Reach Your Financial Goals With A Definite Plan

All of us have personal financial goals. No matter what career you are in, or your current status in life, you have some kind of financial ambition that you would like to achieve. Whether it is long-term or short-term, you would like to see yourself ultimately reach that vision and make a better life for yourself.

Just like any other goals that we set, being able to obtain the intended result or target doesn’t just happen overnight or without much planning or purpose. None of the truly successful people simply stumbled into their achievements without investing any effort or energy. The best way for us to achieve what goals we have set for ourselves is to do it in an organized manner that maximizes opportunities and resources, making sure all efforts are aligned towards that goal we have set.

Write it down. When things are in writing, they become more logical and organized, and allow us to better manage our expectations and plan our strategy. Whether you have one or a dozen financial goals, write them down or type them into your phone or tablet so you always have a chance to organize your thoughts as well as to look at your overall plan. Measurable results can also be gauged when your goals are in writing, allowing you to monitor your progress.

Have a timeframe. Are you looking at a short-term or long-term financial goal (or somewhere in between)? Your way of achieving your target would be determined by the amount of time necessary to reach it. Set a realistic duration or period of time for yourself to work towards your intended result. Along the way, review your timeline and see if you are using the allotted period wisely, or if there are opportunities to maximize efficiency and save time.

Always set money aside. If you get paid weekly or biweekly (or any other frequency for that matter), make sure you already know the amount of money you will need to set aside and save towards your financial goals. Work your budget and expenses around what is left, not from the total amount. This way, you are not tempted to dip into the savings part when you need it for your monthly expenses.

Rethink all expenses. If you carefully assess your income as against all your monthly expenditures, there are items or purchases that you don’t really need, and can re-channel that money towards your financial goals. For instance, making your own coffee instead of buying that cup of designer latte in the morning easily adds up to a lot of savings. Trading in your gas-guzzling truck or SUV for a more fuel-efficient car also helps you have more financial leeway.

In your efforts to achieve your financial goals, always remember that the choices that you make today, even the seemingly insignificant ones, are shaping your future and what success you will have later on in life. Formulating a reasonable, measurable plan today will give you a road map towards financial freedom in the future.

Some stocks yield significantly higher dividends than others. It is commonly seen as an indication of higher risk, but whether it is perceived or real is something that an investor should determine. High dividends could also result because the price of the stock has dropped significantly due to bad news or an overall market downturn. In this case, dividends stay the same although the price drops. This certainly doesn’t reflect the real valuation of a stock, but it is still possible for investors to take advantage of the situation. It simply boils down to understanding stocks that we are evaluating and knowing whether they will provide higher dividends than others. Here are factors we should consider in high dividend stocks investing:

  1. Timing and price considerations: Two essential factors in high dividends yield investing are timing and price range. We should know whether the market exerts downward or upward trend. Some of the factors are market-driven but stocks could also be affected by specific internal situations. Prior and subsequent to their ex-dividend dates, high yield stocks often fluctuate significantly. Investors typically want to purchase stocks before the pre-dividend rise and sell before the ex-dividend drop to maximize their profit. It should be noted that prices could be affected greatly when companies sell additional stock to gather more fund.
  2. Dividend yield: It is a ratio that defines how much a company offers dividends each year based on the stock price. It’s calculated by dividing Annual Dividend with Stock Price we paid. As an example, if the annual dividend payment is $1 and the stock price is $20, then it has 5 percent of dividend yield. There are two approaches to calculate dividend yield, first by using the dividends for the 12 trailing months and another by using the amount dividend of the 12 upcoming months. Before purchasing a stock, we should know our preferred yield. Higher dividend yields provide higher profitability. However, as stocks price fluctuate, the dividend yield will move up and down as well.
  3. Sales and profit: It’s very simple, no sales means no revenue and no profit. Without profits, it isn’t possible for companies to pay dividends. This should be a very simple indicator to know and we could check whether the company has reported good sales and profits. Profits are necessary to help companies grow and this could lead to more dividend payouts. One basic rule to measure profitability is by looking at the company’s ROE (Return on Equity).
  4. Debt: Debt is the amount of money that the company owes. Companies will have more money to pay investors when their debts are lower. The amount of dividend paid could be affected if revenues drop and the company goes through tougher times. Based on Debt to Equity ratio, investors could immediately see if the company has high debt.
  5. Payout ratio: Payout ratio is calculated by dividing annual dividend per share with company’s annual revenue per share. Investors should look for stocks with higher payout ratio.

Before investing in high yield dividend stocks, make sure you do you research in the company. The last thing you want is to buy a lot of shares in a company with a very high dividend yield and the overall value of the company lowers as well as the dividend payouts.

How to Choose Stock Brokers?

Investors need the help of middlemen that work between themselves and the stock exchanges. Stock brokers are allowed to perform transactions because they are members of the exchanges. Brokers are not only representatives of investors in the exchanges, they also provide clients with the latest financial information about specific companies. Once investors are comfortable with the level of risk in specific investment plans, brokers send orders to the floor through computer software. After the completion of the transaction, brokers provide clients with updated prices of their stocks. Brokers earn revenue through commission they charge on each transaction.

But can we trust stock brokers? Each time we evaluate the trustworthiness of a professional, we could run into the likely habit of stereotyping. But one bad apple in the basket doesn’t necessarily spoil the rest. Here are things to consider before we choose a stock broker:

  1. Know the stock broker: We should get detailed official information about a stock broker – when its brokerage started, was it involved in any kind of controversies and who is the owner.
  2. Account opening charges: How much the broker requires us to pay to open an account? We could compare its account opening charges with other brokers.
  3. Check its regular and periodical charges: While account opening charges is aone-timeexpense, investors also need to pay a number of recurring charges. There are three different types of stock broker charges:
    • Delivery charges: Investors are charged when they take delivery of the shares.
    • Intraday charges: Investors are charged when they buy and sell specific stocks at the same day.
    • Maintenance charges: Stock brokers require annual maintenance charges as a fee to maintain our account.
  4. Services: Stock brokers should provide adequate services for their clients, such as updated information on stocks. Check past records on whether brokers could provide reliable information and tips on stocks. Stock brokers must allow investors to order transactions through both offline and online means.

Assuming that we are dealing with a legitimate broker, we shouldn’t let this situation lulls us into a false sense of security. We should still be vigilant. Just because the company has good reputation, it doesn’t mean that things would go smoothly. Although we may not get ripped off, these brokers could still provide faulty recommendations and tips on what we should do with stocks in our portfolio. Regardless of their suggestions, we should pay attention to the revenue of each company and other essential factors to make the best informed decision possible.

Stock broker companies spend plenty of time establishing solid reputation in the market and this could only be achieved through minimal problems and maximum customer satisfaction. If the stock broking company has a good reputation we should be able dig up more than a few favourable mentions about previous high-value transactions. However, we shouldn’t limit ourselves only to what the media says about a broker, we could also talk with more experienced investors who have used their services.

Some of you may ask who I use and why. I have been using Scottrade for several years now and I am happy with them. They charge $7 per trade, whether I’m buying or selling. There is no maintenance fees or any fees to transfer balances to and from my bank accounts. Sure the $7 per trade adds up over time, but they have great customer support and so far, have been very reliable when it comes to their tools and the research information they provide. If you would like to sign up and give them a try, use my referral code: VXPP8981

Using the referral code above will give you three free trades and I will also get three free trades (win-win). That saves you about $21, that can be a lot of money for someone just starting out.

Another option that I could recommend is OptionsHouse. They charge just $4.75 per trade, much less than Scottrade. I only started using OptionsHouse, so far they have been great. Their customer service is proactive and they have called me several times asking me if I need help. I haven’t put as much money in this trader as I have Scottrade but I am sure they will turn out to be great. They are also very stable, the interface takes some time to get used to, but I have no complaints.

Other companies out there include E-Trade and TD Ameritrade. They are big names which I have not tried. I would always recommend that you do your research before signing up for any broker. They have different fees and different methods of doing things, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

I wish you the very best in investing! Good luck to you all.

Be Alert and Cautious When Banking Online

Online banking has made it possible for the average person to have quick, convenient and round-the-clock access to his or her personal or business accounts, credit cards, savings accounts, and other financial products and services. With online banking services, financial institutions bring the process right to the customer’s hands, with everything done via computer or mobile device.

The advantages of doing your banking online can not be denied. While physical bank branches have limited hours of operation, which may make it difficult for those with hectic schedules, online banking is typically available at anytime of the day, so you can do what you need to do at your most convenient time. Whether it is paying bills, transferring funds to your savings account, or just to inquire about your balance, the information and transactions can be accomplished online when you want to.

With the rise of online banking also came new challenges to customer privacy and safety. As millions of customers now perform confidential financial transactions from their desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, criminal elements have also adjusted their tactics and are targeting unsuspecting users who do not take necessary precautions to safeguard their personal data.

