February 8, 2011

publicly owned pro sports teams

Posted in investing tagged , at 8:25 pm by weiszguy

A friend of mine was bragging recently about his favorite football team, the Packers, which is publicly owned.  Being publicly owned is a huge advantage over private ownership, because the team isn’t as susceptible to the whims of the owner.

I’ve never heard of a publicly owned team before, so I went to check it out.  From the blurb on Google Finance, I found out that “shares [of the Packers] do not increase in value nor pay dividends, and can only be sold back to the team.”  Kind of curious.  Share prices that don’t fluctuate, don’t pay dividends, and can’t be sold?  I give the team some money and I get nothing for it?

On the Packers website, I learned that there have only been four offerings of shares in the history of the team, and there is no way to buy in at any other time but the offerings.

None of this makes any sense.

But what if we had actual, publicly-owned, publicly-traded sports teams?  You could buy and sell shares of the teams on the open market, and the share price would fluctuate with supply and demand.  Each team could potentially pay dividends, or not, just like any other public company, whose board decides dividends based on the best interests of the shareholders.

Different teams would have different share prices, of course.  Buying a share of the Green Bay Packers in the week before their Super Bowl appearance would probably cost a small fortune.  Shares of the Carolina Panthers, after a somewhat underwhelming 2-14 season, could be had for a song.

Now all we need is to convince Jerry Jones to go public.


January 31, 2011

create your own extended warranty

Posted in budget, investing, saving, stuff I think about tagged at 7:32 pm by weiszguy

Extended warranties are almost always a bad idea.  An extended warranty is the protection plan offered to you when you buy some gadget or other.  Relative to the cost of the gadget, the extended warranty is pretty expensive, and you almost never get the opportunity to take advantage of it.

In other words, your gadget almost never breaks in the period of time covered by the extended warranty.  It may break early on, due to a manufacturing defect, in which case the plain vanilla warranty that comes standard will cover the repair.  Or it may break due to old age, which will be after the extended warranty period is expired.  Result?  You gave the company a bunch more of your money and didn’t get anything for it.

The problem is, declining the extended warranty makes you nervous.  What if it does break during the extended period?  Won’t you be upset you didn’t buy the warrant?

Try this.  Next time you are offered an extended warranty, ask what the cost is, but then decline the plan.  When you get home, take that amount of money and set it aside in your own “extended warranty” fund.  Do this every time you are offered a plan.  Eventually that fund will be really big, because you won’t ever need it.  You’ll save yourself the expense, you’ll earn interest, and if you ever do have a covered accident, you’ll have plenty of money to just buy yourself a new one.  Beauty, eh?

September 8, 2009

Monopoly fans!

Posted in investing, money tagged , , at 8:18 pm by weiszguy

Monopoly on steroids!  I played countless hours of Monopoly growing up.  I had most of the numbers on most of the cards memorized.  But now that I’ve grown up, I see a lot of deficiencies in the game.  It doesn’t emulate real property investing very well.  Looks like that’s about to change.


February 7, 2008

invest or prepay?

Posted in debt, investing, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 5:10 am by weiszguy

Invest or prepay your mortgage?  If you have a little extra money, would it be better to invest that money or make extra payments on your mortgage?  It is an age-old question, one that has been asked by people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  But in all that time nobody has been able to come up with the answer.  The reason this is such a difficult question is because the answer depends on so much more than math.

If we considered only the math, we would be tempted to invest all our money and hold onto the mortgage as long as possible.  If you have a mortgage at 6%, you would effectively earn 6% if you made extra payments.  But consider that the stock market has returned an average of 10% per year for the past seventy years.  Clearly, making 10% is better than making 6%.

But maybe it’s not so clear.  Do you know how much the stock market will return this year?  Will it be 10%?  Probably not.  It could be anywhere from -20% to 20%, which is an awful big swing.  Your mortgage, on the other hand, is guaranteed to return 6%, if that’s your rate.  Which one causes you to sleep better?  You also need to consider your gut.  Which would make you feel better: owning a big pile of money, or NOT owning a big pile of debt?

If you are like me, having a big pile of money may be too much temptation to bear.  If you have a big pile of money, and you spend it, your return wasn’t so great after all.  But a mortgage locks up any extra money you send in.  The only way to get that money back out is with a messy and expensive second mortgage.  And the only people with second mortgages are those who have forgotten how painful the first one was!

In the end, it’s a deeply personal decision.  Your situation is very different from your neighbor’s, and your decision needs to be tailored for your situation.  But if you consider the math and your gut, and be disciplined with whatever decision you make, it will be hard to go wrong in the end.

This column originally appeared in the February 6, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

December 30, 2007

choosing stocks

Posted in investing, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged , , at 8:47 pm by weiszguy

There are thousands of publicly traded companies.  If you want to get into stock market investing, or if you’re looking to improve your performance in the stock market, how do you know which stocks to buy?  Any one stock has dozens of indicators that each tell you a little piece of how that company is doing.  Over the decades many theories of investing have been put forward in an attempt to make sense of all the stock market data that is available.  One particular theory that makes a lot of sense to me is value investing, which looks for stocks that are currently trading for less than the value they should have.

The Little Book that Beats the Market, by Joel Greenblatt, attempts to make value investing extremely easy by turning certain measures of a stock’s performance into a formula.  The book lays out the formula by which any investor can find good companies that are priced low.  In order to find good companies, we look at the stock’s earnings.  The formula lists all stocks in order of earnings, assigning a numerical rank to each one.  In order to find companies that are priced low, we look at a stock’s price-to-earnings ratio.  A lower ratio indicates a better bargain.  The formula again lists all stocks in order of price-to-earnings ratio, assigning a numerical rank to each one.  The formula then adds the two rankings of all the stocks and lists them in a master ranking.  Those with the lowest ranking are the best companies at the lowest price.

There are of course, many, many other measures of a stock’s performance.  And companies with star power, like Microsoft or Coca-Cola, won’t be found on this list.  But sometimes having too many things to look at prevents us from taking any action at all, and narrowing our field down to earnings and price-to-earnings ratio can help to focus on the things that really matter.

This article originally appeared in the December 26, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

December 4, 2007


Posted in investing, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 6:38 pm by weiszguy

Sorry I’m a little late with this!  This is my most recent column, which was in last week’s paper.

Diversification is a method of spreading out your investment risk. Most people understand the concept of diversification, even if they’re unfamiliar with the word. Diversification means not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Let’s say you’ve found a company whose stock you’d like to buy. You load up on as much stock as you can, but in spite of your thorough research, the price of a share sinks dramatically, and you lose most of your investment. The risk of loss is one of the greatest risks in investing, but diversification allows us to limit our exposure to loss. Now let’s assume you have found ten companies you would like to buy. You buy as many shares as you can, but this time you buy an equal amount of the ten different companies. If one of those companies goes bad, you’ve only lost that one small slice of your investment pie. And if your other shares have gone up, they may make up for any loss.

There are many ways to diversify. You can diversify across asset classes. This would mean buying shares of large companies and small companies; buying shares of companies that pay a dividend and companies that don’t; buying shares of companies in different industries; and even buying shares of companies in different countries.

You can also diversify across security type. Most investors have some amount of stocks and some amount of bonds, for example. Others invest in real estate and precious metals. Some even include more exotic investments, like art, old cars, or foreign currencies. If any one of these investments should lose money, it’s likely that another investment is making money.

While diversification doesn’t guarantee positive investment results, it does lower the risk of loss. In short, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify.

This article originally appeared in the November 28, 2007, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

November 26, 2007

beginning investing, part 2

Posted in investing, money, newspaper, opinion column at 1:35 pm by weiszguy

Before we can decide if we want to invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, we need to know what they are.  Stock is simply ownership of a company.  A company might divide its ownership up into one million little pieces, or shares, and then trade those shares on the open market.  If you own one of these shares, you own a little piece of that company, and are entitled to your share of the privileges of ownership.  When the company announces higher-than-expected earnings, it may divide up those earnings among its owners.  And because you own a share of the company, you’ll get a share of the profits.  When the company announces a new product, the price of your share may go up.  You could sell your share and make a little profit, or you could hold on to it and hope it goes up ever more.  Of course, it could go down, too, and this is the danger with stock market investing.

While stocks represent the ownership in the company, bonds represent the debt of the company.  When a company wants to borrow money, it might issue a bond, which is simply a promise to borrow money and repay it at a later date, with small interest payments along the way.  If you own a bond, you’ve loaned the company some money, and they will make payments to you – the same way you make payments on your loans.  One danger with bonds is that the company could default on its debt and leave you holding the bag.

Since there are so many different companies offering their stocks and bonds to the public, and since there are dangers inherent in this kind of investing, how do you know which specific stocks and bonds you should invest in?  Wouldn’t it be better to own a basket full of different stocks and bonds, so that if something bad happened to one company, you’d still have a pretty full basket?  That’s the idea behind mutual funds.  A mutual fund is a giant basket containing dozens or even hundreds of different stocks and bonds.  Owning a share of a mutual fund is much like owning a share of a company, when the stocks and bonds in that fund do well, you get a share of the profits.  By yourself, you might never be able to invest in so many different companies, but when you pool your money with thousands of other investors, you can own great positions in many companies.

This post originally appeared in the November 21, 2007, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

November 14, 2007

beginning investing, part 1

Posted in investing, money, newspaper, opinion column, saving at 4:59 pm by weiszguy

Hopefully, if you’ve been saving long, you’re starting to build up a tidy little sum in your savings account.  Before too long you’re going to wonder what to do with all that cash.  You know there are investment options available, but you’ve also heard that some people have lost their shirts with their investments.  Should you get involved?  Maybe it would be best to stay out?  What, exactly, can you do with a little extra money, and what are the risks?

You could continue to what you’ve always done, i.e., leave the money in your savings account.  This is possibly the safest option, since all bank deposits are insured.  Even if your bank should fail (as mine recently did), your money would still be safe (up to $100,000).  The downside of this strategy is that you’ll be earning fairly low interest rates.  My new bank is currently paying 4.2% on a money market savings account.  While that’s pretty good for a savings account, it’s only a tiny bit above the inflation rate, which means it would take an excruciatingly long time to grow your nest egg.  This type of savings account would be a great place to keep your auto insurance premium, for example, if it was due three months from now.

A bank Certificate of Deposit (CD) is an option with an attractive feature – it earns a higher rate than a savings account.  My bank is currently paying 4.8% for a six month CD, and this money is also fully insured.  The downside is you have to tie up your money for six months.  If you need this money before the six months are up, you’ll have to pay a fee to get the money out.  Because of this limitation, CD’s are great places to keep money you don’t need right away, but will definitely need in the near future, like the money you’re saving for your vacation next summer.

But what about stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, that’s where the big money is made, right?  Yes, but big money can be lost here as well.  These types of high-octane investments can be thrilling and depressing, sometimes all in the same day.  Tune in next week when we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.

This post was previously published in the November 14, 2007, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

October 25, 2007

gender-based advice

Posted in investing, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 6:32 pm by weiszguy

I’ve been thinking a little about how financial advice differs based on the target audience.  Men’s and women’s magazines, for example, have very different types of advice between their pages.  A typical financial column in a women’s magazine may be titled, “10 Reasons Why You Need an Emergency Fund,” and a typical column in a men’s magazine might be called, “10 Hot Tech Funds You Need to Invest in NOW!”  Why the difference in advice?  Why do they assume women don’t know enough to have even the basics taken care of?  Why do they assume men are only out there to chase returns?

Of course, there are inherent gender differences.  And there is no reason to deny or ignore them in a column about money.  I think it’s safe to admit that women tend to be more concerned with safety of principle than men.  They will take steps to ensure their money will be there when they need it.  On the other hand, men tend to be more risky than women.  They will take steps to ensure their money grows.

But money is gender neutral.  Interest compounds at a known rate, completely blind to the gender of its owner.  And all people, regardless of gender, should have an emergency fund and be investing for the future.  Both safety and growth are necessary if the goal is to have more money later than you have now.

Advice on safety is only one small part of the advice women need.  And usually, safety is the part they already understand very well.  Likewise, few men need to be advised to take more risk with their portfolios.  It’s in our blood.  What we all need, however, is a little more balance.  Being safe is silly if you actually lose ground to inflation.  And being risky is equally as silly, if you lose your principle to dreams of wealth.

So when you come across a guru wanting to tell you what to do with your money, pay special attention to what isn’t being said.  It may be the advice you need the most.

This column originally appeared in the October 24, 2007, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

October 15, 2007

time value of money

Posted in investing, money, newspaper, opinion column, spending tagged at 7:44 pm by weiszguy

This is the column I wrote for the October 17, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

You’ve often heard that you should save your money rather than spend it, because you’re going to need that money down the road.  You also know that when you invest money it will grow, because of the interest, dividends, or capital gains.  But did you ever wonder exactly how big your investment could get?  If you have a long period of time, and can earn a decent return, your money could grow significantly.

For example, I’m 30 years away from retirement (at least).  If I can earn 10% on my money over that time, I can turn a small amount today into a huge amount then.  I could take $10 right now and go buy a cheeseburger and a coke.  If I did, I would not just be taking $10 out of my wallet, I would be taking $174.49 away from my future self.  Now that’s an expensive cheeseburger!  You can figure out time value of money problems like this using a business calculator, or you can find several good calculators on the Internet, and if that fails, you can find a special spreadsheet on my blog that figures this out for you.

Some more examples:

Instead of spending $4 on a latte, I could have $69.80 at retirement.

Instead of spending $50 on an XBox game, I could have $872.47 at retirement.

Instead of spending $399 on a new iPhone, I could have $6962.31 at retirement.  And that doesn’t count the service plan for the iPhone.

Instead of spending $2000 on a vacation, I could have $34,898.80 at retirement.

Obviously, you won’t want to go completely spartan and never spend any money on anything.  Nevertheless, understanding how much money you’re taking away from your future self could easily sway your purchasing decisions.

I wanted to put the actual spreadsheet up here, but WordPress won’t let me upload a spreadsheet.  So here’s an image taken from the spreadsheet.  If you’d like the original spreadsheet, just email me.


October 3, 2007


Posted in investing, money, newspaper, opinion column, saving, spending tagged at 5:34 pm by weiszguy

I’ve talked a lot before about how debt robs you of your future. To go into debt is to presume that you will have the money at some later point in time, a point at which you would probably rather have that money for other things. But here’s another twist on that same idea: any time you buy anything, even if you pay cash and incur no debt, you are robbing yourself of that same future.

I hear many complaints from people who don’t like being advised to live a frugal lifestyle. “You have to have some fun now,” people say. “I don’t want to live like a miser just so I can go to the grave with a big bank account,” others moan. “Mr. Smith” enjoys reading, double tall sugar free vanilla breve lattes, and eating out. In a typical week he spends $25 on a book, and $75 in lattes and restaurant meals. Mr. Smith complains that he’ll never be able to retire and feels bound to his job. But every week his bank account bleeds $100. Because Mr. Smith wants to “have some fun now,” he is deliberately postponing the day when he can leave his job behind.

What are your dreams? Do you want to buy a house? Do you want to take a big vacation? Do you want to retire early? Do you want to start a business? Whatever your goal is, ask yourself if this latte is worth putting in another hour at work. Or how about this question: “Is being frugal now going to help me reach my dream sooner?” If so, is that a trade you’re willing to make?

September 24, 2007


Posted in giving, investing, money at 6:35 pm by weiszguy

I’m speaking at my church in two weeks on the subject of generosity.  With the help of a little book on generosity, I brain-puked everything I know into the following.  This is not the message, of course, but most of what I say will probably come from this list.  The Bible has much more to say about money than just this, but I’m limiting the message to just generosity.

God is the owner of everything, including all that you currently have or ever will have.  You don’t own it, you never did.  When we give to God, we are just taking our hands off what already belongs to him.

God is the provider of every good thing in your life.  Your rich uncle in Vermont didn’t provide it, your own creative genius didn’t provide it.  God provided it for you so you could use it in the best way possible.

Your role is to be the trustee, manager, and steward of 100% of what God entrusts to you during your lifetime.  Spend your time thinking about ways to maximize the impact of your master’s resources.  Remember, it’s all his.  You want him to be pleased with what you’ve done with his resources.

The Lord watches your giving.  Sorta like Santa Claus.  He knows when you’ve been bad or good.  The Lord rewards those whose hearts are truly his.  Be generous with what he has entrusted to you.

Don’t become prideful about anything God has entrusted to you.  Remember that it’s all his, including any growth you’ve overseen.  Give him the honor and glory for everything.

Even the poor are to give to God from what they have.  It doesn’t matter if God has given you a little or a lot; whatever he has given you, give some back.  Jesus considered the poor widow who gave two pennies to have given more than all the others because she gave out of her poverty, trusting God to take care of her.

Set up a plan to faithfully give 10% or more of your financial resources to the Lord’s work.  It might sound difficult at first, but it is God’s plan.  And he will take care of those who have faith in him.

Don’t trust in your riches, but trust in God.  Eventually, your riches will fail.  If not in life, your riches will fail you in death.  God has saved you and will bring you to heaven with him, but your riches will not be allowed entry.

Understand that riches can deceive you.  It is possible for your spiritual vision to be clouded by wealth, as well as a lack of wealth.  Keep your eyes on God, who promises never to deceive.

Train your children to be faithful and generous givers.  If you train them while they are young, they will never know any different.  Being generous will not be difficult for them because that’s just who they are.  Generosity will be ingrained in their spirits.

Focus on being content with God’s daily provisions.  Rather than whining about what you don’t have, or how little God has blessed you, consider all the ways he HAS blessed you.  Realize that what God has provided is exactly what you need.

You cannot serve both God “and” money, but you must learn to serve God “with” money.  The money God has given us can be a powerful tool when put to use according to his plan.  Instead of serving your money, make your money serve God.

There are dangerous consequences if you live for pleasure.  Chasing anything other than God’s will will leave you empty.  Trying to find joy by living for pleasure is like trying to catch the wind with a butterfly net.

Don’t live for this life, but for your heavenly home.  By investing in God’s kingdom, instead of this kingdom, we effectively send our wealth on ahead.  Storing up treasures in heaven will be more valuable in the end than storing up treasures on earth.

The desire for “more” can be a destructive force to your life and faith.  It can cause you to pursue more and more wealth at the expense of the things that will really matter in the end.  Don’t let your focus shift from God, to “more”.

In building projects a large gift and a group of leadership gifts can glorify God and result in great generosity and rejoicing.  Your reaction to God’s claim upon your resources might be what spurs others to be faithful with their resources.

Life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.  Life has nothing to do with possessions.  Possessions are tools to serve life, not the other way around.  In fact, possessions can weigh you down and cause you to be defined in ways you might not want to be defined.

Give in proportion to how God has blessed you materially.  How can you use your blessings to bless others?  Don’t be afraid to honor God as your income increases.

Women play a significant part in giving to God’s work.  Don’t think you have less to give because of your gender.  You may have more to give.  Remember to be faithful with whatever God has given you.

Beware of greed, hoarding or selfishness in your life.  Saving is a good idea, but there is a fine line between saving and hoarding.  Remember that the manna you saved from yesterday will be rotten tomorrow.

Give careful thought to your financial practices and never neglect God’s house and servants.  Churches and ministers depend on people giving to them for their survival.  Don’t forget to honor God by giving to the needs in the local community.

God has a high regard for a Christian in humble financial circumstances.  God is able to do amazing things with the gifts of people who think they don’t have anything.  God takes the humble and lifts them up.

God has good works for you to do during your lifetime.  You are here for a reason, not by accident!  Please don’t go to the grave without having done the job God has for you to do!

Some people are called to extravagant giving.  Like the early believers in the book of Acts, sometimes we may be called on to sell a major asset and give the money to God’s work.  If he calls you to do this, consider it an honor and a privilege, not a sacrifice or a chore.

God can do great things through one person or a group that is devoted to him.  The bible is literally packed with people who simply did what God said to do, and God did amazing things through them.  What could God do through you if you gave your life completely to him?

God blesses you financially so that you can be a blessing to others.  Many times God has a bigger agenda than just meeting a need.  Sometimes he wants to use the need to teach others how to be generous.  Thus, the donor and the recipient are both blessed.

It is appropriate to ask people how you can help them.  Often people are afraid to make their means known.  But a simple question can spur them to really be honest about their needs.  Many giving opportunities are right under your nose, if you can just learn to sniff them out.

God will reward you for your faithful generosity and diligent labors.  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

The giver and the front-line worker are equal partners in God’s work.  Some people are ordered to be soldiers, others are ordered to grow food to send to the soldiers.  Both are doing what their general wants, and both will be rewarded.

Your giving will be a great help and encouragement to others.  Some people may be materially blessed by your giving.  Others may be inspired to their own acts of generosity.  Some may be so awed by your material gift that they devote their lives to giving as much as they can to help others.

Your pursuit of God and a generous life will give you a fuller and richer life.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Seeing the impact of your giving will cause true happiness and satisfaction inside your soul.

Realize that God will bring specific people into your life that you can truly help.  Sometimes the only purpose God has for them is to teach you a lesson about giving.  There will always be poor people, and we must never give up being generous.

Any wealth gained by the wrong means has serious consequences.  This wealth will gnaw at your conscience and cause you to loose sleep.  You will likely loose this wealth and cause irreparable harm to yourself and your family.

Realize God can use anyone and any resources to provide for his work.  God does not need us to be rich in order to accomplish his goals; rather, God needs us to be generous.  A poor man who gives 10% of his income is worth more to God than a rich man who gives 2%.

Your giving in this life will have an impact on your experiences in eternity.  You will be rewarded in heaven for your generous acts on earth.  The more you give, the greater the eternal reward.

When you help the poor and needy don’t do it for public recognition.  Remember, your reward is in heaven.  Don’t praise yourself, or glowingly accept the praises of others.  Remain humble, and God himself will lift you up.

Even your smallest acts of kindness will be remembered and rewarded.  A cup of cold water is pretty easy for most of us to give.  Giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty person is the same thing as giving that water to God.

A main focus of your giving should be your local church and ministry staff.  Much ministry happens in a church building, and much ministry happens at the hands of the church staff.  Supporting your local church is the primary way you can support God’s work with your generosity.

Building projects are worthy of your support.  You will feel a sense of pride in your building, if you have given generously to build it.  And although God doesn’t live in houses built by man, he is honored when people come together to praise him.  Help your building to be a place where God is praised.

God will show you other giving opportunities worthy of your support.  Maybe someone is ill.  Maybe someone is hurting.  Maybe someone has suffered financial loss.  Maybe someone is in prison.  God will lead you to numerous opportunities if you ask him.

September 14, 2007

setting up Zecco

Posted in investing, money at 8:28 am by weiszguy

So far I haven’t had any trouble with zecco.com  I was able to open a new account with them and link to my checking account within a couple days.  They need me to fill out some paperwork, which I’m expecting in the mail soon.  I can actually transfer money to my zecco account now, without the paperwork, but I can’t start trading until the paperwork is approved.  So I’m thinking it’ll be another week or so before I get to make my first trade.  I’ll let you know more as it happens!

September 7, 2007


Posted in investing, money at 10:56 pm by weiszguy

Here’s something I’ve been looking at lately: www.zecco.com

Apparently, it allows you to buy and sell individual stocks with zero commission.  Yeah, that’s what I thought too.  But I’ve been reading a lot of independent reviews of zecco, as well as reading everything I can on zecco’s site.  It appears it’s all legit.  You can buy and sell shares of individual companies with zero commission and no minimum balance.  They allow you 10 free trades per day, with a maximum of 40 trades per month.  Trades outside of these maximums cost $3.50 per trade.  I’ve read several reviewers who have bought and sold a single share.  It was completely successful, and free.

I’ve always been hesitant to jump into the stock market, simply because I’m too cheap to pay the commissions.  It looks like this may no longer be an issue.  As I did with Prosper, I think I’ll transfer $500 over to zecco and try my luck.

Here’s an excellent review of zecco.

Here’s another reviewer who is not so keen on zecco.

Have any of you had any experience with zecco?  Would you recommend it?