Basics of Money Management

Money plays an important part in our every day lives and making the most of what we have will help us live a life free of financial pressures. By learning some basic rules, you can make life easier for yourself and for those who depend on you. Here are my basic rules.

Rule one. Don’t borrow money for consumable goods. What are consumable goods? They are stuff that lose value over time. Stuff you want but can live without. Examples are electronics, subscriptions to magazines, auto mobiles etc.

Rule two. Live within your means. In other words, spend less than you make. I know that may sound hard if you are on a tight budget but to just take easy credit when it is available to you is simply inviting financial disaster.

Rule three. Become financially educated. This can only be done by reading all you can about the various investment options available to you. There is really no excuse for not being kept up to date with all of the financial news because there is so much information on financial matters available on and offline.

Rule four. Diversify. A mistake that some investors have made in the past is to put all of their eggs in the one basket only to find that the company they invested their money in went bellyup. Prudent investors diversify. That is spread their money around in various companies to minimize their risk.

Rule five. Keep good company. There are people about who have bad attitudes toward financial planning and money in general and if you spend too much time with these people there attitudes can affect your thinking.

Rule six. Take responsibility for your own finances. Some people will ask others for advice just so that they have someone to blame if things do not work out for them. A financial advisor will tell you to do this or that but at the end of the day it is your money and you are the one who reaps the rewards when the markets are up or takes a hit when they are down.

Rule seven. Take a long-term view of your investments. Investing your savings is a long-term game and in order to take advantage of the gains in the markets you have to take a hit occasionally which means not panicking when the markets are going down.

The Stages of a Market Mania

What is a mania? It is defined as mental illness characterized by great excitement, euphoria, delusions and overactivity. In investing, this translates into investment decisions being driven by fear and greed without being tempered with analysis, reason or balance of risk and reward outcomes. The mania is usually running parallel with the business development of the product, but timing can sometimes run askew.

The late 90’s technology.com boom and today’s cryptocurrency boom are two examples of how a mania operates in real time. These two events will be highlighted with each stage in this article.

The Idea Stage

The first stage of a mania starts out with a great idea. The idea is not known to many people yet, but the potential for profits are huge. This is usually translated as unlimited profit, since “something like this has never been done before”. The internet was one such case. People using the paper systems of the time were skeptical as “how can the internet replace such a familiar and entrenched system?” The backbone of the idea begins to get built. This translated into the modems, servers, software and web sites needed to get the idea into something tangible. Investments in the idea stage start off lackluster and made by people “in the know”. In the case, it may be the visionaries and people working on the project.

In the cryptocurrency world, the same question is being asked: How can a piece of crypto code replace our monetary system, contract system and payment systems?

The Possibilities

The first web sites were crude, limited, slow and annoying. The skeptics would look at the words “information superhighway” that the visionaries were spouting and saying “how can this really be that useful?” The forgotten element here is that ideas start out at their worst, and then evolve into something better and better. This sometimes happens due to better technology, more scale and cheaper costs, better applications for the product in question, or more familiarity with the product combined with great marketing. On the investment side, the early adopters are getting in, but there is no euphoria and astronomical returns yet. In some cases, investments have made decent returns, but not enough to sway the masses into jumping in. This is analogous to the slow internet connections of the 1990’s, internet sites crashing or information being incorrect on search engines. In the cryptocurrency world, it is being witnessed by high mining costs for coins, slow transaction times and hacking or theft of accounts.

The Acceleration

Word starts to get out that this internet and “.com” is the hot new thing. The products and tangibility is being constructed, but due to the massive scale involved, the cost and time expended would be massive before everyone is using it. The investment aspect of the equation starts to get ahead of the business development since markets discount the potential of a business with the price of the investment. The euphoria is starting to materialize, but only among the early adopters. This is happening in the cryptocurrency world with the explosion of new “altcoins”, and the large media press that the space is getting.

The Euphoria

This stage is dominated by the parabolic returns and potential that the internet offers. Not much thought is given to the implementation or problems because “the returns are huge and I don’t want to miss out”. The words “irrational exuberance” and “mania” begin to become common as people are buying due to sheer greed. Downside risks and negativity and largely ignored. Symptoms of the mania include: Any company having.com in its name is red hot, analysis is thrown out the window in favour of optics, the investment knowledge is getting less and less apparent among new entrants, expectations for 10 or 100 bagger returns are common and few people actually know how the product works or does not work. This has played out in the cryptocurrency world with the stellar returns of late 2017 and the incidents of company shares popping hundreds of percentage points by using “blockchain” in their name. There are also “reverse takeover offers” where shell companies that are listed on an exchange but are dormant have their names changed to something involving blockchain, and the shares are suddenly actively traded.

The Crash and Burn

The business scene for the new product is changing, but not nearly as quickly as the investment scene is changing. Eventually, a switch in mindset appears and a huge selling spree begins. Volatility is massive, and many “weak hands” and wiped out of the market. Suddenly, analysis is being used again to justify that these companies have no value or are “overvalued”. The fear spreads and prices accelerate downward. Companies who do not have earnings and who are surviving on hype and future prospects are blown out. The incidents of fraud and scams increasing to take advantage of the greed are exposed, causing more fear and selling off of securities. The businesses who have the money are quietly investing in the new product, but the rate of progress slows down because the new product is “an ugly word” unless the profits are demonstrated convincingly. This is starting to happen in the cryptocurrency world with the folding of lending schemes using cryptocurrencies and higher incidents of the theft of coins. Some of the marginal coins are crashing in value due to their speculative nature.

The Survivors

In this stage, the investment landscape is charred with stories of losses and bad experiences. Meanwhile, the great idea is coming into tangibility and for businesses that use it, it is a boom. It starts becoming implemented in day to day activities. The product starts to become the standard and the visionaries are quoted in saying that “the information superhighway” is real. The average user notices an improvement in the product and it starts mass adoption. The businesses who had a real profit strategy take a hit during the crash and burn stage, but if they have the cash to survive, they make it to the next wave. This has not happened in the cryptocurrency world as of yet. The expected survivors are those that have a tangible business case and corporate backing – but it remains to be seen which companies and coins these will be.

The Next Wave – Business Catches Up to the Hype

In this stage, the new product is the standard and the profits are becoming obvious. The business case is now based on earnings and scale rather than the idea. A second investment wave appears starting with these survivors and extending to another early stage mania. The next stage was characterized by social media companies, search engines and online shopping which are all derivatives of the original product – the internet.

The Conclusion

Manias work in a pattern which plays out in a similar fashion over time. Once one recognizes the stages and the thinking process at each one, it becomes easier to understand what is going on and the investment decisions become clearer.

How to Solve Budgeting Issues

There are many problems that can occur when trying to save money. One of the biggest problems that people run into is problems with making and sticking to a budget. I know that I can personally attest to that. However, I have picked up some helpful tips on this very subject. I’m learned these tips from my parents, from my friends, and simply from useful internet sites. For this reason, I am going to be writing about some of the pitfalls of budgeting and how to overcome them.

The first problem that people have with budgeting that I would like to help you solve is having unrealistic expectations. This is probably the most common mistake when trying to make a budget. Basically what happens is that most people get these ideas in their heads that they’re going to save a big amount of money per week/month/year etc. While it’s a great notion to want to save a big amount of money, most people have a hard time actually sticking to it. A good of example of this actually comes from my personal life. I have a friend who’s a little older than me, and she went to Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Additional she chose to live in the dorms and not commute. When she graduated a couple years back, she realized that she needed to make a budget so she could put aside money to pay off her student loans. Because she wanted to pay off her loans quickly, she decided to save a fairly good amount of money in comparison to her income. Due to this, she had a hard time sticking to her budget and would often times break it. Naturally, she had to reevaluate her budget and since then has made one that she can stick to. Some ways to make a realistic budget includes calculating your expenses, determining your income, setting savings and debt payoff goals, and recording spending and tracking progress.

Another pitfall of budgeting is buying on impulse. I am for sure a victim of impulse buying, especially when I’m shopping for food. Some impulse buying may seem harmless. For example, one study shows that buying a pack of gum when you go to the grocery store twice a week will lead to an expense of about $100/year. While buying a pack of gum seems harmless, it definitely adds up. One way to avoid this is by writing down your purchases. By physically being able to look at your purchases, one can decide what they can and cannot afford. Another way to avoid impulse buying is buying in bulk. An advantage of buying in bulk is that most of the time, it’s on sale for almost a third of the original price. Buying in bulk also helps in making fewer trips to the store so there will be less temptation to impulse buy. Other ways of avoiding impulse buying include paying with cash, following a mandatory waiting period, and making a list of things you really want or need.