Monday, June 29, 2009

Win $5,000 in June Infolinks Challenge!

If you're looking for an easy way to monetize your blog or website, you might want to check You make money by inserting text links advertising throughout your web pages. When visitors click thru the links, you get paid. It was easy to set up and can be used with other advertising programs.

Currently Infolinks is running and online video contest with a $5,000 grand prize. The contest is all about creating funny videos of how to make money online. If you're good at creating videos, you might want to have a look. Prizes are: Grand prize: $5,000, First prize: $1,000, Second prize: $500. For an example of what the Infolinks employees considered funny, check out this video on YouTube:

For all contest rules and details you can go to Infolinks new blog at:

Even if you decide not to enter the contest, you can still sign up for their advertising program to make money off your blog or website. One of the highest paying programs for monetizing your content that I have found.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reverse ETF S&P 500

I mentioned in a previous article that I thought the market would pull back some during the summer months. It looks to be the case, with the recent turn of events. A pull back was to be expected after such a rapid run up in stock prices. Barron's had an interesting article on this at:

This is usually the time of year when I take advantage of lower stock prices to add to my long term holdings, reducing my average price per share and increasing dividend income. As a new tactic, I've decided to invest in a reverse ETF or exchange traded fund called Short S&P 500 ProShares (ticker symbol: SH). In theory, a reverse ETF shorts the market and should move in the opposite direction of the stock market. In this case, since I expect the market to go down some, the shares in SH should move up, balancing out my portfolio. This is a way of shorting the market with less risk than opening a margin account. I'll keep readers posted on how it works out.

Re-invested in Universal Insurance (UVE) for my regular portfolio on price pull back, looking to add more shares if the price goes lower. Also added Calumet Specialty Products (CLMT) as a long term holding for their dividend payout. Not much going on with my recent purchases in energy limited partnerships, but with the good dividends, I can afford to wait for upward movement with those.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

No One Has All The Answers

I recently read a post on another investment blog which I thought was very insightful and informative. Following the post was a comment from one of the readers criticizing the suggestions as too simplistic and suggesting that they would not work. First of all, the article was only meant to be taken as a guideline, or starting point. There were a lot of practical suggestions for setting criteria when choosing stocks for investments. The critic said it made them angry when people say that if you follow their suggestions, you will be a successful investor. I read the post and I saw no such claim, so I'm not sure what they are harping about.

The bottom line is, no one has the perfect system for investing. If they did, I doubt they'd share it so freely. The reason that I write about investing is to share my ideas, not to suggest that everyone else follow what I'm doing. Hopefully the reader will find their own path to success at building wealth and if anything I suggest helps them, great! Any time I read anything about investing, I try to apply the material to my situation. Many times I find something useful, sometimes not. What I have found is that the more you know, the easier it is to adjust your investments to help reach your goals. So I keep reading, applying things I learn and sharing some of the more successful approaches with others. Feel free to follow my advice or ignore it all together.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Little Changes Can Make a BIG Difference!

I know a lot of people who say they just can't save or set aside any money to invest. Their budgets are just too tight, there is nothing they can cut back on to start an investment program. What they often overlook, however, are the small changes they can make in their lifestyles that lead to big differences in their future well being.

You've probably heard of the "Latte factor", where you give up the cup of latte a day and put that money into savings. This is a one very good example of a small change that can really add up to a big difference in the amount you save. When I first started saving for my investment program, one of the small changes I made was, literally, small change. By that I mean, I stopped spending my change. Any time I paid cash for purchases the change went in to my pocket and as soon as I got home, I put the change in a jar. It's such a small amount, you don't really miss it from your spending money, but it does add up. On average, I save $250 every 3 months this way. That adds up to $1,000 per year. If you started this habit at age 20 and put the money in a non-interest bearing account, you would still end up with $45,000 by age 65. Not a lot, true, but if you invested that amount in a dividend paying stock or even a money market account, you would have several thousand more by age 65. All from saving spare change!

Once you make one small change and stick with it, you'll find yourself looking for more ways to save and build your investments. You might shop for insurance on your car and find out you can save $200 or $300 per year or more, or you might decide to eat out less, or take your lunch to work. Whatever the case may be, by just saving small amounts, just making small changes, it can make a really BIG difference in your savings and investments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Still Looking For a New Job

Like many fellow Americans, I'm still searching for a new job. The business I worked for closed in January of this year. I've been getting more interviews lately and they've all gone well. So far, haven't gotten a suitable job offer, but things are looking up.

Just saw a repeat of a news story, about a couple of women in Florida who were laid off and came up with the idea for brightly colored bracelets saying:

"Laid-Off Need A Job"

So I decided to give them a try. I think of it as a good way to improve my networking and since I have friends and family members in the same boat, I ordered extra bracelets to share. I'll keep readers posted on how it works out. If you'd like to pick up a bracelet for yourself or someone you know, you can find them at:

Best of luck!

Make Money Without a Job!

(In reviewing some of my past posts, I came across one from November 2007, thought it was worth re posting.)

A Little Extra Income.

In the spring of this year, business at my workplace slowed and like so many other businesses, my employers cut everyones' hours. I can understand that, from a business point of view, every dollar saved on labor goes directly to the bottom line as profit. However, my bills did not slow down and I didn't want to cut down on my investment program. I also didn't like the idea of getting a second job. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with working. But like Ronald Reagan once said, "I know hard work never killed anybody, but I figure why take chances."

At any rate, I determined that I really only needed to make an extra $20 per week to keep up with my bills and my investments. So instead of getting an extra job, I decided to see if I couldn't drum up some extra work on my own. I got the idea to cut grass on my days off. As it turned out, my next door neighbor needed someone to cut grass for them. They had the mower and weed eater, all I had to do was provide the labor, for which they paid $20 each time I mowed. So I had my $20 extra per week. In the mean time I had put the word out among friends and acquaintances (networking) that I was available for odd jobs in case they were needing any help. Little by little I picked up extra work here and there, doing window cleaning, steam cleaning carpets, painting and most surprising of all some commissioned art work. I say the art work was surprising because I'd never really thought about making any money at it. As it turned out I sold over $250 in sketches I did in my spare time.

What did I learn from all this? I found out how easy it was to make money without a regular job. I just wanted to make an extra $20 in income per week to cover the cuts at work. As it turned out, when I actually started looking for ways to make extra money without an extra job, I ended up making anywhere from $250 to over $500 extra per month. Since I always have three days a week off from my regular job, it was not really a problem to work one of those days. Now I'm looking at ways to turn this experience in to a part time business. I've come up with a lot more ideas for making extra cash and I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. Who would have thought that there were so many different ways to make extra income?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

AFLAC and Evaluating Dividend Sustainability

If you've read some of my previous posts, you'll know I like investing in insurance companies. Currently I am invested in AFLAC (AFL) in my IRA account and my regular stock portfolio. Although my own research had convinced me of the value of owning shares of AFLAC, it's always nice to get a second opinion.

Dividends has a great analysis of AFLAC stock, which you can read at:

I just recently discovered this site. What a great resource for building a solid dividend portfolio of stocks! Looking forward to reading more. Also found a great table of factors to consider, when evaluating a stocks dividend sustainability, at Disciplined Approach to Investing:

One of the very first things I do, before investing in a stock, is check the sustainability of dividend payouts. It doesn't do any good to invest, only to have the dividend cut or eliminated all together.

Adding to Long Term Holdings

With the big drop in the market on Monday, I'm taking advantage of the lower prices to pick up some extra shares in AT&T and General Electric. Both stocks are part of my long term holdings. AT&T for their great dividend payout and General Electric for their long term prospects. GE does pay a dividend, but not near the amount they used to pay. Still, I think they have great, long term prospects.

Now the government is talking about taxing health care benefits in the workplace. Hey, Obama! What happened to, "95% of Americans would see their taxes reduced."???? Did you mean South or Central Americans, because I'm just not seeing it. I'm seeing increased taxes and not much stimulus from the "stimulus package." First it was a massive tax increase on tobacco products, affecting mostly poor and middle class taxpayers, then the talk of taxing sugary products (again affecting mostly poor and middle class), now health care benefits???? Have the people in Washington taken complete leave of their senses? I'm beginning to believe so. I'll spell it out so even they can understand: Increasing taxes, in ANY FORM, hurts the economy, the recovery and the U.S. taxpayer.

On a brighter note, today's market is expected to go higher, after Monday's big sell-off. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not expecting to see any more big moves with the market until the fall. We may have a few small rallies and some drops through the summer, but I'm not expecting anything big.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Opinion of Legalizing Marijuana

I've been seeing a lot in the news lately about state governments wanting to legalize marijuana and other recreational drugs. They think by doing so, they will be able to generate tax revenue from sales of these drugs, as well as reduce spending for the battle against drug dealers. While I don't use any illegal drugs myself, I've always been for legalizing marijuana, for the same reasons politicians and others are now espousing. Additionally, I think it would stop a great deal of violence caused by the illicit drug market, by taking the profits away from drug dealers who fight with one another to control drug trade.

That being said, I do not see how our nations' politicians, state or federal, with any good conscience, can promote legalizing any type of illegal drugs, just to raise tax money. They have all but ruined the tobacco industry, through state lawsuits, extreme taxation, and most recently by putting them under the control of the FDA. I'm not arguing the case that any of these measures were bad, or unjustified. However, how could the same politicians argue for legalizing drugs, (many of which are much more harmful than tobacco products), just to raise money, when that is the very reason they vilified the tobacco industry. Basically what they are proposing to do is legalize several addictive drugs, whereby they would take advantage of the people who are addicted to them, to raise money to fund their pork barrel projects and promote their own political agendas. This is different from the tobacco companies, HOW?

The truth is, it is worse than what the tobacco companies did. The tobacco companies were run by business people trying to make a profit, not by elected "Public Servants." Take in to consideration too, that smoking one joint of marijuana has been compared to smoking a pack of cigarettes, as far as the damage it does to your lungs. If it were legalized and packaged like cigarettes, I have no doubts that some people would smoke a pack a day, which would roughly compare to a smoker smoking two cartons of cigarettes in one day. There are people now who will let their electricity be shut off, fail to pay rent or let their children go without basic necessities, just to buy their drugs. If they are legalized, how much worse will it be? Not to mention the long term health effects of over-indulgence in these type of recreational drugs.

While I do still support legalizing marijuana, to collect tax dollars, take the money away from drug dealers and to free up law enforcements time for more serious pursuits, I don't see any good way for this to happen. If the state or federal governments do pass such legislation, then in all good conscience, they should return all of the money they received from suing the major tobacco companies. If the government does not allow private business to take advantage of addicts and promote unhealthy or downright poisonous products, then why would they think it is O.K. for them to engage in such practices. Not to mention, who would they get to produce the stuff? Any company thinking about such a move would have to take in to consideration what has happened to big tobacco. They would surely be setting themselves up for major lawsuits, somewhere down the road. Doesn't sound like a very promising business going in.

So, before we jump in to legalizing a bunch of recreational drugs, to raise money to save our states, maybe we should look at the possibility of electing state and federal officials who are more responsible with the tax dollars they all ready collect.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Looking Forward To Summer

I'm looking forward to summer and to seeing whether the rally in stocks will continue. Traditionally, the old stock market wisdom is, "In May go away." Some experts were expecting to see continued run this year, as long as the recovery in the economy continues. But from what I've been seeing, it looks like a lot of buyers will be slowing down for the summer months and I'm thinking things will pick up again in August or September. So I probably won't be doing many quick trades.

Usually, during this time of year, I take time to find good quality dividend stocks to add to my long term holdings. This year is likely to be no exception. If the market is taking a break, it will be the perfect time to pick up stocks at lower prices. I may be adding to some of my current holdings like AT&T (T), General Electric (GE), Merck and Co. (MRK) and a few others. Might also buy back in to British Petroleum (BP) and Universal Insurance (UVE) since I think both have good long term prospects and they both pay good dividends. I do still hold both stocks in my IRA account for the long term payouts and growth prospects. Also hoping to pick up more shares of AFLAC (AFL) if I can get them at a decent price. Would also like to unload some of my less productive holdings and re-invest the cash. I'm currently holding extra cash in my money market account in case the market does drop back some, so I will be able to take advantage of bargain priced stocks.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stocks May Go Lower Today

Stocks are predicted to go lower today ahead of the G8 summit. It's been a slow week for my portfolio. Bought shares in some limited partnerships at the beginning of the week and the balance of my portfolios hasn't moved much. Been doing a lot of research and checking out investment websites. Found a few new blogs about investing that seem well worth following. Also found a great article about dividend investing:

Dividends are a form of passive income from the stocks you hold in your portfolio. By purchasing stocks with a good track record of paying dividends, investors can generally guarantee decent returns. Shares in a company that pays consistent dividends can perform better than many other types of investments, including standard savings accounts and certificates of deposit. This is a very hands-off method of making money from stocks. Instead of constantly trading, you just buy the stock and collect the dividends.

Dividend stock investing can be a good long-term strategy, but it’s still important to remember that it is not without risk and to monitor how your stocks are doing. If dividends are cut or, worse yet, stopped all together, it may be time to consider a different investment.

On a more personal note, had a pretty good week for job searches. Did my first interview with the state and it went very well, should here from them in a couple of weeks. Also found out that Probation and Parole, the people I really want to work for, have 45 new job openings they will be hiring for soon. So I'm looking forward to hearing from them. I'm on the state register for several jobs, so sooner or later something should work out there.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Stock Market Takes a Break

Stocks opened lower today and are expected to level off for the next 1 or 2 months. Bob Parker of Credit Suisse says to look for the bull market to return by August. (See his comment and link to video interview at:

Frankly I'm kind of glad for a break in the run we've been having. Gives me time to pick up more stock at bargain prices. I've taken some profits lately and am looking to position myself for the next leg of the bull market. Technically we are still in a bear market, but there are always bullish periods within bear markets. Since the economy is not expected to fully recover from recession until the final half of 2010, it's likely that there will be volatility and a continued bear market until then. Gives forward thinkers plenty of time to position themselves for a true bull market at the end of 2010 or beginning of 2011. In the mean time, why not take advantage of the current market by buying on the dips and selling on the highs.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Payday Loans

It has always been my policy to stay away from payday loans. Until recently, even a cash advance on one of my credit cards would have been preferable to borrowing money from cash advance, title loan or payday loan companies. That being said, if a person has no other recourse and they are absolutely sure they can pay the money back, as agreed, then I could see using them, but only as a last resort.

Needless to say, not everyone agrees with me. Which really has worked out good for me in the sense that I've been able to make some tidy profits trading their company stocks. My most recent trade (AEA) netted me a near 100% gain in just a few short months. I've recently purchased more shares of AEA (Advance America Cash Advance Centers) on a pull back in price. Even if I don't make a quick gain like last time, they are paying an attractive dividend and from their earnings, it looks to be sustainable. So either way, short trade or long term investment, it should work out pretty well.

As a rule though, I would still advocate avoiding payday loans if at all possible.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Economic Recovery in Missouri

I recently read an article on cnbc about the different states and when they could expect to come out of the recession. Unfortunately, the state of Missouri is in the final 31 states, with recovery expected to begin in the second half of 2010. The central part of Missouri where I live, has been one of the hardest hit during the recession. Like a lot of Missourians, I am currently unemployed and am actively seeking employment. I haven't given up hope of finding a job, quite to the contrary. My place of employment went out of business on January 10th of this year and it was not until the past month that I got my first interview. However, I've had other interviews since and one coming up this week. Although I didn't get any of the jobs I've interviewed for, I was a top runner for the last job, so things are looking up.

With marginal improvements in the banking system and improvement in the stock market, I think it's quite possible that we might actually see recovery from the recession a bit earlier than predicted by cnbc's article. Central Missouri should be one of the first areas of the state to recover, since our local economy hosts a tremendous amount of state workers. While the state's government is suffering from the downturn, state employment has remained relatively stable, when compared to the rest of the job market. While I wouldn't look for too many raises for state employees anytime soon, at least they have jobs and benefits. A great deal of my job search efforts have been directed towards landing a job with one of the state agencies. Fortunately for me, I could take any state job offered, at any pay rate and do fine financially.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Interesting Post On the Commodities Rally

If you're interested in commodities and the current rally in oil and gas prices, you might like to check out this post:

I recently made some quick cash trading in my shares of British Petroleum. I had intended to hold it long term, but the price skyrocketed soon after I bought in and I decided to take the profit. May buy back in if prices decline latter this summer.

Lackluster Friday, But Not a Bad Week

Not much news as far as the stock market goes today. None that really caught my interest anyway. The new jobless claims were lower than expected, but I'd really like to see overall unemployment numbers improving. Would like to see the economy improving to the point that employers were hiring again. Overall though, it hasn't been a bad week for me as far as my investments go. I made some trades that were quite profitable (the last half of my UVE stock I'm selling with a 101% gain) and I've identified some shares I'm buying in to that I believe will do well. See: So it really hasn't been a bad week for me.

Last spring I did an experiment in trading equities. Although I prefer long term investment, along the lines of Warren Buffet's long term, I did quite well with trading small cap stocks. As an investor, the more you learn, the more you earn. I feel comfortable with my knowledge of the stock market and my stock picks at this point and feel that I'm ready to make short term trades for quick cash. I am limiting the amount I allocate for short term trading and will report on how it goes in future posts. I think the market is in for a rough ride throughout the rest of this year, but I believe there are always opportunities to make money. You just have to look for them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Executive Compensation.

I took a friend to the V.A. Hospital this morning for an MRI and while sitting in the waiting room, I read an article in the March issue of Forbes where the writer was defending executive compensation. Hey, it's a free market economy and I'm all for getting paid as much as you can, but come on! They've all had a good ride, it's time to come down to earth. When the company you work for is losing money hand over fist for the shareholders, why would you expect to get a bonus? When the company I worked for was losing money, not only did I NOT ask for a bonus, I voluntarily took a substantial pay cut until things turned around. As it turned out, we did turn things around and started making a profit. A failed lease negotiation ended up closing the business, but the point is, I was realistic about the whole situation in the sense that I wasn't asking for more money for non-performance. We're only talking about a few thousand dollars a month in losses with this company. If the company you work for lost millions or even billions of dollars of shareholder (i.e. owners) money, why in heaven's name would anyone expect to get a bonus? Get real people. Suck it up and start working for your money like the rest of us.

A special note to the board of directors of the companies who are paying these outlandish bonuses and passing lavish compensation packages: The owners of the company are tired of over compensated under performing executives. If you don't believe this, check out all the shareholder lawsuits going on right now. Time to change.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Recommended Reading

Came across an excellent blog from the Phillipines tonight. Read a fantastic article about wealth building and am looking forward to reading more. If you'd like to check it out, the link is:

Trading for Some Quick Cash

Today was a day for selling on Wall Street and I decided to join in on some of the profit taking. I put in orders to sell half my position in Univeral Insurance (UVE), I'm keeping the rest for the dividend payout. I also sold British Petroleum (BP) and Veolia Environmental (VE) for quick cash profits.

I will be investing most of the money from the above sales in 3 energy limited partnerships:

EV Energy Partners LP (EVEP) Recent Price $21.91, Dividend/Yield $3.01/13.70%

Encore Energy Partners LP (ENP) Recent Price $15.93, Dividend/Yield $2.00/12.80%

Regency Energy Partners LP (RGNC) Recent Price $13.05, Dividend/Yield $1.78/13.70%

All three have fantastic dividend payouts, so I could be holding them long-term, depending on whether the payouts hold up. They were also attractive in the sense that I believe there is room for quick short term growth in stock price. So it's possible I could be trading them off for quick profits, depending on how the price moves. Whatever I decide, I'll be sure and post the results as they happen.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Poorer

We've all heard the statement, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." This has been especially true in the past several years and may be even more true in the years ahead. But have you ever asked why this is the case? It is simply because the rich keep doing what makes them rich and the poor keep doing what keeps them poor. I saw a video on Youtube recently and the guy was talking about when he realized what he was doing wrong. He said he realized at the early age of 24 that it is ALWAYS possible to spend more than you make. If you always spend more than you make, you'll always be broke.

If you're tired of being one of the poor, and believe me I'm very tired of it, then you have to change the way you think about money and the way you act upon your thoughts. I had to get over my little pity party and get away from the victim mentality of "I'll always be poor." You'll always be poor if you keep doing the things that make you poor.

A lot of people think, "If I just made more money." Well you first need to be able to handle the money you do have. Do you want to have more and possibly even be one of the rich getting richer? Then you need to take control of your finances and stop spending more than you take in. Once you've accomplished this simple rule, then you can put your excess money to work. When your money works for you, that's that much less work you have to do yourself. John D. Rockefeller once said that the only thing that made him truly happy was the dividend checks he got every month. I can relate to that! I've worked hard all my life, starting at age 5, but never really had anything to show for it until the past 10 years or so. Now the money comes in every month in the form of dividends and interest and you can't imagine how it makes me feel to know that I didn't have to do any physical labor to earn it. I'm still a long way from being one of the rich. But I have every confidence that the more I learn about handling my finances, the more money I will make and the less I'll have to physically work for it.

If this sounds good to you, then take a look at your personal circumstances. We can all find reasons or excuses why we can't put any money aside to invest, or why we can't improve our situations. It's when you STOP making excuses and START looking for ways to improve your situation, then your life will change. It may not be easy and you might not like all the changes you have to make, but believe me, it will be more than worth the effort. Don't wait for a bailout from the government, help yourself to a better life!

So Far, A Terrific Tuesday!

Monday was good to everyone in the stock market, with over a 200 point increase in the Dow. I was a little worried today when I saw stock futures were lower, although I have to admit I expected that to happen after such a good day yesterday. As it turns out though, both of my accounts are up, so I'm feeling pretty good about my stock picks right now.

My Top 10 Holdings and Percentage of Portfolio:

Universal Insurance Holdings (UVE) 21.6%
British Petroleum (BP) 9.1%
AT & T (T) 7.1%
BDMXX Money market account 5.8%
Veolia Environmental (VE) 5.1%
AFLAC (AFL) 4.6%
Euroseas LTD (ESEA) 4.4%
Merck and Company Inc. (MRK) 3.9%
General Maritime (GMR) 3.3%
Sysco Corp. (SYY) 3.3%

I'm thinking I probably need to sell a few shares of UVE to decrease my exposure, but I may increase other holdings instead, which would reduce the percentage of UVE in my overall portfolio. I think at the current price, UVE is still a good buy. They seem to be a very well run small insurance company with a promising future.

My money market account is not usually in the top ten holdings. I currently have extra cash due to recent stock sales. I'll be re-investing that money soon.

Monday, June 1, 2009


By now you've probably heard about the class of fifth graders in Wisconsin who won the state-wide Stock Market Game. In 10 weeks they more than doubled their imaginary $100,000 portfolio ending with $203,000. Not only did they beat out all the other school kids, but most professional investors as well. We should all do so well.

What a great program for school kids. I have 3 great nephews in the Wisconsin school system. Just got back from visiting them in Eau Claire. I'm happy to know that they live in a state that values the importance of educating young people in finance. If you've never been to Wisconsin, I would recommend visiting. I really enjoyed my stay there and of course I had to pick up some cheese to bring back with me. My only regret was that I didn't have more time to visit.

Looks Like a Promising Week

Happy Monday Morning! Stock market futures are up and even with the bankruptcy of GM, it looks to be a promising day for the stock market. It would be nice to start the month off with some good news! Speaking of good news, I've found a new addition for my dividend stock portfolio.

Legacy Reserves LP (LGCY) Based in Midland Texas, their primary business is acquiring and developing oil and natural gas properties in the Permian Basin and Mid-continental United States. Their dividend is currently $2.08 which represents a yield of 16.88% at their recent price of $12.32 per share. With earnings of $5.89 per share, they should be able to maintain the dividend going forward. It would still be a good investment if they cut the dividend 50%.

I currently own shares of Copano Energy LLC (CPNO) and while I don't plan on adding additional shares to my position, I do plan on holding on for the dividend income. I think both companies could benefit from higher natural gas and oil prices later this year. Will see how it goes.

Have a great Monday morning and a great week!