How to Live in the Present Moment

Nov 23, 2016 -

In value investing, we look to see how much a business is worth. If it is selling at less than its worth, then we would invest in the business. The way we value the business comes from determining what the future cash flows might look like. After all, investing is putting money away now, so you can have more money later.

Have you gone into work any day of the week except for Saturday or Sunday and wished that it was the weekend? When was the last time you wished something was over? Maybe it was your company's busy season or tax season? 
Whatever the case might be, we are constantly looking ahead. While this is good that we are looking ahead, what about the here and now? Has society kept us from enjoying the present? 

My biggest flaw is being unable to enjoy the present and constantly planning for the future. I'm constantly looking for the ending. Get to the heart of the matter or get to the point. 

In music, we don't listen to just the end note and be done with it. The purpose is to enjoy all the notes linked together, which creates a song. In other words, we are to enjoy the journey

How do you change your perspective in life and still plan for the future? In Lebron James' words "Years go by fast that it's hard not to think about the future. You live for the moment, of course, but you've also got to prepare for the future. That's life. That's everybody. Being in the situation you're in now you definitely think about it, but you do live for the moment."

Everything ends. If we look at it from the point of view that at some point this will end, you are more likely to be grateful for when it hasn't ended and enjoy the journey
[Continue reading...]

Learn to Understand the Economics of the Business

Nov 16, 2016 -

You've just figured out how much a business cost. What else do you need to understand? Another important aspect of value investing is understanding the business. What are the economics behind the business. In other words, how does the business make money in its marketplace and what does it cost to run the business?

If you own a residential rental property, you will have repairs and maintenance costs. Once a month you may have a gardener mow the lawn and trim the bushes. Every ten years you may need to replace the roof. If there is a water leak you may need to have your handyman come and fix it. If you are lucky, generally these costs will be manageable. These are all necessary costs to keep the property in a condition that is livable for your tenant. In addition, you could have interest payments on your mortgage and house insurance. We can call these operating costs.

How does your rental property make money? You collect rent from your tenant on a monthly basis for as long as they are living there. Usually tenants sign one year lease, which means if they do not renew after a year, you'll need to find someone else to fill your property. You won't be generating cash flow during the time between tenants, but you will likely still need to maintain the property. In addition, there may be repairs you'll need to make to get it ready for a new tenant that you wouldn't have had to make otherwise. For example, applying new paint to the place will attract more potential tenants.

Remember the goal for investing is putting away money now for more money later. In order to have positive cash flow, you'll want your operating costs to be less than your cash flow in. There are thousands upon thousands of businesses out there that range from simple to understand businesses to complex. The key is to focus on those that you do understand and forget about the ones you don't. In value investing, we call this your circle of competence.
[Continue reading...]

Human Psychological Tendencies - Reinforcement and Incentives

Nov 9, 2016 -

Most people understand the power of incentives in reinforcing human behavior. It's definitely nothing new, however, I am constantly surprised as how many of us don't realize this phenomenon to its fullest potential.

A guy named Joe Wilson couldn't understand why Xerox's new and better machine was selling less units in comparison to the older and inferior model. His curiosity led him back to Xerox. Lone behold, what he discovered was that the commission arrangement favored the inferior machine.

In 2005, Symantec bought Veritas in a $13.5 billion stock deal and instantly the employee headcount jumped from 6,300 to 15,000. Whenever you have a change in company's structure of this magnitude, people worry about whether or not they will still have a job. One method that Symantec used to reestablish and educate its new and existing employees is they recognized their employees' performance through thank you notes and gift cards. Recognition programs are a great way to incentivize employees to increase sales and be more productive.

It is no surprise that the best places to work are also some of the most profitable companies. According to Business Insider for 2016, Google (Alphabet), Facebook and Apple all made the list. These are three of the largest companies by market capitalization. Alphabet and Apple combined hold over $200 billion in cash. After all what is a company anyways? A group of individuals who have come together to help move the group towards common goals. In the investing sense, we hope that these common goals are to make the company profitable.
[Continue reading...]

How Do You Figure Out How Much a Business Cost

Nov 2, 2016 -

When you buy a stock, you are purchasing a piece of a business. You are not buying some ticker symbol that fluctuates up and down every minute of the day. That is the first difference between how a value investor and a speculator looks at stocks. Those who speculate believe someone else is willing to pay a higher price than what they've paid for a stock and could careless about how the business itself functions.

If a stock represents partial ownership in a business, how do you value the business? Ideally we want to pay less for what the business is worth. The key is to think about how much the business can produce.
Let's say you want to purchase an investment property. You see that there is a three bedroom and two bath 2,500 Sq Ft. house selling for $500,000 in Los Angeles, CA. Suppose the average rent in the area is $3,500 per month or $42,000 a year. You also put a down payment of 20% or $100,000. Let's also factor in your costs including property tax ($5,000), repairs and maintenance fees ($800), home insurance ($1,200), and mortgage payment ($23,000), which total $27,000 for the first year. Assuming no vacancy in your first year, we estimate a cash profit of $12,000 or $42,000 (rental income) less $30,000 of costs. This means that on your $100,000 down payment investment you earn about a 12% return in the first year.

The key is to think about how much the business can produce.

We look at businesses the same way; we want to see how much the return is on our investment. With stocks, we can look at it as if we are buying the entire business. How do we know how much a business cost? You can calculate how much the stock market is valuing a company by taking the number of outstanding shares and multiplying it by price of each share. That will give you the market capitalization or market cap. Meaning if you wanted to buy all the shares of that company, it would cost you the market cap. You can find the outstanding shares count on the first page of the company's latest 10-Q or 10-K filing. The 10-Q or 10-K can be found on the website or at the company's investor relations page.

Now if you purchased 100 shares of a company that has a market cap of $1,000,000 and the cash profit of that company was $100,000 that year then you would've effectively earned a 10% return. The same would be if you purchase 20,000 shares at a market cap valuation of $1M.

[Continue reading...]

Choose to Celebrate Life

Oct 23, 2016 -

Unfortunate is Scott Hamilton being diagnosed with his third brain tumor. Can you imagine yourself going through that not just physically, but also mentally? Remarkable is Scott Hamilton, a retired American figure skater and Olympic gold medalist, overcoming testicular cancer in 1997 and two other brain tumors in 2004 and 2010. 

How is it that someone like Scott is able to overcome these life threatening illnesses and continue to be so resilient? All the while he maintains such an overwhelmingly strong positive attitude. 
I complain about how I have to cook my own food when I get back from a long day at work or how I have to take my car to get an oil change. These issues are so minuscule in comparison to what Scott has to deal with on a day to day basis. I can't imagine how Scott is able to have that mental strength to fight through all that comes with being diagnosed with so many life threatening illnesses over and over again. 

How does he do it? 

The first thing is you need is to be in the right mindset. Scott looks at everything he and his family does as a celebration of life. In life there will be challenges you face and some are going to be more difficult than others. There will be things that you wished didn't happen, but you have little or no control over. You will make mistakes along the way. The key to all of this is how do you react? How do you get up? Scott Hamilton says, "The more times you get up, the stronger you are to face the next thing, which will happen — because that’s life."

Understand what you are dealing with. The more educated you are about the situation, your options, and how other have dealt with the same or similar issue the better you are equipped to make a decision

[Continue reading...]

5 Ways to Be More Productive In Your 24 Hour Day

Oct 8, 2016 -

Do you ever wonder why some people can get so much more done in 24 hours than you? Or how is it that Elon Musk is able to seemingly run three companies (Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City) and we can barely find time to get to five things on our to do list in the same allotted time? The secret to all of this is in your approach

1) Be selective with where you spend your time. 

Those who are ultra successful limit the number of tasks they take on. They are looking for the biggest bang for their buck. Basically, tasks that will help them learn something new or seeking to take on the next challenge. If you are doing the same tasks over and over again with few new challenges, you aren't going to learn. If you don't learn then you'll be stuck in the same place you are right now. 

 2) Shoot for the stars but set up your micro goals. 

When you set a goal, you do so because you haven't accomplished such a goal before. Otherwise why would you even bother setting that goal? Since it is something you haven't done before, it is important for you to break down your goals into micro goals that are specific, measurable, achievable and realistic. In other words, come up with an action plan. If you do that, then the minute you get started on a task, you'll know what needs to be done. There is no waiting or being wishy washy when you come up with micro goals. So remember, be specific with the baby steps you need to take to reach your goal.  

3) Run narrations and visuals in your head

Top performing athletes envision success on the field prior to stepping into it. Close your eyes and picture yourself going through the tasks to reach your final goal. Often times, if you can see it in your head and think out the steps for reaching the goal, you'll have a greater chance of succeeding.    

4) Train yourself to be comfortable with the unknown 

In order to grow you must face your fears. Just as the saying goes, to get what you you've never had, you must do what you've never done before. Successful people find ways to get outside of their comfort zone and be comfortable with being outside of their comfort zone. How you do that is by being more confident and self-assured in yourself. So that no matter what the situation is you are confident enough in your ability to figure out what needs to be done and how you should properly react. Having a hard time doing that? Well fake it until you become it

5) Follow your inner compass 

Everyone's path in life is different and unique in itself. What may be good for your friend may not be the right fit for you. Trust in yourself and follow what you truly believe. Make your own decisions. Just because someone has been noted to be an expert in the field does not mean he or she can not be wrong. Come to your own conclusions and forget about following the crowd. 
[Continue reading...]

Is CFD Trading A Worthy Venture?

Sep 30, 2016 -

Is CFD Trading A Worthy Venture?
Sponsored Post
Recently, the European Securities and Markets Authority issued warnings over CDF tradings and investments. The Central Bank has since joined in with the issuance of such warnings. What has led to the increase of such cautionary messages is that they have very high-risk levels.

As a result, consumers are highly advised to be completely aware of the complexity and high-risk nature of CDFs before making any decisions about investing in them. In November, Central Bank warned of the same and urged investors to be very keen when dealing with Contracts for Difference.

Volatility Of The Market

In Ireland, the CFD market has a thorough inspection. During the inspection, the Central Bank noted that there were several issues to do with execution-only sales. In its view, investors who have a low-risk enthusiasm should not carry out CFD trading. The trading is somewhat unsuitable for such investors because of the volatility of the market. The unstable nature of the CFDs makes it risky since there are high chances of consumers losing more than their initial investments.

This warning about CFD trading by the European Securities and Markets Authorities is considered vital and timely. Retail investors have sufficient evidence pointing to the high-risk probability of consumers losing their investments.

In CFD trading, investors are allowed to trade on assets without even owning them,and it can result in limitless losses considering that the startup capital is very minimal. Additionally, there are no weighty regulations in the sector, thus controlling it might be challenging.

Sustainability of CFD in Germany

In Germany, CFD trading is considered to be too complex; and therefore, its suitability is being challenged for retail investors. The development of CFDs is being monitored closely and, in the near future, some sort of intervention on the market should be expected. The intervention could be in a number of ways including:

• Brokers’ executions being monitored more keenly

• Introduction of account airbags – traders cannot lose anything more than what is available on their accounts

• Leverage reduction – possibly from the now 400 to 50

• Or even Prohibition of CFD trading entirely.

Immediately there is any sense of a scandal in the German market, or even in the press, the intervention plans could begin immediately. A scandal means anything like a big investor going bankrupt or even something like German traders being targeted by more binary brokers.

With the known German tendency of reducing over the counter tradings such as CFDs, this is not anything new to the German market. The regulated exchanges do better here, and they are likely to increase in the future.

Hopefully, CFD trading will not be banned from the German markets. It is better if brokers are monitored more closely or even if leverage is limited but not a complete prohibition of the trade.

How CFD Brokers are Tackling it

On the other hand, brokerage firms such as CMC Markets have understood well the need for anonymity in the CFD trade. They have designed trading platforms whereby traders are allowed to bypass the protocols that deal with identity verification when doing deposits and withdrawals on the trades.

Most firms are coming up with ways to offer trading platforms that are award winning, policies that do not have any commissions involved and even instant payouts to consumers. This is a sure way of attracting more investors to the trade.

Traders are assured of their security even with the anonymity. Brokers claim to have the ability to maintain fund security for clients from any online intruders or attacks. They have decent standards on safety that are put in place to sense anything wrong. This, in turn, offers enough protection to traders.

Other CFD brokers are renewing their customer insurance protection to assure traders. As is the standard in the industry, all FCA regulated brokers need to offer a minimum of £50,000 to comply with the FSCS (Financial Services Compensations Scheme) standards.

The renewal commitment is a sign of pledge demonstration by the broker firms. They want to convince their clients and offer them security. It is a complement to the brokers since they are providing leading trading experiences, which in turn adds more value to their customers.

It is a sure way to bring traders on board and to assure them that CFD trading is a successful venture. All in all, it is only to wait and hope for the best on the CFD market.
[Continue reading...]

Three Reasons to Not Worry and Be Grumpy

Sep 12, 2016 -

1) What a cup of water has to to do with stress
How heavy is a cup of water? The longer you hold it the heavier it feels. After a minute your arm is hurting and after a minute and a half you feel more pain. By two minutes you are in agony.

What should you do when it feels heavy? Put it down and rest. Pick it up later and it will feel lighter. 

Stress has nothing to do with how much work and duties you have in life. The solution to stress is when life feels heavy do you know how to put it down and rest? Just put the job down for a few minutes and take a break. Then go back to the computer screen you have tons more ideas. Sit down and give yourself half an hour to rest. You'll be more productive and more ideas will come.

2) Why you should give yourself permission to be grumpy
Allow yourself to be whoever you are at this moment. Even if you are sick, accept being sick. Suppose someone sees you in the hospital, they are going to ask you how are you feeling. They've come all the way to see you and you aren't going to tell them you feel sick or still don't feel better. So this puts pressure on you to lie.

The morale of the story is that "we are always trying to be something that we are not and that's when we get in trouble."

There was a guy who was sick for many years. He was a champion wrestler and Rhodes Scholar, but he felt terrible and for many years could not come out of his room. One day someone went down to his room and told him on behalf of everyone around him, he gave him permission to die.

For years, he's being trying to fight the disease and he cried because at that moment he felt like he could just be. When you are sick you are trying so hard to get better it can kill you. As soon as there was no guilt and the attached stress disappeared, he started to get better.

The morale of the story is that "we are always trying to be something that we are not and that's when we get in trouble."

3) How kindness can make problems get smaller
There was a monster and it came into an empress' palace when she was away on business. All the guards who were suppose to guard the place left. The monster went into the empress' throne and sat on it. The guards told it to go away and said bad things to it. The monster started to feed on that negativity and hatred. Soon it became bigger and bigger. Each bad word made the monster bigger. By the time the empress came back it was so frightening and so smelly.

The empress came back and was kind to the monster. She offered him a drink and food. With each complement the monster became smaller and smaller. This was an anger eating monster. The morale of this story is that kindness can make many problems get smaller and more possible to fix. 

[Continue reading...]

Rethinking the Traditional Investing Model

Sep 5, 2016 -

Why have so many people struggled to make a traditional investing model work for them?

Traditional financial advice as we know it in the following steps:

1) You earn money through working a job.
2) Save as much as you can.
3) You then take your savings and invest it in the stock market.
4) From there you "watch that money grow" and then retire at age 65.

The stock market has generally risen about 7% a year over the last couple decades, but with inflation that comes out to less than you would have expected maybe 3%. If this was the secret formula, why do 59% of Americans still feel very or moderately worried that they won't have enough money at retirement?

Solving for Happiness

To understand what we can do about the failing traditional investing model, we look to understanding why we accumulate financial capital. Humans don't intrinsically care about having a lot of financial capital. We want financial capital because we think it will provide us with the things we value such as access, privilege, choices, and experiences. In the process, we sometimes make choices that limit our own enjoyment (access, privilege, choices, and experiences) in order to make more money. 

The studies on happiness suggest that sudden increases in financial capital do absolutely nothing to increase your long-term sense of happiness. Long term happiness is about getting enough sleep, doing everyday things with friends and families, learning something new, and having a meaningful impact in your society. People who are engaged in self development are more aligned with happiness.

Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg argue in their book The Last Safe Investment, that one thing the traditional investing plan neglects to consider is what you do with your human capital. If you start investing in your human capital, over time it will have a dramatic financial impact and the non-financial impact.

Let's say you make $60,000 a year and you invest $5,000 of that over a year or two into a bunch of skill sets, like leadership, sales, persuasion and communication skills. With your soft skills that go very well with your technical skills, over a couple years you get a promotion. You'll be earning more money than before. That kind of return is very hard to achieve with considerable predictability in the stock market.

What human capital skills should you invest in?

Invest in super skills or skills that are valued in just about any industry, job or market condition. Super skills are basic human skills, such as how to communicate and leadership skills. The single most highly leveraged skill is public speaking.

Take for example, two people who have worked ten plus years to get their PhDs whereby they've invested countless hours into their degrees. One of them is a horrible in front of a crowd and the other has spent a year practicing public speaking. Who would you bet your money on to succeed over time?

Most people prefer to work in a meritocracy. Whereby, your merit of the work stands on its own. You can see each other's work for what it is that can be quite special, but that is not the world we live in. Between the results you create and the perception of that, the perception will yield the most acknowledgement. You'll need sales and marketing skills to demonstrate to your managers what you've accomplished.

Most of us are in this vicious cycle of sacrificing time with friends, sleep, and the happiness to get money. Then with that money we try to get back friends, sleep, and happiness.

The tribe is a fascinating asset

The tribe is focused on the least by those who don't have it and treasured the most by those who have it. The tribe has a huge impact on your felt sense of wealth and financial wealth. It is a network of value based group of friends. When you have a tribe, you shares resources, values, and experiences. In addition, the networking of information about finding about new opportunities all happens within a tribe.
[Continue reading...]

How to Get Live Stock Quotes in Excel

Aug 23, 2016 -

Are you tired of having to log into your stock brokerage account to check your portfolio balance? Or maybe you are looking to do some technical analysis using live stock quotes? Without a doubt there are a lot of solutions out there. But most of them are not as straightforward as MarketXLS.

MarketXLS is a one stop solution for technical and fundamental analysis. With MarketXLS you can do research (technical, fundamental and options) the way you like in Excel.

Simple Pricing, No Surprises
24/7 customer service. One Time Pricing. 
Immediate Download and License Delivery 
30 Day Money Back Guarantee

Download now with coupon code: StockKevin and save 20%.

Stock Charts in Excel

- Ready made stunning stock charts in Excel 
- Make your own charts with any dataset in Excel
- Zoom in – Zoom out of charts with dynamic dates handling
- Exports charts in multiple formats
- Annotate Candlestick patterns on chart
- Auto-identification of data series, no settings needed
- Maximize chart windows without distortion of clarity
- Open multiple charts in Excel at a time
- Much more interactive and dynamic than native charts in excel

[Continue reading...]

Arnold Van Den Berg - Exponential Wisdom - Google Talk Summary

Jul 27, 2016 -

Arnold founded Century Management in 1974. He is the CEO and chairman of the CM Advisors Family of Funds Board of Trustees. Born in 1939, Arnold survived the Holocaust as one of Holland’s “hidden” Jewish children. His parents both survived Auschwitz and the family immigrated to America when he was 10. These struggles led him to an extensive study of the subconscious mind, which he believes is the key to unlocking an individual’s potential.

Arnold Van Den Berg's parents hid for two and a half years in an attic during the Holocaust. However, they developed one major problem. The problem was that they kept two small children. Arnold was two and a half years old and his brother was five and a half. It was difficult hiding with children. If Arnold's parents kept the children and were caught they would be sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, which they eventually were. At Auschwitz, they didn't keep women and children. It was a big risk if the children were caught with the parents because it usually meant the end of the parents.

Another alternative was to send the children through the German lines to get on a train to an orphanage. The only problem was you needed a German passport. But if you were Jewish you didn't have a passport. They had fake passports, but they weren't very good so it was sort of a last resort. Arnold's parents got with the Dutch underground and they worked out a plan that there would be a 19 year old girl who would bring him on the train and there would be an individual situated in front the Nazi to keep the officer busy until the whistle blew. So, that was exactly what happened. It was just the most dramatic moment when the whistle blew because the girl knew she would be okay

"The most important thing to achieve anything in life is to be totally focused."

Years later, Arnold would ask himself why would this girl who didn't even know him risk her life to save his. How could the girl's whole family risk their lives? If caught, the 19 year old girl would have had to spend her entire life in an concentration camp. What would motivate her to do this? Later in life, he found his way to a psychiatrist. He decided to ask the psychiatrist why anyone would do that. The psychiatrist said, well the answer is very simple.

It's all about principals; these were people who had deep beliefs and their principals were more important than life. If your life is more important than your principals then you sacrifice your principals. 

Arnold Van Den Berg eventually found his way to mutual funds. He was curious about why during the stock market crash in the early 1970s, some funds went down less than others. Eventually, he discovered that the funds that were down less were doing better because they focused on value investing. The secret to understanding value investing is figuring out what a business is worth just like when you buy real estate. Then you basically buy that at a "wholesale" or discounted price.

The most important thing to achieve anything in life is to be totally focused. Arnold Van Den Berg's father explained the most difficult thing in an concentration camp was when they had to go on these death marches from one camp to another. It was a 20 mile walk and you would get two slices of bread and then you would march for 24 hours. If you went on your knees, the Nazi officers would whip you and if you didn't get up then they would shoot you. His father was 5'7 and 85 pounds - all skin and bones. You really have to focus to get through all of that.

What Arnold's dad learned was how incredibly powerful the mind was when you are tested in extreme circumstances. When your life is on the line, you have to clear your mind. You couldn't think about how cold or hungry you were. You can think of nothing else but to move forward and to keep your focus. You'll realize you have strength that you don't even understand. When asked what his father could attribute that to, he said the subconscious mind. There is no way you can keep moving one leg after the other in that type of situation without extreme focus.

Five Lessons from Arnold Van Den Berg 

1. Always seek the truth
2. Develop your own set of principles for which you are willing to make sacrifices
3. Be totally focused
4. By practicing your principals you will develop the faith and courage to carry on during tough times
5. Never give up 

What do you do with your cash when you don't have any good value stock options? 

Over the 40 years, Arnold's average cash position was 20% of his portfolio even when there was good value because there are great opportunities. Even if cash doesn't make money, it's better to hold cash then to lose money. Patience pays off. You will always find value if you are patient. You might have to wait a year and a half or two years.

[Continue reading...]

Best Way to Improve Your Memory in Under Five Minutes

Jul 18, 2016 -

Have you ever wondered how someone is able to memorize a shuffled deck of cards in less than 20 seconds? Chester Santos is a memory expert and best known for winning the 2008 USA memory championship. Recently he spoke at Google to share his tricks and tips on how to memorize names with faces and recall an exorbitant amount of words in a short amount of time.

Last Friday, you and your friend may have meet a new person at a party. Two weeks later, one of you is describing to you the person the both of you met, but neither of you can recall the person's name. Does that happen to you often?

It is much more difficult to memorize a person's name then it is to recall how a person looks. The reason is because humans have naturally evolved to recall pictures better than words. When you first meet someone attempt to involve more of your senses.

For example, you just met Blake and she has gorgeous blue eyes and brown hair. In your mind, over exaggerate those features and create an mental picture of her. Maybe in your mind you see her with cartoonish large blue bead-like eyes. Maybe she was wearing perfume that night. Encode in your brain the floral scent. When you shake her hand, remember what that feels like. Alright, I think this might start to get a bit creepy. But the whole idea is really to engage all of your senses and use your imagination to exaggerate the situation.

We remember unique and unusual occurrences in life more easily than the standard routine. For example, if all of a sudden an elephant dropped in to the seat right next to you from the sky, you would probably remember that for the rest of your life without even trying. 

Let's try a memory exercise called the story method. By the end of this exercise, you will have been able to recall perfectly the following list of words in the same order as listed: monkey, iron, rope, kite, house, paper, shoe, worm, envelope, pencil, river, rock tree, cheese, and quarter. No joke!

Really see and experience this happening in your mind. If you come at this exercise with your open imagination, you'll be able to commit the list of words into your memory a lot easier.

See a monkey in your mind and this monkey is dancing around and making it's noises. The monkey now picks up a giant iron. The iron starts to fall, but a rope attaches itself to the iron. Maybe you feel the rope it feels sort of rough. You look up the rope and you see the other end of the rope is attached to a kite. The kite is flying around and you reach up but it is out of reach. This kite crashes to the side of the house. Really see it smash into the house. This house is completely covered in paper. A shoe appears out of nowhere and it starts to walk all over the house. The shoe smells pretty badly and you look inside the shoe and see a worm crawling around. The worm jumps out of the shoe and then jumps into an envelope. A pencil starts to write all over the envelope. The pencil jumps into a river and there's a huge splash for some reason. The river is crashing up against a rock. The rock flies out of the river and smashes into a tree. For some reason the tree is growing cheese. Each piece of cheese shoots out a quarter.

Now try and recall the list of words. Much easier isn't it?

Three tips on how to recall anything quicker and more accurately

1) Engage all of your additional senses including touch, feel, smell, see, and hear.
2) Use your imagination to exaggerate the mental picture
3) Create an unusual and interesting story with the words you are trying to recall

Use your imagination to help you remember better.

[Continue reading...]

How Do You Tell Better Stories or Become a Better Storyteller Tips from Carmine Gallo

Jun 29, 2016 -

How did Google Start?
Google's roots sprouted from two Ph.D. students working on a research project back in 1996. It's initial aim was to license its search technology to other Internet companies and enterprise and not to make money off ads. After a few years had passed, the founders of Google quickly discovered they needed more cash to grow. It's early efforts to raise capital drew them to Sequoia Capital a venture capital fund. 

This happened in 1999 during a time where the dot-com boom had spawned a boatload of new business ideas that the world had not seen before. Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital had seen his fair share of structured and bland PowerPoint presentations. Focusing on predicting what new concepts or technologies would catch on was hard enough, but the added agony of trying to sit through PowerPoint presentations just worsened the investing situation. 

What Sergey Brin and Larry Page brought to the table was a breath of fresh air. They came into the meeting with Moritz with a working search engine superior to anything that was out there. Instead of a PowerPoint presentation, they presented a story with a solution. Needless to say, this kicked off a $25 million round of venture capital funding.

Benefits of Becoming a Better Storyteller
Being able to tell a story can make the difference between landing that job or losing the trust of your coworkers. It isn't enough to have the facts on your side, you have to do the storytelling. How do you become a better storyteller? Let's take a step back and think about why certain lines from songs and speeches stick with you even many years after. Do you remember the first four words of Martin Luther King's famous speech? The reason you do is because we are wired in our brains to want to process in story mode. Ideas that catch on are those that are wrapped in a story. 

Everyone likes to hear stories about people who overcome struggle, especially those that "shoot for the moon". For example, Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, often tells his rags to riches story as he watched throughout his childhood as his father struggled to make ends meet to support his family. Stories that show where you've faced an intense struggle and come out better are inspiring. 

For all of you chemist or biologist out there, did you know that storytelling actually triggers the same parts of the brain between the listener and the storyteller. So you actually do sync up emotionally through brain chemistry. A compelling story with an emotional trigger alters our brain chemistry and makes us more understanding and trusting. Now that I think about it, this might explain why my mother enjoys listening to my long and drawn out work stories once a week.

Everyone knows the best grapes come from vines in the steep hillsides because they are "stressed" and that build character.

Three Main Parts of a Great Story (Not Beginning, Middle and End)
In the movie the Martian, the set up is the backdrop whereby Matt Damon and his team embark on a exploration journey to Mars. Once you set the stage and background of your story, you'll need conflict. After a huge sandstorm, Matt Damon wakes up to find that his team have left on Mars en route to Earth. He has limited resources and supplies that were not meant to last for long periods of time on Mars. Psychologically, we can only imagine how it must have felt to be trapped on a planet by yourself. Finally, in every great story there is a resolution. Matt Damon figures out how to make water from hydrazine, communicates with his team back home, and is able to plant potatoes as a result of all of this. You'll have to watch the Martian or read the book to find out what happens at the end. 

Great storytellers are made and not born. You have to believe your own story. If you don't believe your own story, how can you expect to inspire others to believe it? Here are four tips to becoming a great storyteller. 

1) Practice your story. Great storytellers on TED have practiced their stories over 200 times.
2) Provide details and illustrate your story as best you can. Illuminating your story helps it become more memorable versus strictly providing facts. 
3) Appeal to the emotions of your audience. 
4) Remember good storytellers instill hope. 

Elon Musk has become are great storyteller. In his recent presentation at Tesla of the Powerwall, which is essentially a battery, he showed slides of pollution. In the next slide, he showed the picture of the sun. Using simple language and pictures, he indirectly conveyed to his audience the solution of harnessing the sun to lessen pollution. In doing so, he offered a solution to a problem via his Powerwall or in other words he provided conflict and resolution.

[Continue reading...]

Four "Lessons From the Great Minds of Investing" by William Green

Jun 20, 2016 -

William Green as a child was drawn to horse racing. He thought this was a way to make money with just using your mind. However, he lost money and then that was the end of that. He stopped cold turkey. Willam Green then discovered the stock market in his 20s. As part of his job writing articles for The New Yorker, Time, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Bloomberg, and The Economist, he had the great fortune of interviewing great investors. He became fascinated with how super investors were able to beat the market and then wondered if he could learn from them by reverse engineering their thought processes.

When he turned 40, his questions of how to make money became more about how do I balance stress, how do I balance my family and work, and how do I live a great life. His goal became to reverse engineer these people's thoughts and learn how to become smarter, wiser and happier. William Green presents four lessons in investing, which are also very important to living a fulfilling life.

You must have the willingness to become lonely. You have to diverge from the crowd. Sr. John Templeton compounded his money at 15% a year for over 60 years. Templeton decided early in his life that would save half of the money he made. The most memorable experience William Green had of John Templeton was actually watching him one morning when Templeton was exercising. Green hid behind a palm tree in the Bahamas and watched as Templeton pumped his arms and his legs in the water. Here Green was hiding and expecting an overpowering presence from Templeton, but to Green's astonishment, Templeton looked ridiculous in the water with his face lathered with sunscreen. But, Templeton didn't care what other people thought.

Super investors don't go with the crowd. In 1939, the world was coming to an end, Germany was about to over run Paris, and the market had been smashed by the great depression. Templeton identified a group of stocks trading at less than $1.00 and he figured out that WWII was going to jump start these tiny companies. He bought all 104 stocks and there were about 37 companies that were about to go bankrupt, which he also bought. The broker at the time thought that this was a strange request, but fulfilled it nonetheless. Five years later, 100 out of 104 were profitable bets and he quintupled his capital.

The crowd is reactive and most people get carried away with fads and listen to market predictions. The key is the ability to detach yourself from the stupidity of the crowd and to think for yourself.
The power of humility. You have to have the self confidence to go your way and build in a layer of humility. "The screwiest thing you can do is to think you are a master of the universe." The future is extremely uncertain and the only constant is impermanence similar to the Japanese word muj┼Ź . You have to be constantly looking at where we are in the economic cycle. Howard Marks had the belief and the idea that we are just little cogs and the world is going to go on with or without us. The only reason Howard Marks got into value investing was because the partner at Lehman Brothers got drunk and didn't call him to extend an offer. Think about how many lucky breaks you've received to get you to where you are now.

The market was imploding during the second week of September in 2001 and it was what was said to be the worst week since 1929. Bill Miller had a 15% stake in Amazon. Everyone doubted him and he replied saying, "If I am wrong, I will lose 100% of my money, but if I am right I'll have made 50 times my money." Amazon evidently survived and he has made a great deal of money. Then in 2008 and 2009, everything Miller was buying including Merrill Lynch and Countrywide was turning into dust. His funds goes down more than 55% and 65%.

You need to be humble. Think to yourself, what if I am wrong? What if the private company you invest in goes to dust? Everything can look fantastic and then just goes to hell.

The ability to take pain and have emotional resilience. Think about what Bill Miller went through in the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis. He invest half of his money with margin and his two funds got hammered by more than 55% and 65%, respectively.

We need to pay attention to the need to build emotional resilience. Humans tend to overreach in the good periods. Don't get carried away when the market times are good. There is a time when you will be hit. You want to take various safeguard and don't overreach. Don't invest with margin. You can't control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude towards the situation. When times get rough, where are you going to get your emotional strength?

The key to happiness living a worthwhile life. William Green interviewed Irving Kahn through a series of written questions. At the time Irving was over 100 years old already. One of the question Green asked was, "when you look back on your life and think about the key to not just a long life, but a happy and meaningful life, what was it? Irving replied that it is different for everybody, but for him it was his family. The things that truly made him happy was having healthy family members, the fact that he built a company he was proud of, and that he met people who were smarter then him. The only thing he truly cared about in terms of physical things was books. John Spears said investors are always talking about return on capital and this is about return on life.

The ability to stack the odds in your favor increases the odds of having a successful life. Think about how you can make other people's lives complete. What is your gift and your particular abilities and what can you do to make a difference in other people's lives. When you tilting the playing field in your favor, you'll have a successful and happy life.
[Continue reading...]

Laura Heck: Relationships 101: "The Science of Great Relationships" Summary

Jun 14, 2016 -

Dr. John Gottman’s studied couples in normal environments whereby he would have each couple wear monitors and also code their facial expressions based on the couples interactions. Through his years of research, he was able to determine there were certain behaviors are distinctive in divorced couples. He repeated similar studies seven times with different populations. Based on certain identifiable behaviors, Gottman was able to predict the couples that would end up in divorce with 90% accuracy.

Four patterns "horsemen" that are destructive to relationships

Complain vs. Criticize - Your wife or husband throws all of his or her clothes on the floor and at the end of the week, there is a huge pile. Instead of saying, "you are such a slob, you treat this home like a frat house." Try complaining without blaming. For example, say "I'm not so hot on all these clothes being on the floor, I would really appreciate if you picked up your clothes." The idea is to use a gentle build up versus immediately criticizing your partner.

Defensiveness vs. Taking Responsibility - Defensiveness is warding of a perceived attack and can often be seen as counterattacking. If your partner is a master criticizer then you want to ward off that attack in a more diffusing manner versus attacking back. An example of attacking back, could be "well I didn't see that, but did you see the mess you made over there?". One way of responding in a more diffusing manner is by taking responsibility. For example, if your partner says you are such a slob, you could respond saying, "yes you are right those clothes have been on the floor and I haven't picked them up yet". You don't have to take the blame, you just have to take part of the responsibility.

Contempt vs. Describe Your Own Feelings and Needs- This is the most potent of the four "horsemen" and typically comes later in the relationship. When you truly believe you are better than your partner, it can comes across as really hurtful to your partner. In fact, it chips away at the immune system. Instead scan the environment and find what your partner is doing right. What is it that you truly appreciate in your partner. My partner may not be the best in this, but he or she is great at this.

Stonewalling vs. Do Physiological Self-Soothing  - When your partner starts to escalate a situation and you stop paying attention to your partner you are stonewalling. Do physiological self-soothing by emotionally and cognitively disengaging. You might say, I can't have the conversation right now and go take a break. Reconvene at a later time when both of you are ready to speak.

