May 7, 2012

You have worked hard to establish a great career--no small feat during an economic recession--and now you are ready to put your money to work for you. But where to begin? Should you hire a financial broker, or become an independent investor? Play it safe with bonds, or play the stock market?  Before you resort to stuffing cash under a mattress, take these five steps toward investing…straight to the bank. 

1. Get Financially Literate. Some investment terms you should know include:

Stock/ Equities - If you own a stock, you own part of the company. A stock is evidenced by a paper certificate.

Securities - Includes stocks, bonds, and bank deposits. 

Bond - A bond is a debt investment in which an investor loans money to a corporate or government entity that borrows the money for a defined period of time at a fixed interest rate. The main categories of bonds are corporate bonds, municipal bonds, and U.S. Treasury bonds.

Market Capitalization - Also known as “market cap.” It is calculated by multiplying the current price per share of a stock with the number of shares outstanding.

Mutual Fund - An investment company that combines the money from a large group of investors to buy stocks and other investments.

Dividends - A portion of a company's profits that is paid out to shareholders on a quarterly or annual basis. 

These are the most commonly used terms in investment and knowing what they mean will help you understand stock roundups in The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and Dow Jones. When I first tried to calculate a company’s market cap it took me two hours, simply because I didn’t know what it meant. Now that I know the lingo, I can look at an analyst report and easily follow the progress of a stock. I’m no expert, but I know enough to play the game. 

Photobucket  Photobucket  Photobucket

After brushing up on your fiscal vocabulary, read Lois P. Frankel’s Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich: 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make with Money.  I love the advice she offers women about diving into investment and not waiting on “Prince Charming” to take care of their finances. Use the workbooks and self-evaluations in the book to establish and monitor your progress toward financial goals. 

Another great read is Douglas R. Andrew’s Millionaire by Thirty: The Quickest Path to Early Financial Independence. Andrew claims that young professionals can achieve financial independence at an early age by investing. He suggests alternatives to the traditional 401k to make the dream of early retirement a reality.

The Richest Man in Babylon uses parables and layman terms to deliver investment basics and emphasize the importance of growing your money. My dad gave it to me when I was only seven and I often revisit the principals outlined in this book. The common sense advice helps keep me in check when I’m tempted to splurge during a sale at H&M.

Also, get in the habit of scanning Investors Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo Finance for the latest news and market trends.

2. Do Your Research. Before you invest in anything, do your homework. Publicly traded companies want your money, so they make it easy to find pertinent information. Check out their websites to find earnings reports, mergers and acquisitions news and stock quotes. Knowing everything you can about a potential investment is crucial to making a wise decision. Supplement your research with facts from Hoover's Company Profiles. This is an invaluable web resource that offers additional material about company management and executive profiles. 

3. Stay Connected. Once you have done your research and decided which companies you want to invest in, it is smart to stay in touch with an online financial community. Social media is a great tool for networking with investment pros and getting the inside scoop on smart buys. Try Stocktwit, a social networking platform where you can “share ideas and learn from passionate investors and traders.”

4. Don’t Invest What You Should be Saving. Investments should be a part of your overall financial strategy; however, it is important to establish good saving habits first. Create an emergency fund, open a retirement savings account and pay off outstanding credit card debt before playing the stock market. Pay yourself first and you should have extra money to invest in no time. 

5. Diversify Your Portfolio. Once you have savings and understand your investment options, it is important not to place all your eggs in one basket. Diversification is the practice of spreading money among different investments to reduce risk. A well balanced portfolio of investments is more likely to withstand fluctuations in the volatile financial market. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission offers great advice on steps you can take to diversify your investments for maximum returns. 

Investing is key to financial independence. You want the freedom to travel, buy a home or retire early, but savings alone won’t get you there. The average annual percentage gain for a high-yield savings account is one percent. Compare this to the average 10 percent earned on stocks. When you save, your money doesn’t work for you and you will only have as much money as you set aside from your salary. When you invest, your money grows by earning interest. So, determine your financial goals, study up and take your first steps toward a wealthy future.

