Personal Finance, Reviews 

Review: A Million Bucks By 30 by Alan Corey

A Million Bucks By 30 by Alan CoreyI always enjoy books that tell a story of someone’s life and this one, A Million Bucks by 30, about how Alan Corey “overcame a crap job, stingy parents, and a useless degree to become a millionaire before (or after) turning thirty,” was no exception. To get a feel for the guy, I think you have to start at the dedication. You know those pages right before the title page where the author thanks a few choice people like a half second Academy Awards acceptance speech? This is what his said:

This amazingly awesome book is dedicated to my parents, Nancy and Larry. Mom, don’t worry, there shouldn’t be any embarrassing grammar mistakes. Dad, thanks for buying this before it hits the bargain bin.” (those would be the stingy parents he referred to on the cover page)

The second “dedication page” reads: “Just to be clear, this amazingly awesome book is not dedicated to my sister, Jill.” You can get a sense that the book is probably going to be an entertaining read… you wouldn’t be wrong. 🙂

So, what is this book about? Alan Corey’s life. He, like many young people, decided he was going to become a millionaire by thirty. He didn’t sit around and envision the perfect future, he didn’t wish and hope that good things would happen to him, he moved. He didn’t know what he was going to do when he got to where he was going, but he acted. This book is about all the crazy things Alan did. Some of them got him closer to his goal of a million bucks, some of them just got him to the next day, all of them are crazy stories and ridiculously entertaining to read.

Besides being a man of action, Alan is resourceful. Many of us unlearn the things we learned to survive in college, he learned to adapt them and use those skills to improve his life. In college, many people are frugal. By the time we get a five figure job and enter the real world, we think we’ve made it. We think the days of ramen are over and we can start living the high life! Not Alan, those resourcefulness skills just have more weapons to play with! Heck, the guy is making a decent wage ($40k in NYC is rough, but decent) but still plays “How Cheap Can I Go?”

So, how about these great stories? Chapter 10: Tripped Out is an awesome chapter about how he would try to get on television shows. The first story he talks about is Change of Heart. On Change of Heart, one half of a couple would go out on a date and decide whether to stick with her current boyfriend or go with the new one. Alan auditioned, got cast, and he was the new guy for this girl. He was in it for the free food and drink plus the $350 appearance fee. What’s funny is that the girl did have a change of heart, picked him, but they never saw each other again! He goes on to talk about a few other shows, how to use creativity to get on them, and other entertaining nuggets of randomness that make the book a fun read. (here’s a video montage of his appearances)

So, I bet now you’re burning to find out how Alan, in playing “How Cheap Can I Go?” and appearing on random television shows, reaches a million bucks? Real estate. That’s right, Alan saves up, borrows, and eventually makes his bank on real estate deals. Why do we need yet another book about real estate especially in this awful housing market? It’s because this book isn’t about real estate, it’s about how to fight and claw your way to your dreams. The difference with this book is that you get to follow Alan’s life from the beginning. You start when he graduates college and has no idea what the heck his MIS degree means to when he appears on Queer Eye (season one, gets $15k worth of free stuff!) to when he borrows money from his mom to when he starts entering the real estate world. It’s not an instruction manual on any one thing, it’s a testament to the fact that everyone’s path is different and Alan’s was merely more exciting than most. 🙂

I really enjoyed this book and Alan was kind enough to send me an extra copy, so leave a comment about your favorite game show TV moment and I’ll draw a name next week. The winner will receive a signed copy of A Million Bucks by 30.


E*Trade Complete Savings Account Review

E*Trade Banner5.05% APY is a pretty healthy yield and one of the highest in the nation now (top high yield savings accounts) that the Fed has been pulling interested rates down (much to the chagrin of overseas travelers and those shorting gold) so last week I opened up an E*Trade Complete Savings account yielding exactly that. To open an account, just go to this application page and submit your information. Now, here are a few tips after you open the account as I found the start-up and activation process to be a little confusing (it was the first time I called up the help services of any bank to assist me with opening an account, if that’s any indication).

Incidentally, E*Trade Bank is FDIC insured and has been since June 23, 1955; much longer than I had thought they’d been.

Click here to open an account today!

