My Big Stock Market Investment Idea (Pt. 1)

When I was 20 years old, I worked at a bank as a teller. I made $9 a hour, which was a pretty big deal for me since all of my jobs up to that point paid the minimum wage($5.25) Aside from the massive pay bump one of the other things that stood out to about that job was my relationship with the bank president. We became friendly and would talk about the stock market. This was the late 90’s and everyone was investing in dot com stocks and making a fortune. The president was telling me about some of his investments, I told him I was interested in getting into the game and he recommended a few stocks to me.

One of them was EDIG, they were involved in MP3 music players, what we now call Ipods. marketI bought thats stock at $2 1/4 (stocks used to trade in fractions) and sold it five months later for $20.00. I turned my $1700 into $17,000! This is the greatest things in the world I thought. Looking back, I realized that it was actually a curse. That easy win tricked me into thinking that I was smart. That all I had to do was pick a stock and watch it take off. It’s so simple.

Well, shortly after that the dot com bubble burst and I wasted a lot of time and money trying to recapture that success. I was always chasing what I call my three home run strategy. If I can turn $5,000 into $1,00,000 and then turn that into $2,000,000 I have won. While I will still concede that such a thing might be possible, I think its about as likely as getting hit by lightning three times. Trying to find three companies that go from unknown to stock market darlings is a frustrating, money losing, waste of time.

Over the years I have observed the market, paying extra attention to what seem to work and one of the best strategies in my experience is to find companies that have a long healthy track record, but for some reason or other they are experiencing some type of crisis. Not a decline mind you, I am not taking about buying Kodak stock when everyone is the world owns a digital camera. I mean a sudden shock to a company. Here are a few examples. I will mention the company, the crisis, and what you would have today if you invested $10,000 in that stock back then. Continue reading

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Republic Wireless Now Offers the Moto X

If you have never heard of Republic Wireless your are not alone, they are a small fish in a giant cellular pond. I met a rep from this company at a trade show in NYC last spring. He told me about their business model to use wifi to make calls, send texts, and connect to the internet. By using this free source of connectivity Republic Wireless can offer customers a dramatically lower prices compared to more traditional carriers. When I heard this pitch my first thought was “How often do I connect to wifi?”

Over the following days and weeks I began to notice that I was often around a wifi signal. The majority of my week is spent at work or at home. Each of these location has a connection, so for me Republic Wireless might be a good option.

How about when you don’t have a signal? Good question, when you are out and about and wifi is just not an option, the phone reverts to a standard 3G signal, courtesy of the Sprint cellular network. It appears that these guys have everything covered.

So what’s the catch? Well, when I first wrote about this company my biggest reservation was the phone selection. To start there is none, you had one option the Motorola Defy, it was a good phone but not great. The short comings of this device made me wary, but that has all changed.

moto xStarting in November, Republic wireless is now offering the Moto X, the “made in the USA” rock star handset that is taking the smartphone market by storm. Republic Wireless will be offering the Moto X for $299 and it now has four new plans to boot.

They offer a $5 a month wifi only plan, you phone will only work with a WIFI connection. price 3 If you move to the highest priced plan, the $40 a month option, you get unlimited talk text and data as well as 4G cellular service. The range of these plans and the incredibly low cost of each should be a hit with customers. When you add a great phone like the Moto X to the mix, you have a pretty impressive alternative the bigger higher priced carriers. 

If you are looking to slash the cost of you wireless bill, you might want to look into Republic Wireless. Their out of the box thinking could save you hundred of dollars a year.

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Made In the U.S.A. Monday – Carhartt Men’s Duck Detroit Jacket

Fall has arrived, slowly creeping in day by day. The afternoons are still pleasant and sunny, but the night are growing cold. For me its time to drag out my old college trunk, and pull out the long sleeve shirts and cold weather clothing. This year I have a slight problem, one item is missing, a light jacket. My old one is too worn out. The cuffs of the sleeves are frayed, the color has faded from black to dark purple. Its time has passed. A  new one must be found. 

