Sunday, October 13, 2013

Where can I find free photos to use on my blogs, and in articles?

While the images may be limited in nature, feel free to check out Springboard Images. There I will be posting various pictures that I have taken over the years which may be used in your blogs, for HubPages, Bubblews, or other article writing sites. I think images certainly add to the color and flavor of any Internet content, and I created Springboard Images as a place to obtain some free photographs to be used.

The only thing I ask is that the copyright information be displayed, and if a link can be provided back to Springboard Images, that would be greatly appreciated. Link backs may also be directed to some of my other blogs and sites if you would prefer to link back to these instead of to Springboard Images.

Some of these link backs may also be provided on the Springboard Images page.

Why are the images free? I think part of the uniqueness of the Internet is sharing content. If I can take an image which somebody can make use of, they can use an image free for use, and I can gain exposure to some of my other work. It's win, win really.

Here are some other links that can be used to link back when using the images on Springboard Images (and do check back often as I intend to update this page quite frequently as I have quite a stock of images that can be posted).
Dark Whispers (Kindle Edition) edited by Ivan S. Graves
Springboard on HubPages

Monday, September 9, 2013

Where is Ford's stock headed through 2014?

Did I mention that Ford Motor Company is an amazing company? If you've followed any of the other things I have written about this company that is certainly an ongoing theme. I very much like Ford Motor Company, and when it comes to where they are ultimately headed, I think it is all upside from here, even if there are still certain economic factors that could give it a bit of a run for its money.

There is of course China to consider. This is an area where Ford is making impressive gains in market share, especially in the luxury sector, and Ford is underway to get three new plants up and running in China in order to keep up with demand. With plans by the Chinese government to close the widening wealth gap, this could help more of the 1.3 billion populated country to have access to disposable income to buy cars.

Good news in the housing sector bodes well for Ford since there is a direct relationship between house sales and the F-150. When housing sales are up, so are sales of the F-150, and unlike some of the other cars Ford makes, the F-150 has wider margins on sales of their trucks. The housing sector, while cooling just slightly, is still on a bit of clip, and likely will be for at least the next 12 months or so before taking a bit of a break. The F-150 remains the best selling truck in America, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

The Fusion is a huge boost to the company's bottom line as well, and Ford has been ramping up production of its popular economy class car in its Flat Rock plant just outside of Detroit to keep up with higher demand for them. Ford sales of their popular Ford Fusion brand are up 13% this year so far. Plants have been running three shifts to keep a steady stream of the Fusion rolling off the assembly line, and they recently announced adding 1,400 workers as well—add in the fact that in California the Fusion is just about to overtake Honda for market share, and this spells good news for Ford as a brand that can begin to take a bite out of the market share of popular Asian models which have dominated the U.S. market for years. This year alone the Fusion is the fifth best selling brand of cars in America, with the Toyota Camry remaining in the No.1 spot.

One of the best things to consider about Ford Motor Company is how well it has streamlined its operations, branding, and the fact that through one of the worst economic periods the auto industry has seen since the Great Depression era, Ford has led the pack in brand reputation, profits, and was the only U.S. automaker to say no to the government when bailouts were being offered to help them through a tough time.

Today the company is the Ford Motor Company and the Lincoln Motor Company after it shed underperforming brands like Jaguar, Volvo, and Land Rover, and even recently dissolved its Mercury brand in order to focus its attentions on the core of their business. Smart move, by the way, and it has been doing nothing but paying off.

All in all I think Ford's stock is headed up through 2014 and beyond. I see at least 15%-20% upside, but some analysts think the stock could jump northwards of 30%. I personally think there are still too many economic pressures to warrant that much up a jump in Ford's stock. But expecting a 15%-20% surge over the next 12-18 months is entirely reasonable. All they have to do is what they have been doing for the past several years. Sell great cars that people want to buy, and continue to reduce costs by keeping branding simple—which they have been doing better than anybody else so far.

