Milestone: Your first investment

Does it evoke the same feelings of nostalgia as your first kiss?  Probably not…

When I look back on what I have learned about investing, it always gives me a good laugh to remember how smart I thought I was when I started this whole investing thing.

I was a 19 year old college student ready to take on the world.  I still remember sitting in the computer lab with my boyfriend opening my first E*TRADE account. I was only vaguely familiar with investing from hearing my dad talk about it.  My boyfriend had a “hot stock tip” (again something I have learned to STAY THE HELL away from) and I wanted to get in while it was still cheap – another term I really didn’t understand until much later. As you will see from the below, I had a great first experience but it could have failed miserably and maybe I would have been turned off investing for good – who knows?

  • What was your first investment: Stock/Lions Gate Films (LGF)
  • Age at first investment: 19
  • What were you doing then: I was a full time college student at Boston University and a part time teller at Bank of America
  • Why did you start investing: My boyfriend suggested it – super lame I know…but he is my now husband so maybe that makes it a little better?
  • What did you buy at: I am estimating here but I bought around November/December 2003 and the stock was around $4 or $5
  • What did you sell at: Again estimating, but I sold around December 2004 and the stock was around $10.
  • Current price: $19.77
  • Why did you sell: I was doing a study abroad trip and I needed the $$
  • What did you learn: at the time I learned “wow the stock market is an easy way to double your money!!” Now, I just think that I was very lucky to make such a great return in little time with no research. Also, it is better to buy stocks you believe in and hold for the long term!

Now let’s fast forward to today and see what if anything has changed:

  • What was your last investment: ETF/DGRO – iShares Trust Core Dividend Growth
  • Age at last investment: 30something
  • What were you doing then: I was a full time investment analyst
  • What did you buy at: $27.39
  • What did you sell at: Haven’t sold yet and don’t plan on it for a while
  • Current price: $27.20
  • Why did you sell: N/A
  • What did you learn: Not much yet because this purchase just happened in September! However, I am a huge fan in index funds with low fees and dividends instead of individual stocks.

What was your first investment?  What have you learned since then?



Why are people afraid to learn about the stock market?

Ignorance is not bliss…

As someone who has worked in the financial services industry for the majority of my career, I am isolated from the way the “average” American views the stock market.  Because of this, I can sometimes be in for a shock when I have a conversation with someone who has such a vastly different experience and opinion of the market.

Last week, I was speaking with a friend of mine.  In passing, she mentioned something about her company’s 401(k) match, which was excellent btw. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Me (big financial nerd, plus I just made some changes to my portfolio and was eager to discuss): “What funds do you guys use?” “How do you like them?”

Her: “oh I have no idea!”

Me (super confused, not quite understanding what she had no idea about): “What investments does your company offer you? Any interesting options? Anything fun?”

Her (now annoyed): “ugh I hate that stuff.  I don’t understand it so I don’t pay attention.  I don’t know how much I have in there now or what it’s invested in.”

Me: oh. Right…so how about the weather?

After that, I let the conversation go, but it just stuck with me and left me wondering – how can someone just ignore such an important part of their financial security?

I have had similar interactions with my peers over years and all of them have left me baffled.  In an effort to try to understand why otherwise smart individuals would leave their investing life up to fate.  These are people that do intense research to get the best prices on groceries, clothes and vacations, but don’t seem to care how their retirement or savings are doing.

In an effort to highlight how common this lassie faire attitude is, I thought I would profile a few people I know and their relationships to the stock market.  This is non-judgmental, just me trying to make sense of how people tick when it comes to their investing lives.

Friend mentioned above 

  • Mid-30’s, married, no kids, works at non-profit
  • Well-educated with a master’s degree
  • Very frugal, hates spending and debt – excellent savings rate
  • Owns her own home
  • Learns how to fix everything around the home because she likes to learn and hates to pay others to do what she can do

It is the last bullet point that really shocks me as it relates to her attitude towards her 401(k).  This is a girl that will hang dry wall and knock down walls in her home because she wants to learn how to do it and not pay a contractor.  However, when it comes to her retirement savings, she refuses to learn about it.  Her reasoning is “I hate that stuff.”  After hearing this, it really struck me that there are so many people out there who have a passionate hate for anything Wall Street-related.  I understand that Wall Street has had bad terrible press and many movie-worthy villains over the years.  HOWEVER, by not taking the time to learn about this, she could be missing out on appreciation and income over the next 30 or so years.

