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.

Money Hacks Carnival #10 -- Your Money, Your Life

Posted by billspaced | 12:01 AM | , , , , , , , | 12 comments »

Money Hacks Carnival: Your Money, Your Life editionWelcome to the Money Hacks Carnival #10! This is my first "guest hosting" of the Carnival and I'm excited to get things rolling. There were many submissions, lots of good reading, and all of them included below were very informative and entertaining. I'm calling this the "Your Money, Your Life" edition because money and life are inextricably intertwined.

Grab a good beverage, find a spot to read, and have an open mind. Now, let's get started!


Best Money Hacks (Editor's Picks)

The best of the best.

The Eclectic Female submitted How To Talk About Money With Your Partner posted at Women's Lifestyle Blog.

Instead of phrasing the conversation in terms of negatives – like his low credit score or her shopaholic tendencies – focus on your future goals. If you want to buy a home, a car or a business, talk about the positive action steps you need to take to make your dream a reality.
This is by far one of the most important conversations you'll ever have. Better to find out sooner rather than later. This is not to suggest that money trumps love; rather, you don't want the resentment caused by money problems to wreck an otherwise rally healthy and mutually beneficial relationship.

AJC presents How your hobby can set you financially free! « How to Make 7 Million in 7 Years™ posted at How to Make 7 Million in 7 Years™.

Do what you love and you'll never need a job. If you can begin dabbling in making earning some money from something you truly love and save as much as possible from that endeavor, you're way ahead of the game. Additionally, in the current economic climate, lots of us with "day jobs" are at risk of getting laid off. If you've begun building a client list, referrals, and a body of work, you've not only diversified your income, but you've laid the foundation for a new beginning.

Leaving The Folks brought us Creating a Budget posted at Real World Advice.

Another blog post about budgets! Ay! However, this post presents the concept in a really easy-to-implement way. Sometimes, we have to get back to the fundamentals, and creating a budget is one of the most elementary fundamentals.

Todd presents Financial Kung Fu posted at HarvestingDollars.

This is such an entertaining post, comparing the famous martial art with personal finance.

Writer's Coin wrote The Writer’s Coin » Blog Archive » Someone Else’s Money posted at The Writer's Coin.

Such a touching story. It reminds us that in the Your Money, Your Life, Life really comes first.


Earn It

Here are some ways to earn "extra" money (note that there is never any "extra" money -- it all goes somewhere -- hopefully in savings or investments!)

Fitz Villafuerte gave us Top 8 Things You Can Sell Your Officemates For Extra Income posted at Ready To Be Rich.
Interesting ideas.

Bryce presents Treasure in the Garage posted at Save and Conquer.
There's always some hidden treasure in the garage.

Madison submitted Diversification of Income posted at My Dollar Plan.
Having more than one source of income is a fantastic idea.

Shanti presents Starting a Snowflake Business: (Part 2) The Materials posted at Antishay Ventenne.


Spend It

Let's face it: No matter how frugal you are, you will spend money. Here are some novel ways to minimize your spending.

Green Panda blogged about Cutting the Cable Bill posted at Green Panda Treehouse.
Do we need 500 cable channels?

Mike Leonard brought up an interesting perspective in Up to your eyeballs in debt – so what? posted at Until Debt Do Us Part.
A different perspective on debt. Read the whole article and I think you'll come away with a different takeaway than the title suggests.

Kaye presents Leaning from My Friends' New Purchase posted at Mrs Nespy's World.
Many people own cars that are out of their league. This is one of those stories.

Wenchypoo wrote about Inflation + Shortages = Stealth Tax Increase posted at Wisdom From Wenchypoo's Mental Wastebasket.

S.B. shared some money-saving ideas in the post, Free Products at Drugstores - Rite Aid, Walgreens & CVS Explaination posted at Be Thrifty Like Us.

Amy @ The Q Family presents Be a Hero. "Save the Cash, Save the World" posted at The Q Family Adventure.

Silicon Valley Blogger showed us that Cheaper Toys ARE Better For Your Kids! posted at The Digerati Life.
Love the DIY robot costume!

Pinyo presents 34 Ways To Save Money On Car Expenses posted at Moolanomy.
Great list!

ChristianPF presented How to make a budget posted at Christian Personal Finance.
VERY comprehensive post about budgeting. The best pro athletes always practice the fundamentals.

Foxie gave us No Temptation, Just Motivation posted at Dreaming of Ferraris.
If you can't pay cash for it, don't buy it...great advice.

paidtwice presents With the Price of Everything Going Up, How Do You Budget? | I've Paid For This Twice Already... posted at I've Paid For This Twice Already....

Faron Benoit told us about Budgeting 101 posted at Financial Learn.

Lisa Spinelli presents Running the Gauntlet on Debt: A Debt Reduction Plan posted at Greener Pastures.
The most important concept in personal finance: Planning. If you don't plan for a positive outcome, you probably won't get it.

Chrysa showed how to Get a 10% Bonus on Your Economic Stimulus Check by Buying Groceries! posted at Thrifty Jinxy.
Not sure about the validity of this story, but if it's true, it's worth some investigation.

RC presents How to Simplify Your Finances-Start Small with Automatic Bill Payments posted at Think Your Way to Wealth.

FIRE Finance shared the Top 5 Freebie Websites! posted at FIRE Finance.


Save It

One of the keys to financial success is saving a good chunk of your income. Here, we find ways to save: Some old, some new.

Dorian Wales gave us the How to Make Saving More Rewarding and Tangible: 5 Practical Tips posted at Personal Financier.

Ray presents ING Direct Referral Links For New Accounts posted at Money Blue Book: Personal Finance Blog.

Ryan Taylor showed us how to build an emergency fund in 8 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund posted at Millionaire Money Habits.
Building an emergency fund is often difficult, but Ryan walks us through some relatively painless ways.

Will gave us a step-by-step guide to Switching Banks? Step By Step Guide and Tips posted at Your Finish Rich Plan.
I never really thought about switching banks in this way, but it does seem a bit complex, or at least very tedius.

GBlogger asked With Rates Dropping, What Are We Doing With Our High-Yield Savings Accounts—E*TRADE, ING Direct, and One United? posted at CAN I GET RICH ON A SALARY.
As the Fed targets a lower Fed funds interest rate, all other short-term rates will be reduced.

Ken Clark, CFP shed some light on college savings plans in Section 529 Review: Alaska T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan posted at Saving for College - About.com.
Not enough is written about college savings/investment plans. 529s are great investment vehicles.

The Dough Roller shared 11 Online Retirement Calculators posted at The Dough Roller | Smarter Money Management.
Great resource. Gotta love the plethora of online financial planning tools.


Preserve It

Insulating yourself from catastrophic loss is one of the more mundane, yet totally necessary, personal financial tasks. Here are some posts that touch on the subject.

Jonathan said in Divorce and Credit Card Debt don't mix! | Master Your Card posted at Master Your Card,
All joint credit cards will continue to be a joint responsibility until either the debt is paid off or until the lender agrees otherwise.
Very important consideration.

MoneyKing presents Sex With Your Ex???? It Might Cost You. posted at The Money Kings - RULE your money at home, at work, and at play!.

Mike asks Leaving town? Don’t waste money on car insurance posted at Living the Cheap Life.


Invest It

Investing your hard-earned money is fun. But you have to do all the other things to build a solid foundation for investing success.

Sally Thompson submitted Recession Proof Your Portfolio: 50 Best Blogs for Free Investment Advice posted at Currency Trading.net.
Big list of web sites with investing advice.

Barb A. Ryan presents Asset Allocation, Investment Asset Tax Location, and Emergency Cash Management posted at Pasadena Financial Planner.

Enoch Ko gave us a primer on Analyzing your financial statements at The Wealth Accumulator.

Don presents Pre Construction Investing posted at Tony Travis.
In today's environment, this is more risky, but if you have some expertise and a stomach for it, it's worth investigating.

Brice Hogan showed us how to set up a 6 Minute Retirement Plan posted at Financialzip.com.
Simplified retirement planning.

Michael Cohen presents his reasoning on Why I Sold My Apple Shares Today » Free Stock Market Investing Tips posted at Stock Tips.

TheWild1 asked What are you expecting from Microsoft? posted at The Wild Investor.

The Shark Investor gave us a little personality quiz in Discover Your Investment Style In 15 Minutes posted at The Shark Investor.

Joe Manausa wrote The Real Estate Market - When Will We See The Turn? posted at Tallahassee Real Estate Blog.

Bull Returns presents Stock Investment Resource: Stock Market Investing Tips - Is Small Cap Value The Key For 2008? posted at Stock Investment Information.

KCLau shed some light on a foreign stock exchange in Everything you are looking for about Bursa Malaysia posted at KCLau's Money Tips.

Eric presents Growing Money posted at Make Money Blog.
Another iteration of the magic of compound investing.

Jed Norwood presented What Forex Broker Should You Use? posted at Forex Strategy.


Miscellaneous

These posts could be placed in multiple categories, or they don't fit at all. Nevertheless, all offer sound ideas and advice.

FMF asked Do You Use Money to Discourage Bad Behavior? posted at Free Money Finance.

Warren Wong showed us Why Being Generous Makes You Wealthy posted at Personal Development.
Win-win.

Aryn gave us a great tip in When Are You Entitled to a Free Copy of Your Credit Report? posted at Sound Money Matters.

Heather Johnson presents 3 Lesser Known Factors Affecting the Forex Markets. posted at You Are The Worst dot Com.

Steve Faber presents Debt Relief – Do Settlement, Counseling, or Debt Relief Programs Really Work? posted at Debt Free.

Heather Allen shared her experiment in The Big £5 Project posted at The DebtFree Playbook Blog.

Joe D took a different approach in Credit Card Debt Can Be Good | Know The Ledge posted at Know The Ledge.

PT showed us how to Stop Junk Mail: My Earth Day Effort over at Prime Time Money.
Save trees, save money, save time.

FFB told us the tale of one scam, where a malicious web site was created to phish for personal information in Beware IRS Tax Refund Scams posted at Free From Broke.


And Now For a Little Humor

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Dear IRS posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.
Me too!


Conclusion

We've covered a lot of ground in this carnival. We shared a wide range of blog posts about everything from earning, spending, saving, preserving, and investing.

Thanks to all for your participation. Until next week...


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Gas Tax Elimination: Economic Panacea?

Posted by billspaced | 11:30 AM | | 0 comments »

Barack Obama says
Both John McCain and Hillary Clinton, two of three presidential front-runners, have said that they would like to suspend the federal gasoline tax for a period of about three months, presumably to serve as a short-term economic stimulus.

Barack Obama disagrees, and I agree with Barack:

At a meeting with voters in North Carolina on Monday, Mr. Obama said lifting the gas tax for three months would save the average consumer no more than $30, a figure confirmed by Congressional analysts. Mr. Obama has previously dismissed Mr. McCain’s proposal as a “scheme.”

“Half a tank of gas,” Mr. Obama told his audience. “That’s his big solution.”
Yeah, right. I'll go right out and buy 1/100 of a plasma Hi-Def big screen television. Can I get 99 others to join me? We can share.

Democrats Divided Over Gas Tax Break - New York Times
Greg Mankiw's blog
Clinton-McCain gas tax holiday slammed as bad idea

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IRS Retirement Rollover Chart

Posted by billspaced | 3:51 AM | 0 comments »

Internal Revenue Service
Trent over at Get Rich Slowly has provided a chart showing the possibilities of rolling over various retirement accounts into other retirement accounts. The full story is here.

Here's the download of the chart, in pdf format.

