How to be a failure

I chose my friends carefully.
I chose my friends carefully.

I have been writing this blog for about three years now, and so far all my articles have been about self improvement; how the earn more money, how to acquire more success, etc. But after taking some time to think  I realized that during most of my life I have been a failure and that I am better qualified to share my knowledge on how to be a failure than how to be a success.

Here are my secrets on how to be a failure:

It’s all about your mental attitude. You have to have a Negative Mental Attitude. If you have a negative mental attitude you are half way there. Just close your eyes and imagine the worst case scenario for everything. Whether you think about love or business, if you imagine the worst case scenario, there is a good probability that it come true.

But it’s not all about your mind. It is also about your body. Do you know how difficult it is to eat healthy? All that organic food is expensive. Any kind of natural smoothie will cost you between $5 to $10 and many of them taste horrible. Instead you can buy a liter of Coke for for about $1. And who wants to spend time preparing healthy salads when you can have Doritos with Salsa. There are a lot of nutrients there. All those cheap meals have lots of calories you need to survive, they are accessible, and let’s face it… they taste good.

How about some exercise? Physical activity is painful. Just stay on your couch. You will be safe there. I have broken my jaw practicing karate, I have damaged my ligaments lifting weights. Even physical activities like dancing salsa can be dangerous. I met this guy who broke his partner’s nose while dancing salsa. Just stay on your couch — you will not get hurt.

What about your friends? Motivational speaker Jim Rhon says that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” So I choose my friends carefully. I try to find friends who are dumber than me, that way I can always feel like the smart one.

And last but not least: Procrastination. Always leave the important things for the last minute. That way, if you fail, if you do a horrible job, you can always use the excuse that you did it all at the last minute.

Good luck being a failure, please write back and let me know how it turned out for you.

Superpowers I acquired at Toastmasters

The superpower of building a community
The superpower of building a community

I joined Toastmasters in October 2014. I have this dream of becoming a professional public speaker and I had heard that Toastmasters would give me the training which would allow me to make my dream come true.

Today I feel that I am still far away from being a professional speaker, but I know that every time I give a speech I am a bit closer.

In the process of learning how to become a professional speaker, I have acquired some superpowers which I want to share with you.

In our competitive society, sometimes we need an unfair advantage in order to realize our professional or personal objectives. The superpowers I am about to share with you will improve your personal and professional life.

The Superpower of Public Speaking

Imagine that you are applying for a job. You and five other people with similar experience and education are the final candidates. Many of the questions you will be asked during the interview are simple: 1. Tell us about yourself. 2. Tell us why we should hire you and not the others… These are open ended questions. Who do you think will give a more compelling answer? The person who has practiced public speaking for over a year or the person who has never spoken in public. I would put my money on the person who has acquired the superpower of public speaking.

Public speaking could get you the job that you want and it can help you get a salary increase much faster than your colleagues.

The Superpower of Leadership

This is an amazing super power. When you are a good leader, you inspire others to follow your vision. To be a leader you need to be a good communicator, and you have to have a clear vision of where you want to go and where you want to take the members of your group. Leadership is a skill which can be learned and Toastmasters offers many opportunities to learn and practice this fantastic skill.

If you become a good leader in your family, in your community, and in your job many people will follow your vision and will help you realize your goals at the same time as you help others realize their goals.

The Superpower of Building Communities

Spending time with family and friends, and being of service to others are the activities which give us the most happiness. When we create a community of people who share our vision and goal we feel fulfilled and our chances of success are magnified.

When you build a community, you build trust among your peers, you have more human and physical resources, and you create  much deeper relationships with the members of your community. Communities are powerful.

At Toastmasters we strengthen our community by meeting regularly, by having dinner together, by organizing potlucks and BBQs and by creating many other activities. You can take some of these ideas and apply them to your circumstances. When you have a strong community with a similar vision, your options are endless.

Conclusion

The positive effects of these superpowers are difficult to measure but their benefits can drastically improve your life. After three years as a Toastmasters member my life is so much better, I feel more confident and I feel that doors are constantly opening in front of my eyes. Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.

Net worth statement, September 1st, $153,000

Net Worth: $153,000

We don’t need much to be happy

Doing a net worth statement is one of my favorite activities of the month. I get to see where I am going and where I have been. It helps me reflect on my life and it allows me to share my journey to financial freedom with my friends and followers.

All my life I wanted to be a millionaire, and I still want to become a millionaire, but my priorities have shifted. Now, my biggest priority is to be happy.

At one time in life, I thought that the more money I had, the happier I would be. But I discovered that not to be true. I have met plenty of rich people with empty lives and I have met many more poor people with rich lives. Once the basic living expenses are met, there is little correlation between money and happiness.

Hiking Mont Tremblant
Hiking Mont Tremblant

The things which makes us happy are so simple and they don’t cost much money. What are those simple things that makes us happy?

  1. Getting enough sleep
  2. Spending time with family and friends
  3. Helping others
  4. And constantly learning something new.

However, those who believe that money is the key to happiness sacrifice happiness in the present for the illusory happiness of the future.

In order to have more money:

  1. We work longer hours so we get less sleep
  2. We spend less time with friends and family
  3. We stop helping others
  4. We stop learning new things unrelated to work
So how can we be happier now and in the future?

We give too much importance to material things. Things like cars, houses, fashion, gadgets. Sure, we might need some of those, but do we really have to have a big house and a new car? Do we need to have the latest gadget and the latest fashionable clothes? How about if we sacrifice some of those material things in order to get some more sleep, to spend more time with our family and friends, to learn something new?

If we stop this race to have more possession, we won’t have to work as much, we can invest in our happiness and we can save a little bit more for the future.

This are the priorities in my life:
    1. To sleep as much as my body needs
    2. To spend time with friends
    3. To be part of a club or an organization (currently I am a member of McGill Toastmasters)
    4. To take time to study and learn something new
    5. To do some physical activity every day

Any plans for the future?

I am planning to sell 50% of one of my properties to a friend. This will give me enough cash to eliminate some of my debts and to invest more in the stock market.

So here it goes. An overview of my financial affairs:

Date Cash Car Stocks R. estate Debt Total
September 1st 3,915 750 96,595 157,440 105,700 153,000
August 1st 3,790 1,000 96,120 156,440 105,350 152,000
July 1st 3,578 1,250 95,645 155,527 105,000 151,000
May 1st 3,249 1,750 95,029 153,408 101,808 151,628
  • Cash is increasing. I want to have enough cash to take a vacation next January.
  • My car continues losing value due to depreciation, but I am making $1,400 per month by driving for Uber
  • Stocks are happily going up.
  • The mortgages continue getting paid.
  • Due to interest expenses of 4%, my debt continues to increase as well.

Goals for September

To increase my net worth to $154,000. I can easily increase my net worth $1,000 per month.

My projection is that my portfolio will increase at the rate of 6% per year, this will be the equivalent of $5700/ year or $475/ month.

As for the real estate part, if my mortgage gets paid every month, my debt will be reduced and my equity will increases by about $500 per month.

My debts are increasing about $350 per month.

Long Term Goals: Airbnb is finally legal in Montreal. I hope to get one property next year and use it for Airbnb.

 

The slow track or the fast track to wealth

toast
In our first world economy, we all have the potential to become wealthy. But is that what we want?

What is the role of wealth in your life?

Becoming wealthy is not everyone’s priority.

Some people think about love, beauty, sports, sex, dance, fashion, etc. They are committed to their goals and for them, they just need enough money to continue working towards their goals.

Many people don’t have any goals, they are social lemmings who live their lives without a sense of direction, they just follow what everyone else is doing.

For some other people, wealth takes a front seat, they believe that everything else will become easier if they are wealthy.

The two tracks to wealth

For those interested in building wealth, there are two tracks. The slow track and the fast track. Which track you take depends on your priorities, your ambitions, your self-confidence,  and your willingness to put in the work.

What is the slow track to wealth?

The slow track to wealth is to become wealthy through working a regular job and saving for decades. This method has proven to be reliable. If you work a regular job, save every month and invest in low-cost index funds or ETFs, it is almost guaranteed that you will become wealthy.

Let’s do a quick example. For this example, let’s ignore the effects of inflation.

Let’s imagine that a person saves $5,000 per year and he/she gets and average return from the market of 8%. How long will it take this person to become a millionaire?

It will take 36 years to accumulate $1,000,000.

To save $5,000 per year is not that difficult, practically anyone can do it, but most people are conditioned to spend, not to save, therefore very few people will become wealthy even though it is within their reach.

With one million dollars, a person can spend about $80,000 per year  for the rest of their lives without running out of money. The slow track is not bad at all.

What is the fast track to wealth?

Most people who become millionaires, they do so by creating  businesses or by investing in real estate. They take risks and responsibilities that others are not willing to take. They have a vision of where they want to go, they eliminate all the excuses and work relentlessly towards their goals. A fast track business should make you wealthy in 20 years or less.

I will give you an example:

I am in the Airbnb business. I have an apartment which I rent via the Airbnb website. If my goal was to become a millionaire as fast as possible, I will be able to do it without too much difficulty. I earn about $1,000 per month with one property. If I were to get an additional  Airbnb property every 4 months, by the end of one year I would be earning $4,000 per month. By the end of two years, I would be earning $8,000 per month. By the end three years I would be earning $12,000 per month. On year number three I could be earning $144,000 per year. If I spend $44,000 on my living expenses and invest the other $100,000, I could be a millionaire in less than 10 years.

I don’t have to be a computer genius and I don’t have to spend half of my life getting master’s or doctorate’s degrees. I could simply become a millionaire by running a business which doesn’t require much brain power.

This is just an example of how easy it is to become a millionaire. Many people who become millionaires have simple ideas.

We are masters of our destiny

We are not helpless. We can take control of our destiny any time we want. If we wish wealth, wealth is there at our feet. The only obstacles in becoming wealthy are self-imposed. Financial success is only limited by our lack of imagination.

Increase your wealth by reducing your taxes

Before giving a speech at Toastmasters
Before giving a speech at Toastmasters

In our journey to build wealth we are constantly looking for ways to increase revenues, reduce expenses and invest wisely.

If you earn more than $20,000 per year guess what is one of your biggest expenses…

Taxes!

In Canada, a person in a higher income bracket is already paying more than 50% of his income in taxes. If you add sales tax, property tax, gas tax, cigarette tax, alcohol tax, corporate tax, school tax, import duty, and all the other taxes I don’t even know about, high earners are getting a royal screw by the government and by the rest of us less well-off people.

Canada is a wonderful country. We have so many social programs which are the envy of so many other countries in the world. But, please people, be aware that all those social programs are not free. Someone is paying for all of them. I will take a second to express my gratitude to all the tax payers who support our social system. Thank you!

However, as much as a society  benefits from the tax revenues, it’s the responsibility of each individual to find legal ways to reduce his/her taxes.

Here are some tips to reduce the tax burden:

Funny
Funny

Change your source of income

For some reason, our government has decided to tax different sources of revenue in different manners. Employment income and interest revenues are taxed at a higher level than dividends and capital gains.

Let’s look at some examples. Assume that your tax bracket is 40%

If you earn $50,000 in salary, you pay $20,000 in taxes (ouch)
If you earn $50,000 in interest, you still pay $20,000 (ouch again)
If you earn $50,000 in capital gains, you will pay $10,000 (this is more humane)

So, the trick is to change your income as much as you can from salary and interest to capital gains.

In addition, the government has created special accounts which allow us to pay NO TAXES (such as the Tax Free Savings Account) or accounts which allow to defer taxes many years into the future ( Registered Retirement Savings Plan).

Pay your taxes decades later

How would you feel if you have a debt and your are allowed to pay it 10, 20, or 30 years later. Would you take it?

This is exactly what the government allows you to do when you open a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) account. The taxes that you owe today could be paid decades from now.

Assume again that you earn $50,000. You can take $18,000 and deposit it in your RRSP account. Now your taxable income is $38,000. Your tax bracket is reduced. You pay a smaller percentage of taxes on a smaller amount of money. When you retire at age 65, you can withdraw your $18,000 plus whatever gain it made and you will pay regular income tax on that money.

Pay $0 taxes

This is the biggest gift the Canadian government has given to taxpayers. We are all allowed to open a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). Money in a TFSA can grow 100% tax free. The only drawback is that there is a limit in the amount of money we can deposit in a TFSA. For 2016 the limit is $5,500.

Conclusion

Tax reduction is the low hanging fruit. Very few of us use all the opportunities we have at our disposal to reduce our taxes and our expenses.

Many people consider tax self education very boring, but this kind of education can pay high dividends for the rest of your life and remember, dividends are taxed at a lower level.

Now (and always) is the worse time to invest in bonds

With friends on a rainy day
With friends on a rainy day

Anytime anyone goes to a financial adviser two things happen:

  1. The financial adviser will only recommend their “in house” products — you know, the ones that have 2-3% management expense fees.
  2. They will ask you your age and they will miraculously show you a fund that is tailored made for all people your age.

We have already spoken about point #1 in previous posts. For sure, financial advisers will ALWAYS offer you the funds with high expense fees, because they get paid kickbacks, called trailer fees. Those kickbacks represent the major portion of their income. But guess what? Those trailer fees come out of your pocket. It is to the advantage of the financial adviser to always recommend the products which pay the best commissions for him/her. There are hundreds of low cost index funds and ETFs which financial adviser will never recommend, because even if those low cost index funds and ETFs are the best products for their clients, there is no commission involved. The investment adviser’s job depends on your ignorance.

On point #2, they are equally inept. The typical formula to choose a portfolio of stocks and bonds distributed like this: 100% stocks minus your age. That means that if you are 30 years old, you should have a portfolio of 70% in stocks and 30% in bonds. If you are 50 years old, you should have 50% in stocks and 50% in bonds, and so on. Really? the major contributing factor is our age? How about if I am already a millionaire? How about if I can hardly pay my rent? How about if I am good health? How about if I am in bad health? It doesn’t matter, he/she will simply look at the table his employer gives him and plunk you into the bracket recommended in their sales manual.

Historically, stocks have always been a better investment than bonds, but investing in bonds has always provided a false sense of security. In fact, what they provide is reduced volatility. We should not confuse less volatility with less risk. On the long run, bonds ARE NOT less risky than stocks, they are less volatile.

The reality is that the more bonds you have in your portfolio, the more you are handicapping your growth potential. Why would anyone slow down their money earning potential only because they are older? When you are older, when you need your money the most, it is precisely at that moment when you would like to get the most out of your money.

Here is another thing that is killing me. Sure, we all have heard that no one can predict the market and that a diversification between stocks and bonds is the prudent thing to do. But there is a moment in time when you can put rules of thumb to the side and use your common sense.

This part is a bit technical but this is how bonds work:

If interest rates goes down, the value of bonds goes up. If interest rates goes up, the value of your bonds goes down.

At this moment, August 2016, interest rates are at a record low. They are about 1%. If Interest rates don’t have much room to go down, then the value of your bonds don’t have much room to go up.

However, interest rates have a lot of room to go up. If interest rates go up, you will lose money. The potential to lose lots of money is very high.

Knowing this,why would anyone put any percentage of their hard earned money in bonds? Your probabilities of winning are low and your probabilities of losing are high. You are better off keeping your money under your mattress.

Conclusion

  1. Look for a fee only financial adviser.Don’t get a financial adviser who makes his/her living out of commission, he/she will only offer you the products which give him/her the highest commission.
  2. Don’t have any bonds in your portfolio, especially now but ideally never. Why would you shortchange your return. Even after retirement, you still would like to see your money to grow.

Coaching Service

If you are interested in my coaching services, send me a message to book a session guillot.alai@gmail.com

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How to get the most happiness out of your money


How much is this moment worth?
How much is this moment worth?

Money can buy a lot of things, but to have a lot of money in your bank account should never be the main objective in your life. Once you have covered your basic needs of food and shelter, your most important objective should be to be happy. So how do you get the most happiness out of your money?

Here is what I have learned through reading and personal experiences.

Buy experiences, not things

I am a member of a club called McGill Toastmasters. It is a club devoted to learning speaking and leadership skills. We meet for two hours once per week and it costs me $12.50 per month ($1.56 per hour). In exchange I get a fantastic learning experience, I get lots of entertainment, and I get to network with many interesting people who have become close friends. The $12.50 I spend every month is one of the best purchases of happiness in my life.

I met my friend Cheryl about 10 years ago (2006). At that moment I discovered that she had been going to the same coffee shop every morning for many years. At that time I was reading The Automatic Millionaire. David Bach, the author, writes about “the latte factor.” He explains that if we save the amount that we spend on lattes, we can all become millionaires. When I explained this concept to Cheryl and suggested that she stop going to the coffee shop she was taken aback. She explained to me that it was not about the coffee, but about the experience of having a coffee in a place that provides so much happiness. For Cheryl, this is one of the most precious moments of her day. She is investing in an experience and she is getting a great return for her money.

You don’t have to spend much money to buy a beautiful experience. You can spend time with friends at the park, at the bar or at a restaurant. It’s those memories with your friends which will bring a smile to your face, not the latest gadget nor the latest clothing item.

Buy time

The glorification of “busy” is over. At one time I used to admire people who were always busy, now I admire friends who take time for themselves and for their friends. Many of my friends have packed agendas from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep. Many of these friends have high paying jobs. It is interesting to see how they have so many things but they don’t have time. Time to go to the gym, time to have a beer with a friend, time to sit down and watch a sunset.

At one time I was a workaholic. I used to work 10 hours a day, seven days a week. I had money but I didn’t have time. Now, I work part time. I read books at the park, I meet with friends on weekends or weekdays. For me time is more valuable than money.

If you have kids or a spouse that you love, the most valuable thing you can do for them and for you is to spend time together. Go out for a walk, to the park, to the beach, to a dance event. In short give up some of your working hours to spend time with the people you love.

Give

When my ex wife and I got divorced, I invited her to celebrate by going to Cuba. When my daughter got into a fight with her boyfriend, I invited her to Cancun. Giving to the people you love, is one of the most valuable sources of happiness. Don’t give because it’s Christmas or their birthday, give because giving is pleasurable.

Close your eyes, think about someone you love, or think about a cause worth giving to and show your generosity. You will thank yourself.

Coaching Service

If you are interested in my coaching services, send me a message to book a session guillot.alai@gmail.com

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Net worth statement, August 1st, $152,000

Net worth continues increasing.
Net worth continues increasing.

The worst month in a long time

Wow, I had such a challenging month. Here is a list of all the things that happened:

  1. One of my neighbors had bedbugs, so we all contributed for the exterminations and for the inspection of the whole building. $100
  2. I had to close one of my Airbnb units because the insurance company refused to insure the building as long as there is any Airbnb in the building. I lost a monthly income of $1,000 plus I have to pay about $3,000 in cancellation penalties.
  3. I had to change all the shock absorbers of my vehicle. $800
  4. I had to put new brakes in my vehicle. $300
  5. A refrigerator broke in one of the rental units. $500
  6. I had to pay for a yearly parking permit. $160

If during the previous month I was celebrating living out from my passive income, this month I am lamenting the end of my passive income. For the moment, to make ends meet, I started working for Uber.

beach
A day at the beach.

Any plans for the future?

I cried and felt sorry for myself for about two weeks, but then I realized how lucky I am. I had a great opportunity to make money from an Airbnb property for almost 2 years. I have a car which has been loyal to me for about two years, and now it helps me earn money through Uber. I have too many things to be thankful for. Life continues being generous to me. I have plenty of leisure time and great friends. All I have is gratitude for my present circumstances.

So here it goes. An overview of my financial affairs:

Date Cash Car Stocks R. estate Debt Total
August 1st 3,790 1,000 96,120 156,440 105,350 152,000
July 1st 3,578 1,250 95,645 155,527 105,000 151,000
June 1st 3,350 1,500 95,505 154,892 104,717 150,530
May 1st 3,249 1,750 95,029 153,408 101,808 151,628
  • Cash is increasing. I want to have enough cash to take a vacation during the winter.
  • My car continues losing value due to depreciation, but I am making $1,500 per month by using my car to drive for Uber.
  • Stocks are happily going up.
  • The mortgages continue getting paid.
  • And due to interest expenses, my debt continues to increase as well.

Goals for August

  • To increase my net worth to $153,000. This goal should be easily attainable.
  • My projection is that my portfolio will increase at the rate of 6% per year. This will be the equivalent of $5700/ year or $475/ month.
  • As for the real estate part, if my mortgage gets paid every month, my debt is reduced and my equity increase by about $500 per month.

Long term goals

My portfolio has finally reached $100,000. This has been a lifetime goal. Now, I have my sights on $200,000.

 

The first $100,000 is the hardest

Charlie Munger
Charlie Munger

Here is a quote by Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s business partner.

“The first $100,000 is a bitch, but you gotta do it. I don’t care what you have to do—if it means walking everywhere and not eating anything that wasn’t purchased with a coupon, find a way to get your hands on $100,000. After that, you can ease off the gas a little bit.”

To have a portfolio of $100,000 has always been a professional goal. I have been in Canada for 18 years. The first 5 years don’t count as money making years because I was going to school, so it has taken me 13 years to go from $0 to $100K.

Most people, even those earning $100K per year, will never accumulate this amount of money. I feel extremely privileged to have arrived at this milestone.

How to accumulate $100K

The fast track: If you are a high earner or a successful small business owner, and you save 20% of your income or more, you could probably accumulate $100K in about 5 years or less.

Hanging out with friends
Hanging out with friends

The slow track: If you are a low earner, like me, you can only get there through a lot of discipline, sacrifices, perseverance, etc.

Since I arrived in Canada, I have been a janitor, a busboy, a waiter, an Uber driver, a cleaner, a dance teacher, an insurance salesman, and lately a money coach.

I buy most of my clothes at Walmart or any other discount store. I buy second-hand books and furniture. I buy automobiles which are 5 years old or older. I usually don’t go to bars. I mostly go to restaurants where the plates are $15 or less. I don’t consume much alcohol. I don’t smoke or have other expensive vices. My pleasures are simple. I like reading and writing, I like going to the park. I watch Netflix instead of going to the cinema. And specially, I like giving speaches at my local Toastmasters club.

In spite of my frugality, I live in a cool neighborhood (le plateau), I travel once per year,  I have an apartment which I love, I have a car, a windows laptop, and an android phone. And more important, I have a great community of friends. I have very little and yet I feel wealthy.

I am the kind of person who believes that wealth is available to all of us. If you want it, you can get it. Canada is full of opportunities. There are hundreds of courses a person can take, almost for free, on the Internet. Even a dance teacher like myself has the means to accumulate $100K

The next $100K

The next $100K
The next $100K

If I don’t do anything else to increase my wealth and if my investments grow at the rate of 8% per year, this is how long it will take me to get an additional $100K

To get from 100 to 200: 9 years
From 200 to 300: 5 years and 3 months
From 300 to 400: 3 years and 9 months
From 400 to 500: 2 years and 10 months

These are not real numbers because I have not included the effect of taxes, but you get the idea – money can work harder for me than I can work for myself.

Conclusion

The first step to accumulate wealth is to have a true desire to do it. Saying to yourself “it would be nice to have $100K” is not enough. Don’t listen to advertisers. Fight the urge to buy gadgets and expensive clothes, get a bicycle instead of a car, spend less on housing and frequent less expensive restaurants. If you set your mind to it, you can do it.

How to measure the stock market


bro“Today the market went up by 100 points.” This is a comment we hear in the financial news very often. But what does it mean?  What are they talking about? What are they referring to when they say “the market”?

They are talking about the average price of a group of stocks. Generally this group of stocks represents the economy of a particular country. For example, if we are in Canada and the newscaster says “The market went up by 100 points,” he is referring to the Toronto Stock Exchange index. If a newscaster says the same thing in the US, he’s referring to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (more on that later).

Let’s say that the whole financial market of an imaginary country is composed of only 10 companies. During the day some stock prices will go up, others will go down. At the end of the day the price of all those stocks is added and divided by 10. If the average is higher than the average of the previous day, the announcer would say that the market went up. If the average is lower, the announcer would say that the market went down.

Which indexes are the most relevant to us?
The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX)

In Canada, the  most important index is the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). This exchange was created in 1852 and today is the 8th biggest exchange in the world. There are about 1,600 companies in the exchange and the price of the stocks represents the Canadian economy.

How would you make an investment that represents all the stocks on that index? You would buy an ETF which replicates the performance of the exchange. That ETF is XIU.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (The Dow)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is the best known and oldest average in the US. It was first published in 1896 and today is composed of the 30 biggest US companies.

The best way to invest in the Dow is by buying the ETF: DIA

The Standards and Poors 500 (S&P 500)

This index is composed of the largest 500 companies in the US. Because of the diversity of the companies held in this index, it’s considered to be the best representation of the US economy.

The best way to play the S&P 500 is through the following ETFs: IVV, SPY or VOO.

The Nasdaq

The Nasdaq is one of the major stock exchanges in the US. It is an important competitor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). When it was created, all the transactions were done electronically while the NYSE was still taking orders by phone. The stock prices were quoted in the decimal system instead of the fractional system (for example $1 ⅛). And the stocks which trade in the Nasdaq are mostly information technology companies. The Nasdaq index is composed of over 3,000 companies and is now as well known as the Dow Jones and the S&P 500.

The best way to play the Nasdaq is through the ETF QQQ

Conclusion

In the future, when you hear in the press that the market has gone up 100 points, you will have a better idea of what they are talking about.

They say that diversification is the only free lunch in finance and diversification is very easy by investing in the indexes. If you are Canadian, a possibility for your portfolio would be to purchase a bit of the Canadian index, a bit of the S&P 500 and a bit of the international index (We will cover the international index in a future blog).