The Guide to Investing: Part 1

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When it comes to investing, you need to be practical about your goals and the overall situation. This is not a simple get-rich-quick scheme. Instead, it requires a lot of due diligence in finance and financial management. This type of control with your personal finance is something that can benefit you in the long run. But make no mistake; making smart and strategic investments requires quite a bit of effort and research, especially without the advice of a professional expert.

Now you do not have to be an expert to invest in a company or a stock. While you can hire a professional like a financial advisor to do the grunt work for you, all you truly need to understand is what investing is, what it means, and how time itself is the factor that earns money through compounding. To help you in your efforts, try and buy quick tutorial books on investing or visit sites like Investopedia.com that review the basics and foundations of investment strategy. I would still advise you to seek additional help from a friend or a professional. The more knowledge you are able to amass, the better you are able to reach your personal financial goals.

Now when it comes to investing, there are a couple of things you should try and avoid. First and foremost, you need to be tangible and realistic about the overall timeline in reaching your personal financial goals. Expecting too much or using someone else’s expectations can often times derail both your morale and your financial plan. Like it or not, the simple act of investing cannot immediately solve your problems in a short period of time. As stated above, time will be the sole factor in how lucrative your return will be in the future. To help alleviate this problem, try not to set unrealistic expectations. Instead, base your projects on past investors and their financial returns (and financial loses). This will allow you to holistically view every situation possible in bettering your portfolio for the future.

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Going off of realistic expectations, it is absolutely vital that you have tangible investment goals. For most people, this isn’t an issue. Their goal with investing is to have an overall stable income in their retirement saving account to help aid and supplement their personal savings and additional funding from their Social Security. Most people usually work towards that as a real goal. The tricky portion to investing besides picking their investment opportunity are the actual figures and targeted-date that you want to see your funds grow throughout your portfolio. Start by asking yourself a variety of questions: Are you looking to save $2000.00 a month? Are you looking to have $50,000 saved by the end of the year? Whatever is the case, make sure you are clear about your short-term financial goals. While this may be tedious and downright stressful, setting these small foundational targets will help you view your financial plan in a more strategic and holistic manner. This will, in turn, allow you to strategize the best course of action when moving on with your investments.

Once your goals are set, make sure you are reviewing your investment plans regularly. For many successful investors, they set a time within the month (or week) to talk, discuss, and analyze the performance of their portfolio, especially when there are other moving factors and different investments involved. Make sure you are like one of these investors. Keep track of your portfolio and adjust your contributions to keep things in balance. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to assume everything is great. Be cautious and strategic.

Now to enhance your investment portfolio, you want to make sure you are diversifying enough of your assets in different places. You have probably heard the infamous childhood phrase of “Not putting all your eggs in one basket.” Similar to this statement, you want to make sure you are diversifying your portfolio. Diversification, in investments, simply means spreading your money across a variety of different opportunities. Ideally, you want to spread your assets in the following: cash, bonds, stock, real estate, precious metals, collectables, etc. Whatever is the case, diversification allows you to protect your assets from any changes within the market. This will allow you to keep your financial future intact, while also providing any financial security in case anything goes wrong. As much as you want to be cautious with your money, you also want to take a risk. Remember, it all comes down to the homework you do for each financial opportunity. Nothing is ever a sure thing. But it doesn’t hurt to have the odds in your favor.

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Evaluate Your Finances, February Edition

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With a month already into the new 2016-year, the resolutions for a financially healthy and fruitful future may find its way at a close. For many of these resolutions, these intrinsic financial goals have motivated millions of Americas to evaluate their personal finances holistically. But, like with any motivating push, the timespan can oftentimes be short-lived.

Before you hang up the cleats and veer away from your bank statements, think back about why you wanted to save. Reflect on your goals for the future and critic what your funds and savings were within the past month. This type of practice is a necessary starting point to help you get back on track in evaluating your financial goals for the year.

Once you have self-reflected on those objectives, take a few hours to evaluate your finances more specifically. Below, you will find seven key financial metrics you should examine thoroughly. These numbers will allow you to see where you are currently are and what you need to do to reach your goals. Remember, the more you know, the better off you will be in the future.

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1. Know Your Net Worth

One of the most important metrics you should evaluate is simply your net worth. By definition, your net worth is the amount by which your assets exceed your liabilities. Another way to look at this is the overall value of everything you own minus your debts. This number will allow you to measure the status and heath of your personal and professional finances, while also setting you up financially for your future goals. To accurately determine your net worth, use this tool here.  This will allow you to

2. Know Your Debt Levels?

The next step is to look at your debt and expenses. Start off by evaluating your 2015 debt levels. Then compare them to a month-by-month spread. Here, it is important to go beyond the numbers and see what you can do to optimize your financial situation. Ask yourself these questions: What was your biggest expense? Did you borrow any money within the past twelve months? What can you do to pay down your debt faster? These overarching questions will allow you to strategize and plan a way you can save even more.

3. Retirement Planning

For some people, this may be a new concept. For others, this is seen as a bi-weekly ritual. Like it or not, time will always be never-ending. Because of this, you need to make it a point to plan a retirement budget. A simple approach is to assess whether you are contributing any amount to a 401K, IRA, or retirement account set up by work. If not, try and find an option that will allow that. Once that is set up, try and find a way to optimize your savings. The best way to do this is to think about your goals. Think about what you are looking for twenty years from now and how much you should have at that point. This will provide you the necessary incentive to continue, and possible increase, your savings.

4. What is your Credit Report Score?

One of the best indicators of analyzing your personal financial health is to evaluate your credit score. You may have heard this phrase thrown around when you are looking for an apartment or looking for a new credit card. Whatever is the case, having a strong credit score can alleviate any pressures in specific financial situations. To get your credit report for free, check out annualcreditreport.com.

5. Savings

Outside of your retirement, there are a variety of different aspects when it comes to savings. One of which is the cash position that can be handled in a short-term use. And the other is for unexpected emergencies. This is usually what we call an emergency fund. At the end of the day, we cannot predict the future. There are unforeseen events such as a hospital visit or a car crash that will require us to have a lump sum ready to use. If you have not already set up this type of account, I would strongly advise you to begging saving for your emergency fund. Remember, just because you own a crystal ball does not mean you can predict the future.

6. Student Loans

This is more for the fresh college graduates who are seeing the adult world for the first time. Unless you were on a scholarship or you were fortunate to have your parents pay for your education, student loans may be the dark cloud following you everywhere you go. The best way to tackle this problem is by knowing the monthly amount. This goes back to the second financial metric, “Know Your Debt Levels.” By having a conceptual understanding of this expense, you will be able to control how you are going to pay it off and how much you can save each and every month.

7. Future Investment Opportunities

If your investment is financially healthy, you should begin exploring other investment opportunities. If, however, you are hesitating about the situation, talk to a financial expert. Either way, exploring different avenues and finding new ways to grow your money other than work can be incredibly beneficial to your campaign.

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Competing Against Air Jordan

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Since the early 90s, the world has been infatuated with the idea of flying in the air. No, I am not talking about literal flight. Instead, I’m talking about soaring through the court like one of the most undoubtedly best NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan.

Ever since they went into product in 1984, the Air Jordan brand and athletics clothing design has dominated the sneaker athletics industry with their lavish designs, celebrity popularity, and iconic ‘Michael Jordan Dunk’ logo. For Michael, he marketed it in the best possible way; it was a way to give his fans an opportunity to look, feel, and play like he did on and off the court. The popularity of the shoes continued as Michael flourished at the game, winning six NBA championships, five NBA Most Valuable Player titles, and countless on-the-court moments that continue to astonish and awe the fans of today. With his lasting impression of the game, Air Jordan was able to boost its brand from a simple basketball shoe to an internationally acclaimed athletic and Hip Hop brand.

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While it is hard not to associate any sport, especially basketball, without the Air Jordan brand, many people have started to spark various controversies about the Nike sister shoe. One of those critics is ex-NBA player and Beijing basketball superstar, Stephon Marbury. In 2006, Marbury partnered with Steven & Barry’s to promote a line of shoes and clothing bearing his nickname, ‘Starbury.’ While the design and look mirrored that of his counterparts, like Air Jordan, the biggest differentiator was the price. For years, Air Jordan has produced, marketed, and sold their sneakers for over $150 US Dollars. Because of its attachment to lower income communities, Marbury wanted to provide the basketball fans with affordable athletic basketball shoes, which were sold for $14.98. While his intensions meant well, the brand itself failed in the United States, but was salvaged when he moved to China.

Today, Marbury is back in the United States to bring back his Starbury sneaker line, which he hopes to sell for $15.00 a pair. He believes he can provide these affordable shoes at the same level and quality as Air Jordans and other brands whose prices are driven up by celebrity endorsement. For him, the mission is simple. These shoes are meant to give the lower-income and under-resource communities the cheaper and more financial option of buying quality shoes for them and their children. The ‘shoe-related crime’ is something that has been overlooked year after year and will only continue if markets such as Nike, Air Jordans, Adidas, and Under Armour continue to raise the prices for every new pair each and every year. While there are no statistical ‘on-shoe-related crime’ to back up these claims, the popular infused idea of buying these expensive shoes are clearly seen within the athletics, entertainment, and music industry.

Though Marbury was able to spark the concept of corporate social responsibility within this fruitful market, Nike has still not responded directly to Marbury’s comments. All we can do now is wait and see how the public will react to the resurrected the Starbury line and if Marbury’s ideals can crack the corporate greed within the shoe industry.

 

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TED Talks: Katherine Collins and the Nature of Investing

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Katherine Collins is Founder and CEO of Honeybee Capital, dedicated to pollinating ideas in pursuit of optimal investment practices. Katherine has over twenty years of professional investment experience. At Fidelity Management & Research Company, she served as portfolio manager for a number of multi-billion dollar equity funds and as head of equity research, leading one of the largest buy-side research teams in the world. As her interest in sustainable and regenerative finance grew, Katherine set out to re-integrate her investment philosophy with the broader world, traveling as a pilgrim and volunteer, earning her MTS degree at Harvard Divinity School, and studying the natural world and biomimicry as guides for investing in a valuable and integrated way, beneficial to our communities and our planet. Katherine is an alumna of HDS and Wellesley College, and is a CFA charter holder. In this TED Talks, Katherine discusses the the background, history, and strategy behind investing. 

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TED Talks: Chris McKnett and the Investment Logic for Sustainability

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TED Talks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives and profession experience within a 20-to-60 minute presentation. For this particular Ted Talk, Chris McKnett argues the case of why an investor needs to look at a company’s environmental, social, and governance structure as well as its financial status.

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TEDx Video: Bob Davids and Leadership without Ego

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TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. For this particular TEDTalk video, Bob Davis, an American businessman and entrepreneur discusses the importance and benefits of strong leadership within a business. In this talk, Mr. Davis differentiates between leadership and management and discusses various experiences of what defines a true leader.

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Investing 101: the Pre-Work

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Whether you are investing in a friend’s startup or in a fortune 500 company, it is absolutely imperative that you do your due diligence and learn more about the organization that you are investing in. When making that commitment, you need to understand that it is not an easy decision. Buying any type of equity from a company is not just a simple piece of paper. Rather you are being part owner. For these reasons, it is important that you spend the time researching and evaluating the company’s background, financial history, and future goals before making your decision to invest.

Below, I have outlined a strong attack plan to help direct you into making a well-informed and well-adequate decision. This plan will highlight various points when researching your company. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you are making the right decision. Just evaluating a company’s current and present status is not enough to foresee its financial future. To truly understand what business you are getting into, dive in from the beginning and read about how the company came to be, where it has gone, and what it wants to achieve. Remember, while there is no such thing as a sure thing, there is always a way for you to improve the odds.

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Research the Chief Executive Officer

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the most senior corporate administrator or executive in charge of managing the overall organization. When starting your research, begin here by understanding what type of leader is running this business. We have seen countless times how damaging a CEO can be to a business from the likes of Yahoo and Twitter. Make sure there is a strong and trustable leader behind the company. To evaluate this, ask yourself a series of questions:

  • What is the CEO’s professional and academic background?
  • What is the CEO’s vision for the company?
  • Do you share the same vision and goals for the CEO?

If you are finding conflicting issues with any of these questions, do not invest. If however, you are seeing certain similarities, dive in deeper and extract their overall financial plan for the next five (ten, twenty) years.

Evaluate the Company’s Financial Health: Net Income, Revenue, and Cost

Having a strong holistic view of the company’s finances is incredibly important for any investor. Even though a company is currently successful, you want to make sure you understand the ups-and-downs of their business and how they were able to any financial hurdles in the past. By evaluating those situations and numbers, you will be able to gain a sense of security of the overall company. In addition, make sure you review and assess the company’s financial health. To do this, evaluate and understand the Net Income, Revenue, and Cost figures. Revenue, by definition, is simply the raw amount of money the company made from salves of its products or services. If there are any gaps in the revenue, try asking what could have caused those changes. Afterwards, look into their cost. Cost is the value of money that has been used to produce the company’s products or services. This can range from obligatory expenses like employee salaries or rent to miscellaneous expenses such as snacks or office supplies. Make sure that the company is wise with their money and they are not spending their money on frivolous items. Last but not least, gauge the overall profit and profit margins the company makes quarterly and annually. See where they are going to go with this and what they will potentially do with those numbers to grow and scale for the future.

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Analyze the Company’s Business Model

Similar to the CEO section, you want to gain and overall understanding of the company’s business model. A business model (business plan) breaks down the background, history, vision, goals, finances, and future plans of a company. Start off by asking yourself those hard-hitting questions of whether or not you are interested with the company. Go even as far and question if you agree with its vision and beliefs. Remember, like we said above, when you are investing, you are not simply getting a piece of paper. Instead you are becoming part owner. Make sure the company fits your own personal and professional interest. This will allow you to become more engaged with its news if you share more of a common interest.

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