Happy New Years!

Fireworks New Years!Depending on when you read this, it’s either New Year’s Eve’s Eve, New Year’s Eve, or sometime in 2011… regardless of when you read it, I hope you had a fantastic time ushering in the new year with friends and family. A new year brings new opportunity, a chance at something bold and exciting, and I hope you’re ready to take advantage of it. The last few years have been tough but things are starting to turn around and it’s time to make the most of it!

(Photo: hisgett)

 Personal Finance 

True Wealth Isn’t About Money

Human beings, by nature, love to compete. When we’re young, we compete on the sports field, in the classroom, and in video games. As we grow older, we compete in our lives, trying to accumulate money, property, get better jobs, more responsibility, and more recognition and fame.

We measure more of our success by the material possessions we have because those are more visible. Keeping up with the Joneses is about having a bigger house, a nicer car, and a larger flatscreen TV.

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 Personal Finance 

What if long term capital gains were taxed as ordinary income?

Stock MarketThe Bush tax cuts were a hot topic these last few weeks between the deal making (extending cuts for all in return and estate tax relief for extended unemployment benefits) and the political dancing, but ultimately something had to be done. While much has been made of the tax brackets themselves, one of the other things that went along with it was the long term capital gains tax rate. They were set to increase from 0% and 15% to 10% and 20%, respectively.

So here’s the question at hand, what if we no longer had favorable long term capital gains rates (and dividend tax rates) and instead all investment gains were taxed as ordinary income? In other words, what if there was no such thing as long term capital gains? What if everything were taxed as short term?

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American Express Eliminating Some Foreign Transaction Fees

American Express announced this month that they would be eliminating foreign transaction fees for Platinum and Centurion cards starting at the end of the first quarter of 2011. Foreign transaction fees are fees tacked onto purchases made in another currency and one of the big reasons why we opened up a Capital One credit card prior to our trip to Europe last year.

As an added bonus, if you’re a Platinum or Centurion cardmember, you get $200 in airline fee credits that can go towards airline fees from food to changing a flight to airport lounge day passes to checking a bag.

According to an updated list of foreign transaction fees at, Capital One is still your best bet for avoiding a foreign transaction fee (unless you have a Platinum or Centurion American Express card).


2011 Highest Paid College Graduates

These lists are fun to read but I never take them too seriously because how much someone is paid depends on so many factors, their alma mater included. That said, it’s still interesting to see who gets the top spots and this year the highest paid, as measured by both mid-career median salary and starting median salary, isn’t an Ivy League university and has an undergraduate enrollment of under 800.

  1. Harvey Mudd College: Mid-career median salary of $126,000 and a starting median salary of $68,900. 757 undergraduate enrollment with a 2010-2011 tuition of over forty thousand dollars.
  2. Princeton University: Mid-career median salary of $123,000, starting median salary of $58,900. Tuition of $36,640.
  3. Dartmouth University: Mid-career median salary of $123,000, starting median salary of $54,100. Tuition of $40,437.
  4. Harvard University: Mid-career median salary of $121,000, starting median salary of $57,300. Tuition of $38,416.
  5. California Institute of Technology: Mid-career median salary of $120,000, starting median salary of $69,900. Tuition of $36,282.

Sixth through eighth were MIT, Stanford, and Colgate, in that order.

Colleges That Bring the Highest Paycheck 2011 [CNBC]

 Frugal Living 

Thermostat Hacks That Save You Money

Programmable ThermostatFor many homes, ours included, one of the biggest monthly costs is our electricity bill. The largest portion of our monthly electrical bill is the bit consumed by our central heating and cooling HVAC system. While I don’t know what percentage of the bill it actually comes out to, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it’s probably the largest percentage when compared to lighting, appliances, water heater, computers, and other electrical consumers in our home.

So, if you want to reduce your electricity bill, the first place you should go is the biggest consumer right? Our HVAC system is, like many, controlled by a programmable thermostat and with a few little tips and tricks, we hope to drop our electricity bill by a little bit (or at least stop it’s rocketing rise) this winter.

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Debt Collectors Don’t Check Debts, You Should

I blogged a while ago about the “halo effect” and how being fiscally responsible can be a sort of “Get out of jail free” card for those rare occasion when you slip up. But what happens when it’s not you who has made the mistake?

I recently got entangled in a bit of an accounting snafu that quite frankly pretty much ruined my weekend. Here’s what happened:

On Saturday as I was heading out to the gym, I stopped by the mailbox to pick up my mail and found an envelope marked “Personal and Confidential.” In my experience, that’s usually a signal that the contents within are just some ad scheme–be it a credit card offer or time share scam or the dreaded “you’ve won a prize and must call xxx-xxx-xxxx immediately to claim it…” Upon opening the letter, however, I was confronted with a statement from a bill collector for an allegedly unpaid bill for a medical laboratory.

Yikes! Talk about a buzz kill…
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Happy Holidays!

Holiday LightsI wanted to wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday. To those who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas. For those who had celebrated Hanukkah, I hope you enjoyed the Festival of Lights earlier this month. For those who celebrate neither, may you have good times and safe travels wherever you may be. We’ll return to semi-regularly scheduled program next Monday.

(Photo: tunruh)

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