Additional Relationship Principals

Love map principal - In order to have a strong relationship, you need to have a strong friendship foundation. You have to know everything about them. When you start to fall in love with someone, you might ask a bunch of questions to get to know them. For example, "what color do you like?" or "what are your goals?" Twenty-five years passes by and your partner changes, but you don't ask the same questions. Love maps is the idea that you have a map of the partner's internal map. Ask your partner open ended questions to learn more about them.

Nurturing the fondness and admiration - Focus on the positives of what your partner is doing versus the negatives. This is even applicable to those that you manage at a work place. If you are rewarding people you manage, they are more able to do those things correctly. Set an alarm everyday and send a text to your partner for example, "Thank you so much for.." or "I'm so appreciative for.."

Turning toward small things often - Doing small things consistently versus one-time splurges. Turning toward means your partner is looking for acknowledgement. If you are faced down on a phone or computer, you'll miss out on the cues from your partner. You can either turn towards your partner as a positive response, you can turn away and ignore, or lash back at them. Every time you turn towards your partner with a positive response, you are putting a deposit in much like a bank account. So, when there is a huge fight, you have enough buffer and don't over-withdrawal.

Letting your partner influence you - When your partner wants to pursue a goal or adventure, your first response is "whatever you want let's make it happen". Oftentimes, what actually happens is that you become a roadblock. The key is being able to negotiate and understanding why it is so important versus immediately saying no. When men were saying no and weren't even willing to negotiate, 81% of the time couples end up divorcing.

You can have solvable problems and perpetual problems. Solvable problems include "how are we going to use tax refund?" or "whose house are we going to for memorial day?" Oftentimes they tend to be short term in nature.

Perpetual problems are issues that are based more on values. If I am an introvert and my partner is an extrovert that is a perpetual problem. But it is not solvable, it is more about understanding your partner and finding common ground. Another perpetual problem is where one partner is frugal and the other is a big spender. If that is the case and both are looking to purchase a car, write down one or two core attributes you can not be flexible on. For example, it is important to me that we only buy a car with cash.

"You always and you never" are the worst way to bring an issue up. However, you can make a repair attempt. A repair attempt is anything that you do to derailed and change the conversation. For example, you might say "I apologize that is not what I meant to say, or it came out incorrectly". Alternatively you can be silly and lick your partner on his or her cheek. The key is that if you have a strong enough friendship, your partner will accept your "repair attempt".

Create meaning in a relationship by moving from I to we. Creating rituals allows for a meaningful relationship. For example, one husband every evening when the kids went to bed would put a tea kettle and when the tea kettle was ready, his wife and him would massage each other's feet and drink tea. It is the time when both of them can connect. Another way of creating meaning in a relationship is by working on common goals. John likes to say he isn't willing to go anywhere without room service, but his wife Julie wants to hike. John is hiking now.

[Continue reading...]

Foolproof Way to Set Your Monthly Spending Budget within Five Minutes

May 18, 2016 -

Setting a monthly spending budget can be a cumbersome and dreadful task. Most of us are constantly on the go. We don't have time to sit down and put pencil to paper on what we spent throughout the month let alone throughout the day.

What you need to do is first download the spending tracker app on your phone. The app is completely free and allows you to track your own spending by category. Note: I am not receiving any compensation for recommending the app.

Here is how you set up your budget in five minutes.

1) Determine your spending categories. 

Take a minute to jot down on a piece of paper all of your spending categories for the month. For example, my spending categories include rent, car payment, eating out, shopping, fuel, entertainment, travel, and groceries.

2) Calculate or ballpark your spending in each category.

The best start to determine what your budget should be for each spending category is to use your actual spending. You can adjust the budget after you've been using it for a few months. If you have rent or a car payment, those are typically fixed amounts, so jot those down. Look through your monthly credit card statements to get an idea of how much you are spending eating out, on gas, going out, and buying groceries. Keep this information saved on an excel spreadsheet or written down somewhere. You'll need this to see how well you track against that budget after each month. After you've allocated what you typically spend to each category, you are ready to move on to the next step.

3) Enter your total budgeted expense to your spending tracking app. 

Add up all of your spending categories and take the total to put into the spending app. To do this go to "Settings" on the bottom right corner of your app and select "Budget Mode". Then type in your total budgeted expense amount.

4) Enter into your app each cash or credit transaction.  

The key is to enter each spending/income transaction right as you are aware of it. That way you won't forget. Pop open your app and select either +Expense or +Income. Enter in the amount you spend. You can even add notes to what the purchase relates to. Remember to put in the spending category as well.


5) At the end of each month, compare how you did against your budget and adjust accordingly. 

You'll want to see how well you track against your budget you set at the beginning of this exercise. If you feel like you can shave off money more from the initial budget or would like to save more aggressively, you can adjust your budget accordingly. For example, let's say you want to save for your next vacation or a new car. You've budgeted $400 a month to eating out. Try and eat in or save leftovers from a previous meal for your next meal. If you do that, you may be able to bring that budget down to $300 a month. Good luck and keep me updated on your progress!

Consider the alternatives.

If you use a credit card, will automatically pull from your credit card details and then bucket your costs by category. Of course you'll have to enter in your credit card login information and sync it up within Alternatively, credit card companies such as Capital One will do the same and let you export the information into excel. The problem with that is their algorithms are not foolproof. Often times, your restaurant expenses get categorized as entertainment costs and vice versa. If you need to re-categorize your expenses again, why should you even bother with or the credit card statements? Also, how likely is it that you are going to remember to enter in your expenses two days from when they were occurred.

[Continue reading...]

Larry Ellison USC Commencement Speech 2016 - Summary

May 14, 2016 -

Larry Ellison talks about how growing up his family expected Larry to become a doctor. But he dropped out of school. Then he drove from New York to California to discover himself. There he worked as a river guide and a rock climbing instructor. While he enjoyed those jobs, they didn't pay much. So, he also worked part-time as a computer programmer. Later, his wife divorced him because she thought he lacked of ambition. Needless to say, this was a turning point in his life.

He couldn't find a software engineering job that he loved as much as he loved sailing, so he tried to create one. That way he could completely control his work environment and hire smart programmers to work on interesting projects. Larry wanted to create the perfect job for himself.

Larry Ellison won the America's Cup yacht race three years ago.
What one idea led began the growth of Oracle? The idea was to build the first relational database.

In the 1970s, while computer experts believed that relational databases could be built; most experts never thought that there would be a fast enough computer to run it. A relational database is one which the users directly state what information they want from a database and the database will answer the queries and store the data in such a way that makes it accessible. We take all of this for granted nowadays.

When people start telling you all the experts are wrong, they first they call you arrogant. Then they say you are crazy. Remember this: when people start telling you that you are crazy, you just may be on to the most important innovation in your life. 

"Steve said, "I'm not doing this for the money. I don't want to get paid. If I do this, I need to do this standing on the moral high ground."

Eventually, Oracle became a company that nobody could control due to its rapid growth. He was constantly learning new things on the job. Remember, that he had set out to create an ideal job. Now it became like navigating a sailboat through a hurricane.

Larry Ellison had a great friendship with Steve Jobs. Back in mid-1995 and Steve was running Pixar and running NeXT. At the time Apple was not doing well and people believed that it would go under. One day, Larry and Steve discussed how to save Apple computer.

Larry suggested that Steve and Larry buy Apple and then make Steve Jobs CEO. Larry already arranged to borrow the money of $5 billion. Steve just had to say yes. Steve however proposed that they persuade Apple to buy NeXT and then Steve would join the board. Over time, they would figure out that Steve would be the right guy to run Apple. Larry said, "but Steve, if we don't buy Apple, how would we make any money?”

Steve replied, "Larry, this is why it is so important I am your friend. You don't need any more money."

Larry said, "Yeah I know. But, we could give it all away."

Steve said, "I'm not doing this for the money. I don't want to get paid. If I do this, I need to do this standing on the moral high ground."

Larry said, "Steve you created Apple, it is your company and it's your call". Larry went on the Apple board and then he watched Steve build the most valuable company on earth.

The lesson here is clear. Steve was right. After a certain point it can't be about the money. You can't spend it. It is impossible. In the end, the only practical thing to do is to give it all away.

Why did Steve do what he did? Why does Larry do what he does?

Deep inside of all of us there is a primal desire to do something important in our lives. Freud said there are two things important in life, love and work. He didn't say that love and work was the same thing. Larry is passionate about work. But, passion and love are different things. He loves his family, the Sierra Mountains, and the ocean. The feelings he has about work are different. It's not just a job it is an adventure. It is interesting, challenging, and an all-consuming adventure.

Discover who you are, not what others expect you to be. Find a job that interests you, challenges you and gives you and sense of purpose or a level of satisfaction. If you don't find that, keep looking. Maybe you will find work that you love.
[Continue reading...]

3 Secrets to Finding Confidence Within Yourself

Apr 10, 2016 -

The Surprising Secret to Speaking with Confidence with Caroline Goyder

All of us have confidence within us. If we knew where to look, we can find confidence within us. In today's society, we spend a lot of time working on our outward appearances. But, I'll have you know that confidence doesn't exist outside.

Caroline Goyder is a public speaking coach and the author of Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority. Her work has been featured on BBC TV's The Speaker and The Voice, and BBC R 4's Word of Mouth, as well as in the FT, Telegraph, The Times, The Sunday Times and CNN.

Goyder presents three secrets to speaking with confidence. She draws from anecdotal stories and experiences of both actors and public speakers alike.

1)  Practice your voice by singing in the shower

The voice is the most amazing instrument. How often do you think about how yours works? Like a guitar the strings of the voice is your larynx, which is just underneath your vocal cords. The hitter is the air. If you know your voice is an instrument and those who are great at playing other instruments become good at through practice, all you have to do to be great with your voice is practice. The best way to practice is singing in the shower or in the car on the way to work.

2) Breathe slow and controlled using your diaphram

Who is the most confident person in the room? How can you tell? Think of when actors play kings in movies, how do they behave? When an actor is playing a king, the king stays still and other actors move around the king. The most powerful person in the room has the most relaxed breathing pattern.

The good news is that the unconscious system can be controlled through your breathing. What is within you is the key to a relaxed and confident path.Calming yourself down when standing in front of a crowd starts with focusing on the diaphram. This is the secret of what most actors and singers do.

Breathe using your diaphram. Place your thumb below your "bra strap" area of your chest. When you breathe in, push your thumb out with your diaphram. On the out breath, push your thumb in. If you put your hands on the side of your ribs you can also feel breathing. If you are ever nervous, do what we just explained.

3) Your last thoughts dictates your next speech 

When we breathe in, we breathe in thoughts. When we breath out, what comes out is speech or song. Try this, think of someone or something that excites you, then talk about that person or thing. Did you notice your voice of excitement? If your last thought is positive one, your speech will come out as positive as well.

Romans understood that we breathe in our thoughts. Just look at the words inspiration and the respiration as they both have the same root! "If you want confidence in speech all you have to do is know when to shut your mouth." Think confident, be positive, and exude energy.

[Continue reading...]

MarketXLS Review : Pull Stock Quotes and Perform Fundamental and Technical Analysis within Excel

Apr 4, 2016 -

We are constantly looking for ways to analyze stock prices.

There are two ways to pull stock quotes into a readable and analyzable format. We've documented steps on how that can be done through Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. There are major pros and cons with using either. For example, with Excel you don't need to be connected to an internet browser, but the functionality is limited and bulky. The blue bars are an eye sore. In Google Sheets, you'll need to open up a browser. But, at least it is nice and clean.
What if you had a way to combine the best of both Excel and Google Sheets worlds and increase functionality. Just a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine introduced me to an excel plug-in called MarketXLS. Is is a software that is directly downloadable instantly over the web. It pulls quotes into your Excel sheet using formulas that pull real-time quotes seamlessly.

One of the most useful and used formula is the "=ask("TICKER")". Simply type in =ask("WFM") and it will pull in the ask price instantly.

One of the best things about marketXLS is the fact that you can pull in historical stock data. We are constantly looking for ways to analyze stock prices and compare them to 52-week lows or just looking at technical trends. The software pulls reliable data from Quotemedia and can provide minute by minute data updates. 

What if you had a way to combine the best of both Excel and Google Sheets worlds and increase functionality. MarketXLS does just that.

If I was doing technical analysis, MarketXLS provides a number of indicators and analysis that would be extremely helpful. Personally, there are just too many for me to really grasp. However, you might find use in them if you are looking to do find a hammer pattern or a gravestone doji. 

Personally, I prefer fundamental analysis and stock screening tool. MarketXLS is able to pull in actual income statements, balance sheets, and cash flows. This is especially important when you are analyzing how much a company is returning on its tangible assets. Being able to pull these directly into your excel without having to visit the SEC website is definitely a time saver. Right now it is able to pull in three years, however it would be nice if it could pull in five years of data. 

I want to point out that under the "Utilities" tab you can pull in dividend history information, which is really cool. It is one less step to having to pull information from a browser. I literally place my mouse on a cell with the stock ticker and click on "Dividend History" and all of that dividend history gets pulled in to my Excel like magic.

How do you screen for stocks or find stocks to buy?

MarketXLS allows you to screen stocks based on cash flow ratios, balance sheet items, profitability, gross margin, and even more things including return by period. 

Note that the above is a real review of the product paid for by our sponsored partner. 
[Continue reading...]

Buffett's Five Business Lessons

Mar 30, 2016 -

What by Buffett's standards is a good business?

A good business according to Warren Buffett is a business that earns a high rate of return on tangible assets. The very best businesses are one that earn high rates of return on tangible assets and grows. You can turn a good business into a bad investment buy buying at too high of a price.

Buffett's statements above eludes to businesses that do not require a lot of capital investment such as the Van Tuyl Automotive car dealership business he purchased in 2014. Whereby in the dealership business, you can lease the real estate, arrange the floor plan, and sell a lot of volume with narrow margins and still manage a high return on capital. Years ago car dealerships were many and across the U.S. there were about 30,000. Now that amount is a little more than half and on average each dealer does greater volume than ever before. However, I will say that his investment in BNSF Railway is quite the opposite and is a highly capital intensive business.

