What’s Your Personal Finance Dedication Level?

100graphicwebreadyYou’ll hear me talk about it all the time.  Well, you won’t likely hear me at all, but read me write about it just doesn’t sound right. ;)  If you want to succeed at your personal finance goals and your personal life goals, you need to continually work towards them.  (Make some if you haven’t already)

And working towards your goals sometimes doesn’t get the required dedication that it deserves.  If you’ve set goals for your personal finance, but have never met one on time, you probably suffer from a low level of PF dedication.  If, however, you always meet your goals on time or early, you not only likely have a high level of PF dedication, you also need to set higher goals! ;)

In the course of my day to day life (and yours, I’d bet) I’m constantly tempted with things that I would like to have or places I would like to go.  And to get those things or go to those places costs money.  Money that might not be in the budget.  The temptation can sometimes be strong to put aside a budget item for this month so that you can have that “want” now.  Time for a self check.

It’s at times like that, that I try to remind myself of the goals that I have set.  That $50 gadget could be a $50 payment towards the next debt item in the debt snowball/avalanche/snowflake.  It could go towards retirement, or towards college savings, or towards down payment savings, or…  You get the idea.  Often, that little reminder is enough to keep me on track.

But it’s only because I’ve decided to have a very high level of dedication to my personal finance goals that it works.  If I had a much lower PF dedication level, it might not be so easy to turn down that gadget.  And I’d be that many more months behind schedule on paying off my debt.

What is your PF dedication level?  Do an inventory of the goals that you have set and decide now how much dedication you want to have towards those goals.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  If you set a goal, you want it to be a 100% dedication item.  Maybe you don’t realize that, but (consciously, or sub-consciously) you created that goal with the intention of giving it 100% dedication.  And if you aren’t giving it the dedication that you intended for it, you’re letting yourself down.  And maybe it’s time to rethink your goals and set new ones.

Whatever the case may be, your dedication level to your goals is the deciding factor in meeting those goals.

image credit: Duchessa

Kapitall – The Future of Investing?

A month or so ago, I was contacted by someone in the PR department at Kapitall.  If you haven’t heard of Kapitall (I hadn’t), it’s a new kind of brokerage.  They offered to set me up with an investing account with $100 in seed money, to play around with their site.  While it wasn’t required that I do a review of the site, I’m doing one anyways.  Why?  Because I really like the site.

Behind the scenes, Kapitall is just like any other stock brokerage.  You tell them the stock that you want to buy, and the stock shows up in your account.  You’ll find similar function at any other stock brokerage like E-Trade or Charles Schwab.  It’s how you get there and the other functions that the site performs that really got me to liking the site.

Let’s start at the top and work our way down.  When you first log in to your Kapitall account, you see what they call the Playground.  If it hasn’t dawned on you at that point, it will soon.  This isn’t your daddy’s broker.

Kapitall Playground

The Playground Interface at Kapitall

What you’ll find on your playground, initially is nothing.  But, you can add just about everything to it, and it displays in a nice graphical interface.  At the top, you’ll notice a “Get Inspired” button.  Click that, and a pop up comes up with different ways of finding stocks.  Pick your level of investing expertise, and you’ll then see different options for finding stocks.  If you’re a beginner, the options are more generic.  An expert? You get options that are a lot more technical.  Across the center of the top, you’ll see some simple links for settings, logout, support, terms, and chat with Kapitall.  Don’t be afraid to use the “Chat with Kapitall” link!  I’ve used it several times, and each time, I’ve gotten a super friendly representative that had all the answers I was looking for.

Just below the top bar of links, you’ll see another bar.  To the left side of the bar, is your portfolio drop down.  Click it, and you’ll see all of the options you have for portfolios. Next is the Explore Stocks drop down.  There you’ll find 8 ways to explore stocks.  It includes some ways that are “normal” like by sector, or by asset class, but also options to explore stocks in some famous investor’s portfolios, and stocks that are in the news.  In the middle of the bar, you’ll see a search box.  Of course, you can just search directly for a stock, fund, etc directly from there.  When you do, you’ll get a list of all the matches.  The next four icons on the bar are another of the ways that Kapitall has distanced itself from other brokers.  They’ve made great efforts to make Kapitall a more social experience than you’ve ever seen at a broker.  You have the ability to have contacts that you can share stocks, portfolios, and send messages to.  You’ll also notice a points bar.  There are lots of ways to gather points, and each new level gives you something new to play with.  There’s a leaderboard attached too!  You can also accumulate “Koins”.  Think of them like tokens that you would earn playing games.  You can then use the Koins in the Kapitall store to buy stuff.  You can buy bigger practice portfolios, music, movie tickets, gift cards, and even free trades or discounted trades.

As you search for stocks, or add your own via the search, you can add them to your playground.  Once on your playground (see UTC, MSFT, WD on the playground image above), you can click on them to see alerts, trade, send to contacts, or remove from playground.  You can also drag the stock symbol to your portfolio and initiate a trade that way as well.  The one thing that I dislike about the trading experience, and that keeps me from using their service all the time, is that you cannot currently buy fractional shares.  That’s probably not a problem for some of you who have thousands of dollars available to trade in, but with the limited funds I had to play with ($100), it became an issue.  It would also be an issue if I were adding a few bucks here and there like I did with my Sharebuilder/Lending Club experiment.  If you’re not dealing with thousands, you end up with cash sitting in the account, essentially inactive.

Kapitall gives you the ability to share just about anything with your contacts, including your portfolios.  I like that.  I’m sure there are some of you who would rather not have your friends know what or how much is in your portfolio.  You don’t have to share.  But, I don’t mind that feature.  It’s a great way to have a few friends connected as contacts, and be able to share stocks, funds, and even portfolios.  It adds a little competitiveness to it as well (with social proof).

On the portfolio side, you’ve got the obvious portfolio of your actual holdings.  You’ve also got the ability to add practice portfolios to your playground which is fun.  I’ve got a 10 Million practice portfolio, and what a mess that is!  But, I’ve also got a few smaller practice portfolios that are a bit more manageable.  In addition to having those, you’ve also got the ability to create a “mirror” portfolio.  Using those, I was able to create portfolios that mirror my portfolios at other brokerages.  You’ll see in the screenshot above, I’ve got them set up for an IRA, a college savings, and my sharebuilder experiment account.  The setup can be a bit difficult as there wasn’t a way to import the transactions from the other account, so I had to input them all individually.  That got a bit burdensome with the accounts, like the college savings, that have been around for a while.  But, once they are set up, Kapitall is able to automatically calculate any dividends or splits for the future.  There isn’t a setting to tell it that you automatically reinvest dividends, so you’ll have to go back in and input those transactions too.  All set up, though, and I have the ability, from one account, to monitor all of my investment accounts.  I like that too!

Overall, I really like the Kapitall system.  They’ve done a good job, I think, of adding some social elements to investing that can be fun, and educational while also adding a bit of a competitive edge to your investing.  I like being able to share stocks and portfolios with friends.  A lot of these elements are something new to the market that really could end up filling a niche.

In the end, I’m still not sure that I’ll be using them for all my investment needs, however.   I just don’t invest enough money to make full use of investing without fractional shares.  Not having automatic reinvestment of dividends is also a bummer.  As a buy-and-hold investor, automatic reinvesting of dividends is a great way to put that passive income directly back into growing my portfolio. I’ll still be using Kapitall to have a one-stop place to track all my portfolios.  I like the interface a lot, as well as the social additions.

What about you?  Have you used Kapitall?  Are you going to now?

 

Happy Labor Day, and #FINCON12

For all of you U.S. folks, who have the day off (like me!), Happy Labor Day!  As much as I dislike labor unions, I can’t fault them for having their own holiday.  Especially when it means I get an extra day off work! I hope you all enjoy your day, working or not!

On an additional note, I’ll be headed off to Denver on Wednesday, to attend the 2012 Financial Bloggers Conference, A.K.A #FINCON12.  It’s a great conference that is in it’s second year. Last year, everyone there had a great time, and learned a ton about being better financial bloggers.  I expect this year to be even bigger and better.  If you’re going, please try and find me while you’re there.  I’d love to meet as many of you as I can.

If you aren’t going, and are a twitter user, be sure to follow the #FINCON12 hashtag starting Thursday and going through Sunday.  Not only will you get a peek into what we crazy financial bloggers do when we all get together (we talk about budgets and amortizations), but you’re sure to pick up some interesting tidbits as well.

Finally, because I’ll be out of town, and have somewhat limited time and resources to be checking on the site for comments and checking everywhere else, I’ll be somewhat sparse this week.  If this year is anything like last year, though, you can bet I’ll be back with gusto next week with all kinds of ideas and stories to tell.