Thursday, December 31, 2015

Loyal3 Lunch: Two Weeks in One Post

How many lunches?

If you haven't been following this series, I'm trying to break my habit of eating out at lunch for no good reason.  Each day I bring my lunch gives me $5.00 to invest in stock with Loyal3, an online commission-free broker.  This post is to report on Christmas week and New Year's week.  Christmas week I worked three days and did not buy lunch at all.  New Year's week I worked three days and bought lunch once.

Which Stock?

Christmas week I invested my $15.00 in Kohls and got .3043 shares.  New Year's week I invested $10.00 in VF Corporation but the transaction has not been completed.  

Am I making money?

I have invested $155.00 dollars, and the current value is $153.06.

You can see my whole Loyal3 Lunch portfolio by clinking the link at the top of the page.

Year End Comments: 

Little bad habits can end up costing big money.  As I said when I started this series, most of my lunches "out" were going down to the mediocre lunch counter in my office building.  Getting lunch there is fast and convenient, and it doesn't taste bad.  On the other hand, dropping $10.00 per day isn't unusual.  Giving up that lunch means taking a few minutes in the morning to grab leftovers from the fridge or remembering to ask my husband, who does the grocery shopping, to pick up Lean Cuisine.  

Do you have a bad financial habit you need to break?  Would directing a certain sum of money toward a goal you have (whether that goal is a stock portfolio, a Coach bag or a trip to somewhere fun) help you break that habit?  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kickfurther Merchant of the Week: ProjectorTeam, Inc.

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Ed Goldman "chief cook and bottle washer" of ProjectorTeam, Inc., my Kickfurther vendor of the week.  ProjectorTeam Inc. specializes in assisting the end user in determining the correct projector and accessories for their situation. Whether it is for the classroom, corporate setting or conference center, ProjectorTeam will develop a program that not only promises optimal quality and price for the specific situation but also guarantees that the projectors will meet the customer's needs. Kickfurther, if you are new to this blog, is a company with which I invest.  It finances inventory for businesses  by purchasing it from them and then returning it to the business for the business to sell on consignment.  As the inventory is sold to customers, businesses repay Kickfurther investors.  

Q:  So, how did you get started in the projection/A.V business? Are you a computer guy or did you come up in the age of filmstrips and reel-to-reel movies (yes, I'm dating myself)?

Ed:  Fourteen years ago I was hired by a company to run the sales department as the National Sales Manager. They were a projector company and when I was hired I had no idea what a projector was. I was 45 at the time. I am a sales guy with expertise in telesales and telemarketing and I was fairly computer literate at the time. My focus was to build a powerful inside sales team, and of course, that meant I had to learn the projector business--the products that were available, the needs they filled and how to put the right projector in the right customer's hands.  
The company remained strong for five years but then the owner made some horrible mistakes and went bankrupt. I was hired by another company as a salesman, and though I was the top producer in the company for five years, no one else could sell and that company went bankrupt as well.  At at 54 years old, my dilemma was whether to continue on that path or take the risk of going into business for myself.  Five years later here I am running a million dollar company being the chief cook and bottle washer.

Q:  Looking at your website, it looks like you are a consultant as much as a salesman. What is the difference between buying a projector from you and buying one from my local big-box retailer?

Ed:  You are absolutely correct. Consulting is a huge part of what I do.   The majority of people to whom I speak are neophytes and really don’t understand projectors. The big box stores like Frye’s Electronics or Best Buy cater to the consumer market, particularly home theater which is a cut-throat business. I focus on the business community, churches, government and education, where CONSULTING is what wins orders.  My customers get my expertise to find them the best product at the best price. A box store has maybe 8 sku’s (unique products);  I carry over 1000 sku’s in projectors alone and can put together a whole package for a customer within a budget. Sales people at the box stores really don’t even know the terminology to discuss the items. 80% of the projector equipment sold in big box stores is not right product for the customer who buys it.

Q:  Do you work nationwide, or just in certain geographic areas?

Ed:  ProjectorTeam, Inc. sells nationwide and overseas as well. We are based in Huntington Beach, California. 

Q:  Anything else you'd like to tell us about your business?

Ed:  My business has grown on average of 20% per year with only me selling. 2016 will be our breakout year.

Q: Why is that?

Ed: With additional marketing efforts and the implementation of Search Engine Optimization we will have more eyeballs coming to the site and I am more competitive. I anticipate selling well over 500 additional projectors in 2016.

Q: How did you first hear about Kickfurther? 

A: I was actually contacted by a sales representative for the company and thought the opportunity was interesting and started looking into it.

Q:  You are now on your second Kickfuther offer. How does Kickfurther compare to other financing methods you have used?

Ed:  Kickfurther is a different platform. Getting unsecured financing today is almost impossible and takes a long time. I have credit lines but I like being able to use this capital to engage manufacturers to commit to better pricing for me .

Q:  So despite the fact that backers like me earned a 6% return on our money in less than three months with your first offer, and will hopefully earn  9% in six and a half months on your second offer, you still came out ahead? 

Image title

Ed:  Yes, absolutely--if the first offer hadn't been helpful to me, I would not have come back for a second!

Q:  Would you recommend Kickfurther to other business owners?

Ed:  Absolutely it is a great way for new businesses to drive capital and for an established business to fund opportunities in a relatively short amount of time.

Q: Obviously you are using Kickfurther as a business owner; have you tried it as an investor? If so,what is your impression so far? If not, can you see yourself doing so in the near future, or would you recommend it to friends?

Ed:   I have not invested in others. I use every dollar to thrust the growth of my company. I would however recommend it to friends who are looking to invest smaller amounts.

Q:  Sounds like a businessman to me!  I once read that the only way to really make money in this world is to invest in businesses--either your own or someone else's.  So far, Kickfurther has been an interesting way for me to invest in other people's businesses, and if all offers paid like  yours, it would be a profitable one too.  Anything else you'd like to tell us?

Ed:  I am constantly looking for salespeople and possibly someone in the Kickfurther family or you as a blogger could assist me in finding good people.

Well, Ed, if any of my readers think they would be a good fit for your company, they can go to your website and get your contact information.  If they are looking for projectors they can learn what some of your customers have said about you.  Your projectors are available in my Kickfurther Store and if readers buy them there, I get a 5% commission.    And of course, since I'm one of your Kickfurther backers, I have a vested interest in seeing you sell those projectors I helped finance.

If you have a business and think that Kickfurther can help you finance your inventory, use this link and I get a finder's fee.  If you are an investor and believe that Kickfurther is a good place for you to invest, use this link and I get referral credit.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Book Review: Build Wealth & Spend It All

Build Wealth & Spend It All: Enjoy The Life You Earned

About the Book:

You can build wealth. You need to protect your retirement savings from future nationalization, taxation and redistribution. You deserve to spend everything you have earned and saved before you die. 
This is not a novel to numb the pain in your life for just a couple of hours. It is a tool box with the tools you can use to fix your life...forever. 
Dr. Riggs has been building wealth for over fifty years through several very different and very successful careers, each of which made him a multimillionaire. In this book he explains the three basic and easy to understand financial concepts anyone can use to both build and protect their wealth. But it was only during this past year, while he was visiting his 96 yr. old mother in a nursing home, he gained insight into what awaits most of our retirement savings.
The money his mother had earned as a public school teacher and had frugally saved for over 50 years was rapidly being drained away as she dozed off in her chair. They were taking it simply because she still had it; while other residents who had already enjoyed spending their money, were now getting a free ride.
He had helped his mother to save and invest when he should have encouraged her to spend. He had failed his own mother by not encouraging her to spend all she had earned and saved, while she was still able to enjoy it. But he was determined not to fail himself.
He needed a plan...a logical plan to enjoy strategically spending or gifting it all away over a predetermined period of time; before the private IRA, 401(k) and Roth retirement accounts are nationalized and redistributed. He needed a plan to spend it all and die broke - insolvent, but not illiquid or destitute. 
Surprisingly, his plan for building his wealth was simpler and came more naturally to him than his plan for spending it all. 
In this book he explains the three basic and easy-to-understand financial concepts anyone can use to help build their own wealth:
(1) Understand the difference between true assets and actual liabilities. 
(2) Always know where you are in the economic cycle. 
(3) Understand the implications of the coming demographic changes. 
Your grave stone will have two dates separated by a hyphen. You have no control over the dates but you do have control over the hyphen ... that's your life. Let this book show you how to make the most of that hyphen.

My Comments:

Most financial planning books tell you to save your money while you are young, invest it in mutual funds, and withdraw part of it when you are old, and leave the rest to your kids.  This book agrees with part about saving your money, but it is the author's opinion that our tax system/government is going to end up confiscating large portions of people's IRAs and 401Ks to get the money to support all the baby boomers who have not saved enough for retirement.  Stanley Riggs, the author, is a fan of investing in real estate and businesses.  He is also in favor of people front-loading their retirement spending during the first years of retirement, and then dying broke, or close to it.  

The book was easy to read and if you agree with his assessment that the government is going to take people's retirement accounts, then you'll probably agree with his choice of investments.  Since I don't agree with that prediction, I take a jaundiced eye toward the book.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a complimentary review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B-.  
Disease Called Debt

Friday, December 18, 2015

Loyal3 Lunch: Week 7

How many lunches?

If you haven't been following this series, I'm trying to break my habit of eating out at lunch for no good reason.  Each day I bring my lunch gives me $5.00 to invest in stock with Loyal3, an online commission-free broker.  This week I brought my lunch four days; therefore, I have $20.00 to invest this week.

Which Stock?

Stocks took a beating this week.  I decided to add more of the stock in my portfolio that had dropped the most.  AMC had dropped 9% since I bought it.  Why the stock that dropped the most?  Well, basically, I believe in these companies and believe they will do well; therefore, when the price drops it is like getting my favorite things at the store when they are marked down.  We shall see if this is a good strategy or not.  

Am I making money?

Well, I didn't notice it until after I had pushed the buttons, but I got an eight cent dividend from VFC this week.  However my portfolio as a whole is down 3%.  Before today, I'd invested $120.00 and it is worth $116.65.

You can see my whole Loyal3 Lunch portfolio by clinking the link at the top of the page. 
Disease Called Debt

Thursday, December 17, 2015

We Fired the Investment Advisor

Used with Permission
A few months ago I wrote a post about why we decided to hire a financial advisor.  I wondered in April if he was worth the cost.   Today I'm writing about why we decided to fire him.  To be fair to the advisor, who is a friend, I don't think he did anything awful, and I'm not mad at him.  However, after monitoring the money he and his firm were managing over the course of about eighteen months, it was becoming increasingly obvious that we were paying a lot of money for people to do something better suited to a computer.  

Our advisor is a CPA who works for himself.  He does financial advising through the brokerage firm of HD Vest.  The advisor interfaces with clients, gathers information about them, helps them assess their risk tolerance and then passes the information on to HD Vest which uses it to determine the appropriate basket of mutual funds in which to invest the client's money.  While they will honor requests for certain funds, or to increase or decrease the risk in a portfolio, HD Vest controls the investments in the account--they decide which funds to buy, and which to sell, and when to do so.  The idea is that they have people who keep an eye on the industry, who know which funds do well, and which do not, and know when it is time to get out of a fund that has been doing well (say when the fund manager changes).  

Transferring money from one manager to another takes time--several days.  Unfortunately when we moved from our prior investments to HD Vest, the timing was such that we ended up with less money in HD Vest than we had with the old custodians--the movement of the market over a few days made a difference.  That wasn't HD Vest's fault and I don't criticise them for that.  However, during the time our money has been with them, all of our other investments have made money; the accounts with them are still worth less than what was deposited in them.  A large part of the reason is the fee they assess (and which we agreed to pay) of slightly more than 1% of the account value.  I sat down the other night and did the math--had we invested my husband's IRA in Vanguard's Target Date fund for his age group, his account would have $8000 more than it has now.  HD Vest's fees on that account since we opened it have been about $4000.  In other words, had they invested our money in Vanguard's Target Date fund, and still taken their $4,000, we would still be $4,000 better off than we have been with their chosen funds.  

As I said above, I am not mad at the advisor; however, I am mad at HD Vest right now; not because they failed to equal my other investments (you win some, you lose some) but because they are charging us $95 each for three accounts to transfer the money out.  I saw an article today that talked about how Vanguard with its low fees was hurting a lot of Wall Street firms; I guess this is how HD Vest gets back at people for choosing not to stay with them.  Because of that fee, I'm putting their name in this article and I'm recommending staying far away from them.  All total, in the year and a half we have had those accounts, we have paid fees of $6678.72, including that last $285.00 hit.  Our account is worth $12,234.52 less than it was worth when we deposited the money in August, 2014.  This has definitely been an expensive lesson.

We got a little financial advice and a couple of dinners out of our advisor during the time we used him.  What I really wanted when we entered into this relationship was someone to look at our overall financial picture, especially the fact that we have a son who will likely need financial support his entire life (he's autistic), as well as our other goals and savings rates.  I was hoping for a plan that said "save this much", put together this type of trust, and fund it this way.  Instead, what I got was a mutual fund portfolio, quarterly meetings to explain that the market was down and that balanced portfolios were faring the worst, and a little generalized tax advice.  Frankly I've learned more reading blogs, and I don't think his predictive model was any more accurate than any on any mutual fund family homepage.

Have you ever used a financial advisor?  Were you happier than we are?

Disease Called Debt

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kickfurther Merchant of the Week: Panda Poles

 One interesting thing about investing with Kickfurther is learning about all sorts of products that would not otherwise cross my radar.  I live in New Orleans.  Ski equipment isn't on the top (or even bottom) of my shopping list, yet I know skiing is a sport many people enjoy.  My Merchant of the Week this week is Panda Poles, a manuafacturer of bamboo ski poles.  Their co-creator, and "Chief" (CEO, CFO, COO), Tanner "TanSnowMan"  Rosenthal took some time to speak with me this week.

Q:  Tell me a little about your business.

A:   Panda Poles is a manufacturer of bamboo and sustainable products, specializing primarily in bamboo ski and hiking poles.

Panda Poles got started from a vision I had in the Spring of 2008 about making bamboo ski poles with baskets that didn't snag in the trees. Not only is bamboo more sustainable, but it is much easier to work with than aluminum or carbon fiber. And because of their cone shape, the baskets work great in powder, but won't snag in trees like other big baskets. I told my good friend and co-worker at the time--Oakley White-Allen--about the vision, and he was all about helping me get the project going. By 2010, after a couple of seasons of testing different bamboo and basket designs, we settled on a product we felt like we could bring to market. launched on Jan. 18th, 2011, and we sold our first 125 pair before the end of the season. Now, after almost 5 seasons, we have sold over 3000 pair.

Q:  How and where are the poles made?

A: Our grips are made in California, the baskets are molded in Michigan, our straps are sewn in both Utah and Idaho, and other than the bamboo and the hemp and Recycled Polyester strap webbing, all the parts and pieces are made in the USA. We receive all the parts in Pocatello, Idaho, where we then lovingly craft every custom order pair by hand. We start by intaking, weighing, measuring, and sorting our bamboo. Then we pair the poles with a similar size and weight, attach baskets and insert the hardware which holds the strap. We brand our logo by hand using a customized wood branding tool, and then sand the top of the poles to the correct diameter for grips. We then attach the grips using sugar water (one would be surprised at how strongly it holds the grip), attach the straps, apply a linseed oil topcoat, and package the poles for shipment. We sell mostly online, but have 12 retailers in 5 countries.

Q:  Do any professionals use your products?

A:  Our team of world class athletes includes the like of Panda co-founder Oakley White-Allen (5th place overall - 2012 Freeride World Tour), Angel Collinson (one of the best female skiers to ever exist), and Drew Tabke (2013 Freeride World Tour overall champion). But that is only a small sampling of the athletes that make up our tribe.  You can read more about them, and learn about how we consider those who use our poles to be part of our "tribe" on our website.   

Q:  How did you come to use Kickfurther?

A:  I heard about Kickfurther from Chase Howard, who is an account manager at Kickfurther. He had reached out to us about getting involved, and really helped us design our first campaign. Without his efforts, we would not have gotten the ball rolling so quickly with the campaign.

When we decided to start a Kickfurther campaign, it seemed like a beautiful, simple concept, that moves the power of investment from large venture capital firms and banks to the grassroots platform of crowd funding. It has been nothing short of an amazing experience in the new world of crowd funding, and grassroots economics. I have been blown away at how simple the platform is to use, and am really eager to see where we can take our products in the future using Kickfurther.

Q:  Would you recommend Kickfurther to other businesses?

A:  I would recommend Kickfurther to any business that has a solid following, and would like to expand their product line or bulk up their inventory that they know they will sell. Buying parts in bulk saves a lot of money.   In our case, Kickfuther has allowed us to purchase bamboo in bulk directly from India rather that from the retailer from whom we had been buying.  Even though we will give our investors a10% return on their money, we still come out ahead.

I'd like to thank "TanMan" for visiting with us today.  I have a selfish reason for wishing him well with his bamboo poles--I'm one of the investors who stands to gain 10% of my investment over six months, or less (paybacks are based on sales, and right now they are ahead of schedule). If you would like to invest in businesses like Panda Poles (or maybe even Panda Poles if (when?) they come back for a second offer), use this link and you'll get $5.00 toward your first investment.    If you own a business and want to see if Kickfurther can help you finance new inventory, use this link and I get referral credit.    You can buy some of their products in the Kickfurther store and if you use this link I get a sales commission.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Loyal3 Lunch

How many lunches?

If you haven't been following this series, I'm trying to break my habit of eating out at lunch for no good reason.  Each day I bring my lunch gives me $5.00 to invest in stock with Loyal3, an online commission-free broker.  This week I brought my lunch three days; ate at the building lunch counter once and took one day off.  Therefore, I have $15.00 to invest this week.

Which Stock?

I decided I had enough different stocks in the portfolio right now, so I went back to the stock with which I started--Disney.  

Am I making money?

The market in general took a real hit today; hopefully it stays down until my next purchase clears.  Since I fund this account as I invest the money, it takes several days after I tell Loyal3 I want the stock for the purchase to clear.  So far I've invested $105.00; today it is worth $101.07.

You can see my whole Loyal3 Lunch portfolio by clinking the link at the top of the page. 


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Great American Dividend Machine: Book Review

The Great American Dividend Machine: How an Outsider Became the Undisputed Champ of Wall Street

About the Book:

Bill Spetrino was just an ordinary accountant more than 20 years ago when he discovered the best investment secret ever.

Bill calls his secret “the dividend machine” -- and he has been sharing his secrets with hundreds of thousands of investors who have subscribed to his popular Dividend Machine newsletter, rated by Hulbert Digest as the #1 low risk investment letter.

But many readers asked Bill to write a book about his secret and how ordinary investors can become millionaires just like him.

Bill did just that.

Now his new The Great American Dividend Machine reveals his own story, and how he went from becoming a middle-class accountant to having a net worth exceeding more than $5 million!

Traders who jump from stock to stock in the hunt for a major Wall Street score often lose money or, at best, break even.

That's not an acceptable fate for the retirement nest egg or for Bill.

Instead, true investors trust Bill Spetrino's proven advice: "Keep investments boring and the rest of life fun and exciting."

By valuing safety and income above all else, Spetrino guides the reader through the process of unearthing true bargains in the marketplace.

Adhering to the author's model, The Great American Dividend Machine portfolio is composed of stocks that he picks using his unique system.

The companies that pass Spetrino's rigorous, multi-step vetting process must have a number of key characteristics, such as:

Resonant brand names
Strong, competitive advantages in their industries
Pristine balance sheets
Capital to help survive and thrive in difficult markets
Bill believes anyone can become a millionaire by ignoring the Wall Street pros and using his time-tested strategies.

My Comments:

If you have spent any amount of time surfing investing blogs, you've come across the idea of dividend stock investing--assembling a portfolio of stocks based largely on the dividend paid by the company.  This book is largely an advertisement for that style of investing in general and Bill Spetrino's newsletter in particular.  It reminds me of those "paid programming" shows on TV where someone tells you some basic concepts and then shows you how buying their product makes everything easier.   Yes, you could make the dessert without the $29.95 tool they are selling but it wouldn't be as easy or quite the same.  

The book is written in the first person--Bill is talking directly to readers, telling them about his history as an entrepreneur and how he learned to predict the future (bet at the racetrack or casino) by looking at the numbers and getting information other people didn't have.  The goal is obviously to get you to trust him as a person who knows what he is doing with your money.  While he gives some basic financial advice that can be found on just about any financial planning blog (spend less than you make, keep an emergency fund, the power of compounding...) mostly he talks about how good he is at recognizing stocks that will do well.  Obviously, it is his goal to buy low, when the "market" doesn't realize what a good deal a particular stock is, and to hold that stock until something makes him think that the company is no longer doing well.

If you are buying this book  with the idea of learning how to pick good dividend-paying stocks, save your money.  This book contstantly states why Spetrino prefers stocks that pay dividends to those which don't, and talks about buying the stocks at the best price, however, rather than teach readers how to pick winning stocks, Spetrino uses this book to sell his newsletter--which costs almost $100 per year.  Given that even in the Kindle version, this book is not cheap, I think most readers will be disappointed.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a complimentary review copy availabe via NetGalley. Grade:  C.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kickfurther Merchant of the Week: DIY Screen Printing Supplies

I've run a couple of posts touting my Kickfurther Store (and I definitely encourage everyone to go over and see if there is anything there that can find its way onto your Christmas list) but this week I'm starting a new series that will hopefully go on for sometime--I'm interviewing people associated with businesses which raise funds on my most interesting investment: Kickfurther.

RTR: We're here with Gary Jurman from DIY Screen Printing Supplies. DIY just completed a fifty thousand dollar round of fundraising with I'd guess you're feeling pretty good about that.

Gary: You bet. We're super happy about making our goal, and can't wait to get started putting the funds to good use. I'd like to thank the Kickfurther team. They helped us fill in some of the blanks with our offer, and gave us some pretty key advice about how to entice the investors.

RTR: So you'd say your experience with them was a good one?

Gary: Definitely. It wasn't our first run with them, though. For the first one, we were a bit less ambitious and only raised six thousand . We did well with that, and wound up paying back the investors earlier than expected. For the next round, we were able to shoot higher.

RTR: This time what did you raise the money for?

Gary: Well, as you know, we are a screen printing supply house, but we also develop our own products. We have a new screen printing system called Merchmakr that we are launching into orbit, and we need a good bit of inventory. Up until now we've only had just enough product to prove our customers want to buy it, but we haven't been able to keep them in stock long enough to develop our channels. We'd get the sales funnel up and running, and then, poof, we're out of stock again. Not that we're complaining about selling so fast.

RTR: Merchmakr must be pretty popular, then. You're very lucky to have a product that is so popular.

Gary: Truth be told, we had to pivot a little to get Merchmakr to be what it is. Our first product kind of flopped.

RTR: If you didn't start out this way, then how did you begin. How did you change?

Gary: When we first started kicking around the idea of DIY Screen Printing Supplies, we decided we'd release a build-it-yourself screen printing kit. It was a pretty good product for our first attempt. It had video tutorials, and was designed so that even someone not awesome with tools could build it. The problem was that the customers were few and far between.

