Wednesday, November 24, 2010


If you like the Ipad, but can't see yourself spending the money to buy one, and you're not expecting one for Christmas, you might want to consider a less expensive alternative.  I recently purchased a 7 inch tablet internet appliance running the Android operating system (see pic).  While it's not up to the operational level of an Ipad, if you're only interested in checking emails, surfing the internet via wifi and playing music and video then you might be satisfied with the much less expensive epad.  I found mine on Amazon for $129 with free shipping and I've been extremely satisfied with its performance.  I downloaded the Kindle for Android software and have been using it as an ereader as well.  It works fine on my home wifi connection and came with several applications pre-installed.  Like I said, it may not be up to the quality or functionality of an Ipad, but I figure with the difference in price I could go through 4 or 5 of these gadgets before I'd be out the money I'd spend on one Ipad. 

Battery life seems to be around 2 hours, which is roughly the same amount of time I get out of my laptop.  I find it a lot more portable and convenient to use than a laptop and when I'm stuck waiting at the Dr.'s office or the VA I can enjoy reading a good book.  I've also figured out, the amount of money I save by purchasing ebooks, instead of printed versions, will quickly cover the cost of purchasing the epad. 

Several of the stores are currently selling these tablet pc's, but prices vary widely, so you definitely want to shop around.  If you'd like to look for it on Amazon, simply type epad into their search under the electronics section. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Was off work for a week recovering from my recent heart attack.  Just started my second week back at work, so far so good.  Got my hospital bill in the mail today.  The grand total so far is near $46,000.  Still waiting on the bill from the cardiologist.  Also waiting to hear back from the hospital's assistance program for the uninsured.  Since going back to work I haven't been covered by health insurance, so I'm going to have to figure out how to pay my own medical costs without leaving myself in the poor house.  I told Pickles, my chihuahua, he may have to get a job :0).  He was not amused. 


With this year winding down, the dollar is up on bad news in credit markets overseas, the stock market is down and I'm not expecting to do any major buying or selling until after the first of the year.  My top ten holdings for the new year are:

 1.  AT&T (T:NYSE)
 2.  Philip Morris Intl. (PM:NYSE)
 3.  Windstream Corp. (WIN:NASDAQ)
 4.  Universal Insurance Holdings (UVE:AMEX)
 5.  Centerpoint Energy Inc. (CNP:NYSE)
 6.  Merck and Company Inc. (MRK:NYSE)
 7.  General Mills Inc. (GIS:NYSE)
 8.  British American Tobacco (BTI:AMEX)
 9.  Unilever NV (UN:NYSE)

Overall I think it's a pretty diversified list of holdings with good prospects for growth and decent income from dividends.  I am currently earning a little over a 6% return in dividend income overall from holdings in my taxable portfolio.  Would like to see the Bush tax cuts extended, but not quite sure that will happen.  Just have to wait and see.

This list is for informational purposes only.  I do not suggest anyone follow my investment strategy without first doing their own research.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I know it might seem kind of earlier to be planning ahead for 2011, especially in view of my recent health concerns, but it's never too early to plan as far as I'm concerned.  Given the major changes to my financial situation due to recent medical bills, I think it's even more important to come up with a plan of attack.

One thing I've been wanting to get done was to revamp the spreadsheet I use each month to keep track of personal finances.  While I've made adjustments and improvements along the way, the current spreadsheet I use is one I created 10 years ago and was due for a major update.  The simple spreadsheet has worked well for me over the years, but I thought it was time to prepare a more professional monthly financial statement.  With that in mind, I've created an entirely new system incorporating a personal cash flow statement and balance sheet.  While not any more complicated or informative than my current spreadsheet, it presents the data in a more professional and organized manner.  Which means, I should be able to use this spreadsheet for the next 10 years. 

As an update on the medical front, I've finished my application from the hospital for consideration for their financial aid program for the uninsured.  Seems my reduced pay since the economy crashed may actually qualify me for assistance in paying my hospital bills or at least help in arranging an affordable payment plan.  I'm turning my application in tomorrow and I'll keep my readers posted on how well it works out. 

Friday, November 12, 2010


Went in to the emergency room Monday night with chest pains.  Turned out to be a mild heart attack caused by blocked coronary arteries.  Had stint installed to open blockage on Tuesday morning and I'm home from the hospital recovering from my first, and hopefully last, heart attack.

Now for the worst of it.  With my current job, I have no health insurance, so I'll have to figure out how to pay for all this on my own.  Not looking forward to all that, but I'm determined not to let it wreck my finances.  I'll keep readers posted on how it all goes. 

Already saved a great deal by shopping around for medications.  The original quote from a local drugstore chain was $812 for a one month supply of prescription medications.  After checking around, I got 3 months of four of my medications, plus one month of the most expensive one for $209 at the local Walmart pharmacy.  Saved well over $600 per month on prescriptions with a few quick phone calls. 

Now I'll have to work on the medical bills as they come in.   

Friday, November 5, 2010


I know it hasn't been popular to invest in the tobacco industry for quite some time now, which might explain (in part at least) the mediocre/poor performance of Altria Group's (MO) stock price.  However, I recently read an article on the Motley Fool website which presented a good argument for Altria being possibly the "world's greatest investment."  They made some good points about how stocks with slow growth and high yields can make stellar gains through reinvested dividends over a period of time. 

I've owned shares of Altria for quite some time now and, after reading the article, have decided the best use of their dividends would be to reinvest and increase my stake in the company.  Some may think this an insane move with tobacco use on the decline in the U.S. for several years now, but I seriously doubt that the industry will fold anytime soon.  Basically what you have is a simple business model consistently churning out cash for shareholders.  As a smoker, I have no qualms about investing in the tobacco industry.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who would disagree.

Closed on my purchase of AGNC shares earlier in the week and collected some great dividends from Campbell's Soup, AT&T and Universal Insurance Group.  The month is off to a great start, hope to see it continue through the rest of 2010!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I wrote about my trip to the casino last month and how I lost $50 dollars on penny slots, but this month things are really looking up.  It's only the 4th and I have all my bills paid except my phone bill, which runs around $50 per month.  I'm sitting on about a months worth of cash in my bank account and I get paid from work tomorrow.  Also picked up a contract for a carpet cleaning job that will take me about 2 hours and pays $100.  On top of that, I sold a couple of silver coins on ebay for $70 and the listing only lasted about an hour before someone took the buy it now option, so it was a quick sale with immediate payment. 

As if that weren't enough, I recently took some cash out of my money market account from stocks I'd just sold.  Just wanted to have extra on hand for maintenance work on my car.  As it turned out, I didn't need the money after all so I transferred it from checking to savings to boost my cash reserves.  In the mean time, the stocks in my regular investment account went up and are now worth more than before I took out cash.  Have you ever heard that expression, "They just fall into money?"  I'm beginning to feel like it's happening to me.  It's a nice feeling.  But the truth is, what seems like a run of extremely good fortune is really more the result of taking control of my finances, creating a plan and sticking to it. 

Sure is nice to see some progress for a change.  Especially after the last couple of years.  It's also nice to know that even though I don't feel very secure in my new job and my earned income is well below what I'm used to making, I'm still making progress towards financial freedom by actively managing my finances.  I feel much more confident that no matter what obstacles the future may hold, things will turn out all right in the end.  It really boils down to managing what you do have and not worrying about what you don't have.