Investing 104: Low-Cost Investments, BIG Rate of Return

True or False…In order to net a significant return on investment you must “trade like the big boys” and invest a large sum of capital.


The answer, of course, is false. However, a little perspective goes a long way.


For most people who are new to investing, the axiom “it takes money to make money” generally means you have to invest large sums of capital in the stock market in order to see a large rate of return trading stocks. Potential investors who share this point of view typically ignore the world of penny stocks.


Penny stocks are stocks of smaller companies that are traded “over-the-counter” directly from brokerage firms.  Such stocks are issued by companies that either don’t have enough market exposure, don’t have enough capital (total assets) or have been de-listed from the NYSE because they lost their high credit rating.  This doesn’t mean that penny stocks are bad investments.  It simply means penny stocks are riskier investments because information about such companies is usually very scarce.


You can find most penny stocks on the newly revised Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) now known as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or on most regional exchanges.  The new FINRA OTCBB has learning tools for beginning investors and industry leaders alike, as well as, the latest market industry news, fraud alerts, stock tickers for both the big boards and small/micro-cap (penny stock) investment options.  However, it still pays to do your homework before investing in any company’s stock. The best place to start is by reviewing the company’s quarterly Form 10-Q report, its annual Form 10-K report or their Form 8-K report which lists periodic events of significant importance as required by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).


It doesn’t take a ton of money to get started in investing especially with penny stocks. You could start either by opening an account with an online broker (i.e., TD Ameritrade, Etrade, Charles Schwab, etc.) or you could participate in a direct investment plans (DRIPs) where deposits are made into an investment account and stock is purchased once the account balance reaches sufficient levels to purchase stock.


Most people learn about penny stock through mass email submissions. Such emails play up the large financial gains a small investment in penny stock could yield. It’s not uncommon to read reports claiming gains of 100% – 900% increase in profits from their initial investment. While it is true that you can recognize big profits from a small invest in penny stocks, it’s important to remember three very important things when making such an investment:

  1. Invest like a speculator. Always keep in mind that you’re investing in penny stocks for the short-term. Your goal is always to make a quick return on investment (ROI) and get out ahead of losing any significant financial gains. This is where knowing how to read stock charts comes into play.

  2. Know how much you’re willing to risk. If you’re unwilling to accept losing your investment, then odds are investing in penny stocks is not for you because chances are you’ll lose more often than you’ll win with such risky investments.  The key here is know your limit and only invest as much as you can afford to lose.

  3. Know when to cut your loses. Because trading activity with penny stocks is so fluid, it’s important that you buy into a system to help track the movement of your high risk investment. The speculative investor is constantly monitoring his/her investment to know when is the right time to buy or sell due to the volatility of the market. Therefore, it’s important to know when to cut your loses and walk away from the investment. Know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

That’s my blogpost for this week. Join the discussion by posting your comments below. And don’t forget to tune in next week where I’ll once again share more ways you can break the debt cycle and then go…beyond.

Zebert L. Brown

Zebert L. Brown is the author of Break the Debt Cycle in 3 Simple Steps and a 16 year Navy veteran with specialties in administrative management, career development and public relations. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Investing 103: Proven Investment Strategies

As mentioned in my previous blogpost, “Investor 101: Are You a Speculator or an Investor,” there’s a distinct difference between a speculator and an investor.  Both risk their capital investing in the stock market in the hopes of extracting a reasonable rate of return on their investment; however, each apply different investment strategies to achieve profitability.

For the speculator, a combination of cyclical norms, such as buying stock in the fall of the second-year of a presidential cycle and holding until the end of the year or sell in May and re-enter in October, and chart analytics are the tools of the trade.  In this regard, the speculator is always attempting to time the market so as to adhere to the stock market axiom “buy low, sell high”. There are two fundamental problems with such speculative strategies:  1) your timing has to be right over 50 percent of the time in order to make any gains; and 2) you have to know when to pull out of a stock in order to limit your losses.  That’s not to say that such timing strategies aren’t effective. However, as indicated in this article from Forbs.com (“What? Some Proven Investment Strategies Are Too Simple to Accept?”), none of the speculative strategies work every single time.  Hence, knowing when to fold ’em is critical for the speculator as his bottom line can be significantly impacted if he is wrong on either end of the “timing chain”.  Pull out too soon and you could miss out on substantial financial gains.  Stay in too long and you may loss any gains achieved from the point of purchase.

For the investor, knowing when to buy is far more important than knowing when to sell.  As with any stock purchase, you want to get in as close to the ground floor (lowest buying price) as possible.  Why?  Because as an investor you’re looking to buy value at the lowest price and hold the stock for an extended period of time, generally no less than 5 years. Thus, value investing is your investment strategy with “buy and hold” as your guiding philosophy. The value investor looks at a company’s BIC – balance sheet, income statement and cashflow analysis – to find solvency, value, long-term growth and, of course, potential profitability in the company before making a stock purchase.  The value investor is, therefore, looking at stocks as a business owner and takes the long view on investing.

The basic tenet of investing is to make a good assessment of whether the value of the investment will increase regardless of which investment strategy you employ.  The key thing to remember is to do your research before you buy a stock.  Nevertheless, if you follow the four basic rules of investing and you’re able to keep your emotions out of the purchase or sell of any stock, you should see a reasonable rate of return on your investment regardless whether you’re in for the short or the long haul.

That’s my blogpost for this week. Join the discussion by posting your comments below. And don’t forget to tune in next week when I’ll once again share more ways you can break the debt cycle and then go…beyond.

Zebert L. Brown

Zebert L. Brown is the author of Break the Debt Cycle in 3 Simple Steps and a 16 year Navy veteran with specialties in administrative management, career development and public relations. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Investing 102: The Stock Exchanges

Recently, a small group of friends asked where they could find stock quotes. My initial response was “try looking in the Wall Street Journal,” but as our discussion continued I realized my they were looking for more than just the latest stock quotes.

Finding the right stock to invest in takes some research. But in order to get started you have to know precisely where to look. While most people have heard of the New York Stock Exchange or even the NASDAQ (short for National Association of Securities Dealers’ Automated Quotation system – I’ll talk more about this “exchange” later), few realize there are other stock exchanges in the U.S. The following is a brief summary of the nine major and minor (regional) U.S. Stock exchanges:

Major U.S. Stock Exchanges

  • The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE; aka, “The Big Board”) is the world’s largest stock exchange. It lists over 1,800 U.S. companies (most of which are major large-cap corporations) and conducts over $16.6 trillion per year in trading volume (on avg., $169 billion in trading per day).

  • The NASDAQ is considered the second largest U.S. stock exchange; however, it really isn’t a physical trading floor but rather is an electronic stock exchange serving primarily as a hub for brokerage firms who conduct stock trades online. The NASDAQ lists over 2,700 U.S. and conducts over $8 trillion in annual trading volume.

  • The NYSE MKT LLC (originally the American Stock Exchange but more formerly known as the NYSE Amex Equities stock exchange) is the third largest U.S. stock exchange. Companies listed here are usually small-cap corporations trading primarily in the options market and exchange trade funds (ETFs).

  • The Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) is home for the “penny stock”. Companies listed here are either small start-ups with market capitalization under $75 million or companies that have been de-listed from the NYSE. However, don’t let their small market valuation or de-listing fool you. Companies listed on the NYSE MKT LLC are still considered viable players in the market place. These are stocks valued at below $5 per share, but don’t let their cheap prices fool you. Most Fortune 500 companies got their start on the OTCBB. Moreover, many novice speculators cut their investment teeth here. Some have gone on to make small fortunes of their own.

U.S. Regional Stock Exchanges

Of the fifteen or so regional stock exchanges across the country, the five largest regional exchanges are:

  • The Boston Stock Exchange;

  • The Chicago Stock Exchange;

  • The Pacific Exchange;

  • The Philadelphia Stock Exchange; and,

  • The Cincinnati Stock Exchange (which is a smaller version of the NASDAQ electronic stock exchange).

Stocks listed on regional exchanges are of local companies which for either economic or other reasons elect not to be listed on the major stock exchanges. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in sharing in the growth of a local company, there’s no better place to start your investigation into the strength of a local company’s stock than with your regional stock exchange.

And there you have it. Whether you have thousands of dollars to invest or just $50, know that you have several stock exchanges to choose from when attempting to make your fortune in stock trading. You don’t have to risk it all playing with the big boys on the big boards. You can start small while also gaining valuable experience. And hopefully, you’ll make a decent profit in the process.

That’s my blogpost for this week. Join the discussion by posting your comments below. And don’t forget to tune in next week where I’ll once again share more ways you can break the debt cycle and then go…beyond.

Zebert L. Brown

Zebert L. Brown is the author of Break the Debt Cycle in 3 Simple Steps and a 16 year Navy veteran with specialties in administrative management, career development and public relations. Like me on Facebook and Follow me on Twitter.

 

Investing 101: Are you a Speculator or an Investor?

In what way do you want to participate in the buying, selling and potential profitability that can only be found in the stock market? Will you be a speculator or an investor? Answering this fundamental question before risking your hard earned dollars in the volatile world of stock trading is crucial to how you approach investing.

Speculating involves an exercise of reason. It requires having the ability to gauge the movement of the market at any given time and make well informed decisions on when to limit your risk on a investment security, in this case stocks. An investor, on the other hand, buys stock in a company with the expectation to exact a reasonable rate of return on his investment over a long period of time. The time frame is usually determined by years, not hours, days or months. In short, speculators seek large profits over brief periods, whereas, investors seek a reasonable yet gradual rate of return on their investment(s) over the long haul.

While there is the potential for significant profitability on either extreme, it is the motivation behind the risk that remains the allure for those willing to participate in the free market system. Thus, the question must be asked and answered, “Why are you participating in the stock market?” Is it for short-term gains or long-term profitability? While there is nothing that says you can’t attempt to do both, answering this basic question beforehand is crucial to limiting your risk while also reaping the rewards that comes with investing in the stock market.

So, how do you minimize your risk and assure a high degree of profitability? Start by keeping these four basic rules in mind:

  1. You must accept the fact that there is a high possibility that you may lose money in the stock market. There’s no guarantee of wealth attainment. Therefore, you must enter into investing with a clear understanding of how much capital you’re willing to put at risk and the very real possibility that you may lose your investment. But as the saying goes, “no risk, no reward”.

  2. Increase your knowledge about stocks and the stock market starting with the basics:

    1. What is a stock and why are they issued?

    2. How are stocks valued (priced)?

    3. Where can stocks be purchased and how do your place an order to buy (or sell)?

    4. How is a stock’s progress tracked or monitored?

  3. Study the business, the industry and market trends before investing. The more you know about the company, the industry in which it operates (i.e., retail, tech, manufacturing, energy, real estate, etc.) and the changes within the industry, specifically where new innovations are concerned, the better, more well-informed decisions you’ll be able to make concerning your investments. Knowledge is power! Three informative resources I’d recommend for beginners who wish to increase their knowledge on investing are: a) “How to Buy Stock,” by Louis Engel, b) the annual 10K report of the company you wish to invest in as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and, c) the Wall Street Journal. The more you know about the company and/or the industry you wish to invest in and are able to gauge market trends, the better you’ll be able to make well-informed decisions concerning your investments instead of basing your decisions on emotions particularly during times of frantic market fluctuations.

  4. Know when to walk away. Knowing when to sell a stock is just as important as knowing when to buy a stock. This is different from attempting to “time the market” – jumping in or out at the perceived optimum time to buy or sell a stock. Many a speculator and investor have tried doing just that with mixed – if not disastrous – results. While it’s important to know when a stock (if not the market) is on an up tick (bull market), it’s also important to know when a stock (market) is on a precipitous downturn (bear market). Stock charts play a vital role in providing the speculator and investor alike with the insight they need to make timely decisions as to “when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.”  You should cut your loses when the value of a particular stock drops no more than 8% below its highest price gain. Anything more and you risk losing significant gains from your profit margin.  Knowing when to cut your loses is key to minimizing your risk with any investment particularly in the stock market. So, take time to learn how to read stock charts and make them an integral part of your investment knowledge base.

By following these four basic rules of investing, you can minimize your risks and increase your potential for profitability for both the short- and the long-term. But you must first answer the most crucial question concerning your investment future: Are you a speculator or an investor?

That’s my blogpost for this week. Join the discussion by posting your comments below. And don’t forget to tune in next week where I’ll once again share more ways you can break the debt cycle and then go…beyond.

Zebert L. Brown

 

Zebert L. Brown is the author of Break the Debt Cycle in 3 Simple Steps and a 16 year Navy veteran with specialties in administrative management, career development and public relations. Like me on Facebook and Follow me on Twitter.

 

Repairing Your Credit After ID-Theft

Zebert L. Brown

In my last blog, I pointed out that identity theft is a major problem for consumers no matter the size of your bank account, and I outlined a few free, simple safeguards you can take to protect yourself against identity theft. In this week’s blog, I’ll outline steps you should take to repair the damage resulting from identify theft. But first, some myth busting concerning ID-theft protection and credit repair services.

According to ConsumerReports.org, only one-third of all cases reported as ID-theft actually involve stolen identities. The rest involve stolen credit cards. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take all necessary precautions to protect yourself against ID-theft. Hackers and scammers are getting smarter in how they carry out their crimes. Therefore, the harder you make it on them the better off your digital wallet will be.

You could pay an identity theft protection service, such as, LifeLock, TrustedID or Zander Insurance’s ID-Theft Protection Plan, to protect your identity for a small monthly fee, but most of the services they charge for their services you can do yourself for free. Such services include:

Posting a Fraud Alert to your Credit Card Account. Contact any of the three major credit bureaus to set this up yourself:

The first credit bureau you contact will notify the rest.

Opting-Out of Email/Mailing List. Optoutprescreen.com is “the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website to accept and process requests from consumers to Opt-In or Opt-Out of firm offers of credit or insurance”. Just click on the “Out-In/Out-Out” button at the bottom of the screen to begin the application process. Once your application is submitted, your request remains in affect for 5-years. You’ll have to renew your application at this point in order to continue the service.

Credit Reports and FICO Scores. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus each year. You can contact each credit bureau separately or you can request all three at annualcreditreport.com. It should be noted, however, that your FICO credit score doesn’t appear on free versions of your credit report. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you contact the credit bureaus directly and pay their one-time service fee (usually between $15-20 per report) to obtain a complete copy of your credit report with credit score.

(Note: FreeCreditReport.com will also provide you a copy of your credit report with credit score from Transunion during their 7-day trial period…for $1, but in order to receive your credit reports from the other two credit reporting agencies, you’ll have to subscribe to their membership service at $14.99 per month.)

Report a Lost/Stolen Debit/Credit Card. If you can pick-up your cell phone or search the web, it’s a sure bet you can contact your bank or credit card company yourself and report your debit or credit card as lost or stolen or if you suspect someone has committed bank fraud by writing unauthorized checks against your account.

Of course, there’s that $1 million total service (insurance) guarantee these company’s claim. This may sound good, but if your lose is covered by other forms of insurance (homeowners/renters, merchant or even federal consumer protections) it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a penny of that so-called “guarantee”. So, what should you do to recover your identify if you’ve become a victim of identity theft?

  • Contact your bank or credit card company immediately and report your credit card as lost or stolen. In most cases, your bank or credit card company will close your account and start a new one at your request provided you’re able to show prove of fraudulent activity. Your monthly credit card statement along with a copy of the police report (see below) should do the trick.

  • If the theft includes personal checks, ensure to place a “stop payment” on the check or series of missing checks.

  • Change the Personal Identification Number (PIN) to your ATM upon being issued new debit/credit cards.

  • Place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus to prevent any further unauthorized purchases using your credit card.

  • Place a freeze on your credit accounts. This will prevent any new credit activity from being added to your account for at least five months.

  • Contact local law enforcement to complete a police report providing as much information as you can concerning the loss or theft of your debit or credit card or other identification that may be missing (i.e., driver’s license, Social Security Card, etc.).

