Mar 24, 2009

A Look at VGMIX (Vanguard Mid-Cap Growth Fund)

While I have a fairly good idea of what's going on in my Sharebuilder account, it makes me uncomfortable to have no idea of what stocks my index funds are invested in. So every once in a while I plan to research my funds and see what stocks are in them.

I randomly decided to invest in VGMIX in a taxable account. Maybe a bad idea. Since I'm maxing out my Roth IRA currently with two vanguard accounts -- Retirement 2050 and the Total Stock Index funds, I needed some place else to put my money. Perhaps all the rest of it should somewhere else.

VGMIX lost 47% last year (yikes.) So much for growth.

As of Dec 31, 2008...

VGMIX had:

231 stocks
$4.0B Median Market Cap (what does this mean?)
Price/Earnings Ratio 13.0x
Price/Box Radio 2.3x
Investor Shares: .6%
ETF Shares .8%
Return on Equity 20.2%
Earnings Growth Rate 26.0%
Foreign Holdings 0%
Turnover Rate 54$

Sector Diversification

Consumer Discretionary 13%
Consumer Staples 3.9%
Energy 8.1%
Financials 5.0%
Health Care 17.5%
Industrials 22.8%
Information Technology 19.5%
Materials 4.9%
Telecommunication Services 2.1%
Utilities 3.1%

Largest Holdings (approx 1% each):

C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc (air freight)
Fluor Corp (construction and engineering)
Laboratory Corp of America Holdings (healthcare)
Expeditors International of Washington (air freight)
Humana Inc. (managed healthcare)
Rockwell Collins (aerospace and defense)
AutoZone Inc. (automotive retail)

Apparently a fund provides a complete list of its holdings four times a year, as the quarter ends.

I hold a very little bit of a lot of different companies. Then there is a lot of other information that I do not understand. Hmmph.

Even if investing in single stocks freaks me out, I do like knowing what I'm investing in.

Speaking of investing in solo stocks and ETFs, I just bought more of COMV and IHI today. I hope that was a good idea. I feel like COMV maybe has great potential but I just don't know enough to say. It's in a good space that I believe has potential, but when it comes to the company's ability to make a profit - I have no idea. I do know that they were down to $3 a share a few months ago and now they're at $7. I'm still upset that I didn't buy more when they were at $3.


Generation Y, Let the Recession Humble Thee

Lindsey Gerdes of Business Week asks: Is the Recession Putting Generation Y in it's Place? Sarah Horne of The New York Post recently penned an op-ed column entitled “A Slice of Humble Gen Y,” noting that the economic downturn might be a helpful wake-up call for a coddled generation that formerly “felt secure enough to brashly knock on their bosses’ doors and demand better assignments, better titles, better salaries.”

Apparently the recession is a much needed wake-up call for us youngin's.

"The fact that many of this generation's boomer parents are suffering financially as well could be a positive thing for the youngsters' sense of self, Twenge adds. "The cutting of the apron strings is in some ways a good development. If a parent is looking at their retirement and saying, 'I can't prop up my child's lifestyle forever,' it's a lesson. To have to stand on your own two feet is a good thing," says Jean Twenge, author the book "Generation Me: Why Today's Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled And More Miserable Than Ever Before."
I suppose that's true. Had I not fallen into personal finance blogging I'd still be on my merry way to financial failure. The recession puts a new, even crueler lense on the situation. Just because my parents seemed to live their upper middle class life without much stress, with years of savings lost at the verge of retirement - it has me thinking, and worrying, and freaking out about saving.

Then there are my friends who aren't thinking about saving at all. And I do think maybe this wakeup call is a good thing. But it's not quite bad enough for the people I know to cause any major lifestyle changes.

I don't know what it was like for generations before, but given my upbringing and education I do have a sense of entitlement that I'll easily admit I don't deserve. That sense of entitlement has also led me to my own wakeup calls - too many failures to name. I'm doing ok now, but it's still hard. I didn't grow up in generation "Hard Work." I grew up in generation "ADD."

Regardless, I'm glad for this wakeup call. It's better to have a recession in my 20s then later. I wouldn't want to be in my 40s with all my life's savings in stocks, watching it all go down the drain. I now know nothing is secure and even if I work my ass off, a job could be gone tomorrow. So save today, save tomorrow, enjoy the cheap/free things in life, and maybe enjoy the finer things much, much later.

What do you think?


Mar 20, 2009

Stolen Car Registration Sticker Cost me $40!

First off, I'm really sorry I am so awful at updating this blog. I try to update my tweets more often because it's easier to write 140 words than a blog entry. Still, this blog needs some TLC. And I also am trying to figure out what happened to because I paid for the domain through blogger and it isn't working.

