Personal Finance

The “Bargain Stock Monitor” is one of three market statistics used as performance expectation analyzers for portfolios that are designed and managed using the Market Cycle Investment Management (MCIM) methodology.

It is derived from the month end Investment Grade Value Stock Index (IGVSI) “watchlist” screening program, which identifies IGVSI companies that are trading at least 15% below their 52-week highs.

The “15% down” break-point allows you to keep your eye on “Bull Pen” items. (You really need to be familiar with the selection rules to get the most from the BS Monitor – chuckle – and from the Watch List program.)

The fewer IGVSI equities at bargain prices, the stronger the stock market and the more “smart cash” you should be accumulating in the equity asset allocation “bucket” of your investment portfolio. As the list of bargain stocks grows (indicating market weakness), portfolio “smart cash” should be finding its way back into undervalued securities.

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Caring for our pets can sometimes stretch budgets, we love our pets and are willing to do anything for them. Yahoo! Finance’s Farnoosh Torabi has rounded up some ways to save money on the care and feeding of our fluffy friends–from buying less food, choosing adoption, and learning some do-it-yourself grooming techniques.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100…

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this…

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.

The fifth would pay $1.

The sixth would pay $3.

The seventh would pay $7..

The eighth would pay $12.

The ninth would pay $18.

The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do..

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20”. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).

The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving).

The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving).

The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving).

The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving).

The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,”but he got $10!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”

“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Wouldn’t it be great to get out of credit card debt once and for all? To put an end to the ever increasing tensions that worsen insomnia and inspire fights between family members? To cut away the burdens that enslave your household budget? To be able to answer the phone without worrying that it’ll be another bill collector interrupting dinner? It honestly might be easier than you think.

1 – Make Sure You Earn More Money Than You Pay Out

Sounds simple? You’d think so – without a strict budget that ensures you won’t increase your burdens each week, how could you ever expect to get out of credit card debt – but you’d be surprised how many American heads of household start out attempting a vaguely formulated program of debt relief without ever marking down just what the family could spend.

2 – Discern Which Financial Burdens Are Acceptable And Which Are Not

This determination, too, generally seems easier said than done because of a few different issues. To take one instance that often bedevils folks trying to get out of credit card debt, it’s so ingrained among many families that the very first thing that they should do is get rid of their mortgage debt. Obviously, for home owners that have the capacity, protecting the sanctity of the family residence should be of paramount importance. At the same point, though, overly prioritizing the home loan – which will almost always have the lowest fixed Annual Percentage Rate imaginable as well as allowing tax deductions for qualified citizens – just because of the way in which you were raised does avoid the sad but unfortunate truth that your mother and father didn’t have to worry about thousands of dollars of high interest unsecured lines of credit. Auto loans are a smaller (in every way) version of the same scenario.

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What works in investing? I don’t mean that question the obvious way-that it’s a place where people buy and sell stocks through brokers. What I mean is how you think stock prices are really set. What is your mental model of how prices are decided?

A flawed mental model can lead to some interesting conclusions. For example, in the early days of email, a friend of a mine believed that if you reduced the font size in an email message, then the message would become smaller and therefore easier to send. It was a flawed mental model, or rather, was the fax mental model being applied to email.

I believe one of the fundamental reasons why so many people have trouble investing in the stock markets is that they have severely flawed mental models of what determines a stock price. While there are many mental models of how the stock markets work, some are more common than others.

This is the most widespread one: ‘There are people who know when a stock’s price is about to rise. If one of them tells me, then I can make money.’ This is the ‘tip’ model of the stock markets. It isn’t so much a mental model as the lack of one. Unfortunately, this is a very common one. There seem to be a lot of people who believe that someone out there knows which way things will move and everything depends on somehow getting to know these secrets.

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Boaters run aground by not paying attention to tides, charts, navigation tools and their GPSes. Investors get swamped with information, media noise, breaking news, politicians, gurus, and derivatives — so much so that they can’t see the oncoming fog banks and tsunamis of cyclical change.

Most investment mistakes are caused by basic misunderstandings of the securities markets and by invalid performance expectations. Losing money on an investment may not be the result of an investment sandbar and not all mistakes in judgment result in broken propellers.

Errors occur most frequently when judgment is rocked out of the boat by emotion, hindsight, and misconceptions about how securities react to waves of varying economic, political, and hysterical circumstances. You are the commander of your investment fleet. Use these ten risk-minimizers as lifeboats:

1. Identify realistic goals that include time, risk-tolerance, and future income requirements — chart your course before you leave the pier. A well thought out plan will minimize tacking maneuvers. A well-captained plan will not need trendy hardware or exotic rigging.

2. Learn to distinguish between asset allocation and diversification. Asset allocation divides the portfolio between equity and income securities. Diversification limits the size of individual holdings in several ways. Both hedge against the risk of loss. Both are done best using a cost based approach.

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Most investors incorrectly think of “risk” as the possibility that the market value of a financial asset might fall below the amount that he or she has invested in the asset. OMG, how could this be happening!

Think about it. The harboring of these misconceptions (that lower market price = loss or bad and/or that higher market price = profit or good) is the greatest risk creator of all. It invariably causes inappropriate actions within the large mass of individuals who are uninitiated in the ways of the investment gods.

Risk is the reality of financial assets and financial markets: the current value of all securities will change, from “real” property through time-restrained futures speculations. Anything that is “marketable” is subject to changes in market value. It is as the gods intended, and portfolios can be designed so that it just doesn’t matter quite so much as you’ve been brainwashed into thinking.

What is abnormal is the hype surrounding market value changes and the hysteria such hype causes among investors. No way should a weak real estate market translate into near zero bank balance sheet entries — it just doesn’t compute, except when it is popular politics.
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Weekend Humor

What is the first thing that almost any personal finance blogger that tends to align themselves in “Camp Frugal” will tell you when it comes to saving money? Most likely it is a variation of the mantra, “Spend less! Save, save, save! Quit spending money!” Is this really the best way? It seems that many people, myself included, can leave an important variable out of the cost saving and wealth maximizing formula. This “missing variable” is opportunity cost.

Opportunity Cost Explained

What exactly is opportunity cost? Let’s say that you have two different things that you could do with an hour of your time: Activity A or Activity B. You can only choose one of them but not both. If you choose to do Activity A then you cannot do Activity B and vice versa. If Activity A is your #1 choice for what you would choose to do for that particular hour and Activity B is your #2 choice then when you choose to do Activity A, and are therefore excluded from doing Activity B as well because remember you can only choose one or the other, your opportunity cost is the cost to you in not being able to partake in Activity B.

The technical definition of opportunity cost is therefore the cost of the next best alternative (the thing that you have given up) whenever you are making a decision between two or more mutually exclusive choices.

It’s important to remember that opportunity cost is not necessarily always measured in financial terms (although it is a smart thing to do to ultimately convert all opportunity costs into a financial measurement so that you can better compare options).

Let’s take a look at some different scenarios to see if strictly adhering to the “Spend Less” rule in all circumstances is the best way to go or if there are times when taking a closer look at the opportunity costs involved might help us to improve upon our cost savings and wealth maximizing “formula” and ultimately create wealth and skyrocket our net worth even faster.
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