June 23, 2020

Dividend Capture as a Strategy for Small Investors


As always, I am not recommending anyone purchase any particular stock. However, interest rates at banks are far below the rate of inflation. Keeping large amounts of money in your local bank causes the value to decline dramatically, even though the numbers grow ever so slowly. Therefore, I am recommending downloading Robinhood and investing in your favorite company, or perhaps companies. As a small incentive, if you use my link to download Robinhood, open an account, and deposit some money, you and I will both receive one free share of stock worth about $4. Here's my link:

https://join.robinhood.com/brianm3790
----------

Unfortunately, life seldom goes according to plan. At least, my life never seems to follow the plans I make. Perhaps my ability to strategize and make plans is poorly developed? Perhaps life just enjoys throwing me to the sharks? I don't know. Two unexpected expenses arrived, which I won't go into here, forcing me to sell off my Ford Motor Company stock and withdraw about $620 from my Robinhood account. This dropped my balance back down to an even $500, exactly where I was on December 19th when I first started blogging about Robinhood. I had a couple of options at that point: I could leave everything alone and let my CNOOC shares collect dividends while the valuation followed the tumultuous market we have now, I could withdraw everything and give up completely, or I could play around with Dividend Capture and see what kind of improvement (if any) I could pull out of my meager $500 balance.

I decided to head back to the NASDAQ Dividend Calendar and see what kind of trouble I could make for myself by trying to grab some dividends. "Dividend capture" is a strategy I briefly discussed in two earlier posts. In many ways, it is an ideal strategy for accounts with small balances. This is particularly true of impatient people like myself who cannot simply buy stocks and hold onto them until they die. The two earlier posts where I discuss Dividend Capture are here:

A Curious Development in China and Chinese Oil
Dividend Capture from Three Fossil Fuel Related Stocks

The CNOOC investment itself worked out pretty well for me. I paid $345.81 to buy three shares at $115.27 each. I sold those same three shares for $366.81 at $122.27 each for a net profit of $21.00. I bought the shares on June 1st and I sold them on June 5th. $21.00 is not a huge profit, until you consider it takes about ten minutes to check the NASDAQ Dividend Calendar for a likely candidate, about twenty seconds to place an order with Robinhood (buy and sell, so forty seconds total), and I held the shares for only 5 days. Investing with Robinhood might not be a new career for me, but it is certainly more profitable than half an hour watching television and also far more profitable than a five-day time deposit at my local bank. Additionally, I earned $15.61 in dividends, for a total profit of $36.61. Not bad for a casual hobby that took less than half an hour of my time. In fact, if every deal I ever made on Robinhood worked out this well I would be ecstactic. I wouldn't be rich, but I would certainly feel successful.

Here is the screenshot from my purchase:

Here is the screenshot from my sale:

Here is the screenshot from the dividend award:

Another deal that worked out well was Frontline. On June 2nd I bought eleven shares of Frontline at $8.96 per share for a total of $98.54. I then sold those eleven shares on June 9th at $9.01 each for a total of $99.13. The total profit from this deal was only $0.59. However, by holding onto the shares for seven days I earned a dividend of $7.70. I challenge you to find any bank in America that will pay you $1.10 per day to keep $100 in your savings account, or even in a time deposit. Total profit for the Frontline deal was $8.29. Granted, that's barely enough for a fancy double-shot latte at Starbucks, but it's still better than spending half an hour watching grown men beat each other up over a leather ball.

Here is the screenshot from my Frontline buy:

Here is the screenshot from my Frontline sale:

Here is the screenshot from my Frontline dividend award:

My total profit for these two deals was $44.90. Unfortunately, not every deal turns a profit. I lost a total of $11.20 on a third deal and $3.42 on a fourth, bringing my net total for the past month down to about $30. So, thirty dollars for about two hours work in my spare time while sitting on my sofa listening to some relaxing Hawaiian ukulele background music. All told, that's not bad for two hours work. Even better, there is no bank in the entire world that would pay me $30 interest on a one-month time depost of $500. Using Robinhood and Dividend Capture is not going to make me rich. That much is true. On the other hand, it certainly is a profitable way to burn a couple hours here and there. Also in the plus column, it keeps my brain alive as I research which companies to invest in and try to decipher the mysterious workings of our tumultuous, AI-driven stock market.



June 19, 2020

The Yellow Hummingbird and Other Stories


I don't normally do this, but it's late at night and I have spent all day working on short stories for my next volume. Exhaustion and a head full of my own prose made me wonder what would happen if I gave away a story. Below is the opening story in my collection, "The Yellow Hummingbird and Other Stories". This story came about as a result of multiple events. My mother died of cancer at the age of 60. My mother-in-law died of cancer a short time later, also at the age of sixty. Someone posted a picture from their front yard of "a strange looking hummingbird" that was actually a yellow finch. I got off a plane somewhere (I don't remember where) and when I walked out of the terminal the first thing I saw was a row of Prius-based taxis with bright green ivy leaves painted across their quarter-panels. When all those pieces came together, the result was a short story about a writer unexpectedly losing her mother to cancer. Details like brandy and keychains and photo albums fell into place as Susan revealed her story to me. So, without further ado, here is, "The Yellow Hummingbird":



The Yellow Hummingbird
A story about family

Susan stared at the blank sheet of virtual paper on her computer screen.

"So much whiteness," she whispered, knowing she'd heard it before but not remembering where.

A flash at the window drew her eye from the computer screen. A hummingbird with a ruby red throat and gray belly had discovered her delphinium. Deep blue, the delphinium complimented the tiny bird completely, making it seem a flower had broken free to float near the main cluster.

Then the hummingbird vanished as quickly as it had appeared, leaving her staring at the blank virtual page mocking her from the computer screen.

"Perhaps if I start with a poem?"

Her hands reached for the keyboard.

ruby-adorned blue fire
fluttering delphinium
is it summer already?

Susan frowned at the screen. Haiku wasn't really her strength and it showed. Still, it was a start.

A memory tugged at the back of her mind. She couldn't quite bring it into focus. Herself as a little girl watching a hummingbird, a yellow one. Green and blue hummingbirds were common here in Ohio, but she couldn't recall ever having seen a yellow one. Did they even exist?

She minimized the word processor and opened her web browser. Such wonders the modern world provided! Fingers flashing like the hummingbird's wings, she opened Google and typed in, "yellow hummingbird".

Up popped half a dozen videos of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at yellow bird feeders. Not even close. Scrolling down the page she found a forum for hummingbirds, a blog by a woman calling herself "Yellow Hummingbird", an advertisement for Gibson guitars, and tons of pages claiming there were no yellow hummingbirds in North America.

The memory would not clear up and would not go away. Was it a real hummingbird? Was it somebody's garden decoration? Why did this obscure hint of a memory bother her so much?

Her phone rang. Not only did the sudden sound make her jump, it grated on her nerves. Annoyed, she swiped the lock open on her smart phone and answered, "What?"

On the far end of the line she could hear a sharp intake of breath.

"Susan? This is Melody. Mom's not doing well. Can you come home?"

Time stopped. A long movie of her mother's slide from healthy middle-aged woman into hacking, ragged shell torn by cancer from a lifetime of cigarettes and bad Charleston air unrolled through her mind.

"Susan?"

She couldn't bring herself to watch her mother die. The main reason she'd fled South Carolina for Ohio was to put enough distance between them to cushion the blow of the inevitable. Frantically, she scrambled around for a good excuse not to fly down to Charleston.

"I'm researching hummingbirds." Strictly speaking, it was kind of true, or had been for the past few minutes. Of course, it was nowhere near as demanding as she hoped Melody would believe. "I need to be close to the university here."

"You can't spare a couple days?"

Susan could hear the annoyance in her sister's voice as plainly as she could the softly whirring wings of the hummingbird returning to the delphinium outside her window.

