I’ve hinted before… but here goes

I was starting to think of constructive ways I could develop this site a few days ago, when I was going through the archives. A few years ago, when this site started, there was a lot of interest in personal finance blogging. Some of those sites are still around, and doing well; others have fallen by the wayside.

InvestorBlogger was one of those sites… but for various reasons got sidetracked first by ‘making money online’ then by the Google shenanigans. Later, I spent a lot of time developing my coffee site out to a full site. But with the Google mistreatment of many sites, the new methods of socialising, and improving tools, InvestorBlogger kind of took a back seat for a few years.

In future posts, I’ll detail some of what happened during those ‘sparse years’.

The good news is that I’m now reloading InvestorBlogger, with material & tools that I’ve purchased and created along the way… and for those of my faithful readers who’re still here… thank you! I hope that your faith will have been rewarded.

But I’ll be honest, the weight of 1700 posts in this archive makes me feel like there’s a huge weight on my shoulders… some of which resolves around my desire to make a readable, cogent blog for readers. How on earth can I do that? How can readers find useable material on this site, given there are so few tags and search is hobbled somewhat? I have no idea!

But if you stick with me, I’ll try to find ways to present this content in ways that are interesting, topical and perhaps a little technical, too.

Current Holdings: October 13th, 2008 – Another Piece of the Puzzle

Well, the market is back up today (but with the poor performance of the economy, it’s going to be a couple of months before we know the after effects), and in the interests of ‘coming clean’, I’ve decided to reveal what my current stock holdings are. And when it was done, I was staggered how much the portfolio had gone down.

current position

To view the entire sheet, just click on the image. What isn’t obvious from this chart, though, is the regular dividends that get paid into this account.

In 2007, they totalled $1031.53 and in 2008, they totalled $1078.24 with the prospect of another couple of months. In fact, the last couple of stock purchases had been made from the proceeds accumulating in the account. However, with the markets in turmoil, it’s likely that several or more of these dividends may be cut or axed altogether. Bank of America has already announced changes to its dividend as of this month. We also hold several thousand dollars in Mutual Funds via one of our insurance policies, but the details are quite old.

Since, 2001 I’ve focused more on investing for dividends as I believed that dividends do pay back some cash to the investor. Since purchasing my first dividend stocks, I’ve actually earned quite a lot over the years and managed to claw my stocks back to more than just par with 2001. But the last few weeks have eaten away approximately 45~50% of my portfolio’s nominal value. I had been underwater for a while (not including dividends).

The next few months are going to highlight how successful this process of choosing dividends has been, what volatility these dividends have, and whether dividends can actually bring some relief to the current mania. This is the next part of my gradual revelation of my personal assets, and once each part is out there, I will bring it together on a regular basis!

Credit Card Post: September 2008 – Was it a big disaster or not?

After the modest spending of the last few months, I was greeted by a mighty thwack with September’s Bill. The damage was nearly NT$80,000! So what happened? How could it be so high?

Actually, most credit card statements tell a story: this was no exception. It’s a story of three parts.

Part 1: The business

We’ve been on an energy economy drive for the past four or five months, and the benefits are slowly beginning to pay off in lower electricity bills and lower carbon emissions. It’s staggering how little changes in behavior can have such significant effects: lighting choices, replacing older equipment, changing usage patterns, etc.. I don’t have complete stats for 2008, but I was surprised at how we’ve saved nearly 10% of our annual electricity bill, and there is still one major bill to go. Stay tuned!

Replacing A/Cs is perhaps the most notable way to cut energy use. Our oldest A/Cs are nearly 8 years old, and due for replacement, if nothing else because more modern A/Cs are comparatively more efficient. So after replacing one, we bit the bullet and replaced the one in the office (likely the single heaviest use appliance in the entire school). This month we replaced one that had been malfunctioning in the classroom ever since there was a power outage. It had just been blowing warm air, and wasting our money.

  • Damage: NT$48,800 plus installation NT$1450.

Was it worth it? Certainly. Will we save money in the long run? Likely enough to pay for the entire machine! Are our customers/staff happier? For sure.

Part 2: UK Trip

The second part of the story: my unexpected trip to the UK. It was late September when I decided to visit the UK to see my family and friends (an entirely social trip!) but long needed. Maintaining long distance relationships is at best very challenging, at worst almost impossible.

Though, this is the complete list of credit card expenses until September 19th, it was NOT the entire trip expenditure. Woops!

  • Phone Bill: NT$1154 – including national and roaming charges;
  • Nolita Restaurants: NT$6630 – a meal for my friends, Jane and Philip in Hatfield, which was surprisingly reasonable given the restaurant, but didn’t include much alcohol – one was exhausted and one was driving!
  • Boots and Asda: NT$1244 – daily expenses (esp. when I couldn’t cash my traveler’s checks);

Part 3: Online Related Expenses

I finally bought a ‘puter that I could put in my bag. One of the ironies though was that I bought a machine that was made by a Taiwanese company in Shanghai shipped to England and sold cheaper than you could buy in Taiwan at the time.

aspireone blue and white

Mine’s the blue one! Of course, not running Linpus. Sorry!

Enter the Acer AspireOne – Net Book. It’s proved very useful, and I’m seriously glad that I got it. I was able to make calls through SKYPE, surf the Net, listen to music and even do more than just rudimentary blogging on that little 8.9″ screen.

  • Damage: NT$17,310. Of course, being an overseas customer, I may be able to reclaim part of my tax (approx. NT$1800) making the deal even better value for me!

I also paid a writer who is helping me co-author a series of posts on the Dow Jones Indexed Companies. I also paid Google an AdWords activation fee.

  • Total cost for this: NT$1319.

And, finally, after earning points on the airconditioner purchases at Carrefour, bonus points on our credit card bonus points, we also earned a little cash back on some of my purchases: NT$-213.

  • I’m still not exactly sure what purchases triggered this, but still every little helps to reduce the total damage: NT$79,694.

There were no interest or penalties added to this month’s credit cards, and my secondary card had no outstanding purchases at all. oh, and I nearly forgot the NT$2000 life insurance premium that was paid.

It’s funny how credit card expenses can highlight the unfolding stories that compromise our lives. Have a look through your credit card statement? Can you see a story developing there?

  • Oh, and by the way: most frivolous expense trip – Hong Kong Airport Starbucks Americano and water bought with a credit card HK$39.00. Just silly.

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