An AAPL a day…

Tuesday I bought two shares of stock in Apple.  Something I’d been meaning to do for many years, but for one reason or another I just never did.  Of course, when you put things off, sometimes the thing you want quickly climbs out of reach and you have to wait.  For a time when it becomes affordable again.

Now granted, I could have bought them a week earlier and ended up with 8 shares right now instead of 2, since Apple just recently split it’s stock 4-1, but to buy those 2 shares at that point would have cost me $1,008.  For me, like a lot of penny ante investors, it’s better to wait for something to be affordable, instead of betting the lunch money on something of this nature.  As people have often said about the stock market, you don’t put your ‘food money’ into it.  Put money that you can afford to lose, because there’s no guarantee you’re going to get rich there.

And over the last couple of days, that’s good advice as from where I bought it ($134) it’s gone down as much as $25 before creeping back up to $120 at the end of business today.  From what I’m reading in stock sheets, this is a predictable result of the stock split, and a lot of people getting into the market because of it, expecting large returns, since Apple is such a well known company.  Many don’t understand how the markets work, they expect it’s going to be a lot like ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, where you can just jump in, make huge plays and get rich.  What people don’t understand is, Jordan Belfort was a scammer, and cheating investors out of huge amounts of money.  He wasn’t in any stretch of the imagination a ‘white knight’, he was a pretty low down dirty scumbag when it comes right down to it.  Even he admitted that fact.

Needless to say, I don’t play the market to get rich.  Quite honestly I’m about as good at picking stocks as I was at playing poker online.  I mostly go for blue chip stocks, companies that have been around for a good amount of time (IBM, Xerox, AT&T etc.) and on occasion tech stocks that have had good returns in the past (Amazon, Tesla and yes Apple).  The one regret I do have is selling my Tesla stock a couple of years ago.  If I’d held onto it (bought it at $60/share) and sold it just before the stock split I would have made $10,000 on my investment.  But at the time I didn’t see the stock going anywhere, Tesla wasn’t really touted as being all that much, so I sold the stock when it was worth about $200.  I figured I made my best choice and I lived with it.  Seeing as Tesla was selling electric cars, it could have very easily gone the other way, since there are lots of other companies that tried to sell that item (Chevy Volt anyone?) and bombed spectacularly.

Even though as a rule I’m not overly thrilled with Apples products, and operating systems (to date I’ve owned two iPods, and iPad and that’s it) I can’t deny the company has been big on innovation.  And quite successful as well.  Granted Steve Jobs didn’t invent anything, Steve Wozniak was really the brains behind the Mac revolution.  Jobs was good at selling, and making himself the face of the company.  Even Woz admits that he basically left the company because he wasn’t having any fun with what he was doing there.  He took his stipend and went back to coding, and starting other businesses that fed his passion.  Jobs stayed in, and it could be argued that he worked himself to death there.  But his baby is flourishing.  And I’m going to get my piece of the pie.  Even if it’s a small slice.

Borrowing against the end

I had a little trouble coming up with a suitable title for this entry.  “Borrowing against the future” didn’t make a lot of sense, as you’ll soon find out, so I went with the other ‘side’ for lack of a better term.  You’ll see why as I get further in.

I’ve been paying into a life insurance policy since about 1995.  At that time I’d been working with my last previous employer for about 2 years and for whatever reason they contracted with the company Mass Mutual and sent in a rep to talk to all the employees about life insurance.  Specifically about buying a whole life policy that would have the payments taken monthly out of our paychecks.  Certainly it seemed at the time a harmless venture, the policy wasn’t going to be used for at least 40 years (or more hopefully) and as long as I kept up the payments, I wouldn’t have to be concerned that there was going to be a lapse and I’d lose the policy entirely.  So I, like many of my co-workers, signed on.

Going ahead fifteen years, when the company got into financial straits, they decided to part ways with Mass Mutual and everyone that still had a policy got a letter in the mail saying that if they wanted to continue their relationship, the payments were no longer going to be deducted monthly from our pay, that we had to come to some sort of arrangement with MM to have the payments come from our personal checking accounts or some other method of payment.  So I went with a quarterly which wasn’t terribly inconvenient and continued paying into the policy religiously.  At some point, I apparently took a loan against the policy for about $800, but never paid it back.  Every quarter I’d get a statement in the mail, letting me know the current payment was being deducted from my checking account and on the back it informed me that a paltry sum was being added onto the loan I’d taken out many years ago.  The loan interest was merely 3.5% per year, so the interest was never very large on what remained.

Over the last ten years, I’ve been incurring credit card debt.  And like so many people I’ve been interested in getting out of that debt and have been attempting to use the ‘baby-steps’ method created by a guy named Dave Ramsey many years ago.  The only problem is, I haven’t been able to curb my spending enough to stop using the damned cards that caused the debt, and many of them have such crushing interest rates that the amount I’ve been plowing in for the last couple of years is always offset by the interest that is added on at the end of the month.  So (for example) if I pay the minimum on all cards and then the rest of the amount I’ve set aside on the one card with the largest interest rate, the interest on all the smaller cards adds up again and negates that balloon payment on the largest one.  I just don’t seem to get ahead.  If anything, for the last six months or so, I’ve been backtracking incrementally.  And when you’re in hock for 5 figures, that adds up over time.

So, getting back to the insurance policy, I hit on an idea.  Even though I’d started paying off the loan again, the amount of payments I’d made into the policy was fairly substantial.  Considering I’m currently paying about 5 times what I’d be paying in interest on a loan against my life insurance policy, it made sense to max out the loan possibility and pay off almost all of the credit card debt at once.  I’d end up with about $1800 on the lowest rate card, and I could have that paid off in about 2 1/2 months.  At that point, so as not to decimate my good credit score, I’d start cancelling the larger interest rate cards I have, and just keep the lower ones.  Then I could be paying the money I’d set aside for CC debt into the life insurance policy and make damn sure I didn’t get into hock again.

So that’s what I did.  It took about a week for Mass Mutual to send me a check, and another week for my credit union to clear it.  As of this morning, I’m going to be setting my plan into motion.  I just have to make sure not to get into any miscues in the meantime.  Fingers, toes and eyes crossed.

Doldrums

January and February are what I have always referred to as the ‘doldrum’ months when it comes to work.  It’s the period just after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, when people are paying off their massive expenditures after Christmas, starting (and usually failing) in their New Years’ resolutions, and there’s less money and effort being spent on the necessities, not like the past two months.

I call it that, because the word so easily fits.  I remember from school when we were learning about the equatorial region of the planet, where the weather is fairly unpredictable in terms of wind, storms and so on, and I when I learned the word ‘doldrum’ it stuck with me.  As some words just do.  Rolls off the tongue, and it most definitely dovetails with the time that we’re in right now.

Everything right now is more sedate.  People aren’t so much in a hurry to get where they’re going, there’s not so much the same rapidity in sales plans for businesses, and your average family is budgeting for paying off their holiday bills and not yet gearing up for holidays to come (other than the occasional birthday or whatnot), they’re pacing through the months just waiting for Spring to arrive so they can work towards the summer months that are on the way.

And tax season.