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Mortgage Heatmaps, Roth 401(k)s & Repetition

I discovered this detailed real estate blog called Matrix [3] and this incredible set of mortgage-related heatmaps [4] used by Bernanke in his last speech. Heatmaps are the quickest way to get a “snapshot” of a situation and these go through so many permutations that you can get a really good sense of what’s going on (and there are so many maps!). I had no idea unemployment concentrations were dispersed the way they are and how badly hit the Michigan area has been lately given the major auto manufacturer’s financial woes.

My last employer recently offered a Roth 401(k) [5], which is essentially a tax-free version of the tax-deferred 401(k), though employer contributions are tax-deferred. It’s an interesting concept that has been around for a few years but hasn’t been adopted too widely, probably because of the paperwork. If I had a choice, I’d split my contributions evenly between the two and give myself some diversification.

Trent has received numerous complaints that he writes about the same stuff over and over again [6] and that it’s getting old. Unfortunately for all you excitement hounds, personal finance is repetitive, it is conceptually easy, and “slow and steady” does win the race. It’s the chase of excitement, having that fancy car so you can drive it fast, throwing some money at a high flying potential stock, or that huge flat panel television -I that’s the stuff that derails your trek to your personal finance goal. Spend less than you earn, contribute to your 401(k) and save for retirement, ensure you have proper and adequate insurance, blah blah blah – it’s repetitive but it works. Michael Jordan once said he shot a thousand free throws a day. How’s that for repetitive?

Nickel wrote a bit about his asset allocation [7] this week and it’s something I am hoping to review sometime next week. I’ve input all the data I have into Vanguard’s Portfolio Watch and now I just have to figure out what my goals are so I can set things up correctly once and for all.

Housing doesn’t always go up. Sometimes it comes down. Hard. (scroll down to the story of the house that sold for $505k in 2006 and is now on the market for $177,495 – ouch)

Lastly, if you like heatmaps and those first dozen weren’t enough, here’s a cool one about all the pieces of inflation [8] on the New York Times, my new BFF, courtesy of Consumerist [9] (who got it from Nathan). Not surprisingly, that big red area is gas.

Have a great weekend!