Importance of Personal Finance

I struggled if I want to start this category here, feeling it will get too cluttered up with too many topics going on at the same time. However, I came to the conclusion that it is important to share about this part of my life also, just as important as joy, thoughts, singing… Well, I do not intend to blog so much about it like the guys doing at My Money Blog or PF Blog, nor do I have the knowledge and experience as many other people already blogging about their finance for a long time but I have to start somewhere :P I intend to share whatever I find interesting and useful from stuffs I read, and here’s a start.

As intro…

At the age of 23, I realized how important it is these days to know how to manage our own finance. Thanks to encouragement from a family member, I have started to monitor, control, and learn more and more about the topic since around when I graduate from undergrad. My interest is definitely enhanced by my situation of having to afford school and living independently. Now closer to my graduation, with the haunt of student loan and car loan, and seeing the insecure retirement future from a normal corporate career and a financially struggling goverment, it is ever more important to take control, learn how to take care of my money, how to spend less of it, and make more of it. To do so, I am learning from other people blogging about it, from other online resources, and from books on personal finance and investment. Piggy needs financial freedom to have a good life :)

As a reminder to myself, my current goal is to rid myself of those pesty loans and to accumulate enough to buy a place called my own in recent future.

To start out with, here are two reward cards that I use frequently these days. Neither of them has annual fees:

  • Citi mtvU Platinum Select Visa Card for College StudentsThis is probably the best card for a college student. Earn 5 points from restaurants, bookstores (and guess what, Amazon is considered bookstore), record/rental stores, and theathers. This equates to 5% cash back if you get their $100 giftcards or even a higher % if you wait for promotions. It also earn points for paying on time each month and having good GPA twice a year .
  • Citi Dividend CardEarn 2% cash back at gas station, grocery, and pharmacy. Earn 1% on all other purchases.

For more details on the cards, click on the links. You can combine the mtvU card with a Citi checking and e-saving accounts that earns Thank You points for using services, like direct deposits, online bill pay, etc.

Originally posted 2006-10-30 22:56:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Fallacy of Law

Getting Straight to the point, I find much naivete and fallacy for us to believe so much in the fact that law shall protect us.

In just about all of our current events, it is demonstrated that where whenever something had gone wrong in our society, we exclaim the need for new law and regulation.

Belief in Law Leads to Evil Act?

That is to say, law stands for the last defense line of morals and virtues. Our set of laws is not the definition of justice. Law should have been the last resort as defensive mechanism against harmful behaviors within a community.

Instead, we had made it the first and ultimate weapon against each other. We made law the definition of what is good and bad.

So here we have it, a majority of corporates and businessmen are always treading the fine line of law, to cleverly [and wickedly?] steal and rob from others and each other. Financial goals are defined first, THEN lawyers, accountants and what not are hired to find loopholes to circumvent law… for the glory of financial success and economic growth.

As long as we “don’t break the law”, we are good human beings, right? Riiiiiiight…

Belief in Law vs. Belief in Virtue

Mind you, I am not blaming anyone. I am not saying we need to do without law. It is clear that some form of law is necessary for a stable society. I am making observation on a cultural trend.

It is easy to observe that common people have more morals and virtues demonstrated through their everyday conduct and kindness than the law can ever defined. All results in our behaviors ultimately fall back on the integrity and responsibility of the person making the decision.

True virtue needs not to be enforced. This is especially if you had chosen to believe in goodness in the human heart and positivity because it is already meant implicitly that we are utlimately evil if we have to be forced to be good. Thus, putting our ultimate belief in law is basically a pessimistic outlook and very insecure attitude with ourselves and our fellow human beings.

Law on Top of Law on Top of Law

The greatest fallacy in our great belief in law is that more laws can always be written.

Nature is of infinite possibility. Human nature belongs to the same source and thus is immensely creative. Our creativity cannot be denied and that means we can always act differently than what we previously known to do, even within the constraint social and cultural paradigm.

This is as opposed to the fact that law is written to prevent a known act from happening again. Law prevents only a subset of infinite possiblt patterns. Consequently, using law to prevent “bad action” from happening will always fail. Or if one believe that law will ultimately triumphs, one is really believing that humans have no creativity what so ever.

Additionally, to the amount of law that is written, to the degree that we will be unable to act and move without filling all sorts paper and forms. It is already happening. We are completely bogged down with our legal and democratic system!

