Should I buy a stock before or after a split?

Before I begin I suppose I should define what exactly a stock split is. It's when a company divides its existing shares into multiple shares. The number of existing shares increases but the overall value of the shares remains the same. If a $100 stock does a 5 to 1 split then for each share of the stock that you own before the split will then become 5 shares and the value of each share will be reduced in an equivalent manner, thus the new value of these shares becomes $20.

Sam Flores
Mural by Sam Flores
Last week one of the stocks I own, Visa (V) did a 4 for 1 split. While my overall investment remains financially the same, I was wondering if it would have made sense to add to my position before or after the split.

There are a few reasons a company typically does a stock split, the first is that it provides more liquidity since more shares will be traded. This will also lower the spread between the bid and ask prices of a stock. Another reason is a psychological barrier for smaller investors, some investors may shy away from expensive stocks simply because of the price of them. I know that there are a few socks I never plan on owning simply because of the price. For example Berkshire Hathaway Class A shares cost about $218,000 per share right now.... So unless the company decides to do a 218 to 1 split sometime soon I sort of doubt I will ever be a buyer.

Psychological Barriers

On a smaller example I even have a hard time investing in a company like Google for similar reasons, right now their stock is hovering around $580 per share, if I have $1000 to invest then that means I can only buy 1 share because I can't buy fractions of shares. (I realize some brokers may have ways to buy fractions of shares but that's not the point here.) Normally, if I am investing my money I don't want to get killed with more transaction fees than I have to, so I don't want half of the money I'm trying to invest to have to sit on the sidelines because the shares cost a lot. So that's a reason that I sometimes won't invest in a particular stock.

So in some cases waiting for a split might mean instead of buying a company like Apple at $700 per share and having a large amount of money sitting on the side after. Or waiting to buy after a split when it's $75 per share would mean that I can invest more of my capital in the same transaction.

Sometimes investors don't pay attention to the markets very much. I know a lot of people don't pay attention to stock prices like I do so if they have ignored Apple stock for a year then might not realize a split happened and just think that this is a "dip" in price to buy on. I know I have overheard Apple "fanboys" talk about this and I can only think that they only pay attention to the trends they care about, not investing as a whole.

I've also researched people's thoughts on buying before and after a split, some say there's a rise before and a fall after. And others say that there's a rise after the split... Either way no one has been able to provide concrete evidence so I honestly don't believe any of them.

What I do know

Short term - anything can happen, both before and after a split, so who knows! BUT, I do know that splits generally a response to good performance. I mean, if a company's stock is growing to the point that they feel it would be helpful to bring it back down to a level that average investors will be more likely to buy - then that's a good thing! The company's stock was rising to begin with so they want to keep the momentum going. I don't know if buying before or after a split is better, but I believe that long term you are looking at a solid investment so who cares about the day to day fluctuations that happen anyways.

Also, another thing to notice is that the title of the article already notes that I'm already psychologically interested in buying the investment, it's just a matter of when. It wasn't named "buy or sell before a stock split" for a reason.

Next up for me is Starbucks, this is another stock I own that just announced a split that will take place in just a few weeks.

In full disclosure, in case you didn't read the article, I am long on both V and SBUX. I also do not intend to add to my position in either of those holdings at this time. But that's mostly because I already have a significant position in both of them.

Why can't we just be honest?

I've heard about the idea of radical honesty before but certain things about it made it hard for me to ever seriously consider. In a way you just don't shy away from topics that can potentially cause other people discomfort and you state your feelings bluntly using observations. The idea is to remove the little "white lies" that we tell for the sake of social norms.

by Hellovon
Only recently has this idea been occurring to me more often, and this time it's in the context of work. Which could potentially be one of the worst places to ignore social norms. You see, some of my friends have become managers at work and their role is new to them. I believe that part of their jobs is to have that radical honesty in evaluating work performance for the people they manage. Separating the "friend" from "subordinate" is probably new to them so they have a hard time giving honest feedback.

When I've talked to these managers about some of the issues I see with the new hires (peer reviews) that aren't performing very well, I'm met with a certain level of agreement. So I know that I'm not completely off base in my observations. But I'm not sure that all of these observations get back to the employee that is underperforming. There's a few outcomes I see happening from this: 1 - the underperforming employee does not realize the seriousness of the situation, 2 - the manager has not effectively communicated the situation to them, or 3 - the employee does not know how to rectify their performance. I guess a fourth option would be that the employee does not care, but I'll rule that one out for now since I do believe that these people care about their jobs.

