Personal Finance 

Final Moving Weekend & Weekly Links

Today concluded the fourth consecutive week of my friends’ moving (though I missed the first week because of my wife’s birthday) and I think we’re all moved out. What’s interesting is that three of the four couples were moving into new homes they had purchased, which decreases the likelihood that they’d be moving in the next few years. Consequently, that meant only one couple moved into another rental so we’ll probably be moving them again next year. 🙂 We’re all in our late twenties, so it’s natural that more of us are entering the ranks of homeowners, it’s only a matter of time before the rest fall in line. 🙂

One other surprising item is that of the four, I believe only one dared to rent a U-Haul truck and that was today. Even more surprising is the fact that they had no problems; that’s surprising considering the deluge of comments on my I Hate U-Haul post written nearly three years ago. Maybe U-Haul has cleaned up its act but I doubt it. I’ll still never rent a U-Haul truck.

Weekly links after the jump.

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 Personal Finance, Taxes 

Severance Is Optional, U-Haul Reservations Aren’t

This week’s hodgepodge of links range from a primer on how to read financial statements to discussion of severance and overtime to U-Haul getting the smackdown in California. Should make for some entertaining weekend reading!

Looking for a good primer on how to read financial statements? Why not check out the folks who analyze the stuff everyday, the SEC? The Security and Exchange Committee has a really easy to read beginners guide to financial statements that will more than adequately acclimate you to how to analyze a financial statement of a company. (Courtesy of Jeremy!)

All this talk of recession has probably gotten a lot of people spooked and I was doubly surprised to discover that there is no federal law requiring severance pay! It is more a custom than it is a requirement, which makes sense if your company has let you go because it’s facing a tight financial situation. I suppose I always assumed a severance package was standard. (Oh, and it’s legal for your company to require overtime from you, but they have to pay)

One of the most commented posts I have is my horror story about U-Haul and how I hate U-Haul; so, I was delightfully surprised to hear that U-Haul has settled a class action lawsuit in California that would result in them paying $50 every time they didn’t honor a reservation. Despite this new agreement, I still wouldn’t rent from U-Haul since that $50 doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be driving a death trap capable of breaking down going 60 mph on the highway.

An issue that has come up a bunch of times, especially now with tax season looming, is whether or not credit card rebates are taxable. I’ve always thought that they aren’t so this is good confirmation from a third party.

I just got this great email from a publicist that sent me a copy of J.K.Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2008 and it involves what casinos report to the IRS (I’m a fan of the casino, in moderation, so this was entertaining to read):

  • Slot machines and bingo: Payouts of $1,200 or more are reported to the IRS, but there is no withholding taken out.
  • Keno: Similar to slot machines, but the amount won must be at least $1,500.
  • State lotteries and sweepstakes: Withholding is taken out of all winnings of more than $5,000.
  • Parimutuel pools, including horse and dog races: Subject to withholding, but only if the winnings are both more than $5,000 and at least 300 times as large as the amount bet.
  • Big winners are reported to the IRS on a special Form W-2G.
  • If winnings are to be split, as with a lottery pool, winners are reported on a Form 5754.

Finally, I leave you with this great little exchange between Mrs. Raising4Boys and their three year old tyke. (I don’t want to ruin it, so click through and read it; I guarantee at least half of you won’t be disappointed)

 Personal Finance 

Talk Smack On Whatever Company You Want…

… because I can’t be held liable! Join the masses trashing U-Haul because they hate U-Haul or trash any other company that has wronged you in the past. Use this post as your sounding board if you want to complain about another company (or email me if a company has screwed you bad enough and we can elevate it to a full blown post!). Just try to keep the swearing to a minimum.

Source: ZDNet.

 Personal Finance 

What To Do With a Signing Bonus

So you just graduated and your new employer has given you a much coveted signing bonus – what are you going to do with it? If you’re a recent college graduate, any signing bonus feels like a windfall that you don’t deserve and you’re not going to think twice about spending it (I spent part of my signing bonus on junk, not enough to regret it but enough to realize I wasted some of it)… but resist the urge! You’re going to want to buy pitchers of Newcastle instead of Pabst Blue Ribbon on Thursdays – resist the urge! Don’t be a stingy bastard though, enjoy the money but here are some things that you might need to spend it on before that first paycheck comes in.

A New Place:
The first major expense of your new life will be a security deposit. Chances are you’ll be renting so you’ll want to research how much of a security deposit landlords are going to want. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and it’ll be a few hundred dollars, sometimes you’ll not be so lucky and it’ll be a month’s rent. Either way, you’ll be paying this before you start work so your signing bonus will have to soften this blow.

Moving Expenses:
Second on the list is getting your junk, whatever you don’t trash because you’re a high roller now, from your dormroom to your bachelor pad. If your company is paying for your move, that’s good, you can buy a few more pitchers. Otherwise, you’ll want to save a little bit more of that beer money to pay for the move. At the bare minimum you’ll need a hundred or so dollars just to rent a deathmobile U-Haul truck.

