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Savers Spenders and Investors

investments When personal finances are discussed, the experts usually divide people into savers and spenders. We ran across a press release from Fidelity, the mutual fund giant, about a survey of workers in the non-profit world. They asked the participants if they were a saver, a spender or an investor.

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We thought it was very astute to add that third category. Which one do you fit in?

The workers in the study split themselves about evenly between saving and spending. 46 percent claimed to be savers while 45 percent admitted to being spenders. So that leaves only 9 percent who classified themselves as investors.

Merging the two categories

We suspect that fewer people today would classify themselves as spenders than say a year ago. A lot of us are getting on the savings bandwagon. That’s definitely a step in the right direction, but saving it isn’t good enough.

This data suggests a bigg idea. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as either savers or spenders. We should always think like an investor. We should merge the two categories – spender and saver – into the third category – investor.

We must know how to invest it or we won’t end up with the resources we need to live the life we want.

From spender to investor

Here’s some good news for spenders: thinking like an investor doesn’t necessarily imply that you don’t spend. It means that you spend differently.

You look at every single dollar you spend as an investment. Is it going to bring you enough return to make it worth giving it up? And that “return” may not come in dollars earned on dollars invested.

It may mean that it adds enough to your level of “happiness” to make spending the money worth doing. If it passes that test, then spend, spend, spend! If not, hold onto it.

For example, you may see a real deal on some non-perishable consumer good. Buy it. Stock up. Say an item is on sale for half off. Let’s pretend that you know that it only goes on sale once a year. If you buy a year’s supply, you’re making 100% on your money. That’s hard to beat!

So get to know the promotional cycle of the brands you use regularly and time your investment appropriately. Know when various businesses need the money more. For example, from car dealers to contractors, there are seasons when people are buying a lot and times when people aren’t. Time your purchase for their slow periods and reap the benefits.

From saver to investor

Now let’s think about savers. It’s great to save, but if you’re only earning two percent on your money, where’s that getting you?

We know … we know … you’d rather earn 2% than lose 40%! We completely understand that thought process.

However, investors don’t operate out of fear. They operate rationally. And we have to resist the temptation to go with the masses because they’re usually wrong in the long run.

Just like with consumer goods, there are some real deals out there on assets right now if you can afford to hold them long-term.

The best time to get out of a particular market is often when everyone else is getting in. And the best time to get in is usually when everyone else is getting out.

Years ago, we were told by a very successful real estate investor that when you see the no-money down real estate infomercials proliferating, it’s time to get out of real estate. How many of those do we see now compared to three years ago? 

Now think about stocks. Many of the same people who are touting doom and gloom now were spouting off about the end of the business cycle and the ever-upward spiral of stocks just a couple of years ago.

So to think like an investor, think for yourself. 

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Thanks so much for spending some time with us today. Join us next time when we ask, “Does haste still make waste?” Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

 

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00336-022309.mp3

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Where Should I Stuff My Money?

mattress In days gone by, mattress stuffers hid all their money somewhere in or around their home – in the backyard, in cans, between the pages of books, in the walls, in a cookie jar, and even under a removable section of floorboards.

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A recent article in the Wall Street Journal talked about the new generation of mattress stuffers. People increasingly don’t trust anyone or anything, a response to falling home prices, crashing stock prices, bank troubles, and government ineptitude.

It’s something we don’t talk about much, but an increasing number of people are taking matters into their own hands to prepare for the next crash. Needless to say, these people aren’t optimists!

They’re pulling their money out of the stock market and stuffing their mattresses the 21st century way.

Stuffing money in treasuries

Instead of actually stuffing cash into their mattresses, they’re buying treasury bills, the safest of all investments. Most financial experts refer to these and other treasury securities as risk-free investments.

Stuffing money in gold

New generation mattress stuffers are also buying gold coins in record amounts. You may have noticed an increase in the number of ads on TV about gold. This flight to safety has been evident after just about every financial crisis, as people return to the gold standard.

Who is primarily driving this trend?

Many baby boomers have taken a huge hit to their portfolios just as they near retirement. They are the driving force behind this trend because they don’t have time to recover from the recent stock market losses before they retire.

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What if you’re not ready to retire?

If you’re not close to retiring, it’s crucial to think clearly about this new mattress stuffing strategy. There are definitely some pros and cons.

Pro: We should own a well-diversified portfolio.
Experts tell us to diversify, diversify, diversify. Typically, the more diversified we are, the better. A diversified portfolio might include stocks, bonds including treasuries, real estate, and perhaps some commodities like gold. Diversification generally delivers the best return given the overall risk.

Pro: Treasuries should be part of most diversified portfolios.
Until recently, a lot of people found treasuries kind of boring because they didn’t deliver enough return. That’s because they aren’t considered risky at all, which is also why they are an essential component of a fully diversified portfolio.

Pro: Gold may also be a wise investment as a small part of a diversified portfolio.
Gold and other tangible assets usually perform best in times of high inflation. So gold can serve as “insurance” against such times. The reason that people often flock to gold in times like these is that, historically, it has been an acceptable way to pay for things.

Con: If you put all of your assets in treasuries, your returns will be much lower.
This lower return is not unjustified. After all, you’re investing in an asset that’s considered to be risk-free. The problem with this strategy is that you may not end up with as much money as you need for your retirement.

Con: It’s dangerous to put a significant percentage of your assets into gold coins.
If experts recommend gold at all (and many more are these days) as part of your portfolio, most suggest keeping it to around five percent of your total assets. Unlike treasuries, gold carries risk – its price goes up and down. One other tidbit – gold has underperformed most other assets historically.

Con: There’s no cash flow with gold.
Treasuries pay interest at regular intervals. You don’t earn any money on a gold bar or a gold coin. The only way to make money by holding gold is to sell it at a price higher than what you paid for it.

Next time, we’ll take this discussion a step further. We’ll apply some real world numbers to help you with your diversification decisions.

We are so thankful that you took the time to read our post today. Until next time, here’s to your bigg success!

 

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00306-011209.mp3

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(Image in today's post by jillmbatt)

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Mania in the Market and Rising Above the Crowd

buy_sell If you listen to our leaders, be they in business or government, it seems there’s a competition to frame our financial situation in the direst terms. Our media hypes the times so that we stay tuned in. We hear terms like meltdown, nose-dive, crash, collapse, and Great Depression.

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We found a great white paper by Marvin Bolt of Alpha Plus Advisors [PDF]. It’s well worth your time to read the full paper to understand historical mutual fund flows and market performance.

Specifically, he looks specifically at what individual investors did with their money during four recent periods:

Stock market crash

In the first quarter of 1987, individual investors placed a then-record amount into the market as stock prices rose. Of course, in October of that year, the stock market crashed. Individual investors responded by withdrawing record amounts of money as the market hit a low we haven’t seen since.

Gulf War & recession

In the second quarter of 1990, there was a huge inflow of funds as the market hit its high for the period. By the third quarter, investors were pulling money out just as the market hit another low point.

Dot.com bubble and 9/11

At the height of the dot.com bubble, investors poured a new record amount of money into the market in the first quarter of 2000. The S&P 500 hit a high in that same quarter. Things soon changed as the market began falling, reaching a low in the third quarter of 2002, just when individual investors were withdrawing record amounts of money.

Housing bubble & mortgage crisis
The market hit its high in 2007 as investors poured money in again amidst the euphoria. While all the data is not yet in, it appears that in October of this year, a new record amount of money was pulled out of the stock market.

Rising above the crowd
We want to buy low and sell high. History shows that the crowds tend to do the opposite – they buy high and sell low. They invest heavily during the bubble and get out during what we’ll call the crater.

Think about what’s happening right now. Stock prices have been falling. But for every seller, there has to be a buyer! Who’s buying and who’s selling? Morningstar has a great video that’s well worth your time to gain the proper perspective on this crucial point.

To rise above the crowd, you can’t think like the crowd. You have to do the opposite.

So take a deep breath. If you don’t need the money for five to seven years, the odds are heavily in your favor. If you need the money sooner than that, stocks probably aren’t the best investment for that money. Because we’ve relearned just how risky stocks can be in the short-run.

Educate yourself to maintain the proper perspective.
We can’t count on our media or our leaders to do this for us. Knight Kiplinger wrote a fantastic piece explaining all of the differences between today’s situation and the Great Depression. We highly recommend that you read this article to see why he thinks we’re not ready to jump over the cliff.

Market timing is a risky game. Since the crowd tends to get it wrong, perhaps the best way to get it right is to keep investing through the whole cycle. You’ll buy fewer shares when the market is up. You’ll get some great deals when the market is down like it is now. Over time, you’ll end up with a decent return.

Thanks so much for reading our post today. Join us next time as we discuss overcoming guilt about how you choose to spend your time. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00271-112408.mp3

 

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Battle Scarred vs. Battle Scared

battle You’re probably familiar with the term “battle scarred,” which refers to the scars from wounds received in combat. Most of us are fortunate to not have to engage in real warfare where the scars are visible (i.e. physical) and invisible (i.e. mental). Our battles are more esoteric so our “scars” tend to be only the second kind – mental.

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Today we want to talk about a different word – battle scared. It’s amazing what a difference that one “r” can make.

By our definition, “battle scared” means that the damage done in combat is so severe that the injured party doesn’t push on.

It’s possible to be battle scarred without becoming battle scared.

People who are battle scarred start with an open wound that leaves only a scar over time. For people who are battle scared, it’s as if the wound never closes.

Mentally, the battle is still fresh in their mind. So they’re unable to fight again today. Two people can engage in the same battle and experience the same thing. One pushes on to fight another day (the battle scarred) while the other can’t live with the memories of the battle (the battle scared).

An example: the recent financial crisis

We have an example of a battle recently – the financial troubles rolling through the economies of the developed world. We all may feel a little battle scared at this point because it is still so fresh in all of our minds. It’s important to pause and reflect so we’re only left with the scars of the battle.

Learn the proper lessons
“Stocks are too risky.”
“Playing the stock market is no different than gambling at a casino.”
“It’s the government’s fault.”
“It’s the banks’ fault.”