There's no magic in separating your emotions from telling people bad news. If there's a trick to it then please let me know, but as far as I can tell it's always going to suck to give people bad news. Some medical schools even have classes on bedside manner because they know that doctors will have to give bad news at some point. But most managers in business never have to learn this skill it's just something they are expected to do.

Why can't we just be honest?

I was watching the show Transparent the other day, and in it, one of the characters is having problems with their marriage, they were describing things that were lacking in the marriage to their father when he asked them:

"Why don't you tell him what you want?"

"I don't want to have to tell someone..."

For some reason this struck me. The father's question about just being open with feelings and being blunt and straight to the point were met with the idea of 'social norms say that I cannot do this, people should just know'. But why? Why do we hide from making plain statements?

As far as managing goes, I think I would approach it in a manner that most of my previous/current managers never did with me. I would try to use radical honesty as much as possible, why do we play a guessing game where we read between the lines? I think in a way this would make me a harsher manager than most of the ones at my current company, but at the same time I would have let an employee go about 3 months before we ended up letting him go because I think the managers just had a hard time separating their emotions from it. Perhaps I would just be a more honest manager than really being a harsh manager, I think that I'm just better at separating the business and friendship aspects of work. So far none of my observations on our new hires has been wrong, I've just been more verbal than anyone else to speak up about their performance.

I think that radical honesty is something I want to try to practice more of this year. I don't usually do new years resolutions, I am a firm believer that if you want to make a change in your life that it shouldn't take a special day to do it. If I want to improve myself then I should start as soon as I realize that it's a change I want to seriously do.

I doubt that I will remove all of the "white lies" from my life. I'm sure that if a coworker asks me how I'm doing I will still say "fine" instead of whatever may really be on my mind. But as far as being more direct with people I think that is something I want to improve upon, in both my professional life and in my personal life. This idea scares me, I fear how it may change my relationships with people which is probably the main reason that I stay so quiet to begin with. But even if it fails, I think I will learn a lot from the experience.

I've already started this in a way by bluntly telling my manager that I was not happy with them and requested a transfer to another team. We'll see how the experiment goes as the year goes on. Hopefully I'm not jobless/friendless by the end of the year.

The Path of Least Resistance

Mutual Metaphors by Mars-1
Mutual Metaphors by Mars-1

The other day an anonymous commenter wrote:

"Zee, I see from your recent posts how unhappy you really are at your current job. I ask, why don't you look for something else, something in a completely different field even. You are not living paycheque to paycheque, maybe the universe is telling you to take that leap. Of course your goal is not to work at all but might as well try and find something better until then."

First I would like to say, thank you anonymous commenter, really, thank you. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to even comment on something I wrote. It's nice to know that someone noticed a theme with my work lately and suggested that I make a significant change to it.

Are we a product of our environment?

I've discussed nature versus nurture before, but last time I was talking about surrounding yourself with like minded people. How being around people that inspire you help bring those attributes out in yourself.

Esao Andrews - The Hiker
The Hiker by Esao Andrews
But what about being surrounded by shit you don't like? Take work for example, most people spend the majority of their lives doing shit that they don't really want to because they need income. Then at the end of the day they go home and complain about it. Most people wouldn't go to their jobs if they had the choice, but since they don't own all of their time they have to trade it for money so they can keep a roof over their head.

Does this environment make us who we are? Even if we don't care about it?

My Soylent Experiment

For the most part I try to write about things that people can relate to. Ways to help them view their finances so that they can manage their money better or save more. This is probably not one of those stories. Though, to be fair, this would potentially save most people time and money. :)

Look, I'm a weird guy. I like to do weird things. Sometimes I just do things because I think it will make a good story or to see if I can actually do it. I mean, if one of your friends started a story with "Back when I was in that cult in college..." I know that immediately I would be interested in what comes next. It probably doesn't even matter what the actual story was, I would have follow up questions about the cult. Anyways....

On December 28th, 2014. I gave up eating food... Or at least, I began to.

(click for larger image)
Let me rewind all the way back to Easter Sunday of 2014 when the idea was hatched. I was talking with by brother about how now that I've gotten older, I can't just eat candy all day without feeling sick to my stomach. From here the conversation veered towards us asking if anyone had done a "cleanse" since those seem to be all the rage these days. And how you're supposed to feel so much better after one.

"There's no way I could do it." I said. "I could never make it a week or two with only drinking lemon water, rice and some other god awful shit. I wish I could just be put into a medically induced coma and be fed through a tube so that when they woke me up in a week my system was flushed out. It would feel like an instant cleanse!"

This idea was not met with much resistance. My cousin seemed to like the idea, though I'm sure if it came down to it, no one would have the balls to actually put themselves in a coma just to do a cleanse. Then my brother asked me if I had heard of Soylent, a food substitute. I had, but I had also never really looked into it.

The Problem With Work

Maze by James Jean
Maze by James Jean
Work sucks. I'm sure if we all had the choice of kicking back on the beach or going into the office, 99 out of 100 people would choose a day in the sun. That other guy that choose the office probably has a fear of sharks or something.

If we didn't have to work then most of us would probably choose not to. But it's a necessary part of life, and I do respect the process of it all. I mean, if you didn't have to work for things then you probably wouldn't appreciate the results as much. For example, do you think that a high school kid that worked hard to buy a car, or a kid that was given a car from their parents will take better care of their vehicle? My guess is the kid that worked for it will appreciate the sacrifice that went into it.

While I see nothing wrong with work itself, I do see a problem with how society perceives people because of their work.

What did we do? TurboTax Backtracks

It takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.

Forgive me my love by Jason Lips

Yesterday I received an email from TurboTax titled:

"Our apologies. We're fixing things."

I didn't buy TurboTax this year because they changed their software so that I would have to pay twice as much to get my taxes done. Apparently the backlash of other customers who didn't realize this, and people like myself who simply choose not to use them for their taxes this year they decided they needed to fix things.

So it looks like they are giving out a lot of free software upgrades to what people were expecting and hoping that will repair the damage that was done. I kind of view this as too little too late. While I haven't actually bought software to do my taxes this year I did my research on what I would have needed and already found a cheaper option.

While I'm sure that this approach will save them a lot of customers, especially ones that haven't done their taxes yet, they already lost me. What they did this year makes me wonder if next year they will just raise the base price instead of making us need the upgrade like this year.

Also on another note with TurboTax, apparently there are many states that aren't accepting returns right now from TurboTax because of a large amount of fraudulent claims.... It just doesn't look like things are going well for them this year. Partially their fault, partially not.

Get Vindictive - Using Spite to Succeed

In the past week there were a lot of changes that happened at my work. My current manager decided to move to a different department in search for a slightly different career path and by doing this a new management position opened up at work.

Joan Cornella
Joan Cornella
To be honest, if my old manager hadn't decided to leave my department, I don't think I would have really given much thought to the position. I figured one day I would probably step into that position but that it would be perhaps a year or two down the road so I wasn't in a big rush. I've been told in the past by previous managers that they think I would be good at it, and personally I do think I have what it takes to do well but that's beside the point of this story.

Anyways, last Thursday my manager brought me into a conference room to tell me that he was leaving our team, and that the Account Director (his boss) had decided to put.... We'll call him "Buddy", into the newly vacant position. He was merely telling me of the decision to see how I would feel about this change.

I guess you could say that no one expected my reaction. I flat out said that I would be angry and disappointed with that change and that I would be interested in being considered for the position myself.

Why I'm switching away from TurboTax this year

This year I lagged compared to my usual approach to taxes. It seems like every year the date that I receive all of my tax forms gets pushed back further and further. I swear that I remember getting my taxes done before January 15th once but now it seems like I can't even attempt to complete my taxes until mid February anymore.

Ryohei Hase
His only wish was to touch by Ryohei Hase
This year I'm glad I waited on it though. Normally, every year I purchase TurboTax and plug away at it myself for a few hours and then "voilà!" I'm done, and hopefully a refund will be coming in a few weeks (except not last year) and not an audit. But this year I have to take a new approach, and if you are a TurboTax user then you might want to reconsider too! You see TurboTax did something sort of sneaky, they changed their software so that the deluxe version no longer includes the forms necessary to enter your schedule D forms for capital gains and losses.

Many loyal customers of TurboTax didn't read the fine print on the boxes about the changes that were made to the software so now when they are in the middle of their taxes find out that they have to upgrade to the next level up of the software. So instead of paying about $48 for the version they thought they needed they end up upgrading to the premier version which costs them $75 instead. The other option they could do is purchase another program from somewhere else and start the whole process over again which is also a bit absurd, no one really wants to go through that all again.

The response from Intuit (the owners of TurboTax) has been that they clearly labeled their packaging - which in all fairness they did. But for users like myself that have used TurboTax for the past decade or more it's like going to buy a Happy Meal and suddenly they say that the Happy Meal does not come with fries and a drink. Sure it may be labeled that way on the menu but when you have been ordering the same thing for forever you kind of just expect it to be the same.

So this year I'm making the switch. I've always wanted to try a different tax software... Well not really, but I did have a little curiosity of what would happen if I did a side by side comparison, not that I want to do my taxes twice in one year. So this year I'm switching to H&R Blocks software to give it a spin. It's actually cheaper than the usual version of TurboTax that I would use coming in at $42 and everyone online says that it's basically the same and that the only reason they never made the switch was because they were loyal to TurboTax. I should also be able to import last years version of my taxes from TurboTax into their software so getting my previous information should be just as easy as before.

So how are you doing your taxes this year? If you are a TurboTax user are you going to stick with it or are you going to jump ship like many others? Is now a good time to invest in H&R Block?

Landlord Hating

haters gonna hate
They see me rollin'
They hatin'
Landlording they tryin to catch me ridin dirty

This one goes out to all the people that live in over populated cities. That means you San Francisco, and I'm also looking at you Manhattan!

Next to bloodsucking lawyers, landlords are probably next in the queue of hated on people in the world. Actually, let me take that back -- everyone accepts lawyers as money grubbing individuals so no one really has to talk about it as if it were something new. And most people don't need lawyers so it's much less of a common ground for people to talk about. But most people have dealt with a landlord in their lives and it seems that lately, the new trend is to hate on them.

Look, I get it. You want to pay the least amount possible that you can for the roof over your head -- We all do! But it's a business son! Simple supply and demand, if people are willing to pay more, then why would I rent for less?

Weird Things to do in Japan

There really is no shortage of things to do in Japan, but while visiting all of the castles, temples, and gardens are nice. To me, they can be forgetful and are not the highlights of my trip, some of my best memories came from the weird things I found that you can do in Japan. Most of these were in Tokyo, not all of them, but I think I started looking for more weird stuff as my trip progressed since those things stuck out to me and less of the standard "tourist sites".

Robot Cabaret (Tokyo - Robot Restaurant - Shinjuku)

They say that it took $10 million to create this club, and it shows. Even the bathrooms of the lounge area are worth visiting! The show has multiple acts, there's cabaret girls, Rock-em' Sock-em' robots, various animatronic mythical beasts that fight each other. I went to the show and I'm still not entirely sure of everything that happened, but it was one of the best experiences I had in Tokyo. I highly recommend it. Please know that you need to get tickets in advance, you won't be able to just show up and buy tickets for the next show or probably even the next night.

Weirdness level: 10 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 10 out of 10

Sleep in a Capsule Hotel (Tokyo)

If you want a cheap place to stay that will be a truly unique experience, look no further than the capsule hotel of whatever major city you happen to be in. When I travel I don't need a lot of amenities for where I stay, it's simply a place to sleep at night. If that's really all you want then this could be a great option for you since that's all you're really provided with. The downside is that at about 5am everyone's alarms start going off in 5 minute intervals. Luckily for me, I stayed here on my first night so I was already awake!
Capsule Hotel ShinjukuCapsule Hotel Shinjuku

Weirdness level: 7 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 5 out of 10

Bunny Café (Tokyo - Ra.a.g.f. - Harajuku)

If you've been away from your pets at home for a while and want some furry companionship, you should consider heading to a rabbit café. You pay for how much time you would like to spend in the cafe and while you are there you get free coffee or tea while you hang out with some furry friends. I believe it was about $8 for a half hour and that included purchasing extra rabbit food to feed the bunnies.

Rabbit Cafe Tokyo
Playing with Josette at Ra.a.g.f.
It was somewhat difficult to find a rabbit café that was still open. I could not locate any of the ones I found online that were in Asakusa, one had definitely been closed and the other I simply could not find. I ended up going to Rabbit and Grow Fat (Ra.a.g.f) in Harajuku which was a nice little place to visit.

Weirdness level: 7 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 8 out of 10

Maid Café (Tokyo - @Home Maid Café - Asakusa)

If paying for a bunny's time isn't your thing then perhaps paying to be someone's master is more to your liking? Maid café's are a place to go to experience Japan's kawaii culture ("cute" culture). When you walk in maid's will 'welcome you home' and entertain you by serving you food, drinks or playing games with the 'masters' who come in the café.