"I'll try, but I can't promise anything. Maybe tomorrow? Will she make it through the night?"

"Doctor Rufous says he can't promise anything. He says one lung has collapsed and the cancer has gotten into her heart, kidneys, and other organs." On the other end of the line Susan heard Melody choke and cough as she fought not to cry. Melody had always been much closer to their mother than Susan. She smoked like her, drank like her, dated like her, and someday would probably die like her. "He says if she makes it through the night, she might last a couple more days, but inside a week she'll be gone."

"She's at Hollings, right?"

"Yes."

"What room number?"

"Ashley River Tower, room 202."

Susan scribbled the information on a notepad.

"I'll try to be there tomorrow, but there's just no way to get down there today."

Melody's sigh of relief opened the flood gates and Susan heard her start to cry.

"Thank-you, Susan. I can't do this alone."

Then the line was dead and the only sound was the soft susurration of the hummingbird still feeding on the delphinium.

***

Fate, Susan pondered silently as she waited in line at the Caribbean Airlines counter at Columbus Airport, has a very odd sense of the ironic. Decals and paintings of bright blue and green hummingbirds were everywhere: on the wall behind the counter, on the badges worn by the pretty women working the check-in counter, on the envelopes that held the tickets they handed out to passengers, and even in bronze statues and plaques scattered around for decoration. This corner of the airport was awash in hummingbird artwork.

Fortunately the flight was not long. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on the yellow hummingbird memory from the day before. It still hovered just on the edge of clarity, taunting her with some odd mix of innocence and cruelty. For the life of her Susan could not figure out why it felt cruel, but it did. Something about that image cut through her heart like sharp talons on tiny bird feet. The lack of understanding bothered her almost as much as the memory itself.

Outside Charleston Airport she found a line of waiting taxis. White, with a flurry of green leaves riding their flanks, the row of Prius-based cabs claimed to be eco-friendly, cheap, and reliable. She poured herself into the back seat of the first one in line.

"Hollings Cancer Center, Ashley Tower, please."

The taxi driver was young woman with smooth, lightly tanned skin. She wore a tube top to keep her shoulders cool in the muggy Charleston weather. Ohio was not much better in August, but now in early summer it was much drier in Ohio than Charleston. Susan had forgotten just how oppressive all that extra humidity could be. One more tiny annoyance in a long line of annoyances.

Just as Susan wondered if the day could get any worse, the young woman leaned forward to push the button on her digital fare box.

"Right away, Ma'am. Won't take long this time of day. Traffic's light."

The driver had a hummingbird tattoo on the back of her shoulder. It was yellow, with blue wings, and hovered over a sprig of delphinium with a banner underneath that read, "American Honey."

Tears welled up in Susan's eyes. It was sudden, without warning, the grief catching in her throat and making it hard to breathe. Her mother was dying and might even be dead by the time she arrived. Why did this stupid memory of a mythical bird keep bothering her so much? It wasn't fair! As the cab joined the traffic smoothly flowing into Charleston proper, Susan struggled to drive away the yellow hummingbird and replace it with some kind of happy memory from her childhood. She could not find a single one.

The young woman glanced in the mirror and noticed Susan's silent tears.

"Losing somebody, Ma'am? That's hard. Lost my father to prostate cancer last summer." She bent forward to display her tattoo again. "That's when I got this. He always called me his "American Honey" and he loved hummingbirds. Must've had a hundred feeders hanging in the backyard. One summer he found a yellow one like this hanging around. Drove himself nuts trying to identify it. Decided it was some new species nobody had identified so he named it "American Honey" and applied to Audubon for recognition. They told him it was probably just a Yellow Warbler, either that or covered in pollen."

Susan forced herself to smile. "He sounds like a wonderful man."

The driver laughed. "Folks 'round here thought he was crazy, but he was my Dad and I loved him."

