Choosing Between Stocks and Mutual Funds

The U.S. stock market may resemble a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs and fast-paced changes, but because of the potential returns many investors are still drawn to the market and pin their financial hopes on publicly traded companies that just might let them hit the big payday later on. With the stock market also recovering from the slowdown of the last few years, first-timers are being urged to throw their hat in the ring and invest right away.

For the newcomers, and even for some of the more experienced, the question of whether to get stocks or mutual funds always comes up. You are bound to get either slightly different explanations or completely opposite viewpoints on which type to invest your hard-earned money in. Truth is, both individual stocks and mutual funds have their pros and cons, and both can also be ideal financial investments for anyone who understands their differences and maximizes them to his or her advantage. In fact, you can also build a portfolio with a mix of stocks and mutual funds for more diversity.

Individual stocks require hands-on management

When you opt for individual company stocks, you have the freedom to buy how much you want, at what prices, and how to diversify your portfolio. With the liberties of stock purchases come responsibilities as well, which means monitoring the movements and coming up with solutions for minimizing risks, balancing your portfolio, or watching current financial trends in order to make the right decisions regarding your investment.

If you invest in individual stocks, you do have to have a working knowledge of the financial terminologies and trends and understand fully the procedures. You will also need to look at the company’s records, particularly earnings reports, interest rates, commodity prices, etc. Individual stock purchases and investments are ideal for those who already have some experience with the ins and outs of the stock market, and those who have the time and resources necessary to properly manage the investment.

Mutual funds are managed for you

In mutual funds, different stocks are combined into one portfolio, in smaller units and with generally smaller returns or dividends compared to the more high-risk game of individual stocks. A professional fund manager usually handles the mutual fund for the investor, and the manager is in charge of the decision-making, including which stocks or equities to invest in. The investor does not need to worry about record-keeping, corresponding tax forms, or monitoring the fund constantly. The mutual fund and the assigned professional manager takes care of it for the investor.

Mutual funds are great options if you are just getting your feet wet in the water of the stock market, and are not familiar yet with the terminologies and the intricacies of investing in the stock market. The downside is that mutual funds also have smaller return percentages, although because of the smaller risk involved in a portfolio of small equities and diversified industries or markets, mutual funds are also more resilient to market upheavals.

 

If you are a business owner or entrepreneur recently starting to make your mark in your industry, you may have heard peers or colleagues talk about business development consultants and how they can potentially help you in further enhancing the effect and reach of your enterprise. But you may be asking yourself if you really still need the services of a business development consulting firm. You may want to be cautious of the perspective that if you are in an industry or line of business that you are quite knowledgeable about and have much experience in, you will no longer require the expertise of a consultant, or any other assistance for that matter.

What business development consultants do is very similar to coaching. In sports, coaches study the bigger picture, looking at a perspective that goes beyond just winning a ballgame to actually achieving something for the team as a whole. Business consultants may not necessarily be considered as experts or specialists in the specific industry or trade that you are involved in, but what they do excel at is making your business more in line with your market, and achieving potential and reaching goals through systematic procedures.

Using various methodologies in marketing, communication, and business strategies, a consultant can help make your enterprise more relevant and reach your target clientele. Brand marketing, for instance, is one common task that business development consultants often perform for their clients. Branding is a key factor in an advertising-intensive and highly-competitive market. The right branding strategies and techniques can make your business stand out, and the business consultant uses market research, trends, and surveys to come up with a strategy that can place your company’s branding message at the forefront of the communication sphere.

Marketing is another key service of most business consulting firms. A lot of entrepreneurs are highly-skilled in their specific trade or craft, but not as knoweledgeable when it comes to marketing the product to their target audience. Marketing techniques are very highly-organized and scientific in their approach, and need the planning and implementation of qualified and competent consultants, online publisher, or marketing experts to be successful especially at the beginning as your business tries to establish a niche or following.

When you partner with a reliable and highly qualified business development consultant, they can bring their expertise and fill in the gaps where you need assistance the most, pointing out aspects of your enterprise that require improvement or reinforcement in order to maximize available resources and increase impact. Also, they can help you in enhancing procedures that are already in place, raising the standard of excellence and the quality of your workforce.

Business development consultants can assist you greatly in laying the foundation for your new business endeavor, and they bring valuable lessons to the table that you may be able to use in this new undertaking. Do not be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone and get professional advice from consultants; after all, you stand to gain when you are always open to learning.

Alibaba IPO Hits the Market

The most anticipated IPO (Initial Public Offering) in years hit the market yesterday. Alibaba (BABA), the company that seemingly exploded out of nothingness, went public on September 19, 2014. A date that many investors will remember for a long time.

Alibaba had so much buzz built up over the past few months, the valuation of the company was higher than it would have been otherwise. Alibaba was set to open yesterday at $68 per share, in trying to raise about $22 billion. This price values the company at nearly $170 billion. To give you a perspective, Google (GOOGL) is worth about $400 billion. Alibaba came out of no where and worth nearly 43% of what the internet giant, Google is worth. Now that’s what I call an explosion.

The shares of Alibaba rose very quickly. Speculation on what the opening price would be started going from the mid $70s to mid $90s. And because of complications, the share didn’t actually become available for public trading until after 11:30 am, about 2 hours after the stock market begins to trade. And before the stock even went on the public market for public trading, it was worth about $99 per share. That’s a $31 increase of the $68 IPO. If you didn’t have deep pockets, if you weren’t family or worked for Alibaba, you were out of luck. There is no way you could have gotten Alibaba for $68, which is seemed as dirt cheap at the moment. And I know the founder and creator of Alibaba, Jack Ma, is very very happy.

The price of Alibaba shares quickly started to drop. Before you knew it, the stock dropped to just below $90 a share. That’s extremely volatile for any stock. Alibaba shares finished with  a price of $93.89, more than 38% over the $68 IPO price. I know the company and its investors are very happy, including Yahoo (YHOO) who had a very big stake in Alibaba for a long time. A very good investment on their part.

You should expect Alibaba to be very volatile over the next few weeks as investors sell and buy shares based on the hype they collected over the past few months. There is no doubt that Alibaba shares will hit $100 and it may happen sooner than later.

What you need to know about Alibaba shares is that you’re not actually purchasing shares of the company itself. Instead you are purchasing Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. This is a company set up in the Cayman Islands because Chinese law forbids foreigners to own any part of a company based in China. So to get around that, they found this loophole. This is something you need to keep in mind if you decide to invest in Alibaba.

Originally, I planned on investing in Alibaba. And I actually set aside some money to buy the shares, but the price went up so quickly, I didn’t want to risk losing money so I’m holding off for now until the volatility goes down and the price stabilizes. It’ll make predicting the price easier which makes for smarter investing.

Have you invested in Alibaba? Do you plan on investing?

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.