Archive | Alternative Investments

Profitable Passions

The concept of investing has in recent years taken on a new form. Younger investors are more likely to shy away from traditional investments such as stocks and bonds, and more likely to invest in what they know. The older investing generations bought and sold their retirement on the traditional venues, while the younger generation has been birthing a new trend. Investing in profitable passions, younger investors are using non-traditional methods to secure the longer term ability to build and retain wealth.

Investing in ArtProfitable Passions 1

Investing in art may not seem contrary to traditional ties to investing in one’s passion, but the style in which are becoming popular may challenge conventional thought. Art is often a gamble and usually because of trends that swing depending on the culture that approves and disapproves to what can be considered art. Historically speaking it has not been uncommon that what may be considered to be masterful works now, had not been the case during the artist’s lifetime. Investing in art over a long term can land investors some serious cash, if they are passionate and informed about certain works and artists, whom produce and can pay off higher than the initial cost of investing.

Investing in Automobiles

Investing in automobiles is not so much tricky as it is understanding the market and value of the brand long term. Everyone likes looking at cars, especially the expensive ones that are only available to a certain income bracket. But being able to afford a Rolls Royce doesn’t mean that you are any more savvy an investor in automobiles than someone who owns a 1972 Corvette Stingray. There are variables to look into and not just relying on the invoice cost of a car. For example, a 1956 Chevy Corvette brand new only cost about $5,000. Today that same car in mint condition sells for over $90,000 dollars. Not just because it is the first year the car was made available to the public, but because of the limited number that have survived since then to today. Automobiles, at least here in the U.S. remind us of our youth and the freedom that comes with it. In the mentality, automobile enthusiast are able to turn a passion into profit.

Investing in Coin

Investing in coin is not far from that traditional route previously established, however a true coin collector knows exactly what to look for and how much old coins can be worth. If you have ever started looking at the dates on the bottom of the coins in your pocket, clearly the date at the bottom is the year it was minted. Big deal. But it can be a big deal, depending on the year it was minted and the location. People who are passionate about collecting coin understand that at one point in the U.S. there were multiple mint locations set up, some of which have since closed. Many coins from these closed mints are still in circulation and worth more than just face value. While some coins from the early 1900’s are worth only a few cents more than face value, others are worth upwards of a $100 dollars per coin depending on age, damages or defacing, and location of minting. Investing in coin is one of the easiest ways to turn old money into new money.

Investing in Comic Books

A childhood passion which was sold relatively cheap, like really cheap – 12 cents or less for some. However there is a huge fan base already established, and whether you are young or old, it is easy to get lost in the fantasy of your favorite superhero or villain. Back in 2010, a June 1938 Action Comic which was originally sold for 12 cents, sold at auction for $2 million dollars. While it is often a gamble in looking to see what franchise will ascend into glory, following the various universes and types of comic books, real passionate investors understand that while this may be considered to be that of the ultimate alternative investment, it is one that can pay off! Investing in comic books is a great way to turn a passion into profit while remaining in a league that you understand.

Investing in WineProfitable Passions

Investing in wine may seem like a bad idea, especially when cost per bottle depending on the brand may outweigh the cost of a case. However, by following the trends, one might realize that currently world consumption of wine is at an all time high. And if you happen to be part of the consumer market interested in wine, you may be entering into a safe investment.

The key to profitable passions is understanding that you can make money or a profit on the things you enjoy. Sometimes investing is stressful, so by investing in the passions you enjoy, you are more likely to be less stressed because you understand and look forward to the investment of your money. Suddenly investing doesn’t have to be so nerve wrecking because you understand it!

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Keep Your Bitcoins Safe


Don’t let What Happened to Mt. Gox Bitcoiners Happen To You

mt gox collapseOver the past few weeks we all watched the complete collapse of the largest Bitcoin Exchange Mt. Gox. In just a bit we will get into the rumors and causes of this collapse, but for now I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few ways you can prevent this and keep bitcoins safe. As Bitcoin moves forward there will undoubtedly be threats to security, new exchanges, and current exchanges going out of business. The technology is so new that these bumps in the road are inevitable. I think the one thing Bitcoin has shown society as a whole this past week is that it will prevail despite what happens to individual companies in the market.

In its brief history we can point to several examples where the price of Bitcoin has gone into sharp decline due to outside force. Here is a quick history of events that caused steep declines in prices to bitcoin:
1. Late 2011 – The value of one bitcoin rapidly rose from about US$0.30 to US$32 before returning to US$2.
2. March 2013 – A technical glitch which caused the block chain to fork into two parts made core developers halt trading causing a rapid sell-off.
3. December 5, 2013 – The People’s Bank of China prohibited Chinese financial institutions from using bitcoin.
4. February 2014 – Mt. Gox halts trading and withdrawals from its exchange. Speculation swirls on the potential bankruptcy of the exchange.

The one thing in common with most of these sharp declines is that their was hackers that threatened the security of the currency itself or an exchange. During these times Bitcoin prevailed and was able to recover to its previous prices before the attacks.

Store Your Bitcoins Offline

The people that have lost the ability to withdraw their Bitcoins from Mt. Gox are in a really tough position. Right now they can trade their Mt. Gox coins on Bitcoin Builder, but prices of coin are currently trading at .08 to 1. People with their money tied up in Mt. Gox can only hope they will ever see their money again.

Keep Bitcoins Safe on A Cold Storage Wallet

Unfortunately, these people could have prevented this from ever happening to them by taking their bitcoins out of the exchange and storing them on an offline (cold wallet). Personally, I store all my Bitcoins on my Armory Wallet on a computer that is not connected to the internet. This keeps my Bitcoins much safer then storing them in an online wallet or exchange. Also, if I traded using Mt. Gox (which I never did) I would have had all my coins in my Armory wallet and not stored on the exchange itself.

Armory Wallet

armory wallet
Bitcoin Armory is widely recognized as the safest and most secure Bitcoin Wallet. Users have several options they can store their coin in their wallet on their computer, they can move their wallet to a removable USB drive, or they can store their coins on a piece of paper. The Armory Wallet is called a cold storage wallet, because it is not connected to the internet, thus greatly reducing the chances of your Bitcoins being hacked, stolen, or lost due to bad business.

Set-up Bitcoin Armory

Setting up Bitcoin Armory is no easy task. You want to find a computer you can use just for Bitcoin, and not need it to connect to the internet with on a daily basis. For most people this would be an older laptop computer that they no longer use for anything else. You will also need to install a copy of Bitcoin QT for the Armory Wallet.

Once you download Bitcoin Armory you will need an entire weekend to install it (on an older computer). Before the wallet can be used the entire block chain must be validated to make sure everything is running correctly on the wallet before proceeding to using it for transactions. This process is very heavy on your computers processor, because it must process every Bitcoin transaction that has ever happened. Hence, the longer you wait to set up your wallet the longer it will take for the wallet to process all the transactions (as more days pass).

Here are some quick tips:
– Make sure you make a random password of numbers, letters and symbols.
– Store this password in a safe place.
– Create a backup for this password and store it in another safe place.
– Let the Wallet Install and leave the computer alone until it is finished.
– To speed up the process see if you can download a copy of the block chain. YOur computer will still have to authenticate it, but you will shave hours off the process.

The Armory Wallet does not have a password recovery feature. If you lose your password you will lose your coin and you will never be able to recover it. I made printed out 2 copies of my wallet and have one stored in a safety lock box at home and another stored in a safety deposit box in the bank.

Other Cold Wallets & Methods

keep bitcoins safe
1. MultiBit
2. Hive
3. Dark Wallet
4. Physical Bitcoin – Minted Coins with fixed amount of Bitcoins stored on it.

Closing Thoughts

All of the above mentioned wallets are wallets that are meant for desktop computers. However, they offer features that allow you to store your Bitcoins on paper, flash drives or back-up devices. It is wise to store the majority of your coin in a cold wallet and keep only the amount you need to make trades or purchases in your desktop or online wallet. You can easily move your coins in and out of your cold storage wallet when you need more funds or want to take some funds and make them secure.

Bitcoin has limitless potential, which is why there are so many people who truly believe in the currency as a long-term stable currency used worldwide. Admittedly there are still many drawbacks to the currency as it is still so new. This uncertainty creates great opportunity for investors looking for a alternative investment. While the kinks are still being ironed out it is best to take extreme caution and store your Bitcoins offline where the chances of stolen coin becomes very very small.

