Sunday, May 19, 2013
On April 18 2011 I bought 68 shares of Altria, at 26.50 a share. Today, MO sits at 37.44 a share, a pretty nice increase. Having bought a few shares here and there as the months passed by over the last two years, I now have 209 shares at a value of 7820.87. Along with the obvious substantial capital appreciation I have received some very nice dividends, and over the last two years, much appreciated dividend increases. This is by far my largest position, and therein lies the greatest risk in my portfolio. However, I wont be selling any shares. I will diversify by buying into other companies. As the rest of my portfolio grows over time--hopefully--my Altria stake wont loom so large within it. I have a good friend of mine at work, a smoker, who told me a few days ago all the cigarette companies are doomed---yes, I know, consider the irony of him telling me that, as he puffed away on his doomstick--and I spent the next few minutes telling him why he was mistaken, eliciting a blank, sullen stare. I have no idea if he even understood my arguments, so I thought maybe I would post them here, see what others might think of them. Maybe Im the crazy one:}.
Well, after a few rather hectic months to start 2013, I finally feel like my financial situation is starting to return to normal. The first two and half months of the year I frankly saved very little. So far this year, I've only added about 1200 dollars to my self managed brokerage accounts. Part of that is due to my decision to build up a better emergency fund. At the beginning of the year I was sending my extra income to my savings account for that reason, but I found myself for various and sundry reasons withdrawing some of those funds to meet obligations I hadnt anticipated. One week I would happily stash 500 dollars into my savings, and two weeks later find myself withdrawing four hundred for a vehicle repair. That was the way 2013 started off.
But, the last two months or so I've been able to stash away quite a bit of money again. My emergency fund is nearing the 5000 dollar goal I set at the beginning of the year. I have been very good about chipping in an extra 100 dollars to my mortgage every month so far, which was another goal of mine. And I am still contributing 11% of my gross pay into my 401k every payday. When I add it all together, I've still managed to save a good bit of money despite some difficulties.
I also utilized Craigslist to find a roommate. I rented out one room for 350 dollars a month, and so far this has worked out quite well for both of us. He works in the medical field, reliably pays his rent on time, is easy to get along with, and seems rather content with the arrangement. I admit to being nervous about this at first. But one day I would like to buy some rental property, and I look at this as a good oppurtunity to see if Im cut out for it. If I cant manage a tenant in my own home, how could I hope to manage one somewhere else?
My mortgage is 531.00 a month, so my roommate basically helps me pay for half of that, once one factors in the cost of a higher electric and water bill. Frankly, I was inundated with calls expressing interest in the room, which surprised me somewhat. I guess people are really hurting out there.
Also helping smooth over the beginning of the year rough patch I hit was the general rise in the markets this year. Even through my benign neglect, my portfolio has continued to grow. Of course, I care much more about my dividend income than I do about market gyrations, but its always nice to see things moving in the right direction.
I will post some more thoughs on rental and dividend income shortly. I think its smart to look for ways to boost your income in these times. Relying on one job, or one source of income in these days is a risky path, and for average folks like me, things probably wont be getting any easier any time soon.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
After an unannounced hiatus from blogging, I have returned. I'm not wading ashore like Douglas McArthur, and I dont see any paparrazi around to herlad my return, but nevertheles, here I am. I can blame the military for my absence to some degree, since I had to spend two weeks at Ft Stewart in early March for my summer Annual Training. But the reality is that the largest reason for my absence was simply being busy as hell getting some personal and financial stuff straight in my life. In truth, that is not a proper excuse, but it is what it is. Thankfully, in case anyone was wondering, my net worth has increased in my absence, mostly due to the continued rise in the markets on all fronts.
Not sure where the markets are going from here, but hopefully continuing to invest in dividend paying stocks and living within my means will continue to pay off for me and everyone else out there. A little over two years ago, before I started this down this investment path, I had a few thousand dollars in the bank, was looking at a divorce and was living in a one bedroom apartment. Now I have 35k saved in various accounts and my own home. Yes, it has a mortgage, but the payment is less than my rent was, and thats including taxes, insurance and HOA dues. The truth is, rent is outrageous around here. I have friends who are paying nearly double to rent compared to my mortgage. I know I am blessed and grateful to be able to work, save and invest.