I have searched the web extensively and found a suitable if not superior replacement. My criteria was quality, price, and of course country of origin. I found several jackets companies, some weren’t my style, some were too pricey. I can’t see paying 300 dollars for a jacket, I’m not an avid skier or hiker. I paired down the available options to a final selection, Carhartt. carharttAnyone who works with their hand or has a friend or relative who does is familiar with this brand. It has an excellent reputation that goes back decades. 

Carhartt is a family run company with a history that reaches back over 100 years. Their clothes are designed in Michigan and made in Tennessee and Kentucky. A company that began with four sewing machines and five employees now has 17 plants worldwide. Carhartt is a recognizable brand with and excellent reputation.  I have owned several items of Carhartt clothing and have always been impressed by their durability. 

This made my selection of a replacement coat any easy one. It always goes back to what I have been saying about buying American, all you have to do is look. I searched through their catalogue, making sure to select the from jackets that are “made in the USA”(some aren’t). 

I read some customer ratings on detroit jacketseveral sites and paired my selection down to the “Duck Detroit Jacket”. It has excellent reviews, a strong sturdy zipper, a good lining, and ample pockets. My only reservation is the cut. This jacket comes right down to your waste, most jackets I’ve owned seem to go past. It seems to look good on the models, but I wonder how it would fit on me. I will have to run it by “The Bride” for a final decision.  

Either way, I a certain that my new jacket will be “made in America”, from Carharrt. A reliable brand making superior products.

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It Begins! The PiggyBankBuilder Wednesday Giveaway!

The last contest had a crush of entrants right at the end. I am hoping we keep that momentum going and hit the 250 target that I set for the last contest. Please remember that you can get entries daily for tweeting.  Spread the word.

chilis 73The prize for this contest will continue with the ever popular Chili’s gift card. The great thing about this card is that it can be used at any of the restaurants in the Chili’s chain.  They include, the Macaroni Grill, On the Border, Maggiano’s, and of course Chili’s. Hopefully you live near one of these fine dining establishments and can share this card with a date or companion. 

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Drum Roll Please… And the Winner Is…

Success! Thank you to all that entered, our last contest had one of the highest amount of entrants of any we have ever had. It didn’t reach the 250 mark, but it came pretty darn close. Thank you again to all who entered. 

ChilisThe Winner of our latest PiggyBankBuilder Wednesday Giveaway is Mary from Clayton, North Carolina. Congratulations to Mary. I hope she enjoys her gift card.

As for the other entrants, chin up, our next contest will launch shortly. 

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Live Long and Prosper

Earlier in the month I mentioned the peer to peer lending site Prosper. prosper lendingThis site pairs people who are looking for loans with investors interested in lending money. It is of course riskier than putting money in a savings account, but the interest is much higher (1% vs 8 or 9%). I have read about a few people who have given this site a try with relatively positive results. I decided to check it out for myself, I opened an account and deposited $100. 

The entire process was very quick and easy. Linking my bank account and sending money took minutes and in a few days I was up and ready to roll. The site offers an automated “quick invest” option. You select your loan criteria and the site automatically selects loans that fit those parameters. If you had a large sum of money or you had a large number of loans turning over this might be the best method and in the future I may consider this option.

This time out I decided to individually select which loans I would fund. bill paySince $25 is the minimum amount you can invest I choose to spread my 100 dollars out across four loans. Most of the loans available are for debt consolidation, a few for medical expenses, and a few for business expenses. I ended up choosing all debt consolidation loans. I didn’t plan it this way, but since 90% of the loans are in this category it’s not that unusual.

The amount of information Prosper provides you about the borrower is impressive. I primarily used the borrowers salary and occupation as my main criteria for selecting, but if I noticed a lot of delinquencies I usually walked away. Two of my loans were rated “A” by Prosper, one was rated “B” and one was “E”. The lower the grade the more likely the loan is to default, the higher the interest rate. My “E” loan has a 28% interest rate. If the borrower doesn’t default it will provide a nice yield.

I would normally stay away from such high risks, but I wanted to select a wider range of loans to see how they perform over time.  As of right now all of the loans I have invested in are fully funded and are “pending review”. According to the site, this process normally takes 7 business days. Once they are approved I will be off and rolling.  So far my experience with this site has been very positive, if it continues I would like to invest $100-200 a month here until I built my balance up to $5000. 

Once I reach that goal I will reevaluate the situation and proceed form there. My biggest concern going forward is the economy. If things continue to stagnate or get worse it is entirely possible that borrowers will begin to default. You should always keep that in mind when making this type of investment. 

As things stand I am pleased with my “Prosper” experience and will continue to invest with them in the short term. I will update you on my results in the coming months.

 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Vitamix Blenders

“Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, it’s the title of a compelling 2010 documentary, but sadly it’s also they way many people are living their lives. I saw this film on Netflix 2 years ago and I can’t recommend it enough. It really opened my eyes to the relationship between diet and health. fat sick and nearly deadThe subject in the film was an extreme case, but the message is universal. We are eating an alarmingly growing amount of processed foods and an ever shrinking amount of fruits and vegetables. 

It turns out Mother did know best and the simple advice, “Eat your vegetables” is the answer to many of our weight problems. Joe Cross, the subject of “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” went from over 300 pounds and in horrible health (he was taking 6 prescriptions to treat the effects of his condition) to a 100+ pound lighter man, healthy and drug free. How did he do this? Juicing. For 2 months he abandoned processed food and drank fruit and vegetable smoothies.

His transformation was incredible. To watch a man go from constantly sick to energetic and healthy was a real eye opener. It made me reconsider my own eating habits and I highly recommend the film.

Now I am not obese, but if I am honest, I don’t eat very well and if I am brutally honest I almost never eat vegetables. Does this mean I am going to embark on a 60 day juice cleanse? No. For my own situation I think such a measure is overkill. 

I have decided to replace one meal a week with a glass of fruit and vegetable juice every month of the next 7 months. I have 21 meals a week, seven months from now seven of them will be replaced by a health serving of juice. To accomplish this task I will need a blender, it will have to be tough and reliable. Fortunately for me, “the Bride”, and avid juicer, has bought just the right tool for the job, an American made Vitamix blender.

Vitamix traces their history back almost 100 years to the beginning of blending. The first commercial to demonstrate how to use a blender was conducted by Vitamix. Their blenders are used in juice shops and kitchens all over American and a known for their longevity and reliability. Many Vitamix blenders come with a 5-7 year warranty, that’s how confident they are in their product. 

Vitamix manufactures their product in Cleveland Ohio The CEO is Jodi Berg , a fourth generation leader of this family owned company. When asked about outsourcing or moving production to a cheaper area, Jodi said she never even considered such an idea.

“We really love the workforce in this area,” Berg said. “As my grandfather said, ‘Cleveland is home to the hardest working people anywhere,’ and I have come to agree with that.”

I agree with Jodi and the public seems to as well. Vitamix products have an amazing reputation and often receive very high ratings and reviews. VITAMIX 5200“The Bride” and I own a Vitamix 5200,  Not only does she love it, but Amazon reviews have given it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. At $456.95 it is expensive, but think about the amount of stress and strain a blender has to endure. Do you want a blender that will burn out and fail after a few months? Or would you prefer one that will last and last and is warrantied for 7 years? I’d rather by one good blender and pay more, than have to constantly replace cheaper blenders after they fail. 

If you are looking for a more affordable Vitamix, perhaps the 1300 turboblend will work for you. It cost $378.95, has a five year warranty and also has excellent reviews. 

We love our Vitamix 5200. I was shocked at the amount of things you can do with it. Here I was thinking that it was simply a blender. According to the manual, you can use it to make soup, smoothies, ice cream, crush ice, churn butter, whip cream, grind flour, knead dough, and plenty more. It more of a food processor than just a simple blender. 

If you love to cook or you are like me and are looking to add more healthy ingredients into your diet, consider a Vitamix, made to last, Made in the U.S.A. 

