Friday, October 30, 2009

Think You Know About Investing?

Think you know about investing? Take the quiz on CNBC's website at:

I scored semi-pro on my first try. Had a perfect score on my second try. It's informative and fun if you're interested in stocks and investing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

All U.S. Citizens Should Read This Speech!

Mr. David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital gave this speech to the Value Investing Congress on October 19th. "Liquor Before Beer...In The Clear." You can read the text of his speech at:

I have never read a more accurate profile of the nations current situation and what got us here. Every U.S. citizen should read this speech!

Increasing Stake in Encore Energy Partners

I decided to up my stake in Encore Energy Partners LP (ENP). With their current price at $18.73 and a dividend of $2.05, their current dividend yield stands at 10.94%. With earnings per share of $5.43, they have sufficient earnings to continue current payouts and provide for possible future increases. When you add in a price to earnings of just 3.4 and the tax advantages on earnings from limited partnerships, I think it will work out great for increasing cash flow while controlling tax liabilities.

Based in Fort Worth, Texas, Encore Energy Partners principal activity is to acquire, exploit and develop oil and natural gas properties and to acquire, own and operate related assets. Its assets consist primarily of producing and non-producing oil and natural gas properties in the Elk Basin of Wyoming and Montana and the Permian Basin of West Texas. It operates in the United States.

To learn more, you can visit their website at:

Obama Slipping in The Polls

Just read an article on aol news about Obama's approval ratings slipping in a recent CNN poll. While the overall article, which you can read here:

was positive, the reader opinion poll included in the article tells a very different story.

At the time I read the article, the number of people who disapproved of Obama stood at 74% out of a total of 613,532 respondents. An additional poll showed that 51% disagreed with the president on health care and 42% disapproved of his administrations handling of the economy, this out of 589,782 responses. So while CNN's poll may claim a strong showing of support, I think it would be unwise to ignore aol's reader poll suggesting otherwise. Polls for the most part are not very scientific and often just plain wrong, but it's hard to ignore these kind of numbers.

In my opinion, everything I'm seeing so far is pointing to a repeat of the Carter administration, where very little is actually accomplished and good luck getting a second term.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A 100%+ Return On Investment

With the stock market being so uncertain of late and me being without a job, I've been looking for options in the event that I may not find a job before my unemployment runs out or if I'm forced to take a lower paying job. Since I know it's most likely that I will find a job with less pay than I'm used to, I've been trying to think of some way to supplement my income aside from my usual investments.

I did a little research and found that I could purchase a professional steam carpet cleaning machine for around $500. I have cleaned carpets in the past both on the job and as a favor to friends and family members. So this would not be a new thing for me, however I would own the machine instead of renting it.

Going by the number of carpets I usually clean in the spring of each year, it would be no problem at all for me to average at least 3 jobs per month. My average net per job, after expenses, is usually around $50. If I did 3 jobs per month and cleared $150 total, I would make $1,800 per year. Not a life changing amount, but it would fund my IRA or would pay a couple of my bills per month.

Knowing that I may not always do 3 jobs per month, I re-figured the return on investment if I averaged less than 2 jobs per month. If I only manage to do 20 jobs per year and clear $50 per job, I would still make $1,000 total. With an initial investment of $500, that works out to a 100% return on investment for the first year. If I continued to do 20 jobs per year after the first year, I would make a 200% return on my initial investment each year. If you figure the life of the machine will be at least 10 years, my $500 investment would grow to a whopping $10,000! Still not a life changing amount, but it's nothing to sneeze at either. With just a little extra effort I could easily earn as much as $20 to $30 thousand over the same 10 years.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Making Money Online

Everybody wants to know how to make money online. If you've tried Ebay, maybe you made some or maybe you made a lot, but it doesn't always work out for everybody. It didn't work out for me. I made a little money, but it never really took off.

Then there are the multi-level marketing options. While I stop short of calling them scams, I've never made any money off any of them, and don't know anyone who has. O.K., so I've mentioned some things that didn't really work out for me, so what has?

1. is a paid email/survey/shopping program (see link bottom right of page).

2. online publishers/bloggers. In-Text Advertising targeted for your readers. Easy to install.

3. Affiliate marketing--As an example, see the Amazon ads on this blog. You earn a percentage for sales generated from your site. There are many different types of affiliate marketing programs available. I chose Amazon because I trust them.

4. rewards program. You don't earn cash, but you earn credits for reading emails and shopping which you can cash in for gift cards with a wide variety of stores and restaurants. This is one of my favorites, I always go through them before buying anything on line. I've received 8 gift cards which I've used myself or given as gifts for Christmas and Birthdays and donated points to some of my favorite charities. It's a great program.

5. pay you for taking surveys. I like this one because they pay you every week, as long as you've completed a qualifying survey. Not like the other paid surveys I've tried, where you never seem to earn enough to collect. They pay directly to your PayPal account.

These are a few things that are working for me. I don't expend a lot of effort on any of them and I'm definitely not getting rich off them, but I do make a little extra money from each. Whatever money I do earn goes directly to my investment accounts, so it's put to work earning even more.

If any of my readers have suggestions for more ways to earn, feel free to email me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's All About Earnings

About half the Dow 30 and a quarter of the S&P 500 report in the week ahead. Analysts expect the majority of these companies to continue to beat expectations. Of the 61 S&P companies that reported so far, 79 percent have reported better than expected earnings. The Dow gained 1.3 percent for the week, ending at 9,995, just shy of the 10,000 mile marker it reached on Wednesday. The S&P 500 scored a 1.5 percent gain, ending the week at 1,087. The dollar lost about 1 percent against the euro and the same against a basket of currencies.

Stocks declined Friday as disappointing results from Bank of America and General Electric eclipsed strong results from big techs. After two straight finishes above 10,000, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 67.03, or 0.7 percent, finishing at 9,995.91. Still, for the week, the blue-chip index gained more than 100 points, or 1.3 percent. This is the second straight week the Dow is up — it's gained more than 5 percent in that time. Shares of both GE and Bank of America lost more than 4 percent.

Pfizer, which reports Tuesday, expects higher earnings on slightly lower revenue, while Merck (MRK: 33.22, -0.09, -0.27%), which reports Thursday, is likely to post profit and revenue increases. Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY: 34.42, -0.09, -0.26%), reporting Wednesday, is expected to return to the black after last year's results were hurt by legal settlements. Economists predict small increases in September building permits and housing starts from the previous month, continuing the general trend since spring. That report is due Tuesday, a day after the National Association of Home Builders releases its October housing market index, which reflects builders' confidence in the market. Next Friday, the National Association of Realtors reports on September existing-home sales, which are forecast to grow 5.5% from a month earlier. Sales dropped in August after rising since April.

The government will issue the September Producer Price Index, which measures wholesale inflation, on Tuesday. Predictions are for a 0.1% rise, after a bigger-than-expected 1.7% increase in August. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will release its Beige Book, which provides information about economic activity in various regions. The nonprofit Conference Board's September index of leading indicators is out Thursday.

(I currently own shares of Merck and Pfizer so I'm hoping for good news from both.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Michael Moore on Capitalism?

In my opinion, Michael Moore's recent mockumentary on capitalism smacks of hypocrisy at its best. He is a successful capitalist, a mogul in the entertainment industry, who has benefited from the deep pockets of capitalism. Which is actually a fine example of how capitalism works and how it allows people to make big money.

Mr. Moore’s hypocrisy is in neglecting to tell his audiences that he himself is included in the class of people he deplores. How can you justify freaking out about the top 1% of the population owning 99% of the wealth in the country, when you fit in the 1% category.

This new production, much like it's predecessors, strikes me as someone taking advantage of a "dumbed down" America. Pandering to people who will believe anything as long as the story is good. And if a person is putting themselves in the position of champion for the little guy, how can they be taking advantage of them at the same time?

Of course, this is only my opinion. I could be totally wrong and Mr. Moore could truly be concerned with the plight of the everyday American. If that's the case, I'd like to help him out. If he really wants to prove he wants no part of evil capitalism, then he can donate his profits from the movie to me. I even have a donation link here on my website and accept Visa and Mastercard. Please Mr. Moore, proves us all wrong and give generously!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why I Think JPMorgan Chase is a Bad Investment

JPMorgan Chase, the first major bank to report third-quarter earnings, stoked the market's optimism as it handily beat Wall Street's expectations, reporting a profit of $3.59 billion for the July-September period. The bank also achieved record year-to-date revenue.

Their earnings report helped boost the stock market and I'm sure their shareholders are pleased, but it didn't come as any surprise to me. In fact, I'd have been surprised if they hadn't had a good earnings report. You see I was one of the unfortunate people who became a credit card customer of Chase when they bought out Washington Mutual. I had two cards with Washington Mutual and had been a happy customer of theirs for years. Then Chase took over. Almost as soon as they took over, I received letters regarding both of my accounts, telling me my interest rates were being increased. So I got on the phone and talked to their customer service. I pointed out that I had never been late with a payment, always paid more than the minimum and questioned why my rates were being increased. It turns out that the rate increases had nothing to do with my credit rating, the reason they increased the interest rates was to increase the profitability on my accounts. O.K. Not something I wanted to hear, but I figured I would just pay the accounts off and wait until they came to their senses and offered me a reasonable interest rate, before I would use the cards again.

A few weeks later I get another notice in the mail telling me my rates are being increased to nearly 30%. That's when I decided to decline their offer and cancelled both of my cards. So, why do I think JPMorgan Chase is a bad investment.

First: Their customer service, in my opinion, is atrocious. They did not care that I had been a good customer with a proven payment record. They made no effort to keep me as a customer. They only cared about making more money off me. When you're running a business that relies on customer satisfaction and you carelessly disregard dissatisfied customers, your business is doomed to dwindle, if not fail altogether.

Secondly: While their profits are up now, I believe that it is largely a result of extreme rate increases to credit card customers like myself, who will eventually do like I've done and stop doing business with Chase bank entirely. I will NEVER do ANY business with this bank again! And I know a lot of other Chase customers who have had the same experience and feel the same way. So they are bound to see a dramatic drop in credit card business, which they may never be able to recover. With that in mind, it's my opinion that JPMorgan Chase would make a very poor long term investment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Job Losses Bad News For Democrats

U.S. service industries may be recovering, stocks are up, banks are lending again and home prices are holding. But with no improvement in employment, a major part of the recovery is still missing. And that is bad new for Obama and the Democratic party.

According to the Labor Department, if you add in people who have stopped looking for work, or who are underemployed instead of working full time, the effective unemployment rate is a staggering 17%. With such outrageously high unemployment, it's hard for workers to understand how the recession can be deemed over.

It's an important political dynamic as 2010 midterm elections approach. At some point, continued job losses could easily push the economy back into negative territory, for a "double-dip" recession. Rob Shapiro, an economist who was a top official in President Bill Clinton's Commerce Department, sees "substantial, continued job losses" for some time if the government doesn't take more aggressive steps to foster job growth. In the meantime, the Obama administration should "prepare the American people to wait a while for real results," said Shapiro. White House aides concede they missed the mark with their January estimate that the stimulus package would keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent. In a letter to Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House GOP leaders asked, "Where are the jobs?"

That is the same question I'm asking, along with a lot of other unemployed voters. "Where are the jobs?" Obama and Pelosi may well be asking, "Where are the Democrats," after midterm elections.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Save On Entertainment

With the downturn in the economy and so many people unemployed or underemployed, everyone is looking for ways to save. Frugality is IN!

Recently I've discovered a great way to save on entertainment. While looking at amateur videos on YouTube, I found a lot of my favorite shows and movies are also available there. So rather than paying high prices for a big cable package or going to the movies, I've been enjoying some great entertainment free! I've seen Agatha Christie's Poirot and Miss Marple movies, watched full length movies such as Star Trek Voyager Endgame and A Bronx Tale. I've also watched several episodes of my favorite comedy shows from BBC and some great video from the History Channel. What is especially nice is that I choose what I want to watch and when. Of course I do have a high speed internet connection, but I would be paying for that anyway, so I get all this great entertainment at no additional cost. What could be better than that?

For even more TV and video you may want to check out and Both have a wide variety of television shows and movies available for free viewing.

Keep Your Money Working After You Retire

Retirement can be a joyful time of life. You get to leave the daily grind and spend more time doing the things you love with the people you care about. If you've saved up enough money to live comfortably, you can live a fulfilling, carefree life.

If you did a particularly good job of retirement planning, you may have enough money in savings to carry you through for many years to come. Even so, it's wise to keep your money working for you. You'll need to keep up with inflation, and if you live a particularly long life, you could run out of funds. And then there's the chance that you could incur unexpected expenses such as long-term care.So instead of putting the brakes on your investing, it's best to continue as though you have yet to retire. If you have adequate retirement savings, you'll only be using a portion of your money each year. There's no reason that the rest of your money shouldn't be earning a return for you.

The Best Investments for RetireesThere are many types of investments available, each with its own pros and cons. To find the best investment for your situation, you need to consider your tolerance for risk and the need for access to your money.

You should be able to put most of your retirement funds into fairly long-term investments. If you want to take on very little risk while keeping up with inflation, CDs are a good option. Money market funds and mutual funds are also low-risk. Stocks and bonds are riskier, but if chosen wisely and managed responsibly, they can net larger returns. Annuities are also popular investments among retirees. Life annuities require the annuitant to pay a premium in exchange for payouts made at regular intervals for the rest of his life. This provides guaranteed income, eliminating the danger of outliving one's savings. There are also joint annuities that pay out until the last of two people dies, and guaranteed term annuities that pay out for a specified period of time, with payments going to a beneficiary if the annuitant dies.

For money that you want easy access to, a money market account is a good place to keep it. These accounts earn more interest than your average savings account, yet they allow for quick and easy withdrawal of funds. But keeping your entire nest egg in such an account is unwise, because it could be earning much more with other investments.

Retirement should be a time in your life where money is not a major concern. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. By keeping your money at work for you, you can keep your finances in good order for years to come and have some left over for your heirs.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Simple Way to Wealth

Do you want to become wealthy? Most anyone would answer yes to this question. Yet it has always been a simple thing to build wealth, but so few people seem to realize it. Either they've never been taught about finances or they're too interested in instant gratification and put wants before wealth. Whatever the case may be, it is truly simple to build wealth by following a very simple plan.

What is this plan? Think of it as the 10-20-70 plan. That is, from any income you receive, 10% goes into savings and investments, 20% is budgeted towards reducing and eliminating debt and the remaining 70% is for living expenses. You "pay yourself first" 10% of everything you earn before you pay anything else. This is money you keep for yourself, for building your future wealth, not to be used for any other purpose. The 20% for debt reduction goes towards paying off credit card bills, auto loans etc.. The remaining 70% of income is for living expenses. If you can't afford something you want out of the 70%, you simply do without until you can afford to pay with cash. This is not some new or revolutionary idea, it's been around for years. But it is a proven plan and is simple enough for anyone to follow.

So there you have it. The simple way to build wealth. With this plan, anyone can eventually become quite well off. It takes time and discipline, but is well worth it in the end. The younger you start, the better. I only wish I'd had someone to explain this to me when I was younger, I'd be much better off today. But no matter your age or financial status, if you make up your mind to improve your financial situation and you start following this plan today, your guaranteed a much brighter future.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

France Telecom ADS

In keeping with my plan to diversify my dividend portfolio to include investments outside the United States, I've decided to add France Telecom ADS (FTE) to my IRA investment portfolio. The Group's principal activity is to provide telecommunications services to residential, personal and large businesses. The Group offers services through six segments which are Orange, Wanadoo, Equant, TP Group, Other big operators and International providers. Major lines of business include providing public fixed-line voiced telephone services, videoconferencing, mobile telecommunication services, broadcasting services and Internet and wireless applications. Their clients are service providers, system integrators and operators. The Group operates in France, the United Kindom, Spain, Poland and Latin America, Asia, Middle East and parts of Europe.

With current earnings per share of $2.70 and a dividend payout of $1.68 per share, their current dividend yield of 6.43% makes them an attractive buy for my IRA account. Their recent share price of $26.09 and a price to earnings of 9.7 also makes for an attractive investment opportunity. Add to this their recent announcement that they will soon be offering the popular iPhone in Britain and their future prospects seem quite attractive. Overall I believe they will make a very good addition to my portfolio.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Congratulations RIO on 2016 Olympics

Congratulations Rio de Janeiro on being picked to host the 2016 Olympic Games! The country and the good people of Brazil deserve the honor, recognition and prestige that come with hosting the Olympics. The Olympic Committee made an excellent choice.

A huge roar was heard at the famed beach the moment International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the words "Rio de Janeiro" to announce the winner in Copenhagen on Friday.

As popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and football great Pele celebrated in Denmark, the Cariocas, as Rio citizens are known, raised their arms to celebrate on Copacabana, frantically waving flags and hugging each other.

Silva called the win a "sacred day" as he was interviewed in Portuguese by Brazilian reporters in Copenhagen. Brazil's passion, he said, helped Rio win the Olympics against Madrid, Chicago and Tokyo.

The beaming Brazilian leader sobbed later in a news conference when describing how important the victory was for the country.

"I confess to you if I die right now my life would have been worth it," Silva said. "No one can now doubt the strength of Brazil's economy, it's social greatness, and our ability to present a plan."

Age Discrimination In Hiring

Since I've been unemployed, I've been applying for jobs everywhere. Mostly I would like to work for the state, so I've concentrated my efforts in that regard. However, given the states financial situation in this economy, I realized it would be prudent to not put all of my eggs in one basket and have applied for other jobs as well.

With all my experience in restaurants and food service, I've always thought my fall back plan would be to take another restaurant job and work until things picked up. Then maybe I'd get some calls from the state. However, I recently applied for a crew member job with a new fast food restaurant opening in Jefferson City, MO and was faced with something I hadn't really considered until now. When I went for my interview, the interviewers had scheduled 2 of us at the same time. Myself and a young boy who looked as though he was just old enough to drive. They took him in first and about 5 minutes later, called me in for the interview. They asked some questions about myself and my work experience, then asked why I'd like to work there. Things seemed to be going well, then one of the interviewers asked how I'd feel about having someone younger than myself as a manager. I explained that this was not a problem for me, that I've been in that situation before and it's worked out very well. So they asked me to step out for a minute and they would call me back in. At first I'm thinking this is a good sign. However, no sooner had I stepped out of the room and took a seat, they called me back in and said, "What we're going to do right now, we have your application, which we'll hold on to and we'll give you a call." O.K., so I thanked them for their time and consideration and left.

On my way home, it occurred to me that even though they never asked my age, their question about me working under someone younger than me was directed at my being older than most of the applicants. Then too, the young boy who'd gone in before me was still being interviewed when I left. So their brush off was most likely related to my age, even though at 49 I'm not really old by any means. Now I know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of my age and I'm only going to be getting older. What the two young women who were doing the hiring failed to consider is that I have excellent work references, I usually work harder than anyone else, all of my extended education has been in restaurant management and food preparation and I NEVER miss work. When I was managing at any of my previous jobs, that was what I looked at, not whether the applicant was old or young. Common sense should tell you to hire the most experienced and hardest working people who apply, not just the youngest people who apply.

At any rate, I think they've lost more than I have in the deal. I didn't get the job, but I know what kind of worker I am and I know it will be very difficult for them to find anyone better who is willing to work there. So they've missed out and they'll most likely lose several customers, since I'll be sure to let my friends and family know how I was treated by their managers. Very bad for a new business, especially when you consider that I and most of my friends eat out a great deal of the time. We won't be spending our money there.