General 
8
comments

Happy New Year!

Fireworks Rule!

Depending on when you read this, it’ll either be New Year’s Eve or New Year’s day (or some random day during the year!), but I wanted to wish you and yours a happy and prosperous new year. We’ve had a pretty rough 2008 but hopefully things can turn around in 2009!

If nothing else, be thankful you weren’t involved in the Madoff ponzi scheme!

We will be returning to your regularly scheduled programming on Monday, January 5th.

(Photo by Mr. Magoo ICU)


 Investing 
5
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Interview with Jim O’Donnell, The Shortest Investment Book Ever

The Shortest Investment Book Ever: Wall Street Secrets for Making Every Dollar Count by James O'DonnellLast weekend, I reviewed The Shortest Investment Book Ever by Jim O’Donnell and today I have the opportunity to interview him. I thought that Jim’s extensive financial experience and his love to educate was something I should take advantage of and he willing subjected himself to my hard hitting investigative journalism. :)

Good morning Professor O’Donnell, I thought The Shortest Investment Book Ever lived up to its billing, being both short and informative in a way that is not intimidating in the least. Often times investing related books assault the reader with a mountain of data, but not so with your book. What led you to write The Shortest Investment Book Ever?

There is no shortage of investment and budgeting books out there already. But they don’t address the 401(k) and the 403(b), which is the chief retirement savings tool for about 62 million Americans. My book targets those many, many “savers” who are often overwhelmed by investment choices at work and may, therefore, do nothing or do the wrong thing.

I also don’t want people paying additional money (they may not have) to get “help” which often times is, even from honest brokers, a sales pitch. But my book is also intended for those who don’t have a 401(k) or a 403(b). It will help lots of people better understand Medicare, Social Security, and IRAs, which are also important aspects of retirement savings.

Were there any chapters that were cut from the book that you would have liked included?

Actually, no. In putting the I book together, my editors and I had some tussles over content. But I wanted LESS, while they wanted MORE, and kept suggesting more chapters that I might develop as briefly as I did the ones we have. Some of the chapters in the book, on, for instance, socially-responsible investing, were not my idea. I think they are good topics. But I didn’t think they belonged in the SHORTEST investment book ever.

What led you to leave Wall Street and begin teaching? In your book, I get the feeling that it’s a mentor speaking to a mentee; it works quite well in welcoming the novice to the world of retirement and investing.

I was a school teacher for seven years after college. In many ways, I loved it. All my life, I have wanted to have a life-long, and I hope positive, impact on others. I left teaching junior and senior high school, discouraged after our upstate New York community voted down the budget a couple of years in a row. I also seemed to think that my students were more capable of excellence than my administrators thought. I was then – and still am today – a demanding teacher. I’m not in the classroom to serve time and accrue retirement credit. That led to tension and some soul searching with my administrators.

So I went off to Columbia U. in New York City and got an MBA in finance and accounting with the hope of helping people in a new way. I continued to try to do that with clients and staff as I rose in the mutual fund world for a couple of decades. Then, a powerful, reorienting, religious experience in the mid-80s caused me, in time, to leave the business world and invest in the education of the next generation. In a sense, I went back to the classroom, sort of like “back to the future.”

With all the talk of a recession, what do you think most people should do to prepare for it and, should we be so lucky, what should we do to benefit from when we exit the recession?

To prepare for the recession that is upon us: We need to examine our own houses. We need to spend less, save more – sometimes LOTS LESS. We need to discipline our sometimes crazy natures to understand the difference between WANTS and NEEDS. I’m convinced that contented people – which should be our goal – don’t necessarily get what they want but they learn to live with and maybe like what they get.

For those near retirement, the recent market drubbing is, of course, more challenging. We may need to defer some dreams, keep working a bit longer, and rework our budgets and plans. We may need to learn to live on less and reinvigorate such easily overlooked joys as time with family and friends, being or becoming involved in community or church work, even enjoying simple, cheap pleasures, like a movie at home with friends or family.

We’ve got to challenge the cockamamy notion that, if I don’t spend a lot of money, we can’t enjoy life or that we’re not a “success”. Nonsense! For those of us – even if we’re near retirement – and still saving for retirement, check your asset allocations. Get them back in line. Don’t let the numbness of the disaster knock us silly or punchy.

Don’t chase the “hot” asset of today – cash or Treasuries – as if that will save you. (It won’t.) What you can save in your retirement plan today is being accumulated at bargain basement prices. This is especially helpful the farther we may be from retirement, but it can help “oldsters”, too. Young people are going to be great beneficiaries of this meltdown, if only they have the courage and discipline to save and accumulate quality, low-priced funds at these once-in-a-lifetime prices.

To benefit when we exit this recession: (And we will!) Read the above comments on preparing fro the recession.

I read a brief biography about you and saw that you had an extensive history of working with wealthy investors during your time at investment powerhouses such as Fidelity. What sorts of things have the wealthy done “right” with their investments that everyone can incorporate into their strategy?

The wealthy also can spend foolishly. But the smart ones are not extravagant. They know that capital is hard to make and still harder to accumulate. Many live very modestly, dressing and driving, for instance, NOT to stand out. Many have strong families and good marriages. A family breakup is a powerful stimulus to poverty, whatever we had before the blowup.

So, stability is something that the wealthy seem oftentimes to have. Many wealthy people I worked with are far less risk-oriented than one might expect. They almost sense that they have been lucky and don’t want to test fate. Much of their risk taking may be confined to a business, say, not to their investments. They – the smart ones – don’t put too many eggs in one basket, even if the baskets can be very large.

What do they do wrong that we should try to avoid?

Hard to generalize there. But it wasn’t investment stuff that marked “what they did wrong.” After all, they were paying me for advice. What the most foolish of the wealthy I met or worked with did was to let their pride or arrogance or the certainty that money can fix or buy anything go to their heads. Some feel that money is the standard by which all – including everyone around them – is to be measured. While most wealthy people I worked with were good folks, some were certifiable jerks – just like some of us who have no money. I worked with lottery winners, sports, movie, and TV stars that were princes and princesses and with others in the same fields who seemed to think everyone was a bellhop or a porter, fortunate to be in their presence and to take their abuse.

One question I’ve often asked myself is, knowing what I know about life in general, what advice would I give to myself ten years ago. Given your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you have liked to give yourself many years ago? (financial, or otherwise!)

What an interesting question, Jim.

First, I’d say that the important stuff is the relational stuff, not the money stuff. The money stuff is just a “funding vehicle” to enhance the relational. In the end, PEOPLE matter, not stuff or things. On the other hand, we have to be good stewards of much of the stuff and things we have been given. I’m a person of faith, so I put my trust in unseen things. I know others of great faith who seem to despise “stuff and things” and seem to value only what is eternal and invisible.

Here, I beg to differ with them. While we are in this world, we must not treasure our “stuff,” but neither should we neglect or misuse important, helpful things -even money – we have. They can helpfully serve us and others and, when cared for, can last, making us able to spend more on others or other NEEDED things. I’m uncomfortable with both those who think money is the measure of all things AND, too, with those who think it is the measure of nothing, that it is meaningless. The latter folks practice irresponsibility and think it is faithfulness or praiseworthy selflessness.

Lastly, I would say we all need to do the best we can with the gifts and talents we have been given. I think I used to believe that life would get easier as I grew older. It has not. It’s hard. There’s trial. There’s suffering. There’s reversal. There’s loss. (See my first book at www.lettersforlizzie.com.) But there’s lots of joy and lots of beauty. too. We have to manage through it all, not just through the good or the easy. We have to avoid fantasizing, too — a real, real problem in a world of endless pop culture and celebrities.

We need – all of us, young and old – to finally grow up into mature people who can make this broken world a better place for us and others.


 Personal Finance 
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Best Personal Finance Books for Your Library

None of these books are new, they’ve been around for years and they’ve been considered by many to be the best personal finance books out there. The topics they cover will vary and their approaches will be sometimes very different, but each has value and as a student of personal finance they all have something to offer to a reader. Many of these books will sound familiar and I challenge you to make an argument that one of these books shouldn’t be on a list like this.

General Personal Finance

The Wealthy Barber by David ChiltonThe Richest Man in Babylon by George ClasonYou can’t describe this category without listing the book I consider to be the defining book in this cateogry – The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason. This book was written in the 1920′s and is a fiction story that teaches simple personal finance lessons. It’s a tiny little book that you could probably read in less than two hours and the lessons it teaches are simple. There are several other books that are like this, teaching basic personal finance concepts, such as The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton, but this one was the first and most celebrated.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William DankoAnother ground-breaking book that deals with general personal finance was The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko, first published in the 90′s. The reason it was ground-breaking was because they showed how many millionaires actually lived. So many of us see the flashy lifestyles of celebrities and sports figures, thinking that’s how millionaires live. Stanley and Danko interviewed millionaires and discovered that most do it by spending less than they earn and by being smart with their money. When this book was released, it really surprised some people and I think it was exactly the type of wake-up call people needed (and still need today!).

Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki RobinFinally, the last cornerstone book in general personal finance has to be Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This book is lauded by many a personal finance blogger and it’s very popular because it helps you re-examine your priorities. Instead of living to work, they help you re-prioritize so that you’re working to live. If you do feel like you’re trapped in the constant struggle between working, bills, and expenses, this book can certainly help you sort everything out.

Bonus book: A book that I haven’t read yet but is also well recommended is Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, which also happens to be free and in the public domain. I haven’t read it yet, doing so now, but it was written during the Great Depression so it might be helpful during our economic malaise.

Managing Debt

Dave Ramsey The Total Money MakeoverI haven’t read it but so many people have told me about Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. I’ve been very fortunate never to have fallen into the credit card debt hole but after I wrote my post about how Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Debt payoff method was brilliant, I’ve gotten several emails from readers telling me it has worked for them when other methods failed. If you are in debt, check out Dave’s book (at the library!) because it goes into much more than debt repayment, it’s an entire overhaul of your financial life.

You’re Broke Because You Want to Be: How to Stop Getting By and Start Getting AheadIf Dave Ramsey hugs you, then Larry Winget slaps you in the face. Depending on which type of motivation you respond you, Larry Winget’s You’re Broke Because You Want to Be: How to Stop Getting By and Start Getting Ahead is either perfect or will make you feel depressed. While I haven’t read Ramsey’s book, I have reviewed You’re Broke Because You Want to Be and I thought that it was a good book but might be a little too tough. It has a lot of very useful information and it has an answer for any excuse you could possible have about debt.

Investing

A Random Walk Down Wall StreetBenjamin Graham The Intelligent InvestorNo list of investing books would have any credibility if it didn’t include these two most important texts: Burton Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street and Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor. The basic gist of A Random Walk is that a blindfolded monkey can select stocks as well as a professional. The random walk refers to the actions individual stocks prices can take in the short term and Malkiel recommends index funds the entire way. Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor, on the other hand, is the seminal text of value investing, where you buy stocks in down and out companies with a long view in mind. If it’s any comfort, Warren Buffett was Benjamin Graham’s protégé at Columbia University.

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing<I also have to recommend The Little Book series which include several books on investing. They each cover a different part of investing and different scenarios, but they’re all written by very accomplished authors and written very well. My favorites are The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by Vanguard’s John Bogle, The Little Book That Makes You Rich by quantitative investment expert Louis Navellier, and The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets by Peter Schiff (in part because we are in a roaring bear market).

Finally, I have to give a nod to David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire because it teaches one very important lesson – set it and forget it is one of the most powerful lessons in retirement investment planning. Save in your 401(k) and IRAs by making automatic regular deposits and you’ll be happy in retirement.

Frugality

The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy DacyczynThe Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn is the book on frugality. If you were to ask any frugal blogger for their list of the top three books on saving money and frugality, this book would be in that list with no exceptions. This is also one of the most actionable books on this entire life. When you read a book like the Wealthiest Man in Babylon or the Automatic Millionaire, you come away with solid personal finance information but nothing you can actually do. The Tightwad Gazette is the polar opposite, you can make it through a handful of pages without getting an idea of what you can do to trim. Want a hint of what’s inside? Money Saving Mom listed ten painless ways to save $100, pulled from the book.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy DacyczynOne of the easiest ways to be more frugal is to simplify your life. One of the easiest ways to simplify your life is to get a book that has over a thousand ways to simplify all aspects of your life – The Joy of Simple Living by Jeff Davidson. This is another one of those extremely actionable books where he goes through room by room by room, giving suggestions on how things could be simpler.

Behavioral Economics

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. DubnerThis category isn’t one that is often discussed when looking at personal finance books but I think behavioral economics is something we should all be familiar with. Behavioral economics refers to “research on human and social, cognitive and emotional factors to better understand economic decisions by, say, consumers, borrowers, investors, and how they affect market prices, returns and the allocation of resources.” The book that introduced me to this type of economics was Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I don’t really know how to describe Freakonomics other than to say that the authors took a bunch of interesting economics stories that applied to everyday life and tied it together into a book. You’ll read about cheating teachers and cheating Sumo wrestlers, you’ll read about impact abortion has had on crime, and a dozen other interesting stories that will do nothing but pique your interest for more.

Predictably Irrational by Dan ArielyFrom there, you can’t miss two other books that I’ve read and enjoyed – Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford.

Predictable Irrational seeks to explain why we, as supposedly rational people, make such irrational decisions. The best example is how customers often behave economically irrationally whenever free is introduced to an equation, people often go after the “freebie” or “add-on” when it doesn’t make rational sense to do so.

The Undercover Economist by Tim HarfordThe Undercover Economist is slightly different, it explains, among other things, how you can glean information from situations where you don’t think information can be gleaned. The best example I can remember is one where Starbucks began offering fair trade coffee at a higher price. Starbucks charged a higher premium for that coffee than what it agreed to pay for fair trade coffee. In other words, Starbucks was profiting from fair trade (it wasn’t simply higher by the net increase in fair trade versus non-fair trade coffee). The information it provided was invaluable in that it identified how likely Starbucks customers were willing to pay more for their coffee – it showed how elastic the price truly was.

Those are the books that I think would make a fantastic library for the personal finance enthusiast. I’m absolutely certain I missed some great books out there, so if you have a favorite that I didn’t list, please leave a comment so I can be sure to check it out!


 Philanthropy 
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How to Value Your Clothing Donation

Goodwill Collection BoxEvery year, my wife and I go through all of our clothes and pick out the stuff that we haven’t worn in the last year. You know what these are, the polo shirt that has been in the back of the closet since two years ago, the button down that no longer feels right, the sweater that’s ugly but old enough that your aunt forgot she gave it to you… we throw all that stuff into boxes or bags and send them over to our local Goodwill for a sweet sweet tax deduction. We’ve only been able to do this the last three years, since buying a house, because you can only deduct those donations if you itemize your taxes. I think philanthropic donations should be deductible even if you itemize but those are the rules.

Donating “stuff,” be it your car, your clothes, or something else, was one of the ten year end tax saving tips and you still have time to do it. Even if you don’t itemize, consider doing it just so you can clear yourself of some clutter. Your donations let Goodwill or the Salvation Army earn extra money to fund their operations and it provides affordable items for purchase from their customers.

The trickiest part about the entire process is how do you assign a value to the items you’re donating? Chances are the IRS will never come knocking on your door and asking how you valued your clothing because it’s simply not going to be a lot of money involved. However, this doesn’t mean that you can shirk on documenting because if they do show up and you don’t have records, they may invalidate the donation and you could find yourself paying interest and fees!

How To Donate & Document Donated Clothes

  • Gather up everything and create a list of items: Simply create a list of all your items and include as much information as possible. Anything you want to donate has to be in “good” condition or better. You can put the brand and type of clothing (Stafford button down, American Eagle polo, Gap jeans, Ann Taylor sweater), its condition, the estimated purchase price and date (if you can remember), and the fair market value at the time of donation. The more information you have down, the better. If you think anything you list sounds unbelievable, take a picture (the IRS may not believe you’re donating a $200 suit in good condition, for example)
  • Rememebr to get a receipt: Whenever we go to the nearby Salvation Army, we just give the bag(s) to the person working the bench, he or she tosses it in a huge pile, and then they hand us a pre-signed blank receipt. Some places won’t give you a receipt for small donations but I would always get one and fill it out with as much information as can fit, then just refer to another page. Some people recommend putting something vague (because you have better records) but I put a listing (3 shirts, 2 pants, loafers, etc) of actual items and then refer to another document with specifics.
  • Worth more than $500? If you donate more than $500 of clothing, then you’ll need to fill out Section A of Form 8283 Non Cash Charitable Contributions. Don’t let the form scare you, you won’t need an appraisal unless you donate more than $5,000 – which is a lot of used clothing.
  • Claiming the deduction: Last step is to remember to claim the deduction on your tax return! You’ll always list it on Schedule A of the 1040 but if you do your taxes with a software product (highly recommended), they’ll just ask you as you fill it out. They may even offer guidance on valuation.

