Be sure to check out the development of my free eBook, "Stock Investing Basics."
Want to learn how to sell anything online? Here's how.
Well, the Fed went ahead and met the market's demands by lower their target fed funds rate another 50 basis points. I think this is a viable short-term strategy but I fear that there will be long-term ramifications, the first of which is inflation may rear its slightly less-ugly-than-losing-your-job head.
Second, reducing rates this late in the game will have the same effect as it did last time: Fueling a speculative bubble. Question is, what bubble will blow up this time around? People loathe real estate, the stock market looks very iffy, bonds may have made their run up...gold?
Nope, commodities. I'm no expert on commodities, but there's no doubt in my mind that as pricing pressure increases due to higher input costs (oil) and higher demand (more money to spend), prices on things such as precious metals, livestock, and food, among others, will rise, perhaps quite drastically. Couple those things with the typical bad news winter brings for fruit, and you can bet your bottom dollar the price of orange juice will skyrocket.
But, as Keynes said, "In the long run, we're all dead."
Long live short-sightedness!!!
Fed cuts rates again in bid to stave off recession
This may not technically save you any money, but it sure will save space in your wallet. You can combine up to 8 "club cards" into one. And, if you're like me, leaving one behind because it just won't fit always means you'll need that card next...so, it actually can save you money.
Just One Club Card - Combine All Of Your Club Cards
So far, we've discussed ways to save on bulk purchases using Amazon's new Subscribe and Save program, as well as a novel way to time the use of coupons you gather throughout any given 30-day period. We've also covered going to the library to save money buying books and opening an online savings account in Two for Tuesdays #1.
In this, our third edition of Two for Tuesdays, we're going to explore ways to save money on used appliances using Craigslist. Often times, the sellers on Craigslist simply want to unload used kitchen and laundry appliances that they've replaced with new models and it's simply easier to put them up on the site for little or no money than it is to cart them off to the dump or a consignment shop.
Here's a typical deal: FOR SALE CHEAP!!! - $100
Best guess is that these appliances really are in good condition and they're offered at a steal of a price. Best thing about Craigslist is that you'll get to look at the merchandise before you buy it, unlike eBay.
Bring your truck!!!
With gasoline prices at or near record highs (they've come down a bit in the Bay Area), we can all stand to save a little at the pump. One of the biggest scams the auto and oil industries have played on us unsuspecting consumers is that of the Premium versus Plus versus Regular gasoline choice. This tip may not apply to all automobiles; in fact, it won't apply to the majority of drivers.
However, it's so important for those of us driving supercharged or turbocharged vehicles that I cannot neglect to mention it.
Back in the old days of carburetors and the absence of computer controls, you had to pay attention to the octane rating (Premium is 91, Plus is 89, and Regular is 87) of the gas you purchased. The rule of thumb was to buy the minimum octane necessary to achieve "knock-free" acceleration. "Engine knock," or "ping" was basically caused by too low an octane rating given the car's ignition timing and other factors.
Today's cars are technological wonders when it comes to minimizing engine knock. Essentially, your engine, with the help of some sophisticated electronics, can self-adjust to the conditions it's presented with. In short, if you use a lower-octane gas than the manufacturer "recommends," your engine will change its timing such that the ping is eliminated. The downside is that your engine will make less power.
But if you're trying to save money, which is what this site is all about, you won't be stomping on the gas pedal anyway.
So here's my recommendation: Save 20 cents a gallon (typically) by buying 87 octane rather than 91. This will save you 3 bucks per fill up on a 15-gallon tank, or about $150 a year (assuming 300 miles driven per week and 20 mpg, which isn't too far off for most cars and is a pipe-dream for you SUV drivers).
Beat the Gas Pump
Here's a unique idea: If you like your job and aren't ready or willing to look for another one, try this on for size -- have potential employers pay you to interview with them.
How does it work? NotchUp is in beta, which for practical purposes means that you have to get invited to the site (if you want an invitation, let me know --hint hint). Once you set up your initial information, like name, email, and password, among other things, you're taken to a page that asks you how much you would take in order to interview with a company (there's a handy calculator that takes into account your experience in your current industry and your current salary), and then a page to import your LinkedIn profile, if you have one.
That's it. Oh, yeah, if anybody uses you as a referral, you make 10% off what they make in "interview fees" for their entire first year.
I'm not sure how this will fly, especially given the current economic outlook and job market, but it makes some sense: Employers want people who have jobs already. They're a known commodity, the idea being that if you're in a job, for some period of time longer than a month (!), and you're not actively seeking to move, you're probably pretty satisfied where you are. And why are you satisfied? Because your current employer values your work and compensates you for it.
If they weren't, you'd be looking for another job, right?
The site: NotchUp.com
News: Stealth Job Site NotchUp Makes Companies Pay To Interview You
Today could well turn out to be a day that lives in infamy. It's a Tuesday here in the US and it follows a really bad day -- some are calling it Black Monday -- in the foreign markets (our markets were closed in observance of Martin Luther King), where some markets took tumbles of 15 percent or more.
The most infamous Black Tuesday ever was the Crash of 1929, where stocks fell 12% after a day were they fell 13% (Black Monday).
I don't know what will happen. The markets, however, tend to rise and fall together, more so now that the global economy is no interconnected. I fear that a quick sell off will result in massive panics, as "investors" on Wall Street are nothing more than psychotic goofs, greedy beyond all comprehension yet as stupid as they get. Sheep if nothing else.
It is my sincere hope that calmer heads will prevail and the US markets will lead all the others on the upward path. I hope that the foreign markets went down in preparation to buy cheap US stocks, cheap because they're undervalued and made even cheaper because of the weakness of the US dollar.
But my concern is that rather than preparation to buy, foreign investors view yesterday as anticipation of a massive US fall.
There are two undeniable facts that are staring us straight in the face: We're in a worldwide recession and the credit crunch, precipitated by a Fed and other central banks who are too concerned with inflation (that they can't do anything about) that they dragged their feet (and are still dragging them) too long and haven't helped the situation.
While I don't think the government should bail out financial institutions that made bad loans, nor should they bail out individuals who took on bad loans, I do believe that they have the responsibility to ensure that the financial markets have the necessary liquidity to bring buyers and sellers and borrowers and lenders together so that business transactions continue to take place. Prices will move, but the market should not go comatose. I think the mortgage market, and soon all other credit markets, have dried up and nobody is making money available to transact any business.
The Fed and other central banks need to inspire the credit markets to lend money, albeit at higher rates, to those folks wanting to expand their businesses, and to those folks who are feeling the pinch. For too many years, our economy especially, has relied on easy money, mostly conceived through easy credit, to fuel the consumption that makes up 2/3 to 3/4 of our aggregate demand.
NEWSFLASH: The Fed just cut the fed funds rate by 75 basis points. Is this the Fed pushing a string?
Like I said at the outset, today could get really interesting. I hope it gets interesting in a positive way, not the ugly way that my head says might happen.
Technorati Tags: Money Hacks, Black Tuesday, stock market crash
In this second installment of Two for Tuesdays, I want to dive right into how to save you money right away.
One of the coolest new things on Amazon is their "Subscribe and Save" program, where you can:
- automatically receive a new shipment of the item in intervals you select--every one, two, three, or six months
- get a discount on their everyday price
- get free shipping on every Subscribe & Save shipment
- pay for each order only when the item is shipped
- have the option to cancel at any time
So, here's the trick for saving money on those items you don't buy regularly (note: not all Amazon products are available; in fact, most aren't): Find an item you want to "try" and then sign it up for Subscribe and Save, get your order, then cancel the subscription. This will give you a 15 or 20 percent discount on something you tried. It's a great way to give a product a trial and save money to boot!
Coupons. Not your every day coupons, mind you. I got this tip through The Simple Dollar, where Trent, the site's author, gave a very useful tip. Take your Sunday paper's coupons and file them away for a month. Then, in a month, take those coupons for products that you might use to the grocery and/or drugstore. Amazingly, a good portion of those coupons will be applicable to items that are on sale, where you will derive the double-whammy bonus of a sale item and use of a coupon to get a really low effective price. One example Trent mentions is a quart of ice cream for 19 cents! Your mileage will vary, of course.
Technorati Tags: Two for Tuesdays, Money Hacks, Saving money
Courtesy Personal Finance Management Guide, here are 30+ eBooks on personal finance, all FREE!
I learn something new every day! I had heard of, and have used extensively, the Rule of 72. But I had never heard of the Rules of 114 and 144. They're used in the same way as the Rule of 72, only instead of estimating how long it will take to double your money, they are used for estimating how long it will take to triple (Rule of 114) and quadruple (Rule of 144) your money, assuming a given interest rate.
For example, to double your money at an assumed 8% rate of return, you take 72 divide by 8, and your result is 9 years to double your money.
To triple your money at that same rate of return, you take 114, divide by 8, and your results is 14 1/4 years. Alternatively, to quadruple your money at the same 8 percent per year rate of return, take 144, divide by 8, and get 18 years.
These are two additional tools you can use to quickly determine how fast your money can grow to triple or quadruple itself.
Plug for Dax Desai's site: I just found this one today and I really like it. Lots of numbers-based advice. It's more for the active investor, but there is a lot of "every man" information here.
Time Value of Money: The Rule of 72, 114, 144
This is a post I ran across while collecting submissions for my Blog Carnival, Rants, for one of my other blogs, Rants 'n Reviews. It sums up the financial crisis that we're currently experiencing (though we may not all be feeling it yet, but we will).
Why Financial Crises Will Keep Happening | The Agonist
I could say more, but the article speaks for itself.
The government needs to put together laws against such things as data loss and the laws need teeth. Currently, a company can lose your data, or worse yet, give it away, and there is no real penalty.
Shutting down a business ought to be an option.
Customers of Penney, other stories affected by missing data - Jan. 17, 2008
I have mixed philosophical perspectives on the merits of a minimum wage, much less how much it ought to be. But this excerpt from Andrew Tobias gives a glimpse into how low the minimum wage is now relative to its level in years past.
It was $1.60 in 1968, equal to $9.33 in 2006 dollars and nearly $10 today in 2008. Except that it’s not nearly $10 today, it’s $6.50 . . . going to $7.25 September 1.Puts things in a different perspective, no?
So by September, when that final hike kicks in, the minimum wage will be about 27.5% lower, in real dollars, than it was in 1968.
Most know that the Republicans kept the minimum wage frozen at $5.15 for ten years and would have kept it there today if they still controlled the Congress. (“Good!” I hear some of you cry.)
Less frequently mentioned is that that comparison – the 27.5% drop in real purchasing power come September – is based on an adjustment for price inflation. Based on wage inflation – the increase not in average prices since 1968 but average wages – the working poor have fallen even further behind. Adjusted for wage inflation, the 1968 minimum wage was about $17 in today’s dollars, more than double what it will be in September.
This is not to say we could raise it anywhere near that high now.
But for those of you who believe, as I know many of you do, that even the hike from $5.15 was bad economics (but that cutting taxes on the rich and eliminating the estate tax on billionheirs is good economics), I thought these comparisons might provide additional perspective.
Great detailed description of how mortgage securitization works and what went wrong with it.
Econbrowser: Mortgage securitization
This is the inaugural edition of Two for Tuesdays, a place where I tell you two things that you can do right now to improve your financial picture. So, with that said, let's dive right in.
#1: Read books, but don't buy them. Same for magazines. And don't get me started on newsletters (you know, the financial ones that give advice for money)!
Your local library has a wealth of books and magazines you can read. Don't forget the 'net, too; there are dozens of very good web sites that deal in all manner of topics. For you fiction buffs, you're pretty much relegated to the library. At least, pay your local used book store a visit.
The good magazines and newspapers are online now. Often times, you'll find them offering free access, too. The New York Times recently announced that they were dropping the premium content subscriptions in favor of FREE.
So, cancel all but your most cherished subscriptions that you cannot get any other way than by subscription, stay away from Barnes and Noble (and Amazon!), and sign up for free access to your favorite newspapers.
The upside: You save about a gazillion trees. But you'll kill a few watts, but your computer is on anyway.
#2: Start an online savings account. Often, outfits like ING and EmmigrantDirect will offer an incentive to join their online savings bank. For example, I've seen ING give $25 to new applicants. There are two main benefits to online savings accounts. The first is that they pay close to or better than CD rates with better liquidity. The second is that you can set up automatic deposits from your offline (ie, neighborhood) bank to your online savings account.
It's amazing how you don't miss $25 or $100 each month if you never see it. See Put Your Finances on Autopilot for more. Check out savingsaccounts.com for the latest rates.
Remember, you can leave your own tips here (either in the comments or email me). If I use them, I will give you credit for them as well as a link to your blog.
For a sneak peek of each Two for Tuesdays edition (before I post), join my community at MyBlogLog.
Employers are required to have supplied W-2s to their employees by January 31, so that means it's TAX TIME!!!
Everybody's favorite pastime, preparing taxes, is upon us. Don't let the task get you down. I prepared taxes for years, both for myself and professionally, without software. Today's current crop of tax preparation software is really, really good. I've been using Turbo Tax for the past few years without a hitch.
It really makes doing your taxes pretty simple.
It's a new year, you have goals, and you will succeed. Getting ahead in life is, as they say, a marathon, not a sprint. So, with that in mind, here are 10 ways to save some money this year. Some can be big, but most are small. But it all adds up.
- Get an energy audit. With energy costs rising each and every year, now is as good a time as any to assess, or reassess, your home's energy use. There is a plethora of information online at your local utility to get you started. Many have online audits. Also take a look at their recommendations; often they are very good (like turn down your hot water temp to save some money).
- Shop for auto insurance. Geico often touts that switching to them can save you 15 percent, which is a healthy savings. However, you can often do better. Try your "work perks" programs for insurance companies that your employer has partnered with. Also, check out Costco. I recently compared "apples to apples" (keeping the same coverage but shopping various auto insurers) and found that Costco's insurance partner would save me about $400 per year. That's a good chunk towards funding an IRA.
- Coupons. I recently posted about an online coupon site called Red Plum that works with manufacturers and stores to offer you coupons based on what you need rather than trying to sell you something that you don't need just to save money. I get coupons in the mail from Val-Pak, auto dealers, stores, etc. Just seek out coupons for those things that you're going to buy anyway. Also, check out other coupon sites online, like RetailMeNot, who give coupon codes for various online shopping sites.
- Got a blog or a web site? Become an affiliate. You can then put up links on your web site for things that you will buy anyway and you'll get a check or a direct deposit paid back to you in terms of an affiliate commission. Send your friends there, too!
- Cable or satellite subscriber? Call your company and pit their competition against them. Tell them, simply, that, while you love their service, you are switching to their competitor. In most cases, you'll be whisked away to their retention department who has more flexibility in offering you a discount to stay. I do this with my cable company every six months or so and save at least $20 a month each time I do this. That's $240 a year.
- Shop at Safeway? Right now, they're giving a 15 cent discount on gasoline if you spend at least $50 in a single grocery transaction, which isn't too hard to do. By all means, don't leave the store with a $45 purchase. Buy another six pack of soda on sale (you know you're going to drink it anyway). It's like getting that $6 six pack for nearly half price.
- Drop your gym membership. Face it, you probably don't go very often and you can get similar results just by exercising at home. Unless you're a professional athlete, doing crunches, pushups, and pullups, coupled with brisk walking or running will give you all the benefits of a full-fledged gym, all for FREE.
- Don't buy it unless it's on sale. You're going to buy what you're going to buy, so wait until it goes on sale. This is especially effective with groceries.
- Pay your bills online. Let's say you pay 8 bills per month. At 41 cents, that's over $36 dollars a year you'll save. Not a lot, but still, it's a good dinner out with your family, all for making things simpler. Plus, it's a lot more convenient to set up autopays on all your bills. And the time savings add up quick.
- Take every legitimate tax deduction available to you. Don't leave any money on the table. Especially with a government that's addicted to wasting your money.
Apparently, notwithstanding all the bad news in the stock and real estate markets, corporate insiders are bullish.
In other words, despite all the bad economic news that has come to light in recent weeks, and the poor action of the stock market averages, corporate insiders are more bullish today than they were three months ago.Executive suite not afraid of bears yet - MarketWatch
One of the "masterminds" behind the Bush tax cuts (plural) has come out and said that a recession is likely:
...he now believes a recession is likely, as he pointed to both a report from the Institute of Supply Management showing manufacturing activity in decline for the first time in almost a year, and Friday's December jobs report that showed a jump in the unemployment rate to a two-year high."Nice. I'd be surprised if a recession didn't happen. I'd be surprised if we weren't in a recession already!
Feldstein: Tax cuts needed in response to likely recession - Jan. 7, 2008
The link below will take you to one of the best posts EVER on how to get your financial house in order. In the coming weeks, I will elaborate on each of the topics introduced in this post.
This is a GREAT starting point!
8 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances in 2008 ∞ Get Rich Slowly
Ben Stein over at yahoo! Finance has a great general interest story on what do when all the financial markets are falling all around you (like now!). He suggests not to panic.
This is good advice. In general, the #1 financial rule of all time, to consider always, is to "buy low and sell high." There may never be a better time than now. The housing market is crap, the stock market is volatile, oil is going through the roof (is it at its high?), futures and options are just way too risky for most of us to handle.
So, with real estate valuations continuing the downward slide and stocks languishing for some time now (the financial stocks, which are getting killed right now, will continue their slide -- all the bad news is not in yet) and this slide will drag the general market down with it. EVERYTHING depends on a liquid, free-flowing credit market. Most businesses expand using credit rather than equity, and a tight credit market (and it's only going to get worse) makes doing so very difficult. Only the strongest companies will be able to get the funding they need to expand, and many will forgo expansion and just wait it out. They may even "trim the fat" now in order to prepare for the future when the economy rebounds.
But don't forget that we haven't even officially had a recession yet (the proclamation that we're in a recession always occurs months after we enter one), so there's a good year or year and a half before we start our upward trend again.
Also, too, don't forget (how could you?) that we're in an election cycle, and recessions generally follow them. So, look for a rebound in mid 2009 or later.
But NOW is the time, if you've got the cash, to be picking up beaten-down financials and real estate.
Ben Stein: Don't Buy the Panic
Borrowers and lenders, here's a new business that can make your life easier. Prosper.com offers borrowers a pot of money from which to borrow at very competitive rates. Lenders compete for your loan.
Lenders can earn a higher return on their invested money versus savings accounts, CDs, Money Market accounts, and -- currently -- stock investments. The average loan is anywhere from around 9% to 12%.
Good deals for borrowers (credit card interest rates are 18% and up, on average) and lenders, too (considering a savings account offers around 4-5%, tops).
It's a peer-to-peer model that will revolutionize the credit market, given today's credit crunch and challenging credit environment.
Check it out.
Online coupons, from a major print coupon company. This is the beginning, finally!, of the end for printed coupons. In the near future, you'll be able to upload your grocery list (Remember the Milk integration, anyone?) to the site (or, better yet, it will know where to go find it) and it'll fetch appropriate coupons for you.
How sweet is that? You get the coupons you need, rather than having to wade through the Sunday paper.
Red Plum - Sweeten the Deal
Doug Kass of thestreet.com has put together his annual "might happen" list for 2008. He was "right" about 1/2 of his "predictions" last year, including the mortgage meltdown and the credit crunch. It may behoove you to heed some of these cautionary possibilities.
Here are the lowlights (there's not much good news here):
1. The Housing Depression of 2007 morphs into the Retail Spending Depression of 2008. Stubbornly high inflation coupled with a deceleration in the rate of job growth, which turns into job losses by midyear, and an absence of innovation (a creativity void in consumer electronic products and apparel), leads to an unprecedented and abrupt drop in personal consumption expenditures.
5. The Federal Reserve embarks upon a series of moves to ease monetary policy in 2008. Nearly every meeting is accompanied by a 25-basis-point decrease in the federal funds rate even despite continued inflationary pressures.
Nevertheless the economy fails to revive as the Fed pushes on a string.
9. The administration's proposal to revive the housing market falls on its face (as the housing bust accelerates), and President Bush enlists a well-placed Democrat and former cabinet member to become the U.S. housing czar, who has the primary charge to propose and administer a massive Marshall Plan for housing.
14. Reversing its recent strength, the U.S. dollar's value falls by over 10% in 2008 (and gold rises to over $1,000 an ounce). Despite the weak domestic economy, foreign reserve diversification efforts and the demand for higher interest rates cause the yield on the 10-year U.S. note to move higher throughout the year.
15. The price of crude oil, insensitive to a weakening world economy, eclipses $135 per barrel after an "exogenous" event of terrorism, supply disruptions or political upheaval. The $100 level becomes the new $70! Surprisingly, energy stocks react in a muted fashion to the rip in price as, by midyear, the Democratic Party's populist view of a windfall tax on energy companies gains increased acceptance.
18. There are several major Enron-like accounting scandals in 2008, causing investor confidence to plummet. These will come in some large financial and industrial (rollup) companies in Europe and the U.S.
Some good news:
7. The Chinese juggernaut continues apace and, despite continued protestations of a market bubble, the Chinese market doubles again in 2008.
8. The Japanese market puts on a surprising resurgence as the world's investors respond to compressed valuations (vis-à-vis peer regions), reasonable multiples (absolutely and against Japanese bond yields), accelerated M&A activity, share buybacks and relative strong corporate profit growth.
11. With the economy weakening and corporate profits tumbling, investors pay up -- real up -- for growth. The three horsemen -- Research In Motion (RIMM) , Apple Computer (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) -- move into bubble status, and short interest triples as the naysayers increase their bets. Their shares double in 2008 even as most equities decline.
Citigroup (C) halves its dividend, and the shares briefly trade in the mid-$20s. Asset sales and writedowns leave the bank crippled, and in late 2008 (after another capital infusion by Abu Dhabi), Citi is merged with Bank of America (BAC) . Its new name is its old name: CitiBank!
Now, will all (or any) of these things happen? Some will, some won't, some will be the opposite of what the author says might happen. It's always a good idea, however, to take the good and bad together, be prepared for both (and even the middling), and diversify your holdings and always look for ways to minimize your risk while maximizing your returns. That's the hallmark of investing and should be followed at all times.
Remember, investing is a marathon, not a sprint. Sprints are for speculators.
So, what am I going to do? I will move my current 50% allocation in foreign stocks to more like 75% foreign, with a heavier weight in China and Japan. The strong economies will make it through this mess, the developing countries will falter, in my opinion. I'm not sure where the US will come out on all of this, or when. I think we'll make it through, but I fear that the economy (and its markets: housing, stocks, bonds) will undergo a long (5 years or more) malaise that we haven't seen in a long, long time.
Kass: 20 Surprises for 2008
Warren Buffet on the mortgage meltdown and credit crunch