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December 16 2014


Corliss Online Financial Mag: 5 investment tips for beginners

We're all taught that it's good to save some for a rainy day but simply setting a side a portion of our income is not going to cut it nowadays, what with the inflation always rising.

According to a senior investment expert of Corliss Online Financial Mag, most people feel intimidated at first of the idea of investing but it's not really as daunting as they imagined. Though that's naturally biased coming from a pro, we're fortunate enough that he shared a few choiced investment tips meant for first-time investors:

It's not just for the rich. You don't need to have thousands of cash first before you can start dabbling in the stock market. All you need is the courage to endure the rise and fall of your savings. Keep in mind that investing is not something that quickly pays off. It requires time and patience so you have to be really committed in the idea that the money you set aside must be left to grow.

Find an adviser. Seeking the advice of someone who's well-versed in his area of expertise is always a smart move. An investment advisor or a stock broker navigates the ins and outs of investment on a regular basis so partnering with one can help you greatly.

Getting this choice right will make a big difference on what kinds of investments you can access, how much commission fees you need to pay and a ballpark figure of the eventual payout you'll get. Be wary of brokers who are not willing to go down to your level and teach you the basics as they might take advantage of your ignorance.

Stick with the basics first. Before you engage in volatile stocks that tend to move drastically, it'd be better to start with the staple ones to get a feel of things. It's not wise to enter the stock market with a get-rich-quick mindset so test your patience with stocks that you can hold on a long-term basis and with minimal risk.

Consumer stocks like those in the medical, apparel or food industry are considered relatively safe because no matter the circumstance, people will always need those commodities. Just don't expect very high returns soon.

Place your eggs in multiple baskets. Diversification is a common tactic in investing as mentioned by Corliss Online Financial Mag, mainly as a means of insurance against unexpected events. So in case that one of your investments drastically fell, you won't lose everything.

Start investing now. The world of investing might be a little daunting for a first-timer but you have to start somewhere, right?  Armed with a basic knowledge of the whole thing and a reliable broker, you might realize it is worth your time after all and prevent the common pitfalls beginners often make.

The soonest time is now so never mind that you're still young -- in fact, you're in the best position to invest. Just set aside a fixed amount that you can realistically do without and it can give you returns in the years to come. The earlier you start the more money you can end up with.

July 17 2014


Saving Money: Tips everyone in their 20s should know by Financial Tips Corliss Group Online Magazine

Financial advisers stress that there are several money lessons everyone in their 20s should know. For example, start saving at least 10 percent of your monthly income.

Changing your financial state requires a kind of time travel to commune with your future self. Where do you want to be in 10, 20 years? Are you on the right path, or heading in the wrong direction?

The time value of money—that is, how savings, investments and debt levels compound with the passing of years—means that money habits, good or bad, created when we start to earn cash echo into the decades that follow. And a whispered bit of wisdom up front can keep you from howling over your mistakes later in life.

We polled our NerdWallet network of Ask an Advisor certified financial planners about the greatest regrets and lessons you should learn in your 20s, 30s and 40s. Taken together, these could be considered 12 steps toward securing your financial future. And they all hinge on two keys skills we must learn—and often relearn—in our money lives: prepare and stick to a budget, and establish good savings habits.

We’ll address the 30s and 40s later this week, but first: your 20s.

“Understand that the world has changed. You will be more responsible for your financial future in regard to earning a living, retirement planning, funding and investing, health insurance coverage and costs and less coverage through government programs,” says Jerome Deutsch, managing director of U.S. Institutional Markets for Index Strategy Advisors in Decatur, Georgia.

“Learn, plan and live mindfully and with a long-term perspective. It may not sound like fun, but you have a long life ahead of you.”

Pay yourself first

Save at least 10 percent of your monthly income. “The earlier you start this, the easier it becomes,” says Michael Keeler, president of GFS & Association in Las Vegas. “If you can learn to live without 10 percent of your income, you’ll do great in retirement.”

Use the savings to set aside the  equivalent of six months’ gross income. “This money shouldn’t be subject to market whims and shouldn’t have the goal of making a lot of interest,” says Larry R. Frank Sr. of Better Financial Education. “The objective is to develop the war chest for unexpected expenses and to develop the habit of keeping your standard of living within your means”—to spend less than you earn.

After you’ve built your emergency fund, focus on paying down debts or begin to invest.

“Student loan debt comes next,” says Sara I. Seasholtz, president of Preferred Financial Strategies in Mooresville, North Carolina. “Then they should participate in the 401(k) where they work and contribute whatever is necessary to get the match from their employer. This figure seems to be 6 percent in most cases.”

Don’t go crazy with credit

Live within your means and resist the new spending power that comes with having income and a few credit cards. Otherwise you will spend your 30s paying for your 20s—and your future self will hate you for it.

“My number one piece of advice for those in their 20s is—beware of debt and credit! So many of us have made the mistake of bankrolling our 20s with credit cards, and spent our 30s digging ourselves out,” says Carrie Houchins-Witt, owner of Carrie Houchins-Witt Tax and Financial Services.

“As tempting as going out and buying that new car may be, I would advise against it. Now is the time to start building up emergency funds and a strong foundation to invest in assets that appreciate,” says Jeremy S. Office, principal of Maclendon Wealth Management in Delray Beach, Florida. “The pleasure of not having debt or paying it down will last much longer than that new car or luxury item.”

Marriage? Think again

The heart rules, but if the head were in charge you wouldn’t think of marrying in your 20s. Why? Roughly half of all Americans get divorced in their lifetime, true, but those who marry before the age of 30 are especially likely to.

In 2012, 80.6 percent of all American women who had a divorce and 72.8 percent of all men were below the age of 30 when they married. “I started family before settling in on long-term career plans [and that] made it difficult to transition back to career later after 10 years and divorce,” says Jean Schwarz, managing director of Lumina Financial Consultants in Vienna, Virginia.

“Experience shows [that] all of us change so much between 20 and 30. Looking back, we wouldn’t recognize or want to be ourselves at 23-to-25 when we are 30,” adds Seasholtz. “To be a good mate and partner one needs to know themselves well. They need to be established and have some successes in life.”

Maybe settle for a long engagement.

Know and build your FICO score

Your FICO score is a measure of your creditworthiness, and is based on your payment history, credit utilization and length of credit history, with scores ranging from 300 to 850.

Tracy Becker, president of North Shore Advisory Inc., a national credit repair company, cites an example when suggesting  how to building a strong credit rating in your 20s: First, have your parents add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. Then open a secured credit card, which usually requires a cash deposit roughly equivalent to your credit line. Six months later, the woman in the example had a FICO score of 660.

“The reason her score was this high without much credit is due to her Mom’s old Visa card being reported. The Visa card aged her average age of credit substantially, giving her extra points,” Becker says.

This opens the door for future credit lines and securing bank loans when you want to buy a house. Key, of course, is keeping your balance low and paying on time.

Ultimately, you are young and you have time to make mistakes and recover. But you’ll be far better off if you get off to a good start now.

“I never considered the impact that waiting to build savings and investments would have on my long-term financial security,” Schwarz says. “I didn’t think about time value of money until my mid-30s.”

July 14 2014


Financial Tips Corliss Group online magazine: Here’s How to Navigate the Noise and Find the Best Market Tips

There’s a whole lot of noise out there in financial media these days. Investing blogs are everywhere, CNBC and Fox Business Network broadcast investing advice 24 hours a day, and even when the U.S. market is closed there’s some issue in an emerging market that threatens to affect stocks at the next opening bell.

So how can you make sense of this, tuning out the noise and tuning into the information that matters?

Jeff Macke — the current host of Breakout on Yahoo Finance and one of the founding fathers of CNBC’s Fast Money — recently penned a book to help you do just that.

His book, Clash of the Financial Pundits (available here on Amazon and co-written by fellow pundit Josh Brown), is an exploration of how pundits make calls and sometimes even move markets.

But it’s also a guide into how financial media works, what makes pundits tick and how individual investors can better use the information at their disposal to make more money.

The book’s most valuable section, in my opinion, includes these tips on examining pundits, offered by Jeff Macke and Josh Brown:

1.         Who is this expert, and what firm or organization does he represent?

2.         What does her professional affiliation mean in terms of the opinions she’s sharing?

3.         Does he have the same time frame or investment objectives that I do?

4.         How many ideas is she generating each day or week? How much thought is going into each one?

5.         What are the consequences for him if he is wrong? Will we ever hear more about this idea in a follow-up?

6.         How does the opinion I’ve just heart relate to my own portfolio or investing goals? Is there any real relevance?

7.         Why am I reading or listening to this in the first place? Intellectual curiosity? Entertainment? Or do I have an actual need to employ this sort of information?

8.         Is there a publicly available archive of this person’s previous opinions and forecasts? Have they been mostly accurate or mostly wrong? What were the driving factors behind the accuracies or the great calls? Luck? Skill? Good timing? Strong research? Some combination of these elements?

I love this list. And the only thing I would add to it is:

Buy Clash of the Financial Pundits, both to improve your media literacy and to have a better understanding of just how the financial advisory business works.

A Conversation With the Author

Author Jeff Macke has a lot of great advice on how to navigate both the markets and financial media. But mostly, his advice centers around embracing personal responsibility and the imperfection that is inherent with investing.

“Your goal is not to really become a master of investing or trading, it’s to be able to become at least up to the level where you know what you don’t know and you don’t get yourself in trouble,” Macke told me last week via telephone. “Don’t do things like day trade the hot IPOs, or pay more commissions than you should, or stay uninvested because you’re just going to sit on the sidelines with 50% cash and wait for a pullback, or start thinking things like the market should do something or else.

“You have to be an informed investor and ask the right questions, but it doesn’t mean answering everything yourself.”

Asking the right questions doesn’t just involve searching for the best big investment opportunity, either, but also searching for the right place to get your financial news.

“‘Consider the source’ is rule No. 1, whether you’re on the playground or watching television or whatever you’re doing,” Macke said. “For some reason there’s this void in understanding of financial media that it’s a product. That, when people would criticize CNBC on the up days for being a bunch of cheerleaders … that’s a ludicrous criticism; It’s a television network. It’s being run by people who are not finance majors who are not even necessarily CFAs, and it’s being produced like a television show is produced like MSNBC, like Fox News, like all of them are produced — by generally younger people who are getting on the phone and calling folks who can articulate their ideas in friendly soundbites and look good doing it.”

In other words, Macke said, if you’re blaming the pundits for leading you astray … you should probably look in the mirror instead.

“The people who are harshest on pundits usually have a problem with their own level of accountability,” he said.

The trick is to understand that being personally accountable does not mean being perfect. You will be wrong sometimes, but that’s OK. After all, even the greatest investors get it wrong — and in the book, Macke has some great conversations with pundits from Jim Cramer to Jim Rogers to Ben Stein about their mistakes and how they learned from them.

In fact, making mistakes gracefully — and honestly — is actually a more important quality than most think.

“The commonality, the theme that runs through each of the conversations is that these people have been wrong, they’ve made mistakes and they’ve learned something from it,” Macke said. “If you’re in the business of judging the pundits, look at the ones who have handled mistakes and how they’ve gone about their process and how it has changed them — to be wrong or right in public. That will tell you a lot about whether or not you want to listen to them.”

So if you’re willing to make some mistakes, how should you invest right now?

“If you’re in this game, you’re just going to have to concede the fact you’re going to want to take a couple flyers in there. Well, put 10% of your portfolio away and do that, knock yourself out,” Macke said. “If you truly believe and feel like you understand two or three companies, then create your own little portfolio.

“But your staples, your main food, you’re kind of bread and water should be index funds. That should be your core position — long the S&P 500 — because man, it is tough to beat.”

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March 07 2014


Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong 5 Can’t Miss Investing Stories Last Week

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong 5 Can’t Miss Investing Stories Last Week


Let the good times roll!


The S&P/TSX Composite Index (TSX:^OSPTX) continued its month-long winning streak last week with the equity gauge nearing a three-year high. However, there were a number of important corporate reports for investors to shift through as well. Here are the top five can’t-miss headlines from the past week.


1. BlackBerry signals shift to enterprise

Shares of BlackBerry (TSX:BB)(NYSE:BBRY) rallied this week, up almost 8%, after a series of interesting product announcements.


New Chief Executive John Chen unveiled several new initiatives at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona including a new Q20 model that brings back its “classic” keyboard and a cheaper Z3 BlackBerry that will cost under US$200. The company is also releasing BBM for enterprise users and revamping its BlackBerry Enterprise Server. These new initiatives suggest that Mr. Chen’s focus is squarely on the corporate client.


Ford Motor also admitted that it will be looking at switching the operating system for its vehicle infotainment systems from Microsoft’s Sync to BlackBerry’s QNX. And while this is far from a done deal yet, the possibility of finding QNX in every new vehicle from America’s second largest automaker is an exciting prospect.


2. Is this company the next Johnson & Johnson?

Valeant Pharmaceuticals (TSX:VRX)(NYSE:VRX) has returned to profitability and more than doubled its revenues.


Thanks in large part to the acquisition of contact lens maker Bausch + Lomb Holdings, Canada’s largest publicly traded drug company reported fourth-quarter revenue reached $2.1 billion, up 109% year-over-year. Net income came in at $124 million or $0.36 per share, compared with a loss of $89.1 million or $0.29 during the same period last year.


Valeant has grown quickly over the past several years through acquisitions. Buying small drug makers and pushing new products through the company’s large distribution network has proven to be an incredibly profitable business model.


In January, executives even predicted that the firm would join the world’s top five pharmaceutical companies by market capitalization by the end of 2016. After these recent quarterly results, that goal seems attainable.


3. Obama sets deadline for Keystone decision

U.S. President Barack Obama has signalled he will make a decision on TransCanada’s (TSX:TRP)(NYSE:TRP) controversial Keystone XL pipeline before the summer.


During a meeting on Monday between the president and several governors at the White House, Mr. Obama indicated a decision would be made on the project once his aides have had an opportunity to review the State Department’s environmental assessment. The signal is dampening concerns the administration will delay the controversial decision until after mid-term congressional elections in the fall.


A resolution to this issue will be a relief, not just for TransCanada shareholders, but the entire oil sands industry.


4. Tim Hortons eyeing expansion

Tim Hortons (TSX:THI)(NYSE:THI) has its eyes set on expansion.


At the company’s annual investor conference, management said that it will focus on defending its turf in Canada from new rivals like McDonald’s and Starbucks and called the United States a ‘must-win battle’. During the presentation executives announced plans to open 800 restaurants in North America and 220 in the Middle East over the next five years.


Some investors may want to question the wisdom of this strategy. With a coffee shop on every corner of North American cities, how many more do we need? And with margins in the sector beginning to decline, it’s becoming apparent that the industry is saturated. Perhaps shareholders would be better off if that growth capital was simply returned to them in the form of dividends and share buybacks.


5. Banks deliver another round of dividend hikes

Canada’s banking industry continues to pile on the profits.


Amid signs of a cooling Canadian economy, the country’s largest lenders are reporting stellar results. And shareholders get to share in the industry’s success with another round of dividend hikes.


Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY)(NYSE:RY) says its first-quarter net income was $2.09 billion, up $45 million or 2% year-over-year. Excluding some items, RBC’s adjusted diluted earnings per share was $1.47, which was above the general analyst estimate. And as a parting gift to shareholders, exiting Chief Executive Gord Nixon also announced its quarterly dividend will increase by 6% to $0.71 cents per share.


Surprising investors, TD Bank (TSX:TD)(NYSE:TD) and CIBC (TSX:CM)(NYSE:CM) also raised their quarterly payouts by a hearty 8.5% and 2.1% respectively.


Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong 5 Can’t Miss Investing Stories Last Week


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March 06 2014


Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong  Between a rock and hard place


One of a handful of Britain's remaining possessions, Gibraltar is an interesting anachronism says Gillian Vine.

Last year, sabre-rattling Spaniards soured relations with Britain, saying it was time they had Gibraltar back.

No you can't have it, said the British Government, supported by most of Gibraltar's 29,500 citizens, who rallied around the slogan ''Let no-one dare untie this knot''.       


The Spanish response was border checks with consequently long queues and delays, so I was pleased to come into Gibraltar by sea, during a port-hopping Mediterranean cruise.

But how did the Brits acquire this 6.7sq km chunk of Spain?


In a sense, it was Spain's own fault, or rather that of King Carlos II, who died childless in 1700.

He had nominated as his successor his 16-year-old great-nephew, Philip, Duke of Anjou, who duly was crowned with the support of his grandfather, French King Louis XIV.


It sounded fairly straightforward but another of Louis' grandsons, Austria's Archduke Charles, also fancied the Spanish throne.

Britain, Holland and Portugal joined the Austrians in getting behind Charles and they fought it out.


The Spanish War of Succession was won by Austria and her allies, although one has to wonder what the point was, as Philip became king after all.

Admittedly, it was under a deal whereby he gave up all claims to the French throne, while the long-term winner was probably Britain, which was handed Gibraltar in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht.


Its location overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar meant the new territory was ideally situated as a military base.

The Battle of Trafalgar took place off Point Trafalgar, some 60km from Gibraltar, in October 1805.


After the defeat of a 33-strong French and Spanish fleet by 27 Royal Navy vessels, under the command of Admiral Horatio Nelson, wounded seamen were taken to Gibraltar.

However, as headstones in the little Trafalgar Cemetery mutely testify, not all the wounded survived.


Nelson died during the battle and his body, preserved in a barrel of brandy, was taken ashore at Gibraltar before being transferred to England for a state funeral.

Gibraltar was of strategic importance to the British during World War 2 and despite Adolf Hitler urging Spain to grab back the territory, the Spanish - who now undoubtedly regret their inaction - stayed neutral.


British military leaders ordered the construction of a network of tunnels inside the Rock of Gibraltar to provide secure accommodation and storage.

The idea wasn't new, for as early as 1782 defensive tunnels had been dug and even before that, there were stories that the Rock was hollow, probably based on the existence of St Michael's Cave, an immense limestone cavern where Neolithic skulls and rock drawings have been found.


This cave was utilised during World War 2, too, with a hospital set up there.

Two-hour tours of the tunnel complex and cave are available and a combined ticket is £8 ($NZ16) per person.


My father-in-law, a Royal Navy signalman, was stationed on Gibraltar during World War 2 and described being left perched halfway up the Rock during an enemy attack, watching his ship sailing away without him.


Seeing the old signals station on an exposed site high up the Rock brought home to me how vulnerable he must have felt, but he survived and rejoined his ship some time later.

A ride on the cable car to the top of the Rock (£8.50 one way, or £10.50 return) is a must for any visitor.


I opted for the return but had the weather been better would have ridden up and walked down via the nature reserve, even though I wouldn't want too many close encounters with the Barbary apes with their formidable teeth.

Until 1984, when it closed its major dockyard, the British Ministry of Defence was the mainstay of Gibraltar's economy, accounting for more than a third of all spending.


Things perked up in 1985, when the reopening of the border with Spain at La Linea de la Concepcion enabled visitors to pop across for a day's bargain hunting.

These days, Main St resembles the high street of any bustling English town, with all the usual British chain stores such as Marks and Spencers, Dorothy Perkins and British Home Stores.


Because Gibraltar is duty free, there are great buys in more expensive cosmetics (I bought face cream at half the price I pay at home), perfumes, high-end jewellery, tobacco and alcohol, the latter at prices well below those anywhere else in Europe, or New Zealand, for that matter.


However, with the Spanish economy improving and cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia showcasing their beautiful buildings, old and new, to attract tourists, Gibraltar looks rather like the poor relation.


Away from the central hub, apart from newer apartment blocks things appear somewhat shabby.

Maybe handing Gibraltar back to Spain would inject some welcome EU dosh into the territory but no loyal royalist would ever dare untie the knot.

Corliss Group Online Financial Mag Hong Kong  Between a rock and hard place

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