Zee and Aina @Home Maid Café
It's an interesting experience to say the least. people watching in the café is also interesting because of the number of regular customers that appear to come in and partake in the services offered.

Weirdness level: 8 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 6.5 out of 10

Teddy Bear Eco Village (Hida Takayama)

I visited Hida Takayama as a day trip from Nagoya, but I think it can also be done from Tokyo as well. To begin it was a beautiful train ride in the snow and Hida Takayama was a cool little town to walk around with a fresh blanket of snow. When I got there I discovered the gem that is called Teddy Bear Eco Village. I'm not sure exactly how to describe this place, it's like your 80 year old aunt couldn't become a cat lady because she was allergic so she decided to build a teddy bear museum instead. Where she created dioramas of scenes she wanted to act out in her life but never did. There's a teddy bear bakery, a teddy bear mayor, teddy bear Michael Jackson Thriller, animatronic polar bears, and even your standard teddy bear wedding... Well, not quite standard, the bears getting married were larger than me and had their own outdoor chapel in which they were wed.

Teddy Bear Eco Village
I call this look 'Thug Passion' - also note the bear chapel behind me
I think that since I was the only person there, it may have made it more special for me. If it had been swamped with children (which I imagine it is at times) then perhaps it wouldn't have been as strange of an experience for me.

Weirdness level: 8 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 7 out of 10

Cup Noodles Museum (Yokohama)

Just a short train ride from Tokyo is the town of Yokohama. Besides for their great Chinatown they also have both a Ramen museum and the Cup of Noodles Museum. This one wasn't exactly weird, but it was more like a college dream come true to get to actually make my own Cup or Noodles. You buy a cup, decorate it, get to choose the toppings and take home your own shrink wrapped cup of noodles to eat.

Cup of Noodles Museum

Weirdness level: 7 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 8 out of 10

Kigurumi Pajamas (Tokyo)

I think Kigurumi Pajamas fall under the Kawaii or "cute" culture status. Kigurumi is a Japanese name for costumed performers who represent costumed characters, often cartoons. Anyways, onesies are a lot of fun, what kid did not love pretending to be a dinosaur growing up. None.

I got mine from a store called Don Quijote which is a big chain in major cities. That store is full of weird stuff in it's own right so you might want to check it out anyways!

Weirdness level: 7 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 9 out of 10

Onsen - Public Baths (Kinosaki Onsen)

Get naked and bathe with a bunch of strangers. These are separated by gender, but bathing in the traditional way for Japan is really an experience. Onsens are natural hot springs, the ones that I went to in Kinosaki Onsen were outdoors and amazing. But before you just jump in the waters you clean yourself thoroughly before, the baths are merely for soaking and relaxing.

Kinosaki Onsen
In my Yukata in front of one of the main bath houses in Kinosaki Onsen
I also went to an Onsen in Osaka called Spa World which is not that far out of the way compared to Kinosaki Onsen. I highly recommend it as a mid day break after walking around.

Weirdness level: 6 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 8 out of 10

Winter Lights Festivals (Nabana No Sato & Kobe)

Luminaire Kobe
Kobe's Luminaire
Visiting Japan in December means you will probably stumble across various city illuminations. I ended up seeing a few amazing winter lights festivals with the highlights in Kobe's Luminaire and Nabana No Sato. Had I realized each town had some sort of celebration revolving around light displays I could have hit more of them. These aren't that "weird" but they aren't year round so if you can see them you definitely should.

It's  like unlocking rainbow road!

Over 1 million lights in this tunnel
Weirdness level: 6 out of 10
Awesomeness level: 10 out of 10

The Click of the Moment

"I deserve this."

I thought as I clicked the button confirming my flight to Japan. After more than a year without taking a day off of work I had earned deserved this.

Natalie Shau
Lucifer by Natalie Shau
But did I really? What had I done to deserve twenty some odd days half way around the world? All that I had really done was my job.... for a year.... and I was paid for it. It's not like I had adopted a Japanese child and was showing them their culture. I hadn't even adopted a Shiba Inu. Or at the very least I could have held open an elevator door for a Japanese person, but I don't recall that happening lately. Usually I press the door close button as soon as I get in, in hopes that I have the elevator to myself. That way I can pretend I'm at home in my bathroom and do some last minute personal grooming.... Is that another grey hair, they don't hide like they used to.