Family member

  • Mid-40’s, married, 2 kids, works in government
  • Rents apartment
  • Wife is a Stay at Home Mom
  • Going to have a great government pension, plus a thrift savings plan (gvt 401(k))

This guy is funny.  We see him at family functions and he LOVES to talk about the stock market with everyone.  He is somewhat knowledgeable about the month to month fluctuations in the market as well as the current events that are triggering whatever volatility that is happening at the time.  Also, he loves telling the story about how his dad was “going” to invest in Apple in the 90’s and if he did the whole family wouldn’t have to work anymore.

 I never pry into people’s personal investing business, but since I have already had quite a few conversations with the guy, I casually asked him one day: “What stocks are you looking into these days?” He rattled off a few and discussed their merits.  Then I asked “so which ones did you buy?”  He looked at me with the most confused look I have ever seen.  “What?  I didn’t buy any of them?!?  I have never bought a stock before.” After that, I was speechless, which is no easy feat. This is a person that I have been having frequent discussion about stocks for over a year who clearly is very interested in the subject.  This person devotes much of his free time to researching but has never pulled the trigger.  He didn’t even have a good reason.  After that whenever he brings up the subject I need to walk away because I find the whole situation so odd.

Other Family member

  • Late 20’s, married, one baby
  • Both he and his wife have great jobs
  • Owns condo, saving for single family
  • Not particularly thrifty, but saves some $$

This is short but sweet.  He works at a financial services company. We were out for a coffee this morning and he off-handedly mentioned that he needs to roll over his 401(k) from his old job – this was a job he left 4 YEARS ago!! 4 years of a BULL MARKET he missed out on because he doesn’t know what he is invested in!! He said that he never got around to moving it and never had the time to look up how to do it.  Yeah right…..

Why don’t people pay more attention to their personal finances? Is it a lack of confidence that is keeping people from earning $$ in the market?

 Now, I’m not saying the stock market is the panacea for all things personal finance.  However, I am saying that by not learning about it because you are afraid of it is not a good philosophy or way to go through life.

The profiles above are very typical of the current trend of millennials attitudes toward investing, as you can check out in the links below.

What are you afraid of?  How did you conquer your fears? What got you interested in investing in the stock market?

 Happy Monday!



7 Reasons why I have a Whole Life Insurance Policy

Buying life insurance is NOT as fun as buying an ice cream cone
Buying life insurance is NOT as fun as buying an ice cream cone

Aka my first controversial post

As I mentioned in my last post, the whole life insurance vs term life insurance can become quite a passionate debate.  As you can tell from the first 3 links that I stumbled upon while googleing, many people are very against whole life for some very valid reasons:

After a bunch of research and some lengthy talks with a few insurance professionals, other parents and my husband, I decided upon a mix of a 30 year Term Policy and a Whole Life Policy to make up my life insurance portfolio. The difference in price is huge! ~$20/month for the Term and $195/month for the Whole. However, I am happy with my decision for the following reasons (Note: not all of these are purely financial, some are emotional):

  1. Guaranteed insurance Now that this policy is in place, it is guaranteed for the rest of my life. I feel better knowing that I will *never* have to take another insurance physical. I am lucky that generally speaking the women in my family are healthy and I have no illnesses now, but, you never know what the future has for you.  So, if for some reason I may still have a need for insurance when my 30 year term expires and I can’t get a reasonably priced policy due to my health, I will still have this whole life policy.

