Archive for the ‘Insights’ Category

If there has been one reliable trend for the stock and bond markets, it is that over long periods of time, things generally go up.  For someone who doesn’t know much about investing, this one, reliable trend can be utilized by these three rules:

  1. Invest regularly and periodically.  The rule, “buy low sell high” is a dumb rule, because how do you know when stocks are low or high?  Instead of trying to time the market, add additional money into your investment accounts as regular intervals, like once per month.  Sometimes you will invest when the stocks are higher, and sometimes you will invest when the stocks are lower.  Overall, that averages out and you avoid the risk of buying high.
  2. Invest in everything.  Trying to pick just a handful of stocks to invest in in risky.  The chance of picking a stock that will crash is too great.  So instead, invest in lots of different stocks.  Stocks that do great will offset stocks that do poorly.  Overall, things average and you avoid the risk of buying a bad stock.  Mutual funds (or ETFs) are a great way to invest in lots  and lots of stocks, but many funds focus too much on a single market segment.  Choose a handful of different funds that cover different market segments: different sizes of companies, domestic and international, different ages of companies.
  3. Choose a stock/bond ratio for your timespan of investing.  Stocks are more volatile.  They have more potential of going up, but they can also go way down.  Over a long long term, they generally go up.  Bonds are more stable.  Funds containing bonds still go up and down, but not as much as stocks.  Generally, bond funds go up over shorter periods of time.  If you want bigger gains over longer periods of time, you should invest in stocks.  If you are ok with smaller gains because you need to withdraw sooner, then you should invest in bonds.

I know of a couple of good platforms that can get you started investing quickly and without a lot of money.  But I don’t want to discredit this post as a shill for a particular service.  If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll email you directly.

Cost of Washing Reusable Bags

Posted in Insightson Aug 20, 2014

According to this USA Today article, you should wash your reusable grocery bags once per week to avoid getting sick.  How much does it cost to wash your bags?

Suppose you wash all your bags in a separate load of laundry, once per week.  That load of laundry requires:

  • About 1.1 kWh of electricity to wash in a front-loader and 1.4 kWh to dry for just 20 minutes.
  • About 15 gallons of water for your front-loader washer
  • Laundry detergent.

In Fort Collins, water rates are $2.53 per 1000 gallons, sewage rates are $3.34 per 1000 gallons, and about $0.09 per kWh of electricity.  Member’s Mark liquid detergent from Sam’s Club costs $0.11 per load.

For an entire year of washing reusable bags every week, you would use:

  • 130 kWh of electricity
  • 780 gallons of water (and sewage)
  • 80 ounces of laundry detergent.

For a total cost of: about $22 to wash your reusable bags once per week.

Fort Collins recently passed an ordinance requiring stores to charge $0.05 per disposable bag.  For the $22 cost of washing bags, a person could instead “buy” 440 plastic bags.

Environmental Cost: The main motive for charging for disposable bags in Fort Collins was the environmental impact of those bags.  What is the environmental impact of washing the reusable bags?  What is the environmental impact of producing the reusable bags?  What is the environmental impact of reusable bags that are worn out and thrown away?

Hand sanitizers at gas stations

Posted in Insightson Oct 11, 2011

I find it curios and odd to find hand sanitizer dispensers at gas stations.  The dispensers give you a little squirt of some alcohol-based gell, which does a pretty good job at killing germs that are on your hand.  If you are worried about picking up germs from touching the gas pump, then these dispensers will calm your worries.

I suspect that most people who pump gas at a gas station are worried about gas getting on their hands.  The thing is, gasoline isn’t going to give you a disease, and it isn’t filled full of germs.  In fact, gasoline is about as germ-free as the hand sanitizer.  If you get gas on your hands, what you really want is good old soap, which will break down the oils from the gasoline and remove it from your hands.

So while I appreciate the the sanitizer dispensers at gas stations, they really aren’t the most ideal for getting gas off your hands.

Quick home repair

Posted in Insightson Jul 25, 2011

There are few fixes costing only $15 and 15 minutes which make life a little bit more pleasant.  Replacing your toilet seat is one of those easy fixes.  All you need is a new toilet seat (Walmart has a few), and a couple of tools which might include a flat head screwdriver and a wrench.  Replacement is usually just unscrewing the old seat and screwing down the new seat.

Buying sunscreen

Posted in Insightson May 10, 2011

Summer is arriving and it is the time of year that many will buy sunscreen.  You may be tempted to buy the big bottle that will last years, but before you do, realize that sunscreens have a limited shelf life.  Oprah’s website recommends that you replace sunscreen every year.  At the very least, you should replace sunscreen after its expiration date.

If you are like me, you won’t end up using gallons of sunscreen every year, but want to have some on hand for the weekend adventures.  You may consider buying a travel size tube of sunscreen, which usually sells for about $1 for 1 ounce.  Buy a new tube every year and you are good to go.

In some cases, the travel size may be cheaper per ounce than larger tubes.  For example, I was at Walmart last night and saw a 1.5 ounce package of sunscreen selling for over $3 next to the rest of the sunscreens.  But when I went over to the travel section, I found a 1 ounce tube of the same brand for just $0.97.

Thermostat

Posted in Insightson Jan 12, 2011

There is a popular, yet incorrect, belief that setting a termostat to a higher temperature will cause the room to get warmer more quickly.  People who believe this will find that a 67 degree room temperature is too chilly and thus will crank the thermostat up to 80.  After an hour, the room is too warm so they crank the thermostat down to 60 degrees to get the room chilled off fast.

I suppose this belief is understandable.  If you are driving a car and press on the accelerator pedal harder, the car goes faster, so shouldn’t a home warm faster if the termostat is cranked?  No.

Most home heating systems are either on or off, meaning that they are warming the home, or they are not. A thermostat simply turns on the heater if the current temperature is less than the setting, and turns the heater off when the setting is reached.  But it will take the same amount of time to warm a room from 67 degrees to 70 degrees whether the termostat is set at 70 degrees or 80 degrees.

You will find that you will save the most on your heating bill if you only increase your thermostat by a degree or two at a time.  Never set your thermostat at a level higher than your desired target temperature.  It doesn’t warm your house any faster.

A couple of email reminders

Posted in Insightson May 5, 2010

Recently I saw an email which was sent out to an entire organization, but it was only meant for that organization’s leadership.  What is bad, is that it contained some sensitive information which could embarrass some people.   These mistakes can be hard to avoid, but it reminds me of three practices which should always be followed when writing emails.

1. Always use a meaningful subject.  The incorrectly-addressed email had a subject of only “Hi.”  It should have had a more appropriate title like, “Leadership Meeting Notes from April 20.”  A meaningful subject helps the reader understand how urgently they should read the email.

2. Always address your audience at the beginning of the email. If you begin your email with, “Hi everyone…” as this email did, then everyone will think that the email is written to them.  If you instead begin your email with, “Hey leadership committee…” then people know if they should be reading the email or not.

3. Avoid emailing confidential information. Emails are too easily forwarded and archived.  Too many businesses and politicians have been burned by something that they emailed.  Once you send an email, you loose full control over who sees it.  It may be better to just say things in person.


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