Leave Law Alone… Find Intention

There you have it. My views with law as I see it now. Law is necessary in a community setting but no system can ever be perfect. I believe the ultimate result of our action, and if we genuinely desire to improve things from how they are, will always lie in the most original and most basic intention that drives that action.

If we want better results than we are seeing today, forget changing laws, forget changing policy, forget implementing new system. Find our intention first. Sounds easy but simple thing is always the hardest.

So, what are the intentions that drive our society?

Originally posted 2010-06-24 23:39:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Beginning Investors Guide and Considerations

Investing can be intimidating and confusing. For people who’s wholely unfamiliar, the slight thought could be scary and give a headache. It’s like stepping in a foreign land where people speak a different tongue, and one would be in deep trouble if nature happens and bathroom is nowhere to be found.

I was like that. But I was not ready to run away. So I “paid” the market to learn.

After 3 years, I am still no expert. I learned a few things from experience and much magazines reading, news studying, and internet browsing. I put together today’s post as a stepping stone for you who are beginning to invest or still thinking about it. Hopefully it will give you a sense of direction.

Why invest? And getting ready

Investing is for people looking to grow their money beyond the rate of high yield saving account and certificate of deposit. If you feel saving is not enough and too slow to lead you to financial freedom, it will do you well to learn to invest your money. As the saying goes, “Make your money work for you.”

Before you start investing, it will be good to pay off debt with high interest rate, especially ones with doublt digit rate and/or are not tax-deductible. Doing so basically means you make a rate of return equivalent to as if you invest the amount of the debt. Additionally, how can you invest with a clear mind when debt is nagging you constantly.

Once the debt is paid off, saving up a comfortable amount of money is the second line of duty. By “comfortable” I mean an amount of money that will allow you to stay cool in case of emergency (ie. loss of job, doctor visits, urgent car fix…). More on this later under risk tolerance.

Investing is not…

… a get-rich-quick scheme. If that’s what you are looking for, you are looking at the wrong place. It’s important that we get this clear.

Know your time horizon

You must know the amount of time you can keep your money invested in the market. Anything less than 5 years is not enough to ride out the turbulance of the market. It is the general concensus to assume your money to grow 11% on average in stock market, but remember that 11% is an average taken over couple decades. Correct me if I’m wrong.

I would suggest to only consider investing when you have at least a 5 years horizon. Time is your best friend and greatest asset in investing. The more time you have, the more time the money can grow. The more time you have, the better hedge you have against the turbulance in the market.

What about short-term trading? Day trading?

If you can only invest in less time than that, I suggest to choose either cash account or short-term bonds. If you plan to buy a house in a year or two, keep the downpayment money in cash saving. Obviously, you don’t want to lose that money. But I can’t stop you if you want to do otherwise. It is your choice.

If you want to trade short-term or even day trade anyways, first assure that you have the time and effort available to do homeworks:

  • study and understand the balance sheet, income statement, cash flow, and other stats
  • read news about the market sector and undertand its flow and future
  • learn the structure and behaviors of the management of the company
  • learn as much else about the company as possible (if you cannot make sense of the business, forget it)

Again, I don’t suggest doing this because it’s not easy, and it’s more dangerous than it is fun.. But I am not here to stop you, nor can I. I did it at the beginning myself to learn NOT to do it anymore. I paid to learn a lesson that I think is worth every penny. Short-term/day trading is more like gambling. Sure you can hit a jackpot, but you can lose it all just as easily. Plus, you will have “a lot of fun” entering your transactions at tax time.

Know your risk tolerance

Can you stand to see your money fluctuate a lot? Will you sell everything out of panic when you see your portfolio down 20%? You should select investment relative to your risk tolerance.

If you are not very risk tolerant, your portfolio should contain more stable investments that fluctuate less (ie. blue-chip companies and bonds). If you don’t give a darn about the money you are investing, you can bet on riskier investment vehicles. With greater risk, comes possibility for greater gain, and loss.

Your risk tolerance is closely related to how emotionally you are attached to the money you are investing. If you invest money that is of great importance like the fund for an engagement ring, consider yourself divorced. Go create your online dating account before dropping the money.

What I’m saying is that your chance of losing money is much higher due to panic caused by your emotion. This is why it is important to have saving for emergency before you plunge into the market. You don’t want to be forced to sell at a loss because you need to feed your dog.

Basically, the more you can emotionally detach yourself from your money, the better.

