Kim Petch Kim is the writer behind Balance Junkie, a blog about personal finance, economics, investing, and life balance. You can also find her articles featured on Seeking Alpha. She's a big fan of her three sons, paying down the mortgage and baseball - in that order.
Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings may get all the glory when it comes to reliving the big Super Bowl plays of 2011, but it wouldn’t have mattered how many points the Packers put on the board if they didn’t have a strong defense as well.
In other words, a good offense can’t be successful without an effective defensive program. And the same is true for your investment strategy.
Here are the best strategies to protect yourself when it comes to the game of investing.
The stock market has risen about 90% since the March 2009 lows. Mind you, that rally followed a steep 57% decline. Still, in light of the gains of the past two years, how can some analysts say we’re still in the midst of a secular bear market?
Bulls vs. Bears
For those who are new to stock market lingo, a bull market is one where the primary trend is upward. A bear market means stock prices are falling. A secular trend usually refers to a longer-term trend, whereas a cyclical trend reflects the short-term market momentum. So you can have a cyclical bull market within a larger secular bear market and vice versa.
Would you rather have a stable job with lower income, or a position with fluctuating, but potentially higher income? This is something my family and I have wrestled with a few times over the past 3 years. Now, we’re in that position again. It takes a lot of consideration to sort through all of the variables in order to make the right choice for our family and our future.
Fixed vs. Variable Income
Most people who are self-employed or work in sales earn some form of commission that allows them to make more as they sell more. You can earn a lot more than most standard salaries by working hard and providing good service.
When you hear people discussing interest rates or investment returns, you may notice that they make a distinction between real and nominal rates.
What’s the difference and why should it matter to you?
Essentially, the inflation rate is the difference between the two. It matters because nominal rates don’t tell the whole story – for your investment returns or the economy. To really understand what’s happening with your money, you need to look at real rates, too.
One of the biggest debates in the investing community is whether the average investor should look for alpha or beta results from his or her portfolio.
What’s the difference? Let’s take a look at each investment style and then you can decide which one best fits your needs.
The Alpha Investor
You’ll often hear active investors refer to their “alpha.” This is basically the amount by which they have exceeded (or underperformed) their benchmark index. For instance, if you invest primarily in US stocks, you might use the S&P 500 index as your benchmark.
The past 3 years have been rife with changes – economically, financially, and socially. We’ve seen a lot of cultural and financial icons go very quickly from hero to villain. Many pop stars and sports heroes of the past decade have spent more time in tabloids than pursuing their chosen careers. Even President Barack Obama, once heralded as an instrument of change himself, has recently suffered a fall from grace.
Financial planning and maintenance are easy to put off. That’s why they appear on so many top 10 lists about how to help stop procrastination and how to keep your financial New Year’s resolutions. We know that organizing our finances, like exercising and eating right, will improve our quality of life and make us feel better. We know that it’s important to track spending, boost savings, set up an emergency fund, and plan for the future. And yet, many of us have a hard time actually sitting down and doing these things!
Boundaries are so important in every area of our lives. Without them, anarchy and chaos would have free reign. Managing our personal finances requires boundaries perhaps more than any other aspect of our lives.
For most of us, a creating an effective budget is the perfect way to set these financial boundaries. But a lot of us have trouble deciding how much to budget for each category. While some expenses are fairly regular, others can vary by quite a bit from month to month. How can we predict exactly how much we will spend on groceries or other variable expenses in a given month or year?
There’s more to tracking your finances than understanding your net worth and having an effective personal budget in place. It’s also critical to keep a close eye on your cash flow. What’s is cash flow exactly? Let me first delve into the 3 types of financial statements including the cash flow statement, and then I’ll go into the importance of maintaining a solid positive cash flow.
3 Types of Financial Statements
Businesses have three different types of financial statements: a balance sheet, an income statement, and a cash flow statement. Most people don’t realize that these same statements also directly apply to their personal finances, even if they don’t have their finances labeled as such. Let’s briefly look at each of these statements:
Most investment professionals consider bonds a safe component of portfolios. They’re supposed to provide the stability and certainty that stocks can’t. Others say that bonds aren’t as safe as they seem. Who do you believe?
Both sides actually make some good points. How much you decide to allocate to bonds vs. stocks will depend not only on factors like your age and risk tolerance, but also the amount and stability of your income. Your investment success will also largely depend on your ability to curb spending and set aside money for the future. Before we look at the pros and cons of investing in bonds over stocks, we need to make an important distinction between investing in bonds through funds or ETF securities vs. buying individual bonds.
David Dunham once said, “Efficiency is intelligent laziness.” Have you ever reached the last bite of food on your plate and really savored it? Did you wish you had done the same with all the other bites? At that point, you might realize that it was your other tasks (television, filing your taxes, or chatting on the phone) that distracted you from realizing how great a meal your wife had cooked.
Have you ever heard anyone mention the yield curve and wondered what on earth they were talking about? It’s really not as complicated as it sounds. More importantly, you can make better financial and investment decisions if you have a basic grasp of what the yield curve is and what it might be telling us. There are 3 main things you need to know about the yield curve:
Ralph Seger once said, “One way to end up with $1 million is to start with $2 million and use technical analysis.” I find this quote amusing. A lot of people feel very strongly that technical analysis is about as useful as voodoo for helping you figure out the best investments for your money. I happen to disagree, but before I tell you why, let’s take a look at some of the differences between fundamental and technical analysis of investments.
You may have heard a lot about the popularity of investing in bonds lately. Perhaps you’re wondering what all the fuss is about and whether or not you should hop on the bond bandwagon. I thought we might look at some of the basics of bonds for beginners today.
There’s an interesting poem by Robert Fulghum from a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I first came across it while I was training to be a teacher. Working in a number of kindergarten classrooms made me realize that there was a lot of truth in the poem, but I didn’t fully appreciate its message until I had children of my own.
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