Economic Living

Investing: Properly Defining Risk

Many in the financial world define risk using some sort of variance measure, like beta. This, in my mind, is a foolish attempt to quantify something that can only loosely be quantified. Finance is not a hard science.

Warren Buffett often points out the absurdity of using beta as a measure of risk with the following example: if KO were to decrease in value by 50% tomorrow, is it a better buy or a worse buy? It is a better buy, of are buying the same thing for less. However, a 50% decrease in value in one day would lead to a high beta for the stock.

Global Trading at ETrade

E-Trade is rolling out a platform whereby American investors can exchange currencies and invest directly on foreign stock exchanges: Canada, UK, Germany, France, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Time will tell if this will actually be a profitable activity for investors given the fees likely involved in exchanging currency and actually trading, but it's a great step in the right direction.

E*trade Global Trading

BofA $50 Statement Credit Amex Card

The offer:

Bank of America currently has a promotion for its Worldpoints cards providing $50 cash-back (via a $50 credit to your credit card) 8-12 weeks after your first purchase.

The fine print:

BofA $0 Equity Trades Not Free!

Bank of America has been heavily marketing it's new $0 trades, but it's important to pay attention to the fine print.

In order to qualify for the free trades you need to have $25,000 in combined accounts with Bank of America. This $25,000 could be yielding ~5% in an internet savings bank like Emigrant Direct for you today. At Bank of America it will be yielding substantially less.

$25 Free, American Express ONE Card

How to get $25 free: sign up for an American Express ONE card and they will open a high yield savings account for you with a $25 complimentary deposit. The money is deposited 8-12 weeks after your first purchase.

The card isn't the best deal because after a year they start charging you a $35 annual fee (!) and all you really get from the card is 1% back. And that 1% goes into an account that yield way less than EmigrantDirect does. But, so sign up for the card and cancel after 10 months! $25 free baby, and no cost to you. Here is the link:

$75 bonus with a $1000 NetBank Money Market Account

Open a NetBank MMA and get $75 if you have an average balance of at least $1000 for 30 days. Fees to note:

+ $5/mo fee if account balance goes below $500
+ $25 fee if you close account before 6mos
+ $7.50 fee for closing account after 6mos (you still come out way ahead if you deposit $1000, get the $75, and earn a 3.52% APY)

$50 Bonus Offer for New E-Trade Money Market Accounts

Click here for the offer.

To avoid fees:
Maintain $1,000 in Money Market Account, or $5,000 in total E*TRADE Bank deposits, or $50,000 or more in linked E*TRADE Securities and E*TRADE Bank accounts or execute at least 30 stock or options trades during a calendar quarter.

A $10 early closeout fee will be assessed if account is closed within 120 days of opening.

$50 plus a 3.6% APY for three months is not a bad return in 120 days.

Three Best Online Brokerages

Scottrade is the best, period. I also like Ameritrade Izone and BrownCo. One could make a defendable argument that Ameritrade Izone is better than Scottrade for regular brokerage accounts and BrownCo for IRA accounts.

All the other brokers, in my humble opinion, simply aren't worth the extra money.

I personally invest with Scottrade and have my Roth IRA account at BrownCo.

Here are my thoughts:

Highest-Yielding Savings Accounts

Everyone should park the lion's share of their cash-on-hand in one of these online savings account. You can't beat their 4.0%+ yields. For the sake of comparison, a Bank of America savings account yields 0.5% annually. If you assume a 3.0% inflation rate, the money in your Bank of America savings account is effectively losing ~2.5% of its purchasing power each year. That's a bad deal folks! The higher yields offered by online savings accounts allow you to maintain the purchasing power of your money.