DRIP Investing for Beginners DRIPs were my introduction to buying stocks, and I still think they’re a super way for ordinary people to invest directly in stocks without having to spend a fortune in fees or having thousands to invest. DRIPs or Dividend Re-Investing Programs are a way of buying shares in a stock whose dividends are automatically re-invested in that stock, thereby buying more shares. DRIPs may be managed by the company whose stock you are investing, or by a transfer agent who manages the program for the company. DRIPs are offered by companies you already know, companies like Hershey (NYSE: HSY), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), 3M Company (NYSE: MMM) Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM), among others. These are not fly-by-night make-a-quick-buck scams, in fact, DRIPs are designed for people who invest for the long haul, years and decades rather than days or weeks. When you buy stock through a DRIP you own actual shares of the stock in your own name, and you receive statements just like all the other stock owners, and you will need to pay taxes on any dividends or earnings. Some DRIPs require you to buy your initial stock before you invest. You can purchase that first share either through a service like DirectInvesting.com's Temper Service or First Share, services designed to help would-be DRIP investors purchase their first stock, or you can purchase that first share through a broker. Using a service like Temper or First Share means that you pay them a fee in addition to the cost of the single share, but they take care of transferring the stock so that it is in your name, and they enroll you in the DRIP. Some companies let you purchase your first share directly from them or from their transfer agent. These company-managed DRIPs are often called Direct Stock Plans or Direct Investment Plans. Typical Direct Stock Plans include those of Procter and Gamble’s Share Holder Investment Plan, administered via Computershare. The initial minimum investment is $250.00. After that, the minimum subsequent purchase is 50.00. Hershey's (NYSE: HSY) Direct Stock plan allows you to either have a minimum $25.00 a month investment via your bank or a $250.00 initial investment. Other companies with Direct Stock Plans include Kellogg Company (NYSE:K) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD). Once you’ve joined a DRIP, not only are your dividends automatically re-invested in the stock in question, but you can also send a check use electronically transfer money from your bank to buy more shares directly through the DRIP, no broker needed. In some cases, there’s no service charge for directly buying stock this way, in others there’s a minor fee, usually cents rather than dollars, per share or per instance. That means that in addition to the convenience of automatically having your dividends reinvested to buy more shares, you save on broker fees. Some DRIPs charge more fees than others, so do be aware of any fees for reinvesting dividends or why you directly contribute to the DRIP. When you get ready to sell, you can sell all of your shares or a portion of them by filling out a simple form on the quarterly statement, though it can take a month or so to receive your check. There’s usually a small charge, no more than a few dollars, to sell, but it’s still less than you would pay a broker. . There are a number of advantages to investing via a DRIP: You don’t need a lot of money to begin investing in DRIPs; most DRIPs only require a single share. The dividends that the stock shares earn each quarter are automatically reinvested to buy more of that stock. You can purchase additional shares directly via the DRIP if you want. You decide when and how much to invest, and when to sell, but you should plan on holding on to your DRIP stocks for the long term. You usually pay less to purchase or sell DRIPs than you would going through a stock broker. DRIPs make it easy to invest small amounts of money regularly, in some cases, as little as $10.00. DRIPs are designed for people interested in holding onto their stocks for the long term. Like any stock investment, DRIPs are not guaranteed to do well, and are not insured, so you should consider not only the stock in question, but whether or not you’re suited for long-term investing in stocks. Pay attention to any restrictions, minimums and fees for enrolling, investing or selling. DRIPs are for the slow and steady investor with patience and regular investing habits. When I began investing in DRIPs, I picked a handful of companies I was familiar with, and whose business and products I understood. I invested a certain amount every month, at first, a mere $25.00. I planned on keeping the stocks for at least ten years. I reinvested the dividends and I regularly sent in contributions to buy additional shares. I also made sure that I was investing in a variety of companies and industries, and in using my IRA and 401K as well, in order to avoid having all my eggs in one basket, or a single stock. Think carefully, and do your own research. Here are some resources for more information about DRIPs: Drip Investing The publishers of The Moneypaper, a DRIP newsletter, Drip Investing also offers the Temper service for purchasing the initial share of a stock in order to enroll in a DRIP, and enrolling in the stock's DRIP either online or via mail. Temper of the Times Investor Services buys the stock and registers it in your name and deals with the transfer agent on your behalf to provide you with direct shareholder status on the company records. They do charge a one-time fee, so plan your enrollments wisely. First Share First Share is membership service that helps DRIP investors purchase the initial share of a stock before joining the stock's DRIP. Members with shares in the stock sell a share to you at the current exchange price, for a small fee for non members (currently $14.95 per stock), and First Share takes care of the transfer and enrollment paperwork so that the stock is in your name, and you're enrolled in the DRIP. They also offer information about DRIPs in general as well as specific DRIP programs. Drip Investor Drip Investor publishes the Drip Investor newsletter and subscribers have acces to information DRIPs in over 600 stocks that Drip Investor calls "No Load" stocks, or stock plans that permit investors to make the initial purchase of stock directly from the company. Much of the information on the Website is free for non-members who do not subscribe.
Cooking With Cider It’s that time of year when the early apples are appearing at pick-your-own farms and at grocery stores, and for those of us lucky to have our own trees, in our yards. One of my favorite things about fall are the new batches of sweet apple cider. If you're lucky enough to have a plentiful source of apples, you can easily make your own cider. Or you can take advantage of the season, and pick up a few gallons. I say “a few,” because you're going to want enough for drinking now, and some for fall baking and cooking. Cider is not only a super way to add apple flavoring to all sorts of things, it’s an easy way to help reduce the use of refined sugar, and convert recipes that call for milk into vegan suitable alternatives. I’m going to assume that you are using plain non-alcoholic “sweet” cider, but for many purposes, fermented “hard”Apple cider will work too. Apple cider is a good substitute for recipes that call for wine or brandy. To substitute apple cider for brandy, wine, port or sherry used as an ingredient (rather than as a flambé), simply use the same amount of apple cider instead of the wine or brandy that the recipes calls for. You can also use apple cider as a substitute for water when you cook brussels sprouts, green beans, spinach, collards, kale or broccoli. Use the same amount of cider instead of water. This works with steaming vegetables in a microwave, too. The apple cider adds a hint of apple, and just a touch of sweetening. Next time you make oatmeal or another hot cereal that calls for water, substitute the same amount of apple cider. This works just as well when you make instant oatmeal, or use a crockpot, whether you're cooking rolled oats or steel-cut oats Irish oatmeal. Try cooking rice for rice pudding in apple cider instead of water. The rice is slightly sweet and has a definite apple flavor. Cookie recipes that call for water or milk are often improved by directly substituting cider, using the same quantity of cider instead of milk or water that the recipe calls. Oatmeal cookies made with cider are fabulous, as is zucchini bread. So is stuffing; just use cider instead of broth or water. Consider substituting cider instead of some of the broth when you make fall soups too. There are also lots of excellent recipes for apple cider cakes, apple cider doughnuts, apple cider pancakes and apple cider coffee cakes. These use cider as a sweetener and flavoring. One of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy apple cider is hot mulled apple cider; this is lots of fun to make for a party or take to the office, it’s perfect for the crisp nights of fall, and ideal for making in a crock pot. Use enough cider to almost fill your crock pot, and add a few cloves, a couple sticks of cinnamon, and whatever other spices appeal to you (nutmeg, mace, orange slices, lemon slices, and possibly rum or brandy are popular choices). Let it simmer gently for at least an hour, then taste it. Adjust the spices as needed. You can add a little honey or sugar if your mulled cider needs a little sweetening. Try glazing meat or squash with a sweet apple cider glaze using a little melted butter and a little flour as if you were making gravy or a roux. Once the butter thickens and the flour starts to brown, add about a cup and a half of apple cider. Keep stirring over low heat. Once your glaze starts to thicken, taste it and possibly add a table spoon or so of sugar, stirring it in. When the sugar has dissolved, pour the glaze over ham, or pork or squash or sweet potatoes, or ice cream or pound cake, pancakes, French toast, or waffles. Think about scattering some raisins or dried cranberries on top as a garnish. The next time you have a recipe that calls for you to soak dried fruit in water, use apple cider instead. Try making stewed fruit with apple cider. Just use the cider instead of water, and simmer the fruit gently; you want to slightly thicken the cider but not turn it into syrup or turn the fruit into mush. (Originally written for 404media.net)