Tag Archives: stocks

Wikinvest / SigFig Teaches Me About Investing

Incredibly enough, I’ve added nearly $150k to my investment accounts across my IRAs, 401ks, and taxable accounts. While I’m still not sure if taking the “select companies” vs index fund route makes a lot of sense, I know I end up putting more money into investments when I feel like I have some control over the fate of my networth, and at the very least, an opportunity to learn more about business and how public markets work.

Of all the finance sites I use, my favorite is Wikinvest (soon to be SigFig, which I received an Alpha invite to this week.) Wikinvest is awesome because, as seen above, it offers a really easy way to track your stocks (and ETFs), including information on P/E, Rev Growth, P/S, etc. These are probably fairly basic things to look at when deciding to purchase a stock. Above, you will see the six stocks I own with the lowest P/Es (and how many shares I own of each).

It’s fun to look at how AAPL, while $493.42 a share, still has a relatively low P/E and its revenue growth was 67.6%! Now, I wish there was more data here regarding what that revenue growth represents (Qtr over Qtr? YoY?) but regardless, this data shows that AAPL stock, despite being pricey per share, may be worth a lot more than some other stocks. I’m still concerned AAPL will lose value (can it sustain such growth) but seeing that it made $3.60 per share vs say, GE’s $1.35 per share makes me feel confident in a long-term AAPL investment. As you can see, I’ve made $15k on AAPL (on paper) with just 79.94 shares.

Let’s sort by my stocks owned by P/E in the other direction. AMZN has the highest P/E — 135! Compared to AAPL, it’s Revenue Growth was only 40.6%. Even Google, which has a P/E of 20.50 (not too bad, but still higher than AAPL) only increased 29.3%. But it also has a P/S of $5.20, which is better than AAPL. This is where my knowledge lacks and I don’t fully understand the factors which make that possible, or our P/S is determined. More research on my end is required.

In a related note, I am annoyed that I have .44 shares of FTR. That happened when VZ split  with them. .44 shares is pointless, to sell them will cost $8 (more than they are worth) and they just clutter up my account. Looking at FTR, however, they seem to have a 79.7% revenue growth, I wonder if I should just purchase $100 worth of FTR shares and see if they can run up enough where I can sell the stock so it doesn’t clutter my portfolio and I don’t lose $8 on it.

In case you’re wondering, in my taxable account, here are the stocks and ETFs which have been performing best so far:

Buy a House vs. Invest in the Stock Market or..?

This a question that has been weighing heavily on my head lately, as some would say it’s the best time to buy a house/condo right now, while mortgage rates are low, and others would say it’s the best time to invest in the stock market as the recession, over or not, is still heavily weighting stocks down, and growth will return to the markets sooner or later.

There are a lot of reasons why it is not the right time to buy a house, for me personally. Putting money in the stock market is an investment, buying a house is a life step, not necessarily an investment. It’s certainly tough to aspire to be the next Warren Buffet when your entire liquidity is tied down in a 2br, $500k condo, with a monthly HOA fee to boot.

But I still have to ask myself — am I being stupid? Stocks can just as easily go down as they can go up, and I may just be investing away my downpayment — and all of my savings — by putting my money into the market. And by stupid, I mean by picking individual stocks (something super risky, even with large cap companies) vs focusing on my earlier index investing strategy.

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How My Stocks are Faring

In short… not so well.

In long… ignoring the $7500 I’ve “lost” in my Roth and Vanguard index funds, I’ve lost another $1051.99 thus far. I have invested in 11 different stocks and ETFs in my Sharebuilder account ranging the gamut from a gold index to a natural foods supermarket, and everything in between. Not one of them is in the “green.”

The best performing is my gold ETF (GLD), which is down $10.95 on a $533 investment. Not bad, but it’s also not making money.

Everything else is doing really shitty.

Here’s my investment list, and losses:

Comverge (COMV) – Invested $205.51 thus far, it’s currently worth $115.96 (loss $89.55)
Wisdomtree India Earnings (EPI) – Invested $482.59, now $262.56 (loss: $220.03)
iShares Brazil Index (EWZ) – invested $251.72, now $104.30, (loss: $147.42)
SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) – invested $533.67, now $522.72, (loss: $10.95)
iShares Medical Devices (IHI) – invested $150 recently, now $146.58 (loss $3.42)
Market Vectors Coal ETF (KOL) – invested $120.26, now $32.76 (loss $87.50)
McDonalds Corp (MCD) – invested $296.74, now $273.41 (loss $23.33)
Powershares Global Clean Enegry – invested $462.31, now $195.88 (loss $266.43)
Procter & Gamble – invested 100.00, now $89.03 (loss $10.87)
Whole Foods Market (WFMI) – invested $121.23, now $36.33 (loss $84.90)
Financial Select Sector (XLF) – invested $148.29, now $41.20 (loss $107.09)

For a grand total of…


or -36.61% of my total investment.

For what it’s worth, I’ve invested $14,950.00 into my Roth IRA and Vanguard Index Funds, and I’m currently down $6849.33 on that account, or 45%.

So even though my stock picks are doing crappy, they’re still doing better than my basic index funds for now. I wonder how they’ll all look in a year from now.

Investors: As If The Markets Haven’t Screwed You Enough…

So your stocks are down, what, 35%, and all you want to do is cling to the precious dollars you have left? Not so fast. Any money your stock funds made earlier in the year (when times were closer to peachy) is going to have to be taxed. Yea, I know you know that, but CNN wants to remind us that we can’t avoid paying taxes on stocks that have already lost the money they gained, and then some.

Unless your stocks are in a tax deferred account, like a 401(k) or IRA, you’ll probably have to pay taxes on them. “Fund managers had to sell appreciated shares to raise cash for redemptions, which triggered capital-gains distributions,” Tom Roseen, senior research analyst at Lipper told CNN. “So you have insult on top of injury.”

CNN suggests checking if your funds have declared their taxable distributions yet. If they haven’t, sell them and capture the loss. You can deduct up to $3,000 in capital losses from ordinary income. Losses beyond that amount can be carried forward indefinitely to offset future gains. The article provides other tips for investing wisely in the years ahead so taxes aren’t such a pain in the ass.

What Recession?

Every other day the media is telling us that we’re either in a recession or the government has miraculously saved us from entering one. I’ve even heard talk about an upcoming depression, despite plenty of safety nets in line to prevent another 1929.

These are the times when I really wish I knew more about the economy and what it all meant. I watch my stocks go up and down… and down again, but understanding why is a whole other matter.

The latest AP article I read on the subject explained that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke just said that a recession is possible.

Seems like he’s late to the game, doesn’t it?

Ok, so he’s in charge of the Federal Reserve, which must have some significance, economically speaking. He said that policymakers are “fighting against the wind” in trying to steady the economy.

I guess earlier this year he tried to give a pep talk on how great the economic future was looking for this country and now he’s going for the surefire glass is half-empty approach in case of a meltdown. Better to say I told you so late then I never told you so at all.

This is where the tricky economic babblygook comes in and I get lost. The GDP (or gross domestic product) will not grow much over the first half of 2008 – and could contract slightly.

Sounds like a bad situation. Growth is good. Shrinkage is bad.(Just ask a porn star.)

Apparently under a rule someone wrote somewhere, six straight months of declining GDP means we’re in a recession.

So Bernanke thinks that the stimulus package will help economic growth in the second half of this year and into 2009.

Uhm, I’m still under the impression that a $600 tax “gift” is not enough to encourage most folks to run out and spend. Or maybe I’m just so caught up in this personal finance world that I forget how most people spend their money.

If I were the government, I’d give out larger chunks of money to random people, with a weighting on lower income families. $600 is not enough to encourage spending, but maybe $3000 is. So don’t give it to everyone or just limit to really specific demographics and viola, you have more consumer spending. $600 is usually just enough to pay off credit card bills, if you’re frugal with your credit.

Maybe what the government is doing for businesses will help more, as well as those interest rate cuts that I’m still unclear on. One of the key interest rates was cut to 2.25 percent to “spur buying and investing by individuals and businesses.”

I’m not sure how that spurs buying and investing. All I know is that my ING Direct account savings interest % is lower than it’s been in a long time and that makes me less likely to spend any of my money.

I guess homeowners and people who have larger loans benefit from this. I certainly don’t.

Will the Fed drop its interest rate again when it meets at the end of April? There’s plenty of speculation, but no one knows for sure. It seems that stocks will certainly be following the news closely.

Still – most of the trouble seems to stem from banks loaning out these unfixed interest loans to people who wanted to buy houses who just couldn’t afford them. Now those people, and those banks, are figuring out their screwed. I didn’t go to Harvard or anything, but does it really take a calculus scholar to figure out that equation doesn’t work?

Concerning My Expenses… and the Stock Market

I’ve charged about $500 in expenses for the show I’m currently working on, and while I’ll get all that money back, I’m now a little worried how I’m going to pay for all of it. I’ve moved so much of my money into stocks and such (which, of course, are performing awfully) that I have little in my checking account. I get paid sometime at the end of the month and I’m actually owed a lot of money right now for invoices I haven’t filed yet, so I’m not really concerned about the end result of my expenses balancing out, but for time being I have a credit card statement due that needs to be paid off, like, next week.

What to do, what to do.

In other financial news, I’m starting to really feel the hit of the stock market. Mostly I just picked a few bad stocks on the first day I signed up for Sharebuilder (bought 4 shares of one for $26 and now it’s down to a measly $11). I could sell that stock and buy something else with the money but it seems like a waste to sell $40 worth of stock with a $9 fee. If anything, it’s worth $30 to wait it out and see if one day that stock will go up again. Or if the company will go out of business and it will be worth nothing.

While that specific stock has cost me the most in my Sharebuilder account so far, I’m still down $73 dollars. Not so bad, I guess, compared to my Vanguard accounts which are now down hundreds. Thousands even. I can barely bare to look at them.

I’ve been keeping detailed track of my investments and every single account for the past month. I record it all in a google docs spreadsheet every three days. So this way I can see what my stocks are actually doing. It’s a little hard to track them because I invest in them every other week, so it’s hard to tell if they went up or if I just put more money into them.

I’m trying to continue investing with the “stocks are on sale now” mentality but it’s getting tough. Losing money is not my forte.

I’ll hang in there, though. Or at least I’ll try, in hopes that one day when the economy booms again, so will my stocks and index funds.

In the meantime, my GLD ETF is performing very well. I’m sad I didn’t buy more of it the first day I decided to start purchasing stocks. Still, I fear that I won’t get out of GLD at the right time and I’ll end up losing all my gains.

A few weeks ago I wrote how my GLD was up $29 and someone said that I should just sell it now, the $24 gain was good enough. But now it’s up $47 so I’m glad I didn’t sell. The way the economy is looking, it’s probably good to hold onto it for a while. It’s the only ETF/stock in my Sharebuilder account that’s actually making money. It helps balance the blows of everything else. Luckily it’s also the largest percentage of my Sharebuilder portfolio. So that’s why I’m only down $73. But given the trends in the stock market, I have a feeling I’ll be down much more.

The good news is that my Prosper accounts are doing well. I’m getting an average 8% return on them. I only have $200 in Prosper (and one $50 bid out) but it’s nice that my borrowers are paying me back on time thus far. It also feels like a nice cushion to the sagging stock market. But I know that one defaulted borrower would put me back $50, and more than one would make the whole P2P lending “benefits” worthless. Less than worthless. You know?

So where does that leave me? Like everyone else who is invested in anything, my finances are suffering right now. I feel like this is a great opportunity to throw money at the stock market (or at least at low-cost index funds and maybe some quality stocks now “on sale”) but gosh, it’s really hard to put money in knowing that I’m going to lose a lot in the meantime.

I mean my Vanguard total stock fund should have $5200 in it, but instead it has about $4500 or something. I can’t even check anymore. It’s too painful.

What to do about GLD?

A few months ago when I dove into the market with idealism and ignorance, I wanted in on all this gold excitement in the market. I believe the market is tanking, a recession is inevitable (if not already happening) and gold will do well for a while. I believe, and largely still believe the hype.

However, what I didn’t realize at the time (damn me for not reading the prospectus or understanding tax law) is that GLD, being as it actually means I hold a small tiny piece of actual gold, is considered a collectible by the IRS.

Why does that matter?

Well, normal long term capital gains are apparently taxed at 15 percent, which is actually pretty nice given that you can make a lot of money in the stock market, and as long as you hold your stocks for a year you only have to pay the 15 percent tax.

However, GLD, the “collectible,” is taxed at a rate of 28 %.


So now I’m trying to figure out what to do with the GLD stock in my Sharebuilder account.

