Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve Roundup

The New Year will begin very soon, it's a fresh start for all of us. Around the house we are decompressing from Christmas still. One more weekend to go before things get back to normal. The kids will be back in school and the tax returns carnage will start. This week on the Blog scene we had some pretty good reading . I picked out a few of my favorites.

Mint.com has really done a great job this year including this item. 5 Personal Finance Lessons From “The Biggest Loser”

Squirrelers.com says to think about your decisions in Penny Wise and Dollar Foolish: When Not to Be a Cheapskate

Personal Finance By The Book really hit it on the head with the gift giving at Christmas with Rethinking Our Family Christmas Gift Exchange

Canadianfinanceblog.com had some great and interesting insights on Christmas shopping with Annual Shopping Tips

The Biz OF Life Is always keeping an eye out on our wasteful government with another great article called Top Charts of 2010

Bargaineering.com had a great post about True Wealth Isn’t About Money , I agree.

Fivecentnickel.com told about Jim Otar’s book “Unveiling the Retirement Myth.” Free Retirement Planning Book

Dinksfinance.com had a great post about my favorite subject planning your financial life. We can’t predict our future, but we can make a plan

Cleverdude.com is cutting up some credit cards.And then there were 7…credit cards

20somethingfinance.com is listing all the free things in life with 10 FREE Financial Services to Help you DOMINATE your Financial New Year’s Resolutions

frugaldad.com is celebrating being 3 years old. Happy Birthday and a great post A Letter to Frugal Dad Readers: The Last Three Years

barbarafriedbergpersonalfinance.com has some great tax advice for us with TAX HELP; Tips to Lower Your Tax Bill

Carnivals I have participated in:

Carnival of Money Stories #86: New Year’s Resolution Edition

To everyone Happy New Years.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

5 Easy Steps To Start The Financial New Year Off Right

The New Year is always the calendars way of saying here's another chance to get it right. We make resolutions to eat better and exercise more. Trust me, I have tried that resolution every year. But there has been one resolution I have been successful with and that is getting my financial life in order. You have to much debt and are not saving any money. It's the result of sloppy managing of your money. Get out a pencil and paper, its a lot easier than exercising and eating right, I know. Here are 5 easy steps to get you going.


Step 1: Admit that you have a financial problem. Admitting that you have a financial problem, whether it’s charging too much on credit cards or acknowledging that you own too many credit or store cards is the first step. You can’t begin to erase debt until you are able to admit to yourself (and maybe others) that you have a issue.


Step 2: Make a list of all your debts. You can’t know where to start until you have some sort of blueprint in front of you. And that blueprint will be your list of debts to attack. List out every debt you have (you can even put down your mortgage if you’d like) but list EVERYTHING! You cannot forget, by accident or on purpose, any of the debts. Many people will purposely not add a debt to the list on purpose because it’s a way of ignoring the problem. Part of your success in erasing debt will be how well you acknowledge each and every debt you have. List your debts starting with the smallest debt to the highest. Place them all in a column, one above the other.


Step 3: CREATE A BUDGET. The dreaded B-word. Everyone has a story or excuse or reason why they can’t create a budget or stick to a budget or a budget doesn’t work for them. I’m here to tell you that a budget does work if done properly. I’ve done it wrong and I used all of the excuses in the book to avoid creating one. But a monthly budget that is constantly reviewed and updated is the KEY to erasing your debt. Oooh, that sounds like work. Well, yes it is….


Step 4: Maintain Your Budget. You cannot create one budget and then think that that one budget is going to be the same budget used, month-after-month for the next few years until you get out of debt. If you do that you’ll be frustrated by month two and your budget will go down in flames as a miserable failure as most budgets do. A budget has to be modified every month to meet the needs of your family’s life style. Maybe even updated every week until you feel comfortable with it. And then even when you are out of debt, you will need to continue with a budget. The one guarantee I have for you if you stop doing a budget is that once you stop doing a budget, I guarantee that you’ll be back in debt again. Once you get use to managing a budget, it shouldn’t take up a lot of your time.


Step 5: Include Everyone in the Budget. Be sure to communicate with everyone in the family (spouse and kids) about the budget. Everyone needs to be on the same page and rowing in the same direction. You can’t have a wife following the budget and the husband off buying tools that weren’t budgeted for. It won’t work. EVER! Even tell the kids about the family budget. Now a nine year old doesn’t need to know all the finite details. But make them aware that there is only so much money. And that money is allocated to certain things. And some things are “not in the budget.” They will catch on soon and before you know it, they will be telling you what is not in the budget.


Bonus Step: Start living on a budget. It’s all fine to create a budget and talk about it. But if you don’t implement it, it will never work. What’s the worse that can happen if you go on a budget. You finally may actually start to understand where all your money is going. That may be scary at first but eventually it will feel liberating and you’ll soon erase that debt and start saving.


We are still not done yet. You need encouragement from friends and family for sure. You also need to keep on educating yourself in this money adventure. You must read books and keep reading blogs about personal finance. Also get some of Dave Ramsey's books. His "Total Money Makeover Book" is what you need to read again and again. Find other authors to read and learn all you can. You will be successful if you have a plan and follow it.  I Promise.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How I Used My Emergency Fund

Well, it just happened to me. A rainy day. An emergency. Emergency might be too strong a word. But I did have something break that required repairing. Two days ago the a leak started on my water heater. I didn’t realize it at first. I saw some water on the floor and later that day no hot water.

I called around to get some prices for a new water heater. I called Lowe's and Home Depot they both had good prices. It turned out I had a 10% of coupon for Home Depot so I went there. The cost for the heater was $420. I got out the checkbook for the Emergency fund account and went down to get the heater. The store was offering 10% off if I opened up an account with them. It was tempting, I could have another 10 percent off. I was justifying it that I could open the account and just pay it off, then close it. Use credit or pay by check. 
Of course I chose the latter and paid by check from my emergency fund. 

But it was because I had erased my debt and built up an emergency fund that I was able to deal with this in a calm state of mind and not worry about where was the money going to come from to make this repair. I didn’t panic and place the payment on a credit card. I had the cash in reserve and I used it. Of course my wife and daughter laughed at me because they kept joking how it “hurt” me to part with the cash. And they were right – I hate parting with my hard earned money and savings. But better that than to go back into debt.


Sure, $420 may not seem a big deal to some folks. But to others it could be the source of great stress if they don’t know where the money will come from. Others may feel self-defeated and think, “stuff always breaks and I have to put it on credit card. I’ll never get out of debt.” But with a plan to erase debt and build an emergency fund, an emergency will just be an inconvenience and not a nightmare of falling further into debt.

Erase your debt and you too will have the money to take on life’s surprises.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Make Money, Sell Your Stuff, Try WorthMonkey.com



Now that the holidays are over, you may need some cash to pay off those abused credit cards. You go over to EBay and list your stuff. But don't know what price to sell your items for. That's where WorthMonkey.com comes in.

You enter the item you want a price for and hit the search button. You will see a list of the price range of the item searched. Worth Monkey also gives you a list of where you can buy the item along with the prices.

Worth Monkey was founded in July of 2010. Based in San Luis Obispo, California. Worth Monkey sees itself as the blue book for used electronics and more. The idea arose from the need to find what a good price of item was before purchasing. With some knowledgeable people and only a few experts, it was hard to get an accurate price range. Worth Monkey is intended to give users a single resource to find out the value of an item before they buy or sell without the need to consult someone else.

Worth Monkey is a site that does not sell anything. It's intended to give users a n independent resource to find information and pricing on products they want to buy or sell. The also helps users find the sellers of the products they want to buy. Checking Worth Monkey, before making your purchase can save the buyer a great deal of money.

Using the site is extremely easy. The initial page gives users exactly what they need. No annoying banner ads or clutter. Just type in the item to be searched for and your done. The search bar is large with no distractions. Only a few buttons taking you to Worth Monkeys about page, feedback, and registering.

There is no cost to use Worth Monkey. You can access it without an account. No subscription or fees involved. If you do register you will be allowed to enter feedback on the search and you will be able to enter what you believe the item is worth. Worth Monkey promises many more registration only features in the future.

Worth Monkey is best for users who do a lot of online buying. A novice will have no trouble searching for items and comparing prices. It's free and you can search as often as you like.

So why use Worth Monkey instead of just searching on Google? The only benefit at the moment is the precise focus on the search and not having to deal with all the extra clutter of a google search. Worth Monkey is in it's initial debut period but they promise even more features to come.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Economy Boost Attributed To Secret Weapon: Grandparents

Last year America's 70 million grandparents spent $52 billion dollars on their grand kids according to Grandparents.com . That's a lot of spending power in the middle of a recession. But for them birthdays and Christmas are not the only time of year they give to the little tykes. Grandparents also contribute $17 billion dollars to the grandchildren's education. This includes payments for private school tuition, after school programs, college savings plans, textbooks and supplies. They also spend $10 billion on clothing for the kiddies and $6 billion or more on toys.

