Monday, October 27, 2014

SAVING BIG ON SOME OF MY EVERY DAY PURCHASES THROUGH AMAZON.COM

I've been a big fan of Amazon for quite some time.  I bought the original Kindle Fire for myself, which is wonderful for reading and watching video.  I've also given several Kindle's as gifts to family and friends.  Only recently have I caught on to the great deals on everyday items available on Amazon.  Just ordered new filters and a drive belt for my Hoover vacuum cleaner.  The filter was slightly more than one third of the price I paid for the last one at Walmart.  Ordered new batteries for all my watches for less than I'd pay for 2 locally.  A new battery for my laptop was only $15.  

I also bought my last 2 pair of work shoes through Amazon.  Same brand and style I normally buy, but even less than I was paying at Shoe Carnival.  Not only have I saved on purchase price, but I've saved lots of time and gasoline by ordering online instead of going to the stores.  Shipping hasn't added any to the costs, since most of my purchases were free shipping.  The orders I did pay shipping on were still lower priced overall than buying locally.  

I've made it a habit now to shop Amazon before I make any purchases other than groceries.  Just found a great deal on tires for my car.  It's amazing the me the variety of products available and the amount of savings.  Go Amazon!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

FOUR STAR INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO ACCORDING TO MOTLEY FOOL'S CAPS RATING

I'm a big fan and follower of the Motley Fool website (www.motleyfool.com).  So I decided to check their Caps Rating on the 21 stocks and funds in my portfolio.  I'm happy to report, most of my holdings received a four star Caps Rating.  The individual stocks rated better than my stock and bond funds, although PSEC was rated four stars.

What does this mean?  I'm not sure it means a whole lot as far as my future investment success.  It does indicate several people in the Motley Fool community agree with me on the future prospects of some of my investments.  A little reassuring, but we could all be wrong.  Since my main goal is to build dividend income and that's coming along quite nicely, I'm not too worried.  I do plan to replace some of the riskier funds with more stable investments somewhere down the road.  Right now I'm holding on to what I have and reinvesting all dividends and capital gains.

Friday, October 24, 2014

SEVEN EASY TIPS TO SAVE MONEY!

Tip No. 1

Never spend your change. 

When I first began my savings program to build up money for investing, one of the easiest ways I found to trick myself into saving more money was to stop spending my change. I made a habit of paying for all my purchases with bills and pocketing the change. At the end of the day, all the spare change goes in a jar and when the jar is full, I take it to the bank and deposit it in my savings account. You'll be pleasantly surprised how much money you will accumulate this way. I purchased all my shares in Hawthorn Bank with pocket change.

Tip No. 2

Shop for the best deal on your car insurance.

I was astounded at the difference in prices and the huge amount I saved by switching my insurance. And no it isn't the company you might be thinking of, but I still have my insurance with a nationally recognized company for a whole lot less money.

Tip No. 3

Take your lunch to work.

I used to buy my lunch at work every day. While I got by cheap, usually around $5 and I only work 4 days a week (10 hour days), that still amounted to $1,040 per year. I found that if I took soup and crackers (one of my favorite lunches) it only cost me $1.70 per day, or $343.60 per year. A savings of $696.40 per year! As an added bonus, I lost 20 lbs.!

Tip No. 4

Use your coupons and motor club discounts.

Manufacturers coupons are the same as having extra cash instantly. The trick is to use only the ones for items you already purchase. I didn't realize how much I could save this way until I tried it out for a few weeks. I have also had a membership with a national motor club for years and yet never took advantage of the discounts offered on auto service, motel stays and entertainment. Now that's the first thing I look for when needing my car serviced or when planning a trip. 

Tip No. 5

Adjust your thermostat.

In the fall of the year I set my thermostat at 60 degrees and leave it there until spring. If it gets a little cold, I dress warmly. In the spring I shut the heat off and open the windows until the heat or my allergies make me turn on the air conditioning. Then I set the thermostat on 78 degrees and leave it alone. The point is, adjust the heat down as low as is comfortable for you and the air up so your utility bills stay low.  Use the money you save on utilities to buy a few shares of a good utility company, collect the dividends to help pay for future utilities.

Tip No. 6

Shop out of season.

I love doing this. I get most of my clothes this way. I'm really big on brand name clothing, but I nearly go in to cardiac arrest when I see the full priced items. Now I buy my spring and summer clothing in the fall and winter clothing in January through March. I get the same brand names for anywhere from 50% to 90% off the original price. 

Tip No. 7

Buy your cars used.

It's always better to purchase a good low mileage car that's been maintained than to purchase new. New cars depreciate in value faster or almost as fast as you make the payments. If you can pay cash for the car and save having to pay interest on a loan, all the better. Wouldn't you much rather be putting that money in to something that's going to pay you instead of making car payments?  (My car has been paid off for 7 years, it's still in great shape and I plan on keeping it at least another 2 years.)  