Anyway, the topic of my post today is how ridiculous it is that you are required to pay for a new registration sticker when it gets stolen from your car. Not only that, but if you get a ticket for it you're required to pay that too. I admit it was my fault that I got two tickets for it (I didn't have time to go to the DMV for a week and then I got another one) but still... my car was registered, so it's obvious that I had the sticker.

Finally went to the DMV and that took forever and a day. Had to pay $18 for a new sticker. Lame. Now I have to pay $20 for the two fix-it tickets.

I've heard that you should cut your sticker w/ a razor to prevent people from stealing it. So I'll be doing that soon.

I actually got pulled over for having an expired sticker but the cop was nice about it. I told him my registration sticker was stolen and he said that's been happening a lot lately with the economy and all. He gave me the same "cut it with a razor" advice, and no ticket from him, but... if it's happening a lot, then why make people pay for someone else's crime. Come on.

Well, here's my charity for the year. I've paid the CA government over $500 in various ticket fees, including these, thus far in 2009! I'm a good citizen.


Mar 17, 2009

What's so wrong with saving money?

I'm reading a Newsweek article entitled "Stop Saving Now!" It's overall message, if you couldn't guess from the title, is that in order from our economy to recover we - as a society - need to start taking more risks and throwing our fiscal caution to the wind.

This brings to mind a time when I received an allowance and I had a choice to save the money or spend it. My parents would advise to save it so I could buy something bigger than what I could with just a few dollars. At that point, there was no risk in not receiving more allowance, but nonetheless the general principle was that risk-free "saving is good."

It almost makes me ill to think that our entire economy revolves around - well - greed and bad decision making. Not that penny pinching is the way to go, but when an article compares our entire society to Las Vegas casinos (where gambling revenue is down -- in January, Nevada's casinos reported, gamblers lost 14.6 percent less money than they did in January 2008, notes the article), I start to get a bit queasy. Why should we be expected to live our lives with such high risk in order for our economy to work? Isn't there something wrong with that equation?

"It's tempting in this period of contraction to mimic Thoreau, to live simply and deliberately. But if we lose our penchant for gain and risk, we'll lose some of the essence of what makes us American."


Mar 14, 2009

What I'd Pay for Friends

I often fantasize about having a group of friends who I can go out and enjoy life with. Then I think about how much that group of friends would cost me, and I unthink that fantasy. Having a social life is expensive... at least dating my boyfriend is cheap, we barely ever go out. But friends... friends go to movies, go to clubs, go shopping, go to coffee, spend money...

It's really bothering me that I can't make friends around here. At least I've yet to figure out how to meet people who share my interests. I'd honestly love to find friends who like talking about investing and money... without looking down on me for now having a background in economics. But that's tough to find amongst people my age. The type of friends I like are people who just love good conversation. And people who know how to be silly and laugh too. Do they exist?

My roommates are fun, but I can't imagine having a lengthy conversation with them about investing strategies, or whether cash truly is king. So I write this blog, because I know out there in the PF blogosphere there are other people interested in this stuff. But where are they? Why can't they be my friends in real life?

Or maybe I just don't know how to be a friend. How does one find friends anyway..? In college it was a little easier. I was always shy, but at some point I got drunk and made some people laugh and they became my friends. Well, these days I don't have any social contact outside of work and my performance stuff in the evenings.

Should I stop being so concerned about having a social life? I just feel like my life is so so great right now except I have no solid group of friends. And that depresses me. Quite a bit.


When it comes to investing, I'm fucking clueless.

But that doesn't stop me from doing it. At 25, I have at least 35 years until retirement. So I just have to believe that over time, the markets will go up.

Regardless, when it comes down to picking stocks and ETFs, I'm shooting blind. And maybe that's best. The market rallied a bit this week. My new thing is to try to invest heavily on the weeks when news is all doom and gloom, and hold back weeks that it picks up. Not that I'm really trying to "time the market" -- I invest monthly, but I do try to guess at the best spot per month to put in my money. I've got it on auto pilot at Sharebuilder, and it only invests on Tuesdays, but I don't put money in on Monday until I know we're off to a bad week.

And that's kind of working out. For now. My Sharebuilder account (which is my "fun" investing account to see if I can beat the market) is now down "just" 30.30% Buying stocks and ETFs the last two months has helped -- the only way I'm going to make back the money is to invest when the market is doing its shittiest, and hope that it goes up. I'm just worried I'm too diversified. But I do that because I don't know what I'm doing.

I own 11 different stocks/ETFs in my Sharebuilder account. Not sure if that's too much or too little. I need to stop getting excited about different ETFs and stocks, putting $100 into them and then moving on. It's time to really hone in on my better performing stocks and invest in them. My ETFs are actually the worst performing right now, except for maybe Whole Foods. But then again they go up and down and up and down, so who knows.

My gains and losses sheet on Sharebuilder is all red except IHI - the medical devices ETF I just purched a small amount of two weeks ago. That's up $8. It's refreshing to see something green on that page.

The account has lost $931.03 to date. The more I invest now, the more likely that in 35 years I won't remember how scary it was to lose that much money that fast. (Not counting the $7000 that my Vanguard accounts are down, give or take a few hundred on the given day.)

I wish I had more appetite for risk... because a year ago I would have shorted the market and today I'd put more money in. But I'm, you know, only able to stomach $10k losses a year at my current payrate. Maybe more next year.


Mar 7, 2009

The Truth About Cats and Dogs: The Cost of Pet Ownership

When you need to cut costs, you can't off your children. But you can put your pet up for adoption. There's an interesting discussion over at Get Rich Slowly about the high cost of pet ownership.

Last year, The New York Times ran an article about the financial implications of pet ownership. Alina Tugend wrote:

"The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association asked 580 dog owners and 402 cat owners to record the amount they spent in the last 12 months on specific pet-related items. The dog owners spent almost $2,000; cat owners about $1,200. If you want a real deal, small animals came in at just under $300."

In 2001, Steph Bairey at researched the estimated costs of common pets. Though she doesn’t explain her methodology, she found that:

"Dogs cost about $730 per year.
Cats cost about $355 per year.
Rodents cost about $160 per year.
A tank of fish costs about $200 per year.
Birds cost about $770 per year.
Lizards cost about $745 per year.
Snakes cost about $520 per year."
I grew up without any pets (except a fish won once at a carnival that died a week after) so I can’t relate to the desire to own pets. I understand that for some people, the companionship means the world to them.

What I don’t understand is when people obviously can’t afford to own a pet, yet have one or more of them. I have a good friend who is a remarkable person, really kind and a big pet lover. She, along with her family, are struggling financially. I don’t know how badly, but they all work for the company business and the recession is hitting them hard. Yet she has tons of pets. A dog, a cat (or two), a rabbit, and then there are other various pets in the family at her parent’s house. She complains when her pets get sick and she has to take them to the vet (”I can’t afford it!”) but doesn’t ever think of getting rid of her pets (or not getting more). They make her so happy, so I see why she has them, but then I don’t understand how if you don’t even have an emergency fund built up and your checks keep bouncing, you can have so many animals to have to pay for. On the other hand, I have another friend who has one dog who is her life. I’m sure she spends a small fortune on him, but she’s in her late 30s and being as she’s single in the big city, it makes sense for her to have a dog. I guess it just depends on your situation.

How much do you spend on pets a year?


Mar 6, 2009

The Rich Get Hit Hardest

My aunt and uncle are in the upper class. They have a really nice house in a really nice town in a really nice part of the Bay Area. They have two kids. They have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the stock market. My uncle, who is self-employed with a once-thriving web marketing business, is struggling to retain clients. My aunt, who is in charge of a profitable department at an otherwise struggling company, just got a 10% paycut. With an expensive mortgage, even six figure and then some income isn't enough to pay for their lifestyle. So they're watching their spending. They are worried about just how bad this all is going to get.

While I've "lost" over $9000 so far in stocks, I feel lucky. I have a job. I make $60k a year, plus any freelance income I can bring in here and there. While I'm still not the best at managing my money (I just spent $100 at Sephora on a few eyeshadows and lipstick... I like to think of it as "stimulating the economy") my cost of living is not that high. I don't have any kids, my rent is cheap (well, at least compared to what I was spending living on my own before I moved in with two roommates, and I don't buy much other than the occasional overpriced pair of jeans or high-pigmented and pricey eyeshadow. So my life is pretty cheap. And I like it that way.

For everyone who has a family to take care of... a mortgage to pay... this recession is really, really bad. It makes me want to never have kids or up my desire to purchase a house. Sure my room is tiny, I have to put up with my roommates for better or worse, and I don't get to cook naked (which is seriously the biggest downfall of living with roommates), but... my life is affordable. Even as I lose thousands in the stock market. If I had kids... a house... I'd be screwed right now.


Obama Giving Stock Buying Advice

The other day Obama said that it's probably a good time to buy stocks if you plan to hold for the long term. There's been a lot of fuss about how the President shouldn't be telling us when we should buy stocks, especially since the stock market has gone down 25% since he's been elected.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it's important for the President to show faith in the economy, and since people trust Obama for the time being, or at least like him, they may listen to him. But... it really isn't good to tell people to go buy stock, and then to watch the markets crash even more.

While I believe in the long-term prosperity of America, times are a changing, and I'm kind of thinking we're going to be stuck in this depression for a while. I worry that people are going to get pissed at Obama if he starts giving stock advice - even if he does say that it's a good time to buy for the long term.

