Saturday, August 26, 2017

Thoughts on speculation and diversification and what I did today.

Yesterday after work a few of us went to a bar near the office to celebrate a coworker's birthday. Since this place has expensive and limited drinks as well as not very accurate service I didn't drink anything except a sip of whiskey and left when my desire for supper was too strong around 10:30.
One of the topics was cryptocurrency or blockchain currency speculation like with Bitcoin and Ethereum.  At least two of my coworkers "invest" or speculate in those new currencies and of course they are very happy with their performance this last year. Of course investing in cryptocurrencies is like real estate around 2006, very in.

I personally don't have a problem with it as a concept, but since I've always thought of it as being more like gambling or trading than "real investing" I've been hesitant to experiment with it, just as I've been hesitant to buy gold coins or commodities. Even when I went to a conference in Las Vegas I had no desire to gamble.

After getting home I had something to eat and I went to bed. 
Today, Saturday, I was fortunate to not have to work from home. I started thinking about 1. I could try a little speculation with a very small amount say what I could save in one pay period. In other words an amount I wouldn't really miss if the experiment became worthless once the cryptocurrency of choice's bubble bursts. and 2. I should really work on diversifying my savings more especially considering Trump's efforts to disrupt trade, human dignity, etc.

I know you must be wondering how I'd think about speculating a tiny bit and increasing my diversification more. Well, in a very broad sense, to someone who has made perhaps a lot of money in Bitcoin in the last year or last few years, putting savings in a fund that invests in the IPC or S&P 500 or even treasure bills would be speculation!  The difference of course is in risk and strategy.  Investing in a single anything is very risky, remember Enron? Whenever someone tells you that something "always goes up" in value, just try to recall the tech bubble and later the real estate bubble. Most things are cyclical and real estate usually more or less follows inflation once you subtract taxes and repairs.

We don't know what will happen tomorrow, in the next 12 months or the next 10 years, which is why I don't want to become a stock picker or a day trader. It makes a lot more sense to use low-cost ETFs and just go for the ride's ups and downs.  I figure that if I can spread out what little I have (and in American terms it is very little!) as much as possible, it will be more stable if NAFTA renegotiations don't go well or whatever the next world crisis happens to be.

My advice is to only experiment on no more than 10% of your savings and only do that if you know you won't miss it if the experiment (or speculation) doesn't work out.

I spent a few hours going through Blackrock and Vanguard ETF lists looking for global low-cost funds that invest in multiple counties so I wouldn't be so heavy on North America. If I were a trader, I'd say this isn't a good time to invest in international funds since they've gone up so much, but I'm looking to diversify, not time the market. Eventually market sentiment will change. Valuations will go up and down in different areas. Perhaps we will all be using Ethereum or perhaps we'll all be using silver coins!  I just hope you don't put all your eggs in one basket.

What did I do for my artistic side today? I only processed some image for upload. It was a stressful week.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The power of automation

During the last 24 hours, yes even during work, I was reflecting on the importance and power of automating as an artist and in personal finance.

As an artist automation is important in posting and sharing artwork. I haven't made any browser scripts for getting artwork on POD sites, but I'll use RSS feeds and different services to repost new artwork to tumbler, my Google plus page, Pinterest, linkedin, etc. which leaves me with only a few other sites to directly share to via browser bookmarks.  Yes, it took time to set up and requires retooling when a service closes its doors, but when you are busy creating it is necessary.

The use of macros or "actions" in Photoshop as well as scripting also help with resizing images and applying effects. Again this also requires maintenance, but it is much faster than going through the steps one by one if you can even remember them.

In personal finance automation is essential since I don't have the time nor the desire to track every peso I spend. Instead I automatically put aside money to different accounts through direct withdrawals I have set up. This is great when you have a regular job or know that you'll make at least a certain amount of money every month.  A tiny amount (about what you'd spend on a value meal at Burger King or McDonald's) automatically goes every week to my AFORE (similar to an IRA) and every week a larger amount goes to an account that invests in the equivalent of treasury bills. While it isn't a lot of money, it makes a difference over the year and helps prepare me for emergencies and whatever else might come my way.  I know there are people who are truly just getting by without internet, cell phones, etc. who can't save), the rest of us can automate at least a little savings which we eventually get used to and if it is low (say less than 20%) we probably don't even notice it is being taken out after a few months.
If you are saving for larger goals like buying a house, land or early retirement (or you just started saving late for regular retirement)  I'd encourage you to set a higher percent when setting up your automated savings and investment.  30-40% is good for many people who don't want to go extreme but have important savings goals. If it is automated, you'd be more likely to stick with it when your bank account starts to get low because it would require effort to pause, cancel or adjust it as opposed to the effort taken to make the bank transfer to move the money on a regular basis.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Are you spending your time (and money) according to what is important to you?

I am the last person to presume to have it all figured out.  I am jealous of those who seem to have everything just right and perfectly clean clothes and a perfectly organized room.

My brain doesn't work that way. I get easily distracted, but I have learned that if you can't micro-manage your time, you can manage your time according to priorities.

A friend was asking for advice for what I'd do if I had an extra 150,000 pesos. I told him I'd put about 5000 in cash, 95,000 in CETES (Mexican version of T-bills) and the rest of it in half of a US based broad market ETF and half in a Mexican market based ETF.

Most people in Mexico do not invest. There is great mistrust of banks in general as well as of the government so people don't save much except for very short term goals and often equate investing with gambling or day-trading which it shouldn't be if you are doing it right.

He wanted me to recommend companies, the best companies, for his new hypothetical stock portfolio and I told him that I didn't have time nor the desire to pour through financial reports, etc of companies to make that kind of list. Why do that when I can buy funds that invest in many companies and spend my time and energy on other things? He seemed surprised and I don't think he really believed me. He thinks that's my thing, what I like.  Investing for me isn't stock picking and it definitely isn't currency speculation or any other form of gambling. I just want to be prepared for the future, don't you?

Just as I don't prioritize time to research companies (and probably never will), I don't prioritize going out to get drunk or many other things people love doing. It is my choice.

I might not be wired to be able to program every minute of every day, but I can prioritize what is important to me.

Are you spending your time doing things that help you reach what you truly want out of life or are you just following the crowd?

My challenge to you is to meditate on where you want to be in 5, 10 and 25 years and write it down.
After a few days get the list out go though it and set realistic and concrete goals to reach one of them.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How much of it is a dream?

The last few days I've been trying to find a balance between my job and the long hours I spend there, my time to rest and recover from the stress of translation work, and my efforts to get everything up-to-date again. 

Today I started looking through some of the auxiliary websites we often use to share and promote our artwork and other products to expand our networks or in reality to just get a little exposure since everyone else is doing the same!  I updated my buffer account which I had been using to cross-post to my Google Plus page somehow it had gotten unlinked or perhaps the authorization expired and had to be updated. 

In a way it is a relief to not feel the pressure to support myself from artwork alone, but having a full time job leaves a short time before going to bed to do any artwork and even less time for processing, uploading and adding descriptions and finally sharing those products on social networks so people actually see what you were working on.

Before I got my previous job and was working freelance I spent about 4 hours a day sharing links and about another 4 or 5 hours uploading images, both new and updated images for new products and I'd often spend another 4 hours a day creating new designs. 

I've decided to not let myself get overwhelmed and to take my time even if it just means uploading or updating no more than what I can count on one hand. 

I may not become the full time artist I dreamed of becoming, but I can still share with the world and at least have a small hobby income that might pay a bill or two like before.