Today's grandparents are avoiding the silly plastic trinkets and useless electronic gadgets for more long term meaningful things like education. Even though hit by a hard economy and ever rising prices it's a rare grandparent that doesn't sacrifice for their little ones. They are there to also help teach the little ones valuable life lessons as they grow. You will hear grandparents say the way to a happy life is not the latest toy, but education and a good job, it is necessary for a bright future.

The growing trend nowadays is that the grandparents are in better financial shape than their children. This allows them to pick up the slack when it comes to the needs of the grandchildren. Grandparents who are retired or near retiring are able with their extra time or financial resources to help more. The parents may have no money available or are suffering from a job loss and need the help. Thank goodness for the grandparents help.

It's a fact that the generation of the parents will not be as prosperous as the generation of the grandparents. The parents are being called the sandwich generation. They are in the middle of parents who are enjoying extended life spans and children growing up in an ever expensive lifestyle.

If you were able to have your grandparents in your life as you were growing up you were lucky. In my case, my 2 grandfathers were alive to see me marry. Except for my Father, they have been the most influential men in my life. They were frugal before frugal was something new. They taught me about life and family. The made my life richer. I hope I can be half as good as they were. Again, thank goodness for grandparents.


Related articles

Sunday, December 26, 2010

How To Go To Medical School For Free

Many government agencies, universities and charities are putting up the money to give free or nearly free medical school educations.

What does it cost to go to medical school? At a home state's medical school your likely to pay as much as $150,000. At a private school the price is double. But when you graduate and finish your residency you will be enjoying a 6 figure salary or more.

Before applying for admission and college funding, check the fine print to see what the school requires as service for the free education. Military scholarships, for example, require students to put 2 years of service for every year of scholarship.

The University of Central Florida is offering completely free medical educations to all 40 members of the class of 2013.

Vanderbilt is giving a few complete scholarships for a few top-notch students here.

Washington University is giving complete scholarships for a few students here.

The military, if your officer material, will pay your tuition and living expenses through 4 years of medical school. No matter if your in the Army, Navy, or Air Force. You will have to serve one year for every year of school.

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The National Health Care Service will pay tuition and living expenses for those training to become primary-care physicians. Recipients will be assigned to needy areas and must work at least one year for every year of a scholarship. They'll also need to be good and lucky: The NHS gets seven times more applications than it has scholarships.

The National Institutes of Health will pay tuition and a living stipend for those interested in spending the eight years in school necessary to receive an M.D. and a research Ph.D. through programs like its Medical Scientist Training Program. These scholarships are designed to help those who want to become research scientists, not Beverly Hills plastic surgeons.

Some scholarships cover only tuition, leaving medical students to pay for their living expenses, which can easily run more than $2,000 a month. Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University will offer free tuition to all future medical students. The Cleveland Clinic focuses on training researchers and academics. You'll need to have good grades, scores, and luck. Last year, before the new scholarship program was announced, the Cleveland Clinic received 1,423 applications for its 32 slots. It'll probably be even more competitive this year.

The Mayo Clinic promises every admitted medical student a scholarship of at least $25,000. That means students in the fall of 2011 will be charged no more than $4,200. And many will get other scholarships to cover that.

The National Health Service Corps will repay $60,000 in education debt for two years of service in needy areas. It will repay up to $179,000 for 5 years of service.


Another great money saving tip is to look into courses online for a variety of fields.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via WikipediaHaving a great day at home with the family.

The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.
Don't forget to get the free book "The Four-Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferris. Tomorrow is the last day. Link.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas Eve Round-Up

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via Wikipedia
It's been almost 6 months since I started this blog In July 2010. I have learned a lot in that time. I have made some friends along the way. My fellow bloggers have been open and kind to me. I am grateful to all those that have stopped by and to those that have been coming back. The motivation that keeps me writing everyday is that I hope to make a difference. If I can educate and inform, I have succeeded.

The best part of personal finance is the personal part. The interaction between people and friendships formed. The rest is just a monopoly game that you are either ahead or behind in. I am looking forward to the new year and the many more posts I need to get out.

The following are a round-up of my favorite posts I have written. Merry Christmas to all.

There is still time to get the PDF book "The Four-Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferriss.