These are the wrong lessons to takeaway from this battle. They are the reactions of the battle scared.

“I took on too much debt.”
“I spent more than I took in.”
“I didn’t create a safety net for myself.”
“I focused too much on what I wanted now and not enough on my future.”
“I should have seen that stocks were risky.”

These are the right lessons to learn from this calamity. The battle scarred will come away with these things in mind.

Make the proper adjustments.
“I’m going to close out my 401(k).”
“I’m never going to invest in stocks again; they’re too risky.”
“I won’t take any risk ever again.”
“You can’t trust anyone.”

These knee jerk reactions are common among the battle scared.

“I’m going to have an emergency stash.”
“I’m going to get out of debt.”
“I’m going to learn to allocate my portfolio so I get decent returns for the risk I’m taking.”

The battle scarred will make adjustments, but they won’t go from one extreme to another.

Giving up gets you nowhere

We have to keep fighting. We have to learn the right things from every battle so we can make the correct adjustments. We should gain wisdom from the battles we fight. That wisdom will help us win the war faster with more certainty.

If we become battle scared, we fail. We fail to take advantage of the opportunities that will present themselves in the coming days. We fail to reach our full potential. We must resolve to learn from our battles and make the adjustments necessary to win the next one.

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We’re so glad you stopped by today! Come back next time to learn how to get on the radio as an expert in your field. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
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Smart Investors, Tough Times

investing People who find joy in bad news have to be pretty happy lately. The financial crisis has dominated the news, as we watch Wall Street and Washington scramble.

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We don’t usually do this – in fact, we’ve never done it in the 230 shows we’ve done so far. But this subject is so important and so timely. So we want to share some valuable information that our newsletter subscribers received in their In boxes last Friday.

In the last edition of The Bigg Success Weekly, we discussed “Profiting from Panic”. It was about maintaining the proper mindset in the midst of all this turmoil.

We started with the safety net that exists for depositors, investors, and insureds. Here are some links directly to pages that can answer your questions about banks, brokers, and insurers in a hurry. 

Banks

In general, banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). However, not all money invested through banks is insured. What would happen if your bank failed? If you have accounts with a failed bank, what should you do? How can you obtain a release of lien, if a failed institution is your lienholder? The following links provide the answers to all of these questions:

What is the FDIC

A Guide to What Is and Is Not Protected by FDIC Insurance

FDIC Bank Find (make sure your institution is FDIC insured)

When a Bank Fails- Facts for Depositors, Creditors, and Borrowers

Is My Account Fully Insured?

Obtaining a Lien Release

Brokers

Accounts with brokerage firms also offer some protection through the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). The coverage isn't anything like that offered by the FDIC, but it's still important to know what remedies might be available to you. 

How SIPC Protects You

Insurers

While banks and brokers have federal backing, insurance companies have backing through associations at the state level.

The National Conference of Insurance Guaranty Funds

If your insurance company fails, you'll want to contact your state's Department of Insurance, since insurance companies are overseen by that department in each state in which they operate. Click here for a directory of each state's office. 

Your State's Department of Insurance or Guaranty Association

Two billionaires, two eras, one mindset

Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world according to Forbes, recently invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs, in the midst of all this turmoil. That’s pretty typical of how he’s made his fortune – he says he’s “fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

He has also opined, “We want to do business in [a pessimistic] environment, not because we like pessimism but because we like the prices it produces.”
 
From: The Warren Buffett Way: Investment Strategies of the World’s Greatest Investor, by Robert Hagstrom, Jr. 

Warren Buffett is not alone.

J. Paul Getty was one of the first billionaires and the richest man in the world in his day, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. He said, “I began buying stocks at the depths of the [Great] Depression. Prices were at their lowest, and there weren’t many stock buyers around. Most people with money to invest were unable to see the forest of potential profit for the multitudinous trees of their largely baseless fears.”

He went on to say that he made over 100 times his investment on many of these stocks!

From: How To Be Rich, by J. Paul Getty.

Our best strategy

So we can learn from these two men that we shouldn’t panic, even in turbulent times. Now, you may not want to rush out and buy a bunch of stocks. However, you probably shouldn’t sell out right now either.

These two billionaires made a fortune by going against grain. So keep making those 401(k) contributions. By investing consistently over time – paycheck by paycheck – you’re dollar-cost averaging into the market. In bad times, you’ll buy more shares with the same money than you can in good times – just like the billionaires. 

Above all – diversify, diversify, diversify. Diversification is one of the four key investment principles, according to William Sharpe, a Nobel Prize winning financial economist. Our newsletter subscribers read about these as well as some ideas to simply put them into practice.

Today, more than ever, it’s important for you to take on the role of Chief Investment Officer for you and your family. You can’t count on Wall Street or Washington to do it for you!

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If you would like to get the newsletter we’ve referred to here, just e-mail us: bigginfo@biggsuccess.com, with “Profiting from Panic” in the subject line. We’ll send it to you and sign you up for The Bigg Success Weekly!

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Next time, we’ll discuss why it’s so important to move beyond personal productivity. Until then, here’s to your bigg success! 

 

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