Monday, September 29, 2014

Retired Teacher With Money Regrets

Are you retired from a profession you put decades into and living with income anxiety?  Do you wonder if you will have enough money in retirement to see you through the rest of your life?

You are not alone.  There are many baby boomers out there wondering the same exact thing.

Why does Common Core Money: Financial Literacy for Educators and Other Professionals blog exist?

It exists out of concern for many of my professional peers out there, who are not taking the appropriate steps to ensure a comfortable, worry free retirement.  Just out today in the Los Angeles Times was an excellent article about a retired teacher, wishing she had made better decisions during her teaching days.  It is a sad, but enlightening testimonial about the power of money management skills, and of investing for the future.  Here is the link:  LA Times article.

I will tell you that it is not so much how much money you can sock away (invest with), though the more the better obviously, but rather how soon you start and take advantage of compounding interest.  Have you read my post on what "compounding" is when it comes to building wealth?  If not, click here:  What is Compounding.

If you are retired and are enjoying your retirement, what everyday advice can you give us to help us along the way?  

If you are retired and worried about your income stream lasting, what can you tell us to help us avoid a similar future?

Don't be shy, please post a comment below.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Steal From the Poor, Give to the Rich

CCM blog is changing things up.  If you have noticed, there is now a "Guest Authors" page on the site.  For you today, I am proud to present a guest post from Philip Fanara.  Please see Philip's credits at the Guest Authors page.  Enjoy!

The stock market is not fair.  It does not care about your mortgage, your children’s education, or your well-being.

Simply put, the stock market is the last resemblance of a capitalistic society.  In a world of big brother government regulations saving people from themselves, the stock market still holds its own – bankrupting the ignorant and making millionaires of the wise.

Hundreds of billions of dollars change hands in the stock market on a daily basis.  In the short-term, profits randomly flow to all participants; some ignorant investors may catch a break and some wise investors may pull the short straw.  

However in the long-term the market acts as Lady Scales; the wise investors eagerly gobble-up the life savings of the ignorant gamblers.  Hence, the rich become richer and the poor find a second job to help support the rich.

If you have not yet been successful in the market, do not fret.  The average investor is not successful; only a minority of investors ever become rich trading stocks.

Does this mean it is impossible to become successful?  Of course not.  You just need to be smarter and more rational than the average trader, which in reality is not so difficult once you understand why traders act the way they do.

Welcome to my world.  My name is Philip Fanara, a.k.a. “The Stock Market Outsider,” and I profit from the rampant greed and fear that exists in the marketplace.

How do I pull this off?  First I only invest in fundamentally strong, undervalued companies.  I never hold stocks for the long-term.  My goal is to earn a small profit then get out. 

I will leave you with a quote that best describes my trading strategy:

Treat the stock market as a sea of fish. 

Sail out a moderate distance and cast your small net. Catch the majority of the fish in that area, sail back home, and sell the fish to buy a bigger net. 

Over time, your net will be the size of a city.”

The Stock Market Outsider: Becoming a Billionaire

“The Most Interesting Stock Market Book Written”

Philip Fanara
Author of "The Stock Market Outsider"

Saturday, September 20, 2014

YAHOO's a Treasure Chest And a BUY

Silly.  That's what I thought of investors who were dumping shares of Yahoo (YHOO) on Alibaba's (BABA) public birthday.  On Friday, YHOO traded between a high of $43.19 and a low of $39.55.  That's almost a four point swing!  Not surprisingly, the stock reached its high for the day within the first hour or so of trading.  The NYSE gave BABA underwriters all of the time they needed down on the trading floor to set their opening bid/price.  BABA was being touted as the anti-Facebook Initial Public Offering (IPO), so those responsible for leading the offering, lucky Goldman Sachs, took their sweet time to make sure everything was on point.  And it turned out to be that indeed by day's end, with BABA closing some 38% up at the end of the trading day.

But back to Yahoo.  Many investors of Yahoo were befuddled by the sudden loss of capital they experienced while owning shares of the stock on Friday.  Many of them pulled the trigger and sold, allowing their emotions get the best of them.  I was on the other side of the trade, scooping up shares!