Many of the basic precautions customers can take when using online banking services do not differ too much from the usual safety reminders for over-the-counter or ATM banking, such as regularly changing passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs), and verification questions. But other safety procedures are unique to the online setting, such as looking for the “lock” icon on the bank website which signifies that it is secure, or ensuring that there is a “Verified” sign when making Web purchases or transactions.

Firewalls, security updates, and other software and apps should not be taken for granted when you do your banking online. The firewall protects your information from being accessed by people through your Internet connection. Without a firewall, your data is easily retrievable by any one with the knowledge to obtain it by attacking your Web connection.

Depending on what operating system you use, security updates are regularly sent by the manufacturers in order to keep your computer or device updated with the latest security patches or fixes. You can schedule these updates to run automatically, or you can accept the updates any time you get a prompt or notification. Usually, when manufacturers are able to identify security attacks or bugs, they release fixes via security updates so that the users are protected.

It is not advisable to access your online banking information from a public or shared computer, but if you must do so you should know how to clear the cache and history after use. Some data may remain to be easily accessible if you do not remove the cache or browser history. Experts also remind online banking customers not to leave or save passwords on public computer terminals or shared devices.

If you are careful about your activities when going to your bank, then you should also have that alert mindset when using online banking services, where the threats of identity theft and unauthorized data use are just as real and prevalent.

Should We Buy Apple’s Stocks?

Apple’s stock briefly broke the $100 barrier in previous trading session before falling back. Considering that its stock had reached more than $700 in 2012, this fact may not look too surprising. However, we should consider the fact that Apple implemented a “7 for 1” split this summer. The increase in price is fueled by a couple of products, the iWatch and iPhone 6 smartphone. The company hasn’t provided any confirmation about these devices and we can’t even be entirely sure that the company’s next flagship will be called iPhone 6.

Although less frequently mentioned, investors should also add the effect of iWatch into their calculation. However, some analysts say that the smatwatch won’t debut until 2015.

At the moment, experts advise investors to load up before Apple launches its new devices. It is believed that the stock could go until up to $120 sometime next year. Investors are clearly enthusiastic about this fact and Apple’s mojo is usually back on September each year, the most probable time of release for new iPhone model. By market cap, Apple is the largest company in the world and it still dominates the mobile market.

It’s clear that Apple’s investors will have a wonderful 2014 and probably a better than expected profit. Apple has shown itself as a fantastic opportunity again and again. Rumors say that there will be two iPhone 6 models released next month, a standard 4.7-inch model and a phablet-sized 5.5-inch model. The release of two premium models will potentially drive the company’s finances and ultimately its stock price at the latter months of the year. Here are things to consider before we purchase Apple’s stock:

  • Availability of higher tier model: The iPhone 6 with 5.5-inch display is likely a more expensive model than the smaller 4.7-inch version. The larger model will be more appropriate for multimedia consumption and playing games. It means, users would likely need to purchase variants with higher internal storage to store all the content and apps. iPhone units with higher internal storage are known for their higher margins and this contribute significantly to Apple’s profitability. It should also be noted that Apple finally has the ability to stand up against Android manufacturers that have released so many phablet models in the market. This fact should bode well for higher selling prices and increased unit shipments.
  •  iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C will be attractive low-cost models: With the release of two iPhone 6 models, Apple will designate the Apple iPhone 5S as a mid-range model. It will be available on-contract for $99 with a new 2-year contract agreement. The iPhone 5C will be a low-cost alternative of the other more powerful models and carriers may soon offer it for free also with 2 year contract. Regardless of its older design and smaller display, the Apple iPhone 5S is still attractive for consumers this holiday season with its Touch ID scanner and premium metal chassis.
  • Price reductions: Although Apple continues to sell high number of mobile devices, the company often drives sales growth through price cuts. In recent quarter, Apple made the iPhone 5S $20 cheaper at $561. This strategy may decelerate sales growth and this could be reflected by the slight reduction in stock price. For this reason, investors should be aware about when Apple will lower the price of both iPhone 6 models and this could take place on spring/summer 2015.

Throughout 2015, Apple will be able to consistently increase its iPhone, tablet and probably, smartwatch shipments. This will ensure near-consistent increase of stock price. It’s also interesting to know that Apple still offers a huge buyback program, so we should be rather enthusiastic for things that may lie ahead.

Do you currently invest in Apple Stocks? Do You plan to invest? Answer the poll below: