General 
1
comments

Wordle’s Cool Subject Clouds

I was playing around with this new site Wordle and putting in the sites of some other personal finance blogs

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity Artistic Tag Cloud

They make the cloud based on your RSS feed so it takes whatever you’ve been writing about lately, not a entire site survey (with over 2,200 articles, that would take forever), so it looks like I’ve been writing a lot about emergency funds, investing in index funds, and stealing Obama’s thunder and the use of the word ‘can.’ Yes, I can.

But this is no fun if I just do my site right? I had to see what others would look like so I played with it some more and made clouds for The Simple Dollar (there it is to the right, probably my favorite of the bunch I made and that thumbnail doesn’t do it justice), The Digerati Life, Five Cent Nickel, Get Rich Slowly, Consumerism Commentary, CNN Money, and a few more.

If you want to see the fruits of my minor diversionary labor, check out my gallery on Wordle.


 Banking 
160
comments

Dollar Savings Direct: 2.05% APY Emigrant Clone

Dollar Savings Direct Logo

FDIC Update: There were some concerns as to whether Dollar Savings Direct was actually a division of Emigrant Bank and whether it was FDIC insured, those have been laid to rest thanks to the work of some dutiful readers. Dollar Savings Direct is FDIC insured under the certificate of Emigrant Bank and shares limits with any assets you may have at Emigrant Direct. This was confirmed by Jeff who was in correspondence with the FDIC.



(Click to continue reading…)


 Personal Finance 
28
comments

Quicken 2009 Coupons & Feature Recap

I picked up a copy of Quicken last year to help with our family’s personal finances and perhaps assist in the accounting of my fledgling little business. This year, Quicken has released yet another version update, Quicken 2009 is slated for a September 10th release, and offered some handsome discounts for those looking to upgrade or use the software for the first time.

Quicken 2009 New Features

I’ve read people talk about how they hated all these yearly updates because they offered little in upgrades. Well, in scouring the web for more information, I stumbled on this job posting in which Intuit, makers of Quicken, is “planning a major redesign of the product, and we are looking for a senior user interaction designer for 6-9 month.” Who knows what that means though.

There are additional portfolio planning features added, a whole new help system (with screens for each page), as well as adding more banks to its system. Quicken 2009 will now interface with over 6,000 institutions from banks to brokerages to PayPal.

Quicken 2009 Coupons Codes


 Personal Finance 
2
comments

Roundup: McCain vs. Obama, Taxes & Other Good Stuff(tm)

If you want to compare the economic policies and plans of Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama, CNN Money has a good comparison between the two on a variety of issues from Social Security to Personal Taxes.

Jeremy at Generation X Finance has a very good explanation of why the GAO report of 2/3rds of companies paying zero tax is political hogwash. Besides Jeremy’s good points, famous United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit judge Learned Hand once said – “Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes. Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.”

SVB tackles the question of saving for college, a question I’m going to put off for a little while.

Nickel’s favorite cashback credit card is the Blue Cash from American Express, a card I don’t have. It seems to have a lot of great features, like a comparison of your cashback performance, and good cashback categories as well.

The Consumerist confirms once again why I love Southwest in publishing it’s top 3 most and least “fee crazy” airlines. Southwest was they’re #1 least fee crazy airline.

Flexo wrote about a study that says sleep makes you smarter.

Have a great long weekend!


 General 
2
comments

WIN: NBC’s 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics by Numbers

This week, in lieu of a Week in Numbers, I give you NBC’s 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics by Numbers.

My favorite numbers of the bunch?

  • $25,000 – The amount each Olympic athlete is given by the USOC for a gold medal.
  • 44 – The number countries with apparel deals with Nike at the Olympics, there are 204 countries participating in total.
  • 0 – How much Michael Phelps will pay to eat pizza at Pizza Hut for the next year (all because he broke Spitz’s single-Games gold medal count record, I had no idea he did that)

 Your Take 
7
comments

Your Take: Would You Get Genetic Testing?

DNA in Lego BricksMy wife and I once discussed getting genetic testing done to figure out whether our kids would be grow up to become NBA superstars and fund our lavish retirement plans. Anyway, with that plan in mind, I originally planned to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get myself tested by a plethora of different genetic testing companies, but Discover Magazine, with their deep pockets and journalistic pull, beat me to the punch and saved me a bunch of money. (whew!)

Boonsri Dickinson was genetically tested by three different firms (Navigenics, 23andMe, and deCODE genetics) and the results were… eh, anticlimactic. What I learned in Dickinson’s article was that genetic testing was at best still an imperfect science. The data we have on the human genome simply isn’t deep enough to give us a clear and accurate picture of even our own future, let alone the future of the children of couples being tested.

One surprising factoid was the importance of race. I had always heard that there was really no genetic difference between any two races, that individual variance was a bigger deal than racial variances. This was in direct conflict with the analysis methodology for interpreting the DNA testing results. Dickinson is half-European and half-Asian… and her 23andMe results would wildly fluctuate based on how she classified her ancestry.

While I can see the merits of genetic testing, it still sounds like it’s an imperfect science because we simply don’t understand it well enough. We often see media stories about how we’ve discovered the gene for this or that and the reality is that it’s just not that simple. I think genetic testing, for now, with its hefty price tag and inaccurate results, is out of any future plans.

How about you? Ever consider it? Too creepy (Gattaca, anyone?)? Too expensive? See no point to it?

