitment inherent in this type of real estate investing too much to handle.

If this is the case with you you can consider another options, REIT’s. Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REIT’s as they are called, involve the investment of large groups who buy large quantities of real estate. The earnings and appreciation from this real estate is owned through a large quantity of shareholders who buy part of the ownership, like a stock.

While this is certainly an option, I find REIT’s to be remarkably unimpressive long-term compared to stocks or direct real estate investments.

Whichever path you choose to take, be wary of the inflation hurdles and the best ways to overcome them.

How Much Should I Put in Savings?

As interest rates have risen considerably over the last year or so, many people have come to wonder if saving now “makes sense”. The characteristic of saving as a give or take isn’t quite right because saving should always be a part of someone’s financial picture. Let me describe the reasons one would want to save and ways in which to go about doing this.

1. Emergency Fund

The emergency fund is one of the universally required parts of any financial plan. Without emergency reserves the risks of anything, whether a personal household or a business operation, increase exponentially.

Savings for an emergency fund need to be accessible at a moments notice. Keep them in either a bank account or money market account.

2. Short-term savings

Short term savings, for things like buying a house are usually best placed in a short-term CD or money market. For example if you know you want to purchase a home in three months or so, getting a three-month CD can make sense.

If the timeframe is less certain, stick with a money market or basic savings account.

3. Long-term savings

For savings intended for expenses that are further out in the future, your best bet is in either a CD, government note, or a combination of more riskier investments. For example if you’re saving up for a car in 3 years, it might make sense to put the whole thing in a CD.

However if you’re able to take a little more risk, you might consider putting 25% in an S&P 500 index, 25% in a short-term government bond index, 25% in a gold bullion ETF and 25% in a money market. These four together over the last forty years haven’t lost money over any 3-year period as long as their rebalanced annually. (However past returns doesn’t guarantee future performance.)

4. Other Savings Goals

Any other goals should be taken in a case-by-case basis. Talk with your financial advisor about any questions you have before making investing decisions that you aren’t sure about.

3 Factors to Look at When Determining Where to Live

As a financial blog, I have dealt a lot with individual personal finance issues, like what to invest in, how to budget, and what to do in different areas financially. Here I want to step back and cover 3 financial factors that you should think about when considering a city to live in. While these three aren’t the only things to think about, they certainly will cover the broad range of financial determining factors:

Job and Career Potential

Here you’re just trying to get an idea as to how easy or hard it will be to have employment, and sustain employment in your chosen career field. Two of the things to consider are the unemployment rate, which is a good indicator of how many people who want jobs have them, and job growth. With job growth you want to look at the number of new jobs being created, specifically in your career field, over the last decade.

Cost of Living

Housing costs will be broken down into to two big areas: housing and everything else. When looking at housing, there are usually two broad options available. You can either rent or you can buy. You are going to want to compare the costs of rent vs the rest of the country. Pay special attention to the rent increases. For example maybe your area currently has slightly higher rents than the national average, but over the last couple years the rents have been skyrocketing. You want to be mindful of areas in which the costs of living, including rents are rising quickly.

The second housing option to look at is homeownership. What is the average costs of a home in the area. This can vary greatly from one neighborhood to another. For example one neighborhood might costs $300,000 but just across the road might be $250,000 for a similar house. Find the area you’re thinking about and start comparing prices.

After paying for housing there are the rest of the general costs associated with living and breathing. These costs can include food, insurance, transportation, recreation, and especially taxes. Taxes are a huge part of your yearly expenses. There are income taxes (both federal, state and sometimes city), as well as sales tax and property tax. Look at these rates for you area.

Long-Term Stability

The last thing you want to look at after job potential and cost of living is the general stability in the area. The stability of the area is both the economic factors and the political factors.

For example look at one of the leading factors of growth for cities: population growth. Take a look at the recent trend in population. For example are massive amounts of people entering or leaving the area? This might be a sign that things are changing. With the change in demographics and population comes changes in political preferences.

Maybe these changes will lead to political leadership upheaval in the local government. Think about how these changes could potentially impact your life in terms of local taxes, regulations, social programs, and building projects in the future. Are you okay with these potential changes and the uncertainty that comes with them?

Conclusion:

Overall, these three factors can paint a pretty clear picture of the financial concerns about one area over another. After going through them, you should know whether this area is something you would want to consider moving to. Naturally though, there will be others things of concern, like climate, education, health and other issues. While these concerns might not directly impact your finances, most of them should be looked at closely for the effects they could have down the road.

2 Things I learned from Ray Dalio’s Book

While often seen on TV and financial journals, Ray Dalio is somewhat of an unheard of figure outside of the financial world. He started broke, developed his skills, knowledge and habits, and today is the billionaire funder of the largest Hedge fund in the world.

In his new book, Principles, Dalio focuses on the principles or set of beliefs that have been the baseline of his success in both life and business. Throughout the chapters he illustrates just how crucial principles are, not matter the principles, to how you perform in each area of your life.

From his book I have taken 2 main points:

1. The things we do know are much smaller than the things we don’t know

While everyone would say they believe this idea in theory, when it comes to the actions we take, many of us, including myself, will puff up our egos higher than is actually the case.

Dailo states that people who have more knowledge, success and experience on a topic, should carry more weight in our decision-making.

2. Set up systems, or processes that help make decisions and see around emotions

While emotions are a natural and good part of life and human interactions, when it comes to making the best decisions, especially the business decisions, logic should be the ultimate decision maker.

Two of the greatest roadblocks to making quality decisions are the ego and the blind-spot barriers, which are both covered by the entrepreneur’s planet in their post: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/150799291/posts/16

Ultimately being committed to integrity, open-mindedness, and self-improvement, are the largest factors that have contributed to Ray Dalio’s success and the principles he teaches.

 

3 Fun Things To Do With Your Money

Give it

If you’re a Christian this can be represented by tithing. However for non-christians generosity can still play a big role. Consider giving to charities, friends, organizations, causes and people in need.

With technology there are now so many ways to connect and give to others. Giving can change the way you see the world around you, make you more compassionate, and just make you feel better about yourself in general.

Enjoy it

Enjoying money can be fun! I remember spending money to go out to eat at a nice restaurant. It felt like such a reward to myself for the work I had done. Enjoying money, specifically money you’ve earned, can feel very, very good.

Stop and thing the ways in which you could enjoy your life and your money today. Prioritize the fun with your long-term goals about investing, giving and leaving a legacy. Often people struggle with spending too much money on things that don’t actually provide enjoyment. That is just stupid.

If you’re buying something or going somewhere to impress someone else you are committing two mistakes: 1) You’re spending money you could be investing or giving (which in and of itself isn’t a crime) and 2) you’re spending money on something that doesn’t really matter to you. Leaving a little money for your future should always be at the back of your mind. Which leads us to the third thing…

Grow it

Not a lot of people in society enjoy investing. The truth is, not many people have really gotten into investing, which hurts them more than they know. When I opened my Roth IRA, I put $5,500 in it. Even in the first half year it grew to almost $6,000, a $500 increase. I was pumped.

Realistically though, investing in a well balanced, thought-through planned investment portfolio isn’t always going to go straight up. Sometimes, even often, the balance is going to go down a little. That’s part of investing.

But as your balance grows steadily over time, you will begin to see why so many people are hooked on investing.

Conclusion:

Prioritizing these three things is both a challenge and a beautiful dilemma. It can feel like a blessing to have resources (money) to mange for your future and for your family’s future. That’s why it’s so important to think about these three things.

How I Drove 2,300 Miles Without My License (And Why You Shouldn’t) Part 3

As I left Dallas I realized the trip was almost over. “What’s next?” I thought as I drove up towards Oklahoma City, OK.

Later that night I decided I would be traveling up through Kansas. Sounds like a cool place right? So off I went, driving late into the night. I was ready to explore Wichita and Kansas City as soon as I found a place to stay for the night.

At this point I was in southern Kansas, near Wichita. It was near midnight. Out on the country road it was 65mph but as I entered a little town I didn’t see the sign that said 45…  oops.

Lights flashed behind me. Even though this was my first time being pulled over after four years of driving (I’m not a bad driver btw) I couldn’t help feel a little discouraged. Was it a speed trap?

As the female officer walked up alongside the vehicle I pulled out my registration and reached for my wallet. “Hello,” she said, “I just wanted to let you know you were speeding. Not by too much, though. Can I see your license and registration?”

I handed her the registration. Opening my wallet I fumbled as I opened up where the license normally is supposed to be. I pulled out the enhanced license slip that holds the license. Opening up, I looked inside… my license was gone.

“Umm,” I awkwardly said, still looking through my wallet to see if it was somewhere else. “I can’t find my license.”

“Ok,” she said, “Can I see maybe student ID or something with a picture on it while you keep looking?” “Sure.” I handed her my student ID.

I continued to look as she went to her car. A few minutes later another police car showed up. This time a man stepped out. He and the woman walked up alongside the car. “Did you find it?”

“No luck I said,” glancing up. I got out of the car and started looking in the back. “Where is it?” I thought. I was so confused as to where it could have gone. I continued to look. “Here, can you use this?” The man officer held out a flashlight. “Thanks,” I said, realizing I also had a flashlight somewhere in the car.

After a little while they told me to pull up a few hundred yards to a little gas station. Shortly after parking they asked me to put the car keys in the car and get out. “Look,” the man said, “from our perspective this whole situation is bizarre. It looks like you’re telling the truth, but it’s taking a lot time for us to look you up in the Michigan Driver’s records.

Finally, fifteen minutes or so later they were able to look me up and get my drivers license number. I wrote it down and we said our goodbyes. The male police officer, George, shared his name and we shook hands. They were very nice and considerate.

Whatever happened that day, I’m very glad for kinder, understanding police officers.

By the way, I did find my license a few days later, but that’s a whole different story. At the end of the day we can take one big lesson a way: Even if you think your license is in your wallet, it never hurts to double check.

How I Drove 2,300 Miles Without My License (And Why You Shouldn’t) Part 1

You might be thinking this is clickbait. Or is that a typo? No, I really did drive 2,300 miles, without my license, by myself, at 18 years old across the country. Now before I tell you how I ended up in the middle of Kansas, at midnight, with no license I need to give you some background.

In the summer of 2017 I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to become. This was around my 18th birthday in July. As the summer finished and the School year began, I started realizing that I could, if I wanted, take a trip that would give me further knowledge about what was out there.

In December 2017 I decided to follow through. During this time I was working full time as well as doing school full time so there wasn’t a lot of access time for spare planning. But I did manage to put together an incomplete document that would start me on my preparation.

Around Christmas I headed over to Zambia, Africa (I was visiting my family who moved for orphan missions, but more on that in another post). In Zambia I finalized my plans, which were fairly detailed, deciding against the 8,000 mile trip I was originally planning.

My new plan was to head down to Florida, explore, head back up through Louisiana to Texas, explore, and then head home to Michigan. All with a few minor stops along the way. The trip was around the corner. I was so excited!

It was a bittersweet moment for me. My time in Zambia was about over. And, in March 2018, I said goodbye to my family after 3 very special months. This had been a great period to rest, learn, and spend time with the most important people in my world.

I flew back to Lansing by myself, pondering and searching for a single feeling to feel. But there were so many. I felt alone. Even though I was going to live with my Grandma (and what a blessing that is), I was missing the people who had been with me my whole life.

I also felt anxiety. Here I was, 18 years old, with so many life changes like college, work, summer plans, and then my trip, all coming up just around the corner.

But I was also excited. My life had been, for the most part, out of my control up till this moment. And now the pen and paper were finally getting handed to me to write my own story. I thought I was ready.

With these emotions and so many others spreading around in my mind and nervous system, I really was starting to grow up. Not all at once, but slowly.

The plane landed.

I got to Lansing, spent time with friends and Grandma, and after one week it was time to leave. Finally, the moment I had been waiting for had come. Again, I thought I was ready. So, in the first few days of April, I left.

 

The Cost of Not Spending

Often when it comes to money we get the basic financial advice of reducing spending, increasing income, and investing the difference. However there is an extreme that this can be taken to.

Most have heard the tale, “A Christmas Carol”. In it, Ebenezer Scrooge is portrayed as an old single bachelor who has been hoarding his money, keeping to himself, and worrying pretty much only about himself. While we’d like to think we’re exempt from this behavior, it can become difficult at times to see that we’ve started to show some of his characteristics.

For example some people think that it’s a smart life choice to not tip. A guy I used to work with told me he “didn’t do tips because they don’t need it.” I understand decreasing the tip for bad service, but doing so for other reasons is being cheap. Understand, that’s how many of those people make their money.

Another area where people often lack clarity is in the area of giving. Some think, that by giving, they’re somehow benefiting themselves. While it’s certainly true that giving all your money away isn’t a smart life choice for pretty much everyone, there are genuine benefits to honest, purposeful giving.

Giving doesn’t have to be financial either. I was quietly reading in the park once, in downtown Lansing, when a homeless dude walked up to me. We talked for a while, and I feel that the encouragement I gave him, as well as the insights and story he gave me, were a mutually beneficial exchange.

Whatever your philosophy on giving, tipping, and sharing, keep in mind that sometimes there’s a non-financial cost to not giving.