RTR: Why do you think your customers were so rare?

Gary: Mostly because people didn't want to have to build the press just to get to the part where they were making T-shirts. We had customer after customer asking us to build it for them. It took a while, but eventually we started to get the hint.

RTR: So you started building Merchmakrs.

Gary: Well, yes, but first we had to come up with a design that people wanted. So we asked them what they were doing and why? We asked them a lot of questions about how they were using screen printing supplies, That's when we realized we needed a special system that was until now completely unavailable. Hence the special HotSwap clamp and registration system.

RTR: I know screen printing can be used to put logos on shirts, is that what Merchmakr is for?

Gary: Merchmakr is a screen printing system, so yes, you can use it for that. What makes Merchmakr special is its size, portability, and the quality of product you can make with it. It is designed so a band can take it on the road and produce merchandise as needed. It's small enough for a crafter to keep on display in their home, or for a webstore owner to use in their kitchen as needed.

RTR: Did you start DIY Screen Printing Supplies to launch Merchmakr?

Gary: Sort of. Not really. Really DIY was a pivot from being a more traditional custom screen printing company. We tried a few different ideas before we solidified on screen printing supplies and product development. We tried a few other ideas like custom screen printing niches, screen printed T-shirt design lines, screen printing classes, and crowd-sourced T-shirts. Any one of those ideas can work, but for us, we found just the right mix of what we love in product development.

Merchmakr with HotSwap Clamp: Two Very Cute Little Girls from DIY Screen Printing Supplies on Vimeo.

RTR: Everything seems to center around screen printing, then?

Gary: Well, I've been doing it for over thirty years, so I kind of know a bit about it. Sometimes I wish I could do more of it for my own personal projects. But, yes, we take all of our other competencies and hang them on a scaffolding of screen printing.

RTR: So do you see DIY as more of a traditional company or a startup?

Gary: In a lot of ways we identify more as a startup, but I think we are both. We do the kinds of things startups do: customer exploration, product development, high energy idea storming... But we also do the things that many startups don't but traditional companies do: worry about the bottom line, engage in long-term thinking, and not be so concerned with an exit strategy. Plus too, we've never really had what they call "runway."

RTR: So was it the startup mindset that brought you to Kickfurther?

Gary: Probably. Kickfurther is crowd-source financing. It's a way of getting funding without going through the traditional bank loan process. Instead, it's a little more like pitching your product. It also has a much more personal touch, where the people who finance you are actually purchasing your inventory, and then you sell it for them on consignment. They are a partner, investing in your products."  They are not just loaning you money, they are also rooting for you. We had been exploring crowd-source technologies since back before we created DIY Screen Printing Supplies. We tried our hand at crowd-sourcing T-shirt designs for a while, and there was something really appealing about it. Kickfurther just seemed to mesh with our paradigm.

RTR: So would you recommend Kickfurther to other companies?

Gary: Definitely! We already have, actually, and they've done two rounds already.

I'd like to thank Gary again for doing this interview. If you'd like to invest in a business like Gary's (or in Gary's when he comes back for yet another round--that's another thing about Kickfurther--businesses can't finance another batch of inventory before their prior round is paid out) use this referral link and you'll get $5.00 toward your first investment. The Kickfurther Store carries the kit shown above (not the Merchmakr) and if you use my link and buy anything in the store, I get a commission. If you are a business owner who sells merchandise, consider Kickfurther for your needs. If you use this link, I get a finder's fee for bringing you aboard, and it sounds like Gary would recommend you give it a try.

To learn more about the companies mentioned:


DIY Screen Printing Supplies:


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Loyal3 Lunch: Week 5

How many lunches?

If you haven't been following this series, I'm trying to break my habit of eating out at lunch for no good reason.  Each day I bring my lunch gives me $5.00 to invest in stock with Loyal3, an online commission-free broker.  This week I brought my lunch each day and so I had $25 to invest.

Which Stock?

This week I decided to buy stock in Hershey's.  I saw this analysis and I like chocolate.  

What have I learned?

I have learned that I don't have the patience or the interest in heavy-duty research about all the numerical data that is supposed to tell you when it is a good time to buy stocks.  I have learned that (well, I already knew it, I just hadn't quantified it in any way) that I was wasting a lot of money on mediocre food.  

Am I making money?

Well, I've invested $80.00 and my portfolio is now worth $78.76.  Given the short time I've owned these stocks, I'm not concerned.  

Do I recommend Loyal3?

Yes, as long as you know and accept its limitations.  Loyal3 does not charge to buy or sell stocks, and they allow you to purchase fractional shares.  This makes it economically feasible to invest small amounts of money frequently, as I have been doing in this series.  They are able to do this because they engage in batch trading.  Where I can call my traditional broker and tell him to buy so many shares of XYZ right now, Loyal3 goes to market once daily; if there are big swings in price that day, your cost could be different that you thought it would be when you placed the order.  Traditional brokers also accept orders to buy a particular stock if the price drops to a certain point, or to sell shares if the prices rises or drops to a certain point.  If you plan to trade frequently (and statistics indicate that for most people, that's not a good idea) Loyal3 is not for you.  If you plan to buy and hold, Loyal3 may be appropriate.  

The other limit to Loyal3 is that they only offer about 70 different stocks, and they focus on companies with which consumers are familiar.  They don't have any energy stocks, REITs, or utilities.  On the other hand, I think it is a lot more manageable to research and/or follow 60 stocks than the whole market.  I guess in some ways Loyal3 is the stock market with training wheels.  The restrictions mean you won't go as fast as you could without them, but they also make it harder to fall.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Health Insurance: Time to Make a Choice

My family's health insurance comes from my job.  I've had the same job for over twenty years and I'm making just over twice as much as I was when I started.  When I started this job, health insurance was free for employees, and family coverage cost $150 per month.  This was for a policy that allowed us to see any doctor or use any hospital, and which paid 80% of our bills after we met a $300 deductible.  I don't remember what the maximum out-of-pocket was, but it wasn't a tremendous amount.  Over the years, the premiums have gone up just about every year, and we've switched to a plan that has better benefits for in-network doctors, and in which we have co-pays, not deductibles.  The cost last year was about $30 per month for employees and about $600 per month for families.  

Yesterday I got an email; it is open enrollment season for health insurance,  and we have a choice this year.  We can stick with the same policy, and premiums are going up about $50/month, or we can switch to a high-deductible policy.  They are going to have someone come in and explain the choices but as I understand it, the two policies include the same network of doctors, and we will get the "adjusted" in-network prices if we use network doctors.  The difference is that if we choose the new option, we will have a deductible of $5,000 per person with a maximum of $9,000 per family.  We will also save $3094.08 per year on premiums.  

The high-deductible policy comes with a health savings account.  This is an account to which we can contribute pre-tax dollars (say the money we save on premiums, plus the money we used to put in our flexible spending account).  If we withdraw the money to pay health care expenses it is not taxed.  The money can stay in the account indefinitely, and when we retire, we can withdraw the money, though we'll pay taxes on it then; or if we don't need it, it can stay there compounding until we die.  

Which should we choose?  Choosing the high-deductible plan means we are betting that our health care expenses will be less than $3094 next year.   If nothing happens to put one of us in the hospital, this is a bet we will win.  However, if someone does end up in the hospital, this plan will cost us $1400 more next year than the lower-deductible plan, and if two people end up with high bills, it could cost us $4400 more.  Odds are we will save money with the high deductible plan. We have enough money to pay the $4400 if necessary.  We have the ability and the discipline to put the premium savings into the HSA rather than spending them. If we make it through a year on this plan with at least $1400 in the HSA, then the next year is even less of a risk. Yes, we are leaning toward the high-deductible plan.

Have you chosen a high-deductible health plan?  Have you been happy?

Disease Called Debt