I understand the long term capital gain tax, but I’m still unclear what the gains would be taxed at if I cashed out in less than a year. I’ll probably want to do that anyway given that gold’s price will hit the roof at some point, the dollar will recover with the new president coming in (hopefully) and I can sell off the gold.

But what rate will GLD be taxed at if I sell it within a year?

Also, I’m buying it about once a month in smallish increments. Right now I own about $470, or a little less than 5 shares of GLD. As of today, the account has a net profit of $34. To sell it, though, would cost $10. So if I sell today, I made $24. But that $24 will be taxed. What rate would it be taxed at?

When it comes to long term capital gains, is the “one year” policy based on when you bought each share? What if I bought a part of a share per month? When can I sell to get the long term capital gains tax instead of the short term tax? And would I want to wait or sell sooner for my GLD holdings?

Can someone explain this to me…?

Sharebuilder – Will it Destroy Me?

I’m determined to “understand” the stock market as much as possible. Instead of “investing” in an economics class, I’m putting my hard-earned money into stocks via Sharebuilder.

It all started this week when I realized Sharebuilder and ING were now one in the same. I trust ING, so I figured it was time to make the next leap in my financial journey — ETFs and stocks. I wasn’t going to do anything crazy and spend $1000 on one stock right away, but it’s time to do some experimenting… especially since we’re in a recession and the markets are fairly weak right now. It can’t be that bad a time to buy, looking at a long-term investment.

I did a little research and with in my typical spontaneous and likely under thought fashion, I decided to quickly move on from my original $500 investment in Gold and one small cap company that I’ve liked since my reporting days (even though now that I think more about it, they’re probably not the greatest investment). Sharebuilder had a neat feature showing losses and gains that I couldn’t see unless I signed up for their monthly plan ($12 a month) which also features 6 free trades, so I gave in and spent the money. Probably a dumb idea. Potentially a very dumb idea.

But I’m young and it pays to be aggressive in my investments, supposedly. If my “safe” mutual funds are failing, then I know to expect that anything more aggressive will likely lose money too. I’m just hopeful 10-20 years down the line these purchases might pay off… maybe in time to move to a bigger place (or buy my first house) and have kids?

Regardless of how much you know or don’t know about the stock market, it really all is one big guessing game that can be sorted through with the help of statistics and a fine understanding of the economy. Still, another bomb could go off anywhere in the world and send everyone’s predictions completely out of whack. A part of me loves the excitement of the stock market. It’s a grown-up game where you can win some money (or lose all your money, eek.)

Again, I’m not being totally stupid about it. I still have a good $12k in two crappy-interest CDs (I’ll be moving those funds to one higher-interest CD as soon as they’re liquid again) and at least my gains on my CDs and occasional take-home pay equaling more than I spend in a given month have helped balance my loss of $700+ on my Vanguard accounts.

Besides, if we are in or going into a major recession, I believe (after reading a bit on the topic) that certain cheap retail establishments will do well, especially if they have foreign sales power. I’m all about the foreign investments too. Not all in one country, but I’m going to buy a small amount of an index fund in Brazil, one hot company in Spain, and another index tracker in China.

“Going to” is because I have to wait a week and a day before any of these investments post. That’s what Sharebuilder’s automatic investing is all about. I still don’t understand it completely. The “coolest” part about it (that seems to be its selling point compared to other online traders) is that you can purchase “fractional shares.” How they do this beats me, but basically you say “I want to invest $X into company Y the 1st Tuesday of every month” and if you have enough money in your account (which you can set up to automatically transfer from your bank account) it will invest exactly that much into that company on that Tuesday.

The good here is that if a stock costs $600 ala Google and you really want a piece of that action, I guess you could go and invest $30 in it. But what i don’t understand is how on earth Sharebuilder does that. Do they actually buy a full share of the stock assuming you will continue to buy the rest of it? They can’t really do that, because when they place your next order, you buy it at the market price for that Tuesday. As far as I know in my limited knowledge of stocks, you can’t just buy parts of a share. You have to take the whole thing. So how on earth does Sharebuilder do this? They don’t really explain how they do it on their site, they just say they can and basically that it’s an awesome feature for investors with a small amount of savings each month to invest. I like the idea, but please, someone explain this to me.

