I'm a Seattle parent on the brink of a career change.
Strong Personality is my place to share tips & tools that make my busy life easier!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

How my boss started a fire: the Summer Investor Challenge

Would you give an intern control of $1000? This internship is getting serious.

David Neubert, my boss at Kapitall, is putting real cash on the line for Kapitall's Summer Investor team. He's seeded a Kapitall portfolio with $1000 allocated to each of the Summer Investors. We make buying recommendations and the highest performing intern gets an undivided hour with David over lunch (his treat) and valueable bragging rights. There's some fine print too, to make sure we keep it all fair and legal.

In a sense, I'm new to investing. I once followed certain mutual funds quite closely but as I mentioned in my first Kapitall post, have lately left investing to my better half. It's time to take more responsibility. For this challenge I confined my initial research to within Kapitall to demonstrate how comprehensive the site is. According to the Kapitall Investor DNA quiz, I have a Passive Investor profile.

Here are the buy recommendations I made to David:

1) Kimberly-Clark (KMB), maker of the funny new denim Huggies diapers (YouTube video approaching 1M views). We buy Kimberly-Clark consumer staple products regularly and often, no matter what the economy is doing. Kimberly-Clark has a price of profit (POP) of 13, a high ClimateCounts green rating, and a market cap of $26.1B. I'm impressed that they're measuring their impact on global warming and their profits are less expensive than similar corporations.

2) Luxottica (LUX), maker of most of the world's sunglasses, upscale and otherwise. Are designer sunglasses worth their markup if comparable models are sold cheaply at LensCrafters? Consumers think so; Luxottica reported 2Q profits higher than the year ago quarter, crediting both their non-premium and luxury brands. I simply love that my $10 shades are protecting my eyes just as well as models 20 times that price. Luxottica does not have a ClimateCounts green rating or POP in Kapitall, so I'm letting my rookie status shine by betting on them. After all, it's summer and my family is using, losing, and buying sunglasses. I assume many other consumers are doing the same. Is this naive? Keep reading to find out.

3) Pfizer (PFE), pharmeceutical giant. Turns out that Pfizer is going to pay a dividend on August 4, delivering a quick reward if David takes my buy recommendation. Pfizer has a high ClimateCounts green rating, a POP of 7, and a market cap of $119.5B. This company is influential and has taken steps to manage its environmental impact. Its low POP means profits are relatively inexpensive. This looks like one to hold.

I considered the following brands and am witholding my recommendation for now:

1) Taleo (TLEO) provides talent recruitment services. I noticed that many of Seattle's most recognizable companies manage their job boards on Taleo software. Given the persistently high unemployment rate in the US, I realized that Taleo must be getting fairly high exposure for the few postings available. The company's POP is an outlier at 51 among other software companies. I have more to understand about Taleo before investing in it.

2) Trina Solar (TSL), a Chinese solar energy pioneer, landed in my practice portfolio when I first created a Kapitall user ID. It's performed beautifully, but there's some information missing from its Kapitall profile. I need to do additional research outside Kapitall to understand it well enough to buy it with (David's) real money.

Disclaimer: At the time of this writing, I do not own any of the securities mentioned above. I have informally advised David Neubert on these companies and after consideration, he has purchased the stocks for his personal account. My opinions are not necessarily shared by Kapitall, and they are not in any way to be considered investment advice.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A lesson about community success

One of the life lessons I'm coming to understand is that one person's success does not prevent your own. In the blogosphere, there are plenty of people with great content and creative, funny writing. There's space out here for everyone to share their thoughts, rants, tools, and other contributions; all you need is a unique address.

Five bloggers have agreed to team up for a challenge today. I want to introduce you to my new friends- enjoy!

1) Jamie at All My Loose Ends: Jamie tackles marriage, motherhood and creativity all tied up in one. She wrote a heart-wrenching post in February about the importance of saying yes to our children. See Jamie for a big picture perspective, and the funny little moments kids bring to her life too.

2) Goannatree by Anna: Anna Blanch humorously claims the longest list post in the history of list posts, but offers pointed advice for surviving and thriving in college and graduate level seminars and tutorials. She often writes about her journey through Graduate School and her life as an ex-pat – she is an Australian living in the St Andrews, Scotland who spent some time living in the heart of Texas! But more than this, Anna, a self described scholar-blogger, explores the relationships between literature and popular culture, religion, theology, and faith. I'm deep into her post about Children’s literature and finding lesson plans I can use at home for my preschooler who adores reading!

3) Spitfiresworld: SpitFire uses a Highway of Life analogy to write stories focused on making life's journey more smooth, and most importantly, keeps the kids (and you) from asking, "are we there yet"? She reminds us that our loved ones, not the mirror, are the most telling reflection of beauty in this loving post.

4) Terri (TheCoolMom) writes TheVeryLatestThing: She describes herself as a wife of 1, mother of 10, and grandmother of 2. She's writing 2 blogs and 1 novel; this is one influential woman so listen up when she shares advises caution to businesses using Facebook!

5) Kendra writes KreatebyKeKe: a new scrapbooking blog by a beginner, for beginners. I'm a crafter myself and can vouch for Kendra's beautiful style with a good dose of humor. See her funnybone-tickling post about Scrapbooking Etiquette For Beginners whether you're a scrapper or not!

Scrapping Do or Don't? You'll have to visit KreatebyKeKe to find out!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 1: Strong Personality's Elevator Pitch

The first post in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (31DBBB) is my elevator pitch. That means a description of my blog's purpose, short enough that I could capture someone's interest in a very short interaction, say the brief time we might ride an elevator together.

I can tell that this isn't my final version: this project's other exercises will force me to rethink it all over the next 30 days. So here it goes:

I'm a Seattle parent on the brink of a career change; Strong Personality is my place to share tips & tools that make my busy life easier!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The SITS ProBlogger Challenge- 31 Days Starting Now


I'm starting a new project with a host of other bloggers at Secret's In The Sauce. The ProBlogger challenge is a 31 day program designed to help bloggers enjoy more success, which could mean reaching more readers or even attracting advertisers. The advantage of doing it with the SITS group is taking each step along with a community of support. My goal will simply be to define my message, write more regularly, and trade information with others on the same path. And I definitely would welcome new readers.

I'll be completing a challenge a day for the next 31 days. I'll try not to trip myself at the start line by assuming that some days will be make-up days for others I took a pass on. While it is a busy summer, improving my skills is a priority for me. A calendar & a plan have always been my friends!

June 19 is day 1. If you want to join in, get the scoop here!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Taking Responsibility

I'm looking out from 38th floor of the Columbia Center, right back at my own neighborhood in West Seattle. It's a beautiful summer day and my first as an intern at Kapitall, where we're experimenting with a very new investing platform. It's a powerful tool with a friendly interface that I hope will attract more people like me, women somewhere in the middle of their investment lifecycle, to participate in the stock market. Why? Because our financial futures matter and we can write that future as well as anyone.

As a woman in my 30s, I'm starting to feel as though I've pushed my financial future to the back burner. I left the paid workforce to take care of my children and in the process took less and less time to track savings and investments. However, watching my children grow is an everyday reminder that financial responsibility is a daily responsibility. I have blurry goals around paying for college and (almost) simultaneously paying for my own retirement. It's time to participate, and doing so doesn't have to be a drag.

Kapitall is in its beta phase, an exciting time to learn from a company! The product is an online tool, centered around a "playground" that allows you to point, click, and drag to learn about companies, build real or pretend portfolios, and even share portfolios with your friends.

My responsibility for this summer is to use social media to introduce Kapitall to my network. I will consider myself successful if I can inspire tentative investor to take more active responsibility for their financial education.
  • If you've gotten this far, click on http://www.kapitall.com/ to find out what I'm talking about.

  • Now that you're here, the playground is cool, isn't it? Go ahead and open a practice portfolio. Click on the My Contacts button and add me to your contacts so we can chat about the training tools, and what your "copper" status means. I look forward to chatting with you!
This summer will not only bring lessons in effective social media outreach and marketing, it'll help me make my paycheck now pay more later. How about that?

Friday, July 2, 2010

3 Digital Distractions to Keep Kids Civilized

(Warning: baby is the director. After watching this video you'll either feel like a ragdoll or as though you rode in a washing machine.)

I've been reading a lot of online commentary about how noisy kids are and whether they should be allowed in public places like restaurants, movie theaters, or on planes where adults are trying to enjoy themselves. Seriously? One plane passenger asked if I'd considered giving my daughter Tylenol before our flight. I know it stinks to hear crying on a flight, but trust me when I say the parents are doing everything they know to provide comfort.

I'm squarely in favor of responsive, responsible parenting, and also for giving parents a little bit of latitude. Yes kids can be noisy and do need reminding to respect others. Don't adults need that reminder too, on occasion?

As a parent of very young children I make extra accomodations to reduce our noise. We watch our movies at home, though there might be a special daddy-daughter trip to the theater on the horizon. Our kids are usually in bed by 8:00, not hanging in romantic restaurants. When we are out in public, I almost always remember snacks, books, or toys to keep little minds busy.

But even the best among us forget the snack, book, or toy. And maybe you're not up for I Spy games or telling stories. Here are a few distractions you might already have that could buy you a few minutes when you can't remove a cranky child from the scene:

1) iPhone. My friend credits the iPhone for teaching her daughter to read. She's an attentive mom and I think she meant the phone was a great opportunity to practice! We like these alphabet flashcards. I found a terrific post by Travel Savvy Mom naming her favorites.

2) Digital camera's video function. Our point & shoot has proven very durable to rough handling by toddlers, who are fascinated to see their own image on the screen. The video above was taken by my daughter on the airplane. That camera got her through at least 30 minutes of a 5 hour flight; not bad.

3) Bring a laptop, DVD player, or, on Alaska Airlines flights, rent a digEplayer. Yes we could buy a DVD player, but our daughter doesn't know it yet and she thinks having her own player is a really special treat for airplane rides.

I think we're all doing our best to teach our children great manners. But they're children after all, and There Will Be Noise. After trying your best in a difficult situation, for your own sanity, remember that you don't have to satisfy a someone else's expectations for public behavior. I think most people will recognize that your best effort is enough!