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Personal Financial Decisions & Thoughts

The PayPal Security Key

By hagrin - Posted on 03 March 2007

Recently, when I heard that PayPal would be offering additional security through a keychain security key (or key fob), I immediately signed up that day even though I rarely use PayPal and Ebay. For me, I want to be an early adopter of two form authentication since most Internet users really should be protecting themselves in every available manner (from themselves in many cases). I applaud PayPal and Ebay for implementing this additional layer of security before any of my banks have and I hope that more institutions follow suit.

First, I paid $5 USD to get the security key. I ordered the security key over a month ago and was surprised when it came today in the mail. If you haven't seen an image of the key yet, I've included one below -

Activating your security key is extremely easy. All that you need to do is browse to PayPal's security key page, enter in the serial number on the back of your key fob, press the key's button to generate a 6 digit number, wait 30 seconds and then retrieve a second number. If successfully activated, your security key will be attached to your account. I logged out and logged back in to test the new system and loved the simplicity. After successfully entering in my email address and password, I was now presented with an additional screen asking for my 6 digit number instead of my normal Account status screen.

It's that simple.

With all of the talk of Ebay hackings and PayPal insecurity, any user that relies on either of these services would be foolish to not spend the 5 dollars to add yet another level of security. This security key provides protection against those phishing attempts that are lucky enough to catch you with your guard down since even if they sniff out your email and password, the 6 digit security code will prevent them from fully accessing your account. You'd have to say - PayPal is definitely on the right track and got "it" right this time.

Virtual Stock Market

By hagrin - Posted on 09 February 2007

"Whoever dies with the most money, wins" - Danny Devito in Other People's Money

I'll admit it - I want to have as much money as possible and I am always looking to make more money, save more money, work smarter, research the latest "get rich scheme" and put in the work to try and make those things happen. However, a lot of "let's make a lot of money" plans don't give entrepreneurs a virtual world to test their knowledge, strategies and "reaction" times. However, one popular method of investing money would be playing the stock market and the Virtual Stock Exchange allows beginning investors to practice their researching and pricing techniques.

Recently, a few friends have created portfolios and have been able to use this virtual world to evaluate exactly how accurate our research is and whether or not our instincts are correct. In addition, VSE teaches investors the patience needed to deal with a volatile market and to not overreact to poor stock performance. VSE allows users to create a group that your friends and you can use to create a competition based on each other's portfolios. VSE provides extensive trading options including long and short positions, limit and stop trading, margin accounts and commisison/interest calculations. If you're looking for a group to join, the group name is "" so create your portfolio today and let's make this money!


By hagrin - Posted on 05 February 2007

Many of my close personal friends know that when Google came out and then again shortly after (my ex will testify that when it was at the 150 range that I said in the car to her that she should buy it because it would go to 400), I told everyone that this was the can't miss stock of our time. I, and many others, was proven right.

Now, I will give you the next big stock to invest in and hold onto for about 5-10 years: SHLD.

Sears Holdings Corporation, led by Chairman Edward S. Lampert, is described as a "broadline retailer", but many investors will call SHLD a "virtual hedge fund". To understand why this is important, we need a quick history lesson. For ease, I will quote this MarketWatch story:

Sears Holdings Chief Executive Edward Lampert is regarded as one of the top five hedge-fund managers in the United States. He has a stellar track record with an average annual return of about 29%, before fees, since he went out on his own with ESL Investments in 1988. In 2005, he became the first hedge-fund manager ever to breach the $1 billion mark in income, according to Alpha magazine. If Lampert can generate returns anywhere approaching that by turning the retail behemoth's heavy cash flow into yet more money, then why not, argues Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Dreher. Like Buffett -- who Lampert follows closely and often quotes -- Lampert may be able to turn an iconic American name into a monolithic investment stock, though his approach to retail would be considered nontraditional.


To get in on Lampert's hedge fund, an investor must first be invited and then commit a minimum of $20 million -- plus have the stomach to forget about it during the five-year lockup period. Sears Holdings shares, on the other hand, are trading for about a mere $180 a piece, so 100 shares would cost $18,000 -- a pittance in comparison, and you can get out at any time. In fact, you could call Sears Holdings a working-man's hedge fund. "Why would you invest in ESL when you can invest in Sears Holdings and you don't have to pay a 2% management fee; you don't have to give him 20% of the profits," said Dreher. "Everything he's doing with Sears Holdings investments goes right back to the shareholders."

So, he has the track record, the experience and the price is affordable to the common man. However, at around 175-180 dollars a share, isn't it priced out already? Not so if you believe Lampert who describes SHLD as a "$55 billion startup." How many startups do you know that have 55 billion dollars in assets to play with at its "inception"? In addition, the options market is generally a "big money" game led by those with the most to win and lose. When looking at option pricing, you can see that the 1 year and 2 year pricing targets are in the 200+ dollar range meaning at least a 10% increase in the next year or two. That's a pretty good ROI with a stock that has a Beta value of -0.13.

SHLD marks the first entry into the Virtual Stock Picks tracker. I locked in my pick at the beginning of the day at 178 so we have -

Pick #1
Buy @ 178 on 2/5/2007
Strategy: Long-term Hold

We'll track the performance of my picks over time and see if we can make some people some money. And yes, I do plan on investing my own real money in my picks so my money does back these wild speculations.