Also, my whole-life policy has an “accelerated death benefit rider”, which will give me access to a large portion of the death benefit during my lifetime if I have a terminal or chronic illness. (This is getting depressing but after going through this process I have a better understanding of why people do not like to discuss this stuff and put it off)

2. I am already maxing out my 401(k) With the cash accumulation benefit, sometimes a whole life policy is sold as another form of retirement savings. However, I am not viewing it as such.  I am actively maxing out my 401(k) plus putting aside a little into my IRA (goal for 2017 is to max out both!)  I am very aware of the problems with considering your Whole Life insurance as an investment vehicle with “guaranteed growth.”  The investor in me balks and has such a gut reaction of disgust to anyone who utters the phrase “guaranteed” before anything investment-related. Don’t we know better than that now – hello, Bernie Madoff?

3. Forced Savings Even though our savings rate is well above the average American family, I like that this seems like a bill I am paying but it is actually benefitting me directly. THe $$ isn’t totally gone each month like the term policy payment is. I genuinely feel like I am “paying myself first” when this bill is debited from my account.  Notice I wrote “feel.”  I know this is not the same as when the funds are deposited into my 401(k) or when money is moved into my cash savings account.  However, I know that the current “pain” of not having that ~$195 will feel better when I know I have a little nest egg in the form of the cash accumulation portion of the policy.

4. Ability to borrow against In the spirit of full disclosure, last week I reached out to my insurance agent to discuss possibly terminating this Whole Life policy.   I recently started a new job that offers more insurance than my last job.  I was thinking it might make more sense to put this almost $200/month into my daughter’s 529 plan.  However, she reminded me of one of the benefits I originally found intriguing, the ability to borrow against it for any reason, including paying for education.  I am not sure what the next 18 years will have for us, but one of my financial dreams is to pay for my daughter’s college education.  Therefore, I am happy to know that if need be, this is another source of funds that I can tap into to pay for her education.

5. Can cash out if needed We currently have a healthy savings account and other investments to tap into of needed. However, we do not have a crystal ball to know what the future will bring.   If I need to access then funds then I can always cash out.  This will do 2 things: provide me with an influx of cash and by cancelling the policy I will decrease my monthly expenses and therefore free up cash as well. Also, after a certain number of years, the dividends paid in the policy will cover the premium.  This will cause the cash value to not grow as quickly but you will decrease your monthly expenses while still maintaining your death benefit.  This is something I plan to take advantage of when the time comes

6. Want the ability to leave something to the kids/grandkids(?) Again, this is very personal. My current plan is to only use this for its death benefit.  (I guess it is technically for my family to use and not me…).  If something happens while the kid(s) are young, it will be used to pay off the mortgage and go toward college expenses.  When we are old, the goal is to have everything paid off and have successful and self-sustaining kids. However, I still want to be able to leave them something.  As someone who has not received an inheritance and as someone who will probably never receive an inheritance, I am not sure where this desire comes from (perhaps another post) but I know it is something I want to do and I feel like this is a vehicle that will help me reach both of these goals (The term life will not cover this b/c I am an optimist and would like to live longer than the 30 year term!).

7. I have already have a diversified portfolio of investments I would NOT recommend this product to a newbie investor or someone who does not have some of the personal finance basics a la emergency savings, 401(k), taxable investment account and so on and so forth. I hope that the above items show that I had very specific reasons for purchasing this type of policy.

Those are the reasons why my insurance portfolio has both term and whole life components.  I really hope I haven’t lost any would-be readers over this point of view!

If this will be a monthly burden, do not purchase this as you need to own for a number of years before you reach a break even point on the cash accumulation. On my own personal balance sheet, I am viewing this as a liability not an asset and certainly not an “investment” now.

So, have I lost any and all credibility? What do you think about my  reasons? Are any of them  valid?



Learning about Life Insurance

How to know you are an officially an adult…

 So, I never realized how controversial the Whole Life vs. Term Insurance question was before I started researching both last year.  And, my oh my, after hours of googling, I now firmly believe that having a passionate opinion about Life Insurance is literally the definition of “adulting.”  For those of you who haven’t scoured the web looking for information on life insurance, let me give you a little background on why I was looking for life insurance and what I found.

Last year, I was pregnant with our first child and I had an obsessive compulsive desire to get my insurance house in order. (Normal pregnant people get the “nesting” drive to get their homes clean and orderly, I had an intense need to get my financial “house” in order.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I have a few investment properties as well as the home we live in – all of these properties have mortgages at this time.  The investment properties’ mortgages are easily covered by the rent or in a tough situation they can always be sold (at least in the current market  – I understand that the market can dry up i.e. 2009 & 2010 but I’m not considering that extreme example for planning purposes) so I feel relatively confident that in the event I passed away my husband would be able to deal with those properties.  However, we have a 15 year mortgage on our home therefore those monthly payments are a little on the higher side.  With our daughter on the way, I wanted to feel confident that if anything were to happen to me, my husband would have enough $$ to pay off the mortgage and cash for her college education.

Now, these are my own very personal goals – it literally helps me sleep better at night knowing that these 2 things will be taken care of if I am not around. I am in no way advocating that one should be expected to cover these or other items. However, you might have other items that you would like to provide for if you should pass away unexpectedly or prematurely. One of the main things I learned through my insurance research is that everyone has their own level of comfort with insurance and it definitely is a very “personal” aspect of personal finance.

I did not really understand much about insurance other than the employer sponsored plan that I had at the time, which was only 1X my base salary.  So before contacting our insurance agent, I did a little digging to better understand what the main life insurance options are.  Without further ado, here is a quick summary of them both:

Term Life Insurance:

  • Life insurance that pays a benefit in the event of the death of the insured during a specified term (ex: 10, 20 or 30 years).
  • Fixed payment on a yearly or monthly basis
  • After the term expires, no more payments and no more benefits
  • No accumulated cash value
  • Can not borrow against it
  • Significantly less expensive than Whole Life Insurance
  • Why someone may want to purchase: In case you need a large face value for various big ticket items such as paying off the mortgage for a spouse if you pass away, providing for your children who are counting on you or covering for a business partner that may need to reduce debt.
  • Why someone may NOT want to purchase: You don’t have the discipline to save individually, you have reason to believe that you may want insurance for longer than the terms listed above

Whole Life Insurance

  • Sometimes call “Permanent” insurance
  • Life insurance that pays a benefit on the death of the insured and also accumulates a cash value
  • Fixed payment on a yearly or monthly basis
  • Provides lifelong coverage
  • Includes an insurance and an investment component
  • More expensive than term
  • Gains grow “tax-deferred”
  • Can borrow against the policy
  • Can surrender the policy for the cash value
  • Can be used for retirement
  • Why someone may want to purchase: Someone who is looking for accumulate a cash value, someone who wants the peace of mind knowing that they can have this policy for their entire life, someone the is looking for “forced” saving
  • Why someone may NOT want to purchase: Someone with the discipline that can save and invest on their own, investments do not grow as quickly as if they were individually invested, high fees, cash accumulation does not equal the amount invested for many years, lack of transparency.

Of course these are just very high level bullets and summaries of each.  If you have any interest at all, I would highly recommend taking some time learning more about these products.  Here are some helpful sites to give you a general overview:

Do you have life insurance? If so, what kind? What are some of your reasons for buying it? Any preferences for Term or Whole?



Where I am and where I want to go

Using the past to make way for the future

By day, I am finance professional at an investing consulting firm.  By night, I am burgeoning writer and blogger, crafter, chef and runner.  And 24/7, I am a wife to my husband, Eric, mother to our beautiful daughter, V, small business owner and landlord.  Anyone with a significant other, children, small businesses and rental properties know that none of those responsibilities ever take a break or a vacation.

How is how our investing situation currently adds up:

  • 2 Condo Rental properties (in the process of working on a third)
  • 2 small businesses (hubby owns one, too, and works their full time – his as you will eventually find out is more successful than mine…)
  • 2 private equity investments
  • Personal brokerage account
  • CD ladder
  • Retirement accounts
  • 529 account for our daughter
  • Hard assets: gold and silver

Some items that I am not including as investments:

Our home: even though we have actually had significant appreciation in our home since we purchased in 3 years ago, I do not consider your residence an investment.  Maybe this is controversial?  But for the purposes of my writing, I am only going to consider this is an expense and not an investment or an asset.

