Thursday, March 31, 2011


It's opening day for baseball, GO CARDINALS!!!  While I can't say I'm the biggest baseball fan in the world, I have been a fan of Cardinals baseball since Mark McGuire's days with the team.  Yeah, I know he's a coach now, but the game was a lot more exciting when he was a player.  Anyway, I'm glad to see the start of baseball season.  Not a real big fan of football and absolutely hate basketball, so baseball and world cup soccer are tops as far as I'm concerned.

My Opinion on The Use of Steroids...

As a fan of baseball, I feel compelled to say something about the whole controversy over steroid use in professional sports.  I know all the arguments about abuse of steroids being bad for your health, yeah so is abuse of any medication.  Some children's vitamins and prescription medications rank higher on the list of dangerous drugs than steroids.  (My heart medication is way more dangerous than steroids.)  I would remind people who criticize steroid use that steroids are used for medical treatments for a lot of different reasons, so it's not necessarily the use, but the abuse that we should view as bad.  If you're thinking it's not right to enhance performance through steroid use, what do you think exercise, proper diet and practice are for?  They're for enhancing performance.  Should we ban those too?  Might be some pretty boring games.  It's not like these people popped a few pills and all of a sudden they're overnight sports superstars.  They still have to workout and they still have to practice to hone their skills, no drug can turn you into an instant sports sensation. 

And for those who, like our congressional representatives, think it sets a bad example for your children, since when is it the job of sports figures, or any celebrities for that matter, to set an example for your kids.  Maybe I'm old fashioned, but when I was growing up my parents took their job, of setting the right example for their kids, very seriously.  Television, school or social media were not the ones raising us, our parents were.  If you feel that sports figures should set examples for the kind of person you want your children to grow up to be, maybe you should re-examine your role as a parent.

And what about all the hoopla in Congress over steroid use?  Really???  With all the problems we're facing as a nation?  Shouldn't these people have better things to do with their time and with the taxpayer's money?  I care a lot about high unemployment, lack of decent jobs, people losing their homes at record rates while banks increase compensation to their executives.  I care about runaway spending by politicians, the overwhelming national debt and runaway taxes.  I care about all the brave men and women serving in the quagmires of Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, where we have no good reason to be.  I care about a lot of things, but one thing I don't care about much at all is, adult men or women in professional sports who decide to try and improve their performance by adding steroids to their training regimen. 

As far as I'm concerned it's a bunch of mass media hype and sensationalism, further perpetuated as a smokescreen by inept politicians who are either incapable or too afraid to deal with the real problems we're facing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


A big part of any investment program is finding extra cash to invest.  So looking for ways to save on your everyday purchases becomes almost second nature.  One great way I've found for saving money is promotional codes.  Any time I make a purchase over the internet, before I go to checkout, I do an online search for a promotional code to see if there are any available discounts. 

As an example, I recently needed to reorder checks for my checking account.  Like most people now days, I make a lot of payments electronically and don't use many written checks, but I still keep some on hand to use when needed.  At any rate, I go to the check printers website, pick out my new checks procede to checkout and when I get to the part where they ask if I have any discount or promotional codes, I opened a second window and did a search on the internet.  Turns out, in this case, there were several.  The one that worked best for me was a buy one box and get a second box for 49 cents.  So I saved almost $15 on my order and have at least a two year supply of checks.

You won't always find a discount or promo code for everything you buy, but it only takes a minute or two to search, so it's well worth the effort.  The amount you'll save will vary, but I've managed to save hundreds of dollars on online purchases and have even found discounts that can be printed out and taken to local retailers for savings on in store purchases as well.  The greatest part of all this is, the money you save makes it that much easier to reach your savings and investment goals.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


When deciding on a new stock investment, I find it more difficult to invest a small amount of money, than investing larger amounts.  Well duh, you might say, but what I really mean is, I spend a lot more time evaluating stocks before making a final investment choice, because I'm more aware of the need to get the most bang for the buck. 

For instance, my quarterly IRA investment is coming up in April and it was a tough choice deciding where to put my money to work.  I finally narrowed my choices down to two stocks:  Spectra Energy Corp (SE:NYSE) or Abbott Laboratories (ABT:NYSE).  While I believe both stocks are good sound investments, I could only choose one for the amount of money I have to invest in my IRA account.  Both have great financials and good business models and while Abbott is a pharmaceutical company, they are not facing any major near term patent expiration like many of their rivals.  Spectra is involved in natural gas distribution, but a great deal of their profit comes from their toll-bridge like storage and pipeline operations.  Both carry similar dividend payouts of around 4%.  So it was hard to choose one or the other.

Since I had to make a decision, I finally went with Abbott Labs due to their slightly higher yield and their lower price to earnings ratio.  I also liked the fact that they have a great deal of cash on hand and a payout ratio of 58% compared to SE's 62%, leaving them more room for future dividend increases.  I have put in the order to purchase ABT for my IRA, but decided to buy shares of SE for my regular taxable account.  I'll have to wait until I collect enough dividends to purchase the SE shares, but I think they'll be a great addition to my portfolio in the long run.

