Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Investing with Robinhood

I have long been a fan of services that offer low-cost investing products, such as DRIPS (Dividend Reinvestment Plans). Some companies even offer their employees a plan to purchase company stock without fees. For a time, there was even Sharebuilder (now Capital One Investing), which allowed for purchasing stock for fixed fees per month. But now, Robinhood has come onto the stage.

As great as the options I mentioned are, they have limitations. DRIPs, for example, typically limit you to one stock. You then have to shop around to other companies and set up other accounts there. It's not a giant hassle; but, it's a hassle. I liked Sharebuilder too; but, there was still some cost involved. I found myself having to accumulate my deposits to buy stocks in batches in order to reduce my cost.

This is all outside of retirement plans such as 401ks, SEPs, and IRAs. Those typically allow you to purchase fractional shares, add regular amounts of money, and automatically dollar cost average, for a hefty load by the mutual funds and the plan administrators. 

In other words, the free options were a pain. The easy options were heavy on fees. 

Recently, with the launch of Robinhood, an iOS app that lets you buy and sell stock with no transaction fees, I'm excited to start investing again. 

Having no transaction fees makes it easy to buy single shares rather than waiting until you have a few hundred dollars saved up to make the commission a small percentage of the cost. The advantage of Robinhood is that you an start earning on your investment immediately rather than every few weeks or days when you save up enough money to buy a batch. Your only limit is the cost of the stock. 

Prior to Robinhood, I was a big fan of Loyal3. No, let me rephrase that. I still like Loyal3 even though it has limits to what you can buy. I like that Loyal3 lets me get in on IPOs and allows me to buy fractional shares. But, they do not offer a wide selection of stocks. On the other hand, the stocks they do offer are pretty good ones. I am happy to continue buying them through Loyal3. If you can only stash $10, you can buy $10 dollars worth of stock. That's cool. 

Robinhood, on the other hand, gives you the whole market to buy. If you are looking at a $100 stock but can only stash $50, then you'll have to wait until you deposit some more. But, at least you can buy the one share if that's all you can squeeze. 

What social media did for news and entertainment, Robinhood is doing for investors. Robinhood brings down the scale of the market to give the little guy a shot at making some returns. 

I don't think we'll see day traders rocking Robinhood. These guys have computers with multiple monitors and super fast Internet connections. Robinhood only works on iOS. In this respect, Robinhood is to discount brokers what blogs are to big news organizations. Yes, you can succeed, but there is a big difference in scale. 

I have just begun on my Robinhood adventure. I'm hunting for dividends. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Time For Everything

This morning I sold a twin bed. I spoke with the buyer last night after he saw the ad on Craigslist. We agreed to meet at 7:30 am. 

The buyer was curious this morning because I mentioned that I get up early. He asked if I was in the military. I told him that I was not. 

I get up early just so I can go walking, I told him. I have learned that waiting for when I have time to start doing important things results in not doing anything. The time never comes. You have to make time to do those things that are important. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

From Poor Sleeper to Good Sleeper

Tonight, while walking in the park, I was listening to the Freakonomics podcast. The latest episode is Part 1 of The Economics of Sleep. It is a very fascinating episode, although I typically find their topics very compelling. It brings to mind my evolved relationship to sleep.

Back (way back) in my University days, I used to think of sleep as something necessary that had to be gotten out of the way. I would squeeze it in wherever I could fit it. In some instances, I would sleep at least four hours and then schedule naps during the day. I guess this was some sort of polyphasic sleep, which changed over time.

One year, my roommate was amazed that he ever saw me. I would be up and out of the dorm before he woke up. I'd go to bed long after he'd gone to sleep. Of course, he never saw me slip in a nap here and there while he was in class during the daytime.

In short, I had little regard for sleep other than getting in minimum quantities and little recharge sessions here and there.

When those days were over, I continued to stay up past midnight and wake up early for no good reason. My natural wake-up time is around 9 am. So, whether I went to bed early or late, I'd wake up around 9 am on my own. Of course, life requires 6 am wake-ups to deal with family needs. During those turbulent, non-college days; I was lost. Much of my life is a blur. I did a lot; but, I had no focus or direction.

I finally started getting to the point where I realize that there was no need to be pushing myself so hard if I wasn't going to strive for anything bigger. I got to a point where I was very unhappy with where my life was headed. I had one of those life-changing realizations that I needed to change my life around, I was going nowhere. Life could be better; and I had to make it happen.

Part of that change involved going to bed at a decent time. It is still very easy for me to stay up late doing things like reading blog posts, watching videos, or other non-essential things. However, I had decided that I should at least try to go to bed by 10 pm and sleep shortly thereafter.

Since that time, my life has slowly changed for the better. I no longer worry about my future. I am more clear-headed, which I thought was something I had lost forever. Overall, I'm a happier person.

To be fair, I can't say that the good night's sleep is what is changing my life around, or the decision to practice a better lifestyle. Let me just say that now that I have grown accustomed to getting a full night's rest, I do not enjoy doing without. Even an hour or two of sleep deficit makes things difficult for me. Mundane tasks become a challenge.

It makes me wonder if a good portion of my struggles and life were in part caused by poor sleep habits. It is apropos to say "sleep habits" because I have always been a good sleeper. Once I'm unconscious, there is no more world until morning or a full bladder. I don't know how I can sleep through disturbances, yet have no problem waking up to an alarm. But, that's another issue.

So, could my life have been better if I were more disciplined about going to bed on time and waking up with a full night's rest? I can only say that things are better now. I'm more focused and I drink less. These also contribute to a better life; but, does sleep make these possible?

I look forward to listening to Part 2 of the podcast when it comes out. Some of the data thus far seems to show that sleep does have correlations with income and health. I could not help but compare my experiences to the lives of those studied for sleep data.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Quest for a Hot Dog

Hot Dogs_02
Hot Dogs by rob_rob2001

Tonight, I came home from work a little bit later than usual. It was important to get home before sunset as I wanted to clean out an air conditioner window unit. There is plenty of humidity where we live, so they tend to grow mildew. It is a bit of a chore to remove the unit, open it up, spray it with Lysol mildew remover, and then put everything back.

One thing that makes doing outdoor work less of a chore is that my youngest daughter plays outside when one of us is outside. She will not play outside alone. So, once "we" finished outside, we came in and washed up.

My daughter is a skinny little thing. So, when she decides to eat, we encourage it. Tonight, she wanted a hot dog. Ruffling through the refrigerator, we found some weenies. I put a pot of water to boil to cook the franks. The coloring on the weenies did not look right. On further inspection, they looked spotted, as if mold might be starting. I told Io that the weenies were bad; and I tossed out the package.

We generally do not cater to our children. They eat whatever we serve. However, we did not make dinner tonight. Furthermore, she didn't know what else to eat. I saw her hunting for something else to eat with no success. What is a father to do?

So I put a pot to simmer and told Io to put on her shoes. We would go to the store. The trip is not very far; the grocery store is a few blocks away. We rode with the windows down. We picked up some Angus beef franks and shredded cheddar. This is far from an epic story.

I think the reason this seemed worth remarking is that it was one special thing to do for one child. We could have fed her something else. But, she wanted a hot dog. Before deciding to go, I mulled the decision over in my mind. It is a short trip. Franks do not cost very much. And, we could spend a little time doing something together.

As I write this, she is telling me a story that we started yesterday when discussing that movies have writers. They start with a story idea and then flesh out the story with details and dialog. So last night, she had a rough idea about the story. Tonight, she is giving me the full script. I guess a bedtime story is my reward for getting her something to eat. We do things for each other.