Here is a post telling of the The Greatest Gift You Can Receive Is Friendship

A more personal family story of what Grandma Would teach me "Grandma's Lessons Are Still True".

On YouTube you can watch a lot of good financial information. I came up with a few channels to get you started. "7 YouTube Channels That Teach You How To Handle Money"

Our national debt is insanely high. I list who we owe the money to. "15 Top Owners Of Government Debt"

A personal favorite about a good habit to have. "Why Read Books"

Manners are great but "Do You Have Financial Etiquette?"

The lesson of big government. "A Horse Named Government"

 An old but true lesson. "Kids Need To Work".

There are still other post that may interest you so have a look around. To all a safe and Merry Christmas.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Book "The Four Hour Workweek" Free Copy



The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.My Money Blog has a post on how you can get a Free PDF of The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Go over to the site and you will see a download link. It looks like this is a promotion for his new book thats coming out soon.









Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Divorced Families Cause Problems For College Students

Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA - detail ...Image via Wikipedia
The costs of putting your children through college are on the rise. Finding the money and saving it is hard enough. But when divorce enters the equation, college money suffers.

According to researchers from Rice University and the University of Wisconsin divorced parents contribute about a third of what married parents contribute to their children's education. Remarried parents contribute about half of what married parents contributed, though their incomes are similar to those parents that have stayed married.  

This is a shift of the burden from parents to other sources of money. Namely the student will be responsible for the money through borrowing or working much more.

Normally, married parents of students on average have contributed 8 percent of their income and have met 77 percent of the financial burden. Divorced parents contribute 6 percent of their income and only can pay 42 percent of the total college bill. When divorced parents enter into another marriage, they only can contribute 5 percent of their income and manage only 53 percent of the funds needed to go to college.

This makes sense because much of the family assets are used up in the divorce proceedings through lawyers and necessary expenses. Loss of income and money channeled  to support two separated residences, instead of the original one before divorce, causes money to be wasted. 

Another problem arises in divorced households is the FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application that must filled out each year for financial assistance and grants. in a non-divorced home the FASFA is hard enough to deal with. In a divorced home the FASFA is much more complicated. Normally the household income is entered on the form, among other things, but the income of a spouse who remarried is supposed to be included. The step-father or step-mothers income must be included on the form. This may send the total household income through the roof resulting in no money for the student. Is it right to penalize the student because the parent has remarried. Isn't it right, that the students financial aid be arrived, at by just the biological parents. If a parent remarries why does the new step parents income have to be included. It should just be the biological parents income to determine financial assistance.

Even if one parent is dead, the FASFA does not take that into consideration. While the new step-parent may have children of their own, they to are penalized in this process because the new spouse's income must be included on the FASFA form. 

The results of divorced parents on their child are that the student has to pick up the slack of the lack of college money. They must work extra and save more. Applying for scholarships and grants are a way to help get the student through college and graduate. There are jobs that pay for college as you work. You need to get creative.

However you look at it, divorce takes it's toll on the children in ways we never have thought of.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Good Financial Advice Is Sometimes Useless

Moo cards for blogging workshopImage by Mexicanwave via Flickr

I was reading over at Bankrate.com and came across an article called "5 steps when you’re 60 and broke". It was your normal 5 steps to do something blog post. It started with a quick story of a 63 year old man out of work for 2 years. Unemployment benefits are running out soon. There are no job prospects in sight. He asks what to do.


Link to original post



The author proceeds to list 5 things to do. His advice is as follows:

1.Find a job. Fast food, customer service, substitute teaching and cleaning are all jobs that are available in most parts of the country, even when times are tough. They don't pay much more than minimum wage, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do just to pay the bills.

2.Cut your housing costs. Between 2005 and 2009, more than 3.8 million people moved in with their relatives, according to the U.S. Census. Moving in with somebody else or renting out a room to split the costs is a time-honored strategy when times are tough.

3.Reduce the cost of owning a car. Defaulting is a bad idea because even if you turn the car back voluntarily, your lender will want you to pay the difference between what the lender was able to sell the vehicle for at auction and what you owed. Try putting the vehicle up for sale yourself. Even if you have to make up the difference, you'll pay less. Replace those wheels with a used car that you pay cash for. Getting rid of that car note will help you cut your  auto insurance costs -- on an old car on which you don't owe money, you can carry cheap liability insurance only.

4.Don't be too proud to apply for whatever help you can get. One good place to start is the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which used to be known as food stamps. This program will help you with the essentials.

5.Keep your health insurance. Under health care reform, there should already be a high-risk health insurance plan available to you -- even if you have a pre-existing condition. Find a knowledgeable insurance agent and ask for help locating an appropriate policy. You'll probably have to accept a plan with a high deductible, but  that's better than having no insurance at all.

I read the ideas and thought the author did a good job with what he had to work with. The unemployed man basically has no prospects and would probably end up on the street if a good job doesn't turn up. It's pretty hopeless for this guy. But thats not the end of the story.

I continued to read further down to the comments. There were four comments just ripping the author apart. The comments were a cross section of people in desperate situations. The sentiment of the commentors was, the advice was frivolous and useless. They saw that the author only could offer advice they already had done. Like looking for work, cutting expenses, get city assistance, and keep you health care. They were infuriated with the last one especially. The stated how would I keep my  health care when I have no income? They said that the only help beyond unemployment, was food stamps. 

In the personal finance blogger world a lot of advice is thrown around. I lump myself in with this bunch. There are many "5 Steps to do  this" or " 10 Steps To Do That" out there. We have to remember that there are real people out there with real personal and financial problems. We give our advice out in a vacuum not knowing its effects. There is a responsibility that must be kept in mind when we write. We owe our readers a personal interest with our words.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Things That Drive Me Crazy

Credit cardImage via Wikipedia
If your like me there are times you just want to scream about how dumb or incompetent the status quo of financial services are. Either we are treated like we don't have a brain or we get the take it or leave attitude. Here are a few of my most aggravating pet peeves.

Credit Card Rewards

Some credit cards give between 1 and 3 percent cash back on purchases. Mostly the cash back is more around 1 percent. If you spend $1000 on your credit card per month the cash back is $10. If the cash back was 3% then it would be $30. Multiply that by 12 months and you will have $360. I think it's way to much work over the year for only $360. You may have a month where your tempted to not pay it back or you may have an emergency and justify only making the minimum payment. It's way to messy to try and get something from the credit card companies. You think your gaining something but for the risk your taking, the payoff is to small. I would rather just use my debit card and maybe get rewards from their use. The credit card companies don't give you rewards because they are so nice, it's because they are hoping you go into debt with them.

1% CD Rates

Some of you can remember when CD rates were over 10%, then for the longest time they were between 3 to 5 percent. At that level it made sense to buy CD's. The rate was fair and it kept up with inflation. But at 1% it is just simply pointless to tie up your money in these things. The banks are loaning money out at higher interest rates and should pass that on to us. Again this is something that drives me crazy. It is infuriating how banks take us to the cleaners, with a smile on their face.

0.10% Checking Account Interest

This is one of my favorite things on the list. Why even bother to give interest at such a low rate. Are the banks trying to see how much they can make us look stupid. This pitiful rate only ends up to a few pennies. I would rather have a no interest account than to be insulted like this.

Mortgage Signing Documents

Is it really necessary to have a 50 page stack of paper to sign when getting a mortgage. I guess in a world run by lawyers I should feel lucky it's only that much. Does anybody really read all those pages and if you do read them do you understand what your reading. You should have a lawyer take a look at them before signing but I believe most people don't.

Tax Returns

With another tax season quickly approaching this fiasco is on my mind. In my family we have tax returns for 4 children to file. My wife files separately from me. I have a personal and corporate( state and federal) tax returns to file. The accountant does my wifes and mine. But I do the children's returns with online software. Preparing, entering and filing these things just drive me crazy.

Cell Phone Plans

My cell phone plan is for 1400 minutes per month. I don't need 1400 minutes. I need 900 minutes. But their next plan level is 800 minutes. Why can't they sell me just what I need?

Loyalty Cards

Every time  I go into a CVS drugstore they say "Do you have our card?". If I want the sale price or a discount, I need the card. It drives me crazy. Our local supermarket has a loyalty card also. If I don't produce it they actually charge me more money.

Health Insurance

Why can't we purchase health insurance as easily as we purchase car insurance. It drives me crazy. I wish there would be a health insurer on every corner like there are car insurance providers. I'm told health insurance is more complicated than car insurance. So thats the way its sold today. I think they can do better.

Please feel free to ad a few of your own examples.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Famed Investor Jim Rogers Speaks of the Best Investments Ahead


I have followed Jim Rogers for many years and he always seems to make sense. He sure makes plenty money for himself. I believe he lives in Shanghai. He is raising his young family there. He often says thats where the financial center of the 21st century will be. Whats your take on ol' Jimmy?
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