Anyway, I’ve set my account up to buy parts of six different stocks once a month for a total of $300. I figure I’m better off forgetting about $300 that I’ve made and investing it, and either it will make money (I am investing in a few large cap companies that seem to pay dividends, which looks to be a good thing to balance out my risk a bit) instead of looking in my bank account and spending more on food and clothing and such that I could get more cheaply. It will certainly force me to be more frugal, in a good way.

I just hate waiting for the investment window. What if Bush’s recession tax plan passes the day before my investment and all the sudden the stocks soar? I’m confident that the stock market is sucking right now, and I’ve picked stocks and ETFs that seem to have long term potential that are also sucking at the moment. I’m so nervous that it won’t be the case on Tuesday the 29th, when my bets should be posted.

Then supposedly I keep investing the same amount every month until I’ve built up a decent portfolio. I just can’t wait until I log into my Sharebuilder account and see a few different stocks and really start following them and understanding what they do and why. If anything, this will help me learn… for future reference… what kills a stock and what makes it soar. Hopefully I’ll learn more of the later.

Yeehaw, I Bought Gold — How to Get In on the Hot Commodity

…And not in the form of a pretty necklace, either.

With my limited knowledge of the stock market and this recession that’s going on, it seems that gold is one investment that works well during this sort of time. It sounds like if the rest of the economy decides to miraculously recover, gold’s value might go down, but then my other mutual fund-held stocks would go up… hopefully making my fantastical logic actually work in the long run.

I’m a bit worried about this, but in I bought a whopping 4 shares of a gold ETF for something like $320. If the price goes up because a major recession hits, awesome. If it goes down, I’ve learned my lesson.

“Ultimately, the only logical reason to invest in gold stocks is if you believe, after you have done your own due diligence and research, that the gold price is going higher. If you arrive at the conclusion that gold is heading lower, you are better off not owning any gold stocks. Gold stock investing ultimately boils down to a bet for higher gold prices.” — Zeallic.com

It’s all ING Direct’s fault. I decided to start saving my money through them. Of course they bought Sharebuilder recently, so they advertise the budget trading site on their “savings” site. I’ve been wanting to sign up to do some individual and ETF trading… without making that my entire portfolio. I don’t know if now is a good time to get into the stock market or not. I feel like most of the stock prices out there are down due to news of the recession… so either this recession will kill off some companies, or the companies I invest in will survive and prosper in the long run. Needless to say, I’m not going to be… THAT stupid. I acknowledge that I’m playing with fire here, as I really don’t know what I’m doing. Except I know that following the advice for beginning investors — “invest in Vanguard mutual funds” hasn’t been going that well. I’m not going to sell off those funds, but I’d like to diversify my portfolio a bit. Thus, I went out and bought myself some gold, baby.

Apparently there are a few different ways you can invest in gold:

The lowest risk is through buying coins of solid gold. Then you own the precious metal, but you have to figure out where to store it, and then pay insurance, and… that just seemed way too complicated and frustrating to deal with for a relatively small purchase of less than $500 that I planned to make.

These are fairly new in the world of gold. From what I can tell, there are two different options. You’ve got streetTRACKS Gold Shares (GLD) and the iShares Comex Gold Trust (IAU). They’re a good way to get your feet wet in the gold market without going super high risk, while also not having to deal with all the trouble that comes with insuring coins. Basically, they’re both ETFs or “Exchange Traded Funds.” According to Wikipedia... Exchange-traded funds (or ETFs) are securities certificates that state legal right of ownership over part of a basket of individual stock certificates that can be traded at any time throughout the course of the day. Typically, ETFs try to duplicate a portfolio such as SPY or the Hang Seng Index, a market sector such as energy or technology, or a commodity such as gold or petroleum. Sounds like a more focused mutual fund to me… which is nice because you can invest in a commodity without the risk of investing in just one company. Or…

Individual Stocks
You can buy individual stocks in gold mining companies. This is the highest risk option because even if the gold market as a whole is soaring, one company can falter and go out of business. Or maybe they just don’t have technology that lets them keep up with the other companies. Owning an ETF mitigates this risk because you own stock in many different companies. But, of course, with the risk you also can reap great rewards.

… I ended up buying the GLD ETF, mostly because on Sharebuilder the other ETF option wasn’t available for trade and it was 6am when I decided to start trading (yea, I know, I shouldn’t try to understand investing after I’ve been up all night).

Do any of you have a better explanation of gold stocks and enlighten me if I’m being a complete idiot?