Online Access

After you create the account, you can log into E*Trade but the account won’t immediately appear. At first I chalked it up to the account not being established yet; but after I received all the account documentation in the mail and didn’t see the Complete Savings account listed in my Accounts Complete View, I was surprised. Apparently what you need to do is click on the “Banking & Credit Cards” tab located at the top of your screen and then look for an “Apply for access” link. I thought I already applied! Anyway, there will be three boxes that appear for you to enter in your social security number, your account number, and your zip code. After that, you new account will appear. I’m not sure why this is necessary or why none of the introductory material had a “Get Started” section to explain this. Another way to reach this is to find the link that says “Don’t see one of your accounts?,” that’ll bring you to the same page.

Adding External Accounts

When you first open your account you need to add an external funding account, I added my Bank of America account since everything funnels through there. Well, the initial $100 was withdrawn but I can’t immediately transfer money yet – I have to verify it! To do that, look for the “External Account Added” in the “Alerts” section to the right of your screen, click that and then click on “Verify your external account now” in the window that pops up. That will take you to a page that details the external account, click on the Verify link next to the “Verified on:” text label. (There are about a million ways to get to the verification page, so don’t fret).

Now there are two ways to verify an account, username and login or two small deposits. I’m willing to wait and go the two deposits route even though they claim that “Your external account login information is maintained within a secured session and will not be stored to perform this verification.” That’s okay, waiting 2-3 business days for two small deposits is acceptable.

What I don’t understand is why I need to verify an account that already has been debited in the first place. My Bank of America account was used to fund this account so why would I need to verify it one more time? The only time this makes sense is if I were to open up a bank account in someone else’s name (knowing all their information), gave it an initial deposit, but didn’t want that person to have access to my bank. Is that scenario common? I wouldn’t think so. I am pretty sure every other bank I’ve worked with has automatically added the initial funding link without having to go through this process.

Fast Help Desk

I did have to call 1-800-ETRADE-1 (1-800-387-2331) to find this and it took me about two minutes to reach a representative (it was also 8AM this morning), very quick considering I didn’t feverishly hit “0” in an attempt to reach a representative ASAP. They were very helpful and we resolved this issue, probably something they hear all the time, in about a minute. Unfortunately, I have no basis for comparison because I’ve never had to call ING Direct or Emigrant Direct for anything. 🙂


Review: SumoLounge Omni Bean Bag Chairs

When Flexo was giving away a SumoLounge Omni, I kind of wanted to win it but I knew I probably wasn’t going to win it so I asked Andrew at SumoLounge if they’d send me one and the obliged. No, the review I am about to write was not a part of any agreement, nor is the giveaway that will soon be announced, but I thought it would be fun to give away something hip and trendy, as opposed to personal finance books. So, what does a bean bag chair have to do with personal finance? Absolutely nothing. If you’re okay with that, onto what I think about the SumoLounge Omni.

Before receiving it, I half assumed that it would be similar to one of the bean bags chairs from my childhood. Back then, they were basically amorphous bags of polyester and nylon filled with little beans. When the Omni arrived, it was hardly amorphous and it really surprised me. The Omni is made from a sturdy (I hesitate to call it tough, but it’s not a slipper smooth polyester either) nylon that holds its shape (with the help of the beans). I actually found a perfect spot for it, in front of my television as I own 6 year olds at Halo 3 (I’d probably be playing Call of Duty 4 if it wasn’t for my XBox going blind), where I used to slide in an office chair. When my fiancĂ©e first saw the bean bag, she told me that it’s was probably an absolute certainty that I’d be gone to her for a long long time (she wasn’t complaining, just noting!).

If you’re looking for the hip urban look, I think these chairs look really cool in bunches in the corner. I think the color choices are really vibrant and at a scant $129 a pop (it sounds expensive at first but these things are huge) with no shipping, it’s not a bad idea to furnish with. It will also make you seem much cooler than you probably are. 🙂 I was going to take some pictures of the chair and me in it but I had some friends come over and I snapped pictures of them instead, here’s one:

SumoLounge at Playboy Golf Scramble Party

Okay I lied, they have more photos though…

(Photo courtesy of SumoLounge)

 The Home 

LendingTree Review: Do You Really Win?

“When banks compete, you win” is a slogan you’ve probably heard recently but is that really true or is that just a clever slogan wrapped around some somewhat clever advertisements? In summary, I think LendingTree offers you a quick, free, easy way to determine what the ballpark rates should be for someone with your credit profile. The fact that it’s free makes their offer compelling, why not enter in your information so you can figure out whether you can get a good rate or just an OK rate.

When I was looking at houses over two years ago, I signed up to LendingTree because of all the advertisements I saw on the television and because I felt that it was a useful resource. It’s essentially a search engine for mortgage loans and while the banks don’t necessarily “compete” in the sense that they are scrambling to beat one another for a loan, it certainly aggregates all the offers in one place so you can compare them easily.

Easily Compare Offers
I think that everyone should use LendingTree because getting those offers is free and because it gives you a general idea of the rates you can probably expect. See, Bankrate is nice with their rate listings but they’re not terribly accurate; getting a series of rate quotes based on your personal information and geographic area will give you a better sense of what’s a “good” rate and what’s a “bad” rate.

Pre-Approval Letter
Another benefit to using LendingTree was that they processed me for a pre-approval letter and I was able to print that out within hours (I want to even say within minutes since in a previous post I talked about how LendingTree called me a little after I submitted a quote). A pre-approval letter is crucial whenever you’re bidding on a home because it shows that you are a qualified bidder (that you’re good for the amount that you bid) and, given how hot the market was in two years ago, so it was definitely a bonus to using LendingTree (even though my loan wasn’t originated by a LendingTree lender).

Lots and Lots Of Offers
This can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective but within minutes of applying, I was deluged with mortgage related emails from all sorts of lenders from local banks and credit unions to big national banks that had a presence in my geographic area. Some of the offers included sample rate quotes based on my information, some were just cold call type “hey we’re here, call us,” but in general it was good.

Why Am I Pimping LendingTree?
I’m compensated for each signup but also because I had an email asking me whether I thought LendingTree was worth using and whether it resulted in any spam. I don’t think I’ve gotten any spam as a result of using LendingTree but you can never be certain with those sorts of things. Since it’s a major company and fairly reputable, I’m inclined to think that they don’t sell the lists or do anything questionable. However, considering your information is forwarded to a bunch of banks and lenders, you could perhaps get spammed if those institutions sell your information. Ultimately, who knows… use a good spam filter and you should fine.

Has anyone had a good or bad experience with LendingTree?

 Investing, Reviews 

Opening A Zecco Free Stock Trading Account, Part 1

Update: Zecco came in dead last in customer service again in Smart Money’s annual survey, so I decided against funding my account. Zecco only offers 10 free trades a month, hardly a great offer versus a mere $4.95 per trade for TradeKing.

I guess it’s time for me to jump on the Zecco free stock trade bandwagon now that it’s been a few months since they launched and had some time to work out some kinks (like a streamlined application process).

Stopwatch in hand (not really), I think I opened an account in approximately ten minutes but you will need some form of government issued id (Driver’s license, Passport, or Military ID). There are four relatively quick pages. Just a few quick notes, with page 1, where you sign up to myZecco, don’t use a password you use anywhere else, I’ll explain later. Page 2 being the bulk of the application, asking for investing history, employer, affiliations, and income. Unfortunately, you will have to fill out the “annual income” and “income source” fields of the normally optional (elsewhere) Financial Information section, but you can leave the rest out.

Now I wait for my two emails:

You will be receiving two automatically generated emails. The first confirms that we have received your application and is generated immediately. The second is generated as soon as your account is approved and opened. Receipt of this second email may take a few minutes to a few business days.

Okay, never mind, I just checked my email about two minutes (no joke) after I applied and both emails are sitting in my inbox… guess the approval process is pretty quick.

Now, why shouldn’t you use a password you use anywhere else? Well, so far the only thing I haven’t liked about Zecco was how, after signing up for myZecco, they sent my password to me in plaintext in an email… seriously, don’t send the password out like that, you’re in the financial industry, you should know better. If you don’t know what I meant by plaintext, I meant it wasn’t encoded or encrypt or anything, anyone who picked up the packets in the middle would’ve known what my password was and that’s just plain stupid. So if you do signup, don’t use a password you use anywhere else.


Chase Freedom(SM) Card Review

You’ve probably seen numerous promotions about the latest card from Chase, the Chase Freedom® Visa – $50 Bonus Cash Back, and the recently expired $250 promotional bonus for signing up for the card; but if you are like me, you never really took a look at the merits of the card to see if it was worth applying for. From a superficial glance, I would say it looks like a solid gas station card as it offers some great cash back percentages.

(Click to continue reading…)

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