What do you think about the president giving stock buying advice?


The Personal Finance Reader...

Hey Her Every Cent Count readers... I just wanted to let you all know that I recently purchased the domain name " " - my personal finance blog reader will be moving there shortly (not - this is the blog that you can find by clicking "PFBlogs" in the tab at the top-right of this page.

Thanks to all of you who requested to be added to the feed. The idea of it is that you can find the latest posts from your favorite (and the best) personal finance bloggers, or just get a quick summary of all the posts written that day and decide which ones to read.

I use this to keep track of my favorite PF blogs. There was a little bug with blogger that removed the blogs I had on the page when I purchased a domain name for the blog, so I apologize if I added you and now you're missing again. I'll be fixing that asap.

I'm still open to adding blogs, so if you didn't leave me a note in my last post and want to be added, just leave a comment with your blog link. As long as you're not a spammer and you have a good personal finance blog, I'll add it. :)


Mar 4, 2009

Do you want to be included in The Personal Finance Reader?

If you haven't seen, I added a link to my "Personal Finance Reader" up top (yup, up there, to your left right (i am so dyslexic)) a while back. This is basically an updated blogroll including my favorite personal finance blogs.

If you want to be included in the list (which will update with a link to your blog whenever you update your blog), leave a comment here or e-mail me at

Want to keep up to date on the best of the personal finance blogosphere?


***Please leave your blog address in your comment so I can add it.***


Mar 3, 2009

How My Stocks are Faring

In short... not so well.

In long... ignoring the $7500 I've "lost" in my Roth and Vanguard index funds, I've lost another $1051.99 thus far. I have invested in 11 different stocks and ETFs in my Sharebuilder account ranging the gamut from a gold index to a natural foods supermarket, and everything in between. Not one of them is in the "green."

The best performing is my gold ETF (GLD), which is down $10.95 on a $533 investment. Not bad, but it's also not making money.

Everything else is doing really shitty.

Here's my investment list, and losses:

Comverge (COMV) - Invested $205.51 thus far, it's currently worth $115.96 (loss $89.55)
Wisdomtree India Earnings (EPI) - Invested $482.59, now $262.56 (loss: $220.03)
iShares Brazil Index (EWZ) - invested $251.72, now $104.30, (loss: $147.42)
SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) - invested $533.67, now $522.72, (loss: $10.95)
iShares Medical Devices (IHI) - invested $150 recently, now $146.58 (loss $3.42)
Market Vectors Coal ETF (KOL) - invested $120.26, now $32.76 (loss $87.50)
McDonalds Corp (MCD) - invested $296.74, now $273.41 (loss $23.33)
Powershares Global Clean Enegry - invested $462.31, now $195.88 (loss $266.43)
Procter & Gamble - invested 100.00, now $89.03 (loss $10.87)
Whole Foods Market (WFMI) - invested $121.23, now $36.33 (loss $84.90)
Financial Select Sector (XLF) - invested $148.29, now $41.20 (loss $107.09)

For a grand total of...


or -36.61% of my total investment.

For what it's worth, I've invested $14,950.00 into my Roth IRA and Vanguard Index Funds, and I'm currently down $6849.33 on that account, or 45%.

So even though my stock picks are doing crappy, they're still doing better than my basic index funds for now. I wonder how they'll all look in a year from now.


4 in 10 Americans Don't Know When They'll Retire

With a mix of a morbid stock market and American's not understanding just how much money is needed for retirement, the country is filled with people who may never get to enjoy a retirement.

A study that came out today from ING Direct reports that 40% of Americans expect to retire much later on or not at all. Americans will be chained to their jobs longer than ever before just to keep up with their bills and ensure food is on the kitchen table. The survey results also noted that over 60 percent of Americans are significantly more concerned about saving enough money for retirement and having the right type of retirement plan than they were six months ago.

Some other interesting stats from the survey:

· Nearly half of all Americans (47 percent) have “no clue” how much money they need to retire;

· Despite nearly two years of economic turmoil, 65 percent of Americans have not adjusted their retirement investments;

· One in five Americans (19 percent) are still banking on Social Security to be their main source of retirement income; and

· One-fifth (21 percent) of Americans are contributing less to retirement than they were last year

This is pretty scary stuff. The only thing that I go on is that retirement is maybe not a necessity. Well, at some point when I can no longer move or think I'll want to retire, but I hope I'm well into my 80s at that point. I enjoy working, and can't imagine enjoying retirement. I'd be bored silly. Maybe my mind will change by then, but still -- my biggest fear is not having enough money to take longer vacations and travel in between being professionally productive. I'm definitely not banking on social security to be my main source of retirement income.

The national online survey of 1,223 adults was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of ING DIRECT between February 18-19, 2009.