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Table of Contents

Great estates may venture more, but little boats should keep near shore. Benjamin Franklin

In the following sections I write about my general investing experience and what I've learned. There is a list of my (reasonably) current investments, and external links to reference web sites I've found interesting or useful (note: external sites are not under my control and I am not responsible for their content or behavior). Some of these external sites aren't about investing; but the information on them can affect your credit ratings, and your employment prospects, so I choose to include the sites in this page.

My Investing and Money Management Experiences: The story of how I learned about money management and investing.
My Investments: A recent listing of my portfolio (kept reasonably up to date).
General Principals of Investing: Quotations from some famous investors.
Credit and Debt Related Sites: If you've got questions, want your credit report, or need credit management advise, try one of these sites.
Interactive Utilities: Interactive sites that let you calculate interest, evaluate stocks, etc.
Dictionaries & Glossaries: If you don't understand what the financial term means, this section may help.
Government: Government sites on the national debt and various regulatory agencies.
Exchanges and Rating Services: The major US exchanges and corporate ratings services.
General Reference Material: References on taxes, stocks, finance, and investment.
News Sources: Unbiased news and information sources on the market.
Suggested reading: Books on financial management and how Wall street gurus, and one of the U.S. founding fathers, made their fortunes.

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My Investing and Money Management Experiences

A feast is made for laughter and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things. Ecclesiastes 10:19

Portfolio history

Currently, like a lot of people, I'm investing for my eventual retirement (June 17th, 2025), which gives me a reasonable time horizon to ride out market fluctuation. I have chosen to use savings, insurance, bond funds, mutual funds and individual stocks to control financial risks and bring growth and diversification to my portfolio. I follow a plan of long term value investing, long term being defined as looking ahead more than three years. To date I have had some success (because the general market has been doing well) and some failures (anyone want World Com shares or bonds?). Overall there have been more gains than losses so I have nothing to complain about. I didn't start out knowing much about the market. Rather it has been a process of educating myself, working diligently at my chosen career, and careful financial planning.

In looking back over 20+ years in my career and my time spent gaining an education, I realize that I've been investing in more than stocks and bonds. I've been investing in myself. First, I invested in myself by going to college and studying for my future career. Education and good grades are not do not always translate into great jobs, or into a person doing their job well; however, from my individual perspective, education is a good way to prepare for an unknown future and from an employer's perspective, grades are a way to see if the candidate has a consistent track record of working hard for a long term goal. Education laid the foundation for my career, and vastly increased my career opportunities and earning potential.

Free Software?

I don't accept financial or intangible benefits from anyone. I do partner with, and recommend, Giveaway of the Day. If you need good software at a great price (yep, available free for a 24 hour period, no free upgrades or technical support) this deal is for you. I've downloaded tools for disk partitioning, 3D home modeling, screen savers, etc. The installation isn't difficult and the software is a fully functional commercial version, no criple or trial ware.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not a professional financial adviser, career councilor, money manager, market analyst, or stock broker. I have no professional training in financial or investment matters. Any advise, suggestions, or comments, are my personal opinion and may not be suitable for you and your financial situation. No one, including myself, can guarantee the future performance of any investment. Investing in any financial instrument always has an associated risk. You could loose part or all of your money, and in some types of investments you could loose more than your initial investment. Only you can determine where and how to invest your money. It is your responsibility to make your own informed investment decisions and to accept the consequences of those decisions.

I first became interested in investing because my mother took a college class for her degree. While she studied, I'd help by quizzing her on the various terms and their meaning. I learned about interest rates, the "Rule of 72", and the use of a long time horizon when investing. Later (when I was looking at colleges to attend) I got to play a stock market simulation that brought back some of what I had learned. Despite all this knowledge, much of my time after college was spent trying to stay ahead of the bills and paying off the loans for my car and my two year degree in electronics.

After college, I went to work at a good paying job, but no matter what I did, there was always something that seemed to eat up any additional money I had at the end of the month. I tried getting a second, after hours, job and while that did add more income; it wasn't enough to meet unexpected expenses that sometimes occurred (i.e. car repairs, etc.). Eventually I decided to go back to college and get my B.S. in Computer Science, then later an M.S. in Software Engineering. These increased my earning potential; but also put me in a lot of debit for student loans.

While I was at the university, it seemed at first, that investing in myself wasn't leading to a lot of financial progress (later that perception would prove very false). Worse yet, I began to feel like all I was doing was working and studying all the time. To cheer myself up, I would go out and splurge on items I didn't need. This would set back my financial plans, and again I would feel like I wasn't making any progress towards my goals.

After graduation, I paid my school debits, little by little, and saved some money; but progress was slow and there were times when money was very tight. It wasn't until I was about 35 that I really sat down and began to seriously think about my finances for the long term. Finally I had a stroke of great luck. I needed to move some money from a small 401K I had started and didn't know what to do. My Mom suggested I talk to her economics professor, who was now her broker, and see what he recommended. That was the real start of a serious financial plan because it got me to educate myself in what makes a good financial plan. I listened to my broker's advice, did a lot of reading and made more mistakes along the way; but that is part of the learning process and because my borker often suggested I make small investmentsr in risky ventures, I didn't loose shirt.

I knew I made good money, but somehow I wasn't managing to save enough to make buying a house or retirement possible. I knew I had to do something or I would never reach my financial goals. I began to look at everything I was doing and what was working as far as my budget and savings plan was concerned. I found that keeping my debits low and saving a little each week worked. I had set aside a fixed amount to be transferred into my savings account automatically each pay period. As a result my savings grew and because I didn't have to think about it, I wasn't tempted to spend the savings. I wasn't reminded all the time that the money was there. I also learned to keep my wants under control, and my needs few. This made keeping my debits under control much easier. In the end, I wrote this web site to encourage others to educate themselves and set up a good financial plan so they can reach their goals as well. Here's what I've learned as my first step towards financial freedom.

Get rid of your debits, especially credit card debits. Most debits drain your earnings away and don't give you anything in return. The only debits that don't do this are debits for your house and for your education. Both of these assets will appreciate if you are careful to keep them up to date. Save for the things you need and avoid buying unnecessary things you don't need just because you want them. Keeping up with the Jones leaves both you and the Jones in bankruptcy. Plan for the expenses you know will be coming up. Your car won't last forever; but once you pay it off, keep putting the monthly payment away so you have a good down payment for your next car. After a while you'll find you have enough to pay cash up front for your car and the interest you would have paid to the bank, becomes your savings from now on.

While a savings account is a great (and fundamental) place to start, it won't be enough for your retirement; you need greater gains than a bank can provide if you are going to retire comfortably. Investors should be cautious, come up with a plan for their financial security, and educate themselves on how the market works. When I began to put together a stock portfolio I made sure I had money put aside in my savings account, all my credit cards were paid in full each month, and I owed only on my mortgage and car lease. It didn't make sense to me to invest in something that might give me an eight to ten percent return if I owed money on a thirteen percent (or more) credit card. I would still be loosing 3% on what I owed. Clearing up any debt and starting a saving plan became the first step toward my financial goals.

What good is all this work?

All of this debit management paid off in 2006. While driving to work, my car was struck by an SUV. No one was hurt; but my car was totaled. The other driver was at fault and her insurance agreed to pay for my car.

The insurance company made an offer of $3,800 which seemed low to me. I searched the Internet for similar cars to mine and found 35 cars (with the same make, model year, and accessories). I charted the mileage .vs. price in Excel and did a little statistical data analysis. The result was a chart with data points for each car sold, and a line showing how the average price of the car changed as the mileage increased. The chart showed the market price for my car was about $7,000. I discussed this with the insurance company and their next offer was a little higher; but was still well below market value.

The insurance company asked that I return the rental vehicle they'd provided (as a tactic to pressure me to settle). What they didn't know was that after I'd paid off my car, I continued saving the monthly payment amount each month (for several years) so I could pay cash when I bought my next car. I needed a car immediately and had almost enough in savings, and used my credit card (until I could arrange for a bank loan), to buy a replacement car without their immediate payment. Because of my savings and good credit, I had options. I returned the rental car and let the insurance agent know I had already replaced the destroyed vehicle. Since we couldn't agree on a value for my old car, we would each have to present our data to the state arbiter (Texas requires arbitration) and let him/her decide who had the better valuation. Texas requires price estimates to be based on actual sales figures. My charts were from actual sales while the insurance company's low ball estimates were not.

After seeing my chart and the data, the agent agreed to a fair price and I got a check for $6,800 that afternoon. Combined with the money I had been saving, this more than covered the price of the new car. The $6,800 went into my savings and I paid off the credit card in full at the end of the month. I earned interest on the $6,800 from my saving account, 15,000 air miles because I used my credit card, and didn't have to pay interest on the short term loan because I always pay off the card in full each month. I ended up with a brand new, fully paid, car out of the deal. The moral of this story is that bad things will happen; being financially prepared means you won't be backed into a corner. You'll have time and credit resources to make good decisions.

My second step was to venture into the stock market and buy shares of mutual funds in my 401K so I could take advantage of my employer's matching funds. I had used a 401K before; but now I had a broker who helped me pick from the list of funds available to invest in and who could make sure I didn't have overlaping investments in different accounts. This kept me from making financial mistakes like buying more than one fund that tried to match the same index. Why should I pay multiple fees to different funds for the same performance? I also bought shares of my employer's company stock because I could get them at a 15% discount to the market. All this meant I was getting tax favored investments, discounts, or matching funds, essentially free money to me. Next I started investing in a Roth IRA and fully funded it. I also established a roll over IRA so I would have a place to put money from my 401K when I left one job and moved to another. I really like having my investments in tax favored accounts. Unfortunately I still didn't know the difference between a good stock or mutual fund and one I should avoid. I also didn't know much about how to value stocks.

The next step in my plan was to start reading up on money management, stock valuation, mutual funds, and the market in general. I asked questions or my broker, learned about reinvesting, compounding, and the "Rule of 72", and was surprised at how even a modest investment could grow large over time. I took classes at the local community college and learned as much as I could. I also spoke with my family's broker (who was my broker by this time) who graciously gave of his knowledge and time freely. Eventually I began to gain an understanding of the markets and what represented a long term value investment and what was just the latest hype driven stock. I also began to really see that financial planning involved more than just the stock market. It involves a broad array of financial categories including making a will, personal long term savings, insurance, and market investing. Since I had no dependents most of these decisions were easy. I drew up a simple will and made sure my life insurance would pay enough so my extended family wouldn't be burdened financially. I took enough medical insurance to cover me in case of emergency, and made sure there was money in the bank to cover the deductibles.

I reviewed my car, home, medical, accidental death and dismemberment, and life insurance. For some people, insurance decisions can be a very emotional issue and they feel the amount of life insurance they choose indicates how much they love the individual. Salesmen use this particular emotional button; especially so parents will buy large life insurance policies on their children. I learned that life insurance is intended to replace lost income or services to the family so insuring children for more than a minimal amount was not wise. The money you save in premiums can be better used to plan vacations or do things with them while they live. Similarly health and accident insurance should protect you against medical costs and replace lost income. Take only the minimum insurance necessary to cover your liabilities and if you have savings, choose a high deductible policy to reduce your yearly costs. Put the premium savings to work for you by investing them instead of paying them to the insurance company.

Lastly, I took a look at my financial plan and tried to find ways to improve the performance of each part of the plan. I decided to do two things. First I would put aside some long terms savings, and second I would try to find a way to improve my returns in the stock market beyond just waiting for capital gains and dividends to build up. I decided to put my long term savings into Certificates of Deposit (CDs) and I spoke to my broker for his advice. After living through two high tech jobs that had significant levels of layoffs, I wanted to be prepared if the worst happened. I had seen a lot of my friends and colleagues have to deal with financial hardship and I wanted to avoid that situation if possible. There's nothing worse than having to take a job you don't really like just because you're addicted to eating and living in-doors. Your goal should always be to have a career, not just a job.

I choose to set up a series of CDs (called a ladder), with enough money in each CD to make my monthly house payment for up to two years. I choose CDs because the principal would be FDIC insured, and the money wouldn't be sitting in my savings account where I might be tempted to spend it. This plan would give me an improved savings return and still give me access to the cash in case of a dire financial emergency. I also have the peace of mind that my house is secure if my income is interrupted for a significant length of time. Setting up the plan took six months and didn't drain my saving significantly because I had enough in my personal savings account to fully fund the project and still have a financial emergency reserve.

I set the ladder up by buying a two year, one year, and six month certificate each month for six months, putting the same dollar amount in each certificate. On the seventh month the first of the six month certificates matured and I rolled the accumulated money into a two year certificate. I continued to do this until all the six month certificates had matured. The next month the first of the one year certificates had matured and I repeated the process over again for the one year certificates. In the end I had two years worth of house payments available with a certificate maturing once each month.

My broker suggested several high yield bond and mutual funds. Normally "High Yield Bonds" is code for junk bonds; but I had already told him I wasn't interested in junk bond funds. His recommendation was for a well managed bond fund that focused on short term corporate property bonds (thus the higher interest and dividends). The bond fund had a track record going back many years and after reviewing their return and holding, I decided to accept his advice and bought into two bond funds (never put all your eggs in one basket). After looking over the mutual funds, I also choose to put my IRA and Roth monies in some of the mutual funds he'd suggested. I've been pleased with the results.

To improve my portfolio returns I once again spoke with my broker, read books, and especially read the material from the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) on trading options. The CBOE's little pamphlet gives a concise explanation of calls and puts and explains, in excruciating detail, the advantages and pitfalls of trading options. It's enough to turn your hair gray. I decided I would only write covered calls to start with. This gave me time to become comfortable with trading options and I would have my risks covered. Later, as I became more familiar with options, I began using puts to safeguard some volatile investments, and as a means to improve the returns on stocks I already owned. I could also use puts to average down my purchase price should the put be assigned. This meant I had to make sure I had plenty of savings to back up my obligations, but savings was already part of my financial planning and I was very careful to limit my exposure to what I could actually afford.

Here's the basics of what I learned through all this:

This could happen to you!

You arrive home one day and there's a message on your answering machine or an email in your in-box waiting for you.

"Hi John, I checked and United Amalgamated International Widgets LLC is announcing their big defense contract on Monday. I'd advise you to hold on to your shares until then. You'd be smart to take a bigger position if you know what's good for you. This contract could easily double the company's profits. It's gonna go through the roof, a guaranteed winner, and you'll kick yourself if you don't jump on a sure thing like this. Call me later..."

You rush to the web and sure enough United Amalgamated has been trading up over the past few days. You figure someone must know something and you'd be a fool not to get in on the action. You buy 10K shares (on margin or course), sit back, relax, and start muttering "show me the money." thinking your ship has finally come in.

Congratulations, you've been scammed. Someone from a boiler-room bought the stock and began placing thousands of calls and sending millions of emails hoping to convince a sucker to buy on a hot inside tip (never mind that trading on inside info is against the law). If they can convince a few hundred such suckers to start buying into a penny stock, the price goes up and they can cash out with big winnings. You get stuck with a stock that falls like a rock. Who can you complain to, you've traded on inside information. At best you can look for a nice long SEC audit of your records, and at worst you get to pay a hefty fine and have a Martha Stewart look-a-like as your cellmate.

Don't stupid. Call the police, your broker, anyone you know and report the phony contact. You may help catch a thief before they steal your own or someone else's life savings.

I don't believe the laws of supply and demand have been repealed, or that there is a new principal governing the market making it impossible to loose money, nor do I believe day trading will increase anything but my taxes and commissions over the long term (see video on The Crash of 29). The only people day trading ever made rich are in your brokerage house. Today's market is governed by the same supply and demand factors it has always responded to. We just happen to have an unusually good confluence of random factors (i.e., we're lucky) before the year 2000, and a very poor corporate performance and regulatory oversight from that point in time until 2005 (I'm not exactly thrilled with the regulatory oversight since then either). Which brings me to the point about taking responsibility for your own investment decisions, protecting your investments with stop loss orders or put options, and keeping your portfolio diversified. Trees don't grow to the sky and a market rally won't go on forever either. The general population is investing for their retirement, at the same time their kids are completing college and so money is available to invest which was not previously available. This won't continue indefinitely. My view is that the stock market will continue to accumulate money until the Baby Boomers begin to retire and draw from their investments. After that point in time the market will probably level out for an extended period. Interestingly enough the S&P 500 has a very positive correlation (they go up together) with the population; so keep your eyes on the general census.

My personal philosophy of investing is to favor a diversified, long term (more than 3 years) growth and value investment rather than try to time the market or day trade. I choose investments by looking at the company's products, market ratings, quarterly and annual reports (10K and 10Q), and especially at the balance sheet. I generally seek stock investments in companies with low amounts of debt, low Price to Sales ratios (P/S around 1.5 or less), and low Price to Earnings Growth ratios (P/EG's near 1.5 or less), good Price to Earnings ratios (P/E below 17), and I love companies with a good dividend. I'm a strong proponent of compound interest, Cost Averaging (DCA), and Dividend Re-investment Plans (DRiPs). Anytime you can buy a sound company's stock over time, and use the power of compounding and dividend reinvestment, you have something you should seriously consider buying. If you don't understand what the company does, or you don't understand the company's financial picture, don't gamble your hard earned money away. You should always know why you bought stock in a company, and if the reasons you bought change, you should consider selling and finding other investments.

Never make stock market predictions. There are better qualified professional analysts who do this for a living and they are right so little of the time, I figure they don't need the competition. Predictions also involve a certain level of self deception or personal bias. The market is the market, you can't force it. It's random in its day to day movement and predictable only over long periods of time. The best plan is to buy a value stock and hold for the long haul gains. I won't buy a stock on speculation and I never buy on margin (at least not yet).

What is a value investment? As I said before, I like companies with low debt, decent dividends, and good growth prospects. If you buy a value stock that drops severely, ask yourself why it dropped. If the reason isn't related to company financials or scandal, but because of overall market panic, this may be a great opportunity to use DCA. Even a stock that has lost money because of slowing sales can show a profit if you use DCA, a Dividend Reinvestment Program (DRiP), and hold the stock until it begins to recover (though you may have to hold for quite a while). DCA and DRiP will lower your costs while raising performance over the long term. If a stock drops because of imaginative accounting or other evidence of dishonesty, take the loss and drop it like a hot rock. Such stocks aren't a value waiting to recover; they are a stinking pile of [euphemism] you can't run away from fast enough. Most of all never overextend your risk. Remember, "He who sells what isn't his'n, must buy it back or go to prison." [Daniel Drew]; Always understand the consequences of your financial decisions and remember you must be prepared with a recovery strategy should your plans fall through.

I would strongly urge you to do your own careful research and consult with a qualified investment professional or financial planner. Good financial planning isn't a matter of luck; it's a matter of knowledge and discipline. If you're not comfortable with the first few advisers you speak to, keep searching until you're satisfied you've found one who is qualified and listening to your concerns, needs, financial situation, risk tolerance, and goals. Make sure your adviser has the proper credentials and accreditations to advise you (CPA, RPS, CFP©, AAMS, member NAPFA, etc.). Your state may require financial planners to be licensed. If your adviser doesn't have the proper training and credentials you have no assurance they weren't a used car sales man last week. In most states the term "Financial Planner" or "Financial Manager" is just a job title. It doesn't mean the individual actually has an understanding of the markets, investing, or investment tax implications. It's very easy to be overwhelmed with technical jargon. Be sure any investment adviser explains his or her self and their actions. If they don't, ask questions, take notes, review the prospectus, read books, do whatever it takes until you understand the subject and are prepared to make your own decision. Once you've found a good adviser, listen carefully to their advise.

Never deal with a broker who cold calls you with a hot tip. These individuals may flatter you and make you feel like a big shot, but they don't know what your investing goals are, and they don't care. Benefiting you isn't their goal. They just push the stock pick of the week from their brokerage, and all they care about is selling the most (of whatever junk stock they have) and wining a nice sales bonus or a cruise to Hawaii on your dime. These brokers work in the investing equivalent of a boiler room making call after call hoping to get someone to bite on an investment that probably isn't appropriate. They usually make no real effort to determine your market goals, risk tolerance, or the investment's suitability for your portfolio. Dealing with these financial vampires will definitely leave your portfolio anemic. You'd be far better off creating a long term financial relationship with an established adviser or broker you've carefully investigated and who's ethics you know you can trust.

Review your account on a regular basis, especially after you've made decisions to execute a trade. Even an honest broker occasionally mis-executes a trade. If you find something was not executed as your ordered, contact your broker immediately. Your broker should correct the problem at no charge and execute the trade as you ordered absorbing any loss or fees themselves. Be very suspicious of any unauthorized trading activity in your account, especially if the unauthorized churning of your account generates (possibly hidden) fees for your adviser. It is your obligation to notify the brokerage of this potentially illegal activity. Be prepared to grab your money and run like the wind any time you hear a financial adviser "guarantee" any (Golden, can't loose, etc.) opportunity that can "make you fabulously wealthy". Even Government Bonds have risks (inflation, internal overthrow, debt repudiation or default, etc.). There is no such thing as a risk-less investment and the higher the risk, the higher the rate of return (should be).

Re-balance your portfolio as often as necessary. Don't trade excessively; but never be afraid of taking your profits from an investment that's done well. If any investment becomes an overly large percentage (in terms of dollars) of your portfolio, you should rebalance your portfolio, take some of the money off the table and reinvest it elsewhere. Always be aware of your gains and losses when you rebalance. How often you rebalance is really up to you. Many people choose to rebalance their portfolios each quarter; others do it once per year. I recommend you do it as often as you need to. If an investment has grown from 10% to 20% of your portfolio, sell enough to get bring the investment back down to the 10% level, regardless of when you last rebalanced. Like wise, if you have an investment that has a 20% gain, take some of the profits off the table and use the money to further diversify your portfolio by investing in another company or sector of the market. Don't ignore tax implications and wash rules however. Selling a stock in a taxable account on Dec 31st means you have to pay the taxes by April 15th of the following year. Selling that same stock on the first trading day of the New Year means you, again, don't pay taxes until April 15th of the following year. By delaying the sale a few days, you gain an extra 12 months to use the tax money (wisely). The same applies if you need to claim a loss, selling on or before Dec 31 means you can claim the loss on this year's taxes, waiting means you must claim the loss on next year's taxes. If this seems complicated, find a professional tax preparer and use their services. Also don't forget that buying or selling a stock in any 30 day period is considered a wash transaction. It doesn't matter what order you do the transactions, or if you have some shares you've held for more than 30 days and you wish to sell those shares. Generally, as far as the IRS is concerned, most same stock buys and sells within any 30 day window fall under the wash rule even if the sale and purchase are done from separate accounts (such as a taxable investment account sale at a loss, and a Roth IRA purchase within 30 days before or after the sale).

