Picking up Nickels

Friday, April 15, 2011

March CPI-U numbers released: Pass on April 2011 issue I Bonds

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the March 2011 Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) inflation data this morning, which increased by 0.98% month over month.

As I have mentioned before, now (along with the release of the September CPI-U) is one of the best times to consider purchasing I Bonds. The reason for this is that we now know what the rate of return for April 2011 I Bonds will be for both the first and second six month periods, which is important since I Bonds must be held for 12 months before they can be redeemed.

Using the CPI-U data from September 2010 (218.439) and March 2011 (223.467) (courtesy of inflationdata.com), we can calculate the variable rate for the second 6 month period for April 2011 issue I Bonds:

That means these bonds would earn a rate of 0.74% (using 0% fixed & 0.74 variable) for the first 6 months and 4.60% (using 0% fixed & 4.60% variable) for the second 6 months. Based on this, April 2011 issue I Bonds are once again a competitive investment when compared to something like the 12 month CD @ 1.75% APY currently being offered by Connexus Credit Union.

Despite the 2%+ overall rate that April 2011 I Bonds will have over the next 12 months, I will be passing on them. I think that the 0% fixed rate for the life of the bond combined with the 0.74% composite rate for the first six months make these a deal breaker. Even if the fixed portion of May 2011 issue I Bonds remains at 0%, I would rather take the 4.60% rate for the first six months and gamble that the composite rate for the second six months would be greater than 0.74%. On top of that, it's not even out of the question to hope for a non-zero fixed portion to appear next month. Personally, I plan on buying $10,000 ($5k paper & $5k electronic at treasurydirect.gov) worth of I Bonds in 2011 myself, but will likely wait until the September 2011 CPI-U numbers come out in October before pulling the trigger.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

HBO & Cinemax Free Preview this weekend on DirecTV

HBO and DirecTV are offering a Free Preview Weekend starting tomorrow, April 15th and ending on Monday, April 18th.

If you are a DirecTV customer like me, all programming on channels 501 - 517 will be free for the entire weekend, so fire up your DVR and get the most out of this promotion. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 2011 Financial Asset Roundup

Here are my current financial assets as of the market close on April 11th, 2011:

Asset Mar 2011 Apr 2011 Change
Checking 838 6,175 5,337
Money Market 43,066 42,528 -538
Savings Bonds 36,808 36,868 60
Treasury Bills 0 0 0
CDs 97,312 97,720 408
Brokerage 102,781 107,553 4,772
401k 100,727 103,659 2,932
Roth IRA 50,882 52,229 1,347
SEP IRA 249,317 254,976 5,659
529 Savings 52,800 53,771 971
Total Assets $734,531 $755,479 $20,948

The S&P 500 has rebounded 2.27% since the last update despite the ongoing political unrest in the Middle East and the ever-worse earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan:

(chart courtesy of msn.com)

The unemployment rate for March improved once again as it fell to 8.8% as 216,000 jobs were gained. Oil prices have continued to rise during that time, gaining from about $101 per barrel to almost $110 per barrel. I paid $3.69 for a gallon of gasoline on Sunday (up from $3.43 one month ago) and wonder how high prices will go and what the impact on our rebounding economy will be.

On the financial front, my asset levels have continued to climb and have surpassed my all time high from February. One thing I will be keeping an eye on is the CPI-U number for March 2011, which is due to be released on Friday. Since inflation has been on the rise, May 2011 issue I Bonds could be an interesting place to put some cash once we get past the anemic 0.74% offered for bonds issued through the end of April. I've also finished my personal tax returns and already have my refund sitting in my checking account. With few attractive options for a landing spot for that money (other than I Bonds), I'm thinking of just throwing that cash toward my mortgage. I'm still not sure though... I also was shocked to find myself in the 15% federal tax bracket, with my reduced income impacting me a bit more than I initially figured. The worst part is that I had some room to pay 0% tax on dividends and capital gains that I missed out on. I guess I'll have to keep that in mind as 2011 progresses.

On the work front, I am keeping busy and am extremely pleased to have renewed my contract with my largest client for another year. I just need to keep the revenue coming in so I can fully fund my 2010 SEP IRA contributions and get the 2010 federal and state tax extensions squared away for my S Corp. Good times!