Its amazing to me how many people have no idea how to invest. Worse, they have no idea how to save, or live within their means. You simply cant invest if you cant save. And you cant save if you dont have the foresight to avoid living week to week.
Anyway, I've had a little two month blip where my finances got a little out of whack. I'll share a bit more about that in my next few posts. But Im looking forward to picking up where I left off.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
I was told this first appeared on the Ellen show, but I found it on AceofSpades along with a hilarious video about cat trapping you have to watch all the way through. Pretty awesome, and no cats were harmed---as far as I could tell.
Just felt like throwing this one in too:}
Saturday, February 2, 2013
In January I brought home net pay of 3017.01, and managed to save 650.00 for a savings rate of just 21.5%, far short of my stated goal of 30% savings of net take home pay. However, I am still getting settled into my new home, and had some unexpected bills in that regard. So I am not stressing out too much over my poor performance this month. I expect to do much better in the following months. The average savings rate in the US was 6.5% in December according to the US Department of Commerce:
The personal saving rate -- personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal
income -- was 6.5 percent in December, compared with 4.1 percent in November.
So compared to most everyone else, Im way above average, yet still far below where I hope to be at the end of the year. Note that the government defines personal savings rate as savings of disposable personal income--DPI. So this doesnt include total net pay. My calculations include every penny I earn, after taxes. If I simply counted disposable income, my savings rate would be higher, but somewhat misleading, in my opinion. Part of saving aggressively is paring our bills down so we have more disposable income, with which I try to invest and save as much as I can while still living a healthy, active life.
I would imagine, if the governement calculated each Americans savings rate as a proportion of their net take home pay, the percentage would be tragically much lower, and 6.5% is already pretty low.
Of course, as we all know, the average American worker's take home pay was reduced by about 100$ a month thanks to the tax rate going back up at the beginning of the year, but thats a story for another day.
I expect to do much better in the savings department next month, and hope to report some better numbers. As for my investments, I added to my position in MO, but otherwise, it was a quiet month for me.
Just wanted to take a moment to recognize Realty Income(O) for its whopping 19.3% dividend increase in January. I meant to talk about it during my dividend income report. Here is a link to their investing page which has some good links as well. This company has some amazing numbers behind it when it comes to taking care of it shareholders. Here is a Seeking Alpha article discussing the dividend raise and the reasons behind it. Whenever I discuss this company, it always seems to be near or at its all time high, and I always caution it may not be the best possible buy right now. Its P/E is 51 as of today, which is extraordinarily high. So, proceed with caution, as always. However, its a monthly payer, has a 5% yield, has been raising its payout for a very long time, and seems almost fanatically obsessed with taking care of its shareholders. Its one of my core holdings, and I am not squeamish about buying more in the future.
Friday, February 1, 2013
This might be a good time to delve back into my military background to address the hubub on TV recently over the introduction of women into combat units. As this NYT article makes clear women fighting for our freedom is a pretty common occurence. I could link a hundred articles illustrating the ability of women to perform admirably, courageously and heroically in combat situations.
But there is a difference between being in combat, and training, living, breathing and surviving in a combat unit. I myself was in combat situations overseas. But I wasnt in a combat unit. Our mission wasnt to seek out the enemy. It was a more mundane, but by no means safe job. Our reaction to contact, was to pull our VIPs out, and get out of Dodge.
At 44 I am in decent shape for my age. But a woman would have to be in absolutlely pristine shape to bear up under all the weight of just the gear alone, never mind hiking up the slopes and peaks of a place like Afghanistan. I think most civilians have no idea how difficult life can be in a combat unit compared to a support unit. I have no doubt women can handle themselves in a firefight. I've seen them do it. And I dont think the presence of females will be a detriment to morale and welfare. Its actually a pleasure having some females around to talk to from time to time. If you helicoptered a bunch of gung ho women into a combat zone just before the enemy struck, I have a feeling they would fight hard and well. But the problem is how do they handle the thousands of days, hours, ruck marches, training evolutions, and just the ball busting amount of gear the average infantry soldier has to fight under? I guess we're about to find out. God bless em all. Male or female, all our fellow soldiers deserve a pat on the back, thats for certain.