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Two For Tuesdays #16: The Vice Edition

Posted by billspaced | 12:01 AM | , , , , | 0 comments »

Two for Tuesdays: Special Vice Edition
We've come a long way, haven't we? We've covered saving money by using the library, by not buying bottled water, and by using the sites available on the web. Today, we're going to talk about two addictions we have that we should curtail, and, by doing so, save a wad of cash (or credit, whatever your preference).


#1

Americans love to drive. Especially by themselves. I'm not really sure why, either. I know I do. I sometimes enter a Zen-like state when driving. This is probably not a good idea, though, considering that we drive (at least) a two-ton beast that can kill dozens of people at a time if the conditions are wrong.

What I'm about to suggest is carpooling. Hey, wait, come back! Please?

According to this ABC News story, only 8 percent of the US commuting public uses carpooling (click here for the full report). That means around 90 percent drive solo to work, for an average commute distance of 32 miles round-trip. What a difference this would make if just each person paired up with another. I mean, we're all going somewhere, and we must be going to work where other people work, right?

Out here, in the so-called Bay Area, people are moving 50 miles or more away from their workplace just to be able to afford a house. That was okay a couple of years ago when gasoline was $1.60 a gallon, but now, at nearly $4.00? That's about $16 a day in gas for a 25MPG car in a 100 mile round-trip. Yikes. Might as well live in the Bay Area. Plus, you'll save time and the often-forgotten wear-and-tear on your car. You'll have to buy another car much sooner at the rate of 100 miles per day.

Check out eRideShare.com for a site that matches potential car poolers based on where they start and end their commutes. It may be time well-spent to find a driving partner. If you travel the same distance, you'll save 50 percent per month, or about $175 a month. That's after-taxes money, too. You'd have to get about a $3,000 annual raise to make up for that.

Remember, becoming financially secure means earning more than you spend, as I like to say it, or conversely, spending less than you earn (Personal Finance Commandment #1).


#2

I'd call commuting alone to work a vice. It's something you don't necessarily need, but rather, you want it. It's like an addiction. So, too, is cigarette smoking, drinking, and gambling (which includes the perennial Lotto players).

Quit them. All of them. Go cold-turkey if you must. Or try a bit at a time. I don't know about you, but those things bring zero value to my life and they cost a literal fortune. What are cigarettes nowadays, $4 or $5 a pack?

A pack a day = $73,000 over a lifetime (here's the good part: You won't live as long so you will not have spent as much. The calculation is based on smoking from 20 to 60. You may live longer. Bless you. But it's a double-edged sword: The longer you live, the more money you will have wasted.)

Suit yourself. Same goes for the other vices listed, which, by the way, includes soda/junk food and Starbucks.

Quit. Now. Put all the money you would have spent on that cappuccino into an investment account. If it grows per the average, you will have accrued about a fortune (about $500,000).

Isn't that obscene?

Here's one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite bands: "Had to start smoking to get off Nicorette." That's about the only reason to start smoking. There are many reasons to stop, least important of all is the financial piece. Live to see your grand children.

That concludes this special Vice edition of Two for Tuesdays. Come back next week for 2 more money-saving tips.

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Warren Buffett on the Economy: More Severe Than First Thought

Posted by billspaced | 11:40 AM | , , | 0 comments »

Warren Buffett
Uncle Warren, of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) fame, has spoken.

And it's not good.

Warren Buffett, known for his buy-low-and-hold-forever investing strategy, thinks the recession we're in (but it's still not official) will be longer and more problematic than most so-called experts have prognosticated. He's concerned, too, because his company is heavily leveraged in consumer goods and housing.

Buffett says recession may be worse than feared: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

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The Fall of Bear Stearns

Posted by billspaced | 7:20 AM | , | 0 comments »

Bear Stearns
Money Magazine online did a good review piece on the fall of Bear Stearns, one of the financial world's biggest, and most respected, companies. Very illuminating. Economy built like a house of cards? You decide.

Money

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The Motley Fool's Recession Survival Guide

Posted by billspaced | 7:08 AM | 0 comments »

recession
The Motley Fool has put together a "Recession Survival Guide" that is pretty good. In it are a few links to some good articles about recession-proofing your portfolio,

The Motley Fool's Recession Survival Guide

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Economics Essays: Forecast for Oil Prices

Posted by billspaced | 6:41 AM | 0 comments »

oilHere's an interesting story on the future price of oil. Think it's going to $12? Think again.

Economics Essays: Forecast for Oil Prices

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Kids & Money -- April 25, 2008

Posted by billspaced | 10:53 PM | , , | 3 comments »

Kids and Money
Welcome to the April 25, 2008 edition of Kids and Money.

Let's dive right into it with our first submission from Heather Allen, who presents The Entrepreneur Challenge posted at The DebtFree Playbook Blog, saying, "The next in the series about teaching entrepreneurial skills to your kids."



This is such an important topic. I, too, am trying to instill in my two very young boys the idea of entrepreneurship, creativity, making your own way. I hope I can impart some wisdom that I've gained over the years and inspire them to NEVER have to work at a job. Rather, I hope that they can do what they love. And buy me a mansion.

Next up is KCLau, who presents How to Identify and Invest in the Hot Stocks of Tomorrow posted at KCLau's Money Tips, saying, "A review of the book "Finding the Next Starbucks by Michael Moe.""


I can only hope that I can find a few Dells, Ciscos, Microsofts, and Wal-Marts in my time, before they're big immovable objects like they seem to be today. One thing I hope to do is buy a few shares from these sorts of companies for my kids and let them see how dividends and capital appreciation works with their own eyes.

Raymond presents The 6 Best Credit Cards According To CNN Money posted at Money Blue Book.

I generally agree with this ranking. I've talked about the AmEx Blue Cash card before. It's a great card. Are there any cards out there that are especially geared towards (in a good way, I might add) teens?
Debt
Jeremy Zongker presents Election Promises posted at Debt Comics.

This is pretty funny. Bad sad. It's a cartoon, so don't get carried away with the politics. We're a nation of debt and will be until we cannot sustain it anymore.

The baglady, one of my favorites, presents How Do Childhood Memories of Money Affect Your Money Habits? — The Baglady posted at xynny.

So true! I had an experience as a little kid, where I took my pocket change, which was real money way back when, and tried to buy an "Icee" but things were moving so fast at the counter that the clerk screwed up my money and then said I didn't have enough. It was at that exact moment that I paid strict attention to my money because nobody else could ever care as much about MY MONEY as me!!!

mmhabits shares How Can Kids Make Money When They’re Young posted at Millionaire Money Habits, saying, "Want to get your kids to develop a good work habit and teach them the value of money? Here are some ways to get them to use their imagination, leveraging your strengths, and providing something of value."

I've tried them all (except for the caddying. Carry your own clubs, lazy!). And you know what? They work!

Jeremy Zongker presents Understanding Frozen Credit posted at Creditor Web.

This is a good primer on freezing your credit. Hopefully, your children will never have to worry about this!

KCLau brings to us Insurance Planning Guide for Malaysians [Review] posted at KCLau's Money Tips, saying, "A review of Insurance planning guide for Malaysians. This book was written to make you more aware of life insurance protection. Hopefully it will prevent you from suffering and regretting over buying insurance for the wrong reasons"

Buy term, invest the rest!

Mark Butler presents Living With Less posted at The Butler Project, saying, "Families will find greater peace of mind and quality of life by learning to live with fewer material goods in their lives."

All too true! This is a must read for anyone interested in getting ahead.

Mark Montgomery presents Visiting College Campuses: Observations by a Professional Tour-Taker posted at Great College Advice.

Getting a college education may be the second biggest "purchase" of anyone's life. Make sure you get what you pay for and use the skills and connections (and prestige) you get in college. Finally, make sure you don't get mired in student loan debt. It's a silent personal finance killer.

Barb A. Ryan presents Asset Allocation, Investment Asset Tax Location, and Emergency Cash Management posted at Pasadena Financial Planner.

Where you put your investment dollars is a great subject to end on. The most important thing a young person can do is set aside $2000 now in an IRA and watch it grow over 50-60 years. It's simply amazing.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Kids and Money using our carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Greg Mankiw's Blog: You're welcome, Barack

Posted by billspaced | 7:59 AM | 0 comments »

Barack ObamaMankiw offered Barack some financial advice and Obama apparently took it. Tongue in cheek, of course.

Greg Mankiw's Blog: You're welcome, Barack

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Credit Card Arbitrage Not Worth the TIME

Posted by billspaced | 7:31 AM | 1 comments »

credit card arbitrage
The Frugal Dad did a piece on using 0% credit card cash advances for profit. His analysis is spot on: It's not worth the risk, and it's certainly not worth the time and headaches.

Credit Card Arbitrage Not Worth the Risk | Frugal Dad

Here's a "pro" arbitrage article. It's really not worth the time, in my opinion, though when I was mired in debt, it sounded like a great way to "stick it" to the credit card companies. They often found a way to stick it to me...but maybe it was just me and my lazy way of doing things.

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Student Loan Debts? Work for the Government

Posted by billspaced | 1:24 PM | 0 comments »

student loan debtAs many of you know firsthand, student loan obligations follow you around for 20 years after graduation, often at very low interest rates (I was fortunate enough to consolidate mine in 2003 or 2004 into one 2.675 percent loan for 20 years). But the debt drag can haunt you.

And for those paying 6 or 7 percent, the repayment can be onerous.

Enter the government. H.R. 2669 (passed into law by President Bush's signing on September 27, 2007)

Allows loan forgiveness for employees who have made 120 monthly payments on student loans while employed in public service (Sec. 401).
So, if you're so inclined, you can cut your payoff time from 20 years to 10 years by working as a public servant. Not a bad way to recruit. (Well, it is a bad way to recruit if you don't publicize this provision.)

It's worth checking out. It seems our government is hellbent on growing to the point where every working age citizen works for a government entity, so you might as well get a head start on the process now.

GovTrack

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Protecting Your Identity Online

Posted by billspaced | 7:16 AM | 0 comments »

ID TheftWhile it is my belief that you, as an individual, are much more exposed to ID theft in the physical world, you can easily fall prey to online ID theft and compromise. Things such as phishing, malware, and hackers getting at your information are all easy things to do on a mass scale. While somebody can steal your credit card at a restaurant, for example, online miscreants can steal hundreds -- thousands, even -- of credit card numbers in one fell swoop.

So this post is to help you protect yourself while you're online. It will contain the standard advice as well as some suggested products that you should use while online. The hopeful outcome of this post is that you'll get off to a good start with a comprehensive post that contains much -- if not all -- of the information you need to protect your ID online.

Most ID theft that occurs online is based off social engineering, which is a fancy term for getting you to give up secret or confidential information to thieves without arousing your suspicions. For example, phishing is a form of social engineering where the ID thief mocks up a web site that looks exactly like the authentic web site, but instead, when you type in your username, password, and/or passphrase, that information gets sent to the ID thief who then uses it to fraudulently access your credit line(s).

This sort of thing often occurs in email, where the crook hopes you will click on the link he has put in the email. Often times, the email link doesn't even point to an authentic-looking web site, but after you click on the link, the damage has already been done. Sometimes, you're duped into giving away critical information. Sometimes, clicking the link installs some malware, which is computer programming that installs itself on your PC which many times opens a back door into your system (i.e., your hard drive is exposed).

Sometimes key loggers are installed, which "phones home" all the information you type in including name, Social Security Numbers, birthdates, and usernames and passwords.

All of this sounds scary, and it is. However, just as in the physical world, it's a numbers game. It's also question of how easy you make it for crooks. Leave your keys in the ignition and you've pretty much given the car thief permission to take your car. Same goes for online activity. If your system is harder to crack than the tens of thousands of other users on your network, then the crook may just pass you by.

So the idea is to fortify your system to the point that it just becomes too inconvenient to penetrate.

Multiple lines of defense are always better than one line of defense, even a super-strong line of defense.

I'll use the car theft analogy again. Install an alarm system with remote arming, lock your doors, keep your keys in your possession, and park your car in a well-lit, frequently-traveled area. Same with your computer: With your computer and other online activities, it's a little more complicated, but you can probably reduce your risk by about 80 percent just by using a few precautions.

First things first: Never give out personal information to any web site that you don't trust. Additionally, never give out information requested by a web site whose URL you didn't type yourself. If somebody contacts you via email, get in contact with them and talk to them on the phone.

Those are the social engineering precautions.

Now for the system precautions.

  • Hardware firewall. Linksys provides some very good ones. Stick with a great brand. If you go wireless, make sure you change the default username, password, and SSID. Also, use WPA for the encryption component and choose a strong password
  • Software firewalls are your second line of defense. Anything that gets through your hardware firewall ought to be stopped right here. ZoneAlarm, Comodo, Symantec, Trend, McAfee, and a few others all fill the bill quite nicely. Turn off the built-in Windows firewall, not because it's bad (it's quite good, just not as good as those mentioned here), but because it may interfere with the others. There is no need to use more than one software firewall (same goes for anti-virus).
  • Turn on the feature in Windows called Data Execution Prevention.
  • Install an antivirus program. Trend, Comodo, Symantec, McAfee, and Kaspersky all offer great solutions. There are a host of free ones, too.
  • Install anti-spam and anti-malware programs. Trend, Comodo, Symantec, McAfee, and others provide great products for stopping adware, malware, and spam.
  • Anti-root kit software is out there. The idea with root kits is they infect your system without any visible signs and then surreptitiously do evil things. I don't know much about root kits, or their defenses, so do a Google search and find out for yourself.
  • Don't ever store your usernames or passwords on your PC. It's actually better to write them down and put the list in your wallet than it is to put them on your hard drive. Unless, that is, you encrypt the contents using something like RoboForm. It's simply the best thing since sliced bread. Seriously.
  • Surf anonymously, only revealing personal information when absolutely necessary. You can try TOR, or an anonymizing service like Anonymizer.
These are a few must-do things to keep your online identity and information safe. Do your homework, however, and don't rely on this post for all of your data security needs. There's a lot to learn, and a lot to be concerned about. I hope this mini-guide has opened your eyes to the perils that exist out there and to some of the precautions you can take to guard yourself against the online nasties.

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Greg Mankiw's Blog: Some Disturbing Facts

Posted by billspaced | 6:20 AM | | 1 comments »

high school graduation rateThis is what is wrong with the US economy (not to mention US society).

"A significant portion of the convergence reported in the official statistics is due to black males obtaining GED credentials in prison."
We simply aren't graduating enough high school students. Heck, we're not graduating enough college students. Hey, we're not graduating enough math and science majors. Wait, we're not graduating enough Masters students.

Get the picture? We are so far behind everybody that we cannot even hope to compete with our fellow neighbors for at least 20 years. Our current crop of high school graduates haven't the numbers or the time to develop into top-notch business, science, and math leaders. It's not their fault.

It's ours. We have our priorities upside down and sideways. We'd rather buy a McMansion than fund a college education. We'd rather raise our kids with the hope that, one day, some day, they'll develop into Tiger Woods (who did graduate high school and go to Stanford, though I think he might not have graduated), when they have a 100x or 1000x better chance of learning a useful trade.

We'd rather live in a gated community and buy our kids video games than buy them books and encourage them to read.

We pay high school teachers $22-45k to start. Why do you think our quality of teachers is so poor, not to mention the quantity? We should pay them comparably to entry-level engineering professionals. (I know, where would we get the money? Oh, I don't know: Iraq?)

"No Child Left Behind" is a misnomer. More kids are encouraged to drop out so that schools can raise their scores so they don't lose financial assistance from the federal government. Talk about a backwards incentive!

Enough of my ranting. What do you think?

Greg Mankiw's Blog: Some Disturbing Facts

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Two for Tuesdays #15

Posted by billspaced | 12:01 AM | , | 0 comments »

Two for TuesdaysLast week you learned how to save money on bank fees and on bottled water (by "buying" neither). This week, I'll show you a way to be green and save green at the same time.


#1

Need to dispose your PC? Want to throw away your old digital camera? Not worth putting it up on eBay?

Well, fret not. Staples has a program where you send your old electronic equipment and they give you a Staples credit ("Staples Cash"). You simply take in your old equipment, they tell you what it's worth, you pay a fee (for processing and shipping), and they give you a credit in the form of Staples Cash. The program is run by GreenSight Technologies. For more information, click here.

Here's the link -- Trade in and recycle program

By the way, GreenSight Technologies has partnered with a few universities as well as Costco, Sony, and TigerDirect. The payouts vary by partner, too, so "shop" your recyclables appropriately. For example, I ran my 17 inch LCD monitor through Staples' and Costco's sites, and got $11 at the former, $12 at the latter. With Costco, you get your "cash" in the form of a Costco Cash card.


#2

As most of you know, I am the proud papa of 2 boys (a 2 year old, and a 6 month old). I follow this rule backwards. For most of you, however, you can use the following rule the conventional way (I'll explain why I use the rule backwards in a few minutes).

The idea is to turn down your thermostat by several degrees at night during the winter and turn it up a few degrees at night during the summer. You'll save quite a bit by dropping your thermostat by 10 degrees at night during the winter, from say 68 degrees to 58 degrees. A programmable thermostat is the best way to go with this. Have it turn up to 68 a half hour before you jump in the shower, and you'll have a nicely-warmed bathroom during your shower.