(Photo: mknowles)


 Personal Finance 
8
comments

7 Deadly Sins of Personal Finance: Don’t Enjoy Life

7 Deadly Sins of Personal Finance We’ve reached the last of the deadly sins of personal finance and this one probably caught you off guard, right? All the others were your standard bits of personal finance advice: be sure to budget, have an emergency fund, ensure you’re adequately insured; this deadly sin is of the softer variety. It’s important that, while you’re following the standard personal finance advice, you remember to enjoy life while you’re living it. That’s why the seventh and final deadly sin of personal finance is…

Don’t Enjoy Life

Life, especially the personal finance aspects of your life, is all about balance. Don’t spend more than you earn, but don’t starve yourself of life’s pleasures. You don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy life but you don’t have to starve yourself of all fun in order to save more for a new house or your retirement. While all those goals are important, it’s also important that you enjoy life now so that you don’t burn yourself out.

I had a friend who was extremely diligent about saving money during the week. He’d bring in his lunches, he’d skip out on happy hours after work, and would otherwise live a pretty austere and frugal lifestyle. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, whenever he would go on vacations with his girlfriends, he’d go all out. As you probably know, anytime you visit a vacation destination, there will be ample opportunities for you to spend a lot of money. If you ask him, he’d tell you that he was saving his money during the week so that he could go crazy on vacations without worrying about how much he spent. If you ask me, I thought his pendulum was just swinging the other way from austere to lavish. I never judge how other people spend their money, that’s their own business, but a small part of me wondered if his “average spend” would be lower if he just enjoyed life a little more on a daily basis (you can go out with friends without spending a lot).

Let’s be honest, you don’t need me to tell you to enjoy life, right? :)

Finally and hopefully fittingly, as you work those long hours at the office or the shop or while you’re hitting the books at the library, remember also to spend time with your loved ones doing the things that make you happy. Be sure that you’re working to live, rather than living to work. Promotions and more pay are great, but there’s more to life than money and those things are free.


 Personal Finance 
5
comments

Why I Don’t Trust High Yield International Banks

Ben at The Consumerist sent me this article about high yield interest rates in Iceland, after Sedlabanki, the central bank of Iceland, bumped borrowing interest rates to 15.5% to battle inflation. That puts interest rates for regular savings accounts betwee 11.65% and 15.55% – that’s pretty amazing. But I’m not biting.

No FDIC

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation SealAs IndyMac went into the conservatorship of the FDIC, people lined for hours to withdraw their money. The FDIC gives you $100,000 of coverage… Icelandic insurance covers the first $20,731 and if you want to actually physically run on the bank, you have to haul yourself to Iceland.

How important is this? That depends on how risk averse you are and how comfortable you are sending your money abroad. One of the benefits of the FDIC is that if you put your savings in an insured bank in the US, you have a backstop against the worst of the worst. Even if the bank itself imploded, you knew your money was safe and that’s something we often take for granted. Many people are apprehensive about putting their funds in an online high yield savings account, this is easily ten times riskier because it lacks FDIC insurance. (though all the banks listed in the article are huge, almost “too big to fail” huge :) )

Exchange Risk

100 Iceland KronaNot knowing the solvency of banks in Iceland, I think the biggest risk has to do with currency exchange risk. That’s the risk that your money will lose value as the dollar strengthens against the Icelandic Króna. One mitigating factor is that there’s inflation in Iceland, which means they will likely stand pat or increase rate (strengthens the króna against the dollar), but the dollar is coming off historic lows against a lot of other currencies.

Check out the list of top diversified emerging market funds according to Yahoo Finance. The funds that are the top performers over 5 years are not the ones that are top performers over 3 years. None of the top performers of the last year were top formers over the last 3 (Lazard funds appear in the 5 year list though). Emerging markets are volatile in part because of exchange risk and those funds are diversified. You’d be putting all your eggs in the Icelandic bucket.

Is It Worth It?

How much do you really have to save and is it worth opening an account in an international country? If you were to put $20k, the insurance limit, then the difference between a 15% APY and a 3.5% APY (FNBO Direct offers this) is 11.5% or $2,300. After you take 25% off for taxes, you’re left with $1,725 on $20k. $1,725 is a lot… but let’s see what you have to do to open an account abroad.

I went to Kaupthing Edge, the high yield online deposit product of the first bank listed in the Barron’s article, and the United States wasn’t listed. Strike one.

I then went to Glitnir Bank, the second listed bank. After poking around and finding some information on individual banking, I learned that you’d have to go to their Iceland or Norway websites (which aren’t in English) to open a regular account. They have a Save & Save product, which is linked to sustainability efforts, but again you have to go to an Iceland or Norway site. Strike two.

Last one left is SPRON, or the Reykjavík Savings Bank, and they actually have an internet bank link on their homepage… but I can’t figure out how to sign up for an account. Strike three.

I’m out.

Summary

15.55% is sooooo appealing. But with risk comes reward, you never get rewards without putting your neck on the line and there’s a reason why you can get 15.55% in Iceland when you can only get 3.50% here in the United States. If there wasn’t a reason, the big money would’ve already gone to Iceland and depressed the yields on those accounts… it’s simple market economics.

There are also a bunch of reasons I don’t even know about, because I’m not a foreign exchange expert. In fact, the only thing I know about foreign exchange is that it’s like high quality kitchen knife. A trained chef can use it to butterfly a chicken breast, I’d probably cut myself. If you’re like me, go the safe route and keep it here in the States. If you don’t mind the risk, go for it.

No reward comes without some risk.

(Photo: 100 Krona by sippeangelo)


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