Showing posts from August, 2016

Lessons of History for Your Portfolio

I am an avid reader of books and articles related to investing and personal finance, and every now and then I come across real jewels in terms of investment lessons and examples of people who have achieved real success. These lessons and success stories not only motivate, but they can really help individual investors boost their returns and avoid common investing pitfalls.

In this blog post, I would like to share such a jewel in the form of a collection of history lessons by Tony Isola. 

Part 2: My Favorite Personal Finance and Investment Tools

This is the second part of the two-part post "My Favorite Personal Finance and Investment Tools". You can read the first part here: Part-1 My favorite personal finance and investing tools

Stock Research Tools

The FAST Graphs ( - This is probably one of the best and simplest valuation tools out there. The FAST stands for Fundamentals Analysis Software Tool. It's designed to display fundamentals of a stock in a stacked graphical style. This is the first research tool I use when evaluating any new stock or re-evaluating existing stocks on my watchlist. FAST Graphs helps me quickly screen a stock and decide whether it has sound fundamentals or not.

Part 1: My Favorite Personal Finance and Investment Tools

I have been actively and diligently managing my dividend stock portfolio for over 7-years. The portfolio has not only provided me with growing income for years, which I have been re-investing, my return has also been higher than the overall S&P 500 Index. 

I May Have Been Financially Lucky

I somehow avoided getting into financial debt traps when I was young and didn't know any better. I guess, I must be lucky.

When starting out my adult life, I could have easily made decisions that could have put my financial future at risk, or at minimum prevented me from achieving financial independence and early retirement. Therefore, I consider myself financially lucky that somehow I avoided early life financial mistakes.

Here are some of my early financial decisions or experiences that could have easily gone the wrong way, but they didn't:

Humans Need Not Apply

Future jobs would be mostly humanless and this future is not too far away. As a matter of fact, we are already seeing the first generation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing humans in many different job markets.

AI Technology will make most human jobs obsolete in just a couple of years. Main reason is the exponential pace at which computer & software technology has advanced in the past few years and the ever increasingly connected world of limit less availability to data. 

My Favorite S&P 500 Index Funds

Index Funds are great for Passive Investors because they are normally low cost and follow a specific Index or Benchmark. They also don't require any on-going monitoring or active management from the investor. An investor can essentially buy an Index Fund, turn-on auto re-investment of dividends, and forget it for the next 10 to 20 years. I believe they can be great for tax-deferred retirement accounts due to very long investment horizon and low cost for on-going investment of regular contributions such as from a paycheck.

See my introductory post on Index Funds here: Intro to Index Funds

When investing in Index Funds, I go with the biggest names in S&P 500 Index ETFs such as SPDR SPY, Vanguard VOO, and iShare IVV. All three have tens of billions of dollars in AUM (Asset under Management) and are considered some of the best low cost S&P 500 Index ETFs. 

A Marriage Without Love

Before I knew it, my marriage turned into a 'marriage without love'. Yup, that's how I was feeling during the last few years. Even though I tried to re-ignite the love we once had for each other, nothing would work.

She was much older than I was, but she wanted someone younger and probably more attractive than me. We were arguing and bickering all the time, not knowing the direction we wanted to go in the future. 

Intro to Investing in Index Funds

What is an ‘Index Fund’?
Index fund is a basket of stocks or bonds that follow a certain benchmark Index. A benchmark index is a standard against which the performance of an investment is measured. For example, S&P 500 is an American benchmark Index of 500 large companies and is probably the most popular stock index as it represents the broader health of US stock market and economy. Besides S&P 500, there many other Indexes that represent or focus other parts of the market such as Small Cap Stocks, Bonds, Dividend paying stocks, and many other benchmarks.
Investment firms create Index Funds that track these benchmark Indexes. An investor can buy shares of these Index Funds either directly from the investment firm or through their brokerage. These funds are normally traded on stock market as ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) and sometimes even as Mutual Funds. ETFs trade just like stocks where an investor can buy or sell ETF shares during the normal hours of the market. Therefore, if …

Simple steps to start investing in stock market

You don't have to be a financial genius or a master stock picker to invest in stock market nor do you need to pay thousands of dollars in advising fees to be part of the action. 

All you need is an online discount brokerage account, some money to invest, and a low cost Index Fund such as an S&P 500 Index ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) that tracks broader market. Think of ETF as a basket of stocks that you can buy a share into and get an instant diversification. It is also more cost effective than buying individual stocks, and probably the best option for people who just want to invest in broader stock market and do not have time to study and track individual stocks. Read more about Index Funds/ETFs in a later blog post: Intro to Investing in Index Funds

My Early Retirement - One Month Update

I just made it through my first month of early retirement and so far I have no regrets of leaving my engineering career. Today is exactly one month since my last day at work, and when I drove home knowing that I would likely never return.

My Initial Feelings after Leaving
Leaving my job and career was probably the toughest decision I made in a long time. You can read about why I left my job and career in my earlier blog post: Why I left my engineering job and retired early

I gave my notice to my manager during a casual 1:1 meeting a month before I was planning to leave. Normally, two weeks of notice is considered sufficient, but as a courtesy to my boss and my team, I wanted to give them sufficient time to plan for my replacement and minimize any impact from my leaving. I got along well with my manager and my team, and wanted them to be successful even after I leave. Therefore, there were no ill feelings between us.

Build your Lifeboat now before it's too late

Some interesting facts on the Unsinkable RMS TITANIC Passengers and Crew:
All 30 engineer and electrical engineers perished. They were true heroes who stayed down below until almost the end trying to keep the ship afloat and the electrical system working.Testimony has made it clear that Captain Smith and the chief officers of the Titanic knew before the first lifeboat was launched that the Titanic would sink.Especially early on, when only the First Class passengers had the option to board, most believed that boarding a lifeboat was not wise or necessary.       Source:

Reading the above facts on RMS Titanic reminds me of a Titanic I was once on. My entire lively hood depended on the Titanic. Even though, I mostly worked in the engine room with other engineers, I often made it to the upper decks of the ship from where I could see what lied ahead of us. I also had access to the ship's map and its compass.

Am I ready to invest in stock market?

I often get the question from friends or former colleagues about investing "How do I start investing in stocks or which stock should I buy?"

Before answering the above question, there is one other question that everyone new to stock market should ask themselves: Am I ready to invest in stock market?  

What does readiness mean here? Well, let me try to explain it in this article, and may be in a later article I can talk about how to get started with stock market investing.

Create a tax-free supplemental retirement account using an HSA

Most people overlook or are not aware of the fact that they can invest within an HSA account and use it to supplement their retirement account. An HSA is a tax advantage Health Savings Account that you can open at the time of enrolling into a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), such as the one offered through your employer.

The main purpose of an HSA is to provide you a place to save money tax-free and to pay for health related out-of-pocket expenses also tax-free.

Therefore, an HSA has triple tax advantage:

1. Contributions into an HSA are tax deductible
2. Money in an HSA grows tax-free
3. Withdrawals from an HSA are also tax-free as long as they are used for health related expenses