Know what you are doing.

Investing in the stock market may involve learning some new vocabulary. It is important that you understand what you are doing and how your decisions can affect your investments. If you don't understand a term, never be afraid to ask your broker to explain what they mean. For example, the terms stop-loss and stop-limit sound similar but are two different ways of setting an automatic selling point for your stocks.

If you have a stock that you bought at $10.00 and it's now at $80 (say something like Lucent Technologies before the bubble burst). This is a gain of about 700 percent. There are three things you may choose to do. First you can sell shares immediately and take some of your profits off the table. Second you can set a stop-loss order to sell when the price falls, say 10 percent. Lastly, you can set a stop-limit order to sell when the price falls 10 percent.

If you sell the shares and take your profits now, you lose out on any possible future growth (in the case of Lucent, there wasn't any future growth to be had). If you set a stop-loss order, your shares will be sold when the share price falls to $72.00/share or below. A stop-limit order will sell the shares once the stock price has fallen to $72.00/share or below, and returned above your limit price. If the stock stays below $72.00/share a stop-limit order will not be executed. If the stock does recover, a stop-loss order will have locked in a greater loss. Each type of order has it's own use.

In the case of Lucent, the stock fell from around $80.00/share to around $50.00/share literally over night. A stop-loss order would have sold at $50.00 while the stop-limit order would not have been processed until the share price had risen back above $72.00/share (which did happen briefly a few weeks later). For the sake of your portfolio balance, always be sure you understand the types of trades you are using, their risks, and how they may affect your profits and losses.

Always keep a record of any financial statements or letters your financial adviser mails to you, or you mail to them. It's a good idea to keep your records separated by account, and year. I keep my records in several notebooks, which are locked in a fire resistant home safe. It's also a good idea to keep copies of your records in a second location, such as a safe deposit box. If there are any future question about your investments, or you have to go over your accounts, everything will be in an easy to find location, even if your primary records are destroyed.

I try to take a long term view on any investment and not let the immediate emotional considerations dictate where I make my investments or when I buy or sell. Never fall in love with any stock, the stock will never love you back and that's a good recipe for a broken heart (and bank book). I usually buy a stock using a limit order, setting the price a little lower than the current price, rather than buying at market. On some of my investments I write short term covered calls (three to twelve months out) with a strike price at least 20% higher than I paid (after commissions). This means I get an immediate boost to my portfolio (the money I get from selling the call) and should the stock rise 20% above my cost (and my option is assigned) I get to reap the profit and then decide if I still like the investment and want to place a limit order and take advantage of the short term market fluctuations to buy the shares below the strike price, or see if my money would be better invested elsewhere. These aren't very exciting ways to build a portfolio; but if you find investing exciting, you're doing something wrong. As for me it's meant I could sleep well at night and that's worth a lot.

Now that you've done your due diligence, found a trustworthy brokerage, and one or more companies you'd like to invest in; what do you do if you aren't J. D. Gotrocks and have only a limited amount of money to invest each month? How do you invest a small amount for best effect? My best advice is not to deal in what are called penny stocks (stocks below five to seven dollars per share). While you can buy more shares of a low-priced stock than a high-priced stock, low-priced stocks usually belong to smaller companies that are easier to manipulate. If you only have a small amount of money to invest each month, it might be a better idea to wait and accumulate funds until you have enough to make a larger purchase. Making your purchase each quarter, or every six months, may make better financial sense. The idea is to reduce the percentage that you paid commissions for your purchase. Your commission should be no more than 2% of your total purchase. If you can't find a brokerage that's willing to meet these guidelines, I suggest you use something like to make your purchase. Sharebuilder is designed for small investors and has a very low commission. Don't forget to use a DRiP program as well. Over time, this strategy can pay off.

That's the story of my financial experiences. I hope you've gained some information to help you in making your own financial choices. In the sections below, I've tried to assemble interesting and informative financial resources to help improve your investment results, leave you better prepared to deal with the complexities of financial markets, and make the investing community a better place. If you have questions or want to share financial planning experiences, there are organizations (some probably in your area) that can help. I recommend the Better Investing Community, the American Association of Individual Investors, the Investors Alliance, and the National Association of Investors Corporation. I hope this page has been helpful. If you have a question or comment please feel free to write me at

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My Investments

He that hath a trade hath an estate, and he that hath a calling hath an office of profit and honor; but then the trade must be worked at, and the calling well followed, or neither the estate, nor the office, will enable us to pay our taxes. Benjamin Franklin

