Monday, March 31, 2008

Networth Update - Another month, another gain

This month saw huge drains to my bank account, as my 7-day cruise coincided with paying my parents back for their initial out-of-school loan to me.

However, this was offset by my tax refund and continued adherence to my budget.

Also, I've found myself using less cash on discretionary items, but finding that I have been spending more on food, and especially on coffee. I suppose sleep could help me save some money there.

Compared to last month, my networth is up 0.13% or $1,265.65.

Overall, this bring my networth to -$6,020.28 or -0.60% away from my goal.

On a side note, I am now designating Bank #2 as my emergency fund bank, since I use Bank #1 primarily for bills and checks, and expect the money in Bank #2 to accumulate interest.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Socially Responsible Investing

Socially responsible investing is all the rage these days, with investors boycotting companies that exploit rainforests, emit high amounts of pollution, or have insensitive HR practices. While normally these types of "irresponsible" corporate behavior are items I don't consider, a recent proxy for my mutual fund got me thinking.

It read:

"Shareholder proposal for ... [list of fund names] ... concerning Board oversight procedures to screen out investments in companies that substantially contribute to genocide."
Well that got my attention.

While I'm okay with minor corporate indiscretions, I was definitely curious as to how contributing to genocide could possible add value to a company. So as with any question I don't know the answer to, I did a Google search.

I found this page: "Investors Against Genocide". In the FAQ, they answer:
"Although federal law prevents most US companies from operating in Sudan, American financial institutions, in particular mutual fund companies, are major investors in the Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian oil companies involved in Sudan which are helping to fund this genocide."
Essentially, the Sudanese government is taking the oil revenues generated and plowing it into its war effort, which explicitly supports the genocide they are committing.

Certainly I had no idea that such investments in genocide were occurring. The above website is worth checking out for any socially conscious investor.

I definitely am voting for this shareholder proposal, and standing up against genocide.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ameriprise Lunch

I think everyone in corporate America has had at least one free lunch from Ameriprise. Today's lunch was my second. For those who don't know, these lunches are typically a selling too for Ameriprise advisers who try to sell you on their services for the first 10 minutes of your lunch, and then leave you alone. They go away with your contact information and with the "threat" that you could be called.

I attend these type of lunches grudgingly; while free lunch is good, who has time during lunch to hear a sales pitch?

But today's lunch got me thinking. How much longer will these advisers be around for?

Most people who have significant wealth would not pick up a financial planner in such an odd fashion. I would think the target audience would be the middle to upper-middle class. Yet, with the huge rise in free personal finance blogs and the constant stream of free personal financial advice from conventional media, in 5 years, are people still going to pay for the advice?

Anyone with half a mind and access to Google could get pretty much any mundane personal finance question answered.

I would think their days are numbered.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bear Stearns and the Market

Sometimes, I wish I had more money when I see a sure thing. Last Wednesday, I blogged about the recovering markets, and the affect Bear Sterns' buyout offer had. Never did I think though that Bear would help as much as it has.

The market has not been up 4 of the last five trading days. Bear's stock is up 600% from JP Morgan's initial buyout offer. JP raised their offer 500%.

It's insane, and it continues to indicate to me that the markets are definitely due for full recovery by summer time.

The only thing now is if we can get the Fed to steady its hand, and stray away from more rate cuts, then we can ensure the gradual upward climb for the dollar, and the US economy as a whole.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

First Site Award

Well readers, thanks to your support and encouragement for my blog, someone out there has decided to give me my first official outsider review and rating. gave this blog a 8.2 or Great rating.

Money and Sense at Blogged

It has been fun blogging, and I will continue for some time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Markets Recovering?

I have wavered back and forth on the outlook of the market, but I think this week's Bear Stearns announcement, coupled with the Fed rate cut and the huge positive reaction from the market suggest that the markets may be slowly getting back on its feet.

Let's break down the three situations:

1) Bear Stearns' stock, even with a clear buyout deal, orchestrated by the Fed, from JP Morgan has continued to climb from the buyout price of $2 / share to almost $6 / share today. This indicates to me that market participants are realizing the buy out is way too cheap, suggesting that people do have a bottom to their recession / subprime fears, and $2 is certainly way below it.

2) The Fed discount rate was widely believed to be 100bps, and by taking a surprising move of 75bps, showed the market two things. (1) The Fed has a backbone and is capable of making monetary policy without bowing to Wall Street and (2) The Fed believes we are in a better situation and therefore believes the additional 25bps is unnecessary.

3) Looking at the 3-4% increase in all major indexes, one has to ponder that the Fed minutes were all good news, and that market sentiment is veering to bullish.

What does this all mean in the end? I think we have another 2 months of the market's volatility smoothing out, and by early summer, it will be the right time to buy in again.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back from vacation

As I sit in the airport, reflecting on the last seven days of revelry, exploration, and easy-living, I can really only think of one overwhelming theme for myself, and this blog.

On the last two days prior to my cruise, I had been responding to sharp, but spot-on, criticism of my spending habits. At the time, I was defensive, incapable of providing a satisfying answer. But now, it is clear.

Any reader of this blog knows WHAT my goal is, but how about WHY?

It comes down to being able to live life.

Every day I write and think about saving money. However, the purpose is not about counting the zeroes on the bank statement. The purpose is to be worry-free about spending the money. Not to the point of extravagent opulence, but rather, the ability, for instance, to moped, parasail or jet ski at will and have others there enjoying it with you.

To bring it full circle, occasional indulgences are not only non-counter to my goal, but rather a necessary component.

I'm happy to say my numerical goal has suffered from taking this vacation, but I have stayed true to the purpose of the goal.

And, as something to ponder, is the state of happiness something that exists as your personal asset? If so, I'm far closer to the numerical value, regardless of the illiquidity such an asset.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

On Vacation

I start vacation Friday afternoon, but this is going to my last post until the next Sunday when I arrive home from my Caribbean cruise.

In the mean time, thank all of you for reading my blog, and remember to check in again in a week!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Saving eletricity while single... tough to get into the habit of doing, but the savings add up quickly.

Recently, I had blogged about not running the humidifier running while I wasn't home. That saved about $20 in electricity. Then I thought about the appliances that I have on that don't need to be on. I really only had two other items, my router and cable modem. I've been turning those off and seeing what that does. If I see another $20 decrease in my bill, it would be worthwhile.

I have also switched out most of light bulbs to energy saving light bulbs. I will be getting my electricity bill soon, so I will soon be able to quantify the value.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Networth Update - 2.22% pts closer to my goal this year

If last month was the lowest point in my blogging career, then this month's networth update should have been precluded with some sort of financial training montage. February saw a dramatic turnaround for my networth, led by bonus season, more strict adherence to my own budgets, and a significant decrease in my utility bills (which I will blog about separately).

Compared to last month, my networth is up 0.29% or $2,904.20 (all networth percentages are based off of my goal of $1 million).

On the horizon, are a few networth neutral, but debt ratio clearing items: paying off a large chunk of credit card debt and paying back a parental loan.

Also, I will be filing taxes soon, and if I eFile, I could have my tax return back this month as well.

There is only one cause for concern. I am off on a week-long cruise in the Caribbean in the second week of March, and I hope I can stick to my usual food and discretionary budget, but that is doubtful.

Anyway, overall, this brings my networth to -$7,285.93 or -0.73% away from my goal. But compare that to a year ago when I started with a networth of -$29,509.52. That is a 2.22% increase to my goal compared to last year! Only 6 more years to go.

Here's a nifty graph that tracks my monthly networth: