Here you’ll find articles on traditional and not-so-traditional approaches to investing — primarily in individual stocks, exchange-traded funds, mutual funds, and bonds. Along with my breakdown and scrutiny of general strategies are first-hand experiences in implementing these approaches. Specific topics include building an investment portfolio and possible ways to determine whether a stock is bargain priced. Information and insights in the Investing category can help you develop a framework for making investment decisions.

Pink Sheets and Penny Stocks: What I Learned

A few years ago, a reputable investment newsletter recommended a pink sheet stock. The writer briefly explained its riskiness for various reasons, including its lack of inclusion in the big leagues of major stock exchanges.

That mention prompted me to learn more about pink sheets, referencing the color of paper the stocks used to be listed on, and penny stocks, referencing a stock price of less than $5.00. I became intrigued with the concept and decided to learn the difference between equities traded on major exchanges and those traded over-the-counter (OTC).

Pink sheets and penny stocks, which are generally traded over the counter, are often touted as nontraditional ways of making lots of money. Just as growth in financial net worth can be a tool for thriving, losing money to worthless and misunderstood investments can thwart the achievement of my goals. So I did some research to determine how to best consider these investments and here’s what I uncovered:

How to Set Up a Personal Finance Spreadsheet

When presented with general concepts or rules of thumb relating to personal finance, my brain resists automatic acceptance. My look-under-the-hood tendencies rebel when I hear a statement like “it’s always better to invest rather than pay off debt” or vice versa.

To truly understand an idea (and prove or disprove its claim), I love to design a spreadsheet. Using this tool, I can break down a concept and illustrate how it works or demonstrate where it falls apart.

In this article, I’ll explain the basics of setting up personal finance spreadsheets, including how to design formulas with financial functions like PMT (payment), FV (future value), and PV (present value).

How to Set and Reach Financial Goals with Betterment

For many years, I have been resistant to the idea of setting financial goals; instead, I have opted to accumulate wealth so that I have the means to make purchases when needed. This wealth-building approach can be effective, and is certainly better than not saving, investing, and growing assets.

Still, there are at least a couple of shortcomings to general wealth building: 1) I’m not sure when my goal has been achieved; and 2) I’m reluctant to spend down the assets that I’ve worked so hard to accumulate, largely because I’m not clear about the purpose of my investments and the timing of withdrawals.

Goal setting can inspire me to save and invest, and make me feel happier and more secure about spending.

The Intelligent Investor’s Motto: Margin of Safety

In Chapter 20 of The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham covers the ” ‘Margin of Safety’ as the Central Concept of Investment.” This big idea or motto is the “secret of sound investment” distilled to three words.

Graham says “the function of the margin of safety is, in essence, that of rendering unnecessary an accurate estimate of the future.” When considering whether an investment carries a favorable margin of safety, calculations should be based on present circumstances, not overly optimistic or hoped-for future situations.

As I delve into this chapter, I learn that though the margin-of-safety principle is one of the main things, it’s not the only thing relevant to intelligent investing. Its companion is diversification. In addition, I discover that real-life adherence to safety margins isn’t simple or always achievable.

Still, the concept is important and mathematical framework, crucial to the task of selecting securities and building a portfolio.