Name(Symbol) Price/Sh Paid Shrs Yield Value Gain/Loss Account
EXELON CORPORATION (EXC) 47.78 23.65 169 4.30% $8,074.82 Up $4,077.97 Up 102.03% Personal (Taxable)
HILLIARD-LYONS GOVERNMENT FUND (HLCXX) 0.30% 1.00 8,418.13 - $8,418.13 $0.00 - Personal (Taxable)
American Capital, Ltd. (ACAS) Down 2.295 34.01 1,252.524 N/A $2,874.54 Down $39,930.20 Down 93.28% Personal (Taxable)
ALLIANCEBERNSTEIN (ACG) Down 7.14 8.74 508 8.40% $3,627.12 Down $812.80 Down 18.31% Personal (Taxable)
ALLIED CAP CORP (ALD) Down 1.70 29.93 1,953.694 146.90% $3,321.28 Down $55,308.67 Down 94.34% Personal (Taxable)
ALD Jan 2010 15.0000 put (YEDMC) 13.46 12.60 -3 - $-4,038.00 Down $337.62 Down 8.75% Personal (Taxable)
BK OF AMERICA CP (BAC) Down 7.47 22.00 300 0.50% $2,241.00 Down $4,503.00 Down 66.77% Personal (Taxable)
C B L & ASSOC PRP (CBL) Down 3.19 12.16 211.563 49.30% $674.89 Down $1,972.52 Down 74.51% Personal (Taxable)
Comcast Corporation (CMCSA) Down 14.3375 20.28 300 1.90% $4,301.25 Down $1,782.75 Down 29.30% Personal (Taxable)
Computer Programs and Systems (CPSI) Up 33.75 22.64 300 4.20% $10,125.00 Up $3,202.36 Up 46.26% Personal (Taxable)
CVS CAREMARK CP (CVS) 28.88 29.61 100 1.10% $2,888.00 Down $135.79 Down 4.49% Personal (Taxable)
CVS Jan 2010 35.0000 put (WSAMG) 8.20 10.10 -2 - $-1,640.00 Up $333.69 Up 16.15% Personal (Taxable)
DOW CHEMICAL (DOW) Down 10.75 25.59 200 5.50% $2,150.00 Down $3,072.74 Down 58.83% Personal (Taxable)
EATON VANCE C-E FD (EIV) 11.65 11.68 850 7.80% $9,902.50 Down $357.27 Down 3.48% Personal (Taxable)
EATON VANCE MUNI INM (EVN) 9.304 9.76 1,500 9.00% $13,956.00 Down $988.57 Down 6.61% Personal (Taxable)
FAIRPOINT COMM INC (FRP) Down 0.77 7.50 200 122.60% $154.00 Down $1,428.00 Down 90.27% Personal (Taxable)
Gladstone Investment Corporation (GAIN) Down 4.02 5.75 218.021 21.80% $876.44 Down $421.95 Down 32.50% Personal (Taxable)
HORIZON LINES INC (HRZ) Down 3.55 14.22 400 12.00% $1,420.00 Down $4,358.57 Down 75.43% Personal (Taxable)
HRZ Jan 2010 10.0000 put (XUCMB) 7.20 6.95 -4 - $-2,880.00 Down $176.67 Down 6.18% Personal (Taxable)
MUNI MTG (MMAB) Down 0.45 16.10 300 N/A $135.00 Down $4,855.40 Down 97.29% Personal (Taxable)
NORDIC AM TNKR SHIP (NAT) Down 29.97 33.99 260.484 11.30% $7,806.71 Down $1,170.35 Down 13.04% Personal (Taxable)
PCM FUND, INC. (PCM) Down 5.11 13.94 357.297 16.00% $1,825.79 Down $3,254.67 Down 64.06% Personal (Taxable)
AT&T INC. (T) 26.43 24.93 152.445 6.10% $4,029.12 Up $135.46 Up 3.48% Personal (Taxable)
THOMSON REUTERS CORP (TRI) Down 27.35 30.75 200 4.00% $5,470.00 Down $810.95 Down 12.91% Personal (Taxable)
VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS (VZ) 32.75 30.95 504.556 5.60% $16,524.21 Up $558.17 Up 3.50% Personal (Taxable)
WALGREEN CO (WAG) Down 26.84 34.43 100 1.70% $2,684.00 Down $882.14 Down 24.74% Personal (Taxable)
WAG Jan 2010 32.5000 put (WFYMZ) 10.70 8.70 -2 - $-2,140.00 Down $452.74 Down 25.25% Personal (Taxable)
FINANCIAL SEL SPDR (XLF) Down 9.42 19.76 300 - $2,826.00 Down $3,238.51 Down 53.40% Personal (Taxable)
XLF Jan 2010 10.0000 call (YUWAJ) 1.96 4.94 3 - $588.00 Down $894.00 Down 60.32% Personal (Taxable)
FRANKLIN CUSTODIAN FD INCOME CL (FKINX) 1.56 2.54 15,579.448 - $24,303.94 Down $15,267.86 Down 38.58% Roth IRA
HILLIARD-LYONS GOVERNMENT FUND (HLCXX) 0.30% 1.00 3,008.73 - $3,008.73 $0.00 - Roth IRA
ALCOA INC (AA) Down 7.83 9.38 800 1.50% $6,264.00 Down $1,240.00 Down 16.52% IRA
AA Jul 2009 15.0000 call (AAGC) 0.10 0.60 -8 - $-80.00 Up $400.00 Up 83.33% IRA
ALLIANCEBERNSTEIN (AB) 16.64 17.51 500 6.90% $8,320.00 Down $434.00 Down 4.96% IRA
AB Apr 2009 22.5000 call (ABDX) 0.05 0.90 -5 - $-25.00 Up $425.00 Up 94.44% IRA
ALLSTATE CP (ALL) Down 20.41 29.07 300 3.80% $6,123.00 Down $2,597.58 Down 29.79% IRA
ALL Jul 2009 40.0000 call (ALLGH) 0.09 2.00 -3 - $-27.00 Up $573.00 Up 95.50% IRA
Comcast Corporation (CMCSA) 14.3375 13.33 150 1.90% $2,150.63 Up $150.63 Up 7.53% IRA
CEMEX SAB DE CV ADR (CX) Down 7.30 8.94 900 N/A $6,570.00 Down $1,476.00 Down 18.34% IRA
CX Jul 2009 15.0000 call (CXGC) 0.15 0.80 -9 - $-135.00 Up $585.00 Up 81.25% IRA
DIAMOND OFFSHORE DRL (DO) Up 67.83 55.17 200 0.70% $13,566.00 Up $2,532.00 Up 22.95% IRA
DO Jun 2009 70.0000 call (DOFN) 5.80 5.20 -2 - $-1,160.00 Down $120.00 Down 11.54% IRA
DUKE ENERGY CP HL CO (DUK) 14.06 11.89 156 6.50% $2,193.36 Up $268.80 Up 13.97% IRA
ENERGY TRANSFER PRNT (ETP) Up 39.73 32.59 200 9.10% $7,946.00 Up $1,428.80 Up 21.92% IRA
ETP Jun 2009 40.0000 call (ETPFH) 1.40 0.80 -2 - $-280.00 Down $120.00 Down 75.00% IRA
GENERAL MARITIME NEW (GMR) Down 7.91 36.47 268 25.60% $2,119.88 Down $7,726.07 Down 78.47% IRA
HILLIARD-LYONS GOVERNMENT FUND (HLCXX) 0.30% 1.00 6,139.05 - $6,139.05 $0.00 - IRA
HARTFORD FIN SVC (HIG) Down 9.33 16.22 300 2.30% $2,799.00 Down $2,066.58 Down 42.47% IRA
HIG Jun 2009 22.5000 call (HIGFX) 0.10 2.05 -3 - $-30.00 Up $585.00 Up 95.12% IRA
ISHARES IBOXX HY BD (HYG) 70.41 75.06 110 - $7,745.10 Down $511.50 Down 6.20% IRA
SOUTHERN COPPER CORP (PCU) Up 18.38 14.43 600 2.50% $11,028.00 Up $2,370.00 Up 27.37% IRA
PCU Jun 2009 20.0000 call (PCUFD) 1.45 1.35 -6 - $-870.00 Down $60.00 Down 7.41% IRA
POWERSHARES II PFD (PGX) Down 10.00 11.85 600 - $6,000.00 Down $1,109.94 Down 15.61% IRA
PROLOGIS SBI (PLD) Down 7.73 11.64 1,000 12.40% $7,730.00 Down $3,910.00 Down 33.59% IRA
PLD Jul 2009 20.0000 call (PLDGD) 0.10 2.33 -10 - $-100.00 Up $2,230.00 Up 95.71% IRA
PENN WEST ENERGY TRUST (PWE) Down 10.50 24.66 300 21.30% $3,150.00 Down $4,248.00 Down 57.42% IRA
SPECTRA ENERGY (SE) Up 14.66 11.89 78 6.70% $1,143.48 Up $216.06 Up 23.30% IRA
STRYKER CP (SYK) Down 33.48 51.72 300 1.20% $10,044.00 Down $5,673.82 Down 36.10% IRA
SPDR DB INT GOV BD (WIP) 47.23 47.64 160 - $7,556.80 Down $65.58 Down 0.86% IRA
FINANCIAL SEL SPDR (XLF) Down 9.42 11.59 700 - $6,594.00 Down $1,518.93 Down 18.72% IRA
XLF Jun 2009 16.0000 call (XJZFP) 0.08 0.70 -7 - $-56.00 Up $434.00 Up 88.57% IRA
Total (USD) $255,927.75 Down $158,785.83 Down 35.23%

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General Principals of Investing

Choose a few stocks that are likely to produce above-average returns over the long haul, concentrate the bulk of your investments in those stocks, and have the fortitude to hold steady during any short term market gyrations. Warren Buffett

Peter Lynch's 25 Golden Rules

From Beating the Street © 1993, 1994 by Peter Lynch ISBN 0-671-75915-9

  1. Investing is fun, exciting, and dangerous if you don't do any work.
  2. Your investor's edge is not something you get from Wall Street experts. It's something you already have. You can outperform the experts if you use your edge by investing in companies or industries you already understand.
  3. Over the past three decades, the stock market has come to be dominated by a herd of professional investors. Contrary to popular belief, this makes it easier for the amateur investor. You can beat the market by ignoring the herd.
  4. Behind every stock is a company. Find out what it's doing.
  5. Often, there is no correlation between the success of a company's operations and the success of its stock over a few months or even a few years. In the long term, there is a 100 percent correlation between the success of the company and the success of its stock. This disparity is the key to making money; it pays to be patient, and to own successful companies.
  6. You have to know what you own, and why you own it. "This baby is a cinch to go up!" doesn't count.
  7. Long shots almost always miss the mark.
  8. Owning stocks is like having children - don't get involved with more than you can handle. The part-time stock picker probably has time to follow 8-12 companies, and to buy and sell shares as conditions warrant. There don't have to be more than 5 companies in the portfolio at any one time.
  9. If you can't find any companies that you think are attractive, put your money in the bank until you discover some.
  10. Never invest in a company without understanding its finances. The biggest losses in stocks come from companies with poor balance sheets. Always look at the balance sheet to see if a company is solvent before you risk your money on it.
  11. Avoid hot stocks in hot industries. Great companies in cold, non-growth industries are consistent big winners.
  12. With small companies, you're better off to wait until they turn a profit before you invest.
  13. If you're thinking about investing in a troubled industry, buy the companies with staying power. Also, wait for the industry to show signs of revival. Buggy whips and radio tubes were troubled industries that never came back.
  14. If you invest $1,000 in a stock, all you can loose is $1,000, but you stand to gain $10,000 or even $50,000 over time if you're patient. The average person can concentrate on a few good companies, while the fund manager is forced to diversify. By owning too many stocks, you loose this advantage of concentration. It only takes a handful of big winners to make a lifetime of investing worthwhile.
  15. In every industry and every region of the country, the observant amateur can find great growth companies long before the professionals have discovered them.
  16. A stock-market decline is as routine as a January blizzard in Colorado. If you're prepared, it can't hurt you. A decline is a great opportunity to pick up the bargains left behind by investors who are fleeing the storm in panic.
  17. Everyone has the brain power to make money in stocks. Not everyone has the stomach. If you are susceptible to selling everything in a panic, you ought to avoid stocks and stock mutual funds altogether.
  18. There is always something to worry about. Avoid weekend thinking and ignore dire predictions of the newscasters. Sell a stock because the company's fundamentals deteriorate, not because the sky is falling.
  19. Nobody can predict interest rates, the future direction of the economy, or the stock market. Dismiss all such forecasts and concentrate on what's actually happening to the companies in which you've invested.
  20. If you study 10 companies, you'll find 1 for which the story is better than expected. If you study 50, you'll find 5. There are always pleasant surprises to be found in the stock market - companies whose achievements are being overlooked on Wall Street.
  21. If you don't study any companies, you have the same success buying stock as you do in a poker game if you bet without looking at your cards.
  22. Time is on your side when you own shares of superior companies. You can afford to be patient - even if you missed Walmart in the first five years, it was a great stock to own in the next five years. Time is against you when you own options.
  23. If you have the stomach for stocks, but neither the time nor the inclination to do the homework, invest in equity mutual funds. Here, it's a good idea to diversify. You should own a few different kinds of funds, with managers who pursue different styles of investing: growth, value, small companies, large companies, etc. Investing in six of the same kind of fund is not diversification.
    The capital-gains tax penalizes investors who do too much switching from one mutual fund to another. If you've invested in one fund or several funds that have done well, don't abandon them capriciously. Stick with them.
  24. Among the major stock markets of the world, the U.S. market ranks eighth in total return over the past decade. You can take advantage of the faster-growing economies by investing some portion of your assets in an overseas fund with a good record.
  25. In the long run, a portfolio of well-chosen stocks and/or equity mutual funds will always outperform a portfolio of bonds or a money-market account. In the long run, a portfolio of poorly chosen stocks won't outperform the money left under the mattress.

Soros & Buffett Investment Rules

From Becoming Rich: The Wealth-Building Secrets of the World's Master Investors Buffett, Icahn, Soros © 2005 Mark Tier ISBN-13: 978-0312339869

  1. Believes the first priority is preservation of capital.
  2. As a result, is risk-averse.
  3. Has developed his own investment philosophy, which is an expression of his personality. As a result, no two highly successful investors have the same approach.
  4. Has developed his own personal system for selecting, buying and selling investments.
  5. Believes diversification is for the birds.
  6. Hates to pay taxes, and arranges his affairs to legally minimise his tax bill.
  7. Only invests in what he understands.
  8. Refuses to make investments that do not meet his criteria. Can effortlessly say 'no'.
  9. Is continually searching for new investment opportunities that meet his criteria and actively engages in his own research.
  10. Has the patience to wait until he finds the right investment.
  11. Acts instantly when he has made a decision.
  12. Holds a winning investment until a pre-determined reason to exit arrives.
  13. Follows his own system religiously.
  14. Is aware of his own fallibility. Corrects mistakes the moment they arise.
  15. Always treats mistakes as learning experiences.
  16. As his experience increases, so do his returns.
  17. Almost never talks to anyone about what he's doing. Not interested in what others think of his investment decisions.
  18. Has successfully delegated most, if not all, of his responsibilities to others.
  19. Lives far below his means.
  20. Does what he does for stimulation and self-fulfilment - not for money.
  21. Is emotionally involved with the process of investing; but can walk away from any individual investment.
  22. Lives and breathes investing, 24 hours a day.
  23. Puts his money where his mouth is. For example, Warren Buffet has 99 per cent of his net worth in shares of Berkshire Hathaway; George Soros, similarly, keeps most of his money in his Quantum Fund. For both, the destiny of their personal wealth is identical to that of the people who have entrusted money to their management.

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Credit, Banking, and Identity Theft Reporting Sites

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

Credit Reports: Get a free annual credit report, online, by phone, or through the mail, from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies.
Equifax Credit service The second of the big three of Credit Reporting services. Why not check your report today. P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374 To order a credit report: 800-685-1111. Fraud Unit: 800-525-6285.
Experian Credit service (formerly TRW) One of the big three in credit reporting services. Get your yearly free credit report here. P.O. Box 2002, Allen, Texas 75013 To order a credit report: 866-200-6020. Fraud Unit: 888-397-3742. All services: 888-397-3742.
TransUnion Credit service The last of the three big credit reporting services. Checking your Credit Report can guard against identity theft. P.O. Box 2000, Chester, Pennsylvania 19022 To order a credit report: 800-888-4213. Fraud Unit: 800-680-7289.

Credit Help:

Consumer Credit Counseling Service A non-profit agency dealing with Money management issues.
National Foundation for Consumer Credit A network of non-profit money management education and debit counseling agencies.
Fair Isaac Corporation Information on your credit score and how it can affect your mortgage loans.

Identity & Identity Theft:

RepRx Reputation Management can help you manage the results returned on an internet search. +1 (800) 889-4812

FTC Identity Theft A one-stop natinal resource to help you implement the three D's (Deter, detect, defend).

Get Rich Slowly A great place to find info on preventing identity theft (and other financial information).

Securing your SS number Did you know you don't actually have to hand out your SS number to everyone that demands it?

Georgia Govenor's Office of Consumer Affairs Good suggestions of what to do in case of identity theft, regrardless of what state you live in.

Identity theft can be difficult to detect and expensive to correct. Call your banks, mortgage company, credit card companies, and brokerages first. Get a free copy of your credit reports from all three agencies and look for new or unused accounts or mortgages (close the unused accounts) in your name. File a complaint with the FTC and the Social Security office. Contact the Department of State and your state's Department of Motor vehicules to verify no one has applied for a passport or drivers license in your name. There may be additional steps for you to take depending on your particular circumstances.

Federal Trade Commission Use the FTC's online complaint form or call their hotline (877) IDTHEFT [(877) 438-4338].
Social Security Call (800) 772-1213 or (800) 325-0778 for the tty assistance.
Department of State Verify no new passports have been ordered in your name by calling (202) 955-0430.