Allocation and Diversification

To lower the risk in investing, you diversify. Simply put, don’t bet it all on ONE thing.

Spread your money into different piles. That’s diversification.
Deciding how big each pile is. That’s allocation.

Once you know where to diversify, you decide an allocation that fits your risk tolerance. Your allocation should also change over time. For example, if you observe instability in domestic stocks for the near future, you will want to re-allocate bigger amount to bonds or foreign market. As you approach retirement when you cannot afford to lose your money, you will want to allocate to bonds or even cash.

Watch the expense

If you trade stocks, most brokerage account costs you each transaction, though I know that Zecco offers free trade (I use TDAmeritrade). Assuming otherwise, transaction cost can greatly lower your rate of return, especially if you day trade. If it costs you $10 to buy $1000 of stocks, you automatically lost 1% up front. Another reason to invest long-term.

This is also true for funds. You need to pay attention to its expense ratio. Don’t just look at the rate of return. Your true gain is the rate of return minus the expense ratio minus tax rate. Remember that.

The Simplest Way – Index Fund

Since I talked about cost, it would be blasphemous if I don’t mention index fund. An index fund simply traces a specific index in the market. If you bought an index fund that traces the S&P500, you would have made 11% annually for past few decades. If I further explain, it will becomes insulting to your intelligence.

The greatest benefit of index funds is their low expense ratio, versus traditional mutual funds or privately managed funds. You can have an entire portfolio of index fund, which keeps the cost low. And because they are already diversified, it saves you the tedious job of picking individual stocks and at the same time, provides you with safer and more stable growth than individual stocks.

If you go with index fund, all that needs to be done is to contribute regularly and control your portfolio’s allocation on intervals (quarterly or yearly). Doing so is enough to maintain a steady growth. It’s as simple and easy as it gets! Oh, and Vanguard has been wonderful.

Special accounts for retirement and college fund

Just a reminder… If you are investing for your retirement, you can open an IRA or Roth IRA account that provides tax benefits. Same goes for college fund, whether for you children or yourself, there are 529 plans available that differ by state, each with its own pluses and minues.

Some words of wisdom

Don’t be greedy because it can only be harmful. Don’t try to time the market because it’s a fool’s job. You can never catch the top nor can you catch the bottom.

Understand that a huge part of the market is based on speculation, and speculation is based on human emotion. Human emotion is never a predictable thing in itself and most fickle in nature. Conversely, how can you accurately predict the market? Especially when experts with advanced analysis tools have failed to do so.

Three key points

  • pick solid investment
  • diversify and allocate
  • invest long-term

With that, I’m done. But don’t just take my words and because this is only a quick guide for beginner.
Go study, read, try, and learn from your own experience.
Go build your own intuition of the market.

Let me know how you are doing later.

Originally posted 2008-02-28 23:32:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Four Aspects of Personal Growth

I would like to clarify the growth that can happen to us into four separate categories.

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Financial

I know the line between mental and emotional can be blurry, but I’d like to distinguish them because in this case, mental means personal mental strength and emotional indicates more people-related feelings/thoughts. Already we can see how growing in these two categories can affect each other, and it is not difficult to create links between the four areas. In other words, when we grow in one area, it provides support for us to grow in another. Examples such as, when we grow physically, becomes healthier and more fit, we have an improved sense of confidence that strengthen us mentally. In return, the mental strength provides the discipline needed to continue to exercise, and the discipline we used in that can spill over to let us have control over our money. And then by having control over our financial life, we feel more secure and thus, able to divert our mental energy to better purposes than being stressed out all the time about money. Or when we become more emotionally stable, there will be less situations where emotions take over us and allow our logical side to help resolve the situations for us. Stability in the other three areas help our emotional stability… etc…

As we can see, that is exactly why we need to grow and never give up in all four directions on our paths of personal development. They are closely related. None of the four should be neglected because lacking any of them will weaken the other areas drastically. To visualize this, let’s picture what would happen to a four-legged stool if one leg is missing. You get the idea.

Somewhat related to this, I’d like to quote myself from a conversation I had today, “Only if we’re truly independent, we will make real friends in life.” This is a bit vague, but “true” independence amounts to reaching certain level/independence in each of the four areas I mentioned. What I said is what I fully believe in my heart. “Inter-dependence (friends) is possible only after Independence (self)”.

Originally posted 2007-04-11 20:43:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Pages: Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ... 87 88 89 Next

Subscribe using Email

Get notified of new posts by email.