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Archive for October, 2013

Directionless Investing

October 28th, 2013 at 05:47 pm

My income has been steady over the past few months, so I have concentrated my efforts on funding my Roth IRA account. My goal is to fully fund the account for the 2013 tax year. I've been working toward that goal to the detriment of paying off my credit cards and building an emergency fund. I have no emergency fund. I feel that I will never get this year back to build up a Roth IRA, so I have to start using my retirement building years productively. In this case, I have to start using them because I have neglected to do so for so long.

So far, I have contributed $1170 in my Roth. I calculated that I can contribute $170 a week minimum to make it to April 15, 2014 for the 2013 tax year. I've actually been contributing more than that $170 threshold in the event that I have a period of unemployment.

I really don't have specific plans for investing. At first, I started putting my money in a S&P 500 Index fund with low fees. In addition to this IRA, I have $8,000 from an old pension and 401K in a rollover account. These investments are in mutual funds. Since the bulk of my small estate is in mutual funds, I decided to dabble in stocks.

I feel that I have a good grasp of financial analysis. I did a lot of work in securities litigation so I'm familiar with the concept of securitization. However buying stock as a small potato investor is difficult. For one thing, I don't really have a lot of money to invest up front, so I buy a few stocks at a time. Plus I am with E-Trade and the commission is $9.99 a transaction for stocks. At the time I created my Roth IRA, I did not think that I would want to buy and sell stocks. At this point, I really don't want to change accounts because I already have my money with them and it's easier to keep track of contributions if you have one account.

I'm not even sure if I should buy stock since I buy stock a little at a time and right now, with the commission costs and market "losses", my stocks are worth "less" than my contribution. My thought is that perhaps mutual funds and stocks are really not great investments for retirement. They can gain a lot of traction, but they also can "lose" as well. I even wonder if my "losses" are really losses. The stock market is so speculative and stock prices increase/decrease on the whims of the buyers and sellers. I guess if a lot of people want to buy a stock, it may say something about a company's value. But is that really the case?

I purchased shared in three companies: Nokia, Ford and Coty. I needed a new cell phone and got so excited when I saw the Lumia at Verizon. I did not buy the Lumia because Verizon wants to phase out the unlimited data plans so I had to buy a phone full price on the market and have them hook it up. I went with an LG Intuition that cost significantly less from an Ebay seller (plus I got it brand new) than the Lumia would have cost from Verizon. However I was sufficiently impressed that I thought that maybe I should get stock in that company because the phone was so sharp. The price was affordable and I bought a few shares. With my next contribution, I wanted to buy more shares of Nokia. I really like the phone that much. It seemed that either a lot of investors really liked the Nokia phones or were just gambling with the stock because the price increased very quickly. I got scared and decided not to acquire more shares.

My next purchase was Coty stock. I was shopping at TJ Maxx and picked up Meow from Katy Perry and JLo's Glo. I knew that Coty made those perfumes and then I decided to see if they had stock. Amazingly enough, Coty was listed and had just had an IPO. Furthermore, the stock was priced a little more than $16 a share. That's less than a bottle of those perfumes I had picked up and only a fifth of what I spent for JLo's Glo back when it came out on the market. Then I looked at Coty's 10K filing and got even more excited. They own Sally Hanson as well! My thought was that I probably had spent at least a few thousand dollars on Coty products in my lifetime and that investing $200 would not be the worse decision in the world. It was confusing, because analyst reports said that Coty’s IPO was "not beautiful" and that it was not for the stockholders but for the current shareholders. They also said that Coty wanted to issue stock so it can make more acquisitions. Now how do I interpret this analyst report? I know what I spend on Coty. The analysts are saying that the shares are not that great and the price is only $16 a share, yet I have a few hundred dollars of its products sitting on my shelf. I went with my gut and bought the stock because my rationale was that the money I spent on Coty products is dead, however at least there was a chance that the stock may pay a dividend or increase a value. It certainly is doing more than just sitting on my shelf.

My most recent purchase is Ford. My family has a lot of experience with Ford cars. I have owned two Ford Tauruses that were acquired used and two Lincolns that were passed down from my father. I gave the Taurus cars away when I got my Lincoln and one Lincoln went to 350,000 miles and the other was over 400,000 miles before Sandy destroyed it. My father routinely gets 300K+ on his Lincolns and he takes very good care of the cars. So Ford is priced well now and I guess everyone is buying it because it posted good earnings. With the government bailout of GM, Ford’s stock took a beating. This is the issue I have with stocks and stock prices because they fluctuate so much even if the company is good and makes a great product. So is Ford intrinsically better now than it was 4 years ago? Or does opinion play too much of a factor in stock pricing?
The hardest part about a Roth IRA is that unless the contributions are in a bond or CD, or just sit in the account, the money fluctuates. A $5,500 contribution may be worth more, or it could be worth much less depending on the market. Even mutual funds are not immune from these fluctuations. They always recommend that people have to take risk and buy stocks or stock based investments however there are no real guarantees that the stocks will be valued at what you paid for them. It just seems that timing plays so much of a role in whether your investment will make money or not.

I'm not really sure what is really the best investment strategy is. I guess all I can do is take a chance and hope it all works out.