Saturday, June 10, 2017

Let us Review:

Over the past several months, I have diverted from the usual opinions of life in these United States and my own struggles with it into the areas of personal finance and our crazy stock market.  I'm hoping that you have been reading, and in some cases, I hope you have taken my advice to heart - or pocketbook - however you see fit.  So - let's see how some of my opinions have fared:

On December 31, 2016 I wrote that "precious metals are ripe through 2017," and backed the opinion up with some horrible ideas about President Trump and his goals.  The particular investment I am in is an ETF that is 65% gold, with the remainder in silver, palladium, and platinum.  Since January 1, the fund is up from $58.53 to $63.56; a gain of a little more than 8%.  I'll accept that as a win, considering the risk involved. If you want your investments to gain more than 9% in six months, maybe you should try betting on football.

On April 12, I reiterated my stance on gold, as well as hi-yield corporate bonds, emerging markets, and municipal bonds. 
The iShares hi-yield corporate bond ETF (LQD) was at 118.31 on April 12.  Today, it sits at 120.05.  OK, then.
The iShares Muni Bond ETF (MUB) was at 109.14 on April 12.  Today, it is 110.65.  Tax-free, mind you. (I have to find a positive in there someplace)
The iShares Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) was at 39.31 on April 12. Today, it is at 41.61.
Gold, we have discussed.
So, this particular idea package would have left you up in general, but you could have done better.  Suffice it to say that these things should be part of a larger portion of your investments.

On April 18,  I said that you should "stay on the sidelines" regarding shares of Goldman Sachs (GS). The stock was at 225.50.  Today, it trades at 222.44.  Sidelines would have been a good choice.
I said that Facebook (FB) appeared to be "fully valued."  It was at 140.96.  Today it is at 149.60. You win some, and you lose some.  I still say, wait on this.  You may get a better opportunity.
I said that The Home Depot (HD) was "a good choice" in the retail sector.  It was at 146.91.  Today, the stock is at 152.96.  Alright, then.
I mentioned CarMax (KMX) and McDonald's (MCD) as well. CarMax was at 57.17, and has come down off its springtime high near 65 to settle at 59.61.  McDonald's was a no-brainer, and is up to 151.48 from around 130 at the time I wrote about it.  I can't take credit for that, since a blind chimpanzee with a pencil in his butt could have picked that one.

The riskier picks I have made are still on the table. I wrote about Highpower (HPJ) and Limelight Networks (LLNW) on April 18.  Highpower had a little run, and it sitting at 4.75, which is near its price when I mentioned it.  Limelight is up about 15% (from 2.50 to 2.95) but is still a huge speculative play.  It could just as easily be back to 2.50 or up to 3.00.  I'm holding it, as if I don't need the money for another five years, which I do not.

The other was DelTaco Restaurants (TACO), which I said "hold it" on April 18.  The stock is volatile,  as is the casual dining industry. If you're inclined to follow me, wait until the stock trades below $13 to jump in.  It's at $13.50 now, and it's approaching my "Don't Buy" price.  (ask me what that is, and I'll tell you) Until then, I'm continuing to make my weekly investments.  With a new CEO and their growth plans still in place, I'm anxiously awaiting their earnings report in August.  Other stocks in the industry have made significant jumps in price, and I'm thinking that rotation out of those names into smaller companies like DelTaco might help get the shares back to the P/E levels of McDonald's and Domino's.  

Overall, I'd say it hasn't been a bad half-year.  I'll continue writing about this stuff if you agree to do your own research and take my ideas and opinions with the significant grain of salt that they deserve.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Animals

I don't remember where I read it, but I read it somewhere:  Dogs don't show pain.  They can be in awful agony, and their expression shows no pain.  Things that would put you or I on short-term disability are invisible to dogs. I guess they don't want us to see them in pain, being our best friends and all.

I've never owned a dog.  I'm a cat person.  Cats fit into my lifestyle.  I can care for them, feed them, and leave them for most of the day without worry, as long as their litter pan is clean and they have something to drink.  With dogs, you have to be around to walk them, or fear that they'll pee on the floor.  Not that I'd blame them.  I couldn't sit in a place for 12 hours without the urge to pee somewhere.  I love dogs, but one has to realize ones limitations.

I have shared my life with two cats over the past 26 years.  The first one stayed with me through my divorce and was at my side as we both struggled with desertion.  The cat sat by the front door for a few days, until I said, "She isn't coming back."  Eventually, he acquiesced, and we shared another 12 years together.  He was fortunate, since, during our marriage, I was the one who fed him.

After he died, I went a year without another cat.  I didn't realize how long it had been, but once I felt that the time was right, I sought-out another feline companion.  Sorrow has a long healing period.

I have documented that process, so I will not repeat it.  Suffice it to say, my time with Thor has been both satisfying and a learning experience.  The animals teach us, even though they do not realize it, an they bring joy to us, even though they do not intend it.

He is sick.  His kidneys are failing.  They were tiny to start with, and now their diminutive size is working against him.  He is too young to be going through kidney failure, but old to be doing it with such a small organ.
The satisfaction I bring out of being his caretaker is that he would surely have been dead long ago were it not for me.  Some would see it as a rationalization, but I see it as a truth.

He had gingivitis when I adopted him.  Two years later, while cleaning his teeth, almost all of them fell out.  He was left with a couple of teeth and a still-healthy jawbone due to the diligence of caring for his oral health.  Had he been left to suffer, his jaw would have deteriorated, and he would have died.
Pancreatitis caused him to spend three days in hospital and countless more at home without an appetite.  I struggled to find food that he could eat, settling on chicken broth and the juice from Fancy Feast fish packets until he was healthy enough to chew.

His last set of bloodwork numbers were bad enough for me to think that he was lucky to be alive, let alone still walking and purring.  That was several months ago.  The decline has been slow and steady, and his mood has likewise been declining.  Lately, he sits alone rather than with me, and sleeps in some secluded spot until I find him and gather him up to sleep with me.  It's my selfishness that I require his company, and his selflessness that he wishes to be left alone.

We struggle with out desires.  His desire to be left alone to deal with his declining health and my desire to share as much time with him as possible while his health declines.  We are at crossed purposes.

As these last few weeks (months?) wind down, I will fight my desire to have him at my side while he fights his desire to show his weakness.  I will win, because I am bigger and stronger, but I will feel his pain because that's what I do.  The thing neither of us knows is how much longer we have together.  I suppose that is true of every human/pet relationship, but in this case, we have a finite time and we know it.  I think he knows it, too.  He has to know that he isn't the same cat that he was five years ago.  I know I'm not the same man I was five years ago, and I'm just a stupid human.

We will carry on.  He will get his daily fluid injections (which he has gotten increasingly tired of - as have I) and I will continue to struggle to find food that he will eat - until he stops eating - which I have been told is the next step.  His phosphorous levels will get so high that he will lose his appetite.  Once he stops eating, it won't be long before the inevitable takes command, and I have to do what I have been fearing.

And then, it will likely be another year before I subject myself to the unconditional love and acceptance that a cat gives me.  After all, there's only so much more of that I can take.