Oct 31, 2008

so close to actually getting paid on adsense

I started testing out adsense on my blog a long time ago. Since this blog doesn't get that much traffic, I assumed I'd never hit the $100 that's required in order for them to even send a check to me. But I'm... almost there. I've made $98 and some cents, and that's a pretty incredible feat, given that this is just a side project / hobby of mine.

How much have you made via adsense on your blog or website? Do you use a different ad network that offers better results?


Frugal October

My goal this year is to save 50 percent of my income for "taxes" (as a self-employed person I have to pay my own taxes; I do not get any money taken out of my paycheck throughout the year.) While I am unclear what my actual tax rate will be, I doubt it will be the full 50%, thus I will have additional saved funds to put towards larger purchases or saving accounts.

I'm a little behind on my target, which is scary because if my tax rate ends up being 50% after my 15% self employment tax, then I would be screwed. Well, I think I have enough time to catch up, but that means my trip back east is going to have to be frugal, and I'm not going to be able to take any days off of work (I'll be working remotely from the east coast.)

I try to put $3000 into my Roth IRA right after I pay my taxes, if I have the money available, which leaves $2000 to put in throughout the year before I hit my limit.

However, I'm wondering now if I should be funding a Roth IRA at all. Besides the poor performance of the stock market, the Roth IRA may no longer be the "smart" choice for me. I make about $60k, give or take, before taxes. I think my tax rate right now is high enough where doing a Roth is kind of dumb. Sure, I get to take my money out tax-free when I retire, but if my taxes right now are higher than what I will pay when I retire, then this is a dumb move. Not sure how to figure this out, though. Do any of you know?


Oct 12, 2008

Sequoia says RIP, How Worried Should I Be?

I'm trying really hard not to worry about this whole financial "crisis." I'm young(ish) and resilient, as are my stocks, as is my career, and I'm in a much better place than all the baby boomers who are currently watching their 401k's break even after years of saving... or worse.

Me? I have a job. It's more stable than not, though after the latest Sequoia report came out it's looking more and more like if I don't have the skills to hack it at a web startup, I'm going to be toast. Or dust. Or dust-buttered toast. I'm nervous.

More than anything, I wish I had some serious skills - like computer programming. Then I'd be able to do something useful. But I know that I have to do a lot to prove that I'm useful over the coming months, or it will be my head on the chopping block.

Working for a startup, I've always assumed any day could be my last. That's the joy of working for a startup... even if the markets are doing great, you could be unemployed tomorrow! :)

I really wonder what the Silicon Valley shakeout will look like in the coming years. During my brief stint in business journalism, one thing I saw was how many silly companies were getting millions of dollars just because they happened to have a persuasive CEO. It's totally a bubble, and with the latest turn in the economy, it's certain to burst. I'm trying to just hold my breath and hope for the best. Again, I'm young, and this won't last forever. I just hate that I'm trying my darndest to save and I'm still losing money. Bah.


Oct 10, 2008

Prosper Update

As the stock market continues to take a nose dive to the depths of despair, making a short term profit in the markets (unless you're brilliant at shorting) seems near impossible. Meanwhile, getting a loan is getting increasingly difficult now that banks have finally figured out that high-risk lending doesn't work out so well for anyone in the end (unless the government bails you out with $700 billion, but anyway).

So I'm not surprised that P2P lending is getting a lot of press these days. Just last night, I was listening to CNN and they were touting Propser as an option for a place to invest.

Now, Prosper is a dangerous place to invest too, but it seems a little less risky than the markets for short-term investing, if you're smart about it. Here's why...

On Prosper, you can invest just $50 per loan, and that goes into a giant pot of loans from lots of different people. So even if one person fucks you over and you lose $50, you're still getting a good rate on the other loans. If you're lucky, and smart, you can come out making a profit in the end.