Why did Yahoo drop?  See, Yahoo, before Alibaba went public on Friday, was an Alibaba play.  Since    many institutional and retail investors could not get their hands on shares of the company, the next best thing was owning Yahoo.  Yahoo's stake in Alibaba prior to selling shares on Friday: 524 million shares!  YHOO investors had bid up the shares in previous weeks, and those gains were as a result of the information they received regarding the share price BABA would command at the start.  So the stock's recent rise was attributed to the nearing of the BABA IPO.  Once BABA went public, BABA investors didn't need to own YHOO anymore.  They could buy BABA for themselves now!  Thus, they dumped their YHOO shares in order to buy BABA shares, leaving only the true YHOO believers behind.

Many, I including, believed that YHOO shares would rise as the price of BABA climbed, giving YHOO more of a payday.  After all, starting at $80/share is great, but being able to sell shares at $99 (BABA's high) is even better.  I'd purchased shares in the low $42's the previous day, thinking YHOO would go higher after locking in some serious cash.  I was wrong.  But as an experienced investor, I figured out my mistake right away, seeking an explanation, which I got sometime in the middle of the day.  I had to make another decision.  BUY/HOLD/SELL.  I bought more of it.  As the price of the stock trickled downward, I doubled down around $40.5.  And this is what brings me to telling you what being a stock investor is really all about:

Investing in stocks is about making a bunch of objective decisions, nothing more, nothing less.  It's not about personalizing your good or bad decisions.  Things happen.  Unexpected things happen.  It's not about faulting yourself if you lose money, or patting yourself on the back if you make money.  There is always money to be made!  In fact, making money is easy!  Now...knowing how not to lose money...that is the stuff!

My premise for buying shares of Yahoo prior to the Alibaba IPO involved liking the extremely favorable position Yahoo, the company (not the stock), would be in monetarily from cash proceeds gained when ringing the register.  In one fell swoop, Yahoo made over 9 billion dollars, over 5 billion after taxes, from selling 120 million shares.  That's a lot of cash.  And after a year, when more shares get unlocked (YHOO is not allowed to sell any more for this time frame), YHOO gets to print money again!  Yes, I said print money.  Here's a metaphor for you:  Yahoo is like a huge treasure chest filled with gold right now, sitting on the beach above a giant, "X."  Any pirate around? Coincidentally, Friday, September 19, was International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Avast, me hearties!

Some investors don't like the company.  They feel Yahoo's underlying business, advertising, is weak and will continue to underperform in the near future at the helm of Marissa Mayer.  Here's what I know.  Yahoo is still in the top 5 most visited sites in the US.  It has acquired some companies that did nothing for earnings (Tumblr e.g.), true enough.  But it just got this windfall of cash.  Yahoo itself has become an acquisition target.  Who wouldn't want to buy a company that has an excrement load of cash and more to come in the future?

Companies acquire other companies for growth, earnings growth to be specific.  A perfect way to boost growth is to buy a company that is cash strapped, like Yahoo.  Potential buyers could be Softbank or even Alibaba!  Softbank, run by CEO, Masayoshi Son, was the other winner of the day, owning an even bigger BABA stake.  Masayoshi Son and BABA CEO, Jack Ma are buddies.  YAHOO has a spin off (YAHOO JAPAN) in Japan.  So the potential for Yahoo to be bought is there.  But let's assume it won't happen.  We don't know the probability, i.e., the numbers associated with this event.  So instead let's just call it a "possibility" and consider other scenarios.  Here they are:

A) Yahoo continues to buy more of its shares, reducing its outstanding shares (float), improving its earnings per share, therefore, and investor equity.

B) Seeking growth, Marissa Mayers approves the purchase and acquisition of another company, e.g., AOL.  This possibility has already been mentioned in the news.

C) Yahoo does both A and B

D) Yahoo does nothing, except ride the price of BABA up, selling its stake of BABA for the next few years and making its cash vault plush.

Where in any of these scenarios is there a danger to the company?  

If the underlying company sans the BABA ownership performs even worse over the coming years, it is still a favorable situation for investors as this will make Yahoo more of an acquisition target.  If Marissa Mayer gets her act together and actually uses the cash wisely to improve operations, then this too bodes well for investors.

On Barron's magazine this weekend, "Best Way to Play Alibaba: Buy Yahoo!", Barron's estimated Yahoo's assets to be worth 58 billion, translating to $58/share.  This does not include taxes.  Nonetheless, there is a wide margin of safety there for investors.  Barron's assumes that 12 billion would be shaved off from the overall after taxes, making the shares valued at $46 dollars each.  That's 12.4% upside from where the shares are now!  On Monday, there could be more selling.  If so, this could present a compelling entry point for new YHOO investors.  If it dips again, I'd buy!

Note: From a technical analysis standpoint, the next level of resistance for YHOO is $37.  So if you buy at $39, be prepared to lose two dollars a share from your basis.  (It is crucial to have a plan before you buy!)



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Uprising over the Income/Wealth Gap? Not While We Have Football!

Credit for pic

Interesting.  That is the word that comes to my scientific and creative mind when I consider the rise of American Football during the epic economic decline of the U.S. middle-class.  Baseball used to be called, "America's Pastime."  Today, baseball is more like, past its time.  We love football!  It's true we do.  We are gifted with the opportunity to watch our favorite sport on television multiple times a week.  Monday: Monday Night Football.  Tuesday: we rest.  Wednesday: we rest.  Thursday: Thursday Night Football.  Friday: College Football.  Saturday: College Football galore, and toward the end of the NFL season, NFL Football too!  Sunday: Duh!  Sunday is game day!  That's a five day viewing feast for the football lover.

Viewership Scores A Touchdown

The rise of football as America's number one sport has been tracked for some time.  Just take a look at television viewership ratings this year and you will see what has been taking place for many years now: football dominates the ratings.  The NFL is not shy about promoting itself as the leading entertainment provider either.  The league knows they have a wonderful, addictive product, the kind that would make any emperor or dictator salivate, but since we live in a democracy, this mob super distraction (best I could come up with to describe it) is best enjoyed by our corporations, wealthy people with a piece of the pie, and government officials.  Check out the trends the past three years in television viewership for the NFL: Unprecedented 3 year trends.  55% of all television shows averaging at least 20 million people watching were owned by the league!

Pic credit

Ticket Prices Score the Two Point Conversion

There is seemingly no stopping the behemoth that is the NFL.  Not even ticket prices.  The average Joe has been steadily squeezed out of the stadium.  With average ticket prices surging every year, fewer and fewer middle-class Americans are able to attend live games.  We are all aware (well, mostly all of us) of the income gap, about the overall tenacity companies have in keeping wages low, and about how few states have participated in increasing the minimum wage in order to entice corporations to conduct business within their boundaries.

We have seen television coverage shift to the few demonstrations across the country showing angry protesters complaining with signs about low wages.  We've seen protests taking place in front of Wal Mart stores.  We've applauded Costco's great compensation plan.  Unlike Costco employees, the majority of workers aren't seeing increasing wages.  Yet...yet...this is not stopping people from hitting the ticket boxes, making deals online in secondary markets, or pleading with scalpers in the parking lots of our beloved coliseums. Check out what it costs on average to get in to see your favorite team:  Expensive seats.

I don't like making accusations or indirect assertions on this blog.  However, there are times when a different perspective is necessary.  I realize that there are so many more things Americans spend their hard earned money on, other than football.  And who am I to judge anyone on what they do with their disposable income?  Nobody.  I'd like to believe that my fellow Americans are not wasting their potential investment dough on football related expenses such as tickets, parking, concessions, all access cable, sportswear, etc.  But alas, I am sure that some people are.  Similarly, I am not trying to dimish the problem (for some but not for others) we have with wages.  Workers may have a rightful claim to be better remunerated under certain circumstances.  So what I'm saying is...

Time Better Spent?

What can Americans do with their valuable time instead of watching football?  They can for starters pay more attention to geo-politics.  Nah!  Russia and Iraq are no match for the pigskin.  Well, what about doing something that can benefit their livelihoods?  Like thinking about a potential money making venture.  You innovating.  Nah!  Too hard to think.  Okay, so how about making a concerted effort to invest in the single biggest and best wealth creation vehicle of all time?  The stock market.  Americans alive today do not trust the stock market.  It says so right here: CBS News/Study.  How can Americans invest in stocks, you may ask, when the average worker is getting paid the same or less in our sluggish economy and having to pay more for certain goods and services?  It is difficult, but not impossible.

What if the time that was lost watching football was put to work?  More people becoming financially literate by virtue of reading or listening to financial audio would do wonders for our economy.  Yes, the barrier of lack of trust must be overcome.  After two major market collapses, most Americans are fed up with stocks.  They don't trust advisors, money managers, computers on Wall Street, and so on and so forth.  Let me tell you something you may not want to hear:  Keep your emotions out of it!

By not being savvy to the policies that have been put in place the past several years by our federal government, you have been made destitute without your knowing.  The stock market has been on a tear for almost six years!  The zero, to near zero rates banks have been getting to lend to other financial institutions and "quantative easing" are the two main reasons.  If you have been on the sidelines (pun intended), placing your disposable cash under a mattress or in a bank account, you have suffered losses you don't even know about!

Stock ownership trends are a concern for me.  I want this country to live and be healthy for a long time.  But how can it, if people who were born here (as opposed to this immigrant from Mexico) are fearful of investing, fearful of their own free market constructs?  

As of 2013, only 52% of Americans owned any stocks.  Down 10 percentage points from the previous year.  Not good.  See: Sotck Ownership.  Meanwhile, the wealth gap continues to widen.

So What?

This is what it boils down to:  You're not making any more money as a worker because raises and minimum wage increases are hard to come by.  You're losing money by a) not investing and b) letting purchasing power be eroded by inflation.  You're possibly spending too much time watching football, hampering your creative outlets, minimizing your money making/problem solving thought processes.  So what?

How's a future filled with instability and chaos suit you?  Too far fetched?  Well, how much longer can things continue to worsen before the mob finally takes notice and sides with middle-class instigators?  Here's someone writing about an American revolution because of the wealth gap: Wealth Gap revolt.

We have our gridiron gladiators to partly thank for our American order and "domestic tranquility."  God save a country with as many guns and problems as we have that does NOT have football.

Until Next Time!  Questions or Comments?  Please Post.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stock Analysis 101: Lesson 1

Fundamental Analysis of Stocks

Metric #1: Price to Earnings ratio

A stock’s P/E ratio is derived by taking the stock’s current market share price and dividing it by its per-share earnings.

If company A has common shares that closed at $25.55 on 9/10/14 and reported earning $1.25 per common share during its last annual report, then the P/E ratio for this stock would be
$25.55/$1.25 = 20.44.  A stock's P/E ratio is dynamic because the price of a stock changes daily, but a company's earnings for the previous year is unchanged.  It earned whatever it earned after four quarters (12 months) and there is no changing the reported quarterly earnings.

The PE ratio is also known as a stock’s earnings multiple because you can take the ratio, multiply it by the company’s earnings per share and get the price of the stock: 20.44 x 1.25 = 25.55.

Valuing a Stock using the PE ratio:

Generally speaking, stocks with PE ratios that are between 1-10 are considered “speculative.”  In contrast, stocks whose PE ratios are between 10-22 are considered “value” plays.  Finally, stocks with PE ratios between 22 and beyond are considered “high multiple,” expensive stocks with the exception of:
  1. A stock that is growing its earnings at a greater than 15% rate a year.
  2. Tech stocks or other higher traditional multiple stocks such as REIT (Real Estate Investment Trusts).  There is an expected range in terms of PE ratios for a given industry.

High multiple/rapidly expanding growth stocks e.g., Facebook (FB) with a PE ratio of 84, will command a higher share price.  At the same time, if they “miss” on their earnings on a subsequent quarter or two or more consecutive quarters, the shares of these stocks will plummet much more so (with higher volatility) than a stock with a more modest PE ratio, e.g., Apple (AAPL) with a PE ratio of 16.30.  Why?

Limitations to Using the PE ratio to compare companies in the same industry

In the case of Facebook, an investor is paying up for the growth in Facebook, whereas Apple is after many years of existence no longer in its growth phase as a company.  Both Facebook and Apple are in the tech industry.  Yet, comparing FB stock to AAPL stock comes with the necessary understanding that these two companies are in different places in their “life cycles” and the PE ratio will not suffice to compare the two.

Benefits to Using the PE ratio to compare companies in the same industry 

Which stock is better, McDonald’s or Burger King’s?  Both are in the fast food industry and have been around for some time.  MCD’s PE ratio is 16.83.  BKW’s PE ratio is 41.63.  From a valuation standpoint, MCD is in the “value” range whereas BKW is in the “expensive” range.  It is good to know this.  However, an investor must still do their due diligence and figure out if the higher multiple in BKW is warranted or if it is not, i.e., if the stock is accurately priced at $31.39 a share as of 9/10.  MCD’s share price as of 9/10 was $93.0.

A person simply looking at the price of the stock would think that BKW is cheaper, when in fact the price of the stock is not telling at all whatsoever, rather, the PE ratio clearly shows that MCD is the cheaper stock at $93.0!!  Let’s bring on another fast food restaurant player: Jack in the Box or JACK.  As of 9/10/14, the price of the stock was $62.88.  Cheaper than McDonald’s?  Look at the PE ratio, not the price!  JACK’s PE ratio is 26.71.  So, no!  MCD at $93 with a PE ratio of 16.83 presents a better value for an investor.

Your homework: Determine which stock is the least expensive using PE ratios:

F or GM

Extension:  What is the 5-year growth rate in earnings per share for the following stocks: (Use the 10-year Summary link at MSN Money).  Hint: 

Growth rate = final value - initial value / initial value, then X 100.

General Electric (GE)
Target (TGT)

Based on the earnings growth rate for the past five years on the above two stocks, would you buy GE or TGT today?  What Unknown would make you hesitate buying any stock solely on the basis of a 5-year growth rate?

Until the Next Lesson!   Want to check your answers?  Email me.  Questions?  Post a comment.

Monday, September 8, 2014

When Blogging Gets Real: How Your Blog Can Pay

The “side-hustle” should be a footnote on everyone’s resume.  It makes the person seem dynamic and resourceful.  The “day job” on the other hand, has come to be something we just do to keep ourselves financially afloat.  The meat of a resume is a list of bona fide employment experiences, but the tasty seasoning in my estimation, are the experiences people acquire with their side ventures.


Technology makes businesses increasingly adaptive, allowing them to innovate today at breakneck speeds.  Whereas innovation is the lifeblood of a company, it is the death certificate of a specialized worker.  Laying off workers in departments prone to software automation (human resources, IT, sales, legal consulting, e.g.) has come to be the norm in today’s labor market.  For many people the “side-hustle” becomes their “second act,” forced into a business of their own as a result of an unfortunate career (this author’s least favorite word) set-back.

I’ve been fortunate to have steady employment the past ten years, working as a high school assistant principal in southern California.  I’ve been investing in equities (stock picking) and real estate (buying rentals) since I made my move out of the classroom and into an administrator’s office.  I taught myself how to invest by reading extensively, and by virtue of making plenty of mistakes.  About two years ago, I decided that investing as a singular money-making activity, was insufficient in stimulating me and in deepening my retirement pockets.

My ability to write well became the focal point of my initial “side-hustle” brainstorming sessions.  There are skills we all have that we can monetize given the right amount of creativity.  Entrepreneurs alike many companies, have turned to blogging in an effort to promote and market themselves.  In fact, I’d say that blogging or employing a blogger is tantamount to keeping costs down and shareholders happy.  One company doing just that, hiring me to blog for them is the crowd funding REIT,  Based out of Newport Beach, CA, Rich-Uncles is the brainchild of none other than CBRE Group, Inc., Chairman, Ray Wirta.  Ray’s associates and Rich-Uncles co-founders, Harold Hofer (founder of the Nexregen REIT) and Howard Makler (founder of Excess Space Retail Services, Inc.) complete this impressive trio of commercial real estate experts.

The Nexregen REIT (Rich-Uncles is the brand) is a public, non-listed REIT with a single mission: to purchase single standing commercial real estate buildings and lease them out to well-known companies utilizing a triple net (NNN) lease.   A triple net lease reverses the liability and expenses associated with owning commercial real estate by having the tenant pay all taxes and insurance, utilities, and maintenance.  In 8 Tips for Real Estate Crowdfunding, Community Investor Sep/Oct 2014 edition Online Article, Dan Miller’s seventh tip involves making sure that investors read the fine print before taking an equity position on a deal promoted on the online platform (e.g. ).  He states: “Every project is unique, and it’s important to understand what will happen in the event that something goes wrong.”  With Rich-Uncles, you get three proven experts managing a single portfolio currently consisting of 22 Del Taco’s and one Chase Bank.  You leave the acquisitions to those that know what they are doing and in return you get a steady, reliable, and predictable dividend. 

What started for me as a way to market my e-books online and engage a like-minded audience, has strategically turned into a mutual beneficial relationship.  I am compensated every month to cover newsworthy events, merge financial literacy posts into opportunities to promote Rich-Uncles, and assist with writing short but powerful emails to investors on their database.  For company leaders, hiring a blogger whose knowledge of your industry compliments their writing prowess, it may be a good idea to consider a partnership.  For bloggers, opportunities abound to make connections with business leaders.  Start by growing your blogging audience.  Blog about topics that may perk the attention of a small company CEO, and of course, keep thinking of ways you can grow that “side-hustle.”

Until Next Time!  

Please Post Questions or Comments. 

Friday, September 5, 2014 Review

Through my daily reading at various financial news outlets online I came across an interesting blurb about an investing platform whose aim is to provide an alternative to active portfolio management: Wealthfront's Site.

I did my due diligence (as always) for my readers and found two opposing views worthy of sharing about this investment firm.  At you can read how Wealthfront helped Eric Eldon make money in 2013.  Everyone made money in equities last year, and I wasn't one bit impressed with the returns he got from his automated portfolio.  Eric did, however, do an excellent job of profiling Wealthfront for his readers.  I do not like to reinvent the wheel so I won't do the same.  I'll instead give you my advice and let you determine if Wealthfront, Inc. is for you.  In defense of the active portfolio advisor is Mike Alfred.  In Why-betterment-wealthfront-and-other-online-investment-firms-are-wrong-about-financial-advisors/, Mr. Alfred makes a compelling case for utilizing a live human to manage your money, even if the costs are slightly higher.

Is Wealthfront for You?

When you go get a hair cut, do you care which barber (or hair stylist) you get?  Do you think that the supreme pizza, with its perfect balance of delicious toppings, is the best flatbread invention of all time?  Do you prefer shopping for clothes at the Men's Warehouse or Amazon?  If you answered: No, Yes, and Amazon, then Wealthfront is for you!

You don't have to know diddly squat about investing, and you don't have to pay a single cent for the service if you invest less than $10K.  If you invest more than $10K the charge is a monthly rate on 0.25% annually.  The benefit: you get a portfolio of all asset classes perfectly mixed for your risk tolerance, and the best part is that it is on auto-pilot (no work for you whatsoever), completely automated, that is.  What's not to like if you're a newbie at investing?  Nothing really, they have it all.  You are truly getting professional service at a steep discount.  They even strive to minimize your capital gains taxes!

I will warn you that although the service is top of the line, the diversification is entirely securitized.  Huh?  This means that everything their technology buys, and sets your portfolio up with, is an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), a paper asset, of a given asset class: e.g. stocks, bonds, natural resources, and real estate.  I've addressed this concept before on other posts, see: Future Looks Bright for CR.
       Wealthfront does not hide the fact that what they do, relying on Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), will fail when all asset classes behave the same, like they did during the crash that spawned our Great Recession.  "Today, MPT is the most widely accepted framework for managing diversified investment portfolios. MPT has its limitations, especially in the area of very low probability significant downside scenarios..."

Be assured though that if all hell breaks loose again, it won't matter what you own as almost every asset type will fall in value.  Death spiral!

Final Thoughts

I like  I think it's great for beginners or even experienced investors who have grown tired of managing their own portfolio.  Even experienced investors do a poor job of indexing, see: Switched to an Index Fund.  Not to mention, how savvy are you at minimizing taxes with your indexing?  If I had less than $100K to invest and wanted it done right, I'd go with Wealthfront, keeping in mind that an investment comes with risks no matter what.  If I had more than $100K, I would seek professional help, an advisor that would be worth trusting with my money.  The premium in associated fees (with an advisor) would be well-worth it, having someone I could speak with regularly, someone whose expertise I respected, someone who would be responsive to my needs.  AS THEY SAY: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

Until Next Time!  Any Questions or Comments?