Are the big banks good business and are they still as good of a business prior to the 2008 crisis?

Banks earn on assets not on their net worth. Since 2008, the government now requires banks to have more net worth for each dollar of asset. Meaning that their earnings on net worth will go down. Banks are required to have more net worth than before to make the "same" amount of money. In general, they are great business because they can borrow money cheaply. Think of your deposits sitting in a Wells Fargo or Bank of America checking or savings account. What interest rates are those paying out? More than likely it is something of the tune of less than 0.10% annual percentage yield. Banks turn around and lend that money out at interest rates at least 20 to 30 times that.

"Keep the business if you expect the company to do well in the future versus the price now compared to other opportunities you might think you know equally well."

In 2014, Buffett still believed that most stocks were being priced at a range of reasonableness. There has only been five times in Buffett's lifetime that he recalls whereby businesses were either priced too expensive or very cheap. There is no way to pinpoint exactly where those peaks and troughs are, but he believe he can make a call on either end of the spectrum every 5-10 years. Overall, buy good businesses at reasonable prices and you'll make money.

Another piece of advice? Buy stock in a business so good that an idiot can run it because one day an idiot will. Forget about what is happening in the United States about the Fed and economy. In the long-run the American system works and unleashes human potential, which will bring value to the economy. Buy a business because of what is happening in the business not because of what you think political effects have on the business or doesn't have on the business.

When do you throw in the towel on an investment or business?

If you have a bad manager with bad results, you can sometimes change the manager and get good results. But if you have a bad business and a good manager, most of the time you can't get better with a better manager. Some businesses are just plain tough and the bad economics almost always trumps good management.

Buffett loves it when the things they buy go down in value. When you go to the grocery store and find something cheaper today than yesterday you are elated. But for some reason with a stock people tend to hold on to it and sell when it gets to what they paid for it. People have a tendency to justify holding on to positions. The stocks don't care when you bought them for. You are nothing to the stock, but the stock is everything to you.

How do you know when to sell a stock or rearrange your portfolio?

When you get can more for your money somewhere else. Prices change constantly and valuations shift daily. Today, you can rearrange your business empire at virtually no cost. But people can use that to a disadvantage as well by trading too much. Keep the business if you expect the company to do well in the future versus the price now compared to other opportunities you might think you know equally well.
[Continue reading...]

Stock of the Week : Whole Foods Market (WFM)

Mar 20, 2016 -

Whole Foods Market, Inc. - An Organic Story

In recent years, you may have begun to notice a trend in eating better and more "organic" produce. All of a sudden it seems like your local groceries stores are selling fresher, more organic and natural foods. What you may have not noticed was that stores such as Whole Foods Market, Inc. ("WFM" or "Whole Foods"), Sprouts Farms Market, Inc. (SFM) and Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc. (NGVC) have been around for many years.The biggest of the aforementioned is by far Whole Foods Market, Inc, which was founded by one of their current CEOs John Mackey in September of 1980.

John Mackey first opened a natural foods grocer called SaferWay with $45,000. It wasn't until SaferWay merged with Clarksville Natural Grocery did the first Whole Foods Market open in Austin, Texas. WFM almost didn't make it when a huge flood hit Austin and most of its equipment and inventory perished resulting in a $400,000 loss. Without insurance, WFM's stakeholders and communities pitched in funds and labor to keep Whole Foods alive.

Currently WFM is the largest natural and organic foods supermarket in the United States ("U.S"). and ranks 5th largest in public food retailers. As of September 27, 2015, WFM operated 431 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, averaging over eight million customer visits each week. In comparison, Albertsons Companies Inc. has over 2,200 locations and Kroger with over 2,600 locations in the U.S.

Highlight Fundamentals

Whole Foods Markets, Inc. ("WFM", "Company") has branded itself to be a premium natural grocery store. Last week Ralphs had chicken thighs and drumsticks on sale for $0.93 a pound, a couple weeks prior the local WFM was selling whole chickens at $1.93 a pound and called that "on sale". WFM's competitive advantage comes from being able to market their products and mark-up higher than typical groceries.

As a matter of fact, WFM enjoys a healthy gross profit of about 35% for the past five years for the year-end period ending September 25, 2011. Operating income was $548 million and $861 million from the years ended September 25, 2011 and September 27, 2015, respectively, which was a 57% increase. Another astonishing fact is that WFM's selling, general and administrative expenses have remained approximately 29% of their total sales for the last five years beginning in September 27, 2015, which shows that management is conscious of controlling costs even while growing the company.

The Company has opened 120 stores since fiscal year 2011 at a rate of approximately 24 stores a year. Each store bring in on average $36.4 million in revenues a year or approximately $700 thousand a week. Comparative stores sales growth has slowed in the past five years from 8.4% in 2011 to 2,5% in 2015. Over the last five years, average operating income has been about $2.2 million per store. Whole Foods Market's ability to grow while controlling their costs to continue to achieve high profitability is a tremendous accomplishment.

Whole Foods Markets, Inc. Fiscal Year 2016 Outlook*

The Company remains focused on the metrics it believes are key to the long-term health of its business and is targeting:

• Sales growth of 3% to 5%
• Approximately 30 new stores, including three 365 stores and two to three relocations
• Square footage growth of 7% or greater
• EBITDA margin of approximately 8.5%
• Capital expenditures of 5% of sales
• ROIC greater than 13.5%

*Released by WFM via Q1 2016 press release

During Q2 2015, Whole Foods Markets, Inc. announced they would open up a new chain of smaller stores (30,000 sq.ft vs the 39,000 sq ft Whole Foods) whereby they will be targeting millennials who are more price sensitive all the while keeping the same high quality standards. What remains to be seen is whether or not these stores WFM later revealed to be called "365" can be successful and not significantly cannibalize their existing store sales. 

Highlight Technicals

Whole Foods Markets, Inc. (WFM) has been tumbling since its high of approximately $65.00 in 2013. While the stock did rebound in late 2014 and early 2015, since then it has gone back to 2007 levels.

From a technical perspective, WFM is currently in a $28 and $35 range. While at the same time we've seen that the support levels of 2014 have become resistance. If we see WFM break out of the $35 range and sustained price action, there would be a good chance of $35 becoming support again. Otherwise we will see a roll over below $28. We are at in a long-term downtrend.

In the short-term, one strategy would be to play the range bound action until it breaks. The ideal entry in the short-term would be at about $28 and then selling at $35. Or alternatively you can short at $35 and then cover at $28. If it breaks $35 and you are long, consider putting your stop at $35 and ride the wave up to possibly $47.5. A roll over below $28 could prove to be a great buy from a fundamental perspective.

Walter Robb, Co-CEO of Whole Foods Markets answers a great question from a Duke student regarding how you rationalize or balance working for large corporations that make billions of dollars and giving back.

Start at 45:10

Disclaimer: This article is written for informational purposes only and not intended for investment advice. For more similar articles visit
Disclosure: I have a position in WFM.
[Continue reading...]
Copyright © 2007- StockKevin. Disclaimer. All Rights Reserved.