***

Forty-eight hours later Susan stood at her mother's front door with a key chain she'd gotten from Melody in one hand. The time in-between was a jumble of puzzle pieces in a box with no label. Her mother had died in the night. Melody had been distraught. Somewhere in there a funeral had been arranged and carried out but she couldn't remember what exactly her role had been in the whole morbid process. She stood now staring down at the key chain in her hand. The fob was a bronze hummingbird. She hadn't even noticed until she'd pulled it out to open the door. Her heart had frozen solid in her chest and she couldn't move. Somewhere in the haze she wondered if she were having a heart attack, but she still breathed, so she doubted it.

Slowly, each move an agonizing torture, she selected the door key, fitted it into the lock, unlocked the door, turned the knob, and stepped into the house she had not seen since leaving town two weeks after her high school graduation ceremony. How long ago had that been? Six years? Had it really taken six years for the cancer to kill her mother?

Once inside she didn't bother turning on a light. The air conditioning was on, so the interior was cool enough to be a genuine relief. She collapsed into a Victorian-style cushioned chair with paisley cloth that her mother had spent endless hours sitting and smoking in. Tobacco fumes wafted up around her. For years she'd been disgusted by the smell but for this brief moment it brought a tiny, familiar comfort. She idly wondered if her mother had any brandy in the house. Probably not. Vodka had been her mother's preferred poison. Partly because of that Susan herself had never developed a taste for it. A couple ounces of brandy would be nice, though. Just a little something to dull the pain.

She stood and walked through the house to the liquor cabinet in the next room. A dozen different kinds of vodka, half a dozen rums, and one unopened bottle of VSOP XO that someone had probably given her mother as a gift. To Susan's surprise, there were half a dozen brandy snifters on the shelf above. She got one down, opened the VSOP and poured herself a good two ounces.

When the brandy hit her stomach the shock caught her off guard. This was a bad time to realize she hadn't eaten since she left Ohio. A deep breath and concentrated effort settled her stomach enough she was confident she could keep it down. Just to make sure, she took another sip. This one went down perfectly. With the glass in one hand she stepped back into the main room and flipped on a light switch.

On the coffee table in front of the sofa she found a photo album. There on the cover of the photo album in brilliant full color was the yellow hummingbird from her memory. It was exactly as she had pictured it. All this time and it hadn't been a real bird at all, just a stock photo on the cover of an album.

She settled onto the sofa and began thumbing through the album. Pictures of she and her sister filled it from cover to cover. It opened with the two of them playing in a kiddie pool decorated in goldfish, moved through their school years with a quiet southern charm, and closed with their high school graduation pictures. Memories she had hunted so desperately for on the taxi ride from the airport flooded through her. This time when the tears began to flow they were happy tears.

All in all, she realized, her childhood had been pretty good. There never had been a father around, but her mother's endless string of strong young men who drifted in and out of their lives had all been polite, firm, generous, and kind. The thought crossed her mind that maybe the reason she had such a hard time finding a date was because of the examples of good men her mother had provided for her down through the years. No one she met at school or in bars and clubs ever quite measured up. Her mother had not been the most loyal woman in town, but she had known how to pick good men.

It disappointed her that there was not a single picture of any of them in the album. Nor was there a picture of her mother. The entire album was nothing but she and Melody, sometimes their friends, once in a while their dates and crushes.

She leaped to her feet and looked around frantically. She needed to write, needed it the way her mother needed cigarettes and a different man every couple of months. Her mother's "office" was down the hall on the right. Inside she found one of those new HP computers that had everything tucked in behind the screen. There was also an HP printer and a wireless hub connected to a jack in the wall. She had to assume that the jack led to a router or modem somewhere or something, but the important thing right now was the computer and the printer. She sat down in the chair and powered everything up. When the system stabilized, she opened the word processor to a fresh file.

"I never knew my father," she typed, "but somehow I never needed to."

***

Melody arrived at the house several hours later and found Susan pounding away at their mother's computer. The brandy snifter on the desk still held about an ounce of the strong brown liquor her sister preferred. She wondered if Susan had realized their mother had bought it and the snifters in the vain hope that one day Susan would come home and they could share a night of drunken nostalgia. Probably not. Susan never had been much of a drinker.