STOCKS REBOUND ON GOOD EARNINGS REPORTS

Looks like we're not in a market correction after all.  The recent rebound in stock prices credited to positive earnings reports has brought the value of my IRA and taxable accounts back to former values.  I was able to purchase some shares at lower prices, so it wasn't all bad.  However, I had hoped to pick up additional shares at the lower prices with dividends from the "big three" end of the month dividends from AOD, CRF and CLM.  But if there's one thing I've learned about investing, you hit some, you miss some.  I hit a few and increased my overall dividend yield for my portfolio.  I'll miss the cheaper prices for reinvested dividends at the end of the month, but it all works out in the end.

The renewal date for Obamacare insurance is coming up soon.  Enrollment begins November 2nd.  I'll have to have a look at the plans and see if I want the automatic re-enrollment or if there is perhaps a better deal.  So far, my insurance under Obamacare has paid $3 for the entire year of coverage.  Since I've paid more than that in premiums and the government has paid over $500 per month, I'm thinking it's not a very good deal for either of us.  I've actually lost money, since my doctor's offices no longer negotiate on pricing since I am insured.  Which means I've paid full price out of pocket.  I suppose if I end up in the hospital with another heart attack, I'll be glad to know they'll pay something anyway.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

IS THIS A MARKET CORRECTION?

With the dismal performance of the stock market of late, some might be wondering if we're facing a market correction or could it just be a bad month, since October has historically been a poor month for stocks?  I'm not quite ready to call it a full blown correction, although I wouldn't be surprised if it was.  I've thought the market was overpriced for some time now.  So what's a person to do?  It's been almost painful watching stock price gains from the past year or so evaporate.  

I don't know what anyone else is doing and I don't pretend to have all the answers to the world's economic woes.  However, I'm a firm believer that anytime you're in the building phase of your investment portfolio, a significant drop in stock prices presents a marvelous buying opportunity.  So I'm planning on adding to my positions as much as possible while stock prices are down.  Not only will I be better positioned to gain from a recovery, but I'll also be buying in at lower prices and higher dividend yields, increasing my overall monthly earnings at a much faster rate than I would have been able to otherwise.

To be honest, I'm pretty excited.  If you want to make money in stocks, you buy low and sell high, which almost no one ever does.  Instead they tend to jump ship when the going gets tough and avoid the market all together until recovery is well under way.  Then they buy back in at higher than necessary prices and repeat the process all over.  Since I invest for dividends and income and have been through a lot of market ups and downs, I don't sell when the market falls.  I may go on hold, simply reinvesting dividends or if the drop is significant, I go bargain shopping for stocks.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

THE UPSIDE OF DECLINING STOCK PRICES

Like anyone else, I'm always pleased to see the value of my portfolio go up with share price increases.  However, I'm also mindful of the benefits to dividend investors during declining markets.  As a rule, dividend stocks drop less in declining markets, since investors are less likely to sell shares that they'll be collecting monthly or quarterly cash payments from.  So dividend investors benefit from price stability.

The big benefit to dividend investors like myself, who reinvest dividends to build their positions and increase cash flow is the increase in yields when stock prices drop.  As long as dividend payouts remain the same, when prices drop the dividend yield increases.  If you're reinvesting dividends, the new shares purchased with your dividends are paying out higher yields than shares you would have purchased at the higher prices.  If you have several months of declining stock prices, the average yield on your overall portfolio can increase dramatically.  Not only that, but your dividends are purchasing more shares at the lower prices than you would have gotten if prices remained high, increasing payments even more, since you own more shares.  

This really only applies to people like me who are working on increasing their portfolio holdings.  If you're at the stage where you are collecting dividends to pay your bills, it doesn't help to have the value of your portfolio drop.  Realizing this, I've come up with a plan to address this problem when I reach that stage.  I've decided when I'm ready to collect the cash dividends to live on, I'll collect only 75% of the actual cash each month and continue to reinvest 25% of all dividends collected.  So I'll continue to benefit from situations like declining markets and increasing investments each month will help address the problem of inflation when I retire.  Maybe not a perfect plan, but I think it will work out well for me.

Friday, October 3, 2014

UNIVERSAL INSURANCE COMPLETES $10 MILLION SHARE REPURCHASE PROGRAM

Toward the end of September, Universal Insurance Holdings, Inc. (UVE) announced completion of their $10 million share repurchase program.  The company noted that the timely completion of it's share buyback program underscores its confident outlook, solid financial position and commitment to effectively deploying capital when it sees clear value.  The Board and management team will continue to look for ways to enhance shareholder value, both through strategic growth initiatives and capital returns to shareholders.

As a long time investor in UVE in both my IRA and taxable investment accounts, the yield on my holdings are much higher than the current 3.08% since I bought in at a much lower price.  The actual dividend yield on my original investment is closer to 8%.  I currently reinvest all dividends in additional shares and the share buyback is just another good reason for me to keep this company in my long term portfolio of investments.  My original investment is up 148.44%, not a stock I want to get rid of anytime soon.