Do the same during the summer, only opposite. Instead of turning down the temp at night, turn it up. Using the same example, just set the thermostat to 78 at night.

Either way, you really won't notice the difference. Besides, that's what blankets (winter time) and sheets (summer time) are for!

By the way, set your thermostat to a really low number in the winter while you're out. Have the furnace come on with just enough time to raise the temp to the desired level when you get home.

However, don't do the same in the summer, especially if you live in a hot climate. Keep your house within a few degrees of what is comfortable, and then have the A/C come on with enough time to cool down the house to the right temp right as you get home. Most A/Cs are sized based on your house size and are only designed to operate up to 20 degrees below the ambient outside temp. So, if you live in Arizona, where it can reach 115 degrees (or more!), count on your house temp being no lower than 95 degrees. If you try to get much lower than that, you either have a giant A/C and a concomitant giant utility bill, or you're driving your A/C too hard and it will fail in a couple of years. Or you paid a lot for equipment you only use once in a while. Maybe Arizona was a bad example -- you'll need every bit of cooling power you can afford!

In any event, be smart about your house heating and cooling and you'll save a lot of cash.

Now for why I run opposite of this rule. My two kids are reptiles. They're cold-blooded. They all are, I think. Whatever the ambient temp is, they are, especially when they're sleeping. I tried to lower the nighttime temp to 63 degrees (down from the daily temp of 68) and they kept waking up. And they were freezing.

However, during the day, when they're active, they run hot. So I run the furnace at a lower temp during the day than at night. This actually works a bit in my favor because utility costs are lower during the night when I run hotter, and higher during the day when I run things a little cooler.

Same with the A/C. It's more important to keep the kids cool at night when they're sleeping rather than during the day when they're active and we can remove some clothing. Kids don't really mind running around in diapers, you know?

That's it for this week's edition of Two for Tuesdays. Come back next week for two more money-saving tips.

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Man Loses Engagement Ring, Then Loses His Mate

Posted by billspaced | 7:01 AM | | 2 comments »

wedding ring
Summary: Man buys future wife expensive engagement ring. Loses it. She doesn't speak to him.

Good riddance to the "lady" in the story. Part of managing your finances is finding the right mate who, while not necessarily being your money twin, fits in with your money plans. I bought my wife-to-be a very expensive ring. However, she didn't ask or expect it. I thought of it as an "investment in my relationship." I still do.

However, the man in the story is pretty unlucky and I'd say, stupid. Sorry. You both get what you deserve.

How to Blow Twelve Grand… Literally! | Debt Reduction Formula

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Battle of the Economists II: Volker versus Bernanke

Posted by billspaced | 2:19 PM | 0 comments »

Big Ben BernankeOh, snap! when the economists start bitch-slapping each other, you know the economy is bad. Here's the surest sign that we're in an economic pickle:

Monetarists are fighting Keynesians
Paul Volker is fighting Bernanke

What next, Mankiw (Bush's former top econ guy) fighting Goolsbee (Obama's chief economic adviser)?

Paul Volcker is an enemy of the US economy - Ben Bernanke's News Groper Blog - These Blogs Are Not Real

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Kids and Money - April 18, 2008

Posted by billspaced | 4:50 PM | , , | 3 comments »

Kids and MoneyWelcome to the April 18, 2008 edition of Kids and Money.

(Note: I have taken the liberty of breaking from my normal practice of letting ALL of the posts speak for themselves; rather, I have removed some entries (not even closely relevant to Kids OR Money) or I have inserted some commentary to clarify or make a point.)




changeyourtree presents 6 Concepts You Must Teach Your Child Before Age 18 (Part 1 of 6): Personal Finance posted at Change Your Tree, saying, "Personal finance is one of 6 concepts we believe you should teach your child before age 18. This article details exactly what you should be teaching..."

This is some really basic -- yet very sound -- advice. Worth a read.

Ashley presents A trip to the store. posted at Wide Open Wallet.

This is a cute story about a 5 year old going to the store.

Llamamoney presents Teach your kids to save with Presidential Dollar Coins posted at Llama Money.

I love coins! I hope they never go away. Coins mean so much more to little kids because they're real. Paper money is conceptually difficult for youngsters to grasp, as in "Why isn't all paper worth $10?"

Chief Family Officer presents Here's a piggy bank I WON'T be getting posted at Chief Family Officer, saying, "This has got to be the most disturbing piggy bank ever!"

It is.

Lin Burress presents Are You An Enabler? Identifying Early Warning Signs of Enabling Behaviors posted at Telling It Like It Is.

Lin Burress presents How To Stop Enabling: When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us posted at Telling It Like It Is.

Good advice for all. Not just about money.

Meg presents Introducing… FruWiki.com! posted at All About Appearances, saying, "I don't have kids, but I certainly know plenty of people who do and have great respect for challenges of raising kids, especially financially. As someone trying climb out of debt, I've embraced living more frugally and am in awe of the cleverness of fellow frugalites. I launched FruWiki.com so that we could gather and share some of the great wisdom out there and help others live more on less. Hopefully, it will also be a great resource for the younger crowd, too, learning from both our mistakes and discoveries."

Great idea!

Sonja Stewart presents Kid Friendly Without the Cost posted at Parenting Squad.

Some really great ideas in here.

Raymond presents The 6 Best Credit Cards According To CNN Money posted at Money Blue Book.

Raymond presents How To Get Your Free FICO Credit Score posted at Money Blue Book.

Raymond presents How To Avoid A 0% Balance Transfer Mistake posted at Money Blue Book.

Great credit card advice.

Jeremy Zongker presents All I Really Needed to Know About Managing Money I Learned From Music posted at Destroy Debt.

Could be a fun way to teach the children about money...

Will presents Teach Your Kids About Money And Reap The Rewards posted at Your Finish Rich Plan, saying, "Illustrates the need to educate our kids about money and provides means to do so"

TONS of advice and data here.

hank presents Do we need a MANDATORY financial education curriculum in our schools? | My Investing Blog posted at My Investing Blog, saying, "it's been chatted about several times in the past - but it really SHOULD be addressed sooner than later; we have some pretty strange classes as it is kids take for "electives" these days and Personal Finance should be one of them! I would have taken it!"

Very compelling argument for adding personal finance to public school curricula.

Life. Money. Development. presents The 7 Attributes of Leadership posted at Life. Money. Development., saying, "An excellent presentation of the attributes every leader should have."

I think all kids begin as leaders and then something happens to them to put them in a spiritual and/or psychological box.

Jeremy Zongker presents Are Low Interest Credit Cards Really a Good Deal? posted at Creditor Web.

Good general credit card advice, especially the part about reading the Terms and Conditions! Make your kid read a "T&C" document and tell them that if they can understand it, you'll get them a credit card!

Sagar presents Top 10 Free Math and Science Online Courses posted at Accredited Degrees.

I post this only because I think math and science are great disciplines to teach kids HOW to learn. And if they can understand, and apply, these disciplines to their financial lives, all the better.

David Carter presents Which is Better Roth or Traditional IRA? posted at David Makes Cents.com, saying, "Goes over the pros and cons of both Traditional and Roth IRAs."

Put your retirement money in an IRA. Doesn't matter so much as which kind, but when, how often, and how much.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Kids and Money using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Money Management International Presents Financial Literacy Month

Posted by billspaced | 8:50 AM | 0 comments »

Money Management InternationalLooks like a worthwhile site...

Money Management International Presents Financial Literacy Month

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Stock Market: Bull, Bear, or Cowardly Lion?

Posted by billspaced | 1:32 PM | , | 0 comments »

Are we in a bear market?
I have recently become a regular reader of John Mauldin's Weekly E-Letter (free subscription) and wanted to pass along something very interesting that I read:

A true secular bear market has not really taken place in the US, but one has occurred across the pond in Japan. The market decline caused by the Great Depression, though referred to as the greatest decline in US stocks in the 20th century, only lasted three years and thus doesn't really fit the traditional "secular" requirement of lasting more than five years. Japan's Nikkei 225 suffered (see Exhibit 5) through a true secular bear market: stock prices declined over 80 percent from their 1989-1991 highs until they bottomed in 2003 (the market seems to be coming back now).

For more than a decade the country struggled with deflation caused by its banking system coming to a near halt on the heels of a collapsing real estate market and the bad loans that came with it. Of course, all this took place on the heels of a huge bull market, and thus very high valuations.
Sound vaguely familiar?

So, what's a person to do? Looks like it's time to do one of two things, depending on how you think this might play out. The passive way, if you think this is a US issue (most other countries are not in a recession right now and may not be in one for a few years), is to invest in foreign mutual funds (like an index fund). The active way, which can work in any market, is to invest in quality companies that will not only ride out any storm but which can prosper in trying times.

Who might these companies be? I'd look to history to see. What companies not only survived but thrived our last real bear market? What companies have prospered in Japan's horrible investment environment the last 18 years?

I think this is where we'll find answers.

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Personal Finance Blog Reviews

Posted by billspaced | 5:20 PM | 0 comments »

Quick note about a project I am undertaking. I am going to start reviewing personal finance blogs for usefulness.

If you want your blog reviewed, let me know. Note, however, that I will tell the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I will thoughtfully consider your request(s), but I will do these reviews on my own schedule. Stay tuned. This could be illuminating.

NOTE: A lot of PF blogs are very popular but I fail to see the reason and some PF blogs are barely read, but I love them. This will most definitely NOT be a popularity contest, though numbers of readers or page views or some other "use" data may be a part of the review. As in, "Why does this crummy blog have so many readers?" Or, "Why is this blog an unknown? It's so GOOD?"

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Some Chinese Guy Is Paying Your Mortgage

Posted by billspaced | 1:12 PM | , | 0 comments »

Chinese yuan
From the Motley Fool -- Some Chinese Guy Is Paying Your Mortgage

Great story and reasoning about why YOU should invest in foreign stocks. Not necessarily Chinese stocks (they may be overvalued right now) but stocks whose companies do business in currencies other than the weak US dollar, which will continue to weaken as long as the Fed keeps loosening the purse strings (and there's no way around the devaluing of the dollar in these times).

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7 Things You Must Do Financially

Posted by billspaced | 9:00 PM | , , | 1 comments »

Life is a complex thing, but only because we make it so. Let's simplify our financial life by doing the following 7 things:

  1. Earn more than you spend. If you don't, you'll go bankrupt. Bankruptcy is not a good place to be.
  2. Write a will.
  3. Save for your retirement.
  4. Pay your fair share of taxes.
  5. Pay your credit card balances off each month ON TIME
  6. Invest in stocks in some fashion (it could be in individual stocks, mutual funds, or ETFs).
  7. Save some money for a rainy day.
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Interest Rates on ARM Mortgages Are Adjusting… Lower???

Posted by billspaced | 12:57 PM | | 0 comments »

Brought to you by Punny Money:

Interest Rates on ARM Mortgages Are Adjusting… Lower??? | Punny Money:

Customer B ends up saving $400 a month and buys Customer A’s house at a foreclosure auction for half of what Customer A paid for it in 2003. Customer A finds out and sleeps with Customer B’s really hot wife for revenge. Customer B and Mrs. Customer B end up getting divorced; she takes Customer A’s original house in the divorce agreement and moves in with her man-mistress (Customer A). Then the LIBOR rate jumps 5% and everyone loses their homes anyway. The end.
Also,
(In case you don’t know what the LIBOR is, it’s just an imaginary number established by magical banking elves from the mythical land of England.)

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Battle of the Economists: Monetarists vs Keynesians

Posted by billspaced | 12:42 PM | , | 0 comments »

stagflation, economy, Keynes, FriedmanGreg Mankiw, Bush's former chief economic adviser, believes the Fed (and the government) is doing the right things. Joseph Stiglitz disagrees. Interesting juxtaposition of the two views.

Mankiw
Stiglitz

Post that brought it to my attention:
Greg Mankiw's Blog: Stiglitz on Monetary Policy

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Free Coin Counting at CoinStar

Posted by billspaced | 11:57 AM | 0 comments »

Coinstar
I hate counting and rolling coins to take to the bank as much as the next guy. And I won't pay somebody or some thing to do it for me. So the coins just sit. I have several old plastic CD containers, turned upside down, holding many collective pounds of coins: Pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, Canadian, Mexican, dollars, who knows?

I read at Money Blue Book that you can redeem your coins at Coinstar machines with no fee if you choose to redeem in gift cards.

Sounds like a winner to me!

Free Coin Counting At Coinstar Machines and Participating Banks

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Two for Tuesdays #14

Posted by billspaced | 6:00 AM | | 0 comments »

Last week, I gave you one tip with 50 money hacks in it, so I feel like I didn't cheat you. This week, we're back to Two for Tuesdays. This week, we'll talk about how to save on bank fees and how to save money on bottled water.


#1

I work for a bank; I'm in what they call the "back office." So I don't see or hear from many customers. My customers are the people at the bank who serve our customers. I don't hear the horror stories. Instead, I live them right along with you. I hate bank fees. They're wasteful and stupid and they take advantage of you.

While I do work for a bank, I don't get all my banking services at my own bank. I use other products, most specifically credit cards, offered by other banks. My rationale is this: There are so many problems with credit cards. If I had a problem with my bank's credit card, I might not get what I want when I call with a problem; I might lose my temper, and consequently, I might lose my job...

However, I do have a free checking account with WaMu as well as several high-yield savings accounts (called, believe it or not, my emergency account and my non-emergency account).

In any event, I want to share with you some fundamental tips on saving money on bank fees. Banks make millions of dollars in fees. Fees for overdraft, ATM use, overlimit, cashier's checks, etc. How to save money on bank fees? Don't incur them in the first place!

For credit cards, assure that you pay off your balance every single month. This is the best path to never incurring overlimit fees. Set up a regular monthly payment to pay at least your minimum payment each month, too, so you never incur late fees. You can make two payments in a given month -- one for the minimum, the other for the difference in your balance and minimum payment.

But I don't make it that difficult. I use an online calendar (Yahoo or Google, for example) to set up reminders for the two credit cards I use. Two times a month, I get reminders to go look at my credit card accounts to find out my closing balances. Then, I go to my online checking account and set up the payments (payments in full).

Save on ATM fees by always carrying enough cash in your pocket to cover any incidental expenses. Only you know what that amount is and it can vary. For example, I usually feel comfortable carrying $40. However, the other night, I went to a hockey game and none of the vendors' credit card processing machines were working. Buying beer for 4 people with nearly zero cash was difficult. In fact, it was impossible. I think we bought 3 beers for $23. Yikes.

Visit the ATM machines very infrequently. Also, make sure you only use your bank's ATM network. Otherwise, you'll incur ATM fees. Some companies, like Schwab and eTrade's bank, rebate ATM fees (they don't have many of their own ATMs), but it really seems like a hassle waiting to happen.

Set up overdraft protection, too, if you're inclined to bounce checks. There may be a fee, but it will be lower than the fees your bank, and your merchant where you wrote the check, charge you. Better yet, set up autotransfers from your savings accounts into your checking account to cover normal monthly expenses. You can also set up many bank accounts to alert you when you reach a given account balance via email.


#2

Save money on bottled water by not buying it! Seriously, you're paying for the bottling and transport of tap water. And you're adding to the world's landfill because you most likely are throwing away the bottles.

So, buy yourself a couple of Nalgene bottles (REI) and a Brita water filter pitcher (Costco) and bottle your own water. The Nalgene bottle are reusable and don't leach out harmful chemicals when you put them in the dishwasher. The Brita filters do a better job than Coke or Pepsi (two of the main suppliers of "bottled" water), they're cheap, and they last a good long time. Plus, the pitchers are super convenient: Fill with water, put in fridge, enjoy cold filtered water in a few minutes.

There you have it: Two ways to save money. Save on bank fees (and don't make bankers richer or let them squander your money) and save on buying bottled water.

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Betting Against the Market? Here's an Easy Way: RSW

Posted by billspaced | 5:58 AM | 0 comments »

I'm not suggesting that you try to time the market or bet against it. After all, the market has a historical trend upward, along with a predilection for rising (companies find ways to profitability by bringing "new and improved" products and services to market).

However, if you're so inclined, here's an ETF that lets you bet against the market: Rydex Inverse 2x S&P 500 ETF, stock symbol RSW.

The idea is that its beta is 2x the S&P 500, the index it bets against. The cool thing about this is you can "short" the S&P 500, with limited downside risk (okay, you can lose all your money, but not more) and tax consequences that aren't as onerous as shorting a stock (which is always treated as a short-term gain and gets the concomitant higher tax rate).

So, if you want to short the market, RSW may be the way to go.

Found on Andrew Tobias' site.

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Tax Return Reminder

Posted by billspaced | 1:00 AM | | 0 comments »

IRS
Tax returns are due April 15! If you want your tax rebate, file now. Amend later if you're not entirely ready.

File, too, if you don't have to, in order to get your rebate check from Uncle Sam and Aunt Free Handout.

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Broke? Alcoholic? How to Drink on a Dime: 10 Surefire Tips | Free Geekery

Posted by billspaced | 1:59 PM | 1 comments »

Broke? Drunk? Want FREE drinks? Here's howGreat post from Free Geekery on how to get free drinks --

  1. Find a frat party
  2. Crash a wedding reception
  3. Attend a wake
(more)

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