Third, if you don’t have a car and you think you’ll need one, now’s a good time to start thinking about getting a new ride. Keep that poor college kid mindset and avoid getting a flashy new Mazda 6, go for something reliable and used (certified preowned) as your first car. Don’t get a piece of junk but don’t get something without at least a couple dents. If you’re living in a city, the preexisting dents will keep you sane as you learn no one knows how to parallel park. Use some of the signing bonus to make some sort of downpayment on this car.

Emergency Fund:
Lastly, you want to keep a little of that money in reserve to get your emergency fund started. I’m not saying you take all of it and put it into a high yield savings account like at FNBO Direct, but you should put a little bit to cover unforseen circumstances.

Some Bad News:
Sorry bring bad news on an otherwise happy topic (newfound money is always happy!), chances are you won’t see your signing bonus until your first paycheck which could be as far away as the end of the month so you might need to lean on a loan from the parents or a credit card to get you there. That… and the bonus won’t be as big as what the offer sheet says… Uncle Sam takes a pretty hefty bite.

Now go buy you and your pals a drink Mr. Moneybags, you deserve it.

Update: Beach Girl makes an excellent point that I missed the first time through, a big chunk of your signing bonus will be taken away by the government in the form of taxes.

 Personal Finance 

Don’t Rent U-Haul Trucks, Read Why

After a ridiculously awful experience with U-Haul truck rentals, I blogged about why I hate U-Haul and the response was stunning. Of the twenty or so accounts from people done horribly wrong by U-Haul, not a single one was a positive experience. No one came to the defense of U-Haul and I can’t count the number of “U-Haul Sucks” websites out there. This comment by “Don,” which I felt warranted a spotlight, captures the U-Haul experience perfectly.

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 Reviews, The Home 

I Hate U-Haul Truck Rental (And So Does Everyone Else)

U-Haul is, in my personal opinion, quite possibly one of the most poorly managed businesses still in business and the only way they get away with it is because they’re almost the only game in town. The U stands for Unreliable. Ask anyone if they’ve ever had or heard of someone having a bad experience with U-Haul and prepare yourself for an intricate story about how U-Haul screwed them This is exactly what happened to me this weekend. (I added to the title because everyone else hates U-Haul too!)

I was to help my girlfriend and her roommate move out of their apartment in New Jersey starting at 10am on Saturday. The night before, her roommate called and confirmed (the guy said they had the truck on site and she could pick it up at 10ish the next day) that the truck they reserved was ready for us tomorrow. She calls the next day right before she is supposed to leave – truck isn’t there. Truck was never there. In the general area, there were no one-way trucks available for rental because it was the end of the month and they were all booked (reserved! ha!). We didn’t get a truck until 7pm, didn’t depart until 11pm, and worked all through the night until 6am unpacking.

One year ago, when my roommate and I moved out of our apartment (and into another), we too ran into the same situation. The U-Haul site had decided, even with our reservation, to rent our truck out to a walk-in customer because they didn’t know if we would show up. We didn’t get a truck that day until 2pm. This year, we opted to use a minivan from a reputable rental agency.

U-Haul is unreliable and dishonest. While they’ll gladly take your cancellation fee, they won’t give you any money if they screw you and rent out a truck you need. Most of the time we’re talking about end of the month moves where you need to follow a strict schedule in order to check out of the apartment, complete the final walk-through, and get on your way. If we didn’t move, we would have to continue paying a rent because of U-Haul’s unreliability. Don’t call it a reservation if you don’t reserve anything.

My fellow bloggers who read this, write a post about how U-Haul has screwed you and trackback to this one. Non-bloggers, send this to a friend and have them comment and/or pass it along. Spread the word, like a virus, that U-Haul is a business that should go down the tubes.

If you need to move, use these alternatives (I haven’t used them but U-Haul has screwed me two out of two times, so I’d use any of these before U-Haul ever again):

  • Budget/Ryder – Ryder was acquired by Budget, so try Budget for your moving needs.
  • Penske – I see their trucks all the time and the drivers are always smiling, so they can’t be all that bad.
  • Hertz – Word on the street is that Hertz rents trucks as well.
  • Public Storage – Storage companies typically will let you use their truck if you rent from them and with the smallest storage closets running about $30 a month, this is a great deal for in-town moves.

From the comments, it also sounds like even if you get a truck (the “lucky” ones), they aren’t reliable (surprise!) and could die on you.

U-Haul CEO’s Cell Phone Number

Courtesy of the Consumerist:

The CEO of Uhaul gave out his cellphone number last night on an episode of Inside Edition, inviting consumers to call with complaints or questions. Joe Shoen explained saying, “People can’t get this organization to behave, I can.” That number is 602-390-6525.

Let him have it!

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