 Art work: My hubby has always had an eye for art and brought a beautiful collection with him when we got married.  Since then, we have always kept an eye out for beautiful pieces.  However, we tried, unsuccessfully, to flip some pieces.  Since then, I no longer consider art as an investment.  If we buy a piece, I buy with the idea that I will consume this art and enjoy in my own home.  Again, this may be controversial; however, at this point in time I don’t consider it part of our portfolio

 Jewelry: pretty much the same story as Artwork.  Hubby and I tried to “flip” a watch and….actually this should be its own post (I think I’m getting the hang of this whole blogging thing)…long story short we weren’t successful.  Therefore, our current watches and jewelry are not considered investments.

Car: depreciating asset and we need it to get around. It’s paid in full and therefore just costing us regular maintenance costs.  As we live in the city we only need one car.  We downsized to one car….another blogpost potential…and haven’t looked back…more to come on this topic.

Some of my dreams, as it relates to investing, include:

  • Owning a multi-family investment property
  • More private investing
  • Getting involved in micro investing or angel investing
  • Teaching others about personal finance and investing – demystifying the process and making it less scary
  • Write an e-book about my experiences

I’m very happy with the above list because it was completely off the cuff.  I just relaxed my brain and started writing and these were the first 5 items that came.  I’m not sure if I have ever verbalized these to anyone or even thought about most of these.  This is one of the reasons why I am extremely excited about creating a blog to hold me accountable to these goals and track my path towards succeeding.  I will try to look back on these in a few months to track progress and see if any of these have changed.

What does your current investment portfolio look like?  What changes would you make?  What are your investing dreams?



Hello everyone and welcome to my blog!

Here goes nothing!

This, as you should know, is my very first blog post.  Before I get into (hopefully!) interesting and fun discussions about a variety of investing topics, I want to let everyone know why I am starting the InvestorGal blog:

  1. To Document Lessons Learned ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ I feel like my husband and I have taken more than our fair share of risks and made some interesting decisions when it comes to business and personal investing.  Some were good and we felt like investing geniouses and some were not that great.  I think it is important to document and analyze this on “paper” (i.e. a webpage) before years pass and I forget what happened.  Therefore, I would like to document all of the lessons I have learned over the course of my investing career.

2. Discuss Investing Ideas

I have a variety of interests as it relates to investing.  Some include: Real Estate, Small Business, CDs, Stocks, Private Investment opportunities, Savings, etc. etc.…I could go on and on.  Therefore, I would love to have a dedicated place to discuss these opportunities with like-minded people.  This is intended to include: random ideas of mine, interesting items in the news, projects or opportunities that I might be currently working on.

3. Accountability

I am always very impressed with other bloggers who post thoughtful excel spreadsheets with their budgeting tools, their thought processes behind various actions.  I, on the other hand, don’t always hold myself to such high standards.  I tend to use back of the envelope calculations but I thinking having the accountability to a readership to explain and think through my actions might be helpful.

4. Improve my writing

I have always enjoyed writing and def. don’t do it enough.  At this point in my life, I feel like I have a million great ideas for books, TV Shows and movies that I would love to create but have virtually no practice and not sure where to start. Sooooo…the way I have decided to start is by practicing my writing by discussing a non-fictional topic that I am very interested in – personal finance and investing!  I figure that this will get me into the practice that has always been on my New Year’s resolutions – write daily!  To me at this point, fiction writing is a little intimidating, so I think I will cut my teeth but trying to “spice up” a subject that some people might find dry, but that I love.

5. Get some skin in the game

Not sure if that is the right turn of phrase but whatever, I’m going to use it….I have been a total stalker of A LOT of blogs over the past MANY years.  I have always been somewhat jealous when they write posts looking back on how far they have come and how they are proud of themselves and blah blah blah….I always thought “I’m pretty sure I could do it.” So, I am FINALLY giving it a shot for myself.

Wow – I am actually happy that I have finally been able to verbalize my thoughts on this subject.

Have you ever started a blog?  What were some challeneges that you faced or continue to face?