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Archive for October, 2009

Oct09 net worth

October 30th, 2009 at 01:20 pm

Um... this can't be right. This month is, by far, the biggest jump I've ever had since I started tracking my net worth.

Why? I'm not sure! In fact, I just triple-checked my numbers because I simply don't believe it!

Hmm. For one thing, it appears that my stock positions did extremely well over October. Extremely well. I'm completely out at this point, but that's the main driver.

Secondly, and this kind of shocks me, but my cash reserve has increased substantially. It shocks me because I did go to Atlantic City for a weekend, and the overall cost was substantial.

I mean, I'm not trying to gloat or anything. Honest. I'm just shocked and a little alarmed more than anything. How in the world did the numbers work out so favorably? I'm going to check again....

Edit: Ok, I know what happened. My road trip was made in advance, back in Sept. Therefore, I took the cash hit there. This month, the guys paid me back their share, creating that artificial bump in this month's calculations. Still, most of the money did come from the stock market.

Earnings season is over

October 29th, 2009 at 02:09 pm

Well, for me and my stock positions anyway. The GDP quarterly report just came out, and it's beaming with happy news.

The bulls claim that this is the first sign of a fundamental economic recovery. A real green shoot. The bears, however, believe that this Indian summer is the result of the government stimulus program.

Alas, I am in the bearish camp.

I've been slowly taking some off the table throughout this warming, but now, I am completely out. But I can't complain since I'm also sitting on a pile of money, even if it's a small one.

I'm not sure what to do next. I'm over-due for a rebalancing anyways, so I'll definitely work on that. Beyond that, I'm going to wait and see what the market does next, after the earnings season and the stimulus programs.

Dinnerware debate

October 28th, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I don't know what's wrong with me, but I thought you guys might find this funny. I'm a guy, but here I am looking through dinnerware sets. This seems kind of pretty to me, though maybe not entirely practical and is too thematic:

Anyways, I still live very much like a bachelor, complete with plastic forks and paper plates. I was just thinking that maybe it's worth the investment to use real plates instead. I mean, used long enough, it can save money right?

I'm also thinking about getting an electric grill (such as a George Foreman grill) and possibly a juicer. All this, I think, would help me cook more at home, and eat healthier and cheaper.

But I don't know. Spending this kind of money up front makes me wonder if I am thinking straight lately, or have I slipped back to my old spendy ways? Would I really use them enough to justify it? And if I were to get a dinnerware set, any particular advice or suggestions on where to look? Or will anything from Walmart do?

Pondering LASIK

October 27th, 2009 at 07:10 pm

Does anyone have LASIK? If so, how was your experience?

I am considering it, but it's so much money!

And to be perfectly honest, I can't justify it as a need either. I don't think. It may seem like an useful life improvement, but the truth is, I could also live with just glasses for the rest of my life.

I don't know. What do you think?

First time gambling

October 23rd, 2009 at 04:37 pm

After thinking about the matter, I decided that there was no perceivable harm in revealing where I went to visit some friends. We hung out at Atlantic City for a weekend.

I don't personally care for gambling, but I've also never gambled before in my life. So, out of morbid curiosity, I decided to cave in to "peer pressure" and try out the slot machine and Blackjack.

I knew the slot machine is a terrific way to flush your money down the drain, so I played it only for the "fun" of it. However, when I got extremely lucky on one of the plays, I decided to cash it out while I was still ahead.

Then I tried Blackjack. I've read about it before, but the first time that I saw it in action, it really sunk in just how quickly and easily you can make and lose money. Emphasis on the losing part, even though I am aware that your odds are much better here than on slots. So, I stood and watched for quite a while until I decided upon a strategy.

I knew that, over time, the house always wins, and therefore, any strategy over prolonging my stay would be a losing one. So, I decided to play only for a few short hands, but I made up for it by betting more than the minimum. Uh, don't worry. I didn't put in any more money than what I was prepared to lose.

I admit I stayed for a lot longer than I had planned to, and at one point, even risked losing everything. But, when I finally got ahead on a huge bet, I immediately cashed it out and walked away without even a glance back.

All-in-all, I made about $170 off the casino floor. Big Grin My friends were so peeved with me, each of them having lost more than that.

But that's gambling for you. Perhaps they enjoyed the activity, but I personally did not. Within the first few minutes of just looking at Blackjack, I whispered to my friends, "From a money-making perspective, this is crazier than anything I've ever done in stock trading. Unless you're the house, this is definitely no way to make money."

True, you can easily gamble on the stock market as well, but I think there's a floating misconception out there that anything that involves individual stocks must be gambling, and like gambling, you are going to be caught in a fool's errand. That is absolutely false and I heartily recommend you ignore anyone who tells you that.

Unlike the casinos, the stock market is much more complicated, but perhaps not in a bad way. In casinos, the rules are already set, and over time, the house always wins. If they can't win, the game doesn't make it to the floor. Simple as that.

But with the stock market? All kinds of securities and all kinds of strategies can be used to tailor to your own investment needs. Bottom line: You don't have to fast trade, you don't even have to sell, and some stocks, I dare say, have much better odds than holding a good pair of cards.

Ooops, got off on a tangent. Big Grin Win or lose, I'm glad that I got a taste of what real gambling is like, because now, I can say without a doubt that I indeed do not like to gamble. And that's fine with me!

Mixed bag quickies

October 23rd, 2009 at 01:18 pm

Half stock market talk.

* By now, who has not heard of "

Text is jobless recovery and Link is
jobless recovery"? Are we in one though? Who has been working extra hours rather than seeing their employers hire new people?

Hopefully, we are at least in an inventory rebound, where demand may not have surged, but at least production needs to pick up now that inventory has been exhausted.

What do you think?

* I admit I might be getting tired of trading in general, including stock trading. The whole thing started out really more as a learning experiment than anything. And at this point, I am fairly satisfied with what I've been able to experience, especially being able to put it to the test in this recession.

But, when it's all said and done, I think there are other things in life that I should focus on as well. There's no rush on such a decision though, so I'm going to take my sweet old time to think this one over.

* I decided to shop at a ritzy neighborhood grocery store and I was amazed at some of the prices. One of the favorite Gatorades, which normally costs only $1, costs about $1.50 there! A 50% markup! And that's not the only thing.

The prices on other items were about the same. For example, Little Debbie snack cakes still remained at around $1.19 or so, but I guess you really can't argue with the pre-printed price on the box. Big Grin

I will say their supermarkets tend to be better stocked and staffed, especially with a variety of foods that I don't see elsewhere.

That said though, I felt like I was being robbed by somebody. Big Grin

Mini-Tender Offer?

October 21st, 2009 at 05:02 pm

I have a stake in Proctor Gamble, and Scottrade is telling me that there is a Mini-Tender offer for it?

The details are scant. It's non-mandatory, cost for the transaction will be $25, offer expires on Nov 5, and here's a link to the SEC for basic information about it.

That's it.

I've never encountered this before. What does this mean? Where do I find out more information about it? Scottrade website provides no clue.

Sure seems like a lot of weird things are happening lately. Big Grin

Freedom K

October 21st, 2009 at 07:18 am

This is interesting. Fidelity, my 401(k) provider, is changing my selected Target retirement Freedom fund to a new series called Freedom K funds.

I wonder why?

Whatever it is, they've revamped the entire product line, so it must be a big deal on their end. However, according to their "detail information" article:

"Fidelity Freedom K Funds will have the same management team, investment objectives and will invest in the same underlying funds as the Fidelity Freedom FundsĀ®"

Also, they claim that the expense ratio will be roughly 0.1% or so lower than the regular Freedom series.

Another thing is that I don't think they're phasing out the Freedom series so much as they are adding this Freedom K series to 401(k)s. The regular Freedom series should still be available to retail investors.

What I want to know is, what is the purpose behind this new series? I guess I shouldn't look the gift horse in the mouth, but I just can't imagine that such a big move is purely altruistic....

So does anyone know?

Hanging out with friends

October 20th, 2009 at 08:53 pm

I got a chance to hang out with a couple of friends, one of which I have not seen for a long, long time! It was great to catch up on old times and see how they're doing.

This old friend I haven't seen for a while is a great guy. Really great guy. He's also probably going to be married to his long-time girlfriend, but they haven't made it official yet.

In any case, we were talking about money and he said, "A wise man once said, 'You can't live forever! In fact, you could get hit by a bus and die the very next day! And when you die, you can't take it with you!' So, I say we live it up while we still can. Heck, I'm going to drill into huge debt when I die, because they can't do anything to me after that!"

Palm, meet forehead.

My other friend, who knows me better and probably saw me squirm, diplomatically interjected, "Well, I think there's probably a balance in there somewhere. You know, because you need some money, even though pinching every penny would just be ridiculous."

Although I couldn't bite my tongue, I decided to ride the "diplomatically balanced" bus. I added, "Yeah, I think so too. I mean, I'd like to have a nice little house some day. My car is also breaking down, and I'd like to get a decent replacement. Some day, I would also love to retire and be able to kick up my feet. And you know, all these things require that we save up... something. But yeah, after that, I don't need a yacht or anything, although if I do, you're all invited. Big Grin"

Now, unlike other friends and circumstances, this particular friend didn't really concern me with what he said, because in that same conversation, he also said something interesting:

His girlfriend/fiance works as an assistant accountant or something like that, and since she's also the um... "dominant personality" in the relationship, she's making him work and pay off all of his debt anyways, but promising even better things in the future, including marriage, if he accomplishes this.

In fact, he was even bragging how he just turned debt-free and has $5000 cash in the bank! I couldn't applaud and praise him enough for that.

But he did repeatedly say that he just doesn't get why she is so uptight about money. I suspect that's going to be a sore spot for them as they move further along in their relationship. But oh well, what else is new right?

As for me, there is NO WAY I'll ever put up with anyone who doesn't have some financial sense again. But what can I say? That's my hang up now.

Latest pet peeves

October 14th, 2009 at 08:48 pm

I tried to make them quickies, but as you can see, I failed miserably. Big Grin Also, if you're not in the mood to hear me whine, please skip this.

* Ok, I just saw something that shocked me. I won't name any names, but I have a problem with authors that will delete just about any and all comments except the ones that he happens to like.

Look, if you don't like comments (where they are allowed here), please go somewhere else, set up your own blog, and disable the commenting there.

And NO, I will NOT refer anyone I know to you for business. If you can't take even accept a simple little comment, then I have to wonder just what else you're liable to do with our money.

* I don't know how many of you are also on the forums, but um, there's this guy (and I'm sure you know who it is) who is uh, starting to get on my nerves. Big Grin

I really can't figure out why he feels the need to "compete" against me. As though I'm "That Guy" who is collaborating with "The System" to bring down freedom-loving freedom fighters I mean investors everywhere so that we can all be under some kind of um oppressive investment regime or something. I don't know.

I'm not terribly upset or anything. All this is online, and I can always walk away and putter along with the rest of my life. Plus, I understand he's going through a divorce, and that may have scrambled his brain kind of like the way my divorce scrambled mine. Some of you regulars here know that I wasn't well for a long time.

* So, I have this co-worker. He's married, wife recently lost her job due to the recession, and he is currently both the breadwinner and I believe the money manager of the house.

Now, this guy is a nice guy and I know he's also having a lot of issues with his wife right now. But to cut to the chase, he's also been paying for an escort service for sexual affairs.

Not only that, but these escorts cost anywhere from $200 to $300 an hour! Call me prudish and narrow-minded, but why is it OK to be married and yet cheat on your wife financially and sexually like this? And it's expensive too!

Now, this is kind of touchy, so believe me when I say that I do NOT want to get involved, and nobody else except you fairly anonymous online people are going to know about this.

But you know what's crazy? As much as I am personally against something like this, I can't say that it actually bothers me that much. I guess that, in the end, it simply doesn't affect me in any way. He's still a nice guy, and we're just here to work.

It's been a while quickies

October 12th, 2009 at 04:16 pm

* Because I'm 35 now, I'm in a different age category in Networth IQ. I only have one word here: Ouch. Big Grin

* What does risk-adjusted return look like and how do active fund managers fare against their respective indexes?

Text is Morningstar has an answer (PDF) and Link is
Morningstar has an answer (PDF).

Bottom line, it seems that only 37% of active fund managers out-perform the respective indexes on a risk-adjusted basis.

Related to this, I've added the link to Moody's explanation of the Sharpe and Treynor's ratio, along with Jensen's Alpha in my list of links.
Text is Here's a break-down of Fama-French's Three Factor model and Link is
Here's a break-down of Fama-French's Three Factor model on market returns.

All short but interesting reads.

* Not really news, but remember how a while back, I underestimated the amount I should have for emergency fund? Since then, I've been focusing my savings on that, and the scary part is, I'm still working on it. Yikes! In fact, chances are good that I'll be spending most of my 2010 still doing that. Double yikes!

* Maybe you've heard of this, but I just heard a great quote on budgeting:

"Budgeting is deciding beforehand how to spend your money, instead of wondering after the fact where it all went."

I heart vendor shows

October 9th, 2009 at 05:44 pm

So, I have a bunch of free toothbrushes that an insurance vendor was giving away at work. I think I have a year's supply on hand. My co-workers were joking if I have enough of them, but the vendor had a lot of them and didn't mind giving them out, so... I didn't mind taking them. Big Grin

Dad's letter

October 7th, 2009 at 11:51 pm

So somebody wanted to see the email I sent to my dad. Well, here it is:

Hi dad. How are you? I am fine and so are the kids. I don't know what to talk about, but I still look at the stock market. Maybe I shouldn't, because I think something bad may happen soon.

The economy is sick, and the government added a lot of money to fight it, like trying to cause a fever to fight off an illness. Of course, if the fever is too high, that's dangerous too. People are getting scared now because it may be too high.

So, the government has to stop sooner or later, and the market will probably fall some. Nothing bad like last year though. But, I decided to sell some stock today anyways.

Please take care.

He's a doctor, and hence, my patient analogy. Also, I way over-simplified the situation, but that's the point of the exercise.

Letters to dad

October 7th, 2009 at 04:40 am

Stock market talk.

So, my dad is trying out this internet technology and he had me email him. And since I'm so pre-occupied with trying to figure out the stock market, I suppose it was inevitable that I would try to email him about it.

My dad's a smart man and he also holds individual stocks, but his primary interest isn't so much as stock trading or even investing, but rather, he just wants to retire. Can't blame the guy. Big Grin

But between his interest being largely casual and our language barrier, I found myself trying to explain my stock market thoughts in very simple terms so that he can understand it.

And then, something funny happened along the way. By having my words be held personally accountable to my dad, and being forced to use simple terms, I suddenly found myself... I don't quite know how to articulate this....

Well, most of the time, I'm just lost for words. Big Grin Anything that is too complicated or is highly speculative, I had to throw it straight out the window. The rest had to make sense in such a way that any reasonable person on the street can understand it.

In other words, my theses had to be simple, clear, and convincing. And I tell you, there wasn't a whole lot to say when I was done. Big Grin

But just the exercise helped me so much to clear my own thoughts that I began writing additional emails to him, just for my own sake.

This is an amazing technique! I think I'm going to keep doing this exercise from now on, even if I don't actually email him some of these, because like I said, a lot of the theses simply fell apart, and I don't want to send him those.

So... thanks dad!

My fling with Wachovia

October 6th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

So Wachovia sent me this letter saying they're doing a $50 promotion (they still have the $25 referral one as well). I looked it over, read it again, and called a customer rep to double check. Yep, the offer looks good! So, after work today, I rushed over to the nearest branch to set it up.

I had a wonderful conversation with a service manager who opened the account for me. Originally, I was just going to sign up for the checking account, but they also have the Way2Save savings program.

Rep: $1 will be placed in the savings account for every debit transaction.
Me: Ok....
Rep: First year earns 5% APY, 2% APY on the second and third year.
Rep: Yeah, and you can also transfer $100 a month to that account as well.
Me: Sign me up!

So I walked away with their no-fuss free checking and the Way2Save program. The first year is great, but after that, it won't beat my credit union's current 3% APY. So, after the year is up, I'll re-evaluate the situation.

Truth is, all this probably won't make much difference in terms of real dollars, but hey, I'm still willing to play the game. Plus, they said that the $100 a month transfer can be automated. So, with that and a small change in direct deposit, it's going to require no effort from me anyways. I love getting paid to be lazy. Big Grin

I think this is like.. the third time I've signed up for Wachovia. The last time I was there, they had an online promotion that I signed up for and I made $50 there as well. So, there you have it: My on-again, off-again fling with Wachovia. We just got back together again. Next year? Who knows? Big Grin

James Franco's house

October 6th, 2009 at 04:26 am

I don't have anywhere near the $4 million for this, and even if I did, I would never pay that much for a place to live. However....


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James Franco house has a lot of charm that I like and fantasize about in a dream house. I mean, there are some things I don't like about it either, but overall, I can't get enough of that warm, organic Spanish charm!

Just look at even the first picture in the gallery! I would love to be out at a place like that, on a nice cool night, with some candles and a small fireplace, and maybe toast some marshmallows while trying to learn some more acoustic guitar. Ahhhhh....

Fantasy aside, I do find these pictures useful in that they help me get an idea of what decors I like, why, and most importantly, how I might be able to replicate that without too much money. Is that even possible? I don't know, but I would love to try!

Crazy dream

October 5th, 2009 at 01:21 pm

Completely non-financial, but I just had one of the craziest dreams ever.

Basically, the earth suddenly froze over. Ice age, global warming, I don't know. At first, a bunch of people and I who are stranded together thought it was just a bad winter, but as it dragged on and supplies depleted, it became clear that it was not.

Anyways, we were wondering what we should do from this point on when someone I've never seen before went around to all of us and said to congregate at this big house in the distance. They promised to have plenty of heat and snacks, so why not.

A fairly large group showed up, and this woman who was apparently the leader, addressed us. First she welcomed us and talked about what we would need to survive, and that there could also be roaming bandits and we needed to protect ourselves. Then she had us split into groups that she said we need to stick together at all times. Ok, that made sense.

Then she went on talking about how the Goddess Gaia is angry with us and this is her way of punishing her children for abusing the planet. Something like that. I wasn't paying attention because I thought she was nuts.

She must have sensed that because after her speech, she went back into a private room with several of her people, and suddenly came out with a power saw. She came straight up to me, and with fire in her eyes, grabbed my hand, put the saw next to it, and screamed in front of everyone, "Are you a spy?"

I was like, "What? I'm not a spy of anything!" That completely shocked me. Equally shocking was that, while I resisted her putting a revving power saw to my hand, I didn't fight back. Well, she may have been crazy, but she was a smallish woman and somehow I thought I could convince her that I wasn't whoever she thinks I was.

She went on screaming about me being a non-believer, and well... she got me there! I only went along quietly because I didn't want to be rude, but I don't know what in the world she's talking about with her Goddess and why that has anything to do with us trying to survive the cold.

At one point, I thought she might have been convinced that I wasn't at least a spy, but then she grabbed my hair, and started to rev the power saw behind my neck. By then, I thought, "Ok, I've had enough of this", and just when I was about to fight back, I felt a hot burning behind my neck, my body jerked, and suddenly I woke right up.

My very first conscious thought when I woke up was, "What happened? She killed me.... She killed me! That bitch! I'm going back to sleep just so I can beat some sense into her!" Ah, but alas... I can't just fall back asleep and dream the same thing again. Besides, it was time to go to work anyways. Big Grin

The drive to work this morning was a rainy, somber one, as I reflected on the dream I just had. "Wow, that's the first time I've ever died in my dreams for anything. Ever. And not only that, but I was executed." Big Grin

I tried to make sense of it, but I couldn't. I mean, I have to admit that a public execution was actually a pretty smart way to control a group from the get go, because it eliminated a potential detractor, and at the same time, scared the rest of her "flock" into submitting to her authority.

But it's only a dream right? And dreams tend to be irrational to begin with. But then again, I also think dreams often times contains some nuggets of insight into our own personal psyche. I just wish I knew what it is. Big Grin It wasn't a nightmare, and I was more pissed than anything. And I don't really have any problems in real life. I just don't know what to make of it, except that it was the first time I ever died in a dream.

What about you? Have any idea what it could mean? Had any weird dreams like that before?

Bedroom pics

October 4th, 2009 at 04:20 am

Lately, everybody seem to be sharing pictures of their personal spaces here. Pictures like that fascinate me to no end.

I don't know what that means, if anything, but since my personal space has changed somewhat, I thought I should "return the favor" by sharing new pictures of my room.

And for extra fun, I did not straighten anything out this time. Everything is exactly as you see it in my everyday life.

This here is my bedroom:

As you can see, it's really not much different from before. The arrangement is only because I have a new alarm clock that can hook up to a pair of speakers that I have set up on each side of the bed. It's pretty neat, because I can now listen to soothing music when I am lying down. Unfortunately, there is also no shortage of audio power here to wake up me up in the morning. Well, I guess that's a good thing. Big Grin

Here's a picture of my computer desk, the other space I generally "live in":

What may not be apparent in the picture is that I've moved the computer out of my bedroom and into a different room. The room accommodates the audio equipment better, I am less tempted to jump out of the bed to check something online, thus forcing me to sleep, and it has more space to accomodate the children since we tend to congregate around the computer....

I know it doesn't look like much, and I agree it isn't. But I am still a house-sitter, and this isn't my house. So, there's no point settling in with a bunch of stuff, because I have to move out some day anyway.

It's kind of a psychological bummer too, because deep down, I dream of having a place of my own.... A place I don't have to wonder when I'll have to leave and where I will end up next. A place I can finally stretch out and feel at ease in. A place that I can finally call... home.

Boy, I must sound really effeminate there. Big Grin In the meantime, this house-sitting gig isn't bad at all, and I am grateful for such an opportunity!

Where's my Netflix!

October 3rd, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I think I just ran into a snag.

Netflix tells me that they've already shipped a disc. I never received it. At least, I don't see it anywhere.

Did I lose it? I've been cleaning up lately. Or was it ever shipped here?

Any of you Netflix users ever run into this problem?

What a bummer. I need to know what happens next on my Battlestar Galactica! Big Grin

The Giant of Pool of Money Revisited

October 3rd, 2009 at 12:10 am

NPR did this radio documentary called "The Giant Pool of Money" about a year and a half ago.

If you are not familiar with it, they did an hour long piece on the recession, and several people along the process, from quants that did the risk analysis, to the mortgage guys, to everyday people who bought too much house....

The show was so popular that NPR spawned a separate program called "Planet Money", and they decided to do a follow-up documentary following up on the original Giant Pool of Money.

If you haven't heard of this yet, here's a link, and you can listen to the Quicktime podcast, located right below the newspaper image.

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Here's the link.

From what I understand, they will only have this link up for a week, so hurry! If you have any remote interest in this recession, tune in because the original and this follow-up are both really good!