Determining Clothing Fair Market Value

And… here’s the tricky part. By definition, the fair market value is the reasonable price that a regular person would pay for that item. Imagine if you saw that item at a garage sale or a used goods market, how much would you pay for it? That’s the fair market value… you see how ambiguous it is?

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help you determine how much your stuff is worth. The Salvation Army has a valuation guide for everything from clothing to appliances, children’s items to furniture. It’s pretty comprehensive and includes a range so you can decide, based on condition, how much it’s worth. Goodwill has a similar valuation guide in PDF form.

Finally, if you’re an IRS publication junkie, you can always check out Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property, and Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for more specifics, scenarios, and other useful tidbits boringly explained.

However you value your old stuff, remember that donating it in the first place is more important than not donating because you aren’t sure how to handle the deduction. In the end, it won’t save you a ton of money regardless and it’ll make life easier for some charities and perhaps some individuals.

(Photo: roadsidepictures)


 Insurance 
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Last-Minute FSA Spending Ideas

With only three days left in the year, a lot of people are scrambling to spend down their Flexible Spending Accounts before the balance expires worthless. It’s a crazy system but those are the rules. Fortunately, if you can’t squeeze in any end-of-the-year dentist appointments or medical checkups, you can always spend them on eligible over-the-counter supplies you will likely need next year. I’ve put together a list of things I usually stock up on if I find myself with a few extra bucks.

In the past I’ve always bought a lot of my OTC products on Drugstore.com because they helpfully label which items are FSA-eligible, which takes a bit of the guesswork out, and because I won’t have to pay sales tax on my purchases. Amazon.com is a good place too but they don’t label FSA eligible products.

Last Minute FSA Ideas

  • Contact lens solution
  • First aid kits – When I’ve stocked up on everything else, I just buy some first aid kits to put in the car, my wife’s car, our kitchen, our upstairs closet…
  • Band-aids, blister band-aids
  • Motion/sea/car sickness pills
  • Pain relief – Advil, Tylenol, Bayer, etc… you can’t have too much.
  • Electric heating pads
  • Thermometers
  • Allergy medicine – Loratadine is always good to have, it’s the antihistamine in Claritin, at a fraction of the price.
  • Healing lotions – They often smell like medicine but they’re good for you.
  • Acid reflux drugs – I don’t use them often but when I need them, it’s awesome to have them handy.
  • Smoking cessation products
  • Braces, supports, ACE bandages
  • Ice packs – for those sprained ankles
  • Blood pressure monitor – instead of using the trusty arm wrap pump (I made up that name) and stethoscope, go 21st century!
  • Defibrillator – This is for when you’ve grossly under-estimated your spending, by like a thousand dolllars or more, you can consider getting one of these. It’s for cases like where you planned on Lasik but then couldn’t get the procedure. These things usually last only a couple years too (pads last for around 2, battery for four, and you need to frequently test them), but they are lifesavers if you have a heart attack..

Good luck!


 Shopping 
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How to Sell or Trade in Gift Cards

As you may or may not know, I’m not a big fan of gift cards but many people are and many people enjoy both giving and receiving gift cards. However, sometimes you get a card that you don’t really shop at often or a card to a store that simply isn’t in your area, what can you do? There are only two options – sell it or trade it. Fortunately there are websites for both!

I’ll first profile some options if you want to sell your gift cards, then some options if you are willing to trade for another gift card. I’ll also give a brief fee breakdown across the various sites to give you a better sense of how much a transaction would cost. Finally, I put in an order of how I would go about cashing out a gift card in order to maximize return and minimize expenses.

Sell Your Gift Cards

To get the most out of your gift cards, other than by using them, I recommend selling them. The two best options for this are to sell them on eBay or sell them on Craigslist because both marketplaces are very big and the demand is very high.

eBayWith eBay, you’ll have to contend with seller related fees such as a list fee and a final value fee, but you have access to eBay’s marketplace and you’ll get the highest percentage return for your card. If you don’t have a seller account or you’re unfamiliar with setting up eBay auctions, this is probably not a good option for you because setting up an auction on eBay won’t be easy and buyers may not trust you because you have little feedback.

With Craigslist, listing a card is simple and costs absolutely nothing. The downside is that you likely will want to conduct the transaction in person and for cash. This is because the person buying will want to confirm the value of the card and if you’re in the area, they’ll probably want to meet. Doing the transaction in cash protects both parties.

I didn’t get to check this site out much myself but Gift Card Rescue is another place you can try selling your gifts card to. The difference between card value and sale price doesn’t seem to be as large as some other sites.

Another option worth pursuing is to ask your friends if they plan on buying something at those stores. If so, you might be able to avoid all these headaches and sell the card directly to them.

Trade In Your Gift Cards

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling your cards, you can always trade them on websites that specialize in trading gift cards. They almost always have options for you to directly sell them the card but they take a percentage off the value as a service fee. The two most well known structured gift card trading sites are Card Avenue and Plastic Jungle, I’ve used neither.

Card AvenueCard Avenue is like an eBay for gift card and a swap site all rolled into one. You can list a card for auction or you can trade with other members. Some of the benefits of the site are that you can buy insurance for your gift cards and there is a validation system (Cardassure) to confirm the other trader has the amount they say they do. For auctions or trades, Cardavenue charges a 3.95% on the card value plus a $0.50 closing fee. On auctions, the fee is charged only to the seller. On trades, both sides pay that fee. Payment is through Paypal.

Plastic JunglePlastic Jungle is just like Card Avenue except it’s more expensive (10% fee on sales and trades!) but they do offer an option where you can sell your card directly to Plastic Jungle if it’s on their list of QuikCash merchants, which is why I list it. The list isn’t very extensive and the payout is 55-65% of face value but it covers many major brands.

Much like how you can try to sell your cards to your friends, try trading them. You can trade on sites like Craigslist or even try your favorite online bulletin boards. When the minimum cut is around 4.5%, it’s often worth it to do a little leg work to see if you can swap with people you already know.

Auction Fee Breakdown

To give you an idea of how much you’d pay to sell a $100 gift card (assuming it sold for $100), I calculated all the transaction fees by vendor:

How to Maximize Returns

Of those sites, which gives you the best ROI for your card? It’s really difficult to say but in general trading will give you the best value because you’re trading gift card value for gift card value. You get less whenever you convert the gift card to cash because you’re going from a more restrictive currency (Home Depot dollars) to a less restrictive currency (anything dollars), so keep that in mind. This is the order I would pursue my options:

  1. Trade card for card with friends, online acquaintances, etc,
  2. Sell card to friends, online acquaintances,
  3. Trade card for card or sell for cash on Cragistlist,
  4. Sell or trade on Card Avenue,
  5. Sell on eBay,
  6. Sell or trade on Plastic Jungle,
  7. Sell directly to Plastic Jungle.

Do you have any advice for trading in or selling gift cards? Is there a site you use that is better the ones I listed? If so, please let me know as I think many people are hungry for this type of information right now!


 Reviews 
2
comments

The Shortest Investment Book Ever by James O’Donnell

The Shortest Investment Book Ever: Wall Street Secrets for Making Every Dollar Count by James O'DonnellI really liked The Shortest Investment Book Ever: Wall Street Secrets for Making Every Dollar Count by James O’Donnell because it was concise and to the point, not overly wordy. The book isn’t a thick tome designed to overwhelm you into thinking you are getting your money’s worth, it’s about a hundred and fifty five pages broken up into eighteen chapters, each of which probably take about 10 minutes to read. You would think it’s impossible to cover everything in investing in 155 pages and you’re right, he covers all the basics 99% of investors will need. He writes about various account types like 401(k)s and IRAs, he writes about diversification, he writes about the importance of time, he writes about life cycle funds, he writes about investing with a conscience, he writes about re-balancing, he writes about annuities, etc. He doesn’t discuss more advanced topics like investing in commodities or buying options and futures, but for 99% of individuals that stuff won’t matter.

(Click to continue reading…)


 Bank Deals 
3
comments

WTDirect Bonus Promotion Code

WTDirectWTDirect is running a winter bonus blast promotion where you can get a one time new account bonus based on how much you deposit into the account. It’s a decent offer attached to a decent savings account made to be a little more appealing when you combine the two together. Alone, neither are particularly appealing.

The bonus is based on the average balance you have between 1/1/09 and 2/28/09 and you’re cash bonus will be awarded in mid-March, based on this schedule:

  • $50,000 balance: $250 bonus
  • $40,000 balance: $200 bonus
  • $30,000 balance: $150 bonus
  • $20,000 balance: $100 bonus
  • $10,000 balance: $50 bonus


(Click to continue reading…)


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