  • Obtain copies of your credit reports and review each for suspicious activity and dispute any questionable purchases. This includes any new lines of credit opened in your name.

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to close any fraudulent accounts opened in your name.

  • You may also want to contact your local Postmaster, Social Security Administration and state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to report a wrongful change of address or that vital pieces of identification has been stolen and/or misused in your name.

  • Contact your creditors (those you normally pay via debit or credit card) and notify them of the investigative work being conducted concerning ID-theft of your accounts. Follow-up your phone calls with a Certified Letter.

Being penny-wise while protecting your identity doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality results. It simply means finding the right services to do the job at a price you can afford. And what better price is there than free? By doing it yourself, your only cost is time, but by taking immediate action you’ll be protecting yourself against liability for any unauthorized purchases charged to your accounts resulting from the loss or theft of your banking or credit card information. Of course, you could pay for the convenience of having these services performed for you, but now that you know you can do them yourself for free, why not put that money towards an investment account of some sort, e.g., a Roth IRA or 529 Qualified Tuition Program plan, and watch those dollars grow instead?

That’s my blogpost for this week. Join the discussion by posting your comments below. And don’t forget to tune in next week where I’ll once again share more ways you can break the debt cycle and then go…beyond.

Zebert L. Brown is the author of Break the Debt Cycle in 3 Simple Steps and a 16 year Navy veteran with specialties in administrative management, career development and public relations. Like me on Facebook and Follow me on Twitter.

Building Wealth….Slow, but Steady

Zebert L. Brown

Let’s face it, unless you win the lottery, receive a large inheritance or are fortunate enough to bring your own product to market, most people will simply have to go from rags to riches the old fashioned way – spending less, saving more and investing for the future. And while this may sound simple enough, very few are able to follow this simple plan. The reasons vary, of course, everything from low earnings, over spending, not taking advantage of apparent opportunities or the circumstances of life got in the way, but most people can slowly build wealth over time if they follow a few simple steps.

  • Monitor your spending. Unless you know exactly how your hard earned dollars are being spent you’ll never be able to determine if you’re spending your money wisely. The only tool at your disposal that will chart your spending habits is your budget. I can’t emphasis this enough! By planning your budget for the long-term, you’ll be able to better gage spending and take better control of your personal economy.

  • Make credit work for you. As consumers, most of us used credit not to build wealth but rather to supplement our income. As such, credit card debt skyrocketed over the last decade for the average middle-class household. However, today’s consumers are starting to get smarter about using credit as credit card debt is down since 2012. The best way to make credit work for you is to only buy routine household items you can afford using your credit card and paying off the balance in full immediately when the bill comes due. It’s clear that irresponsible use of credit is the leading cause of credit card debt. So, use that plastic source for short-term “loans” wisely.

  • Invest wisely. While most consumers would love to find that one stock buy that will make them rich, few people have the disposable income to make a big-time investment that stands to eventually make them millions. So, what’s a person of modest means to do if they want to get involved in the stock market? The answer is “move slowly, build up your cash infusion through savings, study industry trends, then invest wisely.” Unless you get extremely lucky and happen to put your money in a hot stock of the moment, most investors invest for the long haul through value investing. But to get there takes time and patience. In the beginning, you’ll have to take baby-steps to investing which means putting money into savings first and learning how stock trading works, but after you’ve dipped your feet in the financial water and gained experience you can take bolder moves as your earnings begin to accrue. An alternative actively trading on the stock exchange is to start a monthly stock purchasing plan with a reputable broker where installment payments are set aside until the full amount is accumulated to buy a share of stock. It’s a slow process, but at least you’ll be able to get your feet wet in the stock market and build your investment income over time.

That’s my blogpost for this week. Join the discussion and post your comments below. And don’t forget to tune in next week where I’ll once again share more ways you can break the debt cycle and then go…beyond.

Zebert L. Brown is the author of Break the Debt Cycle in 3 Simple Steps and a 16 year Navy veteran with specialties in administrative management, career development and public relations. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.