Published in Personal Finance
Monday, 24 October 2011 08:08

Dating Diary #2: Three's A Crowd

October 24, 2011

When I met Jamal he was coming out of Rite-Aid and I was on my way in. I know, I know... Rite-Aid is such a weird place to meet a guy. I was on my way to get birth control and he had probably just purchased some condoms.  But we met somewhere in between. He was an aspiring actor (which meant he didn’t have a job) but he seemed smart and sweet so I said yes when he asked me if he could call me sometime.

We talked a few times on the phone and he seemed very outgoing and funny. I was excited when he asked if he could take me out to dinner. We made big plans to go to a Cuban restaurant for our first date. Saturday night arrived and he came to my house to pick me up in his two door coup. Right off the bat I loved the way he flirted with me and made me feel so feminine and sexy.

We were joking and laughing in the car as he turned onto a main street. He started looking back toward the corner and quietly whispered, “Shit.” I looked back too thinking the po-po’s were tripping, but I didn’t see any cars behind us. Just some folks standing on the corner waiting for the bus. When I turned back around Jamal was pulling over. He turned to me looking stressed and said, “listen that was my ex over there on the corner waiting for the bus. I’m so sorry to do this to you but I can’t let her do that.” So I say, “oh, so you are going to give her some cab fare?” He goes, “no, I’m going to give her a ride. Can you get out so she can get in the back?”

If you could have seen the look on my face.

He slowly backs up to the curb he saw his ex on and rolled down MY window to talk to her. “Keisha! Keisha! Hey, let me give you a ride.” Keisha looks at me and then glares at him. “Jamal are you crazy?!” In my head I said, “I was thinking the same thing, girl.” Jamal said, “look I’m not just going to leave you out here. Get in the car and let me take you home.” She stood there looking pissed and indecisive. Jamal said, “Keisha, come on! You know you don’t want to be out here by yourself. Get in the car.”  I wanted to be like, “let that chick ride the bus!” But I think the shock of the strange and painfully awkward turn my date had taken made me mute.

She finally got in the car and the three of us began our journey to Awkwardland. The car ride started off quiet but so damn tense I expected this chick to reach up and choke Jamal at any given time. Then she started talking, “for real Jamal? This is how you do? You just gonna pick me up on your little date? Huh? Huh Jamal?”

I was beginning to think that Jamal and Keisha had some unresolved issues… I did my best to stare straight ahead and not make eye contact with anyone. I started thinking, what if she wants to fight me over this jerk? What if she goes off and kills us both in this tiny ass car? Why didn’t I stay home and watch that episode of So You Think You Can Dance

“After everything we been through Jamal? This is how you do me?” Keisha was saying. “Keisha, don’t start! We already talked about this. Let me just take you home.“ Of course, because God likes a good laugh, Keisha lived on the OTHER side of town. It was the longest car ride of my life. Keisha kept promising Jamal untold horrors of retribution, and Jamal kept trying to get her to shut up. I didn’t say anything. My cheeks were on fire from the heat of my mortification. I began to pray, “Lord, I’ll never pick up another guy from the drugstore if you just let me get home in one piece...”

We finally made it to Keisha’s house and she said, “Yeah, I got something for your ass next time I see you! You got some damn nerve.” And with those sweet parting words she got out of the car. Jamal said, “I’ll be right back,” and got out to follow her up the path to her house. I debated starting the car and leaving both their crazy asses there.

When he finally came back and got in the car we both sat there for a moment in silence. He said, “I’m sorry. I was just trying to do the right thing…” “Mmmhmm,” I said.  He asked me if I still wanted to go to dinner or if he should take me home. I told him to just take me home and shuddered thinking about all the corners between here and the restaurant and all the ex girlfriends that could be waiting there for us.

Jamal insisted on at least taking me to get ice cream before he took me home. Sigh. While it seemed like he had good intentions, I couldn’t forget the surprise and then murderous rage that filled his ex’s eyes when she saw me. I really don’t think she knew she was his ex. I never called Jamal again. And I learned that if anyone ever asks you what super power you would wish for you should say invisibility. Always pick invisibility.