Right now, I have 10 active loans. 9 are current and one fucked me over. Fair enough. I wasn't smart about that loan. I learned not to bid on anything that looks like "Help Me Study Abroad ** Relist #2**" -- that's the one that got me into trouble.

I'm not that pained about it, that was a learning experience. I've also been fortunate enough to make $50 from Prosper through its referral program (you get $25 a person if someone signs up through you and lends money on the site), which at least helped me break even despite my stupidity.

Don't get me wrong, I'm nervous about my other 9 investments. With the economy tanking and unemployment rates rising, it won't be long before someone else may not be able to pay me back. But maybe that won't be the case. 8 of my 9 remaining loans are to people with good credit ratings (B or higher) who wanted a lower rate on repaying credit cards. If they can pay me at a rate of 18% versus paying their credit card companies 27%+, then it's a win-win for both of us. As long as they pay. And so far, all of them have paid up.

I think I've made about $23 on my loans so far, after canceling out the $50 loss and the $50 I made for referrals. Which, on a $450 investment, isn't so bad. Especially considering everything I've invested in the stock market is losing hundreds of dollars. So Prosper may not be a safe bet, but these days it seems like the better bet. Just be smart about it and you can come out ahead.


Oct 8, 2008

Recession? Depression? Either way, it sucks.

I know, I know, I know that investing is a long-term investment. Turning 25 next month, I've got plenty of time to recover. Still, watching the money I put in stocks over the last two years completely tank is a pain in the ass. I've lost about $5000 thus far out of maybe $23000 total invested. I can only imagine how painful this all must be to people who have even more money in investment accounts, esp if they're closer to retirement.

Me... well, I'm trying really, REALLY hard to try to view this as an opportunity. The key word is actually trying. It's hard. While my sharebuilder stocks are being hit the worst, my Vanguard funds aren't doing much better. According to my Vanguard account...

So I've invested about $13,200 in my Roth IRA and non-IRA Vanguard accounts. The value of these accounts is $8966. Yikes!

Vanguard Losses: about $4000. -22% in this year alone.

I'm not pulling my investments out, however I realize that while this recessdepression isn't going away anytime soon, my money just may be going, going, gone.

Sharebuilder is even scarier. Really scary.

How scary, you ask?

Well, what better to do at 2:30am than to make a chart of my total investments throughout the last year versus their current worth. I've been bad about tracking my Sharebuilder investments because i'd put a few hundred dollars into it per month as an experiment, hoping that it would make me some money, but not enough to completely destroy my life if the "experiment" failed. I'm still not sure if this experiment is a failure, since I plan to go long on all of these. I'm tempted to buy more of some of them now, or soon, but I'm also tempted to stay out of the stock market outside of my Roth IRA for the foreseeable future.

Of my total 9 investments in my Sharebuilder account, only one of them is currently "up." That'd be my McDonalds stock. I paid $181.22 for what's currently worth $190.

But that's the only good news in an otherwise bleak account. Overall, the entire account is down 32%. Not surprisingly trending with the stock market, it's gone from a 17% loss to a 32% loss in just two weeks. It was last "positive" in May, when it was up 2%. Since then, it's just been sad to watch my stocks suffer.

Looking at the last two weeks, the hardest hit stocks & ETFs were PBD, EPI, and EWZ. I guess my other stocks had tanked deep already, while these were really hit by the lastest turmoil after surviving the earlier mess.

*EPI (india ETF)
of $372, I was down $62 two weeks ago. As of today, I'm down $130, or 35% of that investment.

*PBD (cleantech index)
of $356, I was down $70 two weeks ago and I'm down $167, or 47% of my initial investment today.

*EWZ (brazil ETF)
of $245, I was down $62 two weeks ago, and I'm now down $126, or 51% of my total investment.


Total Investment: $2158
Current Value: $1465
Current Loss: -$694

March -2.2%
April -2.4%
May 1.2%
June -2.1%
July -5.8%
August -9%
Sept -21.6%
Oct -32%