Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Vacationing All Year While at Home

The vacation norm is to travel somewhere and then pack in 16 hours of activities per day to relax.  We've done this with trips to Disney World, Florida, Washington D.C. and other areas.    Sometimes this leaves me more tired than relaxed.

Another option may be to take advantage of vacation activities while staying at home. Where we live, there are numerous activities and venues that allow us to try such an option. While we are not a vacation destination city. here are some of the activities and venues in our area:


  • Amusement park.   We have a very nice amusement park in our area, which includes typical rides and a large water park.  The cost of an annual pass is less than the cost of two adult admissions.   Since the park is only 15 minutes away, we can go for a couple hours and still have the rest of the day.

  • Ski Resort.  , We have a small ski resort nearby.   It's not the Rockies, but good enough for a beginner skier like me.   The cost for an annual pass with rental is about the cost of two days of skiing at a ski resort like Vail.   The ski resort is close enough that we can go for 2-3 hours and still have the rest of our day.  We expect to go over 15 times this winter.

  • Restaurants.  We have several top rated restaurants in the area.   Before going on my vegan/no added oil diet, we tried many of them.   Nowadays, since most are known for their steaks, we have not visited the recent additions.  But this may be a good option for the rest of the family.

  • Zoo.  We have a highly ranked zoo in our area.  The cost of a family annual pass is about the cost of two visits.  Normally, we go to see the animals but with a pass we can go more often and see the shows.

  • Seasonal events.  We have several regionally recognized events in our area.  My spouse and I attended these prior to having kids.  Nowadays, I just consider these traffic nuisances, but maybe we should consider going again as the kids get older.

  • We also have professional sports teams, live theater, and various museums close by to us.   I would not normally consider these venues as vacation material.   Of course, we can still take advantage of these venues for entertainment.

    The two biggest benefits are doing vacation activities while at home are time and cost.   We don't have 1-2 days of travel time and avoid $1000-2000 in travel costs, which we can reinvest into having more fun at home.

    For more on  Ideas You Can Use, check back Tuesdays for a new segment.

    This is not financial or vacation advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    Monday, January 23, 2017

    Ways I Choose Our Stocks

    Finding good stocks to buy can be challenging.  There are so many approaches, so much noise and so much data.   It's tough to sort through everything and narrow the list to a few good picks.

    I used to evaluate the recommendation of investment services and letters and try to cherry pick a few stocks.   My success rate was very low.  In fact, more often than not the stocks would go down, some all the way to zero.  Then I tried buying stocks that were once high flyers and were beaten down.  My results were mixed.   Although some stocks were winners and some stocks continued to be losers.

    During my retirement years, I've been experimenting with how to better choose stocks.   Here is my latest methods for doing so, which I feel are promising.

  • Borrow ideas from professional managers.    I have managed accounts that are run by proven equity fund managers in three strategies: growth, value and dividend growth.   I like to evaluate their stock portfolio and selectively buy additional shares in some companies.  Since they are putting money into their picks, I can easily evaluate the performance of their choices.
  • Focus on good dividend growth stocks with long histories of paying dividends.  Some of the ideas I get from our managed accounts.  Other ideas I get from articles that I read about Dividend Aristocrats, REITs, and high dividend payers.
  • Focus on stocks in beaten down cyclical sectors that should recover.   Energy is one such sector, since I believe oil and gas will be a major source of energy in my lifetime.  I started buying energy stocks too soon in late 2014, but have recently benefit from the recent recovery.  Biotechs and retail stocks are other sectors I am considering.

  • Finally, I am testing each of my picks by committing to a small position which I can track to determine if the new strategy is working.  So far the results are favorable, but inconclusive since the last eight years have been a bull market.

    For more on Strategies and Plans, check back every Monday for a new segment.

    This is not financial or investing advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    Sunday, January 22, 2017

    Disruption May Be the New Norm

    "Change is the only constant in life." ~ Hereclitus, Greek philosopher.

    Change is happening so fast now that it is disrupting the current status.  Examples are Amazon vs. bricks and mortal retail, Netflix vs. cable, and Trump vs. the politocracy.   We've already seen the results for Amazon and Netflix.  It's still way too early to evaluate the results for Trump.

    The challenge with disruption is that initially it does not appear to be a big idea.  I think back to the beginnings for Amazon and Netflix.  Neither appeared to be big ideas.   And of course, very few people expected Trump to win.

    However, I believe disruption will be more likely and more frequent than in the past decade.  Of course, the difficulty will be finding disruptions before they are recognized as such.  In my opinion, health care is has a high potential of being a disrupted business, given my brief interactions in the area and the intensive focus on the businesses.

    We shall see.

    For more on New Beginnings, check back Sundays for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    A Sense of Urgency

    "The most successful people have the same twenty-four hours in a day that you do."~ Jay Samit

    I've usually been a late bloomer.   I got married in my late thirties, started having kids in my mid forties, and will be an empty nester in my early seventies.  I didn't get my first major promotion until twenty years with company.

    My main divergence has been early retirement (late forties) an playing football (first freshman varsity letterman in my high school).    Other than these two, I've generally not been to rushed to achieve anything.  In reality, early retirement and football happened because I was in the right place at the right time versus any specific contriubtion on my part.

    However, I am now feeling a much greater sense of urgency.    I am less than a decade away from full retirement Social Security benefits. Four years ago, I had stents inserted for blockages in my heart,  My daughter is only six years away from college.    There just isn't much time left for me.

    First on my agenda is ensuring the financial security of my family. In the past nine years, I have established sufficient finances for a good middle class lifestyle for the next forty years.  However, I think there is probability for greater financial success.   I think the next few years may be the most opportunity financial growth, with a potential economic boom.  Perhaps, we may start a business that our children can take over when they are adults.

    Second on my agenda is to enjoy what we have earned and saved.   We are taking advantage of the entertainment and festivities in our area, with memberships to our local ski resort, zoo and amusement park.   Each family membership is much less than the cost of a vacation an lasts several months to year.   We will also attend more arts venues which are kid friendly.  In addition, we will take at least one major vacation a year in a significant location.

    Third on my agenda is legacy, how we will be remembered.  This area is still a bit fuzzy and work in progress.  However, I don't want to end up being a legend in my own mind.   I would want to be remembered well by my children and close friends.

    The next decade or two may be all the time left to achieve these, which is the reason for my sense of urgency.

    For more on New Beginnings, check back Sundays for a new segment.

    This is not financial or personal development advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    Saturday, January 21, 2017

    Are Retail Stocks a Bargain or Not?

    "Everyone likes buying a bargain, but catching a falling knife is no fun at all." ~ The Wall Street Journal, 1/21/16

    With the poor results reported by Macy's, Kohl's, Sears, and Target department stores, the retail stocks have taken a significant hit over the past couple weeks.  Many are near their 52 week lows and some have made new 52 week lows.  And some are paying annual percentage dividends in the mid to high single digits.

    Very tempting, yet still risky since prices could continue to fall further.

    My current thinking is to avoid department store retail, which I believe has the biggest downside risks.  So I am not buying Macy's, Kohl's, Sears or Target stock at this time.   Unfortunately, we already own J.C. Penney's, which is unlikely to rebound either.

    To me, the biggest opportunity are off-price retailers, such as T.J. Maxx an Ross Stores.  These stores buy overstocks from department stores and sell the items at reduced prices.    However, neither has declined much, with Ross Stores still near its 52 week high.

    The next best opportunity is specialty retail.   Several stocks in this sector are paying 5-8% dividends, meaning the downside risk is somewhat mitigated.  And I get paid to wait, for the eventual (hopefully) recovery.  Companies that I include in this category are Guess?, The Buckle, Abercrombie and Fitch,and Staples.

    So for now, retail is a selective bargain, which I need to sort through before making a purchase.

    Disclosure:  We own shares in J.C. Penney's, T.J. Maxx, Guess?, The Buckle, and Abercrombie and Fitch.

    For more on Reflections and Musings, check back Saturdays for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    Thursday, January 19, 2017

    Inauguration May Be a Buying Opportunity

    There seems to be "sell the inauguration" recommendation among some traders.  If so, I may use the opportunity to put some of our kids' funds into stocks or index ETFs. After all,our kids have a 6 to 14 year horizon before initially needing the money for college.  That will be sufficient time for good stocks or indices to recover, if there is an inauguration correction.

    I will wait until after the inauguration speech before making any buys in our kids' accounts.

    For more on Crossing Generations, check back Thursdays for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    Investing in Companies Based on Leadership

    There are great examples of  the leadership of a single person making a significant difference in a company.  Some great examples are Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos.  Investing in their companies at the beginning or even at the midpoint would have resulted in significant profits.

    Who might be the current great business leaders?  Here are my votes:


  • Reed Hastings, Netflix -  This CEO has shown tremendous resilience and innovation with a company that started out as a DVD rental site.   Original content, streaming content... what's next?  Netflix is at or near a 52 week high.

  • Kevin Plank, Under Armour -  This CEO has built a tremendous company based on a simple concept of innovative athletic wear.   It was a shining star for many years.  Lately, Under Armour has fallen out of favor with it's stock near 52 week lows.  However, I still have confidence.

  • Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook - The former Google exec and COO of Facebook, IMHO, has been the driving force behind Facebook's success.   Facebook is at or near a 52 week high.


  • To me, these are outstanding corporate executives that make it a good decision to invest in their companies.

    Disclosure:  We own shares of Netflix, Under Armour, and Facebook.

    For more on The Practice of Personal Finance, check every Wednesdays   for a new segment.

    This is not financial or investing advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best

    "I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best." ~ Benjamin Disraeli

    With the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump, this may be a good time to be cautious and be prepared for the the worst, e.g. economic recession, stock market selloff, or a global trade war, which has been forecast by several pundits.  Who knows what may happen.   This may be a good time to have higher than normal cash/cash equivalents as a buffer, to purchase protective puts (downside insurance), or take some profits in select stocks should the worst economic scenarios happen.

    On the other hand, the Trump administration may perform well above (low) expectations, which lead to economic expansion and continuation of the bull stock market.   In that case, it would be good to own stocks and other assets such as real estate.    So it may also be a good time to hold onto core position should a positive economic scenario occur.

    In either case, it may be best to wait a few more weeks for the market to show some conviction in a direction.

    For more on Ideas You Can Use, check back every Tuesday for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Gold and Real Estate

    I'm increasing my exposure to gold and real estate investments over the next few months.

    My rationale is that gold and real estate will benefit from most economic scenarios.   If the economy does significantly better, higher inflation will return and increase the value of assets such as gold and real estate.  In addition, rents will also increase.   If the economy does poorly, the Fed will implement more quantitative easing (QE4) and inflate asset values again.

    My plan right now is to buy gold miners and REIT stocks, primarily increasing positions in companies we already own.

    For more on Strategies and Plans Ideas, check back Mondays for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

    Sunday, January 15, 2017

    Waiting for Buy Points

    At this time, I am cautiously optimistic and making small purchases to add to or initiate new positions.

    My late father-in-law used to calculate a reasonable buy price for a stock, put in a good-til-cancelled limit order, wait until the order was filled.   Although he sometimes missed out on stocks that ran higher, his system was a good one since he consistently outperformed the S&P index on an annual basis.

    Lately, I've applied that approach to many of the stocks I am considering for purchase. However, I am not as rigorous at calculating a buy point based on fundamental factors. I base my target price on a combination of  technical factors and qualitative business assessments.

    Using this methodology, I've been able to acquire some stocks at or near 52 week lows, despite the indices being at or near all time highs.

    For more on New Beginnings, check back Sundays for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC