Archive for July, 2010

Why invest in the stock market?

Posted in entrepreneurship, personal finance on July 31, 2010 by gohelpyourself

For long-term investing, the stock market is better than having money in the bank or investing in risky businesses. (photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu.)

by Mary Louise M. Alcantara and Anthony O. Alcantara

If you ask people for a list of what they would invest in if they had a million pesos, the stock market would probably not make the cut.

A PSP or Gameboy console would probably get a better ranking. But that’s because, for most people, the stock market is as inscrutable as the Hammurabi Code.

The stock market pretty much runs like your regular neighborhood public market. Let’s say you want to buy a plump tilapia that you can stuff with tomatoes and onions and grill using your brand new electric griller.

You go to the fish section and see a promising candidate on top of the pile. You check out her skin. You look at her eyes to see if they’re clear and not cloudy. You check if the flesh is firm. You sniff her for the right fishy aroma. This is it, you say to yourself… your perfect candidate for dinner.

In the stock market, you deal with companies instead of fish, though they could smell fishy sometimes, especially if they’re run by unscrupulous businessmen. You buy company stocks, which entitle you to profits, dividends, and partial ownership of the company.

Simply put, it’s just like buying and selling anything. We believe most people, like those who buy and sell cellular phones, have transferable skills that could be applied in investing in the stock market.

But there’s a learning curve. If you could muster some interest and genuine curiosity, you can definitely learn enough to be confident to invest in the stock market.

Ways to earn from the stock market

There are two ways you can earn from investing in stocks: dividends and capital appreciation.

When you invest in the stocks of a certain company, you become part owner of that company. For instance, if you own shares equivalent to 10 percent of a company, then you have the rights to 10 percent of the profits of that company.

When a company earns a profit, and the board decides to retain only a certain amount for expansion, dividends, which are expressed in pesos per share, may be given out to stockholders.

Capital appreciation is the increase in the value of the stocks or shares that you own. For example, if you invested P100 in a company, after five years, the value of that investment can become P150. That’s an increase of 50 percent in five years.

And why would the value increase? Well, just like in the neighborhood public market, where the price of tilapia fluctuates with changes in demand and supply, the value of your shares fluctuates, too.

Fortunately for really well-run companies with a good track record, they increase their value significantly over the years. The stock’s real value, or the actual cost, and perceived value, or the value that people assign to the stock, determines the price of the stock.

Invest online

The easiest way to invest in the stock market is by having an online stock broker. So far, the best and biggest online stock broker in the Philippines is Citiseconline. We have to admit that one of us knows one of the VPs of the company, but we’ve done our research. Please let us know if there is a better online stock broker.

Citisec’s website (www.citiseconline.com) lists everything you need to know to get started. It answers all your questions about stock market investing. All forms are downloadable. You just visit their office to submit the forms and other requirements, and deposit an opening fund. You can do this through BDO, BPI, Security Bank or HSBC.

One such product that we recommend is Citiseconline’s EIP or Easy Investment Program. With at least Php5,000, you can start investing.

Under EIP, you can invest in great companies that Citiseconline recommends. They are:

Ayala Land Inc.

Bank of the Philippine Islands

Jollibee Foods Corp.

Manila Water Co. Inc.

SM Prime Holdings, Inc.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.

You can deposit Php5,000, or any amount you choose, every month to your Citiseconline account. Then you just pick which stocks you want to invest in among the six companies mentioned.

Citiseconline believes these companies are the best picks for long-term investing, which means 10 or more years. Through peso cost averaging, you will minimize the effects of fluctuations in the stock price.

Since we don’t intend this article to be exhaustive, and since the details are best explained by Citiseconline’s experts, we recommend that you check out Citiseconline’s website (www.citiseconline.com).

It would be best if you attend the company’s free seminars. They even offer free sandwiches and drinks, too.

Have an open mind and give the stock market a chance. It’s one of the largely-untapped investment tools in the country. And it may be your ticket to riches.

#

Advertisements

A father-to-be learns about breast milk

Posted in parenting on July 22, 2010 by gohelpyourself

Breastfeeding may be a hassle, but it may all be worth it.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

“Some babies develop a preference for a certain breast,” said one of the girls during a seminar of La Leche League at Rustan’s Makati.

Hmmm… what a refreshing way to think about breasts. I guess babies think differently. But I’m going to be a father soon, and I have to think like a baby, or think what’s best for babies if I’m going to do a decent enough job of being a father.

I accompanied my wife to this seminar since she thought it was a good idea. It opened a new world to me. And I think couples expecting their first child, or those who haven’t tried breastfeeding, or those who had frustrations with breastfeeding should attend seminars like this.

Breast milk is still best for babies, they say. So we’re going to try it out with our first baby.

Anyway, the seminar is free and La Leche League has built a worldwide community of moms dedicated to breastfeeding. Imagine that. A cult for breastfeeding.

The local cult leader, Abby Yabut, starts the informal meeting by asking if any of the moms or moms-to-be has a breast pump or is planning to have one.

There were 13 women initially, including my wife, but about nine more trickled in as the 1 1/2 hour meeting went on. There were also three dads, including me. Three more arrived later on, but they left after a few minutes, probably thinking that breastfeeding is none of their business.

The women formed a circle while the dads stayed at the periphery, virtually ignored. Which was a good thing. I can’t imagine myself talking about female breasts in front of these women. So I assumed my most appropriate role: an attentive fly on the wall.

But going back to breast pumps, I was appalled by my ignorance. I thought it was just like milking cows. From what I recall in watching National Geographic, milking cows is easy. You just go to the cow,  find those little protrusions from their bellies, squeeze enthusiastically and, voila, you have fresh cow’s milk.

I am disappointed to find out that milking humans are much more complicated than that. I sure hope scientists would someday find a way to genetically engineer humans with a cow-inspired milk-producing gene. It will spare us from a lot of headaches, though I think the breast pump industry would vehemently oppose this.

During the meeting, I learn about single manual breast pumps. You use your hand to operate it on a single breast. I also learn about electric pumps, which come in single or double varieties.

For those who have no idea about breast pumps, here’s a simple guide:

1. If the mom is not working, and she has all the time and the desire to develop her forearm flexors, she can use a manual pump. I tried this on myself just to see how it feels. I gave my arms a good workout, but my breasts became a little distorted.

2. If the mom is working part-time, it’s best to use the electric single pump. That way, the mom can still work while the electric pump works its magic on one of her breasts, while the other breast is free for other activities.

3. If the mom is working full-time, the electric double pump is recommended. It’s the most efficient among the three. It works double time since it works on two breasts at the same time. This I have yet to try.

I also learn that pumping is recommended beginning on the 7th week onwards to stimulate the breasts to produce milk. A mom can pump between feedings, which is approximately every two hours.

Also, the pump doesn’t have to be washed after every use. Just put it in the refrigerator. You just wash it at the end of the day.

If the working mom forgets to bring the pump to work, she can use her hand to express the milk from her breasts. It was only mentioned in passing and I was tempted to ask if it is done cow-style. But then, I remembered that I was a fly on the wall so I kept my mouth shut.

There were other bits and pieces:

1. At room temperature, milk is best consumed within three to five hours. Now that’s a long gap. But I’m a fly so I didn’t ask why. To be safe, just consume within three hours. If the room is air-conditioned, the milk should be safe to consume within five to seven hours.

2. There’s a hierarchy for breast milk depending on how and when it was stored and consumed. The best breast milk comes direct from the source. The next best is the milk put in the refrigerator. Refrigerated breast milk must be consumed within 24 hours. The third best is the milk put in the freezer, where breast milk can last up to seven days.

3. Pumping should not go longer than 30 minutes at a time. A 30-minute rest should follow. Some, however, do it at shorter intervals, say 10 minutes of pumping followed by 10 minutes of rest.

4. Warming milk from the refrigerator or freezer must be done a certain way and slowly. Place the bottle or container in your hands or between your legs. Armpits were not mentioned, but I think it’s a good idea. Just make sure they’re not sweaty and they don’t smell. You must also swirl the milk as it melts. Don’t shake. You’ll come up with the right milk consistency for the baby that way.

5. How do you know if breast milk is spoiled? It’s sour. You have to taste it. Compare the taste to freshly expressed breast milk.

6. To store breast milk in the freezer, use glass or plastic. Some use Ziplock plastic bags, and pile them up in the freezer with the appropriate labels. Consuming breast milk in the freezer or refrigerator follows the FIFO rule, first-in first-out.

Another important thing I learned was that breastfeeding is not just for feeding.

“It’s for comfort and warmth, too,” says Abby.

Oh well, the things you learn when you’re about to become a father.

#