Personal Finance

Happy New Year and Stock Picks For 2009

Happy New Year to all our readers – last year was a tough one in the markets but I can’t complain.  My financial situation is better now than it was last year thanks to some aggressive mortgage paydown.  In other areas of my life – our son is a year older and is healthy, happy (most of the time) and doing very well.  We also celebrated the birth of our daughter in March who is also healthy, happy (most of the time) and progressing quite well.

I also started a new site called ABCs of Investing which deals with very basic investment terms and concepts using 2 short posts per week.  A sample post explains exactly what the top down investing method is.  Alternatively, a bottoms up investing style might be more to your liking.

A special thanks goes out to Mr. Cheap who bought both my son and daughter a share of BMO each and created a DRIP.  A very generous gift and very time consuming as well to set the DRIP up.

So even with the crappy markets – 2008 was a great year!

Stock picks

I entered into a stock picking contest with some other bloggers – who shall rue the day they decided to do battle with Four Pillars!  🙂

Traditionally, the only way to do well with stock picking contests is to swing for the fences and hope for the best.  With that in mind I picked 4 small Canadian oil stocks which have been beaten down quite a bit.  If oil rebounds next year then these stocks should perform quite well.  There are probably better plays on the price of oil but this is the best I could do on 3 minutes of research.  Keep in mind these are pretty much random selections – do not consider this a recommendation or any kind of advice! – Bronco Energy $1.27.  I started watching this stock a few months ago when it was trading at $10 (it’s now less than $1.50).  My Dad saw some analyst recommending it on BNN – great call – down 85%! – Holly Corp  $3.65 – TriStar Oil and Gas  $11.41 – Connacher Oil Gas  $0.74

The other competitors (click to see their picks)

The Wild Investor stock picks

Zack Stocks stock picks

Dividend Growth Investor stock picks

My Traders Journal stock picks

Where Does All My Money Go stock picks

Intelligent Speculator stock picks

The Financial Blogger stock picks

Million Dollar Journey stock picks


Will There Be A Second Stimulus Check In 2009?

The question all Americans want to know is whether they will receive a late Christmas present this year in the form of a 2nd economic stimulus check.

In 2008 the government sent out economic stimulus checks to 130 million Americans with the idea that this money would be spent on consumer goods and services thereby stimulating the economy. While the program was considered a success by some – it didn’t prevent the economy from slowing down into a recession with the possibility of a depression.

President-elect Obama has proposed an economic stimulus package for 2009 which will total almost 1 trillion dollars – or about $3300 for every single American.

Second economic stimulus check

So far there has been no mention of any stimulus checks (like in 2008) however that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Nothing has been approved or finalized so it is still possible. If a second economic stimulus check is going to happen in 2009 it would be more likely to appear later in the year if it looks like the initial stimulus efforts are not doing enough to get the economy going.

Stimulus tax cuts

Obama has proposed stimulus tax cuts of $1,000 for couples and $500 for individuals. If this passes, it might be the closest thing to an actual stimulus check that most Americans will receive in 2009. This kind of stimulus is not as much fun as getting a large check all at once since it would take the form of reduced withholding taxes on regular paychecks. However, in the end – extra money is extra money.

Emergency Energy rebate

One of the more controversial initiatives is an energy relief plan to help Americans pay their energy bills this winter. The $1,000 emergency energy rebate would be given directly to Americans and would be paid for by windfall profit taxes on the large oil companies.
This particular initiative might not have much of a chance given that with the rapidly dropping price of oil, home heating costs are going to be a lot lower than initially predicted as recently as a couple of months ago.

Infrastructure stimulus spending

The Obama stimulus plan is calling for a huge investment in roads and bridges and mass transit improvements. This will total $850 billion over 2 years. This portion of the plan is the main driver behind the goal to create 2.5 million jobs over 2 years.

$250 stimulus check for select groups

There will be a $250 stimulus check for select groups.

Book Review

Buy Buy Baby – Book Review

The post is part of the Baby Expenses Series. See the entire series here.

Buy The RESP Book on Amazon

I recently read a fascinating book called “Buy, Buy Baby” written by Susan Thomas. The book takes a look at the proliferation of marketing behind baby toys and children’s television shows. The book subtitle “How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds” should give you a pretty good idea of the author’s opinion of the topic.


One of the main topics of the book is the trend for Boomer generation and Gen X moms to want to buy “educational” toys for their children. In the case of the Boomer moms, Thomas says they wanted to buy educational toys and games for their children in the hopes that the children will be smarter. Gen X moms on the other hand say they don’t want to push their children too hard but they buy educational toys anyways.

Some of the specific products and trends that she covers are:

Mozart effect: The idea was that listening to Mozart would improve your intelligence. This idea was based on a very small study on college students which was later debunked but regardless a number of CDs featuring the connection between Mozart and kids were best sellers.

Baby Einstein: The name says it all. These videos were originally created by Julie Aigner-Clark and were turned into an extremely successful business that was sold to Disney. Thomas seems to think that parents buy these videos in the hope of adding a few IQs to little junior, but the message I’ve gotten from various parents I know who like these videos is that they are a great way to keep junior occupied for at least a few moments and who cares if they are educational or not?

She details how the toy industry tries to sell expensive products based on the idea that the toys are “good” or “educational” for your kids when in actual fact they have no extra benefit compared to old fashioned toys such as lego (one of my old favourites).

Another big topic she covers is television shows that are geared toward young children as well as toddlers. Her opinion is that children under the age of two shouldn’t be watching any television at all.

My opinion

I’m not a big fan of marketing and as far as toys go – I’m well aware that most toys are geared towards the parents not the children. We haven’t bought our son many gifts mainly because his relatives back a truck full of toys up to the house every time they visit. I did however convince my mom to buy some toys for him this summer at yard sales which saved a lot of money. As far as television goes, we haven’t let him watch very much tv but at his age (16 months) he doesn’t really have much interest in it. We’ll have to see what happens when he gets older and decide how much tv we want to let him watch.


A fantastic read if you have ever bought or thought about buying a toy for a child. The book is well researched and well written and I enjoyed it tremendously.

BusinessWeek had an excellent review on this book which is where I first heard about it.