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4 Ways to Invest your Income Tax Return

Tax season is upon us as many look forward to their tax return. Many over pay their income taxes throughout the year and will get some percentage of their income back. You can invest your income tax return into bettering your future or beginning to wealth build for a more financially secure retirement and future. Following these 4 ways to invest your tax return other than spending that money, can allow you to achieve significant gains in either the short or long term!

income tax returnPurchase IRAs

The best way to look at income tax return money is to view it as a small bonus at the end of the year that you aren’t taxed on by receiving. So why not invest this amount of money into your future by letting it work for you. Whether it be a traditional IRA or a ROTH IRA, you would be giving yourself an opportunity to wealth build and save for retirement with money that had not been planned for in your monthly and yearly budgets. The benefits of buying an IRA can give you a head start on your retirement planning and help set you up on the path of a secure financial future.

401(k)

Invest your tax return into your 401(k). Now technically you can’t invest extra money into your 401(k), but there is a loophole through which you would able to invest the sum of your return into your 401(k). Technically the only way to invest your 401(k), is to have a percentage of your pay taken out every pay period, usually matched by your employer; however, there is another way. Just for explanation purposes let’s say you make $1000 dollars a month. After paying your taxes and various forms of insurance payments, you can live on the difference of what is left which for the purpose of this example is $800 dollars. You can actually write off these living expenses and have you next paycheck redirected into your 401(k). This option of investing your paycheck into your 401(k) is best done when you and your benefits or human resource officer is aware of how you want the money handled.

Penny Stocksincome tax return 2

The benefit of using your tax return to invest in penny stocks can yield great returns. In fact the real benefit in using your income tax return to invest in penny stocks over those in more traditional stocks comes from the lower cost. By purchasing stocks at a lower cost, you give yourself a greater opportunity for success because you will be able to either buy more stock for the same amount of money or better diversify your investments. If you are a novice investor looking to invest in start ups, smaller companies, or even just earn the best ways to invest, penny stocks are the way to go. Essentially you are using all this bonus money which won’t detract from your normal living and saving funds, giving you an edge over the person next to you.

Invest in You

Often when invest our money we tend to overlook the easiest investment that never seems to be a logical one when we rationalize investing our money. Yet investing in yourself is one of the safest and best ways to invest your money for the future. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start a small business on the side but never had the money, or wanted to start blogging about topics or industry’s you are fond of, but never saw the time or outlet. Taking your income tax refund and applying it to these types of ventures can have a two-fold return in your life. On one hand you may be able to make some money on the side where your hobby or passion may be able to generate additional income. Almost everyone who has worked in various industries has dreamed of being their own boss. By investing your tax return into yourself, this dream can very much become a reality. On the other hand, your overall happiness will improve your quality of life and make life more enjoyable. Anytime you can turn a passion into a way of life, your stress levels will certainly dissipate making life more worthwhile.

The key to investing in your future comes from the actions you take today. Investing your income tax return into your future, either short term or long term for retirement purposes can yield great long term returns. The key to a financially secure future starts with the knowledge and willingness to take even a small amount of money from say, your income tax returns, and branching out by investing in 401(k), IRAs, penny stocks, and yes, even yourself. It is never too late to start looking to wealth build and better your future financially.

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Is It Time To Buy Bitcoin?


Bitcoin Trading At Lowest Price in 2014

time to buy bitcoinFor those who have been tracking Bitcoin lately the coins are trading at the lowest prices so far in 2014. Right now (2/16/14 1:20 A.M.) the coins are trading at $648 to USD on Bitstamp. While there has been some turbulence in the marketplace thus far in 2014 Bitcoin has recovered each time a “catastrophe” has happened. Right now there are currently 12.4 million coins in existence with a market cap of $8.1 billion. Due to the latest drop in price many are wondering if it is Time To Buy Bitcoin?

If we look closely at the most recent events that have transpired its easy to see why the prices have fallen so sharply for the third time in 2014. This time the drop in price was caused by Mt. Gox (an exchange based in Japan) that has halted any withdrawals from their exchange. The reason why Mt. Gox has halted withdrawal is due to a technical problem with the way transactions are processed. It’s a complicated to comprehend if you are not very tech savvy and understand the procedure behind a bitcoin transaction.

Here is Mt. Gox’s Non-technical explanation on the matter:
“A bug in the bitcoin software makes it possible for someone to use the Bitcoin network to alter transaction details to make it seem like a sending of bitcoins to a bitcoin wallet did not occur when in fact it did occur. Since the transaction appears as if it has not proceeded correctly, the bitcoins may be resent. MtGox is working with the Bitcoin core development team and others to mitigate this issue.” Mt. Gox Statement Regarding BTC Withdrawl Delays.

For those of you who have a more technical understanding of the coin a full explanation is made available later in the article mentioned above.

Whether or not this is the case or the whole truth behind why Mt. Gox has halted Trading (there have been rumors speculating that they are sitting on a house of cards and do not have the reserve requirements to fulfill withdrawal requests) the market has shot downward presenting yet another opportunity for new and interested buyers to take the plunge and purchase some coin. Let’s discuss some options below.

Higher Risk Equals Higher Reward

Right now new buyers have 2 options when it comes to purchasing Bitcoin.
1. Roll The Dice
2. Play It Safe

Option 1
mt go bitcoinThe price of Bitcoin’s on Mt. Gox is significantly lower than market value on other exchanges due to the fact that users on the exchange can not withdraw their money or their Bitcoin. Other major exchanges such as Bitstamp and Coinbase have prices currently holding around $650.00 USD. Mt. Gox, however, is currently trading at $279.99 (2/16/14 1:50 A.M.). So if you are interested in getting a deep discount you have a chance to get Bitcoins at 43% of face value. The risk is that you will not be able to withdraw your coin or your money and Mt. Gox Collapses.

With new technologies errors are expected from time to time and it has not been smooth sailing for Bitcoin since it was created back in 2009. There was a hack that crashed the entire market back in 2011 and there has been new such as China banning Financial Institutions from trading Bitcoin along the way. Major negatives for an outside investor who doesn’t understand the market. While many of these things were bad for Bitcoin in general Mt. Gox has had its own issues through the years. For those of you who are not familiar with the exchange here is a quick summary. Mt. Gox was the world’s largest exchange, but many investors who have been with Bitcoin from the beginning were not to fond of it. The owner of the exchange is a bit of an oddball and the exchange has some powerful people (in the Bitoin Community) behind it, but many have not trusted it fully. If you do want to take a huge gamble you have the opportunity to get some very cheaply priced bitcoin currently on Mt. Gox.

Option 2
buy bitcoin on bitstampFor those of you who don’t like to take on that much risk (especially, since the investment itself is very volatile) other exchanges such as Bitstamp and Coinbase offer a much safer trading option then Mt. Gox. Since, Mt. Gox was the largest exchange the news from them has dragged down the entire market from price stabilizing around $900 to prices between $450 and $650 USD the past few days. Right now is an opportunity to get in at a low price. Assuming Mt. Gox doesn’t fully collapse.

buy bitcoin on coinbaseIf you have legitimate concerns about a full collapse on Mt. Gox (like myself) then perhaps a progressive buying strategy would be a wise choice for your investment. In short, a progressive buying strategy is an incremental investment in an asset. To do this simply calculate how much money you are willing to invest in Bitcoin and divvy it up into smaller investments over time. As the price of Bitcoin falls (due to bad news) your investments incrementally increase so you an purchase the coin at a lower average price. Of course, if the price of coin soars you don’t make any further investments, but you will make money on the portion you invested in. Typically, when doing a progressive strategy I like to double my investment each time, and make new investments after a 15% fall.

For instance lets say I had $10,000 to invest. I was interested in purchasing Bitcoin, but worried the price was going to continue to fall. I would take my investment and split it into several portions of $625.00, $1,250.00, $2,500.00, and $5,000.00. The first purchase I make would be at $650.00 (for this example), and I would get almost 1 coin. The second purchase would be at $552.00 (650 x .85 = $552.00). This would roughly equal 2.25 coins. The third investment would occur at $470, and I would accumulate 5.32 coins. Finally, the final investment would occur at $400 and I would accumulate 12.5 coins. This would make an average price per coin of $474.00. If after the first investment the price of coin rises then I would simply save the rest of the money for another opportunity.

The Time To Buy Bitcoin Is Now

Right now I consider Bitcoin a strong buy due to the current environment the price of coin is at the lowest levels of 2014. Looking at technical indicators such as moving averages, bollinger bands, and bar charts the price of coin compared to YTD is at breakout levels. The price of the coin will be largely influenced by the events that transpire at Mt. Gox whether you are using that exchange or not. Knowing this it I would suggest the tiered (progressive) investment strategy that I outlined above. The news from camp Gox should be coming any day now and users of that exchange and investors on other exchanges will have a clearer picture (maybe as soon as today). Watch the developments closely if you are interested in purchasing coin. Before the news breaks I would suggest taking a chance at investing now. If favorable news hits early you will miss out on this great opportunity. If bad news breaks you will have a chance to get more coin for an even cheaper price.

buy bitcoin ytd price
Photo Courtesy of: Bitcoin Charts

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Investing in Caterpillar

Investing is not always the most clear cut form of long term money growth and wealth building. Every now and then there are companies that practically hand over their brand name and seemingly serve success on a silver platter. Through smart internal restructuring, and allocating funds away from costly projects and departments and into marketing and profitable departments. Caterpillar has shown investors that despite failing global demands for new construction and mining equipment. Investing in Caterpillar as company is not just a smart choice, but is an investment in an industry leader whom intends to stay on top. Last quarter proved to be a very successful one for Caterpillar. It spent money on revamping not only itself, but also by making the necessary adjustment to solidify itself as a strong contender in the global market, and a worthy company to continue on in its rich manufacturing history.

Cutting CostsInvesting in Caterpillar 2

Caterpillar in the last quarter of 2013 made tremendous strides towards improving their stock prices and effectively solidifying their place as a provider of heavy equipment, engines, and generators. While historically Caterpillar has been a strong company with a clear line of sight within the projections of their intended markets, the global economy has also made Caterpillar a victim of circumstance. But unlike most victims of circumstance, often the winners are not the ones who lie down and let circumstance rule their business model. Caterpillar cut costs by shutting down plants and laying off an expensive workforce, in under producing areas. Just by closing ineffective plants and cutting expensive programs, just in the last year, Caterpillar was able to save itself roughly two billion dollars, in just one year! That money was then redistributed amongst the company, and reinvested in acquiring new ways of marketing to newer markets and customers.

Maintaining Repeat Customers

Often the first advice any senior investor gives to a novice investor, is to look at how the market changes over time and if you are going to invest in a company that manufactures a product, make sure that the product is something that doesn’t last forever, because in order to make a profit, servicing and new sales will guarantee steady profits. Since construction, mining, and heavy equipment don’t usually come to mind when applying this type of advice, it is none the less applicable. This is the same kind of thinking that the Caterpillars board had when they approved a company wide ten billion dollar buy back of old and outdated equipment. Think when investing in Caterpillar, of a company that understands that the importance of productivity not just on the internal production side of their own company, but of the companies that purchase their equipment and rely on the machinery on a day to day basis for profit and success as well. Caterpillar is virtually synonymous with constructing and mining equipment, whether you are a child playing with toy trucks and heavy equipment, or a construction company or professional looking for equipment that not only last but perform, a handful of names come to mind, Caterpillar usually being in the top spots.

Investing in Caterpillar 3Profit and Stock Price

One year ago as of last quarter, Caterpillar reported a total quarter profit of about 26 million dollars. Now fast forward to the 4th quarter in 2013, the reported profit hit just over 500 million dollars in profit. By enacting these small changes in how the company has reinvested in the future of their company, brought on significant results. While stateside, the housing and construction industries have slowed, even as the recession is apparently starting to dissolve; Caterpillar has invested in the markets where economic growth have begun to boost. While the U.S. may still be struggling, economically speaking, China has risen slightly each year with interior renovation projects of the infrastructure in modernizing the country. Heavy equipment sales in China have risen remarkably well. 2014, according to economists and Caterpillar, see that China’s economy will continue to rise at least another 7.5% just in the next year alone. Between last year and this upcoming year, Caterpillar has noticed a 30% rise in profits as far as their excavators and construction equipment. As China grows, so to do the countries globally linked to mining and 3rd world development pushing for the rise in mining and construction and heavy equipment sales. By the end of 2013’s 4th quarter, Caterpillar stock prices were only just slightly below $90.00 per share, boosting the market in that sector almost on its own.

Investing in Caterpillar is showing itself to be an easy and safe bet. This years projection is already at $56 billion and although that is slightly behind what was made last year at this time, the renovation of Caterpillar now will prove invaluable. By simply cutting costs and reinvesting in the future and profit projections of the company, understanding the growing markets in Asia and the demands of prior customers, Caterpillar has already taken the necessary steps in continual profit building and long term success.

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Auto Sales in China

China has a population of just over one billion persons. As the country had started to do so in the late 1970s and early 1980s, opening up their economy to western companies, the value China has become to the rest of the global economy is almost immeasurable. With new technologies and more fuel efficient vehicles being produced on a larger scale, the new market in China offers car manufacturers a new market and endless possibilities in factoring new profit in meeting new demands. Auto sales in China, by foreign auto makers has only recently become a solid and viable option, as the youthful generation, and the affluent alike search for global icons, especially American car companies, in the automobile industry, not the home based companies that have ruled China in the last few decades.

Auto SalesWhy China?

China is home to roughly 1.3 billion people, with a geography nationally, that is very demanding. While we tend to think of China as huge land mass, the eastern coast of China is much more modernized than the interior. The Eastern Coast, heavily populated demands more fuel efficient cars, smaller, and more compact, while the interior which composes much more of a farming and ranching population, needs work trucks more than smaller cars. While there are domestic car manufacturers, the demands they are meeting are slim. Almost simply put; the production capability of Ford and GM, Volkswagen, and other foreign to China, car companies have the abilities and funding to meet the demands that have been growing in China over the last few decades. Japanese and Korean car companies already have a foothold in the Chinese market, being domestic and cheap enough to be easily attained, yet the American car companies have been doing just as well on their own, primarily on the used car market. While used cars are selling stateside with a premium, the manufacturers themselves, almost double their profits by shipping used cars overseas to meet the demands, of a hungry market, often unwilling to pay for new car prices. So China has become what was previously an untouchable market, offering a strong and stable platform for present and future sales.

Why American Car Companies have a shotAuto sales 1

Unlike the Japanese or the German car companies that have been selling in China for the last few decades, the American car companies have only very recently broken into the Chinese market. Just like anything sold here stateside, something that is new, often is hard to keep in stock. The same principle is often duplicated where ever there is a new product open to the general population. Ford alone last year, saw a 30 percent increase in sales over its other American competitors, just in China alone. Ford, rather than GM or Chrysler, currently stands to gain the most in China, simply for two main and constant reasons. The first being the overall management and forward thinking at the upper management level that has guided and continued to bring Ford overall success in any market, while we have seen the global economy slow depending on regional economic standings. Ford has pulled through these issues, standing out among its counterparts, drawing a clear line of success between them, and their competition. Here in the U.S. when the federal government had to bail out the auto industry, Ford was the only American company to turn down the federal money, and instead used its own capital to restructure itself and redo the company’s interior self vision or projected goals and success. The second reason Ford has the best and better chance to succeed in China over its American counter parts lies more in the different lines offered for sale to the general population. While GM and Chrysler may offer various brands, there is more limitation of what is being produced and offered for sale, at reasonable price invoices. Whereas, Ford had been producing some of the strongest continual vehicle sales in North America for the last five decades, such a reputation is hard to kill even abroad. Along with their success with the F-150, Ford’s investment with the Focus and Fiesta has allowed for such versatility that the brand has been able to not only break into the Chinese market, but also create a demand all on its own and keep that demand afloat.

Auto sales in China offer auto manufacturers and western nations the same benefits, that of a new and strong market. Capitalistic nations, like companies rely on the ever new markets to become the guiding light when looking to secure new profits and not over exhaust the market that they are currently a part of. American car companies have the most to gain in China because of production capabilities as well as the new effect in a region that has been historically closed to the other nations of the world, and by opening a new market, the creation of jobs will also follow, when there is an increase in demand.

 

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