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.

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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.
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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.

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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. 
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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.
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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.
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Power of Humor - Find the Lighter Side in Life

Feb 29, 2016 -

Last May, three of my college friends and I embarked on a journey to the downunder to find our Australian accented soulmates or our Jayesslees. Don't tell me their accents are not attractive. While the four of us were good friends, this would be the first international trip where we would be together for an extended period of time. The most time we've spent together as a group prior might have been four hours max, when we played Taboo or Settlers of Catan into the wee night after a long day frolicking in the rain. Spending time with each other once a month is much different than seeing someone's fact every minute of the day for ten days non-stop. Now I don't mean we are literally staring right in each other's faces for ten days straight, thought that would be quite hilarious. This trip to Australia would inevitably be the first real test of our friendships. If we don't pass, we would all de-friend each other on Facebook.

To cut to the chase, the trip had its ups and downs. We had an open unplanned Sunday morning. One of my friends was adamant about visiting a swap meet. While we all agreed, we did not have any information as to whether or not there was a swap meet nearby or at all. Without any swap meet details, the group largely dismissed her request. All the while, she had gotten ready to leave the hotel to go to a swap meet. You can imagine how confused the group was when she asked everyone why nobody looked up a nearby swap meet. Well heck, if you want to go to a swap meet and nobody else was dying to go, take initiative and find one yourself! We are all adults here. Eventually, one of us in the group found a swap meet and managed to make a great experience out of it all. 

"Humor leads to laughter, which releases endorphin that allow us to endure and triumph over pain. Recent studies have showed that laughter increases creatively, improves health, and strengthens relationships."

While there were may other conflicts and trivial issues such as the swap meet incident, most of us remember the humorous events. For example, my friend running across the beach and then slipping and almost falling on his face. The time when my friend and I acted like monkeys trying to climb up a coconut tree just because we wanted the satisfaction of picking our own coconuts.Though we failed miserably. Also, the time when we ended up sharing a laugh with an expat who had adopted the Australian accent just two weeks in to her stay. How is all of this relevant? We tend to be drawn towards more of the humors events than the serious and unpleasantries in life.

Professor Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Business School shared some insightful finds on the power of humor. Humor leads to laughter, which releases endorphin that allow us to endure and triumph over pain. Recent studies have showed that laughter increases creatively, improves health, and strengthens relationships

Psychologists Alice Isen and her colleagues asked participants to solve a classic candle task whereby they were given a box of matches, a box with tacks and a candle. Can they attach the candle on to a nearby wall without letting the candle when lit to drip to the table below. She and her colleagues broke the participants into two groups. One group watched a short humorous video and the other a neutral video. You may be able to guess what the results were. Those who watched the humorous video prior to working on the candle task were more likely to solve the candle task then those who watched the neutral video. The solution to the candle task is taking the box and tacking it on the wall. Then putting the candle in the box and finally lighting the candle. 

In another study, a group of participants who were shown clips from a stressful movie such as Saving Private Ryan and two days later they were shown clips from a humor movie called KingPin. Blood flow was measured prior to the viewing of the clips and afterwards. Guess what? Blood flow increased by 20% after watching clips from KingPin! 

Humor helps strengthen relationships. In a recent study, couples were asked to reminisce about times where they've shared memories and then times when they've laughed together. Couple who recall laughing together were more fond of each other. 

There you have it, laugh, laugh and laugh some more. Find the humorous side of life. You'll be able to improve your health, become stronger mentally, and build stronger relationships. 

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Five Benefits From Coconut Oil You Didn't Know About

Feb 16, 2016 -

How is Coconut Oil made?
Coconut oil is extracted from coconuts through a few simple steps. After you open the coconut and drain it of its water, you grate the white insides, and then put all of it into a bowl with water. Leave the white residue in the water overnight and then the cream will harden. The cream will be on top while all else below is your water. Scoop out the cream and cook it until it is brown. Drain the oil from the brown residue and all that remains is coconut oil. In lower than 76˚F (24˚C), coconut oil will remain a solid.

Why do should you even care about coconut oil? 
1) Cooking substitute to vegetable or olive oil

While coconut oil is commonly used in cooking as a substitute to vegetable oil or even olive oil, its  haunting, nutty flavor with a touch of sweetness lends itself best to be used in baked goods, pastries, and even popcorn.

2) Rub on your skin to moisturize your skin naturally

In addition, its unique high concentration of saturated fat has made it one of the most highly sought after organic oils for moisturizing your skin. A recent study by the Journal of Cosmetic Science noticed that coconut oil reduced the protein loss in hair. Many exfoliating scrubs are made with coconut oils combined with coconut sugars.

3) Eat it and get more energy without the caffeine side effects

Coconut oil contains fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides, which are immediately coverted into energy. Its unique compound actually promotes healthy metabolism, increases your stamina, and gives you energy like caffeine without the side effects. You can basically take a couple teaspoons a day and eat it raw.

Five reasons you should eat one teaspoon of coconut oil every day
1) Healthy alternative to caffeine without the side effects.
2) Fights aging and keeps you feeling and looking youthful
3) Helps boast cognitive functioning and memory recall
4) Special fats help you burn more fat so you have more energy
5) Has a delicious nutty flavor with a touch of sweetness

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Excel Tip #17 - Shortcut to Naming Cells or Ranges and Why You Should Name Excel Cell Ranges

Feb 3, 2016 -

Suppose you have a 5x5 Microsoft Excel table. On the top row you have the months of the year beginning with January through May. Then on the left hand side you have stock ticker symbols including but not limited to AAPL, GOOGL, and WFC. In the heart of all of this you have the stock prices of the respective month and ticker.

Your goal is to find the average price for GOOGL in the five months beginning in January.

The simple answer would be to type in the =average formula and drag your mouse over the row beginning with GOOGL. Maybe you are somewhat more Excel savvy and directly type in =average(D5:H5) instead.

Let me introduce to you a third, more efficient and flexible method. Suppose you name that range from D5:H5 "GOOGL". Going forward all you have to do is type in =average(GOOGL). If you are adding more months just make sure you include the additional months in the cell name.

Now, it is quite easy to highlight five cells and type in "GOOGL" in the box to the left of your formula toolbar.

If you have a table that is 100x100, that can become tedious. What is an easy and quick shortcut to naming all of the columns and rows with their headers?

The answer is to highlight the table and hold CTRL+SHIFT+F3 to name the columns and rows based on headers. You will be prompted with the 'Create Names from Selection' box. The default is the 'Top Row' and 'Left Column'. In our example, this means the columns with header 'Jan' will be named 'Jan' and the row 'AAPL' will be named 'AAPL'.

Let's say that you forgot what cells ranges in Excel you named and don't want to duplicate names. Hit CTRL+F3 and you will see all the cells and cell ranges you've named already along with which cells are being selected as part of that name tag.

Quick Summary

1) Quickly sum cell ranges using the cell name in replacement of the cell range
2) Highlight table and hold CTRL+SHIFT+F3 to name the columns/rows based on headers
3) Use shortcut CTRL+F3 to bring up the 'Name Manager' to view named cells ranges

For more excel tips check out the #1 best selling e-commerce book below.

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Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything - Book Review

Jan 9, 2016 -

About Carol Loomis, Compiler of Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012

Carol Loomis had the longest tenure at Fortune magazine of any employee in its history. She is noted particularly for having covered Warren Buffett's life since 1966 more closely than any other business publication. For decades she watched first hand as Warren Buffett became Warren Buffett. Over the years she has developed a tremendous relationship and rapport with Warren, so much so that she has been the pro bono editor of his annual letter to shareholders for many years. Incidentally, it was Carol's husband who first met Warren Buffet. In Carol's first article mentioning Warren Buffett, she had misspelled his last name 'Buffet'. Later on, Warren gave grief to Carol about that.

Overview and Thoughts about the Book

Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything is a collection of articles about Warren Buffet, some of which were either written by Fortune and Carol Loomis herself (13 cover stories), Warren Buffett himself (12 articles), or various other writers. All of which definitely help to contribute to understanding Warren's thought process and principals. The book starts with an article about Alfred Winslow Jones, who is largely considered the father of hedge funds. At the time, Warren Buffett had started a partnership, which he eventually closed in 1969 due to what he believed to be unfavorable market conditions. By that time he had already amassed $25 million dollars. While many of these articles you can probably find online, Carol provides insightful information on each of the articles in hindsight. This includes the aftermath of what had happened in the banking crisis of 2008 and Buffett's temporary seat at Solomon as chairman.

For someone who is looking to gain rare insight into Warren's investment principals, you'd have to go through 368 pages of articles to comb though and pick out the fruit. Evidently he does not lay out his investment procedures in simply easy to follow steps, but each of these articles does provide incredible insight into Warren's thoughts and more importantly his adherence to his principals. In particular, a couple of the articles illustrates Warren's cost management and thriftiness.

I would say about a third of the articles are about Warren's generosity in donating a large portion of his fortune to charities. It goes through how the idea came about, who else he has involved, and his relationship with Bill Gates in all of this.

"How did BYD get so far ahead?" Warren Buffett asked Wang, speaking through a translator. "Our company is built on technology know-how," Wang answered." Wary as always of technology play, Buffett asked how BYD would sustain its lead. "We'll never, never rest," Wang replied."

Perhaps one of the most insightful pieces is "Why Warren Buffett's Betting Big on American Express". While Fortune attempted to decipher the secret formula behind Warren's decision to buy American Express, at the end of the article Carol eludes to the real reason behind Warren's decision to keep it all these years. While Warren was initially concerned with competition from other credit card companies such as Visa, his golf day with Frank Olson at the time CEO of Hertz largely shifted him the other direction. At mid-2012 Berkshire's Amex stock had a cost basis of $1.3 billion and a market value of $8.8 billion. Let's not kid ourselves, Warren did not buy American Express on solely a stock tip. 

But being serious now, the article 'Buffett Takes Charge' by Marc Gunther is one of the best articles that describes Buffett's investment criteria and the degree in which they need to be met. This article is on his decision to invest in the Chinese car and battery company, BYD. Buffett purchased the stock at HK$8 and it is now trading at about HK$60. Even with the recent drop in the Asian stock markets, he still returned about 750% from his initial investment. 

Final Word

Had I had the insight and good fortune of collecting all the articles on or related to Warren Buffett prior to or during 2009, I would probably be sitting on a lot more cash than I am right now. Being able to say that means that there is intrinsic value in all of the articles presented in the book. All the way from how to pass on wealth to your future generations to what to look for in purchasing a business. While all of this is easier said then done, at the very least you will have some kind of background into going about becoming a better person and investor. Not to mention, the articles are very well written in their own right, which makes Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything an entertaining read if nothing at all.

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Carol Dweck: "The Growth Mindset" Concept Review

Dec 28, 2015 -

Carol S. Dweck is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She graduated from Barnard College in 1967 and earned a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1972. She is known for her research in social and developmental psychology.

Dweck recently published the Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and has since sold over a million copies. In the book she discusses the idea of the mindset being a contributing factor in fulfilling one's potential in parenting, business, school, and relationships.

Why do some people wilt in the face of danger, while others who are no more talented thrive in challenges? How are people motivated to learn? These are some of the many questions that Dweck answers in her book.

In the Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck argues that there are two mindsets of which are the "Fixed" and "Growth" mindsets. Generally speaking, those who believe talents and abilities can be developed are in the growth mindset, versus those who believe talent is natural born are in the fixed.

However, you can have a fixed mindset in one area and a growth mindset in another. For example, suppose you are great with Microsoft excel and are willing to take on any new challenges associated with it. When you see someone else who is better, instead of feeling jealous, you want them to teach you their skills. That is an example of a growth mindset. On the other hand, suppose you are asked to create a flowchart of your business' processes using Microsoft Visio. You are not particular great with it and are not willing to learn to become better using it. That is an example of a fixed mindset in a different area.

Add the word "yet" to your fixed mindset statement. If you say that you are not "yet" at a certain level, that implies that you can develop and get better. For example, "I am still not able to generate enough passive income to support myself, yet".

When you tell someone he or she is smart and what he or she has done seems effortless, you are in fact communicating another subtle message to the recipient. He or she will start to believe that if it takes effort then he or she won't look smart. Thereby, they start to focus only on what they are good at and instead of challenging themselves and developing their intelligence. Having a growth mindset will allow you to take on challenges and more importantly stick with them.

In growth mindset companies, management values creativity, innovation, and teamwork. Employees in such companies believe that they could develop their skills and thereby felt empowered and more committed to the organization. On the contrary, fixed mindset companies looked to hire talent, but did not believe that those talented individuals they hired had potential to rise and join management. Employees in those companies felt that they had one foot out the door and would leave at anytime if another company offered to pay them more.

How do you ensure that you think in a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset? 

Being in a growth mindset is not just being open minded, it is developing oneself through a life long journey taking on challenges and learning from them. Focus on the process, show interest, ask questions, and most importantly stick with it. When faced with something safe versus a challenge, choose the challenge. When you hit a challenge, ask yourself how can you learn from this and what can you do better the next time. A growth mindset is not a destination, it is a process and a journey.

When is a fixed mindset better than a growth mindset? 

Accepting your sexual orientation and aging. These are two things that you can not change and is arguably biological (one more than the other). Thinking and believing you will get younger as time passes, is not realistic and quite frankly not possible at this point.

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What Makes A Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Happiness Study - Summary

Dec 24, 2015 -

The Harvard study of adult development began in 1938 and tracked two groups of men totaling 724 for 75 years. One group included sophomores from Harvard who ended up serving in WWII shortly after graduating. Another group consisted of Boston boys in the poorest and most disadvantaged areas. Taking populations from two differing spectrum of privilege helps to control the effects that has on living a good and long life. Over the course of 75 years, many of the individuals in the study became lawyers, factory workers, bricklayers, doctors and one was President of the United States. Not only did the Harvard study interview these individuals in their very own living rooms, but they drew blood samples, scanned brains, and talked to their parents.

What are the most important life goals? Of the recently surveyed millennials, 80% said that becoming rich was an important goal. In that same population, 50% believed it was important to become famous. We are constantly being reinforced by society to work hard and achieve greater to have a good life. But, is that truly what will give you a good life?

The Harvard study generated tens of thousands of pages of research. The lessons learned were not about wealth, fame, or working harder. In the 75 year old study, it is good relationships that keep us healthier.

1) Social connections are good for us and loneliness is not. Those who are more socially connected to family, community, and friends are physically healthier. People who are more isolated find that they are less happy and health decline earlier.

2) It is the quality of the relationships and not quantity that is important. Turns out that those living in conflict without much affection are worse off then getting divorced. People in good warm relationships stayed happier even when they experienced more physical pain.

3) Good relationships protect your brains as well. Those in securely attached relationship with people you could count on stay sharper longer. Relationships don't need to be smooth sailing all the time, as long as they felt that they could count on each other, that's what matters.

This is not rocket science or anything novel. So then why do we ignore this? We are humans and human nature is wanting quick fixes. Relationships are hard work, not glamours, and is an on-going life journey. People who fared the best over their lives are also those who leaned into relationships with family, friends and community.

The good life is built with good relationships. 

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Key Challenges with Value Investing

Dec 13, 2015 -

Value investing is an investment methodology whereby you invest in businesses that the market has undervalued. The whole idea behind this is that the stock market is not efficient. As a value investor, you can take advantage of periods where businesses go "on sale". Then sell when a business has been overvalued by the market. In theory, all of this sounds logical and might even sound easy to do, but there are a number of challenges one can face in the process of this.

Just as there will be periods when there are companies that trade upwards of 100 times their earning potential, there are also times when they will be trading at a price to earnings ratio (P/E) of under five or less. This means that the price of the stock is lower than five times the amount of net income the company is generating. In investing terms, one aspect of measuring a business' value is how long it takes for the company to recoup the investment. For example, if you invest $100 in a company that generates $10 a year. If you didn't sell your stake in that company, it would take you 10 years to recoup your investment. This is the concept of P/E ratio. Arguably a 10 P/E ratio is a reasonable value for the company.

Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing, once said that in the short run, the market is like a voting machine--tallying up which firms are popular and unpopular. But in the long run, the market is like a weighing machine--assessing the substance of a company.

One of Warren Buffet's holdings is International Business Machines Corp. (IBM). IBM has been trading below a 10 P/E ratio for much if not all of 2015. The company is currently undergoing a restructuring and deleveraging the businesses that do not have high gross margins in favor of those that do. In other words, selling its hardware in favor of cloud computing products. As a result, they have been experiencing declining revenues over the past few years. However, cost cutting measures has actually led to a higher net income when comparing 2015 vs 2014 financials. In fact, in Q3 2015 year to date IBM reported net income of $8.7 billion versus $6.5 billion in the prior comparable period. All the while, it continues to repurchase shares, which means there is less of it out there. It doesn't take a genius to understand that your shares become more valuable (in a scenario where all other factors remain constant).

If you had purchased IBM in May of 2015 at its high of approximately $171 your investment would be down over 20% in mid-December of 2015 as the stock price hit $135. In fact, you'll have to look all the way back to late 2010 and early 2011 to get prices of $135. Meaning if you had purchased IBM in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015, your shares are most definitely underwater. That is five years! Nowadays we are used to instantaneous information, profits,everything. How do you have the patience for that? At the present moment, it looks like there is no end to this decline in sight. You will have to be able to sit through this temporary, but seemingly long storm. Chances are you did not pick the bottom of the stock.

While we just did a 20,000 feet extremely high level summary analyzing IBM's business above, there is always a chance that we could be wrong. With any investment there is risk. Yes, IBM has been has constantly reinvented itself and yes it has survived over 100 years of business. However, there is no guarantee of tomorrow. Chances favor the stock to grow exponentially over time, especially when you continue to see it generate profits. However, we could be wrong in our investment. The challenge of it all is having the stomach to ride out these large declines in the value of your stock during this holiday season.
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Lessons in Baking - What is a Ramekin?

Oct 8, 2015 -

It was a typical Saturday night, only that it wasn't. My friend's big thirtieth birthday celebration was that night. The guys and gals had planned a surprise fancy dinner for our buddy who rarely treats himself out to a nice restaurant. While the main course was a porterhouse steak, it was the dessert that stole the show - a deliciously sweet and well balanced crème brûlée. By the end of the night, the talk was focused solely on the dessert. We talked about how great the presentation was and the incredible taste. What about the presentation? Yes, you guessed it. It was served in a ramekin.
What are ramekins or ramequins?

The word is from French ramequin, originally a cheese- or meat-based dish baked in a small mold. The French word comes from early modern Flemish rammeken, which meant 'toast' or 'roasted minced meat'. Ramekins are often built to withstand high temperatures, as they are frequently used in ovens, or in the case of crème brûlée, exposed to the flame of a cooking torch.

What can you make with ramekins?

Use it to make crème brûlées! Quite frankly crème brûlée are not that complex. It is basically just heavy cream, vanilla, and egg yolk. Alternatively, if you are looking to make molten lava cake, you'll need egg, chocolate square, flour, butter, and sugar. Essentially, a molten lava cake is an under cooked cake. Whereby the outside is cooked and the inside is runny.

These ramekins make a great gift to those who enjoy baking or otherwise interested in making baking their hobby.
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Three Ways to Increase Mental Energy Throughout the Day

Oct 6, 2015 -

Ever wonder why at the end of each work day you feel drained? At same time you might be wondering how you could be so tired when all you've done is merely sit in front of a computer screen the entire day. It is not like you were out in the field running around; why do you feel so out of it? The answer to all of this has to do with negative and positive ions.

While you might think positive ion are good, it is quite the contrary. Your body’s cells naturally contain a negative charge. Throughout the day your body literally pulls in positive charges; as a magnet would. Hence the phrase, "like a magnet, opposites attract". What are some things that emit positive ions? Dusts, microbes, and bacteria often carry positive charges. Computers, TVs, microwaves, even vacuum cleaners often create positive ions.

"Your body’s cells naturally contain a negative charge."

Often wonder why it is that when you head to the beach and whether it be basking in the sun or enjoying the ocean waves you feel refreshed or renewed? Negative ions occur more often in nature and they are often created by things like lightening storms, sunlight, waterfalls, and ocean waves. This is one of the reasons people often report feeling renewed or refreshed after a storm or at the beach.

Three things you can do to decrease positive ions or increase negative ions.

1) Use a natural Himalayan lamp salt crystal.

These salt crystals release negative ions into the air and create a ionizer purifying the surrounding air. As an added bonus, the amber color creates a calm and soothing feeling. The way it works is that the light within the lamp generates a small amount of heat that evaporates the water surrounding it. Salt attracts water to its surface. When the water around it evaporates, negative ions are created.

An increase in negative ions increases flow of oxygen to the brain resulting in higher alertness and more mental energy.

2)  Use the best and most commonly used ionizer air purifier.

Ionizier air purifiers are great for removing airbourne pollutants that generate positive ions. At the same time it will remove unpleasant odors and freshen the air around you. The purifier above has an added UVGI technology feature that kills germs, viruses, and bacterias.

3) Turn off and unplug your electronic devices before you go to bed.

We all know that you can not wait for your sea salt crystal or air ionizer to come in the mail, so in the meantime we recommend that you turn off all electronic devices before you go to bed.

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Larry Williams' Principals and Insight into Becoming a Better Trader

Sep 19, 2015 -

Larry Williams is a well-known trader and newsletter writer in the stock trading space. He has over 40 years of experience in the market and has written numerous books including Trade Stocks and Commodities with the Insiders: Secrets of the COT Report and How I Made One Million Dollars ... Last Year ... Trading Commodities. There is something to be learned from someone who has been in the markets for 40 years and been extremely successful. We were extremely lucky to be privy to a recent interview Larry Williams was a part of. Below are some notes we've gathered from the conversation.

1) Fundamental and technical analysis both work, however they will only work under the right market conditions whether it be a bull or bear market. 

For example, in the latter stages of a bullish market, as a buyer, you might find companies with low P/E ratio to be few and far between. Therefore, if you stick with fundamental analysis, you will most probably miss out on buying opportunities you'd otherwise find through technical analysis. In technical analysis, your focus is more on supply and demand in what is most likely a shorter time frame versus how well a company is fundamentally performing over the long haul.

2) For commodities, retail traders like to buy strength, but commercials like to buy weakness because the cost is less. 

Our interpretation of this is that most successful traders buy strength because of human behavior. People see an underlying asset like a derivative of oil go up, they jump on it for fear of missing out even if the prices jump and then more people jump on it. Until of course the prices become too ridiculously high and then people try and sell to lock in their profits. Commercial companies that use commodities like to buy at low prices because it keep their cost of goods sold lower. If revenues are constant and you reduce costs then you'd have better margins.

3) Most indicators are redundant, RSI (Relative Strength Index) and STO (Stochastic Oscillator) are the essentially the same. There are a lot of things to look at, but when using an indicator understand the purpose of the indicator you are using. 

There are a lot indicators out there that essentially do the same thing. Both the RSI and STO both help to determine overbought and oversold conditions. While there are evidently cases when regardless of whether or not a stock or index is overbought, prices continue to print higher. The key is not to have too many, keep it simple, and don't use the same overlapping indicators.

4) Trade your personality, find the system that fits you and lifestyle. Can you trade during work or at home? Do a personality check.

One thing I've learned through trading in the stock markets for about 10 years now is that you have to trade your personality. Take someone else's trading plan and trying to trade against that typically doesn't work out unless the both of you have the same personality. Each of us have a different risk tolerance and financial needs. You should only trade with what you are willing to lose and not only that but you have to be comfortable with actually losing that amount.

Market Related Information

When interest rates go up, stocks have historically been hit hard in the short-term, but you'll want to buy that weakness. The logic behind this is that when rates begin to go up, more people will feel goosed into borrowing and that leveraged money will go into consumption and production.

Market tops are typically well formed and structured thereby also taking a long time to develop. On the other hand, market bottoms are based on crashes and plummet on panic.

How many positions should you hold? 

Any more than 4 positions is a lot of multi-tasking.  For Larry Williams, 3-4 positions is plenty. Any more than that require too much multi-tasking. In addition, he typically puts on a 2% - 4% risk of total trading capital on each trade. Losing four consecutive trades at 4% risk would be a 16% drawdown.

What is the biggest lesson Larry has learned from trading? 

He learned to be humble when you are winning and learning from other people. All highly successful traders are a little unsure of themselves, so they never bet big. None of these successful individuals have had high levels of emotional response to things and therefore don't get emotionally rattled.

What are the four steps to making a trade? 

Find condition, find the entry, set your target, create trailing stops.

What are some other interesting tips and tidbits? 

1) Conditional traders look at conditions, seasonality and overlay technicals.
2) Trading should be like combo lock where you need to get a number of factors going your way.

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Stock Market Indices Review for Week 37 in 2015

Sep 11, 2015 -

Stock Market Highlights - Week 37

- Dow had worst August decline in 17 years and the NASDAQ its worst August in 14 years.
- WTI was $44.63 and brent crude oil $48.14 on 9/11. Prices still holding 40s.
- S&P trailing-12-month US corporate default rate was at a two-year high of 2.4% in August.
- Blackstone agreed to acquire Strategic Hotels & Resorts for approximately $6 billion.
- Box beats with $73.5M in revenue in Q2 2016, hits 50K customers.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closed at 16433.08, which was about a 330 point increase versus a week ago of 16102.38 on Friday, September 4th 2015. 

The DJIA now formed a trading triangle, which we will await to see whether it breaks up or break down. While it briefly tested the 20 DMA, we didn't see follow through action and therefore any shorts from the 20 DMA were most likely covered in the subsequent days. Right now we are pretty much in no man's land with 50/50 odds of where the market will go.

The S&P 500 closed at 1961.05 on Friday, September 11th 2015 versus a week ago of 
1921.22 on Friday, September 4th 2015. This was about a 40 point swing. What we saw in the DJIA is almost mirror of what we see in the SPX. A break in either direction would cause us to put our cash to work. 

The Nasdaq (COMPQ) closed at 4822.34 on September 11th, 2015 versus 4683.92 on September 4th, 2015. There is a bit more strength in the COMPQ versus the DJIA and the SPX. This index is definitely leaning more bullish as you can see this is the only one to have closed above the 20 DMA. We'll see if this price level holds. This might be an indicator that the break of the triangle for DJIA and SPX will be upward. However, we'll follow the price action and time will tell. 

Starbucks (SBUX) is one of the stronger charts that has recovered after what seems to be a minor correction. Whether or not it holds the 20 DMA will be something to watch. Keep in mind the trendline is still broken and until another upward trend sets up, this chart is just making lower highs and lower lows. However, keep this on the watch list if the market turns bullish.

Disclosure: We did not have a position in SBUX at the time this article was first written.

The information provided on this site is not advice to buy, sell, hold, trade, or invest in any securities. I am not a financial professional. Do your own research before acting on any information provided on this site.
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Stock Market Indices Review for Week 36 in 2015

Sep 5, 2015 -

Stock Market Highlights - Week 36

- U.S. job growth slowed in August; unemployment rate near 7-1/2-year low.
- WTI was $46.05 and brent crude oil $49.61 on 9/5. Beginning signs of reversal?
- BlackBerry to buy security firm Good Technology for $425 million.
- Toyota announces $50 million investment into artificial intelligence.
- Apple's $10,000 gold watch fails to impress investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closed at 16102.38, which was about a 540 point decrease versus a week ago of 16643.01 on Friday, August 28th 2015. 

The DJIA has just about gapped up or down everyday last week. Still there were good trading opportunities for day traders throughout the day. We saw two dojis that confirmed short term trend changes one on Thursday of last week and the Friday August 28th. The bounces were sold with conviction. If you went short and held overnight on those two occasions, you would've made out pretty well.

The S&P 500 closed at 1921.22 on Friday, September 4th 2015 versus a week ago of 
1988.87 on Friday, August 28th 2015. This was about a 60 point swing. We are now eyeing three levels of support/resistance as illustrated below. What is not pictured is that we are trading below the 10 day moving average. That looks to be key resistance at the moment. 

The Nasdaq (COMPQ) closed at 4683.92 on September 4th, 2015 versus 4828.33 on August 28th, 2015. Like the DJIA and the SPX, we are seeing the COMPQ present a similar pattern. Though in our opinion, the DJIA and SPX look weaker and quite possibly could present more short term trading opportunities. 

J. C. Penney (JCP) has a number of bullish patterns working for it on the weekly charts. Back in late 2013 and early 2014, we can see an inverse head and shoulders pattern that formed. It was triggered but would be quickly sold and killed off. Then again in late 2014 and early 2015, JCP again tried to develop a small inverse head and shoulders pattern that triggered and we are seeing it unfold now. It's most recent bullish pattern is a break of the trading range. We estimate a target of $10.3 for this pattern.

Disclosure: We have a position in JCP at the time this article was first written.

The information provided on this site is not advice to buy, sell, hold, trade, or invest in any securities. I am not a financial professional. Do your own research before acting on any information provided on this site.
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