In fact, I am so confident in the stock's ability to perform, a month or two ago I sold in-the-money puts with a strike of $20 set to expire in March of 2014. To be quite honest, even if I have to buy shares at that level, and the stock has not yet reached $20, I would still be quite willing and happy to buy them so long as the company continues to stay on track despite any short term blips in stock performance that may come along the way.

$20 is actually a discount to my mind no matter how you slice it. With even longer term prospects in mind, I'd happily pay $25 for it (but let me not get too far ahead of myself here). Today's price of just over $17 is a bargain to be sure.

Disclaimer: Jim Bauer currently owns shares and holds options interest in the Ford Motor Company, and has plans to add more shares to his portfolio in the near future.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What do you think of the situation with Syria?

Most of the time I feel that America does have a role to play in events such as this, especially if such an atrocity such as chemical weapons is perpetrated on its own people. However, I think this situation is a bit different in that both sides of this happen to be our enemies. But more important than that, really, is that we still have no answer from this administration regarding what happened in Benghazi. While the use of chemical weapons anywhere is abhorrent and uncalled for, so is having an American ambassador drug through the streets—there were four Americans in total killed on that fateful day, no help came from the Obama administration, and no answers followed as to why.

Until we know what is going on within our own government, I think that we should leave the Syrians to figure out their fate themselves.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What is one way I can get started in the stock market?

There are many ways that you could go about this, but I am going to hone in on one very specific suggestion that basically sticks to what I usually recommend when it comes to building the necessary funds to really have a better shot at getting to where you need to be to dive deeper into stock market investing; That is, if you only have a couple thousand dollars to get started, investing in individual stocks is a bit more risky than investing in a mutual fund, or in an exchange traded fund (ETF). In the short term the objective is to reduce risk, and accumulate money over time, which allows you to build up to enough money to play with.

A mutual fund, or an ETF is one way you can accomplish this, and is my preferred method of generating initial capital to invest. I should note that its also not a bad way to continue to generate income to play with more once you're in.

As I said, I am going to be very specific here, so irrespective of what I am suggesting, it is important that you do your own due diligence before taking it as the gospel and putting it into action. We'll call this my disclaimer for legal purposes: This is not a recommendation nor a solicitation to buy the specific ETF I am about to suggest. You may employ this suggestion using any mutual fund or ETF that you think best fits your investment objectives.

I will also tell you that I am not a licensed broker, nor am I an accredited investor, and I am not a trained or licensed financial advisor. I am just a guy who likes to invest in the markets, and this is simply a suggestion based on my own experience getting in, staying in, and being profitable in the stock market. That said, when it comes to your money, I would rarely take the advice of most of these guys anyway. After all, it is your money, and as such, you are the one taking on all of the risk. When it comes to your money, you should be 100% involved in what it is doing. You should treat your money perhaps as you would treat your own body. If you lose your body, you lose everything, and nobody cares about your body like you do.


Go to CAPITAL ONE 360 and open up a savings account starting with $100. You will be linking this account directly to your checking account, which makes it very easy to work with and move money around. Plus, right now Capitol One 360 does happen to pay one of the better dividends on what is essentially a basic savings account. As of this writing they offer a current APY of 0.75%.


Go to ShareBuilder and open an account there. I suggest initially funding this account with at least $2,010. If you can fund the account with more, go ahead and do it. Why $2,010? I'll get to that in just a minute.


Once you have opened up your Capital One 360 account, and your ShareBuilder account, and have your checking account linked to Capital One 360, link your Capitol One 360 account to your ShareBuilder account. ShareBuilder is owned by Capitol One, and so this is very easy to do. I would also link your checking account to your ShareBuilder account so that you can also easily move money around from ShareBuilder to Capital One 360, or to your checking account, and vice versa. With Step 3 complete, you can now move money very easily to and from savings, to and from checking, and to and from your investment account. Access, to my mind, is peace of mind.


Once you have your ShareBuilder account funded and ready to go, you will want to make your first investment. Login to your account and go to the TRADE tab, and click on TRADE NOW. This will bring you to your order ticket.

The ETF I suggest investing in is the Nuveen S&P 500 Buy-Write Income Fund (BXMX). I happen to like this particular ETF for a couple of reasons. One, it has traded fairly stable over time. Two, it pays a fairly high dividend yield. As of this writing it is currently yielding 9.16%, or 28 cents per share paid on a quarterly basis.

Buy $2,000 worth of BXMX. I highly recommend placing a LIMIT ORDER as opposed to a MARKET ORDER, since a LIMIT ORDER allows you to be in control of the price you pay for the shares.

As of this writing BXMX is trading at $12.18 per share. I would set the limit at the current trading price for the day you are looking to enter the position—this helps to ensure you'll get your order placed sooner rather than later, and you'll still be able to buy the exact number of shares you wish to buy. The trade will cost you $6.99. Thus, the $2,010 gives you some legroom on the trade, and ensures you'll be able to buy as close to $2,000 worth of shares as possible. In this case I would set my limit at $12.18, and set my share purchase at 164 shares. This will actually cost me $2,004.51. With 164 shares at a 9.16% yield, I can expect to receive dividends each quarter of $45.92. Your account will default to reinvest divdends. Do not reset this default. You want to reinvest dividends.


Now onto the process of building up those funds. Each and every month, like clockwork, decide to buy at least 10 more shares of the ETF. If you can buy more, of course go ahead and do this. It will greatly reduce your overall cost basis. Buy the new shares the same way you bought the old shares. If you buy at least 10 shares each month, and allow the dividends to reinvest, your share totals should be increased by around 135 shares a year depending on the price of the shares at the time of reinvestment.

The amount you want to get to in order to have a better shot at investing in the stock market is around $10,000. And by the way, this money that you put into this ETF should be considered money that is officially "off the books." In other words, don't forget about what it is doing—because obviously you want to carefully watch the performance and be able to make any decisions if things go wrong—but rather forget that the money is in your pocket. It's "off the books," "off the grid," "untouchable," whichever word best fits your mindset. This is your seed capital to dive deeper into the markets, eventually be able to add margin to your account, and move up to Tier 1 level options approval, which is where the fun begins.

But that story is for another day. Getting started is what this is all about for now. Build it, and once it's built, then you can worry about having a bit more fun, and making more money as well.

Disclaimer: Jim Bauer currently owns shares in the Nuveen S&P 500 Buy-Write Income Fund (BXMX).

AUTHOR'S NOTE: At the time of the writing of this article BXMX was trading under ticker symbol JSN and was the Nuveen Premium Equity Opportunity Fund. All of the price and yield information was based on JSN facts and figures. However, BXMX still offers a solid yield, and is still as stable as it was when it was JSN.

Friday, June 14, 2013

How can you make money writing on the Internet?

First, let me begin by making the distinction between writing for the Internet, and writing period. When it comes to writing for a magazine, a newspaper, or writing that epic novel, you are essentially writing for an audience. When it comes to writing on the Internet, you are essentially writing content that is intended to get recognized in a search, and connect a buyer and a seller. In fact, based on what I have found, writing on the Internet for a number of years, is that most of the material you wind up working so hard to get right doesn't even get read at all.

But, getting connected in a search, and more importantly making that connection with a buyer and a seller which is the bread and butter of writing on the Internet does require some ability to write. That is because in order to make these connections, and in order to constantly make new connections, you have to be able to to write a lot of content.

In a recent hub I wrote, Content Is King of the Internet, I referred to this as volume of content.

If you can't write well, and more importantly, if you do not have the ability to create like content without simply regurgitating the same stuff, you will not do well. You need to be able to say the same thing 10 different ways in order to be able to generate a ton of content. That takes some writing ability.

I used to slam those guys who were all too focused on SEO and keywords, but lately as I have found that the key to making money on the Internet has nothing to do with writing, but rather what you are writing, I have changed my mind a bit on this. The best revenues from writing on the Internet that I have enjoyed have been from simply creating content, and targeting that content as it applies to what is trending in searches. This affords me frequent payouts from Google Adsense, for example, but does not require me to be the next Stephen King, or write the next grand Time article—although either of those things would be nice for obvious reasons.

If you want to make money writing on the Internet, simply write. Keep writing. Write about everything and about nothing at all. Just create content. Create a ton of content. And keep looking for ways to create more. Eventually what you write will wind up in a search engine somewhere, and hopefully what will find their way to what you write will not be a reader. But rather someone who is looking for something to buy, which means, so long as they click on an ad, who cares if they read a single word of what you worked so hard to write. The payday comes from the ad that was clicked on, not necessarily the words on the page, even if the words on the page are what ultimately led them to the page in the first place.

Make content your focus, as was more deeply covered in Content Is King of the Internet, and making money writing on the Internet will be as easy as making apple pie.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What is a good way to thaw meat?

Of course, the first order of business is to decide perhaps a couple of days in advance what kind of meat you want to cook. But here is what I will often do since I am great at money management, but not great at deciding what I am cooking from day to day.

Naturally, even if you put meat in the refrigerator, it may not be totally thawed by the time you want to cook it up.

Pick out a meat. Run cold water over the package for at least 15-20 minutes. This gets the thawing process started. Then place the meat in the refrigerator. If you have a thawing drawer, use this, as the temperature is usually slightly warmer than the rest of the refrigerator. Let the meat thaw overnight. If the meat is still semi-frozen the next day, run it under cold water before preparing for another 10-15 minutes. This should leave you with a well thawed piece of meat to work with.

In the worst case scenario, you can also, after the final cold water thawing, toss it into the microwave for 7-10 minutes on 30% power, and this will get you to where you want to be.

When it comes to thawing in a hurry, I usually will put the meat package in the sink and cold water thaw for about 15-20 minutes. Then I will completely dry the package. This is critical. Place the package in the microwave for another 10 minutes or so on 30% power, and the meat should be thawed, and not cooked. Depending on the size of the meat package you may need more or less time.

I generally do not like to thaw meat entirely in the microwave, since even at 30% the edges usually begin to cook, and this can actually toughen the meat, or cause it to be cooked unevenly once you actually place it into the pan, onto the grill, or wherever else you might be cooking it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

How would you play Mattel Inc. today?

I like Mattel Inc. I think it is a solid company which has has good earnings, and I happen to believe that the 2013-2014 Christmas season could do well this year since there are a few economic factors which lead me to believe Christmas sales in particular should be up. Mattel Inc. happens to one of the companies that could see benefits from this. My expectation for Mattel in the 3rd quarter is somewhere between $47-$48 per share.

My plan for Tuesday, May 28, 2013 is to put in a limit order for 100 shares of MAT at $45.63 per share. After a $9.99 comission I will pay for this transaction, my cost basis will be $4572.99, or around $45.73 per share. I will also put in a limit order to sell an OCT 19 2013 $44 cash secured put for $1.80 per share, which would give me a premium paid to me of $168.26 after comissions and expenses. This reduces my cost basis to $4404.73, or $44.05 per share. Once I have the 100 shares filled, I will immediately sell an OCT 19 2013 $48 covered call for $1.25 per share, or $113.26 after comissions and expenses. My cost basis has now been reduced to $4291.47, or $42.91 per share.

The premiums are mine to keep no matter what happens.

If the stock reaches $48.01 when the covered call expires, my call will be assigned and I will sell my 100 shares for a total of $4800.00. I will pay expenses of approximately $20 on the assignment of the call, plus $9.99 for the sell. My total proceeds will be $4770.01, or a profit of $478.54, taking into account the premiums already received. The cash secured put expires worthless, but I still get to keep the premium I was paid by the buyer.

If the stock drops to $43.99 I am forced to buy 100 additional shares of MAT at $4400 plus $20 plus $9.99, or a total of 4429.99. In this scenario I am showing a paper loss of $138.52.

If I had simply bought the stock at $45.63 with comissions, and the stock dropped to $43.99, my loss would have been $164 with comissions factored in. BUT, during this time I also received a dividend of $36 on my 100 shares. This means that in the worst case scenario, by selling the cash secured puts and covered calls and buying the stock via the limit order, my loss is reduced to just $128.

Of course, if the stock gains not only did I get to keep my premiums, but I also made more money on the stock than had I simply bought it, held it, and sold it. In the scenario where the stock did better than $48, my covered call was assigned, and I made the $478.54 profit from the entire process, AND also still received my dividend increasing my total gain to $514.54.

I should point out that it is just a matter of my own personal strategy and preference that I NEVER buy puts or calls. I only sell them. This is how I would play MAT at this moment. The ONLY caveat that is if MAT does better than $48 you lose out on those additional gains. But that is the nature of the beast when employing this strategy.

I will write a follow up in October to see where this wound up, so do check back then to see how we fared.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Are the educated really all that educated?

I suppose it would have to be more defined in order to really come to an ultimate conclusion on this question. Is a doctor highly educated? Sure. I'll go with that. A psychologist? Now we may be stretching things a bit since the whole world of psychology is really kind of a strange place these days when you start to listen to how these people analyze, or try to analyze human behavior.

At the end of the day what I do think is that a formal education does not usurp the power, nor the benefit that a personal education can provide. If one has the aptitude and the interest to learn something, there are volumes of books and other resources available all around us to get at what it is we want to learn and better understand. Of course, one must also have the power to interpret and sift through the garbage information.

Being successful should require no formal education—with a few exceptions, of course. Here we can cite back to whether or not you want to become a brain surgeon. This is one of the obvious ones. Still, what will make you a great brain surgeon? A fancy medical degree? Or will it be aptitude, interest in the subject matter, a passion for brain surgery, and one of the most important aspects of all. Talent. Anyone can learn where to make the cuts. But someone with extraordinary talent will know how to make the cuts more delicately, and may even go on to develop new technologies in the field.

College degrees do not make people 'educated.' That is only something that one can acheive all on their own. College graduates are what I like to call seekers of credentials and accolades. People who are personally knowledgeable, whether or not they also have a degree are what I like to call seekers of knowledge. These are the educated people. And how they get where they are, and how they have become knowledgeable and personally educated, is acheived in a way no single classroom in a college can ever hope to provide.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Do you think taxing the super rich is fair?

No. I do not think that taxing the super rich is fair. Part of the main reason for my thinking is that what we're really taxing is the hard work and risk taking of a select percentage of people in this country. And let's face it. Their hard work and risk taking has a benefit to us all at the end of the day.

Where exactly do any of us think our jobs come from?

Not only that, but being that we live in a capitalist economy, all of us have an opportunity to own the stocks of the companies these super rich ultimately create as well. That is, this opportunity is afforded to those who also wish to learn and understand the ins and outs of business, the stock market, capitalism, the economy, and are willing to take on a little bit of risk ourselves.

Yes. We're the little guy. We're the low man on the totem pole. What we risk carries more danger because we have less to risk, and perhaps arguably more to lose if something goes wrong. But, ask any successful businessman about the number of failed businesses he tried before he landed on one that worked. Ask any successful businessman about what he ate for dinner, if he ate at all, and how he lived in his car for weeks, if not months until his business was able to begin to produce a profit and generate a return.

Not all rich people got their money from daddy. In fact, statistically, most of the richest people in this country are self-made. They started with nothing.

Is it fair that they are rich and we are not? It depends on how you view the world. Of course, my stance is that it is fair to be rich if you've done what is necessary to become rich. It is equally fair to be poor if you've done nothing to at least take a stab at becoming rich. Having your hand out, having wishful thinking, and having dreams of what could be (or even what we desire) is not the means to getting to where we want to go. We all need to be very aware of this.

The fact is that some people simply want riches, but they don't want the hard work and risk that goes along with that. And then there's that lot who believe that riches come from luck. From circumstance. This good fortune and circumstance is unfair, and must be made right by having them give up some of the fruits of their good fortune to those who are less fortunate to have such luck.

There is also that crowd of people who are simply convinced that the entire system of money is rigged. As a result of this thinking, they resent everything to do with money. And especially those who have it. Rather than take the time to figure out how they too can be a part of this very opportunity filled system we call capitalism, they focus on what they earn, or what they don't earn, and don't do much at all to change the direction of their finances. Most certainly they do not take advantage of any of the opportunities that abound to get themselves ahead financially.

I do invest in the stock market. But why am I not in business? Look, I make a pretty mean spaghetti sauce, and there have been untold numbers of times I have considered starting my own spaghetti sauce factory. There is a very good reason this has not happened for me as of yet, and that is because I have not taken the time to go down to my local health department and figure out how to get my kitchen certified. I've never looked into getting a business license, and never really delved too deeply into canning processes for sauces. I've never looked into how I might market this product, or how I might separate my own spaghetti sauce from the hundred or so other brands of sauces that are on the shelves—or how I might get my product on a shelf at all.

The reason my sauce is not on the market right now, and not being produced in my own spaghetti sauce factory is because I haven't taken the time, spent the money, nor taken on any risk to do that. Should I carry resentment for Ragu? Prego? Emeril?

The simple answer is that I should only resent myself. I haven't done anything to start my spaghetti sauce factory and that is why I do not have one.

And as far as the super rich go? If I'm not super rich it is not because I cannot be. It is because I haven't done what they have done to become as rich as they are. Until then, I suppose I can continue to dream, play the markets, save my money, and enjoy the fact that I will have to work for them until the day arrives—if it arrives—that I decide to something to change my own circumstance.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Could Barack Obama ever seek a 3rd term?

President Barack Obama pulled off an incredible feat. Of that, there is no doubt. Let's face it, he had an abysmal record during his presidency, and was in fact actually worse than Jimmy Carter in many ways—yet the American people surprisingly accepted him for a second term. But the question is whether or not President Obama would ever seek a 3rd term, and more importantly whether or not the American people would ever allow this to happen?

I think the answer is two fold. I do have some concern that President Barack Obama may have it in his interest to try for a 3rd term. Speaking on gay marriage he commented that, "Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don't contract them." He has made other statements throughout his presidency that have made the suggestion that the Constitution of the United States gets in the way of his ability to govern. These are troubling words in my opinion, and telling of a mindset that he may just have some interest in completely changing the rules. Including seeking a 3rd term.

In answering the second part of the question, "Would the American people allow President Barack Obama to seek a 3rd term?" I think the answer is no. Despite the changing tide of American political sentiment, despite the scores of unemployed, and those who rely on the dole for their daily bread, and despite the rampant infiltration of liberal ideology into the American psyche, Americans are still Americans at the core. I still firmly believe that Americans overall still respect and enjoy the protections that we have against any one branch of our government having too much power. If the president sought a 3rd term, all Americans would be up in arms, and I am certain that this would include the president's fellow democrats in Congress. There is only so far one can go in this country to uproot her very core foundation—and this would be a line for sure.

There is good reason our laws have created the two-term rule. 3rd term presidents haven't ruined us in the past. But Americans need reassurance that leaders do not become dictators. That's why we have the law in place, and I think Americans appreciate the letter of it.

The real question is whether or not the democrats will maintain their seat in the White House at the end of Barack Obama's ending term in office, and whether or not any new democratic president may wish to advance even further the liberal ideology that Barack Obama has fostered and administered so far. In some ways this could be the closest thing to a dictatorship in America without having an actual face to put on it—the dictator could well be the continuation of liberal policies. And that should probably be feared just as much.