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April 2006

Welcome to the latest Carnival of Personal Finance, edition number 46.

For those coming to Consumerism Commentary for the first time, you can learn a little bit about me, Flexo, and this blog. You can also peruse through what I’ve arbitrarily decided were my “best” blog entries of 2005. Thanks to everyone who submitted an article this week. It’s hard to believe we’re approaching one year for the Carnival. Here’s what we have: Read the full article →


Odd Blog Happenings

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For some reason, some time this weekend Consumerism Commentary reverted to the default WordPress display style. To anyone who viewed the site and was slightly confused, I apologize. It took me by surprise as well. Here’s what was happening this past week across the MoneyBlogNetwork and beyond:

Free Money Finance began a series highlighting 20 ways to save money on your car.

AllFinancialMatters saved $489 on his car insurance by raising his deductible and dropping comprehensive coverage on one car. It’s so easy, a caveman can do it.

Mighty Bargain Hunter warns people not to get over-educated. Can one be “over-educated?” Knowledge, especially scientific/empirical knowledge (the basis of advanced learning in the modern world), is a quest that should last a lifetime. The trick is to get someone else to pay for your education.

Five Cent Nickel describes how he chose between two insurance agents — one picked up the phone, one did not.

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity asks for comments on the $100 gas rebate proposal that’s circulating the Senate.

Last week, thre of my favorite bloggers launched Queercents, a blog focusing on finances from a homosexual perspective.

Personal Finance Advice suggested shopping once a week (or less frequently) to save money.

No Credit Needed presents 10 practical ways to save money.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. I could use another day before going back to the office, but unfortunately, the space/time continuum does not bend to my will.


I started a new job this week. The location is much more convenient, the pay is better, the responsibilities are relatively similar, and the people are friendlier. In addition, it’s bound to be better for my career at the company in the short term and for my life in the long term.

Things are progressing slowly as I’m being granted access and given training to new systems.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to various people, and it seems I’m coming into a situation where expectations for me will be very high. Apparently my interview was nothing short of stellar and I received rave recommendations from former coworkers who had previously transferred to a nearby department. This was totally unexpected and unasked for, and I’m sure it helped convincing the decision-makers that I’d be good for the job.

Not everything is positive. The cafeteria is just expensive as the one in my old office. (After all, it is the same company.) While I’ve quickly fallen into the habit of going out to lunch with my new coworkers, sometimes I spend less getting food outside the building than the overpriced cafeteria. Someday I’ll try bringing in my lunch again on a regular basis.

All in all, this is a good move. And there’s more positive news: I managed to crawl away from my Advanced Statistics for Managerial Decision Making class broken and bleeding, but with a grade of “B.” Now it’s time for Yet Another Finance Course.

(I wrote this late last night and it is being published in the morning. In case you were wondering, as I know some were, I do that once in a while so I’m not spending time blogging from work.)


TIAA-CREF LogoTIAA-CREF has finally come through! You may have been following the saga. If not, here’s the short version: In order to reduce my tax liability from self-employment income, I wanted to open a SEP IRA. The SEP IRA lets you contribute tax-free beyond the Traditional/Roth IRA limit, but only as an employer. I employ myself and generated several thousand dollars last year, so I qualify.

There are more details about SEP IRAs here, but basically I was allowed to invest up to 25% of my income or $42,000, which ever amount is less. Needless to say, I didn’t invest $42,000. In fact, I only invested $858, but it was enough to turn my remaining 2005 tax liability into a tax refund.

I applied for the account in March and my application was received on time by TIAA-CREF in order for my funds to be deposited via EFT on April 7. I tried to leave enough time before the tax deadline (April 17) just in case I ran into problems.

Ran into problems I did. I think it’s just attributable to the fund company’s backlog during tax season, but they didn’t get around to funding my account. I called several times as I mentioned in previous posts, and I’m happy to report that today, the account was finally funded. I was assured the contribution would be “coded” to qualify for the 2005 tax year, even though it is now past the tax deadline and I didn’t file for an extension.

I chose the TIAA-CREF International Equity Index Fund (TRIEX) to increase my exposure to international stocks as I felt that sector could use a little boost in my allocation.

Throughout 2006, I will continue to contribute to the SEP IRA on a “once-in-a-while” basis. I want to make sure I don’t go over the limit (25% of self-employment income). I was spurred on to look into the SEP IRA account to reduce my tax liability after reading two posts on Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. Thanks, Jim!

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The World of a Super-Spoiled Teenager

by Luke Landes

Your father owns two car dealerships and spends thousands of dollars on you as if money were no object. Your extravagant Sweet Sixteen party was featured on MTV and featured recording artist Frankie J [warning: music] (whose hit seems to be a weak rendition of More Than Words). Your bedroom contains a Jacuzzi bathtub and ... Continue reading this article…

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What Happens After a Spectacular Failure

by Luke Landes

20 years ago, Geraldo Rivera hosted a live television special in which a vault once belonging to Al Capone was opened for the first time. Everyone expected to find a stash of money and possibly weapons, like other stashes found previsouly. During the event broadcasted live, the vault was open to reveal barely anything. It ... Continue reading this article…

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Reminder: Carnival of Personal Finance Will Be Here

by Luke Landes

On Monday morning, I’ll be hosting the Carnival of Personal Finance. If you’re a blogger planning on participating, please submit your article as soon as possible! The Carnival’s a great way for new bloggers (and older ones as well) to showcase some of their best entries in the last week or so. Everyone loves a ... Continue reading this article…

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GMAC Online Savings Account

by Luke Landes

Flatbeer asked me: GMAC raised the interest rate to 4.75 percent ($500 min). I checked the general FAQ and you can now download account info into Quicken & Money. With electronic transfers, downloadable account info, checks, AND a VISA check card, I would think that most people would choose this option for an online money market ... Continue reading this article…

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Money-Related Fortune Cookie

by Luke Landes

Here’s what was printed on a slip of paper I found inside my Chinese food fortune cookie: A friend in the market is better than money in the purse.

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Even Lousy CEOs Get Great Pay

by Luke Landes

Here’s another article on the outrageous pay given to CEOs even when their performance is subpar. Last year, there were five specific offenders singled out. Today, there are five different companies, and drugs are on top: * The CEO of Pfizer, Henry McKinnell, made more than an average of $15.5 million a year while the ... Continue reading this article…

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Gas Service Stations and Gouging

by Luke Landes

The federal government announced the other day that they will investigate price gouging by gas stations. The announcement itself may have helped to ease prices a little, but most of the time, the investigators report that price movement is merely due to the forces of supply and demand. I heard on the radio this morning ... Continue reading this article…

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Top MBA Employers

by Luke Landes

Once again, I’m finishing up my MBA in the next few months. Fortune has come out with a list of the companies most sought-after MBA candidates. Here are the top ten: 1. McKinsey & Company 2. Google 3. Goldman Sachs 4. Bain & Company 5. The Boston Consulting Group 6. Citigroup 7. Apple Computer 8. ... Continue reading this article…

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Fancy Weddings on a Budget

by Luke Landes

If you watch those celebrity-stalking shows (I don’t, but maybe someone does), you hear about extravagant weddings (to be followed by highly public divorces). Imitating that lifestyle could be a little cost-prohibitive for some, but thankfully Bankrate.com and MSN Money are here to tell you how to have a fancy wedding without breaking the bank ... Continue reading this article…

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More Clarification on the Carnival

by Luke Landes

Yesterday I posted about the removal of some future Carnival of Personal Finance hosts from the schedule. I don’t want to stir up a debate about whether it’s “better” to post small blog entries several times per day, like two sentences about receiving a tax refund, or long blog entries only when the mood strikes ... Continue reading this article…

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Good News: Get Your Degree In Two Weeks

by Luke Landes

I can’t believe I’ve spending so much time working towards my second degree. I could have made the process much simpler. What I can only assume is a reader sent me the following advice: Subject: no more money problems, get a degree in 2 weeks Obtain a prosperous future, money-earning power and the prestige that ... Continue reading this article…

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The Penny Costs More Than One Cent

by Luke Landes

It costs the government 1.5 cents to produce each penny. Why continue making pennies with the current zinc-copper composition? Some want to retire the penny altogether. Is the zinc industry lobbying to keep the penny in existence, or do people just want to hold onto the coins? If we can make money out of paper, ... Continue reading this article…

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Some Carnival Hosts Will Be Removed

by Luke Landes

Some time ago, I added a requirement for all bloggers who wish to host the Carnival of Personal Finance. All new hosts are required to consistently post at least twice per week to their individual blogs. It’s not too much to ask; those who host the Carnival should be active bloggers. Although the traveling nature ... Continue reading this article…

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Tax Bill Paid, Tax Refund Received

by Luke Landes

While I was away, my state tax bill ($159) was automatically deducted from one ING Direct account while my federal tax refund ($239) was automatically deposited into another ING Direct account. This certainly beats owing several thousand dollars as I originally believed would be the case.

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Carnival of Debt Reduction #32

by Luke Landes

Welcome to the Carnival of Debt Reduction #32! In this Carnival, we highlight entries pertaining to getting out of debt, a lofty goal attempted only by some. When getting out of debt becomes a priority, everybody benefits… well, everyone other than shareholders of companies who make their money off of charging people to borrow. Perhaps ... Continue reading this article…

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The Carnival of Personal Finance is Up!

by Luke Landes

For those looking for the latest Carnival of Personal Finance, it is now up at Million Dollar Goal. The Carnival returns home next week. Bloggers, feel free to submit your articles early. Here’s more info on the Carnival of Personal Finance. Also, the Festival of Frugality is up at the MoneyBlogNetwork. The Carnival of Debt ... Continue reading this article…

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