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.

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.

Convertible Bonds: Understanding How They Work

In Chapter 16 of The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham explores the world of convertible issues, namely convertible bonds and convertible preferred stocks. He also discusses stock-option warrants.

This article is part of a series on Understanding The Intelligent Investor. It continues from the Chapter 15 review on beating the stock market with proven strategies by Joseph Hogue, CFA at My Stock Market Basics.

One of the most important lessons in this chapter is the idea that Wall Street often spins the value of products to favor the commissioned-based seller and issuing company. Instead of relying on advisers or sellers to identify an attractive product, the discerning investor could do well to fully understand both the advantages and disadvantages of investment products.

Let’s delve into convertibles and discover what Graham thinks of them.

What to Do with Company Stock

Accumulating company stock has been a good way for my family to build wealth. I’ve heard others say they’ve been able to generate income by buying shares at a discounted price and then selling shares at a higher price. In this way, they may have more money available to pay off debt or invest, increasing their net worth.

I won’t argue in favor of or against the inclusion of company stock in an investment portfolio. But we’ve decided not to hold company stock forever. Here are a few things we’ve done with the shares: