In college in the early 1980's, my great aunt, who had no children, sat me down and told me to hand her the New York Times sitting on the coffee table. Then she pulled out a pencil-written piece of paper covered in letters and numbers, in fractions those days, mind you, and taught me about her stock portfolio. I learned what those funny letter combinations meant, like T, JNJ, GM, MCD and AUD (now ADP) and once I got the swing of it, those fractions weren't so hard either. Every Sunday, she looked up her stocks in the New York Times, added a column to her sheet of paper and, after long hand division, wrote down the value of each of her 30 or so blue chip dividend payers, including preferreds, built over a period of decades, starting in the 1920's, just before the 1929 crash. My great uncle died when she was in her 30's, yet because of that dividend paying portfolio, she never worked and died in her 90's with a closet full of furs and a box full of old passports with stamps from all over the world. I determined an independent income stream was for me. In the late 1990's my career in real estate took off but rather than do the stereotypical realtor thing of buying flashy new cars every year, I invested my commission checks in rental units and stock. I still own every rental property I ever bought, buying them cash flow positive at 20% down and riding whatever the market threw at me. They're mostly in the LA area, so it's been a wild ride. What mattered to me was positive cash flow, and rising rental income, not Mr. Market's current price opinion. With stocks, I've taken some risks and had a few blow ups, (anybody remember PSINet or Washington Mutual?) but the bulk of my investments have been and continue to be blue chip dividend payers, with a strong preference for those which raise their dividends yearly. At age 47, I retired with a comfortable and growing independent income stream from my rentals and my stock portfolio and took off for a beachside life in Mexico, greatly reducing my cost of living, especially in housing, food and medical care. I maintain 3 portfolios of my own, my main taxable account which provides current income (though I have so far reinvested all dividends and think I can do it for at least another 2 years because of cash on hand), my IRA with dividend income growing about 12% a year and another 9 years before I turn 59, and a small Roth IRA, where I do my more speculative investing, which amounts to about 1% of my total portfolio. My goal is to goose my returns with my speculative Roth IRA, while keeping the solid blue chip dividend aristocrats in my regular IRA and taxable account as the core of my holdings. I also help manage several family members' portfolios, including for my nieces and nephew, trying now to be the uncle example that my great aunt was for me. I use the S&P 500 as my benchmark and over the last 5 years that I have actively tracked my returns, I have beat the index each year, except for a tie in 2013. I beat the S&P in 2014 by almost 5 percentage points. I am a long term, hope-to-never-sell investor, not a trader, and follow a fundamental, Buffett-like approach with a dose of macroeconomics. For instance, I'm overweight Pharma, Medical equipment and Healthcare REITs because of the 'graying of America.' I own very small positions in two bond funds (about 1% of my portfolio) and stock in about 35 individual companies. I do not invest in stock mutual funds and have no plans to do so. It doesn't make much sense to me to pay for someone else to manage my money when I am beating the vast majority of professional money managers and have a passion for finance and investing. I keep my bonds to a minimum because I know that risk and volatility are not the same thing. Over time, stocks nicely outperform bonds and in 20 years I am confident that my stocks will have grown much more than my bonds. So, from this perspective, bonds are riskier than stocks. I very much appreciate the Seeking Alpha forum and am glad there are so many folks that have the patience to comb through annual reports and SEC filings, because it saves me from that minutia. I am very impatient with the rude, sarcastic and sometimes downright mean comments that some add to the threads, preferring to focus on the educational, mutually supportive nature of the majority of contributors.