Investing 
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OptionsHouse Free Stock Trades Promotion

OptionsHouse is offering 100 commission free trades for new accounts with promotion code FREE100. You must deposit at least $3,000 within 45 days and the 100 free trades expire after 60 days of funding. This offer expires December 31st, 2009.

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 Investing 
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Prosper $50 New Account Promotion Offer

A New Way to InvestWhen peer to peer lending first started, the biggest name in the market was Prosper. I was skeptical about the whole business of peer to peer lending and it showed in my review of Prosper, which was more about peer to peer lending than it was about Prosper itself. Since then, with the arrival of SEC oversight and other competing businesses like Lending Club, I have a little more faith in peer to peer lending networks.

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 Government 
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Searching For Your Unclaimed Money & Property

Stack of moneyI originally published this post in July 2005 but recently updated all the links to the correct state Unclaimed Property division website.

If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you’ve left a deposit… but did you get that back before you left? They said they’d mail it… but did you actually get it? How about the utility company, did you get your deposit back from them? What about those six months you lived in another state, were you entitled to a state income tax refund? Did you actually get it? Unclaimed or abandoned property departments exist in every state and through free online searches you can find a ton of money you may have inadvertently left behind. I haven’t lived in enough places to have left behind any hard earned cash (I looked, no luck though) but you might have.

Below is a comprehensive list of every state’s (even D.C. and Puerto Rico) website that has a search for unclaimed property. Take a few minutes and see if you’ve discovered any cash and leave a comment if you do! I didn’t find any but perhaps you can find a nice fat check somewhere with your name on it. :)

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 Personal Finance 
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pfPicks: Like A Phoenix, Roundups Reborn!

Pontiac FirebirdA year or so ago, I’d do weekly roundups highlighting some personal finance articles that I really enjoyed each week. Sometime within the last year, I fell behind and soon abandoned these articles because I felt like they weren’t adding much value. Well, over the last few weeks, a few new readers have told me that they discovered Bargaineering from roundups on other sites.

So, I’ve decided to bring these Weekly Roundups back in order to share with you some other websites I personally enjoy and hope that you will to. These will be once weekly and I will try not to link to the same sites because that really doesn’t help you find new and fun places to spend your valuable time.

And yes, that’s a Pontiac Firebird. It’s not a Phoenix, but it’s close enough!

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Are We Out Of The Recession?

CNN Money GDP 2009Q3 ChartYesterday, the Department of Commerce reported that the annualized GDP (gross domestic product) grew to 3.5% in third quarter. This is significant because, by definition, a recession is two straight quarters of shrinking GDP. A 3.5% increase in GDP would mean, at least technically, the recession was over. Four straight quarters of negative GDP growth, the worst of which was the first quarter of 2009 (-6.4%), has finally come to an end.

Hooray! Right?

Unfortunately, no one living in the real world cares much for technicalities. Millions of jobs have been lost, with hundreds of thousands more each month, and so I don’t think many people feel like the recession is over even if the bean counters say so. One positive sign is that the growth beat expectations by 0.3%, which isn’t a bad thing.

Two things worry me:

  • How much of the recovery was the result of various government programs meant to stimulate consumption? We had all the bailouts, cash for clunkers, first time home buyer credit, and several other programs that cost billions. People are still being laid off at the rate of hundreds of thousands a month, unemployment for September 2009 was 9.5% (not seasonally adjusted), and people without jobs tend to spend less (duh). Is this sustainable?
  • Check out the 2nd quarter of 2008. In the 1st quarter of 2008, we saw a negative GDP growth figure. Then we “pulled out” of a potential recession in the 2nd quarter only to fall back into the trenches for a full year.

So, while we’re technically out of the recession, does it feel like we’re out of the recession? What do you think?

(Source: CNN Money)


 Frugal Living 
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How to Save Money on International Long Distance Phone Calls

Blue Rotary PhoneCalling family and friends overseas is very affordable and very easy, if done correctly. In this article I am going to reveal three affordable international long distance calling options to the old expensive standby, direct dialing. I’ve been doing a lot of research in this for my own needs so I hope you find this article valuable. Each option has the potential to save you more and more money, though sometimes you have to sacrifice a bit of convenience. Naturally, it’s always easiest to pick up the phone can call directly, instead of using a phone card, but only one of those two options is used by millions of people every week at a savings of up to 95% on every international phone call.

Why is this post focused on international long distance calls? Today, very few people have to pay extra for a domestic long distance call that there really is no incremental cost for a domestic long distance phone call. Cell phones charge by the minute, with no consideration of local or long distance. For that reason, we’ve ignored the domestic long distance calls.


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 Banking 
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Top Long-Term CD (Certificate of Deposit) Rates

Certificates of deposit are an important financial planning tool because they represent the safest investment you can make. You deposit funds, you get a guaranteed interest rate until the CD matures. You have to deal with inflation risk, that the rate of inflation could outpace your return, and the risk that you may need the funds. If you close a CD early, you will usually have to pay an interest penalty unless it’s a no penalty CD.

Personally, I don’t deposit funds into a long term certificate of deposit, especially with these CD rates, because I’m at an age where it doesn’t make sense from a financial planning perspective. We’re in our twenties so we’re thinking about things like starting a family and buying a home so a three-plus year CD wouldn’t make sense because our situation is changing so quickly. However, once it stabilizes, I see the value in saving money in longer term CDs as a way of planning for the future.

What I do use long term CD rates for is when I make investment decisions. CDs represent a 100% safe “investment” opportunity, so any potential investment is compared against a three or five year CD. If I can get a guaranteed 3% for a 5 year CD, why would I want to invest in something that has risk and only returns 3%?

Top Long-Term CD Rates

The following table lists the top CD rates for maturities of more than 24 months. In general, most will be 5 or 6 year CDs since the longer the maturity the higher the rate.

All of the banks on this list are FDIC insured up to $250,000.


 Debt 
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Understanding 1st Party and 3rd Party Collectors

I have been following the How to Fight Debt Collectors series and noticed that the articles are all geared towards third party collections. For 3 years, I worked as a first party collector in the collections department for a mortgage company.

During that time, I learned a lot about debt, people, and collection law. I did some things that may have been considered shady but I never broke the law. The reason is in the distinction between 1st party and 3rd party collections.

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