Leaving her sister to her writing, Melody moved into the kitchen and began preparing supper. When Susan finally surfaced from her writer's trance she'd be starving and Melody would be ready. They had so much to talk about.



June 17, 2020

Stock photography at Pixta


I don't mention it often in this blog, but I have been an avid photographer for most of my life. A few years ago, some friends convinced me to start uploading images to a stock photo agency called, "Pixta". This agency is actually in Japan and pays out royalties through PayPal. So far, I haven't made very much money, but it is still interesting to know that should someone desire to use my photos they are available through Pixta.

Yesterday I uploaded another 30 images which are still being reviewed. Over the next few months I think I will get back into the habit of uploading images to Pixta. After all, it doesn't benefit anyone to just keep them on my OneDrive.



June 02, 2020

Dividend Capture from Three Fossil Fuel Related Stocks


As always, I am not recommending anyone purchase any particular stock. However, interest rates at banks are far below the rate of inflation. Keeping large amounts of money in your local bank causes the value to decline dramatically, even though the numbers grow ever so slowly. Therefore, I am recommending downloading Robinhood and investing in your favorite company, or perhaps companies. As a small incentive, if you use my link to download Robinhood, open an account, and deposit some money, you and I will both receive one free share of stock worth about $4. Here's my link:

https://join.robinhood.com/brianm3790
----------


Against my better judgment, I added another $100 to my Robinhood account today. I hope I am not hit with another surprise expense such as last week's $1100 shower repair. I made this decision in order to purchase 11 shares in a company called, "Frontline" (FRO). Frontline is an oil tanker company operating out of Bermuda. Their dividend ex-fill date is tomorrow, June 3, 2020. (Please see Friday's post: "A Curious Development in China and Chinese Oil" for an explanation of "ex-fill dates"). They have already declared a dividend of $0.70 per share, which is extremely lucrative for a stock in the $9.00 a share region. This gives me three companies with an ex-fill date for tomorrow. Sometime around the middle of June I should receive close to $30 in dividends from these three companies because as far as I can determine, none of them have suspended dividend promises in response to COVID-19 restrictions. I probably should not be surprised that all of them are related to the petroleum and fossil fuels industry.

(Click on each image to open a larger view)

The real question, of course, is how soon can I sell them for a profit? Unfortunately, in this volatile market, that is extremely difficult to predict. I would hope it would not take more than two weeks to sell all three of them for at least a small profit. Currently, the base cash value of my portfolio is $1073.74. For today, I am in a slight profit position. In fact, only one stock has dropped since I bought it. I am guardedly optimistic that this trend will continue and within two weeks I will be able to sell off all three companies for a small profit. This would allow me to reinvest that money into another round of dividend capture. I also hope nothing else crops up requiring me to convert my stocks into cash to pay for some kind of emergency. Even if all three stocks pay off on schedule and rise high enough to earn a profit, my earnings will be quite humble. The only way to move forward is to keep reinvesting. I am not getting rich, but I am earning far more than I would with a $1000 time deposit at my bank. Besides, I am enjoying the challenge.

My current portfolio:

My current position in Ford Motor Company:

Clearly, Ford Motor Company is the cornerstone of my portfolio and the overall trend of my portfolio value is directly related to the price of Ford Mother Company stock. This remains true even though Ford Motor Company has already declared a suspension of dividend payments due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on their profitability. My hope is that after three or four rounds of dividend capture, I will have enough additional equity built up to return to investing in 5G or some other larger trend. Unfortunately, with the current social and political environment, I am no longer certain that even 5G will have any long-term value. I have no idea what our world will look like two weeks from today, let alone the stock market. Nonetheless, it is important to assume these troubles, like so many others down through history, will pass from view and the world will recover. After all, if we constantly assume a worst case scenario, then what is the purpose of continuing to live? We must assume things will improve, or at least stabilize for a little while. If we do not, then life has no meaning.