I sure miss the good old days, before the "Great Recession", when my problem was having more cash and not being able to find enough good investments. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011


"Happy workers tend to generate big returns for shareholders, according to a growing trickle of statistical evidence.  Firms that earn top scores on one survey of employee satisfaction have more than double the broad market's return over the past dozen years."-- Jack Hough "3 Stock Picks Based on Employee Satisfaction"  (Click title for link)

Should we really be surprised?  I've always said, take care of your workers and they'll take care of you.


I read an interesting article on (click on title for link) about California's tax increase not working as far as raising projected revenues.  During the "Great Recession", many local, state and federal politicians have been promoting the "need" for tax increases to meet record budget deficits.  Personally, I believe they should be upfront and say they need the money to buy votes by pandering to special interest groups, promoting pet projects and pork barrel spending.  Since we all know that's not likely to happen, there's no need for further debate on that issue.

What government in general should take away from the results of California's failure to raise revenues through tax increases is this:  They are pricing their services (government services) beyond what the market (or taxpayers) are willing to pay.  My guess is consumers are spending less, not only because of the recession, but also to avoid paying higher taxes.  Businesses as well as wealthy individuals are relocating to more tax friendly states or countries, which is what I've been predicting would happen when taxpayers reached the breaking point. 

Even people who are not quite so wealthy are deciding to relocate to foreign countries when they retire, because the taxes and cost of living are so much cheaper than many places here in the U.S..  They're taking with them their Social Security checks (aka U.S. tax dollars) and spending them elsewhere, creating a better standard of living in other countries, but creating no residual benefit for the economy here.  No one can really blame them, if you can live better in your golden years by relocating, then why not? 

At any rate, before our elected officials get in too big of hurry to add new taxes on top of old, they really should consider how much more the market will bear before taxpayers say no thanks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


One of the guys I work with is convinced the world is coming to an end.  With political upheaval in the middle east, earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan, he's saying it's just what the Bible predicted for the end of times.  Whether it is the end of the world is not really for us to decide.  My bet would lean toward the world still be around for a few more years, don't really put much stock in the whole 2012 thing.

One thing I am sure of, the latest plunge in the stock market related to all the bad news from Japan and the middle east, is sure to bring about some great stock buying opportunities.  I've been building my cash reserves to take advantage of summer pullbacks in the market, but with everything that's going on right now, I may be on another buying binge sooner than I thought.  Have to get a little better idea of where things are headed first.  Most recently I've put in an order to purchase Merck (MRK:NYSE) for my taxable portfolio and Kraft (KFT:NYSE) for my IRA account.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


As I watched a news report yesterday about the ongoing budget battle in Wisconsin, where protesters were marching around the state capital, it struck me just how brave the state politicians in Wisconsin are.  In the face of massive protests they have chosen to ignore what some would consider political self destruction and instead have taken a stand to address the issue of out of control deficit spending.  I won't go in to what is fair or unfair about budget cuts, that is a pointless and endless debate.  The cold hard facts are, Wisconsin, along with most of the states of the nation, simply does not have the revenue necessary to fund unlimited entitlement programs for its' citizens.  We find ourselves in such dire straits as a nation, due to the simple fact that we've long ignored the problem of federal and state governments spending way more than they take in.  I say "BRAVO!" to the politicians with enough courage to finally address the issue.

No, the solution is not without consequences, the budget cuts will hurt some more than others.  However, it is something that has to be done and the sooner the better.  As I watched the protesters in Wisconsin, I couldn't help but wonder how many of them would be willing to have their taxes increased by the amount it would take to fund all the entitlements and programs they're protesting for?  My guess would be very few, if any.  Wake up people!  If you constantly spend more money than you take in, you're going to wind up in financial disaster.  It's the same for federal and state governments.  They have to make cuts and we'll just have to live with it.  Better to spend your time in a more productive manner.  If you're not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Unlike the title of this post may imply, I'm not using my tax refund to pay off old debt.  Normally any tax refunds I'm lucky enough to get go directly to my investment accounts.  This year, however, I'll be using at least part of my refund to build up my cash reserves and a small amount for new glasses.  I'll still be investing at least 20% of my refund in dividend paying stock.  Still working on rebuilding my regular investment account after paying off my medical bills.

As far as the old debt goes, I've been taking advantage of transfer checks from my two remaining credit cards to retire higher interest debt.  Instead of paying 17.99% or 14.99% on the credit cards I've cancelled, I'm paying them off with transfer checks with 0% interest for the first 12 months.  Twelve months is more than enough time for me to pay them completely off, so I'll be saving a great deal in interest.  This has also allowed me to make larger payments on my remaining credit cards and reduce my outstanding credit at a faster pace, since I'm making payments on 2 bills instead of 4.  Normally I don't advocate balance transfers, but if the offer saves you money, then it makes sense to take advantage of it. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Of course stocks can go up with oil over $100 a barrel.  But they can also drop dramatically when consumers discretionary spending is consumed by the high price of gasoline and sales of other items lag.  Now is a terrible time for high oil prices as far as economic recovery is concerned.  While I don't expect it to cause a double dip, as some have speculated, I do think it will drastically slow down the recovery process.

Bottom line, I've seen a lot of run ups in oil prices over the years and we've survived them all, despite all the doom and gloom from the media.  However, we're in serious trouble if the jobs don't start to pick up soon.  Who's going to buy the high priced gasoline if there are so many still out of work?