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Free Snickers Bites

If there is one thing in this world that we have a lot of varieties of, it’s candy. Whenever I walk down the aisles in my local supermarket, I am shocked by the overwhelming cornucopia of choices. Could you imagine how difficult it must be to think up a new candy? I remember when Reese’s Sticks came out I couldn’t believe it. How do they do it?

snickersbitesWell, they did it again. I give you “Snickers Bites” and if you hurry (supplies are limited), you can give yourself a coupon for a FREE sample. A sweet treat to start your week. All you have to do is follow the link and like them on Facebook . Offer expires soon, don’t delay. You’re Welcome. 

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The PiggyBankBuilder Portfolio – What Could Have Been?

I ended my fictitious investment portfolio back in June. The reason was simple, losses. question-markThe portfolio hit its loss limit and in an effort to preserve capital I bailed. Was that the right move? Should have stuck to my guns? Let’s take a look and see where things would be right now. 

  1. ishares Silver Trust(SLV) – Purchase Price: $29.48, number of shares 42. Current Price: $21.42 Loss of $338.52
  2. Cablevision(CVC) – Purchase Price $15.05, number of shares 82. Current Price: $17.65 Gain of $213.20
  3. Alpha Nat. Resources(ANR) – Purchase Price $10.28, number of shares 117. Current Price: $6.21 Loss of $476.19
  4. FaceBook(FB) – Purchase Price $29.22, number of shares 42. Current Price: $44.31 Gain of 633.78

The total net of this fake portfolio is: $32.27. In the time that has passed since June I would have earned back all of the money that I lost and would now be in the green. This is the madness of investing, it can be so hard to know what the right thing to do is. I will return to this portfolio one or two more times before the year is out and track the status. Perhaps this will help me make better decisions next year. 

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Walking the Walk – Buying American

Every monday I write an article featuring an American made product. They are for different needs, they come from different states. Some are from companies that are over 100 years old, some from start ups. The common thread for all of these items is that they are “Made in the USA”. I do this because I believe in supporting American workers and I refuse to listen to anyone that speaks against that strongly held notion. Don’t tell me that we no longer make things here, or that our products just aren’t any good. Buy one of these items and use it. I’m sure you will change your mind.

I have purchased several American made products and I have been very happy with them. It began with a pair of New Balance sneakers, spread through my wardrobe, and continued on into the rest of my house. I want to focus on two of the products that I wrote about and then purchased recently.

First up is my new collection of Wigwam Socks. Wigwam sock drawFor about $90 I replaced my old socks with 36 pairs of new ones. Now instead of having to match up 12+ different pairs of socks on laundry day I only have to match up two. I have 24 pairs of no show socks and 12 pairs of quarter socks. I am saving myself hours of hassle every month.

As for the socks, they are great. The fit is good, the material is comfortable, and I am very happy with this purchase. I paid the same for these socks as I would have for imported ones. The upside is that my new socks are made in America and they are of a higher quality.

A larger purchase was my 100% Maine Woolens Blanketcotton blanket from Maine Woolens. I wrote about this last month. It is a queen size tuscany, light blue blanket. It cost me $147.90 with tax and shipping.

I put it on my bed a few days ago and “the Bride” and I just love it. Its soft, and comfortable, you can feel the quality when you hold it. I realize it’s a bit pricey, but for me its worth it. Many companies use synthetic blends in their blankets. I prefer cotton and that costs a little bit more.

Finding these products, or any American made products is easier then you think. The next time you need to buy something, enter it and the phrase “made in the USA”. Often times the hardest things about buying American made is finding the products in the first place. Trust me though, they are out there.  

Three years ago, I hardly owned anything that was made in America. Today I never leave the house without wearing at least one domestically made piece of clothing. My dishes are made in America, so is my garbage can, my blender, my skillet, my boots, the list get longer every year. I’ve never regretting a single purchase, I know my money is going to American workers and American companies, and I encourage you do the same.

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