Published in Dating
Monday, 26 September 2011 10:01

Investing 101 | Baby Steps to Investing

September 26, 2011

You have worked hard to establish a great career--no small feat during an economic recession--and now you are ready to put your money to work for you. But where to begin? Should you hire a financial broker, or become an independent investor? Play it safe with bonds, or play the stock market?  Before you resort to stuffing cash under a mattress, take these five steps toward investing…straight to the bank. 

1. Get Financially Literate. Some investment terms you should know include:

Stock/ Equities - If you own a stock, you own part of the company. A stock is evidenced by a paper certificate.

Securities - Includes stocks, bonds, and bank deposits. 

Bond - A bond is a debt investment in which an investor loans money to a corporate or government entity that borrows the money for a defined period of time at a fixed interest rate. The main categories of bonds are corporate bonds, municipal bonds, and U.S. Treasury bonds.

Market Capitalization - Also known as “market cap.” It is calculated by multiplying the current price per share of a stock with the number of shares outstanding.

Mutual Fund - An investment company that combines the money from a large group of investors to buy stocks and other investments.

Dividends - A portion of a company's profits that is paid out to shareholders on a quarterly or annual basis. 

These are the most commonly used terms in investment and knowing what they mean will help you understand stock roundups in The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and Dow Jones. When I first tried to calculate a company’s market cap it took me two hours, simply because I didn’t know what it meant. Now that I know the lingo, I can look at an analyst report and easily follow the progress of a stock. I’m no expert, but I know enough to play the game. 

Photobucket  Photobucket  Photobucket

After brushing up on your fiscal vocabulary, read Lois P. Frankel’s Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich: 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make with Money.  I love the advice she offers women about diving into investment and not waiting on “Prince Charming” to take care of their finances. Use the workbooks and self-evaluations in the book to establish and monitor your progress toward financial goals. 

Another great read is Douglas R. Andrew’s Millionaire by Thirty: The Quickest Path to Early Financial Independence. Andrew claims that young professionals can achieve financial independence at an early age by investing. He suggests alternatives to the traditional 401k to make the dream of early retirement a reality.

The Richest Man in Babylon uses parables and layman terms to deliver investment basics and emphasize the importance of growing your money. My dad gave it to me when I was only seven and I often revisit the principals outlined in this book. The common sense advice helps keep me in check when I’m tempted to splurge during a sale at H&M.

Also, get in the habit of scanning Investors Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal and Yahoo Finance for the latest news and market trends.

2. Do Your Research. Before you invest in anything, do your homework. Publicly traded companies want your money, so they make it easy to find pertinent information. Check out their websites to find earnings reports, mergers and acquisitions news and stock quotes. Knowing everything you can about a potential investment is crucial to making a wise decision. Supplement your research with facts from Hoover's Company Profiles. This is an invaluable web resource that offers additional material about company management and executive profiles. 

3. Stay Connected. Once you have done your research and decided which companies you want to invest in, it is smart to stay in touch with an online financial community. Social media is a great tool for networking with investment pros and getting the inside scoop on smart buys. Try Stocktwit, a social networking platform where you can “share ideas and learn from passionate investors and traders.”

4. Don’t Invest What You Should be Saving. Investments should be a part of your overall financial strategy; however, it is important to establish good saving habits first. Create an emergency fund, open a retirement savings account and pay off outstanding credit card debt before playing the stock market. Pay yourself first and you should have extra money to invest in no time. 

5. Diversify Your Portfolio. Once you have savings and understand your investment options, it is important not to place all your eggs in one basket. Diversification is the practice of spreading money among different investments to reduce risk. A well balanced portfolio of investments is more likely to withstand fluctuations in the volatile financial market. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission offers great advice on steps you can take to diversify your investments for maximum returns. 

Investing is key to financial independence. You want the freedom to travel, buy a home or retire early, but savings alone won’t get you there. The average annual percentage gain for a high-yield savings account is one percent. Compare this to the average 10 percent earned on stocks. When you save, your money doesn’t work for you and you will only have as much money as you set aside from your salary. When you invest, your money grows by earning interest. So, determine your financial goals, study up and take your first steps toward a wealthy future.

Published in Personal Finance