Banking History:

Certegy Check Services (866) 543-6315
International Check Services (800) 526-5380
TeleCheck, a subsidiary of First Data Corporation, is the world's leading provider of paper and electronic check services. (800) 710-9898
C.L.U.E. Auto and personal property insurance reporting agency. (866) 312-8076
ChexSystems provides deposit account (banking) verification services to its financial institution members. (800) 428-9623
SCAN Consumer Report Gathers and reports on individuals passing bad checks in stores. (800) 262-7771

Insurance History:

MIB, Inc. Medical Information Bureau that can drive up your rates if their information isn't accurate. (866) 692-6901
Risk Management from LexisNexis leverages more than 10,000 data sources, providing the largest base of public and proprietary information available on the market today.
ISO's A-Plus Auto and Property Databases is a property and liability claims database designed for insurance underwriters. (799) 627-3487

Employment History:

Background Checks from LexisNexis is an easy way to verify personal data, screen potential renters, nannies, doctors and other professionals, and discover any negative background information that could impact your employment eligibility.
Accufax is the largest provider of volunteer and employee background reports. (800) 256-8898

Residential Tenant History:

American Tenant Screen provides comprehensive credit and background verification reports on prospective employees and tenants. (800) 888-1287
Mortgage Fraud from LexisNexis helps reduce financial losses and help prevent reputational damage.
National Tenant Network provides experienced screening from local offices across the U.S.(800) 228-0989
Safe Rent provider of screening and property risk management services. (888) 333-2413
Tenant Data Services providing applicant screening services to the rental industry since 1992. (800) 228-1837
Tenant Screening Services offers full tenant screening services to property managers, landlords, and others in the real estate and rental industry. (800) 388-2335

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Interactive Utilities

Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt. Benjamin Franklin

Tool kit for financial planning If you're intereste in a tool set for financial retirement planning, T.RowePrice has a lot of what you'll need.
Ultimate Guide to Retirement This page contains several guides and calculators for retirement, Insurance, and a lot of other financial issues.
Refinance Mortgage Rates Information on Mortgage refinancing and a good mortgage calculator (Many thanks to Jillian Taylor for her email suggesting this site, who's email is not working at this point in time). Features over one hundred (by the looks of it) finance-related calculators (Many thanks to Ms. Sarah Harris for her email suggesting this site).
Choose to Save This site is packed with various calculators and references to other sites. If you are looking for information on college or retirement savings, this is the site to bookmark.
BestCalls - The Internet's Conference Call Directory This site shows a list of conference calls scheduled for the near future. This is a nice way to hear what your broker hears.
BigCharts - Interactive Chart for stocks. Big Charts provides comparison charts of a stocks performance. This example is for Lucent Technologies. calculators Various interest calculators.
Look Ahead Charts Free Investment Charts that claims to predict the performance of the market or an individual stock five days in advance. No guarantees on results though.
Mutual Fund Cost Calculator This SEC mutual fund cost calculator lets you compare Mutual fund prices and costs.
Yahoo! Finance Fund Screener If your interested in getting additional ideas for investment in mutual funds, this might be a good place to start.
Yahoo! Finance Stock Screener Here's a good place to get ideas for investing in individual stocks that meet your criteria.

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Dictionaries & Glossaries

Creditors have better memories than debtors. James Howell

Barkley's Comprehensive Financial Glossary Never looked at it, but thought it might be useful.
Invest FAQ:Trading:Jargon and Terminology Dictionary of investing terms.
InvestorWords Glossary of investing terms.
Stocks & Commodities - Novice Trader's Notebook Reference material defining common technical analysis terms.
Yahoo! Financial Glossary Good place to increase your investment vocabulary. Great place to look up terms to use in your next posting so you look like you know what you're talking about. 8)

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... taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but ... we are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly, and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an abatement. Benjamin Franklin

U.S. Department of Labor Retirement Savings Education CampaignPublications for employees on the importance of starting to save for a secure retirement.
Social Security Administration Where to go for information on the U.S. Social Security system.
U.S. Mint Everything you wanted to know about the U.S. Mint and how they operate.
Office of the comptroller of the currency This is the guy that regulates the financial institutions in the United States.
Public Debt Everything the treasury department knows about the public debt (not recommended for those with weak constitutions). Don't let this scare you. It's really the jumping off point for a lot of information on bonds, bills, the law and securities regulation, and a whole lot more. Even find out the t-bill, and EE an I bond interest rates or open a purchase account for savings bonds.
Treasury Direct Buy bonds, including inflation indexed (I) bonds, from the U.S. government.
Savings Bonds Direct from the government savings bonds.
Internal Revenue Service If you have tax related questions, here's the place to check.
Federal Reserve If you ever wondered about the Federal Reserve, this may help answer your questions.
FedStats: A to Z Site contains URLs to various Federal Government sites listing all types of statistical data not just investing.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Everything you want to know about the governmental body that regulates the U.S. markets.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission The CFTC regulates the futures and options trading markets in the U.S.

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Exchanges and Rating Services

Diligence is the mother of good luck. Benjamin Franklin

NYSE, New York Stock Exchange Largest stock exchange in the world.
NASDR NASDAQ info for your reading pleasure.
Chicago Board of Options Exchange Where the big boys trade options contracts, and you may find a helpful training course or two.
Valueline If you want to know how a company is rated, this is one of the best places to check.
Morningstar Another great, independent, place to check on a company's ratings.
Standard & Poor's Index Services Everything that makes up the S&P service.
Dow Jones Bet you didn't know the Dow Jones produces more than the just the industrial index. Here is a site that shows them all.

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General Reference Material

For the love of money is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10

Free Stuff

Beware of "free stuff" scams. Don't commit to future purchases, or "accept three deals from our vendors and you get a free..." scams. Free means free, no strings or obligations attached.

Sound Mind Investing is a financial news letter (and has an affiliated SMI Advisory Services) and The Sound Mind Investing Fund (SMIFX) from a Christian perspective.
Free for Birthdays everyone enjoys free presents on their birthdays, why not patronize some of these establishments.
Tucows great stuff from a great bunch of people.
CNET Downloads more free software.
Open OfficeWant to be able to deal with MS Word docs without paying $500? Try this alternative.
Audio Books that's right, free public domain audio books.
Kids eat free want to take the tykes out; but can't afford a lot of dough? Try this list.
The Free Site a web site that lists places to go for free samples.
Start Sampling not sure you want to buy a product, try samples from here first.
Free Stuff Channel more samples and free stuff.
Freenology web site lists places to go to find free deals.
Volition one of the oldest free stuff web sites.
Free Language courses for those who want to increase their international appeal, try these free courses.
Couch surfing want to see the world on a shoe string, you can't get much more of a local feel than sleeping on someone else's couch (or spare room).

Lost Funds/Property:

Beware: Never pay a stranger to help recover unclaimed funds or property. Don't give personal information (credit cards, bank accounts, Social Security number) to anyone offering to help you. Remember, these assets are yours already, don't let scammers steal them away from you.

Unclaimed property Uncle Harry bought a lovely lake front lot as a surprise. To bad he keeled over before he told anyone about it (surprise).
Government Benefit programs are set up to encourage business, or help individuals start a new life. You could get a helping hand from an old relative Uncle Sam.
Class Action Lawsuits Did you buy a shoddy product? You should check here to see if the manufacturer owes you compensation.
Track your IRS refund You can track the status of a pending Income Tax refund.
HUD Mortgage If you have had an FHA mortgage, a refund could be waiting for you.
401K plans Did you forget an old 401K plan when you changed employers? Find out if you have unclaimed money waiting for you.
Pension Benefits Are you sure you remember all the places you have worked at over the years? Check to be sure you have not missed out on even a small pension.
Unclaimed Bank accounts If a bank fails, your money is still guarenteed. Check to see if any old accounts remain unclaimed.
Unclaimed Credit Union accounts Check to see if you or a loved one may have forgotten about a Credit Union account.
Treasury Direct Ever wonder if old uncle Harry misplaced some of those E bonds he told you about before he passed away? Now you can find out.

General Investing

Airline Travel Remember there are two kinds of luggage, carry on and lost. Find out the dirt on your favorite airline and don't forget to always book a seat assignment, print your ticket as early as possible, and arrive at the airport at least one hour early.
Charity Navigator Which deserving charities use their money well and wisely and which believe "charity begins at home" and fritter your donation away with inflated expenses and salaries? Find out before you donate and make your hard earned money count. Who pays the highest interest rate on their saving or CD accounts? What are the best mortgage rates for my house? What about savings for college or automobile financing? Find all your answers here.
Executive Pay Watch Ever wonder who has the most outrageous pay package or the best golden parachute? How about Stock Option backdating abuses? This site tells the dark tale.
The Mint No, not the U.S. Mint. A web site packed with all kinds of tips about what to do with your money and the choices you have available.
American Association of Individual Investors A national group of individuals interested in investing and sharing their experiences. A great way to learn from others.
Investors Alliance Another group of non-professional investor clubs. If you're just starting your portfolio, you might want to join up.
National Association of Investors Corporation Yet another of the national groups dedicated to sharing the experiences, and avoiding the pitfalls, of non-professional investing.
The Motley Fool: The Fool's School Collection of information on investing, stock valuation, etc. Highly recommended.
Center for Financial Research & Analysis, Inc. Unusual site. The author writes books on common accounting practices used to improve financial reports. The site has useful information, but seems more interested in selling you their reports than in educating the public (JMO).
No load investing This site is dedicated to no load mutual funds. Seemed a little heavy on the hype, but you be the judge. General information site about companies.
Investor Links Links to interesting and uninteresting sites dealing with investing.
Investor Outlook Home This portal links to other investment related sites. Investment advisory newsletter stocks options traders equities. Service offering to advise on option investments.
Research Week Home Page Interesting site with a mix of information. There is stuff on Mutual Funds, IRAi's (all kinds), etc.
investhelp Help for the enquiring investor. Breakdowns of earning, dividends, lots of info.
Introduction - Technical Analysis from A to Z Discussion of technical stock analysis.

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News Sources

Get what you can, and what you get hold; 'Tis the stone that will turn all your lead into gold. Benjamin Franklin

CBS MarketWatch News and more for the masses (my thanks to Nicole Stoff for correcting this URL). is a multi-lingual, informative, and fairly comprehensive guide on a variety of investment related topics (suggested by Nicole Stoff).
Fortune Magazine Info on investing and current investment related info.
Investor's Business Daily (Subscription required) Another good source of daily business related news and information.
Louis Rukeyser's Wallstreet Weekly summary of market events with sparkling guest interviews.
Marketplace Radio Business News National Public Radio's daily summary of the market's activity and general information dealing with investing and the economy.
Nightly Business Report NBR, television's #1 daily business news program, is a nightly television program dealing with the market and news about the market.
The New York Times (Subscription required) Yup, The NY Times is available on the web. Now you can see all those great sales at Tiffany's.
The Wall Street Journal (Subscription required) The premier financial news source for U.S. markets.
Wall $treet Week With Fortune The PBS weekly summary of the Market activity, with lack luster commentary and not so special guests. Gee's I wish Lou was back.

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Suggested reading

For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it. Ecclesiastes 7:12

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [ISBN-10: 0553585975; ISBN-13: 978-0553585971] by Adam Smith. This book, written in 1776 (early in the industrial revolution), is considered the first major treatise advocating that free market economics, based on mutual economic self interest, will lead to a well functioning over all economy though essentially unintended consequences. While many hale the book as advocating laissez-faire policies which should be unquestioningly accepted as holy writ, Smith's work is simplistic and presumes a level playing field for all members of the economy and that there are many relatively equally sized businesses in existence who's individual failures would not threaten the stability of the entire national or world economy (i.e. rather than just a few mega-corporations controlling the means of manufacturing and distribution of goods [think automotive industry]). He does not address economic extremes, for example, monopolistic trusts and the suppression of innovation and individual improvement such systems entail, the boom-bust cycles inherent in a laissez-faire economic system, fraud and corporate deception as a business model, or the large economic imbalances that result from poor or dishonest management in major companies or whole industries. Indeed Smith had never conceived of such ideas and his experience lead him to assume honest business practices and good corporate governance in many small businesses (for the most part) and while Smith could not foresee that his theories could easily be abused, his work is still a major qualitative leap in understanding industrial and post-industrial free market economic systems.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt [ISBN: 0-02-862732-6] Setting up a stable financial future, with chapters on debt management, dealing with creditors or the IRS, and what happens if you have to declare Bankruptcy.
The Wealthy Barber: Everyone's Common sense Guide to Becoming Financially Independent [ISBN: 0-7615-1311-6] This book presents investing in an easy to read narrative form, packed with great information.
The Neatest Little Guide to Mutual Fund Investing [ISBN: 0-452-27709-4] Truly an easy to read beginners guide on how to figure out which Mutual Funds are right for you.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Investing Like a Pro [ISBN: 0-02-862044-5] A comprehensive look at money management starting with defining "Financial Security", going through life changes like marriage and children, and ending with advanced topics like options and alternative investment opportunities.
The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing [ISBN: 0-452-27670-8] A great intro to investing in individual stocks, investment valuation and when to sell, various investment strategies, choosing a broker, etc. Comprehensive information on buying individual stocks, clearly presented.
CliffNotes Investing in the Stock Market [ISBN: 0-7645-8518-5] A very concise reference on money management and investing in individual stocks and mutual funds. Short, clear, and to the point, an easy read.
The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need [ISBN: 0-15-600560-3] A good guide on setting up a structured financial management plan and sticking with it.
The SmartMoney Stock Picker's Bible [ISBN: 0-471-15204-8] This book concentrates on screening individual stocks to meet your financial goals.
Investing Online for Dummies [ISBN: 0-7645-0509-2] This book covers the usual setting up of a stock portfolio, but with an emphasis on using online resources and appropriate warnings on the pitfalls of the online world.
How the Stock Market Works [ISBN: 0-13-097866-3] A detailed look at what goes on behind the curtain at a brokerage house and on the trading floor. Great background for understanding what your broker knows and deals with every day.
One Up on Wall Street [ISBN: 0-14-012792-5] Peter Lynch's first book for the novice investor. It's a great read, though it presumes some understanding of the markets the beginning investor may not have.
Beating the Street [ISBN: 0-671-89163-4] Peter Lynch's Second book for investors. Also a great read filled with examples from his own life and work.
Take on the Street [ISBN: 0-375-42178-5] from his time with the SEC. I especially enjoyed the sections on reading a Financial Statement, and later the problems with many forms of corporate governance. The appendix with letters from several prominent Senators who tried to influence the SEC and protect companies like Enron were also revealing and may change your vote.
Real Data: Data and Exercises for Finance and Economics I don't really recommend this book, I just thought it was cool to see my name as author.
The Way to Wealth [ISBN: 0-918-22288-5] Benjamin Franklin's collection of the most important selected proverbs, quotes, and ideas on Industry and Frugality from his Poor Richard's Almanac. Next to Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, this should be required reading for anyone in an exonomics class.

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--- Imagine a horizontal line here --- © 1997, 2004, 2005, 2006 Brian S. Wilson. All rights reserved.
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