Bank Deals 

Free iPod Nano from Key Bank

This promotion has ended.

Key Bank is giving away a free iPod Nano if you open up one of their checking accounts between now and Sept. 9th 2006 and either having a direct deposit or open up a Keybank credit card by Oct. 31st, 2006. You will need to keep the account open for at least 180 days or you’ll be charged a $25 account closure fee but otherwise the Key Express Free Checking has no minimum balance requirement and no maintenance charge. Sounds like a good offer to me… don’t sleep on it! (The only catch is that you need to live in an area Key Bank serves)

There are only ramifications of this offer: 1) You’ll likely get a hit on your credit when you apply to the credit card, otherwise it seems pretty benign to me; 2) You’ll get a 1099-INT and the retail price of an iPod Nano is $149.99 so you’ll have to pay taxes on that.

Details of the Offer: You must open a Key Express Free Checking (this is the basic banking account in NY), Key Advantage Checking or a Key Privilege Checking account between July 23, 2006, and September 9, 2006, and have a direct deposit transaction or obtain a KeyBank credit card by October 31, 2006, and you will receive your iPod within 60 days of meeting the requirements. Offer available to individuals without an existing checking account at KeyBank. Employees of KeyBank, its affiliates and subsidiaries are not eligible for this offer. Limit one free iPod nano per individual. Free iPod nano offer valid until September 9, 2006, or while supplies last. The value of the iPod nano will be reported on Form 1099-INT. iPod® nano is a registered trademark of Apple Computer, Inc. All rights reserved. Apple is not a participant of this promotion.

Signup Link, or go to and it’s splattered on its homepage.

Tip of the hat to Jonathan for finding this one.


Signing In To The New Emigrant Direct

Since I haven’t been home for the last week, I haven’t yet signed into the new Emigrant Direct until today and the process was pretty painless. All you need is that mailer they sent out maybe three weeks ago with your “Secure 10 Digit Access Code” and your memory (birthday, social security, login username). If you never received your secure 10 digit access code, call up Customer Service at 1-800-836-1997, they’re open seven days a week from 8am until 11:30pm ET.

The next part gets a little tricky, you will have to provide answers to some set questions and then create another set of questions and answers that will act as secondary security protections for your account. For example, one of the preset questions is what was the last school you attended and you must supply the answer. Personally, ten questions is a little ridiculous but it’s all in the name of security… Finally, you have to agree to three disclosures (I did and I’ll review them later, hopefully I won’t see something new that I don’t like) and then you’re done!

About the new Emigrant Direct, it looks a lot slicker to be honest… I took a perfunctory look at it and you can download the data into Quicken, MS Money and as a CSV (Excel) which is definitely an improvement I think. I personally don’t use either program so I don’t remember if the old Emigrant had that functionality. Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to have much functionality improvements, just interface ones, but I’ll take the new look over the old look any day!

If there are big things I’ve missed, please do share!

 Personal Finance 

Why do I write so much about money?

This is a guest blogging post by Julie Ali.

I have enough of it. But perhaps I write about money because I am interested in how money divides people. Rich people, or people with a lot
of money have something that poor people do not have. At its’ simplest level, the presence of money makes choices available.

And I am a fan of choices. I like to be able to decide if I can work or not. I would like to be able to eat and have shelter during my retirement years. I know that there is a finite amount of money in my future and that makes me afraid. This fear, propels me in my current life to pay down debt and this pay down of debt, to some extent decreases the money available for current usage and therefore for consumption. And if consumption is the primary measure of our success and enjoyment of life, then I guess, I am not as privileged as the rich people are. This understanding that I am not rich makes me wonder: “if I am not rich, am I poor?”

But everything inside me rebels against the label of poor. To be poor is to be status less. To be poor is to be empty of labels = middle class ones at least. To be poor is to lack choices and freedom. To be poor is to be no body.

If indeed, I am poor and a nobody in this society – is that really so bad? I am free to think, read and write. I am free to do what I want to do for
most of my day. If I am tired, I lay me down to rest. If I am hungry, I eat. I am on nobody’s schedule and nobody makes me do what I do not want to do. However, somebody is financing this way of life – my husband. Is it fair to him to ask him to pay his life energy for my freedom? I don’t think so. We both need to do our fair share. Just staying at home with the boys is not sufficient return for the freedom of being a SAHM. Work needs to fill some of the available spaces in my life.

The work I do has function, form and a fixed schedule. It serves some role in the motion of the great dinosaur of a university but one day, I dream, I will move out of clerical work and do something better. But what? What types of work are better? All work involves some indignity to the natural soul of a person. Work crushes humour, bleeds out a person’s rich and diverse character and creates in it’s place a bland Tapioca ONE PERSON who does little but mouth stock phrases and leap from one mothballed response to another. There is a strong desire in me to rebel in the work environment; to throw off the incessant humming of the telephone, the computer, the printer and the cash register. I feel sometimes that I am going mad in the dead zone of the office.

But it gives me money. This money I show to myself to make me go to work. This money I stuff into envelopes to pay down our mortgage. This money buys me.

So if work and money are buying me – my time -then the topic of money does have relevance. It has relevance because my time is precious, the amount of time I have is limited and unknown, while in contrast, work is endless and painful.

Julie Ali loves to write and is a stay at home mom of two elementary school boys.


Minimum Wage Increase/Estate Tax Cut Bill Details

No doubt you’ve read about how the Minimum Wage Increase bill has passed the House of Representatives 230-180. If you don’t really have the patience to read about it all, here are the details:

  • Federal minimum wage would increase from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, phased in over the 3 years. (20 states and Washington DC already have minimum wages above the federal level, Washington State’s minimum wage is $7.63/hour)
  • Estate tax exemption for individuals with $5M, couples with $10M, by 2015. Estates worth up to $25M would be taxed capital gains (now 15%, scheduled to increase to 20%). For $25M+, tax would be fall to 30% by 2015.
  • The maneuver was aimed at defusing the minimum wage increase as a campaign issue for Democrats while using the popularity of the increase to achieve the Republican Party’s longtime goal of permanently cutting estate taxes.

    I’m personally against an estate tax (even though it affects only a very small number of people) and I don’t know the full economic ramifications of increasing the minimum wage, though I doubt the bad outweighs the good, but I would think this bill is a mixed positive.

    Details at CNN.

     Personal Finance 

    Quick Weekly Roundup

    With a couple of us bloggers on vacation (I’m in Tahoe), this week will be a brief roundup:

    FMF is insane and balances his checkbook to the penny.

    Nickel finds out that to update his Last Will and Trust it’ll cost him a hundred bones, a discount to him but he still balked (for now).

    JLP picks out two of Smart Money’s popular Ten Things XYZ Won’t Tell You, this time it’s the gas station.

    Flexo talks about the new hotness: 5.0% savings account interest rate threshold. He’s right, if you’re not getting 5.0%, you’re a sucker.

    MBH doesn’t like being called a consumer.

     Investing, Retirement 

    Who Runs Your 401(k) And What Do They Do?

    This post was written by Cory Aldrich, a b5media blogger.

    OK, let’s get some more basics up here. Today, we’ll talk about THEY. THEY are the people who run your retirement plan. THEY make most of the big decisions. THEY even make a fair number of the little decisions.

    THEY put your contributions into the plan. THEY process any changes to the investments within the plan. THEY facilitate distributions from the plan.

    THEY prepare and process forms. THEY prepare and deliver statements. THEY prepare and file the Form 5500 and other legally required reports.

    THEY do a lot.

    “Enough already!” you’re saying. “Who are THEY?”

    Fine, I’ll get to the point. THEY are a number of different people and organizations all working together to run your employer-sponsored retirement plan. There are a bunch of different ways that THEY can divide the work, so I can’t cover every possibility. I will cover the more common members of THEY, starting with the two essential ones, the Trustee and the Plan Administrator.

    (Click to continue reading…)


    Benjamin Franklin Personal Finance-Related Quotes

    If you’ve never read anything about Benjamin Franklin, you probably should. This guy was your average Joe, though really smart, who had a way with words that would put a smile on almost any face. It sounds like he was down to earth and your prototypical bartender… except he was much more. Anyway, here are some choice cuts of Ben Franklin:

    • A penny saved is a penny earned.
    • A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.
    • An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
    • Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it, is.
    • He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.
    • Buy what thou hast no need of and ere long thou shalt sell thy necessities.
    • Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
    • He does not possess wealth; it possesses him.
    • If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him.
    • If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some.
    • Rather go to bed with out dinner than to rise in debt.
    • The use of money is all the advantage there is in having it.
    • There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.

    Here are some other good ones that aren’t related to personal finance at all:

    • Honesty is the best policy.
    • Absence sharpens love, presence strengthens it.
    • All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.
    • Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
    • Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
    • Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.
    • I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.
    • Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.
    • Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.
    • Never take a wife till thou hast a house (and a fire) to put her in.
    • The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
    • The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
    • Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

    Do you have any favorites (Poor Richard quotes or otherwise?)

     Personal Finance 

    Appearances and Reality Part. 2

    This is a guest post by Figure Eight, who apparently looks younger than she is (lucky!), and she blogs over at Figure Eight (blog has since been removed).

    Earlier, I wrote about how people often assume I’m much younger than I am. For years, I’ve gotten the “So where are you in school?” question—despite the fact that I’m more than a decade out. When I was five years out of college and working in journalism, my summer intern invited me to her college graduation party. Her family was also celebrating her younger sister’s graduation from high school—and her father mistook me for one of her sister’s friends. “So where are you going to school next year?” he asked when he answered the door.

    I suspect this works against me, probably more often than I even realize. Flexo from Consumerism Commentary mentioned in the comments that he is frequently taken as younger than he is at work, and that’s happened to me, too.

    But if it’s going to happen anyway, I figure I might as well use it to my advantage. Done the right way, it can be a disguise. Inside, I’m smart and (if I do say so myself) relatively savvy. Outside, I look like an innocent. (And apparently I look a little dumb, because back when I was a high school senior and I told people where I was going to college, more than one of them told me I must be mistaken. I think it’s the blonde thing.)

    But I digress. The first time this tactic occurred to me was six years ago when I bought my first car. At the time, I had just switched from journalism into business, and money was still a somewhat terrifying subject for me. The idea of buying a new car made me hyperventilate. So I spent three months doing research while a coworker drove me to work every day. ( has a great breakdown of the car buying process. I was planning to lease the car, mostly in a misguided attempt to avoid the impact on my net worth, and it explained each aspect of the leasing contract so you could avoid hidden fees.)

    After a few months of this, I was ready to buy…but there was a second hurdle: the salesman. I knew these guys were trained to separate me from my money, and I kept watching it happen. No matter how much I knew, I found myself doing stupid things like putting $1000 down over the phone after just calling a dealership for information. All my friends had horror stories about being held captive at dealerships–about prices changing, and features they’d agreed on disappearing.

    As I thought about it, I realized I couldn’t beat these guys at their own game. They were too well trained, and would probably see me as an easy mark. And so I decided to move the source of my knowledge outward, away from me, and make it appear to them to be someone they couldn’t access or manipulate. I wrote a letter and faxed it to five dealerships, including all five of the dealerships at the top of the letter, so they would know they were in competition.

    I told them I was in the market for a specific car, and detailed the features I wanted. Then I told them that my father had very generously offered to make the payments (a lie, but one I figured was in the same category as: “I just need to check this price with my manager”), provided I received a deal substantially similar to the one he had recently received for the same car in Chicago. I listed every aspect of the deal: The purchase price, the residual price at the end of the lease, the mileage per year, etc.

    I got three calls back, and I went with the lowest price offered and put my deposit down over the phone. My insurance agent went to the dealership and arranged whatever he needed to arrange. That night, when I showed up to pick up the car, I brought a cell phone with me. My plan was that I would check the paperwork, and if the numbers were different than what we’d agreed on, I’d say: “I’m sorry, I have to call my dad,” and then go outside and make a call. I figured that the sales guys would look at me and believe it, and I would either get the car at the price I wanted, or I would go somewhere else.

    As it turned out, I didn’t even have to do that. When I showed up, the sales guy had the car out front. He showed me all the features, and how everything worked. When we went inside, all the papers said what they were supposed to, so I signed them and drove my new car home.

    Figure Eight is a New England-based writer and editor who’s been reading financial blogs almost as long as they’ve existed. She was recently inspired to start her own blog, which covers financial subjects, but from the perspective of finding out how to cultivate an enjoyment of what you already have.

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